The naked pair gazed at each other with a mood relief and satisfaction, which abruptly diminished the moment Malaykah stepped out of the water. Though her face returned to the youthful maiden, everything else about her transformation startled Alëxios. Her hair was now colored mahogany and hung low to her feet in four parted long braids. Her body caused the most alarm, with a voluptuous bosom and swollen belly. Nevertheless, she had the appearance of a healthy young woman in her ninth month of pregnancy.
The revelation of Malaykah’s condition was a complete surprise to them both. She frowned in disappointment at Alëxios as he remained in the lake speechless. They had not mentioned their agreement with The Moon during their entire stay in the human realm. The cherished moments of their blissful marriage, coupled with her ongoing illnesses, kept the conversation far removed from either of their thoughts.
As Malaykah stood in the moonlight, a shooting star passed overhead. Alëxios snapped out of his trance, only to realize his wife was displeased with his demeanor. He climbed out of the lake and stood beside her. There was no breeze, so they felt no need to cover themselves. He caressed her cheek but still did not speak. Malaykah read his mind to find the source of his soured expression.
“I know this is scary, but we’re in this together,” she said.
Alëxios did not want to reveal his emotions to The Moon, so he relayed his thoughts to Malaykah.
“In truth, I have never felt fearful of the unknown. I have no way to determine how well things will turn out. I never imagined myself as a father; it did not seem possible for me. The life I have led is not exactly the best role model for anyone’s offspring.”
Malaykah took him by the arm and leaned her head on his shoulder.
“It’s natural for anyone to be anxious about becoming a parent. Truthfully, the fears never really go away. The trick is to learn how to manage your anxieties. Given your specific circumstances, it’s no wonder you’re terrified. First, your father was assassinated before you were born, and you watched your mother commit suicide. Then, your grand-uncle abducted, rejected, and abused you. Not to mention, you were exploited by the Phëläniciän Sea Pirates. You experienced all of that at a tender young age, and it shaped your perception of the world. I see all of your wounds but also all your strengths. Having been with you for a good portion of my life, I can honestly say it has been the best portion of my life. You protect your loved ones, you’re open-handed, and most importantly, you have integrity,” she thought back to him.
Alëxios was moved to tears by Malaykah’s compliments.
“I learned how to use all those powers because of you. Your abundant acceptance of me was the jolt I needed to change my ways. I wanted to earn the right to be by your side. Though I still have a long way to go, I am pleased to continue this journey with you,” he said aloud.
Malaykah grinned and replied, “See, there. Now I know our children will grow up just fine.”
Suddenly, Byakko and Meikko flew down on the lake with Künsey. They brought golden robes for the king and queen to wear. Before they returned to the palace, Meikko was instructed to use caution during flight. Künsey insisted on riding with Malaykah, as Alëxios and Byakko flew on either side to protect the pregnant queen.
The Phëläniciäns organized an extravagant celebration to commemorate the special occasion. Malaykah’s ladies waited alongside Lady Rüvym and her guards. Once the party landed, everyone stood in awe of Queen Malaykah. She looked every bit of her ancestor, the goddess Oshun. Her face radiated a light that made The Moon pale in comparison. There were no murmurs or whispers from the crowd, as they feared wrath from Alëxios.
Lady Rüvym gushed at her grandchildren and took the opportunity to fawn over Malaykah’s round belly.
“Tonight is a joyous event for the kingdom of Phëläniciä, which will be inscribed in the Sacred Scrolls. Queen Malaykah has returned to us as the fertile mother of a divine nation. This evening shall mark the countdown for the birth of their heir to the throne. Our kind shall forever be known as the dominant race within the realm. Challenge as our sworn enemies may, King Alëxios will cut them down to defend his family and legacy,” Lady Rüvym boasted.
Alëxios clasped her hand in his, and they walked to the dining room. When they made their grand entrance, the entire room erupted in applause. Lady Rüvym led the way to their table. No one was surprised to see The Jade Rabbit, ‘Yù tù,’ seated at the end of the row. The shooting star from earlier could not have been anything other than another deity.
