CHAPTER 22 – A New Assignment
At dawn, Daniel wandered out to his balcony and sat down on the bench provided there for seating. He listened to the morning songs of unknown birds and sniffed at the scents of numerous exotic flowers and plants. In the coolness of morning, since the humidity was slightly lower, the air was pleasant. The boy gazed out at the nearby lake that he hoped to explore soon, perhaps with his new friend and cousin, Jon’dra.
Ostta… indeed, Airus, was very different from the desert planet of Medina upon which he had been born and lived since coming into this life. He knew it would take some adjustments on his part especially being without his father and his stepmother, Lady Lorenna, and all of his other numerous VaCoupe relatives. Daniel was also aware that he needed to make a concerted effort to have a good relationship with his Kadish relatives, his birth mother’s kin, as he sensed they would play an important role in determining his future.
Daniel left the balcony and went back into his room. He stood in front of his closet, carefully studied the clothes hanging there and chose the plainest tunic he could find and its matching trousers. He was aware that he would have to concede on the issue of clothing and shoes to his grandmother – at least for the time being, until he was much older. If he were to live under her roof in peace, he would have to follow the general customs as presented to him while he lived in Ostta. Then, when he was older, he would be able to determine best what he preferred. With that understanding, he pulled out the plain blue tunic that had a minimal amount of decorative embroidery on its cuffs, around the upright collar, and down the front placket. He had noticed that despite the sometimes steamy heat, the men in his family also wore a much lighter cotton shirt against their skin, so he pulled one over his head, and then pulled the tunic over it. Next, he pulled on the pair of linen trousers. These were the first pants he had ever worn and felt a bit odd flapping about his legs but were loose enough to be comfortable. Next, he draped the Morovian belt his father had given to him on his fifth birthday around his waist and pulled it snugly, so the tunic bloused out slightly.
The methodical boy then moved about, testing how he felt in his new garments and decided that they would do. He would attempt to have his grandmother obtain the plainest garments possible as he didn’t want to draw unnecessary attention to himself. With his particular coloring, hair, complexion, and most especially, his unique eye color, Daniel didn’t want to stick out and be noticed by people, especially strangers. He wasn’t a shy boy, having been brought up in a household of very close-knit relatives, adopted and blood, but he was a very sensitive psychic and particular about the company he kept.
There came a knock on the door, which startled Daniel out of his reverie; it was Felipe, come to fetch him. The two companions had a long-term habit of going out into the garden in the morning at home in Medina. Daniel didn’t see any reason why they shouldn’t continue this habit although Lady Martina might want to know where he was going. Since he did not inform her of his intentions the night before, Daniel decided it would be best to just go to the sun room and see if anyone else was yet awake in the house. He tuned in briefly and felt his father’s energy questing for his own. He sent a brief telepathic message: Felipe and I will be the sun room looking for breakfast, Father. He smiled as he felt his father acknowledge his message and went to open the door.
A grinning Felipe was standing there in his uniform with a robe thrown over it, perhaps in respect for Lady Martina’s sensibilities – the uniforms were very form-fitting and left little to the imagination, which wasn’t an issue normally with male crewmen. The Eagle said, “I’ll wear whatever Lady Martina deems proper, but this will have to do for the time-being. Your father’s garments are too small and short for me, and I have naught else. Shall we go down to the sun room, young Daniel and see if the servants have set out some breakfast?”
“Father’s awake and will be joining us shortly,” replied Daniel.
Man, and boy found several trays sitting on one of the tables in the sun room. Perhaps Lady Martina anticipated the huge appetite of the normal Eagle, but Felipe didn’t eat as much as his former comrades now that he was acting as companion to a young child. The work wasn’t as physically demanding and as such, he didn’t require as much food. Still, Daniel and Felipe sat down and filled their plates with some of the luscious tropical fruits that were piled into large wooden bowls.
Daniel picked up an odd-looking spiky pink fruit and asked, “What is this thing? Do I peel it or eat the skin?”
Felipe grinned and replied, “I don’t know, son; I have never encountered such a thing onboard ship during my years as an Eagle.”
“It’s called dragon fruit, Daniel. You cut it first, peel it or scoop out the flesh inside,” said Raphael as he entered the room and saw what Daniel was holding. “They grow dragon fruit here, of course, but also on Vey in their tropical region. It is actually the fruit of a cactus plant. We were shown around some of the fruit plantations when we visited Vey. It was interesting to see how some of the fruit is grown in its native settings.
“Oh, thank you, Father. Did you sleep well?” asked Daniel, politely. He noticed and felt his father was actually feeling quite fatigued.
“No, I didn’t – I had some rather active and disturbing dreams, something I haven’t experienced for quite some time,” replied Raphael. “Felipe, could you pass me that pot of tea? I need something to wake me up a bit. Lorenna is still asleep. Fortunately, I did not disturb her sleep.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that, my lord,” commented Felipe, as he stopped munching on a peach. He also noticed Raphael seemed on edge, concerned about something that he was not yet willing to share. “Is there anything I can do to help you, my lord? This is black tea, but there is some honey here to sweeten it.”
“Thank you, Felipe, but no… there is something I need to talk to my elder cousin Lord Aeolus about. This concerns him… and me,” was all of the reply that Daniel and Felipe received. When Raphael had poured a little honey into the dark tea, he drank it slowly without comment, seemingly distracted in thought.
The busy bureaucrat, Lord Pietro, was also an early riser and soon appeared at the table and sat down next to Raphael, “Good morning, everyone. I see you found the food, Daniel, Felipe… and Raphael.”
“Yes, thank you, Grandfather,” replied Daniel. “I think my father needs to speak to you, sir, about Lord Aeolus.”
“What is the matter, Raphael?” queried Pietro, suddenly feeling anxious. He knew of Raphael’s precognitive dreams and how they had been acted upon for years by the Fleet commanders who had come to recognize the power and value of the man’s psychic talents. “Can we speak of this here at the table or do you need to come to my office?”
“We need to go to your office, sir,” replied Raphael who was starting to look rather pale. “Felipe – could you help me up? Perhaps I should have brought one of my physicians on this trip. This – this was entirely unexpected…”
Thoroughly alarmed now, Pietro aided Raphael to walk to his office and then had Felipe get ahold of the Montoya brothers in case they needed to assist Raphael after he had spoken to Pietro. Eduardo showed up after a few moments with a concerned look on his darkly tanned face and asked, “What is a matter, my lord?”
“A dream, Eduardo…and now a vision. Could you wait outside the office for a few minutes? Thank you for responding…” replied Raphael who sat down in one of the chairs and leaning over, held his head in his hands for a long moment as Pietro watched him dealing with whatever he was seeing.
After what seemed an eternity to Pietro, Raphael lifted his head and said something astonishing: “Lord Pietro – earlier this morning before I woke, I had a powerful lucid dream in which Lord Aeolus appeared to me. He told me that he wants me to take his place while he is in transition between incarnations. Of course, I protested as I am not even a member of the Kadish Family, but he told me, ‘Raphael, it is of little importance; you have been my son, too, in the past, as well as my father. Now, I want you to hold my office as representative of the Holy Spirit while I go into the Realms of Light and before I return as a son of your cousin, Lord Da’vid. Are you willing to do this for me, but most of all, for my people, our people, Raphael…’”
Pietro was in shock after hearing Raphael’s description of his intense dream, but his cousin continued with a demand: “I need to go to Lord Aeolus this morning as soon as we may. Can you go with me?”
“Of course, but… this is rather unprecedented, my lord; you know so little about our people, the people of Airus…,” protested Pietro.
“This isn’t just about the people of Airus, Pietro – this is about all of the people of the Federation. During this time of reconstruction, there is a need for strong spiritual leadership,” replied Raphael firmly. “In his current state of health, Lord Aeolus is no longer able to hold the energetic balance which is why his body is beginning to fail faster than he previously thought it would. When we spoke together several years ago, he said he would still be here for decades. Now, he has told you that he may be here for a mere year, but I fear he now realizes he has even less time. So, can you arrange a private hearing with Lord Aeolus, either in his office or his private rooms for me this morning?”
