The Three Realms The Three Realms (Book 1: Her Highness, the Captain)

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It was evening on the Festival’s last day. The Closing Ceremony was set up. Arsha had put her hair back into its signature bun since the bet she made with Thengo was over. All of the royal families had taken their seats and were ready to begin. Merrim had taken the podium to give her speech. “Quite the interesting festival this year,” she began. “I will admit, the race was a little soured by the scandal, but I can’t say that it was entirely unsuccessful. When trouble came at us, what happened? Like our sister Realms, we banded together to get answers. Only through unity could we make this festival possible, only through unity can we get answers, and only through unity can we achieve anything. Yes, some may say that we need freedom more than anything, but freedom and unity aren’t mutually exclusive. With the rediscovery of the Sphinxes, we need to unite with them so they can regain their long-denied freedom. To that end, I will be making frequent visits with our excess livestock to help negotiate better relations. May the Sphinxes join us in next year’s Mid-Union Festival. With that said, it’s time to close this one.”

“Would the reigning monarchs please stand and introduce themselves?” called the announcer. Merrim started.

“I am Queen Merrim Laumfim of the Regatim Oasis!” she proclaimed. She and her family and Royal Guard Captain then produced balls of light and encouraged them to float high above the crowd.

“I am King Fornam Erremak of Varshenta Beach,” announced Fornam. His family and Captain followed Merrim’s example.

“I am King Dranser Ironfist of the Borompek Dwarf Kingdom,” called Dranser. More lights joined the others.

“I am King Slamfal Dromema of the Borsootha Slime Oasis,” introduced Slamfal. More lights.

“I am King Drogo Eragar of the Slempay Kingdom,” proclaimed Drogo.

“I am Queen Lurmir Sklandar of Aridu,” called Lurmir.

“I am King Derromer Hejek of the Gafinar Cecaelia Kingdom,” introduced Derromer.

“I am Queen Dimorea Handra of the Glasna Kingdom,” rumbled Dimorea.

“I am King Vorko Caldora of the Kurontar Sea Merfolk Kingdom,” announced Vorko. “I don’t think we need to strain any vocal chords or put people to sleep by announcing our names.” That elicited a chuckle as the Caldora family and their Royal Guard Captain offered their lights.

“I am King Emberam Tormote of the Midoran Forest,” called Emberam.

“I am King Dremek Hanradar of the Borthoo Jungle,” introduced Dremek.

“I am King Dremmir Jahelma of the Algarda Merfolk Kingdom,” announced Dremmir.

“I am King Dwermal Galmudii of the village of Rokanth,” proclaimed Dwermal.

“I am Queen Hindra Havemik of Galthar,” called Hindra.

“I am King Elgrad Royana of Largandra and of the Mid-realm,” finished Elgrad. All the lights offered by the royals and their Guard Captains hung in the air far above the crowd.

“Now, to finish things off,” called the announcer, “the Crown Princess of the Mid-realm shall finish this evening!” Arsha stood up and raised her hand, snapping her fingers and causing the lights to explode into fireworks! It was a spectacular sight, with colors across the spectrum dancing over the crowd and causing a tremendous noise!

“So beautiful!” breathed Malnar. The show lasted a good while before ending. Everyone applauded wildly at the show. Once the rush died, everyone headed back to their ships. Arsha, her spouses, her parents, Irmalii and her wives, Nazay, and Merrim headed in the same direction. The Royanas and Ralmamps were the first to bid goodbye as they arrived at their ship, the Sky Dancer.

“When your tour ends,” promised Irmalii, “we’re gonna watch Dr. Snood until our eyes fall out!”

“I’d like that,” answered Arsha.

“Goodbye, my Precious One,” bid Hanako as she and Elgrad hugged Arsha.

“Good luck, Captain,” bid Elgrad.

“Thank you,” replied Arsha. “And I’ll see you around!” The embrace was broken off as Elgrad led his family and friends onto the Sky Dancer. The next ship was Malnar’s, the Meteor. She and Gorfanth hugged their lovers goodbye.

“May our separation be temporary,” bid Gorfanth.

“If you guys can make time out of your busy schedules,” offered Malnar, “I’d like you all to come for my birthday in a few months.”

“We’ll have to check with Realmfleet,” replied Lardeth, “but I see no reason to refuse.”

“Neither do I,” agreed Arsha.

“We’ll try to make it,” promised Falnii.

“I’d never miss it!” chuckled Foresna.

“Then good luck and farewell!” called Malnar as she and Gorfanth boarded the Meteor. Next up was Foresna’s ride, King Dwermal’s ship, the Chaser.

“Look at you!” Arsha remarked to Foresna. “Traveling in luxury!”

“It’s a chance most peasants would jump at,” agreed Foresna. “I’m gonna be taking a carriage ride back to the farm after that.”

“Lucky guy!” chuckled Lardeth. “See you later!”

“Bye!” called Foresna as he followed Dwermal up the Chaser’s ramp. Next was the High Sky, Lardeth’s ship. He and Falnii gave Arsha one last hug goodbye.

“Hopefully, we’ll meet in Wysper City,” suggested Lardeth.

“If Realmfleet allows it,” replied Arsha.

“See you later,” bid Falnii.

“Goodbye,” returned Arsha. Falnii and Lardeth then boarded the High Sky. Arsha, Nazay, and Merrim then reached the Endeavor. Merrim gave one last hug.

“Come home soon,” she begged.

“As soon as I’m able,” assured Nazay.

“Don’t stop calling me,” urged Merrim. “It’s all I have.”

“Every day, my dearest Desert Rose,” promised Nazay. They kissed, then broke off the embrace. Arsha and Nazay then boarded the Endeavor and headed to the bridge.

“You’re a lucky man,” observed Arsha.

“You’re not exactly lacking in luck yourself, Captain,” replied Nazay.

“…Yeah, you’re right,” conceded Arsha. They soon arrived at the bridge and took their positions. Shalvey, Malak, and Oak were already there. Arsha settled into the Captain’s chair and Nazay took the helm.

“New mission from Realmfleet,” reported Shalvey. “We’re to deliver some equipment from the Haldebor Drider Caves to the All Ones Cathedral in the Galdredan Lava Kingdom.”

“Elmpam’s stomping grounds,” mused Oak.

“Nazay, lay in a course for the nearest Realmgate,” ordered Arsha, “then make all available speed for the Haldebor Drider Caves.”

“Laying in a course,” replied Nazay.

“We’ve just been given clearance on departure flight path two,” called Shalvey. “Transferring to helm.”

“Flight path received and course laid in,” reported Nazay.

“Nice and easy,” directed Arsha. The Endeavor’s mighty engines then exerted power to lift itself off the launch pad as its landing struts retracted into itself. It then moved itself onto the designated flight path and followed it out of the Regatim Oasis’ airspace on course for the nearest Realmgate.

The Three Realms The Three Realms (Book 1: Her Highness, the Captain)

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The day of the Regatim Camel Race had arrived. Everyone had gathered behind a rope line while the camels and Drenii took their positions. Tormo and Tensur saw the crowd. “Good, no one can get a good look at me,” observed Tensur. “Well, wish me luck at losing!”

“Hold it!” called Tormo.

“Now what?!” snapped Tensur.

“You’re not leaving until you tell me what you’re gonna do!” hissed Tormo.

“Come on!” protested Tensur. “We already discussed it last night! Multiple times even!”

“All those people placed their bets on you, right?” reminded Tormo.

“Right! I’m the mystery camel!” replied Tensur.

“And?!” asked Tormo.

“It’s only been 25 hours since last night’s discussion!” protested Tensur. “As soon as the race hits the high dunes, I let Drenii pass me because no one bet on her! Then, when she wins, we collect all the money and pay off Dr. Borg! Happy?”

“Happiness with you is temporary,” remarked Tormo. “Hit the road!” Tensur headed off to his position. “Try not to draw attention to yourself!” called Tormo.

“Yeah, yeah!” Tensur snapped back as Tormo ran back to his betting booth. As he arrived, he turned the sign to “OPEN”.

“Two minute warning!” he called. “Last chance to bet on the Regatim Camel Race!” Just then, Bashoon approached with a grin. “Bashoon! My favorite niece!”

“There you are, Uncle Tormo!” greeted Bashoon. “I was afraid I’d missed you!”

“I had it open just for you and your parents!” replied Tormo. “I had a feeling at least one of you would show up. So, is this a social call?”

“No, it’s business,” replied Bashoon. “I’m here to bet.”

“Is it a big one?” quizzed Tormo.

“A real big one,” assured Bashoon. “Captain Arsha Royana herself granted me permission to shoot the works!”

“…Are you saying…?” gasped Tormo.

“Feast your eyes!” declared Bashoon as she held up a piece of paper with her signature on it. “This is my marker for the Realmfleet Skyship, Endeavor, registration CRS-2784!”

“My dear niece, you’ve declared an excellent…!” began Tormo.

“And I’m betting it all on Drenii to win!” interrupted Bashoon as she slammed the marker down.

“Wh…wha…?” stammered Tormo.

“I understand the payoff is 100 to 1,” remarked Bashoon as she sauntered off. “See you in the winner’s circle! Oh, and for your sake, my dear uncle, you better have the funds to cover that bet!” Once she was out of sight, Tormo decided now was a good time to close his betting booth and rush to Tensur.

“Could we have everyone behind the ropes, please?” called the announcer. “We’re about to start the camel race! Did the mystery camel show up yet?” Tensur poked his head out. “Good! Okay, this is it, folks! On my signal!” Tormo then tapped Tensur on the shoulder. Tensur looked and tried to wave him off.

“Get out of here!” he hissed.

“There’s a change of plans!” replied Tormo. “You have to win!”

“What?” whispered Tensur.

“Bashoon was granted permission to bet the Endeavor on Drenii to win!” explained Tormo. “You gotta beat her! We’ll be ruined if you don’t!”

“On your marks!” called the announcer. “Get set!”

“Let me on!” snapped Tormo as he clambered onto Tensur’s back. “I’m helping!”

“Hey! Get off!” he snapped.

“GO!” shouted the announcer. The gates opened and Drenii and the camels took off. The crowd roared in jubilation to see them go at such a fast pace.

“Who’s first?!” called a spectator.

“It’s Drenii!” called another.

“No, it was the mystery camel!” argued a third.

“Everyone!” called Merrim. “Follow me to the finish line! We’ll get a good view of who’s first there!” Everyone left the stands and followed Merrim to the stands at the finish line.

“Go! Go! Go! Win! Win! Win!” urged Tormo as he slapped Tensur’s hump.

“Will you cut that out?!” snapped Tensur. Neither were aware of Drenii approaching them until she spoke.

“All right, little miss mystery camel!” she hissed. “I think it’s high time I got a good look at you!”

“KEEP AWAY FROM HER!!” yelped Tormo as he leaned heavily on Tensur’s hump.

“I SAID, CUT THAT OUT!” shouted Tensur as his hand reached for Tormo. Unfortunately, he lost his balance and crashed into Drenii, causing all three to tumble down the dune…right into a spot belonging to a species that, up until now, was declared extinct, a Sphinx resting ground. The impact caused the Sphinxes to wake up suddenly.

“GET OFF ME, YOU FAT MORON!” shouted Tormo.

“I see that hand, mystery camel!” roared Drenii.

“I’m not a…uh oh!” gulped Tensur as he saw that his glove was off. “Er…I can explain!”

“Camel meat!” shouted a Sphinx. All three then saw the Sphinxes and gasped.

“Impossible!” breathed Drenii. “You’re supposed to be extinct!”

“Camel meat!” repeated another Sphinx.

“Yes, it IS a camel meet!” replied Tensur, fear gripping his heart. “And, if I wanna win, I gotta get back on the path!” He grabbed Tormo and took off.

“WAIT FOR ME!” shouted Drenii as she followed them.

“Was…that a Naga?” quizzed a Sphinx.

“Should we…go back to napping?” asked another.

“Why should we do that?” protested a third. “We haven’t had a decent meal in months! GET THEM!” The Sphinxes ran after the camels, some staying on the ground while others took to the air.

“Hold on, everyone!” called the announcer at the finish line. “I think I hear them coming!”

“That was fast!” remarked Malnar.

“There they are!” shouted Arsha.

“Here they co…wait, is that a Camel Anthro near Drenii?!” roared Dimorea.

“That cape belongs to the mystery camel!” shouted Lurmir.

“We’ve been tricked!” screamed Twundrii.

“Guys, can we save revenge for later?” gulped Merrim.

“Why?!” demanded Dimorea.

“Because I think I see hungry looking people from a race thought to be extinct right behind the racers!” explained Merrim as she drew her wand.

“Are those…Sphinxes?!” yelped Lurmir.

“THEY’RE AFTER THE RACERS!” called a spectator.

“WEAPONS!” shouted Merrim as she fired a magic bolt at a Sphinx. The shot hit the Sphinx’s wing and it fell onto its compatriots on the ground.

“SHE’S GAINING ON US!” wailed Tormo as Drenii drew closer.

“OUT OF MY WAY, CHEATERS!” shouted Drenii as she passed them. Nearer and nearer to the finish line as wand fire attacked the Sphinxes behind her. Nearer, nearer, nearer, until…”HA! I WON!” declared Drenii as she slid across and past the finished line. She skidded to a stop and drew her own wand to fire on the Sphinxes until they could be contained. The Sphinxes stopped their advance and waited at the edge of the town. People were catching their breath as they processed the scene. “…WOO HOO!” cheered Drenii as she danced in happiness. “BEST! RACE! EVER!” Merrim just fainted from exhaustion.

After the racers were checked over to make sure none of them had any injuries, Merrim and Arsha approached the Sphinxes staying on the edge of town. “I am Merrim Laumfim, Queen of the Regatim Oasis! Explain yourselves!”

