The Prolix Initiative:
Five thousand years ago, at the dawn of the second Great Age, the Council of Realms united the most powerful planets of the Magic Dimension, with the goal of promoting peace and civil discourse among all the realms as the planets grew interconnected.
The first item on the Council’s agenda was finding a means of universal communication: poor translation was among the factors behind the first Interrealm War. Three hundred of the best spellcrafters and runists of the Council Realms were recruited for the job, headquartered in the Royal University on the realm of Prolix, which still exists today. It took them –and later, their descendants– seventy-nine years to work out a basic translation spell between the languages of the six members of the Council at the time.The fifty most powerful mages of the Dimension were transported to the capital of Prolix for the actual implementation of the spell, which required twenty hours of chanting without rest, a feat that went unmatched for millennia and caused five to die from magical exhaustion.
The spell extended over six planets, their moons and all of their territory at the time, and has been expanded constantly since then. As of the publishing of this article, the translation spell encompasses almost the entire universe, even forgotten, uncolonized, and minor realms, bridging the gap between the written and spoken languages of different realms and species. Those excluded include Old Whisperian, Veccan Dragon, Mermish, Spherian, and any languages that had died out at the time of casting, such as Vishnian.
The spell itself was designed in a new language created for the purpose of casting the spell, which was itself imbued with magic by the mages involved. The language, Runic, has since become the most widely used and taught casting language in the Magic Dimension, and is a requisite course at the famous Alfea College for Fairies as well as many other highly-rated magical schools in the dimension. It is now considered one of the greatest feats of magic of all time for its durability and sheer area of effect.
- Elluvia Velaqua, The Realmweb Encyclopedia of the Magical Dimension
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Stella of Solaria stood at the door to the Tea Room, listening to her parents argue, and wishing more than anything that being the heir allowed her to compel people against their will.
She had spent most of this morning relatively at peace with the world: she'd spent it packing her new back-to-school wardrobe with Nova. Then, Nova had ditched her (don't think about it) and her father had summoned her to the sacred Tea Room. And not for tea, as it turned out.
Her mother had been there, which was the major sign that something was wrong since Stella's parents hadn't spoken for months. They'd talked at length about some nobles trying to steal the throne, and they'd said that Stella needed to bind herself magically to the Solaria ring for their line to even stand a chance. Even though it was illegal for minors to participate in binding rituals on Solaria.
But that was the way things went. You might start out the day okay, but then your best friend would leave, your separated parents would rope you into an illegal blood ritual disguised as an invitation to tea, and then you'd get your palm slashed by a mad priestess. The words of the Sun Priestess still rang in her head:
"Binding you to the Ring will increase your power threefold. It will allow you to transport yourself to anywhere you have seen, even in an image reproduction: anywhere that the light of your eyes has touched. You will become sunlight itself: you will travel faster than light, disregarding the physical rules of matter transfer. But this power comes with a price.
With the ring, you will be fire itself, but without, you will be nearly powerless. This effect can only be overcome by a cataclysmic event; becoming an Enchantix fairy, or changing your alignment. Changing from fairy to witch, for example."
Stella had still chosen to do it. A cut across her palm was a small price to pay to have her parents working on the same side again, she'd thought at the time.
Except, well, she thought, watching them from the doorway, my parents' inability to get along apparently runs deeper than the problems in the realm.
"Stop trying to make me the aggressor here! I wasn't the one who had the insane idea to try breaking the law! I didn't send my spies into my husband's court! I didn't force Stella into agreeing to magical laws that she clearly doesn't understand!" That was her father's voice, sounding harsher than she'd ever heard it before.
"I didn't force her," replied Luna bitterly. "Your notions of free will and 'Enlightenment' principles are going to get us murdered in our beds! What's the use of realm-wide civil protection if Stella's dead?"
The Queen let out a caustic laugh. "I wasn't the one who created a Parliament and put limits on our power. You've tied our hands with this "limited monarchy" business. It was the best alternative. Binding Stella to the Ring will force the nobles to consider us. They will think twice before sending their assassins. We will be a force to be reckoned with. I was the one who created that option, so yes, I dare."
"You speak of 'we' and 'us', as if this home, this kingdom is still yours?" came Radius's voice, almost unrecognizably cold. "I wasn't the one who abandoned their family. You shouldn't have bothered coming back."
