BOOK FOUR: CHAPTER 25 – Settling In


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CHAPTER 25 – Settling In BOOK FOUR After a bite of breakfast, Raphael, Commander Monteras, and their escort of Eagles, the Montoya brothers, made their way to the former office of Lord Aeolus. There, they were greeted by Captain Fernando and … Continue reading

BOOK FOUR: CHAPTER 23 – An Explanation is in Order


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CHAPTER 23 – An Explanation is in Order BOOK FOUR Raphael was, again, seated at his elder cousin’s desk, communicating with Commander Adrigus: “Sorry, Commander – I jumped the gun a bit when I ordered the presence of a mothership … Continue reading

BOOK FOUR: CHAPTER 20 – Paulos Dino Kantor


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CHAPTER 20 – Paulos Dino Kantor BOOK FOUR It was early afternoon when Raphael and his party arrived back in Medina in the midst of a rainstorm. They hurriedly threw their luggage into a couple of waiting viscars and drove … Continue reading

BOOK FOUR: CHAPTER 19 – Family Gathering


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CHAPTER 19 – Family Gathering BOOK FOUR To Raphael’s delight, Lord Mathdis and Lady Anna arrived one week prior to the beginning of the Howling, so all of the family members would all have an opportunity for a lengthy visit.  … Continue reading

BOOK FOUR: CHAPTER 18 – Roxanee Ramirez


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CHAPTER 18 – Roxanee Ramirez BOOK FOUR The next morning, Raphael finally got his way and insisted in taking up Chief Ramirez and his two sons on a flight in the Golden Cat. The two boys were madly excited for it … Continue reading

BOOK FOUR: CHAPTER 16 – Visit to Morova


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CHAPTER 16 – Visit to Morova BOOK FOUR More than a month had passed since Raphael had become Regent. The last session of High Council was over. Raphael had met with more of the Isle representatives and things seemed to … Continue reading

BOOK FOUR: CHAPTER 15 – Regency of the Federation

CHAPTER 15 – Regency of the Federation


The first week of Raphael’s new regency was nearly over.  He had just a few more meetings to hold with Lord Adamos, one with a staff member, Master Toyobemos, and then one with Chief Ramirez of Morova. 

Raphael was managing to adapt quickly to his new schedule. It was more difficult to manage people’s expectations. He had had to hold a few meetings with the planetary representatives who chosen not to vote for him when the vote was taken on the first day of High Council. Patiently, he heard out their complaints and then gave a brief synopsis of the plans he had for the Federation. Invariably, these representatives had strongly held beliefs that sudden change was ill-advised. Raphael had to agree with them, but also spoke of the need to work with all of the worlds to see that their people were adjusting to the post-war era.

One day, as he was speaking to one of these representatives, a tall blonde man from the Planet of Alfaedus, Raphael stated: “I understand your concerns, Master Tetemos; however, I fully intend to travel to your home world and speak firsthand with your leaders to hear their concerns and needs. Personally, it is the responsibility for any regent or Lord of the Pleiades to get to know the people, how they live, their beliefs and cultures, what they hold sacred, how they think, how their society is organized, and how the High Council and Regent can assist them in adjusting to life after these long wars. Both Master VaCoupe and I have pledged to visit as many planets as we can manage to during my term of office and when, Master Francis VaCoupe becomes your lord, I will encourage him to continue this custom!”

“Oh… my lord, Lord Demetrius used to do something like that before war broke out in the Pleiades… he was still a relatively young man having taken over the Lordship when his father unexpectedly passed,” replied Master Tetemos. “I happen to remember so you can, perhaps, guess how long I have been attending these sessions. Up until the regency of your adopted sister Claudine Vanairus, there had never been a regency. And now, just a few years after the death of your adopted father, we have just launched into the second regency. I fear my very conservative constituents will be concerned about the apparent mental instability being exhibited by members of the VaCoupe Family to maintain control over their progeny, namely those who are the heirs of the lordship. Perhaps is it time to transfer the office of Lord to another ancient family like that of the Dinos or the Kadish Families, my lord?”

Raphael frowned and replied, emphasizing his words carefully: “Master Tetemos – the Lordship has been the sole charge of the heirs of the VaCoupe Family for untold generations – that responsibility is not going to be shifted to another family just because an entire generation has failed to rise up to meet the challenge. My regency is designed to hold the lordship for the VaCoupe Family while its legal heir, Master Francis Dino VaCoupe, matures and is fully trained so he will be prepared to undertake his responsibilities in the future… which should be in just a few more years. I must emphasize that I have no wish to hold this office for a moment longer than necessary. I have undertaken this burden out of concern for the people and out of a desire to protect the future of my nephew’s inheritance. Both Francis and I will be visiting your world and others in an effort to allow your people to get to know us better, to develop confidence once again in the leadership of the VaCoupe heir, now and into the future.”

Master Tetemos looked very thoughtful before replying. Then, he said, “Well, my lord; I want to thank you for your willingness to both speak to me and to take on this burden for us, the people. I do sense that you came to this choice reluctantly and unlike your adopted sister, will endeavor to listen to the concerns of all of our people. When I return to my home world tomorrow, I will present my impressions of you and your nephew, Master Francis VaCoupe, to the High Council of our people. On the whole, I feel better for having had this opportunity to meet you in person. Thank you for being a gracious host this week, my lord… although I gather you have not been someone to eagerly seek the limelight in the past.”

“No, I can honestly say, Master Tetemos, that I have, in the past, usually attempted to remain in the background performing my assigned duties. I intend to perform my duties as Regent to the best of my ability, while at the same time recognizing that I will be required to present a more public face than I have in the past. I welcome the opportunity to become more acquainted with the various representatives from all of the Pleiadian worlds, but still, I am only one man. So, if any concerns are raised regarding the Regency or myself, by your people when you get home, please contact my assistant, Master Francis Polaño, so further appointments may be set up. Also, if arrangements can be made for a state visit from myself and Master Francis VaCoupe, please advise Master Polaño when would be a good time to visit your home world, Alfaedus,” replied Raphael. He paused and then smiled, “Incidentally, one of my long-time Eagle guards is a native son of Alfaedus, Paul Dominguez. A more loyal and dedicated individual would be hard to find. He is not currently on duty, or I would have introduced the two of you!”

“Well, thank you, my lord. I will see you at the last dinner tonight?” asked the Alfaedian representative.

Yes, Master Tetemos, I will be in attendance, but this time, as a guest. Lord Adamos Dino of Maia will be playing host tonight!” replied Raphael. 

Then, I will see you there, my lord,” said Master Tetemos, as he stood, gave a short bow, and left the room.

Soon after the Alfaedian representative had left, Lord Adamos himself knocked on the outer door and was shown in by Commander DeAires. “My lord, Lord Adamos is here to speak with you!”

Raphael gave a big sigh and replied, “Thank you, DeAires – could you see about some tea, please? I am getting thirsty doing all this talking!”

“Certainly, my lord – Lord Adamos, you can go right in,” announced DeAires.

Lord Adamos was in a cheerful mood. He had enjoyed the challenges presented by the sudden overthrow of Claudine’s regency and some of the controversies being presented by various representatives who were uncertain about the wisdom of such an abrupt move. Yet, as the first week of Raphael’s regency wore on, the misapprehensions of some representatives seemed to have dissipated as their new regent proved himself to be knowledgeable, affable, dedicated to service, and fairness, a man intent on responding to the true concerns of the Pleiadian people, to the best of his ability. 

During the course of the past week, concerns from both large and small worlds were considered and discussed during the various sessions. For the first time since the death of Lord Demetrius, some of the representatives really felt like their perspectives were being heard and considered. It was an epiphany for some that Raphael was willing to encourage larger worlds with more resources to aid those who had less, even to the point of rebuilding whole villages, farms, and even industries that had been destroyed during enemy attacks.

During one session, Lord Da’vid gave a detailed account of how Lord Raphael had arranged for teams from both Medina and Serana to aid villagers on an Airian continent, given the need of the hour. Some of the representatives were astonished to hear this, given that Airus was known to be a very wealthy planet. One man loudly asked, “Why didn’t the Airians come to help their own? Why did Lord Raphael, a stranger, have to offer assistance from men from off-world? Why didn’t the bureaucracy in Ostta respond to the needs of their own people?”

Fortunately, Lord Pietro Kadish was not present for this session or else he might have been compelled to answer these reasonable questions and to be embarrassed in the process. Lord Da’vid replied, explaining that at the time the planetary administration was in a state of confusion and disarray due to continued enemy incursions outside Ostta. Then, there was the trial and execution of Lord Michael Kadish due to his involvement with enemy forces in perpetrating human trafficking and attacks against settlements outside the city. Lord Adamos stated, “The governance of Airus was in a chaotic state at the time of these incidents occurred. The leadership of Lord Michael Kadish was recognized to have been behind some of this chaos. I had been contacted while off-world and drawn into the fray by being informed that I was now in line to become second lord of Airus… me, without any bureaucratic training what so ever. It took the clear thinking of Lord Raphael and his sensitivities to the dark energies to draw our attention to the plight of our people on the continent of Myenaar who were in the process of being attacked by hidden enemy forces. He made a special trip to Myenaar to see for himself the extent of damage done… and then was able to produce a quick remedy on the spot. Lord Raphael is a man who cares about the welfare of all of the people, not just the wealthy and privileged.”

There was some chatter and murmuring between representatives as they assimilated this information. Another representative stood up, waiting to be recognized by the Council secretary. When acknowledged, he asked a question that Raphael had been dreading to hear: “Why is Lord Raphael so sensitive to the dark energies?”

Lord Da’vid looked over at Raphael who shrugged and then stood up, replying, “It is because as a child I was held captive by the dark forces then heavily embedded upon Morova – forces that have now been removed by a combined effort of the Command and Morovian tribesmen in eradicating their presence there. After my rescue at age 14 and recently orphaned. I was sent here to Alyona to be interviewed by the Council as my parents were not native Morovians. It was during the process of interviewing me and discovering some of my back history, that Lord Demetrius decided to take me in as his foster son. Since my rescue from captivity, I have struggled with gifts that gave me precognitive dreams and visions, often related to upcoming attacks and battles. I have also learned to walk the Akash so I might observe the causes underlying certain events and decisions. I have actively utilized these gifts and many others during my years of service in the Command and under my adopted father, Lord Demetrius. Now, I am using some of those gifts to determine what is required to assist our people to heal from the effects of war.”

Commander Adrigus could not resist coming forward and speaking after Raphael sat down. Although not present as a representative of one of the planets, he was the present leader of the Command. Adrigus cleared his throat and began, “As a long-time top commander under Lord Demetrius, I had often heard about this young talented commander who had unusual gifts. As a child, he had survived a decade of abuse by enemy forces. Later on, the young man entered the command and then utilized his abilities to aid our commanders. He was only 26 years old when this young commander was inspired to begin a Line Communications Command Center here on Alyona. Along with his former senior commander, Charles Lo’Telle, Commander Kantor trained many talented men who have continued to monitor throughout the war the movements of the enemy forces throughout our Federation. Those of you who have traveled from our rim worlds know how large Pleiadian-held space is… huge, gigantic, encompassing star systems which contain numerous worlds, large and small. It was through the dedication and foresight of this one individual and those who aligned themselves with his dream that we ever made it through the war fairly unscathed… for we know of other star systems that were not so fortunate as we were to have the assistance of one such as Lord Raphael!”

Afterward, some of the representatives came up to Raphael to congratulate him on his new position and to offer him suggestions for future sessions. In the end, he thanked them for their ideas and asked them to present the ideas to either the Council’s secretary, the priest Master Toyobemos or his own assistant, Master Polaño, for inclusion in the next High Council session.

In overhearing Raphael speaking to some of these representatives, Lord Da’vid later commented, “Well, Cousin, it would appear you are swiftly learning to delegate tasks. When speaking to hundreds of people with a thousand items important to them, they think you’ll drop everything and take heed, addressing their concerns first. Someone who is in the position of a leader, does require to listen to the concerns, but not necessarily to address each one, as many will be similar in content and can be addressed overall… perhaps not to the satisfaction of all involved, but you are one man. These representatives must learn that their own people need to decide what is important, what needs to be dealt with first, and then triage the rest until it can be handled. I envision the time will come when people will recognize you are someone who will respond due to your compassion and abiding love for all the people… yet, you alone cannot be responsible for the outcome of all problems encountered. I know, that as I learn my own position and responsibilities, I have come to recognize that the work is more effective if done starting at a local level depending on the scope of the issue.”

“I fear I will be learning my position on the job, without the assistance of someone like Lord Pietro or Lord Efrem to point out my mistakes or if something is overlooked. Yes, I agree… I do need assistance, from Master Polaño, from Commander DeAires as my Aide, and now from Master Toyobemos in his capacity as Secretary for the High Council. I haven’t even officially met the individual yet!”

“Oh, that was probably an oversight, my lord,” remarked Commander DeAires, who had been listening to the conversation. “I’ll see that Master Toyobemos is given a slot to see you before the week is completed.”

“Oh, good, yet another meeting!” replied Raphael. “With that in mind, Adamos, I finally received a report on the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of your younger brother, the former commander Toryn Dino. Are you willing to send him home with your party, Adamos? As I understand it from the Veyan masters, Master Toryn, has settled down and is now beginning to recognize his foolishness in being verbally abusive towards me while in the company of other senior officers. Considering that I am now in a position to sentence him to further incarceration here in Castle, apparently, he is re-thinking his position and is eager to return home to Maia. I would recommend that you keep him either under close custody house arrest if he remains in the palace or to do what we suggested earlier… to send him to one of the country estates and put him to hard labor for the time being. Later on, it can be determined whether or not Toryn is redeemable as a human being and can rejoin his family in Milan.”

“Well, since you put it that way, Raphael – I would prefer Toryn to be transported by a military vessel to Milan where we can decide on how to handle my younger brother. He has not yet been officially removed from the Family, so that is the first matter to which we must attend, so there is no possibility he will ever again be a personal threat to me or any other family members. The Dinos have had enough of intercine warfare among siblings!” replied Adamos… who wasn’t looking forward to encountering his stubborn younger brother. They had not gotten along even as children. Adamos was certain his brother’s attitude had not mellowed out much despite having been incarcerated within Alyona Castle for over six months now.

After the meeting with Lord Adamos, Master Polaño had gone ahead and arranged for Raphael to meet Master Toyobemos, the priest who acted as secretary to several of the High Council committees. Toyobemos was the one responsible for taking notes, guiding the general discussions, and setting up the agenda. Master Polaño and Toyobemos had worked together about twenty years, so prior to the sudden unexpected death of Lord Demetrius. While Raphael had noted the priest’s presence at the meetings he had attended in the past, since he was not focused on the agenda, he didn’t really pay much attention to him. Privately, Raphael wasn’t very fond of priests in general so had avoided any personal contact with the man. He felt priests generally were arrogant, narrow-minded, and prideful… with the rare exception of someone like his long-time mentor, Master Li Tzulo. Unlike female priestesses, male priests, in Raphael’s experience, seemed to be primarily left-brain dominant, which tended to make them more intolerant of those who did not hold the same beliefs. The few priests he had encountered had done nothing to dissuade Raphael of his admittedly prejudiced opinion, so he was prepared to dislike Toyobemos before ever he met him – something he did not often do with total strangers.

