part one - cass
It was an average spring morning in New London. Sixteen-year-old Cassandra Raine knew from every book she'd ever read that that meant today would be different. Something would happen to add a little spice or, if she was lucky, adventure to her boring life. She was sitting at her window looking out at the drizzly day, wondering what it could be. That was when she heard the clatter of silverware in the sink.
She shot off her seat, hitched her skirts, and raced into the kitchenette of their tiny little appartment. Her mother and father were both there, staring at the radio. "Mum? Dad? Whatever's the matter?" Cass asked urgently.
Her mother lifted one frail hand and pointed it at the radio. She took a deep shuttering breath, opened her mouth to speak, then burst into tears. Her husband pulled her to him and rocked back and forth, muttering comforting words.
"Dad," Cass said.
He turnded to her, eyes rimmed with red, and spoke softly. "King Darius, Queen Ulyandras, and Crown Prince Travis have disappeared." Cass heard the words but didn't quite register them for a moment or two.
"What . . . Where . . ." She shook her head. "Okay. So . . . What are we going to do about it?"
"What are we going to do about it?" her father said incredulously. "We can't do anything about it - we're peasants."
"So we're just going to let those air-headed nobleman take care of everything for us? There are questions that need answers that they probably won't think to ask. Like, where did they go? Were they kidnapped? If so, who kidnapped them? Oh, and I don't know, who gets the crown untill we can find them? Because we will find them, right? And if not . . . What then?"
"Cass," her father said gently, "you're thinking too much about this. Everything will be okay."
"No, Dad, that's the problem. We always just sit back and let the Royals take care of everything for us. And, yeah, our life's been great, but the Royals aren't here to help us anymore. Now it's our turn to help them."
He smiled at his only daughter. "You always were a problem-solver, Cassy. But I truly don't think there's anything we can do about this. Just let Prince Aron take care of it. He's got everything under control."
Cass snorted. "The Crown Princes's baby brother? He's barely five. He can't do anything."
"If he can't do anything, you can't either, Cass."
"But maybe I can, Dad. I'd rather try and fail than sit back and watch, knowing that maybe, possibly, I could have done something. Ya know? I have to try. It's who I am, Dad, you know that."
He took a deep breath. "Yes, yes I do. Just . . ."
"If you do go out there and try to save the world, just please be careful. And . . ."
"Go on, Dad. Burnin' daylight."
He glanced at his wife. "You wanna tell her?"
"Cass," her mother said. "You have a brother."
"I have a what?"
"A brother. He was your age now when you were born. You were two when he left." She wiped her eyes. "His name was Darius."