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A palace stands in the midst of wide terrain with its spires reaching far into the endless sky. The palace, shaped like a flower, its curves meeting at individual spires woven in birch and primrose. Graceful stone etched in color and design held the natural floral tapestry in grandeur.
As with all things in the palace, color and show was the subject of the day. But beyond the appearance, beyond color and beauty, things are amiss.
Through a long and sometimes winding hallway, speculative excuses could be heard, scouting their way through shadows of doubt.
"She is a free spirit, my liege. How am I to know where she twitches?" Gargerlia, Master of the Minox, pleaded as he knelt before the king.
Elexander sat at the head of a very long oak table, expertly carved with a mural of Wetbridge and Hinterland-Mass. It was the center of Elexander's humble palace. It may have very well been the only thing in his palace of worth. The generations of war and black magic had all but left the palace unattended and defiled.
In fact, it has been suggested that in the lower corridors, old clothing and bloodied weaponry from the times of Arcadian still remain. Legend tells tales of a room in the eastern spire which still holds the necromancer's old spells, chants, and amulets. The remnants of Hexion and the tales of medieval charm have remained unexplored, as Elexander has dismissed them in his disinterested approach to the history of the palace. He has greater concerns than exploration of the cobweb-infested reaches of his palace. His concerns are grave and much more immediate.
Elexander stretched his neck, attempting to see Gargerlia who, whileon one knee, had all but vanished behind the great table. An uneasy silence filled the chamber as Elexander struggled with all his might to stretch just one more inch so that he might at least speak to Gargerlia's bowed head. "Damn," he exhaled in frustration, finally submitting that his neck would not stretch past its short, stubby reach.
There were many things that frustrated Elexander; his size was one of his more continuous annoyances. He was small in build, except for his well-fed belly. "Elexander the Impartial," as he was known about Wetbridge. Formally, however, he was known as "Elexander the Righteous." He stood a mere two and one-half foot, a scant four pinches shorter than the average nix. Even his daughter outstretched him by two pinches. "I must obtain a higher Assembly Chair," he muttered under his breath.
"My liege?" Gargerlia's husky voice rolled along the marbled floor.
"Rise Gargerlia, so that I may look into your eyes when I speak." Elexander sank into his royal seat satisfied with himself. That was good, I must remember that one, he thought.
Gargerlia rose as directed.
"Ah, much better," Elexander said, sitting upright as a good king should. "You are, of course, correct. Elexa is a free spirit. She is beautiful as well, is she not?" Elexander leaned forward in his chair, which was quite unimpressive in comparison to his majestic table. Resting his elbows on the table, he waited for Gargerlia's response.
Gargerlia made a face, registering his confusion. "Of course, my liege," he sputtered.
Elexander smiled. "Of course, what? You can say it. Please."
"Beautiful. I don't under-"
"Hush!" Elexander interrupted. "She is beautiful, yes. I will ask the questions, if that is all right with you?"
Gargerlia bowed his head, "Yes, of course. My apologies."
"No, no. Stand!" Elexander said, reaching across the table as if he could grab Gargerlia by the collar and lift him back from the floor. Quickly he retracted his hand as Gargerlia rose from behind the great table. Elexander continued, "She, Elexa, is a free spirit, and she is lovely. Yes. We agree on that." Elexander nodded to echo the agreement. He stared at Gargerlia for a moment and waited for him to do the same; he did not. "Now, you and your Minox are of the male breed, no?"
"Ah," Elexander nodded thoughtfully. "Good." Do you not twitch for the female nix breed?"
"Oh. My, this is getting better with each answer." Elexander crossed his arms over his chest and, placing his index finger on his chin, he gently tapped as if in deep thought. "Do you think the princess, my daughter, has many suitors of the male nix breed?"
"Yes," Gargerlia responded wearily. He was a demon of action, a demon of the waters. He was not accustomed to a battle of words, let alone wits. He began to grow impatient, an impatience that wore itself upon his face. Exasperation filled his eyes and dominated his expression; his facial muscles tensed drawing his eyes, nose, and mouth closer together. Elexander relished this, of course. Although he feared the water demons, he could never let them know this, for if he ever backed down, he would surely be forced to concede his throne to the water demons.
Elexander clapped his hands together several times. "Yes. Yes. Yes. I like it, Gargerlia. I have one last question for you." Elexander paused for a dramatic moment of silence. "Don't you think that many of these male nix breeders who pursue the princess would give anything to be close to her? To be able to watch her every move?"
"Yes." Elexander watched behind a growing smile as Gargerlia closed his eyes, awaiting the torture of conversation to end.
Elexander sat back and began counting on his fingers the number of times he and Gargerlia agreed. "So, let us revisit our conversation. Elexa is a free spirit, yes. She is most certainly beautiful, yes. You and your Minox are of the male breed, yes. You twitch for the female nix breed, yes. You agree she has many suitors of the male nix breed who would give anything to be her shadow, yes and yes. With all this I must ask, what is wrong with you? Do you desire to be replaced, Gargerlia?"
"Of course not, my liege," Gargerlia snapped to attention. His arms at his side, shoulders back, chin held high. "This task, my Minox and I can most certainly carry out."
Elexander stood, pushing his chair with the back of his legs, sliding it across the marbled floor, which caused a terrible noise to fill the Hall. Elexander stopped for a moment, and gathered his thoughts before floating around the great table towards Gargerlia; a taut silence filled Royal Assembly Hall.
The float along the table was long. Elexander enjoyed it immensely; and on many occasions he would stop along the way to enjoy the mural upon the Great table, extending the silence that much longer. This time, however, he chose not to -- Gargerlia had suffered enough. With the torture of words I have put this uncouth demon through, I believe he is about to pop a blood carrier within his brow, he thought.
Slowly, he floated with his hands clasped behind his back. When he finally reached Gargerlia, he couldn't help but release a small chuckle. Gargerlia stood as stiff as a granite statue. His body rocked back, then forward every moment or so from exhaustion-he had been standing in this fashion for quite some time, mind you. Elexander watched as small beads of sweat rolled down the side of his face. Gargerlia, the master of the Minox, was a sturdy demon. Large muscles accented his fit frame. His jaw was large and squared, his mouth was crowded with large jagged teeth; his eyes were narrow and a frightful tint of yellow. His skin was a deep violet, almost black, and had the appearance of scarred leather.
Gargerlia was a great warrior, although he had no battles to prove it. He was impeccable where his will was concerned; he was one of the more impressive specimens, yet Elexander had him on the verge of submission. Elexa! She would leave him a sniveling Maggie, he thought. He circled behind Gargerlia to conceal the smile that was slowly broadening his lips.
Elexander took a deep breath, clearing his throat, and circled around to Gargerlia's front. With a firm voice and unwavering eyes, Elexander rose on his toes, his eyes nearly level with Gargerlia's throat. "Then make the male nix breeders envious of your Minox and put them in Elexa's pocket. Do not let her out of your sight again!" Elexander moved closer to Gargerlia and in a whisper said, "Keep yourselves unseen, I don't wish to upset her." Elexander floated down, then back.
Gargerlia bowed deeply, "Yes, my liege. As you wish. Thank you, my liege. Thank you." Gargerlia backed up, slowly turned and exited Assembly Hall.
Elexander stood silent for a moment then chuckled aloud. "Good luck," he jests, as he, too, exited the hall.
Copyright © 2004 by L.J. Blount