BOOK FOUR: CHAPTER 5 – Adarius Dino VaCoupe

CHAPTER 5 – Adarius Dino VaCoupe


So, it came to past two days after learning of his arranged betrothal with Karenna Kadish Mathdis, Specialty Commander Adarius Dino VaCoupe found himself standing before the high altar within the beautiful family chapel of the Mathdis Family.  As High Priestess of Jolf, his grandmother Lady Anna was presiding, assisted by Lady Rita and Lady Remilla. 

The Mathdis chapel was well-described in the chapter, “The Peace Offering” (Book Two, The Starship Project), in which Master Aiden Mathdis mated Brunella Kadish, the cousin of Raphael Kantor and Adario Kadish: … the Mathdis Family temple, is the one to which the tallest tower with the golden angel belonged. The small temple was exquisitely designed with contrasting layers of pastel-colored sandstone blocks and tilework over the arched doors. The patterns were subtle and calming to view. Within the chapel, there were tall deep-set windows with stained glass designs. There were tiers of seats to either side with a long open aisle in the center of the hall for the priestesses to dance. The roof was quite high and buttressed in arches. A high altar stood at the north end of the temple beneath a circular window decorated with a stained-glass design of lilies. Upon the altar was placed the traditional bowl of clear water, a large amethyst cluster, and a rose-quartz geode, as well as a bowl for burning incense. Vases filled with beautiful lilies completed the layout. The chapel was quite a bit smaller than the one at the Shemont, but Raphael was suitably impressed with its serene beauty.”

Reminiscent of that long-ago ceremony, the petite blonde Karenna was wearing her mother’s green dress, which had been lovingly set aside for such an occasion. With a slight adjustment to the hem (Karenna was taller than her mother), the dress fit well. She was also wearing the lovely seed pearl earrings also belonging to Brunella, dangling from her perfectly shaped ears, with her light blonde hair caught up into a traditional Airian coiffure, with ringlets resting upon her shoulders. 

As a commander in the Fleet, Adarius was wearing his dress uniform, with its high white boots. Over the uniform, he wore an embroidered fitted tunic made of violet velvet with purple piping along the front plaque, upright collar, and cuffs. He utilized his House colored sash as an impromptu belt for the handsome tunic. He made a dashing figure, tall and slender, with his glossy black hair gathered up into thick braids that cascaded down over his broad shoulders. He wore no jewels.

Adarius waited patiently at the foot of the altar as Karenna was escorted towards him by her father, Master Aiden Mathdis. When the pair reached Adarius, Aiden placed his daughter’s hands into Adarius’ and gave the commander a slight bow. As guardian and stepfather to Adarius, Raphael already stood at his stepson’s side, facing the small crowd who had come to observe this formal ceremony.

Raphael’s four Eagles stood in the back of the chapel closest to the great double doors, Paul, Veyan, Eduardo, and Giorgio. All of the rest of Raphael’s party sat in the audience, including Jychondria, Rita, and their tiny baby, little Charles. Arianna Kantor-VaCoupe sat alongside her new stepmother, Lorenna, content to watch the proceedings and perhaps imagining the day when she would likewise stand before such an altar pledging allegiance to a man whom she did not know well…

The conchs blew signaling the beginning of the ceremony, as a line of priestesses entered into the chamber swirling about the open floor in their sinuous sacred dance invoking the energies of the Divine Feminine Essence of Source. When the dance was completed, a small orchestra continued with soft music as Lady Anna sang songs of blessing and praise over the heads of the young couple standing below the altar. Finally, she gave a short prayer calling upon the Mother to bless this young couple in their future endeavors as a couple. Then, she stood and smiled down at Brunella and Adarius and asked them to repeat their own vows and declarations:

Adarius towered over his petite bride and gazed for a moment down into her great light blue eyes set in a pale golden face with its short pert nose and cherry lips. He smiled and in a loud, clear voice pitched to reach the corners of the chamber, he said: “Beloved Karenna, so newly found once again, I was guided to your side by my new father and your grandfather. We stand here, hand in hand, gazing at one another, bemused, shy, and eager… eager to face life together. Although I know you not well in this life, we have known each other in other times and places and have chosen to walk together into the future in this one, as well. I am honored to be given the task of cherishing your sweet presence and making you a part of my life, as well as any children we bring into this world together. Although at times I will be far away, my heart will remain with you every day and night until once again we can stand together, as one below our sacred sun and in the sight of our loving families.”

The commander paused a moment and took up one of Karenna’s hands to kiss it on her left palm. He smiled and continued: “Dearest Daughter of Jolf, I willingly give the fullness of my Heart to you, now and forever, to hold. Can you hold my heart willingly within your own throughout the continuance of our lives?”

