I never start a chapter without you, Daniel. You are my muse.
Building Our Defense
The Modern World Hits Royal Valley
“People!” Seth shouted as people all started talking and asking questions. “I know this a scary thing. I'm scared, too. Information will be passed on.”
“Some of our people will come to you to do that,” I said. “If these whoever they are, see we're ready for them, maybe they'll change their minds. But we've become important to them for some reason. We need to be prepared.”
We turned to our mayor who still dealing with what we'd told him. “Keith, we'll need to talk,” Seth said pulling Keith's arm and had him walk with us.
We walked back to the manor. The guards kept the people back. There were questions. What are we going to do?How soon? What about our children? How many are coming? I wanted to answer their questions.
“Don't,” Seth said keeping his hand on me. “You won't be able to stop if you do.”
“They're scared,” I said back to him.
“They can get in line with everyone else,” Seth grumbled. “We're all scared.
Keith recovered a bit more. “And this week started so nice. The great party, dancing, good food...” Keith almost whined as he came with us.
“We need some of our people to act as our voice with the others,” I said as we sat drinking coffee in my office. “A go-between.”
“The thing is these people need to conduct business,” Seth said. “Assuming whoever may have sent to spy didn't hear what we're planning. We will continue business as usual.”
“There are a few people that I know will help,” I said. “Zeke's and Gabe's mothers for example.” I waggled my eyebrows.
“Sure,” Seth agreed smiling. “This may help us bind as a town.”
Keith grunted slightly. “I think we're are bound as a town now.”
Seth chuckled. “We'll be even tighter!”
Keith shook his head. “I don't understand it. The Native Tribe Members I've met have just been people. Some are nice, they can be cranky, happy, but just people. What changed?”
“We don't know,” Seth admitted. “The tribes here are friendly. There are some out there who are quite savage. As bad as we thought the Creids were supposed to be. I heard from that a Cried they could give them lessons in brutality and he would know. That same Creid was undefeated for over a decade until Erik showed up.” Seth grinned. “But he defeated him with a kiss.”
“Seth!!” I swatted him making him laugh. “I don't think that strategy will work here.”
“Something changed,” Seth said. “We just don't know what or why.”
The weather was nice. We moved to a table outdoors near the town hall as we planned what to do. It was more central for people to come and go and we could send information easier from that location. Most people had dispersed to wait to hear what we were going to do. There were some that stayed milling around to hear or see more. They stayed away, sort of, to let us work. The guards with us assured these lurkers didn't get close. We did use Zeke's and Gabe's mothers. Diana was Gabe's mother, Zelda was Zeke's. The family had a thing for the letter Z. Seth had to calm Norton, Gabe's father, down. He was moving fast and fidgeting in a slow circle thinking.
“Norton!” Seth finally stopped the man. “Relax.”
Norton looked at Seth with his eyes widening. “Relax!? They could attack any moment!” He had panicked when Gabe was arrested for being homosexual.
“Sure,” Seth nodded. “And what would you do if they did?” Seth challenged calmly. “We're doing all we can to prepare for if they do. Relax.”
Ebenezer came over. Zeke's father. They were kind of related so knew each other for years and got more friendly as time went on. Parent-In-Laws? Eb had more gray in his black hair now making the gray and black almost half and half. His beard was trimmed not to be shaggy. He was a bear of a man. Zeke was taking a lot after this man. They were blacksmiths and Eb had huge arms. He chuckled putting a large arm around Norton's neck. “Yeah, Norton is the worrywart.” He hugged Norton in the manly hug and looked at me. “There are some that want to help during the attack if it happens. I want to include myself in that.”
I nodded. “We can use you. We will definitely need you for construction.” I chuckled. “And maybe moving trees.”
Eb grinned at me. “I'm your man!”
“How are you three be so calm about this!?” Norton asked exasperated.
“What do you get from panic and worry?” Eb shrugged. “We do something about it instead.”
Toby came over to the table. They were returning from school. “I want to help.”
Seth smiled at our son. “You've helped a lot already.”
“Me, too,” Dennis came running over. “I want to help.”
I sighed turned to them. I had tried to avoid this with them wanting a normal childhood for them. “I know, but you are a little different than the other children.”
