The Three Realms The Three Realms (Book 2: The Rise of Living Metal)

3 Realms 2-36

The Festival came to an end and all the royal families gathered in the stadium. Feemnaf took her place at the podium and cleared her throat. “With the day winding down, so too does the Over-union Festival,” she began. “I must say, this is one for the books. In all honesty, I wish I saw Uncle Yentil’s ghost. Still, I’m glad he’s moved on and is in a better place. On top of that, Lardeth’s tour of duty ended this week, so that’s the entire Felompha family that proudly had their command skills tested out! But, it looks like Lar’s been bitten by the travel bug and is going with his fiancés, one of them on her tour, to go across the Realms again. To that, I say best of luck to you, my favorite cousin!”

“You say that to every single one of your cousins!” called Lardeth.

“Doesn’t make it any less true,” countered Feemnaf. “Now, all that’s left is to close the day out by lighting the Closing Torch and setting off the fireworks! If all the heads of the royal families may stand, please tell us your name and what kingdom you rule as you donate your mana to light that sucker!” Larana was the first.

“I am Queen Larana Ignarsen and I rule the Blasarda Desert,” she purred as she and her family let their mana drift to the torch.

“I am King Elm Stonewood and I rule the Rooka Forest,” rumbled Elm as he and his family did the same.

“I am Empress Rellmeer Almaydia and I rule the Drelda Forest.”

“I am Queen Glanmaj Janfo and I rule the Chromanian Sea Merfolk Kingdom.”

“I am King Lektem Yantoru and I rule the Coliamdii Kingdom.”

“I am Queen Ulumeye Yantefa and I rule the Lunarimba Sea Merfolk Kingdom.”

“I am King Hekcho Tolandah and I rule the Falchineve Drider Colony.”

“I am King Gekshar Stonefoot and I rule the Altiam Mountains.”

“I am King Heenda Untarfu and I rule the Ralandren Plains.”

“I am King Jeltam Yalunai and I rule the Regalin Sea Merfolk Kingdom.”

“I am Queen Yalmu Ilmator and I rule the Calando Merfolk Kingdom.”

“I am King Henjar Yerumal and I rule Dwalna City.”

“I am Queen Keelma Maropwem and I rule the Sacchrinda Kingdom.”

“I am King Belnki Lorpeth and I rule Vorkath, on top of being a new daddy!” Belnki showed off his new daughter. The crowd cheered as they congratulated Belnki and Balma.

“I thought Balma looked pregnant!” chuckled Arsha to Lardeth.

“Since Feemnaf’s going to be spared saying all of our names,” called Roomef, “I am Queen Roomef Felompha and I rule Wysper City.” Once all of the mana had been donated, the torch leapt into the air with the largest flame imaginable and lit the fireworks surrounding it. They sailed into the sky, whistling as they traveled, then exploded in a spectacular array of colors. Once the fireworks show ended, the royal families filed back to their ships. Arsha and her lovers led the Felomphas to the Endeavor so Lardeth could give his goodbyes.

“Now you call us as much as you can, you hear me?!” asked Olmarfa.

“Loud and clear, Mama,” promised Lardeth. After all of his family got him in an embrace, he had to wiggle out to get some breathing room and finally say his goodbyes. “I shall return!” he called. Once he and his lovers got inside, the ramp closed behind them.

“Come on, all of you,” invited Arsha. “It’s time for us all to be on the bridge.” They made their way to the bridge to see everyone at their station. Lardeth, Malnar, and Falnii gasped in amazement.

“So…pretty!” breathed Falnii.

“She’s a sight, ain’t she?” agreed Gorfanth.

“Feels better now that your visit IS authorized?” asked Malak.

“…What’s THAT supposed to mean?” quizzed Lardeth.

“Nothing!” yelped Foresna.

“Remember when I told you guys about my hairpiece and what happened while it was being drained off?” reminded Arsha.

“What about it?” asked Malnar.

“Those two knuckleheads,” answered Arsha as she pointed to Foresna and Gorfanth, “decided to tour the bridge while I was napping!”

“Boys!” admonished Falnii as she, Malnar, and Lardeth glared at them with their hands on their hips.

“We wanted to see the bridge!” wailed Foresna.

“Okay, let’s not rib on them anymore,” advised Arsha. “Shalvey, do we have a mission?”

“Over-splitter activity has increased by the Drelda Forest,” replied Shalvey. “Something’s making them desperate enough to attack any ship trying to get into it, even Fae ships. Rellmeer’s requested an escort.”

“Tell the Majestic,” ordered Arsha, “that we’ll be happy to escort them safely to the Capital Tree.”

“The Majestic’s acknowledged the offer,” reported Shalvey, “…correction, they’ve accepted the offer. Rellmeer wants me to extend her personal thanks to you, Captain. She’s suggested that they’ll go first and we bring up the rear.”

“Tell her we’ll be right behind her,” answered Arsha. “Nazay, once the Majestic is cleared for launch and is high enough in the air, follow her, nice and easy.”

“Understood, Captain,” replied Nazay. After the Majestic took off, the Endeavor followed suit.

What caused the Over-splitters to attack? Simple, Dr. Borg’s Realm Trinity Empire. They had received word that associates of hers had left prison and were after them. An Over-splitter ship concealed itself as a Realmfleet prison ship appeared. Inside the ship’s bridge were four people, three of them Arsha personally knew: Jargoon, Reb, and Melgem! The woman in the Captain’s chair was a Succubus/Zephyr Blender with no wings or tail. “Aaaand, we’re clear!” cheered Jargoon. “Say goodbye to Realmfleet Max, say goodbye to security guards with personalities like broken coral, say goodbye to boring routine, and say hello to freedom!”

“Of a sort, Jargoon,” corrected the Blender woman, “victory of a sort. You work for me now, all of you do.”

“And I, for one,” praised Reb, “am IMMENSELY grateful for the opportunity to work with you, Remsu! Together, we can achieve EXCELLENT things! Together, we shall show those HORRID Realmfleet idiots what we can do against those VILE Splitters!”

“Splitters, Realmfleet,” dismissed the Blender woman, Remsu, “my organization’s plans reach far beyond both.”

“Yes, well, not to sound ungrateful,” remarked Melgem, “but, for a member of a shadowy organization with such overweening ambitions, you’ve picked decidedly underwhelming crewmates. I fail to see why you insisted on the likes of Hanthar staying behind, but letting the likes of Fenfir and Jargoon coming with us.”

“Remsu, you’ve been hailed, Ma’am,” called Jargoon as he snarled at Melgem. “Says he wants to talk to you privately. Patching him through now.” Remsu picked up a communicator and held it to her ear.

“Well? Who is it?” asked Remsu.

“I’m known by many names,” answered a deep, intimidating male voice. “Today, however, today you can call me Death!”

“…I think I’ll stick to your real name of Oltor,” muttered Remsu.

“As you wish,” chuckled the voice of the Supreme Over-splitter, Oltor. “It makes no difference, mud-blood. Your odds aren’t good. Your time has come.”

“You expect me to be surprised,” mused Remsu. “Did you expect me to not know about this? Word about me making it onto your hit-list, at the top, I must add, reached me while I was still in prison.

“She’s not trying to talk to Oltor, is she?” Melgem gulped to Jargoon.

“I’m trying to listen in!” hissed Jargoon. “It sounds like she IS talking to Oltor, but don’t panic. He’s not after us.”

“Your chances of survival are negligible,” taunted Oltor.

“You talk about chances as if I can’t control how this plays out,” purred Remsu. “Scan this whole ship and run a life-form check against your list. You’ll find that the entire crew is made up of people on your list.”

“What are you proposing?” asked Oltor.

“An exchange,” answered Remsu. “Their lives for mine.”

“The b***h’s selling us out!” hissed Jargoon to Melgem.

“Disengage, now!” Melgem hissed back.

“What?! Why?!” demanded Jargoon.

“Because Reb and I know from personal experience,” answered Melgem, “that the Splitter Branches DON’T negotiate and this isn’t a good time to eavesdrop!”

“No deal,” Oltor scoffed to Remsu. “I work my way through the list in order, no deviations. Rest assured, I’ll hunt down the others in due course, but, today, mud-blood, is all about you!”

“While I can’t say that response was unexpected, that’s still incredibly inefficient,” sighed Remsu. “The amount of wasted effort involved is…”

“Sssshhh, now it’s MY turn to talk and your turn to…” Remsu wasn’t having it as she crushed the communicator.

“The line’s dead,” remarked a scarred, white-furred Inu, Oltor, “but Remsu isn’t. Could it be she knew what I was trying to…?” His musing was interrupted as the ship rocked. “Report!” he barked.

“Dr. Borg’s ship just decloaked and fired!” reported his Pixie First Officer. “Our ship’s about to blow! The engine core can’t be ejected!”


Oltor’s ship exploded before any escape pods could be launched. Meanwhile, the Scorpion moved towards the prison ship. “Reb!” called Melgem. “The Scorpion’s coming at us at attack speed! We’ve got to get out of here!”

“Jargoon, where’s the escape pod?” asked Reb.

“These kinds of ships don’t HAVE escape pods!” answered Jargoon.

“Do you have any suggestions?” quizzed Reb.

“I suggest that we use a teleportation spell,” Jargoon went on, “and get to the ground!”

“I know a good spot!” called Melgem.

“Then get us there,” ordered Reb. As the three vanished in one teleport spell, Remsu was caught up in another as the Scorpion prepared its weapons.

Remsu ended up on the Scorpion’s bridge next to Dr. Borg. A Merman and a male Cecaelia stood by her as well. Yulduk and Jansha were at their stations and Scorpo was in the First Officer’s seat. Dr. Borg keyed in a command and the Captain’s chair widened to allow for four people to sit in it. The Merman, Cecaelia, and Remsu sat next to Dr. Borg with the two ladies in the middle of the men. “Much better,” purred Remsu. “I see that Shefarn and Tensam evaded capture.”

“Always, my lovely, blended bride,” replied the Cecaelia, Tensam.

“Oh, we’ve missed you,” sighed the Merman, Shefarn, as he pulled Remsu into an embrace.

“So, Cy,” mused Tensam, “when do we strike? I wish to see the Eternal Age of Unity.”

“Have patience, Tenny,” replied Dr. Borg as she took one of his tentacles and placed in her lap, giving him a sign to coil her in it. “We shall start when our armies are built up. When the time is right, we shall take our rightful place as rulers of the Realms, the eternal rule of Cytanek, Remsu, Tensam, and Shefarn Borg!”

The Three Realms The Three Realms (Book 2: The Rise of Living Metal)

3 Realms 2-35

The instant the news of the ghost train leaving Wysper City reached the citizens, the relief that was felt was intense. Passengers and goods clients returned to the railways and business returned to normal. As an added bonus, the story of the ghost train’s passengers passing on their last message to their loved ones caused the general mood to improve. On top of that, while the rails were still icy and there was still snow, the fog had lifted. Trains could go just a little faster, but only by so much. Now, as Arsha mentioned before, the snow brings other problems too, snow drifts being chief among them. As snow didn’t care where it landed, certain parts of the tracks would be buried, forcing the engines to take up snowplows. Some of the Mechanica engines found them to be uncomfortable, but put up with them to keep the lines cleared. This was a boon for the newly formed Rail Rescue Service. They helped whatever engine they could from any disaster, no matter the livery. As such, they were funded by the government instead of the citizens. Because there were only so many engines in the organization, the others had to help out. Out of all the engines, there were two who excelled in clearing snow; a duo of male Mechanica tender engines named Yalso and Yalsu. They once worked for the railways of the Ralandren plains, just as flat as Wysper City, before they consented to being sent to Northern Regional a month before the Over-union Festival. To hear them talk, the snow drifts they used to clear were twice the size of the ones that appeared on Wysper City’s rails. Thanks to their efforts, many an engine was rescued from a snowy situation. During the festival, they were called to the site of a really large drift. “SWEET ONES!” swore Yalso. “We’ve got a doozy, Yalsu!”

“That thing’s nothing we can’t handle, I’m sure,” mused Yalsu.

“I never said I was worried, just impressed!” chuckled Yalso. “Did Intal want us to wait?”

“No, he said to make a head start on it and…” Yalsu was interrupted by a noise. “…Did…you hear that?”

“It sounded like a whistle,” replied Yalso. “It’s one I recognize, but I can’t place my finger on it.” The whistle sounded again.

“Well, better find out,” declared Yalsu. He cupped his hands to his mouth. “Hello!” he called. “Help is here!”

“Yalso?! Yalsu?! Is that one of you?!” replied a voice.

“Good grief, it’s Jenmar!” yelped Yalso. “Jenmar, are you all right?!”

“I’ve been better,” reported Jenmar. “By Nartor, am I glad it’s you two that are here.”

“How long have you been stuck there?” asked Yalsu.

“I don’t know,” answered Jenmar, “is it 4,006,300,079, TAU?”

“Don’t panic, now,” urged Yalso. “Just wait a moment and we’ll get you out.”

“Wait a moment?!” snapped Jenmar. “Like I’m capable of doing anything else right now!”

“Sorry!” yelped Yalso. “Poor choice of words!”

Arsha and her lovers sat on a hill in the park, taking in the view of the city. “You know,” sighed Arsha, “it’s really nice looking at the festival from a distance.”

“Especially one that isn’t haunted by ghosts,” mused Lardeth. “Don’t get me wrong; I’m glad I could say goodbye to Dad, but ghosts tend to cause a dip in morale.”

“Ain’t that the truth,” muttered Malnar. “Still, what happened at the station was really sweet.”

“I’m really glad the train made it to the Heights,” sighed Arsha. “Although, if I may be frank, I kind of want to bring the Heights to the mortal plane, continue having moments like this together.”

“Funny you should mention ‘together’,” mused Lardeth. Arsha arched an eyebrow.

“We just got the paperwork approved,” explained Falnii. Arsha was still a little confused until she recalled Foresna and Gorfanth’s arrival on the Endeavor.

“…Are you guys serious?!” she squeaked happily.

“We’re all living together once the festival is over!” confirmed Falnii. Arsha squeed in happiness.

“BEST! NEWS! EVER!” she announced as she tightly hugged her lovers.

“I can’t wait to see what the Endeavor looks like from the inside,” giggled Malnar. It was only after she completed her sentence that everyone realized something was not usual.

“…Malnar, black mist just came out of your mouth,” remarked Gorfanth.

“Oh, how embarrassing!” groaned Malnar as the embrace broke off. “I have dark breath again!”

“Have you been eating bananas again?” asked Foresna.

“I know they don’t agree with me,” sighed Malnar, “but I had such a craving for them! …Is it bad?” She opened her mouth and everyone goggled.

“Malnar, I can only see your teeth,” reported Lardeth. “Everything else is just obscured by black mist.”

“Have you got something for that?” asked Falnii. Malnar nodded as she tightly closed her mouth. “Well, then, let’s go use it,” declared Falnii. “Where is it?” Malnar, too embarrassed to open her mouth, pointed to Lardeth’s castle off in the distance.