Stella realized just after she did it that she had let out an audible gasp. She jerked back from the doorframe with her hand over her mouth.
"I-" said Luna, then cut off her sentence before she could finish it. "There's someone here." Stella backed away from the door, feeling as though someone had punched her in the stomach.
Her mother was going after her, but Stella didn't want to see her anymore.
She wanted her parents to stop arguing. She wanted to not exist. She wanted the ground to swallow her up.
Stella's hands were clenched into fists, tight enough to hurt. She managed to open her hand and activate the power of her Ring. She'd never done this before, but anything was better than remaining here. She wasn't going to wait to say goodbye.
"Solaria!" she said, because it felt right. She threw the Ring up in the air and it grew to its scepter form. She caught it and thought of Callisto, and a certain fairy called Varanda who had sent her a message this morning. She shut her eyes and her body tingled. She heard footsteps coming down the hall toward her, but she'd already left in a flash of light.
She was glad that she was gone before the tears came.
Stella was light years away from Solaria, traveling in and out of space like a needle through fabric. She wasn't manifesting fully, so much as bouncing on top of the Real: like a stone skipping on the surface of a lake. She felt light, happy, free enough to almost forget about her parents.
And then it all went wrong. The light began to bend around her. Wind came from behind with alarming force, forcing her breath out of her lungs. Something hot hit her in the shoulder. She felt the portal swerve, like a change in current.
Her scream caught at the back of her throat. She caught a glimpse of a darkly beautiful figure, and then she was out of reality again, coasting through an iridescent tunnel created by her Ring's warp drive.
She tumbled for a moment, her flight pattern becoming less graceful, and then she snapped back to reality.
She got there just in time to see the figure crumple, crushed by the pressure of space, and then dissipate into a purple fog. By the light of a nearby star, Stella could see where the creature's spell had caught her. Her shoulder was cut, leaking tiny droplets of blood that floated out into the endless space. The edges of the wound were purple.
She snapped back to the tunnel, which was flickering. She thought, somehow, that it had to do with her emotional state. She had to calm down, except she didn't know how. She knew that if she lost control entirely, she would manifest fully and die in space, her bones broken, her lungs crushed. Her body would float, never decaying, forever. Well, that's cheerful, she thought.
She reappeared in reality. She was caught in the gravity of the planet now, falling more than flying. She tumbled past asteroids and populated moons toward the large planet that stretched below her. She wasn't bouncing anymore. She was locked in a freefall, stuck in reality.
She closed her eyes and tried to think peaceful thoughts.
She fell, headfirst, toward the royal palace of Callisto.
Stella entered Callisto royal airspace as a flaming meteor, trailing a tail of fire that threatened to scorch the royal lawn. King Telmar of House Rykiel, ruler of Callisto, stared out of the window and wrung his hands, wishing that he had bought a proper air force instead of a marble boat. His wife, Thalassa, stood by the door of the palace and conjured a gigantic net, which she ordered the butlers to carry out onto the lawn. They were understandably reluctant.
The meteor flamed inevitably toward the lawn, causing everyone to close their eyes. It would cause a gigantic scorch mark on the grass, if it wasn't cursed to set the entire planet ablaze. And then, it disappeared, about fifteen meters above the ground.
A girl appeared in its place. She was tall and blonde, wearing wedges and an orange ensemble, reminiscent of religious garb on Solaria, except for the fact that it showed off most of her stomach. She stumbled over to the Queen, who immediately put a hand over her heart and swooned. Her head hit a pillar, and the queen tried to pretend she'd tripped.
"Hi," said Stella. "I'm Stella, the princess of the realm of Solaria. Varanda called me." She pulled out her phone, showing it to the Queen and the butlers, who had abandoned the giant net and were gathered around her, whispering. "On her crystal ball? And, yeah. I decided to... show...up." She put her hand up to her forehead. "Oh, Dragon," she whispered. This had not been one of her better ideas.
The Queen took advantage of the situation and keeled over directly into the circle of butlers.
In a moment, Stella found herself being escorted by the remaining servants down a wide hall made of some kind of shiny stone, and she soon reached the chamber where Varanda was accepting visitors. She supposed that she could count herself lucky that they had gone to cotillion together, or she would have faced execution for what she just did.
"Oh, Stella!" cried her friend as soon as she caught sight of Stella. She was reclined on a purple chaise lounge, wearing a beautiful sheer dress that was wet from tear stains. Her curly brown hair looked wild.
