"How do we prepare?” I asked them. “It could come at any time.”
Yannick nodded. “An attack on you, Erik, will require more preparation and a plan. They would have people in Royal Valley to know your patterns. They would also see the numbers of men you have guarding you.”
“Which will be increased,” Sam stated.
“I can spare a few Creid.” Yannick smiled. “I'll even send four off of our palace warriors for you and Seth to train your soldiers. Not that your soldiers don't know how to fight but,” he winked at me, “you know our motto. Whatever it takes.”
“You'll teach the dirty tricks you use,” Seth grinned.
“Sometimes the savage way is needed.” Yannick shrugged. “I could send all four to Royal Valley. Two will have to use that doorway.” He thumbed back at the mirror. “They can teach your troops, Christian. We have new armor, too.”
“We don't have a choice,” Sam said. “We're setting up watchtowers to watch for any incursion. I have sent pairs of men to patrol the borders.”
“My warriors will broaden those patrols,” Yannick said. “You would stretch your military too thin. We're allies!” He looked at Christian. “I could send you some troops.” He chuckled. “The traditional way over land. It will take two or three weeks...”
“They will be welcome,” Christian said with a smile. “The men know we're allies. They may be still wary of your men at first.”
“The men will be on their best behavior,” Yannick swore with a chuckle. “I'll make that a royal command.”
“I'll give the same command to my men.” Christian laughed. He looked at me and Seth. “Don't you have a house full of guests?”
Seth chuckled. “We do.”
“Well, get back to them.” Christian hugged all of us. Sam and Yannick, too. “Go!” He waved at the mirror. “We'll talk in a couple of days.”
We came back into the attic.
“It was such a long trip.” Seth smiled.
"Two thousand miles?" I chuckled. "That is a long trip."
Seth clapped his hands once. “Any of you fancy a drink?”
We went down to the family waiting for our return.
The conversation our boys had was mostly silent. There was the occasional voice when Mike asked how to say something in sign. He learned to sign with the occasional visits we did in Blethos' Capitol twice a year. They were having fun when Tommy didn't get it or Mike didn't get it! There was laughter and Dennis said things, such as that's not what you said. Causing them to laugh. Not at Mike to make fun of him, but with him. Or questioning Tommy for not using a sign he used in Creid. They were enjoying their friendship. I was grateful they were getting along. Kris and Beth were getting along. No arguments. I thanked God again and again.
Grace came in and said the preparations were done and she was going home to be back early in the morning.
“I've never met her husband.” I said quietly to Seth.
Seth shook his head. “Neither have I. I did when I was younger. I never heard he died or anything. She's very quiet about it.”
I put my arm around Seth. “She may be private, but I know she'd tell her son.”
Things quieted down. Allister was asleep in his Daddy's lap.
Yannick smiled. “I think it's time for bed.” He got “aw,” back from the children. “Aw what?” Yannick smiled. “You need sleep. So do I. He needs changing. We'll all be together again tomorrow.”
Delta was reaching for Allister. “I'll change him.”
Yannick was playing “keep away” turning so she couldn't get Allister. “I'm more than capable and you know it. We're both his parents. I'll change him.”
I was seeing him as the angry bear of a warrior when we first met a did battle to convenience King Mordor and the others I could be trusted and that same man who was a tender loving father doting on his children. I liked the combination. He did with Tommy, too but the rules were he had to be born a prince. Yannick made him a prince, but the rules! I didn't agree with many of them. Such as, Delta and Terry were addressed as Your Majesty. I was married to a king, but I was Your Majesty? I was Your Highness. Male consorts didn't earn the title. We weren't ruling. Even though I did on occasion. I know, I hated titles so it didn't really bother me. I just hoped Tommy would understand.
Getting to bed took a little pushing. They went finally.
We took our nightly bath. Seth chuckled. “It's amazing that not one of those kids is spoiled. Not one "that's mine!”
I laughed. “Beth is and Kristine.”
“They are treated like Princesses.” Seth shrugged. “They are.”
“They were spoiled in a good way,” I said and moved closer to Seth. “We did with Toby and Dennis,” I said. “They understand they know the importance of sharing and being nice.” I smiled. “How about we be nice with each other?”
