With the unexpected help of the half-born, Anglenna finally finds the possible whereabouts of the missing Udoorin Shieldheart and Princess Alor’Nadien ne;
The Gull’s Perch…
..the home of the Summer Fey
and Queen Titania, herself!
This, however, presents issues on its own,
as Mortals, in general, are banned from the Perch,
and half-borns, being part demon, in particular,
are never allowed to even come near
the sacred valley of the Summer Queen..
A depressed and depleted procession oozed down the dim halls of Serenity Home Temple as Perigren Ostlanna Temez lead her brothers and sisters down the long, spiraling stairs and into the dim cavernous crypt.
With a grim expression on his face, Hal Mali followed her as he dragged a pale and drained-looking Cee Lingerith Demelze by the hand.
And right behind them, Hamna Vir slouched with a stubborn expression on her sharp face, as she fiercely hugged the little, slumbering Dar Derune in her arms.
“I could walk.”, came Dar Derune’s slurred voice as his head bobbed back and forth.
“I know you can, love.”, Hamna Vir said kindly, but the fire in her eyes told otherwise. She was a savage, bitter half-born to begin with, and the fact that no other than Titania, the Summer Queen, had backhanded her little Dar Derune just a few moments ago and from as far away as Gull’s Perch, had been like a slap on their collective faces. Sort of like a wake-up call, that there were things much, much more powerful than they were in this Mortal world after all, and that fact, so casually displayed, had hit them all quite hard, quite literally. And that it had been their little Dar Derune on the receiving end had made Hamna Vir, in particular, quite vexed which was putting it rather lightly, for at that very moment, the girl with the sharp features had nothing but murder in her eyes and that it had been the Summer Queen, a being way out of their league for any kind of retribution or retaliation had merely added to the insult.
“You are pulling too hard..”, whimpered a glazed Demelze.
“Ow. I am sorry, Demelze. My bad.”, said Hal Mali and with a swift scoop, he grabbed her, spun her up with a flip, and landed her in his powerful arms. “How’s that?”
“You are just taking advantage of my moment of weakness Hal Mali.. and I am liking it!”, she said, her words garbled and stumbled over each other as she smiled at him with a sloshed and woozy face.
“Aren’t you a darling?”, Hal Mali smiled back.
“I am, aren’t I?”, Demelze swooned.
“Too bad you are not going to remember any of this when you come around.”, he fumed to himself.
“Why don’t you just ask her out Hal?”, Temez asked from ahead.
“Hal? Why do you call me Hal, Perigren Ostlanna Temez?”, asked Hal Mali, a bit confused and hurt. “Have I ever upset or disappointed you in any way that I am not aware of and warrant such admonishment?”
“Never, love. But I have noted the Mortals refer to one other by shortening each other’s names. Thought perhaps we could also try it so we do not stand out when we finally come out in the open.”, she replied.
Hal Mali mused over that, as he unwittingly hugged the befuddled Demelze closer to his chest.
“Let’s see if I have understood this correctly; they not only butcher one another, they also butcher each other’s names?”
“Yes. But do not ask me why, dear. Apparently, either they do not give much importance to names, or they do not believe names have power, or they are merely ignorant. I have been studying them, but I have yet to uncover the exact reasoning behind them. Take Ranger Lieutenant Bremorel Songsteel for example. Rarely have I heard anyone call her by that name. They summon her by saying only Bremorel. Young Senior Temple Guardian Thomas Dimwood, on the other hand, calls her fondly as Morel. I have witnessed on one occasion where someone referred to her as just ‘Bree’. She, herself, never calls her mate by his full name either, and summons him as Thomas.”, Temez tried to explain.
“That is heresy, that is.”, Hal Mali said with an ugly face. Then thought for a moment. “Or maybe not. You, my brothers, and my sisters rarely call me Hal Mali Volent Pierce. Much like we rarely call Demelze or Hamna Vir by their full name, either, and it has nothing to do with the power the name has as a whole, but everything to do with practical efficiency.”
“I think you just answered a rather vexing dilemma, dear. You are indeed as practical as you are efficient.”, smiled Temez wanly.
“If any of you calls me Vir, I will haunt you in your dreams until you wet yourselves!”, hissed Hamna Vir.
“We shall pick up this practice but only those of us who want to, and if they are comfortable with the idea. Henceforth, you may call me only Temez.”
“Well. I would rather everyone called me Hal Mali. But I will try my best not to retaliate should any of you calls me Hal. Is that acceptable?”, Hal Mali said dubiously.
“Perfectly, dear.”, Temez smiled again. “Which brings us back to my previous question; Why don’t you ask her out? It’s quite obvious you like Demelze. Actually, pretty much all of us have noticed your rather transparent interest in her. She’d make a troublesome but fiery mate. You would never get bored of life..”
Hal Mali signed.
“Am I truly that obvious?”
“When it comes to Demelze, yes, dear.”, smiled Temez.
“Yup!”, said Hamna Vir.
“Yea..”, slurred Demezle vaguely but it wasn’t clear as to what she was agreeing for her eyes were closed and her slender, diminutive figure danced limply at each step Hal Mali took down the long flight of stairs.
Hal Mali sighed again.
“No point.”, he said a bit depressed. “Demelze despises me.”
“No she doesn’t.”, objected Temez.
“Yes, she does.”, Hamna Vir inserted from the back.
“Hamna Vir!”, said Temez reprovingly.
“What? She does despise him and you know it!”, she snapped irritably.
Temez sighed this time.
“Girl, you are never going to understand the hearts of Mortals nor men if you just say everything that comes to your mind.”
“I have no interest in Mortals and the only heart that matters to me is sleeping over my shoulder. And I don’t say everything that comes to my mind. If I did, I would have said, Demelze makes fun of Hal Mali whenever he’s not around!”, Hamna Vir said waspishly.
Hal Mali’s face deflated and became mournful as he drew Demelze even closer to himself.
“Hamna Vir, dear.”, Temez said.
“Do shut up—”
“—just about, NOW?“
Hamna Vir scowled and gave Temez her best searing gaze.
“It’s alright, Perigren… uhhmm.. Temez.. Really. I wasn’t aware she went as far as punning me but I had my suspicions. Guess we don’t all get what we want and that’s the same whether we are in Hell or in the Mortal coil.”, Hal Mali mourned. “I will just have to be happy with the short few moments while she is nice to me like this and in my arms.”
