Draft, Kingdom of Heaven, Makrofaga Queen of the Dirty Elves

Pt 10 It Ends And Starts Here

The morning light was at the point where it lingered between flat grey and giving the world its first pastel colours. Flådhöjden was more silent than usual. The few sounds were hoarse birds trying out their morning chirps and the dirty elves on party cleaning duty sweeping the streets. Makrofaga felt slightly groggy where she walked up a small street together with Grak and Foetida. This time Grak was the sober one – Foetida was hugging her earlobe and singing softly. They searched for Odoferus, and had managed to find someone awake enough to point them to the officers’ blocks. The streets were lined with the remnants of the great party, and many officers had fallen asleep ungracefully in their gardens. Since captain is a rather low grade they headed for the part with humble little houses, not in marble, but of whitewashed stone. They hoped finding a sign with “Enris’ house” or something similar, and that Odoferus really was there once they found the right place.

They got something better. In the middle of the street, and in the middle of the gentle morning sounds, a raspy male voice bellowed out.
“BEDDY BYYYYYEEEEE, CLOSE YOUR EEEEEEEEEEEEEYES…”
Following Odoferus’ lullabye opera they soon found the house that indeed had a sign “cpt. Enris” and entered its garden. Pink flowers bowed their heads in the flower beds, behind straight lines of lavender, and even Foetida took notice.
“Kinda’ cutesy, don’t you think, daaaahlings!”
Grak och Makrofaga exchanged looks. They didn’t really expect this, and suddenly walking in felt even more forbidden. Unfortunately Odoferus wouldn’t hear them over his own song, so they had to continue. The door to the house was still open, and when they stepped inside they noticed a heap of clothes on the floor. It was not Odoferus’ clothes. Grak mimicked “what???” and looked at Makrofaga. Makrofaga shrugged. Her gaydar was bound to be wrong some times. After all, she didn’t need and didn’t use it.

Odoferus song came from the biggest room in the house. An open fire burned in a decoratively framed hearth, and before the fire the hairy elf sat, his frock coat half open, and swinging a bottle of very expensive wine. Empty bottles covered the floor, and the content of one of the box beds was spread among them. One of the pillows served as Odoferus’ chair, the mattress was placed beside him, and on the mattress Auduin Enris slept – with his head resting on Odoferus’ lap. It was probably Odoferus that had pulled the duvet over him too, the piece was heaped in the way only caring but drunk hands can heap fabric. Makrofaga, Grak, and Foetida was given a few minutes to take in the scene, before the hairy elf noticed them.
“SHUSH!” he bellowed and pointed to the sleeping captain “HE HAS HAD A HARD NIGHT, POOR THING!!!”
“Okay,” Makrofaga said softly and started to walk toward them.
Behind her Grak tiptoed between the bottles.
“YOU REALLY WERE RIGHT, QUEENY! HE IS AS STRAIGHT AS A BROOMSTICK!”
Auduin Enris started to stir, and neither Makrofaga nor Grak wanted him to wake up. Not before they could cover up most of Odoferus’ shenanigans in the house. Grak put her index finger to her lips.
“HUSH, HUSH! YOU’RE RIGHT! I’LL BE SILENT! AS SILENT AS A CAT ON VELVET!”
Makrofaga sighed.
“What about those clothes in the weapons’ house?” said Grak softly.
“HE WAS SO SWEATY! YOU SHOULD HAVE SEEN HIM! LOOKED LIKE HE’D BEEN DIPPED IN A WELL! POOR THING!”
Briefly Makrofaga felt that burning will to smack a friend over the head that occur when you both are heading for disaster, and could have avoided it but for that small mistake. Auduin Enris stired again. He was obviously about to wake up. She put her index finger to her lips.
“YEAH! SHUSH! THE BOY NEEDS HIS SLEEP! HE REALLY DO! I SHOULD BE SILENT!”
Auduin Enris opened his eyes, tried to focus, and fumbled around for his glasses. Makrofaga and Grak both inhaled deeply and waited for catastrophy to rain on them. Odoferus on the other hand…
“OH! DID I WAKE YOU UP? I WAS JUST TELLING THEM HOW STRAIGHT YOU ARE!”
“Yes” said the captain weakly.
He had managed to find his glasses, and by some sort of miracle – considering Odoferus was involved – they were still in one piece. Focusing on nothing he put them on and huddled into a sitting heap. His hair stood in seven directions
“GRAK! THE KITCHEN! YOU MUST SEE THE KITCHEN! HE HAS TEA TOWELS AND A HEARTH! WHAT A THING! YOU CAN HAVE THE FIRE INDOORS!”
“I think,” said Grak and took her boyfriend under one arm, “that you need some fresh air.”
She clasped a hand over his mouth and carried him out on the street. The tired captain just looked after them.
“I’m so sorry about this!” said Makrofaga.
Auduin Enris just looked at the mess around him, and slowly got on his feet. Makrofaga tried to help him clean up, but he just waved at her to leave things be and stumbled into the kitchen. Outside Odoferus got wind again, and started to babble about teapots.

When Auduin Enris sank onto a chair Makrofaga took pity on him. After all she was at maximum one third as hangover as him, and could move around in the world. She filled a glass of water and put before him on the table. Then a detail caught her eye – or rather a lack of a detail.
“Do you have a teapot?”
Auduin Enris looked at the shelf over the kitchen hearth.
“Not any more, it seems.”
They could hear Odoferus from the outside.
“AND THE TEAPOT! IT HAS NO CRACKS IN IT! CAN YOU IMAGINE? LOOK! NO CRACKS!”
Makrofaga made a circular motion with her hand. The teapot materialised on the table.
“HEY!”
“No,” said Auduin Enris, “Let him have it.”
“Are you sure?”
He nodded, and winced in pain. Makrofaga made a reversed motion and the teapot disappeared.
“YAY!!!”
Sheepishly, and blearily Auduin Enris looked up on her.
“Ever since this” he pointed to his glasses “I get ghost hugs when I hear explosions.”
He blushed from shame.
“If your councilor hadn’t shown up I’d be sitting under the table peeing myself now. I’m… just frozen. So if he wants that teapot… I mean I can’t march down there and gift it to him. Not me.”

Makrofaga was surprised. Seeing Auduin Enris in his own home, and in the very normal green tunic Odoferus had managed to get on him, was like seeing a pig dancing saltarello – without any magic involved. With his nodded permission she rummaged around in his larder and cooked up the strongest hangover cure she knew.
“Incidentally” she said when she put the mug before him, “this is Odoferus’ recipe.”
Auduin Enris looked down the mug with the suspicion of a man served an unknown medicine. Still he took a gulp without flinching.
“What was he doing here?”

Makrofaga had had a long night herself, and only slept a few hours at a wooden bench she’d found in the temple. The tension from many difficult tasks was already dissolving, and she still had one before her. The sound of klinking glass and shrieks of joy revealed Foetida was squeezing the last drops from a wine collection Odoferus cleaned out completely. With a sigh Makrofaga gave up on lying.
“He came here to seduce you, captain.”
Auduin Enris had already perked up a little.
“Oh,” he said, “must’ve been a disappointment.”
“In general he’s just happy someone’s telling it like it is. He keeps trying ‘till he finds someone who enjoys it. But I need to talk to you about your daughter.”

In between the preparations for the ceremony and the big party Makrofaga had managed to find judges who were willing to stay sober long enough for a trial. As soon as Kingdom of Heaven was handed over to Skräpmården it would take place inside the temple. Makrofaga, being the representative of the state, was both complainant and the one who could claim the punishment. She had decided upon complete erasure of all memories of Kingdom of Heaven.
“So Pamphylia won’t remember anything of the temple?” said Auduin.
He looked so relieved Makrofaga realised she had to explain. Any dirty elf would get it, so she wasn’t sure where to start.
“No… it’s… She’ll remember she has forgotten something. It’s like constantly thinking you have something on the tip of your tongue. And since I showed her the entire complex it’ll be a heavy urge to speak, and to search for what she’s forgotten. It can drive you crazy in the same way a single mosquito in a dark room does. Someone needs to be there to help her learn to handle it, or she’ll go crazy.”
“You mean me, who am her father? She’s almost grown up, I have little say…”
“But you’re the only one willing to put in the hours.”
Many feelings flashed over Audin Enris’ face while he thought. There was something sad lingering over his mouth. He wrinkled his eyebrows.
“Is it reversible?”
“The temple can call her back if the deities decides she’s worth it.”
He rubbed his temples.
“It’s your land, it’s your laws.I’m just glad I get her back.”
Makrofaga bit her lip.
“The judges can overrule me. They can still decide on quartering. And in that case I have to carry her out in pieces.”

She had to stay even more and tell Auduin the official things. He offered to arrange an official audience for her, but she turned it down. It had been an deliberate insult having her negotiating the affairs between Skräpmården and Flådhöjden with a captain in the guard, yet the outcome had been that Auduin knew the ropes. King Gadoron didn’t, and would probably find an excuse to kill someone as an outlet for his bad mood. And it was a ceremonial thing – the interkingdom protocol for saying “Thanks for borrowing us your temple! We’ve cleaned up. Here’s the key.” She could trust her dirty elves to clean up after themselves – the only thing she needed to worry about was them cleaning out things that maybe wasn’t dirt.

If Auduin Enris noted was hard to tell. He seemed strangely distant through the entire thing. She had gotten to the last parts when he suddenly started to scratch his ears. Tiny grey hairs started to grow along their rims. He scratched some more. The ears elongated. Traveled up on top of his head and got little black tips. He reached up with his right hand.
“What is this?”
“Donkey ears.”
“How many do you have among you who can do these things?”
“Not many. Our land is so dry most forgets these skills after a few years.”
He conjured a mirror and took a look at it. Twitched the ears a bit.
“Well,” he said with a tired smile, “they look good at me.”

When Makrofaga walked back through Flådhöjden, gathering the last cleaning dirty elves with her, the Flådhöjden elves woke up to the bleak aftermath of an Epic Party. It was common knowledge that the dirty elves couldn’t handle advanced magic. The Flådhöjden elves loved to harp on it in saga and song. So when the marble city suddenly was magically altered and booby trapped the only culprits could be themselves. They had, by themselves, painted mustaches on deities and portraits of their Grand Military Personalities Of History, and protected them with high security spells. The fact that the statue of the founder, who normally rode on a galloping horse, now rode a giant duck could only be explained that a drunk Flådhöjden citizen had had a mental blank out. For weeks they were ambushed by farting sounds when they sat down on a chair, and it was impossible to tell which sitting place was booby trapped and which one was safe. Prodding things could, without warning, trigger fountains of confetti and streamers going off, often with a wheezing “tooooot!”. They couldn’t know that Makrofaga had, among the dirty elf revelers, hidden a group who stayed sober to whisper juuuuust the right ideas in the drunk high elves’ ears.

Not even the fact that the Flådhöjden guard took the hardest hit seemed to tip them off. Maybe they didn’t like their soldiers as much as the dirty elves had thought. The next few weeks dirty elves secretly frowned with surprise as high elves smirked when the guards – suddenly and with little warning – grew donkey ears, or got red clown noses, or both. The guards’ weapons could any minute turn into half wiltered vegetables or gardening utensils. At the gates the guards frequently tried to look intimidating carrying rakes, and a cavalry drawing cucumbers isn’t half as scary as when they have sables. The top officers were ambushed, anywhere, anytime, by cream pies, landing in their faces with embarrassing perfection. Even their horses got a part of it, suddenly getting bright coloured spots in blue, green, red, and yellow all over their bodies.

Two days after the party the collected spells were at a top, for some reason coinciding with the return of Kingdom of Heaven to Skräpmården. Auduin Enris was there, carrying his apologies from king Gadoron who had suddenly fallen ill and couldn’t attend the little ceremony. Since Auduin himself had bunny ears, bunny nose and a bunny tale, the Skräpmården audience nudged each other and speculated, loudly. Any time any of the guards removing the fence around the mound sprouted ears or a red nose the crowd roared with laughter. Makrofaga didn’t mind joining them, eventhough she could see how Auduin Enris’ shoulders drooped. For some reason the unicorns were unaffected. They were herded into their pen, and securely locked in. They paced slowly in their prison, studying Silver with deep interest. She could see him fidget.
“Do they think you’re a pet?”
He shook his head.
“Unicorns are never pets. We tend to eat our owners.”
Auduin Enris’ nose twitched and Makrofaga had to fight to keep from giggling.
“People try from time to time, your majesty,” he said. “Never ends well.”
“I know.”
“How do you…”
Auduin Enris couldn’t finish his question. Silver growled, a growl three times bigger and darker than himself. Briefly his eyes was as red as his cousins’ in the pen.
“I don’t.” said Makrofaga, “Silver is a free subject of Skräpmården. I’m lucky he wants to stay as my bodyguard, and he does it as a job, with a salary.”
“Right, dude!”
Silver eyed Auduin Enris from top to toe, as if he took aim for spearing him on his horn. Subconsciously Auduin put his hand on the part Silver had dug into last time, and his white bunny tale started to wiggle nervously. The audience laughed.

Maybe it was just as well that the guards had finished their removal of the fence and the ceremony could start. It was not anything elaborate. Auduin read the treaty aloud, hold the parchment roll text towards the audience so everyone could pretend they had a chance to read it for themselves, then he folded it into a handy pouch for its seals, and gave it to Makrofaga. She checked that the seals were right, and that the seal ribbons weren’t tampered with. She simply said
“Thank you!”
And Kingdom of Heaven was once again in the hands of Skräpmården. Those of the dirty elves who had paid attention applauded.

Makrofaga put the treaty on one of the Stone Guardians and waited. She feared it would be long before anything happen, because standing between Auduin Enris and Silver started to become unnerving. To her relief the mound opened immediately, showing the start of the corridor down to the square and the first deities lining it. Just as Makrofaga heard the first thrilling children’s laughters she happened to look beside her on Auduin Enris. He was looking at the hill side since everybody else did, but didn’t know what to focus on. She shuddered when she realised he didn’t see the opening at all.

Mr Lotus herded the children he had saved the night when Kingdom of Heaven fell into Flådhöjden hands. He looked as unfazed as ever. Not even when millions of parents, or what felt like millions, stampeded toward him to pick up their child. Hugs, cries, for joy, childrens laughter, he didn’t even flinch. And while she was admiring him he suddenly disappeared. She nearly felt her heart stop. Looked around close to panic, until she found him right beside herself.
“Oh!”
“I’ve missed you.”
Strictly speaking Makrofaga couldn’t miss anyone. She always carried her friends in her mind, thinking of them every other minute. But that wasn’t the right thing to say to someone she really wanted back into her life.
“I’ve missed you too!”
They suddenly got caught in their own hesitation. What was appropriate here? Whose “appropriate” should they use? They fidgeted gently, laughing little embarrassed laughs until mr Lotus took both her hands in his.
“How about a hug?”
Instead of answering Makrofaga threw herself into his arms and squeezed him with all her might. He wrapped his arms around her, and leaned against her head.

Warm laughter and applauds made them both blush. One of the elves even shouted “YES!”, and quickly hid behind an orc. That was Odoferus who still was slightly embarrassed over the theft of Auduin Enris’ teapot. Not so embarrassed he would make sure the teapot was returned – it was the best teapot the Odografoe family had ever had – just enough to keep him from being around Auduin Enris.
“Your majesty,” said mr Lotus, “perhaps we should go on?”
She untangled from him.
“Yes, mr Lotus! We’ll have to talk later on.”
The judges, waiting close by, joined her. They walked into the corridor and the opening closed behind them, as if the mound swallowed them whole.

So it happened that mr Lotus and Auduin Enris was left together outside for a long time. The dirty elves took little notice of them. They were already climbing Kingdom of Heaven throwing trash, and some even put down a few votive gifts. One gnome quickly collected the mangled paper roll, the old terracotta bowl, the rest of the cloth wick and the grease lump, and handed it all to mr Lotus. He thanked the woman, and fell silent again. Like every other dirty elf he was spoiled with noise, and as such had no fear of keeping quiet. The ears and odd noses on the Flådhöjden guards, and certainly Auduin Enris’ bunny appearance, were odd, but he was way more interested in Makrofaga’s version of the events than to destroy her tales by asking captain Enris about it.

Auduin Enris, on the other hand, who usually enjoyed the quiet Flådhöjden, shivered from conversation held back. Every time he draw for breath to say a word, he got a glance from mr Lotus that promised nine years in every hell if he tried. The Stone Guardians hummed around them, vibrating themself into their souls. Not that Auduin Enris was a chatty person, he was a good contestant in the glare game himself. But now, when he didn’t know whether his daughter would walk out of her prison by herself, or be carried out in in pieces, he dearly wished for someone to talk to him. Just the everyday conversation about everyday conversation would do. And no one wanted to. Every dirty elf around them glared at him when they though he didn’t saw, and often when they thought he saw too. They didn’t care much. Finally he couldn’t take it any more.
“Has my daughter behaved during this time?”
“She made progress.”
“Ah.”

Mingling in the moving sea of dirty elves he could see Dido, and on other places his cousins and the few of his siblings he had left. They waited too. He drew himself together and made his best to look like an officer, despite the ears, nose, and the bunny tail. The humming from the Stone Guardians was getting on his nerves. It was as if it rattled something inside him. Something he had forgotten, but still was there, hidden somewhere. The sun started to set. It was not a full sunset yet, but the light was thinning, promising evening in the future.

Suddenly a loud “CLANG!” rose from the mound, as if hundreds of iron gates slammed shut at the same time. Startled he turned to mr Lotus.
“The deities are blocking the way with their weapons,” mr Lotus said and showed by crossing his arms, making them look like a roof, “like this. If you hear them open one by one your daughter is alive.”
That cursed sound. While he waited time flowed so slowly he could hear it go up and down, instead of being an even vibration. The Stone Guardians’ eyes were cold and abrasive, and still seemed to look at him.

Then a single CLANG made them all jump. Soon a second one. And a third. CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! If he had counted he’d known it was eighteen of them, but the only thing he could do was stare at the mound and hope it would open soon. The Pamphylia finally stood before him. She held a little kitten in her arms, and looked to the side as if she wanted to remember something.
“Pamphylia? Pamphylia! Hello!”
“DAD!!!”

They had laughed at him, on principle, but the dirty elves still thought Auduin Enris was the scariest bunny they had ever seen. It wasn’t just his cold eyes and soldier’s posture, it were all those times he had driven his soldiers through crowds and houses, many times resulting in bleeding and death. When they saw him hug his daughter tightly and cry his eyes red they didn’t exactly warm up to him – they wondered how he could save so much affection for one person, while totally ignore the losses he caused daily. Many hearts boiled at the sight, and the only reason he wasn’t torn to pieces was that no one started the mob.

Perhaps there was a second reason. They knew the punishment Makrofaga had dealt to Pamphylia through the gossip network of many nanas and chatty men, and they had discussed it for two days straight. Many would rather had died, and when they saw her search her memory any time no one distracted her they flinched. It was like standing a bit too far from a baby heading towards a brazier. They were a little bit softer about her, she had screwed up big time, but at least she had tried to help. That was far more than one could say about her father.

Last but not least, they knew in their bones there would be retribution, and they didn’t want to waste their current victory just yet. They waited patiently and drew a sigh of relief when Auduin Enris and Pamphylia climbed onto their colourful horses and rode away. Finally they could celebrate without having any Flådhöjden elves in their faces.

From Makrofaga’s place there was a change from black to white once the two high elves had disappeared. The dirty elves suddenly held party food and picnic blankets instead of everyday tools of the heavier quality. She felt oddly proud, sort of a mix between love and being impressed of the stubborn will to defend the things worth the trouble. Grak, Odoferus, and Foetida had brought all their kids and a batch of food enough even for her – as usual she had forgotten that she needed to eat once in a while. They all sat down, watched the sun paint the sky red, and the Flådhöjden guards struggle to tear down the fence between Sprättströget and Skräpmården to be able to move the border. For once it was nice to sit still while the high elves worked, instead of the other way around. Makrofaga filled in mr Lotus of what had happened while he had been stuck inside Kingdom of Heaven. Odoferus bragged about his new teapot, and made some dirty passes at mr Lotus at the same time. They all waited for the time when the moon rose over the mound, and they could reinstate the fire pillar.
“Why not make a better pillar?” mr Lotus asked.
Makrofaga were just straightening out the weather worn paper. Luckily king Gadoron stepping on it hadn’t cracked it open.
“Naah! This one works fine! It’s been here for years!”
She glanced at him.
“…and when it wears out we can find paper enough to make a new one. If you want to you can write the verse on it!”
Foetida swung a tiny wine glass.
“NEEEEVER leave something for Flådhöjden to steal, DAAAAHling!”
“They’ll never change,” said Odoferus knowingly.

Grak had Busa in a sling. The baby had been cranky for the entire day until she came back from her market stall. Apparently she was a budding Grak kiddy. Now she slept soundly after being fed a full milk horn.
“Since I’m not born here… Which fire pillar is the “real” one, the top one or the one inside.”
“The top one” said Makrofaga
“The bottom one” said Odoferus at the same time
They stared at each other.
“No, the bottom one!” said Makrofaga
“No, the top one!” said Odoferus at the same time.
“Make up your minds!” said Foetida.
“Odoferus, you don’t even believe in gods!” said Grak
Odoferus glared at her.
“So what?” he huffed, “I can still know stuff!”
“Let me guess,” said mr Lotus, “since you don’t care much about the material the pillar is made of both is important, but for different reasons, and that’s why you can’t chose between them.”
“Pretty much,” said Makrofaga, “everyone can reach the one on top, so it has to be there. The one inside is the heart, so it has to be there – too.”
She looked beyond the mound, toward the strip of land being cleared for them.
“But it bugs me we had to fight so hard for things that already are ours, and a piece of lawn.”
“Want to give up?”
“Never!”

The moon rose over the mound when three of the six kids had fallen asleep. Makrofaga sent Foetida with a small lamp to fetch fire from the fire pillar inside the mound, and assembled the other things needed. Mr Lotus had been kind to provide clean water for the bowl, and she had given up on how exactly he did that – she just slung the bottle in its string over her shoulder, and took the paper tube under her arm. With the cloth and grease in the bowl she walked towards the mound. It was part of the ritual, but looked rather ordinary. Few dirty elves took away their attention from their picnics. She knew, though, that if she took the wrong way, stopped, or fell everyone would be on their feet in an instant. After a few steps the first elf joined her, and here and there another one stepped up to be part of the procession. Around them the parties went on. They met Foetida at the foot of the mound, with the lamp in her hand she looked like a cerise firefly. Talking and joking they went clockwise up the hill, with the fairy leading the way, and found the vague depression where the pillar had been mounted before. The high elves had almost erased it by running around and planning things. Since they didn’t have any digging utensils they kicked the hole open again, put in the pillar and supported it with votive gifts and trash. It stood fairly straight. At least it was good and sturdy enough to balance the bowl on top. Makrofaga poured in the water, clotted the grease in the middle with the wick, and took the lamp from Foetida.
“It ends and starts here” she said.

For no reason they giggled softly while she lit the fire. If it was the cold air or the fact that they couldn’t live up to the pressure of being Solemn and Holy. It didn’t matter anyway. What mattered that they had their hill back. The hum from the Stone Guardians subsided, and they sank slowly down under the trash again. Under the group, down under the mound, hospital, library, school, temple and horrgoo fabrication were in full swing. They could almost feel their heartbeats through the soles of their shoes.

Draft, Kingdom of Heaven, Makrofaga Queen of the Dirty Elves

Pt 9 Mourn and Celebrate

The sewer mouth was huge, judging by its width it must have been two to two and a half elves tall. Whomever designed it had lined it with bricks, made it perfectly round, and made it slightly wider at its opening. Ancient magic made air flow backward through it. Instead of funneling the horrible stench up to Flådhöjden it transported the rotten air through the mouth. Only dedicated dirty elves could stand in that draft. Makrofaga felt slightly nauseous standing there together with Odoferus, Foetida, and Sourpuss. They contemplated the islands of debris floating by – old chairs, curtains, clothes, even the odd piece of jewelry, glued together by the horrible goo you expect from this kind of outlet. All were secretly relieved they didn’t see any elf parts. Everyone had seen it and dealt with it, and it still cut your heart.

What we would call “elevator pitches” wasn’t Makrofaga’s strong side. In general she shortened things too much and focused on completely wrong things, leaving the listener to say “it’s impossible”, and them both in an odd standstill. She had battered herself into better habits over the years, but she knew that if she didn’t stay focused she could still mess up. Odoferus’ and Foetida’s roll this day was basically to keep the person they were about to meet listening if she did. They were both extremely good at elevator pitches, though they tended to focus around “have a lot of kids and party”, and that was a pitch even Makrofaga would manage – at least the party part of it.

“Have you ever met Fungus?” she asked at a sudden realisation.
Sourpuss scratched her chin.
“No, dear. I heard of him, of course, but we have managed to run around each other each time I’m down here to collect pots.”
Everyone was slightly scared of Fungus. The ride down the sewers hadn’t been kind to him. Body wise he didn’t get many scratches, his soul had been the thing taking the biggest hit. He growled at everyone, he never smiled though his mouth sometimes did an icecold sneer that could scare an orc out of their socks, and his eyes were wild. Being the informal boss over the sewer crawlers he had seen more accidents and bodies than anyone else in Skräpmården, and that was saying something.
“I’m still not so sure about this,” said Odoferus with a trembling voice.
“Sure about what?” growled Fungus behind them.

Even Makrofaga jumped. None of them had heard him coming. The sun sent its rays around him, resulting in the bluish reflexes on dark skin being so popular up at Flådhöjden. Despite spending most of his days inside dark tunnels he was still as black as an elf could be. Sourpuss marveled.
“Dear! I didn’t know! Have you too been “promoted” to this place?”
Fungus stared at her. For a while he seemed to make complicated calculation in his head, trying to know what he should say.
“Oh,” Sourpuss said when realisation struck, “it’s “Sourpuss” dear, after the battle at Megalodon.”
He giggled and held out a hand for her to shake.
“Nice to meet you, Sourpuss! It’s Fungus here!”
Odoferus looked from Fungus to Sourpuss, from Sourpuss to Fungus, and back again. His eyes widening with every move.
“What’s THIS all about???”
Foetida patted his shoulder.
“Fungus used to be one of them Big Time Generals up at Flådhöjden.”
“We have two? Why the hells are we such idiots when it comes to fighting?”
“Oh, it’s more than two, dear” said Sourpuss, “I know of at least ten more. Perhaps not as big as Fungus here, but very decent officers.”
Odoferus gasped for air, got a lungful of sewer air and coughed until he nearly threw up. Fungus watched him thoughtfully in the meantime, hesitating over his words.
“You lose the spark,” he said when the hairy elf had regained his balance, “You spend years training and fighting for that…”
He pointed to the white marble towers of Flådhöjden.
“…and it throws you away. Might as well party your head off instead.”
Sourpuss nodded, suddenly completely serious.
“Not all of those officers are decent officers now, dear.”

Makrofaga had to shout a bit to get them to listen to her plan. She was as detailed as she could be, and felt as if she was talking the ears off the others. Fungus listened, and the more she spoke, the more a light came on in his eyes. He focused, and part of his scaryness was replaced by… stature, as if his soul surfaced from a quagmire of black thoughts.
“It won’t be easy,” he said, “there’s the pockets of explosive gas, and the build ups of time, you know.”
“Oh I know,” said Makrofaga, “I’ve tumbled through the sewers so many times now.”
“The lower east big opening, huh?”
She nodded, and was rewarded with a surprisingly friendly grin.
“I’m sure you’ve cleaned it for us!” he chuckled, “We’ll do something extra at it.”
They shook hand on it.
“I’ve already talked to Reflux and Shart. They’ll be here this afternoon so you can work out your strategies.”

The relief over a meeting going at the right direction lasted all the way home. Makrofaga was about to just throw herself in a heap on her porch when she noticed there was something wrong with Silver. He was shaking as if every muscle in his body had decided to start a crazy dance. Odoferus and Foetida gasped for air, and even Sourpuss looked concerned. The unicorn jittered over to Makrofaga.
“Sihihilver reheheports for duhuhuty, youhouhour mahahajesty”
Makrofaga looked at his watery blue eyes, and saw an unfamiliar clearness in them. It looked painful.
“Silver? Are you… sober?”
“Cahahan’t behehehe fohoggy, now, mahahajesty! Wehe’ll sohohohoon behe at bahattle.”
Foetida gasped.
“You can’t DO that!!!”
Odoferus was already on his way to find a cup of clean water.
“Doho whahahat? Behe sohohober?”
“Yes! Your body isn’t used to it! It can kill you!”
Silver gave her a hesistant stink eye. For the first time in decades Makrofaga realised he wanted to be sober. And Foetida was right, it could kill him. From time to time someone, usually a newbe charity project, trapped old, punchy dirty elves without any kind of drug in an effort to rehabilitate them. It always ended in the same way; the poor souls started to see things, screamed about it, and died in pain. In general Makrofaga tolerated the charity projects in Skräpmården since they seemed to keep down the number of intrusions of guards, but for these kind she had put down her foot. The last twenty years or so no one had been allowed to introduce sobriety in this way.

Silver had always been way too punched to notice, though. She couldn’t remember the last time she had seen him sober without having something he needed to do for her. He tried to resist Odoferus when the elf dipped his horn in the water, but the withdrawal made him so weak Odoferus didn’t need to use force at all. He held the unicorn water in front of Silver’s mouth and looked him straight in the eye.
“Drink this, for daddy.”
“I… cahaha…”
This far into the sentence Silver realised he couldn’t fight both withdrawal and daddy power. He sighed, and drank. Odoferus didn’t let go of him until they could see the white body relax.
“Duuude,” Silver said, “I so wished I could stay sober! People are gearing up for battle, and I want to do my part.”
Makrofaga sat down beside him to give him someone to lean on.
“But I have already thought out a part for you.”