“We will,” Seth said kissing me. “I love you, Erik.”
“I know you do, I love you, Seth.”
“I know,” Seth replied softly kissing me again.
We were very nice to each other.
We woke up and did our usual. Made love, bathed, and dressed. Going downstairs as the women Grace hired were busy. The men were bringing flowers and other things to decorate the house. Grace told them to consider the flow of traffic with all the guests coming. Yannick and Delta were down eating, Allister was eating his finger-food. The musicians from Blethos' Capitol were setting up to entertain, and I'm not talking a small group. There were sixteen! A small orchestra. Our living area had room for them and wouldn't be the way.
Yannick stood. “We began early. We were hungry.” He waved at Allister and Beth grinning.
The Sam, Terry, and Kristine came down. “I see we're late again.” Sam chuckled.
“You're king, you're never late,” I said.
The boys came down in a hurry, ready for breakfast. Again mostly silent. Mike spoke when he signed, he didn't need to speak loudly to be heard. “Good morning!” Toby, Dennis, and Mike said and Tommy signed.
The guests were to come about one o'clock giving us more time in daylight. We had lamps and reflectors. Candles for the chandeliers. There would be plenty of light. That would save on supplies. Many guests would bring children and taken home to be put to bed. The party would go on, but we would be considerate of that need with their children.
We ate and enjoyed each others company. We activated the fans to add cause a gentle movement of air in the house. It would be warm with all those people here. It was Autumn now and cool, it rarely got that cold here. Once we had a little snow. It didn't stick or last long. Seth and I, along with other men lit the heaters. That was a sleepless night. Even Toby and Dennis helped by bringing coal and wood needed to keep the fires lit.
I put the Aspir-willow and opium paste on Seth's foot and wrapped. “Now, you use your crutch until the dance begins. When you put your weight on it and feel any pain, you tell me. I can usually read you very well, I'll know.”
Seth chuckled. “I know you can read me.” He hugged me. “I'll tell you.”
It was about twelve-thirty when Garth and Bent got there with their three.
“We're a little early...” Garth started, but I hugged him.
“You came,” I said. “You're always welcome.”
Seth nodded. “Anytime.” He hugged Bent.
We got them in and they knew Sam was king and Terry was queen, so they bowed and said Your Majesties. Then I introduced Yannick and Delta. They did it again to them. It was protocol.
People night who didn't have clocks used the hour candles. Enough wax that burns down each hour. How much wax it took for that hour I couldn't guess. During the day they used a sundial they made. The sun was never wrong. Zeke and Gabe came with the mayor and his wife, Curt. and Darrel, and others, I saw Lukus, Demetrius and Dara. That was including some of our employees and their spouses. Doris came with Frank...there would be hundreds! The house was built for heat with high ceilings and vents to let the hot out during our spring, summer, and early fall. Seth's stinky feet were nothing compared to when he labored in the hot weather and sun of summer. I insisted they take breaks and drink water in the shade every two hours. I checked, too. I wasn't having Seth fall out in that hot sun from Heat Stroke. They would wear hats that covered their heads and eyes.
They were all welcome. Some had never been to a party like this.
They kept coming. Now it got noisy. They had to talk louder to be heard. There were occasional bursts of laughter. Allister wasn't scared one moment. He would kick and squeal, he loved it. That brought people over. People loved a happy baby. Allister was that. The girls Grace hired set out the bread, butter and some spreads with a hint of grape and some with honey, and jellies. They had fancy bread. Croissants! Everything was delicious. Wine and the Wine Punch was served. There were others that were made the fruits we have around here. It was about five when someone tapped on a glass to get attention.
Sam smiled. “Everyone get a full glass.” He instructed the guests. After they got that. “Twelve years ago my brother married an amazing human being. He has loved, stood by, and supported Seth a long time. He's helped me deal with some things.” He raised his glass. “To Seth and Erik. May you have many more years together.” Everyone said. “Here, here.”
The music to dance started. Seth stood up. Putting his weight on his foot. I saw no grimace or sign of pain. He offered his hand to me. “Can I have this dance?”
“Absolutely.” I replied taking his hand.
Our orchestra began a waltz and we started dancing. I watched his face, he had no pain. At the end of that dance, he kissed me. “I love you, Erik.”
