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"We have been driven from land to land for thirty years, and now you will sell us this splendorous isle for a kiss?" Queen Elwyn straightened.

"Your majesty, it is not any kiss. The Princess Julia remains untouched by any mortal. Only a few have beheld her. Do not think this is a trivial request," the Chief Regent bristled, puffing his cheeks.

Ham, the Halfling priest, remained motionless in his bow, his face in the dirt. A tiny smile crept quietly across his face.

The astonished Queen turned; realizing her benefactor remained bowing, she said, "Please, friend, arise."

Ham lifted his eyes, "It is a costly request, I know, but the Islands have been in my family for centuries. I fear I might offend many if I do not obtain a hefty price."

"You see, your majesty, it is a good price," said the Regent pointing to the dirty-faced Halfling.

"We have gold; we will pay you gold when we settle here," Queen Elwyn offered.

Ham shook his head. "We kept the gold in the earth for you, where it belongs. It troubles no one in the earth." Then looking up at the stunned elves, he straightened and said with a tone of correction, " Not that I would preach to you about gold, My Blessed Lady. You may do with it as you please. I desire only the kiss."

"For thirty years, we have wandered. We have died and suffered greatly. And now this place - I can scarcely believe our fortune. Can it be true?" Queen Elwyn smiled. Her abundant gratitude brought the crowd to tears. A sigh of smiles warmed the air.

"Thirty years. It is a short time to Elves, is it not?"

"They have been thirty thousand to us. Everyday another of our kind has died. We are chased like Wolves. We, who once ruled all. And you simply give us this glorious place?" A thousand tales of hardship creased the Queen's flawless face.

Ham waved a stubby finger. "Not give" he said, "the kiss."

The Queen bowed her head, "You will have it."

Ham said with the slightest tone of scolding, "Perhaps next time you need something, you will come to the Halflings first, instead of wandering around for thirty years."

From behind the queen a figure appeared. Draped in the finest linen and veiled in cobwebs of gold, the figure flowed over the grass as though gently breathing upon the delicate blades

Ham grinned widely, then pointed to the veiled girl standing behind the queen. "Now?"

The head beneath the veil nodded, then spoke with a voice of purest song, "You honor me, Friend Halfling."

Ham blushed, then stepped back as Princess Julia approached.. His breath caught as the shimmering silk weave lifted to reveal eyes like emeralds, and the face beyond the wonder of any flower. Ham's lower lip quivered slightly as he stepped forward.

Every Elf in the company stopped breathing.

He reached up, gently disappearing behind the golden silk for a moment, them fell to the earth. The Elves gasped in chorus. Julia reached down, and helped Ham to his feet.

"Than you, kind one. We shall not forget the Halflings' generosity on our behalf," Queen Elwyn said, stepping between her daughter and the enchanted priest.

"Generous? My kin will call me a liar; I am so greedy. They will never believe this. I would have given this place to glimpse her cheek. Your servants need to learn to bargain; they will be taken many times if they persist so shabbily." Ham sighed and fell to the earth once more. " I am a wealthy man, indeed. Aldor is your forever."

Queen Elwyn smiled broadly, then turned to her company. Raising hr arms skyward, she proclaimed, " We are home."

by Ray Bingham, Triumph Studios