Putting in his last pride Silver managed to stay upright while she explained to him. Just as with Fungus he straightened up while she talked. The crooked body returned to a pose it hadn’t done for a long time, and his mane started to shine. When she had finished he smiled, and despite his earlier drink looked almost sober.
“This I can do!” he said “You have no idea how much I want to do this!”
He fell asleep on the porch, and Makrofaga made sure he could breathe before they all went into her hut to discuss some more details. She made some tea, and managed to find some paper to draw on. Sourpuss looked around the little house.
“He said ‘People are gearing up for battle’ dear. Is this a problem?”
“Yes and no” Makrofaga said and poured the tea, “I have a lot of people willing to do something, and they are putting power behind it. In a way I just have to point them in the right direction. But I’m not good at talk them into what we need them to do – I’ll just discourage them.”
Foetida dipped her cup in Odoferus.
“In general we do the talking.”
Sourpuss nodded, while Makrofaga wrote down a few names.
“I want you to talk to these persons. They’re good, and I think they’ll listen more to you than me. You know a few of them…”
She gave Sourpuss the note, and the old elf started to read. She pursed her lip a few times, pondered the persons behind the skritches before her. Then she put the note down.
“I think I can get them all. These three were my officers. They trusted me with their life. These two are too young, so let’s hope that legend thing works. That one is one horrible bastard, never liked him, so I have to work a bit. If not, five out of six is not bad, dear.”
“I’m sorry this isn’t what you’re used to in the guard…”
The old elf giggled.
“Oh don’t! I wish my entire career could have been this!”

When the party had left Makrofaga stayed behind serving the deities the rest of the tea. They looked straight forward with their terracotta eyes and didn’t say much. That was the problem with goddesses and gods – they were much like parents. Of course they could swoop in and fix all your problems in an explosion of divine golden rays and ethereal choirs, but they didn’t. Not out of cruelty, but out of respect for your own ability to live your life. Life is cruel. It throws horrible things at you, and if someone should stear you like a string puppet for its entirety, then what is left for you? You won’t have any grievances, but you won’t have any joy either. The divinities were glad to push things in your favour once in a while, yet they left you with the heaviest badge of honour – the responsibility not only for yourself but for the world around you as well. As Makrofaga filled the little bottle caps she could only hope she could she would rise to the task this time.

For the next few days Skräpmården worked almost as it used to. Since no one could throw trash on Kingdom of Heaven the dirty elves threw it as close to the feet of the guards as they dared, along with a stream of insults. Every now and then they could see elves who looked knowledgeable climb the mound, point and talk. After a while the hum of the stone guardians seemed to get to them. They rerolled their parchments, shuddered, and left. But they worked hard to be braver, and returned, day after day. Many dirty elves studied them, ready to rush to the queen if any change would occur.

Makrofaga and the rest of the council took their usual walks around Skräpmården. For each day they could see more and more people turn from wild plans of attacking Flådhöjden and turning to sewing, wood working, crafting, cooking, and cleaning. They weren’t alone in noticing. You could see the guards around Kingdom of Heaven speak to Auduin Enris about it every time he showed up. Once or twice he called for Makrofaga demanding an explanation. Every time she answered that they were preparing a ceremony for those who had died defending the temple. Every time he looked like he wanted to swallow his tongue. Every time Makrofaga was surprised over how easy it was to lie. No one had died. Thanks to the landbound doctors working overtime even the worst cases were on the mend. But she didn’t say that, and Auduin Enris kept to his role.

Then finally came the dusk they had waited for. Flådhöjden closed its gate as soon as the sun’s last rays had stopped shining on the city walls, and the plan hinged on this. Hours of walking, and personally securing people’s attendance payed off. When Makrofaga arrived at the border of Skräpmården, wearing her official robe, crisp makeup and a large bowl of stew, she met an unordered train of ten thousand dirty elves. All were dressed in their best robes, many of them were carrying unlit torches, others big trays of food or drink, and some led kids. Despite the solemn moment they were all chatting, roaring with laughter, and in some cases wailing with grief. It was not the dirty elves’ way to ponder things with deep gravity. Silver stood by her side, not sober, but fresh enough to walk with stability and be aware of the world around him.
“I need to see this!” he said and his eyes glittered in the last rays of the sun.

She looked out over her people. Most where actual elves, others came from everywhere. Quite a few orcs mingled around. A few dragons lumped their way through the crowd, smoke whisping from their nostrils. Fairies hovered, many of them just as hairy as Foetida. Trolls and gnomes shared the burden of bowls and kids. They stunk, their clothes were odd, they were scraped and smashed by life, and she couldn’t be prouder in that moment. She heard Odoferus and Foetida curse gently while they lit the first torches, and then she saw light spreading before her as Grak rose them as high as possible.
“WELL!” she shouted to get attention “WE have come to mourn the dead and celebrate the living!”
She raised the bowl of stew.

The torchbearers closest to Grak lit their torches on hers, and then passed on the flame down the giant train of people. For the first time ever she heard the dirty elves fall silent during a ceremony. As the lights multiplied silence fell, until ten thousand dirty elves stood still, waiting for the first step.
“LET’S WALK TO THE TEMPLE!”

They walked, completely silent, out of Skräpmården and through the market place. The train wobbled slightly when they was through and turned upwards, towards the bridge. The dirty elves born at Skräpmården had never been this far, and those who had been tumbling down the sewers battled heavy memories. Makrofaga walked first, a silent prayer repeating itself in her heart “Please, let them keep it together! Please, let them keep it together!” The train stayed silent, walking, nearing the gigantic gate through the city walls.

When a gate is as sturdy as the Flådhöjden gate it doesn’t need a standing guard. Two soldiers stood outside it mostly, it seemed, for decoration. As Makrofaga came closer she realised they were beginners, probably at basic training, and they were acutely aware that they alone faced a sea of dirty elves. She stopped about a meter away from them.
“Good evening!”
They answered with a muffled mix of a military salute and a civilian hello.
“I’m sorry for this! We need to perform an important ceremony for our dead, and we can’t reach our temple. Can we borrow yours?”
If it was the every day ordinariness over her question, or that they were facing a mass of silent dirty elves was hard to tell, but the guards had a hard time finding their words. In the end they agreed they had no idea if they could let them in.
“Then perhaps asking your top commander, general Martius, he should know.”
Still that nervous jumping around, and to her relief their inexperience took over. They opened a shutter in the gate, and called their sergeant. Who appeared to send someone running.

There was a wait that lasted for ages. Makrofaga glanced backwards to Odoferus, Foetida, and Grak. They all looked like they didn’t dare to believe what they had seen. She resisted the urge to tell them to breathe. Suddenly wood moved against wood, and the top commander stepped out of the gate, followed by two elite soldiers. Despite the short time to prepare, and despite the blue hour being in full swing, he had his uniform and dropped some of his liveliness for the sake of military protocol. He looked out over the sea of dirty elves, and then down on Makrofaga. He raised his eyebrows slightly, and a pained look came into his eyes.
“They tell me, h… your majesty, that you want to borrow our temple?”
“That’s right. The deities won’t complain, and we can’t reach ours.”
He put his fingertips to his lips and thought over it.
“I need to know if any one of you have weapons?”
“It’s a ceremony, commander. You don’t carry weapons during a ceremony.”
She tried not to flinch over the metallic clatter behind her. At least the dirty elves dropped what they had. General Martius gave her a sharp look.
“And it is only for the ceremony?”
“We have a party as part of it, and that may look a bit out of place, but we’re not planning anything else. We need a temple.”
He patted his lips with his fingertips. For a while his faced sagged, sending shadows over his cheeks and under his eyes. Then he sighed and straighted up a little.
“I need a few minutes to arrange things, your majesty. This wouldn’t do without an honour guard! Nope, not at all!”
He returned behind the gate. They could hear him shout orders on the other side.

Again Makrofaga exchanged glances with Foetida, Grak, and Odoferus. This time they exhaled simultaneously, and had to stop themselves from laughing. Neither of them wanted to break the silence. They hadn’t counted on it, and it felt so special. Only when the gate creaked again did they turned towards Flådhöjden. General Martius came out again, this time in full uniform.
“Welcome to our humble home, cousins!”

The blue hour was something of a favourite Flådhöjden elf occasion. With the chores of the day done for, and still with energy enough to mingle around, most of the high elves took to the streets. They chatted with each other under magical flares, and watched the sky turn from blue to black. Fountains all over the city spouted whine, and cornucopias mounted on their sides were ever filled with fruits and pastries. Gentle laughter and pleasant conversation echoed between the houses. And now, to their surprise, the high elves saw their main street getting lined with guards in full uniform. They had only noted the change, when Makrofaga and her dirty elves came walking up towards the temple.

The city was so clean. The white marble houses towered over them, and the flares shone their warm light over the dirty elves ruffled, tie dyed, patchwork clothes. They stared upwards, they stared at the surprised high elves in their perfect clothes, and they kept silent. Part of each and every one’s soul was aware that they were dirty, had scars and in no way fit in on the Flådhöjden streets. Another, bigger part, heaved an internal joyous roar over being there. Being in the face of people who had refused to see them as nothing less than rags for so long. For every step each and every one straightened up.

The dome shaped temple was huge. The white roof was lined with a golden chain of decorations, and golden spirals marked the supporting beams of its walls. At the temple gates two gigantic priestesses stood with their arms folded over their chest. They had the similar face a mother have when her child asks to do something outrageously forbidden. A worried whisper spread behind Makrofaga, and she felt her own stomach turn. But there was no return now. She steadied her step, and pretended to know exactly what she was doing. She stopped at the proper distance and raised her bowl of stew. She couldn’t help noticing its patches when she did.
“We’re here to mourn our dead and celebrate our living.”
The priestesses bowed their head and answered in unison.
“Mourn and celebrate you shall.”
They opened the gate.

The Flådhöjden temple was, rightly so, famed for its beauty. Ages of gifts had heaped gold and gems upon it. The dirty elves whispered around the golden deities, looked wide eyed up on the mosaics, and marveled at the fire pillar in the middle. They found the silver bells behind the gate and gently shook them while they placed their trays of food at the feet of the assorted deities. The ringing echoed around, making holes into eternity from this reality. When the food was delivered Makrofaga was the first one to greet the fire, having a four chest width uneven train of elves following her. It was all very beautiful, although they were hungry and hurried their steps, and somewhere in the middle of it they realised that, while this temple held more richness and beauty, it couldn’t capture what it was trying to portray. You only saw the gold, not the reality behind. And while they would talk about this night for decades they never grieved over not having a temple as elaborate as this. They lit their candles and placed them around the walls, secretly smug and doubly happy. Food was waiting.

Everyone knows only low gods are rude enough to keep offerings for themselves, so when the ceremony came to its end they collected all their pots and pans, and went out to the square outside to celebrate. The only things left were walls covered in candles, the lingering smell of the best food Skräpmården could produce, and smiling deities.

Only at the square did the dirty elves start to talk again. Blankets were spread over the cobblestones, unruly babies were caught – and caught again. They chatted, softly at first, while they laid their blankets with their potluck banquet. Neighbours were invited to taste a dish someone was particularly proud of, and food and drink were exchanged in an intricate pattern over the entire square. The silent high elf guard looked on, with the surprised high elves amassing behind, and at first none of them realised they, too, were invited to the party. Increasingly happy and loud dirty elves shouted invitations at them, waving food and bottles, trying to look as unintimidating as possible. For a while it looked like they were still be forced to celebrate “alone” under the night sky, then a group of young high elves joined at one corner, while a group of silver haired ones joined at another. Slowly high elves started to trickle into the celebrations, and that trickle turned into a river. Within an hour no one could see where the dirty elves stopped and the high elves took over. It was a dancing sea of happiness.

Makrofaga mostly stayed off the wine, for several reasons. First and foremost she would quickly get under if she dared to drink at a party of this kind. But also because she needed to figure out if the important buildings were still where she remembered. The courthouse hadn’t changed place, the royal curiousity chambers – that’s where the high elves kept most of their war bounty – had moved to a bigger place, the palace was, of course, where it had been during her last visit. But the last reason was the most important one; a lot of the wine was laced with Silver’s horn. They had never tried this mix before, and she only needed one sip to find out she’d never try it again. Rainbows and sparkles still danced across her vision, and she didn’t need to be even more impaired. It did what it should do, though. The high elves were getting happier by the minute, and she had a feeling she only would need to step back for them to find out what to do for themselves. She looked around to find her councilors, found all of them except for Odoferus, and took them and Sourpuss for a walk to the royal palace.

They found king Gadoron on a balcony facing the party square. The messenger announcing their visit was sweaty and scared to death, yet the king himself seemed friendly. He offered them some wine they all politely turned down.
“It’s quite the spectacle down there,” he said. “If I’d known I’d invited you sooner.”
“I’m glad you liked it, your majesty! Wait until you see the fireworks.”
“Fireworks?”
“There will be fireworks, just wait a minute or two.”
They stayed at the balcony, chatting with the king, and looking at the dancing square below. The inebriated elves started playing around with the magic flares, changed their colours, and made them bob over the sea like glowing beach balls. Then a whistling sound made everyone stop in their step. From several of the major sewer openings spears of fire rose, and exploded into chrysanthemums of white sparks with sharp pops.
“Impressive,” said the king without much enthusiasm.
“Oh, there’ll be more!”
Two times more the white chrysanthemums of sparks exploded in the sky. On the square people pointed and laughed. Then, with a BOOM! that shook the ground and dug into their souls, four massive pillars of white, yellow and blue fire, rose from the sewers, carrying a double explosion. First red flowers stretched their petals over the sky, only to fade away for a crackle of white feathers.
“YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW HARD THAT IS TO DO!” shouted Makrofaga to overpower the madness of fireworks that followed, “THE SEWERS ARE FULL WITH FUMES THAT EXPLODES AT EVEN A HINT OF A SPARK.”
King Gadoron was suddenly alive and very pale.
“ARE YOU INSANE???”
The fireworks died down slightly.
“We know what we’re doing, your majesty. My sewer crawlers have been working for years under you. They know exactly where they can lit a match or not.”

Sourpuss started to laugh and slapped king Gadoron on the arm.
“And you’ll know exactly when they’re at the wrong place! How’s them buttocks coming, by the way?”
Gadoron glared at her, then turned to Makrofaga.
“I guess, your majesty, that it’s little of those fumes. I mean, you wouldn’t risk…”
“Oh, there’s enough to hurl Flådhöjden to the moon, twice over. When I spoke to my head sewer crawler today he said one of the bigger pockets is under the castle.”
Again Sourpuss slapped Gadoron’s arm.
“You know what’s funny, dear? We have crawlers who know the system on their five fingers, who won’t get stuck in poisonous fumes and kill themselves. Your soldiers won’t even manage ten meters behind the sewer mouth.”
The fireworks picked up again. Heavy BOOMS! and crackling sparkle bombs made any kind of conversation impossible. Grak and Foetida were awestruck, the fairy securely curled up on the orc’s shoulder. Makrofaga and Sourpuss kept their attention on king Gadoron. He looked like he tried to swallow a blue whale pretending it was a sparrow.
“What do you want?” he said once it was possible to talk again.
“I want Kingdom of Heaven returned, and, as I’ve said so many times I want horrgoo to remain a state secret, and a strip of land from Sprättströget roughly thirty meters wide.”
Sourpuss added, using the general’s voice she hadn’t had use for in decades.
“And you know, dear, if the mound isn’t returned within three days we will blast Flådhöjden into oblivion.”
Gadoron ignored her and turned to Makrofaga.
“You won’t!”
“I will,” Makrofaga answered hoping he couldn’t see how her heart fluttered, “I will!”

The fireworks were still shooting flower holes in the sky when Makrofaga descended a castle stair together with Sourpuss, Grak, and Foetida. They felt oddly gigglish.
“Think he got it?” Foetida asked.
“Dear, he is thick as poo when it comes to his subjects, but he doesn’t want his own castle to explode under him. And he can’t just pretend it didn’t happen either.”
Makrofaga wrinkled her brow.
“But what happened to Odoferus? I needed him here.”
“I think I heard him say,” said Foetida, “that he wanted to see if Auduin Enris is as straight as you say he is.”
Makrofaga giggled.
“Oh! Then he wouldn’t have been of much use!”
Sourpuss looked at the three of them.
“Shouldn’t we, perhaps, go and take a look? It could be all kinds of…”
Grak, Makrofaga, and Foetida looked at each other.
“Naaaaah!”
And they went down to enjoy the last of the party.

***

How Odoferus found out where Auduin Enris lived is a mystery. He himself couldn’t remember the day after, and no one claimed to have told him. Fact is, though, that he brought a large bottle of expensive wine he’d found somewhere, and giggled his way to Auduin Enris’ house in the officers’ quarter. The party had already reached this area of Flådhöjden. The houses were full of partying elves, and the last parts of the fireworks exploded over him. Being Odoferus he roared appreciation over the little villa, its friendly garden, and the house with the whitewashed walls. He had to try three times before he could pass through the gate to the inner garden, so it’s no wonder he at first missed that the house was silent. Yellow light flowed from its windows, and the door was half open, and Odoferus didn’t need more of an invitation.
“HELLO!” he roared and managed to get through the front door on the first try “ARE YOU HOOOME?”
Without much success he tried to focus on the wall paintings in the first room he entered.
“YOU HAVE A VERY BEAUTIFUL HOUSE! HAVE ANYONE TOLD YOU THAT?”
The only thing he heard from inside was silence, if you can call something so drenched in noise from the outside silence. Odoferus pulled himself together a little and stumbled to the kitchen.
“ANYONE HOME?”

He had never been in a kitchen before, a proper one with a hearth, teapots, towels and cosy little things that makes a home. By the look of it the inhabitants ate here too – a sturdy table was placed below the little window.
“I THOUGHT WE COULD DRINK SOME WINE, BUT…”
He turned around to walk away when something struck him. The chairs weren’t placed neatly around the table, they had been thrown around the kitchen. Slowly sobering up he looked closer on the walls, but they were painted – not stained with blood. Reluctantly he leaned down and looked under the table top.

Auduin Enris sat curled up as close to the wall as possible, grabbing the back of his head with arms so tense they were shaking. Already an extremely white man he was pale enough to shine in the dark. Sweat trickled down his forehead. His eyes were fixed on a point beyond his knees, and he didn’t blink. It was as if he didn’t dare to. Odoferus felt the last parts of drunkenness disappear. Without hesitating he put the bottle of wine on the table and crawled in to the captain. Patted him on the shoulder.
“Don’t you worry, buddy! I’ll get you out of there.”

Draft, Kingdom of Heaven, Makrofaga Queen of the Dirty Elves

Pt 8 Fire Over the Temple

Skräpmården partied again. The place could party on mud and water if necessary, and any reason was good enough. This time it was the “real” audience, which made Makrofaga slightly uneasy. The more she thought about it she realised she had done a stupid thing. The king was not someone who would politely let their shenanigans pass. This time she couldn’t drench her premonitions in booze either, she didn’t want to end up in bed with someone else than mr Lotus. Ever since they had woke up together they hadn’t touched other, more than briefly, and in general had behaved so courteously both Odoferus and Foetida had tried to “kick them into gear”. But both Makrofaga and mr Lotus were happy as it were, with their evening visits to their own mountain top. It looked uncomfortable for mr Lotus to coil into snake position, so Makrofaga wasn’t sure he was built to do that. She suspected he did it to get some sort of body contact, and that the cold ground was an excuse. After all they could bring a blanket and both sit in elf form, looking at the stars and over the glowing flow from Flådhöjden forming Skräpmården.

“Do you remember how we first met?” mr Lotus asked and shook a bird from his giant head.
“You mean with the Flower Nanas?”

Here we need a rather long explanation. From the description you could believe Skräpmården was a place consisting of grey huts in browngreyish mud, but it was a rather green place. Any pot whole enough and big enough was filled with mud and a vegetable was planted in it. In harsh periods, especially during dry spells, these potted plants saved lives, so it was a “hobby” with a serious end goal. The people caring for these plants were called Flower Nanas, since it was mostly women who took this on their shoulders. In general the nanas also were old, they had passed the time when they could live on dragging feces and stuff from the sewers, and with strength slowly seeping from their limbs handling pots and plants suited them better.

When mr Lotus was dragged from the sewers he had ended up as lodger with one of these nanas. He regarded her as his Skräpmården mother and cared for her as such. She had explained the most confusing Skräpmården habits for him, sewed and mended his clothes. Most of the meager compensation he got as a councilor went to her. Nowadays she had also taken upon herself to pinch Makrofaga’s cheek the times she took the route around the old woman’s hut. She was in general an earthbound woman who didn’t flinch over much. And she needed it. When mr Lotus moved in into her hut two of the other Flower Nanas on the same street were locked in a perpetual fight.

Pots take up space, and since Skräpmården was crammed any space out of the way from the general hustle of life and big enough for a plant was hard currency. These two nanas had one of these spots between their huts. It could lodge two pots without problem, three of you squeezed a little, so naturally they tried to fit in four of them. Four pots balancing on the edge of disaster every day, and if not one of the nanas toppled over one of the other nana’s plants when she watered hers, one or two plants was lost to someone passing by. The vegetables were standing in such an unstable way even the cough of a fly could tip them. Still both of the nanas refused to reduce the number of pots they were putting there. They both were adamant that they had seen the spot first, and that the other should remove one pot.

You could think a toppled pot isn’t that serious. After all it’s often just to pick up pot and plant, remove the broken parts, put in the plant again and fill up with mud. But then you don’t know the Flower Nanas. Their second hobby was gossiping, and since these particular nanas didn’t have much else to do their world soon revolved around whomever had toppled the last pot. Each fight got a little bit more infected than the last one, and each time some more persons got involved. Soon half of the street had been enlisted to quarrel with the other side of the street, heated voices were raised, threats were made, and then Makrofaga passed by on her weekly visits. Dozens of people assaulted her with frantic questions on plant and elderly care, demanding lots of things. Mr. Lotus had been impressed by the slightly bewildered woman who dared to come back after the first time. But she did, and while being awkward she also listened to everyone, and when she had left things had calmed down.

Until someone tipped a pot again.

The cycle went on for weeks. The last ones mr Lotus had seriously planned out an escape for himself and his landlady. People were on the verge of war with each other. That’s when it all suddenly died out. Not like darkness goes to light when someone lits a candle, more gradually like the dawn turns night into day. He soon learned why, since he got involved himself. Elsewhere in Skräpmården a Flower Nana had figured out a way to build a tower of pots by securing them to a pole. She had gotten royal permission to form a small organisation around this invention, and via the organisation spread this knowledge, as well as general horticultural sense, around Skräpmården. Of course such an organisation needed educators, and the nanas who volunteered got a shiny badge and a district to care for. How the two warring nanas got involved mr Lotus never figured out, but they were very proud over their badges, and their districts that didn’t border on each other and were facing from the spot where they kept their own pots. After a while they realised the spot could easily fit in two of those poles they educated others about. They put up one pole with five pots each, and suddenly had secure farming.

“Mhm,” said Makrofaga, “they still water each other’s plants too.”
“Was that you?”
“Me? It’s not as I can make people invent things on demand! And I can certainly not make people into good organizers!”
Really?”
“Well, I may have given a few pointers when the organisation was formed but…”
She had to stop talking, because mr Lotus gave her such a pointed look she started to laugh.
“So I grabbed the moment when it showed up! I lucked out a bit. Sometimes you get your best move outside the chessboard, and I couldn’t have people go to war over salad!”

She looked at the glowing Skräpmården. Another good thing with the planting pole organisation was that she had discovered mr Lotus’ organisational skills. He had been the one teaching water preserving techniques when she noticed him.
“Speaking of something completely different,” she said, “do you remember what we did together… one night… roughly two weeks ago?…”
Again he turned purple. So purple she could see it in the moonlight.
“No. Not a thing.”
“Are you sure? I mean, I drink, but you have always…”
“The only thing I remember from that evening is Foetida telling me baby poop is the best poop.”
He coughed a bit .
“Those three,” Makrofaga sighed, “Still very strange.”
“Someone must have spiked our drinks. You know it happens!”
“Way too often.”
She looked at her city, where too many thought drugs were toys, and sighed. Always something more you could do. And even more things you should do.
“A pitty” she said and felt her heart flutter, “it’s not like… I had liked to remember that night.”
“I’m not sure it was memorable…”
Now she blushed.
“Yeeees, but… you know…”
She dragged her hand over mr Lotus’ gigantic, blue scales. This was the exact wrong time to realise she may say something that was wrong on all levels in his world, yet that was exactly what she did. For a moment she had a vivid vision of him just tossing her off the mountain top and leave for his homeland, never to return. Then she saw his smile and realised he had let her stew in it.
“I suppose,” he said, “we can go back and check that Silver doesn’t try to fight gigantic orcs again.”
She thought for a while.
“There was a lot of beer around, true.”
“Let’s make sure he’s passed out somewhere safe, your majesty.”
“Absolutely!”

***

The party had died down a bit when Makrofaga found herself in her bed again. This time she was mostly sober, and had mr Lotus falling asleep on her arm. Their age showed in their clothes – they weren’t all over their hut, they had ended up in two mostly ordered heaps on her chairs. She kissed mr Lotus on his head and was about to fall asleep herself when something struck her.
“Ping?”
“Huh?”
“Those clothes? Are they a part of you, or are they real clothes?”
He hugged her a little tighter.
“Real clothes.”
“But they disappear when you transform?”
“It’s complicated,” he yawned, “I tell you tomorrow – I’m tired.”
He made sure she had enough of the blanket and fell asleep.

A violent knock on the door made them both jump. As she usually did Makrofaga grabbed the blanket, and only in the last minute left mr Lotus with the sheet to cover himself. She jumped out of the bed to see where the fire was. Dido stood on the other side.
“Get as many kids out of the area around Kingdom of Heaven,” she said, “The Flådhöjden military is about to attack.”
“Say what???”
Dido pushed a note and a necklace into her hands. The note said about the same as Dido did, and she recognised the scratchy, almost irritated hand. Auduin Enris hadn’t needed to send one of Pamphylia’s pieces of jewelry to prove the message was real. Makrofaga made an exception to her habit and glared Dido into her eyes.
“You and I are going to have a talk later on! Do you have any idea of how much time we have?”
Instead of standing still listening Makrofaga found enough clothes to be decent and dragged them on. Mr Lotus had woken up, and stayed in bed waiting for his turn.
“Somewhere between half an hour and and one hour. They’re moving a battalion to make sure they have the upper hand.”
Of course! Makrofaga felt her heart pounding. Bashing herself for being stupid could wait – she needed to reduce the damage first.
“You!” she said to Dido “Go back to your area! Make sure people have one or two club… thingies. Anything heavy and hard that they could have had already. And make sure a few of them smuggle out the kids to the Orc School.”
Dido looked around at the still on-going party.
“In this???”
“Just do your best! I’ll find you some backup!”
Mr Lotus was already putting on his clothes.
“Ping! Go to Kingdom of Heaven and try to get as many kids as possible into the temple!”
He immediately ran out, leaped into the sky and disappeared towards the mound.

The Odografoe adults took turns being sober during parties. One of them always looked out for the kids. This time, when Makrofaga needed Grak, it was Foetida. She found the fairy sitting on their porch swinging a little hammock where Busa slept soundly.
“Where’s Grak?”
Foetida just pointed. Grak was entangled with Odoferus and a bottle of something.
“Oh great…”
At least they stayed in the family this time, but Makrofaga needed the orc sober. A bonus would be to get Odoferus out of drunkness too. It was, after all, their job to handle these crises with her. She ignored their drunken commentaries on her odd choice of clothes and shook the orc by her collar.
“I need you to come up with an excuse for a sleepover at the school. NOW!”
Grak tried to focus at her. Makrofaga’s unusual behaviour got at her.
“I..ihit’s teacher Tineapedis’ who decides on those.”
Odoferus started to sober up too, and put down the bottle.
“Get her,” Makrofaga said, “The army is about to strike at Kingdom of Heaven, and I need as many kids as we can out of the way.”

The Flådhöjden elves probably counted on an easy strike. The party had drenched Skräpmården in cheap booze, and it’s easy to strike down people who can’t stand anyway. But a party makes a lot of people move around – there’s dancing, moving around to share the drinks, and the odd fights. That a few dancing trains consisted of almost only kids wasn’t obvious, and by sheer miracle they got most of them up to the Orc School. Hopefully the raid wouldn’t reach as far up. The revelers left in the area tried to look as if they didn’t know anything, even though they suddenly had twice the amount of heavy tools in their huts, and had had sobered up. They had only two orders from Makrofaga “Defend yourselves” and “Stay alive”.

Makrofaga wasn’t so close she could see the first Flådhöjden riders sit up behind the fence. She stayed behind trying to come up with a strategy, something that would save them. She got nothing. And then she heard the party sounds dying out, as people saw the soldiers get ready.

Auduin Enris shouted the orders.

And the army charged.

Then there was only dark, bloody chaos. Wave upon wave of horses broke through the fence, trampling the willow saplings. Unicorns bolted through the heaving mass of people. With red eyes they sank their teeth in the dirty elves. Riding high elves swung their sables, sheering the crowd as if it was a furry sheep. The dirty elves did their best with their clubs. A few unicorns, and even one of the horses, sank unconscious to the muddy ground. But the dirty elves bled a barrel compared to the high elves liter, and they soon had to retreat. Makrofaga stood shouting at the roof of a hut, mixing curses with orders. She could see Auduin Enris in the first line. His arm moving up and down as he fought.

It lasted for an hour, maybe two. Time is hard to keep hold on during a battle. When exhausted dirty elves started to crawl into the center of Skräpmården, a few of them dragging wounded friends behind, they all realised it was over. The high elves had already started to set up a makeshift fence around Kingdom of Heaven, and the soldiers threw those few left behind over it. Gradually you could hear the din of party die out around the slum. Then one voice was wailing. Makrofaga cried out her grief on top of the roof. Soon another voice joined. And another. And another. Until the entire Skräpmården shook heaven and earth with its sorrow.

