Welcome! This week we begin in earnest the story of the Nawa’Diyo and Queen Apa’ii. If you, by some chance, missed the Forward and Introduction, we strongly suggest you click here to do so now. The Introduction provides much-needed background information that the narrator assumes the reader already has.


This section encompasses three chapters. Don’t feel like you have to read them all at once. Take your time and use these links to jump to the last chapter you read.
Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3


Chapter 1

The Thinning Veil, Chapter One

Bockwimen flew through the trees of the mist, his long, blue arms reaching out and flinging him from one branch to the next. Had anyone seen him, they wouldn’t have been faulted for mistaking his long gray hair for wisps of smoke. His speed made it easy to be mistaken for a random breeze. Being visible wasn’t such a handicap when he blended in with his surroundings so well.

Rushing through this forest posed no danger for Bockwimen. He was there when the saplings first began to grow hundreds of human years ago. He had been there when the ground was little more than a rocky cag formed as competing tectonic plates had collided, forcing one skyward while the other dipped. Humans had not yet arrived. Animal and plant life struggled to survive. Most lasted a few hundred seasons and were gone. 

Bockwimen had been young when this ground was hot, gaining in knowledge and understanding when it suddenly and ferociously cold. Many like him had not survived those days. Magic itself was too often misunderstood and used in ways that were not intended. Bockwimen had used that time to hone his skill, mastering his magic so that earth’s changing elements were no longer a threat to his survival. One by one, he had woven spells of protection and camouflage around him. When he discovered invisibility, he embraced it as though it were a part of himself that had been mislaid.

By the time the first stumbling humans arrived, Bockwimen was invincibly strong, a force that could make the fragile and short lives of these new creatures either comfortable or miserable according to his mood of the day. He found the humans interesting and teachable to some degree, though too troublesome and independent to maintain as any kind of companion. They posed no threat to him. He taught them how to gather fruit and how to hunt for meat and fish with respect. Others like him helped keep the humans safe from the chaotic and often harsh weather. They shared their language with the humans and the walkers, as they were sometimes called, shared their language in return.

Bockwimen found it sad, at first, that humans were so stuck to the ground. He had certainly tried to teach them to at least levitate to lighten the weight of their souls despite the ever-growing weight of their already enormous size, but none of them, no matter how willing they might be, could learn the magic and work it on themselves well enough to leave the ground. Bockwimen had then tried to teach them to at least climb the trees and swing from one limb to another, the exact thing he was so gracefully performing at this moment. The humans had proven themselves too clumsy, though, and after having to men the multiple injuries of his students he had decided humans were better left on the ground.

The days when he could work with humans were well in the past. Once the pale walkers had shown up in large numbers, killing those who had been his friends, matters and relationships changed. Humans proved increasingly unworthy. Bockwimen had been betrayed too many times for him to trust them now. This morning’s latest aggression, whether intentional or not, was an affront to the entire non-human world. He had no choice but to inform the queen as quickly as he could get to her.

Somewhere behind Bockwimen, there was a full company of Niwa’Diyo doing their best to keep up. Not all of them had witnessed the atrocity but they all felt the fear rise in their core when it happened. While they had all witnessed violence the walkers perpetrated on each other, not since the days before the pale ones could any of them recall aggression against the Niwa’Diyo. For the most part, humans had stopped believing they exist. How could they attack something they didn’t believe existed?

Above the mist, birds of many species gathered, making their way toward the magic forest where they knew they would be safe. The humans had attacked them as well. Fear was spreading quickly. Humans, being consumed with their own desires, did not realize that the skies had gone quiet.

Bockwimen focused on staying one the fastest course through the mist, hir arms moving as fast as hummingbird wings. By now, Queen Apai’ii would know that something had happened, but details were what she needed. The arboreal network, as thorough as it was, could be slow, its protocols giving most of their attention to taking care of their own. Communication with the queen was a courtesy and come second to the resource needs of the forest.

Seeing the end of the mist ahead, the chief scout prepared himself for the great leap into the massive, centuries-old white oak where Apa’ii held court. From the perspective of the scouts behind him, it would appear that he had disappeared into the clouds overhead. What they would likely never see was the labyrinth of trails, doors, and checkpoints required for one to make their way into the queen’s throne room. Intricate carving adorned the walls, distracting all but the most dedicated. Doors made of precious gems each required a unique spell to open the lock. Strong winds seeming to come from nowhere cleaned on of external diseases that might have attached themselves. Magical mists removed any loose dust. Finally, the tree’s own fibrous network checked the identity of anyone attempting to enter. Those not having sufficient permission were sleepily deposited outside at the base of the tree’s trunk with no recollection of anything they had experienced.