Pietro was slightly aghast at the unusual request, but he knew Raphael would not have made such a request had he not felt it to be important. He said, “I will see what I can do, Raphael. Rest here a moment and I will see if I can connect with Lord Aeolus. He should still be in his private chambers.”
“Certainly, Pietro; I know this goes against all custom…” replied Raphael as he was holding his head, again. “You know, even if I do agree to this request, I will have to return home and arrange for Francis to either become the Lord of the Pleiades earlier than planned or have a council of lords set up to continue to mentor him before he fully assumes power. None of this can take place quickly and from what I discerned from my dream and the later vision; time is of the essence. Can’t we just go over there, Pietro?”
“Not without violating protocol and custom, my lord, but seeing who is it – yourself as Regent – and your reputation in flaunting custom, I don’t see much issue, only this time you do not have an entire mothership at your beck and call. Other aristocratic families here on Airus may speak out against an off-worlder taking the place of our Lord of Airus,” said a very sober Pietro Kadish. “You aren’t even a member of the Kadish Family.”
“I understand that, Pietro,” snapped Raphael, suddenly, startling an already upset Pietro. “Let me have that comm; I will contact the nearest mothership and have it here in a matter of a few hours. Then, we will see just how much the Airian aristocrats want to argue with me.”
“Are you sure, my lord?” replied a reluctant Pietro.
“Yes!” roared Raphael.
Pietro got up and helped Raphael to sit in his place. Raphael switched the comm on and immediately punched in the code to reach Adrigus in Alyona. The screen revealed a curious Feline commander who growled, “Lord Raphael, what do you need, sir? Are you not in Airus right now?”
“Yes, Adrigus – but an ‘issue’ has arisen. I may need some extra support from one of the battleships or if a mothership is in the area. Who is on patrol in this sector right now?”
“Peter Megasaus with the Green Dragon, my lord; a good man. You have met him in the past?” replied Adrigus. His golden eyes narrowed, observing Raphael’s face as he asked, “What is going on, if I may ask, my lord? You look unwell. I suppose you didn’t bring your physicians on this trip?”
“No, I didn’t and now I wish I had – I wanted to make this a low-key trip, just delivering my young son to his grandparents, but now – Well, could you get Commander Megasaus on the line and give him my request? I am staying with Lord Pietro in his house in Ostta. However, I may go this morning to visit Lord Aeolus my elder cousin.”
“Ah, yes… I remember that interesting fellow. If I can repeat my question: what is going on that you need a mothership, my lord?” Adrigus frowned on sending the ships hither and yon just because… a concern Raphael understood well.
“Lord Aeolus is dying, and he wants me to take his place on Airus, temporarily until he is reborn and old enough to assume his office once more…,” said an anguished Raphael, who was beginning to feel desperately pressured at this point. Yet, he managed to laugh when he saw the astonishment on Adrigus’ fur-covered tawny countenance. “Yes, Lord of Airus… me, who isn’t even a member of his family, the Kadishes.”
Adrigus frowned, again, attempting to quickly gauge the impact this would have throughout the Federation and cautioned Raphael, “This could cause quite an uproar in the High Council, my lord. First, you became Regent and now, the lord of a major world. I can see why you need a mothership there, perhaps to use a little extra persuasion with some of the local aristocrats? What does your former father-in-law think of this possible development? Or Lord Da’vid? As this change of your office will impact many… you would have to move temporarily, perhaps permanently to Airus, live in the palace and assume all of the duties of the spiritual leader of the planet, when you have never even been a priest. I’m not saying you are incapable, my lord; anything but… with your great psychic gifts, but… really? Did Aeolus say this to you in person?”
“That’s the oddest thing, Commander – I received his request first in a dream and then it was backed up with a vision,” replied Raphael. “I am not eager to upend my entire life yet again, but I need to speak to Aeolus in person, and want a mothership hereabouts just in case things get out of hand. Can you do this for me, Adrigus?”
“Of course, my lord; I know you would not make such a request if it were not, warranted. Let us hope you don’t need a warrior squad or two to make your point, but can manage it on your own,” replied Adrigus. “I’ll send word to Commander Megasaus immediately. The Green Dragon is located now between Maia and Aires, so it shouldn’t take her too long to reach you. Do you have the commander’s code, sir?”
“No, not with me; he’s not a commander I have had to contact much, Adrigus,” commented Raphael.
“Well, here it is, sir, in case you need to get ahold of him or one of his head commanders,” replied Adrigus, who sent the code via Morovian code, for double security. The shrewd commander lifted his lips displaying his canines in a Feline smile when Raphael returned his message in code: Message received.
“Thank you, Adrigus; now, get ahold of Commander Peter. I need to make further contacts here, now. I may be heading to the palace soon if I can get an audience with Lord Aeolus,” said Raphael. On seeing that Adrigus acknowledged his last statement, he flicked his hand breaking the connection; the screen went blank. Raphael turned to his elder cousin and commented, “Now, can you see why I retained my rank in the Fleet, sir? It comes in handy now and then. I doubt even Lord Aeolus could summon an entire mothership like I just did. Now, can you get ahold of your Lord?”
“Yes – one moment,” said Pietro as he replaced Raphael in front of the comm.
After a momentary pause the screen flickered on, again, this time displaying the pale countenance of Lord Aeolus. Unaccustomed to being contacted by his secretary so early in the morning, Aeolus demanded, “What is going on, Pietro?”
“My apologies, my lord; my son-in-law or former son-in-law, Raphael is staying here as you know, sir. He had a dream…”
“Dream? What kind of dream? Put the man on, Pietro! Is he there with you now?” Aeolus was upset. He had been experiencing dreams of late…
Pietro motioned for Raphael to resume his seat before the comm. Raphael sat down and gave Lord Aeolus a nod of acknowledgement. “My lord; sorry to disturb you this early, but I had a dream and need to discuss it with you your earliest possible convenience. Could I meet with you within an hour or so, either in your rooms or in your private office?”
“Well, I hope you can explain yourself better in person, Cousin! Is Pietro still there? Tell him to convey to the court that we will not be having our usual gathering this morning,” ordered Lord Aeolus, “I will meet you in my office in two hours. Bring your son, Daniel, too.”
“My son, my lord?”
“Yes! Now, I have to go dress. I will see you later, Cousin!” The screen went blank.
“Did you hear Lord Aeolus, Pietro?” asked Raphael, who was a bit stunned with the manner in which he was witnessing yet another huge alteration of his life taking place without any prior preparation. Then he heard an inner voice chuckle: My dear son, you have been preparing for this your entire life…
“Yes, Cousin, I did. I will dress for court immediately. I had hoped to have a tailor by the house in order to measure Eagle Felipe for his new clothes this morning, but Lady Martina can handle that chore. I suspect you will soon require a few more of your men here, my lord… like those huge Felines, Milo, and Loki? And perhaps one of your physicians? It would seem wise for you to take at least one of your physicians with you whenever you go on a visit or tour. Now, let me see what you are wearing… hmmm, kindly change into something a bit gaudier, my lord. If you are, indeed, destined to be our lord soon, then you can alter your form of dress and start a new fashion trend here on Airus. Now, I must go and prepare. You will need to speak to Lady Lorenna,” replied Pietro. As an experienced administrator and bureaucrat he knew how to get things done. He took another glance at his distracted younger cousin and smiled. While he was alarmed by the news that his elder cousin was soon to pass, he was also relieved that the lordship of Airus would pass into the hands of the one man who would willingly give it up when it came time to pass it back to a mature Lord Aeolus in the future. “I will speak to Lady Martina and inform her that we have an unexpected appointment this morning with Lord Aeolus. I know she will take things in hand here…”
“Lord Aeolus wants me to take Daniel with me,” said Raphael.
“I heard that, Raphael; just do as you have been directed. Lord Aeolus will clarify things when you speak with him,” replied a determined Pietro. “Now, I must leave, and you must change that tunic. You might encourage your boy to dress the part, as well. I noticed he chose the plainest garment in his closet to wear this morning. Like father, like son… the two of you! We’ll make Airian gentlemen of you, yet!”