“Don’t be sad, Hal.”, Temez tried to comfort him. “I learned a saying among Mortals that people change. I am not certain if that includes us, but my guestimation is that it does because we all did change. We were in Hell just last month, learning how to sow dissension among Mortals. Now we are among said Mortals and are actually helping them. Had you said then, I would never have believed Demelze would have done what she did for a Mortal’s son, but here we are, and here she paid her trial in pain.. a lot of it.. Give her the chance to change, Hal. I think she deserves that much.”
“Yea, Hal. What she said!”, inserted Hamna Vir with a scowl.
The long, spiraling stairs ended and the little group came to a large, steel-lined, heavy-looking double door.
Temez pulled at one of the rings on the door and opened it, revealing a deep, cavernous chamber lined with five hundred years of deceased temple guardians lying in their enclosed, unadorned sarcophagi. Silently, they walked up to the far end and stood before the one that had ‘Demos Lightshand’ chipped on a plaque and fit into its side.
Then they all knelt, Hal Mali still holding Demelze in his arms and Hamna Vir hugging Dar Derune in hers, closed their eyes, and prayed.
“Darling Demos.”, Temez whispered. “Again, we have come to thank you, for it was your kind heart that made Senior Temple Guardian Thomas Dimwood to also be kind and to accept us at our direst moment of need. Here, he has given us food and shelter, and here, he protects us from unwanted eyes and the ire of sinful men. We have come, today, in hopes of finding wisdom in your presence for we are hurting and we do not know what to do..”
“She means, we are screwed!”, mumbled Hamna Vir from behind, causing Hal Mali to snort.
There was a dormant silence while Temez signed in frustration.
Her BFF —Best Fiend Friend, Merisoul Xyrotwo had given the responsibility of their brothers and sisters to her, but hadn’t told her how it was supposed to be done. True, all of them had had extensive training pertaining to Mortals and their ways but said training had gone as far as the Erinyes, Autie Irine had understood them, which was at best, at a most basic level and ‘targeted’ in its sensual in nature. The ‘real world’, as ironic as that sounded, had turned out to be much, much more complicated than any of them had anticipated. They had been here merely a month or so and under the protection and sanction of a temple guardian and Temez sorely wondered what would happen when the said sanction would end, and she had no doubt that in the end, it would because eventually, everyone would have to go their separate ways. The fact that the young Senior Temple Guardian Thomas Dimwood had accepted them in the first place had been a grand gesture of just how much he trusted her BFF, even though he barely knew her and she’d once tried to ‘eat’ him and consequently gotten struck by the temple’s protection and branded because the young man had been sorely in love!
Temez gritted her teeth.
She would hold on!
And hold all her brothers and sisters together and in one piece, safe and sound, just until her Arezme Ara Serraphym, or Merisoul Xyrtwo as Mortals knew her, returned. Then she’d be free to go and find her own young man. The one she had ‘eaten’ many years ago and subsequently had gotten herself burned.
It had come as a colossal surprise to her when she’d found out the ‘boy’ had lived, though damaged.
The ‘eaten’ never survived!
Temez did not understand why that had happened. As far as she knew, it shouldn’t have happened like that at all; the boy to have survived, and her getting burned like that..
Had the boy fallen in love with her, and not just smitten by her rather ravishing countenance and blatantly wanting figure, but truly fallen in love with her in the space of a few, short, heartbeats?
Was that even possible?
As incomprehensible as that sounded to her, apparently, such a senseless infatuation had been, in fact, quite possible.
“Come on, doll.”, she fumed and pleaded with her eyes closed. “Please come back and fast. Your brothers and sisters direly need you..”
✱ ✱ ✱
This is rather impressive, Liaison Constance. I don’t remember the last time this office looked so tidy.”, Sheriff Standorin Shieldheart said, though just a tad grudgingly.
Constance tried very hard not to, but failed.. and beamed at him.
“Would you like to see how the new filing system works? Perhaps a demonstration is in order.”, she offered.
“Very well. Master Aager, do get me the drunkard fight involving Franderson vs. Kor’gral, our orc blacksmith apprentice if you will.”, he said.
Aager checked on the relatively short alphabetic list in his hand, got a reference number, cross-referenced it with a second list and got a second reference number from that, then went over to one of the newly crafted ‘drawer shelves’, the one with the second number, pulled it open and ran a quick glance and tugged out a specific scroll and gave it to the sheriff, with a mild grin.
The sheriff cocked an eyebrow at him.
“Alright. Unknown Strangers vs. Udoorin case, then, if you will!”, he said.
Aager repeated the same process but went to a different drawer shelf and pulled out a rather thick roll of many scrolls and brought them over to him.
Standorin gave him a suspicious look.
Constance beamed some more.
“Master Nibletyne Tinkerdome vs. Moorat Maelstrom!”
Aager gave it to him.
“Franderson vs. Demons Lightshand!”
Aager grinned and brought that one over too, in under fifteen seconds.
“Morel and Liala vs. Udoorin, Dervel and Lucious!”
Aager didn’t even bother with the lists nor the drawers for that one. He just pulled it out of his pocket!
“What the..?”, the sheriff said scowling at him.
“Thought you’d ask for that. Had it ready at hand, sir.”, Aager grinned.
“Very well.”, Standorin said, fuming at him. “I will admit this filing system of yours seems to work..”
“..as opposed to looking for a specific case file for more than half an hour at times.. Sir, you really ought to give the Liaison a bit more credit.”, Aager said, meaningfully.
Standorin gave him one of his best scowls, cleared his throat, then turned to the tall, elegant half-born in her long, not quite conservative, but decidedly refrained dress, and said, “Thank you very much for your filing system, Liaison Constance. I… we.. could talk it over lunch, perhaps? I am sure the mayor could also make use of a similar system installed in his offices..”
“But of course, sir. I will have to see their needs and how they segment their files first though.”, Constance said, smiling happily. “In fact, I would like to go see the mayor on this matter at once, If you wouldn’t mind. I shall also drop by the temple to see how things are going with the project you ordered and report its progress to you.”
“Thank you, Liaison Constance. I shall await your findings eagerly.”, Standorin replied with a flushed face.
After the tall half-born girl took her leave, Aager turned to the sheriff and looked at him with amusement etched all over his face.
“I shall await your findings eagerly?— Really, sir? That one was a tad overdone, don’t you think?”