At the first door, Bockwimen encountered an egress carved of emerald with the likeness of Apai’ii glowing with a warm magical light. He was forced to pause as a sentry delivered a message.

“Queen Apa’ii anxiously awaits the confirmation of denial of allegations to a rumored deliberate attack by the humans on the Niwa’Diyo,” growled the stone sentry from its permanent perch.

Bockwimen nodded and continued past the amber door etched with a vision of Agibcochook, the ground mountain to the East, and through the door of topaz upon which was carved a scene from the Haderondah mountains. At the ruby door, its carving representing Giha’hogen, the great river, there was another message from another stone sentry.

“The Queen requests that you enter quietly without fanfare or dramatics as there are those present in the court who must now know of your report.”

Again, Bockwimen nodded his understanding and continued.

Upon reaching the door made of blazing sapphire, Bockwimen was confronted with his own reflection whom he had to congratulate in a particular verse for being worthy of the queen’s presence. The verse, of course, was a spell particular to Bockwimen. Other Niwa’Diyo would see their own reflection and their own verse would need recitation. Opening the amethyst crustal passage required a recitation fo the variations of oak trees with magical powers of their own. There were 648 of them and Bockwimen had turned the list into a rhyme to make the passage go quickly.

Finally, as Bockwimen approached the door made of pearl, he lay prostrate before the door and waited He felt the magic as it questioned his purpose and challenged his sincerity. Only if one was deemed worthy and sincere would the door open, allowing him to enter. The magic knew Bockwimen well, though, and sensed the urgency of his message. He stepped quickly through the doorway and just as quickly and silently it closed behind him.

If anyone in the throne room had seen him enter, they made no move acknowledge such. Bockwimen stood in the shadow of a canopy that shaded the pearl door. Across the room, he could see Apa’ii talking with Pockwatch, her eldest and wisest counsel, and the scoundrel Bogmenak. He could not hear what they were saying, nor did he want to. The presence of Bogmenak in the throne room meant that there was some other trouble within the realm, likely one which Bogmenak himself had caused.

Bogmenak’s appearance couldn’t help but be uncomfortable to some degree. He had been born of thistle and sagebrush. As such, his personality tended to be equally as jagged and unpleasant. Being more round than he was tall, Bogmenak fought hard to be noticed, often disturbing places where he was not invited, frequently using magic where it was not warranted, and constantly countering Apa’ii’s peaceful approach to dealing with delicate matters.

More than anything, though, Bogmenak was fiercely anti-human. He and those like him had existed peacefully across the Western deserts for many centuries before the humans rose up from Ongtupqu, the great canyon. The humans considered the land theirs to exploit and began using the sagebrush, a frequent home to magic souls, to feed their fires. Bogmenak and his tribe retaliated with magic that caused the sagebrush to pop and explode, sending sparks that would cause the human’s belongings to catch fire.

When the pale walters came, with their horses and wagons and cattle, they trampled the sagebrush and other desert plants with no regard for the myriad creatures, both magical and animal, who lived there. Magic souls had no choice but to retaliate harshly, digging holes that crippled cattle, sabotaging wagons, and stirring up dust storms that made the air impossible to breathe. Humans persisted, though, and gradually developed means by which they could counter the magic used against them.

Bogmenak’s hatred fr the humans was well known among magic souls. Bockwimen understood why Apa’ii would not want him within earshot when delivering his news. Concern and fear would be heightened enough without the provocation Bogmenak would inevitably bring to the situation.

Bockwimen waited patiently for the safety of the queen’s attention. He watched as she floated some distance off the floor, her countenance reflecting a warm amber light brightly across the whole courtyard. Her core, carved from the great-great-great-grandparents of this very tree, was tanned from her years, her outer bark highlighted with bits of soft green and blue. Her slender face seemed to barely contain her wide eyes and broad smile. Her long arms, like branches of a tree, were firm and strong. Her legs, if that’s what one chooses to call her lower appendages, were as long as her arms, ending in a web of wispy tendrils that picked up the slightest communication whether spoken or thought. 

