Darkness had fallen by the time the Turbokat arrived at the palace. In a dead meadow nearby, T-Bone brought the jet in for a landing. Only darkness and emptiness greeted them. Everyone must be inside the palace, he thought.
“Kinda glad we can’t see the area, buddy,” Razor said quietly. “I’d hate to see what kind of damage the Dark King’s army has done to it.” He released his harness in preparation of leaving the cockpit.
“You’re right. Though I wasn’t old enough to remember much, what little I recall was a place of light and beauty. My uncle described it as ‘a shimmering jewel of light in the forest,’ T-Bone sighed. He came around his seat to join Razor, wincing a little at the feel of iron that surrounded his side of the cockpit. Knowing this, Razor hurried down the ladder so T-Bone could get away from it quicker. He would have to remove that when they got home.
“Okay, we’re here, guys,” T-Bone informed them.
Sighs of relief greeted that announcement, all of them releasing their restraints nearly as one. The tired Fae couldn’t wait to get out of this strange flying machine and on firm ground once more.
Razor signaled the door open, his partner by his side. The Fae stood behind him and watched the door smoothly drop down to the ground with only a low humming sound. When it was halfway down, a couple of the warriors couldn’t wait and flew out while the others stood patiently and walked down the ramp when it settled firmly on the ground then followed the Prince out. When they were all off loaded, Razor signaled the door to close and set the security on the jet then followed his partner across the dark field, heading for the dim looking castle beyond it.
“Your majesty! The Prince has arrived!” a katterfly announced in its tiny voice as it fluttered near the Queen’s ear.
“Thank you, Lavena,” Queen Sorcha said, smiling.
The little katterfly smiled, curtsied then flew up to join her fellows that hung in a cloud above the dirty floor of the former throne room.
The Queen stood beside the royal oak that graced the center of her court. She’d been using a little of her magic to heal its many wounds put there by the swords, knives, and sharp claws of the enemy. It had suffered much, but, thankfully, it had not been cut down though there were some cuts that showed someone had tried. These were the deepest hurts she’d been working on with Conall and a few others helping, but they were very tired and could only ease its pain but not heal it.
The rest of her court watched as they sat on the floor in various small groups about the room, their voices a soft murmur as they didn’t want to disturb their queen’s concentration.
Ceasing her efforts, Sorcha stepped away from the tree and watched the entrance to this cavern. Only minutes later, a loud mutter of voices warned of her son’s arrival then he strode in, his friend at his side and her warriors following close behind him. Lorcan looked well, though tired and was in his Kat form. She opened her arms and pulled him into a hug when he reached her side. He did the same to her.
“I’m so relieved you’re not hurt, my son. We are also overjoyed that this horrible war is finally at an end thanks to you,” she said warmly then let him go, her expression falling into sadness as she gestured around her. “As you can see, it had cost us dearly.”
“Yeah, it’s pretty bad alright, but I know once everyone is rested and healed, it will be a place of wonder again,” T-Bone murmured encouragingly.
“Whoa! A tree growing through the floor! Was that deliberate?” Razor broke in, amazed at the sight of such a huge and obviously very old tree, thrusting up inside a building. The only time he’d seen anything like this was when Dr. Viper had done it to one of their buildings. The place had to be razed because of it.
While still holding her son, Sorcha turned her head toward Razor. “Yes, it was. It is the heart and soul of our land, but it has suffered horribly from the foul treatment our enemies have laid upon it,” she said sadly, putting a paw over the worst of the cuts.
T-Bone gently stepped out of his mother’s embrace to move closer to the tree to study it. Extending his Fae senses, he recoiled from the wave of pain and anguish pouring from the tree. Sucking in a breath, he turned to his mother with a look of shock.
“It hurts! I never knew a tree could feel pain.”
Razor eyed him in surprise and stared at the tree with a bit of trepidation. In the heat of battle and all, he could be forgiven, failing to remember how weird this place was. Having seen his share of dragons, gargoyles, trolls, and other odd creatures because of the Pastmaster, he’d not been too freaked out, but he’d now realized there was far more he didn’t know about this world and wasn’t too sure he wanted to know – like trees with feelings! It was disturbing, but he tried not to show it as that would be rude.
