Isis and the Valley of Song

Isis was on a mission to find a special flower called the Jabari Violet. As the second born to the chief, it was her responsibility to become a powerful priestess and learn all of the most powerful spells known by her people so they could turn to her in the event of a crisis.

Isis and the Valley of Song

A short story by Emma Lee Downs.

Summary: Isis is a young centaur who lives in a culture that values the power of music. Unable to sing herself, she sets off on a journey of self-discovery to find her place among her people.

Original Link 1: https://www.fictionpress.com/s/3262668/1/Isis-and-the-Valley-of-Song

Original Link 2: http://lyraalluse.deviantart.com/art/Isis-and-the-Valley-of-Song-556366704

Original Link 3: http://www.inkitt.com/stories/16503

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Isis and the Valley of Song

By: Emma Lee Downs

Isis, a young centaur of thirteen years old, was out on an adventure exploring a cave system which rested on the outskirts of the town of Analia, the place she was born and raised. Analia was a small village in the Zaire kingdom which rested in a far western land on the world of Iregeya. It was the head village of many that dotted the bottom of the Damari Valley. Her father Malik was the town chief and her mother Kala was the town healer. Her elder brother Enoch was the first in line for the title of chief, after their father retired from his position in the community and was usually out with Malik on town business to learn the ins and outs of his future role. In addition to their town, Isis’s family ruled over all of the villages that were nestled in the Damari Valley. Because of her high position in the town as the chief’s daughter, Isis didn’t have many young centaurs her own age to play with. This left her alone to explore the lesser known corners of the Damari Valley where the many villages of her tribe, the Yehuda, made their home.

The Damari Valley was protected by a magic force field, generated from all of the magic songs of the centaurs who lived there. Because the villages were protected by the tribe’s ancient magic, most young centaurs were free to explore the caves and other interesting aspects of the valley on their own. The force field had been put up many generations ago by the first Yehuda Tribe members to keep the goblins who lived at the far edges of the valley away. In order to keep the force field up and running, every centaur had to learn to chant ancient and mysterious spells in order to generate enough magic to strengthen the force field. Just one centaur that did not learn to sing could break the power of the force field and allow the goblins to get in. The centaurs who didn’t learn to sing the ancient songs were sent away to live with their cousins, the Zylus Tribe, who made their home at the top of the valley. The centaurs there didn’t sing because they didn’t need to use magic to keep the goblins away from their villages. This was the tradition of the Yehuda Tribe and that is why learning to chant incantations was so important to their people.

Today Isis was on a mission to find a special flower called the Jabari Violet. As the second born to the chief, it was her responsibility to become a powerful priestess and learn all of the most powerful spells known by her people so they could turn to her in the event of a crisis. Her mother had taught her many healing spells already and her father had taught her a few protection spells. Despite her extensive knowledge of the magical arts at such a young age, Isis just couldn’t make any of her spells turn out the way she wanted to. Her mother explained that she wouldn’t be able to cast any of the spells she learned properly until she could speak in song.

Earlier that day, when Isis failed at casting another healing spell her mother had told her, “My child, the most powerful spells are cast in song. Our tribe sings throughout the day to keep all evil goblins from entering the valley. Until a young centaur can learn to sing the ancient song of our people, they will remain an outsider to our tribe. Once a song flows fourth from their heart, their bond with her people will be eternal.”

Chanting was a long tradition that all of the high members of her tribe had to learn to do in order to earn the respect of the other centaurs and to become powerful magic casters. If a centaur with a high position couldn’t sing they would never become powerful enough to lead their people and would lose the respect of all of the members of the tribe. They would be sent to live with their cousins, the Zylus Tribe, at the top of the Valley, and could never become a full member of the Yehuda Tribe. Kala reassured Isis that all centaurs eventually learned how to sing and not to rush into it all at once. But Isis was not convinced she could do it on her own. She had never been able to sing the ancient spells of her people in all of the eleven years she had been alive. Even her father was starting to worry for her.

One night she had heard her parents talking and she overheard her father say, “Kala, I am worried about our daughter. If she can’t learn the ancient chants of our tribe, we will have to send her to live with the Zylus Tribe. That will be a very sad day for our village.”

Isis didn’t want to be sent away to live with the Zylus Tribe and she didn’t want to be a disgrace to her people so she decided she was going to explore the Kasabian Caves in search of the Jabari Violet, a plant that was said to make any centaur have the ability to sing if made into a special potion and drunk in one gulp. She had explored pretty deep in the cave but had yet to come across the legendary flower. Near one of the cave chambers further back she had seen a flower very much like the Jabari Violet; tall, blue, with large yellow tubes growing out of the center of the petals but the color of the stem was wrong. The flower she had found had a green stem, while the Jabari Violet had a blue stem. Feeling disappointed, she kicked the imposter flower with one of her front hooves and carried on deep into the cave until she reached the chamber she was currently in.

The chamber gave of a faint blue glow because minerals clinging to the rocks growing out of the side of the walls glowed in the same blue color. Isis stood on a natural stone bridge over a sea of stalagmites which congregated together at the bottom of the drop. It seemed like the strange room was the last opening in the network of caves and still no Jabari Violet was to be found. Isis felt very frustrated and let out an agitated grunt.

“I’ve searched all day and still I can’t find the flower I am looking for. It’s not fair. Why can’t I sing like the other centaurs?”

Isis plopped down on the stone bridge, hitting the ground with a large thud that echoed off of the cave walls. Some of the stalactites from above were shook loose from the sudden vibration from the ground below and came tumbling town around her. Isis shielded her head to protect it from the falling stalactites. When it sounded like most of the loose mineral deposits had fallen, she uncovered her head and then gave a small gasp in shock. There, lying in front of her were three Jabari Violets. Isis looked up at the ceiling and realized that the Jabari violets had fallen from there, for they grew all over the cave ceiling above her on vines winding in and out of the stalactites. Isis was so excited she could hardly contain herself.

She immediately set to work taking out the peach nectar, cinnamon, and other ingredients necessary to make her special potion from a small brown satchel hanging at her side. She mixed them all together in a small bowl she also pulled out from the brown satchel and then added the three Jabari Violets as the last ingredients to the mix.

She said the words she had learned from her magic book out loud, “And now I will always know the songs, that centaurs have spoken since early times!”

When the words were spoken, she drank the strange mixture in one large gulp from the small wooden bowl. When the contents were empty, she placed the bowl back in her satchel and waited patiently for the results. At first nothing happened, but then Isis started to glow a faint blue color that matched the color of the glowing mineral deposits that clung to the rocks jutting out from the cave wall. The faint blue color lasted a few minutes and then disappeared, leaving Isis the same young centaur she once was upon entering the cave.

She decided that she would test her new ability so she attempted to sing out loud, “My name is Isis and now I can sing whenever I please.”

Nothing even close to a song had left her lips. She frowned.

“No, that’s not right. Let me try again. Ok, now this time for real.”

Isis sucked in air and then attempted to say in a sing-song voice, “My name is Isis. I ate that Jabari Violet plant, and now there isn’t any song out there that I can’t sing.”

Isis shook her head in frustration when she was unable to sing once more.

“No, no that isn’t right either! Why isn’t this working?”

Isis stared up at the cave ceiling and gave the Jabari Violet plants an evil stare.

“Some help you plants have been. I think I’m even worse than before, which is saying a lot because even my non-singing voice was better than this!”

Isis begun to cry and ran full gallop toward the entrance of the cave. When she reached the mouth of the cave system she looked down at the valley below where her people had lived for generations through cloudy tear blurred eyes.

“I will never be like the rest of my people. I will never learn how to sing. Then I will be kicked out of town and be alone…for…forever. I still can’t do it. It’s just not fair!”

Looking down at the happy Yehuda below Isis continued to cry as the breeze gently pulled at her long black hair.

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Later that day when Isis had finally managed to stop crying and had journeyed back into town, she ran into her mother gathering ingredients for her healing potions at the town market. Kala cheerfully called her daughter over and had her help with the late afternoon chore. When the ingredients were purchased, Isis and Kala carried them in their satchels back to Kala’s Healing Lodge. As the two started to put the ingredients away, Kala asked Isis about her day.

“Well my daughter, did you have fun exploring all of the chambers in the Kasabian Cave?” Kala asked, placing her portion of the ingredients in a nearby cabinet that had other healing ingredients in it already. Isis sighed as she placed the perishable ingredients in the ice box.

“No momma, I did not have fun. I tried to find the Jabari Violet, and I thought I found a lot. But when I made a potion out of the flowers, and said the spell, I still couldn’t sing at all. It was the worst day ever.”

With the last ingredients placed inside the cabinet, Kala slammed the cabinet door shut in panic and turned around to face her daughter with a worried expression on her face.

“My daughter, please tell me that what you have just said is not true. If what you say is genuine, then there is no cure for your current condition!”

Isis kicked the ice box shut with her front hooves and met her mother’s concerned stare with her own.

“I’m telling the truth. I made the potion and I drank it. Then I said the spell I found in one of your magic books. I don’t understand mamma; why are you so upset?”

Kala began to chew on the bottom of her lip nervously.

“Because dear Isis, that spell was created to make sure all of the other creatures of the world cannot use the ancient power of our songs for themselves. The musical chants of our tribe, the real spells we use, are something our people keep hidden. We spread the rumor of the Jabari Flower so all of the creatures of the world will seek its magical properties. They eat it in the other kingdoms of the world and hence can never learn our ancient songs. When you turned twelve in just eight days, I planned to show you all of the ancient chanting techniques and give you the potion to make you able to sing, but now I can’t. All is lost. And you ate three of the flowers. When three flowers are eaten at once it brings on a curse that will not ever let a person sing; even if it isn’t one of our tribe’s ancient songs! Perhaps a cure could be found for one flower, but the magic of three flowers cannot be reversed”

Kala began to weep as Isis placed a hand on her right shoulder.

“Don’t cry momma. Maybe there is a way for me to b alright. Maybe if we told daddy or brother they could find a spell to help reverse the spell and everything would go back to normal.”

Kala shook her head sorrowfully as she continued to cry.

“No my child, they must never know of this problem. If your father or brother were to find out about this crisis they would be the first to suggest we send you to live with the Zylus Tribe. While your father and brother are good centaur men and have compassion for all of troubles of their people they still must follow the ancient traditions of our tribe. If they were to know you cannot learn to sing because of a curse, they would surly ask you to leave in time. My little one, you must go to the land of the ancestors and seek the help of the High Queen Zuri. I believe only she can reverse the powerful spell of the Jabari flowers for anyone else who might attempt to help you would just make it worse. I will transport you there with one of my spells and then you can tell the high queen all of what has taken place. While you are away, I will tell your father and brother that you are training in another village with your aunt Mala. It will buy you some time, so no one will suspect that you ate a Jabari Violet by accident.”

Isis gave her mother a reassuring smile.

“Ok Mamma, I will go. Just make a portal and I will tell the High Queen everything. Don’t worry; I’m sure that Queen Zuri can help.”

Kala whipped away her tears and gave her daughter a weak smile.

“I know you can carry out this task. When it comes to finding solutions to problems, there is no one better than you. Now help me gather the items we need to make the portal as quickly as we can!”

Isis nodded and helped her mother gather some of the ingredients they just purchased along with ingredients that had been sitting at the Healing Lodge for a while into a large cauldron in the center of the kitchen. They added one thing after another until the final ingredient was added and giant spiral of green energy shot up toward the ceiling. In the center of the spiral formed a circle which took on the semblance of a mirror at first but slowly started to reconfigure into the scene of Queen Zuri’s throne room, where the high queen was sitting on her throne, looking over one of her many royal documents.

