A warrior queen with an unusual talent is magically marooned on another planet and tries to use another type of magic, the magic of technology, to get home.
This story has a little of everything — action, adventure, drama, tragedy, romance and comedy. It also happens to be the sequel to The Distant Queen, but I wrote this story to stand on its own. I wrote The Distant Queen several years ago and it's not my best work. I didn't want anyone to have to read my earlier story to know what's going on in this one.
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This is a complete story of twenty chapters and I'll post two chapters every weekend.
Return of the Queen
by Terry Volkirch
Thelma left the bath house in a good mood. There was nothing like a hot bath to relax a person and make them forget all about their troubles. Being clean helped too, and damp hair kept the head cooler, which was really nice during the current long spell of hot weather.
Gabrielle had taken a bath earlier but she was still able to wet her hair in the river when she washed Thelma's clothes. Her mood matched her companion's and the two of them chatted amiably on the walk to the inn.
Once they got back to their room, the mood changed slightly. It was a peaceful but uncomfortably warm night, with nothing except the sounds of insects, whirring and buzzing all around. The air pressed down like a heavy blanket, tempting one to sleep outside for the chance of catching a slight breeze across the face.
Even with the two small windows and door to the deck open, it would still take most of the night to cool down the room. It didn't help that they were on the top floor of the three-story inn. Mindel wasn't stupid. He gave Farrott a top floor room, favoring important guests with the ground floor rooms, especially those along the back of the building where it jutted into the side of a small hill. Those rooms were mostly underground and stayed much cooler.
It was too hot to easily fall asleep, so the two women continued to chat while Gabrielle did some sewing. After a fair amount of coaxing, Thelma spoke a little of his boyhood, though he glossed over the really bad parts.
Farrott had a mostly rotten childhood. It didn't excuse his behavior as an adult, but it made it easier to understand how he got to be the way he was.
When he was seven, his mother died. He was devastated, and he never forgave her for it. She was the only thing keeping his father and older brother under control. Without her mellowing influence, the older males gave in to every manly urge under the sun. In short, they became little better than beasts.
With wild men as role models, Farrott didn't have much of a chance of becoming a decent human being. His father slowly devolved into a miserable drunkard, spending most of his money on hard alcohol and games of chance. While drunk, the man physically and verbally abused both of his sons, with the eldest taking most of that abuse. After several years of abuse, the older son, Bannett, understandably left home, leaving Farrott at his father's mercy.
Being small helped. Farrott was able to hide or curl up under a chair for protection when his father came home drunk and kicked everything in sight. The man was a mean drunk.
Morning would come and Farrott would wake up and crawl out of whatever hiding place he'd slept in. He'd dampen a wash cloth and place it on his sleeping father's forehead in a vain attempt at cooling the man's temper. Alcohol made him mean, but hangovers were even worse.
"Oh, Thelma," Gabrielle said after the childhood history lesson ended abruptly. "I'm so sorry. That sounds awful."
Farrott just sniffled a little and nodded. The former man wasn't used to getting sympathy, but it did feel good to talk about it with someone. He had a lot of conflicted feelings that he needed to sort out.
If his mother didn't die, he was sure none of that abuse would've happened. So he blamed her, and he ended up blaming all women for misbehaving men. He hated men acting like jerks, but he hated women even more. It was stupid, but it was the only way he could cope. It distracted him from all the pain and misery in his life.
His past had gnawed at him for a long time, and now he suddenly found himself as a woman. Did that mean he had to hate himself? Was that why he wanted to send Gabrielle back to Kispri so badly? Was he so afraid she'd turn him into a woman that he had to get rid of her to save his own sanity?
When he searched his feelings, he found that he still hated women, and he hated beautiful women most of all. He especially hated the woman that he nearly ended up raping and killing back on Kispri, though she would've been his first rape and murder victim.
While he was on his own, he managed to control himself. He didn't really want to harm anyone. But when he teamed up with Weston for some extra protection, he found he lowered himself to the other man's level. Weston had no qualms about rape and murder and said as much quite frequently. It turned Farrott's stomach at first, and then that beautiful woman showed up.
During the night when that woman attacked, something in him snapped. The attack was unprovoked, and he suddenly wanted to take out all of his frustrations on her. He wanted to punish her for all the women of Kispri.
'Thank goodness I didn't!' he thought, and he held his face in his hands and cried.
Gabrielle had no idea of the torment that Thelma had just put himself through. She just saw a suffering woman and went to comfort her.
"Hey. It's okay now," the queen soothed. "You're safe with me now. The past is over. You've got to move on."
"You don't understand!" Thelma wailed. "I almost raped and killed a woman the night I sent myself here. I'm horrible! I'm a horrible man!"
