Alyss saved me. I remembered our first kiss, the day Be'lah had transformed me from a dragon to a man, before the curse had become permanent. I'd kissed my Alyss, holding her tight, right there with my family watching. It was the best moment of the last hundred years, and it was written on my soul. Even fairy magic couldn't take that away. I stepped back, and tried to pretend I hadn't planned to kiss the queen.
"I think we need to be going." I fastened my eyes on Ghar'rett, trying not to see the look of disappointment and hurt on Lore'yn's lovely face.
"No! You can't go, there are monsters all over the land. We've got a war going on; you must come back to the city with us!"
"I need to find the rest of our group. My brother and his... betrothedwere injured, and my sister is very sick."
"Ah yes, the lovely Princess Rose, and the handsome Prince Ehd Wyrd. Come with me, and I will have my commanders and scouts look for them. They're written in the prophesy as well, I'm sure they'll be fine."
"Pardon me if I don't take your word on that. No, I think we'll go and look for them ourselves."
"I'm afraid I cannot allow you to leave." Her words had taken on a dangerous edge, and my crown warned that she was angry.
"I'm afraid you don't have the authority to stop us." I knew it was the wrong thing to say, but her imperious attitude irritated me.
"I do have the authority to stop you." The tiny tiara on her head twinkled, and I felt completely unable to move. I willed myself to take a step, and my feet refused to obey me. "You and your friend will be staying with us—as our guests. Oh, Prince J'Spurr, why are you trying to fight me?" She came close and wrapped her arms around me, laying her head on my shoulder. "I only want to help you. My people will find your family, and bring them along as soon as they're located."
I felt her lips graze my neck, and a shiver ran through me. Her fingers played through my hair, and she caressed my cheek. Had I not been frozen in place, I would have eagerly taken her in my arms and kissed her hungrily. Why was I trying to fight her?
My crown was not without power of its own. I felt her triumph, and the self-satisfied smugness in her easy victory over me. It made me angry, and with my anger I felt her control weaken. I turned my eyes to Ghar'rett, and I could see that he too was caught in her spell. I felt his effort to change into the dragon form that might save us. I felt his rage at being unable to control his own body.
"Sweet J'Spurr, please stop fighting me. You and your friend cannot hope to win. I am the reigning queen; the magic obeys me. You're only making this more difficult for yourselves." Her gentle hands turned my face back to hers, and her eyes met mine. She smiled, and my anger faded in the face of her beauty. "That's more like it."
She rose up on tiptoe and her arms slipped around my neck, pulling me closer. Her lips on mine made my head spin, as if I were tumbling in a long fall. I gasped at the power of our connection, and she deepened the kiss. I could move then, and I pulled her tighter against me. My existence began and ended with our kiss. I couldn't stop even to breathe; my hands moved over her tiny form, learning her and keeping her as close as possible. I was lost, and desperately, hopelessly, magically in love with the fairy queen. When she pulled away, I felt part of me go with her. She pulled away from my embrace, and I felt anxious to be near her again.
"May I have your crown, Prince J'Spurr?" Her smile made my heart beat. Her sweet voice gave me breath.
"Of course, my darling. Just do not place it on your head, or it will surely kill you." I swept the circlet off my head and held it out to her. She motioned to one of her companions, and he presented a hinged box to me. I placed my crown into the box, and my queen smiled as she closed the lid. With a wave of her fingers, a lock appeared on the box.
"Thank you my sweet. You may kiss me now." I rushed to her arms and kissed her fiercely. My hands tore through her pale hair, my arms held her close, and my mouth plundered hers. I wanted her—needed her with a passion that knew no bounds. I wanted to remove our clothes, and take her then and there. When I tore her dress, she pulled away.
"Prince J'Spurr! You cannot have me as if I were a common sylph. Surely you know the way this must be done; you are a prince after all." I stared at her. She was my sun. I adored her. I couldn't stand the look of displeasure on her lovely face. I fell to my knees before her and took her hands in mine.
"Please marry me, Queen Lore'yn. You hold my heart, and I love you more than my own life. My only joy is to see you happy. My only reason for existing is to be at your side. I cannot live a moment without you. Our souls are intertwined, and I cannot bear being apart from my one and only true love."
"What of Princess Alyss?" I felt my heart shred as she mentioned her name. My precious one doubted me—no! Surely this doubt of my love would cause me to bleed; it hurt me physically.
"She... I never loved her, my darling! She is nothing. Only you can inspire my undying love. Only you can make my soul sing. She is but a pale imitation of perfection. Marry me, and I will never fail you. Marry me, and my life will be complete!"
