The League of Homunculi Book 3: The Isle of Glass by Pixis
Summary:

The famous little people of legend return to face the mysterious Nimue, a priestess with the hots for their mentor, Merlin.


Categories: Adventure, Body Exploration, Feet, Entrapment, Gentle, Humiliation, Mouth Play, Violent Characters: None
Growth: None
Shrink: Minikin (3 in. to 1 in.)
Size Roles: None
Warnings: This story is for entertainment purposes only.
Challenges: None
Series: The League of Homunculi
Chapters: 5 Completed: Yes Word count: 17528 Read: 37433 Published: January 30 2010 Updated: March 21 2010
Story Notes:

Another adventure with my team of tiny heroes, inspired by fairy tales, legends, and crossover fiction.

1. Chapter 1 by Pixis

2. Chapter 2 by Pixis

3. Chapter 3 by Pixis

4. Chapter 4 by Pixis

5. Chapter 5 by Pixis

Chapter 1 by Pixis
Author's Notes:

All characters are (to the best of my knowledge) public domain. If not, well...bear in mind I'm not making any money from this.

The League of Homunculi Book 3: The Isle of Glass

By Pixis

The Legend: In the days of good King Arthur, the magician Merlin summoned to Britain a collection of the smallest individuals known to man. These he offered to the king as spies, a secret network of miniature heroes undertaking missions against the Round Table’s enemies. Merlin called this strange menagerie…the League of Homunculi.

Roll Call:

Tom Thumb: Arthur’s court dwarf, an honorary Knight of the Round Table.

Thumbelina: The smallest woman in the world and Princess of the Flower-Faeries.

Issun-boshi: An inch-tall samurai from the distant East.

Thumbling: A tiny tailor seeking his fortune in a very big world.

Part 1

It was a dark time for Camelot. Arthur’s patron Viviane, the Lady of the Lake, lay dead at the hands of the treacherous knight, Sir Balin. Taking her place was the Avalon priestess, Nimue, a beautiful maiden that the League’s mentor Merlin was utterly besotted with. The League was not certain whether to trust this new advisor, believing her to have ulterior motives.

But there were more pressing concerns facing our heroes. Arthur’s shining, civilized kingdom was beginning to show signs of unrest. As the Round Table’s enemies multiplied, the League sought to strengthen its numbers with a recruitment drive.

The League’s founding members (Tom, Thumbelina, Issun, and Thumbling) were assembled on a tabletop in Merlin’s chambers in the highest tower of the castle. They were an odd assortment – a plainclothes knight in doublet and hose, a beautiful red-haired lass in a shimmering faerie gown, a stoic samurai warrior, and a Germanic peasant with a mischievous glint in his eye. The tiny team sat upon thimbles, poring over the resumes of potential recruits.

Looming above them at the table was the towering presence of Lady Nimue. Clad in a simple green gown, her short black hair framing her disarmingly lovely face, the High Priestess of Avalon was grinning from ear to ear. This was the first bit of League business she had been invited to participate in and she was eager to begin.

“The summoning spell is complete, my love,” Merlin said, leaning on his crooked staff and kissing Nimue’s hand. “All potential candidates are now assembled. I regret that I shall be unable to assist you with the interview process. The king has need of my counsel.”

“Worry not, darling,” Nimue told him. “I am certain the wee ones and I can handle it.” She reached out a long, slender finger and tickled Thumbling’s side, nearly toppling him from his thimble.

“I’m sure you can,” agreed Merlin. “Do remember to watch your step though.”

Nimue smiled at the wizard’s advice, for indeed, the floor of the room was covered by over a dozen tiny figures. Most were no bigger than three inches high. They had been summoned by Merlin’s magic from every corner of the globe, from the exotic Orient to darkest Africa, from the cold marches of Russia to the Saracen desert lands. When they first began appearing, the League was astounded. They had only recently learned of each others’ existence and to see so many more beings their size was quite startling. Though each thumbling had felt freakish in their homelands, they now realized they were not alone.

Merlin turned towards the door. Before disappearing down the long staircase, the old enchanter looked back and called to his lover again.

“Oh, and one more thing…don’t let Archimedes out of his cage.”

Archimedes, Merlin’s educated owl, puffed out his feathers indignantly. “Hoo! Caged! Hooo! Imprisoned! I’ve never been treated so shabbily!” he lamented. “I had the run of this place before these pipsqueaks arrived.” He turned his back on the little people in a huff and curled up to go to sleep.

“Let the first applicant come forward,” Tom Thumb called to the crowd below. A tiny man began to clamber up the makeshift ladder that Merlin had attached to the table leg. He stood stoically before them, a broad-shouldered manikin the size of Nimue’s thumb. He was dark of hair and heavily muscled, his simple tunic’s sleeves rolled up past his elbows. He appeared to be a miniature approximation of a simple peasant farmer.

“Good afternoon. Your name, sir?” Thumbelina asked the man.

“I am Lipuniushka,” he answered in a thick Russian accent.

The League shuffled through their papers and reviewed his information. “It says here that you were born to a childless couple out of a fluff of enchanted cotton,” Tom mentioned.

“Da,” said Lipuniushka.

“And that you outwitted a wealthy baron to whom you were sold as an oddity, allowing your parents to claim his gold,” Tom continued.

“Da,” said Lipuniushka.

“Is that right?” Thumbling asked, perking up. “My pops and I pulled a similar trick once. Pretty sly, Lippy.”

“Da,” said Lipuniushka again.

Thumbling frowned. “Don’t talk much, do you?”

“Nyet,” Lipuniushka answered.

“Oookay,” said Thumbling. He turned to his comrades and made a slashing motion across his throat, signaling to cut the interview short. “This guy’s a wet noodle,” he whispered. “I vote no.”

“I like him,” said Issun-boshi.

“You would, Mr. Silent-But-Deadly,” Thumbling teased the little samurai. “The two of you could have all sorts of fascinating staring contests.”

“He’s crafty and he looks pretty strong for his size,” Thumbelina offered. “Could be an asset.”

“What are you mites whispering about down there?” Nimue asked, leaning down until her giant face was inches above the tiny group. The League felt the heat of the priestess’ breath on the backs of their necks and sensed the ground quiver when her ample breasts touched down on the tabletop.

“Nothing, m’lady,” insisted Tom nervously. “Lipuniushka, if you will indulge us, please take up that javelin near you and throw it as far as you can.”

The “javelin” in question was in fact one of Merlin’s quill pens. Unfazed, the tiny farmer hoisted the quill (which was several times as tall as he was) with one hand and with a grunt, flung it off the side of the table. The feathery projectile shot across the length of the room at incredible speed and buried itself in the far wall, many feet from its point of origin. For a full-sized athlete, the equivalent distance would have been remarkable, the length of a jousting green at least.

The League and the enchantress blinked in surprise. “Definitely strong,” Thumbelina whispered to her teammates.

“Thank you. We’ll keep you in consideration, Lipuniushka,” Tom said simply.

“Spasibo,” the little farmer answered with a nod of his head and descended down the ladder.

“Next, please,” Tom called.

A handsome cavalier dressed in a fine silk coat, a feathered hat, brown breeches, a cloak, and a pair of fancy boots was the next to climb the ladder. He strolled confidently up to the group, stealing a glance at Nimue overhead and blowing her a kiss.

“Bonjour, mes amis,” the little man said with a bow and a flourish. “My name is Le Petit Poucet, roughly translated to Hop o’ My Thumb in your tongue.”

“Tell us about yourself, Hop,” Thumbelina requested.

“But of course,” he said. “I am ze youngest of seven brothers and, as you may guess, ze smallest. Yet, we all know it is not ze size which is counted, it is how you use it.” He winked mischievously to Nimue, who suppressed a giggle.

“My primary claim to fame, among others,” Hop continued, “was ze outsmarting of a wicked ogre. I stole from zis brute ze magical seven-league boots which I now wear. Very stylish, no?”

“And what are seven-league boots, Hop?” Tom inquired.

“I am glad you have asked, monsieur,” said Hop. “Allow me to demonstrate their wonders. Ze seven-league boots can carry a person to any destination with only a few steps. For example, if I wished to visit that window ledge…”

Hop took a step to his right and, instantly, he vanished, only to reappear on the windowsill on the other side of the room.

“Holy cats!” Thumbling cried. “Did you guys see that?!”

“Or if I desired to travel to a far distant meadow…” Hop stepped towards the outdoors and disappeared once more. A moment later, he rematerialized on the table bearing a rose blossom larger than he was. He offered this to Nimue, who reached down to take it from the tiny man.

“Or if I sought to know a beautiful mademoiselle a bit better…” With another step, Hop vanished and was transported to Nimue’s shoulder. “Enchantée,” he whispered, leaning forward to kiss the vast wall of her cheek.

“Thank you,” Thumbelina blurted in annoyance. “I think we get the idea.”

Hop skillfully slid down the smooth skin of Nimue’s arm and over the fingers of her hand, landing back on the tabletop. “Jealous, ma petit belle?” he asked Thumbelina.

“Hardly,” she told him, showing her wedding ring. “I’m married.”

“Zat has never stopped me before,” Hop said with a grin.

“Thank you, Mr. My Thumb, I think that will be all,” said Thumbelina.

Hop bowed courteously and disappeared one final time.

“That is amazing!” Thumbling said excitedly, throwing up his hands in astonishment. “He just—but he was—how did he DO that?!”

“It is a useful gift indeed,” Issun-boshi added. “Most wondrous.”

“What a charming little fellow,” said Nimue.

“He’s arrogant and clearly a womanizer,” Thumbelina grumbled. “I don’t like him.”

“Those boots would be helpful to our operation,” Tom argued. “You wouldn’t have to carry us around with your faerie wings, ‘Lina.”

“I suppose,” she reluctantly allowed. “Well, who’s next?”

“Greetings, worthy friends!” a voice bellowed below. Fairly bounding up the ladder was a little man clad in animal furs and bearing a toothpick-sized spear. He was dusky of skin and his eyes had an exotic slant. He jumped up to the table and stood, spear in hand, in a battle-ready pose.

“I am Niraidak! Tough Little Niraidak of the Evenki people!”

“I am not familiar with the Evenki,” Tom admitted. The others looked around with similar confusion.

“We are from a distant land called Siberia, not far from Lipuniushka’s homeland,” Niraidak explained. “Cold as a witch’s tit but a beautiful country!”

Nimue touched a hand to her bosom, feeling it experimentally. “Cold as a what now?”

“I see,” said Tom. “And what are your qualifications?”

“I am the finest huntsman and warrior of my tribe! You see this coat I wear? Forged from the pelt of two sables! And this hat? The skin of a mouse! A vicious creature it was too!”

“My, my,” Tom mused. “Two sables and a mouse all by yourself?”

“Mere peanuts!” Niraidak bellowed. “I also fought a giant!”

“A giant-slayer?” Thumbelina asked. “Now that would be an asset to our team.”

“Indeed, fair one!” said Niraidak. “But I should note that I let the monster live. Gave him a stern talking to and a few pokes from my spear to make sure he got the message!” The tiny hunter jabbed his toothpick-weapon through the air several times, fighting imaginary enemies. He gave a high-pitched battle cry.

“And that is not all!” he continued animatedly. “My steed is a mighty enchanted stag and my wife the most beautiful woman in Siberia!”

“Got a lady waiting for you back home, eh?” Thumbling asked.

“Yes! Or, well, I did. She left me our first night of marriage. Was not pleased by the catch of minnows I brought home for supper. I believe her exact words were, ‘Such a husband! I would get more nourishment eating you than these meager fish!’ Another few nights and I think she would have too! But Niraidak is too crafty to be eaten!”