With the portal open, Kala gave her daughter a quick hug and said, “My daughter, you must now go and talk with the High Queen. When you are done with your quest, return home as quickly as you can manage. I will keep the portal open on my side while you are away. All you have to do is speak the words ‘take me back to the origin of the portal’. Then you will be sent back to the Healing Lodge, where I will be waiting patiently for your return.”

Isis returned her mother’s embrace and then nodded and she pulled away from it.

“Don’t worry mamma, I’m going to fix this. I’ll be back soon!”

With her final words spoken, she hopped into the portal and was instantly taken to the High Queen Zuri’s throne room. Queen Zuri was startled away from her reading when she saw a huge flash of green light shine above her and a little centaur with long black hair and a grey flank crawl out of the green light. When Isis reached the edge of the green light she immediately plummeted down towards the High Queen. Queen Zuri dropped the royal document she was reading when Isis landed forcefully on top of her lap. The queen stared down at the centaur girl sitting before her with a mixed look of shock and awe.

“Oh my,” Queen Zuri said in a startled voice, as Isis turned around to face her.

Isis smiled up at the high queen of their land sheepishly. She realized that her entrance into the throne room wasn’t very polite or proper so she did a quick bow and then said, “Um your majesty, I am sorry to drop in on you like this but I need your help. I accidently ate three Jabari Violet flowers, which gave me a curse that will never let me sing again unless you can help me find the cure. If you can’t help me, I’ll never be able to go back to my clan, so please help me High Queen, oh please!”

Isis did a full bow on the high queen’s lap and waited to hear what she had to say. To her surprise, Queen Zuri let out a merry laugh and gestured for her to rise from her bow.

When Isis did so, the high queen said, “I would be honored to help you little one, but first I would like to know a little bit more about you. What is your name and tribe do you come from? What magic did you use to get into the throne room? I don’t think I have seen a centaur like you before. I want to know everything.”

Isis looked up at the high queen of her land shyly. She was larger by at least two heads than the centaurs of her land. She had long, brown hair plaited with many silver ornaments. She had kind green eyes and a light brown horse body. She was very beautiful and emitted a very peaceful aura. Isis knew she could trust the high queen so she crawled down from her lap and did her best to answer all of the questions Queen Zuri had asked her when she reached the tiled floor underneath the throne.

“Well,” Isis began, rubbing her chin deep in thought, “I come from the town of Analia. My tribe is called the Yehuda. We live at the bottom of the Damari Valley. The high members of our clan cast magic with potions that we cook up in special brews. I am the daughter of chief Malik and head village woman Kala. My brother Enoch is first in line for the title of chief. I am training to be the village high priestess, as is custom for the second born child. In order to become a full member of our clan, everyone has to learn to sing, especially the high members of society like my mom, my dad, and my brother, so we can cast spells to protect our people from danger. I tried to learn how to sing the ancient spells of our tribe for eleven years but I just couldn’t do it so I tried to make a potion with the Jabari Violets I found in a cave located outside of my village but I just ended up getting cursed. If I can’t find a way to lift the curse, I will never be a member of my tribe and won’t be able to become the village high priestess, so my mamma sent me here in hopes that you could help me. Please tell me that you can, Queen. I really need your help! If you can’t help me, I won’t ever be able to go home.”

Isis began to tear up at the eyes a bit, although she didn’t allow herself to cry. She didn’t want to make herself look foolish in front of the High Queen.

Queen Zuri took in everything Isis said and thought long and hard about a possible cure. She knew that with a set of ancient relics called the Ulani Swords she could certainly restore the young centaur to her original state. Since the royal family was always able to wield the power of the swords she could harness the power of at least one. Her husband could also wield a sword and aid her with the task but unfortunately he was away on his diplomatic mission to establish friendly connections with the surrounding kingdoms. The problem was that she would need to find six other centaurs to wield the other Ulani relics and the little centaur didn’t seem to have enough time to wait for the centaurs to be found and brought to the castle. Sometimes it took years to find the right candidates to wield the ancient weapons and Isis needed a cure that would help her out quickly before any of the other centaurs caught on to what had happened. There was one other thing she could do but…it would come with a great price.

She sighed and then said, “My little one, the only thing I can do in a short amount of time is cast a banishing spell. The spell will cancel out the effects of the flowers. However, banishing spells always require something in return of equal value. The spell would return you to normal, it might even bring out your latent singing ability, but in return, you would not be able to return to Analia. Maybe you could return to your people and explain your situation. I am sure if you talked to them, there might be another way for you to become a member of your tribe.”

Isis whipped away the tears starting to flow from her eyes.

“No, your majesty. In our tribe, if you can’t sing, you can’t be accepted as a true member of the Yehuda. I would have to leave in shame and live with my cousins, the Zylus Tribe, who make their home at the top of the Damari Valley. I think using the banishing spell is the best option. At least I can prove I am a true member of the Yehuda tribe before having to go away forever. You could come with me in eight days, when the ritual to initiate me into my tribe was supposed to take place after my mom gave me the real potion. After I get initiated you can cast the spell on me and then I can…leave my tribe for good.”

Queen Zuri stood up from her throne. She picked up the little centaur standing before her and held her close.

“Now, now little one, we won’t give up that easy. I will have my royal chariot drivers take us to the town of Analia and I will speak to your family myself. Surely we can all come up with some solution that won’t get you banished forever.”

Isis nodded weakly as the high queen let go of Isis and summoned her chariot drivers to the throne room. The six built centaur men with black horse bodies came galloping into the throne chamber together as if on cue and kneeled at the throne of their queen.

The leader of the chariot drivers, a tan skinned centaur named Cassius rose his head slightly and asked, “What is it you require of us your majesty?” as the other chariot drivers continued to bow.

“Cassius, I want you to take this young centaur and I to the town of Analia, with the directions she provides. We shall leave immediately. Have royal advisor, Lord Theon, take over while I am away.”

Cassius nodded and signaled for one of his men to inform Lord Theon of the queen’s departure while he instructed the rest to get the royal chariot ready. With his orders given out, he faced the High Queen once more and said, “The chariot will be here in less than fifteen minutes. I sent Tyrus to inform Lord Theon of your departure. We will have everything ready soon and will wait for further orders once the chariot is ready.”

Queen Zuri thanked him and then sat Isis up on her shoulders.

“Now little one, while we wait I will tell you everything I know about my kingdom since you were kind enough to tell me everything about your kind.”

Queen Zuri carried Isis around the throne room on her shoulder and showed her all of the stained glass windows with the stories of all of the lands of the centaur kingdom of Zaire etched into them. She told Isis the story of how she and her husband had once defeated an army of goblins together with the help of her royal army. She explained that her husband was now traveling across the world, attempting to establish friendly relations with all of the other kingdoms. She told Isis about the special power of Ulani Swords that had been passed down in the royal family for seven generations by a wizard of the land of the dwarves and how they could only be used by those with the purest of hearts. Queen Zuri told one story after another until the royal chariot arrived and the two of them boarded it to journey to the far off town of Analia.

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After many days of travel, Isis, Queen Zuri, and the royal chariot drivers arrived in Analia. The centaurs of her village were surprised to see the larger centaurs from the capital city of Xael in their native lands. They were even more surprised to see that Isis was standing among them. Isis’s mother had seen the chariot land from the town Healing Lodge and was pushing her way through the crowd of onlookers to get a better look at the new arrivals. When she caught sight of Isis, she broke through the first ring of centaurs at the front of the crowd and ran forward to hold her daughter in her arms. After the mother and daughter had a heartfelt reunion, Isis’s father Malik and her brother Enoch also came and gave Isis a warm welcome.

Greetings out of the way, Chief Malik examined Queen Zuri and the Royal Chariot Drivers with questioning eyes. His wife had told him that Isis was away studying magic with her Aunt Mala and had not mentioned anything about visiting the mysterious centaurs from the other side of the Zaire Kingdom.

Chief Malik intended to get some answers so he faced Queen Zuri and asked, “Your Majesty who comes from the capital city of Xael, what brings you to the lands of the Yehuda Tribe? And furthermore why did you bring along such a frightening group of centaur men? I have so many questions for you, such as why my daughter has arrived with your party in my people’s native lands. I was told that she was studying magic with her Aunt Mala. But I see that she was visiting your kingdom instead.”

And at that Chief Malik gave his daughter a stern look. Isis shrunk back behind Queen Zuri, hiding from her father’s critical gaze.

Queen Zuri bowed politely toward the chief and said, “Please forgive my rudeness for not giving you a formal introduction. I, the High Queen Zuri, have come to this town because your daughter Isis came to me with a big problem that I am afraid can only be solved with a banishing spell. I brought her back in hopes that I could talk to you about another solution to her problem that would not cause me to use the spell on her.”

Chief Malik nodded in understanding and gestured for Queen Zuri, her team of chariot drivers, his wife Mala, his daughter Isis, and his son Enoch to follow him to his house at the other end of the town. When they arrived, Chief Malik led the group of centaurs to a conference room with many chairs set up around a large square table. Kala, Malik, Enoch, and Isis took the four seats near the front end of the table, while Queen Zuri and her chariot drivers took the other seats positioned around the table.

After everyone had settled in to their chairs and introduced themselves, Queen Zuri was the first to break the new silence that hung in the air by saying, “Isis has eaten three Jabari Violet flowers. These flowers have given her a curse that will prevent her from ever learning how to sing. In your culture learning the ancient songs of your tribe is something that all centaurs need to know, especially centaurs in high positions of power. Isis came to me hoping that I could help her break the curse. I do possess the magic to do so but it would come at a great cost. Isis would be returned to normal if I were to use a banishing spell; it might even bring out her latent musical abilities. However, in return she would have to leave Analia forever. The nature of the spell is to banish one thing in exchange for another. In exchange for becoming a full member of the Yehuda Tribe, Isis would have to be banished from it forever. I am hoping that we can find another solution that will not have to result to such an extreme measure on my part.”

Chief Malik felt great sadness upon hearing the curse brought upon his daughter. Enoch was also very sad for his sister. The two centaur men exchanged weary glances. They both knew what needed to be done but it wasn’t something either one of them wanted to carry out.

When Enoch could see that his father couldn’t bring himself to say what needed to be said he raised himself up from his seat and said, “We want nothing more for Isis to stay with our tribe, however I am afraid that if she cannot sing, we have no choice but to send her away, like the five centaurs we sent off earlier this year. You see, all centaurs who live in the Damari Valley must learn to sing in order to help summon a force field of magic that surrounds each of the villages and keep the goblins at bay. It is our Tribe’s custom. If just one centaur cannot chant the ancient spells, the force field will weaken and then in time the goblins will break through the protective shield. When they reach the many villages of our tribe they will attack us like they have done in the past. They will fight to take all of our lands and if they succeed, they will drive us away from our home in the valley. Those who can’t sing will suffer the worst, for the goblins that find them will not show mercy to them. They will take the weak centaurs of our tribe back to their kingdom and keep all of the captives as personal slaves. Those who do not comply with their demands will be murdered. This is what has happened in the past before our ancestors put up the force field to protect our people from the goblin’s raids. The goblin kingdom is built into the outer cave systems of the valley. They are always waiting for the moment when our force field will weaken and they can invade. In order to protect Isis, we must send her to live with our cousins the Zylus Tribe who make their home at the top of the Damari Valley. The Zylus Tribe does not need to learn the ancient chants of our people because the goblins stay in the valley below, in the lands where only our people dare to tread upon. The Zylus Tribe has its own magic and its own mysterious ways. They are a peaceful people who have lived at the top of the Damari Valley since the ancient times. My queen, you must help take Isis to the top of the valley. She cannot go by herself, for the goblins are always waiting to snatch up a stay member of our tribe and turn them into a slave. Please send some of your men to guide her safely to the top of the Valley. Instruct your men to keep Isis protected from any goblin attacks and to make sure to keep her from being captured by them or worse.”

