“Where did you go?” the giant asked, smiling as she peered down at the ogre and the elf.
“Madhaluna,” the ogre said, “but so many couples go there for their honeymoon that people just call it…” She glanced at the elf.
The elf smiled. “…Honeymoon City.”
The ogre and the elf had been married for many years. But the giant had not seen them since their wedding day, for she had left shortly thereafter to take a long trip. She was friends with both before they met and fell in love, and she missed them dearly when she was away. After careful embraces and humble gifts were exchanged, she asked them about the start of their life together.
The elf and the ogre began to reminisce about the first day of their honeymoon trip.
“It was one disaster after another,” the elf said. He placed at hand on the ogre’s hand. “Do you remember?”
The ogre nodded. “It was all right in the end. But there was only one good thing about those first days while they were still happening.” She winked at the elf.
He laughed. “That we were together,” he said.
The giant’s eyes glimmered with curiosity. “Well this sounds promising. Pardon me, I’m going to get a good stretch, so I can settle in for the story.”
She began to straighten and raise her arms.
The ogre snapped her fingers and furrowed her warty brow. “What was the name of the place where we stayed…was it…the Twilight Twinklings Inn?”
“No darling, that was for our first anniversary, when we went up north to see the lights.”
The ogre brought her fist down on the table, making the forks jump. “Might of the Mermaid! That’s the place.”
The elf nodded, then chuckled as a memory arose. “First mishap, our missing luggage, or we thought it was missing.”
“But we didn’t care, did we, my sweet.” The ogre raised a mischievous brow.
The elf squeezed her hand. “I daresay, we had other more urgent matters on our minds.”
They both chuckled.
The ogre sighed. “Oh, it was the first time in all my countless years that I did not care about my possessions. We would make do, I thought, because we were in love.”
“Fools we were, the both of us.”
The ogre tapped the elf’s delicate nose with a finger. “Fools we are still.”
“And then there was a problem with our room, remember?”
“The pixies—oh no!”
“Sprites,” they both said together.
The ogre widened her eyes. “Or at least we think it was. Who would have dared knock with all that glowing seeping out from the seams of the door?” She giggled.
“If anyone would have, my dear, I thought it would be you.”
“I’ll admit, I was somewhat peeved. I wanted that particular room for the view of the valley beyond.” The ogre frowned again. “I knew you would find that view beautiful.”
“But the room they gave us was spectacular.”
“The gilded eaves on the ceiling.”
“That naughty painting on the far wall.” The elf shrugged his brows.
“The sweets in the pantry. And the best part…”
“The luxurious bath!”
“That soft bed!”
They had spoken at the same time again, only this time, they had spoken different words.
A slight frown crinkled the elf’s smooth brow. “I don’t remember the bed being all that special, darling. It was the bath that we loved best, remember? That fragrance of lavender, and the sprigs of spearmint floating on top, and that soap that smelled of honey. I was tempted to drink the bathwater.”
The ogre shook her head. “No, we agreed we loved that bed the best. You said it was like lying on a cloud. When I first lay down, the perpetual soreness in my back melted right away. I asked the innkeeper about it later. I thought it might be enchanted, but she said it wasn’t.”
The elf tilted his head. “I do remember you trying to convince her to tell you where she got the bed, or to sell you one.”
The ogre shrugged. “In any case, we ate a quick lunch of marrow soup and crusty bread—“
“No we both ate lightly that day. We had that fluffy cheese that the dairy fairies make, on top of a salad of fruits from the farm and orchard beyond the hill overlooking the inn.”
“That doesn’t sound quite right. But after we went to see some sights.”
“That we did.”
“Our first stop was at the falls. It had such a plain name…”
“Witch’s Brew Falls,” the elf said.
“Yes, that it’s. Now this definitely was an enchanted waterfall. It churned the waters below into a different potion depending on the time of year. By the time we went, the sun was sinking.”
“We just went to view the falls.”
The ogre rubbed her chin. “Did we now? I seem to recall a certain raven-haired elf itching to have a taste of the waters.”
The elf put a hand to his chest. “I? Was it I who cried down to the hawker at the river’s shore, who was waving her gleaming bottles of potion?”
“Only because you wanted to try some,” the ogre said, crossing her arms. “So we went down to the river’s shore.”
“And I remember, she presented a broiling brew to us—“
“A vividly violet broiling brew.”
“Yes, indeed, and she said that it was ‘auspicious for lovers.’ And I said that we needed no help in feeling passion for each other.”
The ogre leaned back in her chair. “I was the one who said that, my sweet. But continue.”
“We did buy the potion. Many regrets there.”
“Ha! More for me than for you.”
“We made haste immediately for our room,” the elf said.
“We could not have moved fast enough.”
“Why did we do that?”
