Amethyst could not believe her eyes as she gazed into the Veil of Vision and recognized the benign but ancient Witch Mother, Citrina. Lady Emerald and Lord Moonstone watched in silence as well.
“Citrina! I thought you were dead,” she said as tears filled her eyes. “I’ve missed you so much. I’ve needed you so badly.”
“My child,” said, a smiling Citrina, “while it is true my material form is no more, my spirit survives and is ever close to you and this realm I once created. You have but to summon me, and I will appear within this pool to offer you what aid I may give.”
“I still can’t believe I’m actually talking to you,” said Amethyst. “I have so much to say! I messed up. I linked the whole Gemworld to all the royal houses, but there is no heir for Opal’s domain, and it threw our magic out of order.”
“You must not blame yourself,” said Citrina. “Your solution was a clever one, and it was necessary. You must simply locate an heir for Opal’s domain. White Opal will never leave his new sanctuary — it is both his saving strength and his most singular weakness. I should think there would only be one choice. Who was ever loyal to you and yet was a blood-born son of Dark Opal?”
“Granch,” whispered Amethyst. “You mean poor Granch! But he’s dead.”
“He willingly entered the misty realm between the Opal mausoleum and the other realms in order to rescue his banished siblings,” replied Citrina. “He did so while he was still alive, and he returned from the same dimension intact. While he did perish at his evil father’s hands, he had prior knowledge of the realms between worlds. Mayhap death does hold him as tightly because of those special circumstances.”
Amethyst nodded slowly. “Prince Garnet once told me something like that. He said that people who entered the realm of death while still alive might return as well after their true demise.” As she thought those words, she felt hope form in her heart. “So how can we restore Granch? How can we restore you, for that matter?”
“I am well as I am,” said Citrina. “As for Granch, you must unite the twelve gemstones and together focus your will to achieve such a goal. Even then you might fail miserably. Dark Opal himself could only reanimate the dead as shambling monsters.”
“Twelve?” said Lady Emerald. “But surely Dark Opal’s talisman is lost to us, and Sardonyx will never agree to help us.”
“Carnelian has Opal’s clasp,” Citrina said. “It will suffice, since never was any lord as closely linked to such a device as was Dark Opal. It suited his perverse humor to litter his realm with odd automatons and familiars.”
“Sardonyx is another matter, though,” said Lord Moonstone. “How can we bring that viper around to our cause?”
At that moment, a young page in the purple of the House of Amethyst timidly entered the room. “My lady, forgive me. There is urgent news. Lord Ruby awaits!”
“This is too good to be true!” said Amethyst. “I somehow feel this is your doing, Citrina.” But as she looked back into the Veil of Vision, the waters were clear once more and nothing could be seen within their swirling surface.
Lady Emerald said, “Did Citrina foretell these events or bring them to pass? Her powers were always legendary.”
“With Citrina, anything is possible,” said Amethyst. “I already feel as though victory was ours with her back in my life.”
They returned to the main audience chamber where Lord Ruby stood proudly, if a bit worse for wear. His battle took a terrible toil upon him, thought the princess. He looks frail in spite of his courage.
“Princess Amethyst, I have brought you good news,” said Lord Ruby. “The being known as Count Leonine is no more! It took almost more than I had to give, but I destroyed him.” Lord Garnet and Lord Moonstone had rushed to congratulate their esteemed ally, even as a shadowy figure stepped forward.
“Princess Amethyst,” said the oily Lord Sardonyx, “I realize my own hospitality was somewhat lacking when you last found yourself within my home.”
“We allowed this worm to enter because he arrived with Lord Ruby,” said Lord Garnet, “and because he was not alone.” He gestured to where the slinky Lady Sardonyx stood with her two children.
“I beg sanctuary for my children,” she said.
“I won’t turn you away,” said Amethyst. “I won’t be that cruel to a couple of kids. I am shocked you came here, though. What happened to your boasts of the power that waited you when the Starry Sky beings took over?”
“My hopes were a bit premature,” said Sardonyx, shrugging. “I was wrong. I little realized how those beings were so foreign to all I knew. They see us as lesser beings, and I could not in good faith let my heirs remain around such unstable monsters.”
“When I vanquished the lion man,” said Lord Ruby, “Sardonyx saw the error of his ways. If watched properly, he could be a useful ally. He certainly can’t return to the service of the invaders — not after he deserted their cause.”
