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A horrible rumbling growl wakes me. I jump out of bed looking for the big cat about to attack me. Anabel, Birch, and Ben are the only ones in the room. It must have been a bad dream.
Then I hear it again. Oh boy. It's my stomach. I need to find something to eat. I quietly open the door surprised that I haven't already woken Ben. There's a softly lit lantern on the floor (actually a bright companion) and a fragrant pumpkin pie with whipped cream. Sebastien found a way to use all the morphing pumpkins collected by the ghosts and provided me with a perfect middle of the night snack. I pick up the pie, cream, and lantern which automatically dims a little more when I enter our room and slip into bed with my bounty. I'll worry about the crumbs and spilled cream in the morning.
Ben and I thoroughly clean up all the pie crumbs and cream, practice water conservation and dress for breakfast with Belle and Sebastien. As we pass through the game room, I see many ghosts sporting an avatar with Pegasus. Sebastien makes sunny side up eggs and bacon while we all catch up.
"The Queen isn't doing well. She's missing her mate tremendously and is losing the will to live. I understand her sadness but I don't know how I can help her unless I can find her mate. I have no clue where to begin."
"Hon, don't worry about that now. This break is so you can reconnect with me and your personal needs."
Belle noticed my wistfulness when I entered the kitchen, "Poppet, what is making you slightly disappointed?"
"I missed out on the Pegasus avatar and I love it. It reminds me of your immortal duties and time we've spent caring for your charges."
"Sweetie, the castle challenge is still occurring and we'll help you get caught up. There's a day and a half left."
I jump up from the breakfast table and run to the game room to my computer. I look at the tasks and my shoulders slump. There are a lot of ghost collecting tasks which take so much time. Sebastien walks up behind me and softly says, "I'll make sure Salty knows he needs to lose at dice if he wants Zarknorph to let him keep his liquor license." I beam. Maybe I have a chance.
I hit the first ghost task and yellow ghosts line up to float across my screen; my daily quests are all 3 of 3 different candies; blue, violet, green and azure ghosts all line up to float across my screen. I'm more than 2/3 through the challenge but I've reached the red ghosts and there's not a single one in the castle. Oh no! I need to think of a strategy.
In the Mandrake Kingdom....
Though there have been many meetings on the issue, they have yet to come up with a solution.
”I am their queen, that should be good enough.”
”Majesty, please try to remember that for thousands of years they did not have a queen.” Lord Septen says.
”But they did have the lower ranked royals. What happened to them? Did they abandon the people?” Antheia asks as she realizes that she is speaking to a few of those lords.
”We did not abandon the people. Instead, we watched over them and let them rule themselves. Might I suggest we take a more democratic move and let the people decide who they want to rule over them?” Lord Gineran says.
”Why would we do that?”
”It might placate the people and put these protests to bed.” Lord Septen answers.
Much bickering ensues among her council as Antheia sits back to listen to what is said and contemplate the idea of an election.
The sound of the twins crying wakes me out of my depression long enough to remember that they still need me. I take care of their needs then pack them up to go to the store.
The walk takes a bit longer as the fall ghosts are back and I have to dodge and duck the houses. We get what we need then stop by the sheriff’s office for an update.
”Sorry Ma’am, but there hasn’t been any sign of Galen. Perhaps it is time to contact the guardians.” He turns and walks away.
Despondent, I take the twins home.
After putting away the groceries, I send a note to Lucius and Gray Nightwalker.
‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, no one was stirring not even the dogs. The boys were all snuggled in their crib with care, who knows what stirred in their heads. Missing Galen, I settled down for my winters nap. I in my flannel pajamas and warm woolen socks had just closed my eyes when there came a clutter.
I got up and opened the shutter and what did my eyes see? 9 different reindeer ghosts playing with a sleigh in the yard. They pushed and pulled and tried to make it fly. It brought a smile and a need to laugh I hadn’t felt in a long while.
I went back to bed but wasn’t there long when there came growls from the living room. Up once again, I went to see what the dogs had cornered only to see an overgrown elf. All dressed in red with white trim, he quietly tried to shush the dogs while he laid gifts under my little tree. Just when I thought he was done, he pulled two more out; bones for the dogs which he gave to them.
