By: Lillabeth B.

            Hermy couldn’t believe her eyes. After so many years apart, she finally stood in the same room as her mother. She looked into her mother’s eyes, the same misty blue as her own. “Hermione?” Harriet Everlark asked, carefully, as though afraid of the answer, any answer. Hermy nodded shakily.
“Yes, yes, it’s me.”
            Harriet studied her daughter. The silence that hung in the air was the most deafening Lady Everlark had heard. She’d wanted to meet her mother for her entire life, and had thought of all the things she’d want to say, but finally having fulfilled her dream, her thoughts had flown from her mind as a bird might from an open cage.
            Finally, her mother smiled, and spoke. “How have you been, Hermione?” she asked, perhaps not meaning to sound condescending, but she did. This question made Hermy unexpectedly overcome with anger.
 “How have I been? That’s all you can think to ask your daughter? A daughter you haven’t even seen in 13 years?” Duchess Everlark was slightly taken aback, though not surprised. “You must have known the fate you were leaving me to when you fled my father all those years ago,” Hermione continued. “The one you were so quick to run from.” Hermy was raising her voice now. “A life of confinement and oppression and of misery and melancholy. Leaving me to my prison while you flew through the skies in bronze wings and a white dress.”
            She paused. “I’m tired of being cast aside, of being thought of as less than I am, as unimportant. If the captain of the Tawny is correct, then I am special. If not, his crew is in for a nasty surprise. I think I am, though. I think you are too. And I think you knew that I was when you left me to my father’s whim. So why did you do it?”
            Hermy looked at her mother and saw that she was smiling. Gradually, Lady Everlark began to realize Duchess Everlark, who she’d never truly met, knew Hermione better than she knew herself. But she also saw that there was some sadness in her mother’s eyes.
            “You’re right, of course,” her mother said, slowly and softly. “I left you to nearly a decade and a half of imprisonment that I was unwilling to go through myself. But I wanted you to be raised differently than I had been. I wanted you to know that freedom is not a right, but a privilege and that you should never take advantage of freedom, for you never know when you’ll lose that privilege. I wanted you to learn to savor the air as one savors candy, and enjoy it as one enjoys a holiday.
I need a special sort of woman—kind, honest, grateful—for a special sort of job. And indeed, my daughter, you are special, and it’s time for you to take your place in our world.”
            Hermy stared at her mother a moment as it all sunk in. Suddenly, she realized what her mother had said. “Whose world?”
            Harriet paused. “There’s no easy way to say this.”
Hermy didn’t look surprised. “Is there an easy way to say anything anymore?” Her mother laughed. “I suppose you’re right.”
            “Hermione, I am proud to be the one to tell you that you are not entirely human.” Hermy looked skeptically at Duchess Everlark, but though she wasn’t eager to admit it, it didn’t entirely surprise her. Hermy had met many of the royal daughters who were sheltered by their parents, but they had less of a problem with it than Hermione. “My mother was a middle class merchant, but she piloted small, one-man airplanes as a hobby,” Hermy’s mother explained. “One day, she flew a little higher than most and happened upon the City of Clouds. The king, intrigued by her longing to fly, befriended her and helped her to learn the secret of birds’ wings. She built these.” Her mother gestured towards the bronze wings on her back. “The king and my mother married and had their one child, me. Your grandmother decided since I had inherited her human appearance that I should be raised on the Earth with my aunt. Once I had grown into a young adult, I knew I wanted to take to the air as my mother had, so I signed on to work for another pilot who had discovered the secret of a bird’s flight.”
Hermy nodded. “The captain of the Tawny.”
Harriet nodded. “And the rest, I suppose, is history.”
            However, Hermy had more questions. “But what place is there for me here, in this world?” Harriet turned back to the window.
“The year after I ran from your father, my mother died. My own father had passed on years before. I was the only one left to take on the throne.” Harriet turned back to her daughter. “I am the queen now, Hermione. You are princess. This is your home.”
            Hermione thought for a moment. Wasn’t this what she’d always wanted, to truly belong somewhere? Well… Yes and no.
            “You didn’t leave my father because you didn’t want to be tied down, as I had  at always assumed? You left because you had responsibilities elsewhere?” Harriet nodded. “It’s different for me. I had no idea about this city. All I knew was that I wanted to explore and travel, and not be kept in one place. I wanted to be my own woman.” Hermy paused. “My knowledge has grown, but my goal hasn’t changed. All I’ve ever wanted is to be out in the open air, free to go wherever I wanted and to do whatever I wanted. I believe that is my place in this world. I’m sorry if you disagree.”
            Harriet was silent for a moment. She stared into the distance as the sun shed light on the small dewdrops sitting atop the clouds. Finally, she said, “You are young, and you are wild and you are restless. You have many years ahead of you and few years behind you. And you have the luxury of having seen virtually none of the world surrounding you. That is a luxury you will never have again and you should use it to discover this fantastic earth.” She made eye contact with Hermione. “But never forget who you were, and from whence you came. Always remember that within your blood is the blood of a grand, ancient people that will remember you as its princess and future queen.”
            Harriet embraced her daughter. “And remember your mother, who will think of you each and every day that you are gone. Think of her as well.” She held Hermione out by the shoulders. “And you must visit at least twice a year!”
Hermy laughed. “Of course!”
            Hermione then suddenly remembered; her friends were still stuck up in the Crowned Tawny. “Oh, Mother,” Hermy said suddenly, “are your citizens still throwing icy spears at the king’s vessel?”
Harriet chuckled a bit and shook her head. “No, we just wanted to make sure they didn’t leave before I met you.”