When it came time for Master Toyobemos’ appointment with Raphael, Master Polaño entered into the office and sat down before escorting in the guest, a move that was uninvited and out of character for Francis. Raphael looked at his dedicated assistant with some annoyance and asked him what is going on.

Surprisingly, Francis grinned and replied, “My lord, your Morovian cousin, Commander Monteras, warned me beforehand when he learned about this interview that you had a pre-existing prejudice against most priests. If you don’t mind, I would like to see that my friend (Francis emphasized this word!) is treated well. I have worked with Master Toyobemos for over two decades and have found him to hard-working, open-minded, tolerant, and actually quite brilliant. If you are able to suspend your prejudices for a few minutes, you might also get a different impression of him. If you wish to be successful in acting as Regent, you will have to have a good relationship with many people with whom you would not normally associate. You are well-acquainted with military types having served on the line, but you are not so well accustomed to highly spiritual men save those rare individuals like your long-time mentor, Master Li Tzulo, whom I know has been a priest of long duration. Now, I will invite Master Toyobemos to enter. Kindly open your heart and mind to him, my lord… or we will have to hire an entirely new secretary for the Council, something that would upset and offend long-time members who are used to his presence at the meetings.”

Raphael stared at Master Polaño, initially feeling slightly offended and realized he was being unreasonable. He sighed and confessed, “Monteras was correct in his analysis of my distaste for most priests – given the few encounters I have had in this life with the type in this life, such as Reynar, my adopted brother. I will endeavor to overcome my own intolerance of priests in general and see how I manage to get along with Master Toyobemos. I know you are a good judge of character, so I will give him the benefit of doubt – for now. Honestly, though, I cannot promise you I will get along with this secretary… so we will both have to see just how this interview proceeds.”

“That is all I can ask of you, my lord – to keep an open mind and heart when speaking to Master Toyobemos. You may ask him if he will allow you to scan him – I already cleared that with him. This priest is eager to meet with you and work with you into the future. So, my lord, shall I escort Master Toyobemos into the room?” inquired Master Polaño… who had an unexpected twinkle in his eyes.

Raphael looked at his assistant with a skeptical eye, then gave a big huff, waved his hand, and said, “Yes, bring him in, Francis!”

Master Toyobemos was nothing like what Raphael had expected. Typically, the man wore dark colored robes during Council meetings, but today he was dressed in a long Maian cream-colored tunic with matching sandals. The priest’s shoulder-length hair was a bright golden blonde and he had large pale blue eyes. Raphael studied the man’s appearance as the priest calmly bowed and then sat down, waiting politely for Raphael to address him.

After a long silence, Raphael looked at the priest closely and asked, “Are you from Maia, Master Toyobemos?”

“Yes, I am, my lord, but not from Milan. I grew up in the countryside outside the city. I think you might know a cousin of mine. Commander Charles Lo’Telle? His mother is my aunt.”

“Charles is your cousin?” Raphael was astonished. “How did you end up in the priesthood and Charles in the Command?”

The priest gave a very sweet smile and replied, “One does not question the inner Voice when you become aware that you have a vocation, my lord. I heard it as a very young boy. I received visions and strong dreams even as a very young lad. I felt the best way to deal with these gifts was to go into the priesthood, although, I gather I may have become a very good Line Communications officer… at least according to my cousin, Charles.”

“Ah, I see… forgive me, Master Toyobemos. You, of course, know who I am and realize that I have worked with your very humble and intelligent cousin for decades. He never mentions anything about his family other than he is from Maia, too. I only just met my own Maian cousins about a half year ago, cousins I did not know I had… the Dinos,” replied Raphael with a slight smile. Raphael’s smile grew as he saw the lines of tension ease in the priest’s shoulders. Yes, Francis had warned his friend that his reception might not be pleasant. “You might be pleased to know that Commander Lo’Telle now holds my former position as Head Commander of the Alyona Command Center… a center that both he and I started when I was but 26 years of age… decades ago.”

The priest nodded and replied, “Yes, my lord, I have observed you quietly for decades, your comings and goings, your struggles, and victories. I have the utmost respect for you, my lord, and hope that we can work together for the benefit our people.”

Raphael thought to test the man and commented, “Master Toyobemos, you realize that I generally hold a prejudice against priests?”

“Yes, my lord; Master Polaño warned me as much,” replied the humble priest.

Why did you choose to work in Alyona, Master Toyobemos? How did you arrive here on Alyona?” asked Raphael who was growing more curious about this quiet, self-contained individual. “Well, my lord… it is a long story. Let it suffice to know that once I accompanied Lord Adamos’ grandfather to High Council as his personal assistant. Then, sometime during the week of Council I met Lord Demetrius for the first time and recognized him, and he recognized me. We didn’t know each other from this lifetime, my lord, yet we knew each other. If you excuse my presumption, but I am sure you have experienced such soul recognitions with people who have come into your life before, have you not?” explained Master Toyobemos.

Raphael nodded, “Yes, Master; I have experienced soul recognition with both my mates… the first, Lady Julia, is deceased. And several other individuals… yes, I understand what you are attempting to convey… at least in part.”

“Well, once we recognized each other, Lord Demetrius just spontaneously asked if I would like to work for the Council. There was another priest who was acting as the primary secretary when I joined staff, but that priest has since retired… Master Lin’taro?”

“Ah, yes, I met him only once when I was being initially interviewed by the Council soon after my rescue…” replied Raphael, remembering a tall slender priest who seemed rather unnerved being around the strange boy who had been hauled off a slaver soon after both parents were killed.

And, I suppose, you were not very impressed by Master Lin’taro? Within a few years, Lord Demetrius had me replace him so I could take notes and compile the agendas for him and Master Polaño,” continued Master Toyobemos.

Raphael frowned slightly remembering that long ago day and replied quietly, “I hardly had an opportunity to become acquainted with anyone save Lord Demetrius the couple of days I was actually on Alyona. I spent a great deal of time either in my suite under close custody or deep in an interview with Lord Demetrius himself. I was not allowed to wander about the Castle without a guard escort.”

“Did they regard you as dangerous, a mere boy?” The priest was curious.

Master Toyobemos, that information is private, and Lord Demetrius is no longer present to discuss such matters with you. I regard most of my past as a closed book,” replied Raphael firmly.

Raphael was establishing boundaries. Master Toyobemos was a member of staff, not a personal friend… and a priest. Raphael was reserving judgment for the time being. He did ask the priest a personal question, “What is your given name, Master?”

“Michael, my lord,” replied Master Toyobemos.

Ah, I have known a few Michaels in my time and before…” mused Raphael.

Before, my lord?” The priest was confused. While he had heard many rumors and stories about Raphael through the years, he did not know of the lord’s past lives.

Never mind; it doesn’t concern us now,” replied Raphael. “Now, that I have met you, I find myself willing to work with you, although you usually work directly with Master Polaño, is that not so? My people remind me that I need to learn to delegate, so I’m doing my best. I will work with you for the sake of your cousin, my long-time friend, associate, and fellow officer, Commander Charles Lo’Telle.”

“I cannot ask for more, my lord, until I have proved my loyalty and dedication,” replied the priest with a nod of his head. He knew Raphael was still suspicious and wondered why the blonde lord had such an antipathy for priests… perhaps something from earlier in his life or a past life. He realized Raphael would refuse to disclose any further personal information about himself until the lord had taken his measure. A priest was very different than a warrior in Raphael’s experience – he instinctively trusted the latter as he had always been a warrior himself. He had had little experience in this life with… priests and didn’t trust them at all with the exception of Master Li Tzulo. So, it was a puzzle to Master Toyobemos and gave him a glimpse into the complex being who was Lord Raphael Kantor-VaCoupe. Toyobemos knew he would just have to do his best knowing that he would be observed and studied if from a careful and wary distance. So, he ventured a suggestion, “My lord, I have gathered all of the new topics for next session and will be forwarding them to Master Polaño, who I understand is accompanying you back to Medina for a couple of weeks?”

“Yes, we leave the day after next. There is an interactive comm in my office that Francis can use when he compiles the list of everyone who wants a personal appointment with me… quite a few people are curious about me. I may have to see people in groups to get through the lot,” growled Raphael. “Well, Master Toyobemos, now we have met and will meet, again. So, that is enough for now.”

Understanding that he was being dismissed, the priest stood and gave Raphael a bow. “Thank you, my lord, for seeing me today. It was interesting…”

Noticing that Raphael was now ignoring him, the priest gave another brief bow and left the room. As Toyobemos exited Raphael’s office, Francis looked up and studied the face of his friend, “Oh, he was a little hard on you?”

“I am not sure, Francis. Lord Raphael does seem to have a deep-seated prejudice against priests in general, not just me. Perhaps you can share this information with Master Mei Li. While this may sound impertinent, there is still some emotional healing in store for Lord Raphael that stems from some trauma buried deeply within,” replied Master Toyobemos.

I will give your observations careful consideration and see if I can speak privately to Master Mei Li. It is true – Raphael has had a difficult life on and off and was a very damaged young person when I first met him. Yet, he has made major strides in his personal healing and as you can see now, has taken on a great burden of responsibility, if somewhat reluctantly, for the sake of his nephew’s future and ours,” replied the wise assistant who knew something of the VaCoupe temperament from long association… even though Raphael was not a VaCoupe by blood. “Meanwhile… my lord has yet another appointment with the Morovian representative, so you best be going. I will see you at next month’s session and will be in touch with you as we develop the Council agenda and the Regent’s personal appointment calendar.”

“Very well, old friend. It should be interesting working around our complicated lord,” commented the priest.

Indeed…” murmured Francis to himself. He got up and went to the outer door. The Morovian representative was not present yet. He spoke briefly to the huge BerWarian twins, Eduardo, and Giorgio, letting them know to expect Chief Ramirez. “Please let him into my office when he arrives.”

Later in the day, Raphael finally met with Chief Ramirez of Morova. The slender Morovian chieftain was greeted by two of his fellow Morovians upon entering the outer office, as Commanders DeAires and Monteras were seated there in anticipation of this meeting. DeAires guided Chief Ramirez into Raphael’s office and also brought in a tray with fresh tea and refreshments for the guest.

Raphael got up to greet the Morovian chieftain who paused and gave him a nod of acknowledgment, “My lord… we meet, again, under different circumstances.”

“Indeed, Ramirez… how are you addressed?”

“Chief Ramirez will do, my lord,” replied the Morovian with an ironic smile, “You should ask for instruction from Master Polaño on how to address various ranks of personages you will be encountering in your new position. As regent, you will be sure to come in contact with a wide variety of such persons.”

“Indeed, Chief Ramirez,” said Raphael, “I will endeavor to get some instruction similar to what my young nephew and his first cousin, Master Gareth Dino, are now receiving. I am afraid I wasn’t trained on how to address all the various stations that exist within our diverse cultures. Now, I have requested your presence to inform you that I would like to tour Morova along with the heir Master Francis Dino in a week or so. We could arrange the tour to take place next month after High Council, but since I am now Regent and required to be present, any travel plans have to be arranged around that core schedule.”

Chief Ramirez considered Raphael’s proposal for a few minutes as Raphael poured some tea out. Raphael asked, “Would you care for some tea, Chief Ramirez?”

“No, thank you, my lord – and please call me Juan. That is the name my friends call me.” The normally stern chieftain’s face broke into an unexpected smile, displaying very white teeth in vivid contrast to his dark reddish-brown complexion. He continued by commenting, “I have observed your attention to details this past week, despite being dropped into yet another new situation in your short life, my lord. I can see that you are attempting to grasp what really concerns the people and are not interested in pumping up your own ego. I can appreciate that learning a new position is challenging, yet you seem to have a tremendous capacity to adapt; something we need in this time of rapid change for our peoples.”

“Well, if you don’t mind… Juan, I will have some tea. I don’t think I have ever had to talk so much to a variety of persons than I have in just the last couple of days!” Raphael gave a smile as he poured out his tea.

Now, as to when would be best for you and your nephew to visit, I would prefer next month so I can give warning to the Morovian Council of your upcoming visit, my lord,” replied Juan Ramirez. “You have not been on Morova yourself for many years, my lord?”

“No… until the war was over, it was far too dangerous for me to go there… certainly while enemy agents were still present as they had a tendency to view me as an escaped slave! I understand from our last chat on BerWare, that the tribes have been actively cleaning up the planet of all enemy influences since the end of the war. I would still have to travel with a contingent of personal guards, the Eagles who have long been my companions as well as my two Morovian military Aides, DeAires and Monteras,” replied Raphael.

I understand your concern, my lord,” replied Juan Ramirez. “We can provide you with some escorts from our own people, as well. Your two Aides might be interested to meet some of their still-living relatives, from both the DeAires clan and that of the Monteras clan. You were a member of the DeAires family, were you not, my lord?”

“Yes… although most of my family was murdered in one night or kidnapped. I only know of four other children who survived from my family, at least initially, my sister, and three boy cousins. I was never able to meet them, again, while I was incarnated as Raphael DeAires,” replied Raphael.

You will be happy to know, then, my lord, that I have located all four of your former relatives… who would still be relatives with Salaniel DeAires and Tomás Monteras,” replied Ramirez, with another bright smile. “Your young sister survived and was mated, managing to have her own children and now grandchildren despite the war. You may want to meet her…”

“Oh, I would love to meet my former family members, which brings to mind another issue… young Salaniel… at least he is younger than I am, is in need of a mate himself,” commented Raphael. “Could you possibly find someone who is willing to act as a matchmaker for him? He is an intelligent man, sensitive, a highly trained Line Communications commander, and has been my military Aide now for over a decade, ever since I was transferred to Alyona. Still, as a Morovian, he needs his own family… you certainly understand how your people value family connections?”

“Indeed, I do… as do you… when you immediately comprehended the connections between the men who were first captured as being enemy agents and then those who were later involved in the coup attempt to take down the Starship Project,” replied the canny Morovian. “I have heard stories how you walked into the room, saw some Morovians, felt the energies, and instantly knew these men meant great harm to you and your team!”

“Yes… I knew my brother was going to be trouble, but when I recognized there were implanted men there, too, it changed everything… for me and my brother!” replied Raphael. 

Is your brother still going to be exiled to Morova? I don’t know where I heard that rumor from…my lord,” inquired Juan Ramirez.

Well, I am unsure what is going to happen to him in the future. Right now, Esturias is actually home in Medina acting as an under gardener and kitchen help. He was physically pining away in prison, and I had no desire to see that happen to one I love, despite all of our disagreements,” replied Raphael.

So, my lord, you are a compassionate man! In my estimation, our Federation is in good hands, at least until you can get Master Francis fully prepared to take on a lifetime commitment as Lord of the Pleiades…” commented Juan.

Indeed… a lifetime commitment and not one I would want to carry that long, but I am not the heir nor am I a VaCoupe son by birth. Instead, I probably could inherit a lordship on Airus since my only known relatives are two elderly aunts without issue,” replied Raphael, “Yet I have little desire to move to Airus in the future… at least that’s my considered opinion right now. I have undergone so many changes in my life and have made so many adjustments, that I can hardly tell what might happen in the future or what direction I will be pulled towards due to circumstances.”

