The Violent Take by Force

Malaykah could not think clearly about what measures she could take to end the standoff. Instead, she kept Känëbräl in her peripheral view while she scanned the room for any kind of item that could be used as a weapon. It made her feel powerless that she was no longer in a position to help the one maiden that she once was able to save from their fall into the ocean during the siege.

Bässäm called her attention back to him as he held the knife closer to Känëbräl’s carotid artery. Känëbräl screamed, and Malaykah humbly sat in the chair across from them.

“Why are you doing this? What do you want from me?” Malaykah sighed

Bässäm’s eerie cackle sent shivers throughout the room.

“That was rude of me. Let me be honest with you both,” he said as he placed the knife on the table. “I am doing what has to be done to make amends for a terrible error made in the kingdom of Phëläniciä. I want to undo all the wrongdoings that have afflicted my dear sweet Sӧlitha. She did not deserve any of the cruel mistreatment she received from Lady Rüvym, King Alëxios, or any of the other citizens,” he answered.

Malaykah flexed her brow and became fired up all over again.

“What in the hell are you talking about? As far as I’ve seen, she’s been treated like someone with the title and status of a princess. The only bad thing worth noting is her scheme to proposition herself like a whore at the king did not end well,” she replied.

Bässäm’s reaction mirrored Malaykah’s wrath.

“Silence. Do not dare speak of her as if you know her pain.” He took the knife and stabbed it into the table. “I do not expect the likes of someone of your stature to understand the intricate details of such a delicate situation. But, in truth, I am here on her behalf. I want nothing from either of you except your assistance with a resolution.”

Malaykah patiently paused to calm her nerves. She did not want to agitate Bässäm since his hand was still on the knife.

“What do you propose as a resolution?” she asked.

Bässäm perked up at her willingness to hear him out.

“We need to take the ship to the Tri-cities. I do not know where, but I heard tell that somewhere within the territory is the Őrb. However, before we go there, we first need to seek the counsel of the oracle banshee known as Mäüdräh,” he answered.

Malaykah gasped. “Mäüdräh! Why would you want to involve her when she is known to craft trickery instead of really helping?”

Bässäm grinned, “That is where you come into play, my dear Queen. We are less likely to encounter fallible intel if you ask her where the Őrb is located.”

Känëbräl’s fear lessened and she mockingly laughed at Bässäm.

“Surely you jest, foolish old eunuch. Do you really believe Queen Malaykah would stoop as low as to help your feeble attempt to overthrow her king and husband? Your time has run out, and your stay in the palace is over, just as mine. So why ruin any possible future of favor for a delusional fantasy that will not come to pass,” she said.

The enraged Bässäm sliced the She-wolf’s throat and shoved her dead body out of the wooden chair. He sat in her place and looked at Malaykah.

“Now that that matter is settled, we should not dally on our next plans,” he sighed.

Malaykah bellowed out a war cry without a thought, then hopped up and ran across the table. She put one hand over his mouth and repeatedly punched him in the left eye. Four rings on her fingers broke the skin that surrounded his eye socket.

In retaliation, Bässäm stood to grip her by the shoulders. He flipped her on her back. He planted his large body on top of her so that she could no longer struggle.

“I will need you in one piece, my pretty,” he sneered before he kissed her and forced his tongue inside her mouth.

Malaykah could not breathe from being pinned with such heavy weight, nor could she move. The only maneuver she had left was to bite his tongue as hard as she could.

Meikko and Trëgӧürnë heard the scuffle from above and frantically began to search for the Queen.

~Ch. 23, The Realm Beyond the Stars and Sea~

Charmed Enchantment

Meikko gracefully bowed and said, “Good evening, Your Excellency. Now that you have come to join the queen, I will take leave to join the night patrol.”

Meikko’s exit was met with an awkward silence between the couple. Alëxios removed his beige tunic and sat upright on the bed. To his surprise, Malaykah unveiled her mind wide enough for him to sync in. Though the veil was lifted entirely, her thoughts were so erratic that he could not gain a firm grasp on how she felt. She looked at him blankly, then came to herself all at once.

“Alëxios, I need to apologize for my behavior. I’ve been going around here acting like a spoiled baby for far too long. I can’t believe you’ve just been taking my abuse. I have to check myself before I become accustomed and remain this way,” she said.

Alëxios felt vexed. It was unusual and unheard of for a god to willingly take accountability for their actions or even explain their disposition. He remained speechless, as he did not know what to do or say.

Malaykah hopped out of the rocking chair and plopped down beside him on the bed. Her eyes were warm, and she did not withhold any of herself back from him.