"Arise my prince." I stood, glad to be closer to her sweet face. "I will marry you..." My heart nearly beat out of my chest, I was so overjoyed. "...on one condition." I knew true despair, that she did not accept my troth fully. I longed for a sword to fall upon to end my suffering. "I only ask that you prove your love for me with a small gift."
"I will give you anything your heart desires, my love. You need only name it, and it is yours."
"I knew I could count on you, my precious prince." She softly kissed my lips, and my world stopped spinning. I loved her so much, it took all of my control, not to pull her to me and love her in a physical way. I shook with the effort of restraining myself. "You may hold me gently, if you like..."
I wasted not one precious moment, but wrapped her in my arms, as if she were a precious bird, a soft kitten, or a delicate butterfly. We continued to kiss, and I tasted her sweetness on my tongue. It was incomprehensible to me that we could not be joined immediately. What could she possibly ask of me that I would not gladly give? She pulled away after too little time had passed. I noted the impatience of her entourage, and the sun dropping low in the sky told me we had been kissing for quite a while.
"First, we will return to our city." Even as she said the words, we began to move. "I cannot wait to show you what our kingdom looks like. You will make a marvelous king at my side!" I smiled, unable to contain my happiness at the though of being at her side. "Once we find your family, we can begin to make our plans to be wed. In twenty-one days, the twin moons will be aligned in the sky. It's a good omen, and we will be married as the first star appears between the moons." My mouth fell open as I walked along beside her.
Twenty-one days? That's too long! How can I resist her for so long? I need her, now! I felt so overwhelmed at the thought of waiting to be joined with my true love. I longed to make love with her, and even her sweet kisses were like a drug that left me craving more.
She glanced at me as her guardians fell in around us. "There are actually two things I want from you before we get married..." Impossible! One barrier after another seemed to be coming between us. "First, I want you to lead my army to victory over my enemies. I know you are a cunning leader, and you should have no problem reversing the tide of the war." Her hand on my cheek and soft kiss on my lips made me forget about her barriers and conditions.
"Yes my love, whatever you ask. Your enemies are my enemies."
"I'm glad you feel that way. These dark-haired usurpers have been a thorn in my side for far too long. All the signs point to a clash between our two peoples which will finally answer the question of who is the rightful leader." She kissed me again, and I drowned in the splendor of her lips. When she pulled back, I was crazed with longing for her, and the sun was edging below the horizon.
"I want you to give me a wedding present—a special wedding present, worthy of your love for me."
"Name it! Please my love, I will give you anything!" I felt desperate to convince her of my devotion.
"Princess Alyss Merri of house Brend'n is my enemy. I want you to bring me her wings."
I smiled. It was such a simple task. I knew where she was, and I had the power now to fly through the castle's defenses. I could go now and be back before the dawn. My smile grew as I imagined tearing the wings from the dark-haired usurper's back with my bare hands. How dare she cause my true love to worry.
She stopped and turned to me. "You will need to use this." She gestured, and a blade appeared in her delicate hands. The hilt was jeweled, and the blade glinted silvery-white in the disappearing rays of the sun. I took it from her, and it fit my hand like it was made for me.
"Do you wish me to slay her as well?" I imagined plunging the blade into the heart of our enemy. I felt offended that she drew breath, while my beloved lamented her presence in the world.
"Nooo... no of course not. That won't be necessary. Slice the wings from her back with that blade, and bring them to me. The magic of the blade won't allow them to regrow, and she will be nearly powerless. Once the wings are in my hand, we can be married."
"I will go at once!" I'd taken several steps when she stopped me with a word.
"Wait." You cannot go just yet. First we return to the city, and then there is the army to lead. Once our enemies are vanquished, it should be time for you to go and acquire my gift. By then she will be married to Prince Mar'n, and the reigning outlier queen. Then and only then can you take her wings."
"What becomes of her then?"
"Does she still concern you?" I saw the shadow of jealousy cloud her face, and rushed to reassure her.
"No, not at all. I merely wanted to know what to expect. What is the significance of the wings? I could bring you her head instead." I pulled her close to me, hoping to reassure her of my loyalty. My fingers combed through her lustrous hair. "I love only you, my beautiful Queen Lore'yn.
"So you say..." Her teasing smile twisted a knife in my heart. How could she even pretend to doubt me? She patted my cheek, and again we began moving—toward the city I assumed.