“Very true, my lord. However, you do seem to have the ability to adapt to a change in circumstances at a much faster rate than most people, a good attribute for a military or temporal leader, I might add,” said Juan Ramirez. “Well, when you do come to Morova, you can stay at my house in PoLiafee. You might actually recognize it, as it was originally your parent’s house. I was able to purchase the dwelling after the war for a reasonable price as it had been closed down for years. Some Morovians are very superstitious and when they found out about the death of your parents, they did not want to dwell in what they called a cursed building. However, I hired priestesses to do a thorough cleansing of the place and it has proven to be a comfortable place for my family. Our clan has ceased to wander over the desert, and we work primarily out of small freight ships, landing at market towns on Morova and on other worlds. I shall introduce you to my children when you travel there… I do have some daughters who might be interested in making alliances with someone of their own race… even if they need to live off-world. Morovians, as you know, are a naturally adventuresome people.”

“Ah… I will keep that in mind, my friend. So, in a month will be a good time for you? Then, I will have Master Polaño mark my calendar,” replied Raphael. “I may or may not bring my mate on the trip – it depends on her health.”

“Hmmm, I can discern when a female is carrying, my lord – congratulations!” said Juan Ramirez with a grin. “You made fast work of it, too. I hear you have several children already, my lord.”

“Yes, I have six living children, the youngest being under two years, the eldest in his late 40’s, so quite a stretch. My first mate and I also raised three foster children, including Patrick and Robbina Vanairus and Commander Lyonell…” replied Raphael.

So, you are a family man, my lord; in that way, you carry on the traditions of your original people,” said Juan Ramirez, with some admiration in his voice. As he spoke to Raphael, the chieftain’s attitude began to soften. “I want to apologize, my lord, for my attitude during our last meeting on BerWare. I was feeling rather defensive about having been involved in the cleansing of Morova, something I did not want to get around. It is still classified knowledge between certain Morovians and the Command. Yet, in my new position as Head Chieftain, I can speak openly to you as another leader. And now as Regent and mentor of our upcoming heir, you will be openly welcomed to Morova.”

“Ah, my old family home…,” murmured Raphael. “I confess I have some ghosts of my own to allay once I get to Morova. My last visit there wasn’t a pleasant one… I was kidnapped by slavers once more as an adult and nearly sent to Asba’a.”

“Oh… I had not known of that incident, my lord,” replied Chief Ramirez. “No wonder you have been resisting visiting your former home world.”

“Chief Ramirez – Morova may be my future home world. I have already seen myself being born, again, into a Morovian family and working as a Shaman alongside your Lady Chokama,” said Raphael.

Ah, the Lady has mentioned to several of us that She has kept an eye on you all this life. Your statement just now explains why… your soul essence possesses talents and gifts that the Lady can utilize in order to bring our worlds back into health. Then, my lord, I will convey to my fellow chieftains that you are a favorite of Lady Chokama. They would not dare to touch a hair on your head or that of your faithful followers,” swore Juan Ramirez with great authority.

So be it,” replied Raphael. “I will look forward to our visit, then. Meanwhile, I have enjoyed our chat together, getting to know you better. Have a safe journey home.”

“I can have a safe journey, thanks in large part to your own efforts, my lord!” The chieftain stood up, gave a dignified bow, and left the room.

Master Polaño gently knocked and entered Raphael’s office, “My lord, Chief Ramirez was your last scheduled appointment for this session! Congratulations! You have just survived your first week of High Council… excepting for tonight’s dinner which Lord Adamos will be hosting instead of you. While you are still required to attend, some attention will be off you tonight. How is Lady Lorenna adjusting to all the new changes, my lord?”

“Very well, Francis. Soon after our mating, she reminded me that she had been trained from childhood to expect to mate a lord. She mated a commander… and now me! I am a lord and will be temporary regent. She is taking it all in stride. Having been brought up in a ruling House, she is quite used to being around lords and ladies,” replied Raphael. He finished his latest cup of tea and stretched. “Now, I get to head back to our suite and prepare for tonight’s gathering. I am getting used to this socializing, too! A bit… at any rate!”

“When do you intend to travel back to Medina, my lord? You are not expected to remain here anymore beyond High Council weeks since you no longer have a specific military assignment… at least not as yet. Has Commander Adrigus updated you on your new position, if any?” inquired Master Polaño. 

Not as yet, Francis,” replied Raphael. “Would you like to come to Medina, Francis? You are certainly welcome. I could use some instruction on how to greet various dignitaries and the different ranks within our various cultures. Although I have been a lord for decades now, I never underwent any of the type of instruction Master VaCoupe and Gareth Dino are currently receiving in comportment.”

“My lord – thank you for the invitation. I would be honored to attend you and review the various expectations. We can also look over some of the future agenda items presented to me this past week. It will take several days to weed through all of the requests, so we have presentable agenda. It would appear several… many of the representatives are interested in meeting with you, my lord – I would suggest making appointments for a selection of these persons during each High Council. This will give both you and the various representatives an opportunity to get to know each other and develop mutual trust,” said Francis Polaño. He did not want Raphael to feel overwhelmed by his new schedule.

Your suggestion sounds very reasonable, Francis,” replied Raphael. “I want to thank you for the care and thought you put into your work and in preparation for these events. I wouldn’t have the first idea just how to pull them off with such finesse.”

Francis gave Raphael a great smile, and said, “My lord – I remember meeting you for the first time as a boy and was impressed with you then. My opinion has not altered through the years.”

“Well, I certainly remember the fruit pudding you gave me!” chuckled Raphael.

Francis joined Raphael in laughing and commented, “We have known each other quite a long time, my lord. I am honored to be working with you in this capacity. And I will gladly visit Medina to give you some more instruction on your various duties, expectations, and upcoming events to be held during future High Council meetings.”

“Excellent – we’ll leave the day after tomorrow, then, to give everyone time to rest and pack, me included!” replied Raphael with another chuckle. “Well, it’s time for me to go rest a bit and then dress for the last dinner… Thank you, Francis, for all your help this week!”

When Raphael left his office, the Morovian commanders were waiting for him. Monteras spoke first, “Time to head back to our suites, my lord!”

Raphael nodded, “Well, gentlemen, I managed to survive my first High Council week as Regent! Barely! I am glad I had a long vacation before all of this happened!”

Commander Monteras laughed in response. He was pleased to see his cousin was in a good mood. It had been a strenuous week for everyone, simply keeping an eye out for any possible unrest or commotions, but nothing untoward had happened. Still, he wasn’t about to let down his guard nor were the Eagles. As the trio left the offices, Monteras signed the Eagles to follow close behind. The Eagles on this day were Eduardo and Giorgio Montoya, who earlier in the week, pledged their loyalty to Raphael as their uncles had done to his adopted father. Raphael had accepted their vows graciously saying, “I have every confidence, Eduardo and Giorgio, that you will stand by your pledge, by me, and by my nephew, Francis Dino VaCoupe!”

At their suite, Lady Lorenna was awaiting Raphael’s arrival. She had already selected some clothes for Raphael to wear. She had quietly attended one or two main sessions of High Council so she could observe how Raphael was holding up under the pressure of the position. She realized he had never received formal training for this kind of work, so it was interesting for her to observe. She wanted to give him some instruction on his presentation but wasn’t sure how to frame her request without insulting his pride. She was relieved when Raphael finally appeared and announced that Francis Polaño would be accompanying their party back to Medina. She smiled and decided on letting Master Polaño be the one to give Raphael tips on etiquette and delivery rather than herself. She dearly wanted to be avoid appearing to be an overly controlling partner… Raphael was naturally very polite and, in her opinion, just needed some gentle guidance. The experienced man of diplomacy and tact, Master Polaño, would be the best instructor for her as yet unpolished gem of a mate.

Lorenna gave Raphael a gentle smile in return and asked, “How are you holding up, my dear? I know this has been an unusually busy week for you with an entirely new focus – not the work you were accustomed to doing through the Command Center! And you were plunged into it immediately on the first day of High Council without respite!”

“Everyone seems concerned about my health today,” Raphael replied with a laugh. “Actually, I am doing rather well. It has been hard work, but also interesting as I have had an opportunity to meet all kinds of new people and learn about worlds I did not even know existed. I’ll have to see if the Castle has a place where I can access the records for the Federation. Just to know the general size and population of each planet would be a start since I will be interacting with representatives from worlds large and small. I would like to at least let people know that I am endeavoring to learn more of the Federation that I now rule… after a fashion!”

“You do know that each planet has its own form of government, my dear. The Lord or, in your case, Regent, merely guides the worlds, he does not rule them. The items presented at High Council largely originate from the people of the worlds themselves… through their own individual local councils, depending on their culture and population. You mentioned having attended the BerWarian High Council at times?” replied Lorenna. 

Yes, I did, a couple of times… once as a Line Commander and the other as a Head Commander… with quite a space between the two and a very different reception each time from Stephanus!” replied Raphael. “I would not want to be him now, having to deal with his mate.”

“What happened to your sister?” Raphael had not said anything about his adopted sister this past week.

Well, due to her recent behavior and neglect of her own position on BerWare, her title and duties are about to be stripped entirely from her,” replied Raphael, in a sober tone. “She will now be only the consort or mate of King Stephanus, who, by ancient BerWarian law, can now decide whether or not to put her aside… in other words, to divorce her. She will not be allowed to leave BerWare ever again in this life but will live as a permanent exile there in amongst those tribal people. I doubt she will enjoy life much anymore. Again, I am thankful Father is not here to see this… although if he were still alive, none of this would have occurred in the first place! I would probably still be his military aide until my hair turned grey!”

“How can your hair turn grey? It is already nearly white, my love!” replied Lorenna. “I am sorry to hear about the missteps taken by Claudine. Her punishment seems rather excessive to my Maian sensibilities, but I understand the tribal customs of BerWare can be harsh, indeed.”

“Yes… which suits their equally harsh environment, my dear – in other words, we cannot judge the BerWarians based on our own codes of ethics and behavior,” noted Raphael. “They are a powerful, hardy, and creative people, who thrive on the meager resources of their desert world. I highly respect all the BerWarians I have ever met… with the exception of Stephanus’ cousin who had the misfortune of being implanted by enemy forces while out on the desert days before I met him. Like my blood father, he was quite overcome by the alien hardware and was executed as a result. In those days, we did not know how to remove the implants… which reminds me, I need to see if Master Mei Li can share some of the more recent research by the Veyans into handling such things. Since that time, I have seen several implants removed by Master Leu… provided they were not too advanced in penetrating the victim’s nervous system and heart. I hope there will be methods developed that can remove the implants even if they are fully activated and have penetrated deep into a person’s organs. Still, a period of deprogramming and mental healing would be required since the devices affect the mind and emotions of the victim. Oh… this is really not a topic for discussion now, dear Lorenna. Sorry… I got off on a bit of a tangent.”

“Oh, that was actually interesting, Raphael. I didn’t know you visited BerWare as a young man. How old were you?” asked a curious Lorenna.

Barely 25 or 26, just mated and granted my first commission as a Line Commander by Lord Lyonell, whom I never saw again living in that life for him,” replied Raphael, as he reminisced. “I was assigned to the Golden Bee, a battleship under the command of Esturias, my elder brother… the first time I had met the fellow. It was a challenging position for me as I was still dealing with learning how to control my gifts… the visions, precognitive knowings, violent dreams, and the like. I could be walking down a corridor and get struck with a powerful vision and end up on the deck raving about something or another. It isn’t any wonder that some people thought I was crazy in those days. It was highly stressful and didn’t improve until I got to Alyona… or until my commission was reinstated, which is yet another story. Now, it’s time to get dressed. We’ve dallied a bit. Do you have anything picked out for me tonight? I trust your taste… being much more refined than my own right now…”

“You’ve had such an interesting life, Raphael, and you are not yet 100 years of age!” said Lorenna.

Raphael nodded and replied, “Yes, sometimes too interesting… but fortunately, this time I survived the war.”


“Yes – now where are those items you want me to wear tonight?”

Two days later, Raphael’s party piled into The Golden Cat. Passengers included: Lorenna, Remilla, Ella, Francis Polaño and Francis VaCoupe, Gareth and his mother Lady Arla, Commanders Monteras and DeAires, Masters Mei Li and Leu Tzulo, and six Eagles (Paul, Vayin, Eduardo, Giorgio, Milo, and Loki). The small ship was at about half capacity, but made light of its burden, as she lifted up from the tarmac to the admiring glances of some onlookers. When the Cat lifted out of the planet’s atmosphere, she created her own portal and jumped into hyperspace. Within minutes… yes, minutes, the Cat exited the portal and entered the atmosphere of Medina. As she descended gradually it could be seen that the Cat was passing over Arconia on the continent of Rickland, where many generations of VaCoupes had attended their schooling. Then, Elexa passed beneath so the passengers were able to gaze a moment or two at the amazing sight of the gigantic mothership being constructed below. Then, the silver seas flashed below, the gentle hills outside Jolf, the vast cactus-studded plains until the dark barren northern mountains of Maubene were sighted. Raphael guided the ship down over the village of Medina, past the huge pile of the Shemont until she settled gently down upon the tarmac at the small spaceport. 

Raphael looked back at his dazed passengers with a grin and confessed, “I thought I would see if she could jump! And did she ever!”

“We’re in Medina already? We just left…. Alyona! Raphael, this is an amazing little ship!” It was Master Polaño’s first time flying in The Golden Cat although in the past, he had flown in Lord Demetrius’ ship, The Golden Sparrow

Father wasn’t aware of the advanced capabilities of his ship. Too bad – perhaps he would not have been caught out in mid-space had he known the Sparrow could hyper jump! I wasn’t sure this ship could, either, but now I know for sure. I wonder if somehow our engineers can back engineer that into our own ships? Still, I am not going to allow anyone to take the Cat apart. Our people will probably reach that sort of engineering expertise on their own in the future,” replied Raphael. “I wonder if I should share this latest feat of the Cat with Jychondria and Adario. It would drive their engineering minds nuts to discover the remedy! Lorenna – perhaps we should visit Jolf for a few days while here on Medina? We have at least three weeks here as it is… to rest, play, or work!”

“Ah, that dry… er, hot desert air,” replied Master Polaño gasping a little as the scorching air hit his tender lungs.  “I’ve lived on Alyona for far too long! And I can see why most of the men have worn their uniforms today! I need a robe to protect my head! Shall we go… quickly, my lord?” For those who may have forgotten, the summer temperatures on Medina can reach above 150 degrees F. Yes, it was dry, hot… but the Medinian natives thrived in their arid climate being of hardy former nomadic stock much like their distant cousins living on Morova and BerWare, now all very distinct cultures. Besides that, most people spent the hottest hours inside and down several floors below the surface of the planet. The earth was a natural insulator and kept the lower floors at a cool, even temperature year-round without requiring heating or cooling.