“Before I showed up, the maidens were fine in Phëläniciä. But then, I saw the gorgeous villa where they lived, which would seem more like a grand estate of mansions in my realm. They lived like pampered princesses, with very little to worry about or any hardships,” she said.

“There was the issue of marriage, to which I did not agree to propose to any of them,” Alëxios interjected. “Out of my own selfish desire to rescue them, as my mother never had such an opportunity, I kept the maidens like a collection of rare dolls.”

Malaykah frowned.

“I’m no better than you. I let my jealousy over you get the best of me. Now, I’ve put them and everyone else in harm’s way on a haunted ship with a cursed captain,” she countered.

Even though Malaykah continued to pour her heart out to Alëxios, he concentrated on her train of thoughts. He relished in the fact that his unlimited access to her mind made him privy to information that he would not otherwise have. In the monastery temples, he learned that every living being has a preferred method of communication, but it was their thoughts that revealed the true nature of their character. Malaykah’s uncanny sincerity exposed no hidden motives or shreds of deceit. He became aware of her wholehearted love for him and realized her intentions were only to do what was in his best interest. He could not fathom how any human could dismiss such a rare quality in favor of mere lust.

Yes, her body both here and in the human realm display delectable beauty. But, it is her mind and heart that are the truest gems,” he thought to himself.

Malaykah was so enthralled with her apology speech that she did not hear his thoughts. Alëxios was beyond flattered that she held him in such high regard. Before then, he had always questioned others and their motives to be in his presence. He felt that if he was stripped of his royal title and status as a powerful deity, all that would remain was an injured brute to be feared and loathed. However, the fact that Malaykah was able to look far beyond any of his flaws encouraged him. She treated him like a delicate flower in need of protection and nourishment. She taught him what it meant to live with painful wounds and not lash out at the rest of the world over them. He had never encountered a being like her.

Alëxios came from under the veil of Malaykah’s mind and realized she looked at him with expectation in her eyes. H did not know what she said or asked just moments before. To conceal his lack of attention, he kissed her passionately. Their suppressed arousal bloomed in full force. He swiftly pulled her nightshirt over her head and began to massage her breast with his hands.

Malaykah became worried that their interaction would cause too much turbulence for the ship.

“We can’t,” she whispered.

“Ah, yes, we can, my dear. We can control it,” he whispered back.

Malaykah kissed him again to playfully bite his bottom lip, and mumbled, “I don’t want to.”

An intense surge of erotic energy surged between them. Alëxios took Malaykah by the waist and flew her off the bed, out of the suite. They soared up in the sky to make love among the stars and clouds.

~Ch. 22, The Realm Beyond the Stars and Sea~

Mystic Secrets, Buried Treasure

“Within this realm, dark arts are wielded by none other than Mäüdräh. She was widely known as a banshee who dwelled within all the woodlands. An uncontested rumor labeled her as an oracle who possessed great powers. Many travelers sought her out to find favor, fortune, and even attain realm dominance. Unbeknownst to each, she had a gift that seemingly would grant their wildest dreams but was also laced with a cruel curse. Mäüdräh restlessly took pleasure in her craft. Unfortunately, her curses were so harmful that she nearly destroyed a portion of the realm. The Ultimate Creator, Chrëst, mercifully had to step in to prevent further ruin. This enact was the 1st Season of Judgement, in which she was cast deep into the sea and placed into a slumber as punishment. Since Chrëst vowed never to completely interfere with the actions of creatures within the realm, her inactivity is not absolute.”

A single tear slid down Captain Mi’yämë’s eye.

“Aye, no living soul could know this better than Trëgӧürnë and myself.” He paused to look at the dumbfounded group. “Alëxios, there are secrets I never made mentioned to you before. I did not know the value or gravity of the situation. Exactly one eon before we whisked you away to the high seas, my crew and I were an eager lot. All 275 of us were castaways from different parts of the realm. Each of us had our own tragic stories, which is what brought us together. We were raring to make a name for ourselves. We wanted to be feared just as much as we were loathed. Then, it was me who had the bright notion of looking for the banshee. We searched every high and low space within the realm until one day, we dove undersea. It was there that we pleaded with Mäüdräh to grant us the most invincible ship the realm had ever seen. A day later, we came upon this beauty. It was bountiful with space, and the best part is that it was invisible to the naked eye. Only a crew member could fetch it out of nowhere.” He violently banged his forehead against Alëxios’s head. “Then, we stumbled across you when we raided the Faerie kingdom. Your story was the most tragic of us all, but the fact that you were the descendant of a War-God made you the most priceless treasure we could ever unbury. Through the years of raids, we lost crew members on the regular. No one took note until our numbers dwindled to the point that we worried if we would be able to continue to find the ship.”