"Hi, sweetie," Stella said as Varanda ran to hug her. They'd become friends somewhere in the middle of attending Princess Cotillion together. Along with another girl, Princess Argos of Prolix, they'd formed an odd trio, bonding over a common hatred of table setting.
"What's wrong?" said Stella.
"Oh my Dragon, I've been seeing suitors all day and I'm sore all over. I had to pretend to faint to get out of the Courting Chamber; the princes are still waiting out there. You got my message, didn't you?"
"Yeah, of course. I got it on my phone." Stella pulled out the orange flip to show Varanda, who reeled back in shock.
"What is that? Is this some of that cheap Zenith stuff that they use to spy on people?"
Stella resisted the urge to put her hand over her face. That was the thing about Varanda. Once you got to know her, she had absolutely no filter.
"No, it's just a phone. It's like a crystal ball, except it's far more portable and runs off combined magic and technology, so if the spells wear off, there's still a signal."
"What's a signal?"
Stella sighed. "Okay, never mind. What were you going to ask me?" Varanda jumped. "Oh, I forgot. My parents decided to find me a husband early, so I'll be staying home and getting tutors instead of going to Alfea while I prepare to be a wife." She shrugged. "It doesn't matter: I'm no good at magic anyway. And Mommy says that her mages found dark tracking spells around Magix. She says that someone might be spying on the three great schools. Or maybe one of the schools is spying on the others. She tried to tell the three Headmasters, but they didn't listen."
She walked across the room to her dresser, a large, rounded thing made of the fine dark wood that was so common to Callisto. She opened a drawer, and passed her an envelope, embossed with the double-spiral seal of Callisto and her name. The translation spell worked the foreign characters into a language Stella could understand.
"This is my letter to Faragonda," said Varanda. "I need you to give it to her for me." She looked down. "I did want to go to Alfea with you, Stella. It's just that my parents need me more. It's-it's the money, we've spent too much of it on trifles, and I can't…"
"Shhh," said Stella. She pulled the smaller girl into a hug. She didn't want to hear her go on. It was just that her words rung too closely to others she'd heard this morning.
And she knew they didn't mean it; it was just that everyone seemed to be abandoning Stella today.
"Thank you so much for coming," said Varanda once she gathered herself. "Your friendship means so much to me. I'm so glad that I met you. You were my first friend, even though we only knew each other for a while." Her eyes were burning with a new fire, but her words sounded like goodbye.
"-I know Callisto is an out-of the way, backwards planet, but we do have some power on the Council of Realms. If you ever need anything, at all, then I'll be there. Though it might be years, I think we'll see each other again." She smiled. "And just think. Next time, we'll both be queens."
"Varanda," said Stella, realizing something. "Where are your glasses?"
"Oh." She smiled weakly. "I had my eyes fixed, because I need to look pretty before I go into seclusion. I have to look at only beautiful things, even in the mirror, for sixty days before the consummation. It's tradition."
A butler appeared at the door, with a frowning Queen Thalassa following behind. "Princess Varanda is needed in the Royal Courting Chamber. Now."
"And Princess Stella needs to take her leave," the queen added.
"Bye, hon," she said, planting a kiss on her cheek. "You'll be alright," she said, knowing it wasn't true.
Then she let go of Varanda before the Queen or the butler could say anything, and tossed her Ring into the air, thinking of Alfea.
Then she was gone, shooting faster than a comet past asteroids and dying stars. This time, the path was quicker, with her focus driven by anger and frustration, but her thoughts were scattered, disjointed; the warp tunnel flickered every millisecond or so. She was afraid that if she let up the least amount, she would shatter into a million pieces.
After a ridiculously short amount of time, she was careening toward Magix and its forests stretched out below her. She entered its gravity field, flying fast, and flickered into reality.
She never saw where the spells came from.
The blasts hit her in the face, the thigh, and the stomach, and reality broke. She fell up, tumbling in the wrong direction. The Real vanished, replaced by the Ring's warp tunnel, and then she landed in a galaxy she didn't recognize, near a blue-and-green planet that she had only seen in a book of "Forgotten Realms" in history class.
She was caught in its gravitational field, trapped by an unstoppable force, and she fell, faster than sound, into its atmosphere. To think that I started this day in my bedroom, picking out clothes.
