And now, Daniel. We tell more about Chitto. You will always be the love of my life.
In the morning we went down for breakfast. Again, it was getting crowded at the manor. The kitchen table was full. Grace was there as usual cooking and supervising what was being cooked by others. There was a shiny brass urn there for the coffee now. Seth only looked surprised a second at the new urn and got his precious coffee.
“Mom, we are going on a trip today,” he told her. “We'll be gone a week or more. It could be a month.”
Her eyes widened. “Those men are still out there, aren't they? Will they attack us again?”
“You're safe for now,” Seth assured. “We have most of this group either in a barn or on their way to the dungeons in Blethos' Capitol. We're not leaving you unprotected. You still have most all of the guards.” He patted gently on her shoulder. “We're taking Toby and Dennis with us.”
“And Kitty,” I added coming in behind them.
“They will be safe in A'Dore,” Seth assured.
“Is it dangerous?” She asked. “You're taking the boys, it can't be.” She reasoned.
“No,” I said. “We're visiting a distant cousin of mine to get more prepared for what we need to do.”
“Oh,” she smiled. “I see.”
“Only these four men from Creid will be going with us.” Seth said. “The rest will be here to protect you.”
We sat at the table. Toby and Dennis came down to sit with us. Again Dennis sat close to Beau.
“Boys,” Seth began smiling at them. “We're taking a trip. We'll be gone maybe two or three weeks.”
Toby looked at Seth. “You say we. You mean us, too?” He motioned between himself and Dennis.
“You are, Toby. Dennis is going to A'Dore, but staying there.” I said. “Yes, you are coming with us to see a cousin of ours.”
“Another relative!?” Dennis his voiced raised a little in amazement and disbelief. “How many relatives are there?”
I chuckled. “Hundreds! We kept track of Aunts and Uncles and their children. This one is descended from the brother of my great-great grandmother. He had children and their children and this one is one of his descendants, but he is a relative.”
Seth laughed. “It's a thing in royal families. They all keep track of relatives just in case a disaster takes place, like we had in Blethos. Everyone thought I was dead and the throne would be vacant. We used the knowledge of those relatives to find the right person to keep the line going.”
Both Dennis and Toby thought a while.
“So,” Toby began slowly, “we are in that line?”
I nodded. “You're both princes so you are, of course. But not only for Blethos, but A'Dore, as well because of me. Blethos is because of your Daddy.”
We had told them many times not only who they were, but what they were. Now it was sinking in more.
“We're princes,” Dennis said for confirmation. “Being a prince is what we are and not just what we're called.”
Seth nodded. “That's right.”
“Wow,” Dennis said really understanding now. I knew he felt the swelling of self-importance in his heart. Just as I did when I understood what I was.
“Son,” Seth began softly. “That does make you important. The problems come when you stay there at that realization. Many of our cousins stayed there becoming selfish and self-entitled to whatever they wanted.” He frowned. “They thought themselves more important than anyone.” He sighed. “You're not. That's why your Dad and I prefer being addressed without the titles.”
I nodded. “My parents and brother taught me I was not more important than the woman scrubbing the floor or the man in the street. The thing most important is we are born with a job to do. It is a duty.”
“What job do we have?” Toby asked.
“You two are in unique position,” Seth smiled. “You have the means to do whatever you want. You can go to any college and become doctors, scientists, arbitrators or engineers.”
“But remember to use that position to serve the people, not just yourself.” I said seriously.
They both nodded understanding even more.
Toby recovered first from the massive information we'd told them and understood. “So, when are we going?”
Seth grinned. "As soon as we pack," He said. "We'll be eating and sleeping outside. So, pack accordingly."
“You're going camping?” Dennis whined disappointed. “I want to go camping, too.”
Seth chuckled again. “We'll go camping some time else. I promise.”
Dennis consented reluctantly. “Okay.”
