Chapter One - An Uncomfortable Party
Author's Note: Tira is the only human character who does not speak in the Coltbridge dialect.
Mylar was going to help her new sister-in-law get ready for a special occasion that evening, and nothing would deter her.
"You must listen to me Tira," said Mylar.
Tira gazed back at her with wide blue eyes. Her face was startlingly green. The lamplight glinted off her golden blond hair and shone off her green nose and cheeks. Tira, her sister-in-law, was a witch and she would stand out in a crowd of a thousand woman.
"I'm listening," said Tira earnestly.
"They may not say as much, but everyone at the event will be watching and judging you," said Mylar. "Shayna, the hostess, is a prominent socialite…"
At that moment, the shadows in the corner of the room coalesced and Tira's familiar appeared out of thin air. He was an imp. He looked like a blue-grey monkey, but with cat like eyes and claws.
"Watching and judging her?" the imp said in his reedy voice. "You would know." He held up a small book in his clawed hand. Mylar recognised it as her diary.
"Give it back, Gloom," Mylar said sharply.
"Yeah, Gloom. You mustn't steal," said Tira, narrowing her eyes at the imp. "Be nice and give it back."
"Oh, I'll give it back," said Gloom. But then he opened the diary and began to read: "By Seraton, my brother Jemmy has just returned from his perilous quest and I see he is involved with a witch he encountered who knows where? I had to reproach him. I was cross enough to call him by his proper name, 'Jemedar,' instead of 'my beloved Jemmy.' That witch. Her skin is green as poison. What is her game? Everyone knows witches are dangerous and conniving…"
Mylar felt her face grow hot. "I had not got to know Tira yet. I was a fool to think she could be dangerous or conniving. She is the least conniving girl I know."
"It's alright, honey," said Tira, patting her on the arm. She turned to the imp. "Gloom… give that back at once." She took the diary from the imp.
"I was guilty of making assumptions," said Mylar. "Many people will. That's why you must make the best impression possible. I want to help. You can borrow my dress, and I'll fix your makeup."
Mylar leant Tira her own periwinkle blue dress for that evening. She was determined to fix the green girl's makeup too. She had to make her as pretty as possible.
Tira sat on a stool while Mylar arranged her makeup kit on a small table.
"You have a nice face," said Mylar. "Your resting face looks happy and relaxed."
Gloom appeared again. This time the imp was clinging to the ceiling. "A shame about the green skin, eh?"
"Nonsense, Gloom," said Mylar. "Tira is a pretty girl, and I can help them all see that…"
"Wish I was as beautiful as you, Mylar" said Tira grinning. "You're so beautiful that soon as I saw you, I knew you were Jemmy's sister. I thought, 'I wish I had her freckled nose and cheeks and her big brown eyes.'"
Mylar chuckled. "That's sweet. Please hold still."
Mylar rubbed a powder puff over Tira's face. This made the vivid green of her skin look slightly muted. Then she applied rouge to the witch's cheeks and red lipstick to her lips.
"Smack your lips, dear," Mylar said.
Tira smacked her lips to spread the lipstick evenly and smiled Mylar. Her lips were now glossy and light red. The red looked garish when contrasted against her green skin, but this makeup style was the fashion in Coltbridge society.
"Now Tira, please listen to me," said Mylar. "I say this not to set you against Shayna, but to put you on your guard. She loved Jemmy."
"I'm sure she does," said Tira smiling. "He's so lovable."
"I think she would have liked to marry Jemmy herself," said Mylar.
Tira gazed at her with wide blue eyes. "A lot of girls would have wanted to. I'm so lucky."
Well, Mylar had tried to put Tira on her guard.
When Jemmy arrived at Shayna's mansion with his sister and his witch fiancé, the place was crowded with the Coltbridge upper crust. They were standing around and conversing with one another. The crystal chandelier above, bristling with candles, cast sparkling light on everything.
Tira looked around and grinned at the sight of the entrance hall, the rich wine red carpet and the ornate oaken staircase. Jemmy noticed that the witch was perspiring and her powder was beginning to look smudged.
Shayna came up to them with outstretched arms. She was a striking woman, with a handsome, aquiline face. Tonight she was wearing a low cut violet silk dress and her ebony black hair was pinned back. Jemmy couldn't help noticing that the dress showed off the curves of her chest.
"Jemedar! Jemmy!" she cried in a ringing voice. "How delighted I am to see you again." She embraced him and hugged him fiercely. Her breasts pushed into his chest… "How could you leave me… that is to say, leave us and go off into mortal danger? Worrying for you has made me quite unwell."