“I am out of practice, young man. I haven’t dated anyone since.. well.. for a good dozen years and more. Not to mention, Limnia and I never did this dating thing. We just took long, eager walks in the woods, went on patrols together, and counter-ambushed bandits! And we both enjoyed it.”
“I went after many fools, myself, with my Inshala, sir. We even fought against a treacherous paladin lord together and I saw the exhilaration in her face. But at the end of the day, it is when we are going home, arm in arm, that I see her skip and hop and glow because with me and home is the only place that she can truly be herself, and with her and home is the only place that I can truly be myself. Don’t get me wrong, sir. Whatever makes people happy. But intimacy beats them all.”
“After this war. And should we win, I am dead set on firing you, young man..”
Aager cocked an eyebrow at him.
“..just so you could become a poet!”, snorted the sheriff.
“Never happen, sir. Ow and, a ‘business lunch’ doesn’t count as a ‘date’, just so you know..”, Aager said with another grin.
“Don’t you have somewhere to be?”, the sheriff growled.
“I do, and I am off. Noon-trainees!”
✱ ✱ ✱
This is the problem we have been having, Lady Inshala ‘le Fey’ Frostmain Bolgrig Hoo—”, Temez was saying, deep down in the crypts under the Serenity Home Temple.
“Please, dear Temez. Just Inshala will do, even though it despairs me as well when Mortals do cut names and words the way they do. When we are alone, please call me Inshala.”, the pretty little half-fey said with a smile.
Temez had taken a liking to Inshala quite immediately when they had first met several days ago and when she, Inshala, and Ranger Lieutenant Bremorel had played a cunning game of catch against Lady Lilly Venom, her ‘hubby’, Largo Summersong, and his son, D.D. Dexter Summersong, who was, somehow not Lady Lilly Venom’s son, which only made sense because he was older than she was! Just that information had made Temez feel concussed all by itself and learned her just how much she and her kin were out of their debt when it came to their pitiful knowledge of the Mortal coil.
“Alright..”, said Temez, trying very hard to suppress a shudder. This name cutting was something they really needed to get over, but their inner, demonic core just refused to accept such blatant use of names.. After all, misuse of names could and often did cause very volatile results.. But at least this girl, Inshala, seemed to understand their plight. Perhaps it was due to the fact that she, too, was a half-something.. a fey..
“..Inshala,”, she continued. “We were able to enchant grinded sand, kibbled light wood, certain cosmetic powders, and even flour with fire, thanks to Demelze, here, to light up under specific conditions, such as coming in contact with magic auras. Magically attained invisibility, to be exact. Our dilemma is, the powders, the sands, and the flour works but for an extremely short duration, as the material immediately settles, and hence, becomes part of the said invisible creature, or area. If we use what we have at the moment during battle, or to sprinkle it in an area where we suspect and Orken army is hidden under the veil of whatever device they are employing, it will hardly be visible during daylight, and barely be discernable during night hours. We need something, a plant or herb that we can grind that can stay afloat long enough to be practical and at the lightest magical ‘fragrance’, so to speak.”
Inshala frowned a bit as she tried to digest the issue at hand, and at a certain level, she felt relieved, for when Aager had told her she was being ‘officially’ invited here to meet with the half-born, she had dreaded that she, herself, might be put to task on some social-thingy, which she knew she was sorely lacking. This, however, was something that had to do with knowledge, something that she was good at, as opposed to something she constantly banged her head against her mental walls to comprehend.
As dire as the problem was, Inshala grinned!
And all the half-born, some one hundred plus of them silently watched her, all so very curious about this ‘very pretty’, ‘also a half-something like us’, and quite famous, Ritual Guardian-girl, as though expecting some sort of miracle to appear at the wave of her slender hands.
At that very moment, Inshala remembered something her Aager had said, though she had vaguely understood.
“The answer to that is quite elementary in its simplicity.”, she said with a well-hidden smile.
Well, perhaps it wasn’t so well-hidden, as she was grinning when she said it. Aager hadn’t grinned at all.
Her Aager was awesome like that, she thought!
A murmur of awe spread amongst the half-born as Hal Mali grinned as well and with open admiration, while Demelze ‘oooow’ed, and Hamna Vir ogled at her.
“She.. she said that so smoothly!”, she exclaimed in a hushed voice.
“Awesome.”, someone whispered.
“Awesome.”, someone else repeated in agreement..
..and the word, ‘awesome’ rippled in low, hushed, and awe-struck whispers among the half-born!
“Tell us!”, Temez asked eagerly, her own face flushed with excitement.
“Here.”, the little half-fey said and produced a tiny little pouch from one of her many tiny pockets hidden in her dress robes.
Temez carefully took the pouch, undid the knots, and looked into it to see some very fine, dark-red powder.
“What is this wonderful thing?”, she asked.
“Kumse Beetle shells, grinded down into a fine powder. I use it to season the food I cook and it tastes delicious!”, Inshala replied happily.
“Hal..”, she said. “..do your thing, please, dear. And Demelze, love. See if you can enchant this powder the way you have been practicing.”
“Sure.”, Hal Mali said..
..and suddenly vanished!
“That is awesome!”, Inshala said looking at where the young, pretty half-born man had just been.
Demelze took the pouch from Temez and carefully dumped its content into a small iron pot scorched with burnt marks, sat on the floor, closed her eyes and her pretty face frowned in concentration. Soon enough, the dark-red powder began to smoke.
“Careful, love.”, whispered Temez. “You are going to burn it.”
Demelze frowned more and the smoke dissipated.
And then, with a sharp flash of light, the iron pot poofed and Demelze opened her eyes, beads of sweat running down her face.
“Done.”, she said with a sniff and wiped her brows.
Temez reached down and took a pinch of the ‘enchanted’ dark-red powder and looked around.
“I am here, Temez. Standing just a foot in front of you.”, came Hal Mali’s voice.
Temez flung the powder in his direction!
The powder clung onto something barely discernable as someone’s arm, as it glowed, once, twice, then died.
Temez felt her shoulders slump.
“It didn’t work?”, Demezle asked, totally flustered.
A low murmur of consternation and despair rippled amongst the half-born.
“It worked.”, Inshala said confidently.
“How?”, Temez asked.
“The powder is still there and is still visible if you look closely.”
Temez, Demelze, and quite a number of others leaned over and stared at where they presumed Hal Mali was.
“She’s right.” Hal Mali’s voice was heard. “The powder is still there and try as I might, I can’t incorporate it with my shadow-aura! This is fascinating!”
