BOOK FOUR: CHAPTER 8 – Gareth Vanderis Dino

CHAPTER 8 – Gareth Vanderis Dino


One of the first things Raphael did upon arriving home in Medina was to locate Gareth Dino and Master Li Tzulo.  Raphael was interested in seeing how the new student was progressing with his instruction in being a lord.  Of course, he also had another reason to see Gareth – to inform the young man of his upcoming matetation – but first he wanted to see how the former Eagle was faring.

Raphael made his presence known by coming up and bowing to Master Li Tzulo, in recognition for the man’s role as his nearly life-long association and mentorship of Raphael. He then addressed the duo, “Master Li, Master Gareth – how does the instruction fare?”

“Ah, so you and your party have arrived home from Jolf?” inquired Master Li. He glanced at his pupil who gave Raphael an answering bow, a very precise military bow, in recognition of Raphael’s rank as a commander in the service. Master Li cleared his throat and addressed Gareth, “Master Gareth – that was an excellent bow for a commander; however, Raphael is a lord which is a higher designation than even a top commander, so you would give him a court bow. Can you let us see how you manage a proper bow, now?”

“Oh, sorry, sir… my lord!”

Don’t apologize, just do as you are instructed, Master Gareth,” replied Master Li, somewhat severely. 

Gareth took a deep breath to calm himself and then repeated his bow, this time going lower into a proper courtly bow, which would serve for either a lady or lord. Then, he stepped forward towards Raphael and said, “Welcome home, my lord!”

“Hmmm, ideally you would let the man with the higher status or station address you first, Master Gareth,” admonished Master Li. “Now, try it again!”

Gareth backed up a bit, took one step forward, gave a proper courtly bow and then waited for Raphael’s response. Raphael gave Gareth a nod and greeted him, “Well done, Master Gareth!”

Gareth breathed a sigh of relief and replied, “It’s good to see you, my lord!”

“And same to you… both! Now, Master Li, could I have a couple of minutes with your student?” inquired Raphael.

Well, I think we’ll take a break. Now, Gareth, could you fetch some tea for Lord Raphael and me?” asked Master Li Tzulo.

Master Li and Raphael watched as Gareth carefully bowed to both of them and then left the room. Master Li smiled and commented, “He’s learning some of the finer points of etiquette. It really isn’t taking too much effort since he has had years to observe the interactions of high-born people, military commanders, and commoners. Yet, I would like him to be able to do the proper moves without thinking about it. Gareth has a natural sense of grace being a skilled dancer and athlete, so he is going to make a distinct impression outside of his sheer size and height! Now, what did you want to see him about, if I may ask, my lord?”

Raphael smiled and replied, “He is about to be mated to my youngest daughter, Lady Remilla. I brought her back here with me, although she and her sister will be staying at the Shemont for a few days.”

“And you don’t think he’ll turn Lady Remilla down, my lord?” questioned Master Li, knowing of Gareth’s recent past history of bypassing the ladies presented by his grandfather, Lord Efrem.

No… I had a vision of them standing together outside the outpost near the present day Jolf. They were mates then, very loving mates. I am not sure if he has actually spoken to her since Remilla was a child. Gareth and his fellow Eagles used to take turns watching over the children,” replied Raphael. “Anyway, I am going to tell him about the plans. I haven’t received the formal contract signed by his grandfather and Claudine as of yet but should within the next day or so. Everyone who needs to has already agreed to the betrothal contract.”

“So, that will create another strong connection to the House of Dino for you, my lord,” commented Master Li Tzulo.

Yes, alliance through mating, cementing family relationships and strengthening the ties with the allies who will back Francis’ bid when he is ready to ascend to the lordship,” replied Raphael.

Ah – here he comes. That tray has enough food and drink to feed five people! Eagles and their appetites!” exclaimed Master Li with a chuckle.

Here is the tea you requested, plus some refreshments, my lord, Master Tzulo,” announced Gareth as he set down the tray on a table. “Let me pour for you if you want to continue talking…”

“No, we’re done, but I have something to say to you, Gareth,” said Raphael. He then ordered the tall former Eagle to sit down. “Gareth, you have been contracted to wed my youngest daughter, Lady Remilla. The ceremony will take place in two weeks and will be held in the audience room of this house. What say you?”

Gareth stared at Raphael in disbelief and then gasped, “My lord – mate into your family? Your daughter? She lives in Jolf doesn’t she, my lord?”

“Yes, yes, and yes… Remilla has been living in Jolf all these years. She is a fully-fledged priestess and can serve in any location except the Shemont. Do you remember her as a little girl with curly dark hair, great bright blue eyes, and a sunny smile, Gareth?” asked Raphael with a smile.

She was a sweet child, my lord,” replied Gareth, recalling for a moment the days when he and his companions guarded the Kantor-VaCoupe family in Jolf and elsewhere. “I don’t think I have seen her since we left Jolf, though, my lord.”

“Gareth, she was present at her cousin’s mating, for Francis and Ella,” replied Raphael with a snort. “Perhaps you had your mind on other things. I know all of these new developments in your life can be a bit overwhelming, but you will adapt as I and many other people have had to when circumstances present you with challenges. Lady Remilla is somewhat petite, although slightly taller than her mother was, highly trained and disciplined, but still a very sweet young woman. She is very honest, sensitive, and forthright. She won’t be one to put on airs and will never shame you before your fellows. I hope you can learn to love her as you once did, long, long ago. The two of you were a Feline mated pair, part of my people when I was Rigo, Gareth.”

“Oh, my lord – I was, we were a part of your people? I felt that when I walked through the outpost on occasion,” commented Gareth. He pursed his lips and asked somewhat shyly, “My lord, could you send me an image of what your daughter looks like today? I want to see if I noticed her in the crowd here and just didn’t recognize her…”

Raphael smiled and sent a telepathic image of Remilla when she found out that she was going to be mated to Gareth. The joy on her face was a beautiful thing to witness in a daughter.

Gareth closed his eyes so he could savor the image of the young woman. He sighed, “My lord, you do me a great honor to align me with your family and House. I will freely consent to unite with this beautiful young lady. I think saw her in the crowd but didn’t realize that she was your daughter. She was with another young woman, a blonde.”

“The blonde is my oldest daughter, Arianna, who lives and serves in Ostta, Airus. We didn’t see her during our visit to Ostta as she was involved in some of her priestess affairs,” explained Raphael. “She is currently visiting Medina since my cousin, Master Adario and Lady Bettina have decided to remain in Jolf. Adario will be starting work at the Elexa shipyard, along with Jychondria. Upon visiting Jolf, Adario and Bettina decided they wanted nothing better than to remain there. If I didn’t have commitments elsewhere, I would have stayed, too. Anyway, you will be seeing Arianna and Remilla periodically this week since Lady Lorenna has taken on the task of sewing Remilla’s dress and will require her presence here for fittings.”

Master Li Tzulo was observing Gareth as Raphael informed him about the latest changes upcoming in his life. He noted that, this time at least, Gareth made no objections to the news that he was already contracted. In fact, he seemed to be experiencing a bit of overwhelm when he realized that this mating would bring him even closer… in a much different manner to a man he loved, honored, and had served for decades. He thought to see just what Gareth was feeling by asking a question, “Gareth, you do realize that with this mating, Raphael will be able to call you his son, too?”

“Oh, my lord…” murmured Gareth, who was at a loss of what to say. Then, he noted another factor, “Which will bring me closer, yet, to Francis, too, my lord – as he is now your stepson, too!”

“Yes, Gareth – the ties that bind, family ties,” replied Raphael with a smile. “Good, I was concerned that you might turn this opportunity down. I am relieved for my daughter who confessed she has loved you since she was a child. Be kind to her, Gareth. She is a treasure.”