“Greetings, Mighty King Alëxios and Beautiful Queen Malaykah. I have come to bring good tidings from The Moon. She declared to me that motherhood suits the daughter of Oshun,” ‘Yù tù’ said with a tilted wine vial.
Everyone in the dining room saluted Malaykah with a toast.
Alëxios glared at ‘Yù tù’ with suspicion.
“I take it The Moon was aware that Malaykah would return to the realm on this very night,” he said.
The Jade Rabbit slightly choked on his slurp of wine.
“Indeed. This was all planned by The Ultimate Creator, Chrëst. It was the will of the realm creator to make Malaykah stay here long enough to hear The Moon’s proposal. Then she was purposefully kept away from the realm until the appointed time of childbirth, which is nearly upon us,’ he answered.
“I don’t understand. Why was I kept out of the realm until now?” Malaykah asked.
“It was done for your protection and to ensure my nemesis would not terminate your pregnancy,” Alëxios interjected painfully.
~Ch. 30, The Realm Beyond the Stars and Sea~
As the party approached The Moon, Malaykah dismounted Meikko and clung to Alëxios as he carried her the rest of the way. She could hear his heart pound faster and read his thoughts that he wished to whisk her away from the realm. Malaykah kissed Alëxios on the neck, which managed to soothe him, even if only in the slightest instance.
When they landed on The Moon’s surface, a mighty gush of wind washed over them. Then, the pair were swept underneath the leaves of a giant ivory weeping willow tree. This tree wept with millions of tiny leaves that fell and swirled to the ground. Alëxios pulled Malaykah into his arms to keep her from being swept away from the powerful current of the wind. They read each other’s thoughts and were both consumed with fear.
Suddenly, the Jade Rabbit’ Yù tù’, appeared before them. The Jade Rabbit was known within the realm as the High Priest to The Moon.
Suddenly, the harsh winds and weeping willow ceased. The three entities glared at each other in awkwardness.
“Greetings, visitors; Mighty God of War, King Alëxios and Divine Queen Malaykah. I am ‘Yù tù,’ and I speak to you on behalf of The Moon. She called this trial into session to determine the best measures to move forward from the latest upset of events within the realm. Both she and The Ultimate Creator, Chrëst, shall also preside over these proceedings. My role is to serve as a mediator.
Alëxios wasted no time to plead on Malaykah’s behalf. He took one step towards The Jade Rabbit and began to plead his case.
“Let me state for the record; this entire disaster was mostly of my doing. I brought Malaykah to the realm. Therefore, any offense made since her arrival was not done of her own volition,” he argued.
‘Yù tù’ sized up Alëxios and scoffed indignantly, “We are not here to question your chosen queen’s right to dwell within this realm. As far as we are concerned, she came here with desires and her free will. The Moon’s children at the matter at hand. That is what is at stake in this very moment.”
Alëxios quickly clasped his right fist and bowed on one knee with his left hand. His act of humility was something never seen before within the realm, which took both ‘Yù tù’ and Malaykah by surprise.
“Being so as it may, Malaykah was a victim of circumstances. She was brutally accosted and kidnapped by the treasonous eunuch Bässäm. He took advantage of her divinity and called upon the oracle to direct the location of the Őrb. No other creature within the realm would take such an appalling risk,” Alëxios continued.
‘Yù tù’ leered at Alëxios in an unimpressed manner, and mocked, “The eunuch, Bässäm, received his just comeuppance for every one of his crimes.” He then turned his gaze to Malaykah. “The Moon would like to hear from you. Tell us of your intentions since you arrived in the realm.”
Malaykah gulped and bowed next to Alëxios. Her mind spun for a moment as she tried to calm her nerves.
“Initially, I had no definitive intentions.” She locked eyes with Alëxios as she spoke. “I suppose curiosity got the best of me. I wanted to learn more about Alëxios, and when I came to Phëläniciä, I fell in love with everything about him. When the castle was attacked, I just wanted to help everyone,” she answered.