With tears sparking in her shining eyes, Karenna replied: “My gallant commander – you are no stranger to my heart. I have dreamed of you all my days. And now, as I stand before you and declare to family and friends my love for you, I gladly and willingly deliver my heart into your keeping for the fullness of this life together.”

Adarius leaned forward and gently kissed Karenna on her open brow. He straightened up, placed his hand upon his own chest and then reached out. Karenna repeated the gesture, meeting his hand and exchanging each other’s energies, and in so doing, creating a whole new energy field for the loving couple.

A beaming Lady Anna looked down upon her grandson and granddaughter (from different parents!) and gave another short blessing. Then, she signed for Raphael to give the father/guardian’s blessing for Adarius. Raphael stepped up to the newly created couple and gave them a radiant smile. He saluted Adarius, in acknowledgement of the young man’s position as heir to the heir of the Lordship of the Pleiades and said, “It gives me great pleasure to see two young people whom I love to be united before family, friends, and Source this day. I willingly grant you all the blessings that your hearts united can hold and will stand as father to both of you and grandfather to the children you bring forth together into this world. I grant you the fullness of my heart to you, my two children, and promise to guide and protect you into the future, should you require it. Go forth with the fullness of your devotion to each other and all those things good in this world, knowing that you are ever held within my heart and the hearts of my family.”

Then, the amiable Aiden Mathdis stood before the new couple and gave his daughter a peck on her cheek and gave a handclasp to Adarius, declaring to all present: “Dearest Adarius, I welcome you as a member of our Family, aligned with all that is true and good. I declare you this day to be my son, who can sit at my table and know that he is Home. I welcome you with open arms and bid you protect and cherish my dear and only daughter, Karenna, from this day forward throughout the entirety of your lives together. My blessings are given freely and lovingly, in honor and acknowledgement of the sacredness of this holy union, of man and woman, brought together by their own vows and declarations in the Presence of the Divine. I love you both!”

The parental blessings given, Lady Anna raised her arms and declared to those present, in person and unseen: “Beautiful citizens of Jolf, let us welcome the newly created couple, Commander Adarius Dino VaCoupe and Mistress Karenna Mathdis VaCoupe!”

The audience stood and clapped as the young couple walked slowly out of the temple and stood upon the outer porch to greet the waiting townspeople. The citizens of Jolf openly and loudly cheered to see one of the flowers of Jolf, the petite and well-loved Karenna mated to the tall gallant dark-haired commander, a scion of the ancient family of Coupe. More cheers arose when Commander Jychondria, with young Charles in his arms, and the red-haired Lady Rita Franco Kantor-VaCoupe, also appeared on the porch… with the loudest bellows arising from Master Franco and his three burly sons.

Raphael grinned to hear the cheers, knowing well that the matings were well accepted by the citizens of Jolf, who knew, better than most, the honor done to their leading Families to be able to make such unions possible. Cheers also arose when Raphael emerged from the chapel with Lorenna on his arm, followed by a beaming Master Aiden and Brunella, as well as the Lord of Jolf, Ricardo Mathdis, the tall dignified lord of the small town. 

The celebrants, guests, and family members strolled through the town’s main street to reach the open gates of the inn, where extra tables and benches had been positioned to give the townspeople the opportunity to meet, greet the new couple and to share in their first meal together. The leading citizens of the town flowed into the

garden and spread out to explore the gardens which were seldom available for public viewing. Aiden and his hard-working mate, Brunella, had presented a magnificent feast of fruit and vegetable delights, ranging from raw fruit to fruit stews, cold soups, vegetable soups and stews, fruit puddings, dried fruit comfits dressed in honey and nuts, all presented on large platters and trays, around the garden. Light crackers, flat breads and soft cheeses were also presented for those with heartier appetites.

The weather was fortunate; although the rainy season, the weather gods had seen that brilliant but mild sunshine poured down upon the open gardens eliciting with its warmth the sweet and savory scents of flowers and herbs.

As Raphael and Lorenna promenaded slowly through the gardens, they were greeted by townspeople who were eager to meet the lord’s new mate. When they found out that Lorenna was also the mother of Adarius, the people were both pleased, surprised, and in wonder… until they remembered that Raphael was the adopted son of the VaCoupe family and so not a close blood relative to Adarius or his mother (besides being their distant cousin). Nevertheless, Raphael was greeted joyfully by people hoping he would consider moving back to Jolf and setting up his own household. Raphael smiled gratefully to hear such sentiments voiced by the curious town folk.

Some of the townspeople also expressed their joy to know that one of the famous golden ships was still flying. Although few people in the Federation knew of the existence of the golden ships and the Feline outpost from which they had come, it was an open secret in Jolf. Parents told their children and grandchildren that someday far into the future, Lord Raphael would return with his golden ships. Although that day was not yet arrived, the townspeople held their precious secret in their hearts and rejoiced to see the lord and his beautiful lady content to be among them if only for a short time.