“I will, my lord – I promise,” replied Gareth with a full heart. Now, he wouldn’t feel like an extra person at gatherings. He would have a beautiful mate at his side to love and cherish, someone he had known since her childhood.

Master Li grinned, “Master Gareth, I think we’re done with our lessons for today. Lord Raphael, the news you have given the young man has quite distracted him in a good way.”

“Oh, then, am I excused, Master? I want to talk to Felipe about these developments!” exclaimed Gareth.

Yes, you are excused – for now. Lessons recommence tomorrow,” replied Master Li with an understanding smile. Of course, Gareth would seek out Felipe, one of the other Eagles and his long-time friend. Felipe was slightly older than Gareth, but not by much and the two men had shared some time together while Raphael was away in Jolf. When he was not studying, Gareth had joined Felipe with the children in the garden when the weather allowed them to go outside. He had enjoyed sharing the time together with an old companion, so did not feel at quite a loss with Francis being gone, also. However, in a day or so, Francis and Ella would be returning from Towan and in a couple of weeks, Gareth’s life was going to change in ways that he could not even imagine right now.

Raphael and Master Li Tzulo were joined by Raimundo who wanted to know whether Gareth had been informed as to what previously unexpected event loomed in his near future. Raphael smiled, and replied, “Oh, yes – and he accepted the news with surprising alacrity especially considering how resistant he had been in accepting any young ladies presented by Lord Efrem. Gareth was a little stunned… and pleased to realize that he will, in effect, become a member of my own family by mating my daughter, Remilla, thus strengthening his own ties with Francis to an even higher level as brothers.”

“Oh, good – he is a fine young man and Remilla will make him a wonderful mate. She is attractive, well-grounded, well-trained by her own grandmother, Lady Anna. Yes, I am sure Remilla will do well for our young lord. How is he progressing in his training, Master Li?” inquired Raimundo.

He is doing well. We have been practicing on establishing certain responses to interactions between different levels of society,” replied Master Li. “I would like to get him to the point where he makes the proper response without even thinking about it, acting as natural and graceful as possible. Being such a tall, massive individual, he could strike fear in those who are unprepared, so it will take some effort on his part to present a calm demeanor that puts people at their ease. As for native intelligence, Gareth has plenty. I have discovered that he is a strong telepath – something my son shared that you learned about the Indigenous tribesmen of BerWare. He is not, however, an empath beyond that which is normal in most humans, surface sensing of the moods of others. Being a trained warrior, however, he is hyperaware of body language, so not being an empath shouldn’t affect his abilities to read others in difficult situations. Gareth learns anything you throw at him extremely quickly and absorbs information like a sponge. He is also one who could be trusted with secrets – something that all Eagles are charged with doing as they observe and overhear conversations that often cannot be repeated. These qualities will assist him in becoming a strong advisor and protector for our young lord Francis when he assumes his rightful destiny.”

“Excellent! Francis will require strong-willed, dependable, and intelligent companions at his side for I sense his first years as Lord will be a test of his own abilities to adapt and establish his own sense of self-esteem and inner strength of character,” replied Raphael. “Now, when can we anticipate Francis and Ella returning to Medina?”

“Actually, Raphael, they should be arriving sometime tomorrow, so your timing in returning here was perfect,” replied Raimundo. “Francis doesn’t know yet that there will be two more upcoming matings, one involving his cousin, Sabina, and now, his stepsister Remilla… I don’t think Francis actually knows Remilla very well. You are her father and haven’t been around her much either since you had to leave Jolf behind over a decade ago.”

“So true – during the visit to Jolf, I had some time to begin to become reacquainted with both of my daughters, at least to some extent,” replied Raphael. “It was during this time, I saw visions of Gareth and Remilla having been mated before, at least a very long ago when I was King Rigo. And I discovered that my older daughter, Arianna, does not want to be mated right now. As a military man, I really haven’t had much interaction with either of my daughters, even my own sons for that matter. I am hoping to obtain some leave time for Dante, whom I haven’t seen for at least seven or eight years since he entered the Command. He is currently stationed on The Golden Thunderbird, under the auspices of Top Commander Vanderis – which is interesting, as the commander is actually the uncle of Gareth.”

Raimundo was curious about the other son, Ezekiel, who had been such an interesting little boy. He asked, “Have you had any word about or from Ezekiel?”

“None at all – our brief meeting on BerWare was the last I have seen or heard from him,” replied Raphael. “It is rather his modus operandi, to appear briefly in my life and then to disappear. I hope to hear from him, wherever he might be. Has Carlos seen him, then, while he was in the same Fleet?”

“Not that he has related to me,” replied Raimundo. “We were all glad to have Carlos back among us, especially Mazzie, who has always regarded him with especial affection, him being one of her great grandsons. She and I had the major task of bringing up the young fellow since he was orphaned when quite young by the death of my brother, Robertio.”

“I didn’t realize Mazzie was actually a relative to the VaCoupes,” commented Master Li.

Yes, she is… my grandmother, although she would rather, we don’t refer to her in that manner. To most of the household, she is simply Mazzie and is very approachable by the youngest great, great grandchild, distant cousin, townspeople, and staff,” replied Raimundo with a smile. 

Ah, I have never given much thought to whom Mazzie belonged. She has always been a loving maternal figure for me since I first arrived in this household, feeding me with her healing tonics, elixirs, and teas,” confessed Raphael. “I know she regards me as one of her own and I hold her in the deepest affection and respect possible. Fortunately, she and my Veyan physicians also seem to work together well as those gentlemen are now a part of my life companions, being both mentors, advisors, and physicians to me and my extended family.”

“Ah… and has Commander Monteras finally warmed up to your newest recruit, Master Mei Li Zang?” inquired Raimundo.

Raphael nodded, “Yes, Uncle; during the visit to Jolf, the two gentlemen had several opportunities to share their mutual insights and observations. They get along quite well, now, especially since I have begun to utilize the two physicians as my newest advisors. Both your son, Master Leu, and Master Mei Li, have an acute understanding of the vagaries of human nature. They present a neutral perspective, at least, in terms of understanding the present politics of our Federation that Monteras can appreciate. I value both sets of my advisors and assistants, the commanders Monteras and DeAires, and the Veyan physicians.”

“Oh, I am pleased to hear that, my lord,” replied Master Li Tzulo. “For, I am sure that my son has already advised you that I am finally considering to retiring permanently from public life and returning home to Vey, to spend my latter years in the company of my long-suffering mate.”

“Yes, Master Li, I have been advised that this was coming and frankly, I don’t blame you. If I were a native of Vey, I would want to return to that fascinating world, again, too! I have been honored to be associated with, guided by, and mentored by you, my friend,” said Raphael. “I will miss your wise presence in my daily life, but you must do what you need to do. Your mate will be pleased to have you back in her life. She has sacrificed much in allowing you to stay with us so long. And someday, I will see you once more… as we have already shared.”

“Indeed – on a far distant planet and time, we will be together once more. And while I am still here, I must also say good-bye to my soul mate, Lady Amethyst,” replied Master Li Tzulo. “I thought to have an interview with her while you were gone, but time passed quickly, and I did not manage to accomplish that particular goal. When were you going to return to Alyona?”

“Not until at least a couple of months after the upcoming matings of Sabina and Remilla. Then, I will return and intend to take Francis, Ella, Gareth, and Remilla with me so the two gentlemen can continue their studies, either with you or the Masters Leu and Mei Li,” said Raphael. “If you will return to Alyona with us, you will be able to get a shuttle to take you directly to Vey when your planetary representatives return home from High Council.”

“That is a very good idea, my lord,” replied Master Tzulo. “I agree that Francis and Gareth should stay here with you until you return to Alyona. I should keep them out of the way of Claudine as much as possible now you have thrown down a gauntlet of sorts to her – and yes, I heard about that development from my son.”