Alëxios and the other entities listened intently as Malaykah’s voice became more poised. Her eyes glowed in the amber hue, which indicated she was possessed by the goddess within. She clenched her chest as if a deep-rooted pain gnawed at her heart.
“When I was kidnapped, all I could think to do was buy time. I did not know what could happen. So I chose to protect Alëxios and the realm. I had hoped that Mäüdräh would curse us before we found the Őrb. I wanted to kill him, myself, so that he could not hurt The Moon’s children. My only sorrow is that I did not find enough strength to fight him as I did on Captain Mi’yämë’s ship.”
‘Yù tù’ smiled with satisfaction and said, “Rise, Daughter of Oshun. Know this; all have heard your testimony and also searched the contents of your spirit. We know you have spoken in truth. You fought well, Divine Queen. The Moon was profoundly moved by your open display of empathy and compassion for her children. Not one single creature inside this realm has ever looked at The Moon as a being to be pitied.” Finally, he nodded for Alëxios to stand. “The entire realm shall eternally owe you a debt of gratitude. Had you not blocked your husband’s intervention, the renowned war god most assuredly would have demolished everything in the wake of his understandable wrath.”
Malaykah curtsied and smiled back at the Jade Rabbit. Then she laced her fingers inside Alëxios’s fingers. He kissed her hand to acknowledge that he was proud of all she had accomplished.
‘Yù tù’ curiously tilted his head and stared at Malaykah.
“Tell me, child; do you not place any value upon your own well-being?” he asked.
Malaykah’s eyes returned to normal, but her goddess’s voice remained for her answer.
“I place more value on my ability to help others. There would be no need for Alëxios to rescue me if my predicament were only to cause him the kind of outrage that would destroy the realm. I couldn’t live with myself if I were the cause for him to be sentenced to eternal damnation.”
Her confession wounded Alëxios. It occurred to him that she would never allow him to help her, which was devastating. Nevertheless, he still felt the need to defend her from the Jade Rabbit.
“Malaykah’s self-sacrifice goes above and beyond what is expected of any being in the realm. Her natural tenacity has served to save us all,” she stated.
“Indeed. Which is what brought us to the current proceedings,” the Jade Rabbit quipped.
Alëxios and Malaykah glanced at each other. They both trembled and could not conceal their urgent sense of panic.
“The Moon proposed that the daughter of Oshun serve as a surrogate mother to her children. Therefore, the Ultimate Creator, Chrëst, is indebted to The Moon for her continuous illumination of this realm. It shall be so, under the condition that the war god, King Alëxios, will also contribute to this effort. In other words, both his seed and her womb shall be anointed with the essence of The Moon’s children. Henceforth, the 3rd Season of Judgement shall be rendered. This proclamation shall place all of Phëläniciä as the dominant race within the realm,” ‘Yù tù’ proclaimed.
~Ch. 27, The Realm Beyond the Stars and Sea~
Fourteen days later, the doctor gave her a clean bill of health, and she was cleared to be discharged from the hospital. The kids were still in school when J’aime came to pick her up. Although Malaykah preferred a quiet ride home, J’aime had a lot on her mind.
“Mally, I’m glad you’re back to new, but you scared the hell out of all of us. That night when you went berserk on Alejandro, the poor sucker begged the police to take him into custody just to get away from you. He had a concussion but refused medical treatment and went straight to jail. We haven’t heard from him since,” she said.
Malaykah did not want to revisit the night she beat up her daughter’s boyfriend. As far as she was concerned, he deserved nothing less, and no further explanation was necessary. She silently tugged at her seatbelt to loosen the strap, then pulled her hoodie over her head. J’aime was none the wiser and continued her rant.
“Then there’s you, who’s been roaming around like superwoman with your kids, work, and the dance studio. All the while with a tumor on your brain. Why didn’t you say anything or tell me you needed help?”
“I didn’t know,” Malaykah shrugged.
J’aime pulled over to the shoulder of the road in tears.
“I swear, I thought you were going to leave us forever. The kids were a mess, and I was even messier.”
