Carpathia III: Epilogue 12 - Bunnies and Dragons

Jaze's House, Rune Lake, New Carpathia

Again, the doorbell rang and this time, the door swung open before anyone could answer. Everyone in the room stood up, anticicpating what was coming next, with Jaze in particular bracing himself. In stomped a well-dressed and rather grumpy-looking tokki who positioned himself next to the open door.

Admiral Sylet: Greetings, I am Admiral Sylet of the Imperial Tokkastran Fleet. Please rise...

Admiral Sylet scanned the room to find that everyone was already standing.

Admiral Sylet: I see you are alredy risen. At any rate, presenting Queen Maoh the Third of Tokkastra.

Admriral Sylet placed his hand on his chest while Jaze quickly leaned to Toma and whispered.

Jaze: I thought Queen Maoh was the second.

To Jaze's relief, Toma seemed just as confused as he was.

Toma: So did I.

Confirming their suspicions, in walked a regal, unfamiliar tokki woman carrying a scepter.

Queen Maoh III: Greetings, I am Queen Maoh. It is agreeable to find you well. I hope that... BWAH!

And splat the Queen went to the floor as the person Jaze knew as Queen Maoh II barrelled through the door like a shell fired from a battleship. Panicking, Admiral Sylet dove to the ground to assist Queen Maoh III to her feet while the other queen tackled Jaze on the couch.

Queen Maoh II?: Oh, my little kitty, I'm so glad you're safe!

Meanwhile, the new Queen rose to her feet, propping herself on her staff, and glared at the other in indignation.

Queen Maoh III: Isul, you were instructed to wait until I made my introduction!

Jaze didn't speak, too confused by the events that transpired. Two queens in the same room, as far as he could tell, and the new one seemed to call the old one by a different name. Isul released Jaze and kneeled on the floor in front of him and pouted.

Isul: They took away my position as Queen and gave it to my sister. Said I was too crazy to be queen. Can you believe it?

Jaze looked away, afraid to look her in the eye, but could not help himself from sarcastically expressing how he felt regardless.

Jaze: Imagine that.

Isul: I know, right! At least they let me keep my collar.

Isul playfully tugged at the chains on her collar.

Queen Maoh III: You are too crazy!

Isul turned and stuck out her tounge at the new Queen Maoh.

Jaze: What did she call you? I... Is...

Isul: Isul? That's my real name. My Queen name was Maoh II.

As though someone flipped a switch in her brain, Isul suddenly put her hands to her mouth and changed the subject completely.

Isul: Oh, but where is my little boy, Tuomas! It's been so long since I've seen him!

Jaze raised a shaky hand and pointed toward the back door.

Jaze: He's in the backyard.

Isul leaped to her feet and raced in the direction Jaze pointed.

Isul: Tuomas, darling! Mummy's here!

Queen Maoh III sighed and rolled her eyes.

Queen Maoh III: My sincere apologies for that. We really should have brought her at a later date, but she insisted.

With Isul now in the backyard likely befuddling the Yserians, Jaze felt more relieved than anything else to have finally gotten this meeting out of the way.

Jaze: It's okay, but please tell me that doesn't run in the family?

Queen Maoh III: Not to worry. Tuomas does not have the gene, as far as we can tell.

Veritas popped his head into the doorway as though afraid to come in.

Veritas: Is everything clear?

Queen Maoh III: Yes, but would you mind asking Kradik to bring in Isul's coloring books? That should keep her busy.

Veritas waved before ducking back outside.

Veritas: No problem, your Ladyship.

Veritas disappeared again and just as Queen Maoh was about to return her attention to the others, her tablet beeped. Upon checking it, her shoulders sank and her ears spread out horizontally from her head.

Queen Maoh III: And of course that will be the First Minister. If you will excuse me, I shall have to attend to this.

The Queen retired to a nearby chair just inside the living room and Admiral Sylet stood next to her, observing over her shoulder, which left the others wondering what they should do next. This question was answered by another entering the front door, stooping as she came so as to accomodate her considerable height and tall horns under the frame. Though the horns could have indicated she was a demon, like Azrael, the dragon tail clearly indicated who she was.

Kuro: Hello, everyone. I am Kuro, leader of the dragons.