Gabrielle gasped. Thelma didn't realize that the woman he just referred to was Gabrielle's mate, Marie.
The queen had a strange kind of link back to her home world, and through that link, Marie had talked about the incident with Farrott. The petite brunette said she'd purposely started the fight with Farrott's partner in a desperate attempt to have Farrott send her back to Agrin, but she said nothing about rape. Did she know the men's intentions? If she did, why didn't she say anything? There were so many nagging questions.
"You're not ... a man," the tall, warrior growled. "You're a woman. You've got to accept that." She tried to say that Thelma wasn't horrible, but she couldn't. An attempted rape was horrible. It was lucky that Thelma was female after that confession, or the night might have ended with one less living person.
After a third meltdown, Thelma wanted nothing more than to end his first day of womanhood with a good, long sleep, something that wouldn't be difficult in spite of the heat. He was emotionally and physically exhausted. But his companion wasn't quite finished with him.
"Just one more fitting," Gabrielle said. "Then you can sleep."
She'd concentrated on enlarging and lengthening the short, tight skirt that she'd first made early in the day. With the contrasting material from her own large tunic, it made for a strange looking result, but comfort and function overrode style for the time being.
'Style will come later,' she thought. 'I'll make a beautiful lady of you yet.'
Once she heard Thelma's confession about Marie, the queen was more determined than ever to not only make Thelma into a lady, but to get her into great shape as well. It was easy to see that the large woman would always have a voluptuous figure, even when slim. She'd attract men like moths to a flame, and then she'd come to understand the fear of rape very well.
Gabrielle helped pull the skirt up over her companion's large hips and gave it a quick inspection. It fell to mid thigh, which was good, but it looked a little loose.
"How does it feel around the waist?"
"It think it's okay. It's kind of loose but it feels much better than it did before."
"I'll gather it in a little anyway. I want you to feel the skirt getting looser as you lose weight. It'll help motivate you to keep going."
The large woman shed the skirt easily on his own and flopped back on the bed. He fell asleep only a few minutes later.
Gabrielle didn't feel much like sleeping yet. She was still too hot from the night air and upset about Thelma's confession.
Sewing made a good distraction for a short time. She finished the skirt and reinforced the straps of Thelma's top with a few strips of cloth that she'd saved from her tunic, and all the while, she thought of her blonde handmaiden, Heloise. Her handmaiden's cloth mending magic talent would've come in handy, but then of course, the queen wouldn't have had much to do.
"I've been so spoiled," she suddenly said, looking over at Thelma. "And you've had such a rough life. I'll try to forgive you... but I'm still going to turn you into a beautiful lady."
She smiled at her new resolve. She'd help to make Thelma into a beautiful person inside as well as outside. If she succeeded, she'd be able to forgive, and possibly even forget.
'Besides,' she thought, as she continued to stare at her companion. 'You're no longer able to rape women, are you... Thelma.'
The queen smiled again and yawned.
Fatigue finally overcame the oppressive heat. She flopped down on the floor after making a crude bed from her pack and the bed covers that she took from the bed earlier in the evening.
"Good night, Lady Thelma," she said, and then quickly fell asleep.
As she'd done virtually every night since she arrived on Agrin, Queen Gabrielle slept and astrally traveled back to her queendom on Kispri.
Her trusted adviser, Muriel, had told her that it wasn't really magic. According to several scrolls and books, astral travel was possible for anyone, given enough time and practice. Most people didn't believe in it, hence, they didn't even try. Gabrielle got lucky though, as some do. She came by it naturally, just after Farrott sent her to Agrin. Her new ability probably had something to do with her strong sense of responsibility to her royal subjects but she didn't care about how it happened, just that it did.
Astral travel seemed like a dream come true for the marooned queen as she could still run her queendom with a little help from the only four people who knew about her true location. There was no panic in the streets and no marauding armies taking advantage of her physical absence and the inability of her astral form to change men into women. Ignorance truly was bliss for the Queendom of Prizzaria.
Long before being zapped to Agrin, it only took a few battles before the queen's magic talent became well-known, and feared. Through the strength of her magic, she maintained peace, and her subjects, the majority of whom were female, adored her. So it went for the past seven years since she'd been elected Queen, and so it would continue. Gabrielle vowed that as long as she lived, she'd keep the women of Prizzaria safe, and she still found a way to keep her vow from an impossibly long distance.
The queen grew to like her nightly ritual, and she found that she could even solidify her astral body, adding more credibility to her claim of being fully present in her queendom. She always made sure to solidify her astral body in her royal bed chamber to keep the secret of her disappearance as well as to protect her modesty. Solidifying her astral body meant she appeared naked. She could form astral clothing but so far hadn't been able to solidify any outfits.
