BOOK FOUR: CHAPTER 10 – Airian Airs

Photo by Eliza Ayres

CHAPTER 10 – Airian Airs


A few days later, Raphael escorted the Airian party, including his eldest daughter, Lady Arianna, to the spaceport of little Medina… really a flat tarmacked field mostly utilized by public shuttles and the occasional military vessel. The Golden Cat rested in solitary splendor surrounded by a golden glow as she emanated her security barrier when left alone.  Occasionally a few of the townspeople would come up to stare at the amazing little ship, but they knew to whom she belonged, so respected the ship and her master, Lord Raphael.

Lord Pietro had communicated with his master, Lord Aeolus, notifying the gentleman that Raphael was going to be visiting, so accommodations were being prepared at the palace to house Raphael and Lorenna as state guests. Raphael’s Aides, the Commanders Monteras and DeAires, were also traveling with the party in case there was anything he needed to communicate to Claudine or to Commander Adrigus. Raphael also decided to take four of his Eagles as escorts, Eduardo, and Giorgio, the BerWarian twins, and the two great Felines, Milo, and Loki.

Only one of the Veyan masters, Master Leu Tzulo, would accompany Raphael on this journey, to look after the welfare of the pregnant Lorenna, and Raphael should he need a healing session or two. Master Mei Li would be spending the week observing the teaching methods utilized by Master Li Tzulo when instructing Francis and Gareth. Since Gareth was absent, being on his honeymoon with Remilla, the two masters would be able to have several long discussions about what sorts of topics should be addressed in providing a proper education for the two young men.

Lorenna was quite excited, since she had rarely traveled to any of the other Pleiadian planets… it had been war, after all, until quite recently. Sensing that things needed to be patched up a bit between Lord Pietro and Raphael, prior to their departure, she asked for Pietro’s assistance in selecting suitable garments for the little excursion – Raphael and Lorenna were planning to stay in Ostta for at least a week. Knowing that Raphael had always been someone who did not focus much on his personal appearance, save to be clean and tidy, and usually dressed in a uniform or a simple gown and robes ensemble, she also asked what items Raphael should pack for the trip. She wanted to make a good impression on the sophisticated ruler of the planet, Lord Aeolus, who was reputed to be quite the clotheshorse. 

Lord Pietro was quite taken with the lady’s questions and attention to what he was advising that his reservations towards Raphael began to soften. He said, “Martina and I haven’t really known what to think of Raphael with him getting mated, again, so quickly, but now I recognize that you will provide him, an important and powerful man, with the needed guidance and advice. I can notice an improvement in his mood and health since you entered his life, my lady. I am quite pleased, also, to see how much attention Raphael showers upon his young son, the last gift to the family from my beautiful daughter, Lady Julia. We miss her so much, but Daniel is a beautiful replacement. He is such an intelligent child. I was quite startled to hear him address me via telepathy. It was so entirely unexpected, my lady. Now… oh, yes… that is a lovely dress. Did you sew it? Oh… you are quite talented, my lady. Oh… and I do like that green frock; it brings out the blue in your eyes, my lady…”

“Oh, thank you, my lord – I do enjoy sewing and wearing lovely garments. I was fortunate that our nurse taught both Astrig and me when we were young how to design and sew clothes. Astrig and I both received more training later on in university. After I was mated to Commander Esturias, I spent a lot of time alone, and my hobby of sewing filled up my days. My life has changed so much in the short time I have been mated to Lord Raphael. We have already gone on a trip to Jolf and now are going to visit your home world of Airus. It is really quite exciting!” replied Lorenna, as she lifted up another dress for examination. “What do you think about this one, my lord?”

What a lovely sprigged cotton, my lady; yes, that would be quite comfortable in our warm and humid climate. Fortunately, you will be arriving during our winter, which is quite a bit cooler than summer, so don’t forget to bring a few wraps or robes to put over your gowns. I have let Lord Aeolus know that both Raphael and you are coming – he might enjoy giving you each some new things as my lord enjoys to give presents to the people he loves. Lord Aeolus was quite taken with Raphael when he and his men made their initial tour of Airus,” commented Lord Pietro. The Airian lord gave Lorenna an affectionate glance and added, “I think my mate, Lady Martina, will enjoy meeting you and perhaps would be more than pleased to have you and some of her female friends over for tea some day while you are visiting. Lord Aeolus insisted that the two of you stay in the palace while you are in Ostta as he regards you as state visitors.”

“Is the palace large, my lord?” Lorenna was quite curious about Airian culture.

Oh, yes… and constructed out of pink granite so it is quite beautiful especially at dawn and dusk. The stonework seems to glow at sunrise or sunset. The gardens surrounding the palace are also quite lovely, filled with flowers during the cooler weather, as well as butterflies and birds,” replied Lord Pietro. He was proud of his city and people. He didn’t understand why his son, Adario, did not want to live there. However, Pietro decided he was not going to trouble Raphael about his son’s decision to remain in the village of Jolf on Medina. Pietro was aware of the affection that existed between the two cousins and was simply grateful that both Adario and Bettina had discovered the means to live and work where they were most happy.

Well, my lord, I am looking forward to seeing Ostta and meeting your extended family and some of your friends, as well. And if Raphael needs a little guidance in comportment, I was brought up in a very formal court and will give him some discrete advice when it is required. I shouldn’t like to unintentionally offend our host, Lord Aeolus,” said Lorenna, smiling as she saw the relief on Pietro’s face. “You must be aware, however, that my mate can sometimes be quite mischievous if he feels someone needs to lighten up on their expectations, my lord.”

Pietro rolled his eyes dramatically and replied, “Oh, my dear Lorenna – he certainly can be… mischievous, like the time all of his men showed up wearing their uniforms under the exquisite tunics Lord Aeolus gave them. They looked quite ridiculous, and I was quite appalled, although Lord Aeolous thought it was amusing – and we were experiencing a bit of a state of emergency due to my cousin’s ill-thought attempts at violating our people – please excuse me for even mentioning this… my lady. It was all quite distressing. I understand Lord Raphael and his military advisors were merely exercising caution in light of the situation at hand.”

Lorenna smiled as she imagined the sight and replied, “Remember, despite the fact that Raphael was brought up in this wealthy household, he wasn’t really given instruction on how to present himself to planetary leaders and spiritual leaders like Lord Aeolus. He is a man grounded in common sense, plain-speaking, and often works from a deeply intuitive level. I will attempt to guide him in the future, but I cannot promise anything as Raphael is a very unique individual and guided from within, to a much higher degree than most men and even women.”