“Why?” Dennis asked.
“You are our sons,” I said. “You are known as our sons. You know I am a prince and you know what that means. Seth is a prince. We are brothers to both kings. We taught you no one's better than you and you are no better than anyone else. Certainly not because of your birth or family.” I smiled. “But we are royalty.”
'The increased security is because of that.” Seth explained. “You are both princes. We have to make sure you are safe.”
“Someone from the group that is attacking is watching,” I said. “Daddy and I would give up our lives for you. They know that. They could take you to try and force us to do what they want to stop them from doing you harm.”
“That's why we have Bert and Chuck?” Dennis thumbed back at two of the guards behind them.
“You said you liked Bert and Chuck,” Seth said concerned. “That's why they were chosen.”
“They're fine,” Toby said.
“But they follow us everywhere!” Dennis said loud. “Even to the bathroom!”
“Not in the bathroom with you,” I said to be sure.
“I can pee on my own, thank you.” Dennis griped. “They wait outside.”
I grinned at the two guards who just smiled and shrugged. I went on. “I was raised in a palace and it is a whole other world than what we have here. Protocol and rules to follow, edict, what fork to use...when I got away from the palace and came to Royal Valley. I thought, no more did I have to hear Your Highness or having people bow...I just wanted to be just Erik. I also recognize the need for safety. That's what's happening now. We have to keep you safe.”
“Oh,” Dennis understood and nodded with quiet resolve. “No telling how long this stuff will last, huh?”
Seth shook his head. “Sorry.”
We watched as they walked back to the guards. “Let's go, Chuck...Bert.” Dennis looked at Bert. “Do you kn0w multiplication?” Bert nodded. “Maybe you can help me!”
Toby was walking with Dennis who heard something that Toby said making him shove Toby lightly, and signed something he didn't say to keep it secret from everyone else. Which Toby responded to with a swat that didn't make contact. They were brothers.
Seth smiled looking at them. “I envy the life you had, Erik.” He said a little dreamily grinning. “Sam and I were like that.” He jutted his chin at our boys. “No one but Sam and Grace was nice to me. Sam and I were friends. He always could be a pain in the ass,” he chuckled. “but he loves me. I just didn't get the education you did to be a leader.” He said solemnly.
I reached out with my hand and took his. “Aw, Seth,” I said softly. “You are a very smart man. You're kind and caring. You have a good soul. I have book learning. I don't have the experience,” I said putting our foreheads together. “I'd put you up against scientist they have in the world.”
“But you come up with tactics and strategies...”
I interrupted him. “You came up with a way to tell we were in trouble to Zeke and Gabe when Deena kidnapped us.” I smiled. “You think on your feet.” With our heads together in was easy give him a long kiss. “I can't tell you how sorry I am about your life with Arthur. I have never hated...loathed and abhorred anyone as I do Arthur Thorne. Darius and Deena, too.” I kissed him again. “We'll do everything to make up for it.” I kissed him long and tender looking in his eyes. “I love you, Seth.” We said that a lot and meant it. No levity or humor now. Just love.
“I love you, Erik.”
The manor was not a good location for any center of control or headquarters. It was important because of our quick access to Christian and the homing pigeons flew to the manor as the messages were always from our brother Sam and Yannick. All communications, government-wise, came to the mayor's office and town hall. Law changes, policy changes and general news came here. The men and women helping the people stay informed or get instructions came in and out of the office of the mayor.
No citizen in Royal Valley had any military experience. The closest to anything military here who weren't our guards were helping to enforce the law. The Blethos' Guards were the military for the country. Most of the military that worked here had moved to Royal Valley to save themselves the trip back and forth. We needed residential forces that would stay. Like Eb, there were men volunteering to do that, but they needed training. I remembered Jason who trained me. He was alive and kicking...in A'Dore. We needed a trainer here. Blethos' military would do that, but we needed a trainer that lived here. I asked Darrin if he would train them and he agreed. He still did patrols voluntarily with the military now. He was Blethos' military trained but not active with them now. I would also train them. The people in Royal Valley were shopkeepers, bakers, and worked in the winery or vineyard. They would become more of a force to defend their home and there were a few who did want to do that.