***

The Orc School was one of the few bigger buildings that existed in Skräpmården. It was modest – two classrooms and a tiny little chamber for the teacher to live in. Now the evacuated children stayed in one room, the other had been transformed into a hospital. Since Kingdom of Heaven had capsuled itself as soon as the high elves started moving, it couldn’t dispatch its doctors. The shifts not working inside had rushed to the school, and worked hard with what they got. No one had died. Yet. As Makrofaga walked between the stretchers she saw several with wounds that either were so deep the elf could still bleed to death, or suck xer into death’s embrace by becoming infected. Everyone who could spare it donated food, clean water, and horrgoo. But what would they do when they ran out? The entire production of the stinking salve was locked in.

Makrofaga walked between the stretchers, tried to say some encouraging words to every wounded person and xer friends. But she thought about what she had learned in Crowd Control ages ago in Flådhöjden. If you need to keep a people under control keep it weak. Deny it medicine, take away its schools, erase its temples. Take the children. Soon illness, ignorance and memory loss will make sure there’s only fragments left, and those fragments will be easy to push around. As long as she could she had fought against it. A slow dreary fight. Adding a little here and there. Trying to make the dirty elves to meander in the right-ish direction. She thought she had gotten somewhere. Now she stood in the shattered remnants of her work.

“You should rest, queeny” said Foetida.
“So should you,” said Makrofaga, “the kids will need someone sober tomorrow.”
“Odoferus is sober enough. Where’s mr Lotus?”
Makrofaga smeared her already ruined makeup by rubbing her eyes. She did not want to cry here. Everyone looked to her.
“I think he is locked into Kingdom of Heaven with the kids he brought there.”
Foetida’s eyes grew until they were half of her face.
“Will they make it?”
“It will keep them safe. Not even Flådhöjden have magic busters strong enough to crack it open.”
She hoped. Foetida sat down on her shoulder and patted her ear.
“I just wanted to know what I can do. I am a councilor after all.”
Makrofaga pulled herself together.
“I want you to tell everyone that we will take Kingdom of Heaven back. And I want you to find out who among the elderly elves who have been high officers when they lived in Flådhöjden.”

Makrofaga’s words were still spreading among the dirty elves when the morning came. The usual din rose, slightly hampered, though life had to go on. While children were washed and breakfast cooked, some elves dared to go down to Kingdom of Heaven to see the destruction. The Flådhöjden army had guards posted along the fence, one per five meters, and guards leading frenzied unicorns patrolled before them. Just a few meter behind the inclosure the mound lay, still drenched in trash, and by some miracle the fire pillar still stood. They could smell the greasy fat burning inside the bowl, but they couldn’t reach it. Many dirty elves just stayed there. Sat down on the ground and the trampled huts like it was chairs on a theater. More and more joined during the day, and the Flådhöjden guards stood motionless while the occasional rain of insults fell over them. The dirty elves were still the dirty elves. The shouted, chatted, spit, and wailed. But this time there was something sharp in their looks, another darkness that promised pain. The high elves fidgeted discretely in their armours.

That afternoon, when Makrofaga had rested for a few hours she joined the crowd at the fence. She hadn’t planned a rest, but Silver had suddenly appeared and threatened to spike her water if she didn’t. As the dirty elves dived over her she was grateful he had done that for her. Three different elves tried to talk to her at the same time, pointing out the obvious occupation before them, and providing three different methods of taking out the guards and retaking the temple. She gladly listened, but she couldn’t make head nor tail of three voices at the same time. The dissonant choir was broke by someone tapping at their shoulders. King Gadoron had suddenly appeared on top of the mound.

The king didn’t even look over the fence. He was deep into a discussion with Auduin Enris. They both looked at a paper and nodded over things. Then the king kicked at the paper tube, and the fire pillar toppled over. Just like that. No ceremonies. No speech on how the temple now belonged to Flådhöjden. Not even a slight hesitation. The entire crowd of dirty elves fell completely silent. King Gadoron looked at them, smirked, and walked on the paper tube when he took a few steps to pick up the fire from the broken terracotta bowl. He threw the flame on the tube, obviously hoping for a bonfire to break out, but the paper was soggy from wet weather, and the flame of the burning cloth just licked it. He kicked it, smothering if by mistake, and turned to Auduin Enris to say something…

…and the ground was vibrating. The vibrations turned into a hum, moving through the very bones of everyone within reach. As the sound grew higher trash and votive gifts started to trickle away from the foot of the mound. A ring of stone pillars rose from from the litter, all of them carved with grinning faces. Sharp teeth in mouths so big the could bite a high elf in two, rolling eyes frozen in stone. First the stone guardians were turned outward, and grinned toward the dirty elves. Then, with a rocky, milling sound they turned around. All the dead stone eyes locked upon the king. He shivered.

The hum subsided as the king left the hill. The guardians didn’t move any more, though there were a few dirty elves who could swear they had followed the regent with their eyes and licked their lips. Auduin Enris was left alone where the fire pillar had stood. He saw Makrofaga, and had one of her guards diving into the crowd to get her to the fence. She shook lose of the guard’s grip around her arm, and walked with her head held high.
“What is this all about?” Auduin Enris sneered as soon as she was close enough.
He pointed with his entire arm towards the stone guardians.
“It’s the stone guardians, captain.”
“I. Know. That. Why are they shoving up?”
“I don’t know, but if I was your king I’d not make any long time plans.”

As satisfying that was to say, as frustrating was the fact that nothing more happened. The humming continued, the stone guardians kept on staring, but neither dirty elves, Makrofaga, nor the high elves could say why. After a few hours of confused head scratching everyone went back to hating each other as before. At that time Makrofaga had gotten Foetida’s report, if you can call it report when it’s delivered by a chatty fairy swinging a teacup, but the information was solid enough. Especially the names she had gathered, and one of them caught Makrofaga’s ear in more than one way. Suddenly she realised why mr Lotus got along so well with his landlady. Since she had to visit to tell mr Lotus was locked in Kingdom of Heaven anyway, she decided to visit this old nana first.

The last rays of the sun glittered in the glazing of the old terracotta urns mrs Sourpuss had mounted on stakes and filled with overflowing strawberry plants. As usual mrs Sourpuss herself came out greeting Makrofaga with the broadest smile of Skräpmården and a painful pinch in the cheek. A few of her usual tools were gone, probably donated to someone who was spry enough to fight for Kingdom of Heaven. Now she sat Makrofaga down in a corner and immediately started to make strawberry leaf tea, talking all the time. Apparently a stream of visitors had already filled her in on the news. The only thing she hadn’t got was Makrofaga’s verification of mr Lotus being locked in.
“You’ve lost a battle, dear” she said and put a broken teacup before Makrofaga, “you haven’t lost the war.”
As strange as it is to say someone as old as Makrofaga it was uplifting.
“We’re not suited for war. Skräpmården parties.”
“Cheer up, dear. You’ll find something!”
“Yes, I found one of Flådhöjden’s legendary generals.”
“Oh, but that was so long ago.”
The old lady chuckled as she poured the tea.
“I guess that’s how you become a legend… And then they threw me out for having a big nose!”

They chatted about their old lives for a while. Mrs Sourpuss had been a legend long before Makrofaga started basic training, and you somehow think legends have this composure, a solemn seriousness coming from being The Best on a Serious Cause. If there ever were legends like that, the old lady wasn’t part of them. She loved talking, she giggled, and laughed, moving around with every word like a five-year-old. Makrofaga had a hard time coming to her point, since the old lady rather concentrated on the Flower Nanas and the greenery grown all over Skräpmården, and gladly gossiped about other gardeners. Finally Makrofaga had to cut her off in the middle of a sentence.
“I’m sorry to interrupt, but we need to take back Kingdom of Heaven, and I need your help.”
The old lady sighed.
“I used to command armies of trained soldiers, dear. Like you said; the dirty elves are not suited for war.”
Makrofaga smiled.
“We’re not going to war. We’re going to party.”

***

As strange as it may seem the market still operated, though the feel around the market stalls had changed. The dirty elves put out their wares, and secretly glared at the high elves showing up to buy things. Some of the Flådhöjden elves had no idea why – if they noticed – others bought a lot more stuff than they used to, hunching their shoulders and trying to hide behind themselves. As much as the dirty elves gladly had just left the market to its own fate, they needed the money more than ever. With the Kingdom of Heaven out of reach starvation was just a week away. Grak had put up her stall, and was receiving customers of all sorts. By appointment she knew one would show up this day, and had agreed to help Makrofaga meet xer. After her round around the market to talk to the vendors, Makrofaga went into Grak’s fitting “room” and removed all her makeup.

Makrofaga saw that face in the mirror every morning and every evening. Now she had time to reflect over it again. Her cousin was older than her, but xer probably looked much younger now. Life in Skräpmården wasn’t kind to one’s complexion, and her wrinkles, saggy face and faint warts felt more ugly than ever. Would xe even recognise her? She took a closer look at her nose. Continued over the rest of the face. Inspecting some more horrible parts closely. Yet that person was still there, the person she had seen in the mirror every day in Flådhöjden and taken for granted. That’s how she stood, glaring at herself, when general Martius walked into the ‘room’. He stopped in his step, with ‘why is there another person here?’ written all over his face. She could see him trying to combine the dirty elves clothes with her bare face, and then gradually focusing on her face. Slowly a light went on in his eyes.
“Luna?”
“Yes, it’s me.”
“LUNA! HONEY!!! I THOUGHT YOU WERE DEAD!”
The last words she heard muffled through his arms, as he wrapped her in a bear hug that never seemed to stop. Once she was released he was crying like waterfalls.
“I thought you were dead, honey! I though you were dead.”
She pointed to her clothes.
“In a way I am. I’m a dirty elf now.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry! So, so, sorry!”
He wrapped her in another bear hug, and cried even more. Only when he could control himself he released her, let her take the only stool, and sat straight down on the muddy ground.
“I’ve missed you so much!”
Long ago she used to be his favourite cousin, their friendship developing from climbing trees to checking out cute boys. Where it would have gone from there is hard to tell, considering Makrofaga had been thrown into the sewers.
“I’ve missed you too.”
Martious eyes narrowed.
“Honey!!! You’re the queen! Look at you! You’re the queen over the entire Skräpmården!”
She didn’t wear her official robe, but a lot of things she had came from Grak, and the orc had a tendency to embroider the state seal on her dresses.
“And you’re the high commander over the entire army. I told you we would go far!”
He shook his head.
“You did girl, you did.”
He dried his eyes, and gave her another napkin. It was clean, pressed and snowy white. She hesitated to use it before she remembered she had cleaned off her makeup. Seeing it stay white was a strange experience.
“You even killed an orc empty handed.”
“I did, girl. But that was, like, different. He challenged me, and girl, I’m not the girl standing down for one who’s bitchin’. We met in honest combat, that’s what I’m saying…”
His voice trailed off. The hours up to this moment Makrofaga had tried to figure out how to ask, and now she knew she didn’t need to. The one who planned the attack on Kingdom of Heaven had been Martius.
“I’m so sorry, girl!”
She patted him on the shoulder to make him notice that she returned his napkin.
“I suppose it is your job.”
“YES! But where does it say that I have to send my soldiers against my cousins? Girl, we’re related! And I just don’t mean you and me! All you dirty elves, you’re not warriors! You’re, like, the ones we absolutely shouldn’t fight.”
“Martius,” Makrofaga said calmly, “I think that is things you should tell your king, not me!”

He dried his eyes again, and curled up around his arms – a mountain of muscles trying to wrap itself around his spine.
“I have enough on my mind as it is.”
“Of course you have, and I’m like, just thinking of myself.”
“Mhm.”
For a long time they were silent. She looked at his pastel clothes, how they suited him to a tee, and the high quality fabric they were made of. He looked at her hands, the little scars from rough rides down the sewer, the colour changes and the uneven nails. Neither one knew anything they could talk about anymore. Not like they had to, before.
“Why are you here, honey?”
His voice was a whisper to his usual voice.
“I wanted to meet you. And I want you to give my regards to the rest of the family. Not that I know if they want to hear them, but I can at least be the bigger person.”
“I will. Why don’t you tell them yourself, girl?”
“The next time I’ll be at the front line. If we don’t have Kingdom of Heaven I have no function either – I might as well win or die.”

Draft, Kingdom of Heaven, Makrofaga Queen of the Dirty Elves

Pt 7 A bitchslap isn’t always a bitchslap

Makrofaga hadn’t forgotten the threat she had shouted to Auduin Enris over Kingdom of Heaven. The threat to bitchslap all the nobles. But how? Somehow binding them to stakes and systematically slap each of them didn’t seem effective. That would be too close to things they expected from a war. She needed something that threw their proud warrior image off the feet as well as them. And it was her evening talks with mr Lotus that finally set her on the right track. Just as he managed to draw her Flådhöjden name, as well as many other secrets, out of her, she managed to draw many secrets out of him. Well, “draw” is wrong word when it is secrets told out of trust, but it still gave her a secret sense of victory.

Mr Lotus didn’t stay in Skräpmården due to an unruly harem. It certainly helped, but the real reason was his face. In Skräpmården no one cared about status – they were all down the drain. The Flådhöjden elves had the idea that they were to enlightened to care about position in society, so they were fuzzy on how much they actually did. In the Kingdom of Heaven mr Lotus came from caring about your exact position was second nature. Like Flådhöjden and Skräpmården there were families and entire groups that had a certain position in society. The Flådhöjden warriors were regarded as “higher up” as the crap collectors around the sewer mouth for example, and while no one ever said so a crap collector was expected to stay in position or just move slightly above it. But where mr Lotus came from people could change status, and their status opened or closed opportunities with pinpoint precision. The result was that everyone soon built an internal status calculator, and counted status points for everything. Status, or in their own words, their face. Shiny new clothes – you get a few points to your face. You try to greet a famous person and said person doesn’t recognise you – a few points subtracted from your face. People could play this as a game – if you wanted to cooperate with someone you started out by adding to xer face by giving stuff with impression points to boost this persons possibilities to do things, as well as strengthen your connection.

Most often those points where few, and added to a gentle bobbing up and down in society, though mr Lotus assured that people could be testy about those. But sometimes something big happened that either cemented your status several steps up from your original position. Winning a great price or succeeding in a difficult exam could enlarge your face almost permanently. Drop your pants publicly in front of a king and you would have to mend the damage forever.

Mr Lotus, born in a royal family, had a large face from the start, which in one way meant he could relax slightly. On the other hand the internal face calculators tended to subtract extra points as soon as he did something stupid. He had been a rather average person and mostly stayed in the clear until the day he was chosen to travel as an emissary to Flådhöjden. The mission added several points to his face – he was supposed to get an army of the famous elven warriors contracted for work in his Kingdom of Heaven. They didn’t know much more about about the elves, so he was sent out in the dark. Since he was a water breathing dragon who could turn into an elf, the bewildered elves then immediately threw him into the sewers. One could think the shame would be on the Flådhöjden elves who apparently was so thickheaded they couldn’t recognise an imperial emissary even when he came clad in silk brocade, and that was true – though they would never suffer from any clap back, but for mr Lotus the fact that he had tumbled through a sewer filled with filth and feces subtracted so much from his face that he had a hard time facing his family at home. While he could go home in a blink he seldom did, apart for the few visits to his parents, and the odd mission to pick flowers for Makrofaga.

While Makrofaga had put on her mental list to add so much to mr Lotus’ face he once could return in triumph, it was further down than her immediate concern – she needed to rip the face off the Flådhöjden elves. She needed something so humiliating it would equal a bitchslap for each and every one of them. Trying to fight them, even in the awkward way the dirty elves would fight, would not do. She had a few ideas, and when the official invitation to the audience came she decided to try them out on a small scale. The invitation allowed for one bodyguard, and she decided to go with Odoferus.

A good hour before the audience would take place Makrofaga stood outside her hut clad in full official costume. Her makeup was crisp and included rhine stones glued to her face, she wore a dress that was so big she could topple the smaller huts in Skräpmården, and over it she wore the robe with Grak’s gorgeous embroideries. Odoferus made a double thumbs up after he had handed a toddler to Grak. He himself wore his usual stained frock coat, once yellow, and that was it – unless you count the wyvern tooth necklace and his dirty underwear. He thrust his arms out.
“How do I look?”
Mr Lotus, who had come to see them off, sighed and put his hand over his eyes.
“You need some more clothes, Odoferus.”
Odoferus looked down on his hairy chest and positively fluffy legs.
“What’s wrong with this?”
“At least a shirt.”
“A shirt? A shiiirt… Hm, yep I got one of those! Wait a minute!”
He scuttled away to the Odografoe hut, and Makrofaga patted mr Lotus on his hand.
“You have no idea how helpful you are now.”

Slightly flustered mr Lotus retracted his arm and stroke his hand like he wanted the touch to stay forever. There was, though, a twinkle in his eyes revealing that he had an idea what she was up to. The ruckus Odoferus made inside the hut prevented him from saying anything, by the sound of it the elf juggled babies while doing a major refitting of the walls. When he finally returned out he wore a shirt… probably a shirt though it could also have been from a lady’s collection of underwear. Its décolleté reached down to Odoferus’ bellybutton, and was rounded to give up as much skin as possible. Odoferus’ generous chest hair puffed over the hem like an unkempt lawn flowed over its edging. Down below the shirt reached his knees and was so wide it could have looked like a skirt, but somehow didn’t. The formerly white fabric somehow made his legs look even more hairy. Yet again, he wore his yellowish frock coat over the shirt, and looked like he’d run away from his trousers.
“Oh heavens!” said mr Lotus softly, “Good luck, your majesty!”

In that exact moment Auduin Enris arrived to escort them to Flådhöjden, bringing two guards and two extra horses. Binky, the dapple grey horse, gave mr Lotus such a stink eye it could have overpowered the stench of the entire Skräpmården. Auduin Enris held his horse in short reins though, and no feet were discretely trampled that day. He leaned over slightly.
“Your majesty, you do remember the protocol calls for Flådhöjden to pick you up with a horse guard?”
“Oh yes,” Makrofaga lied.
She had, during basic training, learned how to ride a horse. That was more than fifty years ago. And her heart sank when she saw the sidesaddle. Sidesaddles were not for beginners. She had used one enough to know that.

Mr Lotus saved her by kneeling and holding out his hand as a footstep. With his help she managed to get up without doing any of those ridiculous mistakes you can do while trying to get on a horse. Once in the saddle she felt more secure. It wouldn’t be most gracious ride, but she would stay on the horse and probably not mess up. Odoferus on the other hand…

Odoferus had never been on a horse. He was still convinced that it was as easy as sitting on a barrel. At first he refused help from mr Lotus, and the three high elves silently looked on while he missed the chaplet and hit his chin against the horse side, while he stuck the wrong foot into it and ended up looking over the horse’s back making appreciating noises on the horse’s bum’s shape and size, while he managed to get up in the right direction and then slowly gliding over on the slick saddle and falling down on the other side. From her elevated place on her horse Makrofaga saw mr Lotus wince in silent pain. The high elves gradually lost their stone faces and looked more and more bewildered. The horse took the hardest hit, though. It was probably one of the beginner’s horses, elegant and with a certain “I’ve seen it all” look over it. The more Odoferus messed up the more it danced around, giving panicking side glances to the other horses and the high elves. This was obviously not what it expected of the day.

The show got its end when mr Lotus forcefully dragged Odoferus to the side, gave him a few pointers and helped him into the saddle. Odoferus started to slide again and got such a dark look from the dragon he just bent over and hugged the horse’s neck with both arms.
“Like this?”
One of the high elves grabbed the horse by the reins and prevented it from bolting. Again mr Lotus sighed.
“Just stay on. And be kind to that poor horse!”
Odoferus released his grip a little and kissed the mane. Despite the amount of hair he managed to make such a wet kissing sound it echoed around the huts. Auduin Enris made a motion to turn Binky around.
“Your majesty?”
“Lead the way, captain. I want to keep an eye on my councilor.”

For years afterward Makrofaga got compliments on how elegant she’d been while riding to Flådhöjden. The road was lined with curious dirty elves, looking and commenting. Within twenty minutes everyone would be informed, in detail, on how they looked, what they sat on, and how, and that memory stayed with everyone. The big reason Makrofaga looked good, though, was Odoferus. Desperately clinging to his horse, in effect being led by another high elf, he waved around, complained loudly, and managed to almost fall off the saddle several times. The audience loved it, and the more they loved it, the clumsier he became. From time to time Makrofaga looked to Auduin Enris back where he road, wondering what he thought about the entire thing. He certainly looked like he didn’t care. On the other hand – he wore glasses.

Magic can cure everything, period. But the wielder has to be skilled to reach its full potential. In Skräpmården it meant normal persons, when they could, used it for curing light colds and splinters. Mothers were often the closest you came to mastering it, since they had daily chances to train. The limiting factor was supply. Flådhöjden had no problem with the amount. Soldiers being hurt could regrow arms and legs, should the need arise. Here skill was the limiting factor. To regrow a leg you had to know a lot about how a leg functions. Without that knowledge you risked growing a long tube of fat only, or a long bone without joints and a skin directly on top, or a set of joints and muscles without blood supply. The doctors of Flådhöjden knew the body from the inside out, yet there were some things hard to recreate because they were so delicate. Among them were brains and eyesight. A person who needed their eyes recreated often also needed parts of their brain rebuilt. Naturally the doctor concentrated on the brain, so when the sensitive optics in the eyes were to be adjusted they were often so tired they missed a bit. Mid level officers wore glasses more often than not, and you could safely say they had been in war situations where half their heads had been torn off. People who have been through that kind of experience tend to be blasé when it comes to everyday emergencies.

Once Makrofaga, Odoferus and their honour guard had reached the foot of the palace Odoferus’ clowneries had taken on a slightly pained tone. Riding a horse without pants is not recommendable, at least not as a beginner. Much to Makrofaga’s surprise Auduin Enris held out a hand and helped her down from her horse. She realised it was part of the protocol, and had Odoferus been patient he’d probably been given the same help from one of the other high elves. Now he slid off the horse like a hairy, complaining slug, landing on his bum and ending up on his back cursing every hoofed animal in existence. When he finally came to his feet he walked so bowlegged he waddled like a duck. Makrofaga couldn’t help but think he did perfect.

Auduin Enris was the only one escorting them through the palace. The other two guards took care of the horses, without even a word from him. Makrofaga wondered how he did it. If she’d just assume something would be done like he did, then the thing wouldn’t get done. For a short while she saw the many times she’d despaired over dirty elves romping around doing their thing, instead of listening to her, parading for her inner sight. Her only comfort was that things had turned out alright in the end anyway. It had been some extra work, but it had worked out.

The palace was a stark contrast to Skräpmården. They walked through hall upon hall, sometimes without meeting any other elf. In the case they met someone the elves were oddly quiet. Decorative, in perfect clothes, bright eyes and a skin without blemishes, they shouldn’t be afraid to talk. Now the only thing that broke the silence was Odoferus’ regular “ow! Ow! Ow! Ouch!” when he walked. Makrofaga looked on the magic around the walls. Coming from Skräpmården it was like going from moonlight to sunlight – suddenly the colours were on in full power, and they shone like a thousand suns. She had enjoyed the silence and the contemplation for a suprisingly long time when Odoferus grew weary of it. She could see him fidget as if he had an entire hill of ants inside his clothes, and suddenly he had had too much. He giggled and poked Auduin Enris in the back.
Binky???
Auduin Enris didn’t even turn around.”
“Yes.”
“WHY?”
The captain stopped, and now he turned toward them.
“When my daughter was a toddler she asked me to name all my horses Binky.”
Odoferus’ eyebrows raised over his hairline – not that hard considering it was Odoferus, but still.
“So you do?”
“I do.”
Looong silence, growing more and more sulking with time.
“I want to hate you sooo much right now.”
Auduin Enris just bowed his head slightly and motioned them to move forward. He was limping, probably after the bite Silver had delivered to him earlier. Considering how good the magic was here the unicorn must have torn half of his bum off.
“Are we there yet?” said Odoferus
“Yes,” said Makrofaga, “I wonder too? I can feel my makeup melting! Is it hot in here or is it just me?”

Without asking she found a mirror and started to poke around her face. The makeup was still perfect, and she could see Auduin Enris suppress a sigh in the reflection. More important, she could see a few of the royal guards too. They were close to their goal. Odoferus showed up beside her.
“Naaaawwww,” he said, “you look perfect! So perfect I could lick you!”
He leaned forward, and in a motion practiced for fifty years she put up a hand to his chest and pushed him away from licking her cheek. They both saw the royal guards making big eyes in the mirror.
“Don’t destroy my makeup again! We’re about to meet The King, remember!”
Odoferus smiled his sleazy smile.
“Aaaaaaah! I’m sure your dragon boyfriend won’t mind. Much.”
Auduin Enris coughed discretely.
“Perhaps we should move on? The king is waiting.”
“Ah yes,” said Makrofaga and moved quickly away from the mirror, “sorry!”
Odoferus stayed put and fluffed his chest hair over the smudgy shirt. Makrofaga could see Auduin Enris lips compress. Usually when he looked like that she was seconds from going down the sewers, so she grabbed Odoferus sleeve and got him going.

This time Odoferus only managed to be silent for a few seconds. Just as they passed the royal guards on their way into the royal quarters he pointed to Auduin Enris and said loudly.
“Does that one always smell vanilla?”
Makrofaga saw how the guards’ faces went wooden. They also smelled heavily of vanilla.
“Yes”
Auduin Enris didn’t raise his voice.
“Is there anything wrong with that?”
Odoferus sneared.
“That’s not a smell for real elves! It should be tar! Or burning crap!”
Makrofaga planted an elbow in his side.
“Behave”
“I’M BEHAVING! IT WOULD BE EASIER IF YOU DIDN’T POKE ME ALL THE TIME!”

King Gadoron waited for them in his private quarters. He sat relaxing with a book and had a glass of wine before him. The book had one of those covers made of leather deep inside. “Deep inside” because on top of it someone has gone crazy with gemstones, leaf gold, silver inlays and rivets of every precious metal available. Those books look impressive, and in general contain the laws of the kingdom or the secret texts of the local religion. Gadoron didn’t read much of it. He had a hard time concentrating while knowing two dirty elves soon would romp in where he sat. But something needed to be done about Skräpmården, and he was always open for trying new methods. For all what he had heard about the queen he expected her to be easy to manipulate.

When Makrofaga saw the king she nearly stopped in her step. She noticed Odoferus was startled too. They cut off their bickering and simply walked up to the group of stuffed furniture. The king put the book on the table and rose to his feet.
“Good afternoon, your majesty!”
Makrofaga nodded.
“Good afternoon, majesty!”
“And this is…?”
“Odoferus, councilor of the Skräpmården royal council and my right hand.”
Odoferus stretched out a hand stained brown with horrgoo.
“Afternoon, kingy!”
King Gadoron didn’t take the hand. Odoferus kept it outstretched smiling broader and broader by the minute. Makrofaga just waited, calmly and without stress. In the background Auduin Enris had put his hands on his back, looking as if he tried to be a part of the furniture – not from embarrassment, just because it was his job. Finally the king relented and shook the dirty hand. He looked like he wanted to cut it off and burn it afterward, and when he pointed to the furniture it was clear that he only wanted Makrofaga to sit. Without hesitating Odoferus sat down too, rather neatly, but still smiling like he owned the place.

Two silent servants brought wine and glasses to Makrofaga and Odoferus too. Makrofaga, who had some memories of the Flådhöjden taste in beverages noticed it was a cheap wine. She was pretty sure she had drunk it together with friends before they understood better. The servants also brought a simple little box made out of repurposed tin. In the royal quarters its smell of horrgoo was almost overpowering.
“I’ve been told,” said the king in a kind tone, “that this is part of the whole controversy? We’ve known about it for some years now.”
Makrofaga took the box and smelled, as if she needed something more to know what she held in his hand. She felt oddly disappointed.
“Captain Enris daughter was fascinated by it,” the king continued, “Is she still alive?”
“Yes. We’re not murderers. She’ll get a fair trial.”
“Aw, but the poor girl didn’t know any better…”
“Neither did Odoferus when he wanted a handshake from your majesty.”
Odoferus sat up.
“HEY!”

If Makrofaga had looked at eyes she would have seen the king’s eyes go from blue to black in an instant. She wasn’t surprised when she noticed his mood change though. She had seen persons like him before. They were kind, talking to them felt like being wrapped in candy cotton, they always thought the best of you and the worst of the others, and they could make you say that black was white and believe in it. She was determined to come out of this conversation having said what she wanted to say – not what the king wanted her to say. But if this kind of person ends up on top of things they are in general so smart it’s close to impossible to outsmart them.
“So you’ve analysed our salve, then, your majesty?” she asked.
“Why should we?” the kings said – still in the same kind tone, though anger rolled off him like steam from a deep fryer “we have all the magic we need. You have to understand that it is close to useless.”
Makrofaga’s mind was working overtime, trying to catch all the red flags and little prys to make her feel inferior. In a way she regret demanding this audience. Auduin Enris was a butt, a horrible butt, but he was straightforward. He didn’t play with every little tool available just for the game of it.
“Good” she said, “then I expect you to respect that the formula is a state secret. If it’s useless to you…”
“Oh, but we want the girl back” the king interrupted and took the box back.
“I’ve checked our treatises. We have the right to keep and punish her. And I’m not here to discuss her first and foremost.”
Her uncalled subject change made the king freeze for a few seconds. Odoferus snatched the box of horrgoo out of his hand, and put it in his underwear.
“Thankyou, kingy!” he leared.
Both Makrofaga and king Gadoron gave him the stink eye.
“What??? You said it’s useless, and you said it’s a state secret. Sounds like this one is ours!”
He had managed to pull his shirt into his underwear with the movement, and now his entire costume was pointing to the mysterious bulge in his underpants that wasn’t between his legs. King Gadoron stared with his mouth open.
“Ah well,” he finally said, “we have more.”
“REGARDLESS” Makrofaga said, “I’m here to demand more land to Skräpmården, and I do so in accordance with the Grey Goose treaty.”
“That’s not such a strong treaty,” king Gadoron sighed.
Internally Makrofaga patted herself repeatedly on the back for being thorough.
“It’s one of the heart treatises. You’re bound to it, or you’ll lose the crown, your majesty.”

