Queen Tarranna of Georstrie

(Parts 1 & 2)


Denise Ann


Copyright © 2012


With the exception of quotes used in review, this story may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the author.

This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons living or dead or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author's imagination and used fictitiously.



Once upon a time, there was a young girl named Tarranna. Unfortunately for Tarranna, her life started out as an ugly and appalling horror story.

Tarranna's father molested and badly beat her. No, that's wrong. The bastard savagely beat and raped her. Repeatedly.

After a particularly vicious attack Tarranna recovered slowly, but with steadfast determination to change her life. His usual mode of operation was he'd beat and use her, leave her alone for a few days to heal and repeat. So she knew she had a few days to escape.

While Tarranna waited, she began to steal food as she was barely given enough to keep her alive. She began to hoard little things that'd help her when she left, like an old flint set to make a fire.

Too few days passed before she saw the warning signs. He came home drunker than usual, ranted about how useless she was and belittled her endlessly. Tarranna knew she didn't have long so she watched covertly until he sat at the table. As he downed the last of his cheap alcohol, Tarranna crept up behind him. She belted him across the back of his head with a frying pan. The force behind the blow wasn't enough to knock him out for long, but it gave her enough time to cut off his entire ‘package'. Tarranna left him to die and scream in a pool of his own blood.

Tarranna's mother stumbled in the door of the house just as her daughter was about to leave. When she saw her man on the floor, she proceeded to scream profanity at the girl. The mother knew what her husband did to her daughter, but blamed the girl. She hated her beautiful daughter with intense passion.

The woman attacked Tarranna with drunken ferocity. Tarranna wrestled gamely with her drunken mother, they shattered the cheap furniture under their falling bodies. Tarranna pushed her mother with force gained from fear and sent the woman backwards onto a broken chair. The woman clutched feebly at the wooden stake that stuck out of her guts. She continued to swear at the girl.

The drunken whore lived long enough to tell rescuers exactly what'd happened. She spent the tiny piece of her remaining life struggling to comprehend why no one tried to help her live.

Tarranna was suddenly a ten year old girl who'd murdered two people and acted accordingly. She ran and hid. For the first time in her life, Tarranna was free of mental and physical abuse and was better fed than ever. For the first time in her life she thrived.

Tarranna quickly learnt how to live on the streets. Her determination to survive led her to watch and learn from those around her. Tarranna observed mercenaries and soldiers whilst they trained. She developed her own unique style of swordplay and forged her body into a lethal weapon. She learnt how to blend into her environment until she became a shadow and a chameleon. She watched and learnt from thieves and became one of them. She incessantly picked a variety of locks until she could open anything in her way.

Tarranna used her skill with locks and stealth to break into homes of the wealthy business men. She ensured she only ever took small amounts of coin so it wasn't missed. Her self-restraint and forethought meant Tarranna was never caught or punished.

Tarranna eventually found a small place to call her own. It was under the stairs of a rarely used business. Crates and rubbish provided the security and privacy she craved. At night, with a piece of old rag wrapped around her, she dreamt of a life where she was loved and cherished. In the morning the dream quickly dissolved but lingered deep in her memory.

At fifteen years of age, Tarranna joined the town army. She quickly rose through the ranks until she led over two hundred men and women. By the age of twenty she commanded the Queen's army.

The abused child had turned into a brilliant General who led an army that increased in size on a weekly basis. Tarranna conquered nearby lands and increased the size of the Queen's realm ten-fold. The battles for land were fierce and her reputation as a ruthless warrior grew as quickly as the Queen's treasury.

After several years, soldiers from other lands happily abandoned their rulers and headed for hers. If the turncoats were later found to be spies, the punishment was extreme. A traitor could expect to have their tongue cut out and their still living body sent back to their leaders, piece by piece. Her soldiers learnt quickly that Tarranna's creed and strategy were straightforward. If you were on the opposing army, you died. If you broke her rules, you died.

Simple and very effective.

The ruler of Tarranna's country was a spinster Queen who flatly refused to marry or have children. The Queen didn't love the warrior as a daughter or mate. She did love the land and treasures the soldier brought to her treasury. On her death bed, the Queen named General Tarranna as her successor.

At the ripe old age of twenty two years Queen Tarranna was born.



Queen Tarranna. Just the whisper of her name made even the bravest of warriors tremble in their boots. And rightly so, Tarranna was one extremely formidable woman. As many (now) dead people found out the hard way, she was not only lethal with her impressive collection of weapons but her superbly toned body. She'd killed thousands of men herself but now she had an army willing to do it for her.

Soldiers said they were attracted to her remarkable leading ability, motivational techniques ('play my way or die') and her unconquered skill as a fighter. They said they'd happily follow her anywhere. What most didn't verbalise was they followed Tarranna because she had a fantastic gluteus maximus and they just loved to watch her walk, or ride, or run, or fight. Mostly they just loved to watch her.

Tarranna's gorgeous butt currently sat on her throne, her body slumped in the pompous chair. She exuded casual strength and unacknowledged (by herself, the rest of the world had already been there done that!!) sex appeal. Her silky dark hair (cut to midway down her neck) bounced healthily as she rolled the stiffness from her broad shoulders. The Queen's impossibly blue eyes devoured the minutest detail of everything and everyone within sight.

Just as all eyes were turned toward her and devoured every inch of the body and total hypnotizing presence that was Queen Tarranna. Dressed in black leather pants, a red silk shirt and knee length boots, she was breathtakingly beautiful.

And extremely bored.

Now on a 'good' day, Tarranna was dangerous and unpredictable. On a 'bad' day, tough-as-steel- battle-hardened warriors fell at her feet crying for forgiveness and mercy.

Today had quickly deteriorated into a bad day.

The Royal court had started out beautifully for her! A wealthy merchant had the audacity to think selling his wares exclusively to the castle meant that he didn't have to pay taxes. He even had the cheek to increase the prices of his wares!

The moron!

One icy glare from the Queen was all it took to make sure the merchant (and some of the nearer onlookers) didn't have to worry about current or future problems with constipation. By the time she'd finished with him, he'd paid more than his back taxes. She took his entire business and gave herself mates' rates!

Then she'd sentenced two of her soldiers to five years hard labour. They'd been caught extorting freebies from local market owners. Not such a bad a sentence, for the crime, they'd thought. Until they realized they'd be cleaning the sewerage channels for the city… Five years in a shit job! Beheading was starting to look extremely good to them.

Just when Queen Tarranna had begun to enjoy herself, a rapist was called before her. He had brutally abused several women and laughed about his crime.

Big mistake....

The usual sentence for rape was the removal of a man's 'jewels' - without anesthetic, of course. But because he was so proud of his accomplishments, Queen Tarranna ordered something extra special for him. His arms and legs were shattered. He was then sent to the healers to have his mangled bones set. After that, he was castrated. Tarranna saw that all his medical needs were seen to by her healers.

The novice ones.

He didn't laugh and brag now, in fact she could still hear his screams coming from the infirmary. From the way the men in the room winced, the incidence of rape in her realm should drop even further.

On the Queen's right was Melanger, Captain of the Royal Guard and her army. He reflexively winced as a piercing scream echoed through the hall. He ignored it as he continued to survey the crowd that watched the prisoners' trials. His job was to protect the Queen and he took his role very seriously. He constantly scanned for potential trouble makers.

Even with the hundred or so spectators and guards in it, the huge hall was still only half full. The hall was extravagant with its exotic wall hangings and murals but nothing compared to the splendor of the rest of the huge palace.

The huge palace Tarranna now owned and lived in.

Melanger internally cringed as he warily observed and ticked off the signs of his leader's deteriorating frame of mind. Of course, this was done whilst he maintained an appearance of complete authority and composure.

1 – The incessant tap of her fingers on the arm rest of her throne. The rhythm of the tap increased in speed as her irritability increased. Thankfully, it still set a slow, steady pace.

2 - The gentle suck/chew of the tip of the ring finger of her left hand. Her head gently rested on the tips of her pointer and middle finger, her elbow on the arm rest of her throne.

3 - The barely audible, exasperated sighs that intermittently forced their way out of her lovely throat.

4 - The decidedly ice-cold glint in her normally cobalt blue eyes, accompanied by the half squint of her eyes.

Fortunately, she hadn't picked up her favourite dagger and started to toy with it. That usually meant her self control was on a hair-trigger. Melanger shivered at the thought of her as she played with that long, razor-sharp, dagger and the tremendous amount of damage she could do with it. With a great deal of luck, the last of the prisoners being brought to her wouldn't overtax her failing temper. "God help the next idiot that ticks her off." he thought.

"Ooouuchh!! That pinches!!" The prisoner seemed oblivious to everyone but the guards who dragged him into the room.

"Uh oh!!" Thought Melanger.

A well dressed, rather good looking, tall man was pulled in and dropped before the Queen. For some unknown reason, he was wearing chest armour 3 sizes too big for him.

Melanger's eyes widened and quickly flicked to see what Tarranna's reaction to the prisoner would be.

The tap of her fingers had stopped.

'Uh oh!! ' She was sitting straighter with both forearms on the armrests of the throne. The man had her undivided attention!!

Definitely not good!

A bored Tarranna was deadly. Her undivided attention could be disastrous for anything within range of her temper. Or even worse, her nefarious sense of humour or justice.

"I just want to see the Queen! She'll know what a good soldier I am..." The prisoner tried unsuccessfully to reason with his guards. The guards just looked in stupefied bewilderment at each other, shook their heads and stood at attention.

"My liege," said the court Sheriff "this man is accused of inciting a riot, which caused one hundred gold coins damage to market stalls and goods. He also skulked into the barracks of the Royal Guard and caused fifty gold coins damage to the building. All told, three people were seriously injured and thirty have minor injuries."

The prisoner stared open mouthed at the vision of loveliness who sat on the throne in front of him. He turned decidedly pale as he realised he had her attention. He also realised that to have the Queen staring at him, whilst she caressed a long, sharp-looking, dagger, could mean trouble. Big trouble.

"So, you want to be a soldier.” her voice was deep, sensual and amused.

“Amused !! Oh hell!!" Thought Melanger. Amused was definitely not good. He hoped she didn't plan to put the man anywhere near lots of sharp weapons or anything breakable.

"You started a riot. Just how did you manage that?" The Queen's smile grew wider.

The prisoner tried to answer several times before his voice finally emerged. "I didn't mean to, Lady." He sighed. "I was just walking along and tripped on a rock. Next thing I knew, people were yelling and trying to hit me." He looked up at her with doleful brown eyes. His face suddenly lit up in a huge grin. "Would you like to see me juggle? I'm really good at it!"

Tarranna looked into the man's eyes and saw a child looking back. She drawled "Guard, get him something to juggle." The guard hastened to fulfill her order.

Melanger stared open mouthed at his Queen as she smiled at the prisoner. “What's your name?”

“Maladroit, Your Ladyship. But I like being called Mal.” The prisoner puffed out his chest as he stood straighter and started to stretch his arms and legs. His ill-fitting armour got in his way so he removed it and put it on the floor.

The guard returned and handed the prisoner four apples. The man-child took them, rolled his shoulders, took a deep breath and proceeded to toss the apples high into the air.

#1 hit the Sheriff smack between the eyes.

#2 bounced off an expensive looking vase. The lovely container did several splendidly executed somersaults, before it landed inelegantly on its base. It shattered on the tiled floor.

#3 hit the prisoner in his own nose, causing it to bleed profusely.

Everyone in the crowd yelled and screamed in support of Maladroit, mostly for him hitting the stuffy Sheriff.

As awareness dawned of the direction of the last apple, all noise ceased.... Not one person drew a breath.... It had Queen Tarranna in its sights.

Melanger moved forward but was too far away to stop it. There was a collective sigh of relief as the Queen effortlessly skewered the errant apple with her dagger. Her left eyebrow disappeared into her hairline as she stared at the man in front of her.

The crowd held their breath as she removed the apple from the knife and proceeded to cut off a piece. "So that's how one starts a riot. And to think, all these years I've been using soldiers, fire and fear. All I really needed was to juggle and have no sense of coordination. Cool." No one spoke, no one moved. She chewed her piece of apple, deep in thought.

Tarranna pulled a hand-towel off the small pile next to her (they came in handy for wiping blood off her sword) and threw it to Maladroit. Tarranna motioned for him to wipe the blood off his nose and face, which he did. “Why did you go into the barracks and how did you destroy it.”

“I wanted to see where your Guard lived, ‘cos I want to be one. I didn't want to destroy anything. I just got scared when the soldiers started screaming and swinging their swords at me. I ran around the room and they chased me.”

"Melanger" She drawled. Melanger snapped to attention, saluted and stepped closer to her.

"Yes my Liege."

She crooked her finger and motioned him even closer. He looked uneasy, but pushed back his shoulders and leaned close enough to hear her whisper "You think he's genuine?"

Melanger cleared his throat then answered "Yes, my liege, I do. I don't think he would hurt a fly but I also believe he'll destroy any army he serves in. That is, if the men didn't kill him first."

"My thoughts exactly..." He could almost see the wheels turning in her mind. “Mal, what do you like to do? What are you really good at?”

Maladroit grinned widely and immediately answered. “I love cooking!! Especially cakes, I make great cakes. People love it when I cook! They say my roasts are excellent. No one ever gets sick from my food. Mumma said that's because she taught me to always wash my hands lots.”

“Where's your Mumma now?”

“She passed last winter.” Maladroit used his sleeve to roughly wipe the tears from his eyes.

“Well Mal, I really love eating cakes and roasts. It's a pity you want to be in my Guard. I have too many of them already. But I do need a personal cook.”

“You do?” He seemed torn between his career choices.

“How about you start off in the kitchen? Then in a few months we'll see what you want to do.”

“Ok. Can I cook in my armour and have a sword?”

“How about we get you some armour that actually fits you? You can wear that wherever you want. The sword would be too much of a hazard in the kitchen, so would a sheath and a new knife do?”

Maladroit thought that was an excellent idea. “Can I cook a cake now?”

“You look tired and you're hurt. You go have a bath and a sleep first. You can cook whatever you want after you look after yourself. Deal?”

“Ok... Thank you.” He took the towel off his nose and found the bleeding had stopped.

“Melanger.” Tarranna signaled the man to lean closer again. “Get him a room and have him cleaned up. Get him the armour and knife I promised and let him sleep. Tell the kitchen staff he's my cook, they clean up after him. Warn everyone if they hassle, victimise or abuse him, I'll use them as practice dummies and they'll be patched up by the novice healers. That should scare the crap out of them!"

Melanger stood at attention and saluted her. "Yes my Liege. You have my word he won't be harmed."

The Queen stood, sheathed her dagger and looked at the man in front of her. “Mal, go with Melanger, he'll look after you." She directed her next words to the Sheriff, who was still rubbing the red spot between his eyes. "I've had enough for today."

And she left.

For hours afterward, brave people swore they heard laughter coming from the Queen's rooms. The brave people were scorned and teased.

No one had heard the Queen laugh in years.




It was a week after the Maladroit's recruitment. The man turned out to be an absolute genius in the kitchen and the Queen now looked forward to meal times, to see what new delectable creations he'd provided for her.

Creations like the divine cake the servers had delivered to the meeting Tarranna was currently chairing. The whole cake had quickly been reduced to mere smudges on the plate. Smudges from where people had used their fingers to scoop up the last of the frosting. It was too good to waste!

Tarranna was in her war room with her Ministers. Melanger, Mahoneus (treasury and public relations), Cleusan (security and infiltration) and Lushion (foreign affairs). All four were loyal to her and were the closest things she had to friends.

Melanger had been well on the way to life as an alcoholic when he'd teamed up with Tarranna. He was wise enough to take his addiction one day at a time and that had kept him out of trouble for years. Tarranna's faith in Melanger's leadership ability helped him stay sober. The fact that the Royal army was intact and the warriors were happy justified that faith.

Cleusan was a thief, but the Queen and she had an understanding – she wouldn't steal from the Queen and Tarranna wouldn't inflict her with an extremely slow and painful death (and she did have quite an extensive database of suggestions to choose from). Cleusan could steal the teeth from a sleeping man's mouth, but she had a heart of gold.

Lushion was a compulsive flirt, a thief and an accomplished fighter. Both sexes loved her and everyone found her easy to work with. Putting Lushion in charge of 'Foreign Affairs' was pure genius on the Queen's part. Lushion could charm her way around the most seasoned politician (and their partners) and was articulate enough to talk them around to her views - which (of course) coincided Tarranna's.

Tarranna's gaze settled on Mahoneus. He had been with her for the longest. She'd nearly killed him when they first met, but he'd wormed his way into her life and had stuck by her ever since. Of course, it was the obscene wage she paid him that kept him happiest, but even someone as emotionally deprived as Tarranna realised that Mahoneus liked her. Tarranna liked him - not that she'd ever admit it!!

Mahoneus would sell himself for a profit, but knew better than to try and cheat the Queen. Theirs was a strange bond, but she trusted him to look after her money. He'd even come up with some great ideas for increasing her treasury. His last idea was simply brilliant - get peasants to pay a small coin for a piece of parchment with a number on it. A random number was then drawn from a barrel by Tarranna herself. The person who held the drawn number was the ‘winner' of five thousand gold coins. It was bringing in a fortune and the peasants were happy to part with their money!!! Go figure!!

Tarranna took a deep breath. She'd personally trained, encouraged, molded, and occasionally threatened these four individuals into the finely tuned machine that was her Ministry. All of their departments were efficient and independent of each other. But at the same time, they worked together perfectly. Tarranna had made damn sure of that!

All through her younger years, Tarranna had observed and dissected (not always literally!) Kings, Emperors and Dictators reigns and she'd learnt from their mistakes. They invariably chose the wrong people to serve as their advisors/agents and usually ended up overthrown, dead or both.

Now was the time to test her intuition and judgment....

They were all sitting around a smallish round table. The ministers laughed and joked with each other. The Queen cleared her throat and waited for them to settle. She met each of their eyes as she straightened up from the casual sprawl she usually adopted when she sat. "I'll come right to the point – I'm tired. I'm sick of everything. I'm going on an extensive 'scouting' mission. I leave before dawn - alone. I'll be gone a month, maybe two. You'll carry on with your normal duties and Melanger is in charge and has final say in any decisions." She breathed deeply and waited for the proverbial excrement to hit the fan.

It never happened.

The ministers looked at each other, then the Queen. All four had dumbfounded looks on their faces.

Mahoneus was first to regain his voice. "You actually trust US with your kingdom? Two of us are reformed thieves, one an ex alcoholic, and there's... well, me. Are you insane woman?" The others quietly picked their jaws off the table and waited for the beheading. Mahoneus was too stunned at his own words to even cringe.

Tarranna smiled. It was a bone melting, full on genuine smile. It lit up her face, taking years off her age. It lit up her eyes and turned them a deep, mystical blue. Her lips opened, showing off her white, perfect teeth. The ministers' automatic response was to smile back. "This is the sanest thing I've done in over a decade, Mahoneus." Her voice carried a wistful, pained tone.

Cleusan cleared her throat and put her head on the chopping block. "I think you getting away is a great idea."

The Queen's raised eyebrow raised Cleusan's blood pressure dramatically. "Sorry Queenie... but lately you've been edgy, bad tempered and just plain mean. You do need a break."

"I am always edgy, bad tempered and mean, Cleusan." Her voice lowered an octave and took on a dangerous undertone.

Cleusan nervously smiled at her boss. "No offence meant Majesty."

Tarranna relaxed her posture and sent Cleusan a half-grin. "None taken. And stop calling me Queenie!"

Melanger looked the Queen squarely in the eyes. "Are you sure about this?" She knew he meant both the 'holiday' and leaving them in charge. Tarranna nodded and he took a deep breath. He stood up and held out his right hand to her. "You won't regret trusting us, My Lady."

Tarranna stood, taking his arm in a warrior's handshake. "I know I won't." After the other three had shaken hands with the Queen, she turned and left the room.

Stunned silence filled the space after Tarranna left. Lushion had once commented that being around Tarranna could turn a person into a human fly trap. The Queen always seemed to leave you with your mouth wide open.

Mahoneus puffed, "She's taking a break, she trusts us to run the entire kingdom and, most importantly, I am still alive.... I think it's safe to say I'm ecstatically happy!!!"

"Well, I for one cannot believe she actually admitted she's tired!!" Lushion shook her unruly head of hair.

"Just shows we were right to be worried about her health." Melanger grunted. The others agreed, then went their separate ways.


Well before dawn the next morning, Tarranna had her gear packed, loaded on her black stallion (creatively named Midnight) and was ready to leave.

The Queen was dressed in black leather pants, long black riding boots, crimson fitted linen shirt and wearing a hooded black cape. The guards stationed at the city gate didn't recognize her and, in fact, barely noticed as Tarranna joined the crowd and rode Midnight to freedom.

* * * *

For many days Tarranna stayed off the main roads and totally ostracized herself from civilisation. She rode Midnight at a constant ground eating pace and soon arrived in unpopulated territory.

Eventually, they wandered upon a gorgeous glen. The clearing was abundant with wildlife and edible plants. There was even a small waterfall and lake nearby.

Tarranna smiled dazzlingly as she dismounted and lovingly scratched Midnight between the ears. "Wadda ya say, boy? Does this looks like a great place to veg out?"

Midnight snorted and lipped Tarranna's shirt. He then proceeded to mow a patch of tender green grass. "Guess that means we stay! How 'bout you let me take off your gear first?” After she unsaddled her steed, Tarranna quickly made camp and set off into the woods to explore and set a few traps.

Hours later, an extremely pleased Queen reported back to Midnight. "Near the waterfall is a cave, boy. We'll have plenty of room in there. It has a small pond inside and's easily defendable. The entrance is pretty well covered. It's even got cleanish sand on the floor. What more could we ask for, eh? Tomorrow, I'll stock plenty of wood in there and we'll be all set for the bad weather heading this way."

Tarranna had an uncanny ability to predict when a storm was still several days away. Not even the Royal healers could explain why she was a living barometer.

"Oh well" she thought "at least I never get unexpectedly wet."



Tarranna rose well before dawn the next morning, as was her usual routine. The warrior spent several hours practicing her sword drills and martial art skills. She brushed Midnight until the horse's hair shone then spent the rest of the morning stock piling the cave with wood. A fine selection of vegetables and fruits was also methodically gathered and stored.

The afternoon sun saw her splash and curse in the lake (some people called it washing your clothes). While her gear dried, she again headed into the water, but this time for a more enjoyable task.

Tarranna loved to fish! She spent the rest of the afternoon making a spear and hunting the slippery beasts. She managed to harvest ten, quickly filleted them and placed them on hastily made smoking racks. Normally she wouldn't have prepared so many, but her ‘barometer' was pinging more than usual - which meant a doozie of a storm was headed her way. She made sure Midnight grazed well away from the cave entrance so he could feed nearby if the storm continued for more than several days.

That night, Tarranna caught six rabbits and smoked them as well. Tarranna liked to be prepared and hated surprises.

The next morning saw the same sort of routine. Up before the sun to practice, finish processing the meat and store it. Spend quality time with her horse, collect more fruit, veges and wood. She then resurveyed the surrounding land - from the top of the waterfall. She made sure that any heavy rain wouldn't flood her out (yep, she even checked the water supply in the cave for signs of recent flooding).

Tarranna really hated surprises.


It was lunchtime, Tarranna had caught several small birds and was in the middle of burning them (well, nobody's perfect!) when a strange sound caught her attention. She cautiously cocked her head toward the noise and closed her eyes.

The hairs on the back of her neck bristled.

A sneer reached her lips. She couldn't and wouldn't believe what she heard!! She stood up, kicked an imaginary pile of dirt at her feet then stormed out of the camp. All the while she wildly gestured and cursed profusely.

Tarranna really and truly hated surprises.

* * *

A blonde haired woman stopped her horse at the edge of Tarranna's clearing. Alongside her, a young girl rode a pony. They were accompanied by two large dogs. The blonde woman quickly scanned the area, taking special note of the camp site.

The conspicuously empty campsite with meat burning on the campfire.

'Single occupant, perfectionist, pedantic and anally compulsive. Proficient in everything but cooking. More than capable of killing me a hundred times before I got this close. Probably female.' The blond thought wryly.

The woman smiled at her analysis, as she quickly dismounted and made her way toward the fire. She gently urged the horse she now led to follow her. She softly told the dogs to wait with and guard her daughter.

Seconds later, she bent over the fire and turned the charcoaled meat. "You can come out now, I promise not to hurt you." The blonde said to the tall tree on her right.

The Queen waited scant moments before she appeared and said "I won't make you the same promise."

"Yeah, yeah, whatever. I know perfectly well you could have stopped me before I got anywhere near here. Besides you won't hurt me...." The blonde smiled charmingly at the taller, darker woman.

The Queen's eyebrow rose to new heights. "Please feel free to enlighten me as to why not."

'Oh boy, did I have you pegged!!!' The blonde thought. "Because you need me to make you something for lunch - that doesn't taste like a reject from a bushfire?" The blonde screwed up her nose as she looked at Tarranna's meal.

Tarranna snorted. "It wouldn't have burnt if you hadn't shown up and invaded my space."

'Ouch!! Haven't had to share much either, have you?' "I'll buy that... Let me make it up to you – I'll share our lunch with you then we'll be on our way."

"Thanks but I'd prefer to be alone." Tarranna's tone could cut through steel.

"OKayyy... I'll keep going, enjoy the rest of your stay.”

The blonde woman led her horse away from the fire and let out a piercing whistle. She waited for several seconds and as nothing happened she yelled out “Patience, where are you?" The blonde nervously scanned the area around the camp.

The two women had been so intent on insulting each other, they hadn't noticed when the five year old girl dismounted and wandered off. "Over here, Mumma..." came the faint answer to the woman's yell.

Tarranna stared open-mouthed at the sight of her traitorous war-horse as he allowed an enemy (albeit an ankle biting midget) to ride him - bareback and without a bridle!!! She'd have to have a serious talk with that horse!

The two large canines walked casually on either side of Midnight.

As Midnight politely and casually strolled toward the two women, the smaller woman demanded, "Just what do you think you're doing riding that horse, young lady?"

"Isn't he lovely, Mumma? He's bestest ever. Can he run fast? What's his name, Lady?"

Tarranna's first instinct was to pull the child off the horse and yell at her for being foolish enough to play with a fully trained, battle hardened war-horse. But, Tarranna had to admit, the kid did have great taste in horse flesh. "Yes, he runs very fast. His name is Midnight.”

Patience didn't bat an eyelid at the abrupt way Tarranna answered her questions. She just grinned at the Queen, excitement glowed in her eyes.

"Patience, get off the horse now, we're leaving and probably won't see ....." Tarranna ignored the nauseatingly nice blonde's obvious attempt to obtain her name and continued to glare at Midnight. "… the lovely Lady again.”

"Oh, mum...." The smaller blonde competently clutched Midnight's mane and slid to the ground. The child stood in front of Midnight, who gently nuzzled Patience's chest. The child scratched the horse's neck and face as she said quietly "Bye Midnight." Patience frowned and kicked the dirt as she walked to her mother, who promptly picked up the child and assisted her to mount the pony.

Patience stared into Tarranna's eyes and said, "Sorry for riding your horse. Bye."

The small blonde smiled at her daughter, then mounted her own horse, nodded at the Queen and led the way out of the glen.


Tarranna sat on a fallen log, absently pulling apart a dead twig. Her eyes were riveted to the massive build-up of ominous black clouds on the horizon. In the 2 hours since the departure of the irritating blonde duo, the storm had been making its presence known. The temperature had dropped markedly and she could feel the distant thunder shake the ground beneath her feet.

Tarranna forced a smile as Midnight moved behind her and the equine placed his head over the woman's shoulder.

Tarranna scratched her mount's face and sighed, "Why should I feel guilty? They aren't my problem. Just because there's no other decent shelter within a day's travel?... I could bring them back here, but then I'm stuck with them in that cave for goodness knows how long. Then I'd have to kill them because they're so bloody nice..." she cringed and sneered.

"But if I leave them out there, the kid dies with exposure and I have to kill Mumma bear when she comes after me for sending them out in that." She continued to stare at the clouds whilst she scratched the horse. "I almost liked the kid..." she growled in frustration at Midnight as the horse made his feelings about the small blonde known – with a head butt to the woman's back which almost pushed her off her perch.

"Yeah, I know you liked her - traitor!! And don't think I've forgiven you yet for letting someone else ride you!"

Midnight just snorted and lipped the black hair in front of him. "I suppose I could bring the kid back and leave the mother out there...” A wicked glint appeared in her eyes. This time the horse did push Tarranna off the log. "What is it with you, you arrogant piece of horse flesh?"

Tarranna stood and angrily brushed the dead grass, leaves and dirt off her trousers. Midnight head butted Tarranna (definitely not gently) and sent her sprawling in the direction the other two females had taken.

"Midnight!!!" The tone of Tarranna's voice had sent many a brave man scurrying for cover. Unfortunately for Tarranna, Midnight knew who was boss in their partnership. The Boss put his ears back, raised onto his rear legs and cheekily pawed with his front hooves at the furious woman.

Tarranna was dumbfounded!! She, the Queen, was losing a fight - with her horse!!!

A very large, powerful, battle trained war horse.

A charging war horse!!

Midnight stopped his run, a mere hands width from his human. She retreated slowly in the desired direction with her hands held placatingly in front of her. Tarranna was smart and knew when to retreat from a losing battle. Besides, she knew Midnight was right... Not that she'd ever admit that to anyone, especially him.

"Okayyyy you rotten horse!" the sneer on Tarranna's face was lethal (to anyone but Midnight) and her voice was low, menacing and diamond tipped. "You win. I will bring them back here. But I refuse to be nice!!!" Tarranna turned from the stallion and raged out of the clearing. All the while she swore and cursed in half a dozen languages.

Midnight snorted (he knew his human was NOT as horrible as she liked to pretend) and pranced around the camp area with his tail and steps high. He was magnificently beautiful and occasionally liked to show off. The stallion continued his majestic dance for several minutes and stopped only when a patch of juicy grass caught his eye.

* * *

Thanks to her anger and frustration, Tarranna set off at a determined run and kept up the cracking pace. She was soon on the perimeter of the blonde woman's camp. Habit made her scan the surrounding area for signs of trouble and as she found none, she barged into the small clearing.

Right into the path of two large, growling dogs! Tarranna slowed to a stop. She ignored the beasts as they snarled at her and waited for the blonde woman to acknowledge her.

Even in her advanced state of tantrum, Tarranna silently and begrudgingly noted the sturdy, efficient shelter the woman had erected in such a short time. That unexpectedly raised her opinion of the smaller woman a notch - from 'intolerably unbearable' to 'sufferingly unbearable'.

The Queen stared into the sky blue eyes that unflinchingly stared back at her. Her attention shifted to the small blur that flew from behind the blonde to stand in front of her mother.

“Hello Lady, whatcha doin'?”

Tarranna looked at the girl and said "A really bad storm's coming. The lean-to won't be enough. Get your mother and your gear and go back to the cave. Hurry, we don't have much time left."

Tarranna's teeth could be heard grinding from six feet away. Patience's mum looked as if she was going to tell the abrupt, foul tempered (sparks were still emanating from Tarranna from her loss with Midnight) woman to buzz off. But the excited dance by her daughter stopped her. If she had been alone, she'd have preferred to catch pneumonia and die rather than accept help from this ‘ person' .

The blonde woman already knew from the warning signs that the storm was going to be more than their small shelter could handle. She'd kept their gear packed and had been on the verge of telling Patience to mount up when the dark woman exploded into camp. The thought of having to beg to share a cave with the prickly warrior gave the blonde a sour taste in her mouth. Grudgingly she said "Thank you."

"Don't thank me, don't talk to me, don't come near me and most of all - don't be nice to me. Just get on the damn horse and hurry up about it."

The blonde woman gritted her teeth and kept her mouth shut. She stiffly placed the last of the gear and her daughter on her horse, climbed aboard and kicked the horse into a canter.

Patience's pony threw its tail in the air and charged after the bigger horse, as did the dogs.

Tarranna broke into a run and easily kept up with the animals. She maintained a constant distance between her and the others, successfully deterring any attempt at conversation.


Just before they reached the cave clearing, Tarranna left the group and headed into the woods. She quickly found several long, thin, dead tree branches and dragged them into the cave.

Mumma bear and Patience, (the latter having been warned not to go near or talk to the sulking warrior - or her beautiful horse) silently unloaded their belongings and arranged their beds along the wall furthest from the other woman's gear.

Mumma bear efficiently hobbled her horse and tied it to a tree near the cave entrance. She didn't want him spooking when the thunder got closer and didn't want to confine him to the cave until the last possible moment.

Mumma bear watched as the warrior towed several more long logs into the shelter. The warrior was closely followed by a grunting 5 year old - who dragged a long stick behind her. Barely able to control the laugh that bubbled deep inside her, she silently watched as the warrior headed back for more wood, with Patience 20 paces behind her.

The dark woman quickly surveyed the area for dry branches, picked out her targets then carried them toward the cave. Mumma bear grudgingly noted the warrior made sure a suitable stick was left where the child could easily 'find' it. Confident that her child would be kept from harm, Mumma bear went inside, started a fire and set about starting the evening meal.

Tarranna and Patience worked until the storm was only minutes away. Scant minutes before the rain hit, Tarranna moved the horses into the cave, tying them securely to large rocks. The horses were skittish but being tied up inside the cave, close to their humans, calmed them somewhat.

Before Mumma bear had time to breathe in preparation to talk, Tarranna had taken Patience aside and gently explained why it was important not to go near horses (even Midnight) when they were scared.


‘Well, I'll be damned!! She does have a heart after all.' Mumma bear thought, totally shocked by the revelation.

Thunder shook the ground, lightning blazed its fiery trails across the sky and rain pelted down as Mumma bear efficiently served the thick soup and dumplings she'd cooked for their meal. She quietly motioned for Patience to take the bowl to the warrior, who sullenly sat on a large rock, near her bedroll.

The warrior silently checked her weapons, sharpened the dull ones and polished all of them. Aside from her sword, she usually wore six daggers of varying lengths.

Mumma bear couldn't believe the woman had kept up with her cantering horse! She shook her head in wonder that the warrior could walk, let alone run whilst she carried all that metal.

Patience held the bowl between her hands, her small face wrinkled in concentration as she slowly walked to the Warrior's side. "Mumma said to give you this." The small girl held out the offered sacrifice.

"I don't want it...." Seeing the girls face drop slightly, she continued, albeit with a sneer. "Thank you."

"Okayyy... but Mumma's a good cook. See the big white round thing?" She looked expectantly at the warrior until she raised an eyebrow in - what the child took for - confirmation. "Well, it's a dumpling and they are really good to eat the gravy with..... Mumma doesn't use too many vegatebbles," she leaned conspiratorially toward the woman and whispered "I hate vegatebbles!!"

Tarranna couldn't hide the small grin that popped unexpectedly onto her lips. "Me too." She whispered back.

The girl's grin was a mile wide as she placed the bowl at the warrior's side. "You can eat it later when you're hungry." She threw another grin at the woman then ran back to her mother and her own meal.

Tarranna absolutely refused to pick up the bowl and eat the delicious smelling, thick soup and dumplings. She continued with the inspection of her weapons. She sharpened a dagger then meticulously polished it. All the while she ignored the rumbling of her traitorous stomach. She definitely was not going to touch anything that irritating woman cooked.

Even if it did smell good! Very good.

Tarranna sharpened one of her boot daggers. Polished it then sheathed it. As she did so, her mind unconsciously listed the ingredients in the bowl. Rabbit, carrot (but not too much), wild onion, tuber (more than the carrot. Patience must eat that.) and heaps of thick, delicious looking/smelling gravy. Two large white dumplings had already sucked up some of the gravy...

From the other side of the cave, Patience noisily licked her spoon and lips then accepted the offer of another helping.

The Queen's stomach growled again. Louder.

Tarranna snuck a look at the bowl. The meal did look enticing, with lots of colours and nice consistency. It did smell better than anything she could cook. Heck, anything smelt better than her attempts at culinary delights. The stew wasn't burnt, which could rarely be said about her cooking.

The kid liked it. Even Tarranna knew how picky kids could be with food. Maybe she should try it. After all, one shouldn't waste food. Especially good food. Pride held her hands at her side. 'Hey, they're in the cave I found, using the wood I stored. And will be doing so for several days at least.' A smirk appeared on the Queen's lips. 'Sounds like a 'debt paid' to me!!'

Tarranna inconspicuously checked the others weren't watching her and hesitantly reached for the meal. After tentatively sampling the first spoonful, she decided it was as delicious as it smelt, maybe more so. She quickly demolished the rest of it.

"Told you Mumma's a good cook" Tarranna guiltily turned toward the source of the whispering. "Want some more? .... There's plenty."

'Uh oh' Thought Tarranna as she wistfully looked at her empty bowl. She half grinned as she nodded affirmatively. She hoped she didn't look too eager!

Patience grabbed the plate and practically ran to have it refilled.



It was several hours later and outside the cave a fierce wind blew. Fortunately it was heading away from the mouth of the cave. The rain hadn't even looked like abating but the thunder and lightning was becoming less frequent.

Tarranna stood in the cave entrance, with her arms folded, as her dark hair fluttered in the wind. Her hair was the only part of her that moved. Tarranna loved storms. She loved the power they created and the vibes they sent out. She often slipped away from her castle/army and stood in the rain, just to soak up the raw energy around her. The only thing that stopped her doing that now was the wind. Large limbs were being ripped off trees and thrown unceremoniously around. She'd seen a sudden burst of power uproot a forty foot tree - so she wisely stayed in the safety of the cave.

The warrior unconsciously listened to the story Mumma bear was telling Patience. It was about some fictitious do-gooder called Hero who traveled around and helped people who were being hurt by ‘baddies'. Apparently Hero was a regular character in Mumma's stories. Tarranna listened intently as Patience continued to argue with her mother. The child complained about the lack of female participants in the yarn, that Hero always won, never got hurt, never killed anyone and was always clean!


'You tell her, kid.' Tarranna let a small smile grace her lips as she pretended absolute indifference to the argument being lost by Mumma bear. Not that the judge in this debate was at all biased toward the girl or against the mother! Nope, no unfairness there!

Finally, Mumma bear threw her hands in the air and admitted defeat. "Fine! You tell me who you want as characters. BUT… I get to make up the story and you have to sit there and listen to it. Deal?"

Patience just grinned and nodded so hard it looked like her head would flick off her neck and roll across the floor.

Tarranna was extremely impressed with the character traits Patience listed to her mother. The new hero definitely had to be female and a great warrior who was not adverse to beheading or maiming bad guys (that really sucked Tarranna in!). She had to protect and love her friends and family. Patience was adamant she just had to have a great horse like Midnight, she had to be tough, mean, downright bad and occasionally get filthy dirty.

The second female hero was to be gentle and strong but could kick butt when necessary. She could be a great cook and everyone loved her. “Just like you, Mumma”.

Mumma bear looked at her daughter, her eyes danced with love and affection as Patience rattled off the criterion for the characters in her story. She loved how her daughter totally immersed herself in her task – to the stage of forgetting everyone and everything around her.

‘She's definitely my girl!!' Mumma bear laughed to herself.

Once Patience finished her list of ingredients for the perfect characters, Mumma bear patiently tried to calm down her daughter and get her ready for bed. She'd already sponged the child down, dressed her in a sleeping shift and was snuggled into her on the girl's bedroll. "Yes Patience! I promise I'll think about your story tonight and we'll start on your Warriors' adventures tomorrow, during rest time. Now give me a kiss and please go to sleep."

Tarranna had returned to her favourite rock and sat on it while she pretended to clean Midnight's tack. She heard Mumma's plea and silently cursed as the whispered answer from the child didn't quite reach her ears. She was intrigued as Mumma quietly said "I really don't think that's a good idea, Patience."

"Pleeeaase Mumma?" The momentary silence nearly killed the Queen. She strained her ears to catch the whispered words that finally answered the girl's plea. Sudden movement from the girl's blanket startled Tarranna and she had to force herself not to jump in fright. The child ran across the floor and practically hurled herself into the dark woman's chest. After she wrapped her tiny arms around the warrior's neck and planted a sloppy kiss on a cheek, the child murmured “Night Lady”.

Tarranna was dumbfounded, bewildered, confused and extremely surprised. She stiff armed a hug and actually managed to whisper “goodnight” before the euphoric child returned to her bed.

'How long is it since I let someone hug me? How long since anyone hugged me, not the Queen? Has that ever happened?!!!!' Tarranna suppressed the tears that pooled in her eyes and returned to her lonely position at the entrance to the cave.


The next morning, Tarranna was up at her usual time. The thunder and lightning had abated and a constantly heavy rain settled in. From her vantage point at the cave opening, she could see the destruction the storm had caused. Trees had been uprooted and branches were scattered everywhere, which gave the surrounding forest a feral look. The waterfall ran a lot faster and the Queen was pleased to verify the cave was still well above flood level.

The hairs on the back of Tarranna's neck prickled. Someone quietly came up behind her and once again she quelled the urge to draw one of her many, many weapons.... Tarranna waited for the approaching midget to draw level with her.

Patience didn't try to touch or talk to the warrior. She simply stood by Tarranna's left hand. She was old enough to know warriors of any kind hated anything to interfere with their preferred hand's range of motion. Just in case of sudden enemy attacks or the unexpected charge of a startled rabbit.

Patience simply mirrored the body language and stance of the older woman.

Mumma bear moved around the campfire and put on a delicious smelling breakfast to cook. Neither Tarranna nor Patience moved a muscle.

Tarranna finally identified the wonderful smell engulfing the cave and that made her stomach rumble in anticipation and hesitation. That fantastic stew from last night!! Would she be asked to join them for breakfast? Scenarios ran through her mind - all of which ended with no food being offered and her on her knees as she begged for some!!! Tarranna almost snorted at that!! Queen Tarranna begging for food... Not bloody likely!!

Tarranna remained motionless as she stared into space. Patience did the same.

Mumma bear retired to the back of the cave where she valiantly tried to stifle the laughter the two statues evoked. Half an hour later, breakfast was warmed and served. Mumma bear sat on her rock the amused grin still plastered to her face. Neither of the other two statues had moved a muscle. Mumma bear, entertained as she was, had to admit her daughter was doing a great job of keeping her focus. She knew that the girl loved to run around, laugh and talk.... Basically she was a normal, noisy child and for her to remain totally silent and so still for this long was a minor miracle.

"So," Mumma bear couldn't keep the mirth out of her voice. "Are you two watching anything in particular?"

No movement. No answer. "Well, whatever you're watching this intently must be of vital importance, so I won't interrupt you. I'll just give your breakfast to the dogs."

Tarranna and Patience's heads swiveled so they could stare into each other's horrified eyes. A silent truce was agreed upon, signed and sealed. They turned to face Mumma bear, who was totally absorbed with eating her breakfast. Patience threw all dignity to the wind and ran to her spot next to her mother.

Tarranna almost wished she was 5 years old again.

As Patience threw herself onto her seat, she spared her reluctant mentor an exasperated sigh. "Come on, Lady. It's getting cold!!"

Tarranna's smile was blinding.


Breakfast had been delicious. Tarranna had even managed to mumble a 'ta' (thank you still stuck in her craw) to Mumma bear. After eating, Tarranna spoilt Midnight with a rub, brush, scratch and long talk. Patience was with her every step of the way. In the end, Tarranna gave up pretending she didn't see the child and proceeded to show her how to properly care for a horse. Patience was ecstatic and Tarranna was surprised to find she was enjoying the child's company.

And Midnight? Well he was in seventh heaven and loving all the attention. After they'd brushed him until his black hair reflected the fire the woman and girl did the same for the other horses.

Mumma bear? Well she was engrossed in Patience's story and her favourite topic of all, Patience.

Yep, that morning little bubbles of happiness rose from the occupants of the isolated hole in a hill and burst forth into the unsuspecting world. From those tiny little bubbles, rainbows sprouted across the land.




It was war. No holds barred, 'go for the throat', all-out war. The participants jousted, played with each other's weaknesses then attempted to go for the kill. It was not a pretty sight.

Tarranna actually flinched at the latest thrust. "You promised me if I made up a story with your characters in it, you would sit and listen to that story.... that means no interruptions, no criticisms and definitely no whining."

'Ouch...' The warrior thought. 'The good old guilt trip... Mothers must have lessons on how to do that.' Tarranna's head turned to watch the child and didn't notice when the dogs slunk across the floor to lay at her feet. She absent mindedly scratched them both behind the ears.

"You promised a story with my people in it!! You put Hero in it!!"

'Good point, kid.' Tarranna's gaze shifted back to Mumma.

"There is nothing wrong with having Hero in it! He was only in the first part, anyway. If you'd stop complaining and actually listened you would have known that."

Tarranna's head didn't stop turning from one to the other combatants. “BUT MUM, HE'S SO BORING!!!!" Tarranna smirked in approval and agreement, she leaned forward slightly so as not to miss any of the excitement.

Mumma bear took a DEEEEPPP breath and threw her hands in the air. "Fine, Patience. You win."

'She does???!! Way to go kid!!...... Hang on that was too easy... Careful Patience, she's up to something devious!!' Tarranna waited for the axe to fall.

"I only put Hero in the story to show how ferocious, brutal and ruthless the woman Warrior was..."

'Ferocious, brutal and ruthless Warrior!! Patience, surrender now!! Your mother's right, you shouldn't interrupt her!!' Tarranna nonchalantly leaned even further forward. She really didn't want to miss a word!

"But if you don't want to hear how the Warrior beat him.......well, that's OK. I'll just start another story and tell it to you in a few days."

"She beats Hero!! Wow, she must be great." Patience practically drooled as she stared wide eyed at her mother and pleaded for her to start the story again.

Patience hoped there were a lot of fights in the story. Patience loved action stories.

Tarranna couldn't wait for Warriors to kick Hero's butt. Tarranna loved action stories.

Mumma bear was in seventh heaven. She had a full stomach, she'd spent the morning watching her daughter learn valuable life lessons from the recalcitrant woman and she now was telling very tall tales to a very appreciative audience.

Peace again enveloped the tiny cave kingdom.


Story time was over.

Tarranna and Patience stared at Mumma bear in stunned silence. "Wow!!! She is the bestest warrior ever!"

"Thank you Patience. I'm glad you liked it." Mumma bear beamed. Mumma bear looked into the flushed and excited face of her daughter, suddenly feeling a rush of love for the tiny human. It started as a tingle in her toes and ended up as tears in her eyes. She motioned for the child to sit in her lap and hugged her gently to her chest. "Don't you ever forget how much I love you and how proud I am of you."

Patience snuggled deeper into her mother's chest and murmured she wouldn't. "Mum, will you tell me more about the Warriors later?"

Mumma bear grinned and said "Sure. You think about names for them and tonight before bed I'll tell you how they saw some boys trying to take a girl's doll. Sound OK?"

“Yep. Ta Mummy!!" Mumma bear shooed her daughter and sent her off to play with the small cloth doll they'd brought with them. She then set about making lunch.

* * *

Tarranna was stunned. She couldn't believe one of the Warriors was so much like her. The shame she first felt from a simple kid's story was quickly repressed. Despite the shame and self-loathing crushing her, she was drawn to the way Mumma bear weaved the story.

The story's Warrior loved battle, loved to overpower and destroy a 'superior' army with pure cunning, daring and audacity. However, she was a hero because she stopped ‘baddies' from hurting her family and friends.

Tarranna knew exactly how that Warrior felt in regard fights. It was exactly how she'd come to power. She'd pulled together an unbeatable army and taken power from cruel, heartless fiends. Once she's destroyed them, she'd kept on going, her empire growing bigger and bigger. She was now Queen to more than half the continent. The glen they were in was actually only several hours ride from two of only four other sovereignties in country. Tarranna's family were dead long ago and mostly forgotten and she had no truly close friends.

She was alone.



The rain had finally stopped! It had been pouring for six days and it had finally stopped! The ground was a quagmire and the three humans were still confined to the cave, but they didn't care because the sun finally shone again.

Even the dogs were excited. They had been out of the cave to do their business and wrestled near the tiny blonde's bedroll. At first, Tarranna thought they only play fought but they seemed to be getting very vicious toward each other!

Tarranna casually moved from her spot by the entrance and sat on her rock perch. She looked around the cave and observed how neatly kept the space was. After being cooped up for so long, she'd expected the place to be a pigsty and was happy to be proved wrong this time.

Tarranna heard Mumma bear (the women still hadn't introduced themselves) humming to herself as she contentedly ratted around in her bag, pulled things out and put them back in.

Patience was in the back of the cave quietly playing with her doll and a horse Tarranna had made for her. She found it remarkable how some sticks tied lovingly together with leather scraps could become a child's new best friend.

It was an amazingly domestic scene and the Queen couldn't believe she wasn't getting ‘cabin' fever. Usually, it took less than an hour of confined Queen to create a fidgety, snappy, foul mooded harpy-wannabe. But it was the sixth day and Tarranna was calm, relaxed and happy. She was even capable of being polite to Mumma bear and was she was no longer hesitant to smile and play with Patience!!

What was happening to her?? Was she even sure she wanted to find out? Maybe not!

Tarranna got up and went to her bag, retrieved her sewing kit and a ripped shirt. Quickly and proficiently, she repaired the garment and was about to replace the kit when Patience ran up to her. "My warrior's torn. Sticknight threw her. Can you fix her, please?" Patience had wanted to call the toy horse Midnight but was happy with the alternative Tarranna gave her.

Tarranna gently took the fallen warrior and inspected the 'wound'. The Queen then proceeded to mend the doll with tiny and precise stitches. Engrossed in her job, Tarranna didn't notice the girl slip out the cave entrance.

Minutes later, Tarranna finished her task and looked around for the girl. "Patience, you warrior is healed......." No response. Tarranna jumped up and scanned the cave. "Patience, where are you??"

Mumma bear heard the scared tone of the warrior and jumped up to join her. "What's wrong?" The dogs stopped their game and stood at attention.

"Where'd Patience go?"

"Right there....." Mumma bear pointed to the back of the cave and threw a fearful glance at the warrior when she saw the child wasn't there.

"She couldn't have gone far in less than five minutes..." Tarranna turned to run out the door, as maniacal laughter pierced her ears.

"NO!!! WAIT!!" Tarranna skidded to a stop and turn to face the woman fearfully screaming at her. "That laugh!!! Holy Mother I hate that laugh.... She's OK, but if you go out there be ready for anything."

Tarranna noted the dogs scurried to the far reaches of the cave were they hid in the darkness. "You aren't worried about her??"

"Not now... She's into some sort of mischief. That's her 'I-know-what-I-am-doing-now-is-naughty-but-I-don't-care' laugh. Last time I heard it, she and her friends ripped holes their pillows and were gleefully belting each other over the head with them. I was picking feathers out of unexpected places for weeks after.”

Tarranna grinned at the thought and listened as Mumma Bear as she continued. “The time before that she found bandages in the healer's rooms. She'd hold the end of it and throw the rest. She had them hanging from everywhere, like decorations... took me a months to get the healers to talk to me again."

Tarranna tried hard not to laugh but a snicker just forced its way out. The snicker turned into a full bodied laugh as the child's laughter again echoed through the cave. Mumma bear's laughter joined hers then they carefully edged their way to the door, they hugged the wall and didn't venture outside.

Mumma bear took a deep breath and cautiously peeped around the rock wall. Tarranna, being taller, stood behind the blonde woman and copied her movements.

Patience was twenty feet from the cave and stood in shin deep in gooey mud. She picked up a handful of the goop then threw it at huge boulder. The mud hit the boulder, splattered everywhere (including all over her) and left an impressive stain as it oozed down the large rock. The 'laugh' exploded as the mud hit the boulder. The girl took aim again, threw the goop and nearly fell over from convulsions - she laughed so hard she could hardly breathe!

Her mirth was contagious. Tarranna couldn't stop a chuckle as it forced its way to her voice box. Mumma bear freely let a gleeful snort loose. "That girl can turn any situation into something fun. I swear if we were lost in the desert, she'd make sandcastles just so she could laugh when she stomped on them."

"That does look like fun." Tarranna sighed wistfully.

Mumma bear gave the warrior a disbelieving shake of her head. "Is it a pre-requisite for soldier-types to love playing in the mud?" Tarranna just smiled and raised her shoulders. "So why don't you go play with her?"

Mumma bear saw the temptation flash across the lovely face, then get squashed by adult illogicality. "Change into your night shirt and go out there. I even promise to wash it for you!!"

Mumma bear turned to face the reluctant woman and unexpectedly put her face within inches of the warrior's. They stared into the depths of each other's eyes, both shaken by the intensity of the other's scrutiny. Neither spoke or looked away for long minutes. Neither was ready to acknowledge the emotion they saw there. Tarranna finally broke the silence.

"I'll go change."

Mumma bear smiled, nodded then watched the woman go to her gear. She turned her head and again watched her muddy daughter as she tried to work out what had just happened between her and the dark haired woman.

Hours later, two exhausted mud guppies were cleaned, fed, bedtime storied and still steadfastly refused to give in to the drowsiness engulfing them. Mumma bear couldn't decide which one of them had returned to the cave muddier, Patience or the enigmatic woman. Both had undeniably enjoyed the earth slinging activities, their laughter had filled the clearing and warmed the heart of the peeping mother.

Mumma bear was smart enough not to be seen by either of the two guppies, she knew neither of them would hesitate to drag her into their 'fun'. So, she'd watched them from behind a conveniently placed boulder and silently laughed at their antics.

Mumma bear honestly believed the dark haired woman may have enjoyed herself more than the mud-worshiping Patience!! They'd slid and rolled in it, tossed it and built castles with it. Both had semi-permanent wrinkles on every inch of their bodies and breathed hard from all the laughter.

The warrior sat on her bedroll and leaned against her favourite perch. Patience contentedly sat on her lap. The woman good-naturedly showed the child how to braid as she made a whip from long leather strips.

Patience was enthralled with the task and seemed to ask an endless stream of questions. The older woman quietly answered every one of the queries and the blonde woman was bemused by the amount of gentleness the normally 'grouchy' woman displayed.

Mumma bear quietly watched as the woman put her work on the ground next to her and picked up some thin, string like scraps instead. She neatly tied the ends together then proceeded to plait the strands into a precise, intricate band - around six inches long. She placed the band around the child's wrist and closed the loop in a loose knot.

Patience's eyes grew wide as she ‘cooed' over the impromptu gift. She threw herself at the woman, put her arms around her neck and squeezed with childlike abandon. Mumma bear's eyes grew damp as she watched the woman return the hug and barely display any residual hesitation at accepting the physical contact. Mumma bear could hardly believe this was the snarling/prickly/iceberg of a woman they'd first encountered a little more than a week ago.

The dogs finally believed it was safe to be near the mud loving duo. From their hiding place at the back of the cave, they slowly skulked closer to the fire.


Mumma bear unabashedly stared at the warrior. It was late at night, but neither was quite ready to retire. Mumma bear had finished all her jobs and was seriously bored.

The dark haired woman hadn't said a word in the 3 hours since Patience had gone to sleep and Mumma bear couldn't stand it any longer, she just had to talk!! "Wanna hear a joke?"

Tarranna spun her head to face the smaller woman. "Huh?"

"Would you like me to tell you a joke? I know some I think you'll like." To say that Tarranna was surprised at the request would be a gross understatement. She shrugged her shoulders, a bored look firmly in place.

Mumma bear grinned wickedly as she cleared her throat and started to talk.

A wagon driver got his cart bogged on a muddy road. Luckily, a local farmer and his champion draught horse (named Buddy) happened by.


The farmer hitched Buddy up to the bogged cart and yelled, "Pull, Nellie, pull!"


Buddy didn't move.


Then the farmer hollered, "Pull, Buster, pull!"


Buddy didn't respond.


Once more the farmer commanded, "Pull, Coco, pull!"




Then the farmer nonchalantly said, "Pull, Buddy, pull!" And the horse easily dragged the cart out of the mud hole to a dryer section of road. The cart owner was most appreciative and very curious.


He asked the farmer why he called his horse by the wrong name three times.


The farmer said, "Buddy is blind and if he thought he was the only horse working, he wouldn't have pulled!"

Mumma bear's nefarious grin widened as an undignified snort was ripped from the stoic warrior. The snort sealed Tarranna's fate.... Mumma bear was now on a mission.... Nothing would stop her from making the warrior laugh!!

Mumma bear's smile was huge as she crept closer to the other woman.

An Elemental was strolling through a major town one day when he came across two statues, one male and one female. 'Look at that.' he murmured to himself. 'They have been standing here for centuries in the sun, rain, heat, cold, droughts, floods and fires.' So he clicked his fingers and humanised the statues. 'As a reward for your servitude,' he told them, 'you'll be human for half an hour.'


The male statue looked at the female statue and said 'Shall we?'


'Yes, let's!!' Giggled the woman.


So they retired behind some bushes and for fifteen minutes muffled gasps, giggles and grunts were heard. They finally came out from behind the shrubs, pink in the face and dusting off grass, leaves and sticks.

The God looked at his hourglass and said, 'You still have fifteen minutes.'


The woman said to the man, 'Again?'


'Too right,' said the man. 'Only this time you hold the pigeon and I'll poop on it.'

The vision of human-statues as they crapped on annoying pigeons was just too much for Tarranna!! A lifetime as an emotional void crumbled as her control snapped and she laughed. She laughed so hard tears poured from her eyes and her stomach felt like it was in a constant state of cramp.

When she'd regained control, the thought of blind 'Buddy' having exactly the attitude her precious equine had and it would send her into more fits of laughter!!

Mumma bear joined in the frivolity, she laughed because she'd broken down some extremely solid walls and gotten the warrior to willingly smile. And such a lovely smile it was!! Patience was still asleep but somehow managed to join in the frivolity.

Mumma bear finally fell asleep hours later, but woke several times during the night to the muffled sounds of the warrior as she tried to stifle her mirth.

Mumma bear loved making people happy!!


Tarranna checked over her shoulder and yep, she was still being followed. Her pursuer was quiet, relentless and tireless. The absolute worst kind of pursuant imaginable! They stuck to you like glue - until you fell to the ground totally sucked of energy and the will to live. In the end, you usually screamed for someone to put you out of your misery... 'I've had enough. Time to get tough!'

Tarranna squared her shoulders and stood to her full impressive 6 foot height. She crossed her arms, put a menacing scowl on her lips and waited for her nemesis to catch up.

Scant minutes later, a dark silhouette moved stealthily toward her. Tarranna stood in the shadow of a huge tree which assured her invisibility until the terrier was almost upon her. 'Damm, she's good!' Despite her irritation, Tarranna had to grudgingly admit her shadow's skill was impressive. She never stepped on anything that'd give away her position, left minimal tracks herself and used all available cover.

Tarranna patiently watched as the figure quickly shortened the distance between them. She waited until the body was barely two feet away before her icy tones cut through the quiet of the forest. "Didn't your mother tell you to stay near the cave?"

Startled blue eyes stared into hers. Unblinking, unafraid and totally unrepentant blue eyes. "I left a note."

"A note?" An unbidden smile forced its way to Tarranna's mouth and lit up her face. "And just what did your note say?"

"Gone fishing with Lady."

“Show me how you wrote that.” She kneeled and cleared the rubbish off a small piece of ground. She picked up a stick and handed it to the small person next to her.

Patience took the stick and squatted above the cleared patch of dirt. She stuck out her tongue in concentration as she proceeded to draw a picture of fish and two stick figures (one twice as tall as the other).

Tarranna laughed. Not just a normal everyday laugh, but an impressive side splitting belly laugh. Suddenly, Tarranna's senses sprang to full alert. She quickly put the girl behind her and drew her sword. Tarranna relaxed slightly as she recognised the blonde cyclone hurtling toward them. "Uh oh!!" said a small voice from behind Tarranna.

The Queen couldn't totally hide the grin on her lips as she watched the woman stomp closer. The dogs pranced and wildly nipped at each other, obviously they thought this was a fantastic new game.

"Denion Lilianda!!" Tarranna swore she heard another "Uh oh" from behind her. "What heck do you think you're doing leaving me a note and running off like that?? What if Lady was too far ahead of you and you got lost? Or you tripped and fell into the river with no one close by? You scared 10 years life out of me young woman!!!!"

Patience looked despondently at her feet as she mumbled an apology Tarranna knew wasn't really meant. "I'm sorry Patience bothered you, we'll leave you alone now. She nodded at Tarranna before she took Patience's hand and all but dragged her back toward camp. Mumma bear stopped dead in her tracks as a quiet, hesitant voice reached her ears.

"She wasn't bothering me." Tarranna fidgeted and looked into the upper layer of the trees, anywhere but the other two humans. "I fish with a spear and am good at it. It's a great skill to have. If you don't mind, I could show Patience the basics of how to do it."

Mumma bear quickly pulled her jaw off the ground and closed her mouth. This was the most the warrior had willingly spoken to her. Mumma bear was flabbergasted (not a common occurrence by any stretch of the imagination). “That would be wonderful, thank you.”

Patience squealed in excitement and threw herself around Tarranna's knees. She attached herself to the tall woman like an oyster on a rock. “The first thing we have to do is get you a spear. Come on shorty, you're making it.” Tarranna stopped to pull her hunting implement from where she'd stashed it.

Hours later, Mumma bear stared in total amazement at the sight before her. The small blonde girl and the dogs jumped around in the stream. They screamed and barked loudly and not all the barks came from the dogs! The girl threw handfuls of water at the dark haired woman, who was gleefully returned the favour. Water was flying everywhere! All wild life within a ten mile radius had run for the hills and several fish were floating to the surface, dead - scared to death by the noise.

Silence! Mumma bear's hair stood on end and small chill ran down her spine. Something was terribly wrong! She looked up just as a huge wave of water drenched her to the bone.

A child screamed in glee and Lili wiped the water from her face just in time to see Lady and Patience run away from her. She flew to her feet and roared after them. The dogs barked and ecstatically ran in circles in front of Mumma as they tried to slow her down. Despite the efforts of the canines, Mumma quickly started to gain on the child.

Tarranna stopped, stooped to grab the slippery girl and held her unceremoniously under her left arm. She quickly juggled the fish she was carrying in her right hand, turned and run. Patience faced backward, squealed and laughed hysterically as her roaring mother charged after them.


Hours later, Patience was finally in an exhausted heap and the two women sat quietly around the campfire as they drank hot tea. "My friends call me Lili."

Tarranna looked confused as she took the proffered hand and shook it. "What should I call you?"

Mumma bear was floored. She stared at the dark haired woman whose serious face was slightly tipped to one side. 'My goodness!!! ' thought Mumma bear. ‘ She's serious!! ' "You're my friend, so call me Lili. Or Mumma Bear, I quite like that!!"

Tarranna had the good grace to blush. How'd Lili known that was her nickname?

Tarranna realised she still held Mumma bear's hand and hesitantly let go of it. She instantly missed the warmth and affection she'd soaked up through the contact. "I'm Tarra...." she choked on her own name. Did she really want this woman to know she was a murderous bitch, who instilled fear into the hearts of people everywhere? No... Lili accepted her as a weary/bored/lonely warrior who just wanted to be accepted and maybe even liked. She couldn't wreck that now.

Tarranna was snapped back to reality by Mumma bear's "Well Tarra, I have to say this has been the best trip I've ever been on. I have never had so much fun. Thank you for your gentleness with Patience and your wonderful company."

Tarranna smiled shyly at Lili and drew up her courage before she asked a question that had bugged her all afternoon. “Why did you yell ‘Denion Lilianda' at Patience today?”

Lili smiled back at Tarranna before she replied “That's her name, I call her Patience because ever since she started to sit up by herself, she was always pushing to do more. I was constantly telling her to be patient. It sort of stuck.”

Tarranna laughed and agreed with the suitability of the name.

The women talked quietly and openly for several hours before they finally said goodnight.



Tarranna sat in front of the fire and fidgeted mindlessly with a piece of leather she tied and untied knots in. She desperately wanted to ask the small blonde some personal questions, but was at a loss on how to go about it. She self-consciously cleared her throat, and then dived in head first. "You often wander around by yourselves? It's a long way from anywhere out here."

Mumma bear looked at the warrior, startled that the shy woman had started a conversation. "Yep, it sure is. My lot hated that I'm doing this, but I needed to get away. I have some decisions to make and I wanted to spend some time with Patience. I know it's dangerous, that's why I brought those two along.” Lili motioned toward the dogs.

Unfortunately, one of the canines (Rollie) chose that moment to roll onto his back, his tongue lolled from the side of his mouth as his front paws flopped around like trees in a stiff wind. The other dog (Pillo) curled around Patience. He licked her face when she rolled onto her side and her head flopped on his chest.

Tarranna's look at the ‘guard' dogs and then Lili made her opinion quite clear. “Don't you dare disparage my mutts! They're fierce and deadly when they need to be.” One of the fierce mutts whimpered in his sleep. Lili chose to ignore the snort from the dark haired woman as she continued “What about your family?"

Tarranna's mind flashed to the mother and father she vaguely remembered. However, there was nothing vague about the abuse she'd suffered from them. "Don't have any. You have a big family?"

Mumma bear laughed. "No but the ones I do have, have a protective streak as wide as this country."

Tarranna half smiled, not really being able to comprehend what it would feel like to have someone worry about her well-being. Maybe a change of subject was in order. "Her father must miss her."

Mumma bear took a deep breath, pain evident in her eyes. "He was murdered a few days after our wedding."

"I'm sorry. Who did it?" 'Please not me!... Please not me!...' Tarranna cringed as she waited for the answer.

"A slaver and his men killed my parents and husband. I was locked in a cage and they were in the process getting us ready to move to another kingdom when they were attacked." Lili took a deep breath before continuing. “It turns out a small force of Queen Tarranna's army was in the area scouting for an invasion party. They killed the slavers and the bastard that killed my husband. Fortunately, Queen Tarranna has a ban on slavery and the women and children were set free.”

Lili took a breath. “The men were asked to join her army – to help destroy slavery and the ruler of the land that was allowing it. Most of the men joined her and we returned home. I found out a while later that I was pregnant and, thanks to Queen Tarranna, Patience was born a free person.”

Tarranna was gob smacked. She remembered the battle Lili was talking about. She'd led the scouting party and killed many of the slavers herself. She had saved Lili and Patience from a life of misery? Something good had come from her murderous past? Cool!

"My husband would've been so proud of her."

Tarranna was pulled from her thoughts. "Yes, he would. She's a lovely girl."

Mumma bear looked deeply into Tarranna's eyes and saw nothing but sincerity there. "Thank you."


Lili looked in disbelief at the woman across the cave. Tarra lay under her blanket wriggled uncontrollably. The incessant movement under the blanket had been going on for nearly an hour.

Lili couldn't stand it any longer! She stood and walked determinedly to the other woman's bedroll and ripped the blanket off the unsuspecting person under it.

Tarra's eyes were as wide as dinner plates as she guiltily looked up at Lili. “You're driving me insane!! Please let me help you!!”

“NO!” Was the loud protest. “I can do it myself!”

“Well, obviously you can't do it properly!”

Tarra shyly looked anywhere but the blonde's eyes. “I don't like being touched!”

“I understand that! I won't hurt you. I promise.” Lili could see the dark haired woman become even more desperate. That desperation for relief slowly wore down the dark haired woman's aversion to anyone entering her personal space. “Just let me try for five minutes and if you don't like it, I promise I'll stop.”

Tarra warily looked at the other woman and she finally made her decision. She slowly moved into a position that allowed the blonde access to her body. Tarra felt Lili's first tentative touches and she breathlessly sighed at the feelings the blonde's fingers released. After a few seconds, the touch grew more confident and it caused Tarranna to groan louder. “Lower… Lower.. There! Oh yeah, there!!” When a second set of fingers touched her, Tarranna couldn't contain the ecstasy she felt. “There!!!”

Lili grinned as the five minutes came and went with no indication Tarranna was thinking of anything but the release Lili's hands were giving her. Lili leaned closer to Tarra's ear and whispered “Is this what you needed?”

Tarranna hissed affirmatively.

“Are you sorry you accepted my help?”

Tarranna shook her head negatively.

“Do you want me to stop?”

Tarranna begrudgingly shook her head negatively. Lili smiled contentedly as she continued to run her fingers over the heated skin in front of her.

When she'd first met Tarranna, Lily thought she'd end up strangling the irritable woman. She'd never imagined a back-scratch would be all it took to turn the woman into a puddle of relaxed muscle.


Over the next weeks, the two women became more comfortable talking to each other. Tarranna wouldn't admit it to herself, but she actually looked forward to sitting around the fire at night listening to stories of Lili's childhood and family. Tarranna especially wouldn't admit she looked forward the unrestrained touches the smaller woman subjected her to.

It seemed Lili couldn't talk without touching Tarranna. When Lili sat and talked she'd highlight important parts of a yarn by placing her hand on Tarranna's arm or knee. When Lili walked and talked, she'd touch Tarranna on the back or hip. Tarranna found herself asking questions about people she didn't know or care about, just so Lili would become engrossed in their conversation and unconsciously touch her.

And the back-scratches had quickly become a very welcome nightly ritual.

It was late one evening and the women had talked for a few hours. Tarranna shifted into a more comfortable position, looked up and smiled, hesitantly, at the blonde woman who sat next to her. Lili gently smiled back and started the back scratch Tarranna so obviously enjoyed.

Lili was moving her nails down Tarranna's side, when the dark haired woman unexpectedly wriggled. Lili was mortified as her hand slid along Tarranna's side and ended with her copping a feel of the other woman's breast! “I'm so sorry!!' she gulped. “My hand slipped!!”

Tarranna gasped in response to the warm, tingly feelings that coursed through her body. Lili heard the soft noise and felt the shiver that zapped its way down Tarranna's spine.

Deep in thought, Lili returned to running her fingers along Tarranna's shoulders. Lili became so distracted by Tarranna's responses, she involuntarily switched to autopilot. Lili moved so she kneeled behind the recalcitrant warrior. Soon, the scratches morphed into a massage of the broad shoulders in front of her.

Lili watched as her hands refused to respond to the messages her brain sent them - to stop the sensual touches! She saw her disobedient hands move over the shoulders and pause at Tarranna's collar bone. Lili felt her heartbeat triple as a soft groan of pleasure escaped from Tarranna's throat.

Lili's hands moved back onto the shoulder blades and toward the woman's sides. She nearly passed out as her traitorous fingers caressed the boundaries of Tarranna's breasts.

Lili slowly moved her body until she could feel the heat being pumped out by the dark haired woman. It took a full half minute for her to move her face closer to Tarra's ear so she could whisper “Is this what you want?”

Tarranna hissed affirmatively.

“Do you want me to stop?”

Tarranna shook her head negatively. She shook it so fast it nearly flew off her neck and rolled around the floor.

Lili moved to straddle Tarranna's legs, she ensured she found Tarranna's eyes and kept them locked to her own. When both sets of lips were close enough for each woman to feel the warmth of each other's breath, Lili stopped. She stopped to give Tarra a split second to protest.

No sound was made.

Lili gently placed her lips on Tarra's and gasped at the electric shock that tore through her body.

Still no protest!

Lili slowly began to move her lips against Tarra's. She gently teased the other woman until she had no choice but to respond. Lili's brain was quickly being short circuited by the sparks the women produced. After several minutes of slowly building, toe curling passionate kisses, Lili stopped and leant away from Tarra.

Tarranna sat with her eyes closed, an astounded look on her face.

Lili took Tarranna's chin in her hand and whispered “Open your eyes and look at me.” Two sets of blue eyes met then two sets of lips. Quiet groans broke the still of the night. Before long, Lili sat in Tarra's lap with her legs wrapped around the older woman's waist. Both women breathed deeply, both become lost in each other's touches.

Lili hesitantly placed Tarra's hand on her breast and silently encouraged the dark haired woman to touch her.

Tarranna did just that - and didn't stop.


It was just after dawn and Tarranna had just finished Midnight's brush down. She carefully placed his saddle on his back and noticed Patience as the girl slowly walked up to her. “What's ya doin'?”

“I'm going for a ride, Midnight's sick of standing around.”

“Will you be back?” The little girl smiled brightly.

Tarranna immediately suspected a trap! Suspiciously, she answered “Yes, I'll be back.”

“Can I please come too? Midnight likes me. I promise not to whinge and I'll be really, really good!!”

“I don't think that would be a good idea. I'll be gone all morning and you would have to ride in front of me. Trust me when I say that is not a good idea.” Tarra saw the tears as they welled in the tiny eyes and she hastened to add “I know you'd be good and if I thought you wouldn't get horribly sore from my saddle, I'd say you can come.”

“Mumma used to put my special blanket on her saddle, before I could ride my pony.”

“What special blanket?” Tarranna was intrigued.

Patience sensed a chance to ride her favourite horse and jumped up and down in excitement. “It's inside, I'll show you.” Before the older woman could think to reply Patience flew into the cave.

“Bring your mother back with you!” she yelled after the tiny lightning bolt.

Not long after, said lightning bolt returned, trying to drag her mother behind her. “This blanket.” Patience pulled her mother just long enough to ensure she would continue to follow before she skipped back to Tarranna. The child happily held up a large, wooly animal hide to the tall woman. A full minute later Mumma bear joined the other two.

“How is an animal hide going stop her privates getting chaffed?” Tarranna couldn't wait to hear the answer!

Lili smiled as she saw the skepticism in the other woman's eyes and manner. “It's a sheepskin. See how the wool is really thick and bouncy,” she encouraged Tarranna to touch the wool “well, it's so springy and thick it stops saddle sores and chaffing. When Patience was little, I met a family who raised these animals called sheep. They gave me a skin so I could ride with Patience in front of me. I have one on my saddle too.”

It was easy to see Tarranna was a non-believer as she said “I'm going for a long ride, I don't plan to be back to mid-afternoon.”

“Would you like her to go with you? If you do, I can show you how to place the fleece on your saddle and she'll be fine.”

“She can come along if she wants.” Patience loudly cheered from behind Lili. “Do you trust me to bring your daughter back? I could be a slaver for all you know.” Lili just laughed at the dark haired woman. Tarranna was genuinely touched by the smaller woman's trust. “The only way she will be hurt is if I'm dead. You have my word.”

Lili smiled as she said, first to Tarra “I know.” Then to Patience “Help Tarra with Midnight, I'll be back in a minute. Don't leave until I get back, please.” Tarranna nodded her agreement as the tiny human attached herself to the tall woman's left leg.

Tarranna motioned for the girl to let her leg go, which immediately happened. She lowered her tall frame to rest on one knee in front of the girl. “I want your promise you'll tell me if you're getting sore, hungry, thirsty or you just need a break. It is not whinging. OK?”

“I promise.” The girl gave Tarranna a huge hug then tried her best to help prepare Midnight.

Soon, the sheepskin lay across Midnight's saddle and covered from in front of the saddle horn to a foot past the other end. Tarranna wearily mounted the skittish horse and begrudgingly noted that the skin was indeed very comfortable. She moved further back in the saddle than usual then ensured the fleece was tight against the saddle horn. She gave Midnight a few minutes to prance to settle down then reached for the girl Lili carried on her hip. Patience quickly and competently settled herself and immediately earned Tarranna's respect.

Rollie ran full pelt around and around the glen. His excited barks were deafening! Tarranna looked from the demented dog to his beautiful human. Lili shrugged her shoulders and sighed “I think he'd like to go too.”

Tarranna winked goodbye to her love then smiled as she whistled to the crazy mutt, who immediately stopped his frantic run and sat next to the large horse. Rollie's tongue lolled out one side of his mouth.

Pillo sat quietly at Lili's feet, quite content to stay with his human.

Lili had already smothered her daughter with kisses goodbye. Food, water and Patience's warm jacket (also made of the sheepskin stuff) had been secured to the saddle. So, with a final nod from Tarranna and a wave to her mother from Patience, Midnight eagerly trotted away from the campsite.

Tarranna started out at a slower pace than normal, to see how her tiny passenger handled being on the powerful and very tall horse. Patience, of course, immensely enjoyed herself and was entirely comfortable as she leaned against her soft and secure backrest.

Eventually, they made their way to the bottom of the highest hill in the area, where it became too rocky for them to continue on horseback. After she dismounted, Tarranna noticed her very well-toned gluteus maximus was not as affected as it usually was from the saddle. She happily admitted these sheep thingies may be worth checking out. She efficiently removed Midnight's bridle and saddle so he could graze while the humans climbed the hill.

Tarranna took her usual weapons and the food and led the way. Rollie ran ahead to explore. Tarranna ended up having to carry the child most of the way, but was proud of the girl for the effort she'd put in.

Once at the top of the hill, they could see for miles in every direction. Patience ‘ooed' and ‘ahhed' at the beauty of the view while Tarranna focused on and was unsettled by the faint dust cloud on the horizon. Tarranna removed her telescopic spyglass from her pack and pulled it to its entire length.

The dust cloud was definitely in the neighbouring land of Mahchena. Although she couldn't see details, the form of the dust was extremely familiar to her – horses, wagons and soldiers. Lots of them.

If it was an army, it was still many weeks, even months, away from her castle. Tarra kept her concerns from Patience and allowed herself to be caught up in the child's enthusiasm for life.

After they ate their lunch and checked out some of the local wildlife, they packed their stuff and headed back down the hill. As they came nearer to where they left Midnight, the hairs on Tarranna's arms stood on end. She was certain someone watched her every move. Rollie growled softly but promptly ceased at Tarranna's hand signal. Tarranna continued to walk to where she'd left Midnight.

Tarranna continued to talk to Patience as if nothing was out of the ordinary. She quietly and calmly told the girl trouble nearby and to obey every order Tarranna threw at her.

Eventually they found Midnight, who pawed at the ground with nervous energy. “Steady boy.” Tarranna whispered to the horse as she scratched his head and face. “I know there're two of them. Midnight and Rollie. Guard Patience.”

Tarranna loudly asked Patience to sit on a large, flat topped boulder while she went into the bushes to relieve herself. The girl quietly agreed not to move and Tarranna casually wandered into the nearby bushes. She immediately melded with the background, silently weaved and glided from dark area to dark area as she searched for the enemy.

Tarranna found the first soldier about a hundred yards from the rock where the girl sat. He stood behind a tree and scanned the area for her return. Stealthfully, she made her way closer and closer to him. He went to hell not realising she'd snapped his neck and lowered him quietly to the ground.

The second soldier had worked his way to within fifty yards of Patience. He smiled maliciously as he whispered to himself “Well, well. Who do we have here? The Boss'll pay big time for you, little Princess.” He made his way out of the cover of the trees and walked confidently toward the girl.

Midnight and Rollie knew exactly where the man was. They also knew he was a ‘bad' human and there was no way that human was going to hurt their tiny friend.

The huge horse walked quietly and came from behind the soldier. He promptly screamed in the man's ear.

The so called ‘man' screamed in reply. He immediately fell on his butt as he tried to turn to see what was behind him. Still on his butt he crawled backward and the ‘soldier' continued to scream in horror as he saw the huge stallion rear and paw the air in front of him. Midnight fed on the screams as he lowered his front legs to the ground and snorted his distaste at the garbage in front of him.

Rollie took the opportunity to latch his jaws onto the human who still screamed. The canine then commenced shaking him… Unfortunately for the man, the dog grabbed him by the crotch. All noise from the man stopped, his face contorted in a silent scream as the intense pain rendered him impotent. Rollie continued to shake his prey until Tarranna told him to ‘stop' and ‘drop'.

Tarranna had walked up behind the soldier at the same time as Midnight and Rollie. She was generous in her praise to the gorgeous animals as she moved past them and their victim to the small girl. Tarranna picked up Patience and gave her a smothering hug as she turned the child away from the creep. “I didn't like the way he looked at me.” The girl shivered and Tarranna rubbed her back.

“Were you scared?” Tarranna whispered.

“No. You and Rollie and Midnight were here.” Patience kissed the cheek of the woman who held her.

“Will you be ok if I leave you for a little bit? I need to hide the soldiers.” Tarranna didn't want the girl to see the bodies up close.

Patience removed her arms from around Tarranna's neck and sat back on her rock.

Tarranna quickly removed the water bottle from the saddle and used its contents to wash the blood from Rollie's mouth. “Midnight and Rollie. Guard Patience.”

The little girl smiled as the huge horse came close and snuffed his breath against her chest. The large dog jumped onto the rock and sat next to her. She happily hugged him close.

Tarranna quickly returned to the side of the incapacitated soldier, removed a small satchel from across his shoulder and dragged him unceremoniously toward a rocky outcrop she had found earlier. On the other side of the rocks was a thin and deep chasm. Tarranna grabbed the creep by the belt and back of the shirt and propelled him over the edge. She thought she heard him grunt as he bounced off the wall (several times) before he hit the bottom. But it really could have been the wind.

Tarranna removed the documents from the satchel and threw it into the ravine. She then repeated the process with the other dead soldier.

Tarranna found where the men had tied their horses, both of which were better than average mounts. She checked them for identifying marks then led them to where Patience and Midnight waited.

Tarranna quickly mounted Midnight and settled Patience in front of her. She then set out toward the glen at a hasty but careful pace. The spare horses followed behind them.


When they arrived back at the cave, a worried Lili looked at the extra mounts as she hugged Patience to her chest. She raised her eyebrow questioningly at Tarranna and the warrior promptly assured Lili everything was under control.

Patience wriggled out of her mother's arms and began a verbal assault on the older woman. Tarranna stood and watched in pure amazement as Lili seemed to be able to understand the verbal diarrhea being hurled at her - at million miles per second. She even asked questions!

While the others chatted, Tarranna unsaddled Midnight then the other horses. She knew Midnight wouldn't let the spares wander off so she let them graze freely. Tarranna carried her gear into the cave and neatly stacked it away. She placed Patience's stuff in a tidy pile on the child's bedroll.

The tall warrior then headed back outside to the equipment used by the now dead soldiers. She efficiently rummaged through the saddlebags, found a few coins and some questionable food. She threw everything but the coin into a hole in the ground.

The dogs pounced on the food and made short work of it. They eagerly dragged away anything of interest to them and played with it until something more fun caught their eye.

Eventually, Tarranna remembered the documents she'd found in the satchel. She pulled them from her boot and quickly read the letters. She found nothing of interest and she threw them on the discard hole.

Tarranna lifted one of the saddles to inspect. It was a well-used item and typical tack for a lifelong soldier. When she turned it over, she saw new stitches in one small area of the padding. Suspicious, she pulled one the knives from her boot and sliced the repair work. Inside the saddle padding was a small leather pouch, which contained a document sealed with wax.

Lili saw what Tarranna had found and moved to stand beside her. Tarranna opened the letter with her knife and unfolded it. She held the paper so Lili could read it at the same time as she did.


Georstrie will gain no support from Arobar - I have her in the palm of my hand. I will ensure you receive the troops and supplies when and where you requested. I remain always your humble servant.


“Well, that sounds like unpleasant news!”


That night, Tarranna and Lili talked and made love for hours. They discussed how they could stay together but each had responsibilities they couldn't abandon. They agreed to meet in the same place, at the same time the next year. If the war they suspected was coming, allowed it. Neither was happy with the separation but both agreed it had to be done.

The next day, Patience and Lili packed up camp and unhappily said goodbye to their newest friend. Lili gave the taller woman a hug, "I love you. Patience loves you. We care about what happens to you and'll think of you always. Goodbye Tarra."

Lili quickly turned away mounted her horse and turned it toward home. Patience waved until she and her pony were out of sight and she loudly sobbed the entire way. The dogs howled along with the girl.

The Queen ignored her tears as they rolled down her cheeks. If she wiped them away she'd have to acknowledge she cared. That she was human. Queens and murderers don't cry.

Tarranna refused to cry.



Lili and Patience had been gone for just over a day. Tarranna paced restlessly and incessantly. She replayed the events of the past weeks over and over in her mind. She sadly laughed at Patience's antics and those of her mother.

After just one day Tarranna couldn't stand the quiet any longer. Resolutely, she packed up her meager supplies, lovingly scratched Midnight's itchy spots then looked around the campsite one last time.

After she mounted Midnight, Tarranna took a deep breath to calm her nerves and headed the horse toward her castle. She never looked back.

* * * * *

Tarranna set Midnight a constant, steady pace that devoured miles without overtiring the precious horse. As a result, in less than a week she was home. She arrived very early in the morning and immediately went to her castle's stable.

The Queen left Midnight (and the other 2 horses that had followed them) with his stable boy, knowing the horse would be extremely well looked after. Tarranna was pleased to see the castle still stood and that her sentries were alert and conscientious. Maybe she should trust her Ministers more often!

Tarranna made her way toward her chambers and tiredly rubbed her eyes and stretched her weary limbs as she did so. She was in the middle of a bone cracking head roll when Mahoneus cornered her. "What are you doing wandering around at this hour? Why are you dressed like that?" He sniffed the air and un-subtly grimaced. “And why do you smell like a stable?... No, don't answer that!!"

Before she could wipe the dumbfounded look off her face, he had Tarranna by the arm and was draging her toward her chambers. "You should be resting - you know you have a lot to absorb and so very little time to do it in. You need every bit of rest you can get!"

They were half way to her rooms when Melanger, Lushion and Cleusan ran into them. The other three Ministers immediately started to chastise her for her ‘midnight wanderings' and her selfish disregard of the seriousness of the situation.

By the time Tarranna had been dragged into her chambers, she'd reclaimed the ability to speak - barely! "Explain to me again why this is so serious.... please." she asked as casually as possible. The deadly undercurrents in her voice were missed by the others.

Mahoneus threw up his arms in disbelief, Cleusan and Melanger shook their heads before turning away in disappointment. Lushion took Tarranna's hand, gently led her to the nearby chair and urged her to sit. She held Tarranna's hand and leaned toward her as she looked into Tarranna's eyes as she smiled. Lushion carefully articulated her words as she said "In around a month we're getting a Royal visitor. By then you have to not only look like Tarranna, you have to act and think like her. You have to BE Queen Tarranna.... Peace relies on them believing you are the Queen."

Tarranna couldn't believe what she heard!! They obviously thought she was someone else - someone they intended to use to replace her!!! "Tell me again why we're doing this... please."

Lushion took a DEEP breath and smiled. Her face lit up and her eyes shone brightly, despite the dark circles around her eyes and unkempt appearance. "Queen Arobar is a recluse. She never goes outside her territory and not many of her own people know what she looks like. Arobar managed to unite the many different clans in her land, something no one has ever done before. After Tarranna, she's the most powerful person alive. If we insult her by saying Tarranna isn't here, it could mean war. Her Ministers actually contacted us and requested a meeting to discuss terms for a partnership. Tarranna has been trying to arrange a meeting like this for years."

Tarranna was floored. Queen Arobar was coming here?? In person! Something really horrible must indeed be in the wind.

Lushion took Tarranna's silence and stunned look as comprehension of the plan. "Tarranna is on a 'scouting' trip and we can't contact her. We've tried! Believe me we've tried! Nor do we know exactly when she'll be home. You have to be prepared to stand in for her if she doesn't return in time.” Lushion smiled charmingly as she continued. “We'll be here all the time, to instruct you what to say and how to act. You don't worry about anything. If you freeze we'll just tell Queen Arobar you're bored. Tarranna is notorious for getting restless quickly." Her smile took the bite out of her words.

"Do you want to dethrone Tarranna?" Tarranna had to be sure.

All the Ministers looked at each other and burst into laughter. It was several minutes before Melanger finally answered her. "I must admit that thought may have crossed all our minds at one time - but after the first two days... well, let's just say that running most of the country is just too much work, hassle, planning and stress. There's no time for personal pursuits like sleeping, relaxing or having a life."

"Do you know I haven't had a minute to myself or a decent night's sleep since Tarranna left? And there are four of us doing her job!!" Cleusan whined as she twirled a strand of her longish hair.

"It's little wonder Tarranna's been in a foul mood for so long..... I'm amazed she didn't lose her sanity years ago." Lushion shook her head which caused her curly locks to swing about her head.

Mahoneus leaned back into his chair, deep in thought. "You think we could give her two days off a week?" The others looked at him, fearfully. "Come on, the first two days were OK, correct?" They reluctantly agreed with that. "So, Tarranna works five days and has two off. After this, our jobs'll be like taking a vacation!! Maybe then she'll start enjoying everything she's worked for. I hate seeing her with a perpetual sneer and frown."

"Yeah, she has such a gorgeous smile." Cleusan drooled as her imagination ran away with her - and she wasn't alone. All four of the ministers stared into space, their eyes glazed and humongous smiles on their faces.

Tarranna had tears in her eyes as she studied each of them. She couldn't believe these people cared about her welfare. Particularly after the way she'd ice-berged everyone. Astounding!!

Mahoneus was the first to return to reality, he shook himself and cleared his throat, gaining everyone's attention. "So, are we agreed?" It was unanimous.

Suddenly the door to Tarranna's bedroom was thrown open by a bedraggled... Tarranna!! "What the heck is going on out here????? First, you order me to get some sleep - like I'm a BABY! Then you wake me up at some ungodly hour with your laughing and talking!!! WILL YOU PLEASE MAKE UP YOUR MINDS WHAT YOU WANT, SO I CAN EITHER GO BACK TO SLEEP OR GET DRESSED AND STAY UP!!!"

'Wow' thought Tarranna ‘Whoever she is, she definitely has my temper down pat!!'

The people in the room resembled beached barracuda - their mouths opened and closed in a steady rhythm. The Tarranna lookalike turned her deadly glare from one Minister to the next, her eyes finally softened when they reached the Queen. "Hello. I'm Chandral. Are you another stand in or the real deal?"

Tarranna's eyes sparkled as she warily eyed the person in front of her - her gaze settled on the proffered hand being extended toward her. "I'm the real deal... Chandral." She shook hands with the woman who looked so much like her.

"Wow, I actually got to meet Queen Tarranna!!... Man, am I glad you're back!! Do you know how hard it is to be you???!!! All snarls and glaring is great fun... but having all those whining business men come to you with all their stinky little problems.... Ahhhh!! How do you manage not to kill them all??”

"Well Chandral, sometimes I just give into the temptation. Right now I am exhausted. I'll see you all in the morning - much later in the morning." She herded the fish impersonators out the door. "We'll talk about my five day week then. Good job everyone." She promptly slammed the door.

Tarranna turned to Chandral and motioned toward her sleeping quarters. "You may as well spend the rest of the night where you were, I'll take the lounge."

Chandral positively glowed. "Are you sure? You look really tired."

"I am, on both counts." She nodded at her double's thank you, before she continued. "Thank you Chandral, for what you were going to do. I appreciate it..... I bet your family misses you."

A wistful look zipped across Chandral's face. "Nah, I don't have family.” Chandral saw the look on Tarranna's face as she silently requested a bit more information.

“I was raised in a little place about 3 hours ride west of here in a village was too small for a name. My father's name was Pedda and mother's Fillia. He was the blacksmith and she the town drunk. He liked to beat and …” she took a breath… “rape me.” She squared her shoulders and looked at her double. “I left as soon as I was able to.”

"What do you do for a living?" Tarranna couldn't believe she actually wanted to talk to this woman and cared about the answers.

Chandral fidgeted, put her hands on her hips, removed them, wrung her hands together and finally turned away from the Queen. "I'm a healer of sorts. I use natural remedies and charms to make people feel better.” She said very softly.

Tarranna was relived Chandral hadn't been forced into prostitution, like many others were. Tarranna saw the woman's uneasiness, she gently asked "Is what you do something you're ashamed of?"

"Nah! I usually pretend I do something else, ‘cos most people look down on me for what I do. I didn't want to lie to you."

"Well, I'm glad you didn't because I always need a good healer around me and a bit of good luck never hurts.”

Chandral stared at her counterpart, to judge if she was for real or just wanted to make her feel better. What she saw was honesty. Chandral sighed, “Thank you. Goodnight Majesty."


Hours later, Tarranna was still awake. Resigned to the fact she wouldn't be able to sleep, she quietly summoned her chief assassin. Not long later, Tarranna was joined by a small brown haired woman named Geon. “Majesty?” Geon said quietly.

“There's a blacksmith and his wife, Pedda and Fillia, in a village around 3 hours ride to the west. Have you met Chandral?” The assassin nodded and her Queen wasn't really surprised. Tarranna knew not much escaped Geon's notice. “They're Chandral's parents. See if they're dead yet. If not, kill them.”

Geon nodded. She was a specialist and she knew why the order was given. “How fast do you want him to die?” Tarranna's sneer and glare at the mere thought of the man was answer enough. “I'll drag it out as long as I can. Hopefully, I'll see you in three weeks.”

Tarranna nodded her thanks to the woman then settled back onto the large lounge chair. Tarranna respected Geon's work. The woman was an absolute master. If that asshole was still alive, he'd soon wish he wasn't. Tarranna knew the smaller woman allowed herself 3 days travel and finding time. The rest of the three weeks would be used to slowly kill the man. Tarranna quickly fell asleep, a smile on her face.



Very much later that day, Tarranna confronted her ministers about Chandral. “When and where did you find her?”

Melanger cleared his throat before he answered. “About a week ago I was looking for you, up near the northern border. We found a small band of thieves and wiped them out. Several of my men had bad lacerations we couldn't mend ourselves.”

“We found a small town and asked around for a healer. They reluctantly directed us to Chandral. They called her a witch and weren't really polite in their recommendations of what we should do with her.”

“Anyway, she had really long hair and was dressed in weird girly clothes. She wore a half a ton of jewelry - but she was still you. She patched the men up, beautifully, by the way. Their wounds have healed quickly and are hardly leaving scars. Most of the army wants her to heal them now.”

Tarranna was obviously impressed, so he continued the story. “I told her I needed her to come with us. She gave me her version of your lethal glare and told me to ‘piss off' because she wasn't a prostitute.”

Tarranna laughed at his obvious embarrassment, as did the others.

“After I assured her I didn't mean for sex and I apologized profusely for giving her the wrong impression, she agreed to listen to me. I told her we were returning to Castletown and who I was. I didn't tell her exactly what I had in mind, but told her she'd be of invaluable assistance to the Queen.”

Lushion continued the story “When he arrived back with Chandral and explained to us what he had in mind, we thought he was a total nutcase!” Melanger playfully, swatted the woman's arm as she continued “But after Chandral had her hair cut, was dressed in one of your outfits and we'd pulled our jaws off the floor, we agreed his idea may just work.”

“When did you get Arobar's message?”

“About a week before finding Chandral. We sent messengers in all directions, but they returned empty handed. We were starting to get worried and Mahoneus was freaking out big time.”

Mahoneus energetically and loudly denied the accusation but Cleusan laughed as she continued “You were too! You were running around the castle crying and screaming out ‘Tarranna, we need you… Come home Tarranna !'

The Queen laughed as Mahoneus griped “I wasn't screaming, I was praying !” He looked at his Queen and begged “Please don't EVER leave us like that again!”


It was the second day of Tarranna's return and she was in the huge hall sitting in judgment of those who dared break her laws. She'd already sentenced two murderers to death; ordered the removal of a serial thief's tools (in this case his lock picks and grappling hook, not his hands) and broke the nose of a man who dared call her mother a whore. Tarranna never loved her mother and was glad she was dead, but that was beside the point. As the idiot quickly found out.

Tarranna stared in incredulity as the next criminal was dragged before her. The old woman must have been 60 summers old, was bent over with a slight kyphosis, her hands were obviously arthritic and she was dressed in dirty and smelly rags.

Tarranna motioned for the two guards to come closer to her. They quickly obeyed her, more than a little fear showing in their eyes. "You ever treat an elderly person like that again and I will break both your arms and legs. I will let the bone almost heal then I will drag you around, just to show you how it feels." She glared into their eyes, making them swallow convulsively. "GOT THAT??!!"

"Yes, Majesty!!"

"Good." She purred. "Make sure all your guardy friends are reminded too. If they handle the elderly, women or children roughly, they will pay dearly. No more warnings."

"Yes, Majesty."

"Good boys. Now go stand politely behind grandma and wait for my next orders."

"Yes Majesty." The guards looked like they would pee their pants if she even looked at them again.

Tarranna smiled ferally as she watched the burly guards hasten to do her bidding. "Sometimes I just love being a bitch." She gloated to herself. The Queen turned her gaze to the woman who glared back at her. "What did you do?" She asked, with a hint of respect in her voice.

The old woman looked as if she would spit but she glanced at the guards and changed her mind. She'd heard the Queen dress down the bullies. She was old but not deaf. "I stole a loaf of bread and a flagon of wine. Majesty ." The arrogance in which the title was spat from the woman's lips didn't escape the ears of the Queen.


The woman looked confused. "Why what?"

"Why steal?"

"Humppphhh!! How else am I going to get food? I'm 61 year old. My man died last winter. Thieving mongrels stole everything I owned and burnt down my house. My kids are all dead and I have to live on the streets. Tell me Queen Tarranna , how else am I going to get food and something to warm my bones?" Not an ounce of self-pity was in the woman's tone. She was a proud woman and she was not bowing to anyone, not even the Queen.

"Where was your house and who burnt it down?"

"On the outskirts of town. Your guards, Majesty, that's who did it."

Tarranna could almost see sparks arc off the angry woman. "Do you know their names?"

"Hummpppphh. Atrius and Kyphus. Fat lot of good that does me."

Tarranna motioned Melanger to her. "Do you know those men?" She asked.

"Yes, my Lady. They were stand over merchants who killed market owners family members if the extortion money wasn't paid on time. You had them executed as soon as we found out what they were doing."

"Ahh. Well, that saves me having to kill them now." She indicated her thanks and sent him back to his post. "Well old woman, it seems your pyromaniac friends have already been killed, by me."

"Good. Hope they died painfully." The old woman snarled.

"Melanger, how did they die? I forget." Tarranna looked at Melanger.

"You had them spread-eagled on rocks at the top of the quarry, during the hottest days of summer. They slowly roasted, your Majesty."

The chronologically advanced woman grinned viciously. She was doubly impressed. They had died in an awful manner and the Queen didn't mind killing corrupt guards. Her day was definitely improving.

