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If things aren't complicated enough, Keridwen's gods get into the game, giving Silver and Keridwen an unexpected quest. Not only do they have to find the king's brother, Seth, and Aderyn's son, Jayson, but the original purple diamond as well. If they fail to find any of these things, not only do they put both their worlds in jeopardy, but may never be able to return to Sangria.
Throughout the quest, and learning about Earth, Keridwen and Silver both learn more about each other as well. Their love grows and is tested as the real truth is reveled about what really happened to Keridwen's sister, Aderyn, and who Jayson's father really is. Will the truth be enough to bring the General out of retirement, or will Silver and Keridwen be doomed never to see Keridwen's beloved Sangria again?
"No, I won't do it," Aderyn shook her head stubbornly. "I just found you again, and I won't risk losing you."
"Sister, we promised," Keridwen tried.
"Silver did. Let her go back to her world, you belong here with me."
"Silver spoke for both of us, she had that right, and although I love you, sister, Silver holds my heart. I could not bear to be parted from her. Please�" Keridwen trailed off as Aderyn shook her head and moved to the other side of the room.
Silver frowned, and was tempted to get involved, but knew this was something the sisters had to work out between themselves. The last month had been a mixed blessing, but still had its moments. As she and Keridwen settled into a routine at the castle, she, Keridwen, and Aderyn had continued to spend at least a few hours each day with one another. With the twins reunited, Silver found herself having to get involved less and less. Sure, there were still the occasional swats, and even a time or two when both sisters found their noses in a corner, but as the days passed, Silver found such childish reproaches less and less necessary.
Since that first day with Aderyn, Keridwen had surprisingly maintained her adult form, and the more time she spent as an adult, the less those childish impulses seemed to invade her day-to-day activities. It seemed as if the curse was truly broken, and although that made Silver happy, it saddened her as well. She'd gotten used to taking care of Keridwen, and no matter how exciting their bedroom life became, there was a part of her that missed it.
Aderyn and Keridwen's interactions and behavior weren't the only things that were changing. The people of Sangria were also adapting to the idea that Keridwen was back. Most people seemed to welcome her, although Silver also saw the worried and disappointed looks that people gave her when Keridwen wasn't looking. She now knew what Keridwen meant when she'd told her of how people had looked at her before. Even ten years later, people's memories were still haunted by the past.
Over the past few days, they'd done a lot of talking, mostly to Aderyn, but to Soren and Reamon as well. Reamon especially had been of help, backing up Silver, and continuing to help the sisters heal the wounds between them. On several nights, they'd gotten together for intimate family dinners. These times Silver both enjoyed and dreaded, for while they were usually casual and meant to be easy, they often broke off into an uncomfortable silence. It seemed like no matter what Aderyn said, how Reamon defended them, or the way Silver or Keridwen presented themselves, deep down Soren still didn't trust them.
In fact, it had been the dinner night before that had sparked the current argument between the sisters. Soren had asked them to start experimenting with the mirror, but so far, Aderyn was refusing. They were currently in Aderyn's personal quarters, trying to convince her to accompany them to the mirror, but she was being anything but agreeable about it.
"No, you don't understand, it's too dangerous," she was arguing, bringing Silver back from her thoughts.
"Silver came through, but we have no guarantees that it'll work again," Keridwen tried to reason. "Besides, if it is meant to be, we need to be prepared. You must show us Jayson and Seth. Silver will be able to obtain location information, and understand things that we can't�"
"It's complicated," Aderyn cut her off with a small frown. "I told you that Jayson cannot return to Sangria. It is too dangerous."
"I know you're not happy about this, Aderyn, but don't you think we should at least attempt to look like we are trying? I think it's time to go look at the mirror, and I have to admit that with all this talking about it, I'm anxious to actually see it," Silver commented.
"I do this under protest," Aderyn finally gave in. "I won't activate it, but I guess there is no harm in looking at it."
"It's a start." Keridwen nodded. "Then we can honestly tell your husband we have begun.
If it doesn't work then we can claim that as well."
* * * * *
It took several minutes to reach the room where the mirror was kept. As Aderyn explained, it was well hidden. They ventured through the old ballroom, and a secret passage, before continuing down some very dark and dingy stairs. As they got closer, Silver started to get a strange feeling, especially as the stone in the necklace she was wearing suddenly seemed to grow warm. Thinking she was letting her imagination get the best of her, she put her hand to the pendant, to be reassured that it didn't feel any different.
As they got closer, coming to a stop just outside the door, they waited as Aderyn unlocked it and Silver again put a hand to her pendant.
"Are you all right?" Keridwen suddenly asked Silver.
