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The catastrophe of the e.., p.16
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       The Catastrophe of the Emerald Queen, p.16

           LR Manley
 
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   He climbed a short rise in the earth and grasped a protruding tree root to haul himself up. As he made the top of the climb his foot slipped and he fell backwards, landing heavily. Moaning in pain as the wound reopened in his shoulder, he felt the blood seep through his clumsy bandage. The curtain of exhaustion began to descend upon him and he shook his head to clear it. “For Alegria,” he said through gritted teeth. Summoning the last of his energy he struggled upright. Taking a deep breath he hauled himself up the small rise and this time made it to the top. As he moved forward, stars began swirling before his eyes and he cursed his body for proving so useless at a time when he needed it most. As he tottered forward he saw beyond a large clump of tall grass a tiny figure suddenly lurch up into the air. Gold and silver particles danced around as it squeaked and bobbed about in front of him. As his weakened mind and body started to close down he lurched towards it and raised his hand, imploring for help. Then there was darkness.

  Kloee’s muffled squeaks came from under Kulkrain’s body as she struggled to free herself. At twelve inches tall she was lucky he hadn’t crushed her as he fell. Fortunately he hadn’t landed completely on top of her. After much grunting and shoving she finally managed to get her head free and hauled herself out, dragging her satchel behind her. The petals were all crushed and she indignantly hovered above the prostrate form, wings beating furiously, as she dusted herself off. She glared at the silent form beneath her. 

  “What did you want to do that for?” she shouted indignantly. “That was a silly thing to do.”

   Kloee was cross. Not only had she been very frightened, she’d also been trapped and was dirty. Not to mention her prize petals being ruined by this careless person. 

  “Well?” she said angrily. “Haven’t you got anything to say for yourself?” brushing some specks of dirt from her arms and out of her blonde hair. 

  Kulkrain lay there unconscious and as Kloee stared at him she saw the blood seeping through the torn bandage on his shoulder. Her anger vanished in an instant as she realised something was seriously wrong. “Oh…my,” she stammered and flew down to his head. “I’m sorry I shouted at you, I really am. Are you hurt?”

   Kulkrain moaned quietly but didn’t stir or open his eyes. He was laying facing away from her and Kloee lowered herself to the earth and looked frantically at his face. His skin was pale and he was clearly in need of urgent care. “I’m so sorry,” she said again and reached for the tiny water bottle on her belt. Uncorking it she poured a little bit into his lips. Kulkrain murmured, but still did not move. 

  Replacing the bottle Kloee decided what she must do. Flying off to the place she’d left the others, she knew they had to get help.

  Kloee came across Garf and Mary still squabbling. She flew up to them as they argued, fairy dust littering the floor and the air around them as they shouted and waved their arms around.

   “Garf, Mary, a people’s hurt!” Kloee shouted as she hovered next to them. They ignored her and carried on arguing over who they should have followed. “HEY!!!” she shouted again and they both stopped and glared at her as she stood there with her hands on her hips.  

  “Oh, very stroppy aren’t we!” Mary said and was about to continue when Kloee shouted.

   “There’s a people hurt back there, he needs our help!”

   Mary and Garf looked at each other and back at Kloee. Their expressions instantly changed and Garf said, “I’ll fetch Muttley” and flew off up the path. Within a minute he was there too and, their animosity forgotten they sped to where Kulkrain was lying.

   “Poor people,” Kloee said, her voice full of concern. “We need to get him to master.” She hovered over Kulkrain’s injured shoulder and then looked at the others.

   Muttley nodded. “Ok, let’s do this the way we were told ok?”

   Without any discussion they each moved to hover above a foot or a shoulder and, looking at one another Kloee counted to three and then they all glowed bright orange. Kulkrain lifted off the floor, rising slowly, his eyelids fluttering in his deathly white face, his arms lolling to the side. Then, with as much care as they could give, they gently flew home with Kulkrain between them. 