Popping in behind Kuro was Ryuu, still in his dragon form, and looking visibly more plump. Ryuu uncharacteristically sat up on his hind legs and held up his front paws, showing off his claws and bearing his pointy teeth.

Ryuu: Rawr! And I am Ryuu, terror of tiny creatures, like bugs and... uh... stuff that's smaller than me!

Ryuu held his silly position while the others glanced at each other with raised eyebrows and then back to him.

Kaoru: Um, Ryuu, are you okay?

Ryuu dropped back down to a normal sitting position and scratched behind his neck.

Ryuu: Hee hee hee. Sorry. I've been having a lot of mood swings lately.

Kuro glanced at Queen Maoh, still buried in her tablet with her expression becoming more severe as time went on.

Kuro: I'm sure Queen Maoh will be back with us soon. She's been getting important messages from the ministers all day, but that will give me time to get to know you better, at least.

As the last guest, Lord Lynx, came in behind, Elektra called out again for drink orders, listing the offerings available. Kuro requested whiskey while Queen Maoh and Admiral Sylet each asked for herbal tea. Instead of a mass introduction, Kuro took the time to allow herself to be introduced to each in the group who fought with Wishmaster directly. Each found her to be unpretentious, for the leader of such a prestigous race, and genuinely interested in each of them. Her earnest expression throughout indicated to all that the usual question of "How are you?" was one of genuine concern rather than just simple politeness.

Kuro's relaxed, modest demeanor, along with the drinks, put everyone at ease, aside from the Queen, who still seemed rather peturbed with the contents of her tablet. Before any small talk could begin, however, Kuro sniffed the air.

Kuro: Forgive my asking, but is something burning?

It took a moment to register that Kuro could smell the mattress fire from earlier in the day, despite all their efforts in cleaning up. Jaze meekly raised his hand.

Jaze: Sorry, that was me. I got startled by my alarm clock and accidentally set my bed on fire. It's okay, though. We already got a new one.

Kuro's eyes widened, with her forehead crinkled and eyebrows spread far asunder.

Kuro: I'm so sorry, but I suppose it would be strange not to have troubles after so much that has happened. Before I leave, I shall give you something to help, okay?

Jaze nodded, holding his head low.

Jaze: Thanks. I'll take anything I can get.

Kuro sat cross-legged on the rug in front of the coffee table and sipped her whiskey.

Jaze: There's plenty of room on the couch. You don't have to sit on the floor.

Kuro: I'm afraid I do. Unfortunately, I gave no consideration to fabric when I chose my alternate form and my scaley tail would tear your couch to bits. No need to worry. I am comfortable here.

With that, Kuro let out a long sigh and continued.

Kuro: I know that you were probably hoping that I would be able to reveal the location of the place where you were. Alas, I cannot. Ryuu showed me your memories and you know of the dragon wars. We navigate the stars from memory and no one dragon can hold all the meomories of our race. During the dragon wars, we lost more than 80% of our population and with them the knowledge of the locations of many worlds, especially worlds we don't visit regularly. We usually avoid worlds with civilizations, because whenever we insinuate ourselves into another culture, we invariably become part of their mythos, and we do not like to interfere. One example is Earth, which we had to visit to root out a particularly nasty infestation of evil demigods. To this day, dragons are part of the legends of humans. One naughty dragon visited Earth only a few hundred years ago and revealed the existance of elves and nekomi. Sure enough, nekohumans began appearing in stories and comics written by lazy hack writers looking to leverage some cheap fanservice.

Kuro glanced again at Queen Maoh before continuing.

Kuro: Our best hope of finding Yseri, rather Ramewet, is from the data you collected and from the tokki records, if they can access them.

Nobody was sure whether or not Queen Maoh heard Kuro's last sentence, but nevertheless she shoved her tablet into Admiral Sylet's chest and rubbed her weary eyes with her hands.

Queen Maoh III: This is a nightmare! Whatever happened back then is sealed behind 184 layers of encryption! My apologies, but this is going to take time.

Without getting up, Kuro scooted on her knees to Queen Maoh.

Kuro: Queen Maoh, I've been the leader of my kind for over 300 years, so I hope you don't mind a little advice.

Queen Maoh looked up at Kuro and did her best to force a smile.