A slightly rebellious reply was on Raphael’s lips, but he forgo sharing it. With maturity he had learned to curb his tongue when appropriate. If his newest role were to be a leader on Airus, he would have to be willing to work with Pietro Kadish, the rest of the Kadish Family, and other Airian leaders. One good thing might come out of this new development… he wouldn’t have to give up his son to anyone now. Daniel would be able to live with him and Lady Lorenna… in the palace. Still, it was not yet certain that any changes to plans needed to be made, at least until he held that appointment with Lord Aeolus. Raphael gave Pietro a terse nod and replied, “Thank you, Pietro, for lending me your comm. I need to see my son and then my mate Lorenna. I will meet you at the front door of the house in about one hour?”
“Make that an hour and half, my lord. I don’t think you had much of an opportunity to eat any breakfast, Raphael. You might pause to fortify yourself a bit before meeting with Lord Aeolus,” suggested Pietro. He stood up and gave Raphael a salute and said, “My lord.”
Raphael did as Lord Pietro suggested. At least he returned to the sun room and found both Lady Lorenna and Lady Martina sitting there. Lorenna looked up and asked, “What is going on, Raphael? Daniel just told me you were in Pietro’s office speaking to Lord Aeolus?”
“Ah, yes, my love. I will tell you about it later. Now, I need to find Daniel,” replied Raphael as he looked around. Daniel and Felipe were no longer present.
“Daniel just informed his grandmother, Lady Martina, that he was going back to his room to change his clothes. He said something about he was going to the palace with you this morning,” said Lorenna with a puzzled look on her face.
“Oh, I should have known he would – if you ladies will excuse me, I need to change my clothes, too. Yes, Daniel and I will be visiting Lord Aeolus this morning in his private office. I need to look the part!” Raphael bowed to Lady Martina, grabbed a couple of pieces of fruit and dashed off in the direction of his room. While he was moving, he sent a message to his son: Meet me at the front door in about an hour, Daniel. We are going to see Lord Aeolus this morning!“
Raphael smiled as he heard the reply: I know, Father; I am changing into the gaudiest tunic I can find in my closet. Felipe is mystified, but understands you had a dream that you must convey to Lord Aeolus as soon as can be. Remember to warn your men, Eduardo, and Giorgio. They need to know where we are going, too.
Excellent, son! Eduardo is following me back to the suite. He will inform his brother to prepare to go out soon.
Two hours later, Raphael and Daniel Kantor-VaCoupe were shown into Lord Aeolus’ private office by Lord Pietro. Daniel’s grandfather then left to inform the rest of the court that Lord Aeolus was occupied and would not be out this morning. So, once again, Raphael entered a short hallway that led into an office. This time, he was accompanied by his young son, Daniel. Father and son looked around at the spacious office which was quite muted in its décor when compared to the rest of the palace. Lord Aeolus was seated in his comfortable chair in front of a huge desk. He looked up with a smile and said, “Well, Cousin; the last time it was a dream of mine that brought you here to my office. Now, you have a dream to share with me, which required both of us to leave our regular plans? Sit down, Raphael, Daniel. Tell me what you have seen, Cousin.”
Raphael first glanced over at his young son who was quietly waiting for his father to reveal what he had dreamed. Then, he turned back to Aeolus and began: “My lord, in my dream, you came to me and said, ‘Cousin, I am dying. I am requesting that you to take my place as Guardian of this world, of our people, all of our people. My body is too frail to carry the energies of the Holy Spirit any longer so I must leave for a time. I will return, but you must serve in my stead until that day. I am sorry to impose this burden upon you, Cousin, but I know that of all the men in the Pleiades, you will not fail. Will you, do it?’”
“And what did you say in return, Cousin?”
“I protested saying I am not from the Kadish Family; I do not live on Airus. I already have a responsible position seeing that my stepson is fully prepared to take up the office of Lord of the Pleiades within the next five years my lord,” replied Raphael. “However, now that I am fully awake, I can see certain benefits coming from this situation, my lord.”
“How so, Raphael? Explain,” queried Lord Aeolus, determined to discover for himself what lay within the heart of the man sitting in front of him.
“Well, sir… as Regent for my stepson, I am already familiar with most of the leaders within our Federation. I now have some experience as an administrator and while I am not fond of the work, I do now know how to delegate. I am also still a Head Commander in the Fleet although I do not currently hold a specific title or office. Still, I have enough pull in the Command to call in the assistance of a mothership in case some of your leading families might initially balk at the idea of an outsider taking command of such a high office,” replied Raphael.
“Then you are considering this… as a possibility, Raphael?”
“Yes, my lord. All my life, I have never been what people expect, whether it was as a commander, nor as a regent. I will not rule as you have ruled, but will work in cooperation with my cousins, Pietro and Da’vid, for the betterment of the people of this world. I intend to dig into any impediments that prevent the true healing of our collective throughout the Pleiades,” responded Raphael. “And there is a reason closer to my heart.”
“And what is that, my lord?” asked Aeolus, although he guessed the answer.
“I would not have to give up my son and remain separated from him while he attends school here on Airus. Of course, this move would require me to give up my current office as Regent and as the temporary head of the family for the VaCoupes. Perhaps Raimundo can take that office temporarily until Francis is fully prepared to become the Lord of the Pleiades,” replied Raphael.
“Will Francis miss having you as his primary mentor, Cousin? And just how ready do you feel the young man is now?” queried Aeolus.
“He is still very young, but intelligent, well-traveled, and hard-working. Master Mei Li, who is a very strict teacher, tells me Francis soaks up everything he is presented with without issue and asks intelligent questions. There is no reason to prevent him from visiting me and his mother if he wishes even once he becomes lord. I will miss my other relatives in Medina and Jolf but can still visit them periodically given I still have my starship in my possession. The Golden Cat has been a major factor in the success of my regency and my ability to visit any planet within the Pleiades within a short amount of time,” replied Raphael. Then he paused and studied the face of his elder cousin who was intently listening to him speaking.
“You will not be able to travel as much as you like while you are holding the balance for this world, my lord,” replied Aeolus. “You will be expected to spend a great deal of time in meditation, prayer, and communion, especially with Source, our Creator. Do you feel you can perform such an office with ease and grace, or would it be a burden upon you, Raphael? You need to be truthful with me and honest with yourself. This burden is a real one. I thought I could carry it longer than I have been able, but the intense grief I felt from learning what occurred to my people while I was unaware – well, it struck deep into my heart and weakened it. So, now I prepare to meet my Maker and repent for my acts of omission.”
“If you cannot take on this role for me, Cousin, then the priestesses of this city will have to carry the burden for me, for our people. Yet, this office demands that the one who holds it is male. I do not know of another male, priest or no, who could manage it better than yourself, Raphael,” replied Aeolus firmly. “You have demonstrated to the entire Federation, to those who command our Fleet, to your own people, your remarkable abilities to discern the hearts of men, to guide rather than rule, and to work equitably with those who are different from yourself. You are one who has lived on other worlds and have adjusted to their customs and ways without compromising your integrity. In short, do you not realize that you have prepared for this task your entire life, my dear Cousin? I had a hand in deciding your fate as a child, to preserve your life for an unknown purpose. Now, perhaps the time has arrived for you to repay me for that gift of life and assume the office that I will soon vacate. Can do you this, sir?”
Raphael looked over at his son, Daniel, who had remained quiet, listening to the conversation. He turned back to Lord Aeolus and asked another question, “My lord, why did you request me bring my son to this meeting?”
Aeolus calmly replied, “If you are willing to stay here on Airus for however long it takes for me to leave and then returned refreshed, to be born, go to school and then mature enough before I can assume my role here once more… then I will grant you and your heirs a lordship of Airus. Your youngest son born of a Daughter of this world will be its lord, the Lord Kantor, to renew your family here, my lord. Daniel will be brought up as an Airian and will live out his years as one. This will be his sacrifice to balance yours. However, during the years that you serve here, you will have an opportunity to be together, father and son, an opportunity that may not have arisen if this issue of my failing health had not hastened its approach. Daniel, are you willing to undertake this change of direction? I sense great things in your future, lad. I know you are very young to make such a life-changing decision, yet I say to you now… it is your choice.”