“You'll be visiting with your cousin Edward,” I said. “You'll have lots to do. It will be fun.” I watched him brighten a little.
I touched the crystals on the mirror and what we saw what was reflected had changed. I didn't know what room it was. There was dark fabric covering the mirror. I pushed against it stepped through to A'Dore. It wasn't the room attached to the lab. It was dark and my eyes had to adjust to the little single light that burned in the room. I tried to remember this large room. I moved from the area so the others could come through. Then I remembered this was a storage room beneath the palace near the dungeon. Looking around I saw various items held in question that were taken by thieves and others. It wouldn't be crowded for us like the other room attached to the lab was.
Max looked around the room. “Where are we?”
I chuckled. “I know where we are. Apparently Christian has the mirror moved.” I waved at the heavy cloth covering. “He did the same as we do. Covering it to keep people from finding out.” I waved at the various items around the room. “This is where we kept whatever loot criminals took and we find the owners and give it back. Some of this has been here since I was little, but it's kept here.”
“Okay,” Seth accepted what I said. “Then lead us out of here?”
We covered the mirror again and stepped into the dark corridor. It was dark because we were underground. The floors here were stone, but not the polished floors above. The walls were stone with an occasional lamp lit for them to see down here. Dungeons weren't supposed to be pleasant.
“This,” Beau said a little in revulsion, “is not pretty.”
Max chuckled. “It isn't supposed to be.” He turned to Beau. “This is where the bad guys go when they catch them.” He patted Beau on the shoulder.
“I wont be bad.” Beau promised.
“Beau,” Val laughed. “I don't believe you could be bad even if you wanted to.” He gave Beau the one arm hug men gave, squeezing him at the shoulder to him.
Kitty stuck his head out of the large satchel Dennis used to carry the cat. Kitty meowed softly as if to ask where he was or if we'd gotten there yet.
Dennis stroked his head. “Almost there, Kitty, but not yet.”
I lead them up the stairs to a part of the palace that was again pretty by Beau's standards. High ceilings, chandeliers, art on the walls and on tables such as small statues and other sculptures. Beau even seemed to relax once we got up to the first floor of the palace.
“Prisoners are brought through here?” Max asked.
“Only if a judge or Christian sends them here from the Throne Room.” I answered. “Those that are brought like the ones that attacked Royal Valley are brought in another entrance. They only see this if they appear before a judge or Christian.”
The problem with a castle this size was finding someone. Christian wasn't in the Throne Room. No one was in the Throne Room. I found out through a guard Christian had been in the Family Communal Room.
Entering we found Ella, Ada, Ana and Edward.
Edward was first to see us and said excitedly, “Uncle Seth!”
I laughed at that. Edward has loved Seth since he was a baby. I nodded, “And Uncle Erik.” I reminded Edward chuckling.
Seth grinned at me as he received a big hug from Edward. “Don't be jealous, Honey.”
I was a little. “I just want Edward to know there are others in this family.” I nodded. “Yes, I'm a little jealous, but its all good.”
Edward looked at me. “Aw, I love you, too, Uncle Erik. You know that.” He let Seth go and hugged me.
I introduced the men to Queen Ella and they paid the proper respects.
The door opened and we heard Christian and Thomas in a discussion as they came in.
“I got it, Dad,” Thomas was saying to his father in the ongoing conversation.
“Hi, Thomas!” I greeted him and hugging him.
Then someone else entered the room and I recognized my friend and former sparring partner Delbert. He's been a guard a while and helped to locate Anastasia, Ella's former step-sister before Len Na's attack.
“Are you all ready to go?” Christian asked Delbert.
“I am, Sire,” Delbert said. “I thank you again for this privilege. And your trust.”
Christian looked at us. “I asked Delbert to go with you.” He began explaining. “Erik, you know I trust you with my life. You and Seth will protect Thomas with your lives, but you will be doing other things as well. Delbert's only duty is to protect Thomas. Understand?”