"The wings are the first sign one is a fairy. The wings filter the magic of Fey—they draw in the magic and make it useful. Without her wings, she will only have her own internal magic to rely upon. A queen who cannot control and wield magic will easily be overthrown. She will become a common sylph."
"What is a sylph?" Her laughter at my question was mesmerizing. I loved her so much, I froze for a moment, just listening to the enchanting music of her voice.
"I forget how little you know about us, Prince J'Spurr. A sylph is like a cross between a fairy and an elf. They have no wings, and the only magic they have is what little they are born with. Even the sprytz rank above them. Sylphs are still very beautiful, and technically they are still of Fey. But they are looked down upon. They are most often servants and slaves, and their beauty makes them good for... satisfying the lusts of other races of Fey."
"It sounds like you're speaking of loose women. Do you believe our enemy will become one of these without her wings?" I took her hand in mine, and laced our fingers together as we walked.
"I can only hope. Prince Mar'n will have no choice but to set her aside. He is a prince and if he wants his line to continue, he will be forced to mate with a true fairy."
"I could kill him and end his line." For some reason the thought of killing the fairy prince made me smile. "He can have no claim on you, can he my beloved?" I felt unreasonable terror seize me at the thought that another prince could take my place at her side.
"Of course not. Once he and my enemy are wed, he is ruined for loving anyone else. Any fairy he joins with after her, will be for convenience and mating only. The same is true of her." She smiled and laughed. "How fitting an end for my enemy, to be set aside by the one she loves the most. How horrible, to become a sylph, and be forced to satisfy the lusts of others, never again knowing love."
"It is only what she deserves for causing you concern, my love." I couldn't resist. I stopped walking and pulled her to me so we could kiss in the shadows of the setting sun. "I love you so much, my beautiful queen. I will make it my lifelong goal to ease your troubles and make you happy."
"I know you will, my sweet prince." She continued to lead our group away from the hilltops. As different contingents of monsters and soldiers passed us, they paid her homage, bowing as they moved past our group. I was surprised at how numerous and varied they were. A small contingent of very small men passed us by, and the queen actually moved aside. They didn't bow, but in the light of immense glow spheres, they boldly stared us down as they went by.
It made me angry to see such disrespect for my lovely queen, but her hand on my arm stopped me from attacking them.
"No, Prince J'Spurr, it would be foolish indeed to attack them. Those are Leprin's. They follow my orders to fight as I am the reigning queen, but otherwise they don't acknowledge my authority. They travel freely between realms, without need of a gateway. They have some of the most powerful magic of Fey within their tiny forms. They have no wings, and it is all their own magic. The magic of the realm obeys me, but the power within a leprin obeys only the leprin.
"It sounds like they could easily win the war for you." I looked over my shoulder, but the small cohort had already disappeared.
"They could—if they chose. Leprin's fight only to keep the balance. Because my side has taken losses recently, they have joined to us to regain what we've lost. They will stop fighting as soon as that goal is achieved."
"That doesn't make any sense! It sounds as if they could keep this war going on forever, if neither side is allowed to prevail."
"We're fortunate because the leprin's won't join the other side. They will keep us from losing, but they won't assist them in winning." She laughed. "They also provide us with great treasure to help pay our soldiers. They travel to realms where gems and gold are plentiful, and what they bring back overflows our treasury. Fairies don't care about such things, but the trolls, giants, and goblins do."
I was left to ponder the different races of the realm, as I continued to walk at her side. I ached to hold her and kiss her, but our group hurried along in the dark. We came to a great river, and I thought we would cross over, finally putting our wings to use. But with a wave of her hand, she revealed a boat tied to a dock.
It was a large boat, with sails of blue and yellow revealed in the balls of glowing light. Our entourage climbed aboard, and Ghar'rett was prodded to board as well. I'd forgotten all about my friend while in the presence of my beloved queen, and he glared at me as he stepped past us, with a soldier at each elbow.
We boarded, and she lead me to the comfortable hold of the small ship, and we sat side by side near a window. I could see the water, with the twin moons reflected on its surface, as the boat moved away from the dock. We were traveling up river at a speed that ignored the rushing water going the other direction. She giggled, obviously thinking it was funny that I was so awed by the magic.
"The wind obeys me, J'Spurr. The sails will take us to Misty Falls, and the sprytz will lift the boat up and over the drop. We should arrive at the city by dawn. I can't wait for you to see it!"
"If you are there, I know it will be beautiful." I pulled her to me, and there was no reason I couldn't hold her and kiss her as I yearned. It was sweet bliss, being free to kiss and cuddle her, as she told me of her plans for our wedding.