Lord Pietro nodded and gave Lorenna a sweet smile, “I appreciate it that Raphael has a mate who thinks about him and the impression he makes in the world. It is true, he was raised here to be a part of the Command and as my daughter explained, when younger, he often struggled with his tremendous gifts. Raphael was also often told that he would never become a commander due to his difficult childhood – in short, he could not be trusted – and yet, here he is, one of the most powerful men in our Federation, due to those same gifts. I often have to remind myself that Raphael was instrumental in saving all of us by commanding our forces and those of our allies in that last battle and all the ones for a decade before that… after he was reassigned to Alyona and the Command Center.”

“Yes, he is an amazing person, yet so humble,” replied Lorenna. “I have observed him to get embarrassed if people make too much of his gifts. He would prefer to remain in the background quietly doing tasks. So, I will endeavor to instruct him quietly in private, so he doesn’t get more embarrassed. I was taught from childhood to be a lady and eventually, the mate of a powerful man. Now, I am both. My first mate, Esturias, barely qualified as a mate since he was gone so much. Raphael is quite the opposite, very present and attentive. I am enjoying the difference. Thank you, Lord Pietro, for hearing me out. These are things I am not quite comfortable discussing with Raphael’s close kin as yet. Lord Raimundo would possibly be open to such talks, as would the Veyan masters who are very perceptive and intelligent men. So… what do you think about your grandson, Daniel?”

“He is a beautiful child, my lady,” said Lord Pietro. “I do admit I haven’t handled any babies recently, so I was a bit surprised, if not shocked that Raphael thrust Daniel into my arms without warning. And then, the child addressed me in perfect Airian via telepathy. He appears to be just as amazing as his sire. What a blessing Julia gave us in leaving us with this child! I hope Raphael will keep to his original promise to allow Martina and I to raise the boy in Ostta while he is attending his first years of schooling. With his level of intelligence, I am sure Daniel will want to pursue a profession of some sort, perhaps in the Command. With his gift of languages, he would make a fine commander in Line Communications.”

“He intends to do so, as long as he can guarantee Daniel’s safety. Raphael is an extremely thoughtful and considerate parent, which is interesting as his own blood father was anything but… at least after he was implanted by the enemy,” replied Lorenna. 

Ah, it seems we have all experienced a relative or more who was implanted. My elder cousin, Lord Michael Kadish, was condemned to death for being implanted. Did not the Dinos, your family, also suffer a similar incident in Milan, my lady?” inquired Lord Pietro.

Yes, my lord – one of my uncles and several of his associates attempted to murder my father and brother. Another one of his uncle’s associates later managed to succeed. It was quite shocking. I haven’t been back to Milan since the incident. Lord Adamos and Lord Efrem retrieved our family members out of Milan as soon as it was safe to travel to the space port. I hope to take Raphael there when things have settled down a bit,” replied Lorenna. “He did enjoy his brief stay in Milan… for the most part, even to rowing a boat on one of our lakes with my brother, Adamos!”

“Rowing a boat? That is quite a feat for a desert dweller like Raphael!” chuckled Lord Pietro. “Now… oh, yes… that pink frock would also do nicely, my lady. You really are quite talented. Those adornments on the bodice are beautiful… freshwater seed pearls?”

“Yes, the oysters grow in our freshwater lakes and seas, my lord,” replied Lorenna. “The pearls are quite popular among the women of Maia, and often used as appliques on clothes or in jewelry.”

“Oh, we have freshwater oysters, too, on Airus. Sometimes I will have to show you some of Lord Aeolus’ collection of jewelry. The pieces are quite a sight to see, my lady,” enthused Lord Pietro, who was developing quite a fondness for Raphael’s new mate. “My mate, Lady Martina, is going to enjoy meeting you, my lady. You are a true lady and should assist in refining our Raphael a bit more as he continues to mature.”

“Yes, I guess he is still considered to be quite young when compared to his adopted brother, Esturias… who is now working as one of our under-gardeners, if you didn’t already know, my lord,” replied Lorenna. “I’ve seen my former mate out there in the garden, working quite hard. He isn’t allowed to say anything and is probably embarrassed by his current situation… but I think Raphael has also given instructions that Nemo — as he is called now — not be allowed to mix with the family or our visitors here. What he did years ago was quite disgraceful. He was fortunate not to be immediately executed, but Raphael has a compassionate heart and is granting his brother an opportunity to redeem himself by being employed as a humble member of our staff… where we can keep a close eye on him. He was fading fast in prison but has regained his health and some of his strength back. Esturias seems to have learned at least some of the lessons he avoided as a younger man. These are my own observations, of course. I know Esturias is carefully watched by both Lord Raimundo and another cousin of Raphael’s, Commander Andros, a retired warrior commander.”

“Oh, how extraordinary! I actually didn’t notice Esturias in the garden, but I only met him once or twice. He was not present when Julia and Raphael mated. Raphael first met him after the mating – and then there was all that strangeness that sent Raphael to Alyona. Martina and I were quite concerned whether we had done the right thing in following through with the betrothal arrangements that had been made when both children were quite young,” said Lord Pietro.

Yes, Raphael has had an extraordinarily complex life, much more than most men, mostly due to his high degree of sensitivity and strong gifts. Yet, having him here has been a great aid to our people… and to me, personally,” commented Lorenna.

Da’vid – you will give the ladies the wrong impression of our work. My ladies, it is very important work that we do there. I am and have been the secretary to Lord Aeolus since I was a young man. I happen to be one of the senior administrators and never worked directly under my cousin, Lord Michael Kadish, so I’ve had to endeavor to sort out the mess that he left. Both Da’vid and I have also been weeding out the most corrupt bureaucrats who have been making a fat living off cheating people through various means. We will require some time to get things sorted. And as my son-in-law Raphael noted during his first and prior visit to Airus, there has existed a disconnect between Ostta and the capitals and cities on other continents. Airus is quite a large planet and very diverse in her geography, so she can be challenging to govern. Da’vid and I are going through and sorting out all of the discrepancies and following through on claims made by citizens against Michael and his associates… most of which have come through after his death. Apparently, Michael used some of his less than savory associates, namely enemy agents, to threaten citizens in various manners… well, I won’t get into the details now. However, Raphael, I would like to give you a detailed report sometime during the course of your stay here, so you can relay the report to Claudine. I have given her some initial reports, but I am sure there is much, much more to report on.”

Raphael glanced back at Commander Monteras upon hearing this information. He had never before been told exactly what his former father-in-law did or where he was situated within the government of Airus. Pietro’s short explanation did much to relieve his own concerns about the honesty and integrity of Daniel’s grandfather. Monteras signed back, Interesting! Raphael gave his cousin a terse nod in affirmation.

Oh, this palace is larger than that of Lord Dino’s! My brother Adamos would be jealous if he were able to see this!” exclaimed Lorenna as she viewed the huge edifice that sprawled across acres of ground below.

Raphael felt everyone had seen enough from the air, so he announced, “Going in… and landing in that great square just outside the palace. Expect an interesting reception, everyone, as I doubt most people in Ostta have ever seen a golden ship like this one!”