“Then let’s head home and get it cleared,” affirmed Lardeth. He led the way back to the castle. The instant they went into the castle and the door shut behind them, Malnar dashed to the bathroom near Lardeth’s room and brushed her teeth furiously and then gargled with mouthwash. After that, she checked her breath, then sighed once she was satisfied. She was still blushing like mad over the whole thing. As she and her lovers met up in the castle’s foyer, she was holding her arm and looking sideways.

“It’s all right,” soothed Gorfanth. “It happens to the best of us.”

“Still embarrassing,” mumbled Malnar. That was when someone stormed past them. “…Was that…Rokalla?” muttered Malnar.

“It was,” confirmed Lardeth. “What’s he doing here?”

“No sense in staying ignorant about it,” mused Gorfanth.

“He’s heading to the throne room. Come on,” declared Lardeth. They arrived at the throne room’s doors to see Rokalla throw the doors open. “Okay, NONE of my parents like that!” gulped Lardeth. “Maybe we should defuse the situation, somehow.”

“Not a bad idea,” agreed Arsha. They entered the throne room just as Rokalla began heaping verbal abuse!



“But…!” stammered Rokalla.

“BE SILENT AND STAND TO ATTENTION!” roared Endram. He then drew in a breath before continuing. “We have company.” He pointed out a female Troll in full Realmfleet Regalia. Arsha and her lovers gasped before saluting with Rokalla.

“Supreme Admiral Aldarval!” gulped Rokalla. “Please, excuse my outburst, but…”

“No, Admiral Rokalla, I won’t!” snarled Aldarval. “That was completely unacceptable and unbecoming of a Realmfleet Officer! Do that again and I’ll have your balls on a plate! Out!”

“Just a moment, Supreme Admiral!” called Lardeth. “What’s going on here? I didn’t know you were coming.”

“I’m simply here on your parents’ summons,” explained Aldarval.

“Summons?” asked Arsha. “Why were you summoned here?”

“To ensure that Wysper City would be ready for war, should the situation with Dr. Borg and her cronies escalate that far,” replied Olmarfa.

“War?” gulped Falnii. “Has it…?”

“The Final War hasn’t begun yet,” assured Aldarval, “but we must be ready. With Remsu escaping, there’s no telling when that will happen.”

“That’s why I came in here!” snapped Rokalla. “They gave the order to recapture her to Onfuu!”

“Onfuu?” asked Malnar. “I hate to say it, but he’s an utter incompetent when it comes to his job. And, just to clarify, are we talking about the Succubus/Zephyr Blender who was my original First Officer when I did my tour of duty?”

“The same,” confirmed Aldarval.

“I’m lost here,” admitted Arsha.

“I’m sure I told you I didn’t really have the best relationship with my old First officer,” began Malnar. Her lovers nodded. “Well, it all came to a head during the Galdredan affair. The Meteor was tasked with bringing in a Realmfleet Officer turned mass-murderer. Remsu’s someone who believes in putting people in the ground to solve problems, so, during the chase, she went to the ground, cornered the guy, and went against our orders to bring him alive.”

“…She…KILLED…?” gulped Arsha.

“Sliced the poor guy’s head off,” confirmed Malnar. “During her arrest, she killed a few of our crewmates. I had to have her court-martialed and she was sentenced to life in prison. If she’s escaped, then Onfuu’s a terrible choice. Aldarval, I really recommend that you let Rokalla find her!”

“Onfuu’s a solid, reliable Officer,” countered Aldarval, “unlike Rokalla at the moment. He used to be our best man, but, ever since the destruction of the Skyshell, he’s gone to pieces. Rokalla, your wife told me you had to take some time off for mental issues!”

“Why would she tell you that?!” snapped Rokalla.

“Admiral, with all due respect,” interjected Malnar, “I can’t let Onfuu go through with this case without someone like Rokalla. I’m going to have Daddy implement Paragraph 37 of the Realmfleet Accords.”

“You want him to order me to let someone that is mentally unfit in every respect to take this case?!” growled Aldarval. “I highly doubt he’d do something that dumb on your say-so, even if you’re his future replacement!”

“Maybe he won’t,” called Olmarfa, “but I would.”

“…You wouldn’t dare!” hissed Aldarval.

“Try me,” challenged Olmarfa. The tension could be cut with a knife!

“…Fine, fine, Rokalla, you can find Remsu,” grumbled Aldarval. “But, know this, you WILL be working with Onfuu.”

“Understood, Supreme Admiral,” confirmed Rokalla.

“Dismissed,” growled Aldarval. Rokalla saluted and left the throne room. “Now, with that out of the way, once the festival is over,” declared Aldarval, “I’ll need to visit the Drelda Forest. The Fae will be excellent if it ever comes to war.”

“Rellmeer will NOT like it, I can tell you,” muttered Lardeth.

“No, but she’ll understand the necessity,” remarked Aldarval. “I must go. Farewell.” She left the throne room and Lardeth and his parents and lovers released their breath.

“Man, she is intense!” shuddered Arsha.

“She DOES get the job done,” replied Endram.

“In any event, preparing for war is what Dr. Borg’s master wants!” argued Arsha.

“We’ve tried the diplomatic route,” answered Olmarfa, “but Dr. Borg’s refused to reply to us. We need to cover all bases before we take any further action.”

“Lardeth, Falnii, Arsha, Foresna, Malnar, Gorfanth,” proclaimed Roomef, “what you’ve seen today does NOT leave this room, is that clear?” Arsha and her lovers looked at each other before nodding.

“Crystal, Your Majesty,” answered Gorfanth. “We won’t discuss this with anyone.”

“Thank you,” bid Roomef. “Now, come here and give us all a hug!” Lardeth, his parents, and his lovers then joined together in a mutual embrace.

The Three Realms The Three Realms (Book 2: The Rise of Living Metal)

3 Realms 2-34

The events at the station would make the papers, the story made all the more tragic that the woman who looked into the ghost train’s coaches was reduced to a gibbering wreck. She spent the rest of her days being looked after by orderlies and her family; her mind forever trapped in a state of horror. The mood of the festival dropped dramatically, with most people not daring to go outside for fear of encountering the ghost. The railways suffered the brunt of it as the passengers and goods clients of both companies avoided them like they were devil-spawn from the Depths. Those that were still determined to try and enjoy the festival also saw Yentil’s ghost train, causing a wide-spread dip in morale. The situation became so unbearable, Jenmar, Golu, Henthal, and the royal families came together to deal with the problem. “All right,” began Roomef, “so we all know why we’re here?”

“No,” snarked King Lektem, “why don’t you remind us?”

“Put a sock in it, Lektem!” hissed his husband, Tegnar.

“Thank you, Tegnar,” bid Roomef. “Now this…ghost…has been terrorizing everyone for the better half of the festival and we need to find a way to get rid of it. Now, Princess Malnar studies ghosts as a hobby, even going so far as to publish her findings in various academic journals, so I’ll give her the floor.”

“Thank you, Your Majesty,” replied Malnar. “Now, I’m gonna open with this: it defies all expectations in spectral science. The only reason ghosts have an opportunity to manifest back home is because of our slightly liberal use of dark magic. The magic weakened the veil between the living and the dead. As far as I’m aware, the Over-realm never even touched dark magic, so it should be impossible for a ghost to manifest. This is a rather unique situation, so, as far as I’m concerned, there aren’t any dumb ideas. If you have one, put it forward.”

“How about getting your mother to perform an exorcism?” asked Queen Yumbii.

“I love my mother dearly,” answered Malnar, “but she’s terrible at exorcisms.”

“Maybe we should get one of her colleagues,” suggested Jeltam.

“It would take too long for them to get here,” replied Malnar. “We can’t afford to wait.”

“Maybe we should talk to him,” mused Jenmar. “Ask him to leave and he may do so.”

“About that, Jenmar,” interjected Lardeth, “did you or your passengers and crew get a good view of the ghost train?”

“I was too far away to get any details,” replied Jenmar.

“I got a good look at it,” called Rellmeer.

“Thank goodness for the Fae’s telescopic vision,” sighed Felfar.

“What did the engine look like?” asked Lardeth.

“A teal tender engine with red stripes and a zero on its tender,” answered Rellmeer.

“The same train we saw,” mused Arsha.

“That’s not what Dad and Entam drove, though,” remarked Lardeth. “They had a small tank engine in GNWR green with the initials of the railway on its side tanks.”

“Does that mean we have TWO ghosts here?!” yelped Vumfaf.

“No, just one of unknown origin,” replied Lardeth.

“Can we really be so sure it ISN’T Yentil?” asked Endram.

“The night I saw it, the train jumped the path and plunged into the ravine,” recalled Jenmar.

“It was definitely pulling GNWR coaches,” called Rellmeer.

“And when we had our encounter,” recalled Falnii softly, “there was a male human and a female Frostik.”

“And the human WAS at the driver’s place in the cab,” continued Arsha.

“Then, no, Dad,” sighed Lardeth as he rubbed his temples to try and massage away a headache, “we can’t be sure it isn’t my father.”

“But, if it is,” quizzed Golu, “why would the engine look different? That doesn’t make any sense!”

“That’s actually a field of study in researching ghosts,” replied Malnar. “There are those that forgot what they once looked like and have a hard time reconnecting with their loved ones, thus keeping them on the mortal plane.”

“I hate to be the naysayer of this meeting,” called Felfar, “but we still haven’t figured out how we’re gonna get rid of the thing.”

“I wouldn’t say that,” countered Malnar. “You all saw the engine fall, right?”

“We did,” confirmed Felfar.

“Henthal, how much do you remember of your old days as a station pilot for the GNWR before you became a Mechanica?” Malnar continued.

“Everything,” replied Henthal. “I still remember the station you were at as being part of the old main line before Northern Regional bought it.”

“Then we have an opportunity to do something,” declared Malnar. “It sounds like that ghost train’s a Repeater, doomed to repeat the circumstances of their end. The best way to get that kind of ghost to move on is to interrupt that process. We need to find someone Yentil and Entam would listen to and that person needs to tell them they don’t need to take the train on.”

“But…back in the day, outside of his royal duties,” interjected Lardeth, “that was only one man.” The entire Felompha family then got the same idea.

“…There is NO way he’s gonna go for that!” declared Twayfar.

“What are you talking about?” asked Arsha.

“The only one they would listen to on the railway,” explained Roomef, “was the manager of the GNWR, Lord Anfelaf Tomfulmaph, my great-grandfather.”

“Then he’s our best shot,” resolved Malnar. “We need to talk to him and explain the situation.”

“Twayfar’s right,” remarked Lardeth. “Great-great-grandfather Anfelaf’s quite a stubborn man. He’s most likely not going to like the idea.”

“ARE YOU KIDS OUT OF YOUR MINDS?!” snapped an elderly Zephyr man, Anfelaf Tomfulmaph, as he pointed his cane at Lardeth and his fiancés.

“I warned you,” muttered Lardeth to his lovers before returning his attention to his great-great-grandfather. “Pappy, please, if you’ll let me explain…”

“What’s there to explain, Lardeth?!” demanded Anfelaf. “You want me to tell the ghosts of your father and his co-worker, who’ve been dead for the better part of 200 years, to leave on the vague assumption that they’ll do so?!”

“Dad and Entam always wanted to make you happy,” reminded Lardeth.

“That’s probably one of the reasons they suffered their accident!” countered Anfelaf.

“What do you mean, Sir?” asked Arsha. Anfelaf drew in a breath, then exhaled before speaking.

“I cultivated their egos,” he explained, his voice heavy with regret. “I praised them whenever they delivered their trains on time. They were probably trying to please me when they died, which is why I’m so unwilling to speak to them!”

“You think they’re holding a grudge against you?” asked Falnii.

“Exactly!” confirmed Anfelaf. “They probably hold me responsible for their death! What if they try to take me or something?!”

“Come on, Pappy!” argued Lardeth. “Dad may have been many things, boastful being chief among them, but he was never vindictive! Neither was Entam!”

“Besides, don’t you think you should try?” asked Foresna. “If you don’t, and things keep going the way they are, Wysper City may encounter another economic depression as bad or worse than the Second Age’s Money Crisis.” Anfelaf peered at Foresna closely.

“What’s your name, boy?” he asked.

“Foresna Falshenda, Sir,” replied Foresna.

“…There’s something about you,” muttered Anfelaf.

“Sir?” asked Foresna.

“Do you study history?” quizzed Anfelaf.

“Frequently,” answered Foresna.

“…Lardeth’s picked a spouse with a head on his shoulders,” mused Anfelaf. “…All right!” He then thumped his cane. “I’ll do it!”

“Really, Pappy?!” yelped Lardeth.

“Mr. Falshenda’s right,” continued Anfelaf. “You’ve just had your Tour’s End Ceremony, meaning you’re going to be King when your parents step down. I can’t let your first duties be centered around economic recovery. Let’s enact whatever plan you kids have and see what happens!”

“Oh, thank you, Pappy!” sighed Lardeth. “And thank YOU, Farm Boy!”

“Don’t thank me, Princess,” remarked Foresna. “I was taking a shot in the dark!”

It was night as Arsha, her lovers, Henthal, and Anfelaf waited at the same station the ghost train stopped at. Black mist then rolled in and formed into an Elf in black, Aldrama, the Fifth Divine One of Ending. “Lord Anfelaf, are you okay?” she asked the elderly Zephyr.

“I’m not shaking just because it’s cold, Lady Aldrama,” replied Anfelaf.

“We really appreciate your help, Pappy,” thanked Lardeth.

“Yes, yes, just don’t go blabbing about it to the other railways,” muttered Anfelaf. “I don’t want them to lose their opinion of me being a cold person.”

“Perish the thought, Pappy,” joked Lardeth. He then turned to Henthal. “Is everything set?”

“The station’s been cleared and Lady Aldrama and I will be on standby,” replied Henthal. “Though, I will admit, I fail to see how much help I can be.”

“You never know,” assured Lardeth.

“This station!” grunted Anfelaf. “I wonder if any railway facility in all the Realms has ever been evacuated because of ghosts!”

“I can’t recall any stories like that in the Under-realm,” answered Malnar. “This is certainly a way to leave your mark in history!”

“Yeah, triumphs and blunders,” muttered Gorfanth, “the two biggest things people remember.”

“Gorfanth!” admonished Falnii.

“All right, I’ll keep my cud to myself!” grumbled Gorfanth. “But, before I do, can I just ask something?”

“What?” asked Arsha.

“What if the ghost doesn’t show up?” asked Gorfanth. A whistle then dispelled that notion.

“That was definitely the whistle of the engine Yentil and Entam drove,” gulped Anfelaf. The train then materialized just past the signal box and glided into the station, stopping as the engine was just beyond the platform.

“It’s up to you now, Pappy,” urged Lardeth. “Good luck!” Anfelaf shuddered as he approached the engine’s cab. He could definitely make out a female Frostik and a male Human.

