"Hey, you, wake up." Kiora felt a hand reach out and roughly shake her shoulder.
"Huh?" she said, a good portion of the wine still rushing through her bloodstream.
"Jesus Christ, how much wine did you drink?" The unknown person said. He shook her again, harder this time. "Come on, get up."
"What?" Kiora said, struggling to open her eyes. Then, it suddenly hit her that some strange person was in her house. With a screech, Kiora leapt up, but she didn't get far. Her feet were still tangled in the blanket. With a loud thud, she fell onto the floor.
"Of all the thankless jobs," the intruder muttered. "If I untangle you, will you promise not to run?" When Kiora didn't answer, he added, "Look, if I had wanted to do anything, I would have done it while you were passed out drunk." Grudgingly, Kiora nodded. The intruder sighed, and unwrapped the blanket from around her feet.
"Who are you?" Kiora said, edging away from the stranger. "Why are you in my house?" Instead of answering her, the intruder rose from his crouch.
"Where's the goddamn light switch?" He said, feeling along the walls. "Oh, here it is." He flicked on the light. Kiora blinked away tears at the sudden brightness. "Much better."
Kiora could see now that the intruder looked like a man in his early- twenties with curling brown hair and hazel-green eyes. He was attractive in an ordinary sort of way with a spread of freckles across his nose and a mouth that seemed to perpetually smiling its own secret smile. The intruder was dressed in plain khakis with a white button up shirt over a black t-shirt. He was also wearing black gloves, but Kiora supposed that was normal for a guy who went around breaking into other peoples' houses.
"Now," said the intruder, smiling. "To answer your questions, My name is," The intruder took a gasp of air, "Tel'Jaimedelifaolan Kinlimae Lynehealonioyer. But you can call me Jaime." Jaime smiled at Kiora again. "And I'm in your house because you wished me here. So, if you're ready, I'd like to be back for lunch."
"How much wine did I drink?" Kiora muttered, rubbing her head. "I'm having hallucinations."
Jaime rolled his eyes.
"Every single time I have to go through this." He shook his head. "Every single bloody time." He addressed Kiora, "Look, you wished for the Goblin King to come take you away, so here I am." He glanced at the empty case for Labyrinth. "What? You are were expecting David Bowie in glitter and tights?" He smirked. Kiora groaned, this was not happening. She did not have delusion madman in her house, not with a roaring hangover developing. "Sorry, babe, but this is happening. I'm not delusional, and I'm sure as hell not one of your drunken hallucinations." Jaime held out a hand. "So why don't you play nice and come with me?"
"Do you really expect me to believe that you're the Goblin King?" Kiora scoffed. "You barely look old enough to drink. You have freckles, for godssake!"
Jaime run a finger over his nose. "They run in the family," he muttered. "Besides, you shouldn't be so obsessed over stereotypes. Judging by your current appearance, I would say that you were a call girl just getting out a late-night drunken orgy." Kiora pulled the afghan tighter around her body. It was true that her nightgown was rather scant, but Kiora had always enjoyed wearing delicate nightgowns. "And for your information," Jaime added loftily, " I am over three hundred years old. So be a good little girl and listen to your elders."
"Anyone can say that they're over three hundred years old," Kiora retorted.
"What, do you want to saw me in half and count the rings?" Jaime snapped back. They glared at each other for a moment, before Jaime stepped back, raising his hands in a gesture of defeat. "Fine, fine," he said. "Why doesn't anyone ever just believe me?" he muttered, half to himself. With a graceful flick of his wrist, a round crystal appeared in his hand. "In honor of your favorite movie," he said mockingly. Jaime began to spin the crystal in his hands, rolling it back and forth, always seeming like it was just about to drop.
"I've seen magicians do the same things," Kiora said derisively. "It doesn't prove anything."
"Well, I haven't finished yet," Jaime replied, peevishly. With a flick of the wrist, the crystal flew up into the air. It arched over Kiora's head, and landed softly on the couch. Within a blink, the crystal was gone, and in its place sat a very confused David Bowie.
