Alëxios sent the lead physician to treat Malaykah with medicine to help her rest comfortably, though he was unsure how well the antidote had taken effect. His severe headache made it clear that he was no longer privy to her thoughts. It would be impossible to know whether Malaykah made that choice on her own or if it was due to the pregnancy. Two things he knew for sure; she was in excruciating pain and terrified of something at the same time.

AlĂ«xios demanded a conference with The Jade Rabbit and Lady RĂŒvym to get to the bottom of it all. He was enraged and worried for Malaykah’s safety. When the two entered his study, AlĂ«xios verbally pounced on ‘YĂč tĂč.’

“I demand you tell me the meaning behind Malaykah’s condition at once! Has she been ruthlessly sabotaged by The Moon? I believe she was set up and impregnated with an evil demon,” he said.

‘YĂč tĂč’ became indignantly offended by the accusations hurled at him.

“How dare you speak of such vile things regarding the pure intentions of The Moon and her innocent children! We may have your ancestor, Lord Chiyou, to thank for the queen’s present state. All who knew of him declared him a monster, and it is written in the Sacred Scrolls as well. However, let us not forget; it is your seed that was merely fertilized with The Moon’s essence,” he replied.

Alëxios raised his voice loud enough to shake the entire palace.

“All that I am sure of is that I refuse to rear a motherless child! Malaykah had better be revived back to health promptly!” he exclaimed

The Jade Rabbit bounced high in the air, then on a long desk.

“Or else, what?” he asked defiantly.

By then, Lady RĂŒvym had enough of the shouting match.

“Stop this madness, this instance! Both of you shall put aside your enormous egos in favor of reason. Queen Malaykah is half-human. In truth, we all were concerned whether she would even successfully conceive, let alone carry AlĂ«xios’s offspring to full term. Couple that with the essence of The Moon. Her children are the most powerful elements to be manifested within the realm. Malaykah’s divinity has never been questioned here, but her humanity is what is at odds. Her human traits have been dormant all the while, but now it appears the matter must be reconciled as she prepares for the birth of a triple-divine heir,” she explained.

‘YĂč tĂč’ gasped, “Ah, now that made perfect sense!”

Alëxios sat in his chair with his head buried in his hands.

“I do not understand. The Moon specifically chose her for this surrogacy. Why would she do so with the awareness that it might harm Malaykah.”

“The Moon saw this plan as a perfect solution. She would not have made the demand if she thought it would not succeed. Malaykah is stronger than you give her credit. We watched from afar while she was in the Tri-cities. Her displayed divinity, compassion, and tenacity (be it a human trait or not) made her the most admirable and desired creature in the realm to The Moon,” ‘YĂč tĂč’ chimed.

“Unfortunately, we shall all have to wait this out and pray Malaykah can survive this daunting task,” Lady RĂŒvym replied.

~Ch. 31, The Realm Beyond the Stars and Sea~

Between Realms

Malaykah decided to take a walk outside to clear her head. A light rain shower began during her stroll, which made her glad that she thought to bring an umbrella. The rain soothed her mind but often made her joints ache.

“You always looked divine in the rain,” a familiar voice said behind her.

Malaykah tilted her head back to see Alëxios.

“I hope you’re not expecting an Orisha dance,” she chimed.

“You captivated me with your dance,” he replied with sincerity.

Malaykah laughed and said, “I haven’t danced in years.” Her face sobered, and she stopped walking. “The doctors told me I have a weak heart. Apparently, there’s some kind of unknown enzyme attacking my entire body from inside.”

Alëxios turned her around to face him. He was drenched from the rain, so she lifted her umbrella over his head.

“Their diagnosis is all wrong. You have the strongest heart of anyone I have ever met. Unfortunately, though, it appears your onset of suffering stems from your time within the realm. Think of it as an adverse effect on your humanity.” He affectionately ran his fingers through the coils of her all-white tresses, then said, “I stand before you now, and your eyes are just as vibrant as the night we met in your garden.