“Er, Your Majesty? Ms. Onfur?” he gulped. The two figures then twitched their heads as if they heard him. “Yentil, Entam, is that you?” This time, the two figures turned their heads to give him their full attention. Anfelaf gulped again. “Erm, you two are probably wondering why I’m here tonight,” he began. The two figures stared at him. “Er, well, I er…I can’t stay on script. …I’m sorry.”

“That’s not what you’re supposed to…!” yelped Lardeth before Malnar stopped him.

“That may be better for both of them,” she advised.

“I made your egos so large that you were determined to keep your spotless record,” confessed Anfelaf. “I failed in my duty as your old manager. If you insist on taking me, then do so. I won’t stop you.” The station remained silent. Just then, the Frostik firewoman stepped down from the cab, her features becoming more clearer as she stopped in front of Anfelaf. The human male also left the engine’s cab and became more clear in his features. It was a man in regal clothing and a beard. The Frostik was a plump woman with painted claws on her fingers.

“Dad,” whispered Lardeth as his eyes became misty. The ghosts then raised their arms…and knelt down to give Anfelaf a reassuring hug.

“The accident was on our head,” whispered the man, the late King Yentil Felompha, Lardeth’s father.

“We were the one who ignored the conditions and rules concerning the mountain path,” continued the Frostik woman, Entam Glansar. “We’ve never held a grudge against you.”

“Frankly, we were too busy trying to reach our destination to even think about holding a grudge,” Yentil went on. He then turned to Lardeth. “My boy, my precious boy, I’ve missed you. You, your mothers, and your sisters.”

“We’ve missed you too, Dad,” sniffed Lardeth as he embraced his father. They stayed that way for a few seconds before Yentil broke it off.

“I’m sorry I can’t stay,” he sighed. “We still have a train to bring to the Heights. The passengers want another route, but we can’t find one. Every path we take always leads us to the old mountain path.”

“What if I gave you a short-cut?” called Aldrama. The two ghosts then looked hopefully at her. “Now, granted,” continued Aldrama, “it’s going to be an uphill journey, literally, but I can double-head the train with you.”

“…My lady, we would be honored,” answered Entam.

“Before we go,” declared Yentil, “the passengers need to stretch their legs.” The living people braced for the worst as the coaches’ doors opened, still remembering what happened to the woman who looked inside one of the coaches. To their surprise, there was nothing grotesque about the passengers. If anything, they looked as they used to in life. “Ladies and gentlemen,” called Yentil to the passengers, “we’ve just been offered a new path and Lady Aldrama has graciously offered to double-head with us. We will all take five minutes to stretch our legs and draw ourselves to our full height before we continue onwards to our destination. Please be back here as quick as possible so we may continue on our journey.” The passengers were really happy not to be cramped in a box for just a while and took full advantage of the opportunity to walk about. They spoke with the living people and were amazed at Henthal, calling her a credit to all of her places of work. Now, Henthal was a stern engine, but she couldn’t help but feel a small amount of pride at such a compliment. Aldrama then changed forms into a rail-type Mechanica, a tender-engine just like Yentil’s ghost engine, and coupled herself to the front. Once five minutes were up, the passengers boarded the train, asking the living to pass on a message that they loved and missed their loved ones dearly. The living promised to pass the message on from the bottom of their hearts as the conductor, a male Zephyr, counted the passengers. He checked his list over, then poked his head out of his coach’s window.

“ALL ABOARD!” he called. He also blew his whistle and waved a green flag.

“Right away!” called Yentil as he blew his engine’s whistle. Aldrama blew hers as well and both the Divine One and the ghost engine put their pistons to work. A golden track then appeared, leading directly to a light in the sky. The train then switched tracks from the mortal rails to the spectral ones and went straight up to the sky. The passengers waved as the train left the station and the living waved back, still doing so until the train disappeared into the light. It soon faded once the last coach entered it. All that was left was Lardeth and his group. Lardeth wiped a tear from his eye and Arsha placed a hand on his shoulder.

“Dad’s definitely in a better place now,” mumbled Lardeth as he wiped his eyes. He turned to Anfelaf. “I told you he wasn’t vindictive.”

“And you were right, kiddo,” sighed Anfelaf. Everyone noticed that he was standing up straighter than usual. Malnar guessed why.

“Guilt was weighing you down since the accident, wasn’t it?” she asked.

“Exactly,” confirmed Anfelaf. “You know, I’m feeling that much lighter in my heart.”

“Well, I don’t know about you all,” remarked Gorfanth, “but I need some sleep.”

“We all do,” agreed Arsha. “We’ll need to address the city tomorrow morning.”

“Yep,” confirmed Lardeth. “The people who lost their loved ones to that tragedy must know what the passengers said.”

The Three Realms The Three Realms (Book 2: The Rise of Living Metal)

3 Realms 2-33

One of the most vital industries that never shuts down, no matter the weather, was the mana crystal mining industry. This was the main fuel source for most vehicles, especially steam engines. Instead of coal in the firebox, the fireman would heat up a mana crystal and toss it into the firebox, thus boiling the water. When this discovery was made, railways all across the Realms chose to use it as it takes an extremely long time for a mine to be exhausted, even when the mines employ Dwarves and Goblins as miners. Although, for such a vital industry, sadly, one of the mining operations on the northern edge of Wysper City, the Yaldem and Son Mine, was VERY inefficient. The reason for this was that the founder and manager, Mr. Yaldem, was something of a money hoarder. For some odd reason, he never looked at the long-term benefits of having a dedicated shunter to arrange the mine’s inbound and outbound trains. Thus, he calculated it was cheaper to pay a shunting fee rather than have an onsite engine.

This was an extremely poor arrangement as it left the two major rail companies, Imperial Rail and Northern Regional, to argue over who got to use the chutes first with the wagons being left everywhere. It got so bad that, when he took over a day before Lardeth’s Tour’s End Ceremony, Yaldem’s son purchased an engine, much to the indignation of his father. This engine was a rail-type Mechanica, where an upper torso took the place of the smokebox and funnel. She looked and dressed sternly. The day she arrived, she found two more rail-type Mechanicas and their crews arguing at the chutes. Both of the engines were tank engines and they wore the liveries of their respective companies, Imperial Rail and Northern Regional. “For the last time, Golu, NO!” shouted the Imperial Rail tank engine.

“You’ve been holding up the wagons since I arrived, Jenmar!” snapped the Norther Regional tank engine, Golu.

“That’s because I need to fill a big order of mana crystals!” argued the Imperial Rail tank engine, Jenmar. “You can check with Yaldem Jr.!”

“Well, get your pistons moving!” barked Golu. “I’ve got a shipment of my own to take back to Endel Town or the others won’t move come tomorrow!”

“I fail to see the issue!” laughed Jenmar.

“Now, just what’s going on here?!” barked the new engine as she steamed into the mine yard.

“Who are you?!” demanded Golu.

“I’m Henthal, the new shunter,” introduced the engine.

“An old lady like you?!” protested Golu. “You’re pulling my side rods!”

“Looking at you,” remarked the new engine, Henthal, as she peered through her lorgnette, “it’s no wonder I’m needed!”

“Where do you get off making THAT comment?!” demanded Golu.

“If you’ve been the mine’s shunter,” Henthal continued severely, “I’m amazed it hasn’t closed! Just look at the state of the wagons! All over the place!”

“First off, I’m not the shunter!” snapped Golu. “Second, is that anyway for a lady to talk?”

“You tell me!” declared Henthal. Jenmar laughed at that.

“Button it, Pipsqueak!” growled Golu.

“All right, I’ve wasted enough time with you!” hissed Henthal. “Clear off and let a REAL shunter do her work!” Golu growled before he chuffed away. “Now, to something more pleasant,” mused Henthal as she peered less severely through her lorgnette at Jenmar. “Is that you, Young Jenmar?”

“That it is!” replied Jenmar. “So the board finally purchased an engine?”

“…’Finally’?” asked Henthal.

“Yeah, the mine never had its own shunter,” explained Jenmar. “That changed when the mine’s owner took over the business.”

“Now I’m REALLY amazed it hasn’t closed!” breathed Henthal as she folded her lorgnette.

“We all are,” called a man’s voice. A Zephyr man then glided up to the two engines. “Welcome to the Yaldem and Son Mine, Henthal. I’m Yaldem Jr. the current owner.”

“So you’re the one in charge,” realized Henthal. “I have a feeling you’ll make for an excellent manager.”

“I’m glad to hear you say that,” replied Yaldem Jr. “This mine needs to be put in order on the double. According to the schedule, Jenmar needs to get his colleagues at their base of operations, the Financial North Sector.”

“Then I may as well get started,” declared Henthal. “How many wagons?”

“13 and a brake-van,” answered Yaldem Jr. “If you could arrange it on track 2, that would be excellent. After that, Golu needs a 12 wagon train for his people. Set that on track 1.” He handed her a map of the mines and she looked it over before setting to work. In the few days she worked, exportation soon increased as she implemented an efficient system that appeased both rail companies, getting all trains out in a timely manner. During the week, Queen Olmarfa, King Endram, Princess Vumfaf, Rellmeer, and Felfar visited the mines. Olmarfa had seen a report about the sudden spike in exportations from the mines and wanted to see the results. When the tour wound down, she asked that her party take a ride back to the Royal Sector. Jenmar returned as he needed to take another train to the Royal Sector and so his conductor offered to give them a ride in the brake-van. It was late in the afternoon when they finally set out and by the time they were passing by the old mountain path of the Great Northern Wysper Railway, night had fallen. Jenmar liked a good nighttime run. However, this particular run would take a turn for the odd. As he puffed down the line, he heard a far off whistle.

“Hey, can anyone recognize that?” he asked his crew.

“Nope,” replied his driver as she checked the speed.

“Not me,” confirmed his fireman. They then saw a pillar of something cloudy coming around the pass. “…That line’s closed, ain’t it?” asked the fireman.

“It should be,” remarked the driver. Then, it happened! The source of the clouds, a steam engine, came flying off the path and plunged into the ravine! Everyone saw it fall and Jenmar applied his brakes.

“Good grief!” he yelped. The brake-van’s occupants saw the engine fall too.

“That’s never a good sign!” yelped Vumfaf.

“That was a passenger train too!” gulped Rellmeer. “Get the emergency services! I’ll fly over there to see what I can do!” She flew out of the brake-van at top speed and dove into the ravine. What she saw, or rather, DIDN’T see, defied her sense of logic. Her communicator rang, signaling that Felfar was calling. She picked up.

“How bad is it, Mistress?” asked Felfar.

“Er, Felfar, could you go on speaker?” asked Rellmeer.

“…Sure,” replied Felfar. After a few seconds, Felfar confirmed everyone was on speaker.

“Guys, I don’t know how else to say this, but there’s no train-wreck here,” reported Rellmeer.

“…Tea rasamna roosmad, Faleemna,” remarked Felfar in Ancient Fae. “We all saw it!”

“Come over here and then see if I need my eyes checked!” challenged Rellmeer. The conductor traced the signal and teleported everyone to Rellmeer’s location.

“What the?!” spluttered Felfar. Rellmeer was right, there was nothing to indicate the remains of a train. “Wh…where is it?!”

“I’m…not sure!” gulped Olmarfa.

“You…did SEE the train fall, didn’t you?” asked Vumfaf to everyone.

“I sure did,” confirmed Endram.

“There’s…nothing here,” muttered the conductor as he scratched his head. “No rubble at all.”

“Maybe we saw wrong, or heard wrong,” suggested Rellmeer.

“We all saw or heard wrong a passenger train falling down a two and a half por ravine?” asked Felfar. “That sounds unlikely.”

“What other explanation is there?” asked Olmarfa.

“Wait, that path was part of the old Great Northern Wysper Railway’s mainline, right?” asked Vumfaf.

“Yeah, but it was ripped up after…the railway…closed…” Olmarfa trailed off as she remembered the aftermath. “…How was a train going on that path with no rails?!”

“…It has to be!” guessed Vumfaf.

“Has to be what?” asked Felfar.

“No, it isn’t!” snapped Olmarfa as she shook her head and crossed her arms.

“But this is around the time that it’s supposed to appear!” insisted Vumfaf.

“Vumfaf, your father’s ghost can’t manifest!” argued Olmarfa. “There’s another explanation and we’ll find it!” If only everyone else agreed with that statement, but the nearby townsfolk also heard the crash and came out in droves to see it. Much like Olmarfa’s group, they were just as confused when they didn’t see anything that indicated a crash. This event attracted the attention of a reporter who, after conducting interviews and research, published an article about the former King’s death and the ghost story that followed. After the article made the papers, there was a spike in alleged sightings.  Throughout this time, Lardeth remained a skeptic, fully under the impression that the sightings were nothing more than the power of suggestion. He held on to that view until he and his lovers had their own encounter.

Lardeth had taken his fiancés to the theater in the northern suburbs of Wysper City. Because of weather conditions, the journey took two and a half hours. They still made it in time to see the Three Maidens, a comedy trio of Elf women that were…on the low end of the intelligence spectrum. Their names were Moru, Larima, and Curlandii. Moru was the one in charge with the short fuse, Larima was the straight-person of the group, and Curlandii was the childish one who usually starts the antics the three get into. The plot of the skit the six saw was that the Three Maidens tried to sell a flycatcher, but get caught up in a mob racket that results in them thinking that the window dummy they shot was a real person and so they tried to bury the dummy in the local pet cemetery. The six were still laughing at the whole thing as they waited at the station for the train back. “Man, those three are still a riot, even after 50,000 years!” giggled Arsha.

“I’m surprised Curlandii came back,” mused Gorfanth. “I thought she had retired.”

“I guess actors don’t take retirement all too well,” guessed Malnar. Just then, they heard a train whistle in the distance. “That’s quick,” muttered Malnar.

“It shouldn’t have arrived this early,” remarked Arsha. Just then, the Zephyr stationmaster came out of her office. “Excuse me,” called Arsha, “I thought the last train’s not due for another 10 minutes.”

“It isn’t,” replied the stationmaster. “That wasn’t any whistle I recognize.” That was when the mystery train steamed in. It carried coaches behind it and the engine’s crew consisted of a male human and a female Frostik. The stationmaster approached the engine’s cab and spoke to the crew. “Excuse me, you’re not on the schedule,” she called. “Who gave you clearance to stop here?” The crew didn’t say a word. “I’m talking to you two!” snapped the stationmaster. She tried to get them to talk for a good 10 minutes as a crowd gathered around her. She finally made her decision. “All right, I’m ordering you two to get out of your engine!” They didn’t move. “I warn you,” growled the stationmaster as she prepared to cast a lightning spell, “failure to comply with a railway official will result in…” That was when a chilling scream of terror tore through everyone’s ears. The reason for such a scream was because an elderly Zephyr woman dared to press her face against the window of the coach. The scream made everyone on the platform to jump back. Whatever she saw inside, she became hysterical. Unfortunately, some cruel trick of fate made the situation worse as another whistle announced another train’s approach. “Oh no!” yelped the stationmaster. “That’s the last train!” She pulled out a whistle and blew hard, causing a few passengers to hold their ears. The noise of brakes trying to stop the train then followed, but, thanks to icy rails, the train skidded closer and closer to the mystery train. Everyone cleared the area in case of a crash, which didn’t happen. The mystery train just vanished out of existence, allowing the last passenger train to skid just a little further before finally stopping. A few doctors that were among the passengers checked everyone over. Once they were cleared, Arsha, her fiancés, and the stationmaster dashed towards the engine with a doctor in tow. The crew, a pair of middle-aged Zephyr women, stood in the engine’s cab in fear.

