Gregor was about halfway happy with his new life. Sure, he was married to the love of his life, had three beautiful daughters, and was king, but he really missed his family. And he couldn't see them because they, the Regalians, were involved in yet another war, which had been dragging on for years. Against the rats. Since King Ripred had fallen from power, a new awful rat king had taken over. And it was, of course, up to King Gregor and Queen Luxa to fix it!
This is really getting bad, he thought.
Luxa stirred him from his thoughts. "Gregor, the horns just rang. Someone important is entering here!"
"Yes, they are being brought in as we speak. Get ready."
They adjusted themselves on their thrones. Their daughters, the triplets- Lily, Lyra, and Ella- were busy on a picnic, so they wouldn't have to meet the newcomer yet.
"Send them in," Gregor sighed once the horn had blown again. And in walked someone he had expected to see never again.
It was basically his fifteen-year-old self, reflected in girl form with curlier hair. And, of course, she was loads prettier.
"Boots?" Luxa gasped.
Gregor was shocked into silence, for once.
The girl raised her eyes to meet Gregor's and a flood of images ran through his head. A little girl giggling as she rode a giant cockroach. No, a "beeg bug!" The girl being kidnapped right under his nose by the "beeg bugs". The same girl crying of starvation in a jungle. The girl singing. Endlessly, endlessly singing! The toddler who finally said his name right, after three years-
"Are you Boots?"
The girl folded her arms and looked defiant. "I was. Who are you and why am I here?"
"Wait, what do you mean 'I was'? I am your... your... brother. Gregor."
"Nicknames have changed in the past twelve years. Why did you leave us?"
It was a question Gregor asked himself every day. He sputtered out, "I couldn't take it anymore, being away from the one place I fit in. I asked Lizzie if she wanted to come with me, but she said no. I would've taken you, but you were too little." But secretly, he knew it wasn't an adequate response.
"Twelve years! Why have you been gone for twelve years? Apparently, you're my brother, but I don't even know you. Because you ran away so you could get married to her and forget all about us!" Boots gestured furiously at Luxa, who looked worriedly at Gregor.
"I-I didn't want to forget about you all-"
"Then why haven't you visited, hmm? You haven't even stopped in to say a quick hello to see how we've been doing. Remember Grandma? I never knew her, but she died a little while after you went missing. Dad had a major relapse, and the doctors were afraid they'd lose him. He got better! But noooo, you weren't there to comfort us, the last living remains of your former family!" Boots' face was bright red and she was practically shouting.
"She has a good reason," he thought miserably. "Everything she's saying is right. I am a lousy person."
Luxa looked at his face and squeezed his hand. She spoke up. "So, Boots. You have come here, but why? Your brother cannot leave. He has his kingly duties, his daughters, and a war to deal with. We would all be more than happy if your entire family moved down here, though. It could easily be arranged-"
Boots interrupted, "Wait. My brother is king. And has daughters? What? I'm an... an aunt? But I'm... only fifteen! I'm not... I'm not... old enough..."
"Your nieces are each five years of age," smiled Luxa. "Their names are Lily, Lyra, and Ella. I guess that I am your sister-in-law, as Gregor has told me that is the common Overland term."
"So, who are you? Besides my brother's wife, I mean."
"I am Queen Luxa. I remember you from when you were very young."
"Hold on." Boots walked up to Luxa and stared at her eyes. "Purple. Your eyes, they're purple! Wait, I remember something! Did you ever... hold out a ball to me or something?"
Gregor and Luxa smiled at each other. "It seems as if your sister remembers our first encounter!"
"You know, that's when I thought you were stuck-up." At that, Luxa swatted his arm playfully. "I still do, you know."
Boots looked at them uncomfortably. "Uh, yeah. You asked why I was here. It's a really long story, but it's not that important. So, um, what do I do now?"
Gregor called, "Hazard!" Four seconds later, nineteen-year-old Hazard ran in.
"King Gregor! I heard that your sist- Boots, is that you?" He stopped dead in his tracks, his black curls spilling over his forehead.
Boots stood up a little straighter and adjusted her hair. "That's M now, since my actual name is Margaret. And there aren't a lot of nicknames for Margaret, so yeah. Do I know you?"
"Yes. I knew you briefly when we were young." The halflander surveyed her quizzically. "But, I should formally introduce myself." He approached her and stuck out a hand. "Hello, Princess M, my name is Hazard. I am Queen Luxa's cousin, and I speak Crawler." He clicked a few words to her.
As if it were involuntary, she clicked back. "Whoa, what did I just do?"
Gregor thought to himself, "Ha. The princess isn't just a name anymore. She really is a princess!" He looked at M and Hazard. "Huh. If they get married, that would be interesting."
Hazard said to M, "You just spoke Crawler, which we learned together from a crawler named Temp. Do you remember Temp at all?"
She shook her head. "No, not really. Brief flashes sometimes, but not usually much."
Gregor announced, "Hazard, will you show Boots, I mean M, around here please? And introduce her to the triplets if you see them."
Hazard nodded and left the room in full tour guide mode, Boots trailing curiously.
"They are very entertaining," said Luxa, who he realized had been trying not to laugh. "Did you see how they acted?"
"Yeah. I wonder how Boots got here. She had to run into somebody..."
A voice was heard outside the room. "That somebody has a name, and they don't like being left out."
Review, please! I do not own any of this!