The burly and popular stonemason, Master Franco, stood holding his new grandson in his arms, beaming with joy. He was so proud of his daughter and honored to be associated with Lord Raphael. He was even more pleased to see some resemblance between little Charles and his own sons. He quipped, “I love the color of Charles’ hair. With our family background and yours, Charles might be a very tall, strong man when he matures. Meanwhile, we will enjoy having him and his parents living with us here in our wonderful town! You are planning to live here, Commander Jychondria?”

“Yes, Father Franco, Lady Rita and I are very pleased to have this new opportunity to return home to live and raise our family here among you,” replied Jychondria as he looked down on the happy grandparents. Mistress Maria Franco was standing next to her burly mate, gazing with pride upon her red-haired priestess daughter, now the mother of their first grandchild. “I will still be in the Command, just stationed and working out of the Elexa shipbuilding site, instead of being stationed on a mothership clear across Federation space. I am fortunate that my father and aunt, Claudine Vanairus, have connections, and could arrange for me to be transferred back to Medina, which I am pleased to call Home.”

Maria Franco spoke up, “Well, my darlings, if there is anything you need, anything at all, I know my boys will help you get yourselves settled in your new house. I am overjoyed, too, to have my daughter able to live among her own people… even if it is a great honor to serve at the Shemont.”

Lady Rita looked fondly upon her parents and brothers and replied, “My dear Mother, I am so glad to be here. I don’t think there will be much that we need, but we will welcome you to visit whenever you are inclined, especially if you want to see little Charles at play once he is a bit older. Lord Mathdis has already shown us the little cottage he will be giving us – giving to us as a belated present – which is fully furnished. I may need assistance in keeping house and cooking as those aspects of family life weren’t part of my training as a priestess! I do already have the able assistance of Mistress Frida whom you may recognize as being the former assistant and housekeeper for Lady Julia, mate of Lord Raphael… Lady Julia died over a year ago and I have been fortunate to retain the services of the devoted Mistress Frida, who helped to raise my own mate from childhood.”

Mistress Franco then greeted Mistress Frida and thanked her for being willing to assist her daughter in starting their housekeeping in Jolf. The sturdy Medinian woman just beamed with joy as she surveyed the family gathering. She was content to be near Jychondria, his precious lady, and their beautiful son.

The two Veyan masters had now attended three mating ceremonies on Medina, each one slightly different. Master Mei Li was gaining more insights into his new lord, in seeing him interact with his loved ones and witnessing his devotion to his children, even those who were not of his own blood. He approved of the visit to Jolf and this opportunity for Raphael to ensure a good start for his eldest son and his daughter-in-law. Knowing that Jolf held a special place in his lord’s heart, Mei Li thought it might be a good thing to recommend that he visit the town each year. Now that Jychondria would be living there, it was a certainty that the devoted father and grandfather would visit his loved ones, including the Mathdis Family.

Although he had known Lord Raphael for a very long time, Commander Salaniel had only visited Jolf once, when Raphael and his party began their tour of the Worlds. And he had only met the second daughter of Lord Raphael briefly when they were introduced before the mating ceremony of her father. Being an orphan, long out of touch with most of his remaining family save the tenuous links to Raphael and Tomás Monteras, Salaniel had never really considered the possibility that he could ever hope for a family of his own. Yet, he found himself attracted to the pretty dark-haired beauty who was currently acting as a priestess under the guidance of her grandmother, Lady Anna. As he stood there, gazing across the garden to where Lady Remilla was chatting with her older sister, Lady Arianna, and her grandmother, Lady Anna, Salaniel carefully studied the young woman’s golden tanned face surrounded by its halo of dark curls, with the bright blue eyes that Raphael had had before his startling metamorphosis. She was really quite stunning in appearance… at least he thought so.

Commander Monteras noticed his friend’s mood of distraction and traced the subject of Salaniel’s veneration. His face grew serious when Tomás realized Salaniel had developed a crush on the young priestess, who was also Raphael’s youngest daughter. Monteras cleared his throat, bringing his friend’s attention back to him and then spoke, “Salaniel – Lady Remilla? If you are thinking about the possibilities of uniting with that young lady, you will have to discuss it with Lord Raphael. Are you sure you want to take on the responsibility of a mate on top of all your current commitments to Lord Raphael and to Master Polaño?”

It was difficult to discern a blush on Salaniel’s deeply tanned reddish-brown countenance, yet Monteras felt the embarrassment of his younger friend and cousin. Salaniel stammered, “Oh, sir… she’s a lady and I am a nobody without family and property. Even though Lord Raphael calls me a relative, I am not… not in this life.”