“Ms. Yanfar?” asked Lardeth. The firewoman then turned her head slowly, her face plastered with fear. “Ms. Yanfar, are you all right?” quizzed Lardeth.

“There was…a train…at the platform…wasn’t there?” asked Ms. Yanfar.

“There was,” replied Lardeth.

“And then…there wasn’t?” stammered Ms. Yanfar.

“Right again, Ma’am,” confirmed Malnar.


“We don’t know,” replied the stationmaster.

“I do,” interjected Malnar. “When you’ve lived as long as I have in the Belsnath citadel, you tend to pick up on some things, SPECTRAL things.”

“…Are you saying…?” gulped Ms. Yanfar as the doctor checked her over.

“That train was a ghost train,” confirmed Malnar.

“Then it IS true!” yelped Falnii. “Lardeth’s dad haunts the old line on a ghost train!”

“Bu…but…!” protested Lardeth.

“Lardeth, I’m sorry, but your dad’s ghost HAS manifested here,” insisted Malnar. Lardeth sighed.

“I owe my sisters an apology,” he muttered.

The Three Realms The Three Realms (Book 2: The Rise of Living Metal)

3 Realms 2-32

The civilizations that lived on the edge of the Over-realm’s Eastern continent were rather flat when it came to the terrain. As such, there was extraordinarily little of Wysper City that was safe from the fog and snow. On top of its seaside location, the city was the second leading city in terms of rail traffic, with the Sacchrinda Kingdom being the foremost leader. As Arsha predicted, because of the weather, more than a few trains had to be cancelled and the businesses that depended on the railway rushed to get their last shipments out to the ports so they could be exported to the other continents or to the other Realms. Lardeth and his lovers were staying at the Felomphas’ castle and he was looking out the balcony of his room during the night. His thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door. “Yes?” he asked.

“May we come in, my little princess?” called Roomef’s voice.

“Sure, Mama,” replied Lardeth. Roomef, Endram, Domamfem, Twayfar, and all of his lovers entered the room.

“We looked at the calendar,” explained Arsha. “Your mom explained what this week also meant to you.”

“Thinking about your dad?” asked Endram.

“Are you referring to yourself?” quizzed Lardeth.

“I’m talking about your actual father, the human that was King before me,” replied Endram.

“…Yeah, I was,” sighed Lardeth. “I thought I’d be over this by now, but I still miss him.”

“We all do,” assured Roomef. “When one loses a family member, you never really ‘get over it’.”

“I frankly wish I met him,” remarked Endram. “He sounded like a good man.”

“With a fault that led to his downfall,” muttered Twayfar.

“Twayfar!” hissed Roomef.

“Downfall?” asked Gorfanth. “What downfall?”

“The reason why he died,” replied Lardeth. “I told you guys about it, I’m sure.”

“I can’t say as I’ve heard the story,” countered Arsha.

“Not me,” supplied Malnar.

“I’m not familiar with the story,” rumbled Gorfanth.

“Me neither,” finished Foresna.

“I think I’m the only one who knows the story,” mumbled Falnii.

“Do you guys…want to hear it?” asked Domamfem.

“Domamfem, consider what you’re doing,” warned Roomef.

“She’s right, Mama,” declared Lardeth. “We’re not gonna change history by ignoring it.”

“Did your father…do something wrong?” asked Malnar.

“Oh yes, he did,” confirmed Lardeth. “My father, a human named Yentil, was once an engine driver for the Great Wysper Northern Railway. Even when he was King, the Railway still called on him to help out.”

“I love Yentil dearly and miss him so much,” continued Roomef, “but, without question, he was the most boastful man I had ever met!”

“He always went on and on about his ‘spotless record’,” explained Twayfar. “Always going on about how he had never once been late! More often than not, it put us all to sleep!”

“But the real kicker of it,” supplied Domamfem, “was that it was all true!”

“True?” asked Arsha. “I’ve been around a few railways before and I find it hard to believe that anyone could have a spotless record.”

“So did I,” remarked Roomef, “but the Railway’s manager gave me his official record and it was, indeed, spotless. Somehow, he had always delivered his trains on time and without fail.”

“He also wasn’t shy about calling out an engine’s crew if they were late,” continued Domamfem, “even if they were his co-workers.”

“And his fire-woman, a Frostik named Entam, was just as boastful,” supplied Lardeth. “I remember her prattle when she visited. I always believed that their arrogance led to their downfall.”

“Sounds like they suffered a fatal accident,” guessed Malnar.

“Accident, tragedy, take your pick,” answered Twayfar. “It was about 200 years ago when Dad and Entam had to take a late-night express passenger train. They suffered a delay and couldn’t get out of the station fast enough when they were finally allowed to leave.”

“Now, when the Great Wysper Northern Railway was in operation,” elaborated Domamfem, “their main line went around a mountain and it had a sharp two and a half por deep ravine. With so many twists and sharp turns, you HAD to take it slow or else fall. Sadly, that night had weather like tonight. With poor visibility, icy rails, and Dad and Entam’s desire to maintain their spotless record, thus causing them to go at a criminally reckless speed, it was small wonder what happened.”

“…They…they crashed?” gasped Foresna.

“The train jumped the track at the first sharp bend,” confirmed Lardeth. “The engine and coaches must have bounced at least a por forward once they hit the bottom of the ravine. My dad and Entam died in the impact, but that wasn’t the worst of it.”

“I’m probably tempting fate here,” gulped Malnar, “but what’s worse than that?!”

“Every man, woman, and child in those coaches died as well,” answered Roomef. “The tragedy ruined the railway’s image forever, thus leading it to close. Some of the engines and rolling stock were sold to Imperial Rails as well as some of the branch lines and main line, but the mountain path had its rails ripped up.”

“Dad’s engine and the coaches were scrapped after the bodies were recovered and interred at the cemetery,” continued Twayfar. “But that’s not the end of it.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” asked Malnar.

“Come on, Twayfar!” snapped Lardeth. “Not that again! I thought you gave it up a hundred years ago!”

“How many mountaineers have seen it?!” argued Twayfar. “How many?! They can’t all be wrong!”

“They can’t all be right, either!” countered Domamfem.

“What are you guys talking about?” asked Arsha. Lardeth sighed before continuing.

“It’s believed that every year,” he explained, “around the time of the accident, the ghosts of Dad, Entam, and the passengers ride a spectral train, desperate to make it to the journey’s end so they can move on.”

“Ghosts? In the Over-realm?” asked Malnar incredulously.

“Take it from someone who survived a Wraith,” supplied Arsha. “The only time you’ll ever see a ghost occur outside of the Under-realm is if Oyed’s had a hand in it.”

“Even then,” continued Malnar, “ghosts in the Under-realm are pretty uncommon unless you’re in the Belsnath citadel.”

“Thank you, Malnar, Arsha,” bid Lardeth.

“Just out of curiosity,” interjected Falnii, “when…?”

“This week,” replied Twayfar. “So look out if you’re planning to visit the mountains.”

“Twayfar, stop that!” snapped Lardeth as he jabbed her arm with his elbow.

“Lardeth’s right,” supplied Endram. “You’re going on about nonsense.”

“So, you DON’T believe Yentil’s ghost can manifest here?” Gorfanth asked everyone.

“Somehow, this twit does!” remarked Lardeth as he pointed to Twayfar.

“Lardeth!” snapped Roomef.

“…Sorry,” he mumbled.

“In any event, Lardeth IS right,” assured Roomef. “Yentil’s ghost has NOT manifested here. Now, I don’t know about you lot, but I’m going to bed.”

“That sounds like a good idea,” yawned Endram. “Tomorrow’s Lardeth’s Tour’s End Ceremony and we need to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed! Good night, my dears!”

“Good night!” everyone bid as Roomef, Endram, Domamfem, and Twayfar left the room.

“I think we all better hit the hay,” declared Arsha.

“My bed’s always open for everyone,” offered Lardeth.

“That sounds excellent,” sighed Falnii happily. Everyone went into Lardeth’s bathroom and changed into their nightclothes. They then brushed their teeth and then they laid down on the mattress. Zephyrs never needed blankets as their clouds always kept them warm at nights. Falnii and Lardeth combined and expanded their clouds to wrap everyone into it. Soon, they all drifted off to sleep, at least, they all tried. Falnii couldn’t sleep, her mind still on the story of the death of Lardeth’s father. She tossed and turned between Gorfanth and Lardeth. Gorfanth felt her moving and so moved to face her.

“Something wrong, Fluffy?” he asked.

“I can’t sleep at all,” mumbled Falnii. “All those people gone, an entire railway closed, Lardeth having lost his father, it’s just too much!”

“It’s all right,” soothed Gorfanth as he pulled Falnii closer to him. “Lardeth would tell us if it affects him really bad. He’s open like that.”

“…Yeah, he is,” agreed Falnii. “It’s just that…no one should die like that.”

“No,” agreed Gorfanth.

“…You mind if I just rest my head on your chest a bit?” asked Falnii. “I need something to calm me and your breathing tends to do it.”

“That’s if you can hear my breathing over Arsha’s snoring!” grumbled Gorfanth. Falnii sat up and looked at Arsha. She was, indeed, snoring loudly and annoying Lardeth, Foresna, and Malnar.

“That’s Arsha?” quizzed Falnii. “I thought it was a large group of Dryads taking a late-night jog.” Malnar couldn’t take it anymore. She jabbed her elbow into Arsha’s side, waking her up.

“Whuzzu…?” yelped Arsha.

“Why don’t you take a decongestant?!” growled Malnar.

“What are you talking about, Bonfire?” asked Arsha sleepily. Foresna then sat up.

“You snore like a congested elephant!” he snapped.

“I do NOT snore,” protested Arsha, “and I do NOT believe that you recorded me when I took my nap after Sorsha got my hairpiece away from me! In fact, the video box was from one of Natural Realms’ series, Songs of the Whales!”

“So, you’re telling us that whale watchers can’t tell the difference,” snarked Lardeth, “between your snoring and the sounds of a 39 kantek, kelp-scarfing mammal?” He got hit in the face with the pillow for that.

“I don’t care what anyone says, I don’t snore!” hissed Arsha as she turned over.

“Denial, thy name is…” Malnar was interrupted by the door bursting open, revealing Feymay in a nightgown, a facial pack, and curlers in her cloudy hair.


“…Sorry, Mama!” squeaked Lardeth. Feymay left the room and slammed the door to emphasize her point. Everyone then laid back down and uneasily went to sleep.

The morning came and everyone was at an old railway station, long abandoned after it closed. Lardeth’s family stood on the platform as everyone sat in chairs going across the old track. There was an aisle in the center and it extended as the entire crew of the High Sky formed the rest of the aisle leading to the landing ramp of the ship. Lardeth then appeared, trailing his belongings behind him in a suitcase and a gym bag. He hesitated in leaving only to place his hand on the hull and wish the ship goodbye and good luck. He then looked down the aisle and saw the entire crew looking at him. After those few seconds, he then headed down the ramp and down the aisle, taking in all the faces of every ensign, lieutenant, commander, and officer under his command. He soon approached the station and set his stuff aside as he knelt in front of his parents. “Lardeth Felompha,” began Emfam, “you have been away from home for five years, serving Realmfleet and expanding your knowledge. What have you learned?”

“My decisions impacted the whole crew, no matter how small,” replied Lardeth. “If that is true for such a small scale, I can only imagine how true that is for the entire Over-realm. Still, I refuse to back away from the crown. The people still need someone to assist them in keeping the Realm running and that someone is me. I may be worried about the power I have now, but I won’t live in fear of it. Besides, I know I have people willing to give me a smack upside the head if I go too far. My ultimate lesson is that power is nothing if it isn’t shared.”

“Then your tour has been instrumental in your growth!” declared Emfam. “We have no doubts that you will lead us well when you ascend to the throne. Rise, Lardeth Felompha, Crown Prince of the entire Over-realm!” Lardeth rose and faced the audience as they applauded.

“Thank you, all of you,” he called. “I couldn’t have gone anywhere without your help.”

“Just doing what we can, Your Highness,” replied his First Officer, a Sea Dragon, Commander Standral. The instant he finished; a Merman came next to Lardeth in a water-chair.

“Ah, Captain Engrast!” greeted Lardeth. “Welcome! I take it, you’re taking command of the High Sky now?”

“Yes, Your Highness,” replied Engrast. His response was crisp and formal.

“At ease, Captain,” assured Lardeth. “Speak freely.” Engrast still considered his words before he spoke.

“You’ve left some pretty big shoes to fill,” he remarked.

“I know that the High Sky is in good hands with you in the Captain’s Chair,” replied Lardeth. They shook hands and Engrast glided down the aisle as his new crewmates followed him back into the ship. Once everyone had filed out, Lardeth, his lovers, and his family returned to the castle and had dinner.

“So, what else will we be doing?” asked Arsha.

“I was thinking of bringing you guys on a rail excursion to the Nimbus Theater,” replied Lardeth. “The Three Maidens are performing there and they’ve got Curlandii back.”

“A Three Maidens act with Curlandii?” chuckled Malnar. “I know we’re in for a good time!”

“Let’s just hope we can get there in time with all the fog,” muttered Gorfanth.

“Isn’t there a local mana crystal shortage?” asked Falnii.

“That’s only because the mine doesn’t have its own shunter,” replied Lardeth. “There’s plenty of mana crystals, but no efficient system to get it all out.”

“That’s changing tomorrow,” called Olmarfa. “Yaldem Jr. purchased an engine for the mines.”

“Did he now?” cheered Lardeth. “Well, sounds like the mines are about to be much more efficient!”

The Three Realms The Three Realms (Book 2: The Rise of Living Metal)

3 Realms 2-31

When the crew heard they were going to the Over-union festival, they were elated! The day finally came and the Endeavor was approaching the area where the festival would be held, the Zephyrs’ home of Wysper City. Shalvey made the announcement as they got closer. “Wysper Command Outpost 2, this is the Endeavor, registry CRS-2784. We are currently approaching Wysper City. Requesting permission to land.”

“Standby and transmit your clearance code,” replied the operator over the line. Shalvey keyed in a command and transmitted the clearance code. “Ah, updated to new Realmfleet Standard, huh?” mused the operator. “Your code checks out. Assigning flight path 3 on account of some cloud build-up, nothing that will indicate rain, just want you to be safe.”