I nodded. “Of course.” I punched Delbert lightly in the arm. “It's great to see you, Bert!”
Delbert smiled. “It's great to see you, too, Erik.” Then he smiled a little maliciously. “Maybe we can get together for a rematch.”
“Rematch?” Seth asked.
Delbert grinned. “I've never been able to beat him sparring.” He looked at me. “I've improved over the decade.”
“You think I haven't?” I said coming toward him. “I've also learned some Creid dirty tricks. When this is over, we'll have that rematch.”
Delbert threw his head back and laughed. “Mister, I missed you.” He said and hugged me. He had permission to touch me since we were teenagers, so he did. He was a great looking man, but we were just friends and he liked the ladies, so...
Dennis let Kitty out who made his rounds. He'd been here before, but he needed to check it out to familiarize himself with any changes.
We gathered in the courtyard. Ten men were getting ready to go. There was a wagon coming with us with a cook. I noticed something under the carriage at the wheels.
“Christian, what's that?” I pointed to these things at the wagon's wheels.
“Improved absorbers for rough terrain.” Christian said proudly. He waved at the wagon. “He keep the pace you take with out breaking anything or shaking anything apart and rides more comfortably for passengers.”
I smiled. “We had them on our two carriages we used to travel back and forth.”
Christian nodded. “These are even better.”
I shrugged, “We'll see them in action.” I nodded and hugged my brother.
I leaned down a little to speak with Dennis. “Have a good time with Edward, but remember...”
Dennis nodded and said with me what I'd said to him before. “Uncle Christian and Aunt Ella are in charge and do as they ask as if they were you.”
I laughed and hugged him. “That's right.” I kissed him on the head. “You're a prince. Behave. Set an example. I have to.”
Dennis smirked. “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I will.” He assured.
We headed out and Christian was right. The new absorbers were better. We would take the other carriages at a leisurely pace.
The improved carriage did well at a good gallop. The wheels would move up and down with the bumps on the road, but the carriage stayed steady and only bounced lightly keeping everything from being shaken apart. We had been to A'Dore frequently through the years but never left the palace. About a mile from the town's outskirts I saw what I'd never seen. A river was now there. Well, it wasn't a river, but the canal! Wide enough for two ships to pass each other with no problem. Men were working on a dock and warehouse for goods imported and what we exported. The canal, I was told was completed to the ocean, but not finished to the gulf yet. That didn't stop A'Dore from using it now. The men working at old wharf didn't lose their jobs. Half of them stayed to unload goods that were nonperishable. The other half were offered jobs and moved to the capitol. Jobs were now available in both locations. We crossed the bridge there that allowed ships to pass underneath with no problem.
There was an Inn on the way to Mikosuki, but only had a few rooms. But they did have a bath for weary travelers. We stopped just to let them know we would need that in the morning and asked where a good camping spot would be. We were directed to a nice spot near a stream. It was growing dark and it was the end of Autumn so a little chilly. That was no problem. We put up tents. We made a fire. Al cooked us dinner and we put rocks by the fire. Those rocks at bedtime would be put in our bedrolls and keep us warm all night. Of course, Seth and I shared a tent. Thomas and Toby shared a tent. The others shared as the felt like. Delbert slept in the wagon with Al. Al was a man in his early forties and loved what he did. Cooking food. He wasn't fat yet, but if he didn't watch out he would be. We found out who snored and who didn't that night. If Max ever did find someone to share his bed with, they needed to be warned. Reese did a little, but Max won the contest if there was one. We were roughing it, but Seth and I had a private tent, so we did what we always did before we went to sleep.
