Five minutes. Karyn spent the last half hour exhaustively playing social etiquette with whoever she was unfortunate enough to run into, and was left with nothing but these measly 5 minutes. She could almost feel the puppet strings of the Story begin to taut once again—Seraphina was coming back online.
But Karyn, like a dying peddler traveling through a cruel black desert, finally, finally, had her oasis.
A garden? And no one’s there? Hell. Yes. I’ll just sit down, close my eyes, and pretend that none of this is my problem. That’s healthy, right?
Getting slightly delusional from intense sleep deprivation, Karyn almost failed to notice the staggering sight at the very center of the flowery safehaven.
From "The Legends of the Hollowed Lands (edited edition)." Chapter 6, page 81.
However, the portrait was so stunning, so picturesquely well crafted that even Queen Seraphina, famously composed as she was, could not help but admire its splendor.
Two youths, two ravishing, dazzling, stunning youths gazing into one another with glittering infatuation. Brilliantly vibrant passionreds surrounded the couple, forming a flowery frame to this perfect painting. The elegant angelbirds of Tyr sang their glamorous refrains in brilliant harmony, a perfect embellishment to celebrate the unity that now existed between these two souls, now and forever.
To the right, the third prince of Hawre. Raised in the kingdom of law and order, he was a bastion of watchful bravery and righteousness. But Hawre was a frigid place; Darian had never before known the heated passion that burned from inside his handsome, well-muscled body.
To the left, the princess of Tyr. Beautiful, delicate, kind, she was but a caged angelbird yearning for freedom. Allaria desired little more than to let out her wings and soar, thinking nothing could possibly be more captivating. Oh, just how wrong she was.
She took a gentle step forward, timidly looking deep into the dark eyes of this captivating human stranger. She closed her own and tilted her head back, tender lips pursing outwards.
He gazed down at the graceful beauty, and leaned to meet her. Slowly, of course; she was just so soft and perfect and fragile that he feared that the lightest of embraces might break her.
Jon! Stop! Being! So! Gay!
“Allaria! Stop conglomerating with the human at once!”
The imposing articulation resounded through the garden with reverberating intensity. Jon and the Romeo went silent, staring at Karyn in stupefied terror. As did whichever else was unfortunate enough to be in the general vicinity, mostly the dumb looking bird that wouldn't stop shrieking until now.
Karyn was expecting none of this.
On one hand, a human! An honest to God human! She spent so much time around elves she almost forgot that humans were supposed to be the default; it was even felt weird to see his tiny little rounded ears.
On the other hand, Jon! Every bit as voluptuous as the queen herself, standing—no, posing—with the very same erotic idiosyncrasy that Karyn was compelled to embody. And that outfit… seemed to function less as actual clothing and more of a vague suggestion to what clothing was supposed to look like. The shape was there, sure, but not much else.
If Karyn hadn’t been there to see her friend transform, she wouldn’t have believed that he was standing right in front of her. The Elven princess reacted with an aristocratic daintiness far removed from anything Jon could possibly evoke. Her mannerisms, speech, inflection… All of it belonged to this ludicrous caricature of a Disney princess, not some gangly teenage boy.
A gangly boy who would—and Karyn knew her Jon very well—probably love to be far, far away from here, slamming his head into a table until freed from this disgrace of a memory.
“M-mother!?” The lad-now-lady’s pointed ears turned a deep crimson, matching the rest of their stunning visage. Was Jon the one blushing, humiliated to be in this hot mess? Or was it the lovely young maiden, unexpectedly caught in her lover’s rendezvous?
“I had believed you were concluding the preparation for tonight’s summit!”
I… uh… am not doing that any more. Now let’s get you out of here…because… because… we’re busy being royalty?…
“Oh please, I entrusted that elementary chore to Edea ages ago. Come, we have matters to attend of utmost importance.”
No issues yet—the Seraphina filter was working its stupid magic, but it looked like the Story liked where Karyn was going with this. Keep it steady, Karyn, breaking character means losing control.
“Of course, mother. My sincerest apologies”—Allaria coyly turned to the Romeo, gazing at him with the most potent puppydog eyes the world had ever seen. Karyn wasn’t even in their blast zone, and she felt her heart melting into a puddle of molasses—“it was delightful to make your acquaintance, Sir Darion. I trust you will make an appearance at the summit?”
Wide-eyed and slack-jawed, it seemed that the poor boy had forgotten how to produce a single coherent string of words. He tried, of course, opening and closing his mouth like some crappy wind up doll, but the sound just refused to come out. The princess literally took his breath away.
God damnit, they’re still flirting. Jon! Get a move on!
“Eep! Yes, mother!”
Finally, finally, Karyn pried her miserable friend out of this disastrous rom-com of a situation. His lady-body sauntered over to hers, and they, in turn, sauntered off together, headed off to whichever next disaster the story had planned.
It wasn’t great, but at least, for the first time in Karyn’s exhausting day as the stupid pointy-eared milf-queen, something went her way.
It’s great to see you again, Jon-boy.
Eyes narrowed. Back straightened. The high queen of Tyr turned to her daughter, and, with absolutely no control on a very startled Karyn’s part, spoke:
“I shall issue your punishment for contravening my authority another time, young lady, for your presence will be required. You are quite fortunate; powerful forces are at play, and the summit will be housing a number of esteemed guests whose presence I hadn't anticipated.”
Karyn was indeed winning this round, maintaining a steady influence over her new body like a helmsman at less-than-tranquil seas. But, in trying to express her affection for her dear friend, she very nearly broke character. Unacceptable.
She had capsized; now unsupported in these cruel waters, Karyn was at the mercy of the all-consuming tides.
The penalty for her error? Queen Seraphina was back at the helm.