Captain Mi’yämë’s voice began to tremble, “After you demanded to be returned to Phëläniciä, everything fell apart. We realized we had been cursed when we tried to leave the ship and return to our homelands. No matter where we laid our heads at night, we always awoke back here on the ship. The worst of it is, Trëgӧürnë and I are all that remain from the original crew. The souls of all who perished before us are trapped here for eternity.”

~Ch. 21, The Realm Beyond the Stars and Sea~

Lamentation (con.)

Malaykah sat in silence and concentrated on concealing her thoughts. Everything that Alëxios shared with her was heavy enough to cause her heart to explode. She thought about what it truly meant to have a life partner; love, respect, honesty, and acceptance. None of which she had experienced in the human realm. She would need to determine how much stamina and tolerance she possessed to be with Alëxios. She also had to resolve whether he would make the same assessments regarding her.

Up until then, Alëxios had only tasked himself to demonstrate his indifference concerning the matter of delivering his heir to the throne. All of the kings before him seemed to have preoccupied themselves with that particular element of ruling Phëläniciä, which caused a series of attempted coups, murders, and wars among siblings in some eras.

Alëxios desired a legacy utterly dissimilar to the days of old. He secured some semblance of peace within the kingdom and cultivated a military unmatched in strength and numbers. In fact, he had spent such a lengthy amount of time manifesting his dream kingdom that his only other concern had been to find a suitable queen.

Malaykah was everything Alëxios had searched for in a lifemate. She proved invaluable in the events that led up to, during, and after the siege. The possibility of her inability to conceive his child was of no consequence to him based on that measure. However, it was clear to him that she felt inadequate as a queen and his bride.

Without any audible persuasion, Alëxios gestured for them to take their conversation over to the bed. Malaykah reluctantly obeyed. He wasted no time caressing her body. The warmth of his breath on her neck sent chills through her spine. She abruptly pulled away from him and instead slid under the covers.

“How can you touch me, knowing full well that when we make love, I might not be able to give you a child?” she asked unnervingly.

Alëxios smiled deviously and slid down beside her.

“My Queen, I assure you when we make love, that is the furthest notion, nor has it ever been a specific goal,” he replied.

Malaykah’s contrite aura set the mood of the room. As her thoughts remained heavily guarded, he conceded that she would not make herself available to him. Alëxios took her disinclination as a cue to let well enough alone since he had no desire to experience passionless intercourse with his wife.

~Ch. 19, The Realm Beyond the Stars and Sea~

Lamentation

Alëxios sat and slumped down on his throne with a hand covered over his face. Lady Rüvym massaged his temples to calm him.

“Fret not, dearest. Everything will fall into place in due time,” she coaxed.

He sat straight to look at her.

“How can you be certain? Clearly, I have not successfully wooed Malaykah into my world. For every moment she has felt out of place in the human realm, I intended to give her the opposite here in Phëläniciä,” he said.

Lady Rüvym cackled, “Malaykah maybe but a young maiden in this realm, but she is also a full-grown woman in the human realm. Her troubles cannot be wooed away with trinkets, baubles, and other extravagant treasures. Therefore, you must develop a different tactic so that she can feel secure seated next to your throne. If you have taken the time to really listen to her, you know that you must honor her wish to release the remainder of your harem.”

“It has already been decreed to do so,” he replied with a half-smile.

Lady Rüvym hugged his neck, then said, “Remember that you are to keep no more secrets. Give her the respect and grace to understand who you are without imposition. Her thoughts and feelings are not to coddled as if she were a child. Speaking of children, I have the utmost faith that the gods intended for your union to be a success. You were brought together for a reason. Together, you must discover that reason and hold on to each other.”

After hours into the night, Alëxios brought a tray filled with several succulent dishes to Malaykah’s room. The celebration had been canceled, and the feast was sent out to feed the families in the city. He knocked gently twice before he entered her chambers. There she laid draped across the bed with her face buried in the plush pillows.

He placed the tray on a candle-lit table and called out to her.

“Malaykah, I know you are upset. In truth, I cannot imagine how you must feel because you refuse to let me inside your thoughts. However, I am certain that you must be famished at this late hour. Please eat something.”

She sat up on the bed and listlessly looked at the tray of food. Then, though she did not speak, she rolled off the bed to eat.