Getting up we ate, went to the Inn bathed and shaved. We moved on. We pushed it a little having the horses go at a faster gallop. The wagon kept up! We made good time. We entered the village/town of Mikosuki. Here there were buildings and a paved street, but there were a few differences. The buildings and houses didn't reflect the style of A'Dore's Capitol. The houses were smaller and square. The color was the color of mud and stone. They didn't paint their dwellings or buildings. However, the people themselves added the color. They all dressed in bright reds and vibrated blues. Dresses were both white and those colors of red or blue. The men wore trousers and shirts of bright red and blue. The curtains in the windows had those colors. The awnings in front of businesses had those and other colors that were bright and festive. The people here had the darker skin. More like a dark tan but it was natural and all over. The other thing was many of the men that wore their hair long. Handsome men, but I didn't really like long hair on a man. Not all of the men, but more than a few. Some wore them in braids others just let it hang loose.
“Why do the men have long hair, Dad?” Toby asked riding beside me.
I gave a slight shrug. “It has to do with religion. They adhere to a belief that causes many to keep their hair long to show they follow the religion.” I chuckled. “So, I was told. You can ask why that is to our cousins. The only time they cut their hair is when they're mourning a relative or loved one.”
Toby nodded with a huff. “You and Daddy make me get mine cut when it touches my collar and ears.”
Seth snickered. “If you want your hair longer, fine,” Seth shrugged and waved at the men on the street. “Their hair is straight. Yours curls like mine does when it get longer. If you can keep it up, go for it.”
“You may have to put your hair up to keep it out of your face by braiding it when you begin sword fighting.” I added. “It can get in the way.”
Seth chuckled. “The guards are required to have their hair short. An enemy can grab it when fighting.”
I chuckled. “Yes, there are some disadvantages to having long hair.”
“Oh,” Toby said simply.
We rode to what was the town hall. A large man came to the door smiling. He was Muscogee with the dark skin and a shirt of vibrant blue and white. He was huge! His black hair was short and closely cut to his head. I knew he was in his late fifties, but looked ten to fifteen years younger. He was barrel chested and reminded me of Eb or Zeke back at home.
“Well, well,” the man said smiling. “I do believe I see my cousin!”
I grinned and dismounted. “Hello, Harjo.” I walked over to the man and yes, we didn't see each other for a while, but we were family. He grabbed me in the tight hug. His name meant bear, so this was a true bear hug. He could do that. He was family and didn't need permission. It was a stupid rule anyway and I wouldn't have him punished even if he didn't have permission. I like the visits to the palace he did. I liked it even more when he brought his son Chitto.
He held me back a little to look at me better. “You grew up!”
“I was supposed to,” I laughed. “Is Chitto well?”
“He's fine and a father now.” He chuckled. “He's made me a grandfather twice now.”
“Good,” I grinned and turned to Seth who was dismounting. “This is my husband, Seth.”
Harjo didn't even blink. He held his hand out to Seth and shook his hand. “It's great to meet you.”
I waved at Toby who had also dismounted. “This in one of our two sons. This is Toby. When you speak to him make sure he can see your mouth he's deaf.”
Again, Harjo didn't even blink. “Nice to meet you, Toby.”
“It's nice to meet you, sir.” Toby said. Again, he didn't speak like a hearing person would, but it was understandable.
Harjo shook his head. “None of that sir stuff, just call me Harjo or Bear. Everyone here calls me Bear.”
“I could always see that,” I chuckled. “And this is Christian's son Thomas.” I waved at Thomas.
Thomas shook his hand, too. “It's good to meet you, Bear”
“I hate to do this, but this isn't a pleasure visit,” I confessed. “You know of the attacks that have occurred in A'Dore?”
Harjo nodded. “I do. We have gotten notices from Christian about them.”
“It's being done by Aborigines that live in the northwest of our continent.” I confessed. “We need your help.”
Harjo nodded. “Sure. Whatever we can do.”
“Do you know about Tawa?” Seth asked.
“Tawa?” Harjo repeated shaking his head. “I've not heard of him.”
“He may go by another name for you. He claims to be god.” I said.
Harjo's eyebrows rose. “Which one?” Harjo asked. “There are a few.”