Malaykah gushed at his flattering praises, then glanced away to look at a flickering street light.

“I’m not the same as when we met, and certainly not how I was in the realm,” she replied.

Alëxios tilted her face back to him. His eyes glowed, as hers did in response.

“Do not mistake me for any human men who are merely attracted to fleeting appearances. On the contrary, I am a deity who continuously requires your soul next to mine. I cannot rule my kingdom if you are not seated on the throne at my side,” he said.

“I haven’t been to the realm in over nine years. At this point, I don’t believe it’s even possible for me to return,” she answered in distrusted confusion.

AlĂ«xios grinned slyly, then said, “Have no fear. KĂŒnsey and I will dwell with you here in the human realm. I consulted with The Moon to have the goddess Isis create him an amulet that would allow him to enter this realm without any harm to come. As you have seen, he is well able to manage our affairs.”

“Well, I suppose you have it all figured out then. You came here with no disadvantages. I love how the two of you arrived as successful businessmen,” Malaykah chuckled.

AlĂ«xios caressed her bottom lip with his index finger, then said, “The only realm that I would be at a disadvantage in is the one where you refuse to be by my side.”

She kissed the tip of his finger and replied, “There is no such place.”

AlĂ«xios proposed that they marry right away, but Malaykah postponed the event in favor of allowing her family to get to know him. J’aime and her children were instantly taken in by his charm. They marveled at how he doted on Malaykah and treated her like a queen. His generosity as a philanthropist made him a sensation everywhere. After six months passed, AlĂ«xios and Malaykah married and retired to a quiet life.

Fourteen years later, Malaykah’s health began to rapidly decline. AlĂ«xios spared no expense and sent KĂŒnsey to search for a cure. Their efforts were to no avail. She became unable to speak, though she could communicate through her thoughts. AlĂ«xios feared she would soon perish, so he persuaded her they should return to the realm.

KĂŒnsey was fortunate enough to find a soothing oil to help her sleep peacefully. One night, after AlĂ«xios applied the oil with a light massage, they both drifted off to a night of deep sleep. When they awoke, they found themselves neck-deep inside a lake. They smiled knowingly at each other. For they both knew they had finally returned to the borderlands of PhĂ«lĂ€niciĂ€.

~Ch. 29, The Realm Beyond the Stars and Sea~


AlĂ«xios walked alone on the PhĂ«lĂ€niciĂ€n beach under a cloudy dark-blue sky. The Moon kept herself hidden from him, and his royal subjects followed suit. His somber mood had the entire realm on edge as they wondered whether Malaykah would truly become the surrogate mother of The Moon’s children. This maneuver guaranteed PhĂ«lĂ€niciĂ€ would garner realm dominance. All the other races of creatures prepared their respective kingdoms for a showdown to settle the matter for once and for all.

Byakko flew overhead and landed mere paces behind the king. He did not speak but patiently waited for Alëxios to acknowledge him. After a few steps, they both stopped in their tracks.

“Am I a mad god, unable to control my wrath?” he questioned Byakko with a nod.

“You have acted in accordance with laws established by The Ultimate Creator, ChrĂ«st, and disciplined yourself to tame your emotions. This success is well known by all, even Queen Malaykah,” Byakko responded.

“Then why does she not trust me to keep myself from ruin? I confessed that I shall always become overwhelmed with erratic thoughts whenever she is unwell, yet I still managed not to destroy the realm on the occasions that I had access to her mind,” said AlĂ«xios.

Byakko sighed and answered with great care, “This is not a matter of trust. The two of you are at odds against each other’s true nature. Your nature and reputation as a god of war can terrify anyone. But, then, there is also your desire to help and protect maidens in distress. Queen Malaykah’s nature as a nurturer is akin to that of a protector. Yet, she is not a maiden in need of rescue. Upon her next return to the realm, there should be an effort to learn how to rely upon each other. As a couple, you shall be the bridge between strengths and weaknesses.”

Alëxios signaled for them to continue their walk.