The meeting went on for a while, and the discussion went around in circles. Makrofaga hang on for dear life to her demand for more ground in Sprättströget, and for the horrgoo to remain a state secret. She even managed to make clear that they wanted a strip of thirty meters’ width. Finally the king asked them to leave without having heard her nor Odoferus saying anything along the lines of Flådhöjden being right and Skräpmården being wrong. They nearly made a victory belly bump right outside the royal quarters, and caught themselves in the last minute. Victory dances should be reserved for the minute they really were out of reach of the palace guard.

Auduin Enris escorted them out. He was as stone faced as ever, even when he had to help Makrofaga and Odoferus up on their horses. Due to rank Makrofaga got on hers first, and Odoferus messed up royally again. The two guards still kept their faces straight, even when Odoferus wrapped himself like a stinking waffle around Auduin Enris. Only Makrofaga heard him saying softly to the captain.
“I hate you. We all do. But your daughter deserves better. Chuck that dog king into the sewers and we’ll deal with him for you. We know trash.”
Auduin Enris looked up at her, as if he wanted to see if she sat securely in the saddle. She nodded. There were some trash not even the Skräpmården elves kept.

***

They had their noon-time meal on Makrofaga’s front porch, giggling over their small time victory. Makrofaga had removed most of her royal garb, and Odoferus hadn’t bothered at all. She pinched a part of the scandalous shirt.
“Odoferus…”
“What??? I thought this was what you wanted!”
“Yes, but I didn’t need to say anything! You figured it out anyway.”
He stired his deepfried somethings and found a green lump to examine.
“Well, we’ve known each other for some fifty years now.”
They looked toward the white towers of Flådhöjden.
“Poor sods,” Makrofaga said and gave a fried piece of apple to a passing child.
“Yeah, I almost feel sorry for them. Almost.”
He made another child blow its nose and checked that all the kids had eaten.
“What’s the Grey Goose treaty by the way?”
“One of the first treatises made between Skräpmården and Flådhöjden…”

The Grey Goose treaty was written when Flådhöjden still was a small village on a mountain side, and Skräpmården a forest with spread forest elf settlements. The forest elves had agreed to leave Flådhöjden half of the forest as a pasture for pigs, in exchange for being able to “borrow” a group of soldiers or two in the case times got rough. It was part of the five first, and most important, treatises the small countries had agreed upon. They were called the heart treatises, and had an addendum that if any king ever tried to break them his throne would be automatically set out for re-election.
“So, the entire Sprättströget used to be hours?”
“Yes, and in a small way it still is.”
She sorted her food so she could give even more children deep fried apples.
“You’re the expert,” she said, “how much did he lie?”
“Hmmm… In almost everything. But those types are slippery, it’s hard to know. I don’t think they have more horrgoo.”
With a sigh Makrofaga leaned backwards.
“Please, be that way!”

***

The moon tiger was still a moon tiger when Makrofaga went inside Kingdom of Heaven to talk to Pamphylia. Makrofaga couldn’t put her finger on what made her think so, but the audience had left her with a lingering sense of doom. Small changes in king Gadoron’s tone and voice that she replayed over and over in her memory. To be on the safe side she wanted to tell the prisoner that it could take a few extra days before a trial could take place. The girl, or more correctly, the young woman listened with just a vague interest. By the look of it she had read up on Skräpmården history, and tried out the art supplies left for her. Pictures of trees and galopping horses over grass fields adorned the walls.
“Is it hard to raise a child in Skräpmården,” she suddenly asked.
Makrofaga worked through all the layers of the question before she had an answer.
“I don’t have kids so I don’t really know.”
Pamphylia nodded.
“Do you wonder why your mother didn’t bring you along?”
“NO! No, it was quite obvious why she didn’t.”
She motioned to the place where she had an arm and her mother didn’t.
“But I may want to have kids some day.”
“Do you want to stay here?”
“I start to understand why I feel why I belong here. In Flådhöjden I’m odd…”

The moon tiger had flopped its long body over Pamphylia’s lap, and enjoyed face skritches from its owner. Makrofaga studied the shining fur and tried to get an answer as honest as possible. There was the illnesses, the rotten water, the risky situations that came with the parties – even with the enrolled baby sitters – and the many places that could swallow a child whole and keep it for a long time before the remains were found. Then there was the regular assaults from Flådhöjden, and despite the small victory the same day Makrofaga was convinced they would continue, the periods of starvation, and the regular risk an adoption agency would steal your child if it didn’t look ugly enough.

“I was odd in Flådhöjden too,” said Makrofaga, “and I ended up here when I was your age. I love this place, but I’d still rather have stayed. Easy access to clean water is such a humdinger!”
Pamphylia drew her hand through the tiger fur.
“I think I can live with that.”
“I can’t live with putting you to that risk. The trial is one thing, having a mob kill you on the street is another. I want you alive, and I don’t want to be disappointed with my people.”
“I already am. It feels like everyone up there has lied to me.”

Makrofaga felt like just rising and leave the cell. If, by some miracle, Pamphylia could stay she could throw away fifty years of her life to work in the sewers. She was almost of age and should have an hefty say in her future, but it felt cruel to just hand the decision over when you knew the pain involved. Pain that was so easy to solve with clean water, enough space to live in, and food every day. Even if it was a bit of a hypothetical discussion, since the real outcome would be decided by the trial and Pamphylia’s parents. She just nodded grimly when Makrofaga told her.
“I guess I made a stupid decision and should be glad they could fish me out of the sewers.”

Draft, Kingdom of Heaven, Makrofaga Queen of the Dirty Elves

Pt 6 Punches And Party

First when Makrofaga stopped by Grak’s market stall she realised her plan to cover up Auduin Enris’ espionage may have had some flaws. Her face hurt. A lot. She wanted someone to, frankly, give her a hug and help her repaint the makeup. While it had been oddly heart warming to see how unwilling Auduin had been to beat her up, it was disconcerting to discover how good he was at it. The memory of his eyes freezing to ice before he socked his fist into her eye kept flashing through her mind. She had ended up with one eye swollen shut, a bleeding, thick lip, and probably a broken rib. She limped past market stalls where dirty elves and high elves turned and stared at her, and when she finally found Grak the first thing she saw was the orc turn pale as a sheet of paper.

Every soul has an off-button. It’s a security device to keep the psyche from imploding from stress, and it releases when things raises the feelings over the highest alert level. As soon as this level is reached you stop feeling, and are supposed to deal with a panic situation in calm and cold manner. In Makrofaga’s case this off-button triggered too early. Many people thought she didn’t have feelings, since she often dealt with tragic situations without – seemingly – being affected. They never saw how she lay awake at night, for years afterwards, and replayed what had happened, having those painful feelings slowly digging themselves into her soul like barbed daggers. It was little comfort that the same thing happened with positive things – a favour or a kind word didn’t affect her much at first, but the warm feeling stayed for a long time. Now, when she limped to one of her oldest friends in Skräpmården, this off button kept her from connecting the feelings she saw around her with herself. She loved all the dirty elves, and couldn’t, at least not at the moment, connect their shock with her black eye.

Grak dropped her scissors and gaped so big her underjaw fangs nearly touched her upper lip.
“I hope you don’t mind, Grak” said Makrofaga and felt her soul squirm, “but I need a hug.”
“But off course!”
She wrapped Makrofaga in a hug so tight the last ordered makeup smeared itself against the intricately embroidered coat. That was one of Grak’s most important portfolios, and before Makrofaga was ambushed by the pain in her side she thought that it would be destroyed forever.
“Ow! Ow! My side! I think I’ve broken something!”
“Your majesty! What happened to you???”
Makrofaga put her hands over her face.
“I asked for it! But can you help me with the makeup? I think the last pieces just wore off.”

The eyes of the entire market followed them when Grak led Makrofaga behind the curtains of her fitting “room”. The dirty elves elaborate makeup had more functions than being a decorative part of their dress habits. That it annoyed the high elves wasn’t wrong, far from it. Some dirty elves put on their eye shadow with a sneer ever day. But one of the more important reasons to use it was to become hard to recognise. Being recognised by former friends and relatives meant having to face, full frontal, that you had been thrown away like trash. Some even thought about those friends and relatives and wanted to keep them from being embarrassed. For whatever reason a dirty elf rather ran around naked than without makeup.

Grak had extra makeup in her stall – putting on and off clothes smeared things, and the customers appreciated the service. Now she put the pallets before Makrofaga and helped treat the bleeding lip.
“I asked for it” Makrofaga repeated while she mixed her preferred colours, “stupid as it is.”
“Did that Auduin Enris do this?”
“Yes… We need to hold an extra council tonight. Are there babysitters available?”
At least ten persons shouted they were willing to babysit.
“I even think Foetida and Odoferus will be sober, you majesty.”

Makrofaga side glanced at the crowd outside the curtains, and cursed herself for not thinking further. She had a person she needed to talk to, and she would have to walk through almost the entire Skräpmården to reach xer. As hard as it was for her to connect the feelings people had they still would affect her. Having wrath around teared her soul like a grater teared fabric.

Suddenly mr Lotus peaked around the curtain. An odd relief. Unlike most dirty elves he wouldn’t assault her with hugs or loud wails.
“Your majesty?”
“How did you get here so fast?”
“I flew… well, jumped. Do you need anything?”
“Mostly company. I have a person I need to talk to. Do you mind escorting me.”

Normally it would take her somewhere between half an hour to an hour to walk down to the sewers, because the person she had to talk to worked around the sewer mouth. This time the time stretched over two hours, and was filled with dirty elves talking, inspecting her wounds, offering remedies, wishing for Auduin Enris’ gory demise, and in general being the awesome people the dirty elves were. Makrofaga had been around them enough to not act like their concern was of no importance to her, but she had to direct herself to hide that her soul currently was overworn and numb. Mr. Lotus walked close behind her, not saying much. He didn’t even hold her hand, and given their earlier conversation she wasn’t surprised. She barely had time to reflect over it, and it wasn’t until she reached the sewer mouth she realised how much she appreciated that he was there.

She was still in the middle of a worried group of dirty elves, and could ask one of them to fetch Dido. Much to her surprise the assembly dissolved, as if they knew what she was going to ask. Only the person who had agreed to find Dido stayed around, and soon returned with her. The woman was brown, like a hazel nut in the last warm days of fall, she lacked one arm, and her face was completely immobile under all her makeup.
“Hello,” said Makrofaga and draw for breath, “are you the mother of Pamphylia Enris?”
“Yes”

***

It was a good mountain top, but it wasn’t “their” mountain top. To be fair Makrofaga hadn’t realised the mountain mr Lotus had carried her to earlier were special until she had suggested to the rest of the councilors that they’d take a look at it. She could’ve hit herself. Despite years of training she still missed those special little clues in relationships. She could only hope this wouldn’t put one of those awkward wedges between her and mr Lotus that tend to kill an early relationship. Where she stood she could see the place where he had coiled up around her, though she soon chose to look out over the valley. She had to tell the rest of the council what Auduin Enris had told her, and the reason they all had “made an excursion” was that this was something that couldn’t reach the rest of Skräpmården’s ears. Not yet at least. They needed a plan for what they would do.

The king of Flådhöjden was a vain man. He was indeed beautiful, with long, midnight black hair, alabaster skin and red lips, and he wanted the rest of the world to match. Over the last years he had cleaned up Flådhöjden of anything he didn’t want there, and his efforts had come to an end. It was as perfect as it could be, even with the most the relentless efforts no more improvement could be made. At the same time Makrofaga’s efforts with Skräpmården had made her place swell over. People may not be in the best place, but they were healthier, happier, and more numerous than they had ever been. But instead of being impressed the Flådhöjden king saw something else when he looked at Skräpmården from his windows. He saw overflowing cow dung, and he wanted it removed.

Auduin Enris didn’t meet the king often, and until Makrofaga forced him to ask around he had seen himself as an official working for a normally flawed leader. There are always unsavoury parts of ruling a country, and no one can handle them perfectly. Of course the Flådhöjden king was due to push buttons and stomp on a few toes just like anyone else. But when Auduin dug deeper he had found out that the king didn’t care. Removing Kingdom of Heaven was a first step, since the king rightly assumed it was the anchor to the identity of the dirty elves. They were a fiercely diverse bunch – not all of them believed in the same deities, or in gods at all, but they all visited Kingdom of Heaven. Remove that, and the crowd would be more easy to handle. With kindness or cruelty… well, the king didn’t care at all. Eventhough he leaned to cruelty all the persons walking the streets of the slum was just as important to him as specks of dust. If he torched all of it he wouldn’t feel anything. And since the dirty elves were loud and, in his opinion, ugly he had decided to send Skräpmården, piece by piece, into oblivion.

It’s only in fairy tales a large mass of persons panics and flees at such news. What Makrofaga feared was the creeping loss of spirit. They already felt like trash, and while Flådhöjden’s treatment wasn’t kind, at least it was a ceremonial recognition of them as a country. If the news got out one of the most important life lines for their self esteem would be cut, and gradually people would just sit down and wait for death. One of the few things that could keep them upright was for her and her council to already spread a Very Good Plan around. So they needed A Plan, and when she stood there, looking out over Skräpmården together with mr Lotus, Odoferus, Grak, and Foetida, they all felt that they lacked too much in that department.

“How much time do we have” Grak asked.
“Hard to tell” Makrofaga said, “Auduin Enris said he’d already stalled the plans as much as he could. I mean, he wants his daughter back in one piece.”
“You need to fight” said Grak.
Odoferus found a suitable stone and sank down on it. For once he didn’t smile.
“We can’t fight! We’re party animals!”
They all sighed. Dawn spreads its rosy clouds over Skräpmården, and a thousand golden windows in Flådhöjden made the towering city look blacker than it should.
“Nothing wrong with a party” said mr Lotus.
The others stared at him.
“Do you have any ideas, mr. Lotus?” Makrofaga asked.
“Yes, your majesty. Ask for another audience and demand thirty meters of Sprättströget.”

They held another council at Skräpmården, to cover up the first one. They had one issue that could be heard by the regular dirty elves, and it had the benefit of giving some extra explanation as to why Makrofaga was beat up by Auduin Enris. Should they introduce Pamphylia to her mother? Dido herself had agreed to it, reluctantly. Both parents agreed on one thing – they wanted Pamphylia to stay at Flådhöjden. The chance was the girl would want to stay once she found out her mom was still alive, and worked by dragging feces from the sewers. All of the persons around the table at Makrofaga’s hut could understand the parents. The choice between a dirty, overpopulated slum, and the lap of luxury – when it was for one’s only child it wasn’t a hard one to make.
“Whatever,” said Odoferus, “I think they set themselves up! You really should ask the _gal_ if she want to meet her mom.”
“You think?” said Makrofaga.
“DAAAAAAAAAAAAHling! Think! How long have that lIIIIIttle one thought her mom had crOOOAAAked, and then YOOOUUUUU just DROOOOPS her into the CEEEEEEEEEElll. Could make an OOORRRC crazy!”
Makrofaga thought it over.
“You couldn’t be a better bunch of councilors if I dipped you in gold! Anyway, I need to rest – council is ended.”

There were things Makrofaga gladly stalled as long as she could. The next day she took her usual walk around Skräpmården first. She could have rearranged her habits, yet it felt better to keep them just as they were. Not only for the knotty subject of reintroducing a mother to her daughter. This was tax collecting day, and from experience she knew things would run more smoothly if she had been around first. This way they ended up with far less wounded and dead. As discretely as she could manage she reminded people that she wanted them alive, before she joined mr Lotus and Dido at the top of Kingdom of Heaven.

Makrofaga went along down the dark corridor. She listened to her own footsteps and tried to find something to say that wasn’t as boorish as she could be. The exercise of playing through different scenarios usually made her find the right words once she had to really speak. Still, when she stood at the door, she had a feeling she would be a bit too brutal. As usual – but the thing needed to be said.

The cell was neatly kept, and Pamphylia wasn’t screaming at her. The girl wasn’t overly happy to see her either, something Makrofaga could understand. And the kitten surprised her. Last time she’d seen in it it had been tiny, almost so small you could fit it into one hand. It’s grey striped fur had still had its kitten fluffyness. The thing that slept at the foot of Pamphylia’s bed was huge, and had midnight blue fur with saphire stripes.
“Is that a moon tiger???”
Pamphylia shrugged and looked slightly embarrassed.
“I was bored, and the magic here around is interesting. Can you call magic ancient? I thought all magic was the same, but here it’s as it is cleaner, older.”
Makrofaga couldn’t agree more, though again she was surprised someone wouldn’t notice how different magic looked in different places.
“Have you tried to get out?”
The girl looked to the cat and coughed.
“It’s impossible. I don’t even recognise what holds the mechanism down.”

They both looked at the sleeping moon tiger, trying to find out what to say.
“Will I ever get out from here.”
“Good question. You haven’t even had a trial yet…”
The insight was like a hammer to Makrofaga’s soul. On top of everything else she’d need to arrange a trial for Pamphylia, and find judges that were willing to stay sober for the entire process.
“…but that’s not why I came. You think your mother is dead, right?”
Pamphylia looked up.
“Shouldn’t she be?”
“She’s one of many here who are “dead” to their families in Flådhöjden, since she was thrown into the sewers.”

With one hand buried deep into the moon tiger’s fur Pamphylia drew for breath.
“I’m not sure I believe you.”
The tiger noticed her hand, and stretched over the bed with a friendly growl, pushing one of its paws against the wall over the pillow.
“I can understand, but if you want to she can come and see you.”
“Is she here?”
“In the temple, at least.”
First Pamphylia fell silent, then the rest of the cell. The only thing you could hear was the faint breathing of the tiger. Makrofaga grabbed a handful of fabric in her dress and squeezed hard. She hoped she hadn’t said anything wrong.
“Yes,” Pamphylia finally said.

Mr Lotus brought Dido within minutes. It was as if the corridor only swallowed time when you walked through it. As soon as the woman was inside the cell Makrofaga changed places with her, and stepped as close to mr Lotus as he was comfortable with. Pamphylia stood up from the bed, not sure what to do. The moon tiger opened up one eye, took in what happened in the room, and closed it again. Dido stood with her back as straight as a rake, and looked down on her daughter. At that moment mr Lotus gently drew Makrofaga from the cell, and closed the door.

They went to the middle square and took seats at the feast table. Unlike all other elves around it they mostly sat quiet.
“I brought you a gift” said mr Lotus and pulled a box out of one of his sleeves.
“You don’t need to, you know that?”
“I know, your majesty, but I want to.”
She removed the wrapping and found a small, foldable chess set. It was made by one of the best craftsmen in Skräpmården, and must have cost quite a bit. The pieces where made of re-purposed glass, and the table was made of hammered tin and brass.
“I like this game,” Makrofaga said, “the queen moves around being a bitch, while the king hides behind his officers and does nothing but getting beat.”
Mr Lotus looked up.
“Oddly close to reality, don’t you think?”
They chuckled and put up their pieces.

You learn a lot about a budding partner by playing games with them. Mr Lotus was a good opponent, his strategies solid and elegant, and he often had several to back up with if his first failed. He also started to sweat when Makrofaga got the upper hand. She made another crushing move just to see if she was right. And suddenly felt the magic around them shift. It had nothing to do with their game. It was something from the outside. The entire square vibrated, the magic rippling like water when someone kicks the pier foundation. She looked around the square together with mr Lotus and all the other party participants. The place was suddenly silent. Then the doors to the hospital flew open and the doctors paraded out. All had their beaked masques, their hooded red frocks, and a golden chalice in their hand. In grave silence they walked, pair upon pair, toward the exiting corridor.
“What’s happening?” mr Lotus said while Makrofaga sprung to her feet.
“Something’s happening outside. I need you to lift me.”

They ran outside, and mr Lotus leapt into the air. Once he could lift her they soon saw why Kingdom of Heaven had dispatched its healers. An irate crowd had attacked the tax collectors.

The taxes were collected four times a year, and that was one of the few times – apart from the charity projects – that high elves went into Skräpmården. They didn’t risk anything. The collectors were always many more than they needed to be, members of the guard, and those who didn’t collect the money sat on their war horses. During the day they slowly meandered through the slum, paying a visit to every hut demanding money. A few dirty elves put up a fight, and the evening in general ended with a bruise comparing party. As far as Skräpmården parties goes it usually was sombre. Losing to the tax collectors wasn’t much to write a note about. The leader of the tax collectors was always Auduin Enris, riding first on a dapple grey horse.

From the air Makrofaga and mr Lotus could only see a boiling mass of bodies and horses. Normally the dirty elves would be no match for the trained soldiers. Even if they were fewer they knew their craft. But this time close to fifty elves had taken on each of the guards, beating and kicking furiously. For a moment Makrofaga was at loss for words, taking in how the rest of the Flådhöjden army was about to notice that something was amiss.
“DRENCH THEM MR LOTUS!”

Mr Lotus dived, opened his mouth and let out a flood of clear water. The effect was similar to turning a huge bucket upside down over an anthill. Dirty elves and high elf guards, still locked to each other in fight, floated away in as small, angry islands, their kicking and biting subsiding the more they felt the cold water seep through their clothes. Huts flatted, and the sorry rests were driven together into trash islands. Horses strove to keep their heads above surface and screamed in panic. And suddenly the water turned, flattened, and trickled out over the rest of the slum. Groggy fighters looked at each other and tried to find their footing again.
“WHAT ON EARTH ARE YOU DOING?!”
Makrofaga was so mad she had climbed on top of mr Lotus’ head and screamed on top of her lungs.
“I SAID I WANT YOU ALL ALIVE!”
“But…” said one of the dirty elves who miraculously still were standing, possibly because he was an orc “we were winning…”
“AT THE MOMENT YES! BUT THEY HAVE AN ARMY TO BACK THEM UP!”
The dirty elves slided through the mud, striving to stand, and sheepishly not looking at each other. The high elf guards clenched their teeth and did the same.
“I CAN SEE THE SOLDIERS GEARING UP FROM HERE! DID YOU WANT THE ENTIRE SKRÄPMÅRDEN BURNT TO THE GROUND?”
More sheepish shuffling. No one seemed to know what to do with the foe beside them. Makrofaga sighed and pointed.
“DIRTY ELVES – OVER THERE!”

When the dirty elves had retreated the high elf guards looked strangely vulnerable in the mud. With grey slime all over their clothes none of the fancy soldier design was visible, and they were reduced to being their bodies. Anyone of them could be anyone in Skräpmården. In the middle of the empty spot left after the flood one couple was still locked in fight. Auduin Enris kicked and strived to unclench Silver’s jaws from his butt. The unicorn’s eyes were red from war frenzy. For a while Auduin’s swearing was the only thing that was heard.
“Someone,” said Makrofaga, “get Grak.”
It says a lot about Auduin’s reputation among the dirty elves that no one dared laughing. Not there and then. No one even felt a flicker of a giggle.

After an awkward and long wait Grak stomped over to the unicorn. Without looking at the captain she gingerly wiggled her fingers between the unicorn jaws.
“It’s time to let go!”
“’Hneve’!”
“Yup it is!”
Slowly and carefully, to not hurt her friend, she pried the jaws apart. As soon as Auduin felt he was free he rolled over and crawled away as fast as he could. Still red eyed Silver tried to lunge for him.
“MURDERER! MURDERER!”
Grak slung him over her shoulder and left. They could hear the unicorn scream until he was hoarse. At the same time Auduin finally came to his feet. Red splotches mixed with the grey goo on his pants. He looked around. The horses, being trained to not run way when they lost their riders, had collected in an shivering group as far away from the dirty elves as possible.
“Binky!” he spat out “Binky! Over here!”
The dirty elves stared wide eyed at each other. Still not even a hint of a giggle. The dapple grey horse left the flock and limped over to his owner, head held nobly high, and eyes that said “say a word and I kick in your head”. Makrofaga leaned down to make sure Auduin heard her.
“YOU!”
Auduin looked up. His cheeks were smeared with mud, and while he still had his eyeglasses they were covered in splotches.
“You have enough of what you came for! Leave! And get me a real audience the next time!”

No need for further words. Auduin took his horse by the reins and lead his muddy soldiers out of Skräpmården. They had a silent audience of dirty elves along the way. Not even the kids said anything. Not until the group was safely outside their borders, and had rejoined the army on the other side. The entire slum erupted in triumphant roar, and refused to go silent.

***

Late that evening Makrofaga and mr Lotus sat watching stars on their mountain top, trying to make sense of the day. Makrofaga had spent hours rebuilding huts, and working complicated diplomacy to make try to smooth out the tax losses over the entirety of Skräpmården. By asking the right family share with the right persons she had managed to end up with a population were all had paid half the taxes. She felt wrung out in every fiber. Now the entire Skräpmården was a gigantic party. She had stayed until the din had wore her down, and she asked mr Lotus to help her to a silent spot. He had stayed in dragon form and coiled up to form a comfortable chair for her.
“Fighting the tax collectors…” she sighed. “What got into them?”
Mr Lotus chuckled.
“You get one thing that few rulers get,” he said.
“Huh?”
“You get that a ruler is the servant of the people. You personally rebuild losses, you are always around them, and you don’t give up until all have a fairly good life – as long as it’s possible.”
“Is it anything wrong with that?”
“No! That’s one of the reasons I stay! You’re the best teacher I can have! But on the other hand…”
He headbumped her gently.
“…you seem to miss one thing that get rulers a big head; a ruler is the first representative of a people…”
“…and that means I have to handle that butt Auduin Enris!”
“No, that means if someone strikes you he strikes the heart of all the dirty elves. Everyone will know, everyone will be angry.”
“Hm. I haven’t thought of it that way. Being a ruler seems to be a job almost anyone can do, as long as they’re willing to put in the work – and there are many of those around in Skräpmården.”
The dragon lifted his gigantic head and looked at the stars for a long time.
“In a way,” he finally said, “it’s the same where I come from.”
“Speaking of which; what does sitting on horseback looking at flowers mean?”
“I have to tell you a story to explain…”

“Once upon a time there was a boy and a girl who were looking to marry. Where they lived women and men didn’t spend time together in the same way they do in Skräpmården, they hadn’t even met each other. Instead they had to rely on matchmakers, and it so happens they ended up paired with each other. Being young they both wanted to look like the perfect spouse, and _have_ the perfect spouse. Their parents, who were the ones taking the important decisions, had agreed to the marriage. It was the usual case of families and properties fitting together, but they decided that the young couple would have the last say. The prospective groom would be allowed to walk past the girls house, and look at her in the garden. She, of course, would look at him at the same time. If they liked what they saw they would agree to marry.

There was only one problem – or two if you want to be picky about it. The boy had a permanent limp, and knew he would look bad hobbling about. The girl had a cleft lip, and thought – not without reason – that the boy would find her ugly. But the boy had a friend who suggested he’d ride past the house instead of walk. That way he would look royal, and the limp would be invisible. The girl had a friend who suggested she’d pick a bunch of flowers and smelled them when the boy showed up. The flowers would enhance the beauty of her eyes, and hide the cleft lip.

The Big Day came, and the boy borrowed a magnificent horse. He look royal where he road. The girl picked the garden’s most beautiful flowers, and her eyes twinkled with them and the sun as he came by. They both agreed to the marriage. And thus they also had to spend the most awkward wedding night in history.

That’s sitting on horseback looking at flowers.”

Makrofaga thought back to the morning earlier that week.
“Well,” she said at last “you have seen me in a few of my most unsavoury moments, that’s true.”
“And so have you. Speaking of horseback and flowers… Which is your real name?”
Makrofaga looked to Flådhöjden’s burning fires and sighed.
“I’ve lived for so long at Skräpmården that I think it is Makrofaga, but if you really want to know…”

***

For a few days the entire Skräpmården was boiling. They had driven out the tax collectors. For once they had had the upper hand. Makrofaga felt the pressure rise with each day, and she worried. The dirty elves were still a group of party animals, and not soldiers. If they got into their mind to do any kind of attack on Flådhöjden it would end in a blood bath. She searched the library for answers, she discussed the thing with her councilors, and – most important – she let everyone know there was a plan in the works. And when she was as most preoccupied with rebuilding and planning one of Flådhöjdens heralds knocked on her door. It was a rainy day and his pastel yellow and blue and orange shoe where drenched in mud and unspeakable dirt. He left her a message without open his mouth, his face being a painting over how much he not wanted to be there. It was one of those moments Makrofaga was happy she could read. Having that sourpuss reading for her would have destroyed her day. But she nearly fainted when she read the parchment. She had been granted an audience with the king of Flådhöjden – and given ample time to prepare herself. She was so amazed she called the council together.

“This have never happened before!”
The others glanced over the parchment.
“Why now” said Grak.
“DAAAAAAHling,” said Foetida, “should we REAAAAAAAly look a gift HOOOOORSe in the mouth?”
“Yes,” said mr Lotus, “sometimes that horse is a bad tempered unicorn with the horn removed.”

Draft, Kingdom of Heaven, Makrofaga Queen of the Dirty Elves

Pt5 Sitting on horseback looking at flowers

It wasn’t possible to think much during the daily walk around Skräpmården. Where one conversation ended and one problem hopefully had gotten its solution, another one started. At the end, when she could see her own hut again, Makrofaga felt like her head was full of chatter. She longed for the, well not silent but at least not as loud and clattery, peace of own home. But this day she slowed her pace and hesitated. Would mr. Lotus wait for her? She shook her head and returned to the more important details of what had happened the last twenty four hours. The careful reading of the treatise book had reminded her of one thing; Skräpmården used to be its own country.

It hadn’t been a big country. Rather it was one of those lands of the ancients, where each regent ruled over a piece of land so small the royal subjects could hear the cattle bleat in surrounding kingdoms. But unlike today it had been completely independent, and had treatises with a lot of other lands. Today, well, they weren’t even allowed to collect their own taxes, and she got her apanage as a “reroute” from Flådhöjden. The money were just enough for her to buy her daily food, and she had to scrounge clothes second hand. If she hadn’t known Grak, and the orc hadn’t been the kind soul she was, she wouldn’t even have an official royal robe.