“He claims to be the god.” I said. “We have nothing about him or any other god for any tribe in our archives. Can someone here help us? We saw some pretty god-like manifestations from this being claiming to be Tawa.”
Harjo nodded. “I see.” He smiled again. “Then Chitto is the man to see.”
“Is he a priest or shaman?” I asked.
“Better,” Harjo chuckled. “He's a historian. He's recording much of our cultures history and culture. Part of that is our religion.”
“Great!” I said happily.
Harjo chuckled. “I'll send him a note.”
I introduced the others, including the men from Creid. Again, Harjo wasn't shocked or even bothered knowing that.
“I better let Sehoy know.” Harjo laughed lightly. “She will love having you for dinner, but she'll appreciate being told beforehand.”
“That's his wife,” I told Seth.
“And that names means?” Max asked.
“Beauty.” I answered.
Harjo smiled at us. “And she still is!”
They didn't have a large house, but they had one big room they lived in, ate in and cooked in. There was enough room for everyone. The room smelled wonderful. I introduced everyone to Sehoy. She was in her early fifties and like Harjo looked ten or fifteen years younger with long black flowing hair. She was a beauty. Hugs for the family and she shook hands with the others. When I introduced Seth as my husband she just smiled.
She laughed lightly. “It was about time for all of you to catch up with us.”
Seth looked confused. “Catch up with what?”
Harjo chuckled. “We never had a problem with men marrying men or women marrying women. We do it often, even before it became legal in A'Dore.” He shrugged. “We never understood the problem.” He waved at Seth and me. “When you married, we just knew you were two spirited.”
“Two spirited?” Seth asked.
“Sure,” Sehoy nodded. “Most of the world sees male and female. We know a person is more then what he or she is based on their anatomy. Male and female are only two genders. You two are just another gender.” She said simply.
“Wow,” Seth marveled.
The front door opened and walked a someone I knew when he and I were young boys and teenagers. He was a man now. “Someone told me there was an incursion of white men from A'dore here. Is that you?” He had a big grin on his dark face. He was always good looking and now, he was even more handsome. He had dimples. Not those little holes, but longer ones that gave his handsome features an even more charm. He too had hair cut short and groomed. I don't know if he put some thing on it, but it was more shiny than his fathers. He wasn't as large as his father, but he was tall. Just over six feet.
“Chitto!” I greeted happily.
“Hi, Cousin!” Chitto said grabbing me and hugging me tightly. I will admit it. If Chitto liked men and wanted to test it out as teenager, I would have given in. We weren't that close of cousins. Even if he had been, I would have given in. We couldn't conceive a child, so what the Hell? He didn't and I didn't, but we were great friends. The hug went on a few seconds longer than most. He stepped back, like his father looked me over. “You got old!” He said with a smile.
“So did you! And you have me beaten by a year.” I shot back grinning at him.
We clasped arms as they did here. Handshakes were fine, but this was how Muskogee friends greeted each other. Our arms parallel clasping at the elbows on each arm on both of us and a squeeze slightly.
“I wanted to come to the wedding, but I'd have to be gone for over a month!” Chitto declared.
“It was a thousand miles away,” I chuckled. “You would have been welcome if you came, but I didn't expect you to. I didn't come to yours either for the same reason.”
He looked behind him where a young woman stood with a child in her arms and a little boy at her side.
“Nila, this is my often crazy cousin. His Royal Highness, Prince Erik of A'Dore.” He grinned at me. “And Blethos now.” She was stunning. She could almost tempt me. “Erik, this is my wife Nila.” He touched the infant about six or seven months old who was looking around with alert brown eyes. “This is Makya and this,” he brought a boy about five forward. “Is Tadi.”
Nila hugged me, “It's a pleasure to finally meet you. Chitto has told me so much, I feel I know you already.”
“It's wonderful to meet you. And just for the record, I wasn't the crazy one.” I protested and looked at Chitto. “You were the crazy one!”