“We appreciate it,” assured Shalvey. “Thank you.”

“Enjoy Wysper City!” bid the operator. The call ended and Nazay maneuvered the Endeavor to the flight path. They soon landed and departed to see one of Lardeth’s moms come up to them.

“There she is! One of my future daughter in laws!” she cheered. She wrapped Arsha into a huge, tight hug.

“G…good to…see you too…Queen Feymay,” strained Arsha. “Can’t…breathe!”

“Oh, no, no, no! None of that formal stuff!” declared the Queen, Feymay. “If we’re going to be family, we need to drop titles around each other! Now, come on! Let me show you all around!” She then noticed something. “Now, where did my son go?”

“I was about to say,” muttered Arsha, “I would have thought Lardeth would be here earlier than me.”

“He was here a minute ago,” remarked Feymay. “Him and Malnar and Falnii.”

“Coming!” called Lardeth’s voice. He, Falnii, and Malnar rushed up to Arsha and enveloped her into a group hug.

“It’s been WAY too long!” giggled Malnar.

“We’re missing a couple of people,” observed Falnii once the embrace broke off.

“Foresna and Gorfanth are coming,” assured Arsha. “They’re just making sure they’re absolutely ready.”

“Well, looky here!” called Foresna’s voice. He and Gorfanth then approached the group. “All six of us, together again!” cheered Foresna.

“It’s been almost a year since we were all in one place,” mused Gorfanth.

“I think we can all do with some time together,” remarked Arsha.

“Still reeling from your fight with Oyed?” asked Lardeth.

“Yeah, the whole crew is,” replied Arsha. “Some of them have family in the Over-realm, they need to reconnect with them.”

“How’s Samuje doing?” asked Falnii.

“Not well,” sighed Arsha. “She’s now scared of going onto a skyship.”

“That traumatizing, I see,” sympathized Malnar.

“I can only hope she does well for herself now,” sighed Falnii.

“So do I,” replied Arsha. “In any event, I heard you completed your tour, Lardeth.”

“Sure did!” confirmed Lardeth. “After the Tour’s End Ceremony, I’m gonna submit the paperwork needed for me, Falnii, and Malnar to live with you guys!”

“Oh, I hope Realmfleet approves it!” wished Gorfanth. “We need to stay together!”

“Agreed,” remarked Malnar, “especially with Oyed rising.”

“Well, I’ll make sure he falls permanently!” vowed Arsha.

“I’m afraid you must get in line,” called a voice. “My cousin was one of the surviving Ensigns.” Rellmeer, Felfar, and the Fae Emperor, Rellmeer’s husband, Embrek approached them.

“…Your cousin, Your Majesty?” Arsha asked Rellmeer.

“Like Samuje,” replied Rellmeer, “he is traumatized. We don’t know how badly, but the fact he suffered like that is more than enough.”

“My Lady…” began Arsha.

“Arsha, we do NOT blame you or Realmfleet in the slightest,” interrupted Embrek. “No one in the Fae Republic does and no one will.”

“The Circle of Vengeance,” continued Felfar, “is reserved for Oyed and his followers. We won’t rest until he pays for his crimes.”

“I am available if you wish for my help,” promised Arsha.

“For that, I am grateful,” bid Rellmeer. “Oyed sought to drive us apart. Well, his crimes have united us all in seeking vengeance on his head!”

“Not exactly something any Realm-union festival encourages,” remarked Embrek, “but Oyed must pay!”

“Agreed,” answered Malnar. “But we can’t exactly make a Blood Contract right now, can we?”

“No, Your Highness, we can’t,” replied Rellmeer. “We have duties to perform. Speaking of which, I believe everyone’s taking their place for the Opening Ceremony.”

“We’ll see you there!” called Arsha as Rellmeer and her family headed off.

Everyone took their place around midday. Lardeth’s cousin, Feemnaf, took her place at the podium, ready to announce the kingdoms of the Over-realm. “From the Blasarda Desert,” she began, “we have the Ignarsens, King Galtra, Queen Larana, Lola, and Ortren!” A pair of Nagas and a pair of humans made their way down the aisle as everyone cheered. They soon sat in their places. “From the Rooka Forest, we have the Stonewoods, King Elm, King Ash, King Maple, Queen Lily, their daughter, Princess Daisy, and her spouse, Mr. Hickory!” Dryads and Alarunes moved down the aisle, waving to the crowd, then sat behind the Ignarsens. “From the Drelda Forest, we have the Almaydias, Emperor Embrek, Empress Rellmeer, and their harem members, Felfar, Moralma, Alma, Korla, and Granthin!” The two Fairies and Felfar were accompanied by a human, a Sprite, another Fairy, and a Pixie, all female. They sat next to the Stonewoods after they walked down the aisle. “From the Chromanian Sea Merfolk Kingdom, we have the Janfos, Queen Shenfam, Queen Glanmaj, Queen Kalmarit, and their daughter, Princess Keyumta!” A middle-aged Mermaid, a pair of middle-aged Cecaelia women, and a young Mermaid glided down the aisle in water chairs like Shalvey, taking their seats on the other side of the Stonewoods. “From the Coliamdii Kingdom, we have the Yantorus, King Tegnar, King Lektem, their daughter, Princess Tanshwee, and her spouse, Lord Yentak!” Lardeth arched an eyebrow as the Yantorus walked down the aisle and sat near the Almaydias.

“Where’s Mariah and Namdaresh?” he muttered.

“We’ll need to ask Tanshwee,” mused Arsha.

“From the Lunarimba Sea Merfolk Kingdom,” continued Feemnaf, “we have the Yantefas, King Hindegar, Queen Ulumeye, their son, Price Ventiko, and his spouse, Mr. Genjokuu!” The Yantefas had water-chairs as well and glided down the aisle to their spot near the Yantorus. “From the Falchineve Drider Colony, we have the Tolandahs, King Hekcho, Queen Yumbii, their harem member, Yulumei, and their children, Prince Vetam and Princess Yetam!” The Tolandahs walked down the aisle, their legs moving in their usual, purposeful manner, and set themselves in front of the Ignarsens. “From the Altiam Mountains, we have the Stonefoots, King Gekshar, his daughter, Yelem, and her spouse, Lord Yenter!” A trio of Dwarves stomped down the aisle and raised their hammers, earning cheers as they sat next to the Tolandahs. “From the Ralandren Plains, we have the Untarfus, King Heenda, his harem member, Laumney, and their son, Kunfar!” A Centaur trio trotted down the aisle, the woman hanging on the arm of the King, and sat themselves next to the Stonefoots. “From the Regalin Sea Merfolk Kingdom, we have the Yalunais, King Jeemar, King Jeltam, their harem member, Leefal, and their children, Prince Kajna and Princess Loomo!” Three Cecaelias, with the two men each holding a child, came down the aisle and sat next to the Untarfus. “From the Calando Merfolk Kingdom, we have the Ilmators with their psychiatrist, King Keymat, Queen Yalmu, Princess Malmee, and Dr. Anya Pastella!” More water-chairs took the Merfolk down the aisle and set them on the other side of the Ignarsens. “From Dwalna City, we have the Yerumals, King Henjar, his daughter, Princess Ferga, the High-Witch of Dwalna City, Lady Empria Dewlna, and the city’s wish-granter, Loolee Albrina!”

“Loolee?” asked Malnar as three humans and a genie woman came down the aisle. “Last time I met her was on my tour. I thought she couldn’t leave the city, being bound to it.”

“Maybe one of them wished for her to see the festival,” mused Gorfanth as the Yerumal party sat by the Ilmator party.

“From the Sacchrinda Kingdom,” Feemnaf went on, “we have the Maropwems, King Jonthar, Queen Keelma, and their daughters, Princess Rosalmia, Princess Orsanmii, Princess Yasinma, Princess Grenmaf, Princess Blamfem, Princess Pinalk, and Princess Purhalmaf!” A Fairy man and a human woman led their seven identical daughters down the aisle. The daughters looked and dressed alike, only being told apart by the colors of their dresses, hair, and eyes. While they were Blenders, they didn’t have the wings or antennae of their father, just his biological immortality. They sat behind the Yerumal party and turned their attention down the aisle. “From Vorkath, we have the Lorpeths, King Belnki and Queen Balma!” Belnki and Balma came down the aisle and sat by the Maropwems. Arsha noticed that Balma had her hand on her belly.

“Could she be…?” she muttered to herself.

“And last, but not least,” called Feemnaf as she got out dozens of water bottles, “hosting the Festival, from right here in Wysper City, we have my aunts’ family, the Felomphas, Queen Feymay, Queen Emfam, Queen Roomef, Queen Jeefef, Queen Olmarfa, Queen Ufnamfa, Queen Teefmanam, Queen Pofomofo, King Endram, and their children…” she took a swig of water before rattling off the royal heirs, “Princess Welmaf, Princess Wamfar, Princess Eemaf, Princess Yelmef, Princess Memfee, Princess Domamfem, Princess Pemfem, Princess Prefamal, Princess Yomfu, Princess Twayfar…” another swig before going on, “Princess Teefem, Princess Tomnuf, Princess Fanfum, Princess Regaph, Princess Phormof, Princess Pefmaph, Princess Mophoj, Princess Yenpheer…” yet another swig, “Princess Flamfer, Princess Yulnef, Princess Fehgar, Princess Doful, Princess Demphar, Princess Sumamf, Princess Yumeef, Princess Emfal…” another swig, “Princess Yemfet, Princess Rupafur, Princess Tumfem, Princess Quafaph, Princess Toofan, Princess Teyfarmaf, Princess Erpaph, Princess Wenthoph…” this time, she guzzled her water, “Princess Remfamto, Princess Iftaph, Princess Vumfaf, Princess Leemoth, Princess Wurmamph…” another guzzle of water, “and Crown Prince of the Over-realm, Lardeth of the Over-realm’s capital, Wysper City with his fiancés, Ambassador Falnii Loftanaf of Wysper City, Crown Princess of the Mid-Realm, Arsha Royana of the Mid-realm’s capital of Largandra, Mr. Foresna Falshenda of the Mid-realm village of Rokanth, Crown Princess of the Under-realm, Malnar Emboramii of the Under-realm’s capital citadel of Belsnath, and Mr. Gorfanth Steelhorn of the Under-realm’s Galdredan Lava Kingdom! PHEW!” She had one last guzzling of water before she continued. “By the Ones, I thought my immediate family was big!” This earned a chuckle from the audience. “Now, all in attendance must launch a fireball into the torch to begin the Festival!” The golden bowl that surrounded the giant wick was really large, so there was no chance of missing the actual torch. After everyone launched their fireballs, fireworks were launched as the torch’s flame leapt into the air! “I hereby pronounce the Over-union Festival…OPEN!” Everyone cheered at that proclamation. Soon, the booths opened and displayed the technological prowess of the Over-realm! Arsha and her spouses wandered around for a bit, marveling at the technological advancements on display.

“Wow!” breathed Arsha as she goggled at a new type of train. Her childhood was coming to the forefront. “Look at the design of the boiler! So streamlined! What’s that thing’s max speed?! I gotta know!”

“I heard you liked trains,” remarked Lardeth, “but I never realized how much.”

“Are you kidding me?!” asked Arsha. “Can you imagine how the original designer thought of making his first engine?! He must have looked at a kettle on the stove and wondered ‘How can I make this thing move?’! It’s so amazing!”

“I wonder if they’re going to make this thing a Mechanica,” mused Foresna.

“If it’s even allowed to become one,” muttered Lardeth.

“What do you mean?” quizzed Arsha.

“There have rumors going around the Realmfleet High Council,” explained Lardeth, “that Uluntan’s decision is going to be revoked and Mechanicas will be stripped of their rights, something the Conservatives are very keen to do.”

“What in the Realms for?!” demanded Arsha as she transferred her hairpiece to her waist.

“The same old arguments that Uluntan heard during the trial,” replied Lardeth, “that they’re just machines that shouldn’t have come to life in the first place.”

“What a load!” snapped Foresna. “Who are these people and why do you royals need to pay them any attention?!”

“Um, I don’t think we need to worry,” Falnii interjected softly.

“Why’s that, Fluffy?” asked Malnar.

“Well,” replied Falnii, “Councilor Genthar’s stepped down as the leader of the Conservative Party.”

“Has he now?!” cheered Malnar as everyone’s mood brightened. “Well, they’re gonna be too busy with that to worry about Mechanicas.”

“Darn straight!” agreed Arsha as she put her hairpiece back onto her bun. “The Conservatives will be scrounging to find a replacement and the Futurists will exploit this leadership clash to no end!”

“There’s still the Populists to consider,” reminded Lardeth. “They’re not exactly as friendly with Chimeras, who knows what their views on Mechanicas are. I wonder how many of them will try to pass Conservative policies.”

“Mom had a saying about politicians with no term limits,” mused Arsha, “they only have two priorities: staying in office and bad-mouthing the opposition.”

“Isn’t she one?” asked Falnii.

“Yeah, our parents certainly are,” agreed Malnar as she pointed to herself, Lardeth, and Arsha.

“Mom’s called royal families figureheads; thus we’re exempt from that definition,” replied Arsha.

“I can’t say as I agree with her,” remarked Lardeth. “As it stands now, we currently have the most political power and the most amounts of resources to enact…it…” He trailed off as he saw something drifting down from the sky. “…I must be seeing things!”

“Me too!” yelped Falnii. “Snow?! I can’t remember the last time it snowed this early!”

“I don’t think it has!” replied Lardeth.

“I can’t remember seeing snow at this point in an Over-realm winter!” supplied Malnar.

“I can already hear the rail-people grumbling,” muttered Lardeth.

“Come on, Princess, be fair,” chided Arsha. “They’re right to grumble. The snow DOES bring a whole host of problems, a few cancelled trains, icy rails, curtailed speed, various businesses rushing to complete their orders before closing for the season, and poor visibility, if there’s really bad fog.” That’s when fog started creeping in. “…Case in point,” muttered Arsha.

“Well, looks like a few activities during the week will be cancelled,” sighed Lardeth.

“You know, I think Rosalmia will have a harder time finding another lover,” mused Malnar. “Princess, you’re her best friend, how many lovers does she have now?”

“I have a hard time keeping up with all my sisters,” replied Lardeth. “I never really learned all of her lovers’ names.”

The Three Realms The Three Realms (Book 2: The Rise of Living Metal)

3 Realms 2-30

Arsha stirred a few hours later. She stretched and looked around her quarters, her memories of recent events returning to her mind. She then saw a note on her nightstand with her hairpiece in its box. It was brown now. She picked up the note and read it aloud. “‘Your rose is all drained of mana. You can have it store mana once it’s red again.’ …Doggone, she wasn’t kidding. Still, I feel a lot better now. I wonder where my boys are?” She headed to the comms terminal. “Computer, locate Foresna and Gorfanth.”