“My name is Tursu,” answered the lead Sphinx, “Queen of the Sphinxes.”

“We were under the impression your people were extinct,” remarked Arsha.

“Not extinct,” replied Tursu, “merely hiding.”

“Well, attacking our livestock and nearly killing some of my subjects,” hissed Merrim, “was not the best way to come out of hiding! Why did you attack?”

“We have been starving in the sands,” explained Tursu. “Your livestock would have been the only decent meal we’ve had in months.”

“Why have your ancestors believed eking out a meager existence away from a decent source of water was a good idea?” demanded Merrim.

“Because it was the only way to fight the Sickness,” replied Tursu.

“…Some kind of virus?” asked Arsha.

“Yes,” confirmed Tursu. “It attacked our people around the time you thought us extinct. It was an artificial virus that spread through touch. It destroyed our bodies, ravaged our genetic codes and cellular structures. Our ancestors had left the Oasis to try and find a cure. They built a machine that projects a barrier and keeps us from crossing into any densely populated areas.”

“And keeping you away from any decent source of protein,” realized Merrim.

“Yes,” replied Tursu. “We’ve long been cured but the barrier is still up. That’s why we cannot enter your town. Our ancestors destroyed their notes on the barrier’s operation. You and your livestock can pass through freely, we cannot! We’ve been reduced to picking off any sickly animals and making plants two thirds of our diet! We simply have no other way to survive!”

“I have a great…sympathy for what you’re going through,” hissed Merrim, “but future attacks on our livestock need to stop. We can help you lower the barrier.”

“…I fear that is impossible without making us extinct,” sighed Tursu. “The generator is tied to the survival of our species. The only way to lower it is to kill us all.” Merrim looked at the Sphinxes, starving and forced to be alone.

“…I only speak for the Oasis when I say we can at least offer non-Sentina livestock,” she offered. The Sphinxes looked at her with hope. “One condition, though, you must not attack those who bring the livestock.”

“Agreed!” answered Tursu.

“My people can certainly help,” offered Lurmir.

“My wife speaks for me,” supplied Ormu.

“Queen Tursu, you are no longer without allies,” offered Arsha. “I’m sure Realmfleet can help you lower the barrier without committing genocide.” Tursu sniffed.

“Thank you,” she sobbed. “All of you!” She spoke for all Sphinxes.

“I have a little too many non-Sentina cattle,” offered a farmer.

“A little too many non-Sentina camels for my family,” answered another.

“Bring your excess here,” ordered Merrim. “These poor people need meat.” The farmers hurried off to do so.

“I always like it when negotiations are completed with both parties benefitting,” sighed Drenii. “Now, where’s that cheater, Tensur?! I need to get my coils around him!”

Tensur was found alone and promptly arrested for deceiving the public and the visiting royal families. The people of the Regatim Oasis were calling for his blood, but Merrim wouldn’t hear of it. “Death would be an escape for him,” she announced. “He will be working to pay you all back by splitting his time cleaning the castle under our harem’s watch and working the Traversing Tail’s bar.”

“For how long?!” demanded a Naga.

“Until we say so!” answered Drenii.

“And if we’re paid back?!” called another Naga.

“His service is still tied to our word,” explained Merrim. “So it may be a few years after he pays you back until we release him!” The crowd seemed to be placated by that.

“NEVER!” shouted Tensur as he struggled to get out of Drenii’s coils. “I WON’T DO IT! YOU CAN’T MAKE ME!”

“The way I see it,” hissed Drenii as she tightened her grip, silencing him for a bit, “you’re lucky to be alive!”

“You’ll be in the dungeon until after the closing ceremonies!” declared Merrim. “Guards! Take him away!” The guards grabbed his arms and dragged him all the way to the dungeon. “If only we grabbed Tormo as well,” sighed Merrim.

“We’ve already issued an arrest warrant for him,” answered Elgrad.

“I can convince Daddy to issue a warrant for him as well,” supplied Malnar.

“I doubt any of my parents would argue against issuing such a thing as well,” continued Lardeth.

“So, not exactly what I wanted to show you guys for our Mid-Union Festival,” sighed Arsha.

“Don’t worry, I can safely bet that the next one will be better,” chuckled Foresna.

“I’ll take that bet,” giggled Falnii. Everyone had a laugh after the bet related jokes and Arsha brought her fiancés into a hug.

“Okay,” Tormo gasped to himself. “It’s all here and I’m far enough away.” He took out a communicator and keyed in a channel code. “This is Tormo, calling Dr. Borg! Dr. Borg, come in please!”

“Dr. Borg receiving,” replied the cold voice of Dr. Cytanek Yavenag Borg. “Report.”

“I have 75,000 Golds from the Mid-realm festival!” reported Tormo. “A little more than our arranged deal, but it offers more money to obtain resources with!”

“Excellent,” praised Dr. Borg. “You shall be a splendid member of my council. Are you near a Realmgate?”

“Affirmative!” confirmed Tormo.

“Then return to base immediately,” ordered Dr. Borg. “We have plans to make.”

“At once!” complied Tormo. He activated the Realmgate and returned to Dr. Borg’s lab.

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When Mr. Barmek heard from Bashoon about the rumor going around, he noticed that a few royals were swallowing the rumor. As Queen Dimorea, King Fordro, King Fornam and Queen Twundrii, and Queen Lurmir took a table in the restaurant, he overheard their conversation and approached them. “Excuse me, my Lords and Ladies,” he called, “but what’s this I hear about everyone not betting on Drenii despite her impressive win record? You DO realize her feelings are a bit hurt?”

“Mr. Barmek, we understand that you wish to encourage diversity across ages,” rumbled Dimorea, “but you must understand that she is not getting any younger.”

“Besides,” supplied Fornam, “you, of all people, should see that betting on something or someone with the odds 100 to 1 against them would lead to ruin.”

“100 to 1?!” yelped Mr. Barmek. “Says who?!”

“Says Tormo,” explained Twundrii.

“…Tormo,” sighed Mr. Barmek.

“Do you know him?” asked Twundrii.

“My wife’s brother,” replied Mr. Barmek. “A ne’er-do-well. My friends, DON’T, I repeat, DON’T take his bets! You’re being swindled!”

“The facts are not in Drenii’s favor,” grunted Dimorea.

“Oh?” quizzed Mr. Barmek. “Tell me, what’s the supposed safe bet?”

“The odds are in favor of his mystery camel,” explained Lurmir. “4 to 1. Supposed to be the fastest camel around! You should get in on that!”

“So, what’s the camel look like?” asked Mr. Barmek.

“Pardon?” quizzed Fordro.

“I mean,” elaborated Mr. Barmek, “did you see this camel with your own eyes before making a sizable bet?”

“Of course,” replied Fordro. “Actually, no, wait, I didn’t.” He got a funny look after admitting that. “Come on, someone must have.”

“I didn’t,” revealed Twundrii.

“Nor me,” answered Fornam.

“Did you see it?” asked Lurmir to Dimorea.

“You are the one who told me about it!” reminded Dimorea.

“I thought so,” remarked Mr. Barmek. “Sounds like you’re being played for saps.”

“Well SOMEONE must have seen that camel!” thundered Dimorea as she slammed her fists onto the table. Just then, the door chimed, announcing a customer. It was Tormo.

“Korsak!” he called to Mr. Barmek. “My dearest brother-in-law! I heard you were in the neighborhood and thought I’d stop by!”

“Tormo, old friend, good to see you!” replied Mr. Barmek. Tormo was still grinning, but his eyes only showed confusion.

“This is new,” he mused. “Usually, you would hurl something at me and tell me to bugger off.”

“Me?” quizzed Mr. Barmek. “My own brother-in-law? You’re mistaken. I was just talking about you to these fine rulers and they want to see you.” Tormo’s grin vanished as he saw the aforementioned royals approach him with murderous intent.

“We want to see the mystery camel!” boomed Dimorea as she cracked her knuckles.

“My Lords and Ladies,” begged Tormo, “I can’t do that! It’ll spoil the mystery!”

“We’re gonna spoil your head in a minute!” roared Fornam as his teeth took a greenish tint, putting his venom glands into overdrive.

“Show us the camel,” threatened Lurmir, “or we take back our bets and turn your booth into a pile of splinters!”

“Okay! Okay!” agreed Tormo. “But I must warn you, the mystery camel is a dangerous beast! I have to make sure it’s all safe! Give me until midday, then meet me by the abandoned barn near the Great Lake!”

“You have until midday,” warned Dimorea. “This had better be one scary camel!” Tormo gulped. He could feel his position deeply.

Irmalii was in a large tub that her wives filled with their own bodies. Relaxing in slime is said to be very therapeutic, especially if said slime has a core. Swamfur leaned her head on Irmalii’s shoulder as Qwendo played with Irmalii’s hair. Twelmak noticed Irmalii to be deep in thought. “A Tin for your thoughts?” she quizzed.

“I’ve been thinking about the cases that were supposed to be for local law enforcement,” replied Irmalii. “I just don’t know how this all started. It’s like Realmfleet’s either taking those cases from us or we’re too lazy. I don’t know.” Just then, someone knocked on the door. “Yes?” called Irmalii.

“It’s Hanako,” answered the person. “May I come in?”

“One minute, Your Majesty!” yelped Irmalii as everyone got out of the tub. Irmalii snapped her fingers, making her dress appear on her body quickly. “Come in!” she then called. Hanako then came in.

“I understand you’ve been having some feelings towards Realmfleet?” she quizzed.

“…Arsha told you,” guessed Irmalii.

“Arsha told me,” confirmed Hanako. “Captain Ralmamp, I understand that you feel as if Realmfleet is muscling in on local law enforcement, an understandable concern, I assure you. Let me also assure you that there ARE some cases a bit much for normal law enforcement. Although, I must question you signing off a robbery as a Realmfleet case.”

“…What?” quizzed Irmalii.

“The robbery at Twenzek’s,” elaborated Hanako. “The watch-maker?”

“…You mean the robbery 20 years ago?” inquired Irmalii.

“No, the one that happened last night,” replied Hanako, getting confused.

“…Your Majesty, with respect, what in the Depths are you talking about?” asked Irmalii.

“Irmalii, don’t you remember?” answered Hanako. “You signed the transferal form for Realmfleet to take care of a robbery at Twenzek’s last night.”

“I never…WHAT?!” yelped Irmalii.

“Are you doing a bit here?!” quizzed Hanako. “Irmalii, you transferred that case to Realmfleet!”

“No, I didn’t!” insisted Irmalii.

“I can prove it!” declared Hanako. “Let’s go to me and Elgrad’s cottage!”

While that was going on, Malnar and Gorfanth were helping a Naga man out. He was engaged to a female Troll who wanted to be married in traditional Under-realm fashion. The whole thing is performed, yes, performed in a play that depicted how the first King and Queen of the Under-realm came to consummate their love. That was done after a massive fight where their enemies swarmed the castle and tried to kill everyone but failed once the King and Queen entered the fray. Malnar and the Naga, Kurdu, were practicing with magical constructs of the enemies that swarmed the castle and stormed the throne room. The two were using large swords to end their enemies’ lives. Once the last soldier had fallen, Malnar turned and spoke in the Under-realm language. “Jeter toket ganki koldi damku galti rekek ganki bamte damku geotu danme gafta genla rekek ganki genla koldi kentakenta makormakor” (What speaks your heart?!) she shouted to Kurdu.

“Kirpa geotu toket rekek ganki genla koldi damku galti rekek ganki…ganki…bamte damku kirpa g…geotu g…g…galti genla lakun makor rekek makormakor” (My heart speaks my pride!) stumbled Kurdu.

“Makor danme rekek damku geotu danme gafta genla galti genla lakun makor rekek damku galti rekek ganki bamte toket danme aenzi danme genla kentakenta makormakor” (Does your pride speak honor?!) roared Malnar.

“Z…z…zempu rekek koldi kirpa rekek damku…damku toket d…d…danme jeter…” (Let me show…) fumbled Kurdu.

“Stop!” called Gorfanth. Kurdu sighed in relief as Malnar rolled her eyes. “Kurdu, you say the King’s words, but don’t give them feeling! You don’t give them any PASSION!” admonished Gorfanth.

“Having to learn the Under-realm’s language isn’t helping my performance!” argued Kurdu.

“Don’t think of this as a performance!” urged Gorfanth. “Put yourself into the King’s head! Imagine yourself in the castle, long before the Realms even thought about the Realmgates! There you are, at the dawn of the Under-realm’s dominion! Countless soldiers stormed the castle with intent to kill the King and Queen! The Royal Guard fled, leaving the King and Queen to defend themselves with whatever could pass for a sword! It was in the castle that they committed themselves to the greatest romance in Under-realm history!”

“Zeme remi lepu retu lepu retu nopo lepu foro lepu feni lesi saka zapi lesi retu endeende ” (This is ridiculous!) hissed Kurdu in the Mid-realm language. “My tail is soaked in blood, the floor is littered with corpses, death’s stench is permeating throughout this place, and you want me to feel ROMANTIC?! Why am I putting myself through this?!”

“Because, later that night,” answered Malnar, “like a pair of cats in heat, the King and Queen leapt on each other and stripped one another, making love right there in the throne room! Nowadays, that part is left for the honeymoon, but battle STILL gets that drive going.”

“It does, huh?” mused Kurdu. “…Once more.” Just then, Arsha came in. Malnar stifled a giggle as she found Arsha’s current hairstyle funny.

“Malnar,” called Arsha, “did you talk to your dad lately about Captain Jensho?”

“The Under-realm’s Royal Guard Captain?” quizzed Malnar. “No, why?”

