The final kingdom crumbled before her, a millennium of labour finally brought to fruition. There was only one task left, and then she will have the last mote of dust for The Apology. The bodies of peasants littered the ground as beasts devoured them, a premature celebratory feast. The Guardian of The Bloom strode through the devastation unhindered. There was no one to stop her; they have all fallen.

The Guardian entered the castle as it fell to pieces in her presence. On the crumbling throne sat her hound, King Pelliaos Sorrow. The broken king struggled to stand but collapsed back onto the seat as blood pooled around his feet. He glared at her with such vehemence in his single remaining eye but flinched at her touch.

"My hound-" She caressed his cheek with cold affection. "Rest now. You have served me well." His body crumbled to dust, along with his throne. The Apology then appeared before The Guardian, the last mote of dust filled it to the brim of the cup.

The Material Plane fell away as the First World came to life around her. Applause thundered around her, in equal parts of mockery and praise. In a flourish of flame, The Lantern King appeared before her. "Well done, trespasser! The essence of a thousand kingdoms lie before you-" The other Eldest surround The Guardian and the Apology. "For your crimes against us, you must become what you have sought so long ago. Within the cup lies your greatest desire." The words echoed through the world as The Guardian stared into the cup, mist swirled beneath the surface of the liquid. "To truly atone, you must drink the Apology and become an Eldest yourself."

The Guardian lifted the cup and placed it at her lips. She drank deeply from the Apology until nothing was left. Pain wracked her body as The Lantern King continued to speak, "With the pain and suffering of a thousand nations, you will become the Eldest of dust and trampled hope." The Guardian fell to her knees, her empty soul overflowed with hopelessness and despair. "Now, enjoy!" The Lantern King called out mockingly. "For this feeling will be with you for the rest of your eternal life!" Tongues of flame whipped around him as he flew above The Guardian and cackled into the darkness above her kneeling form.

The world fell away, but she could not stand. Her soul rioted against her as it tore her apart from the inside. Something crawled its way up her throat; her jaw propped open as the remains of the Apology poured from her mouth, the liquid had become gelatinous as it pulled itself into a shape outside of her body.

She felt tendrils wrapped around her neck, constricting her already limited supply of air. Another shape pulled upwards from the liquid and loomed above her and forced The Guardian to look up as it morphed into the face of Pelliaos. Its face contorted with rage and betrayal before it surged forward to the immobile fae.

Nyrissa jerked awake as she sat up in the bed, she struggled to calm her beating heart. The images of her recurring nightmare lingering in her mind. Peace had become a chasing dream since their fight. It had become the crack in their relationship. Where they once shared everything, they both had become guarded. Her nightmares were simply another issue Nyrissa did not want to share with Her Spring. The woodland nymph refused to be bound by the chains of her past; she wanted to focus on the present.

She felt the chill of the night creep across her bare shoulders, Nyrissa eyed the fireplace in the waning moonlight. Part of her wanted to relight it for the warmth, but she did not want to awake her partner beside her with such movement. Her Spring had been run ragged lately, and she did not want to further burden him with her problems.

She felt two lean arms encircle her body and froze. It was an intimate movement and it put Nyrissa on guard. Embraces had become rare for them, however his warmth chased away the night chill. Nyrissa melted into Pelliaos's embrace. The nymph's worries vanished into nothingness as she basked in his presence. The tension from her abrupt awakening left her body as Nyrissa drifted away from her thoughts of the past and surrendered to slumber.

"Now that sounds adorable-and loving-and just-" Octavia sighed longingly before she sipped the tea in front of her. The setting afternoon sun bathed the magister in a gentle light as she sat across from Nyrissa in the shade. The small table between them with a piping hot tea set.

Nyrissa sighed, "It felt wonderful, but didn't feel right." She paused. "If that makes any sense." The nymph stirred her cup, but she had no desire to drink. "Things between us are…different." She placed her cup on the table as her emotions came to bear. "I believe that I love him, but what if I am wrong? There are many times when I ask myself, what have I done to deserve him?"

"Well, you have suffered for over millennia because you were missing your heart and soul." The kingdom's magister shrugged. "Karma owed you something nice-" She raised a single eyebrow. "-Or someone." The half-elf purred.

The fae fought the urge to groan. "But what have I done to show my appreciation?" She questioned with fervour. "My eyes are open to both his faults and my own, but it still feels like something else is missing between us."

Octavia let that statement hang in the air as she thought it over. "Have you ever courted the king?" She questioned.

That rather threw Nyrissa for a loop. Both herself and Pelliaos did have a rather conventual start to their relationship. Unless you counted the encounters, they shared over the years as she threatened him and his kingdom. "No…no I have not." She answered distractedly.

The half-elf's eyes lit up in excitement. "Then you must woo him," Octavia emphasized. "How else can you both show your feelings without taking the other out for a good time. Nothing says appreciation and care, then a good old fashion date. Now-" She leaned forward and locked her fingers together, "What are you going to do?"

The nymph pondered the question. What could she do? She has seduced people in the past, but Nyrissa felt lost. "I do not know. What do you do on a date?"