She sighed, and stopped at her favourite food vendor Pacho. He was a gnome with one ear and an enormous scar across his face. The scar transformed his smile into a cruel sneer, and if you didn’t know him you expected him to stab you as soon as you turned your back. When he lift the lid of his cauldron the boiling grease sent white clouds of steam around the street. She ordered her usual and got twice the amount of deep-fried something she payed for. This, as well as Grak’s donation of an official robe, was a kind of small scale rebellion. If they weren’t allowed to pay taxes directly to the regent they chose, then they could give xer some gifts now and then. Personal gifts, of course, not at all related to the cost of the crown. Makrofaga spent a lot of her mental capacity keeping track of those presents, and in as many cases as possible direct them to places that needed them, instead of to her personal keep box. A gigantic stew did, if the giver allowed, a lot better work with the family where both parents had fallen ill than with her who could still pay for her food. Even part of her food from Pacho went to others.

The last steps to her hut she worked hard to return with her thoughts to the last twenty four hours. Now when she could poke the details there were some things about Auduin Enris that stood out. He had told his daughter “not to”, and was defensive about what exactly he tried to keep her from doing. He could copy a dirty elf exactly, down to the details in makeup and movements, and he must have his own supply of horrgoo. Makrofaga had checked the box from Pamphylias things – the last scrape marks in it was from the girl’s spoons when she had performed her analysis. Moreover Auduin’s wife “wasn’t with them anymore”. She could be dead-dead, but Flådhöjden elves in general said “xe’s with xer ancestors” in those cases.

And then her thoughts pulled back to mr Lotus. Handling the mess after waking up with Odoferus felt like a breeze in comparison. They had a silent agreement that since they didn’t remember much not much had happened. Then they argued with Grak and Foetida about it, and were sour for a few days until they gradually became friends again. This was nothing Makrofaga wished for, but with mr Lotus being so different it felt comfortingly familiar. He didn’t march to the same drum as the rest of Skräpmården at all. It was one thing that he insisted that she sat with her back against the north and look to the south – annoying as it was it was still more of a quirk. But he laughed when he was angry or sad, and that made him look creepy. How would he react if they sat down and had a serious talk about waking up in the same bed?

To her relief mr Lotus didn’t wait for her when she arrived to her door. A bunch of the Odografoe kids did, though, and all got their share of the deep-fried apples. After hours of being a strict queen she allowed herself to be a total wet sock for them. They got food, even on fairly regular hours, so she didn’t need get them some extra. It was just for the luxury of spoiling someone. None of them had seen anyone who seemed to search for her, and Silver slept belly-up beside her door without any sign of distress. Everything seemed clear, and she relaxed as she went into the hut.

Someone had put a flower on the table. She had not seen anything like it before. It was so big she could put both her hands under the crown when she examined it. The leaves where almond shaped, slightly concave and pink, a colour that concentrated in the tips and diluted over the leaf body – making the flower seem like it glowed from within. The fragrance filled the entire room. For a while she just poked the thick leaves and admired the beauty.

A polite knock on the door woke her up. She wasn’t surprised to find mr Lotus on the other side.
“I’m here to apologize,” he said.
“Come in.”
He looked just as stiff and embarrassed as she felt.
“I’m not sure what you’re apologising for,” she said.
“I behaved inappropriately yesterday…”
Makrofaga started to rummage around her one cupboard for something to offer. She could put on some tea, if she could stop mr Lotus from making it for her.
“Maybe? I can’t remember much of it.”
There was a hint of a smile in mr Lotus’ confused voice.
“Your majesty – we woke up in the same bed!”
“Yes?”

The confusion shut his mouth, and Makrofaga took the opportunity to make the tea and put it on the table before he found his balance again. She seemed to have a small personal amount of magic at the moment, just enough to heat water in a pot. Unfortunately not enough to get some crackers. He refused a portion of her food, so she had to awkwardly eat it during their conversation. She finished off something deep-fried and green and hoped it was a vegetable.
“What happens where you come from if someone wakes up together with the queen?”
“That does not happen.”
Makrofaga hoped to get something to go on, but mr Lotus firm tone nearly made her lose track. The only thing she could manage was
“No?”
“No.”
He seemed to hesitate over something.
“When that certainly doesn’t happen the man is dead – or castrated.”
“Whoa! That’s HARSH!”
He stirred his tea with gracile movements.
“Our queens tend to be married, your majesty, and the kings… are perhaps not as forgiving as you are.”
“Hm. Are you married?”
She realised how much she overstepped when mr Lotus went beet red.
“No…”
He fumbled with the teacup.
“…but I’ve had mistresses. I have eighteen kids in Kingdom of Heaven.”
Makrofaga nearly blew tea through her nose.
“I would know that!”
“Kingdom of Heaven is my home country, your majesty. It has the same name as your temple.”
“Oh. That explains it.”
“Explains what?”
“I don’t know if you know it, but you smirk every time I say it’s time to go to Kingdom of Heaven”
She gently waved a deep-fried beige thing around.
“One time you even asked if we wanted you to fly us.”
He just smiled, and it struck her that he didn’t smile often. Not because he was a serious man, more because he seemed to think that smiles were something to save for special occasions.
“I’m married, though” she said.
“Forgive me, your majesty, but shouldn’t I know about that? And the rest of the queendom?”
“It’s the queendom I’m married to. It takes all my time, and all my care.”
She was so occupied giving her teacup a depressed look she didn’t see how mr Lotus again blushed.
“And you’re not open for… having… a ‘second husband’?”
Even the tip of his ears was beet red.
“Only if he’s open for being a very weak second choice.”
“Well, at least I’m not sitting on horseback looking at flowers.”

There was a long moment of silence while Makrofaga struggled to make sense of his saying. It was probably something along the lines of positive? Since not one of them said anything they became painfully aware of children’s giggles. By the sound of it at least three of the Odografoe kids stood eavesdropping outside – with friends. Both Makrofaga and mr Lotus sighed, and she made a fast decision.
“Mr. Lotus. I need to discuss the planning of Skräpmården with Foetida. Is it okay to lift me?”
“I’d gladly do, your majesty!”

They found Foetida sleeping blanketed over Busa. Busa in turn slept as firmly as only newborn babies can, on top of Odoferus chest. Odoferus slept in a hammock with a toddler under each arm. Long time ago someone in the Odografoe family had had the good sense to put the hammock up on the back side of their hut. Grak sat beside the odd bunch gently rocking the entire thing with a foot while she embroidered a red piece of silk. Makrofaga felt a sting of bad conscience.
“I’m sorry, Grak” she whispered while they took in the cute scene and tried to duck the waves of beer fumes “I shouldn’t have brought them along while we visited the sewer mouth.”
“Don’t be” smiled Grak, “Busa’s such a precious thing! And she couldn’t have ended up with a better family.”
“Aaaaw! But please tell me if you need help. There’s at least ten persons lining up for it.”
“I know. I can manage!”
“I need Foetida. Do you think…”
Grak fetched a blanket, and woke her girlfriend. The fairy wasn’t exactly happy about having to leave the hammock, but she took one look at Makrofaga and mr Lotus, and went into work mode. As soon as she started flutter around them the surrounding children got energized. Within minutes they had somewhere between twenty and a hundred of them around, all eagerly waiting for mr Lotus to transform.

The reason mr Lotus never traveled the streets of Skräpmården in dragon form was that he was a Very Large dragon. If he would transform on ground he would tear down at least a quarter of the huts in one go. Now, when Makrofaga had some extra interest in studying him she noticed he seemed to be secretly flattered by the children’s attention. He jumped into the air, unfurling like a roll of silk ribbon. Upwards, upwards, upwards. Tie-dyed clothes turned into blue scales with silver rims, a ridge of red fins rose along his back, and his strong legs grew red, sharp talons. The children burst out in an impressed “ooooooooooooh” as he disappeared high up in the sky. The could vaguely see him roll around to adjust his speed, before he slowly lowered himself towards the ground again. He changed between looping through the air like a ribbon, and swimming like a snake do through water. When his head was at the same height as Makrofaga’s he stopped, swaying gently and shaking his long red moustaches.
“Your ride is here, your majesty”
Grak elbowed Foetida to stop her from giggling while Makrofaga climbed up behind his head and grabbed his horns, secretly glad to escape his piercing dragon eyes. The pearl he usually wore in a chain around his neck hovered over his forehead. Since Foetida normally hitched a ride up to the altitude they needed she just curled up in Makrofaga’s arms and tried to forget her hangover. Gingerly mr Lotus raised his head and swam away through the air.

Despite the dragon’s flying style the ride was pleasant, and much more comfortable than riding a “normal” dragon. Mr Lotus had multicoloured hair that flowed around and shielded them from the cold, high-altitude air. While a normal dragon flew more straight, the flapping of xer wings made the tour bumpy, and the smooth scaly body made it hard to hold on. Swimming the way he did, mr Lotus could adjust his movements and reduce them to a smooth swing from side to side. Despite her headache Foetida soon was asleep in Makrofaga’s arms, and Makrofaga couldn’t help smiling.
“She’s asleep again, your majesty?”
“How did you know?”
“I felt you shift as you looked down on her.”
“Yeah, she’s cute! But don’t tell her, or she’ll try to kill an orc again!”
“I’ll just take a tour around the valley, shall I?”
“Yes, please do.”

Flådhöjden straddled the pass of a large valley. Fact is the valley was so large you had to get into the air to see it properly. Sharp mountains lined its edges, but for some reason the plain between them was vast and flat. The three rivers transporting fresh water into the marble city danced down spiky mountain sides and disappeared through ornate gates. On the other side they came out through the sewers, heavy and black. A large area behind Flådhöjden was shared between Skräpmården and Sprättströget, the fence between them visible as a crisp, straight line. From the air it was easy to see that the two pieces were of equal size, and that they once had been part of a whole. Födolandet stretched its vast fields around them both, feeding of the slightly cleaner water that flowed from Skräpmården. The most fertile pieces bordered Sprättströget, while a long part of the Skräpmården line had sharp rocks as neighbours. Makrofaga had many times pondered expanding over that barren land, but Flådhöjden had vetoed every time she suggested it, and she couldn’t overlook that the cliffs and stones were unstable and sharp. Only the dense population of her queendom made the land interesting. The farm closest to Skräpmården was owned by the Flådhöjden crown. It had been for sale during Makrofaga’s reign, and she still shuddered at the thought of how she wore herself to the knuckles to collect money enough to buy it – only to have the king snatch it at the last opportunity.

Once again Makrofaga eyed Sprättströget. If she just could use that part! She’d been modest when she asked for a twenty meter broad strip – she should’ve asked for the entire thing. The answer would still be no, so…
“I’m not asleep!”
Foetida bolted up, trying to look like she had been awake all the time. Mr. Lotus quietly stopped mid-air.
“Good” said Makrofaga, “How’s it looking?”
The groggy fairy took to the air, shivering before she adjusted to the cold air.
“Cloggy as always, daaahling. You see that congestion over theeeeere? We need to mooooove the houses a few decimeeeeeeters to widen the passage…”
She was about to go on a looooong lecture, but Makrofaga interrupted.
“I need to discuss some security matters.”
“Of course, daaaaahling, I should’ve known. Want diiiiiirt on anyone?”

Foetida was the security officer of Skräpmården, and a very good one once you got past her wish to blackmail and beat up people.
“Dirt and dirt… I want to know everything you can find about Auduin Enris.”
“DAAAAHLING! He’s from Flådhöjden! I’ll be luuuuucky if they know he exiiiiiiiiiist.”
“I’m not so sure about it. Try at least!”
Foetida threw her hands in the air.
“Well, dAAAAAAHling, since you’re paaaaaaaaying to gossip I’m not complaiining.”
Makrofaga dug her cold hands into mr Lotus hair and thought for a while. Now she needed to be tactful, something that was almost impossible for her.
“Mr. Lotus?”
“Yes, your majesty?”
“Whatever we feel – can we pretend to be a couple for a while?”
Foetida stared at them.
“Oh DAAAAAAAAAAAHlings! WHY should you preteeeeeeend?”
They both glared at her. Makrofaga could feel herself cold sweating, a cold that didn’t come from the air around them.
“Why, your majesty?”
“F.. For my part it isn’t pretending, but… if we’re a couple no one will wonder why we’re up here more often than we should.”
They both tried to ignore how Foetida squeeled. Mr Lotus took a thorough look over the valley, pondering the question.
“Yes” he finally said “there’s a backside to that plan, though.”
“It is?”
“Where I come from couples don’t spend time alone together the way you do. Not even if we’re married.”
Foetida groaned.
“Aaaaaw come OOOOOOOOOON! You must at LEEEAAAAst hold HAAAAAAAAAANDS!”
“No.”
“If you’re married?” said Makrofaga.
“Yes.”
“HOW DO YOU GET CHILDREN???”
Foetida folded her arms over her chest.
“Through VEEEEEEEEEEEEERY intense MAAAAAAAAAAIL conversation,” she said, “Haven’t you seeeeeeeeeeeen his handwriting?”
To her surprise Makrofaga could hear mr Lotus chuckle. He had a very neat hand. But the fairy was getting warmed up.
“DAAAAAAAAHLINGS! You, mr, have OOOOOOObviously LEEEEARNED a thing or two here in SkräpmÅÅÅÅÅÅÅÅÅRden. IIIIIIIIs it TOOOOOO much to use that NOOOOOOOOOOW? QUEEEEEEEEEEny here NEEEEEEEEEEEVER do anything without a GOOOOOOD reason! You’ll BOOOOOOOOOOTH be HAppier FOOOR IT!
Makrofaga and mr Lotus tried to look at each other. They both felt found out. Foetida tapped her foot in the air.
“WEEEEEEEELLL?”
“I suppose,” said Makrofaga, “that there’s something to what you’re saying…”
Mr. Lotus just nodded. With a huff Foetida turned towards Skräpmården.
“Good! Now. The kiddies need me.”
And she was off.

They saw her fly down through the wind, like a pink wad of wool. For a while neither of them said anything. Mr. Lotus squirmed, and Makrofaga felt her heart flutter.
“Are we pretending or not?”
“Your majesty, I’m not sure we’re fooling anyone.”
She sighed.
“To be honest, mr Lotus. Every boyfriend I’ve had who hasn’t been a jerk, has broken up since I only cared about Skräpmården. I feel you deserve better.”
“But that’s why I love you!”
Every one of his blue scales turned purple as he blushed. Makrofaga had a hard time seeing it since she blushed too. Admitting personal things felt like ripping out a pound of flesh.
“Soooo… we’re not pretending?”
He flew to a nearby mountain top and coiled around her. After the cold high altitude air she thankfully absorbed as much warmth as she could.
“One of the reason I’m still at Skräpmården,” he said “though I have eighteen kids at home, is that I found a ruler I only thought existed in fairy tales.”
“Now, you’re making me blush!… Who cares for your children???”
“My parents.”
“What happened to the mistress?”
“Mistresses. They care for those too.”
She curled up against the warm wall of scales. If mr Lotus suggested she’d be one of many mistresses she’d have to say no. Being one of many wasn’t her thing.
“I’m not really…” she fumbled for ways to say it.
“…into being part of a harem?”
“Yes”
“Neither am I.”
“Are you on the run from your mistresses?”
“NO! I just didn’t get it to work with any of them!”
He stared out over the valley, with his thoughts elsewhere.
“Grak, Foetida and Odoferus,” he finally said “love each other. They chose. My mistresses were given to me – like trinkets. And when that happens you end up with so many fights, and so much diplomacy.”
He stopped himself and chuckled.
“You’re right! I am on the run from my mistresses! If you can be on the run from people who don’t want you back…”
“You know, that sounds really shitty!”
“Maybe, but eighteen children is still a good outcome.”
He silently beamed with pride. Makrofaga patted his scales.
“I think you owe me something.”
“What?”
“Your real name. I bet it’s not lotus.”
He clasped one of his forepaws over his forehead.
“Perhaps not, but which one do you want? My toddler name? My school name? My ritual name? My…”
“Are you telling me you have one name for each occasion?”
“It’s more like we’re shedding our names every now and then – much like we’re shedding our scales.”
“Can we narrow it down to a family name?”
He sighed and steeled himself.
“It’s Wang.”
She chuckled.
“So you’re royal!”

Minutes came and went. Mr Lotus just stared out over the valley. Finally he turned his head and looked Makrofaga straight in the eyes. For once she didn’t have that horrible shock sent through her body, like she normally had when she had to take eye contact. Surprised she looked into his dark pupils.
“You know what it means?”
“I read a book once that wasn’t about our Kingdom of Heaven. I don’t remember much of it now, but “wang” stuck…”
She blushed and looked to the side.
“…for obvious reasons.”
He gave her a gentle headbutt, like a large and scaly cat.
“It’s a common name, your majesty, but I am royal also.”
“Oh.”
She took the time to look out over the valley and its three countries. Being queen elect meant her training was sort of patchy. She had her education from Flådhöjden, one year of basic military training, and her many years of practice in Skräpmården.
“Then you may actually be able to help me. Were you brought up to rule a country?”
“As a matter of fact I was.”
“Let’s take another tour around the valley!”

This time they flew closer to Flådhöjden and Sprättströget. The military camp was still there, they saw the four tents and the unicorn pen. A little closer to the city wall a normal tent camp was set up. The silk clad elves looked up and pointed to the dragon dancing through the air. Despite being against things that were different they seemed to enjoy the sight. Seemed to. Makrofaga and mr Lotus told each other, at the same time, to rise in the air and withdraw to the mountains. There had been something oddly disciplined about those revelers.
“I’m not sure what’s about to happen,” said Macrofaga, “but my gut feeling is acting up.”
“If I were the ruler of Flådhöjden,” mr Lotus said, “that would mean I prepared a short attack and loaded up on power to be sure it went the way I wanted.”
Makrofaga sighed and looked to her little country. Bigger than Flådhöjden, filled with people who neither wanted to nor could fight, and a lot of children. They had absolutely nothing to counter with, yet they had to try.
“If you were a ruler in my place, what would you do?”

It was dark when they returned. Mr Lotus put down Makrofaga gently before he rushed up in the air, coiled himself together and landed on his feet as a dirty elf. Odoferus, Foetida, and Grak all came out to greet them, the older children trailing in their footsteps. In the darkness Odoferus was just a shining, sleasy smile inside a mass of black bristles.
“BROTHER IN LAW!” he bellowed and held out his arms wide to hug them both, “WELCOME TO THE FAMILY!”
Immediately mr Lotus took a step back, straining as far away from those arms as possible.
“Thanks?”
“Yes,” Odoferus explained, “If queeny is like a sister to me, then you are like a brother in law!”
Makrofaga gave Foetida a sharp look.
“You spilled the beans to how many?”
The fairy beamed.
“All of them! And you were right about Auduin Enris! Boy do I have juice on him!”

***

The herald had been dispatched, pastel blue tabbard, one green and one red shoe, and the message written on rabbit skin parchment with purple ink. This time he was sent back because the ink was in the wrong value of purple. As usual Makrofaga had to run through Skräpmården, clad in the embroidered dress Grak skillfully had assembled and embroidered. She tried to not get it stuck somewhere, she’d be mortified if it broke. Her long necklace rustled and pinched her neck. For her meetings with Auduin Enris she kept the horrgoo out of her face, to make it even more obvious that she had plastered her face with makeup. She regarded herself a kind soul, so she was surprised how eager she was to annoy him.

But when she walked through the city gate and had to pass over the biggest city square she felt small. Every time homesickness hit like a hammer. She missed the tall, white marble arches and the climbing houses. She missed being comfortable and served by magic on every whim. All around her she had the high elves in their light, well fitted clothes, and her dress suddenly felt like a puffed up burlap sack. A burlap sack someone had thrown up various hues of tint on – despite Grak’s beautiful embroderies. She always got a wrinkled nose from someone when she had to ask for something, and she could swear people were turning around behind her whispering things. And, as usual, Auduin Enris was late for his appointment. She had to sit on a chair that was too high for her, dangling her feet and look around, while busy people passed to and fro. No one ever looked at her, yet she felt like an animal put out for demonstration.

She looked at the magic dancing around the walls. It was everywhere here, not like the small, flickering puddles she was used to from home. It climbed like translucent stacks of whipped cream in the corners, it flowed like liquid rainbows over the floor, and it shimmered in the air like burning fairy powder. In many places elves had rerouted it, molded it to suit their needs. The magic cleaning the floor looked milky white, and streamed like a river over her feet. Some of the magic that climbed the walls ended in large upside-down drops emitting light for the parts of the room that wasn’t lit by sunlight. In a way it was overpowering. Makrofaga had to fight her own mind to see the non-magic world behind. On the other hand it was so much home, like suddenly stepping into one’s childhood room again.

At last Auduin Enris showed up. As usual he held some pieces of paper in his hand, and looked like he just came from something important. He didn’t even say her title, or name, he just pointed to his room. She rose to follow, and suddenly saw the thick wads of magic around the door.
“Why is this room sealed?”
Instead of answering he pushed over the threshold and closed the door. No sound would escape from the sealant. Whatever happened to Makrofaga would only be heard by Auduin and her. Hearts pounding she looked up at his thin lips and sharp nose, somewhere above two blue eyes tried to pierce hers. She backed off.
“How did you know the room is sealed?”
She weighed her options.
“It shows. There was magic two hands thick!”
“You can see magic?”
“You can’t?”
Without answering he showed her a chair and sat down himself. It was hard to tell since he was so white to begin with, but she thought he looked a bit pale.
“You’re going to have to beat me up,” she said.
He sighed.
“I just wanted to be able to talk about anything.”
“Ok… Does anyone here know about what happened to Pamphylia?”
“Almost everyone. Her case is on top of the pile, but there are other things happening now.”
‘On top of the pile’ didn’t sound promising. She had heard it several times, and it never meant good news.
“Then you have to beat me up.”
“WHY ARE YOU SO INTENT ON A BEATING???”

Makrofaga stared. Audin Enris hyperventilated until he managed to get calm again. She had never before heard him raise his voice, and they had had dealings for many years.
“Because that would give others a visible reason why you sealed the room. If there is none people are going to speculate. And no one is going to blame you…”
With a sigh Auduin Enris buried his face in his hands.
“I’ll lose this job!”
“I doubt it. I became queen because your predecessor kicked off my predecessor’s leg during a session in this room. Skopas had to walk home with his bones sticking out from the flesh, and died of sepsis three days later. Turnus stayed in office for ten years more.”
Auduin Enris lifted his head out of his hands and listened with his eyes fixed on something far away.
“Did he beat you up?”
“I was cuter back then.”

When minutes had passed without Auduin even moving Makrofaga started to fidget in her chair. She weighed different alternatives against each other, and tried to pick the most effective one. Hopefully also the less mean one. She couldn’t see any point in overdoing it.
“Auduin Enris?”
Not a move.
“Auduin? Enris?”
Well, he moved, but he was also deep in thought. He hadn’t heard anything.
“Beel?”
He jumped as if someone had put a torch in his butt.
“How did you know?”
“If you know how, you can dig up every secret in Skräpmården. I know you were adopted, and that you keep in touch with your first family in secret. And I know your wife is still alive.”
He sighed, put the papers on the table and turned to her.
“What difference does it make?”
“You tell me! As if anyone would believe me if I tried to break this secret to your bosses.”
“Your cousin would probably believe you.”
They glared at each other like they were chess players with a spectacular stand-off. Makrofaga was the first one to talk.
“We’re obviously both into genealogy.”

Draft, Kingdom of Heaven, Makrofaga Queen of the Dirty Elves

Pt 4 You sleep the way you make your bed

“Was that the first dead body you’ve seen?” Makrofaga asked as they left the sewer mouth.
Pamphylia was still green faced, though part of it could be the pungent smell from sewage and feces.
“No, but the other ones have been on your funerals. And with all the decorations and…”
The girl fell silent for a while. Searched for words.
“You do very nice things with trash.”
“It’s to remind ourselves that we’re not trash.”

The sewage pipes were hard to argue with. A floating body with parts missing after the rough ride, and drenched in slimy, grey-brown goo made, as an interior designer up in Flådhöjden would say, “a powerful statement”. Since the majority of the dirty elves had made that journey themselves, and wore the marks on their bodies, they never forgot it. The thought lingered over every hut, through every party, and in every beautiful morning. Trash. Not useful. Not wanted. Ugly. Repulsive. They hunted it, tried to swat it out like you swat out mosquitoes, only to see it rise from the dead with another theft from the Flådhöjden elves. It was a daily fight just as real as the fight to keep the house clean and the kids healthy. One of their ways to exorcise it was to hold elaborate funerals. Perpetual flowers made from cloth and tin decorated the body, multicoloured flames where put at its feet, and people visited to made their last goodbyes dressed up in their most colourful clothes and elaborate makeup. The wailing could be heard for miles, and since many lived in Skräpmården the song from a funeral was part of the daily din.

They had walked a few hundred arms when Makrofaga had to stop to let Pamphylia throw up and rest for a while. Silent dirty elves gathered around them. They just looked. Didn’t seem interested in argue or attack. Once Makrofaga had made sure she was right about her gut feeling she turned her attention to Pamphylia. As usual she didn’t really know what to do with a sick girl, and she could feel her arms shake slightly. Fortunately Pamphylia looked as she handled most of it herself. She sat on the stool someone had provided and stared at a point somewhere far away while the green in her face faded. Perhaps some of the reality of Skräpmården finally was about to sink in. Unfortunately Makrofaga knew that look. She had seen it in the face of many charity workers about to leave for the last time. The girl wouldn’t fully understand. Not unless she made the journey through the sewers herself, and, despite everything, that was something Makrofaga didn’t wish on her.

The walk to Kingdom of Heaven took them almost forty minutes. Makrofaga had expected to run the last distance, with irate dirty elves snapping at their feet and waving burning torches. Instead people folded away. Silent, as if they were watching a dead elf walking. She could feel that tingling sense of unreality. Later on she would spill her surprised thoughts for the councilors about how the dirty elves had respected her authority, and they would look at her like she had been amazed that water is wet. Nowadays she held on to that surprise, kept it as it was a precious jewel. She could take that respect for granted, and she knew she’d instantly turn into a bad regent. It was as if it blinded her for her daily duties and made her just expect things to sort out themselves.

Finally they saw Kingdom of Heaven rise above the huts. The usual trails of people either throwing trash or sacrificing to the fire serpented around it. Makrofaga and Pamphylia joined one of the queues, and while they followed it to the top Makrofaga could see the magic thicken around them. The divinities had made a promise the day before, and they intended to keep it. Pamphylia didn’t notice, she was still a bit pale, and she was more occupied with the dirty looks she got from people around her. Once on the top she bowed to the fire.
“It was the right way, wasn’t it” she asked nervously.
Makrofaga was impressed. The fire greetings were different in Skräpmården and Flådhöjden, and the girl had both noticed and tried to mimic the dirty elves.
“Close enough”
She pointed towards Sprättströget and the encampment.
“You see that camp there? That’s the difference we noticed… when you gave our secret away.”

The military tent were all up, and kept meticulously straight. A pen had been set up closest to the fence, inside a pack unicorns prowled about. They were so thin you could see their ribs under their skin. Thick wads of foam hanged from their jaws and their eyes were red with blood lust. Between the tents Flådhöjden guards moved, seemingly off-duty, but none of them was entirely relaxed. Like a resting tiger they could pounce any second they needed. Pamphylia sighed
“Aaaand there’s dad.”
Auduin Enris discussed a paper with one of his guards, occasionally glancing up against Kingdom of heaven.
“You knew he was here, didn’t you?”
“No. He doesn’t… Anyway, he’s been away for a few days, and I have my tutor so…”
The girl took some nervous looks towards the camp.
“I hope he doesn’t recognise me. He doesn’t want me here.”
“He wouldn’t even see you with a crystal orb.”
“Really?”
“We’re behind a veil of magic, because we’re going into the mound.”
Makrofaga had to push the girl to get her going.
“Come! We need to move against the sun.”

Still pushing the babbling girl Makrofaga made sure they circled the mound counterclockwise on the way down. The portal opened when they were almost at the bottom, exactly at border of the stone guards. Makrofaga had never managed to find an exact point for the portal, she suspected there wasn’t one. You walked the path, and if you were let in you suddenly felt engulfed in magic, darkness cradled you, and the next you knew was a long corridor lined with idols twice as high as any elf. Each idol held a lamp burning with scented earth almond oil, and the smell of roses filled the air. Pamphylia stopped in her step, completely petrified.
“Wow!”
Before Makrofaga could say anything they both heard the soft sobbing of a woman. At the feet of one of the idols a dirty elf stod on all four, as if she had fallen over. A limp child layed between her arms.
“We’d better help those out” Makrofaga said.
They hurried over, and soon saw the fever sweat pearling down the woman’s forehead. The child was red from the heat burning within.
“How are you?” said Makrofaga, more as a way to gain attention than a question to probe the situation.
This was obviously mud fever. Before horrgoo it could sweap Skräpmården and take half of the dirty elves in a few days. Now it could be contained, but those who got ill had to fight teeth and claw to survive.
“I can’t carry him anymore! I’m too weak!”
She meant to wail, but the illness reduced her voice to a whisper. Makrofaga pulled her up to sitting position and then lifted her in her arms.
“You take the kid!”
Pamphylia hesitated.
“Go on! They need the hospital!”
A limp body isn’t easy to lift, and Pamphylia had to make a few attempts before she could lift the boy in a manner that was comfortable for him. He was almost unconscious and the only sound he made was faint cries for his mommy.

For a moment they walked in silence. Makrofaga was in one way relieved. The idols and the temple needed someone who could confidently give a tour and reveal select pieces of the mysteries. For her own part she felt she would mostly go “uh… uhm… we made these… statues… from trash, you know”. Carrying the ill woman absolved her of talking. She stumbled and breathed heavily. The woman wasn’t fat like her, but she wasn’t willowy thin either. The corridor felt like it was seven leguas long, though it couldn’t have been more than five minutes of walk until they heard the happy din of the perpetual feast in the heart of the mound.