“Is that so?” Nimue asked with a smile. In moments, her pretty hand shot down and scooped up Niraidak between two fingers. She dangled him by the back of his coat before her thick, pink lips.

“You look rather scrumptious to me…” A huge tongue slid out from between those fleshy gates and rolled slowly back and forth. She opened wide, giving the little warrior a glimpse into the abyss of her mouth, and tilted her head back to accept him.

“Unhand me, sorceress!” Niraidak shrieked. He struggled in her grip as hot breath washed across his skin. “Think not to consume Niraidak or he shall slit thy throat! From the inside, if need be!”

The other League members had jumped to their feet and were watching this spectacle with alarm. They were about to spring to Niraidak’s aid when Nimue began laughing melodiously. She pulled her hand away and let the little man drop back to the table. Niraidak landed in a heap and Nimue reached out to tickle his chin.

“Peace, noble huntsman,” she said. “I was merely teasing you.”

“Um, thank you, Niraidak, you can go,” Tom stuttered. “We’ll notify you of our decision.”

And so it went throughout the afternoon. Thumb-sized champions from all around the world offered their services: Digit the Midget, three-inch trickster of Ethiopia; Hasan the Heroic Mouse-Child, an anthropomorphic rodent from Turkey; Cecino the Little Chick-Pea, an inch-high lad from the Romans’ homeland; the Hazel-nut Child, a nut-sized explorer from the Carpathian Mountains; Three-Inch, a hideous, long-haired imp from the Indus Valley; and many more.

With each applicant, Nimue became more daring and hands-on, often scooping them up or playing with them in some way. She dangled Hasan by his tail to get a better look at him, chased Digit across the table with her fingers, blew on Cecino with the force of a hurricane, and teased that a Hazel-nut Child sounded like a delicious snack. The priestess’ behavior was becoming most disconcerting for the League.

When the interviews had concluded, Nimue stood up from the table and stretched. She crossed the room, hoisting her gown and stepping carefully over the assembled clusters of tiny people, who were waiting patiently for Merlin to transport them back to their homes. Ever the free-spirited child of nature, Nimue was barefoot and couldn’t resist nudging or picking up a few of the little men with her toes as she passed.

“A most fruitful and amusing afternoon!” she declared. “Well, I’m off to, uh…make my report to Merlin. Do keep me informed of your decisions, little ones.” With that, she disappeared down the stairwell, unaware of poor Cecino still trapped between her big and second toe. Several other little folk chased after her, seeking to assist him.

Tom Thumb watched her go, a pensive look on his little face. When he was certain she was out of earshot, he turned to his teammates. “I don’t trust her.”

“Why, because she treats us like toys?” asked Thumbling. “That’s nothing new. Queen Guinevere did the same when she was in charge of the League. Of course, now she prefers her larger ‘boy-toy,’ Sir Lancelot.”

“Nimue toying with us is not what bothers me. Well, not entirely,” Tom said. “It’s her relationship with Merlin. Don’t get me wrong, I love Merlin like a father. He created me, for God’s sake! But he is no spring chicken. Why would a young lass like Nimue be drawn to him when she could have her pick of handsome suitors?”

“Love is strange, Thomas,” Issun told him. “The heart wants what the heart wants.”

“Maybe she has daddy issues,” Thumbling suggested.

“This betokens ill,” Tom said. “I think she’s after something, manipulating his emotions.”

“Tom, don’t forget, Merlin can see the future,” Thumbelina added. “If something were amiss, he would have seen it. Right?”

“I don’t know,” Tom muttered. “I think we should watch her.”

To be continued...

Chapter 2 by Pixis
Author's Notes:
The new recruit has been chosen. Thanks to everyone reading this. Like a lot of my stuff, I know this reads more like fantasy fiction than fetish but that's what appeals to me as a writer. I hope you enjoy it.

Part 2

Poor, hapless Cecino, the inch-high League hopeful from Italia, had spent several tense minutes trapped between Nimue’s pretty toes. The priestess had quite forgotten him, failing to notice his continued presence on her foot after her playful games with the little men. He was given a rather harrowing ride as she descended the stairwell in Merlin’s tower, her steps rising and falling with terrible swiftness, the impact of each footfall rattling his very bones. Each of the lady’s toes was larger than Cecino’s whole body and the tiny lad was completely overpowered by them, squirming impotently in their grasp.

He finally got a reprieve from the hellish ride when Nimue reached the main hall of the castle and hurried to Merlin’s side. The magician brightened when he saw her and swept her into an embrace, delivering a passionate kiss to the young woman. Though this took place high above Cecino’s line of sight, he felt its effects at once when Nimue unconsciously curled her toes in arousal. The massive digits squeezed tightly around the tiny man, robbing him of breath and nearly crushing the life out of him. He was only saved when several other little folk – Hasan, Three-Inch, and Digit – scurried up from behind and began an assault upon the sorceress’ ankles.

“Here now, what’s all this?” Nimue said, pulling away from Merlin for the moment. She peered down at the mouse, the imp, and the little dark-skinned warrior trying to get her attention.

“The try-outs are over, little ones. There’s no need to—Oh!” At last, she spotted Cecino and lifted her foot gingerly to pluck him from between her toes.

Cecino was hoisted high into the air by a pair of giant fingers, the wind rushing past his face and nearly denying him the much-needed breaths he gasped for. He finally came to rest before Nimue’s vast green eye, which was almost the length of his torso.

“You poor dear,” she cooed, inspecting the tiny frightened face and the flailing little limbs. “How long were you stuck down there?”

“Release me…I beg you!” Cecino called in the Latin tongue of Rome. A learned woman, Nimue knew Latin well but ignored the squeaking protests.

“Is this a new recruit, my peach?” Merlin inquired.

“I’ll leave that for the wee ones to decide,” the priestess replied. “He’s very cute though. Almost cute enough to eat.” As the minute figure struggled in her grip, powerless, she resisted an urge to pop him into her mouth like the little chick-peas he’d been named for.

“A darling little mite indeed,” she murmured. “Perhaps I’ll keep this one for myself…”

Slowly and seductively, Nimue lowered Cecino towards the top of her gown. She gave a gentle tug at the neckline and flashed a devilish smile at Merlin, knowing this was driving him wild. She released her grip on Cecino and let him plummet into the bodice of her dress, where he landed with a plop on her bosom. Merlin leaned closer and watched, enraptured, as the tiny peapod-sized man rolled down the smooth slope and was swallowed up into the depths of her cleavage. A moment later, there was no sign he’d been there at all. Nimue released her collar and adjusted her breasts with both hands, squeezing the minuscule prisoner between them.

“A veritable temptress you are,” Merlin told her, breathlessly. Nimue smiled again and led him away by the hand. There were numerous small folk to transport home before she and the wizard could have some…private time. Perhaps she’d even let her tiny new pet join in the festivities.

* * * *

After a spirited debate and a tally of votes, the League’s new member was decided—Hop o’ My Thumb, the rakish little rogue from Gaul. This left Thumbelina ill at ease, for she remained disdainful of his cocky swagger and womanizing ways. But even she could not deny the advantages of the seven-league boots. The other thumblings’ information was retained on file and the idea of calling them in as reserve members in a time of crisis was discussed. The League’s next mission, however, was one that would require stealth, not strength in numbers, as it turned out.

The following day, a messenger arrived at Camelot, a young druid initiate in a hood and dark blue robes. He announced that Lady Nimue was temporarily recalled to Avalon to attend to business there. The League overheard this from their seat of honor at the Round Table, beside Queen Guinevere’s plate, and began to discuss the matter amongst them.

“This is our best chance to learn her real motives,” Tom whispered. “Among her own people, she would speak freely and abandon any charade she might be acting out here at court.”

“You’re suggesting we sneak into Avalon?” Thumbelina asked, wide-eyed.

“Hey, why not?” chuckled Thumbling. “We’ve infiltrated some tough spots before. It goes with the spy game.”

“I do not know zis ‘Avalon’ of which you speak, messieurs et madame,” Hop said, after listening to the discussion. “But I’m certain I could transport us there as easy as un, deux, trois!”

“Avalon is not like heading down the street to the apothecary, Hop!” Thumbelina said. “We’re talking about a mystical island paradise here. No one knows where it is. They say it’s not even fully of this world! If Nimue wasn’t from there herself, I’d think it only a legend. Tom, how do you propose we—”

“Don’t worry, ‘Lina,” said Tom. “I have a few ideas…”

“Rarely a good sign, honorable Thomas,” Issun-boshi muttered, remembering the League’s last adventure. Tom’s “ideas” had nearly gotten Issun digested in the belly of Morgan le Fay herself. He was not certain he liked where this was going.

Where it was going turned out to be to Nimue’s chambers as a number of ladies-in-waiting attended to her and prepared her for the journey. Servant girls rushed to and fro about the room, readying the priestess’ riding gear, braiding her hair, and packing supplies. The League members scurried across the floor in fits and starts, dodging the servants’ footfalls with practiced ease. Their timing was precise, sometimes avoiding the descent of a girl’s massive sandal by mere seconds. By now, they were used to navigating among full-sized people and had used similar techniques to spy on King Arthur’s foes in their own castle keeps.

The little heroes remained unnoticed, hiding behind an ankle or under the folds of a dress when they feared the eyes above them might be watching. At last, they climbed up the leg of a chair near the center of the room, where the gown that had been laid out for Nimue rested.

Hop was already there waiting for them, having transported himself across the room in the blink of an eye.

“Really, mes amis, you must learn to make better use of my talents. I could have—”

“Shut up and stick to the plan,” Thumbelina hissed at him. Quietly, the tiny spies crawled into the deep pockets of the gown and waited.

Moments later, Nimue stepped forward, clad only in her silky shift (Thumbling had to be forcibly restrained from sneaking a glimpse). The servants lifted the gown from its perch, unknowingly tossing the little folk about with the sudden movement, and allowed Nimue to step into the dress. Instantly, she felt the curious weight in the pockets and reached a hand in to investigate.

The League had anticipated this. They had each carried several walnuts with them and were wielding these like shields to mask their presence. Nimue’s long delicate fingers and sharp nails grasped about, coming dangerously close to Hop, Issun, and ‘Lina, who laid flat in the bottom of one pocket. The giant fingers found only the upper layer of walnuts however and soon pulled a few of these out into the light.

“Walnuts?” Nimue mused. “A snack for the road. How thoughtful. Thank you, ladies.”

The ladies-in-waiting smiled and nodded. Each was eager to please the High Priestess and none of them wanted to admit that the walnuts had not been her idea.

In short order, Nimue was ready to bid adieu to the king and queen and had given a passionate goodbye kiss to Merlin.

“Dream of me, Myrddin Emrys,” she whispered in his ear. “I will return to you soon.”

“I shall count the minutes, nymph of the woods,” the wizard answered.

“I am sorry to lose you, Lady Nimue, even for a short time,” King Arthur admitted as he and Guinevere arrived to see her off. “I value your counsel. And I owe much to the sisters of your holy order.” Unconsciously, he touched the hilt of Excalibur, a gift from Nimue’s predecessor.

Though Arthur offered her a chariot to bear her south to the Summer Country, Nimue preferred to ride a single horse. She had a rapport with animals and a love of riding alone through the open countryside. Nonetheless, the king sent a retinue of knights as her escort. The loss of Lady Viviane had made him wary and he wanted to ensure the safety of his new advisor.

The journey was not a pleasant one for the League. They spent several hours cooped up in the stuffy confines of the pockets, pressed tightly against the enchantress’ thighs through the fabric of the dress. The gallop of the horse bounced them here and there in the pile of walnuts until they were nearly sick.

