Chapter One: Los Angeles, 2014
"Okay, so where exactly is this Morvania place, anyway?"
Sylvina Martescu glanced up from where she had been poring over a large atlas, a plaintive expression on her face. "And how can we go there if we don't even know where it is? What exactly did Phyllis say, Nancy? We're doing what there?"
"Syl, the thing I like most about you is your ability to listen." Nancy Pelligrini rolled her eyes heavenwards. At twenty one years old, Nancy was the youngest member of Californian based rock group "Jewel", and Sylva, six months older, was the group's synth player. As different from each other as chalk and cheese, years working together had softened the edges between them, and they, along with drummer Elizabeth "Copper" Santiago and Sadie Monahue were one of the hottest rock acts currently on the American charts. "Look, Syl, here it is. See, this is Europe, over here. That bit you're looking at is Asia...no wonder you can't find it!"
"Ooh." Sylva sent her companion a sheepish look, flipping over the page. "Okay, I didn't take Geography in school - so sue me. I did History, because I could crib my sister's notes...so where abouts it it, then?"
"Here." Nancy squatted down on the floor beside her bandmate, pointing to a pinkish region on the map. "Eastern Europe. See, there's Greece, and up here we've Russia...and Poland and Hungary...are you with me now?"
"It's so tiny." Sylva squinted at the map. "Are you sure that's where Phyllis said we were going?"
Phyllis Gabor, once Pizzazz of the Misfits was the owner of Misfit Music, the company to which the Jewel girls were signed, and she, along with her former bandmate "Jetta" Pelligrini - Nancy's mother - comprised one of the most formidable business partnerships in twenty first century Los Angeles.
"Syl, sometimes I wonder where you were when they handed out the brains." She said wearily. "Your sister got one, so how you missed out is totally beyond me. Anyhow, this is the deal. As far as I understood what Aunt Phyllis was saying, there is a Battle of the Bands held in Europe every year. Lots of countries across the world are invited to participate - usually different countries each time - and no rock act is allowed to play the gig twice. The contest moves around different places in Europe, and this year it's being held in the Morvanian capital city. Aunt Phyl says Morvania is small but it has good venues - she and the Misfits played there once, so I'm surprised you don't know where it is. After all, your mother's a Misfit as much as mine is."
"Mom never mentioned Morvania." Sylva admitted. "But okay, cool. It will make for an interesting new tour date, anyway. So Jewel are what? Representing America or something?"
"That's what I gather." Nancy nodded. "I asked Aunt Phyl if it mattered that Sadie was English, and she said no. Apparently, since we're 75% American and based in California, it's fine."
"Sweet." Sylva dimpled. "If nothing else, it'll be one wild tourist destination to visit. Do we know any of the other bands involved in this?"
"Not as far as I know." Nancy shrugged. "There are representatives from ten or eleven different countries, but Aunt Phyl did not mention any names, and I didn't ask her. I think she was in a hurry - late to the hairdresser or something."
"Sounds like Phyllis." Sylva laughed. "Okay, so if we're gonna be in some European Battle of the Bands, I'm gonna need a whole new wardrobe. There might be cute European guys watching us, after all!"
"What happened to being sweet on Jack Miller?" Nancy raised an eyebrow. Sylva grimaced.
"Let's not go there." She said expressively. "Besides, when have you ever known me not find an excuse to shop and flirt, huh? A vacation abroad is just the reason!"
"It's not a vacation. It's a contest." Nancy looked amused. Sylva shrugged.
"Same difference. We'll still get to hang out and explore." She said dismissively. She folded the atlas in half, getting to her feet and handing it to her companion. "Here...you can have this. I'm gonna go root out Topaz and ask her if she wants to come shopping. This is an emergency!"
Nancy watched her bandmate hurry away up the stairs, shaking her head slowly in amusement.
"She never changes." She murmured, as she made her way out to the pool to spread the news to the final two band members. "I wonder what it will be like to visit Morvania, or what our competition will be like. If nothing else, it'll be an experience."
Meanwhile, on the top floor of the big Starlight Mansion in which Jewel
made their home, Sylva had sought out her friend's bedroom, knocking softly
on the door. Topaz, or Aurora Stapleton had once been Jewel's lead singer,
but she had given birth to baby Hollie the previous December, and as yet
had not returned to full time performing. She was hoping to begin a solo
career, once Hollie was a little older, but the infant was barely three
months old, and Topaz was still getting used to her new responsibilities.
