Reality VS M. Malcolm

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~

Divinity Exchange (con.)

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~

Divinity Exchange

The deliberations concluded with a difficult compromise. Governor Cläuveous was reluctant to repent for not sending his army to support Phëläniciä against the Tengu clan. He was adamant that it would not be in anyone’s best interest to exhaust resources and manpower. He also remained firm that it was not prudent to risk the lives of Bäussëll soldiers, who were mere mice compared to the likes of a War God.

Alëxios reprimanded Cläuveous for being in breach of Bäussëll’s obligation to fulfill every aspect of the ancient-old alliance with Phëläniciä. This meant their province could lose rights to royal protection from vandals and robbers at the ports, which would disrupt trading posts and cause a catastrophic financial loss.

The impasse was settled when Cläuveous agreed to dispatch Eleven-hundred Bäussëll soldiers, seventy medics, and thirty scouts to assist the Phëläniciäns with recovery. At dawn, the Phëläniciän caravan set out for a territory 900 kilometers east called Änkhöѐ. Byakko and seven well-abled dragons flew ahead to ensure a safe route of travel. It was a great relief that the remaining dragons did not succumb to any life-threatening injuries.

The area served as a refugee camp and had been abandoned for several decades. Phëläniciä had not been challenged, notably due to reluctance to battle the War God-King. Severe drought also plagued the land, which stark contrast with Governor Cläuveous’s effort to resurrect the royal tents. Unevenly plotted mauve-colored sheepskin tents flapped in the wind, on the brink of blowing away. A Phëläniciän soldier stepped on a large mound, which turned out to be the royal flag and banner. Several men had to excavate them from a sandpit. The air was hardly breathable from the thick aroma of wildlife carcasses. Every aspect of the scenery felt ominous, lifeless.

Alëxios commanded the troops to rally in the center of the camp. He was determined to keep his unit strong with encouragement and re-establish his position as their formidable king. He stood, appearing valiant and full of vigor, on a stone ledge to make his address in front of the masses.

“To wake from slumber out of the hellish nightmares that befell our beloved kingdom, we must rise to the dawn of a new day. Our homeland, once bountiful and full of promise, has been diminished to rumble. Our kinsmen were mercilessly slaughtered by the monstrous appetite for dominance of the Tengu clan. Yet, as brave Phëläniciäns, we held ourselves to the task of defending our territory. By no means was this a loss because we were able to retreat safely to Bäussëll. Though through arduous persuasion, Governor Cläuveous was gracious enough to remember and tactfully keep our treaty in place for such a time as this.” He held his katana firm in the air and continued. “I say to you now; it is alright to weep for the dismantled life we once knew. But once you have come to the end of your grief, the real work will begin. We, as Phëläniciäns, are known for resilience. The road to recovery will be a long, laborious haul. I have no doubt there will be plenty more obstacles assigned to deter our success. However, we mustn’t allow anything to block our way, and we certainly will not wallow in despair.”

Malaykah felt a stir in her soul as she watched his words resonate among the people. His fearless demeanor made it easy for her to understand why he was well-revered throughout the realm. At first, she assumed it was because of his status as both a God and king. But, slowly, she began to appreciate the balance of strength he harnessed and distributed to his kingdom. He had the character and convictions of a man who intended to use his power for good instead of evil.

Her heartbeat loudly through her body with a surge of boldness, which provoked her to speak.

“Now is the time! This moment right now is where you must find the resolve to pick yourselves up and move forward. This very place where we all stand is the first test of many trials meant to be endured. If we let it stay as it is, a disastrous gravesite, we would be allowing hopelessness and defeat to win. So, let’s change our circumstances, little by little. We may not be able to rebuild Phëläniciä today, but we can regain our dignity by fixing this plot of land up so that it can be a pleasant space for our living quarters,” she said.

Only the sound of muffled mumbles and gasps was heard. Not everyone had been informed that the king had taken a bride. The whispers were meant to respectfully deliver the news to the unknowing members of the audience. However, Alëxios took offense.