“This is intolerable!” Hop lamented, as a jolt of the horse sent him slamming against Nimue’s hip. “I am not accustomed to traveling in this way!”

“Once we get a bead on Avalon’s location, then you can use your fancy magic shoes,” Thumbelina told him crossly. “Until then, you ride with the rest of us.”

“You’re beautiful when you’re angry,” Hop said, beaming.

“Oh my Lord.” ‘Lina put a hand to her temple, exasperated. “I knew we should have recruited the quiet Russian fella…”

At last, they arrived in the Summer Country and approached the small town of Glastonbury. The sky was gray and overcast and a light rain fell upon the travelers. Mist obscured their surroundings and set an eerie mood as soon as the troop entered the town. The monks of the local abbey welcomed Arthur’s knights with gusto, though they eyed the sorceress accompanying them with suspicion.

“You’re certain you will be all right from here, my lady?” asked one of the knights, Sir Pelleas, as he helped to stable Nimue’s horse.

“Of course,” she said simply. “I am nearly home.”

As Pelleas left the stable to rejoin his comrades-in-arms, a monk stepped towards him with curiosity. “I wonder greatly that good Christian knights should be sent to escort a heathen witch such as her,” the holy man murmured to him. “Surely the king has not turned away from the light in these dark times?”

“Pagan she may be,” Pelleas replied, “but the Lady Nimue is a good woman and one of King Arthur’s most trusted advisors. You would do well to watch your tongue, brother.”

“I meant no offense, Sir Knight,” the monk added quickly and hurried back up the road. From the shadows of the stable, Nimue smiled.

When the knights and all curious onlookers had departed, Nimue approached the shore of the lake that lay near the center of Glastonbury. Far across the misty waters, she saw the high, rounded hill known as the Tor and at its peak, a structure called St. Michael’s Tower. But this was not her destination. She walked to the water’s edge and began to chant quietly in the ancient Brythonic tongue.

Still hidden in her pockets, the League wondered at this. Truth be told, none of them knew where Avalon was or how Nimue planned to get there. Had they known the answer, they would not believe it.

In moments, a long, wooden barge sailed slowly out of the mists. No one was at its helm and it seemed as if the priestess has summoned it through sheer force of will. Nimue stepped gracefully into the barge and muttered another chant. The boat resumed its motion and sailed gently across the lake. As it did so, the mists over the surface of the water began to deepen until visibility was all but eliminated. The barge sailed on, bearing its passenger into the fog.

“Where are we going?” Thumbling whispered to Tom, as they both peered over the edge of Nimue’s pocket. “That island over there? Is that Avalon?”

“It can’t be,” Tom whispered back. “I saw a Christian tower on that hill. Avalon’s a pagan holy site.”

“Bloody hell, it’s thick as pea soup out here!” Thumbling said, staring blindly into the mist. “Can’t see a blessed thing. Maybe there’s another island further out or something.”

Eventually, the mists cleared enough for the tiny heroes to watch the barge make landfall on the shore. Several young women clad in long blue robes were waiting to greet their High Priestess as she exited the boat with regal bearing. The League ducked out of sight but stayed close to the tops of Nimue’s pockets, watching the scene with fascination. As the women led Nimue further onto the island, the little people felt their breath catch in their throats.

This was indeed the same island they had glimpsed from the shore, but it now seemed transformed. The dim, foggy weather of Glastonbury was gone and the sun shined brightly on an endless field of green. The Tor loomed majestically over the landscape, its peak topped not by the Christian tower but a ring of standing stones. Apple orchards lined the road, their output as full and ripe as the richest crop of summer. In the shadow of these trees sat stunningly beautiful women and handsome druids of noble bearing. Bards idly strummed their harps and poets composed ballads of long-dead heroes. All around, there was life and light and beauty.

The League stared in wonder at the people of the island--not just Britons, but red-haired Irish and Scotti, woad-painted Picts, and even the small, dark, aboriginal Hill Folk. Though their tribes were often at war in the outside world, here they stood united.

This was truly Avalon, but how? Was the gloomy isle they’d seen in the distance only an illusion? Or had they somehow passed into another realm entirely?

Thumbling considered these options and decided he didn’t care. What mattered quite emphatically to him though were the gorgeous young women gathered beside the road.

“Will you look at those beauties?” he whispered. “Virgin priestesses ripe for corruption, no doubt! Oh, mama!” Without care, he started to pull himself up out of the pocket.

“’Ling! What are doing?” Tom hissed. But he was too late to stop him from leaping over the side. Thumbling tumbled down Nimue’s hip and leg, riding the smooth fabric of her gown like a slide. He landed on the road with a skillful jump and quickly scurried out of the way of the procession leading the High Priestess.

“Where’s that idiot going?” Thumbelina muttered, as she and the others watched Thumbling dart across the road.

“Je ne sais pas,” said Hop. He soon spotted the maidens to which his teammate was making a beeline. Hop grinned. “I believe I shall go investigate this. Excusez-moi.” A moment later, he had vanished and was already beside Thumbling in the grass near a group of lovely young girls.

“Oh, for the love of—” ‘Lina swore as Hop vanished. “Does no one care that we’re on a mission?! A little professionalism would be nice, folks!”

As it turned out, the women were seers gathered around a small bowl of water that they intended to use as a scrying pool. Thumbling grinned towards Hop and indicated for him to watch closely. The little tailor lifted a large rock (barely a pebble by anyone else’s reckoning) and tossed it into the bushes. Surprised, the women turned towards the source of this sound. While they were distracted, Thumbling hoisted himself onto the edge of the bowl and jumped in.

Moments later, the women returned to the scrying bowl. “Can you see anything, Alcina?” one of them asked her sister priestess.

“I…yes, I can!” Alcina exclaimed, leaning close over the bowl. Curly brown hair hung like curtains on either side of it and her pretty nose was practically touching the surface of the water. Below the surface, Thumbling floated, holding his breath, and flailing his arms and legs about mysteriously.

“I can see someone! A man!” Alcina said with excitement. “O Great Goddess, I knew I had the Sight! He seems so real. It’s almost as if I could reach out and touch him…”

At this, Thumbling popped his head out of the water and kissed the tip of her nose. “You can do more than that, baby!”

Alvina let out a shriek and pulled away from the bowl. Similarly startled, the other young priestesses backed away or jumped in alarm. A moment later, Hop transported himself onto one of the women’s shoulders.

“Bonjour, mes belles,” he said with a little bow. Startled once more, soon all the priestesses were screaming and running for their lives from whatever spirits they had summoned with their scrying spell. In the commotion, the bowl was kicked by a woman’s shoe, sending it a fair distance away to spill its contents and passenger onto the grass. Hop lost his footing on the shoulder as his hostess made a sudden dash to escape. The little Gaulish hero tumbled down the front of her robe, slipping between an impressive pair of breasts before continuing his descent down her body. He plummeted past her wildly kicking legs and fell out the bottom of the robe, nearly being crushed underfoot as she ran from the glen.

Nearby, Thumbling coughed and sputtered and tried to pick himself back up from the puddle of water. “Worth it!” he declared.

“Truly,” said Hop, climbing back to his feet to dust himself off and rub his bruised limbs.

Meanwhile, Nimue had been ushered into a ceremonial hall that stood tall and proud among the humble cottages of the Avalon village. A row of nine elder priestesses greeted her.

“Nimue ferch Dyonas, Avalon welcomes you in the name of the Great Mother Dôn and Beli Mawr, Lord of the Sun.” The women made the holy sign of the sun and bowed to their leader.

“Such ceremony,” Nimue said, waving them off and taking the hand of the priestess who had spoken. She pulled her up out of the bow to stand as an equal. “Surely I have not been Lady of the Lake so long that you have forgotten our friendship, Glitonea. Were we not children together in the Hall of Maidens?”

“Of course, my lady,” Glitonea answered, still more formal and proper than Nimue would have liked.

“Now then,” Nimue proceeded. “Why have I been summoned?”

“The sisters wish to know your progress with the Merlin of Britain,” Glitonea stated. Below in Nimue’s pockets, Tom, ‘Lina, and Issun listened closely.

“I have the Merlin wrapped about my little finger,” said Nimue. “The old man adores me.”

“And has he shared his secrets with you?” Glitonea continued.

“All and sundry,” Nimue answered. “Magic and alchemy, wisdom and learning. His mind is an open book and he keeps nothing from me.”

“What of the Day of Destiny?” Glitonea asked. “Has he foreseen it, just as our seers have?”

Nimue was silent for a moment. “He has,” she said at last.

“And?” The women looked to her expectantly.

“And he will do nothing,” Nimue said sadly. “He knows the future and cares not. The Merlin has told me of his visions and it is clear that he will not lift a finger to avert the tragedy that is to come. In fact, he has engineered it himself. As ever, the wizard moves pawns where he will and manipulates men’s lives. Whatever happens will be on his head.”

The priestesses chattered among themselves in alarm, discussing this, until Glitonea lifted a hand to silence them.

“Then you know what must be done,” she said.

“I do,” Nimue agreed. A frown crossed her lovely face.

“You hesitate, my lady?”

“No, I…it’s just that I’ve grown somewhat fond of him,” Nimue said. “Though I know the truth now, he…he really does seem like such a sweet old man. But worry not, sisters. I am High Priestess of this isle and I know my duty. It will be done.”

In the darkness of the pockets, the League members looked at each other bewildered. What were these women getting at?

“The Brotherhood will not be pleased,” an older priestess stated.

“No, the druids will not approve,” Nimue agreed. “The Merlin was chief among them. But in time, they will see it is the gods’ will.”

Glitonea’s severe expression softened slightly and she looked to Nimue with empathy. “Would…would not this duty be more suitable for someone else, my lady? As High Priestess, your place is here. Surely one of your novice priestesses could act in your stead or—”

“No, Glitonea,” Nimue answered, resigned. “Only a power like the Merlin’s own can accomplish this. And I alone have learned those secrets. This is how it must be.”

“Then we are agreed,” Glitonea said. “For the sake of the future, Myrddin Emrys, Merlin of Britain…must die.”

The blood ran cold in the League’s veins.

To be continued...

 

Chapter 3 by Pixis
Author's Notes:
A little something for Gullivera fans in this chapter, as well as another legend entering the picture towards the end.
Part 3

As soon as Nimue left the ceremonial hall and entered her private quarters, the League waited for the opportune moment to escape. Once she laid down upon a richly embroidered couch to rest from her journey, the little folk stealthily climbed out of her pockets. Tom had little trouble leaping down to the floor but Thumbelina and Issun-boshi, who were in the left pocket facing the back of the couch, found themselves trapped between Nimue’s hip and a towering wall of cushion. They could either attempt to climb up and over the couch itself or make their way across Nimue’s body to join Tom on the other side.

This second option was the fastest but also the most perilous. When they were certain Nimue’s head was leaning back and that her eyes were not upon them, ‘Lina and Issun crawled carefully up the side of her thigh. Even their light footsteps would surely notify her of their presence so they dared not go further. ‘Lina quickly depressed a button on the harness she wore, releasing a pair of translucent artificial wings from their casing. This gift of her husband, the faerie prince Cornelius, had served her well and it seemed it would save her teammates’ lives again.

The three-inch-tall beauty scooped the inch-tall Issun into her arms like a small child and took off. She swooped away from Nimue’s body quickly before the priestess could realize anything was amiss.

Nimue caught the movement in her peripheral vision and turned slightly. “Sister,” she called to a young priestess-in-training who had been assigned to attend to her. “Please shut the door. I think we’ve let in some insects.”

While the young girl fulfilled this request, ‘Lina swooped over the ground, grabbed Tom by the arm, and dragged both he and Issun with her into a mouse hole as sanctuary.