“Indeed.”, mused Temez. “But.. it won’t be of any practical use if it isn’t visible from a far-off distance. Perhaps you can pour more power into the powder, Demelze?”
“I can. But it still won’t work. Either the powder will charr, or it will blink a few more times and that’s it. Unless we find a way to preserve the magic I infuse into the powder, we are, again, at a standstill.”, Demelze said somberly, an expression quite unexpected and unprecedented on her otherwise mischievous, naughty, and smirking face.
They all fell silent and mulled over that, and the cavernous crypt was suddenly very still. It was quite a disconcerting sight, really.
“Whimsi Lola!”, Inshala exclaimed suddenly!
The half-born all turned to look at her.
Inshala blushed a bit when she promptly became the focus of attention of so many ‘people’.
“I have never heard of a plant or herb by that name.”, said Temez dubiously. “Has anyone heard of this herb?”, she called to the crowd at large.
The half-born shook their heads and any number of ‘No’s and ‘Nopes’ echoed in the crypt.
“No, no.”, said Inshala hastily. “Whimsi Lola is not a plant or an herb. She is a sprite! A fey! She uses her own pixie dust from her wings to enhance her spells! That’s what we need.”
Temez looked at her curiously.
“And where may we find this Whimsi Lola sprite-fey and what would she want for her pixie dust?”
“Hmm.. That may be a problem. She is not here. But many of her friends are.. However, the fey folk, and the little ones, in particular, will not come here; too many Mortals and too much iron here, nor will they go anywhere near.. uhhmm..”, Inshala said, then faltered in embarrassment.
“Demons?”, Temez offered.
“Uhhmm.. Yes.. I am sorry.”, Inshala apologized immediately.
“Why are you apologizing, Inshala? You didn’t make us. You had no hand in our foul existence whatsoever. Never apologize for the things you didn’t do. Never.”, Temez said sternly.
“I.. was trying to be polite..”, the fey-girl faltered some more.
“This is not something to be polite about, my dear. We are what we are. We are sorry for having been made. But we are not, however, sorry for existing and we shall never apologize to anyone for that, and neither should you. We are our own now, just like you are your own..”, Temez said with harsh defiance. “Now. About this pixie dust thing. How and where may we get some?”, she asked, all business-like!
Inshala was a bit surprised at how strong-willed the Temez girl was and how she was not sorry for what she was, even if she hated being what she was.
And she felt a certain shame, there. Unlike Temez, she had loathed herself very nearly all her life for what she was or what she thought she was and had always believed her existence had been one, colossal mistake. Looking at these half-borns who had braved out of literal Hell, she promised herself to be braver and certainly to never feel guilty for being..
..which had been what her old Father, Cathber, and later, her Aager had been telling her all along.
“Well..”, she thought. “..Apparently I am just a stupid little girl.”
“Umm.. perhaps we could go near the forest just up north and I could call a few of the small fey-folk and bargain for some of their pixie dust?”, she said hopefully. “Then we can mix this powder with the pixie dust and gorgeous Demelze, here, can enchant it and we can test it on Hal Mali, maybe?”
“Ow.. She said I am gorgeous!”, whispered Demelze happily.
“Your offer is sound, Inshala, but not practically possible. We may not leave this temple. Not yet. I have left it a few times but carefully and only to observe the area just around the temple, and that one time when we played catch. Only Constance leaves and that is because she is our designated Liaison with the Mortals. This.. ‘test’.. however, is not her area of expertise. Is there any way you may be able to bring this dust to us?”
“I am afraid not. Pixie dust loses its potential soon after the sprite or the pixie removes it from his or her wings. Otherwise, the forest would be sparkling everywhere they went and all the time.”
“Perhaps there is a way.”, offered Hal Mali quietly as he stepped out of his ‘shadow-aura’ and became visible again.
“Do tell, dear.”, Temez asked him
“I can go out unseen.”
“Yes, dear. But you alone will not be enough. Demelze needs to go with you and Inshala.”
“I.. she can come with me.. I can hide her as well.”, he mumbled.
“I am not going anywhere with you, Hal!“, sneered Demelze. “And you can not hide me and we both know it!”
“I can.”, Hal Mali said quietly. “If I carry you in my arms..”
Demelze just stared at him for a moment.
“Incoming..”, murmured Hamna Vir.
And Demelze burst out laughing.
“Hah. Hah. Hah. Hah. Hah. Hah. Haaa!”
“That’s a very convincing laugh, that is..”, Hamna Vir barbed. “Can you get any more vapid, Demelze?”
“Shut up, Hamna Vir!”, spat the fiery little succubi half-born.
“What did I ever do to you, that you would hate me so much, Demelze?”, Hal Mali asked with a hurt voice.
“I saw the way you look at me, Hal! Even when we were in Hell!”, Demelze scorned at him.
“Yes. Because I find you attractive. Hence the looks.”, the handsome half-born admitted plainly. “How would you rather I look at you?”
“Never?”, scoffed the girl.
“Demelze!”, Temez very nearly snapped. “You will refrain from such attitude at once! We are all we have, here. There’s no one else to look after us but us.”
“You will go with Hal and with Inshala and do this. For us and for yourself. Hal has looked after many of us and took a beating and burning for you at the hands of Autie Irine at least once that I know of. You may not like him, but you will show him the respect he deserves!”, Temez cracked like a whip.
“When? Why?”, she asked.
Hal Mali did not reply for a good while.
“I would really rather you hadn’t told this, Temez.”
“Good done, unknown, must become known sometimes, dear. And we are running out of time. Even if this works, we must find a practical way to make it so Mortals may use them, and we must make many, many of them.”, Temez said, but not unkindly.
“Why? When?”, asked Demelze, her voice somewhat subdued.
“When.. you.. when you failed to turn in your Mortal Studies paper in our first year, I switched mine as yours and deliberately got caught with another paper of my own to avoid suspicions. And that other time when I found out Auntie Irine was going to punish you when she found out you had punned her behind her back and I deliberately tripped and fell and knocked her down. She was so angry with me that she forgot all about you..”
“What? Why? You think I couldn’t have taken a beating from that bitch?”, sneered Demelze.
“She had her fire barb whip with her..”, replied the young Hal Mali quietly..
..and an ‘owww’, chorused among the half-born.
“Fire barb whip hurts a lot because its burn is not only physical but psychic as well, and it leaves permanent marks. I.. didn’t want you to carry such ugly marks on you..”
Hamna Vir approached him and quietly hugged him.
