BOOK FOUR: CHAPTER 9 – Remilla & Sabina

CHAPTER 9 – Remilla and Sabina


It was the day before the mating ceremony for Gareth and Lady Remilla was to take place. Raphael was out in the garden playing with Daniel and Martea, as Felipe and Maryam looked on. The distinguished lord was crawling around on the garden tiles like a little boy, allowing his chortling son to climb up onto to his shoulders. Lorenna, Remilla, and Sabina were laughing as they watched the scene. 

In the background, the gardening crew were hard at work doing the last trimming and weeding, selecting flowers for the arrangements to be placed in the audience chamber for the next day’s mating, and any remaining clean-up that was required. Nemo was working hard, too, but every once in a while, he would venture a quick glance towards the tender scene of father and son playing together. The emotional pain he was now enduring was tremendous, but for nearly the first time in his life, Nemo allowed it to flow through him, opening his long-sealed heart center. He had taken to carrying a small towel tucked in his belt so he could discretely wipe away the tears that flowed periodically.

From time to time, Nemo’s partner Samos would take a peek at the disgraced commander and give a little sigh. He would calmly point out a branch that had been missed during the pruning of a bush, or some weeds hiding out beneath the spreading groundcover of thyme. Now and then, he would also murmur to Nemo, “Breathe, brother, breathe. Release what you’re feeling. It’s not wrong to hurt, to feel pain. Do not judge yourself no matter what you have done in the past. You are here now, you are safe… and believe it or not, Nemo, you are loved.”

The retired commander Andros VaCoupe was keeping watch on Nemo from a discrete distance. Despite being a former warrior, he was a compassionate individual who had seen much violence, survived, endured, and came out of it stronger. He knew he had to also recover from the trauma he had endured, witnessing while other men died around him and then, having to carry survivor’s guilt as a result. Knowing what Nemo had done to his father, brothers, and the Starship Project team didn’t endear Nemo to the retired warrior commander, but he understood the man’s former ambition, pride, and resentment in having to witness what he had mistakenly determined as his father’s love being monopolized by someone who had been adopted into the family, who was not even his own blood. 

Andros was a cousin of Raphael’s and Roméo, son of a cousin from an off shoot of the main VaCoupe line. His long-dead father had perished during the early battles of the great wars. As a young man, he had gone off to war as soon as he could, originally with the mindset to avenge his father and those of his kin who had also fallen to the enemy. However, war was not as he had imagined it would be. He was not allowed to fling his body wholesale into battle, engaging the enemy hand to hand in noble combat. The battles were largely fought onboard great starships, battleships, frigates, carriers, and in fleets of fighters engaging the enemy’s smaller ships. Ground war techniques were seldom used unless part of the crew of a mothership was engaged in freeing a whole planet from an enemy landing force. 

Andros had fought in some the land battles, usually as part of a force attacking a temporary enemy stronghold, taking the enemy forces down to the very last man as they were all implanted and controlled by their dark masters. When he and his comrades began to first comprehend that they were fighting automatons, it brought home to Andros that this war was different, ugly, unnecessary. There wasn’t any glory in fighting an enemy who wasn’t in control of their own consciousness. Yet, it had to be done, and so he and his men gritted their teeth and grimly fought on.

When he was finally sent home to Medina, it was due to significant wounds that eventually healed, but not before the war suddenly ended due to the actions taken from an unexpected direction. Having been constantly engaged in fighting for over 200 years of his life, Andros was not acquainted with his adopted cousin, Raphael Kantor-VaCoupe. He occasionally heard about his adopted cousin from pilots who flew the golden ships who spoke of the amazing commander who was leading the development of this unprecedented new technology, but he had not personally met the individual responsible, namely Lord Raphael. Rumors were rife among some of the men speaking about a crazy man with visions, fainting fits, who disturbed kings, and had then went on to found a command post on Alyona. Frankly, Andros didn’t know what to expect when his elder cousin, Lord Raimundo, informed him that Lord Raphael would be assuming temporary lordship over Medina while the Federation was being led by a Regent.

When Raphael finally returned home after his long tour, Andros met the man for the first time, out in the garden, sitting with his young son, Daniel. Raphael wasn’t at all what Andros had expected. From all the rumors he had heard over the years, he was expecting some kind of wild-haired individual who would periodically fall over on to the ground while thrashing around as he experienced his visions and then spouting out precise tactical plans for the take down of the enemy fleets that continued to harry the planets after the closure of the Starship Project. No, what he had been told and what he witnessed for himself were two very different things.

Raphael was sitting with his young son, Daniel standing on his lap, patiently and quietly speaking to the boy, as the child tilted his little head and listened. Andros knew the two were communicating with each other via telepathy; he could feel it, although as their conversation was in private mode, he could not hear what was being shared. Raphael was out of uniform being at home and recovering his health, dressed simply in a Medinian robe and gown ensemble, his long thick blonde hair tidily caught up in a singular braid, which his son occasionally made an attempt to grab while he laughed with glee. Here was a tender, quiet man, sensitive and aware of his surroundings, taking time with his young son, even after having put his own adopted sister in charge of the regency and now being the mentor of Francis Dino VaCoupe, the heir to the Lordship. Raphael was in effect, one of the most powerful men in the Federation.

Andros observed, weighed, and decided he liked what he saw. There was no pretense or any attempt to dominate, abuse, or cajole. Orders were given silently in sign to his guards, huge impressive Eagles who would linger off to the side, but always close at hand. There was no shouting, gesticulating, or attempts to impress anyone who was working in the garden. Instead, Andros saw a quiet man, who looked up and smiled at him when Raphael felt he was being studied and scrutinized. Seeing that his attention had been noted, the retired warrior commander snapped a quick salute and then turned away, a bit embarrassed to think he would escape detection from a man whom some people had described as being an extremely powerful psychic and crystal master. Yet, in the end, what he saw was a man who had survived, adapted, healed, and had gone to reach heights formerly inconceivable to his childhood self. On that first day of meeting Raphael, Andros began to love the man and sought out his elder cousin, Lord Raimundo to explain and answer some of his own questions about Raphael’s background, upbringing, and what events brought the young man to be adopted by the Lord of the Pleiades. What he was told shocked Andros and he began to understand that Lord Raphael was no ordinary man, but one who was specifically placed among the people so he could perform a great but undefined purpose, to enable the people to free themselves from their enemy and occasionally, from the enemies among them.

Knowing what he now knew about his lord, Andros was careful to keep Raphael up to date on how well his former brother was performing his duties, whether or not he was fitting in, making friends, learning what was expected of him, and being polite and respectful of other staff members. Raphael made it clear that Nemo was not to be given permission to speak to visitors or family members outside those who were in charge of his immediate duties, namely Andros himself, and occasionally Lord Raimundo, who oversaw all of the upkeep of the household on behalf of Lord Raphael. Flora, who was in charge of the kitchen, also reported to Lord Raimundo, but that was out of Andros’ purview. Another staff member, Mistress Helena, was in charge of the housekeeping duties, seeing that the baths, sleeping rooms and suites were clean and prepared for guests. Yet another member of staff, Jeremiah, made sure the common rooms were clean and presentable for company, family, and staff as required. Jeremiah was, of course, the mate of Maryam, little Daniel’s wetnurse. The talented tailor and handyman had made himself indispensable in the household since Maryam was tapped to take care of little Daniel. It was a large staff of about 150 people who were actively employed by the VaCoupe Family and still family members often participated in various projects.

On this particular morning, the next group of guests were expected. When Raphael heard the hum of viscars approaching the golden gate, he picked himself up off the tiles, dusted off, and placed little Daniel in Felipe’s arms. Addressing the ladies sitting close by, he commented, “Methinks some more guests have arrived!”

Signing for Milo and Loki to accompany him to the gate, Raphael straightened out his braid. He knew his casual appearance might offend his Airian relatives, but he really couldn’t care. Lord Da’vid was the first to walk through the gate, thanking the Eagle who was holding it open. Then, he spotted Raphael and called out to him, “Raphael, have you been gardening? It’s good to see you! I’m interested in meeting Lady Sabina as soon as I may!

David was generally expressing an unusual level of excitement in a normally very shy individual. Da’vid came up and gave Raphael a hug, another surprise, but Raphael accepted it with grace, welcoming his cousin to Medina.