The men helped the ladies into the viscars and whisked the party through the village proper to land at the golden gate marking the entrance to the VaCoupe compound and home. Raphael instructed everyone to go inside as it was about mid-day, the hottest period of the summer day with the sun at its zenith. Once entering the thick walls of the adobe and stone house, the temperature dropped considerably, lowering even more as the party made their way through the solarium, through the audience room and into the family rooms. There, they were met by Lord Raimundo and Andros VaCoupe, the former warrior commander who was now assisting Raimundo in overseeing various projects, especially the upkeep of the extensive gardens.

Raimundo jumped up to greet everyone, especially Master Polaño, whom he had not seen for a few months (since the first set of matings). He said, “Oh, welcome home, everyone! It is good to see you are safe. And are we honored to have the current Regent of the Pleiades living among us now? Congratulations, my lord… my dear Nephew!”

Raphael laughed in reply, “Uncle! To you… I am Raphael, simply Raphael. I’ve been receiving your lectures and wise advice since I was fourteen. I haven’t changed overnight!”

“And who was to know that a scrap of an orphaned boy would one day become our leader? I certainly did not, nor do my brother Demetrius had any conception of such a future for you. Of course, he was planning to be here longer than he managed…” commented Raimundo as he gave a hug to Raphael and then continued to greet all of the newcomers, “Welcome home, everyone!”

Francis Polaño looked around at the tidy room and commented, “Well, no matings to plan, but I do have my work cut out for me! Raphael caused a sensation with his promotion – I’m not sure what you would call it – to Regent. Hundreds, and I do mean hundreds of the planetary representatives suddenly want to meet this strange blonde commander who has been lurking in the background for over a decade in Alyona, but generally keeping a low profile. So, I get to select and prioritize appointments for the next… well, probably at least a year’s worth of appointments so the representatives can meet Raphael in person. This kind of thing never happened while Claudine was regent!”

“You can use my office during the day to compile your lists, Francis, although we may have to set up an office here for you with another interactive comm so you can communicate freely depending on the planet you are contacting. Sometimes we forget here that other worlds have different time cycles!” said Raphael. “Do you think we can arrange for a separate office for Master Polaño and my Aides? I would like to keep my rooms separate for Lorenna and me, if possible.”

“Certainly, my lord,” replied Andros. “I’ll arrange it with Master Jeremiah… the father of little Martea. He is a brilliant carpenter and could set up an office quickly. Then, we just have to set up the appropriate electronic devices and furniture. The project should take about a week, my lord?”

“Excellent! Get right on it – after all, I will be Regent for a few years or so and then Francis is coming in right after I hand over the reins. Francis… my nephew, will also need a good secretary and some Aides to get all his work accomplished,” replied Raphael. He was very pleased to be home among those people who already knew him and accepted him as he was… a place where he could relax for a change. “Father would be pleased that I’ve learned to love this old house and all the people who live and work inside it.”

Raimundo smiled, understanding, and remembering the old arguments that Demetrius and Raphael had when the Starship Project was underway. Demetrius had wanted Raphael and his family to live in Medina, while Raphael preferred Jolf. Until the end of the project, they continued to spar over this one topic. Raimundo knew Raphael held some guilt about all the arguing and missed Lord Demetrius terribly, but he had moved on and was now facing the tremendous burden of being the temporary lord of the Pleiades, something that Demetrius had never conceived of ever happening to the young boy he chose to foster so long ago. Who would have ever believed such a thing, anyway? It was enough to live in the moment and rejoice that Raphael was able to handle the office of Regent for the sake of his nephew, Master Francis VaCoupe.

Raphael spoke up, “Andros, have you ever officially met Master Polaño? If not, may I introduce you to the one man who dedicated his existence to assisting Lord Demetrius… for how long, Francis? Decades? Andros, show him the space you are considering for his office and let me know how things proceed. Master Francis, we have all sorts of specialists and generalists here living and working in the VaCoupe compound. Things get done!”

Lady Lorenna and Lady Ella were both keenly observing the activity and interactions between Raphael and his adopted kin with great interest. Ella, especially, sensed the deep affection and respect that existed between Raimundo and his adopted nephew, much like what existed between her mate, Francis VaCoupe, and Raphael. It was apparent that Raimundo had served as an important person in the upbringing of young Raphael. And now, Raphael would relate in a similar manner towards his adopted nephew.

One good thing about being a Regent, is I will be able to relate my direct experience to Francis as he continues to train for the position of Lord. Plus, we are going to continue going on tours, short tours. I have already spoken to Chief Ramirez about traveling to Morova for a tour in about a month. Ramirez is now the Head chieftain of Morova. I will be taking Commander Monteras and DeAires on my expedition, as well as Francis VaCoupe, Gareth Dino, Master Mei Li Zang, and Master Leu Tzulo, as well as at least six of my Eagle escorts,” announced Raphael. “It should be interesting for me to come face to face with some of the places… well, what I was forced to endure during my childhood. Which is a good reason for me to have my physicians along in case I require some assistance in clearing old trauma from body and mind. I really don’t know what will happen, whether I will see visions, recall incidents… even meet some of the people I knew long ago. So, I will take some of this time home to meditate and prepare myself for what could be somewhat of an ordeal.”

“Do you have plans to visit any other worlds at this time, Father Raphael,” asked Lady Ella.

Raphael shook his head, “Not as yet, but I am sure opportunities will arise as I become more acquainted with planetary representatives and they with me. Now, I think I would like to go to my rooms for a short rest. It has been a busy week! Lorenna, would you like to come, too?”

Lorenna loved the way Raphael carefully gave her a choice in all things. She nodded, “Yes, my dear… we have things to discuss…”

“Ah, private time! I had very little of that this past week, what with all day at meetings and appointments and then nightly dinner events – non-stop. To spend some precious alone moments with my mate is priceless!” commented Raphael after giving Lorenna a kiss on her forehead. He led her from the room, leaving the rest of the party sitting or standing there.

Raimundo commented, “Well, it seems Raphael is holding up well. Tomás and Salaniel, were you present when the turn-over happened?”

“No, my lord, we were not allowed into the Council Chambers, even though we are Lord Raphael’s Aides!” replied Monteras. “We had to wait outside until the first session finished and the guards reopened the doors. Commander Adrigus had the place locked down securely with a whole squad of Feline Warriors inside. I will say that Raphael was slightly in shock after the coup… and, yes, it was a coup, was completed. His adopted sister, Claudine Vanairus, had to be escorted from the room and put under close custody due to some outbursts she made. I was also told later that she actually attempted to attack Raphael and had to be physically restrained! I must say Lady Vanairus’ behaviors were quite out of character – at least from what I’ve noted in the past.”

“It sounds like she was both distraught and extremely upset at being taken unawares,” commented Raimundo thoughtfully. He hoped to speak to Raphael about this matter later, but not while in full company. He did realize that Raphael and his co-conspirators took a great risk to remove his niece Claudine from the regency. Raimundo was only happy that no one got hurt or killed. “Commander Monteras, did Adrigus and any of the Castle staff have to say anything about the changes they had observed in the behavior of Claudine?”

Monteras gave a harsh laugh and replied, “Plenty! Adrigus was determined to be rid of her. He had done a fleet-wide survey requesting input from fleet personnel. Since the story that Claudine Vanairus was bragging about being the sole Savioress of the Pleiades had gotten around, the fleet wanted her gone, too. They were strongly in favor of Lord Raphael taking temporary command of the Regency since being an officer of some standing and experience… as well as the master tactician behind the plans for the Final Battle, he was well-respected… and knows how to work with any future military considerations that might crop up. As it was, Lord Adamos told us that over 90% of the Planetary representatives also initially supported Raphael taking over. Apparently, while we were gone on our long tour and then home here in Medina, Mistress Vanairus had antagonized quite a few people, including command staff, Castle staff, and even some of the planetary representatives. Any doubts or objections came from people who were concerned about the apparent instability of the progeny of Lord Demetrius, with one son imprisoned for treason, another executed for being implanted, and the third, his daughter, proving to be quite overcome by being in power, if temporarily. If Lord Demetrius had survived the war, we would not now be faced with making such harsh choices, but Raphael will do his best although he is not trained for the position he just took over.”

Master Mei Li Zang spoke up. Speaking in reassuring tones, he said, “I know you are concerned about the stresses now being placed upon Raphael’s shoulders, but I can assure you that he has been preparing for this office all his life. Seldom have I seen a person who is more dedicated to seeing that the people are heard. He encourages them to take responsibility for their own communities and arranging for assistance if the locals have more than they can handle. Raphael has developed connections on all the primary worlds and will continue to grow those connections for himself and ultimately, for his nephew Francis – Master Francis, please excuse me for speaking about you while you are here in person. Raphael is also very intuitive about people. I will say he is not perfect – he does admit to some prejudices, yet, he endeavors to clear his own emotional and mental bodies of such impediments. He listens well and acts if needed. He did not hesitate to sacrifice some peace in his own life to protect the interests of his nephew, the heir, and the interests of the people… who were not, apparently, being well-served by Claudine Vanairus.”

Master Leu added, “Probably the most important virtue held by Raphael is his profound humility and desire to be in alignment with Source. He intuitively understands that he is an instrument for Divine energy… not out of a need to expand his ego, but to truly serve to the best of his ability despite the odds and any criticisms he might encounter along the way. My father, Master Li, encountered Raphael first as a teenager, then again as a young adult, and has maintained that Raphael continues to mature and grow. I know I am determined to match Raphael’s dedication to service for the good of all.”

Raimundo glanced over at Francis and asked, “How are you managing through all of this, young man? After all, Raphael now being regent ensures that you will eventually become Lord of the Pleiades!”

“Well, I was stunned and amazed that the transition went so quickly and relatively peacefully. Except for my aunt’s outbursts, not one person in the gathering uttered anything outrageous. Some of the representatives were concerned because they didn’t know about the agenda change! They felt they needed to report to their own people and get their input, too, before committing their support behind Raphael. It is really a moot point, as he has already taken power, with the backing of the entire Fleet and the primary worlds behind him,” replied Francis. “Father Raphael encouraged both me and Gareth to sit in the audience as observers throughout the week. It was really quite interesting listening to Father fielding questions like he had been doing such things for decades. It comes from being around officers and working with intelligent people… as well as all of the hypersensitive gifts that he possesses. Despite whatever rumors have gone around in the past regarding his character, much of that has dissipated due to Uncle’s heavy involvement during the last decade of the wars, working out of Alyona as his father’s military Aide.”

Master Polaño was also eager to share and piped up, “As a member of the Castle staff, I can tell you without hesitation that the staff are thrilled to have a real gentleman back as the Regent or Lord. Lord Raphael has always treated staff fairly and politely, even as a young boy when I first met him. Although recently orphaned and subjected to abuse for a decade, he was polite, quiet, and reserved. While he has grown as a man and leader, I still see that same sincere regard for humanity present in his daily actions. We are fortunate, indeed, that Lord Demetrius was wise enough to adopt the young stranger that day long ago.”

“I think we can all agree on that, Master Polaño!” exclaimed Commander Monteras. “Now, must I go to the kitchen to get some tea and refreshments? It was a long trip home!”

Lady Ella laughed, “Long trip, Commander? Lord Raimundo, Great Uncle… your nephew Raphael used the hyperspace portal of the ship this time. The entire trip may have taken… perhaps five minutes? We were all stunned to see ourselves cruising quietly over the sands of Medina! And Lord Raphael was acting like an excited boy!”

Raimundo looked stunned, too. When he finally was able to speak, he asked, “Did Raphael know The Cat was capable of using hyperspace?”

Francis VaCoupe replied, “He said he wasn’t sure, but he wanted to see if she was capable of portal travel and… she was! Spectacular speed! It is really too bad Lord Demetrius didn’t know that the Golden Sparrow probably had the same capabilities, Great Uncle.”

“Well, it may not have been safe to use during the war, for one thing. If our ships could portal travel, the enemy ships could, too. A battle in hyperspace with a battalion of enemy ships against one lone ship would hardly be equal – as it was, well, my brother’s fate took him from us. Thank the Mother, we have Raphael to carry the regency until you are ready, Francis. Now, study hard young man!” said Raimundo.

I will, Great Uncle,” said Francis VaCoupe with a grin. He was certainly happy to be home for a couple of weeks. “Uncle Raphael said something about visiting Jolf for a couple of days. He probably wants to see how Jychondria, and Uncle Adario have settled in to their work in Elexa… and to check up to see how fast little Charles is growing. Speaking of babies and toddlers, where is little Daniel? Is he down for his afternoon nap?”

“No, he’s here in my arms!” Raphael re-entered the room with young Daniel secured in his arms. “I had to see my little boy and see how fast he was growing!”

Lorenna was trailing behind Raphael, clearly happy to see Raphael in a good mood. Raphael halted in the middle of the room and looked at the small crowd gathered at the table. He commented, “You’ve been talking about me, haven’t you? Or about the Cat? Hyperspace, Uncle!”

“We’ve been talking about all sorts of things, Raphael,” replied Raimundo. “You, the regency, Claudine, the Golden Cat… are you going to visit Jolf during this visit?”

“Yes, Uncle – I want to see Jychondria and of course the Mathdis clan while they are so close by. Don’t worry, I won’t use hyperspace to get to Jolf. I don’t think it works inside the atmosphere,” replied Raphael with a grin. “I wonder if the air has cooled a bit so we can go outside into the garden.”

“Give it another hour, Raphael, and it should begin to be quite pleasant… only 120 degrees instead of 160! In about three hours, the temperatures will come down to 90 degrees or so and the whole town will be outside, Raphael. They will be happy to see you, my lord… and you can tell them you are the Regent now, although they may badger you with questions that you’re not prepared to answer quite yet. The news will be on the vids soon enough. They always wait until High Council is over to inform the people what was decided…” said Raimundo.

Well, I’ll have to see if I am on video or not. I don’t remember seeing any cameras at the Castle. Francis are there any such things there?” inquired Raphael.  Francis Polaño nodded and replied, “Everything is recorded, my lord, for security and prosperity. The great crystal in the Castle tower records everything that happens within her sphere of influence, which includes the Council Chambers. If you connect with her, you can download the videos onto your interactive comm here and feed it into our screens in the study rooms.”

“Oh, I wasn’t aware of that, Francis – another secret of the Castle revealed! There is so much for me to learn about my new position! I will have to join young Francis and Gareth in their classes and take deportment from Master Polaño!” exclaimed Raphael. Then, a thought occurred to Raphael, and he turned back to Francis Polaño and asked, “You didn’t reveal that little secret about the Castle’s mother crystal to Claudine, did you, Francis?”

“No, my lord – she never asked…”

Raphael replied, “In case you don’t understand what we are discussing. When I was sent to Alyona under close custody, I was kept in the very old tower in the midst of the Castle. In the lower story of the Tower is a huge Mother Crystal… as large as the one located under the Shemont. It is actually a large rose crystal of tremendous age and power. During my incarceration, I encountered the Crystal a couple of times, both downloading and uploading information. She will remember my energetic frequency with ease… It is curious that Claudine didn’t sense her presence as my sister used to be as sensitive or even more so to crystals than myself. Well, I just might take the time to review what the crystal can share about Claudine’s actions when I was away from the Castle in case any further questions arise regarding why people wanted her removed from power.”