"Yeah, for some reason I'm a little warm," Silver explained.
"You look a little flushed," Keridwen replied, her brow knitting in concern. "Maybe we should do this another day."
"Don't be silly, I'm fine." Silver shrugged her off, trying to ignore the hollow of her throat, where the pendant was again feeling warm. "Aderyn, open the door."
Aderyn did so with a sigh, moving into the room and lighting the lamps around the circumference. Even with the four outer lamps, and the one that Aderyn was still holding, the room seemed dim, and was making Silver feel a little claustrophobic.
The mirror was definitely the main attraction, and it was prettier than Keridwen's story had made it out to be. The glass itself was like crystalized ice, sparkling in the light, but the edges were a rich, deep, red wood, ornately carved with dozens of wood and sky creatures. It almost reminded Silver of a Celtic design, or perhaps something from the Northwest American Indian cultures, as each animal seemed to flow into the next, sometimes growing from animal to plant, and back to animal within the same form.
"Careful," Aderyn warned, as Silver took a step toward it. "I've never touched it. I would advise you not to as well."
Silver looked at Aderyn and gave her a small nod. "I understand. Keridwen?" she then asked, holding out her hand to her lover. "What do you think?"
Keridwen smiled, taking the offered hand and bringing it to her lips in a gentle kiss. "It's beautiful, and the mirror isn't bad either."
"Keridwen," Silver chided, getting a giggle from Aderyn.
"You two are something else."
"Yeah," Silver drew out. "So you have no idea how this got here, or where it came from?"
"No. It seems as if this room was practically built for it though. It's the only room here, and it wasn't exactly easy to find."
"How did Donavon find it then?" Keridwen asked.
"Seth did," Aderyn explained. "He was exploring and noticed a depression in the wall. He pushed it, like we did when we entered, triggering the hidden door. Apparently, it was much dirtier and full of cobwebs. I figure it's been here for centuries."
"Well, that old ballroom hasn't been used for anything except storage for at least three generations, since the new one was built, so that could also explain it," Keridwen reasoned.
"Perhaps," Aderyn agreed. "Silver, be careful. I told you it's not a good idea to touch the mirror."
Silver blinked, hearing her name. She hadn't even realized she'd taken another two or three steps toward it. Taking a step back, she frowned and felt the pendant around her neck grow warmer. "Something is happening."
"What?" Keridwen closed the gap between them. "Oh, your pendant. Is that one of those purple diamonds? It's� it's glowing."
"Glowing?" Silver asked when suddenly the mirror itself started to hum. Not an audible noise, but more like a feeling, like a low bass drums that can't really be heard as much as felt. It was low and slow, but almost like a heartbeat steady. "What's going on?"
"What is that?" Keridwen's eyes went wide as she grabbed Silver and tried to guide her back.
Silver's feet were glued to the ground. "I can't explain it. We have to go now."
"We can't, we're not ready. We have nothing," Keridwen explained.
"Hold me, don't let go, no matter what," Silver said, feeling that bass drum suddenly beat louder. It was in her head how. "Can you feel it?"
"It's louder," Keridwen said. "I don't like this."
"What are you doing?" Aderyn broke into the conversation. "I don't feel anything. You need to back away."
"Sister," Keridwen turned her head and met stormy-gray eyes. "Look for us. I will return to you."
"Keridwen! Wait, no� you can't�" Aderyn cried out, taking a step closer, but it was too late. Hand in hand, Silver and Keridwen were pulled to the other side. Just like Seth, they were suddenly gone.
* * * * *
Keridwen coughed as some sort of smoke filled the air. There was loud music too, and it hurt her ears. "Silver," she cried, holding on to her lover as if her life depended on it. There were bright lights, and a mix of noise like she'd never heard before.
"Hey you! You crazy, you can't bring a kid in here!" some man yelled. The words struck Keridwen to the core as she suddenly realized the man was yelling at them.
"Silver!" Keridwen cried out again.
"It's okay, Keridwen, I'm here. I won't let anyone hurt you. Hey, look I'm sorry. We must have gotten turned around. Can you tell me where we are?" Silver shouted back at the man over the din of the music.
"You're at Jake's. A bar�not for kids. Get her out of here, would you?"
Silver blinked for a moment. "Wait, did you say Jake's? The Jake's that is across the street from the Ambrose Hotel, in Seattle?"
"Yes," the man replied, still looking annoyed.
"All right, thanks. Sorry, we're leaving," Silver said, as Keridwen kept a death grip around her middle.
Feeling Silver's arm around her made her feel a bit better, as Silver escorted her out of the bar, but once they got to the street, there were a whole other host of images, sounds, and lights that accosted her senses. Burying her head back into Silver, she couldn't help but be terrified.