Raphael gave his cousin a grin and waved over towards where Sabina, Remilla, Arianna, Astrig and Lorenna were gathered playing with the children under the watchful eyes of Eagle Felipe. “Sabina is over there with her aunt, mother and cousins, my lord. Just a minute, I will take you over to make formal introductions all around.”

“Don’t take too long, Cousin!” replied a cheerful Da’vid, who paused to look around at the carefully manicured gardens, the abundance of flowers and herbs, and sighed, “Nice gardens; I see why you like this place, Raphael”.

If you like gardens, Da’vid, I’ll have to take you to Jolf sometime!” replied Raphael. Then, he saw his former father-in-law Lord Pietro enter the garden with some other Airian nobles. “Lord Pietro, welcome to Medina!”

Lord Pietro was slightly offended that Raphael had addressed him first, until he remembered that Raphael was the temporary lord of Medina, at least until Francis assumed the Lordship, so technically he outranked Pietro. With a deep sigh, Pietro gave Raphael a deep court bow much to Raphael’s amusement which he endeavored to conceal as he turned to yet another arrival, Lady Arla, soon followed by his sister Claudine, Stephanus, and Patrick Vanairus, and the Commanders Adrigus and Semmas.

Lady Arla executed a graceful curtsy and then asked, “My lord, where’s my son, Gareth?”

“Oh, around here somewhere, my lady,” replied Raphael. “I think he is inside the house speaking to the Veyan masters, and his cousin, Francis.”

“Oh, thank you,” said Arla rather breathlessly and then disappeared into the house.

Surprised, Raphael glanced after the high priestess who appeared to be unusually nervous. Then Raphael swung around and gave his sister a deep bow and another one to Stephanus and said, “Welcome back, Sister… Stephanus… and lovely to see you, Patrick! How are you, son?”

Claudine looked slightly confused with Raphael addressing her son in such a manner until she remembered that Raphael had been for a time the foster father of Patrick when he was much younger. She looked around at the gardens and replied, “It looks like you’ve had an army at work grooming the gardens, Brother; I have never seen them looking so well. How are Francis and Gareth doing with their studies?”

“You might ask them; Master Li has kept the two young men very busy this past week while the rest of us have been preparing for the upcoming ceremonies. Master Li was intent on keeping Gareth preoccupied to prevent him from getting overly nervous about his upcoming mating. And Francis has some catching up to do on his studies after his honeymoon,” replied Raphael with a smile. “Francis and Ella are doing well, too, as am I with Lorenna. Sister – we’re already expecting a little one!”

Stephanus in overhearing the last comment snorted and exclaimed, “That was quick work, Raphael! It seems like your health cure has made a new man out of you!”

“I guess so, my king; however, right now, I need to introduce my cousin, Lord Da’vid Kadish to his intended, Lady Sabina Dino VaCoupe. If you will kindly excuse me, my lady?” Raphael gave another court bow to his relatives, and went over to where Da’vid was standing talking to Patrick Vanairus. “Pardon me, Patrick, I would like to borrow Lord Da’vid for a few moments.”

“Oh, certainly, Father Raphael – do you mind if I tag along, sir?” inquired Patrick who was very fond of his former foster father.

Not at all – your presence may lend Da’vid some extra courage,” quipped Raphael as he took the arm of Da’vid and began to lead him to where the ladies were seated in the garden. Lorenna was now holding little Daniel with the child slumped against one of her knees, his curled fist up to his face, looking up at his father as he approached. The child pushed away from Lorenna and toddled towards Raphael who scooped him up and showed him to Patrick and Da’vid, “Gentlemen – this is Daniel, my youngest son from my late mate, Lady Julia. And this beautiful lady in the blue Medinian gown and robes is Lady Lorenna Kantor-VaCoupe, my new mate! The lady with the sprigged cotton Maian dress is her elder sister, Lady Astrig. And the lady in the white gown is Lady Sabina of Milan, daughter of Lady Astrig and Roméo VaCoupe, my adopted sister and brother. The pretty lady in the green gown is my youngest daughter, Lady Remilla Kantor-VaCoupe of Jolf. Finally, the young lady in the yellow gown is my eldest daughter, Lady Arianna of Ostta. Ladies, this tall young man with the blue-black hair is the son of Claudine and Stephanus Vanairus, and the heir of BerWare. And the dignified man next to him is my third cousin, Lord Da’vid, now second lord to Airus!”

The well-dressed Lord Da’vid gave a bright smile and executed a perfect court bow to the ladies and then jested, “I’m not so sure just how dignified I am, Cousin. Lord Pietro is always nagging me on how I dress! But, no more of me… Ladies, I am stunned to witness such beauty in this lovely garden!”

As the oldest lady present, Lady Astrig extended her hand to be kissed to Lord Da’vid and commented, “It is so wonderful to see you here, Lord Da’vid. My sister and I are acting as chaperons for my niece and my daughter, so be on your best behavior, my lord!”

Lord Da’vid gallantly kissed Astrig’s hand, but as he straightened up, he stole a glance at the serene pale face of lovely Sabina. She met his glance briefly, gave him a tiny smile, but then turned her attention to her cousin Patrick and commented, “I remember you from the days in Jolf when you came with your sister to be fostered by Lord Raphael and Lady Julia. How are you faring these days, Cousin?”

Patrick gave his beautiful cousin a graceful bow and replied, “Very well, Lady Sabina. My father and his head chieftains have been educating me on how to lead our tribal people. Just months ago, Lord Raphael and his party visited BerWare and were involved in saving one of our tribes from being buried by a great sand storm. I am happy to be able to visit my foster father and his family and to see you, again!”

Well, Patrick and Uncle Raphael – you will have to tell me more about your adventures on BerWare sometime,” commented Sabina. She then noticed the approach of her aunt Claudine and uncle Stephanus, and some other lords and even a few commanders from the Fleet. “Uncle Raphael – you will have to introduce all of these newcomers to me… is that tall lady my aunt Claudine? And who are those other people with her?”

“Well, Brother – are you going to introduce us to the two young ladies who are about to undertake a major step in their lives?” inquired Claudine as she walked up, followed by Pietro Kadish, Stephanus, and the Commanders Adrigus and Semmas.

Oh, certainly, my lady – Sabina, Remilla, please rise,” said Raphael instructing the two priestesses to greet Claudine. Remilla complied with a graceful curtsy, while Sabina regarded Claudine from her bench with interest and merely said, “Greetings, Aunt. Are you here to attend my mating with yonder gentleman, Lord Da’vid?”

“Of course, Niece – why else would I be here?” snapped Claudine, annoyed by her niece’s serene countenance and refusal to acknowledge her properly. Here was yet another person who did not seem impressed by Claudine’s pretensions to grandeur. 

Raphael disguised his answering grin as he observed the interaction between two strong-willed women, turning to Felipe who was standing close by, taking little Daniel from Eagle’s arms, and presenting him to his grandfather, Lord Pietro. He nodded to Pietro and thrust the child into his arms, “Here, Pietro, here is your grandchild, the last child from your daughter. Why don’t you give him a kiss?”

Lord Pietro was still dressed in his court finery and appeared stunned to be holding a young child in his arms, so he stood there and stared at the little boy. Then, he blinked back tears when he gazed into the boy’s huge blue green eyes and saw that Daniel’s nose and mouth were similar to Julia’s. He gasped for breath when next the boy addressed him telepathically, saying: Grandfather? I love you! Where is my grandmother, Lady Martina?

Seeing that he had successfully distracted Claudine, Raphael spoke to his former father-in-law, “Pietro, little Daniel speaks several languages, all taught to him by Eagle Felipe, who will be accompanying the boy when he is taken to Airus to start his formal education. What did Daniel say to you?”

“That he loves me! And he is wondering where Lady Martina, where his grandmother is at… I’m sorry, Daniel, but she stayed home,” replied Pietro, who felt his heart melting in the presence of his beautiful grandchild. Still, he was unused to handling children, so he handed the boy back to Raphael. 

Claudine looked at Raphael, with one of her eyebrows lifted, knowing that the interruption had been intentional. She lifted her chin and commented, “Yes, Lord Pietro, little Daniel is a lovely child. Now, can we go inside? I need some tea!”