The large, empty room disappointed her though. She was hoping for a little quality time alone with her mate, but it wasn't to be. A crisis loomed on the horizon, demanding everyone's full attention. She barely slipped on a long, dark gray robe and a matching pair of slippers before getting a sudden visit.
"There you are!" Muriel said as she burst into the room. "Your Majesty, please. We have a problem."
Just as quickly as she entered, the old woman turned and left.
Gabrielle sighed and picked up her mate's toy rabbit off the bed, giving the soft, tattered brown thing a quick kiss.
"Hello Ribbles. Miss me?"
Besides the clothes on Marie's back, the scruffy toy rabbit was the only possession the small woman had carried when she entered the portal and left her world. It'd been an odd thing to carry, but light enough that it hadn't slowed her down. That had been an important consideration at the time since she'd been trying to evade the giant metal warrior that guarded the portal. Another reason she'd clung to it was because it was a memento of her childhood and loving family.
Marie had left behind a mother and an older brother who never knew of her gender change. Having never seen magic, they wouldn't have believed it unless they'd been present when it happened, so she hadn't tried to tell them. She'd left a vague good-bye note for her brother and ran away with Gabrielle, the warrior woman who insisted on helping her. All she had left of her family were her memories and Ribbles, the toy her mother had made for her so long ago, and so far away.
Gabrielle put the rabbit back and followed Muriel out into a large sitting room to see her favorite four people, Marie, Muriel and her two handmaidens, sitting and waiting for her. They formed a half circle around her favorite padded chair, known as the "Spare Throne."
Muriel sat in a simple wooden chair to the right of the Spare Throne, wearing her usual, long black dress. It contrasted nicely with her white hair. The handmaidens sat on a small couch directly facing the Spare Throne and wore their work uniforms, consisting of tunics with wide horizontal stripes in the castle colors, lavender and dark gray, along with dark gray leggings and loafers.
"Hello," the tall astral woman said to everyone, though her eyes lingered on her mate.
Marie sat on a small, well-padded chair to the queen's left. She had a faint smile and her eyes sparkled. Her short, black hair nicely framed her oval face and went well with her outfit, a white, long-sleeved dress that hugged her curves and showed off her toned legs. She was barefoot and had her legs stretched out and crossed at the ankles. Though she looked outwardly relaxed, the queen could tell that she wanted to spring up and tackle hug her, but she remained firmly rooted to the chair.
'It must be serious if I can't get my usual greeting,' Gabrielle noted to herself with a little disappointment. But at least she could appreciate the somewhat uncommon sight of her tomboy mate wearing a dress.
"Your Majesty," Muriel began. Her formality was another signal that things were indeed serious. "We have to get you home."
Rumors started that something odd was happening in Prizzaria. The queen rarely made any public appearances except either very late or very early in the day. She never went out in public during the day, and she hadn't visited the warrior training center for ages. Her sleeping habits back on Agrin limited her schedule and the people grew suspicious.
It was only a matter of time before it happened. Gabrielle's separation from Marie motivated her more than enough to get home, but the latest rumors added an even greater urgency. The whole queendom was in danger. Without her physical presence, the barbarian hordes would soon invade.
'This is crazy. What will everyone do once I die?' the queen wondered.
It was a serious question that kept coming back to haunt her. Even if she got home, she wouldn't live forever. Eventually, her queendom would be overrun after her death, and the peaceful dreams of future generations would die along with her.
She contemplated going out and hunting down every last one of the barbaric men to change them into women, but that only postponed the inevitable. More men would be born, and more of those men would lust and fight over the women of Prizzaria. She needed a more long-lasting solution. Unfortunately, that solution would have to wait. She had to first concentrate on getting home.
"Okay," Gabrielle said. "Before we start brainstorming for ideas to get me home, I've got a problem you should know about. Her name is Thelma."
"Who's Thelma?" the other four chorused.
"You know her as Farrott."
"Farrott?!" Muriel shouted. "You found him and you didn't get him to send you back?!"
"He tried, but he couldn't send me back," the queen said in an even voice. Someone had to be calm, and the responsibility usually fell to her. "It would seem that his magic only works one way, from here to Agrin."
Muriel cursed, something she rarely did, and it scared Beth, giving her the hiccups. The dark-skinned brunette handmaiden had to briefly excuse herself to get a drink of water. It was the only way she knew that could get rid of her hiccups.
"So let me get this straight," the old woman said after she calmed down. "Farrott couldn't send you home so you turned him into a woman?"