Jemmy gently loosened her grip. "Thank you for inviting us, Shayna," he said.
"Mylar," said Shayna, with a nod of acknowledgement at Jemmy's sister.
"This is Tira, my bride to be," said Jemmy, and he took hold of Tira's green hand.
Tira grinned at Shayna. "Heyy! Thanks so much for inviting us, Shayna. I'm real sorry you were worried about Jemmy. I completely understand. But don't worry. We're settling down here now."
Tira really didn't have any guile. She was smiling broadly at Shayna. The light of the chandelier shone off her green nose.
Shayna narrowed her eyes for a moment, then gave Tira a tight lipped smile. "My dear girl, are you feeling quite alright? You are looking green in the cheeks."
"Tira is a witch. A really good witch," said Mylar quickly.
Tira smiled and touched her green cheek, smudging the rouge. "I'm gonna be green forever. But our kids will look like Jemmy."
"How charming your family portrait will be," said Shayna. "Why Jemmy, I can tell she is a practical girl. One who is skilled at sewing and household accounts."
"I can sew a bit," said Tira, flicking a strand of her blond hair away from her green face. "But I've never done accounts. I've only ever been good at magic, but I wanna learn new things."
"Why Jemmy, she's sweet," said Shayna smoothly. "Come join us at the table."
Jemmy clutched Tira's hand and they sat down at the table. Shayna sat on Jemmy's other side.
"Tira may not be used to our ways here at Coltbridge, but we're all going to help her," said Shayna. "Everyone listen."
The hubbub at the table subsided as the guests looked up at Shayna.
"As I was saying, Tira is new to Coltbridge, so we're all going to help her. Now first thing's first. I know a wonderful makeup artist."
Tira touched her green cheek. "Oh?"
"And I know the best perfume manufacturer in Coltbridge," said Shayna.
Tira gave an uneasy smile. "That's good. I've always been a bit stinky."
Jemmy thought Shayna was being discourteous. Tira couldn't help having a greater than average problem with body odour. But how could he tell Shayna off in front of everyone when he was a guest?
"Now Tira, you have used magic on yourself to increase your bust I see," said Shayna.
Tira's painted lips formed an uneasy smile. "Noo. My breasts really are this size." She touched them. "Um… they're a little sore."
There was a murmur of laughter at the table.
Jemmy was in no doubt that Shayna had meant to be insulting, even if Tira didn't realise. Jemmy put an arm around the witch's shoulder as a gesture of reassurance.
The witch grinned. "Love you." She brushed her clammy, green cheek against his, smearing rouge on him and then kissed him, getting lipstick on his face. She was wearing one of Mylar's perfumes, which mingled with her musty body odour.
Shayna smirked. This was uncomfortable. Jemmy wished Shayna could just be happy for him, that he had married for love.
The servants brought platters of steaming trout. Tira suddenly clapped her hands to her mouth and retched. She stood up. "Sorry. Now's not a good time."
"I'll help you," said Mylar. She hastily escorted Tira from the room.
There was a murmur around the table.
"Such rustic manners Tira has," said Shayna smoothly. "Quite charming."
Jemmy felt his jaw tighten. "My wife is brave and selfless. She has saved a village from the plague, and she has defeated the Master Brigand, the Canker and the Infernal Beast. She made the roads safer, she stopped plague spreading throughout the entire land and she thwarted the ultimate evil. The Infernal Beast was a menace to the entire world of Granat. Tira has risked her life countless times for me, and for all of us."
"That girl has more achievements to her name than any man I know," said Sir Telmar from the other end of the table.
The other guests all voiced their agreement.
"Tira is a true heroine," said Jemmy.
"I daresay you felt the need to reward her for her brave deeds, Jemedar," said Shayna in a brittle voice. "There can be no greater reward than your hand in marriage."
There was no doubt Shayna was bitter.
"Listen," said Jemmy. "I will always think highly of you, Shayna. But Tira is the one for me and there can be no doubt about it. "
At that moment, Tira and Mylar came back. The traces of makeup had been washed from Tira's green face and she was glowing with happiness. "Everyone," she clasped her hands together, grinning widely. "I'm gonna have a baby. That's why I've been throwing up and why I haven't had my period. Jemmy, we're gonna have a baby!"
The guests murmured congratulations, but Shayna was breathing through her nose. "Rub my face in it, girl. Why don't you?" she exclaimed in a shaking voice.
Tira blinked and gazed at her with wide blue eyes. "Are you OK?"
"Shayna's heart broke asunder it would seem," said one of the ladies drily. "She has no one to love her, or fill her empty cradle with a babe."