“Well, Claudine needs to know that her actions, now and into the future, are being observed by many,” commented Raphael. “I will even commit to performing periodic scans of her person and her associates to determine if any covert plans are being kept from my scrutiny.”

“A very wise precaution given the tendency of this present generation of VaCoupes to overstep their bounds due to their overbearing pride… at least what both you and I have observed through the years,” replied Master Li.

Speaking of prideful VaCoupes, Uncle, just how is Nemo progressing in adjusting to life here in Medina, as far as you can tell?” inquired Raphael.

According to the reports coming from various sources, from Andros, your Eagles, and other staff members, Nemo seems to be integrating into life here quite well. He is quite shy and doesn’t usually mix with others except for Samos who has adopted him as a gardening partner and is now teaching him all he knows (which is a considerable amount) about gardening. I have observed him at work and while little Daniel still occasionally wants to go up and ‘talk’ to his uncle, Nemo has refused to comply and simply gets out of the way until Felipe gathers up the lad. I will be ready to release your Eagles from needing to constantly watch his behavior. Andros is keeping a sharp eye out for any misbehavior and the ladies in the kitchen are careful observers of anyone who neglects their duties and assignments.”

“Oh, good – I do want to have access to Milo and Loki. I deeply miss my Feline companions, although I still have Leo Vayin, too, in my company. Still, the two Felines make quite an impression when they are together,” said Raphael, chuckling. “I will have to reclaim Earl and Garry from Claudine as well – at least when I return to Alyona. She can obtain other Eagles from Adrigus or use the Castle guards.”

“Yes, you have recently lost both Felipe and Gareth from your personal guard. Is Felipe going to remain with little Daniel?” inquired Raimundo.

Yes, he has agreed to stay with Daniel until he enters into the University Ship or university, depending on what my son wishes to do with his future,” replied Raphael. “Then, my oldest daughter, Arianna, has said she will look after Daniel when he first arrives in Ostta. The culture of Airus is more sophisticated than the other two I have lived in since becoming a Pleiadian. I was a bit overwhelmed by everything I saw there. The way of life in Ostta is quite different from daily life here in Medina.”

“Morova and Medina, eh?” commented Master Li Tzulo.

Yes, both tribal communities, although Morova is far more nomadic in nature than Medina is now,” replied Raphael. “I find the relatively casual life of people here with its slower pace preferable to that of the strict protocol and expectations exercised by members of the courts of Maia and Airus. Even when I lived on Sirust, I did not pay much mind to the mores of my culture, ignoring custom in the manner of my dress. I really didn’t have time to expend on what I deemed as trivialities.”

“Well, you have always presented as a rather unique person, my lord, and now as you grow older and more powerful, people have mostly come to accept you as you are, despite their expectations,” commented Raimundo with a grin.

For the most part… I still can disturb Lord Efrem with my some of my behavior around him. However, I will say his beautiful niece, my new mate, is adjusting quite well to her change of circumstances. We are well-suited,” said Raphael with a smile. “And now, I should go seek her out and make sure she is settling back into life here at home. Thank you for our talk, Master Tzulo, Uncle. I appreciate your input always.”

The next day, Francis and Ella returned to Medina to some fanfare. Francis had contacted Raphael via telepathy to let him know their viscar was approaching Medina, so he went outside with Gareth and several other people to greet the newlywed couple. As their viscar pulled up before the golden gate, Raphael led a cheer, that was augmented by the gardeners and staff who working in the garden. Francis leapt out of the viscar and then carefully handed out his beautiful new mate, the Lady Ella. He shouted, “Oh, it’s so good to be back, but we had a wonderful time on Towan, Father! How was Jolf?”

“Wonderful – I love Jolf and enjoyed having time to spent with Lord Mathdis and his family. Now, Gareth has some news to share with you once you get settled,” replied Raphael. “How would you like some tea, Lady Ella?”

“Oh, I would love some! Thank you… Father Raphael!” replied Lady Ella with a sweet smile. She put her hand out, which was gallantly kissed by Raphael and then by Gareth. Ella gave another smile and said, somewhat mischievously, “Hmm, our shy Gareth does have some news… Well, let us go inside and sit down for the tea you just promised! There is so much to share!”

Once inside, the party settled down in the comfortable family rooms. Gareth went to the kitchen to fetch some tea and refreshments and soon returned with a huge tray. Ella laughed with delight and teased Francis, “Your good friend and cousin is very useful since he can carry so much!”

Appearing relaxed and at ease, Gareth grinned and set down the tray carefully. Then, he gave Francis and Lady Ella very precise court bows and waited to be addressed. Francis stared at him and then caught on, saying, “Oh, Master Tzulo has been teaching you court etiquette, hasn’t he?”

“Yes, cousin, he has!” replied Gareth with a grin. “He wants me to do it automatically, so it appears natural and puts people at ease.”

“Good idea – with just your great height, you could frighten some people by walking into a room!” snorted Francis. “Or attract every feminine eye your way when you wear one of those new suits that Lord Efrem and Master Polaño have outfitted you with, Gareth!”

Lady Ella looked a bit impatient and asked, “So, what news do you have to share with us, Gareth?”

Gareth glanced over to Raphael, who gave him a nod of assent. He replied, “Lord Raphael has contracted me to mate his youngest daughter, Lady Remilla of Jolf!”

Francis looked astonished… and delighted. He exclaimed, “That will make us… brothers, Gareth! Oh, Lady Ella. I don’t think I’ve really spoken to my younger cousin in many years. Did you speak to her recently in Jolf, my lord?”

“Yes, Francis – and it was there I realized there was a pre-existing soul connection between Gareth and Remilla,” replied Raphael. “I put the idea to Remilla who was delighted.” He turned to Gareth and commented, “Remilla said she has been in love with Gareth since she was a little girl.”

Lady Ella was pleased to see Lord Raphael was still in the process of weaving and strengthening his family ties to powerful families, this time with the Dino Family, as Gareth was now a Dino heir. She commented, “That is wonderful news, my lord, Gareth – now when and where will this latest mating take place, and where?”

Raphael had yet another surprise and decided to share it with Francis and Ella as they sipped their tea, so he replied, “Gareth and Remilla will celebrate their mating ceremony here in this ancient house like I did with Lorenna and previously with Lady Julia, your cousin, Lady Ella. And then – the very next day, the cousin of Francis, the Lady Sabina of Milan will be mated to Lord Da’vid of Ostta, Airus, here in the Shemont.”

Francis was quite astonished to hear this news as he knew of his cousin’s devotion to her vocation. “Brilliant, my lord – how did you manage that score? And score it is, binding yet two more powerful Houses together through mating.”

“Well, apparently your cousin and my niece, Lady Sabina, possesses one of the more powerful Light gifts of the VaCoupe Family, the Gift of Foresight or Seership. When she gave her answer to Lady Sophia that she would gladly accept the offer, she said that I, of all people, would understand as she was a Seer,” replied Raphael with a smile. “I think your cousin must have known that someday, she would partner with a powerful man and be there to guide and advise him. Lady Ella, as you know very well, Lord Da’vid is very new to his position, the administration of the planetary government, which has been in much disarray no thanks to the machinations of its former leader, my elder cousin, Lord Michael Kadish. Da’vid will need a strong-willed, intelligent, and disciplined mate to lend her strength and support to his efforts. Lady Sabina is to be that woman. Lord Da’vid was also pleased to know that she does not have any Airian blood. She is not even related to me except through my adoption into the VaCoupe Family. However, given our strong ties to the House of Dino, two more families are to be more strongly aligned… the VaCoupe and Kadish Families.”