“Well, son… if you were a close relative of Raphael’s, you wouldn’t be eligible to even think of uniting with Lady Remilla,” replied Monteras. “As it is… you are a commander and a person with a future as the personal assistant of the Lord or Lady of Alyona Castle… whether Claudine Vanairus or Francis when he takes over the office of Lord of the Pleiades. If you become an official member of Raphael’s family, I know you will be well-regarded and accepted. His family members are more generous in disposition than those of many lords and ladies whom I have met in the past. If you are serious about your interest, at least discuss the possibility with Raphael or Lady Anna. The latter person would probably be best as Lady Anna has worked alongside Lady Remilla for years now. And do remember, as a priestess, Lady Remilla has the choice whether or not to mate at all. As a priestess, she has more sovereignty over her life choices than do most young women of noble families.”

Salaniel was now thoroughly embarrassed that his fellow commander had read him so easily. He pursed his lips and said, “Thank you, Tomás for your advice. Now, I had better see if Lord Raphael needs me for anything.”

Commander Monteras knew the highly sensitive Salaniel was very shy, at least around women folk, so he grinned, but also resolved to bring this issue up to his cousin’s attention in case Salaniel avoided doing so. However, it was an issue that would have to wait a day or so as today was the celebration for the sons of Lord Raphael, Connie, and Adarius.

Master Adario and Lady Bettina were enjoying their stay in Jolf immensely. They had again started discussing the possibility of shifting Adario’s teaching duties back to the Medinian University Ship. Adario knew his father, Lord Pietro, would prefer that the couple lived in Ostta, but he was frankly bored with living there. Adario missed being around his cousin and brother-in-law, Raphael. Now, seeing the magical joy of another mating here in Jolf just gave Adario more impetus to make some preliminary inquiries as to whether his talents were required at

the University Ship, or better yet, at the shipyards on Elexa. Adario did not have an opportunity to discuss the matter with Commander Strabo Diaz during the ceremonies held in Medina but resolved to do so as Adario knew Raphael wanted to at least visit Elexa while here in Jolf on this visit. 

Adario was presently chatting with the Veyan masters, asking questions about their impressions of Raphael’s tour of the federation. Master Leu answered, “Master Adario – you must remember that I only joined the tour when they were still in Ostta. Since Lord Raphael was experiencing some fainting spells, Claudine thought it best to have a physician on hand who was knowledgeable about Raphael’s various health issues. My partner, Master Mei Li, only joined the tour after we had arrived on Vey, the last planet of the tour.”

“Ah, so Master Mei Li – you haven’t seen too many other worlds than your own and now Medina?” inquired Adario.

That is so, Master Adario; we were briefly on Alyona, but so busy taking care of Lord Raphael, that Master Leu and I had little time to do any sightseeing,” replied Master Mei Li. 

If I may ask, what are your general impressions of my cousin, Lord Raphael?” inquired Adario.

Well, as physicians we are trained to keep a neutral perspective even on our most famous or infamous patients,” replied Master Leu, politely. “However, what I have observed of Lord Raphael in the time I have known him (over a decade) he appears to be honest, forthright, loving to his family, highly sensitive and intuitive. I have enjoyed working with him and alongside him, even during some of the trials we were compelled to be part of when implanted individuals were discovered both on Airus, Maia, on Krey, and then one such person on The Golden Falcon mothership. In all these matters, Lord Raphael looked to the security and safety of the people, all of the people. He did not appear to be the least bit fazed by noblesse oblige or pretensions. Why do you ask, Master Adario?”

“Out of a desire to protect Lord Raphael from some of the criticisms that have arisen from certain quarters – usually from people who are easily offended when their beliefs are challenged,” replied Adario. “Personally, I love and honor my cousin – my former brother, since Raphael was mated to my sister for over 50 years – and often wish I were still working with him. I know he is now in the midst of things having brought Claudine Vanairus on as regent; a move questioned by some powerful lords who perhaps wish for more influence in the ruling of the Federation.”

“Yes, Master Adario, it is in part his being a man with two masters or rather a mistress and a master, Claudine and the Command, which has accentuated the recent health issues of Lord Raphael,” replied Master Leu.

Adario answered with a question of his own: “As for the choice of Claudine Vanairus to be regent, who else was supposed to hold that office?” Adario’s comment was rhetorical, so Master Leu did not reply, simply nodded. Adario continued, “As I understand the situation, Lord Raphael had to think very quickly for a temporary solution to the dilemma posed by the sudden death of Lord Demetrius. Since Master Roméo VaCoupe refused to even consider the possibility of his taking on the Lordship, the only two people left from which to choose was Claudine and Raphael. I suppose Lord Raimundo could have also been a choice, but no one thought to put him up as a nominee. Now, we have a female Regent and a young heir in training, who has just been mated to a lovely and intelligent lady from my home world. I see the possibility of further issues arising from this scenario given that Claudine may not be willing to release her hand from the rod of power when it comes time to allow Francis to succeed to his grandfather’s office of Lordship.”

