The Fairy Princess' Teddy Bear, Part I

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The Fairy Princess' Teddy Bear, Part I

Postby LilJennie » Mon Mar 30, 2020 9:13 pm

The Fairy Princess’ Teddy Bear

By: Miki Yamuri and LilJennie

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It had been a very rough three years. Jason had lost his wife and 2 children in an auto accident. A very drunken politician had gotten on the freeway the wrong way and created a huge accident.

Due to the massive amounts of money and corrupt individuals in very high places involved, the individual not only got off on all charges, but had managed to sue him in Civil Court and won a huge settlement, taking all he had.

He stood on the icy windswept abutment to the very high bridge and watched as the dark cold water far below sparkled in the few lights that reflected off of its inky black surface. It would be very cold, but the pain would only last another few seconds … he jumped.

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“Oh -- happy birthday, Your Highness,” said the Royal Magician as he passed the Princess in the hallway, bowing to her.

“Why, thank you, Ilcaru,” said Princess Alyanna. “I’m sure I’ll see you at my party this evening -- I’m still planning events! I just want it to be an enjoyable time for everyone. And I’ve invited everyone I can think of, even my commoner friends!”

“Indeed, Your Highness, you do always try to think of others,” said Ilcaru. “It is quite endearing of you.”

“Well, I must get to the kitchens -- I’m still organizing the refreshments! I’ll see you tonight, OK?” The Princess hurried on, and Ilcaru continued down the hallway, then up the stairs to his tower.

He wanted to get the Princess of the Fairy Kingdom a really special birthday present this time. He had animated several of her favorite toy animals, but they weren’t truly alive, and it showed. They moved, in predefined routines like dances or tricks, but they were still toys. This time, however, he was going to make sure this present was exceptional.

Within his magic viewing glass, he observed an individual attempting to take his own life by jumping off of a very high bridge into the icy cold river. The magician smiled. No reason to let a perfectly good life force go to waste when he had a much better use for it.

Ilcaru tossed a large handful of a silvery-colored arcane powder into a small black boiling crucible. There was a large puff of many-colored smoke as he slowly chanted a mystical spell no human ear had ever heard. Over the next few hours he added more ingredients to the flame and continued to incant his spell.

Time passed very slowly in the human world, as Ilcaru had changed the flow of time itself with his powerful ritual -- the human stood on the bridge, on the edge between life and death. And then, the human slowly let himself fall. If Ilcaru had cared to watch, he could have seen the expression on the human’s face change from one of despair to one of panic and terror and finally to his eyes closing as he passed out as his life force was pulled from his body.

Just then, there was a bright flash within the middle of the column of smoke, and a crystalline sphere about the size of a large softball appeared. It shone and sparkled with a bright blue-white light. In the human world, a lifeless body fell into the ice-cold inky black depths of the river.

The magician took the sphere gently in his hand and walked to another bench. Lying on this bench was a large, fuzzy Teddy Bear with the back of its head opened. The magician pushed the ball into the back of the Teddy Bear’s head, then expertly sewed it up with a greenish glowing magical thread that left no findable seam.

He smiled as he picked up the bear and placed it into a colorful box he had prepared. Down the stairs he carried it, towards the grand ballroom, where the Princess’ birthday party would begin in an hour or two. The magician knew the Teddy Bear would be very disoriented for a bit, but that would pass, and the Princess would have her living plushie, as promised.

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Jason had been falling, and suddenly he had realized that he had made the wrong choice, but it was too late, so he prepared as best he could for the inevitable end … and now there was another place, there were few memories and few emotions, and precious few sensations of any kind. Was he dead? He could see only darkness, and what he could hear was muffled. What was this?

There were voices, soft and distant at first, then becoming closer and louder, and more numerous. Now there was music, but also muffled, and still more voices.

The Fairy Princess Alyanna sat amid many wonderful and magical toys and other gifts. She crossed her arms and poked out her bottom lip as she said in a pouty voice, “I didn’t get it this year neithers.”

Ilcaru walked up, knelt beside the Princess, and handed her a very large and delicately wrapped package. He said softly, “Why don’t you open this one, Your Highness, and see what happens?”

The Princess’ eyes widened as she took the large box from the magician. She began to untie the large ribbon holding the top on the box.

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Once all the bindings had been removed and the lid lifted, Jason managed to sit up. He was totally disoriented as he saw marvelous beings of all sorts standing or flitting all around.

He was so confused -- trying to blink his eyes didn’t even help, because it didn’t appear that he could do that. His mind didn’t really yet comprehend what his eyes were showing him. There were many of the beings all around, dressed in outfits that looked as if they were made of spiderwebs, or leaves, or even light -- if that were even possible.

Jason shook his head to clear it, but it had no real effect. He placed his hands on the edges of whatever he was sitting in with the intent of standing up. That’s when he realized his hand … was very different. He still had four fingers and an opposable thumb, but now they were short and stubby with short, soft, fluffy fur on them. He also heard a happily shrieking voice as a big pair of hands took hold of him and lifted him from the box.

“Oh! Ilcaru! It’s so adorable!” said a teenage girl’s voice happily, but she was the biggest teenage girl he’d ever seen … or … was he smaller now? Everyone in the room seemed larger than him, with only a few exceptions. “But … there’s something different about this one. It’s not … like your other ones.”

“This is quite a different effort, Your Highness,” said a tall man in multicolored robes decorated with what looked like mystical symbols -- he looked like a wizard, except his hair was black and he had no beard. “The culmination of my experiments on life force transfer. This adorable toy is imbued with the remnants of the life force of … a human.”

“A … human?” gasped the girl. “But … they were alive? You … killed them?”

“Oh, my, no, Your Highness,” said the magician or wizard. “If anything, I saved him. I plucked his life force from his body just as he was about to perish.”

“Oh wow!” the girl said. “Can he talk?”

“I’m not sure if he’s recovered from the transfer yet,” said the magician. “He’s likely quite disoriented. Still, I’m hoping he will be amusing.”

“Well he is very cute,” said the girl, “but yeah, he does seem pretty dizzy. I’ll put him down so he can rest.” She hugged him one more time, which Jason didn’t find unpleasant, then set him back inside the box -- no one put the lid on, so at least it wasn’t dark.

Jason lay back into whatever this very soft and comfy place was and tried very hard to think. His mind was totally lost like a leaf in a maelstrom as it tumbled over and over with many disjointed and strange visions and memories. Extremely shortly, Jason’s mind settled and he fell asleep. A lot had happened and he was worn out. His dreams were soft and very pleasant as he slept the most contented sleep he had ever had.

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Time had passed. Jason knew somehow that several hours had elapsed. He realized he was snuggled in bed with the teenaged girl. Her arm wrapped gently around his middle. He also realized he was now dressed in a very thick diaper and a really cute pair of plastic lined strawberry pink rumba panties.

Jason wiggled some and found he could squirm from under the girl’s arm easily, which he did. Jason looked over the edge of the bed. It appeared it was an extremely long way to the floor.

Jason sat back on his bottom. That was when he noticed the matching booties on his feet. Jason put his hands to his cheeks as he contemplated this situation. He realized it really wasn’t some kind of hallucination or dream. He was now something different, and was in a place he could not have imagined.

The girl moved and sat up. She had on a really cute puffy sleeved nighty that appeared to be finely woven silk. She smiled a beautiful smile as she reached over and picked Jason up by his middle and brought him to her lap and gave him a loving hug. She said cherrily, “Well, good morning, young lady. You are so adorably cute! I decided to call you Juniper. We are gonna be best girlfriends. Now. I’m sure you have a lot of questions. I will try to answer them as best I can. Remember, though, I’m still a little girl. I’m only 18.”

Jason’s mind was blown. A little girl at 18? He still had enough presence of mind to ask, “Who … are you …?” Jason’s voice sounded just like a little girl’s as he put his hands over his mouth in wide-eyed surprise.

The little girl giggled as she replied, “I’m the princess of all the wee folk and fairies. My name’s Alyanna. You can call me Mommy if you want; it’s ok with me.” She gave Jason another loving hug.

Jason felt Alyanna’s love radiating all through him. He had never experienced such a warm glow as it permeated his very being.

He took his hands from his mouth and asked, in his cute little girl voice, “What … happened? How come I’m here and not …” He looked around the gorgeous room. “... somewhere else?”

She took on a whimsically stern expression as she shook her finger toward him. “You were being a naughty human and were going to waste a perfectly good life force. The Royal Magician is a very powerful one and was looking for just that to make you … my little girl snuggle. When you jumped and there was no way out but you were going to die, the Royal Magician took your life force. You obviously didn’t want it anymore ... and we did.”

“It’s … magic?” His mind reeled. “That’s not … I mean it can’t … but there’s no such …” His senses were telling him one thing, and everything he had ever known told him another.

“Careful,” she said, mock-chiding him again, “you start saying things like there’s no such thing as magic and fairies start dropping dead. You don’t want that, do you?”

“No! Really?” he said, shocked.

“No … not really. But I did read Peter Pan,” said Alyanna.

“OK, OK, wait. There’s a what, Elves, Fairies, and Little Folks’ Chowder and Marching Society, and your parents are in charge of it?”

“Don’t be silly -- that Society only meets on Wednesdays, and it’s my uncle Snooks who’s in charge of that,” said a giggling Alyanna.

“Wait -- is that real, or are you kidding again?”

“Of course I’m kidding!” said Alyanna. “But really, Mommy and Daddy are in charge of the whole Fairy Realm. Is a big ‘sponsibility, they say.”

“And there’s a Magician who … put my soul in a Teddy Bear,” said Jason, still in that cute, high-pitched little-girl voice.

“Yup!” said Alyanna with a giggle. “I’m pretty sure it’s a big adjustment. I mean, I’ve never been a Teddy Bear. Or a human. But those two things are nothing like each other, so I figure it must be a big change! I hope I can help! I don’t want you to be sad.”

Alyanna said softly as she picked up some kind of rod that started to glow then began to wave her arms in an intricate way, “ I know that you weren’t a girl before, so Mommy gonna help with that too. Remember, from now on your name is Juniper.”