The ship delicately landed in the midst of the grand city square located at the intersection of four wide avenues, much to the initial consternation of the people, then to their great curiosity as they noticed this ship was quite different from any they had ever seen before. A large crowd began to form by the time the doors opened, and the steps unfolded. As the passengers began to disembark, great cheers arose as the residents recognized some members of their leading family, including Lord Da’vid and Lord Pietro. 

“The wealth of Airus is legendary. Besides our agriculture, our land is wealthy in natural resources, including gold and silver, diamonds, rare earth minerals, and many of the minerals used in the construction of our ships. Other precious and semi-precious stones are found in the mines and even lying upon the shores of our rivers, streams, and freshwater oceans. Our fishermen catch and dry fish to be used on those worlds whose inhabitants still eat flesh. We also have a large oyster raising industry that supplies freshwater pearls to our numerous jewelers to create into jewelry and other baubles. Some of the large crystals that are placed into our ships are also found throughout Airus on all of the continents, just growing up out of the ground. Our people are devoted to the Divine Mother and grateful for the abundance She has granted us.”

For this visit, Raphael was wearing the gorgeous blue outfit gifted to him by his elder cousin, Lord Aeolus, on his previous visit to Airus. Since he was here on a personal visit, Raphael thought that for once he would embrace the clothing and customs of his blood father’s inheritance… much to the relief of Lorenna and Lord Pietro. The outfit was not really suited for sitting onboard while in flight but did not appear too wrinkled when he and Lorenna climbed up the pink granite steps that led to the main entrance of the palace.

While the outer steps of the palace were of a rose-colored granite, when the party entered the first great hallway within the palace, they stepped upon pink marble floors. Dino though she was and raised in another great palace, Lorenna gasped aloud as she viewed intricately carved marble columns rising far above their heads, leading to arched and ribbed ceilings covered in intricate classical murals filled with clouds, angels, flowers, and thrones. Great marble statutes lined the massive hallway while smaller ones filled niches built into the gleaming walls. She commented to Raphael, “This place is unbelievable! Some of those statues belong in a museum; here they are just decoration!”

Raphael grinned and hugged her arm close to his side, “Just wait until you meet my elder cousin, Lord Aeolus. He belongs in a museum, too!”

Lord Pietro frowned and snapped, “Raphael, remember yourself! You are a lord and a guest of our great lord, Aeolus!”

Chastened momentarily, Raphael nodded at his former father-in-law, and straightened up. He was, after all, a representative of his sister Claudine and of his own home world and Family.

After a couple hundred feet, passing several other lesser hallways, the main hallway ended and opened up into a huge, soaring reception room. Like the last time Raphael had first been introduced to his elder cousin, the tall, slender white blonde lord of Airus was seated upon his intricately carved throne. Today, he was dressed a fitted and heavily embroidered deep rose tunic, with fitted trousers and intricately made indoor boots upon his feet. A long cloak of white damask edged with magenta piping was casually draped over one shoulder. Upon the man’s breast lay a great medallion of nobility made from gold and set with precious jewels.

Upon seeing his secretary and Lord Da’vid entering the great audience room, Lord Aeolus rose, flung aside his cloak, and came down the steps to personally greet Da’vid and his new bride, Lady Sabina, as well as Lord Raphael and Lady Lorenna. He said, “Well, Raphael, you return to us, if only briefly, bringing us our nephew and his new mate. Lord Da’vid, can you introduce us to your new lady?”

Da’vid gave a sweeping court bow and then straightened up and turned to present Lady Sabina to his uncle. This time, Sabina sank into a deep curtsy in honor of the Presence she felt behind the persona of Lord Aeolus, even as her proud new mate stated, “My lord Uncle, may I introduce you to a flower of Medina, born and raised in Jolf, daughter to Lady Astrig and Master Roméo VaCoupe, my new mate, Lady Sabina of Milan, Maia. She is also the niece of Lady Lorenna and the adopted niece of Lord Raphael, who kindly flew us on the return trip from Medina.”

Lord Aeolus appreciated all things beautiful, including women, and smiled, “Greetings, Lady Sabina and welcome to our humble court. I hope you find it to your liking.” The white blonde lord gave a short bow of his own to Lady Sabina in honor of her exquisite beauty and remarked, “Lord Raphael – thank you for making this match possible – I know it was you who thought of your cousin’s welfare. Sabina will make a fine addition to our court.”

Lord Aeolus led Sabina to one of the chairs to one side of the throne and then turned to Lord Pietro and said, “Well, Pietro, I trust all is well with you? Were you able to see your new grandson, young Daniel? I don’t imagine you brought him along with you on this trip, Raphael?”

Raphael gave Lord Aeolus a respectful bow and replied, “No, my lord – Daniel is at home with my uncle, Lord Raimundo. He is growing fast. And yes, I introduced Lord Pietro to his last grandson from his daughter, Lady Julia.”

Lorenna noticed that Raphael’s voice caught slightly as he mentioned Julia, so she reached out and squeezed his hand. Raphael gave her a grateful glance and then announced, “My lord, may I have the honor of presenting my second mate, Lady Lorenna Dino Kantor-VaCoupe, formerly of Milan, daughter to Lord Dino.”

“Ah, your niece, Sabina, is yet another Dino is she not, my lady?” inquired Lord Aeolus as he glanced at the dark-haired mate of his nephew.

Yes, my lord – daughter to my eldest sister, Lady Astrig. Sabina was born in Jolf during the time my brother-in-law, Roméo VaCoupe, was working as part of the team on the Starship Project, building golden ships. And my mate, Lord Raphael, landed his personal golden ship, The Golden Cat, outside in the great square. Raphael, is she still present? Would you like to see her, my lord?” Lorenna graced Lord Aeolus with a charming smile as she saw his pale face light up like a young boy.

Oh, Raphael – you brought your ship into the city? So, all my citizens could view her? How thoughtful… I hope you don’t mean to keep her there during the entirety your visit, but I… I would like to see her!”  Lord Aeolus signed for Lord Pietro to lead him to the entrance of the palace. Raphael noted that Aeolus leaned slightly on Pietro for support. He had no idea just how old Lord Aeolus was, but this was the first indication of a slight physical frailty that he had observed during their brief acquaintance.

When Pietro and Lord Aeolus reached the main hallway, Pietro ordered Captain Fernando to take the Eagles and other members of the party to their quarters, the same wing in which Raphael had previously stayed. Then, he slowly guided his elderly cousin out to the great door.

Raphael had an idea to save his elder cousin from walking any further and called out to Pietro, “Lord Pietro – the Cat is small enough to fit into the courtyard of the palace. Stand there with your Uncle and let me move her!”

“Raphael! You wouldn’t!” Pietro was aghast, but Lord Aeolus grinned like a boy.