“Because Rokalla’s informed me that normal law enforcement has a rash of laziness, passing on their cases to Realmfleet, even the small time ones!” replied Arsha. “I think Orbak would rest easier if he knew his Royal Guard isn’t lazy.”

“Yes, he DOES tend to prefer to use Realmfleet as a last resort, like the Falgreth Affair,” mused Malnar. “Excuse me.” She departed from the group to contact her father.

“Excuse me as well,” bid Arsha as she left Gorfanth and Kurdu.

Meanwhile, around midday, at the old barn near the Great Lake, the source of life for the Oasis, Tormo had gathered the doubting royals. “Okay, we are here,” grunted Dimorea. “Let us see the camel.”

“Now!” barked Lurmir.

“SSHHH!” hissed Tormo. “Keep it down! I don’t want to keep reminding you that the camel is dangerous! The slightest noise will set it off and I can’t be responsible for what happens! Now, we’re just gonna tip-toe, peek through the cracks, and…”

“QUIT STALLING!” roared Twundrii.

“We’ll make all the noise we want!” shouted Fornam.

“I’m warning you,” hissed Tormo, “keep it down or you’ll…!” He didn’t get very far as angry camel noises erupted from the barn! Other noises, like abandoned tools crashing on the walls, shook the barn as if it were alive!


“Hey, Tormo,” gulped Dimorea, “do you have that crazy camel secure in there?!”

“She must have broken loose,” remarked Tormo. “Well, my Lords and Ladies, want to sneak a peek?”

“Maybe we shouldn’t upset the camel any further before this weekend’s race,” gulped Fordo.

“Do you want to see it?” asked Lurmir.

“No,” replied Dimorea. “I have seen enough!”

“Me too,” muttered Twundrii.

“We believe you,” Fornam declared to Tormo. “Come on, you guys, we better go.” The royals departed, leaving Tormo alone. The noise in the barn had died down, so he approached it and knocked. A male Camel Anthro poked his head out.

“How did it go?” he asked.

“Smooth as Drider silk,” reported Tormo with a grin. “Nice job on the noise, Tensur.”

“Well, I DO have a temper,” replied the Anthro, Tensur. “Might as well put it to good use.”

“All right, let’s review the plan,” declared Tormo. “Start off strong at the beginning.”

“Right, she needs a run for her money,” agreed Tensur.

“But, once you’re in the high dunes, let her pass you,” continued Tormo. “Remember, our organization needs Drenii to win.”

“Then our organization gets all the goodies that were bet on me, the mystery camel!” declared Tensur. “Man, Dr. Borg will be pleased!”

After the law enforcement laziness scandal was revealed to have permeated throughout the Realms, the royals were NOT happy. All law enforcement agencies were guilty in some measure, so a new stipulation was made. From now on, all cases would go to the Royal Guard Captains of the Over, Mid, and Under-realm royal families to be triple-checked for any forgeries and their decision would be final on whether or not a case would be escalated to Realmfleet. Rokalla announced Realmfleet’s unanimous support of that decision, since the minor cases they had received in the past had distracted them from more important duties, such as ending the scourge all Splitter Branches represent. After the meeting had adjourned, Irmalii sat in a shady spot to think. Arsha approached her. “Are you okay?” she asked.

“To be frank, I’m still disgusted that law enforcement was that lazy,” replied Irmalii. “I’m also angry at myself for thinking Realmfleet was muscling in on our territory when it wasn’t Realmfleet’s fault.”

“We were all duped,” muttered Arsha.

“…Yeah, we were,” sighed Irmalii.

“…Wanna go shop around the booths?” suggested Arsha.

“…Yeah,” replied Irmalii. “Zwelmam has a few dress ideas and could use some fabric and dye.” They got up and headed to the booths. As they browsed, Bashoon came up.

“Captain, permission to make a crazy bet concerning the mystery camel?” she requested.

“For what reason, Ensign?” asked Arsha.

“I saw the outline of my uncle in the old barn by the Great Lake,” explained Bashoon, “and he was talking to a Camel Anthro. I believe he’s got some scheme involving swindling people and I would like to make my bet the last possible bet to disrupt his scheme.”

“How crazy are we talking?” inquired Arsha.

“…The ship,” mumbled Bashoon.

“Speak up, Ensign Barmek,” ordered Arsha.

“The ship,” repeated Bashoon in a clearer voice.

“…Are you talking about the Endeavor?!” yelped Arsha.

“Captain, I understand this is unorthodox,” interjected Bashoon, confirming Arsha’s suspicions, “but I know my uncle. If one makes a crazy bet at the last possible minute against who or what he says is a safe bet, he’ll panic and do something to ruin himself.” Arsha considered her next actions. “The crew IS willing to go along with it,” continued Bashoon.

The Three Realms The Three Realms (Book 1: Her Highness, the Captain)

3 Realms 1-33

Drenii was slithering at top speed throughout the Oasis. The race wasn’t until the weekend when the Festival would be over, so she had plenty of time. As she zoomed through the Oasis, she came across a farmer. “Well, hello, Handrey!” she called to the farmer tending to a camel.

“Drenii!” returned the farmer, Handrey. “Out training, are we?”

“Have to keep in shape,” replied Drenii. “Now, who’s the camel?”

“My first Sentina camel,” explained Handrey. “Meet Dwera!”

“I’m gonna be racing you this year,” continued Dwera, proving she was a Sentina.

“Ah, my competition!” chuckled Drenii. “Well, best not keep you.”

“You know, I’m actually surprised someone with your condition is racing this year,” mused Handrey.

“Come again?” quizzed Drenii.

“Well, you ain’t feeling well,” explained Handrey.

“…First I heard that,” replied Drenii. “I just went five laps around the Oasis without breaking a sweat. Where did you hear such a…?”

“There she is!” called a little Naga girl. She and her friends slithered up to Drenii and looked up and down at her. “What do you think?”

“I don’t know,” mused a Naga boy.

“No,” remarked another Naga boy.

“I doubt it,” replied a third Naga boy.

“Can’t be sure,” answered another Naga girl.

“Can I help you kids with something?” asked Drenii.

“Let’s measure her tail,” suggested the second boy.

“I wouldn’t try that, if I were you!” warned Drenii as she raised her tail to spook them.

“I’ve seen enough,” declared the second girl.

“Me too,” agreed the first girl. “We better convince our parents to put their bets on the Mystery Camel.” They slithered off, leaving Drenii in a confused state.

“What in the After-realm was all THAT about?” she muttered.

“Word on the street,” insisted Dwera, “is that you’re too old to win anymore. The fastest camel around’s gonna beat you.”

“Nonsense!” countered Drenii. “I’ll win this year just like every year!”

“That IS what folks are saying,” replied Handrey.

“Oh, let them say,” dismissed Drenii. “It doesn’t bother me. Gotta get back to training. Bye!” She slithered off at top speed, going halfway into the town before bumping into old friends about her age. “Hello, Klodii! Hi, Dremir!” she greeted.

“Drenii, as I live and breathe!” declared Klodii. “We were talking about you.”

“You shouldn’t be pushing yourself so hard,” urged Dremir. “Racing while under the weather, what would your family say?”

“I’m not sick!” protested Drenii.

“I know you like being active at your age, but you MUST take care of yourself,” insisted Klodii. “I’m afraid we can’t bet on someone who would kill herself like that.” They slithered off, leaving her gaping in stark shock.

“…I’M NOT SICK! MY DOCTOR CAN PROVE IT!” she shouted. She snarled, then went into a slower slither, the Naga’s equivalent of a jog. As she went nearer to the palace, she saw a young man in a harem outfit. “Hello, Jengi!” she called.

“Greetings, My Lady!” he returned.

“Jengi, sweetheart, could you do an old lady a favor,” requested Drenii, “and tell me who you and your master are betting on?”

“We WERE going to bet on you,” answered Jengi, “but, after we heard the news, Master sent me out to scout around for a younger contestant. Have to make a safe bet. Farewell!” He took off to do his master’s bidding.

“…Yeah, I guess you do,” sighed Drenii as she slithered slowly to the palace.

Back at the palace, Merrim was regaling Nazay, Arsha and her future spouses, and Megramar with a story. “So, there we were, right outside the cave and stark naked, our adrenaline just taking over every cell of our bodies, when, I swear, all the adult wyverns came pouring out of the entrance!”

“You’re lying!” laughed Malnar. “You’re lying through your teeth!”

“So we were booking it, and I do mean BOOKING it, when the Mama Wyvern snuck up behind us, ready to eat us!” continued Merrim.

“How could a Mama Wyvern sneak up on you?!” replied Megramar with a grin.

“Then Draka somehow tripped on sand,” Merrim went on, “so I went back to get him up and said…”

“Should have turned elsewhere,” joked Arsha.

“Exactly what I said!” laughed Merrim. Just then, one of the human men in the Laumfims’ harem approached the group.

“Lord Megramar, Queen Merrim, apologies for interrupting you,” he began, “but Lady Drenii just came in and isn’t looking very happy. She slithered in at the average Naga’s normal speed.”

“Okay, that IS unusual for Grandma,” mused Merrim. “Usually, she slithers at top speed through the palace, calling it agility training.”

“I’ll go see what’s wrong,” offered Megramar. “Thank you for bringing this to our attention.”

“I live to serve, My Lord,” replied the harem man as he headed off to his other duties.

“Excuse me,” bid Megramar as he slithered off to find his mother. He found her by the family’s open garden, looking very sorry for herself as an Elf harem woman sat by her. “Mom?” called Megramar. Drenii looked over to see him, then turned back to just staring off into space, resting herself in her tail. Megramar slithered over and sat next to her. “Are you okay?” he asked.

“It’s nothing,” mumbled Drenii.

“My Lady, forgive my being nosy,” replied the harem woman, “but you’re usually chomping at the bit this close to the race.”

“She’s right, look at yourself, Mom,” continued Megramar. “You’re using your tail as a shield and slumping all over. You don’t want your public to see you like this!”

“What difference does it make?” sighed Drenii.

“You want people to bet on you, right, My Lady?” asked the harem woman. “Well, they won’t unless you look like a winner!”

“Come on, Mom,” wheedled Megramar. “I’ve never known you to be so slouchy! You’re Drenii Laumfim! You LIVE for adrenaline and the course is sure to be the most adrenaline inducing! You LIVE for the challenge!”

“Megramar, Twella, I appreciate what you two are doing,” replied Drenii, “but it’s too late. No one’s betting on me this year.”

“Says who?!” yelped the elf, Twella.

“Says the entire Oasis!” answered Drenii. “You two must have heard the talk going around here!”

“Yeah, well, I don’t listen,” replied Megramar.

“Neither should you, My Lady,” urged Twella. “You shouldn’t let them get you down. You’ll win this race just like every other race!”

“They’re right!” called a nasally voice. A male Goblin then came forward. “Don’t listen to those saps! Think positive!”

“…Since when have YOU been one of my boosters, Tormo?” hissed Drenii.

“I’m a friend and I care, My Lady!” insisted the Goblin, Tormo. “Pay no attention to your naysayers! You can win! I believe in you!”

“What are you up to, you green runt?!” snarled Twella as she stood to her full height, which was at least 1½ times the average height of a human.

“Nothing,” replied Tormo. “Can’t a friend wish their friend luck?” Drenii then blew a loud raspberry.

“Twella, sweetheart, could you prepare the bath?” she requested. “I need to unwind from whatever stress Tormo caused me in the short time he was here.”

“At once, My Lady,” confirmed Twella as she and Drenii departed the gardens. Once they were out of earshot, Tormo sighed.

“Poor sap,” he whispered to Megramar. “She’s going to get her tail handed to her on a silver platter.”

“…Are you the one behind the rumors that she’s not feeling well?” hissed Megramar.

“Look, if she needed a bath after sitting,” remarked Tormo, “she’s not doing well. Take my advice, bet on the Mystery Camel.”

“The what?” quizzed Megramar.

“The Mystery Camel!” repeated Tormo. “Fastest camel ever! Trust me, a smart man like you needs to make a safe bet!” He then scuttled off, leaving Megramar to ponder.

After story time, Arsha and her spouses decided to go their separate ways. She went to the Endeavor and completed some paperwork, a must for any captain, regardless of social status. After that, she was invited by Marshii to play some poker with her, Bashoon, and Thengo. Bashoon dealt out the cards as Arsha observed something. “Ensign,” she called, “I’ve just now started to think about how I’ve never seen any female Goblin with their hair down. They always wear it in a bun as I do.”

“Loose hair leads to loose ends, thus leading to too many questions,” answered Bashoon. “A bit of Goblin philosophy, Ma’am.”

“It’s also tidier,” mused Marshii.

“It’s like our own little club,” joked Arsha.

“The Bun Club!” suggested Bashoon. She, Marshii, and Arsha laughed at that. Arsha then noticed something.

“Counselor, is everything all right?” she quizzed, still giggling a bit.

“I don’t know,” muttered Thengo as she placed her bet. “I’ve always been suspicious of a woman wearing her hair in a bun.”

“Suspicious?” repeated Marshii.

“Yeah, like they’re hiding something,” elaborated Thengo.

“Hiding?!” yelped Bashoon, a little offended.

“Don’t be absurd!” snapped Marshii as she called. “The bun is an ancient and proud tradition!” Thengo hummed half-heartedly.

“Some of the most distinguished women in history have worn their hair in a bun, Thengo,” helped Arsha while she called as well.

“I know,” conceded Thengo, “it’s just that, after the advent of women’s rights, buns became something of a fashion statement.”

“I am NOT concerned with fashion!” hissed Bashoon as she raised. “To a Goblin woman, a bun is a symbol of neatness.”

“Of order,” supplied Arsha.

“Sure, like there aren’t any distinguished women that let their hair down,” mumbled Thengo as she called Bashoon’s bet.