Immediately, he felt a warm tingling rush through his mind. What he thought his name was faded rapidly and Juniper popped fresh and alive within that place within him.

Alyanna said something in a language Juniper had never heard before. Once again, that so nice warm tingly rush ran all through, and she now felt something purge from her. Juniper wasn’t quite sure what had just happened, then realized Alyanna had rewritten many things within.

Juniper said in her really cute voice, “I ... it ... feels so ... weird.”

Alyanna picked Juniper to her breast and gave her another of the wonderful hugs that radiated warmth and love all through her.

Alyanna set Juniper on the bed as she got up and bounced over to the large chest sitting against the wall. Within moments, Alyanna had stripped out of her nighty and was dressing in an outfit that looked for the world was woven out of fibers made from a cloud and lace that was made from light itself. After she dressed, Juniper found herself getting her diaper changed, and a really cute sky blue romper that looked as if it were cut from a clear June sky, with lace made from the same threads of light as Alyanna’s.

Alyanna said cherrily, “Time for us girls to go down and get some breakfast. I must warn you, Sweetie. You are not who you used to be and never will be again. You are my little baby girl snuggle, and breakfast is time to have fun and make messes.”

Juniper almost totally lost her mind as Alyanna carried her into the dining area, patting her hinney all the way. Each pat sent surges of total contentment all through Juniper’s mind.

Alyanna popped Juniper into a cute toy high chair for dolls. She felt so snug and protected, and that was before the bib went on. Alyanna fed her some kind of mashed fruit that glowed slightly, and she was sure to get plenty of it on Juniper’s face and fur.

Juniper couldn’t remember the last time she had so much fun eating … or was she actually playing? She didn’t know which, but it was a lot of fun. She and Alyanna giggled and had a wonderful time until a woman dressed all in a sparkly golden gown that looked as if it were as ephemeral as any fog came up with a large cloth.

She said softly, “It’s time to get ready for Daddy’s court. My little girl has to have clean hands and face to be in the council box with us.”

Alyanna said with an obvious infantile whimper, “Why comes? Is so boring. ‘Sides, I gotsa new Teddy Bear ta play with.”

The woman smiled as she gently took Juniper’s paws and cleaned them with the thick damp cloth, then cleaned all her fur around her face. Next, she cleaned Alyanna’s face and hands before taking Juniper from the high chair and handing her to Alyanna.

She took Alyanna by the hand and led her out of the dining area into a long hall. Juniper looked around at all the magnificent archways, crystals, and many jewels tastefully arranged to catch the light and send sparkles all through the hall.

Two very large troll looking creatures in armor opened the large and thick wooden doors into the council chamber. The room was packed with many many wee folk and fairies. Juniper recognised imps and elves as they entered and found seats, but there were many other sorts, a wide variety of creatures.

The king stood and cleared his throat. The room became silent, “I would like to introduce my daughter, Princess Alyanna and her newest addition.” The king turned and motioned for Alyanna to come forward.

Alyanna acted very adorably shy as she approached the dais with Juniper in her arms.

The king said, “Show all the assemblage your new snuggle and tell us what you named her.”

Alyanna held Juniper up by her middle and said loudly, “This is Juniper. She’s my little girl snuggles, and we bestus friends.”

The assembled creatures all applauded and said a collective, “Awwww,” except for a few of the rotten wood nymphs, poison ivy spirits, thorn bush men, and the like, who just rolled their eyes and clapped once or twice politely.

Alyanna sat down in the chair that had been specially prepared for her. It was pink and silver and had lots of sparkly jewels, and its cushions were very soft. She cuddled Juniper and sometimes sucked her thumb. Sometimes the royal nursemaids would whisper to her, and she would stop … for a while.

Juniper tried to take it all in, but there was so much that was new to her. The wide variety of beings that were attending court were too much to keep track of. Some were here on business and had some sort of petition for their Majesties. Others just seemed here to observe, while others were clearly here to be seen, wishing to impress others with how pretty or powerful they were. Juniper saw Ilcaru, the Royal Magician, sitting in a box with a few important-looking others; it was the first she’d seen him since the Princess’ birthday party.

“And so, Your Majesties, we hope you will consider changing the course of the upcoming Centaur Races to be a bit farther from the Mushroom Village. We’re just very worried about damage to our homes. Thank you.” Some small people who actually looked a lot like mushrooms bowed and curtsied to the King and Queen and respectfully backed away, returning to their seats. The King whispered something to a bespectacled girl who must have been the royal secretary; she nodded and made some notes on a scroll with a quill pen.

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The king’s council seemingly ran for hours. Juniper had fallen asleep, followed shortly by Alyanna. The queen had the nursemaid take the princess and her sleeping Snuggle Bear back to the nursery and tuck them in.

There was one particularly nasty individual who was also at the King’s Court. In her very cold, icy, and dangerously foreboding realm, she was known as the Ice Queen. In all reality, she was just one of the Storm Fairies. Since she seemed to be the one with the strongest powers and nastiest temper, she ruled the frozen wasteland that she called home.

She had been claiming to want a living snuggle toy for a good long time; however, the royal laws set in place that governed such things were very strict, and the magic that kept just anyone from doing it was exceedingly powerful. But now somehow the princess had one.

Whirriena sat on that carved lump of frozen ice she called a throne and pondered how she might acquire the young princess’ snuggle. Her eyes grew large as an evil twisted smile crossed her face. It wasn’t the carcass that was actually alive, but the life force that had been captured within a light crystal. That changed things just a bit. All she really needed … was the crystal. The bear could remain as a delaying tactic until she could hide the sphere away and decide what type of stuffed toy she wanted to animate.

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Princess Alyanna hummed a pretty little tune as she brushed Juniper’s fur, which felt wonderful and relaxing, but Juniper was still very confused. She was … a bear. A Teddy Bear. Not even a living thing. What exactly was she? She started to ask, but didn’t know exactly how to even begin. What was her place in this world? What even was this world? Where was it? If she wanted to know how to get to Buffalo, New York, how would she even go about it?

“I think we’ll go for a little walk in the Royal Gardens today, Juniper,” said Alyanna as she brushed. “Won’t that be nice? You’ve never seen it before, so I can show you all the kinds of flowers and tell you all their names. But first I can get you all dressed up pretty.”

As Alyanna diapered her (a silly exercise as she didn’t seem to have a digestive system of any sort) and put a very lacy pastel-rainbow dress on her with a matching pair of plastic lined rumba panties, she thought that it really wasn’t so bad. She did live in a beautiful palace, and the Princess seemed very nice, if a bit juvenile and immature. But she would probably learn over time.

“Ooooh, don’t you just look beautiful, Juniper? You’re the prettiest bear in the whole world now!” said Alyanna, holding her up in front of a mirror. “Let’s go for a little walk.” She carried Juniper in the crook of her elbow out of her room and down the hallway, and everybody she met smiled at Alyanna, who smiled right back. Occasionally they smiled at Juniper too. She waved her fluffy arm at them.

“Here we are, Juniper,” said Alyanna, coming to a large set of doors, which was open to the air. The morning sun shone through flowering trees on a lovely formal garden, with impeccably trimmed hedges and intricately arranged floral beds. Not a petal was out of place. The Princess stepped out onto the stone walkway.

“Now these are gladiolus,” she explained to Juniper. “And right next to them are calendulas. The difference is …” Juniper didn’t really remember all the details, but clearly Alyanna knew a lot about flowers. “And over here we have the periwinkle … that’s odd … why is there frost on it? It’s unseasonable …”

Hidden beneath the many perriwinkle shrubs, a frost screanch lay. It chided itself over the fact some of its frost had spread through convection. It wouldn’t be able to steal that thingy her mistress had sent her to steal.

To steal a crystal of light was very serious business and required the true owner of the item to be totally unaware the taking of it was transpiring. It lay on its belly within a mere few yards of the item it so desperately wanted, but now was totally unable to get.

The screanch slowly attempted to crawl through the thick but well-manicured flowering shrubs to find another vantage point. It was just too warm here in the garden. No matter where she tried to take up another vantage, frost would rapidly start to form, giving away the fact something was amiss.

Alyanna started to notice that frost had started to spread. This wasn't a good thing, especially as warm as it was today, and the fact those particular plants couldn't take freezing weather. That’s why the garden had a warm spring spell cast on it.

The screanch accidently crawled into a large group of magical starmoths. The large luminous wings glowed brightly as they all fluttered from their perches and took flight. Alyanna already knew that was one of the signs she had been told to call the palace guards if such a thing happened.

Alyanna brought out her summoning stone and gave it several rubs. In a bright flash of light, a half dozen nasty looking sauren warriors appeared. Each not only had natural body armor, but they wore the magical mecha suits to boot.

Alyanna pointed towards the excited and wildly fluttering moths and the large patch of frost, “There. Not sure what it is … sompin there.”

The guards immediately brought out their combat wands and started a search.

“Likely cold magic presence,” said one. “Tracing.”

The screanch was approaching panic. They would find her, and they would put her in the box without secrets, and there would be nothing left of her but shreds of zephyr. As she got more agitated, it became harder and harder for her to sit still.

“There is an increasing concentration in this quadrant,” said the guard captain, pointing toward where the screanch was hiding, beneath a mulberry bush. “At the ready!” The guards pointed their wands at the bush in well-trained unison.

The screanch … screeched. It couldn’t help it. There was a burst of frost lightning as it flew straight into the sky at the fastest speed it could muster. It didn’t care if it got in trouble with the Ice Queen for failure. It wanted out of there, and it wanted it now.

From his tower, Royal Magician Ilcaru heard the piercing shriek and looked out his window. “What now?” he wondered. Then he saw the thin, dissipating trail of frost in the air from the screanch’s rapid exit. “Why would there be a frost screanch in the Royal Garden?” He looked at the ground below. “Alyanna? And … the gift. Hmm …”

The guards were looking skyward at the dissipating trail as well. “What was that?” asked Juniper.

“An intruder. Frost-based,” said the guard captain. “Unfortunately that’s all we can tell you until we get the evidence analyzed. Thistus, send the report.”

“Yessir,” said one of the guards, saluting and marching off.

“You are unharmed, Your Highness?” the captain asked the Princess.