Malaykah sat up, unlatched her seatbelt, and leaned over to hug her friend.
“Thank you for taking good care of them. It means a lot. You’re amazing,” she replied.
J’aime chuckled through a sniffle and said, “Honestly, it was them who took care of me. Roxy and Roy rallied together, but Shannon was beside herself with grief. She blames herself for what went down with Dro and for you wind up in the hospital,” she said.
Malaykah swallowed harshly as she imagined how much pain Shannon must have been in.
“It’s not her fault that I had a tumor, and no one could control our fight with Alejandro,” she replied.
J’aime looked at her somberly.
“We both know that, but Shannon truly believes she stressed you into developing a tumor. I tried to talk some sense into her, along with Roxy and Roy. For the most part, everyone seems to be back on the mend. Especially now that you’ve fully recovered. I just have two questions; where the hell did you go, and why did it take so long to come back?” she asked.
For Malaykah, those were loaded questions. She never dared to mention anything about Alëxios or Phëläniciä. There was no way to tell her best friend that she was now a married queen of a kingdom destroyed by mythological creatures. Malaykah was certain J’aime would send her back to the hospital to check for more tumors. So she decided to lie instead.
Malaykah paused for a moment, then said, “I don’t remember anything after I passed out on the sidewalk that night.”
~Ch. 16, The Realm Beyond the Stars and Sea~
At the twinkle of starlight, the lovers nestled naked together, feeling satisfied and relished the euphoria. Alëxios used faerie magic to cast a dream weaver spell over the rest of the camp. All was calm. The presence of such powerful peace was in stark contrast with the hell they endured with the previous days.
Malaykah yawned and stretched her arms to embrace her new husband closer. Her mind was blown away in awe that not only was she married, but also the queen of his kingdom. To think that an ordinary woman could accomplish so much in such a short span. She thought about the citizens of Phëläniciä and how they might perceive her taking such a significant stake in their lives.
Alëxios removed the strains of her that covered her face and kissed her. Her eyes revealed confusion and curiosity, which made him smile.
“Fret not, my love. I promised you a kingdom of adoring subjects, yet it was you who won their hearts to love you. None can dispute that your bravery and compassion are unrivaled. No queen throughout this entire realm has ever displayed such measures of sacrifice and selflessness. You did not falter or run away during distressing times. For that, your name will always be held in high acclaim. There is no decree I could have invoked on my own to make it so,” he said.
Malaykah blushed at his praise but then sulked and pulled a satin sheet over her head. This surprised Alëxios at first. He playfully tugged at the corner of the sheet and said calmly, “Your thoughts are safe with me. The level of intimacy we share is sacred, and I would never betray that vulnerability or trust.”
Malaykah heard his words from within and knew he did not say them aloud. Their divine powers included telepathic communication, among many other attributes. She instantly became accustomed to the sound of his heartbeat but somehow could not resolve, knowing her thoughts could betray them both.
She got up and walked over to a basin to wash her face. The brisk air felt cool on her skin. When she turned around, he sat upon the bed, looking vexed. Malaykah poured water from a pitcher and gulped it from her glass vial as if to be severely dehydrated. The deafening silence made them both nervous.
Alëxios stood up after several minutes with his arms stretched towards her and said, “Malaykah, you are a goddess. Your divinity is protected and cannot be challenged. It may be hard for you to grasp at this very moment, but you have the ability and right to protect yourself at any and all costs. You have the power to block me or any other deity from knowing your thoughts. In this instance, you feel threatened and have naturally blocked my pathway inside your stream of consciousness. Please forgive me if you feel that I have imposed myself on you. I meant no harm.”
Malaykah gasped and pressed her thumb firmly against her lips. It had not occurred to her in all this time how her powers were naturally accessible, and his empathetic understanding of it all allowed her guard to slowly evaporate. She looked at him in amazement but did not speak. Alëxios put his arms down and sat back on the bed, patiently in silence.
With her eyes closed, she searched her thoughts to get to the bottom of what caused her such alarm. Her core was struck to realize exactly what she had been afraid for him to know. She purposefully unleashed the veil to her thoughts, so she would not have to say what she considered an awful trespass against her husband.