“I will thank you for what you did for her, Hal Mali, even if Demelze is a bitch and too vain to thank you.”
“Demelze is only scared.”, said a small, vague voice, and everyone turned to see Dar Derune sitting a short distance away, playing with some plain wooden blocks, next to a sarcophagus. “What she feels, she feels much more intensely than any of us. That is how beautiful her heart is..”
Hamna Vir parted Hal Mali and came up to him and with blurry eyes, she scooped up the boy and hugged him fiercely.
“Demelze?”, Temez asked, looking at the burning girl.
“I will do this. For Mali..”, she said with a stricken face.
✱ ✱ ✱
You found them?”, Constance gasped. “Why didn’t you tell me, dear?”
“We found about it just today, love.”, Temez replied and there was a tired quality about her.
“What’s the matter, Temez?”, the tall, alluring half-born asked.
“We.. me and Hamna Vir shared what Demelze went through when she cleansed the Anglenna Sunsear elf. It wasn’t fun. Gave me a very unique insight into what our brothers and sisters must go through, each with their unique abilities. I burn. But that is something I did to myself. She.. she burns so much hotter whenever she feels something —anything. Suffice to say, I can remember only one other occasion that hurt this much and that was when my old Master burned me when Merisoul and I first came up with the plan to get away from Hell.”
“I am sorry to hear that, dear. Where is the boy, then? Where is the esteemed sheriff’s son?”, Constance asked.
“East of here, some two or three days travel, there is a place called Gull’s Perch. They are there, though we could not figure out why they landed there and not in this town as the Anglenna Sunsear elf did.. I asked a bit about it to the Ranger Lieutenant Bremorel, and my findings are quite dire.”
“Gull’s Perch. Why do I know that name?”, mused Constance.
“You should. It is one of the places that we were warned never to go near, during our Mortal geography studies. And you can see it from here on a clear day, easy.”
“Titania!”, Constance gasped in horror!
“Hush, dear. Not so loud. We don’t want her to hear us, now do we?”, Temez warned.
“But how? How do you know they are there?”, the tall half-born girl asked slightly panicked.
“Dar Derune. He looked into the elf girl and sifted through her memories and saw our query. Then he did his thing and found them at the Perch. The Mistress of the Perch did not appreciate his intrusion and backhanded him, our Dar Derune, all the way from the Perch!”
Constance just stared at her.
“Is he alright?”
“He will be. Hanna Vir has been hovering over him like a Mortal hen mother!”
“Dear Hamna Vir..”
“Yes, yes she is.”
“Should I go and tell the esteemed sheriff about this?”, Constance asked.
“No. Mortals are not allowed in there, dear. Telling him where his son and the princess will only rile him and he will go there with iron and that will only win him the ire of the Summer Queen. And should he go there to bargain, he will be left out of his debt. He is a good and decent man but woefully unequipped for such a meeting. We must find something to bargain in his stead. Something She would want and only we may provide.”
“I may have something she may want.”, Constance said quietly.
“No, dear. Whatever She may want, we must all give. It must be a collective effort, not individual, for such singular bargains can only end in misery.”, Temez said with a tone that had a certain finality to it.
And that marked the first time a half-born chose to disagree at an individual level.
Constance Alure Smithen nodded..
And changed topic!
“Did the Winter Knight’s mate, Lady Inshala arrive?”
“Yes, she did. And she is a lot more smarted and wiser than she lets on. I suspected a cunning mind in her when she, Ranger Lieutenant Bremorel, and I were playing catch against Lady Lilly Venom, her mate, and her mate’s son. The plans I made were twisted and convoluted and made us win. The ranger lieutenant’s plans depended more on stealth and ambush, and they also made us win. Lady Inshala’s plans were neither. Her plans were rather simple and straightforward but surprisingly efficient. Of all the games we played, the ones she planned ended the quickest and the other team never knew what hit them. Even I didn’t understand we’d won!”, Temez said with some residual surprise.
“Her hubby, the Winter Knight shows similar traits. Neither seems interested in showing off but goes straight for the source of any given problem.”, Constance mused. “Though I suspect what he accomplishes by dread, she does by care!”
“Very astute, love. Very astute, indeed. She, Hal Mali, and Demelze went to the forest just up north to work on the project we have been working on.”
“You sent two of us out? Let alone Delemze with Hal Mali? She.. doesn’t really like him all that much and does tend to make a lot of noise when he’s around.. I hope you know what you are doing, dear.”, the tall girl asked a bit surprised.
“Hal Mali went under his guise. And we.. convinced.. she should be carried by him and take advantage of his special talents..”, Temez said lightly.
Constance made a very strange noise that sound truly unlady-like. Something between a snort and hiccup!
“I am sorry I missed that.”, she said with a brilliant smile. “No, wait.. you didn’t tell Demelze about what Hal Mali did back in Hell and that he got a beating for her, did you?”
“Yes, yes I did, love.”
“Ow..”, Constance said with a bemused expression as her bright red lips made a perfect imprint. “That must have put a dent in her self-esteem.”
“It did. Or maybe not. We are demons, love. And we are humans, as well, and we all react to fear, surprise, excitement, anger, and love in different ways. Demelze being Demelze, merely goes to her usual extremes.”, Temez said thoughtfully. “What will you do for the rest of the day? Did the esteemed sheriff like your new archiving and filing system?”
“I believe he did. Albeit a tad grudgingly. But in time he will get to appreciate it more, when he can find any given file in under ten seconds, as opposed to spending half an hour to find them. And every time he does, he will remember me. And every time his men do, he will feel a certain pride.”, replied Constance with a happy face. “I should head out now. There are so many things I must learn and so many more people I must meet. Just so they learn to see our kind, if for nothing else.. I shall also carefully hint that more of our kind will arrive to help them in their coming battle.”
“Very good, love. You truly were made for PR and would have been wasted in Hell.”, Temez said admiringly.
✱ ✱ ✱
Constance calmly stepped out of Serenity Home Temple and looked up and east. It was a clear day that day, quite unexpected of the season. She could see the storm clouds loaded with sleet, snow, and hail, but they seemed to sort of skim far and around this odd town and its surrounding fields. She had overheard the pretty ranger lieutenant, Bremorel Songsteel, talking in hushed voices with her young husband, the senior temple guardian, Thomas Dimwood, about reports of savage and violent weather, quite unheard of, occurring far to the west, beyond Scowling Hills and the name Inshala had cropped up any number of times, with nothing short of awe, during those conversations.
