October 31, 2008

In Which Alina Must Have Faith

March 19, 1155

"Well, Princess," Alina heard her husband whisper as the door swung shut behind them, "it looks like we can stay here for a while."

She lifted her head from his shoulder. "You're certain?"

"I spoke with the baron who lives north of here," he assured her. "He said that this castle was unoccupied, and my intuition tells me he's a man of his word. We'll stay here for a few weeks or so, and if you like it here, I can convince Roderick to make me lord of this shire."

This Alina did not doubt; Severin could talk a nun into committing a cold-blooded murder, she was sure of it.

"Isn't it funny to think that Roderick is king here?" she mused aloud. "And he's your own cousin."

Severin frowned. "Well, Oswald is also my cousin, and he's the crown prince, so the thought really hadn't crossed my mind, to be honest, love."

Alina giggled. "So eventually, you will be the cousin of two kings."

"They don't really think of me as a cousin, though," he protested, "and I'm not royalty, since I'm not related to Farilon. I daresay I could only possibly even be considered a noble here in Naroni."

"As long as I'm here, you'll always be an emperor," declared Alina, planting a quick kiss on his cheek.

He laughed softly, holding her even more tightly in his arms. "And you, my sweet, will always be my little princess. Now, I shall take you upstairs to the bedroom and start a nice fire, if you like. How does that sound?"

"Lovely. Take me up at once, good sir."

"As you wish, my lady."

She continued to enjoy his strong embrace as he carried her up the stairs and into the master bedroom, placing her lovingly on the couch and kissing her forehead before starting the fire.

Once again, Alina found herself studying her husband intently. She was the youngest of the ten children of the Count of Valcria, the fifth of his daughters, and, as many claimed, the loveliest. Her four older sisters had all made the most perfect of matches, all to heirs, and Alina herself had been promised to the eldest son of the Duke of Luperia--needless to say, her father had been both shocked and outraged to learn that she had instead married the bastard son of that same duke and his gyspy mistress.

Therefore, it had been necessary for Severin and Alina to leave Dovia, especially now that they had a child on the way. True, Roderick was also likely unhappy with them, but the way they saw it, he would be a lot more forgiving than the old count, so fleeing to Naroni had been their best option.

Alina did not know what it was to live away from the home she had always known. She did not know what it was to be a wife, and even less what it was to be a mother.

But at the same time, she realized, she did not know what it was to not be loved by this man. Her entire life, he had been there for her, watching over her like a guardian angel--she'd been told that three-year-old Severin used to spend many an afternoon visit to the castle at Valcria simply staring at the infant Alina as she slept in her crib, his fascination unfazed as the hours passed. It was he who had always stood up for her when other boys had teased her, he who would cradle her as she cried after hearing her parents fight, he who had promised her she wouldn't have to marry dull old Rudolphus. It was as though it was his sworn duty to be for her whatever it was she needed, and he had upheld his silent oaths her entire life.

Oh, how she loved him; her protector, her champion, the only constant in her life. She knew he would do everything in his power to make her happy, and she would have to have faith in him. Even if Roderick denied him this castle, Severin would make a home for Alina and their children here in Naroni, a home that would remain in their family for generations to come. Whatever he did here would become his legacy--and of course, hers as well.

Severin sat down on the couch beside Alina and slung one arm over her shoulder, pulling her closer. "Comfortable, Princess?"

"Very," she sighed in content.

"Are you feeling sick at all?"

Alina shook her head. "No. He's settled down now."

Severin raised an eyebrow. "What makes you think it will be a boy?"

"He'll be a strong, raven-haired lad like his father," she insisted.

"Wrong. She will be a copper-haired beauty like her mother," Severin argued, a teasing smile crossing his face.

"Well, we couldn't possibly both be right."

"That is true. I suppose we'll just have to wait and see, then."


His squint-eyed smile remained. God, she loved that smile--as stupid as it was, it was her favorite smile out of all of his; he had twenty-six, this she knew for a fact. If their baby was a boy, he simply had to inherit that smile. If it was a girl... well, maybe it would be better if she didn't.

Carefully so as to avoid compromising the baby, Alina wrapped her arms around Severin's neck and perched herself upon his lap, her gaze locking with his. "I love you," she told him, smiling what she did not realize was his favorite of her eighteen smiles.

"I love you too, Princess," he replied softly. "I always have, and I always will."

She giggled. "Oh Severin, you say the most obviously unoriginal things!"

He began to lean toward her. "What's important, Alina, is that I say nothing but the truth."

He gently laid her down and began to kiss her passionately. Fine ladies were not supposed to enjoy such acts, this Alina knew, but she couldn't help but lose herself as his warm body drew nearer to hers and their tongues began to intertwine, a strong surge of pleasure engulfing her. The way she saw it--and he, a man, shockingly agreed--women had just as much of a right to enjoy their husbands as men had to enjoy their wives.

"Mmm... Severin?" she addressed him as he pulled her into a sitting position once more.

"Yes, my love?" he breathed, his mahogany eyes sparkling like the gold band on her finger.