“We have to stop her,” Tom cried out as they landed. “She means to kill Merlin!”

“You were right,” ‘Lina acknowledged. “Nimue is not to be trusted. I don’t understand it though. Merlin is of the blood of Avalon, a master of the druid arts. Why would they seek to kill one of their own?”

“I don’t know,” said Tom. “And those accusations—a great disaster, Merlin manipulating the kingdom for his own gain—I just can’t believe it! It can’t be true!”

“And if it is?” Issun said softly. This caught the others by surprise.

“If Lord Merlin is truly responsible for these crimes,” Issun continued, “what then?”

Tom hesitated, his face lined by conflicting emotions. Merlin’s spells had given him life. Though Tom had been raised by a human couple, the old magician was a second father to him and he owed him much. The entire League did.

“If it’s true…then he will face justice in Arthur’s new civilized court system,” Tom concluded reluctantly. “Judged by a jury of his peers, not slain outright like a common brigand. We cannot allow Nimue to harm him.”

“Perhaps it won’t come to that,” ‘Lina reasoned. “Perhaps Merlin has foreseen this in his visions.”

“And yet still took her to his bed?” said Tom. “You heard her. She knows his arts. She could be blocking his powers with her own. We can’t take the risk, my friends. We must act now.”

* * * *

The team soon regrouped with Hop and Thumbling and brought them up to speed on the situation. Obviously, the League could not hope to overpower Nimue. At their size, normal humans appeared nearly a hundred feet tall and easily outmatched them in strength. And Nimue was a more dangerous foe than most with her mystical training. The best they could hope for would be to waylay her somehow then race back to Camelot with Hop’s seven-league boots to warn their mentor. Granted, the boots would return them to the city faster than any horse could bear Nimue but they couldn’t risk her using magic to speed her journey.

Nimue slept soundly that night, weary from riding all day. The League considered simply leaving then and there but traveling the roads by darkness was perilous for normal folk, to say nothing of those small enough to be prey for owls, bats, or other night creatures. They would have to wait for morning and find a way to keep the priestess from following.

As first light began to appear on the horizon, the League stole into Nimue’s room bearing several lengths of rope they had procured from Avalon’s storerooms. Quiet as the grave, they scaled the sheets of the bed and stood in the shadow of the young Lady of the Lake, who now seemed a curvaceous landscape. The flimsy white nightgown she wore gave the appearance of a snowfall on the rolling hills and slopes of her form. To one side was her massive torso, the distant hills of her chest rising and falling with a steady rhythm. To the other, her long shapely legs seemed to extend for miles. In the distance, her upturned feet stood taller than any member of the League, forming literal foot-hills at the base of this mountain of a woman. Though somewhat daunted by the sight of their enormous foe, the League set about their task.

Their goal was to tie her down like a sleeping giant in the tales of old. They only questioned how to go about it. Just as before, with the escape from the pocket, they knew that to climb across that gigantic body was a risky venture. Even a sound sleeper might be disturbed by numerous tiny feet padding across one’s skin. And Nimue’s curves offered several perilous peaks and valleys that could prove difficult to navigate.

For safety’s sake, they tried to make as little actual contact with Nimue as possible. Thumbelina flew back and forth over the woman’s body, dragging the ropes into position. Hop transported himself from one side of Nimue to the other, pulling his ropes across her faster than the naked eye. On either side, Tom, Thumbling, and Issun drove tiny “stakes” (actually mere nails) through the ropes and into the mattress to ensure that their giant captive would be properly bound to the spot.

They secured every possible moving part—her hands, arms, legs, feet, hips, and torso were all bound by the ropes. Smaller strings were used to tie up each individual finger and toe, as even these small extremities could be used as deadly weapons against the tiny League. Their work completed, the five little figures surveyed the scene and cast nervous looks at their slumbering prisoner.

‘Lina flitted over towards Nimue’s head and hovered just above her chin. She floated there pensively and stared at the priestess’ mouth. The tiny woman’s hair and gown were ruffled by the slow yet powerful breaths rising from below.

“We’ll have to gag her,” ‘Lina whispered. “Can’t have her calling out for help before we make our escape. One of you, go find a strip of cloth or a kerchief.”

“Oh yes?” Thumbling answered quietly. “And who will be the unlucky sod who has to risk his neck to slip a gag between her lips?”

“I have already been devoured once,” Issun-boshi remarked. “I should like not to repeat the experience.”

“I imagine it’s quite dreadful,” a familiar voice said. Nimue, now fully awake, was staring straight at them. Before the team could react, she pursed her lips and sucked in a deep breath of air. Instantly, ‘Lina was pulled by this sudden vacuum and drawn headfirst into Nimue’s mouth. Her tiny skirt-clad legs could be seen kicking furiously between the enchantress’ lips.

Tom, Hop, Issun, and Thumbling leaped into action, each drawing tiny swords the size of (and in some cases, formed from) sewing needles. They clambered up onto Nimue’s body and aimed their swords at veins and vital organs. Some of the little folk stood near top of her breasts, preparing to stab through that soft flesh to reach her heart. Others perched uneasily on her neck, holding their blades to her jugular. “Release her!” Tom ordered.

“Unh uh,” Nimue mumbled through her mouthful. She sucked in again and Thumbelina’s legs disappeared with a wet slurp. Nimue closed her lips, trapping the tiny girl within. Manipulating the writhing little lady with her tongue, the sorceress shifted her into her cheek so that she could speak somewhat intelligibly, though her words were still rather garbled. “Not until you explain yourselves.”

“We know your plans for Lord Merlin,” Issun said calmly, brandishing his miniature katana on the vast expanse of the priestess’ chest. “We cannot allow this.”

“I see,” said Nimue. “I wonder if you would still defend him if you knew what he really is. How much of the sorrow descending on this kingdom he is responsible for. Now please untie me.”

“What if we refuse?” Tom asked.

“Then I will be forced to swallow poor little Thumbelina,” the priestess told him. Within her mouth, the little woman’s furious kicking became more agitated. Nimue closed her eyes and sighed, clearly distressed. “Believe me, little ones, I don’t want it to come to that. I don’t wish to be a monster like Avalon’s fallen sister, Morgan. But you leave me no other bargaining chips.”

The normally jovial Thumbling had become deadly serious and stared Nimue down with rage in his eyes. “You hurt ‘Lina, witch, and we’ll slit your wrists and leave you to bleed out right here.” He jumped down to her arm with his needle-sword poised and ready.

“A bitter shame,” Hop said, joining Thumbling in an instant with his own sword in a similar position. “Zey are such pretty wrists.”

“Then it seems we are at an impasse,” Nimue stated. The next few seconds were tense ones, as the opponents regarded each other. The League watched Nimue’s throat with fear, looking for the dreadful bob that would indicate their beloved ‘Lina had been consumed. ‘Lina felt about in the wet darkness of Nimue’s mouth, seeking handhold on a tooth or some way to prevent herself from being gulped down. She could feel the massive tongue lifting and sensed her body starting to slip slowly backwards in the slick film of saliva. As she approached the precipice of the giant throat, she muttered quietly, her voice echoing in the fleshy tunnel below.

“Farewell, Cornelius,” she said to her husband. “I would have liked to see you one more time. But know this, my love. I will give this bitch indigestion like she’s never known!”

A moment later, however, the path of her journey reversed itself. Nimue leaned her head forward and spat out Thumbelina with all her might, hocking her like a loogie across the room. As the League turned in surprise, Nimue quickly recited a spell in the Old Brythonic language. Instantly, the nails holding down the ropes answered her command and shot out of the bed, hovering in the air for a split second before collapsing lifeless again.

The High Priestess of Avalon sat up quite suddenly, sending the tiny men flying off her body. She cast off the ropes with a few flicks of her hands, telekinetically lifting them away as she had done with the nails. Below her, the League members lay scattered across the bedspread. By chance, Tom had not been thrown as far as the others and found himself in the gap between the priestess’ thighs. Unable to climb to freedom, he started scrambling down the bed along the length of her legs, hoping to escape between her feet.

“Oh no you don’t,” she hissed and slammed her legs together. Tom was trapped between the soft yet overwhelming weight of her thighs. Nimue had not applied enough pressure to crush him but it was clear that he was going nowhere.

As this drama played out, the others had leaped to the floor and rushed to Thumbelina’s side. The tiny princess was soaked through with saliva, her matted hair and dress hanging like dead weight and strings of spittle dangling from her arms. She was shaking with fear and aching from the fall but otherwise seemed intact.

“Ewww,” she groaned, flicking spit off of her hands.

“You all right, ‘Lina?” Thumbling said as he ran to her.

“Fine. Though I’ve looked better,” she muttered. “Where’s Tom?”

The others looked around and saw Nimue open her legs and hoist Tom up to eye level.

“I’ll get him,” Hop announced. “Ze rest of you make for ze door. We shall join you shortly.”

“You’d better, pal,” ‘Ling said ruefully. “You’re our ticket outta here.”

Nimue pulled her legs out of the bed and stood up, causing the ground to rumble as her feet touched down. The little people staggered slightly but began to dash for the outside.

“Come back here!” she cried. “You’re not leaving this island!”

Her strides were simply too long and they could see those massive, pretty feet gaining on them. The enchantress bent down and tried to grab a handful of the fleeing thumblings. They kept just ahead of her but felt a breeze as her huge hand swept past the backs of their necks, barely missing them. Frustrated, Nimue uttered the first few syllables of the spell she’d used on the ropes, clearly intending to stop the escaping little folk with magic.

Just then, Hop appeared on her shoulder, catching her by surprise. “Bonjour,” he said cheerfully before vanishing again. He popped up this time atop her head. Nimue reached out to grab him but he was gone once more. Now, he was suddenly standing on her breast. As she reached down, he jumped out into open air before disappearing again. Next, she felt something pinch her bottom and quickly spun a hand around to retrieve him. But Hop was gone again, far too fast for her. He appeared on her nose, balancing precariously, and leaned towards her eye to give her a mischievous wink. She tried to grab him again but only succeeded in slapping her own face.

Hop transported himself down to Nimue’s hand where Tom was being held tightly. The little Gaulish hero clung to the side of the appendage and gave Tom a self-assured smile.

“Watch zis next trick,” he told him. “Zis will really throw her!”

“Hop!” Tom declared angrily. “Quit showboating and get me out of here!” But Hop was gone again.

A moment later, Nimue felt a curious weight appear inside her mouth. She could feel the little man thrashing about, tickling her tongue and kicking her in the teeth and palate. She prepared to spit him out but Hop took hold of her tongue and began to wrestle it. The slick muscle whipped him about like a bucking stallion but Hop refused to let go. Back and forth and up and down he rode it around the interior of her mouth, whooping and hollering in defiance.

“You would threaten and nearly devour Madame Thumbelina?” he called to her. “Very well, cherie. Let’s see how you like a morsel that bites back!”

Hop drew his sword and stabbed it into the surface of Nimue’s tongue. As she cried out in pain, the little man emerged from her mouth, laughing with wild abandon. Blood trickled from the corner of Nimue’s lips and she was too stunned to react when Hop disappeared, pulled Tom from her grasp, and vanished with him out of the room.

Hop and Tom reappeared out in the grass beside their teammates. “Are you crazy?!” Tom yelled at his reckless savior.

“Like a fox,” Hop said, grinning.

“What if she hadn’t opened her mouth?!” Tom asked.

“Zhen I would see you in Hell, monsieur!”

The others stared at them with puzzlement. “What’d we miss?” said Thumbling.

“Never mind that,” Hop informed him. “Everyone form a chain and hold on tight. I shall have us home in moments.”