The young boy looked over at his father who was looking somewhat stunned and replied to his elder cousin, “I am willing, if I may live with my father and stepmother here in the palace. Then, when I am old enough, I would like to attend the University Ship and go into the Fleet for a time so I may meet other men from other worlds and travel through our Federation. Then when I am fifty, I will return, find a suitable mate among your people, and settle down on whatever lands you grant my father and me, my lord.”
Lord Aeolus smiled and remarked, “Lord Raphael; you are fortunate in your children, especially this one. He is a remarkable young person. I already sense a great maturity within stemming from the inner awareness of a very old soul. We can work out the details of what lands will be granted your family when you return from Medina, for I know you have much to do, to inform your adopted family of the change in plans, to relinquish the Regency, and to make some last visits to your son, cousin, and friends in Jolf… the small town that you had hoped would become your place of retirement. You are far too young to retire, my lord; there is much that I see before you – this interval spent on Airus will not be overly long and then you will be free to return to Medina, stay here, or go elsewhere. Are you agreeable to these conditions, Cousin?”
Raphael nodded and then asked one last question: “My lord, have you experienced similar dreams?”
“Raphael, Cousin – I have dreamt about you all the time you have been in this world. It is because of this that I am able to accept without hesitation what you have told me this morning. I know that there is a profound connection between us which has not been previously defined, that of father and son, even as you have been the son of many other prominent lords of light since you first entered this quadrant of creation. And that connection includes your younger son, Daniel Kantor-VaCoupe. Yes, I can see that the two of you are willing to cooperate, to leave your desert life behind and embrace the tropical beauty of your mate and mother’s home world,” replied Lord Aeolus. “Now, share the news with Lord Pietro who, again, waits without with your Eagles… those extraordinary men whom you regard as your brothers and friends. Now, I must rest, my lord, but hope to see you and your kinfolk at dinner tomorrow – one day delayed, as there are now things to attend to, for both you and me. You are dismissed!”
“My lord,” said Raphael as he stood and bowed deeply to his elder cousin, Lord Aeolus. He noticed the man appeared quite exhausted, but resolute. “Daniel, it is time to return to the house of your grandfather and let Lady Martina and your lady mother know what has occurred and the decisions we have arrived upon this fateful morning.”
Lord Pietro and the Montoya brothers were, indeed, waiting outside the office of Lord Aeolus. When he saw Raphael and Daniel emerging from the hallway, Lord Pietro asked, “Well, what happened in there, Raphael?”
“Let me tell everyone at once. You will have to wait patiently until we report to Lady Martina and Lady Lorenna what has occurred this morning, my lord,” replied Raphael, firmly.
From Raphael’s tone, Pietro knew he had to be content and wait. The small party made its way back through the vast halls and rooms of the palace. When Raphael peeked into the audience room, he found it vacant; the glittering place felt hollow and empty to his senses, but he knew it would refill with life and perhaps defiant lords and ladies when the news spread of what was about to occur…
When the men returned to the house of Pietro and Martina, they found Eagle Felipe standing patiently while a small-boned tailor took careful measurements of neck, arms, chest, hips, and legs. All the while, the small man would occasionally pause, and look up into the Eagle’s pleasant face. A crooked grin played around the edge of Felipe’s lips and danced through his great blue eyes. Finally, the man stepped back and surveyed the giant standing before him and remarked, “My lady, I don’t know where you found this man, but he is quite remarkable. I will have to use twice the material than is required for most Airian males! Where do you come from, Master?”
“He comes from Morga, a planet that belongs to the star Thula, Master Tailor,” replied Raphael loudly, as he entered the room, startling the tailor and causing a chuckle to emerge from Felipe. Then the man gasped as he noticed Eduardo and Giorgio looming up behind Raphael.
“Who are you, my lord, to need such men in your company?” asked the tailor.
“Currently, I am the Regent of the Pleiades, Master Tailor, but soon – well, if you will excuse me, I would like to speak to my family members and men in private. Lady Martina are you done here?” asked Raphael, politely.
Martina looked from Raphael to her mate, Pietro, who shrugged in return and commented, “Raphael has something important to share with all of us, my love. Can this business be completed later?”
“Certainly, Pietro,” responded Martina. She graciously thanked the tailor and sent him off. Then, as the man disappeared, she turned to Raphael and asked, “What is going on, Raphael; you have acted so mysterious all this morning!”
“Can we all go to the sun room? I am feeling parched and a bit hungry,” countered Raphael, “Then, I will share what I can.”
Martina wisely conceded and motioned for Felipe, and the others to follow her through the house. Lorenna was already seated in the sun room enjoying a cup of tea. She looked up with a radiant smile when she saw Raphael stride in, commenting, “Oh, you’re back! Now, can you tell us…?”
“Yes, dear ones… I include my Eagles in this, as I regard them as family, also. Now, be seated, one and all. Oh, thanks, Lorenna,” said Raphael as she handed him a cup of cold tea. He took a couple of sips and then put the cup down on the table. “Now, what you have all patiently waited for; an explanation of just why I had to see Lord Aeolus this morning…”
Raphael gave the party a short rendition of what had occurred during the impromptu meeting between Raphael, Daniel, and Lord Aeolus. He finished by stating, “It would appear that I am about to become your spiritual leader, Lord Pietro, and Lady Martina. However, I am not Lord Aeolus and cannot, nor do I wish, to imitate him. Instead of acting the part of a holy man, I will join with Lord Da’vid and Lord Pietro, in acting as an administrator for this world, seeing it into a new era. I will carry the burden of Light that Lord Aeolus seems intent on placing on my shoulders, but in my own manner. So, I may sit upon your elder cousin’s chair of state, but we three, Da’vid, Pietro and I, will work together as a team, with me lending you, my guidance. Still, I was not brought up on this world and must learn your ways so I do not unintentionally offend your customs and practices here… at least to the degree where men would be willing to rise up against my presence in Ostta. And while I live here with my family, I will retain my Eagles – at least the ones I choose to keep with me – and will live with my mate, my two youngest sons, and one of my present physicians who will also act as a tutor for both Daniel and Paulos. What say you? Any questions?”
Pietro and Martina seemed to be speechless, but Eagle Felipe spoke up, “My lord, will you leave the Command, then?”
Raphael shook his blonde head and replied, “No… so, in this way I will differ from Lord Aeolus who has always represented the peaceful side of the Spirit. I have been a warrior and commander and will continue to hold at least the rank of Head Commander. You, my faithful Eagles, will continue to be my guards and companions. I will also have Loki, Milo, and Paul join your company here, leaving the remainder of my current Eagles to be reassigned formally to Francis and his family. So, while I will still officially be a commander, I will not be serving actively away from this world. I may, however, also occasionally attend High Council in Alyona, to keep up and renew my connections with representatives from our other worlds. I will, of course, have to see if Commander Adrigus will agree to my tentative plans, but I do not think he will see any problem as I will still maintain some connection with those leaders who initially supported my becoming Regent, including himself.”
Lorenna looked especially shocked and asked, “What will happen to Francis, to the Regency; who will take your place, Raphael?”
“Well, since this has come up, it might be a good time for Francis to finally step into his role as Lord of the Pleiades,” replied Raphael, taking up Lorenna’s hand and kissing it. “He has been mentored for nearly twenty years after the incident involving his father and the ending of the Starship Project. If he is not ready now; he may never be. This will be his test. I will recommend that he be guided and advised by a Council of Lords, at least initially, who can meet with him separately from the High Council. Then, both he and they can decide when Francis will be ready to go solo. We do not act alone here in the Pleiades but consult with our people and allow them to indicate in what direction we will proceed, so Francis will hardly be on his own, without guidance and advice. This is all part of becoming a man, Lorenna. Francis has already fathered his heir, young Demetrius, and will provide the VaCoupes with many more children, so that family will thrive once more. As for mine, the Kantor-VaCoupes, well, my older children are very independent and can make up their own minds as to what they wish to pursue and where they wish to live. Daniel, however, is promised a lordship on Airus and will become Lord Kantor, like my father was before he was compromised by the enemy. Aeolus has given me the choice to stay or go whenever my stint here is completed, but Daniel will remain and become the patriarch of an all-new branch of the Kantor Family.” He paused and then held out his cup and asked, “May I have some herbal tea, Lady Martina? I prefer it to this dark tea.”