In her wisdom, Apa’ii waited and let each one speak for themselves, knowing that thoughts and words were not always the same. Thoughts could be involuntary responses to something out of one’s control. Words were chosen and uttered with intent. THoughts could more readily be forgiven or ignored than could words. That did not always man that Apa’ii ignored one’s thoughts. Rather, she chose to let them help interpret and color the worlds one chose to say. This gave her great insight into knowing one’s motivations and worries when bringing matters before her.

At the same time, Apa’ii had the ability to influence one’s emotion, another gift she used to most everyone’s advantage. Few souls came to her without feeling some anxiety, fear, or anger, no matter what their basic premise was. With each soul she would send calming waves of assurance and comfort, giving to them the clarity to speak without the undue influence of excessive emotion. Most souls left her presence feeling better nor matter what decision the queen might make.

Only those like Bogmenak were not swayed by her talents. Whatever complaint he had brought before Apa’ii was not being addressed in a manner that suited him. Upon being dismissed, he hugged and growled, storming away through a granite door at the opposite end of the throne room.

Once the door was shut behind Bogmenak, Apa’ii gave some inaudible instruction to Pockwatch, who bowed so deeply that the fern-like tendrils atop his willow head brushed the polished wood floor. He also left through the granite door, leaving a plume of daisy petals behind him.

Apa’ii watched the granite door close, took a deep breath, and motioned for Bockwimen to approach. The scout responded swiftly and bowed appropriately in front of her. “I am troubled, Bockwimen,” she said softly. “I am getting communication from birds and squirrels as well as trees along the border of the mist. Your haste in coming to me is unusual. I gather something has happened to one of your scouts?”

“Yes, your highness. Packwudjinee, an aviary scout, has been captured by the humans. A deliberate trap, I’m afraid, along with some 200 birds of various species who were nested along the border. They’ve all be taken. I do not know where or to what end. I dispatched Pudguwijin to follow the vehicle in which they were taken, but your majesty, we’ve never experienced an afront like this right on our own doorstep! Usually, the humans stick to the other end of the forests. They don’t like carrying their gear over great distances and rugged terrain. We’ve never seen them this far into the forest unless they were lost!”

Apa’ii floated toward the domed ceiling of the throne room, a gesture Bockwimen recognized as a sign of great alarm. She paused there for a moment and upon her return asked, “Is it at all possible that they took Packwudjinee by mistake, thinking he was a bird? I’m told he had transmogrified into a white-capped sparrow, which would make him an unexpected sight to the ornithologists that keep poking around.”

“Yes, your majesty. That is his chosen and common form when speaking with most of our friends, especially inside the human city. He’s still young and has not developed the strength to stay invisible for great lengths of time, though I would imagine he’s working on better developing that skill at this very moment.” Bockwimen added, “He was talking with a raven when they flew into the trap. A great net fell and gathered them. The raven’s wing was broken. I’ve no knowledge whether Packwudjinee was hurt or not. I fear he was for if he was well he could most certainly have alluded capture.”

Apa’ii twirled furiously in a rare display of anger. “Were all the souls they captured wounded in the process? This is unconscionable! She spun herself again before coming back to Bockwimen. “News like this is spreading already. Birds are in retreat, requesting sanctuary in the first within the mist. I am inclined to give it to them and extend the borders…” she paused and looked carefully at the scout, “but you have more to tell me, don’t you, about the border?”

Bockwimen nodded. “The border is set back 40 furlongs from where you last set it, your highness. How this is possible, I do not know. We were last at this border just over a moon ago. It seemed firmly in place. Pockwudjinee was inquiring of the raven how long he had been there, outside the mist. If the raven had given an answer I did not hear it. I was busy observing the construction of yet another highway passing through the forest.”

“How close is the highway passing to the boundary?” Apa’ii asked.

“Less than two furlongs from where you originally had it placed. Two communities of deer, four bobcats, and 18 bear have been displaced. All are accounted for but the bear are grumpy about the whole matter,” was the cautious answer.