The Queen stared at the woman, her fingers tapped on the arm of her throne. "Well, that solves one part of your problem. What the heck am I going to do about you, though?"

"Are you asking me? If you are, kill me now and get it over with. It'd be better than starving to death or getting beaten up by young hoods with nothing better to do."

"Sorry, old one. I don't do euthanasia." Tarranna had to let the smirk onto her lips as she heard the older woman snort in disgust. “Melanger, double the night patrol in town. If people like her are getting beaten, I want the bastards doing it dead.” Melanger saluted and relayed the order to one of his soldiers.

"You raised how many children?" Tarranna wasn't sure but the 3 fingers the woman lifted in her direction may have been an insult. She decided to give the woman the benefit of the doubt. "I'm sure you have skills. Care to tell me what they are?"

"I can cook, sew, clean, stretch a gold coin 'till it screams for mercy, organise everyone and everything till they do exactly what I want, grow a tree in the desert and spit 30 feet. I'm just your 'typical' homeless housewife."

"How many others do you know, who are in the same situation?" Tarranna was sure she wasn't going to like the answer.

"About two dozen my age, and that's only in the nearby sections of town."

Yep, Tarranna was disgusted with herself. "Sheriff, get my friend here a chair, I'll get back to her later. Guard, bring in the next one."

Tarranna's feral look resurfaced as she noticed the extremely polite fashion in which the old woman was asked if she would like to sit. Tarranna's amused-feral grin morphed into a murderous-feral look as two children were escorted before her. "What in the name of the Mother is going on here?" She growled. "Are there so few young-healthy-male criminals left that you have to resort to arresting old women and children?"

The guards squirmed and shuffled nervously, so scared they almost dirtied their trousers. Again! "They were caught stealing and the merchant demanded restitution, Majesty." Melanger's intervention earned him undying loyalty from all the guards. "I thought it best to bring them straight to you - I didn't want the boys punished or worse by that money grubbing moron. Please forgive me, Majesty, if that was the wrong decision." He bowed in front of her.

"You did well, General." Melanger was stunned. Tarranna had just promoted him? She motioned for him to return to his position, which he had trouble doing because his legs felt like rubber.

Tarranna then stared at the children. One was about six years old, with filthy black hair (she couldn't tell if that was its original colour or just dirt) and the smaller one was around three years, with light brown hair and, for some reason, was decidedly cleaner than his older sibling. Both looked hungry and unrepentant. Both stared at her with unflinching gazes, the smaller one held his brother's hand. "Where are your parents?'

"Dead, Queen. Mumma died when Spinos was born. Pappa died weeks ago." Was the defiant reply.

'What is this? The ‘homeless give lip to the Queen Day'?? At least the guards still know who's boss here.' Tarranna shook her head and grunted at the boy. "Have you any relatives you could go to?"


"Where have you been sleeping at night?"

"In doorways."

"When was the last time you ate?"

"The day Pappa died."

No wonder Spinos drooled at the bowl of fruit beside her. She motioned the children forward. "C'mere." They hesitantly climbed the stairs and stopped at her feet. Tarranna held out two apples which were tentatively taken by the children, then almost swallowed whole.

"Don't give them too much fruit if they haven't eaten in a while, they'll get the runs."

Tarranna looked to the old woman (who smirked at her) as she quipped dryly "We definitely don't want that to happen."

The woman actually laughed at the Queen!

The occupants of the huge hall all held their breaths in solemn expectation as Spinos took his life into his hands and climbed into the Queen's lap!! There was a collective gasp of surprise as she snuggled him closer to her!! The older child (Andreas) casually leaned on her knee and chatted away about all their adventures since their father died.

Ten minutes later they'd had several apples each and the children happily laughed and cooed at Tarranna (who smiled back at them). The guards and spectators still had their jaws on the ground and Tarranna had a plan.

Tarranna called Melanger to her, told him to have Maladroit (his heart was enormous and he was always gentle and polite) escort the old woman and the children to the kitchen. They where they were to be fed, cleaned up and given a bed for the night. In the morning, arrangements were to be made for a temporary orphanage and old folks home to be set up in the great hall of the castle. Construction was to start as soon as possible for permanent buildings.

The elders would be expected to help care for the children and to pass on any skills they had in farming, housework etc. Scholars would be expected to teach the children to read and basic mathematics. No child or elder was going to be homeless or starve in her domain ever again.

The children kissed her cheek.

The old woman smiled happily for the first time in months.

Tarranna felt truly good about herself for the first time in her adult life.


Tarranna lay on her bed and stared at the roof. Being nice sure had horrible side effects. No wonder she'd been wild for so long. Her head pounded! She hadn't had a moment's peace for five days, and her throat hurt.

All because she'd done good!!! She should've just beheaded the kids and that bloody old woman!!! But NO, she just had to be virtuous and take in orphans and old farts!!! Who knew kids and oldies could make SO much noise? And eat SO much food???!!!!

Not her.

War was quieter than this lot!! Sure, there was yelling and screaming in battle, but that noise stopped.... eventually.

Not them!!

And when the roar actually quieted to a din, Mahoneus and his cronies would pounce on her.... to complain about the cost of this and that, to quibble about whose floor-plan/type of wood/colour paint was better. She was fed up!! She was pissed off!!!

She was scared!!

Yep, she finally admitted it to herself. She was scared, terrified even. When she ventured out onto the streets, people tentatively waved to her and women would come up to her with flowers or something nice to eat.

People had actually smiled at her!!!

People were beginning to like her and it scared her more than she scared her soldiers. A grin wound its way onto her face. At least she still scared someone!! Maybe she should go out and do some drills with her army. Yeah, beat the crap out of some huge warriors and watch them wet their pants when she turned her 'look' on them. Her heart stopped palpating and she felt her muscles start to relax.

Or she could tell Melanger she wanted to inspect the Royal Guard. Yeah, call a surprise inspection and watch them run around like headless chickens. Tarranna smiled blissfully as she imagined the chaos she could cause. A contented sigh escaped her throat as she closed her eyes and dreamed on.

A knock on her door ripped her back to reality and caused a pained howl from deep within her soul.

She wanted her Mumma bear.... "GO AWAY!!!" She bellowed. Her bedchamber door opened slowly. The extremely brave person causing it, cautiously put her head around the barrier and fully expected to be met by the sharp end of a long dagger.

Tarranna didn't move. She was spread-eagled on her bed. She couldn't reach a weapon if her life depended on it and she didn't care. Death would be welcome at this point. Hell could not be this bad!!

"Tarranna? Gosh darlin' are you OK??" Chandral hurried to the bed and sat beside the head that looked so much like hers. "Tarranna, are you hurt?" Chandral couldn't believe the pathetic soul lying here was the sizzling, vibrant Queen. She shook her head sadly at the negative response from the supine woman. Chandral couldn't do nothing! She placed her hand on Tarranna's forehead and gently moved the fringe off the lovely face under it. She delicately caressed the skin under her fingers, as her other hand took Tarranna's and squeezed it. "Don't let them get you down, sweetie."

Tears gathered in the Queen's eyes, ran delicately down her cheeks and onto the bed. Chandral caught several and wiped them away with her skirt.

Tarranna couldn't hold back any longer, the dam broke and she cried. She cried for her lost innocence and all the people her army had killed. She cried because she needed love and approval.

Most of all she cried because she missed Patience and Mumma bear!!!! How could she have let them go? She wanted her new family back!! Wanted to hold them both and never let them out of her sight again.

She needed Lili and Patience in her life.

* * * *

Chandral sat on the Queen's bed and her fingers through the hair of her doppelganger. Tarranna was curled in the fetal position, her cheek rested on Chandral's thigh. Her hand covered her eyes as she let the tears and grief flow unchallenged. Chandral wasn't sure how long Tarranna cried, but it was quite a while. Her skirt was drenched and her legs were numb, but she didn't move. She just kept on with the massage to Tarranna's head. She felt honoured to be allowed near the woman at such a vulnerable time. Besides, she honestly liked the woman who was Queen.

Tarranna eventually regained her composure and embarrassment crept into her body language. She sat up and roughly brushed the remaining moisture from her face. "I don't know what happened, sorry."

"Don't you dare be sorry!" Startled at the anger in the words, Tarranna looked into Chandral's eyes. "You obviously needed to do that, so don't you dare apologise to me. You hear??"

Tarranna nodded fearfully. So that's what she looked like when she was mad! No wonder guards shook in their boots.

Chandral moved closer to the frozen Queen and pulled her into a bone cracking hug. "You ever need someone to cry on again, you come see me, OK?" Tarranna laughed, accepting the comfort and the sentiment in the same manner it was given. Freely. She hugged Chandral close and quietly thanked her.

After the embrace was broken, Tarranna noticed the state of Chandral's skirt and insisted she change into some clean clothes. She gave the woman her choice of the Queen's wardrobe. Chandral quickly made her selection (a pair of tailored linen pants and a sky blue silk shirt) and changed.

Tarranna washed her face to scrub away the last of her tears. She then changed into a leather pant and vest set - specifically designed and padded for her vigorous training sessions. Both women finished getting dressed at the same time. Tarranna fidgeted and still looked rather embarrassed.

"You're in love, aren't you?" Chandral quietly guessed.

Tarranna's look at Chandral was reminiscent of a deer caught in the middle of a pack of wolves. It was several minutes before Tarranna worked up to courage to answer. Her voice was soft and croaky. "Yes."

"Why aren't you with him or her?"

"I don't know where to look." Tarranna suddenly realised she desperately needed to confide in someone. She closed her eyes, gathered her considerable reserves of courage and continued. "I met Lili and her five year old daughter, Patience, when I was away. We spent most of that time together and....... and... I miss them."

Chandral didn't try to get closer to the Queen. She knew the other woman wouldn't be able to handle physical contact this time. So she waited for Tarranna to regain her composure. "I tried so hard not to like them, but they just wore me down...” She laughed humourlessly. "And then I let them go, without so much as finding out where they live. I told myself that these feelings were just a reaction to them treating me as a normal person and that I'd soon forget them. But I haven't.”

Tarranna saw Chandral was genuinely interested and continued. “It's getting harder every day for me to be here and not out there looking for them. I only stay because I want to clean up my reputation - so they'll be proud of me when they find out who I am.... I want to be proud of who I am." She looked at Chandral and decided not to hold back. "Without meeting them I would've killed you rather than blubber all over you. You realise that, don't you?"

Chandral snorted. “Well, I beg to differ - with Maladroit as my main piece of evidence. That man has such a gentle soul! You knew that and created a wonderful job for him.”

Tarranna took a deep breath and was obviously preparing to argue with her double, who put up her hand to stop the argument before it started. "What if you give yourself a few days, and then go looking for Lili and Patience. The others can take over again. They won't like it, but they'll survive." Chandral threw Tarranna a grin. "Can you imagine the looks on their faces if you ever told them you're abdicating for love?"

Tarranna grinned, and then outright laughed. "Thank you Chandral. I'll do that." They fell into a companionable silence.

Chandral glanced shyly at Tarranna, deciding that since the Queen was opening up to her, maybe she'd reciprocate. "I really like helping out with everyone in the great hall."

"You do??!!"

"Yeah. I love working with the kids, they don't care who or what you are. They accept the love you give them and return it with interest. The oldies are so much fun and so full of life - all they want to do is pass on all their experiences so we can learn from their mistakes... I feel good about myself when I'm helping them out... Maybe if something like this was set up when I was a kid, I wouldn't have had such a horrible childhood... I'll do all I can to make sure those kids don't have to worry about their futures... Besides, when I'm with them, they look at me as a person, not as just a freak. And it feels excellent."

"Chandral, you were never a freak. You're a lovely person.”

"Thank you Tarranna. Your opinion means a lot to me."

Tarranna shuffled around nervously. "Yeah, well... You're one of the very few people I actually like. So don't go selling yourself short… Melanger tells me you're a great healer and the men are coming to you when they're injured. Don't let them overwork you."

Chandral couldn't believe what she'd just heard. "Did you just give me a compliment? You did, didn't you??" Spying Tarranna's crooked grin, Chandral burst into laughter and backhanded the warrior's shoulder. "You have the entire world convinced you are a heartless, humourless bitch and here you are giving me a pep talk. You are such a fraud!!!"

"Yeah, well, you tell anyone about this and I'll have to deny it… and have you very slowly and painfully killed. Understand?"

Chandral just snorted. "As if I'd tell anyone anything about you...They wouldn't believe me anyway - they all walk around singing 'Chandral's a loony tune, someone scrambled her brain with a wooden spoon' ...."

Tarranna gave Chandral one of her lethal glares. Chandral threw her hand up in glee! "That's the look!!! When I was learning to be you, I tried that on one of your guards.... He actually passed out!!!"


"Honest truth! He lost it, fell backwards and took out the two men behind him. They fell sideways and dominoed half the squad!!" Chandral could've sworn there was a pout on the Queen's lips. No, she must have imagined it!

"I've never made a guard feint. Merchants, yeah, but they don't count."

Chandral laughed. That had been a pout!! "I cannot believe you are such a baby."

"Am not!!"

"Are so!! But if it makes you feel better, he did think I was you!!"

Tarranna's smug look crept onto her face. She straightened up into her 'arrogant as hell' stance. "True... I was thinking of cheering myself up with a surprise inspection of either the army or my guards. Wanna come?"

"Heck, yeah!!!!... Hey, Tarranna can I ask you for a favour. I'll understand if you can't say yes."

'Uh oh, did I make a mistake with this? ' After she cleared her throat, Tarranna nodded.

"Well, will you let me take your place one time? I know it's a lot to ask, but I really enjoyed making those men squirm." Her nose crinkled as a mischievously wild grin surfaced. "Just by standing in front of them, without even moving a muscle, I could make them sweat!! It was a stupendous rush!!" Her face was flushed as she relived the moment.

"Chandral, that would be no problem at all...... Why not now?" Chandral practically threw herself at the Queen and engulfed her in a huge hug. "Hey, enough of the mushy stuff, we have work to do!!"

Chandral noticed Tarranna had returned her hug - and hung on for several seconds before she started to act tough again. "How about I take the army, I feel like kicking some huge, well trained soldiers around. You can have the Royal Guard. Be sure to stress they have to be in top shape for Queen Arobar's visit."

Chandral wrung her hands together, a carbon copy of Tarranna's feral grin appeared on her face. "Oh trust me Tarranna, they will be!! I'll have them jumping through hoops. I'll inspect every buckle on their armour and I'll even make them polish the soles of their shoes!!"

Tarranna grinned and raised her eyebrow. "I love the way you think!!"

"Should I change and maybe get some weapons?"

"Nah, that's one of my favourite outfits and I've worn it for inspections before. They won't think anything of you being unarmed."


Tarranna replaced her grin with a deadly sneer. Her body took on the Queen's persona. Her presence exuded danger, power, sensuality and death.

Chandral stared at the woman, soaked in all the subtle changes, noted them and worked out how to do the same. It was remarkably easy now she could see the Queen in action.

Tarranna looked at Chandral to see if she was ready to go.

Chandral replaced her grin with a deadly sneer. Her body took on the Queen's persona. Her presence exuded danger, power, sensuality and death.

Tarranna was impressed!!! Her sneer grew bigger as she moved toward the door. "Let's go have some fun!!"


Chandral was scared. She sat in the Queen's quarters and nervously played with the seam of her skirt. She'd been summoned by the Queen and she was pretty sure she knew why. She'd overstayed her welcome and the Queen was going to tell her to leave.

Chandral knew this day would eventually come, she'd just prayed it would be later rather than sooner. She'd never been happier than she'd been in the few last weeks. The thought of leaving the children and Elders devastated her. Her work in the refuge had given her a reason to get out of bed with a smile and a sense of purpose in her life. She had never felt so needed and loved. Having to leave was going to be so hard!

As the door to the Queen's bedchamber opened, Chandral stood up, forced a smile and turned to face her Queen.

"Chandral." Tarranna nodded to her double and motioned for her to sit. She was disconcerted at the cool vibes she sensed from Chandral. She quickly changed how she was going to approach this task. "How's everything going with you?"

"Great!!! Just.... great." Chandral took a deep breath. "You know I love being here....." Chandral almost choked, "but I think it's time I get going. You know how it is, places to go people to see...." She stared at the floor and gallantly forced back her despair.

"Oh..." Tarranna was shocked. How could she have misread Chandral so badly? "I'm sorry you feel like that. I was going to ask if you wanted to stay - permanently."

Chandral's face went ghostly white and her impersonation of a beached fish was spot on. "W.....w.wa..w.wh......"

Tarranna flew out of her chair and grabbed the woman by her shoulders. Chandral's head was hastily but gently lowered between her legs. Tarranna was certain the woman was about to feint. Sometime later, Chandral regained her senses and slowly raised her head. Tears streamed down her face and she babbled incoherently.

"Chandral, what's wrong? I thought you'd be pleased with the offer??" In between the babble, sniffles and sobs, Tarranna could scarcely make out what the problem was. "You thought I asked you in here to send you away?" Tarranna couldn't believe it. She thought of Chandral as a friend and her friend believed the worst of her. Sometimes being open and caring really sucked.

"Yeah... I mean, I'm a freak with no education or useful skills. I've been cadging off you for ages and can never pay you for my food and room. I was sort of hoping you'd forget I was here and I could just fade into the woodwork."

Tarranna smiled crookedly. Openness and concern could be OK after all. "Chandral, you have the patience of a Saint. Those kids and oldies would be lost without you. Then on top of that, you're the best healer I have. You heal my men's hurts, aches and pains, talk and listen to them... You have the gift of making people feel needed and good about themselves. Everyone absolutely loves you.”

Tarranna explained the offer a bit further. “I don't want you doing all the grunt work anymore. I want you to teach others your skills so they're learning from the best. Why would I throw away a wonderful asset like you?"

A strangled laugh come sob escaped from Chandral as she shyly looked up at the Queen. “So you aren't keeping me here because I'm so beautiful?”

Both women snorted with laughter then Tarranna said seriously, "I am going to use you for sword practice if I ever hear you belittling yourself again.... Got that?" Chandral grinned helplessly as she nodded. "And you can so afford to pay for your food and board - that is if I wanted you to."

Chandral raised her eyebrow, enquiringly.

"I arranged with Mahoneus to pay you for the work you've done lately. You have quite a load of gold coins to collect tomorrow."

Chandral couldn't believe what she was hearing. Gold coins, a job she loved, respect from Tarranna.... This had to be a dream!!

"Come on Sniffy, wash your face and we'll celebrate. Mal's sending up food and apple cider. It should be here soon." Chandral couldn't decide whether to laugh or cry, so she did both. Tarranna stared into Chandral's eyes, serious. "You can say no if you really don't want this."

Chandral snorted as she laughed. "Can I borrow your sword? That was the silliest thing I've ever heard." She stared into Tarranna's eyes. "I can never thank you enough for this chance. You won't be sorry you let me stay."

Tarranna's smile was blinding. "Chandral, I already know that! Go wash up!!"

"OK.... Boss!!" Their laughter echoed throughout the castle.


Early that afternoon Tarranna noticed Geon enter the secret room they usually debriefed in. Tarranna used the prearranged hand signal to tell the woman she would join her soon. Tarranna kept her nagging ministers distracted while the door shut and for several minutes after that.

“I need some time to think, leave me alone until after lunch. In the meantime prioritise the most urgent matters and we'll settle them then.” Tarranna watched her ministers leave, checked the corridors before and after the room before she slipped inside the hidden doorway.

As the Queen entered the room, Geon knelt on one knee in front of her. Tarranna studied the kneeling woman whose head hung dejectedly. “My Queen, I've failed you. My life is yours.”

“Well, before you give up your life so easily, how about you tell me what happened first. And stand up while you do it.”

The petite woman stood and started her report. “I found the bastard right where you told me he'd be. The wife's been dead for years. I asked about his family and he told me all about his ‘bitch of a daughter' who'd drugged him and before she took off – taking all his money with her. He even named and described a pathetically young Chandral to me. He wanted to know if I'd ever seen her. He ranted on and on about how if he found her, he'd turn up and drag her home - where he'd ‘teach her' to run off on him. I'd thought about bringing him back to you, until I heard that. I didn't want him near her.” Tarranna nodded her approval and motioned for the woman to continue.

“I took him deep into the forest and started to make him pay. He was a coward and couldn't handle pain. I didn't do much too him before I had to let him heal some. I failed you Majesty because he died within a week.”

Both women tensed and drew their daggers as they heard a faint noise from the far corner of the room. Both identified the noise as being made by a human. Tarranna signaled for the other woman to follow her lead “Did he die screaming?” Tarranna stealthily moved toward the origin of the sound.

“Yes Majesty, I skinned his penis then got him imagine what he would do to Chandral when he found her. He screamed until his throat was too raw for noise to escape.” Geon readied her attack stance, set herself to confront the person in the corner, listening to them.

“Shit!!” Tarranna swore as she sheathed her weapon and signaled for Geon to do the same. The Queen looked down at Chandral, with dread in her eyes. “How did you find this room and what are you doing in here now?”

“By accident, not long after I first got here. I wanted to hide somewhere quiet, where I could think.”

Chandral looked deep into Tarranna's eyes before she stood up and slowly moved toward Geon. “I didn't take anything when I left. Did you really kill him, like you said?” Geon nodded and steeled herself for the attack. Geon nearly feinted as Chandral drew her into a hug. “Thank you. Thank you so very much.” Geon returned Chandral's hug as she grinned in relief at Tarranna.

When Chandral finally released Geon, the tiny woman politely thanked Chandral and bowed to her Queen. “Geon, you didn't fail me, you never could. Go get some rest.”

Geon saluted her Queen then silently used the peep hole to check the hallway was clear before she left the two women alone.

“You had my father killed?” Tarranna suspected she'd lost the only friend she'd ever had as she nodded affirmatively. “Why?”

“Because he hurt you. Because when you told me what he did to you, you were still scared of him. Because I didn't want him to ever turn up looking for you. Because I couldn't let him keep on hurting you.”

“You must have sent Geon after him ages ago. How could you have been so sure I wasn't going to betray you?”

Tarranna knew she had to explain further if she wanted to keep Chandral's friendship and trust. “I gave Geon her orders the night we met.” She continued to explain a little more, “Ever since I was little, I could ‘sense' if someone is good, bad or anywhere in between. It's an invaluable skill.” She stared into Chandral's eyes. “You are way off the ‘good' end.” Tarranna took a breath, “That's why I didn't have Maladroit killed. The man wouldn't know how to think about hurting someone.”

Chandral laughed which startled Tarranna. “When I touch someone, I know what's in their heart. That's how I knew I could trust your ministers… and you.” Chandral straightened her shoulders and looked Tarranna in the eye. “I've been experimenting with some new charms and I'd like you to have this.” She handed the Queen a small silver sword attached to a leather cord.

Tarranna took the beautiful gift and secured it around her neck. “Thanks. What's it do?”

“I've never tried to use more than one blessing per charm before, but this one has four. It will protect, heal and guide you as well as enhance your natural gifts.”

“What exactly do you mean by guide me and natural gifts? It had better not make me into your mindless slave!”

Chandral laughed at that thought “As if a charm could be strong enough to rule your mind!! No, it'll just nudge you in the direction you need to be heading in. I'm hoping it will help you find Lili.”

Tarranna smiled at that thought.

“Your natural abilities would include the way you know good from evil. It will protect you, especially when you're helping others. The healing won't make you invincible it'll help you recover quicker. If you lose the charm have it quickly replaced.”

“It won't help me kill? I don't want that!” Tarranna shuddered at that thought.

Chandral walked to Tarranna and hugged her. “You do kill a lot of men, but only the ones who deserve to die. Only the mongrels who enjoy hurting innocent people and would continue to do so if they lived longer. You, my Queen, have a beautiful heart.”

“If I have such a beautiful heart, why do I want to find the nearest mud puddle and push you into it?”

Chandral released the flustered woman and backhanded a gentle swat to her shoulder “Because you know I'm right and don't want to admit it.”

“You seem really good at forgetting I'm QUEEN. I'm always right.”

Chandral took the smirk off her face as she bowed to the Queen. “Forgive me Your Royal Majesty. I didn't mean to offend you. You are not good of heart. You are the biggest, meanest, toughest, bitchiest person on the continent! And I will not dare to suggest otherwise ever again.”

Tarranna waited until the other woman stood up properly before she commented. “You really have to work on your groveling skills, woman! That was so obviously sarcastic I'm going to take you outside and dunk you in the fountain.”

“You can't.” Chandral told the Queen.

“And why can't I?” Tarranna drawled suspiciously.

“Trust me. You really don't want to go near there. The kids are using it to play in. The Elders have set up tables around it to play cards and chess on and your Ministers arranged to have lunch out there. I know for certain they all want to thank you for letting them use it.”

“They did what? I didn't give them permission to do that!” Tarranna glared at Chandral and suspected she had something to do with the deal. “Spill it!” She demanded.

“They all thought I was you, the day you let me play with your Guard. I knew you really wouldn't mind, so I told them yes. I was going to tell you, but forgot. I'm sorry.”

“I'm not angry, I would've said yes anyway.” She continued to glare at Chandral. “I am pissed I can't take the short cut past there. I intended going for a ride.” She grinned evilly at Chandral. “I still am, and you're coming with me!! There's a beautiful lake not far from here!!”

Chandral was horrified “You expect me to ride with you to a lake, just so you can throw me in?”

“You bet I do, and that's a ROYAL command.” Tarranna checked the hallway was clear then dragged the protesting Chandral with her.

Life was grand for the Queen.



' Sometimes, life really sucks ...' thought Tarranna. It was less than two weeks before Queen Arobar's visit. She was only five hours into her two day holiday and she was already delayed. Eager to start her quest for Lili and Patience she'd set out before dawn – she knew she'd be too busy to do this again for at least a month. So what was the delay?

Scum. 'Dirty, stinking, foul mouthed, child stealing scum.' Tarranna felt her blood starting to boil. Yep, she was Royally pissed off.

Tarranna was usually stunning to watch when she worked. Anger and frustration added to her normal brilliance so she was currently breathtakingly amazing to watch. The three dozen sword welding carrion simply had no chance against her fluid grace.

Clang, scrape, biff, biff, biff. One sword thrust, one parry and swipe, three (now) unconscious scumbags. Parry, thrust, twirl, duck, kick, scream, thump, thud. Two dead soldier wannabes and one extremely pained and screaming father neverbe. Thwapp.

Cocking a crossbow in order to shoot Midnight, (who fiercely defended the children huddled in several wagons), was not such a great idea. The archer realised that as he suddenly grew a dagger in his useless back.

Flip, kick, kick, punch, block, boof, ouch. Tarranna feraly eyed the men dead at her feet. All but one was dead. She grabbed the person she'd almost dejewelled and dragged him to his feet. "This is my land... slavery is outlawed, and has been for years. Suddenly, I find you and your putrid mates stealing my kids!! Where are you from and who sent you?”


The man turned his underwear dirty brown and rather smelly. He named the rulers of Mahchena and Tamocel, the lands bordering hers. The Kings were apparently demanding more children for their personal use. She drove her dagger into his scummy heart and threw him to the ground. She sauntered to Midnight and stepped over the many bodies around him. She scratched the horse's face and neck and praised him generously.

Tarranna turned to face the wagons. There were forty three odd children in them, ranging from around one to sixteen years old. They all stared at her, with their mouths open wide and eyes glazed. Tarranna took a deep breath. "Where are you lot from?"

An older girl, with vivid red hair shakily answered her. The girl named a small village on the border of Mahchena, hers and Arobar's land. The girl went on to describe how the population had been rounded up, killed and their village burnt out.

'Daaammm!! !' Tarranna silently cursed. She quickly destroyed the locks on the cages, ripped the gates off their hinges and asked the kids to stay on the wagons. "OK. Here's what's happening. We are going to move the wagons away from this mess then I'll take you to Castletown where you'll be safe.” The children were quiet, almost as if they were afraid to hope it was true. “Can any of you older kids drive?”

Tarranna climbed on board a wagon and led the others several miles down the road. She found a nice place to camp then assembled her charges. She quickly did a visual check of the children and was thankful to find no one with life threatening wounds.

Tarranna then went to the supply bag on Midnight's back. She handed it to the red head. "Divvy that up. There isn't much there but it'll do till I can find out what sort of food these scum were hauling along with you."

Tarranna was impressed as the older children set about dividing the food, most of which went to the smaller tykes. She waited until all of them had something to chew on before she secured the slavers horses and tied them up until needed. She then inspected the contents of the food wagon. The necessities she found were still quite usable.

With a great deal of assistance from the older kids, (particularly those who could cook) everyone was soon properly fed, cleaned, bandaged and settled around a warm fire. Tarranna fidgeted under the unflinching stares of the children. She looked around at the dozens of sets of eyes staring at her. "WHAT?? Why are you staring at me?? Have I grown a third eye or something?" She checked her forehead with her fingertips.

The children snickered before one of the braver ones answered her. "You thrashed all those slavers all by yourself.... You were bloody brilliant." The speech ended with a hero worshiping sigh.

Tarranna face turned a vibrant red and the fire was envious of the heat produced by her embarrassment. The children crept closer. Tarranna slid slightly away from them. "Thank you for rescuing us. That man you kicked and he was squealing like a pig... he liked to hit and yell at us."

Tarranna was furious. That moron had hit children!! She wished she'd known that earlier. He wouldn't have gotten off so lightly by dying quickly. "Yeah, er... you're welcome... I'm sorry he hit you and you had to see me killing them."

The crowd moved closer to her. Tarranna tried to edge further away but was stopped by a log lying on the ground behind her. The pack circled, moved steadily closer and closer. She was trapped!! Her heart raced and she broke into a sweat. "What's your name?" asked a small voice.


"When I grow up, I want to be just like you, Tarra." Tarranna stared open mouthed at the dark haired child in front of her. "I'm going to help people being picked on by bullies." The dark haired child cornered the reluctant hero and snuggled into her side.

The two youngest ankle biters determinedly weaved their way past the others and unashamedly crawled into the Queen's lap. There they cuddled into her chest, wrapped their tiny arms around her torso and proceeded to go to sleep. That triggered a chain reaction with the rest and before Tarranna could protest she was surrounded children who were exhausted from their recent trials.

Bemusedly, she looked around the camp. Tarranna caught the eyes of the older kids who had helped her with the young ones. They grinned at her, shrugged their shoulders then took their positions at the outer rim of children. Within minutes, Tarranna was the only person awake in the camp.

'Well, at least I can get up now.... ' Even as she thought that, she looked at the tiny faces of the babies on her chest and knew she wasn't going anywhere. Surrounded by the children, she was wrapped in a warm syrupy emotion that started at her toes and slowly engulfed her. ‘ They think I'm a hero!!' Her chest unconsciously filled with air and puffed out. 'They aren't afraid of me and they trust ME to keep them safe. '

The dark haired child that'd said he wanted to be just like Tarranna, started to cry in his sleep. Unsure of what to do, Tarranna slowly and tentatively reached out and caressed his forehead. "Ssshhh…" She whispered. "I'm here now. Nobody's going to hurt you ever again."

The boy instantly settled. Tarranna took a deep, relieved breath as pride swirled in her chest. She looked around the faces of the children again and decided she really liked the feeling she got when she help people.

And that feeling could get to be quite addictive.


The next day, Tarranna worked out how many wagons they really needed to take with them - which turned out to be only one. The rest were left to rot by the side of the road.

When they broke camp, the wagon had been divested of its horrible cage and the younger children sat on the wagon's recently cleaned floor. Several horses were tied to the back of the wagon and carried the supplies. The kids who could ride were on horseback and kept their horses close to the wagon.

It was late the next afternoon and the kids had started to settle into the routine of travel with the quiet Queen. Tarranna tried very hard not to enjoy herself too much. After all, she did have a reputation as a big tough warrior. Yep and she was sure that rep did not include laughing at kiddie jokes. As they'd gotten further into the trip and the kids felt safe with the tall woman they start to talk more often and some of the stories and jokes were enough to make Tarranna snort in laughter.

"Tarra, will you tell us a story please?"

Tarranna almost fell off the wagon. "Sorry, kid. I don't know any stories." 'None fit for children, anyway. '

There was a collective "Oh...”

Tarranna felt pangs of guilt grip her insides. 'Do they practice doing that???” ' "Ok, I do have a joke for you." She was amazed at the silence that suddenly surrounded her. "How many buckets of water does it take to fill a slaver's bathtub?"


The kids looked at each other and then shrugged their shoulders. "Ten?" Someone guessed.

"Nope.” There were a lot of whispers and several guesses for a few minutes before they gave up. "None. Slavers don't bathe." The laughter was instantaneous and was filled with hoots of frivolity. Suddenly, Tarranna's contented smile disappeared and she cocked her head to one side. "Quiet." Her voice was gentle but as hard as steel.

The children barely breathed. "Horses are coming! Everyone close to the wagon. Midnight, guard the kids." Within seconds the children on horses were as close as possible to the wagon.

Tarranna stood in the middle of the road and patiently waited for a glimpse of the horses whose hooves pounded louder and louder as they got closer. Suddenly the horses rounded the corner and thundered down the straight stretch of road toward Tarranna. There were around a dozen horses in two parallel lines and all of the riders wore neat uniforms. Out in front rode... Melanger?

Tarranna smiled as she casually waited for them to get closer. Melanger saw her and signaled for his troops to stop. He snapped a salute and dismounted. "My Lady, I was hoping to run into you."

"Anything wrong?" Tarranna's eyebrows rose in concern.

"Not now. We heard a rumour slavers may be in the area. We rode out and found the dead ones you must have left behind. We were following your trail to see what happened to the people you released.”

“Not people, kids.” Tarra hissed in disgust.

"So I see!! They all OK?" He was looking at the group she and Midnight guarded.

Tarranna nodded as she said “They were hit and verbally abused, but I think they were spared the worst that could've happened.”

Melanger sighed with relief for he understood the gist of her words. “Good. What are you going to do with them?”

“Take them to the castle and give them to Chandral.” Melanger nodded his agreement then ordered his men to form a protective detail around the group. As the procession proceeded down the road, Melanger rode near his leader. "You said you were hoping to run into me. Why?"

Melanger shuffled in his saddle, reluctant to admit the real reason for his expedition. "Well, Mahoneus is running around the palace, driving everyone mad. He wants everything just right for Queen Arobar's visit. I had to lock him in his room so no-one couldn't carry out their many threats to kill him. I even had to crash tackle Chandral to stop her from strangling him." He hesitated slightly then continued. “Are you sure she isn't your blood relative?"

"You never know, Melanger." Tarranna laughed.

"Well, she should be!! Only two people scare me. And they both look very much like a certain Queen." Tarranna snorted at him. "Yeah, well she said there was no way she was going to put up with Mahoneus any longer or pretend to be the Queen if you got yourself killed, so I had better go find you.” He shuffled in his saddle as his face turned red with embarrassment. “I'm not allowed to go back without you.”

Tarranna nearly fell off Midnight, she laughed so hard.

“It's not funny! She threatened to curse me so my ‘manhood' would shrivel up and die.”

Tarranna laughed even harder, tears streamed down her face and had trouble breathing.

”So here I am.... Majesty, is there any chance you'll be coming all the way back to the castle?"

Tarranna tried to control her laughter, she truly did. But the image of Chandral putting a curse on her General was just too funny. As was his aversion of saying ‘penis' around her.

After what seemed like an eternity to Melanger, she managed to answer him. “After what happened here, I intended to go back anyway.” His huge sigh of relief created another un-queenly snort from her. She quickly turned serious. “When we get home, I want you to send more troops to cover the borders to Mahchena and Tamocel. Slavers are solely targeting the kids now. The bastards are getting bolder and coming further onto my land. I want it stopped.”

* * *

That night, with the help of the soldiers, camp was quickly organised and set up. Melanger always traveled with extra food, so everyone went to bed with a full stomach.

The only hitch for Tarranna was the children continued to sleep all over and around her. Much to the delight of the General and his men and no matter how hard Tarranna tried, her 'look' just didn't do its usual lethal job. It was pathetically hard to pull off when she was supporting two cherubs on her chest and was surrounded by sleeping angels! She did, however, manage to threaten the soldiers to eternal secrecy in regard to her new role as a mattress. And all she had to do was threaten to make them Mahoneus' body guards up to, during and forever after the Arobar's Royal visit.

Not another snicker was heard from the soldiers.

Tarranna's reputation was intact.


The Queen's procession made great time. Before noon the next morning, they were in the castle and a relieved Tarranna turned responsibility of the children over to Chandral. Tarranna was flustered to find herself being hugged and thanked by the children. The tiny twins refused to let her go until Chandral finally offered them food.

On her way to her chambers to change, Tarranna was caught by Mahoneus, who effectively snared her attention for the rest of the day.

It wasn't until late that night an exhausted Queen headed to her rooms. Tarranna walked past the large hall that had been converted into the orphanage but turned back as she heard pitiful cries coming from there. The sound ripped at her heart. She quietly followed the noise and tracked it into a nearby antechamber. Tarranna tentatively pushed open the door and inside was Chandral, obviously on the verge of tears herself, as she tried to comfort the tiny twin girls.

Chandral's face lit up when she saw Tarranna. "Sorry if we disturbed you, my Lady."

"Are they sick?" Tarranna frowned.

"They're teething. I've rubbed some ointment into their gums but it doesn't seem to have helped!" Chandral sighed, feeling useless.

Tarranna moved closer to the trio and the twins finally stopped their wails. "What's up with you guys?" She cooed. "Are you trying to scare Aunty Chandral into grey hairs? I really don't think she'll appreciate that!!" The girls hiccupped and took deep breaths. Tarranna suspected they were preparing for the next scream session. “Chandral, you look exhausted. Is someone watching the other children?"

"Yeah. A dozen or so elders."

"Good. How 'bout we take these two to my rooms and we get comfortable there." Chandral beamed Tarranna a brilliantly grateful smile and followed the Queen from the room. Not long later, Tarranna was propped up on her lounge, with the twins quietly snuggled into her chest. "Not one word Chandral!"

"One word about what, Majesty? Oh, you mean not one word about those two gorgeous little tikes using the Queen as a giant doll!!"

"CHANDRAL!!" Tarranna growled at the woman.

"Yah know, Majesty," an unrepentant Chandral drawled "you really lose your ‘sting' when you're buried under two such lovely little, itty bitty ladies."

Tarranna's snarl turned to a besotted grin as she looked down into two sets of incredibly blue eyes. Two angelic little faces lifted off her chest with their entrancing eyes glued to Tarranna's - as they promptly covered the Queen in gastronomic discharge. An astonished Tarranna turned her gaze from her vomit covered chest to the face of Chandral.

Chandral didn't know whether to laugh or be concerned. The girls had started to investigate the fruit of their efforts. "Vomit would be OK, except for the stench that always accompanies it." Tarranna mused.

Chandral's grin finally broke through, "You look so lovely in white, you really should wear it more often."

"Oh, yeah!! That's funny."

"Just stay there a minute, I'll run a bath for you and the little ones."

Chandral rushed into the other room and Tarranna swore she could hear residual snickers emanating from the other woman. "You know girls," the twins looked up from their game to stare at her, "Auntie Chandral is getting way too cheeky!! Ya think you could puke on her too?"

"I heard that!!"

Tarranna laughed. The twins joined in her merriment. Until they realised the goop they had their hands in was also the cause of the horrid smell in their noses. Fearing a repeat of the incident, Tarranna carefully got off the lounge children, puke and all and she headed for the bathroom. Chandral met her half way and assisted as much as possible.

Finally the three of them were undressed and in the tub full of warm water & bubbles. Tarranna and Chandral each had a baby and tried to wash the smell off them. Chandral (from outside the tub) finally gave up on hers, handed her over to Tarranna and went to get some clean towels.

Once Chandral was safely outside, Tarranna let loose a wild grin and whispered to the girls "Don't you tell anyone, but I love bubbles! Watch this...” The Queen lowered herself deeper into the water (making sure not to drag the children with her) then blew at the closest bubbles. Froth flew everywhere and rainbow bubbles slowly wove a path back into the water.

The twins laughed hysterically and both tried to copy Tarranna's antics. Neither of them succeeded but both had tremendous fun trying. Tarranna blew over the water again, harder. White stuff went everywhere. The twins laughed harder than before and thumped their hands against the water. That caused a wave to hit the other end of the tub, promptly return and almost drown Tarranna. She spluttered and spat the water from her mouth (she'd been taking a breath of air when the wave hit) which resulted in the children wanting to splash and cheer even harder.

"You girls aren't trying to drown the person supporting you? That could turn out to be a huge mistake!!" Chandral quipped from the doorway. The girls squealed. Tarranna blushed and turned a lovely shade of bright red but obediently blew more bubbles for the babies. "Isn't my Lady a clever girl?" Cooed Chandral as she took one giggling baby from the bath and wrapped her in a huge towel. Chandral held that child on one hip as she waited for Tarranna to cover the other baby before she placed the second child on her other hip. Chandral then left the room to let Tarranna dry off and dress in peace.

Tarranna returned to her lounge room to find the clean clothed babies on a blanket, on the large mat in the center of the room. Both girls contentedly chewed on what looked like rock hard biscuit. Before she could ask if that was a safe idea, Chandral said "Mal knew you missed dinner, so he sent up some food. He heard the babies crying and had some teething rusks and clean clothes brought up as well."

“Boy, do I owe him a huge thank you!” Tarranna grabbed a plate, piled it with a selection of the delicious food before her. "Eat up Chandral, there's enough here to feed half my guard."

Tarranna went to the lounge and sprawled comfortably along it. She'd no sooner started to eat when twin terrors struck. The girls crawled ungainly to the lounge (well, it is hard to crawl whilst holding a teething rusk!!), sat up and proceeded to grapple Tarranna's foot. They pulled themselves onto their tiny feet, their small hands reached upward, clearly for the plate.

Chandral laughed and said, “They didn't eat much before, they should be able to keep something down now. I'll mash them up some vegies.”

The women fed the girls their dinner and the meat was so tender it fell apart as soon as it hit the children's mouths. They devoured it then accepted the offer of more. Eventually, Chandral watched as the two satiated babies yawned then settled sleepily into Tarranna's chest. Chandral made a meat sandwich for Tarranna, the children were so full they didn't even bat an eyelid as Tarranna ate it.

"They are such beautiful girls." Chandral sighed gently. She knelt beside the lounge and lovingly ran her fingers through the hair of one of the sleepy babies. "None of the others know what their names are. Seems their parents turned up in the town a few days before the raiders."

Tarranna swallowed the remains of her dinner then stared at the children. "Well, we can't call them 'the twins' forever. Any suggestions?"

"Weeelll..." Chandral's eyes took on a vague, reminiscent look. "One time I heard this story about a virtuous, 'feed the poor' type called Ndindari, I always liked that name."

Tarranna snorted and grinned at Chandral. "You realise you're now a 'feed the poor do-gooder' don't you?...." She laughed at the look of disbelief on her double's face. "Ndindari, eh? OK, Ndindari it is… After I left home, there was a woman who looked out for me, as much as she could anyway. She tried to make sure I had something to eat and warm clothes. Her name was Macgaven."

Tarranna paused for a few seconds and thought fondly of the woman. “Ok Ndindari” she said to the child on her left "and Macgaven" the girl on her right "it's off to bed with you!!!"

"Thanks Tarranna. I wouldn't have been able to settle them down without your help. We'll get out of your hair now and let you get some sleep." Chandral stood and lifted Ndindari with her. Ndindari immediately started to sook and demanded to be returned to Tarranna and her tiny sister.

Tarranna stood up. "It's late, we're all tired and it'd be a shame to upset these two again. Why not stay here. My bed is plenty big enough to fit us all in."

"Sounds great." 'And it has nothing to do with the fact that you love these kids, does it Tarranna? ' Chandral quietly followed the Queen into her bedchambers.


Tarranna woke up and immediately felt like she was being stared at. Stared at and buried alive. She tentatively opened one eye and broke into an indulgent grin at the sight of Ndindari and Macgaven sprawled over her chest.

Well, that explained the buried feeling. She looked up into the eyes of Chandral, who leaned on one elbow and grinned from ear to ear. "You got something to say?" The Queen growled.

"Your threats really do work better when you haven't got those two glued to you!!" Chandral's eyes shone with mischief.

Tarranna was a brilliant strategist. She knew how to win wars with a minimum of lives lost. She could plan an attack to the smallest detail and out maneuver any attack made against her. She also knew when to retreat from a lost cause. And this was definitely the time for a strategic retreat. "Don't you have something you have to do?" Chandral just laughed. Tarranna shrugged and accepted help to remove the children from her chest.


Maladroit (Tarranna made a mental note to double the wage he was getting) had sent breakfast up for the quartet and between them, it didn't last long. The girls laughed hysterically as the women held them and tried to unsuccessfully to put their clothes on. After the women worked out it was easier for both of them to work on one baby at a time, the tiny twins were finally dressed.

Chandral once again borrowed Tarranna's clothes and soon everyone was and ready for the day.

Ndindari and Macgaven dragged a reluctant Queen onto the floor and proceeded to use her as their personal climb wall. Both girls sat on Tarranna's back and laughed wildly as she crawled around on her hands and knees.

Chandral sat on the lounge and tried hard not to laugh too loudly. Tarranna gave up on retaining her dignity in front of Chandral and just enjoyed the game with the children.

The door flew open.

Tarranna froze.

Chandral cringed and froze. Mahoneus, Cleusan, Lushion and Melanger walked into the room and continued to loudly bicker with each other.

"Morning Chandral." They walked past Tarranna and the kids. And bowed to Chandral!

"Please excuse the intrusion, Majesty, but we have to finalise these preparations for Queen Arobar's visit and the new buildings." With that, Chandral was surrounded by all four ministers who all talked at once and all demanded the immediate attention of their Queen.

Tarranna quietly removed the girls from her back and stealthily headed for the exit. She finally took a breath and sighed with relief as she left the room way behind her. "Come on kids, we're outa here." Much to the enjoyment of the girls, she ran as fast as she could away from the demanding adults.

For the rest of the morning, Tarranna eagerly dodged her responsibilities. She took the girls to the stable and introduced them properly to Midnight. The elegant equine quickly adapted to his tiny riders and tolerated their unintended kicks and hair pulling with the patience of a saint.

From there, the trio wandered around the streets of Castletown and enjoyed the sights and sounds of the city. Eventually, they wandered onto a cleared area where mothers of all ages brought their children to play.

Tarranna found herself dragged into the area where the parents talked about every topic imaginable. While the adults entertained themselves, the children ran around playing impromptu games and supposedly exhausted themselves.

One of the mothers explained to Tarranna that although everyone had work to do, they took several hours off just to spend time with other women. They caught up on the gossip of the town and the children got to spend time with their peers. The mothers desperately needed this time to recoup their strength for the rest of the day.

Tarranna blushed and tried to look inconspicuous as the talk turned to the Queen. The talked about how she'd changed lately and if the change was real or part of a trap for Queen Arobar. A robust discussion was held about the orphanage and if a school would be set up for other kids too. They even supplied ideas that intrigued the Queen. Like a building with lots of healers in it where they could take their sick kids for help?

Tarranna absorbed the suggestions, questions and issues raised in the mandatory debates that followed. Her mind ran in overdrive.

* * *

It was lunch time and Tarranna could no longer delay her return to the castle. The girls were hungry and tired, as was Tarranna. She un-assumedly entered the kitchen where she procured food and set about feeding the children. Only to be pounced on by an Elder - the one who had started Tarranna's idea of the orphanage/refuge. "There you are Chandral, dear. Here, let me help with the little ones." She promptly sat down and started to make small sandwiches, which the girls willingly ate for her. "I'm glad to see that you've calmed down, dear. I wouldn't have believed you'd stomp around the Queen's castle threatening to rip her apart!! What if she'd heard you??"

Tarranna almost choked on her lunch!

Crash... Something smashed into a thousand pieces. "Get away from me you leaches..." The voice that roared in the distance sounded remarkably like the Queen's. "Get out here Tarranna, you can't hide forever!!"

"Oh boy!!" Tarranna turned white as she quickly stood up, keen to beat a hasty retreat. She gave the flabbergasted older woman a chagrinned smile asked her to take the girls to the other kids. Then the most feared of all warriors ran. She ran so fast Midnight would've been green with envy.


Tarranna froze. She had never been so scared in all her life. Her knees shook like saplings in a cyclone, perspiration ran profusely from her body and her insides felt like jelly that wobbled on her dessert plate. She desperately wanted to throw up. “ So this is fear..." Her tortured mind screamed, “ I don't like it!!!! Make it go away!!"

"I mean it, bitch!! One move and the kid doesn't take another breath." The criminal pulled tiny Ndindari tighter into his grasp. "I want a fast horse, supplies and 5000 gold coins." Madness shone in his eyes as he glared at the woman in front of him. "RIGHT NOW!!!" He screamed.

Tarranna stared in relief as the murderer noiselessly sunk to the floor - with three daggers to sever his spinal cord. The daggers were barely embedded in his neck as they had almost completely taken off his head. She looked behind the dead man into the eyes of Melanger, Lushion and Cleusan. She sunk to the floor in a boneless puddle as the baby untangled herself from the body and proceeded to crawl to the Queen.

"Nunnah!!" The child cooed as she climbed into the silent Tarranna's lap and wrapped her tiny arms around the woman's neck. Ndindari almost strangled her guardian in her loving assault. Tarranna slowly came back into reality. Her eyes darted from the dead man to the tiny girl in her lap. She tried desperately to hold back the tears as she returned the child's energetic hug. She knew the three Ministers had moved closer to her and she warily opened her tear fillied eyes to look at them. "She nearly died because I froze!!"

Cleusan squatted in front of her. "Tarranna, because you didn't move, we were able to get into position behind him. His attention was so focused on you we were able to do our jobs... It's about time you let us earn our wages!!"

Tarranna snorted, dragged her hand roughly across her face, pulled the girl closer, then looked each of the ministers in the eyes. "Thank you." She whispered.

Melanger, Lushion and Cleusan were three proud and happy people.

From that day forth, Ndindari and Macgaven were each shadowed by a body guard. Palmo and Glayra were the best (after Melanger, Lushion and Cleusan, of course) fighters in Tarranna's service and were at first insulted at being delegated to babysitting. That was until they witnessed the love the Queen had for the two tiny girls. The Queen trusted their safety to them and they were proud soldiers.

The only reason Chandral didn't have a full time body guard as well was because she flatly refused to be followed by strangers. Therefore, if Melanger wasn't with her Tarranna ensured she was. The Queen also forced Chandral to agree to learn how to defend herself and offered to teach her. Chandral only agreed because she saw how important it was to the Queen. On the rare occasions Melanger and Tarranna weren't available to guard Chandral, she was discretely shadowed by Geon, the assassin.

Chandral also made the toddlers a powerful protection charm. It was a simple band of platted leather, tied around their ankles.

Tarranna's loved ones were as protected as humanly possible but her guts were still in knots. She constantly worried about their safety and health. Tarranna finally had family to care about and she was the happiest woman in her kingdom.


The palace was packed. Spectators stood shoulder to shoulder and each pushed for better positions. The smaller of the huge palace halls had hastily been evacuated and court was tentatively being held in the North quadrangle of the Royal Grounds.

Mahoneus drooled as he eyed off all the potential victims... er ... loyal subjects before him. "Wonder if I should start charging them a silver coin to watch this?" He mused as he silently waited for the Queen to appear. Apparently word of how the Queen had become more lenient had spread far and wide. Spectators cared nothing about the criminals.... they wanted to see if the rumors were true - that the Queen was 'human'!!!

Silence reined as trumpets heralded the arrival of Her Majesty. The Queen's hair reflected the sunlight to give her an ethereal glow. Stupefied watchers stared at the vision in front of them as she gracefully sat on her throne. As a single collective mind, they took a deep breath as she signaled for the first prisoner to be brought forth.

"Majesty," the Sheriff's nasal voice seemed too loud in the unnatural quiet, "this man is charged with not paying his taxes to your realm." A collective 'Oh!!' rose from the crowd.

The Queen studied the man in front of her. She took note of his chin on his chest, tattered clothes and the obvious malnourishment of his slim body. "Please, Majesty!” A feminine voice shattered the stillness in the yard. A woman pushed through the crowd, intent on getting closer to the prisoner. Several guards moved to stop her but returned to their positions as the Queen motioned for them to let the woman continue. "We're poor. We have no money for food. How can we pay taxes when we can't even buy enough food for our children?" Two tiny faces stared at the Queen from beside their Mother. Tarranna was impressed that the children looked healthy even if their parents didn't. "We moved to the city to look for work, but no employer wants to give an unknown carpenter or an unskilled woman a job."

The Queen nibbled on her little finger. Her left eyebrow raised slightly as she studied both adults in front of her.

A shrill scream shattered the silence and made the crowd collectively jump in fright.

"Nunnah!!!" Two hurtling bodies tore across the lawn, straight for the Queen. An older woman gamely tried to run behind them. Ndindari and Macgaven ran smack into Tarranna's legs, both girls scrambled into her lap with the agility of monkeys on speed.

Tarranna sat patiently as the children stood in her lap, threw their arms around her neck and covered her face with sloppy kisses. She returned their hugs and gave each a kiss on a cheek. "What have you two been doing to poor old Arnae? And where are your guards?" Several days beforehand the girls found their balance and decided to sprint everywhere, without even making an attempt to walk.

Tarranna looked at the old woman who puffed to a stop in front of her. "Beggin'..." BIG breath, "your...” another breath, "pardon... My Lady." BIG wheeze, "'tis time for the bubs sleep. They got out of their cot and ran. We lost sight of them. Their guards are looking for these two, in the palace... Never," Huge breath, "have I seen two kids run so fast on such tiny legs!!" With that, she collapsed onto the chair placed behind her by a vigilant guard.

"What am I going to do with you two??" Tarranna stared into the faces of the cherubs in her arms. Both said cherubs smiled at her, with unadulterated trust and devotion. "You have to have a sleep. You get too cranky if you don't...OK?" Both girls shook their heads and snuggled closer to Tarranna's chest.

"No Nunnah!!"

"You can't sleep here...." Tarranna's thoughts turned inward, as her mind churned over her problem. "Mahoneus, I saw two workers carrying linen type stuff in a lidless box about 4 feet long and 1 ½ feet deep. It has handles on each end to carry it with. Get it, have it cleaned, line the bottom with cushions and blankets and bring it here. Quickly!"

"Yes, Oh Great Majesty." Mahoneus tended to flatter Tarranna when he had no idea what she was going to do next.

"What I really need is a little wagon, to push you guys around in!! How would you like that? "

"Excuse me Majesty." Tarranna returned her attention to the forgotten prisoner in front of her. "I can make you that baby wagon...."

Tarranna leaned slightly forward, her left eyebrow raised. "Explain!"

"When my daughter was born, the wife couldn't carry both kids around to do her work. I made a baby wagon for her to put them in." He moved closer to the Queen, excitement about his craft quelled any fear he had for his life. "I use 4 light and small wheels, the ones closest to the pusher can pivot. That allows the wagon to be steered. The thing is pushed by a pair of handles at the back. The handles have to be long enough so you don't have to bend your back to push."

"It would have to be light." Tarranna was more than interested in the turn of conversation.

"Yes, it does. I use the lightest of woods for the shell, the wheels would be the problem, but with the right materials, I could make you a real doozie." He looked into the eyes of the Queen. He froze. He suddenly remembered where he was and who he had just talked to - from a distance that seemed way too small!!

"Sheriff, take him to the Palace cottages. Set his family up in a house and give them the usual supplies." She turned her attention to the man. "You start work in the morning. I want the wagon built as top priority. After that, if your work is satisfactory, you will have a job with the Royal carpenters.” ‘ The orphanage would love to get their hands on some of those wagons.' She thought. “The outstanding tax will be slowly deducted from your weekly wages." She motioned for them to leave.

"Thank you Majesty. Thank you!!" The man was grinned from ear to ear. His wife cried and hugged her children to her.

The crowd buzzed so loudly they sounded like bees on a rampage.

By the time the Mahoneus returned from his mission, the girls were sound asleep, each wrapped around one side of Tarranna. They didn't wake when Arnae helped the Queen place them into the portable cot.

The crowd shoved each other as they vied for a better position. All of them wanted to see the fantastic event taking place in front of them.

The rumours were true!! Queen Tarranna had turned soft!!

Unnoticed at the rear of the crowd, a person wrapped in a dark cloak watched the proceedings intently. After the children were placed in the cot, the figure straightened and walked out of the mass of onlookers. The evil grin on his face went unnoticed by everyone around him.


It was late at night. The castle hallways were silent. The strategically positioned guards were vigilant and quietly paced around their sectors. The servants were either on their way home or in the kitchen helping with the final clean up for the night.

No one suspected something was amiss...

Two stealthy figures made their way through the corridors and skillfully dodged the guards. They moved in single file, the leader silently signaled commands to the follower. It seemed hours had passed, but in reality it was a scant quarter of an hour later when they reached their objective - the perimeter of the castle grounds.

This mission was important to both of them and a single mistake would spell the end of their quest.... They wouldn't get the luxury of a second chance... Every variable of their mission had been meticulously thought out and every conceivable obstacle had resulted in a counter plan. Nothing was going to stop them!!

"Did you bring enough coins?" Chandral whispered and the question brought the procession of two to an abrupt halt.

"NO!" Was the harsh but whispered reply. "You were supposed to!!" Tarranna couldn't believe this was happening!!!

"Nuh ah! You were the one with the big plan, you were supposed to!!" Chandral asserted.

"AAAAAHHHHHH!!!" The growl from Tarranna was heartfelt. "I cannot believe we didn't bring money."

There was a soft laugh. "I can't believe you expected me to pay your way??" The snort was rather unbecoming to the snorter. "Get a grip, Queenie!! You're shouting me tonight."

Even in the darkness of the night, Tarranna's raised eyebrow and sneer could be seen by the unrepentant person next to her. "Well it's a moot point now, isn't it?" She hissed. "I refuse to go back, but we've put too much effort into this to give up now."

A noise approaching sent the Queen deeper into the shadows and she dragged a shocked Chandral with her.

Three soldiers wove their way through the bushes, two of them obviously inebriated “I'm telling you Melanger that last throw of yours was the absolute best. Outside the Queen, no one could have pulled that off."

"That's why she made me her General." Melanger's sober tone gave off some decidedly bored vibes. His manner relaxed slightly as he and the others neared the bush where the women hid. "Shit!!" He stopped, bent over and rubbed the back of his leg. His fellow soldiers stopped several paces in front of him and enquired what was wrong. "Ah, it's just a cramp." He stamped his foot several times. 'Have fun.' he whispered to the bushes as he roughly pushed the other soldiers toward the castle.

Tarranna moved from behind the cover to where Melanger had stopped. She silently retrieved a small bag from the ground, threw it in the air and caught it. "Now that is why he's my General." Chandral waited for Tarranna to clue her in. "Looks like it's Melanger's shout tonight!!" She passed the bulging coin bag to Chandral then set off at a brisk walk.

Chandral had a tremendous smile as she tossed then caught the money pouch, proud of herself when she didn't drop it. She silently ran to catch up with the Queen. Their plan had worked after all.

They were off to the fair!!


"So Chandral. What's with you and Melanger?" Tarranna's eyes sparkled.

"What are you talking about?" Chandral's eyes lowered and closed.

"Come on Chandral!! Every time he comes into the room, you start to fidget and stutter. Spill it!!"

"Oh, God!! I didn't realise I was so obvious." Chandral's head fell into her hands.

"Chandral, I know you pretty well by now. I doubt anyone else would have noticed."

"Really??" Tarranna nodded. Chandral's smile brightened and her eyes glazed over. "He's just so adorable. He makes my heart pound."

"Do you love him?"

"I believe I might."

"Wadda ya going to do about it?"

"Huh!!! Do about it?? I'm not good..." Tarranna reached for her sword, to insinuate she would indeed cut Chandral into tiny pieces. "Very funny, Queenie!! I am not going to do anything. Please don't push me on this."

"Clueless, the pair of them." Tarranna thought as she watched Chandral leave the lounge room and enter the Queen's bedchambers in order to get changed. The girls had drenched Chandral's own clothes, at bath time.

Tarranna was between a rock and a hard place. She knew Melanger loved Chandral and vice versa. She knew neither thought they were good enough for the other. Both were as mule headed as..... well… she was!! That meant that neither would talk to the other. What was a matchmaker of a Queen to do??

At the tentative knock on her door, Tarranna scowled but told the person to enter. She immediately sat up straight and a huge grin graced her face.

Melanger entered the room. "Hope I'm not interrupting you Majesty." He grew braver at her smile and negative shake of the head. He fiddled with his helmet after he took the seat Tarranna motioned toward.

"What's on your mind, Melanger?"

"Um... well... see... I need your advice." Her eyebrow raised and he continued. "With something personal. Very personal."


"How..?? Never mind. Yep, Chandral."

"Have you given her flowers or taken her on a picnic? Done anything to let her know how you feel?"

"Er... No. I haven't gotten round...." he frowned at her snort, "Oh, OK. I haven't worked up the guts to do anything yet. Happy now? I know you told me to go for it, but I know I'm no good for her."

"What do you want from Chandral, Melanger?"

"Want from her? Nothing..... No. I suppose I want everything. She's the most gentle, caring, loving person I have ever met. And man, is she beautiful. I want to spend time with her, get to know her better!!

“So you don't want to have a fling with her?”

"What?? No! I'm a soldier. I've had my share of fooling around. I want to marry her, when she's ready and IF she'll have me.”

“You know she was abused as a child.” His face grew grim and he nodded. “You know she'll be scared shitless about having sex and you'll have to take the physical stuff slow? Let her set the pace?” He was shocked by her bluntness, but nodded affirmatively. “Do you love her?”

“Majesty, how could I not?”

Melanger met Tarranna's eyes in a determined stare, startled as she turned her gaze to her bedroom door. He looked over his shoulder, right at Chandral. He stood slowly and looked from Tarranna to Chandral, unsure of what to do.

Chandral choked back her tears and gave him a bashful, disbelieving half smile. Tarranna stood up and none too gently pushed him toward the tearful woman. He continued the walk, right into the hesitant arms of Chandral.

Tarranna watched as the hug deepened. She grinned feraly then left, " God, I'm SO good at this !!" she thought.


It was late at night or rather early in the morning, dependent on which view you wanted to take. The twins were asleep in their cot - which had mysteriously appeared in the Royal bed chamber several weeks before.

A soft knock drew Tarranna to her apartment's door.

Tarranna controlled her irritation with the guard in front of her, which was a massive feat as she had just dozed off when the brave man knocked.

"Sorry to interrupt you Majesty. We caught a woman sneaking around the grounds. We searched her and found these." He handed the Queen a small figurine and a bag of coin. "There are over 50 gold coins in the bag and she admits that the statue could be yours. We were going to take her to the cells, but she is adamant that she didn't steal it. I believe her. I thought I'd better check with you before I did anything."

Tarranna stared at the item in the middle of her palm. It was a statue of a warrior which stood only two inches tall. It was intricate and accurate down to the minutest detail. It was a beautiful piece of workmanship. "Did she say anything else?"

"No, My Lady. She's refusing to talk."

"Where is she?"

"In the corridor. We brought her here in case you wanted to see her."

Tarranna nodded her approval and quietly told him to bring in the trespasser. She also asked him to bring Chandral to her. The guard saluted, opened the door and ordered the other guard to escort the prisoner inside.

A woman of 45 years proudly entered the room. Her hair was sprinkled with grey but it was evident it had once been jet black. She was average height and looked in pretty good health. Her clothes were worn, still in good condition and obviously well made. She stopped in front of the Queen and never once broke the eye contact she'd established with the deadly woman in front of her.

"Leave us." The guard saluted and left the room. "Why?" Tarranna asked the woman.

"Why what? Why was I in your gardens or why did I say that statue could be yours?"


"I came to sell jewelry to the castle workers. I was talking and forgot the time. I got lost on my way out. That" She motioned toward the statue "was the only thing I had left and I hoped it would keep me out of prison."

"Is it supposed to be me?"

"Yes. If you don't mind, I don't want to talk about it now. I'm tired and would like to get back to my home."

Tarranna stood quietly for several minutes, just absorbing the presence of the older woman. "Guard..." The soldier entered the room, saluted then waited for orders. "Take her to one of the rooms down the hall. Have one of the maids make sure she's properly looked after."

The Queen returned her eyes to those of the woman. "I'd like you to have breakfast with me later." The woman raised her chin and nodded slightly. Tarranna turned her attention to the guard. “Protect her. Escort her back here first thing."

Pride swelled in the soldier's chest. The Queen said 'protect' the woman, not watch her. She must be someone of importance. He snapped to attention and gallantly led the older woman out the door and toward her room.

Tarranna stared at the closed door for what seemed to be an eternity. Finally she shook herself and sat in her favourite lounge chair. There was no way she would get back to sleep now, not with all the childhood memories flashing through her brain.

It seemed like years before Chandral sleepily came to meet with her.



After their discussion about the dark haired woman with the small statue, Chandral had stayed the rest of the night in Tarranna's rooms. When the girls woke up, she helped her ‘boss' dress and feed the adorable little beings, then kept them amused while Tarranna sat silently and watched the toddlers play on the floor.

“Do you want me to take the girls down to the other kids?”

Tarranna was startled out of her musings then declined the offer. “A couple of Elders will be up soon to collect them.” The Elders were taking all the kids to a nearby farm so they can see all the baby animals. It was a tossup who was more excited about the excursion, the elders, kids or the guards accompanying them.

Several minutes later, the girls were gone and the mysterious woman was shown into the room. Tarranna asked the woman to sit and then stared at her. Silence reigned for a long time before Chandral introduced herself. “I'm pleased to meet you Chandral, I'm Ranna.”

“I saw the statue you made, it's wonderful. What other sort of things do you make?”

The woman was confused, never had her pieces caused such interest. “I do a lot of carving in soapstone, mainly animals and sometimes people.”

“Have you always lived in Castletown?”

“No. I lived with my husband and son in a small village several days ride from here, until two years ago. My husband passed and my son decided he wanted to see the country before he settled down.” Chandral glanced at Tarranna, who returned her raised eyebrow. “Am I in trouble? I come here regularly to sell my wares to the castle staff and I've never caused mischief. What have I done wrong this time?”

“Have you ever carved horses?” Tarranna asked softly.

The woman looked at the Queen and warily replied “Only twice. I made one each for my daughters, who were kidnapped weeks later. I haven't seen them for nearly 30 years and I've never carved another horse since.”

“Describe the horses you carved.” Tarranna demanded.

Ranna had tears in her eyes and her voice cracked. “I won't do that, it hurts too much.”

Tarranna moved to the edge of her chair and growled “Then tell me what happened to your daughters!!” Chandral placed her hand on Tarranna's arm and silently urged the Queen to calm down. “Please.”

Ranna looked at the women then stared into space as she recalled the pain and terror of the abduction. “I was inside with the girls. I heard a commotion and next thing a bear of a man charged through the door. He went to my babies and started to pick them up. I ran at him with the knife I'd been using to cut vegetables for our dinner. He laughed and hit at me. I ducked under his arm and stabbed him in the side. He roared and threw me into the wall. All I remember after that was being punched and kicked until I passed out.”

Ranna pulled a large square of cloth from her small bag and wiped the tears from her face. “When I woke up, it was weeks later. The healer said I was lucky to be alive. LUCKY!! My babies were gone and my husband's sword hand had been chopped off by the bastard who hit me. But we were both LUCKY to be alive! When we could walk again, we searched for our girls. We searched for 10 years, but couldn't find out what happened to them. They could've died that day for all I know…. When I finally returned to our house, I found their horses smashed on the kitchen floor. I've never made another one.”

Tarranna lifted a small piece of paper off the table next to her and passed it to the woman. “Was the horse similar to this?” It was a sketch of Midnight as he pranced around, his tail held high. The sketch had been done by one of her subjects and given to her as a present.

The woman squinted at the picture and sighed “The build of the horse is much the same, but mine were standing on their hind legs, pawing with the front ones.”

Chandral started to cry and Tarranna moved to hold her tight in a heartfelt cuddle. “Did your daughters have anything on their bodies that would help you recognise them?”

“Why are you asking all these questions? I want to go home…”

“Just answer that question and you can leave.” Tarranna bargained with her.

Ranna dried her eyes, blew her nose and sighed. “On the back of their left arms, about half way between their elbows and shoulders there was a dark piece of skin shaped like the horse I made. That's why I picked horses to carve for them.”

Chandral looked at Tarranna and whispered “Will you look for me?” Tarranna gritted her teeth and nodded affirmatively as she gently moved Chandral's shirt sleeve up her arm. She continued to look into Chandral's eyes as the woman moved to show the Queen the back of her arm.

Tarranna smiled as she looked back at Chandral. Chandral started to laugh and cry at once. “Show me now.”

Tarranna hesitated for several seconds before she bared her arm and showed it. Chandral was quiet as she sat in a stunned silence. Tarranna pulled down her sleeve and waited impatiently for the other woman to talk. “You're my sister. I have a sister!!” Tarranna grinned and pulled her twin into a bone crushing hug.

“We have a brother?”

After lots of tears, laughter and sobs, (mostly from Chandral) the women turned to look at Ranna.

Their mother.

Who was unconscious in her chair.


After Ranna regained consciousness, for the third time, Chandral and Tarranna briefly described their young years to the other two attentive women.

Both the twins had been sexually and physically abused by their ‘fathers' and physically abused by their ‘mothers'. Neither woman could remember a time when they were together but both had vivid memories of a woman with long black hair and a beautiful horse that stood and pawed the air.

Chandral's early years revolved around wounded animals and healing them. Her skill grew until she made enough income from her services to allow her to afford food and clothes. Many of the locals in the small towns were scared of her skill and she was treated with fear and verbal abuse. She was called names like witch and freak. Where Tarranna had killed her ‘parents', Chandral had drugged hers (they were knocked out for days) and walked away. Neither twin ever looked back.

Ranna looked in wonder from one woman to the other. She was still unable to believe she had finally found her baby girls.

Melanger, Mahoneus, Cleusan and Lushion were summoned to the Queen's rooms. They were told the change in status of Chandral and introduced to the twins' mother. The ministers congratulated the three women and wisely decided to leave the Queen alone for the day.

Ranna wanted to continue to make and sell her jewelry, so the twins reluctantly agreed not to tell anyone else about Ranna's status as Queen Mother. Ranna initially declined to move into the palace, until Chandral pulled a legendary guilt trip that impressed the Queen no end. “You have to move here, you're the mum of the Queen. Imagine if one of Tarranna's MANY enemies found out who you are? And they had you killed. How do you think Tarranna will feel?”

Ranna finally agreed to live in the castle, but in a modest room, with enough space between the women so she wouldn't impose on her independent daughters. In order to explain her presence in the castle and her relationship with the women, Ranna became Royal Fashion Advisor to the Queen and her Sister.

Tarranna arranged for one of the apartments on the same floor as hers to be occupied by Chandral. Chandral loved the fact that Tarranna wanted her close by and her self-confidence grew immensely.

The sisters loved to spend time together but continued to give the other the space they needed.


“Maybe she just needs some time and space. To let us being alive sink in.” Chandral hypothesised.

“Maybe.” Tarranna stretched like a lazy cat and resettled herself on the lounge where she lay. They were in Chandral's rooms trying to relax and comprehend the complex woman who was their birth mother.

Chandral squealed excitedly which caused Tarranna to sit up abruptly with a dagger in her hand. “Let's have a girls' night. We can play games like ‘truth or dare' or talk about clothes.”

Tarranna gave her sister a cold glare. “I am NOT going to tell you anything you can then use against me or talk about clothes all night!” She stood up and straightened her apparel. “Come on, we're going to ask her what's up.” Chandral scowled, shrugged and followed. Personally, she thought the girls' night was a great idea.

The women confronted their mother, who confessed she felt she'd failed miserably to protect her babies and was scared. She was terrified she was dreaming about them alive and well she'd soon wake up to a world where daughters were still not in her life.

Chandral promptly pinched the older woman on the arm, cheek and leg which made Ranna squeal and move away. Chandral grinned cheekily as she said “You felt that, you must be awake.”

Ranna looked accusingly at her other daughter “Why are you just sitting there letting your mother get attacked?”

Tarranna laughed at the woman. “I'm just glad she's annoying you and not me!”

After that the trio discussed many a thing that could be construed as ‘secret women's business'. Let's just say they laughed, cried and talked a heck of a lot (mostly Chandral and Ranna). Tarranna and Chandral assured Ranna she hadn't failed them. How could she have if she'd nearly died to protect her babies?

It took all night, but Ranna finally felt comfortable with her daughters.



Chandral wasn't very comfortable. She adjusted her position on the lounge in Tarranna's room as she watched the Queen play on the floor in front of her.

Tarranna held down one of the tiny twins, baby wriggled and screamed in glee as Tarranna took a deep breath, put her lips on the child's belly and blew. Chandral ignored the fact the noise reminded her of the last time she'd eaten too many prunes and laughed whole heartedly. As she watched, the other baby climbed up and along Tarranna's back and proceeded to slobber all over the Queen's neck.

Tarranna grimaced as the slobber oozed toward her chest, but disregarded it as she held down the child on the floor with one hand and reached up to dislodge the other one from her back. Both girls laughed so hard they had trouble breathing.

Tarranna blew on Ndindari's belly then collapsed on her back on the floor. "Playing with these two is harder work than a full day of battle training." She complained tiredly. The babies threw themselves onto Tarranna's chest, crawled and drooled all over her.

"'Den Nunna. Den."

"Come on girls, let Nunna have a rest." Two sets of sky blue eyes stared at Chandral, first in disappointment then in glee as they realised Tarranna may be tired BUT Chandral was fair game.

"Tee Cha. Den. Seese?" They climbed off their victim and zeroed in on their new target.

"Sorry sweetie, it's time for you to go to bed." At the mere mention of that dreaded 'bed' word, the twins gamely tried to make a break for it.

In their rush to escape Chandral, they'd forgotten about Tarranna, who grabbed both of them around their stomachs and promptly carried them into their cot. Even as the girls grizzled at the thought of sleep, they couldn't stifle the huge yawns that graced their adorable faces. After she kissed the girls goodnight and tucked them in, Tarranna threw herself on the lounge opposite Chandral. "I can't believe how much energy those two have!!"

The women sat enjoying the quiet for a while then Chandral asked "Tarranna, whadda you think 'Tee Cha' means." Chandral asked innocently. Not!!! A sly smile barely remained hidden behind her lips.

"Probably Aunty Chandral."

"So what do you think ‘nunna' means?" Chandral watched superiorly as Tarranna mentally put the word into context from when the girls use it. Tarranna's face froze, her body sagged as she feinted.

The impossible had happened.

The Queen had been knocked unconscious! By two tiny girls who called her Mumma.

And Aunty Chandral couldn't have been happier for all three of them.


The Royal Guard of Queen Arobar, twelve of the best warriors in her kingdom, stared open mouthed at the scene as it unfolded in front of them. Apparently Queen Tarranna wasn't happy! And she was making sure everyone knew it!!

Queen Arobar's entourage watched open mouthed as two identical women walked toward the gathered spectators and dignitaries. The first woman was dressed in beautifully tailored patchwork leather pants and a mauve silk shirt and was obviously very angry with the other woman. The second woman wore a sky blue silk dress and enough jewelry to make a pack horse die of a heart attack. The women were talking in whispers - very loud whispers. Whispers with attitude, even...

"I cannot believe you told them to make everything PINK!!"

"WELL, I DID!! And it serves you right for abandoning me your four blood suckering Ministers!! If you hadn't left me with them for an ENTIRE MORNING I wouldn't have had the incentive or opportunity to do that!! Would I, Majesty???"

"I did not abandon you!! I just sorta made the most of their confusion and retreated. Any good soldier would've done the same. It wasn't as if I planned for them to mix us up!! I'm sorry, OK!!??"

"Sorry just doesn't cut it! For FIVE hours I had to listen to their nitpicking and Mahoneus' whining!!! FIVE long, agonising hours, Majesty ! You were so lucky I didn't find you that day!!"

"Alright, I deserve to be drawn and quartered..... But Chandral, PINK??? Even the bread is PINK, for heck's sake!! I have a reputation to uphold here!!"

"You are such a baby!! I was going to tell them bright yellow, so GET OVER IT!!"

The Queen stopped. She froze solid. Long moments later her head moved from side to side, her face was immobile, her expression registered total shock. “BRIGHT YELLOW!!!” Was that even possible to make? “ YUK!!!!”

Pink was good. Very good.



Queen Arobar regally entered the huge auditorium and her many, many guards alertly swarmed around her. She ignored everyone and everything as she purposefully made her way to the front of the room, toward Queen Tarranna.

Tarranna watched intently as the Queen Arobar, ruler of Gardenya, elegantly walked toward her. Tarranna sat up straighter as Arobar almost tripped over her own feet then relaxed slightly as the Queen righted herself and continued to move toward the throne.

Tarranna stared at the headdress worn by Arobar. Basically, it was a very long scarf that covered the Queen's hair and face. The scarf left only her eyes uncovered. Tarranna had been warned Arobar liked her privacy and covered her face in order to maintain it. Tarranna was rather annoyed she hadn't thought of doing the same thing herself.

Queen Arobar stopped in front of Tarranna pride radiated from every pore of her body, even though she obviously stood in front of a more threatening opponent. Tarranna's mind barely registered the formal and long winded ‘hello' given by Queen Arobar's Speaker. Tarranna stared into Arobar's eyes and couldn't look away.


The scream echoed throughout the room and bounced mercilessly around the heads of all the dignitaries present. Tarranna wasn't sure what the contraption was, but the driver was none other than Maladroit.

Mal rode on a piece of board around three feet long and one foot wide that was attached to four wheels (two wheels on two axles, each axle approximately ten inches from the end of the wood). He stood sideways on the board and his arms flailed around him. It gave him the look of a demented octopus.

The horseless mini wagon (HMW) zigzagged its way through the crowd and people ran and flew in all directions to dodge him. Maladroit tried valiantly to fall off but his ingrained sense of balance was so adept at keeping him upright, his vestibular system just couldn't let him fall.

As the contrivance passed the sheriff, Maladroit grabbed the man by arm and wouldn't let go. Instead of pulling Mal off the HMW, the sheriff put the runaway vehicle into a tight circle. The spin seemed to speed up as the two men panicked and their adrenalin added more speed to the calamity.

The Royal Guard toppled over like security guards at a fire sale when the fleeing crowd charged them.

Maladroit inadvertently let go of the sheriff and before he knew what was what, the HMW was sped even faster through the crowd toward the throne.... and the two Queens.

As the HMW zoomed on a crooked course for the throne, Tarranna escorted Queen Arobar up the stairs and out of harm's way.

Mal's vehicle headed for the stairs to the throne and a sigh of relief settled over the spectators. They believed this was the end of Mal's ride......

Maladroit pictured his head smashed on the marble steps and in reflex he moved toward the back of the HMW, which caused the front wheels to rise and although the laws of physics decreed that he should have fallen (just as well that this law won't be written for several thousand years!!) the HMW flew up the stairs.

Maladroit screamed and grabbed both sides of the HMW. It turned and sent him back the way he'd came....

Several burly guards tried to crash tackle him but only succeeded in making the vehicle go faster.

Mal headed directly for the table where the future treaty was to be signed and sealed. At the last instant, self-preservation kicked in and he jumped the table and landed upright on the other side. Unfortunately, the HMW met him on the other side. Once again on the contraption, he bounced off the wall, several other guards (who accidentally gave him another push) and back into the crowd.

Maladroit yelled and screamed at the top of his voice, so everyone else decided they'd better join in.

The din was thunderous!!

Queens Tarranna and Arobar stood quietly side by side. Behind them were Chandral Ranna and Arobar's Speaker, they all regally watched the spectacle in front of them.

"Well, Majesty. Welcome to my nuthouse. Please excuse me a minute." Tarranna waited in the path of the evil contrivance, let Maladroit pass then grabbed him by the back of the shirt and trousers. She placed him on his feet and waited patiently for him to dislodge giant wedgie she'd inadvertently given him.

Maladroit physically shook and perspiration poured out of him. "I'm so sorry, Majesty!!" He wheezed. "I went to help the wagon man. Next thing I knew I was out of control on that thing." He was decidedly pale and looked like he was about to pass out.

Tarranna gave him a pat on the back, "It's OK. Go wash up and have a rest. Have tomorrow off and go to the celebration."

"Gee thanks, Majesty...." He looked at the mess around him. "But maybe I should help clean up first...."

"NO! That's OK. You go look after yourself. Guard!" She called over one of the Royal Guard (hers), who still looked intact and had no sign of blood on him. "Escort Mal to his quarters and make sure no one hassles him over this mess." The guard saluted and helped the exhausted and grateful man to his room.

Tarranna turned to Mahoneus, who cried at the rampant destruction in front of him. His sobs were louder than the earlier screams. "Mahoneus – shit happens! Toughen up will ya?!! Have everything cleaned up. I'll take the Queen to my rooms were we can talk in peace." With that, Tarranna picked up her guests and family and they made their way to the door. On the way she stopped and grabbed the now motionless HMW and tucked it under her arm.

Once inside Tarranna's chambers, Chandral crossed her arms and gave Tarranna one of her own raised-eyebrow-glares. "Did you plan that!!?”

"NO!!" Was the indignant reply. "But I know when to make the best of opportunities. And that one got us out of a full day of boring speeches!!' Tarranna's attention turned toward Queen Arobar, her Speaker and several guards. “I'm sorry about your reception being ruined. I hope you aren't too upset.”

Queen Arobar quietly asked her Speaker to stay but requested the others leave the room. A bit surprised by the trust Arobar was showing in her, Tarranna watched intently as Queen Arobar removed her headdress. "No, I actually thought it was extremely funny until I saw how upset your friend was."

Tarranna stood straighter, the smirk immediately gone from her face. "Did you know who I was when we met?" She asked Arobar, hesitantly. The fear that she had been used and set up evident on her face.

"No I didn't........ When I stumbled approaching your throne – that's when I was close enough to recognise you. Did you plan to meet me at the clearing?"

"No, I just went toward an unpopulated area of my land and accidently came across the glen..... Do you believe me?"

Lili had seen the stark shock on the Queen's face so her reply was quick in coming. "I do. Do you believe me?"

Tarranna nodded affirmatively and pulled her emotions into line as she proudly said "Queen Arobar, may I present my sister Chandral and our Royal advisor Ranna – AKA our mother."

The women greeted Queen Arobar both were shocked when she unreservedly hugged them. They were even more shocked when Queen Arobar warmly kissed and hugged Tarranna. "I thought you said you didn't have any family." She smiled.

“And I thought you loved Lili. Exactly how many women are you in love with?” Chandral hugged.

Tarranna turned to her sister and fiercely denied she'd cheated. “Arobar is Lili.” Tarranna's smile lit the room as she turned back to the blonde in front of her. "I didn't have family. Now I have an annoying sister and a mum. Oh, and twins who think I'm their mother. It's a long story. It'll take ages to tell you all about it."

"That's OK, I have plenty of time. This is Tashan, my Speaker, Person Guard and best friend." The Royals warmly greeted Tashan who relaxed when Lili turned everything informal.

Tarranna looked at Tashan and smiled “So you're the woman in all the stories I heard! It's nice to meet you.” Tashan blushed beautifully and Tarra laughed as she went to the door and ordered her guards to have the last suit next hers made ready for Queen Arobar. She then had food and drink delivered to her room where everyone settled in for the afternoon.

Soon after, the guards returned with Patience and the two dogs, who were ecstatic to see Tarra again. Patience was even happier when she found out she had two ‘little sisters' to mold into her image. Tarranna and Lili were on the verge of panic when they remembered Patience was a wonderful girl who just happened to love to get into mischief!

They were in so much trouble!


Tarranna was definitely in trouble. It was later that night and Lili was ravenously attacking her. Lili sent the Queen over the edge, time after time after time.

Lili gently refused to have the same done to her and lovingly explained the night was for Tarranna's enjoyment. And Tarranna enjoyed herself very much! Hours later an exhausted Queen Tarranna happily sighed “Why?”

Lili kissed and hugged her Queen “I realized you were the one who saved Patience from being born a slave. Thank you.”




Cleusan had requested permission to talk privately with her Queen and was surprised to see Queen Arobar in the war room. “It's ok Cleusan, talk freely.” Tarranna assured her Minister.

“It's as you thought My Lady. The spy we saw leaving your court several weeks ago headed straight for Mahchena where he met with the King's generals. They have a twenty thousand strong force headed for our border. Our spies further north are saying Tamocel are amassing just as many men. They're marching to join the Mahchenian army. The Kings have heard you are going ‘soft' and think this time they can defeat you.” Cleusan took a deep breath and continued. “Reports are also coming in that Queen Arobar's army is headed this way.”

Tarranna turned to Lili and sighed. “You think I'm soft too?”

Lili's eyes glazed over as she whispered “Only in all the right places!” She mentally shook herself as she looked into the sky blue eyes that drilled into hers. “Don't worry. It's only half my army.” She smiled at the taller woman.

Cleusan blushed at the innuendo and energy that flowed freely between the Queens. “Cleusan!” The minister snapped out of her happy place and turned to her Queen, who'd apparently been trying to talk to her. “Are our people ready?”

“Yes My Lady. I've given the new orders regarding taking prisoners so hopefully we can keep the killing to a minimum. If the enemy refuses our terms, our men know what to do.”

Lili looked at Tarranna for clarification of the ‘new orders'. “I usually tell the men not to take prisoners, everyone dies. This time we follow your example with only the commanding officers being executed.”

“I'm flattered Your Majesty.” Lili grinned. Her army killed the lieutenants and up because they were usually the ones with big egos who'd cause trouble later on. Sergeants were usually more grounded and likely to be loyal when treated fairly, as was the rest of the army.

Cleusan said “I hope the grunts take up our offer to join us. Without them the Irasian / Mungenolian border will be hard to defend if the Mungenolians decide to invade as well.”

Lili sighed, “I was so happy with my kingdom the way it was. I really didn't want to have to fight to keep it. But, they've forced us into this and now they're going to pay dearly.”

Tarranna took Lili's hand, leaned forward and kissed it tenderly. After she rose again she was all business. “Cleusan, send the first and second rounds of ‘attack' orders. Have the local legions on standby, I want them ready to move within an hour's notice. All we have to do now is wait until the enemy to get where we want them. Go.”

Cleusan hardened her face, saluted her Queen, bowed her head to Queen Arobar and smartly left the room.

Tarranna looked into Lili's eyes and saw the burden she carried. “We're going stop these mongrels. I'm not having our kids grow up as their slaves. Ok?” Lili half smiled at the dark haired woman as she nodded affirmatively. Tarranna changed the topic slightly. “I take it you found your traitor?”

“Yes, thank you. We've known there was a leak for quite a long time, but were unsure of who it was. When you found that message in the saddle I knew for sure then. I re-sent that message, so the King'll believe my army's with him. I really liked your suggestion on what to do with Iaine. His screams got really loud and annoying though.”

Tarranna grinned at her partner. “Yeah, sorry ‘bout that. I forgot to warn you to cut out his tongue first.”

“No worries, I worked it out myself.” Lili was quiet for several minutes, then quietly asked “Tarra, why have you trusted me so much? You didn't know me when we first started to exchange information and plans.”

“That's easy. You've never pushed to take my land. Your people love and have nothing bad to say about you. Even people in the other kingdoms respect your word as truth. No brainer, there. I would have thought trusting me would have been hard for you.”

“No. Your reputation's a bit tougher than mine, but I know when you give your word you never break it.”

Tarranna finally grew a nerve and asked Lili something that's been bugging her. “At the glen, you said you had some family. Why isn't anyone but Patience with you?”

Lili smiled at the taller woman. “My blood family are all dead. King Sarl saw to that. Tashan is my family. She's free to leave anytime but she stays close to me because she cares about my wellbeing. She celebrates with me when things go well and mourns with me when things don't. She protects me and my daughter because she loves us. That's what family should do.”

“You're a beautiful person, how could she not love and care about you.”

“I'm nowhere as beautiful as you are.”

Tarranna moved closer to Arobar, not close enough to touch her but close enough to feel the heat from her body. “Wanna form a fan club, you can be president. We can call it ‘Queen Lovers' and meet frequently. Daily even.”

Lili blushed at the blatant flirting that quickly rose her core temperature. “Does that mean we each get to love to a Queen?”

Tarranna's eyes burned into Lili's and quickly brought the smaller woman closer to her melting point. “Anytime, anywhere you want.”

Lili groaned and her body shook as shivers ran up and down her spine. “Ohh I'm so going to have fun holding you to that!!”

And she did.



Castletown was an organized madhouse. Soldiers constantly moved around the place, packing equipment and ensuring their weapons were in top order.

Inside her apartment Tarranna was doing the same. She was at the end of her final armour fitting when Chandral entered the room. “Why are you wearing armour?”

The look Chandral gave her sister couldn't be called polite. “I'm going to war, I need protection.”

“We've already had this conversation! You are NOT going to war. You're staying here.” Tarranna was adamant.

“You yelling at me and telling me I have to do something does not make a conversation.”

“If I have to, I'll have you locked in the dungeon.” Tarra threatened her sister.

“Fine, but I will escape and join you anyway.” Chandral walked close to Tarranna and invaded her personal space big time! As she talked, she poked her sister in the chest. “You need a decent healer with you. You keep telling me I'm the best. Therefore, I go with you. Simple!”

“I need you to look after the twins and Patience… I need you and our little mob to be safe… Please.” Tarranna refused to beg, but it came close.

Chandral smiled tolerantly at Tarranna before she answered. “ We need to have you home in one piece. I intend to do all I can to see that happens.” Chandral gently hugged her sister. “Mum's loving the idea of having the kids. Plus, it'll give her something to keep her mind off us leaving.” Tarranna took a breath to continue the argument but Chandral silenced her with a negative shake of her head. “Don't bother bringing out the ‘Queen trumps all' card because in this case, a sister beats a Queen. I will not argue with you about this.”

The armour maker quietly watched the argument and suddenly realized he may have gotten himself in trouble. He started to shake so badly he dropped his tools. The clanging noise provided Tarranna with a much needed diversion. She glared at him. “Did you at least use the best materials for her kit?”

“Yes Majesty!! I fitted Princess Chandral with a set identical to yours. The metal is the lightest and strongest available and the leather covering is from the finest of hides.”

Tarranna smiled at him and asked in a stage whisper “Am I as hard to win an argument with as she is?”

“Oh no Majesty!!” He assured her. “You're way worse!” The poor man suddenly realized what he'd said and to whom.

He promptly feinted.

Tarranna looked at the man on the floor, closed her eyes and shook her head disbelievingly. “I didn't even yell at him.”

Chandral tried to comfort the Queen and gently patted her on the shoulder. “Don't be too concerned. The poor man's been stuck in a very small room with Mahoneus for most of the week. That's enough to make anyone feint… Come to think of it, I'm surprised he lasted this long!”

Tarranna was astonished. “What the hell does Mahoneus want with armour?! He never leaves Castletown!”

Chandral sighed and explained “I think that's the point. When you aren't here to stop them, he's worried someone will follow through with their many threats to kill him.”

Tarranna didn't know if she should laugh or cry, so she just sighed despondently “If he doesn't stop pissing everyone off, I may just have to kill him myself!”

Chandral moved to the lounge and sat. She fidgeted to adjust her armour to a more comfortable position before she answered. “Nah, don't worry about it. Your assassins will happily do it for you.”

“Chandral!” Tarra hissed, unable to believe her gentle souled sister said that.

“What? They would! They heard he's trying to pass a law to make them pay for their own weapons and travel expenses.”

Tarranna just groaned and sat in the lounge opposite her sister. “Why do I know nothing about this?”

“You don't work with the Elders. You should hear some of the gossip they talk about! Like, who's doing what with whom!! They have a hide talking about everyone else - they're hornier than a pack of teenagers!”

“Eww… I don't need to hear or especially think about that! Go back to the assassin thing…”

“Ok… Well, from what I hear, Mahoneus' been tallying the total cost for Assassin services. Apparently it was astronomical! He's saying war is an expensive venture and we'll all have to make sacrifices. He plans on starting with the hit squad.”

Tarranna rubbed her forehead where stress was about to start one humdinger of a headache. “I'll go have a word to Mahoneus. I think we can get a sizeable contribution to the war effort from his hefty wages!”

Chandral snorted and laughed. “Can I please be there when you tell him?”

“Ok, but we'd better keep the armour on. We'll probably need it!”

Chandral continued to laugh as she got off the chair and roused the armour maker. She sent him on his way then eagerly followed Tarranna, who stormed off to find her wayward minister.


Mahoneus, the errant Minister, sat on his bed. Tarranna stood above him and threatened to behead him if he didn't explain his recent behavior. Quickly! He cried wholeheartedly as he told her “I'm turning 40 in four months! I'm terrified of getting old and dying alone.”

Tarranna immediately pushed Chandral in front of her as she motioned for sister to hurry up and comfort the man. Chandral glared at her twin and silently asked ‘why me?' Tarranna folded her arms and raised her eyebrow disbelievingly. ‘Oh right, you think you're clueless when it comes to this sort of thing. Gotcha!'

“Come on Mahoneus, you're a catch! You aren't bad looking, you have all your hair, you take great care of your skin and you're really neat! All you have to do is stop trying so hard and you'll find someone who cares about you.”

Mahoneus wiped his eyes on an embroidered piece of linen as he looked up at Chandral. “You really think so?”

“Of course I do. In fact, how about I make you a charm that'll help attract your perfect match? It'll send out the vibe to the right person, letting them know where you are. But it won't work until you're both ready.”

“You'd do that?”

“Of course I would. Just remember you have to relax and be your normal self. This monster you've become would turn a saint away!”

“I've been a royal pain, eh?” Mahoneus hung his head in shame. He was too embarrassed to look his Queen or her sister in the eye.

“Mahoneus.” Tarranna spoke with steel in her voice. He hesitantly looked up as he didn't want to see the disappointment on her face. “You've been working too hard for too long. As soon as this mess is over, you're going on a month's holiday. But there is a condition.”

Mahoneus was speechless as he nodded disbelievingly at her proposal. “You have to change back into the funny, caring man I met all those years ago.”

“I don't think I know how to do that.” He mumbled.

“You're worth the effort, so try. I miss that man Mahoneus.”

“You do?” He looked up at her with adoring eyes.

“I do.” She gave a laugh, “Do you remember the joke you told me ages ago about how many buckets of water slavers need for their baths?” He nodded affirmatively, so she continued “I told that to the last lot of kids I brought in and they laughed so hard, they cried!”

“Truely?” His tearstained face broke into a smile.

“Go spend some time with the Elders and kids. Enjoy yourself. Don't keep worrying about the treasury. It'll work out in the end. In fact, we should get you and all the other ministers an assistant each. You can then all have regular breaks and know the jobs still being done.”

“I know just the person! Can I start training her now?”

“Before you or they start anything, I want the apprentices introduced to Chandral or myself. Ok?”

Mahoneus nodded as he rose to his feet with a renewed vigor in his stance. He gently hugged Chandral and offered his hand to Tarranna. The Queen stared at his hand then pulled him into a quick hug.

“I think I'd better go start making apologies.” He muttered.

Tarranna caught Chandral's eye, both woman scared for the man's life. “Chandral, can you stay with Mahoneus while he does that? I'm worried he might feint from the stress he's been under.”

Chandral quickly agreed.

Hours later, Mahoneus had apologized to everyone he'd terrorized and helped Chandral make his love-seeker charm – which he proudly wore around his wrist.

After he left Chandral with the kids, Mahoneus made his way to the kitchen where he was offered a meal by Maladroit. Mal hadn't eaten and happily accepted the older man's offer to join him. Soon both men were laughing and enjoying each other's company.


No-one laughed or smiled they were all serious and meant business. After countless days of preparation, it was time for Queen Tarranna and her army to leave Castletown.

Queen Tarranna's soldiers were mounted and formed lines four deep across the road. The convoy they made was miles long. By the time civilians waved goodbye to the last of the soldiers, their arms ached from overuse.

Tarranna, Arobar, Tashan and Chandral led the army, closely followed by Melanger, Cleusan and Lushion. Both Tarranna and Arobar's Royal Guards patrolled close by the women.


The Royal Guards allowed Cleusan to enter the command tent where Tarranna and Arobar were looking at a map of the land. “Majesties, we've received word from our forces. We've seized control of all the enemy capital cities. We've minimal casualties on our side while the enemy lost 100% of their people.”

Tarranna looked at Arobar and shrugged. “Makes sense. I would've left my loyalist people behind to make sure the city is left in good hands.” She looked at Cleusan. “How many unaccounted for slaves did we end up with?”

“Rough count is at ten thousand. That's just from the largest city. Most of them are women and children. The wealthy families put up a good fight but a lot of them were taken out by their own slaves.” Cleusan took a breath and continued “As you ordered, a third of our people are making their way back here, cleaning up as they go. The idiot Kings all left minimal forces behind them, so our lot should be here within a fortnight. ”

“Excellent. How long before we get within striking distance of the Kings?”

“About a week, your Majesty.”

“I have a small group who can delay the Kings and give our forces a little more time to catch up.” Tarranna raised her eyes from the map to the beautiful woman standing next to her. She grinned her interest and motioned for Arobar to continue. “They're trained to infiltrate enemy camps and sabotage their equipment. They make everything they do look like accidents.” Arobar smiled proudly.

“So the broken axle on one of the supplies wagons yesterday was all part of your evil plan to take over the world?” Tarranna poked her tongue at the other Queen as she nimbly dogged the hand that tried to swat her shoulder.

“Very funny!” Queen Arobar ignored Tarranna and turned to the table. Where she picked up a piece of cake and pegged it at Tarranna's smug face.

