“No! Miss!” The pink-haired fairy warrior dashed forward and grabbed at me. “It’s dangerous!”
She had pulled pretty hard, but as a mere lesser fairy, she didn’t have my vampire fairy level of strength and failed to do more than halt me.
“I’m already standing inside the field,” I pointed out. My voice was shaking a bit, because…
IT FREAKING HURT!!!!!
The purification was only partially penetrating the healing mana coat I was wearing, but my limbs and body were screaming in pain, and the [Healing] that I was using to counteract it felt like it was roasting me alive. I so dearly wanted out of that field.
I kept my voice steady as I noted, “If this thing was going to insta-kill me, it would have accomplished it by now, you know?”
Wide-eyed, she nodded and let my arm go. I finished walking through. Once I was out of the field, I heaved a sigh of relief, but I kept the [Healing] active. Healing a healthy body accomplishes nothing physically, but it doesn’t hurt anything, so as long as I didn’t keep channeling new mana into it, it was no different than dispelling the mana. But the pain relieving side of it soothed my aching body, once the sensation of searing heat went away. Or maybe that was just relief that the searing heat had gone away?
The three, and the other guardsmen in the background, were still staring at me. After enduring their gawking for a moment, I asked, “Am I allowed to go?”
“Do you… always glow bright white like that?” The blond asked.
“Only if I really ramp the mana up,” I answered. “May I go?”
She nodded wordlessly.
Now that I’ve gone through [Purification] effects a few times, I am confident that it’s my fairy biology actually protecting my monster biology by preserving a small portion of the miasma that [Purification] is destroying. By using [Healing], I can buffer my monster cells so they can immediately recover from the shock of suddenly losing the miasmic portion of their chemistry. Even so, I had a serious case of body aches and had to exercise some rigid self-control to gracefully bow and bid them good day.
So, I was finally inside Tëan Tír, Tiana’s birthplace, but I was alone and I had no idea where to go. Remember, the last time Tiana was here, she was only six months old.
In the distance, here and there, I could see a few fairies in the air, so flight was allowed. I took wing as well. Let them think a succubus had shown up. My nerves were still frazzled from the nasty experience I had just gone through, and I didn’t care.
As I flew, I looked for visual clues. This was a subalpine valley that was wide and flat, filled mostly with old-growth forest. Robert had read that this sort of geology was the result of a mountain lake filling up with silt and becoming land. This lake must have been a huge one, because the valley bottom was a couple miles across and continued many miles into the distance ahead of me.
Inexplicable structures were scattered here and there, but the place was mostly just trees. Several times, I pondered enormous, ornate glass domes or massive obelisks with no clear function. I saw no roads except a single lane running through the middle of the forest, but intertwined through the forest were a couple very modern-looking transportation systems: a suspended railway made of wood and a variety of aerial tramways. I had never seen anything like it on Huade anywhere else.
While I was gawking at those and reminding myself that this wasn’t Earth, Kiki again appeared out of thin air and landed on her new favorite perch, my shoulder.
“Big Sis see Big Brother’s friend now?”
“Is that the Fairy King?” I checked
“Then yes. Any idea where I need to go?”
“Mmmmm… maybe follow Kiki?”
I nodded. “Sure.”
She flew ahead of me as we passed over little clusters of buildings interspersed among a wide expanse of trees. It didn’t look much like a city or even a town, but the clusters looked like hamlets of five or ten buildings each, usually around a little green or plaza, and the trees often broke to reveal ponds or small greens, and sometimes a fountain just randomly appearing. It was incredibly haphazard.
We finally, encountered something more town-like. From a distance, the massive trees typical of the valley had fully hidden it. There were a number of two- and three-story buildings, and even a plaza with something like a sidewalk cafe.
We encountered several more, until we approached the cluster of towers I had seen from the entry, where I discovered the largest town yet, that appeared to include a couple inns and even a couple large plazas with sidewalk cafes and a gazebo.
The towers themselves, in the center of all this, were shorter than I thought, but they did rise ten stories or so above this little city. I still didn’t have a clue as to their function– they were too skinny to be something like office buildings– although a couple of them had practically the same shape as a traditional New England lighthouse.
We had just finished passing over that place and were heading toward a Stonehenge-like structure at the edge of a solidly forested area, when a whole squadron of fairies, including three fairy knights, rose out of the trees below and surrounded me.