“Thengo, it sounds like you think of the bun as an affectation,” observed Marshii as she called.

“I do,” confirmed Thengo. “There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s like men with beards. I just think you bun-wearers should admit it.”

“My bun is NOT an affectation!” replied Arsha, hotly, as she called.

“Then you wouldn’t mind letting it down?” asked Thengo.

“In a Falgreth minute!” boasted Arsha. “I’ve just grown used to it.”

“Then let’s up the stakes a bit,” declared Thengo. “If I win, you bun-wearers let your hair down for the rest of the festival.”

“I don’t do one-sided bets,” replied Bashoon. “What are you giving up if you lose?”

“I’ve always wanted to see her natural hair color,” mused Marshii.

“My red hair is a shade that clashes horribly with my pink wardrobe,” answered Thengo. “Couldn’t wait to dye it when I was old enough.”

“Now I’m curious,” chuckled Arsha.

“All right, if one of you wins,” replied Thengo, “my hair goes back to its pumpkin orange color for the rest of the festival. Are you in?”

“I’m in!” declared Bashoon.

“Me too!” replied Marshii.

“You’re gonna lose,” remarked Arsha. “I’m in.”

“Ensign, your hand?” offered Thengo.

“Four of a kind,” replied Bashoon as she revealed four 8’s.

“Beat my flush, will you?” grumbled Marshii.

“Looks like Bashoon has the hand to beat,” remarked Arsha as she set her full house down.

“You’re bluffing, Counselor,” declared Bashoon. “Dalengor has a contact that can supply you with hair dye remover.”

“Tell her to hold off on that,” countered Thengo as she revealed her straight flush. Marshii whipped out her scanner and checked for any hidden cards. After she got the readout, she drooped her shoulders, sighed, then undid her bun, letting her hair fall. Arsha and Bashoon grumbled as they did the same. After she did, Arsha repined her hairpiece near her ear. “…You know, you girls pull off the long hair pretty well,” praised Thengo.

“Thanks,” mumbled Arsha. Just then, Nazay slithered in.

“Captain, I need to…” he trailed off as he saw the now bun-less ladies. “Er…did you three lose a bet or something?”

“You had a question, Commander?” quizzed Arsha, not wanting to answer that one.

“It’s about what Drenii and I have heard in Barmek’s,” explained Nazay. “No one’s betting on her! There’s some camel that’s supposed to be the fastest camel alive! On top of that, a Goblin named Tormo’s saying she’s not feeling well! It’s starting to affect her!”

“Tormo?” repeated Bashoon. “Short for a Goblin? Wears a thin mustache? Pudgy?”

“Exactly. Someone you know?” asked Nazay.

“My ne’er-do-well uncle on my mother’s side,” groaned Bashoon.

“Any members of the crew believing the rumor and not betting on Drenii?” asked Arsha, pinning her hairpiece to her waist.

“Commander Sindii, Lieutenant Drolo, Lieutenant Ganthar, and Ensign Drega,” replied Nazay.

“Bashoon and I will have a chat with them,” declared Arsha. She got up to find the crewmembers with Bashoon following her.

The Three Realms The Three Realms (Book 1: Her Highness, the Captain)

3 Realms 1-32

“Yu arrre th besssfren EVAH!” slurred a drunken Irmalii to Arsha as they sat at the bar, The Traversing Tail.

“I said I’d TRY to get you the console, I didn’t say I will,” replied Arsha.

“Yu WILL ge me th conso,” continued Irmalii, “because yu arrre th besssfren evah hoo ge me th besssGIIF’s evah!”

“Irmalii, I got you a Dr. Snood comic last year,” reminded Arsha.

“An it wasss a GOOD comic!” praised Irmalii. “An, in my lin o work, I take wha I cn get! Now! Why arrre yu nah drinkin’ owcohall? Id isss my BIRFDY tomarro and wir sssupposed t’ b’ shelebrading!”

“Would that I could,” sighed Arsha, “but there ARE a few things I need to take of on the Endeavor and I CAN’T be hung over for them.”

“Why do yu wanna be a part o Realmflee?” slurred Irmalii. “Yu wanna know wha Realmflee does? Nuthin! Just cleaning up messes tha normal law enforssmen can’t bee bothurd to clean up! Lik th time I had to sav the Midreal from a bad Dr. Snood ebisod! Did I ever tell you about th ebisod I wrote fir Dr. Snood?”

“Yes, and it was one of my favorite episodes,” replied Arsha. “You also mentioned that I don’t need to get you anything after getting the Mid-Splitters off your tail.”

“Thaay back’d off because I saved th Midreal from an Ancient Stone Giant!” argued Irmalii. “Me! Beecaus I’m AWESHOM!”

“You are ALSO incredibly drunk,” reminded Arsha.

“I AM drunk!” agreed Irmalii. “Tha’s because I am AWESHOM and YUU!” She pushed her glass into Arsha’s nose and kept pointing at Arsha for a bit. “…Are the besssfren EVAH hoo ge me th besssGIIF’s evah!”

“Okay, Birthday Girl,” declared Arsha, “I’m taking you home.”

“Yu arrre NOT…takin me hom!” argued Irmalii as she poked Arsha’s chest, then promptly giggled. “Wron boobie!” she laughed. “Yu arrre gonna drink wif me…and wir gonna watch bad Dr. Snood ebisods together. Screw Realmflee!”

“Irmalii, you’re drunk off your tail,” insisted Arsha. “I’m taking you home, back to your wives.”

“Nononononononononono!” countered Irmalii. “I…will take YU hom…because I,” more pointing, “…don need a ship to cass a tellypoor spell!” She cast the teleport spell and took both her and Arsha to the cottage she and her wives had taken up residence in for the festival. Qwendo was in the kitchen as they arrived. Arsha looked around and was amazed Irmalii could concentrate on the location for the teleport spell to work. It’s not an easy spell to cast when drunk.

“What happened to all that whiskey you took a swim in?!” yelped Arsha.

“It’s all right,” assured Qwendo as she oozed over to the wobbly Irmalii. “They know her.”

“They do?” quizzed Arsha.

“I’m havin a winner cottage built heer,” slurred Irmalii.

“I’ll put her to bed,” Qwendo declared to Arsha.

“Okay, just tell me her condition when she wakes up,” directed Arsha.

“Got it,” confirmed Qwendo. As her azure form supported Irmalii, Qwendo guided her Blender wife to bed while Arsha teleported to the cottage she and her spouses were living in for the festival. Irmalii tried to get Qwendo to sleep with her, but Qwendo refused, knowing her wife was in a drunken form of heat. After much convincing, Irmalii fell asleep while Qwendo found her other wives and merged with them so their hive mind could understand what’s going on. Soon, their combined, blue, blobby form filled a tub so they could sleep.

Arsha arrived at her cottage to find Malnar wrapped in both Lardeth and Falnii’s clouds, all of them sleeping on the couch. “Sleep well,” she whispered. She then headed to the room to find Foresna and Gorfanth in bed. She then headed into the closet and changed into a nightie, leaving it after she finished changing and putting her hairpiece on the vanity. She crawled into bed, causing both Minotaur and human to stir. “Room for one more?” she whispered.

“Always,” replied Gorfanth as he lifted the sheets. Arsha snuggled between the two.

“Good night,” she whispered.

“Good night,” Foresna bid as they drifted off.

When morning broke, the rays of the sun crept over the bed. Arsha slowly opened her eyes as she stroked Foresna’s cheek. A pleasing hum escaped Foresna as he opened his eyes. Arsha then turned and stroked Gorfanth’s ear. Another pleasing hum and both boys were awake. “Good morning, Hooves and Farm Boy,” she whispered.

“Good morning, Foxy,” returned Gorfanth softly. A knock then came from outside. Arsha sat up.

“Yes?” she called.

“Good morning, you three,” called Lardeth’s voice. “Breakfast will be ready soon.”

“On our way!” replied Arsha. The three got out of bed and got their clothes on, Gorfanth with his tunic and family pauldron, Foresna with his tunic and pants, and Arsha with her dress and hairpiece. When they finished, Lardeth had already set the table as Malnar and Falnii were plating up the food. “By the Ones, that smells good!” sighed Arsha as she took a whiff.

“Scrambled eggs with a bit of a kick,” replied Malnar, “and bacon and toast. Nothing fancy.”

“Still delicious when a master such as yourself prepares it,” praised Gorfanth.

“Flatterer,” teased Malnar. They sat down and tucked in for breakfast.

“This is delicious!” praised Arsha. As they ate, a question popped into Falnii’s head.

“So, what activities will be available?” she asked in her usual quiet tone.

“I think Nazay mentioned something about a camel race,” mused Arsha. “A lot of people bet on those races.”

“Sounds like a Centaur Race,” muttered Lardeth, not the biggest fan of races.

“This one’s interesting,” replied Arsha. “Apparently people bet on Drenii most often. She’s a crowd favorite.”

“…I beg your pardon?” quizzed Lardeth, voicing the question on everyone’s minds.

“People make the same bets as her?” inquired Gorfanth.

“No, people bet on her to win,” corrected Arsha.

“…You’re pulling my tail!” argued Gorfanth.

“Arsha, are you saying,” yelped Foresna, “that an elderly Naga races camels and people bet on her to win?!”

“That’s what Nazay and Merrim said,” confirmed Arsha.

“She’s gotta be in her 45,000’s by now!” protested Malnar.

“45,933, according to Drenii herself,” answered Arsha.

“Still old age!” yelped Lardeth.

“She’s always been an adrenaline junkie,” continued Arsha.

“…Are we sure this isn’t some gag?!” rumbled Gorfanth. Just then, Arsha’s communicator beeped. The caller had left a message saying they wanted to meet Arsha at the Traversing Tail after she finished breakfast.

“Who was it?” asked Falnii.

“Irmalii,” replied Arsha. “Today’s her birthday and I don’t why she’s back there again.

Irmalii was sitting at the bar, staring at the drink in front of her with her head in her hand. The bartender washed a glass as he saw the scene. “I’d ask if you wanted me to leave the bottle,” he remarked, “but I don’t think you touched your drink yet.”

“I like to stare at it,” replied Irmalii. “Makes me think about things before taking alcohol.” She then looked at the bartender. “Anyone ever tell you that you look like a Naga version of the 17th Dr. Snood?”

“Loads of times,” answered the bartender. “Anyone ever tell you that you look like Elmpam?”

“…Elmpam’s fur is white,” reminded Irmalii.

“Of course, it is,” replied the bartender with a tone of disbelief. He wandered to another section behind the bar while Arsha found her and sat next to her.

“All right, Irmalii, I have some time,” she began. “Would you care to explain why you pulled me away from the always certain paperwork that a royal must complete for Realmfleet before I join my family for the camel race?”

“You know, your generation wasn’t the only one with royals serving in Realmfleet,” remarked Irmalii.

“No, but we ARE the latest in keeping laziness OUT of Realmfleet,” countered Arsha.

“Yeah, by cleaning up messes that normal law enforcement can’t be bothered with,” snarked Irmalii, “nothing lazy there.”

“Captain Ralmamp , I KNOW you didn’t pull me back up here,” sighed Arsha, “just to criticize Realmfleet. Now, what’s up?”

“…It’s my birthday today, you know,” recalled Irmalii.

“…Yes, it is,” answered Arsha, unsure about where the conversation was going. “We were here last night to celebrate that fact. Did you get a hangover that made you forget? Wait, no, you’re just mad that I couldn’t get you the console.”

“It wouldn’t be that hard for you to get a mock-up of the console of Dr. Snood’s horseless carriage and you know it,” replied Irmalii, “but that’s not it.”

“Then what is it?!” sighed Arsha as she removed her hairpiece, hedging her bets on being irritated in the near future.

“…Arsha, why do you want to be a Realmfleet captain?” inquired Irmalii. “I mean, outside of your duty as a royal.”

“I guess,” mused Arsha, “because I’m an adventurer like anyone else, even with all that happened in this year alone.”

“Could you be a bit more specific?” quizzed Irmalii.

“The Mid-realm has a sense of discovery and offered that to the other Realms,” explained Arsha. “I believe, as a royal, it’s my personal duty to encourage adventures in someone’s life. Yes, not everyone is adventurous, but even they need some excitement. Look, what are we doing here?”

“What am I doing here?!” barked Irmalii.

“…Are you drunk again?!” snapped Arsha.

“No, no, I’m not,” assured Irmalii, “it’s just…I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my life. You know, what I’ve seen, what I’ve done, and it’s…I don’t know, there’s something nagging in the back of my head. Maybe I’m just realizing how NOT normal my change in social status is. For crying out loud, going from a peasant nanny to Captain of the Fricking Royal Guard is a big leap!”

“How did you manage that?” teased Arsha. Irmalii gave her a look. “I know, I was a big influence.”

“Arsha, what am I doing with my life?” asked Irmalii.

“I’m…really not sure as I understand,” replied Arsha.

“What do I have going for me that makes me want to see my next birthday?” elaborated Irmalii.

“Well, you have a lot of people who’d be sad if you left,” answered Arsha. “My family and I included, since you did so much for us.”

“Not that I don’t appreciate you and your family recognizing my service to you,” countered Irmalii, “but one can’t JUST live for other people. That’s not living. You have to have something for YOU. That’s the question on my mind, selfish sounding though it may be. What have I got going for myself?”

“I can name a few things,” mused Arsha. “Dr. SnoodChange-a-tron, Soul Light, heck, ANY of your games. I can’t begin to count how many game nights we’ve had. You have a good life, family, friends, things that you enjoy, all that stuff. You may think your life isn’t so normal but, in all honesty, life is about dealing with hardships. I’ve had to deal with those a few times this year. In all honesty, I think life’s worth living for its own sake.”