Tarranna caught the cake with her mouth and promptly swallowed it. “Mm, thanks.” Tarranna hid her grin as she wiped her mouth with a napkin. “So when can you sic Gremlin Squad on the Kings?”


“You know, the little creatures everyone blames when things go wrong?”

Arobar laughed as she said “I wouldn't tell them you've named their squad after icky little demons!”

“Hey enough slanderous talk from you! Gremlins are not ‘icky'! They're adorable and totally misunderstood.”

Arobar shook her head and snorted. “Well, in that case, I apologise profusely!” She returned to the business at hand. “I can send out the ‘ Gremlins' now. They've been bugging me for something to do… In fact, I'll give them free rein. The Kings‘ll soon be ripping out their own hair - if they don't end up throwing themselves on their own swords first.”

Tarranna silently watched as Arobar sent orders to her team. “You are such a sneak.” Tarranna was obviously impressed with the smaller woman.

“Yes I am. With everyone but you!” Arobar softly assured the other Queen.

Tarranna and Arobar stared deeply into each other's eyes and zoned everything else out of their world. They didn't notice Cleusan roll her eyes or hear her mutter something about how she needed a cold bath as she left the tent.

The Queens didn't hear the flustered Minister warn the guard not to allow anyone entry to their tent. Nor did they hear the sound of the Minister as she stomped her way toward the nearby river.

They did hear muffled screams but they didn't decipher the yells as concerned people who tried to stop Cleusan from jumping into the fast flowing water.

They didn't even hear the noise caused by Cleusan as she was dragged back to shore by several onlookers. Onlookers who didn't know she could swim like a fish, even dressed in her armour.


Lili was wrong, her Squad loved the name Tarranna had bestowed on them and quickly adopted it. After they ditched their armour, the newly named Gremlin Squad disguised themselves in outfits that allowed them to mingle with the enemy. Once inside the enemy camps, they eagerly and systematically planned and executed sabotage on everything they could get their hands on.

It started slowly at first. A supply wagon would suddenly lose its wheel. That would cause the axle to rip from the undercarriage and shatter as it was driven into the ground. Typically, the army would be delayed while the load was transferred to another wagon.

Then the frequency of attacks would grow closer. For example, on many successive nights, the horses became so spooked they broke their hobbles repeatedly and tried to escape. The soldiers soon became aware of an eerie howl emanating from the trees. They soon became as scared as their horses. Fear of the unknown even kept them awake on nights when the noise wasn't heard.

One time, a majority of the armies became ill. It was several hours after they'd eaten when they all started to lose body fluids from their two main orifices. Let's just say they had a shitty night and everyone was very happy to leave the odiferous area as soon as possible.

Little things like weapons and other gear suddenly disappearing began to happen. The items started to turn up later, in places they were never meant to be. Officers mysteriously found expensive items in each of their beds. One Captain sat on a very ornate and pointy sword that, incidentally, had vanished from his General's tent that morning. The resulting deaths of many officers enabled field promotions ( advancement in military rank that occurs while soldiers are deployed in combat ) to be awarded on a very frequent basis.

Rumours started (mysteriously enough) about little demons, so full of mischief their sole purpose in life was to cause pranks. The demons even had a name, Gremlins! Seeds of fear gripped the armies and grew like a snowball down a mountainside. Too many things were going wrong!! And it was slowly getting worse, the closer they got to Queen Tarranna's domain! Accidents started to occur without any ‘assistance'.

The Gremlins had been having the time of their collective lives but it was time to leave.


Tarranna rode Midnight around the main camp just to reassure herself her army was in top form and because she secretly enjoyed mixing with her soldiers. Her attention was drawn to the edge of camp, where dust billowed in clouds. She quickly turned her steed and rode toward the ruckus.

As she drew closer, she was able to identify the source of the activity.


Tarranna encouraged Midnight to top speed as she saw a massive bull buffalo chase the man. Mal steamed toward the tree line, but the magnificent animal quickly gained on him. The bull was taller than Midnight and his horns were (each) easily over three feet long.

Soldiers determinedly chased the man and beast, but were sadly outclassed by both.

Maladroit screamed as he increased his speed, the bull had come close enough to blow hot air down his back!

Tarranna pushed Midnight harder as she ripped the cape off her back.

Mal tripped and fell face first into the dirt. He promptly curled into the fetal position and lay still.

The bull sped past and barely missed the man with his massive hooves. The animal bellowed as he skidded to a stop and turned toward the man who lay on the grass.

As the beast charged again, he was distracted by a strange animal flying past him. An animal that flapped something across his face and caused him pain! The bull propped, changed his target and steamed toward the large black horse with a strange growth on its back.

As his strange growth vaulted from the saddle on his back, Midnight reared, pawed the air with his shod hooves and screamed his rage at the huge buffalo bull – who now charged toward him!

Tarranna lunged at the bull and desperately tried to protect Midnight from the lethal horns. She threw her cape in front of the bull's eyes and drew its attention to her. The bull stared at the woman, snorted loudly and started to dig the ground underneath his gigantic hooves.

It charged!

Tarranna tried to direct the bull away from her body. She flapped her cape at her side and made herself as big a target as possible with it. The bull ran past her and followed the fluttering material. She agilely dodged the deadly horns and turned to face the bull again.

The buffalo stopped and turned toward the woman. He stared at her, snorted loudly and dug up the ground underneath his hooves.

He charged!

Tarranna flicked her cape across his eyes and dodged his massive body. She cursed loudly as the cape snagged on his horns and hung limply over the bull's eyes.

It instantly stopped him in his tracks!

Tarranna's heart pounded in her chest as she warily watched the humongous bull in front of her. She was positively stunned at the abrupt end of his rage.

The buffalo's breath was laboured, the hot air bellowed from his nose and fogged the immediate area around him.

Tarranna carefully edged her way closer to the bull and noted his gigantic head moved to track her as she warily approached him. She could see the cape was secure for the moment and tried to keep her voice soft and gentle as she consciously calmed her heart rate. “Easy mate, I really don't want to hurt you.”

Out of the corner of her eye, Tarranna noticed her soldiers had slowed their catch-up run. She signaled them to stop and to keep a hundred yards from her.

“Mal, can you hear me?”

“Yes.” Was the terrified whisper in reply.

“Listen carefully to me because I really need you to do exactly as I tell you! Slowly get up and walk to the soldiers. Do you understand me?”

“Yes, Majesty.” He sniffled as he deliberately stood and edged his way toward the spectators. Long minutes crawled by before Maladroit joined the soldiers and was quickly escorted out of danger.

Tarranna signaled all of them to move further away. It was an order they were none too happy about, but grudgingly complied with.

Tarranna was at a loss about what to do now. She really didn't want to kill the magnificent animal but she couldn't let him loose so close to camp. If he lost his temper again and rampaged through her people, the death toll could be horrific.

Tarranna softly whistled a command to Midnight. She kept her eyes on the bull, ready to bolt if the cape moved from his eyes. Midnight warily walked to Tarranna and stopped by her side. She removed a long rope from her saddle and fashioned one end into a makeshift halter. She tentatively placed the halter over the bovine's head and ensured the cape was secure under it.

Tarranna scratched the face and neck of the beast in front of her. She marveled at the steel like strength of the muscles under his thick and hairy hide.

Tarranna took several steps away from the bull and pulled on the rope. At first the beast stood his ground, but eventually, he moved slowly toward the human female.

Tarranna smiled as she slowly led the bull back the way he'd come from. After a while he followed Tarranna willingly, so she climbed aboard Midnight and increased the pace slightly.

After several miles, she saw a herd in the distance. The bull grew excited and walked faster as he blindly followed the woman and horse.

Tarranna dismounted and sent Midnight back toward camp. She knew what she was thinking was risky and didn't want the horse nearby if things went haywire. Tarranna took a deep breath to calm her nerves. She checked her crossbow was loaded and her spare bolts easily accessible before she removed the halter from the bull. She left the cape over his eyes and after bouncing on her toes, she carefully removed the cape from the bull's head. While the bull blinked in the sudden and blinding light, she slowly moved backwards toward the nearest trees.

The bull blinked repeatedly, looked the woman in the eyes then promptly ignored her. He knew his herd was close and after he moved his massive head, he saw them in the distance. He let out a deafening bellow as he trotted toward his family.

Tarranna watched as the buffalo disappeared into the group. She shook her head at the recent event as she quickly jogged to catch up with Midnight and made her way back to camp.

She couldn't wait to hear the story behind this mess!


Maladroit was an emotional mess. He was embarrassed beyond anything he'd ever felt before. He sat on a log near the Queens cooking fire, about 30 feet from her tent. He heard the soldiers laugh behind him as they told and retold the story of how he'd been saved by Queen Tarranna. Again.

Maladroit wouldn't look up as a pair of boots moved into his line of sight. He closed his eyes and ignored the gentle voice as it said his name. “Mal, look at me.” He shook his head and continued to look at his shoes. He felt warm fingers under his chin as they gently but forcefully raised his face so he had to look into Tarranna's eyes. “They aren't laughing at you. They're laughing at the situation. I could've been in your place and they'd still be doing what they're doing now.”

“You wouldn't have been stupid enough to get chased!!”

“You are not stupid. And I'll have you know they've laughed hundreds of times about situations I've gotten myself into.”


“You want to know the difference between what I did and you're doing now?” He nodded so she continued. “I joined them and told them my side of the story. Then I laughed harder than they did.”

Mal looked ready to retreat back into his shell. “I'm really sorry I nearly got you killed!”

“You didn't. I willingly did that myself.”

“Why? You should've just let it run over me.”

“Not going to happen, Mal! You're part of my family now. Family protect each other, no matter what.” His eyes grew wet and he wiped them with his sleeve. “Come on, Chandral, Arobar and Tashan are waiting for us. They want to kick my butt for playing ‘peek-a-boo' with a charging bull that's bigger than my tent! This'll keep them off my back for a bit! And besides, I really want to hear your side of what happened.”

Mal slowly stood and moved toward the others, he made sure he stuck close to Tarranna's shoulder. The four women and Maladroit walked regally to the main fire, the noise lessened the closer they came.

The soldiers stood as one. Someone yelled out “Three cheers for Queen Tarranna: Bullfighter!!” The noise partially deafened everyone close by. When the din finally stopped, the same voice yelled out “Three cheers for Maladroit, the fastest man alive!” The noise was even louder.

Mal couldn't believe it. He was being cheered? He turned to face Tarranna and silently asked for her to explain. She leaned close to his ear and yelled “You outran an adult buffalo - a horse has trouble doing that.”

“I did too!” He whispered to himself.

Eventually, the noise died down and Tarranna addressed the crowd. “I thought you might all like to hear the true story of what happened today.”

Laughter and a quieter cheer greeted her offer, testament the story may have been growing wilder and wilder with each version. People scrambled to find the women something to sit on and others moved to a better position. Tarranna ensured Mal sat next to her, his excitement obvious by the huge smile on his face.

“Mal, you wanna tell us what you were doing before the attack?” Tarra asked.

Mal looked around and looked as if he was about ready to bolt. Murmurs of encouragement from the crowd gave him the courage to speak. Tarranna motioned with her hand for him to start.

“I wanted to make you venison stew for dinner… ‘cause I know you and Princess Chandral like it a lot.” The Queen and the Princess loudly voiced their agreement and laughter rippled around the crowd. “I asked Melanger if he'd help me find a deer. He said no worries and took some men into the woods. I was waiting at the edge of the trees when a deer came running out. It fell over and I saw arrows sticking out of its side. I started walking closer to it. I wanted to say a prayer thanking it for giving its life for us. The buffalo came out of nowhere and ran right at me!” He glanced around the crowd, amazed they were listening to him. “That's when I took off.”

Everyone stayed quiet as Melanger seamlessly took up the story. “I was following the buck out of the forest when I saw Maladroit fly past me. I have never seen a person run so fast - he practically had flames following behind him!” Laughter rippled through the group. “It was when the buffalo zoomed past me I realized why he was running!” The laughter grew louder. “I tried hard to catch them but I'll admit he and the beast left me for dead.”

Someone yelled out “Yah spent too many years riding yah horse!!”

Melanger laughed loud and yelled “Too right I have!!” He waited for everyone to settle down again. “I was still hundreds of feet away from the ass end of the beast when I saw Mal fall.” He looked fondly at Maladroit. “The bull ran so close to Mal, I swear he has to have its hoof prints on his back! The bull stopped his run and turned for another try. It was hell bent on killing Mal, no doubting that as fact! There was no way me or my men could help, we were still too far away. I thought for sure he was a dead man!” He paused for dramatic effect. “Then I saw an angel fly past the bull, snapping him on the nose with her cape.”

The crowd cheered!

“You have to remember here, that this buffalo was ten foot tall at the hump, fourteen foot long and had horns five foot long each. It was built like a brick shithouse!” Tarranna thought Melanger was enjoying this way too much.

“The Queen jumped off Midnight and sent him away from the horns that could so easily rip open his gut. Then she flapped her cape at the bull - daring it to charge her!” Melanger took off his cape and used it to demonstrate.

The audience was spellbound and Tarranna fidgeted in her seat.

“Well that bull ripped up the ground in front of it. I looked later and the ruts are so deep you can bury a man in them! It stared her down, its breath was so hot smoke poured from its nose. It charged ! Queen Tarranna stood her ground and dazzled him by twirling the cape as he ran past.” He flamboyantly demonstrated the technique. “I have never seen anything like it before in my life.” He drew a deep breath. “The huge bull stopped its run and turned to face Tarranna again. It just stared at her and ripped the ground up some more.”

Melanger clapped his hands together, making some of his listeners jump. “Suddenly, he charged again and Tarranna's cape got stuck on his horns!! I nearly shit in my pants!!” The crowd laughed. “I was so scared I nearly dirtied my pants and what'd she do?”

“Ran from your shitty smell?” A heckler called out.

“No.” He laughed. “She walked up to the bloody huge beast and calm as you like scratched his huge freaking head.” He ignored the hoots of disbelief and continued, “I swear on all that's holy! She scratched its bloody head and led him away from camp!”

Tarranna let the yells, cheers and heckles go on for ten minutesten 10 fold,” Roars of agreement ripped through the camp. “but the rest was pretty well spot on.” She again waited for the noise to settle down. “My only question is…” She looked Mal in the eye, smiling widely. “Where the heck's my venison stew? I'm starving!”


Tarranna was starving! She quickly placed meat and bits of greenery on her bread and cheekily used her hip to push the smaller woman away from Maladroit's coveted sauces. She then adeptly dodged the swat from Lili's hand.

Tarranna and Lili jumped as a human rocket flew through the door of their tent. Tarranna only just managed to stop herself from throwing a dagger at her suicidal sister. “Are you deliberately trying to get me to kill you?”

Chandral flapped her arms like a stork in the middle of an epileptic seizure as she ignored Tarranna's comments. “I've done it!!” she laughed hysterically.

Tarranna and Lili looked at each other, confusion on both their faces. “What exactly have you done? And is it going to take much to fix it?”

Chandral closed her eyes, took a deep breath and tried to contain her excitement. She checked no one was close by before she whispered. “Do you remember a few months ago when you said you'd love to be able to see what the Kings are up to?” Chandral barely waited for Tarranna to nod affirmatively before she continued. “I've been working on a way to do it! And I finally have!”

Tarranna instantly gave Chandral her undivided attention. “You can see them?” Chandral grinned and nodded. “Guard!!” Tarranna yelled. The guard ran into the tent and stood at attention as she briefed him. “Nobody and I mean not a living soul is to come within twenty feet of this tent. Have guards set every ten feet around the circumference. If anyone tries to get in, have them tied up and held until I say different. Do you understand?”

“Yes Majesty, no one will disturb you.”

“Go, but come back and let me know when everything's ready.” The three women waited impatiently for his return and final exit.

“Show us.” Lili urged.

Chandral quickly poured water into a large flat bowl. She sat in at the end of the table, with the bowl in front of her. Her position allowed the other two women to move close behind her. Chandral closed her eyes and mumbled under her breath as she focused. The water suddenly went from clear to images of people as they moved around in it. “Oh my God!!” Lili whispered as she moved closer to the images and placed her hands on Chandral's shoulders. “That's definitely King Sarl of Irasia, I'd know his slimy face anywhere.”

“Is there some way you can see where they are?” Tarranna gently questioned. Chandral didn't answer. She waved her hand over the bowl. The images slowly moved further into the distance. Soon, the camp the Kings were in appeared in the water. The view continued to zoom out until the women could see the valley the camp was in. “Excellent, they're around the area we expected them to be. Can you focus on our camp and see if any enemy patrols are close by?”

Chandral was a picture of concentration as she focused on her mission to help her Queen. The scene in the bowl switched to a bird's eye view of Tarranna's camp. “That's this tent and the wagons are over there.” She used her finger to point out the landmarks to the others. “What's this flashing red thing to the south west of us?”

Chandral maintained her concentration as she briefly answered “The enemy!”

“Without hurting yourself, can you tell how many of them there are?” Lili asked gently.

Chandral nodded as she again switched the focus of the bowl. Tarranna quickly counted approximately two hundred soldiers before she told Chandral to stop her efforts. Tarranna quickly hugged her twin while she told her how brilliant she was. The dark haired Queen then left the tent to find Melanger and had him discretely dispatch a force of warriors to deal with the nearby enemy.

Tarranna returned to her tent and waited while they all ate and Chandral had regained her composure. She delayed her questions until her sister had swallowed the last of her lunch then asked. “How the heck did you think to do that?”

Chandral grinned as she explained. “I knew what I needed to do I just couldn't work out how to do it. This morning I was leaning over the wash bowl to clean my face and I saw my reflection. I thought about the Kings and how I wished I could see them instead of myself. Next thing I knew, there they were!” Chandral laughed as she confessed. “I'll admit it scared the living heck out of me!” The other two women mumbled they could totally understand that!! “After seeing them, I wished I could see the kids and mum. By the way, they're having a party with the Elders there's a huge mess!”

“Who's causing the mess, the kids or the Elders?” Lili laughed.

“Definitely the Elders!” Chandral snorted.

Tarranna laughed with the others before she sat next to her sister. “Chandral, this is fantastic. You've given us an edge that's unbelievably massive.” She looked from Chandral to Lili before she continued. “We can't let anyone else know about this!” The other two women nodded their agreement.

Lili looked into Chandral's eyes as she asked the question she was busting to know the answer to. “How exactly did you do it?”

Chandral shrugged, not quite sure of the answer herself. “I've been trying a different way to do my charms and healing. I know life is a living form of energy and I think I'm tapping into it. I've been asking Mother Nature to guide me and now everything I do feels much smoother and more fluid. I don't ask for anything that isn't already there, I've just found a way to harness it.”

“Are you sure it won't hurt you?” Lili asked the question because she could see Tarranna was as concerned as she was.

Chandral didn't answer straight away. Instead, she turned her focus inward and took a deep cleansing breath. “I can't be totally sure, but I feel great. I'm not sensing anything negative or demanding from the energy. It feels clean, pure and giving.” A blinding smile graced her face which caused the others to return it in kind.

“I'd love to be able to feel what you do.” Lili sighed.

Chandral's smile grew bigger. “Maybe you can. Give me your hands.” Lili and Tarranna promptly did so. “Close your eyes and relax. Don't think of anything but how good it feels to be alive.” Chandral took a breath and gently opened a door in her mind. She was able to feel the purity of the love between Tarranna and Lili and was amazed at how powerful it was.

Energy flowed through the door in Chandral's mind and around her body as she carefully controlled its flow into the other women. She bonded with the grass around the camp and laughed as a horse peed on her patch of grass. She extended her reach and bonded with the breeze that blew through the trees. She rode the wind until she found a bird. She soared with the majestic eagle and floated with him miles above the ground. She watched through his eyes as he targeted a rabbit and swooped to catch it.

Chandral, Tarranna and Lili gasped at the exhilaration of flying and being able to see their world from a very different perspective. Chandral gently returned her focus inward and began to close her mind's door. She then thanked Mother Nature for allowing her to join in. Before she broke the connection with Tarranna and Lili, she wrapped them in a massive mental hug which left them all feeling invigorated.

Chandral opened her eyes and squeezed the hands of the others. They opened their eyes, stared at her and then each other. All three laughed as they looked around to readjust to their normal view of the world.

“From now on I'll apologise to the grass before I take each step!” Lili was ecstatic. She was on a natural high and couldn't believe what she'd just witnessed.

“I so want to fly!!” Tarranna could still feel the wind as it sped past the eagle as it zoomed earthward.

“Yeah, me too!” Chandral beamed at her family, glad she'd been able to share her gift with them.

“Could you do that with anyone?” Lili asked, curious.

“I don't think so. When I was healing before, I could sense the edge of the flow. I'd get my customers to close their eyes and focus along with me, but they couldn't feel what I was asking them to.”

“Well, I'll be!!” Tarranna was stunned. Lili and Chandral stared at her, unsure of what exactly was going on in her head. Finally, she realized she'd spoken out loud. Tarra tried to explain her epiphany. “That's how I've become so good at sneaking around!! I consciously make myself part of what's around me! I've been tapping into nature for years without realizing it.”


Before they realised it, it was after midnight and Queens Tarranna & Arobar were in the tent in their very comfortable 'camp' bed. They quietly discussed everything but nothing in particular and just enjoyed the rare snuggle time.

Both groaned loudly as a knock sounded at the door. "If you want me to, I can kill whoever that is."

Lili kissed Tarra soundly before she sighed "You'd better not this time. It may be important."

"It'd better be…" Tarranna grumbled as she got out from under the covers and quickly dressed. She walked to the door of the tent but waited it until Lili was ready before she pulled it open. Once given the all clear, she threw open the flap and startled the soldier who stood near it. The same soldier had been debating if it was worth his life to knock a second time. "Well?"

"My apologies Majesty. There are six enemy soldiers in camp carrying a white flag. They want to talk to you. They won't tell me what about."

Tarranna was fascinated to say the least. "Have Melanger report here now. Give me five minutes then show them in." She was about to re-enter the tent when she changed her mind. She turned back to her guard, who snapped to attention. "You did good keeping this quiet and bringing them straight to me. Well done." She closed the flap behind her.

The soldier snapped out of his stunned state, grinned till his lips almost split then practically skipped to carry out his orders. When he returned to Her Majesty's tent with the enemy soldiers, Melanger met them at the entrance. Melanger ordered the man to guard the door.

Tarranna sat in a high backed, regal looking chair as she motioned the enemy soldiers to stand in front of her. They nodded their respect to her before the oldest spoke up.

"We thank you for seein' us, M'Lady. My names Helitor, I'm a sergeant in the Mahchena n army. We've been hearing things we want to check are true." The others around him grunted their support.

"Yes, Helitor. I intend to flog you King's ass - and not at all in a good way." The men snorted at her bluntness and laughed at her candour.

"We hav' no doubt on that, M'Lady." He laughed. He turned serious as he continued. "We hear you'll be taking any of us who wants to join ya. That the truth?"

Tarranna was quietly impressed with the way her spies had spread her news. "Any of you who leave the Kings will be treated with respect and fairly."

The men shuffled excitedly as they looked at each other and confirmed their interest. "Wot about us that are slaves?"

"I don't allow slavery. Those who are slaves will be freed to do as they please. All who join my army will be paid the same as my men are now. A gold coin a month."

Their feet shuffled louder. "Is it true if a soldier is killed fightin' for ya, his wife and kids are looked after?"

"If a soldier dies fighting for me I ensure his family are set up in good jobs and they have a decent home to live in. Those who don't have skills are trained. When the kids are old enough to leave home, they are free to do so. Most seem to stay on with me."

"We know your word is as good as gold. Do you give your word that when we desert, we won't be killed?"

Queen Tarranna slowly stood and moved closer to the men. "Helitor, you have my word. Any of you who join me will not intentionally be hurt or killed by my forces." She held out her hand and a stunned sergeant slowly shook it.

The handshake ended before Tarranna continued "Is it possible for you to have your lot detach from the Kings' men. I want a clear separation of forces so my people know exactly who to kill."

The soldiers quietly conferred for several minutes before Helitor answered. "It's doable. We'll get our lot about a quarter of a mile back toward our border. Will that do?"

Tarranna smiled widely at him "Perfect."

Helitor reached for her hand again and gently shook it "Thanks again Your Majesty. We best be gettin' back now. We have a lot to do before mornin'."

"Be careful. I want to see all of you after the fight."

He laughed "We sure will." The soldiers nodded to Melanger as they exited the tent.

Melanger said quietly "I'll have them followed by Geon and her lot, to make sure they aren't killed as traitors." Tarranna nodded her thanks before he left.

Tarranna watched Lili as she stepped from behind the dressing screen in the back of the room and moved to hug the taller woman. "What do you think?"

Lili didn't answer as she silently organized her thoughts. "I think there is a huge potential to save a lot of lives here. I also think those who do join you will be extremely loyal. I've heard the Kings treat their soldiers like crap. Most soldiers don't receive wages, only meals and weapons. The rich and their family members are given commands they have no skills for. A lot of men are killed unnecessarily."

"So anyone who joins us tomorrow will have you to thank for changing their lives for the better."

Lili was going to dispute that! And she would've done so, if she hadn't become very distracted by Tarranna's lips on hers.


Later that night, Tarranna was momentarily distracted by a soft snore from her still asleep Queen. Tarra chuckled softly as she quietly got out of bed then the dark haired Queen smiled devotedly at Lili as she dressed and left the tent.

Queen Tarranna saluted her guards as she walked to her sister's accommodation. She knocked once saw the futility of the act if Chandral was indeed asleep then walked inside. She carefully lit the candle she carried and soon spied Chandral sprawled across her bed.

Tarranna gently woke her twin and laughed at the drool that ran down the side of Chandral's face. “Why are you laughing and what the hell are you doing here anyway?”

“Ya know something? I forgot how big a grumble-bum you are when I wake you!” She motioned for Chandral to wipe the side of her face. Chandral complied and grimaced at the slobber she found there. She promptly wiped it on Tarranna's arm. “Hey, keep ya spit to yourself, will ya?” Chandral wiped her face again and generously shared the resulting moister with her sister. “You're a gross woman, ya know that right?”

Chandral poked her tongue out and gave Tarranna a not so polite hand gesture as she slumped back onto her pillow. “Ok, go back to sleep. I thought you might like to cause some mischief with me, but I'll do it myself.” Tarra sighed dramatically before she stood to leave.

Chandral's eyes opened wide as she raised her trunk via her elbows. “What kind of mischief and on whom?”

“The best kind and the Kings.”

“I'm in… Do I need to get dressed?”

“No. I'm sure the guards would love to see you walk around camp naked. Maybe we can even sell tickets for the enemy to watch too.”

“Oh yeah, you're freaking hysterical!” Chandral threw her pillow at Tarranna as she got out of bed, pulled on her clothes and secured her armour. “Ok, spill!”

Tarranna quietly did just that.


Tarranna and Chandral quietly rode their horses out of camp toward a small valley surrounded by cliffs and with only one entrance. Behind them rode a dozen warriors and another dozen stable hands. Midnight pranced alongside Tarranna, tossing his head and stirring up the other horses.

After they came close to the valley, Tarranna signaled for everyone to stop and slid off her temporary mount. After handing the reigns to a stable hand, she walked Midnight about 20 feet away from the others. She commanded him to settle down and patiently waited until it was safe to take his magnificent head in her hands. She focused on him and gently spoke to the horse. “Ok beautiful, this is what I'd like you to do… Go get the horses and bring them to me.” He snorted and whinnied in excitement. “That's right. Round them up and bring them to me. You can smell all those horses out there, can't ya?” She released Midnight's head and stepped back as he reared and pawed at the air. “GO!!”

Midnight put all four hooves on the ground, spun around in a tight circle then sped out of the sight. His excited squeals could be heard for well after he was out of sight.

Tarranna motioned for the others to join her. “Ok, he'll bring the enemy horses into the valley, in groups. It's up to you guys to keep them there. Midnight won't harass a horse with a person on it but the herd is going to be unpredictable. So set yourselves up and be extra careful. I don't want to have to tell your families you were killed by horny horses!!” Tarra laughed along with the others then motioned for them to take up their positions. Tarranna led Chandral to the top of the closest and most accessible cliff. Midnight knew where she was but she wanted to be able to see him.

“I hope the enemy won't be able to hurt him.” Chandral said quietly.

“Nah, he's trained to keep out of range of crossbows, no matter how randy he gets. And that protection spell of yours won't hurt either.”

Chandral tuned her focus onto the surrounding woods. She laughed softly as she felt the agitation of the natural energy around her. “He's certainly stirring things up!” She focused on the fear and uncertainty of the horses. “Maybe I can help him with this!” Chandral fixed her thoughts on the herds' and gently whispered to them. She told the horses not to be afraid but to follow the beautiful black stallion. He would lead them to safety.

“Here he comes!” Tarra said.

Chandral opened her eyes and watched in awe as Midnight led hundreds of horses from the forest and into the canyon. He quickly returned to a clearing where he pranced, neighed and screamed.

Over the next few hours, hundreds upon hundreds more horse raced to meet Midnight. He welcomed them as only a dominant stallion can and led them to where the others waited.

Just before dawn, the number of horses defecting dropped to zero and Midnight ran to meet his Queen. Tarranna and Chandral had already moved from the valley ridge closer to their camp. Tarranna dismounted and carefully walked toward her friend. “Well done, boy.” She moved slowly closer, noting the sweat and dirt that plastered his body. There was no sign of blood or injury. “You did a great job, beautiful. Thank you. Go play with the mares now, you deserve it!”

Midnight pawed the ground with one hoof then turned and ran back toward his new mob.

Tarranna watched and laughed as he wasted no time going back into the valley. She returned to her horse and rode beside Chandral as they returned to camp. “I can't wait to see the look on the Kings' faces!” Tarranna chuckled and Chandral joined her quiet laughter.


Queen Tarranna contained her laughter as she rode her horse closer to the invading armies. Armies who didn't appear quite so threatening without their horses!

It was standard protocol before war commenced for each group to send a dozen representatives and their leader to meet with the other group or groups. They'd assemble halfway between the opposing sides and that became neutral ground. Once on neutral ground and for the duration of the meeting there was a ban on murder, mayhem and using weapons to do physical injury to other leaders. It was a chance to come to peaceful terms, psych out the other side or the rulers to declare a one on one battle. For some reason, the one on one battles never seemed the most popular option.

If anyone, even Royalty broke the terms of the cease fire, they died. No appeals or do-overs, just instant death from the members of the other parties.

Queen Tarranna and her Royal Guards casually rode to within talking distance of the three Kings and their men. Tarranna impudently stared at the Kings and successfully made two of them shuffle nervously in their saddles. Psychology was Tarranna's favourite toy!

Queen Arobar and her entourage were the last to arrive. Arobar was obvious in her icy distaste for the men as she ignored them but pleasantly greeted Tarranna.

“Let's get straight to the point!” King Sarl, demanded. He was ruler of Irasia and the ring leader of the takeover bid. He spoke as if everyone was beneath him and truly believed it was the truth. “Tarranna, surrender now and we'll let most of your people live. You'll be my slave and your land and surviving subjects will be split 4 ways.”

“How generous of you!... But how about I say no to that offer? Ya got something better or do we get to the good bit now?”

“That's the only offer, take or leave it!”

“Well, I do have a counter offer you should hear before I start laughing at you. So how about you shut your trap and listen up?” Tarranna put all the hate she felt for the men into her eyes and stared down the two weaker rulers. She finally ignored them and stared at the leader of the coup. “You talk like you have the upper hand here, idiot! You have three armies and three quarters of them are on foot!!”

King Sarl sneered at her, the contempt he felt for her blatantly obvious. “I knew you had something to do with that you unnatural bitch!!”

Tarranna ignored the rant and continued. “You also said you were going to split my land and people four ways. You really need to do a recount there.”

King Sarl turned to Queen Arobar and ordered “Tell the bitch whose side you're on, Majesty !” Behind her headdress, Arobar sneered at his sarcasm.

Queen Tarranna knows exactly where I stand. By the way Iaine would've been here, but he fell into our garbage pit during a rat infestation. The poor man screamed for a week while he was eaten alive.”

King Sarl spewed his condescension and hurled vile curses at the women in front of him. “So, it's the two of you against us. We still outnumber you and my offer only stands for the next two minutes.

“Well, you may have outnumbered us last week, that's true. But today, I'm thinking not so much!” Tarranna goaded him.

The Kings suspiciously looked around the area, trying to see what she hinted at. They saw nothing out of place and King Sarl laughed at her. “You're bluffing!”

“Am I?” Tarranna looked Arobar in the eye and asked “Do I look like I'm bluffing?”

Arobar shook her head negatively. “Nope, you look deadly serious to me. But maybe that's because I know what we've been up to.”

Tarranna snapped her fingers and said “That's right! Maybe I should fill you guys in on what's been going on. Then you can surrender to us.” Her tone lost its levity as she moved her horse slightly closer to the Kings. “While you idiots have been glaringly obvious in bringing your army this way, I sent half mine North and East. Your cities are now ours and the slaves released. My reinforcements arrived last night. They're just over that rise, ready to attack.”

Arobar took up the narrative. “Half my army went East then North, helping capture all the towns and cities that way. My reinforcements arrived the night before last and are with currently with Tarranna's. And every single one of our soldiers is mounted.”

King Sarl lost some of his bluster… “You're lying!!”

Arobar motioned to one of her Guards, who took a large horn from her belt and blew on it. “If you look to the horizon, you'll see you're surrounded and outnumbered by around 10:1.” The stunned men looked at the horizon, flabbergasted at the tide of mounted humans who flowed over the hills toward them.

“If that little tidbit still hasn't grown you a clue that you've lost, look behind you.” Tarranna chuckled.

The Kings turned and gasped at what they saw.

Or better yet, what they didn't see.

Helitor and his defectors had moved a lot more than a quarter of a mile from their ex-leaders. They were currently around a mile away and there were more than twenty thousand of them. A lot more!

“Hey Arobar, do you reckon they can beat us with just their dainty rich kid officers?” Tarranna sneered.

Arobar snorted at her friend's dig and replied “Nah, but I already bet my realm you'd win.”

Tarranna grinned at her Queen. “That's so sweet! Thank you. Would you like to give these morons their terms for surrender?”

“I would. Thank you dear.” Queen Arobar glared at the buffoons in front of her. “Here's the deal. There is no surrender. You're all going to die.”

King Sarl scoffed at the Queens. The venom in his voice caused the hairs on the women's arms to stand on end. “Even if you kill us, our families won't rest until they gut you and your bastard kids. My children have been raised in my image. They'll do whatever it takes to avenge me. You'll all die long and painful deaths. Especially your snot nosed children.”

Tarranna looked at Arobar and said “Good decision!” She then looked at the scum in front of her. “In that case, it's just as well we had your entire bloodline plus your elite class killed. Isn't it?”

“You're lying! You never kill women and children!”

“Queen Tarranna didn't give the order. I did.” Arobar sighed sadly.

“NO!!” King Sarl screamed as he drew his sword and charged at Queen Arobar.



Tarranna expected the attack on her Queen. She barged her horse into the King's and pushed the man sideways. King Sarl inelegantly fell to the ground and landed flat on his arrogant back.

Queen Tarranna nonchalantly slid from her horse, her sword casually rested on her shoulder. She motioned for everyone to move out of the way as she prowled around the motionless man. “Well, King Loser, you broke the truce, that means you get to die twice. I hope you feel special.”

Tarranna flicked her sword and neatly left a small cut on his face. He yelped and covered his cheek with his hand. He growled in anger and frustration as he felt warm liquid ooze through his fingers. “So, do you want me to gut you while you lay there like the coward you are? Or are you going to get up and fight?” Tarranna taunted him.

Tarranna let an amused grin plaster her face as the livid man slowly and gracelessly rose from the ground. He used dirt to wipe the blood off his hand. “I'm going to enjoy slicing you into little bits!” He declared.

Tarranna kept the sword on her shoulder and motioned for him to come closer. “Bring it on, loser!”

King Sarl was a large man, wearing lots of heavy armour (front only on the legs) and he wielded an enormous two handed sword. He waved it around and tried to impress Tarranna with its size and imbedded jewels.

Tarranna eyed off his equipment, looked at her own light one handed, functional and very ordinary sword. She casually flipped it around her body then quipped “Big sword you have there!” She eyeballed his crotch, raised her eyebrow and grinned. “You must have tiny ‘ equipment' elsewhere. Could you be over compensating?” He roared his contempt and embarrassment (how exactly had she known that?) as he ran forward and tried to impale the woman on his huge weapon.

Tarranna laughed, easily deflected him and his oversized blade away from her body as he stormed past. After he ran by, she swiveled and used the force gained in the turn to connect her sword with his ass.

The King un-regally squealed like a stuck pig as her razor sharp blade ripped through his trousers and flesh. Tarranna's blow left him with deep wounds across both his butt cheeks. Blood ran freely down his legs and quickly started to pool in his boots. Tarranna snorted her pleasure at his pain and disparaged him further by saying “Ouch. That must hurt! I'd say I'm sorry but I don't lie.”

Sarl lost all reason as he tried the same move again. Tarranna let him pass then reverse stabbed her dagger into the back of his thigh. As he fell forward she pulled it free.

Sarl didn't turn. He stood, barely, with his back to Tarranna.

Tarranna stood casually, with her sword dangled in her hand. The dagger in her opposite hand was dripping blood onto the ground next to her. To all who watched, she was unconcerned about what he had planned. She was actually primed on a hair trigger, waiting to see what he was up to.

The King hobbled as he turned on the spot, his long sword used as a crutch. “I hope you rot in hell, bitch!” He threw his dagger at Arobar.

Time stood still for Tarranna. She saw the lethal weapon in slow motion as it sped toward her Queen. The warrior leapt from the ground, desperation gave her extra strength and agility as she caught the blade of the smaller weapon with the flat of her sword. She turned her sword and deflected the smaller weapon back toward its point of origin.

Tarranna followed the dagger. She ran with the speed and determination of a woman protecting her children and partner. She stared into the creep's eyes and his were glued to the dagger quickly returning to its owner.

Sarl's distraction was his downfall.

The metal of the King's knee armour was light and allowed movement of the hinge joint it covered. It wasn't intended to stop the two booted kick from a full grown woman. Before he could blink, he was again on his back looking at the sky, his knee shattered by the human torpedo who now stood looking down at him.

Tarranna calmly removed the gloves and armour from both his arms. Sarl screamed as she broke both his wrists.

Queen Tarranna knelt beside the dying man as she politely told him “I really hope that causes you an extraordinary amount of pain.” She dropped the arm she still held. She disregarded his groan as the mangled arm hit the ground. “Think of that as a down payment on the pain you've caused so many kids.”

Tarranna looked up as Arobar moved to stand beside her. She looked into the blonde's eyes expecting to see loathing and disgust. Instead, she found love and support. Tarranna smiled devotedly at her Queen before she returned to a despicable task.

Tarranna demanded the other Kings throw away their weapons or die instantly. They quickly dropped their swords and daggers. They even threw off their armour, just in case. Kings Lecom of Tamocel and Aneham of Mahchena trembled in their cowardly boots.

Queen Tarranna indicated for the two men to stand closer, so they could hear what she had to say to the man groaning on the ground. “I knew you bastards couldn't be trusted, it was pretty obvious by the way you enslaved your own people. So, for the last couple of years I've been slowly sending thousands of my supporters into all three of your countries. I sent them disguised as families, business people, slavers and slaves. My wealthy ‘families' in your capitals were a perfect front for housing my soldiers. Weapons and armour were stashed and ready for you invasion. All the soldiers needed were the attack orders.”

“I've also financed the takeover of your biggest industries, including many of the slave auction houses.” Disgust in their lifestyles oozed from her. “You were so full of yourselves, you didn't even notice when the numbers of slaves in your cities dramatically increased. I bought as many of the women and children as possible and systematically sent them back to their homes. When I heard of slavers in my territory, I ordered extra patrols to cover the borders. That meant I had a valid reason to have several thousand more soldiers even closer to your land.”

Tarranna swallowed as she continued. “The things I've heard about you pricks makes me want to vomit. I've been itching to kill you for years but assassinating you wouldn't have exposed the worst of your kind. By the time you started this invasion, my people knew exactly who to kill and were well into doing that before our forces even reached your cities. Now most of your scum infected followers are dead and soon you will be too.”

Tarranna stood and eyeballed the shaking ‘Kings' who still stood in front of her. Before she could draw her sword, Queen Arobar had thrown daggers into the stomachs both men. Arobar walked to the groaning and astonished idiots and simultaneously took the handles of the daggers. Arobar twisted the weapons vigorously then pulled them free. She wiped the blood on the dying men's shirts.

Arobar turned and walked to Tarranna's side. She looked into Tarra's stunned face and softly said, “I want to live in a world that's safe, so it's only fair I help you clean up the trash. You shouldn't have to do all the horrible stuff yourself.” Queen Arobar removed her headdress and threw it to the ground.

Tarranna smiled at her Queen and took her into a full body hug. “I love you, ya know?”

“Yeah, I know. I love you too.”

In a joint signal, both Queens ordered the death of the enemy soldiers. The Queens didn't wait for anyone to move. They immediately ran after the dead Kings entourages. The former royal guardsman could nearly run faster than Maladroit!

All the enemy soldiers were at an immediate disadvantage. They were forced to fight with the huge swords their Kings favoured.

Tarranna worked with a light sword as long as her arm and a dagger half as long as the sword. She dazzled her attackers with her strength as she blocked their attacks. She then shocked them with follow-up thrusts from her dagger to their most vulnerable areas.

Arobar worked with two daggers, both equivalent in length as Tarranna's. Arobar didn't have the physical strength of other warriors, so she used her small stature to her advantage. She bobbed and weaved under and around her attackers. Her agility was her defense and mode of attack.

Melanger, Tashan and the two sets of Royal Guards kept the Queens in sight and valiantly tried to keep the two women out of the worst of the battle. Basically, they had no hope of accomplishing that task, so in the end they just tried to keep up with the women.

Tarranna and Arobar sliced and diced through the enemy and after a while, they found a rhythm they were both comfortable with. They performed side by side and worked together but as separate units. Tarranna would disarm or disable the enemy and Arobar took cleanup, or vice versa. The switch became seamless, dependent on the situation at hand. More often than not, they disabled the enemy and moved on, leaving cleanup for their Guards.

The heavily armoured enemy's armpits, necks, backs of legs, butts and knees were all fair game for the Queens. Individually, they were fierce and determined warriors. Together, they were a force of nature.

Both Queens' armies also used varying lengths of one handed swords. Many used the concept of a second sword or dagger for attacks. All their warriors were light on their feet and experts at mounted warfare. Therefore, it really didn't take long for the destruction of the inadequately trained enemy by the Queens' elite forces.

By early afternoon, communal graves had been dug and the bodies of the decimated armies buried. The three dying Kings were left where they fell. Twenty sentries were left to guard them, to give them water but no comfort. Their duty was to ensure the evil men took a long time to ponder their demise and their failure as both Kings and human beings.



By evening, the combined forces of the winning side had moved miles away from the blood and gore left of the battleground and a camp had been established.

Tarranna's tent was in the middle of the camp. She again ordered her guards set around the around the circumference of the tent. She, Lili and Chandral needed total privacy.

Chandral sat at the portable table with Lili and Tarranna. “Thanks for doing this, Sis. I appreciate it.”

Chandral waved her hand at the Queen and grunted “No problem.” She returned her focus to a large mirror in front of her. The bowl of water was inconvenient to move around and the freestanding mirror allowed them to sit and see the images. It was entirely more accessible for all of them. The mirror's image gradually changed from the women to a bird's eye view of the camp and several miles of land around them. Scattered red dots slowly moved in the direction of the defeated kingdoms. Chandral spoke softly “The red dots are individuals, not groups.”

Tarranna made a quick guesstimate and the total number relieved her concerns. The forces she and Arobar dispatched to chase the runners would be enough to eliminate the vermin, without loss to the Queens' soldiers.

“Excellent! How wide can you take this view?”

Chandral shrugged and experimented. The view shifted and landmarks grew harder to distinguish. The mirror filled with forests, plains, mountains and valleys until the edges of the land were surrounded by blue water. “I've made the red dots into groups, to make it easier to see them.”

“Cool!” Tarranna moved closer to the mirror, to examine the red blotches. Thankfully, none of which were in her or Arobar's territories. “They're definitely moving toward the Mungenollan border.”

Lili commented “Just as well we're going that way tomorrow.”


Chandral ignored the other two as she studied the map in front of her. “What do you think all these black spots mean?”

Tarranna and Lili shrugged. “Pity this thing didn't come with a detailed colour code.” Sighed Lili.

Chandral looked at Lili, her head tilted to the side. “Maybe it did!” She concentrated on the mirror, causing groups of fluorescent green spots to appear on the map. “Those green groups come up when I think of good people or friends. They're grouped where the cities would be. The red obviously means bad or enemy.”

Lili and Tarranna studied the whereabouts of their soldiers. The sheer numbers of individuals already set along the Mungenollan border made large green dots periodically from one side of the isthmus to the other. The narrow strip of land with sea on each side formed the only link between the two larger continents . Mungenollan territory ran for the entire length of the isthmus.

“They made great time getting into formation so quickly. The border should be safe until this lot get there.” Satisfied there was no imminent danger around them, the women turned back to the original question from Chandral.

“Can you see what colour the Kings are?”

Chandral moved the scene in the mirror so it showed three fading red dots.

“Let's just talk without having to make sense. What words do we usually associate with black? For me it's death and loss.” Lili encouraged the others to join her brainstorming session.

“Stealth, power, fear. That's one reason I like having dark war horses.”

“Funerals, mourning… evil.” Chandral supplied.

All three women shook as cold shivers ran down their spines.

“I think we should take a few of our best warriors and investigate the blacks as quick as possible. What do you two think?”

Chandral and Lili promptly agreed. Chandral left the room, citing she had some things she needed to do.



Chandral had prepared gifts for Lili and Tarranna. She placed three small, matching leather cases in front of each of them. Each case had a metal clip on the back, enabling it to be secured to the wearer's belt or a secure shoulder strap. Tarranna picked up hers, unclipped the cover and opened it. Inside the case, a five and a half inch by three inch mirror was securely fitted. “I made these to only work for us. Everyone else will only see a normal mirror. All you have to do is ‘wish' you can see something. Give it a try.”

Lili smiled as Patience appeared in her mirror. The girl laughed and waved her hands in delight. Ranna, Macgaven and Ndindari seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as the small blonde girl. “Are you seeing the kids?” Lili checked with Tarranna.

Tarranna nodded, a contented grin plastered on her face. “At least mum isn't pulling her hair out. We may have trouble getting the girls off her when we get back!”

Chandral scoffed at the other two. “You've only just thought of that now? You never had a chance in hell of that happening from the second you left them with her!!” They all laughed and Chandral gave the others some instructions for using their ‘seers'.

“When you see what you want, hold your hand flat, about four inches above the mirror. To change the view, move your hand up, down or sideways to move the scene in that direction. The seer will change back to a mirror when you close the case or think about seeing yourself in it.”

Chandral watched Lili and Tarranna as they studied the contraptions in front of them. Each woman was totally oblivious of how they would look to an outsider. Both stared at their mirrors and moved their hands as if patting an invisible pet. Chandral laughed and successfully shocked the others.

“What?” Lili chuckled when she saw the grin on Chandral's face.

“We'd better not do this in public.” she mimed what the others looked like when they scrolled around the view.

“Bloody hell! We look like priests blessing our own reflections!!” Tarra laughed.

“All we need now is to be able to talk to each other over distance. Then we'll definitely be locked up for being mentally unfit!!” Lili was joking about conversing, until she spied Chandral's smug look. “No way!”

Chandral nodded. “Watch this!!” Lili and Tarranna sat still as Chandral whispered “Guards at the Queens' tent, let Melanger enter now. Melanger come to the Queen's tent - urgently.”

Three minutes later, Malanger charged through the tent flap, his sword drawn and with a frantic look on his face. He looked around the room, surprised to see the unharmed and calm women who sat at the table. Lili and Tarranna stared disbelievingly at him. He sheathed his sword and apologized profusely for the intrusion. “I am so sorry, Your Majesties, Your Highness. I felt you needed me urgently. I see I was wrong. I'll leave to your business.”

Before he was able to leave, Tarranna stopped him. “Actually I'm glad you're here. We just decided to head out alone in the morning, there are some things we need to check out.” She held up her hand to stop him butting in. “Before you start nagging me, we'll take.. what ten?” She checked the number with Lili, who nodded her agreement. “warriors with us. Work with Tashan and have our guards ready to leave at day break. We'll be travelling quickly so use our best endurance horses and give everyone rations for a month.” She grinned at him. “I was getting ready to call you in, are you reading my mind now Melanger?”

Melanger was flabbergasted “I certainly hope not Majesty! I get into enough trouble with my own thoughts.” He smiled at Chandral and nodded to the Queens before leaving. As he exited, he shook his head in disbelief at what he'd just done.

Lili looked at Chandral as she said “You are one scary woman!”

“Nah. You live with my sister, me, our mother and our extended family. You're obviously unscareable!”

Lili smirked at Chandral. “Very true! Hurry up and spill.”

Chandral did so. “I used the wind to carry my message to the correct person.” She settled into a more comfortable position in her chair. “Once I worked out how to tap into the Flow, it's remarkable how easy it is to share information with Mother Nature.” Before the others could ask, she explained. “Other living things can share our Flow, just as do with them.” She focused on her surroundings, pointing to a corner of the tent. “There's a hungry mouse there. She's checking if it's safe to run out and get that piece of cake on the floor. I'm letting her know the cake will hurt her and to take the apple core instead.”

A field mouse darted across the floor, past the cake. She picked up the apple core in her mouth, turned and left – all in a frantic blur of motion.

Chandral turned to the large mirror that stood near the table. She focused on the family members all the women were missed terribly. The mirror responded accordingly. The tiny twins, Patience and Ranna were in the living area of Tarranna's rooms. They all played happily with wooden building blocks that were scattered across the floor. “I want you both to let your love for them surface. Imagine giving each of them a huge hug, a kiss on the cheek. Tell them you love and miss them.” Lili and Tarranna happily did what they were asked to, it was easy after all!

Both women laughed and tears welled in their eyes as they heard a whispered response of “Nunna, Tee Cha and Mummy.” The women felt invisible tiny bodies eagerly return their hugs and kisses. In the mirror, they saw Ranna raise her hands to touch her cheeks, a small smile graced her lips. She closed her eyes as if to send her love back to her daughters, Chandral, Tarranna and now Lili.

“I am such a fan of Mother Nature! She totally rocks!” Lili sighed. She loved the natural highs communing with the Mother produced. “Is there some way we can thank the Mother?” Lili looked at both Chandral and Tarranna.

Chandral thought deeply for a few seconds before she offered an answer. “We could limit the amount of damage we do to her children. We can also offer a prayer of thanks for anything we have to kill in order to survive.”

All three women sat up straighter and spoke as one. “Maladroit!!”

“Do you really think he was offering a prayer to Mother Nature?”

“I wouldn't be surprised. The kids did feel our love and answered us. Mal is and always will be a kid in a man's body.”

“Apparently he was very bright, before he was beaten up by slavers and left for dead.” Lili and Tarranna stared at Chandral. They shook their heads bemusedly at the information Chandral seemingly gathered so effortlessly. “A couple of the Elders knew him and his parents. His mum was away when slavers attacked. Mal was only about five years old but he tried desperately to protect his dad and his little friends. The bastards hit him until his head was so swollen it was bigger than a watermelon and both his legs were broken. His mum did a remarkable job of setting his legs and nursing him back to physical health. But mentally he was a different kid.”

They sat in silence for many minutes before Lili whispered “ Guards around the Kings, do not kill any animals coming for them. Mother Nature please allow something positive to come from these three killers lives and use their miserable bodies to help your children flourish.”


Fascinated about what may happen Chandral used the big mirror to check on the Kings. Nothing transpired for a while. But then, slowly, birds and small animals swarmed around the still living flesh. When it was finally obvious the men would have passed, Tarranna murmured to the breeze “ Guards around the Kings, you've done well. Come to the main camp and join the celebration.” She watched in the mirror as the guards shook their heads and looked around to see who whispered in their ears. Moving as one, they walked to their horses and rode off.

The three women quietly offered their thanks to Mother Nature and sat quietly as they contemplated what they'd just done. “Do you know Your Majesty, that ever since I met you my life has become a constant case of the ‘Wow Factor'?…”

Tarranna snorted and grinned at Lili. “Well, I can't let you think I'm boring, can I?” Tarra stood, hugged her sister and thanked Chandral for sharing something so unique with Lili and herself. “Come on, time for all the local Royalty to go to the party.”


The party was so huge, several massive areas beside the main camp had been set up for the soldiers to relax and eat in. The Queens and Princess were escorted to their seats by their joint Royal Guards.

Queens Tarranna and Arobar stood before the troops of their five nations, Princess Chandral stood slightly behind them. Tarranna motioned for the cheers to stop then launched into the speech she and Arobar had prepared the night before.

“People of Georstrie, Gardenya, Tamocel, Mahchena and Irasia – hear me. I am Queen Tarranna. Kings Sarl, Lecom and Aneham are dead. Queen Arobar and myself are now Sovereigns of this entire land.


Slavery everywhere is outlawed. Ex-slaves may stay with their previous owners if they wish and are paid appropriately for the work they do.


Having sex with children under 15 years and/or physically hurting another human is a crime punishable by death. Crimes of any form will not be tolerated and dealt with severely.


People living under Our laws will be expected to work, learn and share their skills with others. We will care for each other and our neighbours. We will become our Sister's Keepers.


Anyone not wanting to WORK and flourish under Our laws are free to move into Mungenolla . If you're leaving, go NOW!


Tonight starts a time of great change and revitalisation.


Welcome to a new future!”


The cheering started again as the Queens moved back to their seats where Maladroit busily served their meals. When he was finished, the women told him to join them. Arobar then ordered the Royal Guard to do the same and demanded Tashan sit next to her and not move. The Guards agreed only because they were allowed to keep half their number on duty. They switched, except for Tashan, when the first wave finished eating.

Warriors from Tarranna and Arobar's sovereignties thought nothing of their Queens mixing with the ‘commoners'. The people from the new lands were astonished by the occurrence. The Kings had never done anything even remotely as civil!

The women stayed and enjoyed the company of their people, through both meal servings for the Guards. Laughter and jokes roared from their table and set the theme for the night.

People who were musically inclined played their various instruments and sang a variety of tunes. People from all provinces were encouraged to dance and join in the singing.

Helitor and his deserters warily made their way to the main table, visibly unsure of themselves. They were amazed when the Queens stood and heartily shook all their hands. Tarranna made it known to all in the vicinity these were the warriors responsible for saving the Grunts from the Kings armies.

Helitor gained courage from the welcome and quietly talked to the Queens. “Forgive us for doing this now, but we heard you're leaving the main force in the morning and we won't have another chance for a while.” Intrigued, the women urged him to carry on. “Your Majesties, we all know you were taking a great risk letting us live and we'd like to present you with a token of our thanks. It isn't much, but it's given with the best of intentions.” He shuffled convinced the gifts would offend the women who now owned his entire world.

Queen Arobar stepped forward and gently encouraged him to hand over the items she was bursting to see. She impatiently dragged Tarranna with her. Helitor smiled shyly at their antics and handed the women the gifts. Two small packages were wrapped in colourful pieces of material and tied with very thin leather straps.

Tarranna smiled at the enjoyment her partner was getting from unwrapping the parcel and patiently waited to see what was inside. Arobar removed the ties and gently examined the pretty covering, pleased to see how beautifully designed the pattern was. She carefully handed it to Tashan and asked her to fold it up for her. She intended to use it as a bandanna to keep her hair from her eyes when she travelled.

Helitor and his cohorts straightened their stances, encouraged by the Queen's response.

Arobar found another piece of material folded within the smaller piece. She carefully unfolded the gift and laugh in joy at what she found. Arobar was ecstatic. “I love it! It's perfect! Thank you so much!!” She gave Helitor a quick peck on the cheek.

It was a flag. The background was light green, framed by a light blue border. In the middle of the material sat a white lily.

Queen Tarranna quickly unwrapped her gift and found an identical background on her flag. Instead of the lily, a rearing white horse stood in the center.

Helitor explained the design to the onlookers. “We used blue to show the ocean that surrounds us, green for the land we all love. Queen Tarranna favours horses and Queen Arobar favour's the lily.”

“Helitor, this is great!” Lili looked at Tarra and the dark haired Queen nodded she'd agree with whatever Lili had in mind. Queen Arobar's voice took on a royal tone as she spoke for them. “Queen Tarranna and I agree these will be our new crests. We thank you and your people, Helitor for this beautiful gift.”

Helitor and his cohorts stood in astonished silence as a cheer roared through the camp. That night, without even trying, the Queens firmly secured the loyalty of their new subjects.


Well before dawn the next morning, the Queens' new and old subjects were just beginning to stir. Tarranna, Lili and Chandral were already packed and prepared to leave. They knew where the nearest black spot was and paced the floor, itching to get moving so they could investigate it. Chandral even got out of bed without one word of complaint about the early hour!

Finally, Melanger, Tashan and the eight best Royal Guards were ready to depart.

Tarranna again rode Midnight, who was still hyper from romp with his herd. Unfortunately for him, the romp had to be cut short so his mares could be returned to their riders. Tarranna had no doubt there would be numerous magnificent foals as a result of his liaisons.

Tarranna and Midnight led the small group north for one and a half days before they came to the rocky outcrop the seer had identified as the closest black spot. As they weren't sure what they were looking for, Tarranna ordered camp to be set up and the horses attended to. Everyone had a quick bite to eat as Lili, Chandral and Tarranna held a meeting to ascertain what information they could from the seers.

“I don't think this is working.” Lili sighed after ten minutes of trying different views in the mirror.

“I agree. Maybe I can get something from the Flow.” Chandral turned her thoughts toward the area around them and tried to find a clue as to what they were searching for. “I'm sensing something man made about 20 feet over that way.” Chandral pointed to her left.

“Lead on, but be careful.” Tarranna advised her sister.

Chandral directed the others around large boulders and up a path that lead to the face of a small cliff. The path was only just wide enough for single file and the drop off the edge was about approximately 50 feet.

The guards looked around in confusion unsure of what it was their Queens looked for.

Chandral, Tarranna and Lili carefully inspected the wall in front of them. Everyone froze in place as a grinding noise broke the silence. Tarranna drew her sword as a doorway appeared from behind a sliding rock door. Thankfully, nothing ran from the doorway as it emerged. The interior was lit enough to show there was no immediate danger in the small atrium.

Lili quickly explained what she'd done. “There's a small handle in this hole. It was covered by a lose rock.”

“Cool, we now know what sort of thing to look for at the next one. Melanger, send someone back to get our torches. When we go in have a guard watch the camp and another one the entrance.”

Tarranna carefully checked the doorway for booby traps before she took a step into the room. Everyone else held their breath as they watched the dark haired warrior inspect every inch of the chamber. Once sure it was safe Tarranna, motioned for the others to join her.

As they waited for the soldier to return with the torches, Tarranna quietly stated her orders. “We go in with the assumption anything we find will want to kill us. Everyone watch each other's backs. We'll go in as a group but work in pairs or small groups as necessary. Chandral ensure you come with Lili and myself.”

After the torches arrived, Tarranna had everyone step back from the huge wooden door. She took her ‘break and enter' tools from the small bag around her shoulder and quickly unlocked the padlock. Before she pulled the bolt, she drew her sword and motioned for the others to be ready for anything. After she ensured everyone was alert, Tarranna noiselessly slid the bolt and pulled the door open.

A huge man flew through the doorway. His sword barely missed Tarranna's head.

Tarranna responded with a deadly thrust of her dagger which caused the person to drop to the floor. Tarranna threw a torch into the next room, relieved when nothing else appeared close by.

Chandral turned the body onto its back and pulled away in horror as she looked at his face. If he was human, it was hard to tell. His face was scarred and his features destroyed beyond recognition. Chandral tried to talk to him, but he stared straight through her. As she tried to check his wound, he grabbed her and chanted “Kill… kill…”

Lili put a crossbow bolt through his heart before he could hurt her friend. As he dropped back to the ground, Chandral's eyes welled up and she cried for him. “He was physically alive but his mind wasn't. It felt like the only thought he had was to kill. I don't understand how he could be like that.”

Lili hugged the woman and gently offered her support. Tarranna took her sister's hand and urged her away from the body. “We'll do all we can to help anyone in here, but it doesn't look good. Can you cope with this?”

Chandral dried her eyes and assured her Queens she'd be fine.

Melanger took the body by its filthy shirt and dragged it to the far corner of the room.

Tarranna gave Lili and Chandral a hug each and quietly told them she loved them both.

Whatever was hidden in the pitch black beyond the glow of the torch was effectively concealed in an unknown number of chambers.

“Well, this doesn't look like what I'd call fun!” Tarranna thought as she stepped warily into the foul smelling dungeon.


The team moved quietly into the next section of the chamber. There seemed to be a large closed off area in the middle and smaller rooms around the walls of the large cavern.

Tarranna signaled for the Royals and Tashan to come with her and the rest of the team to head to the left. They would work their way around the rooms until they met somewhere in the middle. Melanger nodded then moved his group off.

Tarranna checked the next door for any sort of trap and found a trip wire. She warned the others to move back and disconnected the device. Finally satisfied there was no danger, she and Lili moved into the room while the other two kept watch.

The Queens checked the room and found nothing remotely useful. There was a chest in the corner so they opened it (after Tarra checked it of course) and pulled out some coin and a couple of jewels. Tarra handed the booty to Lili as she smiled and kissed the blonde. “For the war effort!” Tarra whispered before she moved back toward the door.

Lili chuckled to herself as she pocketed the items. She realized Tarranna only wanted her to carry the bulky coins so she didn't have to!

The Royal team made their way to the next opening, which had no door but led into a small cavern.

Zombie men charged!

Tashan and Tarranna moved to cover the others and quickly disposed of the lead attackers. Both warriors parried, dodged and stabbed with speed and agility whilst the zombies were slow, uncoordinated and cumbersome. The zombies really weren't much of a match for their skills.

Lili and Chandral used crossbows that were half the size of their bigger counterparts. The pair loaded and fired with as much speed as they possibly could and between them they accounted for half the attackers.

While Tarra and Tashan checked the larger area for other enemies and useful items, Lili and Chandral reloaded and covered their backs. The searchers found weapons, dirty clothes, a little more coin and a lot of rotting food. They took the coin and understandably left everything behind!

For the next few hours, Tarranna, Chandral, Lili and Tashan fought their way around the dungeon. They found lots of zombies, more coin and jewels but not much else of use or interest.

Finally, they saw the other team make their way closer and eventually there was only one room between them. Tarranna motioned for Melanger to take it and the General wiped his brow as he grinned at his Queen.

Tarranna smiled back at him then the Royal team headed for the big enclosure in the middle of the cavern. She quickly checked, opened the door then Tarranna stepped into their final room of the dungeon. She immediately gagged as the stench of death met her in the doorway. After she ensured there was no eminent danger, she signaled for Chandral, Lili and Tashan to follow her.

All the women stared in horror at the body lying dead on the floor. It was the size of a wagon, with a longish neck and tail. Its head was the size of a large dog, its teeth the length of daggers. Its large wings were folded at its side.

Although it appeared ferocious, there was something about the animal that appealed to them and called out for their respect. Maybe it was the ocean blue colour with swirls of red, yellow, white and green that covered its scales.

Chandral moved closer to the animal, rage filled her heart. How could anyone lock such a magnificent beast in a hole like this? She quickly said a prayer to the Mother and hoped its soul had found peace.

Tarranna signaled for the others to be alert. Something moved under the wing! Lili checked her crossbow was loaded and readied it, she intended to ensure Tarranna's back was covered. Tashan readied her sword to do the same. Chandral backed away from the animal as Tarranna slowly made her way toward the body and used her weapon to lift its wing.

Tarranna stared at the tiny beasts curled up under what must have been their mother's wing. There were eight of them but only three were still alive and met her eyes with theirs. Tarranna carefully moved her hand toward the babies and allowed them to sniff her. They weakly did so then closed their eyes. The effort had almost drained the last of their strength.

Chandral and Lili moved closer, both in tears at the sight of the dead and sick babies. “We have to do something! We can't just let them die too!”

Chandral removed a piece of dried meat from her bag and offered small pieces of it to the babies. Too weak to move, they finally managed to take the offered nourishment and swallowed it.

While Chandral offered the meat, Lili found a small bowl on the floor and Tashan poured water from her bag into it. Lili placed the bowl in front of the baby's faces and smiled as they eagerly lapped at it with their long tongues.

After the little ones finished several bowls of water, they snuffed Chandral's hand looking for more food. Unfortunately, the women had already given the animals all the resources they'd brought with them.

A huge rat chose that moment to scurry across the floor which caused the tiny animals to wriggle as they endeavoured, unsuccessfully, to give chase. As the babies collapsed from the exertion, Tarranna threw her boot dagger and impaled the rat to the wall before it could scurry away. As it fell, there was the ‘twang' of a mini crossbow bolt being released and two more rats lay dead on the floor.

Tarranna smiled at her Queen. Lili had killed two of the rodents with one bolt. “Nice shot!” Tarranna was impressed as she stood, retrieved the rats and delicately removed the carcasses from the weapons. She returned the bolt to Lili who used a nearby rag to remove the blood before she inspected it and returned it to her bow.

Tarranna picked the rats up by the tails and grimaced as the tiny babies hungrily demolished the rodents. Lili again offered the little beasts water, which they accepted with a renewed vigor.

When they babies finished their meal, Tarranna carefully picked up a small brown and yellow baby, who spotted Lili and wriggled excitedly as she tried to get to the blonde haired woman. Lili reached for the baby and snuggled it against her chest as it rubbed itself against her.

Tarranna smiled in astonishment then picked up a little green and blue baby. It ‘grinned' at her but immediately tried to run to Chandral, who only just managed to grab the animal before it escaped from Tarranna and fell to the floor. The animal licked Chandral's face. She cringed at the stench of dead rat on the little creature's breath but hugged her close anyway.

Tarranna shook her head at the antics of the little beasts then reached down for the last of the live babies. It was red with swirls of blue and yellow splattered across its body. The bub licked her hand before he snuggled into her body and wriggled to find a comfortable position. Tarranna stared in shock at the animal as it started making a soft rumbling sound in its chest.

“They're purring!” gasped Lili.

“They are the most adorable little things!” Chandral gushed as she stoked her beastie on the head and back. She marveled at the silky feel of its scales. “How are we going to fight if we need to when we're carrying them?” Chandral asked.

“When Patience was tiny, I carried her in a blanket tied long ways. I wore it over my neck and shoulder like a sling and she hung in the fold.”

“I saw some material and such in a room just down the hall, maybe there's something in there we can use?” Tashan carefully led the way back to the small room. There they found cleanish blankets and ripped them into the required sizes. Tashan assisted each of the Royals with the slings as they settled the tiny babies into them.

The four women then waited for the rest of their team to finish up and all excitedly left for the entrance of the dungeon. As they exited, they all sucked in the fresh air and eagerly made their way down the path toward camp. As they reached the bottom of the path, a rumble started beneath the ground which caused the warriors to flop around like ragdolls.

Tarranna put her arms around Lili and Tashan did the same with Chandral. The warriors pushed the other two further away from the dungeon, where it seemed the quake had started. Tarranna looked back at the path and stared in fascination at the dust spewing out of the mouth of the dungeon. “I wonder what the heck started that!”

“I don't know, but it couldn't have happened in a better spot!” Lili carefully adjusted the mass on her chest. The other three women couldn't have agreed more and Tarranna led the team back to camp.

Tiny heads peaked out of the slings around Tarranna, Chandral and Lili's necks. The tiny Mystical beings stared at the rubble around the dungeon where they'd been born. They said a goodbye to their dead mother and siblings before they snuggled closer to the humans who'd saved their lives. The three tiny Mystics may have been weak and the effort had exhausted them but they slept well with the knowledge they'd just destroyed that evil place.

After walking back to their temporary camp, Tarranna told the team they were moving on, she was keen to leave the area as she was unsure if the small tremor would lead to something more widespread and devastating. The relieved team packed up their gear and rode for an hour or so. When she felt they were out of danger, Tarranna searched for and found a river with a nice spot to rest for a while. She recommended the warriors take the time to quickly bathe and the team quickly scampered to do just that. Everyone was keen to remove the stench of death from their bodies and clothing.

The Royals and Tashan separated themselves from the group, found a nearby secluded area and immersed themselves in the cleansing fluid. They eagerly scrubbed themselves and the babies with the refreshingly cool water and some gentle soap.

The babies swam to shore and wandered close by, eager for the chance to relieve themselves and explore. The tiny Mystics delicately walked through the unfamiliar texture of grass to find a comfortable spot where they lay down and rolled on their backs. The wriggling babies were funny to watch but the accompanying groans of ecstasy caused the women to laugh wholeheartedly at their antics.

After scrubbing themselves the women placed the smelly clothing into a separate bag and dressed in spare sets of pants and shirts. The twins checked the seers for the next black spot and after they secured the babies in their slings, the women quickly made their way to the rest of the team.

Melanger had the rations out and the warriors were hungrily attacking the offering. After the Queens helped themselves to the food, they sat on conveniently placed logs.

The masses on the Royals' chests wriggled in their slings and demanded to be released, much to the concern of the watching warriors. Many drew their swords in anticipation of the eruption of life sucking parasites from the chest cavities of their Royal family! The guards didn't know if they were relieved or not when they saw the tiny beasts sitting on the ground next to the women. The babies ignored the rest of the team and were contentedly being hand fed by their adopted mothers. The little Mystics eagerly accepted anything offered to them.

The horses stirred restlessly but after Midnight waltzed to the babies, snuffed them on their chests then left to nibble some grass that was calling out to him, they settled down.

Tarranna picked up her baby and sat him on her legs. He sat on his behind and turned his head from side to side as she talked to him. “You're one cute little fella, but you already know that, don't you!” She rubbed her hand under his chin and smiled dotingly when he moved so she was scratching him instead. She examined the colours of his scales as he shone in the sunlight. He was mostly red but splattered around his body were blue and yellow swirls. His scales reflected the light and made the colours change into tiny rainbows. He was looking at Tarranna when a massive burp suddenly exploded from his mouth. The burp was accompanied by a small puff of smoke, which lazily floated skyward.

Tarranna laughed with everyone else but inwardly questioned what the smoke meant. She also wondered if they'd gotten themselves into something entirely over their heads. Tarranna looked into the babies intelligent brown and gold eyes and decided she'd cross that bridge when they got to it. For now the babies were just too adorable to worry about!

Tarranna put the red baby on the ground to give him a last little walk around as the humans started to clean the area and get ready to move out. Within 10 minutes, they left the rest area and headed toward whatever the next black spot had in store for them.


Later that night, the team camped and wearily lay around the campfire. The warriors told stories that may have been exaggerated way beyond actual facts, but they laughed loudly and blindly accepted the tales as truth!

The babies wandered around the area, snuck up on and pounced on each other. Wrestling matches were won, lost and over exuberance was punished with a nip and ostracism. All in all, they were having a wonderful time.

Tarranna turned her head to check on them when she noticed the constant growls had quieted down. She spotted them about 10 feet behind Melanger. They were crawling on their stomachs, their tails swooshing slowly from side to side. They patiently edged their way closer to their prey each taking turns at moving but none ever took their eyes off their target. Certain the babies were too small to do anything lethal to the man, Tarranna smiled wickedly as she whispered to the wind. She sent a message to her sister and partner “Watch the babies but be quiet.” She motioned with her hand for Tashan to do the same. The women discretely turned their heads to see what the little beasts were up to.

The little Mystics raised themselves slightly off the ground and wriggled in anticipation as they primed their muscles for their pounce. Melanger had no idea what was behind him as he stood, dusted his trousers then leaned over his bedroll to straighten the blanket. As he bent, the little green beast tore across the gap, quickly gaining speed. As she got closer, she leapt into the air, adeptly landing on Melanger's back. The animal ran down his spine, ruffled his hair with her snout then leapt to the ground and pelted across the camp to the safety of Chandral's lap.

Melanger squealed unmanly like as he landed headfirst into his bedroll. He rubbed his head and glared the tiny terror calmly sitting and eyeballing him. Melanger loudly growled at the beast. The beast gave it her best shot, but the returned growl came out as more of a soft rumble. Melanger sneered, gave the baby one last growl, then, ignored the snickers around him and went to bed.

The snickers grew louder as the spectators realised the attack was in fact a diversion. While the green baby played with Melanger, the other two had grabbed his boot and helped each other drag it back to their bed. Once they arrived at their blankets, the green tot joined the other babies and they all eagerly chewed on the leather trophy.

To cover their mirth, Tarranna, Chandral, Lili and Tashan chatted mindlessly as they crawled into their beds.

After the babies finished with their chew toy, they left their blankets, delicately crawled on top of their mummies and snuggled in for the night.


In the morning, Melanger stomped around the camp, loudly mumbling and cursing as he searched for his missing boot. He glared at the beasties as he removed it from their vacant pile of blankets.

Lili yawned to cover her grin as she removed the baby Mystic from her chest and placed her on the ground. “Problem General?”

Melanger scowled and blanched as he tipped his boot and poured a pint of what he hoped was drool from it. “No, Your Majesty. Everything is just freaking perfect! Thank you for asking.”

“You are such a naughty little girl.” Lili softly cooed to her baby as she scratched her head and neck.

“You know we really shouldn't be rewarding their negative behavior with positive rewards, don't you?” Chandral chuckled.

Lili smirked at Chandral as she answered “Yep, but you have to admit what they did was extremely funny, not to mention very well executed!”

Chandral smiled back, “Yes and that's exactly what's concerning me. And exactly the reason I'll be wearing my boots to bed from now on.”

Lili mused over that as she got out of bed and packed her gear. Chandral had a point and she was going to keep it in mind that very evening! The babies disappeared for a while but the Queens were determined not to worry about the tiny animals.

As everyone ate their breakfast, Tarranna looked up and tried to cover her relief as the babies returned to camp. Each carried a dead rabbit nearly as big as they were. The Mystics politely lay at the edge of camp and eagerly devoured their prey. The warrior was impressed with the ability the babies demonstrated. Being able to hunt was a vital survival skill, one she was ecstatic they were adept at so early. “What do you think the babies are?” Tarranna asked the other three women who were nearby.

Chandral, Lili and Tashan stopped what they were doing and looked at the babies who had finished their meal and started licking the blood off each other's faces. Tashan said, in an amused voice. “I heard a story once about this Princess who was taken by a flying beast named a dragon. The beast was supposedly vicious and terrorized the local villagers, killing them and their livestock. The Princess supposedly hung around the dragon's cave waiting for some Prince to come rescue her!!”

Tashan joined the snorts of disbelief and laugher from the other women. “Yeah, I know. The fella telling the story was heckled something dreadful! As if a Princess would wait for anyone to help her!! She'd have killed the beast, saved the villagers and still been home in time for dinner!” The Royals laughed even harder before they let Tashan continue her tale. “Anyway, this dragon sounded much like their mother. Only she wasn't anywhere as massive as the story made out. It was supposedly as big as a small mountain!”

Chandral added a thought. “If the mother wasn't getting enough to eat, that may have stunted her growth somewhat.” The others agreed with her. “But either way, dragon seems to suit them.” She smiled adoringly at her baby dragon. “Silvana, come here Silvana… There's a good girl. Come to mumma baby girl!!” Silvana didn't know that was her name but she did know Chandral and from her body language the woman wanted her close. So she bolted toward the woman, her tongue hanging out the side of her mouth and her tail swaying behind her.

“Where did you get that name from?” Lili enquired.

“A very long time ago, I met this woman from another country. She said silvana meant forest. And little Silvana reminds me of trees and grass.” Silvana wriggled in Chandral's lap and tried to lick the woman's face. “Sorry, baby. I saw what you just had in your mouth and you aren't touching me with that tongue!”

Lili laughed and called to her baby dragon. “Terran, come here sweetie!” Lili saw the look she got from the others but waited until the little brown dragon launched herself into her lap and settled somewhat before she explained. “I've heard that used for ground or earth. I think that fits my little baby girl!” Lili kissed and hugged the tiny Mystic.

“Oh good grief!! You two are pathetically soppy!!” Tarranna patted her thigh and signaled the small red dragon to her. “Ashburn, come here mate!”

“Ashburn??” Lili, Tashan and Chandral questioned simultaneously.

As Ashburn ran at her leg, Tarranna bent her knee to give him the correct angle to run up her leg and into her arms. Once there, he wriggled and rubbed himself across her chest. “Well, he puffed smoke at me yesterday…. It's only a matter of time before he burns everything and leaves ash in his path!”

Lili and Chandral looked in despair at each other. “How the hell are you her twin?”

“Well, you see Lili, when the Mother was handing out all the different sets of life skills I got the entire one for naming things…” Chandral closed her eyes as something smashed into her forehead and oozed down her face. Much to Silvana's delight! The dragon eagerly licked up the contents of the tiny bird egg she ate shell and all. “Unfortunately, Tarranna got all the targeting skill. And yes, I do feel cheated!”

Lili chuckled as stood up and gave Chandral a comforting pat on the shoulder. Tashan stood and offered a hand to the Princess and smiled shyly as it was accepted.

Tarranna gave her sister a wicked smirk as she tucked Ashburn into his sling and mounted Midnight. Lili and Chandral rallied the team. They made sure the campsite was properly cleaned and were then ready to leave. Tashan helped Chandral and Lili with their dragons then they mounted and waited for everyone else.

Chandral sneered at her sister “Cow!”

Tarranna squinted, wriggled her nose and raised the corner of her mouth in a return sneer. “Girlie Girl!”

Lili sighed in exasperation as she pretended not to see the very rude hand signals flying between the sisters. She sighed again as a small head poked out of her sling. “You know something, Terran? It's getting so I can't take those two anywhere.” The tiny dragon gave her a gentle ‘smile' then curled up for a snooze.


The team covered a lot of terrain that day, getting to within 2 hours ride of the next black spot. The exhausted group quietly set up camp and several of the warriors helped Lili and Chandral prepare dinner. Enough rabbits had been caught and fresh vegies scrounged to enable the Queen and Princess to make a large pot of stew.

Tarranna sat on the ground and rested her back on a purposely selected large rock. Tashan accepted the offer to share the backrest and the women grinned at each other as they watched Melanger throw a rope over a low tree branch. When he was happy with the position of the rope he loosely secured the end of it to the trunk. The rope had a noose on the end dangling from the branch. “You planning on hanging someone?” Tarranna drawled.

“Ha, ha!” The General retorted. “You know very well it's to get my boots away from your demon pet!” Melanger glared at the demon pet.

Ashburn currently lounged along his mummy's legs, his tail twitched slightly as he keenly watched what the man was doing. His mummy ran her fingernails down his back in a caress that made his muscles quiver with delight. “Don't you think you're overreacting General ?” Tarranna snorted.

“No, I don't Majesty ! You didn't have to ride all bloody day with that thing's slobber in your boot.” Melanger grinned and winked at her before he growled at the tiny dragon and headed back toward the fire.

“I really should let him know you're smarter than he is. But where's the fun in that? Eh Ash, my boy?” Tarranna could swear Ashburn grinned at her as he changed position to keep an eye on his reluctant playmate. Tarranna shook her head as she continued to scratch her tiny friend. She turned her head to see Tashan chuckling at the man's plight. They smiled knowing at each other.

Melanger truly had no idea what he'd started!


Melanger stared at the empty noose! He was astonished and stupefied! “Alright!” He demanded. “Who helped the little mongrels?” Nobody could answer. They were too busy laughing at him, particularly the look on his face.

Melanger looked again at the rope. Not only was the noose empty, his boots sat on a branch twenty feet from the ground. “Your Majesty! Please…” he begged.

Tarranna couldn't help as she was still in fits of laughter.

Chandral took pity on the man and asked her baby to do the same. “Silvana, please go and get Melanger's boots.” Silvana ran up the tree and along the branch. She sat in front of the boots, turned and knocked them down with her tail. She scampered back across the branch and down the trunk. She sat and waited on the ground as the boots thumped in front of her. Silvana promptly took one of the shoes in her mouth and dragged it to Melanger.

Ashburn pelted to the other boot, picked it up in his mouth and ran with it. In the other direction! Melanger valiantly gave chase, but the demon pets tag teamed as he got close. Terran had just given the boot the Silvana when Melanger huffed close enough to make a grab at the green body…

“Run Silvana! Run!.. Faster!” Chandral yelled.

Silvana did just that! She poured on the speed and ran in a large circle. She bypassed the puffing Melanger and stopped at the feet of Chandral. The little Mystic dropped the boot and wisely let her mummy pick her up and secure her in the sling. The other two dragons were already safe with their mummies and the devious trio all stuck their heads out of the material and eyed Melanger as he stomped to retrieve and pull on his boot.

The General groaned loudly as his foot, again, encountered an enormous amount of slobber. “If you're quite finished stirring up the babies, can we go now?” Tarranna drawled.

“I hate the lot of you!!” Grumbled Melanger as he ignored his grinning Queen and inelegantly squished his way to his horse.


The black spot was an enclosure that backed onto a cliff face where a large wooden door was secured to the rock wall. The front part section had two large wooden gates and the rest of the sides looked like whole trees had been stripped of their branches and piled on top of each other. The fence had to be at least eight feet high at the lowest section.

Tarranna, Lili, Chandral, Tashan and Melanger lay on the edge of a small rocky outcrop. Their view looked down over the top of the fence. “I count around 60 of those zombie men. They don't seem to have any routine, they just wander around willy-nilly.” Tashan sighed. “I hate it when that happens.” Lili snorted at her friend. “What! I happen to like it when the enemy has a routine I can exploit!” Tashan chuckled at her Queen.

“It would make things a heck of a lot easier!” Tarranna agreed with the Speaker who was also Arobar's General. “They all have swords but nothing long range.” Tarranna noted.

Chandral watched the far end of the compound and she noticed something peculiar. “One of the ladders just broke and two zombies fell to the ground. They haven't moved.” Chandral directed everyone else's attention to the appropriate area. “The others don't even step over their dead! They're walking on top of them.”

“Well, that certainly improves our chances of getting in alive! Well caught Princess.” Chandral smiled back at her sister. “Melanger, how many crossbows do we have?” Tarranna enquired of her General.

“Everyone has one. I had a hundred bolts each packed and they're all unused.” Melanger reported.

“Excellent. Who are our best shots?” Tarranna asked.

“That'd have to be Queen Arobar and Tashan.” Melanger confidently stated.

Tarranna was impressed. “So are you as good with a full sized unit as you are with your mini one?”

“Better! But with this distance it could be hard to back up that claim!” Lili inspected the layout of the land with a critical eye. “I'd need something to lean the bow on, something that won't move. I don't want to miss the kill shot and have them dying slowly.” She crawled to a nearby rock that had a semi-flat top.

Tashan crawled alongside her Queen and inspected the shelf and the distances involved. They both watched a rag blowing in the gentle breeze. It was that hanging off what could have been the remains of barracks. They checked the bushes and trees around them and found the breeze still travelled in the same direction and roughly the same speed. From where they were they had clear shots for a majority of the fortress. Tashan nodded and smiled at Lili before Lili gave their opinion to the others. “We'll rest the bows on this shelf. We'll have clear shots mostly, but we won't be able to get a lot of them.”

“Lili, I know you hate to have to do this. If you can't, then don't. I can. No pressure.” Tashan softly assured her friend.

Lili looked into the compound below. Even though she knew the people walking around were mindless killing machines, it didn't really help ease the guilt she felt. She looked around at the people in her team and made her decision. She'd do anything to help put the odds in their favour and give them a better chance of getting in and out alive. Lili thanked her friend but declined the offer.

Seeing the determination on the face of Queen Arobar, Melanger sent one of his guards to bring their crossbows and the bolts from the supply horses. When they arrived, he placed the weapons on the ground beside the two women. Lili nodded her thanks as she readied her crossbow. “I'll make the first shot on that one on the walkway. He just turned, took five steps and turned back. If I don't get a kill shot, you take him out.” Tashan grimly nodded that she understood.

Everyone held their breaths as Lili aimed and waited. Seconds dragged by as she waited for the breeze to settle and the zombie to move to a better position. The sudden twang of the mechanism startled more than a few spectators. They all watched to see what happened. The target didn't even clutch at the bolt as it pierced his heart and he fell noiselessly to the walkway. They waited with baited breath for any sort of response from the rest of the enemy.


Lili waited several more minutes to make certain the enemy were not going to stir then gave Tashan some information about the wind conditions. Both women took aim, waited for the ‘perfect' opportunity and fired. They never took a shot that didn't feel right. They took their time and made every bolt count. Soon, there was no movement below.

Tarranna took out her spyglass and inspected the carnage. “I can't see what's in close to the doors, but everything looks clear in the rest of the compound.”

Melanger spoke up. “Let me take this lot, we'll get in and clean up. We won't go inside the dungeon until you get there.”

Tarranna looked at Lili's pale face, nodded her approval and thanked him. She watched as they quickly trotted to the horses, mounted and rode the rest of the way to the enclosure.

Tashan and Chandral moved away from the Queens, to give them some privacy. Tarranna smiled at them then turned her attention to her partner. Tarranna moved to sit behind Lili and pulled her into an embrace. Neither woman said anything they just soaked up love and comfort from each other. They silently watched as their people cautiously arrived at the fortress. Two grappling hooks were thrown over the doors and two guards scaled to the top of it. The guards straddled the wood, removed their crossbows from their backs and neutralized the remainder of the zombies. The rope was pulled up and dropped into the compound. The two marksmen rappelled into the compound.

The Queens sighed with relief as the massive doors opened and the rest of the team of guards piled into the stronghold. Tarranna kissed Lili on the side of the head. “I'll understand if you want to stay here.”

Lili melted further into the embrace then sat up. “I know you would and thank you. I'll never enjoy having to kill but I understand sometimes you have to pull the weeds to save the flowers. Come on, let's get down there.” The Queens stood, hugged quickly then trotted to where the others waited.


By the time the Royal party arrived at the enclosure, Melanger and the team had the crossbow bolts retrieved, cleaned and stored. Melanger also ensured all the bodies were dragged into one corner and covered. The warriors readily assisted him as they didn't want Queen Arobar to feel worse than she already did. When Lili saw what they'd done, she wholeheartedly thanked the warriors.

Melanger placed guards at the gates then the rest of the team made their way to the door in the rock wall. Tarranna made short work of the lock and prepared to open the door. It slowly swung open with a creak and several groans. Tarranna edged to the door and visually inspected the room. It was enemy free. She checked for booby traps and thankfully found none.

In one corner was a large wooden chest. Tarra checked then opened it and snorted as she saw it was full of little sticks. Needless to say, they left the sticks in the box.

On the far wall was another doorway.

Tarranna looked through the large peephole in the top part of the door. There were cages all around the room but no enemy zombies. “Melanger, you and the others wait outside. Chandral and Lili, do you want to come in with me?” The two women didn't bother with an answer. They just walked up to Tarranna and stood next to her. “Yep, I thought you might!”

There was a muffled curse and a blur of motion as the dragons clamored into the room and sat at their mothers' feet. The tiny babies looked into the women's eyes, determined to go with them. Melanger appeared in the doorway. “Sorry Ladies.” Lili assured him it was ok and that the little beings would be right with them. Chandral took Silvana and Ashburn in her arms, while Lili picked up Terran. The dragons eagerly looked at the women and accepted the temporary restraint.

Tarranna unbolted the door, checked and opened it. When nothing untoward happened she scanned the room. The women entered and stared in fascination at the small cages lining the three sides and the wall with the door. The cages were stacked on each other from the floor to ceiling. Tarranna carefully undid the bolt on one cage and warily opened it.

Out stepped a tiny person with wings who promptly fell from the doorway of her box. Tarranna gently caught the tiny being in her cupped hands and held her chest high with herself, Lili and Chandral. The little woman gathered her remaining strength and looked at the large people in front of her. She saw the dragons and tears fell from her eyes. “You saved them!!”

Tarranna gently answered her “We were too late for the mother and five siblings. But these three have recovered well.”

The little person smiled tiredly. “Please release the rest of my people. Our energy levels are deathly low.”

Tarranna carefully placed the woman on a nearby table. Chandral and Lili put the babies on the floor then started to open cage doors and place the tiny beings on the table. Soon, the cages were empty and all the tiny Mystics hugged and comforted each other. “I am Queen Alansa. We are the last of the Fairies. I cannot thank you enough for releasing us and the baby dragons. Did you know there are other places holding mystical creatures captive?”

“I'm Tarranna, this is Lili and Chandral. We now rule the lands of the three Kings who did this. We only found out about these places a few days ago and no we didn't know they held mystical creatures. This is only the second dungeon we've cleaned. It'll take us years if not decades to get to all the others. Can you release the other beings?”

“Please forgive my poor manners, Your Majesties! No, we cannot release Mystics caught by humans, a human or part one must do it. Are you prepared to help the others?” Tarranna, Chandral and Lili assured Alansa they were more than willing to do so. Alansa looked at the women and asked “Have you seen a lot of thin sticks about four inches long?”

Chandral and Tarranna went into the other room and carried in the chest. They opened it and the Fairies buzzed with joy as they flew to grab one each. The left overs were cleared away by one of the Fairies.

Alansa waved her wand and three leather backpacks appeared on the floor. She waved it again and three rings appeared next to her on the table. “These tokens will help you in your quest. The bags hold everything you need - they are virtually bottomless. The items you put in the bag will not get damaged or decay, even if it is delicate or food. When you require something from the bag, you only have to ask and it will come to you. These rings will transport you and whatever you are holding where you need to go. If you are on your horse, or touching someone else on a horse, all will move with you. The rings will not work for anyone but you.”

Tarranna, Chandral and Lili stared in shock at Alansa and the items. “Thank you Your Majesty. Do you require food or water?”

“You're more than welcome. No, thank you Queen Chandral. We draw our energy from the Mother. We do need to get out of this place, it's slowly killing us.”

Tarranna picked up one of the backpacks and opened it. “If all of you get into this, we can take you into the woods. If you can give us a couple of hours, we can have you well away from here and in a nice little glen we found.”

Queen Alansa smiled at Queen Tarranna. “You are forgetting the rings.”

Tarranna laughed and sighed. “Well, it is a very foreign concept for me!” Queen Alansa laughed and smiled with the other Queens. She ordered her people into the bag and she entered it last. Tarranna picked up the rings and handed them around. They adjusted to the women's fingers and glowed as they set at that size. Chandral and Lili each picked up a bag and dragon and Tarranna called Ashburn to her. The women faced each other. Not quite sure if this would work. “Think about the place we camped last night, we want to be in the clearing where the babies tormented Melanger.” Tarranna stopped talking and the women instantaneously arrived in the glen.

“Holy Mother!! It worked!” Chandral beamed with excitement. Lili just stood and looked at the trees and nearby river as she shook her head in amazement. Tarranna whooped and opened the backpack. The Fairies slowly flew from the bag, hovered and basked in the sunlight.

The Fairies seemed to recover quickly as it wasn't long before they darted around the glen chasing the dragons. And vice versa of course! The Queens watched and snorted in amusement at the antics of the Mystical creatures. Queen Alansa fluttered in front of the three taller Queens. “You have done extremely well with the dragons. They are growing beautifully. They want to stay with you, if you don't mind.”

“Did they tell you that?” Lili asked, wondering if she'd be able to at some time.

“Not in words, but we can read their feeling. They have formed life bonds with all of you.” The women assured Alansa they loved the babies and would consider it an honour to care for them.

“How long will it take for them to become adults? Is there anything we need to do for them? Are there dragons somewhere else? They'll need to find a mate eventually!” Lili tried to comfort Chandral as the dark haired woman quickly started to slip into an anxiety attack.

Alansa waited for Chandral to calm down before attempting to reassure her. “They will mature as quickly or slowly as their environment allows. It could be a few months or years. Dragons have memories from their ancestors, so they know from birth about their legacy. There are other dragons around and when the time is right, they will seek out these three. Until then, just continue as you have been. They will learn all they need to from you and each other.”

“Thanks Alansa, we appreciate your help.” Lili smiled warmly at the Fairy Queen.

Alansa raised her face to the sun, her eyes closed and a contented smile on her face. “We need to get back to our homes. We have a lot to rebuild. Thank you for freeing us and our fellow mystics from those evil Kings. Please accept the Fairy Blessing - may your lives be long, fulfilling and enjoyable .”

Tarranna, Chandral and Lili returned the sentiments and watched as the Fairies flew together, created a mini cyclone-like funnel and disappeared in a spray of exploding, multi-coloured Fairy lights.

The dragon babies sat on their haunches at the feet of the women they adored and watched as the Fairies disappeared. The Mystics looked up at their mummies as if wanting to know what was next. Their mummies picked up the dragons disappeared.

Once back at the dungeon, Tarranna and Lili turned to Chandral and asked her to carefully listen to what they had to say. “I meant what I said when I introduced us all as the Rulers of this place. Lili and I've discussed what we're going to do now and we feel all this is just too much for the two of us. So, you are now a Queen. Congratulations!”

Chandral snapped out of her stunned state and promptly smacked her sister across the shoulder. It didn't matter that the armour hurt her she was too cranky to care! “You take that back!! I don't want to be a Queen. I didn't even want to be a Princess.”

Tarranna and Lili burst into laughter. They tried not to but blatant outrage was not quite the reaction they'd expected. “Too late Majesty ! You're one of us now, so toughen up and take one for the team!!”

“Lili!” admonished Tarranna. “Don't pick on her… That's my job.” Tarranna promptly threw her sister over her shoulder and carried her outside. Tarranna quickly assured everyone waiting Chandral was indeed fine - despite the screams and rants from the incapacitated woman. “I'm going to put you down, but can't do it until you stop wriggling and yelling at me.”

Chandral thought long and hard and weighed the pros and cons for each option before she finally gave her twin a soft smack up the back of the head. She then calmed down. Tarranna slid her sister to her feet then hugged the prickly woman close. “I love you.” Tarranna said as she released Chandral, who was immediately pulled into a hug from Lili.

Lili whispered to Chandral, “You totally deserve this, please don't fight her on it. You've been doing a lot of the job anyway. You'll just have the title to go with the responsibility.”

Chandral returned the shorter woman's hug as she hesitantly gave in. “Fine, but I'm not wearing a crown! I've seen Tarranna in her monstrosity and it is not flattering!!”

Tarranna looked at Lili, who sniggered in a very un-regal manner. “Been a Queen for less than five minutes and she's already making Royal Decrees!!” Tarranna removed a gold ring from her bag and placed it in Chandral's hand. The ornate ring was attached to a sturdy length of leather. Tarranna and Lili usually wore their rings around their necks, hidden under their clothes. “This is the Royal Seal. It'll identify you as Queen anywhere you are. There are always two of these made, one for the Ruler and their Partner. Lili has her own, so I'm giving you mine. Congratulations Your Majesty.”

The Queens laughed and hugged as the rest of the team congratulated and bowed before Chandral. Lili happily made the announcement to the rest of Atlantis that they now had three Queens. Long live Queen Chandral!

As the team left the compound far behind the ground rumbled, rocks fell and dust spewed out of the small cave where they'd found the Fairies. The entire place was leveled in minutes. The Queens looked at each other and silently acknowledged they were aware of the concern the others felt. “I think we should just consider it a good thing and leave it at that!” Chandral sighed. Tarranna and Lili quickly agreed and they urged their horses into a run.


As nightfall was getting close, Tarranna led the team to a quiet place where they set up camp. The Queens sat in a huddle and quietly discussed what they were going to do now they had the ability to move around the country at will. They decided they'd each pick a member of the team to remain with them while the others returned to the war cleanup. The move would effectively halve their force.

Tarranna wanted to send Melanger to the Mungenollan border but was hesitant to split him and Chandral. She hesitantly raised the issue with her sister, surprised with the response. “That's ok. Do it! I know you need him to be your General.” She could see the shock on the faces of the other women, so hesitantly explained her personal reasons. “We decided quite a while ago we aren't meant to be a couple. We'll always be friends and hang out together but nothing serious is going to happen.”

“I am so sorry!!” exclaimed Tarranna.

Chandral looked her sister in the eye, determined to show Tarra how serious she was. “Don't be. I have a fantastic friend and I'm sure both of us will find our partners when we're supposed to.”

Tarranna gently patted Chandral's hand. “So who do you want to take with us?” Tarra asked both Chandral and Lili.

Chandral didn't hesitate. “Geon.”

Lili didn't need to think about the question. “Tashan.”

Tarra said “Cool. I'd like to take Deltan. She's more than proved her work and skills. Chan, you heard anything about her, like can she keep her mouth shut.”

“Melanger tells her lots of information he doesn't share with anyone else and he told me she once saved his life.” Chandral informed the other two.

“Excellent, then she's in.” Tarranna gave a small sigh of relief as her plan fell into place.

“Do you think we could spend the night with the kids? I miss Patience so much!” Lili asked, hesitantly. Tarranna and Chandral looked at Lili as if she'd grown a second head. They then looked at each other and shrugged. They hadn't thought of going home!

“Sounds like a wonderful plan to me.” The dark haired Queens replied as one.

Lili hugged the other two then they made their way to the rest of the group. Tarranna quickly told the team the changes taking effect in the morning. Geon, Tashan and Deltan would stay with the Queens to continue with clearing the dungeons. Everyone else would head to the Mungenollan border where Melanger would deliver the Queens' orders to their armies.

Melanger was less than happy leaving the Royal family with only three guards but reluctantly accepted he couldn't really change their minds. No matter how much he stamped his foot and yelled at them.

After everyone had eaten and was about to climb into their bedrolls Tarranna called Melanger to her. “Chandral, Lili and I need to get some things done in private. We'll be about three hundred meters away and we don't want to be disturbed. We'll see you first thing in the morning.”