She landed in a grey field unlike any she'd ever seen before, covered in sharp rocks and bits of debris. Closing the area in was a fence topped with some sort of sharp wire.
A familiar figure was waiting for her. He was wearing his usual purple overalls, and he was surrounded by ghouls. He'd followed her here? When she hadn't even planned on coming?
"Can't say I was looking forward to seeing you again," she sneered, eyes on the gap in the fence, and then she ran, flat-out, through it and out, into the alien city.
But she only made it as far as the park.
A red-headed girl stalked through an alley with her bicycle, ducking back inside when she saw her ex-boyfriend walking down the street with his friends. She didn't want Andy to see her as she was.
Her hair was mussed, her expression blank. If anyone had been there to talk to her, they would wonder if she was actually listening; or indeed, if she knew that they were there. In the basket of her bike, a blue-and-white rabbit blinked up at her, eyes filled with a worry that was almost human.
"Flight," she whispered. The word had two meanings, and both of them were things she wanted to do. Being here was better than going back. She'd done things she couldn't explain. She suspected that she'd done other things that she couldn't remember.
"-hot blonde," Bloom heard Mark say, waving his hands as if tracing a woman's curves, while Andy and Ryo nodded, and then they walked too far away for her to hear any more.
She felt a strange sense of loss. Everyone had abandoned her; her friends, her boyfriend, her adopted parents. Her friends had tried, at first, to keep in touch, but they'd stopped coming over eventually. That was exactly why she left her phone at home.
"I didn't mean for this to happen," she said to Kiko. She hoped he understood that this was an apology. She climbed onto her bike and rode down the street toward Gardenia Park. Something told her that was where she needed to be.
Stella had expected to transform, to feel the power of all the generations of Solarian rulers, and to feel it binding with hers, magnifying it threefold. She'd known, in the corner of her mind, that fighting the ghouls and the troll all at once would be the hardest thing that she had ever done.
She'd tried not to think of it, as she was running terrified down alien streets, past people who didn't seem to notice the ogre trailing behind her.
And she had transformed. The power was greater than anything she'd ever felt before. The Sun Priestess was right; she wasn't on fire. She was fire.
So, understandably, she was surprised to be losing three minutes into the bout.
It happened quickly. She was holding her her own, casting spells that made her freshman incantations look like sparklers, when the ogre stepped out of the shadows and charged. She'd tensed, ready to jump upward, but his fist flew out unexpectedly and sent her flying. She hit the ground hard, seeing sparks behind her eyelids, and then she was covered in the sharp hands of ghouls, being held down, unable to even scream. She tried to hold on as her scepter was wrenched from her.
Her power narrowed as if it was a thread tied to the scepter, threatening to snap. She was feeling her magic getting ripped away from her. So this is what the Priestess meant.
A female voice spoke in the alien language of this place. Her words resolved themselves quickly into ones that Stella could understand, even though she couldn't comprehend at all why she was saying them– go away, you idiot! she thought.
"Leave her alone," said the unfamiliar voice, "or I'll...call the police." And then reality broke, again, when the girl, instead of dying, cast several spells that sent first the ghouls, then the ogre, flying like bowling pins. Stella reclaimed her scepter and finished off the battle, without even calling her attack.
That left just them, standing in the clearing, staring at each other. Stella sized up her rescuer. She was tall, almost Stella's height, with long red hair and skin pale enough to show the blue veins under her eyes. She was a bit too lean but looked lucid, more like a chronic under-eater than a drug addict.
She was blinking in the light, as if she hadn't been outside for a long time. She was wearing a blue top that reached just past her navel and light blue pants embroidered with stars.
"You've got magic powers," said Stella. "An NMB with magic powers. That's new."
The girl was staring at her hands. "Yeah, well, lots of interesting things are happening today," she said, slightly dry in tone. Then she looked up at Stella. An oddly hungry expression came over her face, making her look even more like she needed a snack.
"Hey, are you a fairy princess?"
"Such a weird day," said Stella. She was beginning to get a head rush. I could actually faint right now, she mused.
Then she swayed and fell to the ground, doing her best Queen Thalassa imitation.
The redhead watched as the girl's clothing changed to an orange skirt-and-top combination and wedge heels, and attached wings that mimicked her real-life ones. "Flight," she said again. It would have to wait, because she'd just gotten an idea.