Queen Zuri thought about what Enoch had told her. It seemed like all of the traditions of the Yehuda Tribe were built around protecting their kind from goblins. If she could somehow get rid of the goblin problem, Isis wouldn’t have to be sent away. The centaurs in the Damari Valley wouldn’t have to live in fear anymore.

Her mind made up, Queen Zuri said, “Chief Malik, Enoch, Kala, and Isis, I would like you to wield four of the seven Ulani swords and use their power to banish the goblins from this land. I believe that Isis has demonstrated great courage by asking for my help. One of the swords will surely allow her to wield its power because of her courageous heart. I will bear one of the swords like I did when I went to war with the goblins with my husband and the royal army many years ago. The royal family is always able to weird the power of the Ulani Relics. It is our birth right. Chief Malik, you are a wise ruler and very powerful. I think you are the perfect candidate for one of the Ulani Swords because of your wise heart. Your wife Kala is powerful and has a gentle spirit. I believe she is the perfect candidate for one of the weapons because of her gentle heart. Enoch, you had the courage to tell everyone that truth about the situation with the goblins. Because you have a steadfast heart, I believe you are perfect candidate for one of the swords. If we can just find two more centaurs to wield the last to Ulani Relics, we will have all the power we need to drive the goblins from the land, and to cure Isis of her curse. I can send one of my Royal Chariot Drivers to the Xael palace to retrieve Ulani Swords from the Chamber of Oracles, where they are kept locked away when they are not in use.”

Kala’s eyes filled up with tears. She was so happy that there was a solution to the problem that had plagued their tribe for so long that she couldn’t help but tear up a little. They would just have to find two more candidates to bear the last two Ulani weapons and all of their problems would be resolved. Kala thought about this and then she recalled that her two older sisters were some of the most powerful magic users in their tribe.

“Queen Zuri,” Kala said excitedly, whipping the tears from her eyes, “My sisters Mala and Imogen are two of the most powerful magic users among our people. Surely they can help us to fix this disaster!”

Everyone around the table agreed that Kala’s sisters should wield the two other Ulani Relics. Queen Zuri sent the head of her Royal Chariot Drivers, Cassius, to retrieve the weapons from the royal palace in the capital city of Xael. Cassius did a customary bow and sped off to retrieve the swords from the special room Queen Zuri kept them in back in the Xael Palace. Chief Malik sent for a messenger to summon Mala and Imogen to the central village of Analia. The messenger bowed and sped off to summon Kala’s two sisters from the neighboring village of Thea.

When the messenger left the room, Chief Malik turned to everyone at the table and said, “When Kala’s two sisters Mala and Imogen and Queen Zuri’s royal chariot driver Cassius arrive at the village in two days’ time, we will set our plan into motion. All of those chosen to carry out the task of wielding the Ulani Swords will do so. We will use the power of the relics to drive the evil goblins away from the Damari Valley for good. This is all thanks to the High Queen Zuri’s brilliant suggestion. Our tribe will forever by in the High Queen’s debt. Now, while we wait for the other members of our party arrive, we will throw a feast in honor of our guests from the capital city. Tell all of the centaurs of the Damari Valley that they are welcome to join in on the festivities. We will show the queen and her men all about the Yehuda Tribe’s traditions and ways while we wait for the others to show up in the main village!”

After Chief Malik made his speech the council was broken up and preparations were made for the two day feast that would show Queen Zuri and her Royal Chariot Drivers all about the Yehuda Tribe’s traditional ways. Queen Zuri helped Isis and Kala gather a group of centaurs together to decorate the town. Tyrus and the other remaining Royal Chariot Drivers helped Chief Malik and Enoch put together the entertainment. When Queen Zuri, Isis and Kala were finished helping the other centaurs decorate the town, they gathered up centaurs to help them make food for the event.

With all of the preparations complete, the town had a grand celebration to welcome the visitors from capital city of Xael and to celebrate the plan of banishing the Goblins away for good. The first day of the celebration, the centaurs performed the traditional welcoming dance where the female centaurs stood on one side and the male centaurs stood on the other in two grand lines that stretched from one end of the town to the other. The female centaurs started the dance stomping their front hooves and singing an ancient chant. The males joined in afterward, stomping their back hooves and chanting in deep throated grunts. The newcomers to the town, Queen Zuri and the royal Chariot Drivers were led down the line by Chief Malik and his family. At each centaur they passed, the centaur bowed and threw a rosary of flowers over the necks of the visitors. This repeated until Queen Zuri, The Royal Chariot Drivers, Malik and his family got to the end of the line.

At the very end, where Chief Malik’s house stood, he had two guards open the doors of his grand estate and then he called back to the crowd behind him, “Let the feasting begin!”

The centaurs all thundered their hooves against the ground and clapped their hands together in a grand applause and then ran toward the open doors. The centaurs filled the many rooms of the estate, now lined with dining tables stacked with all sorts of food and caterers moving back and forth across the room giving assistance to any centaur who needed it. The feast went on most of the night, until it finally came to a close with another traditional dance. With the first day’s celebration over, Malik showed Queen Zuri and her royal Chariot drivers to rooms in his estate that they could use during their stay in town of Analia, and the visitors thanked him graciously.

The next day, when the sun rose up over the cliffs of the valley, the town held the second celebration. It was a full festival complete with games, all sorts of merchant booths, dancing, music, theatrical productions, storytellers, bards, and lots of food at every turn. Isis showed Queen Zuri a game that young centaurs played where they stood on each other’s backs as tall as they could go. The centaurs split into two different teams. The centaurs who created the highest towers were the winners. Isis joined the leaf team, while her brother joined the acorn team. Centaurs stacked up on Isis’s and Enoch’s backs way up into the sky. At first it seemed like Enoch’s team would win but then all at once, the newest addition slipped and the whole tower came tumbling town, making Isis’s team the winners.

Tyrus and the other Royal Chariot drivers were enjoying traveling booth to booth and playing the various festival games. Tyrus played a game which required its player to toss a ring over one of the many glass jars filled with fish laid out on a grand platform. If the player could get a ring around one of the glass jars they could keep the fish inside. Tyrus managed to win a goldfish that he ended up giving to a village child with short white hair since he had little use of it once he got back to the capital city. The village child thanked him and ran to show off her new pet to her friends. The other Royal Chariot Drivers were not so lucky and decided to move on to other booths and try their luck there. Kala showed Queen Zuri to an area of the festival where a traditional magic show was being put on. The High Queen watched as the centaurs putting on the show told the story of how the ancient Yehuda Tribe found the Damari Valley and drove the goblins deep into the outer caves with their magic. Each part of the show was highlighted with magical effects that rivaled the magical artistry of the shows put on by the centaurs in the capital city.

After the magic show, Malik led Queen Zuri to an area of the festival where the male centaurs were wrestling each other. It was a magical wrestling match, so the centaurs were using any trick they could think of to get an advantage over their opponent. The ultimate winner of the competition was a centaur named Demarcus, who proved to be the strongest of all the competitors after being victorious in fourteen matches. His prize was a large green mask carved in intricate patterns that showed he was the ultimate victor of the competition.

The festivities carried on throughout the night, each Centaur and pony enjoying all of the entertainment it had to offer. The festival ended once again with a grand dance before all of the centaurs returned to their homes. Queen Zuri and her Royal Chariot Drivers stayed in their rooms at the grand estate of Chief Malik once more. They each went to sleep quickly, eager for the night to pass so all of the pieces to banish the Goblins from the valley for good would finally fall into place with the arrival of the other party members in the morning.

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The next day was brought forth as the sun slowly crept over high stone walls of the Damari Valley. The centaurs were working together to put away all of the decorations and return Analia to the way it was before the two day celebration. Chief Malik’s messenger, Eliseo, returned from the neighboring village with Kala’s two sisters, Mala and Imogen. Cassius returned around the same carrying a giant golden chest that held the Ulani Relics. With everyone now present, Queen Zuri instructed Cassius to open the chest and hand out each of the Ulani Swords to each of the seven party members. Cassius did as he was instructed and handed out each of the weapons one by one.

With the weapons distributed, Queen Zuri commanded her Royal Chariot Drivers to guide the team of adventurers to the edges of the valley were the Goblins made their home. Malik, Kala, Mala, Enoch, Isis, and Zuri boarded the chariot and were whisked away to the cave systems where the goblins had built their kingdom by the Royal Chariot Drivers, who followed out the Queen orders without a second thought. When they arrived in the territory of the goblins, a particularly ugly goblin with spiky black hair and red eyes was there to greet them.

As Zuri and the others got down from the chariot he came over and asked in a grumpy voice, “What business do you travelers have in goblin territory? Leave at once or we will take you all as our captives!”

No sooner had those words left the goblin’s mouth, a whole army of goblin men and women appeared behind him, wielding all sorts of awful looking weapons and wearing spiked armor from head to toe.

Zuri frowned up at the spiky-haired goblin.

“We will not leave. You goblins have caused enough trouble for the Yehuda Tribe. Now it is your turn to go!”

The spiky-haired goblin gave out a wicked laugh, echoed by the many goblins behind him.

“Oh yeah lady? Who is going to stop us?”

Isis jumped forward and frowned up at the Goblin.

“We are! You terrible goblins have made many of our people leave the Damari Valley just because we don’t know how to sing. Now we are going to put you in your place.”

The Goblins laughed wickedly again as the goblin with spiky black hair and red eyes drew in closer to the group.

“Perhaps you don’t know who you are addressing. I am the King of all of the goblins, Sedric, and I have the most power of anyone in the land. It takes the magic of an entire tribe of centaurs to keep me out of the Damari Valley and you think only your small party of travelers can defeat me? What a joke!”

Sedric waved his hands in front of him and lifted Tyrus into the air. Without warning, he flung the queen’s chariot driver into one of the sides of the valley. Tyrus came crashing down violently, breaking one of his legs in the process. The other Royal Chariot Drivers rushed over and helped tend to his wounds as the seven main members of the party continued to stare their adversary down.

Kala narrowed her eyes as she said, “You monster! How could you do that to him? We are going to teach you a thing or two!”

Sedric continued to laugh and started to shake the rocks free from the canyon walls. The rocks came tumbling down in droves, barley missing the small group of centaurs standing in front of him. Queen Zuri gave a signal to her fellow warriors which they all interpreted as use the power of the Ulani Swords. Each centaur in the party nodded in understanding as they placed the blade of the weapons in front of them. It was not long before each of the swords begun to light up one by one. Eventually Zuri’s weapon lit up and the combined power of the relics shot out from the ends of the swords and put a force field around the group of goblins.

Queen Zuri pointed up at Sedric and bellowed, “You and your people will be sent to a land far away where you can never bother anyone again. Be gone evil goblins! And never return!”

The magic swirled around all of the goblins and lifted every member of their tribe up into the air. It shook each of the goblins until they were relieved of their weapons. Then it flung the goblins off into the distance until they reached an uninhabited land blocked on all sides by hot pots and other geothermal activity. Next, Queen Zuri used the power of the swords to heal Tyrus of the injuries Sedric had inflicted on him. The magic engulfed his body and healed his broken leg in a flash of white energy. The last thing to do was to heal little Isis of her curse. Queen Zuri summoned Isis forward and whispered an ancient spell. A blue light wrapped around her body and she could feel the curse unraveling from her like the peel from an orange. Next, Queen Zuri cast another spell that would awaken Isis’s latent musical abilities. A purple light engulfed Isis’s body and she felt all kinds of music awakening from within the deepest parts of her soul. When the spell was complete, Queen Zuri told Isis to try out her new gift.

Isis cautiously moved to the front of the group and sung out, “Queen Zuri has awoken my ability to sing so I will be a powerful magic user in my tribe!”