His emerald eyes glowed like a neon sign in the pitch-black night. His body began to radiate a shockwave that dispelled through the entire area. Everyone, except Malaykah, bowed with their faces low to the ground in fright. He looked at his queen, whose sunflower emblem beamed brightly on her forehead. She did not appear to be afraid, and her brown eyes blazed. She motioned her lips for him to stop.

Alëxios yielded his chaos but did not calm his rage.

“Hear me now, all of Phëläniciä and Bäussëll! You will address this divine goddess as your queen. From here on out, you will bow to her as you bow to me. Her word will be decreed as both royal law and testament written in the sacred scrolls,” he bellowed.

One by one, the crowd began to chant loudly, “All hail Divine Queen Malaykah, a long life may she live!”

Within an hour, the camp took on the task of cleaning up their area. All the quarters were sectioned off properly for soldier squads, medics, and citizens. The kitchen staff helped assemble the meal by gathering a hog, game hens, and all the assorted herbs the queen asked for. Malaykah assisted with the cooking to formulate a broth boiled with healing herbs and pain-reducing spices.

It was no later than sunset when the area beautification project was completed, and the evening meal was served. Everyone made a toast to the king and queen after he placed a sapphire bangled earring in her left ear to officially signify their union. After that, the mood became light-hearted and festive as everyone ate their meal. Malaykah made bottles of wine from a specific fruit known for its high potency levels.

Some of the Phëläniciän musicians found the old instruments left behind decades ago and cleaned them off. They brought out large bronze goblet drums, bongos, harps, and maracas. A thunderous melodic beat vibrated through the ground. It reminded Malaykah of the Caribbean soul music she listened to both as a child and dance instructor.

The Phëläniciän musicians certainly had their own distinct style, but the flow of each instrument made Malaykah’s hips sway side to side in rhythm. Her dance became more flamboyant with high kicks, dizzying twirls, and flailed arms. She was the center of attention, with all eyes entranced.

None dared to blink, watching their new queen work herself into a tantric sweat. The air, which was once dank with the rot of death, had a sweet mist. The light sprinkle turned into a downpour of warm raindrops. Malaykah did not stop her dance, nor did the musicians stop playing. The people merrily lapped in the rain while Alëxios held his gaze on Malaykah.

He stepped over to her without lifting his eyes. He took her hand and led her away to their sleeping quarters. The king’s massive tent was a sight to behold. In the middle of the space was a golden silk-pillowed lounge chair set at the foot of a cushioned mattress. The covers were made of the finest linens. They walked across a fur-skinned rug holding hands.

Alëxios silently sat on the lounge chair with his arms spread across the backboard. His eyes commanded for her to undress. Malaykah slowly removed her dress but remained in her velvet bodice and briefs. She straddled his lap with a kiss. Their passionate kiss made the ground gently tremble.

Lady Rüvym and Sӧlitha’s shared quarters were in the tent directly across from the king’s Lady Rüvym giggled when she felt the tremors, but Sӧlitha blinked with wrath.

“See now how they carry on?” she asked. “My brother had just barely been revived from the brink, only to have our kingdom fall. Where the devil was there any time to marry a soul?

Lady Rüvym finished rubbing her moisturizing creams on her hand and face in silence. Then, she turned to Sӧlitha and said, “I assure you, child, every traditional practice was performed during their marital rituals. The ceremony was upheld by Őrapäm, the elder monk who trained Alëxios and Byakko,” she answered.

Sӧlitha glared at her with a malicious smirk.

“I suppose you are pleased with how well this fiasco is going,” she said.

Lady Rüvym removed her headdress and fluffed the pillows on their mattress, then coyly asked, “My dear, whatever do you mean?”

Sӧlitha snatched the linen covers and plopped on the bed.

“Don’t play like a shy fox now. You know what I meant,” she said.