Oh, let him, Pietro! He knows what he is doing!” chided Aeolus, slapping his cousin slightly on the arm.

Raphael then stepped down the stairs and closed his eyes briefly as he communicated his directions to the Cat. Soon, there came calls and cries from the crowd as the ship rose up off the tiled square, levitated for a brief moment, and then lifted carefully and slowly to clear the walls separating the palace from the square. Then, Raphael guided the ship to settle down lightly upon the granite courtyard in front of an astonished audience of courtiers and staff who had followed their lord outside. 

Aeolus clapped his hands with joy, “Oh, she is so beautiful, Raphael! What a wonder to share with us! How old is she?”

Raphael smiled at his elder cousin and gave him another bow, replying, “She is hundreds of thousands of years old, my lord… and as you can see, still in perfect working order. I have been flying her now for over four decades. Would you like to approach more closely, my lord?

Oh, may I?” Lord Aeolus clutched the arm of his cousin and started slowly down the steps. Raphael followed and then directed the ship to open her doors and to put down the steps. Strangely enough, the ship did not immediately comply with his directive, which puzzled Raphael until the ship communicated silently to him her reason… He smiled and waited until Lord Aeolus was within about ten feet of the ship and then said: Now, my love…

Aeolus stopped as he felt himself being scanned by the ship. He glanced over at Raphael with a question in his eyes. Raphael acknowledged the unstated question by replying, “My lord, she is sentient and is just seeing who you are. You are free to approach her.”

The Airian lord stepped closer and then stopped again, staring as the ship’s doors opened and the steps were put down. He tilted his head as if hearing something that was not immediately apparent to those who were standing nearby. Murmuring, Aeolus said, “Raphael – she is speaking to me! She is telling me that I was one of your uncles when you were King Rigo, son of Lyonille. Is it possible, Cousin?”

“She would know, my lord – after all, you built her and left her in the Feline outpost which is located near present-day Jolf. Commander Adrigus, whom you have already met, was one of your brothers then,” replied Raphael with another smile. 

Lord Aeolus stared at the ship, hesitated briefly and then began to climb into the vessel. Alarmed, Lord Pietro looked over at Raphael, who shrugged and then followed Lord Aeolus into the ship, closing the doors after him.

Raphael found his elder cousin seated in the pilot’s seat, bent over the instrument panel, weeping quietly. When he felt Raphael’s presence, Aeolus lifted his head, tears glistening in his blue eyes. He sighed and said, “I had forgotten, Raphael…”

“I know, my lord; it was a very long time ago. Would you like to go for a short flight, my lord?” inquired Raphael.

A disappointed Aeolus shook his head, confessing, “Surely, I would alarm Lord Pietro and the rest of my people should I do such a thing… although I really want to… but I thank you for giving me this opportunity to see my old friend once again.”

“It was my honor, my lord,” replied Raphael. “Now, can I assist you out of the ship?”

“Thank you, dear boy,” replied Lord Aeolus, “You won’t mention my tears, will you?”

“Of course not, my lord – that is between you and the ship… The Golden Cat, sir,” said Raphael with a smile. “Now, careful, my lord…”

Lord Pietro breathed a sigh of relief when he saw Raphael emerge from the ship and hand Lord Aeolus carefully down the steps. Raphael handed his elder cousin over to Pietro without further comment.

Pietro said, “Now, my lord… I think it’s time for you to rest in your rooms. Raphael, you may inquire within for directions on how to get to your rooms; they are the same as last time. Lord Da’vid, I would like to see you after you settle Lady Sabina in your rooms. Now, Cousin, careful…”

Master Leu Tzulo was watching the little scene with interest. He tuned into the ancient lord’s Presence and smiled. It was true – he was as Pietro had claimed, a multidimensional ascended master living in physical form. The master decided then he would like to offer Lord Aeolus some assistance to grant his physical body some surcease from the pain he was currently experiencing. However, as the physician of Raphael, Master Leu thought he had better discuss the matter with his own lord first.

When the small party finally re-entered the palace, Lord Pietro found several courtiers standing around speaking with Lady Sabina, the new mate of Lord Da’vid. Annoyed, Lord Pietro shooed them off and turned to Sabina with a deep bow, “I apologize for the rudeness of our courtiers – they are curious about everything. Your beauty will create rather a sensation in the city as the word spreads. Few of our own women can match your exquisite looks, my dear lady – please forgive me if I offend with my forthright compliments.”

“No offense taken, Lord Pietro,” replied Lady Sabina, “However, know that sometimes beauty is an impediment to those who would rather serve quietly. Had I not gone into the Temple I would have probably been mated off much earlier – to the wrong man!”

Lord Da’vid took the arm of his mate and said, “My dear… now, it is time for you to view your new home… at least our part of this huge edifice. Come this way… oh, Raphael, there is one of your Eagles now… Is it Loki?”

“Yes, Loki… what is it?” asked Raphael as the great Feline came up and gave him and Lorenna a deep bow.

I have been to our rooms, my lord. May I assist you and Lady Lorenna now to guide you there? Master Leu, Commanders… follow me!” The great Feline Eagle turned and padded down the hall towards one wing of the palace, with Raphael’s party following behind.

Raphael recognized the great steps that led up to the second story of the wing where he and his party members would be staying. Loki led Raphael and Lorenna to the first suite, flinging open the doors and startling some staff members inside who were just setting out some hot tea and refreshments for the guests. Raphael took command, thanking Loki, “Could you show Monteras, DeAires and Master Leu their rooms… I would guess that the other Eagles are already settled down in their suite?”

“Yes, my lord,” replied Loki with a short bow. He gave the servants a toothy grin which sent the men scurrying out the door and down the nearby steps. “I don’t think anyone will disturb you now, my lord!”

As the double doors closed quietly behind him, Raphael turned to Lorenna with a sigh, “Well, welcome to Airus, my love! Shall we have a spot of tea and then a short nap? I’m sure Lord Aeolus might want to give us all a dinner party tonight. He did appear to be quite physically frail today – something I had not noticed in my first visit. Perhaps Master Leu could assist him? Well, oh… come over and sit by me. The tea smells delicious; of hibiscus and roses!”

Later, Lorenna wandered around the huge suite, which had four sleeping rooms, a small intimate dining area, and a spacious sitting room. She also discovered a balcony that was adjoined to the next suite. Salaniel was already outside seated on a bench overlooking the lush tropical garden that spread out below, with its colorful flowers, fluttering butterflies, and brightly colored tropical birds. DeAires waved to Lorenna but did not get up. He was eating some cookies and drinking his tea quietly. Lorenna smiled and then re-entered the suite and headed towards the sleeping rooms. Then she paused and asked Raphael, “Which is ours?”

“All of them, I would assume; however, knowing my elder cousin, check in the closets for surprises. The one that is full will be our room!” replied Raphael with a grin.