“And Paulos, our youngest son?” asked Lorenna, the anxious mother.
“He will be raised here, Lorenna, alongside his older half-brother. Then, when he is ready to move to higher education, he can attend the Medinian University Ship where he will most likely rediscover his connection with his VaCoupe cousins,” replied Raphael, patiently. “Paulos and Daniel will have the finest education we can give them and our love while we reside here on Airus.”
“And where will we live, my love?” Lorenna knew the answer; she just wanted to hear it from Raphael’s lips.
He smiled and replied, “In the palace, my love. I do not think I will want to live in Lord Aeolus’ rooms. However, the palace is huge, and I am sure that Lord Pietro here can arrange for us to have a fine suite where we can all live together as a family, with our Eagles close by.”
Pietro nodded and replied, “Actually, my lord; I think the series of suites that you have already stayed in would suffice. That wing is particularly easy to defend, and you have access to the nearby garden. It is also not too far from Lord Aeolus’ current office, which I would encourage you to utilize, as it is both private, secure, and has an interactive comm. Your boys could take the adjoining suite and your Eagles the last one. If your physician doesn’t mind, he can share a suite with the boys. Are you thinking of bringing your military aides with you, my lord?”
“No, for once I am going to let those two men decide what they wish to do. Salaniel is currently being mentored by Master Polaño, so he has a ready spot available for him to assume. Commander Monteras can continue to command the Eagles who accompany Francis or perhaps return to Alyona and act under the direction of Commander Adrigus in handling the security there at the Castle. For my part, I will require yet another aide or assistant, for I do not consider you, Lord Pietro, as such. You will be my mentor at first until I learn the ins and outs of this administration,” replied Raphael.
“Your cousin, Da’vid, and I will be most grateful to have access to your ideas and insights for any possible improvements to our bureaucracy, my lord,” replied a relieved Pietro. Personally, Pietro knew that he was over his head working through the issues left behind by the previous administrator, Lord Michael Kadish. Raphael, with his ability to penetrate to the hearts of men, would be able to quickly ferret out any individuals who were not operating for the good of the people of Airus.
Raphael smiled and replied, “First thing I would do, Pietro, is to shrink the existing bureaucracy. Let the people run their own lives. We just need to be responsive to their needs when times get hard or emergencies occur, like what happened in Babbos. Other than that, the common people are quite capable of managing their own affairs. I intend to be more hands on than Lord Aeolus, for his expertise is within an entirely different area of life than my own; yet, with my psychic gifts I can also assist in guiding the Airian people to where they might be willing to explore the expansion and growth of their own spiritual evolution. Perhaps we will become an inspiration to other worlds to follow our lead here on Airus. Meanwhile, I guess I will have to adjust to the tropical heat and humidity!”
“And how they dress here, my lord!” quipped Felipe, who, for one, was extremely relieved that Raphael would be coming here to stay with his son full-time. It would ease his own burden of caring for the boy in a strange land.
Lady Martina frowned a little at Felipe’s quip, but she was also grateful that Raphael was so willing to give up his present position as Regent to come to the aid of his Kadish cousins. She asked, “How do you think the various planetary representatives are going to react to this sudden change in leadership, Raphael? After all, you have only been Regent for three years; a shorter time than previously planned.”
“They will have to adjust, my lady, as will I, myself. This impending end to the present incarnation of Lord Aeolus was also not planned. He told me over five years ago before I became Regent, that he expected to live for several more decades. Unfortunately, his prediction has not played out as expected and so plans must be modified,” replied Raphael. “If I have learned anything in this life, it is that change is all you can count on. The best way to deal with change is to be adaptable and adjust, to flow with the changes rather than resist and attempt to fight them. I have undergone many changes in direction during my relatively short life and have managed to succeed far beyond the original expectations of my foster father, my commanders, and my fellow lords. I suspect I will continue to prosper despite whatever fate places before me and my family will also benefit in the process. If I can be of help for my people, then I will do what I must to adjust… even to point of wearing fancy Airian tunics and trousers!”
After talking for so long, Raphael needed to rest, so he returned to his rooms. Lorenna remained with Lady Martina and Lord Pietro, discussing the profound changes that would affect her life, too. She was not concerned about fitting into Airian society. She had been brought up as a lady and now would become the Lady of Airus, if only for a short time. Since her niece, Lady Sabina, was already in residence in the palace, she would also have a small part of her own family present in Ostta. Lorenna was more concerned about Raphael. She knew he loved the desert regions of Medina and had strong ties to his adopted kin, the VaCoupes. Yet, she was also quite aware of just how often abrupt changes in direction happened for those who were around Raphael. She would adjust. She was thankful to be able to have her children, Daniel and Paulos, with her at least until they went off to school or University Ship. One positive factor was the presence of a large university in the city, where the boys could attend until prepared to take the next step and transfer either to Arconia or later on to the Medinian University Ship.
Raphael would still be considered a part of the VaCoupe Family even though he was adopted. Still, he carried some Airian blood in his veins, the genetic heritage of his long-deceased father, Lord TorSeth Kantor. Lorenna would miss the friends she had made during the past four years in Medina, but she would adapt like her mate. She was aware that Raphael would miss being closer to his eldest son, Jychondria, his daughter, Remilla, and his friends, the Mathdis Family, in Jolf. Then, there were the VaCoupe relatives who had always supported and aided Raphael, namely, his nephew/stepson, Francis; his adopted uncle, Raimundo; Mazzie, the healer; Carlos, his younger cousin; and Andros, the gruff retired warrior. Lorenna would not miss seeing Nemo, her former mate. Even though he no longer lived at the VaCoupe compound, she often caught glimpses of him working alongside his constant companion, Samos, as they trimmed and pruned the shrubs in the rose gardens of the Shemont. She sighed and thought: Life with Raphael!
Sitting nearby, Lady Martina heard that sigh and remarked, “Lady Lorenna, you will soon become the first lady of Airus! Do you have any formal gowns in your wardrobe?”
“Ah, no, Lady Martina, I don’t. We don’t require such garments at home in Medina where things are much more casual as your mate can relate to you. Typically, we wear simple gowns and robes, both male and females alike. Most people go barefoot or wear sandals,” replied Lorenna. “Of course, I have the lovely dresses that you and Lord Aeolus have supplied me through the years, but no, I do not have any formal gowns in my possession.”
“Well, then; we will have to rectify that oversight and soon, if what Raphael said will soon come to past!” said Lady Martina, already visualizing the attractive Lorenna wearing something stunning and golden. “Let us set some time aside while you are still present so I can have my dressmaker take your measurements and begin to prepare more gowns for you to wear. You will also require some hair ornaments, as most of our ladies wear their hair up in chignons or soft buns, and some lovely sandals. Perhaps tomorrow we can stop at a shoemaker and place an order for both you and Daniel. Sandals for you and boots for Daniel!”
Lorenna smiled in return and said, “I willingly place myself in your hands, Lady Martina. You will have to show me all the best shops and cafes. I have not had the privilege to live in a real city since I left Milan; it will be a pleasure to be able to attend art openings, music concerts, plays, and cultural events after living in the spare village of Medina. I have grown to love the desert, but I was born and raised in a mighty city, so I think I will be able to adapt even faster than can Raphael despite his words. I hope he will have access to some places outside of the city so he can get a good dose of nature. I know he will spend a great deal of his free time in the palace gardens, as well. Deprived as he was of nature as a child, I know it is very soothing for him to be near trees and shrubs.”