“Alëxios, you are a War-God and have the divine ability to protect yourself at all costs as well. So why did you allow the Tengu clan to destroy your kingdom instead of extinguishing them onsite?” she asked with her lips pursed tightly together.
Alëxios smirked at her question but intentionally withdrew his smile as to not cause more tension. Even Governor Cläuveous hinted towards dissatisfaction over how the siege was handled but dared not word his displeasure to directly take aim at the king. Without a word, he left the bed and tied a dry garment around his waist.
When Malaykah opened her eyes, he stood in front of her. She covered her mouth with both hands and flinched at his attempt to cloak her with a golden shawl. His eyes revealed anguish at her apprehension, which gave her remorse. They both sat on the lounge chair, staring at each other. There was no stitch of hostility or distrust between them.
He gently stroked her cheek and used telepathy to communicate.
“In truth, I am a War-God with limitations in this realm. Not one living being from any realm is without restrictions.” He looked towards the tent ceiling, which had an opening to let some moonlight shine through. “The marriage rituals performed in the Valley of Lilies bound us to unbreakable seal. During the siege, I used my divine senses to detect your whereabouts. You may not yet realize by now; my emotions have always been directly connected to and dependent on your well-being. Had you become one of the thousands of innocent casualties in the fray, there is no telling what amount of chaos my wrath would cause.”
Malaykah shuddered at his words but did not interrupt.
He continued out loud, “The kind of destruction I am capable of would be considered blasphemous to the Ultimate Creator, Chrëst. Though realm dominance has been callously sought after among every species through the ages, it is forbidden to permanently destroy any aspect of the realm. The penalty for such a crime would be eternal torment and damnation.”
Malaykah began to weep with her head on his chest.
“You were protecting me back then by shielding off the Tengu clan until we could all evacuate the tunnel,” she sobbed.
He lifted her head so their eyes could meet.
“A new kingdom can and will be constructed. However, I will never find another queen like you. Believe me when I say that I have searched far and long. There is no other for me but you. I suppose this is what provoked Titanëa to poison me and conspire with the Tengu clan to overthrow Phëläniciä,” he said.
Malaykah glanced at him in disbelief. Then, she quickly sat up and wiped her face.
“Do you believe the rumors to be true? I met nearly every one of your consorts, and Titanëa seemed harmless.”
Alëxios studied her face and thoughts as she allowed him. They both arrived at the same conclusion that it was impossible to deny Titanëa’s motives and actions caused her to appear to be the guilty culprit. Yet, her demeanor was likable and made them sad over the whole affair. Malaykah returned to rest her head on his chest. She closed her eyes and began to think about her daughter, Shannon.
Within a few moments, she heard bawling and the sound of a monitor beeping. She opened her eyes to see Shannon lying across her chest.
“Mama, I’m so sorry. If you come back, I promise never to disobey you again,” the girl cried.
Malaykah lifted an arm and stroked the back of his daughter’s head. This alarmed Shannon, and she began screaming for help. After a few short minutes, and young nurse with blonde hair cut in a bob entered the room. She calmly sent Shannon out and began to examine Malaykah with a stethoscope.
“Ms. Malcolm, do you know where you are?” the nurse asked.
Malaykah shook her head in confusion.
“Ms. Malcolm, I am nurse McKinley, and you are at Verene Memorial hospital,” the nurse replied.
“Hosp—it—al?” Is all Malaykah could muster up through her dry, raspy voice.
The nurse smiled with empathy. “Yes, ma’am. After that nasty scuffle with the young man, who is now in police custody, you suffered a seizure. Once we reviewed your MRI results, we found a walnut-sized tumor on your brain. The tumor was benign, but you went into a coma during surgery. You’ve been unconscious for seven weeks,” she said.