Behind her, Kiko put his paw to his forehead in hopeless exasperation.
Bloom loaded the girl onto the seat of her bike, propped her feet up on the crossbars, and wheeled her home, sticking to the shadows of the darkest alleys, all the way up to the garage door of her house. Her parents were waiting in the living room when she got back, sporting worried expressions and asking too many questions, until she finally told them that the girl was her second cousin, visiting from far away, and she needed to sleep off her jet lag on the couch.
"Don't ever worry us like that again," said Vanessa when the fairy was safely tucked in. There was a scared look on her face as she wrapped Bloom up in her arms, pulling her close. Bloom's father hung back at the door to the garage, looking uncharacteristically skittish.
"You know, sweetie, that road trip you mentioned could work out after all. Maybe you could go to La Jolla like you said."
Bloom looked at her quizzically. She remembered talking about a road trip, but nothing else. "Mom, when have I ever said anything about La Jolla?" She laughed lightly. "Anyway, all that's going to change. I have a feeling that this is the start of something great."
She walked breezily up the stairs to her room, leaving her mom where she was.
She had to clear away three layers of taped-up drawings to reach her mirror, but when she did, she smiled at what she saw. She didn't remember putting this outfit together, but it was a good choice. It worked with the image she was creating in her mind. It made her look younger than she really was.
She smiled innocently at her reflection, pitching her voice a bit higher than normal.
"Hi, I'm Bloom!" she said.
She spent the rest of the morning cleaning out every single drawing in her room, opening the window to air things out, and packing away all her fairy books. She didn't want the fairy to think she was a geek.
When she was done, she lay down on her bed and slept, feeling lucid for the first time in ages. And when Bloom woke, she felt ready to meet her destiny.
When Stella woke up, it was already dark, and several things had changed. Most obviously, she no longer was injured. The magic of the Ring had been working under her skin to heal her wounds, knitting the skin back together until all that remained were a few marks. The red-head showed signs of healing as well. She looked well-rested and more put together already. But there was something different about her. It was in her voice, in the way she carried herself.
Her voice seemed higher, somehow, almost piping. There was a ringing cheer in everything she said, and it never. Went. Away.
"Hi, I'm Bloom," she said, and kept smiling even while speaking. "Who are you?"
Stella stared at her a minute. "Princess Stella," she said. "Of Solaria."
"Right along the inner ring of-" Stella paused, noticing that Bloom was confused. "Far away. Another dimension."
They talked more. Stella had the pleasure of explaining everything from her ring to the Alfea school to three NMBs with no conception of how magic worked. It was frustrating work: Bloom got more excited with every word, while her parents threatened to call the police until she was finally forced to turn their phone into a cabbage.
It was only then she even noticed the bunny. There was something uncanny about the way that it was looking at her...
"Hey, come see my room!" squealed Bloom, dragging Stella by her arm, up to a clean, small bedroom done up in pink and yellow, and the rabbit was pushed out of Stella's mind.
It was only then that Stella remembered. "Wait, I saw you doing magic too! Last night!" Does that mean-
"Oh yeah, I did it again," Bloom paused for a second, then began to chatter away. Stella hadn't followed the entire way, but apparently Bloom had found her powers when a fire started in her school. Stella couldn't help but feel the girl had exaggerated, but congratulated her anyway.
Well, if she's a fairy, why is she here? Stella wondered. Earth doesn't have magic. Where would she learn to control it?
Then it hit her. She wouldn't have to play delivery service for Varanda after all!
Stella didn't trust herself with the ring anymore, so she'd need to get a ride somehow. Besides, she still had to convince Bloom to come with her. Why not do both things with one call?
The Earth girl's giddy mood persisted, and Stella began to seriously wonder what Earth water had in it. Even when the ogre visited her again, this time with a blue buddy, she was the only one in the family not to freak out. Maybe she didn't think it was real.
Even when the heroes came and took the troll away, Bloom didn't even flirt as literal magical boys saved their lives. Stella couldn't put it together.
From what she could see, Bloom was the kind of person who had no secrets and no problems, Stella thought, who had a heart filled only with innocence. That dry-humored girl from the park was completely gone. Stella began to wonder if she'd imagined her. But even if Bloom had a high-pitched voice, and a self-righteous tone, she was still a fairy, and Stella owed her one.
Maybe, just maybe, she could become a friend.