  Chapter 18

   

  As Maximo and the boys approached the front door he turned to them.  

  “So I think we should get you all dried off and there’s some lovely food waiting for you…,” he continued when suddenly there was a high pitched voice that shouted:

  “Master!”

   Maximo turned quickly to the sound and Jared was astonished to see four small fairies with light glowing around them like oversize fireflies, flying around a man who was shirtless and bloody. He appeared to be unconscious and Maximo ran, surprisingly quickly for someone his size, to intercept them. 

  The fairies gently placed the man down on the floor on his back and the orange lights around them gently faded. “What happened?” Maximo said, feeling for a pulse on the man’s neck. Jared and the boys crowded round.  

  “Found a people in the woods master!” Kloee replied. “He fell on me when I was collecting for you.” 

  Jared remembered the first aid course he’d been told about when he went rafting with his father the summer before. He looked at Maximo. “Roll him on his side, the opposite one to his bad shoulder. He could choke on his own tongue.” 

  Maximo looked at him confused for a moment but then moved forward and after some twisting and gentle pulling he rolled Kulkrain onto his side. Mordalayn emerged from the rear door of the house and strode quickly to where they were gathered. “Move aside,” he said in a low but clear voice and without hesitation a path was cleared for him. He looked at Kulkrain and saw the tattoo on his right arm. “Alegrian brotherhood,” he noted, crouching to check the wound on the shoulder. “He’s badly hurt; we need to get him inside.” 

  Maximo turned to Kloee. “If you four would be so kind as to take this poor man into the house, to my bedroom and lay him down. We will deal with his wounds.” 

  “Of course master!” Kloee said eagerly and once again her and the other three hovered over Kulkrain and drew him up in the air, the orange glows from their bodies shining brightly as they took him into the house. Mordalayn cleared a path of open doors and when they reached Maximo’s room they laid him gently on the bed. Maximo’s wife came running into the room and Maximo removed the grimy shirt from Kulkrain’s shoulder. The wound was messy. He turned to his wife; “get me hot water and bandages and ointment for this. He appears to have lost a lot of blood.” She scurried from the room. Maximo then turned to the others. “Everyone else please wait outside,” and pointed to the door. Jared and the boys left and the fairies flittered silently out the room. Maximo closed the door, leaving him and Mordalayn alone with the injured man.

   Outside Kloee turned to Jared. “You’re very clever young master” she said blushing. “I didn’t know about putting the poor man on his side.”  

  Bue looked at Kloee hovering above Jared and smiled. “Oh, think she likes you mate, when a fairy finds a human it likes, you can’t get rid of them.” 

  Kloee frowned at Bue and hovered next to Jared looking at him adoringly. “Young master’s lovely,” she purred as they moved down the corridor. 

  Chapter 19

   

  Makeo held his finger to his lips and gestured for the others to follow. Silently they crept out into the corridor and made their way to the back door that led to the garden. Stifling giggles, the smaller boys gripped towels and held their shoes in their hands. The light from the fairies lit the way, giving them just enough illumination to see by. The fairies grinned broadly. Being mischievous was part of their nature. As they reached the back door Makeo turned and was about to speak when a harsh voice boomed. “AND WHERE EXACTLY DO YOU THINK YOU’RE GOING?” 

  Makeo jumped and Getruhl yelled in fright. Kloee squeaked in terror and flew behind Jared’s shoulder, sparkling dust flying up in the air in her wake. She timidly peeked o
ut behind his neck at the owner of the voice. 

  Maximo had appeared from nowhere and was stood in front of the doorway, the lamp light casting deep shadows on his thick face. He stood with his hands on his hips, his fists balled. He glared at Makeo, then at the others. He was still dressed in his day clothes and had his shirt open and his waistcoat unbuttoned. Makeo silently cursed himself for not waiting till later when Maximo would have been asleep before he’d excitedly arranged this midnight pool trip.

   “I said WHERE do you think you’re going?” Maximo shouted, his voice sterner still. 