Lady Rüvym peeled the covers back and slid next to her.

“If you mean that I am pleased that my beloved grandson has finally found his lifemate, then yes, I am ecstatic. Her divine lineage is merely fate. He discovered a descendant of the goddess, Oshun, on his own merit,” she said.

To that, Sӧlitha rolled over and pulled the covers overhead.

“Do not revel in triumph just yet, ancient one. This futile union will provide no heir to the throne. Have you forgotten she is half-human and well past her fertile years?” she asked.

Lady Rüvym scoffed. “You make our queen sound like a dried-up old mapleberry Malaykah is hardly past her prime, and her maidenhood needn’t be in question. She still yet receives her courses in the human realm. There, she has produced three healthy offspring. Here, we just witnessed that her divinity is her dominant trait. The fall she took out of the tunnel would have killed any other from her realm. Her limitations as a human could very well be overridden.”

Back in the king’s tent, the pair intensified their passion by clawing to rip away the remainder of their clothes. Alëxios paused for a moment to assess the situation. He had never considered himself a brute during love-making. Nevertheless, it was apparent that they would send the entire camp into a terror frenzy if they could not control themselves.

He led her off the lounge chair onto the mattress. She sat perched on her knees as he came around back and began to kiss her neck. The energy surges between the two lit the tent. He grabbed her hand and eased it down between her legs. She moaned loudly with exertion.

Without moving his lips, he said, “Calm yourself, love. Let go and take control all at once.”

Malaykah heard his words like a sensual whisper in her soul. He guided her hand back and forth with such care that her thighs became weak.

His voice echoed, “Know yourself so that you will know me.” Then he moved her hand and placed his own inside her.

They both felt the catch and release of each with the force of ecstasy. The shifts and exchanges of celestial power made them float above the bed. Hour after hour kept them engulfed in flames of lust and love.

~Ch. 15, The Realm Beyond the Stars and Sea~

Kingdom Suffers Violence

Alëxios grinned with lust still seeping from his emerald eyes. “Grand-mére, please forgive my misconduct. I merely wanted to cut through the long-standing ceremonial procedures of which I have been at the forefront for centuries.”

Lady Rüvym cut her eyes at him indignantly. “Ah, yes. Traditions be damned, I suppose,” she replied.

He kissed her on the cheek without removing his eyes from Malaykah. “Only in favor of love,” he said.

Malaykah snapped out of her trance with his words. “Love. Like, actual real love? He loves me. He loves ME? Or, does he love that I am like him?” she pondered. Titanëa’s theory that she was selected to be his queen only because of her divinity stuck out in Malaykah’s mind. It made sense, given that Alëxios lived a tragically isolated existence. His desire to connect with a companion who would understand the depth of his spirit was relatable.

Before she could give a reply, Lady Rüvym had already whisked him away. The rest of the entourage followed suit inside the castle. They walked through the corridors, out to a candle-lit amphitheater where dinner was served. Byakko and his siblings, this time a total of twenty-five, were already situated and eating. A long round marble dining table for the royal family and kingdom officials lay in the center.

Malaykah was far enough behind Alëxios to see that he slightly limped instead of his normal steady gait. His mood was cheerful, and he seemed well at ease. Either no one else noticed it, or they dared not to make mention it. He sat at what was considered the head of the table, as a king should. Lady Rüvym insisted on sitting next to him. Malaykah did not protest in favor of getting acquainted with everyone else. Oddly, she chose to sit at the opposite end of them next to Sӧlitha. After several minutes of awkward silence, Malaykah realized she was being ignored on purpose by Sӧlitha. No matter how often she conjured any small talk, Sӧlitha abruptly began to speak to others at the table. Just as Malaykah had given up, Sӧlitha addressed the room.