“Yes Majesty.” Melanger saluted his Queens and left them to their business.

“Do you mind if I bring Tashan with us? She won't blab and she misses Patience as much as I do.” Lili hated having to ask but she needed Tash close by. The twins had no objections and Lili happily told her friend to collect her gear and come with them. The Speaker quickly did so and waved goodnight to the rest of the team.

The Queens picked up all their gear and hurried into the forest. The baby dragons scampered along after them. They were no sooner out of sight of the campfire when they reappeared in Chandral's apartment. Tashan was stunned but quickly recovered. They all agreed not to tell anyone but Ranna about their new travel method and ensured they weren't seen by the guards.

The reunion with their children and mother was unrestrained and very sloppy. Tears and drool being a very large part of the proceedings… and not all of it from the dragons, dogs and kids!

Ranna couldn't stop looking at the dragons. The tiny beasts rolled around on the floor with the twins, Patience and the two huge dogs (Rollie and Pillo). It was a wrestling free for all, with no apparent allegiance to siblings or species. The woman grimaced as the little green dragon and one of the dogs accidentally whacked heads. They shook it off and continued to enthusiastically mix it up in the fray. Ranna looked at the exhausted women sprawled on the lounges as they watched the children and animals frolic. “Are you sure you don't want anything else to eat?”

The Queens grinned at their mother and all gently declined the offer. “We just needed to see all of you.” Lili murmured contentedly.

“So, are you going to tell me what's been happening or do I believe all the various rumours I've been hearing?” Ranna got straight to the point.

Chandral laughed and asked “What rumours would they be?”

“Well, the best ones so far you lot stealing the Kings armies from under their noses and Tarranna playing peekaboo with a buffalo the size of this castle.” Ranna summarised.

All four warriors belly laughed and snorted. Lili and Chandral shared the duty of giving Ranna her update… minus the goriest and scariest details of course. During the story telling the room became eerily quiet. The women checked on the babies, human and dragon, and found them all sound asleep in one huge pile of snuggled bodies.

The Queens gathered their sleeping (human) children in their arms and carried them into Lili's old apartment that had been turned into the girls' rooms. After they placed the sleeping cherubs in their bed/cot each was kissed goodnight by all the four women. The warriors returned to Tarranna's lounge room where Ranna patiently waited for them. “Ok, so how'd you get here and why don't you want your guards to see you?”

They swore the woman to secrecy and Lili quietly told the older woman an edited version of meeting the Fairy Queen. “Good grief… If I hadn't seen the baby beasties over there, I'd say you were spinning me a very wild yarn. Did the Queen tell you what other mystical creatures were being locked up and killed or what enemies you can expect?”

“No and we forgot to ask. They were pretty weak to start with and then understandably keen to get home.” Chandral replied.

“I guess I already knew that, I just worry you'll get hurt.” Ranna sighed, concern in her voice.

Chandral checked with the other two before explaining her discovery of the Flow and their link to the Mother to Ranna and Tashan. “So I really felt you hugging and kissing me?”

“Yes and we saw you touch your cheeks in response. How about we let you know before we go to bed at night that we're alive. Will that be ok?” Chandral suggested.

“That'd be lovely, thank you.” Ranna was happy again.

“If you need us to come home urgently whisper our names and the message to the wind. Then thank the wind and the Mother for their help. If you believe it'll happen we'll hear you and be home as soon as we can.”

Ranna smiled at the Queens before she said “I believe everything you're telling me, but at the same time it feels like it's all just a very imaginative story.”

Tarranna stood up and stretched. “I want to go to the armoury to stock up.” She saw Lili start to move and asked her to stay and relax. “I won't be long. You three should think if there's anything you want from our rooms. Watch this mother.”

Ranna nearly jumped out of her chair as her daughter disappeared before her eyes. “Holy… everything Holy!!”

Fifteen minutes later, Ranna nearly peed herself when Tarranna reappeared in the same spot she'd left from. With her hand over her heart she wheezed, “Please don't do that too often!!”

Tarranna grinned as she advised them of what she'd done. “We have hundreds of crossbow bolts, a dozen crossbows, spare swords and daggers, rope, whips and anything else I could get my hands on. I even found some more mini crossbows and bolts. They're brilliant in the dungeons. I stopped by the kitchen as well and scored us heap of food.”

“Where is it all dear?” Her mother asked.

Tarranna held up her very light and empty looking backpack. Her mother raised her eyebrow and crossed her arms disbelievingly. Tarranna cheekily pulled a four foot long sword out of the one and a half foot high bag. Then she pulled out a crossbow and a five foot long fighting staff. After making sure her mother was suitably impressed, she returned the items to the bag. Tarranna made a show of removing a large plate of cakes and a pot of boiling water. “I thought you might like a cup of tea and some desert before we head off to bed.”

“Now that's just showing off!! And yes I would, thank you.” Ranna chuckled. After their snack, Chandral disappeared to her room to pack her gear get some sleep and took Tashan with her, to give the Queens some privacy.

Before the Queens left for the war, Ranna had changed her quarters for the larger of the girl's rooms. She said goodnight to her daughters then went into the next room.

Tarranna and Lili quickly put what they needed into their packs and hopped into the very comfortable bed. “Think we can put this mattress in the bag?” Lili joked.

Tarranna gave a chuckle before casually commenting, “Probably not, but I did score us some very comfortable camping swags that are exceptionally well padded and waterproof, heaps of pillows and a couple of tents. I think I even chucked in some foldup chairs and tables.”

“I love you.” Lili sighed contentedly.

“I know. And I love you nearly as much as I love Queen Alansa and her cool toys.” Tarra replied.

“I know. Me too.”

They went to sleep as they held each other close and with huge smiles on their lips.


The Queens were up and ready to leave well before dawn the next morning. Chandral was her typically unpleasant morning self but still managed to join her sister and partner in saying goodbye to her mother. She even managed a doting smile as she kissed the cheeks of the still sleeping human babies.

As the sisters and Tashan waited for Lili to join them, Chandral leaned against her twin and put her head on Tarranna shoulder. Tarranna had no illusions about what was about to happen and she smiled knowingly as Chandral started to softly snore.

As Lili joined the women, she picked up Ashburn, handed him to Tashan then hugged the remaining two dragon babies to her sides. Tarranna firmly pressed Chandral against her and used her ring to pop them to the place where they'd left the night before.

After appearing in the still dark forest, Lili and Tash placed all three dragons on the ground and watched in incredulity as Tarranna lifted her sister into her arms, where Chandral promptly snuggled into the warmth of her sister's body. “You have got to be kidding me!!” Lili ranted.

“What? You really want to put up with her grumble-bumming for the next three hours?” Tarra snorted.

Lili thought about that, very seriously, for several minutes. “Fine! But next time she stays awake and I get to sleep while you carry me around!”

“Deal!” laughed Tarranna. “I'm actually impressed she managed to get dressed and put her backpack on.” The women casually strolled to Melanger and the others camped.

“You realize, of course, I'm going to let my real morning-self shine through now. Especially if it means you'll carry me everywhere.” Lili grumbled.

“Lili you sweet and adorable woman! I will carry you anywhere, anytime! All you have to do is ask.” Tarranna assured her love.

“Oohh, you're so smooth!” Tashan laughed, obviously impressed.

“Good morning Majesties.” Melanger smirked at Chandral. “You can put Grumpy on my bedroll, if you want. I take it you'll want to talk tactics before the others get up?”

Tarranna nodded affirmatively then took Melanger up on his offer and lowered her sister onto his vacant bed. The three dragons climbed all over Chandral before they finally found comfortable spots and snuggled into her. Tarranna shook her head as she tucked the blanket around all four. Lili looked longingly at Chandral who was tucked up nice and warm and snoring gently. Or was that one of the dragons? Anyway, Lili shook off her envy and moved to where Tarranna, Tashan and Melanger chatted.

By the time everyone began to rouse, the two Queens and their Generals wound up their strategy session while around them several guards prepped the fire and started to cook while the others folded up bedrolls and cleaned up.

Chandral was last out of bed, of course.

The six women staying behind bid their companions goodbye then watched as the departing members of their team disappeared from view. While they waited for the others to totally leave the area, Tarranna quickly explained about the dungeons and mystical creatures and how they were going to clean out the evil beasts. “We're going to continue working as a larger team, but split into twos or threes as needed.”

Lili continued to brief the newcomers. “Ok, before we head out I want you all to swear, on your lives and the lives of your families, you will never reveal to anyone else what we're going to show you.” Intrigued, the women raised their right hands to shoulder height and sore their silence.

Chandral handed each woman a charm necklace matching the Queens' and explained their powers. She then took three spare seers from her bag and handed one to each of the new warriors. They opened the cases, saw their reflections and looked at the Queens expectantly. Chandral took hold of her seer and directed the others on how to use them. Together they checked the area around the camp for humans and found none but themselves. The newbies quickly worked out how to use the items and checked on their own families. Tashan closed her unit, she had no family to check.

Tarranna let Deltan and Geon have five minutes before she called back their attention. She and Lili also had out their seers she directed the women to request the location of the black spots. The newbies were stunned and horrified at the number of black blotches in their mirrors! “I wish we knew which one needs us first.” Geon mused. One of the black spots promptly started to flash on all their seers. “It just had to be the one furthest from where we are now, didn't it?”

The Queens snorted as they walked to their horses and mounted. The dragons were already in their slings. The three ring holders rechecked their seers and zoomed in on the area around the flashing point. The chose a flat area near the dungeon then moved their horses close to one of the other three warriors. They held hands with the newbie women then made their travel request.

“Oh my freaking goodness!! How the heck did you do that?” Deltan croaked as they reappeared in a totally different surrounding.

“Fairy magic.” Chandral informed her.

“Well then, I gotta say I'm a fan!” Geon quipped.

Tarranna led the way to a section of the woods where they could leave their horses. Chandral quickly checked the area for people, particularly enemy soldiers and reported she found none.

This black spot was another compound, smaller this time, made from whole tree trunks. It again backed up to the flattish face of a small cliff. The door into the mountain was double the width of the previous one. This time there was no way to look over the walls.

Tara proposed. “The only way I see us getting an edge in there is for us to pop onto the walkway, in groups of two. One will use a crossbow while the other protects her back with sword and dagger. Any other ideas?”

No response.

“Ok then.” Tarranna handed her backpack to Lili and asked for her to hand around the necessary weapons. She then took Chandral aside for a quiet chat.

“I'm not that good at fighting! What if I get Geon killed?” Chandral wheezed.

“You're a great shot with the crossbow but you're only just better than average with a sword so Geon will be protecting your back. If something gets close, use your daggers, you excel with those!” Tarranna put a reassuring hand on her sister's shoulder. “If the situation gets out of hand, grab Geon and pop elsewhere, even back out here. Just stay alive, Ok!”

Chandral leant in for a quick hug then shook herself. “Love you. I promise I'll do my best.”

Tarranna gave her sister a kiss on the cheek. “You always do and your best is always a hundred times better than anyone else's. I'm proud of you.”

Lili walked up to the sisters and handed Chandral a crossbow and a large quiver of spare bolts. She gave Tarranna her backpack then hugged both women. “The others are ready when we are.”

“Then let's do this.” Chandral loaded her weapon as she walked to Geon.

Tarranna and Lili held hands as they walked to their team members.


The strategy worked well with the fifty odd zombies. They didn't care about anything but walking and killing. The problem turned out to be the dozens of humongous rats! They stood nearly as tall as Lili, were lightening quick and relentless. It took at least six crossbow bolts to kill them.


“Aim for their eyes.” screamed Lili as she saw two rodents head for her favourite twin Queens. Tarranna and Chandral quickly changed their tactics to fell the giant rodents. Chandral's target landed close enough for her to reach out and touch.

The smaller teams finished off the last of the zombies then joined together again.

The women grinned as they saw the dragon babies climb over the barricade and stop and stare in surprise at the dead rodents. “I hope they don't try and eat one of them!” Lili grimaced, the others cringed in agreement.

The team moved to inspect a small hut on one side of the fortress. It was an armoury and the weapons were pretty good quality. The huge swords were placed in Tarranna's pack with most of the other equipment quickly disappearing into Chandral and Lili's bags. The women quickly had a drink of water then made their way to the large doors in the cliff face.

The warriors readied themselves as Tarranna opened one of the doors.

Nothing happened.

They waited a minute then stepped closer.

A huge rat squealed as it charged Tashan! She drove her sword into its gut as Chandral's sword almost severed the beast's head. The Queen smiled gently at the thankful warrior.

Tarranna threw a torch a little further into the chamber. Nothing appeared to be in the immediate area of the doorway. The Queen cautiously made her way into the room and gave an all clear hand signal to the others.

The team made their way to the end of the huge room, were wooden boards were made into stable stalls. Tarranna swung the door open and made her way into the closet stall. “Holy Mother!” she exclaimed. “Open the other doors and have your water ready.” She commanded.

The team spread out and gasped in horror at the scenes in front of them.

Tarranna ran to the side of a small boy with the lower body of a horse who was on his side in a pile of straw, excrement and vomit. She gently lifted the small head and dribbled water into the child's mouth. His eyes opened and Tarranna smiled at him. “It's ok now. You're going to be fine.” She gave the child some more water and lowered him back on the floor.

Tarranna moved to an adult woman who also had the lower body of a horse and was chained to the wall. Tarra gently gave her some water then moved to the next stall.

The rescue team found a total of forty five people in the dungeon and, thankfully, all were revived. Deltan found several padlock keys so she Tashan and Geon unchained the survivors as the Queens popped the Centaurs to safety.

When all the ex-prisoners were released, Deltan, Tashan and Geon returned to the temporary camp and assisted the weaker Centaurs into the river where they were scrubbed clean by the stronger members of their herd. The guards then helped the clean centaurs back up the bank and into camp.

Chandral and Lili were in her element. Chandral worked her healing talents and Lili amused the children (and the covertly listening adults) with stories and jokes.

Tarranna and Tashan walked among the warriors, talked weapons, tactics and swapped yarns. They worked on bolstering the Centaur's pride, something that'd taken a mighty beating lately.

It wasn't long later the ex-prisoners were eating a small feast of fresh fruit and vegetables and the adults chatted with the Queens' team. One of the Centaur told of how they were captured. “We were trying to get into Gardenya but Sarl found out and relentlessly drove us toward the Tamocel and Mahchenan borders. He finally caught us but I don't know how long ago. At first we were fed and watered, then that suddenly stopped.”

Tarranna had great pleasure telling them the Kings were dead. “So who took their places? I hope they're not as bad as those three creatures.” One of the Centaur asked, concern lacing their voice.

The Queens shuffled and Tashan diverted the topic. “Why were you trying to get into Gardenya?”

The Centaurs looked a bit confused but one of the women answered. “We heard the Queen there is genuinely kind and trustworthy. We hoped to partition for a bit of land to settle on. If she said no, we would've moved on to ask the same of Georstrie's Queen. This has always been our home, but we couldn't live under Sarl's rule any longer.”

“That must have been a tough decision for you to make.” Tashan empathised.

A large man puffed out his massive chest and sighed at the team. “That it was. But we believe it was the correct one.”

Lili looked the man in the eye. “If you'd made it into Gardenya, I would've given you the land.” Tarranna said the same.

Chandral just shrugged and laughed “I'm only new at this, but I would've told you to just pick a spot. By the way, meet Queens Tarranna and Arobar, the women who seriously kicked the Kings' collective asses.”

Tarranna grinned at her sister then said “And this is Queen Chandral who helped us do just that.” The Queens removed their Royal Seals from around their necks and showed it to the people closest to them.

The Centaur leaders gasped in shock then threw themselves to their knees, bowing so low their foreheads almost touched the dirt. “Your Majesties!”

Tarranna was about to tell them to rise, when Geon charged into the camp. “Majesties, incoming warriors!! About a hundred or so. They aren't ours.”

The Queens and the rest of the team flew to their feet, as did the ex-prisoners. Tarranna looked around to verify the adult Centaurs had the weapons the team had supplied them earlier. Most of the men used two handed swords, while the females preferred smaller swords and or crossbows. The herd was still shaky on their feet but their courage and determination to protect their children was apparent.

The Queens stood in front of the Centaurs and their three guards who glowered at the Queens from two steps behind. They were furious at being ordered behind the very people they were there to protect!

The noise of the oncoming warriors was thunderous and rapidly moved closer to the team. As the lead warriors broke into the clearing they abruptly stopped in their tracks by the ex-prisoners quickly moving forward to explain to the newcomers the women had rescued them. It appeared the Centaur cavalry had arrived several hours late but they'd finally made it! The ex-prisoners then added the tidbit that three of their saviors were in fact the ruling Queens of the land.

The new arrivals as well as the ex-prisoners hastily knelt before the Queens. “We thank you for your show of respect. Please rise.” Queen Arobar knew these were proud people and treated them as such.

One of the newcomers moved closer to the Queens. “I am Nevike, leader of this herd. You have the thanks of the Centaur nation. Is there some way we can repay your kindness?”

“It's good to meet you Nevike. It was our pleasure to help the Centaurs. You can indeed repay us - by joining our camp for a meal and rest.” Lili smiled warmly.

Nevike grinned widely and graciously accepted the offer. As it was still daylight, hunters and gatherers were dispatched to secure food.

“Where are the dragons?” Chandral asked as she looked around for the babies. Tarranna and Lili joined her in a visual scan of the campsite. They couldn't find the dragons anywhere so Chandral took out her seer and focused on the missing babies. She saw them in the compound writhing on the ground in what appeared to be extreme pain. “NO!” She screamed as she grabbed Tarranna and Lili by the arm and disappeared. It was pure luck no one but their guards saw the Queens vanish.

The women tried unsuccessfully to pick up the tiny dragons to comfort them. The frantic thrashing and groaning form the tiny beasts tore the hearts from the women's chests. “Isn't there something you can do?” Lili begged Chandral.

Before the distraught woman could answer, a light flashed before them and Queen Alansa hovered over the dragons as she visually assessed their condition. “It is part of their life cycle to wrestle out of the old and break forth in the new.” Queen Alansa grinned at the Queens. “Your babies are growing, do not fear.”

“Are they in pain?” Lili sobbed.

“No Queen Arobar, they are in what you would term a ‘blackout'. They will not feel anything until this change is complete. If you watch carefully, you will see their shape starting to alter.” The Queens stared at the dragons whose bodies were indeed getting longer legs, tails and necks.

“Dragons are very sensitive beings. They will not flourish unless they feel loved and cherished. It is a great compliment to you they are changing so quickly. They will go through this once more. You will know it is time as they will grow restless before it starts and will be ravenous after the change. That's why they dragged the mutant rats closer.”

The Queens looked around and Alansa was right. The rats had obviously been pulled to where the dragons lay. The deep drag marks were a pretty big clue if you didn't happen to be freaking out at the time and actually looked around the immediate environment.

The Queens sighed in relief. “Thank you Your Majesty. How did you know we needed your advice?” Chandral asked.

“I felt the dragons changing and realised I never warned you about this process.” Alansa explained. Three mounted Royal Guards and a dozen Centaurs charged into the compound ready to fight whatever made the Queens disappear so abruptly. Queen Alansa greeted the noble beasts then congratulated the warrior Queens. “I see you have been busy.”

“We wouldn't have made it in time without your assistance.” Chandral told the Fairy.

Alansa nodded her acceptance of the compliment. “The Mother thanks you for helping people understand the needs of her and her children. I urge you to continue spreading her word to your people. Without Mother Nature we Mystics are doomed, along with everything else that is good.” She flew to hover in front of Chandral's face. “You find it hard to fight with the weapons of your sister. Please accept this gift from myself and the Mother.”

A 4 foot long, thick staff appeared in Chandral's hand. She closed her eyes and sighed. “Wow!” as the instructions on its use were sent straight to her mind. “Thank you both very much.”

Alansa flew to Tarranna and Lili. “Your courage is exceptional as is your vision for the future.” The charms Chandral had given the others glowed on the necks of everyone. “I am enhancing your protection charms, Queen Chandral did a wonderful job and I will just boost it a little more. It still won't stop you being killed but will assist with preventing the small to medium wounds. Please hold up your weapons.”

Tarranna and Lili held out their favourite tools and watched in awe as the Fairy Queen waved a stick with a star on the end. The weapons glowed and turned brilliantly silver in colour. The Queens closed their eyes and sighed in reverence as they immediately understood the intricacies of the adapted weapons. “Thank you.” They whispered.

“I cannot give you more rings for your team but please accept bags for them. The dragons are about to finish the change. I have to say goodbye for now.” Queen Alansa promptly disappeared and three backpacks appeared at the feet of the Queens.

The Queens sheathed their enhanced weapons, picked up the bags and turned to their babies. Who were no longer tiny! The dragons stood and stretched their new bodies, including an updated version of wings. The Mystics were as big as a small horse and their wings were each about 5 feet long. Their colouring was more vivid than ever and their baby faces had grown more streamlined. The dragons warily approached their adopted mothers who enveloped the not so little babies in maternal hugs. “Guess you know you're not getting carried anymore! Right?” Chandral cooed to Silvana.

The dragons accepted the hugs and kisses for several minutes then walked to a clear spot where they stretched their wings and started to work the muscles. They soon left the ground far behind and everyone stared in wonder as the dragons circled the compound. At first they flew with heart stopping moments, dropping feet in unplanned descents. After some practice their ability grew exponentially and they became breathtakingly beautiful to watch. They soared, dipped, zoomed up and down and were quickly becoming majestically elegant beasts. Finally they landed and pranced to their mothers, who praised and hugged them, of course.

The centaurs were enthralled. They'd heard of Mother Nature and the Fairy Queen but none had ever met either of them. They'd heard about dragons but none had ever seen one of them either. The Queens had not only been thanked by Mother Nature and the Fairy Queen but dragons accepted them as their mothers! The centaurs were very impressed indeed.

The Queens walked out of the compound as their dragons settled down to eat. The guards dismounted and followed the women back to camp, as did the Centaurs. Before dinner started, the leaders of the Centaurs approached the Queens, who were sitting on foldup chairs. “Your Majesties, may we talk to you?” Tarranna motioned for Nevike to go ahead.

“Would you like help from the Centaur Nation with the war effort?” He asked.

“Why would you want to join a war?” Lili asked curiously.

“We've long wanted to rid the land of the Kings and change the order of things. We've never had the means or opportunity. Now we do, so we'd like to fully support you.” Nevike assured the women.

Tarranna, Lili and Chandral rose and walked to Nevike and his advisors. “Any help you are willing to give, we're more than happy to take. I'll let our Generals know to expect you. Thank you.” Warrior's handshakes sealed the deal. They were interrupted by someone yelling dinner was ready.


Later that night, Tarranna sent a message to Melanger and the armies to expect a contingent of Centaur warriors. She also sent a message to the inhabitants of the entire country. She reiterated that anyone not wanting to stay in a land that outlawed physical and mental violence had very few weeks to get to Mungenolla or beyond. That also applied to any person not willing to care for the environment. If it was necessary to kill for food the animals' spirit was to be offered a prayer thanking it for giving its life to save theirs. Those working farms (animal or crop) were to ask thank the Mother for the land and ask the Mother's to help their herds/crops grow. Good Mystic creatures were to be welcomed everywhere.

As the Queens readied for bed it became apparent to Tashan all three women were missing the dragons' company. Tashan encouraged Chandral to move her bedroll closer than usual to hers and tenderly held the taller woman's hand as she fell asleep.

In the very early hours of the morning, Tarranna stirred as she was woken by the dragons returning to the campsite. She contentedly settled to go back to sleep as the dragons lay as close to the women as their new size would allow.

Tarranna grinned as she dozed off. She'd seen Chandral snuggling into Tashan's back and neither woman looked like she was going to break out of the hold.


Daybreak found the Queens and their guards packed and ready to move out. Nevike and his advisors walked to the Queens to bid them goodbye and good luck. “We'll wait for the young ones to gain more strength then we'll head toward the border. We'll stop and talk to other herds along the way to gather more warriors and leave our non-fighters somewhere safe.”

“Thank you. Don't rush, we know your first priority is to your people and that's the way it should be... Take care.” The Queens shook hands with Nevike then mounted and Tarranna led them out of camp. When they were well away from the Centaurs, the Queens consulted their seers for the location of the next dungeon. None of the black spots flashed as urgent so they randomly picked the closest to their current position. The Queens held the hands of a guard on one side of their horses while the dragons stood on the other side their heads raised for the women to touch.


“Well this's different.” Deltan grinned at Geon. “No wooden barricades or sliding rock doors, just a large hole in the ground with a dead tree laying over it… Should we be disappointed?”

Geon swatted the woman on the shoulder. “Just get the ropes ready and stay alert!”

Deltan let the end of the rope she was securing drop over the edge of the hole. She finished her task then grabbed the rope and started to pull it up. It snagged on something so she flipped it around and tried to dislodge it. She pulled harder and finally managed to bring it up several feet more feet before she had to ask Geon for assistance.

“Do you feel that?” asked Geon, her hands on the rope.

“It feels like something climbing it?” Both women instantly let go of the line and watched in horror as a skeletal hand grabbed for and held onto the edge of the hole. The women then watched, dumbfounded, as a skeleton pulled its top half out of the pit. Deltan drew her sword and severed the bony skull.

While Deltan was playing with the skeleton, Geon pulled her dagger and severed the rope. Unfortunately it was too late! Another bony hand reached over the edge. It found a tree root, held it and pulled itself higher. Deltan smashed the hand with her sword causing it to release the root. As the skeleton fell, she could swear it gave her the universal middle finger gesture. Deltan looked at Geon and cringed. “Next time I talk nonsense, hit me harder!”

The women were distracted by the appearance of the Queens and other guards. “Problem ladies?” Tarranna asked the pair.

“Only if you call skeletons who can climb ropes a problem.” Deltan flinched.

“If we drop the rope back down, we can control how many come out at once.” Chandral offered.

Tarranna was impressed and not just because she'd been thinking the same thing. “Everyone grab a spot to defend. Just be careful not to kill each other or fall in!” she grinned and joked.

Lili turned to the dragons and called them to her. “Will you babies please guard our backs?” The dragons licked her hands and each pushed closer for a scratch on the head. When they were suitably happy, they took up positions around the women.

Geon waited for a nod from the team then threw a rope over the two longer sides of the chasm. Not much later, they watched in fascination as a skeleton pulled itself over the edge, stood and looked at the women in front of it. It pulled up the remnants of its trousers and held them high with one hand while its other hand raised a cutlass. It took two steps toward Geon who promptly cut off its head with her sword. It dropped into a pile of bones at her feet.

The next skeleton stood up as the first one fell. It charged at Deltan who plunged her sword into where the thing's heart should have been. It looked at the sword then at Deltan. It grinned and swung its cutlass at her head. Deltan grinned back as she dodged the move and removed its head with her second sword. “Only way to kill them is to remove the head!” she yelled to the others. Deltan pulled her sword out of the bones and set herself for her next target.

Lili and Tashan teamed up to deal with the next one. Lili took its cutlass attack while Tashan moved behind it and promptly removed its head.

Chandral took her staff at one end and swung the stick at her skeleton's head. It didn't take her attack seriously enough to even try to evade the swing. The impact from stick caused its head to fly off its neck and zoom into the air. The green dragon saw it, jumped off the ground and caught it in her mouth. She promptly chewed the treat into submission and swallowed it. She keenly looked around for more. Chandral took every opportunity presented to feed her baby.

Around a hundred and fifty skeletons crawled out of the dungeon. Their bones covered the ground around the hole and caused the warriors to slip and slide. The last skeleton had been disarmed by Tarranna and was scooting around dodging everyone's attacks. The dragons were feral with excitement as the watched the action. Tarranna saw Chandral trip and nearly fall into the pit. Tarra shook her head, told the team to fall back and signaled the dragons to attack.

The skeleton saw the women move away and it appeared to grin widely. When it saw the dragons start to stalk it, its bony hand flew to its mouth and it silently screamed in horror as the dragons proceeded to rip it apart. After it was devoured, they eagerly started on the other remains.

The team regrouped away from the carnage and took a short break for a well- deserved meal and drink.

The women returned to the edge of the dungeon by using the cleared path the dragons had considerately left for them. Chandral pointed her staff down the pit and a concentrated beam of light illuminated the gloom below. The light from the tip of the staff showed the walls were clear of foot holds and the drop was around twenty feet. Ashburn edged his way past the women to look over the edge then he jumped in. He easily and delicately landed on his feet then looked down the tunnel and sat on his haunches to wait for the women to join him.

Tarranna and Lili rappelled into the pit, then Chandral and Tashan, Geon and Deltan. Silvana and Terran jumped to land beside the women. Chandral took point and illuminated the way with her staff. Alongside Chandral walked Ashburn who seemed determined to protect his team. They walked for about a mile before coming to a large cavern. Torches set up around the room were lit gave them enough light to see. The women broke into groups of threes and started the search.

They found one door but nothing else of interest. Tarranna worked the padlock on the room divider and carefully unbolted it.

Zombies pushed out the entrance. Their hands flapped around as they dropped their weapons and tried to grab hold of the women. The teams' swords and mini crossbows soon diminished the zombie resistance. Geon and Deltan dragged the bodies away to clear the exit.

The team stared in confusion at what they found. “Why would someone chain, lock up and guard statues of tiny people?” asked Deltan.

“They wouldn't… unless they aren't really statues.” Lili picked up one of the two foot high bearded men and turned it over in her hands. It appeared to be fully stone, but lighter in weight. “Put them in your bags and keep count of how many you have.”

The team quickly did so and returned down the tunnel to the hole to the surface. Ashburn, Silvana and Terran adeptly crouched and jumped up the surface. Minutes later Terran put her head over the edge to signal all was clear. The women quickly climbed the ropes and returned to the sunshine.

After saddling their horses they quickly left the area. As they rode away they heard the usual rumbling of the ground and stopped to watch as the earth fell into the underground cavern, very effectively sealing it. The implosion caused a dip in the ground and from the way the hills surrounded the depression, it should soon become a nice sized lake.

The group quickly rode to a nearby river and made camp. They found a clearing and stood the many statues on the dirt. The total statue tally was three hundred and twenty nine. The women started to prepare a meal and patiently waited to see what would happen with the sculptures.

About an hour later the dragons moved closer the stone figures and sat on their haunches to stare at one in particular. The women moved to where the dragons waited.

The statue started to vibrate. It quivered and shook until the hard outer layer crumbled to the ground. The bearded man dusted himself off, smiled at the dragons then sneered at the women. “I'll not be telling you where precious metal is so let the dragons go.”

“The dragons are free to come and go as they like. They stay around us because they want to.” Chandral clarified to the man. “Would you like to join us for a meal before you leave?”

The small man looked stunned. “Leave?”

“Yes… don't you want to go home?” Lili enquired.

“You're letting us go home?” He asked slowly.

Chandral genuinely and wholeheartedly smiled at the man. “Well, I really would like to hear about you and your people but yes, you can go home anytime you want to.”

“Will you shake hands on it?” Chandral flicked her eyes to Tarranna, who gave her an ‘all clear' nod. Chandral leant on one knee and extended her hand to the little man. He gingerly took her hand, his frown instantly turned into an ecstatic smile as he ‘felt' the innate integrity of her soul. He let go of her hand and pounced into a leap. Whilst still in the air he clicked his heels together and let out a loud whoop of glee. As he landed back on the ground the rest of the statues shook and peeled.

The women were suddenly swarmed by little people, all determined to thank the Queens' team for releasing them.

Eventually, the women were able to return to their campfire where they made a cup of tea. The visitors quickly foraged for fresh tubers, fruit and vegetables then helped themselves to a warm beverage. While the Mystics ate, Lili explained who her team members were and their current mission. The ex-statues sat listening in total silence, in awe of the humans in front of them. “You know the Fairy Queen? Man, I've heard she's so shy she never talks to anyone!”

“Yes, we've met with her several times now. She's a lovely woman.” Chandral smiled.

The small man who'd woken first sat on a rock in front of the team. He finished his meal and spoke up. “I'm Bearin and we are Gnomes. I don't know how long ago we were caught and chained, but it feels like forever!” The Gnomes laughed and agreed with him. “Once chained we protect ourselves by turning to rock, that way we can't be tortured by anyone wanting to know where the precious metals are we guard.” He grinned at the six women. “We'd like to give you a small thank you for rescuing us.”

Chandral quickly said “We didn't help you for what you can give us!”

Bearin laughed loudly and long. “I can assure you Queen Chandral, if you did we wouldn't be having this conversation.” He pulled three necklaces from his pocket. The chains were brilliantly silver and from the chains red rubies the size of a large strawberry dangled. He approached each of the Queens and graciously placed one of the ruby necklaces around each of their necks. Bearin turned to the guards and out of his pocket he pulled three silver chains with large diamonds dangling from them. He placed the diamonds around the necks of the stunned guards.

Bearin walked to the dragons, took each of their faces in his hands and kissed them on the forehead. “Gnomes are elemental beings that care for the Earth. Those jewels and my kiss have been blessed by the Mother. Where you go, the Earth will flourish. If you ever need my help, just hold the jewel and say my name.”

Before the women could thank him, Bearin and his people vanished into the surrounding woods. Chandral whispered to the wind “Thank you Bearin. We cherish these gifts and will use them freely.” Bearin's joyful and distinctive laugh echoed throughout the wood and caused the women to smile in response.

Chandral quickly checked her seer and found no black spots flashing.

“I don't know about you lot, but I could do with a break.” Tarranna laughed.

“Instead of visiting the castle, can we bring everyone here?” The twins quickly agreed with Lili's idea.

“Do you three have any immediate family you want to see?” The guards shook their heads negatively. “Well then. It looks like you're stuck with ours.” Chandral hugged them all then refocused her seer. She found Ranna and the children with the elders. “Mother, take the kids to their rooms, we'll be there in 10 minutes.” Chandral watched as Ranna made her apologies to the group and hurried the children to their rooms.

Tarranna advised the guards and dragons that they'd be back soon then she Lili and Chandral disappeared. They reappeared five minutes later with squealing twin toddlers and a feral five year old. The children immediately took off to explore the surrounding area.

The dogs charged up to the dragons apparently thinking nothing of their change in size. The five beasts immediately started a vigorous game of chase and wrestle whilst they keep the children within their protective sights.

Ranna looked around and nearly feinted. She hadn't expected the sudden change of scenery. “Sorry about the abrupt takeoff but we didn't think you'd agree to come.” Chandral apologized while she supported the older woman.

Tarranna pulled a fold up chair from her bag and placed it behind her mother. Ranna gratefully sat and fanned her face with her hand. “That was scary as all heck, but remarkably invigorating!” Ranna greeted the guards with a huge smile and wave.

Tarranna disappeared again and shortly returned with a cheeky grin. “I raided the kitchen, I return bearing all kinds of goodies.” The guards and Queens removed several portable tables from their packs and placed the food on them. Plates were filled and the children made sit at a table and eat instead of taking the food and running, as they wanted to.

Tashan, Geon and Deltan tried to move away and give the Royal family space but were quickly told to ‘get over it!' and join in the festive little picnic. The adults happily grazed then sat back and enjoyed the calmness of the surrounding forest and soaked in the energy that surrounded them. The twin babies and Patience took turns of snuggling into the Queens and Tashan and happily smothered the women in sloppy kisses.

Meanwhile, Geon and Deltan looked around the camp and found one of the old slings the Queens previously used to carry the baby dragons in. They rolled the material into a tight sphere and secured it with lengths of leather twine. They stood ten feet apart and threw the sphere back and forth to each other. They quickly became more and more confident then started to jog around in order to make a harder target for the other. The two guards soon became totally engrossed in their game.

Tarranna caught Chandral's eye, raised her eyebrow and slightly nodded her head toward the guards who were laughing at each other. Chandral nodded her agreement and the twins casually made their way to their oblivious guards. When close enough Tarranna charged and intercepted the ball before Geon could put her hands out to grab it. Deltan saw what happened and pelted across the field. She tried to harass the laughing Queens but Tarranna dodged Deltan's attempted tackle and threw the ball toward Chandral.

Chandral ran to and caught the ball and held it to her chest as she weaved past a growling Geon and made for an open space. Geon sprinted after the Queen and desperately tried to grab her clothes. Chandral laughed and ran faster she tossed the ball in a hook shot over her shoulder. Tarranna anticipated the throw, sidestepped her guard and collected the ball. She then zigzagged around the guards as they tried to team up on her. Tarranna threw the ball high which gave it more distance than the guards expected.

Chandral kept her eye on the ball, caught and secured it to her chest. She landed firmly on the ground and stared up at the grinning faces of the guards who had tackled her. Tarranna charged the guards and pulled their bodies off Chandral. “Run!” she yelled to her sister. Chandral flew up and ran for the furthest part of the field with the guards and Tarranna chasing her.

Lili and Tashan watched and laughed at the antics of the others. “That looked like fun until the crash tackling started.” Lili snorted.

“Afraid of getting beaten up by your guards, Majesty ?” Tashan baited the shorter blonde.

“In your dreams, General !”

They jumped out of their chairs and started to sprint toward the others. Tashan pushed her Queen slightly off balance. “Out of the way, Princess .”

The Princess grabbed the General from behind and pulled her to the ground. “Eat my dust, baby!” Tashan chuckled as she spat grass and dirt out of her mouth. She shot up running and chased the laughing Queen.

Tarranna and Chandral were cornered but could still effectively pass the ball to each other when they saw Lili sprint toward them. Tarranna threw the ball to Chandral, ran for and took down Tashan which allowed Chandral to pass the ball to Lili. Geon and Deltan groaned at the move and Tashan slowly stood to dust herself off.

For the next hour Ranna watched, laughed and grimaced at the game in front of her. “Ouch!!” The guards drove Chandral into the ground, again.

Patience leaned on Ranna's legs as she keenly watched the women squeal and laugh. “Gramma, why is Tashan laying on top of Auntie Chandral?”

“To stop her from getting the ball, I imagine.” Ranna gently placed the girl's hair behind her ear.

“Is that why she's kissing her now?” Patience asked, curiously.

Ranna turned to watch her daughter, who was indeed lip-locked with the guard. “You'd have to ask Tashan that dear.” Ranna laughed.

“Ok!” Before Ranna could call to stop the girl, Patience ran toward her aunt and yelled as loud as she could. “Tashan, why are you kissing Aunty Chandral?”

Tashan didn't hear the child but the other Queens and guards did. They grinned at each other and the game was quickly forgotten. They sprinted to where the two women were sprawled on the ground and like a pack of vultures, they circled the pair. Patience hugged into her mother's side.

“I'd give Tashan a 7 for technique but a 1 for location.” Tarranna critiqued.

“I don't know Tarra. Her tongue use was very creative. I'd have to give her an 8. I have to agree with the 1 though.” Lili chuckled.

“You're only giving Tash extra points because she's your personal guard.” Geon egged on.

Tashan and Chandral finally realised they had an annoyingly obvious audience. “Like Melanger said so poetically, ‘ I hate you all' .” Tashan rolled off Chandral and stood at the Queen's feet. She waited for the shy woman to sit, and then offered her a hand up. Chandral accepted the assistance and stood.

Tashan kept a gentle hold on the Queen's hand but still gave Chandral plenty of opportunity to release it. Chandral realigned their fingers to a more comfortable position then gave Tashan's hand a gentle squeeze as she moved closer alongside the other woman. “Not one word Tarranna!” Chandral warned.

“What! I was only going to congratulate you on finding a brilliant way to distract the guards and win us the game!” Tarra chuckled. The guards roared their protest and the group loudly argued all the way back to where Ranna and the tiny twins waited for them.

Actually, the tiny twins weren't conscious of what was happening around them. They were having a great time sitting in the dirt and empting their cups of water. The resulting mud was squished and formed into food, animals and ammunition. Each girl showed signs of being hit with mud bombs from the other.

Ranna notice the game was finished, cleaned off the plates and placed the leftover food where the dragons and dogs happily finished it off. The women sat in their chairs and sighed with relief at being able to relax. Ranna patted Chandral's shoulder and as she passed by Tashan she casually asked “Did you find my daughter's tonsils dear?”

Chandral and Tashan sunk deep into their chairs. The other four nearly choked on their tongues as they fell into hysterical laughter. “Mother!!” admonished Chandral.

“What? You shouldn't be embarrassed about such things… It's the most natural part of being an adult! In fact… I intend to take these two wonderful girls” she grinned fondly at Deltan and Geon “up on their offer to show me their tonsils.”

Deltan and Geon looked at each other in total shock then practically fell out of their chairs in their rush to offer their arms to the Queens' mum. Ranna strolled off into the trees with Deltan on one arm and Geon on the other, all of them cooed lovingly at each other.

Chandral and Tarranna hid their shock well. They stopped just short of feinting.

To her credit, Chandral recovered quickly possibly because Tashan took her by the hand, kissed it as she stared deeply into the Queen's eyes. Chandral didn't stop to think about anything but how good it felt to be with Tashan as she stood and basically dragged the General into the scrub. In the opposite direction to her mother, of course!

Lili unsuccessfully tried to contain her mirth, especially after the look Tarranna threw her. She was still laughing as she hugged Patience close and assured the girl that the others would be back. Eventually.

Tarranna left Lili and huffed off to play with her daughters in their mud pit.

The dragons and dogs knew enough to stay well clear of tiny twins with ready access to mud and swarmed around Lili, each pushing for her attention.

Patience took advantage of the dragons' distraction with their chins scratches and climbed all over their backs. She screamed in glee as Terran spread her wings, flapped them and hovered six feet off the ground before she took to the sky.

Lili softly screamed in fear.

Tarranna threw down the mud and ran to Lili's side. “Don't distract either of them.” She softly ordered her partner. “Terran, please carefully land immediately. Patience is on your back and may fall off.” Tarranna prayed the dragon understood what she needed her to do.

Much to Patience's dismay, Terran did understand and the child's joy-flight was cut to a bare minimum. That, however, did not stop Patience from jumping of Terran's back and hugging the dragon wholeheartedly. Patience then charged back to her mother and told her at a million miles per second what the ride had felt like.

Tarranna walked to Terran, took the dragon's head in her hands and looked deeply into her eyes. “Thank you for understanding she could've been killed. You are a very special girl and we love you very much.” Tarranna put her arms around the dragon's neck and hugged tightly. Terran put her head on Tarranna's shoulder, quietly accepting the affection and love from the woman.

“YOU DID WHAT?? Denion Lilianda you are in so much trouble!” Lili yelled. Tarranna looked at the dragon who hung her head in shame, in a remarkably similar manner to that of Patience. “How could you not only give a whole cake to a dragon but use that cake as a bribe so the dragon would give you a ride? Whatever punishment I come up with you can guarantee it will not be fun to be you for quite a while. Go sit in that chair and DO NOT move. Go!”

Tarranna looked at the shamefaced dragon. “Terran, did you really eat a whole cake?” Terran groaned and refused to look at Tarranna. “Terran, look at me.” The dragon raised her head and looked Tarranna in the eyes. “No matter what she or the twins offer you, you do not fly with them. Ok?” Terran nodded then lowered her head. “Terran, you made a mistake and that's ok. Just don't do it again. And don't eat cake, you'll get sick. Understand?” Terran promptly puked on the ground in front of Tarranna. The stench of the mixture of raw meat and too sweet cake nearly caused the Queen to retch her own lunch back up. “Patience, come here! Now! Move it!”

Terran sat on her haunches and rested her head on the ground. Patience skidded to a stop in front of the dragon and turned her head at the stink rising from the ground. “The cake you gave her made her sick. Look how ill she looks!” Patience cried softly at the sight of her ailing friend.

“I'm sorry Terran. I just wanted to fly with you.” The girl sobbed as she rubbed the dragon's head.

“What you did was entirely selfish and that sort of behaviour makes me really sad. I love you but I do not like what you did. Do you understand me?” Patience continued to cry as she nodded. “Go to your mother and apologise for leaving the chair and tell her I called you. Ask your mother to please come see me then return to your seat. Go.”

Patience cried all the way back to her mother, told her what she had to then sat on her chair. Lili quickly walked to where Terran was still moaning and grimaced at the vomit on the ground. “I'm sorry I took Patience away from your punishment. I needed her to see the consequences of what she did.” Tarra said gently.

Lili rubbed Terran's head then encouraged her to walk as far away from the vomit as possible, preferably to where Patience sat. Lili took Tarranna in her arms and cried into her shoulder. “She could've fell and been killed. I was so scared!”

Tarranna kissed the blonde's forehead. “I know I was terrified so you must have been whatever a million times worse than terrified is.”

Lili chuckled through her sobs as she snuggled closer to the taller woman. They walked back to Patience and Terran, the other dragons and dogs ran excitedly at their heels.

The tiny twins were oblivious to everyone else and continued to play in the mud.


It was almost dark when the five women, all with huge grins and glazed eyes, returned to camp. Ranna immediately pulled the Queens aside. “I know I don't have to explain myself to you, but you need to know this.” Ranna took a deep breath and kept going. “Those two beautiful people met me a year before you worked out I was your mother. Since then they've spent time with me, spoilt me rotten with little gifts and their time. They told me upfront they wanted to me to marry them and be a permanent part of their relationship. They definitely aren't looking for a casual fling. Stupidly, I couldn't do it but they never pressured me, just continued to be there for me. But when you took them both away I missed them terribly. They didn't know I'm your mother until you brought me and the kids here.”

The Queens congratulated Ranna and Tarranna said to her “Just make sure we never hear any details!” Ranna laughed and hugged her daughters close.

While the other had been away, Lili and Tarranna had cleaned up the picnic supplies and returned the area to its natural state so there was nothing much to do but return to the campsite. Chandral and Tashan offered to stay the night in the camp, to look after the dragons and horses while everyone else spent the night at the castle. Tarranna was about to decline when Chandral pulled her aside. “Go, spend some time with Lili. It looks like she needs some serious comforting.”

Tarranna knew Lili was still upset over the thought of losing Patience so she hugged and thanked her sister. “Tashan is a lovely woman, I'm happy for you.”

Chandral was giddy and her smile was almost wide enough to split her head in half.

“That she is! She makes me feel things I never knew were possible! No wonder you've been so happy since you met Lili…”


“Oh please!! You've been walking around with a satisfied grin and now I know why!”


Chandral walked after her sister and helped her gather their mother and the children for travel. Lili held the dogs while Deltan and Geon held Lili's shoulder. They all said goodbye just before they disappeared.

Back at the castle, Ranna sent word via a guard that she and the children were not to be disturbed until late the next morning and then headed to her room with Geon and Deltan.

The Queens bathed their girls then spent some quality play time on the floor of the lounge room. The children were understandably exhausted and soon went to bed.

Tarranna and Lili made sweet, gentle love for most of the night.

Well before dawn the next morning, the Queens and guards bid their family good bye and returned to the campsite. Thanks to Geon's successful raid on the castle kitchen, they started the morning with fresh porridge, bread and jam.

The Queens did a search for the next dungeon and they were soon on their way.


The women crouched under a fallen tree, waiting for the massive beast to make its way past their position. As the dragons growled softly and seemed intent on attacking the huge creature, the Queens held the Mystics at their sides. The beast had a human shape, stood around seven feet tall and had very long arms. It had a green face, long fangs and red eyes that glowed with evil intent.

When the creature had moved far enough away, Lili sighed “I think that's an orc. They take repeated deadly hits before dying and their arm span gives them tremendous reach. Trying to get close enough to use swords would be suicidal.”

“That one seems to have a route he follows. If we wait till he comes back, we can all hit him with crossbow bolts.” Deltan suggested.

“That'll work. Get into position, he's turned around.” Tarra ordered and the women quietly melded with the forest.

Chandral stayed where she was and watched as the others disappeared into the surrounding trees. Through a hole in the vegetation, she watched the creature get closer and cringed as crossbow bolts suddenly sprouted from his chest. The number of bolts reached ten before he crashed to the ground dead. As the women regrouped at Chandral's position, she had her seer in her hand and was checking it. “He hasn't been missed yet.”

“Cool, give it a bit longer and then we'll try to lure another one over this way.” Tashan suggested.

“Oh no!!” groaned Chandral, who was still watching the seer. “The babies! They're playing tag with one of them and leading him this way!”

“Crap!” exclaimed Tarranna. “Everyone get into position and please try to keep the silly little buggers from getting hurt!”

The women vanished again which left Chandral alone to watch through the hole in the undergrowth.

Ashburn led the orc toward the women by prancing and growling at the beast. Then he'd run into the woods and one of the other dragons would take over. If the enemy started to lose interest in them, one of the dragons would sneak up behind him and bite him on the butt. The method seemed to be a very efficient way of reclaiming his interest! When the dragons had lured the orc close enough, they vanished into the trees. The beast saw his dead companion, looked warily around the trees with his massive sword at ready and his shield covering his chest.

The first bolt caught him in the side of the head and bounced off his thick skull. It was a ploy to distract him and caused the creature to drop his shield slightly. Once his shield was lowered, bolt after bolt hit him in the chest until, finally, he fell to the ground. Before the beast had even hit the dirt, the dragons charged off to find another target.

When the targets finally got too far away, the women changed position and it didn't take long for the 17 guards to be taken out. Once the beasts were decimated, the women were able to get closer to the massive enclosure. It was the same basic design as the other fortresses, only this one didn't back onto a cliff face and the walls were twice as high. One of the massive twin doors was open and revealed more creatures wandering around inside.

“If we can get a lot of them outside, I can hit them with a lightning bolt.” The five other women looked at Chandral in amazement. “The staff has access to lots of great stuff, but nothing I really use and keep the element of surprise. Besides, if I zap them while they're inside, I may injure whatever they're holding prisoner in there.

“Ok. Then we need to make them want to leave. Suggestions?” Tashan asked.

“Well,” Geon tentatively started “the whole deal with the dungeons so far has been collecting Mystics. Why not give them three?” The women turned to look at the dragons that were sitting on their haunches and listening intently. The Mystics grinned at the women with eager looks on their faces. “We'll keep them well away from the enclosure, at the edge of the clearing. I think the orcs'll come out in bulk and when they do Chandral hits them with the lightening.” She assured the Queens “The babies get pulled out at the first sign of anything going wrong.”

The Queens hugged the beautiful dragons to them. Tarranna addressed the Mystics. “Ok you three, listen carefully. You are to play a very loud game of chase at the edge of the forest. No flying – you need that as a surprise if you have to get away quickly. You are not to get close to the orcs, understand? We do not want you getting hurt.”

The dragons nodded, their grins wide. Tarranna hesitated like she'd changed her mind but in the end signaled them to go. The women hurried to take up their positions, ready to use their crossbows and even swords if it became necessary to protect the little Mystics.

The dragons were magnificent. They stomped after each other as they growled and roared without restraint. The orcs gathered inside the gate and watched intently but made no move to exit. The dragons put on a good show for fifteen minutes then huddled together for a nap. As the babies lay quiet, seemingly exhausted from their game, the orcs' interest peaked. Several moved from the gate, stopped and waited. When the dragons didn't move, more of the creatures pushed out of the exit. As a group, the creatures poured from the gate and walked cautiously toward the precious Mystics. The orcs raised their huge swords and shields menacingly.

“They're going to kill the babies!” Chandral had never felt so ferocious. The huge beasts were obviously intent on destroying the baby dragons while they slept! All guilt at having to kill the beasts dimmed and she raised her staff. Chandral prayed to the Mother, asking for help and forgiveness with what she was about to do.


Pieces of the thirty odd orcs fell like rain. Where they had been grouped, there was a small crater. The air buzzed with electricity that made the women's hair stand on end and wriggle around like it was alive. The six women slowly moved to where the dragons had resumed their game. As they came closer together, Tashan snorted and put her arm around Chandral's waist “Yep, definitely can't use that one if we want to sneak up.”

“Holy crap, Chandral! That was bloody brilliant!” Deltan cooed.

“They meant to kill the dragons!” Chandral chanted.

Tashan hugged the distraught woman and quietly whispered she done the right thing. Tarranna and Lili did the same, then Tarranna ordered “We need to check we got them all. Groups of two to pop to this side of the gate. Let's go.”

Tashan was closest to Chandral, so they disappeared together and Geon went with Lili. Tarranna took the lead. From her tool bag, she removed a small mirror attached to a telescopic handle. She used it to carefully check the inside of the gates and blind spots of the enclosure. Finally satisfied, she motioned for the others to follow her in.

An orc charged from behind a wagon and he swung his huge sword at Geon's head. Tarranna charged him and chopped her enhanced sword across his massive arm. On the upswing she connected with his other arm, successfully removing both of them. She drove the sword under his ribs and up to where his heart should be. Apparently it was in the same spot as humans because he silently dropped dead to the ground. Tarranna stood on his barrel chest and used both hands to extract the sword. She wiped the goo on his clothes before she checked Geon was ok. “Sorry ‘bout that, I missed seeing him.”

“Nice recovery, thank you.” Geon looked like she was about to pass out. “He's so freaking huge!” Tarranna pulled the shaking woman to her side and supported her as they made their way around the compound. Geon was visibly relieved when they didn't find any more of the huge beasts.

The team did find another armoury and packed away anything remotely useful in their packs. They then headed to the far end of the compound where the entire back half had been closed off. After checking out and clearing the gate, Tarranna swung it open.

Inside were dozens of pure white mares, each around a foot taller than Midnight. All the Mystics had large-linked chains around their necks and bodies. The ends of the short-length chains were attached to stakes in the ground. The women checked for enemies and then quickly started to remove the gruesome, blood encrusted chains.

Those horses still strong enough to walk slowly followed the dragons from the compound. Those not strong enough to move were popped to a nearby clearing where they were given ready access to food and water.

Six mares were in a terrible state. They had infected wounds on their necks and backs from the chains ruthlessly rubbing into their skin. Each member of the team spent time with a horse to make sure the splendid equines received the best ointments Chandral could produce. The women cleaned the wounds repeatedly, carefully removed the dirt, puss and other gunk. As the women watched, the abrasions began to heal and soon not even a scar was left to mark the magnificent animals.

Several hours later, the herd started to get restless. Midnight had spent time with the mares and was frantically running between the herd and Tarranna. Tarranna called her magnificent horse to her and cried as she did so. “You want to go with them, eh?” The Queen hugged the horse's neck then told him to run. It ripped her heart out but she stood by and watched as he circled the herd and drove them toward a nearby valley. The rest of the team's horses went with him.

“Do you see that?” yelled Deltan.

As they watched, the white mares sprouted wings from their sides and flew into the air. They circled Midnight and the others and majestically soared on the wind. The dragons let out gleeful roars and promptly joined the mares. The women laughed as the herd plus three disappeared into the distance. When the women turned back toward the camp, they saw the six mares they'd cared for watching them intently. The women stared in wonder as the mares' wings sprung out of their sides and they flew into the air.

Five of the women laughed hysterically as Tashan wiped horse poo off her face. “Thankfully they aren't elephants.” Tashan said drolly as she retrieved some soap and a towel from her bag and made her way to the river for a bath. Long minutes later, the others had laughed so much their ribs hurt too much to continue so they joined Tashan at the river.

When the women returned to camp the six mares grazed nearby. The mares walked up to their primary carer and snuffed at the chest of the human. Tarranna scratched and rubbed the hair of the horse in front of her, disgusted at the filth she found. “Would you like a bath girl?” The horse neighed and shook her head. “Come on, we'll get you clean before it gets too cold.” Tarranna took a pail, her very gentle soap and grooming tools from her pack and walked back to the river. The other women thought Tarranna had a great idea and followed suit.

Tarranna led the mare into the deeper part of the water and carefully used the pail to pour water over the horse's back. The horse didn't seem to mind so Tarranna rubbed in the soap, making sure to scratch as she did so. After she rinsed off the mare, Tarranna led the horse out of the water and made certain she was far enough away to dodge the water as the horse shook herself dry. Tarranna then brushed the mare until the white hair blinded her as it reflected the sunlight. As she brushed the horse Tarranna noticed the hair on her side looked like it was around two inches longer than it was on the neck and stomach. Upon closer inspection she saw it was an illusion. The hair was actually the folded wings! The wings didn't pop out. They were constantly folded and melded into the shape of the horse.

When she was finished with the grooming, Tarranna watched as the mare headed several feet away and unfolded her wings. The horse flapped and dried the wings in the sunlight then reared and levitated slightly off the ground. The mare welcomed the rest of her small herd and the six shiny clean horses pranced and flapped in equine bliss. The women gathered to watch the horses and sighed in a collective longing to be able to ride the majestic steeds. The horses landed and walked to the individual who'd so lovingly cared for their wounds. The women were gently pushed away from each other and pulled to the horse's sides by a wing that engulfed them. The mares kneeled on one front leg in an invitation for the women to climb on their backs.

The team were not fools! They carefully mounted the steeds and absorbed the gentle majesty of the finely muscled animals. The mares took several steps then flapped their wings to attune the humans to the feel of the movement they created.

Then they were airborne.

Tarranna was an expert horsewoman. She used her legs to hold herself on the horse and had no fear of falling. She closed her eyes, put her arms out to the side and deeply breathed the wind zipping past her face. She opened her eyes and looked around her. The other women were close enough to yell to and they looked at her with a feral excitement that more than matched her own. Tarranna looked down at the landscape under them and marveled at how identical it was to what they saw it in the seers.

The women saw the other horses in the distance and watched as Midnight's mares took to the air. The full herd was soon together again and frolicked playfully. Tarranna whooped in excitement as she wiped dead bugs off her face and spat out the grasshopper she'd nearly swallowed.

The mares with the team onboard only turned back toward camp when the sun started to set. They left the herd behind, circled the camp and eased their hooves onto the ground. The horses trotted to a stop with their wings wrapped around the legs of the women. The mares then held up their left wings which allowed the women to dismount. Tarranna walked to her mare's neck and hugged her in tremendously felt gratitude. She scratched the horse's neck, face and ears. “That was bloody brilliant. Thank you so, so very much.” Tarranna moved away from the mare and watched the horse wander away to graze nearby. She smiled as the other women thanked their steeds and their mares joined Tarranna's.

Lili ran at Tarranna, jumped into her arms and wrapped her legs around the taller women's waist. Tarranna hugged the blonde so tightly to her chest she could feel Lili's heart still pounding from the exhilarating flight. “I'm sorry, but I'm ditching you for the flying horse.” Tarra joked.

“I suspected as much… But would she pick the dead bugs from your hair like I will?” Lili bubbled joyously.

“No, but I wouldn't care.” Tarranna was adamant.

“Then you can put me down and pull that dead grasshopper out of your ear yourself.” Lili laughed.

Tarranna pulled back from Lili so she could see the smaller woman's face. “Did you ever even dream we'd be flying?”

Lili laughed and shook her head negatively. “Nope.” She reached around the side of Tarranna head, grabbed something and showed it to the dark haired warrior. “I was wrong, it isn't dead.” The still alive grasshopper jumped from Lili's hand and flew away.

“Do you think they'll stay with us?” Tarranna asked, enthusiastically.

“Don't know. I certainly hope so.” Lili chuckled.

“Ya think we can bribe them with apples?” Tarranna was very serious.

Lili unlocked her legs and slid down Tarranna's body. “It couldn't hurt.”

“Lili, thanks for getting the bug off me. You're really sweet.” Tarranna kissed her Queen senseless before she moved the blonde's speechless and unresponsive body to the campfire. Tarra then tried to help prepare dinner. Fortunately for everyone's gastronomic health, they all knew her lack of skill with cooking and politely asked her to sit down out of their way.

The dragon babies turned up not long after and quickly settled down for sleep while the women talked for hours.


The next morning, the mares were still grazing near the camp. When they noticed the women were awake they neighed a greeting. Tarranna pulled a bag of apples from her pack happily suffered the laughter from the other members of her team. “You're really going to bribe them to stay with us?” Chandral asked.

“Yep. As Lili said, it can't hurt.” Tarra was confident she had great apples, which helped her cause tremendously.

“Oh I totally believe that… Can I have some of those?” Tashan enquired seriously. Tarranna grinned smugly, then handed the delicious fruit around her team. The mares delightedly accepted the bribes then wandered away, possibly looking for wild apple trees.

Chandral checked her seer, confused when the friendly dots along the border flashed incessantly. “Tarra and Lili, you'd better check your seers.” The Queens did so and compared their finding to Chandral's. The women focused on Melanger and his surroundings. The General was at the main road blockade of the Mungenollan border. It was hard to tell, but it certainly looked like hundreds of people were camped on the Mungenollan side. “Looks like we're heading to see what Melanger's up to.” Chandral mumbled.

The team ate breakfast, cleaned up the campsite and armoured up. They all dressed in their best gear, they were after all the Queens and their Royal Guard. They were getting ready to pop into Melanger's tent when the horses appeared and walked to their humans. The mares flared their wings, folded the left one and kneeled for their riders. The women whooped in joy and climbed aboard.

Tarranna and Lili led the way and for several wonderfully exhilarating hours the women soared hundreds of feet above the ground. Tarranna and her team became so attuned to their mounts they unintentionally directed the mares with their body movements. When they wanted to land, Tarranna unconsciously tightened her thigh muscles in preparation and leaned over the horse's neck to find a good landing spot. When she needed to turn she leaned in the direction she wanted to go and for going higher she leaned back with her head tilted toward the heavens.

The dragons shared the air and seemed to enjoy the women being close by as they raced the mares to their destination. Way too soon for everyone, the border came into sight. Tarranna signaled she was going to go a bit further, to see what the enemy army was up to.

Not long later, they came across a very interesting sight. The Mungenollan army was engaged in a massive battle. With itself! It must've made it difficult for them to tell who was winning? The group circled the fray once more then headed back to the outer edge of their troops stationed at the border.

Tarranna didn't want everyone to know she had access to flying horses, so she picked a quiet spot to land. The women dismounted and profusely thanked the mares. They made ready to pop the rest of way, but the mares wouldn't let them. They folded their wings to their sides and knelt in front of the riders. Tarranna looked at the others, shrugged and remounted. The mares pranced around, their tails held high. They were excited! “Something's going on that we don't know about. Chandral, put the Royal seal on your finger. We're going in as Queens so Deltan, Geon and Tashan you take the lead as our Personal Royal Guards.” Tarranna directed.

Lili removed three gold medallions from her pack and handed them to the guards. The medallions were around four inches across and six inches long and shaped like a triangular (with rounded edges) shield. The shield contained an impression of the Royal seal. The guards reverently placed the medallions around their neck, arranging them so all could see they were escorting the Queens.

“Silvana, Ashburn and Terran. Keep flying above us until we signal it's safe for you to land.” Chandral knew the appearance of the dragons would scare most people witless and didn't want any accidents endangering their babies.

Tarranna continued gently giving directions to the guards. “Don't stop until we say to or Melanger is standing directly in front of you. We'll ride in three abreast. Chandral, you ride in the middle of Lili and me.”

The guards smiled at Tarranna, Lili and Chandral then saluted the Queens. They formed up in front of the women and waited until told to commence the parade. Tarranna and Lili smiled gently at Chandral and gently encouraged her. It was after all her first public appearance as a Queen! Lili signaled the guards to go.

The mares continued to prance as they carried the women into the mix of soldiers and civilians. The beautiful horses were enough to cause a stir on their own and once the spectators realised who the horses carried the news spread like wildfire.

A reverent path opened for the Queens and their Guards. Children waved and the Queens smiled in acknowledgement. The adults bowed in respect to the new rulers of the lands. Soldiers snapped to attention and saluted until the procession passed by. It didn't take Melanger long to ride out to meet them. He was escorted by a dozen of the Queens' advisors and they all looked very pleased to see the Royal family arrive!

“Your Majesties. Welcome and thank you coming.” He bowed his head to them. Your tent is being erected as we speak Queen Tarranna. We did not expect…”

Lili cut off his apology. “General Melanger. This is war. I'm sure Queen Chandral and I can share the tent, if Queen Tarranna doesn't mind, that is.”

“Queen Tarranna doesn't mind at all, in fact she insists on it!” Lili, Chandral and the Royal Personal Guards lowered their heads to hide how they rolled their eyes.

“General.” Chandral addressed her friend. “We need a clear area near our tent for the mares and the babies. They aren't used to so many people and may accidently hurt someone.”

“Of course Your Majesty.” Melanger sent a guard to clear a section and have soldiers patrol the perimeter. When finished, he looked around and expected to see the babies close by. He shrugged when he didn't find them and led the Queens toward their accommodation. By the time they reached the area, the tent had been fully assembled and guards posted. The women dismounted and thanked the mares, as per their routine. Lili intercepted the grooms headed toward the mounts and gently advised them the Royal Guards would care for the mares. Tubs of water and food were left for close by horses.

Melanger and his crew dismounted and sent their mounts with the grooms. “Magnificent animals but where's Midnight?”

“He found a herd and wanted to stay with them.” Tarranna's reply was overly simplified to quickly explain a very tough situation for her.

“So where are the babies? I hate to admit it but I missed the little buggers.” Melanger laughed.

The Queens and their Guards smirked at each other as Chandral called to the sky and whispered to the spectators “Do not fear or hurt the dragons but do not come close to them without permission.” The crowd stepped back as the three Mystics flapped from the sky and landed near the women.

“Holy crap!” Melanger exclaimed. The dragons recognised him immediately and began to cover him with excited licks and rubs. Melanger quickly got over his shock and eagerly returned their greetings. The dragons then greeted the mares and sat on their haunches at the side of their humans. The dragons were proud they'd trained their humans so well. As soon as they sat, their heads were being scratched by their mums.

“I hope you have plenty of spare boots General.” Tashan whispered as she walked past him to Lili's side. The others heard her and quickly quelled their laughter. Melanger sneered at her, looked at the not so little beasts then mentally recounted exactly how many pairs of shoes he did have. He made a note to himself to have more made!

“General are you and the advisors ready to brief us?” Queen Arobar asked.

“Yes Majesty, please follow me to the command tent.” Melanger led the way.

The Queens were about to place the dragons on guard duty when they were stopped by two of their Guards. “Excuse me, Majesties. If you would like to take the dragons with you, Deltan and I can guard and care for the mares.”

The Queens raised their eyebrows at Geon to let her know they knew she was trying to weasel out of the boring stuff. Lili and Tarranna deferred the decision to Chandral. “Thank you Geon. That would be lovely. Tarranna, do you think Maladroit will have time to whip us some refreshments?”

Geon and Deltan stared in horror at each other and then the Queens. Tarranna grinned evilly at her devious sister and motioned a page boy to come to her. “Hello, can you please run to Maladroit and ask him to bring us some meeting food?”

Deltan smacked her partner across the shoulder. Meeting food meant delicious cakes and biscuits. Tashan didn't hide her grin as she snickered at the deserters and followed her Queens and their very happy dragons.


“Well Your Majesties, it looks like Mungenollan people want you to rule them.”

The three Queens looked in confusion at each other then they all stared at Melanger. “They want what?” Chandral asked.

“They want you to rule them. Their army is in chaos. Half are outside and want to join us. The other half are down the road killing themselves off - they don't seem to remember or care they're all on the same side. We have entire populations of Mungenollan towns camped on the other side of the barricade. They want to move into your realms. We heard this morning that the King and his court have murdered each other. It seems the sovereignty has imploded.”

Chandral saw the stress getting to Tarranna and Lili and cut the advisors off before they could start to hound them. “Thank you Melanger, you've represented us exceeding well in such a difficult time. Please leave us to consider our options. We'll send for you if we have questions or come to a decision.”

The advisors took a breath, but bowed and left the tent.

Chandral let her sister Queens collect their thoughts while she checked her seer. She requested a visualization of the people wanting to leave their realms. A rather large group appeared, still several days travel away. She told Tarranna and Lili what she saw.

“I really don't think it's a good idea having so many people flood into a new area like this. It creates so many problems with food, housing and moral.” Lili stated.

“I agree. We need to get the people to return to their homes. The only way we can do that is by making sure their homes are safe and the people happy to return to them.” Chandral offered.

“The only way we can do that is by making sure their homes are in our domain. And that is not what we set out to do.” Tarranna was astounded with what had happened.

“Maybe this is what was meant to happen all along.” Chandral hypothesized then continued to explain. “You two met by accident and fell in love. Tarranna returned home and met me - who was accidently met by her minister and just happened to be the sister she hasn't seen in 30 years. Then along came the twins we'd die for and then there's mother. Enter Queen Arobar who turns out to be the woman Tarranna fell for. We go to war, find out all these Mystical beings need rescuing and ex-Kings' subjects want to join us.” Chandral leaned back in her chair, with her hands linked behind her head. “Sounds like a chronic attack of Fate to me.”

Tarranna, Lili and Tashan just sat and shook their heads. Then they laughed so hard they nearly fell off their chairs. “Chronic attack of fate?!!” Wheezed Lili.

Tarranna controlled her laughter, stood up and demanded her sister did the same. She then hugged Chandral and thanked her. “You couldn't have made a truer diagnosis, Sis.” Not one to be left out of physical affection, Lili pushed Tarranna aside and hugged Chandral.

Before Tarranna could voice her complaint, Lili put an arm around the waist of each Queen. “Here's my quick summary. We send a message to hurry up the idiots leaving us. Tomorrow our army invades Mungenolla and it doesn't stop ‘till it reaches the Somaikian border. But for now, how about we go walk the dragons and meet some of our new subjects?”

Chandral sent the message, Tarranna advised Melanger about the invasion and Lili sent a care package (of meeting food) to Deltan and Geon.

The Queens left the tent and the dragons eagerly trotted alongside the women, who were followed by a gaggle of advisors and guards. By themselves, the Queens were enough to make people stop, stare and lose all but one IQ point. The Queens plus three brilliantly coloured and exotic dragons was enough to cause absolute silence.

Chandral and Tarranna didn't know what to do. The silence was deafening and Tashan could hear the twins grinding their teeth. Lili spied half a dozen children staring open mouthed at the dragons and moved toward them. “Hello, how are you all doing?” The children mumbled something that vaguely resembled ‘good' and shuffled their feet. “I have a small problem and I was wondering if you could help me out?” That secured their attention. “You see everyone seems to be afraid of my little friends here and I was wondering if you'd like to show them how loveable they really are.” That really snared their attention. They looked from Lili to the dragons, not quite sure what the deal was. “All you'd have to do is pat my friends.”

The kids' mouths flew open. One of the braver girls stepped forward. Lili took the girl's hand and let Terran sniff it. Terran sniffed then licked the proffered hand. The girl squealed then laughed. “That tickles!” The girl then started rubbing the dragon on the chin and forehead. The other kids quickly put their hands forward and soon each dragon had their own fan club members. “The red one's best ‘cause he's fastest!” “The green one's best ‘cause she's like trees and grass.” “The brown one's best ‘cause she's just so cute!”

Tarranna was keen to keep on the move, so she gently placed two kids on the back of each dragon and led the group further down the road.

The procession passed a man leading a small child by the hand. The child dragged her feet and was whining incessantly. Tarranna grabbed the man by his free hand and promptly broke his wrist. The man fell to his knees and sobbed hysterically.

Lili pulled the small child into her arms and wiped her nose and eyes.

In the distance, a woman ran along the road screaming and yelling out the name of her missing child. She finally got close enough to recognize the small girl in Lili's arms and thanked the Queen profusely. “I turned my back for five seconds and she was gone.”

Tarranna took the man by his hair and lifted him off the ground. “What were you doing with the child?” The man wouldn't answer, until Tarranna turned him to face the dragons. By that time Chandral had removed the children off their backs and had them escorted away from the scene about to unfold. The dragons were growling threateningly at him. The man promptly admitted he intended to rape and kill the tiny infant. Tarranna gutted the prick and left him to die face down in his own intestines.

Tarranna was furious and she roared in disgust. “ Anyone who enjoys hurting women and children will die a very painful death. Stay behind in our land thinking you'll have easy pickings and I'll personally track you down and gut you! You don't like this law get into Somaikian territory. NOW!”

Several people broke from the crowd and began to run. Many of them didn't make it far - they tripped and fell onto the swords of innocent spectators.

Chandral and Lili moved to stand beside Tarranna to silently offer her their support and love.

The mother was still hugging her daughter close to her chest. She hesitantly made her way to the still smoldering Queen Tarranna and kneeled in front of her. Tarranna shook off her anger and told the woman to stand. The woman refused. “Thank you Majesty. You saved my baby from a horrible death.” She sobbed and kissed her child's forehead. The woman raised her voice and shouted “I am proud to kneel before Queens Tarranna, Arobar and Chandral. You three are making our world safe for my baby to grow up in. You deserve to be honoured as the heroes you are.”

One by one, the spectators nodded in agreement and kneeled before the astounded Queens. Even the ministers and guards joined in. Soon, not one person was standing.

The baby girl climbed from her mother's arms and hugged Tarranna's leg. Tarranna steadfastly refused to cry as she picked up the child and tickled her belly. She smiled as the girl squealed in delight.

“General Melanger!” Chandral said loudly and watched as the General stood and saluted. “Have the cooks prepare extra food for the evening meal. Tonight we honour Mother Nature and celebrate being alive.”

Lili whooped in glee!! Party time! “Everyone get up! If you have a special dish you want to share bring it along. Make sure you're all ready to sing and dance.”

Someone yelled out “Will you tell us how you found the dragons?”

“If you'd like to hear about it, of course I will.” The crowd started to buzz. “I'm certain we can persuade the General to tell us one of his many yarns!!”

Tarranna yelled “Only if he tells them how the dragons outsmarted him, when they were smaller than this little girl here!!”

The crowd laughed at the look of horror on the General's face.


That afternoon the team rode their steeds way from where people were gathered and when it was safe they thanked and released the mares.

The women then jogged back to their accommodation, much to the joy of the dragons running alongside them. The women then dressed and left for the festivities. The celebration started with Chandral thanking the Mother for giving life to them and everything else in their world. She then asked everyone to thank the souls of the beings who gave their lives so they could eat and flourish.

After the meal, everyone settled in a comfortable spot to listen to the stories, Mal excitedly joined the Queens and Tashan. Lili had everyone screaming in laughter one minute and crying the next. She told abridged versions of their meetings with the Mystics and had the crowd hissing and booing the orcs preparing to slaughter the dragons.

Then Melanger took over. He was his usual larger than life self and had the crowd enthralled. He had them laughing so hard many were crying and clutching their stomachs in pain. They cheered Mal for outrunning the buffalo and Tarranna for saving his life. He told tale after tale of the three women's courage and determination to make their lands safer for everyone. Melanger steadfastly refused to tell how the dragons had outsmarted him. The crowd heckled, requested and finally begged for him to tell them what'd happened.

Finally, he relented and told them it was the final tale and once hearing it, they were immediately to forget it! The crowd hooted in glee and sat forward in anticipation. Melanger told them the full story, not leaving out any embarrassing detail and in finishing up, he ended with “and to this day, I do not know how the little buggers got the boots out of that bloody noose!” The crowd roared.

“I know.” Tashan stated.

Melanger quickly shushed the crowd. “You do? Why didn't you ever tell me?”

Tashan laughed and said “You never asked!”

The crowd waited. Melanger waited.

Tashan and Melanger played it up for the crowd. He finally rolled his eyes, sighed loudly and theatrically bowed before the woman. “Please General Tashan will you tell us what happened?”

“Certainly General Melanger, it would be my pleasure… I was keeping watch and saw Terran, run up the tree, along the branch and down the rope. She went down it head first, until she was about a foot above the noose knot. She hung onto the rope with her back feet and let go with the front. While she was dangling she used her front ‘hands' to loosen the noose. She let one boot fall at a time and the others caught them before they hit the ground. She then helped the other two carry the boots to the branch.”

Everyone stared at the ingenious little Mystics.

“I'm SO pleased they like me!!” Melanger yelled and joined the crowd as they roared in laughter.

Music and dancing finished up the night.


First thing in the morning, a mildly grumpy Chandral checked her seer and found the black spots solid. The deserters had obviously travelled all night and were only hours away. “Looks like the Mungenollan army have finished killing themselves. There's quite a few individuals heading into Somaik and they should be well and truly gone by the time we get there.”

“Cool.” Tarranna, Lili and Tashan finished packing their gear into their bags. “Anything dangerous looking nearby?” Lili asked.

“Only if you include me.” Chandral yawned widely and started to nod off again.

Tashan lifted Chandral's chin and kissed her with a sweetly gentle intensity.

Lili watched in dismay as her Royal Guard passionately kissed Chandral. Lili smacked Tarranna across the shoulder and whined. “I am a Queen too, why aren't you kissing me like that?”

Tarranna's face broke into a feral smile as she promptly kissed the Queen senseless. “Because you can't handle me kissing you like that.” She commented as she left the tent.

Lili's eyes were glazed and she could barely stand. “Oh, yeah! I forgot!”

Tashan laughed as she hugged the women to either side of her and led them to where the others were waiting.

As the trio stopped beside the rest of their team, the soldiers around them formed an opening and the mares trotted through the crowd. The surprised women welcomed their mounts and led them and the dragons over the border.

“Melanger, have a small force wait for the deserters and hurry them off of our land. Quick march the rest of the forces to the Somaikian border, this's to end as soon as possible. We're going ahead and will meet you there.”

“What are you going to do if find people from Somaik asking you to conquer them too?” Melanger asked his Queens.

“If that's a joke, I have a sword that knows how to behead smartass Generals.” Tarranna was not amused.

“It was actually, but I'm also serious.” Melanger smirked.

Lili signaled the guards to stand down as she put her arm around Tarranna's waist. She smiled at the General and answered him. “We'll broach letting people in if we need to. But the territory snatch stops here. You'd better let me get Tarranna out of here. She was signaling the team to crash-tackle you so we could take your boots for the babies.”

Melanger looked the team members in the eye, noting none of them looked ashamed of themselves. All looked a little too smug for his liking, particularly his Queen. “I'll remember this!” He warned them. He bowed to Queen Arobar, took her hand and gently kissed it. “I'm forever in your debt, Your Majesty.” He then polished his boots on the back of his trousers and walked to his horse.

“Snitch!” the others rumbled.

“I know you all hate me! But just think about it. We'd have been here for ages settling everything down when we could be off soaring with the horses and dragons.”

The team ‘ooo'ed and quickly changed their tune. “Love you!” they all sighed.

“I know you do. Let's go.” Lili quipped.

The team rode the mares out of sight of the troops and civilians, then dismounted and allowed the horses to release their wings. While they waited, the women removed jackets and head coverings from their packs, ready for the change in altitude. The Mungenolla / Somaik border was basically a huge, un-scalable mountain range. A small pass allowed access to and from the two countries. The pass was barely wide enough for two wagons to travel through side by side and was blocked with snow in winter. Luckily it was currently summer and there was only snow on the mountain peaks.

Once in the air, the team soared for hours, inspecting both sides of the border. To their relief, there were no masses of people heading out of Somaik. They landed just in time for lunch and set up a mini camp. The dragons disappeared only to return not long after with a small deer each. They left the carcasses untouched on the ground next to themselves. The team looked at each other then gently hugged and praised the gorgeous beasties. The Guards took off to keep watch and left the Queens with their baby dragons.

It wasn't long before the change started. The Queens winced and cringed as they watched the dragons going through the painful looking process. They couldn't look away or leave for fear of something going wrong.

Eventually it was over. The not so little dragons stood, stretched lazily and looked at their mothers. The mothers took the beasties' heads, hugged them close and talked nonsense to them but the dragons didn't seem to mind one tiny bit.

The dragons quickly devoured their feast then moved away from the women to properly stretch their new wings. The full grown dragons were magnificent. Their heads were fine boned and sculpted. Their wings were each about thirty three feet across and their bodies alone were around six and a half feet from the bottom of the belly to the top of the spine. Muscles rippled under their skin, their perfect definition apparent even with the scales covering them. Their legs were short, but proportionate to their bodies. Their tails were as long as their wings were wide and their necks only a little shorter.

The dragons' colouring was celestial. The women stared in amazement as the reflecting sunlight caused hundreds of rainbows to sprout from the bodies of each dragon. The dragons flapped their powerful wings and were hundreds of meters off the ground within seconds.

The mares joined them and the friends soon disappeared from sight.

Tarranna was in the process of pulling a chair from her pack when Chandral mused to the others “Wouldn't it be great to have something to cover our faces when we fly. The wind feels great but as soon as the mares get a bit faster it gets painful.”

“Yeah! Maybe like a helmet with a three quarter faceplate, but the faceplate would have to clear so we can see what's happening. And we can't forget the padding inside the helmet that makes it a snug fit on your head. That would be so cool.” Lili let her imagination loose. Tarranna stopped talking and listening. The others continued to talk around her, because she never was much for small talk so they didn't pay much notice.

Long minutes later, Tarranna spoke up. “I know I definitely didn't pack this!” She held up a helmet with a clear faceplate. It had a dragon very similar to Ashburn and a white flying horse painted on it. “It even has the padding inside.” She flipped the faceplate up and pulled the helmet onto her head. It fit perfectly. She lowered the faceplate and said, “Perfect vision.” She knocked on the clear material, impressed with its apparent strength. She pulled up the front and removed the helmet. She passed it to Lili, who tried it on.

While the others examined the helmet, Tarranna reviewed what she was doing just before finding it. The bag! She picked up the backpack, reached inside and said “I need a flying helmet for Lili.” She pulled out a helmet with a brown dragon and white flying horse on the outside. She stared in amazement at it. She handed it to Lili, who gave her partner a bewildered look, but tried on the offering. It fit her perfectly.

Tarranna asked for helmets for the rest of the team. Chandral's had a picture of a green dragon and white horse on hers (no real surprise there) and the guards had the Royal Seal with white horses.

After the last helmet was placed ready to be handed out, the rest of the Queens asked what was going on. “While we were discussing what we needed, I was getting things from the backpack. I visualized what we needed and it appeared. When Queen Alansa gave us the bags, she said something like they ‘hold everything' we need. We need the helmets, so it gave them to us.”

Lili put her hand in her bag and asked for the lovely piece of material the flag had been wrapped in. She pulled it out. “That was in Tashan's bag!” Said Chandral.

Lili unfolded the large square piece of material, diagonally folded it and tied the ends of the triangle together behind her neck. She pulled the folded section over her mouth and nose, put the helmet on and lowered the faceplate. Satisfied with the result, she removed the helmet but left the material around her neck. “What? I hate getting bugs in my mouth and nose!”

The other women quickly followed suit.

“I think we need to be very careful with what we ask for.” Chandral put forward. “I mean with stuff like food, we don't know if what we get is being taken from someone else who may need it more.”

“Very true. So we keep putting in the gear we find and may need later and only ask for thing we know are not available elsewhere. Like these helmets.” Lili confirmed.

“I left my favourite warm scarf and gloves at the castle. I wonder if I can get them!” Tarranna pulled the items out of the backpack. Tarranna looked at Lili and grinned widely.

Lili sighed and laughed. “I know! You totally love the Fairies and their gadgets!”

The Queens saw the Guards returning and updated them on the backpacks. Deltan and Geon give each other a scared look as they quickly closed their bags. “What's up with you two?” asked Lili.

The two guards looked anywhere but the Queens. They umm'd and ahh'd for a while before Geon tried to explain. “Well, we really want this… ‘item'… really badly want it. But it wouldn't be a good idea for the bag to bring us that ‘item'. So we aren't opening our packs, just in case.”

Tarranna, Chandral and Tashan accepted the explanation and went to check the seers for enemy positions and dungeon flashes. Lili eyeballed the two guards and said to the others. “I'm popping back to the castle for about an hour. I need to check on Patience. I'll give the twins a hug for you, Love. I'll take Deltan and Geon with me. They don't seem to have much to do here.”

Lili kissed Tarranna goodbye then took the hands of the two guards, whose moods had suddenly picked up. They reappeared in Tarranna's bedroom and before she let go of the Guards hands she gave them a squeeze. “Since when is Ranna an ‘item'? Come on, I can hear the kids playing in their room, so Ranna can't be far away… remember we only have an hour!!” she warned.

Ranna and the kids were gob smacked, excited and thrilled to see the travelers. Lili's was pleased when the other three women decided to stay with her and the kids. The trio sat on the lounge together, snuggled and occasionally kissed but mostly they just talked.

When it was time to leave, Ranna hugged Lili and thanked her profusely for giving her loves some compassionate leave. Lili smiled and said to her new mum “I'm sorry it couldn't be for longer.”

Ranna hugged Lili tighter. “Normally I wouldn't see them at all. I wouldn't have even been able to tell them how I feel and wouldn't know if they're even still alive. I thank the Mother and the Fairy Queen every night for the gifts they've given you and my girls.”

“As soon as it's safe, we'll come get all of you for the day again.” Lili swore.

Ranna nodded her understanding, kissed Lili's cheek and waved goodbye as they disappeared. “Gramma, why are you crying?” Patience asked softly.

Ranna picked up the girl and hugged her close before she ticked the child's belly. “These are tears of joy, precious one. I'm just so happy we got to see your mummy, Deltan and Geon.”

Ndindari and Macgaven took Ranna's spare hand and directed her to see a project they'd completed, which successfully distracted the woman.


When they reappeared at the campsite, Lili, Deltan and Geon found three dragons curled up on the ground but no horses or other women. “No guesses where the others have gone!” Lilly laughed.

The blonde Queen walked to the dragons, greeted all of them with a head scratch and a kiss on the forehead. She moved her chair closer to Terran so the beastie could rest her head on Lili's lap. “I really miss being able to cuddle you.” She sighed.

It took all of the woman's personal self-control to stop herself from screaming in shock when the huge creature virtually disappeared. She looked down to find the same mature adult body in miniature form. Terran was the same size she'd been as a baby! Lili whooped and scooped up the tiny dragon. From the enthusiastic way Terran licked and snuggled into her mother, she must have missed the contact as much as Lili did. Lili looked at Silvana and Ash and told them “If you two want cuddles, there're spare warm bodies over there.” Lili pointed with her head toward the two surprised guards. The same surprised guards instinctively caught the tiny dragons pelting at them. The women accepted the licks and bodies rubbing against theirs with a smile and they moved their chairs closer to Lili's. The women sat and expressed their wonder at the creatures sitting in their arms.

“I never imagined they were so soft to touch, they look like they're so protected and tough.” Deltan ran her hand softly over the Mystic's back and head.

“I love the way they purr, almost like a cat!” Geon chuckled.

They sat in contented silence, just soaking up the relaxed atmosphere while they could. “I feel like we should get up and do something useful or at least feel guilty for not.” Deltan sighed.

“Deltan, it is my Royal command that you get over that guilt and relax.” Lili commanded.

Deltan laughed and casually saluted Her Majesty. “Consider it done, Queen Arobar.”

Geon laughed too, and then asked “Your Majesty. May I ask why you're called Lili?”

Lili chuckled and fondly reminisced about her family. “When I was little, my parents told me they'd prayed for years for a child but could never conceive. Then one night they heard a baby crying in their garden. They took a lantern and looked for ages before they could find where the noise was coming from. They said they found a tiny little Princess so surrounded by flowers it seemed they were protecting her. When they finally were able to see the precious little baby, they reckoned their hearts flooded with such love and protectiveness and they knew instantly she was their gift from whatever Gods were listening to their nightly prayers. They named her Arobar Lilianda and called her Lili after the majority of the plants guarding her. And to remind them of how much they'd begged for and loved their gift from the Gods.”

Deltan and Geon wiped the tears from their eyes and cheeks. “What happened to them?”

Lili cleared her throat and smiled at the guards. “I turned eighteen the day I was married. We had to have a huge wedding but not long afterwards our parents came with us to our summer home where it was nice and quiet…” She smiled fondly at the images in her head. Her voice got harder as she progressed with the story. “I was married for three days when we were attacked. Our parents fought like demons but they really didn't stand a chance. My husband tried to fight but was cut down pretty quickly. The bastard leader killed everyone I loved. He rounded up as many people as he could, chained, humiliated and starved us. He had great pleasure in taunting me about how he'd murdered my family and how was looking forward to raping me… He was getting ready to transport us out of the territory when he was attacked and killed. I have never been so happy to hear about someone being gutted and castrated in all my life.”

Lili adjusted her position in the chair as she threw off the horrible feelings and laughed. “I heard after we were released that Queen Tarranna of Georstrie had sent a contingent of soldiers into help my parents with raiders. That force had been the one to save us. A few months later I realised I was pregnant with Patience. It was only after I met and fell in love with Tarranna I found out she'd actually led the raid and was the one to kill the prick.”

“You're kidding!” Deltan choked out.

“No, it's the truth... Chandral reckons everything that's happening with us is a ‘Chronic Case of Fate'. I'm beginning to believe she's right.” Lili wiped the tears from her eyes and hugged Terran closer. “I haven't even told Tarra all that.”

“And to think I was expecting you to say something like ‘well Geon, I really love flowers' or ‘Well Geon, one day I was running in the garden and tripped in a bed of lilies'.” Geon smiled as the Queen roared with laughter. “I really like your story better than mine. Thank you for sharing it with us.”

“It was my pleasure. I haven't thought about my parents telling me that for ages. It was good to remember how much they loved me.”

The dragons lifted their heads in unison and looked into the distance. “I see the mares heading this way.” Deltan said as she moved to stand up.

“Uh ah!! What did I command you to do?” Queen Arobar asked.

Deltan sat back down and thought back, “Ah… get over my guilt and relax?”

“Did I rescind that order?” Lili laughed.

“No Majesty.” Deltan grinned.

“Then where are you going?”

“… Nowhere, Majesty.”

“Good answer.” Lili watched with a huge grin on her face as the horses landed. The women dismounted, thanked their steeds and removed their helmets as they walked to the seated women.

Tarranna smiled in pure response to Lili's grin. “Why are the babies small again? Did you bath them and they shrunk? What have you been up to?” Tarra cheekily asked as she leaned over to give her partner a kiss.

Lili accepted the welcome before answering. “It seems they can now change size at will and they wanted snuggle time. I just telling these two women how lucky I am to have you around and how much I love being involved in your life.” Tarranna looked embarrassed and shuffled her feet. “I even had to order them to stay in their chairs so they wouldn't run away from my soppy stories.”

Geon and Deltan snorted as they tried to contain their laughter. “Ok then… I'll just go brush the horses.” Tarranna gave Lili another kiss before leaving. Chandral looked at the seated women, saw the cheeky grins, hastily turned and ran to join her sister.

Tashan pulled up a chair next to Lili and joined her Queen to watch the sisters walk back to the mares. Tash started scratching the dragon's head as she watched the twins as they laughed and gently pushed each other. Lili and Tashan's eyes glazed as they watched their hot bodied partners move away from them.

“Do you two want us to leave so you can go attack them?” asked Geon, quite seriously.

Lili and Tashan negatively shook their heads, their eyes never left their partners bodies. “Nah, it's just nice to sit and watch.” Breathed Tashan. “They are such an awesome sight to watch!”

“They're so damn sexy without realizing it! I love the way they work together. I bet Chan didn't even ask Tarra to hand her the brush.” Lili gushed.

“Have you noticed they even walk the same way?” Tash gushed back.

“Oh yeah, the little sway of the hips and the hint of arrogance in their steps.” Lili groaned. “Not that I've checked them out often… at all!!”

“Nah, I can tell.” Tashan chuckled.

“Oh well, thank you very much for pointing that out to us!” Deltan grumbled as she leaned forward and watched the twins. “Holy crap! That's their mother's walk!” She stuttered.

“Oh good grief!! It is too! I'll never be able to look at them again!” cried Geon.

“So, you two did a great job of hiding your relationship from us!” Cooed Lili. “How long have you been a couple?”

“Three years, four months and nineteen days.” Deltan recited.

“You know that off by heart?” Geon sighed.

Deltan looked surprised. Shouldn't she know it? “Of course I do!” she whispered to her love. “Every morning for the last 1,236 days I've woken up and thanked you for loving me. I don't have the nerve to tell you but I think it.”

Geon almost cried as she melted into her chair and pulled Deltan's hand to her lips. “That's the most beautiful thing I've ever heard… and I really needed to hear it.”

Deltan was shocked and looked like she'd just woken from a trance. “I said that out loud? I've never had the guts to before, why now?”

“And I like you two a lot, but why did I tell you things I've never told Tarra?” Lili mused.

“When I sat down, I was feeling really happy and good, but now I feel content with the way my life is heading. Especially now I'm working with all of you, I need you to know that… Lili, I don't think I've thanked you for being my friend. Finding you was the best thing that's ever happened to me and I love you.” Tashan said.

“I love you too Tash.” Lili shook her head and tried to focus. “We are never this mushy!! What the heck's happening?... When you sat down Tashan, you started patting Terran!” Lili gasped. She looked at the little creatures sleeping contentedly in their laps. “We were feeling relaxed and enjoying each other's company. When Geon asked about my name, I needed to remember what my parents told me and how much they loved me. Geon needed to hear what Deltan said… I think the dragons are projecting their feelings to us! They're so content they're helping us say things we need to. And helping us say what others need to hear.”

Deltan roared with laughter, “So in other words we're getting infected with dragon soppiness!” She gently picked Ash off her lap, kissed the little beast and hugged him before she handed him to Tashan. She then passionately kissed her still melting partner and practically ran to her non emotional Queens.

“We are so blessed to have such gorgeous partners!” Tashan gushed.

The other two nodded and Lili picked up a still sleeping Terran and moved her to a more comfortable position. “And you my little dragons are getting to be more downright awesome every day!”


The women stared in amazement at the sight in front of them. And after the things they'd seen recently, that was saying a heck of a lot. Thousands of animals were pouring into Mungenolla. The speed of the steady stream of beasts was brisk, determined and non-aggressive. Predators walked beside prey as they passed the women and Mystics and continued into their new home.

“There's animals in there I've never even heard of, let alone seen before.” Lili said.

“I hope we don't overpopulate the land, I'd hate to see them starve.” Tashan sighed.

Chandral thought back, thinking about the gnomes they'd met. “Bearin said wherever we go the Earth will flourish. Maybe they won't starve after all… Do you get the feeling they know something we don't?”

“I certainly do sista.” Tarranna piped up, not quite knowing what to expect next.

“Incoming!!” yelled Deltan from her perch in a nearby tree.

Not long after, hundreds of people ran past the women. The runners hurried to get through the pass before nightfall. The women were mostly ignored. Those idiots brave enough to even think of robbing them were quickly reformed by the appearance of the huge dragons.

One man stormed past, yelling at the top of his lungs. “Bastards! Took me weapons and now there's bloody beasts everywhere wanting to kill me. Filthy thieving bastards!”

Tarranna laughed to Chandral “It's nice to know our people do their work so well.”

A brute of a man came toward them. He was dragging two kids around ten years old behind him. Tarranna and Chandral moved to stand in his way. “Move bitches!” He demanded.

“Do you want to go with him?” Chandral asked the two girls. They stared at her with wide, terrified eyes. They emphatically shook their heads negatively.

“Let go of the kids and I may let you live.” Tarranna demanded.

“Back off or you'll be the ones dead.” The idiot replied.

Tarranna drew her sword.

The idiot pulled his weapon and let go of the girls in the process. As the captives backed away from the brute, Lili got their attention and motioned for them to join her. She led the shaking girls well away from the deserters and the imminent fight.

The man dropped his sword and gasped in fear as Ashburn pushed his way in front of Tarranna and Chandral. The twins hurried to join the other women, unsure of what the dragon was going to do.

Ash extended his wings to full spread, stood on his hind legs and roared magnificently. He picked the man up in his front ‘hand' and threw the brute toward his sister Terran. Terran kept her eyes on the brute and as he dropped closer, she flipped her tail and hit him with all her considerable strength. He soared through the air and landed in the middle of the trotting herds. The child abusing brute ended up as a rather large blood stain on the ground.

The Queens and Royal Guards were very impressed! Throw a something, possibly a sphere, at someone and hit it. Maybe even mix it with the game they'd played when Deltan and Geon made the blanket ball. That could be an interesting game! They could call it Dragonball!

The young girls couldn't believe what was happening. They explained how the brute had dodged the soldiers and intended taking his slaves (them) with into the next land. The women gave the girls food and water and after they'd fallen asleep, Chandral and Tarranna popped them back to the castle where Ranna waited for them.

Just after the Queens returned Lili said “I checked the seer and this is the last of the animals coming in now. They should all be through in around fifteen minutes.” The twins smiled their thanks to her and they all watched Melanger and around fifty soldiers ride up.

“Majesties. We left the main force a few miles back, we didn't want to crowd the animals. Just why are they coming in anyway?”

“Good work and no idea.” Tarranna answered him. “Leave the army where it is for the moment. There aren't any forces coming from the other side. We have to work out how to seal the pass permanently and if we can't we'll need to leave a few thousand soldiers here to guard it.”

“It's a shame we don't know what's causing those dungeons to crumble when we're finished cleaning them up.” Chandral mused. “That could've sealed the pass quite nicely.”

“Mmm…” Tarranna agreed. “The mess left behind probably would've kept people out for years. If they even remembered we were here.”

A familiar belly laugh rang throughout the area. The women looked at each other and laughed along. Bearin and his people appeared around the Queens. Queen Alansa and her people appeared in a magnificent display of flashing lights.

Lili greeted them all with genuine warmth. “Your Majesty, Bearin. It's good to see you again! You all look fit and healthy!”

Bearin laughed again and pulled at his shaggy beard. “Never been better, thanks to you lovely ladies.”

Alansa smiled at everyone then got down to business. “The Mother has sent us to help you, this time.” The Queen looked at the dragons and her smile grew even wider. “I have never seen dragons go through their growth stages so quickly, it truly is remarkable.” Alansa flew to the dragons and appeared to communicate with them. She returned minutes later. “Bearin are you and your people ready?”

“Yes. We are at your command Majesty.” Bearin assured her.

“Thank you. Please get into position while I let these good people know what we're going to do.” Bearin nodded to Alansa and all the Gnomes disappeared.