Canadian born, she had met Jewel when they had been touring in Canada, and
had soon been adopted into the fold. She and Sylva had struck up a great
friendship from the off, and, among other things, Sylva was the new baby's
The blond girl opened the door now, casting her friend an interested smile. "Come on in, by the way. Hollie's just done eating...she's not gone to sleep yet, so you can talk."
"I wasn't sure...I know you usually put her down around this time." Sylva admitted. "I just had to share Nancy's news with you."
"News?" Topaz looked startled. "What kind of news?"
"It's Jewel news, really." Sylva amended, coming obediently into the room and pushing the door to behind her. She made a beeline for the small crib, leaning over the end to peer at the tiny infant within. "Hey there, trouble...how are you?"
Hollie raised big eyes - originally blue but now turning greenish as the months passed - to her visitor, putting her fingers in her mouth and gurgling. Sylva laughed.
"She is so precious, you know." She remarked. "Like a real life doll, almost. I don't know how you get anything done - if she was mine I'd simply spend twenty four hours of each day cooing at her!"
"Well, when you've taken some of her late night screams, you tend to be glad of a break." Topaz rolled her eyes. "But you were going to tell me something about Jewel?" She looked wistful. "I miss being out of the loop a little, actually."
"Topaz, you are never out of the loop!" Sylva protested, grabbing her friend by the hands and sitting down on the bed, pulling her companion down next to her. "Okay? I know that we had a wild time in England, with Sadie getting accused of murder and everything, but believe me, all of us were happy to be back on American soil after that particular adventure. And besides, we all missed you very much, so don't get all morose and pensive, okay? Else we'll start to feel bad that we went on without you!"
"Oh, I don't want that." Topaz looked sheepish. "I'm sorry, Syl. It's not that you leave me out, it's just getting used to changes, that's all. I love Hollie very much, but it can also be very restrictive, trying to raise a tiny infant on your own. You folk jetted off to England, and I wish I could've gone with you...it was empty here without you."
"Then you mightn't like the news I'm gonna bring." Sylva looked guilty.
"Oh?" Topaz raised an eyebrow, then, "Don't tell me you're going away again? Oh no, Syl, not already?" As Sylva nodded her head. "Where now? And why so soon?"
"We're going to Morvania." Sylva said simply. "It's a Battle of the Bands and we're representing America. Phyllis sprung it on Nancy earlier, and she just told me. I didn't even know where Morvania was, but apparently it's in Eastern Europe...I've never been there, though Nance said that Mom and her group played there in the eighties."
"I've heard of Morvania." Topaz frowned. "Lots of old buildings and long standing traditions. I really hoped you weren't gonna go touring again for a while, to be honest...it's so lonely here when you're all away - but I guess you don't have a choice, do you?"
"No, not unless you fancy arguing with Phyllis." Sylva shrugged. "I'm sorry, Topaz."
"It's all right. Cynthia will be here, unless you've figured out a way for her to project her hardlight form across oceans." Topaz mustered a smile. "She's good with Hollie if I start losing my grip on the world, and besides, this is precisely why I left the group. I want to spend time with Hollie, getting used to my new responsibilities. And you guys need to be jetting off and wowing the world with that little piece of Jewel flair. I'm not upset, Syl, and you have nothing to apologise for. Go out there and win for Hollie and me, okay? Oh, and bring me back lots of photographs!"
"I'll do better than that." Sylva promised. "I brought you a souvenir from England, and I'll bring you and Hollie one from Morvania, too." She dimpled. "I can't help but wonder if I might do a little intercontinental flirting, to be quite honest. After all, it's not working out for me here with the typical American guy, so why not spread my net a little further afield? Maybe there are some hot guys in Morvania...you think?"
"I think that if there are, you'll find them." Topaz grinned, though there was a slightly sad light still in her pale blue eyes, and Sylva was too perceptive not to see it.
"Well, if I do, I'll find you one too." She promised, hugging her friend tightly. "I'll miss you like mad when we're out there, you know. You're still my best friend, whatever happens...you do know that, right?"
"Yes, I know." Topaz nodded. "And you're mine, too. It's okay, Syl, you don't have to worry about me. I'll be fine, and besides, I'm still getting over Cameron. I'm not ready for any fresh flings yet. And I've learnt that long distance love is seriously overrated, too. Too much heartache - no thanks."