The annoyed lady stalked off towards the entrance to the great house. In her wake were carried Stephanus, Pietro, and other members of her party. The two Feline commanders remained behind and quietly approached the little garden party. Commander Adrigus bowed to Lord Da’vid and then to the seated ladies (Remilla had resumed her seat). Then, he spoke directly to Raphael, “You play a close game, my lord. Claudine is now annoyed with you for distracting the attention from Lady Sabina. As for you, young lady… you are not yet the mate to a lord. A curtsy would have been polite, but I am sure you knew what you were doing. Lord Da’vid – it would appear that the battle lines are being drawn a bit prematurely, in the fight to grant the lordship of the Pleiades to young Master Francis.”

Surprisingly, Lord Da’vid grinned and replied, “I know, Commander Adrigus, I know. I welcome the opportunity to make known my stance on that particular issue. I am entirely for ending the regency sooner than later. Claudine is not the hereditary heir unlike Francis. She was merely put into the position as a stopgap during a desperate moment after our Federation’s leader, Lord Demetrius, was killed in an enemy attack. Now that Francis is being instructed and prepared by his mentors and protected by his new stepfather, Lord Raphael, the rest of us need to be ready to make it clear that Claudine will have to step down when we decide, not when she is ready.”

Lord Da’vid stepped towards Lady Sabina and took up her hand. He gazed upon his intended with deep affection and said, “My dear, I have seen you in my visions and knew this moment would be upon us both someday. I welcome you into my life as I now know that you will bravely stand at my side to support your cousin in his just cause.”

Sabina gave the Airian lord a glowing smile and replied, “Then, my lord, I await with some degree of impatience for that moment when we are united as one before Lady Amethyst. And I see we will have many things to share with one another when we are finally allowed to be alone together.”

“Indeed, we do, my dear,” murmured Da’vid as he planted a tender kiss on Sabina’s hand. Then, he turned back to Adrigus, Semmas, and Raphael, “Gentlemen, shall we take a turn around the garden? I would love to examine those roses more closely… although the most beautiful blossoms present are sitting here before us in the persons of these lovely ladies…”

Raphael looked at his former foster son, Patrick, and boldly asked him, “Nephew, do you support your cousin becoming the Lord of the Pleiades sooner than later?”

This was a difficult position to put young Patrick in, but Raphael knew that his nephew’s opinion would be important in the future. Patrick looked around at the men and replied, “I sense the beginning of a cabal to remove my mother from her regency is forming. Am I correct?”

Raphael saw no point in lying to his nephew, so he replied, “Yes, although not yet; Francis is still in training. We have just heard rumors and even statements from your mother that she fully intends to remain in the office of the Regent for at least 100 years. Your cousin will be more than ready and prepared for the position of Lord of the Pleiades within a few years, certainly no longer than a decade. If your mother resists and plans to start a coup against Francis, then she will have to be forcibly removed from power. Question is, Patrick, would you be ready to support your cousin Francis, as opposed to your mother’s position?”

This was a difficult position to put young Patrick in, but Raphael knew that his nephew’s opinion would be important in the future. Patrick looked around at the men and replied, “I sense the beginning of a cabal to remove my mother from her regency is forming. Am I correct?”

Raphael saw no point in lying to his nephew, so he replied, “Yes, although not yet; Francis is still in training. We have just heard rumors and even statements from your mother that she fully intends to remain in the office of the Regent for at least 100 years. Your cousin will be more than ready and prepared for the position of Lord of the Pleiades within a few years, certainly no longer than a decade. If your mother resists and plans to start a coup against Francis, then she will have to be forcibly removed from power. Question is, Patrick, would you be ready to support your cousin as opposed to your mother’s position?”

“Since you’re being so honest with me, Uncle – yes, I would support Francis. He is, after all, Grandfather’s heir, and has been under your care and mentorship for over a decade now. My mother was useful in taking down the Dark Lord; there’s no denying her powerful abilities. However, I’ve noted that she is beginning to follow the tendency of some VaCoupes to allow their pride to overtake their caution and common sense. When I was in Alyona, I overheard her bragging about being the Savioress of the Federation. That’s not true. I was there on the Dead Plains; I saw what she did and then what you did, in having Commander Monteras send the command to start our response to the enemy invasion of our space. No one person could have defeated the vast number of enemy forces arrayed against our people on the day of the Last Battle. I will support your effort, Uncle, even if my mother objects. I know that Father and his tribal chieftains are concerned that Mother has forgotten her own people, the people of BerWare, and instead has chosen to lord it over in Alyona with complete strangers. Just keep me in touch with your plans and I will let my people know when to expect the return of my mother Claudine to BerWare.”

The experienced Feline commander Adrigus was carefully observing the young man as he spoke, sensing his emotions and thoughts behind his words and then nodded to Raphael as Patrick finished his statement. He said, “My lord, Patrick will stand with us; I can feel it. He is concerned for his mother’s welfare knowing what happened to Commander Esturias when he came up against you, Raphael.”

Lord Da’vid grinned in response to Adrigus’ read on Patrick, “Excellent! Now, Raphael, is Lord Adamos with us?”

“Yes, my lord – he has said as much to me, just yesterday soon after he arrived here,” replied Raphael.

Good! Well, gentlemen… we can start our plans, but we will have to keep it quiet for now. Raphael are you returning to Alyona in a couple of months, then?” queried Lord Da’vid. “We could hold our meetings in Adrigus’ office, at least periodically since there is still quite a bit of time yet to lapse before Francis is fully prepared to take on his responsibilities. For now, updates would suffice – later, we can make actual plans. Adrigus, we will require the presence of the Fleet to back up our position in case Claudine balks or attempts a coup against any of us.”

“Understood, my lord,” replied Adrigus. “Lord Raphael – I know that you didn’t have much time to make a choice in the hours after the death of your adopted father and could not have predicted how Claudine would respond when she was placed in a position of supreme power… but I can tell you now, quite honestly, no one in the Fleet approved putting a woman in charge of the lordship, even for a short time. You can count on the men of the Fleet backing Francis when he is ready, my lord.”

“I hope you don’t have anything against women in power, generally – as Lady Amethyst might want to discuss this issue with you, Adrigus, but I understand. It goes against our current traditions to have a female leader of the Pleiades. There has always, always been a Lord of the Pleiades since our people first settled these worlds,” replied Raphael. “Our ladies can be and are powerful, but also careful to keep their roles primarily in the natural realms ruled by womanhood, the bringing in of our children, raising them up, holding positions as healers, teachers, and priestesses. I’m sorry now that I brought on this dilemma by nominating Claudine for the position, but at the time there were few options available…”

“Do not apologize for what you did, Raphael – we all know your heart was in the right place. Your sister managed to accomplish what few people could have done, to take down a powerful dark lord with a mere flick of her finger – an amazing feat… yet, that one act was not what brought the war to an end and the entire Fleet knows it, my lord,” replied Commander Semmas. “Your plan was both simple and brilliant. Our allies were full in when they realized who had planned the strategy – you are still a legend to the Ashkerians and the brother of the Ash Tar of the Ashkerians, Commander Strabo Diaz, had informed his brother of your tactical skills. They chose not to hold back but willingly dove into the fight along with our own forces and hence, the day was won… within minutes. It was astonishing to witness in person, my lord!”

“Well, gentlemen, I am personally very relieved that I no longer have to perform in that particular role, as strategist… except to get my son Francis VaCoupe seated in his rightful position as Lord when the time comes,” replied Raphael as he studied his feet. He was a little embarrassed by all the praise. “And now, lest anyone get the idea that we are planning our own coup, we probably should join the rest of our visitors and family members inside the house. A spot of tea and some fruit pudding would quite welcome by me right now. I’m famished!”

Later in the day, Lord Mathdis arrived with Lady Anna and Karenna VaCoupe. Master Aiden and Brunella opted to stay at home and manage their inn and garden. Karenna wanted to see her former classmates get mated. Now that Karenna was part of the extended VaCoupe Family having mated with Adarius, she was welcome to visit whenever Lord Mathdis or her own father was willing to escort her.

Lady Anna, of course, was also anticipating the matings of two more of her grandchildren through her mating to Lord Demetrius. She also intended to officiate at the mating ceremony between Lady Remilla and Master Gareth Vanderis Dino, especially since the ceremony would be taking place within the VaCoupe household. Lord Mathdis was happy to see his friend, Raphael, once more and any other members of the family and friends who showed up at the celebrations.