Curious, Lorenna ventured into the first room and peeked into the closet; it was empty. Disappointed, she moved to the next room and then the next. Finally, she entered the last and largest room and peeked into the first closet. Sure enough, hanging there were several beautiful formal gowns, a selection of day dresses, and a negligee and gown set for wandering around the suite in the morning. Then, she opened the second closet… and found several suits for Raphael consisting of beautifully made long fitted tunics, with matching fitted trousers. He also had a couple of colorful caftans for leisure. There was also a rather tribal-looking affair which was apparently the Airian interpretation of Medinian male clothing… in case Raphael wanted to dress more casually around the suite. It was a long short-sleeved tunic with matching loose pants. The tunic was worn over a long open-necked linen shirt and the whole affair was covered then with a long lightweight robe made of striped blue and white linen. There were also dress shoes and sandals for her and boots, both indoor and outdoor for Raphael.

Lorenna peeked out of the suite and called to Raphael who was still quietly drinking his tea and recounting the brief encounter between his ship and his elder cousin. “Raphael – I just discovered the most extraordinary assortment of clothing for both of us. This is our room by the way!”

Coming, my love – what have you found, then?” Raphael strode into the room and looked around curiously. The linens were different than the first time he stayed here; the materials were more sumptuous if that was possible. As he glanced around, he noted several huge bouquets of sweet-smelling flowers set out in large vases around the large room. Lorenna had returned to the closet and was pulling out a gorgeous yellow silk gown that nearly matched the shade of her hair color. “Oh, that is very pretty—it is a good thing we came early in your pregnancy so you can still wear something like that dress!”

“I could still wear our high-waisted styles from Maia!” retorted Lorenna with a grin. It had been two months now, but she still didn’t show except her breasts were beginning to swell slightly. “Well, I guess I will put these away for now until we know what is happening tonight, if anything. I hope Lord Pietro remembers to tell us…”

“Don’t worry about my cousin, Lorenna – I have seldom met a more punctilious man, except, perhaps, your Uncle Efrem, that is,” replied Raphael with a laugh. 

Ah, I know just what you mean. It is interesting that both men hold similar positions in their governments. I wonder what they were like as young boys. Well, do you want to take that nap,

my love?”

Well, first I want to give you a hug, my sweet… hmmm,” murmured Raphael as he led Lorenna over to the elevated sleeping pad. “These beds are different, but very comfortable if I remember correctly. Shall we?”

A couple of hours later, Raphael heard a gentle knock on the balcony door. He climbed off the sleeping pad and walked over to the balcony door, which was still open. Commander DeAires was standing there, attired in his dress uniform. He gave Raphael a respectful bow and then stated, “My lord, Lord Pietro just sent a servant to let us know that Lord Aeolus would like to hold a dinner for us in his private rooms. Everyone except the Eagles are invited, my lord. Eduardo and Giorgio have volunteered to be our escorts and guards outside of the lord’s suite.”

“The servant couldn’t knock on our door?” Raphael had not heard anything.

Salaniel grinned and shook his dark head, replying, “No, my lord; not with Milo and Loki standing in front of the door preventing any strangers from entering!”

“Oh, yes… my faithful guardians – they would terrify anyone not familiar with Felines,” chuckled Raphael. “How much time do we have, Salaniel?”

“About an hour, my lord,” replied Salaniel.

Well, thank you for letting me know. I’ll wake up Lorenna. I guess she will want to wear one of the dresses that Lord Aeolus gave her!”

“Very well, my lord. When we are ready to go, we will knock at the front door to the suite,” said Salaniel.

As it was Raphael and Lorenna dressed in record time. Raphael was watching as Lorenna completed a sweeping updo on her hair, gathering it into beautiful diamond pins. Raphael looked her over and said, “You look stunning, my dear! Now, let’s make an impression!”

Joining Master Leu Tzulo, Salaniel, and Monteras, Raphael and Lorenna were escorted by Eduardo and Giorgio towards the rooms of Lord Aeolus. On the way, they encountered Lord Pietro, Lord Da’vid and Lady Sabina. Pietro explained to Raphael that his eldest daughter, Lady Arianna, had decided to return to the Ompedium and her duties as a priestess. Raphael nodded, understanding his sensitive daughter did not want to participate in any state or political dealings. He was a little sad that she also did not seem to want to participate in any family events, either, but it was her choice. Shrugging his shoulders, he turned to Lady Sabina, gave her a bow, and asked, “My lady, what are your initial impressions of your new ‘home’?

“Ah, well, Uncle – I must say Ostta is more impressive than I expected. Growing up in Jolf, I felt like a country bumpkin when I moved to Milan. However, I will confess what little I have seen thus far of Ostta, this has to be one of the most beautiful cities in the Federation!” stated Lady Sabina, even as she glanced up affectionately at her tall, slender mate.

Lord Da’vid just grinned in reply and said, “And now that you have taken residence, my lady, we can claim we also have the most beautiful women, too!”

“My lord!” Lady Sabina actually blushed a little at the excessive praise. She was a priestess, used to long hours of meditation, prayer, and service. To be treated like a lady, spoiled, and arrayed in beautiful clothing, was all quite new to her. She took a deep breath and drew herself up, and quietly replied, “Thank you, my lord.”

“Da’vid – remember all this attention is rather new to Lady Sabina; it will take her some time to adjust to her new surroundings, but I know she is made of stern stuff sheathed in a beautiful package, my lord – in other words, empty praise will not turn her head,” answered Raphael rather sternly. 

Lady Sabina looked at her uncle with a thoughtful glance, “You know me well, Uncle, although we have long been apart since I took up my vocation. Da’vid, I am more given to observation rather than judgment. As I already mentioned to Lord Pietro, sometimes physical beauty can be an impediment when one merely wants to be accepted as an intelligent person who has something to offer the world. As a young girl, I chose a lifetime of service. Although now I am mated, my original desire to serve has not diminished. I am determined to discover how I can serve my new people with compassion, love, and empathy. And I fully intend to support your efforts to revitalize your government’s ability to serve its people with more diligence and consideration for those who are truly in need.”

Lord Pietro was a little annoyed and halted in the hallway, “Ladies and gentlemen, we are close to Lord Aeolous’ rooms now. Could you kindly refrain from talking until he gives you leave?”

With that admonishment, Pietro stepped up to two tall double doors and flung them open with a flourish. He ordered, “Enter! And remember… no talking!”

Raphael remembered these rooms of the Airian lord, which reflected the sumptuous luxury apparent throughout the palace. Lord Aeolus had a large lavish suite, containing several smaller salons that opened into the next and then the next room. The party trooped through the rooms, one room more stunning than the next until they reached the pinnacle, a small elegant audience room filled with exquisite murals framed in gold upon the decorated plaster walls. Lovely marble statues delineated the corners. Billows of thin curtains softened the edges of the room. There was a large chair for the lord and several smaller ones for those persons he was interviewing. Lord Pietro guided each of the primary party members to a chair and with a bow, he sat down, apparently intent on being a part of this family gathering.