“It breaks my heart to have you look at me with such contempt,” Alëxios sighed.

Malaykah nibbled a piece of bread dipped in honey broth and said, “It breaks my heart that I could possibly be the one to hold you back from everything that you need.”

Alëxios sat in the opposite chair. Then, without thinking, he reached for her hand.

“How can you even contemplate such an untruth? I am not held back from anything. When I first saw you, I was well aware of the obstacles that we would encounter. I did not care then, nor do I care now. Malaykah, you are my destiny. Without you by my side, I would not be alive or have a kingdom to reconstruct,” he replied.

Malaykah took a sip of wine from a small vial on the tray, which was sweet and made her feel more relaxed.

“I don’t know how to reconcile my feelings about all of this. You built me up to be this amazing queen, and I believed it. I know that everyone has flaws. In this realm, it seems that my one flaw could cost you everything. In my mind, your one flaw is just as costly to me,” she said.

Alëxios studied her but was still unable to break through the veil.

“Tell me what you need, and I swear to give it to you,” he said.

Malaykah drank the rest of the wine in one gulp. It seemed to have a calming effect. She felt tranquil but determined.

“Tell me more about yourself. I don’t really know all there is to know, which makes me feel out of the loop with everyone else around,” she answered.

Alëxios leaned in closer to her, and his eyes prompted her to be more specific.

“Alright then,” she sighed. “Tell me what the deal is with Sӧlitha. She seems to have had a bone to pick with me since the moment I arrived in the realm.”

Alëxios paused for a moment but was interrupted by Malaykah’s pleading eyes. He rocked back in the chair and locked onto the veil in her mind. Then, instead of another attempt to open her thoughts, he poured his own out like a waterfall.

In truth, she is of no relation to the royal bloodline. I suspect by now, Titanëa may have already enlightened you on the matter. With my father’s decree, there was no course of action to reverse her adoption. During the time I was kidnapped and held captive, she was the only successor to the throne. The former king did not foresee such a disastrous outcome for any of us. Once I was formally returned to Phëläniciä, she befriended me. We were so alike in that we were orphaned early on. After her mother disappeared, she was raised by royal wet nurses and nuns. Grand-mére ensured to remain within the laws of the edict but sorely did not care for the girl.

Then came a clamor of concern by the royal officials that I was not fit to be king. During my stint with the Sea Pirates, I went on a murderous rampage. In fact, every article of décor, furniture, and weaponry stems from one hundred fifty years of raids. Byakko and I were sent to the monastery temples to train with the ancient monks. It was then that I learned to discipline my wrath. Upon my return, Sӧlitha had come of age and was a fully grown maiden.

She began to plot how she would stay in the castle. Her plan started off subtly, but over time she repeatedly threw herself at me. I would find her naked in my bed chambers or in the bath quarters. Her plans to seduce me were continually thwarted as I remained firm in my stance to turn her away. Finally, she outright begged me to allow her to become either my bride or consort. It was her desire to conceive my heir at all costs.

In my empathy for her position, I could not see fit to cast her away like mere rubbish. I took an oath of silence never to speak about or directly to her to honor my father’s wish. We have all done harmful deeds out of desperation and sheer madness. I had hoped that she would find someone to help heal her wounds and that she would be glad that I did as well.

~Ch. 19, The Realm Beyond the Stars and Sea~

Maidens Voyage

On Wednesday evening, a loud boom could be heard from inside the Malcolm kitchen. The house fell silent for a few moments. Then, suddenly, muffled voices echoed into high-pitched shouts. Once the shouting picked up, Roxy and Roy could be heard trading insults with Shannon.

“That’s not fair, Shannon, you lazy cow! There’s no way in hell we’re picking up the slack for your share of chores,” Roxy barked.

Roy interjected, “Yeah, why should we have to take orders from you. I never see you do anything besides sit on your ass. The only time you get busy is to give mom grief.”

“Listen, guys, if it weren’t for me making this schedule, the whole house would turn into a sty. And, as far as me giving mom any grief, she can take the same medicine she dishes,” Shannon railed back at them.

Malaykah had been sitting in the bathtub all the while. She held her breath and submerged underwater. That seemed to be the only remedy to stop the head-to-toe aches, which came on more frequently. She shut her eyes and began to clearly hear her thoughts.

There has always been an influx of dialogue surrounding identity. We’re often told not to derive our identity from the opinions of others. The truth is, that isn’t a realistic objective. From the time we’re born, we rely on someone else to tell us and the rest of the world who we are. A name is selected, the birth certificate details all the background information, and identity is created.