Seeing that most of the family was indoors, the Mathdis family members entered the great house and came upon Raphael and his guests enjoying some tea and refreshments in the family rooms. When Raphael sensed their arrival, he left the table and gave each of his friends a hug. He said, “Lord Mathdis, Lady Anna… Karenna! It is so good to see you here in Medina. Now, let me introduce Karenna to my sister Claudine, the regent.”

Shy Karenna was a bit stunned as her hand was taken by her elder cousin, Lord Raphael, as he drew her behind him and approached where Claudine Vanairus was seated alongside some of the lords who were attending the events within a few days. Raphael announced generally, “My lady sister, may I introduce Mistress Karenna Mathis VaCoupe, lately mated to your nephew, Navigation Technician Adarius VaCoupe.”

Claudine looked around and smiled, watching as the shy young blonde woman made a careful curtsy to her. Claudine looked up at Raphael and commented, “The young lady is a good choice for our nephew Adarius.” Claudine then looked around and asked, “Where, pray tell, are her parents? She didn’t come here to Medina by herself, did she?”

“Of course not, my lady,” replied Lord Mathdis, as he strode up with Lady Anna on his arm. “Karenna came with us on the shuttle from Jolf. We are here to see her young friends get mated, even as she just did in Jolf at our own little temple.”

“Oh, Mother,” said Claudine, “I didn’t see you, at first. Thank you for coming. Now, let me introduce you to these gentlemen…”

Lord Mathdis politely declined the invitation and replied, “I know Lord Pietro and isn’t that Lord Da’vid, Raphael’s cousin? And Lord Adamos, as well as his uncle, Lord Efrem, of Maia? You forget, Claudine, that I also periodically attend High Council and so am well-acquainted with the various lords and planetary representatives. Now, where is Lord Raimundo? I think Lady Anna would like to speak to him about her officiating at the mating of Lady Remilla, since she is herself the teacher and mentor of the young woman, as well as her grandmother.”

Lady Anna gave Claudine a nod; after all she was the former mate of Claudine’s father, Lord Demetrius, and still considered by all of the family’s children to be their grandmother. As a High Priestess, she was considered an equal in rank to the regent, something that irritated Claudine although she managed to refrain from speaking up. Still, Lord Mathdis and Lady Anna could sense her displeasure. Lord Mathdis gave Claudine a court bow as they moved off. Raphael guided the couple to where Lord Raimundo was deep in conversation with Master Polaño, discussing the last-minute details in preparation for the various upcoming events.

As they walked, Raphael quietly commented, “Ricardo, Mother… as you can see for yourself, my sister is giving herself airs these days. Here is my Uncle, busy seeing to the details for the various events. And Mother, after you’re done with him, I am sure the ladies would love to see you. They have taken over one of the study rooms to make last minute alterations and adjustments to the dress Remilla will be wearing tomorrow. I’ve seen it; it is quite beautiful, in blue silk with tiny seed pearls as decoration on the bodice in the Maian style. Lorenna did most of the work herself.”

“Of course, I saw the beginning of Lorenna’s efforts while you were in Jolf, but I would enjoy seeing the finished product,” replied Lady Anna with a smile. “It is good to see you, again, Raphael. How is Lorenna faring these days?”

“Very well, Mother – she is not having any issues with her pregnancy and really doesn’t show at all, yet,” replied Raphael.

That is good to hear, but I am glad you have the two Veyan physicians in your party nowadays. Lorenna is so slender,” replied Lady Anna.

The conversation moved onto other topics as the Commanders greeted Lord Mathdis and pulled him into their conversations, while Lady Anna conducted her business with Master Polaño and Lord Raimundo. Upon completing that, Raphael guided Lady Anna to the study room where there was a colorful crowd of ladies gathered looking at Remilla’s completed dress and chatting amongst themselves. Remilla looked up as she noticed her father entering the room with Lady Anna and greeted her, “Grandmother, I am so happy you arrived. Is Karenna here?”

“Yes, I am, Remilla… and is that Sabina VaCoupe, I, see? Hello, Arianna, Lady Lorenna, Lady Astrig… oh, it is so good to see you all here!” Karenna ran over to give her two friends hugs and greeted the older ladies with curtsies. Raphael grinned and left the ladies to their own devices. He bowed to his mother and left the room.

The winter rains held off the next day. Visitors and family members alike took in a meditation ceremony held in one of the smaller chapels at the Shemont and then returned to the VaCoupe compound. Upon entering the great audience room, the visitors found the place filled with fragrant blooms, gathered from the gardens the prior day. As people found their places, Raphael led his daughter Remilla to stand before the great crystal altar which always stood in the middle of the room. Instead of the usual rose on the altar, today there was a single large white lily as Remilla was a member of the Order of the Lily, like her grandmother. Lady Anna stood in front of the altar since this was a family affair. She signed for the groom and his guardian to enter.

Gareth entered the chamber from the opposite direction, escorted by his grandfather, Lord Efrem. Gareth was arrayed in white silk brocade fitted tunic with matching fitted white trousers. The one BerWarian item included in his dress was a multi-strand necklace of silver BerWarian beads strung around his strong neck. The two gentlemen approached the altar, Remilla and Lady Anna, with measured steps – obviously, they had been practicing together. Gareth smiled as he reached Remilla’s side and took up one of her hands in his own. Raphael and Efrem moved off to the side to await their turn to make the parent/guardian blessings.

Lady Anna began with some simple but beautiful songs of praise, accompanied by Andros on a lute-like instrument. Next, she gave a short blessings and then handed the proceedings off to the couple standing before her, in the company of friends and family.

Gareth gazed into Remilla’s eyes, admired her blue dress that accentuated her blue eyes and smiled. He took a deep breath and declared: “Long before this life, we stood together on the shores of this very planet. Today, we have come together once more to reunite so that our eternal love might blossom forth once again. Today, I declare my love for you before our family and friends. I willingly give my heart for you to hold. Now, I ask can you return in kind?”

Remilla looked up into Gareth’s great deep blue eyes and smiled. She spoke clearly, her soprano voice reaching to the ends of the room, “When our eyes first met in this life, I knew you were mine. I have loved you from afar all my life. I am honored to take this step and finally declare my love for you openly, before family and friends. Yes, my love, I also give you my heart to keep, protect and cherish.”

Gareth placed his right hand on his heart center and then held it out to Remilla. She did the same, their hands joining together with the exchange of energies. Then, both touched their own heart centers once again as they took in the new combined energies of their union. Each one smiled as they felt the answering flare of energy in their heart centers, accompanied with a sense of profound peace and love overtaking them, even as they stood in front of a crowd of people.

Gareth smiled down at Remilla and said, “Do you willing declare to the world that you will walk by my side for the fullness of this lifetime?

With tears sparkling in her bright blue eyes, Remilla raised up her chin and declared loudly, “I do, I do, my love!” Gareth then bent over and gave Remilla a tender kiss upon her brow. 

Now, it was time for the parental/guardian blessings, as Raphael stepped in front of the newly declared couple and said, “My dearest children, I give you my blessings from the fullness of my heart. Hold each other with respect, acceptance, and charity as you go through the world together. I love you both so dearly!”

Lord Efrem stepped forth, a quiet smile on his normally stern face – apparently, he and Gareth had had a talk together and had worked out some of their immediate differences the night before. He gave his new granddaughter a kiss on her brow and held her hand in his right hand, and Gareth’s hand in his left as he addressed the new couple: “My dearest grandchildren – today my heart fills with love for both of you. Our worlds are changing, and you will be there in the forefront, even as the old-world fades away. I grant you both my blessings and love. And this day, I grant my grandson his own estate outside of Milan, should he ever care to visit!”

Efrem bowed and stepped back. Lady Anna then stepped forward towards the newly united couple and took one of each of their hands in hers, giving each a smile and nod. Then, she turned to the gathered audience and declared, “I, Lady Anna, now present the newly mated couple, Master Gareth Vanderis Dino and his loving mate, Lady Remilla Kantor-VaCoupe Dino. May they live long together, in peace and prosperity!”

Lady Anna then released Gareth and Remilla as the audience cheered. Gareth and Remilla exchanged a kiss to each other’s cheek as a sign of affection. Then, the loving couple found themselves in the midst of a crowd of well-wishers. While there was not going to be a large reception this day, the staff had still prepared drinks and refreshments, which had been placed out in the family rooms on tables, so the guests could mingle, visit with each other and chat about the brief ceremony.