Lady Ella clapped her hands to show her delight and proclaimed, “Oh, well done, my lord, well done! With two strategic moves, you have strengthened the likelihood that Francis will be able to assume his true place as Lord of the Pleiades sooner than later!”

Raphael was pleased and replied, “Francis, you have a real gem in your new lady. She has an intuitive understanding of politics as it is played in our Federation.”

Master Li Tzulo and the two Veyan physicians walked into the room, bowed to the newcomers, and sat down. Master Li looked over at Francis and reminded him, “Master Francis – you’ll have to start your studies, again, tomorrow. Gareth has been working hard for the past two weeks while the rest of you have been off playing!”

Francis blushed while Lady Ella looked pleased. She murmured, “Yes, playing… we got to know each other much better, Master Li Tzulo. And you… will you be continuing as the mentor for these two young men?”

“No, my lady – I will probably be wrapping up my work here about the time Lord Raphael returns to Alyona. However, until then, expect me to work Francis and Gareth very hard. Then, my teaching responsibilities will be handed over to both Master Leu and Master Mei Li,” replied Master Li. “I want to retire and return home to Vey. Raphael will take us all to Alyona where I can pick up a transport to Vey or the nearest mothership.”

“We’ll miss you, Master Li Tzulo; your patience, wisdom, and brilliance,” commented Raphael. “Especially, your patience when it has come to dealing with all the problems that have come up during the course of this lifetime for me alone, never mind all the other students you have instructed.”

Master Li gave a sweet smile and replied, “Raphael – you’ve always been a special case. I’ve been honored to be present during some of those ‘issues’ and assisting you and your family to solve them.”

At that moment, two young women entered the family room. Gareth abruptly stood up as he recognized the daughters of Raphael. However, he only had eyes for the dark-haired daughter of Lord Raphael… his intended… the Lady Remilla. He went up to her and gave her a full court bow and turned to Raphael, “My lord, could you give me the pleasure of introducing these two young ladies?”

Raphael smiled as he discerned the blushes on Remilla’s face. He acquiesced graciously to Gareth’s request by beginning the introductions, “Master Gareth – this blonde lady is Arianna, my eldest daughter…”

Then, he was suddenly interrupted by Remilla, who got up and went over to Gareth, put out her hand to be kissed, as she boldly added, “And, Master Gareth, I am your intended, Lady Remilla of Jolf!”

“Remilla!” Raphael admonished his daughter for her forward behavior and then grinned, as the pair, Remilla and Gareth were standing hand in hand staring at each other in a daze. Still, conventions needed to be followed, so he took Remilla’s hand and then Arianna’s and guided the two young women out of the family room. He began to admonish his wayward daughter, “Remilla! There will be no further liberties until you are properly mated with Gareth. It is clear, however, that there is deep regard already existing between the two of you. Knowing that pleases me very much. Now, if you persist in misbehaving, I will send both of you girls back to the Shemont to remain there until your mating day, Lady Remilla! Arianna, since you are the eldest, I charge you with watching out for your sister’s behavior in the next three weeks!”

“Three weeks!” Remilla sighed. “Oh, only three weeks to finish my dress and I need to have to visit with Mother Lorenna for fittings! Father, can I come to the house? I’ll behave, I promise!”

“Daughter – you’re acting like a little girl, not a highly trained priestess. Three weeks will go by quickly. You can come to the house, but you will be required to remain in the presence of Lady Lorenna at all times. If necessary, I will assign an Eagle escort to see that you get to your destination at the end of each visit,” replied Raphael. Then, he added in a lower voice that Master Li overheard, “I begin to understand Lord Efrem’s concerns before Lorenna and I were mated!”

“It’s part of being the parent of a beautiful young woman who is already madly in love,” replied the wise teacher Master Li.

Indeed,” said Raphael.

Fortunately for Remilla, the three weeks sped by. All that needed to be accomplished were completed, including the finishing touches on ‘the dress’. The garden and house spruced up for the next set of visitors who would be arriving after the end of High Council. Raphael was expecting a delegation from Maia escorting the Lady Sabina, which would, no doubt, include Lord Adamos, Lord Efrem, Lady Sabina’s parents – Roméo and Lady Astrig VaCoupe, and perhaps some of the younger sons or nephews of Lord Dino; Claudine Vanairus, King Stephanus, and Lady Arla; as well as the delegation from Airus, which would include Lord Da’vid and possibly Lord Pietro and other related diplomats of Airus.

The mating ceremony for Gareth Dino and his intended, Remilla Kantor-VaCoupe would take place first inside the audience room of the ancient VaCoupe house. Then, the following day, there would be another mating ceremony held in the Shemont, with a large reception for guests held afterward either in the garden or in the audience room, depending on the weather.

Remilla was delighted to find out that she and Gareth would have the opportunity to visit Towan, the traditional location for VaCoupe honeymoons. In contrast, Lady Sabina would be returning to Airus with her new mate, Lord Da’vid Kadish, there to spend their honeymoon in one of the Kadish Family country estates located outside of Ostta. 

Raphael was outside enjoying the garden with the children when he heard voices outside the golden gate, an indication that the first visitors had arrived in Medina some two days before the mating ceremony for Gareth and Remilla. Gathering up young Daniel in his arms, Raphael strode towards the gate, closely followed by Felipe. Outside the gate, there was Lord Adamos and Lord Efrem, in the process of climbing out of their viscar which had brought them from the space port. Adamos sensed Raphael’s presence and gave him a loud ‘Hallo, cousin!”

Felipe opened the gate for the visitors, stopping to give each lord a careful salute and beautiful smile as he straightened up. 

Adamos stared up at the Eagle for a moment and then noticed Raphael standing nearby with little Daniel in his arms. He commented, “Is this your latest child, Lord Raphael – from Lady Julia? He is beautiful – a copy of his handsome father!”

Raphael nodded as he stroked Daniel’s silky hair, and replied, “Yes, this is Daniel; he is over a year old now. How was your journey?”

“Mercifully short – we caught a military shuttle out of Alyona courtesy of Adrigus, who will be arriving with Claudine’s party, along with his Aide, Commander Semmas – you do remember him, don’t you?” answered Adamos with a laugh. He came up to Raphael, who gave him a simple nod since he was holding the child. Adamos gazed into Daniel’s beautiful eyes and sighed, “Those eyes, that remarkable color! I wonder if any of your children with my sister will be as beautiful as this one…”

“Only time will tell, my lord,” replied Raphael with a slight grin.

Adamos gave Raphael a puzzled look and then suddenly comprehended, “Raphael – that was quick work! Can I expect a little nephew or niece within a year?”

“Yes, my lord – we are sure now. My Veyan physicians have confirmed my intuition and that of Lorenna, herself,” replied the proud father-to-be.

An excited Adamos waved his uncle, Lord Efrem, over to stand with Raphael and himself, “Uncle, you’ll never guess – Lady Lorenna is already pregnant! You will be getting a new grandnephew or grandniece within the year. And look at this beautiful child… young Daniel?”

The very proper Lord Efrem looked rather uncomfortable having his niece’s physical condition discussed in front of the nearby gardeners, but Raphael intuited his concern and commented, “By now, Lord Efrem, everyone in the house and village knows. The anticipated arrival of a new family member is reason to rejoice here in Medina. Our people here are quite telepathic, and the staff are villagers, so word gets out. Lady Lorenna is supremely happy, as you will see soon! Now, my lords, can I invite you into the house for some tea and refreshments or would you like to remain outdoors while the weather is still fine?”

Lord Efrem grimaced slightly – he considered the Medinian natives as a tribal people, somewhat below his consideration. Still, he was cognizant enough to refrain from making a loud derisive comment on Raphael’s doorstep. He gave a short bow, and replied, “I think I would like to go inside and see my rooms. Do I have the same suite as last time?”