“All living things in our world have feelings, my son,” the Queen gently admonished her son.
T-Bone shivered a little. He realized at that moment how much of his world he simply didn’t know a thing about because he had left it so young. Unfortunately, he would never come to know it well as he didn’t intend to live here until all he loved on Aristal was gone. Shaking his head of those unproductive thoughts, he altered to his Fae persona then reached out with one paw to the ailing tree and touched it.
Grimacing from the pain coming in waves from the oak, he blocked it as best he could and pushed as much of his magical energy into the tree that he dared.
Razor’s eyes widened, the Queen held her breath, and her people went silent in awe as their lost prince made the tree glow with a golden light for many long minutes. When the glow died, Chance staggered a bit but didn’t fall as he studied his handiwork.
The many hurts and wounds on the royal oak had been healed. As if in thanks, the tree burst out in new growth, new leaves gleaming a brilliant gold color sprang out everywhere. A long, graceful limb reached down and gently caressed the Prince on the cheek before returning to its former position.
“You’re welcome,” Chance said quietly.
The awe-struck silence was broken by cheers of joy, making the tree shiver a bit and the walls shake, sending some of the dust and dead ivy falling to add to the mess on the floor. The Fae were wild with happiness as they pumped their arms and shouted, ‘Long Live Prince Lorcan!’ at the top of their lungs.
Chance blushed in embarrassment and no little pride at all the enthusiasm shown by his people.
“Way to go, Chance,” Razor said warmly, coming close to his friend’s side and giving him a light punch to his shoulder.
“Aw, I didn’t do much…” Chance tried to downplay his part, but his mother shook her head.
“Modesty becomes you, my son,” she said smiling warmly. “But, you do deserve all the accolades your people wish to give you. Especially for this…” she reached out and gently patted the oak, which seemed to shiver with pleasure at her attention.
Chance’s continued to blush, rubbing his neck with a paw. “Aw, mother…”
She just smiled and gave him a huge smile.
Before all the cheering and excitement could get out of paw, the Queen raised a regal paw in the air. Silence fell immediately, but faces still shone with joy as they waited for her to speak.
“My people. Though I am overjoyed by the end of this terrible war and the return of my son to our world, we are all very tired and there is still much to be done before our world is healed of its many hurts. Please, gather your things and prepare to return to the mountains where we may eat and rest before beginning the task of restoring our home to its former glory,” she commanded.
Another cheer greeted that command before everyone gathered their things and made for the exit, their happy, tired voices drifting back to those still standing near the oak. The katterflies flew about the people’s heads like a multi-colored rainbow as they too left to return to their temporary mountain shelter.
“We can ferry all the wounded in the jet, mother,” Chance offered.
His mother frowned a moment in thought then nodded. “Thank you, Lorcan, that would be much appreciated.” She turned and gently patted the oak again before striding with purpose across the dirty floor and out of the castle. Her generals, Chance, Razor, and advisers following in her wake.
In a very short time, the SWAT Kats were ferrying some 200 injured Fae in their jet. It took more than three trips, but soon all had been returned to their mountain stronghold and were having their hurts attended to. The cooks and servants that had been left behind when all went to battle had been informed of the victory and had spent the time making a huge celebratory feast for the tired warriors.
Shouts of pleasure greeted the waiting servants by the returning army when they beheld the banquet waiting them. Ignoring the usual ceremony required before one could eat before her, Sorcha gestured for all to just sit down and begin eating. No one hesitated, and soon all were stuffing themselves and chatting about the events of the day. The ranking individuals, which included the Queen, the SWAT Kats, advisers and her generals, sat at the high table and dug in with the same enthusiasm. When dinner was over, none lingered as all were very tired. Everyone drifted off toward their sleeping quarters, leaving the Queen alone with her son and his friend. She’d already dismissed her generals and advisers, informing them they would talk tomorrow.
“A place has been made for you to sleep, my son. Rest… we have much catching up to do” she said gently, giving T-Bone a kiss on the cheek.
“You too, mother,” the Prince murmured, giving her a hug and kiss back.
