“Good luck to you,” said Thalia Góðurrisisdöttir, as we bid farewell.
She had snuck us out of the giants’ icy fortress, and given us our weapons, as well as a supply of bread and cheese and some warm blankets.
“Good luck to you,” I said. “You and Thurid take care of one another.”
“We shall try,” the giantess said unhappily. “I don’t know what’s to become of us. Our love is forbidden among giant-kind.”
“Well, if you ever manage to leave together, come to Dewberry in Aerithraine and you will always be welcome.”
With a wave goodbye, Elleena and I started south. Despite the rough terrain, we made good time. Even though it was cold and windy and freezing and unpleasant, it was at least downhill.
That night, we took shelter in a small ice cave. Not wanting to give away our location by lighting a fire, and not having any wood to burn even if we did, we huddled together for warmth. Suddenly Elleena opened her mouth and slapped herself on the forehead.
“What?” I wondered.
“All this time, I have struggled to keep the throne. I have never married because a man would have usurped my crown. All this time, I could have just married a woman.”
“Well, you are still young, and Ellwood Cyrene is quite a handsome man.”
“I thought you said I was a fat, ugly cow.”
“I was angry at the time,” I confessed. “I think that as Ellwood Cyrene, despite my having no interest in men or their bodies, you are very handsome. As Elleena, despite your noticeably small breasts and somewhat mannish affectations, which is to say some of the things you do are not generally considered ladylike, you are still the most beautiful woman in the world.”
“Thank you,” said Elleena sincerely, which is to say, full of sincere. “In these past seven years, have you ever found someone to love?”
“In my entire life, I have had only one great, true love,” said I. “The Queen of Aerithriane, with whom I once had the pleasure of spending four or five years. What about you? Are you going to find a woman now to marry? You could marry Miriam, your royal body double. That would be… um, interesting.”
“I am in love with a great idiot,” she said.
“Who is he?” I demanded. “She? He? Them?”
“It is you, you great moron,” she said, and then she jumped on me like a Virian leopard leaps upon a hippoleptimus, which is to say like a Virian leopard leaps upon anything, because leaping is chiefly what the Virian leopard is known for. That and spots.
The next day, we left the great glacier known as The Skagarack. I had a spring in my step and Elleena had sort of a limp in hers, but we were both happy. About noon, we came over a small rise to find my noble warhorse, Hysteria, attempting to nibble on some frozen twigs.
“I am so happy to see you, Eaglethorpe!” her eyes seemed to say, notwithstanding the fact that normally it is the mouth and not the eyes which does all the talking.
After feeding her some oats from her own saddlebag, we continued on south, and Hysteria was not at all unhappy to bear both of us upon her back, which is to say, let us ride her. We reached Fencemar late into the night, and after seeing that Hysteria was well taken care of, which is to say checking her feet and brushing her down and seeing her fed and watered, we went to the tavern. There, in a crowded room, we found a fellow dressed as an adventurer, speaking before a crowd consisting of a few townsfolk, some travelers, and half a dozen fat dwarves.
“And now, I shall tell you how I, Eaglethorpe Buxton, saved Celestria and defeated the zombie horde with only this fork!”
“Lying welp!” I shouted rushing forward. “This time, Ethylthorpe, you have gone too far! I did warn you about your billing!”
“I am not Ethylthorpe,” said the brat in question. “I am your own dear Ednathorpe.”
“No, you are not.”
“Are you sure?” said someone next to me, and up jumped an identical copy of the false Eaglethorpe Buxton, which is to say, one or the other of my offspring.
“You cut your beautiful hair too?”
“I think it looks fine,” said Elleena.
“You stay out of this! One could very well say that this is all your fault.”
“One could very well say that, if one wanted to spend the rest of his life acting out the last few nights by himself.”
“What?” said the two Ethyls, which is to say the two Ednas.
“Never mind,” said I.
“We have decided that we don’t want to be split up anymore,” said one of the two rapscallions. “We will go with one or the other of you, and we will spend half our time adventuring and half our time in a castle having tea parties.”
“They are trying to trap us,” said Elleena, “in some kind of parent trap.”
“It is more like a parent obfuscation,” said I, “which is to say, a parent smokescreen.”
“I like parent trap,” said one twin.
“It has more of a ring to it,” said the other.
“Shut up, you two,” I demanded. “Are you trying to get us sued?”
I looked at Elleena and she looked at me. Her eyes were filled with love, but also fear. Some of either love or fear was leaking out and running down her cheeks.
“Elleena,” I said. “I love your more than life itself, maybe my life, but certainly other lives. If you will marry me and make our family whole, I will renounce all claim on the throne.”
“Oh, Eaglethorpe,” she said. “I was just about to say that I would let you be king if you would only say that we could stay together as a family. But thank you for renouncing the throne.”
“But if you don’t mind…”
“No, too late.”
“You have renounced it,” said she. “That is irrevocable, immutable, irretrievable, and not-take-back-able.”
“Okay,” I sighed. “But how will this work?”
“Easily enough,” she said. “Up until now, I have split my time between being Queen Elleena of Aerithraine and manly adventurer Ellwood Cyrene. Now, I will simply add a third persona—Lady Dewberry, your devoted wife.”
“This is wonderful,” said one of the girls, the one who had been speaking when we arrived. “I will divide my time between being Lady Ednathorpe of Dewberry and Princess Ednathorpe of Aerithraine.”
“And I,” said the other twin. “Will divide my time between being Lady Ethylthorpe of Dewberry and roguish young adventurer Ellwood Cyrene Jr.”
“You will not!” I shouted. “You will be roguish young adventurer Eaglethorpe Buxton Jr., and we will call you J.R. for short.”
The four of us came together in a great hug. The room broke out in applause.
“This is the finest play I’ve seen in two hundred years!” shouted one of the dwarves. “What is it called?”
“Love Conquers All,” said Elleena.
“Frosty family in a frosty land,” said Edna.
“Eaglethorpe Buxton Jr. and the family that ought not to be divided but somehow was,” suggested Ethyl.
“No,” said I. “None of those are the name. It’s Eaglethorpe Buxton and… Something about frost giants.