Isis’s eye lit up with wonder as she realized that she had sung for the very first time.

“Oh my! I made my very first song! Did you hear everyone? I can finally sing!”

Isis danced around in joy, followed shortly by her father, mother, her two aunts and her brother. Everyone was happy that after all of those years Isis had finally learned the ability to sing and could become a true member of the Yehuda Tribe. After a small celebration by the party in honor or Isis’s newfound ability, Cassius collected the Ulani Relics from each centaur they had been lent to and placed them back inside the golden chest they had been taken from. Then the party stepped on Queen Zari’s chariot and was whisked back to the town of Analia by her team of royal chariot drivers.

When the group returned to the town of Analia, another celebration was planned to welcome Isis as a new member of the tribe. Everyone decided to hold the celebration on the same day as her birthday, which was only five days away. Queen Zuri sent Cassius to return the Ulani Relics to the palace. Cassius carried out Queen Zuri’s orders immediately, returning the ancient relics to their rightful place in the Chamber of Oracles. Queen Zuri and the rest of her men stayed behind while Cassius carried out his task. The visitors from the capital city continued to visit with the Yehuda Tribe and learn all about their traditions while they waited for Cassius to return.

Two days later Cassius returned to the valley, and three days after that the initiation ceremony for Isis was brought under way. Queen Zuri watched as the young centaur had flowers tossed at her, her face painted, and her grey fur coat decorated with pollen to symbolize her formal acceptance into the tribe. Although Isis was happy to finally be part of the Yehuda Tribe, she was sad that Queen Zuri would have to leave and return to the capital city of Xael after the celebration was over. While she was in the capital city she felt an immediate bond with all of the centaurs who lived there. She wished that she could travel back with the High Queen, even though she knew it was a selfish request.

Isis’s Aunt Mala noticed that she had gone off into a corner by herself after the initiation ceremony while the other centaurs talked, laughed, feasted, and danced.

She walked up to her niece and placed a hand on her shoulder.

“What is wrong little one? You do not seem to be enjoying the festivities at all.”

Isis teared up a little as she replied, “Auntie Mala I love living with the Yehuda Tribe but I wish I could go back with Queen Zuri and live in the capital city of Xael.”

Mala thought what her niece had said over for a moment and then got an idea.

“My little one, I think you should ask Queen Zuri if you can go. Perhaps it is your destiny to live in the capital city and give your assistance to the people there. You should not worry about the position of high priestess. Although my daughter Ophelia is younger than you by two years, I believe that she has the potential to make an excellent high priestess with the proper training. I will talk to your mother and father about letting your cousin take over your role in your absence. Now go and ask the Queen if you can return with her to the capital city while you still can!”

Mala placed Isis on her back and galloped over to the Queen. When the two arrived, Isis climbed down from her aunt’s back and shy bowed in front of Queen Zuri.

“Queen Zuri, I’m happy that I am now a full member of the Yehuda Tribe but I have a favor to ask of you. In return for helping my people, I would like to travel back to your land with you and live among all of the people of your land. I want to study to become a powerful magic user and help anyone in your kingdom who may be in need of my assistance. Please allow me to serve you and your people from now on.”

Malik, Kala, and Enoch saw their daughter talking to the Queen and came over to get a better look at what was going on. When Kala heard that her daughter wanted to leave their land to live with the queen she felt great sadness in her heart.

She came up to Isis and said, “My daughter I wish that you would remain here in the Damari Valley with us. I do not want you to leave our tribe but if it is truly your wish, I have no choice but to let you go. I always had a feeling that you were destined for great things that would take you far away from our valley. Mala has a daughter that can learn the rites necessary to become a high priestess. I have known this for many years but I always held out hope that you would learn the ancient songs of our people and remain here in the Valley to carry out your role. But if you feel that you must go then I will send you off with a blessing.”

Chief Malik came up beside his daughter and gave her a warm embrace.

“You have helped us greatly my daughter. Like your mother, I do not want you to leave us. But if you feel that you should leave the Valley then I will allow you to travel back to the capital city with the High Queen. You will be missed by all of us here but knowing you are happy will give us all some solace. You must promise to visit us whenever you can. If you can keep this one promise then I will let you go.”

Isis held her father tightly and said, “I promise, daddy. I will visit you, mom, Enoch and all of the members of the tribe whenever I can. Thank you so much for understanding.”

Enoch was sniffling as he came up to his sister and said, “I will miss all of the days we spent exploring the different parts of the Valley together, but I can’t tell you not to go. It would be wrong for me to insist that you stay in our town. Just promise that you will come play a round of Ibak with me whenever you can. I will miss you whenever you are not here.”

Isis let go of her father and gave her brother a big hug.

“I promise that I will visit you and everyone whenever I can. You can count on it!”

Enoch nodded as he held his sister for a few moments then pulled away, whipping away some tears that had started to form in his eyes.

Mala smiled warmly at her niece and said, “My dear do not worry for the tribe. I will teach my daughter everything about being the High priestess. You should follow your heart. We will always be here in the valley, waiting happily for your return.”

Isis smiled up at all of her family members.

“Thank you so much everyone. I will return to the capital city of Xael with Queen Zuri when the party is done! That is if she will allow me to go.”

Isis kneeled in front of the High Queen and said, “Oh Queen Zuri please say you will take me back to the capital city with you. I want to serve you and your people from now on. So please let me go!”

Isis stared up at Queen Zuri with pleading eyes. Zuri smiled down at the young centaur kneeling before her.

“Of course you can come back with me to the capital city of Xael! I will make you an honorary member of the royal court. You can study magic under me and act as a foreign ambassador for all of the centaurs of the Damari Valley! I will make a portal in the Xael Royal Palace that will allow you to travel to your land whenever you want to visit your family or friends. Does this sound good to you?”

Isis stood up from her kneeling position and literally jumped for joy.

“Oh Yes, your majesty, I would love to be a foreign ambassador of the royal court! I will visit my people as often as I am able and will study magic under you at the palace as you have planned!”

Isis’s family members jumped for joy as well. They gave her many warm embraces to congratulate her for acquiring her high position in the Xael Royal Court. They would be sad when Isis had to leave, but they were comforted in knowing that Isis could visit them any time she wanted to. When the celebration was over, Isis packed her belongings and placed them in the Royal Chariot. She said a tearful goodbye to all of her friends and family members in Analia and journeyed with the Queen to the capital city where she became the Official Royal Ambassador for her people. She studied magic with Queen Zuri for many years and when she became old enough to live on her own, she purchased a small estate for herself which rested on the outskirts of the city in the Oriana forest. Queen Zuri moved the portal that linked the town of Analia to the capital city of Xael to Isis’s new home so she could use it whenever she pleased.

Whenever Queen Zuri journeyed to Analia, she summoned Isis to act as her official Royal Ambassador. She always was happy to assist the Queen on her travels and she was also pleased to have an excuse to visit her family during the outings. Isis used her knowledge of the magical arts to teach many of the centaurs in the capital city who wanted to learn the magic of their people. She also taught magic lessons at a local university and was paid very well for her services. Many of the centaurs in the capital city never knew about Isis’s high position in the Xael Royal Court because she didn’t like to boast about herself. But years later, while looking through the many books of the Xael Royal Library, the daughter of Queen Zuri, Princess Naya, found an interesting book titled, The Cost of a Song. The book told the story of a centaur who didn’t know how to sing and commissioned queen Zuri’s help. The centaur in the story wielded one of the Ulani swords and helped the High Queen send all of the evil goblins away from the land of her people. Later the centaur became a Royal Ambassador and even studied magic under the High Queen’s watchful eye. The centaur was never named, much to Princess Naya’s disappointment.

She thought it would be an interesting story to tell to Isis so she brought the book over and read it to her teacher over tea. The princess had been a student of Isis’s ever since she was born into the royal court so the two of them were very well acquainted. Princess Naya knew that Isis taught at the local university and often accompanied her mother when she traveled to other lands but she didn’t know much else about her. Isis smiled fondly as her childhood adventures were brought back into remembrance one chapter at a time. When Princess Naya was finished with the story, Isis thanked the princess for reading it to her.

“So who do you think the centaur in the story was, Isis,” Princess Naya asked, after she took a bite out a of tea cake resting on a plate in front of her.

Isis chuckled and replied, “I am not sure who the young one might be, but that was a great story to be sure.”

Princess Naya nodded and the two friends continued to talk about all sorts of things as they enjoyed the freshly brewed pot of Jasmine Tea, the assortment of tea cakes in front of them, and wondered together about the many mysteries of the world.

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The Many Troubles of Prince Ackeyun

Prince Ackeyun of the kingdom of Dagwan had forty wives. He had so many wives that he didn’t know what to do with all of them.

The Many Troubles of Prince Ackeyun

A short story by Emma Lee Downs.

Summary: Prince Ackeyun is forced to marry the princesses of the neighboring kingdoms to keep treaties between the kingdoms alive. But one day he comes up with a plan to free himself from his unfortunate fate.

Original Link 1: https://www.fictionpress.com/s/3229918/1/The-Many-Troubles-of-Prince-Ackeyun

Original Link 2: http://lyraalluse.deviantart.com/art/The-Many-Troubles-of-Prince-Ackeyun-505766035

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The Many Troubles of Prince Ackeyun

By: Emma Lee Downs

Prince Ackeyun of the kingdom of Dagwan had forty wives. He had so many wives that he didn’t know what to do with all of them. Every time another wife was offered to him as a symbol of peace from one of the neighboring countries, he could not refuse their father’s marriage invitations. All of the kingdoms of the world of Iregeya wanted peace with his kingdom because he had resources they each craved.

Marrying into the resources was the best way for the other kingdoms to have access to them without being forced to sign a proper treaty. Thus, poor Prince Ackeyun was stuck with forty wives from the most known kingdoms of the world. The only thing he could think to do with his wives was give them a good place to stay.

He placed each of the women in the Grand Halls that rested at the back of his palace. The Grand Halls had been built by one of his ancestors long ago to accommodate the imperial harem. The multiple chambers had great columns made of black stone that rose for what seemed like miles into the sky. At the top and base of the columns were the carved images of griffins.

Each of the griffins had painted red eyes which stood in contrast to their otherwise black, carved, stone forms. The roof was made of black wood and laid in a crisscross pattern over the columns. On the roof of the grand halls were the painted images of the God Ravin Mon, with his eagle wings outstretched and his feet grasping at the threads of the universe with his hooked talons.

The walls were decorated with complicated hieroglyphics that the ancient kings had once written in. Sitting next to the upraised hieroglyphics was a writing script that the kingdom still used. The hieroglyphics were a window into the past. The only way they could be deciphered was by the modern script that was written on the gold walls in red ink. The ancient language had long been forgotten and the Grand Halls was one of the only places in the kingdom that they could still be found.

There were multiple natural hot springs that were built into the layout of the Grand Hall. Each of the hot springs was circled by a dark ring of stones and had black, steep steps built down into them. The stairs stopped at the bottom of each spring, where they met a natural rock floor. The hall lead out into many gardens that were watered with an ancient pipe system that ran underneath the city.

Multiple pipes drew water out of a river that snaked into the mountains far to the east of the kingdom. The water in the pipes was partitioned throughout the palace and other areas of the kingdom. It was used for everything from fountains and sprinkler systems to bathtub water and even running water for toilets.

The Grand Hall had many rooms that were each decorated according to the taste of the princess that lived in them. Some of the rooms had lavish sofas with many pillows of silk and cotton atop them that the princesses used as cushions for their beds. Some of the rooms had four posted beds with canopies that held rose petals above them as they slept. Some rooms had grand carpets made of thread that only traveling merchants from faraway lands had access to before being brought to the palace.