Raphael came up to his mother, Lady Anna, and thanked her for the short, sweet ceremony. Anna smiled and replied, “It was my honor to see two beautiful young people joined together and now I can claim both as my grandchildren!”

As there would be yet another mating ceremony held the following day, the newly united couple were not scheduled to depart on their honeymoon to Towan just quite yet, so they were drawn into conversations with the guests and family members.

Raphael stood slightly apart, remembering how he had felt when he had first entered this great house so many decades ago, now having successfully mated his second mate and yet another child of his. Master Mei Li came up beside him and inquired, “Are you perhaps thinking back on your own matings, my lord?”

“Yes, and on the first day I ever walked into this great house, as a very damaged young person, Master,” replied Raphael. “At the time, I could not imagine being a lord and having my own family, yet here I am. I regard my entire life, including my early difficulties, as being a miracle in action.”

“That is a very unusual but wise observation, my lord,” commented Master Mei Li. “Your daughter is just glowing today with all of the attention. Where is the new couple going to live after they return from Towan?”

“Here, in this house, Master Mei Li… where I live, they will live, so for once I will have one of my two daughters near me,” replied Raphael. “Master Gareth and Francis will be continuing their training under Master Li Tzulo until he leaves us to return home. Then, I expect you and Master Leu to take over the mentorship together and continue instructing the two young men. My mate Lorenna will take Lady Ella and Lady Remilla under her wing, to give the two young women guidance on how to be a successful mate for a busy man. So, my family grows a bit more with these two matings!”

“Well, now you will have people other than commanders and Eagles to talk to my lord when you are not engaged in your formal work as advisor to Claudine and as a commander,” said Master Mei Li.

Indeed! Sharing my life with my grown children was also not a part of my original dream, but I love being around younger people and especially children. We’ll see how long it takes for our two newly mated couples to produce some offspring,” replied Raphael with a grin. “With Julia and I, it took seven years, but those were stressful years while I was building up the Alyona Command Center and regaining my health.”

“And soon, you and Lady Lorenna will be able to add another youngster to the greater family,” commented Master Mei Li.

I look forward to carrying my newest child around in Alyona and here. I am not going to give this one away to someone else to foster. I love little Daniel, but he is now promised elsewhere. Did you see how Lord Pietro didn’t know what to do with the little fellow, yesterday?” remarked Raphael.

I would imagine he has not had a young child in his own life since his own grew up,” replied Master Mei Li.

And now, both of them have left him, again… Julia through death and Adario by choosing to live on Medina. Pietro has not said anything about that to me, yet,” commented Raphael. “I’m not sure if he will at this point. He seems unsure about me these days, which is not particularly unusual. I would imagine Lord Da’vid, as he gains confidence and experience, is beginning to challenge Lord Pietro a bit, especially since the administration in Ostta has not paid much attention to the plight of the people living on other continents on Airus.”

“It’s about time that happened, my lord,” replied Master Mei Li. “The old guard has become rather insular due to the war; now, it is time to expand and encompass all of the inhabitants who live on any one particular world – to recreate a unified collective consciousness at one with their home world.”

“What an interesting concept, Master Mei Li – we shall have to discuss this further, but now I see Lord Da’vid and Lord Adamos approaching, along with Francis, and the commanders (Monteras, DeAires, Adrigus, and Semmas). I wonder what they want?” Raphael turned towards the newcomers as he sensed something was in the offing… “What is going on, gentlemen?”

Lord Adamos spoke first, although he seemed a bit nervous, “Er, hmmm, my lord… we spoke together last night and came to the consensus that Francis should take the lordship now, rather than later. Then, you can simply switch your role as advisor to him rather than Claudine. Under your mentorship and that of the Veyan masters, Francis can learn on the job as it were. We feel it would be dangerous to allow Claudine any more time to create her own powerbase.”

Raphael was a bit shocked as he had not foreseen this as a possibility. He was also concerned that this political skullduggery was going on during a family celebration. “Gentlemen – we just celebrated the mating ceremony of my daughter Remilla, and you want to pursue your political agenda now… in this house when my family and guests could be in danger? We have yet another mating ceremony to celebrate tomorrow or have you forgotten, Lord Da’vid? Can we not wait upon this action until I return to Alyona where we can put up this plan for consideration from all of the planetary representatives?”

Adamos looked disconsolate and pointedly glared at Commander Adrigus, “I told you it was too soon to demand that Lord Raphael make such a decision!”

“Gentlemen! This isn’t a decision for me to make; it must be put to the people who represent our worlds. I am simply one man – I will not take the weight of the entire Federation on my shoulders, not now!” snapped Raphael, although he kept his voice low. “Now, if you wish to discuss this sort of thing, I strongly suggest you go outside where the other guests won’t hear you! Now, I need to rejoin my daughter and her new mate, Gareth.”

Raphael gave a sweeping glare to all of the participants and stalked off. Adrigus looked after him and commented, “He knows what we really want, men; him as regent, instead of Claudine. He is probably the one man who wouldn’t let that kind of power go to his head.”

“Which is exactly why we need to convince him to take the office of regent while his nephew/son is still being trained,” replied Da’vid. “Now, shall we do what the man suggested and take this discussion outside into the garden? The weather is still holding fair.”

Well, now that Lord Raphael has an inkling of what we want from him, I think we need to endeavor to get a consensus from the top command staff in the Federation, to make sure the Fleet is supportive of this switch in leadership. Then, we can do a discrete tally of the lords and ladies of our worlds and see just how many of them would be willing to support Lord Raphael taking over the Regency, especially since he is now the official stepfather of the heir, through his mating with the young man’s mother, Lady Lorenna,” remarked Adrigus when the men had finally worked their way outside. There were only a few other people wandering around – the primary reception would take place after the mating of Lord Da’vid and Lady Sabina the next day, so people were not lingering if they didn’t have any business at the ancient house.

Commander Semmas spoke up next, “When Raphael decided on Claudine Vanairus being the one to take over the Regency it was before he had worked up the plans for the last battle. It seemed the best thing to do in the short amount of time that he thought they had before the Dark Lord communicated his demand for immediate surrender. While everyone in the Federation acknowledges the role played by Claudine on that day, word has filtered down even to the common folk as to whose plans were really responsible for the military victory on that day – Lord Raphael!”

“Commander Monteras – you probably know Lord Raphael better than most of us here. What do you think about our plan?” queried Commander Adrigus as he pulled off a nearby rose and sniffed at it.

Well, I know my cousin would be very reluctant to take such a role. He has no desire to be in the limelight, which, in my humble opinion, makes him the best man. He will make sure that Francis gets properly trained and assumes his proper place as soon as possible if he is requested to take on the regency for now. He is a much better choice than another VaCoupe of that particular generation, Commander,” replied Monteras. 

I happen to agree with you!” commented Lord Adamos. “Raphael is a naturally humble man who commands amazing gifts, but we don’t see him parading around boasting of his numerous accomplishments at High Council. No, he usually leaves the room as quickly as he can to get on with his other duties, well out of the limelight.”

Meanwhile, Raphael rejoined the other guests inside, but he was quite subdued, just pausing to give his daughter Remilla a kiss before telling Lorenna that he was tired and would be retiring. Sensing something was bothering her mate, Lorenna eventually excused herself from the crowd and followed Raphael to their rooms. She ordered Milo and Loki to stand guard, “Raphael is weary tonight – please keep any comers from our rooms, except Master Li Tzulo and Lord Raimundo!”

“As you wish, my lady,” growled Milo in his deep bass, as he gave Lorenna a deep bow.

When Lorenna entered the sleeping room, she found Raphael sitting in meditation upon the sleeping pad. Knowing enough not to disturb him, she settled down in a nearby chair and patiently waited until he came out of his session. When he opened his eyes and saw that she was present, he announced his news, “Lorenna, my dear… there are those who want me to take over the regency from Claudine. They feel she could be a potential danger to Francis and the unity of the Federation should she remain in power much longer.”

“Oh, Raphael – are you willing to take up such a heavy burden?” Lorenna was concerned about his health and what the added stress could possibly mean for her mate.