"That all depends on the people involved," Octavia said. "What works for Reg and I, would not work for Ekundayo and Elina." The magister tapped her chin in thought. "Now what would be the perfect date for you two?" She placed her hands on the table and pushed her tea to the side as she focused completely on Nyrissa. "Now I know this is mostly for him instead of you, but what do you two enjoy?"

The woodland nymph thought back to all the times when she and Pelliaos enjoyed their time together. "We both enjoy the peace of nature, though there are times when the insects tend to bother him."

"I completely agree! He always seemed to be in good spirits when we travelled, but the bogs in the Naarlmarches seemed to put him on edge. Then there were those centipedes underneath the Old Sycamore." The magister nodded. "Both him and Reg went a bit nuts with lightning down in those tunnels."

Now Nyrissa was getting into it. "While the heavens rumble with fury, he finds solace and reassurance with the sparks in the sky." She waxed poetically.

Octavia ignored the impromptu poeticism. "His highness certainly has an extra pep in his step after a storm." She paused. "But we are getting off-topic, that's all physical stuff-unless you want to tell me what you two get up to behind closed doors?" The magister waved off the question. "Never mind, I can always ask the king later." Octavia affirmed, then she blinked. "You are going to need sweet wine."

"Sweet wine?" Nyrissa asked herself. She knew Pelliaos liked his wine, but he is rather picky. He does have a big sweet tooth. She continued the thought aloud, "Kanerah probably has a good idea of what would be nice bottle for him."

Octavia clapped her hands together with a big smile on her face. "Now you're getting it!" She cried out. "What else are you thinking?"

The fae woman took a deep drink of her tea as she mulled her thoughts. All this talk of sweets reminded her of a reclusive fae tribe in the First World. Perhaps with the right incentive, she could create a spectacular date. She needed time. The woodland nymph spoke up, "Do you think Lady Valerie would mind watching the capital for a day or two?"

"I'm sure between the two of us, Valerie would lose her mind if she wasn't put in charge." Octavia leaned back in her chair and laughed.

Nyrissa waited at the Bald Hilltop for King Pellaios to arrive, with her was a large crate on the ground and a small picnic basket in her arms. It took a while to fill the box up with the best trade goods, but the castle cooks were more than happy to help her with this date. Once Octavia smelt what was being baked in the kitchens, she decided to give a little more "help" to the nymph as well.

Her free hand fidgeted with the hem of a recently required dress, the extra bit of "help" from the mage. Her natural state of dress as a nymph certainly gave her favour, but clothes give anyone a sense of something more. They found the dress at the tailor, a slightly risque one considering they set-up shop next to a brothel. Nyrissa adored the colour, Octavia loved the cut of it. Both of their eyes' were drawn to the deep cut in the dress. The fae woman felt rather silly trying it on in the store, as some of the other shoppers were scandalized by looking at it.

She knew the pale yellow dress accentuated her figure well; it hung off her shoulders and clung to her hips. While the deep v-cut in both the back and front allowed room for her wings and in the words of Octavia, "It made her girls pop." Nyrissa still struggled with this idea. How much can clothes really change a person?

Pelliaos came into her sight as he walked up the hill and Nyrissa felt her heart beat a little faster as her previous thought was proven rather mote. No formal robes or cape around his shoulders. She has never seen the tiefling man dress so casually with a light brown tunic that seemed to bare his chest to the world. Nyrissa drank in the sight of the lean, wiry muscle of his chest within the open tunic. He stopped right in front of her in silence. She looked up to meet his eyes, only to see Her Spring drinking in her own figure as well. She thought that Pelliaos had lost interest in her, despite the comfort and care that he has given her. The look in his eyes is certainly beyond support and care. Nyrissa coughed into her hand and broke his trance.

He apologized for his state of dress Regongar had a spurt of unexpected magic, and destroyed his wardrobe. The flat look Pelliaos gave the nymph showcased his disbelief about why his clothes were damaged. Luckily, the half-orc had some old clothes that could fit him. His eyes roved over Nyrissa's body as he complimented her. In her younger years, she remembered the lesser-known fae obsessed with clothing of the Material World. It is now completely understandable.

To see the want in another's eyes, entirely from physical attraction. It was a new feeling that Nyrissa would want to chase more later. At this moment, however, they had a date to start. "My apologies, Pelliaos, but we have a place to be." With a wave of her hand, a portal split open in the air in the center of the standing stones. Nyrissa hooked the picnic basket on the crook of her arm and offered the other to the king. "Shall we, my Spring?"

Together they stepped through the portal and into the First World. Nyrissa led her love to a grassy field; towering black trees dotted the landscape like lone beacons. Their branches Lightning struck the ground in front of them, and in a flash, a humanoid appeared before them. Their face was androgynous, with soft features that seemed untouched by friction. Light, see-through fabric coiled around their limbs and shifted with the movement of the non-existent wind. "Have you brought them?" He asked.