“Ah, so you have also seen this, Master Adario?” replied Master Mei Li, while looking around to see who was within hearing range. These were highly sensitive political topics being discussed. “Master Adario, I would advise you that these particular issues have come to the notice of both me and Master Leu, as well as Lord Raimundo and Master Li Tzulo. We are aware that subtle shifts of power are already occurring within the Federation due to these recent matings, drawing other powerful families into alliances with Raphael rather than his sister, Claudine. Still, this is not the place or time to discuss such matters. Soon I will be assigned to be one of the major

mentors of Master Francis; I know where my loyalties lie – with Lord Raphael and the future of the Federation remaining in the hands of the VaCoupe Family.”

“I am glad to hear this, Masters,” replied Adario. “Perhaps I will go ahead and seek a position either at Elexa or at the Medinian University Ship. I think it will be important for Raphael to have allies in the coming years as the time approaches for Francis to take up the reins of the office left vacant by the death of his grandfather. It is, after all, traditionally on most, if not all of our worlds for males to hold the highest offices unless there is no mature male heir available, which was the case after the death of Lord Demetrius – Lord Raphael being only an adopted son, and thus, ineligible in the eyes of most people to be selected for such an important office.”

“Master Adario – speaking of male heirs, your own father is rather high up in the administration of Airus. Does your father intend for you to assume his lordship and bureaucratic duties upon his passing or retirement? If I understand things correctly, sometimes the male heir must undergo years of training before stepping into such a position of authority?” inquired Master Leu Tzulo. 

Actually, gentlemen, my father has never put the question to me. I guess I will be an instructor or engineer one day and then a lord the next when my father dies or retires, with his governmental duties being taken up by someone else instead of me,” replied Adario, who had been wondering about that issue himself. He had never had the courage to bring it up to Lord Pietro as he wasn’t enthusiastic about the prospect of becoming a bureaucrat.

Ah, much like Raphael, who, upon learning that since his elder brother had died in battle, it was his birthright to assume the title of his deceased father. He had not been trained to the office of lord, but having no lands or people to govern, and already being somewhat experienced as a leader in the Command, it wasn’t thought to be necessary to give Lord Raphael any training – or at least that is what my father conveyed to me before I first met Raphael in Alyona, when he had already been a lord for over three decades,” replied Master Leu. “My father, Master Li, was actually here on the day when Raphael first was informed by Commander Lantrill that he should consider himself a lord and a wealthy man. Raphael was quite astonished having never even conceived such a thing happening to one who had not even experienced having a family as a youngster. He really is quite a humble man.”

Adario nodded, “Yes, a humble man, but one driven by an inner need to protect his people at some cost to his own sense of well-being, at least in his earlier years. I am quite pleased seeing that Raphael seems content with his new mating. He was quite desolate upon losing Julia and then to be faced with an arranged betrothal so quickly to another person, well, it was quite daunting for him. He does seem to have adjusted well in a relatively short time.”

“That inner drive of his is partially what drove Lord Raphael to the edge of a total breakdown,” replied Master Mei Li. “His body was weakened by the abuse he endured as a child and the strain was beginning to tell. Thus, this enforced vacation is for health reasons. Should he wish to continue giving service to the Federation in some capacity, he will be required to be monitored for health issues, hence why he now has both Master Leu and me on his staff.”

“Well, gentlemen, it gives me much satisfaction to know Lord Raphael has two such loyal associates. I do know he greatly misses having his Feline brothers around him, Commander Lantrill and Captain Sukio,” commented Adario. “I wish I could be part of his train, but since he is not the official ruler of any world, that scenario is not likely to unfold.”

“No, he is still a servant of the Lordship, as well as a commander in the Fleet, although the latter position may be vacated soon, partially due to the strain placed upon his health by attempting to hold both offices,” suggested Master Mei Li.

Adario’s eyebrows lifted at this comment, “Oh, I see Claudine and perhaps Commander Adrigus have already brought this up to you two gentlemen?”

Master Mei Li nodded, as he noticed someone approaching, and then cleared his throat, calling out in a louder voice, “Commander Jychondria, how does it feel to be back in what you consider your ‘home town’?”

Commander Jychondria glanced at all three men and knew immediately they had been discussing his father, Lord Raphael. He wasn’t the sensitive psychic like his father or his sister Arianna, but the commander had his own gifts of perception and intuition. He bowed to the two masters, and replied, “Well, gentlemen, uncle Adario, I am quite taken with Jolf, so much so, that Lady Rita and I have already made arrangements with Lord Mathdis to remain here, with Jolf becoming our permanent residence, at least while we are raising our children.”

“Oh, Jychondria! That is great news!” enthused Adario. “Can you tell me anything about your new position at Elexa or what projects you might be working with… if you’re not violating any military secrets?”