“Uh huh, we’re fine, Captain,” said the Princess. “Thanks for checkin’ it out. You always do such a good job.”

“Thank you, Princess,” said the captain. He turned to the other guards and said, “Resume standard patrol.”

“Yessir,” said the rest of the guards, saluting and marching in different directions.

“What … are they?” asked Juniper, once the guards were out of earshot, so she wouldn’t offend such large and probably dangerous creatures.

“They’re saurens,” said the Princess. “I guess they don’t have those where you’re from? They’re kind of lizardy dragony people? They come from the Deserts of Dawn. They’re very good at guard duty, which is why Mommy and Daddy picked them for the job.” She giggled. “It’s lots better than hirin’ a screanch or something!”

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Ice Queen Whirriena was totally furious that she didn’t get the Crystal she wanted so badly. She also knew the screanch was completely correct in its assumptions and was very glad it had managed to escape the Sauren Guards. It kept a whole lot of really embarrassing questions from being asked … and even worse, having to be answered.

Besides, she was also glad she hadn’t lost her most favorite screanch scrounger. Those who had not only common sense, but had enough brains to know when it was time to run, were very hard to come by, much less train.

Whirriena finally managed to control her wrath. She said, in a soft tone that still dripped with anger’s venom, “You did well. Now leave me while I figure out how to get the crystal.”

The prone screanch said with much fear and reverance in his tone, “Yes, my queen. I too will see if there is some way to scavenge the crystal without being discovered.” She then vanished in a large powdery puff of frost.

Whirriena smiled at that. That’s why that particular critter was her favorite; it always seemed to be able to make it snow.

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Ilcaru cleared his conjuring table except for two candles. One was so black that it appeared that reality itself bent and twisted into its ebony surface and was lost there. The other was as red as any blood and seemed to have something alive within it as the colors wiggled and squiggled.

Ilcaru clapped his hands together as he said in a loud and resonating voice, “Illuminucate”

A large spark of eldritch energies jumped from between his hands to the wick of each candle. There was a loud popping noise and a huge puff of smoke arose around each candle, then a large steady flame. The black candle’s flame seemed to spread out and merge with the red one’s.

A large flaming cloud appeared. Within it, the ghostly images of what had transpired in the Garden of Spring began to dance. Ilcaru was not pleased at what he saw …

“Frost screanch,” he said, “your hasty departure will be your undoing, for you have not covered your tracks. Let us see who it is who would stand between me and my ultimate triumph …” He spread his arms wide, and not only did the trail of frost in the ghostly image turn bright red where the creature had departed, the image itself shrank smaller until it encompassed the entire castle, its grounds, the region, the entire realm, the entire world … and he followed the red line to its source.

“Inconsequential Ice Fairy!” he thundered. “You will pay for encroaching on my domain! My plans will not be disrupted!” The tower practically shook with his fury. But then his voice grew quieter.

“You will fail, of course. And I will look like a hero and savior. You will serve your purpose … and when I no longer need you …” He laughed maliciously.

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“Sweetheart?” asked the Queen’s voice from outside Alyanna’s door.

“Oh, hi Mommy!” said the Princess. “Come in!”

The door opened. It was the Queen and the Royal Magician. “Hi, Honey, I hope you’re having fun today.”

“Oh yeah!” said the Princess. She was sitting on the padded floor mat in her favorite playroom, in one of her cutest flouncy play dresses, playing a game with Juniper. “I’m showin’ Juniper how ta play Star Stones! She’s not too good, but she’s just learnin’!”

“That’s wonderful, Dear!” said the Queen. “Now, Ilcaru here just wanted to have a look at Juniper for a moment. He said it’s something to do with what happened in the garden earlier, where the guards said you saw something?”

“Yes, I just wanted to make sure nothing had happened to Juniper, my dear,” said Ilcaru.

“In the meantime, I should check and see if you need a change,” said the Queen. “I love you and want to make sure you stay dry -- you’re far too young to attempt potty training yet, of course.”

Alyanna sighed. “I know, Mommy,” she said. “I just wish I were a couple decades older so I could get out of diapers!”

“We were all that young once, Sweetheart,” said the Queen, reaching down and lifting the hem of Alyanna’s dress to check her diaper. “Yes, you feel quite damp. Let’s get you to the changing room.” She took Alyanna by the hand, lifted her to her feet, and led her to the room next door.

“A fine opportunity to check on Juniper, then,” said Ilcaru. “Let’s just have a look at you,” he said, picking up the Teddy Bear.

Juniper found herself being lifted up and looking momentarily into the magician’s eyes before being turned around. “What’s going on?” she asked.

“Oh, I just want to make sure that whatever was in the garden didn’t make contact with you,” said Ilcaru. “You’ll be fine. You might feel something …”

“What’s that? A needle?” Juniper asked. “I don’t like needles …” But Juniper didn’t feel any pain, just something thin and metallic poking between the seams in the back of her fabric head. Then there was a jolt, like a momentarily charge of electricity. “Aaah! What was that?”

“There we are,” the magician said. The feeling of the needle withdrew. “You look fine. And now, if anyone tries anything, they’ll have a bit of a surprise in store.”

“Err … thanks?” said Juniper. “You’re Ilcaru, right? I’m … Juniper, now, I guess. Now that we’ve officially met.”

“Yes, yes, I know your name,” said the magician, setting Juniper back down on the play mat. “Your diaper seems perfectly dry,” he added with a mocking grin. “But of course, it’s just a plaything, as you yourself are. And will always be.”

Ilcaru turned and left, and Juniper watched him go. He seemed kind of … mean. What had he really done to her?

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In a very cold ice cavern, complete with frozen waterfalls and what appeared to be many statues made of ice. Closer examination would show that these were in fact living creatures who had been incarcerated this way.

There were many types of creatures, both huge and very small, filling the chamber in a huge gathering. When Whirriena entered, all the creatures suddenly fell prostrate and began a low melodious chant until she had seated herself on the large chunk of ornately carved ice that she called her throne. She said in her magically enhanced, resonating voice that echoed throughout the huge cavern, “My subjects, I, your queen, call upon you to devise a stealth plan so that I might obtain a very rare and precious crystal for my own.”

A very large creature that looked like an abominable snowman crossed with some other strange kind of wintery monster said in a deep voice, “My Queen, to steal a crystal of light is a very delicate and dangerous proposition at very best. The owner of the crystal must not know it is being taken until it has been removed from that person’s kyrillian influence.”

A nasty scowl crossed Whirriena’s features as she stood and slammed her staff to the ground, causing the entire cavern to tremble, “I did not ask for your opinion of the dangers! I asked for solutions as to how to accomplish the feat.”

The extremely large creature looked around at all the other creatures lying prostrate and trembling in fear, “My Queen, if a crystal of light is taken, anyone who is closely bonded with the crystal will know.” He held out his hand. Within its huge hairy palm rested another type of crystal. It pulsed with a dark purple aura. “I stole this crystal. I cannot say who knows, but someone does, and it will be enough to enact the protection spells against such actions upon me, should they choose to activate them.”

Whirriena looked at the sphere of reckoning in the ice giant’s palm as it flashed purple over and over. She knew as well as her other minions, that until such time as the awareness passed, getting the crystal of light without causing whatever defensive spells it had to reciprocate would be impossible. Moreover, this was not a crystal of light but a lesser crystal -- a crystal of light would be far worse.

The queen suddenly smiled an evil smile. She had a plan suddenly. She would send an expendable minion to act as if it were stealing the crystal. Once the punishment was enacted on that creature, it should alleviate suspicions for a while … long enough, at least, to accomplish stealing it for real. But it would have to be a minion that could not be traced to her …

“Enough warnings!” she shrieked, striking the icy floor with her silver scepter, and all the assembled creatures trembled. “How can this be accomplished? I care not who bears the retribution, so long as it is not me.”

“I … I may have an idea, my Queen,” said a clever Frost Boggart. The warts on its large nose were many. “If I may approach … a word in your ear …” With a beckoning gesture from Whirriena, the creature approached the throne. It climbed the arm and stretched up to whisper into her ear, and as it did so, her face lit up with a malevolent grin.

“Yes,” she said. “Yes! And we have the means to do such a thing even now!” She stood up. “Soon -- soon we shall have our ultimate weapon, and I will rule this land!”

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For Juniper, her life was now being the Princess’ favorite companion and confidante. She told Juniper all her secrets and took her everywhere she went. For some reason she insisted in keeping Juniper dressed in thick diapers that made it difficult to move on her own, although she could if she worked at it. Perhaps she did it because she had to wear diapers herself, being such a young fairy.

Juniper realized she was becoming more and more like the princess as she learned all her little girl secrets, and played in the playroom with all the toys. Juniper had gotten to the point she didn’t even mind being dressed up like a cute little girl. Basically, because even though she was a Teddy Bear, she was still a little girl.

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In a frozen wasteland amid many icy, snow covered, windswept peaks, a very strange and sparkly ball of flame appeared. It gave off no heat, but instead caused delicate snowflakes to begin to fall in large fluffy amounts.

Around this very pretty sparkly light appeared thirteen of the ugliest and most foul creatures all dressed in shredded rags as black as any of the outer regions. Swirling all over and surrounding them was some form of misty frost that settled all around them like a very light snowfall.

One of the Ice Hags pointed her gnarly finger at another and said in her cackling voice, “Tha Queen has commanded one or another of us to create a very large diversion.”

One of the others said, “It is time for the conjuring. To make it come forth.”

All of the hags cackled in their terrible way as a large cauldron appeared sitting atop a cast iron frame. The sparkly ball of energy moved to the cage-like area within the frame directly beneath the cauldron.

Four of the Ice hags took up positions around the now boiling pot in exact compass rose directions of North, South, East, and West … if such could literally be described in this location.

The four began the chant as they called the four corners of the world to send forth the Demon of Storms. Louder and louder the chant became as the other Ice Hags joined in.

A portal opened amid all the thick liquid roiling and boiling within the large cauldron. An abomination from another realm appeared out of the portal.

The eldest of the Ice Hags pointed her gnarly finger off in a direction and said in her cackling voice, “Go you forth and seek that life force. It doesn’t belong where it is. Return it to me as soon as you have it.”