"You will find a crate full of them just beyond the portal behind us to the Material Plane." They waited patiently while more fae appeared in bolts of lightning and headed through the portal and immediately came back with the crate. One of them opened the container and looked inside; they then looked toward the leader and nodded. The one that first appeared then continued, "Everything appears in order." They sniff into the air dismissively. "Enjoy your-" They paused as the if next word was utterly foreign to say. "Date." With that, they and their companions disappeared.

Remarkably, Pelliaos remained silent through the event. He looked to Nyrissa and raised an eyebrow in question. Nyrissa leaned onto his shoulder, "You know the expression my love?-You scratch my back, and I scratch yours?" She smiled. "You'll see soon enough, but first we need to find a good place to sit for the show."

Nyrissa pulled out a blanket from the basket and laid out on the grass. She pulled Pellaios down with her and held him close, despite his own weak resistance. Thunder rumbled in the distance as the nymph pulled out two glasses from the basket along with a bottle of wine. "I've brought your favourite." She uncorked the bottle and poured each of them a drink. The tiefling took the glass and tried to ask what was going to happen, only to be gently rebutted by Nyrissa. "Just give it a moment, the show is about to start."

Thunder rumbled and drew Pelliaos's attention to the darkened clouds in the distance. His face lit up in as lighting struck one of the blackened trees. Instead of being destroyed, the lightning arced to another tree, followed by another. The trees drew the ire of the storm, but defied the destructive nature, creating an electrical field. The amazement of such an occurrence was seen upon Pelliaos's face, and he was mesmerized.

The beauty of the electrical field drew her Spring's attention, and even Nyrissa felt drawn in because of his infectious fascination. With the bottle of wine between them, Nyrissa and Pellaios basked in the atmosphere. They started apart on either side of the blanket, but Nyrissa watched out of the corner of her eye as he came closer to her. The way he snuck his own glances at her before he slipped his arm around her hip and gently pulled her closer.

Together they watched the lightning as it danced between the bare trees. Nyrissa found the lack of conversation between them a sign that she chose an excellent place for a date. So, instead listening to the whispers of doubt within her mind, she snuggled closer into Pelliaos embrace.

All too soon, the bottle of wine emptied between them, and the rumbling storm clouds began to disperse. "I suppose we should get going as well, the storm nymphs were generous to let us stay for the ritual, and I would rather not overstay our welcome. " Nyrissa moved to begin packing up, only for Her Spring to gently stop her with a smile as he folded away the blanket into the basket. A little thing, but the woodland nymph appreciated the gesture. Together they walked back through the portal to the Material Plane.

After the magical wonder of the First World, they walk back to the capital from the Bald Hilltop. With the moon rising into the night sky, the two lovers took this time to talk. Pelliaos was certainly more receptive after the lightning show. After their fight before, Nyrissa got a glimpse of the tiefling's past. A small sliver of silver in an old forgotten forge, found after being forgotten for years. Instead of a little tidbit offered like an olive branch, the fae woman was able to have something more.

They spent months together working for the kingdom, and when they did found time to be alone with one another, it was more physical than anything else. The date certainly helped to loosen Pelliaos up. Questions that she had about her lover were answered with openness and honesty that she had missed since the day he returned her heart. When Her Spring asked the nymph of her past, she did not spiral into a realm of bitterness, if not outright ignoring the question. Instead, she was able to reminisce about the fond memories of her sisters and their adventures throughout the First World.

When they reached the gates of the capital, they proceeded through the city unburdened by the weight of the crown and nation, their entire focus on one another. Nyrissa chuckled under her breath as she listened to a rather daring tale when Pelliaos first learned about the origin of his sorcery. He snorted when she told him about the time she caught her sisters snuck into the private bathhouse of a famous lady knight.

It felt reassuring that there was more to their relationship then the kingdom. The past few weeks have been awkward between them, but she dared not to ever give up on Pelliaos Sorrow. She pulled him closer, as one of her wings draped over the tiefling's shoulder possessively. Deep in her heart, Nyrissa knew that he was the one for her. She will court him, to prove to herself and him that their love goes beyond the supernatural and into the natural.

A/N:

This one took a while, maybe because this is 95% fantasy. Sad truth: Nearly 30, never been on a date. So...that kinda slowed me down(not the first time doing this sort of chapter, but I still stutter with it.).

The dream was definite want for a start, though I wanted to be a bit morbid, and describe the death of the party and council members, but felt a bit too morbid and whole lot of trying to find titles and other ornery work.

First off, I wanted a natural conversation where the topic of wooing would come up, and who better to facilitate that then Octavia? Got through it pretty quick, then I toyed with the idea of having the kids at the orphanage helping out, which evolved into having other party members adding their own two cents, but it started to feel more extra filling than anything else.

I wanted to wax something philosphical on thunderstorms, but it felt more like I wanted to seem more pompous then what this is actually about.

So skip to the date and attire, which after weeks of being happy with a pale yellow dress, I got distracted when I came across a paper the attraction of red between men and women, which brought me to:

Johnson, K., Lennon, S.J. & Rudd, N. Dress, body and self: research in the social psychology of dress. Fashion and Textiles 1, 20 (2014). /10.1186/s40691-014-0020-7

Which was slightly terrifiying once you got past the introduction.