"Don't you think this is just a little improper?" she inquired, trying not to sound too frigid. "In the middle of the day? And on the sofa, no less?"

He nodded. "You're right, Princess; I'm sorry. What else would you like to do?"

Alina grinned deviously. "Well..."

"Better?" asked Severin with a wink after they had moved to the bed.

"Infinitely so," Alina replied. "As for the time of day, there's nothing either of us can do about that, so we'll just have to compromise."

"Of course."

"Now, if you would kindly pick up where you left off..."

"With pleasure."

Once more he was upon her oh-too-willing form. Eagerly she awaited his mouth upon hers, but then, suddenly, he stopped.

"Alina, love... what about the baby?"

Alina laughed. "Oh, the baby will be fine, Severin, other than being alone in my womb with no one for company. Perhaps we shall make him a twin."


October 28, 2008

In Which Octavius Wants One Thing

March 19, 1155

Of the four castles in Naroni, his had the largest chapel, Octavius, Baron of Tetran, had noticed; now, if only he had a priest. But of course, even the old church had no priest yet, and it didn't feel right to send for a personal priest when there wasn't yet one for the community. He would just have to be content to worship on his own for now, although he didn't doubt he'd have a long list of sins to confess when a priest did come along.

Octavius pulled himself to his feet and approached the makeshift alter, into the flickering flames of the candles set upon it. He took a deep breath, then began to pray.

However, he was interrupted by the sound of the chapel door creaking open, followed by the light feminine footsteps upon the crimson rug and the scent of a sickly sweet perfume.

It could only be his wife, Medea, back from a morning spent with the queen. Holding back a sigh with some difficulty, Octavius raised one hand to his temple; her fragrance had never been particularly kind to his head.

They had been married for a good three years--the longest three years of his twenty-five. True, each spent little of their time in the other's presence, so in some ways, it was almost as if they weren't married at all. Of course, they did have to spend some time together, and each time, Octavius could count on finding at least one more thing they didn't agree on; he was fairly certain that if he told her that spring grass was green, she would scream for all the world to hear that it was, in fact, a particularly vibrant shade of pink.

Octavius was a very patient man. He could put up with a woman who would never say a kind word to him, if he had to. He was willing to endure fight after fight, argument after argument, insult after insult. There was only one thing he wanted from her, one thing she could give him that would make him happier than any other man on earth, and that was the one thing she insisted on denying him time after time.

She was now standing beside him; he tried to mask his discomfort by scratching his beard. That damned perfume kept tickling his nostrils, as if daring him to look at her. He chanced a quick, subtle glance to his right. She was smiling, for once--of course, he had no idea what this meant.

"Praying for a baby again, I presume?" she inquired, as if trying to make herself noticed. Octavius braced himself; she only ever asked him questions in order to provoke him.

This time, however, her voice sounded somewhat different. Considering how she normally spoke to him, anything different would surely be better.

"I have everything else I could possibly want," Octavius answered truthfully as they faced each other. "Therefore, I pray for that which I want most."

A son. Or a daughter. That was all he could ask for, all he needed. Yet, he and his wife had not lain together since their wedding night.

The baroness, however, seemed to be of a different opinion once again.

"Well, if you want a baby, you would be better served asking me than asking the Lord," she snapped at him, her eyebrows slanting angrily and her mouth curling into an ugly scowl, "and my answer is no."

Once more, his heart sank. "But Medea... don't you want children?"

"No," she replied promptly, her blue eyes narrowed. "Not with you."

"But I am your husband!" protested Octavius. It wasn't long before he realized his mistake; he knew she was about to start yelling.

"Not by my own choice, let me remind you! It should have been enough that my younger sister married before me, but then, just to add insult to injury, my father gave me to the eighth son of a lesser lord while she got a prince. A prince! And not just any bloody prince--Oswald himself, Crown Prince of Dovia!"

Octavius shook his head. "Medea, dearest, we are no longer in Dovia. We are in Naroni, and here, I am a baron. Oswald and Athalia have no power here at all!"

"Here?" Medea sneered. "Here? Open your eyes, you fool--there is nothing here! It makes no different whether you call yourself a baron or a farmer or the Lord God Himself! You are the eighth son of a barely noble family; by all means you should be rotting away in some monastery, not married to a daughter of kings!"

He knew she would not stop at that; he had heard all she had to say only too many times.

"I see," he sighed. "I'm going to go get some fresh air."


Octavius felt lower than the poorest of serfs as he trudged out of the chapel, leaving his wife behind at the alter--the very thing she would have preferred to have done to him three years earlier.

He would never have a child. His wife would never go to bed with him again. Those two thoughts where all his mind could hold as he absent-mindedly made his way through the castle foyer and onto the grounds. These grounds, he supposed, were not meant for children anyway; they had no walls, meaning that children could get out, and strangers could get in. Fitting that Roderick would give him Tetran, really.

"Excuse me, my lord."

In his grief, Octavius had failed to notice the raven-haired man who had just approached him from the side. Exactly how long the man had been in his presence, he had no idea; he decided to feign interest in apology. "I'm terribly sorry. How can I help you, good sir?"