The League members took hold of each others’ hands and Hop prepared to transport them all back to Camelot with the mystic speed of the seven-league boots. The city was probably a bit more than seven leagues from the Summer Country but Hop estimated that it would only take a few jaunts. In a split second, they disappeared…

…and reappeared on the shore of the island.

The League looked about in surprise. “We’re still on Avalon!” Thumbling said.

Hop scratched his chin. “Zat is odd. Let me try again.”

The team vanished and found themselves in the shadow of the Tor. They had not gone far.

“Hop, what are you doing?” Thumbelina asked.

“I do not know!” Hop babbled. “Ze boots are not responding!”

Once more, he tried his magic but only managed to take them to Chalice Well, Avalon’s healing spring.

“Damn it, it’s because we’re on Avalon!” Tom realized. “We’re in another realm! The boots won’t work because there’s nowhere to go! The only thing surrounding this island is mist!”

“Well, those boats seem to pierce through it easily enough!” Thumbling offered.

“How are we going to pilot a boat at our size?” said Tom in a panic. “And are any of you sorcerers? We don’t know the spell to leave the Avalon realm and return to the real world! Blast it, we should have realized this…”

“Still, we must try, Sir Thomas,” Issun said. “We cannot remain prisoners here.”

“Oh God!” Tom cried. “My stupid plans have gotten us in trouble again! Damn me for a fool!”

“Blame yourself later,” Thumbelina told him. “If we survive.”

Hop transported the team back to the shore and sought out the dock where the Avalon barges were moored. As Tom had rightly observed, there was no way the tiny folk could hope to steer the boats or even push them out into open water. Instead, they lifted a large piece of driftwood from the reeds along the lake bank and gathered atop it like refugees on a raft. The team paddled furiously with broken sticks as already they could hear the sounds of the village rousing. Farther down the road, Nimue was in hot pursuit with several of her priestesses and druids close behind.

The little raft sailed out into the water as dawn broke in the east. The mists surrounding Avalon were as thick as ever and the group couldn’t see an inch before their faces. Their only comfort was that the mists and their own unobtrusive size hid them from their pursuers.

“What now?” Thumbling asked, paddling like mad. “Are we to be lost in this fog, circling the island until Judgment Day?”

“I don’t know,” Tom said. “Keep rowing. We can plan our next course once we’re far from the shore.”

And row they did until it seemed their little arms would fall off. The netherworld mists only seemed to deepen the further from the island they sailed. At times, the group swore they could hear faint voices whispering nearby or could catch glimpses of strange shapes flitting past their vision. Sailing blindly through the enchanted mist was not the way travel to and from Avalon was intended and they feared what the result might be.

Something slipped past the little raft through the dark waters, rippling the waves and unsteadying the makeshift boat. As the League held on for dear life, they saw the object again and froze with fear. It was a hand. A huge, yet delicate female hand rising from the lake to splash at them playfully.

This was soon joined by an enormous head and torso that rose from the water like a whale. The woman (if woman it was) had pale blue skin and long, dark green tresses that hung in wet clumps over her slender shoulders. Bits of plant matter lay strewn throughout her hair. Her huge naked breasts hung pendulously above the little craft as the she-creature swam closer. If but one of these came down upon them, the driftwood boat would sink like a stone. The being looked down at them with mischief in her deep green eyes. Though paralyzed with fear, the League could see that she was unspeakably beautiful.

She babbled something in a strange, musical language that none of the group recognized. With a charming laugh, she splashed them again and unsettled the water. The lovely water-sprite (for it could be nothing else) took hold of the boat on each side and shook it back and forth. She giggled as the tiny folk below fought to stay aboard.

Soon, she began to lift them, one by one, from the raft to inspect them more closely. She dangled Thumbling and Issun upside down by their legs and held them before her face. The sprite regarded them curiously, turning her head to the side and trying to work out just what these amusing little creatures might be. Holding them close, she thrust her tongue out to lick at them lightly, testing to see if they were edible. Satisfied with the results, she licked her lips and opened wide.

“That’s enough of that!” Thumbelina declared. She unleashed her wings and took into the air, hovering before the water sprite’s astonished visage. “Why does everyone seek to eat us on this adventure? You let my friends go at once!”

The sprite’s eyes opened widely as she watched Thumbelina. Suddenly disinterested in the others, she dropped Thumbling and Issun back on the raft roughly and snatched the little flying woman out of the air.

Thumbelina struggled mightily but was no match for the sprite’s slender tree-trunk fingers. The being turned her over several times in her hand, investigating the little wings and the mechanism that released them.

“Fae,” she seemed to say in her alien tongue. She babbled something else and set ‘Lina back on the raft, more gently than she had done with her teammates. The sprite put her hands together and bowed her head in a sign of respect. A moment later, she had ducked back below the waves, leaving the League alone and bewildered.

At last, after this torturous trip, the raft touched land. The League scrambled ashore to scope out the situation. Had they somehow managed to return to Glastonbury and the comfort of the reality they knew? Had the mists turned them around so that they found themselves on Avalon once again? Or were they somewhere else entirely?

The mists receded as they scurried further onto the land. But something was not right. Though it was surely well into the morning by then, no sun was in the sky. The world around them seemed illuminated by some other source, as if each stone, each tree, each blade of grass glowed with its own silvery inner light. A vast, green country was spread before them but the League did not recognize its landmarks. Their senses were at full alert and the hair on the backs of their necks stood on end with the strange energy of the place.

Before they had gotten far, a towering figure emerged from the nearby forest. It was a woman, as weird and beautiful as the sprite had been but with a much harder, more alien beauty. She was clad in a brightly colored tunic and strange silver armor, her long blonde hair bound in a ponytail behind her tall, pointed ears. Her face was fair but almost inhuman, with unnaturally high cheekbones and close-set eyes. A stern look of reproach was upon it. All this was secondary, of course, to the huge spear she was pointing at the League.

The woman barked something in a foreign tongue, similar to the sprite’s dialect. When this received no response, she repeated the words in several other languages, at last seeing recognition in the tiny folk when she tried the British dialect. “Who are you? State your business!” she said crossly.

“My name is Sir Thomas Thumb,” Tom answered, stepping forward, “Knight of the Round Table and servant to Arthur Pendragon, King of the Britons. These are my associates, the League of Homunculi.”

The woman laughed when she heard this. The sound was harsh and humorless. “You are a long way from Britain, little ones. This is the Realm of Faerie—what you mortal folk call the ‘Otherworld.’”

She replaced her spear in the casing strapped to her back. With alarming speed, she then dropped to one knee and scooped up the League in her hands. She held them tightly in her fists as the tiny folk struggled against her.

“And what’s more—you’re trespassing,” she said. “Not to worry though. I’m sure Queen Mab will know what to do with you.”

To be continued...
Chapter 4 by Pixis
Part 4

The League’s beautiful captor held them securely in her fists as she navigated the winding paths of the Faerie Realm. All around them was a stunning land of natural splendor—towering, ancient trees, exotic flowers unknown to human eyes, bubbling streams and mighty rivers—but the little heroes were too startled and despairing to appreciate it. Creatures of all shapes and sizes flew, scurried, or scampered out of the guard’s path. Some were as small as the League, bearing translucent wings, glowing auras, and long pointed ears. Others were half the height of a man and had skin tones of unnaturally vibrant shades. It was clear that the team was no longer in the world they knew.

“Bloody Faerieland?!” Thumbling called to his teammates. “How in blue blazes did we end up here?!”

“They say Avalon exists between our world and the Otherworld,” Tom mused. “Clearly, without the right guiding spell, we sailed to the wrong shore.”

“We’re farther from home than ever,” said Thumbelina. “Nimue will surely reach Camelot before us.”

“If we reach it at all,” Tom said ruefully, bowing his head in shame. “I’ve made a right proper mess of things, haven’t I?”

“It was as good a plan as any, monsieur,” Hop told him.

“Oi! The prisoners will remain silent!” the blonde-haired Faerie guard barked at them, squeezing her fingers tighter about the tiny folk. The League members winced and took the hint.

Eventually, the guard reached her destination, a tall, glittering crystal palace that rose majestically over the countryside. As she called to those within, the drawbridge lowered and the portcullis was raised, admitting her into the castle courtyard. Eerily lovely Faerie folk, dressed in fine silks and dazzling colors, watched her with curiosity as she carried her miniature captives past. Within moments, the guard entered the main hall of the palace.

“I wish to see the queen,” she said. The bored, thin-faced herald did not seem impressed by her or her unusual catch but set about his duty nonetheless.

“All bow for her majesty, Queen Mab of the Theena Sidhe, supreme ruler of the Twilight Realm!”

“Hey, I can understand them!” Thumbling realized. “They’re not speaking Faerie gibberish anymore.”

“I cast a spell of understanding,” the guard told him. “You should know the charges against you. Now hush up and bow to the queen!”

The assembled palace courtiers lowered their gaze in respect and the guard dropped to one knee as Queen Mab entered the chamber. Like all the people of Faerie, Mab was a creature of unsettling, inhuman beauty, but her fierce scowl and scraggly black hair had dimmed that beauty somewhat. Her ever-searching eyes were a deep violet, her fingernails long and claw-like, and her ears and cheekbones were unusually high and pointed even for one of her race. Mab sat down upon her gilded throne, flattening the folds of an ill-fitting yet elegant gown.

“And who are these strange little creatures you bring before us, Captain?” the queen asked in her raspy voice.

“Spies, your majesty,” the guard answered. “From the human realm of Britain.”

“Britain!” Mab spat derisively. “The Sidhe-folk ruled that isle long before the mortals came with their iron weapons to drive us out. Would that it were still so. What business have you here, inchlings? Does your Pendragon seek to extend his rule to Faerie as well?”

The guard at last released the League from her grasp, setting them at Queen Mab’s feet. She and several other warriors took their places on either side of the tiny captives to ensure they did not try to run.

“Your majesty,” Tom said, stepping forward. “Sir Thomas Thumb, at your service. I assure you, we are in your realm merely by chance. King Arthur does not even know we are here.”

A handsome young man with long white hair and skin a deep azure blue leaned close to the queen. “Lies and falsehoods, Mother,” he said. “No doubt the Pendragon sent them to spy on us, assuming they would be mistaken for some of our smaller subjects.”

“Well-reasoned, Oberon,” Mab agreed. “We see through their ruse easily. They have the stink of human magicks. And perhaps something more…” With terrifying speed, she bent forward and snatched up Hop in her hand.

“What are these that you wear, speck?” asked Mab, turning him over in her bony fingers. She pulled off the little man’s boots with thumb and forefinger, eyes widening with surprise as the boots expanded in size. Soon, they were large enough for the queen herself to wear.

“So that’s how those work,” Thumbling whispered. “I was wondering how a little guy like Hop could wear an ogre’s boots.”

“Seven-league boots,” Mab said accusingly. “How came you by these?”

“Zat is my business,” Hop said, dangling upside down in her grip by one leg.

“Impertinence!” the queen shrieked. “No one speaks to us in this manner! Especially not a mere inchling!” She looked as if at any moment she would rip Hop to shreds or bite off his head.

“Your majesty!” Thumbelina shouted, spreading her artificial wings and rising into the air. The courtiers assembled in the hall gasped in surprise. “I am Princess Maia Thumbelina of the Flower-Folk. Though they reside in the human realm, my people are Faerie. For my sake, I ask you to spare my companions.”

“The Flower-Folk,” Mab said thoughtfully. “Yes, we remember your tribe. Tiny simpletons who hide in gardens. But though they are Faerie, you are not.”

Her other hand shot out and caught Thumbelina in a deadly grasp. “Like the rest of this rabble, you are unnatural. A mere homunculus created by enchantment. Still…we shall spare you.” She extended the hand bearing ‘Lina toward the female guard. “Captain, place this one in my finest birdcage. I will not deprive the Flower-Folk of their princess.”