"Well, I'll write and phone and tell you how we get on, anyway." Sylva told her. "Meanwhile, I was gonna head out shopping for a bit. Is Hollie gonna sleep, or do you wanna bring her and come with me?"
"I can't bring Hollie into the city mall." Topaz bit her lip. "Last time I tried that, we got hounded by press before we reached the door, and I don't like them taking pictures of my baby, Syl. She's none of their business, and she's too young to be able to decide for herself if she wants to be in the public eye or not." She sighed. "Besides, it is time she had a nap. She's already sleepy...I don't think she'd be very good company this afternoon. I'm sorry, Syl...do you mind very much if we stay put?"
"Couldn't you get Cynthia to watch her for an hour or two or something?" Sylva begged. "I know that she's your baby and your responsibility, but I miss us hanging out, and it'd only be a one off, before we go. Once we're in Morvania, you'll be able to give the kid undivided attention, and Hollie loves Cynthia."
"Well, I suppose I could." Topaz nodded. "Okay. I'll head downstairs and ask her. But if she says no, then I can't come, Syl...okay?"
"Okay." Sylva nodded her head, watching as her friend checked the baby radio was working, and clipped the second receiver to her belt. "But I hope she says yes. I need a whole new wardrobe, and if you ask me, you need a little sun and fresh air, too!"
"Maybe I do." Topaz acknowledged, as the two girls headed downstairs. "Hollie and I went to the beach yesterday with Sadie though, don't forget. It's just that being a single Mom is frazzling me more than I expected it to. Jetta told me it would be hard work, and I accepted that...but it's more than I'd bargained for." She grinned ruefully. "Maybe it's more that I need a little space from Baby. Don't worry, though. I'm getting the hang of it. And I love Hollie to death...she's amazing. I can't describe how important she is...she's just damn difficult to look after!"
"The poor kid doesn't know how to ask for anything without crying for it yet." Sylva observed. "Besides, once she can crawl and walk and talk, she'll be twice the trouble!"
"Thanks for that comforting thought." Topaz grimaced. "Oh, we'll be fine. We're just learning together."
"She's really starting to look like Cameron." Sylva remarked, as they made their way down the cold stone steps of the basement to where Synergy, the girls' powerful mainframe computer was housed. Synergy had been built in the 1980s, but her capabilities were beyond those even of the present day. Designed to project holograms, some alterations from Nancy's brother Aaron had allowed the free thinking computer to project herself in a form that could both touch and be touched. Consequently, "Cynthia" had developed a life away from her hard drive, and it was often easy to forget that the girl who did so much for Jewel's stage shows was little more than pixels of light.
"Yeah, tell me about it." Topaz sighed. "I miss him a lot, Syl. More than I thought that I would. I can't help thinking sometimes that he'd know better what to do with Hollie than I do - being a medical student, and all. But I can't mess him about...and I made my decision. It's just a bit of a blow, with her turning out to be a redhead, and now her eyes are going greenish too."
"Well, she has a handsome Daddy. It's not the end of the world if she grows up looking like him." Sylva reminded her.
"True. I just didn't want Hollie to be important to me because she reminded me of her father...and well, she can't help but remind me of him, every time I look at her." Topaz shrugged. "Oh well. As I said, it's still a lot of things to be getting used to. She's a well behaved baby really."
"So you'll be okay when we're in Morvania, then?" Sylva eyed her friend doubtfully. "I've not seen you this iffy since the kid was born."
"I'm fine, just tired." Topaz assured her. "And yeah, I'll cope. I'll harass your phone endlessly and stuff, that's all."
"Okay." Sylva dimpled. "I'm sure I'll have a ton of stuff to tell you, anyhow. Morvania sounds like someplace exotic...I can't wait!"
Prologue: Morvania, 1987
Chapter One: Los Angeles, 2014
Chapter Two: At The Airport
Chapter Three: Laviana
Chapter Four: The Competition
Chapter Five: The Queen
Chapter Six: Ransacked!
Chapter Seven: Anatole
Chapter Eight: Nerysa
Chapter Nine: A Frightening Realisation
Chapter Ten: Betrayal
Chapter Eleven: The Truth
Chapter Twelve: Heartfelt
Chapter Thirteen: Home