“That is yet another thing that the representatives at Council may not know – your skill in using crystals. The sheer fact that you acted as a crystal master with your golden ships, you spoke to crystals as a young child… yes, that is a powerful skill in your portfolio, Raphael, that few could match. You were the right choice for Regent, Raphael, and we are glad to be your most ardent supporters here in the VaCoupe household. Now…who would like some tea?” said Raimundo with a grin.

Several voices cried out, “Oh, me… yes, tea time!” Everyone started laughing…

Raphael thought: Yes, it is good to be Home. Thank you, Father, for taking me in so long ago. I am grateful to be here now assisting family, friends, and my people!

❤ ❤ ❤

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

BOOK FOUR: Table of Contents

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BOOK FOUR: CHAPTER 12 – The Return


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CHAPTER 12 – The Return BOOK FOUR The next day, Lord Pietro drew Raphael out of the crowd in the audience room and apologized for the confrontation with his Kantor kin the previous night.  He said, “I had no idea … Continue reading

BOOK FOUR: CHAPTER 8 – Gareth Vanderis Dino


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CHAPTER 8 – Gareth Vanderis Dino BOOK FOUR One of the first things Raphael did upon arriving home in Medina was to locate Gareth Dino and Master Li Tzulo.  Raphael was interested in seeing how the new student was progressing … Continue reading

BOOK FOUR: CHAPTER 3 – Lady Ella Francom

CHAPTER 3 – Lady Ella Kadish Frañcom


The day had finally arrived when Master Francis Dino VaCoupe was going to take another significant step towards becoming Lord of the Pleiades, by taking a mate and starting a family.  All Pleiadian lords were required to provide their families with an heir or two or more; it was the way of things then and now. 

Francis VaCoupe was a bundle of nerves. With the exception of his mother and close family female relatives, he had spent very little time around women with whom he was not related. He did not know what to expect from the upcoming ‘honeymoon’ to be spent on Towan, the lake planet where many VaCoupe males spent the first days (and nights) with their new mates. Still, he was aware of the logistics of matters – given instruction from a smiling Master Li Tzulo. He hoped his new mate, the sublime Lady Ella would at least tolerate him. While he was around Lord Raphael and his new mate, Lady Lorenna, Francis would endeavor to follow Raphael’s example as much as possible. Other than that, nature would have to take its course…

When Francis finally emerged from his sanctuary, the rooms he was sharing with his first cousin, Gareth, he bravely marched out to face one of the consequences of being in line as heir for a lordship, the requirement to mate…

Gareth accompanied his cousin as moral and emotional support, sensing the gentle, intelligent, and affable Francis was nervous to finally be walking through this particular stage of becoming a leader, a patriarch in the making, a husband, a mate. Gareth smiled gently when Francis tugged on his gorgeous semi-fitted violet silk tunic with its golden clasps and dark purple piping along the seams and hems. Gareth was wearing a simple long Maian tunic with matching trousers. The tunic was belted with an attractive heavily embroidered sash with tiny BerWarian beads dangling from the ends. The duo made an appearance at the breakfast buffet, with Francis eating little, just sitting while Gareth made heavy inroads on a well-loaded plate of fruit, light crackers, and some fruit juice smoothies. 

As Raphael and Lorenna entered the room, the two of them glowing, Francis finally relaxed a tiny bit. He was grateful that the two people he most loved were apparently quite content with their newly formed union. Then, realizing again it was nearly his turn to take the plunge, he nervously tapped on the table top until his cousin gently covered his hand with a much larger hand and said firmly, “Think of it like going into battle, Francis. She is not the enemy, but the ally. You need to work together to achieve the goal, victory in all things, together. And, oh… here she comes!”

Francis nearly choked on some juice he was drinking as he looked around at the entrances to the family rooms where he was partaking of breakfast. Yes, there she was, a tall slender white blonde lissome lady dressed in her present family colors, a beautiful shade of peach. Lady Ella’s glistening white blonde hair was piled up into an intricate Airian style of coiffure reminiscent to how Lady Julia used to wear her hair. There were tiny hairpins holding the affair in place, each ending in a large twinkling diamond. Apparently, the Frañcom Family was not without their own means. Francis had never bothered to do any research into his intended’s background or to determine whether or not her parents were still living. They were not attending the ceremony, so he guessed they were not alive, although he would attempt to delicately inquire about those things he probably should have learned about before entering into this union. Everything about her was as yet unknown… everything.

The VaCoupe Family members, close and extended, along with their guests made their way towards the Shemont after breakfast in order to attend a meditation session led by the Shekinah, which would then blend right into the mating ceremony afterwards with little pause. Raphael and Lorenna accompanied Francis on this journey from which he would return, mated to the sublime Lady Ella. 

The crowd at the Shemont was enormous. Besides the off-world guests, it seemed that the entire village had turned out to see their young lord become mated to a very pretty lady. It was a rare opportunity to observe the beginning steps taken by a young man on his way to become the Lord of the Pleiades, something to remember and recite to the grandchildren someday.

It was a large, varied, and slightly noisy crowd, but as the people filed into the enormous main chapel of the Shemont there came a hush over all. They found their places, with Francis standing up next to the high altar, Raphael at his side, as they awaited the appearance of Lady Ella. As the lady appeared, there was a distinct sigh from the audience; she was stunning in her youthful and graceful presence, gliding up to the high altar, accompanied by her cousin, Lord Da’vid, who had decided to take a role in this event much to the surprise of Raphael. Lord Da’vid handed Lady Ella off to her intended and then stepped back to the side to await his opportunity to give the father or guardian’s blessings. 

Hand and hand, Lady Ella and Francis faced the altar, waiting for the appearance of the Shekinah, the great Lady who represented the physical Presence of the Divine Mother, who guided the people of the Pleiades throughout their lives. Outside the great doors to the chamber, men sounded conchs, the sound carrying throughout the massive room, a melody that was then picked up and carried by a small orchestra and choir. As all looked on, a double line of red-haired priestesses began their winding dance swirling across the intricately tiled floor, their red hair glowing golden in the early morning light streaming through the clerestory windows of the sanctuary. Then, the Shekinah appeared at the high altar, holding her arms high as she acted as transformer, stepping down the intense energies of the Divine so that all present could partake of the blessings being downloaded to the young lord and lady and those who supported their future together.

As the priestesses ended their sacred dance, they each handed the High Priestess a single long-stemmed white rose, which the Shekinah then placed upon the altar as an offering to the Mother. Then, she turned back and stood above where the young couple was patiently waiting and began a beautiful song of blessing. When she was done, Francis began to recite his message to his new bride:

When I started the tour of the Worlds, I had no idea where the golden ship would take me. And then, I met you, a flower of Airus, tall slender and pale, delicate, and gracious. I was speechless in witnessing your beauty, and yet, standing here now, my heart is full as I see our days together unfolding before us, hand in hand, side by side, facing all of the challenges that may enter into our lives. 

To you, my beloved – for you have captured my heart – I say I have waited long before I could take you into my arms and declare to the world that you are mine, that we are united as One. 

I have walked beside you in my dreams, held your image close within my heart, and yet, now you stand here before me, gently smiling… I am overcome with Love. I give my Heart to you freely.”

Francis touched his breast and held out his hand to Lady Ella, continuing: “I only ask that you give yours freely in return…”

Lady Ella smiled gently and touches his hand lightly, brought her hand to her breast where she gently rubs it in a circular motion. Then, she touched her own breast and repeated the motion, touching her hand to his and watched while he rubbed it onto his breast. And then, Lady Ella began her recital: “My love, I stand before you today, in front of our people and gladly give my Heart to you, to hold, nourish and protect all the days of our life together.

I knew you before I met you that night on Airus, before your golden ship arrived, for together we have walked through dreams in a far distant land. And now, we stand face to face in reality, it seems my dreams have come true. Let our energies blend as One and serve as a living blessing for ourselves, our children, and our people for whom we live to serve.

I willingly give my heart and body to you to hold, cherish, and protect all of our lives together. So be it!”

Then Francis leaned forward and gave Lady Ella a kiss on her brow. He then ended the exchange by this one question: “Are you willing to be mine for the fullness of this Life, my lady?”

To which Lady Ella replied, her high soprano voice ringing out: “I do, I do, I do!”

A relieved and ebullient Francis took his new mate gently by the shoulders and planted a kiss on her forehead and another on her right palm.

The audience clapped with joy, even as the Shekinah raised her arms once again and began another long blessing. Finally, as the couple turned to face the audience, Lord Da’vid stepped forward to give his blessing for his young cousin. Raphael did the same, acting the part of father for his new son-in-law, Francis.

In conclusion, Lady Amethyst then declared to the audience, “I give you Master Francis Dino VaCoupe and his Lady, Mistress Ella Kadish Frañcom VaCoupe, our future Lord and Lady of the Pleiades!”

Francis, now freed of his earlier anxiety, gave his new mate another kiss on her hand, as she laughed with joy. The couple began their journey together, following as two tiny blonde girls scattered rose petals upon their path, leading the newly mated couple through the audience and through the great double doors to stand briefly upon the outer porch of the great Shemont, to be greeted by the villagers and others who had not entered into the sanctuary during the ceremony. Francis bowed in greeting to his people, while Lady Ella gave a pretty curtsy. Then, the young couple began their walk back towards the VaCoupe compound, followed by a small crowd of well-wishers, relatives, friends, lords, and ladies. Now it was time for the public reception where all could greet and meet their new lord and lady, as well as Lord Raphael and Lady Lorenna Dino Kantor-VaCoupe, stepfather and mother of the groom.

The weather proved favorable for holding the reception partially outside in the gardens, so those attending the reception found tables groaning with delectables to be sampled, wines, juices, and teas to be relished, and people to meet and mix with. There was no formal reception line this time. Raphael and Lorenna freely mixed with lord and lady, commoner, and staff, even as Francis and Lady Ella strived to become acquainted with the people over whom they would eventually be ruling and guiding in their mutual roles of Lord and Lady. 

For Raphael, still early in his healing, encountering so many people was somewhat challenging, but he understood the importance of meeting and greeting the people with polite interest and attention. He knew many of the villagers through facial recognition yet did not really know their occupations or anything of their families, so he endeavored to listen to short conversations. Until the time when Francis would take up the lordship, Raphael was Lord of Medina for all intents and purposes, whether he wanted the title or not. And now that he was united through Lady Lorenna with the House of Dino, he also had a responsibility to have a good relationship with his new Maian relatives as best he could.

Lady Lorenna was beaming with pride and that fresh glow that emanates from a woman who is truly happy and content down to the core of her Being. She walked through the garden paths arm and arm with Raphael radiating forth her joy and contentment. 

From an isolated corner of the garden, the forgotten Nemo quietly observed the new couples as they made their promenade through the garden, greeting the citizenry, low and high alike. He knew to his own chagrin and shame that had it been him parading there, he would not have treated his own people with such decorum, quiet dignity, and acceptance. At least, his old self would not have accepted the need to do such a thing as it would have been deemed by his pride as being below him. He shook his head and stepped back behind another man as the two couples drew closer. Nemo did not want to be seen or acknowledged. For he still clung onto some of that old pride, felt it burn in his breast and then grew ashamed, feeling the bite of bitter tears staining his beardless face.

Raphael was quite aware of Nemo’s presence but did nothing to draw attention to his disgraced brother, instead, just bowing in acknowledgement to the cheers coming from the staff members, including the gardeners standing there. And then, holding Lorenna’s elbow firmly, steered her by the group and towards the general direction of the entrance to the great House.

Raphael guided Lorenna back to where Claudine Vanairus was standing speaking to Lord Da’vid, his Kadish cousin. He first gave a nod to Claudine and then turned to address his cousin the Airian lord, “Da’vid, I was surprised to see you here, my lord. How are you doing now that you have had some time to settle into your new position?”

“Ah, it’s still new to me, Cousin,” replied the former geologist, who looked quite dapper in a handsome semi-fitted tunic in a silver color with carved crystal buttons, over a trim set of trousers and low boots. His glossy black hair was gathered at the back of his head in multiple braids. “I have been attending the latest meetings of the High Council and making acquaintance with many of the other lords, ladies, and planetary representatives. A few of them told us tales of meeting your tour group. They were all quite impressed with your golden ship and great Eagles.”

“We have had quite a few adventures since landing in Airus, Da’vid, and since then, my party grew by a few members. You’ve met Commander Adrigus and Commander Semmas; I recall? Then, Master Leu Tzulo joined us, as well as Master Mei Li Zang from Vey. It was an interesting tour, but quite an exhausting one for me,” replied Raphael. “I think I will limit the next tours to one or two worlds at a time and then return to either Medina or Alyona to report to Claudine.”

Da’vid looked over at Francis and Lady Ella as they made their way through the crowd, quietly greeting, sharing conversation with those who they came upon, friend and stranger alike. The Airian lord remarked, “They make a lovely couple, Raphael. You should be proud of the young man, whom you have carefully mentored and guided all these years since… And now, when do you expect Francis to be ready to assume the full leadership of our Federation? I know he is still relatively young when compared to the age to which his father would have attained by now. Where is Esturias these days, anyway?”

Raphael smiled at his cousin and patted Lorenna’s hand which was still resting upon his arm. “In answer to your first question, I deem that Francis should be ready in less than a decade – it wouldn’t do to carry on the regency beyond that. By then, Francis and Lady Ella might well be blessed with one or two children, thus solidifying the lordship for the VaCoupes well into the future. And in answer to your second question, Esturias is no longer a member of the family or called by his given or surnames. He is actually one of our gardeners, although I doubt you will recognize the once proud commander standing there. He is much changed, Cousin. Over a decade of prison will do that to a man, plus the weight of his father’s final judgment resting heavily upon his shoulders and heart. And now, he has to witness the happiness of his former family members making the lesson go home the abrupt change of circumstances he brought upon himself through his own foolishness. But this is not a topic to concentrate upon on this day of joy, my friend. When are we to see you happily mated to your fair lady?”

While better dressed, Da’vid was still shy; he blushed furiously and looked down at the ground. “I don’t have a lady picked out, yet, Cousin, although the mothers of Ostta have been doing their level best to throw their daughters, fair and plain, in my direction. I’ve come to be quite adept at dodging their efforts, so much so, that Lord Pietro throws up his hands in dismay!”

“Well, I see some friends from Jolf with whom I would like you and Lorenna to become acquainted: Lady Anna Rodriquez Mathdis, formerly mate of Lord Demetrius VaCoupe and her current mate, one of my favorite friends, Lord Ricardo Mathdis, Lord of Jolf. I also see his son, Master Aiden Mathdis and his family standing nearby. Come, Cousin, let us greet them. I haven’t had an opportunity to really speak to them during their visit here…” Raphael gathered up his friend and cousin, Lord Da’vid and his new mate, Lorenna, to walk over to the party from Jolf, calling out a greeting, “Lord Mathdis, Mother, Aiden, Brunella, and is this your lovely daughter, Karenna?”

“Oh, greetings, Raphael – here, let me give both you and your beautiful mate a hug!” exclaimed Lady Anna, leaving behind her normal reserve in her joy to see her adopted son beaming with happiness. As she gave the couple hugs, she confessed to Lorenna, “My dearest daughter – for I will always consider Raphael as my son – I confess to being one of the matchmakers in this new arrangement. Claudine and I couldn’t help but sense the strong attraction existing between the two of you months ago.”