“When are bear not grumpy these days?” Apa’ii asked rhetorically. “Seems like one a few moons ago when they and their cousins roamed this forest and the mountains in great number. They were good friends.” The queen wandered the perimeter of the room as she gave consideration to the situation. As she moved, the light moved with her, causing fleeting and time times eerie shadows to be cast upon the carved walls. After some time, she returned to Bockwimen and said, “I see little choice but to gather the full council for a meeting. There are already rumors of what happened and more rumors starting of how we might respond. He will have an audience. Our cause would be helped if your trailing scout, Pudguwijin was it, could give us more information. See what you can do, Bockwimen. I’d rather avoid starting a war with the humans today.”

Bockwimen bowed deeply and hurried through the granite door, onto a heavy external branch of the tree. Pockwatch, looking very much like a leaf sitting on a knot on the branch, was waiting for him.

“She’s going to have to assemble the council, isn’t she?” the counselor asked quietly. He instinctively knew the answer but it was always best to have confirmation.

Bockwimen nodded affirmatively, his gray hair now sparkling in the sunlight, forming a halo around him. “This is the first time since what, that noisy and insipid war the humans had over whether or not to enslave each other?”

Pockwatch nodded in reply. “Remember how rarely the council was needed before the pale walkers invaded our space?”

“Remember how rarely the council was needed before the humans were among us at all?” Bockwimen answered. “Bogmenak will have more than a few interested ears when he speaks, I fear. We have hidden ourselves in response to the human invasion and the magicians of the desert are not the only ones who think we may have given them too much latitude.”

Pockwatch pulled a pipe made from the stem of an oak leaf from his belt and magically lit it with a drop of sunlight, taking a long draw from its bowl before handing it to Bockwimen, who did the same before handing the pipe back. Pockwatched tucked the pipe back into place and then said, “We must tread carefully and speak with scrupulous thought. These pale walkers are still new here by our terms. We must not take actions that might hinder their growth as beings. The Fae tell us the humans in Europe are actually getting better, more respectful of each other and the things around them.”

Bogwimen reached his arms between two branches and performed a graceful flip. “I am aware also, as are others, that it took two horrible wars and still more seasons of unrest before those humans came to their current understanding. Even with that, half of them don’t see how the litter of their existence ruins everything they touch. They are very slow-minded people to be sure. Urging the council to have continued patience with them could be difficult, even for Queen Apa’ii.”

Pockwatch walked lightly across the tree branch a few steps, then turned and said, “Do you know why Bogmenack was here today?”

Bockwimen shook his head. He knew better than to ask questions to which he didn’t need to know the answer.

The counselor continued, “Humans have upset the troubled ones by attempting to lay yet another of their pipelines across sacred land. Already, they are whipping up tornadoes and storms in an attempt at scaring them away, but the humans are less afraid than they were a few seasons ago. Their technologies warn them before the storm gets too close. The troubled ones respond by making the storms stronger and in doing so, they destroy the mantle of the curst, wiping out millions of Niwa’Diyo homes, sending the smaller ones flying and leaving the larger ones disoriented. Bogmenak thinks we should appease the troubled once, sacrifice the humans to save our own.”

“He knows we can’t do that!” Bockwimen said adamantly. “As disruptive as humans are, they are still living souls. They have a right to exist!”

“But after today, he will have an audience more willing to consider his request,” Pockwatch countered. “I’m not sure the Queen has enough votes to stop him if we cannot prove that your scout is safe by the time the council meets.”

Bockwimen cocked his head to one side and listened to the sounds above him. “I think,” he said softly, “that answer is arriving soon.”


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Chapter 2

The Thinning Veil, Chapter Two

“Whether or not the scout is safe, the council must take some action that the natural, non-human world can see as progressive or else we risk losing their support,“ Pausnuk said as he wandered the throne room in concentric circles. His stride and pather were the only external way of knowing that the young advisor was upset. Representative of the evolution of the Nawa’Diyo, he had a head shaped like a tulip, crowned in bright red, a boding covered in brightly colored feathers, and large, quad-fold wings as delicate as any fae had ever seen. His legs were the bly-green of the ocean and his arms were white as foam. His natural radiance was one of perpetual happiness, belying his true emotion. “The last thing we need, your majesty, if I may,” he continued, talking as he walked, “Is for there to be a divided response. I can tell you right now that ocean-dwelling mammals and magic folk are not likely to be on board with anything short of a planned disruption. Already, the Hantu Air are agitating the seas and threatening to stir up storms. They’ve been upset with what humans have done to the waters for several hundred seasons. To them, this is a good excuse to fight back. 