We go through adolescence acquiring nicknames, pet names, and the like thereof. By the time we reach the middle of adulthood, we’ve spent half of our lives believing who other people made us. It’s hard to break free from those conditions. Some are lucky enough to reinvent themselves. Others get trapped.

Liberty dictates that we have a choice in what we buy into. Some things can’t be changed, but if we allow ourselves the power to believe otherwise, we can change destiny. I believe that I am truly a descendant of the Goddess Oshun. Her divinity dwells within me. This is who I am, yet I don’t know how to change my life in the human realm.

She emerged back to her upright position to catch some air. Two loud door slams in the outer rooms caused the house to go silent again. Roxy tapped softly on the bathroom door.

“Mama, I’m going to the Schnyder’s for my babysitting gig. Roy said he would be at Tyler’s bike shop, and I’m sure Shannon won’t be home until late,” she called through the door.

Malaykah did not stir as the pain from her headache held her jaw clenched.

Roxy lightly tapped twice and said, “Well, don’t stay in the tub so long that you turn into a prune. Dinner is in the fridge.”

Once Roxy went on her way, Malaykah slid underneath the water once again. This time when she closed her eyes, vivid images of the marital rituals in Phëläniciä came to mind. There she stood next to Alëxios in a valley of golden lilies next to a rainbow waterfall. They were hand in hand, with enchanted blue laces strapped up their arms. The binding was interlocked with peri dust and specs of dragon blood. The laces began to squeeze tight until they evaporated in the air. A gleam of diamond light shined bright from the sky. The ancient monk announced them anointed by the gods and bound to each other in every realm for all of eternity. With that, she opened her eyes. She sat on a riverbank with her feet dipped in the river within the borderlands of Phëläniciä.

Meikko sat patiently beside her without a word. When Malaykah gently patted her head, the dragon smiled and said, “My queen, it is an hour to greet your arrival. My father and King Alëxios are busy at the castle. I have been commanded to take you there promptly.”

Malaykah took heed and climbed aboard the young female dragon. They shot off into the air like a rocket. Though they were high above the ground, Malaykah could see that reconstruction efforts were heavily underway. The gates were reinforced with platinum-steel beams. All the cobblestone in the city was replaced with azure-toned marble, which gave the appearance of the ocean. Even the Palace structures changed into what Malaykah deemed as Moroccan architecture.

Meikko flew them to a landing strip on a high tower and allowed the queen to dismount. Trumpets with the announcement could be heard everywhere. The citizens gathered below to pay respect. Byakko and the king arrived in the area bearing gifts and flowers. Alëxios place a heavy crystal tiara on Malaykah’s head. Her beaded braids flowed down her shoulders and back with elegance.

Lady Rüvym was ushered to the gathering by her bodyguards. She kissed Malaykah’s hand and signaled for them all to go inside. A glorious feast had been prepared in the dining hall. Malaykah admired the sumptuous décor of furniture, tapestry, and artwork strategically positioned throughout the halls.

“These pieces were acquired from at least one hundred fifty thousand of the king’s conquered territories and have been stored in a neighboring city within the realm,” Lady Rüvym gushed.

Malaykah was led to the throne room before the meal was served, were rows of exotic flowers rested on a small marble stairway with two golden chairs. Alëxios seated Malaykah in the smaller chair cushioned with silk pillows. One of her ladies pulled the footrest out so she would sit more comfortably. The king’s chair was just as grand, only larger with no footrest.

A soldier entered the throne room and banged his staff to signal that court would be held in session. The eunuch Bässäm was escorted in and proceeded to bow before the king and queen.

“Your majesties, please forgive my intrusion. There is an urgent matter that must be decided upon,” he said.

Alëxios rested his hand under his chin with concern and said, “Eunuch Bässäm, you may rise and speak.”

Bässäm stood with his head down, as it was forbidden for a eunuch to look directly at anyone from the royal family.

“Sire, before the fall of our kingdom, an edict had been placed to disassemble your harem and send all the consorts back to their homelands. Only a portion of the proclamation has been carried out. With the untimely attack from the retched Tengu, all procedures were halted. If it would serve the king correctly, I see no reason to continue the measure. The remaining maidens should be left here under my guidance and protection.”

By then, the room was filled with royal knights, soldiers, and citizens alike. Each was moved with shock that the eunuch would dare demand to keep his position after the king clearly had dismissed him.