Then he turned and spotted me there. He gave me wink and then disappeared. As I headed back to bed, I could swear that I heard “ Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.”
l know that I am a little late with this, but it didn’t come to me sooner.
I’ve been dreaming about Galen again; weird and dark dreams that I can’t put into words. It is like his body is alive somewhere but his soul is in a dark, cold place. I feel his presence in the dreams and can hear him call out; yet it is too dark to see him. As I move through this cold, dark place, the cold goes through me like ice in a drink and I hear other voices; Galen isn’t alone. When I wake I feel the cold as though I have been outside in the snow: naked. It takes turning up the heater and a pile of blankets to warm me.
The notes asking for assistance have gone unanswered and I wonder if they reached their intended recipients. I certainly hope they have.
A silver dragon lands in the back yard and takes the form of an older male elf. He walks around to the front of the house and knocks on the door. He looks around as he waits and makes mental notes to himself about the neighborhood. He can hear th dogs barking inside. When he hears the door unlock, he turns back towards it.
I hear the knock at the door while I am taking a moment to relax. Buddy had cuddled up to me on the couch and was nearly asleep. Now the dogs are barking but not running toward the door. I get up and go to the door. When I look outside, I don’t recognize the male but open the door anyway, “ Hello”.
”Hello. Are you Myelle? “ he asks.
”Yes. Who are you and what do you want?”
”My name is Ronan and I am here to help. The gods have heard your pleas for help and they sent me. May I come in?”
I take a few seconds to consider before moving aside and opening the door further. “Yes” and I move aside. Ronan enters and the dogs come to greet him and check out the new person. He kneels down and pets them as if they are old friends and stays there until Buddy and Lady have had enough attention. “Their names are Buddy and Lady” I say.
“They are nice dogs.” He sees the boys napping in the playpen and studies them for a moment before looking at me. “Your sons are beautiful. They are going to grow up and be heart breakers until they find their fated mates. May I?” He asks indicating the couch.
”Certainly” I answer. “Would you like something to eat or drink?”
”Tea would be nice.”
I nod and go into the kitchen. I put the kettle on to heat, put a couple of mugs, spoons and teabags on a tray with sugar, honey and milk. I add a plate of cookies. When the water is hot, I pour and add the teabags to the cups before bringing them out. I put the tray on the coffee table. I serve him a cup “there is milk and sweetener” and l hand him a spoon.
Ronan takes the cup and spoon, “thank you”.
I sit down with mine in the chair. “You are welcome. Now, what are you really here for? You are welcome to the cookies if you want any.”
He fixes his tea, studies the cookies then sits back on the couch while I wait. “Tell me, what do you know of Galen’s happenings before he disappeared?”
”Not much. He was being good father but I could tell something was wrong. He wouldn’t talk about it though. Something happened before we moved back into this house. What did the gods tell you?”
”Only that he is a protector and needs help. What happened when he vanished?”
“He didn’t exactly vanish,” I say. “He got this blank look on his face, dropped the fork he was holding, got up, walked out the door and headed for the forest. I haven’t seen him since. I searched but failed.” A tear falls from each eye and I have to look away.
Ronan sits quietly while I compose myself before speaking. Thunder rolls across the sky and we both look up.
Lucius is headed for his office when a servant brings him a note. “Sir, the cook found this in the kitchen. It is addressed to you.” He shakily says s he hands the note over.
”Why was this in the kitchen when it is for me?”
”I don’t know, sir.”
”Where was it found?” Lucius asks as he looks at it. “Never mind, I will deal with the problem later.” He runs off leaving the servent confused. Shaking his head, he heads back to the kitchen.
Lucius runs to Antheia’s office, enters quickly and has to take a few beats of his heart before speaking.
Antheia looks up, “ What is wrong, Lucius?”
”first off, we have a problem with our staff, someone is keeping our messages from us.” He holds up the paper. “Second, this is from Myelle; something has happened to Galen. I have to go.”
Getting up and coming around the desk, “what has happened? How are they?” She asks concerned.