Raphael took a deep breath and replied, “Well, my dearest, it is not a burden I wish to carry for myself, yet… I have seen what would happen should I not at least be open to being nominated by a sufficient number of planetary representatives and top commanders from the Fleet. We could fall into a major civil war if, in the future, Claudine refuses to surrender her office to Francis.” He paused and curled off the sleeping pad, rising to his feet and walking over to a table where there was a tray of cold tea waiting for him. Pouring out a cup, he took a sip and then continued, “After the mating ceremony of Lord Da’vid and Lady Sabina, I want to hold a consultation with Lady Amethyst and Master Li Tzulo. I need to determine if by my taking control over the Regency that I will possibly bring more strife to the Federation. I know I can look into the Akash, but from past experience I know it is just not possible for even a talented Seer to see all of the possible timelines at once. Mind you, no one has actually spoken to me about this – I just sensed this as a lingering possibility in their minds. If I did take over the office of Regent, fortunately, it would only be for less than a decade and then I would gladly turn over the responsibility to our son, Francis. I have no desire to carry this kind of burden for as long as Father did – I don’t know how he did it.”

Lorenna thoughtfully studied her mate. She had known him to be a humble person, who was usually content to work quietly in the background. Yet, she also knew of his tremendous dedication to put the welfare of the people before his own. In his past lives as Commander Delos, he had certainly demonstrated that trait to the point of being willing to sacrifice his own life to give his people more time to prepare. She hoped it would not come to that for Raphael… or her for that matter. She loved her new mate deeply and wanted to spend a long time enjoying his company into the future.

She commented, “Well, my dear – this is not a decision you have to make right now. I agree that you need to present this concern of yours to Lady Amethyst and Master Li Tzulo. And since no one has actually asked you to assume the regency at this time, we need to put it aside for the moment… and then, hopefully, be prepared to move forward if you are called upon to assume this burden. My dear, I originally mated Commander Esturias knowing that he would eventually become the Lord of the Pleiades. I have been prepared all my life to be a lady of a great man. You are a great man, and I will stand beside you, supporting you every step of the way.”

Raphael gave her such a look of gratitude that it nearly pierced her heart. He stood up and came over to her, stooping to give her a kiss on the crown of her head. He murmured, “I love you, Lorenna – beyond my capacity to express it fully in words. Now, shall we rest?”

“Yes, my darling – there is no other place I would rather be than at your side…”

Morning found the VaCoupe family and friends strolling towards the Shemont after taking their breakfast. Along with some townspeople, they made their way and took places within the great chapel. Lord Da’vid strode up the main aisle and took position close to the high altar. When the crowd quieted, Lady Amethyst appeared arrayed in pink robes, with her thick red hair crowned with a circlet of tiny white roses. She lifted her arms, and the conchs blew, signifying the beginning of the ceremony. 

Lord Adamos appeared with Lady Sabina on his arm. The two walked towards the high altar as a small orchestra played softly in the background. Finally, Adamos and Sabina reached Lord Da’vid. Lord Adamos handed his niece off to her intended. 

Then, Lady Amethyst began a series of sacred songs even as a line of red-haired priestesses wove their dance across the main floor of the huge temple. When the priestesses reached the altar, they placed their offerings into a large basket there, which was picked up by the Shekinah and placed upon the altar for the Mother. Then, Lady Amethyst intoned a long blessing.

As she chanted the blessing, Raphael felt the intense energies of the Divine Feminine essence of Source enter the temple until the Presence was almost palpable. He closed his eyes momentarily and allowed his consciousness to release from his physical body for a moment. In that moment, he saw a great halo of Light surrounding the priestess, emanating from her head and heart centers like a great fiery double crown of gold and white. This aura surrounded and settled on the couple who were standing before the altar and then spread to fill the entire chapel.

As Raphael was holding his son Daniel on his lap, he felt his little boy respond to the energy with great joy, almost as if he was greeting someone he knew very well. And then the impression dissipated, and the boy settled in Raphael’s arms.

The song of the priestess had ended, and Lord Da’vid had begun his declaration: “My dearest Sabina, long have I dreamed of this day when at last I would stand before you and declare openly my love for you. For although we had not met but a few days ago in this life, we have walked together in many others. My heart rejoices that I have found a soul mate with whom to bring my dreams into fruition. Together, we will go into the future and stand side by side facing whatever may come our way.”

Sabina looked up at her betrothed with shining eyes and replied, “I, too, have seen you in my dreams and waking meditations, even as I worked with the energies of the Divine. I could sense your presence with me, ever there within my heart. Although in person you were unknown, I knew you. And when finally, your image was shown to me, I knew we had finally found each other once more, guided together by our mutual relative, Lord Raphael. I rejoice to hold your hand in mine, my lord; you are the keeper of my heart, now and forever more.”

“Shall you, Lady Sabina Dino VaCoupe, accept me as your mate, to hold, protect, and cherish you for this lifetime?

“I will, I will, my lord!” declared Lady Sabina in a strong clear voice that carried throughout the chapel.

Then, my dearest, let us exchange our energies and hearts with each other that we be forever joined as One,” answered Lord Da’vid as he rubbed his hand across his silver gilt tunic and reached out his hand to touch Sabina’s hand. She then rubbed the energy into the bodice of the white high-waisted Maian gown she was wearing. Then, she repeated the gesture and extended a hand to Lord Da’vid, who touched it and rubbed the energy into his own chest. Then, Lord Da’vid, tall, slender, and dark-haired, bent over and kissed his new mate on her forehead and took her right hand to kiss it.

Lady Amethyst smiled as she looked down upon the newly mated pair and gave a final blessing and then gestured to Lord Da’vid, who replied, “As my father is dead, I will represent myself and call upon the Mother and all Light Beings to see us and to bless our union and that of any children we might bring into this world together. I humbly accept the blessings given and bestow them upon my beautiful mate, Lady Sabina.”

Next, Lord Adamos stepped forward towards the couple and bowed to them both, declaring, “On behalf of the parents of my niece, my brother in law, Master Roméo, and my sister, Lady Astrig VaCoupe, I bestow my blessings upon both of you and wish your life together to be filled with love, joy, and harmony. I charge you, Lord Da’vid, to cherish my niece as she deserves and may your days together be long, blessed, and full of abiding love and devotion.”

Finally, Lady Amethyst stood close to the newly joined couple and declared, “I, Amethyst, declare this couple newly mated, joined together for the good of their people, Lady Sabina VaCoupe Kadish and Lord Da’vid Kadish of Ostta, of Airus. I give forth the blessings and love from the Divine Mother that you may ever live together in peace, abundance, and harmony!”

Lord Da’vid leaned forward and gave Lady Sabina a kiss on her forehead. She then reached out to touch his nose with her finger. Da’vid took her hand and lead her through the temple and out onto the great porch, to the cheers of the townspeople waiting there.

Still carrying little Daniel, Raphael strolled back to the VaCoupe compound with Lorenna on one side and his first daughter, Lady Arianna, on his left. He closely followed Lord Da’vid and Lady Sabina into the garden and immediately sought out Eagle Felipe so he could hand over Daniel into his keeping. As the temporary Lord of Medina, it was the responsibility of Raphael and Lorenna to speak to as many of the guests and townspeople as possible, so the couple began to circulate through the growing crowd that filled the vast gardens.

The VaCoupe staff members had pulled together a magnificent feast, which was arrayed on several tables spotted through the small courtyards within the garden, outdoor rooms with benches and pillows strewn upon the ground should the guests prefer to sit outside. 

Again, the weather was holding. Raphael could feel the temperature was rising, so spring was not far off, which also meant Festival was near. Festival was when many pilgrims made their way to the Shemont to receive blessings for the coming year and to give gratitude for the beneficent Presence of the Divine Mother within their lives. Festival was a time of the year popular for children. Daniel was just old enough to participate in some of the simpler games and to eat some of the sweets offered during that special time.

Determined to avoid being caught up in any more political discussions, Raphael avoided speaking with Commander Adrigus and Semmas, as much as possible, but as they were also guests, he could not avoid them entirely. Still, as he guided Lorenna around the garden, he made a point of discussing light topics with the guests and townspeople, getting to know some of the local people a little better every time he had met them during the past few months of his residence in Medina.

Finally, Raphael and Lorenna came up to congratulate Lord Da’vid and Lady Sabina on their mating. Raphael inquired, “Da’vid, how were you planning to return to Airus? You came via Alyona, didn’t you? Were you planning on traveling home via shuttle? Or has Commander Adrigus arranged for you to be transported via a military shuttle?”

“I hadn’t quite arrived at a decision about our transport back to Airus, Raphael,” replied Da’vid. 