Alëxios look at Malaykah to study her thoughts. He could feel a weighty gate block the veil to her consciousness. To his dismay, she would not let him in. He chuckled, almost nervously to himself. The entire room awaited his decree.

He looked at Bässäm and said, “Our Divine Queen has returned to us. This should be a time of jovial celebration. Let us put minute matters to the side in favor of doing what is right in this instance.”

Bässäm began to tremble.

“I beg you, Divine King, please do not leave this matter for the birds to pluck till morning light. In this instance, many of your fold wonder what place they have in the new kingdom. Speculations will only become a maddening device.”

Malaykah rose from her chair to walk down to Bässäm. She lifted his face and replied, “Dear eunuch, the entire palace thanks you for your services. You have been a source of knowledge and delicately have cared for the king’s interests over centuries. Your dedication will always be held in high acclaim.”

The room fell in awe at the queen’s words. Even Alëxios was taken back.

She turned to walk away from Bässäm and continued, “However, I am certain there is a way to send all the remaining maidens back to their homelands in a safe manner.” She stood next to Alëxios and asked, “Is there not a way, my king?”

Alëxios sat quietly as Malaykah pulled back the veil to her thoughts. It was made clear she did not want to host any of the maidens in Phëläniciä, and she expected her husband to respect her wishes. He kissed her hand as a sign of agreement.

“The queen has made her decision. I will call upon my brethren, the Sea Pirates, to assist with relocating each and every maiden. After the voyage is completed, eunuch Bässäm will return to wherever country land sent you here,” the king stated.

~Ch. 18, The Realm Beyond the Stars and Sea~

Dragon Dynasty

Back at the Änkhöѐ campsite, Byakko read from a piece of parchment to his fellow dragons.

“The life span of Phëläniciän dragons lasts the duration of twenty-three eons. After that, the eldest dragons retire from civic duties to a monastery temple high in the mountains of Phëläniciä. There, the ancient monks reside as well. The Ultimate Creator, Chrëst, assigned each the task of keeping all nine thousand of the sacred scrolls updated by recording all of the events that had taken place throughout the realm.

Phëläniciä itself was considered a blessed kingdom because no other territory inhabited dragons. Moreover, it is documented in six hundred separate passages of the sacred scrolls that they are the most beloved creatures of Chrëst. That is why the legend of the first dragon queen who fell in love with a peri is retold for every Phëläniciän birth, marital rites ceremony, and death.

Long ago, much of the realm was underdeveloped. Then, Chrëst wielded magic to craft territories and form enchanted beings. The dragons were fiercely exciting in that they could both fly and breathe below the sea. While many of the realm’s inhabitants waged wars with each other to conquer domains, the dragons dwelled on peace. Their ability to defend their turf made them stand out among the rest of the population.

A turquoise-colored dragon queen named Ryoko ruled her kin in the eastern countryside of the realm. She was known as a daydreamer who often traveled far and wide alone. One day, Ryoko decided to tour the Mideastern land occupied by peri folks. Her unannounced arrival caused a stir, as she was considered a threat. An enchanted arrow struck her front left paw, which caused her to fall from the sky.

The arrow was shot by an archer named Pelӧrän. He had an olive-toned skin complexion and long wavy black hair. Just as he was about to slay her with his sword, she wept and begged for mercy. At first, he did not submit to her wish. He felt pressured by the onlookers to act. Finally, Ryoko mustered enough strength to fend him off and flew away. Pelӧrän was then rebuked for not killing her right away. His kin wanted her head on a platter.

Pelӧrän fly after Ryoko. Due to her injury, he caught up in no time. The two beings landed on the ground in a white-leafed sycamore forest and began to talk. She was captivated by his beauty. Pelӧrän was tall for a peri, and his wings looked of gold and silk. He was impressed with the dragon queen’s regal demeanor.

The pair became enamored with each other and decided to run away together. Pelӧrän and Ryoko traveled to the highest peak in the northern lands and created their marriage ritual to seal their union. Within a decade, the population of their offspring multiplied so immensely that Chrëst granted them and expanded territory. At the end of their life spans, each made a final request to Chrëst. They both prayed that their line would remain strong within the realm and find the truest love. Chrëst honored them by having their story inscribed in the sacred scrolls so that every Phëläniciän would know where their origins.”

~Ch. 17, The Realm Beyond the Stars and Sea~

Against the Grain (con.)

Twelve days later, Malaykah was involved in a car accident. Through no fault of her own, she was rear-ended by a teenager. No one was hurt, and the damage was minimal. Malaykah took the incident in stride. She was grateful the mechanic quoted a reasonable price for repairs. The option to take the train to and from work seemed more beneficial than a rental car.