The creature seemed to bow as it said in its terrible voice, “As you have commanded, so shall it be.” then vanished in a brimstone smelling poof of inky black smoke.

The thirteen cackled as the eldest said, “Now, because that is not a construct, but a summons. All shall fall on it and not us or the queen.” The thirteen cackled again, and a major blizzard formed around the King and Queen’s castle.

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“My goodness, that’s unseasonable,” said the King, gazing out the window of his throne room during court. Snow was falling rapidly, and the wind was blowing hard. “I thought the Duchess of Autumn was on the calendar for the rest of the month.”

Checking a scroll and adjusting her glasses, the secretary fairy said, “You are correct, Sire. Winter isn’t due for another 25 days.”

“Well, this is quite vexing,” said the King. “Court is postponed until this can be dealt with. Ilcaru, you look pensive.”

“Yes, Your Majesty,” said the magician as the varied citizens and nobles began to leave the throne room. “I chiefly suspect that self-styled ‘Ice Queen’ Whirriena. She’s been stirring up trouble lately.”

“I’ll have a word with the Duke of Winter. Oh, Duke Hiems …”

Juniper felt herself rising as Princess Alyanna got up from her chair. “Thank goodness,” said the Princess. “Court is always soooo boring. Maybe we can go out and play in the snow!” She left the throne room, going down the hallway toward her suite.

“Um, the wind’s blowing pretty hard,” said Juniper. “It probably won’t be fun to play in until later.”

“Oh yeah.” The Princess pouted cutely. “But later, we can build a snow castle! And make slushies and snow cones!”

“Sounds fun!” said Juniper. Just then, a cloud of black smoke appeared in the hallway, shot through with fire, and stepping out of it was a tall, fat, horned figure. Alyanna screamed as it approached her.

Footsteps approached from the distance, probably guards, but the creature had already grabbed Juniper from Alyanna’s hands, causing her to shriek more.

Suddenly a cage made of glowing red energy materialized around the creature, which dropped Juniper. Ilcaru suddenly appeared, observing the caged creature.

“Well, well, well,” said the magician, “now what do we have here? A demon, unless I miss my guess. And who has summoned you from the Nether Realms? No, no, don’t tell me, as if you were going to. I can read the spell like a book. Hmm, coven of Ice Hags -- why am I not surprised?”

Juniper lay on the hallway floor upside down and tried to right herself, though with her diaper it was difficult. Alyanna was still terrified of the demon and was leaning against a wall and crying. The guards had begun to arrive and were brandishing weapons at the caged creature.

“Well, once again Whirriena has assaulted the Crown,” said Ilcaru. “I wonder whether this will be enough to convince the King to take action against her. Perhaps a few centuries in the dungeon will give her time to think.”

But while this was going on, Juniper felt herself being grabbed and then being carried down the hallway at a high speed. She tried to turn around and see who had her, but she couldn’t twist her neck that way. Their footsteps were silent. But she wasn’t high off the ground, so perhaps they weren’t very tall.

They ran past a mirror on the wall, and Juniper caught a glimpse -- it looked like a young girl with brown skin and long, sandy-colored hair, wearing flowing garments that were also the color of sand. She ran barefooted down the castle’s stone corridors without making a sound. And all the guards were distracted by the demon …

“Hey!” shouted Juniper. “Where are you taking me?”

There was a crash of breaking glass and the sound of blowing wind. The girl had wrapped her fist up in some of her flowing clothes and broken a window. Now she had taken a piece of broken glass and was cutting open Juniper’s seams. Now she was holding Juniper outside the window. Juniper looked upward into the sky, all full of blowing snow … and that was all she knew as the crystal fell from her Teddy Bear body, down toward the ground below. The last thing she heard was the mystery girl whispering, “I’m sorry …”

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“And here it is at last,” said Whirriena as the screanch delivered the crystal to her, setting it on a pedestal. “Well done! And no retribution on anyone I care about. Oh, the daughter of the desert fairy in my dungeons will face the consequences, but she isn’t my concern. And now … to bring my ultimate weapon to life.”

Whirriena walked out onto the wooden balcony surrounding the giant head of a monster dragon. She walked around to the front where, at her touch, a large section of scales rose up, revealing a large opening in the chest. Whirriena cackled evilly as she pushed the sparkling orb into the dark hole and closed the scales.

Juniper's vision returned, although it was a bit sharper and clearer than it had ever before been. Her body felt a lot different too. She looked around in shock as Juniper realized how large and scaly she had become. She stretched out her wings and gave them a tenuous flap. Huge amounts of dust and debris flew all over in the gale they stirred up.

Whirriena cackled with glee as she waved her wand. “Welcome to your new home. You are now under my command.”

A bright flash appeared all around Juniper’s new body. She could feel it tingle horridly all through her. The only thing was … she felt no compulsion to obey, just a whole lot of anger over what had happened.

But she also didn’t know exactly what had happened. Where was Alyanna? Was she all right? Who was this tiny ice fairy who was yelling at her? Where were they now? How could she get back to Mommy? Whatever the answers were, she doubted that the annoying yelling ice fairy could be trusted. But she also doubted that the ice fairy knew much about who Juniper was, or she wouldn’t have put her into such a large, strong body.

“Now, the first thing you’re going to do is help me defeat the Duke of Winter!” yelled the annoying ice fairy. “I will rule the Winter, and as it’s soon going to be Winter throughout the Fairy Realm, I will have power over even the Twilight Lands where the Royal Castle stands … and I plan to make the most of that.”

Juniper watched and listened. She didn’t know the annoying ice fairy’s name yet, but she was already wondering whether she was capable of biting her in half with this body. She wished there were someone she could trust here. But failing that, she would just have to trust no one.

“Very well,” said Juniper, and her voice came out in a thundering roar. “What are your orders?”

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Meanwhile, back at the Royal Castle, the King was holding court of a different kind. In a small chamber, Ilcaru was interrogating the demon, and outside the dungeon bars, the King, Queen and Princess watched. Alyanna’s eyes were full of tears.

“So, in the years before the Atavine Intercession, you were a free agent and made many contracts with the Sisters of Isinglass?” Ilcaru asked. “How many remained unfulfilled?”

“I have revealed enough!” the demon shouted defiantly. “I --” Ilcaru twisted a ring on his finger, and the demon grunted and cringed as bolts of red energy shot through its body.

“Is Juniper gonna be okay?” asked Princess Alyanna quietly.

“She’ll be fine once we get her crystal back, Honey,” said the Queen. She reached under the Princess’ dress and checked her diaper. “You’re soaking wet again, Sweetheart. Let’s get you changed, OK?” She took Alyanna by the hand and started to leave with her.

“But what if I miss somefin that will help Juniper?” whimpered the Princess, going along with her mother. “I wanna help …”

They passed by the cell holding the other prisoner. This girl looked like she was from the Deserts of Dawn, but for obvious reasons they hadn’t been able to ask her any questions: her body lay on a stone slab, convoluted into what looked like a position of utmost agony, while nearby a clear crystal held her spirit captive within, the magical retribution for stealing a Crystal of Light. But Alyanna noticed a small sound coming from the girl’s throat.

“Mommy, wait,” she said, stopping and looking at the girl. “She saying somefin.”

“What could she possibly be --” the Queen began, then stopped too. She also heard it.

They both stood silently. “Fffffaaaatthhhhheeerrrrr …” the girl croaked from deep in her throat, even though it should have been impossible for her to move or say anything.

“Huh?” Alyanna asked her. “No worry … you can talk to us … we wanna know what you gots ta say. Specially if it can help Juniper!”

“Father … imprisoned … Ice Queen …” the girl croaked, a little bit more easily.

“Ooo, your daddy is in trouble?” asked Alyanna. “Is OK, you can do it!”

Somehow the girl’s voice came even more easily now. “Ice Queen … hurt Father … unless I did … what she asked …”

“I suspect Ilcaru knew this,” said the Queen, “but it seems our thief is but a pawn in the so-called Ice Queen’s game.”

“She good girl,” said Alyanna. “I know it. We gotsa help her. It not her fault.”

“Guards, open this cell, please,” said the Queen, and some of the Saurian guards came over. One unlocked the cell door with a key while another stood guard. The one with the key looked surprised when he got a closer look at her.

“Oooo, do you know who she is?” asked Alyanna.

“Yesss, Princesssss,” said the guard with the keys. “Issss Princesssss Ashara of Easssstern Reachessssss.” His slithering reptilian tongue hissed the sounds.

“Eastern Reaches?” asked the Queen. “You mean the Eastern Reaches of the Deserts of Dawn? She’s far from home. I wish I’d known she was here. But I’m guessing she meant her presence to be secret.”

Alyanna had already entered the cell and touched the girl’s forehead, looking into her eyes. “We gonna helps you,” she said. “No like what you did to Juniper … but if some meany Ice Queen made you do it, it no your fault.”

“More than … I deserve …” the girl croaked.

Alyanna looked back at her mother. “How I fix her?”

“That might be something Ilcaru would have to …” the Queen began, but Alyanna reached out toward the crystalline orb that held the girl’s spirit. “Alyanna, you don’t know what you’re doing … you might make things worse …”

“I sees,” Alyanna said. “It easy.” She touched the orb, and the light from within it passed through her and into the girl’s body. “Is just like when I tells things to be a new way.”

“Thank … you …” said the girl’s voice, sounding a bit more alive. Her body collapsed limply onto the stone, losing its agonizing stiffness. “So … weak …”

“Well, you’ve been through a lot,” said the Queen. “Alyanna, this ability you’ve been showing lately is getting stronger.”

But Alyanna wasn’t listening to her mother. “You Pwincess Ashara? Your daddy gotted captured by some Ice Queen meany? How come you no comed to us for help?”

“She said … she’d kill him if I did,” Ashara said. “You’re very young … you don’t know what true evil is like …”

“Shhh,” said Alyanna. “You gonna be OK? Wanna get some rest?”

“Can … barely move … rest is all I can do right now …” said Ashara exhaustedly.

To the guards, the Queen said, “Take her to the Quisling Suite -- get more help if you have to. Don’t harm her. She can’t be trusted, at least not yet, but in case she could become an ally in this, she should be treated well so she can recover.”