“We have many beautiful gardens here in Ostta, some of which belong personally to Lord Aeolus, but are shared with the citizenry here. Lord Aeolus is a generous and kind ruler here; I hope Raphael will do his best to emulate our lord’s finest qualities,” replied Lady Martina. “Now, can I interest you in another cup of tea, my dear?”
“Certainly, my lady. I do have one question, a personal one for you. May I call you Mother? My stepson, Daniel, calls you ‘grandmother’. My own mother passed away so long ago that I barely remember her. Since being mated to Raphael, I have addressed Lady Anna as Mother since Raphael considers her as his adopted mother even though she is no longer mated to Lord Demetrius. If you are not willing to be addressed thus, then can I simply call you, ‘Martina’?”
Lady Martina gave Lorenna a radiant smile and replied, “Well, since my own children are no longer present, with Adario living in Jolf and Julia long dead, I will accept your suggestion. It would seem that you and Raphael will become part of our immediate family while you are living here in Ostta. I know we cannot predict where fate will next carry your mate, but we will cherish the time we have with you, here and now.”
“And I will relish being able to be present for my niece, Sabina, and her son, Jon’dra,” replied Lorenna. She received another gracious smile from Martina. It was clear that the Airian lady already regarded Lorenna as a friend.
“And we shall be able to share the responsibility of seeing that your rough diamond of a mate, Raphael, is transformed into a proper Airian gentleman!” quipped Lady Martina. Both women shared a smile and a nod. They both knew they had quite the task ahead to accomplish that goal.
Lady Martina and Lorenna did go out shopping later in the day, while Raphael met with Pietro and Da’vid in the administrative offices of the palace. Raphael wanted to inform Da’vid of what was about to occur as his Kadish cousin would play an important role in determining whether or not Raphael would be accepted by the people of Airus. First, Raphael conveyed the content of his dream and vision, and then the discussion between himself and Lord Aeolus. At the end of these revelations, he added, “So, you see, dear Cousin, that once again, I will be compelled to upend my entire existence and move here to Airus, in order to take up a completely unexpected new task and office.”
Da’vid was rather surprised by Raphael’s revelations but not nearly as much as he was pleased that his talented cousin would soon be joining the efforts of himself and Lord Pietro, in returning Airus to a state of balance and harmony. He remarked, “I can well imagine how you feel, to be somewhat compelled to return to the home of your fathers, the Kantors, and to rule or guide our people, whom you do not know at all well, having only been here a few times prior to this visit. Still, I had to upend my life, too, when my father was condemned and executed, having to return from being a well-traveled geologist to being a lord circumscribed by a whole list of customs and age-old practices – not all that functioned very well. You also have experience butting heads with people who refuse to change, whether in reference to your wondrous golden ships or the layers of bureaucracy buried amidst the Fleet and in our councils.”
“I am just sorry to see that Lord Aeolus is going to be leaving his people for a time. I was just beginning to know the fellow, having spent some enlightening private discussions with him during my last visit and now this one,” replied Raphael. “He has told me, in my dream and in person, that I have been preparing for this step my whole life. I can see the wisdom and truth in his words, as I would not have known what to do as the leader of an world without having spent some time as Regent. Now, I have worked with a variety of people from widely diverse cultures, sought ways to mutually work together, to understand things from another perspective and pulling back from the need to control what people do in their daily lives. I just know that I have no intention of emulating my elder cousin by sitting on a golden chair in front of a roomful of overdressed wealthy people, when I can be busy doing something practical to contribute to the welfare of all the people here.”
“Well, Da’vid and I can certainly use your help to continue our task of straightening out the workings of our local planetary government,” replied Pietro. “Still, you will have to balance out those practical efforts with the inner work you will be compelled to complete in order to fulfill Lord Aeolus’ request that you hold the balance for this world and indeed, act as the representative of the Holy Spirit in the flesh, as it were. Perhaps our High Priestess can give you some instruction on how to go about that…”
“I doubt it, Pietro – I connected with the Soul essence of the great star Jayha when I was but a boy. I suspect I have a great deal of yet untapped inner wisdom that will only come forth when it is required. It would appear that time grows nearer for me. I will manage as I have always managed by listening to my inner guidance and connecting with those Angelic presences who have always watched over me,” replied Raphael. “I have always been the unexpected, unheralded, untaught, and unconventional man who has not followed upon the heavily trodden way but the road less traveled – the more difficult, hidden, narrow road whose route can only be revealed when the time and need arises, as it is about to… in my case. And not only mine, but I will have to abandon my stepson, Francis VaCoupe, who is on the verge of becoming Lord of the Pleiades, all of my relatives who live in Medina, change everything about how and where I live, all to help a world I barely know.”
Raphael was rolling a pen around in his hand as he continued, “I have only been Regent for a period of less than five years and my abandonment of that station is sure to upset some of the representatives who have come to regard me as their friend, someone who listens to their needs and responds when it is appropriate. Francis will be new in taking full responsibility of leading the Council. Fortunately, the Lord of the Pleiades is more of a guide than an absolute ruler. Our guidance must come from the people and where it doesn’t yet, that will have to be corrected for the good of all. Francis will be challenged during his first decades as Lord, but it would have come five years hence whether or not I left as Regent, for I was not going to hold that office any longer than I deemed necessary. Now, I am asking that you, Lord Da’vid, join with other powerful men to see that Francis has an inner council of say nine to twelve influential men or women like Lady Chokama, who can guide him and act as part-time mentors. Of course, Francis will be free to visit me in person if he wishes to while I am living here on Airus. Currently, I have no idea how long this ‘stint’ will be, but a lot will depend on you, Da’vid, and your mate, Lady Sabina, since it would appear that you two will ultimately be the father and mother of the new incarnation of your Lord Aeolus. I will be merely playing the role of a placeholder for your lord. I will do my very best to fulfill the office, but I will be the first to admit that I am neither priest nor an authority on Airus. I just hope that my inner guidance will serve me well, and by extension, serve the needs of the people of Airus and beyond.”
“Well, I know that I am grateful, Raphael, that you are even considering upon making this vast recalibration of your life and that of your mate. Still, you will now be able to remain in the company of your son, Daniel. We will be able to see him often now that he will be living with you and Lorenna in the palace. Your youngest child, Paulos, will also be able to stay with his older brother and strengthen the bonds of love between the two siblings, although they come from different mothers,” replied Da’vid, “for now, both of those boys will serve as playmates and friends for the children of Sabina and myself. Seeing that one of those children will eventually be the reincarnation of Lord Aeolus himself, I would appreciate having your insights and guidance on how to bring up such a child. I can’t say I have a great deal of experience around children in general, my lord. You are the father of seven children and have also raised… what was it, three foster children besides? You have much more experience than either Sabina or me!”
“This is going to be quite an adventure for all of us, Cousin,” replied Raphael. “First of all, I will have to be patient with myself as I adjust to the different customs and practices here on Airus, especially the current manner of dress… which I don’t understand given the heat and humidity of this climate. However, I will listen to the guidance of Lady Martina, who has demonstrated to us that she has exquisite taste. And I am sure that my intelligent mate, Lorenna, will relish being able to sample the benefits of living in a more urban setting than the desert village of Medina.”
Pietro grinned unexpectedly and replied, “Martina told me that Lorenna is actually anticipating with relish to enjoying the cultural benefits of living in a city filled with colleges, gardens, shops, and cafes… none of which you have in Medina. Well, you do have a very nice garden at the VaCoupe compound, I must admit, but you will have to replace desert storms with tropical rainstorms here. It can get very wet in some seasons, but is usually cooler, too.”
“Ah, the ladies…” commented Raphael with an answering grin. “Lorenna has never complained about the living conditions in Medina, but I must admit, the luxuries available here are far beyond what we would want or need in Medina. The nomadic practices of thrift and simplicity still prevail even today on Medina, as is required in the respect to the severe climate and customs of the formerly tribal people there. As a boy, I could easily accept those customs as I had never owned anything as a child and I was born twice upon another desert planet, Morova.”
“Well, it is a good thing that both you and Lorenna are adaptable, for it would seem that is becoming a pattern in your life, Raphael,” commented Da’vid.