"Um, hello, could you tell me where I am?" He said, his eyes darting around the room. "I was just -" Jaime flicked his wrist again, and David Bowie was gone, and the crystal was resting peacefully on the cushion. Flick, and the crystal rose up, flew over Kiora's head, and landed neatly in Jaime's outstretched hand, where it promptly disappeared. Kiora stared at her couch.
"Do that again," she demanded.
"Do it again, and I'll go with you," Kiora offered. Jaime ran a finger along his nose.
"You're lying," he said. "You've got your fingers crossed."
"I have not," protested Kiora. "Honest." She gave him her best innocent smile.
"You have too!"
"Yes, you do!" Exasperated, Jaime threw his hands up in the air. "I refused to play this childish game with you. All I want to do is take you back to Faerie so I can eat my lunch."
"Faerie?" asked Kiora. "Not the Underground?"
"No, darling, the underground is the subway system in London, and I have no desire to go there."
"And after I've been so nice to you, too."
Kiora crossed her arms. "If you call trying to kidnap me being nice." Jaime through himself down on the couch and began talking to himself..
"Sure, Dad, I'll take over. You and Mom enjoy your retirement. Go see the water sprites. Get a tan. I can handle it, how hard can it be to kidnap some kids. Well, you know what, they never bloody mentioned grown women wishing themselves away, did they. Nooooo, nobody said anything about that. All they said was, take the kid, and if sister or brother or father or bloody third cousin once removed beats the labyrinth give it back. Simple, they said. Well, I hope the goddamn water sprites bite you both!" He shouted at the ceiling.
"So there is a labyrinth," mused Kiora.
"Yes, there's a bloody labyrinth. The goblins are always getting lost in damned thing; I always have go and drag them out." Jaime turned to face Kiora, who was still sitting on the floor. "Can we go now?"
"So, since I was the one who wished you to come and take me, than if I should beat the labyrinth, you'll have to return me, right?" Kiora said, continuing her train of thought. Jaime looked at her in surprise.
"You know, I never thought of that. It'll have to be approved by the council, but if it passes, I've be able to get rid of those women." Jaime shuddered.
"Are you saying that there are others like me?" Kiora said. "And you've had to keep them all?"
"Unfortunately, yes. Especially since that damn movie came out." He gestured to the Labyrinth box. "They generally fall into three categories. One, the ones who jump at the chance to be whisked away by the Goblin King. These are the ones who follow me around the castle, hoping I will make one of them my queen. Which I won't." Jamie added with a vengeance. "Then there are the ones who were eventually convinced to come, and realized quickly that Faerie has several lovely areas much more attractive than the Goblin City. I like those women the best," Jaime said with a smile. "And then there's the third group, women I had to take away by force because even I have to follow the rules. These women usually end up as goblins and are a lot happier for it. But if your idea works, I'll finally be free of them all." Jaime looked like he was about to start dancing with glee.
"But only if they beat the labyrinth," Kiora reminded him.
"Oh, they will," Jaime said with a evil look in his eyes. "Even if I have to lead them myself."
Kiora couldn't help but laugh at the expression on Jaime's face. She wondered exactly what those women had been doing to him.
"All right then, let's go. I want to get this over with," Kiora rose to her feet. Suddenly she realized she was still wearing her nightgown. " you mind if I change first?" Jaime waved a hand indicating his permission. Kiora darted into her bedroom and pulled out a pair of dark blue jeans, a white tank top and a gray shirt. She dressed quickly, and then, thinking it might be a good idea to bring an extra set of clothes, packed a backpack. She walked into the living room, plaiting her hair into a long braid. Jaime was standing by her bookshelf, looking over her books.
"You have good taste," he said when he noticed she had returned. "Catch-22, Brave New World, Heinlein, Lord of the Rings." He absently ran a finger along the spines of the books.
"You read?" Kiora asked, her mouth open in disbelief. Jaime turned to face her, an insulted look on his face.
"Of course, I read," he said. "I spend all my time with goblins. I need something to keep me sane."
Kiora blushed. "I meant, I didn't think that you would read mortal books." Jaime smiled at her, the insult removed.