Queen Maoh III: I shall happily take it. Honestly, I wish I were not Queen right now.

Kuro took Queen Maoh's hand in hers.

Kuro: Then don't be. For the next hour or two, ignore that tablet and and enjoy the company. How does that sound?

Naturally, the most un-queenly Maoh had appeared was only some minutes ago when she was flat on the ground after the former Queen barged in. Now, at least, was definitely second place as her mouth dropped open and her ears sprung straight up toward the ceiling as though a cosmic revelation had been laid upon her lap.

Queen Maoh III: Oh, that sounds marvelous! I believe I shall do just that! Sylet?

Admiral Sylet snapped to attention.

Admiral Sylet: Yes, my Lady?

Queen Maoh III: Watch that tablet, but do not trouble me with anything on it unless it is a dire emergency.

Admiral Sylet: Yes, my Lady.

Before anything else could happen, Queen Maoh suddenly jerked her feet closer to her chair.

Queen Maoh III: Oh my, what was that?

All looked down by her feet to see Binky, the Bond family bunny, apprehensively approaching the Queen's feet, his little nose wiggling frantically. The Queen watched with amusement and curiosity as the little bunny crept closer and closer until he finally leaped into the Queen's lap. Queen Maoh threw up her hands and did not move a muscle, unsure of what to do next.

Tier: I'm so sorry! Let me get Binky for you.

Tier rushed up with his arms outstretched, but Queen Maoh held out her hand to stop him.

Queen Maoh III: I do not believe that shall be necessary. It appears harmless enough, but tell me, why do you have an animal in your house?

Toma: They call it a "pet." Carpathians like having companion animals that live with them.

The Queen now relaxed and studied the bunny more closely.

Queen Maoh III: What an unusal custom. May I touch him?

Tier stood straight again now that it was clear that he did not have to take Binky away.

Tier: Yes, absolutely. He likes to be scratched behind his ears.

Queen Maoh giggled and slowly moved her hand toward Binky's ears.

Queen Maoh III: As do we all, good Tier.

Binky continued sniffing around Queen Maoh's lap, oblivous to the commotion he'd just caused. Finally the Queen made a few light scratches behind Binky's ears and, when it was clear that the bunny liked it, she continued, becoming more and more at ease as time went on. Returning the favor, Binky started licking the Queen's arm.

Queen Maoh III: Oh ho! This is delightful indeed!

Elektra brought in a chocolate cake and placed it on the coffee table. From then, for the next few hours, the atmosphere was much more like the social gathering it was meant to be with people forming small groups, chatting, and mingling. Queen Maoh seemed like a wholly different person having dropped most of her pretense and formality and she carried Binky around wherever she went, jokingly reassuring a nervous Tier that she would not attempt to steal him.

Meanwhile, Kagurain tugged at his father's arm.

Kagurain: Dad! Dad! I want you to meet my boyfriend!

Lord Lynx: Oh, you have a boyfriend now?

Kagurain put his hands on his hips and glowered.

Kagurain: Since before we came back! I keep trying to tell you, but you're always so busy!

Lynx took Kagurain's hand.

Lord Lynx: I am not busy now. Lead the way.

Kagurain then enthusiastically lead Lynx outside, which also opened the floodgates for others to do the same. Soon, there was nobody left inside the house. The result was an absurd situation of a typical, mirthful backyard house party that just happened to have the most prestigious guest list in that corner of the galaxy.

Kradik: Jaze, Toma, I wonder if you would care to join me tomorrow. Toma's children are on the next ship coming in from Tokkastra and I assume you'd like to meet them.

Jaze hesitated for a moment as realization dawned upon him. With everything going on, he'd forgotten that Toma wound up with 20 kids of his own.

Jaze: Of course I'll be there!

After a few hours, it was clear that the party had to wrap up soon. People began exchanging calling cards, thanking each other for their time, and Queen Maoh handed Binky back to Tier with clear sadness in her eyes. Kuro, however, invited Jaze and Toma back into the still-empty house for a private chat. Taking a seat on the floor, Kuro looked Jaze earnestly in the eye.

Kuro: I know I asked you this before, but how are you doing?

Jaze turned his head to the side and looked down.

