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.

Alëxios demanded a conference with The Jade Rabbit and Lady Rüvym to get to the bottom of it all. He was enraged and worried for Malaykah’s safety. When the two entered his study, Alëxios verbally pounced on ‘Yù tù.’

“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.

‘Yù tù’ 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 Rüvym 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 Alëxios’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.

‘Yù tù’ 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,” ‘Yù tù’ chimed.

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

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

Birthright of Divinity

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~

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.

Alëxios grinned slyly, then said, “Have no fear. Künsey 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.

Alëxios 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.”

Alëxios 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, Alëxios and Malaykah married and retired to a quiet life.

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

Künsey was fortunate enough to find a soothing oil to help her sleep peacefully. One night, after Alëxios 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 Phëläniciä.

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

Grace Renewed

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~

Disposition of Grace (p. 3)

The Phëläniciäns 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 Őrb globe clutched tightly to her chest. Suddenly, the Őrb dissolved. Then a forcefield of twinkling silver and blue stars stretched over her body. At first glance, she appeared not to be breathing.

“Malaykah,” Alëxios 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,” Alëxios 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 Bässäm.

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 Bässäm

did to me. I couldn’t save Känëbräl, 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 Alëxios fearfully and said, “The Ultimate Creator, Chrëst, just told me.”

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