“I don’t know, my lord; you will have to check in with Master Polaño, Lord Raimundo, or Commander DeAires. I’m not in charge of housekeeping here, Efrem,” replied Raphael with a hard look. “Now, Adamos, where is my niece? And did my brother, Master Roméo and Lady Astrig come with you?”

“Here we are, Brother,” said Roméo as he strode into the garden, with Lady Astrig on his arm. Roméo came up and gave Raphael a pat on his shoulder as his brother was still holding Daniel in his arms. Raphael gave a slight bow to Lady Astrig and kissed her proffered hand, while commenting, “It is so good to see you both, again! I am glad you were able to attend these upcoming ceremonies, of my daughter and yours! What an exciting time!”

Lady Astrig knew who had made the arrangements for their daughter and bent forward giving Raphael a kiss on his cheek as she murmured quietly, “Thank you, Raphael, for this… I never expected Sabina to wed, but now… she is mating with the ruler of Airus!”

“Indeed, my lady, and to think I’ve known her since she was but a child in your arms, Astrig! Where is Sabina?”

“She was in another viscar and should be here soon, Brother,” replied Roméo, looking around at his birthplace home. He commented, “The gardens are looking well. Have you managed to get out and do any gardening since you’ve been home?”

“No, I’ve been too busy with other things – like arranging for the matings of our two daughters!” replied Raphael with a grin.

Astrig admired little Daniel and commented, “Daniel seems to be thriving, Raphael. Your boys do grow so fast!”

“I know – he is getting heavy, but I still love to carry him when I can,” replied Raphael.

There was a stir as the great double entry doors of the house opened wide. Out emerged Francis VaCoupe and his first cousin, Gareth Vanderis Dino. Both young men approached the group near the gate, stopped, and gave very correct court bows to both Adamos and Efrem. They waited quietly for the Maian lords to address them or not. Adamos looked over at Raphael, who shrugged in response and explained, “They have both been taking etiquette lessons from Master Li Tzulo. You’re supposed to address them now, my lord!”

“Oh, sorry! It is so good to see you, Francis! I see you survived your honeymoon. Where is Lady Ella now? And Gareth – every time I see you, your manner of dress has improved considerably. Very impressive. Efrem, take a look at your grandson! Isn’t he grand?” Adamos was his relaxed bubbly self and very pleased to be participating in the upcoming celebrations. Then, he remembered himself and turned around, looking for his niece, “Sabina, dear, where are you?”

Several of the males present gasped audibly when a dark-haired vision gracefully glided through the golden gate. If Sabina had been beautiful as a child, she was breathlessly beautiful as an adult. Sabina ignored her Maian uncle and granduncle and came directly up to Raphael, who was still standing next to her parents and gave him a pretty curtsy and immediately commented on the child, saying, “Uncle Raphael – it has been too long. Is this your youngest son, Daniel, from Lady Julia? He has beautiful eyes, my lord. Ah, it is pleasant to be in Medina after so long. Has my intended arrived here yet?”

“No, the Airian delegation has not yet arrived, niece. They should be here either later today or tomorrow early on one of the first shuttles,” replied Raphael. “Now, Sabina, may I re-introduce you to your two cousins – Francis and Gareth? You may remember Gareth was one of my Eagles while my family lived in Jolf. Francis and Gareth, give your relatives a proper bow!”

Francis and Gareth first gave bows to Sabina’s parents, who accepted them graciously. Then, Roméo commented, “I want to talk to you later, Brother – but now, I think Astrig, and I will find our suite and change. Thank goodness it isn’t as hot as it can get here sometimes! Sabina – we’ll leave you with your Uncle Raphael for now.”

Raphael replied, “I’ll see you later, then!” as the couple moved off and into the house.

Left with her uncle Raphael, Sabina looked around with some curiosity, namely at her cousin Francis and Gareth. Then, spurred on by a subtle signal from Raphael, the unlikely tandem of cousins stepped up to Lady Sabina and gave her a deep courtly bow. She smiled and extended a hand first to Francis to kiss, which he did with great gusto as he remarked, “It is wonderful to see you here, Lady Sabina! And here is our ‘new’ cousin, Gareth Vanderis Dino. Great uncle Efrem adopted him only about a month ago, so Gareth is still getting used to being a Dino and a member of the family. And we’re both undertaking training on being lords from Master Li Tzulo, a former mentor of your uncle, Lord Raphael-.”

“Ah, I see – Gareth, it is nice to meet you. I do remember seeing you in Jolf… who could possibly miss one of Lord Raphael’s Eagles! I am pleased you have been given the opportunity to join our family… finally,” commented Sabina. “I understand that you are about to celebrate your own mating to a daughter of Lord Raphael, Lady Remilla? I remember her as a pretty dark-haired cousin of mine from Jolf. She is now a priestess like me?”

“Yes, my lady – she took instruction from Lady Bettina and Lady Anna, your grandmother by mating to Lord VaCoupe,” replied Gareth politely. Although Gareth thought Sabina was very beautiful, he found he was quite happy to be mating Remilla, who was a very sweet and grounded individual. Sabina was somewhat daunting; he sensed she was a powerful psychic not unlike her adopted uncle, Lord Raphael.

Sabina gave a knowing glance to Gareth, which brought a blush to his darkly tanned countenance. Sparing him any further attention, she turned back to Raphael and addressed him directly, “Uncle, would you mind escorting me into the house? Could your Eagle Felipe take young Daniel for a few minutes? I have some things to share with you.”

Raphael nodded to his niece and called Felipe over, “Could you return little Daniel to Maryam and Martea? Thank you, Felipe.” He then took his niece by her arm and led her into the great house. “Welcome to Medina, Sabina. It is so good to see you after so long.”

“It has been a long time, Uncle – but, I’ve been preparing… Can we find a quiet corner somewhere?”

“Oh, yes – I think most of the study rooms should be deserted right now with most of the household preparing dinner and the older children taking naps,” replied Raphael. He pointed the way, “Shall we?”

One of Raphael’s other Eagles, the great Feline Milo noted Raphael’s destination and signed the lord that he would fetch some tea and refreshments. Raphael delivered Sabina to a comfortable chair and then sat down near her. He turned to her and said, “Milo, one of my other Eagles, will be bringing tea and refreshments, my dear. Now, what do you have to say? You hinted that you are a Seer and have had precognitive visions?”

“Yes, Uncle – I will confess to say that I’ve had visions ever since childhood, but once I started on the path of becoming a priestess, the visions only became stronger,” replied Sabina. 

Raphael noticed that she was acting a little nervous, pulling at her gown with one hand and looking down at her lap. “You can speak freely to me, Niece – you do know that I’ve also had visions since childhood, some that have been quite distressing. Now, what have you seen that impelled you to decide to mate Lord Da’vid?”

“When I began to see myself in the company of a man, I didn’t actually know who he was, Uncle Raphael. It wasn’t until Lady Anna sent the telepathic image to Lady Sophia, which my high priestess passed onto me that I realized Lord Da’vid was the man I had been seeing in my visions for years,” replied Lady Sabina. She glanced up at her uncle, her dark blue eyes sparkling with unshed tears. “When I learned of his name, I did some investigating and found out that he had been a field geologist, working on the Starship Project. I also sensed that he was very sensitive and shy, determined to stay out of the limelight until he was thrust into it by the execution of his older brother and then his father. I was able to travel through some of his Akashic records and found out why he refused to go home to Airus. You know… having suffered through a horrible childhood, being imprisoned, and used by your own father. Da’vid escaped a similar fate by leaving when he was very young and refusing to go home to visit his family. And Da’vid was fearful that if he ever had children, his parent would seize them and sell them to the dark lords to use as once you were, Uncle. It was horrifying to learn and see these things, but I have come into a deeper understanding of both you and Lord Da’vid. And now, I can be of assistance to Da’vid as he learns to govern Airus with me at his side. Like you, although we do not share a blood relationship, there is a higher relationship in the Light that has guided me to strengthen my gifts so I might be of assistance to not only Lord Da’vid but also to his people who have also suffered at the hands of some of his own family members. You have met Lord Da’vid in person, Uncle?”