Never in one place had anyone in those days and days since seen so many rooms with so many different adornments. The princesses had many servants that attended to their needs and lived with them in their imperial chambers. The rooms were large enough to accommodate as many assistants as the princesses needed.

The prince took very good care of his wives. Whatever they asked, he would do everything in his power to provide for them, no matter what the distance away the item was that they desired, or how much it would cost. Some would say that Prince Ackeyun was very lucky to have as many wives as he did that he could call upon any time he felt lonely.

However, the truth of the matter was that it was very hard work trying to please all of his wives. He often found himself with a quite a big headache at the end of the day. As if dealing with the matters of the kingdom was not hard enough, he also had to worry about his forty wives.

His father and mother were still alive, so some of the country’s burden was lifted from his shoulders. Even so, Prince Ackeyun was aware that this ideal situation would not last forever. He could only imagine how things would be when he had the full rights to the throne. If the countries of Iregeya kept marrying him off to their daughters, he wouldn’t have any time to himself at all. This troubled him greatly and often made him feel overwhelmed.

Prince Ackeyun was trying to think of a solution to his problem on one such occasion when he noticed one of the princesses walking unescorted in his palace’s main garden. He immediately sat up from the grassy knoll where he was sitting and walked over to greet her.

He bowed slightly forward and said in a courtly manner, “My lady, you should not be walking outside the boundaries of the imperial harem without an attendant to guide you. There are many countries jealous of my wealth. You could very well be captured by one of my enemies if you wander around the palace gardens unescorted.”

The lady sat down in the grass, pulling her many skirts around her frame. She smiled up at the prince.

“Your highness, you do not have to worry about me. I come from a warrior nation to the northeast of Dagwan. I have been well trained in the art of war. I was going to be a general in my army until my father sent me here.”

When she saw the prince’s look of shock at her sudden forwardness she quickly added, “Oh dear, I didn’t mean for it to sound as though I didn’t want to come here. I was just trying to let you know that you don’t have to worry about me.”

The prince sighed and sat beside her.

“I wish that the really were the case. It would be nice if I didn’t have to worry about you all of the time. However, the laws of this land dictate that I give you the greatest of care. I am responsible for your well-being. I must make sure that you are well housed or I shall be thought of as an irresponsible member of the royal house when it comes time for me to rule this land. ”

The princess looked ashamed for wandering around by herself, after hearing what the prince had told her.

She said, “It was not my intention to cause you worry or to be a burden to you. I just thought you should know that I am more than capable of taking care of myself. No one would look down upon you if they knew how capable I was of being my own master.”

The prince didn’t know quite what to say to the princess’s revelation. However, the longer he gazed into the princess’s eyes the more her words stirred something inside of him. His thoughts turned to his current situation.

He thought to himself, “Why couldn’t that be true? Why couldn’t I just let my wives worry about themselves? They were all formally trained before they arrived at the palace. This princess might really be onto something here.”

It occurred to the prince that what he was thinking was just crazy enough of an idea to work. He really did wish that the princesses could be free and happy outside of his care. His plan was one way of accomplishing this lofty task. Prince Ackeyun realized that he had been quiet for a long time and smiled tenderly at the princess.

“My lady, if I made you a general in my army, would that please you? You couldn’t be my wife, but I would pay you for your services. You could make an honest living doing something that you love. Would this make you happy?”

The princess’s eyes lit up in wonder.

“I could be a general in your army, and do whatever I wished and married whoever I wanted to?”

The prince nodded.

“That is correct. Anything you wanted, you could do as a free member of my royal house. What do you say?”

The princess hugged the prince.

“Oh, I would like that very much! Can I be a general now? I want to enlist in your army as soon as possible!”

The prince stood from the grass.

“Indeed you can. I shall proclaim you as a new head general straight away! Come with me to the Chamber of Warlords at the southern end of my palace. We shall fit you with armor and a sword this very day!”

The princess hopped up from her place on the grass and followed the prince to the royal Chamber of Warriors. When the prince explained the situation to the head general of the Royal Army, the men that had overheard the conversation thought he had completely lost his mind.

Nonetheless, the general followed the prince’s orders and the men in the prince’s army accepted the lady as their superior. The princesses was fitted with armor, given a horse, given a proper weapon, and was enlisted as a general in the royal army. In time, she became a legend in the palace tournaments. People came from all over the kingdom to watch her joust and display her warrior skills in other fighting tournaments. Everyone in the kingdom was impressed by her skill.

When the other princesses learned of Princess Moryana’s fate, they too wanted a position in the palace. One by one the prince gave the princesses titles in the palace. Some became advisers. Some became admirals in the kingdom’s navy fleet. Some became council members. Some became royal seamstresses. Others became royal chefs. Pretty soon the whole palace was filled with an equal number of men and women carrying out every level of task imaginable. Some of the princesses left the castle and worked as governors in neighboring towns. Others worked in neighboring cities as Council members, or soldiers in other parts of the kingdom.

Prince Ackeyun had finally rid himself of the responsibility of looking after so many wives. Now he could focus on choosing on wife that he really loved, rather than looking after an entire imperial harem. Some of the royal family members of the other kingdoms of Iregeya discovered what prince Ackeyun had done and were not pleased.

The ruler of the elementals, King Leighton of Joziah kingdom, could not believe that his daughter Moryana was working as a general in the king’s army. The Satyr King Ignacio of Valentia Kingdom could hardly believe that his eldest daughter Rhea had become an imperial baker. This was very troubling to many of the kings of the various nations. No one had ever heard of such a thing in their entire lives of living on the world. It was totally unprecedented.

It came to pass that there was a council between the kings of the countries that had married their daughters to Prince Ackeyun. It took a month for all of them to meet at the designated place, but when they all got together they were more furious than ever. The kings had decided to hold their meeting in the kingdom of Gaige since it was a neutral kingdom. The fairy king Bael was the ruler of Gaige and was chosen by all of the other kings to be the head of the council. After everyone had settled into their chairs in the great council room, the kings began to address their grievances one by one.

The Troll King Davon of Blaise Kingdom growled between clenched teeth, “Do you know what my daughter Yanet is doing? She is working as a palace administrator. She is doing a job below her station. This is an outrage!”

The Dwarf King Maxton of Shudra Kingdom waved his hand dismissively.

“That’s nothing. My daughter Honora is working as a royal carriage driver. Can you believe it? She wrote me and told me that she is going to marry a dwarf man that tends the royal stables. What does that Prince Ackeyun think he is doing?”

The pale-skinned Fairy King Bael raised his staff to silence the muttering that was being exchanged between all of the members of the council. He gestured for the gnome king to speak his piece when the chattering had settled down.

The Gnome King Framend of Arlo Kingdom stood up in his chair and bellowed at the top of his lungs so everyone could hear, “The lot of you do not even know what suffering means. My daughter Teegan has become a head member of the royal sewing committee. Her greatest power is commanding the other woman of the sewing committee to make carpets for the palace, bed sheets, or clothes! I tell you, this young prince is an upstart. If it weren’t for his resources, I would have never sent my daughter to live in his kingdom in the first place!”

The council room echoed with the voices of the other angry fathers as they tried to speak about their grievances all at once. The Fairy King Bael raised his staff above his head and held it until the council was in order.

He proceeded to say, “It seems to me, that the prince thinks that his marriage to our daughters was some kind of joke. I say that we attack his kingdom, reclaim our daughters, and take his resources for ourselves.”

The council members all shouted words of approval and that is how the whole world turned against poor Prince Ackeyun, quite literally. Princess Moryana heard rumors of the impending war and told the prince about it straight away. The prince was shocked at the news. After talking with the other members of his council (many of them the princesses of the other kingdoms who intended to attack his land) he decided that he had no choice but to go to war.

King Leighton of Joziah set a time and place for the battle to end all battles. Prince Ackeyun accepted the invitation reluctantly under the guidance of his council and headed out to rage war with the other kingdoms. Many of the princesses the rode into battle at his side were commanders, admirals, and generals in his army. When he arrived on the battlefield, a curious thing happened. The gathered armies recognized the princesses by the country flags waving from the back of their chariots and refused to advance.

The Elemental King turned to the other kings commanding their vast armies and said, “We cannot fight a battle against our own daughters. We must think of another solution to this problem.”

The other kings agreed and had their generals waved the red flag of peace. One by one the red flags rose in the air. Never had there been such a display of red banners all in one place before! So it came to pass that the war that had taken over a year for each side to correlate and train for was disbanded in less than a day. Finally, King Leighton of Joziah and the kings of the other nations had a council meeting in the kingdom of Prince Ackeyun. Each of them expressed their grievances and the prince listened to the complaints of each one. When everyone was done talking the prince had this to say.

He stood from his throne and said, “Every one of you kings married your daughters to me in order to have access to my resources. Each of you has had free access to my resources without a formal trade agreement for many years. I have provided each and every one of your daughters a promising role in my kingdom. I would like to add that each of them is compensated for their services. All I can say is that if you are so angry with the way I am treating your daughters, you should be angrier at yourselves for handing them over to me for your own selfish purposes in the first place. May shame be upon any man who wishes to deprive his daughter of the good fortune they have found in my lands for no other reason than to save their own pride.”

The kings were shocked at what the prince had brought to light. They all muttered amongst themselves and finally came to the mutual agreement that the prince was right and that his solution had been the most just of anyone there. That very day, the prince drew up a peace treaty with all of the nations present. He also signed a free trade agreement, so there wouldn’t be any more daughters forced upon him to marry. That is how prince Ackeyun freed himself from being tied down to forty wives.

It is said that other kingdoms followed his example. Women became powerful members in government and were free to choose their husbands across the world of Iregeya. After having so many wives, prince Ackeyun never thought he would settle down and marry. However, when his mother and father died, he was obligated to find a wife after taking the throne. His thoughts returned to the princess that had given him the advice in the first place that fateful day in the palace garden.

He married the lady Moryana and he made sure that she still held the title of general in his army. The only thing that changed was that this time around, she was the royal general. They say that never in the world of Iregeya was there a fiercer a warrior than she. She had many children with prince Ackeyun who also became warriors.

From that moment on, it became a tradition for all the princes and princes of the house of Dagwan to become warriors for their kingdom. None of them had to keep an imperial harem so the old space was turned into a lavish guest hall for travelers to say in when they were far from the borders of their own kingdoms. Dagwan became known as the kingdom that had the best hospitality and most secure resources because of the decision to disband the imperial harem by Prince Ackeyun and his children that followed after.

The Tale of Applena

In the land of Fenn there lived a maiden with long, curly red hair and deep green eyes that owned and apple orchard that stretched for miles outside the boundaries of the capital city.

The Tale of Applena

A short story by Emma Lee Downs.

Summary: Applena has been managing an orchard left to her with the passing of her parents for many years. One day she gets a visit from a stranger who helps her with various things although she is not sure why. It is a bit rough around the edges. Helpful critiques are welcomed and appreciated. Thank you in advance.

Original Link 1: https://www.fictionpress.com/s/3221892/1/The-Tale-of-Applena

Original Link 2: http://lyraalluse.deviantart.com/art/The-Tale-of-Applena-505759651

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The Tale of Applena

By: Emma Lee Downs

In the land of Fenn there lived a maiden with long, curly red hair and deep green eyes that owned and apple orchard that stretched for miles outside the boundaries of the capital city. The apple orchard had been passed down to her by her late father along with his business. For generations, her family had tended the apple trees, picked the apples when they became ripe, and sold them in the nearby capital city of Argeon.

The maiden’s family was well known and respected for their apples which people came from all over to purchase for they were said to be the best in all the land. The maiden had lost her mother, Sheria, to a plague that struck the country when she was a small girl. The same plague had come through the valley a few years ago and taken the life of her father Gareth. She was the only member of her house left.