“I thought my bowels would never recover.”
A crease once again marred the elf’s otherwise flawless brow. “I don’t recall there being anything wrong with your bowels.”
“That’s because I hid it from you. You don’t remember how much I was sweating?”
“I thought that was from the heat of the pit fire flames, or from the warm night.”
“It was a chill night. I distinctly remember an ice hound baying.”
“One? One hound? That hardly a chill night makes, my dear.”
“Well it could hardly be a warm night if even one hound was wailing.”
“Let’s continue the tale.”
“Yes, let me continue the tale.”
The elf bowed his head and gestured to the ogre.
“So, I had…unhappy bowels. And you seemed to just get drunk. You know, I complained to the potions-hawker later. She claimed to have only been at her post for a fortnight, and was told the waters always produced potions with enchanting qualities, so she need not know the details.
“I do remember lying on that bed and being miserable,” the elf said. “But not much else.”
“You spent the rest of the night and the day in that bed,” the ogre said. “And I spent half that time on the commode.”
“But we recovered.”
“Just in time for dinner,” the ogre said. “And I was so hungry, I could have eaten a village.”
“We had planned to try rich foods in nearby eateries—custard creams and buttered dumplings—oh, but I remember having no appetite for anything but bread.”
The ogre nodded. “Same.”
The elf leaned toward the ogre. “But at least we began to recover our energy. And after wasting one night already, we would be needing that energy, embracing in passion at last.”
“But there was a commotion,” the ogre said, shaking her head, “in the common room of the inn.”
“The city and the inn hosted families as well as lovers. As it turned out, one of the thirteen children of a goblin family had gone missing.”
The ogre frowned. “Goblin? It was gnomes, my sweet.”
“Really? I don’t think so. In any case, the family had looked everywhere, and the child was nowhere to be found.”
“The last time anyone had seen him was when they were jaunting through the forest.”
“So a search party was called. And we volunteered.”
“Of course we did. How could we not? Even in the dark, you would find your way in the forest,” the ogre said, gazing at the elf.
“And even if there were wild beasts, you would repel them,” the elf said, gazing at the ogre.
“I suddenly had an appetite for more than bread,” the ogre said. “I swiped a leg of meat from somewhere. I can’t remember where.”
“And I decided on some invigorating punch of fruits that I poured in that golden flask you gave me upon our betrothal.”
“And off we went.”
“Long hours did we search,” the elf said. “And though we had been weakened by a potion of false promises, we had also been refreshed by our long hours of sleep and rest. We trudged through the forest, whose darkness was so deep at night that hardly could lantern or fairy light pierce it.”
“At last, some keen-eyed sprite spotted the child, at the bottom of a ravine.”
“He was alive. Perhaps only frightened, or perhaps hurt,” the elf said. “We could not tell, for when his mother cried down to him, he did not answer.”
“There were flying folk in the search party who said they could go fetch him, and healing folk at the ready to heal him. But when the flying folk tried to fly toward the child, they were repelled. They tried again and again.”
The elf nodded. “Many in the search party were workers at the inn and natives of the city. They warned that we might have encountered a roving unmagical spot.”
“The city hosted a few stable unmagical spots, for those who were afflicted with magical ailments to come and have some temporary relief.” The ogre tipped her head and glanced over at the elf. “I wonder why no one directed us to one of those spots when we were afflicted by that potion.”
“Indeed, darling, a failure of the Might of the Mermaid.”
“In any case they explained that sometimes new spots erupted, and sometimes, existing spots migrated.”
“All enchanted creatures would lose their enchantments if they crossed into the unmagical spot,” the elf said, “or if losing their enchantment meant they would lose their lives—for those who didn’t just wield magic but were magical themselves—then they would just be repelled.”
“That meant someone had to climb down and fetch the goblin, and do so without use of any enchantment,” the ogre said. She grinned at elf with all her teeth. “My sweet volunteered.”
“Agility is a quality of my people. There’s no enchantment in it. Or so I hoped. And you look proud now, darling, but as I recall, you protested, for the ravine was treacherous, scattered with vines of poison thorns. Goblins were fortunately immune to many poisons, but other folk are not.”
“I don’t recall protesting at all, as I do not recall the child being a goblin. But continue.” The ogre chewed her lip and curled her hand around her tumbler of ale.
“I managed to reach the goblin child. But the unmagical spot was unstable. It began to shift. We could see that from the way that some of the flying folk began to fall from the sky. So I swept up the child and and began to run up the ravine, a much more difficult task than moving down the ravine had been. Some of the trees of the surrounding forest begin to topple—the enchanted ones I expect.” He turned to the ogre and smiled a golden smile. “One of those would have crushed the child and me, if you had not braved the poison thorns and tramped down the ravine, far enough so you could catch the tree and toss it aside.”