Not long after the accident, Malaykah began to experience body aches and severe migraines. She shook it off and continued to try to find momentum with balancing her life. Evenings on the train were a pleasant break from her usual routine. She was gifted the opportunity to think about her experiences both in the human realm and the realm beyond the stars and sea.

The train station was a mere fifteen-minute walk home. With her eyes towards the sky and head in the clouds, she nearly missed Shannon in the driveway with a man in a car. There was no way to mistake who was inside the vehicle. It was none other than Alejandro. He sped away so fast that he did not see Malaykah walk up to the house.

“Nice night to be out and about,” she said to her daughter.

Shannon shrieked and dropped her house key on the ground. She turned around and glared at her mother. Her hands shook so hard that she was unable to fit the key inside the slot. Malaykah gently nudged her to the side and opened the door with her own key.

“Mom, you scared the crap out of me,” Shannon said with a tremble in her voice.

Malaykah began to hum and said, “Did I now? My apologies, dear.”

Shannon eased inside the house behind her mother, not sure what to make of the situation.

“It was a nice night. Lucky for us, the rain finally lifted,” Shannon murmured slowly.

Malaykah took off her heels and plopped on the couch.

“I do appreciate the rain for my sad little garden outback, but taking the train does make it feel like a challenge,” she said while digging through her purse for her phone.

Shannon sat beside her, completely thrown off by Malaykah’s mood.

“Okay, Mom, let’s stop with the polite banter. Go ahead and lay into me,” she demanded.

Malaykah dumped the entire contents of her purse on the couch without finding her phone. She busied herself with the search for several minutes. Finally, Shannon became annoyed and cleared her throat loudly to retrieve her mother’s attention.

Malaykah looked up at her disgruntled child and chuckled, “Lay into you about what, darling?

Shannon scoffed, “I know you saw who dropped me off just a minute ago.”

Malaykah nodded silently as if she did not recognize the car.

Shannon scooted closer and reached for her hand.

“Actually, the timing is perfect. You may as well know, Dro and I are back together.”

Malaykah sat in silence. She imagined that her facial expression did not reveal any kind of emotional response because Shannon seemed to search her eyes with a penetrating stare.

“Oh my, what an interesting development,” she chimed passively and began to sift through her purse once again.

Shannon became incredulously furious. Without thinking, she snatched the purse to toss it across the room.

“Is that all you’re going to say?” she yelled.

Malaykah tensed up, prepared to yell back. Then suddenly, she looked at Shannon’s visible aggravation and felt empathy. The twins crept out of their rooms to see what all the commotion was about. Malaykah waved her hand for them to stand down.

“What would you like me to say?” she asked.

Shannon stood over her mother and continued to yell. “I don’t know; maybe yell or scream. You could tell me what a no-good loser my boyfriend is. You could do something to discourage me from seeing him.”

Malaykah attempted to soften her tone.

“Do you really need me to do any of that?” she asked.

Shannon glanced at her siblings. Roy looked as if he wanted to pounce on her, but Roxy glared at them both in confusion. The room was silent for a good minute before Shannon responded to their mother.

“Well, no. But jeez, Mom. You’ve changed so much since that awful night. We hardly recognize you anymore.”

“Why aren’t you bent out of shape?” Roxy interjected.

“Are you feeling alright, Mom?” Roy asked.

“How did this conversation shift over towards me?” Malaykah chuckled.

Feeling defeated, Shannon plopped down on the couch.

“Because; we need you to be our mom again. Not this nonchalant fem-bot who can just remain chill about everything,” she said.

Malaykah shook her head and laughed, “Well, this is a first. I’ve been called many things in my lifetime, but never a fem-bot.”

Shannon pinched her on the thigh and said, “Mom, I’m being serious. You don’t seem to care too much about anything these days. You haven’t intervened when the twins team up against me. Your job doesn’t seem to have you stressed out anymore, and I honestly feel like you’re practically giving your blessings for me to date Dro again.”

Malaykah playfully pinched Shannon’s leg and replied, “You’re wrong. I decided to let the three of you hash things out like mature adults should do. Nothing bad has happened yet. My life at the office is purely miserable, but I can’t just quit. I haven’t given my blessings for you to take up with Dro. In fact, I think it’s a terrible idea. However, I know if I allow my irritation to rule over the things I can’t change, there would be nothing but catastrophic consequences. The best I can do is control my emotions and believe for the best results. I don’t want to fight with you, the twins, Alejandro, or my boss, for that matter.”

