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.