“Malaykah is not only my Queen but also my divine soulmate. We are bound for eternity. Though she has not yet relinquished her role in the human realm, I am certain she desires to dwell within the realm with me. Therefore, I shall continually strive to protect her, regardless of whether she is to produce my heir.”

“Is that to say the anointing to bless your seed and her womb did not take effect?’ Byakko asked in confusion.

“It is far too early to know. My stance shall remain, either way. If she is to be ostracized for her humanity or inability to reproduce The Moon’s children, I shall gladly renounce my throne. The furthest ends of the realm beckon for me to take her and dwell in peace,” AlĂ«xios replied.

Byakko halted his steps and signaled for Alëxios to mount his back.

“Your Majesty, I am not without understanding of your mindset. However, before you result to drastic measures, hear me out. I believe to have a better solution for this dilemma,” he retorted as they took flight.

Malaykah’s return to the human realm did not happen expectantly as it occurred in the past. When she woke up, she was not in her home or in the hospital. On the night she lay in the bathtub to treat her excruciating body aches, her transition to PhĂ«lĂ€niciĂ€ stemmed from a stroke. She had been hospitalized for six months before her family had her assigned to a physical therapy facility. Once her brain returned to full functions, countless hours were spent retraining her on how to eat, walk, and speak.

Malaykah took her time and worked to reemerge herself back into the human realm. Her emotions fluctuated from extreme highs to debilitating lows. In her less manic moments, depression swung to anxiety. Restless nights kept her exhausted. Her daily battles with apathy made it nearly impossible to move forward.

Out of the depths of her despair, Malaykah found a small spark, which propelled her to fight back to a state of restored health. She began to appreciate her life and no longer wanted to waste any of it. J’aime and her children took turns with their watchful eyes on her progress. She kept her job in the accounting department but retired from being a dance instructor. The stroke had taken a physical toll on her body, and during her recovery, her hair turned completely white.

Malaykah’s memories of the realm and PhĂ«lĂ€niciĂ€ soon became distant daydreams. It was her fervent wish to return to the human realm during her time in the Tri-cities cavern that kept her away for more than nine years. Though her request had been delayed, it had not been denied. She dared not to mention anything to her family. After all, she doubted anyone would believe that she had the ability to travel to an alternate world.

Life began to happen at an even pace. Malaykah watched Shannon and Alejandro finally tie the knot before their third daughter was born. Roy joined an international task force as a translator, and Roxy decided to study art abroad. Even J’aime took a promotion in accounting to work alongside her best friend.

~Ch. 28, The Realm Beyond the Stars and Sea~

Disposition of Grace (p. 3)

The PhëlÀniciÀns took flight once more to head to the Tri-cities. Alëxios quelled his wrath so that he could find Malaykah in one piece. The battalion did not stop to take any breaks or rest from the cove. Time was of the essence, and no one wanted Malaykah to suffer another moment. It was then the longest journeying the fleet had taken together.

They landed on the outskirts early one morning. Daybreak could not come bustling through the giant trees and overgrown grass of the Tri-cities. Alëxios sliced through the paths with a saber, as he did not want to overuse the Excalibur sword for remedial tasks. The hordes of cherubs stampeded through the area until they stumbled upon Alëxios.

They all bowed down to him reverently, then carried on their way to roam about. It became clear that the mindless cherubs would not have been able to help Malaykah, even if they recognized her divinity. The battalion followed a small gaggle within the second cave since Alëxios read the engraved markings that indicated to do so. Before long, they hit the bottom of the cavern. Alëxios sensed a powerful aura nearby, which caused him to become anxious.

Around the corner, they found Malaykah lying lifelessly on the ground. Her face was hidden behind her long braids. In her hands, the Ɛrb globe clutched tightly to her chest. Suddenly, the Ɛrb dissolved. Then a forcefield of twinkling silver and blue stars stretched over her body. At first glance, she appeared not to be breathing.

“Malaykah,” AlĂ«xios called to her in an unevenly shaken tone.