“Well, Adario – the Command is still in the process of building the huge fleet that Lord Demetrius planned years ago,” replied Jychondria. “As for ‘secret’ plans, I do not know specifically of any now that we are not engaged in a conflict within our own territories. Over a decade ago, it was very different, especially with the golden ships being built under my father’s guidance, but since they are no more, there has not existed as much a barrier to information being disseminated beyond those involved in the projects. Perhaps we should retain better security since there still seems to be some lingering presence of the enemy within the Federation, given what Father encountered on Airus, Maia, and even on Krey during his tour. Father and I haven’t had a lot of time to discuss such matters but hope to do so before I return to full-time duty.”

“How will you commute to Elexa if I may ask,” inquired Adario, curious about such matters, as he had no desire to live full-time on Elexa. 

Well, as I understand it, Lord Mathdis has stored The Golden Wren here in Jolf, in safe keeping for Father. He just doesn’t fly her very much,” replied Jychondria. “Perhaps we should ask Lord Mathdis to reveal where he has hidden the Wren. Then, I could see if I am able to pilot her. It would be more convenient than taking the daily shuttle to Elexa which doesn’t arrive here until mid-day, which would compel me to periodically stay overnight in Elexa should meetings or other issues crop up during the latter part of the day.”

“The Golden Wren? Oh, you mean Rigo’s ship? I remember the first time I saw her at the Elexa space port!” replied Adario excitedly. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Such grace and beauty in a man-made object; she was astounding, and her speed was phenomenal.”

“Yes, yes… Rigo’s ship, the very one that Father landed here in the town square. I still have people come up to me and tell me about the day they saw the golden ship land here,” replied Jychondria. “Perhaps tomorrow we can ask Lord Mathdis to reveal his secret hiding place for The Wren and then I can ask Father whether or not he will allow me to fly her. I never did test to see whether or not any of the little golden ships responded to me while I used to wander around the outpost all those years ago.”

Adario was excited by this information. He had not heard of the whereabouts of the Wren for years since Raphael had made The Golden Cat his primary means of transportation around the Federation. If the Wren were available, it would make living in Jolf possible. He knew Bettina would also be thrilled to have the opportunity to live in the community she had learned to love while she was working there as a teaching priestess. Now, that their children were fully grown, she could take up that function and office once again if she so desired or perhaps assist Lady Rita and Mistress Karenna with their own children, teaching and caring for them. 

Jychondria was amused, but knew his gentle uncle needed some encouragement to break away from his sense of obligation to his father, Lord Pietro, especially if Adario was not needed to take over any form of administrative duties in Ostta. He smiled and continued, “Perhaps, if Lord Mathdis shows us The Golden Wren, you and I can take her out for a spin (I am a licensed pilot!) to Elexa and have a brief conference with Commander Strabo to get his feedback on the possibility of getting a job there for you, too, Uncle. I would love to work with you; after all, that was my dream when I was a boy growing up around the golden ships. While they are not available, we still can design and build other ships together?”

An enthusiastic Adario hugged his nephew, replying, “I would love nothing better, Connie! Forgive me if I use your family nickname in public, Commander, but the possibility of working alongside you would be a perfect dream for me!”

“Well, then, Uncle – let’s explore this as a possibility, even a probability – it’s time for you to reassert your independence from your father, Lord Pietro, and work on a project that will best utilizes your inherent talents, training and skills,” commented Jychondria, truly touched to see how his talented uncle was responding to his inquiries. “Now, Uncle – perhaps we and our Veyan friends should intermingle with the townspeople a bit, so people don’t think we’re plotting something nefarious up here among the roses!”

Accordingly, Jychondria and Adario rejoined Lady Rita who was still talking with her parents and brothers, while Master Franco was still holding onto little Charles like a prize. Jychondria grinned at Master Franco and calmly suggested, “Father Franco, I think it is time for Master Charles to have his next feeding. Perhaps you can return him to Rita so she can find a discrete place so she can feed the child. Meanwhile, you can tell me and my uncle, Master Adario Kadish, about your people’s project on Airus? Father just mentioned it in passing and didn’t really explain what had happened.”

“Oh, of course… pardon me, Daughter; I got a bit carried away with the excitement of holding the little lad!” apologized the burly stonemason with a shy smile. He planted a little kiss on Charles’ forehead before handing him over to an amused and proud Rita. Then, he turned back to Adario and gave the master a dignified bow, “I remember you from your days of living here in Jolf although I do not think we were ever formally introduced. I am, of course, Master Franco, the father to Lady Rita, and this is my mate, Maria, and two of my sons, Guillame and Robertio. You are Master Adario, former brother-in-law to Lord Raphael and his cousin, also?”