“Sometimes, I agree,” sighed Irmalii, “other times…I don’t know. Maybe I called you out here for no reason. Maybe it’s nothing and I’m having my mid-life crisis early. I just…I’ve been thinking about my life and myself and…” she floundered a bit, “I don’t know what I want anymore. I’ve been thinking of leaving the Royal Guard because I feel like I’m being distanced from my family.”

“Well, that IS a legitimate concern,” replied Arsha, “but you ARE appreciated. Even my superiors in Realmfleet are grateful for your work.”

“Your superiors want that crystal ball Pwolmo has that can look in on everything and everyone,” grumbled Irmalii.

“Yes, but they’d rather you and your spouses have it than someone else,” assured Arsha.

“Sure,” muttered Irmalii.

“You ARE a moody doggy today,” mused Arsha as she put her hairpiece back on. “Hey, would Dr. Snood’s console cheer you up?”

“…Yeah, maybe,” mumbled Irmalii.

“I’ll see what I can do,” replied Arsha as she got up and headed to the door. “Hey, maybe you should watch Drenii’s race with your wives.”

“Hey, if one of the racers trip and it leads to rediscovering a tomb,” called Irmalii as Arsha went through the door, “I call dibs!” When Arsha was out of sight, she turned to see a different bartender with a crazed look. “…What happened to the other guy?”

“Other guy?!” wheezed the new bartender. “There WAS no other guy! You’ve been drinking all day, you’re seeing things! One minute, you’re talking and no one is there and,” his rambling went into gibberish for a bit before finishing with “‘Whhhhyyyy?’ and I’ll tell you something, at the end of the day, who cares, lady, who cares?! You haven’t paid your bill yet, and that’s all I care about, so,” more gibberish before he grabbed a bottle, “here, make yourself useful! Tell me what you think! My own whisky!” The whisky was served in an oil lamp and had a distinctive urine color to it. Irmalii was NOT feeling that brave, so she just left 50 golds on the counter and quickly left the bar. “…You’re not better than me!!” shouted the bartender.

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After a few missions, the Endeavor was ordered to the Regatim Oasis for the Mid-Union Festival. Queen Merrim Laumfim was hosting the festival this time. Once a year, during the season of Golmark, the height of summer, the Mid-realm royals and their Royal Guards and families, ranging from the tiny kingdoms to the rulers of the entire Mid-realm, would gather and discuss the events in their kingdoms while their children would enjoy entertainment from across the Mid-realm. Even Merfolk joined the festival. It’s usually hosted by one kingdom in a rotation. The Regatim Oasis was the location this year. The Endeavor was the third ship to arrive. Shalvey was making a call. “Regatim Command Outpost 4, this is the Endeavor, registry CRS-2784. We are currently approaching the Oasis. Requesting landing escort.”

“Standby and transmit your clearance code,” instructed the communications officer at the Outpost. Shalvey nodded to Malak. He then typed in a code and sent it to the Outpost. “Clearance received and accepted,” answered the communications officer. “You are assigned flight path 2 and will be escorted to the landing zone.”

“Thank you, Regatim Command Outpost 4,” bid Shalvey. “We await the escort.” Arsha had a bright smile on her face and was a little twitchy.

“Goblin coffee?” guessed Dalengor.

“I’ve never been to the Regatim Oasis!” cheered Arsha. “This will be fun!”

“And, apparently,” mused Oak, “it’s the only time we’ll see Nazay out of a sweater.” Nazay was wearing a gold collar across his neck and shoulders.

“Well, forgive me if most areas across the Realms are a bit too cold for a Naga!” he snarked. “Besides, I’ve been away for too long. It’s good to see my family and friends again.”

“And your girlfriend!” teased Shalvey.

“His ROYAL girlfriend,” replied Arsha. “He IS dating Merrim.”

“The Desert Rose of the Oasis,” sighed Nazay happily. “MY Desert Rose. Her coils could…”

“Er, Nazay?” called Shalvey. “Escort?” The Escort had arrived while Nazay pined for Merrim. He snapped out of it and made the course corrections to follow the aircraft. He blushed as red as his tail.

“I’ve got lovers too,” assured Arsha. “I understand.” The Endeavor was escorted to the landing zone where a procession was waiting for them. The Regatim Royal Guard held their spears up as the ramp lowered to let Arsha, Oak, Nazay, and Laverda out. Merrim, sitting on a seat at the end of the carpet, spotted Nazay and leapt off her seat, pouncing on Nazay. She wrapped her tail around him and kissed him repeatedly. A couple of her guards rolled their eyes.

“Don’t be hasty,” rumbled Oak. “you may get one that dotes on you like she and Nazay do with each other.”

“It’s been too long!” Merrim said in her loving squeal.

“Very pleasing to see you as well, Your Majesty,” replied Nazay.

“Nope! None of that!” directed Merrim as she got up, releasing Nazay from her coils. “I told you that you don’t need to use my titles! This is a festival where titles don’t matter!”

“Can’t argue that,” called Arsha. Merrim then slithered up to her.

“Is that you, Arsha?!” she gasped as she placed her hand on Arsha’s head. “You were so little when I last saw you!”

“It’s only been since last year’s Mid-union Festival,” replied Arsha.

“And now, look at you,” giggled Merrim, “all grown up and commanding a skyship. Welcome to the Regatim Oasis!”

“Thank you, My Lady,” bid Arsha as she curtsied.

“I said no titles,” muttered Merrim. “Come on, this is the festival where we all party, forgetting, for a moment, about our differences.” She led them to the town where everyone lived.

“So, how’s life treating you so far?” quizzed Arsha.

“Pretty well,” replied Merrim as she held Nazay’s arm. “Grandma’s been keeping her hair-brained schemes to a minimum.”

“Drenii? Hair-brained schemes?” gasped Nazay in mock surprise.

“You said minimum,” observed Arsha.

“She got both of our dads arguing with a reporter for the Varshenta Beach’s paper,” explained Merrim. “Something about explosion porn.”

“…That probably has some other meaning,” remarked Oak, “but the initial connotation is rather visceral.”

“They are NOT explosion porn!” snapped Elgrad to the reporter, an Elf/Sea Dragon Blender named Leumas.

“With respect, Your Majesties, they ARE explosion porn,” argued Leumas.

“Come on, those explosions were necessary!” protested Merrim’s dad, the previous ruler, Megramar.

“The whole thing’s supposed to be nostalgic for people who saw the original cartoon, people like my dad!” replied Leumas. “Instead, they focused too much on explosions and cleavage, as most of his movies do!”

“Like there’s never been an explosion in war!” argued Elgrad.

“I’m not arguing that,” answered Leumas, “but the live-action movies were supposed to be based on a toyline and cheesy early TAU multi-episode commercial my dad grew up with!”

“A cartoon where you could turn off your brain and enjoy the action!” insisted Megramar.

“I don’t WANT to turn off my brain during a story!” snapped Leumas.

“What’s this about explosion porn?” called Arsha. Elgrad grinned as he turned to face his daughter.

“How’s my Captain doing?!” he asked as he hugged her.

“Doing fine, Daddy,” replied Arsha. She broke off the embrace. “Now, could one of you boys explain the phrase ‘Explosion porn’?”

“This kid here,” explained Megramar as he pointed to Leumas, “thinks the live-action Change-a-tron movies were awful!”

“They were!” insisted Leumas.

“Finally! Someone who understands!” praised Merrim.

“Come on!” protested Megramar.

“So, the explosion porn comment was in reference to the overuse of explosions and bare boobies?” muttered Arsha.

“And it’s an unwarranted comment!” protested Elgrad.

“Daddy, just ONE of those movies turned me off of Change-a-tron!” snapped Arsha.

“Thank goodness for that,” called a sultry voice. Arsha’s eyes went wide.

“You didn’t!” she gasped at Elgrad.

“I did,” replied Elgrad with a smile. “She IS Captain of the Royal Guard, she has the right to accompany me, as do her wives.” Arsha turned to see a sandy furred Inu/Succubus Blender. Her hair and tail were navy blue and she had a pair of large horns, one of them with a rose at the base of it. Her dress seemed to be rather chaotic looking in dark grey and bloody red. One arm was exposed while the other had a sleeve and wore a glove on the hand. Arsha ran towards her.

“Irmalii!” she cheered. A smile appeared on the woman’s muzzle as she embraced Arsha and twirled.

“So good to see you, my Foxy Girl!” giggled the Inu/Succubus Blender, Irmalii.

“It’s been too long! How are you?!” inquired Arsha.

“Enjoying life, as usual,” replied Irmalii. “Me and my spouses visited my mom’s family recently.”

“I don’t think I ever saw your parents,” mused Arsha.

“You might see them on your tour,” guessed Irmalii.

During the day, more royals had assembled. Once night fell, the rulers of the Mid-realm were gathered and the trumpet sounded, indicating that the rulers were about to be named. An elderly Naga slithered to his position and read off the scroll. “Hosting the Festival,” he began, “we have Queen Merrim Laumfim of the Regatim Oasis, accompanied by her future King, Nazay, her father, Megramar Laumfim, his mother, Drenii Laumfim, the Royal Guard Captain, Sir Dreksi Trondak, his wife, Dame Loondra Trondak, and their son, Halgrant Trondak!” The people called then slithered down the aisle and took their place at the host’s area. “From Varshenta Beach, we have King Fornam Erremak, his wife, Queen Twundrii Erremak, their twin daughters Glamwey and Stwelmar Erremak, the princesses’ consorts, Lord Fangra Dredar and Mr. Gorhon Jorken, the Royal Guard Captain, Dame Quendrem Talmaz, her spouses, Sir Dortam and Dame Fertrek Talmaz, and their sons, Stendre, Goryan, and Jektan Talmaz!” The Sea Dragon rulers of Varshenta Beach walked the aisle, waving as they did so, and sat on the Laumfims’ right. “From the Borompek Dwarf Kingdom, we have King Dranser Ironfist, his spouses, King Forgna, Queen Garmfe, and Queen Dermek Ironfist, their children, Prince Dwandre with his betrothed, Ms. Klendre Stonefoot, Prince Hangrak and his betrothed, Lord Forgro Gemfinder, Princess Karlam with her betrothed, Ms. Jarmer Holdfast, Princess Jertel with her betrothed, Sir Gwendrek Sheetrock, and Princess Asgran with her betrothed, Mr. Rokom Lordstone, the Royal Guard Captain, Lord Darkron Rockhand, and his wife, Lady Gandra Rockhand!” The Dwarves walked down the aisle in a Dwarf’s usual stomp, waving and grinning as they did so. They took their seats left of the Laumfims. “From the Borsootha Slime Oasis, presenting King Slamfal Dromema and his spouses, King Gloondii, Queen Salmar, Queen Dribii, and King Muldam Dromema, their children, Prince Florpan with his betrothed, Lord Gwarma Slimpeer, and Princess Musstrii with her betrothed, Lieutenant JG Recanth Gloobii, and the Royal Guard Captain, Lord Gluup Gwanlam!” The slimes oozed down the aisle, waving as they did, then puddled in the tub set up for them, just above the Dwarves and to their right. “From the Slempay Kingdom, we have King Dorgo Eragar and his husband, King Fandam Eragar, their adopted daughter, Princess Yandrem Eragar, and their Royal Guard Captain, Sir Ramtarka Klendres!” The humans walked down the aisle and took their place directly behind the Laumfims. “From our neighbor of Aridu, we have Queen Lurmir Sklandar, Queen Ormu Sklandar, their adopted children, Prince Gwormeer with his wife, Lendrii Twalmal, and Princess Hamlar with her husband, Fendrer Dalmam, and their Royal Guard Captain, Lord Dwinmeer Twalmal!” The rulers of Aridu were Lamias, life-forms that share a common ancestor with Nagas, but their upper torsos were reptilian instead of mammalian. The Lamias slithered down the aisle and took their places behind the Sea Dragons. “Hailing from the Gafinar Cecaelia Kingdom, presenting King Derromer Hejek, Queen Dwenmir, Queen Glonta, and Queen Hentrak Hejek, their children, Princess Winjar with her husband, Lekter, Princess Landrii with her wife, Glantar, Prince Endriu with his husband, Kajnar, Prince Warna with his wife, Gleerma, and their Royal Guard Captain Tronday Twermer and her wife, Horgaln!” The Cecaelias used a mobile water tank that kept their legs covered in water to go down the aisle. Once it arrived at their spot behind the Eragars, they sat in their seats with water surrounding them. “Representing the Glasna Kingdom, we have Queen Dimorea Handra, her son, Prince Dwanta with his spouses, Lady Halndra, Ms. Almur, and Mr. Gorndra, and their Royal Guard Captain, Lord Dwemmer!” The representatives of the Glasna Kingdom were Polar Bear Anthros, a rather guarded species, as shown in their walk down the aisle. They politely waved as the crowd applauded and cheered. They then sat down on the Eragars’ right. “Hailing from the Kurontar Sea Merfolk Kingdom, we have the Caldora family,” the announcer took a breath before rattling off the names, “King Vorko, King Endrer, King Janthar, King Egnad, King Fordro, King Jentay, King Hormu, King Jortol, King Hilmeer, King Kulptak, King Kwinmar, King Humdra, King Martrem, King Bremmek,” the announcer took another breath, “Queen Elmeratii, Queen Thanmar, Queen Yotrii, Queen Arlamu, Queen Jurma, Queen Kulma, Queen Hurmu, Queen Lammeera, Queen Dreema, Queen Tuleeya, Queen Limurumi, Queen Dermula, Queen Vurtuma, and Queen Brenmu,” the announcer gasped, then took a long drink of water before continuing, “with their daughters, Marianes with her spouses, Layto, Rosa, Erga, Troga, and Floona, Jalmari, Klendra, Jalmurna, Halmurna, Klarii, Murbira, Slamka, Carmurma, Heritam, Keleka,” another breath from the announcer, “Dromu, Dantamii, Wumalha, Samuje, Hamarii, Gumamar, Almerii,” another long drink from the announcer, “Zareemii, Uumamee, Hendreemii, Zalecea, Valomee, Drasada,” one last breath and drink, “and their Royal Guard Captain, Lord Endrek Xermexa and his daughter, Diumal! Phew!” The Merfolk were in special cones of water that glided down the aisle, letting them wave as they filled the water tank taking up the three rows behind the Hejeks. “From the Midoran Forest, we have King Emberam Tormote, Queen Handwel, their son, Prince Goformo and his husband, Twalmok, and their Royal Guard Captain, Duchess Twormu Lantheer!” The Centaurs trotted down the aisle and took up seats on the Eragars’ left. “From the Borthoo Jungle, presenting King Dremek Hanradar, his daughter Aldree, and their Royal Guard Captain, Dame Trandee Hanara!” The Royal family consisted of underground-dwelling Stone Elves while their Guard Captain was a Daffodil-based Alraune, a female version of a Dryad that was a woman merged at the waist with a flower and using large vines for locomotion. They took their seats behind the Caldoras. “From the Algarda Merfolk Kingdom, we have the Jahelma family, King Dremmir, Queen Gweena, Princess Ganhal and her wife, Dwilmir, and their Royal Guard Captain, Duke Andrak Towogo with his daughter, Enderii!” Like the Caldoras, they traveled in cones of water, waving as they went down the aisle. When they joined the crowd of royals, they entered a tank on the left of the Hanradars. “From Rokanth, we have the Dworga family, King Handrem, Queen Ermorbo, Prince Fwentar, and their Royal Guard Captain, Lord Jandred Toromik!” As that band of humans walked down the aisle and took their seats on the Jahelmas’ left, Arsha pouted comically as she and her family waited for their turn.