Well, I have in my possession a ship large enough to transport you, Sabina, Lord Pietro, and my daughter Arianna. We could be in Airus in a couple of hours if I were to fly you on The Golden Cat. Then, Lorenna and I could make a brief visit to see Lord Aeolus. I would like to see how my elder cousin is managing with all of the recent changes,” replied Raphael. He had the time since he still wasn’t scheduled to return to his duties in Alyona for at least a couple of more months.

Lord Da’vid was very surprised and pleased, replying, “Your offer is extremely generous, Cousin. I’ll take you up on it. I don’t think I need to get permission from anyone since you are flying your own private starship. You’ll just have to let your sister, Claudine, know where you are for the days you are away.”

“Indeed, still this is a meeting of cousins. I would like to introduce Lorenna to my former mother-in-law, Lady Martina, and review once again where little Daniel will be living once, he is transferred there. It is only about three and half years from now after all – and that time will fly,” commented Raphael. “It would also be nice to see Ostta, again, this time without the large military presence. I wasn’t able to visit much of the surrounding countryside except a quick fly-over and then the side trip to Myenaar.”

“Sounds good, Cousin. Has Pietro brought up the fact that his son and daughter-in-law have stayed behind in Jolf? He refuses to speak of this development to me, although I know he is quite conflicted about their choice,” commented Da’vid.

No, in fact, except for the brief introduction of Daniel to his grandfather, Lord Pietro has pretty much avoided speaking to me at all on this visit,” replied Raphael. “Are you, perhaps, challenging him a bit much these days? He seems a bit off, unsure of himself, which is odd for a man who was always in tune with his position.”

“I think it is an after-effect of the fall-out proceeding from the downfall of his elder cousin, Lord Michael Kadish,” replied Da’vid. “Pietro still seems to be experiencing a certain level of shock as he begins to realize just how out of touch, he was with what was truly going on behind the scenes with the nefarious agenda of his powerful cousin. There are still ongoing investigations into the extent of mismanagement of state monies, various misappropriations done by Michael in order to purchase some of those illegal properties where many of his worst crimes were committed. Things are still being sorted out regarding the just compensation for the survivors whose children were either stolen, sold into slavery, or killed during rituals. Some of the children who survived also have yet to receive due compensation for their suffering. Some still need to be re-homed, adopted, or fostered, preferably on Airus. I was going to bring this up to Claudine at the last High Council but got sidetracked by this mating. Still, something needs to be done for the people who are still suffering.”

“Sounds like quite a quagmire you’ve inherited, Da’vid,” replied Raphael. “If I were you, hire a dependable personal assistant or an Aide. Perhaps Commander Adrigus would be willing to assign a military consultant to Airus to oversee some of the claims from a more neutral position.”

“I wouldn’t mind hiring some Eagles like yours to act as personal guards for Sabina and myself,” replied Da’vid. “They’re so impressive, loyal, and trustworthy.”

“Indeed – most of the ones I have had in my service have been with me for years if not decades,” replied Raphael. “Of course, I am still in the service. You never were, although you worked as a consultant for the Research and Development Department of our shipbuilding efforts.”

“Yes… I wore the uniform, but more for convenience sake due to the environmental controls on the garments. We worked in quite a wide variety of climates, after all. I miss those days – it was rather like playing, getting to travel – hard work, yes, but always interesting,” commented Da’vid. “Ah, here comes Adamos and Lord Efrem – I’ll wander off and join Sabina in sampling some of the good-looking food being offered. Oh, when were you going to be able to take us to Airus?”

“Whenever you’re ready, Da’vid. We probably should wait until most of the guests depart, including Claudine and her party,” replied Raphael, as he glanced around the gardens. Claudine and Stephanus were engaged in speaking to some of the other guests, some people Raphael didn’t recognize at once.

Agreed – well, I’ll get back to you after I consult with Sabina and Lord Pietro. We’ll see that your daughter Arianna also gets delivered home safely to Ostta,” stated Da’vid.

Thank you, Da’vid – however, I am sure Lorenna, and I might be invited to stay with Lord Pietro and Lady Martina in their lakeside home. Our tour party was required by Commander Ungar to stay in the palace the last – and only time I was in Ostta due to security concerns. At least, Lord Pietro conveyed that I would be welcomed to stay at his house the last time I was in his city. Who knows where his head is now? I know he must be feeling rather pressured with all of the new concerns and need to revise the governmental systems even while he is in the process of educating you on your responsibilities as the head administrator. Has he actually given you free rein to do what you feel is necessary?” inquired Raphael.

I am given a new task every month or so. Lord Pietro then reviews how well I have performed the task and gives me recommendations if needed to improve my efficiency or techniques,” replied Da’vid. “He is really quite a stickler for details, which is interesting considering he missed so many under Lord Michael’s administration. I wonder if he really knew what was what was going on but couldn’t bear to face it – going into a permanent state of denial and avoidance? I feel I should have his actions reviewed when I feel more confident about my own abilities and skill level. I really could use an Aide now that you brought up that particular subject!”

“Interesting – well, I need to know if he is trustworthy enough to deserve fostering my youngest son, Daniel, so keep me updated if you find anything that points to his involvement in Lord Michael’s mishandling of the administration and his personal proclivities,” replied Raphael. As a responsible father, he did not want to put his young son into a position of possible danger due to the lax oversight of his grandfather.

I will see that more personnel are hired to work on clearing the old records regarding Lord Michael’s land purchases and transfers, and see if Lord Pietro had any possible involvement, although to date he has completely denied any… still, the two cousins must have worked fairly closely together over several decades,” commented Lord Da’vid. “How could Lord Pietro miss such obvious misdoings in his own family member? I cannot personally comprehend such an oversight. I know you would have known almost immediately that something was wrong – after all, it was your comments that prompted your friend, Commander Lo’Telle, to make those first scans of Airus that pinpointed Michael Kadish at being in collusion with enemy forces and actually hiding them on his own off-record properties.”

“Interesting – do keep me up to date on the developments while there is still time to make other arrangements for Daniel if necessary. He can always go off to Arconia for his first years of school. Other adjustments can be made later depending on his chosen career path,” replied Raphael. “I’m sure my intelligent son will probably know exactly what he wants to do long before I do.”

“Yes, he is a beautiful child, a son to be proud of… and he is only a toddler!” exclaimed Lord Da’vid. “I hope that Sabina and I can have some children. I find I long to be a father and hold a son or daughter in my arms like you do with little Daniel.”

“Well, I need to take the time now as he will not long be a large part of my daily life if he is sent to Airus for fostering, so I would appreciate any feedback you can give me in regard to the trustworthiness of our mutual relative there in Airus,” replied Raphael. He noticed Lord Efrem, Lord Pietro and Adamos approaching. Adamos had Lorenna on his arm. 

Lord Raphael – I had a nice chat with my sister… about you,” commented Adamos as he strode up and handed Lorenna over to Raphael. “She seems very happy, which pleases me. After all, just a few months ago it was still up in the air whether or not the two of you would be mated at all.”

“We worked through our differences, once we were given the opportunity to talk to each other,” replied Raphael pointedly looking at Lord Efrem as he spoke. The Maian lord appeared to be rather uncomfortable under Raphael’s intense scrutiny.

You’ll have to pardon my misapprehensions regarding your mating to my niece, Lord Raphael,” apologized Lord Efrem. “I see now that I was categorically wrong when it had to do with your integrity and love of family. I just didn’t understand why you would wish to remate so quickly after the loss of your first mate, the Lady Julia, daughter to this man next to me, Lord Pietro.”

“Well, I wasn’t the one who set up the betrothal contract, Lord Efrem – it was my sister, Claudine Vanairus, with the recommendation of Lady Anna, my adopted mother,” replied Raphael. “Both she and Claudine recognized that as a sensitive man, I do better with having a close female companion in my life, namely a mate. As for any misapprehensions, they appeared to come mostly from you, my lord… and given what I learned about your brother’s past, I wasn’t particularly impressed with the behavior of some of your family members. However, that particular topic is not to be addressed on this day when my guests, family members, and I are celebrating the matings of Sabina and my daughter, Lady Remilla. Did you have anything else of relevance for the occasion to share with me, Lord Efrem?”