She stirred only a little and moaned weakly.

“Malaykah, I am here. I have come to help you,” AlĂ«xios called again with more confidence.

He knelt down beside her, then tried to touch her hair. The powerful aura of the forcefield knocked him back, at least eight feet. Alëxios used cat-like agility to land on his feet. He sighed heavily and covered his hands over his face.

“This is the aura from The Moon’s children. Apparently, they are protecting Malaykah. This is quite the mystery, considering The Moon has ill will against her for an obviously misunderstood trespass,” he said.

He walked back to Malaykah and called her name three times more. Finally, she let out a long sigh and turned her head. She was blinded by a thousand tiny bright lights when she opened her eyes. Her ears rang, her head ached, and her throat felt raw. She tried to sit up but was dizzied by all of her ailments. Then, through the lights, she saw two piercing green eyes. She came fully to her senses, and all her conditions ceased at once.

Malaykah was surprised to still be in the realm. She was certained that she prayed to return home before she black-out. The shield evaporated soon after, which allowed Alëxios to finally embrace her. She looked out at the dragon fleet and spotted Meikko among the others. The young dragon appeared to weep. Without awareness, Malaykah unleashed the veil to her thoughts. Alëxios gasped in horror at the entire revelation of her ordeal with BÀssÀm.

He hugged her tighter to his chest and cried, “My love, why did you not call for me to be by your side? How could you hide away your thoughts from me when you were in danger?”

Malaykah pulled away from Alëxios and looked him in the eyes.

“I only wanted to protect you. I knew you would lose control if you found out what BĂ€ssĂ€m

did to me. I couldn’t save KĂ€nĂ«brĂ€l, but I had to save the rest of the realm.”

Alëxios sat with a brief silence. He was unnerved that Malaykah sacrificed herself to save him from destroying the realm. No one could have, or even ever, offered to put him before themselves. He knew that none of his consorts in the harem would have made the same choice. It was unfathomable to him why The Moon was angry with her.

Malaykah stood and leaned against the cavern wall.

“We have to go now. We have to go to The Moon,” she said.

Alëxios stood and grabbed her shoulders.

“How do you know of this?” he demanded.

A single tear slid down Malaykah’s face. She looked at AlĂ«xios fearfully and said, “The Ultimate Creator, ChrĂ«st, just told me.”

~Ch. 26, The Realm Beyond the Stars and Sea~

Disposition of Grace (p. 2)

AlĂ«xios quickly wiped away his tears and regained complete composure. He turned to his counterparts and declared, “Know this; I continue to hold both of you in the highest esteem. Mighty Byakko will always be remembered as my 2nd self on the battlefield. We could not be any closer, even if we were actually brothers. In the monastery temples, we became each other’s lifelines. I watched a fierce battalion leader become a doting father to young Meikko and raise her up to be my queen’s personal guard. I would never allow any harm to come to either of you on behalf of my own errored ways.”

Byakko nodded in agreement.

“What do you plan to do, AlĂ«xios?” He asked.

Alëxios did not answer right away. He sat on the ground cross-legged and began to meditate. They all waited in silence for several moments as Alëxios summoned the legendary Excalibur sword from the Divine Plains. The sky showered golden raindrops and released the blade into his hands.

AlĂ«xios stood in a cavalier fashion and said, “I shall exact revenge on all those who harmed and took advantage of my queen.”

With that, he leaped off the cliff and ascended to the sky. Byakko commanded the entire dragon battalion to follow soon after.

The PhëlÀniciÀns turned the nine-day route taken by BÀssÀm and Malaykah into an overnight trip by flight. They arrived at the cove and dove right to the bottom of the sea. With Alëxios being a deity, there was no need to seek the Ferry Man for a coin to unlock the portal of the whirlpool. Once they reached their destination, Alëxios unsheathed the Excalibur sword and tapped it against the cave wall.

“Come to me, evil sea witch! You must atone for your sins,” he shouted as he unleashed an enormous portion of his chaos.