“I … understand …” said Ashara. The guards called for a stretcher, and when another arrived with it, they started gently shifting her onto it.

“I come wif you,” said Alyanna.

“Not just yet,” said the Queen. “You still need a change, Honey. We’ll catch up to her shortly.”

“Aw, Mommy,” said Alyanna.

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The Quisling Suite was designed as a cell for VIP prisoners. There was no magic transport in or out, and there were cold iron bars on the windows and a magically-reinforced door. But it was comfortable inside, with all the amenities of home. Alyanna and the Queen went there once the baby Princess’ diaper was clean and dry.

Ashara had bathed and changed into a comfortable gown; she was resting in bed with a glass of starberry juice. She still looked very tired, but a lot better than she had before. She was young, but not as young as Alyanna. She didn’t seem to need diapers anymore, for one thing, so she was probably at least 50 years old.

“Your Majesty, Your Highness,” said Ashara as they entered. “You honor me, though I don’t deserve it.”

“We think you may yet redeem yourself,” said the Queen. “You could start by telling us all you know about Whirriena. You surely understand that by using you, she challenged the authority of the Crown, and we cannot allow such a challenge to go unanswered.”

“What that meany Ice Queen up to? An’ what she want Juniper for?” added Alyanna. “An’ where she keepin’ your daddy?”

“Sadly she didn’t tell me anything about her plans,” Ashara replied. “But from what she said, I gather that she’s holding him in the dungeon of her Ice Palace, and I doubt she just wants a Teddy Bear to snuggle at night. Her heart’s as cold as a glacier. My father says that everyone knows she wants to rule the land of Winter. I’m not sure how a Teddy Bear’s Light Crystal could help with that.”

“I believe I can answer that,” said Ilcaru, entering the room. “I took the precaution of putting tracking and protection spells on that Light Crystal, and I know exactly where it is -- and it is indeed in Whirriena’s Ice Palace. I’m assuming she’s placed it into a vessel, much as I placed it into her Highness’ Teddy Bear … but I doubt she’s doing anything so benign with it. Unless I miss my guess, it’s a much more powerful construction.”

“She make Juniper … a monster?” asked Alyanna with a gasp.

“There’d be little point in going to so much trouble unless that was her plan, my dear,” said Ilcaru. “But don’t worry. Your Juniper won’t have to do anything she says. Now, she might choose to, if she’s confused, or if Whirriena finds some way to coerce her …”

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Juniper sat and brooded within the icy cold cave Whirriena had chained her to as punishment for not doing as she had commanded. Another thing that really made Juniper mad … that silly waving of her wand all the time. It didn’t feel nice and tingly all over like the others. Whirriena’s seemed to hurt or something. Like having poison ivy and can’t scratch it or something.

Juniper shifted her huge, winged, reptilian body around so she could see out of the cave. All she could see, and her eyesight was greatly enhanced now, was desolate icy windswept snowy tundra. This didn’t help Juniper’s disposition any either.

But then, on a small ice shelf right before Juniper’s eyes, there was a small icy flash, and a small frost fairy stood there, looking all around nervously.

She said in a small shy voice, “I … I’ve come to tell you a secret. You are an Ice Dragon. Instead of fire, you have two ice lungs and can turn a summer’s day into an artic wilderness.”

Juniper raised her head indignantly and shouted with passion, “I don’t want …!” Her voice was immense and caused a minor earthquake; icy stalactites started to fall from the cave’s ceiling. The tiny fairy squeaked and vanished. Juniper stopped until she was sure there wasn’t going to be a cave-in. The fairy reappeared once things quieted down. Then, Juniper carefully and very quietly continued, “Sorry … I don’t want to do that. I want to go back to my mommy and snuggle.”

The little fairy giggled, then replied, “That’s why you have to learn how to use your ice lung. With that, you can escape and return to wherever you wanna go.”

Juniper lowered her head slightly to where she could see the fairy plainly and said quietly, “OK, show me how to do it.”

The little fairy held up one of her fingers as she made a loud, deep, throat clearing sound, then spat a large wad towards the entrance to the cave. When it hit, it exploded into a large wash of icy, snowy slush. “‘Scuse me,” she said, curtsying adorably. “I’m notta dragon. But I’ve got some cold powers. Yours work kinda like that.” The little fairy continued, “Now, you try it. Be careful, though. Yours is tremendously powerful if you get it right.”

Juniper lifted her head high and set her shoulders as she tried her best to bring up something. She felt a strange and wonderful sensation in her chest for an instant, then her mouth was full of something very cold. Juniper spat it out towards the mouth of the cave. When it hit, the results were astounding as a massive wave of icy, snowy slush washed through the valley below like a tidal wave.

The little fairy giggled as she curtsied again, “Exactly right. You did perfect. I gotta go before I get caught -- you never saw me! Bye!” With that, she was gone in a small icy flash, leaving Juniper with a whole new ability to play with.

Juniper craned her neck around to look at the anchors that her chains were attached to. There were four chains, one for each leg, and they were connected to two large rings that were sunk into the rock beneath the cave’s ice. Juniper wasn’t sure how ice breath could get her out of this, so she thought about how she’d gotten into this situation.

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“Now that you’ve figured out how to fly, do you see that tower to your right?” came Whirriena’s voice. Somehow Juniper could still hear her, even though she’d flown very far away, and the loud, annoying ice fairy knew where she was. “That belongs to Duke Hiems. His soldiers use it to watch for any incoming threats. Use your ice breath and destroy it!”

“Ice … breath?” asked Juniper. “I don’t know what that is or how to use it.”

“Just … try!” came the reply.

“Are there people in that tower?” Juniper asked. She looked, and she found that she could clearly see the fairy soldiers in the tower, their uniforms decorated with the same symbols and colors, a snowflake and two crossed icicles in blue and white. Even though she was miles away from the tower, she could see them in sharp focus. This body had amazing eyesight. “Yes, there are,” she said, answering her own question. “No, thanks.”

“ExCUSE ME?” shrieked Whirriena, aghast. “WHAT DID YOU SAY?”

“I said, no,” said Juniper. “Even if I knew how to do that, I wouldn’t want to kill people, except maybe in self-defense, and they’re not attacking or even threatening me.”

“You will do as I command!” screamed Whirriena. Juniper felt an itching, burning sensation all over. “Or I will make your life miserable!”

“You’re making it miserable anyway,” Juniper muttered. She vowed to master her abilities so that perhaps one day she could squish the annoying fairy and go back to Mommy.

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Back at the palace, Alyanna was totally miserable. She had the lifeless snuggle that used to be her very best girlfriend, but it was just that, a snuggle. She was definitely not having a good day as she screamed and cried over the loss.

The King sat on his throne with his face in his hands as the chamber doors opened. In walked the Captain of the Sauren Guards, all dressed in his finest battle armor.

The Knight came to the foot of the dais and knelt as he doffed his helmet. “Sire. We of the guard are mobilized and ready to strike against the Ice Queen on your command.”

The king looked up from his somber thoughts with an expression of surprise, “I did not order an attack. At least, not yet. I haven't discovered what Whirriena’s ultimate plan is or what I should do to counter it with the least amount of damage. I’m sure not all the frosties were involved with the theft.”

The massive Sauren stood and placed his helm under one arm, “Sire, we of the guard have all volunteered to go to the nether regions and recover the crystal, and perhaps lay a little justice on Whirriena’s head to boot.”

The King smiled with pride as he looked over the head Saurian Guard. The King was very pleased with his Guard, but he also had yet to discuss a plan of action with Ilcaru. An expression of thoughtfulness came across his face as he thought of the situation.

The King finally motioned for the courier and said, “Inform Ilcaru to come to the throne room immediately. The captain here and I wish to have a conference with him.”

The small elf looking creature bowed deeply before vanishing in a bright puff of white light and mist.

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“How are you feeling, my dear?” asked the Queen on another of her visits to Ashera in her chambers.

“Much better, Your Majesty,” said Ashera. “I tried getting up and walking around, and although I stumble a bit, I’m beginning to reconnect my spirit with my body again. It shouldn’t be long.”

“That’s good,” the Queen said, “because our Sauren guards are clamoring for retribution against Whirriena. They forget that they’re not an army, just a guard unit, and if they leave the castle, it will be unguarded. But I’m sure you know that they are very vengeful when their honor has been impugned, and Whirriena has managed to breach their protection.”

“Oh, yes,” Ashera said. “We have a story that long ago, a Sauren village promised to bring the Duke a snowfruit. They sent one expedition after another to the Winter Lands to bring a fruit back, but it always melted. The Duke tried to release them from their vow, but they wouldn’t hear of it, and they kept doing it until the Duke made a deal with one of the winter fairies to cast a long-lasting cold spell on the fruit before they picked it. No one knows whether it really happened, but … no one believes it to be impossible either.”

The Queen laughed. “I wonder whether there’s any record of that incident in the royal archives. But in any case, my daughter is distraught beyond reason. She needs solace that I fear can only come from the return of Juniper.”

“Then I will work even harder to get better,” said Ashera, throwing back the covers of her bed. “I will walk every day until I can run, and then I will walk more until I can walk silently once more. She is distraught because of me, and yet it was she who healed me. I must help her. This is a matter of my honor.”

“If there is any help I can provide, I will,” said the Queen. “In fact … walk now.” She took out a thin, unadorned silver wand, and Ashera started to walk carefully around the suite, her legs a bit wobbly. Then the Queen intoned some ancient words and gestured with the wand, and a bluish light began to glow around Ashera’s body. “Keep walking … this healing spell will only work on parts of your body that you’re moving.”

“I can feel it helping,” Ashera said as she continued to walk, then shifted to a jog. “Yes, I feel much better already! If you are willing to do this each day … I might be ready before the week is out.”

“Very well,” said the Queen. “I shall do so. And as we work … I have some plans we might discuss about how you might help -- and how you might rescue your father at the same time.”

“Ah,” said Ashera, “Ilcaru mentions plans, but none of his involve my father’s safety.”

“Ilcaru has been speaking with you?” asked the Queen. “Interesting.”