“Yes, Master Franco,” replied Adario politely, bowing in return. “I was privileged to work with Lord Raphael during the days of the Starship Project, although I wasn’t particularly socially active during that time…”

“No need to apologize, young man,” said Master Franco. “We (all the towns people) understood that your team was embarked on a highly sensitive project. Commander Raphael made that clear to me on our first meeting in this very garden on the day that Master Aiden and Lady Brunella were first mated… so many years ago.”

“Ah, I am sure Lord Raphael appreciates the loyalty demonstrated by the citizens of Jolf,” replied Adario. “Now, if you can share some of the details of the project your company performed on Airus, I would appreciate it. Even though my own father is a member of the bureaucracy there, he has not shared any details of what he and Raphael found after responding to a call for aid on Myenaar, another continent of Airus.”

Master Franco nodded and then turned to his eldest son, Guillame, and announced, “I am proud to say that this young man led the expedition to Babbos, the capital of Myenaar. Gilly… perhaps you can relate some of your experiences there, meeting the Airians on their home ground, as well as working with the Seranians who had also been tagged by Lord Raphael (who has numerous contacts!) to work with our teams?”

Guillame was not used to conversing with masters, but he gave a bow to the gentlemen and then started in relating his team’s adventures on Myenaar, “Master Adario – your own father was astounded to see such destruction as was wrought by the enemy forces in so short a time. Well, apparently, he was basically frozen in place not knowing what to do about the situation when his son-in-law, Lord Raphael, took matters out of his hands and demanded use of an interactive comm to contact our lot through his cousin, Commander Brown of Elexa and his Seranian grandfather, retired Commander Mahaelion. Then, when our teams finally convened upon Myenaar, the first task was to see that all of those farmers made homeless by the attacks, were rehoused, at least temporarily, in the homes of relatives or other citizens in Babbos. This step had already occurred, but we were able to finesse things a bit more. Then, we were guided by knowledgeable locals on how to locate the materials needed to rapidly construct sturdy homes and outbuildings for the farms and villages. At times, we were fortunate to have pre-existing stone foundations still standing and so built upon them after ensuring their soundness. Then, we discovered that many of the farmers and villagers were more than willing to work alongside our crews, so work went swiftly. We all learned from each other, with the locals instructing our men some of the building techniques utilized in that cold climate. The first winter snows were beginning to fall when we completed construction on the

primary houses. We will return when spring comes again to Myenaar to complete the work, but for now, the snows are too heavy to work there, and our men are not accustomed to working outside in such a severe climate.”

“Oh, what an excellent report, Master Guillame! Have you given a report to Lord Raphael yet? If not, I shall be quite willing to convey this information to him,” replied Adario. “Master Franco, it is clear your sons are well-trained and knowledgeable. We are honored to have your beautiful daughter included in our extended family!”

Master Guillame bowed, again, pleased that his report made an impression. He knew that he was very pleased to have had the opportunity to visit another planet, learn about the people there and to create an excellent foundation for further cooperative efforts between the planets. “Thank you, Master Adario. You can also let your father, Lord Pietro, know about what we managed to complete given the short time left in the building season. No one from Ostta actually checked on us while we were on Airus; we dealt directly with Capeto Aryness, the local administrator and the Lord of Babbos.”

Adario was aware of the communication disconnect between the capital of Airus and some of the outlying continents including Myenaar. It was a factor that had greatly upset his cousin Raphael while he was staying in Ostta. The Feline warrior Captain Ungar related to Adario a confrontation that had taken place between his father, Lord Pietro, and Raphael when Raphael realized that no one from the capital had inquired as to the state of their citizens on Myenaar. Adario was not proud that the existing bureaucracy of Airus seemed to care little for some of their own citizens. He nodded and replied, “I am aware of such problems existing under the present administration, which is a holdover from the days of my elder cousin, Michael Kadish. Perhaps I will address it with Lord Da’vid so he can initiate solutions to correct any such future problems, Master Guillame. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I can also bring this matter to the attention of Lord Raphael who can then advise our Regent, Claudine Vanairus. Then, as I understand it, Claudine Vanairus can address the issue at High Council, whether in the main session or in private meetings with planetary representatives. My father, Lord Pietro, and my cousin, Lord Da’vid are now both attending High Council since Da’vid is still undergoing a period of instruction on his new duties.”

“Well, we’ll let the planetary representatives know that the common people need help, too, now and then,” replied Master Guillame firmly. Although a master builder, he was confident in his skills and knew how to help people – and frankly, he didn’t comprehend why certain leaders chose to ignore the plight of their own people. “I can bring this up to Lord Raphael, too. I know that he is concerned about the welfare of all of the people. His devotion to family and friends has always endeared him to the people of Jolf.”

“I am sure my cousin would appreciate hearing from you, Master Guillame,” commented Adario. “And now, I would like to see how Lord Raphael is managing with all of the attention. It has been a pleasure meeting you, your brother, and your father, Master Guillame.”