"Hey Keridwen, it's okay. I won't let anything hurt you, I promise." Silver then pushed Keridwen back, meeting her eyes. "You trust me, right? I know it looks scary, and for the life of me, I don't know why we showed up in the middle of a bar, but it's all right. There is nothing here that will hurt you. It's all just machines and science."
"But the noise," Keridwen said, looking up as her eyes suddenly got bigger. "What's that?"
Silver also looked up. "It's a helicopter. And those," Silver said, pointing to the curb, "are cars. At least I know where we are. Hey," she then called to a lady walking by. "What is today?"
"Tuesday," the lady answered, looking at Silver strangely. "Where are you two from, a Renaissance festival?"
"Ah, cosplay convention," Silver quickly replied. "What's the actual date, today?"
Silver frowned. "2014?"
The lady blinked. "Yes."
Silver gave her a small smile. "Thanks."
"What was that?" Keridwen asked, once the lady had continued into the bar.
"I don't know how it's possible, but we are back the same day I left. A few hours later, but the same day. I should at least be able to get us into my room."
"In the hotel." Silver pointed, as Keridwen looked up and almost became dizzy.
"How tall is that building? It is safe?"
"Um, safe yes. I'm not sure how many stories, forty something maybe. This is downtown Seattle, honey, one of the biggest cities around here."
"I don't like it." Keridwen frowned.
"I'll explain everything, right now just trust me. I promise I won't let anything hurt you. Come on, don't let go of my hand. We need to cross the street."
Keridwen managed to comply, resisting the urge to flee and hide somewhere. Her senses were being overwhelmed, but focusing on Silver, she made it into what Silver referred to as the lobby of the hotel. She then stood quietly as Silver managed to talk her way into obtaining a key. Finally, after a terrifying ride in what Silver explained was an elevator, Silver opened the door to her room.
Keridwen let out a breath of relief as everything suddenly stopped. At least in the room it was quiet, even if a little bright. As if sensing what Keridwen was thinking, Silver turned off all but one light, the one by the nightstand on the bed.
"Better?" she asked, opening her arms to Keridwen.
"Yes," Keridwen flew to her. "What happened? This place is so big, why� I don't understand. Why did I shrink again?"
Silver frowned. "I don't know. Maybe it was just the shock of it all. Don't worry, honey, I'm sure you'll grow again once you've calmed down. I'm sorry I didn't prepare you better for this. I didn't think we'd come so suddenly."
Keridwen took in a deep breath. "I don't like this place, Silver. I want to leave."
"I know. We were sent back here for a reason though. We need to find out why. I promise that once you get used to it, you'll be fine. Just remember it's not magic, it's science. Everything works for a reason, it's a machine, or some type of automated device. It's not evil or bad, it just is."
"I don't like it, but all right, Silver, I trust you."
"Good girl." Silver smiled, giving Keridwen a kiss to the forehead. "Now, I need to make some phone calls. I'm going to need someone to wire me some money, and I need to figure out how to get a new driver's license. I can't go anywhere without that. We might just be stuck here for a few days. It'll work out though, I promise. Why don't you explore the room a little?"
"Can't I just sit here, next to you?"
"Of course. Now this," Silver said, picking up a strange, flat, rectangular device of some sort, "is called a cell phone. I can use it to talk to anyone I want, from anywhere in the whole world."
Keridwen's eyes went wide.
"It's science, remember. I need you to be quiet while I use it though. I'm not sure I'm ready to explain to my father why I have a young girl in my hotel room."
"Who is also my boss. I need to cancel my appointments that were scheduled for tomorrow, and probably for the next week at least. Also, I'm not sure how to go about this. He'll have some advice. I need to tell him that I lost my sample bag. Maybe I should just say I was mugged or something."
"Um, held up by thieves."
"You'd lie to your father?"
"Not my first choice, but I think it sounds a whole lot more believable than the truth."
Keridwen frowned. "Silver, do you think Aderyn is all right?"
Silver let out a long breath. "She didn't appear with us, and she said she didn't feel anything from the mirror. I'm thinking she didn't go anywhere. She might be a little upset, but we'll get back to her. I'll do everything in my power to get us both back to Sangria."
"Promise?" Keridwen asked, biting her lip nervously.
"Let me show you a little Earth custom," Silver said, holding up her hand and extending her pinky finger. Bringing up Keridwen's hand in the same fashion, she twisted their pinky fingers together. "This is called a pinky swear. It's about as serious an oath as you can get. So, Keridwen of Sangria, I, Silvia Amanda Whelan, pinky swear that I will do everything humanly possible to get us both back to Sangria."