“Oh, I am honored to call you Mother, Lady Anna!” replied Lorenna, blushing slightly. She wasn’t aware that her attraction to Raphael had been so obvious to others in the VaCoupe Family. She dropped a pretty curtsy to Lord Mathdis and said, “My lord, Raphael and I fully intend to spend some days in Jolf while we are in residence here on Medina. Raphael has told me of the beauties of your town; I can hardly wait to see it and to sample the culinary creations of your talented son. Master Aiden, Mistress Brunella, I am charmed to meet you! And is this pretty young lady your daughter? Where is my second twin, Adarius?”

Karenna, youngest child of Aiden and Brunella Mathdis, was a lovely young lady, a tad bit shy, but a hard worker like her lively mother and a generous soul like her affable father, Aiden. She was slender, somewhat petite and was a golden blonde with large pale blue eyes that edged on gray depending on her moods. Karenna was well-versed in the use of herbs and a fine cook like her father. She had learned to play musical instruments along with her cousin Dante, exchanging instruments and playing duets as well as singing. Her soprano voice was strong and clear; she often sang solos as part of the meditations held by her grandmother, Lady Anna. She was a well-grounded, practical person, with an excellent sense of humor. She was not drawn to being a priestess but hoped to someday make an alliance with a good and kind man. Having three brothers, Rafe, young Adario, Pietro, Karenna was well-acquainted with male energy and not afraid to converse with strange males if the occasion arose. She was, after all, the daughter of a very busy innkeeper, Aiden, who was also an alert parent and never left his daughter vulnerable to the advances of some opportunistic guest. On the whole, Karenna was well-regarded and loved by the people of Jolf.

Raphael brought his cousin Da’vid forward in order to introduce him to some of the people he loved best, Lord Ricardo and Lady Anna, and their family. “Lord Da’vid, meet your cousin Brunella Kadish Mathdis and her mate, Master Aiden Mathdis. Brunella was the peace offering to the people of Jolf after your elder brother caused such a ruckus chasing me and my first golden ship to the town and then attempting to arrest Adario Kadish and me! And this lovely young lady is Karenna Mathdis, who, I believe is still assisting her busy parents in running the inn in Jolf. Master Aiden is the heir of the lordship of Jolf in case you are interested, Lorenna!”

Being from a diplomatic family, Lorenna recognized the importance of alliances, some made between diplomats and others made through mating of children. Although the town of Jolf was much smaller than a major cosmopolitan center like Milan, it was a wonderful place to raise children. Given what she had recently witnessed of the disruptions in Milan, Lorenna was more of a mind to select a partner for her youngest son from a family of another world rather than Maia, yet with ties to the greater families like that of the Kadish Family on Airus. The Mathdis Family was also a very ancient family with deep roots in Jolf, which could use an infusion of new blood from another world. Commander Adarius would make an excellent possible mate for the lovely Karenna, whose father would eventually be assuming lordship of a small but prosperous town on the same planet where his elder twin, Francis, would also be making his part-time residence in Medina. Francis would, then, become in effect overlord to the Lord of Jolf, whether Ricardo was still alive, or Aiden had assumed the office and title by that time. While Karenna would not be in line to succeed her father, having three brothers ahead of her, she still could be regarded as a likely prospect with whom to ally her youngest son, Adarius. 

Lorenna was quickly running through her active mind all of these considerations as she watched Karenna give a pretty curtsy to herself, Raphael, and Da’vid Kadish. Lorenna extended a hand to Lord Ricardo who obliged her by gallantly kissing it, and murmuring, “It is a pleasure to meet you again, my lady – and now you are united with our great friend, Lord Raphael – it is more like welcoming you into the family! I do, we do hope you will soon be visiting our modest home in Jolf, my lady. It gives me great joy to see the happiness on Raphael’s face – the happiness that your recent union has granted to our dear friend and my mate’s adopted son. For even if Lady Anna is not related to Lord Raphael by blood, she will ever relate to him as Mother… the mother he never had since childhood.”

“Ah, and this is Karenna. Do you have any siblings, my dear?” inquired Lorenna.

Yes, my lady – I have two elder brothers who are twins, Raphael and Adario. My third brother, Pietro, is at home in Jolf caring for the inn while we are here visiting Lord Raphael in Medina. Raphael and Adario are both specialty commanders in the Fleet, although stationed on different motherships,” replied Karenna, with another curtsy. 

Well, then – we all share something in common. Adarius – who is here somewhere – is a friend of your cousin, Jychondria Kantor-VaCoupe, my new son-in-law,” commented Lady Lorenna. “Which reminds me, Raphael – you said nothing about having seen Adarius when you stayed a couple of nights on The Golden Falcon. Adarius is actually a Specialty Commander in the Navigation Department, although he works on a different shift than does Jychondria.”

Raphael appeared to be very surprised and wondered why Francis had not spoken up about his brother being on board The Golden Falcon while they were there. He replied, “Francis didn’t mention that his brother was on board, and I am afraid events rather overtook us due to a situation involving another Maian relation… whom I will not name here.”

Jychondria and Lady Rita finally appeared in the garden with Baby Charles being held in his father’s strong arms. The young couple were accompanied by Adarius Dino VaCoupe, the missing twin. The quartet (if we include the child) slowly approached the small group where Raphael, Lorenna, Da’vid and the visitors from Jolf were standing. They were moving slowly as this was the first outing for the newly named youngster; other relatives, friends, and even staff were interested in taking a peek at the little fellow, little Charles. The young couple had not attended the morning’s mating as they felt the baby was still too young and vulnerable to be subjected to so much attention. Still, they wanted to wish Francis and his new lady good fortune for their new union. Only thing, Francis and Lady Ella had disappeared into the house. The new couple wanted to change from their formal outfits into some more comfortable clothing. After the reception, the new couple would be traveling to the lake planet, Towan, for their two-week honeymoon.

Finally locating her second son, Lady Lorenna called out to him and waved him over to the group where she was standing. She said by way of introduction, “Lord Mathdis, this is my second son, Adarius Dino VaCoupe, Specialty Commander, Navigation, The Golden Falcon. Adarius, please say hello to Lord Ricardo Mathdis and his family… you should recognize your grandmother, Lady Anna Rodriquez Mathdis. And this is Master Aiden Mathdis, his mate, Brunella Kadish Mathdis (a cousin of Raphael’s), and their daughter, Karenna Mathdis. The Mathdis Family are from Jolf, where your former uncle and now, stepfather Lord Raphael, lived for over 30 years. Your friend, Jychondria, was largely raised in Jolf as a boy according to his father, Raphael.”

Lorenna and Raphael watched carefully as Adarius gravely bowed to Lord Mathdis and then politely greeted the other members of his family. Lorenna and Lady Anna noted that Adarius paused when he stepped in front of Karenna Mathdis to greet her with a short bow. He paused, stared at her sweet smiling face, and blushed. Then, recovering quickly, Adarius reached out to secure Karenna’s small hand and boldly gave it a kiss. Karenna blushed as a result of all the attention she was getting. She stepped away, slightly flustered. 

Quickly, Raphael stepped in and covered for his young cousin by commenting to Adarius, “Commander Adarius – I am sorry we did not have an opportunity to speak with you while my party was on The Golden Falcon. The visit turned out to be shorter than originally planned and we were unable to see everyone that we had intended. My health wasn’t very good, either, during the visit, so I didn’t stay long at the various meetings.”

“Oh, Lord Raphael – you are my new stepfather! It is good to finally meet you, again, sir, after so long. Are you treating my mother well? I can see by the glow on her cheeks that you are,” replied Adarius, comprehending what his uncle/father was doing and playing along with it while Karenna was able to recover from her embarrassment. “Yes, your son and I are well-acquainted, so acting already almost like brothers, my lord. Commander Myka Strom and the other commanders speak very highly of you, sir.”

Raphael turned to his son and daughter-in-law and asked, “So, how is little Charles doing now, Jychondria? Are you feeling better, Lady Rita?”

Jychondria brought his infant son up to his grandfather and replied, “Charles is doing well. He is a vigorous little fellow, already kicking. We haven’t yet had a full-night’s sleep, but hopefully, he will be soon sleeping through the night.”

When Karenna saw the baby and heard it gurgling, she stepped closer. Despite her natural shyness, Karenna had a strong maternal nature and loved babies. She quietly asked her cousin Jychondria whether she could see little Charles.

Jychondria grinned and replied, “Of course, Karenna – I have heard how much you love children!”

Karenna reached out her arms and asked, “Oh, Connie – could I hold him for a moment or two?”

Jychondria noted that Adarius was watching Karenna closely and wondered what was going on. Then Raphael gave his son a couple of subtle signs and Connie nodded with a grin – a little matchmaking was afoot. He carefully handed little Charles over to his young cousin, who pushed aside the child’s swaddling so she could see his little face with its dark hair and beautiful blue eyes. Karenna sighed, “Oh, he’s beautiful, Lady Rita, Connie! I can see some family resemblance between him and your brothers, Lady Rita… although Charles is far more handsome.” Karenna stepped up to Adarius, showing off the child, “Commander VaCoupe, isn’t he just beautiful?”

“Commander Adarius, Karenna is a cousin of my children and me through her mother, Mistress Brunella Kadish Mathdis,” explained Raphael. “The father of Lady Rita is Master Franco, a well-respected stone mason in the town of Jolf. I have assigned him and his crews all kinds of work to aid our worlds to recover from the wars. Master Franco is becoming a wealthy man in the process. You should visit Jolf sometime and see some of the beautiful chapels that his family has built through the ages.”

“Oh, thank you for filling me in on some of the backgrounds of the families, my lord,” replied Commander Adarius politely. He knew that Lord Raphael was not the normal everyday lord. The lord and commander was well-known for being a strong supporter of the common people, something that Adarius approved of, as did his brother, Francis. “Where is Francis and Lady Ella, now?”

“Oh, I would imagine they are changing so they can soon leave for their trip to Towan, Adarius,” replied Lorenna. “Francis was so nervous this morning but seems to have recovered his wits and is eager to get to know his new lady better!”

“Ha!  I am sure Francis is in for many interesting discoveries – Lady Ella appears to be not just beautiful, but intelligent, an excellent partner for our young heir,” commented Raphael. Then, he turned back to Adarius, “And how are you doing with your training in Navigation, young Adarius? I know Commander Strom is a very demanding officer – I worked under him when I was much younger than yourself!”

Adarius grinned back at his new ‘father’, and said, “Ah, Father Raphael – I’ve heard the stories. You do know that a good portion of your former Starship Project team is currently on board The Golden Falcon… and most of them are here today, attending these matings. Commanders Lyonell, Lantrill, Sukio, and Bakken have little but praise for you, my lord. I am so happy that my mother now has a chance of happiness being aligned with you, my lord.”

Lord Mathdis and Lady Anna noted the affection in Adarius’ comments to Raphael, whom he really didn’t know well in person as he had been on board ship most of the time since the incident with the Starship Project and the imprisonment of his blood father, Esturias VaCoupe. All Adarius knew about Raphael came from men who knew him well, who had worked side by side with him for many years… and what few personal encounters he had had with his adopted uncle when he was a child. That, and the knowing that is shared by fraternal twins. Francis was fond of his new stepfather and naturally, so was Adarius.

The afternoon was wearing on and Raphael was getting tired from being in the limelight, especially now that his new son and daughter-in-law had momentarily disappeared from sight. Even as the group stood chatting in the midst of the garden, other visitors came up to express their congratulations and in seeing the newest member of the Kantor-VaCoupe family, asked to peek at the baby. 

There was a sudden flurry of activity at the main entrance to the great house. Raphael saw Francis and his bride emerging. They were dressed casually in Medinian garments, probably the first time Lady Ella had ever worn such clothing. Francis and his bride were surrounded by a small crowd that included Claudine and some of the Maian lords. Raphael thought to spare Francis from the onslaught of attention whilst he was in the process of leaving the estate. He turned to Lorenna and Adarius and said, “Shall we go rescue Francis and Lady Ella from the crowd; I think they are attempting to walk to their viscar so their Eagles can transport them to Towan and the start of their honeymoon.”

“Right, my lord – Mother, let’s go!” Adarius took his mother by the arm and headed off towards where his twin, Francis, was speaking to Claudine.

Raphael paused just a few minutes and whispered to Lady Anna, “Do you think there is some chemistry between our shy Karenna and the brave Adarius?”

Lady Anna nodded and whispered back, “Yes, Raphael… I will be speaking to Claudine, shortly, on behalf of our two love birds.”

Raphael gave his mother a kiss on her brow, a short bow to the Mathdis family and rushed off to join Adarius and Lorenna. Lady Anna and Lord Mathdis looked at each other with amusement. Ricardo commented, “Raphael is treating those boys like they are his sons in truth! Now, Jychondria, may we see little Charles, again? He is such a handsome little boy!”

As Jychondria carefully handed his son over to Lord Ricardo, he commented, “My father does regard those young men as his sons. He is very protective of Francis and would be the same for Adarius given the chance. Some people regard Father as being odd with all his visions, dreams, and fainting spells, but I have always found him to be an ethical, thoughtful, and kind father, firm when he has to be, but always fair.”

Lady Anna addressed Lady Rita directly, asking, “Well, my dear Rita, have you and Jychondria thought where you would like to live. Of course, we would love to see you in Jolf, but realize you may want to remain in Medina so you can continue to serve at the Shemont.”

“Well, Lady Anna – can I call you Grandmother? Connie and I have talked about this and for now, I want to concentrate on bringing our children into the world and raising them up to be fine people like their father and grandfather. I can’t think of a better place to raise youngsters than a village like Jolf, a pretty and friendly place, with the added benefit of already having both family and close friends there,” replied Lady Rita thoughtfully. She flashed a beautiful smile at Lord Ricardo, and said, “I hope you two don’t mind having a few more grandchildren underfoot?”

Lord Da’vid had been observing the family interactions all of this time and spoke up unexpectedly, “Well, perhaps I need to find a lovely girl from Medina or Jolf for my mate! Cousin Jychondria, Cousin Brunella, you are both very lucky people to have discovered your life loves in Jolf!”

Brunella and Jychondria looked at each other and laughed, replying in unison, “We think so, too!” much to the laughter and joy of their respective families.

Gareth was standing with the commanders from The Golden Falcon listening to some of their stories of Raphael and his father, Lord Demetrius. Now that his cousin Francis was mated, Gareth’s living arrangements would have to shift once more. For perhaps the first time in his life, the young man wondered how it would feel to be mated to a lady. He had always been focused on providing safety for his charges, who had been Raphael and his family, since he first encountered Raphael on Morova. Now, his life was shifting so much he felt a bit vulnerable, without the ordered expectations of his assignments as an Eagle, without the presence of his new cousin… Yet, Gareth knew that his mentors, including Master Li Tzulo and Master Mei Li Zang, would soon set new goals for him, demanding his attention in a way he was not yet accustomed to… study, study, and more study. Meanwhile, on this particular day, he relaxed in the company of men and watched the flow of families, visitors, and townspeople as they moved around him.