“Similarly, the Sylphids have long been upset with the humans and are ready to choke them on their own polluted air. I’ve already reminded them, gently of course, that any such adverse action not taken by unilateral agreement would be considered a violation of multiple agreements and treaties, but they’re simply listening to the souls around them.

“You’re majesty, I know we could retreat, we could create protections for the non-human lives for which we have taken responsibility, but I can assure you that a growing number of souls outside the Nawa’Diyo are growing restless, tired of letting these upstart humans have their way when the many billions of us have been here longer.”

Apa’ii floated above Pausnuk as he spoke, her light defining the limits and boundaries of the circles he walked. The queen liked Pausnuk very much and found him unusually wise for one so young. He did, however, have a flair for the dramatic that made her giggle as she was aware of the outlandish thoughts he entertained while speaking. “I am all too aware of the Hantu Air and the Sylphids. I have asked them to send representatives to our council and both have accepted.

“My more immediate concern is the safety of our own animal souls. Yet more reports of forced displacements are occurring. We’re growing close to the limits of what we can keep hidden without the human’s technology taking notice. I understand their anger at humans but they forget that they must get close to humans to do any harm. Humans have guns and show no care at all in eliminating animals who are merely defending their sacred grounds. 

“Any action anyone takes has to be done with magic from within the hidden places of our realm. Humans must think it is nature in revolt, not us, and certainly not animals. We cannot commit to any actions that reveal our presence. If they had any sense of the degree to which they are outnumbered, they would panic and immediately look for ways to exterminate us, even if it means devastating their own lives in the process. Humans have such an unreasonable and unnecessary view of war, the nobility of sacrifice to their artificial countries. They cannot be trusted to respond in a logical and thoughtful manner. They don’t even listen to their own scientists. They are that disease we cannot cure and must live with if for no other reason than to save them from themselves.”

Pausnuck had stopped his wandering as Apa’ii spoke. He was overwhelmed as the queen not only filled the room with light but his core with peace. Her ability to calm his emotions was the foundation of his dedication to her. “Your majesty, what would you have me do?” he asked.

“Go quickly as you can to the creatures of the Northwest, beyond Yamakiasham. Talk to the moose and the elk. Ask if their interactions with humans have been more aggressive than normal. I want to make sure what happened today was an isolated incident, not part of a broader campaign. Listen carefully to those who travel the most, also, the monarch and the hummingbird. They have seen more than other creatures and can speak to human patterns. Do try to be back before the council’s meeting though. I need as much factual information as possible before the rhetoric starts flying,” the queen instructed.

Pausnuck bowed deeply and rushed from the throne room. Apa’ii turned to the shadows near a hidden door of carved wood. “Dear Pai, my love, you know better than to entertain thoughts of trying to surprise me,” she laughed. “Come out here where I can kiss your face.”

Pai smiled as he emerged from the shadows and embraced Apa’ii closer than anyone else in the realm would dare consider. Though marriage did not exist in the magic realm as it does with humans, the two had been coupled longer than humans had lived on the continent. Pai was a smidge shorter than the queen and his core was made of bur oak. As a result, he sported a unique fringed cap at the top of his head rather than the willow-like leaves of Apa’ii. The bark that covered the lower half of his body was more coarse and with age, he had begun to gray a bit which gave him somewhat a more sophisticated air.

Despite his long relationship with Apa’ii, however, Pai was not considered royal and would not be in line for succession should something happen to the queen. In fact, there was no line of succession established. Apai’ll had assumed the throne created by a now-ancient Nawa’Diyo treaty that united all magic people in North America. No one else had ever been considered because no one else possessed the calm negotiation skills that came so easily for Apa’ii.

Pai was quite happy not having the pressure of being royal. While he still carried a title as one of the queens closest advisors, he also had enough anonymity, especially away from the home tree, as to slip through crowds and listen to conversations without being recognized, especially by the younger Nawa’Diyo who weren’t familiar with the realm’s governance methods at all.

“I’m afraid you’re not going to be pleased with what I have to say,“ he whispered through their prolonged embrace. 

“I’m afraid I knew before you returned,” she said, kissing the top of his cap. “You’ve never been good at keeping anything from me. I would think by now you would have given up trying.”

Pai kissed her on the cheek then took a step back. “So, am I right that this is a greater emergency than the missing scout?” he asked.