“A harrowing escape,” the ogre said, returning the elf’s golden smile, with a bubbling chuckle.
The elf exhaled. “On that I agree.”
The ogre took up the tale. “Once we were out of the unmagical spot, which surveyors immediately began to track, we and the child were treated for our wounds.”
“By this time it was almost morning, and so we returned to the inn and decided to have some breakfast, for we were both starving, again, this time for food of some substance and flavor.”
“And then we planned to sleep the day away,” the ogre said, sitting back. “And wake just in time for a night of passion…and then resume our sightseeing I suppose.”
“I’m not certain I was interested in seeing any sights beyond the sight of your luscious—“
“In any case,” the ogre said. “We were surprised when we were praised by those we passed in the common room of the inn. The tale of our deed had spread.”
“Perhaps with some embellishments and exaggeration, even in the time it took for us to return to the inn.”
“We were among the last to arrive. We had taken our time.”
“The forest was lovely when it wasn’t hiding a frightened child,” the elf said, “and when sunlight filtered through the amber leaves.”
“We were thanked and given a gift by the parents of the gnome child.”
“Darling, they were goblins. How do you not recall this?”
The ogre propped her elbows on the table, balling one fist and cupping it within the other. “For one with such keen sight, my sweet, you have a dull memory—at least when it comes to goblins and gnomes.”
“Does it matter much? Or does it matter more that all was well in the end? And that breakfast was delicious.”
The ogre unclenched her fist, took up her tumbler, and raised it. “That it was.”
“It was also fortifying, so fortifying that we decided not to sleep, but to take a sky ride on the air trolleys drawn by winged horses.”
The ogre frowned and set her tumbler down on the table so hard, the ale splashed out. “That was later in our trip, sweetness. We did forego sleep, but not for a sky ride. We took a boat ride down the river, you must recall, so we could lie on the deck and maybe fall asleep rocked by the waves.”
“Darling, why would we go anywhere near water after what happened at the falls?”
“Speaking of the falls, I’m beginning to wonder if you were still intoxicated by that potion brew during all these events.”
The elf sat us straight as a leaf. “I was never intoxicated, just nauseated. And it did not help that the too-soft bed lurched at the slightest movement.”
“Well, then I should not have put you on the bed and slept on the floor.” The ogre leaned forward, looming over the elf. “Maybe I would not have suffered so much if I lay on the bed and was cradled into a quick sleep—“
“How could anyone sleep with all your moaning and keening through the—“
A sudden, earth-shaking thud startled both the ogre and the elf into silence. They both glanced at each other, then around each other, then up at their friend, the giant, whom they had momentarily forgotten.
The giant bent down toward them. “I am sorry for taking so long with my stretching,” she said. “But I’m ready for your story now.”
The elf and the ogre glared at each other.
“I have made you wait too long,” the giant said. “And now you are sore with me, aren’t you?”
“We bear you no ill will, my friend,” the elf said.
“No, indeed, no ill will toward you, my friend,” the ogre said.
“Then you will tell me your story? The story of your honeymoon?”
The ogre and the elf said nothing in reply, so the giant clapped her hands together. The force of her clap nearly sent them toppling over in their chairs. They reached out to steady each other, then recoiled from each other.
“Alright then,” the giant said. “Let’s see, where did you leave off? You said that the trip was a bit of a disaster, or the beginning of it anyway. By the end, it was wonderful. And there was only one good thing about the disastrous part when it was happening.” The giant glanced between the lovers. “That you were together.”
The elf and the ogre were glaring at each other, but as they took in the giant’s words—their own words to her that she had merely echoed back—they stopped glaring and they began staring.
And they stopped staring and they began gazing.
The ogre started laughing. She slapped the elf on his back. And he too began to chuckle. Perplexed, the giant glanced between the two, delighted by the roaring laughter of the ogre and the sparkling laughter of the elf. When the lovers finally calmed themselves, their shoulders heaving with lingering mirth, they shared a final glance.
The elf sighed and took the ogre’s hand. “Might of the Mermaid! That was the name of the place where we stayed.”
The ogre nodded as she pulled the elf’s hand close and kissed it lightly. “First mishap, our missing luggage, or we thought it was missing.”
“But we didn’t care, did we, my darling.” The elf raised a mischievous brow.
The ogre squeezed his hand. “We had other more urgent matters on our minds.”
They both chuckled.
The elf smirked at his lover. “As I recall, it was the first time in all your glorious years that you did not care about your possessions. We would make do, you thought, because we were in love.”
“Fools we were, the both of us.”
The elf’s eyes glittered as he gazed at the ogre. “Fools we are still.”
The ogre’s eyes gleamed as she gazed at the elf. “Fools we will be forever.”
Copyright © 2020 Nila L. Patel