“I love you, Seth.” We hugged tightly. Everyone was clapping. Some were even hooting. Things have really changed in twelve years.
“One or two more.” Seth smiled. “I feel the pressure starting.”
“One,” I stated.
The orchestra started a new waltz and everybody got involved in that waltz. There were lots of new dances more complicated with moves that changed partners or formed a line where you danced apart came together and then backed away. He would entice her and she would entice him There were lots of new dances more complicated with moves that changed partners or formed a line where you danced apart came together, turned and backed away. He would entice her and she would entice him the didn't touch! What!? People loved it!? It was now very popular. We missed that on and were fine with that the unmarried ones, didn't dance too close together. Gad! They might touch...places on each other! How dare they do that?? (I say that very sarcastically.) Of course, they will touch. Seth and I broke that rule the first dance! Nothing touched in those places, but we touched.
We finished the second dance. I walked him to his chair. He didn't protest, so I knew he was feeling the ache now. I kissed him a little longer, lingering in the kiss a few seconds. “You are a good man, Seth. I'm glad we married.”
He kissed me back. “I am, too. You married me when I was scarred. You saw me.” He held his hand up. “I'm fine with it now. I'm secure about the scars that are in the past.”
“Good.” I smiled and kissed him quickly. “We're breaking the rules again. Public displayed of affection is frowned on.” I chuckled.
“Let 'em frown. It's a stupid rule anyway.” He kissed me longer.
“What do you think you're doing?” Demetrius asked in a mock crossness.
I turned to see him and Dara dressed as nobles. They were. Demetrius was dressed in a fine suit it was navy blue a large diamond on his dark tie. Dara had done her head an wore a ruby red dress that was narrow at the hips. I didn't really care about women's fashion. It was the modern fashion now and saved us space! Some dresses added three or four feet on a lady! Dara wore gems, rubies of red naturally. One good-sized ruby on a pendant that sat between on her chest almost touching her cleavage. A ruby on each ear.
“Hi Demetrius, Dara!” I smiled hugging both. Seth was about to stand up. “Seth?” I asked.
“No weight on it," he assured standing and used his crutch he hugged them both. “Hello.” He sat down again.
I grinned as he put his foot up again and smiled saying See? “I was kissing my husband.”
“I know. So openly?” Dara chuckled shaking her head, giving us the tsk, tsk. "Don't Eve's Children frown on that.”
Seth grinned back. “Most are a bunch of prudes because the Church said so?" He shook his head. "I haven't noticed a decline in unwanted births. All the church adds is guilt."
“They frowned at our marriage,” I said to them. "We did it with your help. You got me the perfect someone. You did very well.”
“I presented the opportunity for you to meet. You two fell in love.” Demetrius said.
“And all my background?” Seth asked. “My being rescued, the part where Arthur kept my past secret, the part where we restored my family, punishing the guilty?”
“That was me,” Lukus said behind us.
“Hi, Lukus.” Seth greeted.
“They didn't know this.” He pointed to Demetrius and Dara. “A feeble attempt to correct a wrong done by the Thornes and me. I'm sorry I let Arthur get away with it.”
“I forgive you, Lukus,” Seth said. “It was Arthur that chose to do it. He I will never forgive or his awful children.” Seth stuck his hand out for Lukus to take. “We're good, Lukus.
The party went on, the candles were lit. There were elegant dances. They even did that dance where you didn't touch. I saw Garth's eldest daughter dance in that one. Garth and Bent couldn't object to that. Other dances the two kept an appropriate distance. Garth and Bent didn't, they were married. It was autumn so the days were shorter. At eight o'clock the guests with younger children left. The usual, loved our party, thanks for inviting us. Five Bent and Garth and their children. They started to work early on the farm.
At ten there were yawns from guests who got up early to work. By eleven the pretty much left. The few others saw it and the dwindled amount to interact with and left. Seth and I grabbed up a couple of croissants, Yannick and Sam took a couple of slices of roast beef. Delta picked up Allister who was sound asleep. She held her hand out for Beth.
“You stay if you want to,” Delta said to Yannick. “I'm putting these two to bed.”