The young maiden, who was named Applena for the fruit her family sold for many generations, missed both of her parents terribly but did not let their death get her down. Every spring when the apples were at their ripest, she would pack a wagon full of the red, yellow, and green fruits and make her journey into Argeon to sell them in the local market.

On one such trip, the maiden set up a modest stand and began calling out to the travelers who passed by.

“My dear people, I implore you to buy my famous apples! One taste is enough to prove their worth! I offer free samples for everyone! If you are satisfied with the taste, I humbly ask for you to part with your gold and buy a few.”

Applena took out a tray with the three different types of apples cut into wedges placed delicately upon it and set it atop her merchant’s booth. About that time a mysterious traveler in a long black cloak walked toward the maiden’s booth. The traveler’s face was hidden behind a dark hood as was the traveler’s garb. The only thing visible was the traveler’s brown boots which stuck out from underneath the cloak.

The traveler spotted the maiden selling her apples and stopped by the booth. The mysterious wanderer picked up one of the samples with one of its gloved hands (it was brown) and placed the morsel in its mouth (which was hidden by the cloak). The taste was so extraordinary that it made the traveler clap its gloved hands together, exposing part of the shirt behind the cloak, which was a deep blue.

“Bravo, my dear merchant. Your apples are a little piece of heaven to the senses.”

The traveler said this in a merry voice. The voice was that of a man, but the tone was too obscure to be able to guess at any age. Applena smiled.

“Thank you my dear traveler. Though, you have only tried the valley green variety. Please, do try the yellow and the red. If they are the best apples you have ever tasted, I ask you humbly to purchases a few for your family or friends!”

The man tasted the other two apples and was highly impressed by their flavor.

“My dear woman, your apples are indeed the finest I have ever tasted. I will buy your whole stock of them! You see, I am the royal cook and I was sent to the market to buy ingredients for one hundred pies I am to make for a banquet being thrown for the king. These apples will be splendid in the pies I intend to bake. Just name me a price and it is yours!”

Applena clapped her hands together in joy and took out an abacus from behind the booth. She moved the wooden beads around three times until the figure seemed right.

She turned to the traveler and said, “My dear cook, the abacus says that the price should be one thousand Rungels, but because I have a deep loyalty for the king, queen, and their prince Murseilles II (long may he reign) I will sell them to you for a mere eight hundred. Have we a deal, dear cook?”

The man took out a pouch of gold Rungles and placed it on Applena’s merchant booth.

“I will give you two thousand for offering his majesty such a good deal, my lady. However, with this gold you must heed my advice. If you promise to take the humble instruction of a lowly palace cook you may keep every pound of this handsome payment.”

Applena stared at the sac of gold in wonder and then nodded her head in agreement.

“I accept your offer, dear sir, if it does not put a burden on your purse strings.”
The traveler laughed heartily and turned to an assistant that Applena had not noticed before.

“Yem, I want you to fetch a wagon from the palace kitchen and bring it to this booth as fast as you can manage. I have many pies to bake and little time to do it in. Hurry now, before the apples turn!”

The assistant bowed graciously and mounted a horse. He rode to the palace as fast as the horse could carry him to complete his task. While the assistant was away, the traveler leaned in close to Applena and gave her some words of advice.

“My dear maiden, I implore you to listen to this business plan I have been cooking up (do excuse the pun) in my head for some time now to sell my own baked goods. With the two thousand I have given you, I feel you should buy a larger booth in the city. The permits for such booths are five hundred Rungles, which would leave you with one thousand five hundred left. With the next five hundred you should hire yourself a helper maiden to pick the apples from your trees for one year, and the next five hundred to hire a helper maiden to tend your trees for one year. The last five hundred shall be used to buy a storage shelter for the apples you do not sell so you may sell them year round. Since I gather that you have many other apples yet to sell in your orchard, you will still make a profit from those in the months to come. With the money from those sells, you should store it up for your own personal needs. Next year, around this time, when the contract of your assistants is almost terminated, I shall return and buy more apples for the festival that always takes place this time of year. I will give you more advice when we meet again.”

Before Applena could question the man, his assistant arrived with two horses hitched to a grand wagon. The cook and his assistant loaded the barrels of apples that Applena had lugged to the market in their wagon and covered it with a brown tarp. With the apples neatly tucked away, the assistant mounted one of the horses, and the palace cook mounted the other.

He turned back to Applena and said, “Next year I will meet you at the same place and time. Do what I have advised you to do until then!”

He and his assistant drove off leaving Applena with an empty booth except the single pouch of gold coins atop it. Applena took the pouch in her hands. She had never been paid that much money in her entire life. The amount of gold was enough to buy one thousand dresses or any number of useless furniture items to place around her modest dwelling.

She was so caught up in the excitement of owning so much gold that she almost forgot the traveler’s advice. Fortunately for Applena, the excitement soon passed and she decided to do what the palace cook had advised her to do. That very day she bought a permit for the largest booth in the marketplace and hired herself two assistants to help her with her work.

She journeyed to the builder’s guild and commissioned a team of seven laborers to build her a storage house (with an enchanted cooling system) to keep her unsold apples fresh throughout the year. The next few months were spent training her two helpers, waiting patiently for her storage house to be constructed, and selling her apples at the local market. When her storage house was completed, it was about the time of year when her apple trees slept for the fall and winter. Her first assistant, Millie, picked all the apples she could from the trees and then helped the second assistant, Gale, put the over-stock in the newly built store house.

Applena had made a great deal of money from the previous months so she did not try to sell her overstock during the winter. Instead, perhaps inspired by the royal cook who had helped her find so much fortune, she decided to use the apples to make baked goods. With the help of her two assistants, Applena made everything from apple jam and apple butter to apple bread and apple pie. She sold her baked goods during the winter month, which drew even more customers than before. The winter month passed and spring was upon the land of Fenn once more.

Applena’s trees were bearing fruit which she picked to sell at the local market, this time accompanied by Millie and Gale. Applena had found so much favor that she had nearly forgotten about the palace chef that gave her the advice. Her memory returned to her when the mysterious man in his trademark black cloak came marching toward her booth with his assistant Yem at his side. He outstretched his arms and gave a merry laugh.

“My dear maiden, I see you have taken my advice. Bravo! You seem to be doing very well for yourself. I, of course, by order of the king (long may he reign) have come to buy your stock of apples to bake pies for the spring festival. The pies last year were so good that the king feels that two thousand Rungles was not enough payment for them. Thus, this time I shall pay you (and your lovely assistants) four thousand Rungles. However, you must heed my advice or I will not give you the gold dear lady. Have we a deal?”

Applena’s eyes widened at the amount of gold the king was willing to offer her for her goods. Eventually she snapped out of her state of wonder. She nodded, quite shaken at the proposal. Applena could see a faint outline of a smile from the other side of the hood.

The man’s merry voice rung out from underneath it, “Ah, all is well then. First, I shall fulfill my end of the bargain. Here is the four thousand.”

The man took out a pouch even larger than the one Applena had seen before and placed it on her merchant’s booth. He set his assistant Yem to work, placing the apples in a cart he had brought with him to the market (he was prepared this time) and leaned in close to Applena while his assistant loaded the wagon.

“Now my dear maiden, I will give you my advice. With the first five hundred, you shall renew the contract of your first helper, who tends the apple trees in your orchard. With the next five hundred you will of course renew the contract of your second helper who picks the apples and helps you sell them at the market. This will leave you with three thousand Rungles. Now! With the first one thousand, you are to set up a bakery in the city. I heard from one of my assistants in the palace kitchen that over the winter you sold baked goods that were a delight to all who tasted them. This talent should not go to waste! One thousand will be enough to buy you a small building to set up a bakery in. The next one thousand should be used to buy materials for your bakery. The final thousand should be used to decorate and remodel the building you will move your enterprises into. You will sell the booth you own presently to a man named Garm. Garm is an eccentric man who will pay you double what you paid for it. With the one thousand Rungles you earn from Garm, you must buy two assistant cooks from the royal kitchen to help bake your goods in your store. Each will work for five hundred Rungles a year like your two assistants. You yourself will be the patron of the store and your two assistants (beauties they are) will continue to tend the trees and deliver the apples to your bakery to be cooked by your hired baking assistants. If you take my advice, surely your business will triple in its sells!”

When the traveler had finished giving Applena advice, Yem had finished packing the apples in the wagon and signaled for him to mount one of the horses drawing the wagon. Before Applena could thank the palace cook for his kindness he mounted his horse and paused momentarily for his assistant to mount the other.

Before the two men pulled away from Applena’s merchant booth, the chef called back, “I will return the same time next year. I of course, expect you to have a bakery by then. I will ask my assistants in the kitchen where you have set up shop and will journey there when the spring festival is upon us once more.”

Applena waved goodbye to the two men as they disappeared into the hustle and bustle of the city. She turned to her brown-haired assistant Gale as she drew five hundred Rungles from the large pouch that had been placed on her merchant booth.

She placed the five hundred in her first assistant’s hand and said, “My dear Gale, here are your year’s wages in advance. Please take the day off to sort out your finances.”

Gale gave Applena a big smile and graciously accepted the gold coins. She waved goodbye to her friends before setting off to the bank to store her year’s profit away in her savings account. Applena then drew the next five hundred out of the bag and placed it in the hands of her black-haired assistant Millie.

“My dear friend, please accept your half of the wages. I implore you to take the rest of the day off as well so you may invest those gold coins wisely.”

Millie placed her wages on the booth and gave Applena a big hug.

“Thank you so much, Ma’am. Good luck with your business plans!”

Millie gave Applena a curtsy and scooped the gold coins up in her hands. She placed them in a brown pouch hanging at her side that she usually used to store extra apples in. She then ran through the city to her home, where she stored all of her savings in a large safe she kept in the basement of her modest dwelling. Applena was left alone at the booth with her thoughts. She considered herself very fortunate to have met the palace cook and his assistant in the first place and took a moment to thank the heavens for their blessings upon her.

Afterwards, she set out to find the man named Garm that the palace cook had mentioned. Surprisingly, it was not too hard to find him. She asked a few of the neighboring merchants that set up shop next to her booth where she might him and they pointed her in the direction of a large building north of her apple stand. She took the large pouch in her hands and said goodbye to her stand. It was the last time she would see the apple booth that she had made so many memories with her customers and friends over the past year in which made her feel a bit sentimental toward it. She took a deep breath and walked toward the old building at the north end of town. She stepped in the door and was immediately greeted by a man with grey hair and a long grey beard to match.

“Welcome, welcome, young lady,” said the man in an old, creaky voice.

“What can an old man like me do for you?”

Applena smiled.

“Kind sir, would you tell me where to find the man named Garm? I want to sell my merchant booth to him, if he has the time to talk to a humble merchant like me.”

The old man gave a hearty laugh.

“My dear child, I am the man you seek. I will gladly purchase you merchant booth for any price you offer.”

Applena took the palace cook’s advice and asked for five hundred Rungles.

She was surprised when the old man said, “That is such a low price! No, no, no, I’m afraid that this will not do. I refuse to buy your booth for less than one thousand Rungles. My heavens dear, please do not make me pay any less than that or I shall feel that I have cheated you from your hard-earned money.”

Applena nodded her head enthusiastically and withdrew the deed to her store from a satchel that was slung over her back.

“I accept your offer. I thank you, my dear sir, for your gracious contribution!”

Garm chuckled merrily and took the deed from Applena’s hand. In its place he gave Applena the amount he had offered her.

“There you are, young lady. Now don’t spend all that money in one place. Be smart about your investments!”