Servants set out tea and refreshments for the guests, then faded into the background, awaiting orders to serve dinner later.

Lord Aeolus got up and greeted all of the visitors cordially and then sat down on his large chair. He looked admiringly at Raphael and Lorenna, commenting, “I see you have discovered some of my presents! Lady Lorenna, which is a lovely shade of peach with your coloring. And Raphael, you look rather dashing out of your uniform! Did you find your accommodations comfortable?”

“Certainly, my lord. Your palace is gorgeous, your staff courteous… although a little frightened of my Feline Eagles, Loki, and Milo!” replied Raphael with a smile.

Ah, you and your Felines, Raphael – that has been rather a theme in your life has it not?” commented Lord Aeolus.

Yes, my lord – I was saved by Feline warriors, mentored by a Feline Commander, and later found out that some of my Eagles had been my brothers during my life as a Feline king. Then, I fostered a young Feline boy into adulthood. And I have had Feline Eagles for decades,” replied Raphael. “I am quite comfortable around them although most over top my height by over a foot. We share many of the same powerful psychic gifts, so the Felines make excellent guards… I have already suggested that Lord Da’vid consider hiring some retired Feline warriors as guards here, besides the ones you already have in place. Felines, when they love someone, are fiercely loyal and trustworthy. They cannot be corrupted by any means,” said Raphael.

Well, it would appear you do have quite a history with the Feline race, Raphael,” commented Lord Pietro, entering the conversation. He started as a knock came on the outer door and quietly excused himself, “I have a surprise for Raphael, my lord.”

In a few minutes, Lord Pietro reappeared in the doorway with Lady Martina on his arm. He bowed to Lord Aeolus, even as Martina gave him a deep curtsy. Then, the grandmother of Raphael’s children came up to him as Raphael responded by standing and bowing to her, then taking up a hand to kiss, “Mother Martina! It has been a long time, my lady! Lorenna, this beautiful lady is the grandmother of all my children. Lady Martina, may I introduce my new mate, Lady Lorenna Dino Kantor-VaCoupe!”

A tall slender Lorenna stood up and curtsied to Lady Martina. She said, “I am honored to meet the mother of the beautiful Lady Julia and dashing Master Adario.”

Martina had to look up at Lorenna who was several inches taller, but she smiled and commented, “Well, Raphael – I see you mated with a real lady. And you are wearing some of the clothes I helped Lord Aeolus to select for you both?”

Aeolus gave a very dramatic gesture, “Martina, you give away my secrets!”

Martina gave a bell-like laugh, “Oh, my lord – I only advise you on a few things; you have exquisite taste. Now, Lorenna, how is our Raphael treating you? I know both of you have suffered some sorrow in your life. I hope that has been rectified and released, now…”

“Well, Mother Martina… may I call you that? My own mother passed so many years ago now that I hardly remember her. Anyway… yes, Raphael treats me very well. And, my lady… my lord, we are already expecting a child… in less than a year,” replied Lorenna with a slight blush on her pale cheeks.

Oh, my child… another half-sister or brother for the rest of Raphael’s considerable tribe. Raphael… do you realize that you have created your own Family in the process of procreating all these children… as well as being the foster father for three others, including Commander Lyonell!” commented Martina excitedly. At first impression, she approved highly of Lorenna, sensing that this new relationship would aid to smooth out some of the rougher edges of her strong-willed son-in-law. “And, Raphael… Pietro told me how you introduced him to our latest grandchild, Daniel. I understand the boy doesn’t speak aloud but can communicate via telepathy?”

“Yes, my lady – according to Eagle Felipe, who is the caretaker of the boy, young Daniel speaks five different languages quite fluently. He is also fully aware of who people are when he encounters them and has at least some past life memory. I am very proud of my young son, Lady Martina,” replied Raphael.

And do you still mean to allow us to foster this amazing youngster when he is old enough to begin his schooling?” inquired Lady Martina, with Lord Pietro looking very interested, as well. Raphael and Pietro had not discussed this while his former father-in-law was visiting Medina.

That is the current plan, my lady,” replied Raphael. 

Oh, good, as I would like to meet this youngster,” interrupted Lord Aeolus. “Now, does everyone know everyone? No… Raphael, could you introduce your companions to Lady Martina?”

“Oh, of course – Lady Martina, I would like to introduce one of my physicians, Master Leu Tzulo, of Vey. His father, Master Li Tzulo, has long been a friend and mentor of mine. Then, these two dark-haired gentlemen are cousins from Morova, Commander Tomás Monteras and Commander Salaniel DeAires. They are currently serving as my military aides. Other than Lord Da’vid, Lady Sabina, my daughter Arianna, and my own mate, Lord Pietro, I have only brought four of my Eagles, two of whom you may have seen upon entering these rooms… They are Loki and Milo, both of the Suriya System. I am traveling lightly this time, my lady,” Raphael added with a smile.

Lady Martina had heard of Tomás before and vaguely remembered meeting him before. Yet, she was curious about the relationship and asked, “You said the Commanders were cousins… of yourself or each other?”

Raphael smiled and replied, “Commanders Monteras and DeAires are cousins of each other and me… from another life, my first Pleiadian life which was cut short… Commander Monteras has been with me since soon after I was rescued at age fourteen in this second life. Monteras served for a few years as my private tutor so I could prepare to enter higher schooling. Then, we reunited when I was assigned to The Golden Lion. I’m afraid, for his sake, he has been with me ever since. He is one of my closest friends, my lady.”

“And Master Leu? Why do you need to have a physician with you, my lord?” inquired Lady Martina.

Well, my lady… on my long tour, I experienced several fainting spells, some quite severe. When, at long last, our party reached Vey, it was determined that the stress of these past years had accumulated to the point where it was profoundly affecting my physical well-being. Add to that, I suffered a great deal of physical, mental, and emotional abuse during my childhood. The senior healing master on Vey took me in hand and discovered several problems with my body. Master Zang was so concerned that he assigned his own son, Master Mei Li, to join with Master Leu Tzulo to be my full-time physicians. Both masters will also serve to mentor Master Gareth Dino and Master Francis VaCoupe. Gareth, if you will remember – perhaps not – was one of my BerWarian Eagles assigned to me after an incident on Morova years ago. When we visited Maia, through a series of events, we discovered that Gareth is actually the grandson of Lord Efrem, who later officially adopted him. We just recently celebrated the mating of my youngest daughter, Remilla, with Gareth. They are currently on their honeymoon to Towan, the small planetoid owned by the VaCoupe Family.”