Lord Efrem seemed to be momentarily nonplussed by Raphael’s sharp reply and stared at the blonde lord for a long minute. Then, he gulped… and gave a short bow, apologizing yet, again, “I am sorry, my lord – I seem to have a talent for offending you. I have spoken to my niece at length. Lorenna seems quite fond of you and reports that you are very attentive and kind to her. I also want to thank you for thinking of Gareth as a potential mate for your youngest daughter, Remilla. They seem quite taken with each other.”

“Indeed – I saw that during one of my visions, my lord, Gareth and Remilla in a past life standing on the cliff near the Feline outpost close to where Jolf is now sited. Your grandson served as a protector of my daughter and family when they lived in Jolf, so it seemed only natural that they be offered the opportunity to be united as mates. I do not believe in having my children mated to anyone they dislike. You should know how particular your grandson Gareth is, having turned down other prospective mates before. Well, he did not hesitate for one moment when I suggested he wed with Remilla,” replied Raphael, his voice louder than perhaps necessary. He was feeling a bit irritated to be confronted with aristocratic snobbery once again, at least what he deemed to snobbery.

Lord Efrem’s face paled as he comprehended that Raphael mistakenly felt that by mating his daughter to Gareth, he had intentionally snubbed Efrem’s efforts to wed his grandson to a Maian lady. He said, “Oh, I am sorry… again, my lord; I didn’t mean my comment to sound like an aspersion to you or your daughter. I am very pleased that you thought of Gareth’s welfare and that of your own daughter. I am afraid I had been too intent on attempting to cajole Gareth into living on Maia. Now I do recognize that after such long association with your family it would be natural for him to seek to become even more aligned with you and your family through mating. I fear I have proven to be quite a poor matchmaker… and grandfather if truth be known. I was always thinking of myself rather than of Gareth’s welfare and how he would feel to suddenly be thrust into a strange life style, so different than how he was brought up on BerWare and how he has lived since becoming an Eagle. Had I had a hand in his rearing, things might have turned out much differently, but I didn’t. You, perhaps, have been more of a father figure to Gareth than I have ever managed to be. I want to sincerely thank you for thinking of him, for honoring Gareth by including him as part of your family. Now, I think I will excuse myself in case I cause any more harm or confusion…”

Lord Efrem gave a short bow and walked away, clearly upset. Raphael sighed and looked at Adamos, shrugging his shoulders, and commented, “Efrem and I seem to have a problem in communicating to each other’s satisfaction. I really don’t know what to do about him at this point.”

“Well, I will attempt to sort this out with him. I think your simple solution in mating your daughter to Gareth has undermined Efrem’s pride somewhat – he feels out of sorts as your methods are so vastly different than to what he is accustomed,” said Adamos. “He will take some time to adjust to the fact that he even has a grandson. He thought he was going to finish his life without any grandchildren at all and then, to find out that he had a son, whom he was never able to even meet was a crushing blow to a man who was used to commanding the entire bureaucracy of Maia. He will take some time to recover emotionally. However, if Gareth and Remilla are successful in producing some great grandchildren for Efrem, he may eventually come around. And when you and Lorenna have your first child, I would make a point of returning to Maia at least for an annual visit so your Dino family can admire the youngster.”

Lorenna spoke up as she settled in by Raphael’s side, “We will make a point of that, Adamos. I want our children to feel welcomed on my home world, although we will make our home here on Medina for the time being.”

“While I was mated to Julia, the fact that we were at war and I was in the Command, prevented us from traveling to her home world of Airus. Things have changed since the end of the war – now widely separated families can reunite at least periodically,” replied Raphael. “I will attempt to make some overtures to Efrem in the future – that is if he intends to continue attending High Council in Alyona after I return to full duty once again.”

There was a stir at the entrance to the large house. Raphael saw his daughter and Gareth making their way slowly through the crowd gathered there, and commented, “Remilla and Gareth must be attempting to make their getaway… shall we assist them?”

Golden-haired Adamos gave a huge grin, as Raphael signed to one of his nearby lurking Feline Eagles. Milo nodded, having served as a gatecrasher for Raphael before. He took point as Adamos and Raphael approached Remilla and Gareth. The former Eagle had the couple’s bags in his arms and stopped as he saw Milo approach.

“Milo, could you help us get through this crush?” Gareth pleaded. He didn’t want his new mate injured. Milo gave a grim smile and proceeded to plow through the crowd like a ship’s prow, with Remilla and Gareth following in his wake, followed by Adamos and Raphael. When the group finally reached the golden gate, Gareth stopped and thanked Raphael and Adamos for their aid. Gareth turned and opened the gate… briefly commenting, “Never did I dream I would be opening a gate for my new mate, but here I am. Fare well, friends, Lord Raphael – thank you for all of your help and faith in me, my lord! I promise to take good care of your daughter Remilla!”

“I am sure you will keep to your vows, son. Enjoy your time on little Towan – it is a beautiful place,” replied Raphael as he waved good-bye to the couple. Remilla climbed into the waiting viscar, followed by Gareth. Two Eagles were piloting the vessel – Garry Onterus and Earl Antares – who had also arrived in Medina with Claudine’s party. Raphael had gotten around to requesting their services once again, which delighted the two young Eagles. They felt particularly honored to be assisting Gareth, their former fellow Eagle and their lord’s daughter on their first trip together. Both Eagles also waved to Raphael and then started up the vessel, Earl acting as pilot on the first leg of the journey.

Raphael waved back to the Eagles. Lorenna turned came up and asked, “To whom are you waving, Raphael?”

“Earl Antares and Garry Onterus – in their previous incarnations, they were some of the first Eagles besides Commander Monteras and Paul Dominguez to be my guardian Eagles. I’ve known them both for a very long time, my love. I just got the two of them back from Claudine. I told her she can order some more guards, use some of her BerWarian guards or the Castle guards for her security, but I wanted my men back. I consider them as part of the family and I hope you will, too.”

“How can I not, my love?” replied Lorenna. “Your loyalty to those men is reflected in all of your closest relationships, so I will honor them, too. Shall we explain to Claudine what just happened? You secured the escape of Gareth and Remilla without saying anything to your sister.”

“Somehow, I don’t think this particular incident will worry her, Lorenna. She must be picking up that something is going on in the background that will affect her soon enough. She does have part of the precognitive gift like I do, and Sabina does. It is a strong gift that tends to run in some of the families of high light frequency. Of course, it is also a gift that can get shut down if one ignores their own inner guidance and intuition, as I fear my sister is beginning to… a recapitulation of the issues that Esturias experienced earlier in this life. I wonder how he is feeling these days. Perhaps I should have a person-to-person talk with my erstwhile brother… but I will wait until I… rather, we fly Lord Da’vid, Lady Sabina, Lord Pietro, and Lady Arianna back to Ostta. I want to have a talk with Lord Aeolus there and visit with Lady Martina who has been avoiding coming to see me.”

“Oh, are we going on another trip and to Airus? Oh, how exciting, Raphael!” Lorenna knew her life with Raphael would be very different than her life with Esturias. She was almost grateful now that Esturias had abandoned her and the children over a decade ago. Had he not, she would probably still be living a lonely existence in the midst of her family in Milan. “What should I pack?”

Raphael looked fondly at his new mate and replied, “Lightweight gowns will suffice – the court there is very formal. If Lord Aeolus knows we are coming, he is liable to have some garments made for us to wear while there. He enjoys giving people presents!”

“Oh, that’s where you were given that beautiful blue outfit, wasn’t it?” Lorenna was quite excited. She called out to her brother who was standing nearby and said, “Adamos – Raphael is going to take me to Airus with him! He is flying Lord Da’vid and the rest of the Airians home from Medina. Isn’t that kind of him?”

Adamos gave his sister a beautiful smile and then patted Raphael on the back, replying, “Yes, you are treating my sister very well. Keep it up, Cousin!”

“I intend to, Adamos,” replied Raphael with another smile, and then gave Lorenna’s hand a kiss.

Well, shall we see how Lord Da’vid and Sabina are managing? We will have to tell Sabina that she is about to travel in The Golden Cat! When are we leaving, Raphael?” Lorenna was rattling on like an excited little girl.

Adamos grinned and remarked, “I haven’t seen my sister so animated since she was a youngster, Raphael. Mating with you was the best thing that could happen to her. I want to sincerely thank you, Cousin.”“My pleasure, Adamos – she has brought me great joy already. I am very happy, too,” commented Raphael. “Now, let’s go rescue Da’vid and Sabina from Claudine.”

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

BOOK FOUR: Table of Contents

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