"Have you ever read a Faerie book? Nothing ever bloody happens. They just gone on and on for pages about a goddamn rock or blade of grass." Jaime smiled back at Kiora's bookshelf. "No, human books are much more interesting." He looked back at Kiora. "Coming prepared?" he asked, arching an eyebrow.
Kiora adjusted the straps on her backpack. "I figured I might need a change of clothes."
"You're smarter than most. No one else ever thought of that," Jaime said. "Ready now?" He offered a gloved hand. Swallowing nervously, Kiora nodded and took Jaime hand. There was slight spark when their fingers touched, and Kiora gave a small squeak. Jaime smiled at her, glad that he wouldn't miss lunch now. "That's normal, don't worry about it." He snapped his fingers, and suddenly the walls began to melt away, like paint dripping down a canvas. As the walls of Kiora's living room slid from view, another view began to appear. Evergreens and boulders began to drip together. Kiora thought she was going to throw up. It was like sitting on a stationary train, watching another train pull away from the station, only even more disorientating. Kiora squeezed her eyes shut. Finally after what seemed like an eternity to Kiora, she heard Jaime softly laughing.
"Is it done?" she asked, her eyes still tightly closed.
"Yes, we're here," Jaime answered, the laughter dancing in his voice. He really does have a nice voice, Kiora thought to herself, than immediately shook the idea from her head. The Goblin King had already read her thoughts once, she didn't want it to happen again.
Kiora opened her eyes. They were standing at the top of a tall hill. At base was a field of daises spotted with small, thatch huts. Delighted, Kiora watched as a short, slim girl walked out of the nearest house. She looked up at the hill, and waved. Jaime waved back. Kiora stared in amazement at the girl darted up the hill like a hummingbird. Kiora would have only be a quarter of the way up by the time the girl reached the top. Jaime noticed her open-mouthed stare.
"Elves are very quick creatures," he muttered in her ear. "They're also very touchy, so be polite." He smiled at the elven girl.
"Hello, Sari," He said. Sari's eyes flicked over to Kiora. Kiora felt herself being looked over and dismissed. It was something she was used to, so Kiora wondered why she was suddenly angry.
"Hello, Tel'Jaime," Sari replied, a mischievous smile on her lips. She wasn't beautiful, elves rarely were, but she pretty and bewitching. Her long, ash-blonde hair swayed gently in a non-existent breeze, and her eyes were wide and blue. "Have you come the dance the Ceilae with us?" The emphasis the elf put on her words indicated that she hoped Jaime had come to do something besides dance.
"Not today," Jaime gestured to Kiora. "I'm working. Sari, this is Kiora. Kiora, Sari."
"Nice to meet you," Kiora said, more politely than she felt. Sari crossed her arms and looked at her.
"She's not very pretty, is she?" Sari remarked to Jaime. "Her mouth is too wide for her face and her eyes are too few apart."
Kiora gasped. Why that little b-, her thought was interrupted by Jaime leaning heavily on her foot. Apparently elves could read thoughts as well.
"I think Kiora is very pretty," Jaime said gravely. Sari pouted.
"Not as pretty as me?" She asked.
"No one's as pretty as you," Jaime answered with a smile. Suddenly Sari's smile was back.
"Come dance with us," she pleaded. "You never come dancing anymore."
"I'll come the next full moon, I promise," Jaime said.
"And you'll wear normal clothing?" Sari added. Jaime laughed the same way you would laugh at a precocious child.
"Yes, Sari, now go back home before your father realizes you've gone."
Sari smiled brilliantly. "My father likes you, Tel'Jaime, he would not mind me visiting you. I'll save you a dance!" She called out, already halfway down the hill.
"Well," said Kiora, turning to Jaime. "Are elves like that, or just her?" Jaime laughed again, differently this time.
"Yes, for the most part. Elves are the best at growing plants, and at things that require at lot of grace, like dancing, but unfortunately they are also shallow and bigoted. They regard themselves and the Sidhe as the master races. The elves grow the crops, and provide the entertainment, and the Sidhe are the rulers."