“Me, too,” Terry said holding her hand out for Kristine. “Let's get you to bed.”
“I'm not sleepy,” Kris said slowly with some long blinks.
Terry chuckled. “I know. We'll do it anyway.”
“Okay,” Kris said a little sadly, but not arguing.
“We need to get with Christian again,” Sam said. “We need to plan.”
Toby got up signing he'd be back. He came to us. “I can't whisper. Is this about what you talked about at the table last night?”
Sam was surprised and then nodded. “You read our lips.”
“Yes,” Toby admitted. “I saw it all. May I go with you?”
I smiled. “We go after breakfast.”
“Why?” Sam asked when Toby walked back to his friends.
“We could use another sharp mind.” I shrugged. “He's damned smart and mature. We won't lose anything by taking him.”
“We'll be talking about war and killing,” Sam argued.
“We'll be talking about defending his home,” Seth said back. “He should be able to handle it.” He chuckled at me. “He takes after you. He wants to know everything about everything.”
“Yes, you should see what he brings home to read,” I told Yannick and Sam. I stood up and clapped for the hearing two. They all looked at me. I said and signed. “Time for all princes and future kings to go to bed.” I got two awes. “You don't have to stop, just take it to your room,” I said and signed. There were sighs but did as I asked. The truth was, I was getting tired. The house-staff were dousing the extra lights. The orchestra was packing their things. I walked over and thanked them all personally. Grace came over. “Can I get anything else for you? We're putting the leftovers in the icebox.”
Seth got up and hugged her. “No, Mom.” Seth grinned. “But we'll talk tomorrow. Nothing bad, but good. Okay?”
“Certainly,” Grace said curiously. “Tomorrow.”
“Do what needs to be done tonight,” I added. “Then you go home.”
She nodded smiling. “I will. My hired people can wash the dishes and that sort of things.”
“They can put things away.” Seth smiled. “You go home now.”
“Alright.” She laughed. “See you in the morning.”
“I'll check,” Seth warned lightly.
“I'm going, I'm going,” Grace said chuckling.
Sam grinned. “I can make it a royal command. As your king and one of you're sons. Mom.”
“I'm leaving now.” Grace nodded.
“I'll check, too.” Sam smiled. “In fact, we'll walk you out.”
Grace rolled her eyes but followed us to the kitchen. “You don't trust me?”
“Of course, we do,” I said. “I also know you. You'll see something that needs to be done and stay to do it.”
“Everyone!” Sam said to all in the kitchen. “You all did amazing things tonight. Thank you. However, I'm commanding this woman to go home and not to allowed in until,” he looked at me. “Ten?”
“Make it nine,” I said.
Sam nodded. “Until after nine!”
The others didn't object but clapped. They worked shifts and Grace was hard at work when they got in. They knew Grace worked hard. Anna, who found Beth's beloved Bebe. She curtsied. “She won't be let in, Sire.” She smiled at us. “Get your things, Grace. You won't be let in because you forgot something.”
“And have one of the guards walk you home,” Sam ordered. He looked at me and shrugged. “She's a lady, it's dark no telling what could happen.”
Grace got her things and left.
Sam and I walked back to the others. “Seth,” Sam said. “You and Erik paid for this.”
Seth nodded. “It was our function.”
“The guards get paid by the crown, Blethos.” Sam reasoned. "Your house-staff is paid by you. My point is, you are the North Capitol A lot of negotiations comes from through you. That's kingdom business. You have instant contact with Christian. You have better access with our friends the Creid. I'm saying when you do that it's Blethos' business. We will pay for that. I'm sending gold from the treasury. No arguments. I'm King.”
Seth was about to protest but finally nodded. “Fine, but we'll talk about how much.”
“And when you do,” Sam smiled. “You pay the house-staff out of those funds.”
I nodded. “We will.”
“Any dinners or food and wine, too,” Sam added and yawned which he never did with anyone else but family. “Now I think all kings, present or former kings went to bed. This one, at least. Good night, Gentlemen.” He said heading for the stairs.
“He's right,” Yannick smiled. “See you in the morning.” He hugged us quickly and took the stairs.
Seth and I reasoned we hadn't gotten sweaty. We skipped the bath for now. I fell asleep quickly.