“Foresna Falshenda and Gorfanth Steelhorn,” reported the computer, “are located at Barmek’s Bar and Grill.”

“Thank you,” bid Arsha. “Hey, did Marshii check me over? I thought I heard her voice before I fully went to sleep.”

“Dr. Borontho did perform a medical examination, confirming the intruder’s findings,” answered the computer.

“I better call her before I head to Barmek’s,” declared Arsha. She then connected a call to the sick bay. “Is the doctor in the house?” she asked.

“Doctor’s right here,” replied Marshii’s voice. “Enjoy your nap?”

“I certainly feel better,” answered Arsha. “You need me to come over to sick bay for an examination?”

“I’d prefer it,” affirmed Marshii. “Need to make sure you’re not still affected by excess mana.”

“Coming over,” declared Arsha.

“Well, looks like you’re all clear,” declared Marshii once the examination was done. “Though, I have to admit, seeing you in a good mood without your rose, kind of weird.”

“Noted,” muttered Arsha. “I don’t know how long it’s gonna take for the rose to return to its usual red state, but I’m willing to let it be for a while. In the meantime, I need to talk to the bridge crew, see if there’s anything new.”

“Not a bad idea,” affirmed Marshii. As Arsha got up from the bed, Dalengor came in.

“Captain!” she cheered. “Are you fully rested?”

“Sure am,” replied Arsha. “What’s up?”

“Could you get Foresna and Gorfanth off the bridge?” asked Dalengor. “I doubt they got special dispensation from you when you were napping.”

“Left Barmek’s to explore the bridge, did they?” muttered Arsha. “On my way.”

Foresna and Gorfanth were near Malak’s station. “Mr. Falshenda, Mr. Steelhorn,” growled Malak, “I must protest your unauthorized presence on the bridge!”

“Hey, what’s this one do, Mr. Molak?” asked Foresna as his finger inched towards a button.

“Please, sir!” yelped Malak as he grabbed Foresna’s hand. “That’s a torpedo launch initiator, and…and it’s Malak, not Molak.”

“Hey, this chair’s pretty comfy!” chuckled Gorfanth as he sat in the Captain’s chair.

“It’s also mine,” called Arsha as she entered the bridge. Everyone stood to attention. “We’re not undergoing an inspection,” she assured. “As you were. Now, you boys,” she pointed to Foresna and Gorfanth, “off the bridge.”

“Oh, come on!” protested Gorfanth.

“I didn’t give you special dispensation just yet,” interrupted Arsha. “There ARE areas of this ship for civilians.”

“Fine, we’ll use them,” grumbled Foresna. He then pecked Arsha on the cheek. “Good to see you up and about,” he purred.

“Glad to BE up and about,” replied Arsha. Foresna and Gorfanth then left the bridge as Arsha sat in the Captain’s chair. “Any messages?” she asked.

“A call from Rokalla at your earliest convenience,” answered Shalvey. “No mission details. He said he was fine seeing the bridge crew.”

“Call him,” directed Arsha.

“Calling…channel open,” reported Shalvey.

“On screen,” declared Arsha. Rokalla appeared on the big screen and saw the bridge crew.

“Good afternoon, Endeavor,” greeted Rokalla. “I trust things are well so far?”

“As well as they can be,” remarked Arsha. “A lot of my crew had relatives on the Skyshell. I’ve given them some time to reflect and mourn.”

“Well, I’ve found something that may help them lift their spirits,” declared Rokalla. “The Endeavor is invited to the Over-union festival and during that time, Lardeth will undergo the Tour’s End Ceremony. I believe he’ll want to move to your ship.”

“We’d be happy to have him on board!” cheered Arsha.

“An Over-union festival!” giggled Denstra. “That would be so fun and just what we need after the fight!”

“I was talking to the Captain,” muttered Rokalla.

“Don’t tell me you’re still sore about that time when we were cadets!” grumbled Denstra.

“My record was stained forever, thanks to you!” snapped Rokalla. “I still remember the sleepless nights of scrubbing out the base with a toothbrush!”

“If we can just walk away from recollections,” called Arsha, “when is the Over-union festival?”

“It starts in two days and will last a week,” replied Rokalla.

“Perfect,” giggled Arsha. “Hey, before you go, can you tell me anything about a Sorsha Longbark?”

“That recluse?” asked Rokalla. “Yeah, she’s part of the oldest living Elf family in the Realms. She usually sells her potions anonymously. How they get to their destinations, I can’t fathom.”

“She’s snuck onboard the Endeavor twice now, but she was only interested in the millions of years’ worth of mana that was stored in my rose,” answered Arsha.

“I thought there was something different about you,” remarked Rokalla. “So, she stole it?”

“No, I loaned it to her and she drained the mana off,” explained Arsha. “It should be fully regenerated now.”

“I’m going to be at the festival,” revealed Rokalla. “Maybe you can tell me the story there?”

“It might become convoluted, but sure,” replied Arsha. “In the meantime, I need to do something.”

“Aaaand, that’s it,” declared Sorsha as she completed her new device.

“So, this should increase natural mana collection?” asked Jokorah.

“That’s the theory,” replied Sorsha.

“Why can’t you people go forward with certainty?” complained Johgo as he ate a pear.

“Certainty can only get you so far,” remarked Jokorah.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” muttered Johgo. “Honestly, a group of primates learns how to make tools at a faster rate than your own and all of a sudden, they think they’re the ones in charge!”

“Should have harnessed fire!” teased Sorsha. “Now, the next thing we…we…er, Jokorah, is this an illusion of yours?!” The three weren’t in Sorsha’s cottage anymore, the walls were way too pristine and metallic for that!

“No, no, it isn’t!” gulped Jokorah.

“Where in the jungle are we?!” yelped Johgo.

“You’re actually OVER the jungle,” corrected a voice. “Where you’re IN right now is inside a Dauntless-class vessel, specifically, its bridge.” The three whirled around to see Arsha sitting in the Captain’s chair, her bun once more decorated with her hairpiece. The three stared at the grinning Arsha. “No need to stop with your usual banter on my account,” chuckled Arsha as she waved. The three still stared, making Arsha a little uncomfortable. “…You really don’t handle surprises all that well, do you?”

“Your face doesn’t handle surprises all that well!” snapped Johgo.

“…Okay, so a monkey decides to do a ‘your face’ joke,” muttered Arsha. “I know about you, Ms. Longbark, but I don’t know about your friends.”

“Forest Dragon’s called Jokorah,” introduced Sorsha, “the monkey’s Johgo.” Johgo climbed up her robes and perched himself on her shoulder.

“I just wanted to talk to you for a bit,” explained Arsha. “You know Rokalla?”

“That Orc? What about him?” asked Sorsha.

“He told me that, for a while, you stole stuff,” replied Arsha. “And, from what I’ve seen, you haven’t exactly given up that habit after the trial.”

“I BORROW things,” snapped Sorsha. “I’m sure you’ve noticed that I return stuff now. Speaking of which, I’ve got the mana contained, but my resources in disposing it are rather…lacking.”

“You know, you saved my bacon when we first met face to face,” recalled Arsha.

“Purely by accident,” remarked Sorsha, “but I’m glad I could help.”

“I couldn’t help but notice that you’ve picked a pretty hazardous area to make a home in,” mused Arsha.

“I’m a recluse,” answered Sorsha. “I like doing my own thing with no interruptions, especially when it comes to selling potions on Realmnet. Look, my time is precious, so, what do you want?”

“I want someone to give my own alchemists another pair of eyes to check their work,” replied Arsha, “you want to be paid to do your own thing. So, want a job?”

“I gave you my business card!” protested Sorsha. “You could have just called!”

“I could have,” conceded Arsha, “but, considering you boarded my ship twice and caught us unawares, I figured I’d show off what I can do.”

“A job?” asked Jokorah. “Like, an actual paying job?”

“Yep, and she can be as reclusive as she wants!” confirmed Arsha.

“I think I can work with that,” mused Sorsha. “So, you said another pair of eyes for your alchemists?”

“Like you,” explained Arsha, “they’re trying to find new potions to make for a body to take.”

“I think I can work with that,” replied Sorsha. “As long as the money’s no joke.”

“Perfect!” cheered Arsha. “We’ll just need weekly progress reports from you.”

“Got it,” affirmed Sorsha.

“See you later!” bid Arsha.

“Does this mean you’ll finally fix your roof?” asked Johgo.

“Hush, you!” snapped Sorsha.

“I’m just saying,” continued Johgo, “the jungle gets extremely wet whenever it rains and I can’t stand the sound of a leaky roof!” The three were then teleported off the bridge and returned to the cottage.

“Now,” sighed Arsha, “to check on Samuje.”

Arsha had connected with Marianes again to get the story. “I’m sorry to say,” sighed Marianes, “the battle’s traumatized her. She’s now scared of even boarding a Realmfleet ship. She’s resigned from Realmfleet.”

“Damn,” sighed Arsha. “Well, I can’t really blame her.”

“I’m not sure who to blame at the moment,” remarked Marianes. She fixed Arsha with a hard glare.

“Your sister and her ship and crew will be avenged, I promise,” assured Arsha.

“Part of the Kurontar Sea feels Realmfleet is to blame for being so fool-hardy in their approach to Oyed,” countered Marianes. “They feel a more ideal solution than a blind siege should have been concocted. I’ll do what I can to assure my people that Realmfleet can still be trusted, but there are people who suffered a war and lost. I believe we freed them from the Mega-sharks a while ago.”

“I still remember helping your kingdom free Roomeela and her people from slavery,” hissed Arsha.

“They’re the part that disagrees with Realmfleet’s decision,” continued Marianes. “Do what you can to help me prove them wrong. Marianes out.” The call ended and Arsha groaned.

“Well, that could have gone better,” she muttered.

The Three Realms The Three Realms (Book 2: The Rise of Living Metal)

3 Realms 2-29

“I don’t buy this!” hissed Sorsha. “Oyed’s not supposed to break out until Realmfleet collapses!”

“What, are you blessed with the gift of prophecy?!” snarked Foresna.

“Look, I’ve got my own affairs to deal with!” snarled Sorsha. “I’ve got Sentina monkeys that have long depended on me since I first learned about biological magic during the Second Age of Unity!”

“The needs of the Realms are more important than the needs of one person!” snapped Arsha.

“All right, Ms. Closed-off Realm View!” growled Sorsha. “If you want to tussle, let’s…!”

“Hold on a minute,” called Foresna. “Arsha, weren’t you grieving the crewmates of the Skyshell a minute ago?! I remember you bringing me a bit of Realmfleet law saying that all members of Realmfleet need to give aid to whatever suffering civilization needs it, whether or not they’re based on life like ours!”

“You’re not seriously defending her, are you?!” snapped Arsha.

“So that’s where it is!” cheered Sorsha as she took advantage of the distraction and scanned the area for mana. She then grabbed the small box Arsha’s rose hairpiece rested in! “That’s more than enough mana!”

“Put that back!” shouted Arsha. “That’s mine!”

“You want it?!” taunted Sorsha as she opened the box. “Come YEEOW!” A blinding light erupted from the box! Arsha and Sorsha cast spells on everyone’s eyes so they could see what’s going on.

“Okay, THAT’S new!” remarked Arsha.

“It’s never done that when Mom had it,” supplied Foresna.

“It looks almost like…but, I gave it to a Mid-realm peasant girl!” muttered Sorsha.

“YOU gave it?” asked Gorfanth.

“Hold on, are you the witch that made this?” asked Arsha.

“Witch? I’m an alchemist,” corrected Sorsha. “But, yes, I DID make it. I’m just surprised that it’s putting out so much mana.”

“I don’t remember wearing it when angry,” muttered Arsha.

“…Not even in combat?” asked Sorsha.

“That’s what his mom warned against,” replied Arsha as she pointed to Foresna. “Wear it when you’re angry and all the luck will drain from the rose.”

“…That’s not what I said at all to her!” snarled Sorsha. “I see what’s going on here!”

“What are you talking about?!” demanded Arsha.

“You need to wear it in combat so you can get the necessary strength to win!” explained Sorsha. “The side effect is that it will wilt, but then it bounces back and you can wear it again!”

“Because, of COURSE, it’s actually a weapon!” complained Arsha. “Heights forbid it’s just something you find in a fashion store! No, no, no! It has to be a Ring of Power!”

“Hush, you!” hissed Sorsha.

“Do you even know if it’s the one you made for Sendaria?” asked Foresna.

“You mean Toyandia,” replied Sorsha. “Testing to see if I remembered your mother’s earliest named ancestor?”

“As a matter of fact, yes,” answered Foresna. “That’s pretty impressive. Since you got her name right, what’s the actual story behind it?”

“When I was just a younger, more stupid, Elf Maiden of 300,” began Sorsha, “I left the Longbark Family Mansion to pursue my magical career alone. Being so young, I hadn’t yet mastered what school of magic was what. I thought what I did was basic witchcraft, you know, healing magic and all that. A human woman, a small-town witch named Toyandia, knocked on the door when she saw that my garden had failed. She offered to bring it back to its full bloom. I argued that I was in the middle of making a potion to help in that regard. She asked to look at my workstation and shook her head when she saw the equipment. She asked me why I was using an alchemist’s tools instead of a witch’s. In my ‘wisdom’, I laughed at her, saying that there’s no difference. She gave me a pitying look and said she would teach me the difference. Back then, I didn’t hold humans in high regard, thinking them beneath an Elf. Boy, did SHE prove me wrong. As she continued teaching me, with all the patience of a saint, I might add, we were attacked by Mid-splitters. During the battle, my newly replenished rose garden was soaking up the spare mana and reacting wildly. I found a way to combine alchemy and witchcraft to make a rose into a weapon that wilts whenever all of its mana is drained and used it against the Splitters. They were driven off and I healed Toyandia. As I nursed her back to health with both alchemy and witchcraft, I thanked her for teaching me, apologizing for being the most stubborn woman of the Realms. After she was healed, I gave her a newly replenished rose set onto a white cloth as a hair decoration for her to have in case she needed to go into battle again. I told her not to wear it during small-time arguments or it wouldn’t be effective in battle. I warned her that not wearing it at all would result in a mana build-up that would eventually kill anyone who would wear it. But it seems as if my instructions were jumbled and misinterpreted over time as this thing is so saturated, not even battle will drain it fully.”

“Mom didn’t die of over-exposure to mana, though,” muttered Foresna.

“If I recall, she died soon after your dad did,” supplied Arsha.

“She died of a broken heart?” asked Gorfanth. “She must have been attached to your dad, Foresna.”

“No one could replace him,” answered Foresna. “When he died, she just lost her will to live, slowly wasting away until she died. Now, if I may change the subject, why a rose for a weapon?”

“It was the most prolific plant in my garden and I was desperate,” replied Sorsha.

“So, if we let you drain the rose off, since it can’t be drained naturally,” interjected Arsha, “I should get better?”