The two weary warriors were escorted by a servant to one of the many caves cut out to make rooms. Two soft pallets had been made up for them with a magical ball providing light in the windowless space. Neither said much as they chose a bed and crashed, too tired for anything else, though T-Bone did magically remove their clothing for shorts and tee shirts then turned out the light globe.
Morning arrived late for all, exhaustion keeping them all sleeping until well past noon. The cooks set up a sort of brunch buffet that was kept hot to accommodate the different times people showed up to eat as they woke gradually to greet the day.
The Queen also had slept late, but with a filled plate she now sat in her makeshift conference room with the SWAT Kats, generals, and advisers. Today, they needed to address how they were going to set about healing their kingdom and dealing with the new King of the Dark Fae.
The meeting was tedious and long, taking them through the rest of the day, not even breaking for dinner, which was delivered to them. But, by the time they broke up near midnight, a working plan of rebuilding and a prospective agreement had been drawn up to take to King Lugus.
“Thank you all for your attention to this. We have accomplished much and can now seek our beds with a freer heart,” Sorcha said, tired but pleased by their work.
“Aye, my Queen. It has indeed been a good day. A peaceful night’s rest be yours,” General Zinar said, rising from his seat and nodding.
The rest followed his lead and the room was soon empty except for the SWAT Kats and the Queen.
“Jake, would you be so kind as to leave us? I know you have no real stake in our affairs, so I was pleased you wished to aid us. Your ideas are much appreciated and will help a great deal with our recovery, but I wish to spend time with my son now,” Sorcha said gently.
“You are very welcome, your majesty. I was glad to be of help and I certainly understand you two have a lot of catching up to do. I’ll just head to bed; I’m bushed. See you tomorrow, buddy,” Jake said politely, standing up.
“Later, Jake,” Chance said, giving him a tired smile.
Jake waved then left the room.
“Let’s go for a walk, my son,” Sorcha said, standing.
Chance stood and followed her out.
“You won’t be staying,” his mother said with certainty.
Chance sighed and stared at the rocky pathway that wound around the temporary sanctuary the Queen’s people had retreated to. Stars shone down from the clear night sky, apparently for the first time in decades, the light breeze passing over them, fresh and clean.
“I’m sorry, but I have a mission on my adopted world and people who depend on me,” he said quietly.
“Yes, I know, and I couldn’t be prouder of you, my son. But, you know I will miss you terribly.”
“You could visit me…” he said, turning to give her a hopeful look.
She smiled sadly. “It will be a very long time before that is possible, Lorcan.”
“The time difference makes it even more of a problem, I know, mother. That’s exactly why staying here even a few days is leaving our city unguarded a very long time. And, my friend and I’s business that we run to support ourselves is losing customers quickly, so we have to get back soon,” he said unhappily.
“I understand, son, though I could sincerely wish it were not so. Since we have so few hours to spend together and much to catch up on, we’ll spend it wisely. I can put my own duties aside now that the main plans have been laid to be with you. That must hold us for awhile.”
“I’d like that,” Chance said warmly, giving her a hug.
They continued their walk in silence for a bit until his mother spoke again.
“You are a Prince, my son. You have your own funds to draw on. Though it isn’t that odd form of coinage you use, I do know gold, silver and jewels are still marketable. I would not have my son a pauper. You should be focused on your mission and not have to worry about simple needs as living day to day,” she told him firmly.
Chance’s eyebrows rose. “Oh, I hadn’t realized that I had such a thing. Yes, that will definitely help us. But, Jake also has something he can do to raise our living standards. He thought about it before we departed. All his inventions as Razor are highly sought after, so if he sells the plans, he’d make a lot of money.”
“That is indeed good news, but that is for him, though I know he’ll share the benefice with you. I have noted that he has a warrior’s heart and a compassionate soul. I approve of him and am pleased you have such a good and worthy friend. However, it is wiser that you have your own funds so that your own pride will not be unsettled by your friend’s generosity. I know us… we don’t like to be beholden to others,” she said, a knowing glimmer of amusement in her eyes.
Chance smirked back. “Yeah, that is a failing of ours,” he chuckled. “Thanks, mother.”
“You’re welcome, my son.”
After talking for several more hours, they finally broke at dawn to seek their beds.
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