“The Mother has asked the Fairies, Gnomes and dragons to work together. She would like this pass sealed and a protection spell put around the entire continent. By the time we finish the mountain range will be complete. The spell we use will make the mountains appear to be cliffs dropping into the sea. From the outside it will appear the continent of Atlantis has been swallowed into the ocean forever. Non Atlantians will see a devastating mass of rocky landscapes being endlessly hit with a boiling sea of huge waves. From the sky the view will be the same. Atlantis will be protected by a barrier letting natives in and out but nothing else.”

“Do you know why the Mother is locking us in?” Chandral asked.

“Only that she sees great changes coming and not all for the better. Our world is threatened and she wants us to be safe.” Alansa sighed.

“Is there anything we can do to help you?” Lili enquired.

“As a matter of fact, there is.” The tiny Queen grinned.


Melanger and the soldiers were told to hurry back to the main forces and establish camp. The Queens and their Guards mounted the mares and flew high above the mountain peaks. Each member of the Elite force carried a Fairy in their pocket. The Fairies they carried became relays for the Mystic forces closing the mountain pass.

Tarranna watched in awe when the peaks near the pass rumbled and groaned as massive pieces of rocks floated from their parent mountain to the passage. The floating sections slowly lowered into the vacant space and filled the hole. When the hole was no longer, the Gnomes worked their magic and the pieces of rock merged into one massive impenetrable barrier.

As asked to be Alansa, the dragons had flown off. One was at the far end of Atlantis. One was in the middle of the country and one above the mountain wall. Queen Alansa and her people were scattered all over the land. They simultaneously waved their magic wands and created the spells that were targeted at the dragons, magnified and set in place. The result was a huge dome that protected and camouflaged the entire land. Alansa closed her eyes and verified what they'd just created was working effectively. She smiled and let everyone know they'd succeeded!

Atlantis had disappeared into the ocean forever.

Long live new Atlantis!

The Gnomes and Fairies stayed with the team for a little while but were soon gone.

That night, the women camped near the pass away from their armies and secure in the knowledge their world was safe from invasion. The dragons minimized themselves and happily snuggled into their mothers. Their mothers happily snuggled into their partners.

Now all they had to do was clear out all the remaining dungeons.


The women packed up camp and checked their seers. A black spot was flashing rather quickly, so Tarranna sent a message to Melanger telling him to have her and Lili's Ministers split up and oversee the new major cities. The cities were to be rebuilt quickly under the Queens' laws and beliefs.

While Tarranna was sending her message, Chandral sent one to Nevike and the Centaurs, thanking them for the offer of assistance, which was no longer necessary. Chandral told them to return to their homes, safe in the knowledge invasion was no longer a concern.

Tarranna stood in front of the mare who had befriended her. “I know you sense when I need you and I think you can understand me. I'm sorry, but I can't go on thinking of you as just ‘horse' or ‘flying horse' or ‘mare'. I believe the name Luna suits you. Do you like that? Luna?” Luna nodded and snuffed the woman's chest. “Excellent! Hey everyone, this is Luna.” Tarranna announced.

The other women followed suit and soon the horses had lovely names. Lili's was Mysti. Chandral's Pegges. Geon's Flyen. Tashan's Elia. Deltan's Annar.

The women then donned their helmets, mounted their lovely steeds and flew to the next dungeon. It was a small fortress on top of an isolated cliff, with no access by foot. The only flat part of the roof didn't look strong enough to support the weight of the tall horses and there was no other suitable place to land. The horses had to touchdown at the bottom of the cliff where the women dismounted and thanked their friends.

The team took off their helmets, put them in their bags then stood looking up at the un-scalable cliff. “Tarra, do you remember when you told me you carry me anywhere, anytime?” Lili enquired as she continued to look up.

“Yep… I lied.” Tarranna assured her.

“Yeah, thought that may be the case.” Lili chuckled.

Tarranna swooped in and picked up the smaller woman with ease. Lili put her arms around the dark haired woman's neck and snuggled into her chest. The two made gooey eyes at each other as Tarranna told the guards “You know the drill ladies.”

Four sets of eyes rolled as Chandral, Deltan, Geon and Tashan touched either Lili or Tarranna. The team reappeared on the roof not far from a shuttered window. After gently sliding Lili to her feet, Tarranna kissed the blonde's cheek and moved to the window. Tarra meticulously checked for traps, then warned the women to move back and to the side. Tarranna pulled at the shutter then instantly slammed it shut. The metal head and several inches of a crossbow bolt appeared through the wood.

“That would've hurt like a bitch!” surmised Deltan and the others cringed in agreement.

The team carefully made their way into the building. Tarranna and Geon found several more booby traps and disarmed them. Crossbows were cocked and the triggers set to release when doors were opened and chests were armed in a similar way. Chandral took lead once the room-doors were open and used her staff to create a tiny wind funnel to lift the lids on the chests.


The noise was deafening and the explosion would have killed anyone who opened it.

“What the hell was that?” Geon choked.

Nobody could answer.

“I do believe I'll be opening pretty much everything from now on.” Chandral stated.

Nobody argued with her.

The team quickly checked the half dozen rooms on the second floor then started down the stairs.

The stairs abruptly disappeared and the women were suddenly sliding down a very slippery ramp. Toward a pit at the bottom!

Instead of trying to stop, the women did what they could to speed up. Tarranna, Lili, Deltan, Geon and Tashan made the jump to the other side of the hole. Unfortunately they couldn't get out of the way fast enough for Chandral to do anything but grab for the edge as she fell.

Chandral threw her hands out but missed the side of the hole. She looked down and instantly wished she hadn't. She was quickly falling onto hundreds of sharpened wooden stakes. Chandral grunted as her fall was abruptly stopped by Tarranna as she grabbed Chandral's outstretched hand. Tarranna started to slip further into the pit. “Let me go! Don't you fall too!” Chandral demanded.

Tarranna felt hands grab her legs and drag her back over the edge. She gripped Chandral's hand harder and reached for the other one. Tarranna locked her eyes on her sister's and yelled “Don't you dare let go! Get your scrawny ass back up here now!”

“And just how am I supposed to do that?? Levitate??!!” Chandral yelled back.

“Well that would definitely be better than just hanging there!” Tarranna was scared and it showed.

A soft voice spoke up “Ahem! Chandral, can't you pop up here?”

Chandral and Tarranna didn't breathe. Their eyes were still locked and the fear quickly turned to relief. Chandral winked at Tarranna as she disappeared. Tarranna was left hanging over the edge of the pit, looking at the lethal weapons waiting below. A skeleton lay skewered between the stakes and something shiny between the bones attracted Tarranna's attention.

Miniature Ashburn was buzzing around the pit and saw what the item that attracted his mummy's attention. He flew down to retrieve it.

Tarranna returned to the top of the hole and heard Tashan moan into Chandral's chest. Tarranna casually walked to stand next to her sister and promptly smacked the back of her twin's head. “Ouch, that hurt! What was that for?” Chandral griped.

Tashan released her love and wiped the tears from her face. She watched in relieved amusement as Tarranna poked Chandral's chest. “That was for telling me to let you go!” She smacked Chandral on the shoulder. “That was for scaring the living hell out of me!” As Tarranna made to smack her again, Chandral grabbed her sister's hand and pulled her into a hug. “I wasn't finished yet!”

“I know... Thank you so very much for hanging around with me!” Everyone snorted in amusement then made out like they were going to smack Chandral. “Fine, be critical!... What does Ash have?”

Tarranna released Chandral and took a silver object from Ash's hands. She gathered Ash into her other arm and hugged him into her chest. “You are such a good help, thank you.” Ashburn crawled up Tarranna's chest, over her left shoulder, around her neck and perched on her right shoulder. He watched curiously as she turned the item over in her hands. It split into a pair of silver wrist guards, with ornate pictograms engraved into them.

Tarranna couldn't decipher any of the marks. She handed one bracer Chandral who checked every part of the item. Tarra handed the other bracer to the guards who looked at it then passed it around. It finally ended up with Lili. “It says ‘Blessed are the Mother's Children. May they forever thrive in Her love and glory.' It's very beautiful.” Lili made to pass the item back to Tarranna but it moved out of her hand and snapped shut over her forearm. “I didn't do that!” The other bracer flew out of Chandral's hand and wrapped around Lili's other wrist.

A resounding and echoing “BANG” sent the women reaching for their weapons and jogging toward a nearby room. The team carefully entered the doorway only to find Terran and Silvana flying near the ceiling. The female dragons held a chest delicately between them which they then purposefully dropped. The tiny dragons watched contentedly as it shattered on the stone floor. Several weapons scattered on the floor, the guards inspected the items and placed the better ones in a pack.

Chandral and Tarranna stood close to Lili, concerned about the things on her wrists. “I can't get them off and my hands won't slide out.”

Chandral took one of the wrist-guards in her hand, closed her eyes and extended her senses to the Flow. “I still can't feel anything negative about it. There's a spell attached, but I can't tell what it's for, just that it isn't malevolent. Does it hurt or cause any problems for you?”

“No, in fact I can't even tell it's there.” Lili assured her.

Chandral moved Lili's arm around and ran her fingers over every part of the guard in an attempt to find a mechanism to release the catch. “Let me know if it starts to hurt, we may have to amputate at the neck.”

“Oh yeah, that freaking hysterical!” Lili chuckled and gave Chandral a quick hug to take the sting out of her comment. “Thanks… I'm glad you're not dead at the bottom of that pit!”

The Queens' attention was snared by the guards letting them know the room was clear. Tarranna held Lili's hand until they arrived at the next doorway. Tarranna picked the lock, then gestured for everyone to move parallel with the stone wall of the room. She used her sword to push the door open. Crossbow bolts flew through the entryway and bounced off the wall on the other side of the hallway. “There must be something worth protecting in there.” Tarra grinned.

Tarranna and Geon cleared the room of traps and started to look around as the others joined them. Tarranna picked up a book off the desk. She opened it and started reading. “This is a journal and the person who wrote in it is going on about Mystics and how Sarl has worked out how to catch them.” She read some more. “He also mentions doing experiments on the soldiers sent to him - something about lobotomy and brainwashing them. Whatever that's supposed to mean, I don't know? ”

Chandral let out a sharp cry and collapsed into a nearby chair. She waved off the concern as she repeated what she'd found. “He put a long thin rod of metal through their eye socket, between the upper lid and eye. Then he hit it with a hammer to break the bone and then wobbled the rod around. Then he'd repeat it on other eye. He'd lock them up and have ‘kill' repeated endlessly, until that's all they knew what to do.” She looked around at the others. “That's not even the vilest thing he did!” She took a breath. “He made books and books of notes in very specific detail. The pictures he drew are unbelievably precise.” She looked around and asked “Do you think it's wrong of me to want to take the books, not to repeat what he did but to use the information to help others?”

Tarranna told her to take them. Lili put her hand on Chandral's shoulder and helped the woman collect the vilely gained information. They placed the numerous volumes into Chandral's pack.

“Here are books on the Mystics. He's been cataloguing their types, subtypes, abilities.” Tashan handed the encyclopaedia type volumes to Tarranna. Who skimmed the pages of one book then placed them all in her pack.

“Put everything you find in either Chandral's or my pack and let's get the hell out of this horrible place.” Tarranna said and nobody argued.

Lili groaned as she said “A little help here!!” Tarranna motioned for the guards to finish packing the books while she ran to Lili's aid.

As Chandral and Tarranna slid to a stop beside her, Lili looked up and said “The left wrist guard's pulling me toward that bookcase.” The twins moved the last of the items off the shelving and found nothing. They tried to move the shelf but it was attached to the wall. Chandral slipped slightly and grabbed the handle of a torch to stabilise herself. The torch holder slid down the bricks and the bookcase started to move across the wall.

“You lot got everything?” Tarranna yelled to the guards. The guards put the item from the bookcase in a pack, nodded, joined the Queens and quickly returned the packs their owners. “Good, ‘cause it looks like we're heading that way.” She pointed into the murky darkness behind the now open door. The darkness edged away as light slowly filled the tunnel. The women looked uneasily at each other. They hadn't initiated the light. “Geon, we're up, come on.”

The pair cautiously led the way out of the room. They followed the tunnel for about two hundred yards before they came to a large chamber. In the middle of the room was a stone archway, approximately seven foot tall and eight feet wide. Stacked beside the arch were dozens of small barrels labelled ‘exploding black-powder'. The women carefully placed the barrels in their packs.

Lili suddenly moved toward one corner of the chamber as the bracer again pulled her. Tarranna and Geon moved competently in front of her, checked for traps and thankfully found none. They came to a door with a peep door near the top. Tarranna checked inside where someone was chained to the wall, but there were no guards. She unbolted the door and stepped in. She motioned for everyone to stay put while she and Geon retrieved the person from inside. They returned not long later with a filthy dirty woman, who had the bottom half of a goat!

They moved across the room and Tashan walked through the archway. She promptly disappeared. “No!!” screamed Chandral as she popped out of sight.

The pair returned minutes later, Tashan looked shaken but otherwise ok. She quickly summarised her trip. “As I walked through the arch, I was thinking how good it'll be to get out of here and find a nice secluded spot with a stream and trees, you know what I mean. Next thing there I was in the place I was thinking of. An arch like this one was next to me.”

“I popped after her but we came back through the arch. I didn't feel anything evil connected with it.” Chandral contributed.

“Deltan, can you take her please?” Tarranna helped Deltan take over supporting the barely conscious woman then inspected the arch. “It's not secured to the floor. Geon and Tashan can you carry the dragons and hold onto Chandral and Lili. I'll take Deltan. Chandral and Lili if we put our hands on the arch's frame we may be able to take it with us. Ok, everyone think of the place we camped when we rescued the gnomes.

They reappeared in the glen with the archway.

They ignored the arch while seers were checked and the site secured. The others quickly made camp while Chandral assisted the woman to clean up in the river. Once clean, Chandral and the satyr walked to the fire. The other women acknowledged the stranger with a welcoming nod, but didn't pressure her to talk.

The dragons had returned to full size and taken off, presumably to hunt for their dinner.

While they ate, Tarranna filled Chandral in on what they'd been able to find out about the archway. “When you walk through it, you think of where you want to go. Just like Tashan did. We went in and wanted to be a hundred yards that way.” She motioned with her head toward north. “A new door appeared until we returned through the original, then it disappeared. Nobody could use the second door unless they were with the person who used the first door.”

“It'll be fantastic for getting our ministers and guards to different parts of the country when we aren't around to do it.”

The satyr softly spoke up. “From what I heard, the second door will dissipate after several hours. That's why they had linked door in places they regularly visited.”

“Do you know how many other doors there are?” Lili asked gently. The satyr shook her head negatively as she shrank into the background. “Thank you, you've helped us heaps.” Lili smiled at the shy young woman. “I'm Lili, what's your name?”

The woman looked confused. “I don't have one… My keeper said I was only good for one thing and that didn't necessitate me having a name.” The young satyr looked at the ground in front of her.

The livid women didn't need to be told what the one thing was. “He's dead now, so you can give yourself a name.” Chandral tenderly informed the woman.

The satyr still looked confused. “ok… Who do I go with first?” she looked around the fire at the women.

Chandral moved closer to the satyr and told her to look into her eyes. “You don't have to be with any of us, we didn't bring you here for sex. You are free to go and do what you want to.”

The satyr burst into tears. She muttered in between sobs and Chandral interpreted as best she could. “She's upset because if she's not here for sex then she's certain she's useless and we'll kill her.”

Lili looked at the other team members and mumbled “She's going to need a hell of a lot of help that we can't give her… Dearest Mother, we have a young satyr who desperately needs her family. Please send them to us so she can have the help she needs . Thank you, Mother .”

An hour later, the women jumped to gather their weapons as they sensed someone approaching the camp. Half a dozen female satyrs emerged from the darkness and the team lowered their weapons. The elder of the satyrs stepped forward “You have one of my children here. Is she your prisoner?”

Tarranna stepped forward and bowing her head in respect “No mother, we removed her from a dungeon where she was locked up and badly mistreated. We called you here to take her home.”

The elder looked Tarranna in the eye then each of the others in turn as she evaluated their honesty. The elder motioned for those behind her to retrieve their sibling. She kept her attention on Tarranna but watched her daughters' progress in her periphery. The satyrs sniffed their lost sister and verified her genetic match to their own. Although not direct siblings, their ancestors were the same, making them blood relatives. The structure of their society was such that aunties and cousins were identical in responsibility and necessity to mothers and sisters. They encouraged the woman to stand and follow them past their mother and into the woods. The elder nodded her thanks to Tarranna and ambled after her daughters.

After the satyrs had left, Chandral shivered and looked to the horizon. The others saw her distraction and moved to her side. “Something just happened.” She calmed herself, took a breath and linked into the Flow. What she found really didn't surprise her much at all. “The cliff dungeon was just destroyed. There's nothing left but the rubble. I can't make out what caused the destruction.”

The women quietly went back to what they were doing, still unsure of what to make of the idea the dungeons were being destroyed as they cleaned them out.

That night, the couples pitched small two person tents and spent some quality time with their partners.

No one was awake to see the dragons return to camp and settle around the campfire.


The next morning, Tarranna pulled one of the books from the tower out of her backpack. She scanned through it and found the section dedicated to the exploding black-powder. She read that there were three basic chemicals in the concoction saltpetre, charcoal powder, and sulphur powder. The process appeared simple but rather ‘slaphappy'. When the substance was made correctly, it readily burned when ignited and an explosion could be expected when the powder was tightly packed.

“Who the hell would've thought to mix those things together?” She pondered quietly as she pulled a small container from her backpack and filled it with powder from a barrel. Attached to the barrel was a waterproof bag of thin cords, cut into different lengths. Tarranna followed the instructions from the book, chose one of the medium length cords and ran it through a cork she'd drilled a small hole through. She sealed the container with the cork and ensured the cord touched the powder.

The dragons followed Tarranna from the camp as she wandered around a nearby open area. The sat on their haunches and curiously watched as she found a dead tree stump and placed the container in a large crack of the stump. They tilted their heads to the side. Their attention riveted as she removed her flint set from the bag on her hip and lit the cord.

As Tarranna halted her jog back to them, they greeted her with loving licks and head rubs to her body. The woman picked up the dragons and hugged them close as they all watched the small flame make its way along the length of the cord to the container.


Tarranna watched in disbelief as the stump disintegrated in front of her eyes. “Oooppss”. “Sorry Mother.” She sighed as bits of dead wood continued to fall from the air around her.

Tarranna didn't turn around as five women, all in different stages of dress, appeared beside her. The women all had their weapons drawn and had wild looks in their eyes. “What the heck was that? Who's attacking us?!!” Deltan asked as they all checked their surroundings for the enemy.

“That was a small container of the exploding black-powder and nobody is attacking, I did it.”

The five women stared in exasperation at their fearless leader, then four of them looked at Chandral. They continued to stare at the newest Queen, who squinted at them, not quite understanding what they wanted from her. “Aahh.” She groaned as realisation finally dawned, a little slowly but it got there. Chandral took a breath and gently smacked her sister. “What the hell did you do that for? You scared the living shit out of us!!”

Tarranna looked at the women, a sheepish look on her face. “I didn't think it would cause that much damage… or noise.” She looked back to where the stump had been. She put the dragons on the ground and watched as they ran to the damaged area and snuffed around. “The stump that was over there was four feet around and three foot high… I used a container…” She pulled a similar vessel from her pack and held it so the others could see. “… this big of the exploding stuff.”

The team looked at the area were the scattered remains of the stump were still settling on the ground. They stood in stunned silence, contemplating the ‘off the chart' scare factor of the discovery. “Do you think they had more of the bloody stuff?” Whispered Geon.

“I don't know, but we'll be treading more carefully from now on!” Lili placed her arm around Tarranna and leaned in close to the woman as the others walked hesitantly back to the camp. “The potential for that as a weapon scares the hell out of me, Lili.”

Lili moved to the front of her partner and looked up into her eyes. “I know. Me too…”

“I read in one of the books we found they got the recipe for the black-powder from a stranger wandering around here. He was tortured until he showed them how to make it properly and was kept alive until they could make it themselves. I hope we got all they made.”

“Maybe that's why The Mother wanted us separate from the rest of the world, to protect us from stuff like that.”

“Mmmm… She's definitely a smart woman.”

They looked at where the stump had been one more time then returned to camp.

Chandral looked up from her seer as her fellow Queens drew closer to her. She smiled at them and said “There's nothing flashing and any remaining red dots are now surrounded by our troops.”

“Cool. Thanks.” Tarranna sat near her sister and accepted food from Deltan.

“When we're going through the dungeons, has it been worth the effort of opening the chests?” asked Lili, as she accepted food from and nodded her thanks to Deltan.

Everyone considered the question. “I have found some things that are useful, but not vital. There was your wrist guards but they were in the pit.” Geon said.

“If we don't open all of them, don't we run the risk of missing something that may help us release the Mystics? Like keys and such?” Tashan enquired.

“True! Unfortunately, we don't all have the lock picking capabilities of Tarranna.” Deltan laughed. “And when we wander off in separate ways, it becomes a pain if we don't have a key.”

“If we use a small grappling hook, maybe we can use it to open the lids?” Geon suggested. “We wouldn't need to throw it at the chest, we run the rope then set the hook on the lid.”

The warriors thought about the suggestion, analysing possible problems. “That should work well! It's simple, so fewer things can go wrong. We should make sure the ropes and hooks are lightweight, so if the chest is little it won't pull back with the hook.” Deltan recommended.

“It's a shame we don't have anything to practise on…” sighed Geon as she and the other guards put their heads together to confer on design before asking the bags for the tools.

Chandral and Tarranna nodded to each other then walked around twenty feet from the others. “Do you think we can get a chest?” asked Tarranna.

“It's worth a try. But we have to be careful not to bump it too much. I don't want to end up like your stump!!” Chandral grinned at her sister.

Tarranna smiled back as she removed the bag off her back. She put it on the ground whilst kneeling next to it. “Bag, please bring me a chest with the exploding powder rigged in it - from the nearest dungeon.” She reached in further and felt a wooden box. She carefully held the lid closed with one hand and lifted it an inch off the bottom of the bag with the other hand. She nodded she was ready to Chandral.

Chandral knelt behind the pack and slowly pulled it toward her. The chest was slowly dragged out of the bag and ended up being around a foot and a half high and three foot long.

The women got off the ground and grinned smugly at each other as their prize was seen by the others. The guards whooped in excitement as they ran to their Queens. Tashan gently pushed Geon closer to the chest. “Go for it shorty, it was your idea!”

Geon was too excited to reprimand Tashan for calling her short. She looked at Tarranna and Chandral before going ahead. They nodded and motioned for her to do it. Deltan walked away from the chest unrolling the thin twenty foot long rope as she went. Geon gently set the hook on the locking mechanism of the lid and held the lid closed as Deltan straightened the rope. Geon jogged to the rest of the group and nodded her thanks to Deltan as she surrendered the rope to her friend.

Geon pulled the cord and grimaced as the chest promptly blew up.

The guards hooted in glee and jogged to what was left of the box. The end of the rope and hook were scorched but still in good nick. Tarranna and Chandral walked to the guards and showed them how they'd retrieved the chest.

The device was again attached to a box and Deltan set off the explosive.

The Queens watched tolerantly as the guards called for and set up a third, then a fourth and then a fifth chest. The Queens pulled chairs from their packs and sat close enough they could hear each other talk without having to raise their voices. “How long do you think it'll take before they get sick of it?” Lili laughed.

Tarranna closed her eyes and turned her face into the sun, drinking in the warmth.

“It'll be hours! They're having way too much fun to stop soon!”

Chandral smirked as she saw a chest flick open and bounce toward the guards before disappearing. She snorted at the indignant tone of the guards as they agreed pulling the rope really hard was a bad idea. “We'll have to take food to them for lunch and dinner. I can't see them stopping before dark.”

Lili's laughter rang through the glen as she watched the women help each other set up three chests at a time. “It's great to see them play so well together.”

The Queens were distracted by the dragons as they landed close by and immediately shrunk to cuddle size. They pelted for their mothers, two flew and one ran. The three women wrapped the little beasties in their arms and held them close. The dragons settled quickly and ecstatically welcomed scratches from the women.

“I'd suggest bringing mum and the kids for a visit… but the girls being around all these explosions, scares me.” Chandral commented.

“Not as much as imagining Patience and the twins taking over from the guards scares me.” Tarranna snorted.

“Can you imagine the crying and sooking… from the guards?!!” Lili laughed.

“It definitely wouldn't be pleasant.” Tarranna chuckled. “Hey Chan, what else can your little stick do besides spit out lightning and light?”

Chandral looked at the two foot long piece of wood in her hands. “Well, besides being able to mysteriously halve in length and width when I want it to, it will basically give me control of the elements.”

“Cool… so you could make it rain on them.” Tarranna nodded toward the guards.

“Yes, I could.” Chandral chuckled. “But I won't.”

“What about burning the boxes before they explode?” Tarra asked, pleadingly.

“Nah uh.” Chandral stood firm.

Tarranna clucked like a chicken. “You're just scared Tashan'll withhold the loving tonight.”

Chandral snorted and laughed. “Too right I am!! Call me chicken all you want, I‘m not messing with that!! Besides, I don't see you doing anything to make Lili wild with you!”

“And you never will!” Tarranna stated emphatically.

Lili smiled widely, raising her eyebrows at her love. “Can I have that in writing, preferably with your seal on it?”

“Nah, I need my loopholes available when necessary and I don't want you getting too used to me behaving myself...” Tarra was adamant.

“Perish the thought!!” Lili laughed.

“Are we just going to sit here and watch the ‘children' play all day?” Chandral whined.

“Well you can do what you want, but I'm going for a ride!” Tarranna hugged and kissed Ashburn before she put him on the ground and waited for Luna to appear. Chandral and Lili whooped in agreement and prepared themselves. The dragons grew to full size and joined their mummies for their jaunt.

The women and their friends soared aimlessly around the skies they simply enjoyed being free and alive. Even so, the group covered hundreds of square miles of land. The mares easily ate up the distances with their powerful wings.

Tarranna looked below, her eyes attracted to something in the distance… She signalled the others to follow. As they grew closer to what had caught Tarra's attention, the women could see around fifty soldiers forming a circle around a huge, hairy creature. The creature appeared to be agitated, but unharmed by the people around it.

Tarranna weighed her options and put the suggestions to her peers. “We can land away from them and ride in or let them see us fly in. Since we're cut off now, do we really need to hide the mares can fly?”

Chandral and Lili answered with basically the same response. “I can't see why we have to continue to hide it, let's fly in.” The group circled low and created quite a stir below. The women had the mares follow the circumference of the group then land gracefully between the creature and the soldiers. While the horses' wings were out, the women slid off the backs of the equines as they pranced. The Queens removed their helmets, placed them in their backpacks then walked to their mares' heads and thanked the gorgeous creatures.

The Queens regally approached the tall being and what appeared to be the leaders of the soldiers in front of them. The soldiers recognised the Queens and promptly saluted them. The Queens smiled at the leader of the group as he stepped toward them. “Helator, it's good to see you again. What's happening here?” Tarranna asked.

“Your Majesties, welcome. You certainly know how to make an entrance!!” He laughed and the Queens smiled wickedly. “We were on patrol for traitors when we found this one. We aren't sure what he is and we can't understand what he's trying to tell us. He's worked up because we don't know what he wants us to do.”

Lili addressed the rest of the soldiers. “Thank you all for not hurting this person, you've done well. Have a break while we find out what's happening.” The soldiers relaxed and started to talk amongst themselves. But they stayed close enough to hear what transpired. And to stay close to the massive dragons, flying horses and beautiful women, of course!!

The Queens slowly moved closer to the tall, hairy being. “Can you understand what we say to you?” Chandral asked quietly. The being cocked his head and nodded affirmatively. “Will you tell us what's wrong? You have our word, if we can help you we will.”

The creature looked at the mares and dragons quietly waiting nearby. He then looked back at the Queens. “Are you the ones being spoken of, the people releasing Mystics from their prisons?

The Queens looked at each other in shock. They were being talked about! Lili spoke up “I suppose we are. We have three more in our group, they're nearby.”

The creature lowered himself onto one knee. “Guardians, my family and people have been captured. I'll die trying to rescue them but I don't know where to look. Is there is any way you can tell me where they might be?”

The Queens looked at each other and shrugged. Chandral pulled her seer from her belt and held it so Lili could see it as well. “There are still no flashing dots, so they aren't close to dying.” The creature sighed loudly and wiped the tears from his eyes. “When I focus on your people a dungeon does flash! It's in a valley to the northeast, around 20 miles away.”

Before he could take off, Tarranna stopped him. “You are not to go in there yourself, please. We know the previous traps that have been set and the beasts protecting the Mystics. They're lethal and horrific. Let us help, you're no good to your family if you die trying to release them.”

“I can't ask you to do that!” The proud creature groaned.

“You don't have to ask, we're offering.” Tarra smiled at the Mystic.

He sighed wearily and seemed to shrink as exhaustion overtook him. Tarranna called the soldiers around her. “As you heard, his family have been taken captive by the Kings and we're going to help him free them.”

The soldiers shuffled and looked at each other, their confusion very evident. “Beggin' your pardon, Majesty! We didn't hear anything but you talking to the fella. All I heard him say was grunting and groaning.” The soldiers around Helator mumbled their agreement.

The Queens looked at each other, their confusion evident. “Interesting!” They thought.

Tarranna thought for a moment, then realised these people needed something constructive to do, seeing as there was no longer a war to be fought. “There is no longer danger of invasion from other countries. The Mother's ensured we're safe. There's a vital thing we need you to do now and keep on doing. Look out for each other and protect our women and children from rape and murder. Physical and mental abuse is not permissible. Care about having to kill animals. When you do have to kill to eat, waste nothing and thank the creature for giving their life for yours. Regularly thank the Mother for giving you food to eat and for caring about you and your families.”

The soldiers shuffled and looked surprised. Helitor spoke for them. “We heard that before. That's all you want of us?”

“Yes.” The Queens laughed. “We don't ask for much. Thank you for helping win the war! Now go, return to your families.” The soldiers cheered and hastily thanked the Queens before they mounted their horses and scattered.

Half a dozen soldiers milled around and looked lost. Tarranna realised they probably didn't have families to return to and said to them “Would you lot mind spreading the word for us?”


“Move around telling everyone you come across what we said. If you find yourself wanting to settle down, fantastic! Do it. Until then, travel where you safely can, giving and demonstrating our message to all you meet.” The soldiers looked at each other, then the Queens. Helator grinned happily as he saluted the Queens then the soldiers mounted and left for the nearest settlement.

Chandral turned to the creature who watched them with curiosity and pride. “You don't look well enough to travel far. Do you trust us to take you with us?” She saw his look of terror at the mares and chuckled. “No, not by flying! We can take you to the rest of our team in an instant. All you have to do is let one of us touch your arm.”

The dragons immediately shrunk and charged to their mothers. The women laughed as they hugged the little pleasure hounds. “Guess we know you don't want to fly back!!” Lili chuckled. The women waved goodbye to the mares as they spread their wings and majestically took off.

The creature shook his head, not quite sure of what was about to happen. He bravely offered his arm to Lili, who couldn't get her fingers a quarter of the way around his forearm. Before he could blink, he was in a glen with a flowing river close by and…


The creature dropped face first into the dirt and covered his head with his arms. He cautiously raised his head and looked around for whoever was attacking them. “You can get up. They aren't going to hurt you.” Chandral saw the creature look at her, disbelief evident on his face. “That's the rest of our team. They're destroying some of the traps from the dungeons.” He slowly stood up, horror in his expression. “That's why we don't want you heading off on your own.”

He looked at the women, “Thank you!”

“Would you like to share a meal with us?” Lili asked.

His face nearly split with agreement. He sniffed the air, then the fur on his shoulder. “I should bathe first.” Chandral reached into her pack and pulled out a very large bar of soap. The bar was engulfed by the hand taking it. He nodded his thanks then jogged downstream.

Lili smiled and looked around the campsite. “Crap!” She exclaimed. “I forgot all about the archway. What're we going to do with it?”

Chandral and Tarranna turned to look at the travel-door. “There're huge caverns under my castle that no one knows about. We could store it there until we find the others.” Lili and Chandral shrugged their agreement and Tarranna led the way to the arch. “If one of you touched the opposite end and we join hands, I can pop us all to the cavern.”

Lili touched the archway. Chandral took Lili and Tarranna's hands. They reappeared in pitch black surroundings. Chandral let go of the other Queens' hands and removed her shrunken staff, possibly a wand, from her belt. The extensive cavern filled with light, which was reflected back at them. Fascinated, Lili and Chandral moved to the closest wall and inspected it closely. There were thousands upon thousands of precious gems in the walls of the cavern. “Good grief, there must be enough to buy the world in here!”

Tarranna laughed “Probably - with enough left over to buy the moon as well. Around the bends there are veins of gold and silver. When I first found this place, I picked up a huge rock to move it out of my way. It was about a foot square and entirely comprised of gold.”

“No wonder you were so adamant the Kings weren't getting their greedy hands on this place.” Chandral ruminated.

“Yep! It wouldn't have been pretty... We can store anything we don't want people finding down here. There's plenty of room, this cavern leads to several more just as big.” Lili and Chandral agreed with the proposed plan then the women popped back to camp.

The Queens set about preparing lunch for them and their guards. Unsure of what their guest considered edible. Tarranna jogged to where the guards still played and returned to camp with them. Lili quickly explained about their guest and he walked into the camp not long after. He nodded to the three newbies and Chandral asked him what his diet included.

“If that's your lunch…” He nodded toward the foldup table that held platters of cold meat, salad and flatbread “… then much the same as yours.”

The women chuckled and watched in awe as he effortlessly picked up a large section of a fallen tree and moved it closer to them. He loaded a plate with food and sat on the huge impromptu chair. He saw Deltan staring at him, a disbelieving look on her face.

Geon noticed the Mystic start to fidget under her love's unrelenting stare so she elbowed Deltan in the side… hard! “Stop staring!!” she hissed before the other woman could protest.

Deltan had the good grace to shamefacedly apologise to the person in front of her. “Sorry, I didn't mean to be rude… Can I ask you a question?”

He shrugged and motioned for her to continue. “How the hell do you keep the knots out of all that hair?” The other women laughed so hard they couldn't breathe. Chandral nearly choked on her mouthful of food and was saved as the hairy being gently thumped her back. Deltan was indignant! “Hey, it's a valid and serious question!! I know all of us have trouble controlling the little hair we have… So, what's your secret?” She leaned forward in anticipation of his answer.

The Mystic ignored the still laughing women and answered Deltan seriously. “I reckon it depends on the soap I use, but mostly I've found if I lay in the river and let my hair flow in the direction of the current, it does the job nicely.”

“Do you spend much time brushing it?” Geon asked.

“No.” He grinned.

“You're wicked lucky… I have to brush mine every morning, just so I don't scare anyone who sees me!” Deltan griped.

He laughed and baited her “You don't have enough hair to scare anyone!”

“Oh is that right!! Well if you just wait till morning, you'll change your tune then!!! You'll be running for the nearest hidey hole with your hairy butt moving faster than lightening.” Deltan baited him back.

He laughed even louder and Deltan joined him. “So what's ya name or should I just call you Heapsofhair?”

He snorted as he said “My name's Nerani. What's yours, Threadbare?”

Threadbare gently smacked her new BFF's shoulder as she chuckled at his comeback. “More than a pleasure to meet you Nerani, I'm Deltan.” Deltan quickly introduced the other group members. They sat in friendly silence for some time before Deltan said encouragingly “Do you want to tell us what happened or not? Either way is good.”

Nerani looked around the faces of the women and saw nothing but hope for his family. “My people are called Yeti. We live in the high mountain areas. I was out hunting and when I returned I found nothing but death. They took out my entire clan, 62 were killed and 54 taken. I followed their trail for weeks before it got too old to track. I've been wandering around for the past two winters looking for them.”

“You've been looking for over two years? Man, you must be exhausted!”

“I am tired, but I won't rest until they're safe!” Nerani swore, oath like.

Tarranna looked at Deltan with a new level of respect. The woman had befriended Nerani with ease and effortlessly obtained information from him. “Nerani, we know where they're being held so we need you to relax for the rest of the day and have a decent sleep tonight. We won't take you with us if we feel you aren't at your fighting best. Understood?”

Nerani was franticly determined to free his clan, but realised what Tarranna said was right. He was so bone tired he could cause them, his clan or both to be injured if he wasn't thinking clearly. “Yes Guardian.”

“Nerani, why do you call us Guardian?” Lili queried.

“You are champions for the Mother and Guardians of Her children.” Nerani looked at himself, the dragons then shook his head. It seemed so obvious to him.

The Queens shrugged at each other, they couldn't argue with him about that! Tarranna stood and brushed the crumbs off her chest. “Would you like more to eat? We have plenty.” She enquired of Nerani.

When he seemed hesitant to answer, Chandral hopped off her chair and moved to the serving table. “What would you like?” While Chandral played hostess and seemingly loved doing it, Tarranna and Lili chatted to their guards.

“Do you lot want to keep exploding the chests?” The guards grinned in eager anticipation. Lili chuckled as she continued. “Good. Make sure you ask for the ones from the dungeon with the Yeti in it first.” Lili was barely finished getting the orders out of her mouth when the women cheekily saluted and ran to their jobs. “I'm really pleased they're enjoying themselves!”

Tarranna laughed as she hugged the shorter woman close to her side. “Yeah, it isn't often we can ask our guards to do something so dangerous and let them have fun as well.” Tarranna kissed Lili on the forehead. “I have a really dangerous job for you, if you're up to it.”

Lili only half succeeded in trying not to grin. “Really? Sounds like it could be lethal. Are there any perks with the job and what is it?”

Tarranna pulled Lili into a full frontal hug and kissed the top of her head. “The job is keeping me out of trouble for a couple of hours. It's the most deadly job ever and the only perk is me kissing you senseless.”

Lili sighed dramatically “I have seen the amount of trouble you get into! Before I commit to this, I'll gunna need a sample of the type of senseless you're talking about.” Tarranna slowly lowered her lips to Lili's and took her time gently kissing each lip then her cheeks and eyelids. She then drew Lili into a passionate but tender mutual trading of spit.

Tarranna pulled back and smiled at the dazed look on her love's face. She grinned softly as the shorter woman opened her eyes and groaned. “I'm gunna need heaps more convincing! In fact, it could take years to make me want this heinous job!” She promptly pulled Tarranna into a searing kiss of her own. The women pulled apart slightly, their breaths quick and short. “Chandral, we're just going to… inspect… yeah… inspect some… stuff! We'll be back by dusk.” The Queens disappeared.

Chandral continued to watch the spot where her counterparts had stood. She snorted knowingly as she laughed “Inspect stuff!! I've never heard it called that before!” Chandral turned to clean up the tables and placed the leftovers in her pack before she checked with Nerani to see if he'd like to help blow up the chests.

Nerani agreed so quickly Chandral was sure he'd been waiting for the invitation! She laughed at his eagerness and showed him a safe place to watch the industrious guards. They watched as the three women set off the latest sacrifices. They counted off in two second increments and exploded the boxes one after the other! Chandral couldn't believe they weren't bored yet.

The guards waved to the newcomers and motioned for Nerani to come on over. Once he was shown the routine, Tashan jogged over to stand by Chandral and loosely placed an arm around the Queen's waist. They watched and laughed at the initial look of surprise and shock on Nerani's face as he detonated his first explosion. They laughed even harder as he raced the two humans to set up another lot.

“You know how I really, really like you Your Majesty.” Tashan said very seriously. Chandral straightened up and looked at the woman next to her. She waited for the BUT she knew was headed her way. “BUT for me to give up on blowing things up,” her voice changed to a hesitant whisper “I must really, really love you.”

Chandral chirped in glee as she threw her arms around Tashan's neck and kissed her repeatedly. “I love you.” Chandral dragged the guard back to camp. The others wouldn't be finished anytime soon and she had some serious making out to do with her girlfriend.


Tarranna kissed her sleeping Queen's forehead then carefully climbed out of the extremely soft bed. As she dressed, she looked around the cheery room and took in the paintings that hung on the walls and the bright cushions that lay on the lounges. She pushed open the door grateful the hinges didn't squeak and wake Lili. The next room was full of toys, even brighter pictures and a small bed. She walked to it and smiled broadly when she discovered a small pile of sticks sitting on the low cupboard next to it. Sticknight!! Patience must have kept it all this time!

So this was Lili's home. Tarranna walked back into Lili's room and made her way to the window. She smiled as she saw flowers and trees everywhere. The place was a huge overgrown garden, but the design in it was obvious even to her. The different colours melded into each other and made the whole area outshine even the best of artists' renditions. The town around the castle was interwoven with parks and trees lined all the streets. Tarranna closed her eyes and took a deep breath. All the different scents mingled and resulted in a fascinating essence. Tarranna's smile widened tenfold. It reminded her of Lili.

Tarranna sighed as a warm body melded with hers. “What are you smiling about?”

“You. You smell like your castle gardens.”

Lili chuckled as she moved to snuggle into Tarranna's front. “I'm going to take that as a compliment! My gardeners pick the best flowers and squeeze the moisture from the petals. They mix and match the scents until they find one they think I'll like. I'm sure my cleansers spray the concoctions on my clothes.”

“And you love that they do that!!” Tarra chuckled knowingly.

“Yes I do…” Lili rubbed her face in Tarra's chest.

“Do you want to spend more time here when we're having breaks?” Tarra enquired.

“I would, yes. I would've missed this place a heck of a lot if we didn't have the rings. But now, darling, there's no reason we can't pop between here and home. We can live in all the castles in Atlantis if we want to!!”

Tarranna warmed at Lili's words. She'd just told Tarranna where her real home was! How cool was that!! “That may be a bit excessive… And we have to find out which one Chandral wants.”

“You're really going to tell Chandral she's got to pick out a castle. Do you not remember what she did to you when you made her Queen??” Lili snorted.

Tarranna grimaced. “WE made her Queen, but you do have a point!” Tarranna kissed Lili's lips. “And you know you're right! You should tell her… thanks heaps for volunteering.” Tarranna disappeared.

Lili smacked her own forehead with her hand. “Yep, walked right into that didn't you Majesty ?” She continued to mumble to herself as she walked back into the room and dressed. Lili went through her belongings and put several things from hers and Patience's room into her backpack. She then popped into a small, private room near the kitchen. Once the kitchen was clear of staff, she raided it for cooked food and the pantry for raw supplies. When she'd stuffed heaps of food into her pack she then popped into the main armoury. She stocked up on mini crossbows and bolts and everything else that looked like it may be of use. Lili nodded her head in satisfaction, then popped back to camp.

The sun was about to set as she reappeared, much to the joy of Terran. The tiny dragon practically pounced on Lili as she walked toward the group. Lili hugged the beautiful creature to her chest as she talked to Terran and rubbed her head. “Have you been good, you little terror? You haven't been harassing Nerani have you.” The rest of her team greeted their Queen and assured her Terran and the other tiny terrors had been nothing but snuggly.

Deltan rested on her knee arranging the kindling for the campfire. Ashburn jumped off Tarranna's lap and ran to sit near the guard. As she finished with piling the wood, Ash gently pushed her hands away from the flint set in the small bag on her hip. He then opened his mouth and spewed flames onto the kindling. It exploded into life and Deltan hurried to put bigger pieces of dried wood into the fire. She laughed in surprise and scratched Ash's head as she cooed her thanks to him.

Ashburn strutted back to Tarranna and jumped into her lap. “You are such a good dragon to prove your mummy right - that your name suits you so very much!!” She glared her ‘I told you so!' smug look at her sister and love. Lili and Chandral sneered and glared at the gloating Queen.

Someone's stomach growled exceedingly loudly which distracted the women from their squabble. Lili put Terran on the ground as she removed her pack from her back. “I have food fresh from the castle kitchen!” She walked to the serving table and started to unpack. The guards jumped to help and soon there was roasted pig and lamb and several full serving plates of roasted vegetables ready to be eaten.

Lili left the tables to pour herself and the other Queens a cup of tea. She handed the twins their beverages before she took hers to her seat. As she got comfortable, the guards delivered piled plates to the Royal trio. “Thank you. You didn't have to do that!” Chandral sighed as she put a piece of tuber into her mouth.

“It's good for us to occasionally remember you lot are our Queens.” Geon laughed as she bowed to them. “And it certainly won't hurt to thank you for letting us have such a fun day.”

“Ah, the truth finally comes out!!” Lili chortled.

Nerani was confused. He looked at the women and shook his head at their banter. He turned to Deltan and asked her “Why are you calling them your Queens?” Deltan smiled and told him who the women were. His jaw dropped, and so did he. He sat on his haunches his arms outstretched and his head on the ground. “Please forgive me, Majesties. I beg you not to hold my stupidity against my people.”

The team looked at each other in dismay. Tarranna shrugged and motioned for one of the other two to take this one. Lili did the same and Chandral rolled her eyes at them. “Nerani get up, now.” He jumped to his feet. “We're not upset with you and are impressed with how you've been trying to help your people. Got that?” He nodded, relieved. “Now, you are to behave in the same manner you have been all day and if you can't, I'll get Ash to practice his fire starting on your hairy butt!!”

Nerani fearfully looked at the tiny dragon. The tiny dragon looked up and grinned. He was apparently very keen to help his Aunty Chandral in any way he could.

“Hey Heapsofhair! How about telling us some stories about your people?” Deltan didn't like the way smoke was oozing from Ash's jaws and tried to distract everyone.

Nerani shook at the sight of smoke was oozing from Ash's jaw and jumped at Deltan's lifeline. “I suck big time telling yarns. Could you tell me about your adventures and let my Old Ones do the same later?”

The guards happily filled him in, much to the chagrin of the Queens who appeared to be the stars of the stories.

Tarranna watched Ash as he settled on her lap again. She could swear he looked disappointed!!


The next morning Nerani was up just before dawn and was greeted by everyone except Lili and Chandral. He watched with open amusement and curiosity as the women struck strange poses. They caught the toes of one foot in their hand and balanced ungainly for a few seconds and then switched feet. Then they jogged on the spot and shook their hands beside them.

“What are you grinning at?” Growled Tarranna.

“Nothing, Guardian.” He growled back. “You humans aren't weird at all!” He smiled at the group who suddenly realised what their warm up exercises must have looked like to him.

“We're going for a quick run, wanna come with us?” laughed Geon.

“What about Lili and Chandral, will they be safe?”

Ashburn chose that moment to crawl from the blankets, waddle away from the women and grow to his full size. He lazily stretched his wings and flapped them several times as he yawned and scratched his belly with his massive front hands. He then shrunk, relieved himself and daintily jogged back to the bed where he stirred up all the occupants with his now cold little body. The two women and three dragons quickly resettled and snuggled into their little cocoon.

Nerani pulled his jaw off the ground as he exclaimed “Holly Mother!! Do they all grow that big?”

The four women laughed quietly and told him yes. “We aren't sure what Terran and Silvana can do, but if Ash using fire is any indication, I wouldn't like to have those three at full size and mad at me.” Deltan surmised.

“Plus you've never seen either woman when they're woken up early or with a scare!” Tashan shook uncontrollably as she remembered being on the receiving end of both women when they were in full Grump mode.

“I didn't realise Lili was that bad.” Tarranna was fascinated. She knew Lili loved to sleep late but to put her on the same Grumpy level as Chandral? Surely not!

Tashan snorted and laughed “She was worse than Chandral until Patience was born. She mellowed out then but when we'd travel without the little Princess, she'd revert real quick!”

Tarranna smirked her wicked grin and raised her eye brows. “Now that's very interesting!”

The guards looked at their Queen in horror. They quickly realised she was seriously considering waking not one but both the Grumps. They grabbed Nerani by the arms and dragged him from the camp. They kept running and didn't look back as loud screams and bright lights erupted from the clearing behind them.

Tarranna looked at the lumps lying on the ground in front of her. “Was all that really necessary?”

“We had to make it convincing.” Groaned Chandral and Lili mumbled her agreement.

“Ok, I got the guards out of the camp for a couple of hours. I want my back-scratch now.” Tarra stated firmly.

“Ok darling, but before I start you may want to know that the guards bet us your back-scratches for a month that they could race you to that huge rock an hour away and beat you back.”

“WHAT!! I don't want them scratching my back!”

“Well then you'd better hurry up and get going dear.” Lili yawned.

For the first time in her life, Tarranna pelted through the woods with stealth the last thing on her mind. She swore and ground her teeth as she gamely chased her rotten, conniving guards.

Hang on, Deltan and Geon were a heck of a lot slower than her and Lili very well knew it. Tashan was the only one capable of testing her skill. She'd been had! And so had the guards! Chandral and Lili knew the guards didn't have a hope of beating her! They'd delayed her to give the guards a good lead. The Grumpy Queens didn't care who won, they just wanted sleep time!

Tarranna's grin was feral as she thought up ways to delay the people in front of her. If the Queens wanted to sleep in, who was she to deny them? It wasn't as if they asked for a lot, well anything really.


Nearly three hours later Tarranna jogged into the camp and found her sister and love sitting on a log near the fire. They had cups of tea to warm their hands and food cooking on the fire. “Morning!” they greeted her.

“Morning.” Tarranna kissed both women on the forehead. “You two connivers look happy with yourselves!”

“You worked out what we were up to twenty feet from camp! Admit it!” Chandral laughed.


“What you don't know is that we also bet the guards they couldn't take you for a run where you let go and just had fun. What did you do to them and did you enjoy it?” Lili chortled.

Tarranna tried to hide her grin as she poured herself a cup of tea. “Well, there was an incident at the creek with several fish. By the way the fish lived… Then all of them, even Nerani, ganged up on me and tried to lure me into a mud bath. I put them in it instead… And yes, I did have fun!”

“Excellent! That means the guards lost and you now have all of them as company for your early morning runs. Anytime you want, for as long as you want.” Chandral told her, smugly.

“And you two have as many sleep-ins as I do accompanied runs!”

The women just shrugged and smiled at her. “Well, there is that upside.” Chandral sighed.

“Yep, sounds like a win-win situation to me!” Lili chuckled.

People slogging through the forest disturbed the quiet glen. Not long later, three small and one very large bog creatures slumped into the campsite. Not one of them said a word as the creatures moaned and groaned their way to their backpacks for supplies. Chandral and Lili thought it was Geon who handed Nerani a huge cake of soap, but with all the mud attached to the person it was extremely hard to tell.

The large bog creature nodded his thanks as he hitched his fur and moved toward the river. “I'm chafed where a male Yeti has no right to be chafed!” he grumbled softly.

“Good! It was your stupid idea to ambush her to start with!” hissed Tashan.

“Oh yeah!! Blame it on the Yeti. All you had to do was say ‘ not a good idea Nerani' but no… You all jumped on board without letting me know she was so bloody fast and we didn't have a snowball's chance in summer of pushing her in!”

The Queens didn't hear the rest of the banter as the mobile mudpacks disappeared into the water.

Chandral and Lili stared at Tarranna then both burst out laughing. “Well, I told you I had fun!!” Tarra looked at her fingernails and polished them on her shirt.


After breakfast, the fun was over and the team assembled for Nerani's briefing. They gave him the rundown on how things worked and in what order. He was to stay at the back of the group and cover their backs until told otherwise.

“Do you need weapons?” Deltan asked him, before they popped out.

Nerani stepped away from the group and exposed the claws on both his hands. The claws on each finger of his hands were each about a foot long and looked as sharp as steel. “No thanks, I'm good.” He sheathed the claws and moved back closer to the group.

The women divided into pairs, Nerani travelled with Lili and Tashan.

They appeared in a small canyon, at the base of a 30 foot wall. Nerani looked around and shook his head. They were wrong! He'd checked this place before and found nothing. He was about to voice his frustration when Lili grabbed her left hand and yelped to the others for help. “It's the bracer again! It's pulling me toward the wall.”

“Don't fight it Lili. Last time it showed you where we have to go. Let it again.” Chandral took Lili's right hand, held it and soothed the scared blonde.

Lili shook off her fear and let the bracer pull her and Chandral to the wall. Her hand raised itself to chest height and grasped a brick sized rock protruding from the wall. Lili moved the rock and stared at the doorway as it slid open.

Chandral and Tarranna eased Lili out of harm's way and verified the small entrance room was clear before Tarranna and Geon checked for traps.

Nerani was startled as Deltan put her hand on his arm. “You couldn't have known were the entrance was so don't beat yourself up over missing it.” He was about to ask how she knew when she motioned for him to stop. “When we got here, you recognised the place and then got all cranky looking when Her Majesty found the door. It did take a psychic to tell you were mad with yourself.” She softly thumped his shoulder and motioned for him to join the others.

Tarranna had seen the look on Nerani's face as well. She smiled and welcomed both he and Deltan back with the group. She waited until Tashan lit the torches before setting herself at the door, ready to open it.

Tarranna flung open the door.

Tashan threw several torches, in different directions then moved back out of the way. Everyone slightly lowered their crossbows as nothing flew out the doorway.

Tarranna and Geon nodded at each other then entered the next smallish room.

Nothing! Not even a chest to open.

They used the same process for the next door.

It was clear and Chandral raised her shortened staff. Torches throughout the cavern lit up. The cavern itself was huge but divided up with rock walls making what the women assumed were smaller rooms.

Tarranna signalled for the guards to take the wide corridor on the left and the Queens and Nerani took the right. The dragons followed the Queens, of course. Tarranna led the way, a step behind was Lili on her right and Chandral on her left.

Tarranna rounded the first turn and fired her crossbow at a charging zombie. It fell to the ground and was soon joined by another that was killed by Lili. As the women reloaded a skeleton charged toward Lili. Chandral lengthened her staff, swung it and took the head off the neck, sending the skeleton to the ground in a pile of bones. Chandral smiled back at the other two as they nodded their appreciation of her swing.

They continued down the hallway toward a doorway on their right. Tarranna drew her sword as Chandral raised her loaded crossbow. A zombie came out of the doorway and promptly fell to the ground with Lili's crossbow bolt in his heart. While she reloaded, Chandral took out the next zombie with her bolt.

Seeing nothing else in the immediate vicinity, Nerani signalled to the women to let him drag the bodies out of the doorway, which they did. He threw the zombies like ragdolls as a huge rat flew at his head. Nerani roared as he extended his claws and thrust them into the chest of the massive rodent. He grimaced at the gore as he retracted his claws and let the beast fall to the ground. He grabbed it by the scruff of its neck and threw it alongside the wall behind him.

The Queens smiled in relief as he proved himself capable of protecting himself and Tarranna again led the way though the doorway. It was a small alcove of a room that led to another empty alcove so the group moved back into the corridor and to the next room.

Taranna checked the door made sure everyone was ready before she flung it open. Two skeletons tried to exit the doorway at the same time. They became stuck and started attacking each other. The women didn't know if they should laugh, but they watched in amusement as one skeleton threw down its sword and punched the other on the skull. The second skeleton threw its mouth open wider and aggressively pushed First's head into the door-frame. The resulting loud thump caused the group to grimace.

First pulled at Second's arm and successfully detached it at the shoulder joint. First then bashed Second over the head with its own severed limb. Second put its remaining hand through First's rib cage and grabbed the spinal column. Second proceeded to shake First with all its might.

“Unfreaking believable!” groaned Tarranna as she promptly decapitated the both of them. She also took out the next three skeletons as they tried to climb over the bones of their comrades.

Nerani cleaned out the doorway and Chandral entered the room after Tarranna.

Lili motioned for Nerani and the dragons to stay with her in the corridor.

The room was again a small alcove, this time with a chest in the middle of the floor. Tarranna waited for Chandral to open the lid before she stepped close and checked its contents. It held two sets of wrist guards, identical to the ones attached to Lili's arms.

“I can read the inscription on this set, but not these ones.” Tarranna was confused and it showed.

Chandral looked over her sister's shoulder and said “It's the reverse for me. I can read the ones you can't.” Chandral jumped in shock as one set of bracers flew out of Tarranna's hand and attached themselves to her wrists.

Tarranna was also in shock as the second set attached themselves to her wrists. “Great! Now we can all be dragged around the place and look dorky together!”

Chandral checked Tarranna's new bracers for a latch, to no avail. “Sorry Queen dork, you're stuck with them!”

“Yeah, I thought as much. I'd just like to know what they're for.” Tarra smiled at her sister then followed her into the corridor.

Lili chuckled as she saw the twins matching bracers and said “I was starting to feel like I was a bit of a fashion rebel and you two had to go get your own! Copycats!!”

“Well yours look so good on you we just had to find some too.” Chandral primped her hair and flashed her new accessory. Lili and Chandral broke into laughter.

Tarranna flashed a disgusted look at Nerani. “See what I have to put up with?” Nerani grinned wider and Tarranna smiled as she started to walk toward the next room.

Tarranna turned and pushed the others into a run back into the room behind. She looked behind and saw the guards sprinting toward her, screaming at the top of their lungs “RUN!!!”

“In here!!” She yelled as they got closer. The guards skidded to a half stop and flung themselves into the doorway. Tarranna stared in absolute horror at the huge black arachnids running toward her.

Nerani grabbed Tarranna by the arm and dragged her into the room. He slammed the door shut and leaned his full weight on it. The door moved several times as a beast tried to push it open. Tashan signalled the women to cover the walls, in case the arachnids tried to climb in with them.

Tarranna sat on the floor and shook, all the while she looked as if she was about to feint. Chandral sat next to her sister and tried to understand what had shaken the usually unflappable woman. “Arachnids!! Huge freaking arachnids!! Each one is bigger than this room!” Tarranna took several breaths as she tried to control the urge to vomit. Perspiration poured off her forehead as she continued to shake. “The only things that scare the living shit out of me and they're supersized just outside the bloody door.”

Chandral promptly joined her sister in her anxiety attack. “They're bigger than this room!” She wheezed uncontrollably. “I hate arachnids!!” Chandral threw herself at Tarranna and they wrapped their arms around each other as they shared their mutual terror. They started to rock back and forward in perfect synch.

Deltan softly clicked her fingers and motioned to the top of the walls. A beast was trying to climb over! They waited until its body was in view before putting four crossbow bolts into it. Venom dripped from its fangs and made its way to the floor below.

The dragons flew straight up until they were nearly touching the ceiling of the cavern then disappeared over the wall. Nerani edged the door open to see what the Mystics were up to. He saw the dragons grow to full size and confront the attacking beasts. He relayed the goings on to the others.

“The red dragon just set one of them alight. The green one flew on top of another and bit off its head, but she left the fangs, so don't get worried. The brown one flipped another on its back and is ripping out the stomach! Ooohh! That's not a nice sight!” He stopped his commentary for a few seconds. “Here come some more, the dragons are taking them out in similar ways to last time… Yuk!! The red one is setting the bodies on fire and the dragons are eating the cooked beasts.” He stopped talking for a few more minutes. “Ok, they're finished eating, the red dragon just incinerated the fangs. The dragons are all looking around. I think they're checking if there are any more arachnids.”

Nerani squatted in front of the still shaking women and told them to look at him. The women hesitantly did so. “The dragons killed them all and got rid of the bodies. They're all gone.”

The small versions of the dragons flew over the wall and landed near their mummies. Tarranna and Chandral drew the babies into their laps and lavished them with praise, hugs and kisses.

Lili signed for the guards and Nerani to meet her near the doorway. “Those two are going to be out of it for a while. Geon and Tashan you lead off, the rest of us will be right behind you - be extra careful! Deltan and Nerani we'll cover their backs and keep an eye on Chandral and Tarranna.”

Everyone nodded their understanding and moved to their places. Lili walked to the scared women and kneeled in front of them. “Do you want to wait for us out the front? We can take over here.”

The women shook their heads. “Let's get this over with so we can all get out of this wretched place!” Chandral had seen the arachnid coming over the wall and it had scared the living daylights out of her. Although still terrified was sure of her answer. Until she tried to stand and her legs turned to rubber.

Lili supported the woman as much as she could. Chandral lengthened her staff to full size so it took her weight then thanked Lili. Lili turned to Tarranna, who was in a worse state than Chandral. Lili took off her pack and removed a five and a half foot long fighting staff from it. Tarranna accepted the offer of assistance to stand and eagerly took the staff. “Do you really think Chandral having access to a staff that spits out lightening is a good idea?” She teased her sister.

Chandral immediately shrunk her staff and placed it in the sheath on her belt. She accepted a second fighting staff from Lili. “I know that was a joke and it was funny. But you were right I shouldn't be carrying that just now!” Chandral hugged her sister then moved toward the door, Tarranna followed behind.

The team moved cautiously past the singed floor and toward the next door. Geon checked for traps and signalled all was clear. She waited until everyone was set then opened the door.

Giant rats swarmed out the doorway! Tashan put a bolt into the first one's eye, taking it out immediately. The next rat was slowed down by the Geon's dagger into its chest but it turned its head and tried to bite her with its huge teeth. Nerani reached over Geon's head, put a hand on each of the rat's massive jaws and pulled them apart. Geon moved under Nerani's arms and out of the way as the rat's head was practically ripped apart and the entire carcass thrown clear of the doorway.

Deltan fired her crossbow, then drew her sword and swung at the rat charging at her. She managed to sever a major artery and the rodent was dead in seconds.

Tashan and Lili put bolts into the eyes of the remaining two rats and as suddenly as it began, the fight was over.

Lili, the guards and Nerani turned as they heard scuffling behind them. Lili motioned for the others to stand down as they watched Tarranna and Chandral in action. Skeletons were ‘running' to the twins, almost in single file. Tarranna distracted the leader with a staff to his chest or by taking out a leg. Chandral would then swing her staff and torpedo the skull into the nearest wall, shattering it.

The last two skeletons arrived at once and both charged Chandral who masterfully held off their cutlasses until Tarranna had the opportunity to decapitate them both in one swing of her staff.

Before the twins had a chance to realise the fight was over Lili ordered Geon and Tashan into the room to make sure it was clear and recover anything remotely useful.

Several minutes later they returned and the group moved on.

A dozen more alcoves uncovered a pile of weapons and a few gems but the only things of real interest were found in the last alcove. Deltan exited the room holding half a dozen short almost translucent ropes, made of a substance the guards had never seen before.

As they approached the Queens, the ropes broke free of Deltan's hands and flew quickly toward the Royal trio. The Queens instinctively raised their arms to cover their faces. The all winced in preparation for the impact.

Nothing happened.

The Queens looked at each other in surprise, then their wrists. The ropes had merged with the bracers and disappeared inside them. “These things are just getting weirder and weirder!” exclaimed Lili.

The group headed toward the last door, which looked like it was to a much larger room. Geon was about to open the door when Tashan hissed a warning for her to stop. Tashan motioned them to come closer then pointed to a tiny hole in the wall. “Orcs!” she whispered.

The team grimaced and drew deep breaths. Opening that door could have been lethal for them! Tarranna looked at the top of the wall, which was about eight foot up. From the look of the wall and the similar shorter walls of the other rooms, there should be a ledge approximately a foot wide at the top.

Chandral saw where her sister looked and pointed to a network of support beams on the ceiling. She whispered to Tarranna “If we use a grappling hook and rope we could hook the rope there or there and climb up for a look.” Chandral squealed softly as she flew off the ground toward the ceiling. She then swung at the end of the rope attached to her wrist and turned mid-air – she was quickly headed for the middle of the room full of orcs!

Tarranna didn't think, she just jumped after her sister and ended up swinging to secure Chandral with an arm around her waist. As she grabbed Chandral, Tarranna's wrist rope lowered them to the ledge below.

As they gained their balance, Tarranna drew her dagger and deflected a projectile headed for Chandral's back. Before either twin could take a breath they were deflecting plates, cups and bowls being pelted at them by the six Orcs who stared at them from the room below. The orcs raised their swords and ran toward the wall holding the women. They seemed determined to knock the Queens off their perches.

Tarranna looked at Chandral and told her “Point to where you want the rope, one hand at a time.” Tarranna pointed to a beam and whooped as she was dragged off the ledge and pulled toward where she pointed. With the other hand she pointed to the next beam and in a seamless manoeuvre she stood on the ledge on the opposite side of the room. Chandral did the same and was soon next to her sister.

Both women pulled their crossbows to their front (they were attached to a shoulder strap and hung at their back when not in use), loaded them and put bolts into the eye sockets of an orc. As he fell to the floor, they reloaded and took aim again. They took down two more before the remaining orcs resumed throwing things at the women.

The Queens returned the crossbows to their positions then swung to another section of the wall where they again procured their crossbows and loaded them. The remaining two orcs each took half a dozen bolts before they crashed to the floor. Chandral and Tarranna whooped as they swung past each other and the ropes eased them down to the floor.

The rest of the team watched in fascination as the twins hovered around their heads, moving around the heights with apparent ease. Deltan shook her head as she sighed “Nearly vomiting at the thought of even little spiders chasing them and now they're flying around the rafters like demented blowflies! Personally, I think it should be the other way around.”

Tashan chuckled in agreement “Yeah, it's hard enough flying with the horses, but at least we have something to hang onto with them.”

Geon snorted her disagreement “Those bloody orcs scare me more! Have you seen how huge they are?!!”

Nerani wasn't one to be outshone “The thing that scares me most is a valley full of burrs!”

The women stopped their banter, looked at him and burst into raucous laughter. He joined in and Deltan patted his shoulder. “Man, I can totally understand that!!”

The twins opened the door and stepped out of the room. Tarranna pointed at Lili and a rope instantly attached itself to her chest. Tarranna willed the rope to shorten which caused Lili to slide across the floor and into Tarranna's arms. Lili accepted the joyous kiss and hugged the taller woman enthusiastically. “Had fun did you?”

“Oh yeah! You should try it.”

“Nah, I think I'll pass this time.” Lili chuckled. “Did that hurt your wrists?”

“Nope, just felt like I was floating!”

Tarranna kissed her one more time before motioning for everyone to enter the now cleared room. Chandral used her mini staff to open the half dozen chests in the room and stood back for the guards to check the contents. The guards tipped the boxes and spilt the items onto the floor. Discarded items were thrown back in and usable stuff placed into their packs. Anything remotely out of the ordinary was given to one of the Queens. Like an extremely well-crafted silver dagger with intricate pictograms and jewels. Delton presented it to Chandral who, at the insistent commands from Tarranna and Lili, replaced it for the chipped and tatty dagger at her side.

Nerani fidgeted and restlessly paced outside the door to the next room. “Do you think my people are in there?” He asked hopefully. Geon patted his hand and tried to comfort him.

“If they're just inside this door or the next doesn't matter. What matters is we're here now and we won't leave until we find and release them.” He smiled at her and they waited patiently for the others to join them.

When everyone was ready, Geon took point and cleared the door. She opened it slowly and peeked inside. She looked around the large room then shut and relocked the door. “Orcs and lots of them - rough count at thirty. Room's similar in size as this one but only has the large room at the back.”

Chandral shuffled her feet and hesitated before asking “Did you see any… “

Geon cut the embarrassed woman off. “No Majesty, I only saw orcs.”

Chandral tried to cover her sigh of relief but didn't really do a good job of it.

“Geon, did you notice if the end room had the ledge like this one does?” Tarra asked, relieved there were no more supersized arachnids around.

Geon closed her eyes and reviewed what she'd just seen in her mind's eye. “Yes.”

“Cool. I'll be back in a tick.” Tarranna disappeared and reappeared several seconds later. “I just popped onto the ledge around the large room in there. Nerani, your people are in it and they all look a bit thin but well.” She smiled as he silently ‘whooped' and did a jig in a small tight circle. “The little room has a roof like an iron cage so you lot can sit on the ledge and take pot shots at the orcs without fear of falling too far. My concern is they may start hurting the prisoners when we attack.”

Nerani growled menacingly.

Tarra continued “What I propose is that the three of us…” She looked at Chandral and Lili “… stir up some trouble and keep the beasts occupied. We'll keep them from the door to the Yetis the rest of you lot will be on the roof. You can take them out from there.” She looked at Lili and said “The best way to keep their attention on us would be popping in and out or better still, swinging around the ceiling where they can constantly see us.” She looked at her love and could see the wheels turning as Lili contemplated the options. “No pressure. Chan and I can do the swinging if you want to do the popping.”

“Can I have a go in here first?” Lili asked, still scared at the thought of hanging by a very thin bit of string.

“Sure come on! Chandral you explain how it works, you're better at that than I am.”

Chandral stood next to the nervous blonde and carefully explained the steps involved. “Just remember that if you do happen to fall, which I highly doubt, pop yourself to the floor.”

“Why do I constantly forget I can do that?” asked Lili, shocked at her perceived mental deficits.

Chandral chuckled and hugged the smaller blonde. “Once you get the hang of it, it really is fun.”

Lili raised her eyebrow at her friend. “Get the hang of it? Chandral?” Chandral laughed not in the least bit sorry just before she took off into the rafters.

Lili watched her go then girded her loins and pointed toward a nearby rafter. “AAHHH!!” Lili softly screamed as she flew toward the roof. She proceeded to swing her body forward as Chandral told her to and pointed to the next rafter. Lili proceeded to travel from one end of the cavern to the other and her confidence grew by the second.

The guards and Nerani watched, their mouths hung open as Tarranna and Chandral practiced. The twins used their gymnastic abilities along with the freedom from gravity the ropes gave them. The result was an artistic display of aerial ballet. The ropes were practically invisible and it gave the illusion the women were using their arms in a sort of swimming action to cross the room.

Tarranna looked like she was hanging upside down and about to land head first on the rock floor when she suddenly turned and travelled quickly, parallel with the floor.

Chandral hovered in the one spot hanging by one arm, also parallel with the ground. While maintaining the position, she pulled her crossbow into her other hand and tried to aim it. It was too clumsy and she abandoned the idea. Instead she removed her mini staff and aimed it at an upturned chest. The chest rose from the floor, hovered and returned to the floor.

“Do you trust me enough to let me levitate you over to me?” Chandral asked Tashan. Tashan stared at Chandral's face and didn't hesitate to nod affirmatively. Nobody else was expecting Tashan to rise off the ground, slowly float across the room and upward to where Chandral was still hanging sideways. As Tashan grew closer to her Chandral changed her position and hung vertically. She hugged the guard close and kissed her gently. “Love you.” Tashan grinned her appreciation. She was too awestruck to talk as Chandral slowly returned her to the other women and Yeti.

While that was happening, Tarranna and Lili were playing tag with the dragons. The dragons won, but it was a narrow defeat!

“Man it is ssoo cool hanging out with you guys!!” sighed Nerani.

After about twenty minutes, the Queens settled to the ground. Lili was flushed and beaming with excitement. “That was wicked!”

Tarranna pulled Chandral and Nerani aside. The three talked for a while and then asked everyone to give them plenty of space. Nerani walked to the middle of the room and shook himself to calm his nerves. The twins took to the rafters and stopped on either side of the Yeti. They pointed at him, securing him around the chest with their ropes. He lifted off the ground floated to the ceiling and returned to the floor where the ropes released him.

The Queens lowered themselves to the floor and conversed on the way back to the others. “I didn't feel any of his mass at all, did you?” Tarranna queried.

“No. It was as if he weighed nothing and I didn't feel strain on my body at all. It was actually easier on me to lift him rather than levitate Tash.” Chandral was as stoked as her sister. “Nerani, did the ropes tighten on your chest?”

“No, it felt great…The only part I didn't like was not being able to touch the ground!” The women laughed as he continued. “I am so happy you asked me to do that and I'm glad I did… but please feel free to never ask me to do it again!” He put his hand over his heart and sighed dramatically. “My heart's pumping so hard it feels like its gunna burst!” He joined the laughter.

Chandral saw Tarranna's hand signal and softly updated the others on their plan. “If any orcs head toward the Yeti, we'll pick them up like we did with Nerani but drop them head first.” The guards nodded their agreement, realising it was a necessary precaution. “We'll all pop onto the ledge then split up. Everyone ready?”

Nerani asked for a crossbow and Deltan quickly gave him one and several quivers of bolts. He loaded the weapon and nodded to Chandral.

The team lined up side by side and disappeared.


Chandral and Tarranna flashed past the orcs and dared them to give chase! The orcs grunted menacingly and a dozen or so complied. The rest started to throw anything they could find at the humans and single Yeti as the stood on the rim of the cage.

Deltan fired a bolt, then Geon and Nerani. Deltan reloaded as the other two fired and so on until they got into a nice rhythm of loading and firing at a single target.

Lili and Tashan aimed for the eye sockets, which were extremely small targets, but achievable with their skill level.

The orcs were furious! They couldn't reach the humans so they started to pack the bodies of their dead against the wall and use them as steps.

Tarranna and Chandral saw the change in tactics and changed their own. Tarranna snared an orc as it came within striking distance of Geon. She dragged him off the bodies, across the floor and ensured he collected several of his colleagues on the way. She then disengaged the rope, making sure he was as far off the ground as she could.

The drop didn't hurt him but it sure made him angry. He bellowed, jumped and tried to catch hold of Tarranna's feet. Tarranna snared him again as did Chandral. They raised him to the rafters, turned him upside down and let him fall. He didn't move again.

The twins snared orc after orc and repeated their moves.

Finally, there was only one beast left. And he was huge!! He was at least a foot taller than the others and his massive arms were bigger than Geon's entire body. He grabbed the gate to the Yeti and shook it. The entire wall structure shook and dust clogged the air.

Tarranna and Chandral snared the beast and tried to pull him away from the cage. He defied them by clinging to the gate and bellowed at them. The Yeti inside the room picked up plates and cups and belted his fingers with them! The orc finally let go of the door, his fingers bleed as his roars grew louder.

The twins increased their pull and slowly dragged him toward the middle of the room. They raised him off the floor and he very slowly edged closer to the ceiling. He reached for the rafters but was still several inches away! The Queens swung him upside down and released him. He landed with a loud thud, and then slowly got to his feet. He was obviously dazed but determined to return to the Yeti.

Chandral snared his back with her rope as Tarranna lowered herself to the floor. She drew her sword and attacked! He picked up a six foot long sword from the ground and turned to face her.

Tarranna increased her speed and charged at the beast. He raised his sword and swung it at her chest. She slid along the floor under the weapon and removed his legs as she travelled quickly past him. He fell to the floor and swung his sword at her as she tried to move in for the kill.

Chandral yelled at her team “Move against the wall, all of you!”

Nerani screamed at his people and ordered them into the most protected corner of the room. The team rushed to the furthest part of the wall and huddled low and Nerani shielded them with his body.

Tarranna returned to the rafters and moved well away from the groaning beast. Chandral joined her sister before she pointed her mini staff at the last orc.


A lightning bolt hit him in the chest, disintegrating the beast and left a black mark on the rock floor.

Chandral looked from the mark on the floor to her sister. Tarranna smiled at her as they both lowered to the floor. The sisters bumped fists before they jogged to the gate of the small cage.

Lili and the rest of the rescue team slowly stood and checked out the situation. They found the fight over and Nerani held the women by the hand as he lowered them to the floor. He then jumped down and ran to the door. Hands reached out for him and he grabbed them as he sobbed in relief.

The women gave the Yeti a moment as they visually inspected the door. It didn't have a regular lock. It appeared to be opened by an object being inserted into an indentation where the lock would normally be. The twins looked at each other as realisation set in. They smiled and Tarranna used her hand to wave her sister forward.

Chandral laughed as she gently put her hand on Nerani's arm and asked him to move over. She then removed her new dagger from its sheath and placed it into the indentation. The mechanism clicked, spat the dagger back into the palm of her hand and the door unlocked. Chandral sheathed her dagger, pulled the door open then walked well out of the way.

The Yeti moved slowly out of the cage, each hugged and talked to Nerani.

The Queens and guards gave the Yeti some space and checked the back wall of the room. There they found another doorway. Deltan whistled loudly, signalling the Yeti to silence and to be on guard. Nerani motioned for his people to move to the other end of the room, toward the exit and he took up position to cover their backs.

The women waited until the last of the Yeti were out of immediate danger and opened the door.

Chandral used her staff to fill the smallish room with light and to the relief of all, no enemy were in there. It contained a travel door.

Chandral kissed Tashan then asked the guards to check on the prisoners and offer them food and water. The women jogged to where the Yeti waited and Nerani quickly introduced them to his people.

The Queens inspected the contents of the room with nothing of value being found. They then stood side by side as they looked at the door. “This one looks different, see the inscriptions aren't the same.” Lili said.

“I'll go through and see where it takes me.” Tarranna stated.

Lili grabbed the taller woman by an arm and chuckled as she saw Chandral do the same with Tarranna's other arm. Chandral and Lili raised their eyebrows at each other, smiled and Chandral stated just as firmly as Tarranna had “How about we all see where it goes?”

Tarranna shrugged and drew her sword. Lili checked her crossbow was loaded and raised it to firing position. Chandral raised her ministaff and tried to look tough.

They stepped through the travel door and vanished.

The Queens stepped out of the archway and moved further into the room. It looked like a small library/office. Tarranna checked the door and found it locked. She looked out the window and saw what appeared to be the grounds of a castle below. Lili and Chandral packed everything they could find into their bags. Not long later the women held the frame of the door and popped it back to the dungeon with them.

Tashan entered the room just after they reappeared. “Find anything?” she asked.

“Some more books and journals.” Chandral informed her as she hugged the woman.

“What's with the second door?” Tashan enquired.

Lili asked Tashan to think of her room in Gardenya and use the archway they'd just returned with. Tashan shrugged and grinned at her Queen as she walked through the archway, only to reappear out of the original door. “Hey, I've been ripped off!” Tashan laughed.

Lili laughed too, “Sorry, you can go back later. These two doors are linked, that must be why the frames are different to the first one we found.”

“Excellent. That means there shouldn't be a time limit on getting back to the starting door. We could link Tarranna's castle to yours and mum and the kids could spend time at each. That would be good for Patience, right?” Chandral looked at Lili and then her sister for their recommendations.

“Sounds like a plan to me!” Tarranna agreed. She gently urged Lili forward.

“Chandral, that's a lovely idea…” Lili took Chandral by the hand and looked her in the eye. “As you just said, the doors would link Tarra's and my castles. We'll need to find another set of doors to link yours up as well.” Chandral looked devastated. “We'll all keep living in Tarranna's but we need to be able to say we all have a place of our own and to make appearances at each. That way we can have mum and the kids visit all of them for us as well.”

“You didn't think we were kicking you out did you?” Tarranna made a show of reaching for her sword.

Chandral chuckled and sighed “The thought did cross my mind.”

Tarranna hugged her sister close. “It never crossed mine. Not even for a split second.”

Lili grinned as she caught Chandral's eye. “You know what this means, don't you?” Chandral, Tarranna and Tashan looked at each other and shrugged. They waited for Lili to explain. “We get to check out all of the now vacant castles and pick which one you want… then we get to decorate it!!”

“Shopping!” they all groaned. Only Lili and Chandral did so in anticipation. Tashan and Tarranna despised the idea and the tone of their groans let the other two know it. Tarranna and Tashan rolled their eyes as the other two women started talking about colours and themes for the new palace.

“I hate to interrupt…” Deltan said, much to the relief of Tarranna and Tashan. “… but we have to get this lot out of here. They've been fed and now they're getting antsy.”

“Are they set to return home straight away?” asked Tashan.

“Yeah.” Deltan replied.

“Bring Nerani back here, please.” Deltan jogged half way back and signalled for Nerani to join her. Tashan looked at the Queens and said “If you pop a door to their home, they can all be there ASAP.”

Chandral and Lili nodded as they both touched one archway. Lili directed the movement. “To the middle of the room. Just near the black mark on the floor. Ready. Go.”

The arch and women reappeared as planned.

Nerani jogged to Tarranna and she asked Nerani to visualise a flat area of his home, where the arch could sit and be a relay his people. He closed his eyes and did as she asked and Tarranna touched his arm. She felt for his Flow and used his feelings to direct her pop. They appeared in a large cave, high in the mountains. Tarranna felt the freezing temperature and shivered. “Is this the place?” she asked Nerani. He wiped the tears from his eyes with his hand as he nodded to her. They reappeared in the dungeon.

Chandral and Lili walked into the room as Tarranna and the Yeti reappeared. “I know where to go now. Can one of you help me with the arch? We'll use the door back just to make sure it works.” Chandral stepped up and touched the arch and piggybacked Tarranna's pop. Everyone else left the now empty room and moved toward the remaining archway.

Tarranna and Chandral exited the door as the others arrived at it. They were both shivering and Chandral groaned “You couldn't have said ‘By the way, it's freezing there!' ? Tarranna grinned as Lili and Tashan snuggled into their shivering partners. She raised her eyebrows at Chandral who smiled back. “ Thanks ” she mouthed.

Nerani led his people toward the arch and shared their confusion. He introduced his Old Ones to the Queens, who graciously accepted the gratitude of the Yeti Elders. “If Your Majesties don't mind, we would like to start for home. We have a long way to go.” A female Elder said.

Tarranna pulled a warm coat from her pack and put it on. She walked to the Elder and asked “Would you mind accompanying me through the archway?” The Elder looked as if Tarranna was missing a quite a few snowflakes from a blizzard but took the Queen's hand and nodded.

As they disappeared the Yeti milled around, not sure if they were again in the hands of their enemy.

Tarranna and the Elder reappeared a minute later, covered in snow. The Elder looked around her in confused delight. “I was home!! I went outside the Entrance and it was snowing!” The remaining Yeti chatted in excited whispers.

“Nerani, the archways do the same as when we pop you to different locations.” He grinned his understanding and explained what was happening to his family.

The female Elder hugged Tarranna close, the size difference making the human look like a child. The Yeti Elder sobbed as she thanked the women for making their trip home so easy. “I was scared we'd die before getting back. It's so far and we're weak from hunger!” She sobbed.

“Don't worry Aunty. Our little dragon friends here are great hunters. If we can borrow Nerani for a while, we'll ensure your clan has more than enough food to survive until you regain your strength.” Chandral assured her.

The Elder nodded as she again thanked the Queens and their Royal Guards. She then grabbed several other Elders and pulled them into the archway. Nerani urged the others to slowly do the same. All of the Yeti thanked the team as they passed by. Nerani was soon alone with his team “If you'd like five minutes, we'll wait for you here.” Lili recommended. He grinned then disappeared.

The partners cuddled into each other as Tarranna briefed them. “We'll pop this door to where the herds are and use it to ferry stores to the Yeti. I don't think the dragons will mind helping out and Nerani can let us know what and how much we'll need to collect.”

An ecstatic Nerani reappeared, covered in snow. Unfortunately for Deltan he also was carrying a fist full of the stuff, which he promptly threw at her.

Deltan calmly removed her pack and asked it for a bucket of water. Nerani saw what she had and ran for the dungeon's exit. Deltan pelted after him throwing the liquid down his back.

The pair eventually returned to the team, shoving each other and neither apologising for their behaviour. Nerani grinned at and Deltan before taking her into a hug. He wrapped his arms around each of the Queens and thanked them for saving his people. His face was wet with tears as he finished.

The team smiled then everyone took their places near the archway where they could touch one of the Queens' shoulders. When they reappeared they were on a flat section of a mountain valley where herds of animals grazed on the hillsides.

Nerani jumped up and down in enthusiasm. Before he could take off, Chandral told them all to take 30 minutes to eat, rest and get ready for the work ahead. The Queens popped to the Lili's castle where they secured food from the kitchen and returned to the group. When they returned, the guards had put on their warmer hunting gear and set up a table and chairs.

While they were eating, Nerani scanned the herds around them and spotted several groups that were a mainstay of the Yeti diet. “Oh Sweet Mother!!” he sighed as he stood and stared into the distance. The women stood, trying to see what had stirred him to move so reverently.

Tarranna pulled her spyglass from her small waist bag and checked the horizon. “Are they mammoths? I thought they were just stuff of legends.”

“They are mammoth. We haven't seen them for two generations.” He looked at the women with awe in his eyes. “They're a huge herd of young males! It's against our laws to hunt the females or young.” He looked back at the beasts now coming closer. “We use every part of them, we waste nothing. A couple of them would ensure my clan will recover. A dozen of them would last the full winter. He ran through the archway and returned with several Yeti hunters.

From the way the Yeti stared at the beasts, they truly did revere them.

The Queens turned to their dragons babies, picked them up and hugged them close. As the women gently scratched and spoilt them, they quietly asked if the babies were able to help the Yeti by procuring several mammoth. The babies accepted the loving then wriggled to be put down.

The three babies walked away from the group and expanded to full size. The Yeti were astounded but were quickly calmed by the Nerani.

The spectators watched as the dragons stretched their wings and then took to the skies. They quickly started to circle the mammoth herd, lowered their flight paths until they separated several beasts from the herd. The dragons picked up a mammoth each and although the pachyderms were larger than the dragons, the Mystical creatures seemingly carried them with ease. The mammoth were tossed in the air until the dragons could grab them by their large tusks. The mammoth were then shaken, presumably until their thick necks broke.

The dragons flew to a nearby ledge and released their prey. They then flew off and started to repeat the procedure. Chandral jogged to the carcasses, said her thanks to them for their sacrifice and the Mother for her generosity.

The Yeti couldn't believe what was happening! They quickly accepted Tarranna's recommendation to dress the carcasses. Nerani rushed to their home and returned with more workers. In seemingly no time, the first three beasts were divided up and hauled through the archway. The bigger pieces were popped directly into the Yeti storage area by one of the Queens.

The Yeti saw Chandral's blessing to the animals and the Mother and followed her example. By the end of the last beasts, Chandral stood aside and the Yeti completed the service.

The dragons stopped at a dozen mammoth then flew away to get themselves a meal.

Lili took Nerani aside and asked to be taken to where his clan usually obtained their vegetable matter. Nerani happily did so and they appeared in a high valley not far from his Clan's cave. He quickly surveyed the area, grateful to find an abundance of food. “It looks like the break did this place good. Its crops are doing well.”

Lili jogged around the area and returned fifteen minutes later. Nerani tried not to think she was a bit nutty, but he still looked at her as if she was. “The Gnomes blessed us and wherever we go will flourish… Besides, I felt like warming up a bit!” He laughed wholeheartedly and stood close by to allow her to touch his arm. They returned to behind the archway, where the last of the mammoth was being dragged though.

Lili took leadership of moving the archway and soon the entire Clan plus the Queens group were collecting vegetables and storing them in huge baskets. As the last of the full storage containers were moved back to their cave the Yeti gathered around the arch. Nerani got on his knee before the Queens and his clan readily joined him.

“I can never thank you for what you've done for the Yeti. If you ever need us, just ask and we'll be there for you.”

Lili smiled and lifted his chin so he had to look at her. “We never would've found your people if you hadn't trusted us enough to let us help. If you ever need anything, just call out and the wind will carry your message.”

“Thank you, Guardian.” He took her fingers and kissed the top of her hand.

Chandral stepped forward and gently addressed the Clan. “Nerani is a wonderful representative of your people. Without him searching for you and finding us, we wouldn't know what loving, devoted, courageously fierce warriors your people are. Thanks to Nerani, we are proud to call your Clan family.” Nerani practically exploded with pride and love for the women as he took Chandral's fingers and kissed them.

Tarranna moved closer to her Yeti friend. “Nerani pulled me from the jaws of a huge…” she swallowed hard and composed herself “… arachnid. He not only saved my life but possibly my entire groups lives. Therefore the future of your Clan is a direct result of his heroism.” Tarranna put her hand on his head and reverently said “Sweet Mother, please bless this child of yours and help him and his people prosper.” She half grinned at Nerani's embarrassment as she put her hand forward for him to kiss. As he released her fingers, she gently tapped his chin with her fist. “You're welcome to join our team anytime you get sick of the ‘groupies' chasing you.”

Nerani followed her nod and saw a dozen young females all but swooning as they giggled and looked his way. He gulped and obeyed Tarranna when she asked him to stand.

While he hugged Tashan and Geon goodbye, Chandral's raised her eyebrows and moved closer to her sister. “Since when do you willingly do the blessings?” she quietly asked.

“Since it became fun to embarrass a nearly eight foot tall, hairy, overgrown ball of hormones.” Tarranna and Chandral quietly chuckled.

“I'm going to miss you, you great big lug!” Deltan hugged Nerani and playfully thumped his shoulder as he picked her up off the ground.

“Not as much as I'll miss you, Threadbare.” He carefully put her on the ground then accepted the touches of respect from his people as they waved goodbye to the group and entered the arch. “Thank you.” He whispered as he raised his hand and disappeared.

Tarranna and Chandral pulled their jackets closed and followed him. They returned minutes later after having popped the doorway to their holding cavern. They disappeared with the second archway then popped back to where their team waited for them.

While the twin Queens were gone, the Guards checked their seers for enemy soldiers and flashing dungeons. As they found neither they packed up the last of their equipment and ensured the area was tidy.

“Anyone got objections to us going back to the glen where mother and the kids visited?” Tarranna queried. Everyone was silent so the women gathered close enough to travel and the Queens picked up the dragons.

When they reappeared in what was quickly becoming their travelling camp, they sighed with relief and sat on the nearest logs. “Man, am I glad today is nearly over! I am so tired even my sleeping bag is looking like a down mattress!” groaned Deltan.

“Why are we still camping out?” Lili questioned everyone, but mostly herself. “It's not as if we have to worry about outsiders invading us for the mares or our baby dragons anymore.”

Tarranna laughed and agreed fully. “There's about half an hour of sunlight left. How does everyone feel about making a grand entrance at home and spending the night in our own beds?” Tarranna couldn't hear her own reply in her head - the noise from the whoops and cheers drowned it out.

The team promptly collected their gear and popped to just outside the city limits of Castletown. The mares appeared not long later. By the time the horses landed, the women had their helmets on and the trappings of their Royal status shone brightly in what was left of the sunlight.

Chandral whispered to the wind. “ Mother, bring the children to the main entrance of the castle. We have a surprise for all of you.” She then sent another message to the residents below. “People of Castletown, look to the sky. Your Queens return. Do not fear the dragons, but do not approach them without permission.”

The women fondly greeted then mounted the mares. The horses took off, quickly rising to several thousand feet then circling the castle in lower and lower circuits. Below them, they could see people run into the streets and point to them. Tarranna and Ashburn led the way then Lili with Terran and Chandral with Silvana . The guards rode side by side behind the Queens.

The procession entered town about fifty feet off the ground and followed the road to the Castle entrance. People lined the road eager for a glimpse of the flying horses and dragons. Oh and the Queens too, of course.

As they got closer to the main gate, Tarranna smiled broadly as the screams from three children being held by their Personal Guards reached her ears. As Luna and Ashburn landed, she signalled for the children to be brought closer. Ndindari and Macgaven scrambled for a cuddle and after receiving hers, Ndindari screamed at and held out her arms for Chandral. The smiling guard promptly gathered the child and carried her to the Queen.

Patience waved and yelled hello to Tarranna and Chandral as her guard passed her into her mother's arms.

Macgaven snuggled deeply into her Nunna's arms then turned to sit facing the front of the mare. The child's head nearly split in two, her smile was so wide! The mares pranced to the gate, their hooves ‘clopping' loudly on the pavement. As they came close to the reception committee, Tarranna asked Luna to spread her wings and hover around six feet off the ground. Luna happily obliged. Macgaven screamed and laughed in jubilation.

Lili and Chandral asked their mounts to do the same, much to the delight of the other two children.

Tarranna thanked Luna and asked her to land. Luna touched down, pranced for the final dramatic effect then raised her wings so her passengers could dismount. After Tarranna and Macgaven slid off, Luna settled her wings to her side and accepted the hugs and kisses from the woman and child. Tarranna carried her daughter with her to where the others of her team were and watched as the mares pranced then spread their wings and took off. The team observed the mares till they flew out of sight then removed and stored their helmets. The women then appropriately greeted the other children and turned to the waiting Ministers.

Tarranna whispered a question to her mum then smiled widely at the nod she received in response. “Mother!” She said to the semi-embarrassed woman. “It's great to see you looking so well.” Tarranna walked up to Ranna and smothered her in a hug. Chandral and Lili did the same.

Tarranna then acknowledged her Ministers and the grinning Elders. She turned to the crowd and motioned for silence. “Queens Lili, Chandral and I are ecstatic to be home!” The crowd cheered. “We have to return to the fight in the morning and we'll be travelling to all ends of our land wiping out any evil we find!” The crowd cheered again. “But thanks to our winged friends we're now able to return home to our family and friends at night.” Whistles and whoops of joy sounded out. “We thank you all for welcoming us home and look forward to seeing you all again soon. Goodnight and may the Mother bless you all.”

The Queens waved to the crowd then circled Ranna and watched as the dragons shrunk to huggable size. The Royal party and their esteemed Personal Guards then entered the palace and made their way toward Queen Tarranna's apartment.

”Good evening Arnae, it's good to see you again.” Tarranna grinned to the woman.

“Majesty, it's lovely to see all of you home safe. We have some wonderful food in the kitchen, would you like me to have some sent up for your family?”

Tarranna stopped and looked at the woman. “You look a hellava lot better than you did. Are you happy?”

The Elder playfully smacked the Queen across the shoulder. “Well, that's the dumbest question I've heard in years!! I get to boss people around and play with kids all day. I'm well fed and have a warm bed at night!! What more could I ask for? I sure am happy. Thanks to you!” She abruptly gave the Queen a hug then shuffled off toward the kitchen.

Tarranna hugged Macgaven closer and kissed her forehead. “Have you been a good girl for Gramma?” Macgaven nodded, smiled and cuddled into her mother's neck.

The Queens enjoyed a relaxed night with their mother, children and guards.

Until bath time.

“Tarranna, you better come see this.” Yelled Chandral. She was in the children's bedroom drying and trying to dress Ndindari.

Tarranna and Lili carried the other two children into the room and proceeded to dry them. “What's up?”

“Look at the base of Macgaven's neck and tell me what you see.”

Unsure of what to expect and hoping it wasn't a symptom of a contagious disease, Tarranna lifted the girl's hair out of the way and looked at her neck. Macgaven sat quietly for several seconds then squirmed out of her stunned mother's arms and ran to Chandral. Chandral efficiently dressed the girl, hugged them both and sent the tiny twins to bed.

Patience quickly dressed herself, hugged everyone goodnight then ran to her bed. Lili saw something was disturbing Tarranna and quickly moved to put a supporting hand on her love's shoulder. Tarranna signalled to wait before asking questions and kissed the children goodnight. The three women left the room after hugging the dragons and placing them in the children's beds. Strangely enough, the children didn't whinge or whine about having to go to sleep anymore.

The Queens returned to the lounge room where their mother and the guards sat and waited for them. Chandral sat down and quietly asked her mother “The marks on our arms, you said only our family get them, didn't you.”

“That's right. It seems to be a birthmark carried down the female line.”

“Do we have any cousins with it?”

“No sweetie. I was an only child. In fact the four of us are the last of our line.”

“What about our brother? Would his kids have it?”

“Yes, if he has girls.” Ranna looked at the women, suspicion growing in her eyes. “Why are you asking me this?”

“Where's your mark?”

Ranna looked like she was going to demand an answer but instead she sighed “Under my hair on the back of my neck.”

Tarranna and Chandral caught each other's eyes and Chandral continued to ask questions. “Did you have any other children besides us and him?” Ranna shook her head negatively. She was about to demand answers when Chandral raised her hand and said she'd explain shortly. “Tarranna? You?”

Tarranna shook her head negatively and asked “You?” Chandral also shook her head negatively.

Chandral and Tarranna motioned for Deltan and Geon to move from the lounge, so the Queens could sit with their mother. “Mum, Ndindari and Macgaven have the marks – on the base of their necks.”

“No!! You said their parents were killed!! He can't be dead! Not my baby boy!!”

“Mum!” Tarranna said sternly. Her mother stared back at her, almost angrily. “We don't know for sure if they were actually the girl's parents. We only have the information the kids from the slavers wagons told us, it may not be reliable.”

Ranna took a deep breath and calmed her temper. “I'm sorry, I nearly snapped at you. This isn't your fault!” She took a deep breath. “Heaben can't be dead, I'd know if he was. Just like I always knew you two were alive.”

Chandral removed her seer from her belt, hoping it would work for them now. She asked the mirror to show her the mother of the twins. It changed from a mirror to black. She shook her head negatively, silently notifying the others. Chandral hesitantly asked about her brother, Heaben. She burst out laughing and quickly closed the cover. “Well, I can assure you he's definitely not dead! In fact he's having quite a good time right now - with several women. All of whom are blonde headed and rather well-endowed I might add!”

They all laughed in relief. “Well, it's good to know our Bro had great taste in women!” Tarranna ogled at her own blonde headed, well-endowed lady friend and winked suggestively at her.

“Oh my goodness!!” She gasped. “The babies I already love as my own, they're my blood granddaughters! And you saved them from slavers!” Ranna hugged Tarranna and nearly squashed her daughter in her enthusiasm. Tarranna looked over her mother's shoulder, silently begging her sister for help. Chandral smirked and shook her head negatively she wasn't getting between her sister and mother! Ranna suddenly let go of Tarranna and threw herself at Chandral. “And you my lovely girl, you helped your sister raise those beautiful girls and you think of them as yours even when you didn't know they were blood relatives.”

“Yes, well how could we not love them? By the way, Heaben is not getting custody of them when he finally turns up!” Tarranna huffed. She pretended to yawn and said “I'm exhausted, I'm turning in. Goodnight all.” Lili, Chandral and Tashan quickly said their goodbyes and practically ran to their rooms.

Ranna stood up and straightened her skirt. “Well, I think a celebration is in order! I'll going to have a nice long bath before I head off to bed. Would you two care to join me?” The Royal Guards were anything but fools. They had the water on, the bubble bath added and were half undressed a split a second after Ranna finished asking them to join her. “I guess I'll take that as a yes, then!” Ranna sighed as she strutted into the bath room and closed the door behind her.


In the morning Ranna sat on her lounge and watched contentedly as her grandchildren played quietly with their toys. Their mothers had stayed a little longer that morning enjoying breakfast with their family before they headed off to goodness knows where. Ranna sighed as she tried to settle the fear that either her loves or children would be seriously injured… or worse.