The inside of the mound was shaped like a flower. Library, temple, achemy labs and everything else inside had an opening to a central round square. In the middle of the square was a golden fountain, and while they didn’t have time to take a look golden carps swam the water, their fins flowing like veils with every move. Around the fountain stood a long table where the visitors ate the food they fetched in the kitchen, well knowing they could eat for the entire day if they wanted. Every chair was filled, and people were chatting happily with each other, occasionally breaking out in the loud partying Skräpmården above ground was so famed for. As soon as Makrofaga and Pamphylia stepped into the square with their burden people sprang to their feet. A crowd fought to take over carrying the woman, and soon they all meandered to the hospital, where the doctors took over.

The partying crowd soon returned to the square, and Makrofaga and Pamphylia were left to see the woman and her child be cared for. Doctors put them in the same bed, and helped them drink a glowing liquid from golden chalices. While the couple still were hot with fever they lost some of their sickly red colour, and fell properly asleep, the woman cradling her son in her arms. It was a beautiful picture against the painted walls, but neither Makrofaga nor Pamphylia was given time to admire it. They were unceremoniously showed into another room where they were sprayed thoroughly with diluted horrgoo.
“Uuuuuh!” shivered Pamphylia “So this is why you stink!”
“Yes,” answered Makrofaga, “Mudfever is not child’s play.”

They returned to the square, and this time the crowd payed them little attention. Pamphylia happened to look up, and again stopped in her step. Golden mosaics covered the entire ceiling, sending reflexes and sparks over the room. Scenes from the myths seemed to move with the glow from the torches in the square, and the cupola was crowned with a rose. Makrofaga let her ponder the beauty a few moments before she gently pushed the girl towards the temple. Outside the holy room Pamphylia stopped and lightly poked a torch.
“Why isn’t the air filled with smoke?”
Surprised Makrofaga drew a deep breath. Crisp air mixed with the mist of rose oil filled her lungs.
“I should know…”
She digged through her memories.
“…I can look it up.”

This temple was clean, and surprisingly quiet. Happy chatter bobbled around in the air, partly from the outside, partly from the groups that moved around the room paying homage to the different deities. Here and there dirty elves had drawn together the temple benches and sat talking, comparing prayer requests and daily troubles. In the middle of the room another pillar stood, with a bowl on top. The fire within was fed by rose scented oil. Like anything else in Skräpmården it was made of trash. You could still see outlines of the tin boxes that had been carefully hammered together to form a pillar and a bowl. But they were both polished to a silver sheen and scenes from the forest where hammered in crisp reliefs. The foxes, the hares, the unicorns, and the rosebushes where so life like you almost expected them to jump out from the metal. Here too the pillar had the inscription
“Kingdom of Heaven
Kingdom of Hearts
Where everything ends
And everything starts”

Once Makrofaga and Pamphylia had payed their respects to the fire Pamphylia looked around the temple.
“So you have another temple here. Dad have always suspected it.”
“He does, doesn’t he?”
Makrofaga’s dark tone created an odd bubble of silence around them. For once it was the person before her who started to squirm, but Makrofaga didn’t take notice until a few hours later, when she had churned through the memories a few times. Instead she took the girl through the library, showed her the large collection of books, covering every conceivable subject. They were all slightly stained from their time in the sewers. Next were the stinking alchemy laboratories where horrgoo was manufactured and constantly improved. Pamphylia took it all in with gaping mouth
“This place is HUGE! How can it fit into the mound?”
Makrofaga shrugged.
“Time and space have little meaning here. What needs to fit, fits.”

Whiteclad dirty elves ran around the steaming kitchen, hard at work preparing fish, chicken and vegetables from the gardens. It was hard to see anything, but the gigantic cauldrons needed to cook up enough food were visible like the shadows of gigantic whales. The damp made their clothes heavy like armour, and Makrofaga soon brought Pamphylia to the gardens to escape. Again they where among groups of chatting elves. This time under lush trees and overflowing vegetable beds. Despite many dirty elves nabbing leaves from the cabbage plantations and berries from the bushes there was more than enough to cook from. Pamphylia helped herself to a handful of shimmering blue pealons without asking.
“I wonder if they will survive – those two we carried to the hospital I mean.”
The chatter of happy dirty elves and the faint choir of voices repeating grammar verses from the school traveled through Makrofaga’s mind while she pondered the question. She had seen so many gravely ill people.
“Yes, I think so. But they were on their last leg. If we hadn’t showed up they’d died in the corridor.”
“And the gods would have allowed it?”
“Apparently they didn’t!”
Before Pamphylia got a chance to answer a shadow silently went around a bush. It solidified as mr Lotus who bowed smoothly before Makrofaga.
“Your majesty, everything is prepared.”
“Good!” she turned to Pamphylia “We’ll only disrupt the lectures if we visit the school, so now we go to the place you came here for.”

Another long dark corridor. They wouldn’t had found its mouth unless mr Lotus showed it to them, and after they entered they walked for a long time. They went through the kind of darkness that seemed to swallow you and never end. Mr Lotus never said anything, just showed the way. Soon Pamphylia fell silent, since Makrofaga only answered her questions with single words. They walked, and walked, and walked.

A small spot of light formed the end of their journey. It grew to form the window pane in a wooden door. The hinges were ornate, though heavy and stretched like branches over the wood, the wood where thick, and the lock sturdy. Mr Lotus didn’t need a key to open, though they heard the gears click as soon as he touched the door. Silently Makrofaga showed Pamphylia into a white room. There was a bed, a desk, even a shelving unit with some books. A kitten slept on the patchwork bedcover. There were also a door that seemed to lead to a bathroom. Pamphylia looked around.
“Well… this is not exactly what I expected?”
“No?” said Makrofaga “What did you expect?”
The girl shrugged.
“I dunno’… A treasury perhaps.”
“If this place had a treasure I’d use the gold to to buy Sprättströget.”
She had no idea how to say the next thing, so Makrofaga gripped a wad of her dress and pushed it out.
“This is your prison.”
Pamphylia sat down on the bed and patted the kitten.
“Yeah, right”
“It is. You revealed a state secret against the regent’s whish…”
“I DIDN’T KNOW IT WAS A STATE SECRET!”
“As if we would tell you! But you saw that we hold onto the horrgoo, you saw that we never left it within your reach, you had to eavesdrop to find out its name, and dig a box out of the street to get it. Weren’t that enough clues that we didn’t want you to know?”
“But I have to go home!”
“Clothes and everything else you need is here. I’ll tell your parents, and the regent. At the moment you have to stay in the cell – I can’t guarantee your safety outside, but if you behave you’ll probably be let out for walks.”
Makrofaga and mr Lotus could see her swallow, look from one of them to the other, and give in.
“Okay then.”

The dark, long corridor seemed even darker when they left. Both Makrofaga and mr Lotus tried to shake the feeling that they were monsters, and brooded on their own on if they did right or not. Soon they saw the mouth out to the rest of the complex.
“She’ll live a more luxurious life than all of the dirty elves,” said Makrofaga.
“Yes, majesty.”
“But… a kitten mr Lotus?”
“Even with the guards bringing food she’ll go mad otherwise.”
“Fair enough.” She sighed “And now we’ll see if a young woman is important enough for a military raid.”

***

It hadn’t been fun locking up Pamphylia. The icy feeling of being a monster lingered for hours. But telling her father, Auduin Enris, would be on an entire new level of ‘not fun’. To perk up her confidence Makrofaga took some time in one of the hospital’s bathrooms to wash up and try to look at least a little bit regal. The jewelry she’d confiscated from the girl to use as proof weighed heavily in her pockets. It bounced against her leg as she returned outside and walked to the top of the mound again. The camp hadn’t changed, the unicorns were still crazy with blood lust, and she decided to take a slightly different route this time. Her spot at the fence would be farther from the tents, and as a bonus she would keep all her fingers if she absentmindedly would grab the willow twigs. Mr Lotus would have to do as a body guard. He would do nice, when she thought closer of it. It was just that she didn’t have the group of highly trained guards the Flådhöjden king always had around him.

This time Auduin Enris came up to them without Makrofaga needing to call for him. As usual he looked like he swallowed a lemon whole and couldn’t sit because it was on its way out in the other end.
“We’re still just here for training.”
“Okay. And I’m here to speak to you as a father.”
To her secret delight he looked surprised.
“What?”
“Your daughter has been caught revealing our state secrets…”
With a groan Auduin buried his face in both his hands.
“I told her not to.”
Makrofaga opened her mouth and felt a tap on her shoulder.
“Excuse me, your majesty,” said mr Lotus and turned to Auduin “You told her not to what?”
Auduin Enris returned immediately to his straight backed, stuck up ways.
“That doesn’t matter.”
He huffed some extra.
“I’ll take it up with the regent. And I’ll talk to my daughter.”
“I’d be surprised if you did the latter,” said Makrofaga, “I have her arrested.”
There was a brief moment of silence while Auduin connected the dots.
“You don’t even have a prison!”
Makrofaga unceremoniously pointed a thumb to Kingdom of Heaven.
“She’s in there.”
“So it is hollow.”
“In a way, in a way. And you should think of that it’ll cave in if you try to dig in it. Clay soil, you know — unpredictable.”
“You can’t do this! You’re subservient to Flådhöjden! You have no right to arrest one of our citizens!”
“I so have. At least when it comes to state secrets. It’s in the first treaty.”
Auduin got beet red and vibrated. It looked like he had a mouthful for them, but couldn’t spit it out.
“I need proof” he said at last.
Makrofaga gave him the jewery. Like Pamphylia herself it was sensible, if you can say that of jewelry, and plain. When Auduin took it he for a few seconds cradled it in his hand like it was a fragile chicken.
“I can allow her mother one visit…”
“Her mother… isn’t with us.”
This time it was Makrofaga’s turn to fall silent. When an elf from Flådhöjden “isn’t with us” the expression usually meant that xe had been thrown into the sewers.
“Well, I can’t allow you in.” She said at last.

That evening the Odografoe family held a party to celebrate their newest family member. Through a long and and complicated chain of babysitting favours all kids in the vicinity had sober minders, while most of their parents marinated their brains in cheap booze, sang themselves hoarse and flirted with each other (though not always with their long-time spouses). Grak was behind this arrangement, and with Odoferus and Foetida as sweethearts she had a considerable amount of personal interest in it. The only reason no kids ended up with Makrofaga was Silver’s vicious resistance, and while she gladly would have helped she had to admit it would exhaust her. Now she sat in her hut and listened to the cacophony from the feast, wishing she could join. She had a few things to do first, and the treaty book lay open before her.

When one state arrests another state’s citizen on the grounds of espionage or similar, the first response is usually to use diplomacy. Not always in the sense of hug and make up, more often in the sense of ‘give us our citizen you dumbf*cks!’ expressed in more ornate terms. But when one state were much weaker, like Skräphöjden was to Flådhöjden, there was a real chance the stronger just took its military and ran the weaker state over. At least if the citizen was valuable enough. Gaming on Pamphylia being too lightweight was probably stupid. Makrofaga felt the knot in her stomach and ransacked her brain to find something else they could have done. She had done it over and over for the last hours, and always ended up at the same conclusion. That they could gamble on Pamphylia was an odd stroke of luck. In any other case they would have just had to hand over the recipe for horrgoo and see another of their precious properties stolen. She could only hope her plan would work.

Suddenly she heard a suprised “duuuuuude” from Silver on the other side of the door. Party nights when she couldn’t participate he guarded the hut from drunk intruders – which was another thing he saved his few sober neurons for. This time he let someone in. At the first glance it could be any dirty elf, the horrgoo, the patchwork clothes, even the elaborate makeup was there, and at first Makrofaga thought Silver had messed up. Then she took a closer look. And a double take. It was Auduin Enris.
“Good evening, your majesty”
Makrofaga collected her chin from her chest. She meant to be secure and ask something about how he’d found the note she’d hidden in Pamphylia’s jewels. Instead the first words that came to mind jumped over her lips.
“Wow! How many times have you done that???”
He just folded his arms over his chest and glared at her. She sighed.
“Sit down”
Before he sat down he threw a few books, some alchemy utensils and a broken horrgoo box on her table.
“Is that enough?”
Makrofaga poked the stuff. Always plain and simple, Pamphylia was very much her father’s daughter.
“I wish I could say yes, but…”
Auduin threw himself onto a chair and it bended dangerously from his harsh treament.
“I know, I know, I know…”
“It would be nice,” said Makrofaga sharply “if you STOPPED INTERRUPT ME!”

The commotion from the party outside effectively drenched their conversation, even Makrofaga’s sharp words. The party guests themselves weren’t interested in eavesdropping, and if anyone came too close Silver would shoo them away under the excuse that the queen needed to rest. Makrofaga had told him to patrol around the house, though she wasn’t sure he’d actually do it. Anyone who had seen Silver walk was always relieved when he stopped, he looked like a bunch of sticks with interpersonal problems any time he tried. Makrofaga poked the alchemy gear.
“Everyone here knows she let the cat out of the bag. As long as I keep her she won’t get lynched, and I can’t do it forever. Sooner or later I’ll have to dish out some sort of punishment.”
“What kind of punishment?”
With a sigh Makrofaga pushed over the treaty book to Auduin. It was already open on the right place.
“Quartering. But if I want to be merciful I can have her strangled first.”
He read the piece, and his face folded over itself while he pressed his lips together.
“I… I… You obviously didn’t call me here just for kindness. What do you want me to do?”
“I want you to spy.”
A soft whisper from the deities made her add.
“And if you’re already spying for the regent, I want you to be on our side as a double agent.”

***

Once Audin Enris had slunk away Makrofaga joined the party for the new baby, and maybe she drunk a bit more than usual. The tension from having to force the one person she feared to spy for them, was so much she let lose like a bunch of feathers from a broken pillow. When she woke up the next day she couldn’t remember much. Odoferus had been dancing the tables with the baby in a sling, singing
“She’ll be named Busa, Busa is her name! Busa, Busa, Busa is her name!”
And that was almost all Makrofaga could recall. It had been fun, anyway, and if her pulsing eyes were right she’d woken up in her own bed. Carefully, to not have the last pieces of drunkness and the budding hangover to take a horrible revenge, she looked around. That table was her table. That broken mirror was her mirror. That three-legged stool was her stool… There were at lot of things around that were hers, so she must be at home. Good. Now the next test – was it possible to shift in the bed for the future prospect of sitting up? She leaned slowly backwards and suddenly stopped.

There was someone sleeping in her bed.

Makrofaga was immediately sober. Ending up with someone in bed almost always meant complications. There were a bunch of persons who thought it would be a shortcut to the gravy pot, there were a bunch of others who had jealous spouses, and there was that horrible category that was just plain unsanitary – and that meant something in Skräpmården. Makrofaga didn’t dare turn around. Instead she gingerly felt behind her back.
“Please don’t be Odoferus! Please don’t be Odoferus!” she thought.
While Odoferus, Foetida and Grak had some sort of open relationship, the morning meetings tended to become frosty if Odoferus and Makrofaga did something that even hinted at them being more than friends. But the person was smooth, almost hairless. Not Odoferus. Good. Could it be Grak? That would be a new one, at least. But this one wasn’t as large. Probably a tall person. Probably not as tall as Grak’s two meters. Who did she know that were taller than her? Quite a few since she was rather short herself. Then it struck her that she’d met one person the day before that was taller than her. Her heart nearly stopped.

A yawn behind her broke her cold sweat paralysis. Now she had to turn around. Dreading the sight she rolled over on her back and turned her head. And looked straight into the panicking eyes of mr Lotus. That was the moment Odoferus, still drunk as a skunk in a funk, broke into the hut waving a bottle.
“Hey, queeny! Is it time for the morning meeting yet” he managed to drunk giggle before he took in the scene.
The following silence seemed to last forever. Odoferus first stared at Makrofaga, then at mr Lotus, and back again. Then something in his brain seemed to click, he slammed his mouth shut, backed out of the hut, and closed the door quietly.

After the world’s most awkward breakfast, and a very quiet morning meeting Makrofaga found Odoferus waiting for her outside the hut. He’d kindly brought his special brew against hangovers.
“Congratulations!” he said.
“On what? My morning heart attack?”
“Are you kidding! He’s a million gold pieces gain!”
“And one of my councilors.”
She started her daily walk around Skräpmården, hoping Odoferus would get the hint. Unfortunately Odoferus was a master in ignoring obvious hints and trailed after her.
“So what? We have ended up in bed a few times.”
Makrofaga stopped and rubbed her temples while gossiphungry dirty elves got on high alert around them.
“Guess how I know it’s not good to end up in bed with a councilor!”
“Aaaawww, but he’s so cute! And almost impossible to get! Even I haven’t succeded!”
Instead of answering Makrofaga glanced over Odoferus hairy body, his shoddy frock coat, the wyvern teeth necklace and his sleasy smile. Something told her he was far, very far, from what mr Lotus preferred. Yet again, if she looked to her own flubbery body, her warts and tendency to pinch her pimples in public, she would be on the same distance, so maybe Odoferus picked up on something she missed.
“Where is he, by the way?” Odoferus asked.
“I sent him to check up on our prisoner. He’s the one with a knack for those things.”
“Of course,” Odoferus giggled, “You do realise we’ve put a lady in a dungeon guarded by a dragon?”
Makrofaga scratched her head and laughed.
“No, but they have to come from somewhere, don’t they?”
She continued her walk, unable to shake off Odoferus. After almost an hour, and three neighbour quarrels later, he sighed.
“Why are you panicking? First of all, it may be a one off, and if not…”
“Yes, if not” Makrofaga interrupted, “I don’t have time! I’m married to my queendom!”
It was not a figure of speech – previous attempt to have relationships have made painfully clear that her brain could stretch over either ruling or “girlfriending”, not both.
“Aaand you may have found the only one who could understand that…”
He put his arm around her shoulders and breathed morning after breath in her face.
“…Let me fill you in on the gossip!”

Draft, Kingdom of Heaven, Makrofaga Queen of the Dirty Elves

Pt 3 The girl

Where magic is scarce there’s a reciprocity between a city’s “finer” parts and its slum. From the slum come the workers who cook, clean, and take care of the few children rich people have. From the rich parts trickles money that stretches to feed way more people than you could think is possible. This is a bond that didn’t exist between Flådhöjden and Skräpmården. Flådhöjden was managed by magic. Food, delicious, nutritious and beautiful, was cooked by magic, and set the dishes on the tables in elaborate displays. Magic swept the streets and kept the houses clean. Kids roamed free because magic kept them safe, and alerted their parents if anything was afoot. Any boring task that others would give to a servant was here delegated to magic. Any illness or injury was cured by magic. Dark nights when clouds blanketed the moon you could see the entire city glow from the huge currents of magic streaming through it. Considering how Skräpmården was splotchy and had large dry areas it wasn’t surprising that many of the dirty elves thought Flådhöjden stole their magic too.

The only place where the high elves and the dirty elves met naturally was the market. Long ago it had been two strips of market stalls on each side of road leading up to Flådhöjden. Then the high elves decided to build a bridge over it, to keep visitors from seeing those embarrassing loudmouth elves in their garish clothes. In the shadow of the bridge the market still thrived, though. While magic could provide anything, the Flådhöjden elves appreciated the variation that came with buying craft goods, clothes, and food made by the Skräpmården elves. The Skräpmården elves, of course, appreciated making a living from something else than the sewers. Even though Grak Silverstickaren was so famous she didn’t need to, she sometimes set up a market stall here. The market didn’t just attract elves, fay creatures came from the entire world to visit, and customers with other tastes and body shapes made for valuable challenges. Even if most of them came from countries nearby she didn’t want to put that opportunity down – and she could get gossip from Flådhöjden that was impossible to get from inside Skräpmården.

At the moment she was fitting a frock coat on a two meter tall elf, quite the muscle mountain and probably way too beefy for the taste of “real” Flådhöjden elves. On the other hand few succeed in moving a large man a millimeter if it’s to a place he doesn’t want to go – like the sewers.
“Well honey! This is absolutely gooooorgeous!”
He twirled around and took a look at his back in Grak’s makeshift mirror.
“It makes my bum look sOO juicy!”
With eyes shining with admiration he went on to study the colourful curbits patterns Grak had embroidered on the sleeves.
“Honey, I don’t even know where to begin…”
Then he spent fifteen minutes scooping praise in spades over her. Grak just smiled and waited. He was one of her regulars, and she knew when or if it was necessary to stop him.
“You haven’t thought of moving up to Flådhöjden, have you honey?” he suddenly asked.
“I’m afraid not. A polite orc didn’t fair well the last time I was there, and even if I roughed up I’d still be an orc.”
He looked worried.
“But Skräpmården is sooo unhealthy. And with this new plans, who knows what… AhA! You could live with me and Sylvester! No one is ever going to complain, honey!”
“My spouses would have something against that.”
“You mean the hairy one and the pink fai…”
Grak put up a finger.
“DON’T say it!”
But it was too late. A pink flash zoomed through the air, and started orbiting the customer’s head emitting little pink puffs of powder.
“WHO ARE YOU CALLING A PINK FAIRY??? I’M CERISE!”
With her heart pounding Grak dived for a burlap bag. There was one thing that Foetida hated hearing “pink fairy”, but regulars provided stability, and not even the most successful artist could ditch that. While the customer gently tried to push away his tiny assailant
“Ouch! Oh I’m so sorry! Ow! I was terribly rude, honey! Ouch! Ow! I apologise!”
Grak waved the bag through the air trying to bag her irate girlfriend. The drapings around her fitting “room” danced around like they were full of crazy weasels (not far from the truth), and people outside the stall stopped and stared.

Finally Grak had her girlfriend in the bag, tied it up with double strings, and hung it on one of the clothes hooks. The burlap bulged and shook with Foetida’s attempts to get out, and her foul curses over everything in general, and the customer in particular still leaked from the holes of the fabric.
“I’m so, terribly sorry! My girlfriend has this sore spot and…”
“Just a moment, hon!”
The customer stood transfixed by his own reflexion in the mirror. Pink, no cerise fairy dust had settled over all over his head, most of his hair, and his shoulders.
“Honey, do you have a brush?”

Of course Grak had clothes brushes, and she couldn’t be more eager to give him one. Pink splotches were everywhere on the pastel blue silk she had worked so hard to protect from the dirty reality of Skräpmården. Without even looking at her he took the brush and started brushing. But instead of removing the dust he evened it out, carefully underscoring accidental patterns and making vibrating shades that grew thinner and thinner farther down the frock coat. It was as if a vibrating sun rise had imprinted itself on him and his clothes. He beamed at himself in the mirror.
“This will be the pièce de résistance tonigh! honey, I absolutely must pay some extra!”
Grak had a hard time picking up her chin from the ground.
“…I’d be stupid to say no, but…”
Without letting her finish the customer opened his purse and let gold pieces rain into her hands. Then he left before she could say some more.

Elves are by nature light creatures, but this man looked like the ground should shake under him when he made his way through the crowd, still beaming like a happy child over his new looks. Grak stood motionless, her hands full with gold, looking after him. She was still not sure she’d actually lived through what just had happened. Another furious attempt from Foetida to break free made her sober up.
Foetida wasn’t even half way out of the bag when Grak roared at her
“What in the five hells are you doing??? He is a regular!!!”
“DAAAAAHling! Iiiiiif he’s a regulAAAHR he coouuld have some manners!”
“He’s the freakin’ general! The highest military officer in Flådhöjden!”
“So HWHAT!”
“Do you want our kids to eat??? Do you want them to LIVE?”
Grak, Foetida, and Odoferus didn’t perhaps form the most functional family, but it was good enough, and their five children were as happy and as well fed as Skräpmården kids could be.
“That DOOOHRK can’t even hurt a FLYYYY!”
“He’s the only elf who’s killed an orc in hand to hand combat!”
Foetida snapped shut. For five minutes they just glared at each other.
“Well, he could still have some maaaahnners!”
Grak glared again and put away the gold.
“Shouldn’t you monitor the crowds?”
Being grumpy Foetida had withdrawn into her hair, but she extended a hand outside the fluff and waved dismissively
“They’re good, DAAAAAAAAHling. Looks as they should.”
“Did you see our queen?”
“OOOOOHn her way home now. Let me grump alone!”

If you asked any of the dirty elves about Makrofaga most of them would say that they had met her, but they didn’t know what she did as a queen, and that they made it on their own for most of the time. It wasn’t far from the truth. Skräpmården wasn’t bigger than it took her two hours to walk around it. She took that walk every day, using slightly different paths through the week. Being shy and awkward she wasn’t the one who could talk to people and make friends, but after fifty years she had sort of grown on enough persons to know them. Her two hour walk usually took her five hours, because many stopped her, asked her for help with any problem they thought a queen should solve. Why they accepted Makrofaga’s method she never figured out. She got the feeling they wanted a queen who swooped in on on a golden throne, waved a scepter and then some royal force of nature would turn everything right again. Her method was mostly to find the person who could handle the problem, and connect xer to those who needed help. She worked hard to see the actual persons, the actual problems, and the actual connection that would work out. What her subjects saw out of this work was her passing by once a week and give a tip – a good one if you used it – and then disappear.

Of course there were hard things to handle. Neighbour quarrels could grow out of hand in hours, dig themselves into the heartstrings of the persons who took part, and fester for years. Mr Lotus showing up in Skräpmården had been a gift from the gods, since he was a champion in mediate between heated feelings. Still Makrofaga dreaded these conflicts since she always was the first to stumble upon them, and had to hear people out when they were at the ‘scream on top of the lungs” stage. Every time it was like having a grater drawn over the heart. Worse still was deaths. Nothing can fix deaths, and even with magic and horrgoo there were a few every week. She did her best to comfort those still alive, and it never felt enough.

She was always tired when she came home, and if there was food she bought a tray of greasy somethings from the little street peddler close to her hut. This day she still had half of it left when Cloelia, one of Odoferus’, Foetida’s and Grak’s kids, ambushed her.
“You got a guest” she said eyeing the tray.
Guests had a habit of showing up every day, so Makrofaga wasn’t suprised. But the little kid was wide-eyed.
“It’s one of them SNOBS! Those who built funny things.”
“Thanks for telling me,” said Makrofaga, “Want a deep fried piece of apple?”
“YES!”
Cloelia grabbed the greasy, dripping thing and, to Makrofaga’s relief, ran for it. If there was one thing she didn’t understand it was kids. She tried to pat down her hair, and hoped she hadn’t dripped so much grease on herself it would be visible. “Those who built funny things” didn’t say much – half of the charity projects ending up in Skräpmården involved building things. With a deep breath she rounded her hut to greet her guest.

The elf on her doorstep would have been seventeen if she had been a human, she had brown hair, intelligent brown eyes, and dressed plainly and practically. She had been the leader of a project that a few months earlier had set up different contraptions to capture magic in the air and lead it down to needing dirty elves. Her name was Pamphylia, and she could be the poster child for well meaning charity workers who forgot to think outside their own sphere. The contraptions did lead magic to the designated places, but since they suck it out of the air they also randomly dried out big areas of Skräpmården, leaving ten times as many without it than they helped. This posed an unusual diplomatic problem for Makrofaga. On a personal level she couldn’t look past that while Pamphylia was mature in many ways, her hope for others and her enthusiasm in helping was of a five year old. The girl would need to mature by breaking that enthusiasm against a harsh reality, and Makrofaga did not want to hold the axe. On an official level personal relations still made a mess of things; Pamphylia was Auduin Enris’s daughter.

Once the charity group had left some of Skräpmården’s rougher element just happened to vandalise each and every one of the magic catchers in a remarkably coordinated raid. This may have had to do with some of the things Makrofaga said during her walk earlier that day, but no actual orders had ever been given – just a few suggestions between friends. If the news ever reached Pamphylia’s ears was hard to tell – the only official channel of communication between the two places were Makrofaga’s dealings, and gossip had a hard time travel, even via the market. However, the girl looked more excited than disappointed, so she probably wasn’t there because of any hard feelings. Feeling the weight of a five hour walk with constant social interaction Makrofaga invited her in for a chat and a cup tea – provided she didn’t mind that Makrofaga finished her food.

Something you had to accept in Skräpmården was that there was no secrets. Even well-built huts like Makrofaga’s had thin walls that let out every sound, and you had to count on every conversation being heard by passers-by outside. Everyone in the entire Skräpmården already knew that the military camp close to Kingdom of Heaven was put there for more than the usual reasons, and that the queen and her councilors suspected that the secret of horrgoo had escaped to Flådhöjden. Indeed, most of the things Makrofaga had discussed during her walk was conspiration theories and suitable punishment for the traitor. She had repeated over and over that they didn’t know exactly what the high elves knew, and that they needed to know more before they could do anything. Despite drinking tea her throat felt dry from the ordeal.
“Soo…” said Pamphylia “did it work?”
Makrofaga sighed
“The structures was vandalised pretty soon after you left. I’m sorry, but people needed the material for other things and…”
Pamphylia looked confused, and when realisation struck she laughed a slightly embarrassed laugh.
“Oh those! They were a bit of a shot in the dark anyway. No, I mean – have you seen any other change?”
There were so many hints in that tone of voice that Pamphylia practically were juggling manicules pointing to something Makrofaga didn’t see. She tried to kick her brain awake again, and could still not see what the girl was hinting at.
“No?”
Slightly flustered Pamphylia started to push her teacup around on the table.
“You see, I took home some of that horrgoo…”
While Makrofaga gripped her cup harder and harder the girl told the tale of how she had analyzed the salve in her home alchemist studio, realised its wonderous qualities, and told her father, her teachers and a few select officers about it. For a while Makrofaga felt as if she was in freefall. She remembered some of those officers, they were persons who could be amiable off field and suddenly turn into hardened monsters on field. Quietly she put down her teacup before she broke the china.
“People up there,” said Pamphylia, “they think you’re stupid. They talk about you as if you are animals, or trash. I wanted to prove that you are intelligent.”
“I see… Where did you get that horrgoo?”
“You hold onto it pretty hard! But I found a small box on the road one day…”
“Did you see who dropped it?”
Makrofaga’s abrupt interruption threw Pamphylia off track.
“N… no. It was stomped into the clay and broken. It had probably been there for a while?”
“A moment! I’ve forgotten to serve the deities! I’m sorry!”