Kiora looked over the green field. She could see several elves out now. Most were different shades of blonde, but there were a few with fire- red hair that flashed in the sun.
"Somehow I didn't expect the Goblin Kingdom to look quite like this," she said.
"Oh, this isn't my kingdom," Jaime said, surprised. "This is Thuatha, the home of the elves. My sister is queen here."
"Well, I'm totally confused," Kiora said. "Why didn't we just go to your kingdom?"
"You can't enter the Goblin Kingdom by a spell. The Dark Forest interferes to much. There's no telling where you would end up."
Kiora blinked. She pressed her fingers against the corners of her eyes. "Okay, I'm currently having a fairyland overload. What exactly is the Dark Forest?"
Jaime grasped her by her shoulders and spun her around. "That is the Dark Forest," he said.
Kiora stared at the mass of brush and vines twining around thick trunks. The trees seems to go up for ever, with blankets and blankets of leaves blocking out all possible light. It was like a sharp line was drawn between the woods and the grassy hill. On one side there was light, and warmth, and on the other darkness. Kiora shivered.
"Well, I can see why they call it the Dark Forest," she muttered.
"This is the edge of my kingdom," Jaime said. "The Forest surrounds the labyrinth, and the labyrinth surrounds the Goblin City." He smiled at Kiora. "Sometimes Humans get things right." He started towards the Dark Forest.
"We're not actually going in there?" Kiora protested, hanging back.
"Well, since it's the only way to get to my castle..yeah, we are." Kiora looked uneasily at the tangled vines and looming trees. "You're joking."
"Nope." Jaime walked back over to her and took her hand. There was that same brief spark. "It's not that bad. Just make sure that you do exactly what I say. If you go wandering off, I might not be able to find you before something else does."
Well, that's comforting, Kiora thought to herself. Jaime laughed and pulled her towards the woods.
"Can you always read my thoughts?" Kiora asked once they were in the forest, mostly to distract herself from the uneasy feeling of being watched.
"No," replied Jaime, absently. He stopped in front of large boulder. Time had worn it away so that it resembled a hand with one finger pointing towards the invisible sky. Jaime regarded it silently for a few seconds before turning left. "It would be bloody uncomfortable for me if I could. I'd never be able to sleep with all the mortals running around my castle." He paused, looking closely at the ground. There was a dark, sticky substance staining the fallen leaves. "It's only that sometimes mortals just practically shout their thoughts at us Fae," Jaime continued still examining the odd substance. He removed a glove, and dipped a finger into a small pool that had formed on one of the leaves.
"What's wrong?" Kiora asked nervously. Jaime raised the finger to his lips and tasted the substance. He swore violently.
"Um..Jaime?" Kiora said hesitantly. Jaime turned to face her. His eyes were snapping with white hot anger. Kiora unconsciously took a step backwards. Earlier, Jaime had reminded her a kitten; cute, friendly, playful, a bit selfish. Now she was looking at a very, very angry panther. One who looked ready to kill the first thing that crossed him.
"Stay here," he commanded. "Do you understand? No matter what happens do not move from this spot." His finger pointed to where she was standing with a stabbing motion. "I'll be back as soon as I can." And with that, Jaime disappeared into the woods.
"Jaime?" Kiora called. No reply. Well, fuck, she thought to herself, adjusting the weight of her backpack. I've been kidnapped by the Goblin King, and now he's abandoned me in the middle of a dark, scary forest. Fuck, fuck, fuck, FUCK. Kiora looked around her. She couldn't even tell the direction that Jaime had gone in. She wondered how long she would be able to stand upright in this exact spot. Maybe he meant this general area, Kiora thought hopefully. Just she was about to move, she heard a branch snap. Suddenly she froze. Oh holy mother of god please let that be Jaime please don't let that be something that eats humans oh please oh please oh please. Out of the darkness appeared a tall man with thick black hair tied back in a ponytail. He was dressed in what Kiora considered to more like Faerie dress than Jaime. The man was wearing black breeches and high, black boots, with a dark grey poet's shirt that hung open to mid-chest. Kiora thought that she would have been relieved to see that it wasn't a troll coming to collect dinner, but the expression on the man's face made her think that perhaps she would have been better off with the troll.