“Yes, he’s very interested in getting Juniper back as well. He says the Princess’ snuggle is essential.”

“Does he, now?” the Queen said. “That’s very interesting. What sorts of plans has he been discussing with you?”

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Juniper tried to fly away that day. Something -- presumably some spell of Whirriena’s -- had struck her with such great pain that she had become unable to move her wings, and she crashed into the ground. Fortunately it had locked her wings in an outward position, so she had glided for some time before impact, but then she had landed in a rolling, twisting heap. Sullenly she had picked herself up and walked back toward the Ice Queen’s palace. Upon reaching its outskirts one of Whirriena’s servants had come and patched her wounds, silently, knowing that the message had been sent and received. She couldn’t escape that way.

But Juniper was even more angry now. She was going to crush that annoying loud ice fairy who wasn’t even a real queen. And she knew something Whirriena didn’t know she knew. This body wasn’t her. She could damage it all she wanted and Juniper didn’t care. Whirriena had made it, after all. Her real body was back at the Royal Palace. The only question was how to get back to it.

“Psst,” said a voice when she had been taken back to her ice cave and locked up again. “It’s me.”

“I’ve been practicing with my ice breath,” whispered Juniper. “But what I really want to know is … how to get out of this body.”

“Oh -- well I know that you’re a life force inside a Light Crystal,” said the tiny ice fairy. “But that Light Crystal can’t move by itself. If you want to escape, you have to be inside a body -- or you have to be carried.”

“Any chance you know where I can find another body?” asked Juniper.

“No, sorry. They have to be made specially for Light Crystals,” said the ice fairy, “or they have to be specially converted. And before you ask, no, I don’t know how to do those things.”

“Do you know how I can break Whirriena’s control over this one?” asked Juniper. “Because that’s getting very, very old.”

“Kill her, or destroy her wand,” said the fairy. “There may be protective magic that can block her control, but that’s not my field.”

“Hmmmmmmrrrrr,” Juniper growled deeply. “What is your field?”

“I make things out of ice,” the small fairy replied. “Voila!” There was suddenly a beautiful ice sculpture of a dolphin next to her on the ice shelf she stood on. But then she waved her hands and there was nothing but snow on her shelf again.

“That was beautiful,” said Juniper. “Can you make … a body for my crystal?”

“Oh, I don’t know how to do that … that’s very complicated magic, connecting those two forms of magic together like that. I don’t even know anybody who can, besides Whirriena. Maybe Royal Magician Ilcaru -- he’s an expert at all kinds of magic, they say.”

“Yes,” said Juniper, “they do say that.”

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“I have come in response to your summons, Your Majesty,” said Ilcaru with a bow as he appeared in the throne room in a halo of dissipating mist, the royal courier beside him. “What is your command?”

“We need to discuss plans,” said the King. “The captain of the Sauren guard, here, wishes to avenge his honor upon Whirriena, and I am inclined to let him, but not without proper preparation.”

“Ah, I see,” said Ilcaru. “I, too, wish to act against the self-styled ‘Ice Queen,’ but not without Your Majesty’s permission, of course, and I have still not finalized plans of my own.”

“Perhaps we can discuss them together,” said the King. “Much depends on what Whirriena does next.”

“Indeed, Sire,” replied Ilcaru. “We must observe her activities. And I have been doing just that. Allow me to show you …” The King nodded.

Ilcaru gestured with his staff, and soon a large glowing circle appeared in the air. Within it, a white mist rose in a boiling, frothing way. It began to image a barren, icy place and a large cave. The image shifted and showed chained within the cave a very large, although very pretty and extremely rare, Ice Dragon. It was also more than obvious, due to the shifting colors of the scales on its body, that it was extremely angry. All knew the legends and very much understood how dangerous it was to anger this type of magical creature.

The king sat up straight as his eyebrows rose. “Now, that’s a sight I’ve not seen in many centuries. I had thought that type of dragon had vanished after the Ice Wars, fought over the dominion of the Seven Realms, causing an endless winter throughout that land.”

“Indeed, Sire,” replied Ilcaru. “However, that is not a true Ice Dragon. It is a construct made by one of Whirriena’s cohorts and given life by the Light Crystal she had stolen from the Princess’ Teddy Bear.”

The Sauren Captain snorted with indignation and said in its hissing way, “That’s an abomination!” He went to his knee before the King, “Please, Sire, allow us to attack and recover the crystal.” He gestured toward the image of the extremely angry dragon, “It is obvious the life force is not pleased with its current situation, and we have a blood debt to settle upon Whirriena for her violation of our Honor.”

“Indeed,” said the King, “it is true that Whirriena has perpetrated a dastardly crime, and it is clear that she has no sense of honor. She cannot be allowed to go unpunished for her deeds, and we have not forgotten about the necessary redress of your honor. But neither can we allow the castle to go unguarded. So here is how we shall proceed … Captain, you and I will consult about the military planning, and Ilcaru, you and I will make plans as regards magical matters …”

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“Hmm, well, even if you haven’t figured out how to use your ice breath, you can still fly, and you still have the strength and armor of a real Ice Dragon,” said Whirriena in Juniper’s head. She couldn’t deny that it was better to be out of chains and flying than to be locked in that cave. “I think I’ve finally got something for you to do.”

“I will not kill for you,” said Juniper.

“You need not today,” said the annoying loud ice fairy. “Do you see the crystal below?”

She did. It was tall and narrow, about 50 feet high, rotating slowly on its vertical axis, its lower tip just touching the snow-covered ground in the middle of a vast white plain. “Yes, I see it.”

“Good. Destroy it. Or at least knock it over.”

“Why? It’s pretty.”

“I should not have to explain my orders to the likes of you! But it marks the northeastern border of Duke Hiems’ territory, and it allows his seers to keep watch upon the frontier. Without it, my forces can move without their knowledge until they are deep within his land.”

Juniper sighed. “Fine, as long as you don’t do the itchy thing again.” She swooped down and, just before reaching the crystal, positioned her body so as to strike at it with all four legs. It didn’t look that hard to knock over. But as soon as she made contact with it, she realized that she’d underestimated the thing. She slammed into what felt like a mountain with all her weight. There was a thunderous crash as Juniper’s body stopped short, and she thought she heard several of her scales shatter. There wasn’t as much pain as she thought there should be, though. She fell to the ground, and somehow the snow started bonding with her scales and repairing them. But then she looked up and saw the crystal start to tilt. Gradually, then more quickly, it started to fall over, like a huge tree that had been cut down. And then it finally slammed into the ground, cracking into several pieces as it hit.

“Hey, I did it,” said Juniper. “That thing was tougher than it looked, or I’d have been more ready for it.”

“Yes!” said Whirriena. “You have earned the reward of not being punished. But return to your cave once you are able, or that reward will be only temporary.”

“Oh joy,” said Juniper. “Oh rapture. I’m going to lie here in the snow for a while.”

As Juniper lay in the snow, her scales repaired themselves faster and faster. She realized that ice and snow are the things that were unique to this new body. A large thought came to her mind, since that stupid loud fairy thought of herself as the Ice Queen … a large grin came to Juniper’s dragon face.

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Whirriena sat on her throne with her head sullenly in her hands. Something was wrong with the Ice Dragon construct, although she didn’t quite know how to fix it. The Ice Hags had assured her that it would be exactly like the real thing, because more or less it was, and would be obedient to her commands.

Whirriena knew how dangerous an Ice Dragon was, though, especially if it was really angry … she knew beyond any doubt that this one was seriously angry by the many colors its scales glistened. Perhaps powering this construct with a stolen Light Crystal had been an unwise idea. But Light Crystals were so rare …

Well, at least the Boundary Crystal was down. Her troops were already assembling. She would be deep within Duke Hiems’ borders before he knew what was happening. And after she had Duke Hiems’ realm … the Twilight Lands weren’t far off. Assuming all went well, she’d soon be Queen in more than just name.

She stood up, composed herself, and strode off to take command of her army.

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“I am away, my Queen,” said the King. “We go to make war upon Whirriena. I understand she has launched an assault on Duke Hiems’ territory, of which the Duke may yet be unaware, and thus our aid will further cement the Duke’s loyalty to the Crown.”

“Very well, Milord,” said the Queen, standing in the doorway of her daughter’s room. The Princess’ sniffling was audible. “And what of the Royal Magician? Is he not going with you?”

“Ilcaru feels that he can best aid us from here,” the King replied. “He is in his tower and will watch everything with his mirror and crystal. He has many magical apparati that would be difficult to transport, but which will work just as well from here as anywhere. The Sauren Guards will be coming with me, but fear not, as I have called upon the Redcaps to protect the palace in our absence. They are fearsome, and loyal, for now.”

“Be safe, my love,” said the Queen, embracing the King. “I suspect more is afoot than we know.”

“I suspect the same, my dear,” the King said. “But we must do what we must. Fare well. And my daughter,” he added, raising his voice a bit to carry into the Princess’ room, “fear not. We shall return your dear friend to you.” The King turned and left, pausing once more to smile and nod to the Queen before squaring his shoulders and marching toward the waiting Sauren guards.

“So it begins,” said the Queen, turning to Ashera, who had been waiting within the Princess’ room, out of sight. “We must away. Alyanna, it is time. We go to rescue Juniper.”

The Princess sniffled and paused in her weeping. “R-really?”

“Yes, Sweetheart. Let’s make sure your diaper is changed. Of course you’re soaked. You always are at this time of day. Very well.” The Queen took the Princess by the hand into the changing room, returning in a short while while Ashera waited. They were all wearing warm outfits.

“I can feel my bond with my father as if he were standing next to me,” said Ashera. “I fear he hasn’t much strength now. He’s been in Whirriena’s icy dungeons for months.”

“I began the spell, and now I shall complete it,” said the Queen. Placing her hands on Ashera’s shoulders and closing her eyes, she chanted ancient words of power with meanings related to the bonds of family and blood. “And now, gather round,” she said. “The Circle of Inclusion will take us to him.”

Alyanna, the Queen, and Ashera stood within a circle that the Queen had carefully drawn on the floor in a glittering powder. All three of them spoke the same ancient word. And then all three vanished.