“That’s the principle,” confirmed Sorsha. “I don’t know how much mana I need from that thing, but it WILL be drained and spring back a few hours after wilting from lack of mana.” Arsha turned to Foresna.

“Well? It was your mother’s,” reminded Arsha.

“She gifted it to you after my sister said she didn’t want it,” answered Foresna. “It’s your property. Besides, the Elf over there made it.”

“…Take it,” Arsha decided. “But we WILL be in touch, I promise you.”

“Of course,” replied Sorsha. “My card.” She handed Arsha a calling card that gave her name and how to reach her. “Look, I have nothing against fighting Oyed personally, but the Giant Spiders started a blight in his name and I need to fix it.”

“Point taken, now get off my ship!” hissed Arsha. Sorsha nodded and teleported herself off the Endeavor.

“Just as an aside,” called Gorfanth, “I called Endea and asked her to track our Elf. What does her card say she calls herself?”

“Sorsha Longbark,” replied Arsha as she read the card. “Still, I’m not so sure about letting have it or trusting her. We could have just gotten Realmfleet to drain it off.”

“I trust Endea and her sensors,” assured Foresna. “Besides, Realmfleet might not have detected anything wrong. Somehow, I’ve got a feeling she wasn’t lying.” Arsha then stumbled. “Hey, whoa, are you okay?!”

“‘M jus…feelin…really tired,” slurred Arsha. She then collapsed. She was caught by Foresna and Gorfanth and they hauled her to bed.

“Let’s get Marshii here to check her out,” decided Gorfanth. Foresna then headed to the intercom.

“Marshii, could you come to our quarters for a minute?” he asked.

“Hey, Jokorah?” asked Sorsha once she got back home. “Is there some form of tracking on me?”

“Yep,” replied Jokorah.

“Great, let me know how else this day can go wrong,” muttered Sorsha.

“I WARNED you that invisibility spells don’t last that long!” hissed Jokorah.

“Well, better get to work,” declared Sorsha as she placed the rose into a small container.

“Repeated exposure to high amounts of mana?” asked Marshii as she checked Arsha’s sleeping form over.

“That’s what Sorsha told us,” replied Gorfanth.

“Well, she clearly knows what she’s talking about,” chuckled Marshii as she completed her scans. “Scanner just confirmed it. My recommendation; let her sleep it off. She’ll probably be out for two hours.” She then heard a noise and traced it to Arsha.

“…Hooves, PLEASE tell me you’re recording her snoring!” giggled Foresna.

“Got a video of it!” chuckled Gorfanth.

“All right, let’s just let her sleep and get out of here quiet-like,” whispered Marshii. They tiptoed out of the room and let her sleep.

“Okay, that’s WAY too much mana,” muttered Sorsha after she finished draining off the rose and making it wilt. It was collected into a flask and shone brightly.

“How many years could it have been?” asked Jokorah.

“Too many,” answered Sorsha as she began making a potion. Jokorah held his next question until Sorsha tested the new potion on a blighted mushroom patch. The mushrooms then returned to life and Sorsha took a scan. “…Perfect! The molecular bonds have reforged themselves and are now breaking down at a much more natural rate!” she cheered.

“What will you do with the rest of the mana?” asked Jokorah.

“It’s going to take at least 10 million years for me to use it all,” remarked Sorsha. “I need to find a method of disposing it all safely. In the meantime, I’ve got potions to make.”

“I’ll tell the monkeys that their blight will soon be over,” declared Jokorah as he shifted into his Serpentine Dragon form and slithered off.

“Now, what’s made Quaynus so quiet after hearing Intrag’s returning?” mused Sorsha.

The Spider Trio had finished their dinner and were sleeping…well, trying to. The third kept waking up at every hour, on the hour. “Did you hear that?!” he yelped. “Someone’s out there! We’ve been caught!”

“Hold on, hold on,” grumbled the first as he and the second woke up. “I’ll take a look.” He pulled back the makeshift door and looked around.

“…Well?!” gulped the third.

“All clear,” reported the first.

“Are you sure?” quizzed the third. “I thought I heard something moving out there!”

“Would you relax?!” protested the second. “Nobody’s gonna find us! Quit being so twitchy!”

“Well, you’d be twitchy too,” argued the third, “if you’ve been hiding in a concealed cave for hours on end!”

“I HAVE been hiding in a concealed cave for hours on end,” muttered the first. “Now go to sleep.”

“I can’t!” whimpered the third. “I have this feeling we’re being watched!”

“Not to agree with him,” mused the second, “but promise us you’ll keep checking, please?”

“I haven’t stopped checking for hours!” snapped the first. “Why don’t one of YOU check once in a while?!”

“Okay, I will!” growled the third. “But, if there’s someone out there, YOU forced us to abandon our post!”

“You’re a pain in the spinnerets, you know that?” muttered the first. The third moved the door aside and checked. “…Nobody out there, huh?” remarked the first.

“No, but there MIGHT have been!” gulped the third.

“Quaynus will never find us!” insisted the second. “We’re safe here! Now shut up and go to sleep!”

“I can’t sleep, my nerves are shot!” whimpered the third. “And it’s all because of him!” He waved his pedipalp at the first.

“You’re just doing this because you want someone to talk at!” growled the first. “Or, maybe, your nerves are shot because you’re a pain in the spinnerets!”

“Don’t you take that tone of voice with me!” snapped the third.

“Pain in the spinnerets! Pain in the spinnerets!” sang the first.

“SSHHH!!” hissed the second. “This time, I heard something! Go out and look!”

“Again?!” complained the first. “He and I both looked!”

“Please!” begged the second. “Please go look!”

“Oh, FINE!” growled the first. He pulled the door back wide. “There! Satisfied?! There’s no one out here! Now, go to sleep, you big, fat pains in the…hey, where’d the new trees come from?”

“Comparing my legs to trees, are we?” hissed a woman’s voice. The “new trees” connected to a Giant Spider’s body. The Spider was twice the size of the Spider Trio and the fangs were dripping with venom.

“…Queen Quaynus!” gulped the first. “Fancy meeting you here!”

“Get out here!” ordered the Queen of the Gamfinar Giant Spiders, Quaynus.

“Your Majesty, it was his fault!” yelped the second as he pointed an accusing pedipalp at the first. “We tried to stop him!”

“It was an accident!” begged the third. “We didn’t mean to abandon our posts!”

“When I first heard you idiots had gotten distracted by the Elf,” hissed Quaynus, “I was tempted to eat all three of you in one gulp! But one of our spies had taken the opportunity to get his ballooning practice in. His journey took him to an island southeast of the beach. As he hovered, he noticed Intrag TAKING orders from a Fae instead of giving them!”

“Wait, you mean, our GOD, Intrag?” quizzed the second. “The one who brought our ancestors here?”

“How many Intrags do you know?” asked the first.

“So, what kind of light did that give to the Clergy?” inquired the third.

“They tried to secure what remained of their power,” explained Quaynus, “but the colony was tired of their excuses, so I commanded the colony to feast on the Clergy.”

“Sorry we missed that feast,” muttered the first.

“So, you’re not going to kill us?” asked the second.

“You may live,” confirmed Quaynus. “For once, you three screwed up and I’m happy about it. Now, speaking of the feast…” she then let the bag on her back drop in front of the trio. They opened the bag to find…

“Bread!” yelped the second. “Bread for subs!”

“And cinnamon rolls!” cheered the third.

“Thought you might enjoy a good meal tonight,” replied Quaynus. “I even brought some bits of the Clergy. Good job, boys. Return to the colony when you’ve finished eating.” She then stalked out of the area towards the colony.

“…Why do you suppose she did that?” asked the second.

“Why question it?” countered the third. “We actually did something good. Besides, I’m hungry again.”

“Me too,” supplied the second.

“Me three,” declared the first. “Looks like we’re having Clergy and tiger subs with cinnamon rolls.” He pointed to the second. “You cut up the bread.” He then pointed to the third. “You get the meat carved up. I’ll start the cooking fire.”

The Three Realms The Three Realms (Book 2: The Rise of Living Metal)

3 Realms 2-28

“Tell me again why you swapped places with Tenmak?!” an Elf hissed to Arsha as the strike team continued through the Vaults.

“Let’s just say, I want to finish this personally,” replied Arsha. She held up her hand, signaling the team to stop. Her ears twitched as she heard a noise. “…Ones damn it!” she swore. “The enemy’s getting wise! We’re on a tighter clock! Set the charges!” The team set up detonation packs and keyed in the time it would take to detonate the charges.

“YOU WILL CEASE THIS BLATANT SABOTAGE NOW!” roared Intrag’s voice. He ran in, swinging his spectral sword and decapitating a few teammates.

“I don’t take orders from mere dictators or their tyrant masters!” shouted Arsha as she drew her sword.

“Tyrant?!” bellowed Intrag. “Oyed is a Titan!” He was surprised as Arsha’s blade stopped his. “What in the…?!” he spluttered.

“Orbak himself,” explained Arsha, “gave us the secret in how he blocked your blows and hurt you! He’s taught me how to enchant my sword so I can keep you at bay!”

“He reveals Under-realm secrets to an Out-realmer?!” roared Intrag. “Even more proof he’s unfit to rule!”

“Yet the people call him the greatest Under-king!” snarled Arsha as she swung her sword at him.

“Captain, all det-packs are set and primed!” reported a Troll.

Endeavor, do you have a lock on us?!” Arsha called the Endeavor.

“Locked and waiting,” replied the transporter chief.

“Get us out of here!” ordered Arsha. The team was whisked away by multiple transport spells, leaving Intrag to examine one. He had enough knowledge to know what a clock was.

“…Ten minutes?” remarked Intrag. “You do not give us enough credit.”

“Start the countdown!” ordered Arsha to Malak once she returned to the bridge.

“Countdown has begun,” reported Malak.

The 10 on the timer went to 9, then to 8, then 7, and so on, leading Intrag to realize that the one who programmed the timers set it so that the minutes would go down in seconds! “OUT-REALMER TRICKS!” he roared. The charges then exploded in short order, destroying the foundations of the cathedral, and reducing the altar, Oyed’s main exit from his prison, to rubble.

Oyed felt the effects immediately, vanishing in a great deal of pain. Dr. Borg hadn’t been able to escape in time, so her new body was killed instantly. Scorpo received a message ordering all survivors to meet Dr. Borg in her newer body in the new base and begin construction on a new altar for Oyed. Once all survivors were brought aboard the Scorpion, the ship moved off. Unfortunately, the sea-water from earlier had affected the cloaking abilities, so they couldn’t cloak and escape. “Stupid Realmfleet!” grumbled Scorpo.

The Realmfleet ships were ordered to let them go so their respective medical crews could take care of any wounded. Sadly, Samuje didn’t survive the destruction of her ship unscathed. Marshii and her crew had to perform surgery as Samuje’s lung was damaged from a broken rib and her eye was gone. Arsha conveyed the news to Marianes and her family and they were devastated. They were glad she survived the battle, but knew Samuje would never be the same again. It took several days before Samuje received her prosthetic eye. During that time, Arsha ran a funeral service for those that lost their lives. The 11 Divine Ones that distracted Oyed were in attendance. Arsha stood at the altar and addressed the crew. “I see no reason in lying,” she began, “this day is a dark day. We lost too many good people. I know statistics will say that it was a small price. Well, I say this: even if only ONE person died, it would still be one death too many in my eyes. I’ve looked at the service records of each and every crew member of the Skyshell and can only wish I could have met them all in person, because they were good people. To the Skyshell’s survivors, I can only offer my deepest condolences. I only wish I can offer more.”

“Take comfort,” advised Mordek. “They died a warrior’s death. May we all be so fortunate.”

“You did NOT just say that!” hissed Falheem. She then addressed the mourners. “I can safely say that they have reached the Heights of the After-realm, safely in our embrace. They have asked me and my colleagues to tell you to continue living and fighting in their name. We must never let someone like Oyed win.”

“With all that said,” called Arsha, “we will take half a week to reflect. I would strongly advise visiting Thengo. As we finish our gathering today, let us end it in the traditional manner.” All in attendance stood, crossed their arms, and splayed their fingers, then turned their gaze to the sky.

“May you rest in peace, Oh Dearly Departed,” they chanted. “We shall continue to live in your name. Amen.” The mourners then departed and Arsha headed to her quarters. They were empty, so she took the time to think alone.

“Well, Arsha Royana,” she muttered to herself, “it took two major events to realize how much death affects you. So, what are you going to do? Well, visit Thengo, for one thing. Stop talking to myself for another.” Her self-dialogue was interrupted by her door chime. “Come in,” she called. Foresna and Gorfanth entered the large room.

“Arsha, I know this sounds like a stupid question,” began Gorfanth, “but are you all right?”

“I’ve been better,” sighed Arsha. “I knew I didn’t like the concept of death, but I never realized how much it affected me until today. It was bad enough that five Realmfleet Officers died last year, but having only a few survivors of a Reef-class skyship’s destruction? I was talking to myself out loud before you two came in, planning on what to do next.”

“What IS next for you?” asked Foresna.

“Visiting Thengo and putting on a brave face for the crew,” replied Arsha. “Lately, I’ve felt like I had no reason to find happiness.”

“Your bun HAS been looking a little naked lately,” remarked Gorfanth.

“Come on, Gorfanth,” chided Foresna. “It’s hardly your place to comment on her appearance right now!”

“If I said it in a derogatory manner, I apologize,” offered Gorfanth. “That was nowhere near my intention. I just meant that Arsha’s been given one crisis after another lately.”

“I can’t argue with that,” muttered Arsha. “I’ll see if I can get some leave time from…” her plans were interrupted by an alarm. “WHAT NOW?!” shouted Arsha. The three then heard a gulp and saw Sorsha by Arsha’s vanity, taking a small box!

“You again?!” snapped Foresna as he punched his hand, Gorfanth summoned his axe, and Arsha held one open hand behind her while the other was across her front. Sorsha then took out a communicator.

“Er, Jokorah, I don’t think it’s working!” she hissed into it.

“You’ve got five seconds to explain why you’re skulking around this ship!” growled Gorfanth.

“I…er…” Sorsha was failing at coming up with a plausible lie.

“I reiterate my future hubby’s question, what are you doing on my ship?!” snarled Arsha as she summoned teal energy balls.

“I’m not doing anything to your crew,” replied Sorsha. “I’m just here for the biggest concentration of mana to cure a blight.”

“Forgive me if I don’t believe you!” hissed Foresna. “Especially since she hasn’t been wearing her lucky rose and she’s been inundated with crises all week!”

“Oh, I see what’s going on,” chuckled Sorsha. “Too much mana nearby.”

“…Huh?” asked Arsha.

“You’ve been around too much mana for too long,” explained Sorsha. “I’d say you’ve been dosed with it for 100 years. So, the best thing to do is to drain off the excess mana. Pretty soon, you’ll be hallucinating Oyed’s resurgence or a Wraith. Over time, some people will start seeing him too, like the Giant Spiders of my home.”