~Ch. 15, The Realm Beyond the Stars and Sea~
By 5 p.m., Malaykah welcomed the heavy gridlock traffic on her commute home. It gave her some time to reflect on everything going on in her life. Unfortunately, her train of thought was interrupted by an obnoxiously loud ringtone of her cell phone. Her best friend J’aime left a dozen texts, which up until then had not been opened. Malaykah rubbed her temples and sighed. She knew there was no real way to avoid J’aime’s inquisition. Nevertheless, she mustered as much enthusiasm as possible and pressed accept to answer the phone on speaker.
“Hey girl, what’s happening,” she said.
“Hey girl, I heard the news about Miracelle from nosey Eddie. I don’t know why he got promoted to account over me. His gossip game is off the chain, and he runs his mouth far more efficiently than he can run the budget reports. Anyway, I’m just checking in on you. How are you feeling?” J’aime replied.
Malaykah paused for a moment to summarize her feelings before sharing them with her friend. Then, suddenly, an eruption of emotions came over her.
“I’m as well as can be expected. I mean, you know me; I’m certainly no hater. I am truly happy for Mir and Danny,” she sniffled as she had to make a quick lane change to the right. “I’m just saying; five years after my husband’s death, it’s shocking to me that I haven’t met a guy willing to be a stand-up kind of man. As a single mom with three teenagers, I hoped we’d have a better life.”
J’aime chimed in with a concerned tone, “Mally, you can’t let any of this Miracelle and Danny stuff get to you. First of all, they’ve known each other for less than five minutes. There’s no reason I can think of for them to be engaged so soon unless she’s knocked up. You know how religious her family is. Second of all, your cheater deadbeat husband certainly was not a stand-up man. Karma took care of him real good when that tramp he messed around with drove them off a cliff to prove her brand of crazy love to him. Finally, you’re an excellent mom. I can vouch for that.”
Malaykah slammed on her brakes as the car in front of her abruptly stopped. No one was hurt, luckily. She yelled a few choice obscenities out the window at the driver, then continued on her way.
“Mally, is everything ok? Are you good?” J’aime asked.
“Yes, everything is peachy,” she answered in a dead tone that drifted into a brief silence. “It boggles my mind how my life just seems to be going nowhere. I’m grateful for the good stuff; my kids are healthy, and I received two promotions earlier than expected. I’m proud to be head of the accounting department. It’s just at forty-two years old; I thought I’d be living my success with my life mate by now.”
“Girl, please. We live in a small suburban city. Good men are harder to find than a needle in a haystack. But, regardless of the overgrown man-babies who haven’t turned in their player cards, there are still a few diamonds in the rough left,” J’aime said.
“Do you really think so?” Malaykah gasped with hope.
“I don’t know, probably,” J’aime cackled. “Listen, girl, all this pent-up anger is no good for you. The Afro-Caribbean Fair is tonight. You should come with me. I bet you’d feel right at home since your parents were from that neck of the woods.”
Malaykah sighed, “Sorry, friend, I’m just not up to it. However, the twins have been harassing me about it for a week. Can you take them instead? Since Shannon will be out with her raggedy boyfriend, I’d have the house to myself and finally have a quiet moment to think.”
J’aime blew a long, loud raspberry before she answered, “FINE! I’m only doing this to protect the mental health of my best friend since college. Though I may lose my mind in the process, having to manage two fifteen-year-old kids with raging hormones and mood swings.”
Malaykah thanked her J’aime for being such a trooper, then drove home in silence the rest of the commute.
~Ch. 1, The Realm Beyond the Stars and Sea~
“Feeling inadequate isn’t all that uncommon. Just because you’re born into a certain special circumstance, or your life is put on a specific path doesn’t mean that your way is any more illuminated than others. You’re right, though when you lack inner faith, it’s almost as if you have an invisible target on your back. Instead of receiving mercy or kindness, you might just be gutted like a defenseless deer.”
-Delano, Ch. 4, In the Business of Loving-https://www.amazon.com/dp/B098YGLKXV/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_7ZVJ3WSX5N9RSX0FM643
IT’S THE POSSIBILITY OF HAVING A DREAM COME TRUE THAT MAKES LIFE INTERESTING.