“And the others, my queen?” the lady captain inquired.

“Send them to the royal cooks,” Mab said with a sinister smile. “Have them prepared for my supper. I will show this Lord Arthur what I think of his spies!”

* * * *

“You can’t do this!” raged Thumbelina, clinging to the bars of her birdcage prison. The cage hung suspended by a wire near the headboard of the queen’s royal bed.

“We can and we shall,” Mab informed her. With a mischievous smirk, the Faerie Queen pushed the cage, causing it to swing wildly back and forth. She laughed as ‘Lina was thrown off her feet and tossed this way and that.

“Your marriage to Faerie royalty is enough to save your life. But this invasion will not be tolerated.”

“What invasion?” ‘Lina cried. “You don’t understand! We have to get back to Camelot! A man’s life may depend on it!”

“What is that to us?” said Mab. She held the cage steady and leaned close to the bars, her face filling one side entirely. “You’d best accept it, little princess. You are our toy now, to use as we see fit. One day, perhaps, we shall release you to bear the sad news of your comrades’ fate back to Arthur. Let the Pendragon know that this Realm is off limits to his cold iron and his carpenter god.”

“But until then,” the queen continued, “you are ours, little one. We own you.”

“Who’s we?” asked ‘Lina. “Are you completely insane?”

“Quite possibly,” Mab admitted. She licked her thin lips slowly and lasciviously. “But you shall learn to love us.”

Just then, a young page boy cleared his throat in the doorway. “Your majesty,” he said. “Supper is ready.”

“Ah, excellent,” Mab said with a smile. “We go now to dispatch your tiny friends, princess. Surely, they will be most delicious. And upon our return, we shall see if you can please us in other ways.”

As Mab left the bedchamber, Thumbelina sank to the floor of the cage and buried her face in her hands.

* * * *

Tom, Hop, and Thumbling found themselves on Queen Mab’s plate, lost amid massive helpings of meat, vegetables, and bread. Their hands and feet were bound and they were each glazed with a rich hollandaise sauce and sprigs of parsley. The little men could only wriggle desperately about as the queen chased them with her fork, cackling madly the whole time. As for Issun-boshi, the tiny samurai found himself floating in a jewel-encrusted wine goblet, barely able to stay above the surface.

“’Lina was right,” Thumbling said, rolling off a slice of bread as Mab’s knife descended to butter it. “Everyone is trying to eat us on this caper. What’s the deal? Do we have signs on our backs reading ‘Grade A Beef’ or something?”

“I can’t believe this is how the League of Homunculi ends,” said Tom. He wriggled away as Mab shoveled green beans longer than his whole body into her maw. “I’m sorry, my friends.”

“Well now, who shall we start with?” the queen chuckled. “Perhaps the little Gaulish chap?” She reached down and took hold of Hop, lifting him from the plate and dipping his little body in a nearby gravy boat. Soon, he was coated head to toe in the sticky brown liquid. The Faerie Queen lifted him towards her waiting lips.

“I hope you choke on me, madame,” he said defiantly.

Mab’s brows furrowed. “Just for that, we’ll do this slowly. One limb at a time until you’re nothing but a screaming, bleeding stump. That will teach you to talk back to your betters, inchling!” Her jaws opened wide and she brought Hop’s right arm close to those deadly teeth. The other thumblings turned away in horror.

But Hop’s time was not yet at hand. For at that moment, the young Prince Oberon hurried into the dining hall with an expression of alarm.

“Mother, come quick!” he shouted. “The Flower Princess—she’s gone!”

Mab looked up from her meal in annoyance. She held Hop precariously in her fingers, still intact…for now. “What do you mean gone? She’s escaped? Are we surrounded by incompetents?!”

“The cage was broken and the entire room disheveled!” Oberon said. “Almost as if someone freed her. Could the small ones have an accomplice?”

“Our room destroyed?” Mab howled. “We are most seriously displeased. Show us this effrontery at once!” Mab dropped Hop roughly into a pile of boiled cabbage. His skin was scalded by the steaming vegetable. “We shall finish with you momentarily. Don’t go anywhere.”

The queen gave a cruel laugh and placed a silver serving cover over the plate. They could hear her depart with the prince but their world was only darkness and the fragrant aromas of gourmet cooking. Steam from the meal rose around them, causing the little folk to sweat profusely and choke in the humid vapors.

They were struggling with their bonds when, suddenly, the sound of footsteps echoed through the hall once more. The serving cover was lifted and their eyes stung in the sudden light. But it was not the face of Queen Mab that greeted them but another.

“Be not afraid,” the fair-haired maiden whispered, gathering the League members in her hands. “I’m here to help.” The little folk were puzzled for they did not know her. Like all Faeries, she was strikingly beautiful in an ethereal way. Her long curly hair was the color of a golden sunrise, as was the richly embroidered gown she wore. Her large blue eyes sparkled and her ears ended in a long, elegant point. She sliced through the League’s bonds with her fingernails and let them settle in her palm.

“Not that I’m complaining, but who are you, my lady?” Tom inquired.

“My name is Caelia,” she whispered, dabbing at the gravy-drenched Hop with a napkin. “I am a queen of this realm, subject to the High Queen Mab. Once, I knew a knight of your kingdom: Sir Tom ‘a Lincoln, who some claim is an illegitimate son of King Arthur.”

“A who of what now?!” Thumbling cried in surprise.

“I do not wonder that you know him not,” Caelia said. “Ours is an obscure tale and a sad one, I fear, for I have not seen Sir Tom for many years. Know at least that Camelot has allies here in the Twilight Realm. Now we must hurry, before Mab returns!”

“We thank you, Queen Caelia,” Tom Thumb said from the center of her palm. “But we cannot leave yet. ‘Lina is—”

“Right in front of you, genius.” Thumbelina had popped her head out the top of Caelia’s bodice. Though dwarfed by the larger woman’s bosom, the little princess leaned forward with poise, like the figurehead on the front of a ship. “Who do you think rescued me?”

“Forgive the familiarity, but stealth is our ally,” murmured Caelia, slipping the other little people down the front of her dress as well. They tumbled down into the bodice, landing in a heap at the base of a pair of enormous breasts.

As Caelia turned to leave, Thumbelina called out in alarm. “Wait! Where’s Issun?”

“The wine goblet!” came Tom’s muffled cry from within the Faerie’s bosom.

While Thumbelina ducked out of sight, Caelia reached for a spoon and quickly tried to fish the tiny samurai out of the golden cup. At that moment, two sets of footsteps echoed in the corridor and the voices of Mab and Oberon could be heard approaching. They were out of time.

“Forgive me, little one,” the Faerie maid whispered into the goblet. With swift, desperate movements, Caelia lifted the cup to her lips and downed the wine in two gulps. She carefully caught Issun with her tongue, pressing his miniature body against her palate. The tiny man felt the torrent of wine wash away from him and heard the deafening gurgles as it drained down her gullet. He shivered in fear, remembering only too well his journey to the belly of Morgan le Fay. She’d supped on him with wine as well. Could this Caelia person truly be trusted?

In moments, Queen Mab returned and stopped beside the newcomer in her dining hall. “Caelia,” she said with a nod, though it was clear there was no love lost between the two of them. “What do you here?”

Caelia’s heart was pounding but she maintained a dignified Faerie grace. Skillfully, she shifted Issun under her tongue and addressed Mab in a clear, calm voice. “Forgive me, my queen. The day is so warm, I sought only to refresh myself with a drink. The cook said he’d left a few extra wine glasses here in the dining hall.”

Mab eyed the empty goblet in her subject-queen’s hand and burst out laughing. “Why, Caelia, you seem to have drunk our prisoner!”

Caelia brought a hand to her cheek and gave an utterly convincing gasp of horror. “I—I what? Oh, heavens!”

“Hahahahaha! The bleeding heart Caelia devoured a helpless inchling!” Mab chortled. She reached out and patted the other woman’s belly. “We do hope he enjoys his new home.”

“Mother!” Oberon said in shock. “Don’t torture the poor woman so!”

“Oh, stars, oh, powers!” Caelia babbled, turning to hurry from the hall. “The poor little thing! I f-feel faint!”

“That’s all right, dear!” Mab called after her. “We still have three more!” Caelia rushed out of the room before Mab could lift the serving cover once again.

When they were a safe distance away, hiding in a palace corridor, Thumbelina popped back up out of Caelia’s neckline. “Quick thinking, your majesty.”

“Mab never could resist making me miserable,” the Faerie answered. “Oh, I nearly forgot!” She reached into her mouth and removed Issun from under her tongue. The samurai was soaked to the skin and shaking with fright as she held him between two fingers.

“My apologies, little warrior,” Caelia said. “Perhaps you will find this more accommodating.” She slipped him into her bodice with the rest of his teammates. “Now, I must get you all out of here. Mab will be furious, no doubt.”

Hop emerged from the dress beside ‘Lina, a look of concern on his face. “Zut alors! My seven-league boots!”

“Hop, there’s no time!” ‘Lina chided him.

“Zhey are mine by right! I will not abandon them to that queen of she-devils!”

“You mean these?” Caelia said, lifting the hem of her dress. She wore a pair of fancy, brown boots. Magic had reshaped them again, conforming to the curve of the lovely queen’s leg and adding a feminine, embroidered pattern. But they were Hop’s boots for certain.

“They were in Mab’s chambers next to Princess Thumbelina’s cage.”

“Madame, you are a wonder!” Hop exclaimed. “What, pray tell, is your opinion of…shorter men?”

Caelia smiled demurely but pushed Hop back into her dress with her fingers. ‘Lina lowered herself down after him. In the distance, they could hear Queen Mab’s shrieks of outrage. “Everyone, hold on tight,” Caelia said. “We must make haste and I fear things could get a little…bumpy in there.”

The Faerie maiden ran down the corridor at full tilt, ignoring the stares of curious courtiers and servants. Within her dress, the League was bounced and jostled by every heave of Caelia’s ample bosom. Thrown backwards, tiny Issun felt himself slipping into the fleshy chasm between those hill-like curves, but his teammates grabbed his legs and yanked him free.

“Now then,” Caelia muttered to herself. “How do these work?” Focusing her will on the seven-league boots, she wished herself far from the palace. Instantly, her speed increased to impossible levels and she became a mere blur of movement. Soon, she was invisible to the other Faeries’ sight, speeding out of Mab’s castle and over the fields and hills of the Twilight Realm.

She didn’t stop running until they were many miles from the palace. When at last she came to a halt and the League hesitantly poked their heads out of her dress, they found themselves in a forest clearing. Just ahead was a ring of standing stones taller than a grown man. Once more, the little heroes felt the hairs on their necks stand on end. The very air seemed to pulsate with power in this grove.

“This is a ‘soft place,’” Caelia explained, “an area where the veils between the worlds are thin.” She scooped her tiny friends out of her bodice and set them gently on the ground. The League looked up in awe at their beautiful savior.

“Step between those stones and you will be back in Britain once more,” she told them. The Faerie woman slipped off the seven-league boots and stood before the League in her bare feet. All of them marveled as the boots shrank back to tiny size as Hop took hold of them.

“Thank you for everything you’ve done, Queen Caelia,” Tom said, placing a hand on her big toe. “We can never repay you enough.”

“No payment is necessary,” she said. “I have ever taken joy from aiding lost souls.”

Tom looked at the ring of stones and hesitated. “I fear we will be too late. Our friend Merlin is surely doomed by now.”

“Not necessarily,” Caelia declared. “Faerie is out of phase with the mortal world. Stay but a day here and you might find that a hundred years have passed in your home or no time has passed at all.”