“The Caldoras certainly had a large family,” mused a voice behind her.

“I counted 28 parents and the same amount of daughters,” remarked another in a friendly sort of snort.

“After the battle of the Trelfan Trench,” explained Arsha, “Yotrii explained that she and a few others were obsessed with being pregnant, so they kept getting it on with their kings, sometimes all at once. The doctors had to stop them, warning them that too much could permanently exhaust them. I have to say, I’m content with at least six…” she trailed off when she recognized the voices. She turned to see her spouses standing with her! Gorfanth, Falnii, Lardeth, Malnar, and a red-haired peasant man named Foresna grinned when she turned. “Guys!” she squealed happily. “When did you…?! I mean, how did you…?!”

“Your father invited us,” explained Foresna.

“You saw our respective Union Festivals,” supplied Lardeth, “so your father figured we should see yours.”

“You guys are gonna LOVE it!” assured Arsha. “Bonfire, you once said us Mid-realmers don’t know how to party.”

“We have this entire week for you to change my mind, Foxy,” challenged Malnar.

“You’ll be eating those words by tomorrow!” returned Arsha with a grin.

“I look forward to it,” replied Malnar. They shook hands to seal the deal.

“It’s as Drosnar wrote in The Differences Between Lust and Love,” observed Gorfanth, “‘Friendly competition keeps a lover excited.’”

“From the village of Rokanth,” continued the announcer.

“My home!” whispered Foresna.

“We have the Galmudii family,” the announcer called, “King Dwermal, Prince Hemek and his wife Donmar, Princess Hormu and her spouses, Hanmor and Wemul, and their Royal Guard Captain, Lord Dreknar and his daughter, Dwanka, with her husband, Formuk!” The humans making up that group walked the aisle and waved, stopping at their seats by the Dworgas.

“So Dwanka’s sex-change operation was successful,” mused Arsha. “Good for hi…HER.”

“It took a while for Rokanth, but we now know her as a she,” replied Foresna.

“From Galthar,” continued the announcer, “we have the Havemik family, Queen Hindra, Queen Hunmur, Prince Fendra and his betrothed, Lady Gwalmar, and their Royal Guard Captain, Lady Latinora Langrasia!” The Elves that made up the group walked down the aisle and waved, taking their seats next to the Galmudiis.

“Hold on a minute, I thought she was the Chief Engineer for Galthar’s Realmfleet base,” muttered Lardeth.

“I guess we can ask her why she’s Captain of the Royal Guard,” mumbled Falnii.

“A good idea, Fluffy,” mused Arsha.

“And last, but certainly not least,” called the announcer. Arsha, her family and spouses, and Irmalii and her family took their places for walking down the aisle. “From the Mid-realm’s capital of Largandra, the rulers of the entire Mid-realm, the Royana family, King Elgrad, Queen Hanako, Princess Arsha with her spouses from across the Realms, Princess Malnar, Prince Lardeth, Ambassador Falnii, Mr. Foresna, and Mr. Gorfanth, and their Royal Guard Captain, Dame Irmalii Ralmamp with her wives, Twelmak, Kwampem, Swamfur, Gwelmam, Fwandak, Qwendo, Pwolmo, Dwarmu, and Zwelmam!” The multi-ethnic group then traveled down the aisle, waving as they headed to their seats behind everyone. “All that is left now,” continued the announcer, “is to light the Torch of Unity! As per tradition, all royals, their guards, and their families must donate a bit of magic energy to light it! Simply hold out your hand and let magic flow towards the Torch!” A large, golden dish with fuel for the upcoming flames was then wheeled out. Everyone then held their hands out as wisps of orange energy drifted towards the torch. For a few seconds…nothing happened. Malnar leaned towards Arsha.

“I gotta say, not a good way to start…” she was interrupted as a column of orange fire shot into the sky before shrinking down to a bonfire sized flame.

“Let the Mid-Union Festival begin!” declared the announcer. Everyone cheered as they got up and mingled.

“What were you going to say?” snarked Arsha.

“You Mid-realmers always go for the surprising stuff,” replied Malnar.

“We ARE more than meets the eye,” boasted Foresna with Mid-realm pride.

“I’m so glad you all could make it,” bid Arsha. “Especially you, Lardeth. How did you clear this with the Realmfleet Council?”

“My crew and I had some hard times in the Galdredan Lava Kingdom,” explained Lardeth. “An Ancient Lava Giant was about to turn the whole kingdom to ashes. We had to evacuate certain areas of the kingdom and managed to send the Giant to the Depths of the After-realm.”

“How did you manage that, Princess?” asked Gorfanth.

“Gwentem, my Chief Engineer,” elaborated Lardeth, “came up with a way to net it in a counter-mana field that couldn’t spread to the rest of the kingdom. We managed to use some of the excess counter-mana to open a portal to the Depths and cast the Giant into it. Closing was a little difficult as the counter-mana was seeping into the High Sky’s systems. However, Tormorem, the Ensign I just took on, discovered a way to use my ship’s deflector dish so we could convert the counter-mana into something more…tangible.”

“That Ensign is going places!” praised Malnar.

“He’s certainly on the fast-track for promotion,” agreed Lardeth. “So, after that harrowing affair, Realmfleet gave us shore-leave and granted permission for me to pick. I had never been to the Regatim Oasis, so I figured I’d come here. When Elgrad told me that here’s where you were holding the Festival for this year, I became elated.”

“Well, I’m glad you could make it,” replied Arsha.

“As am I,” returned Lardeth. “Now, what say we get a drink?”

“Someone ask for drinks?” called a Naga Maid as she carried a drink tray. The six of them took a drink and thanked the Maid as she slithered off. Arsha wafted the drink before sipping.

“Regatim wine,” she sighed. “Vintage…somewhere in SAU. Very fine wine.” Malnar sipped and was surprised at the taste.

“It’s still sweet!” she exclaimed.

“How?!” yelped Gorfanth as he recalled his father’s lectures on wine-making.

“No one except for the denizens of the Oasis know,” replied Arsha. “It’s a mystery!” She then made some ghostly noises, eliciting a laugh from her lovers. “Now then,” she declared, “let’s go see what the Festival has to offer!” After that, all six linked their arms and headed off to see what they could find.

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Arsha and those who pursued Dr. Borg were taken in for treatment. It was touch and go for a while, but their bodies no longer opened any fresh wounds nor did they lose too much blood. They still needed blood transfusions, but the virus was purged and they were properly vaccinated. Arsha, Rellmeer, and Baltar were the last ones to be given a clean bill of health. “You have my thanks, Doctor,” bid Rellmeer. “Now, there is something I need to take care of. As many can tell you, cross a Fae and you enter their Circle of Vengeance. Arsha, Senator Baltar, if you would please join me.”

“Yes, My Empress,” replied Baltar.

“What’s going on?” quizzed Arsha, fearing the worst.

“We’re closing the Circle of Vengeance,” answered Rellmeer.

“Mistress, respond!” urged General Remsey, a portly, green-skinned, male Sprite in military regalia, over the radio. “Come on! I need new wings!”

“You’ve been doing that for an hour,” sighed another male, violet skinned Sprite, his brother, Mortor. “She’s most likely expired.”

“The family’s not very pleased with you, Father!” shouted a voice outside the door. It then disappeared in a flash of fire to reveal Arsha, Baltar, and Rellmeer. Rellmeer threw a coil of rope at Remsey and it wrapped itself around him. Baltar then caught sight of Mortor. “Oh, for the love of…WHO ELSE IN MY FAMILY IS DR. BORG’S SLAVE?!” he wailed in frustration. As he fell to the ground, Remsey realized he was caught.

“My Empress, it’s not my fault!” he pleaded. “Mortor made me do it! It was all his idea to join Dr. Borg! Forgive me!”

“Throw me under the carriage, why don’t you!” protested Mortor.

“If I were any of my ancestors,” hissed Rellmeer, “I’d take you to the top of the palace, display your bound, whimpering frame to the crowd below, then SHOVE YOU OFF, TRAITOR! Children would bet on where you would land and your spattered remains would be sold as mulch for a gardener’s flowerbed!”

“Spare me!” begged Remsey. “I’m old! I’m fragile!”

“You’re biologically immortal,” argued Baltar. “You CAN’T get fragile from age.”

“I thought you said you weren’t afraid of Rellmeer!” snarled Mortor.

“I lied!” wailed Remsey.

“Well, don’t let her intimidate you!” snapped Mortor. “She’s NONE of her ancestors.”

“Lucky for you!” hissed Rellmeer. “Unlike my ancestors, I understand that Dr. Borg has corrupted you. You’ve been tempted by her delusions of power, exposed to her twisted ideas of dominance! In light of this, I am willing to forgive.” She snapped her fingers, causing the rope binding Remsey to vanish. He knelt down and clasped his hands with a relieved smile on his face.

“My Empress, I swear to you…!” he began.

“Do NOT confuse my mercy for weakness!” snarled Rellmeer. “If I do not hear from Dr. Belshay that your addiction is being treated nor see a single T from you donated towards reconstruction in Midiriki’s forced attack, your assets will be seized and liquidated, your position will go to someone else, and you will be banished from the Fae Republic and its borders! You will be a pariah! An unwanted outcast severed from our hive! Am I understood?” As Remsey whimpered, he nodded. Mortor growled but nodded all the same. “Good. I thought so,” answered Rellmeer. “Remsey, don’t bother getting up until Dr. Belshay gets here. Mortor, stay with him and begin efforts to make considerable donations to fix property damage.” She took Arsha and Baltar with her and reforged the door with a wave of her hand.

“Well, that was…militant,” muttered Arsha.

“You don’t become ruler without letting those who crossed you know,” replied Rellmeer, “that mercy is neither weakness nor infinite.” At that moment, Midiriki and Hanako approached them.

“Aunt Midiriki!” cheered Arsha. The two hugged before Midiriki broke off the embrace.

“A fine command of the situation,” she praised.

“I must agree,” supplied Rellmeer.

“Thank you,” replied Arsha, “both of you.”

“You seem a little more jovial, all things considered,” observed Rellmeer.

“My dwelling on the past wasn’t doing anyone any favors,” answered Arsha. “The events with Reb are still in the back of my mind, but I can better honor those that died by continuing with my job of protecting the Realms as they did. I will admit, after they died, I wasn’t feeling like much of a Captain. Now that my crew and I managed to avert a plague and stop a psycho scientist, I know exactly what kind of Captain I’ll be.”

“Good to know that,” praised Hanako.

“Need a lift home, Mom?” asked Arsha.

“I came here in the family shuttle,” replied Hanako. “No need to go out of your way to drop little ol’ me off.”

“Empress Rellmeer,” interjected Midiriki, “I DID have a motive for coming to the Drelda Forest in the first place before Dr. Borg kidnapped and hypnotized me.”

“Oh?” quizzed Rellmeer.

“I’d very much like to add Fae honey to Mystic Tails’ inventory,” explained Midiriki. “I came here to negotiate a deal. I can certainly start a fundraiser to help repair any damage I have caused while under Dr. Borg’s influence on top of paying your price for honey.” Rellmeer stroked her chin in consideration.

“…Midiriki Rotano, let’s discuss this over lunch,” she declared as she led Midiriki away.

“That’s my sister,” sighed Hanako. “Always looking for a deal.”

“Fae honey IS tasty, from what I recall,” mused Arsha. “In any case, I must return to the Endeavor. See you around, Mom!”

“Farewell, my Precious One!” returned Hanako. Baltar escorted Arsha to the hangar where the Endeavor rested.

“The Fae Republic owes you a great debt of honor,” remarked Baltar. “If we can help you, you need merely call us.”

“If you need our help,” answered Arsha, “don’t hesitate to contact us.”

“I must also apologize for my stubbornness,” bid Baltar. “I didn’t think Dr. Borg could return like that.”