“Gramma, what's wrong?” Patience was an extremely sensitive child and was picking up some ‘downer' vibes. “You're making your ‘unhappy' face.” She climbed onto Ranna lap and picked up the charm hanging around her Gramma's neck. She inspected the medallion carefully, and then replaced it on the woman's chest.

Ranna softly chuckled as she hugged the precious little girl. “I'm just worrying about your mothers and the rest of their team.”

“Well, you don't have to worry.” Patience happily told the woman. “Ash, Terran and Silvana are watching out for them. Do you know the dragons can carry a whole mammoth by themselves? And Ash can spit out fire? He's so cool! I'm not sure what else Terran and Silvana can do but I know they'll die protecting mumma, Tarra and Chan and Tash.” Patience looked Ranna straight in the eye and continued. “Do you know why Gramma?” Ranna shook her head negatively. “The dragons almost starved to death and were locked in a dark, terrible dungeon. My mummas' saved the dragons and now the dragons know that mumma, Tarra and Chan and Tash are their mothers too. So now I have…” Patience mentally added up a total… “three grandmothers, four mothers, four sisters and one brother!”

“Four mothers?” Ranna checked with the girl.

“Tash has always been my mumma too!”

Ranna shook her head at the logical and loving way Patience looked at the world. She laughed and said “You're absolutely right Princess Denion.” She ruffled the girl's hair as she kept talking. “I have two partners, four daughters, five granddaughters, one son and a grandson. And to think 6 months ago I was a lonely old woman with only one absent son to love!!”

Patience kissed Ranna on the cheek then blew a raspberry in the same spot. Ranna laughed and said “How would you like to go shopping for some material and we make you lot up some dragon dolls?”

Patience jumped off Ranna's lap and did a celebration dance while she whooped in pleasure. The dogs joined in her dance and she yelled at the twins, telling them to come on over, they were all going shopping! “She is so her mother's daughter!” sighed Ranna as she stood up and sent for the guards.



Lili looked contentedly from Mysti's back as they circled her castle. She half listened to the message Chandral sent on the wind to the residents of Gardenya. It was basically the same message they'd used in Georstrie and would be the same when they visited the castles of the dead Kings.

Lili lifted the faceplate on her helmet, stretched her arm sideways at her shoulders and closed her eyes. She felt the muscles in Mysti's body relaxing and contracting in perfect coordination. It was exhilarating, being this high and totally free. She laughed and whooped, excited to be alive and returning home.

“Time to be Queen again!” she sighed as she pulled a dead bug from her cheek. She lowered the windshield and asked Mysti to start the wide circular landing pattern they'd also used in Georstrie.

After the flying entrance and the prances of the majestic horses, Lili dismounted and thanked Mysti. She and Terran then waited for the Queens, other dragons and Royal Guards to join her. Lili led the way to her ministers and greeted them. She then introduced the other Queens to her ministers and the crowd. “From this day on, Her Majesties and I will be visiting my castle on a very regular basis. Ranna the Queens' Mother will be caring for our daughters. Queen Ranna, Princesses Denion, Macgaven and Ndindari will be spending a lot of time here at the castle. I hope you will all welcome them as my family.”

The Queens waved at the crowd then entered the castle. While the Queens met quickly with the ministers, the Royal Guards – led by Tashan secured food from the kitchen and an assortment of clothing from the supply store and the local market.

Deltan and Geon were slightly ashamed to admit they should have obtained new clothes while they were in Georstrie, but they'd been distracted by a certain older, wonderfully loving, dark haired Queen. Tashan couldn't even harass them as she'd had the same trouble herself! The guards secured themselves an assortment of formal clothing fit for Royal Guards, sturdy leather clothing for working in the dungeons and comfortable pants and shirts for relaxing around home at night.

When they returned to the castle, they didn't have to wait long before the Queens and the miniature dragons walked to meet them.

“Your Majesties, please may I ask you a couple of questions before you go?” An older, grey haired woman walked as fast as she could toward the Queens. Lili signalled she would wait and the grateful woman slowed to an easier pace.

“Polara is in charge of keeping the castle in order and she is a very valued member of my staff.” Lili introduced the woman. Polara curtsied to the Queens before she got to the point.

“I didn't want to ask you my questions in front of your ministers, My Lady. I know how private you are.” Lili nodded her thanks, intrigued as to what kind of questions were coming. “I'm assuming you'll want accommodations for all your family?” Lili nodded affirmatively. “Will the Princesses be staying here overnight with their Grandmother?” Lili nodded affirmatively. “Good. We miss the Princess running around here and it'll be lovely to have some more little ones for her to play with. How big will we have to make Queen Ranna's bed?”

Chandral and Tarranna burst into a belly laugh that could be heard throughout the castle. Deltan and Geon looked so pale Tashan thought they were about to feint. Lili chuckled as she looked at the shocked Polara and answered her question. “Queen Ranna will need a bed the size of this castle!!” The twin Queens laughed louder as they wiped tears from their eyes.

Tashan grabbed Deltan and Geon by the arms and supported them to stand. “Ranna has four daughters, three granddaughters, two partners, two dogs and three dragons who'll all want to spend time with her.”

“Aaahh! I remember how your dear mother loved to have you join her in the mornings.” Polara grinned. “So I'm guessing those two pale guards there are the partners?” Lili nodded and smiled. “The twins here are obviously the daughters and I'm betting you and Tashan are their partners.”

“Correct, correct and correct. I never could put anything past you!!” Lili chuckled as she hugged the woman.

“I'll have rooms set up by tomorrow morning. If it's right by you, I'll put the girls in one of Patience's rooms and Queen Ranna in the adjoining rooms. Queen Chandral can have the other apartment adjoining your and I'll put some more storage units in your rooms for Queen Tarranna.”

“Perfect, thank you Polara.”

“May I ask Queen Tarranna a question?” She looked at the twins, unsure of which one to address.

Tarranna wiped the last of the tears from her eyes and took a step forward. “You can ask but I won't guarantee I'll answer you.”

Polara sized up the Queen and grunted with approval. “As if I thought you would! I'd like to know what your intentions are for Lili... Do you intend to marry her?”

Lili nearly choked on her own spit.

Tarranna looked at the older woman, sizing her up. “My intentions for Lili are to love her for the rest of my life. I'd die protecting her and Patience and she knows that. Unfortunately, I've been waiting for her to propose to me. She's a bit slow on the uptake so I may have to beat her to it.”

Polara glared at Lili. “Have you really been stringing this poor girl along? Shame on you Arobar Lilianda!” Polara winked at Tarranna then continued talking to Lili. “Your mother would be ashamed of you!”

“You want to get married?” Lili only had eyes for Tarranna. “I didn't think you did.”

“Yeah. But only if I don't have to wear a dress! Plus it makes sense, we already live together and share everything anyway. After the dungeons are cleaned up, Chandral, the guards and I can train the soldiers and patrol the lands while you do the diplomatic and negotiating stuff. It'd work perfectly.”

“So you're proposing to have all the fun while I do all the boring work?” Lili huffed.

“Well, if you really want to look at it that way, then yeah.” Tarranna nodded.

“I agree your negation skills suck.” Lili crossed her arms.

“That's why I never do it.” Tarra crossed hers.

“When we get married, I get to patrol and train as much as you do. You and Chandral have to help with the diplomatic stuff and I want to redecorate Georstrie castle along with all the others.”

“Fine, but I don't have to go shopping with you!” Chandral prodded her sister in the ribs and whispered to her. “Chandral happily volunteers to go with you on any shopping trips required.”

“Done, but you can't whinge and whine if you don't like the decorations or the colour schemes. I seem to remember you have an extreme fondness for pink.”

Tarranna glared at Chandral but the woman just rolled her eyes and grinned wider. “I hate pink and deal. But before I accept your marriage proposal, you really need to woo me a bit better than you have been! I am Royalty ya know.” Lili took a breath in preparation for a long winded argument but was cut short by a kiss from the woman she adored. “When I finally accept, can we have very short engagement?”

Tarranna pulled Lili to her and tenderly kissed the shorter woman senseless. Tarranna moved away from her love, whose eyes were still closed and had a contented smile plastered on her face. “Darlin' you can have whatever you want!” Lili drooled.

Deltan rolled her eyes and poked Geon. “Tarranna just got anything she wants and she sucks at negotiating??!! I don't get it! I thought she was bloody brilliant!” Geon shrugged and shook her head. She didn't get it either.

Polara turned her attention to the three Guards. “So are we having a triple Royal wedding?”

All three guards feinted.


Chandral graciously caught Tashan when she passed out and had cradled the unconscious woman's head in her lap. Until she realised what an insult she'd been given! She nearly feinted herself but was able to stand and move to a quiet spot where she caught her breath and popped back to the hallway outside her rooms in the Georstrie Castle.

At the last moment a recovered Tashan had put her hand on Chandral's arm and successfully piggybacked a ride with the distraught woman. “Please don't be mad! This is just a huge misunderstanding!”

“The thought of being married to me made you feint!! What is there to misunderstand?” Chandral was cold.

“Please Chandral, let me try to explain. At least yell at me, please!”

“I've got nothing to say to you nor do I ever need your permission to yell at you.” Chandral slammed the door shut.

Tashan used her hand to find her way along the wall. She was blinded by the tears streaming out her eyes and down her face. She came across an alcove and slid down the wall and onto the floor. She wriggled her butt until her body hugged the corner and she was supported by two walls. She sobbed quietly until she exhausted herself and fell asleep.

Tashan was woken by someone gently touching her face and saying her name. She opened her eyes and found Lili looking back at her. “I've messed up big time! Again!” she sobbed.

“Give Chandral a chance. She's hurting pretty bad at the moment and needs time to centre herself.” Lili assured her friend.

“She won't even listen to why I feinted. Even if she can't forgive me, she needs to hear why.” Tashan sniffed and tried to control her palpating heart.

Lili put her arm around her friend and sighed. “Do you want her to forgive you?”

Tashan sniffed “Yep. More than anything.”

“You know it's going to take some serious crawling, grovelling and possibly even shopping trips.” Lili pulled her friend closer.

Tashan snorted “I'd even happily go shopping, all day, if that'd help. I wouldn't even complain once!”

Lili laughed softly. If anyone hated shopping as much as Tarranna, it was the woman next to her. “Man, you do have it bad! If you love her so much what's the problem?”

“It's the whole Royal thing again… I can't live with the pressures you guys do. I've only lived on the cusp of it and it still drives me mad.”

“You realise she won't have to rule alone. We'll be there whenever she needs us.” Lili ran her finger down Tashan's cheek, wiping away the tears.

“Yeah, I know. But your last wedding scared the living daylights out of me! I saw the hoo-hah they put you through and I just can't do that.

“You don't have to get married that same way.” Lili grinned. “I only did it because my parents were so insistent.”

“True, but everyone'll still expect a huge ceremony.” Tashan sighed.

“You know, if you did it with us, you and Tarranna could skulk around the weapon shops while Chan and I did all the shopping and planning. And you'd have each other to complain to and run and hide somewhere with. On the wedding day you'd have each other as support.”

Tashan's mood seemed to pick up a bit. “Yeah. She does have a talent for finding great weapons.”

Lili smacked the woman on the knee. “Are you drooling about marrying Chandral or going weapon shopping?”

Tashan looked shamefaced. “Both?!”

Lili stared at Tashan for a full ten seconds. “You definitely won't have to worry about being in a Royal Wedding if you can't even get that answer correct!!”

“Do over?” Tashan smiled. “Lili, what if Chandral doesn't want to marry me?” She started to wheeze. “What if I'm just affair material?” The wheeze turned hyperventilation. “What if she thinks I'm not good enough to be her Consort?” Hyperventilation was quickly turning into a full blown anxiety attack.

“You're not just an affair and any Queen would kill to have you as a Consort.”

Tashan was shocked out of the impending anxiety episode. Chandral was standing in front of them and actually talking to her! “Really?” she whispered as she stared into the eyes of her love. Chandral nodded. “I am so sorry I feinted.” Tashan apologised.

“I know. I heard everything you said to Lili.” She gave Tashan a half smile. “I expect dozens of full shopping days, not just one. I want you to help pick out our castle and you have to help with the diplomatic stuff, not just the training and patrolling.”

Tashan nodded her agreement. “Three shopping days and I don't have to wear a dress either.” She virtually spat out the horrible ‘d' word.

“Done! You know I wouldn't make you do something I know you'd hate as much as wearing a dress. But you will have to court me, just like Lili does for Tarranna. I'll be in my rooms when you're ready to start grovelling.” Chandral turned and returned to her apartment.

Lili looked at Tashan, shock in her expression. “I thought Tarranna was joking about wooing her!”

“We're in so much deep shit!” Tashan sat in stunned silence with her friend until it suddenly occurred to her that Chandral was waiting in her room. Waiting for her!! Tashan climbed over Lili, turned around and hugged her Queen close. “Thank you!”

She kissed Lili then nearly fell over in her haste to find Chandral.

“How am I supposed to know how to woo someone?” Lili was fast approaching an anxiety attack of her own.



Ranna found Lili and wasn't impressed with the state she found the woman in. “Good grief Lili, what's wrong?”

Lili wheezed as she held her stomach and told the older woman what was up. Ranna smiled and shook her head in disbelief. “You run off to fight wars and evil beings I can't even imagine and here you are freaking out because you have to court my daughter!” Ranna urged Lili to stand and helped her walk toward her room, where they could talk in private. “Concentrate on breathing normally and stop worrying, I'll help you.”

Lili stopped moving and looked at the older woman “You will?” she sighed, so pathetically Ranna had to force herself not to grin.

“Yes I will. Now let's get you back to my room so you can start telling me exactly what happened in the short amount of time you lot have been gone!”

Twenty minutes later Ranna was angry. “She said that to you! I can't wait to get to your castle and give her a piece of my mind.”

Lili chuckled at the woman's fury, on her behalf. “Ranna, the poor woman was ancient when I was a baby! She was only looking out for my best interests.” Lili rearranged her butt in the seat before continuing. “Besides, if Polara hadn't said anything I wouldn't have realised Tarra's been waiting for me to propose.”

Ranna saw how Lili's breathing got quicker and immediately jumped in to calm her down. “Lili, courting Tarranna just means letting her know you love her and want to spend time with her.” Lili stared at Ranna with disbelief on her face. “True! When my husband wooed me he brought me material he knew I'd like so I could make clothes for myself. When he was travelling he'd spend time and/or money on finding me a little trinket to show he missed me.” Ranna laughed as she remembered something from a long time ago. “One time he found a piece of rock with unusual coloured patterns in it. It was nothing really extraordinary but it was beautiful anyway. He had a hole drilled in it and made it into a necklace for me. I still have it here somewhere.”

Lili sat quietly as she contemplated her situation. “So all I have to do is make sure she knows I appreciate her and miss her when we aren't together.”

Ranna nodded and said “What did Polara mean when she said a triple Royal Wedding and why did Geon and Deltan feint?

Lili explained.

Ranna was not happy with the answer. “Does my being called Queen change the way I've been living here?”

Lili thought about her answer before replying. “No. Not really. It will give you more say over the children's care and in the running of the castle. Staff would defer to your decisions.”

“Then… I can live with that.”

“You aren't upset about the feinting episode?”

Ranna shook her head. “I know why Chandral was upset. But my two asked me to marry them ages ago and they've been courting me ever since. I'd say it just hit them they'd be marrying into the Royal family when I finally say yes.”

Lili grinned widely. “So you do plan on accepting?”

Ranna stared at the wall in front of her. “I wasn't going to, but they've worn me down. They are the sweetest women I've ever met and my age doesn't seem to matter to them. So yes, I will accept, if they still want to go through with it.”

Lili told her the reason for the last daytime visit Geon, Deltan and herself made home. “They truly wouldn't reach into their bags because they were scared they'd accidently pull you out of one of them.”

Ranna's grin was serene. “If you'll be ok now, I have to go find my women. I have a few things to pull out of my own bag of tricks. Then I'll tell them I accept.” Ranna stood up and straightened her skirt.

Lili stood with Ranna and gently restrained the older woman from leaving. “Thanks for the talk, you've no idea how much you helped! As for Deltan and Geon, please allow me to arrange home delivery!” Lili chuckled as she drew a breath and whispered “Deltan and Geon, please come to Ranna's room. ASAP but not urgent.”

Lili and Ranna grinned as they heard running, the sound of which grew louder as the runners moved along the corridor toward Ranna's room. Lili hugged Ranna goodbye, walked to and waited by the doorway. She heard the running stop and a light knock. Lili opened the door and casually patted the shoulders of the women as she walked between the two of them. “I hope you two had plenty of breakfast this morning!”

Deltan and Geon looked at each other and shrugged, not quite sure what Lili meant. Then they met the eyes of Ranna. Deltan and Geon looked at each other again, smiled and breathed a joint sigh of relief. They'd had heaps to eat and were now happy for it. They quietly shut the door behind them.


Lili knew Tarranna was watching the children because she'd left the dark haired beauty with them when she'd gone looking for Tashan. “Let her know I love her and miss her when we're apart, eh?” Lili said softly to herself as she smiled and started to formulate all the little things she could do to show Tarranna just that! Her first port of call was the kitchen.

Around half an hour later, Lili knocked on the door to the children's room with her foot. Her hands were full with the goodies she'd scored. Tarranna opened the door and grinned at the woman in front of her. “Couldn't you manage to carry anything else?” she quipped as she took several of the many bags Lili was luging. “Why didn't you put them in your backpack?”

“Didn't have it with me.” Lili dodged the children as she put the tray of goodies on the table. “Uh ha!! Not until you wash your hands and sit at the table properly!” The chastised kids, led by Patience hurried to the bathroom.

The women quickly put mini wraps on plates for the girls and put the desert in the middle of the table. It never hurt to have incentive for eating the ‘good' food staring this lot in the face!

The girls ran back and took their chairs, Patience helped the littler ones on theirs. “Thank you Mother for giving this food to us so we can grow up big and strong.” Patience parroted and the littlies tried to keep up with the same prayer but ended up just mumbling. Their mothers were impressed!

Not long later three faces looked at Lili and Tarranna beseechingly. The women were stunned at the way the girls woofed down their food, but managed to do so without being reprimanded and told to slow down. Tarranna shared out mini cakes to the girls and watched the goodies disappear almost instantaneously. “Play now Nunna?”

“Yes, Ndindari you can go play now.” The girls hugged their mums then ran to their toys. “We're making the right decision coming home every night. We've missed too much as it is.” Tarra groaned.

Lili got off her chair and sat across Tarranna's lap, wrapping her arms around the taller woman's neck. “I know we have.” Lili picked up a jam tart and smeared the red condiment over her top lip. She fed the rest of the tart to Tarranna, liking the way her love's eyes returned to her lips. Lili moved her face closer to Tarranna, silently giving her permission to clean up the jam. Tarranna didn't disappoint, she used her tongue to wipe up the sticky filling and her lips to ensure it was all gone.

“I brought the tarts especially for you, I know you like them.”

“I like the way you feed them to me better.” Lili took the hint and served another treat in the same manner. Tarranna suddenly lifted Lili off her lap and jogged to the balcony.

The tiny twins were helping each other drag a chair to the balcony wall.

Patience saw Tarranna jogging outside and said sagely “They can't fall. Gramma had the men put up bar thingies to stop them hurting themselves. They just want to watch the flying horses.” Patience pointed to the sky where four mares were circling lower.

The Queen also saw the metal bars attached to the four foot high stone balcony effectively making the wall six foot high but allowing the scenery to be appreciated. The walls reminded her of prison bars but she didn't care, they kept the girls from killing themselves.

“Mumma Tarra, can we go for a ride with you on the flying horses?”

Mumma Tarra , where'd that come from? Tarranna decided she liked it! “Not without your Mumma's permission and with lots of safety gear!”

Patience whooped in glee. All she heard was maybe! “Can we Mumma?” Patience looked at Lili who was standing just behind Tarranna's shoulder.

“Yes. But not until we get the gear ready for all of you.” Patience cheered again, all she heard was the ‘yes'. She ran to tell her sisters who joined her in dancing around the balcony.

Tarranna returned to the table where she sat down and pondered the question of the kids' safety. “A belt or harness attached to a belt on us would do. It just has to hold them close enough so if they do fall we can hold them to pop to the ground.”

Tarranna visualised the equipment and reached into her bag. She pulled out two wide leather belts connected via a foot long, thick plaited leather rope, similar to the wide part of a whip. The inside of the shorter belts were lined with soft leather to lessen damage to the child's body, should they indeed have to be restrained. Tarranna inspected the metal clips on the belts and tugged on them with all her strength. The leather rope attached via a thick metal clasp and it allowed the belts to be unhooked from each other. They passed her inspection and she called Patience to her.

Tarranna secured the shorter belt around the girl's waist, the longer one around herself and hooked them together with the rope. She sat Patience on her lap and asked the girl to lean forward then sideway as far as she could. Tarranna was content that she could reach the child at all times. “When you pulled against the rope, did the belt hurt your stomach?”

“No Mumma Tarra. I just felt safe.”

Tarranna hugged the girl close then unattached the rope, leaving the waist belt on as per Patience's request. “What do you think? Will that keep them safe?” Tarranna handed the rope to Lili as she removed the belt from her waist and handed it to the blonde as well.

Lili did her own inspection, liking what she found. “Looks great to me! It's not as if the contraption will be weight bearing for any length of time so the clasps should hold really well.”

Tarranna pulled two more of the units from her bag then three child-sized flying helmets. Lili called the girls to her and explained to them they had to wear the helmets or they were not allowed to go flying. She carefully helped each of the children pull on their safety hat and secured it under their chin. Initially the smaller two girls fiddled with the head gear, but after a few minutes they started playing as normal.

“All we need now is another adult.”

Before Tarranna could send a message Lili said “Don't bother Deltan and Geon, they're busy with your mother.” Tarranna straightened up and raised her eyebrow. “No you don't want to know with what, just leave them be for now.”

Tarranna shivered slightly at the thought of what her mum was up to then sent a message to Chandral and Tashan. They quickly agreed and the mothers rounded up the eager children and took them to the bathroom. After all, it was near on impossible to have an emergency pit stop when flying a thousand feet off the ground!

The group gathered their light jackets and exited the rooms and found Chandral and Tashan walking toward them. “Mumma Chan, we go fly!” Ndindari and Macgaven yelled as they hugged Chandral's legs.

Chandral's eyes widened and she looked expectantly at Lili and Tarranna for an explanation. They shrugged and signalled they didn't know why the girls had changed what they called the adults. “I know we are sweet things, Tash and I are too!”

The girls grabbed both adults by a hand and dragged them toward the front door of the castle. Patience watched in older sister pride as she calmly took Lili and Tarranna by a hand and followed suit.

When the tiny tots looked back and found the others were too far behind, they yelled out “'on Nunna, ‘on Nunna Lili!! Go fly now!”

“Patience, why are you kids calling us all Mumma now? I think it's great you are I just would like to know why.” Tarranna enquired.

“You help Mumma look after me and that's what mum's do. Right?” Tarranna nodded her agreement. “The babies know who their mums are. I didn't have to tell them that.” Patience took a few steps then asked Tarranna “Do you think Aunty Chandral would mind if I call her Mumma Chan too?”

Lili laughed and answered “No, love! I don't think she'd mind at all. But just be prepared for her to cry or feint the first time you do, it may come as a very nice shock to her. Ok?”

“Ok.” Patience walked a bit longer with her parents then ran to join the others.

Lili and Tarranna watched as Patience skipped alongside Chandral swinging the woman's arm with her own. “Reckon she's getting ready to surprise Chandral?” Tarranna guessed.

“Oh yeah! Wait for it!! Now!” Just as Lili predicted Chandral stopped in her tracks and sank to the floor. She hugged Patience to her chest and the women could see Chandral's back moving as she quietly cried. “Right now Tashan's thinking this's really funny but she's about to realise that when she marries Chan, the kid's will call her Mumma as well. Wait for it!! Not yet!... Now!”

Lili was spot on again! Tashan sank to her knees and the kids immediately took advantage of her position. They swarmed the woman and smothered her in hugs and kisses.

Tarranna burst into an unexpected belly laugh and caused Lili to jump in surprise. Tarranna caught her breath as she tried to explain “I can't wait to see the look on Geon and Deltan's faces the first time they get called Gramma!” Tarranna laughed so hard she doubled up in pain.

“And the clue hits her full force in 3…2…1…Now.”

“I am SO not calling either of them mother!!”


The Queens sternly warned the children if they leaned too far to either the side or did anything silly, their ride would end straight away and the others would continue on without them. They nodded in agreement, each so excited they would have promised not to take another breath if it meant getting onto the flying mares!

The kids were jacketed, helmeted and harnessed and finally everyone was ready to leave. After formal introductions were made for the children to the mares Tarranna, Lili and Chandral mounted their steeds, each with a small sheepskin blanket for the girls to sit in front of them. Tashan handed the children up one by one and the Tarranna was impressed that Tashan took it upon herself to ensure each child was safely secured to their mothers.

The mares folded their wings to their sides which covered the rider's legs and pranced to an open area of the castle entrance. There they again released their wings and flapped them several times. The kids squealed in pleasure as the huge feathers flapped so close to their legs. The mares seemed to revel in the children's' exuberance and hovered longer than usual before they increased their height to around one hundred feet.

The four mares flew in close formation and circled the town in a low flyby. The dragons were at full size and flew nearby where they kept their usual aerobatics contained and appeared to keep a close watch on the children.

Ndindari sat in front of Tarranna, who rested her hand on the child's stomach. Tarranna laughed when she looked down and saw Ndindari experiment with the windshield on her helmet. The tiny girl lifted the shield, lost her breath then lowered the shield again. She giggled and continued the game.

After fifteen or so minutes the children had settled into the idea of sitting still and enjoyed the ride. Tarranna talked to the adults and advised them she was moving higher and toward the Mungenollan boarder. She wanted to see where the army was but was more worried about Maladroit and his ability to get himself into dangerous situations.

The women stopped at regular intervals and allowed the children to have pit stops and stretch their legs. The girls switched mothers to ride with and none were willing to give up their chance to continue flying when asked if they wanted to go home.

Eventually the women spotted the army who were in the mist of bivouacking. Chandral sent a message to advise them of the Royal visit while the mares did their usual spiral landing routine and landed near the edge of the camp.

After landing, the women thanked their steeds and watched as the mares returned to the skies. They then unharnessed the children, removed their helmets and coats and stored the lot in their packs.

Melanger hurried from the crowd of onlookers to greet the Royal visitors. He bowed before the women he cared for dearly and shook his head. “You certainly know how to cause a stir, Majesties!” he laughed.

“Melanger, you're looking stressed. What's up?” Tarranna wasn't impressed with the unkempt state of her General.

Melanger ran his fingers through his hair and looked more embarrassed than his Queen had ever seen him. “We've been having a lot of trouble with little… accidents… happening. We've been delayed for days at a time and I'm just a bit sleep deprived. It's nothing I can't handle.”

Tarranna had a pretty good idea the cause of the little accidents may have been Mal. “I never doubted that General. We've come to have a quick talk to you but to also see if you can spare Mal. I need him to come back to the Castle with us.” From the way the General instantly perked up, Tarranna was sure her deduction on the cause of the General's sleeplessness was spot on.

“We'll miss the man but if you need him Your Majesty, I wouldn't dare ask you to let him stay with us.” Melanger smiled at the Queens.

The man himself, Maladroit, fell into the cleared space around the Royal family. He tried to correct his balance, his arms manically flung around his body. Mal accidentally smacked the man nearest him across the head, knocked the poor soul out for the count and into the people behind him. Within two minutes fifty people had dominoed into the accident and were lying on the ground, either unconscious or wishing they were. Maladroit stepped toward the crowd he desperately wanted to help those hurt but was unsure of what to do.

“Mal! Can you come here please? I need you to do something for me!” As Tarranna distracted Mal, Lili and Chandral handed over care of their children to Tashan and jogged to see what they could do to help the injured.

“I'm sorry, Your Ladyship! I didn't mean to do that!”

“I know you didn't Mal. Have you met the dragons yet?” He looked in wonder at the majestic Mystics who sat on their haunches and keenly watched the antics of the humans in front of them. He shook his head and she urged him closer. Tarranna introduced Mal to her babies and laughed as they licked his face and hands. “I need you to come back to the castle and help with the kids. Is that ok?” He smiled widely and nodded his head. “Good! Right now I need someone I can trust to stay with the dragons to keep them company. Would you be able to do that for me?” He looked at the three giant babies and grinned wider. He nodded affirmatively again.

Maladroit moved closer to the Mystics and sat on the ground near their feet. The dragons miniaturised and wrestled for prime position on his lap. Tarranna and the kids laughed as Ash grabbed Terran by the tail and dragged her away from Mal. Silvana snatched the best spot, circled it and curled up for a nap. The other two babies sulked back, lay on either side of Mal's legs and rested their heads on his thighs. Mal leaned against the rock behind him and settled into a more comfortable position before he started to scratch Ashburn and Terran on their heads.

Satisfied that Mal and the babies were safe, Tarranna hugged her daughter and encouraged Tashan and the other children closer while she talked to Melanger. Without consciously planning it, Tarranna put her daughter on the ground and rummaged in her backpack for food and drink for the three girls. Tashan assisted and soon the girls happily snacked on their goodies. The Princesses then played contentedly with the small toys from home, specifically packed for just such a time.

Tarranna, Melanger and Tashan talked tactics for around half an hour and by the time they were finished, Mal's gear had been packed up for him and the unconscious people had been revived and patched up. The excitement of having the Queens and their flying visitors in camp had also settled by that time, which allowed the group to quietly wander to a secluded spot and disappear.

Maladroit looked around the Queens' apartment in childlike wonder. He looked in his arms and smiled at the dragon who grinned up at him. He pinched his arm to make sure he wasn't dreaming and his smile grew wider as he realised he was indeed awake. Mal beamed at the Queens and their guard, happy to be in their presence. “Welcome home!” Lili said as she gently hugged him.

“I needed to come home! I missed cooking for everyone here. I missed talking with Mahoneus and the Elders.”

“I know you did and I'm sorry I didn't come and get you sooner. Mal, this is what I would like you to do for me.” His stance grew taller and he turned his head to the side as he concentrated on listening closely and retaining the information. “I need you to have a rest and not start cooking for us again today or tomorrow. Go and spend time with Mahoneus and everyone else and have some fun. Ok?”

Mal laughed and nodded. “No cooking tomorrow and have fun! Got it! Ok?” He looked at Tarranna who gave him a quick hug and verified he got it right.

“Perfect!” Before he could run out the door, Tarranna called for him to stop so she could be sure he heard her next words. “Mal, it really is fantastic to have you home again.” She looked at the dragons who were eyeing off his boots and licking their lips. Tarranna chuckled then looked more carefully at his footwear. “Mal, are those boots way too big for you?” He nodded. Tarranna shook her head at her lack of understanding before and she reached into her pack and pulled out a brand new pair for him. “Were you wearing them when you outran the buffalo?”

“Yes Lady Tarra. I only have this pair.” Mal saw her hand signal for him to take them off, which he did and handed them to her. Tarranna put two of the opposite boot soles together and sighed. His old ones were at least four inches longer than the new pair.

The women shook their heads in amazement, how the heck had he outrun the buffalo bull with those clodhoppers on? “Here, try these and I need you to tell me if they're too tight or hurt your feet. You come and let me know straight away if they do, ok?”

Mal pulled on the new boots, walked around in circles for a few minutes then grinned at Tarranna. “It feels like I'm walking on air and they don't flip flop like my old pair. I like them! Thank you very much.”

Tarranna could see he was fidgeting and nodded for him to go find his friends. Mal's grin nearly doubled in size as he thanked her again and ran out the door as he cheered.

“I'm thinking his coordination will dramatically increase now!” She offered one of the offending boots to the dragons, who leapt on it and commenced a tug of war and game of chase that would last for hours. Tarranna put the other shoe in the bottom of the cleaning cupboard for later. And the way the dragons were abusing its mate, she surmised it wouldn't be in storage for long!

It was almost dark and the children were obviously tired so Lili herded them into the bathing room while Tarranna organised to have dinner sent to their rooms. “Would you two like to join us?” She asked Chandral and Tashan.

Tashan saw the fleeting look of acceptance in Chandral's eyes before the woman seemed to squash the urge to say yes. Tashan jumped in and eagerly accepted Tarranna's offer. “That would be lovely. I really enjoyed this afternoon, thanks for asking me along.”

“Anytime. Thank you for helping with the girls. It was good to get your input on the situation with Melanger and the soldiers.” Tarranna walked to the door and notified how many meals needed to be delivered and by when. After she closed the door, she continued talking to Tashan. “How do you think we should handle the problem with the soldiers getting bored?”

Chandral smiled at the women, excited and pleased they seemed to be getting along. She left them to their war talk and moved to the bathroom to help Lili with the children.

After dinner was finished and the children, dragons and dogs had been put to bed, the Queens were joined by their mother and her two partners. The women laughed, joked before they finally gave into their own exhaustion and went to bed.


As per their morning routine, Chandral checked her seer for changes in dungeon status and enemy movements. Finding nothing flashing she reported to the others and moved to help them.

“So, just let me make sure I've got this straight.” Ranna sat on her chair and did her best to summarise a situation she wasn't quite sure she understood. “This archway we're using will move me between this castle and Lili's in Gardenya?” She looked at her daughters and ensured they were on the same page. “It works like when you popped me and the kids to the picnic, but the door only goes to and from one spot to another. And you would like the children and me to visit Gardenya regularly so Patience can see her friends and spend some time at her home.”

“Exactly.” Chandral confirmed.

“So how are we going to stop the kids from running back and forward through the door? It'd be a great game for me to be chasing them here and they're instantly in Gardenya.”

“We have a small room set aside in each castle. We've had the same lock put on both doors and there are only three keys for them. We'll have one, you and Chandral will have the others.”

This was the third time they'd explained all the information to Ranna. Lili suspected something more emotional was at play and not just short term memory loss. Lili took Ranna's hand and urged the woman to stand. “I know you must be scared but travelling through it doesn't hurt and there's no dizziness or anything. I'd really love to show you around my home, will you please come through with me now?”

Ranna closed her eyes and slowly nodded. She kept hold of Lili's hand as the younger woman led her to what used to be the maid's storeroom. The room was inconspicuously placed in the far corner of Tarranna's lounge room and the door was unnoticeable unless you knew it was there. It had been cleaned out and contained one of the linked archways. Ranna stared in concern at the way the arch had been placed flush against the wall. Then she realised that it really didn't matter as she, hopefully, wouldn't be in the same room when she reached the wall behind it!

Lili pulled Ranna level with her and urged the woman to step into the contraption at the same time she did. They stepped out into what was obviously a very different place. The large room the cupboard was attached to was light, bright and full of a rainbow of colours. Ranna looked back at the arch, finding it hard to believe she'd travelled so far in well under half a second. “Sweet Mother! That is going to be so easy to get used to!” Lili laughed and led the woman out of the converted storage cupboard and into her apartment.

Ranna was given the grand tour of the family's new rooms and introduced to the castle staff. Lili was ready for fireworks when she introduced Polara to Ranna. Her concern was unnecessary as the two women clicked and immediately began swapping stories, recipes and plans for future meals.

While Lili and Ranna were in Gardenya , Tarranna, Chandral and Tashan dressed the children and fed them their breakfast. By the time they'd finished and cleaned up, Lili and Ranna exited the travel room and met up with the rest of their family.

Not long later, Ranna was getting frustrated with her daughters! “Will you please stop worrying? We'll be fine! I'm not upset by the door anymore and I'm looking forward to investigating every nook and cranny in Lili's extraordinary garden. Polara has offered to help me finish making the kids' dragons so we'll have plenty to do. I love you all very much so please be careful doing what you do. Goodbye and I'll see you tonight.” Ranna kissed all the women and pushed them out of Tarranna and Lili's apartment.

“I just got kicked out of my own rooms.” Tarranna was flabbergasted! “Can I demote her?” Tarranna asked a hopeful ring in her voice.

Lili and Chandral laughed as they imagined Tarranna trying to do just that. “No dear. You love your mother and are extremely grateful she's taking such excellent care of the kids.” Lili took Tarra's hand and gently pulled the woman toward the war room where they were meeting Geon and Deltan.

Tarranna perked up somewhat. “Can I make her wear that hideous crown of mine on a daily basis?”

Chandral smacked her sister across the arm. “Tarra, you cannot even imagine being that cruel to our mother!!”

“Fine!..... Can I make Geon or Deltan wear it?”

Lili, Tashan and Chandral wore identical feral grins. “Can we indeed?”

The women decided they couldn't torment Deltan or Geon so horrifically, so they put that idea in the back of their minds to be used in dire circumstances only!

Once they arrived in Tarranna's war room she started pacing around which made the others somewhat anxious. “Will you please stop that and tell us what's on your mind?!” Chandral couldn't take any more.

Tarranna looked up in shock, recalled what she'd been doing and smiled apologetically. “Sorry, I was trying to work out how we can do up a large map of Atlantis. Not just an ordinary map, but on with the dungeons marked on it as well as the castles.”

Geon spoke up “That'd be great then we could keep track of which ones we'd cleared.”

“It'd be good if we could work out a way to section off the map and that way we could document what we find in each.” Deltan mused.

Chandral took a piece of parchment and drew a rough map of their country on it. She then drew parallel lines around an inch and a half apart, on the portrait and landscape views. The result was a pattern of lines which divided Atlantis into small squares.

“I like it! How can we tell one square from the other? If we just number them, it'll take forever to find which square is what number. If we write the numbers or even letters in each box it'll clutter up the map terribly.”

Tarranna asked Chandral for the quill and hesitantly placed letters in the middle of the squares on the top and bottom of the map. She ensured they were placed on grid lines above and below the actual outline of the land mass. She then did the same on the sides of the map, but used numbers instead of letters. “Now each square has a letter and number to represent it. If we always go alphabet first, where would you think I mean if I say a dungeon is in E5?”

The others conferred and Lili used her finger to run down the E column and across the 5 row. She pointed to the square intersected and looked expectantly at Tarranna. “Perfect!” Tarranna put a small cross on the map. “Where would we say that X was?”

Tashan used her fingers in the same way Lili had done, but in reverse. She tracked her finger to the letter at the top and number on the side. “D10?” Everyone agreed with her. They all laughed and congratulated each other on solving out the problem.

Chandral continued one more step. “If we then focused the map on say just Georstrie, or Castletown we could use the same grid pattern to do the same thing. We'd just have to ensure everyone we wanted to had access to the same map or an identical one.”

“We could use it to coordinate a search or attack to ensure we were talking about the same exact spot!” Deltan sighed in awe. “I've been in some terrible messes because the idiot leaders didn't get the directions spot on!”

Tarranna closed her eyes, visualised in great detail the map she needed and reached into her backpack. She removed her hand with a folded up hide in it. The other women cleared the table and helped unfold the thin skin. It turned out to be around eight foot square. Its grid lines were perfectly spaced and the map showed mountain ranges, castles and dungeons in different colours. The dungeons they'd already cleaned up were marked with red X's.

The women touched and inspected the map, all of them amazed at the quality of the detail in the pictures and preciseness of the grids. The coordinate letters and numbers were even inked into the appropriate places around the outsides of the land mass.

Tarranna again reached into her pack and pulled out another handful of folded skins. She placed them on the table and handed one to each of them. The rest of the group watched as she unfolded a two foot square version of the larger map. “Look, that castle's flashing!” Geon exclaimed.

Everyone looked on Tarranna's small map and Irasia's castle had indeed started to flash. Tarranna lifted her small map and checked the larger one. The picture of the castle blinked on it as well.

“Well done everyone, the maps are brilliant! Before we go, we'd better put on our Insignia. We want them to know who we are.” Lili said as she put her ring on her finger and finished folding Tarranna's map so the taller Queen could put on her ring. The guards uncovered their medallions from under their shirts and drew their weapons as they moved to stand beside their Queens. The Queens quickly conferred and the women returned to the room in the castle where they found the second unit of the linked travel doors.

They found the room just as they'd left it. Geon and Tashan checked the doors and windows and signalled the all clear. The other four methodically checked the room for secret doors or hidey holes. Finding nothing, Geon checked the corridor was empty before she fully opened the door and let herself out. She verified the way was clear in both directions before she signalled the others to join her.

A loud roar ripped through the castle. Tarranna jogged to the end of the corridor to a window. She looked outside and saw a crowd gather around and yell abuse at armed men. The men stood on the backs of wagons and threated the people standing below them. The rest of the team joined Tarra and she motioned for Lili and Chandral to hold the dragons. She then said confidently “Grab a hold of me and be ready to kill anyone who gets in our way.” The others did as she asked, without hesitation and they promptly disappeared.

The guards sliced and diced their way through the ‘merchants' who were armed to the teeth and the more aggressive of the spectators. “Make way for the Queens!!” Deltan yelled. The crowd instantly started to shut down the bellowing of insults and complaints.

Excited murmurs flashed through the crowd.

The Royal trio sauntered through the quadrangle to where a richly dressed man jumped off a wagon and greeted them. “Your Majesties, you arrived just in time, these thugs are trying to steal my goods!”

Tarranna looked him up and down, not impressed with what she found. “These armed ‘assistants' belong to you?”

“Yes Majesty. They stop these peasants stealing from the wagon when my back is turned.” He primped.

Lili huffed indignantly. “I think we know who the real thief is here!”

The merchant growled furiously and raised his hand to smack Lili down. “Who do you think you are talking like that to me, bitch?!”

Tarranna cut the offending hand off at the shoulder. “She would be thinking she's Queen Arobar. And I'm thinking you're past your use by date!” Tarranna split his body in half! Vertically from head to crotch, that is. “Anyone else want to insult us?”

The armed shop assistants made to run off and obtained a crossbow bolt for their efforts.

Tarranna pointed her sword, blood still dripping off the end, at a woman in the front row of the crowd. “You, come here!” She ordered.

The woman stared in shock at the Queen but walked closer to the women and bowed before Tarranna. “Yes Majesty.”

“What's going on here?” Tarranna demanded.

“He was charging us 2 gold coins each for things like bread and a single piece of fruit or vegetable.” She gulped and looked at her feet.

“Tell me the rest, I don't intend killing you.”

The woman looked up in relief. “He said he had to inflate his prices because you Queens were extorting him. He said you were demanding we pay more because you don't care if we die of starvation. Is that really true, Your Majesty?”

Tarranna smiled at the woman as she leaned over and wiped the blood off her sword, on what was left of the dead liar's coat. She then sheathed it. “There's no need for anyone to starve, there's more than enough food for all. And no, we didn't have anything to do with this idiot.” She looked around expectantly. “Where are the soldiers who are stationed here?”

The woman sighed “The four biggest merchants banded together and paid local thugs to take over the city. They put something in the soldiers' food and they're either dead or locked up in the dungeons. We tried to help but we didn't have the weapons or the skills to do it.” The woman took a breath. “The merchants have been selling their goods from here and I heard they planning to take over the castle.”

“What sort of weaponry do the thugs have?” Lili smiled at the woman's glazed look and clarified. “Swords and crossbows?”

“Ohhh, no Majesty. I've just seen swords.” The crowd murmured their agreement with the woman's comment.

Tarranna and Chandral looked at each other, raised their eyebrows then looked at the dragons. “Do you babies want to have some fun?” Chandral cooed to them. “It would be great if you could bring us the leaders alive. BUT if they make it too hard kill them. Just make sure you don't eat them or their guards! We don't want you getting sick from eating such putrid scum.” Chandral scratched under each of the babies chins and kissed their foreheads.

The dragons wriggled to get down, ran to a clear space and expanded to their full size. The crowd was silent, every individual staring in awe at the huge beasts. The dragons spread their wings and took to the skies.

Tarranna thanked the woman for her help and climbed onto the closest wagon, visually checked its contents then moved to inspect the others. After several minutes she told the gathered crowd “Until we can verify exactly how much food there is, each person gets a half loaf of bread, a piece of fruit and a vegetable.”

The woman who'd been talking to the Royals looked around the faces in the crowd then asked the question all of them were afraid to ask. “How much will it cost us, Majesty?”

Tarranna looked at the woman then the other two Queens. “Well, we are money grubbing bitches! We could charge them 50 gold each!”

Lili laughed and smacked her love on the arm. “Stop tormenting the people, they'll think you're serious!!”

“We expect you to do a lot. That you care for environment and don't kill anything you don't have to. Pray to the Mother Earth and thank her for giving you food to eat and shelter to live in. Care about your friends and neighbours and treat them as family. Share what you have with them. Make yourself a useful part of the community and teach your valuable skills to others. Be proud to be good, caring and loving Atlantian people.” Chandral told them seriously.

The woman and crowd looked at each other. “That's it?” She asked incredulously.

Chandral laughed and said “Most people groan and whinge when I tell them what we want!” The crowd laughed with her and excited whispers ran around the quad.

Deltan and Geon grabbed some of the food and divvied it up for distribution. Geon said “Who's first?”

The crowd milled around and children were pushed forward. The Queens looked at each other and smirked. These people were quick on the uptake. The children stared wide eyed at the Guards and before the Queens could step in, the spokeswoman moved to the children and encouraged them to come forward. Soon a conveyer system was well in place and everyone efficiently received their supplies.

Tarranna looked to the sky and signalled the dragons were about to return. Soon everyone could hear screams and swearing coming from the bodies that hung by their feet from the dragons' hind paws. The Mystic trio hovered four feet off the ground and dropped their loads, Ash had been carrying two men. The dragons then shrank and flew to their mummies' arms.

Tarranna stood in front of the four men, her sword dangled in one hand and the other cradled Ash. “Before you assholes ask who I think I am, I know I'm Tarranna - the same Queen Tarranna that killed your worthless king. The lovely blonde there..” She pointed her sword at Lili. “Is the Queen Arobar who killed Sarl's idiot associates. The gorgeous other Queen is my sister who can blow you to smithereens with a lightning bolt… Any questions?” Before the men could take a breath she flipped her sword twice and beheaded all four of them. “Good! I'd hate to have to explain myself to morons like you.”

Tarranna again pointed her dripping sword at the spokeswoman. “Where's the biggest building in town?” The woman pointed down the road at a large ornate stone building. “Good. Can you and your lot here please gather all the orphans and Elders who are homeless and take them to that building? Have as many of you help out as you need to and take the rest of this food there as well. I want the kids cared for and if I find out they've been taken advantage of in any way, I will NOT be impressed!!” She looked at the dead men on the ground next to her to give credence to her threat. “We'll free the soldiers and return soon.”

“Majesty, may I say something?” the spokeswoman asked and she received a nod to continue. “You have my word the kids and Elders will receive all the food. Thank you for helping us. Again!”

Tarranna chuckled and calmed down somewhat. “You lot are making a habit of needing to be rescued!” She joked.

The crowd laughed and one brave soul yelled out. “We'd appreciate some lessons on how to fight back!!”

“Once everything is settled, I'll have my General organise those lessons for you all!” The crowd cheered as they realised she was serious. “We've all got work to do, so let's get to it.” She watched as the crowd dispersed. A dozen men hung back and started to drag the bodies to a central spot. One of them asked “Would it be ok if we get rid of them?” He motioned to the four ex-men.

Chandral thanked them for their thoughtfulness. “Actually, I was going to ask Ashburn, he's the little red dragon, if he'd like to practice his fire making skills. Would you like to watch if he accepts?” They nodded, interested to see what the little fella could do. Chandral asked them to move all the bodies onto one of the empty wagons and drag it away from the others. They did so very promptly.

Ash flew out of Tarranna's arms and showed his appreciation to Chandral by rubbing his nose against her upper chest. “I know you like to practice when you can.” She whispered to the little Mystic. Ash licked her cheek then flew into the air and expanded to full size.

The group moved even further away, to give him plenty of room around the wagon. They watched in amazement as fire spewed from his mouth and engulfed the vehicle and carcasses. The flame was so intense and localised, the bodies and wood immediately vanished and all that was left was a few black marks on the pavement. Ash shrunk again and flew back to Tarranna's arms.

“He must be a great to have around in winter!” One of the men joked.

Everyone laughed and Ash grinned widely. The team waved goodbye to the men and jogged back to the castle entryway.

Once inside, Lili took Tarranna's hand and pulled her to a stop. “Are you ok?” She asked.

Tarranna shook herself and looked into the eyes of the woman she adored. “Yeah. It just occurred to me we have a huge amount of work to do before everyone can feel one hundred percent safe all the time.”

“And?” Lili prodded.

Tarranna chuckled and kissed Lili on the lips. “ And it pissed me off that a total waste of air and space had the nerve to try and hit you. And I am well aware that every one of you was only a split second behind me with killing him. Thank you.” She caught the eyes of her sister and each of the guards.

“And?!” Lili laughed and they joined her as they all walked further into the castle.

And I love you very, very much?” Tarra fished.

“Good answer, but not the one I'm looking for!” Lili wasn't going to help her love.

The rest of the team snickered at Tarranna's obvious ‘not a clue' face. “ And I'm really proud of the way Ash, Terran and Silvana's helped us?”

“Another very good answer, but that's not what's making you antsy.” Lili gave the woman a minimal hint.

Tarranna stopped in her tracks and stared at Lili. As realisation finally dawned, she whispered “I don't like having to kill people in front of kids. Even if the people involved are useless thieving bastards!”

Lili hugged Tarranna close and whispered “Bingo!” Kissing ensued for several minutes. “And by the way I love you very, very much too.”

Tarranna finally reached her limit of mushiness! And after one or two or even three final kisses she moved forward to lead the way inside.

The castle was massive, bigger than Tarranna's and Lili's combined. “Pretentious prick!” Tarranna sighed as she became more and more frustrated by not being able to locate the dungeon. “What's the point of living somewhere if you need a map to find what you're looking for?…” She stopped and asked her pack for a map of the castle. The map was full of boxes and hard to interpret, especially when you weren't sure where your starting point was. “I just need something that shows me where I am and where we have to go get to the dungeon, for crying out loud!!”

Lili put her hand on Tarranna's arm. “You're getting worse by the second, what's up?”

Tarranna shook her head. “I just don't feel comfortable being in the place. It's like I can't wait to get out of here.”

Lili looked at the dragon her love was holding. Ash was not his usual self. He was digging further into Tarranna's arms and demanding attention incessantly. Lili demanded his attention and said “Ash would you like to go outside and wait for us. You can go flying with your sisters and we'll be out as soon as possible.”

Ashburn practically jumped out of Tarranna's arms and flew back toward the entrance, the two girls were almost as eager as him to get out of the castle.

Tarranna took a deep breath, leaned forward and put her hands on her knees. When she stood up again she wiped the perspiration off her forehead and chuckled in a relieved way. “Man! That was not a good feeling!! He's doesn't like it in here and that makes me think we'd better be on our toes.”

Deltan looked on the map of the castle. “Well your shared panic attack seemed to have one good outcome… Look!”

The map had two flashing areas. The first was a large white light that split into six individual lights when the team moved apart. The second flashing area appeared to be the dungeon. Ahead of the team was an arrow that pointed the direction they needed to travel. “Well thank you Ashburn! This is going to make things so much easier!”

Tarranna led the way using the map with the inbuilt navigation system (INS) and in fifteen minutes they were at the top of the stairs to the dungeon.

Tarranna let Geon take the lead and as she waited for the door to be cleared she held Lili's hand. Tarranna took a deep breath and consciously tried to push the last negative feelings from her body. Chandral sensed what Tarranna was doing, put her hand on her sister's shoulder and pushed as many positive vibes as possible to her twin.

Tarranna shut her eyes and opened the imaginary door in her mind in order to let Chandral's generous gift enter. Tarra sighed as she was engulfed with a wondrous sense of belonging, love and an absolute surety that she was not the monster she'd always believed she was. Tarranna shut the imaginary door and mentally hugged her sister, who delightedly returned it. Lili and Tashan watched the twins' faces as they shared their moment and the friends smiled contentedly as they saw the worry and doubt leave Tarranna's face.

“Clear.” Geon reported.

Tarranna quickly picked the lock and Geon took point. The others covered Geon as the door swung open. Nothing pounced out, so the assassin carefully edged her way forward.

The team made their way down the stairs, wary of what happened last time they descended extra cautiously. At the bottom, a small room was stationed to the side of the entrance to the cell area. Deltan and Geon cleared the room and signalled there was nothing of interest to be found.

Deltan removed the key ring from the hook on the wall and proceeded to follow her partner to the cell block door. Deltan waited until Geon finished her sweep then used the key to gain entrance to the cells.

People in the tiny rooms cried out in hope as the women were recognised by the soldiers. As they were released, Tarranna ordered them to assist in the removal of the sick victims outside where they could be cared for and fed. Around one hundred of Sarl's citizens were released from the putrid cells and made their way to freedom. Approximately twenty people didn't survive to be rescued.

“I can see why Ash and the two girls didn't want to come down here. It's reminiscent of the place we found them.” Lili sorrowfully surmised.

Chandral took the map of the castle off Tarranna and said to it “I would like to go to any secret rooms or passages linked to the dungeon.” An arrow appeared on the map and pointed to the corner of the far wall. The women walked to the area to checked for the latch to open the hidden entryway.

Tashan found a brick in the wall that was loose. As her hand caressed the brick it unexpected moved and caused a sliding door to open.

“AAAHH!” An ant the size of a horse pushed through the door and grabbed at Tashan. Its pincers were the length of swords and Tarranna parried them as she grabbed her friend by the waist and dragged her further from the doorway. Both women jumped in surprise as a small bolt of lightning hit the beast in the head, causing its skull to explode. Tarranna looked at her sister, impressed with the improved display of control she displayed.

Tarranna looked at Tashan, saw the blonde was obviously shaken but unharmed. Tashan was embarrassed for nearly getting herself killed and apologised profusely to the others for putting them in danger. Tarranna still had her arm around Tashan's waist, so she gave the woman a squeeze and said “I saw what you did and the mechanism was obviously set on a hair trigger. It wouldn't have mattered who found it, the same thing would've happened.”

“Thanks!” Tashan breathed a relieved sigh.

Tarranna smiled gently as she slowly released the woman and moved toward the giant insect. “How the heck are we going to move that out of the way?” She unconsciously rolled her shoulders to warm them up so she could help drag it out of the entrance.

“Let me try levitating it.” Chandral gave Tashan a ‘thank the Mother you're ok' kiss then moved next to Tarranna. Chandral pointed her ministaff at the ant and watched as it slowly moved toward her. She took a few steps backward and willed the insect closer to her. She slowly dragged it into one of the cells, well out of the path to the exit.

The rest of the team covered the door in case the ant had relatives close by.

Chandral returned to the inky hole in the wall, pointed her stick toward the next area and willed it to fill with light as they slowly moved into the room.

“Shit!!” The guards nearly did just that as well over a dozen massive ants charged toward them.

Chandral zapped in quick succession but the insects were exceedingly fast and the women were still swamped.

The guards teamed up and took on one beast. As the two taller women attracted its attention Geon walked under the beast and drove her sword into its stomach. As the beast writhed, Deltan decapitated it.

Lili held a crossbow bolt sideways in her mouth as she aimed and fired with amazing speed and accuracy. Since the Fairy Queen had blessed her weapon it extremely easy to reset and Lili could do so with it aimed at the next target.

Tarranna used her agility and speed to dance her way across the room and to evade the beasts' attacks. She swung her sword with such power and finesse that she could behead one ant and before its head hit the floor she already into her attack on the next one. Tarranna saw the guards were in trouble with their latest target so she sprinted toward the rear of the ant, dodged its stinger and jumped onto its back. She ran up its spine and stood on its neck. “Move away!” she yelled to the women as she raised her sword and severed the beast's head off its body. Before it hit the ground, she was running down its body and catapulted onto the next insect's back. She continued the process until the last of them hit the ground dead.

The guards puffed in and out rapid breaths and rubbed their arms as they tried to regain feeling in them. “Holy Mother they were strong!” Deltan groaned.

Lili laughed and said “Have you seen what a normal ant can carry?! I'm amazed you lot even managed to stave off the attack of one let alone managing to kill three and survive the attacks of another!” The guards thought about that then instantly felt better.

The women efficiently checked the largish cavern and reported nothing was there. “Why have so many gigantic ants protecting a pool of water?” Geon mused. They all looked at the small lake of water in the back part of the cavern. They cautiously moved toward the edge of the water and looked in.

They slowly moved back from the water as a long neck with a massive head on it broke the surface and edged its way closer to them. Tarranna, Chandral and Lili stepped in front of the guards as they all stared in dumbstruck amazement at the massive beast in, what would've been to it, a tiny pool of water. Just below the surface, the women could see flippers larger than their bodies and the beast seemed to be coiled upon itself like a snake.

“Hello Guardians, welcome to my cell. I'd offer ye refreshments, but my pond is rather empty at the moment.” The beast joked. The voice sounded feminine and the way it rolled its ‘r's made an intriguing accent.

Lili grinned and chuckled “It's lovely to meet you. You have a wonderful sense of humour.”

“Aaahh lass, when ye've been around as long as and in as many tricky situations as I have, a sense of humour is sometimes the only thing that keeps ye going.”

Chandral laughed then introduced everyone. “What's your name?”

“I've been called many things but I'm rather fond of Nessie.”

Tarranna looked at the beast then the room “Well Nessie, it's good to meet you. But just how the heck did they get you in here? And more importantly, how're we going to get you out?”

The large head lowered closer to the women and large brown eyes stared into Tarranna's. “1 – I don't know. I was drugged at the time and 2 - Hopefully not in little bits.”

The women chuckled then broke into belly laughs. They cut their laughter short as a flurry of activity drew their attention to the entrance. The women drew their weapons and prepared themselves for an attack.

The dragon babies flew into the cavern followed by a dozen or so soldiers. The soldiers shivered as they walked past the insects and nearly feinted as they looked up to see Nessie staring back at them.

“Captain, report!” Tarranna commanded to snap the soldiers out of their stupor.

“Majesty!” He saluted and said “All the prisoners are being cleaned up and fed by the people you sent to the hall down the road. All will survive. I've got patrols out checking for any remaining merchants' men.”

“Good, we have everything under control here, have the rest of your contingent search for the merchants' stash of food and take it back to the hall for distribution. Warn everyone that looters will be not tolerated and that includes the soldiers themselves.”

The Captain saluted again and ushered his men back the way they'd came.

The mini dragons buzzed like gnats around Nessie's face and the Mystics seemed to be communicating. “Oh my!!” Nessie lowered her head, gave the appearance of total embarrassment. “I totally forgot I can do that!!” She whispered. Nessie shrunk to around four feet in length and she used her flippers as wings! “I haven't had to do this for nearly a hundred thousand years! How sad it is to have memory loss at such a young age!” Nessie hovered six feet above the water that had been her prison, drops of moisture still dripped off her serpentine body.

The women looked at each other and chuckled. “Well that solved your release problem, quite well!!” Tarranna quipped. “If you'd like to follow us, we'll get out of this crappy hole.” The dragons led the way, followed by Nessie, the Queens and their guards.

Chandral signalled Tashan to move closer to her and the other Queens. “If it's ok by you, I'd like to say here and now that this will not be the castle we choose to live in!

Tashan snorted and chuckled, “As if I'd agree to live here!”

“I don't know, you could've cleaned the dungeon up, put a few plants around everywhere and made Nessie's pond into a nice indoor pool!” Tarranna stirred her sister.

“Yeah and the cells would've been great change rooms.” Deltan contributed helpfully.

“I wouldn't give too much cheek, if I were you Deltan. Tarranna, Lili, Tash and I were only just discussing who we could make wear Tarra's ‘beautiful' ceremonial crown – on a daily basis. You're now looking like the prime candidate.”

Deltan looked in horror at her Queens. “Oh you would not be that cruel!!”

“Care to test that theory?” Chandral asked with cocky confidence.

Deltan looked sideways to her partner and sneered as Geon firmly closed her lips! Deltan laughed and asked “How much do you think those ants could lift?” She silently prayed they'd accept the topic change! That crown was horrific!

Chandral laughed and graciously accepted the truce “I think a mammoth would've been scared! The banter flew easily between the team and all were eager to leave so their exit was rather speedy.

When the women emerged from the monstrosity of a castle, the dragons and Nessie were furiously flapping around the courtyard. Nessie found a fountain nearby and vigorously splashed in the water. The women laughed at her antics as she frantically rubbed her scales against the fountain wall, obviously and unsuccessfully trying to scratch a certain spot on her back.

In the end the guards couldn't hold back any longer, all of them were sympathetic to the wriggling Mystic's plight. The conferred for several seconds then Tashan reached into her backpack to pull out three large scrubbing brushes. She handed one to each of her cohorts. “Would you like some help Nessie.” Tashan and her friends help up their tools, much to Nessie's joy.

“Aye Lassie. That would be perfectly grand of ye.” The guards each attacked a part of Nessie's body, rubbed their brushes harder and harder along her back. The Mystic groaned in ecstasy as pieces of old scales fell to the ground. “Oh aye!! There!!” Nessie groaned. Her head twitched as she quivered in relief.

After several minutes the guards finished up and Nessie wholeheartedly thanked them. “Ye see those three undamaged scales on the ground, would ye please show them to me?” she asked.

Deltan bent over and removed the whole scales from the rubbish on the ground. She wiped them on her sleeve to remove tiny bits of dirt and grot from them. She placed the scales in the palms of her hands and held them up for Nessie to inspect. “Excellent! If ye could hold one up at a time, it'd be much appreciated.” Deltan did so and watched in fascination as Nessie used her front fang to bite a hole in the top section of each scale.

“Thank ye Lass. My scales are harder than anything ye know of and only Mystics can damage them. I noticed when ye were fighting the ants ye three were at a distinct disadvantage. Take a scale each and wear them around ye necks, they'll increase ye strength and endurance considerably.” The guards thanked Nessie profusely and tentatively accepted the unexpected gift. “Don't be shy. I know ye didn't help me for what I'd give ye!”

The guards smiled in relief as they removed Chandral's charms from their necks and attached the gorgeous rainbow coloured scales on the leather cord as well.

“Nessie, how can you talk to us but the babies can't?” Chandral enquired.

“Ahh, good question lassie.” Nessie said. “It is a skill they'll get when they get a wee bit older. They may be full sized physically but they won't mature mentally for many a year yet!”

“Is there anything we should know about them? And are we looking after them ok?” Lili asked and the dragons flew to their mothers to rub themselves into the women's chests.

Nessie laughed and snorted “Ye are doing wonderfully! The only complaint the little buggers can come up with is that ye don't scratch their chins nearly enough! As if that's a valid thing to whinge about! At least they have someone to do it for them!”

“Do you have somewhere to go? If not you could stay with us.” Chandral assured the Mystic.

“I thank ye for the offer.” Nessie said. “One day I probably will decide to stay. But for now going I'm going for a lovely long swim and will enjoy every minute of my freedom. After that I think I'll wander to a little place I know of. It has a beautiful loch. It's twenty two and a half miles long, one and a half miles wide and 754 feet deep. It's cold in winter but never enough to freeze over and at the bottom the water is warm. It's perfect for me to live in.” Nessie's tone was one of longing.

“I hope you'll visit us regularly.” Chandral offered to the Mystic. “I'm sure these three'll scratch your back if you do.”

“Heck yeah! If your scales are going to help me fight things like orcs, it sounds like a fair deal to me!” Geon happily stated.

Nessie made a choking noise deep in her throat and her large brown eyes misted over. “Ye are wonderful ta offer and I may yet take ye up on it!”

“Well, if you're not in a hurry, the babies can learn a lot from you. We're encouraging them to share with others so if you tell them what you eat they can bring you something.” Lili lied shamelessly.

Nessie laughed as she communicated with Terran. “Terran says that's ye nice way of saying I look like the floor of that dungeon and could do with some fattening up!”

Lili squealed and plucked Terran out of the air. The woman hugged and kissed the dragon and tickled the baby's belly in playful pride. “You are such a little snitch! It's just as well I love you so much!” Terran revelled in the attention and purred loudly.

Nessie smiled longingly at the baby dragons. “I would really love some fish.” Nessie sighed quietly. The babies promptly flew away from everyone, grew to full size and flew into the distance.

“Energetic little tykes aren't they?” Nessie laughed.

“You really don't look well, is there something we can do to help?” Chandral queried, she was becoming quite concerned about the Mystic's health.

“Thank ye but there really nothing ye can do… I just needed to be out of there. I do think I'll swim in that nice clean water for a while.” Nessie sighed as she gave into her exhaustion and flew to the fountain where she lowered herself into the liquid.

The women left Nessie to sleep in peace and walked down the road toward the large building where the soldiers and citizens were gathering. The Captain of the soldiers saw them coming and jogged to meet them. “Majesties.” He saluted to the three Queens. “The last of the food stores are being brought up here now.”

“Good. Have the bodies of citizens brought up from the dungeon and buried…” Tarranna thought for a second and added. “Also have the ants brought up here.” The Captain saluted and returned where the soldiers were finishing up their tasks.

Lili, Tashan and Chandral moved closer to Tarranna. “You want to see the ants in the daylight?” Chandral asked.

“Yeah, to see if we can find vulnerabilities we can exploit if we run into them again.” Tarranna grinned sheepishly at the other Queens. “And it never hurts for the people to people to see what we have to battle in order to keep them safe.”

Lili reached up and kissed Tarranna's lips. “I always feel safe with you around…” Something wet and slimy hit Lili on the head and slid down her face. She spat out a mouthful of water and wiped the slimy stuff off her face. She opened her eyes and found the twins still moving far away from her, matching smiles on their faces. She pulled a long strand of the slimy stuff off her head and looked at it. It was a plant of some sort, probably water based. As if that wasn't obvious!

“I think that's seaweed.” Chandral politely informed the sodden Queen.

“Really? Does it know how far from the ocean it is here and why is it only raining on me?” Lili griped as she pulled a small piece of the fishy weed from her mouth.

Lili looked at Chandral who pointed skyward. Hovering above Lili was a large brown and yellow dragon. Lili could swear the cheeky dragon grinned down at her! The cheeky dragon held a massively huge fish and the fish was discharging ocean water from its gaping mouth onto Lili's head. “Oh that's just gross!” Lili moaned in horror. She sighed in relief as Terran roared in dragon laughter and flew toward the fountain where Nessie rested.

Nessie raised her little head from the water and welcomed the babies back. Her head grew until it was big enough to swallow one of the huge fish at a time, while the rest of her body stayed small. It was intriguing to see a fish (the length of two horses standing nose to tail) disappear down a huge beast's head and into a tiny body!

Nessie swallowed the three large fish and as the last one disappeared she burped very loudly. “Oh my goodness!!” Her large head shrank to a size more befitting her littler body. “Please excuse mah vulgar manners!!” Nessie laughed at the humans smiling at her. “But that was just what I needed!” The Mystic voiced her thanks the Mother and the fish who gave their flesh to save her life.

Lili turned from watching the dragons and spied her stunningly beautiful partner who was standing with her sister. Lili's heart filled with love as she slowly removed a long piece of seaweed from her shoulder and carefully wound it into a ball. Lili slowly moved the weedball to shoulder height and pegged it at Tarranna.

Tarranna sensed the missile as it approached her. She waited until the last possible split second before she turned her head sideways and watched as the weed flew past her nose – and hit her sister in the side of the head. “Oooppps!” She sighed dramatically.

Chandral peeled the weed off her head and face and glared menacingly at her fellow Queen. “You realise this means WAR , don't you Majesty ?”

Lili put on her game face and altered her stance to that of a battle hardened warrior, prepared to fight to the death. Tashan and Geon moved to her side, she gave them a quick glance and nodded her appreciation for their support. Lili turned her attention back to the women standing twenty feet away. Tarranna and Deltan moved to stand closer to Chandral, in a silent show of their allegiances. Lili raised her hand, palm up and wriggled her fingers in a ‘come here' motion. “Bring it on, Queenie!” She growled. “You've wanted a piece of me for weeks now, show me what ya got!”

Spectators moved out of the line of fire, none of them quite sure what was going on. “Why are their lips moving like they aren't talking in the same language we're hearing?” asked one spectator. Nobody could answer her as they weren't sure themselves.

“You talk big for such a little woman!” Deltan trash talked. Chandral used the distraction to her advantage and pegged the weedball at Tashan's chest.

Tashan waited until the weed was close then turned sideways and caught the ball in her cupped hands as it flew past her. She followed through with the movement, pivoted and threw the ball back, all in one fluid movement.

Tarranna grabbed the weed, turned in a half circle and snapped the length of the seaweed at the opponents. The weed flew across the quad and tried to wrap itself around Geon's legs. Geon reached down, grabbed the end of the weed, drew it up and around her head and shoulders. She circled it around her body a few times before flicking it back at Deltan.

Lili used her left bracer to flick the rope at the twins. She willed it to circle their chests, pulled them close and held their arms securely by their sides. She ensured their fingers were also covered. With the right bracer she used the rope to do the same with their feet. Geon and Tashan picked up handfuls of the seaweed off the ground and casually draped it over the twins' heads and shoulders. Lili swaggered closer to her prey, a feral grin on her face.

Deltan stared at her team mates and burst into an unrestrained laughter. She laughed so hard, she doubled over in pain. Geon and Tashan spied their chance and charged Deltan tackled and held her on the ground as they decorated the last of their enemy with the smelly weed.

“So pitiful warriors, do you admit defeat and surrender to your superiors?” Lili demanded.

Chandral snorted in disgust. “If I'd known cheating was allowed, you'd be the one tied up!”

“I did not cheat! Nobody said anything about ground rules.” Lili moved closer, to inspect the women in her web. “Do you surrender?”

Chandral wriggled and groaned “Yuk! There's a piece of slimy weed oozing down my chest, under my shirt!” She wriggled harder and nearly toppled them over.

Tarranna stared Lili in the eyes and whispered sexily “I surrendered to you the day we met and haven't regretted it since.” Lili nearly melted at the deep, seductive tone of Tarranna's voice. “Until now, that is! You did cheat and I refuse to surrender to cheats!”

Lili moved closer to the twins “I cannot believe you two are such sore losers! You're just miffed you didn't think of using your bracers!”

The women squealed in disgust as they were hit with what seemed like a tonne of water. The Queens were drenched. They spat water from their mouths and looked around to see what happened. Silvana grinned at them, the blue swirls in her scales shining in the sunlight. The dragon looked into the near distance where a waterfall appeared to be rapidly travelling toward them.

“Oh, this is not going to be good!!” Lili moaned as she ordered the ropes to release the twins. As the last of the rope vanished into her bracers, the six women were hit with another blast of water.

“Silvana!!” Chandral yelled while still spitting out water. “Enough already!! We surrender and admit you three are the superior warriors!”

The Mystics laughed their loudest dragon laughs and strutted cockily to a dry patch of ground where they lay down to watch their humans as they tried to dry themselves.

“This means war, you realise!” Tarranna whispered to her team. Not one of them disagreed with her.

The Captain and his soldiers chose that time to drag the first two ants into the quad. Spectators gathered, fear in their whispered conversations.

The team left their game and inspected the closest carcass. Deltan went to the beast's stomach and inspected it carefully. “What are you looking for?” Geon asked.

Deltan shrugged her shoulders and sighed wearily. “These things aren't natural, that has to be why the Mother is ok with us killing them.” She stood up and looked at her partner. “I just had an urge to check it for marks telling me where it came from.” She held up her hand, forestalling Geon's next question. “I don't know why but I expected to find a stamp on it somewhere that said ‘ made by Sarl' or ‘made in Irasia .”

Geon laughed and hugged her partner. “I love you.” She whispered as she pulled away. “Maybe the stamp is on their legs!” Deltan grinned and followed her friend to check the insect's many limbs.

The Queens finished their inspection of the massive insect. “I can't see any better way to fight them than the way we did.” Lili commented and the twins agreed with her conclusion.

They stood back and watched as the contingent of soldiers moved more carcasses into the quad and stacked them near the rest. “Should we see if Ash would like to practice his fire starting skills again?” Chandral enquired.

“Don't think there's any need, just yet.” Tarranna nodded toward Chandral and Lili's back where she watched the dragons' interest in the insects. The Mystics, including Nessie stretched lazily and moved closer to the carcasses. They sniffed the insects then started to devour the remains. Once the insects were cleared away, the dragons licked their lips and sat on their haunches. They eagerly waited for the soldiers to deliver their next course.

“Ok, so that problem is solved! What are we going to do with this lot of survivors? I vote for bringing some of the Elders from Georstrie to show them how to organise a home for the orphans and Elders.”

The twins agreed with Lili. Chandral made her own recommendation. “We should also bring in help from Gardenya. Lili, your gardens are excellent and your castle is entirely self-sufficient! Could your gardeners show this lot how to grow food without harming the environment?”

Lili was flabbergasted! “I'm so used to what they do I didn't even realise everyone else mightn't have that resource!”

Tarranna had her say “We should do both.” Tarranna continued with an idea that had been germinating for quite a while. “I was out and about with the twins one time and sat with some mothers. They talked about the orphans getting schooled and how they'd like that service available to everyone.” She looked around the area and frowned at the massive houses she saw. She seemed to be thinking out loud, rather than speaking to the others. “These horrible buildings aren't worth pulling down so we may as utilise them…” She looked at Lili and Chandral as she stated “I'd like to turn them into schools, hospitals and libraries for our citizens…” Tarranna shuffled uneasily under the stares of the other two Queens. “What?”

“That is a brilliant idea!” Chandral and Lili gushed at the same time. Chandral kept the ball rolling. “We could do that in all the cities attached to the castles.”

“It'll take years to set up properly, but we can start small and get the teachers trained in the meantime.” Lili liked to be able to plan ahead. “We'll need at least six trained gardeners in each castle, with people to help them…”

“I need to get my novices trained up more efficiently…” Chandral was worried she wouldn't have enough decently trained healers ready in time.

“Will you two stop freaking out?!!” Tarranna growled. “It's not as if we can have everything ready tomorrow, so just take a breath and calm down!” She took a deep breath herself and encouraged Lili and Chandral to follow her lead. Tarranna watched in relief as the joint stress management effort started to work for the pair. “First thing we'll do is get the soldiers clear out all the existing furniture and personal stuff from the castle and houses. They can store it all in the castle dungeon.” Tarranna hugged her sister and love to her sides. “Then we can go from there. Ok?”

Lili and Chandral returned Tarranna's hug and watched as the dragons made short work of the next lot of insects. “Our babies are growing up so quickly!” sighed Chandral. As they watched Terran walked up to Nessie, pulled a stray ant leg from the older female's mouth and swallowed it. Nessie ran her head against Terran's to thank her for her assistance.

“I cannot believe they have such a nefarious sense of humour!” Lili chuckled. “I used to think Ash was the main instigator of the mischief, but now I'm not so sure!”

“Oh please!!” Tarranna scoffed. “Who was it that took Melanger's boot out of the noose in the tree? Those two girls have the wool well and truly over your eyes!”

The Queens walked together toward the entrance of the castle. “That was just a one off thing.” Chandral assured Tarranna.

Tarranna signalled the Royal Guards to join them. She wanted the team to clear the castle of anything they needed before the soldiers started to clear away the furniture. Tarranna gave a scoffing laugh. “So says the women who just got drenched by their oh-so-innocent babies.” The Queen hugged Lili closer. “Not that you didn't look lovely with that seaweed as a hair accessory.”

Lili and Chandral frowned at each other. They hated to admit Tarranna may have a very valid point. They dropped the subject and hastened to meet their guards.

The women checked the castle for more secret rooms and found nothing of interest. By the time they returned to the quadrangle the last of the ants had been removed from the dungeon and devoured by the dragons. Tarranna gave the Captain his orders for the next few days. Lili sent messages to their head gardeners and Chandral to her head healers to ask them to arrange for representatives to be sent immediately to Irasia 's castle.

The women got ready to head home for the night.

Nessie met them in the quad, her head held high. “I cannot thank ye enough for getting me out of that terrible place.” She grinned at the team, her large eyes letting them know she was about to say goodbye. “I'm feeling stronger, thanks to the wee babies bringing me such nourishing food. I'm going to head out to sea now but I'll come back and say goodbye properly before I head off to my wee Loch.”

The Queens stepped forward and kissed Nessie's forehead. “You are welcome to stay with us anytime for as long as you want. Remember that!” Lili advised the Mystic.

“I will Lass.” Tarranna and Chandral thanked Nessie for helping them understand the baby dragons a little more. “If ye're going to let them drag ye into a ‘war' ye cannot win, just remember to use those rings the Fairy gave ye!!” Nessie laughed and winked at the Queens.

Nessie flew away from the team and spectators to a large open area. She suddenly grew to around eighty feet long and her body was almost as big as the dungeon in which she'd been held prisoner. Her wingspan was huge and she laughed as she leapt into the air. She hovered over the humans before she belted out a roar that shook the ground below. They could still hear her jubilant laughter as she disappeared over the horizon.


That night, Tarranna and Chandral sat as they watched the children play as they discussed what they believed their partners were up to. “So Lili didn't give you even a minute clue as to what they're doing?” Chandral picked up her short staff and chuckled as she discretely levitated the girls' toys off the ground and made them dance like puppets on strings.

“Nope… They've been best friends for ages Chan. They need to spend time together… Without us…” Tarranna frowned and raised her eyebrows at her sister. “Yes, I do know they're planning something and no, I don't know what it is.” Chandral raised her left eyebrow at her sister and silently commanded her to finish her thoughts. “No, I don't think spying on them is a good idea!...” Chandral waited patiently for Tarranna to finally admit something to her sister but most importantly to herself. “Fine!! It's killing me not knowing!! Happy now?”

Chandral laughed as the girls danced around the floor with their new dragon cuddly toys. The stuffed dragons bounced around like demented flies with a passion for disco dancing – thanks to Chandral's intervention. “Yes, dear sista. I'm ecstatically happy you can finally admit you're as curious as I am!”

“Can you smell something burning?” Tarranna and Chandral jumped to their feet and followed their noses, past the children and onto the balcony. They found Ash and Maladroit sitting in the corner. Mal had a quiver of arrows lying beside him and was holding an arrow with bits of food on it. Ash was periodically hitting the skewered food with bursts of flame.

Mal laughed as the tip of the blunted arrow caught fire and the flame refused to be blown out. He held the tip of the arrow near Silvana and watched in glee as water appeared out of nowhere and extinguished the flame. Mal happily thanked the Mystics as he picked up the plate beside him, put the arrow on a plate and carried it to the table. The children ran to sit in their chairs and eagerly accepted the treats from their friend. The three dragons flew inside, sat on their chairs, held the arrow in their paws and gnawed at the food and the arrow.

“Should we be letting the kids eat that?” Chandral chuckled.

“I'd pay money to see you try and get it off them!!” Tarranna laughed.

“Lady Tarra and Lady Chan, would you like to try one of my little cakes?” Mal held up an arrow with eight pods of dough wrapped around the shaft. “They have fruit in them that goes soft when they cook. It's so hot they burn your tongue! So be careful.” He looked at the twins with such a proud grin on his face, they couldn't say no.

Tarranna pulled one of the treats off the arrow and handed it to her sister, then procured one of her own. They closed their eyes and imagined everything but what they'd seen going into Ash's mouth and took a tentative bite. Their eyes flew open in delight. “This's great!” Chandral gushed. She promptly took the arrow from Mal, thanked him very much and moved to sit at the table.

Tarranna looked hopefully at Mal. “Sorry, that's the only lot. I can make more!”

Tarranna called him back and glared at her sister “It's ok Mal, thanks but don't go to any trouble. Chandral will share what she has!” Chandral stopped chewing and looked at the faces of the children who were now staring at her. The two little ones had more food around their mouth than in it.

“Sure, I can share!” Chandral chirped. “Sharing is great! No problem with sharing here!” She did a quick count and groaned as she worked out she'd eaten her half. She secured one extra treat before she handed the arrow to her sister. She whispered to her twin “Nothing wrong with taking a finder's fee either.” She looked at the half full plate on the table. “What's on them?” she asked, hoping Mal would take the hint and let her have one.

“Meat and veges.” Mal moved the plate toward Chandral and let her pick which one she wanted. Chandral carefully selected the perfect combination and nibbled at the meat. “Ooohhh, this is divine.” She quickly grabbed another arrow and passed it to her sister. There was no way she was sharing this!

Lili and Tashan entered the room to find silence. They looked around, startled. They found food covered faces staring at them – the worst culprits being the adult twins. “Mal cooked and it's fantastic.” Patience happily advised them. “You better hurry and get yours before Mumma Chan and Mumma Tarra eat it!”

Lili and Tashan laughed and walked to the table, where they sat and took the offerings. They groaned in appreciation as they savoured the culinary delights. “I've never tasted anything like this, how did you cook them?”

“I held up the arrows and Ash breathed on them!” Mal happily informed them.

Both women closed their eyes and determinedly swallowed the mouthful of food they were chewing. They opened their eyes and looked at each other, revulsion hit them as they vividly remembered the things they'd see Ash eating. Then the exotic flavours from the food hit them again. They shrugged at each other and finished devouring the rest of their dinner.

“If you don't want your second lot, I'll have yours.” Tarranna and Chandral both said simultaneously. They glared at each other than optimistically looked at their partners.

“Sorry.” Lili and Tashan placed the useless arrows on an empty plate and reached for the last of the food. The children laughed at the looks of pure horror on the adult twins' faces as they watched their partners scoff the last of the delightful food.

Patience and the little twins walked up to Tarranna and Chandral and patted their shoulders. Patience kissed the cheeks of the distraught women. “Don't be too upset. Mal'll make them again another night.” The children went to the bathing room to clean their faces then hurried to play before they were sent to bed.

Tarranna and Chandral went and cleaned up their messy faces and returned to the lounge room and sat in their favourite overstuffed chairs. “So, what'd you two get up to tonight?” Chandral casually asked Tashan.

Tashan grinned at Lili then smiled radiantly at her curious partner. “Not a lot really. Just a lot of talking and catching up.” The two blonde women sauntered into the bathing room and cleaned their faces and hands. They then kissed the children and sent them to bed.

The four women kissed the girls goodnight, tucked in the real and stuffed dragons and returned to the lounge room. Tarranna and Chandral sat on their favourite chairs and raised their eyebrows at each other as their partners sat on their laps.

Lili and Tashan each snuggled close to their twin and revelled in the love they found there. They lazily kissed the dark haired beauties and tried unsuccessfully to distract them. Lili shook her head in surrender as she silently verified with Tashan what they should do. Tashan shrugged her shoulders and left the decision to Lili. “We were planning a surprise for you. Do you really want to know what it was, before it's one hundred percent finished?”

Tarranna and Chandral didn't even bother looking at each other. There was only one possible answer to that question. “YES!”

Tashan and Lili laughed wholeheartedly at the joint loud and determined answer. Lili sat up slightly so she could see not only Tarranna's face but Chandral's as well. “We've been organising a treasure hunt of sorts.” The twins interest was instantly stimulated, they moved forward slightly in their chairs. Partners and all! “We've been leaving clues around the castle for you and the girls to find and decipher. The clues either lead to little rewards or tasks you have to complete in order to continue. Most times only the girls will be able to complete the tasks, so you have to actively let them help with everything.” The twins grinned in anticipation, looked at each other and nodded in agreement. They continued to stare at Lili, unblinkingly. Lili shuffled in Tarranna's lap. “That's all.”

“When do we start?”

“Yeah and how long will it take?”

“Is there a big reward when we finish?”

“Can we get help from anybody?”

“Where do we start?”

“Why are you doing this?”

Lili and Tashan laughed as the women they loved practically shook in anticipation of the hunt. Tashan started to answer the questions. “Tomorrow morning. No time limit involved. There is a big reward at the finish and no I'm not telling you what. You can ask for advice from others but you or the kids have to complete the tasks. You'll start from here and lastly, Lili would you like to take the final question?”

Lili smiled and did so. “We wanted to do something special for each of you and thought it'd work better if we made a joint effort. We really hope you both like what we've done.”

Tarranna pulled Lili closer to her chest and nibbled the blonde's bottom lip. “I love that you put all this effort into something for us.” Lili closed her eyes and sighed. Tarranna started to kiss the blonde behind the ear then sucked lightly at her earlobe. Lili's breath hitched and restarted at a quicker pace. Tarranna moved her lips to Lili's neck and started to gently kiss the bare skin. Tarranna grinned her most feral smile. “So what's the big reward when we finish the treasure hunt?” She whispered to her love.

“You'll have to wait and see.” Lili groaned as she moved closer to Tarranna.

Tarranna took Lili's lips with her own, moved them passionately and to request entrance into the blonde's mouth with her tongue. Their tongues duelled for several minutes before Tarranna removed hers and kissed Lili's lips. Lili's breathing rate increased as Tarranna moved to again suck her earlobe. “Tell me now? Please!” Lili groaned as she shook her head negatively.

Tarranna continued to kiss the blonde until the blonde nearly melted in her lap. “Tell me now?” Tarranna whispered and groaned as Lili again refused.

Tarranna stopped kissing her bewildered partner and looked toward her sister. “Did you find out what it is?”

“Nope, you?” Chandral hugged Tashan as she talked to her twin. Chandral frowned as Tarra shook her head. “Bugger!” Chandral absent mindedly scratched Tashan's back as the blonde's heart and breathing rate returned to normal. “I hate having to wait!”

Tarranna moved Lili closer and hugged her. “We should make sure we have everything ready for the morning so we can leave as soon as the girls are fed and dressed.”

Chandral and Tarranna slipped out from under their bemused partners and consulted with each other as they walked to the table and sat down. Lili settled into the armchair, wiped the remaining evidence of the short lived make out session off her mouth and looked toward her best friend.

Tashan sat in her chair, her elbow on the armrest and her head on her fist. “Well, we definitely have their attention.”

“Yeah but I'm thinking a wee bit too much.” Lili chuckled.

Tashan snorted in agreement. “Just as well we finished everything tonight.” She saw Lili nod affirmatively. “Just as well they stopped when they did, I was about to cave.”

Lili laughed and said “Yep, me too!”

The blondes made themselves comfortable as they watched in contented frustration as the twins removed items from their backpacks only to replace them soon after. They laughed as Chandral ran to the bathing room, returned with several face washers and handtowels and threw them into her backpack.

“I hope they won't be disappointed.”

“Not a hope! They'll be talking about it for years to come!” The women nearly choked as they laughed at Tarranna. The dark haired Queen removed a sword from the wall, inspected it and placed it in her pack.

“It's going to be one LONG night.”

“Ooohhh yeah!!”



Lili was woken out of her light sleep as little hands and feet moved all over her. She forced one eye open and spotted the tiny twins as they sleepily crawled into her lap. As they snuggled into her, she put her arms around their little bodies and pulled them closer.

Lili looked at the chair next to hers and saw Patience pull herself across Tashan's body. The girl put her head on Tashan's shoulder and accepted the delicate kisses placed on her forehead. “Morning precious. What's up with you three?” Tashan asked quietly.

“Mumma Tarra and Mumma Chan are nuts !!” Patience was indignant and wanted her mums to know it. Tashan and Lili snorted and tried not to laugh. “They woke us up and it's still dark outside!! We never have to get up this early!! Ever!!”

“They aren't nuts, sweetie. They're just excited.” Lili assured her daughter.

“What about?” Patience yawned and closed her eyes.

“Your mumma and I have made a game for all of you to play today. You'll go around doing lots of fun things and when you've finished there's one last surprise for you all.” Tashan told the girl.

Patience sat up straight, as did the tiny twins. “Games and surprises? Mummas Tarra and Chan will be playing with us?” Tashan nodded and Patience flew off her lap. Ndindari and Macgaven weren't far behind her. The children charged across the room to the dark haired Queens and wrapped themselves around the women's' legs.

“Did you get much sleep?” Tashan yawned.

“Cupple'a hours… You?” Lili griped.

“Same.” Tashan stretched and reclosed her eyes. “Patience was right, they are nuts!”

“Yep” Lili said seconds before a she let out a gentle snore.

Lili jumped from her seat as roars ripped through the apartments! She looked around only to see Tarranna and Chandral as they high fived each other and did a jig around the room. She looked at Tashan who was standing next to her. Tashan had obviously been startled from sleep as well. “I take it the seers are clear for the moment!” Tashan sighed wearily.

Lili snorted and grabbed her friend by the arm. “Come on, we may as well give up and have breakfast.”

“Ok. But you have to promise if Chandral tries interrogating me again, you'll get her off me. I won't be able to hold out if she starts me again!” Tashan was very serious with the request.

Lili stopped walking and looked her friend in the eyes. “Only if you promise you'll do the same for me?” They pinkie swore to cover each other and joined their family.

Breakfast was a riotous affair, with the excitement level off the charts. The kids didn't have to be encouraged to finish their food or clean up afterwards. The twin adults assisted with the face wiping and after they emerged from the bathing room they were puzzled to find Lili and Tashan gone.

Mal looked up from his seat and asked if he could go with them on their hunt. Tarranna and Chandral didn't hesitate to agree and before they could ask where the two blondes had gone, he spoke again.

Roses are red

Violets are blue

Their stems are green

And stones are too.

Bring us four gems

In each of the three colours above

From the dark place below

Where we live and love.


Carry the gems to the place we all know

Where a mother loves to sit and sew.

Follow her as she will lead you

To the next place you should go .'

The women looked at Mal as if he'd suddenly grown a third, fourth and fifth head!! “Lady Lili said to tell you it's the first clue. She said you have to work out what she means and do what the rhyme says.

The twins grinned at each other and had Mal slowly repeat the clue. “It has to be the cave where we stash everything of value.” Tarranna stated and Chandral agreed. They pulled the children close and Mal placed his hand on Chandral's shoulder.

“I'll go first with Mal and Patience.” Chandral advised her sister then spoke to both her passengers. “When we get to the cave, it's going to be really dark but don't be scared. Just hang onto me until the lights can come on. Ok?” Both Mal and Patience stood straighter and nodded.

After they disappeared, Tarranna counted to five and followed. The tiny twins wriggled to get down and as she put them on the ground, Tarranna warned them not to go near the doorways. The children didn't mind as they'd already started to dig around in the dirt with Mal and Patience. They all started to look for the pretty stones.

The kids had a fantastic time, they ratted around in the dirt wiped it on their faces and all over their clothes. The Queens had almost as much fun as the children did.

“Ok, how many red stones do we have?” Chandral asked the kids.

She laughed as the answer was deafening. “Four!”

“How many blue?”

She laughed again as the answer was deafening. “Four!”

“And how many green?”

The silence was just as deafening. “Only three!” Patience answered for them.

“Need anuffer geen one Nunna.” Ndindari told her mum.

Tarranna picked the child up off the ground and took her to the nearest wall. They inspected the stones showing through the dirt. Tarranna pointed to one stone after another, asking the child what colour they were. “Wed, wed, boo, wed, boo. GEEN!!”

Ndindari helped Tarranna remove the stone from the wall and the child carried it to where her siblings waited. “Excellent. Now we have four greens ones!” Chandral removed a small coin bag from her belt. “Ok, put them all in here.” The girls happily did so. “Now we have to go find Gramma and give these to her.”

“Do you girls know where Gramma likes to sit and sew things?” The girls all nodded madly. “ Macgaven can you tell me where please?”

“In wyberry! Wots of sun to see wiff.”

“Well done all of you. To the library it is then!”

The children cheered in delight as they took hold of the women and prepared to pop off.

“Gramma!!” they yelled as they ran to the woman they loved wholeheartedly.

“Well look who I found.” Ranna laughed. She held up her hand in a stop motion as she signalled the children toward the bowl of water on the table next to her. “Use soap please! And I wasn't only talking to the children!” Ranna stared at her daughters. Once the girls and Queens had washed their hands Ranna gathered them into a hug and smothered them with kisses. She signalled Mal over to collect his hug.

“We found the stones, Gramma.” Patience reported.

“Well done! Show them to me, please.” Ranna took the small bag of gems from Macgaven, who was given it by Chandral. Ranna tipped the gems onto the table and checked each stone carefully and took her time. “They're perfect!" Ranna made a huge show of waving her hands around and pumping up the kids' interest. “Now for your next clue… Are you ready?” the girls and Mal cheered and whooped. Ranna laughed and leaned forward. The girls put their heads closer to their Gramma's.

Look around and you will see

Lots of water spurting out of me.

I'm a place you like visit just to sit

I'm a place were lots of elders come to knit .”

Ranna looked at the kids and asked “Where's a place where lots of water spurts” she used her hands to mimic water bursting from something into the air “everywhere and people like to sit and talk?”

“Poun ten?” Macgaven said as she chewed her fingers.

“Fountain, that's right! But before you go, you still have to find your treasure in this room.” Ranna waited for the girls to stop jumping up and down before continuing. “Where do you sit to eat your dinner?”

“Table!” The children yelled.

The girls took the very unsubtle hint from their Gramma and crawled under the table she was sitting at. Patience emerged with six bags, five pink ones and one blue. “The blue is for Mal and the others are for you girls.” Patience handed out the bags to her impatient cohorts and they were quickly opened.

Tarranna and Chandral opened theirs first and hummed in appreciation. “Cool! Snacks!” The Queens unashamedly stuffed the apricot delight in their mouths and checked what else was in their bags. “Who wants to swap a bickie for a fruit dough cake?” Tarranna eyed off the tiny twins' bags. The tiny twins shook their heads and grinned cheekily as snuggled closer to Gramma. “Mal?”

“Sorry, Lady Tarra. I just ate mine.” He grinned as he licked the fruit and crumbs off his fingers.

Tarranna growled and stalked the tiny twins. Ndindari and Macgaven growled louder and attached themselves to Tarranna's legs. “Ooohhh nnnooo!! They've worked out they out number me!!!” Tarranna carefully lifted one leg at a time and lifted the girls off the floor with each step. The girls laughed hysterically as the Queen moved toward the door. “Bye mother!” The twins yelled goodbye in between burst of laughter.

Patience took Chandral's hand and proceeded to drag her and Mal to the door. Chandral grinned widely and waved goodbye to her mum.

When they reached the fountain, the elders and orphans were sitting around it in full force. They cheered as the treasure hunters came into sight. Chandral stared in amusement at the faces of the orphan children. “What have they done to them?” she laughed.

Patience couldn't contain her excitement as she yelled “Face paint! Can I be a dragon?”

Arnae, the old woman who gave Tarranna the idea for the orphanage and older people home shuffled up to the Queens and said “Well done Majesties and you wouldn't have gotten here so quick without these gorgeous girls!” She looked at Tarranna and Chandral and spoke seriously to them “The face paint is only ochre and water, nothing that'll hurt the kids.”

Tarranna nodded “I didn't think it would. Go girls, get your faces done!” Mal looked devastated as he watched the girls run to wait in line. “Mal, what are you waiting for, GO!” He jumped off the ground and clicked his heels together before he landed and ran to the line. He whooped in glee all the way there. “So Arnae, you're part of this little treasure hunt?”

“Only this bit.”

“So how long do you have to delay us for? Mother tried hard but ran out of excuses to keep us with her.” Chandral spilt, smirking.

“Aaahhh, they thought you might guess what they were up to. Even warned me, they did.”

The Queens laughed and Tarranna asked “Warned you we'd do what?”

“Interrogate me!! They told me what you did to them and I'm ready.” Arnae puckered her lips, but the smile on her lips was all too evident!

Tarranna put her arms around the older woman and hugged her close, after a few seconds she pulled back and tenderly kissed the grey haired woman's lips. “If I wasn't already spoken for, I'd happily interrogate you longer.”

Arnae giggled like a teenager as she smacked the Queen across the arm. “Sorry Queen Chandral, but there's no way you could top that technique.”

Chandral rose to the obvious challenge and chuckled. She raised her eyebrows at her laughing sister and sauntered closer to Arnae. “Well now, just remember you asked for this.” Chandral whipped out her ministaff as she gently hugged the woman. Arnae squealed as her feet lifted off the floor and she rose two feet off the ground, to lip level with Chandral who gently kissed her. Chandral hugged the woman closer as she leaned backwards, taking the floating Arnae with her. The older woman screamed with delight as she was moved until she was parallel with the ground and Chandral was only holding her hand. Chandral carefully spun Arnae until she was again standing upright but kept her hovering several inches off the ground. “You were saying?”

Arnae secured a hold on Chandral's arm as she beamed in amazement at the younger woman. “Sorry Tarranna, you just got trounced?”

Chandral drew the woman closer as she walked demurely toward the girls, Arnae still floated beside her . “That's exactly what I thought I heard you say.” The not so polite hand signal she sent her sister was discreetly done behind her back so nobody else could see it.

“I think I need one of those staffs!!” Tarranna groused as she skipped to catch up with the others. She took Arnae by the other arm. Does it really need to be said that Arnae was floating on air for quite a while?

Thirty minutes later, Arnae again laughed at the Queens who stood in front of her. Both had their faces painted red, had a hand print on each cheek and their foreheads. Thanks to their three daughters. Luckily for the women, their three daughters had quite a flair for colours, so the hand prints were lovely variations of blue yellow and green. Arnae glowed as she recited the next clue.

When it gets late and mumma turns out the lights

This's the place you'll be found each night .'

“Bed!!” The girls yelled as they hurried toward their room.

“Mal.” Arnae said to the man as he watched the girls leave. “On your bed are some clothes and different shoes, change into them and come back here to wait for the Queens and Princesses.” Mal whooped and cheered as he ran toward his quarters. “Same goes for you two, get!!” She shooed the Queens who just looked at each other then took off at a run. Arnae smiled radiantly as she watched the women pick up the children and hurry to their rooms, her fingers softly ran over her lips. She sighed heavily as she turned around and faced her friends. Who cheered and whistled at her!!

Arnae allowed her smile to explode full force as she waved her hands in the air and hurried them up. “Move it along!!! You all know we have to be ready by the time they change!! Hurry up!! Go, Go, Go!!!”

Arnae's best friend waited for her to walk closer before she took her by the arm. “Well, how was it? Dish!”

Arnae nearly swooned. “Holy Mother, those girls pump out sexiness so easily it should be illegal!!” Arnae drooled. “They didn't even try and me poor old heart nearly exploded!” She drew contemplative. “It made my respect level for Queen Lili and that Tashan woman go up quite a few pegs!! That's for sure!”