As the boat sailed on through the night, we rested, nestled together. I wondered why those of her personal guard didn't try to separate us. In my realm, a single young lady had to preserve her reputation, by never being alone with a man. But she was the queen, and I'm sure they reasoned she could protect herself from any of my unwanted advances.
When the boat stopped, I was disappointed that my beloved pulled away from me so quickly. She lead us up to the deck of the ship, and began giving orders of what everyone should be doing. Her eyes alighted on mine, and she smiled.
"I want you to stay with me. They'll take your friend to his own accommodations." Of course, I kept forgetting about Ghar'rett. At the back of my mind were thoughts of Ehd Wyrd, Rose, M, and Be'lah, but they faded in importance, as I followed her from the boat, watching the way she sashayed along the dock.
She stopped on the shore, and as I came alongside her, she wrapped her arm around me. "Isn't it beautiful, Prince J'Spurr?" I wasn't sure what she was talking about. We stood facing a thick stand of old growth forest. In the distance I could see the mountains rising up out of the foothills. Her arm around me was distracting, and I turned to kiss her before she could say another word. She pulled away from me.
"Isn't it the most beautiful thing you've ever seen?" Again she went on about the trees, tossing her arms wide as she twirled. Her delicate wings fluttered, and her slippered feet left the ground.
"Those trees are not nearly as beautiful as you are, my love." She landed and looked at me with astonished eyes.
"Those are not 'trees,' Prince J'Spurr, that is my city!" Her irritation crushed me, and I reached for her, trying to pull her to me so that I might apologize for making her angry. "Don't touch me—look!" She pointed at the trees, and I turned as she commanded. The sun's rays reached over the mountains, and I finally saw what she was trying to show me.
The trees were gigantic, and they were full of fairies, flitting among the leaves, and occupying the hollow trunks. The trees closest to the river appeared to be full of sentries, and I noted several archers with arrows trained on me. She took my hand and pulled me closer. I saw delicate bridges between leafy boughs, and all manner of adaptations to the trees, including canopies and roofs. There were flowers and birds throughout, and as we got closer, the forest seemed to hum with life.
"You have my sincerest apologies, my queen. It is indeed beautiful. Please, can you find it in your generous heart to forgive me?" I waited, scarcely daring to breathe, hoping she would indeed forgive me for my thoughtlessness.
"Of course, Prince J'Spurr." She kissed my cheek and smiled. I was elated to again be in her good graces. "Wait until you see what's beyond the entrance!" We flew together, and the sentinel trees made a solid wall, until she came close, then they separated on great leg-like roots so we could flutter into the deep shade of the forest.'
It was magical inside, with sunlight reflected all around. Birds, butterflies, and a multitude of fairies flew from place to place. The perfume in the air was the exact scent my beloved wore, and along with the tinkling of bells and chimes, I heard singing, as if a choir was hiding among the branches of the trees, and singing a love song.
My head swiveled, trying to take in all the sights, sounds, and smells. Small animals scurried along the ground and up the trees, bakers sold their goods while walking along wooden footbridges, jewelry sparkled in the window of a shop, nestled in a tree. Children ran in patterns through the adults, laughing and squealing. Brightly colored cloth waved in the breeze, and a swarm of sprytz surrounded us.
"Hurry Prince J'Spurr!" Lore'yn had somehow gotten some distance away from me, and her playful smile beckoned as she turned and flitted along the pathway. I rushed to catch up, ignoring the peddlers, craftsmen, and a group of young people playing strange instruments in a small clearing. I had to catch her, and I felt a sense of panic as I lost sight of her. I flew as quick as I could, pulling magic to me as my wings whirred.
The sprytz lagged behind her enough I was able to see which direction she'd gone, and I nearly overran her guard when I caught her. I laced my fingers with hers and smiled, trying to will my pounding heart to calm. We stopped then.
"We're home." We stood before a tree that was at least twice as tall and wide as those around it. "Come with me." She lead me to an ornately carved carriage of some type, and as we stepped in I saw movement to the left. In the shadows of the tree, there was some kind of creature, and as I warily watched, it pulled a rope. The carriage went up, and my dear one giggled as she saw my alarm.
"The ogre pulls the rope, and it takes us as high as we want to go."
"We could just fly." I turned and took both her hands in mine. "Why do you walk so much? I don't see the reason for boats, and carriages, and ogres, if we can fly with ease."