“I have to give my brother, king Alëxios, credit where it is due. His endeavors and military excursions have always been successful. Yet, for the life of me, I cannot fathom his desire to explore other realms for the likes of lowly humans. In all of Phëläniciä and this entire realm, he could not be satisfied to find a maiden pleasing enough to become his bride. I suppose Lady Rüvym is to blame for filling his head with anecdotes about how their bloodline is better than the rest of us,” she said.

Lady Rüvym nodded with a grin. “My grandson was birthed from the loins of a God. There is no other way for him to think. It is in his divine nature to find another deity as his lovemate. He has done just that, nothing short. His maiden is every bit his equal. No one among us can say as much,” she quipped.

Sӧlitha reached out to retrieve a piece of round mixed-berry cake on a platter. She stood, held it up in the air, and said, “Ah, yes. The Divine Maiden is among us. I grieve both for and with my brother’s harem of concubines. It is undoubtedly a somber occasion. If this bitter pill we should have to swallow, let us eat it with cake.” With that, she picked up the cake with one hand and shoved it into her mouth.

Lady Rüvym mockingly returned the gesture, which made Sӧlitha plop back in her seat with a scowl.

Every time Alëxios attempted to make eye contact with Malaykah, she pretended to be engaged in a deep conversation with the other table members. She had no way to make sense of what just occurred, so she thought it best not to cause another scene.

~Ch. 10, The Realm Beyond the Stars and Sea~

Cry to the Moon (p.2)

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~

Cry to the Moon

Friday morning started off as an ordinary, usual day at Rosemount Retirement Facility. In the accounting department, numbers were crunched, meetings were held, and the copy machine was out of commission. The only thing that broke the monotony was the announcement of Miracelle Ruiz’s engagement. Instead of joining the exuberant celebration, Malaykah Malcolm sat in her cubicle and silently wept.

“I was with her the day she met Danny, six months ago. She was so nervous about being around such a sexy man that she begged me to attend most of their dates. Of course, I never had a date of my own to make it a double. Danny didn’t seem to mind in the beginning. When was it—-about two months ago, I stopped receiving invites. I guess Mir finally got herself together, and Danny was more than ready to cut the cord. Maybe I should stop sulking and go tell her congratulations,” she thought.

Malaykah dabbed her eyes with several Kleenex, then got up from her desk. A long line of eager coworkers waited to give well wishes. Malaykah waited patiently for her chance, though her heart wanted nothing more than to flee the scene. When she finally stood in front of Miracelle, they both broke into tears.

“Thank you so much for everything. None of this would be possible without you,” Miracelle sobbed as she threw her arms around Malaykah.

“Don’t mention it,” Malaykah said while she tried to wiggle herself free.

Miracelle chuckled and unclasped her hands. “It’s no hay problema,” she said.

The two women struggled when Miracelle’s giant sapphire engagement ring was caught in Malaykah’s afro puff. Miracelle’s screamed in panic for ten minutes until the ring was safely untangled. She tried to apologize for her erratic behavior, but no one was cheerful by the end of the party.

~Ch. 1, The Realm Beyond the Stars and Sea~

Blessed Alliance (p. 3)

Hours later, after Malaykah had been successfully sedated, Alëxios was finally persuaded to attend the deliberations regarding the siege. Over in the garrison cabin, Mayor Cläuveous sat seething with his staff and the Phëläniciän royal officials in the defunct war room. What once used to be an old black oak cabin located in the central portion of the compound had been painted a light teal with marble wall and floored room for dining. It was apparent the Mayor no longer wished to be associated with sieges, wars, or aid.

Alëxios strolled inside the room with a clenched jaw and fist. It was not apparent to anyone whether he was still worried over Malaykah or was furious with the Mayor. The hushed silence from anticipation kept the Mayor’s staff in dreaded suspense. Then, finally, the highly revered king stood at the head of several marble podiums for several minutes before taking his seat.

“Well, Cläuveous, it appears you did not allow your eccentric madness temper you enough to destroy our sacred stalls. The ancestors must be relieved,” he grimaced.