“It is a different emergency,” she said, lowering her countenance so that only the two of them were included in its glow. “That the border of the mist is receding all over the world means that it is almost surely unrelated to the kidnapping of the scout. That both the events would occur or, at least, that we would notice them on the same day may seem suspicious but without evidence of any directly connected events I am inclined to treat them as separate disasters. Unless you have evidence to change my mind?”

Pai shook his head. “No, I don’t see any immediate connection. What I do see, though, is a problem with the magic. The border area where Bockwimen was this morning? It already receded another furlong. It will lose two more by morning. I tried every spell I know and could not get it to reset. Worse yet, invisibility spells didn’t work where the mist had been.”

Apa’ii turned suddenly toward the open room then back to her partner. “That means those we had hidden are now at risk. What about beyond the initial boundary? Did you risk going out that far?”

“Yes, of course, and for now everything works there the way it is supposed to.” Pai paused and paced a short distance from the queen. “Where the mist had been, it felt different. My magic felt weaker. Flying, jumping, casting a simple spell to water a fern, all were more difficult. I think more is happening than losing the mist.”

“You think something is wrong with the magic,” Apa’ii said softly, knowing what the was afraid to say out loud. “That is troubling. I wonder if it is just the magic of some or the magic of all? There is no way to know unless …” She paused, a look of horror coming over her face. “The council! You said invisibility spells weren’t working. Our councilors will use these spells to travel. What happens why they reach where the borders once were?” They’ll be exposed and visible! Not all of them can transmute into animals. If there are any humans around why they reach the border…”

“They’ll be visible,” Pai said, finishing her sentence rather than her finishing his for a change. “What should be done? This could affect every Nawa’Diyo in existence.”

“Our most immediate concern is to care for those who are traveling. They must be protected. Quick, get a message to Dawádetgit. We need her special skill,” the queen instructed.

“And if her magic doesn’t work?” Pai asked cautiously.

“She forms her magic in the skies, not on the ground,” Apa’ii explained. “She nor her magic should be affected by what is happening on the surface.” She paused, then added. “Yes, if I’m wrong, we’re in more trouble than we ever dreamed.”


Chapter 3

The Thinning Veil, Chapter 3

Maliae was a tiny blue nymphatic soul who possessed an incredible amount of magical skill that could become fearsome if she were ever angered. At the moment, however, she was contentedly sitting on a day lily swinging her feet off the edge of a petal and blowing bubbles. Maliae loved bubbles and spent a great deal of her time blowing and crafting them into various shapes that might fill her imagination at any given moment. 

Today, she was imagining various kinds of animals, some of which were real and others that might have been had she decided to create them. The nymph didn’t want the responsibility of having to care for a new species of living beings, though, so instead, she simply blew on the bubbles to send them floating and then turned them into clouds, letting them float on into an otherwise blue sky, the shade of blue against which she could fly unnoticed even by other magical souls.

She had been sitting on the day lily most of the morning and well into the afternoon.  Maliae’s normal responsibilities involved keeping weather patterns running on schedule and at that particular moment, everything under her domain was running well. Even the troubled ones had taken a day off. She was happy.

It was just after she had sent a bubble shaped like a wolf into the sky that an unexpected breeze caught her off guard, knocking her from her perch. Catching herself before she hit the ground, Maliae looked up to find Pai sitting exactly where she had been, wearing a large smile and holding what was, for her, an extremely large strawberry. “Pai, you silly loon!” she scolded playfully. “You could have caused me damage! For that’s you’ll have to give me a kiss.”

Pai smiled and flew down to meet her, their lips connecting with enough passion as to cause a small whirlwind around them. “I bring you greetings from the queen,” Pai said as he offered her the strawberry.

Maliae took the strawberry, which was almost as big as she was, and helped herself to what was, for her, a large bite, leaving red strawberry juice on her face. Very little of the strawberry had been consumed and she would enjoy sharing it with those in her clan. “The queen sent me a strawberry, huh?” she asked with a mischievous grin. “She’s being rather friendly, isn’t she?”

“The strawberry is from me. The queen has a rather dire and serious request of you,” Pai said, sitting on the flower again. “We need to keep humans away from the border of the mist.”

“I didn’t realize that had become a problem,” Maliae said as she took another bite of the strawberry. “Is that why she’s called the council?”