“Well then I better go check on that, hadn’t I?” Hermione smiled and stepped back out onto the balcony. Harriet followed her and together they leaped out into the open air.
            As they flew toward the ship, Hermione noticed her mother’s wings. “Do you really need those to fly?” she asked.
“No,” her mother answered, “but they allow for more mobility. You should think of making yourself a pair.”
“Oh, I’m hopeless at tinkering.” Hermy shook her head.
“Practice makes perfect!” her mother replied.
            When they reached the rudder, there was a problem.  A missile of ice was stuck between two feathers in the center of a triangular grouping of large bronze feathers. This spear of ice had jammed the entire contraption used to used to steer the airship. Mother and daughter grabbed onto the spear, and with their combined strength and added strength from the wind, they managed to free the missile and send it spinning toward earth.
            Now Hermione turned toward her mother in midair. “Do you want to see Father?” Her mother shook her head.
“No. There’s nothing to be said.” Hermy looked thoughtfully at Harriet.
“You did love him, didn’t you?” Harriet smiled sadly at her daughter and embraced her for the last time. “Of course I did, my Angel, my jewel, just as I love you now. But we were young, and brave and foolish and we never could have guessed all that would come of our marriage, and all that would not. I’ll see you soon.” And with that, Queen Harriet Everlark swooped down into the City of Clouds. The last Hermy saw of her was a glint of bronze and a silky white train.
            Hermione flew back up to the left eye of the Tawny, relishing every moment of her flight. As she peered inside, she saw her friends Maddie and Don huddled together and clasping hands. The captain stood leaning on the wheel. He had covered his balding head with a newsboy’s cap. Her father sat in a corner, reading an incredibly thick and heavy-looking book. Hermy knocked and everyone in the room looked up. Grins spread across her two friends’ faces, though they self-consciously let go of each other’s hands.
            The captain opened the window and Hermione stepped inside, to be quickly met by a warm hug from Maddie, a clap on the back from Don, and a stern look from her father, who remained seated. The captain closed the window and joined the group. “Alright, spill,” he said unceremoniously, though with a grin on his face as well. Hermy told them about her mother and her heritage, though she left out what her mother had told her of her marriage.
            She then turned to the captain. “I’ve been wondering, sir. After all I’ve seen, I don’t think that I could ever return home, after all I’ve been through and all that has been promised to me.” She glanced at her father, and Duke Everlark returned her look sharply. There was a time she would have flinched, but not anymore. She looked once more at the captain. “May I stay here, on the ship? I’ll do any job. I’ll even be a scullery maid if you need one.” The captain laughed.
“No, I have a much better assignment for you. I’ll tell you when we dock.”
            An hour later, Hermy and the captain stood alone on a dock at the king’s palace. She stared at a castle that was the polar opposite of her mother’s. A single thick short tower rose from the ground, white with pinprick windows and a pointy coral-colored roof, with several matching skinny and tall towers surrounding it. Twisting and turning staircases connected everything. Hermy had visited the castle a few times before, and though it was very grand, she had lost her interest in grand things.
            Since she was now a crewmember of the Crowned Tawny, she had opted for a wardrobe change. She now wore one of Don’s shirts. It was white pinstripe with a collar. It was a little too big. She also wore one of Maddie’s vests, leather with several pockets, as seemed to be a preference of her friend’s. On her legs were a pair of Don’s black pants, and a pair of Maddie’s brown boots as well. Hermy had rolled up the bottoms of the pants so as not to trip. Her hair was wound into two tight braids that hung down her back.
            Hermy refocused on the captain. “So what position would you like to offer me?” The captain took a deep breath. “You may have noticed I’ve said I’m getting too old for this.” Hermione nodded. “Well, it’s true. I am not the man I was when I knew your mother, and so I must adjust accordingly. Specifically, I’d like to buy a cottage by the sea, and live there for the rest of my days. And there’s no one I’d rather replace me than you.”
            Hermy gasped. “No, I couldn’t possibly even consider it! What about Don? He’s been training for this his entire life, and I’ve only just—”
“Don will help you. And besides, you must eventually take up the throne of your mother, and Don will have his chance when he’s older. He’s a little busy now, anyways.” Cocked his head toward the Crowned Tawny’s eye, and through the glare Hermione could just see Don and Maddie. They were standing very close together, so close their noses were touching.
“Ah,” Hermy said quietly, and averted her eyes.
            The captain chuckled. “But anyway,” he continued, “You’ll be needing this.” He slapped his newsboy hat on Hermy’s head. “It’ll keep the glare out of your eyes.” He winked. “I expect I’ll be seeing you soon. That’s two places you’ve got to visit now. Don’t forget.” One last chuckle, and he was off, holding the railing of the dock tightly as he zipped down the stairs, leaving Hermy alone.
            Well, the captain’s prophecy came true. In eleven years’ time, Harriet Everlark gave up the throne to her daughter, Hermione, whose title was changed for the third time in her life. Captain Don Rumpey sailed through the sky until he and his wife retired, inheriting the Tawny’s first captain’s cottage. It was in these golden years that Madeline Hinny Rumpey—that’s me—sat down for an hour every day for the rest of her life to write the story of the origins of Lady Hermione Harriet Everlark and Her Abnormally Small but Consistently Quirky Crew.
            It’s been great fun, really, remembering all that’s happened to us. Don agrees. Hermy still pops in from time to time to make sure I’m doing it all right. I expect she’s near the end of her reign, and I hope she’ll choose the cottage next door as her golden retreat. Well, I say “hope”, but I’ve no doubt she will. We’re inseparable, the three of us, and I expect we will be until our dying day. But that’s not anytime soon.

Love serial stories? The second Lime Green Giraffe serial story, Mystery Law and Protection Force, will debut here on August 6.

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