It seemed everyone was doing everything they could.. and more.. Eventually, whatever these Mortals did, or however they did them, time would come to face their consequences. Quite dire ones. Even a creature of Hell such as herself knew, when one dabbled with certain things, even if for a good cause, there would be consequences.
When she had first arrived to meet the sheriff’s men in the small courtyard, she had ended up ‘demonstrating’ her skills with her three-yard long pike on a young and overly enthusiastic man. There had even been bets.
After the duel, as short as it had been, was over, the bets, owed and owned, were being passed around, she had heard one of the guards snicker, “Payback is a bitch!”, as he took his winnings with a grin.
“Well..”, Constance murmured, still looking east, and the Gull’s Perch, a vertical, single ‘rock’, some half a mile at its base, reaching up and up and fading off among the clouds. It was a beautiful, awe-inspiring sight and the tall, alluring girl admired it.
Truly admired it.
“..as unlady-like, as it may sound, yes, I believe payback is a bitch!”, she said.
And with a sub-sonic boom, she shot up, high and swift!
At several hundred feet, she finally lost velocity, and for a bare, spectacular moment, she stood in the air, still, silent and majestic..
..and plummeted back to the earth!
With a sharp bank, she spread her arms, and a pair of dark, black-brown eagle wings suddenly sprouted out of her slender back, and like her slim arms, they spread out and wide..
..and she speared, not unlike a bird of prey, and with a shrill shriek, towards east, and the Perch!
✱ ✱ ✱
Lady Inshala!”, exclaimed Perigren Ostlanna Temez with surprise. “You are back!”
The little fey-girl face flushed shyly but her face was glowing with an accomplished grin.
“We did it, Temez. I called a few of the little folk and told them what we wanted, but they refused when they saw Hal Mali and Demelze. I told them they were my friends and that they were here to help protect the forest. They mulled over that for a bit then they decided perhaps they were, indeed, ‘maybe-friends’ but wanted something in return for their pixie dust. I asked them what they would want and they told me many things, but we didn’t have any of the things they wanted with us. Then they asked if we had any candy. Demelze said they didn’t have candy, but that she had something even better, and gave them sugar canes. They looked at the sugar canes, took one each, and tasted them. My eats still hurt because they all squealed with glee and just dropped on the ground gnawing on the canes.”, Inshala told her impromptu story with a seamless giggle and Temez just ogled at her, quietly mesmerized.
“When they were done with the sugar canes, they were so out of it, they were slurring and just waved their tiny hands and said, ‘Take.. Take what you want!’, so we took some of their dust and mixed it with the Kumse Beetle powder, Demelze infused it with her fire and enchanted it, then she threw it on Hal Mali and he was all glowing red and sparkly!”, she finished, her eyes alight with accomplishment.
Temez stared at her some more.
Then shook her head to come around.
Wow, the little girl had an encapturing way to tell her stories. She, herself, was a succubi half-born and knew how to enthrall. After all, it was her base thing. But this girl said what she said with some odd, bubbling, earnest, and genuine sincerity!
“Where are Hal and Demelze?”, she asked.
“Well, Hal Mali was still glowing and sparkling and quite unhappy about it, and Demelze couldn’t come back alone because she said she wasn’t wearing her correct Mortal dress for the occasion, though I am not sure what she meant by that. She did laugh at Hal Mali a lot, though, which made him angry so he started chasing her in the woods so she started running and screaming in delight!”, Inshala replied with an ‘out-of-breath’, bubbling voice.
“They are like sugar-loaded kids! Will they be alright?”, she asked, a bit worried.
“They should be. I drew a big circle and laid a camping spell and told them not to leave the circle. As long as they stay in it, not many will notice them. When the pixie-effect fades, Hal Mali can return with Demelze.”
“I hope they behave. This is not a good time for dire mistakes. That said, I am thrilled that our efforts have not been in vain. Thanks to you, we can now mass-produce this ‘pixie-effect’. We now have to find a way to make them practically useful for any Mortal to be able to use them. We also will need a lot more of your Kumse Beetle powder and the pixie dust.”, Temez mused.
“I can get you the Kumse Beetle powder. I could ask my Aager to ask his mayor, Artanboss, to ask the refugees to look for them in the forest. The pixie dust will still be a problem though. Convincing two or three sprites or pixies in one thing. Asking hundreds of them is another. We.. we might have to ask the Summer and Winter Queens..”, Inshala said a bit worried.
Temez looked at her for a moment, then smiled, a tad brittle. She was worried too but was trying very hard to hide it.
“Thank you, Inshala. You have helped us much today. Should you ever need any help, please don’t be shy.. And.. do thank your.. mate on our behalf, if you would?”, she said sincerely.
“I will, dear Temez. Merisoul was my friend. I.. I was afraid of her when we first met. But she was so sweet and pretty. And always answered the questions I asked her. She.. never judged me for what I am, and from her, I learned to accept who I am.. And.. she saved my life, once, very nearly ending her own. Thanks to her greatness, I found the time to know my Aager and be with my Aager. That would never have happened if it weren’t for her.”, Inshala said quietly and hugged Temez, and inadvertently, their horns clashed!
They stood looking at one another, then burst out laughing.
“We will need permission from one of the Queens should we want more of the pixies and the sprites for the amount we require, dear Temez.. Thinking a bit over it, I am now sure of it.. Only they can order them to come to us in such great numbers..”, said Inshala somberly.
And that cut right through their merry moment.
✱ ✱ ✱
Constance swooped down from the cold, moist clouds and noticed the sun had gone lower than she had expected. Soon, it would be gone altogether and she’d be forced to fly in the dark. True, she wasn’t afraid of the dark, and up to a certain point, she could even see in it, even if it were in some odd shades of violet. At the screeching speed she was flying, however, being able to see that ‘certain point’ became somewhat moot, as she would only have a bare second or two before registering she was about to smash into something and die a horrible, total body-shattering death!
The lovely, alluring girl was also an optimistic soul, though. She believed an honest and generous smile could solve more problems than displaying her other, rather.. magnetic features.. as those tended to cause more complications than they seemed to solve. She also believed in being punctual and prompt.
Constance was not an obsessive girl, strictly speaking, but merely well-organized and quite dedicated at whatever she did, and also had the uncanny ability to recognize similar attitudes or patterns in others.