“Which is it to be for us?” Issun asked.

“The latter, I hope,” said Caelia. “If I can remember the spell correctly.” She muttered something in the melodious Faerie language and soon, the ring-stones began to glow and a powerful wind swept through the clearing. The little folk were nearly blown off their feet and Hop had to grip his hat tightly to his head. At last, the wind died down and the empty air between the ring-stones seemed to shimmer as if glimpsed through a wall of heat. Nervously, the League stepped between two of the stones and made for the center.

“Come with us,” said Thumbling, turning back to Caelia. “Ol’ Mab’s on the rampage. She’ll try to kill you for sure!”

The maiden shook her head sadly. “Alas, I cannot. A Fae would not survive long in a world of iron and sunlight. Besides, this is my home. Some of us live in hope for the day Mab’s reign ends and a more just ruler sits upon the throne.”

“Good luck to you, Caelia,” Thumbelina said, stepping between the stones.

“And to you,” the Faerie called after her. “If you meet my Sir Tom ‘a Lincoln…remember me to him.”

Waving farewell to their benefactor, the League members walked cautiously to the center of the ring-stones and were gone.

To be continued...
Chapter 5 by Pixis
Author's Notes:

Here's the conclusion of the League's second story. Again, thanks to everyone who read this. As I said before, it's more of a straight-up fantasy story than a fetish one but I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Part 5

The League stepped between the massive stones and into the center of the ritual ring. At first, it seemed as if nothing had happened. No swirling portal or gateway appeared before the team and the Otherworldly wind summoned by Caelia had faded. The stones around them remained unchanged. It was as if they had not traveled anywhere at all.

But as they looked beyond the stones to the forest glen, subtle differences caught their eyes. The trees and bushes had realigned in a new pattern. Gone was the shimmering, dream-like glow of the Twilight Realm and the air no longer seemed electric with alien power. As they exited the other side of the ring-stone circle, they realized they were in ordinary Britain once more.

Thanks to Queen Caelia’s intervention, their detour to the Faerie Realm had been blessedly brief. But they were unsure of how much time had elapsed in their own world. All they knew was that the sun was setting in the west and dusk was fast approaching.

“Did it work?” Thumbling wondered aloud. “What day is it? Hell, what year? What century?”

Tom looked around, brow furrowed, assessing the situation. “The woods are still here at least. This looks like the forest on the outskirts of Camelot.”

“Zere is only one way to be sure, mes amis,” Hop ventured. “Join hands. I shall have us at Arthur’s palace in moments, if still it stands.”

Leaving behind the druid ring-stones, the group formed a chain and was swiftly whisked away by Hop’s seven-league boots. Out of the forest and down the hill they raced until the castle was in sight. Hop transported them across the lowered drawbridge and into the gates of Camelot, weaving nimbly between the feet of knights, nobles, servants, and ladies-in-waiting. At last, they stopped in a quiet corner to take it all in.

“It’s still here. Thank God,” Thumbelina muttered.

“Merlin,” Tom rasped, fear and dread suddenly striking him. “We must find Merlin!”

They raced through the great hall, seeking some sign of their mentor. The king and queen were not holding court and the hall had fairly dissolved into chaos. All around them, knights were arguing or crossing swords, flinging bitter oaths and accusations at one another.

“You’re a knave, Agravaine!” a lanky, red-haired warrior declared, drawing his weapon. “Take back what you said about the queen!”

“Never!” his opponent hissed. “You know it to be true, Kay! Or are you a blind man?” He drew his own sword and stepped forward with menace.

The League rushed away before a battle could break out. “What the hell have we missed?” Thumbling said, stunned.

“This is most strange,” Issun said, echoing his teammates’ thoughts.

“Knights are tilting in the hall and the king’s nowhere in sight,” ‘Lina added. “Something has happened while we were away.”

“Agreed,” said Tom. “But we haven’t the time to investigate. If Nimue’s beaten us here, Merlin could already be doomed.”

Scurrying down a corridor, they soon came across Queen Guinevere as she exited a nearby chamber. Her hair was a mess and her gown was wrinkled and out of place as if she had hastily slipped it on. Close behind her was Sir Lancelot, his fine tunic in a similar state of disarray. Hand in hand, they fairly danced down the hallway, giggling like schoolchildren. The League was forced to scatter as the queen nearly trod upon them, her huge slipper-clad foot landing with a crash in their midst.

“Mon Dieu!” Hop exclaimed, leaping out of the way.

“My lady!” Tom called out. “We are below you!”

The queen glanced at her feet and her eyes lit up excitedly. “My little League! How are you, you darling imps?” At once, she dropped to a crouch and gathered the little folk up in her hands. Standing once more, she brought the teeming handful to her lips and kissed their tiny heads repeatedly. As she pulled away, she found Issun-boshi stuck to her upper lip and peeled him off with a joyous laugh.

“My goodness,” the queen said. “You all smell of hollandaise sauce. What have you been up to?”

“You seem in good spirits, your majesty,” Thumbelina said, quickly changing the subject. “Considering all that transpires in the hall.”

Guiltily, Guinevere glanced at the main hall where the knights were still fighting. “At it again, are they? Lance, please put a stop to it.”

Lancelot turned towards the hall dutifully, but his eyes were still on the lovely queen. “At once, my lady,” he told her, smooth as silk. She smiled and blushed demurely.

Tom watched them both, a frown crossing his tiny face. He could well guess what they had been doing moments before in the other room, and suspicion of such was what the knights were likely fighting about. “Sir Lancelot, a word please?”

The warrior leaned down towards the queen’s hand and regarded the tiny man. Tom stepped carefully onto Guinevere’s fingers where they curved upward away from her palm. Balancing against her fingertips, he leaned out to speak in confidence with the knight. “Have a care, Lance. This is a dangerous game you and the queen are playing.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Sir Tom,” Lancelot insisted. “But I don’t think I like what you’re inferring.” He feigned anger but a look of guilt was clear in his eyes.

“Have it your way,” the little man answered. “We haven’t time to discuss it at any rate. We seek Merlin or the Lady Nimue. Have they passed this way?”

“They have not,” Lancelot replied coldly. “Now, if you will excuse me, I must prevent my sword-brothers from killing each other. Good day to you.” He turned abruptly and departed for the great hall.

“You must excuse him,” the queen said to the tiny folk in her hand. “Lance has been a bit out of sorts since the death of his foster-mother, Lady Viviane. He has been grieving and much in need of…comfort.” She glanced back at the room they had just left and her lips curved once more into a smile.

“Oh, my wee ones, it is such a lovely day!” Guinevere exclaimed, suddenly clutching the League against her chest. The action was the nearest thing to a hug between such disparately sized participants. But in truth, the lady had not considered the low cut of her gown and the Leaguers had been half-thrust into the queen’s generous cleavage as a result. Guinevere withdrew her hands and found that the tiny folk remained trapped upon her bosom, some face-first in her décolletage, others dangling from an arm or leg caught in the gap. She laughed at this mishap, bouncing them with each girlish giggle.

“As always, you are close to my heart,” she joked but she did not immediately retrieve them. She walked briskly to a nearby window, leaving them to cling desperately to her chest. “Arthur is away fighting Saxons or searching for the Grail or some tedious thing. I have been so lonely. Will you stay and watch the sunset with me, my little champions?”

“Er, no thank you, your majesty,” Tom said, extricating himself from those sizeable breasts. He balanced atop her chest and searched about for Issun, who had vanished entirely. “We are seeking Merlin and Nimue. It is really quite urgent.”

“Nimue,” the queen repeated. “I regret turning over command of your team to the priestess. I have missed your antics at the royal banquets and tournaments.” She placed a hand over Thumbling, pushing him deeper into her bosom with a grin.

“We shall remedy that as soon as possible, my lady,” Tom said hastily. “But right now we really must find Merlin. Could you take us to his tower? The stairs are difficult to navigate at our size.”

“You won’t find him there,” a voice called out nearby. Merlin’s owl, Archimedes, swooped out of a tree and landed on the windowsill before the queen.

“The talking owl!” Guinevere squealed, delighted. She reached out and ruffled the feathers on his head. “Tell us a story or a riddle, wise one!”

“Unhand me, woman!” Archimedes said, pulling away. “Er, I mean, your grace. I must speak with your toy soldiers.”

“Oh, very well,” the queen answered, lifting the League members one by one from her chest and setting them upon the sill. She counted them silently. “Am I missing someone?”

“Issun-boshi is still, um…close to your heart, your majesty,” Thumbelina told her. “Very close, I believe.”

The queen gasped and slipped two fingers into her cleavage. She pulled the inch-high samurai out into the light and set him with the others. “Zounds, your lady wife would be most displeased with me, Issun. Our little secret?”

The League turned to Archimedes curiously. Though much smaller than the queen, of course, the bird still towered above them by several inches. Huge round eyes scrutinized the League disdainfully and the little folk shifted nervously at the sight of the animal’s sharp talons and beak.

“Archimedes, where is your master?” Tom asked.

“He’s not my master anymore,” the educated owl replied. “If ever he truly was. He let me loose from the cage and told me he couldn’t look after me any longer. I can only assume that means the day has finally come.”

“What day?” Thumbling inquired.

“The end of his life,” said Archimedes sadly. “Merlin spoke of it often. He’s gone to meet Nimue one last time, as he always knew he must.”

“Meet her where?” said Tom in a panic.

“The forest. Hooo, it’s bad business, no doubt about it. I tried to talk him out of it. But Merlin’s such a stubborn old goat.”

“The forest?!” Thumbelina cried. “We’ve just come from there!”

Tom immediately searched for a solution. “Hop, can you—”

“We could do a sweep of ze area with ze boots, Monsieur Tom,” Hop answered. “But I would not know where to look.”

“I would,” Archimedes told them. “Merlin described the spot from his visions. Jump on my back. If you think there’s a chance to stop this, I’m for it!”

The League looked at each other hesitantly. Archimedes had never approved of them and, in fact, had often eyed them as he would a potential snack. But with few other options, they prepared to climb up onto the owl’s back. It was then that they noticed the glass beaker he clutched in one talon. Trapped within it was a tiny, inch-tall young man.

“Cecino?” Thumbelina said, recognizing one of the potential recruits from several days earlier.

“She used me!” Cecino babbled in Latin. “I was but a toy to that damnable sorceress! I’ve been to places I didn’t know women had places! And now this bird means to eat me, I’m sure of it! Saints and martyrs preserve me!”

“What’s that, lad?” said Tom. “My Latin’s a bit rusty. Do you speak the British tongue?”

“Good God, Nimue must have held him captive after the tryouts!” ‘Lina realized.

“Captive sex-toy to a beautiful priestess?” Thumbling mused, letting the image set in. “There are worse fates.”

“And just what were you doing with him, Archimedes?” Tom said, pointing an accusing finger at the owl.

“Whoooo, me? Erm…saving him, of course! I couldn’t leave him to that witch’s tender mercies, could I?”

Hop looked up at the darkening sky and frowned. “Messieurs et madame, we must to ze Merlin.”

“We’ll sort this out later,” Tom decided, pulling the beaker from Archimedes’ grasp. He rolled it across the windowsill towards Guinevere. “Your majesty, would you look after him until we return?”

“Of course, Sir Tom,” she said, picking up the beaker and holding it up to her eye. The distorted shape of a huge blue iris filled Cecino’s vision and he cowered at the bottom of the beaker. “Oh, how adorable he is! Would you like to keep me company, tiny one?”

“Oh, no!” Cecino muttered. “Not again!”

The League clambered up onto Archimedes’ back and held tightly to his feathers. “Have fun on your adventure, little ones,” Guinevere told them, uncorking the beaker and letting Cecino tumble into her hand. “You too, Archimedes.”