With her palms on my cheeks, she kissed me. I forgot why I even wanted to know the answer to my question. I couldn't get enough of her, and I only pulled away when we reached the place where she wanted to stop.
We stepped out of the wooden box, and I followed her. We were clearly in the top of the tree, and it was only holding her hand that kept me from being nervous. I was still thinking like a cumbersome dragon, or even an ungainly human, not a light, graceful fairy. She lead me around the tree, dancing lightly on branches, and ducking under others. She stepped out onto a wide, stout branch, and I was right behind her. She stopped, and I came alongside her. My eyes were drawn away from her beautiful face, to what she was seeing.
We were looking down on the treetops, as the sun came over the mountain. It was breathtaking, as the light filtered through the trees, and gilded the distant valley.
"I love this place!" Her passionate declaration caused me unexpected pain. Even as I looked out at one of the most beautiful sights I'd ever seen, I despaired. Even though the entire forest, and much of the valley was visible from where we stood, I felt like I wanted to fold my wings and fall to my death. In moments my face was awash in tears.
"Yes..." She whispered in awe. "...it brings me to tears sometimes as well. You'll rule all of this with me, my prince." I couldn't stand beside her as I felt my heart, like a cold, dead weight inside me. I stepped to the trunk of the tree, and sank down, no longer having the will to stand.
"What's wrong, Prince J'Spurr?" I looked up at her, and with a trembling voice I spoke my agony.
"You don't love me."
The look on her face was one of surprise, and then I could see she wanted to deny I was right. I knew if I had my crown I would have known long before the moment. I saw the truth on her face then; she really didn't love me. I hid my face in my hands and wept bitterly. She was everything I wanted—every dream, every longing, every wish I could possibly dare to whisper. I loved her enough for two lifetimes. I loved her the depth and breadth of the sea. I loved her enough I would give her my very life and soul if she asked. But she didn't feel the same for me—cruel fate!
She sat beside me and took my hand. It was a small comfort, and I tried to cling to the tiny hope it offered. With her other hand she wiped tears from my eyes.
"I didn't want you to find out. It's true, I don't love you—yet. But I will. When I look into your eyes, and we say our marriage vows, I will be bound to you in every way. I will love you for certain on our wedding day."
"Why can't you love me now?" I resisted the urge to curl up in a ball to keep my heart from feeling like it was being ripped from my chest.
She kissed me, then pressed her cheek to mine. "I'm queen. I don't have the luxury of giving in to my emotions. I enjoy your company, and I like being close to you. You're a very good kisser, and I know I will enjoy it when we become lovers. You're a handsome man, and you're very clever. I know I have chosen the best future king, both for me and my realm."
"Can we marry sooner? Please my love, I don't care about omens. I don't know how I can possibly wait three weeks for you to love me! If you want this war won, then I will win it for you. If you want Alyss' wings clipped, then I will gladly do it for you. But to wait for your sweet love and affection—I cannot!"
Her kiss was passionate and she climbed into my lap, facing me. We held each other tight, and I felt her body pressed against me in a way I never had before, either with her or any other woman. With a knee on either side of my hips, she rubbed against me, causing a sensation that took my breath away.
She whispered in my ear, "Soon we'll be married, and we'll be able to do much more than this."
She kissed my ear, and traced it with her tongue. She moved over me again, and I pulled her snug against my body. I closed my eyes and imagined making love with her, as she continued to press against me, moving back and forth in a way that drove me wild with lust. I longed to tear our clothes off, but I forced myself to be content with what she offered with her repetitive movements.
Bliss... joy... wonder... gasping and touching, and longing for the completion that would have to wait for our wedding night. But it was close enough to bring me back from the edge of my despair and devastation. I shuddered against my love, and clutched her tight to me, as my body spilled its needs into my garments. Afterward her kisses were tender, and she rested her head against my shoulder.
"It doesn't have to be when the moons align. We can marry sooner—as soon as the tide of the war has turned. As soon as Alyss and Prince Mar'n are wed, you can clip her wings. I'll marry you as soon as you return. I want to love you, Prince J'Spurr." She smiled at me, and kissed me once more. "I want to make love with you almost as much—for real next time." She stood with the help of her wings, and I was finally able to stand on my own.
"Come along, I want to show you to your room." I followed after her, fighting the depression that was threatening me. I plotted ways to win the war as quickly as possible. I thought about starting a fire in the enemy lands, and burning them out. I knew the river could keep a fire away from the city, but there was a reason I shouldn't choose that path, I just couldn't quite remember it. As I settled into my room, I worried there were many things I was forgetting.