“Well, thank you for that explanation, Raphael,” replied Lady Martina.  “I will say, you look to be in good health now, which is a relief, as our people need you to be around for a long time, my lord!”

Lord Aeolus clapped his hands to get everyone’s attention and announced, “My dears, it is time we started dinner. If you would follow me to the dining room?”

Dinner was a quiet affair. Lord Aeolus’ menu featured some of the best tropical fruit of Airus, arrayed in colorful arrangements on great platters. There were also fruit puddings, soups, some raw and steamed vegetables, vegetable stews, light puffy flat breads, and soft cheeses. Raphael carefully observed the precise table manners of his Airian kin and endeavored to copy their actions, although he occasionally dropped a piece of fruit. He grinned while Lady Martina gave Lady Lorenna a knowing glance. Lorenna nodded – it was an area Raphael could improve upon so he could lead a dignified exchange with people throughout the Federation, especially should he be called upon to assume the office of Regent.

At the end of the meal, Lord Aeolus called for some Airian wine that came from the hill country outside of Ostta. As he lifted a clear glass filled with sparkling golden wine, he remarked, “Raphael, did you know that the vineyard where these grapes grow is also filled with diamonds that push out of the soil? The presence of the diamonds gives the wine a distinctive favor, sweet, yet sharp, and fruity. Notice the bubbles? This wine has a natural effervescence due to the diamonds. See, it tickles the nose!”

Lorenna giggled as the bubbles touched her nose. She delicately sipped the wine, feeling its warm liquid flow down her throat creating a sense of warmth in her middle. Then, she remembered she was pregnant. She put her glass down and asked for some tea, “Sorry, Lord Aeolus – I am with child. The wine is delicious – I did taste it!”

“Oh, of course, my dear. Raphael, how do you like it?” asked Lord Aeolus, as he wanted to please these guests.

The very wise and ancient Lord of Airus had recently experienced a precognitive dream of his own – where Raphael was now the Regent of the Federation, so Aeolus was intent in making this stay as pleasant as possible for his two guests. He said nothing of this, but he was aware that Raphael understood the reasons behind the lavish service and gifts. However, Raphael was too polite to voice this aloud, something that Aeolus approved as it indicated the young man was steadily becoming more refined in his mannerisms and presentation in public. This improvement in his behavior would serve him well when presenting sessions during High Council, visiting other worlds and in just giving dinner parties.

Oh, I rather like it, my lord – although I don’t usually drink much wine, preferring to stay with herbal teas,” replied Raphael politely.

Oh, then… just sip it slowly, Raphael and be sure to eat some bread along with it to absorb the alcohol. This wine can really go to your head and make a person quite giddy if they are not careful!” cautioned Lord Pietro.

When the party finally headed back to their suites, Raphael could feel the wine working on his body. He felt a bit dizzy and light-headed but managed to walk without assistance. He rubbed his forehead after getting to their suite and closing the door on the world, mumbling, “Oh, I think I will stick with tea from now on!”

Lorenna smiled as if she had grown up in a household that drank copious amounts of wine daily. She commented, “Why don’t you have a nice hot bath before bed, my dear. The wine and the hot water will relax you quite a bit.”

“Oh, yes… I did like the bath in this suite the last time. I guess I will go start the water – see you in an hour or so!”

Lorenna giggled as she noticed the slight wobble in Raphael’s gait – the wine had definitely gone to his head. She was very fond of her naïve mate, with his many child-like qualities. Despite everything that he had endured, there was a strong sense of purity within the man which endeared him to his friends; that, and his strong sense of humility. She knew she was very fortunate to be his mate and was treasuring every moment.

Thoughtfully, she hung up the beautiful peach-colored dress and put on one of Raphael’s caftans instead of the filmy negligee set. She poured out some tea and added one of Mazzie’s elixirs for headaches that she had packed in her luggage. She did not wish to wait while Raphael recovered from one of his periodic headaches; the visit to this amazing city was going to be short enough…

The next day, Lorenna and Raphael separated for a time. Lorenna was going to the house of Pietro and Martina to attend a large tea party held in honor of Lady Lorenna’s visit to Ostta. For his part, Raphael would be attending a meeting at the administrative offices with Lord Pietro and Lord Da’vid, to receive a comprehensive report on the progress being made towards cleaning up the old administration of Lord Michael Kadish. Then, Raphael was going to file a report with Claudine via an interactive comm which was available in the offices. Raphael also needed to speak with Adrigus for a couple of reasons. One, which was personal, he wanted to arrange for some leave time for his son, Dante, to come home to Medina for at least a week, before Lorenna and he had to return to Alyona to commence his duties there.

Raphael was beginning to realize that he probably would have to assume a more prominent leadership role in the Federation. He had always served under his father, then under Claudine, but he knew that he was capable of more of a long-term vision for the people than even his talented sister. He intended to see that all of the governments of the worlds were stable enough so they could proceed with the next step, to align the consciousness of the people with the Worlds upon which they resided. This was a vision that was truly outside of his current purview, more of a spiritual focus, but Raphael knew the people of the Pleiadian worlds first needed to feel that their needs were being met, that they were being heard by their leaders, and that those leaders were in tune with aligning their works with Source – in short, spirituality would finally imbue the worlds with grace, beauty, and abundance, healing for all that had gone on before during the wars and before.

The report that Pietro and Da’vid gave Raphael was long and comprehensive. It was quickly apparent the two men had been putting in lengthy hours to sort out the mess left behind with Lord Michael’s mishandling of his administration. There was really too much to go over in one short meeting, so Raphael recommended that a summary report be submitted to Claudine and the High Council for review. Then he would take a copy of the report (what was available thus far) home to Medina so he could read it at leisure.

While present, Raphael looked around at the office of Lord Pietro, which was filled with files and a large spacious desk, but little ornamentation beyond a few small paintings and some pillows for guests when sitting on the bench that was provided for seating. He said, “Compared to your cousin, Lord Aeolus, your surroundings here appear to be very business-like, Lord Pietro.”

“I don’t have the time to dwell on the niceties here, Raphael. It is a business… an important one running an entire planet and keeping people happy. Oh, and I finally got a report from the team that worked on the project on Myenaar. Thank you for making the arrangements with the Seranians and Medinians who were involved. Lord Capeto of Babbos was very pleased with the work that has been finished – I understand the snows came early so the building efforts will resume in the spring – and has assured me that all of his citizens are properly sheltered and fed. Apparently, the people of this city prepare well for disasters as they do experience blizzards and occasional floods in the region, as well as wild fires, typical things that occur in a less settled and rugged region,” replied Pietro.

I had heard much the same from your own son, Adario, who happened to have a long chat with Master Guillame Franco, the stonemason from Jolf, during the reception for Adarius Dino VaCoupe and his new mate, Karenna Mathdis VaCoupe. I also spoke to my cousin, Commander Brown, who works out of the Elexa spaceport and shipbuilding works. He had contacted my grandfather, retired Commander Mahaelion Morena-Brown from Serana and had arranged for some of their men to attend to the project, as well. The Seranians and Medinians will be returning to Babbos once spring arrives in that cold region,” said Raphael.