They stood in a stone hallway. It was cold; ice had formed on the walls in places where it seeped in from outside. Thick metal-bound doors with barred windows lined the corridor. A guard was slowly marching away from them, down the hall.

The Queen looked at the guard, then at Ashera, who nodded to her, and quick as a flash she ran silently down the hall toward the guard, taking out a weapon. With one blow she had rendered the guard unconscious with her sap, and she had made no sound. She even caught him as he collapsed and lay him down silently. So far none was the wiser.

Ashera returned and stood on her tiptoes, peering through the barred window of the door they had appeared before. “It’s him,” she whispered. She examined the lock, then looked through the ring of keys she had stolen from the guard and chose one. It opened the door on the first try.

There was a man inside the cell. He looked worn and haggard; his skin was bluish, his clothes were tattered, and his beard was long and unkempt. He looked up wearily as the light from the corridor fell upon his eyes, making him blink and squint. “A-ashera?” his voice croaked.

“Father,” Ashera said, tears welling in her eyes. She rushed to embrace him. “We must get you out of here.”

The man tried to stagger to his feet, but he had some difficulty. “Please drink this, Lord Almarus,” said the Queen, offering him a crystal flask. “It is a healing elixir of some potency.”

“Oh, thank you,” croaked Ashera’s father, accepting the flask and drinking deeply. Then he took a deep breath. Health visibly returned to his body as he stood up straight and the color returned to his face. “Thank you indeed,” he repeated, his voice stronger. Then he gasped. “Your Majesty,” he said, bowing to the Queen.

“Your daughter is correct,” the Queen said with a small smile. “We must get you out of here. But we must all get out of here, before we are discovered. Fortunately there is one more spell we can use.” They closed the door, and in the corridor the Queen began chanting again. Lord Almarus realized what sort of magic she was casting and stood near the others. Alyanna held up her lifeless Teddy Bear, and the Queen reached out and cradled its head in her hand as she chanted. And then they were gone again.

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From high on an ice cliff, one of Whirriena’s ogre lookouts spotted an approaching horde. From the glistening of many of the forward riders, it wa obvious they wore some type of armor and were headed directly for the army.

Quickly, the ogre pulled his ram’s horn from his belt and gave it a mighty blast. The deep, melancholy sound reverberated across the snow and sounded loudly in Whirriena’s ears.

She jumped up quickly and shouted, “Call the ogres and the golems to arms! We’re under attack!”

The courier imp vanished in a puff of icy crystals and reappeared within the camp of the ogre captain. “To arms! By order of the Queen! We are soon to be under attack!”

The captain too raised a gold-trimmed ram’s horn to his lips and blew loudly. Its tone sounded clearly throughout the camp, arousing all. He and all his ogre soldiers quickly donned their breastplates and bracers before taking up their weapons. The captain took his huge magical sword from the rack it rested in.

Like an anthill someone had kicked, Whirriena’s mighty Ogre army donned their ragtag armor and gathered their fearsome weapons before assembling, more or less, in an orderly way, awaiting for the command to attack.

Whirriena, meanwhile, took the ice orb that allowed her to command her Ice Dragon. She was positive it would help with this, since it too was in danger at this point. This unknown army, maybe from Duke Hiems, would certainly consider the Ice Dragon to be part of Whirriena’s forces to be fought and destroyed.

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The King rose up in the stirrups of his battle critter and surveyed the army far off on the other side of the snow covered valley. He could see through his magic ocular that a mighty horde awaited him. He collapsed the ocular and carefully put it back in its case at his belt. The King smiled. He knew beyond any doubt that the ogres would turn and run as soon as they saw that it was a Sauren army they were facing. Too many times over the centuries had the Saurens almost totally eradicated the Ogres.

Meanwhile, Ilcaru sat before his magic mirror and watched the King’s army as it approached Whirriena’s army across the wide, snow covered valley. He smiled knowingly as he tossed several powders into a small boiling cauldron on the nearby conjuring table. Ilcaru knew two things beyond any doubt. The most important one was that Whirriena had no clue she had absolutely no control over what she thought of as her Ice Dragon.

He smiled a crooked smile as he thought of how angry it would become when she next used the control magic on it, nor did she suspect how much danger she was in by using it. He laughed an evil laugh as he thought how well this fitted into his larger plan.

He turned towards the conjuring table as a very large glowing cloud appeared over the cauldron. A deep ethereal voice echoed from within the miasma saying, “Who is it that has summoned me?”

Ilcaru picked up a large silver decanter and poured a golden liquid into a jewel-encrusted chalice. “It is I, Ilcaru. Come and sit. Let us make battle plans.”

A large, very muscular creature appeared. It smiled a large smile as it approached and sat in the large chair across from Ilcaru. “Ah, my oldest of true friends,” it said. It picked up the chalice and gave it a long, luxurious sniff before taking a healthy drink. “Always the finest Klugh I have ever tasted. To what do I owe this visit? It has been a few centuries since last you summoned me, my old friend.”

Ilcaru poured himself some of the Klugh and sat in a chair before he too took a long drink, then smacked his lips in pleasure. “It would appear one of your old love interests has risen above her station. Perhaps you would be interested in the pleasure of ... let us say, putting her back in her place.”

The large creature laughed a deep hearty laugh as it replied, “I would be most happy to. I would think the first thing that should be done is to fortify the protections around your tower. I’m positive her insignificant powers can do no real harm to you, but it can become truly annoying when one is busy doing something else far more important.” It waved its arms in an intricate way as it said an incantation as old as time itself.

Around the tower, and by default the castle and its grounds, there was a large flash. Whatever protective magic Ilcaru had in place had now been reinforced many times over by the power of the creature, insuring that no pesky little critter or magics could pass.

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Juniper sat in the ice cavern and seethed. She did not like being chained up, and neither did she like the loud annoying ice fairy thinking she could give her orders. She wanted to go back to Mommy. She didn’t want to be an Ice Dragon. She didn’t …

There was a small flash. In front of her suddenly stood … the Queen. Not the “Ice Queen,” but the real queen. And a couple of people she didn’t recognize. And …

“Mommy!” shouted Juniper, and a few icicles fell from the ceiling of the cavern as it rumbled.

Alyanna soaked her diaper in fear, but the Queen calmly and quietly said, “Honey, I think your friend’s Light Crystal is now in that dragon construct.”

“J-Juniper?” stammered Alyanna, looking up at the huge blue-white dragon, which was looking down at her in wide-eyed rapture.

“Mommy, you came to save me!” said Juniper, at a slightly more controlled volume level.

“Juniper!” cried Alyanna, rushing to hug the dragon … and succeeding only in hugging part of its left front leg, as their size difference was quite pronounced. “Oooo, you’re cold!” she said, pulling her face away.

“Sorry, Mommy,” said Juniper.

“They gots chains on you!” said Alyanna, tears rolling down her face. “Why? That’s awful! We gotsa let you go!”

“They aren’t cold iron, so strong enough magic can affect them,” said the Queen. “Let me see what I can do.” She took out her wand and started incanting a spell.

The small ice fairy popped up to see what was going on. “Oh, hi!” Juniper said to her. “This fairy has helped me when she could. I don’t know what she’s called, though.”

“Oh gosh! Your Majesty! Your Highness! Lord Almarus! Lady Ashera!” The small ice fairy was astonished to see so many people with titles in her ice cavern.

“You know our names?” asked Ashera.

“I am guessing that you’re the natural spirit of these caverns,” Lord Almarus said to her. “You can’t help observing what’s going on around you, can you, since you’re always here.”

“Yes!” said the small ice fairy. “And that includes the caverns that Whirriena’s castle is built on top of. All her underground passages used to be natural caverns. I see everything she does. Unfortunately.” She shivered, which one wouldn’t think an ice fairy would even be able to do.

“Ah, yes, Whirriena has these shackles ready to lock and unlock by remote command,” said the Queen, opening her eyes. “So we have two choices: break that enchantment and let you go now, or take your Light Crystal, put it right back into your snuggle there, and escape that way.”

“Wait!” said Juniper. “I hear her! She’s summoning me. I guess her army’s under attack.” The shackles suddenly snapped open.

“I take it from the fact that you’re not flying off to aid her that you don’t feel a compulsion to do as she desires,” said the Queen. “That bit of protection may be Ilcaru’s work. I don’t trust him, but he’s thorough.”

“She can make life uncomfortable if I don’t obey,” Juniper said.

“Well, she’s probably trying to cause you excruciating pain,” said the Queen, “but if all you feel is some itching, that’s probably also Ilcaru’s doing.”

“That guy,” said Juniper. “I don’t trust him either.”

“Well, it’s now or never,” said Ashera. “Go answer her summons, or don’t. And if you don’t, maybe you could fly us out of here. Or … whatever plan Her Majesty has. But we have to do something, or Whirriena’s likely to hurry here to find out why you aren’t answering.”

“There’s a third option,” said Juniper. All eyes looked up at her. “You can hide, and when she comes, I’ll give her a surprise. I’ve gotten much better at controlling this dragon thing’s breath than I’ve been letting on.”

The Queen blinked. “She is an ice fairy,” she said. “She’s likely to be immune to cold and able to control ice.”

“That’s actually what I was counting on,” said Juniper. “What about …”

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Whirriena, meanwhile, had hopped onto a white furry llama-like beast and ridden it quickly there, then hurried down the long winding stone steps that led into the grotto where her Ice Dragon was chained. Deep in her soul she knew something was wrong. Her control crystal didn’t “feel” right in her palm somehow.

“Dragon!” she shouted, her voice echoing through the cavern. “Dragon! You come right here and explain why you aren’t answering my summons!” She gripped the ice orb. “Get out here!” Nothing was happening, so she marched right to where Juniper lay, seemingly placid and unconcerned.

“Oh, it’s you,” said Juniper. “Did you want something?”

“You will go and annihilate the army that’s approaching my army, or you will regret it!” Whirriena seethed furiously.

“Will I, now?” asked Juniper, sitting up. “And why would I do a thing like that? Especially considering that you just woke me from a rather nice nap.”

“That’s ridiculous! You are a construct! Constructs don’t nap! And anyway, you are my creation and will do as I command you!”