Jaze: I'm fine. Really, I am.

Kuro did not break her intense gaze.

Kuro: Jaze, please tell me the truth.

Jaze's eyes pivoted just for a second to Kuro and that was all the time it took for her fierce, earnest glare to pierce deeply within him. Jaze struggled to maintain his composure, but it was a battle he was swiftly losing. He opened his mouth to concede that no, he was indeed not okay, but he never managed to get any words out. Instead came a cascade of tears. Kuro pulled Jaze close and held him tightly with one arm while reaching out for Toma with the other.

Kuro: And you, Toma. How are you doing?

Toma leaned in to Kuro, though he did not weep as Jaze did.

Toma: Honestly, I feel the same as Jaze. I just can't really show it the way he does.

For a short while, Kuro, Jaze, and Toma remained where they were until Jaze finally ran out of energy. Kuro stood and helped the other two to their feet as well.

Kuro: I shall give a gift to you. Please show me to your room.

Jaze and Toma looked at each other briefly and took Kuro for her word. Thus far, they had never been let down by any dragon, and Ryuu trusted her. Up the stairs they went to Jaze's room, now graced with a pleasantly firm new mattress and shiny new sheets.

Kuro: Please make yourself as comfortable as you would if you were going to bed for the night. I shall take care of the rest.

Again, Jaze and Toma, trusting Kuro absolutely, did as they were told. Jaze stripped to his underwear and Toma entirely naked and both crawled into bed as though it was time to sleep for the night.

Kuro: Before I go, I want you to know that we have named you friends of the dragons. You will always be welcome on our world at any time for as long as you wish to stay.

As soon as Kuro finished her last statment a green vapor began to exude from her entire body, coming from her nose, mouth, and seemingly every pore in her skin. For a moment, Jaze was alarmed, until he was quickly overwhelmed by all of his favorite smells. The smell of freshly-made sushi, of the wooden utsuwa bowl in which the best kind was served, of soy sauce and wasabi, of autumn air and fresh-cut flowers. Toma, however, smelled apples and raspberries, the box of a freshly-opened video game, and tokkastran incense. In no time at all, both were asleep and dreaming happy, pleasant dreams.

Kuro switched off the lights and drew the curtains. After one last look at Jaze and Toma's smiling, peaceful faces, she quietly snuck out of the room and closed the door.

On the way down the stairs, Kuro could hear that most, if not all, the guests and inhabitants were crammed in the living room saying final goodbyes. Without any room to maneuver into the living room, Kuro sat on the stairs and called out.

Kuro: I'd like to say something to everyone before we all leave!

Gradually, the room began to quiet down as Elektra approached the stairs.

Elektra: Oh, let me find Jaze and Toma for you!

Kuro held up her hand and smiled and by now, most of the chattering had died down with all eyes on Kuro.

Kuro: It's okay. Toma and Jaze are sleeping now and they probably won't wake up until morning. I gave them some very nice dreams.

Though her first few sentences were directed mostly at Electra, the others heard as well, and now Kuro turned her attention to the entire living room.

Kuro: I don't want to turn this into a competition, but I think we can agree that Jaze and Toma took the worst of what Yseri had to offer. Still, this does not diminish the accomplishments of the rest of you. Never in dragon history have we ever known any such as yourselves to go up against a demigod like Wishmaster with any sort of success. You may be tempted to think that you had help, or that you didn't actually fight Wishmaster, but merely helped the others prepare. Again, this does not diminish your accomplishments. Even if Wishmaster isn't dead, he's severely weakened, and you have done the entire universe a great service. For that, we thank you and you are all friends of the dragons and you will be welcomed warmly if you should ever visit.

All those who did not come from Yseri applauded, first Veritas with the others joining in. The Yserians all reacted in varying degrees of embarrassment. Afterwards, the farewells continued and, one by one, the guests began to file out the door, though Elektra and Tier stopped Kuro for one last moment.

Tier: And you are also welcome in our home at any time.

With handshakes and hugs, Kuro, the final guest, departed, leaving the house feeling a bit more empty. Upstairs, Jaze and Toma slept soundly and peacefully with dreams of happy times.

Commissioned art in this episode from:
Atomic Clover

All city pictures from SimCity 4

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