Applena promised Garm that she would and rushed out of the old building. As she headed to the south area of the town to purchase a space for her bakery, she realized that she had 4,000 Rungles once more, the same amount that the palace chef had given her earlier that day. Even after paying her two assistants, she was still ahead. This made her smile as she reached the town’s legal department and walked inside. She walked up to the counter where a woman in a long, green dress was storing scrolls in their proper locations in a large library behind her. When the woman saw Applena come through the door, she stopped what she was doing and walked to the front counter. She smiled down at Applena as she walked up to the counter.

“What is it that I can be doing for you today, young lass?”

Applena counted out 1,000 Rungles and placed them in a smaller sack, one of many that she had in the satchel that hung at her side. She placed the smaller pouch with the Rungles on the counter and pointed to the wall of scrolls behind the woman.

“I would like to purchase a commercial building for a Bakery. Please give me the finest building you have. I also want to make sure the building is in a key tourist location. The money I gave you should be enough for the deed and one year’s rent in advance, in compliance with the city codes.”

The woman in the green dress picked the pouch of the counter and counted each of the Rungles within. When she was sure the right amount was presented to her, she pulled a scroll out of one of the cubby holes in a large section located under a sign that read, “Commercial Licenses.” She placed the scroll on the counter and unraveled it. On the scroll were the floor plans for a building with detailed lists of its contents written below it in the country’s language. At the very bottom of the scroll was a line that had a previous owners name crossed out to show that he no longer owned the property. The woman in the green dress pointed toward the line.

“You must sign here to become the official owner. A copy of the document will be drawn up by a scribe and given to you, after you have signed the contract.”

The woman gathered an ink well and feathered pen from the other side of the counter. She placed them in front of Applena who took the feathered pen out of its well and signed her name on the contract above the previous one. Below her name there was another line that asked for her merchant’s seal. She took a brass seal out of her satchel and a stick of red wax. The woman behind the counter provided her with the light of a lantern to burn the wax. Applena melted the red wax onto the line, over the seal of the previous owner. She placed her seal on top; one that had an apple tree, the signature seal of her family. With the contract filled out, the woman rolled up the piece of parchment and had a scribe make Applena a copy of the document.

The scribe set to work laying the scroll over a lighted area and tracing every detail onto a new scroll with his own ink well and feathered pen. When the document was drawn up, it was given to the woman in the green dress who signed her name at the bottom. The scribe handed her the original scroll and she signed her name in the same place. She handed the scroll to the scribe, who returned it to its place in the library. Applena was given the deed by the woman in the green dress.

The woman smiled at her and said, “You are now the owner of your very own bakery. The title you hold in your hands has a map to your bakery’s location. Good luck with your business, ma’am!”

Applena thanked the woman and set out to find her new bakery’s location. She finally found it at the east side of the town. It was located near one of the major entrances of the city. She knew that it was sure to draw in a lot of business and this made her very happy. It was starting to get late. Applena decided to complete the rest of her tasks the next day. She walked to her empty booth, now owned by the merchant Garm, which still had the cart and two horses she had used to haul the apples to the city in sitting beside it. She mounted the first horse and drove it forward, pulling at the reins of the second horse as she went. In this way she traveled to her orchard outside the city, where her two assistants had already returned for the evening. They lived with her at the orchard for most of the year and had two rooms set aside for them, bedside the main resting chamber of Applena. When Applena came home, the two women greeted her merrily. The women exchanged stories of their day and then went to sleep.

In the morning, Applena set out to the city early to buy equipment for her bakery. She traveled to many of the supply stores and purchased inventory for her new bakery located on the east side of the town. She gave each of the supply stores detailed directions to her bakery, where she had her supplies delivered. After getting all of the necessary equipment, Applena realized that it had cost her exactly 1,000 gold Rungles, just like the palace cook had said. It took many weeks for all of the supplies for the bakery to be built and delivered. When they arrived, Applena set to work contracting workers to help remodel the inside of the store and to help her set up all of the supplies. This took two months to complete in total.

When the bakery was completely set up, Applena realized with wonder that the remolding process had cost her exactly 1,000 gold Rungles. The mysterious palace cook had been right again. The only thing left to do was to hire the bakers. Applena had heard of two brothers with great baking skills that lived in the palace. She traveled there with her two assistants on her cart. This time, the three women sat at the head of the cart, and Applena drove it from the driver’s seat above. When they arrived at the front gate of the palace, the guards halted them. The taller guard walked up to the cart and eyed the women suspiciously.

“What business do you woman have at the palace? Speak quickly or you shall be turned away.”

Applena fished her baker’s title out of her satchel and unraveled it before the eyes of the guard.

“My good, sir, I am here to contract two royals bakers to work in my shop. I have heard from certain sources that there are two brothers who are some of the best bakers in the land. I have the money to pay for their services, should I be allowed to talk to them, and should they be able to work for me. I wish to speak to them for this purpose.”

The guard let out a hearty laugh as Applena put the scroll back in her satchel.

“My lady, the two cooks you refer to are prized by the King. Surely they will not work at a merchant’s bakery, when they are being paid handsomely by the king. However, as is custom in this land, you may seek audience with the king and make your request to him. Proceed through these gates and continue to the main throne room. The king is listening to grievances there as we speak.”

Applena thanked the guard and he shouted up at the tower for the other royal guards to open the gates. The massive gates were pulled from each side and revealed a grand stone path that led to the main gates of the palace. Applena drove her cart forward and headed toward the main entrance as Millie and Gale looked at the magnificent statues of past royalty that loomed over the stone path on each side. When Applena reached the main gates of the palace, she was stopped by two other royal guards. This time the shorter guard approached her cart. He was a young man with dark orange eyes. He didn’t look more than sixteen years old. The guard took the reins from Applena’s hands and pointed to an area behind the castle.

“You must leave your horse and cart here. They will be placed in the royal stables until you have finished your meeting with the king of our land (long may he reign). From here, the three of you must continue on foot.”

Applena nodded and the three women climbed down from the cart. The taller guard climbed onto the main sitting area of the cart and drove it to the royal stables. The younger royal guard signaled to two guards standing above the front door of the palace to open the main gates. They pulled the massive doors open revealing a grand hall. The three women were led to the main audience hall by the young royal guard. He left them in the care of an old palace advisor and returned to his duty guarding the front entrance. The old advisor took the three women to the throne room of the king. The king was listening to the grievances of a group of farmers, who apparently had some dispute over land ownership in another area of his kingdom. Applena and her assistant patiently waited for their meeting with the king to end.

There were two other cases presented before the king before it was Applena’s turn. A few hours had passed but the three women hadn’t noticed. They had been keeping themselves entertained with stories about their work in the countryside. The old advisor interrupted their conversation and led Applena and the two women toward the king. He told the women to stand a good ways away from the throne and to kneel before him as they spoke. The three women kneeled at the appropriate distance from the throne.

Applena faced the king with determination and said, “Most magnanimous King Superliminous, I have heard that you have two royal chefs that in the entire kingdom are the most skilled at their work and highly valued. I am willing to offer everything I have for their services in my bakery. They could still work at the royal palace, but I seek their services when they are not attending to your needs at the palace. This may seem very bold of me to ask such a thing, but I thought that maybe his majesty would give me some favor, as I am the woman that has supplied you with the apples for the festivals these past two years. With this bakery, I can continue to offer my services to your kingdom and will have more revenue to invest in giving you more apples for your festival. I see it as a good partnership for us both. If your majesty would be so kind, I would like these royal bakers to be part of my shop so I can continue to serve the kingdom.”

The king looked down at the three women before him with a stern look in his eyes.

The stern eyes met Applena’s when he said, “So I am to understand that you want me to lend my best bakers to you, a merchant, so that you may increase your own wealth? How very bold of a request you make, my lady. Never in all of my years have I seen someone with such determination to succeed at business that she would even contract the service of the king’s royal bakers! I have to admit that this is unprecedented, this request you make of me.”

The king studied the young woman before him. She didn’t look any different than any of the other woman in his kingdom. She wore the same modest clothing, the same hairstyle. She even wore the same jewelry. She was the very model of a Fennian woman. However, there was something special about her, even though he couldn’t quite place his finger on it. She exuded the aura of someone that was wise beyond her years. He also was quite pleased with the apples that had been used in the years past festivals. He didn’t want Applena to know this, however. He continued to look at her with a stern glare that would make any ordinary man shake in his boots. He wanted to see just what this young woman was made of. Applena stood her ground with the bravery of the toughest of the king’s generals.

She calmly replied, “My good King Superliminous, I have heard that you are a magnanimous man, willing to help all of those in your kingdom that are in need of your royal aid. Surly, such a grand leader as yourself, can offer but a humble merchant the service of your greatest bakers at least when they are not in the service of you. It is for this kingdom’s benefit that I ask this. With their skills, I can provide the pies for your banquet myself, which will save your royal kitchen staff a lot of trouble during the festival season. This is my reason for asking their services. As a merchant, I of course seek to prosper from the sales of other baked goods I sell in my shop, but this will not detour me from performing this most glorious service for the king every year, should he allow me the honor of performing this task.”

The king could not hold in his joy any longer. His stern frown was replaced with a look of great happiness. He smiled down at the ambitious woman below.

“My lady, your determination pleases me. I was putting your character to the test, and you have passed. This is what I hereby proclaim; you will have permanent ownership of the two finest bakers of our kingdom. I will accept whatever Rungles you have for their contracted service to you. Even though they are now legally your employees, I shall compensate them with payment from the palace every year, so they do not feel they have been offered the shorter end of the stick. Everything else, I fear, you must pay for with your own merit. But you see, I am responsible for the wellbeing of these bakers wherever they end up, so they shall continue to be supported by me, even though they are under the ownership now of you. A legal contract will be drawn up to validate your ownership of their services and to ensure that they are paid annually by the government funds of the royal treasury.”

Applena was overjoyed. She hugged her two assistants and then bowed graciously before the king.

She rose up and said, “My good king Superliminous, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I will make sure to treat your bakers with care. They shall be given residence at my orchard and treated with the every respect a royal baker should receive.”

The king nodded.

“I have no doubt, my lady, that you will give them the greatest of care. I now proclaim that the royal bakers be fetched so that they may be presented to the lady before me.”

At this he turned to his royal advisor and said, “Advisor Karden, bring forth the royal bakers, Yergis and Shorsin at once. Tell them of their future services to this lady on their route here. This is my command.”

Advisor Karden bowed graciously before the king.

“I will bring them forth at once, my lord.”

Advisor Karden hurried out of the throne room and rushed down one of the grand hallways that lead to the palace kitchen. While Advisor Karden was away the king looked down at the young woman with red hair and green eyes sitting before him.

He said, “My lady, it has occurred to me that I do not know your name. Please enlighten me with this most anticipated piece of information.”

Applena, never one to speak solely of herself pointed to her two assistants Millie and Gale.

“My lord, before you learn of me, you must know of my hardworking assistants. The first one with the brown hair and gold eyes is named Gale. My dear Gale tends the apple trees in my orchard outside the city. The second assistant with the black hair and blue eyes is named Millie. She picks the apples in my orchard and helps me sell them at the market. My dear Gale helps me sell the apples at the market as well. They are both very hard working young woman. They even helped me bake goods to sell at my stand before contracting the services of your fine bakers. They deserve much of the praise. As for me, I am known as Applena. I am the daughter of the late Sheria and Gareth, famous for their apple orchards throughout all of Fenn. It is my hope that my business enterprises will honor them from beyond the grave.”

The king smiled down at the young women before him.

