In chapter five, Sammy, Selena, and BB have been watching the kittens in Selena’s viewing globe:

“Oh!” said Sammy. “Those are my cousins Carolyn and John, and their cat Smokey. I didn’t know she was related to you, BB. What adorable kittens.”

“They are rather attractive, aren’t they,” said BB. “We’d better hurry on, though, if we’re going to get to the hall of doors.”

Selena clapped her hands, and the picture disappeared. “It’s just a little farther.” She led them up a winding staircase, into a hallway, and around a corner.


“They are rather attractive, aren’t they,” said BB. Her voice was almost a purr, and she lifted her head proudly. “We’d better hurry on, though, if we’re going to get to the hall of doors.”

Selena clapped her hands, and the picture disappeared. “It’s not far, just past the gallery.” She led them up a winding staircase, into a hallway lined with paintings. Some featured forests, meadows or mountains, but most were of people or cats. There were flower pictures too, and bowls of fruit that looked real enough to eat. Small tables and pedestals held vases of sweet-smelling live flowers and statues of strange beasts: unicorns, gryphons, even dragons.

As they walked through, Sammy looked at the pictures on the walls. “Look, BB,” she said. “Here’s one that looks just like you.”

BB barely glanced at the painting, her head high and her tail twitching in the air. “Yes, it’s not too bad a likeness, although I don’t think the artist got the color of my fur quite right, and I’m not too happy with the expression. This one of my mother is better.”

In the next painting, Selena held a young cat who also looked very much like BB. Next to that was a basketful of kittens, and then a portrait of Selena, or someone like her, with another girl. Both wore beautiful dresses of shimmering silk, and small silver crowns.

“Oh, Selena,” said Sammy. “Is that you? Who’s that with you? She looks a little like you. Is she your sister or a cousin?”

Selena was still smiling, but her eyes looked sad. “No, that’s my mother, Queen Sylvia. That painting hung over the great fireplace at Ashenkeep, a long time ago.” She sighed. “I’m so glad it had gone to the artisans on Iskandar for cleaning and re-framing, or I wouldn’t have it now.”

“Your mother! But she looks so young, and she’s smaller than you are. She’s awfully pretty, though. Does she live here with you? Will I get to meet her?”

Selena’s smile drooped a little. She took a deep breath, and her eyes had a far-away look, as if she were remembering something. “My mother was of an ancient people, small and long-lived but not immortal. Like all her people, she was closely tied to the forests and meadows of her homeworld of Vesta. It was a truly beautiful place. My father built Ashenkeep there and made it the center of his government, so that my mother could be close to the places she loved. It was said at my mother’s birth that she would live “as long as the star-lilies bloomed in the meadows of Miramar, and the flame trees stood in Greengold Forest.” I used to think that was just a pretty way of saying “forever.” No one had imagined the coming of the Darkness, then. When the forests were blighted and the meadows withered, my mother and many of her people faded with them. My father and his allies fought valiantly, but we finally had to flee for our lives. My father fights the enemy even now. One day we shall win back Ashenkeep and I will go there to lay star-lilies on my mother’s grave.”

Sammy gasped, her eyes big and gleaming with tears. “Oh, Selena. Your mother died and your father’s away fighting? You’re all alone? Oh, that’s so sad. My daddy went away, but I still have Mom.” She threw her arms around Selena in a big hug.

“I’m not quite alone,” said Selena, as she wiped away a tear. “I have many servants to take care of me and I have visitors now and then. I would have stayed to fight with my father, but he says it helps him to know I’m safe here. He sends messages when he can.”

“Your father must love you a lot. I used to think my daddy loved me, but I’m not so sure now. He’s not fighting a war or anything like that. He just left, and he doesn’t write or call. He used to get angry sometimes, when I didn’t do what he told me to. I think maybe I was so bad he didn’t want to be around me any more.”

“Sammy, don’t ever think that. You are a sweet, loveable girl, and your father’s leaving had nothing to do with you. Sometimes grownups have problems that they have to work out on their own. They’re so wrapped up in their own troubles that they don’t even realize other people are hurting, too.”

“Do you think so? That’s what Mom said, too. Do you think Daddy will ever come back?”

“I don’t know Sammy. That’s up to him. For now, the best thing is just to remember the good times and let the rest go. I know you’re sad now. Your mother is sad, too, even though she tries not to show it. She needs a lot of those good hugs.”

“I hadn’t thought about that. I guess grownups need hugs, too.”

BB called from the end of the gallery. “Are you two coming? The hall of doors is just around the corner.”