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Once upon a time, I had known nothing about my family. Gran never, ever spoke about her family, and I never asked. My parents and I knew that Gran had come from Europe, but anyone would have known that from her beautiful, aristrocratic French. But being me, I just couldn't leave it alone. So I went to Europe and found out. And then my life fell apart.

Or shoudl I say, my old life fell apart. And my new life...well, it was like something right out of a fairy tale.

I had been ta teacher on the college level, and now I was a member of one of the royal families of Dobrenica, an obscure European country with some very unusual attributes.

Like magic. Yes, there was magic in Dobrencia. For instance, if certain members of two royal lines married at a specific time, Dobrenia vanished. And ghosts, I could now see ghosts. And vampires....but I still can't quite wrap my brain around that one. Let's just say that Dobrenica was one strange little country.

I was truly happy. I was engaged to the heir apparent to the throne of Dobrenica, and we were in love. Wedding preparations were underway and, although the thought of being a princess made me feel weird, being with Alec was like living a dream.

So my mood was high as I walked under the triumphal arch in the center of the capital city and ducked thorugh a lichen-dotten medieval archway. Trailing my fingers along the wall, I soon passed the odd little painting of a door that had intrigued me ever since I first came to Dobrenica. It was rendered so realistically that on first glance it seemed three-dimensional, but as I passed my hands over the painted doorknob, my fingres closed on cold metal, and the false door swung inward, revealing a sun-drenched landscape and a teenage girl with honey-colored braids.

"I am Xanpia," she said, and somehow I knew she wasn't just another girl named after the patron saint of Dobrenica.

"This door," I blurted, "how does it work?"

"It is a door between your past and your future," she responded.

"Oh, no! No, no, no -- I'm about to married!" I said in desperation, trying to back away.

"You are called to guide the child Aurelie," she said. "But that is only half your task: To save Dobrenica, you must bring her here."

And with that, she disappeared, leaving me floating like a spirit in a strange world, two hundred years in the past....

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