“Simpering twit,” Archimedes grumbled under his breath. A moment later, they were airborne.

The old brown owl soared out over the fields and into the forest. The League could only cling to him for dear life as the world raced past, trees and branches rushing by them at alarming speed. They passed the druid standing stones and swooped away to the south, finally approaching a clearing where the lone figure of Nimue stood patiently waiting.

The Lady of the Lake saw the owl at once and eyed him curiously. “That’s far enough,” she said with a gesture and let loose a spell in the Old Brythonic tongue. Archimedes screeched as if he’d been struck by something and plummeted from the air like a stone.

The owl crashed to earth, sending the League members flying from his back and into the underbrush. The bushes thankfully broke their fall but all of them were quite shaken and bruised. Nearby, Archimedes lay unconscious, his wing bent and broken.

The League stumbled out of the bushes just as a shadow darkened the world. Nimue was already upon them. She placed a huge, bare foot upon Thumbling, not with enough pressure to crush him but more than enough force to pin him to the spot. His head and upper body protruded from under her toes and the little tailor squirmed desperately to pull himself free. The others froze, fearing for their comrade’s safety.

“So, you did survive,” the High Priestess remarked. “When you disappeared into the mists, I feared you lost. I suppose you’re here to stop me.”

“You guess correctly, madam,” Tom called up to her, straining his neck to stare up the towering length of her body. Shapely legs extended up like castle turrets to her short green gown. High above, her face was slightly obscured by the jutting cliff of her chest.

“You know you’ve no hope,” Nimue said. “You are helpless against me, little ones. I have but to shift my weight, even slightly, and Thumbling will be but a red smear on the forest floor.”

“Never mind me, fellas!” Thumbling cried. “Stick to the mission!”

Nimue curled her toes, digging the nails into the little man’s back. Thumbling winced in pain. “On second thought,” he said, “mind me, mind me! Sweet Jesu, I don’t want to die!”

As the homunculi readied their attack, Nimue spoke another incantation. Instantly, the League members began to levitate into the air. The priestess gathered them one by one in her hands, like a child catching fireflies.

“Alas, champions,” she said. “I was ready for you this time.” She took a small leather pouch from her belt and slipped each of the little folk inside it. Nimue lifted her foot and retrieved Thumbling, dropping him into the pouch as well. Pulling the drawstrings of the pouch closed, she trapped the League within it and held the quivering bag before her face. Inside, the Leaguers struggled and kicked but to no avail.

“I’m not a bad person, my little friends,” Nimue declared. “What I do, I do for Avalon and the sake of Britain itself. In time, you will understand that. Now, stay silent until this unpleasant business is completed.” The priestess gave the bag an underhand toss into the bushes.

Moments later, Merlin entered the clearing. His face was impassive and if he knew what awaited him, the old bearded wizard showed no sign.

“You wished to see me, nymph?” he asked Nimue.

In answer, the priestess merely extended both hands toward him and recited a Brythonic spell. Thorny vines sprang up from the earth and wrapped themselves around Merlin’s arms and legs, holding him fast to the spot.

“So...” he said, still showing no emotion. “The day has come at last.”

“You knew this would happen?” Nimue said, puzzled. “Then why did you—”

“Why did I love you?” the enchanter finished. “There have been several women in my life, Nimue, but never did I think to find love in my twilight years. If it is to be the end of me, it was worth the price. You were worth the price.”

Nimue paused, clearly touched. For a moment, she hesitated. “Oh, Merlin. I—No. I am duty bound to carry out Avalon’s will.”

“Very well then,” the wizard agreed. “Let us get on with it.”

Nimue stepped forward, back straight and head held high and proud. She tried to show no emotion as she recited the words she had long practiced. “Myrddin Emrys, called the Merlin or the Hawk of Britain, you are hereby charged with the manipulation and potential destruction of the court of Camelot.”

“Destruction?” the old magician repeated. At last, his passive expression changed. “I MADE this kingdom! I, Myrddin, advisor to kings! Right hand of Vortigern, Aurelius, Uther, and Arthur!” His face flushed with anger but Merlin stopped and tried to compose himself. “But very well. Let me hear the charges.”

“Avalon’s seers have foreseen the Day of Destiny, the downfall of Arthur Pendragon,” Nimue said. “And they have seen the chain of events that will lead to it. Fact one: The coming of Sir Lancelot du Lac, whom you urged Arthur to summon. Even now, his affair with the queen creates unrest among the knights and leads this land to war.”

“Aye, that it does,” Merlin answered. “But think of all the good Lance has done, the inspiration he has been to other knights and future generations. Think of his son, noble Galahad, who will achieve the Holy Grail. Are these not worth the cost? Besides, as I recall, it was your mentor Viviane who fostered Lancelot as her own.”

Nimue considered this but continued her recitation. “Fact two: The incestuous union of Arthur and his half-sister Morgause. Their bastard child, Sir Mordred, is at the heart of this coming war. You foresaw this and could have prevented it, Merlin.”

“Yes, I stood by idle,” Merlin stated. “Mordred has yet a part to play in this drama that no one could have guessed. No one, save me. His battle with Arthur will heal the old enmity of the king and Morgan le Fay. In my visions, it is she who takes Arthur to be healed on the holy isle when Mordred deals him a mortal blow. Do you not want your fallen sister to return to Avalon?”

Nimue paused again. The seers had not told her of this, if indeed they knew.

“Fact three,” she proceeded nonetheless. “Allowing Arthur to embrace the Christ-god, thus turning the people away from the Mother Goddess and the Children of Dôn. Pagans and Christians struggle against each other even now and fracture this kingdom further.”

“And now we come to the heart of it,” Merlin chuckled bitterly. “Viviane may be dead but her influence is still strong upon you. The world is changing, Nimue. More and more men turn to the carpenter god. But what Viviane and the Avalon sisterhood failed to see is that this is but another path to truth. A man may devote himself to the Christus while another follows the Children of Dôn. In other lands, there are other gods and other prophets and the divine manifests as it will. In each, there is truth and men must follow whom they choose.”

“Would it shock you to know that I have paid homage to the Christus myself?” Merlin asked.

“Blasphemy!” Nimue cried out.

“Oh, not to him exclusively,” the wizard explained. “I still keep the Goddess in my heart. The divine is too great to be limited to one face alone, no matter what the narrow-minded priests claim.”

“You do not deny the charges,” Nimue said, tears forming in her eyes. “You have set this kingdom on a path to ruin and betrayed the people of Avalon! I love thee, Myrddin, and would not see your light go out. But I must do as the Goddess commands.”

“The Goddess?” Merlin asked. “Or the elder priestesses who are put out that they didn’t get your job?”

“Enough, Emrys!” the High Priestess of Avalon declared. “Judgment has been passed!”

As she gestured, the vines extended, wrapping themselves over more of Merlin’s body. Tighter and tighter they embraced him, squeezing about him like the fingers of a great fist. As Nimue chanted, the vines and brambles began to fuse together, forming an enormous tree with Merlin at its center. The wizard’s face was calm, almost serene, as the trunk of the tree closed over him, leaving only his head visible.

“Farewell, sweet Nimue,” he said simply. “Mourn me not. All has happened as it must.” The two halves of the tree fused together, covering his face, and leaves and flowers sprouted from the bark. Merlin was gone.

The Lady of the Lake stood before the tree and placed a hand upon it gently. “Sleep now, my love,” she said quietly. “Dream of me, Myrddin Emrys.”

At this, she sank to her knees. “It is done, Viviane,” she screamed at the heavens. “I have done my duty.” Nimue knelt before the tree, weeping softly.

A few minutes later, a young man entered the clearing clad in shimmering armor. He was fair of face and had short, dark hair, but his features were sad and distant. Nimue looked up and recognized him.

“Sir Pelleas,” she said, remembering him from her escort to Glastonbury. She wiped the tears from her eyes and tried to look presentable.

“Lady Nimue,” he replied with a bow. “Ae me. Forgive my doleful countenance.”

“What troubles you?”

“I have lost the woman I love,” Pelleas answered. “The Lady Ettarde will have nothing to do with me. Her eyes are only for Gawain. I thought a walk in the fresh air might lift my spirits but alas, it has not.”

“I…I too have lost someone I love,” said Nimue. “If you’d like, I could enchant this Ettarde with a spell to make her pine for you. She would pine until the end of the world but receive only your scorn.” Nimue blanched at the bitterness of her own words. She could hardly believe what she was saying.

“Nay, my lady,” Pelleas said. “I would not wish such a fate on anyone. But perhaps…if you too have known lost love, we might walk together in these fine woods. Perhaps it would ease our sorrow.” He extended a hand to the priestess. After a moment’s hesitation, Nimue took it and rose to her feet.

“Yes,” she said, still brushing away tears. “I think I would like that.”

As they walked from the clearing, Nimue looked over her shoulder at where the League’s bag had fallen. Whispering ancient words, she gestured with her hand and the drawstrings of the bag undid themselves.

“Forgive me,” she whispered. Moments later, she and Sir Pelleas disappeared into the forest.

The League scrambled from the pouch in a daze. Seeing the tree, they rushed to it with alarm.

“Merlin! Merlin, no!” Tom shouted. “We heard everything! Oh, Merlin, what has she done to you?”

She has done what she was fated to do, an echoing voice answered him.

The League looked about in confusion. “Lord Merlin,” Issun-boshi said. “You still live?”

I do, samurai. After a fashion, the voice explained. Nimue’s bidding of sleep was no mere turn of phrase. She could not bring herself to kill me so instead, I lie dreaming within this tree. It is the voice of my mind that you hear now.

“Then there is hope!” cried Tom. “Tell us, Merlin, how can we break the spell?!”

You cannot, Tom, Merlin said. This is powerful magic. I taught it to her myself. But worry not about me. Return now to Camelot and resume your duties, my League.

“Resume our duties?!” Thumbelina shouted. “How can we do that with you stuck in this great bloody tree?! Damn it, man, we've been to the isle of Avalon and the Otherworld itself trying to prevent this! We can't just give up!”

This is how my story ends, Princess. I have known this since I first set eyes on Nimue. Time is a river, inexorably following its course. That is what Nimue and Viviane and the people of Avalon could not understand. I knew full well what would result from my actions, but I knew I must play my part, for good or for ill. This is the gift and curse of foresight: To know the future but be powerless to change it.

“Then you knew all the bad stuff that’d happen?” said Thumbling. “But did it all anyway?”

Yes.

“Forgive me for saying, boss, but that’s pretty loony.”

Merlin’s psychic voice gave a chuckle. Ha! Perhaps it is. But despite the struggle that builds even now, I knew what the end result of my work would be—a legend that will live for all time.

“Cold comfort,” Tom muttered.

“Lady Nimue will pay dearly for this,” Issun said, reaching for his katana.

Do not judge Nimue too harshly, my friends. She had her role to play as well and she acted as her heart guided her. Now, go. With me gone, Camelot will need magic folk like you more than ever. It will be a rough road ahead.

“We won’t give up on you, Merlin,” Thumbelina said.

“Never,” said Thumbling.

“Mais oui,” echoed Hop. “We shall live in hope.”

But the voice of Merlin had faded. With heavy hearts, the League said their farewells to their mentor. They gathered Archimedes from the bushes and attempted to set his broken wing with a makeshift sling formed from strips of their clothing. Bearing the wounded owl on their backs, they turned towards the road to the castle.

Tom Thumb lingered for a moment with a hand upon the trunk of the tree, saying goodbye to his true father and creator. Bowing his head, he turned and followed the others. Their leader was gone but the League’s work was not yet done.

The End
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