Pai tipped his head back and rocked for a moment before answering. “Not initially, not that is a whole other matter. This one snuck up on us. We might not have known had the other matter not come up.”

Maliae used the back of her hand to wipe the strawberry pulp from her face. “You’re talking in circles without telling me anything, my love. Or did you forget that I’m a member of the council as well? I know about the scout. Pockwatch’s dispatch was alarming but clear. But you’re saying there’s more?”

Paid nodded. “And part of the urgency is that we don’t know yet how severe this new issue could be. We need to make sure absolutely no humans are lingering near the border of the mist when the other councilors arrive from outside.”

“So, you want some rain, I’m guessing,” Maliae said as she did a headstand on top of the strawberry. “I can handle that.”

Pai caught the nymph as she dismounted from the fruit and the two kissed again. “Mmm, your kiss gets sweeter all the time,” he whispered.

“That happens when you feed me such delicious fruit,” she giggled. “When would she like the rain?” 

“She wants something stronger than rain,” Pai said. “She wants to bring in Dawádetgit.”

Maliae sprang into the air, scattering strawberry pulp everywhere. Her wings fluttered quickly so that she lingered well above the lily. “Damn! Her majesty isn’t one for subtlety, is she? I assume she remembers what happened the last time Dawádetgit did her thing in a forest? Those saplings are just starting to come back. Is she going to sound any kind of alarm first?”

“I am sure she will, and probably warn the animals as well. We can’t risk there being any humans nearby when councilors reach the mist’s boundary,” Pai said.

Maliae sat atop the strawberry, her elbows on her knees, her heels kicking into the soft flesh of the fruit. “Council is set for in the morning as the sun fully crosses the horizon. That means most of them will arrive tonight, coming through the mist before the sun is set. That doesn’t give us a lot of time. I’ll have my clan go ahead and begin adjusting the air pressure and pull moisture into place. It takes a minute to create the kind of storm you’re wanting, you know. Dawádetgit doesn’t show up and start throwing tornadoes around like Zeus’ lightning bolts. Go ahead and have the queen issue the warning. We want everyone, including the humans to have time to take cover. 

“If any magical lives are damaged, it’s on the queen. She’s asking for this. I won’t allow Dawádetgit to be a scapegoat if something goes haywire, and with these things, something always goes haywire. Good intentions are never strong enough to stop bad things from happening. In fact, now that I think about it, good intentions actually attract bad things. Have you ever known good intentions to go as planned?” The nymph was on a roll and didn’t wait for a response. “Of course you haven’t. It never happens. And when shit happens, there’s always someone to blame. Well, this one is totally on Apa’ii. She might as well go ahead and own up to it now. No one from my clan is going to take the blame.

Pai sat awkwardly on the lily, face inward. While he knew Maliae was correct in her assessment, he also knew there was no way of stopping the natural order of balance. “Why must we blame anyone for the outcome of nature itself?” he asked. “Dawádetgit doesn’t control the storms she creates, neither does Apa’ii control who listens, ignores, or fails to respond appropriately to her warning. Fault lies in deliberate harm, not the natural malice of the universe.”

Maliae hopped down from the strawberry and sat net to Pai on the lily. “And you know, no matter how correct you are, and yes, I can agree with you in principle, no one in the council is going to listen if someone from their clan gets hurt, or an animal under their protection is killed. Reason yields to emotion in all living souls. Apa’ii is one of the few who has the ability to not let emotion overwhelm her; that is why she is the queen. Even Apa’ii with all her wonder and talents, can’t dictate how the general population responds to an event. 

“Perhaps, this time, there will be little destruction. I’ll tell Dawádetgit to keep the storms high, not rooting through the crust as the troubled ones do. That should be sufficient to keep the humans back a few furlongs.”

“More than a few, please. She needs to run about 60 furlongs from where she finds the border,” Pai said. “Staying high is good, but it needs to scare the myths out of the humans.”

Maliae lept off the lily and few a couple of circles around the flower. “Consider it done. You’ll be signing signs before you get back to the home tree. Just one more matter before you leave.”

“What’s that?” Pai asked taking to the air as well.

“When all this is over I want a whole night with you, okay?” The queen has been keeping you far too busy,” Maliae said, sweeping down to give him another long, strawberry-flavored kiss.

“Consider it a deal!” Pai said as he turned and moved quickly toward the home tree.


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