Which was likely why she had noticed the esteemed sheriff of Serenity Home the first time he had come to see them and the young senior temple guardian, Thomas Dimwood, had introduced all the half-borns to him.
Yes, one might argue that all the other half-born girls had also noticed him, since, other than the senior temple guardian himself and his dozen or so junior guardians, who were all ‘off limits’, the sheriff had been the only Mortal male specimen they had been in contact outside of Hell. But the other girls had looked at him with.. well.. either as a curio or simply as something ‘edible’.. The sheriff was, after all, a handsome man, even if he was a bit older than average, as Mortal years went.
Constance, on the other hand, had noticed another quality about him; he had stood before each and every single one of the ‘a hundred and plus something’ number of them as if memorizing their individual faces and names, had politely nodded at them, and bid them a formal welcome to the town and should they require anything, that they were welcome to ask, and that he would do his best to acquire said needs, but to be patient about it, as the town was under the threat of imminent Orken attack. That, for Constance, pointed to the fact that Standorin Shieldheart was indeed a very organized, disciplined, and dedicated man.
The fact that he was also handsome and well into his mature years had been sort of a bonus.
Constance was also a ‘glass half full’ kind of girl..
Suffice to say, none of the above had anything to do with the setting of the sun nor would it help her should she fly into something and end herself quite abruptly, and certainly had nothing to do with the matter at hand.. But Constance liked to go over things in her mind when she flew, which didn’t happen as often as she wanted. An uncharitable person might think she was daydreaming. Constance would, quite strenuously, disagree with such unkind assumption since (a) it was not day, so much as it was evening now, and (b) girls did not daydream but had intricate, multitasking minds, hence they went over things which had happened, things which might happen, and even things that had already happened but how they should have actually happened..
That sure explained why they lived longer than their male counterparts and being Mortal or not made little to no difference.
“Alright.”, she mused as she went over her mental TO-DO list;
Talk to Her.
Get the boy.
Get the girl.
“There. Everyone happy at the cost of a little pain and loss.”
“I doubt, dear.”, said a rich, throaty, and enthralling woman’s voice.
And a long, jagging streak of lightning came down from the clear dusk sky!
Constance yelped and banked right and the lightning very nearly tore through her.
Another jarring streak of lightning lit the dimming sky and the half-born girl did a sharp left turn and escaped with a singe.
“Stop! Please! I come in peace!”, she yelled in panic.
“No, dear girl. You only come. You are a demon, and can not come in peace, nor can you bring it here with you..”, replied the same rich voice.
“No, I am not a demon! I come in good faith and only desire to help the Mortals..”, she screamed and a swirling, columnar hurricane jabbed down from the sky, all the way down to the forest below.
“Did you not come from Hell, my dear?”, asked the throaty voice.
“Yes. Yes, I did, but..”
“There you have it, then. You, dear girl, are clearly a demon, you can not have good faith, and helping Mortals can never be your intention, nor be part of your true agenda..”, said the voice..
..and another shaft of lightning forked downed, and this one zapped the half-born girl quite savagely as more wildly dancing hurricanes came down like some demonic fingers, tearing at everything they grasped..
“My mother was a Mortal!”, shrieked Constance, her face distorted with pain for she felt something hurt dreadfully at her hip.
“I feel sorry for her, but dabbling with the damned is never wise. Every Mortal knows this.”
Constance did another sharp turn and escaped the next strike.
“She.. she was taken.. by Mortals!”, begged the girl.
“Yes. Mortals with sin in their desires, deceit in their minds, and greed in their hearts tend to do that. Which is why I banned them all. But demons were never welcome.”, said the throaty voice.
“T.. Titania?”, Constance gasped.
“Yes, dear child. I have been watching you for some time now. I had hoped you would vier from your course, but apparently, you are not as smart as I had hoped you would be.. And now you are in my domain.. and in my jurisdiction..”
Constance took a dive, the wind shrieking as she attained her combat velocity, then spun, at a whip lashing speed, and flew straight towards the Perch..
..and more hurricanes stabbed down mercilessly, and Constance slammed right into them!
With a shriek lost in the howling, swirling and enraged, dark purple-gray fingers tore into her and shredded her and tossed her!
Constance dropped out of the sky like a moot rock..
..and with a last-minute display of aerial agility, she took a sharp, right-angle turn and shot up again!
“You are a persistent one, aren’t you?”, Titania said, and three more flashes of lightning came jarring down simultaneously.
With a determined expression on her face, Constance banked, right, then left, then left again, barely avoiding the deadly, jarring shafts and the wrathful fingers piercing down everywhere now.
“Mo.. Mother Titania.. Please.. I.. We are not all demon.. We are also human. I beg of you. I truly come in peace..”, she pleaded as tears ran down her face and were whipped away by the savage wind. “I speak the truth..”
“You must see the irony of a demon claiming to speak the truth, child. And a succubus, no less. Truth or lies, it matters little, as willy-nilly, the means to ends matters not to your kind.”
“I am Constance Alure Smithen, Mother.. Thus I have given you my name and claim nothing in return.”, she very nearly blubbered for the jagging streaks of lightnings came seamlessly now and the desperate half-born was zig-zagging mindlessly through them.
“Impressive. Perhaps you hoped, by giving something, you would get something back. Surcease, perhaps? Bargains do not work like that, dear child. I must want something from you for you to offer something else in return.. I do not!”
“I merely come to inquire as to the health of two Mortals, Mother! They are dear to some in the town called Serenity Home, just west of here.”
“Ahh.. Perhaps I may consent to give you that.. for your name, even though I have not asked for it. The princess of the homeless elves is indeed, here. She is healthy, though her health deteriorates as days go by and is quite troubled, for she has dire decisions to make for her mate-to-be, who is dying. I have put him in stasis to buy him time, whilst the princess makes her choice or comes to terms with his dire predicament. It appears, someone put a hole in the boy’s heart with iron.”
“Is.. is there nothing I can do to help? Nothing at all? Her people desperately need their princess and his father and his friends desperately need him.. For them, I am willing to give that which is most precious to me!”, Constance asked as she felt her heart plummet for a hole in the heart with iron only meant one end, and little did it matter if they were Mortal, fey, or demon..
“And what may that be, my dear?”
Constance told her.
There was a pause as Titania seemed to mull over something for the lightnings and the savage hurricanes ceased!