There was this...dark haired person who kept it short for personal reasons that came up. Dressed in work clothes, pants and shirt and big like a man. Almost as big as Zeke with the big arms, but with no Adams Apple.
The man at the desk with the quill asked without looking up asked. “What's your name?”
“Daisy.” It was a contralto voice.
He looked up quickly and stared at her in shock. “But you're a woman! They can't fight!!”
Daisy reached down and picked him up out of his chair and off of the floor easily. “Want to test that, Sweetheart?” She growled.
The man was now in fear a bit and shaking his head quickly and said in a don't hurt me voice. “No, no!”
“Good,” Daisy smiled. “I'll save you a dance at the next Romance Festival.” She kissed him quickly on the lips and dropped him in his chair. Was she a lesbian? Was it a joke? Who knew!?
Even it these circumstances there was humor.
We would begin training as soon as possible. These people had lives and needed to provide for their families, but they volunteered.
It took a week to get things organized. Somewhat. Military precision wasn't going to happen. Then again, I wasn't that precise anyway. It's Human nature. We see a problem and hit it with one hundred and ten percent. When nothing happens you become less motivated. We watched people not show up for training. We also watched for those who seemed invested and concentrated on them.
We came up some shelters for everyone not fighting. People could access them when the alarm sounded. We met with Christian every day. Sam sent a message to Royal Valley saying there were still attacks. The military couldn't get to all of them! The villages were miles apart. There were not enough troops to get there in time. The watchtowers for us went up. There were construction crews that built the houses and fixed them in Royal Valley. They got it done quickly.
Seth had healed and he walked to the vineyard and checked on things, but didn't work there. He and I were busy.
Garth and Bent had come to the town meeting. Garth came alone to Seth and me at the town hall.
I jumped up seeing our friend and hugged the man. “Garth! It's good to see you.”
Seth did the same. “How are things at the farm? How are the children?”
Garth smiled. “They're scared but fine.”
“Would you like some coffee?” Seth asked. He was never that far from that.
“Sure,” Garth replied sitting. “Bent's with the kids now at the farm. I didn't want to leave them alone or he would have come, too. How are things here?”
“We're getting prepared,” I said waving at the people moving through the square. “They are resuming some of their lives.”
Garth looked at them and nodded. “What's happening is pretty scary.” He smiled at us. “I assume your two are fine.” Our nod told him, but he looked a little distressed. “Look, we want to help any way we can, but we're over there.” He waved in the direction of his farm. “By the time we get here, it will be in the middle of the attack.”
“We know that,” Seth said.
Garth shook his head. “Bent and I want to be involved. We will fight for our home. Even Ely wants to get involved which scares me. He even said he'd see if someone has a room he could use to be here. Like Zeke and Gabe. I told him, he couldn't stay free. He'd have to find a job. I know he'll move out and marry someday soon, but not to move out for this!” He said and hit the table angrily. “Royal Valley is our home and we will defend it, but...” I saw a tear come to his left eye.
Seth took Garth's hand. “I'm sorry.”
“What you or Ely do is your decisions.” I put an arm around his shoulder. “We're concerned about you.”
Seth thought and said. “When they come, the only way you'll know is maybe the watchtower alarm. Or,” he paused. “They come through your land or near it.”
“Is there somewhere you can go if they do?” I asked. “A place to hide the girls and yourselves if they raid your farm?”
Garth nodded wiping his face. “There was a farmhouse near us. The farmhouse isn't there anymore. It's overgrown with brush and trees now. The basement is still there. We can go there.” He sniffed.
“Do that and stay out of sight,” I advised. “I'd say you could come to the manor, but the manor will be the focus of the attack. And the town of Royal Valley.”
Garth swallowed the last of his coffee. “I need to go back.” He said standing and hugged us both. One of us in each arm. “You both are the dearest friends Bent and I have. We'll see you around town,” He chuckled. “We still have a farm to run, deliveries to make...” He smiled and waved.
Toby and Dennis...along with a few others watched as we trained our new resident guards. Right now, that training was in the square. They had never seen me d0 it. They got tired of watching me teach and wanted to see something real. Darrin came into the area and they asked if we'd show them.