“Hardly a hallucination if the Divine Ones distracted him while we destroyed his cathedral,” growled Arsha.

“…What’s that supposed to mean?” asked Sorsha.

“We just lost a ship to Oyed and his followers!” answered Arsha. “Last time I checked, the Divine Ones can’t be affected by any illusion that mortals either accidentally or purposefully conjure up! Oyed’s preparing to start the Final War!” Sorsha blinked in stark surprise.

Intrag opened his eyes to see himself in a void. He felt as if he was standing on solid ground. “Where am I?” he asked himself.

“The Depths, of course,” replied Oyed’s voice. Intrag turned to see Oyed in chains. He looked unhappy.

“My Lord, the battle is not yet over!” growled Intrag. “I shall return and…!” He didn’t get far as whatever passed for a floor vanished and he was left dangling from one of Oyed’s chains.

“Return?” hissed Oyed. “After you failed to contact the Giant Spiders? After you forgot the Wraith abilities I gave you? No, you will fade.”

“MY LORD! PLEASE! HAVE MERCY!” begged Intrag.

“Only Dr. Borg and her followers deserve mercy,” dismissed Oyed. He increased the chain’s surface temperature, burning Intrag’s hands, and forcing him to let go. Intrag fell through the void, his screams mingling with the rest of the damned.

The Giant Spider Trio scuttled through the jungle, a look of panic plain on their faces. “I can’t believe it!” whimpered the third. “I just can’t believe it! What’s gonna happen to us?!” The first Spider stopped and signaled for his friends to do the same.

“That cave over there,” he announced as his pedipalp pointed to a large entrance, “that will serve to hide us for a few days.”

“We may need to hide for the rest of our lives!” wailed the second. “We didn’t mean to go lax on our assignment! What will happen if Quaynus finds out?!”

“It was YOU!” hissed the third as he jabbed a pedipalp at the first. “YOU made us do it! It was YOUR idea!”

“Nobody’s gonna find out anything!” snapped the first. “Now stop your babbling and help me find some camouflage for the entrance!” The Spiders found leaves, twigs, and rocks and used their webbing to make a make-shift door for the cave. Once they were inside, they sat to catch their breath.

“We should never have been distracted!” moaned the third.

“All I wanted to do was catch the Elf!” protested the first.

“We were supposed to be on patrol for Intrag’s arrival!” snapped the second. “YOU wanted to get revenge on the Elf for embarrassing us at her home! ‘Our honor is paramount,’ you said! ‘Spiders need to establish dominance!’ Unless, of course, we forget our assignment and let our god fall! We were under strict orders to greet him and YOU had to go and get distracted by your stomach! Ooooh, we’re dead! Why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh wh…?!”

“SHUT UP!” shouted the first. The cave then went silent.

“…I’m hungry,” muttered the second.

“Me too,” mused the third.

“Me three,” affirmed the first. “Stay here, you two. I’ll find us something to eat.”

“What do you have planned?” asked the second.

“I’m just scavenging, right now,” replied the first. “Maybe I can find some birds or squirrels. One word about either cinnamon rolls or subs and I’ll kill you both!”

“Hey, while you’re out there,” called the third, “try to find some nice, soft grass for us to sit on and be comfortable.”

“Yeah, yeah,” grumbled the first. He stepped outside and hunted for a good few minutes before coming back, hauling a massive tiger. “Check it out, boys! We’ll feast tonight!”

“Did you get the grass?” asked the second.

“Er, no, I couldn’t find any that was soft enough when I found the tiger,” replied the first.

“Maybe you should expand your search a little more,” suggested the second.

“No, I’m too hungry,” answered the first.

“Are you going to get the grass?” asked the third.

“Can we eat first?!” snapped the first.

“I don’t know why you say you’ll do something if you don’t mean it,” muttered the third.

“I meant it!” argued the first. “I just had enough on my palps carrying our dinner back!”

“You can get the grass after we’ve eaten,” directed the third.

“Thank you,” hissed the first.

“And try to find some water,” suggested the second. “We’ll need some water if we’re gonna hide here.”

“Yes, dear!” snapped the first. “Anything else?!” The cave was uncomfortably silent for a few minutes. After glaring at his friends, the first Spider took a sharpened rock, ready to skin and carve the tiger.

“You know, maybe the fur will be softer than grass,” mused the second.

“Now that I think about it, you’re right,” agreed the first. “I’m saving the pelt.”

“And, looking closer,” continued the second, “we’ve got enough meat to make subs.”

“I just wish we had the materials to make bread dough,” sighed the third. “We’d have had cinnamon rolls with them.”

“Just for that,” shouted the first as he tossed the tiger’s body at the second, “YOU can carve,” he then threw a pair of rocks at the third, “and YOU can start the cooking fire!” Both of his friends shook their pedipalps at him before scuttling off to their jobs. “Honestly, I have to do everything for you guys!” the first grumbled to himself.

The Three Realms The Three Realms (Book 2: The Rise of Living Metal)

3 Realms 2-27

The fleet arrived at the island and entered a holding pattern. Dr. Borg looked out of the cathedral’s balcony to see it, then she contacted Oyed. “They’ve arrived,” she warned him.

“I’ll deal with them,” declared Oyed. “Help Intrag establish contact with the Giant Spiders.”

“Yes, my Lord,” confirmed Dr. Borg. She ended the call and left her balcony to find Intrag. She found him at the underground dock, trying to puzzle out the controls of a boat. “Our Lord suggests that you make haste for the jungle and establish a dialogue with the Spiders,” she relayed.

“Well, tell him not to get his pants in a twist, I’m getting to that!” shouted Intrag. “First, I have to figure this damned thing out! You know, it’s a lot simpler when it’s just magic!”

“It IS magic, you just need to find the switch for it,” sighed Dr. Borg.

“Can’t Oyed just fill my head with current knowledge?!” snapped Intrag.

“One: you’re a Wraith, you don’t really HAVE a head to fill,” replied Dr. Borg. “Two: he’s preoccupied with the fleet that just arrived.”

“Because, of course, he wants to stretch his legs,” grumbled Intrag.

“He’s been imprisoned since the First Age,” remarked Dr. Borg. “He has the right.”

Oyed calmly walked outside until he was underneath the fleet. “I never expected you lot to face me,” he called. He then sensed something. “…No fear whatsoever. Realmfleet’s finest must be either very brave or very stupid.” No one replied. “…Hello!” called Oyed. “How do you kids put it…I’m hailing you!” 11 streams of light then announced the arrival of the 11 Divine Ones. “Oh, that’s why I sensed no fear,” scoffed Oyed. “You’re all confident that my children will save you. Optimism is a thin shield.”

“Oyed!” called Morkal. “Withdraw and return to the Depths of the After-realm or suffer the wrath of the Realms’ protectors!”

“Now, that’s no way to greet your father,” chided Oyed.

“It’s the only way!” snarled Enfor.

“Then I need to discipline you,” declared Oyed. He charged at the Divine Ones and they began their fight!

“Go! Now!” urged Mordek’s voice in the Captains’ heads.

“All ships, begin aerial bombardment!” called Arsha. The ships fired their weapons around the cathedral, keeping any enemy forces inside.

“Oh no, not this time!” snarled Dr. Borg. She activated the comms. “Fire at will!” she ordered. As hidden weapons from the cathedral activated and fired on the fleet, Dr. Borg switched communications channels. “Scorpo, do you read?”

“Loud and clear,” replied Scorpo’s voice.

“You are cleared for launch,” directed Dr. Borg. “Take out the fleet. Survivors at your discretion.”

“I thought you’d never ask!” cheered Scorpo. “You can easily say goodbye to those eyesores! Scorpo out!”

Once the call ended, Scorpo turned to Jansha and Yulduk at the helm. “Let’s get started!” he declared as he sat in the Captain’s chair. “Have them release the docking clamps and open the hangar doors!”

“Docking clamps are released,” reported Jansha. “Maho-drive engines are now supporting us. Hangar doors open.”

“Taking us up,” called Yulduk. “The engine’s purring like a happy Neko.”

“Once we’ve cleared the hangar doors, activate the cloak,” ordered Scorpo. “Prime all weapons and ready the claws, then target the Skyshell. Tear her apart.”

“Aye, Sir,” replied Yulduk.

“Scorpo, I don’t mean to be pedantic,” interjected Jansha, “but we’ll need to decloak before using the weapons.”

“That’s why, after we destroy the Skyshell,” replied Scorpo, “we silence the weapons and recloak before targeting another ship. I’m also aware of the 30 second window between activation and deactivation of the cloak. That’s why I want our strikes to be done smart and secret.”

“Understood,” declared Jansha. The Scorpion cleared the hangar doors and cloaked as it moved towards the ships.

“Captain,” called Malak to Arsha, “sensors detected a ship’s engine signature but we can’t get a visual!”

“It has to be the Scorpion,” muttered Arsha. “Shalvey, advise the fleet that there’s a cloaked vessel!”

“Fleet’s acknowledged,” replied Shalvey. “I just hope they can be clever to find it.”

“A cloaked vessel, huh?” mused Samuje. “Sounds like Dr. Borg’s not interested in legality. Keep up the assault, but keep an eye out for any massive shift in mana particles.”

“Aye, Ma’am,” replied her Tactical Officer. His fingers danced at the weapons controls as he noticed a blip. “Right on cue!” declared the Tactical Officer. “I believe I’ve found our cloaked vessel!”

“Fire!” called Samuje. The weapons fired, but hit nothing.

“…Now that makes no sense!” growled the Tactical Officer. “Resuming…”

“Fire the stinger!” called Scorpo.

“Decloaking and firing!” called Jansha. A concealed weapon sprang from the rear of the ship as it revealed itself. It fired a stream of light for a few seconds before moving off.




The ship exploded, much to the delight of the Scorpion crew. “Perfect!” purred Scorpo. “Anyone escape?”

“Getting the read-out,” replied Jansha. “…Looks like the Captain and a few ensigns.”

“I GUESS we can let them live,” mused Scorpo. Just then, Yulduk got a blip on his console.

“Hey, are we expecting any new recruits?” he asked.

“During combat?” quizzed Scorpo. “No. Why?”

“Then we’ve got a trio of stowaways outside the bridge!” yelped Yulduk. Some sort of torch then began cutting its way through the bridge door!

“Wands out!” ordered Scorpo as he readied his claws and tail. Jansha activated a needle from her wrist and Yulduk drew out his wand. The door then burst open and Endea led a team in, wands blazing. She tackled Scorpo while two others fought Jansha and Yulduk. They had the same skin tone as Endea. One of them was a man with the Drelda’s name and registry number, the other was a man with the Morkal’s name and registry.

“I don’t believe we’ve met!” Endea snarled as she held Scorpo’s arms at bay.

“No, we haven’t,” replied Scorpo as his tail slammed into Endea, knocking her back. “I’m Scorpo, the Scorpion, and you’re trespassing, you traitor!”

“My testimony,” hissed Endea, “liberated us Mechanicas before we experienced full slavery!”

“Yet you still side with those who want to enslave you!” argued Scorpo as his claw grabbed her neck.

“I…get paid!” choked Endea.

“Yeah, because that makes it SO much better!” snarled Scorpo as he tossed Endea across the bridge. Meanwhile, Yulduk was grappling with his Mechanica.

“So, what do YOU call yourself, friend?” Yulduk asked his opponent.

“I’m Mork, the Morkal,” introduced the Mechanica.

“…Is…that REALLY how Mechanicas introduce themselves?” quizzed Yulduk.

“Well, it’s how ship-type Mechanicas introduce themselves,” replied Mork. “I’m guessing you’re the first Revenant, Yulduk. Yeah, I could smell you a por away.”

“Got a nose like a Cerberus, do you?” chuckled Yulduk.

“Dude, you’ve got a B.O. problem,” explained Mork as he waved his hand in front of his nose.

“I most certainly…!” Yulduk then gagged after he took a whiff of his pits. “Then again, maybe I DO need to invest in stronger deodorant!” Mork’s uppercut then slammed into Yulduk’s chin.

“MADE YOU TALK!” laughed Mork. While Yulduk was busy with Mork, Jansha was keeping her opponent at bay.

“Obviously, ship-type Mechanica names are shortened versions of the ship itself,” mused Jansha. “So, what’s the Drelda’s Mechanica name?”

“I’m Dreld,” introduced the Mechanica. “Did you know the Skyshell was a Mechanica as well? Skysh was his name and I loved him! You murdered your own kin!”

“He picked his side, I picked mine,” dismissed Jansha. “Besides, Mechanicas will still know abuse on the level I suffered at Dr. Ganshar’s hands, no matter what Realmfleet decrees! Honestly, it was better for me to put him down like that!”

“As if your way’s any better!” snarled Dreld as he slammed her against a console. “Your way will only inspire MORE racist assholes!”

“My way will put them down for good!” argued Jansha. As they grappled, Dreld noticed something hanging above the console.

“…Fuzzy dice?” he asked. The dice were 120-sided. “Now that’s just tacky!”

“Scorpo thought it would look cool!” snapped Jansha as she got out from under him and slammed him onto the helm controls. The ship then tilted and drifted towards the sea, skimming the water! Scorpo flinched, then shoved Endea aside to get to the helm.

“Keep that nasty-asty seawater off my hull!” he snapped as he leveled out. “I’m hand-wash only!”

Dr. Borg took this time to stroll around the cathedral and observe its construction. It was dark, with stained glass windows telling the story of how Oyed was defeated by the Divine Ones after the Realms became what they are, how he was imprisoned, and how he would rise again and cleanse the Realms. The Vaulted Ceiling was covered in a painting depicting Oyed bringing the Realms together under his rule. After her neck protested after craning her head upwards for so long, she shifted her gaze to the main altar. As elaborate as it was, there was still a plainness to it. She sat in one of the pews and folded her arms, thinking about how she was going to divide up the Council. She still needed her spouses and Tormo, Yulduk, Scorpo, and Jansha were highly skilled. Counting her, that was eight. She needed two more. As she thought, her antennae detected mana particles from the vaults below the cathedral. She keyed in a command on her arm and saw Realmfleet forces engaged with Intrag! “…The Sanctum!” she guessed. “Two diversions in one week! I’m a fool!” She established a mental connection with Oyed.

“Child, I’m a little busy at the moment,” he chided, “so, whatever you must say, please make it brief.”

“Realmfleet forces have infiltrated the Vaults!” reported Dr. Borg.

“But…my children…!” yelped Oyed as he held Zalkii’s neck. He then reached the same conclusion as Dr. Borg. “A diversion!” he snarled as he tossed Zalkii aside. He then established a mental connection with all of his followers. “Back!” he decreed. “Back to the cathedral! Secure the Sanctum!”

“They’re getting wise!” yelped Malak on the Endeavor. Denstra gripped the armrests of the Captain’s Chair.

“Arsha, you better make it out of there!” she hissed.