“As intriguing as your offer is, child, the princess of the homeless elves must be the one to make the choice I have offered her as said choice pertains to her own future, the future of her mate-to-be, and their line.. There is, literally, nothing anyone else may do, for she came here, with her mate-to-be, unsummoned and uninvited, though quite unintentional, also.. Should you still want to help the Mortals you claim to want to help, however, perhaps there is some room there for bargains for you have managed to garner my admiration, if not curiosity.. Settle down Constance Alure Smithen, the child of a Mortal woman and a demon father.. I would like to take a closer look at your offer and further test your mettle.. and see if your claim is worth a bargain.”
✱ ✱ ✱
Sheriff Standorin!”, exclaimed the young guard as he burst into the sheriff’s office. “Come. Quick! You.. you had better see this!”
Slowly and calmly, the sheriff of Serenity Home rose from his seat, buckled on his sword over his shoulder as he looked at the young, excited guard.
“What is it young man?”, he rumbled, giving an assessing glance at him.
“I don’t know how to describe it, sir. Lights.. Hundreds and hundreds of them. And they are all coming here!”, the young guard said with an awestruck face.
“Lights? What lights?”
“I don’t know, sir. You must see them yourself!”, the young man said, almost jumping where he stood.
Standorin mumbled something about young and easily excitable kids but waved at the guard to lead the way.
The two walked over and all the way to the north gate of the town while other guards ran back and forth with already lit torches and lanterns as evening slowly settled, just to see the multitudes of refugees, all on the other side of the stone bridge that stretched over the Great Arashkan River, and all of them were standing still and staring north..
..where there were hundreds and thousands of sparkling lights hovered amongst the trees bordering the Ritual Forest and quite luminous in the settling evening.
“What is this?”, Standorin asked, somewhat disturbed.
“We.. I do not know, sir. Ranger Masters Devien and Moorat have gone to check, but they have not returned yet.”, replied the young guard in a hushed voice.
“Where is Master Aager—?”
“—Here, sir.”, replied a growling voice and Aager Fogstep appeared next to him as if summoned by magic!
“What is this?”, the sheriff repeated his question.
“I am not quite sure, sir.”, Aager said in his low voice.
“Are you seeing this, love?”, he silently cast his own question at Inshala.
“I want to. But there is a whole crowd of people standing in front of me and I can’t get past them.”, she replied. Then with a sigh, she added. “And they are pushing at one another.. I don’t want to get trampled.”
Aager turned to the guards standing nearby and growled at them.
“You! Form two lines, one on each side of the road and make a gap. We cant have a crowd plugging the town’s main entrance!”
“Yes, sir!”, the guards replied hastily, saluted the right hand of the sheriff, and guards started pushing the people back and to the side of the road leading in and out of the town.
“That was very smart!”, Aager heard Inshala’s admiring voice.
“People should know better not to mob the town entrances by now.”, he fumed.
“They are only curious, my Aager.”
“A stupid excuse for trampling each other. This could be a diversion for an attack!”
“Very true. Almost there..”, she replied and indeed, she appeared next to him.
They both stared at the odd, sparkling phenomena for some time until Inshala said a bit awed, “Pixies.. and sprites! Many of them.. Thousands!”
Sheriff Standorin turned to her and asked.
“Are you sure, Lady Inshala?”
She just couldn’t help it.
Big, large men scared her!
Standorin must have noticed this as well, for his always-stern face softened a bit and he knelt down before the little girl and spoke in a low, calm voice, though it still rumbled.
“I apologize wholeheartedly, sweet Lady Inshala. I meant neither to upset you nor to abuse your good sensibilities. You are a wonder to us all, beautiful beyond words, and your wisdom leaves us in shame.”
If anything could have sufficed a good blush, this was it!
Inshala turned bright, bright red, and covered her face with her slender hands.
“You.. you have put me to shame with your honest and kind words, sir. The lights you see are fey folk. I would plead your men to not harm them. If they have come here and in such great numbers, there must be a good reason. If you would, please tell your men, and the people all around to make room, for they will not come any near, as things stand now.”
Sheriff Standorin smiled at her, then slowly rose.
“Master Aager, if you will, inform all the guards to put away their iron and clear the way, from all the way here to the fey. No one is to stand near them, get near them, hinder them, or harm them.”
“Yes, sir.”, Aager said with a curt salute and growled orders.
Soon, the town’s northern entrance, the bridge, and the refugees near the woods were all cleared and a historical first occurred; the tiny, sparkling lights, the small fel-folk hovered towards Serenity Home..
It was an inspired possession..
..as each luminous globe carried a tiny, humanoid creature inside, or perhaps, the globes of light were there because of the tiny, humanoid creatures..
..and they bobbed, back and forth, left and right, and up and down with easy leisure and leaving a long trail of sparkling pixie dust from their tiny, barely discernable wings and entered the town and slowly but surely, they gathered before the Serenity Town Temple where the Senior Temple Guardian Thomas Dimwood, Ranger Lieutenant Bremorel Songsteel.. and Perigren Ostlanna Temez met them, as Sheriff Standorin Shieldheart, Inshala ‘la Fey’ Frostmane, and Aager Fogstep also stood nearby.
A tiny, tooth-pick sized creature came forth, and with demanding attitude, she spoke;
“I am Biberbell and I speak for my kin and the rest of the fey-folk gathered here, and we have come upon the command of Titania, the Summer Queen, and in retaliation, Mab, also, the Winter Queen, in hopes to partake our pixie dust much needed for the defense of this Mortal town.”, she piped.
Thomas, Bremorel, and Temez just ogled at the tiny thing.
“We have been promised satisfactory accommodations and.. CANDY!”, she squeaked.
“Uhhmm.. Candy?”, Thomas blurted a bid dumbfounded.
“Yes. Candy! But we will settle for sugar canes, too.”, she buzzed, paused, then added..
“LOTS AND LOTS OF SUGAR CANES!“
..with a very lustful expression on her tiny face as she rubbed her hands together, barely refraining from a possible;
“Said conditions can be arranged, Biberbell. But we have not made any bargains with either of the Queens.”, Thomas replied with a very much freaked expression on his own face.
The tiny sprite turned to Perigren Ostlanna Temez and said with nothing short of a patronizing tone.
“The bargain has already been struck, and the debt paid in full and done.”
“Who? Who has bargained with the Queens and who has paid in full and done?”, demanded Temez.
“How should I know, demon? I am not privy to the details of what the Queens do!”, Biberbell sniffed at her.
“Ask a Constance Alure Smithen!”
“Ask her what it means; Wings for Wings..”