The sediment rocks within the cave began to crumble, but AlĂ«xios and the dragons held steady in their footing. Then, suddenly fluorescent light from MĂ€ĂŒdrĂ€h’s aura illuminated the space.

“I am the great and powerful MĂ€ĂŒdrĂ€h. Who dares—” she spoke but was interrupted by AlĂ«xios when he slammed her against the wall and held the Excalibur sword to her throat.

“It is I who shall ask all the questions,” he said with a malicious smirk.

MĂ€ĂŒdrĂ€h’s cold dead eyes locked in with his piercing green eyes and shrieked upon realizing precisely who he was. She trembled and waited for his inquiry.

“Within the last fortnight, you were visited by two individuals. Were you not?” he asked.

MĂ€ĂŒdrĂ€h cackled with a sigh.

“Divine King AlĂ«xios, it is well within your knowledge that I am visited by a barrage of individuals on a never-ceasing basis. They come here at all times to disturb my sentenced slumber. It is entirely too impossible to keep track of them all,” she replied.

Byakko and the other dragons began a low growl that echoed throughout the space of the cave. Then AlĂ«xios unleashed more of his chaos, which caused MĂ€ĂŒdrĂ€h’s aura to dim and the room turned pitch-black. The sediments in the cave floor and walls gave way, and water enveloped everywhere.

MĂ€ĂŒdrĂ€h shrieked again in terror.

“Beg forgiveness, My Lord! I misspoke. I know of whom you speak on,” she said nervously.

“A raunchy eunuch and a maiden, to be exact,” AlĂ«xios replied,

“Ah, yes! They were here many nights ago,” she answered.

AlĂ«xios receded some of his chaos and removed the Excalibur sword from MĂ€ĂŒdrĂ€h’s throat.

“Tell me everything. What did the eunuch want?” he asked.

MĂ€ĂŒdrĂ€h cackled again, this time from amusement.

“He wanted what everyone wants; to obtain the Ɛrb, for realm domination. So I gave him the coordinates, just as I have always done.”

AlĂ«xios grabbed MĂ€ĂŒdrĂ€h’s forehead and slammed the back of her head into the wall, which made the entire cave shake, and more water seeped through the weakened walls.

“So, you boldly confess that you purposefully lead the Queen of PhĂ«lĂ€niciĂ€ to ruin!” he exclaimed.

MĂ€ĂŒdrĂ€h gasped for air as the water rose above her head. AlĂ«xios lifted her by the neck so that the water rested at her chin level.

“My Lord, I beg you to hear me! I did no such thing,” she cried. He squeezed his hand on her throat as she continued.

“I was aware then, just as I am aware now, that I was in the presence of a deity. A mere lowly titan like me would gain no fortune from deceit. I swear to you, I gave no false account to the Daughter of Oshun.”

Alëxios released his hand from her throat, then quickly used the Excalibur sword to stab her in the heart.

“You have been a menace within the realm for far too long. Even if you spoke in truth, I cannot in good faith allow your continued havoc to reign,” he replied.

MĂ€ĂŒdrĂ€h let out a long wheeze when he removed the sword from her heart.

“You have done me a great service, Mighty King AlĂ«xios. In the beginning, I taunted fortune seekers for my own amusement. After the 1st Season of Judgement, I hoped my sentenced slumber would finally put an end to the vicious cycle. Twenty centuries later, I realized my eternal damnation was to continuously repeat my trickery and deceit and never receive any rest. There is no amusement in my existence. As a god, you have rightfully ended the fixed situation. Now, I am finally free,” she weakly cackled before she turned to dust.

Meikko stood next to her father in astonishment.

“Father, why did King AlĂ«xios kill the banshee after the knowledge that she did not lead our queen astray?’ she asked.

“In truth, he did so as an act of mercy and in hopes that Captain Mi’yĂ€mĂ«’ shall be freed to die in peace,” he answered with admiration for his kin and king.

~Ch. 26, The Realm Beyond the Stars and Sea~