“I have, Sabina. Most recently, he attended the mating ceremony for Francis and Lady Ella Kadish Frañcom, who is a cousin of David and me. And before that, I met him in Ostta when he was made a lord after the execution of his father, Michael Kadish. However, the very first time I met him, was years ago at the onset of the Starship Project, and yes, he was a member of the geologist team in charge of discovering the sites for mining the various raw materials that were required for building our ships,” replied Raphael. He paused as Milo entered the room. 

Sabina started when she noticed Milo. As a Feline he could move very silently but trod a little heavier than usual to alert Raphael of his approach. He put down the tray and gave Sabina a deep courtly bow and a toothy grin, “My lady? Here is some tea – one of Flora’s recipes – and some cookies and fruit pudding. Welcome to Medina, my lady.”

“Ah, niece – this is one of my three Feline Eagles, Milo. He is usually accompanied by his partner, Loki. Impressive, eh? And extremely loyal. You might suggest that Lord Da’vid hire some Felines to act as personal guards for the Airian court. They would create a sensation for starters!” Raphael grinned and signed Milo to stand outside the room. The Feline Eagle nodded and positioned himself in the doorway just out of hearing range… for normal people.

Sabina glanced after the Feline and took a deep breath. “Uncle – I was there, with you as a Feline! I have seen some of it. The flights were amazing. And yet, here I am on Medina once again to start a new life with a stranger.”

“You will find Lord Da’vid is no stranger to your soul, my dear niece, as I discovered when I mated my Julia. We had known each other forever and knew how to communicate often without words,” replied Raphael. “The union of soulmates is to be unmatched and when both individuals are from high frequency families, well, it can be quite magical. I know that Da’vid is very sensitive, loyal, intelligent, and extremely shy at times. Despite this, he is endeavoring to learn his craft as a statesman. It is a big challenge for him, but with you at his side lending your support and occasional guidance, he will discover true courage and grow tremendously as the leader poor Airus needs badly.”

“I hope I can help him, work with him, acting as a partner not just a long-suffering mate,” replied Sabina firmly. “I don’t want to be relegated to being ‘just’ a mate and a brood mare, but to be a full partner to Lord Da’vid. I know that I am bound to twitch a few Airian noses in the process, but I want to utilize my gifts for the good of all of the people, not just a privileged few who happen to live in Ostta!”

“Excellent – help is certainly needed. I know I noted many disparities that were glaringly apparent to me as an outsider, but completely overlooked by even my honest and hardworking former father-in-law, Lord Pietro – a gentleman whom you will also be meeting soon. He was Julia’s father and is now Lord Da’vid’s mentor and head of the administrative portion of the Airian government,” said Raphael. “I know I intend to encourage Francis to become more involved in guiding the various planetary governments to pay more attention to the plight of their ordinary citizens than to those who exercise power and authority due to their birth status. I have witnessed the intended misuse of power in my own family members, both blood and adopted, and am frankly skeptical of highly positioned people who misrule their people.”

“Oh… yes, Uncle Esturias… May I ask where he is these days, Uncle?” inquired Sabina. 

Yes – since my father is not here to insist on keeping to the original sentence handed down at my brother’s trial, I have moved Esturias home. He was literally dying in prison. I could not see that being done to someone whom I love – even though he greatly wronged not just myself, Father, and your father, Roméo, but also our people’s future. Since Father removed him from the family, he no longer carries the VaCoupe name, nor has he retained his former position as a commander. He is one of our under-gardeners and goes by the name of Nemo; you may just see him working in the garden with his fellows. Do not attempt to speak to him; he probably wouldn’t recognize you at any rate, not having seen you since you were a small child,” replied Raphael.

Oh, bringing your former brother here was an act of great compassion, Uncle. You were greatly wronged and if you had not foreseen the coup, you would have probably died as a result,” commented Sabina.

That is what I felt at the time, too, Sabina. Now, I want to thank you for your courage in sharing your insights, visions, and dreams with me, my dear,” replied Raphael. “I will be sure to include you in sensitive discussions when it comes to seeing that your cousin, Master Francis, takes his rightful place as Lord of the Pleiades.”

“Is there any question of him not doing so, Uncle?” Sabina seemed momentarily puzzled by his statement and then she knew to whom he was referring… “Oh, Aunt Claudine. Is all of this new power beginning to go to her head?”

“Well, she is now claiming that she was the sole savioress of the Pleiades due to her taking down the Dark Lord, which is a ridiculous claim,” replied Raphael. “She managed to take down one man with a flick of her finger, but it took thousands of men and ships from our Fleet and those of our allies, the Ashkerians, to take down the five massive fleets that were about to attack our largest and most heavily populated worlds with the intention of raping, pillaging, and destroying everything they could not carry away. One does not destroy a whole fleet of powerful starships with one flick of a finger no matter how powerful the individual.”

Sabina looked very thoughtful at this revelation and its possible impact on the future of the Federation. She replied, “Ah, I understand, Uncle. This is something we will have to watch into the future as Francis completes his training. You are going to still keep control over his mentorship?”

“Yes, legally I have the right to do so now, as I am now his stepfather, mated to his birth mother,” replied Raphael. “If I have to keep Francis here on Medina to ensure his safety, I will do so. And when he is ready, which should be in in a matter of years, not decades – I want to be sure there is enough support from other leaders, in and out of the command, to make it possible for a smooth transition from the regency to Francis assuming his heritage as Lord of the Pleiades.”

Sabina looked around at the room and said, “It is interesting being here, again, after so long, Uncle. Where is my Aunt Lorenna now? How is she adapting to living in Medina?”

“Oh, she’s been kept busy these past two weeks, designing and sewing a dress for Remilla. It is going to be a masterpiece. Then, she’ll have to start on sewing some baby clothes…” replied Raphael with a grin.

Oh, Uncle! That’s wonderful! You’re going to have a child together? That is something I have to look forward, too,” commented Sabina. “Fortunately, I have been given in-depth training on what to expect, how to raise children, run a household… things you probably didn’t imagine a priestess needs to know – however, many priestesses do choose to mate, and they also often counsel women who are about to be mated.”

Raphael smiled, grateful to know that Sabina was about as prepared as she could get before taking this huge step.  “I wish you good fortune, dear Sabina. I know Da’vid is a kind, gentle man, unlike his sire and elder brother. You will have an opportunity to observe and participate in an intricate society in Ostta. And you can always visit one of the country estates if life in the city grows old or you just need some fresh air. It is rather tropical there, which is different from the climate in Milan. It was rather hot and steamy when we were there during their summer months. I’m told winter is a bit cooler and rainy.”

“Well, we all have to adjust, don’t we, Uncle,” replied Sabina. “Now, I would like to see my Aunt Lorenna and then get settled in my room. It was a long flight from Alyona.”

“Certainly – I have other things to attend to, so I will have Milo direct you to where Lorenna is at work,” replied Raphael as he began to stand up. He signed Milo to take his niece anywhere she wanted. Milo nodded and waited for Sabina. 

Raphael wanted to see if anyone else had arrived at the house yet besides the Maian party, so he ventured out into the family rooms. There, he saw Adamos deep in discussion with Master Li Tzulo. As he approached the two men, Adamos stood up and stepped forward, patting Raphael on his shoulder, commenting, “I hear from Master Li that you were the one who made the arrangements for this brilliant mating arrangement between Lord Da’vid Kadish and our niece, Lady Sabina Dino VaCoupe.”