“Come on, Dad!” Dennis called. “Let's see it.”
Darrin shrugged at me. “I will if you will.”
I really didn't need to think about it. I nodded. “It'll be great exercise.” I smiled. “I use a broad sword and short sword. The long sword doesn't feel right to me. It's too long.”
Darrin nodded. “Me, too. Something in the balance You can do more one hand moves with the broad sword.” He chuckled as he took his shirt off. “I know what you're doing.” He pointing at me.
I smirked a bit. “I don't know what you mean,” I said in mock innocence.
We were practicing with the wooden swords with weights on it to give the right balance feel. They were midways on the wooden sword that could go up or down to give the right feel where the weight should be on a real sword when you swing it. I picked up the one I was using and did the quick spin keeping my hand down and spun. The sword did a rapid circle and my hand stayed still. You just needed to know how to flick your wrist correctly. Then swung it left and right in circular spins, getting the whistle of air as they spun Then I got my short sword.
“You don't know what I mean,” He repeated nodding, putting his hands on his hips. “And what was that just now?” He asked knowing.
“Just testing the balance,” I smirked again.
“Uh huh,” Darrin looked to find one to work with “You're not trying to get into my head telling and showing me again your great prowess with the sword.” He finally found one with the right weight. A man could feel it's right picking it up. He did his left and a right swing, grinned and did his one-handed spin the tossed it like a juggler and caught it his hand. Then did another catching the sword behind him, his hand was just waiting for it to land where he knew it would be. “Just testing the balance.” He said lightly and waggled his eyebrows at me.
I smiled. “Show off.” I noticed people going about their day going through the square were now watching. Even the guards that were on duty to watch us were now paying more attention to us than what was going on around us. “Is this going to be a clean fight? No underhanded moves or hits?”
Darrin chuckled. “You mean like crotch shots?”
I nodded. “You don't hit mine and I won't hit yours.”
“Deal,” Darrin got in position. “I'm ready.”
“We'll see about that,” I growled and charged him as he charged me.
He came at me with his broad sword thrust to test which I countered with mine as I thrust in lower with my short sword which he blocked and spun around for a wide swing of his broad sword. I ducked his swing and spun the opposite direction kicking him in the direction he was going causing him to stumble when he didn't stop where he anticipated. He turned and came at me with another thrust that got both my swords involved and he tried to sneak his short sword in, but I fell backward and rolled on the ground and landed on my feet. Some guys could do that in the air. I could too, but the courtyard was stone and I could mess up and bump my head. There is way more to sword fighting than, I've got a sword and I'm going to stab you. It really was a dance you were in and didn't know the next step until the other took their step. Also, it was important to be aware of your surroundings and where the opponent was. From his stance what was his next logical move? Experience taught what those moves were. There were moves that told you one move was going to happen and he really did another move to catch you off guard. Move, countermove and misdirection were key. Keep your mind on the fight. I was working. So was Darrin. We were both sweating. I was taught to look in his eyes to see whatever was there, doubt, fear, determination, and fatigue. How was he breathing? Was he panting or struggling for breath? Wood clacked again and again as the swords met in the air. Thrusts and parries were made. I don't know how long it was, but he hit me with his short sword on the knuckle of my right hand and I dropped my broad sword. I saw his right arm still thrust out and again I used that momentum to make his right arm go further in a spin, throwing his off balance and hit him in the gut with my left elbow hard making him let out an “omph.” He lost his broad sword, I grabbed his left arm under mine rolled his backward and made him drop his left short sword.
I stood a second to see if there was more to be done and just catching my rapid breaths as I was hearing loud cheers and applause all around us. There seem to be hundreds that had formed a circle to watch. I looked at Darrin as he was catching his breath. I grinned at him and brought him in for a big hug. He laughed and hugged back. “Thanks for a good fight, Darrin. That was fun.”
Darrin laughed. “I remember the fight in Creid, I knew you were tough but damn.”
“I believe there was something missing from this fight,” Seth said behind me surprising me and kissing me. I hadn't known he was there.