  “We just wanted to…” 

  “Well you know what ‘want’ did, don’t you?” Maximo snapped at him.

   The other fairies were hovering over their charges. Jared and Bue looked sheepish. For all Bue’s cheeky behaviour, he knew this was wrong. 

  “I gave you AND your Madame gave you, strict rules about your conduct in my house and you act like this?” Maximo said, rounding on Jared and Bue.

  Makeo said quickly. “It wasn’t their fault Master Cherubsayl. It was my idea.” 

  Maximo thought for a moment and looked at each one of them. Kloee and one or two of the other fairies were still scared and peeped timidly out over the boys’ shoulders, tiny auras winking in the light. 

  Maximo finally relaxed. “There are rules in this house for a reason. I do not impose them just to make you unhappy. Do you understand that?” 

  Makeo looked at the floor, his cheeks burning with embarrassment. 

  The hovering fairies also bowed their heads and Jared felt awkward. He glanced over at Bue who shrugged. 

  Maximo’s face softened and he turned to Makeo. “You are a good boy Makeo but you need to learn. The pool is dangerous at night.”

   Makeo nodded, still looking at the floor. “I didn’t mean any harm Master,” he said, tears welling in his eyes. 

  Maximo placed a reassuring hand on his arm and gestured back down the corridor and smiled. “Come. Let’s go to the kitchen. I will make some hot chud and tell you a tale.” 

  In the kitchen they sat round the large oak table while Maximo stirred the a thick, light brown liquid into mugs and handed them out. The fairies had gone, back to their own quarters and once everyone had a cup in front of them they began to drink. It was hot and reminded Jared of toffee fudge.

  Then Maximo told them a story. The story of someone who had only meant well.

  “Many years ago in Alegria there was a family who took over a big house when a rich aunt died and left it to them. She loved her family and they loved her and the house was so big and so full of things that it took weeks to get everything sorted.

  The attic of this house was enormous. Full of exciting things and the children of the family loved to go up there and see what treats and surprises and treasures they could find in boxes, sometimes dusty, sometimes old, sometimes broken but always captivating and interesting. Their curiosity knew no limits. 

  One day they were clearing the attic when the youngest sister found a statue of a little boy. It was elegantly carved and made of a beautiful creamy coloured marble. The boy had his eyes closed and appeared to be at peace, his hands clasped in front of him. The statue was small, maybe four feet tall but heavy. They thought it was very lovely and their father got the servants to bring it downstairs and put it in the girl’s room. She had it placed near her window and the next morning when she woke up she found the statue had come to life. The sunlight through her window had warmed it and it was a little boy who said his name was Nakal. She ran and told her father and family and they welcomed the smiling, magical, happy boy. He said he’d been asleep in their attic for over 50 years and was so pleased to see them.  

  At first hesitant of this magical imp, the family soon warmed to his friendly nature and his constant joyful energy. He just wanted to be friends and all day he was with one or more of the children playing games and if they went out he went with them, laughing and singing the whole time.

   Soon it got around that Nakal was living with them and more and more people wanted to meet him. He was a creature of joy. He lived only to be happy and to make others happy. Wherever he went he made children smile and the joy he brought was felt by all.

  One day the children went with their family to the lake and as Nakal was popular a lot of other children came along to be with him.  

  They played games on the shore, they swam, they had food and then Nakal was so happy that he had made so many wonderful friends after so long sleeping, that he started to sing. He sang on the shore, his arms raised and thanked life for being so good to him. As he sang the lake responded by making waves, sending him the message that it too loved him.

   Unfortunately Nakal didn’t know when to stop and as he sang the waves got bigger and the water got rougher and the children further out were frightened. Those nearer to shore scrambled back and those near to Nakal pleaded with him to stop.  

  He couldn’t hear them though, he was so caught up in his own happiness that he sang. His eyes were closed and the song while beautiful, caused a storm that threatened to drown some of the children. 