Strictly it wasn’t necessary to serve the deities every meal you yourself ate, but Makrofaga needed to think. It was a small mercy that the girl had picked a box almost buried in one of the pathways – this meant Makrofaga probably wouldn’t have to deal with a lynching during the night. But what should she do with the girl? She hadn’t had to deal with a situation like this any time during her reign, she didn’t have the correct regulations clear in her memory, and the girl was the daughter to the officer responsible for Skräpmården questions. Her tired brain creaked and protested against being forced to think, and all she wanted to do was to fold herself into a small package and hide under the bed. She put up the last bottle cap and quietly asked Transcendentia to call back mr Lotus to the hut. Then she sat down and took a large swig of tea.
“You see,” she said to Pamphylia, “the reason we’ve been holding so hard onto our horrgoo is we wanted it to be a secret. I’m suprised you even know the name .”
“Well, I’m pretty good at listening.”
Mr Lotus quietly entered the hut. He was in human shape, but dragon was radiating around him like heat radiated around a sauna stove, and since he heard the last sentences that dragon seemed to be growling.
“You may have committed a crime.” said Makrofaga.
“Oh. But I didn’t know it was a secret”
“I know, and I need to consult my councilors. I suggest you go home – mr Lotus will escort you to the Flådhöjden gate – discuss this with your father and meet me at the market tomorrow”

When mr Lotus had left with Pamphylia Makrofaga closed the door carefully and banged her head against the door frame. It had been a child letting the secret out. A child old enough to punish, and Makrofaga had to decide in which way. She hated being a queen.

Makrofaga sat with a book at her table when mr Lotus returned half an hour later. Two teapots stod beside her, steaming hot both of them. Headache and the still lingering hangover wrinkled her forehead. Silver snored in a corner, the only sound made inside the hut. The sound of the sprawling slum seemed strangely distant.
“Your majesty, why did you let her go?”
“I don’t know, but I realise I probably saved the entire Skräpmården when I did.”
She put down the book – the one book that came with her job and listed all the laws, regulations and treaties that existed between Skräpmården och Flådhöjden.
“You can’t half-ass anything with those snobs. They take any fault, even the slightest ritual one, and turn it against us. I just found the right chapter – if we hold a Flådhöjden citizen without proof of a clear violation of our laws they have the right to tear down and burn hut upon hut until they find said citizen again.”
“Yet you can’t just let her go, your majesty. You’ll lose your people.”
Makrofaga pulled out a chair.
“The people will do fine without me, I’m not that important. Tea?”
Mr Lotus just nodded and sat down. When Makrofaga tried to pour him a cup he gently motioned her hand away, then he took the pot and refilled hers before he filled his own.
“Even if she’s clever enough to _not_ show up tomorrow” said Makrofaga, “we’ll have a lot to do.”

***

The market set up when the first grey rays of the sun tickled the ground. Wads of mist drifted between the wooden skeletons of the market stalls, and those who were unpacking weren’t very talkative. Same went for Makrofaga and her company. Not even the heavy makeup and the smudgy streaks of horrgoo could hide the dark circles under her eyes. Odoferus and Foetida looked remotely perkier. Hypothetically they could have slept through the night, but they had two toddlers who hadn’t adjusted to a normal sleep schedule yet, and since they had had a depression party the night before, they couldn’t persuade their baby sitter to help them again.
“Odoferus” said Makrofaga weakly “you need to push up your face a little – it’s hanging on your chest!”
He looked down and then forced his eyes open.
“Sorry queeny. It’s been a hard night.”
Foetida had a small teapot in her hands and drank relentlessly from its spout.
“Do you think she’ll come?”
As soon as the words were uttered every person withing earshot stalled slightly, and when they moved again they positioned so they could hear better. Faces that had been morning tired were suddenly tense.
“If she doesn’t we’ll have a lot less trouble with the snobs,” said Makrofaga.
The little fairy took another swig from the spout.
“Still think we should beat her up daaaahling.”
“That would probably be the last thing we’d do alive.”
“I’m not suuuuure I caaaare.”

Neither mr Lotus nor Grak were there, and two wrung out party parents could seem like an odd choice for a security guard, but they both were highly effective. Part of it came, obviously, from being parents. A person who need to herd five kids to a grown age learn quickly to be alert on threats, and handle all kinds of skirmishes. Furthermore Odoferus were known as the “No you can’t!” dude. Makrofaga had the tendency to say yes to anything, before she could stop herself. His job was often to just trail behind her and say “no you can’t” until she had thought the decision through, and while he had a considerable beer belly he still was strong enough to put up a fight and win. Foetida was as strong as three humans, and those time she really meant it she sent elves flying with her punches. Fighting her was like fighting a mosquito with a mallet. If Makrofaga really needed protection, either for herself, or for a elf girl about to be lynched, they could hold people off until reinforcements arrived. But now the three of them mostly drifted between the market stalls being put up and looked at the few wares that already had been displayed. Foetida managed to get her teapot refilled, and sat down on Odoferus’ shoulder to drink even more
“I’ll soooooon be a faaaaiiiry, again” she whispered and cradled the pot as if it would save her life.
Odoferus looked at the closed city gate for ten seconds.
“Nope. She didn’t come! Let’s sleep!”
Makrofaga pinched one of his sleeves and reined him in.
“Stop councilor! We have to do this for real.”

They had to wait for an hour. The market opened and was unusually well attended for being on an ordinary day. Most people were from Skräpmården and mainly drifted around the market stalls. Even Makrofaga noticed how they glanced at her and her guard. There was just a merest hint of tension in the air, and she hoped it wouldn’t be more. In a way she was relieved when Pamphylia showed up.
“Good morning,” Makrofaga said, “did you discuss with your father?”
“No your majesty, he’s not home, and, like, if I have done anything wrong I should stand for it. Right?”
Foetida and Odoferus took one look at her open face, draw silently for breath and exchanged glances.
“I’d preferred if you had.”
“Oh”
“Well, I thought I’d give you a tour around Skräpmården…”
“Oh, I have seen it!”
“Have you seen the sewers?”
Pamphylia blushed.
“I don’t do well with strong smells, so…”
“Then we’ll start at the sewers. After all, most of us do.”

To Makrofaga’s relief the dirty elves behaved. In other words they didn’t spit or curse, they mostly went on with their usual business when the little group walked by. But they glared when they thought no one saw, and a few fell silent. Pamphylia looked unusually relaxed, like she was on her way back to her former work on a charity project. Or as if she was oblivious to the danger she was in. Since they didn’t talk much Makrofaga had ample time to analyse her attitude. Being from Flådhöjen and with a father who wielded some power she probably didn’t think anything bad could happen to her. She was ready to face her punishment, because all she expected was a ritual slap on the wrist.
“Did you take crowd control at school?” Makrofaga suddenly asked.
“No, your majesty, dad hoped I would, but it just isnt… me.”
“That explains it”
Again Odoferus and Foetida exchanged glances. They had no idea what the other two talked about.
“Do you… your majesty know about crowd control?”
“I was out of basic training before I came here.”
“You were? In Flådhöjden? But how?”
Odoferus leaned over and breathed a cloud of morning breath over Pamphylia.
“You do know how people end up here, don’t you?”
“You are born here?”

When they reached the stinking, black shores of the sewers no one had explained anything to Pamphylia. In Odoferus’ and Foetida’s case it was because they couldn’t take in that Pamphylia didn’t seem to know that people in Flådhöjden was thrown into the sewers. Makrofaga knew why and understood. She remembered a time when she herself thought she was safe up there. Everyone knew that being thrown away was an option, and in some miraculous way everyone managed to convince themselves that it wouldn’t happen to them. No one talked about those who disappeared, and the one noone talked about was soon forgotten – like when a petal falls from a blooming flower leaving just a small dent in the hypanthium. Once you’ve made the journey through the cloacas you didn’t really talk about it. It wasn’t shame, almost every dirty elf had been there, it was just a sad story not worth much energy.

Pamphylia was on the verge of throwing up when they reached the mouth of the sewers. The brown water was smoking lightly and odd pieces bobbed in the waves.
“Oh DAAAHLing,” said Foetida, “just puke. Who CAAAAARes at this plAAACE!”
But Pamphylia fought her body and won, even if her face became slightly green. Makrofaga felt her soul shiver, and she hoped she looked more secure on the outside.
“This is where we come from,” she said, “We’ll stand here until we see the next one.”
“You can’t be serious!” said Pamphylia and turned to Odoferus and Foetida “You must have been born here?”
Odoferus hold his hand beside his knee, indicating the height of a child.
“I was about this high. They told me I could already walk.”
“Big as an WAAAALnut DAAAAHling. A miracle they cAAAUUght me in time.”
Pamphylia’s face went blank the way a face does when the person behind shuts xer previous knowledge as a door against a new, conflicting reality.
“Ok”
“There’s one!” Odoferus said.
They all looked at the smeared body slowly drifting by.
“DAAAAHling, it OOOOnly counts if they’re alIIIIve.”
When Pamphylia’s face went paper white Makrofaga patted her shoulder a few times.
“We have people further down who fishes the bodies out and buries them. No one here dies as trash.”
“But…”

That’s when they heard the faint but persistent cry of a newborn. First it was only a whisper deep inside the sewer, and as it grew stronger they could see why the child had survived the rough ride through the sewers. It was put in a small basket protected by magic. Apparently at least one person in the marble city knew that the dirty elves dragged their children from the sewage.
“AH can’t belIIEEEve it!”
“The magic is wearing off” said Makrofaga.
She could see it flicker and thinning like a soap bubble. As soon at it was gone the basket would keel, and the baby would end up under the surface. Odoferus ran straight into the waves, struggling against the current to get to it in time. The sewage wasn’t even waist high, but powerful. Despite having spent a life in Skräpmården he also gagged heavily over the odour. He nearly slipped a few times, before he finally grabbed the baby. The bubble of magic burst, the basket toppled over and rolled as it continued floating down the stream. Foetida started breathing again.
“Iiii guess we juuuust got our sixth chiiiiild” she said softly.

Odoferus struggled to shore and Makrofaga pulled him onto secure ground. He was sweaty and stinky and over the moon.
“It’s a girl! Look Foetida! Grak will love her!”
“AAAAAAH! She’s sUUUCHh a little beAAAAUty!”
Makrofaga discretely removed the dirt from Odoferus using magic. He looked cleaner than he had been in years. Foetida, on the other hand, conjured a baby bottle and spread herself over the child as a baby blanket. Soon the cries subsided.
“But why throw away a baby?” asked Pamphylia.
Gingerly Odoferus pointed to the baby’s rounded ears.
“She’s half,” he said, “probably human.”
“But sometimes we just don’t know,” Makrofaga added “Some babies have obvious “faults”, others just… well, someone didn’t want them.”

Another group of dirty elves came running from downstream. They were the group who Makrofaga had enrolled to pull bodies and living persons out of the sewage. Shouting happily they gathered around the baby, admiring its tiny fingers and pink cheeks. Two of them carried toddlers who had been saved earlier. The kids’ cheeks were striped with tears, and they had the blank expression of children who are about to realise they can trust the adults around them. The happy chatter over the remarkable children they all just had found wouldn’t stop.

Makrofaga smiled and sighed. This wasn’t what she had counted on, even if she realised she should have foreseen it. Odoferus and Foetida were shameless party animals, and loved kids – of course they wouldn’t have the discipline to not adopt a child, should one turn up. Dangerous as it was she had to bring Pamphylia alone on the last leg of the tour. She could just hope that rumour, versatile and unpredictable as it was, had registered that the entire Skräpmården would be burned if anything happend to the girl.
“Let’s go,” she said, “those two knows what to do – they have five kids already.”
The girl was still paper white.
“Really” she said and tried to laugh “how many are ‘theirs’?”
“All of them. But if you wonder how many they have adopted; two. Anyway, you and I are going to Kingdom of Heaven.”

Draft, Kingdom of Heaven, Makrofaga Queen of the Dirty Elves

Pt 2 Kingdom of Heaven

The grey morning light fell over Makrofaga’s face and its reflection in the bathroom mirror. Usually in the mornings she practiced her resting bitch face, or rather her resting bitch faces, because she had one for most occasions. Well meaning help organisations got another face than persons who were obvious scammers. They came in a steady stream offering a variety of strange gadgets or methods to “alleviate poverty”, and after fifty years Makrofaga knew the types so well she could write a book about them. While many of them had some useful stuff not one had offered the one thing they needed; more space, more money, and more food. When all was said and done their contribution was like a drop of water on a hot desert stone.

She had one resting bitch face for representatives from Flådhöjden who came down to complain. She had another one for representatives who came down to rearrange things. And she had a particularly effective one for representatives who came to tell they needed to give up parts of Skräpmården – Auduin Enris was the only one who didn’t flinch before it. Usually she had fun practice those faces, adding some goofy ones that wouldn’t be used for other things than as party tricks. But today depression lay like an anvil over her soul. Instead of contorting her face she looked at her budding wrinkles, the faint warts, and the odd pimples. She had reached the age when her looks started to relax and slide downwards. The nose had grown a size, and the corners of her mouth sagged. Her hair, once raven black, had started to grey, and not in that attractive way where white hairs sprinkled like stars against the dark background. No, her hair faded, like paint stuck in a sunny spot. The grey hairs had company by broad streak of light brown hair, not exactly grey – not exactly brown, just some odd value in between.
“Dear Gods” she thought “if I hadn’t been thrown in the sewers in my youth I’d sure be it now.”

The goddesses and gods were silent when she served them. It was just as well – she wouldn’t be able to listen to their words anyway. The only thing she could think of was what she would she would say to her subjects. How could she tell them such horrendous news. Only when she put up the last bottle cap, at the porcelain goddess at the top of the display, did someone open their mouth.
“You need to snap out of it” said the goddess.
“I don’t know if I can” sighed Makrofaga.
“You need to answer their “why” instead of agonizing over your “how”.”

When Odoferus burst into the hut thirty minutes later she still stood with the tray in her hand, looking up at the goddess.
“YOU KNOW THEY’RE NOT REAL, DON’T YOU!”
Makrofaga turned around and looked him straight in the eyes, something so unusual Odoferus completely lost track.
“I just had a conversation with Transcendentia. She said you’re asking questions you don’t want answers for, so answering them is as useless as trying to catch the wind with a bucket.”
For a while Odoferus struggled with his lips.
“Yeah… but it’s fun?”
“Well, it is fun, but there’s else…”
“Are you okay?”
Makrofaga swept the bottle caps from the shelves of the display and threw them, together with the tin can and the tray, on her bed.
“They want Kingdom of Heaven.”
Odoferus turned paper white.
“WHAT???”

While Makrofaga and Odoferus gathered the other advisors, and an unhealthy amount of the muddy liquid that went for booze at Skräpmården, there’s room for us to delve into Kingdom of Heaven, magic and gods. First of all Kingdom of Heaven was a dump, or at least looked like one. It was a mound close to the border of Sprättströget, and the dirty elves unceremoniously threw their garbage at its foot. Skitalver on their last end then russled through the trash trying to find the few scraps of clothing and food that was still useful. But on the top was a small shrine, a pillar with a bowl on top, and inside the bowl was a small amount of water and a flame that burned day and night. This being Skräpmården the pillar was made of a discarded paper tube, the bowl was a kitchen terracotta bowl with chips and cracks, and the flame inside had a wick made of cloths so worn you could hardly see the threads anymore, and it was fed with a kind of fat residue that floated from one of the sewers – hopefully the collected cooking fat from the Flådhöjden kitchens. On the paper tube someone had written, as steady as possible
“Kingdom of Heaven
Kingdom of hearts
Where everything ends
And everything starts”

This was the holiest place in the entire Skräpmården.

It may seem strange that skitalverna threw their trash there, but some of it wasn’t trash at all, it was offerings and sacrifices. If you looked closely you could see that the heap changed character the further up you looked. The undeniable trash at the bottom got mixed up with stuff and little clay miniatures of limbs, and closest to the pillar was almost only little trinkets and clay limbs. The worn out elves searching the trash usually ate everything edible on the spot, but if the meal was an offering the waited a while – roughly thirty minutes – before they devoured it, even if it was a large, decorated feast. You had to be skilled to see it, and that’s exactly what the dirty elves wanted.

The dirty elves were not more prone to religion than the elves of Flådhöjden. But when you’ve had everything stolen, when you’ve been told you’re trash, and stomped into the dirt, then the last thing you own is what you innermost believe in. You cherish it. This is what makes you you. So the dirty elves took good care of Kingdom of Heaven, and guarded its secret with their lives. The mound was hollow. For the one who believed the gate opened regularly and xe could walk down to the grotto beneath. It had been there for centuries, and the clay ground was indeed a treacherous vessel for it. Building on, or in, clay is like building on jelly, and anything that should stand needs skilled reinforcements. The ancient original walls was lined with oak beams, stringed together to be able to move with their support. Any dripping water was skillfully led away before it could harm the elaborate wall paintings and the gigantic idols lining the way down. But the most important thing that held it together was magic.

It’s impossible to fully understand magic. Indeed, the easiest thing about it is to identify a scammer. Xe tend to feed on other person’s need for it like a vampire feeds on blood, and the will to exploit others shines stronger and stronger with time. But for true magic… neither priests nor alchemists nor magicians had managed to capture its essence. The best you could say about it was that it was almost like water – it could collect in large “puddles”, it could “dry out”, and it could stream, sweeping away things and persons. Like water it could be used by anyone, and all over Skräpmården it was used to light fires, cure children, heal bones and clear the air. But it could also concentrate around persons who seemingly knew what they were doing, it could suddenly abandon those same persons, and it could build structures that were tougher than the teeth of time. The grotto under the Kingdom of Heaven was one of those structures. Even if every dirty elf was wiped from the face of the world, and the religion nourishing the temple disappeared without a trace, the grotto would stand.

As a queen Makrofaga was the main guardian of the Kingdom of Heaven, and it was the apple of her eye, and her pride as a queen. The rules for the grotto was simple – the visitors would leave with a full head, a full heart and a full stomach. Thanks to her expansions every dirty elf could visit once a week. The grotto had always contained a temple, a school and a kitchen. She had added a library, alchemist laboratories, and large underground gardens lit by thousands tiny magical suns. If the Flådhöjden elves could get to see it they would marvel at the complex’s beauty. Everything was still made out of trash, from the giant idols lining the way down to the grotto to the pillar and the bowl in the temple, but here the crafters had gone out of their way to make items of beauty. The light from magical fires reflected in polished tin and brass, traveled through remodeled shards of glass and played over the walls adding painting of light to the decorated walls. The gardens, mostly there to grow food for the kitchen, were designed as small parks where visitors almost forgot they were underground. The temple had a center that was well kept, where the pillar and bowl were whole, and the flame was fed with earth almond oil.

Any person of belief was welcome, and the same old magic that kept the walls standing called every worthy skitalv regularly to come and visit. This tug of the heartstrings extended to Odoferus too, which may seem odd considering his loud opposition to anything that looked like religion. But he was a person of faith – he fervently, with every fiber of his being – believed that gods did not exist. That was enough for the divine beings who ruled the temple, even though Makrofaga could see their idols smirk behind his back the times she visited the place with him. They both were there slightly more often than the average skitalv. She, of course, had to check up on the entire place, and Odoferus since he was responsible for Skräpmården’s public health and had to oversee the production of horrgoo.

The laboratories in the grotto were made up of alchemy tools thrown away by Flådhöjden, and as such they were surprisingly up to date. Roughly ten years ago the alchemist had invented a stinking, tar-like substance that had amazing healing properties. Well “stinking” is a bit unfair to say, its smell was close to tar, and not that bad once you got used to it. But the Flådhöjden elves couldn’t stand it, and that was another plus in the dirty elves’ book. They quickly named it horrgoo, and used it, either plain or heavily mixed with perfume, on everything. While it mostly was antiseptic and effective on infections, they tried it on broken bones, sore muscles, aching heads, and to uglify themselves and their kids.

The dirty elves knew on their bones the second secret to the high elves’ looks as exalted and ethereal. They stole. Everything that was beautiful, everything that was clever, was nabbed out of the hands of skitalverna and incorporated into Flådhöjden. It wasn’t called stealing, of course. Things were “bought cheaply”, and even Grak Silverstickaren had to calculate for stingy Flådhöjdare suddenly deciding they would only pay half price. Knowledge had to be “kept safe with the learned elders in the libraries” of the marble city. Jewels and historical artifacts had “a better chance of surviving” if the Flådhöjden alchemists took care of them – that’s how the Skräpmården crown jewels and a larger part of its regalia ended up on display in the Flådhöjden temple. Beautiful children were “obiously orphans” and “adopted”, beautiful adults were “wooed and married”.

At least for adults they could chose. There was a steady trickle of young persons finding spouses among the Flådhöjden elves and moving to the marble city. Roughly half them were soon dropped into the sewers, and they had to return to their old home – sometimes with children in tow. So all of the dirty elves made sure their kids had large and ugly streaks of horrgoo in their faces, and most of them also clapped horrgoo on themselves, on top of their already elaborate makeup. And they would rather die than reveal that the black stuff was good.

So when Makrofaga, Odoferus, Foetida, Silver, mr Lotus, and Grak gathered on the Kingdom of Heaven and sat down beside the worn paper tube with a large bottle of moonshine, they sat down on the secret, pulsing heart of Skräpmården.
“They want to take all of it” said Makrofaga sobbing “flatten the entire mound and expand their “nice lawn” over it.”
Odoferus took a swig out of the bottle.
“This is horrible! Did you have to make this worse by getting something half fusel?”
He gagged and took another swig.
“’SallIcou’get” said Silver
He wore Foetida like a very stoned fur hat.
“Do you think they know?” asked mr Lotus while he politely waited for his turn with the bottle.
“Oh yes,” Makrofaga said coarsly “they know, and they want to take the last thing that makes us us.”
She glared over the fence to the tent camp the Flådhöjden elves suddenly had set up.

Again, the Flådhöjden elves had a fad for glamping in Sprättströget. They set up embroidered tents, lit ornate sheets of fire and had barbecue on things so decorative it was hard to say if it was food or elaborate art pieces. Often they had parties and got themselves hammered. It wasn’t unusual to find elves who had passed out close to the fence, but they never got so drunk they ended up in Skräpmården. The camp set up this time wasn’t the usual party prop. The fabric, both in the tents and and the clothes worn by the elves, was sturdy, made for all kinds of weather and – since Makrofaga and her advisors had seen it before they knew this – impossible to lit on fire or penetrate. Shining plates of metal protected the elves shoulders and and elbows. They wore weapons void of any unnecessary decorations and were obviously good at handling them. At the moment they were occupied with getting their tents up, and paid no notice of the mound on the other side, where more and more of the dirty elves gathered. The normal din of Skräpmården seemed to lose intensity for every minute.

This was the Flådhöjden guard. Proud elite soldiers who had fought in three gigantic wars, and who kept the Skräpmården crowds under control should anyone get the idea to, say, start a revolution. Their heavy war horses grazed the lawn, wisping away flies with their tails and gently butting heads with each other. Most of the gathered dirty elves knew they wouldn’t be so gentle if the captain decided the soldiers would rally the crowd. At those times the soldiers drove their horses to gallop through the gathering, stopping at nothing, not even an elf crushing under their hooves. Every skitalv had at least once in their life run from such a charge. They knew those horses, they knew the heavy lances neatly put in a stand beside a tent, and they knew exactly how much mercy the soldiers showed.

“Pardon me if I say so” said mr Lotus, “but that is a lot of force for a lawn.”
One of the worn elves who spent his life digging through the trash tugged at the hem of Makrofaga’s dress.
“Ey, majesty. What’s happening? People down there wants to know.”
“They want to make Kingdom of Heaven into a piece of the lawn. Tell them we’ll fight for it.”
He bent his stiffed and crooked body into a sort of bow, and turned to the next elf below him. The message passed from elf to elf, and you could see how it traveled through the crowd. Not one person dared to say anything out loud, but xe stiffened up, got energized, until the entire mass of dirty elves was vibrating. On the other side of the fence the guards’ nonchalant tending to their camp got a little bit more alert, and the soldiers side glanced under their helmets.
“That wasn’t smart” hissed Odoferus into Makrofaga’s ear.
That moonshine gave him a horrible breath.
“What was I supposed to say, then?” she hissed to him “We can’t just give it to them!”

But she realised the problem, just as everyone else in the group. The dirty elves couldn’t fight. In fact, the most common reason to be dropped into the sewer was doing bad at military training. They pretended they didn’t care, that their party habits was a much better way of life than freezing their butt off during wilderness excursions and sweating one’s soul off during exercises. Deep inside they knew, though, that this was their hamper. Time and time again the trained Flådhöjden elves beat them and herded them into things they didn’t wanted. Usually it was work, roads that needed to be built, marble that needed to be moved, and all the other sorts of things that was heavy even when you used magic for help. A few times it had been to empty parts of Skräpmården so Flådhöjden could expand. The group setting up camp on the other side a the fence was small, perhaps ten soldiers and their captain, and they could still beat the entire crowd that now filled the area at the foot of the Kingdom of Heaven.
“Your majesty,” said Grak Silverstickaren softly “is the hill you want to die on?”
“Oh, I don’t intend to die” said Makrofaga “I won’t have anyone die for this hill. We’ll just keep it, and they can poop in their pants.”
She struggled to her feet. Her body was heavy, not as cooperative as when she was younger, and that cursed moonshine had already started to bite. The ever so polite mr Lotus discretely pushed her to balance and trailed behind her when she stumbled down to the fence. It was twice as high as an elf, and built out of intertwined willow twigs. The willow had already taken root, and tender leaves were sprouting at the top. Makrofaga clenched a fist around the branches and looked through one of the holes. On the other side a soldier was fidgeting with a rope, something leftover from the tents.
“Ey you”, said Makrofaga “tell your captain he’s granted an audience”
She could see the magic around the willow crumble under her breath. That moonshine was certainly something, she couldn’t have drunk more than two sips? The poor elf saw her dark expression and nearly ran to get his officer. Soon Auduin Enris showed up, his captain’s wings clearly visible on his right shoulder.
“Good morning, your majesty.”
He stopped two decimeter farther from the fence than he needed, and drew his head backwards with a sour face.
“I thought I said it was no, Auduin.”
“The last thing I remember is a string of insults.”
“Funny that. The last thing I remember is being dropped into a sewer. You have a funny way of treating visiting royalty.”
“Was there anything more?”
“No, I just wanted to make sure you heard that YOU WON’T GET THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN! IT’S NO, NO, NO!
Behind her the crowd cheered. She could tell from Auduin’s tense lips and wrinkled nose that he put all his energy into staring at her with contempt.
“We’re just here for training.”
“Good. Because if you overstep this border, even with just a pinky, I’m gonna’ come for all and everyone of you nobles, and I’m gonna’ bitchslap you into oblivion!”

It was a spur of the moment thing, no doubt fueled by the moonshine, but when she returned through the crowd she realised it wasn’t such a bad idea. The Flådhöjden elves were proud warriors, and while they spent a lot of time playing harp and sipping pearling whine, their heads were spinning with ideas of dying honourably, valour on the field, and Real Fights. She remembered her youth clear enough to know it. A bitchslap was as far as you could come from their ideals, it was an insult as good as strapping them to a bleating donkey and paint them as clowns. As her brain churned though the impressions she also realized that while Auduin had kept his face straight he had paled slightly. She chuckled to herself and asked the present dirty elves to set up a party between the fence and the Kingdom of Heaven. A big one, at least three days long.

***

The party was still going strong when Makrofaga and her advisors woke up. Hungover and bleary eyed they gathered around the table in Makrofaga’s hut, and tried to think a few coherent thoughts. Silver was green faced and huddled up in a corner as if he couldn’t sort his limbs in the right order. Odoferus face cycled through white, green, waxy yellow and back to white again. The tan he’d gained from laying drunk in the sun lay as a film over the ever going colour change, and he made sure to have the “puke bucket” close by. Grak had taken the chair beside him to shorten the way if she needed it. Her grip around the table top made the dry wood creek. Around her neck hung a pink feather boa which, upon close inspection, turned out to be Foetida. The fairy’s complaints about the unfair sunlight was barely audible. Makrofaga sat absolutely still on her stool, like a pumpkin with fear of heights. Most of the time she kept her eyes shut, since she too was tormented by the sharp sunlight. Mr Lotus rubbed his temples.

For a long time no one said anything. They just longed for a cup of tea no one could make for them. Then Odoferus glared at mr Lotus.
“Whyareyou stinkfaced? You drink like a bird!”
“Perhaps,” mr Lotus sighed “that drink was of lesser quality.”
“AwRIGHT!” shouted Foetida and made them all wince “WHO SPILLED THE BEANS???”
“Do we have to?” asked Makrofaga and started to rub her temples too.
A tiny fist emerged from the feather boa shaking with rage.
“SOMEONEISATRAITOR! SsssXE NEEDS A BEATING! AND A HANGING!”
Makrofaga sighed.
“What if it’s a child? We have…”
She heaved and fought to keep it in.
“…we have no clue who did it. And it’s more important to… to… to figure out how we keep those snobs from taking our mound.”
“Your majesty,” said mr Lotus, “knowing who did it may give us clues to how much they know, and what to do.”
That was a long sentence to decode for hangover brains. The persons around the table glared at a vague point in front of their noses while they tried. The first one to even move was Grak.
“Thinking is needed,” she said, “I get us coffee.”