“Are you okay?” Ryan asked Darrin hugging the man and kissing him. “Are you hurt anywhere?” He asked Darrin first who shook his head as his breath was slowing and then looked at me.
“Just a bloody knuckle.” I showed him the slightly broken skin and blood. “It's not bad. How long were we out here?”
“Over an hour,” Seth said impressed.
“THAT WAS UNBELIEVABLE!!!” Dennis shouted coming over. Followed by a big smiling Toby. “You were amazing, Dad!!”
“That was the most exciting thing I have ever seen, Dad,” Toby said.
“Uncle Darrin was like...” Dennis said doing an invisible sword thrust, “and you were like...” He thrust again.
I chuckled at his enthusiasm. We all needed that distraction. A diversion to what we may face.
Darrin was going to do the training. I should have kept up the exercises and practiced of the years. I was sore after fighting Darrin.
This was just the beginning. The days progressed and work continued. I hated to do it, but yes, we needed to be aware of strangers in town and there were many conversations on that subject.
“No,” I said to Oscar who was a balding middle-aged man that helped me ferret out the thief who was our driver to collect payments. “We can't suspect everyone. We're a town that will have businessess and therefore guests. We can't just ask them to leave. Anyone spying knows by now what's going on. With the limits in communication whoever doing this will not have time to gather their forces. Just...watch them. What they do and what their interested in especially in what we're doing now. Suspecting everyone because they could be is too hard. You know suspicious behavior.”
Oscar nodded. “I do know. The men working with me don't and are suspecting everyone they simply don't know. Two had just moved here.”
“I understand that, Oscar.” I smiled patiently. “This is unknown territory for them. We have one man that is an unemployed cobbler but needed work and he enjoys it, so he changed jobs. They haven't done law enforcement. Teach them what those behaviors are!”
“I'll have the men report to me before confronting a strange guest.” He chuckled. “This is unknown territory for a lot of people.”
Two weeks passed and things were settling even more. Nothing happened in Royal Valley and people began to forget about the potential threat until...
There was a horrified scream. “The attackers! They're coming!” A young woman pointing at the hill coming from the north.
Seth and I came running out of the town hall in a hurry to see if she was right. The watchtower hadn't sounded the alarm. We weren't really ready, but if they were we'd give them one hell of a fight. Over the distant hill, there were men on horseback coming at a good trot. Some of the men and women in the square started yelling and screaming, and started to run. I smiled at what I saw. I ran and got a couple of those cones to be heard. “STOP!!” I held up my hand to stop them.
Seth turned holding the cones so everyone could hear. “Stop! Those aren't the attackers!”
Keith came up behind me.
“They're our friends.” I walked out to the center of town. The thunder of hooves could be heard and there were a few soldiers I could see. Two rows of twelve riders and three pack horses. There were four that had on the shiny black armor I'd seen Yannick wear. They were intimidating even at a distance. There were twenty in the shiny brown and shiny black armor. “They're our friends! They're Creid!!” I looked at the people in the square. “They are here to help us! Remember? We told you that!!”
Seth quickly sent a man to the Royal Gardens to get ready for approximately twenty men that were arriving. He could begin preparing what we had gotten to feed them.
The many horses clomped as they entered the town square and stopped. One of the two black armored men leading the others looked at the scattered people and three standing together like we were waiting. Two of us were smiling at them instead of looking terrified. The four black armored men walked their horses toward us. Those in town were looking at these new arrivals still unsure about them. They knew that Ceid, Blethos, and A'Dore were allies now, but so many up close!?
One man dismounted and took his shiny black helmet off the black helmet with the wolf shape on it. He wasn't as tall as Yannick or Seth, but slightly taller than I was. He had short, dark blond hair and looked like he was in his mid-thirties. I've never met anyone after wearing a helmet NOT have helmet-hair when they take it off. It gave him even a more wild look, but he was nice looking. He smiled smoothing his hair with his fingers and looked even better. “You are Prince Seth and Prince Erik?” He asked to confirm what he suspected.
Seth nodded. “Yes, we are.”
The man bowed, “Greetings, Your Highnesses.” He took his riding gloves off and stuck his hand out to us. “My name is Maxwell, but please, call me Max. I am Captain in command of this battalion.”