Chitto grunted. “We'll agree we both were?”
“But we had fun.” I said.
Chitto nodded. “We sure did.”
I shook the hands of his sons, including the baby. Makya just patted my hand as I shook his tiny hand. He was adorable with his lightly covered head of black hair. I was remembering and missing Dennis at this age. “Sorry, but you'll have to tell me the meanings as you did for your Dad.”
Chitto smiled. “Nila means victory. Makya means eagle and Tadi means wind.”
Looking at Chitto I said. “You have a handsome family, Chitto.” I turned back to Seth. “This is my husband Seth.” Again there were no adverse reactions from any of them but smiles. I motioned to Toby. “And this one of two of our sons. His name is Toby. We have another son named Dennis back at the palace.” I looked at Chitto. “Toby's deaf, but he can speak. Just make sure he sees your mouth and he'll understand you.” Perhaps because of their culture they just excepted what was. I turned to Thomas. “And this handsome man is my nephew and the Crowned Prince of A'Dore, his highness Prince Thomas.”
Thomas stepped up and extended his hand. “It's a pleasure to meet you.”
Chitto smiled but shook his head. “No, your my cousin. Do you want to use your title? Erik doesn't. Do we have permission to touch you? I don't want to break any protocols.”
Thomas shook his head. “Sure, you can touch me.”
Chitto smiled bigger and hugged Thomas. “Hello, Cousins!” He hugged Toby, too.
Seth chuckled. “Hugging runs in the family I see.”
I smiled at Seth. “Do you prefer a cold handshake or a warm hug?” Seth gave a shrug and nod in agreement.
I introduced the others in our party. Max, Val, Beau, Reese, Al and Delbert.
There was no couch or chairs in their home. We ate at a low, round table. There were large cushions around in patterns of bright colors. Again, the main colors were blue and red. Other colors were added to make the decorative patterns, but all the colors were vibrant. No pastels. They all met on the floor for everything. The cushions just made it more comfortable. After we ate we gathered on the cushions. The meal we just talked about what we were doing in Royal Valley. What they were doing to improve things for the town of Mikosuki. Pleasant conversations. Unpleasant things were not discussed when dining. Just like in our culture, meals were a bonding time with family and friends...and of course ate. It was delicious.
After the meal, the table was removed and we got down to business.
“You know of the attacks in Blethos and A'Dore,” Max confirmed.
“Yes,” Chitto nodded. “Dad was sent a message from Christian of the ongoing attacks.”
“We were attacked in Royal Valley,” Seth said. “But we managed to repel them.”
“We spoke to one of the survivors,” I felt confident about telling them about the magic. “Adistan spoke and then this entity spoke through him, claiming to be Tawa.”
Chitto's eyes widened. “Tawa?”
“Do you know about Tawa?” Seth asked.
Chitto nodded, “I know of him. Other tribes believe in him, but he's not one of our gods. Ibofanga is our main god. He created this Middle World.” He tapped the floor meaning Earth. “It is a buffer between the Upper World where Ibofanga and the other deities live and the Lower World where to forces of evil live.” He shook his head. “We don't follow Tawa.”
“But you know about him?” I asked.
Chitto nodded, “I do. However, there's a man you should speak to first. He is the High Priest of Mikosuki. He would know more details. His name is Hakan.”
“Can we speak to him?” Max asked.
Chitto shrugged. “I don't see why not. I'll set it up tomorrow.”
“Now, you all must stay,” Sehoy said determinedly. “As long as you don't mind bunking together.”
Reese shook his head. “I don't mind, but isn't there a separate room or even another building for Max.”
“Why?” Max asked.
“You snore.” Reese said simply.
“I don't either,” Max said irritated.
“You do,” Beau said nodding. “It's very loud.”
Max frowned but he wasn't bothered. It was in humor. “It never woke me up. I don't believe you.”
All that had spent the previous night together said at the same time. “Yes. You do.”