"Well, well, well," purred the man. "What do we have here? Another one of Jaime's little mortals? A pretty little thing too." The man smiled at her; a smile that seemed to hold far too many teeth. Kiora watched him silently, afraid to speak for fear her voice wouldn't work. "Silent, as well, it seems. Tell me, what's you name, pretty little girl?" Kiora didn't answer. Even if she could speak without faltering, something was screaming inside of her not to tell this man her name. "Oh, well," the man said brushing away the subject with a airy wave of his hand. "We don't really need names, anyway." He was slowly moving towards her. Kiora could feel her muscles tensing. She wanted to run, but Jaime had told her not to move. Inside her mind, the two instincts warred. "Such a pretty, pretty, little mortal. Jaime has so many, you know, I'm sure he wouldn't miss just one." Kiora could feel her heart beating rapidly. Sweat formed on her forehead, neck, arms, stomach. Her chest rose and fell at an increasing rate. The man paused before her, his eyes raking over her body. He smiled slowly, drinking in her fear, reveling in it. This was a man who liked to hurt women, Kiora thought. The man's smile widened. "You're very perceptive for a human." Idly, he traced a finger across her jaw line. He trailed his fingers up to her lips. "And such soft lips," he said quietly, before pinching down hard on Kiora's lower lip. Kiora whimpered slightly at the pain. The man's eyes were cold, glittering blue gems. They widened slightly at Kiora's gasp. He released her lips, and thrust a hand into her hair, tearing at the roots. He pulled her towards him roughly, and shoved his lips against hers. Kiora tried to pull back, but his grip on her hair was too tight. The man forced his tongue between her lips, and once her mouth was open, bit down hard on her lip. Kiora tasted the coppery blood as it slipped into her mouth. Tears welled in her eyes, and her vision blurred. Abruptly, the man released her. Kiora could see that some of her blood was on his lips. He licked it off with an expression of delight on his face. Kiora thought she might throw up. "Oh, you're going to be fun," he said, moving to grab her again. Suddenly, with a speed that would have astounded her rape defense teacher ("For godsakes, Kiora, he's trying to rape you! So stop fucking around, for christssake!") Kiora thrust her fist straight into the man's nose, jamming the bones upward. Kiora smiled to herself when she heard the bones crack. She only wished her instructor had been there to see it. Shouldn't be allowed out after dark, ha take that. "You fucking bitch," he screamed. Or at least, that's what Kiora thought he said. She couldn't quite tell with the blood streaming down his face and his nose broken into half a dozen pieces. With a cry that border on feral, he rushed towards her, his hands held out as if he meant to strangle her. Oh, FUCK, thought Kiora. She squeezed her eyes shut, and braced herself for what she knew was coming. But it never came. A bright, white flash of light burned through Kiora's closed lids, and she cried out. Stumbling backwards, she tripped and landed hard on her butt. "Ow," she whispered. Kiora pried open her eyes. She stared, gaping at what she saw. Jaime was emerging from the woods, a pool of white glowing around his hands. The man was now trapped in his lunge towards Kiora. He snarled at Jaime as the Goblin King approached.
"Hello, Nicholas," Jaime said carefully, not releasing Nicholas from his spell. "Would like to explain why you're bothering my mortal?"
"Why, Jaime, we were having a little chat," Nicholas smiled at Kiora. "Weren't we?"
"I doubt that," Jaime replied.
"My dear, little brother, I resent the implication." Kiora gasped. Nicholas was Jaime's brother?
"What are you doing here?" he asked.
"I was just coming to visit you," Nicholas replied innocently. Bullshit, thought Kiora. Nicholas's eyes flicked to her, than back to Jaime.
"I see," Jaime said, his voice steel covered with silk. "I suppose the fact there are half a dozen firys carcasses not ten yards from here is just coincidence?"
"You think I would poach firys? Little Brother, your low opinion of me hurts."
Jaime just glared at him.