Raphael, Lorenna, and Adarius reached where Francis and Lady Ella were surrounded by Claudine and Stephanus of BerWare, Lady Arla, Master Li, Lord Adamos, Lord Efrem, and a few other people. Raphael boldly stepped into the crowd and called out to his new son, “Congratulations, Francis, and Lady Ella! You must be eager to be on your way. Francis, here is your brother, your twin, to say good-bye and farewell!”

Francis looked relieved to see his new stepfather and twin brother stride up, with his mother, Lorenna, in their wake. He stepped up to Lorenna and gave her a hug and kiss on her brow, “Oh, Mother, I am so grateful I can leave you in the hands of Lord Raphael, my new father. Lady Ella, are we ready to go?”

Lady Ella Kadish Frañcom had been brought up in the court of Lord Aeolus, her maternal great grandfather and was an observant, intelligent young woman with a strong sense of self-esteem. She intuitively understood the dynamics of the family into which she was mating were complicated. Earlier, she had noticed her new father-in-law as he studiously ignored the presence of the twins’ blood father, standing in the midst of the gardeners, like he was a commoner. Only, he wasn’t, just a disgraced commander who was being compelled to look onto what he had messed up in his life, all the joy and contentment possible in living a good life. This awareness clued her into the complex nature of her new father-in-law, a man who was both stern and compassionate, intent in allowing others to learn the lessons of life with a thoroughness not often approached by those with less courage, inner strength, and fortitude. 

Lady Ella approved of what she observed, Lord Raphael holding the hand of his new mate like a precious relic, sending her warm glances, and then looking upon his new sons with deep affection. It was a good beginning of this new family arrangement and blended in the other members of Raphael’s family as Ella witnessed Raphael’s eldest son approaching with his new baby in his arms and his beautiful priestess mate at his side.

Lady Ella also knew that she would be the strong one within her relationship with Francis. The young man was intelligent, affable, adaptive, but did not carry within the intensely passionate heart of a warrior that she was able to sense existed within Raphael. Lady Ella knew that between herself and her new father-in-law that they would support and advise the young lord until he grew into his new position, rooting like a vigorous young tree into the earth and spreading forth his branches as he sought to protect and guide his people. Gareth, too, the new cousin… now, he was a warrior and newly introduced to the concept of being a lord. He, too, would be there to lend his strength and guidance to assist Francis as he adjusted to the great responsibilities of his office, Lord of the Pleiades. As she smiled graciously, receiving the accolades of the people surrounding the couple, Lady Ella observed, noting the subtle signs that others might miss. When they returned from the honeymoon, she was quite intent on sitting down with Father Raphael and conversing with him to get a sense of the dynamics existing between Claudine and her nephew. She wondered now when Claudine would be willing to let go of her regency and allow Francis to step into the role for which he had been preparing for a decade or more.

Meanwhile, on the surface, Lady Ella was polite affability, greeting townspeople, lords, and ladies alike. Still, it was time to go and so she gently tugged at her new mate’s arm and announced, “Francis, my love, our Eagles are waiting at the viscar to take us to Towan. Shall we say good-bye to all of these lovely people?” She turned to Lord Raimundo, Master Francis Polaño, and Commander Salaniel DeAires, who were all standing nearby and thanked them for coordinating the arrangements for the ceremonies and the reception. She knew who was responsible for ensuring the marvelous flow of the events, despite little hiccups like Raphael requiring more rest. She knew he was still recovering from his healing regime and also needed to go inside and rest. So, she boldly began to wave good-bye and inch her way out of the crowd. 

Ella gave Claudine a deep curtsy and said firmly, “My lady, we would take leave of you now and all of these good people who have been kind enough to attend our ceremony and this reception. The hour grows late and methinks we had best be on our way. I would like to arrive in Towan before the sun sets!”

Francis took a cue from his new mate and saluted Claudine and King Stephanus, Lord Efrem, Lord Adamos, and the others who were surrounding them, “Thank you, Aunt Claudine, for your attendance here today. I agree with my new Lady… it is time to bid you adieu!” 

Raphael intuited what his new daughter and son-in-law were doing and signed his own Eagles, the tall BerWarians to work their way between the crowd of well-wishers and the young couple. Then, Raphael walked alongside Francis and Ella, and remarked, “Dear Francis, I hope you realize what a treasure you have been given in the person of Lady Ella! We can talk about this later, but now, my dear son and daughter, it is time for you two to get to know each other better!”

Lorenna, Adarius, and Raphael, with his BerWarian guards, escorted the young couple out to the great golden gate which had been left open and saw Francis and Ella safely enter the viscar, shut the doors, and depart, moving slowly slightly above the surface of the street until clearing the edge of town. The vehicle lifted up and climbed higher until it was no longer in sight, having disappeared behind the high mountains in the distance. Raphael and Lorenna lingered for a while, standing there, almost wishing that they, too, were going elsewhere, but no, they each took a deep breath, turned back to face the people who were now wandering aimlessly around the garden. Now that Francis and Lady Ella had left, the townspeople began to depart. The staff who had other duties to attend to also left, except the ones who were in charge of clearing the garden of all the extra tables and furniture. 

Raphael sighed, relieved that the ceremonies were done. There were just their guests to visit for a short time and then he and Lorenna would retreat once again into their own rooms, to enjoy their home-based ‘honeymoon’.

As Raphael and Lorenna headed back to the massive double doors of the VaCoupe household, they were confronted by Claudine who was visibly upset. She demanded, “Why did you send Francis and Ella off so soon, Raphael?”

Raphael gave his sister a short bow and then replied, “I am their father, now, my lady. It was simply time for them to go. I could feel that Francis was getting overwhelmed by all of the attention and Ella was eager to begin her new life with her mate, alone, unencumbered by a crowd of strangers. Now, Sister, I am feeling rather tired myself and would like to rest before dinner. Lorenna – let us go inside. Our staff needs to clean up the garden and I see some clouds building up. There is going to be a rain shower soon. If everyone wants to preserve their nice clothes, they had better go inside or if from the village, go home. Thank you, everyone for coming! It has been a delightful and instructive day for all! Lorenna?” Raphael gave another deep bow to Claudine and then firmly guided Lorenna into the house, closely followed by Gareth, Adarius, and the commanders from The Golden Falcon.

Claudine was visibly upset, although Lord Raimundo was puzzled as to why that would be so, until he realized that now, as stepfather of Francis, Raphael was actually more powerful than the current regent… and she, an intelligent woman was suddenly realizing that today, this week, there had been a subtle shift of power in the Federation and ironically, she was one of the people who set it in motion by having her adopted brother betrothed to Lady Lorenna, mother of the heir and sister to the Lord of Maia. Raphael with his mating, suddenly had acquired new allies in his quest to put his new stepson, Francis, into the lordship position sooner than later.

Of course, Raphael was not immediately intending to remove Claudine from her current position, but it was becoming clear to him and others that she enjoyed being the center of attention. He would begin to quietly develop his own network of allies to make sure that when he and the masters who were instructing the young man deemed Francis ready, that Claudine would have no choice but to step aside. It was up to her whether or not the process would be achieved peaceably or whether she would have to be pressured by a powerful group of allies, both from planetary representatives and powerful commanders in the fleet. As Raphael walked into the house, he knew he had his future work cut out for him, but he was confident that his superior tactical skills would also win this next battle.

In his guise as a gardener, Nemo couldn’t help but observe his sister balking at the quiet authority exhibited by Raphael and Lorenna. He grinned, knowing that Claudine had underestimated Raphael, as had many other members of the VaCoupe Family. For, Raphael’s purpose here was to assure the future of the people, all of the people, not just a few who thought they were above the rest due to the fortunes of birth.

Nemo’s partner, Samos, wondered why his partner was grinning, and asked him, “What do you find amusing, Nemo? I see the party breaking up and we have work to do. Oh, here comes Master Andros! Look lively, Nemo… there’s a lot to get done before it starts to rain!” Nemo glanced over in the direction of the approaching retired warrior commander, and playfully saluted the man, his supervisor, then turned back to the table he and his partner were in the process of clearing for the cooks, returning the left-over food and drinks back to the kitchen. There was a lot to do, and he could feel the humidity growing as the clouds expanded and thickened overhead. It was going to be a substantial rain. He shrugged his shoulders. It was, after all, the rainy season.

Andros had noticed the salute, a silent tribute to his former station… and that of the disgraced commander. He nodded in reply and just came up to make sure things were in order. Nemo and Samos and their companions were intent on their duties, gathering up baskets of fruit, placing them on trays, and letting other men carry the items off to the kitchens inside the house. The gardening team was good at their job, highly efficient and soon, they, too, entered the house. The last of the townspeople had long departed seeking the shelter of their own dwellings and closing shops as the wind began to rise and drops of rain spattered on the dry sandy street outside the golden gate of the great house.

Dinner was a simple affair. The guests selected their food and scattered around the nearby rooms, seeking a place to sit down. Raimundo and Francis Polaño oversaw things, especially when they both realized that Raphael was beginning to become very fatigued. All the crowds and attention were proving too much for him. Raimundo instructed one of the BerWarians, Eduardo, to take a tray to Raphael’s rooms so the newly mated couple could rest in peace. Then, Raphael’s uncle quietly approached where Raphael was still speaking with Lord Mathdis and Lady Anna. 

Nephew, it’s been a big day for you and Lorenna. You probably need to rest lest you lose some hard-won ground, don’t you think?” commented Raimundo. 

Raphael sighed and squeezed Lorenna’s hand, which he was still holding – the newly mated couple seemed inseparable now. “Oh, thanks for the suggestion, Uncle – I am tired. All this attention and people. Are you sure you can handle this?”

“Raphael – I have run this house for your father for decades. One more celebration is not a hardship, plus I have Francis Polaño and your Salaniel DeAires to assist me should anything else need to be handled. Now, go, before I call on Master Mei Li to take you in hand!” replied Raimundo rather firmly.

Lorenna mouthed a ‘thank-you!’ to Raimundo and signed the two BerWarian Eagles to follow. She noticed Eduardo was holding a large tray and commented to her tired mate, “Oh, see, Raphael – Eduardo has some refreshments for us in case you’re hungry after taking your nap. Thank you, Eduardo! Let us go to our rooms for a nap.”

Raimundo turned back to Lord Mathdis and Lady Anna and said, “I am not certain if you were catching some of the undertones of what was going on out in the garden. It is quite apparent that Raphael is taking his paternal duties quite seriously and now regards both Francis and Adarius as both his and Lorenna’s. He intentionally broke up the party outside so the newly mated couple could get away as it was appearing Claudine was intent in keeping them here at the house indefinitely, although why I don’t know.”

Lord Mathdis replied, “Hmmm, interesting. I sense there has been a major shift in the power structure of the Pleiadian Federation today and Claudine is just beginning to realize what she, herself, set into motion. Raphael will now be the primary advocate of seeing that his stepson, Francis, assumes the lordship when he is ready, not when Claudine is ready to step aside. This could potentially lead to future fractures in the Federation. I would recommend that Raphael begin at once to build a power base of those lords and commanders who will support Francis when the time comes for the official transfer of power.”

“I will convey your impression of the situation to Raphael when the guests, including Claudine, have all departed. However, I am sure that he… and Lady Ella are fully aware of the situation. Lord Aeolus made a very perceptive choice in presenting the lady to be the future mate of Francis Dino VaCoupe!” replied Raimundo. “Now, I must see how the cooks and staff are managing with the clean-up from the reception. There’s always a lot to do behind the scenes as it were.”

“Oh, my, Ricardo,” sighed Lady Anna. “Things are always complicated when it comes to the VaCoupe Family – not Raimundo, he is a gem, but the children of Demetrius! The same grain of pride seems to run through the line. Esturias had it – and yes, I did see him in the garden today, trying to hide away behind some of his fellow workers – and now, Claudine Vanairus, is beginning to show it, as well. She has always been a strong-willed woman, basically running an entire planet single-handedly for her tribal mate, aided only by the loyal Lady Arla, but running an entire Federation may be going to her head! We will have to encourage Raphael and Lorenna to maybe come a bit earlier to Jolf for a visit just to escape having to deal with Claudine while she is still here in Medina. Fortunately, next week is the beginning of High Council, so she will be off, again, in a day or so.”

“Good suggestion, my dear,” replied Lord Ricardo, patting his mate’s hand. “And now, I would like to speak with the brother of Francis, Adarius VaCoupe, a bit more and see if the young man might be a good partner for our sweet Karenna.”

Specialty Commander Adarius VaCoupe was standing chatting with his fellow commanders from The Golden Falcon, with the addition of Gareth Vanderis Dino, Lord Adamos, and Lord Da’vid of Airus. The men were quietly discussing their impressions of the week’s varied celebrations and especially the final scene in the garden outside the ancient house. Adarius said, “Methinks my aunt Claudine didn’t want to release Francis and Ella from her presence until Father Raphael stepped in and gently guided the couple out of the garden so they could leave.”

“That was my impression, too,” replied Lyonell. “Curious, but I feel a power-struggle beginning that may divide Raphael from Claudine. They have worked together so well up until now. Still, Raphael is now officially the step- father of the heir, whether or not Claudine wants to acknowledge the change in his position. He is now, in effect, one of the most powerful men in the Federation. I know he is not one to lord it over others, but he is also very firm in believing that your brother, Francis, will be the next Lord of the Pleiades.”

“It is Francis’ birthright, Lyonell,” replied Adarius. “And I realize that Raphael has always been one of my brother’s strongest advocates. This mating with Mother just further reinforces Raphael’s commitment to Francis and to the memory of his father, Lord Demetrius. Francis will never be Grandfather, but with the assistance of his new, intelligent mate, Lady Ella, the support of Gareth here, and Lord Raphael, he should develop into a very fine leader. He is still very young… we are twins, after all. I know I require a great deal more maturity before I approach anywhere near the authority and skill level of Grandfather.”

Myka Strom patted Adarius on his shoulder and commented, “Well, Adarius, you’re making a good start of it. Keep up the good work and I will soon be promoting you to Jychondria’s old position, especially now that he has chosen to desert the Falcon and is returning to Elexa to work with Commander Strabo Diaz on building ships!”

“Thank you, sir!” replied Adarius with a slight blush. He was the bolder of the twins but had worked very hard to learn his chosen field of navigation. He was grateful to have excellent co-workers and mentors in his fellow officers on board the Falcon. “Well, sir, Connie has another job, as well.

“And what is that, son?” inquired Lantrill.

Producing grandchildren for Raphael and Lorenna, sir! I overheard Lady Rita saying they intend to move to Jolf in order to raise their family. Wasn’t Jychondria raised there, too?” asked Adarius.

Lantrill nodded, “Yes, Adarius, your cousins… all of them except for the latest, little Daniel, were raised in Jolf. All except for Jychondria, who was born in this house, were also born in Jolf. I was there, as was Sukio, Bakken, and Lyonell, as Raphael’s foster son. We all have wonderful memories of those years in Jolf.”

“Except now, we’re all brothers and sisters – my mother and Raphael are mated. Any child of Jychondria’s is now my nephew!” exclaimed Adarius, relishing the fact he could now claim Raphael as his legal stepfather.