The women chatted and laughed as they hurried the stragglers to the last site of the hunt.


Tarranna pulled at the tight trousers and frowned. “What the bloody hell are they up too??” she whispered to herself. The skin tight, low waisted black pants had a string tie and were padded at the knees. She had soft and well-padded chest armour under her tight purple shirt (it had no buttons and was pulled on over her head) and a soft padded helmet. Her shoes were ankle high, extremely light and the soles had trenches dug into the material. Tarranna jumped up and down several times before she asked the staring kids what they thought.

“You look lovely!” All three chimed in perfect sync. The Queen wondered who had been training the girls to say that!!!

Tarranna looked up as Chandral came into her room. She was dressed in an identical outfit. “Cool, I don't feel so dorky now!” Chandral sighed.

The Queens looked at their daughters and grinned. “You lot look lovely!!”

The girls had apparently been telling Ranna they wanted to be Fairy Princess ever since hearing the story of how their mothers had freed Alansa and her people. The girls were dressed in pink leggings, pink button less shirts with glittery stuff all over them and crowns made from flowers woven into a circle. Over their shoulders was a harness that held their large glittery wings to their backs. Around their waists were skirts made of some sort of inflexible lacy stuff that stuck out from their bodies. They were waving around ‘wands' (sticks with stars on the ends) around and dancing on their toes.

“Ok let's get back to the fountain. But no running, remember you girls are now Fairy Princesses.” Chandral laughed. The little Princesses pranced and flapped their arms as they elegantly hurried to the large water feature.

Mal was waiting for them. He was in similar pants and shoes as the women, but he held his chest armour and shirt in his hands. “I don't know how to put them on.” He sighed.

“It took me a while to work out how to do this!” Chandral said as she took the armour from him and said. “This bit goes at the front and that's the back. Your head goes in the hole in the middle.” She watched as he put it on and then tied the stings on the side to keep the armour sitting properly. She then explained how the shirt worked and grinned at him as he did put it on. She then demonstrated how the helmet worked by putting her own on. Tarranna also donned hers.

Once they were fully ready they looked around. The area around the fountain was empty of people. All the equipment had been packed away. A piece of parchment under a large rock flapped in the breeze. Patience ran to pick up the paper and handed it to Tarranna. “What's it say mumma Tarra?”

“It says ‘Well done Queens and Princesses!! You have finished your tasks and are now invited to attend the celebration of your victory! Please walk to the place where soldiers train. Lots of love, hugs and kisses. Mummas Lili and Tashan.' Well, then off to the training ground we go!!” The Princesses grabbed the hands of the Queens and they skipped to the practice area.

The Queens were gobsmacked. Hundreds of wooden benches lined the outside of the circular paddock and each bench was packed with screaming people! Lili and Tashan stood at the closest edge of the ground dressed in the same clothes as the twins, but with black shirts with white lightning bolts down the front. The blondes stood with Arnae and several of her elder friends. Lili signaled for the Queens to join her which they hesitantly did.

As her family joined her Queen Arobar motioned for the crowd to quieten. “Princesses Denion, Ndindari and Macgaven you have been a wonderful help to your mothers! As a reward you are invited to a party with all your friends.” Lili and Tashan hugged the open mouthed girls as the elders escorted them to their celebratory shindig.

“Queens Tarranna and Chandral and Maladroit. Welcome to the first official game of Dragonball !” The crowd cheered and Lili waited for them to quieten. “And here are your teams!” Two lines of men and women ran from the crowds, all of them dressed in identical outfits to the Queens. The only difference was men's shirts were green.

Lili signalled again for silence as she used the wind to carry her message to all. “ Dragonball rules are:


Each team has ten players who can be on any part of the playing circle they like. If a player is holding the ball when they step outside the circle, the ball is given to the other team.


No tackling of player before they have possession of the ball or after they release it. Each player will have a baton to hit the ball with. The baton is NOT to hit other players!! Anyone hitting another player will be sent off the field and not allowed back on!!


You can pass the ball to any member of your team by throwing, kicking or hitting the ball. Any player on the other team can intercept that pass and forward it onto their team members.


At the north and south ends of the circle there are circular frames sitting on posts. If your team gets the ball through your circle, you get five points. If the ball goes through the support posts your team gets one point. The greens have to score in the north goal and the purple in the south goal.


After thirty minutes we'll swap ends.

Mal cheered and whooped as he sneered at the green team. “Get ready to eat dirt, boys!!”

Lili grinned at his trash talk and continued. “You have ten minutes to warm up. GO!!”

Tarranna and Chandral looked at each other and then their devious partners. “We get to run around like idiots, crash tackle people, hit things and humiliate the men!! This is your surprise for us?” Tarranna clarified. Lili and Tashan checked with each other and nodded warily.

The twins yelled, jumped in the air, high fived then hugged each other. They then grabbed their partners in a bone crunching hug and soundly kissed them senseless, all the while chanting ‘thank you' incessantly. They even hugged and gently kissed each other's partners before they ran to meet up with their team which included the manically grinning Geon and Deltan. They twins accepted the cylindrical two foot long, black sticks and practiced twirling them in the air. They picked up a practice ball (tightly packed leather sphere six inches across) and tentatively hit it to each other.

“I do believe Dragonball is a hit!” Tashan sighed, relief evident in voice.

“Yep. I still can't believe we managed to keep them distracted long enough to get this thing organised! I'm so relieved it's over, I'm exhausted!” Lili mumbled. Tashan laughed and Lili joined her. They hugged in shared liberation before they turned to watch the teams as they discussed tactics and practiced passing the leather balls.

Before the game started, Lili and Tashan called the teams in for a final talk. “All of you get rid of the jewellery and weapons. And I do mean every weapon!!” She walked up to Tarranna and accepted the woman's backpack. She watched in awe as Tarranna placed her huge stash of daggers in the pack. Then came the necklaces and rings. Both women were stunned as the bracers unlocked and floated into the bag. They turned to check on Chandral, who had the same stunned look on her face and unconsciously rubbed her now bare wrists. Lili placed the twin's packs into her own and replaced hers on her back.

Tarranna jogged on the spot and smiled in wicked anticipation as she realised she was now around twenty pounds lighter!

Ok everyone, listen up! Tashan and I will be in charge of this battle. We each have a whistle.” Both women put the wooden devices to their lips and demonstrated the shrill sound they produced. “If you hear the whistle you stop what you're doing immediately. If we say stop and you don't, you'll be sent off for an amount of time determined by us. Any questions?” Silence. “Purple team, you want to get the ball in that circle.” Lili pointed to the left. “Men want to get the ball in that circle.” She pointed to the right. “After a team scores the game stops and the ball is returned to the middle of the field. The game starts again when Ash drops the ball. Take your places !”

The teams spread themselves around the paddock.

The first thirty minutes were a learning curve for everyone and not many points were scored. The first thirty minutes allowed the participants to learn how the balls flew through the air, how far a good whack with the stick would send them and how hard you had to throw it to make it reach twenty yards.

They swapped ends and everything changed. The second thirty minutes was all about tactics and points.

The women, led by the twins and Deltan and Geon (who had played a similar game before) guided and demonstrated varying manoeuvres to their team (a mixture of Lili and Tarranna's best guards/assassins) and the rest of the women quickly adapted to the styles of their leaders. The women were smaller, quicker and more agile than their male counterparts. Small women like Geon were ideal for the game.

Geon ran under the arms of a hulk of a man and stole the ball out of his enormous hand. He desperately tried to tackle her. Geon grinned wildly as she dodged his long arms and escaped to the right side of the field. She saw several men charge toward her and determinedly whacked the ball toward Mal.

Mal clutched the ball to his chest, where it'd hit him, and ran toward his goal. He deftly sidestepped several opponents before he saw a huge individual lumber toward him. He threw the ball to Clein who had broken free of her guard and appeared to his left.

Clein grabbed the ball in her left hand, dummied a run to the left which successfully sent the opposition in the wrong direction. She abruptly turned right and pelted across the grass where she hit the ball toward Reson.

Reson scooped up the ball, delayed her break to attract more defenders then ran sideways, to spread the defense even thinner. She threw an overhead pass to Neapa who grabbed the ball and ran toward the left of their goal.

Neapa hit a brilliant pass to Tarranna who slid across the grass on her knees to hit the ball on the full and toward the front of the goal.

Chandral was waiting for the pass from Tarranna, she also hit the ball on the full – right through the center of the goal circle.

The crowd cheered and the women waved to them as they rallied in a group huddle, congratulated each other and planned the next attack.

Tashan and Lili blew incessantly on the whistles, instantly getting everyone's attention. “Time and game!! Well done everyone.”

The men had tried hard and were even successful with several goals but they were determined to tackle the women, which lead to their eventual downfall 58 to 13. Tarranna, Chandral, Deltan, Geon, Maladroit, Clein, Reson, Neapa, Taelea, Puren huddled together and congratulated each other as the crowd screamed and whistled their approval of the victory. Lili called the teams together. The men shook hands with the women and then each other.

Lili had been teaching Tashan the basics on how to link into the Flow and Tashan tried her hand at using the wind to carry her message. She did it extremely well. “ Did you enjoy that ?” The roar was loud. “ Would you like to see another game? ” The roar was louder still. “ Good. Because in two weeks we'll do it again!!” The roar was even louder. “ Tell your friends how much fun it was and bring them along. But now let's give the players one more cheer before we go home .” The din was deafening, to say the least. The spectators hurried to congratulate the players and talk to them about the rules.

The Queens graciously accepted the smiles and thank yous while they determinedly made their way to their partners. The dark haired Queens picked up their loves in full body hugs and spun around. “I haven't had so much fun in ages. Thank you both so very much.” Tarranna said, to both blondes.

Chandral laughed and snorted “What she said!! I can't believe we get to do it again!!” The twins put the blondes on the ground and started to walk toward the girls' party where squeals of glee were still being let loose.

“From what I've been hearing, you'll have several teams to play against and we may have to make it weekly games!” Tashan chuckled. “Apparently the men are peeved the captain of their team only picked the ‘he-men' to play you guys. There may be even as many as four male teams from the rest of the soldiers. There's probably going to be just as many teams from the women!”

“Excellent. More people to humiliate!” Tarranna and Chandral bumped hips in delight.

Lili removed Chandral and Tarranna's backpacks from hers and handed them to the twins. She then removed several wet towels and handed them to the perspiring women as well. “You may want to pay special attention to your faces, Ladies. The face paint has melded into quite a lovely display of colours.”

The two Queens cleaned off as much of the paint as possible and rung the coloured water from the towels. They then repeated the process several times before being happy with the result. Tashan collected the dirty towels and asked a passing staff member to take them to the laundry. The Queens quickly replaced the jewellery on their neck and hands and the bracers on their wrists.

Tarranna made the conscious decision to leave her weapons in the pack and revelled in the freedom it allowed her.

The women spent the rest of the afternoon with the kids and their friends and had a wonderful time.



That evening, Tarranna and Chandral told their partners to sit and rest while they bathed and prepared the exhausted children for bed.

Once the kids were cared for, the dark haired Queens then quickly separated but did exactly the same tasks. They bathed themselves and donned their favourite dressing gowns. They then ran baths for their partners and ushered them into the rooms where candles were lit and bubbles popped. The blondes were told to relax in their tubs while their dinner was ordered and sent up.

The twins threw rose petals in a trail from the dining table to the bedroom where they threw more petals across the beds. They donned their silk sleeping clothes and delivered new silk pants and shirts to their partners, leaving the clothing on the dry cupboard where they could be easily reached by the women after they dried off.

Once the food was delivered and set on the table, the women blew out all the candles in the rooms. But left two candles burning on the dining table and carried a third to the bathing rooms where they encouraged their partners to get dressed for dinner. They then nervously returned to the table where they sat and fidgeted with the cutlery until their partners finally joined them.

The women enjoyed their meals and after they placed the dirty dishes outside their doors, the twins snuggled with their partners on the lounges. The conversations were even so similar we only need to follow one lot.

“I really enjoyed today, I can't thank you enough for what you did.” Tarranna played with Lili's hair as she delicately massaged her scalp.

“I'm glad you had fun, I know I did!”

Tarranna chuckled as she remembered Lili eyeballing huge soldiers and telling them off for playing too roughly. “You really loved blowing that whistle!”

“Yep, I have the power!!” Lili laughed softly and snuggled closer to Tarranna's chest.

Tarranna kissed Lili's forehead and took a steadying breath. “I've never been so happy and you're a huge part of that. I love you even more than my Fairy gifts!!” Lili snorted and laughed. She then pretended to believe the little white lie as she listened to the steady thump of Tarranna's huge heart.

Tarranna hugged Lili closer and let her love flow through to the smaller woman. “Lili, will you marry me?”


Lili gently snored.

Tarranna didn't know if she should laugh or cry, so she just lay there and played with the blonde hair flowing across her chest.

“Tarra, Tash fell asleep before I could ask her!!

Lilli did too!! We'll just have to try again later!”

Tarranna looked up as a small shadow made its way across the room. She looked at Patience's face relieved not to see any sign of illness. She held her finger to her lips the pointed to the child's sleeping mother. Patience sat on the floor next to the lounge and played with the bracer on Tarranna's arm. “Mumma what's married mean?” the girl whispered.

Tarranna grinned. The girl had heard her proposal! At least someone with blonde hair did! She quietly explained the concept of marriage to the child. “Basically, it wouldn't change anything about the way we live now. It just means your mumma and I are really happy living together and want everyone to know it. It would also mean I would be your legal mumma too.”

Patience's ears pricked. “Legal means law and that's important isn't it?”

Tarranna was impressed. “Yep. It would mean that nobody can ever tell me I'm not your mumma. Then Chandral and Tashan would be legal as well. The tiny twins would be your sisters and Ranna your gramma. We all love you like we are legally your family now, marriage can't change that.”

Patience stared at Tarranna, deep in thought. “You'd be my real mumma too? Those kids couldn't tell me I can't call you mumma anymore?”

Tarranna was shocked “What kids told you that?”

Patience fobbed it off. “Just a couple of ones from town. They said because you're Queen, I shouldn't call you mumma.”

“I think they meant you should call me Your Majesty. But legally no one could tell you I'm not your mumma.”

“Do you want me to call you Your Majesty?”

Tarranna snorted. “No Patience, I love it when you call me Mumma.”

Patience kissed Tarranna on the cheek and hugged what was left of her chest. Which wasn't a lot as Lili took up so much of it! “Love you Mumma.”

“I love you more.” Tarranna grinned at the tiny face in front of her.

Patience made a decision and abruptly stood up. “Mumma! Wake up!!” She shook Lili by the shoulder.

Lili pushed herself off Tarranna's chest and wiped the drool off her mouth. “What?!!! Are you sick?”

“Say yes Mumma!” When she saw the doughy expression on her mother's face she rolled her eyes and repeated “Say YES!”

Lili looked at her daughter, seriously wondering if the child had fallen and hit her head. “Yes to what?”

“Tarra asked you to marry her and you fell asleep!! SAY YES!!”

Lili looked from her demanding daughter to her bemused love. “You proposed?” Tarranna nodded, a sheepish look on her face. “I fell asleep?” Tarranna nodded again. “Well, you did keep me up all last night!” Lili smiled radiantly.

“MUMMA!!! SAY YES!! I want to be LEGAL!!” Patience stomped her little foot.

Tarranna explained the conversation about what legal meant. “Aahhh. That explains the Princess stomp. I will not say yes just because you tell me I have to! Why are you out of bed anyway?”

“Terran made a smelly and I couldn't breathe.” Patience looked upset so the women held in their laughter.

Lili motioned for her to come close and whispered in her ear “I will say yes, but after you go back to bed. Ok?” Patience whooped and hugged her mum.

“Oi! Before you run off, will you do me a really important favour?” Tarranna asked Patience. Patience looked at her mum who nodded to tell her it was ok to accept. “Will you please go to Chandral's room and wake up Tashan? She fell asleep at exactly the same time your mum did and didn't hear Chan ask her to marry her either.” Patience eagerly accepted and ran to the door. “Come back here before you go to your room!!” Patience waved before she opened the door and ran down the corridor. Tarranna sent her sister a quick message advising her help was on the way.

Tarranna looked at her chest where Lili had both elbows resting and her head rested on her hands. She grinned at the blonde woman who was glaring at her. “You demanded I ask you and then you go ahead and do it!! Why?”

“Had to see if you were interested, didn't I?” Tarranna couldn't quite hide the fear of rejection from her eyes.

“As if I could say anything but yes to you!” Lili let her passion for the dark haired woman loose and crawled seductively up Tarranna's chest. Tarranna was mesmerised by the desire in Lili's eyes as she hungrily devoured Tarranna's lips with her own. “Yes, I will marry you. Yes, I am looking forward to spending my life with you. Yes, I am going to show you all night long how much I love being with you. Yes, I want you to be my daughter's legal mother.”

The door slammed shut. Patience ran to stand near them and gave the women an odd look. Tashan and Chandral had been in exactly the same positions and had exactly the same looks on their faces when she'd left them. The girl shook her head and rolled her eyes. Adults, she'd never work them out! “Tashan said yes.”

Tarranna shook herself out of the trance she was in and thanked the girl with a one handed hug. “So'd your mum!!”

Patience whooped and danced around. “I've had such a wonderful day!!!”

Lili laughed and climbed off her love. She stood up and waited for Tarranna to do the same. “First call of duty for the newly legal mumma would have to be to chastise a certain smelly butted dragon. Don't you think so Patience?”

“Yes Mumma.” Patience's serious face was sadly hidden behind the enormous grin. “Can we ask Terran not to eat fish before she goes to bed? It really does smell awful.” The two blondes walked toward the child's bedroom and left Tarranna to follow them.

Tarranna had to consciously ask her legs not to give out from under her. The stress of the proposal and then Lili's attack on her hormones had left her legs slightly rubbery. “I never thought I'd be asking a dragon not to eat something in particular before she gets into the same bed with my daughter!” Tarranna laughed to herself. “Or that I'd be loving it!!” She laughed a little louder. “Who'dah thunk it?”

“Mumma is Mumma Tarra going nuts again?” Patience sighed.

“Probably, she is very excited.” Lili chuckled.

“She's not going to wake us up before dark in the morning, is she?” Patience had enjoyed the day immensely but she really was exhausted.

“Nuh ahh!! I'll make certain she sleeps until very late. Maybe even till lunchtime.” Lili assured her daughter.

Patience gave a huge sigh of relief. “Thanks mumma. Love you heaps.”

Lili smiled contentedly at her daughter. “Love you sweetie.” Yep, she had a few important facts to drill into a certain Queen's brain before morning. And that certain Queen would be lucky to close her eyes before dawn. Lili was determined Tarranna would never doubt how much she loved and wanted to be with her ever again.


Tarranna sat alone at the table as she read paperwork and finished eating her breakfast. Or was something this late in the morning actually lunch? Anyway, she was just finished eating when Tashan walked tenderly into the room, limping. Tarranna grinned and asked “Hurt yourself last night?”

Tashan glared at the woman then looked away, embarrassed. “No, it's nothing.” She pulled out a chair and accepted the hot cup of tea passed to her. “Thanks… I hear congratulations are in order for both of us.”

“Uh ha.” Tarranna lifted her cup in a toast. Tashan smiled and did the same. “You playing in the next Dragonball game or are you liking the ‘power' too much?”

Tashan laughed as she raised her eyebrows. “Well, having a 300 pound muscle bound soldier almost in tears because you threaten to throw him out of the game is a real buzz!! But I was thinking of doing both.”

Tarranna nodded her approval. She perused the document she was holding and smiled as she thought of her fiancé, sister and mother unsuccessfully trying to drag her on an impromptu shopping binge. “How'd you get out of the wedding shopping?”

“Leg hurt too much, I was nearly in tears with the pain.” Tashan smiled as she remembered Chandral's response. “Chandral was torn between trying to fix me and going shopping. I had to valiantly assure her I would live.”

“She caused the pain and was feeling guilty, eh?” Tarra snorted.

Tashan couldn't hide the grin the memory caused. “Oh yeah!” She took a breath and asked “So what are you up to today?” She secretly hoped weapon shopping would be on the agenda.

“A couple of the elders have volunteered to go with us to the Irasia and start helping out with their kids and elders. I'm going to drop them off and maybe check out the houses we'll be using as schools and such.” “Mind if I tag along?” Tarranna raised her eyebrows in a silent question. “Yes my leg will be fine!” Tashan thought about it before she added. “For everything except shopping!!”

“Ok, I'll be leaving from here to in fifteen minutes.” Tarra told her.

“I'll go get suited up then.” She stood up and, taking her cup with her, hobbled out of the room.

Tarranna chuckled as she watched the woman leave. “I just love it when they home deliver embarrassing gossip right to my door! I can always use that sort of stuff in my little box of ‘get out of sticky situations free' cards.” She chuckled again as she let her imagination run wild. “ Gee Chandral, I would love to have you torment me about that very silly thing I just did. But I would rather you tell me how you crippled Tashan !”

The Queen signed the document officially making Chandral Queen and put her seal on the bottom, right next to Lili's. “Yep, ya never know when information like that will come in very useful.” Tarranna added the newly signed paper to the large pile on the table and went to her room to finish dressing.

Ten minutes later, three elders arrived at Tarranna's door. One raised their hand to knock, but hesitated as she heard voices from inside.

“Do you want to come with me?” The Queen growled.

“Yes!” was the hissed answer.

“Then drop your pants and lay on the floor.”

The elders stood straight up and looked around to see if anyone would catch them sticky-beaking.

“Why do I have to take off my pants?”

The voice had a very unattractive whine to it. The elders knew Queen Arobar's voice and this was definitely not her. They looked at each other in shock. Who was in with their Queen? Who was their Queen telling to undress?

“Because I can't do this with them in the way!” The Queen was obviously becoming quite frustrated! “Do it NOW!”

They heard mumbling and they leaned closer to the door to see if that helped clear up the issue with the decreased volume level. They looked at each other and held their breaths in anticipation of some juicy gossip.

“That's it!”… They heard a groan. “Raise your leg and straighten the knee… Rest your foot on the wall it'll help you keep that position.”… Another groan and another!! “Will you please relax?” The Queen's voice definitely had frustration all through it!

“How can I relax when you're touching me there? Holy Mother, that hurts!!”

“Fine, I'm not touching you!! You do it!!”

Groan after groan after groan. “It's not working!.... I can't get the right angle!!”

“Try bending your knee and stop being such a whiner!!”

“I am not whining!!... You try it again then!!”

Silence. Groaning and then louder groaning…

“Oh yeah, just there!! That's the spot!! Oooh yeah, that's it!! Harder, harder… PERFECT!!! Don't stop!!”

The elders' eyes nearly popped out of their heads and they held their hands over their hearts. Their hormones slipped into overdrive and their body temps skyrocketed.

Groaning, groaning, louder groaning… “AAAhhhh!! Oh sweet Mother, that's it!!” Goan, loud sigh, another louder sigh. “Holy crap that feels good!! Your fingers are magic!”

Loud breathing, louder breathing AND a HUGE sigh!!

“That's it!! Did you feel that??”

“YES!!” HUGE sigh and long winded groan.

The elders' bodies nearly hit the ground as they momentarily stopped breathing and closed their eyes in shared ecstasy.

“Ok, you can put your leg down now we're finished.”

What? How cold was their Queen?

“Do I have to? I feel too good to move yet.”

“Fine stay there, I'll go without you.”

The elders' shock grew and anger manifested itself on behalf of the unknown woman.

“You can let me rest here for one minute to catch my breath, surely?!!”

“Fine, you have fifty seconds.”

“I cannot believe that hurt so much.” The voice whimpered.

Their Queen hurt the woman and was now kicking her out!!! Ruthless, that's what she was!

The Queen laughed. “You're a battle hardened warrior who can fight ants bigger than a wagon and not even flinch. But you get a tiny little leg cramp and you turn into a bloody sook!!”

The elders caught their breath in panic. Cramp! That was all about a cramp??

“That was not a little cramp… It was a bloody horrifically massive leg cramp!!” The voice moved around and clothes rustled. “Seriously, thanks Tarra, that really helped ease the pain. I owe you one.”

“Anytime. Are you ready yet? The elders should be here any second.”

The elders pulled their collective minds out of the nearest gutter, got their breathing, anger and hormones under control.

“Yes, I'm ready! Man, you're such a nag!”

“I am not a nag! I just like to be ready when I say I will be!”

“Ah huh!!... Did you tell Lili where you're going? I left Chandral a note in our rooms.”

“I did, she isn't expecting me back until dark.”

The elders shook off the last of their raging lust and knocked at the door. They smiled brightly for their Queen as she opened it. “Morning, thanks again for doing this. I really appreciate it... I'd like you to meet Tashan, Queen Chandral's fiancé.” The elders smiled warmly at the blonde who reciprocated their greeting.

Tarranna raised her eyebrows at the quiet elders. Usually she couldn't get in a word – they talked so much and so fast! “Come on in, we're ready to go.”

The elders were flummoxed. Come on in, but we're going? They must have misheard the Queen, but they went inside anyway. All of them discretely looked to where they thought the voices were when they were listening before. They gave a united sigh of need.

Tarranna stood in front of the women and wondered what had them so distracted. “Hello!” She ran her hand in front of their eyes. Nothing. She snapped her fingers and said “Hello!” louder. They looked at her with glazed eyes. “Do you feel up to leaving? You can go another day when you feel better.”

The women snapped out of their stupor. “Leaving now is no problem, thanks for being concerned, Majesty.”

Tarranna shrugged and warned the ladies not to discuss the means of transportation they were about to be witness to. The ladies agreed solemnly and eagerly put their hands on their Queen's arm. Tashan and Tarranna shared carrying the ladies luggage between them.

The elders snapped out of their shock just in time to be put into another bout. They looked around at the strange room. “Let's just say I have access to a little bit of magic that allows me to travel quickly. Ok?” The elders nodded and closed their mouths. “Remember, don't talk about this with anyone or even yourselves. Ok?” They nodded again.

Tashan took the third bag from Tarranna and escorted the elders outside the castle entrance and down the street to the new orphanage. She introduced them around and ensured the locals knew the elders had authority from the Queen to start organising the place to be run the same as the facility in Georstrie. The elders received a very warm welcome and Tashan left them to get settled.

Tarranna looked around the rooms while she waited for Tashan to return. The soldiers had started cleaning out the ostentatious furniture and the castle was starting to look better already. After a bit she returned to the atrium. Tashan appeared not long later.

“I'm heading up the hill to check out the houses. Do you feel ok to do that?”

Tashan smiled at the Queen and nodded. “I do, the leg feels great now. Thanks again.”

For the next few hours they moved from one overbearing house to another, neither impressed with what they saw. “The only thing they have going for them is that they're big.” Tashan sighed. “The last one will be good as a school. The rooms are big enough to have a lot of people in at once.

“Yeah.” Tarranna looked around the area. “The next and final house is that one on top of the hill there.” Tashan followed Tarranna's arm to where she was pointing. She nodded then started to walk beside the Queen. “Sarl was a bigger idiot than I even gave him credit for!” Tashan chuckled and Tarranna continued. “I just don't understand why he wasted so many resources on useless properties for useless people!”

“Good!” Tashan stated emphatically. She saw Tarranna look at her, wanting her to explain the comment. “That just emphasises how much better you are as a ruler.”

Tarranna snorted and kept walking up the steep hill. “This climb'll give us an edge for the next game!”

Tashan grinned and laughed softly. “Yep, I'm really looking forward to playing.”

“Why didn't you this time?”

“We thought it'd be better to have the two people who decided on the rules ensuring the rules were followed for the first ever game.”

“Mmm. Good point.” They finally reached the top of the hill to the level area around the house. They turned around and looked back the way they came. They could see for miles! “Is that the ocean?” Tarranna took out her spyglass and looked at the blue strip in the distance. “Yes, it is!”

The two women checked the rest of the view from around the house. They could see until the horizon in all directions. “It may be an idea to keep this house just for the tactical advantage it'd give us.”

“I was thinking the same thing. Let's look inside.” Tarra led the way.

The house was a shock for both women. It was open planned living at its best. The floor was completely tiled and light flooded in through the open shutters. Tarranna walked to the nearest window and put her hand up to the hole in the brickwork. She hit something solid. “This has clear walls, like on our flying helmets.”

Tashan hurried to stand near Tarranna and reached out. She drew her hand back in surprise when it did indeed hit something solid. She knocked her fist on the clear wall. The resulting noise sounded like the wall was thick. “It definitely makes the house bright inside.”

“Look close and the view is slightly distorted.” She walked to the bottom of the stairs and looked up. She checked where Tashan was and waited until the woman was near her. Both slowly started to climb the stairway to the next level. The second floor was divided into eight very large bedrooms. In the far northern corner was a small toileting room and next to it was a large room with one large and several small baths in it.

They climbed to the final level. It was one massively large room and the walls were fifty per cent glass, which offered an unobstructed view of the surrounding area. “The ocean looks clearer from here.” Tarranna took out her spyglass again and checked out the blue and green water.

Atlantis' coastline was naturally rugged and never had a harbour for ships to dock in. The only place almost safe enough for a ship to come close to land was now visible in Tarranna's spyglass.

Tarranna handed Tashan her visual aid and said “Take a look at the reef and tell me what you see.”

Tashan took the spyglass and checked the sea. She was about to give up and ask what she was looking for when she saw a pattern in the colour of the water. “Is that a path through the coral and rocks?”

“It could be! Even if it's not, we could make it one.” Tarranna continued to look at the horizon. “This means we can make a boat and leave Atlantis periodically to check up on what's happening in the rest of the world.”

“And our boat will ‘disappear' from their sight when we get back inside the shield.” Tashan breathed excitedly.


“This would be a better base of operation in Irasia than the castle. There's plenty of bed space for the family. We can kiddie proof the stairs and use this level as an office. They even have a fenced section out the back where the kids could play without us worrying about them falling off the rock.” She pointed below and Tarranna looked down to see the fenced area Tashan was talking about. It was covered in grass and manicured garden beds and would be ideal for a play area. “That other fenced area has a pool in it. That'd be great for cooling off in summer.”

“I couldn't agree more. Let's check out the bottom floor again. I want to see if there's a cellar.” They descended the stairs and searched the bottom level. The level was divided into several large living areas with tasteful decorations and lounge chairs. One of the areas was obviously designed with children in mind as the furniture was slightly smaller.

The kitchen was large, well lit and full of bench, storage and cooking spaces. A very faint noise caused Tarranna's neck hair to stand on end and she signalled Tashan to be alert. Tashan nodded, placed her hand on her stomach and pointed to a cupboard at head height. Tarranna confirmed Tashan's point of origin on the noise and silently moved to stand beside the cupboard door. Tashan raised her mini crossbow, aimed it and nodded she was ready.

Tarranna flung open the door and moved back to see what was inside.

Tashan lowered her crossbow and stared at the tiny winged woman huddled in the corner of the small space. Tarranna also stared at the small woman and gently asked. “Are you hurt?” The woman stared back at Tarranna and Tashan. She shook her head negatively. “Sorry if we scared you. We weren't expecting to find a Fairy here.”

“You know of the Fairy?”

“Yes, we freed Queen Alansa from a dungeon, some time ago now.”

“Then it's true. The time of the Guardians has arrived!” The tiny woman stood up and moved closer to the front of the storage area. She leaned on one knee and bowed to the Guardians before her. “I am called Bellan. My people are a type of Fairy called Brownies.

“Nice to meet you Bellan. I'm Tarranna and this is Tashan. Why are you hiding in there?”

“I wasn't hiding Guardian. This is my room. I keep the house clean and I am allowed to live in here. I'm sorry if I disturbed you.”

The women looked at each other in horror. “You clean this whole house and that's all you get in return?”

Bellan nodded. “Brownie clean homes at night in return for room and board.”

“Bellan, where are the rest of your people?”

“I don't know Guardian. I was brought here and told to do my job or my family will die. I continued to clean even after the humans didn't return here again. Do you think my family are still alive?”

“Come out here and we'll try and find out.”

Tashan removed her seer from her belt and looked into it. She frowned and looked harder into the mirror. “It's saying they're in this house. It's not flashing so they must be alive.” Bellan buzzed around in delight.

Tarranna removed her pack and asked it for a map of the house. She unfolded it, placed it on the closest bench and smiled as Tashan and Bellan looked at it with her. “There's a door on that wall there.” She pointed behind Tashan. “Did you know about it Bellan?”

“No Guardian. Nor have I ever seen anyone use it.”

“Bellan, the dungeons we've cleared out so far have been booby trapped and full of orcs, zombies, giant ants, arachnids, skeletons and rats. We need lots of time to clean them out. I'd like you to come with us to our home for the night. In the morning we'll return with the rest of our team to release your people. Is that ok by you?”

“Yes Guardian. I will do an excellent job of cleaning your home.”

“Bellan, you will be our guest. We don't expect you to clean.”


“Your guest?”

“Yes. You'll meet our family and share our home for the night. When we free your people and if you would like to discuss your terms for helping us maintain our homes we can certainly do that.”

“Discuss terms?”

“Yep. We'll negotiate your room and board. Just don't tell Lili I told you I'm sure we can do a lot better than a tiny cupboard.” Tarranna grinned conspiratorially at the brownie.

Tashan moved her face closer to the Brownie and whispered “Tarranna forgot to mention the three dragons who live with us, but they won't hurt you.”

The slightly overwhelmed Brownie accepted the gracious offer and sat on Tashan's shoulder for the walk down the hill . The women met with the Captain and advised him which of the houses had to be cleaned out. He was told not to touch the one on the hilltop.

The women then returned home to Georstrie.


Bellan looked around Tarranna's apartment and soaked in the atmosphere and warmth she found there. She flew to the balcony and looked outside. “I hope you realise you can leave or go anywhere you want to.” Tarranna said quietly, smiling at the tiny woman.

Bellan turned to face the Tarranna and smiled in return. “Thank you Guardian. I want to stay.” Bellan looked to where Tashan was curled up on the lounge, dozing with three dragons curled up around her. “I never thought I'd see dragons living so peacefully with humans!” she laughed.

Tarranna laughed with her and added “I never even dreamed I'd ever see a dragon!”

“Your home is very warm and peaceful.”

Tarranna snorted then explained her reaction. “Well that's going to change shortly! My partner, sister, three children, mother and her two partners will be home soon. They've been shopping all day and the kids'll be tired and cranky. Come to think of it, the adults won't be much better.” Tarranna nodded toward Tashan. “That's why I haven't disturbed Tash. You get sleep when you can around here!”

Bellan chuckled and grinned knowingly at the tall woman. “And you love it!”

“And I love it… I wouldn't even have a nightmare about changing any part of it!” Tarranna straightened her stance and stretched lazily. “I'm ordering food to be sent up would you like anything in particular?” Bellan shook her head and watched the dark haired woman leave. As she opened the door, bodies poured into the room. Bodies who were talking very loudly and some of them even cried.

Bellan watched as Tarranna lovingly kissed a shorter blonde haired woman and playfully shoved an identical person toward the lounge where Tashan was slowly waking up. One of the smaller children was crying. Were they human children? They had wings! Tarranna picked up the crying child, moved the hair off her face and kissed her forehead. The girl hiccupped and rested her head on Tarranna's shoulder. An older version of Tarranna walked regally into the room and asked two men to put a large number of packages on the floor out of the way. Two other women walked into the room carrying bags and put them alongside the packages.

The older child, who also had wings, ran toward the balcony only to slide to a stop when she saw Bellan hovering above the floor. Bellan smiled at the child, whose mouth was open in awe. “Wow!! A real Fairy Princess!” She whispered. She turned to her siblings and yelled “Look little sistas!! A real Fairy Princess!”

Silence fell over the room. Tarranna laughed and walked toward Bellan. “Sorry, I got distracted for a minute.” She quickly introduced her guest to her family and explained why the children were wearing wings.

Patience was still staring at Bellan. “You're so little. Aren't you scared someone will accidentally squish you?”

Bellan answered the serious question very seriously. “Yes, sometimes I am! But when I need to I can do this.” The tiny woman grew to around five foot three inches tall (well, that is tall to someone who was just ten inches tall seconds beforehand!). Bellan's wings stopped moving and as her feet settled on the floor her wings disappeared into her back. Her new body size emphasised the way she seemed to glow with a bright white aura.

“Wow!” Patience and the tiny twins gingerly moved closer.

Bellan held out her arms and said “My aura won't burn you.” The children looked at their mothers for permission to go closer. They got the nod and ran to the Brownie.

The Royal family watched and laughed as Bellan soon sat on the floor with the children and explained to them why her wand wouldn't work for them. And no, she couldn't make their pretend wings real. The children and dragons enticed the poor Brownie into seeing their rooms and of course, toys.

“So it looks like you lot had fun!” Tashan nodded toward the small mountain of ‘goodies' on the floor. She listened as Chandral and her mother went into detail about their bargains. Tashan loved to listen to Chandral's sexy voice and encouraged her to talk for as long as she wanted to.

“How's your leg?” Chandral hugged her partner close and kissed her cheek.

Tashan was about to answer when something occurred to her. Her face burst into a bright red colour as embarrassment hit her full force. “Oh sweet Mother!” Uncontrolled laughter burst from Tashan as the irony of her last comment hit her. Chandral pulled back from her fiancé and stared at her. So did the other adults in the room.

Tashan finally pulled herself together and called Tarranna closer. “I know why the elders were so quiet!” She explained to everyone about how the elders came with them to Irasia and about how vague they were. She asked Tarranna to think back to the conversation they had just before the elders came into the room.

“Surely they didn't think…”

Tashan nodded and told the women the context of the situation. She then asked Tarranna to help replay the highlights of the conversation.

Tarranna - “Do you want to come with me?”

Tashan - “Yes!”

Tarranna - “Then drop your pants and lay on the floor.”

Tashan - “Why do I have to take off my pants?”

Tarranna - “Because I can't do this with them in the way! Raise your leg and straighten the knee… Rest your foot on the wall it'll help you keep that position. Will you please relax?”

Tashan - “How can I relax when you're touching me there?!

Tarranna - “Fine, I'm not touching you!! You do it!!”

Tashan - “It's not working!.... I can't get the right angle!!”

Tarranna - “Try bending your knee!!”

Tashan - “Oh yeah, just there!! That's the spot!! Oooh yeah, that's it!! Harder, harder… PERFECT!!! Don't stop!! Oh sweet Mother, that's it!! Holy crap that feels good!! Your fingers are magic!”

Tarranna - “Ok, you can put your leg down now we're finished.”

Tashan - “Do I have to? I feel too good to move yet.”

The two women looked at the lounge where Lili and Chandral hugged. Their shoulders heaved and they were obviously supporting each other in order to sit up. Both the women's faces were wet and they tried unsuccessfully to wipe the moisture away.

Ranna, Deltan and Geon had tears running down their cheeks and the younger women were in different stages of pulling themselves off the floor and onto the chair next to Ranna. Ranna couldn't offer assistance, she was having difficulty staying upright herself.

Tarranna crossed her arms in disgust. “I cannot believe you lot!! This isn't funny!” The other five women begged to differ and laughed even louder.

“And all this…” she waved her hand at the hysterical women “… without the moans and groans thrown in!!” Tashan chuckled.

Lili caught her breath and wheezed “Please do it again with the groans!!”

Ranna held up her hand to stop the duo. “No!! Please, I can't laugh so hard again! My stomach's cramping up as it is.”

Deltan snorted and cried “It's ok Ranna, Tarra can help. She has ‘magic fingers'!”

Ranna tried to stand up and was partially successful. “I can't look at either of you right now!! I'm going to my room!! I'll see you in a few days!!!” She staggered to the door, bursting into fits of laughter that periodically stopped her walk. “Ok, maybe in a week!”

Deltan and Geon crawled after Ranna. They nearly made it to the door before Geon sighed “I can't get the right angle” and the laughter stopped their progress for several more minutes.

Tarranna looked at Tashan who was smiling contentedly. “What are you so pleased about?”

Tashan chuckled as she scratched her chin. She decided to come clean to her friend. “They'll be so busy laughing about this they won't remember to ask how I got the bloody cramp. Trust me. That's way more embarrassing!”

Tarranna snorted then chuckled. “Smart move!” She looked to where Lili and Chandral still recited parts of the situation and nearly choked with laughter. She smiled, shook her head and said. “It's really lovely to see everyone laughing and having fun... You gunna eat with us?”

Tashan looked at her partner and answered. “I don't see either of them moving very far for a while. So yeah, if you don't mind.”

“Why would I mind?” She gently put her hand on Tashan's shoulder. “Now the others won't be eating here, we get more of those little bits of baked sweet potato!!

“And that creamy stuff Mal makes with potato and bacon. I love it when the cheese on top is brown and crispy.” Tashan wiped the drool from her lips. “You think we should go to the kitchen and supervise the tray loading?”

Tarranna grinned and lead the way to the door. “Definitely not a bad idea!”


By the time dinner arrived, Bellan and the children had returned to the room and Lili and Chandral had washed their faces and almost had their laughter under control.

As they ate the women discussed their day and between mouthfuls the children told Tarranna and Tashan about funny things they'd done and seen. Bellan seemed uncomfortable at first but was soon joining in the conversations when she had something to contribute or ask.

Tarranna and Tashan told their family about the house on the hill where they found Bellan and how they would be returning to free her people in the morning. The kids loved the idea of checking out a new home and the adults looked forward to helping the Brownies.

When the meal was finished, the women stashed the leftovers in small containers and put them into their packs. They made great lunches when they were in the dungeons. The four women efficiently worked together and the table was quickly cleaned off, the children bathed and put to bed.

The couples took the larger lounges and held hands as they talked to Bellan. “So Bellan, Brownies pay for room and board by cleaning people's houses, it that right.” Lili asked. Bellan nodded. “What sort of rooms do you ask for?”

Bellan was a bit confused. “We take up very little space and are happy with whatever we're given.”

Lili looked at Tarranna and sighed. “And you thought your negotiating skills sucked?” Tarranna grinned and raised her eyebrows. Lili tried a different approach. “Bellan have you ever dreamed about living in a certain place or environment?” Bellan's eyes glazed over and she nodded. “Will you describe it to us please?”

Bellan's voice was full of yearning as she said. “Most Brownies love the dark, that's why we work at night. We are people of the earth and generations ago we lived in caves where we could each hollow out a section of the wall and make our own homes in them. We have no interest obtaining materialistic things like jewels or money. We only crave basic furniture and a place to call home.”

Tarranna nodded her approval of what Lili was thinking of as payment. All the Queens were firm believers in working for that you have, so Lili had no hesitation in saying “So if we offered your people access to several very large underground caverns in exchange for your services, would you consider that fair?”

Bellan shook her head very positively.

Tarranna grunted. “Bellan, Bellan, Bellan!! Do not accept offers so quickly!” Chandral and Tashan snickered at the look on Lili and Bellan's faces. “You should say you want to check out the caverns first, then find out what sort of food Lili's offering with the deal. Do you even know how many homes Lili is talking about or how big each home is?”

Bellan shook her head no. Tarranna used her hands to egg Bellan onto the next question. “Can I see the caverns first please?”

Tarranna grinned and said. “Of course you can, how about I take you there now?” The others declined to go too so Bellan put her hand on Tarranna's shoulder and disappeared.

Ten minutes later they reappeared. Bellan was beside herself with eagerness! “They are perfect! When can we start work?”

Tarranna hung her head and threw her arms in the air. “I give up!” she moaned. “Lili, the Brownies will need food. What are you offering?”

Lili crossed her arms and eyeballed her partner. “Nothing out of the ordinary. They can have their share of whatever the kitchen is cooking, like the rest of us. If they want the raw ingredients so they can cook for themselves, that's fine.”

“Done. How often do you want the inside of your homes cleaned? And how many are we talking about.” Tarranna asked.

“We only need a big clean up say once a month and a basic clean once a week. At the moment we have six huge and one large home.” Lili raised her eyebrows at her partner.

Bellan was distraught!! She frantically whispered to Tarranna, who looked at Bellan like she'd totally lost her Brownie mind. “Nah uh. Brownies like to clean inside on a daily basis. But we humans have to pick up after ourselves.” Tarranna checked the number of homes with Bellan. “The number of houses is fine by us. The Brownies are encouraging you to obtain more homes, if they can also use any caverns under them.”

“Oookkaaayy! I can live with that, but part of the caverns has to be available for us to store our gear in when we need to. What about the house structures, do Brownies repair that?” Lili wondered what her partner was up to.

Tarranna conferred with her client. “Fine. And yes, the Brownies will repair any damage they find and will report any major issues as they go. But it'll cost you! They will need two days off a year to celebrate cultural holidays.”

“No we don't! Brownies work every day.” Bella was horrified at the thought of one day without work, let alone two!!

“Do you have a day to celebrate the Mother and thank her for giving us all life?” Tarra asked the Brownie.

“No, Tarranna.” Bellan looked horrified. How could they not have celebrated the Mother and thanked her?

“Well you do now. And you'll need a day off after that to recover, trust me!” Tarra shook her head, satisfied with the need for the request.

Lili looked at Tashan and Chandral who were as stunned as she was. Lili accepted the offer.

“The Brownies will also need furniture. Will you supply that?” Tarra pushed a little more.

“Within reason, yes.” Lili smiled.

“When do you want them to start and how long is the deal good for?” Tarra couldn't think of anything else to ask for.

“Once we free them, say a month to allow them to recover? They can live in the caverns and we'll supply their food for that month. The deal is for as long as they want. Any Brownie can come and go as they please just as long as the work gets done.” Lili hoped that was fair.

Bellan shook her head and quickly whispered to Tarranna. “A month is apparently too long to wait. They want to start the next day.”

“No!! Three weeks.” Lili stated. Bellan declined, she also declined two weeks. “One week is my final offer, or the whole deal is off!” Lili was tempted to stomp her Queenly foot!

Tarranna conferred with her client and Bellan accepted the terms of the agreement. Even though she still thought waiting a week to start was a bit harsh!

“Bellan, if you'd like to shake hands with Lili we can seal the deal.” Tarra was happy with the outcome of the negotiation. Her client did extremely well.

Lili held up her hand to stop Bellan. “Uh ah. This is major! It should be written down and signed by all parties. I want it official and legal.”

“Good idea!” Tarranna loved watching Lili in her element and she could happily do it all day.

The Queens moved to the table where they nutted out the words of the agreement before they put it on paper. When they were finished they presented the document to Bellan for her perusal. Bellan read the contract and found it was more than perfectly acceptable and over favouring for her people. She readily signed it. The Queens then signed and placed their seals under their names.

Tarranna handed the document to Bellan. Bellan read their names, saw the official seals of the Queens and sank into the nearest lounge chair. “You're the Queens of Atlantis?”

She feinted.

“Maybe we should have told her that first up!” Chandral chuckled, in a mortified sort of way.

The Queens quickly revived Bellan and accepted her thanks for the deal they negotiated on behalf of the Brownies. Chandral asked if Bellan would like to stay the night in the castle or the cavern. She chose the cavern, which didn't surprise the women.

“Will you stay the size you are now?” Tarranna asked.

“No Guardian. I will return to my small size, which is usual for me.” Bellan smiled at the Guardian who had ensured her people would be so well fed and housed for years to come.

“Cool. Wait there for a bit.” She jogged to a small storage cupboard where unused toys were stashed and returned a while later with a wooden box of goodies. She picked up some of the contents and handed them to Bellan.

Bellan inspected the beautifully made miniature chairs, tables and beds. “The workmanship is wonderful.”

“Would they be of any use to you? Is the style of furniture something you like?”

“Yes, but they are too much!” Bellan looked like she was about to decline when Chandral butted in.

“The girls aren't interested in playing with them, so they're better off with you.”

Bellan looked at the Queens and chuckled. “You really are terrible at making deals aren't you? You've graciously given me more than I've asked for and are still going!”

Lili laughed and said, “We just know a great deal when we hear one!”

Bellan got off the chair, grew to her larger size and put the furniture back in the box. She held the sealed document by the top and waved her wand over it. The document vanished. “It is now indestructible and framed. It hangs on the wall of the cavern below for all my people to see and know your generosity.” She picked up her gear, again thanked the Queens and said goodnight. Bellan had tears in her eyes as she disappeared and headed to her new home.

The Queens were extremely happy with their end of the deal. They quickly made plans for the next day and headed to bed.


The next morning the team were frantic. Ranna gingerly walked into Tarranna and Lili's apartment. She held her ribs and was being coddled by her loves. “Will you two stop worrying? I'm sore from laughing, I'm not dying!” she growled.

“Ranna, you can hardly breathe or walk!! Of course we're worried!!” Deltan was near tears.

The twins held back, wanting to fuss over their mum but innately knew they'd just get growled at too. “Sorry Ranna, I didn't mean to hurt you.” Tashan was even more upset at the woman's condition than her daughters.

Ranna glared at Tashan and pointed her finger at her. “Don't you dare apologise! I haven't laughed like that for over thirty years! I wouldn't have missed it for the world.” She looked at the twins, her face pathetically contorted in pain. She turned her gaze to Tarranna. “Magic, is there something you can do?”

The team were stunned, but none more than Tarranna. Before she could react, Tashan touched her arm and leaned close enough to whisper “You prefer magic or fingers?” Tarranna turned her head to stare into Tashan's eyes, both eyebrows disappeared into her hairline. “Your choice!” Tashan finished with.

The rest of the team snorted, but contained their mirth. “Mother, you do know I have very sharp swords and daggers and that I'm extremely talented with them. Don't you?”

“Yes dear. Do you really want to cut off my pants though? They shouldn't be in your way.”

Even Tashan burst into laughter. Tarranna did the only thing she could. She smacked Tashan's shoulder and walked to her cheeky mother. She told the smirking woman to stand up and put her arms around her daughter's neck. Ranna did so, but groaned and cringed as she raised her arms. Tarranna put her hands on either side of her mother's ribs and gently but firmly applied pressure to the muscles.

“Aaaahhh that hurts!” Ranna gasped.

“Tell me to stop if it gets too painful.” Tarra breathed regularly, trying to get her mother to unconsciously do the same. Ranna nodded, closed her eyes and took shallow but regular breaths.

After several minutes of strong fingers gently relaxing her seizing muscles, Ranna sighed and hugged her daughter close. “Thank you, I can actually breathe now without it feeling like a knife's being dug into my chest.”

Tarranna returned the hug and kissed her mother's forehead. “Chandral can give you some pain killers but you need to rest! And no more laughing!” She smiled at her mother's mortified look.

“Then stop getting yourself into such funny situations and telling me about it!” Ranna gave Tarranna a final hug and kiss before she released the slightly taller woman and sat at the table.

Deltan and Geon hovered around Ranna, deftly dodged the flapping arms trying to stop them from smothering the still hurting woman. A plate of food and a hot drink were masterfully put in front of Ranna and she sighed in surrender. “Fine, I give up!! I need sympathy!” The two guards pounced.

Tarranna, Chandral, Lili and Tashan moved to the end of the table and conferred. “There's no way she's going to be able to handle the kids! The poor woman's in agony!” Chandral stated.

“Is there some way we can suggest having another person help her out without her getting stroppy with us?” Lili asked.

“I can stay behind.” Tashan offered.

“No. I don't want to split up the team, we're too vital to each other's survival.” Tarranna was adamant and the other Queens backed her fully.

“Excuse me, Guardians.” The human sized version of Bellan spoke softly from near the doorway. “I knocked but you didn't hear me.” The women smiled at the Brownie and motioned for her to join them. “Sorry, but I overheard what you've been talking about! I will be of no use to you when you free my family so I would consider it an honour to help your mother. I had a wonderful time last night with the children.”

Lili looked uncomfortable with the idea, as did the others. “I don't know Bellan. It feels like we're taking advantage of you. You're our guest.”

Bellan slightly turned her head to the side as she silently studied the women. “Would you let me help if I offered as a friend?”

Lili snorted and chuckled, as did her family members. “I can totally accept that!! Welcome friend and please let me take advantage of you by asking if you can please keep an eye on Ranna and the kids for us today?”

“I would love to, thank you for asking me.” Bellan grinned and slightly bowed her head.

Lili threw her arms around the Brownie, and hugged her. The blonde Queen kept her arm around her new friend as she escorted her further into the room. “No matter what the kids tell you, they are not allowed to ride the dragons when they fly. Nor are they allowed to ask Ash to start little fires, Silvana for a swimming pool or Terran for a hole for the pool.” Lili thought for a moment then continued. “Maybe we should just take the dragons with us!”

Bellan laughed, her smile was blinding. The kids ran into the room, flabbergasted and then excited to see the Brownie was real and they hadn't dreamed her up. The kids helped their parents enormously by begging Bellan to stay and play with them.

Everyone had their breakfast then the team left for the war room to check their gear and organise their mindset for business.

When they reappeared at the house in Irasia , Tashan and Tarranna re-checked the map for the dungeon door while everyone else quickly looked around their new home. When the others returned they were suitably impressed. “Wow, you two did really well finding this.” Chandral said and everyone agreed with her.

“All we have to do now is clean out the basement of whatever infestation's down there.” Tashan joked. “Never saw that mentioned in the For Sale add did we Boss?”

Tarranna rolled her eyes at Tashan but played along. “No, must have been distracted by the panoramic views, beautiful slate tiles and the Brownie in the cupboard.”

The two real estate moguls walked to the wall where the door was and ignored the chuckles from the others around them. They carefully inspected the barrier and it took several minutes before Tarranna snapped her fingers and signalled to her team she'd found the lock.

The team raised their weapons and waited for Tarranna to open the door. A four feet section of the wall silently slid open and bright light shone from below. Tarranna checked everyone was ready before she and Geon lead the way to a set of stone stairs leading downward. The team silently followed the women on point and stopped when Geon signalled the step below her. The assassin pulled out a small brightly coloured button and gently set it on the next step.


Geon and Tarranna missed the button marked step and moved down three more steps before they stopped, dead still. Still staring below, they froze and didn't move a muscle.

The walls of the cavern had been polished so much they shone like marble. The floor was the same and the light reflected off all the glistening surfaces. The rest of the team followed their leaders and instantly understood the reason for the women's astonishment.

Hundreds of Brownies were gathered into separate groups around the enormous open area. One group had tiny tables and chairs set up and the Brownies played board games or cards. Other groups sat and talked casually while others worked on what looked like craft or similar projects.

The largest group had tiny musicians playing while three skeletons (in pirate hats, rags for pants and colourful scarves around their necks) danced in what was obviously a well-rehearsed and choreographed routine. Their arms were linked at the elbows and their legs simultaneously kicked in front, bent at the knee then straitened. Their heads turned the same way at the same time and pace. They really were talented dancers! The Brownies who watched the performance cheered, clapped and sang loudly to the music.

The dancers turned their heads and spotted the women. Shocked, they put their hands over their mouths! They then scrambled around, rummaged in their equipment, supposedly, for their cutlasses. They apparently couldn't find the swords so they grabbed whatever they could find and held up their impromptu weapons. For some strange reason, they didn't look very vicious in their rainbow scarves holding up two worn brooms and a mop.

The Brownies fluttered around the area, the breeze from their wings had enough power to blow the teams' hair and cause them shake it out of their eyes. The six beautiful women were then hit with a bright beam of light which reflected the highlights in their hair and their polished weapons.

“Why do I suddenly have the urge to break into a song?” Deltan quipped.

Tarranna lowered her sword and finished the walk down the stairs, closely followed by her team. She was surprised when the Brownies moved between her and the skeletons. But maybe she shouldn't have been! “I don't want to hurt them. We just want to free Bellan's family.” A skull appeared from the side of the wall of Brownies. Under it another appeared. The third skull popped out on top of the other two.

A Brownie holding a wand fluttered closer to them. “You know Bellan?”

“Yes, she's with our family now, waiting for us to bring you home.” Chandral told the Brownies.

The skeletons moved their entire bodies, err, bones from behind the Brownies and hung their heads. The Brownies all talked at once, the noise was so loud and it echoed several times around the cavern. Tarranna whistled to stop them. The Brownie with the wand lowered it and spoke. “Robbie, Willie and Chuckie are our friends. We don't want to leave them here.”

Robbie, Willie and Chuckie ran their hands over their eye sockets. If they had tear ducts they would've been crying. They were so happy! Tarranna glared at Robbie, Willie and Chuckie. “Do you three promise you won't hurt anyone?”

Robbie, Willie and Chuckie instantly raised their left hands to shoulder height, palm facing her and their right hands over where their hearts would've been. “That means they promise.”

One of the skeletons pointed to the women, put his hand over his chest, shook his head, pointed to his bony friends then the Brownies. “Robbie is asking you to promise not to tell anyone about him and the others being our friends.”

Robbie put his hand over his mouth, shook his entire set of bones, pointed to the Brownies again and mimed killing them. He then took the arms of his two friends and pulled at them. The other two made quite a dramatic show of refusing to go willingly. “He says they're scared if word gets out others may try to hurt us and drag them back to work as guards.”

One of the other bonesets pointed to himself and the two other skeletons. He put his hands on top of each other, over where his heart should be and moved his hands in a heart beating motion. He pointed to the Brownies, making an encompassing flapping circle with his hand. “Chuckie says they love us Brownies.”

Chuckie then held his hands on top of each other, palms facing but around a foot apart. He swirled his hands slightly then curled his fingers to touch the point of the thumb and put the two sets of circles on top of each other. “He says ‘We're family'.”

“Just how long have you lot been locked up in here?” Geon asked.

The skeletons and Brownies looked at each other, then noisily conferred. The spokes-Fairy said “We aren't sure. But it's been quite a long time. We've made up the hand signs so we can talk to Robbie, Willie and Chuckie. We've made up lots of games to keep us from getting bored. Yes, it must be quite a long time.”

“Why didn't Robbie, Willie and Chuckie open the door to let you out?” Chandral queried.

The sudden flutter of arms, hands and skulls being hit with their own hands was so fast and furious it startled the team. The spokes fairy had to yell at Robbie, Willie and Chuckie, telling them to stop the argument and just forgive each other. Robbie, Willie and Chuckie turned their backs to each other and crossed their arms. Each skeleton tapped their foot.

The hand signs relied heavily on every day motions for doing things so the women started to pick up many of the signs quickly. And what the women thought the skeletons said to each other wasn't very complimentary.

The spokes fairy shook her head and threw her hands in the air. “Just after they set us free from our individual cages, they did try to free us. The key was stored in a large chest and when they lifted the lid there was a loud explosion. That's what ripped the flesh off their bodies. Our wands were in the chest as well and were destroyed. This is practically useless really.” She held up the wand. “I can get us enough material to make up our games but that's all. We used the wood from the cages for our tables and chairs.” One of the skeletons held up a flat blob of metal. “That's what left of the key.”

Tarranna clarified. “So if we'd have stepped on the trigger step, the door would've locked and we'd be stuck in here? Is that right?” Unanimous nodding of skeleton and Brownie heads answered her question.

The guards broke away from the Queens and started checking the step, seeing if there was a way to stop it from setting off the locking mechanism. Curious, the skeletons edged their way forward then jogged to peer over the shoulders of the women. After a few minutes, Geon spoke up. “I can block the mechanism. I need something thin, preferably strong and flat.” A bony finger tapped her shoulder. She looked up into the eye sockets of a skull then followed it to what was left of the key being held in his hand. He offered it to her and she took it.

Geon tried to bend the metal and couldn't, she slid it into the step. It was a tight fit but after a few hits from her dagger handle, she grunted in satisfaction. She nodded her thanks to the skeleton, who returned her nod. Geon signalled to Deltan who stood on the trigger step.

Nothing happened.

The skeleton and Geon high fived then Geon accepted bones' hand and they danced their way back to where the others were standing. The team snickered and shook their heads so Geon said jauntily “I happen to like dancing and Lefty over there does nothing but step on my toes.”

Bones madly flapped his hands and arms. “Chuckie says he'll dance with you any time, you have great rhythm. He's offering to teach your friend because she can't hurt his toes!”

“Chuckie, I will take you up on both those offers. Thank you!” They danced to a quiet part of the cavern and swapped moves.

Tarranna looked at her fellow Queens and shrugged. They grinned and shrugged back. As dungeons went, this was the best one they'd been in so far. She was about to tell the Brownies pack when she saw something small move on the stairs. “Crap!! Ashburn!! NO!!” She charged toward the skeletons who stood at the bottom of the staircase. They turned to look behind them then proceeded to run to hide behind Chandral and Lili.

“Ash! Get your eyes off them, they're friends not food!!” Tarranna pointed her finger at the two female dragons who sat on their haunches behind Ash. “None of you are to touch these three skeletons. Their names are Chuckie, Robbie and Willie. Ok?” Robbie and Willie peered over the Queens' shoulders and nodded in agreement with Tarranna.

Tarranna picked up Ash and carried him to the other Queens. While she was talking to them, Willie held his hand out for Ash to sniff. Ash obliged and licked Willie's hand. Ash licked his lips, then Willie's hand again. Chandral laughed and reached into her pack. She pulled out a container of cream and handed it to Willie. “I suggest you three rub this over your long bones in particular. It'll stop them chewing on your legs.”

Willie put his fingers on his teeth (where his lips would have been) and moved the fingers away from his face. It was the sign for thank you.

“You're welcome.” Chandral replied. “That'll also work for dogs.”

The skeletons' stood straighter and hurriedly stuck their bony hands into the container. Willie rubbed a little cream into his hand and again offered it to Ash. Ash took half a lick then screwed up his nose and moved away.

Tarranna chuckled as she watched Chuckie, Robbie and Willie cover themselves with the cream. “Ok everyone, pack up what you want to take with you and we'll get going.”

Excitement reigned. Lili offered a chest for everyone to put their stuff in and the offer was immediately accepted. Brownies fluttered everywhere, maniacally packing away their games and very few possessions. The skeletons declined to take anything with them. “It's all rubbish.” They signed.

While they waited for the Brownies, Geon and Deltan called Chuckie, Robbie and Willie to them. They talked for a few moments then Deltan reached into her bag. She pulled out pants and shirts for each of them.

The men signed for the women to turn around while they dressed! The women rolled their eyes but did so.

Robbie donned a pair of tight red pants and a puffy sleeved white shirt with red floral patterns on it. Willie opted for black (it does go with everything!) pants and a burnt orange puffy sleeved shirt. Chuckie chose plaid pants and a green puffy sleeved shirt. They all pulled on black overcoats and kept their rainbow scarves around their necks. They secured rainbow bandannas around their skulls and over the bandannas they pulled on black tri cornered hats – with bright feathers in each of the hat bands. Gloves with flared tops covered their hands.

“All we need now are faces!” Robbie signed as they pulled on their new knee length boots.

Geon looked at the now dressed men and shrugged. She reached into the pack and pulled out three soft masks. She handed one to each of them to inspect. They took off the hats and bandannas and handed the masks back to Geon. Chuckie kneeled in front of Geon and she gently arranged his face. The mask had a tight ‘skullcap' attached, which prevented the face section from slipping past where their ears would've been. She covered the cap with the bandanna and retied it tightly.

“Ouch!!” he signed and she smacked his shoulder.

“Perfect!” she said as he placed his hat back on his head. The masks were painted in natural tones, the masculine features and nose seemed quite real, in a theatrical sort of way. The moustaches and goatee beards may have been going overboard, though! Geon put faces on the other two skeletons.

“Ok every, let move out!” Tarranna yelled over the din.

Deltan let out a loud whistle. “Your Majesties, Royal Guards and Honoured Brownies, may I present Sirs Charles, William and Robert.” Everyone was stunned as they three freshly dressed skeletons bowed to their audience.

“Don't we look just gorgeous?” Willie signed. The Brownies cheered and the women wolf whistled.

Chandral leaned close to Lili and laughed “Looks like we've got three more to come shopping with us!!” Lili whooped louder.

Tarranna yelled for quiet then asked “Can Brownies pop, travel or whatever, where they want without their wands.” She was told no, they could not, so she asked them to fly into her backpack.

“Wow, you have an infinity bag!” The spokesperson was impressed.

“Yes we do. I'm glad you know what it is. Wanna get your mob inside please?” She grinned. The Brownie responded in kind and eagerly waved her people into the device.

When the last Brownie disappeared, Chuckie raised one leg and put his foot in the pack. It disappeared and he hopped on one leg as he grabbed for Tarranna's shoulder to stabilise himself. “Chuckie, you guys can walk out with us. Ok.”

Chuckie balled his fist, with his thumb sticking out at the top and showed her. “ Ok .” He agreed as he pulled his leg from the bag. Tarranna chuckled as she waited until he was stable on his feet then fastened her pack and put it on her back.

The guards led the way up the stairs followed by the men and Queens, who carried the huffy dragons. “Don't sulk Babies. I promise the next lot of evil skeletons we meet you can chew on their bones all you want.” Lili swore and the dragon perked right up!

Once they were in the house again, the women noticed that the light in the basement had ceased. Chuckie saw their looks to each other and slowly signed. “The Brownies had the light on for us so we could see to talk.”

The women laughed and Deltan said. “I am keen to learn this lingo of yours but I do see how it can be a bit of a bugger to ‘hear' in the dark.”

Chandral looked at Deltan and mulled over her comment as Tarranna reached up and pulled the door release. It worked and the door slid closed. Chandral asked the men “Would you mind teaching your signs to some kids we know? They're deaf and they would really love to be able to talk the way you guys do.”

Robbie signed “We'd love to, but are you sure we won't scare them?”

“In those outfits! No way that's possible. You look too darn huggable to scare anyone.” Chandral assured him.

“Too true!!” Willie signed.

Lili explained to the men how they were about travel and what to expect. Geon said to Lili “If one of you Royals drop me and Deltan with Ranna, we can watch the kids while you lot head for the Brownies' home.” Lili said she'd go and the three women disappeared.

The men put their hands on the nearest Queen and they disappeared as well.

They no sooner appeared in the cavern, waited for Chandral to light the place up and looked around when Lili and Bellan appeared. Tarranna removed her backpack and asked the bag to release the Brownies. They buzzed from the pack and swarmed the large sized Bellan, who sobbed in relief at seeing her family again. She listened intently to the condensed story of how the men had befriended their captives and tried to make captivity bearable for them. Especially after the explosion that had ripped the flesh from their bones.

Bellan walked to men and hugged them all. “I wish I could reward you for your selflessness.”

“Lady Bellan.” Willie signed and one of the Brownies interpreted. “We were Royal Guards on our way home our King and country when we were kidnapped by Pirates and dragged to that dungeon where your family befriended us. The rest of the guards were going to harm the Brownies and we were forced to kill them. We've never regretted that move for one moment. The best thing we've done in our collective lives was releasing this lot. We need nothing nor ask nothing in return. You are family.”

Bellan raised her wand and tapped each of them on the shoulder with it. “You are indeed family.”

The skeletons shrunk to ten inches tall. Their hats bandannas and coats fell to the ground and the men climbed out of the resulting puddle of cloth. The resulting Brownies had wings and flesh and were dressed in replicas of their bigger outfits.

The newly fleshed men ran in tiny circles and screamed at the top of their new lungs. The Queens watched in awe as the men hugged and wrestled each other. Chuckie jumped up, turned his back to the women and grabbed at his crotch. “IT'S back!! He screamed and dropped to his knees. He wiped tears from his face and looked at them reverently. “I'm crying. Robbie, Willie!! I'm crying!!”

The newbie Brownies hugged each other again and then turned to look at Bellan. They charged at her so fast, they accidentally started to fly. They dropped and rose erratically until they had some idea of control and managed to hover near Bellan's face. They flew close enough to wrap their arms around her head and hug her close. “Thank you!!” They said over and over again. Their new voices were music to their new little ears.

Chandral wiped the tears from her eyes and sighed “I'm really happy for them and all. But I was totally looking forward to going shopping with them.”

Chuckie, Robbie and Willie broke the hug and looked at each other. They buzzed in a very crooked line to Chandral. “Did you say shopping?!!” Chuckie cooed.

“When and where, darling?” Robbie drooled.

“We're there!!” Willie assured her.

In their excitement, the newbie Brownies must have forgotten to flap. Their wings abruptly stopped moving and the men fell face first on the floor. They stood up, dusted their pants and puffy shirts, stomped their little boots and said in unison “We're fine!”

Tarranna laughed and sighed. “Bellan, the explosion destroyed your mobs wands. Is it much of an issue to make new ones?”

“It will take a long time, yes. It's a very complicated process.” Bellan frowned.

Tarranna pulled a wand from her pack and handed it to the spokesperson (Gailan) from the dungeon. “See if this works the way you need it to.”

Gailan thanked Tarranna as she took the wand, checked the weight of it in her hand and liked the balance. She waved it at a dirty spot on the floor. The dirt vanished from in a foot wide circle. Gailan was ecstatic!! She flew to a nearby rock and cleaned the dirt off it. Gailan waved the wand in circles and the cavern lit up with thousands of multi-coloured lights. The lights flew to the roof then poured down in a shower of colours. Gailan waved her wand again and a single light zoomed to the roof before bursting into a multi-coloured flower shape. Gailan's face lit up as she sped around the room spreading rainbows everywhere. She finally stopped in front of Tarranna and kissed the woman on the tip of the nose. “It's perfect!! Thank you so very, very much.”

“You are more than welcome. Ok everyone, line up in front of one of us and we'll give you a wand.” Tarra smiled at the Brownies.

The Queens and Tashan spent the quite a while passing out the wands, finally there was only the newbies to go. Lili looked at the tiny men and grinned. “Is it safe letting you lot have a wand?”

Robbie laughed hardest before he said “Definitely not! We're ex Royal Guards we need sharp swords and sharper daggers!”

Tashan looked at the new Brownies and smiled. “You do realise Brownies are Fairies, don't you?”

Robbie, Willie and Chuckie put their hands over their mouths and screamed. “We're real Fairies!! Finally! We've been pretend ones for years!”

Chuckie looked at the other two men and flapped his wrist at them “Actually, we're really Fairy Queens now!” The three of the rolled around on the floor and laughed their little heads off.

The team and Brownies stared at them in silence before deciding they'd totally lost their little minds. Again!

Lili gathered the last two wands from Tashan and Chandral before she added her own and handed the three wands to Bellan. “You should decide when they're ready for these.” Bellan nodded and wisely tucked the spare wands into the bag hanging at her waist.

Gailan flew up to Bellan and softly asked “What's that document on the wall mean?”

Bellan called the Brownies together and explained the contract she'd negotiated on their behalf. The Brownies were stunned and surprised. They'd never been so well rewarded for their work.

“Who are these Queens of Atlantis? Can you ask them to let us start work tomorrow. We shouldn't have to wait a full week!! That's just not right!” someone yelled out.

Bellan laughed and said “Tarranna helped me talk Queen Arobar down from a full month to a week!” The Brownies were distraught!! How could anyone go without work for a full month?

Gailan flew to Tarranna and said “Would you talk to Queen Arobar again and see if we can start sooner, please.”

“The Queen was caring for your welfare. She didn't want you coming out of the dungeon and have to work straight away.” Tarranna explained.

The Brownies all spoke at once, again. Gailan motioned for quiet and said “We appreciate that immensely. But we were not harmed and now we have wands, we would like to be useful again.”

Tarranna looked at Lili and Chandral. Lili asked “What about setting up your homes in this cavern? Won't you need time to do that?”

Gailan chuckled and said “Watch this!” She flew to a prime spot on the wall, not too high or low and flashed her wand. The women were surprised they could see into the wall where dirt vanished and tunnels formed to join several smaller rooms. Gailan's home was soon finished and the transparency of the wall faded back into solid rock.

Gailan returned to near Tarranna and waved her wand at the floor. A pile of cleaned gems lay sparkling at Tarranna's feet. “These came out of the dirt and rock, do you think the Queens would like us to store these in chests for them?” Tarranna chuckled and said she was sure that would be an excellent idea. “Will you talk to Queen Arobar now?”

Tarranna nodded and moved closer to her sister and love. She asked Lili and Chandral. “What do you two think?”

“I don't mind. If they want to work why should we stop them?” Chandral said.

Lili shrugged and agreed. “I really didn't expect them to be unharmed. This is a good thing so let them start when it suits them.”

Tarranna turned to face Bellan and Gailan. “Start when you want to.”

Bellan cheered but all the other Brownies were quietly staring at the women. Bellan suddenly realised maybe there was a breakdown in communications. “My people, please say hello to our new Bosses. Queens Tarranna, Chandral and Arobar, who also happen to be the Mother's Guardians.”

Lili and Chandral smiled and tentatively waved at the silent Brownies. The Brownies looked at their neighbours and then Bellan who nodded affirmatively. The crowd roared with a loud cheer. Bellan raised her voice and said to her people “Get your homes established and this cavern cleaned up! We have work to do!” The crowd roared again and the Brownies flew off to build their homes.

Lili suddenly remembered the chest of games and possessions from the dungeon. She pulled the box from her pack and placed it on a flat rock on the floor. Gailan smiled at the woman and said “Thank you Guardian.”

Lili smiled back then remembered she had wanted to ask Bellan something. “How'd you go with the kids? I hope they didn't cause too much trouble.”

“They are wonderful girls and I had a great time with them. They did tell me their stuffed dragons sometimes dance for them and I helped the toys do that. I hope I didn't do anything wrong.”

Lili was stunned. How were the toys dancing? She turned to look at Chandral and chuckled as the woman looked back sheepishly at her. “I do have a ministaff that knows how to levitate too you know!”

Lili hugged Chandral and assured Bellan she'd done nothing wrong. “If you ever get tired of cleaning, you have a job as a Nanny waiting for you. Thank you so much for helping out, we do appreciate it heaps.” Lili took a breath and continued. “Speaking of the kids, I'm heading up to send Ranna to bed. She still looks very sore. Tash did you want to come too? We can go over some of the paperwork from Gardenya and what we need to do for the upcoming game!” Tashan nodded and moved to hold Lili's hand. “Bye everyone, it was great to meet you.” Lili and Tashan nodded goodbye to the newbies before they popped out.

Chandral and Tarranna looked around at the industrious Brownies, impressed with the amount of cleaning they'd already accomplished. The Queens walked to the next cavern, intending to sort through some of the gear they'd stashed.

They found it had been done for them. The archways were against one wall and chests filled with gems were already being stored in specially made ‘shelving' along another wall. The chests sat in small alcoves dug out of the wall. The alcoves started horizontally at the bottom and were perfectly in line with the rest of the row. There were already four full rows of twenty chests per line.

The other valuables Tarranna had previously stored in the cavern were arranged in similar ‘shelving' units. Tarranna and Chandral looked around and laughed. “Well, you do have to admire their efficiency!”

“Oh yeah!!” Chandral walked to a spotlessly clean rock and sat down. She mindlessly stared at her bracer and ran her fingertip over the engravings.

Tarranna sat next to Chandral and patiently waited for her to talk about what was on her mind. Half an hour later, Chandral quietly spoke. “You know Tash is in love with Lili, right?”

Tarra took a deep breath and nodded. “Yep. Probably just like you know Lili's in love with Tashan? I honestly think Tashan loves you.”

“I know she does, just like I know Lili loves you.” Chandral shook her head. “What are we going to do?”

Tarra put her arm around her sister and held her tight. “Nothing. I'm not giving Lili up and I know you feel the same about Tashan. They chose to be with us so we're going to enjoy our new family and take one day at a time.”

Chandral nodded and the twins went quiet for long minutes. “I think you should unmake me Queen.” She held up her hand and asked Tarranna to hear her out before arguing. “It isn't fair. We're both from Georstrie and family. If there is ever a huge issue we all disagree on, Lili will lose out.” She heard Tarranna snort at the thought of them ganging up on the blonde. “We think too much alike to disagree on major things and you know it. There should be an even number of sovereigns so the balance of power is equal.”

Tarranna kissed her sister's cheek. “I couldn't agree more. Lil and I were discussing this last night and we came to the same conclusion. We were going to talk to you about what we should do later tonight. We however, came up with a different solution to you abdicating. Neither of us wants that.”

Chandral looked at her sister and smiled at the honesty she found in her eyes. She waited wait for Tarranna to continue. “We thought making Tash Queen before she marries you would work out well. Tashan has been Lili's advisor for years, regardless if either of them consciously knew it. They've learnt to work together and Tash has enough self-confidence and knowledge to stand up and tell Lili when she's wrong or if there may be a better way to do things. I've been watching her closely and she's taken on leadership tasks for both me and you. She's not even aware of what she's doing. Deltan and Geon were accepting her as team-leader well before she got involved with you and it had nothing to do with her being a General. She won't accept the thought but she already has a lot of the skills a Queen needs in order to rule effectively.” Tarranna smiled at her sister. “A lot like you did, in fact! We also thought by crowning her now you could start off your marriage on equal footing.”

“I do like your solution better than mine.” Chandral sat quietly as she mulled over something that had been on her mind lately. “Is that why you've been spending a little more time with Tash lately? Why you've been asking us to hang with you guys and taking her on jobs with you? Just so you could check her abilities out?”

Tarranna shuffled in her seat leaned forward to rest her elbows on her thighs. “No. Yes. Well, I suppose so, but not like you're thinking.” Tarranna sighed and tried to explain. “I've never had really close friends. Not because I didn't want to but because I could never stand being around anyone for any more than ten minutes. Sometimes ten seconds. I was so angry with everyone and everything I just wanted to run away and hide, which I did. Then I met Lili. She and Patience wore me down and next thing I knew I was blubbering like a fool because I missed them so much.”

Chandral leaned her head on Tarranna's shoulder and waited. “When I first met you, I was really surprised because I liked you and the more time I spent with you the more I wanted to. It shocked me because everyone else still ticked me off the same as usual, but not you. You were my friend way before you were my sister! I love my extended family dearly but at night I'm glad when mum, Geon and Deltan go to their rooms. When we don't see them for a few days, I'm ok with that because I know I can see them when I want to. But as much as I love them, I don't miss them like I miss you, Lili and the kids.”

Chandral smiled contentedly, she'd known her sister craved someone to love, but never knew why she hadn't had friends before. It was starting to make sense to her. Tarranna kept talking “I've been asking you and Tashan to join us for meals because I like having you around. She already loved Patience, she's known the girl since the day she was born. She already protects the tiny twins like they're hers and she fits into our family extremely well. I wanted to see if I was tolerating Tash because of you so I took her with me to Irasia. I like how she treats me as an equal and isn't afraid to joke around with me. But she also knows when to pull back and let me stew over something or let me be Queen. I was surprised I actually enjoyed myself that day. I'm not thinking of her as your fiancé or Lili's friend anymore. I do believe she's my friend as well.”

Chandral sat for a while absorbing everything she'd just been told. “I always had a lot of acquaintances, but no real friends either. I felt as surprised as you did when we first met. I wanted to spend time with you but you were Queen and all so I pulled back a lot. Then you started asking me to do such fun stuff with you and I was in heaven. Still am, actually.” Chandral snugged closer to Tarranna before she continued. “That's one big reason why Melanger and I didn't work out. He's a beautiful soul but he started to grate on my nerves and I couldn't spend a half a morning alone with him. Tash is different. I want her to spend time with me. I know she has faults but I can live with them.” Chandral's smile grew wider. “The kids are just wonderful. I couldn't imagine not having them around… Liking Lili, well that was a shock for me. I thought I'd hate her for taking up so much of your time but I love spending time with her. I'm ecstatic she's my friend.”

They sat in companionable silence and soaked up the peace and quiet of the cavern. “We should've brought the crossbows with us!” Tarranna laughed.

“Yeah, we can't find anywhere to just sit and talk without someone listening in!!” Chandral crossed her legs and rested her arms on her thighs.

Three newbie Brownies buzzed erratically out from behind the rock they hid behind and inelegantly landed on a boulder near where the Queens sat. They were crying and noisily blowed their noses on tiny handkerchiefs. “That was beautiful!” Chuckie blew his nose, again.

“I just love that you found each other!!” Robbie sniffed loudly.

“I love you both can say things like that to each other!!” Willie wiped his eyes, sniffed loudly then blew his nose.

“You three do realise we were having a very personal conversation, don't you?” Chandral asked.

The three Brownies had the good grace to look ashamed of themselves for eavesdropping. Robbie apologised “We didn't mean to do it. We just had to leave the Brownie area for a while and headed this way. By the time we realised what you were getting into, it was too late to leave.”

Tarranna shook her head and knew she was going to regret having to ask but she couldn't stop herself. She couldn't help liking the men. “Why did you have to leave the Brownie area?”

The trio looked distraught. They shuffled their feet before they sat on the edge of the boulder, their legs over the lip and they gently tapped their heels on the rock behind their feet. They hung their heads and crossed their arms. “Apparently we dismally failed the cleaning exam.” Chuckie shook his head in embarrassment.

“They said they love having us as Brother Brownies but we have no idea how to clean and maybe we should leave the area for a while - so they could fix up the mess we made and work out what to do with us.”

“They even took our wands back! I love that wand! It so goes with my outfit!” Willie gulped.

Chandral and Tarranna closed their eyes and pursed their lips. They were determined not to laugh at the plight of the Brownies wannabees. “How could you have had the test yet? We left you not an hour ago?” Chandral asked the men.

“They showed us exactly what to do and Brownies apparently have the skill or they don't and never do.” Chuckie groaned.

“We don't!!” Robbie sobbed.

Tarranna jumped on a thought to distract them and asked “Did I hear you say earlier that you were Royal Guards? What sort of weapons are you good with?”

The trio's mood instantly picked up. “We were Royal Guards to the King of Salahwan. We're experts with swords, daggers, bows. We worked for the King for six years, right up until he got killed.” Robbie sniffed.

“But that wasn't our fault! He was having an affair and the Queen found out.” Willie assured the Queens.

“By all that's good that woman was vindictive!! She used his own dagger to remove his private man part” the trio crossed their legs and cringed in sympathy “and then she stabbed him in the heart 56 times!” Robbie moaned.

Tarranna smiled at Chandral! She liked the Salahwan Queen's style. Chandral smacked Tarranna's knee and continued to listen to the trio's story.

“After that, the Queen took over the realm and demanded we leave. She was miffed at us because we didn't tell her about the affair.” Willie huffed.

“I heard she hooked up with the mistress and they got married!” Robbie put his finger under his chin and held his elbow with his other hand.

“NO!! Who'da thunk that'd happen?” Chuckie gasped.

“Oh please!! That was always on the cards! That mistress was a gold digger if I've ever seen one. She'd have hooked up with a hundred year old troll if meant getting her hands on that throne. She did do the King remember!!” Robbie stated as fact.

They all cringed and shuddered at the thought. Their King had been one very unattractive man. His ears were way too big for his head, he was covered in moles (the huge black ones that stand an inch off the body and have hairs inches long growing out of them) and had severe trouble with flatulence. The man had smelt like an open sewer 24/7!

“The Queen was a stunner!” Chuckie sighed.

“I hear she was deeply in love with a commoner and he died. That's why she agreed to have her family arrange a marriage for her. Soon after the engagement she realised she was pregnant and the only reason she married the King was to give her baby a privileged upbringing!” Robbie reported.

“Really! Well that does explain a lot!! Not even her stunning looks could've made that boy as beautiful as he was! Not with the King as his father!” Willie smacked his hand on his thigh at the revelation.

“That Queen was a stunner but these two!! Well, I mean just look at them!! They are GORGEOUS!! Just look at their bone structure!!” Chuckie practically drooled as he eyeballed the sisters.

The Brownies flew around the twins' heads and Willie took his life in his hands by picking up a handful of Tarranna's hair and moving it around. “If we put her hair up and get it off her face, the effect would be out of this world.”

Tarranna flapped her hands around her face and made the Brownies scatter like dust in the wind. “Oi!! Hands off!!” She ran her hands through her hair and put the strands back into their original places. “As lovely as this gossip is, that isn't getting us anywhere closer to finding you fellas meaningful employment! Which one of you is the best swordsman?”

Well, that sent the trio into a free for all of bickering, arguments and wrist slapping!

Tarranna grinned at Chandral, with a feral look in her eyes as she stood up, settled her clothing, jumped up and down on the spot a few times then drew her sword from her pack. “I intend to try and kill the best swordsman just to see how good he is. So who's it going to be?”

Willie and Robbie pointed to Chuckie and said in unison “Him!!”

“Look! We did learn how to do this!” Chuckie changed into his human size. He immediately shrunk again. The horrified look on his face showed it wasn't part of his plan to impress the Queens. He upsized again and nodded to himself. “That's better!”

“This sword ok by you?” Tarranna threw a version of her own weapon handle first to Chuckie. Chuckie delicately wrapped his fingers around the hilt, flipped the point of the weapon around in the air and made some practice lunges at the wall. Chandral and Tarranna looked at each other and raised their eyebrows. He may be better than they'd thought.

“Perfect!” Chuckie grinned at the women. He was looking forward to this!

“Good.” Tarranna swung her sword at Chuckie's head. He raised his weapon and held her at bay. He pushed with all his might and sent her several steps backward.

Tarranna laughed as she realised she was about to have some serious fun! She smiled her brightest unrestrained smile and attacked him with a vicious barrage of slashes and thrusts.

Chuckie effortlessly dodged and parried Tarranna's thrusts and slashes and deftly threw in some ferocious moves of his own. The sound the swords made as they clashed made a ringing sound that bounced off the walls and came back louder again. The result was a rather beautiful and continuous melody.

The two combatants struck at one another, the tips of their swords moved so fast they made a hissing noise that echoed through the emptiness of the large cavern.

Tarranna jumped onto a rock and pointed her sword at Chuckie's chest. “Nice moves Fairy Man!!” she laughed in pure unadulterated delight.

Chuckie jumped onto his own rock, balanced on one foot, raised the other knee to hip height. He straightened the leg and placed it behind the other one. He put his left hand on his hip and zig zagged the tip of his sword in a flashy series of manoeuvres. “You ain't seen nothing yet Chicky Babe!”

“What the heck is a Chicky Babe?” Tarranna pounced off her rock, dove into a roll, summersaulted and struck at Chuckie's legs.

Chuckie pounced off his perch over the top of Tarranna's slashing sword, landed on both feet, pirouetted like a ballerina and sent his sword screaming toward Tarranna's head.

Tarranna moved her head out of the path of the oncoming sword and felt the breeze from it as it flew past her face. She smiled in excitement.

“A ‘chick' is a female and a ‘babe' can mean a very sexy woman or a very naïve person. In this case it means all of the above!” Chuckie explained, waggling his eyebrows and laughing at the woman in front of him.

The adversaries glared at each other and tried to intimidate their way to victory.

Chuckie attacked!

Tarranna's heart pounded against her chest as his blade flashed past and reflected the artificial light as it flew toward her stomach. She deflected the blade and squashed the urge to be flamboyant. She reluctantly made the choice of economy of movement as her long term tactic to ensure she could battle on for hours.

The thud and squeal of their boots as they tried to gain traction on the rocky floor was overly loud in the quiet of the cavern. They parried back and forth and each warrior vied for the upper hand and optimum position for their weapons.

“Now they're just showing off!” Robbie sighed melodramatically.

“Don't you know it!! This is likely to go on for years!! I'm already getting bored. Do you want to practice Queen Chandral?”

Chandral smiled at the men and chuckled “Why not. My choice of weapon is the staff.” She pulled her ministaff from its sheath and when it had reached full size she pounded its end on the floor. She then pulled two fighting staves from her pack and handed them to the now full sized Brownie men.

Chandral, Robbie and Willie started off with some warm up routines and eagerly moved up levels of difficulty as they tested each other's strengths and abilities. The lengths of wood dully thudded as the adversaries parried and struck at each other.

Hours later, the five combatants' knuckles were white with strain as they tried valiantly to hang onto their weapons. Perspiration beaded on their brows, clung to their hair and stained their shirts. The Brownies legs quivered as they fought off the determined twin Queens.

Tarranna saw the Brownies were becoming overtired and held up her hand. She called a halt to the fun and games. “Ok, that's it. We're going to end up hurting one another.” She looked around in confusion as claps and cheers erupted. The Brownie population had heard the battles and had watched the antics of the five extraordinary athletes.

Bellan grew to her human size and walked to the group of Brownie newbies. “You three may be the worst cleaning Brownies we've ever seen but your skills with weaponry are exceptional. Here are your wands. The star on the end means the Brownie has earned the cleaning insignia. We've removed it from yours. We will continue your training, of course, but from now on these are yours to keep.”

Chuckie, Robbie and Willie gratefully accepted their wands and flashed them around. They caused an impressive display of exploding lights.

Chandral stepped forward and addressed the Brownies as a collective. “We'd like to ask these three to teach your sign language to our kids and soldiers. Would that be ok?”

The trio grinned widely “We'll be such great teachers!”

“I'd also like them to be personal trainers for our team. Their skill levels mean we can attack at full force and push ourselves to new heights.” Tarranna grinned and winked at the trio. The trio jumped up and down at the thought of spending time with the women they adored and respected.

Bellan asked the Brownies if anyone objected to the newbies starting their new roles. Several of the older Brownies sighed with relief as nobody spoke against the idea. The Brownies smiled with appreciation for their new brothers as they fluttered past their faces and congratulated them on finding work of such honour. When the last of the Brownie clan had left the cavern the trio high fived and hugged each other.

“Come up to the meeting room in the morning and we'll start working out a schedule for you. Thanks for the workout. I haven't been able to push myself like that before. I really enjoyed it.”

“Same for me, thanks heaps guys.” Chandral smiled at Chuckie, Robbie and Willie who blushed endearingly.

All were quiet for a few seconds.

“So, the goss around the castle is that you two are marrying those lovely blondes you hang around with. Who's doing your hair?” Willie gushed.

“Forget the hair, what are you going to wear??” Robbie demanded.

“You are going to wear something other than armour and leather, aren't you??” Chuckie enquired and all three Brownies stared at Tarranna.

Chandral burst into laughter at the horrified look on her sisters face just before Tarranna vanished.

“Don't worry guys, it's not you. She and Tashan just doesn't appreciate a good outfit. Me and Lili on the other hand would love to talk to you regarding suitable attire.”

The trio cooed in glee and moved closer to the Queen.


Tarranna reappeared in her lounge room, still cringing at the idea of fashion and hair talk. She was immediately tackled by the children who didn't mind that she was damp and slightly smelly from perspiration.

Lili and Tashan smiled as the dark haired woman suddenly appeared. Their looks turned lustful as they saw her beads of perspiration that reflected the sunlight filtering into the room. “Tarra what have you been doing?” Lili asked casually.

“And was Chandral doing the same thing?” Tashan quickly added. Lili glared at her friend and gently smacked her arm.

“We were practicing with the new trio of Brownies, me with the sword and Chan with the staff. The Brownies' skill level's masterful! We had a great time. Chandral is still down there with them but now they're talking about dresses and hairdoos for the wedding.” Tarranna continued to smile and laugh with the kids as the two blonde haired adults conferred in quiet tones.

“By the Mother she sexy!! But they're talking about the wedding!!” Lili was torn.

“Chandral will be looking just like Tarranna does!” Tashan drooled in anticipation.

“Even if I stay here, we won't be able to do anything with the kids around.” Lili sulked, slightly.

“I am so going to find her. Hang on she's still in the Brownie cavern! I can't get down there even if I did know where it is!... I can try sending her a message!!” Tashan opened her mouth to whisper her invitation for some afternoon delight when Lili placed her hand over Tashan's mouth.

“You are not going anywhere! If I can't you can't.” Lili stated firmly.

“Come on Lil, please. Just pop me to where she is! I'll come back in an hour…” she saw Tarranna remove her over-shirt so she was only wearing a very tight singlet. Tarranna reached for the one of the tiny twins and picked her up, the muscle definition in the Queen's arms stood out in all its awesome glory. “…ok, more like a couple of hours and we'll watch the kids for you.”

“No!!” Lili also was staring at the muscles bulging in her love's arms. Both blonde women wiped the drool off their mouths and Lili huffed. “If I can't, you can't.” Tashan was about to whinge, whine and outright beg but Lili put her hand up in the universal signal for ‘stop'. “I am going to find Chandral and the trio so I can talk about dresses and how I intend to wear my hair. I intend to be gone for hours. You want to take the chance Chandral won't want to stay with me and the trio? Or worse still, do you want to rip her from the conversation when she will no doubt be enjoying herself so very, very much?”

Tashan glared at the woman she used to have so much respect for and sighed “You can be a real bitch, can't you?”

Lili took Tashan's face in both hands and kissed her forehead. “Always! You just never saw it before!” Lili stood up, grinned evilly at Tashan and informed Tarranna where she was heading. Lili waved goodbye to Tashan just before she disappeared.

Tashan slumped in her chair and put her head on her arm.

“What's up with you? I thought you'd be happy not to be dragged into ‘that' discussion!” Tarranna lay on the mat on the floor and idly bench pressed one joyously laughing daughter at a time.

Tashan looked at the woman and slouched further into her chair. “Nothing, I just wanted to see Chandral after her work out.”

“Ah, well you can do that whenever. The guys are now our personal trainers. They'll run us through our weapon skills as much as we need to.”

Tashan smiled in excitement and sat up straighter. Her mood had suddenly improved. “Really? Excellent!! I'm looking forward to it!”

“Uh huh!” Tarranna laughed as she balanced one twin on each hand (their chests on her palms) and lifted Patience (who was sitting on the woman's ankles) off the floor and held her there.

Both women looked up as there was a quiet knock on the door. Tashan motioned for Tarranna to stay where she was and answered the door. Bellan stood in the doorway so Tashan smiled, greeted the Brownie and let her in. Tarranna put the giggling children down and sat up. She sat cross legged on the floor as she smiled at the Brownie. “Sorry to bother you, I was looking for Lili.”

“She just popped down to see the guys and Chandral. She'll probably be gone for a few hours.” Tashan was still miffed at her Queen but she managed to quash the annoyance out of her tone.

Bellan laughed as she hugged the children hello and gently declined their offer to play with them. The children accepted she was busy and ran off to play.

“Is there something we can help with?” Tarranna asked as she used her dirty shirt to wipe the last of the perspiration off her face and arms.

Bellan looked slightly embarrassed. “I asked the trio what a nanny was. I didn't realise it was someone who cared for children while the parents were unavailable. I wanted to know if she was serious about me becoming nanny for your daughters.”

Tarranna chuckled and sighed “I'm sure she was but I'll just ask her.” Tarranna whispered a message to her partner and laughed loudly at the response. “She says definitely, but there has to be a rule that the girls can play in the dirt. Human kids need to do that. If they're positively filthy you can wipe them down with a wet cloth but they'll be bathed at night!”

Bellan smiled and readily agreed.

Tarranna watched Bellan as she grinned at the game the children were engrossed in. “You can play with them any time - you don't have to be their nanny.”

“Thank you Guardian, but I want to be. While you are freeing the Mystics and making Atlantis safe I hope you will feel confident your children and mother will be well cared for. The Brownie, especially me, will die to protect your family.”

“Thank you Bellan, that means a lot to us.” Tashan saw that Tarranna was trying not to get emotional. “Can I ask you something?” She saw Bellan nod and Tashan jumped right in. “What's the difference between a Fairy and Brownie?

Bellan watched as Tarranna stood up and moved to sit at the table. Bellan accepted the offer to take a seat and started her explanation. “We started out the same. All Fairy love to put order into chaos or mess and we Brownie excel at it. Fairies are naturally very shy and we traditionally kept well away from Humans. The First Brownies saw some human children playing in the woods. The children were so happy and watched over each other. They didn't kill or destroy plants or animals wantonly.”

“The Firsts ventured into the children's household and were enraptured by their family. Fairies do not procreate the way you do, so to see little babies grow into adults is precious to us. We repaid the privilege of being able to share the pleasure of the babies by cleaning up at night. The Firsts told others of the family and many wanted to share the experience.”

“That's when the Brownie became a separate group of Fairy. The family the Firsts stayed with were honoured by the Brownie for many generations. We didn't meddle in their lives but we tried to keep them safe from harm. Just before my people were captured we gave the surviving family women the Brownie symbol of honour, a birthmark shaped like a fairy in a flowing gown. The mark travels down the line of females so we will know the descendants. Now my people are free we will spend our spare time looking for the remaining family members.”

Tashan looked at Tarranna and chuckled “Sort of sounds like that mark you lot have.”

Bellan looked at Tarranna, clearly wanting to ask to see the birthmark. “It's a rearing horse!” Tarranna moved her body in the chair so Bellan could see the back of her bare arm.

Bellan reverently leaned closer and touched the mark with her pointer finger. The mark glowed brilliantly and pulsed rhythmically.

“Holly Mother!!” Tashan breathed. “That is a Fairy, once the outline is framed it's so clear.”

“What?!!” Tarranna tried unsuccessfully to twist her body to see the back of her arm.

Tashan pulled the seer from her belt and checked it. She nodded before she stood, walked to Tarranna and showed her the image in the mirror. Tarranna sat quietly too stunned to talk. She couldn't dispute the highlighted birth mark was a fairy or a rearing horse, depending on the way you looked at it.

“The mark only lights up if it is a true Fairy recognition symbol. It is not just a coincidence you have it.” Bellan whispered.

Tashan sent a message to Lili, Chandral and Ranna to tell them the children were fine but Tarranna needed them with her (not urgent but ASAP). Five women appeared not long later. They were updated on what Bellan had told Tashan and Tarranna. Bellan checked the marks of Chandral and Ranna, finding they also lit up, as did the tiny twins.

“Chronic attack of fate!” Chandral, Tarranna and Lili breathed in unison.

Chandral briefly explained her theory of why everything was happening to them.

Bellan agreed. “Ranna, when you were attacked by the person who took your babies, you were seriously hurt. Is that correct?”

“Yes, the healers were surprised I survived. They had my grave ready and were waiting for my last breath.”

“You never told us that!” Chandral, Tarranna, Geon and Deltan growled at Ranna.

Ranna waved them off and growled back “What was the point? I didn't die and that's that.”

