The sleek black Mercedes turned off of the narrow rural road, its freshly-shined tires crunching along the gravel that led up to the unpretentious wooden home. The house's lone occupant opened the front door as the car rolled to a stop. The driver, a tall man in pressed suit and dark shades, rose from the car and entered the house silently, the woman equally silently pressing the front door to behind him. The neighbors would be discussing the visit, she knew. The visits happened nearly every other week now, and each time it was a different gentleman in a different rented luxury sedan, always dressed impeccably. The neighborhood hummed with rumors.
The woman didn't mind. It amused her. In fact, she relished the part she was able to play in giving the neighborhood a touch of fresh intrigue to stir the otherwise-bored Southern souls. She made a game of it, timing the relaxation of the window curtains up and down the street while the expensive car left her driveway and headed home after the visits.
This time was different, though. The tall, handsome stranger handed her the usual envelope, but instead of accepting her exchange of letters and leaving immediately as all the rest had done, he stood, waiting. He nodded toward the packet he'd just delivered and, in a clean British accent, said, "My Lady, I was instructed to hold while you read the contents of the letter, which will explain the follow-on errand I must ask your assistance with."
She grinned. Nobody called her "My Lady." Nobody ever called anybody that, as far as she knew, in down-home rural Mississippi. There were still a host of "Sir" and "Ma'am" politenesses floating about, but the sharp British honorific struck her as especially wonderful.
The woman turned the envelope over in her hands, reading the outside. She recognized her daughter's handwriting immediately, knowing the neat parallel lines Alyssa had practiced as a child. On the front, it was addressed simply "To Momma" with a much larger "FOR HER EYES ONLY" printed in block letters underneath. She grinned again. Alyssa always filled her writing with little details that mothers cherish but others surrounding her daughter, the new crown princess, might find offensive.
She tore her eyes away from the handwriting on the outside, remembering that the elf had to stand and wait for her to read what was in the envelope. It was so beautiful, though; she loved receiving the letters, and she usually slowed down while reading them just so that she could enjoy it longer.
"I'm sorry. Can I offer you a cup of tea while I read this?" she asked as she gently worked the flap open and removed the parchment inside.
"Much appreciated, my lady, but no."
Dearest Momma, she read in Alyssa's neat cursive, the phrase bringing a gentle sigh. She'd spent every day since her daughter's birth with the beautiful young girl, and she missed her dearly.
I hope everything is going well there. I miss you like the dickens, I hope you know that I do and I always will. I still have your picture by my bed and hold it close to me every night.
I assume the royal courier is still standing there watching you read this. I asked him to do me a favor and bring me back some comfort food. He said he'd be happy to go shopping for me there on Earth, but the cooks here told me that he wouldn't have any way of knowing what I was after unless you either showed him or just went with him.
I want to make my absolute favorite dishes that you always do so well -- fried okra and catfish. There isn't a word in elf for okra, though, and when I got to asking around I learned that the plant apparently doesn't grow in Kiirajanna. Then, when I asked Seph about catfish, I had to describe what they look like. She just turned her nose up and said eww. I guess those do grow here, but apparently nobody wants to think about eating them.
They also don't deep fry a whole lot here. By not a whole lot, I really mean nothing. Grease that I can use for frying, they have plenty of, and they also have a weird-tasting flour that is made from ground root, but I need some real flour and some corn meal. I'm sure the courier will have no idea what I'm talking about, too, so would you mind showing him?
Everything else is just fine, Momma. Since I got back from the library and went through all that coronation hoopla, it's gotten a lot quieter. They keep saying that I need to travel around the realm to win each of the four major clan leaders' approval, but I figure they're probably going to wait through the winter since they've already put me through so much this year. My trainers, including old High Priestess Sternyface, are still working me over on history and geography, but I rarely see the queen's kids any more. The two girls I don't mind not running into, but Keion -- well, I'm trying to convince myself I don't mind not running into him either. Oh, Prince Charming is around. I catch him watching me every so often when I'm doing my morning archery practice.
Speaking of that -- you oughtta see what an archer your daughter has become! I didn't believe him at first, but Keion's requirement of 100 arrows a day really has made a difference. Not only can I thwack the arrows pretty much anywhere I want them to be thwacked, now, but I'm even feeling stronger in the pulls.
Dad says hi, and that he misses you. I suppose he probably sends his own love letters, doesn't he?
The woman stopped reading to look toward the master bedroom, imagining as she did that she could see through the wall to the box she still kept hidden away. It contained years worth of letters from her husband, the King of Kiirajanna, and Alyssa had only caught the royal courier once, or maybe twice, delivering them while she was growing up.
He's a really cool guy, Momma. I mean, besides being King and all. I can see how you and he belong together. He makes a point of spending a little of every day with me. Sometimes we talk about governing, and sometimes about how much he loves the elves. Sometimes he tells me stories of the years with you, and how much he misses them and can't wait to be back there with you again.
Speaking of that, have you ever tried to cross over into Kiirajanna? I know it's fixed to where humans without elf blood can't cross, but here's the thing, Momma. I ran across your picture in a history book. I mean, it wasn't you; it was an ancient elf queen. She looked just like you, though. She was also the one who created the pendant you gave me -- did you know it's got a name? It's called Draignerthol here. I mean, maybe it's a long shot, but there was such a strong resemblance.
Maybe you could come over here and the three of us could all be together?
That's probably too much to ask for, isn't it? Anyway, I hope this letter finds you well, Momma, and I can't wait to read your next letter to me!
The woman sighed again and looked up, her eyes meeting the courier's. He smiled tenderly in return, guessing the meaning behind her emotional expression.
Silently she rose and stepped to the refrigerator. As it happened, she'd just gone shopping, and on a whim she'd bought Alyssa's favorites. Then when she'd gotten them home she'd sobbed over the bags before tossing them into the darkest recesses of the shelves.
"Here, take these," she offered the courier, handing him the ingredients. She'd never cook them again.
"Thank you, madam," he replied, holding three crisp hundred dollar bills out. She took them, knowing it would do no good to try to explain pricing and value to a native of Kiirajanna, which had no currency. The Earth-bound side of the elves' holdings was massively wealthy, built up over millennia, according to how he'd explained it to her. It handsomely covered the elf king's bride's expenses, he'd said, and then, later, suitably managed to provide a nice retirement income for the former king and his wife.
She would want for nothing for the rest of her life. Except, of course, for her daughter's company.
She found herself in no mood to watch the dance of the window coverings this time as the courier pulled out of the drive and headed back toward the portal to Kiirajanna.
Hope you enjoyed this little bit of fiction! Those who haven't read Dragon Queen yet--this occurs after the first book -- and hey, why haven't you read it yet, hmm?
Those who have read it, thank you! Please keep your reviews coming, and know that I'm always interested in your feedback on how I can make the stories better to read.