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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