Gabrielle explained how she'd been hunting Farrott with Marie's astral help. Since Marie had seen Farrott, the petite woman could somehow locate him and identify him, so the queen pulled Marie's astral body back to Agrin. Together, they used the strange astral ability to locate him and then Gabrielle physically traveled to the small town of Marzelle. From there, it was simple.
She found Farrott soon after waking up that morning and confronted him, though she didn't have to say much. Her magic talent scared him enough to try sending her home, and try he did, but nothing happened.
The small man tried using his magic for several minutes, in between whining and making excuses, and that gave the queen time to think.
She couldn't stand the idea of leaving him on Agrin, assuming his magic talent worked. She imagined him demonstrating his talent and using it to intimidate everyone. She couldn't, in all good conscience, allow that possibility to happen. So just in case his talent did work, she changed him into a woman.
"It was the right thing to do," the queen insisted.
"Right for whom?" Muriel countered. "What about your subjects here on Kispri?"
"I didn't know about the rumors this morning."
"Would it have mattered if you knew?"
"No," the queen said in a small voice. "I'm sorry, Muriel. I had to do it. That man was a menace." She wanted to say he wanted to rape and kill Marie, but she didn't know that at the time, just like she didn't know about the rumors on Kispri. As always, she did the best she could with the information she had, and she still believed she did the right thing.
"Very well," Muriel said calmly, though her glare told how she really felt. "It doesn't really matter if Farrott could've sent you back because he can no longer do so. We'll have to find another way. There's always another way."
It always came back to magic. Everything ran smoothly on Kispri, but without magic, the world would come to a grinding halt. And without magic, Gabrielle couldn't get home.
Was magic spoiling Kisprians? The queen found herself wondering about that from time to time, and more so since she came to Agrin. The people of Agrin didn't have magic in the daily lives. They didn't need it. She didn't need it either. She did well for herself without it so far.
'But as long as you have it, you might as well take advantage of it,' she thought.
It still wasn't good to become too dependent on magic. Agrin had obviously depended heavily on great magic in its past, but that didn't stop their civilization from collapsing.
Now, people mostly avoided the great magic of technology on Agrin. It was too powerful and unpredictable. The old ways were lost, so they gave up on it. But that was okay. There still might be something more to help Gabrielle get home.
Marie had used a magic portal to get to Kispri, and there might be more portals. Some books had hinted at other possibilities too. One book that Gabrielle had seen in Roggzer described a great ship that traveled between worlds. It would take longer to get home by ship, but what a grand entrance she'd make back on Kispri if she could find one and manage to pilot it.
Few Kisprians knew of such things, and that included Marie. The petite native of Agrin didn't know magic existed until Gabrielle came into her life. She got a big introduction to magic when the queen changed her into a woman, and she traveled both by portal and then by flying craft to get to Prizzaria. She might not have known about magic before, but she'd never forget it now.
In spite of her grand adventure, or maybe because of it, Marie didn't seem to care much for magic. She rarely took advantage of anyone's talent, preferring instead to do things for herself. That was one of the many things the queen loved about her.
The tall woman sat in her spare throne and daydreamed about having a picnic with Marie. The two of them sat on a blanket in a field far from any prying eyes, and they playfully fed each other a wide variety of tasty snacks.
"Hello?" Muriel's voice suddenly interrupted. "Your Majesty? Are you still with us?"
"I'm sorry. I was just thinking about ... coming home." She sighed and stared longingly at Marie, who smiled and stared back.
"Right," continued the old woman, looking up as she spoke. "I don't know about finding another portal. The huge guardian warriors that protect them are too dangerous."
"Uh huh," Gabrielle said, not really listening as her advisor kept talking.
"It sounds like the ship that sails between worlds is our best chance to get you home." Muriel turned to face the queen. "What do you think?"
"Yes, think! Honestly, your Majesty. This is serious."
"Love conquers all," murmured the tall woman. She got up out of her chair and walked over to Marie. Taking the small woman by the hand, she led her to the royal bed chamber and slammed the door shut behind them. Giggling could soon be heard, followed by the sounds of passionate lovemaking.
"It looks like this meeting is over," Muriel groused. "What about you two?" She turned to the two handmaidens who sat on the couch.
Beth and Heloise didn't answer. They got caught up in Gabrielle's mood and only had eyes for each other. They slowly and silently got up, with Beth leading her taller blonde beauty off to their own bed chamber, leaving the agitated advisor with no one to talk to but herself.
The old woman got up and moved to the window. Looking up at the night sky, she slowly shook her head and sighed. "Please, my Queen. Find your way home soon."
© 2012 by Terry Volkirch. This work may not be replicated in whole or in part by any means electronic or otherwise without the express consent of the Author (copyright holder). All Rights Reserved. This is a work of Fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional and any resemblance to real people or incidents past, present or future is purely coincidental.