“How are we going to introduce the notion that I am going to assume the lordship of Airus after Lord Aeolus passes? I would think there would be quite a bit of potential opposition to such an occurrence,” said Raphael.
Lord Pietro replied, “we are going to have to leave the introduction of this ‘potential plan’ – for that is all that it is as of now – to Lord Aeolus himself. He will have to make a formal announcement to those individuals who attend his court, introduce you to them, give his people the reasoning behind such an occurrence and then field any questions or concerns the people have as a result. This will place a tremendous burden on an already frail man, so it might actually hasten his demise – which should, in turn, alert the people that this transition is a real thing not just a possibility. After all, it has been ages since this sort of transition has occurred, well beyond the awareness and memory of anyone currently living on Airus, as Lord Aeolus is an Ancient of Days… namely, his life span is enormous compared to ordinary Airians. It would take a scholar to find the records of when this sort of thing last occurred here. I know Aeolus shared once, privately, that his age exceeds 12,000 years. He also told me that each time he reincarnates, his lifespan also increases, so in his next life, he will long outlive me, as his cousin.”
“I think such an announcement that I will be assuming Lord Aeolus’ place should wait until I can return to Airus after making my apologies to the VaCoupes and to the members of the High Council,” suggested Raphael, concerned already about his elder cousin’s increasingly frail condition. “Then, if necessary, I can back up any announcement of Lord Aeolus’ with a show of force from the Command that might convince any individual who disagrees with the transition.”
Lord Pietro looked alarmed and said, “I am not sure that another show of force from the Command would be welcomed by the people of Ostta. They might view it as a potential invasion and your ascension to the rulership of Airus as an insult. I would consult with Lord Aeolus before you put such a plan into effect, my lord.”
“I will consider your advice, Pietro, and that of Lord Aeolus,” replied Raphael. “Now, I have already summoned a mothership to approach the vicinity of Airus and will have to explain to Adrigus and the ship’s top commander, Peter Megasaus, why I suddenly don’t need the ship after all. I admit my request was made when I was suffering from the after-effects of a sudden vision. I miss the advice of my wise physician, Master Mei Li Zang, whom I consult now and then on important matters. He will be the primary tutor for my boys, Daniel and Paulos, here in Ostta, at least until they are old enough to attend some of the college courses. I will also miss the sage advice of my adopted uncle, Lord Raimundo, brother to my father.”
“Well, Raphael – you are not a child anymore, either. You have been fortunate to have had a series of wise and experienced mentors during your troubled early years of recovery after your rescue. Now, you need to put some of your own wisdom and experience to good use in seeing how well you cope being a very focused ruler of a huge and extremely resource-rich planet, Airus,” commented Pietro. “All eyes will be on you while you reign in Ostta. Can you handle that sort of attention and level of responsibility?”
“Well, I will just have to do the best I can,” replied Raphael, as he began to wonder about what he was walking into by accepting what Aeolus proposed to him.
Pietro looked at Raphael closely and asked, “Do I suddenly detect a note of hesitancy in your voice, my lord? Are you regretting your acceptance of Lord Aeolus’ proposal?”
“Well, he may maintain that I have been preparing for this temporary position all my life, but there is nothing in my past that suggests I have the capacity to endure endless hours of listening to courtiers droning on about the latest fashion in tunics!” snorted Raphael. “For the life of me, I don’t know how Aeolus can endure the hours spent before his court. I will have to ask him to share his secret with me since I will be acting as his placeholder until he can return.”
This time, Da’vid chuckled, while Pietro flushed with embarrassment since he was one of the courtiers. Da’vid remarked, “I was shocked, too, when I first encountered the court and their seemingly innocuous culture, but you will eventually become accustomed to it. And given your propensity to ridicule such behavior, you will probably manage to upset quite a few people who take themselves far too seriously. Try to be kind, Raphael; these are the people of your father and your first mate. They may be worldly and more fashion-conscious than your sober desert dwellers, but they live in a lush, beautiful land very different from the cacti-strewn reaches of Medina or Morova. Their local customs reflect that beauty. I hope you can come to appreciate it, as I have over the last seven or so years.”
“Thank you, Da’vid, for sharing your perspective and experience in living here,” replied Pietro. “I am not ashamed of being someone who values dressing well and putting on my best appearance when I show up in court, to interact with persons of breeding and distinction. I imagine you will meet with all sorts of people you would have never had the good fortune to encounter whilst living in the hinterlands of Medina.”
“Well, I guess I have at least three, maybe four people who can give some guidance and instruction on how to present myself, so I won’t offend anyone… at least through my manner of dress. That would be you, Pietro, Da’vid, Martina, and my dear mate, Lorenna. Remember my mate was raised in the Maian court which is just as grand as has been that of Aeolus. The palace of the Dinos nearly rivals the beauty of the palace here in Ostta, although I prefer the one here. The Dino palace is constructed of black stone and appears quite startling against the lush landscape of the city,” replied Raphael. “The scale of both cities is actually quite similar; a fact that struck Lorenna when she first saw Ostta from the air – that time I landed the Golden Cat in the central square.”
“You can be quite impulsive sometimes, Raphael,” admonished Pietro, “I hope you can learn to curb that tendency while you live here in Ostta.”
“My adopted father would say the same thing, but that impulsive streaks surfaces now and then. Lord Demetrius would become quite annoyed with me when I refused to live in Medina with him and Lady Anna,” reminisced Raphael. “I shocked him more than once by flying experimental golden craft all the way to Medina to test them out. I do miss him. My life would have been quite different had he survived the wars.”
“As would all of ours,” replied Pietro. “So much has changed and yet, so much is the same. Still, we three will have plenty of work with which to focus upon before this world and its people are fully healed.”
“Yes, I agree, Pietro,” said Raphael, nodding his head. “Now, we should probably return to your house, Pietro. Da’vid, could you fetch Sabina and Jon’dra and bring them over? Oh, forgive me, Pietro – it’s your house; you should do the inviting…”
“Well, in this case, I agree with you about having Sabina and Jon’dra present. The boy may not understand what is going on, but I know that Sabina will be delighted to hear that you and Lorenna will be living here soon,” replied Da’vid. “She will understand more about Lord Aeolus and the role he has played here in holding the balance for the rest of our people. Perhaps you need to have a long discussion with her in private, Raphael. She is a well-trained priestess after all, even though she has not served in the local Temple. Oh… your eldest daughter is here, also, and might be surprised to hear that you intend to move to Airus at least for a short time… just how long did Aeolous say it would take him to return?”
“Thirty-five to fifty years,” replied Raphael, “A short time when you consider how long some of our people can live now. Lord Demetrius was over 600 years old when he was killed. Lyonell lived over 700 years. And I know that my former mentor, Master Li Tzulo, was probably over 1,000 years old, although he has never confessed his real age to me. You do know that as our people evolve into a higher frequency range, their lifespan will expand accordingly if they wish it? That is what Lord Aeolus was inferring when he told you, Pietro, that each time he reincarnates, his lifespan expands. As he serves, he grows as a soul, embodying more of his divine qualities. I can only hope to emulate a portion of what he has accomplished during all of his incarnations as Lord of Airus. I hope your people can hold a reasonable expectation of what I can manage while I am acting as a placeholder for him.”
Pietro smiled and replied, “They may need periodic reminding, my lord; but I think you will manage to surprise them as you have managed to surpass all previous expectations that anyone has held for you. I am glad that you will be here to help us through another rough patch. The people of Airus are very proud of Lord Aeolus and they will greatly miss his presence among them. You have a great challenge ahead of you, Raphael, but like my elder cousin, I feel that you, of all people in the Federation, can manage to surpass any expectations that would be placed upon you by people who do not know you well. I certainly cannot claim such inner knowledge, either, not having spent much time in your presence, but I have caught glimpses of your brilliance, my lord. This new assignment of yours may trigger something that has lain dormant within due to your early troubled life. Only time will tell and I, for one, am glad I will be able to witness you coming into your own.”
“And what is that, Pietro – my own?” queried Raphael, suddenly feeling a bit overwhelmed by the challenges being placed in front of him by this latest alteration in his life.
