Bumsit was reclining on a couch made entirely of flowers, and young nymphs sat at his feet gazing eagerly up at him. They were of slight build and delicate feature, with golden hair interwoven with more flowers. A heavy sweet scent filled the air – jasmine, or honeysuckle, he couldn’t quite tell. The goblet in his hand was empty, and a nymph sprang to her feet to refill it. But the damned scent was getting stronger now and starting to annoy him.
He half opened his eyes. It was a glorious morning – the sun shining, sparrow-wrens chirping incessantly, fragrance in the air.
Fragrance? Not the reliable stench of stale spilt beer and muddy oaken floor?
“Close the shutters” mumbled a voice beside him.
Bumsit pulled himself up from the recumbent position in which he had awakened. He was leaning against a low stone wall bordering a road. In the distance he could see the jumbled mass of the cathedral looming over the town. Something tumbled to the ground, it had been resting on his chest. A purple flower, with golden tips. Leafrot rolled over and his face squashed into the flower. “Mmmm … pretty … come and sit with Leafrot … your sister can join you”
“Wake up.” Bumsit jabbed Leafrot. “What happened? Last thing I remember we were going into the Shadow Gardens ….”
“I was wooed and worshipped by beautiful creatures, ” said Leafrot, brushing leaves out of his hair, “But I don’t expect I’ll see them again.”
That was the problem with the Shadow Gardens . It was a fae nightclub, or as close as one could get to it, and sometimes it was there – wherever there was – and sometimes it wasn’t. It was just luck if you happened to see a doorway into it. Leafrot picked up the flower and sniffed it again. “Oh, yes…. she was hot … she had little bells around her ankles and they kept tinkling … “
“Give me that.” Bumsit snatched the flower and held it to his face, inhaling. He suddenly had a vision of beautiful forms dancing around him, and it jogged a distinct memory. “I think we had a good time. ”
“Too bad we can only remember a few bits” said Leafrot. “What’s with the flower? Left over from our night?”
“Guess so. I’ve never seen one before, and the smell – maybe it’s a fae flower – we ‘re not far from Musaeus’s house – we could drop in and ask him.”
Musaeus was a local alchemist, scholar, and dabbler in the esoteric. Or, depending who you asked, just a crazy old guy who collected all manner of strange objects. He was an almost guaranteed source of beer-money if you could find something unusual for his collection, and many of the locals took regular advantage of this. Bumsit and Leafrot approached his house,, which was nothing more than a ramshackle hut with smoke drifting from a hole in the roof. There was a smell of a burnt.. something .. that neither the half-elf or hobbit could quite place. They banged on the door, and hearing a voice, pushed it open.
Inside, Museaus was standing at the fireplace, staring at a shapeless blob that was still smoking and stinking.
“Is this a convenient time?” asked Leafrot. “We have a question. ” Burnt feathers, that’s the smell, he realised.
Musaeus sighed. “Well it wasn’t a Phoenix. Thought it may have been, but it obviously wasn’t.”
“Yes, “ said Musaeus, “A hunter brought it in. Most curious-looking bird he found dead in the woods. I had hoped it might be a phoenix, which , as you know, can arise renewed out of its ashes.” He gave the black lump a poke with a long iron. “ But this bird isn’t going to do anything. Ah well … how can I help you?”
Bumsit handed him the flower. “Can you tell us about this?”
Musaeus’s eyes narrowed slightly as he held the flower against the light of the doorway, examining it carefully. He sniffed the petals. “Its an Areenian lily…. very rare… how did you come by it?”
“Would you believe I just woke up this morning and there it was?”
“And tell me, were you ah, imbibing last night? And you have no recollection of any events that passed?”
“I don’t even remember if I was imbibing! The last thing I.. we .. . remember is seeing a doorway to the Shadow Gardens ..after that… its just bits and pieces that we each have a vague memory of. I’m assuming we have a good fae hangover. ”
“Well you would have.” agreed Musaeus. “Tell me, have you heard of the Nocturnis Rex? It’s a fae custom.”
Leafrot made a choking noise “ You’re joking – King for a Night? I thought that was just a fairytale?”
Musaeus laughed … “Literally….! ”
“What?” Bumsit stared at Leafrot. “You know what he’s talking about?”
“Yes, well, but I didn’t think it was true. I thought it was an old wive’s tale.”
“This lily,” explained Musaeus, “Is a fae symbol of royalty. But it is mostly used in their celebrations, notably one called Nocturnis Rex – that’s the scholarly name for it, the fae name is something unpronounceable. It’s a particular feast where someone is crowned king for the night – for a night they can have or decree anything they want. ”
“King? Of the fae? For a night? I was? “ said Bumsit
“You mean I was, “ objected Leafrot, “ I ‘m sure I sitting on a throne and plucking petals off fairy nymphs”
“Indeed it appears that one of you – or maybe both – was being treated most royally,” said Musaeus, “And the fragrance of the flower will be triggering the odd memory of what happened. But unfortunately… “ ….. he opened his hand that had been holding the flower. It was now a brown shrivelled husk. “Areenian lilies have a very short life span”
“There goes any chance of proving I was the rightful king.” said Leafrot
“Get stuffed …” said Bumsit.
Leafrot laughed, “Come on Your Highness, I’ll let you buy me a royal drink.”
“Just a minute, “ said Bumsit. “Musaeus, that lily – if its fae, then surely it must have some magic properties even if its dead? Could be worth experimenting on? We’re willing to sell it to you ….”
The two sat in their favourite ale-house musing.
“It does beg the question, ” said Bumsit, “What other things have we done that we have no memory of, nor ever will? Perhaps we have been leading whole other lives? ”
“Too early in the day for philosophising, my good friend. Drink up.” Leafrot took a deep draught of ale.
“And that, “ said Bumsit, “Is the sum of existence. At the end of the day, after wonders, enchantments, other lives, dead birds and flowers and what-not … you still can’t beat a free drink”
Leafrot clanked his tankard against Bumsit’s. “Free, and one that you can remember!”