“How marvelous a tale you spin! Am I to understand that only three women have been tending to the orchards, and selling these goods in the market place? These young women are hard workers indeed. I have heard of Sheria and Gareth. People would always tell legends of the taste of their apples. I never believed them until I tasted their flavor in the pies at the festival the last two years. I must admit that when I tasted those apples, I thought them to have been grown by a goddess, and here I learn that they were grown by three. Three women is such a small number to tend to such a large orchard. By my word, an important staple of the kingdom should not be tended by so little a staff. From this day forth, my Lady Applena will be given a staff of royal workers, paid to tend the orchards by me. Royal contractors shall build them living arrangements on your land. Money will be provided for them by the royal treasury annually. I appoint the Lady Gale as the supervisor of the workers that will tend the orchard. She shall be compensated by me annually for her services. I appoint the Lady Millie as supervisor of the workers that will pick the apples from the orchard. She will also be compensated annually for her services. You Lady Applena, will be given these two bakers as my gratitude for the services you have provided me these last two years, and of course shall retain your title as the head lady of your staff. These are my gifts to you for your service to the kingdom. Please use them well.”

When the king had finished his proclamation, the royal advisor returned with the two chefs that were led to Applena. The kneeled beside her and her two assistants and faced the king.

The king raised his scepter above their heads and said, “From this moment forward, you are under contract of the lady Applena. I will compensate you for your services annually. You shall live with her and the rest of her staff at her orchards, which are henceforth under royal care. This is the proclamation of King Superliminous!”

The men bowed humbly before the king and then bowed to their new mistress. Applena gestured for them to raise their heads. She wasn’t used to such formality. She faced the king and smiled at him.

“My lord, words cannot express my gratitude for your actions. It is true that you are the most magnanimous of all kings. My you reign for many years to come!”

The king let out a hearty laugh.

“I hope that I reign for many years as well, should the gods have that in their plan for me. Now off with the lot of you. There is much to be done before the festival at the end of the year. I will send my contractors to your orchard within the week. They will build homes for your staff. I shall also send guards that will be compensated for their services. May you continue to serve our kingdom into your old age!”

With that, the group left the palace, guided to the front gate by the old royal advisor that had led them in. The royal guards at the front entrance fetched Applena’s cart. This time, the two woman and two men sat in the back of the cart and Applena drove it from the front. She headed back to her orchards with the group of young men and woman chatting amongst themselves behind her. When everyone reached the orchard, Applena showed the two bakers rooms where they could stay. The men thanked her and set to work decorating their rooms with a few possessions they had gathered from their rooms before being led into the main audience chamber of the king.

Over the next few months, the king sent contractors to build homes where her staff would live. When the project was complete, a domestic staff was sent to the orchard along with guards, since it was now under royal protection. Applena started running her bakery in the city with the royal bakers, Yergis and Shorsin. With the money from the pies she was able to buy more supplies to make all sorts of wonderful desserts with. People came from all over the kingdom to try her legendary apple concoctions. By the time the festival came around, Applena , Yergis, and Shorsin made enough pies to feed the entire royal court (with help of Gale, Millie, and some other members of her domestic staff). The king was very pleased and did not once regret his decision to put Applena’s apple orchard under the care of the royal house.

This same pattern followed for three years. Applena would harvest apples which were made into fine dishes in her bakery and sold to many people, throughout the land. Every year she would bake pies for the festival and be compensated for her services. During the three years, Millie grew to love the baker Shorsin. She loved his carefree attitude, his dark brown hair, and his indigo eyes. Shorsin loved Millie’s cheerful personality, her black hair, and her blue eyes. They teased each other all of the time and were the best of friends. The two married one year after they met.

In time, Gale grew to love the spunky, hot headed personality of Yergis. She loved his silky blonde hair and mint green eyes. Yergis loved the practical nature of Gale. He loved her long honey brown hair and golden eyes. It took them a little longer to confess their feelings for one another. With the help of Applena, Yergis worked up the courage to ask Gale to marry him, two years after they met. Gale happily agreed and the two married a few months after.

Applena was very happy for them, but there was a part of her that felt very sad. All of the celebrating made her think of the mysterious traveler that had brought her all of her fortune. She wanted to repay him for his kindness, wherever he was. She had asked the king multiple times about him, but the king had insisted that Yem was the head chef and he didn’t know what she was talking about. This made Applena wonder about the mysterious traveler even more. Had he been a fairy that had taken a liking to her? Was he wandering wizard that had placed an enchantment on Yem to make him follow his commands? Applena didn’t know the answer. She just counted herself as being very lucky for meeting the man, whoever he was.

And so, to pick up where we left off, three years later, at the beginning of the fall season, the same mysterious traveler came to Applena’s bakery where she was hard at work making some items to place in her shop. Applena was very happy to see him. She immediately stopped what she was doing and greeted him at the front counter.

“My good sir, my heart is overjoyed to see you here again. You have offered me much advice. I can never begin to repay you for your services. Offer anything you want from me and I will do my best to provide it.”

Applena could see a faint smile from the other side of the hood. The man pulled back his cloak and Applena gasped at the face she saw. It was king Superliminous eldest son, Prince Murseilles II. She would recognize his long black hair and red eyes anywhere. Prince Murseilles II was the first in line to the throne. He had two brothers, Prince Alarktrious the middle prince who was the general of the kingdom’s army, and the youngest Prince Paleyentus, who was the governor of the town of Gardaere. All princes had the trademark long black hair and red eyes of the Fennian royalty. Even king Superliminous bore this trait. Applena immediately fell to the floor in reverence, as did her two baker assistants. Prince Murseilles II let out a hearty laugh and gestured for the three to stand up.

As they cautiously rose from their positions on the floor Prince Murseilles said, “Now, now, there is no need to show me such formalities. I am not the king yet. As it stands, I am a head Advisor at the palace, which while I admit is an important role, is not as important as my father, the head of the country’s affairs, or my dear mother Elstrica, the head of the royal council. I am but a noble official, and nothing more. There is no need to show this kind of respect to my station.”
Applena was surprised at the kindness the prince showed her. It was clear that he had the same generosity as his father. Applena looked at her two baker assistants for a moment and then returned her gaze to the prince.

“My lord, I am most honored that you have helped me as much as you have, but I must wonder why you have shown so much favor to me. I am just a common woman, with land rights to be sure, but still as common as any of the other merchants in this marketplace. I must tell you that I am distressed that there is nothing that I could possibly offer you to repay the services you have offered to me. It was my hope that I could give the person who bestowed so much wealth on me something of greater or equal value, but what can one give a prince that he does not already own? This brings me much sadness, as the only thing I can offer you is my continued allegiance to your father’s court and my eternal gratitude for everything you have done.”

The prince leaned against the counter until he was only a few inches away from Applena’s head.

“I think there is something else you can do for me, my Lady. If you are so in debt to me for what I have done, than perhaps you can repay me this way. You must come to the castle and be my wife. I will not force you to make this decision, but it is my hope that you will accept my proposal.”

The prince kissed Applena’s forehead and she began to cry.

Through a strained voice she said, “But my lord, I am just a common girl. I know nothing about governing a country. I know nothing about the royal house. I want to repay you but…I don’t know if I can repay you in this way. Besides, I have the orchard and my bakery to worry about. I can’t just leave them to go off and become part of the royal house. There are many people that depend on me.”

The prince gazed lovingly into Applena’s eyes and dried her tears with his hand.

“My lady, do not cry. It brings me no joy to see you in such a state. You must know that I have thought of these things myself and I have found a solution. The orchard will be legally handed over to Millie, Yergis, Shorsin, and Gale. They shall co-run the orchard and will be promoted to royal caretakers of the bakery and apple orchards. Their children will inherit that role, as will their children. You will be free to visit the orchards and bakery any time you wish. You will come to the palace and be trained as an advisor. When it comes time to take the throne, you will be trained in the traditional role of the queen, the head of the council. You have the spirit and motivation to be these things. I have faith that you will make a just ruler. For you see, no matter what wealth I gave you, you thought of others. You thought of the girls you contracted. You thought of the wellbeing of the royal bakers. Even now you worry about their future. Compassion is the greatest attribute of a ruler, and you have trait tenfold. I can only surmise that based on this, there is no other person suited for the role of queen, than yourself.”

Applena felt a thousand emotions whirling around inside of her at once. She was excited that the prince wanted her to be his wife, but at the same time she was scared she wouldn’t live up to his expectations. She was happy that she finally knew who the masked man was but a bit angry that he hadn’t told her of his true identity before. Many thoughts rand through her head at once. She did not know what to say.

The only think she could think to mutter was, “But why me? Why do you want me?”

The Prince smiled tenderly down at her.

“Because when I was a young boy, I went to the market place. I went with a palace assistant, against my father’s instructions, because I wanted to see the city. You were outside the cart with your parents, calling people over to taste your family’s goods. As I watched your family, I wandered away from the advisor I had come to the market with and I became lost. I was terribly upset. The only thing I could think to do was to wait at your parent’s stand. Your parents recognized me immediately. They gave me shelter and offered me their apples to eat. Your father set off to find the advisor that I had wandered away from. As I sat in the shade of the open bed of your cart you came over. You gave me three gold coins and told me to buy a snack from the nearest vendor with it. Don’t be sad, you said, go get something to make yourself feel better. Despite your modest position, you offered me, the prince who has more gold than anyone in this land, everything you had to make me feel better. Back at the palace, people were always kind to me because I was the prince. They never treated me with kindness because they wanted to. It was their duty. But in the entire time I was left at your parent’s cart, you took care of me and even tried to be my friend. You taught me that game, remember? The one where you put the sticks in a row and have to guess which one has the blessing. You were the only true friend I ever had. When the advisor came back I was sad to leave. I wanted to be your friend. Through the ages when I visited the market, I was kept under better supervision. I would watch you sell the apples to the people of the kingdom with your parents. I couldn’t approach your stand, because I was followed by such a large train of advisors and guards. I watched you grow and grow. When I learned that your parents had died I felt a great sadness for you. I wished that I could have done something to help. So, in repayment I offered my services to you four years ago. I had to come in disguise and in secret so I would not be followed by the palace guards. I made Yem swear on his life that he would tell no one of my plans. The more I cooked up the scheme the more I realize why I was doing it. I wanted to repay you for the kindness you showed me those many years ago. I knew that I had always loved you. And here I am today in your bakery, and I want you to accept my proposal. No one will refuse my proposal. It is the custom of this land for the prince to marry anyone he chooses in his kingdom. I want the woman who loves me for who I am, and not my title. So I humbly wait for your most cherished answer.”

Applena all of the sudden remembered the meeting she had had with the prince all of those years ago. She was surprised that he remembered such a small action of hers so well. Looking into his eyes, Applena knew that the prince’s feelings for her were genuine, so after thinking it over for a moment longer she accepted his proposal. Two months later, the two were married. The shop and orchard were handed over to Mille, Yergis, Shorsin, and Gale to run as the new royal owners. Applena became the second head advisor and was well known for her kindness throughout the land.

When the king passed away many years later, Murseilles II took the throne and Applena became his queen. She bore him two sons with the trademark Black hair and red eyes, but also Two daughters with red hair and eyes such a dark color of green that they were almost black. From that day forward, all of the women in the royal house of Fenn had characteristic red hair and black eyes, while the sons kept their black hair and red eyes. The royal house was known for this odd characteristic many generations after Applena and Murseilles II’s rein.

It is said that Yergis, Shorsin, Gale, and Millie ran the royal orchards and bakery well. They too had many sons and daughters that carried on their parent’s work long after they died. And this is how the kingdom of Fenn became legendary throughout the world of Iregeya for the generosity of their royal house, and the apples that were grown in its royal orchards. If ever a traveler visited the kingdom, they would stop by the bakery and taste one of the legendary baked goods. And every one of them without fail would say, “Whomever owns the apple orchards that bear the fruit that these goods are made from, surely is blessed by the gods.”

Applena would often help out in the bakery or the orchards when time permitted her to, which made her very loved and popular among her people. She would often hear travelers praising her family’s orchard. On the third year of her rein, she decreed the orchards be called “The Orchards of the Gods” after the many rumors that were carried from one end of Iregeya to the other.