Cläuveous scoffed, “I only decided not to part with them because they give the room a bit of character.”

Alëxios stiffened his entire body as if to prepare for combat.

“Have you no remorse for turning away from tradition?” he asked in a sharp tone.

Cläuveous shifted in his seat with an uncomfortable smirk.

“Sire, whatever do you mean? I think the room looks delightful,” he replied.

In a blink, Alëxios stood and swooped over to him and said, “I did not come here to sweeten the seriousness of this matter.” The words shot off his tongue like darts.

With a whimsical chuckle, Cläuveous replied, “My Lord, I do not speak in folly. I believe you to refer to this room we occupy. You might have switched to the subject of the siege without my awareness.”

Alëxios pressed his lips together and unsheathed his sword.

“Your distasteful decision to destroy this sacred congregation room that our ancestor created to deliberate over war strategies and cowardly lack of assistance during the collapse of my kingdom are both acts of treason and blasphemy. I have watched you for decades; your role as a vain deceitful jester is nearly played out. It cannot be possible you have forgotten the township of Bäussëll is a province under Phëläniciän jurisdiction. Yet I, your king, stand before you bloodied and battered from a battle you chose not to draw nary sword or arrow in,” he growled.

The Mayor shrunk in stature from terror. He had only experienced a handful of encounters with the king of Phëläniciä. Each occasion was met with a clash of opposing views on leadership and other politics. The king’s fierce stare penetrated clear through his skull. Cläuveous choked after a gulp and slid out of his stall onto the floor. After mere moments of a coughing fit and flailed arms, he realized no one from his staff dared to intervene. The defeated Mayor cleared his throat and straightened his tunic to regain composure.

“Your Highness, I beg for mercy. In truth, I did send scouts to report as soon as we heard disturbances from the northern territory. It gave me great cause for concern to learn the matter of flying Tengu running amuck. There was a second report to describe swarms of the airborne Tengu exploding in the sky,” Cläuveous quivered back to his stall.

Alëxios shrugged and paced about the room.

“The Tengu clan have decided to wage war against us once more in another feeble attempt to gain dominance over the realm.” He slammed his fist on a podium. “Their sheer audacity to meddle with dark arts ultimately led to their undoing. Though they were granted wings, they also unexpectedly became time bombs. General Torahgän’s daft insight led to the slaughter of many, including his own men.”

The Mayor sprung to his feet in agreement.

“I imagine he did not count the cost to retake flight. There certainly was an advantage in the beginning. My scout reported on the massive destruction of the palace, conservatory, and temple,” he replied.

A pale-faced Alëxios returned to his stall and placed both hands over his face in disgust.

“Not to mention, our evacuation bridge was blown to bits. As a result, my queen and subjects nearly plummeted to their deaths instead of traveling a safe passage to Bäussëll,” he said.

“Indeed; many congratulations are in order, Sire. We are all grateful that your new bride and Phëläniciän subjects survived intact. However, one of my scouts was not as fortunate from the bridge collapse,” the Mayor snidely interjected.

A reverent pause echoed through the room. The tension in the air remained steady.

~Ch. 14, Somewhere Beyond the Stars and Sea~

Blessed Alliance (p. 2)

The cabin hall fell deathly silent in awe. Sӧlitha made her way through the crowd as he spoke. A fit of wrath surged through her weary core as she blurted out, “Brother, surely you speak in jest or from simple madness acquired by your injuries. It is well known to all by now that you intend for this human-woman to become your betrothed. The appointed occasion has not yet arrived.”

Lady Rüvym appeared from the far end of the hall, near the infirmary doorway. She interjected with a thunderous voice that echoed down to where everyone stood.

“In truth, our great king is neither facetious nor does he suffer from any wound-inflicted madness. Before the fall of Phëläniciä, I witnessed the sacred marital rituals performed in the Valley of Lilies. Therefore, Malaykah is our Divine Queen who shall rule alongside His Majesty, King Alëxios.”