Keridwen smiled. "I like that. I pinky swear too," she nodded with certainty. "We will get back."
"Yes, we will."
* * * * *
Keridwen found herself eventually laying her head on Silver's thigh as Silver made a host of phone calls. She'd started with her father. That one had been long, but after that was over Keridwen lost interest as the calls became more formal. Silver was calling places she named Mastercard, and DMV, and American Airlines. She didn't know what any of those things were and wondering about them was giving her a headache. The last thing Keridwen remembered was Silver running a hand over her hair as she closed her eyes.
"Keridwen, hey honey, wake up," Silver coaxed giving Keridwen a little shake.
Keridwen groaned, opening her eyes and then frowned. "It happened, didn't it? I was hoping it was just a dream."
Silver echoed Keridwen's frown. "No, I'm afraid not. Could be worse though, right?"
"Don't see how."
"At least we are together." Silver bent and kissed Keridwen's forehead just as someone knocked on the door. "Oh, great, that's dinner."
"Dinner?" Keridwen asked, watching Silver cross the room. She stopped and looked through a small hole in the door before opening it and welcoming a man in a maroon shirt and tan pants. He was pushing some sort of cart, which from the smell, Keridwen assumed is what Silver was referring to as dinner.
She then watched Silver mark some sort of long piece of paper before handing it back to the man. While she was busy, he'd taken several covered plates off his tray and put them on the table in the room. As he and his cart left, Keridwen wrinkled her nose. "Why so much?"
"What do you mean?" Silver said, as she started to uncover the many plates.
Most of it Keridwen didn't recognize, and what little she did was from the tales that Silver had told her over the last few months. "There is a lot of food."
"Oh, well I wasn't sure what you'd like, and� well it's been a while. I miss food I can actually recognize."
"It's all so strange," Keridwen frowned, picking up a golden stick of sort before throwing it back onto the plate. "Ow! Hot, damn it," she cried, sticking her fingers in her mouth to soothe them.
"Don't do that," Silver scolded. "I'm sorry. French fries are best when they are hot. Here, put your finger in here," Silver offered her a small glass filled with water and tiny cubes of ice. "Better?"
"Yeah, thanks. What is all this stuff?"
"Ah, cheeseburger, fries, that's a pickle. This is fried chicken, some roasted red potatoes, and asparagus. I figured you'd be more comfortable with the chicken, but I want you to try everything. Oh, here is some fruit; watermelon, pineapple, cantaloupe, kiwi, and I think those are raspberries too. And finally, for dessert chocolate cake, cheesecake, and a hot fudge sundae."
Keridwen wrinkled her nose. "And these?" Keridwen asked pointing to four red cylinders.
"Ah, that's Coke. Trust me, you're going to love it."
"But what is it?" Keridwen asked, suddenly jumping as Silver grabbed a can and popped it open. "Is it alive?"
"No," Silver laughed. "Here, it's like a fancy cup. It keeps it fresh. See the hole, tilt it a little and drink, like a glass."
Keridwen gave her a look but took and tilted as directed before taking a swig. Suddenly coughing, she looked wide-eyed at Silver. "It burns!"
"No," Silver laughed again. "That's just the carbonation. They are little bubbles that make it fizzy. That's why it's fun to drink. Well, that and the caffeine. Gods� I've missed caffeine," Silver opened another can and took a long swing herself. "Damn, that's good."
Keridwen frowned and put her can down on the table. "I don't think I like it."
"It has a little bit of a kick, but it's basically just sugar and water. Pretty soon, you'll be craving the stuff. Alright, let's eat, but let me show you how to wash your hands first." Taking Keridwen by the hand, she then led her to a small room, where she flipped on a light making Keridwen again jump as the bathroom fan came on at the same time. "It's just a light, and that's a fan. They always have a fan in a bathroom that doesn't have a window. Help's with the air- circulation or something. Here, look at the sink."
Keridwen did so as Silver continued. "There is usually a marking on the fixtures. Sometimes it's red and blue or sometimes there is an H and a C, for hot and cold. It'll be the same for the tub and shower," Silver pointed to a glass surrounded area. "That's where you bathe. The sink is for washing your hands, or doing small things."
"Okay," Keridwen drew out as Silver turned on the sink and her eyes again went wide. "Where does the water come from?"
"The pipes, it's pumped from somewhere. It's all very organized, but I don't really know the specifics. You just turn it on and water comes. See," Silver said, putting Keridwen's hand under the water. "It's cold, but watch," Silver continued as she turned up the hot and Keridwen shook her head as the water grew warm.
