When Lily Underwood, Queen of the Eight Lands, Empress upon the mountain, Consort of the God-king Achram Lord of Light, and Goddess of the Five Seas and the Islands of Orawn stepped back through the wardrobe door, she found that not a moment had passed. Her scepter was gone, and her royal robes, and she looked down at herself to find the bony, blank body of a twelve-year-old girl.
She had come back on a whim, as much as the Queen of the Eight Lands could be said to have whims — thinking what a laugh it would be to show her old uncle the delights of her kingdom: a gift of golden apples in a basket, an Ainranian silver coin pressed with her own face.
But now, twelve years old, slightly shivering, Lily, the Empress upon the mountain, realized her mistake. Her future stretched out before her, gray and withered: college, university, a sensible marriage to some dull banker who had done well for himself, children raised in this colourless world of city smokestacks and trains that were always late, and she–
Oh! But she had slain dragons! And faced demons! And negotiated the peace of Trolius! And was it not she, single-handed, who had stood before the army of the Most Dread Harmeon and stared them all down? And was she really, really, after all those triumphs, going to have to face everything again: the gossip, the fumbles, making allies and enemies — puberty! And this time without the scheming, the intrigues, without the magic of the God-king or the constant undercurrent of destiny?
The clock on the mantle was still at twenty past two, the exact moment she’d stepped through the wardrobe the first time. It was not even a decision. Before the minute hand had so much as budged, the Goddess of Orawn turned around, opened the door, and pushed her way back through the curtain of coats–
But the wardrobe had never been anything more than a wardrobe, after all.