“Yes, I knew my cousin Da’vid was rather resistant to mating with a young lady from Airus, but then it finally occurred to me that I had a beautiful young niece living in Milan who might be interested in mating a man of some prestige. Lady Anna put the question to Lady Sophia whether Sabina would even consider being wedded, and she answered in the affirmative,” replied Raphael. “Things just fell into place after that. Do you have the signed contracts with you?”

“Yes, they are both in my luggage – I’ll fetch them before dinner for you. Could I drop them off in your rooms, Raphael?” Adamos paused and looked around, commenting, “I can see how you like it here better than in Milan and Alyona. It is a much more casual atmosphere, although I’ve seen your people put on a large and impressive reception just recently, haven’t I?”

“Well, this is the home of the Lord of the Pleiades, Adamos,” replied Raphael. “We may be a simple people, a desert people, but we are hardly barbarians like your uncle Efrem seems to think!”

“Ah – the man’s nose is a little out of whack with me beginning to assert myself more in the governance of Milan and elsewhere on the planet. He’s not used to someone actually working in our family!” Adamos’ voice reflected his amusement, but also his resolve to prove a good leader for his people.

Understood – well, he already knows that your sister Lorenna is pregnant, by me, so the mating cannot be dissolved now, nor would we want it to be. Lorenna and I are quite content. I didn’t know what to expect with a second mating, but it has proved to be an enriching experience for the both of us, having gone through so much loss and trauma,” explained Raphael. “I am thankful that my life is more peaceful now. I will be returning to Alyona in a couple of months, but plan to work there only part-time, conducting much of my business from Medina.”

“Well, until Francis becomes the Lord, you are the lord of this household and town by right, Raphael,” replied Adamos. “I am sure your people appreciate it when you are here.”

“I’ve enjoyed it for a change. I had a challenging first couple of months going through the healing regime my two Veyan physicians put me through, but I can say that I feel so much better now,” commented Raphael. “It is good to see you, Adamos. I hope you are enjoying your challenging new position in Milan.”

“It has its benefits as you can well imagine. Efrem keeps throwing young ladies my direction, but I am getting rather apt at side-stepping the offers,” said Adamos, throwing his golden blonde head back in a laugh. “Maybe I should have you act as matchmaker; you certainly have worked magic with these upcoming alliances, Raphael.”

“Thank you, Adamos – you might always consider one of Lord VaCoupe and Lady Anna’s twins, the Ladies Tina and Nina. Curiously enough, both of them are working on Morova right now out of the great Temple of Post Ton in PoLiafee, where my mother used to serve,” replied Raphael. “They’re both white blondes, tall, and slender like their father… although I must admit I have not seen them in person since they were children.”

“Hmmm, perhaps I will request your sister, Claudine, to invite her half-sisters to Alyona so we can all become acquainted with them? Are you going to tour Morova sometime, too?” inquired Adamos.

Yes, for personal reasons and I want to see for myself how well the people are handling the post-war era,” replied Raphael. “I know I may experience some difficulties being there where I was subjected to so much abuse, but it must be faced, now or in another life. I would rather get it over.”

“You’re braver than I am, Raphael – I admire you for your forthright qualities and determination to move through things that other people shy away from. Speaking of challenges, you will still be mentoring Francis into the foreseeable future, am I right?” asked Adamos, looking around to see if anyone else was within hearing distance. Only Loki was standing near one of the doors observing the room and its entrances.

Yes, I take that duty quite seriously. I want Francis to be proven a good, if not a great leader into the future. I am forming an informal council to advise him, before and after he assumes the Lordship. I want a consensus on when Francis should become lord – which will probably sooner than Claudine is willing to let go of her control of the governance of the Federation,” replied Raphael.

Ah, I was wondering about that – well, count me in, Raphael. Francis is my nephew, but he is also an intelligent young man who will be, by the time he takes his office, highly trained specifically in the position by talented and experienced mentors,” commented Adamos. “Not only that, but Francis is fortunate to have you and the Veyan masters for his mentors, who can instruct him on how to read frequencies, body language, and other skills that are often overlooked in preparing a leader to lead.”

“Indeed – which reminds me, we probably need a new class for both Gareth and Francis on reading frequencies,” replied Raphael. “I gave one to Francis and Adarius years ago, but both men have matured and probably have not particularly focused on refining or using what they had learned so soon after their father was tried and convicted.”

“It sounds like both of these young men will be well-prepared for their future positions, whenever they are able to assume them. Will Gareth continue to remain in the company of Francis? Uncle Efrem is concerned that Gareth will ultimately refuse to take up residence in Maia, despite the fact that he will inherit the lordship after his grandfather passes,” said Adamos.

What Gareth decides to do will be entirely up to him. However, I will encourage him to continue to be an adviser for Francis, up until and after Francis assumes the lordship. Gareth probably should make some reasonable effort to visit Maia and become more acquainted with the culture there. Milan is a beautiful city. I know I enjoyed it once the rebellion was put down, at least while we were there on our visit,” replied Raphael. “I do know that Lorenna and I will make some time to visit ourselves, to see you in Milan, and for me to become more acquainted with my distant cousins there, the Dinos.”

“We would be honored and thrilled to sponsor your stay at the Dino’s palace in Milan, of course, Raphael! I know my nephew Rafalas was quite taken with you and your men, especially the great Felines.

“We give a visit due consideration, but first, I need to go to Morova…,” replied Raphael.

Just then Gareth, Francis, and Lord Efrem entered into the family room. The three men were wrangling a bit about something which sparked Raphael’s curiosity, considering what he had just shared earlier about Gareth not wanting to keep his residence in Milan, Maia. “No, Grandfather, I will not move to Milan. I may be a Dino, but I am not going to be bullied by you or any other older member of the family!” Gareth was livid, but he kept his voice moderated.

It must be the stubborn BerWarian in you, young man, that you dare defy me, your elder!” snapped Efrem, losing his temper.

The Veyan masters entered the room, perhaps drawn by the ‘discussion’ or just to observe the interaction between the new grandfather and his ‘stubborn’ grandson. 

Raphael wanted to defend Gareth but refrained. It was up to the young man to establish himself as being independent of his grandfather, despite the fact that they were now officially related. Raphael had had such quarrels with his own adopted father, Lord Demetrius, when the latter became incensed or irritated that his son wouldn’t immediately obey and follow his wishes. Raphael was actually able to grin while observing the similar scenario playing out between Gareth and his grandfather. 

A thoroughly irritated Efrem noticed the smile on Raphael’s face and suddenly turned on him, too, “What are you smirking at, Lord Raphael?”

Raphael actually grinned at this rebuff and calmly replied, “I’m seeing myself and Lord Demetrius having a similar ‘disagreement’ over whether I should live in Medina or remain in Jolf. I won. And in the end, we both won when circumstances changed… for both of us.”

Adamos spoke up, too, while Efrem’s face went from pink to red, “Uncle, Master Gareth has proven himself to be quite capable of independent thinking. He is currently being instructed in the responsibilities of lordship by competent mentors including Master Li Tzulo, his son Master Leu, and Master Mei Li Zang, all from Vey. As Francis VaCoupe’s acknowledged first cousin, he would naturally wish to align himself with the VaCoupe Family and their future. If you would just back off a little and allow Gareth to make his own determinations, he might be more willing to comply with some of your demands. However, a word from the wise, Uncle… make those demands suggestions instead. Gareth is a hard-headed highly trained warrior. He will align himself with the one whom he wishes to protect and that someone right now is his first cousin, Master Francis VaCoupe, who is, if I have to remind you, a great-nephew of yours, Efrem!”

Lord Efrem looked stunned at what he deemed his nephew’s effrontery and replied, “Well, I never… hmmmuph!” and stomped from the room.