I liked his greeting. Protocol demands a bit more formal to greet royalty. I hated that protocol. His was a little familiar but he friendly.
Seth smiled shaking his hand. “Hello, Max. I'm Seth and this is Erik. I guess King Yannick told you about the dislike of titles.”
Max chuckled. “He did. He said you didn't like the rules and it was very relaxed on protocol and casual here.” He smiled and added quietly. “When off duty.” He turned as the other three dismounted and came over. “This is Val.” He introduced the man next to him. “My First.” He waved at the two. “My Seconds, Reese, and Beau.” These men were dark-haired and large men, but Reese was very big! Not just in height, but even his armor showed he had huge muscles with a larger breastplate and the armor on his biceps and thighs were bigger. This was a common reaction because Max grinned at us. “That one, we call him Bull.”
I nodded impressed. “I can see why!”
“The others...” He paused and thought. “Are too many to introduce. If I do we'll be missing something,” Max said and then he turned and bowed slightly. “I almost forgot. His Majesty King Yannick sends you his warmest regards.”
“Thanks, Max,” I said and he smiled at how he was received by us. My using his nickname was proof he had been accepted well.
“Welcome to Royal Valley, Max,” Seth said. “I'm sorry for the reason you came but it's a pleasure to meet you.”
“I'm sure you need refreshing and we'll get you all something to drink.” I sort of shouted so the man in the back could hear me. Then I spoke normally to Max. “Yannick sent a message what day you were leaving, we couldn't know when but I expected today,” I said. “You should all stop and eat first,” I said. “Or do you want to move your things in your rooms first?”
They arrived at about four in the afternoon. They took a short break and got something to drink and about two hours to the horses settled and unpacked the pack horses. The young woman that screamed and caused everyone to panic was just frightened upon seeing them. She came to Seth and apologized again and again. Seth smiled at her and said it was fine, but next time she saw a little smoke she needed to tell someone before yelling ”fire” in a crowded place.
I had told Harlan, the owner of the Inn and Pete, the owner of the Royal Gardens they were coming and to put in supplies. We told our guests where to go to the Inn and someone from Royal Valley was taking them to make sure everything was satisfactory. They could freshen up there as they had bathrooms now. One of the only Inns in Bethos and A'Dore that had them. Not just one or two that everyone shared. Most had a room where if you wanted a hot bath you paid for it and they brought the water to you. I won't even say anything about the toileting issue. A couple of days on a horse in leather armor even in Autumn was hot. I didn't know what the did in the summer. That black would be hot! The whole point of this was, they stunk and needed baths.
There was time to do that before it got too late. We took Max, Val, Beau, and Reese to the manor. They would stay and eat there. I know, I know, it wasn't fair. We would have kept all of the men with us if we had the rooms. The Inn wasn't bad. It had a special place in my heart. Dennis was born there!
Entering the manor the four of them looked around.
“You have a very nice home, Your...” Val started to say and stopped. “Sorry, you have a very nice home, Seth.”
“You have a beautiful town,” Beau added. “It's very pretty here.”
Grace walked in to greet them. The notable changes in Grace having her move in were, she always dressed fine for work. Now, she was dressed a little more formally in a nice dress, her hair was done more elaborately than before and she just carried herself better. “Welcome, gentlemen. I'm Grace. The water tanks have been lit and should be ready. Do what you need to with your leather armor, I assume it needs to air out?” She asked in a way which was more of a hint that it should. Max just nodded. She is always nice, but now she was pleasantly authoritative and in control. She went on. “What you're wearing underneath the armor you will no doubt be needed again. Just put them in the bin there and someone will get them and they will be washed tonight. Dinner will be ready when you are done. Let me know if you need anything else.” She nodded and left.
It took a few seconds before Max spoke. “And she is?”
“In charge of the house!” Seth answered pleasantly and then said. “And the woman that raised me after my actual mother died. Now, she's my mother.”
Dennis and Toby came down and came toward us to meet our guests.
“This is Toby and this is Dennis. Seth's and my sons.”
“You should know, Toby's deaf,” Seth informed quietly.
“Yes,” Max nodded. “Yannick told us. He also said Toby can talk?” He said like it was hard to believe.
