The King’s Quest – S. E. Smith

“Oh, Arilla, what have we done?” Arosa mentally sent the silent, dismayed question to her sister, Arilla, a moment before she solidified into the form of the Queen of the Wood Fairies. She caught the little girl who had slipped from the balcony high above and tightly cradled her. Hope, the daughter of the twin dragons, Cree and Calo, and their human mate, Melina, tearfully clung to her. She could feel Hope’s heart pounding with fear. Mortified by the near tragedy, Arosa tenderly rocked the girl as she whispered soothing reassurances that she was safe. Arosa landed outside of the palace where Hope had slipped from the balcony just seconds before. An instant later, Cree and Calo’s symbiots touched down beside her. Their golden bodies were pressing against her to reassure themselves that their tiny charge was safe. Arosa tried to smile reassuringly at the two almost identical dragons that swooped down, shifting into men a split second before they landed. The heart-wrenching fear on both men’s faces tore through her, causing a rush of emotion that manifested into a physical pain inside her chest. “Hope,” Cree choked out, his arms reaching for his tiny sobbing daughter. “Daddy’s here, my little dragonling.” “We’re here. I’m so sorry, my little princess. We should never have left you,” Calo said in a thick, trembling voice.

“Goddess, how can we ever thank you for saving our daughter?” Arosa stared at the two men. “I’m not…,” she began before a child’s excited voice pierced the air. “It’s the Queen of the Wood Fairies!” Morah Reykill happily exclaimed. Arosa silently groaned when she saw the group of younglings gathering around her. Caught, she wasn’t sure what she should do. When—not if—Aikaterina found out about this, Arosa suspected Arilla and she would be chastised. She looked down when a tiny hand slipped into hers. Morah Reykill gave her a huge grin and an exaggerated wink, then stared at her with shining eyes full of excitement. “I’s knew you was reals,” Morah cheerfully announced. For a moment, Arosa struggled to remember who she was supposed to be. She frantically reached out to Arilla as she tried to decide the best way to handle the situation. Arilla’s soft, lilting laughter filled her head when Tia, the Keeper of the Stories for the Kingdom of Glitter and their secret accomplice in this misadventure, stepped forward with a warm smile. Beside her was a stately man that inspired an unexpected response inside her. Tia smiled and waved her hand between the man and Arosa. “King Tamblin, may I introduce the Queen of the Wood Fairies…,” she began before she paused.

Arosa realized that Tia was waiting for her to introduce herself. “Arosa…. My name is Arosa,” she replied, clasping her hands in front of her and folding her wings. “Arosa,” Tia repeated with a gentle smile. “Arosa, may I introduce Tamblin, King of the Leprechauns of Glitter.” Arilla! What am I to do? Arosa silently groaned to her sister. Be the Queen of the Wood Fairies, sister, Arilla faintly replied. An hour later, Tamblin smiled and distractedly nodded when one of the men sitting around the fire said something he didn’t quite catch. Whatever it was must have been funny given the deep male laughter surrounding him. Tamblin was fascinated by the group of children as they joyfully played under the watchful eyes of their fathers. He decided that tonight could only be described with one word—magical. It was hard to believe the strangers sitting around the fire were Valdier, Sarafin, and Curizan warriors. He remembered them being so much larger. It wasn’t only the men sitting and chatting or the unusual children who shifted from one form to another who held his fascination, though. The beautiful enchantress sitting beside him was twisting his normal, stolid control into knots.

“Is everything alright?” Arosa asked. Tamblin nodded. In an impulsive move, he reached down and cupped Arosa’s hand. She stiffened with surprise and tilted her head, giving him a curious, shy look. He rose to his feet and looked down at her. “Would you like to go for a walk?” he asked. “I—yes, that would be nice,” she answered. Tamblin didn’t miss the note of uncertainty in Arosa’s voice. Paul Grove, one of the men sitting around the fire, looked up and gave him a nod. Tamblin bowed his head and smiled before guiding Arosa away from the group and along a cobblestone path. The stones lit up under his feet but not hers. It took him a moment to realize it was because she was floating beside him, not actually touching the cobblestones. “Do you mind if I ask where your kingdom is? I have never heard of it before,” he politely inquired. Arosa gave him a startled glance and then quickly looked away. “It is in—the woods,” she answered in a hesitant voice.