Adamos looked up at Gareth and grinned, “You certainly have a way of getting under your grandfather’s skin, Gareth! It’s about time someone twitched his nose a bit. He was basically in control of the entire governance of Milan under his brother, Lord Dino. Now that I’m in charge, things are going to change… for the benefit of all the people! Keep up with your schooling, Gareth. If you are needed in Milan for anything, you will know the time to travel there. It is not now. Your cousin needs you near him.”

“I agree,” added Raphael quietly. “Now, gentlemen, what was Efrem demanding of you besides wanting Gareth or perhaps both of you to live in Milan – something that is not going to happen in Francis’ case. As the future Lord of the Pleiades, his home is here in Medina.”

“Apparently Efrem is having second thoughts about the mating of Gareth and Lady Remilla, my lord,” replied Master Mei Li, entering the conversation.

He what!” roared Gareth. Apparently, Lord Efrem had not actually stated that opinion aloud. “If that is the kind of game he is playing, I want nothing to do with him, grandfather or no!”

“Oh, oh… Gareth is slow to anger, because it is a righteous anger. Lord Efrem will regret this… mistake,” suggested Raphael.

I am plighted to wed Lady Remilla and I will!” stated Gareth after he had taken a few deep breaths, realizing that he was becoming extremely upset. “I will appeal to Lady Amethyst to make it so if necessary! Can my grandfather prevent me from uniting with Remilla, Lord Raphael?”

“Not now – the contracts have been written up, signed, and the seals stamped upon them,” replied Francis, interjecting his opinion. “The only way such a contract could be broken at this late date would be for one or another of the involved parties to commit a crime and to be tried in court or before selected members of the High Council. Since nothing of the kind has occurred, there is no legal standing for Efrem to make a complaint at this time… at least that’s my opinion. Master Li, what do you say about this?”

“Well, since Lord Efrem has not actually verbally threatened to do such a thing – we’ll have to accept that he signed the contracts out of good faith. If he is currently experiencing some doubts about the arrangement, it is due to his own fear of change. He appears to be frustrated in his inability to exert control over your behavior and choices, Master Gareth. I sense this feeling is sourced from a sense of deep shame that he knew nothing of the existence of his own son until long after the young man’s death. I wouldn’t attempt to attack Lord Efrem now just because he happens to hold a different opinion about what should be your future involvement in family affairs in Milan. He is still getting used to the idea that he even has a grandson – and one whom he has not had any hand in molding into the image of what he believes a gentleman of Milan and the Dino Family should be,” replied Master Tzulo with calm, even tones, even as the other Veyan masters sent calming energies to Gareth. “Lord Efrem is obviously challenged by your very existence, something you cannot alter. He will have to adjust accordingly to this learning opportunity that has been presented to him in your person. Gareth – I know you will hold fast to your own beliefs, opinions, and thoughts and that is right. Lord Efrem is not wrong – he just needs to learn he has no right to attempt to control you or interfere with your future plans. I hope for his sake that he will learn to adjust and that you will both will be able to communicate at a more mature level, but right now, it is best for you to continue with your schooling alongside Francis.”

Gareth had sat down and concentrated on taking some deeper breaths to bring himself more into a state of balance – where a warrior needed to be in case, he was called into immediate action. As a sensitive, Raphael observed the former Eagle as he released his anger and reaction engendered from this most recent encounter with his grandfather. Gareth finally shook out the tension in his hands and neck and gave Adamos a determined look, stating with great emphasis, “Oh, Lord Efrem may have ruled Milan for how many years… but he will never rule me! I am a free man and will make my own choices. My grandfather cannot EVER bribe or bully me. I will endeavor to treat him politely, but if he ever states aloud his opinion regarding my mating to Lady Remilla, I swear I will NEVER ever go back to Milan until after he is dead!”

“Shall I convey your thoughts to my uncle, Gareth,” inquired Adamos, “After all, I am now his lord – something else he is having to adjust to whether or not he likes it. His brother was killed and so was my elder brother. Lord Raphael knows what it feels like to suddenly lose family members that you were counting on and simply having to adjust and change your expectations as best you can. Change is the only thing we can truly count on in life – we will always be faced with challenges, whether major or minor. In the grand scheme of things, all that matters is how we view these changes and manage our reactions to them. We can resist or we can flow. In my position of Lord Dino, Gareth, I am requesting that you remain here with Francis and continue your education. This is now an official request that cannot be overridden by Lord Efrem whether or not he is your legal guardian.”

Gareth stood up and gave Adamos a deep court bow and replied, “Thank you, Uncle Adamos. I will obey your command. Now, Francis… let’s go outside into the garden. I need some fresh air!”

Adamos, Raphael and the Veyans quietly watched the two younger men stride from the room. The contrast between the towering BerWarian warrior and his cousin – who stood perhaps some eight inches shorter – was extenuated by their coloring; the broad-shouldered towering Gareth with his thick blue-black mane tumbling down his long back, his darkly tanned skin showing at his wrists and hands, legs, neck, and face, outside his long Medinian gown. And then, there was Francis, more lightly built, tall, slender like both his sire and mother, with black hair tied up in several braids, sparkling dark blue eyes, and thin aquiline features and a mouth that often turned up into a slight smile. Cousins they were and yet so different. Still, Raphael felt their profound alignment to each other, their determination to stand together, side by side. And he smiled, realizing that his lovely daughter would be standing alongside with Lady Ella, to carry the Federation into the future.

Master Tzulo smiled as he recognized in Raphael’s face, the pride of a father as he sees his son maturing fully into manhood. The future looked bright with these two men, Gareth, and Francis, as they stood together before the old guard. With the end of the war, change had come to the Federation and would continue to shape the future as the people slowly healed from the trauma and abuses done to them by the enemy and in some cases, members of their own people. It would take time, but with such stalwarts leading the way, there was the promise that someday the Pleiadian people would unite in a frequency level that was high enough to allow for the return of the golden ships and so many other surprises. Many years and even ages would past, but the evolution of the people was now a sure thing… a realization that soothed the heart of the old master who was over 1,000 years old at this time. Raphael had no idea how long Master Li Tzulo had been alive and he wasn’t going to know.

Master Tzulo was saddened by the parting of the ways that was rapidly approaching for the two of them but knew in his great heart that someday they would walk together if only for a short time. He spoke quietly, addressing Raphael, “My lord, I would be honored if you and I visited Lady Amethyst sometime after the end of these mating ceremonies and when most of our guests have departed. There are many things we need to share.”

“I would be delighted to accompany you, Master Tzulo. I know it may be one of the last times you and your soul mate speak to each other in person in this lifetime. It is a singular honor for me to be included, Master,” replied Raphael, who was truly touched by this gesture. Then, he turned to Adamos, “Let Efrem know that we are aware of his true feelings. If he dares to voice them aloud, I will hereby ban him from ever returning to Medina.”

“Ah, a fierce father guarding his children,” replied Adamos with a nod. “I will inform Efrem that he has managed to insult his host again within this household and remind him just who is his host and upon what world he is currently a guest. He is not practicing the etiquette that he attempted to jam down my throat when he was in the midst of instructing me years ago. If he cannot refrain from insulting my friends, I will consider banning him from Milan, as well. It is time that he adjusts to the new order.”

“The old guard will be resistant, but change must and will come. The energies now support it,” murmured Master Mei Li to no one in particular, but Raphael overhead his comment and nodded.

Exactly – it is what I feel, too! And the day after tomorrow, my youngest daughter Remilla is going to be wedded to her true love, Master Gareth Vanderis Dino!” proclaimed Raphael.

❤ ❤ ❤

© All Rights Reserved, Eliza Ayres, videos and recordings of this material is not permitted, and

BOOK FOUR: Table of Contents

Top of Page

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.