"You're welcome to check, if you like," Nicholas continued. "Go ahead," his tone bordered on taunting. A muscle in Jaime's cheek twitched. Kiora realized he was trying to keep his temper. Jaime flicked a wrist, and Nicholas walked jerkily towards him. Kiora scrambled to her feet, think Jaime had released to spell, but then she realized that Jaime was controlling Nicholas's movements. When Nicholas was standing in front of Jaime, another flick of Jaime's hand twisted Nicholas's hands so that they were palm up. Whispering under his breath, Jaime blew gently on Nicholas's palms. A puff of silvery blue lightly dusted over Nicholas's skin, and flared brightly once before disappearing. Jaime frowned, examining his brother's hands.
"Where's Michael?" he asked.
"Why would I know?" Nicholas answered. "I haven't seen him in weeks."
"Where is he, Nicholas?" Jaime snapped.
"I don't know, he comes and goes so frequently," Nicholas said. "I'm not his keeper."
Jaime stared at Nicholas, wishing not for the first time that he could read his brother's thoughts as easily as he could mortals.
"I suggest that you inform me in advance next time you decide just to drop in," Jaime said icily.
"Of course, little brother, of course," Nicholas smiled mockingly. Jaime growled, and violently waved his arm. Nicholas disappeared in an instant. Kiora stared at where he had been standing.
"Where did he go?" she asked, wincing. With her split lip, it hurt to talk.
"Back to the troll kingdom. He's not supposed to leave without informing the council." Jaime dropped his hands, and the pool of white light faded away. He pulled his gloves out of a pocket, and slipped them on. "Come here, and I'll fix your lip." Kiora walked over to him, her steps slightly shaky. Jaime lightly touched her lips, and a warmth spread over them. Jaime stepped back. "There," he said. Kiora ran her tongue over where the cut had been. It was gone completely. She smiled at Jaime.
"Thanks," she said.
"No, thank you," Jaime replied. "I got to see Nicholas get punched in the face by a woman. A human woman, no less." He offered Kiora his hand. "Not many could have stayed in a situation like that. I should have thought to include Sidhe in the spell." He said bitterly. Jaime wove his way quickly through the trees.
"Spell?" asked Kiora, confused.
"A protection spell," Jaime explained. "If anything had attacked you, it would have run into an invisible wall. I never even considered the fact that Nicholas or Michael might have found you." Jaime stopped suddenly and turned to Kiora. "I want to apologize, both for putting you in danger and for my brother's behavior." His eyes searched Kiora's face.
"You aren't responsible for your brother," Kiora said. "And you made a mistake. It happens. Everything was fine, in the end."
"I shouldn't have made such a mistake, though," Jaime said. He rubbed his nose. "A Goblin King can't make mistakes, even small ones." He looked away from Kiora. Suddenly he laughed.
"What?" Kiora asked, startled. Jaime shook his head, still laughing. There was a manic edge to his laughter.
"Nothing, it's just.." He strained to get his laughter under control. "It's just...Nicholas scares the hell out of me." Jaime starting laughing again, and he sank to the ground. Kiora stared at him. "When we were little, he used to torment me. He pushed me off the roof of the castle once." Suddenly Jaime stopped as abruptly as he started. He stood, brushing off dirt off his khakis. Kiora said nothing, regarding him silently. Jaime looked at her, a wry smile on his face. Kiora looked down at the fallen leaves. She wasn't sure how to respond. "Come on," said Jaime, his voice normal again. "We shouldn't stop for so long."
He started leading Kiora towards the faint cracks of light she could see streaming in through the brush.
As they were walking, a thought struck Kiora. "Why isn't Nicholas king if he's older than you?" She asked.
"In Faerie, the heir isn't always the oldest," Jaime explained. "Although, it's unusual for a younger sibling to be named heir, it's not like it never happens." He jumped down from a small ledge. "I'm the youngest of nine children, actually." Jaime lifted Kiora down smoothly in a business like manner.
"Nine?" Kiora said.