“Where though? The forests are just now growing back. How did you survive after the Tasiers were taken?” he asked, mentioning the small, furry rodents hunted almost to extinction by off-world traders. “Not far. There is a forest that survived—to the west. That way,” she said, with a wave of her hand, “on the other side of this mountain.” “That is north,” he replied. Arosa scowled at him. “Well, it is to the north,” she said, floating a few steps ahead of him. Tamblin tightened his grip on her hand and twirled her around. Arosa gasped when their bodies collided. He slowly lifted her hand to his lips and kissed her fingers. “Tia has never mentioned Wood Fairies before,” he said. “King Tamblin,” Arosa began. “Please, call me Tamblin. As I said, Tia has never mentioned the Wood Fairies, but… I also have never asked about them,” he continued.

Arosa nodded. “Then, that is why you haven’t heard of me,” she breathlessly replied. “Queen Arosa, it would be an honor to show you my Kingdom, if you would permit me,” he said, with a slight bow. Arosa nodded again. Tamblin took a deep breath, released her hand, and held out his arm for her. She gave him an uncertain look before she threaded her arm through his. A satisfied smiled curved his lips when she tightened her grasp on his arm. They continued along the path as it curved through a small mushroom forest to a gazebo by the river. When he needed a quiet place to sit and think, he often came here. “How did you find your way to Glitter?” he inquired. Arosa frowned. “I followed the men. They were looking for the King of the Leprechauns,” she replied. Tamblin’s lips twitched at her tone. She sounded almost pleased with herself.

He couldn’t discern if she was telling him the truth or not. From the way she glanced at him, he suspected she was—but with a touch of exaggeration. He chuckled and guided her up the steps into the gazebo. She released his arm and walked over to a small deck built over the water. He studied her face as she stared down at the colorful fish. “Paul explained a little of what happened to them. It is a very interesting story.” He paused when he heard the faint sound of music. “Would you like to dance?” he asked. Arosa turned and faced him. Her wide eyes were filled with uncertainty. He walked over to her and held out his hand when she didn’t reject his request. She hesitantly lifted her hand and placed her palm against his as he drew her other hand to his shoulder. He pulled her closer to him as they danced. The magic of the night filled him with a sense of freedom he hadn’t felt in years.

Their steps were slow at first as she tried to follow his movements. He led, guiding her in the simple steps. They twirled, moving in a graceful circle. All around them, the bioluminescent spores rose into the air like floating candles while fish splashed in the water, trying to gobble up those that drifted too close to the surface. The colors of the night danced across her lovely face, and Arosa appeared to glow. Her eyes shone with her joy, and her radiant beauty took his breath away. He drew them to a stop when the music faded. His heart pounded in his chest as he released her hand and wrapped his arms around her waist. She looked at him with wide eyes and parted lips. “I hope you don’t think I’m too forward for what I’m about to do,” he said in a low voice. “What are you about to do?” she breathlessly asked. Tamblin smiled and lowered his head. “This,” he replied, capturing her parted lips with his. Arosa stood frozen, unsure of what was happening or what to do when Tamblin kissed her. Well, she understood in theory what Tamblin was doing.

She knew that to reproduce, species needed to interact physically. She and her sister, Arilla, had lived among the dragons of Valdier and visited enough worlds to understand that the species developed affections for each other. In fact, she felt genuine affection for the dragonlings, the group of young children from the planet Valdier, and their friends from the worlds of Sarafin and Curizan. It was one reason she and Arilla enjoyed spending time with the children and their families, especially during their holiday celebrations. It wasn’t like they spent a lot of physical time with them. She and Arilla enjoyed observing the interactions between the adults and their offspring. There might have also been some curiosity about the physical relationship between the adults. It was impossible to be oblivious to that. She viewed it as research, for gaining a deeper understanding for the time when she and Arilla were permitted to create and seed their own worlds with life. The twin sisters were still young compared to Aikaterina, Aminta, Xyrie, and the other remaining elders—not that there were many of them left. As Aikaterina’s protégées, they were being tutored on how to observe the evolution of worlds. Their species had been created at the same time as the universe. As the universe expanded, so had their travels. The Elders, the first of her kind, had learned how to harness the energy that had created them. She and Arilla first appeared on the outer fringes of the universe, when it was still young and expanding at an exponential rate.

Aikaterina had discovered them drifting, their life force fading into the icy darkness of space. She had given each of them part of her own essence. It was much the same way that the Valdier could support their symbiots—the living-gold creatures that the Elders nurtured. Arosa leaned forward when Tamblin pulled back. She liked the feel of his lips against hers. There was an energy in their shared kiss that created a spark inside her. The breath from his soft chuckle brushed against her cheek. “That was very… pleasant,” she announced. Tamblin laughed. “Yes, it was indeed very pleasant,” he teased.


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Updated: 10 June 2021 — 17:55

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