Bellan verified something with Chandral and Tarranna “You were both severely beaten as well?” The twins nodded. “Do you know if you were close to death?” Both women grimly nodded and said they could remember nearly dying at least six times each. “Chandral is correct. Fate was responsible for all of you being together.” Bellan instantly had the entire family's interest.

Bellan continued. “Your ancestors were given the seal of the Fairy. We vowed to protect your line as well as we could, without drawing attention to you from the people hunting us.”

Bellan paced around the room. “All three of you were so close to death but something gave you the edge to live. That was the protection symbol helping you heal. With massive injuries such as the ones you would have had, the healing would have still taken time but you do not have lasting deformities.”

Bellan looked at Chandral and Tarranna. “You two were destined to become Guardians and to do that you had to learn the skills you needed to fulfil that role. You needed the edge surviving on your own gave you. Without Tarranna being Queen, she would not be able to join with Lili to commence the changes to Atlantis. Without the Fairy seal, you would not have been recognisable to your mother. And the half the Guardians would not have made it to their destiny without the healing power of the seal.” Bellan took a deep breath and finished up with “A chronic attack of fate!”

“Boy you lot will do anything for attention!!” Ranna smacked Deltan across the shoulder and everyone laughed.

The tension eased and Tarranna asked Bellan “What'll happen if you tell the Brownies you found us? Will they treat us any differently?”

“Because of your family, Fairies had the courage to try something different and we became the people we are today. The Brownie would honour you but no more than they do already. You are the Guardians.”

Tarranna checked with her mother and sister and they agreed the rest of the Brownies could be informed. “Thank you Bellan. See you in the morning.”

Bellan nodded and vanished.

Ranna hugged her daughters and returned, with Geon and Deltan, to her room to rest.

Tarranna and Chandral hugged then moved to sit next to each other on the large lounge. Lili and Tashan sat next to their partners and snuggled in close to them. Tashan sighed and said “I'm sorry you two had such shit childhoods and if I could go back and change things I would. But I'm thankful you had the Fairy seal to help keep you alive because I'm totally selfish and my life just wouldn't be as good without you two around.”

Chandral and Tarranna snorted and chuckled and Lili said “Yeah, what she says!”

“I meant that, if I could do anything to soothe the hurt, I would.” Tashan ran her hand over Chandral's shoulder and arm.

Tarranna put her nose into Lili's neck and quietly told her to follow her lead. She then signalled Chandral to do the same. “Well, actually there is something you can do for us, Tash.”

Tashan looked around Chandral to see Tarranna's face. “If I can you know I will.”

“We've been discussing what would happen if there was a major dispute between us three. Chandral wants to step down as Queen and Lili and I don't think she should do that. What do you think?” Tarra baited her little trap.

Tashan looked at her love and decided to be brutally honest. “When I first heard you'd made Chandral Queen, I thought it was a major mistake by both you and Lili. I've been waiting for her to mess up big time, but I know now that won't happen. Her knowledge about people and how they may behave in certain situations has been pretty well spot on. I've been watching to see if she only listens to you, but she actually seems to side with Lili more often than not.”

Tarranna glared at her sister in a ‘you've been siding against me?' type of way and Chandral smiled and shrugged.

Tashan kept on with her summation. “The realm needs some serious work after having to assimilate so many other kingdoms but that has nothing to do with you three. Things have actually gone more smoothly than I thought they would, so having her in the in the mix may be helping more than anyone expected. I honestly think that letting her leave now would be a huge mistake.”

Tarranna grinned at Chandral and rolled her eyes at the smug look on her sister's face. “Cool. It's good to know you think that way. How do you see your role when you marry her?”

“I haven't really thought about it…” Tashan stopped to think for a few minutes. “I guess nothing would really change. I would be Chandral's Consort but everyone treats me that way now. I'm hoping being married won't stop me being able to help out in the dungeons. It won't will it??” Tashan looked quite upset at the thought of that so the Queens quickly assured her that wouldn't change in the least.

Everyone went quiet and Tashan changed her position and snuggled deeper into Chandral's side. She was feeling relaxed and rather sleepy and yawned accordingly. “You didn't tell me what it is I can do to help.” she said as another yawn developed and was released. She really needed to tell Chandral to stop rubbing her back and kissing her brow! Well, maybe later! Way later! Chandral started to run her fingers through Tashan's hair and her eyes closed then opened slightly as Tarranna started to talk softly.

She didn't hear what was said and really didn't care what she was agreeing to. “Ah ha. No… worries…”

She gently snored.

Lili chuckled as she friend dozed off. “Chandral! You knew exactly what you were doing!”

“Yep. I had to get her to relax somehow! I just didn't think she'd doze off!... Maybe after what happened the other night, I shouldn't be surprised.”

“I suppose I'd better write up the paperwork and have it ready for her to sign when she wakes up.” Lili thought out loud. “I know it's pure laziness, but I wonder if the pack'll do it for us?”

Chandral sighed and hugged Tashan closer. “It's worth a try. It must take you ages to get it perfectly spelt and evenly spaced!”

“Yeah, yours took four goes.” Lili snorted.

“Oh, well maybe I shouldn't have put my cup of tea on it. The ring the cup left isn't that bad though!”

“Hardy har har!!” Lili grumbled as she snuggled deeper into Tarranna's side. The new document could wait a few more minutes. Her eyes closed and Tarranna gently started running her fingers through the blonde's hair. It wasn't long before Lili dozed off as well.

Tarranna and Chandral leaned closer together and rested their heads and shoulders on each other. They watched the children who played quietly and just enjoyed being alive, together and in love with such wonderful women. “Do you need to talk about it now?” Chandral asked gently.

Tarranna thought carefully before answering. “Nah. It was horrible, I survived and I'm in a wonderful place now. Some things are best left in the past… You?” Her reply was said so softly, she vaguely wondered if Chandral could even hear it.

Chandral thought for a while then said just as softly. “I used to pray to die. It just hurt too much to keep on going… I even made up a potion to take. It would've put me to sleep and I wouldn't have woken up. I had it to my lips but I just couldn't do it. Now I know why I couldn't give up. Knowing that my living and being here now is helping others helps immensely.”

Tarranna turned her head and looked into eyes that were so similar to hers. “Thank you for sticking around. I love that you're here with me and that we're both happy.”

“Thank you for killing the bastards and letting me be your friend. Love you too.” Chandral whispered.

Tarranna looked around the room, trying to find something. Chandral looked confused as she asked “What's up?”

“Nothing. Just looking for eavesdroppers!” Tarranna was serious.

Chandral laughed as she continued gently rubbing Tashan's back. “So what are you going to wear for the wedding?”

Tarranna was about to snarl at her sister but instead just let her concern show “I have no freaking idea! It's scaring the heck out of me!”

“Well, don't freak out too much about it. I was talking to the boys and they do have some really great ideas. Chuckie and Willie are a bit outlandish but Robbie has a more grounded idea of what looks good. He'd be a great person to help with decisions and he'll let you chose in the end.” Chandral took her sister's hand and held it. “If you really can't do it, just have the tailors make a copy of my outfit and pick your own colour.”

“Ok I'll bite. What are you wearing?” Tarranna bit the bullet.

Chandral grinned cheekily and answered “I still have no freaking idea!! But I know I'll look great and you won't have to change the size of the pattern.”

“Both very valid points!” Tarranna chuckled as she watched Macgaven getting a bit rough with Rollie the dog. “Macgaven, no! Don't you hurt him!” Tarranna nodded to her daughter as the child looked up and let go of the poor mutt's ear. Macgaven patted Rollie on the head and apologized before she moved back to play with her toys.


Around an hour later, Tashan started to stir so Tarranna woke Lili and they asked her backpack for an official document which was finished in the exact wording as she dictated. They weren't really shocked when the perfectly written, spelled and spaced contract emerged.

The document was placed on the table as Tashan yawned and stretched, kissed Chandral's cheek then headed for the bathroom to freshen up.

“She's going to be so peeved!! How are we going to ask her to do this?” Lili moaned.

“I hope she still talks to me!” Chandral moaned louder.

Tarranna just rolled her eyes and waited for Tashan to return. Tashan looked at the women who sat on the lounge. Two refused to meet her gaze and the third looked straight at her with an unflinching stare.

“Tashan, you would do anything for Queen Arobar, right?” Tashan nodded and looked at the woman in question. “Great! Queen Arobar needs an ally to be the fourth joint Queen of Atlantis and it has to be someone she can trust fully. You're it. The official document is on the table, it says you agree to be Queen. Sign it. Get over it.” Tarranna stood up, kissed Lili on the cheek, hugged Tashan and congratulated her then walked over to talk to the kids.

Lili stood up, hugged and congratulated Tashan then ran to join Tarranna and the kids.

Chandral stood up hugged Tashan then kissed her passionately. Chandral whispered something to Tashan then swaggered to her sister, said good night and left for her rooms. Tashan stood in a daze for half a minute then slowly signed the document and ran from the room.

“That went well!” Lili laughed as she pondered on exactly Chandral had whispered to Tash.

Tarranna laughed as well, but she had a pretty good idea of what her sister had said to get the new Queen running like that. Tarranna then sent a message to the people of Atlantis that their fourth and final Queen named. Long live Queen Tashan!


The next morning, the Queens walked from their rooms and stared in shock and amazement at their living areas.

“Oh my goodness!” Breathed Lili. “I never realised things were so dirty before.” The stonework gleamed in the sunlight and even the dragons sparkled more than usual.

Lili and Tarranna looked at Chandral and Tashan as they entered the room. “Cool, yours looks just like ours does now.” Chandral looked around the room then at the two blondes and smirked as she said “Tarra?”

Tarranna grunted. “mmm.” Tarra looked at her sister and saw the feral smirk. She raised her eyebrows and looked forward to where this conversation may be headed.

Chandral enquired “The Brownies clean at night right?”

Tarranna sighed. “Uh huh! So?”

Chandral questioned “So does that mean they clean our bedrooms then too?”

Lili was mortified as she turned and looked through the bedroom door. “Oh no! It's spotless too!”

Tarranna quietly rumbled “Well, they must've got quite a surprise!”

Chandral chuckled. “In more ways than one, probably!”

Tashan and Lili looked like beetroots and hid their faces in the shoulders of their smirking partners. Tashan gently smacked Chandral's shoulder as she sighed “This is not funny!”

“Actually it is.” Tarranna chuckled as Lili smacked her shoulder.

Bellan knocked on the door and stuck her head in. She was in her human size, which she seemed to adopt when she was around the Queens. She nodded to Tashan and said “Your Majesty. Good morning all.” She saw the red faces of the two blonde Queens and hastened to add “Is something wrong! Do you not like the work the Brownies did?”

Lili cleared her throat and said. “No! They did wonderfully, the place is beautiful… When were our bedrooms cleaned?”

“This morning. We leave those rooms until last and wait until humans leave for the morning. Then we send in a team to finish up. Ten Brownies did your room not long ago. Why?”

“No reason, we were just wondering.” Tashan sighed in relief.

“Your majesties, I do realise humans like privacy and why!” She grinned at the two obviously embarrassed blonde women and the still smirking dark haired twins. “Would you like me to sound proof your bedrooms? Although, the Mother may love hearing you lot praise her so often!”

Lili and Tashan glared at the Brownie. “I never realised Brownies had such a wicked sense of humour!” Lili griped.

“I wasn't joking, Guardian. I can soundproof your rooms if you'd like us not to hear you!” Bellan stared at the blondes, her head slightly tilted.

Lili and Tashan hurried to see if the children were up and to help them dress for the day.

“Thank you for the offer and it would be lovely if you could do that for us.” Chandral politely told Bellan. Bellan nodded and wandered off to do the deed.

Tarranna and Chandral laughed loudly as they readied the table for breakfast.

After eating the women ensured Bellan was fully aware of all the pitfalls of caring for their daughters and left the girls and dragons in the care of the Brownie.

The Queens walked to the meeting room and started preparing for their day. Lili stood in front of Tashan and said “First things first. Tash, please give me your Royal Guard badge.”

Tashan looked devastated as she fished it out from under her shirt and removed it from around her neck. As she pulled the cord from under her hair, the necklace Bearin of the Gnomes had given her fell to the front of her shirt.

As Lili took the badge from Tashan she noticed the gift from the woman had received from the Gnomes. “Your necklace has changed! Wasn't it a diamond?”

“Yes, all the guards were.” Tashan looked at the gem on the bottom of the silver chain. “It's red!”

The women heard Bearin's distinctive laugh and grinned in response. “Congratulations Your Majesty.” His laughter echoed into the distance.

Lili removed something from her pocket and handed it to Tashan. “This is the second seal for the Gardenyan Royal Family. I asked my pack to resize it for you.” Lili slipped the ring onto Tashan's finger then hugged and kissed the teary eyed woman.

“Are you sure about this?” Tashan checked with Lili as they continued to hug.

“As Tarra said, I need someone beside me that I can totally trust. I never even considered anyone else.”

Tashan softly and gently thanked Lili.

While the two blondes were getting mushy, Tarranna and Chandral had their heads together plotting something. Chandral put her hand into her pack and pulled a silver ring from the bag. “Tash, let me put this on you.” Tashan let Chandral take her hand and watched as a silver ring was slipped onto her finger. It was identical to the rings the Fairy Queen had given the other three Queens. The travel rings. “See if it works!”

Tashan disappeared and didn't return for several minutes. When she did reappear she had a smile a mile wide on her face. “That is so wickedly cool!! Here.” She handed each of the women a huge peach. “This is from the orchard in Gardenya!!” She jumped up and down several times. “I popped to Gardenya and back all by myself.” She threw herself at Chandral and wildly hugged the taller woman. “Thank you all so very much!”

As they devoured the delicious fruit, Tarranna pulled something out of her bag and asked the still smiling blonde to hold out her hands. Tarranna dropped the items in she was holding and watched as a set of bracers flew through the air and clasped around Tash's wrists. “No!! Don't tell me I get a set of these!!” She pointed her hand at Tarranna and watched open eyed as a web rope attached itself to Tarranna's chest and pulled the grinning woman closer to Tashan. Tashan disconnected the web and hugged Tarranna. “Thank you.”

“We'll find a nice big place to practice in later. Ok?” Tarranna laughed at the look of utter eagerness and pleasure in Tashan's eyes.

Lili pulled out a sheathed sword from her pack and handed it to Tashan. It was similar to Tarranna's but the designs on the hilt and blade were distinctively for the newest Queen. “This is the last of your catch-up goodies. Enjoy!”

Tashan hugged Lili then reverently unsheathed the weapon. Tashan's head flew back as she was engulfed with a bright white light and she sighed deeply as information flew threw her mind. “Wow!” The light dissipated and Tashan breathed deeply. “Wow, I feel like I've slept for a month and am fighting fit!”

“Good to know! That means the sword's blessed by the Mother, just like our weapons.” Chandral hugged the woman close.

“Does that mean the Mother approves of me?” Tashan asked shyly.

“I'd say that's a big yep.” Lili patted Tashan on the shoulder then sat in the nearest chair. “Now it's time to make you work for all that gear!! You'd better sit down.” Tashan warily did so and waited for Lili to continue. “What are we going to do about Deltan and Geon?”

“Ahh” Tashan sighed. “They are getting very reluctant to leave Ranna.”

“We could put them on duty here, but that'll leave the team short.” Chandral stated.

“We could train up some of the other guards. Luckily you have no more family to distract any new ones.” Lili joked.

The twins snorted then Tarra said “It's a pity we can't get the trio to help us out.” Tarranna mused. She sat up straighter in her chair and whispered to the wind Queen Alansa, when you have a few minutes to spare, can we please talk to you.” The other women looked at Tarranna, trying to work out what the woman had in mind. She didn't have time to explain as Queen Alansa suddenly appeared.

“Good morning Guardians. I hear you freed Bellan and her group of Brownies!! Thank you.” The Queen of the Fairies smiled at the women then asked “How can I help you?”

Tarranna welcomed the Queen and asked “You told us before that Mystics can't free the other Mystics. Is that right?” Alansa nodded affirmatively. “Nerani, the Yeti and the dragons have helped us clear out dungeons. Does that mean Mystics can help us do the job or was it a one off?”

Queen Alansa looked mystified. “I don't know! This has never come up before! Tell me what you have in mind and we'll work it out.”

“Two of our group have to leave and when they do it'll leave us with a gaping hole in our team. The Brownies just inducted three excellent warriors into their fold and I was wondering if they could help us out.”

“Good plan. Let me think for a second.” Queen Alansa mentally reviewed the unwritten laws of the Mystics. “You may be right. The exact wording is ‘A Mystic may not free another Mystic who is captured by humans. Humans or part thereof must release Mystics who have been imprisoned by humans . If you are the ones to release the Mystics, they should be able to help clear the dungeon of guards. Please forgive my ignorance. I apologise for misleading you.”

Tarranna laughed and quickly assured the Fairy no apology was necessary. “You haven't had to find loopholes as often as I have! Don't worry about it.”

Queen Alansa graciously accepted Tarranna's assurances and looked at Tashan. “Congratulations Your Majesty.” She gave Tashan the Fairy blessing and nodded her acceptance of the blonde woman's thank you for doing so.

Queen Alansa looked at Chandral and Tarranna before she took a breath and said “My grandmother was one of the First Brownies. She loved being with your ancestors so much! She would come home and talk about the antics of the children for hours on end.”

“Is she still alive?”

Queen Alansa looked sad “I don't know. She was captured around the same time as Bellan's group but they were in different colonies. We don't know what happened to her.”

Chandral pulled out her seer as Tarranna gently asked “Why didn't you ask us to look for her first?”

“I couldn't put my needs against that of the other Mystics! The Mother sends you where you need to be!” Queen Alansa stated emphatically.

“Well the Seer is telling me your grandmother is alive and in Tamocel and it just so happens the next flashing dungeon is in the castle in Tamocel. How cool is that?” Chandral grinned.

Queen Alansa sighed wearily. “Thank the Mother!”

Tarranna laughed and said “And now we'll have help from the Brownie trio to rescue her.”

The trio burst into the room. They were human sized and in the midst of a major argument. “I told you to get directions ages ago, but no! You had to go all macho and lead us around in circles for hours!” Robbie and Willie growled in what they thought was a menacing way, but it sounded like a cat mewing. “Now you've made us late for our first day working for the Queens! I hope you're happy!!”

“Bitch, bitch, bitch!! That's all you two ever do! We got here didn't we! And if I hadn't got us lost, we would never have found the kitchen and that divine man, Mal!”

“He was too die for!!” Robbie oozed.

“And cook!! The man is a marvel!” Willie went to his happy place.

Tarranna looked at the trio and at the shock on the face of Queen Alansa. “Oi!” She yelled at the men. “Stop the fighting and say hello to Alansa Queen of the Fairies.”

The trio looked at Alansa, their mouths open wide. They put their hands up to cover their still gaping mouths and uttered in pure wonder “Oh sweet Mother!! A real Fairy Queen!”

“And she's so gorgeous and tiny!!”

The trio stood in a line and bowed in complete unison. “Forgive us Your Majesty. We are mere scum on the bottom of your tiny shoes. We are yours to command!” they stood and waited with baited breath for the Queen to speak.

Queen Alansa shook herself out the trio induced befuddlement and said “It is a pleasure to meet you brother Brownies. The Guardians speak very highly of your skills and bravery. I know they require your assistance with freeing my grandmother. Please help them in all they ask you to do, now and in the future.” Queen Alansa accepted the bows of the trio and smiled as they assured her the Guardians would forever have their loyalty. “Thank you, Guardians for everything. I look forward to seeing you again soon.” She nodded goodbye and vanished.

“Did she say we were going to help rescue her Fairy godmother?” Willie asked as he put his finger in his ear and wriggled it around.

“Her grandmother!” Robbie said into Willie's other ear.

The Queens welcomed the trio then picked up their previous conversation. Tashan said haltingly. “I have an idea of what Deltan & Geon do besides training the elite guards. Put them in charge of organizing a nation-wide Dragonball comp. Just make it clear they have to keep it fair & unbiased, we girls can't keep thrashing the men forever!”

Lili immediately threw in her vote “Wonderful idea! You and I don't have time to do it properly. And the way it's taking off in popularity we do need to spread it further afield.”

The women in question walked through the door & looked around the room. Everyone silently looked at them. "Ok, what's going on? Deltan pushed "You were talking about us, weren't you?

“Yes. We think you two would rather stay close to mother. We're discussing having the guys fill the enormous gap you'll leave & what duties to assign you.” Chandral stated as a matter of fact.

Geon looked relieved & Deltan said “We were just arguing about how to go about asking you lot for our reassignment! Thank you.”

“We'll need you to help with the dungeon today, but you'll take rear guard. We need to verify the guys can help us even though they're now Mystics.” Tarranna filled the women in on their proposed new duties and laughed at the way the duo jumped at the chance to organize the games.

“We were talking earlier about how it would work with so many teams wanting to play. We could separate the teams into beginner, moderate & high skill levels. Then the teams in each level play against each other.”

All the women thought that would work well then the discussion turned to the dungeon for the day. They planned as much of the assault as possible then packed their gear.

“Ok, let's move out.” Tarra said.

They appeared in the Tamocel castle atrium and quickly checked to see if anyone was around. The hallways were clear and the team headed for the dungeon.
Tarranna and Geon showed the guys how to check for traps & Willie caught on more readily than the other two. Willie took Geon's place as Tarranna's co point.

They opened the door to a small room.

Willie drew his wand and tried to light the room. Nothing happened so he shook his wand and tried again. Still nothing. “Looks like you can't depend on that here. You guys'll have to use your weapons and experience like we do. Be careful we don't know if you can be injured or killed. In fact, retreat.” Tarranna pushed everyone back the way they'd just come in.

The group moved back into the castle hallway and while Deltan and Geon stood watch Lili asked Chuckie to use his wand to armour up. He did so then returned to the small room in the dungeon. The armour vanished and didn't return until he was away from the dungeon boundary. He removed the armour created with magic and accepted the set (chest and back plates attached at the shoulders and secured at the sides) from Lili's pack. The brownies stored their wands and accepted the assortment of weapons handed to them by Chandral.

Willie followed Tarranna's lead and they moved in unison to the next door. Tarranna carefully watched Willie as he checked and cleared the next barrier. Happy with his assessment she motioned for the others to get set.

The door swung open, soundlessly.

Nothing attacked. Chandral pointed the top end of her staff into the room and it immediately filled with light.

Tarranna and Willie slammed the door shut and leaned their weight against it as Lili bolted the door.

“What the heck were they??” Willie nearly hyperventilated.

Tarranna looked at his ultra-pale face with a feral grin on hers. “Giant insects! Not arachnids!” She whooped in relief and was very quickly joined by her sister. “I'm sure I've seen the small version of them around. They can fly and climb up walls. So don't just look on the floor for them. Think up and live.”

“From the quick look I got of them, they look like praying mantises. They‘ll have sharp knife like things around their mouths. They act like they're extremely slow but they attack with great speed. Don't let them deceive you.” Lili advised them.

“They came running when I lit up the area! Maybe I can distract them to the other side of the room we can start picking them off with the crossbows and my mini lightning bolts.”

“I lied about the sword being your last catch-up toy!” Lili chuckled as she handed Tashan a crossbow patterned after her own. “It's very easy to load, watch.” Lili pointed out Tash was to ensure the loose string sat under a small hook. She then pushed a button on the side of the trunk of the bow. Lili showed Tashan how a tiny winch nestled in the trunk quickly, automatically and noiselessly wound up the string. When it reached the peak of the pull it set the trigger. The bolt was placed and the crossbow was armed in a nanosecond.

Tashan immediately did the same with her own weapon, impressed with the ease of reloading. “Bloody brilliant!” She laughed. “If you take the right hand side, I'll take the left. Chandral can take out any we miss or that head toward the door.” The other two Queens agreed and acknowledged their target points and all three took their positions by the closed door.

Geon took the hook and rope they'd used for the exploding chests from her bag and set it up on the bolt of the door. She ensured everyone was set before she pulled the barrier open.

Chandral targeted the far wall with an intense explosion of light. Dozens of the large mantises rushed for the light and exposed themselves to the archers. Lili and Tashan had been working together for years and it showed. They targeted, reloaded, aimed and fired in perfect synchronisation. While one was in the aiming and firing stage, the other was in the loading stage. Well under a minute later, dozens of mantises were dead on the floor.

Tarranna shivered as she received an intense need to head home, the dragons wanted to see her for some reason. “I have to pop home, wait for me. Keep the door open and watch to see if any are hiding.” She disappeared.

Tarranna returned moments later with her arms full of wriggling dragons. “Wait! She exclaimed. The dragons settled down and eyeballed her expectantly. “We clear the area then you eat!” The group knew the dragons were more than capable of clearing the room themselves but wanted the babies to learn self-control and how to work as a unit. Besides, the Queens needed to see the trio in action.

“No movement inside.” Robbie reported.

“I'm going to darken the room then put the light more toward the middle.” She waited for Tarranna to put the babies on the floor, ask them to stay put then armed herself.

The cavern went dark. The group heard shuffling in the room.

Light shone to a central point in the room. Six mantises ran to it. Six mantises hit the floor moments later.

The room went dark again. The team cocked their heads to the side listening for any sign of life.


Another burst of light.


Robbie was about to step into the room when Terran growled and grabbed him by the trouser leg. The dragon pulled Robbie's leg until he had to move back to the group.

Tarranna pulled her telescopic mirror from her small waist bag and she moved the angle of the mirror. She wanted it to show if anything was on the wall directly above the door. She extended it to its full three foot length and signed for everyone to stay put. She used some of the Brownie signs to convey there were several mantises waiting for them to enter the doorway.

Robbie looked at Terran, a relieved grin on his face. He gently scratched the Mystic's head to thank her for saving his Brownie hide.

Tarranna signed and asked which of the trio were best with daggers, with precision and speed. While they argued in sign at the speed of light, Tarra pulled Mal's HMW (horseless mini wagon) from her pack.

Tashan chuckled silently as she not only recalled the damage Mal had caused with the contraption but worked out what Tarranna had in mind. She pulled out a crossbow bolt with a length of very light rope attached to the end. She held it up for Tarranna to see and signed asking if attaching the rope to the far wall would help. Tarranna grinned back and gave her the ‘please proceed' sign.

Tashan visualised the far wall she'd seen last time the room had been lit and aimed the weapon. The bolt torpedoed through the doorway and silently dragged the rope with it. When the rope ceased movement, Tarranna lifted the remaining length off the floor and gently tugged it. The bolt remained in the wall so she ran the rope further away from the door. She attached a tiny pulley system to the bottom of the HMW and ran the rope through the pulleys. She pulled the rope and the HMW moved away from her and toward the doorway where the mantises waited.

The trio had stopped fighting by then and Chuckie was pushed forward by the other two. He rolled his eyes at them and removed his light throwing daggers from his sheaths. Tarranna motioned for him to lay on his back on the HMW and she'd pull him through the doorway. He nodded his understanding and set himself on the unlikely weapon. Geon waited until he was settled before she moved forward and handed him half a dozen of her best throwing knives. He took one, felt its balance and looked at her appreciatively. He silently thanked her as she grinned at him and stepped back.

Chuckie rearranged the knives on his chest, set both hands up with their first weapons and took a deep breath. Chuckie waited until Tarranna had a firm hold on the rope and nodded she was ready. He took another deep breath and nodded.

Chandral lit the middle of the room giving him backlight without blinding him.

Chuckie flew through the doorway and as he sped away he whooped in excitement. Giant mantises jumped at him as he moved past, each received a free steak knife for their trouble. Finally, the last beast jumped off the wall and chased after him, he aimed and threw his blade. The mantis fell on the ground, dead. As the machine stopped moving, Chuckie jumped up, drew his sword and set his stance. He looked around the area as his team mates rushed through the door and did the same.

All the mantises were dead and no other beasties were in the large room. The dragons were given the ok to feed and the Queens watched as they flew to the mantises on the far side of the room, grew to full size and started to clean up the carcasses. The dragons carefully pulled the crossbow bolts from the bodies as they devoured them.

The Queens and Royal Guards inspected the insects Chuckie eliminated and complimented him on his skills. Knives were sticking out of the eyes of the mutant beasts. Chuckie bowed flamboyantly as he laughed softly. “These two are better marksmen than I am, but they don't have the dexterity and speed I do!”

Willie and Robbie patted their mate on his shoulders as they congratulated him on his work. “That little contraption is amazing! I've never seen anything remotely like it before!”

The women laughed quietly as Chandral said “You wouldn't have, it's one of a kind. We'll tell you all about it later.”

Tarranna told the rest of the group to wait where they were while she and Robbie checked the room for traps. They wandered off and most of the rest of the team covered their backs. Lili and Tashan gathered up the crossbow bolts and put the ones still in good condition back in their quivers. Lili put the rest of the bolts into her pack. Once cleaned up properly Mal liked to use them to cook with.

The dragons finished the furthest carcasses and moved quietly to the ones that had been over the doorway. Chuckie saw them coming and started removing the knives. Geon helped and they quickly finished the task while the dragons ate. Chuckie cleaned off the weapons Geon had loaned him and handed them back to her. She placed the daggers in sheathes attached to her belt then reached into her backpack and handed him a matching set. Belt and sheathes included.

Chuckie was flabbergasted. “They're brilliantly made. The workmanship is extraordinary. I can't accept them, they're too much!

Geon grinned and said “I used my Fairy backpack to make a copy of my set. The pack usually does an exceptional job, so I expect they'll be as good as my mine. Take them, please. I know you'll treat them with the respect they deserve.”

Chuckie hugged her close then reverently placed the belt around his waist and inspected one of the weapons. He winked at her as they did indeed prove to be perfect copies. “Thank you.”

Geon looked at the men and women in the room with her. “You're family now. I'm going to make sure you have the best weapons so you can all come home alive.” She looked at him and added. “Plus, I want you around to see the Dragonball games!!”

“I am so looking forward to seeing all those sweaty men getting trounced by you women! I'm sure those big burly hunks will need serious consoling afterward!”

Geon laughed then turned serious as Robbie and Tarranna headed back toward them. “I'm sure they will.” She and Chuckie turned to see what the others had found.

Tarranna motioned for Robbie to give a brief report. “Along the back wall is a partitioned off section, the walls area about eight feet tall but don't reach the ceiling. The Boss says you've see the room type before.”

The group jogged to the wall, the dragons followed behind them.

Robbie had already checked for traps so the team waited while the Queens quickly instructed Tashan how to use the ropes in the bracers. They then assisted her when they used the ropes to climb onto the ledge overlooking the room behind the door. Tashan did quite well and only over-shot the ledge by half a foot. Tarranna pulled her in and smiled as the widely grinning blonde Queen thanked her.

The Queens looked below then at each other. The shock of what they saw was written all over their faces. Below them, a huge beast stared back at them. The creature had the body of a lion and the head of a human. On the head was a headpiece frame covered by black and gold material. It gave the head the illusion of having painted on hair.

Chandral spoke to the beast, introducing herself and the rest of her group. “Are you a prisoner or a guard?”

“Welcome Guardians. I am a Sphinx and am both a guard and a prisoner. I must guard this door and cannot leave the dungeon until my riddle is answered. Before you speak, know this. Once I voice the riddle it must be answered by the person standing before me. If they get the answer wrong, they will die. Get the answer correct and I return to my home and the door can be opened safely.”

“You don't want to be locked in there? You're being forced to stay?” Lili clarified.

“That's true Guardian.”

“Bugger!” Exclaimed Lili. “We can't kill him! He's as innocent as the Mystics locked in the room behind him! And I really suck at riddles!”

“What is the riddle?” Tarranna asked.

“I cannot say until someone stands before me.” He watched at the women gently argued then all four of them dropped from the wall and walked closer to him. "My riddle is ‘How do you stop a Sphinx from smelling?' I will let you discuss the answer before accepting your final decision, but I cannot advise you on the correctness of the decision.” the Sphinx informed them.

The women quietly conferred with each other then asked the people on the on the other side of the wall what their thoughts were. Tarranna mulled over all their answers and sighed “I think we all suck at riddles! The kids would come up with better answers than ours!”

“Sweet Mother!!” Tashan exclaimed. “I've heard this before!!” She quickly explained about a time when she'd been babysitting Patience and the girl had tried her hand at telling jokes. “She asked me how we'd keep Rollie from smelling. I thought she meant his notorious flatulence but she didn't.” The Queens silently stared at the woman, waiting for her to tell them the answer. “If I tell you, one of you'll want to say it the him. I intend to.”

All three women spoke at once, telling her she was crazy to think they'd let her do that. She rolled her eyes, faced the Sphinx and said "To stop a Sphinx from smelling you'd have to cut off its nose!"

The Sphinx stared at Tashan, noted that all four women had drawn their swords and waited for his reaction. He looked each of them in the eye, accepting the fact they would easily kill him, if pushed to. He stood up, casually stretched and yawned. “Well done Guardian! You may enter the room. If you would be so kind as to open the door to the exit, I swear I will not harm you or the people of Atlantis. I only want to go home.”

The Queens whooped congratulated Tashan and Lili opened the door for the majestic beast. She quickly told the rest of the team all was clear and to let the Sphinx leave unharmed.

Before leaving, the Sphinx turned to face the Queens and said “Thank you for freeing me. If you encounter more of my kind, remember the most obvious answer may be all you need to free them as well.” With that he broke into a trot and exited the dungeon.

The team found two large chests standing side by side in the corner of the room. They were sitting against the wall, which made it impossible to open them with the hook system. Chandral used her staff to open the first chest.

Nothing exploded so Chuckie inspected the contents. “Wands, hundreds of them.” Robbie checked the chest for traps before he and Chuckie dragged it away from the other box.

Chandral opened the last chest and when it didn't explode Chuckie again put his head in the top. “Oh my!! Hello there.” He turned to the Queens and said “You'd better take this one.”

The Queens moved to look into the box. Staring up at them was a Brownie and a tiny white, yellow and blue dragon. “You have to help him, please! He's getting so weak!” The Brownie begged them.

Chandral reached into the chest and let the tiny beast sniff and lick her hands. She gently secured the tiny body in her hands and lifted him up and over the side. The baby blinked madly to get his eyes accustomed to the light. The Brownie woman flew out of the box and looked at her rescuers. The three original dragons flew to Chandral and sniffed excitedly, but in a restrained way at the newcomer. Lili pulled some food from her pack and held it for the baby. He licked at it but refused to eat. He did the same with the water. Chandral hugged him closer and tried to hold in the tears.

The baby looked around the room and sighed as he looked at each person there. His eyes finally settled on Tashan and stayed locked onto hers. Chandral and Lili looked at each other and smiled. Chandral carried the baby closer to Tashan and Lili handed her friend the food, motioning for her to try feeding the baby Mystic. Tashan gingerly took the meat and held it in front of the baby's mouth. He sniffed the offering then the hand of the woman holding the food. He licked her hand and rubbed his head against her fingers. She tentatively rubbed his head and whispered for him to eat, he was safe now. She smiled as he listened to her and bit into the cooked offering.

Several minutes and a leg of pork later the baby burped and finished drinking his water. He then moved in Chandral's arms, licked her face in appreciation but obviously wanted to go to Tashan. Tashan hesitantly accepted him into her arms and hugged him close to her chest. She smiled as he snuggled in and started purring. She looked up and into the eyes of her fellow Queens. “Wow!” She sighed, her eyes filled with tears. “He's so small, even smaller than the others were. I hope we got to him in time.”

The others laughed and quickly eased her fears. “If he hadn't eaten so much I'd be worried too!” Lili hugged the woman closer and kissed the baby on the forehead. “It won't be long and you'll be as big and healthy as your brother and sisters! Isn't that right little one?” The baby grinned and licked Lili's face before he dozed off to sleep.

The Brownie woman cried into her hands. “He was waiting for you to come!” she sobbed in relief then wiped her eyes and looked at the group. “Thank you!”

The Queens nodded to the woman then asked her to stand out of the way while they finished up their clean up job.

Robbie checked the door and waited for the signal to open it.

The room was clear and full of tiny cages lining the walls. The team quickly set up guards on the ledge of the wall and started moving the cages to the room where the Sphinx had been and started to release the Brownies.

The empty cages were thrown into a pile and Ash happily destroyed them. The Brownies were given back their wands. The Brownie that had been in the chest wiped the tears from her eyes as she took the wands of her deceased friends. The Mystics were asked to fly into Lili's backpack and the team watched as Lili returned to the caverns below Georstrie. There she released the Brownies to their new homes, advised Bellan of the newcomers and told her the children could visit the Brownie's home anytime, as long as they weren't given access to the travel doors. Lili reappeared before the team ten minutes later, with Terran's old sling. She helped Tashan fit the baby carrier and placed the tiny dragon inside it before the team left the dungeon and commenced clearing all the rooms in the castle.

Hours later, they'd found a library full of more journals and reference books on Mystics and human anatomy and something called psychological warfare. The books were stored in Chandral's pack for later reading.

“I quite like the layout of this castle, Tash. What are your thoughts?” Chandral asked her partner.

“It's not bad at all. The rooms are in a logical order and set out nicely. The place doesn't feel as foreboding as the other one and having a family live here would make it a home.”

“Cool” Chandral said. “You want to bag this one or should I?” She saw the shocked look on Tashan's face and chuckled. “You are a Queen now. You have to have a castle too.”

“Oh!!” Tashan looked around and shrugged. “I don't mind, Sweetie. I'll be wherever you are so it really doesn't matter to me. You choose.”

Chandral hugged the woman close and kissed her forehead. “You are so adorable when you get mushy on me! How about we see all the rest first and decide then?”

Tashan looked somewhat insulted! “I am not mushy just truthful! And that sounds like a plan.” Tashan smiled at her love then at the mass wriggling on her chest.

“I do believe your new little friend may need to pee. You'd better take him out to the lawn!” Tashan didn't hesitate or question if Chandral knew what she was talking about, she just took off for the front exit of the castle. The three adult dragons flew behind her.

The rest of the team chuckled at the speed Tashan was capable of and followed at a more sedate pace behind her. When they arrived outside, they found Tashan on the grass and they all watched as the baby dragon wandered around the lawn, behind his older siblings. Ash stopped and waited for his little brother to catch up, licked his nose and demonstrated a stalking pose. The girls over-casually lay down and waggled their tails in apparent laziness.

Ash patiently moved one careful step at a time and watched as his brother followed his lead. The boys took their time and after long minutes they pounced on the girls. They gently bit at every part of their bodies and growled madly. They then set about trying to hold the girls immobile on the ground in a dragon version of pro wrestling.

The girls let them win for a while then reversed positions and held the boys down. The then decided to run full pelt around the lawn with the boys giving chase.

The new baby played for a long time then walked to Tashan where she picked him up and let him lick her cheek. “BBrrrr, your breath is freezing!” He wriggled in her hands then burped a large cloud of misty fog. Tashan hugged him close then placed him in the space created by her crossed legs. He turned in several circles before he lay down with his head on her leg. He watched his new family settle on the nearby grass. “Well, if Ash is fire this little guy is ice and wind. I think I'll call him Garriil-Mayrraa. Garriil for short.” She scratched Garriil on the head and he grinned at her.

Tashan looked up at the rest of her team who stared at her in puzzled silence. “Oh! Garriil (pronounced garr-eel) means cold and mayrraa is wind. I once met this old fella who had skin as dark as midnight and said he was from a huge land in the south. He'd been travelling the world for decades and his language had a very rhythmic sound to it. I learnt a little of it and garriil-mayrraa just popped back into my head.”

The team grunted in acceptance and settled themselves on the grass. “So Deltan and Geon, what do you think of the job the guys did. You think they can try and fill the canyon you guys will leave behind?”

The women looked seriously at each other and then the men. They pretended to talk about them for a while then Geon laughed “Actually we think you're better off with them!”

The trio squealed as they tackled the two soldiers to the ground. “You two are brilliant soldiers. Don't you dare say things like that!!”

After a few minutes of roughhousing the group lay on their backs and looked up at the sky. Geon started to take the Royal Guard medallion from her neck, but Tarranna told her not to. “You keep it, you'll need it to train the next lot of guards and when you're with mother and the kids.”

Deltan looked up at her Queen. “Are you sure? It'll get us access to anything and command over everyone.”

“Yes we're sure and yes, with regard to our family you outrank Melanger. Just because you won't be on this team permanently doesn't mean we don't trust you to do your jobs at home.”

Deltan and Geon both looked relieved and content “Thank you. That means a lot.”

“You guys had better take our packs.” Deltan said as she held the bag toward Robbie.

The guys refused the gift. “We have wands and the weapons we pull from the bags probably won't work when we're in the dungeons anyway. It isn't worth the risk.”

Lili waved her hand at the girls and said “Keep them. I do believe you earned the right. I'm sure they'll come in handy for you, particularly when Ranna and the girls drag you shopping on a daily basis.”

The Royal Guards (RGs) rolled around on the grass groaning loudly. “You had to mention that didn't you!”

The team lolled around for a few minutes griping and stirring each other.

Tarranna finally sat up and stretched. “Well, we'd better get back home. I'd like to meet the new Brownies properly.” She checked with the other Queens, who nodded they'd like that also. She addressed Deltan and Geon. “I'll drop you two off at mothers and you can sign off for the day. I want to see a full list of RG candidates and a comprehensive training schedule before you start on the Dragonball competition. Lili and Tashan will think about their RG candidates and have their suggestions to you in the next few days. When we finish cleaning up the castles I'd like to go back and check out the towns as well. Have the trainees ready to inspect the different Castletowns with us.”

Deltan and Geon stood and saluted the Queen. “Yes Majesty.”

Tarranna saluted back and addressed the other Queens “I'll see if Bellan and the kids are at home and if they are we'll all meet you at the Brownie cavern.” She kissed Lili goodbye and the three women vanished.

The remaining women picked up the tiny dragons and Tashan held Chandral's hand before they also disappeared. The trio were ecstatic to have their wands in their hands again and vanished in a showy rainbow of colours and flashing lights.

The Queens appeared in the entrance of the Brownie cavern and were immediately caught in hugs from their daughters. The girls were moderately dirty, so they must have found dirt to play in, in a Brownie cave! Lili was impressed. “Mumma, we're helping the Brownie dig out a room for us to play in when we visit! We can make it as big as we want to!”

“Really! Wow! You're so lucky! I know the Brownie appreciate you helping them, sweetie.” The three Queens hugged and kissed the girls before they spotted the newest dragon baby. The baby was welcomed accordingly as were his brother and sisters and the kids and dragons ran off to work on their digging project.

Tarranna popped into the cavern as was quickly updated on the girls' activities.

Bellan waited as the mothers watched where their human and dragon babies went and were satisfied they were safe before welcoming the Queens. “Your Majesties. We Brownies again owe you so much. Thank you for freeing our fellow Brownie Clan.”

The room buzzed as a massive bright light flashed and Queen Alansa appeared. Her Majesty nodded to the Guardian Queens and Bellan but seemed distracted as she looked around the room. A Brownie flew from the back of the gathered group and hugged the Fairy Queen. “Hello Gran. I've missed you so much!” Alansa sobbed as she held the woman tight. “Mother was killed when we were captured.” She whispered.

Gran hugged Alansa tighter and sighed wearily “I know dear, I felt her leave.”

The Queens recognised Gran as the Fairy locked in the chest with Garriil. They moved to leave but Gran pulled back from the hug, kissed Alansa's cheek and asked them to stay.

“So you four are the Guardians. I should have realised the baby dragon was waiting for someone special.” She looked to where Garriil was playing with his new siblings – both dragon and human.

Bellan informed Gran of the two dark haired Guardian's bloodline and Gran held her hand to her mouth. She flew to the women and looked deep into their eyes. “I can see the resemblance to the First Family. As twins, you two have such similar eyes, but are so different. I look forward to spending time with you, if you wouldn't mind.”

Tarranna and Chandral smiled and said they'd love that, but wouldn't Gran like to spend time with the kids instead? She was quickly informed about Ndindari and Macgaven. And Ranna, of course.

Gran was ecstatic. “I wish I could've seen you lot kill off those horrid giant mantises. An insult to the Mother those things were! They killed many Brownies!”

The trio buzzed, lights flashed then they whooped in glee. “We may be able to show you exactly what happened.” Willie laughed, excitedly. “Everyone move to the back a bit and get yourselves a comfie spot to look at this wall!!”

Robbie waved his wand and a large black sheet hung down the cavern wall Willie had pointed to. He critiqued his work then changed the sheet to white.

Chuckie pointed his wand at the sheet and Robbie cut the lights to all but where the children were playing. The sheet was suddenly covered with moving people! It was the team! The Queens stared in shock and dismay as they watched themselves kill the mantises, free the Sphinx, Garriil, Gran and finally the Brownies.

The crowd ooohhed, aahhed and screamed as they watched their family being freed and the monsters who held them destroyed. As the final scene finished and the lights came back on, Lili shook her head and held her hands over her face. “Well, that was embarrassing. Thank the Mother they can't show where Chandral nearly fell down the pit with the spikes or where we accidentally found out about the ropes in these bracers.”

The lights went out again and the crowd screamed and cheered as the two rescue missions mentioned above were played out for the Brownies to watch. Screams of fear for Chandral ripped through the cavern as she held onto her sister's hand and many held their hands over their hearts as she (in silent movie mode) demanded Tarranna let her go to save herself. Laughter ripped through the cavern as Tashan commented that Geon had softly asked why Chandral didn't just pop out of the hole.

Fortunately for Tarranna and Chandral, they didn't start from the start of the dungeon where they found the Yeti. The arachnids weren't shown! Tears of laughter ran from their eyes as Chandral accidently activated her bracer rope and flew through the air, only to hover right above the enemy. They sat in silent awe as they watched the aerial gymnastics of Lili and the twins as they practiced using the ropes.

Later, everyone jumped in shock as the menacing growl of the giant orc ripped through the cavern! The trio had worked out how to add sound to the show! The crowd booed and hissed as the Orc chief tried to grab the Yeti through the cage bars and screamed in time with the Yeti hitting his fingers as the twins tried to drag him from the cage. They cried in shared joy as the Yeti touched the cheek of Nerani as he cried when he finally faced the cage door. They cheered as Chandral pressed her dagger in and opened the cage door. There was a deafening roar of celebration when the dragons carried the huge mammoths back to the Travel door.

The Queens cringed as Queen Alansa requested to see how the team rescued her group of Fairies.

However, when the Trio started playing the first ever Dragonball game, the attitudes of the Queens quickly changed. They cheered each other's moves and booed as things went wrong. They laughed as trips and tackles went haywire and screamed their heads off laughing as Lili and Tashan stood nose to navel with massive muscle bound men, yelling at them for breaking the rules.

As the game ended and the lights came on Lili croaked “Holy crap, please tell me I'm not really that short!!”

There was silence in the cavern.

“Mummy, you're not short! You're tall.” Patience laughed as she hugged her mumma close.

Everyone else burst into laughter.

The Queens thanked the Brownies for allowing them to join in their fun, gathered up the girls and dragons and returned to their apartments.

After they'd gone, the Brownies conferred and brainstormed on how to find out about other adventures the Guardians had been on. The trio were tasked with preserving every Mystic rescue and were asked to find out all about the rescue missions already finished. The trio took their roles seriously and quickly decided to chase up Geon and Deltan for insider information.

They also wanted to see Mal. Apparently he had a great yarn about a charging bull and how the HMW came about!

But until morning, they were asked to reshow the missions they'd just seen, from the beginning. They had sound now and the two Brownie clans and one Fairy Queen planned to savour every nail-biting second of the Queens adventures!!


The next morning after breakfast the Queens sat in their meeting room, checked the wall map for flashing dungeons and after finding none, agreed to clean out the castle in Mahchena and on the next clear day, the one in Mungenolla.

While they were waiting for the trio to join them, Tashan and Chandral looked at each other and Lili watched intently as they seemed to be egging each other to speak up. Lili silently looked at Tarranna and raised her eyebrows. Tarranna shrugged and both women crossed their arms, sat quietly and watched the other two women.

Minutes later Tashan looked around, saw the others watching them and grinned weekly. “You gunna tell us what's up or do we have to guess?” Lili let her amusement into her voice.

Tashan looked at Chandral then took the bull by the horns and said. “Last night we discussed us picking out castles. We appreciate the offer, but neither of us wants one. My home has always been Lili's castle in Gardenya and Chandral's is here with Tarranna. If you want to have a place to yourselves, we understand fully and will choose. But we both love living here with you guys and if its ok by you we'd like to keep things the way they are.”

Lili and Tarranna looked at each other and laughed softly. Tarranna grinned as Lili said “We thought you two would be sick of us and the kids demanding so much of your time. We were trying to give you the chance to break free and have some time for yourselves.”

“Really?” Chandral looked shocked. “Why would we think that? We can take off whenever and wherever we want to.”

Lili took Tashan's hand and smiled “I love that you regard Gardenya castle as home because it has and always will be our home.” Lili put her hands flat on the table and demanded the attention of the Queens. “How about we agree to share the castles as a family unit? There is no more Lili's or Tarra's homes/castles, it's all ours. We keep things as they are now by making our home bases here, Gardenya and the new house in Irasia . We can spend time in the other castles and territories as we need to, so that isn't an issue anymore.”

Lili, Tashan and Chandral looked expectantly at Tarranna, who had been even more quiet than usual. Lili gently asked Tarranna “You don't like that idea?”

Tarranna shook her head and said “Well that's the way I thought it was anyway, so there's no difference for me. I was just imagining what it's going to be like when these two have kids and we have more. It's going to be a madhouse.” Tarranna grinned widely. “I'm actually looking forward to it.”

“Oh no!!” Chandral moaned. “What about if mother, Deltan and Geon have kids!!”

Tarranna just laughed and said. “That's why we're giving them the castle in Irasia and taking the new house. We can visit each other as much as we like but we keep our lives separate.”

The other Queens moaned in sympathy. “But that place is such an eyesore! Can we really be that cruel?” Chandral said.

“I was thinking more of the fun mum'll have redesigning it and how much shopping she'll drag you and Lili into.” The Queens unanimously agreed to gift the Irasian castle to their mother!

“We'll need to find some more travel doors so they can go where they need to.” Lili piped up.

Tashan looked at Lili and said “I've been thinking about that. What we really need is a light, portable and reusable arch that can expand or contract to the size of the people using it. What if we try asking the bag for one and see what happens.”

“You obviously can visualise what you mean, go ahead.” Lili told her.

Tashan closed her eyes imagined what the arch should look like. She discarded plan after plan as she worked out the flaws in each design. She finally settled on a pattern and reached into her pack. She pulled out a tiny silver arch. The bottom and sides were flat like a ribbon and as Tashan slid her hand into the arch it fit her wrist like a finely crafted bangle. The bottom and sides of the arch matched the natural curve of her wrist perfectly. She removed her travel ring and sat it on the table before she removed the bangle from her wrist and walked to a clear part of the room. The others watched as she tapped the bangle on her palm and said “Doorway for one.”

The arch expanded to Tashan's height and width and she disappeared as she walked into the frame. Tashan and the archway reappeared on the other side of the room. They watched as she held the frame and said ‘close door'. The large arch immediately shrank to bangle size and she placed it back on her wrist. She sat back in her chair before she took off the bangle and handed it to the others for inspection. Tashan put her ring back on and smiled at Chandral who sighed lovingly “You are one clever woman!”

Lili gave Tashan the Brownie hand sign for ‘good job' as she asked. “We should be able to code the doorway to only work for one person, right? That way if we give mum one and the kids get it, they won't be able to use it.”

“I like that idea!... Now we can put the big arches back in storage and know someone won't stumble into them.”

“At this stage I suggest we only give the bracelets to mum, Geon and Deltan. Once our ministers are set up properly, we can decide if they need one then.”

Chandral sent a quick message to ask Ranna and the RGs to come to the meeting room as Tashan coded the prototype for Ranna's use and asked for copies for Geon and Deltan. Tashan kept the intricate pattern on the bangle frame, so people would think the jewellery was part of Ranna her partners' union. Tashan tried to activate the doors and grinned widely as they refused.

Not long later, Ranna and her loves entered the room, curious as to why they were summoned.

The Queens voted Tarranna as spokesperson in and she rolled her eyes at them. “This gutless crew are too scared to tell you we're giving you some wedding presents.” Ranna was about to refuse when Tarranna held up her hand, warning her mother not to butt in. “This is a Royal decree, Mother you can't refuse it. Besides, you may not be grateful when you see what it is.”

Tarranna told the newcomers about the decision to use the castles as their family asset and why the decision was made. “The Queens and I realise you lot may want to have kids in the future and all of you have family and friends you need to spend time with. We know you need your own space and have decided to give you the castle in Irasia .” Ranna looked like she was going to argue again but held her tongue as Tarranna continued. “But we want you to be able to come and go as you want to. So there is a second gift. Tashan!” Tarranna motioned for the woman to take over.

Tashan gave each of them a bangle, she made sure it wasn't the one coded for that individual. She explained the activation process, how to think of their destination and asked the women to try it. Nothing happened so she had them change to the correct devices. The women tried again and three doors appeared. Each woman stepped through the doorway and reappeared on the other side of the room. They deactivated the arches and placed the bangles on their wrists.

Tarranna thanked Tashan and continued on “What I'd like you to do is go to the castle and check it out. Please keep an open mind when you see it Mother and remember we don't hate you. Imagine what it'll be like when you finish redecorating it! If you pick out your living areas now and start setting it up to your needs you can move in as soon as you're ready. The rest of the castle can be re-done whenever. No, we are not kicking you out!! With the doorways, it'll be the same as when you come from your room to ours now.”

Tarranna took a breath and looked at her mother expectantly. “I agree we need space and we've been discussing moving out for a little while now. Is the castle really so ugly?” Ranna looked at her loves and chuckled at the looks of distaste on their faces. “I promise I will only find the good in it then!!” She made the Queens stand up and hugged them all. “I need to talk to you about something as well.” She looked at Geon and Deltan who took a very large step backward. Ranna rolled her eyes and sat down. “We don't want a big wedding. We would prefer to just have immediate family and a few friends around for a very small service and dinner afterward. We're having the ceremony in two days.” She looked at her daughters and sighed “I hope you aren't too upset with me.”

Tarranna and Chandral raised their eyebrows at each other and Chandral whined “I totally annoyed, actually. How come you get to do that and we're stuck with a huge freaking circus?”

“Don't worry! We can do what we want.” Tarranna looked at her fellow Queens and was happy to see nobody was itching to fight her on that idea.

Lili stood up again and hugged Ranna. “Congratulations! Please let us know if you need anything done!”

Ranna looked at the women and said “Well, there are a couple of things… I know you have to do your jobs and you may be called out, but I want you to do your best to be there. Also, I wanted to see if I can borrow Mal for the day. I know we probably can't stop him wanting to supervise the meal preparation but we'd like to have him as a guest.”

“That won't be a problem, mother.” Tarra assured her mum.

“Did you want to have your rooms ready at your new place so you can move straight in after the ceremony?” Tashan asked. “If you do, we can get working on it immediately.”

Ranna looked at her partners and they shrugged non-committedly. “I think that would be a great idea. We can start our lives together in our new home.”

Tarranna went to the map on the wall and said “Map please show the dungeons and towns needing help in the next month.” A dozen black spots flashed and the women groaned. “Now show the dungeons and towns needing to be help in the next five days.” The occupants of the room held their breaths as the flashing spots stopped and none started.

The Brownie trio entered the room and were quickly updated on Ranna's news. They cheered and hugged the happy partners before offering their services as interior decorators. “Ok team, change in plans for today. We're all going Irasia for some serious shopping and home making.” Lili ordered as she grabbed Chandral and they ran from the room to get Bellan and the kids ready for a day out. They both intended to do some work with their new place as well.

Ranna and Geon were absorbed in a discussion with the trio regarding what colours matched each other and Deltan quietly walked to stand near Tashan and Tarranna. “I know I will not be allowed to bail from this little venture, so what are you two going to do? Please tell me in great detail so I can use my imagination to join you when my reality gets mind numbingly boring!”

Tashan and Tarranna laughed in sympathy and Tarranna offered “We could find a place for you to practice with the bracers and when we get sick of that we can work on some strategies for the next Dragonball game?”

Tashan grinned widely as she agreed that sounded like a fantastic plan.

The women chatted amiably until Lili, Chandral, Bellan and the kids and dragons came into the room in a mini cyclone of activity. Deltan quickly supplied a doorway leading to the atrium of the castle. Tarranna and Tashan herded the group through the archway as they picked up the dragons and held them close.

As they appeared in the castle, Ranna was looking around the large entryway. She didn't seem too impressed.

The adults led her outside and let her see the monstrosity from the front lawn. “Oh my!!”

“After seeing if from here, the inside'll look a lot better!” Chandral tried to assure her mum.

“I'm sure it will dear!” Ranna tried to stay positive.

They went back inside and straight up to the top floor. At one end of the building was a massive apartment. It had a huge main bedroom and living area, well-appointed bathing area and plenty of storage space for clothing and knick-knacks. Next to the quarters was a series of small rooms and a massive meeting room.

“This is perfect!!” Ranna gasped. “Absolutely perfect!” Everyone looked at her, stunned she looked like she was serious. She flapped her arms at them and sighed. “The bedroom is self-explanatory! But we can use the small rooms for our different projects. I can do my sewing and jewellery in the far end one, it has brilliant light. You two can use the bigger one for an office, for when you want to work at home. The others can be for storage or something we think of later. The huge room can be your gym or training room.”

Deltan and Geon looked gobsmacked! Ranna was right! It was perfect, how had they not seen that before? Some of the larger pieces of furniture had yet to be removed and Ranna looked at her partners. “These cupboards would be lovely in a lighter shade of varnish.”

Chuckie stepped up and asked Ranna if she minded him waving his wand around. Ranna chuckled and told him to go ahead. The ugly black paint faded from the massive storage unit along the wall and as Chuckie waved his wand the unit sparkled in a light coloured varnish that showed the grain of the wood to perfection. “Chuckie, that's perfect! Thank you dear.”

Chuckie bowed and responded “My pleasure lovely Lady. Consider me at your disposal.”

Ranna grinned at him and laughed softly. “Well now! You just come with me, you adorable man.” She linked her arm with his and led him to the bedroom. “The bed frame is nice and solid, but that horrible red velvet hanging all over it is tacky and nothing but a dust collector. You wouldn't be able to zap it away, would you?”

Deltan and Geon looked at each other and high fived!! It looked like they wouldn't have to go shopping after all. They ran to their new office and started to talk about what could go where. Lili motioned Willie aside and softly asked him “Would you mind giving them a hand?”

“It would be my pleasure, Your Majesty.” He skipped off to join the women who practically hugged him to death.

“We'd like to start on our place now, do you mind?” Lili asked on behalf of Chandral. Tashan and Tarranna didn't argue they just fell in line behind everyone else as they left their mother and her partners to finish up.

The procession slowly made its way up the hill to their new home. Bellan immediately took the children to the grassy area and started zapping in a series of play equipment designed to build their muscles and mind. She also checked the fences and was pleased to find them in perfect order. The dragons licked and snuggled into Tarranna and Tashan before they wriggled to get down and ran off to play with the kids.

Robbie had decided to stay with Guardians and looked around the home with his new eyes. He was impressed with what he saw. Lili and Chandral immediately started throwing ideas off each other and he seamlessly jumped right into the conversation.

Tashan and Tarranna waved to their partners signalled they were going downstairs for a while then took off at light speed. They left the door to the dungeon open and went down the staircase. With all the Brownies and the skeletons gone, the room was large and ideal to practice in.

Tarranna knew that Tashan had heard the instructions Chandral had given to Lili when they freed the Yeti so she just asked “Do you have questions or want to just try it?”

“I think I'll just have a go and see what happens.” Tashan grinned from ear to ear.

“Just remember if you can't control where you're going, pop to safety.” Tarra chuckled.

“Gotcha! I just have to remember I can do that now!” Tashan shook her head. She couldn't believe she'd forgotten so quickly.

“Take your time, there's no rush to do anything quickly.” Tarra suggested sagely.

Tashan took a deep breath visualised what she'd seen the others doing and pointed her hand at the ceiling. She squawked as she flew off the ground and hung by her bracer from the roof. She swung her body and moved her other arm forward pointing to a spot ten feet away. The bracer released its rope and after it attached to the roof it pulled her forward. “Whhooo!!” she cried as she repeated the movements.

Tarranna watched for a few seconds before yelling “Start to turn now or you'll hit the wall!!” She cringed then sighed with relief as Tashan corrected her flight path and inelegantly moved around the end of the room toward the next wall. Tarranna chuckled in delight as the other woman finished a circuit of the room and started on the next rotation.

As her confidence grew, Tashan started making turns and soon she was moving around the room gracefully. She landed next to Tarranna and hugged the taller woman. “This if freaking great! Thank you.”

Tarranna hugged her back then started to explain how to travel parallel with the floor in a straight line. “I accidentally found the best way is to secure the ropes to each end of the room.” She demonstrated by doing just that. “Then tighten the ropes so you lift off the floor and think about wanting to go in a direction. The ropes lengthen and shorten as they need to.” Tarranna was ‘standing' in the middle of the room five feet off the floor. Her arms out to her sides, she looked like she was floating then she started to ‘slide' sideways. “If you want to go back to moving across the roof, the hard part is getting the rope to the roof before you hit the floor. So I ‘walk' the ropes up the walls a few feet at a time.” She again demonstrated by getting the right hand rope to move toward the ceiling. Although the move was practically instantaneous, Tarranna moved slightly toward the floor. Tashan watched and learnt as her friend continued the movements until she was moving across the ceiling.

Tarranna hung by one arm then pointed at a right angle to the nearest wall, she charged at the wall as the rope pulled her along. As she started the upward part of the arc she detached the ceiling rope, dropped to the floor and slid across the room at a frantic pace. Several feet before reaching the wall she detached the rope and used her feet to control the last of her momentum. She stopped half an inch from the barrier. Tarranna turned and smiled at Tashan. “Luckily for us there's no rule practice has to be boring!”

Tashan laughed and agreed. “Uh huh! So it's really all about angles and correcting the direction with your body moments. Cool!” Tashan took off into the air madly swinging around the cavern. Tarranna chuckled as she joined her.

The women practiced for over an hour before Patience appeared at the top of the steps, at the barrier the women had put to stop the babies falling. “Mummas!! Mum needs you up here please!”

Tarranna and Tashan cringed as they lowered themselves from the ceiling and watched the last of the translucent ropes disappear into their bracers. “That was fun. Thanks Tarra, I appreciate making an effort to spend time with me.”

Tarranna nodded as the woman started for the stairs. “Tash, wait up.” Tashan stopped and turned toward the dark haired Queen. “It's not an effort, I enjoy myself too. I've never said I enjoy spending a lot of time with anyone but Chandral and Lili, so you're in excellent company.” She gently punched Tashan in the shoulder. “So you wanna marry our lovely partners day after mum does? We can have a very small gathering and tell the Royal hounds to get over themselves.”

Tashan nearly fainted in relief “Do not play with my emotions! Please tell me you aren't joking!”

“I am totally serious. We get committed in the morning, have the rest of that day and the next off before having to start on the dungeons again.”

“Tarra, I do believe I love you more than my bracers!”

Tarranna laughed wholeheartedly as she put her arm around the shorter woman's waist. “Nah, it's just the relief kicking in! Come on, we have to find out if the two women we love are actually going to give up a huge fancy party for a tiny informal gathering.” Tarranna and Tashan stopped walking and looked at each other.

“This may take a while, eh?”

“Could do. Wanna try a joint attack or divide and conquer?”

“Definitely joint!” Tashan looked a bit embarrassed as she fidgeted. “I can't say no to her when she really wants to do something.”

“Yeah, I have the same trouble with Lili… Joint it is then.”

It really didn't take much to persuade Chandral and Lili to have a small and quiet ceremony. In fact the women jumped at the idea. They finished the major changes to their new home then returned to the Castle to inform Ranna, Geon and Deltan of their plans.

Ranna wanted to have the ceremonies on the same day, but the Queens declined as the three women deserved their day to themselves.


It was the day of the Queens' wedding and a beautiful day it was! The sun was shining and the flowers of Lili's castle seemed to be making an extra effort to look especially lovely for their Queen.

Chandral and Tarranna were in Chandral's apartment getting ready while Lili and Tashan were doing the same in Lili's rooms. The twins had worked with a member of the Brownie trio in regard to their design and each had a separate tailor to complete the outfits. Their dresses were covered and twins about to reveal their creations to each other for the first time.

“Well that worked well!” Tarranna groused as they each uncovered their finished projects. “Next time I need an outfit I will just have them copy your pattern!”

Chandral sat on the edge of her bed and laughed. “I can't believe we even picked the same colour!”

“I'm sorry Chan. I can go home and get one of the outfits from my wardrobe.” Tarra offered.

“Don't be silly! You spent just as much time on yours as I did with mine… We're going to be wearing different jewellery anyway and I can put a shawl or something around my shoulders. Don't worry about it.”

“Can you believe this is happening to us?” Tarra sighed.

“Nah, I still wake up and wonder if it was all a dream.” Chandral chuckled but she was serious.

“Me too… I wake up around three am most nights and just lay there staring at Lili, wondering how I got so lucky. Then I sneak into the kids room and just watch them sleeping. I thought I'd never be a mum.” Tarra whispered in awe of the girls.

“Next time you do that, let me know and I'll join you.” Chandral told her sister.

Tarranna scoffed and chuckled “You want to get up at three in the morning? Willingly?”

“For that I will! I can't promise I'll be in a civil mood but I'd like to do it. That is, if you wouldn't mind the company.” Chandral couldn't have loved the kids more even if she'd given birth to them.

Tarranna hugged her sister. “Chandral, they are your nieces and daughters as well. You can go in anytime yourself, just don't wake Ndindari. I think she has your early morning wakeup temperament.” Tarranna kissed Chandral's brow and promised “Next time I get up I'll wake you.”

“Thank you.” Chandral moved closer into the hug with her sister. “I suppose we should start getting dressed. Are you getting nervous? I'm not. I'm quite looking forward to everyone knowing I scored the love of a hottie like Tash!”

Tarranna laughed as she moved away from Chandral. “Yeah, me too! We did pretty well for a couple of old farts, eh?”

“Yep.” The women stood up and Chandral picked up Tarranna's outfit. “Let me help you then you can help me.”


“Good morning Atlantis!!!” Robbie beamed. “Welcome to the wedding of Queens Arobar and Tashan from Gardenya to Queens Tarranna and Chandral from Georstrie. I'm your co-host for today, Robbie is my name. With me I have the extraordinarily handsome Willie. ”

Willie shoulder hugged his co-host then carried on with the spiel. “Today you are privileged to be watching the first ever live broadcast on the Fairy News Network or FNN for short.”

“That's right folks, the first ever broadcast of Fairy News!! And it's all thanks to the brilliant man behind the wand, Chuckie. Say hello Chuckie.” Robbie cheered.

Chuckie put his fingers in front of his wand and waggled them in a hello motion.

“We're broadcasting to every reflective surface in Atlantis and if you don't want to watch this momentous celebration of love and commitment, just close your eyes and go to sleep or take a chill pill! Hopefully we are going to be showing you exclusive interviews with your Queens, where they give candid answers to your questions!” Willie laughed.

Robbie updated his audience. “That's right folks! You get to ask the questions you'd like most answered by your Queens or their immediate family. All you have to do is push the button on the bottom of your reflective surface and talk into it. We'll get the message and depending on the number of messages arriving at that moment we'll get to yours as soon as possible.”

Willie decided to play it safe and ensure everyone realised…“Just remember people, if you're looking into water, pushing the button won't work. Try and find another surface.”

Robbie was in his element as he promoted upcoming programming. “Just a reminder while we wait for the questions to come in, we will be showing on FNN actual footage of the bravery of our Queens as they battle unimaginable monsters so we in Atlantis can be free of tyranny and murder. The footage will be run an hour after dusk each night starting this very evening!”

Willie jumped on the bandwagon and ran with it. “In fact why don't we show the good people a sample of what's coming up.”

Robbie put on his serious face as he looked at the wand. “Before we start this, Chuckie is warning that this show may contain images that may scare children. Parents please be advised.”

The footage changed to show the dungeon team checking a wall for a doorway.

“AAAHH!” An ant the size of a horse pushed through the door and grabbed at Tashan. Its pincers were the length of swords and Tarranna parried them as she grabbed her friend by the waist and dragged her further from the doorway. Both women jumped in surprise as a small bolt of lightning hit the beast in the head, causing its skull to explode.


Tarranna sprinted toward the rear of the ant attacking the guards, dodged its stinger and jumped onto its back. She ran up its spine and stood on its neck. “Move away!” she yelled to the women as she raised her sword and severed the beast's head off its body. Before it hit the ground, she was running down its body and catapulting onto the next insect's back.

Willie swooned “Oh Sweet Mother!! Did you see the size of those pincers!! Can you imagine if you were the one to open that door!! If it was me I can guarantee I would be a Brownie in more ways than one!! Hello, clean underwear needed in Dungeon number 1!”

Robbie fanned his face as he pursed his lips and let out the breath he'd been holding. “Queen Tashan was lucky not to have lost her head there!”

Willie loved to share information and this was a perfect opportunity. “Yes she was Robbie. But we have to point out here that during that quest, Queen Tashan was not Royalty. She was originally Personal Royal Guard for Queen Arobar. She was then promoted to General of the Army and the Queen's Speaker before joining the Royal Elite Dungeon Squad or REDS. From all accounts she is a brilliant warrior and a ferocious Dragonball umpire.”

Robbie jumped up and down on the spot!! “Great Mother Willie! We forgot to tell the viewers that the first ever Dragonball match will be replayed in its entirety following the Royal Weddings. You will get to see the Queens in all their glory as they fight it out on the field.”

Willie joined his partner in jumping. “How could we have forgotten that, Robbie! You viewers are in an enormous treat!”

Robbie leaned closer to the wand and winked at the audience. “We have it from a VERY reliable source that the game was actually a ‘courting present' from the Gardenyan Queens to the Georstrie Queens! But wait there's more!! That very night Queens Chandral and Tarranna proposed to the Gardenyan Queens.” Willie said.

Hands were thrown over mouths and the Brownies gushed “OOOoooo! How romantic!” Robbie sighed, dramatically.

“Isn't it wonderful that Queens Arobar and Tashan shared something so wonderfully personal with the rest of us! And they gave the entire nation a fantastic pastime to boot!” Willie congratulated the blonde Queens.

“Willie!” Robbie squealed. “We have our first wave of questions coming in!!” The Brownie duo ratted around for several seconds before they looked up at Chuckie's wand. “The first question is ‘ Are Queens Tarranna and Chandral really identical? ' Well Willie who better to ask then their Mother Queen Ranna.” The view showed heads and bodies shuffled around as Chuckie hurried to keep up with the reporting duo of the Brownie trio.

“Queen Ranna, can we get a few minutes of your time please!!” Robbie yelled.

Ranna turned from her partners and looked at Robbie and Willie. Chuckie waved from behind his wand. Ranna smiled radiantly and chuckled. “You guys do understand they will not be happy when they find out what you're up to?”

“Yes Your Majesty, but the public want to see the Queens on this special day. Can we ask you a few questions please?” Robbie fobbed off his fear of retaliation.

Ranna shrugged and nodded. She laughed as she heard the question. “Yes, they are identical. They've been working separately on their wedding attire but I won't be the least bit surprised if they appear in the same outfits”.

“So you haven't seen what they'll be wearing?” Willie hinted for clues.

“No Willie, nobody has. They even used different tailors.” Ranna chuckled.

“Thank you Your Majesty. And please accept our congratulations! You held your own commitment ceremony yesterday and the beautiful women behind you are our newest Royal Family Members. Princess Geon and Princess Deltan, can we have a quick word please?”

Princess Deltan looked like she was going to crash tackle the trio but Geon and Ranna each took an arm and she plastered a grin on her face.

“Both of you are former REDS, what is the scariest monster you've ever faced?” Robbie waggled his eyebrows and wanted full details.

Geon and Deltan looked at each other and said simultaneously “Queen Chandral when she's woken early!” The new Princesses thought for a second then added “But apparently Queen Arobar is just as bad if not worse. In fact this one time at REDS camp…” The women told their version of the mud bog and how it had come about.

Ranna snorted and grinned at the men who were greedily harvesting the gossip and running with it.

“Really? Can you give us any more examples?” Robbie egged on the women.

Ranna stepped in and said, “I'm really sorry but we have to go mingle now. Please excuse us.” Ranna grabbed the women by the arms and dragged them away from the gossip hounds.

The men bowed to the Royals and thanked them for their time. “Well Willie, I can't wait to see that incident in full on FNN!” Robbie snickered.

“Me either Robbie… Look! There's General Melanger.” The trio rushed to ambush the General who hesitantly stopped and agreed to talk to them. “General, you've known Queen Tarranna since her early days. The next question from our viewers is ‘ Was she really as mean as she liked everyone to believe? '

The General laughed as he denied that “No, she has the biggest heart of anyone I've ever met! She's tough but only on people who deserve it. I remember the day Maladroit was brought before her court and another time when we found her after she'd rescued around 40 kids from slavers.” The General regaled the stories of Mal and the apples and where Tarranna found the group containing the tiny twins. The trio laughed and cried as they heard about the tiny twins lying all over the woman who would become their mother.

“Write that down Chuckie, that's another one to show our viewers.” Robbie sobbed.

Willie jumped in and asked “General another question is “ How did Queens Tarranna and Arobar meet?

Melanger looked around as someone pushed past him before he answered. “You'll have to ask them that, I only know Queen Tarranna left on a scouting mission and met Queen Arobar while she was away.”

Willie dug for more news. “We understand you were there when the women defeated the Kings and found the dragon babies, can you tell us what happened please.”

Melanger said “I was there for the Kings, but not exactly when they found the babies. I'll tell you what I know.” He did so, much to the excitement of the trio. Chuckie took note of those stories as well.

As the tales drew to an end, excitement rippled through the crowd and everyone was asked to take their seats as the Queens were ready to start.

Musicians quietly strummed as the trio thanked the General and gained a promise he would talk to them again soon. The trio then moved into position to cover the biggest news item in the history of FNN!!

Lili and Tashan were escorted by Patience as they walked from the eastern part of the castle to the dais where Queen Alansa was waiting to perform the joining ceremony. Robbie cooed into his microphone wand as the Queens walked closer. He whispered “The little Princess is in a lovely swirly pink dress and she's wearing her new Fairy wings! Isn't she just adorable?”

Willie drooled as he looked at the Queens. “Oh my word! These women are stunningly beautiful! They're both dressed in silk and in the traditional style of Gardenyan formal attire. As you can see, their dresses are fitted under the bust but hang in a loose fit to just below the knees. They have long scarves positioned over the left shoulder which signifies they are in a relationship. Queen Tashan looks magnificent in emerald green while Queen Arobar has chosen a more earthy mustardy brown and with her skin colouring it is a wonderful choice.”

Robbie sniffed as he sighed. “They make such a lovely couple don't they. Queens Tashan and Arobar have been close friends for years and one has to wonder why they didn't become a couple. Maybe we can write that on the list of questions for the Queens?”

Willie sniffed a juicy tidbit then thought out loud. “You know Robbie, I heard both Queens Tashan and Tarranna refused to wear dresses and yet here's Tashan in such a lovely frock. I can't wait to see what Queen Tarranna has chosen.”

Robbie's hands fluttered as he excitedly relayed “Here come the twin Queens now!! Oh the little Princesses are also in swirly dresses and wearing Fairy wings. These lovely young ladies are certainly going to start a trend. And rightly so, they're everything a Princess should be!”

Willie gasped as the twins moved closer. “Queens Chandral and Tarranna have chosen fitted dresses! That's right, Tarranna has put on a dress! And you're seeing it live here on FNN!”

Robbie oozed sincerity as he described how lovely the women looked in their wedding gear. “Their gowns are ocean blue, which would match the colour of their eyes beautifully! The silk dresses are also fitted at the bust but these have lower cut bodices and the dresses snugly fit their figures. They have chosen silk sashes as belts, each sister has a different melding of colours on their sash. Let me see, that's Tarranna with the red, blue and yellow. Chandral has opted for green and blue.”

Willie suddenly realised they'd better shut up talking. “They've all arrived at the dais where Queen Alansa is going to perform the ceremony. We'll switch to Queen Alansa for sound now.”

Queen Alansa looked at the women standing in front of her. Lili on the far left and Tashan on the inside left. Several feet away were Chandral on the inside right and Tarranna on the outside right.

“I am Alansa, Queen of the Fairies and I have been asked by your Queens to preside over today's ceremony. As a special request from Queen Tarranna, the ceremony will be kept very short.” Alansa laughed along with the rest of the people gathered and Tarra grinned at her fellow Guardians.

Alansa let the crowd settle then continued. “The Guardians of the Mother and Queens of Atlantis welcome you, their friends and family, to help them celebrate this most joyous of days. We've come together to witness the joining of these women in a union of love and commitment. The traditional Atlantian joining vows will be spoken.”

The four women recited the vow in unison. ‘Where you go, I go. Where you sleep, I sleep. Where you die, I die. Your people are now my people and your Mother my Mother. I promise to love, cherish and respect you for all the days of my life.'

Tarranna and Chandral hugged both blondes then stood next to each other in a Gardenya, Georstrie, Gardenya, Georstrie mix (or from left to right Lili, Tarranna, Tashan, Chandral).

Alansa addressed the Queens. “Please join hands to form a circle as I ask the Mother to bless your commitment to each other.” The Queens formed their circle. “Sweet and bountiful Mother of all things, we ask you to bless these women and their offspring so they may lead long and prosperous lives in your honour. We thank you Mother and remain forever your humble servants.”

The Queens recited. “Thank you Mother.” The light that engulfed the four women was blinding. The children watched as their mothers floated off the ground and hovered there. Bellan and Maladroit hugged the girls close and whispered not to be afraid, their mums weren't in danger.

A woman appeared next to Alansa. She was tall, middle aged, plump and her dress and many scarves blew in the soft breeze that accompanied her arrival. Her dark hair moved in the breeze as she softly spoke. “Thank you Queen Alansa. I'll take it from here.”

Alansa bowed to the woman and whispered reverently “Yes Mother.”

The crowd stunned but several managed to whisper. “This is THE Mother?”

The Mother watched as the light surrounding the Queens finally faded and the women returned to the ground. The children seemed to know something important was happening because they stayed close to Bellan and Maladroit while they watched the newly arrived woman very closely.

“Guardians of my Children, I knew the bond between you four was strong, but this sort of reaction only occurs when a union is blessed by Fate. You were meant to find, love and commit to each other but not until the time was exactly right. The Fate bond is now sealed for eternity and will help in your fight for a better world. I now add my personal blessings to you.” The Mother walked to each of the Queens, hugged and kissed them.

The Mother nodded to Alansa, touched Patience, Ndindari and Macgaven's heads and laughed as the dragons put their heads up for a quick scratch. The Mother lifted up each dragon in turn and placed a kiss on their foreheads. “It pleases me greatly to know you precious babies so well cared for.” The Mother turned back to her Guardians. “Enjoy your special day. You have more than earned it.” The Mother nodded goodbye to everyone and disappeared.

Queen Alansa shook the surprise out of her tiny body and drew the attention of everyone gathered. “In the name of the Mother and Blessed Fate I pronounce you Bond Partners. You may kiss your brides.”

Once the word kiss was said, the Queens seemed to snap out of a trance and they smiled contentedly as they hugged their partners close. Tarranna put her forehead on Lili's and they softly rubbed noses before leaning in for a smoulderingly tender connection of lips. Next to them, Chandral and Tashan unknowingly did a similar routine.

The women broke apart then hugged and congratulated each other. After thanking Queen Alansa for helping them on their day, they then turned to face their family and friends, who broke into an enormous cheer. The enthusiastic clapping echoed off the castle walls.

The Queens picked up the children before walking of the dais and into the arms of their family.


Hours later, Tarranna placed her empty plate on the buffet table and picked up a couple of small tarts. She grinned happily as she scoffed them and picked up another. She still smiled widely as she moved to where Tashan leaned against the wall and idly played with her cup. Tashan watched Chandral and Lili as they conversed and laughed with their guests. Tarranna leaned on the wall and enjoyed the same view.

“Thought you refused to wear a dress?” Tashan chuckled softly, without moving her eyes from the other two Guardians.

“Yep. I overheard Lili say she'd love to see me in one, so I did it. You?” Tarranna snorted.

“Same… We're so whipped!” Tashan laughed.

“Uh hah… And loving it!” Tarra finally admitted.

“Oh yeah!” Tashan shrugged and said.

Tarra gently enquired. “You ok?”

Tashan slightly raised her shoulder in a half-hearted shrug. “Yeah, just a bit overwhelmed! You?”

Tarra readily agreed with being stunned “Oh yeah! Whodah thunk the Mother would show up!”

Tashan nodded. “Uh hah… That light lifting us up really threw me… So did what Fate told us.”

“Uh hah… Don't fret, we don't have to do anything about that until we're all ready to…” Tarra assured her friend. They were quiet for several minutes before Tarra chuckled. “Did you hear what the trio are up to?”

“Yep, you aren't going to lock them back in the dungeon are you? If you are, I'll help! They're showing everyone where I nearly got beheaded by that blood huge ant.” Tashan was cranky.

Tarra laughed. “I wasn't no. But if they go too far by showing something too personal, you're on.”

Tashan stood up straight. “Where are they heading?” The Queens watched the trio edge their way toward Patience. The Queens looked at each other, horror in their eyes. “The things that girl can tell them!!!”

The women removed their delicate, useless sandals as they kept their eyes glued to the trio. Tarranna said “Take out Chuckie, he has the wand.”

The Queens charged across the lawn, crash tackled Chuckie to the ground and feverishly tried to rip the wand from his hand. He smacked at their hands whilst he screamed at the top of his lungs. “You cannot censor us!! Just let us ask the Princess a few questions!!”

Atlantis' citizens received a very close view of Tashan's ear as Chuckie's wand caught in the canal before she could move her head out of the way. “Chuckie, you are not going anywhere near any of those children. Give me your wand now!!”

Chuckie screamed… “Help! Brutality happening live on FNN! Help!!!”

Tashan's head moved into view as she grabbed the wand and pulled hard. Chuckie squealed louder as he let go with one hand and tickled Tashan's armpit. She growled in unqueenly laughter as she wriggled trying to get away from his relentless fingers.

Tarranna grabbed Chuckie's wand and pulled it while he was distracted by Tashan. He wriggled under the women, still screaming loudly. “Stop squealing in my bloody ear and give me that wand!!” Chuckie stopped tickling Tashan and started on Tarranna. Tarra tried to move, but Tashan's leg was hooked around hers! Tarranna squirmed as his fingers moved up and down her side. “Right Brownie Man! Just remember you asked for this!!” She laughed loudly.

Tarranna found his armpit and returned the tickle favour!!

Chuckie stopped screaming and laughed uncontrollably. Tarranna laughed evilly as she cried out “Tash, his ultra-ticklish! Get his other pit!... Chuckie get that bloody wand out of my cleavage!”

The wand flashed around and Tashan's wide grin appeared on every reflective surface in Atlantis.

“No!! I give!” Chuckie screamed. “Stop, please!! I give!!”

Robbie and Willie ran to his aid. They flew into the melee and pushed the Queens faces into Chuckie's chest before they could wriggle out of the way. Hands and legs flapped everywhere, and from the bottom of the pile someone yelled “Will you please get your elbow out of my face!!”

Robbie exploded from the pile of bodies, hit the ground with a thud and crawled back into the small mountain of flesh.

Tarranna weaved her way around Willie and dragged Tashan with her. Both women lost their balance and fell back into the pack. “Who's biting me??” screamed a male voice. A very high pitched male voice! Tashan's head resurfaced moments later and spectators saw her spit out a piece of material.

A shrill whistle cut through the air. Chuckie fell off the pile and landed face first in the grass. He lifted his head and looked at the two sets of delicate sandals in front of his face. One foot of each set of shoes was tapping! He looked up and grinned. “Hello Your Majesties. Lovely ceremony wasn't it?”

The shoes just kept on tapping.

Robbie and Willie slid off the women and sat on the grass, their heads hung so they couldn't see the looks on the standing Queens' faces.

“Tarra, you're bleeding!” Tashan said as she looked at the dark head between her breasts. Tarranna was lying between the blonde's legs, holding her nose between her fingers, blood running down her face and onto Tashan's dress. Tashan cringed as she saw how Tarra's nose pointed slightly left of centre.

“Di do dink di doke di doze.” Tarra asked.

Tashan didn't have to interpret the question. “Yes, I do think you broke your nose.”

Tarranna rose to her knees and Tashan slid from underneath her. “Did you bleed on my head?” Tarranna shook her head and pointed to Tashan's forehead.

Tashan touched her hand to her head and stared at the resulting blood on her hand. “Crap!” She pulled the scarf off her shoulder and ripped it in half. She handed one piece to Tarranna who sat on the lawn before trying to put the material to her nose. Tashan put the remaining material on her head, but missed the spot. Tarranna took the rag quartered it up and placed the pad on Tashan's head. “Ta.” Tashan whispered as she nodded toward Tarranna's back.

“De'er in dubble, daint de?” Tarranna pulled a ripped piece of her dress back over her arm.

“Oh yeah.” Tashan snuck a look around Tarranna's shoulder. “We're in deep trouble!”

Tarranna scooted her butt around and faced the music. She looked up at her love and sister, tried to smile but failed miserably. “Dukee darted det!”

“I did not start it!! You two tackled me like I was a greasy pig at a fair!” Chuckie haughtily tried to brush the dirt off his shirt sleeve. He sighed dramatically as he gave up on it. The grass stains would never come out!

Chandral walked to her sister, pulled the rag off her nose and grimaced at the position the piece of cartilage was in. She gingerly touched the appendage and looked into her sisters eyes. She pulled the nose, resetting it back in place. “Aaaahhh!! That hurt!!”

“Good news is you don't have a concussion.” Chandral put the rag back on her sister's still bleeding nose and moved to Tashan's side. She lifted the rag and moved the bloody hair out of the wound. “It's on the hairline and about three inches long.” She looked deep into her loves eyes. “You don't either.” She put the pad back on Tashan's head and told her to hold it there. “Where are your protection charms?”

Both women looked embarrassed as they said “Inside.” Tarranna looked at her sister and said. “I don't know about Tash, but I wasn't expecting to be attacked by a pack of half crazed Fairies!”

The Fairies in question snorted derisively. “You weren't just attacked you were whipped girl!” Willie would've strutted had he not been sitting.

Robbie sneered at Tarra. “Yeah! Who got the broken nose Butch?”

Chandral glared at the trio before saying to the women “Go up to my room, both of you. I'll clean you up properly in a minute.” Chandral stood up and watched as the two wounded warriors did the same.

Tarranna stopped in front of the men, looked past the rag on her nose and at them. “Sorry, I didn't mean for it to get that out of hand. See you day after tomorrow.”

Tashan grinned at the guys and said “Next time keep your hands off my butt!!”

Chuckie chuckled and said “As if our hands'd be on your girly butt!”

Tashan walked past Lili and half grinned at her “See you inside.” Lili smiled and nodded.

Tarranna walked to Lili and kissed her forehead. “Love you.”

Lili grinned at her and sighed “Love you too. I'll see you both inside.”

Tarranna nodded and walked to where Tashan was waiting for her. The two barefoot women smoothed down their tattered, grass stained, filthy dirty and bloody dresses and waved to the onlookers. “Night everyone. Thanks for coming.”

The crowd laughed and cheered them inside. The crowd then looked to where the other two Queens stared at the trio as they stood up. Lili chastised them. “You were going to grill the children. That's not on!” She smiled and said “Keep anything the kids tell you confidential and we'll give you a full morning to ask whatever questions you want. We only promise to answer them as fully as we want to.”

The trio looked at each other in shock!! “Deal!” the yelled.

Chandral glared at the Brownies. “Which one of you had hold of Tashan's butt?” She pulled her mini staff out of her sash.

The trio scattered like leaves in a hurricane.

Lili laughed and said to her fellow Queen “You're terrible, Chan!”

Chandral waggled her shoulders. “Yep, I'm bad to the bone!”

Lili took the taller woman by the arm, both women waved goodnight to their guests and they slowly walked after their partners. The girls ran ahead singing at the top of their voices. The dragons ran and flew behind the girls as they roared loudly, in tune with the song.

Lili asked her friend “So in your professional medical opinion, do you think our wedding night is a bust?”

“God no, Lili! I'll make sure they're well and truly healed by then.”

Lili smiled and held Chandral a little closer. “I just love having you around.”

“I know you do… Did you see Tashan spit out part of Chuckie's shirt?” Chandral laughed.

Lili laughed harder as she said “What about the close up of Tash's ear and Tarra's chest! The trio are in for it when she sees that replayed!”

Chandral thought out loud “I wonder if there's some way we can watch all this over and over whenever we want to?”

Lili snorted and laughed. “We'll ask the guys later.”

The Queens caught up with the kids and slowly made their way upstairs to where their loves waited for them.


Chandral and Lili escorted the children back to their rooms in Georstrie. The children were staying with the Brownies for the next day and two nights. When the Queens arrived in back in Chandral's Gardenyan rooms, they found their partners sitting on the lounge holding water bladders wrapped in hand towels to their injuries. The dragons were sprawled across the laps of both Queens. Chandral took hold of Tashan's bag and pulled back in shock. “That's like ice!”

Tashan moved the bag and said “It is! Garriil did it for us! It's actually eased the pain.”

Chandral was impressed. “Cool! Keep it on until I get my stuff to clean your wound.” Chandral had a quick look at Tashan's head then moved to have another look at her sister's nose. “Your eyes were starting to go black, but that doesn't seem to be progressing.” Chandral took out her ministaff and closed her eyes. She pointed the tip of the staff at Tarra's nose and watched as the swelling eased and her breathing returned to normal.

Chandral watched as Tarranna felt the appendage, tentatively at first then with a bit more vigour. “Excellent! Thanks sis!”

Chandral kissed her sister's forehead and rubbed a bit of dry blood off her cheek. “Do me a favour, both of you. Never take off your charms again!” Both injured warriors swore they wouldn't.

Chandral smiled and went to the bathing room for supplies. She listened as Lili spoke up “Did you two really have to go that far to break up the party? We could've just left!”

“AAhhh!! That's where you're wrong!” Tashan laughed. “ Mahoneus was teeing people up to make speeches! Long ones!”

Tarranna backed up Tashan. “That's right! The guys just gave us a great opportunity to get sent to our room!” Tarranna leaned back in the lounge and felt her nose again. She watched as Chandral came back into the room with a bowl of water, a cloth and a small bottle of liquid.

Tashan moved to the edge of the lounge as Chandral sat on the small table across from her. Chandral wet the cloth and started cleaning the blood, dirt and grass from Tashan's wound. Tashan grimaced and her breath hitched as a particularly sharp pain hit her. Chandral rinsed the rag and repeated the process until she was certain the laceration was free of grot. She then poured the liquid from the bottle into the cut and watched as her love closed her eyes and her body contracted with pain. “Holy crap, that stings!!”

“Good, it means it's working.” Chandral smiled at the woman in front of her, pointed her mini staff at the wound and closed her eyes. She opened her eyes and watched as the three inch long laceration mended itself. “There ya go! It didn't even leave a scar.” Chandral kissed the area that had just been mended, accepted the blonde's thanks and stood up. She took her gear back to the bathing room and packed it away.

Lili laughed as she remembered something. “Did you see Mahoneus and Polara together? They were laughing, joking and flirting all morning!”

Tarranna sat shaking her head. “Yep, I did. I even saw her pinching his butt. He nearly wet himself then giggled like a little girl. Trust me, I'm happy for them but I do not want to see that again!”

The women laughed and Chandral and Lili told the other two to stay put as they gathered all their gear from their rooms. The two bloody and filthy women leaned back in their chair.

“Did you really bite him?” Tarranna chuckled.

Tashan snorted and shook her head. “Nah, just nipped him as I pulled at his shirt. He's just a big baby.”

Tarra cringed as she apologised. “Sorry about your head. I tickled Chuckie, I didn't expect him to head butt you.”

Tashan shrugged it off. “That's ok. Not your fault. Who would've guessed a Brownie could be so ticklish? I barely touched him when he elbowed your nose. Sorry about that.”

“No probs.” The women sat in companionable silence, gently scratching the dragons sleeping on their laps.

When Chandral and Lili returned, the women placed the Gnome necklaces back around their owner's necks. “We put the charms together so you only have to wear this one chain.”

Tarranna and Tashan thanked them, stood up and took their backpacks. The Queens vanished and reappeared in their Irasian home.


Hours later, the women had bathed and were dressed in comfortable ‘around the house' clothes. They sat on their lounge and watched the replay of their wedding. The replay was up to the part where the light engulfed them.

The women sat in silence as they recalled the visions Fate had shown them.

“I can't believe every little thing that happened to us in our lives led us to that moment. Tash wandering into the castle grounds after her parents died and us becoming friends. Me getting married so I could have Patience, so she could let Tarra see herself as something other than a monster. Me and Tarra falling for each other. Melanger finding Chandral and both him and Tarra showing her she was a wonderful healer and person. You twins becoming friends so they could be sisters without the rivalry. Tarra finding the tiny twins and Chandral ensuring you both fell in love with them properly. Your mother! Chandral and Tashan getting it on! All that happened just so we could become a family.”

They laughed and Chandral suggested “You don't think it was so we could become the Guardians?”

Lili was adamant. “Nah!! If we hadn't been friends and family first the Guardian thing wouldn't have happened. We had to be happy first so Fate made sure we were.”

Tarranna sent a wicked grin to her sister and both women stood up and held out their hands to their partners. “Then who are we to fight Fate!”

As the women kissed each other and moved out of the lounge room, Tashan sighed contentedly. Then frowned and asked “Do you really think we're going to fight that huge ugly creep with the vampire fangs? He did not look like an easy victory!” Chandral tried to distract Tashan by nibbling on her neck. Maybe not the best idea when discussing vampires, she obviously wasn't thinking too clearly.

“I believe that creep was a Master vampire. And from the little I've heard about them he will not be easy to destroy.” Lili said.

Tarranna looked at Lili and Tashan with a disbelieving look on her face. “You really want to talk about him now?” She picked up Lili and carried her toward the bedroom.

Lili snuggled into Tarra's chest and softly asked. “Will you do that thing where you hang upside down from the ceiling and kiss me?”

Tarranna laughed and sighed “Are you sure you aren't a vampire groupie?”

Lili waggled her eyebrows and grinned. “Nah, I just like checking out your muscle definition!”

Chandral and Tashan were against the wall, passionately kissing and running their hands over each other. Chandral closed her eyes and leaned into the wall as Tashan kissed her neck and quietly asked something. “Yes!!! I do have my ministaff and l do know how to use it for that!” Tashan grinned widely and led her partner toward the bedroom.


The dragons watched as the humans attacked each other and sighed . “Not again! Don't they ever get sick of trading body fluid? ” Terran thought to her siblings.

“Humans certainly have some strange ideas of what's fun. ” Silvana looked over the arm of the lounge and shook her head at the antics she saw. “ That certainly doesn't look like it'd be good for their bodies!”

The dragons looked at each other, rolled their eyes, moved closer together and snuggled contentedly. Garriil looked at his siblings and shyly thanked them for coming for him.

Ashburn licked his brother's nose and grinned. “Why would we not, little brother?”

Silvana looked at the smallest dragon and put her nose against his. “We were too weak and small to help you when they killed mother and took you from us. Never again will that happen, we swear to you! We couldn't tell where they hid you. We had to wait for Tashan to be ready for her destiny and then for our mothers to get your call for help.”

Terran put her head on Garriil's back and added “You relax and enjoy being with us and your new family. You cannot complete your next evolution until you accept you are loved and safe.”

The Mystics lay quietly for a while before Ash laughed to himself then said “We so have to plan our next attack on our Mothers. Did you see the looks on their faces when Silvana hit them with the waterfall?” Ash snorted his pleasure.

“When the fish dropped the seaweed on Mother Lili was best!” Silvana laughed so hard she nearly rolled off the couch. “You are so naughty Terran.”

Terran huffed in disgust. “Fancy them thinking Ash was the only one with a sense of humour! He's the only one who gets caught!” Ash looked at his sisters and shrugged. He knew it was true so couldn't argue with his sisters. So what if he wasn't quite as silent as them? He could live with that.

Garriil had missed all the fun, so Ash put his forehead to his brother's and shared the memories from the day he, Silvana and Terran were rescued. Garriil joined his family in their laughter. “ I miss the children. ” He sighed as they settled down to sleep.

The adult dragons stood up and told him to move to the balcony. There they grew to full size and Ashburn picked up his brother in his front paws. “We can be with them shortly. Watch and learn little brother!! Watch and learn!” Ash spread his huge wings and flew into the night sky, closely followed by his sisters.

“Yeeessss!” Garriil screamed on top of his dragon lungs as Ash completed rolls and dives on the way home to the castle in Georstrie. He so looked forward to his evolutions so he could have wings too! “I want to help our mothers! I want to kill giant arachnids and mantises and eat them!!” he yelled into the night. “ I love being a dragonnnnn!

Terran, Silvana and Ashburn laughed serenely as they heard their little brother yell into the night. It wouldn't be long before he too was full grown. It couldn't happen soon enough in their minds. Their mothers would need their help again.

Very soon.

“I want to slobber in Melanger's boots!!” Screamed Garriil.

Ash, Silvana and Terran were shocked and almost dropped out of the sky as their wings stopped flapping. They resumed their wing movements as they grinned at each other. They simultaneously changed direction.

Melanger was in for a shock!!




The jokes told by Lili about the blind horse and the statues are not mine. I heard these years ago and adapted them to suit the time and story, if you know the author please let me know and I will give them their due credit.


For the next installment of the story please visit deniseann1963.blogspot.com


Or email me on deniseann1963@gmail.com


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