“How many of your ships are going to make the trip?” The Muse of Mischief asked, as she paced around Bartala’s private sitting room.

“Protocol mandates three ships, mine and two guards. But I don’t want to dominate the group. Maybe I could take only two?” Bartala asked with a leading tone.

Brzko took the bait, “what are you suggesting, aperture travel? We won’t be able to take enough gear, not to mention food.”

“No, no. I wish it were still that simple. But as Emperor I have to be escorted by palace guards. Trelod ships are almost as fast as Gaznzulian ships, and you just happen to work with a Trelod that has her own ship….”

“That’s a great idea Bartala!” M said. “We could invite Lelelu, it’s been a long time since she went exploring with us.” “Yes, that is a great idea, she’ll be here soon. We can talk to her about when she gets here.” Brzko said.

“Ahh you see, sometimes I do have good ideas, even though I’m JUST an Emperor and not a… a… whatever you two are.”

They all appreciated Bartala’s humor, when the laughing subsided M continued with the planning, “We can’t make it to Trella and back before the Rogsaars are to return to Myaad, but we can leave right after that.”

“I completely agree. Bartala you will not be taking any trips prior to the Rogsaars returning to Myaad.”

They all turned toward the new voice in the conversation.

M was the first to stand and approach.

With her usual curtsy she greeted Empress Nalau, “Your highness, always a pleasure. And congratulations. I think you may have found a way to tame that adolescent wild streak in your husband.”

Nalau stepped forward and embraced M, “Thank you M, I appreciate the support that you and Brzko always have for us. But, please, there is no need for formalities, I consider you one of my closest friends. Please address me by my name.”

“All right Nalau.” M said as she returned the hug. She stepped back and Brzko approached the Empress.

“You however, may keep up the formal greetings and kiss my hand my anytime you like!” Nalau said giggling.

Brzko bowed and kissed her extended hand, “Your highness.”

As he stood Nalau said, “I shall never tire of your charm Brzko.”

“Hey wait a minute, are you flirting with my wife” Bartala said as he approached the trio. “If it makes her happy then don’t ever stop my friend.” He said patting Brzko on the back.

They all took seats on the sofas, Brzko and the Muse of Mischief on one sofa, Bartala and Nalau on the other facing them.

“I understand you are anxious to explore Trella. Bartala has told me that you will be looking for clues to your origins. That is exciting.” Nalau said.

“Yes, we’ve been to Trella many times but we’ve never really explored Trella. I can’t wait to go as an adult and really look around. But I think we need to get ready for the festivities on Myaad. What do you have planned so far and how can we help?” M asked.

“The plan is just for a reception to welcome them home. They have not been home in a very long time, and Myaad does not currently have the resources available for much of a reception. So we are taking care of the details. The Gaznzulian security team we sent was kind enough to transport all of the food and decorations; they will arrive on Myaad the day after tomorrow so there is plenty of time to set up. Lelelu has been a huge help in coordinating everything with Bivoor.”

“Do they have housing for all for the returning Rogsaars?” Brzko asked.

“Yes, the Dumeer have been very busy making sure there is enough housing, food, clothing and other consumables for almost one hundred additional Rogsaars. Of course, the Suus will be there for the reception, and I just learned a few minutes ago that Ciic will be attending. She is already enroute to Myaad.”

“Really?” M said, clearly excited. “We haven’t seen Ciic since her wedding!”

“What? You were at her wedding? I thought Suus ceremonies were generally private, or species specific. Please tell me you did not wear those striped stockings.” Bartala said.

This made Brzko laugh, “What is it with you and M’s stockings Bartala?”

“Truly? I’m jealous. She dresses playfully and I cannot.” “I’m sure I could find them in your size Bartala, would

you like a pair of striped stockings for your next day of celebration?” M asked sarcastically.

“No, no, no. I’ll just continue to dress with the regal poise of an emperor.” he said with a fake poor me tone.

“The notion that Suus weddings and other ceremonies are species specific is a false rumor. They are actually quite open to including others, as long as they are worthy. And when you save their lives, you’re deemed worthy. What can I say? That’s just how Brzko and I roll.”