Adario had spotted his blonde cousin strolling on one of the lower tiers of the garden with Lady Lorenna on his arm. He was conversing with some of the townspeople, with whom Adario was not yet acquainted. He vowed to make more of an effort to become familiar with the townspeople should he and Lady Bettina be so fortunate to live in Jolf once again.

As Adario approached his cousin, Raphael looked up and excused himself. He drew closer to Adario and confided, “You know, Cousin, I am not really one for social gatherings, but these people are quite sweet. I was just speaking with the grocer, Master Thorney. He was describing how he imports most of his vegetables from Serana and fruits from Vey and Maia. Of course, shipping costs are high, so he is concerned about the Command eventually providing the public with faster shuttles and cargo vessels so goods can be brought to the market in a timelier fashion. I am not sure if the man has ever realized just how vast Pleiadian Federation space actually is!”

“Building public shuttles and cargo vessels is actually a good idea, Cousin,” replied Adario, his engineering mind kicking in as he began to visualize building such vessels.

Raphael grinned upon seeing that familiar expression in his cousin’s eyes as Adario gazed off into space, not seeing what was in front of him. Raphael patted his cousin’s shoulder to get his attention and remarked, “Are you going into your engineering mode, Cousin?”

“Ah, am I that transparent, Raphael?” replied Adario with a deep sigh. “It is just that I really want to stay here in Jolf, on Medina, rather than go home to Airus. Ostta has never felt like home, not in the way that Jolf did when we were all here working together on the Starship Project.”

“I know the feeling, Cousin. Still, when the project closed down, I couldn’t remain here. I was needed by my father, Lord Demetrius, and then times got so desperate with all the attacks and me seeing visions of them all the time. It’s no wonder I became exhausted by the end of the decade of endless attacks, what with Father dying and then a year later, Julia – I nearly lost it, Adario,” confessed Raphael. “Well, I have changed now… once again… starting a new life with Lorenna here,” he said as he patted Lorenna’s arm. “Now, my darling, perhaps you could go see how the youngsters are managing?”

Lorenna gave Adario a knowing smile – the men wanted to talk without a woman present, but she left without comment. Adario turned back to his cousin, “Did you realize Lord Mathdis still has The Golden Wren here, Raphael?”

“Of course, I gave him the ship to use if he wanted to, although it is apparent, he hasn’t flown the Wren much yet,” replied Raphael, looking at his cousin with curiosity. “How did you find out?”

Seeing Adario’s glance towards Jychondria where Raphael’s son stood talking with the Francos, Raphael nodded and commented, “Ah, Connie – of course he would know. He claims he is not a psychic, but he can read me like a book. What does Connie want with the Wren?”

“To use it to commute to Elexa from Jolf – it could be an easy daily flight back and forth,” replied Adario. The handsome dark-haired engineering instructor straightened himself up (he stood slightly taller than his blonde cousin) and looked down at Raphael, “I want to sound out Commander Strabo Diaz – to see if he might have a position open for me to work at the Elexa shipyards, alongside my nephew, Jychondria, your son. Then, Bettina and I could settle once again here in Jolf. I have become quite unhappy in Ostta, being around the court and seeing the disparity between the various levels of society and how the commoners are still being ignored by bureaucrats who were influenced by the poisonous policies of Michael Kadish, our former elder cousin.”

Raphael surprised his cousin by chuckling and said: “Lord Mathdis is going to blame me for this sudden population explosion in his little town! I would be delighted to have you here – it would be just another excuse for Lorenna and me to visit, to see Connie and Rita, Adarius (when he is home) and Karenna, and of course, the Mathdis Family. If I weren’t the temporary lord of Medina (until Francis takes over the lordship) I would want to live here, too. With the Cat, I can be anywhere in the Federation within hours – I don’t require a large space port in which to store her. And as for you moving here – are you sure you will miss the subtropical paradise of Ostta? And what is Father Pietro going to think?”

“Oh, he’ll be furious, but he will soon have your son, his grandson Daniel there to coddle and take my place… in about four years, right?” replied Adario with a grin, feeling elated to see Raphael accepting his scenario quite easily. 

Yes, I am willingly sacrificing a life bringing up young Daniel for the sake of his grandparents who lost their beautiful daughter, your sister, Adario,” replied Raphael. “I have no worry about Daniel. He may actually turn out to be a problem for his grandfather as Daniel is very much like me, highly sensitive, breathtakingly intelligent – Eagle Felipe can converse with him telepathically already in five different languages. He knew who I was immediately without anyone introducing me and clearly remembers his mother, Julia. I have — we have — brought in a young person with full memory. I know he will probably eventually challenge the very traditional Lord Pietro with his brand of intelligence, just as I have!”

~ ~ ~

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BOOK FOUR: Table of Contents

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