"Well, it isn't that much considering how long Sidhe live," said Jaime. "Anyway, although the eldest is usually chosen, it's actually whoever has the strongest magic that is named heir." He paused, pulling aside vines and bushes. He gestured for Kiora to go there the hole he had created. "Nicholas was second born, and until I came along was the heir."
"No wonder he doesn't like you," Kiora observed. She blinked in the bright light. They were out of the forest. Jaime stopped beside her.
"So what do you think?" he asked. Kiora stared at what stretched before her. The labyrinth wound another itself like a snake. The outer potion was a intricate maze of stone. It gave way to the largest hedge maze Kiora had ever seen, dotted with forests, lakes, and occasional towers and houses. In the center of the labyrinth stood a city. Odd, twisted spirals rose up, piercing the sky. The tallest of these was on a massive stone castle that seemed like something out of a fairy tale. Which, Kiora thought, it was. The castle looked like it had been made by ten different architects, each without considering what the other was doing. Delicately carved arches and columns collided with solid, straight lines.
"It's beautiful," she whispered.
"I know," Jaime replied happily. "And it's mine." He sighed contentedly. They gazed at the Goblin Kingdom for a few, quiet moments. "Anyway, we can jump straight to the castle from here."
"Is it going to like jumping from the mortal realm?" Kiora asked. "Because if it is, I'd rather walk." Before Kiora had even finished talking, Jaime had snapped his fingers. Instantly they appeared in a huge entrance hall, decorated with tapestries. An ornate staircase began at the opposite end of the hall. The majesty of it was marred by the fact that three short, round goblins were taking turns sliding down the banister. "I guess not," Kiora muttered to herself.
"Finks!" Jaime shouted. All three goblins stopped and turned to face him.
"Jaime!" They cried, running over to him. Kiora giggled as the goblins tripped over themselves in their efforts to reach Jaime first.
"Finks!" Jaime yelled again, before stooping down to greet his goblins. The clamored over him like small children expecting presents. All three keep speaking at once, demanding Jaime's attention. He smiled up at Kiora as one goblin climbed its way onto Jaime's shoulders.
"Your highness!" A dwarf dressed in a gold and red vest had run into the room. Jaime rose, the goblin still clinging to his back. It squeaked, trying not to fall off. Jaime reached back, and plucked the goblin off. He set it on his shoulder, like a kitten. From its new perch, the goblin taunted its companions.
"Shush," Jaime said to the goblin. "Finks."
"Yes, your highness?" The dwarf bowed.
"This is Kiora. Put her in the Blue Room, please."
Finks looked at Kiora. "The Blue Room?" he said uncertainly. "Wouldn't she be more comfortable with the other ladies?"
"No," replied Jaime firmly. "The Blue Room, please." One of the other goblins, sensing that Jaime's attention had been diverted, walked over to Kiora. She smiled down at it. The goblin jabbered at her in a language Kiora couldn't understand.
"He says that you smell nice," Jaime said. Kiora blushed.
"Well, thank you," she said to the goblin. Suddenly, she felt something give a sharp tug on her braid. "Ouch," she cried, spinning around. The third goblin was standing there, still holding Kiora's hair. She tugged on it again, then giggled.
"Stop that," snapped Kiora, twitching her braid out of the goblin's hands. The goblin stuck its purple tongue out at Kiora, and chattered angrily in the goblin's gibberish. Jaime laughed. Kiora glared at him. He shrugged, unseating the goblin on his shoulders.
"They're like children," he said, catching the goblin before it stuck the floor.
"They're pests," Finks said dryly. He yelled at the goblins in their language. All three shouted back, and stuck out their tongues before disappearing through a side door. "Will you be needing anything else, your highness?"
"Yes, have Marcie send lunch up to my study, and find Lord Valerian. I need to speak with him." Jaime snapped his fingers and disappeared. Kiora felt disappointed. She supposed that the Goblin King wouldn't have time to settle her in, but she preferred Jaime's companionship to that of a snobby dwarf.
"Well, come on Miss whatever you name is," Finks motioned for her to follow him.
"Kiora. Kiora Banks."
"Doesn't matter," answered Finks without turning around. Kiora thought that she would have preferred the goblins.