Toby stuck his hand out. “I can, Sir.” First-time listeners could hear the difference in a person who can hear speaks and Toby, but Toby was understood. And then the whole thing again on how.
I also noticed Max said Yannick's name with familiarity. He also got a lot of information from Yannick had little to do with why Max was here. Understand, I didn't suspect Yannick of anything. His past did occur to me, but he was a man of his word and Delta would kill him! I dismissed the thought. Yannick had a friend he confided in.
This was stupid of me, but I was surprised to see Reese come down first. He had so much more to clean. Now that was done I saw he was a pleasant looking person, but he was bulging even in his loose shirt! I also wondered if when he got in the tub if it overflowed.
Toby just starred at Reese as he just loomed over us. Finally gave a short and sweet. “Wow.”
Dennis was never one to mince words. “Your one arm is bigger than both my legs!” Dennis said in awe.
“How do you move?” Toby asked.
Reese was apparently used to this and chuckled. “Like this.” He turned sideways and flexed his left arm. Then spun around and flexed the other arm and bent his right leg down.
“How'd you get that!?” Dennis asked.
Reese laughed. “By lifting heavy things.” He walked toward them and looked at Seth and me. “I would never hurt them. May I?” We nodded. Reese looked at the boys and instructed. “Grab my arm at the elbow.” Taking them at the belt-line he lifted each with one arm over his head with ease making them laugh. Dennis weighed nothing to Reese and Toby only made Reese's arm muscles m0ve slightly. “The heavy things aren't you two.” Reese put them on the ground again.
Dennis touched Max's arm again and reached for his chest touching it. “At first you think it may be doughy, then you think it's hard.” He touched the shirt covered skin which didn't indent. Then Dennis patted the muscle and got nothing but a slight smack sound.
“Why do you lift things to make you look like that?” Toby asked.
“I like how it feels. I was about your age when I tried to see how strong I could become. I lifted heavier and heavier things and it feels good!” Reese explained. “I train almost all day to do my job, so it's easy.” He shrugged and lifted them again began lifting Toby up and down and almost tossing Dennis in the air and catching him with no effort making them laugh again.
Reese was in his late twenties. Val, who was about thirty, was polite and a nice man, but sort of serious and analytical. Beau was well....Beau. He didn't get a lot of things at first. He was the kind of man that when someone tells a joke and everyone laughs but him because he didn't get it. He was a very nice man and I would find out later he was good with children because, and I'm not being mean, he was a child inside. You just had to explain things to him so he gets it. He wasn't stupid. That would have been impossible. He made it in the King's Guard and proved it to earn the rank. He had to be skilled. It just took more effort for him to understand.
We sat at the kitchen table. I was tired of that dining room table. The kitchen was where we lived. Here you just relaxed and unwound. The dining room table had this automatic maternal command for me to sit up straight and no elbows on the table. I had been conditioned from birth to think that way.
Max sighed sitting back after the great satisfying meal cooked to Grace's standards. “If this were a pleasure trip, this would be very nice. However, there is someone out there that needs to be stopped.” He smiled. “We're going to do that.”
“What about Cried?” I asked. “Aren't there attacks there?”
“Yes,” Max nodded. “Yannick was right in what he told you. The terrain of Cried is very mountainous. An attack there could happen and has, but the attacks were individual strikes on a few houses and businesses. We're well defended from attack because of the mountains. From what I was told, they are after gold. They attacked our import and export shipments. They're not after food but have attacked shipments of ore, iron, brass, copper, coal, and other items. Those exports were taken, but not used. One of our exports of iron was found later with the carts destroyed and the ore scattered. Our imports are attacked and those are destroyed. They are threatening us without raising a sword to fight. They'll starve us out.”
“You have no ports with ocean access.” I nodded. “No rivers deep and wide enough for ships or boats.”
“Overland is the only way,” Max frowned. “Have cut off our resources.”
Reese added. “We've put so much defense on protecting the imports and exports we're weakening our defense of Cried.”
“They are attacking us for the gold, forcing you out of the towns, farms and other industries,” Max said. “We're helping you, yes, but we're helping us, too.”