Tira's brows drew together in a look of concern, and she touched Shayna's arm with a slender, green hand.
"Don't be sad, Shayna. You deserve to be loved. You'll find the right one for you."
Shayna glowered. "Thank you for your wise words. Do you think I could also go on an adventure and sweep a handsome warrior off his feet?"
Tira brushed her blond hair away from her face. "Adventures are real dangerous, even if you have magic. I think you should stay in Coltbridge where it's safe. You're so pretty and you have this nice house. I bet lots of men would only be too glad…"
At that moment there was a ripple of shadow above the table, causing the guests to murmur in consternation.
"What witchcraft is this?" demanded Shayna.
And then Gloom appeared.
"I didn't get an invite," squeaked the imp. "So I crashed."
"Gloom, you really shouldn't have," said Tira, folding her arms. "Shayna has the right to invite who she wants."
"I have come to help," said Gloom. "My lady…" he gave a caper on the tabletop and a curtsey to Shayna. "My Mistress may seem adorkable, but she can take charge where necessary. She has experience in conquest. She conquered the dire menace of the Infernal Beast, killed the loathsome Canker and stopped a plague…"
"You have come to sing her praises, imp?" said Shayna with a sniff. "I am already well versed in her many and varied accomplishments."
"Are you though?" squeaked Gloom. "I was working up to the type of conquest you would most approve of. And this one involves no witchcraft. My Mistress was already experienced in matters of the bedchamber before she was married. She can take charge in her marital bed chamber and make things exciting. With herself on top she can…"
There was a murmur of mingled laughter and scandalised noises from the
"Gloom! Hush!" Tira glared at the imp.
"Is that true, imp?" demanded Shayna. "Tira cultivated Jemmy's appetite for her charms?"
"It was not the only reason they got married," said the imp. "They were also comrades in arms, and they saved the world together. But skills in the bed chamber can't have hurt my Mistress's chances now, could they?"
"You are out of line, Gloom," said Mylar.
Jemmy felt his face grow hot. He stared at the table.
"I'm so, so sorry," said Tira, sounding upset. "I … Gloom didn't mean to be this rude."
She put her hands on Jemmy's shoulders and gently massaged them as she often did when comforting him. "Everything's alright, Hon," she said softly. "I love you. Just think, we're gonna be a mommy and daddy."
After the embarrassing social event, Jemmy was glad to be back in his marital bed that night. Of all the times to learn that he was going to be a father… it had to be the moment when Gloom and Shayna between them were doing all they could to embarrass him. He held Tira's clammy green body close. Her musty body odour had seemed pungent when he first knew her, but now he was used to it. Her breasts pressed against his chest.
Tira gazed into his eyes. "What's wrong?"
He gazed back into her wide blue eyes. The witch girl could always sense when something was troubling him. "I am the man of our household, and yet I was the virgin…" he said. "It is understood to be the right thing in Coltbridge, to wait until marriage. That is a Coltbridge custom. But now I know not whether this makes me virile."
Tira kissed his nose. "I think it's just adorable that you waited until you found your true love. You saved your virginity for me! The Coltbridge custom is so sweet. I wish you could have taken my virginity…" she sighed. "But yeah… I haven't been a virgin for a long time. I lost it when I was thirteen! If I'd been smarter, I would have waited. You are my true love. Remember that night when we sent the Infernal Beast back to the Underworld? When I was exhausted and fainted and you held me in your arms and told me you loved me? I already knew I loved you, but that made me so happy, that you loved me back."
Jemmy remembered that night. When he told Tira he loved her, she had hugged him tight and tearfully confessed her love for him. Soon afterwards, she had been the one to propose marriage.
Tira continued talking, her musty breath tickling his face and her witchy smell filling his nostrils. "And remember that night at the inn? Remember you were so sad that it hurt my heart? Cos you had been sent on a quest against the Infernal Beast all alone. It made me wanna cuddle you to make it better and then do all I could to help. Just so you could smile again. With the weight of the world on your shoulders, you were gonna soldier on. That makes you strong. It makes you really virile."
Jemmy felt better. It was time for them to make love. He knew a way to make Tira wild.
"Will a witch swoop down and take me?" he wondered.
The witch gave a squeak of excitement as she recognised the cue for their roleplay and rolled on top of him, pinning down his arms. She put her bright green face close to his, so she was staring into his eyes and breathing down his nostrils. When she was on top of him, she wanted to gaze into his eyes and keep talking while doing it.
"I've got you," she said softly. "You're mine."