I was forced to come to a halt as the lead fairy knight, a statuesque woman with flowing green hair, pulled up directly in front of me.
She wore a panoply almost identical to the one Mother had first horrified Tiana with, at the time she received knighthood. Not the armor she actually wore when the Hero’s Party first set out, but the significantly more risque Version 1.0 that Tiana had refused to even try on.
Mother’s tour-de-force had the same gauntlets and sabatons that I am still using on my current armor, but the ‘greaves’ were magically-enhanced silk stockings held up by garters, there was nothing for the arms above the gauntlets, and the remainder included nothing but a halter-top breastplate and skimpy faulds resembling a microskirt. Under that? Magically enhanced silk panties.
Not kidding. I think it was one of the only times in her life that Tiana said ‘no’ outright to her mother.
The fairy knight wearing almost the same thing puffed out her chest and declared, “We are the defenders of this valley, in the name of Faerie. Identify yourself!”
It wasn’t a personal introduction, but it counted, so I did my best to curtsey mid-air and once again give the full spiel. “Pendorle lianelfen Orestaniale enorafen Vesirle enel, Semöan Cenole Tianà ci cyralinëo.“
My audience looked puzzled, except for the three true fairies, whose expressions grew darker. They showed no surprise, and that told me they already knew about me.
“You shall follow us,” the lead knight ordered.
She turned and flew off. One of the other knights waved me on and I followed, with the ordinary soldiers of the squadron falling in around me.
Our destination turned out to be that Stonehenge-like circle. I realized as we set down amongst the monoliths that it set at the bottom of a circular depression, with the shape of the land around the structure forming a natural amphitheater.
Only the fairy knights landed inside the circle with me. The rest of the squadron, normal raiment-clad lesser fairy warriors, stayed on the grass surrounding the circle.
The lead knight declared, “You shall remain here and wait. The Lady of the Valley requires an audience of you.”
“Who is the Lady of the Valley?”
The knight scowled, but answered, “The marshal of the valley’s defense.”
She wouldn’t answer any more questions.
A variety of short, fat pedestals of stone, just the right height to act as seats, formed an inner circle. I wandered over to one and sat, crossing my legs with my hands in my lap. The lead knight looked a little sour, but said nothing, so I assumed it was permitted.
We waited for probably a half hour as others gathered gradually, outside the circle. Most of them appeared to be lesser fairies, but a few true fairies were intermixed. Those seemed to be the big shots while the lesser fairies were probably servants and aides.
Finally, at some signal I didn’t catch, the true fairies emerged from the crowd and entered the circle. All of the newcomers were in raiment. The three knights moved to take their place among the other fairies.
Taking their advance as my cue, I rose and stepped forward.
In the center of this committee stood an imperious looking, silver-haired, sapphire-eyed fairy whose face and butterfly wings reminded me of Mother.
Her raiment, which resembled liquid gold, stuck to her neatly-turned maidenly body so tightly I would have suspected body paint if not for the lower portion that fell like a normal skirt. An opaque swath of it crossed her bosom, starting from one shoulder and barely covering the opposite breast, where it ended. Below that, it turned gauzy and translucent enough to show her ribs, navel and the points of her pelvis clearly. It became opaque again, just barely in time, at her hips.
But rather than the flirt that the outfit suggested, her bearing was that of a military commander, or perhaps a queen. That impression was amplified by the presence of the green-haired fairy knight, who had taken up a position at her right side. If the ‘commander’ aged herself slightly, like my mother does, she would have been even more striking, but even as a seemingly teenage girl, she was pretty intimidating.
“You are the one who claims to be a princess,” she stated.
I gave my Orestanian curtsey and delivered my introduction in proper Fairy yet again. When I finished rising, I added, “My mother, Princess Deharè, claims that I am a princess. Therefore, I say it is a fact.”
The fairy gave a nod acknowledging my words, then strode forward until she was directly in front of me, staring me in the eye. She then carefully inspected my face to the left and the right. It was such a careful survey that I half-expected her to reach up and turn my head. It reminded me of scenes of boot camp I had seen in the movies. The whole thing where the drill sergeant is intimidating the recruit.
“So my little sister really did give birth to a monster,” she finally muttered. Although, ‘monster’ wasn’t said in a tone of disgust like I had heard from fairies like Feraen. It was just a musing comment.
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