“You saved my entire kingdom once, Amethyst,” said Sardonyx. “You restored my loved ones when a spell had altered them most dreadfully. Will you accept my offer of an alliance? We are all native to the Gemworld, after all.”
Amethyst smiled winningly and said, “My thanks to you, Lord Ruby. You were a beloved father figure to my mother, and you have won me over as well. As for Sardonyx, you are welcome here, but you must earn our trust, and that won’t be easy.”
Sardonyx bowed slightly and said, “You will not regret your kindness.”
At that moment, Lady Turquoise and Prince Topaz entered the chamber with dejected looks upon their faces.
“We failed and have nothing to offer you but our apologies,” said Prince Topaz.
Amethyst thought, I’d like to hug him and tell him I only want him, not his apology, but he’s devoted to Turquoise now, and I can’t do a thing about it. I’m jealous of her, but she’s loyal and a good subject, if not exactly a B.F.F. “It’s cool,” she said. “We have a second chance. For that we’ll need all of you, including Sardonyx, and we’ll need Carnelian also.”
“That might be a problem,” said Lord Garnet. “The Crimson Rogue has vanished!”
The Diamond Priest said, “He is still here. He sulks, he broods, and he is filled with anger and resentment, but he still remains. He carries his late father’s talisman, and my diamond allows me to detect such magic. It is all part of the balance my order lives to maintain.”
“Let me go shake some sense into that spoiled stripling,” growled Lord Garnet.
Amethyst placed one hand on his shoulder and said, “Actually, I think I’d better talk to him. He and I sort of understand each other.”
Sardonyx raised one eyebrow and listened with interest. If the princess has softened to the charms of the Crimson Rogue, she may live to regret it, he thought.
Later, as the others assembled in the main council chamber, and the Diamond Priest prepared to unite the gemstones for the spell to restore the fallen Granch, Amethyst sat next to Carnelian in the palace garden and tried to make peace with the troubled man.
“You and I have been through a lot,” she said. “We both know what it’s like to live on two worlds, and we’re both orphans. I mean, I never knew Lord and Lady Amethyst, and you never knew your Earth family. Can’t we work together? You can really belong here if you’ll join us. You can escape the shadow of Dark Opal, and you can prove yourself to be better than he ever was.”
Carnelian took her hand, and she hesitantly allowed him to hold it. “You and I? Yes, we may have some common ground. You actually make a good case. I mean, I am alone here. Still, how can I stand aside for that oaf, Granch? I am the rightful heir of Dark Opal’s realm. He picked me as so when I was an infant.”
Amethyst pulled her hand free of his grasp and said, “This realm… I love it, but we both know it has its own set of rules. I mean, you may have been the choice Dark Opal wanted to make, but you don’t have magic, and in this place having magic is like being the cool kid or the head cheerleader. It doesn’t mean that it’s fair, but that is how it works. I promise that if you let us use that clasp, I won’t let the others forget it. I’ll be sure that you’re treated like one of us.”
Carnelian smiled as he raised his head and looked into her eyes. “Cool kid indeed?” he said. “Your quaint Earth ways do amuse me. All right, I’ll allow you to use the clasp. And I will also give you a chance to make good on your promise.”
They joined the assembled royals, and Carnelian hesitantly placed the strange Opal clasp on the round council table, where each royal had positioned his or her gemstone according to the directions of the enigmatic Diamond Priest.
“We must unite our energies, and in doing so we must seek the true heir to the Opal gemstone,” he said. “We must summon his spirit and hope that the balance we have achieved will yield a proper result. We may receive nothing but a wraith or a mindless shell. Still, it is the risk we must take if we are to restore the twelve houses and heal our fragmented magics.”
Carnelian stepped back as the magic users focused their energies as one. A rainbow of magical energy coalesced above them and gleamed off each gemstone in a glyph of incredible power.
The Priest raised his normally soft voice as he watched the display. “We have made contact!” he cried. “We must not waver now. All that remains is to enable the one we seek to manifest himself within this dimensional plane.”
The energies began to assume a humanoid shape, and gradually Amethyst could notice that the colors were ever so slowly beginning to blend into the opal hue.
We’re getting him! she thought. I think we’re really going to bring Granch back!
The form appearing above them became palpably solid, and Amethyst was only one of the assembled mages who gasped or cried or cursed in shock or confusion as the figure before them became all too familiar.
A darkly handsome but cruel-looking man with blue scarred skin and a muscular build stood defiantly before them all.
“Ah, Gemworld — it’s good to be back!” declared Dark Opal as he stepped off the table and grinned at the startled royals.