“Aeolus once shared with me that you hold within a power that has yet been untapped, that has the potential to astound. Whether or not you will discover this power while acting as a placeholder is yet unknown, but the potential is certainly there. I know other mentors of yours have seen this in you, too, my lord,” came the cryptic reply from Pietro. He just smiled when he saw the confusion on Raphael’s countenance. He next suggested, “Da’vid, fetch your family. Raphael and I will return to our house and wait for you to arrive. Then, we will all sit together and share the news of these new developments with our loved ones and enjoy another evening together, the first of many.”
Pietro and Raphael returned to the house. Daniel ran up and embraced his father around his waist when he entered the sun room and exclaimed, “Oh, Father, I am so happy you and Mother will be here to watch me grow up! Are we going to live in the palace? Can I see Jon’dra every day? We’ll all be able to see the amazing sights of this city together!”
“Ah, Daniel – I am also happy that you and I will no longer have to be separated. You were Julia’s last gift to all of us and I cherish your presence in my life,” replied Raphael. Then, he kissed his son on the top of his head and said, “Release me, Daniel, I want to sit down and have some more tea… maybe some juice or broth. I think I have been talking nearly all day except when I took a brief rest!”
Pietro added for the benefit of his mate, “Martina, we are going to have some unexpected guests this evening. Da’vid is going to bring Sabina and Jon’dra over so we can all share the good news that Raphael and Lorenna are going to join our family here on Airus for the foreseeable future or at least 35 to 50 years… Isn’t that about the same amount of time you spent on the Starship Project, Raphael?”
“Yes, Pietro – thirty-five exciting, exasperating years spent working hard on a project that wasn’t accepted by the people it was intended for – the Fleet. I hope I have better luck with this newest, unexpected assignment that has been handed to me… or will soon be, by my elder cousin, Lord Aeolus!” replied Raphael with a sigh. “Oh, I am feeling rather exhausted by all of this excitement and anticipation.”
“Well, Raphael – stay awake long enough to share the news with our guests!” replied Martina, who was in the process of leaving the room in order to give further instructions to her kitchen staff. “I’ll see that you have some strong herbal tea with honey and lemon to drink along with your dinner.”
“Thank you, my lady…”
When Da’vid arrived with his little family, Lady Sabina was told the news that Raphael and Lorenna would soon come to live in Ostta. Sabina was confused and asked, “Why this sudden development, Uncle?”
Raphael replied, “I had a dream… one of my precognitive dreams. Your elder cousin, Lord Aeolus is preparing to leave us for a time. He has requested that I take his place until he can be reborn, grow up and mature, until he is ready once more to take his proper place among the people of Airus. You and your mate, Da’vid, will be his parents. We will all be his guides and mentors. And I, Raphael Kantor-VaCoupe, will be at least for a short while, the Regent of Airus.” Pietro gave his younger cousin an odd look when he said ‘regent’ rather than ‘lord’. Raphael went on to explain: “I haven’t really had time to think about this, but I feel the title, ‘Regent’, would be less offensive to the people of Airus, for it would let them know from the very onset, that I do not mean to forever remain their Lord. That is the place reserved for Lord Aeolus, not me, a person not born of this world, an outsider. My only relationship in this current incarnation is that of a distant cousin and not even a member of the lord’s family, the Kadishes. So, I hope that in being introduced to the people in this manner will alleviate their fears that I might be meaning to wrestle the lordship permanently away from your leading family.”
Sabina nodded and replied, “that is a wise approach to this transition, Uncle. You have already shown to many that you have not demonstrated any desire to seize the lordship of the Pleiades from your stepson and nephew, Francis VaCoupe. Rather than agreeing to take over the lordship here, by being a regent instead, you are acting as a placeholder for the true heir… who has yet to leave us and will return as a young child. Then, when Aeolus is reborn, you will be present to act as mentor, guide, and placeholder until the young man can, once again, resume his title and office as Lord of Airus. What do you think, Da’vid, Lord Pietro?”
Da’vid and Pietro looked at each other and shook their heads in wonder. Da’vid spoke first, “Once again, Raphael, you show your true inner wisdom, of knowing what to do and how to do it without requiring outside guidance. And you truly demonstrate your humble nature. You look to the welfare of the people, rather than seeking to use this opportunity for your own benefit. Few if any other men would be capable of acting as you have just suggested. It is a reasonable solution that may prevent our people from seeing you as a usurper.”
“I agree,” replied Pietro. “I shall introduce this idea of yours to Lord Aeolus and see what he says. I will be seeing him tomorrow morning… Actually, we will all be seeing him tomorrow night, as he wishes to hold a family dinner for the two of you before you have to leave for Medina. High Council is approaching, again, and you will have quite a bit of explaining to do while there…”
“I know. I am not looking forward to that part of this transition. Lord Aeolus has not yet left us, so I will have to remain as Regent of the Federation for a few more months until it is evident that your elder cousin is, indeed, about to pass,” replied Raphael. “This transitional period may create some needless tension between the worlds, so we will have to proceed with some caution. And, like you said, I have quite a bit of explaining to do, to my family members, both adopted and blood, especially Francis VaCoupe, my stepson, and my faithful military aides. Commander Monteras has been with me for most of my life since I was rescued. And Salaniel DeAires has been a hard-working, dedicated partner, especially during the years when we were working together on performing timely scans of the Federation while we were under the constant threat of invasion from overwhelming enemy forces. Hopefully, they will be willing to adjust to the changes that will inevitably arrive once Lord Aeolus is gone.”
Lorenna said, “They really won’t have choice in the matter. Lord Aeolus himself has requested your aid in this matter. As members of the Fleet, even though they have served alongside you for a lengthy period, you were planning to eventually retire anyway. So, it is really now or never; they will have to be willing to accept other posts as they have shown their commitment to staying in the Fleet. Salaniel DeAires will be shortly taking over the duties of Master Francis Polaño, a position that is not a military one… although it could be transformed into one, should the Fleet commanders make it so. I understand Commander Adrigus has taken command of the Castle guards since he took up the role of Lord of Alyona Castle. Commander DeAires could work directly under the Lord of the Alyona Castle, in concert with my son, Francis VaCoupe, when he finally assumes the full lordship of the Pleiades. It was much easier under Lord Demetrius, as he held both a commission in the Fleet and the Lordship. Still, we have to work with what we have now. Technically, Francis still holds a nominal position as a commander in the fleet although he has not served in that capacity for some years. He could not… would not be accepted as Supreme High Commander since he doesn’t have the necessary training or experience required to fulfill that role.”
“That is all true, Lorenna – and was an excellent description of our current dilemma. Where there was once one man in command, now we are required to have two. This situation has worked well while I have been Regent. I can only hope it continues to function well into the future, which will depend on the man selected to replace Commander Adrigus, who will eventually be required to retire, due to age,” said Raphael. “Still, at this point much of this is still conjecture. Lord Aeolus has asked for my assistance, and I have agreed to come to his aid. All the other matters are beyond my control and my scope, even in my current capacity as Regent for the Federation. I will merely hand over the responsibility to Francis, and he can choose the men whom he wishes to act as his council, to give him advice and support, so he can adapt to carrying the weight of responsibility demanded by that position. Whether he takes on this burden now or five years from now, it is his by right as the heir of Lord Demetrius VaCoupe, my father.”
Lady Martina finally spoke up, “Well, as grandmother to Daniel here, I am happy to be able to anticipate having both you and Lorenna living here amongst your extended family for the next several decades. This will be an opportunity to become more closely acquainted with each other, to watch my grandchildren grow up, and for our world to remain a peaceful place knowing that we have a wise ruler in your person, Raphael.”
“Thank you, Lady Martina, and thank you to all of you, my kin, my blood kin,” replied Raphael. “This shall prove an interesting experience for me, as one who has been compelled through circumstance to live and work in many different settings. I do not yet regard Airus as ‘home’, but I may yet arrive there. We will see what the future brings, but approach it slowly, one day at a time, savoring each day shared in each other’s company!”
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