They all laughed. “One day you must tell me the story of how you saved Ciic, I still have not heard what happened; perhaps on the way to Trella.”

“Maybe then Bartala, although I’d like to catch up on my sleep.” M said.

There was a knock at the door. “Come!” Bartala called. One of the palace butlers stepped in, “Excuse me for interrupting.  It   is time for embarkation; your   presence is requested for the event. Also, I am to inform you that Lelelu has arrived and is in orbit awaiting…” M disappeared before his eyes.

The butler was visibly shaken by M’s mischievous activity. “Don’t worry, you get used to it with these two. She likes shock us non-aperture travelling, gravity based beings. You were saying…”

The butler cleared his throat and picked up where he left off, “In orbit and awaiting landing instructions.”

The Muse of Mischief returned as he was speaking, she had Lelelu in tow. Even though the flora on Ploosnar was blue, and Ploosnarians had bright blue eyes, commoners were not accustomed to seeing blue Trelods. Shock at Lelelu’s appearance showed on the butler’s face.

“No instructions needed, this is Lelelu and she’ll just leave here ship in orbit until the Suus depart.” M said.

The butler opened his mouth to speak, closed it, opened it, closed it, and then finally managed “It is a pleasure to meet you Ms. Lelelu, welcome to Ploosnar.” With that, he quickly ducked out of the room and closed the door.

“Oh M you are mischievous today aren’t you?” Nalau said cracking up.

“Hey, just living up to my name! I know it’s been a while but I’m sure the two of you remember Lelelu.”

“Of course, of course. Welcome to Ploosnar Lelelu.”

“Welcome to the Palace Lelelu, I hope you will be able to stay with us while you are here.”

Lelelu looked spectacular whenever she traveled, a bald, bright blue individual wearing a form fitting black jumpsuit. “Thank you, Emperor, Empress. It is a pleasure to see you again. And it will be my honor to stay with you in the Palace while I am here.” She said offering a slight bow to each in turn.

“You’ve arrived just in time for the Rogsaars to embark, will you join us?” Bartala said.

“It would be my pleasure.” The group stood and made their way to the door with Bartala in the lead. He took a right as he left the room, leading the group through the royal chambers of the palace it was a much faster route to the landing pad. This meant they would be walking through the hallway with statues of the previous Emperors and Empresses.

Bartala and Brzko were in the lead, having a masculine chat about something that no doubt would not have interested the ladies, who walked in a small group behind. After they passed the third or fourth statue Nalau turned to the Muse of Mischief and Lelelu, “Does this hallway creep you out, or is it just me?”

“Oh this is really creepy, the statues are a little too lifelike for my taste!” M answered. “I’m always expecting one of them to come to life and start scolding me.”

“Definitely creepy, I’m glad you said that Empress. I was worried I might be the only one with prujelst bumps.” Lelelu said.

This caught the Empress off guard she stopped, “Prujelt bumps?”

“Right, prujelst bumps – you know little tiny bumps that cover your body when you are cold or creeped out. Named after prujelst birds” Lelelu explained. “On Earth they get goose bumps – a water dwelling bird.”

“Right.”  M said “What are there here on Ploosnar Nalau?”

“Creepy bumps! Just creepy bumps, we don’t have them named after an animal. Because that would be creepy.”

The three ladies busted out in serious laughter. They were laughing so hard they didn’t realize that Bartala and Brzko had turned and walked back to them.

“And just what is it that is so funny that it will make us late?” he asked.

“Oh nothing dear, we were just admiring the statues of your ancestors.” Nalau said clearly lying as she regained her composure.

Bartala looked from Nalau to M to Lelelu, considering if he’d be able to get an answer out any of them. “Brzko, I think your wife is starting to rub off on my wife.”

“Ha! I couldn’t agree with you more Bartala. And for that you are lucky!” he said slipping his arm around M’s waist.

“Damn straight!” M said, sending off a new round of laughter amongst the ladies.

“C’mon ladies, shake a leg or we’ll be late.” he said pretending to be annoyed.

“Shake a leg? What is that supposed to mean?” Lelelu spoke for both her and Nalau, who found the saying quite odd.

“I’ll explain on the way.” M said, picking up the pace.

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