The Place of Mirrors

January 24, 2011
It was a warm, humid June night. The heavy rains from earlier had left the air with a tangible wetness. The strong, sweet smell of pandan leaves filled the air. Surrounded by a light cloud of smoke, Pari stood watching a stick of incense as it burned.

As the last few bits of ashen powder fell from the stick Pari took a seat on the small bench next to her. Hopefully tomorrow will bring better weather, she thought. Today’s bleak sky had put her in a gloomy mood.

Pari sighed and stood up from the bench. Although the rain had left the air feeling extremely humid, it was dry enough to go outside now. Carefully avoiding the green plants that the rain had caused to droop, Pari stepped out into the garden.

Pushing bamboo out of the way and ducking under banana leaves, Pari found a small dry area under a tree. The only area that was wet was a small puddle. There was a single trickle of water running off of one of the leaves and dripping into the puddle.

As she drew closer, Pari looked at her reflection. It was strange how clear her reflection was. Curious, she dipped her fingers into the water. The mirror-like water was warmer than she had expected, deeper too. Before she knew it, Pari’s whole hand was submerged in the water. Slightly alarmed, she pulled her hand back.

“It’s just a puddle in the dirt. How deep can it be?”

More curious then before, Pari gently stepped into the puddle. Steadying herself on a branch, Pari lowered her foot into the water. “This is more than strange,” she mumbled.

Suddenly Pari felt something grab her ankle. She tried to pull away but whatever it was had a strong grip on her foot.

Before she could even open her mouth to scream, Pari was pulled waist deep into the puddle. Beginning to panic, Pari scrambled around hoping to find something to hold on to. The branch she had been using was out of her reach and she couldn’t see anything else around her. With one last gasp of air, Pari allowed herself to be pulled under.

Bolting up straight, Pari frantically looked around. "Where am I?” she called out. A voice from above answered her.

"You are in Utopia.” called a soft voice.

"U- Utopia?” stumbled Pari.

"Yes," the voice answered. Looking around, Pari noticed a brightly colored figure float down from a nearby tree and land in the tall grass. "Utopia, the land of magic."

Pari looked at the woman strangely. "How is this possible? Surely I must be dreaming." The woman laughed at her.

"Oh you are not dreaming. The puddle. It was a portal from our world," she swept her arm around,” to yours."

Pari stared at the woman from the ground. She couldn't believe what she was hearing. She shook her head in an attempt to clear her mind. "So, who are you?"

"My name is Anastasia. Now come along. There is no time to waste." Anastasia frowned as she looked back at Pari. "Tch, tch, tch. We can't have you going around soaking wet."

Pari looked down at herself and noticed that she was soaked. She tried to quickly wring out her hair but she was interrupted when Anastasia grabbed her arm. She pulled Pari up and looked at her. "We don't have time for you to dry off. Here." Anastasia snapped her fingers and a swirl of wind surrounded Pari. When the air cleared again Pari was in a long, emerald green dress, very similar to Anastasia's.

"Now we will go see the Queen." Anastasia snapped her fingers again and the wind returned, this time it surrounded both Pari and Anastasia.

"When the wind disappeared Pari saw that they were in front of a huge, shining castle. "Why are we going to see the Queen?” asked Pari as Anastasia rushed her through the winding halls.

As they were walking through the halls Pari notices that there were golden framed mirrors covering the walls. Was it just her imagination or were the mirrors moving? Once she looked closer she noticed that the mirrors were moving! The mirrors were not regular mirrors, they were the same as the puddle that she had found in her garden!

"You will understand soon." replied Anastasia. "For now just stay quiet. Try not to speak until you are asked to." Anastasia seemed nervous when speaking of the Queen.

At the end of the hall Pari could see a large wooden door. Anastasia told Pari to stay outside of the room for a moment while she spoke with the Queen. Pari agreed and Anastasia entered the room. About a minute later she returned and led Pari into the room.

At the end of the room was a throne. On the throne sat a figure with pale hair and piercing blue eyes, the Queen. Pari, remembering what Anastasia had said, stood silently in front of the Queen.

"Hello Pari." When the Queen spoke it was almost as if she was singing. "We've been waiting. I am Queen Augustine. Now we mustn't waste time. Let me explain. When my family first bought this land they didn't know who should inherit the land that they were currently ruling."

"My twin sister Nimm was constantly saying that because she was older she should be the next in line to rule. This would have been fine with me except for the fact that there was always something a little bit off about Nimm."

"Not wanting to anger either one of their daughters, my parents decided that on our 19th birthday they would split this land in half. She became the Queen of Ekia and I became the Queen of Utopia. This arrangement has been fine and our two kingdoms have lived in peace with each other, until now that is."

"Yesterday I received a letter from Nimm saying that if I don't surrender my crown by midnight, she will declare war on Utopia."

"Ok I understand all of that," Pari interrupted,” What I don't understand is what you need me for?"

The Queen stood up and walked over to Pari. " We need you to capture Nimm's scepter. It contains all of her power. You see when she became Queen she forced all of the beings who lived on her land to give up their powers. She captured all of the magic and sealed it in her scepter."

Pari nodded but again she asked, "Ok, but I still don't understand why you need me."

"Nimm put a spell on her scepter so that besides herself only a full mortal can control the scepter. You are the first mortal to ever switch worlds."

"So I am supposed to break into Nimm's castle, steal her scepter, and somehow bring peace to the land of magic." Pari stared at Queen Augustine; she couldn't believe what she was hearing. She looked at Anastasia who gave her a slow nod. "You really think I can do this?"

Queen Augustine smiled at Pari and walked over to a large ornate wooden dresser. "You have to do this Pari. Not just for Utopia but for your land as well. If Nimm conquers Utopia and captures our power as well, there will be no stopping her. Now with all of that said, we must prepare you."

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