Lord Pietro looked down at his desk and briefly pushed around a piece of paper. Then he looked up and replied, “I want to thank you for your clear thinking in regard to that tragedy in Babbos. I am afraid, until I had to confront the reality of what my cousin Lord Michael had done to his own people and then seeing the destruction wrought by an enemy force – I had never had to deal with the gory aftermath of death, destruction, and unbelievable evil. I was so appalled, frozen in the midst of disbelief – yet, you stepped forward with your ideas, contacted people who could assist ours, and the work was done with great speed and skill… even to building stronger relationships between our three worlds. I owe you a debt of gratitude, Raphael, for your quick thinking and your ability to look beyond and see what could be accomplished if we all work together.”

“I was able to react appropriately, Lord Pietro, because I had been answering many such crises for over a decade for my father and experiencing visions related to horrible scenes of destruction. I would have to say my psyche has been exposed to more violence than the typical Pleiadian citizen due to my sordid childhood and then later, being stationed on vessels of war,” replied Raphael. “I understand now how difficult it must have been for you to be confronted with the realization of what Lord Michael had done to children – for I was a child who lived through similar experiences, only I survived and managed to remain sane. Few do who endure such treatment. Which reminds me, who is managing the compensation for the survivors of Lord Michael’s diabolical works?”

“Oh, that’s another thing on our agenda which has not been started quite yet,” Lord Pietro looked chastened and a bit nervous. “We’ve been attempting to sort out all of the monies involved and put up for sale the estates of the lords who were executed. Once we get the funds ready, the children and any other persons who were affected by Lord Michael will receive a portion of the funds.”

“Why don’t you sell off some of those diamonds and jewels found in your lands and waters? Are not your people worth more than such baubles, my lord?” retorted Raphael. “I will keep this in mind and bring it up at High Council for consideration. Lady Amethyst would like to know that persons here are still suffering.”

“Oh, Raphael – do not think we are without compassion. All of the children who were orphaned have been housed, the younger ones fostered out, and all are being properly educated. We expect many will choose to work for our government or enter the holy orders or if male go into the Command,” replied Lord Pietro. “Lord Aeolus is bearing the cost of these arrangements. Food from his country estates has been donated to the schools and families who are caring for the children. Those families who lost children were given the first choice if they wanted to adopt or foster the surviving children. There are only a few who did not manage to get placement here in Albion.” Lord Da’vid had been listening attentively to this conversation, but finally he interjected his own comments, changing the subject in the process: “Raphael – I think it is about time to get Lord Pietro’s read on the possibility of your nephew/son Francis taking over the lordship sooner than later, don’t you?”

Raphael stared at his cousin for a long moment and then carefully replied, “Lord Da’vid, I am not a child. I know what you and your fellow co-conspirators really want – for me to take over the Regency from Claudine. Seeing as how things have played out over the last couple of years, I regret now that I ever offered the regency to my sister, as she is showing the same tendency that two other children of Lord Demetrius displayed… to be prideful and boasting about her exploits when even the simple street sweeper knows who won the last battle – our fleets and those of our allies, not her. Since your group spoke to me, I have come to the realization that in order to keep peace within the Federation, I will have to make this controversial move – if, and only if, I have enough support from the lords and ladies in charge of the planetary administrations and am backed up by the Command forces.”

Lord Pietro stared at his former son-in-law in total shock… When he finally regained his voice, “You… you as Regent, my lord?”

Raphael nodded and replied, “Believe me, Father Pietro, this is not a step I would take lightly or without due consideration, but I have seen in some recent visions what would happen to the Federation should I not take up, at least temporarily, the regency and see that Claudine is permanently retired to BerWare. I have had the word of her son, Patrick Vanairus, that he will see that his mother would not be allowed to attend High Council or travel to other worlds after she is removed from office.”

Da’vid nodded, remembering the encounter in the garden… although he had been paying more attention to gazing at his intended, Lady Sabina. “Oh, yes, I remember you confronting the young man with that difficult question, but he was not at all fazed by it. Patrick was a fosterling of yours, was he not, Raphael?”

“Yes, both Patrick and his sister, Robbina, were fostered in Jolf along with my own children. Patrick attended university with Ezekiel while Robbina was schooled in the girl’s school run by teaching priestesses in Jolf. Patrick has left the Command so he can prepare to act as planetary ruler should his father become disabled or chose to retire. He spends a great deal of time traveling throughout BerWare, working with the tribal leaders. Patrick also attends High Council now with his father, while Claudine plays at being regent. Patrick informed me that both he and his father… and the tribal leaders of that very conservative world are concerned that Claudine has forgotten her own adopted people.”

Da’vid swung around and point-blank inquired of his elder cousin, “Well, my lord, where do you stand on this subject?”

Surprisingly, Lord Pietro stood there quietly for a long moment, leaving both Raphael and Da’vid in some suspense, when he looked up and straight into Raphael’s blue green eyes and replied, “Before I left on the trip to Medina, my lord, my eldest brother, Lord Aeolus, informed me that he had experienced a precognitive dream…”

“And what was this dream about, Lord Pietro…?” inquired Da’vid, who was getting a bit impatient with the dramatics.

Lord Aeolus confessed to me that he saw Raphael acting as the Regent during High Council” replied Lord Pietro, looking from his nephew and back to Raphael. “Aeolus went on to say: ‘No one could mistake his white blonde hair and green-blue eyes; there is no other man within the entire Federation who looks like our cousin, Lord Raphael.’ Lord Aeolus went on to say: ‘He was Regent… and will be regent until such time when he and a council of lords and commanders decide that Master Francis Dino VaCoupe is fully prepared to assume his full Lordship. Raphael will guide and mentor Francis all during the years of his regency… you could think of it as Francis acting as an apprentice learning his trade.’ For that is exactly what will occur… at least if the dream of Lord Aeolus plays out… and he suggested this change will happen sooner than later. Before the end of summer and the coming of the Howlings on Medina, you will be Regent, my lord!”

“May the Divine Mother preserve us all if a civil war starts because of this…,” murmured Raphael. Louder he said, “I will consult Lady Amethyst and Master Li Tzulo on this matter when I return to Medina. Thank you for your input, Lord Pietro. It is good to know that my closest relatives support this upcoming change. Know that I am not eager to take this step, but I am here to serve for the highest good of the people. While our Federation is still in a state of recovery, we do not need to have leaders who forget their duty to the people.”

“We are with you, Raphael!” declared Lord Da’vid. “And with your nephew, Master Francis, the future Lord of the Pleiades!”

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

BOOK FOUR: Table of Contents

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