"No, it's science. There is a big tank somewhere in the hotel that heats the water, then pumps it through the hot water pipe when it's needed."
"It never runs out?"
"Eventually, I guess it's possible, but it'll heat up again."
"Oh, and that?" Keridwen asked, pointing at the toilet. "I can guess what that's for� but it's strange too."
"A little," Silver smiled reaching over and pushing the handle down for Keridwen's benefit. "You do your business, then use this paper here on this roll to clean yourself, put the paper inside the toilet, then when you are done, just push the handle and it flushes it all away."
"Where does it go?"
"Down the pipes."
"The same pipes the water comes from?" Keridwen asked looking back at the sink.
"No," Silver said with a smile. "There are in pipes and out pipes. They don't get mixed. The water from the sink or the shower is clean, but you probably shouldn't drink it."
"Well, there is better water to drink."
"It's complicated," Keridwen frowned.
"Not really, honey. You'll get it," she paused and kissed Keridwen's cheek. "Do you need to�"
Keridwen blushed a moment and then nodded.
"Okay, I'll leave you then. Call me if you need any help. Oh and don't use too much of that paper. If you do it'll clog the toilet."
"Alright, Silver," Keridwen nodded, as Silver left, shutting the door partway behind her.
"Don't forget to wash your hands when you are done."
"Alright, Silver," Keridwen repeated, looking at the toilet and frowning at it. It certainly was a neater way to do things, but she wasn't convinced that she'd ever get used to it.
* * * * *
"Everything come out alright?" Silver teased as Keridwen exited the bathroom.
Keridwen wrinkled her nose. "What?"
"Nothing, I'm just messing with you, honey. Come sit down and eat."
"I'm not really hungry."
"That's not like you, Keridwen. You always eat."
"I know. Maybe when I shrunk the food that was already in my tummy didn't."
Silver frowned. That statement didn't even sound like something that Keridwen would say. Even in her most childlike of times, she still spoke like an adult. "Come here, honey," Silver beckoned, pushing herself away from the table and making her lap available. "I'm thinking you need to talk."
Watching as Keridwen took the invitation, curling up in Silver's lap without complaint, Silver frowned when she didn't say anything. "You're scared, aren't you?"
"Why should a little light and noise scare me? When you came into my world, you were being chased by a bear. That's a lot scarier," Keridwen quietly commented.
"Sure, to me, but not to you. You stood right up to the bear and actually taunted him to chase you. You saved me. This is nothing compared to a mean old grizzly bear."
"Then why is it the only thing I can stand to do right now is hide behind you? I've been in battle, I've given speeches in front of thousands of people, I've been shot, I've even lost everything� and yet I've never been as scared as I was today when we appeared inside that bar."
Silver wrapped her arms around Keridwen and hugged her close. "I was scared when we appeared too. It was very disconcerting. I was frightened for you as well. I can only imagine what it was like to be blasted with all that information that you had no frame of reference for. When I appeared in your world, sure there was that bear, but then it was just you and me. Plus, remember you're on the short side right now. That always makes you more sensitive."
"Why did I shrink? I've been an adult for over a month, and now I'm back to where I started. I don't want to look like a ten-year-old anymore. It's not fair," Keridwen complained, obviously trying very hard not to whine.
"No honey, it's not, but I'm here. We'll get you back. I'm sure it's some kind of reaction to your fear. It has to have something to do with the heightened emotions. Once you get over this initial phase, I'm sure you'll grow back to the adult Keridwen."
"If I don't?"
"You will," Silver said more forcefully. "And we are going to find Seth, and then go back to Sangria."
"We can't go back, not with Seth or the boy. You heard what Aderyn said. Soren would surely kill them, especially now that he has a legitimate daughter. Plus, how could you want to go back? This world with its magical hot water and chocolate cake, we don't have any of that in Sangria."
"No, although Sangria has one thing that that Earth could never have."
"No, my heart isn't in Sangria, it's here with you."
Silver smiled. "We both know what I meant. Now, come on this food is getting cold and the ice cream is melting. There will be time to talk about the logistics of returning later. For now, you do a good job and eat and I'll share a special story with you."
"About your stars?" Keridwen asked.
"Maybe," Silver chuckled. "See that black box?" she said, pointing at the TV on the dresser. "That box comes to life and has pictures and sounds in it. After we eat, I'll show you."
Keridwen looked doubtfully at Silver and then at the black screen. "Now you're pulling my leg."
"No," Silver said. "You just wait. If I remember right, there is even a Disney channel on it. I bet we can find one of the cartoons I told you about."
"Stories," Silver clarified.
"Oh, I suppose I could try to eat."
"That's my girl."
* * * * *