We woke up and made up for what we didn't do last night. You know I wasn't talking about just the bath. It was eight-thirty. We greeted those at the table. We went into the kitchen for Seth's coffee. I saw Grace waiting for nine. I went and opened the door and motioned her in.
“Sam said after nine.” Seth chuckled.
“He can send me to the rack.” I groused. “But we'll be having that talk now,” I said then to her.” In private.”
Seth grinned and nodded. “Sure.” He held a mug out to her. “Coffee?”
“I'd love some.” Grace smiled.
We took her through the dining room and Sam had come down. He looked at the clock.
I waved Sam down. “I let her in. She's not working yet.”
We took her to my office and closed the door.
Seth sat down taking her hand. “Grace, I would never pry, but when you go home...is there anyone there?”
She looked surprised. “No.” She sighed. “Not for almost twenty years. My deadbeat husband ran off with some wench.”
Seth nodded. “I thought it was something like that when he stopped coming by.”
“We were hoping you'd live here,” I said. “Keep the house, rent it, whatever.”
“You know how we feel about you,” Seth said smiling as crying. “I know you love us.”
“The commute would be easier, just down the hall,” I said.
“Please?” Seth pleaded.
“You two are so precious and sweet.” She nodded. “I will.” She kissed us both. “I'll need to pack some things.”
I grinned. “You hired people to help you, they'll help. You're the manor's grand lady.”
We went out to the others.
“Mom is moving in!” Seth said smiling. “Now you order her home, Sam, she is!”
“It's now after nine.” I grinned at Grace. “You do your Lady of the Manor things.”
“That's great!” Sam said hugging Grace.
At twelve o'clock, one o'clock in Adore the five of us stepped through the mirror/doorway. Christian was there waiting at the agreed upon time. His eyes widened at seeing Toby. “You brought Toby?”
“More brains.” I shrugged. “He needs to be a part of this to learn.”
Christian smiled. “And for future kings. Thomas will be here after he changes his shirt. He got wine spilled his shirt.” He chuckled.
We were all welcomed and hugged. We are a family that loved those. Much more personal than a handshake.
The door and a man came in. “Sorry, Dad, but you said we must...”
Christian and I finished with him. “Set the example.” I chuckled.
“It was an accident,” Thomas said. “She was new and accidentally spilled wine on me,” He smiled. “It took a few minutes to assure her she wouldn't be fired. I got her name though, Lesette. She was pretty!”
“That fact is, we'll have to have a ball for him to choose his queen. He'd marry all of them!”
“I knew he'd be a heart breaker,” I shook my head. “Like father, like son. He's the next Prince Charming looking for his Cinderella.”
That was fun but we came to discuss battle strategies. Christian talked about the soldiers' deployment. Even with the Creid troops, they would be stretched. Christian said how he came up with a way to signal the other troops nearby to come to help. He would the towers with...not fireworks exactly. These would be more powerful and visual for miles.
“Excuse me,” Toby said. “How do you get troops there quickly? They should come. Until they get there, how about we put arrows to fire. I read where the Vikings and Romans had this of launching hundreds of arrows mechanically at a time. Many times. The first would be aimed high, the second row lower. There could be thousands of arrows launched. You could hide barrels of the stuff we use for the fireworks. We will need good archers for that. Or all of the arrows could be flaming arrows. They will hit the attacking men and barrels.”
Thomas smiled at Toby. “First, my brain is having a hard time accepting you can talk now. Second, that's a pretty good idea. It would take work, but it's worth it.” He looked at his father. “What do you think, Dad?”
“I think we should get started,” Christian said. “Do you have the information to build this...gauntlet of arrows?”
“I can bring written and illustrations,” Toby said. “Tomorrow at the same time?”
“It is not very popular at the Book Lender.” Toby smiled at his Uncle. “It will be there I'm sure. If not, I'll find out who has it and ask to borrow it.” He shrugged.
“Do that, only message me if you can't,” Christian said.
“I'll go today,” Toby told him.
“If you could, Christian, have two copies made,” Sam asked. “One for you and one for me.”
Toby explained. “Those and illustrations instructions are written are two pages. You should read the book. You never know what you'll find we can use.” Hugs again and went back to Royal Valley.