Coffee, water, more coffee, more water, and a few bits of plain bread later they felt a little bit better. They were still completely out of clues save for one; the Flådhöjden elves had tolerated the Kingdom of Heaven for centuries without a peep, something must have stired them, they wouldn’t have put up that show of power if they didn’t had a hunch there was something more to it than the shrine on the top. To at least get a hint on where to start they started to cycle through possible leaks. A child? Possible, but probably not. Childs’ talk should have busted the cover centuries ago if that was the case. A traitor among those who married up to elves in Flådhöjden? Maybe. Someone among the Flådhöjden elves who persisted in turning up with different charity projects? Maybe, but the dirty elves were usually completely tight lipped on both the Kingdom and the horrgoo. A traitor among the dirty elves who had sold the secret? Makrofaga shuddered at the thought. If that was the case the guilty person would be lynched.
“There’s also a chance,” she said and poked her slice of bread, “that they don’t know what’s under ground. They just know that we’ve grown too many, and wants to break down our core to better break us up.”
“DAAAAHLING” said Foetida “they can drive us like cattle any miiinute. If they want to break our core they wanna’ get done with AAAALL of us.”
She meant it as a joke, yet when the words had left her mouth they all realised there were something to them. For a moment the silence around the table where only penetrated by the distant sounds of the party by the foot of Kingdom of Heaven.
“Then we really need to know,” said Makrofaga, “because if they plan something like that…”
Something glowed red in her eyes.
“…No one is going to harm my dirty elves! I’ll see to that!”
“Wow” said Odoferus surprised.
He had still too much of a headache to applaud her, yet he was tempted. Makrofaga didn’t notice. She was deep in thoughts.
“We can’t all do both,” she said after a while, “I want you Foetida, and you Grak to investigate how much those snobs know, and if there was one who sold us out.”
Foetida stuck her face out of the hair, banging her right fist into her left palm.
“Awright! DAAHlin’ can we beat him up on spot?”
“No. All of xe need to be left to be punished publicly. If there’s a traitor everyone needs to see the punishment. Can you imagine the rumours otherwise?”
With a huff Foetida withdraw into her hairs. Absentmindedly Grak patted her back.
“Odoferus and mr Lotus, you help me find out ways to protect the Kingdom of Heaven. You’ll have the most important job, Odoferus…”
The hairy elf stared back at her with a mix of surprise and fear, mentally cycling through every impossible task she could heap upon him.
“…in case there’s a need you’ll be the unofficial liar.”
His brown face broke up in his trademark greasy smile.
“Alright! THAT I can do!”
That took a heavy weight off Makrofaga’s shoulders. She could lie if she wanted to, but she seldom found it worth the trouble. Keeping track of lies was way too much work in her book, especially since covering up one lie tended to birth more lies. Sticking to the truth had always been her way of reducing work. Odoferus, on the other hand, lied for the fun of it. He lied about his age, his weight, his colour – even to persons standing right in front of him – and any other thing he could lie about. Makrofaga had been at gatherings where he had lied about his opinions just to get an interesting discussion going. The only one he never lied to was Makrofaga, since he years ago had discovered she got hurt when people lied to her. Lying to the Flådhöjden elves on the other hand? Bring it on!

Once Grak and Foetida had left to tend to their daily businesses and discretely investigate if anyone had betrayed the secrets of Kingdom of Heaven, the three left sat down to set a plan for defending the mound. Well, Silver was there, but he held a deep conversation with some specks of dust and couldn’t be counted on. Makrofaga took a book from the pile under her bed and drew a map over the mound area on the lining paper. Keeping a map was one of the few lessons she remembered from the strategy lessons she’d taken as a young adult in Flådhöjden.
“I can see a few weak spots, your majesty” said mr Lotus, “though I think the biggest problem is the magic busters.”
Makrofaga sighed.
“Yes”
Magic busters were spells with the sole function of breaking up other magic. They came in different sizes, from small ones used by unruly kids to wreck havock among each other, to middle sized ones for jealous commoners who wanted to sink their neighbour’s floating cart, to humongous busters used in wars. You could count on Flådhöjden to have the biggest, latest, and best magic busters available. They were probably strong enough to break the ancient magic that kept the temple grotto together. Even though the ancient architecture in itself would serve as a backup, it would be fairly easy for a team of diggers to carve away the rest.
“Luckily we aren’t there yet,” said Makrofaga, “and that buys us some time. Our first problem is what we should do with Auduin and his prancing boys.”
“Not letting him know that we’re planning something!” said Odoferus.
“Are you sure? Isn’t it better to wisk him away in some way?”
“It’s the liar’s first rule! Hide your intention! We keep the party going! Irritate them as much as we could – because that is something we always do! Then we can have our big shenanigans in the direction he doesn’t look.”
“There’s some benefit to that plan, your majesty” said mr Lotus.
“Yeah, I see it. It’s a bit risky, though.”
“Every alternative is risky, your majesty, and if we start an elaborate plan to get him away from there someone will notice.”
Makrofaga sighed again.
“We still don’t know what they plan to do. Given that they already had drawn an official map they’ve been at it for a while.”
“Spies, your majesty.”

Sending spies into Flådhöjden wasn’t impossible. Dirty elves were sometimes enrolled to clean up after messes the city elves didn’t want to touch themselves. Setting off an explosion in a waste pocket somewhere would be easy, given how well they knew the sewer system. The tough part was for the spy to find the good stuff. If a cleaner meant to shovel shit suddenly ended up in the military archives… well, it would look suspicious. Especially since Flådhöjden had made an open move, and knew the dirty elves had interest in poking around. Another alternative was to bribe someone from Flådhöjden to do the spying for them. Hypothetically. Nothing in the entire Skräpmården was valuable enough to be a good bribe, unless the potential spy accepted a gift card for an embroidered coat from Grak. Yet another alternative was to enroll one of those well meaning charity workers. All three of them felt iffy at the thought. Not that the charity workers weren’t intelligent, because the usually were, but they were also naïve and often slightly airheaded. The chance that they would succeed in spying was laughable.

Still, they needed inside information from somewhere, and when she went to bed that night Makrofaga still chewed on the problem over and over
“Spy” she thought “where do we get a spy?”

Draft, Kingdom of Heaven, Makrofaga Queen of the Dirty Elves

Part 1 Meet the usual suspects

Flådhöjden, the magnificent city close to the plains of Födogårdarna, was in every way an elvish city. The elves were noble, beautiful, skilled soldiers, well dressed, well modulated, and polite. They lived in marble palaces, listened to soft harp music and sipped pearling wine. While they themselves came in all colours, from alabaster white to so dark brown their skin almost turned blue, they prefered pastel clothes of exquisite quality. And of course you never saw a spot or a worn patch in the fabric. There’s simply nothing ugly or imperfect with an elf.

But have you ever wondered how they got that way? It’s simple – they threw away everything that didn’t suit them. Bad food? Throw away. Broken furniture? Throw away. Clothes in the wrong colour? Throw away. A scratch on the book cover? Throw away. An elf growing ugly with age? Throw away. A child that wasn’t perfect? Throw away. Anything could be thrown away – which usually meant being dropped in the sewers and bobble away on the brown current.

At the foot of the white marble city wall, far below the watch towers, Skräpmården begun and stretched over an area at least three times as big as the city. Once long ago the place had been a forest, thick with lush trees, moss, rocks and critters that skittered between their hiding places. No one alive remembered it, because now the place was the biggest slum any elf had seen – or human, orc, gnome, dragon or any other fay creature else had for that matter. Huts and rubbish were cramped together so close it looked like they were fighting each other for space, and in some miraculous way the inhabitants had managed to squeeze in paths between them. Muddy water dribbled from the shoddy roofs and though there were planks for the pedestrians to step on, the naked earth beneath was in a state of perpetual slush that stained their clothes up to their waists. Fires everywhere filled the air with stinging smoke, and everything stank. This was the home of Skitalverna – the dirty elves.

Skitalverna lived off the three rivers of sewage floating out of Flådhöjden, and since the elves in the city absentmindedly threw away almost everything, it could be a good life. They mainly lived on manure – Flådhöjden produced exquisite manure – that they rescued from the brown waves and sold to the farmers of Födogårdarna, but they also got their food, clothes, their children, their litterature, their aunts and uncles, their tools – like saws, hammers and digging bars – , their jewels, well everything that could float from that source. And while they all called themselves skitalver not all of them were elves, because even guests could end up in the sewers. Many fay creatures had suddenly found themselves in the dirty waves and then been dragged to shore by a dirty, patched, and oddly accepting crew. Some of the rescued returned to their homes telling upset tales of snobbish jerks, others stayed and joined their rescuers.

Unfortunately the sewers were also an unreliable source for living. Manure was only valuable if the farmers could pay for it, and when the weather was dry fertilizer was the last thing the crops needed. At those occasions large mounds of stinking brown goo rose on the shores, attracting flies and illnesses, and at the same time the people of Flådhöjden stopped throwing away food. Not one of the high elves would admit it, but they could also feel the pinch of a starvation period. At other times they just stopped throwing away food and clothes anyway. They had trends of thriftiness when they thought they would be Good Persons by not wasting a lot of resources on their extravagant living. In one way the dirty elves could understand – the Flådhöjden way of life did come with a cost – but they also wanted to eat. The Flådhöjden elves never recognised that their waste became food for the dirty eleves. Well, there were exceptions from the rule, since they had a habit of making fun of, or gagging in horrid sensationalism over, their neighbours for their eating habits. When starvation knocked on the door, Flådhöjden’s inhabitants kept the food for themselves, with the motivation that they didn’t have enough to share.

Frankly, the Flådhöjden elves didn’t want to admit the the Dirty Elves existed at all, because the Dirty Elves were Not How Elves Were Supposed To Be. While an elf should be soft spoken, a dirty elf shouted, roared with laughter, and wailed with grief. Those precious pastel clothes, that could have been slightly stained pastel clothes after their journey down to Skräpmården, somehow ended up tie-dyed in garish, flaming colours, cut up and sown together into clothes that seemingly assaulted people by being as extravagant as possible. The Flådhöjden elves wore little, select and very expensive jewelry to their clothes, the Dirty Elves buried themselves in anything that shined. Broken glass, bottle caps, fool’s gold, polished brass and anything similar were skillfully set in cheap metal casings and strung together into long bands the dirty elves wore layered around their necks as huge bling shawls.

And the parties… Oh, the parties!

This is hard for a person who have never lacked food to understand, so it’s no surprise the Flådhöjden elves didn’t get the Dirty Elves knack for parties. You see, when you have food for two out of the week’s seven days you have a strange choice; you can stretch your eating over two, perhaps three days by being stingy, and then starve the rest of the week, making the entire week miserable…

…or…

…you could use the food for a party one day, being happy as a clam, and try to live on the memories for the rest of the week. Either way you starve, either way you’ll be miserable, but for one alternative you get a party. Now, the Dirty Elves usually did stretch their food, but the few times they got a surplus – even just a small one – they grabbed the chance to a feast, like a drowning person latch on to a floating log. Their parties were legendary, and often loud enough to keep the entire Flådhöjden awake until dawn. Skitalverna knew the maze of sewer ducts under Flådhöjden like the back of their own hands, and when they got drunk they arranged torch parades through it, singing songs no child should ever need to hear, and occasionally making pockets of metan gas explode. Everything echoed up through the… well… “comfort chairs”, and there were a few Flådhöjden elves who had gotten their precious behinds singed.

The dirty elves had even got their royalty from the sewers. Of course, most of the dirt elves came from the sewers, but their queen was an exception in a few ways. Her name was Makrofaga, she was fat and soft spoken. She had become queen due to an inability to say “No”, and she had been thrown away when she was an adult, a young adult. Normally a Flådhöjden elf who made it to what would be about twenty years in human age, would not be thrown away – there were some slack in the norms of perfection. Makrofaga still had managed to cross the limits. First by being fat, since everyone knows elves are thin. Second by being oddly out of synch with other persons. She either was too loud or too softspoken, she seldom got hints on when to keep quiet about something, and she could blurt out embarrassing things without blinking. If “overstepping the lines” had been one word, it would have been Makrofaga’s middle name. However the third thing was the worst – she was religious.

The elves of Flådhöjden had godesses and gods. They even had the region’s biggest, holiest and most expensive temple. Being rich, though, they could afford the luxury of not caring about it. For religion they preferred people to be either spiritual in an ethereal way, meditating in the privacy of their chambers and not letting it impact on their daily behaviour, or to be so losely attached that they hardly cared. Makrofaga was neither – she was religious in a practical way, almost like a cleaner is practical about cleaning. She kept her family gods in good shape, and served them daily meals on a set of children’s china, chatting loudly with them all the time. Sometimes she even carried one of them downtown, strapped to her back, to let the god or goddess in question “get some fresh air”. She meticuosly followed every religious rule, from fast to feast to giving alms to the poor. While she never proselytised other elves felt strangely uncomfortable around her. The tipping point came when one man in her age softly had told her
“You know you don’t need religion to be a good person?”
Makrofaga had turned beet red and shouted over the entire square where they stood
“AND YOU JUST PROVED YOU DON’T NEED RELIGION TO BE A DOUCHEBAG EITHER!”
She was dropped into the sewers within minutes.

Fifty years later Makrofaga sometimes thought about that moment. Why hadn’t she been polite about it? Could she had been less rude? Why didn’t she just keep quiet and let the insult pass? Painful questions she knew never would get their answers. The one thing that softened her pain was that she felt so much more at home in Skräpmården than she ever had at Flådhöjden. Everyone here was a little off, had their scratchmarks, and had a personality that didn’t match what the Flådhöjden elves thought was appropriate. She had made herself a new set of goddesses out of trash, displayed them on shelves in her hut, and fed them from a set of bottle caps and an old tin can. No one batted an eye about it.

She had been queen elect two years after arriving to Skräpmården, since no one else wanted the job. Every skitalv knew that the job meant hard, hands on work in managing the different fractions of dirty elves, rustling up food in the numerous dry periods, and – worst of all – negotiating with the Flådhöjden elves. Makrofaga had had no idea on how to do things, but volunteered when no one else did. Her method of ruling mostly consisted of stumbling upon a task that needed to be done, finding the person that seemed to know how it should be done, and making that person do what was needed. There had been some spectacular mess-ups, but on the whole it seemed to work. People where happy enough to reelect her now and then. And the perks of being a queen was not bad; she had a roof that never leaked, and she had Silver.

Silver was a unicorn, and here we need to know a few things about unicorns in general to understand him. The Flådhöjden elves kept unicorns as guardians – they were voracious meat eaters, as intelligent as humans, and fierce enough to kill on the first try. Another important trait was that they could neutralize any poison simply by touching it with their horns. When Silver was given to Makrofaga as a crowning gift it seemed like an unusually generous gesture from them. Makrofaga had awkwardly given him his freedom and citizenship of Skräpmården as soon as it was possible, because she couldn’t see herself owning someone she could discuss theology with. And it was soon discovered he would fit right in with everyone else. He had a birth defect – his horn didn’t neutralize poison, it turned every liquid it touched into a drug instead. As a result Silver was perpetually drunk. Possibly as a result, he had a tendency to buy loads of cheap beer and get hammered, claiming he drank to forget. If anyone asked what he was so broken over, he always exclaimed
“I can’t remember!”
and went back to drinking.

Since he still lived with Makrofaga she could tell whether he was drunk on “horn juice” or beer. If it was beer, and he could stand, he went out and fished for fights with the biggest orcs he could find. If it was horn juice he sat amiably in a corner, slowly saying things like
“Duuude! Do you realise toilet paper is like napkins for your bumbum?”
Often slumping over and falling asleep after delivering such nuggets of wisdom. It took a while for Makrofaga to find out how he could afford the massive amount of beer he was drinking. Turned out he shaved off pieces of his horn when it was long enough, and sold it on the black market. She was terribly conflicted, but there was no law against it, and since the supply was low she chose to look the other way.

The one thing Silver mastered, regardless of how horned or drunk he was, was to keep Makrofaga on a regular schedule. Her brain didn’t multitask. At all. Her choice was to either be the best housewife ever for herself, or concentrate on ruling the queendom and let her home fall into disarray. Silver kept her schedule, and it was as if he saved the few sober neurons he had only for this. He went from flubbering horner dude to stone sober in a second, and didn’t relent until she had changed tasks. That was all he did, but for Makrofaga it made a world of difference, even if she still had to do all the job herself.

Another perk, if you could call it that, was her advisors Odoferus and Foetida. Odoferus was a former Flådhöjden elf like herself, but he had been thrown in the sewer as a toddler. Makrofaga was secretly jealous of him for that. He couldn’t remember, and miss, the place like she did. She had instructed herself sternly to never say something about it, though. She had known him long enough to know that he didn’t take being thrown away as lightly as he pretended he did. He was unusually hairy, so hairy it looked like he needed to be sheared in the spring. The only one hairier than him was Foetida. She was a fairy, a pink fluffball hoovering around his head most of the time. When she was close to Silver she hovered around the unicorn’s head instead, trying to hide that she licked the horn as much as she could. Needless to say her advice was mostly drowsy and not always coherent.

Odoferus was coherent though. He always burst into her hut while she was serving the goddesses and gods breakfast shouting
“YOU KNOW THEY’RE NOT REAL, DON’T YOU!”
Makrofaga usually replied.
“Of course they’re real. They’re standing right there.”
“BUT THEY’RE NOT GODS, THEY’RE JUST DOLLS MADE OUT OF PAPER AND CLAY!”
Untroubled Makrofaga continued serving the goddesses their food. Like every elven idol they had their eyes shut. Every elven child was taught that they only open their eyes to look at the worthy.
“They’re both” she said.
“BUT THEY’RE NOT OPENING THEIR EYES. ARE THEY PERHAPS STILL ASLEEP???”
At this point Odoferus usually grabbed one of the gods or goddesses and banged it violently on the wall.
“WAKEY, WAKEEEEY! TIME TO GET UP!”
When the goddess stayed silent he hurled it against the floor as if he wanted to throw it through the entire world.
“YOU SEE??? NO ANSWER!!!”
Makrofaga took up the goddess and brushed it off. The clay was of excellent durability and never cracked.
“That’s because she’s stunned.”
STUNNED???”
Odoferus was the first person Makrofaga met when she arrived to Skräpmården, and they had been fast friends ever since. They both knew they would never agree on whether the divine beings were real or not, so they kept the daily charade going mostly for fun. After all it released a lot of pressure.

Then there was mr Lotus, who arrived as soon as Odoferus and Makrofaga had ended their theological debate. Mr Lotus was unusually not from Skräpmården. He had arrived the usual way by being thrown into the sewers, but he was softspoken and polite, as if he still was up at the city. They had figured out that he came from far, FAR away, and not much more. The reasons he wasn’t liked by the Flådhöjden elves were so much clearer. First of all he was a dragon that could look like an elf – or a human – and that was Wrong by their book. Second he was well mannered and very, very, VERY polite. Fact is he was so noble in his manners all his attempts to fit in with the Dirty Elves fell flat. He wore the tie-dyed patchwork clothes, he had bling everywhere, including an abnormally large pearl that hang from a chain around his neck, and he smeared himself with dirt. Still his body was so royal it just looked like he had come from a masquerade. The only thing that gave away his true form was that he was discretely buff – as if muscle upon muscle lurched under his clothes waiting to burst into a frenzy of movement. This was also Wrong according to the Flådhöjden elves, who knew that dragons were gnarly, old, and while muscular they must have a bit of a beer belly. Worst of all, though, was that he didn’t breathe fire – he spouted water.

Neither Makrofaga, nor Odoferus, nor Foetida had ever heard him say anything about why he stayed at Skräpmården. He could leave in a blink, and while they like their home it seemed a bit… small for him. They were curious as cats outside a closed door, but for some reason they never dared to ask him.
“Are you done?” he asked when he stepped inside.
“As always” said Makrofaga “our debate ended in a tie. Sit down, please!”
He was the only one she had to tell. Odoferus just grabbed a chair, turned it around and straddled it. His frock coat opened up revealing two hairy thighs and that he wore nothing but a pair of dirty underwear under it. Mr Lotus winced and looked another way. Foetida managed to sense that their meeting was about to start and wobbled over to the rackety table Makrofaga kept at one end of the hut. She aimed for an empty chair, and ended up crashing in Makrofaga’s lap. A cloud of glittery, pink fairy dust rose with a “pouff!” around them both. Makrofaga coughed for five minutes straight, and then wheezed
“Are we all here?”
“Not Grak Silverstickaren” said mr Lotus.

Grak had the unfortunate habit of always be late, mostly because she was a busy woman. She was a polite orc, and that had been enough for throwing her into the sewers. She had come to Flådhöjden as an envoy since the orcs, and you can’t blame them, assumed a polite diplomat would have more success with the elves. The elves on the other hand, well – you know the drill. After she ended up in Skräpmården Grak made sure her king knew that a “normal” orc would fare better, and then she stayed. Skräpmården was of a softer mess and din than Orcheim, and she liked that. An old embroiderer had taught her how to embroid for a living, and she was now the best embroiderer you could ever find. Not only did she decorate the dirty elves’ clothes, half of Flådhöjden were clad in her art – including the king. She still couldn’t visit the city, because a polite orc Was Wrong, so any Flådhöjden elf had to either send a messenger or come down themselves to order her clothes. Secretly Grak found that extremely funny.

The reason she ended up at Makrofaga’s board of advisors was that she used her money to set up a soup kitchen for the surplus children of Skräpmården. There were a lot of them, and a few years ago most had been living on the streets. When Makrofaga discovered Grak’s soup kitchen she awkwardly asked the gigantic orc if she was willing to coordinate the children with families who could adopt them. After a stumbling start Grak had now managed to find home to all of them, and new kids floating in soon found themselves with loving parents. Grak never accepted anything less than loving parents, and few dared to challenge a two meter tall orc with shoulders almost as broad. The soup kitchen was still open. Nowadays the kids arrived with their families, and it was more of a perpetual potluck. Slightly less for Grak to do, at least in that end.

Officially Grak was the family coordinator, inofficially she was there to add the final touch. Whatever the subject was she had a wise word, and often a clever solution. When she finally arrived the others simultaneously drew a sigh of relief.
“I’m terribly sorry” she said, walking sideways through the door to not topple the hut “there was some troubles in the Quidi family, and I wanted it all sorted before I came here. Terribly sorry everybody!”
The giant, pink puff of hair on Makrofaga’s lap stired, and Foetida’s bleary eyes became visible. As Grak carefully fitted her bum to a chair that looked tiny under her, the fairy droned
“Thaaat’s my daaaaaaahling!”
“HEY!” said Odoferus.
Foetida had already taken flight and wobbled over to the orc.
“Sooorry daaaaaaahling, but I neeeed my daaaaahling.”
She crashed into the orc and started kissing her ear until it was pink with fairy dust.
“Well,” said Makrofaga, “since we all are here I declare this meeting open.”

The morning meetings were usually over in about half an hour since they held them every day. They compared notes, shared some advice, and had a cup of tea. A lot of things happened every day in Skräpmården, and they needed to be out to catch it, not talking about how to catch it. This day they still took some extra time to discuss a pressing subject.
“We need more space” said Makrofaga.
They all nodded, deep in thoughts over how cramped their home was.
“Any offer of help from the city?” mr Lotus asked.
“They” Odoferus growled “as if they would! What was it they called it again? Compressed cohabitation! Yeah, right! Trendy! We’re so trendy the most common injury is from those “multifunctional homes” clapping shut over people!”
Odoferus was, among other things, responsible for Skräpmården’s public health system.
“Oh dear!” said Grak
“Nah, it’s fine. They’re so shoddy the houses break before the people do. But there has been some blisters and bleeding owies. Where did we get that crap again?”
Makrofaga’s face went purposfully neutral.
“Not from the sewers. It was the freshly founded organisation “Friends of Skräpmården” that gave them to us.”
If the board from Friends of Skräpmården had been present their souls had been crushed by the mean laughter around the table.
“Kiiiiiiiids” moaned Foetida “adooooorable kiiiiids! Shouldn’t go neeaaar a hooouse…”
She fell asleep over Grak’s shoulder before she could finish the sentence.
“Can we just cut the crap up and use for something better?” asked Odoferus.
“Be my guest” said Makrofaga “find out some health reason to do it, so I have something to say when those precious souls show up again.”
“There’s still the question of more space” said mr Lotus
“Yes, and I’m afraid there’s the only solution. We can’t “compress” any more.”
The following silence was only broken by Silver’s drunken snores. Everyone waited for someone else to say it.
“We could ask for a piece of Sprättströget” said Grak.

Sprättströget was an enormous park outside Flådhöjden, bordering both the city and Skräpmården. Originally the park had been part of the Skräpmården forest, and while Skräpmården slum had shaved off the entire fauna in its area, the park had manicured it into oblivion. Every tree was carefully pruned, every bush cut into shape and planted in decorative lines. There were vast lawns, and broad, white roads to ambulate along. This was the Flådhöjden elves’ idea of a wilderness, and the amazed dirty elves had several times seen camping – or rather glamping – taking place over several days. If they hadn’t seen the city elves’ military skills up front, they had thought they were complete whimps, and they still wondered where the soldiers got their actual wilderness training. It couldn’t be there, among the decorative bushes, could it?

Since Skräpmården stunk the area of Sprättströget closest to it was rarely used. Makrofaga had gazed over that strip of land many times, calculating how many families she could fit into it, if only she was allowed to expand the slum. Unfortunately all of the ground, Skräpmården as well as Sprättströget, was owned by Flådhöjden, and while Makrofaga was a queen she still had to bow under the Flådhöjden king and his administration. She was not eager to meet with them. Not at all. And the rest of the board both knew and sympathised. On the other hand the population of Skräpmården was now so dense they soon would have to sleep standing up. The meeting ended with the decision that Makrofaga should request an official audience with the king.

Makrofaga did her request exactly according to the official rules, down to sending it with an herald clad in a pastel blue tabard and with one green and one red shoe. As usual she got the answer that she couldn’t see the king since there had been an error in the procedure, but she could meet with the Skräpmården officer Aiduin Enris if the subject matter was pressing. This outcome had been the same during all the years she had been queen. Out of curiosity she looked up what had been wrong this time. The upper left corner on the letter had been slightly bent. It was, in a way, an improvement from the last time, when the upper right corner had been too straight. With an internal sigh she clad herself in as much of her official garment she could, and requested a meeting with Aiduin Enris. She knew Aiduin. He would set a time so close to the returning mail it would be almost impossible to be punctual. Nowadays she imagined he hoped she would be late, though she couldn’t figure out why.

She was still a bit out of breath when she sat down at his desk. The gigantic queen gown snagged in the chair, she nearly ripped it, and had to awkwardly fidget around to wiggle it lose. Auduin waited, and managed to look patient all the time. Patient in that way that got you bad conscience for being such a dunse. Once everything was sorted they just stared at each other in silence.

Elves neither view genders nor sexuality the same way as we do, so our terms rarely apply. But there’s no time for me to delve into a dissertation on elven gender construction, so forgive me for breaking the fourth wall for a short time to say that even if it’s an mismanaged fit, we’ll use our terms on this foreign world. And the reason for this is that Makrofaga had a gaydar.

Makrofaga had a gaydar, although she was way to shy to check its accuracy by interviewing any person who triggered it. After all it was none of her business. Moreover, it only worked on men, so she had little use for it. But sometimes it struck like a gong, screaming “GAY” or “STRAIGHT” into her ear. It happened every time she met Aiduin, because that man was so straight he put broomsticks to shame. He was as wooden as a broomstick too, always staring at her over his eyeglasses, shuffling through the papers he held in his hand. She caught herself wondering if he absorbed the text through his fingers, and managed to quench a giggle just in time. She could see for her inner eye how he would let the joke fly straight over his head just to embarrass her.
“…so,” she ended her long lecture “we desperately need more space. There is no other solution, since you’ve already forbidden us to build more than one story…”
“Fire hazard” interrupted Aiduin
“Yes, fire hazard… more than one story high, and also forbidden us to dig cell…”
“You know the clay ground…”
This was the fifth time he interrupted and Makrofaga was at her wits end.
“YES, I KNOW THE CLAY GROUND! I LIVE THERE! BUT WE NEED MORE SPACE!”
For a long time only the rustling of papers was heard.
“So what do you want us to do? It’s not our fault you’re outbreeding your grounds.”
“There is a part of Sprättströget that is rarely used. It’s just by our borders, so if we could expand for some ten to twenty meters or so…”
She felt her heart sink, and stared in panic on Aiduins blonde hairline. He was one of those extremely white elves.
“What do you mean “ten to twenty meters”? It’s not clear how you want it. Is it in a square or ten to twenty meters from the city wall?”
“No!” Makrofaga started flail over the table, feeling heat racing through her body “I mean we move the border – here- ten to twenty meters to _here_. An expansion.”
“Hm”
The little word hanged in the air while he sat motionless and expressionless. For a looong time.
“I’m not sure that is possible, but I’ll se what I can do. And it’s good you take up that end of Skräpmården, because we have some plans… I’ll fetch a map.”

Once she was alone in Aiduin’s office Makrofaga studied the walls. She had a horrible hunch about the plans, and she knew she’d be mad if her premonition was true. She had hope this would be the one time she also left Flådhöjden the official way, just this one time. Usually the meetings ended with her being impolite in some way, and then Aiduin had her thrown in the sewers. While it was the fastest way home she dearly wished for a more dignified return. Unfortunately the Skräpmården officer returned with the worst possible proposition – already drawn on an official map. Makrofaga took one look – and exploded.
Men är ni helt blåsta i huvudet??? Det måste ni vara! Det förklarar den underliga musiken jag hörde när jag kom hit – det var vinden som for genom for genom era tomma skallar och skapade orgelmusik! Och de där klapprande kastanjetterna som lät… Det är klart att det var de där stenarna ni har i bröstet istället för hjärtan! Ni är förkrympta uttorkade paragrafryttare som hellre suger kuk än försöker er på att vara medalver. Jag tror inte ens ni vet vad det är. Ni struttar hellre runt…”(Translation: You are heartless idiots)
That’s when Aiduin called the guards and they threw Makrofaga in the sewer.