Oh, yes – that’s true,” replied Lantrill. “Now, the circle of protection around Francis has increased to include the sons of Raphael and all of their relatives and friends. And your mother, Lady Lorenna, has a protector in her new mate. Raphael was always fiercely protective of Lady Julia without infringing on her interests and daily activities in raising their children. I wonder if Commander Monteras will be tapped to educate the youngsters who will surely be born to Raphael and Lorenna?”

Myka Strom looked over at the group still surrounding Claudine and replied, “Well, that rather depends on whether or not Lord Raphael remains in the Command. Before we arrived, I received a message from Adrigus that there is a strong possibility that Raphael will soon retire from the service, which would allow him to spend more time with Francis and acting as an advisor for Claudine. We’ll see what plays out in the next few years as adjustments are made all around.”

Lantrill glanced over towards Claudine. She was speaking to Lord Efrem, Lady Arla, Lord Mathdis and Lady Anna, King Stephanus, and Master Francis Polaño. Claudine appeared to be calming down finally now that Raphael and Lorenna had left the room. Lantrill shook his head; this incident as small as it was, did not bode well for Raphael and Claudine getting along well in the near future. Lantrill knew Raphael was not a born diplomat; he was not likely to bend to the will of the woman he had originally encouraged to take on the regency. When he had come to that particular decision, it was more out of sheer necessity since there were no other suitable options except himself. Raphael was wise enough to realize that as an adopted son, at least initially, he would be less of an acceptable choice to the High Council members than Claudine who was, at least, by birth a VaCoupe. Lantrill thought he should speak to Master Li Tzulo and Master Mei Li who were chief among Raphael’s own advisors and mentors. He wished he could remain in Raphael’s company, as well, but he now had commitments on The Golden Falcon, being one of the head commanders of the mothership.

The Veyan masters had also witnessed the subtle incident that had taken place outside the ancient house and were quietly discussing the matter between themselves via telepathy. Master Li Tzulo realized with this new subtle power play exhibited by Raphael, perhaps unintentionally, Claudine might be more easily offended by her independently minded advisor. He commented: I will suggest to Raphael that he begin to form a council of lords, separate from the High Council, made up of men who can advise Claudine. It would appear from that particular incident we all witnessed that Claudine was attempting to establish her control over the heir – something which she has never done before, at least not to that degree. Francis has always been under the purview of Raphael and me, as his advisors and mentors. Claudine has done nothing to further the education and preparedness of Francis; it has all been done by others. Yet, she thinks she has the right to boss the young man around in front of the house he will be inheriting from Raphael when he succeeds to the lordship. Methinks the strain of pride that I have witnessed as being in Esturias and Reynar, is now beginning to reveal itself in Claudine’s behavior. In my humble opinion, this is not a healthy development and needs to be squelched as soon as possible in Claudine. She is NOT the hereditary heir; Francis is by birth the male heir, young as he is. Now that we are no longer at war, there is very little reason to continue the regency except that Raphael and I feel Francis is still in need of some added maturity. By the end of another decade, perhaps much sooner, I would deem Francis will be more than ready to take on the heavy responsibilities that come with the office.

The masters Mei Li Zang and Leu Tzulo contemplated what Master Li Tzulo had shared with them. 

Mei Li first gave his impressions: When Claudine sent Lord Raphael home to Medina, she appeared to be very concerned about his health. Why would that change in a matter of months? Perhaps she wanted to say something to Master Francis, to wish him and his new mate a fare well. I do not think we should judge Claudine or Lord Raphael too harshly but observe how they interact tomorrow and the next couple of days before Claudine departs for Alyona in a day or so. If necessary, we can perform a subtle scan on Claudine to see if there exist any hidden motivations to her apparent desire to control Francis’ departure. It was a bit odd…

Master Leu nodded and responded: I concur with Mei Li’s observations. It would be unusual for Claudine to suddenly become hostile to Lord Raphael. She has always been extremely fond of him and dependent on his skills and gifts. Before she sent him home, Claudine made it quite clear that she wanted Raphael to serve as her primary advisor and to continue to mentor and guide Francis in his development.

Master Li Tzulo contemplated the replies and then said: Well, I suggest we observe the interactions between Claudine and her brother, make note of anything out of the ordinary. And I would advise Raphael to continue his tours with Francis and to work on strengthening any existing ties between planetary lords and ladies in view of possible developments in the future. I would venture to say that the exact timing of Francis’ succession to the lordship is what is in question. Claudine has recently stated she anticipates remaining in her office for decades to come, whereas Raphael has suggested a mere decade or less should be sufficient to grant Francis the required maturity to step up and take over the lordship. I might add, Raphael would probably like to retire altogether but he is far too young, at least if his health improves.

Mei Li nodded: That reminds me, Master Leu and I should give Lord Raphael another healing session tomorrow and give him a scan to see how all the excitement of these past few days has affected the state of his health.

Master Li spoke aloud, “I concur, Lord Raphael should receive a scan and healing session tomorrow. You might speak to him after breakfast. I am not sure if he is up to exercising with the men, yet. Still, he seems to be enjoying having a mate at his side, once again.”

Secure in their personal retreat in Raphael’s rooms, with the two BerWarians standing outside on guard, Raphael and Lorenna took time to relax and take a nap. Then, they sat up together and began to talk and share their impressions of the week’s ceremonies, their own and their son’s. Lorenna’s mouth curled up into a smile as she reimagined Raphael coming to the rescue of Francis and Ella, allowing them to escape the attentions of their aunt Claudine. “Anyone watching would know without a doubt that you have claimed Francis and Adarius as your sons, Raphael. You really are a wonderful father figure for my sons… now our sons!”

“Yes, although I am not sure why my sister thought of me attempting to snatch Francis from her grasp – she appeared to be quite upset. I wonder what she was trying to do. It seemed an odd behavior given that she has seldom had any time for Francis in all the time she has been regent,” replied Raphael. “He’s always been solely the concern of mine and Master Li Tzulo’s. I’ll be happy when she leaves to return to Alyona, and we get to stay here. It should be interesting to see just how much Francis changes during the course of these two weeks spent with his new lady love. I saw him already looking at Ella with a deep abiding affection. And that young lady is an impressive person, highly intuitive, intelligent, and perceptive. Lord Aeolous made a wonderful choice when he selected his young cousin for Francis’ mate. I had my misgivings at first, but once I realized Claudine had approved of the match, well then, it was so. And now… given what I witnessed this afternoon, my sister may regret it… since Francis has succeeded in aligning himself with yet another powerful House and world.”

Although not a powerful psychic herself, Lorenna was wise in the ways of the inner workings of a complex court. She smiled and commented, “Well, as young as Francis is compared to Claudine, now that he is mated and can begin to produce offspring, he has become a direct threat to your sister’s sense of control. Once he and Ella bring forth their first child, hopefully a male heir, the lords of the worlds will begin to pressure Claudine to step down from the regency and allow Francis to succeed to the lordship. I know the regency was merely used to prevent the Federation from flying apart… during a time of crisis, but now, as we transition into a more peaceful era, the people are going to want the Lordship sorted out and will begin to press Claudine to step aside. If I know anything about the VaCoupes, having been mated to one, there is a strong sense of pride, well-placed or not, that can easily be turned into jealousy and hubris. Both you and I witnessed that sort of behavior exhibited by your adopted brother, Esturias… today’s Nemo. I hope Claudine has more common sense than to assume she can remain long as regent once Francis has managed to father an heir or two. Twins do run in the family, I understand.”

“Well, we will have to go about creating strong diplomatic ties with the lords of the other major worlds. I already enjoy a relationship of sorts with many of the powerful commanders of the Fleet and will continue that to assure there is a peaceful transfer of power when the day comes for Claudine to step aside. I just hope she doesn’t do anything foolish like her elder brother,” replied Raphael.

Now, my love… would you like to sample some of the items that Eduardo was so kind to bring to our room? I saw some fruit pudding on the tray…” asked Lorenna, who had been carefully observing to see what kinds of food were favorites of Raphael’s. She fully intended to be careful and thoughtful mate to this affectionate and kind man.

Oh, that’s one of my weaknesses… fruit pudding! Yes, my dear, ever since I tasted my first pudding… It was on the first day I ever met Lord Demetrius, I have loved it well!” replied Raphael with a laugh. “I had never eaten food of such quality as was brought to me by Master Polaño – he can tell you that I was a very skinny lad, too!”

Lorenna looked her new mate over critically and commented, “Well, you have lost a little weight through this healing phase, so a fruit pudding or two isn’t going to put a belly on you!”

“Once I feel a bit stronger, I will be able to manage more exercises with the men. It’s a habit I got into during my years on board the ships and have kept up through the years,” replied Raphael.

Which is why you have retained that trim waistline, my love!” teased Lorenna. Actually, she felt Raphael was a very handsome man and still young in body and spirit. She was looking forward to spending many years together with him.

When do you want to go to Jolf, my dear?” inquired Raphael. “I wouldn’t mind flying the Mathdis Family back home. Do you think your… our son Adarius might be interested in visiting Jolf, too? He hasn’t had leave for a long time and probably should take some while he is home on Medina.”

“Well, it was apparent he is interested in Karenna Mathdis as a possible mate. She is a pleasant, intelligent young woman and would make a fine mate for a busy career officer,” replied Lorenna. “Since she is currently well-supported by family, Adarius would not have to worry about leaving her behind in a strange place. And she would have Jychondria and Lady Rita living there with her, as well. It is a good match. While the Mathdis Family is not a powerful family, they are still highly respected, an ancient line of excellent blood, which can use an infusion from another family. I don’t recall whether or not the Mathdis’ have had any matings with the VaCoupes in the recent past.”

“Not for several generations, I wouldn’t think,” replied Raphael. “I recall the former mate of Lord Mathdis was actually from Maia, although not a member of the Dino Family. Another important consideration, with this match, Adarius is not likely to become a potential threat to Francis’ powerbase in the future – not that that would be likely to happen. The twins seem very well-adjusted in contrast to the previous generation of male VaCoupes, with the exception of my brother Roméo. Now, there’s a man without political ambition. I want to speak to him while he is visiting and see if he would consider moving his teaching duties to the Medinian University Ship. I know a man of his caliber could have any teaching position he wants – he is well-respected. He could even be enlisted in teaching any of our future children should any of them be interested in pursuing astrophysics!”

Lorenna smiled and replied, “Raphael… I think we’ve already made a child. I am beginning to feel different already. Are you ready to be a father, again?”

In answer, Raphael’s eyes were shining with joy, “I love being a father, my dear… my heart is big enough to encompass a dozen children or more! I am so grateful for this opportunity to find love in new places, my dear Lorenna. Words can hardly express how I am feeling right now, being here with you in my family home.”

“Then, let us go to Jolf the day after next and take Adarius with us,” replied Lorenna. “We need to be polite to our guests, but most will be leaving shortly some along with Claudine to Alyona, so we can leave for Jolf probably on the second day ourselves.”

“I’ll speak to Myka and obtain some more leave for young Adarius. He is due some time to get to know me as his new father, too,” said Raphael. “I certainly want to get to know him better. And then, we can return about the time that Francis and Ella come back from Towan!”

“Oh, that sounds like a wonderful plan, Raphael,” exclaimed Lorenna. “Now tell me more about Jolf and what I might see there…”

Raphael gathered Lorenna up in his arms and began to tell her about the lovely white-washed houses with their walled gardens filled with roses, herbs, and flowers, the fresh sea air, the beautiful chapels with their high towers, the hills to the north of town rising up and breaking into mountainous desert beyond. “It is also just a short flight over the sea to Elexa where I can show you the huge shipyards of the Fleet. Now that the war is over – at least within our Federation – civilians will be more welcome to visit and take tours. I know that Strabo Diaz would be delighted to see us there. And I wouldn’t mind visiting briefly with my cousin, Commander Brown, to tell him in person about the wonderful visit I had with Grandfather Mahaelion Morena-Brown. I would like to take you and Francis to Serana to visit him and the other wonderful people of that amazingly productive planet. Then you would see where I have inherited my practical common sense from – I know it wasn’t from my diplomat father.”

“It sounds wonderful, Raphael – being able to travel with you and Francis. I know I cannot go everywhere until the worlds are truly settled, but this life will offer me so much more variety and insights which would have been impossible to achieve by remaining on Maia,” replied Lorenna as she snuggled in Raphael’s arms, content with the companionship and the dreams they were sharing. 

Oh, I am pleased to hear this, Lorenna – as I wasn’t sure if you would be interested in travel and there may be a lot of it,” said Raphael after he had planted a kiss on top of her head. 

This is my opportunity to blossom, my dear. Of course, if I am truly pregnant, I will have to be careful in the latter months of carrying your child,” said Lorenna. “I am glad we have two Veyan physicians to ensure I am able to carry the child to full-term without any complications.”

“Only the best for you, my love… and Lady Rita and Lady Ella, when their times arrive, too,” replied Raphael. “I want the women in my family to be protected, nourished, and loved at much as possible in this world.”

“Ah, my love… I am most fortunate to be here with you,” sighed a very contented Lorenna. Then, she continued, “Perhaps we can see if Dante can get some leave, too. I am eager to meet that young man as well. Isn’t he the most intelligent of your children?”

Yes, Dante is brilliant and has a great career ahead of him in the Fleet if he wants it,” replied Raphael.

And what of your daughters – Arianna and Remilla? I know they are both priestesses. I haven’t had an opportunity to speak at length with them on this visit. Remilla lives in Jolf, doesn’t she?” inquired Lorenna.

Yes, she can return to Jolf with us and the Mathdis family,” replied Raphael. “I haven’t spoken to the girls yet either; there has just been so much going on this week. Yet, when we are in Jolf, you can have more of an opportunity to get acquainted with Remilla. And when we visit Airus, we will be able to spend more time with the Kadish Family. You would be very impressed with Lord Aeolus. I was very surprised at how much more at ease Lord Da’vid appeared to be after just a few months of being educated by Lord Pietro. He is an intelligent fellow and probably feeling more comfortable living on Airus now that his father and elder brother are no longer present. Oh… and little Daniel will be going to school on Airus so we will definitely be taking trips to see both him and Arianna in the future. My two girls will have to decide whether or not they want to eventually mate. There isn’t any rush in their case. Priestesses have more freedom than the average woman in our culture and family right now. I had a priestess mother and another one as an adopted mother. Those highly trained and disciplined women make very suitable mates if they are of the mind to become companions and mothers; however, it is not going to be forced on them if they are not wanting to go in that direction. I will have heirs enough from our sons. Francis and Adarius, of course, are VaCoupes, so they will never be my heirs, but belong to the main Family line of the VaCoupes. Our children and those from Julia, will be heirs to our new family, the Kantor-VaCoupes. I never thought I would be the patriarch of an entirely new family but there it is…”

“And it is a marvelous thing,” murmured Lorenna. She was getting sleepy. It had been a long day in a long week. “I shouldn’t wonder if your Veyan physicians don’t insist giving you a healing session tomorrow, my dear. I know you’re still recovering from all that surgery. It is time to get some rest and see what tomorrow brings us… oh, I love you so!”

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BOOK FOUR: Table of Contents

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