“The concept IS a little out there,” replied Arsha. “Your stubbornness was justified.”

“Do you think we’ll see her again?” mused Baltar.

“I hope not!” shuddered Arsha. “Once was more than enough for me! See you later!”

“Goodbye, Captain Royana!” bid Baltar. As Arsha entered the Endeavor, the ramp raised and sealed itself behind her. She made her way to the bridge and found Oak, Malak, Shalvey, and Nazay at their positions. Oak got up from the Captain’s chair and let Arsha sit in it.

“You’re looking well,” observed Oak.

“I’m FEELING well,” replied Arsha. “Shalvey, any new missions?”

“Just a minor delivery mission,” replied Shalvey. “Under-realm based. Mana crystals from the Greshkagh mountains to the Haldebor Drider Caves.”

“All right. Nazay,” directed Arsha, “lay in a course for the nearest Over to Under Realmgate, then to the Greshkagh Mountains.”

“Course laid in,” replied Nazay.

“Nice and easy,” answered Arsha. The Endeavor then left the hangar and grew to its normal size along with its crew. It proceeded on a nice, easy path to the Realmgate.

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The Fae Senate had gathered again to hear what Rellmeer had been told. Arsha and Hanako were in attendance. “This is not credible,” scoffed Baltar. “A Kitsune cannot be so easily hypnotized!”

“With normal hypnosis, yes,” began Arsha, “but with drugs and a hypnosis suit?”

“No one’s developed a hypnosis suit!” dismissed Baltar.

“I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss it,” interjected Rellmeer. “There ARE unsavory technologies being developed in secret.”

“But how would such a suit be constructed?” asked Lantii.

“And why lace it with a virus?” quizzed Rozek, the male Pixie Senator that jabbed his finger to the ceiling during the cacophony the other day.

“Perhaps an attempt to wipe us out?” quizzed Roonsar, the male Fairy Senator that protested Rellmeer’s use of the word “unusual”.

“Marshii is analyzing how the virus was made,” assured Rellmeer. “When Midiriki arrives, she will give her testimony.”

“Ask, and she shall appear!” called a voice. Midiriki then entered the Senate Chambers in her usual purple kimono with her tails neatly brushed. She sat in the center seat.

“Madam, whenever you’re ready,” directed Rellmeer.

“Thank you, My Lady,” bid Midiriki. “Assembled Senators and Family, I must confess, this whole situation comes from someone we long thought dead. This person was an unsavory Sprite that would stop at nothing to claim the Fae Throne. I believe you are all familiar with Dr. Cytanek Yavenag Borg?”

“Borg was executed!” argued Baltar. “Her experiments were destroyed during her arrest!”

“I was there when she was executed,” replied Midiriki, “but I saw her as she strapped me into that suit after drugging me with numerous mind-control potions.”

“This is ridiculous!” insisted Baltar.

“I saw what I saw, I heard what I heard!” urged Midiriki. “I know what I know.”

“And the Investigatory Committee,” supplied a female Fairy Senator, Bwelman, “can confirm that this whole thing was Borg’s MO.”

“I say the Investigatory Committee,” called Baltar, “needs to reexamine the evidence stacked against it! Dr. Borg was taken to the wall! Magic bolts pierced her skull, her heart, her legs, and her lungs! She is dead!”

“Am I?” called a voice. A green gas then flooded the chambers, causing everyone to start coughing. A few people saw a female Sprite’s silhouette within the gas cloud and fired a few magic bolts.

“COME BACK HERE!” shouted Baltar as the figure ran from the chambers. As he took off after the attacker, Arsha, Hanako, Midiriki, and Rellmeer followed him with Arsha calling Marshii.

“Arsha to Marshii, get a medical team to the Senate Chambers on the double!” she commanded. “We may have sick people!”

“On my way!” replied Marshii. Arsha hung up, then transferred her hairpiece to her waist while summoning her armor. They all had managed to follow the figure into a laboratory, far from the city’s limits. Hanako, Midiriki, and Rellmeer destroyed the door while Baltar cast a locate spell. They found the attacker as it turned to reveal that it was a cyan-skinned female Sprite with a prosthetic right eye.

“…Impossible!” breathed Baltar. “You were…!”

“It’s my original mind, but not my original body,” the Sprite revealed, answering Baltar’s question.

“Cytanek Yavenag Borg!” gasped Arsha.

“DOCTOR Cytanek Yavenag Borg,” corrected the Sprite.

“But you were sent to the wall!” protested Baltar.

“Yes, I distinctly remember you shooting me in the skull,” replied Dr. Borg, “but I needed my apparent execution to test a new device. Now that it works, I can explain. It’s something that transfers my mind into a body I had crafted from my own DNA, an exact clone, complete with my cybernetics!” She then pulled a wand out from within her cloak and set it into her knife, leveling it at the group. “My wand’s accuracy has increased,” she warned. “Lower your weapons.”

“Very well,” sighed Rellmeer. They dropped their wands. “Look,” continued Rellmeer, “we can talk this over.”

“A bit late for that, since you ordered my execution,” hissed Dr. Borg. “For what it’s worth, though, I DO consider you a friend. Aw, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you lot cry.”

“…I was rather hoping I was imagining tasting my own blood,” sighed Midiriki. Cuts had appeared all over the group, the advanced stages of Malmaho disease. “I take it that gas was a more advanced version of what you coated my suit with.”

“It was,” confirmed Dr. Borg. “Don’t worry, this won’t take long. See, it’s important that you understand why I did what I did. Baltar, I think you of all people would get it. Others, not so much. Have you ever wondered why I wanted to conquer all the Realms?”

“All the Realms?” repeated Rellmeer.

“Yes, all of them,” confirmed Dr. Borg. “Did you assume I was a Splitter lackey? They would destabilize my plans. No, I have my own goals for dominance. With my presence exposed, the Fae Military’s top brass could kill me in an instant. Baltar, your father, General Remsey, could finish the job, but he needs me right now. As long as he does what I order, he’s all right.”

“Keep talking,” hissed Baltar. “Right now, I’m still thinking about purging whatever virus you made from my body, grabbing the nearest blunt object, and beating your skull in! Right now, talking is keeping you alive!”

“Well, that’s hardly gentlemanly,” snarked Dr. Borg. “Here’s the thing; in exchange for his loyalty, I supply your father with a regular donation, Sprite wings. Last I checked, he was addicted to flying and keeping his wings in motion, never letting his feet touch the ground.”

“…He never told me that!” yelped Baltar.

“Nor me,” supplied Rellmeer. “I recall it being a rare condition, but treatable.”

“General Remsey’s not looking for treatment,” dismissed Dr. Borg. “He wants the next hit.”

“Hold on,” interjected Arsha, “you’re harvesting Sprite wings on his behalf?!”

“In the beginning,” replied Dr. Borg, “it was a clone set of my own wings, but his body was treating them as tumors and he was becoming resistant to the immunosuppressant drugs I was supplying. I couldn’t exactly kidnap Sprites, that would only cause an investigation. However, I remembered a scientific paper saying that the wings of any Fae are the last to die.”

“You started harvesting from the dead,” realized Rellmeer.

“As long as he obeyed and didn’t ask questions,” continued Dr. Borg, “I could fuel his addiction. He had dug up some files from your ancestors’ time, Rellmeer. Find the right frequency and a person’s mind is yours to command. However, the technology used WAS ancient. I wasn’t about to just rely on sound, so I drugged up Midiriki and managed to get her to attack the tree while I went for those in the morgues. We may be biologically immortal, but bacteria, viruses, and weapons give us a reason to have graveyards.”

“I still don’t get it,” called Hanako, “how would feeding General Remsey’s addiction help you conquer the Realms?”

“A shock-trooper,” replied Rellmeer. “Get a person to suffer enough, feed them enough lies, and you have a puppet who will act like a non-Sentina dog and follow your every command.”

“Exactly,” confirmed Dr. Borg. “With people like him under my command, I can have access to all the resources needed to continue my experiments. Now, admit it, you ARE impressed, are you not?”

“Dr. C. Y. Borg,” answered Arsha, “In this year alone, my crew and I have been held at wand-point by the best. Splitters, Pirates, rogue doctors, rogue Admirals, infiltrators, and I have NEVER known any of them to take so long to explain their grand plan. But, I DO want to thank you. Not only did you convince us you’re getting exactly what you deserve, but you’ve given us the chance to fight back!”

“Fight back?! You lot?!” laughed Dr. Borg. “You’re in the advanced stages of Malmaho disease! Your bodies’ opened various cuts in your skin as a last ditch effort to purge the illness! Any extraneous activity will cause you to bleed faster! You are, quite literally, falling apart!”

“Your lab floor is sloped,” replied Arsha. “You’re at the lowest point while we’re at the highest. We’ve infected you.”

“Those statements don’t correlate!” argued Dr. Borg. “You haven’t even touched me!”

“They DO correlate,” argued Hanako, realizing her daughter’s plan. “While you were talking, we were bleeding. We must have developed over a hundred cuts and, for the past minute, your big foot was blocking the small river of our infected blood as it traveled down the slope of your floor!” Dr. Borg’s eyes went wide as she looked down to confirm that Hanako was telling the truth! She shrieked as she jumped onto a table to get away, but it was too late. The next time she would use magic, the virus would activate. Baltar ran forward and punched Dr. Borg square in the jaw and grabbed her knife.

“Damn, that felt good!” he sighed.

“Idiots!” shouted Dr. Borg. “You don’t think I wouldn’t create a vaccine in case something like this happened?!”

“I was counting on it,” replied Arsha. “Hand it over. Slowly.”

“What would you do if I don’t?” asked Dr. Borg. Baltar then leveled the knife at her. “Except, you can’t do it!” laughed Dr. Borg. “You can’t shoot me because killing an unarmed combatant would be a stain on your precious ‘military honor’!”

“If you MUST know,” growled Baltar, “I can’t shoot because my arm is seizing up and I missed my physical therapy appointment for it!”

“In that case,” giggled Dr. Borg as she typed a command into her computer, “I’d like you to meet my two friends!” Two guns dropped from the ceiling and fired on her opponents. “Oh, and you were never that much of a ruler, Rellmeer,” taunted Dr. Borg as she climbed the ladder that dropped. She got to the top with the vaccine in her mouth while she saw something surprising…Arsha out of her armor and smiling!

“And you were never that good of a scientist,” taunted Arsha. Her mouth never moved and she seemed to be glitching in and out of existence.

“What the?!” spluttered Dr. Borg.

“A Maho-particle avatar,” explained Arsha. “The caster manipulates the stray mana particles in the air and makes a copy of themself. This feels different, though. I guess the template’s corrupted. It’s out of fashion these days, you can guess why. It’s mana-intensive, requires total concentration, the avatar’s smile never vanishes while speaking, and the hair never looks right. In fact, the only thing it’s good for…”

“Is keeping idiots distracted!” finished the armored Arsha as she got off the ladder and charged at Dr. Borg, chopping the Sprite’s wings off with her sword. The avatar vanished as the vaccine tumbled away.

“NO!” wailed Dr. Borg as the vaccine fell from the building’s roof and into the streets below. Dr. Borg looked helplessly downwards, then growled as she glared at Arsha. “You imbecile!” she shouted as she tore off her cloak, revealing her scientist get up and her cybernetic legs and right arm. Her feet were built like bird feet. “That was the only vaccine! You’ve doomed us all!” she roared as she knocked Arsha’s sword out of her hands and started punching. Arsha managed to block a few before grabbing her opponent’s arms.

“Dr. Borg,” she hissed, “my first year as Captain took me all over the emotional spectrum. I’m still coming to grips with the fact that five people died under my command. The only reason I’m staying on? I still want to protect my people just as those who died! Bottom line, you can’t kill me that easily!” She then crushed Dr. Borg’s cybernetic arm and kicked her over the edge. Dr. Borg then grabbed the roof ledge with her fleshy arm and refused to let go. “Judging by your reactions,” mused Arsha, “I’d say you didn’t have enough time to prepare another body for your mind to inhabit.”

“Arsha, please!” begged Dr. Borg. “You can’t leave me like this forever!”

“It won’t be forever,” answered Arsha before she coughed. When she finished, she continued. “You have three choices right now. You can use magic to levitate yourself up to safety; activating the virus, you can use magic to soften the impact; activating the virus, or you can just fall and pray the impact doesn’t kill you.” Just then, a shot could be heard as a hole appeared in Dr. Borg’s head. The sudden shock from the wound caused Dr. Borg to let go. Arsha looked towards the direction of the shot to see a Fairy holding a spear with a wand set into it and giving a thumbs up. She returned the thumbs up and then collapsed as Marshii called. She dismissed her helmet before accepting.

“Arsha, don’t you dare die yet!” demanded Marshii. “I’m coming for you with a vaccine!”

“Good to know,” panted Arsha. “You may want to hurry though.” She then went unconscious.

The Three Realms The Three Realms (Book 1: Her Highness, the Captain)

3 Realms 1-28

Marshii worked with the Fae Doctors in tending to the intruder’s injuries. “Damn, Arsha really went to town on them,” she muttered.

“Scans just revealed it’s a woman,” reported a yellow-skinned Fairy Doctor, Yellemar.

“Insert ‘girl-on-girl action’ joke here,” muttered Marshii.

“I would,” replied Yellemar, “but what’s the point?”

“I guess you heard them all,” chuckled Marshii. “Can we get that suit off?”

“Might want to hold off on that,” countered Yellemar. “The suit’s external plating is laced with an artificial form of Malmaho Disease.”

“How bad are we talking?” quizzed Marshii.

“Looks like mere contact with the disease will cause a rash as stage 1,” reported Yellemar. Marshii then made a call.

“Arsha and Melandra, report to Sick Bay,” she commanded.