  Finally he stopped and looked around dreamily and only then did he see the fear and terror he’d caused. One boy was pulled out from the water unconscious and had to be revived. 

  Shivering and scared the frightened children left, their normally friendly faces looking at Nakal with distrust and fear for the first time.

   Nakal was confused and couldn’t understand why people hated him when he’d only been singing to show how much he loved them all. 

  The boy’s father approached him and shouted angrily that he must never EVER do such a thing again and Nakal cried, not understanding what he’d done to make everyone so angry.

   When he finally came home, his eyes were red from crying. The oldest brother, who knew in his heart that Nakal was not evil, approached him and took him for a walk. His anger gone, he looked kindly on Nakal and they sat in the garden and he said. 

  “Do you know you could have killed that boy today?” 

  Nakal sobbed and the brother put his arm around his tiny shoulders. 

  “I am so sorry,” he wept “I never meant to hurt anyone. I only wanted you to love me.” 

  The brother hugged him and said, “I know that. We still love you Nakal but what you did today was foolish. No one thinks you did it to be horrible but it was a silly thing to do.” 

  Nakal looked up at him and smiled. “Thank you,” he said and wiped his eyes with the back of his small hand. 

  “Come and see my sister,” the brother said brightly. “She will be pleased to know you’re back.” 

  “Could you bring her out here to me?” Nakal asked. “I don’t wish her to see that I have been crying.” 

  The brother wiped Nakal’s cheeks with his hand and smiled. “Sure,” he replied. “I’ll go and get her.”

   “Thank you,” Nakal said quietly and as he watched the brother go into the house, he closed his eyes and clasped his hands. 

  When the brother returned a short time later with his sister, Nakal was a statue once more. His face looked peaceful and he was the same way they had found him.

  They both cried for the poor creature, who had wanted only to be loved and they returned him to the attic, hoping that one day he would come back.”

  Maximo looked around the table at the boys. There was silence and Bue stared at him, his chud drink unfinished and cold.

   Maximo smiled and looked at Makeo. “Whatever love you have in your heart. Don’t be so blind as to think that your actions from that love will only be loving.” 

  He walked over to Makeo. “Do you understand?” he asked kindly. 

  Makeo smiled. “Thank you Master,” he said and Maximo laughed and ruffled his hair.  

  “Now, off to bed with all of you. We have another big day tomorrow.”

  Chapter 20

   

  Kulkrain awoke. The fire in his shoul
der was gone and he felt the tightness of bandaging around it. He realised he was in a large bed and as he tried to sit up the dizziness hit him like a hammer and his head fell back on the pillow.

   “Just rest, you are hurt,” a deep voice said from the darkness.

   Kulkrain turned his head and as his eyes adjusted to the gloom he saw a figure in a chair near the window.

   “Takoba Mordalayn,” he murmured. “Thank the sun I found you.” 

  Mordalayn stood up and walked to the bed, taking a jug of water from the cabinet and pouring a mug for the injured man. Kulkrain tried to raise his hand to take it but the Caracalic shook his head. “Relax, you are lucky to be alive and have lost a lot of blood.” He placed the mug to Kulkrain’s lips and tilted gently. After he’d drained the contents he lay back.

   “Thank you.” 

  Mordalayn nodded and placed the mug back on the cabinet then took his chair and moved it to the side of the bed. “What happened?” 

  Kulkrain paused before replying. “There were six of us, we were sent to infiltrate Anghofio castle. After your report of the attempt on the queen the council realised that they knew more than we ever believed.” He paused to cough slightly. 

  “Take your time, don’t rush,” Mordalayn said, knowing that he needed to know whatever secrets this man carried with him, but that he had also come within a hair’s breadth of dying.  

  After a few seconds Kulkrain winced and continued. “We made it and lay low for two days. Yesterday we finally found what they knew. It…it is devastating. I was not aware of the full extent of the Emerald Queen’s true origins.” 

 
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