”Something happened to Galen and then he vanished. Myelle is upset and needs help. I have to go.”
Lady Dragon is just entering and hears what is said. “I will look into the issue with the note, my Lord. I will have an answer for you when you return.”
”Thank you” Lucius says to her before heading out.
The females watch him leave before speaking. “I hope all will be well soon, Majesty.”
”Me too. Now what news do you have for me?”
“The invites have gone out to the leaders of the factions that are causing trouble. Now, all we have to do is wait and see.”
”Good. I hope we can solve this issue soon.”
”Majesty, if I may...”
”Yes? Speak your mind my friend.”
”You are queen, your word is law. Why don’t you just assert your power?”
”As much as I would like to, these people aren’t used to having anyone to rule over them.”
”You forget, Majesty, many of you subjects are very old. Some, a few anyway, were alive when your mother ruled.”
”I will not become a tyrant type of ruler. This may be a monarchy but there is no need for me to rule with an iron fist.”
”You may have to make an example of the leaders to end this opposition to your rule.”
”I will cross that bridge when I come to it. Now, you may go. Please check on my children” Antheia says as she sits down behind her desk. “Then you may go home if you wish.”
”Yes, Majesty.” Lady Dragon takes her leave of the queen and quietly closes the door behind her. She heads for the nursery before starting her investigation.
Antheia tries to return to her reports on the royal accounts but can’t concentrate. “I need to clear my head” she says to herself as she stands. She heads out to her private garden.
Lucius is outside and winging his way to Galen and Myelle’s home in town in just a few minutes. Knowing it is going to take hours, he paces himself so as not to tire himself.
After giving him the details of what I witnessed, our conversation turned to our shared dreams. He insisted on getting all of the details that I could recall.
”I think I may know where we will find Galen and many others who are missing.” Ronan says. “You will need to come with me.”
“I can’t. I don’t have anyone to take care of my children and the dogs.” As if on cue, the boys wake up. Naturally, they are hungry and need to eat. They cry so I get up to take care of them. “Excuse me.”
”Let me help” and he also gets up. I pick up one and he gets the other. He follows me into the other room where I find out that he is good with babies. There is small talk while I feed them.
As I get to know Ronan better, something stirs within me but I am not sure what it is. What I do know, is that if Galen was dead or otherwise permanently gone and Ronan is still in my life, I won’t be able to resist being with him. I try to mentally shake it off.
After the boys are fed we return to the living room, he plays with them while I clean up our snack and let the dogs out.
It started to rain so I called the dogs in. They headed to the living room, Ronan and the boys. I followed them into the living room and saw them all over Ronan and the boys. Suddenly there is a bright flash of light followed by a mighty boom. It caused all of us to pause, including the dogs. The boys started to cry and the dogs whined as they tried to hide behind the couch.
Ronan and I picked up the boys to calm them as the storm waged war outside. After a few minutes of rocking them and softly talking, the boys calmed down. We put them back into the playpen.
”I need to leave,” Ronan says.
”In this weather? You should at least wait until it calms down out there.”
”I assure you, I will be fine. I have flown in this kind of weather before.”
”Flown? What are you?” I ask.
He looks deep into my eyes as he answers “I am a dragon.”
I hear him but find myself lost in his gaze. My breath quickens as I see and feel things that I shouldn’t and don’t want. When he turns away and breaks the spell, I suddenly feel very cold and wrap my arms around myself. “What was that?”
”Are you okay?” He asks but doesn’t ever answer my question.
” I’m not sure. You should go. Be careful.”
“I will.” He moves to the door, opens it and is gone as I get there to close and lock it. Starting to shake, I curl up on the couch with a blanket around me. I watch the boys play and listen to the weather outside.
Ronan becomes the dragon once he is away from the house. “What happened in there when our eyes locked?” He asks his dragon.
”Her mate is missing and she is fertile. It is her body needing to mate and our response to those pheromones.”
“I should have known that.” Ronan answers then flies in the direction that Galen was seen walking. However, he doesn’t believe that it is just pheromones. Ronan believes there is something more going on.