“But we’re…!” protested Melandra.

“NOW!” snapped Marshii.

“Malmaho disease?” quizzed Arsha as Marshii prepared the necessary potion.

“Yep,” confirmed Marshii. “An artificial version. Thankfully, unlike the virus Laverda was infected with, I’ve got all the ingriedients needed to cure what you have.” She handed Arsha and Melandra the phials of the potion. “Drink up,” she directed. Arsha and Melandra gulped it down, then gagged at the taste.

“That tasted like my lower exoskeleton after I molted!” spluttered Melandra.

“How would you know?” coughed Arsha as she wiped her mouth.

“When I was little,” explained Melandra, “I bit into my first molt. That was the last time I tried to eat an exoskeleton.”

“I need the crew to get immunized,” called Marshii.

“I’ll warn them about the taste,” replied Arsha as she and Melandra started leaving Sick Bay. “Maybe you should release the potion in a gaseous state.”

“You Realmfleet Captains,” griped Marshii. “You could stare into the face of the most violent storms and make it blink, yet you look for the easy way out when it comes to your medicine.” Arsha stopped a bit before going to her quarters. Melandra noticed what happened and moved towards a wall.

“Computer, locate Thengo,” he directed.

“Counselor Thengo Lortora is in her quarters with Queen Hanako Royana,” reported the computer.

“Thank you,” bid Melandra as he scuttled off to Thengo’s quarters.

“Concerned for Arsha?” quizzed Thengo as she set the tea down. Hanako took a cup.

“She’s still dwelling on what happened with Reb,” she answered. Just then, the door rang.

“Hello?” called Thengo, not expecting anyone else.

“It’s Melandra,” replied the person in the hall. “I need to speak with you and Hanako.”

“Both of us?” muttered Hanako.

“Come in,” called Thengo. Melandra scuttled in.

“I need advice,” he explained. “Specifically, Hanako’s.”

“A first,” smirked Hanako.

“Look, I know we’re not the best of friends,” interjected Melandra. “Since we first came onto this ship during the Rooka/Gamfinar incident, we kept each other at arm’s length. However, you ARE my Captain’s mom and I could use some Kitsune clarity.”

“…Go ahead,” directed Hanako.

“It’s about Arsha,” explained Melandra. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, which would be surprising, but she’s isolated herself from the crew. Whatever meals she has, they’re taken alone. Whatever recreation she’s engaged in, she’s always alone. Whatever paperwork is done, it’s done alone.”

“She believes she’s made an error in judgement in bringing Melgem aboard,” answered Hanako. “She thinks she’s responsible for those that died on that island.”

“She told you?” asked Melandra.

“No,” replied Hanako. “In the few days I’ve been here, I’ve been observing her behavior. Guilt is her current and constant companion.”

“You’ve known her longer than anyone here,” mused Thengo. “Have you ever seen her like this?”

“Once,” answered Hanako. “It was during her training on the Watchful. I believe it was your uncle’s ship at the time, Thengo.”

“It was,” confirmed Thengo. “Was she the 9-tailed upstart he griped about?”

“Considering she was the only one with 9 tails during that time, and he flat-out called her that while I was within earshot,” confirmed Hanako, “I’d say yes. In any case, she was assigned a group and was told to survey the Galdredan Lava Kingdom’s famous Brokshak volcano.”

“That’s the most active volcano there!” yelped Melandra. “Not even Calandra would go there and she can safely swim in lava!”

“The survey shuttle was damaged by a magma eruption,” continued Hanako, “and, despite her attempt to bring them back to the safety of the ship, two crew-members were severely injured. For the next several days, she was scared of commanding and, briefly, didn’t want to claim her birthright. After only one counseling session, she took the repaired survey shuttle alone to complete the survey. She wanted to prove to the injured crew members that they didn’t suffer in vain.” She drew in a breath before continuing. “I almost buried my daughter.”

“She was seeking redemption,” realized Thengo.

“Exactly,” replied Hanako. “Arsha’s methods are…unorthodox. It’s her strength, but in times like this, it’s her weakness.”

“Stubborn as a Troll,” muttered Melandra.

“To put it mildly,” remarked Hanako.

Arsha was right outside the room, listening to the entire conversation. She sighed before going back to her ready room. When she arrived, she looked out the window to see the interior of the tree’s shipyards. She drummed her fingers, contemplating her move. Her mother’s words from the resort echoed in her head. “‘What kind of Captain will you be in the face of that?’ I can’t seem to figure it out,” Arsha sighed to herself. “No matter how much I try, I can’t seem to get my crewmates to avoid some form of pain. Is it all worth it? They die and are barely talked about.” She sighed again before sliding into her chair. “All I wanted to do was protect them and their families. What kind of Captain lets them…?” She then trailed off in thought. “Wait…why would they join Realmfleet if it were all safe? Do they…?” She then gasped as she realized why. “I AM THE BIGGEST IDIOT ALIVE!” she shouted to herself. Shalvey then glided into the room at top speed.

“Captain?!” she called. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine, Commander,” assured Arsha. “Just had an epiphany about those who died.”

“Captain?” quizzed Shalvey.

“Shalvey, why did you join Realmfleet?” asked Arsha. Shalvey was taken aback by the question.

“I, er, I…well, it was to ensure my family’s protection, like anyone else who joined,” she finally answered.

“So, you would say that those who died were only concerned about their families’ lives and not theirs?” inquired Arsha.

“I’m sure their own lives were considered,” replied Shalvey, “but if giving up my life means my family can live on, so be it. That’s what most Realmfleet officers have on their minds. When one is gone, the rest try to dedicate other victories in their name.”

“And only now did I just realize that,” explained Arsha. “I’d do the same as those who died. The only way I can honor their sacrifices is to dedicate future victories to them. I can’t believe I just realized that now!”

“So, are you…?” asked Shalvey.

“I’m not fully out of my funk yet,” answered Arsha, “but I think I’m taking a step in the right direction.”

“Good to know, Captain,” praised Shalvey. Just then, the ship’s comms buzzed.

“Marshii to Arsha,” announced the Caller.

“Go ahead, Doctor,” called Arsha.

“Captain, you and your mother need to come to the tree’s medical ward now!” explained Marshii.

“On my way,” answered Arsha. The call ended as she headed to the ramp. Hanako met with her as she came down.

“What do you supposed Marshii wants?” quizzed Hanako.

“We’re gonna find out,” replied Arsha. They arrived at the medical ward and met Marshii. “What’s the situation?” asked Arsha.

“We’ve managed to identify the intruder under that armor,” explained Marshii. “DNA matching has revealed that it’s Midiriki Rotano.”

“…My young sister?!” yelped Hanako.

“Why would she…?!” quizzed Arsha.

“She didn’t attack the tree of her own free will,” replied Marshii. “We’ve found various mind-control potions in her bloodstream and the suit was producing a hypnotic sound, keeping her obedient to whoever’s controlling it.”

“Whoever did this will pay!” snarled Hanako as she punched her hand.

“I trust Rellmeer will know about this?” quizzed Arsha.

“She was here when we found out,” replied Marshii.

“Then, if you’ll excuse me,” bid Arsha, “I need to solve this mystery with her so our families are protected.” Hanako grinned.

“So, that’s the kind of Captain you’re going to be,” she thought to herself.

The Three Realms The Three Realms (Book 1: Her Highness, the Captain)

3 Realms 1-27

“This is an outrage!” shouted a Sprite Senator as she thumped her table.

“Simply disgraceful!” roared a Pixie Senator as he jabbed his finger to the ceiling. This was just a taste of the utter uproar in the Senate Chambers. Rellmeer had finally had enough.

“EVERYONE, SHUT UP!” she shrieked as she banged her gavel. Her harem girl, Felfar, rubbed her temples as she fiddled with the extremely long boa around her neck. “Senators, I understand that this is a rather…unusual thing for a Kitsune to do,” addressed Rellmeer.

“Unusual?!” snapped a Fairy Senator as he stood up sharply. “With respect, My Empress, you’re under-selling it! No Kitsune has ever attacked our Republic since the Realm War!”

“We must strike now!” roared a male Sprite.

“Senator Baltar, you’ve always been hungry for war!” snarled Lantii, the female Sprite that declared the incident to be an outrage.

“I SAID, ENOUGH!” shouted Rellmeer. “We’re not going to war against the Kitsunes! I won’t permit this during my reign!”

“So what, pray tell, do you have in mind?!” snapped the Fairy Senator.

“The Endeavor can be called upon to help out,” answered Rellmeer. “Arsha has graciously offered to find out why that Kitsune is attacking us and I see no need to refuse.”

“She’s a Blender of Kitsune and HUMAN origin!” argued another Fairy Senator. “What good will she be?!”

“A lot more good than you lot at this point in time, that’s for sure!” shouted Rellmeer. “I have already made my decision! Now kindly clear off!” The Senate filed out, grumbling all the while. Once it was just her and Felfar alone, Rellmeer roared in frustration.

“So, can I film now, Mistress?” asked Felfar.

“Bunch of idiots!” snapped Rellmeer. “I’m trying to keep the peace here with the rough equivalent of a stale cookie and a used pen!”

“It’s the Senate,” replied Felfar, “what do you expect? I can tell you, right now, that every government has had some weird legend around it. Why, did you know that the Galdredan Kingdom’s Constitution has, not one, but FOUR curses on it?”

“A Kitsune’s attacking our territory from its very heart,” snarled Rellmeer, “probably in some hair-brained Over-Splitter scheme to keep us from reaching any other Realm and will most likely burn the entire Northern Continent in the process!”

“Mistress, I think you’re over-selling this a bit,” countered Felfar. “You said that they only sent you a letter but haven’t exactly challenged you. Considering that they need a Fae’s natural connection to magic, I don’t think attacking you would be in their best interests.”

“Oltor’s been more cunning than we give him credit for!” replied Rellmeer. “If I’m right and this IS a Splitter plot, he’ll probably see destroying civilizations as some twisted version of saving them from the other Realms!”

“Oh, I see,” snarked Felfar. “A guy who wants to kill and destroy everything. The Realms certainly have a shortage of those. Even your Great-Great-Great-Great Grandfather was like that before you stopped him.”

“…No, Oltor’s something totally different,” answered Rellmeer.

“How, Mistress?!” demanded Felfar. “No, really, how?! Ever since you got that letter last month, you’ve been going bonkers! You beat him! You beat the Over-Splitters MULTIPLE times since before he became the Supreme Over-Splitter! If this IS a Splitter plot, this should be old hat to you by now! I’ve read about the Over-Splitters’ operations! Depths, I even did an episode from that very seat!” She indicated Rellmeer’s usual seat whenever the Fae Senate was in session. “What makes Oltor so different than any of his predecessors?! What makes you think this is even a Splitter plot?!” Rellmeer took in a breath before answering.

“They’ve always hated that we are staunch allies of the Kitsunes,” she answered. “Their magic connection almost rivals a Fae’s. They would, most likely, want to split us apart since we both oppose the Splitters. I WON’T let that happen.”

“You need me to what?” asked Melandra to Arsha.

“I need you to cast a web in front of the Kitsune,” answered Arsha. “With any luck, they’ll be stuck fast and we can get that mask off so we can get straight answers.”

“You HAVE seen how I use my silk to decorate my quarters, right?” inquired Melandra. “My webs go all over the place. I’m a 3-D Drider, not a net-casting Drider OR a Bolas Drider. Why not ask Thengo?”

“Her silk skills lie in lining her quarters with it,” countered Arsha. “It will take too much time to build a significant trap. No, I need you.”

“Very well,” sighed Melandra. He set to work making the net out of his silk. After an hour, they went outside and set themselves onto a branch. Melandra then saw a flash of movement, then the top of a Jumping Spider’s head. Given their current size, the spider could easily make a meal out of the two. However, it jumped elsewhere, finding more familiar prey. Melandra exhaled. Arsha saw the whole thing.

“I heard there was an arachnophobic Drider on my crew but I never pegged YOU to be that Drider,” she mused.

“It’s the fact that it doesn’t have an upper torso that terrifies me,” explained Melandra. “Besides, you’d be terrified if you were the size of a spider’s prey!”

“Fair point,” conceded Arsha. Something then made a twig snap. “Armored foot on the forest floor,” guessed Arsha as she transferred her hairpiece to her waist and summoned her armor.

“I see our target,” reported Melandra, readying his crude net.

“On three, we pounce,” directed Arsha. “One…two…THREE!” They jumped off the branch and cast a spell to return them to normal size. Melandra’s net was thrown over the Kitsune as Arsha punched the intruder repeatedly. The intruder stopped struggling and went limp. Arsha then took out a medical scanner and checked for life-signs. It showed up positive. “Let’s shrink down and bring the intruder in,” ordered Arsha as she cast the necessary shrinking spell. She then cast a levitation spell so they would float towards the entrance Rellmeer and various guards were waiting. They landed and handed the intruder off to the Fairies.

“Tend to the intruder’s injuries,” commanded Rellmeer. “Post a guard on the intruder at all times. Get them out of that armor and get some answers, use truth potions if you must.”

“Understood,” confirmed the Captain. He then led the guards towards the Fae Hospital.

“Truth potions?” gulped Arsha.

“I need to find out what’s going on by ANY means necessary,” replied Rellmeer. “That’s what a ruler needs to do.”

“I see,” muttered Arsha, not sure if she agreed. She then scratched the back of her neck.

“Captain?” asked Melandra.

“Just a minor itch,” assured Arsha. “See if the doctors tending to the intruder will give me an update.”

“Aye, Captain,” replied Melandra as he scuttled off to obey. Arsha sighed as she thought on the potential unfair treatment the Fae would give the intruder. Fae WERE ruthless when they felt threatened. She wondered how she would soothe this over.