Both Roxy and Roy came to the couch to hug Malaykah. Shannon, however, was even more displeased.

“What kind of Jedi mind trick is this? I half expected you to throat punch me over Dro,” she exclaimed.

Malaykah pulled Shannon into her embrace.

“What would that solve?” she asked.

Shannon abruptly pulled away and huffed.

“Maybe nothing. Maybe it would make you feel better, instead of suppressing your feelings. Or maybe it would set me straight. It certainly seemed to work on Dro. He’s been a saint lately,” she answered.

Malaykah threw her arms around Shannon so tight she could not escape. After she squirmed for a few minutes, she surrendered. Roxy and Roy continued to latch on to their mother, and they all silently wept.

“I don’t want you to suffer, Shannon. I don’t want any of you to suffer at all. If I tell you to stay away from him, it would only push you further into his arms. I don’t want there to be a rift between any of us. So my hands are tied, but my heart is wide opened,” Malaykah cried.

Shannon raised her head and shook away when Roy tried to hold her in place.

“I know you think you’re being strong right now. Somehow you believe using reversed psychology will make everything alright. Truth is, I prefer the old you who would go at least eight rounds with me to prove a point.” She got off the couch and grabbed her keys to walk out the door. “This new version of you sucks. You’re weak and afraid to actively participate in your life. Whatever happened to you while you were in a coma must’ve been truly unnerving.”

Roy calmly walked over to Shannon and shoved her against the front door.

“You really need to watch your tone, big sis,” he warned.

“Why do you always have to act like a spoiled ass brat?” Roxy chimed in.

Malaykah wiped her face without so much as a word. It took her a few moments to realize her children were about to come to blows. She banged her fist on the coffee table to get their attention and said, “If you took up with Dro because you couldn’t help yourself, I understand. If you did it to serve as a wake-up call to me, I understand that too. The question you need to ask yourself is, who are you really angry at? As a mother, I’ve done all I can and then some to look after you all. At some point, you have to fend for yourself and deal with the fallout from whatever consequences that may come. Yes, it’s risky. But ultimately, it’s up to you to make it out on the other side of any dark tunnel you find yourself in.” She got up and walked towards her bedroom. “I pray you never spend a day in my shoes.”

~Ch. 16, The Realm Beyond the Stars and Sea~

Against the Grain

Mr. Jung peered through the blinds of his office window at her. He casually strolled out onto the main floor in mix-matched polka dot socks. The rest of the department carried on as if they did not see him. He walked near Malaykah’s cubicle and waited for her to get off the phone before gesturing with his index finger for her to come see him.

Malaykah sat in a chair directly across from his desk. Her mind was hazy from all of the impended demands of deadlines. She did not have time to sit and chat but did not want to appear disrespectful. Mr. Jung entered behind her, but rudely began typing an email in silence. As soon as he pressed send, he turned around and looked at her.

“I called you in here because we’re in a bit of a jam. As you know, we’ve been short-staffed for several years. The hiring process has taken a toll on our department. As a result, we can’t get ahead to stay out of the red on the budget,” Mr. Jung said.

Malaykah sat confused and wondered why Mr. Jung called her in his office to tell her things she already knew. She gave a silent nod to show attentiveness.

He stood from his swivel chair and continued, “Some of the people in this department; I don’t know how they were promoted in the first place. They lack perseverance and always complain when times are hard.” He looked at her smugly and began to rub his left hand on top of his right hand. “You were promoted pretty fast, even though you hadn’t been with this company long. You’d better be grateful that Mrs. Jones was in charge during that time. She’s retired now, but with the current administration, I doubt you’d be here.”

Malaykah was taken back at Mr. Jung’s statement. His words were like a kick to the gut and deflated any enthusiasm she had for being there. In her mind, he implied she was not promoted because of her hard work, but only because of Mrs. Jones, who just happened to also be a black woman. The gall of Mr. Jung’s arrogance and racist remarks clarified why everyone thought he was shady.

Obviously, this matter would have been easy to a complaint with the human resources department. However, Malaykah was exhausted as a person of color to experience such a demeaning encounter even after the Rosemont Retirement Facility encouraged years of cultural competency training. She knew Mr. Jung would use his snake charmer skills to convince everyone he only intended to give a motivational pep talk It would be his word against hers. The leadership was never top tier, but prejudices and racism were not supposed to be acceptable by any means.

She swallowed all the vitriol swelling in her throat and simply said, “I need to get back to work.”

~Ch. 16, The Realm Beyond the Stars and Sea~