“No.” Juniper yawned. “Don’t think so.”

“That’s it!” Whirriena took her wand and gestured at the ice orb with it.

“Hmm … itchy,” said Juniper, scratching at her side with a hind claw. “Is that the worst you can do?”

“I, err, can make your life miserable!” lied Whirriena. “That’s only the lowest setting!” She redoubled her efforts.

“I think it’s time to put an end to this game,” said Juniper. Her scales changed from their calm-seeming blue-white to the shifting multicolored pattern that they had been taking on lately as a result of her growing anger. “I … want … vengeance!” And before Whirriena could shift to another spell, Juniper’s final word spit forth a huge sphere of blistering violet energy. It moved swiftly and struck Whirriena, engulfing her. When the energy calmed, the so-called Ice Queen was unmoving inside a large, solid, transparent sphere. “Now you know what it’s like to be trapped inside something!” Juniper shouted at Whirriena, who was unable to respond.

The small ice fairy appeared and fluttered around the sphere, looking at the immobilized Whirriena from all directions. “Neatos,” she said. “I’d have thought it was ice, but it isn’t ice, is it? ‘Cause she could get out of ice.”

“Very nice,” said the Queen, coming out of hiding. “Pure, solid quartz crystal. You have indeed been working on that. A very rapid, large, and I dare say unexpected conjuration. You’ve managed to very precisely control raw arcane energy rather than cold. Well done!” Juniper practically blushed with the praise.

“What do we d-do with her?” asked Alyanna, holding her still unliving Teddy Bear tightly and looking worriedly at Whirriena.

“Do?” the Queen asked. “Leave her here, in my opinion. She isn’t going anywhere. If someone else wants to roll her somewhere, they can be our guest. Meanwhile, we should return to the Palace.”

Everyone stood relatively close to one another as the Queen drew a circle in the cavern’s icy floor with her wand. She incanted a few ancient words … and nothing happened.

“Something’s wrong,” said the Queen. “I can’t return us to the Palace. Possibly Ilcaru’s put up some protective spells, just in case. Or he’s doing something sneaky. Either way, we might have to get there the long way.”

“If you can hang onto my back, I can fly us there,” said Juniper. “Um, also, if you can tell me which way to go.”

“We can do both,” said the Queen with a smile.

“Thank you for your help,” Juniper said to the small ice fairy.

The fairy fluttered up and whispered something quietly next to Juniper’s ear. “You’re welcome, friend,” she said after that. “Come visit me!”

“I will if Mommy lets me,” Juniper said. “But we have to go for now.” They all headed for the cave entrance, leaving Whirriena inside her large crystal orb.

The small ice fairy made a face at Whirriena and giggled. “Guess you’re my guest for now,” she said. “Maybe I should decorate you. Or ... decorate with you.” She gestured, and a tentacle of living ice reached up from the floor, engulfed the sphere, and fastened itself to the ceiling, forming a column of ice suspending the sphere halfway up.

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As the small ice fairy danced around her new cavern decoration, a greasy, oily smoke appeared. A huge muscular demon looking creature appeared, except he wasn’t ugly, but very handsome.

The creature laughed a deep merry laugh then said, “Well, well, my love. My dear sweet Whirriena. Seems you have misused the power I gave you and look what you have become.” He laughed again. “An ornament. I think you would look really nice in my den.”

The small ice fairy trembled in fear as she said in a squeaky voice, “Wh .. who are you?”

The huge creature replied softly, “I’m someone who knew this one when she was the same as you are now. I’ve come to take her back with me.”

The tiny ice fairy frowned as she put her hands akimbo and said with a tone, “Take? You just gonna come in here and take her? Nuh Unnh.” she shook her head, “You gonna have to buy her.”

The large creature laughed again merrily as it replied, “Ask, if it is within reason … I will grant it.”

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“Haha, they run like the cowards they are!” exulted the captain of the Sauren guards as he and his soldiers scattered Whirriena’s ogre troops in all directions.

“You would seem victorious, captain,” said the King, “but please let me know if you catch a glimpse of Whirriena anywhere. Her absence is … curious.”

A pocket on his belt shook, getting his attention. He opened it and took out a small amethyst jewel. Holding it to his forehead, he said, “Ah, my love. What news?”

The Queen was riding on Juniper’s back together with Alyanna, Ashera, and Ashera’s father, and she held an identical violet crystal to her forehead. “It is a bit of a long story, my dear, but it appears we have rescued Juniper and Ashera’s father. And I believe Whirriena has ceased to be an issue.”

“My, you have been busy, haven’t you?” the King replied. “You will have to tell me all about it when there’s time. Whirriena’s ogre army is … in the process of ceasing to be an issue. I shall inform the captain, as well as Duke Hiems when next I see him. Will you be returning to the Palace?”

“Eventually, my dear,” the Queen said. “I found it impossible to transport us back to the Palace. We are returning … by air. In fact, we may be above you right now.” They were in a multi-seated saddle-like apparatus that Lord Almarus had conjured; he had said that in the Deserts of Dawn, they often rode giant sand lizards that they had tamed, and one of the saddles might fit Juniper’s Ice Dragon form.

“I see what looks like … a dragon, high in the sky,” the King said. “Is that Whirriena’s Ice Dragon?”

“Yes, Dear,” the Queen said. “It is also Juniper.”

“More of that long story, I assume, my sweet,” said the King. “I do not know why it would be difficult to return to the Palace via a teleport. We both have long-established attunement circles there. Unless … Ilcaru raised defensive spells.”

“That was my thought as well,” said the Queen. “We shall return there soon and see what the matter is.”

“Very well, my love,” said the King. “Please be careful. The captain and I will see to the ogres.”

“Please be careful too, my dear,” said the Queen. She placed the crystal back into one of the pockets of her shoulder bag.

“Is Daddy OK?” asked Alyanna.

“He’s fine, Sweetheart,” said the Queen. “The Captain is chasing the ogres, and the ogres are running away. And now they know Whirriena isn’t coming.”

“Will we be home soon?” asked the Princess.

“In a little while,” said the Queen. The wind whistled by as Juniper kept flying.

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“There we are,” said Ilcaru to himself as he looked in his magic mirror at the events taking place far away. “It seems the King didn’t even need my help. And it also seems that the Queen’s gone on a bit of an excursion of her own.” In the mirror he saw Juniper flying through the air, presumably in the direction of the Palace. “I wonder why she isn’t just teleporting back -- hm, no I don’t. I warded the whole castle. I suppose I should take the wards down … perhaps eventually. I suppose it wouldn’t look very good for the Queen to return and not to be able to get into the Palace.”

There was a sinister laugh from the hallway outside his door. “Those Redcaps … I am not altogether comfortable with the King’s choice of replacement guards. I almost wish he’d chosen the Pixies … almost.”

“I’ll have to wait for my plan to come to fruition, though,” Ilcaru said to himself. “The Princess is still very young. I can hardly properly court her while she’s still less than a century old and still in diapers.” It was hardly unusual for a fairy so young to still be in diapers -- of course, some fairies stayed in diapers permanently because of their jobs, like the Baby Fairies, but no fairy was toilet trained until they were a century old at the very youngest.

He tuned his magic mirror to see his old friend. He appeared to be in an ice cavern, bargaining with its resident ice fairy for … was that Whirriena? In a large crystal orb? “How in Faerie did you get yourself into that situation, you ridiculous ice harridan?” laughed Ilcaru. “Serves you right. Looks like you’re about to be in even more trouble. Such woe. I almost feel sorry for you … hmm, no, I seem not to. My friend’s abode is very, very warm -- I doubt you’ll like it there.” It appeared that the demon-like being had come to an agreement with the ice fairy.

“Well, I suppose it’s time to lower the wards, as it seems Whirriena won’t be a problem,” said Ilcaru to himself.

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“Well, here we are,” said the Queen as Juniper alighted in a wide-open space behind the castle that the Sauren guards used for marching drills. They all climbed out of the riding saddle.

“Thankoo, Juniper!” said Alyanna, hugging the Ice Dragon’s face. “You are a very good dragon!” Juniper’s scales sparkled brightly with happiness. “But I think I like you better as a Teddy Bear.”

“I’m happy being anything as long as I’m with you, Mommy,” said Juniper.

“The Palace is over half of the way back home to the Desert of Dawn,” said Ashera. “Father and I can travel back there with the next caravan that’s going that way.”

“Or I can send a message and summon a flying carpet,” said Lord Almarus.

“Are you sure I can’t convince you to stay a while?” asked the Queen. “You’re welcome to -- oh, here’s Ilcaru.”

The Royal Magician scurried out the Palace’s back door and greeted them. “My goodness, Your Majesty, I had no idea you were going out! I raised the wards because of the threat of Whirriena, but it appears she’s no longer a problem, is she? Goodness, Juniper’s grown. We can get her right back into her Teddy Bear body, Your Highness.”

“It’s OK,” said the Princess. “I can do it.”

“You can …?” Ilcaru looked confused.

“Remember, make sure it’s OK with Juniper first,” the Queen reminded Alyanna.

“Are you ready, Juniper?”

“Yes, Mommy,” said the large Ice Dragon, and Alyanna, still holding her inert Teddy Bear, touched the dragon on the nose with a tip of a finger, and a white glow flowed out, through the Princess’ body, and into the Teddy Bear.

“Oh! You’re all so much larger!” said the Teddy Bear with a giggle. The Ice Dragon now looked as if it were asleep. The Princess squeaked and hugged Juniper.

Ilcaru boggled. “You … but … how did … my goodness, Princess, that’s an amazing natural talent you have! And so unusual, too!”

“Yes, just a little something we’ve learned about recently,” said the Queen. “We’ll have to explore the extent of her abilities as she progresses in her learning. But for now, let’s go inside. You can think about what we should do with this Ice Dragon construct, Ilcaru, and the King will be returning once he’s done mopping up the ogre army and meeting with Duke Hiems. Oh, and Sweetheart, let’s go get your diaper changed ...”

“Mommy!” said the Princess, blushing, but taking her mother’s hand.

----------------------- END PART I -------------------------
Sunshine & rainbows,
LilJennie
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