Alëxios wasted no time to address the medic, who by then stood with his jaw wide open.

“Now, for the last time, I order you to attend to her at once.”

The medic bowed and led the way to the infirmary. All eyes anxiously followed the king to their destination. At first, the medical staff wrestled with Alëxios to give Malaykah a proper examination. Then, she was placed on a cot and given several heated blankets to treat hypothermia. A dislocated shoulder from the fall was determined to be the source of her pain. When she awakened, the medics drew heavy brown wool curtains closed for privacy. Finally, the slender medic nodded at Alëxios to sit her up.

She leaned her head on his chest for support while the staff discussed the best method to reset her shoulder in place. They fretted over, angering the king further by causing more distress. There was no way to get around the pain that would be inflicted to set her bone back into its socket. Malaykah’s eyes swelled with tears.

Without moving her mouth, she said, “I am in pain now, but not afraid of what will come next. My actions were of my own volition. I wanted to be brave because I know that you are. I wanted to help everyone; it was the least I could do.”

Alëxios gently clutched her closer and nestled his chin in her hair.

“My kinsmen are fortunate to have such a strong queen. All of Phëläniciä is grateful for your service. I could not be prouder to be your lovemate,” he replied out loud.

It startled Malaykah that Alëxios heard her thoughts. Though her body had been thoroughly warmed with blankets, she began to convulse with anxiety. A short blonde nurse injected a syringe with a numbing antidote into her shoulder. As she relaxed, the slender medic switched places with Alëxios. Once the nurse braced her up, the medic forcefully rammed her shoulder bone into its socket.

~Ch. 14, Somewhere Beyond the Stars and Sea~

Blessed Alliance

Alëxios chose to forgo the customary greetings with the mayor in favor of demanding immediate treatment for Malaykah. He stormed through the halls with his arms full. He had insisted on carrying her since the moment she was retrieved from the icy river. Nine members of the waitstaff and three physicians frantically attempted to treat the king.

Alëxios dodged and weaved through the vexed crowd, which shook the very foundation of the house. No one in the cluster was fast or strong enough to catch him. He only stopped jostling about when Malaykah seemed to rouse back into consciousness. She had been slipping in and out for quite some time.

She opened her mouth to let out a faint raspy whisper.

“You’re hurting—I hurt—my shoulder—“

Alëxios gasped in horror, then lowered his forehead onto hers.

“Forgive me, my love,” he whispered before looking up at their audience. “Why do you stand like mindless statues?” he roared.

An old slender medic with bronze skin and blue hair sauntered behind Alëxios to fretfully tap him on the shoulder.

“My Lord, we meant no offense. In fact, we are here at your service to tend to your wounds. Therefore, please allow us to examine you at once,” he said.

Alëxios tilted his head back with a glare that could quickly have burned a hole in the cinder walls of the cabin.

“You seem confused. I stand before you, fully alert and well enough to show you that someone important has a greater need for care than me. Surely you can know this; unless there is sand in your ears, lack sight, or are incompetent. There is no need to examine me, he replied.”

The medic glanced at Malaykah’s lifeless body (she passed out once more), then back at the king.

“Sire, we can attend to the maiden in due time. But, at this very moment, our main concern is for your wellbeing,” he answered confidently.

For a brief moment, there was silence. No one knew precisely what the temperamental king would do or say next. He stood motionless with his eyes closed.

“Clearly, you do not understand. She is NOT just a maiden,” he exhaled sharply.

The lead physician took a step forward to look closer.

“Ah, yes! She must be the magnificent Divine Maiden. Her arrival has been acclaimed throughout the realm,” he answered.

A long silent pause kept the crowd nearly breathless as they awaited the king’s response.

Alëxios laughed maniacally, then stopped. “She is the Divine Queen of Phëläniciä, both deity and royalty,” he announced with venomously darted eyes at the medic.

~Ch. 14 (revised), Somewhere Beyond the Stars and Sea~