The man raised his right arm and pointed his thumb southwards, toward Veldora. "Could you possibly tell me who is the lord of that castle to the south?"

"Unfortunately, there is no lord in that shire currently," Octavius informed him, all the while studying his new acquaintance. His dress and manner were much too fine for a peasant, perhaps too fine for even a gentleman, but all the same, he didn't feel like a noble. The ambiguity of his class, however, seemed to make him a little more of a mystery, which was exactly what Octavius needed to take his mind off his marriage.

"Damn," the stranger swore. "Well, could you tell me who resides there, then, while there is no lord? I have been traveling on foot for about a week or so, and my wife is with child, so I must speak with whoever dwells in that castle as soon as possible."

Octavius bit his lip. Roderick was already a father, and would be one again. Dalston too would soon be a father, as was the case with this man. Was he the only man in Naroni whose wife would never give him a child?

"Indeed, traveler. That would be nobody."

"Nobody. I see," the man mused. "Thank you for your assistance, my good lord. Now, I'd love to stay and chat, but if you'll please excuse me, I must hurry off to see this Nobody you speak of. God be with you!"

He began to walk away, in the direction of Veldora. Octavius simply stared after him, feeling the envy fester inside his heart. He could not help but hate this man, just as he could not help but hate Roderick and Dalston. They all had or would have the one thing he wanted most--the one thing he could never have.


October 25, 2008

In Which Celina Is Assured

March 16, 1155

Celina, the Duchess of Armion, had just begun to show, and therefore could no longer enjoy her afternoon ride. Instead, she had to content herself by simply gazing out her bedroom window at the countryside beyond the castle walls, imagining all the wondrous places the valley had to offer for her and her horse. When her baby was old enough, perhaps she would take him--or her, she supposed--as well.

Her daydreams were interrupted by a knock on the door. It was probably only her maid, Cassada. "Enter," Celina obliged.

She had been wrong; it was not Cassada, but her husband, Duke Dalston. Clearly, he had just returned from the king's castle in Ambrin-Naroni, where he had been summoned to that morning.

"Good afternoon, Celina," he greeted her, in a rich, handsome voice that matched both his body and manner perfectly.

The duchess felt a slight blush crawl onto her cheeks, as she always did whenever he spoke to her. "Good afternoon, your grace."

Celina was madly in love with her husband--if love was a strong enough word. Ever since that moment she had first laid eyes on him, she had been in perpetual awe of this golden god of a man, this beautiful, angelic creature with his strong arms and beautiful face. And not only was he impossibly handsome, but he was also a man of unyielding goodness, compassion, and strength. In her twenty-two years, Celina had known enough men to know that not all of them meant well, but she knew that Dalston was the one man on earth who would never hurt her.

But all the same, she found herself awkward around him, her irrevocable love for him reduced to a young girl's foolish infatuation with a champion she could never hope to win. He was this perfect creation, a sight almost too fine for mortal eyes, whereas Celina was dull and plain. How she had come to be his was all still such a blur to her.

No one had ever wanted Celina, not since she was three years old. Her father had been the third son of a Dovian count, who had somehow won the heart of the princess, marrying her against the wishes of the king. Celina was the sole product of this union--her mother had died mere minutes after she was born. She had been her father's only comfort over the course of the next three years, she was told, and he had loved her deeply, but then he fell ill and died, leaving Celina to be passed along from relative to relative like a coin constantly changing hands. Finally, she had ended up in the court of her uncle, King Farilon, to be raised with her royal cousins. Her extended family had treated her well, but as much as she loved them and appreciated them, she had never felt as though they had truly wanted her. No, she had never been part of their family--merely a guest who had never really even been invited in the first place.

Once she had turned sixteen, her uncle had begun to search for a husband for her, but had no luck; there were many fairer maidens than she, whose fathers were more important than a count's third son. When she was twenty, he gave up altogether, and started to make arrangements for her to be sent to a convent.

Then, just before Farilon's plans had been finalized, Roderick had been exiled, bringing any arrangements the king had for his niece to a halt. Farilon became fully preoccupied with case of his son, most concerned with providing Roderick with company; a young man of twenty-five needed other men of that age, preferably nobles.

And so the king had approached Dalston, a cousin of his daughter-in-law Geneva's and the second son of a great lord. Dalston had never been particularly fond of Roderick, and had at first been reluctant to consent, so the king had found himself in a tight spot. He had only two things he could give Dalston: his daughter, Princess Holladrin, who was a lovely, but rather sickly girl, and his niece, Celina, nowhere near so enchanting, but in considerably better health. Farilon opted to offer him Celina in exchange for his compliance; surprisingly, Dalston had accepted.

So here Celina was, married to a man far too fine for the likes of her, and noticeably pregnant with his firstborn child. She loved him with every ounce of passion she had, and yet she feared that she would spend her whole life haunted by the knowledge that there was no possible way that someone as flawless as he could ever love a woman such as her, who was neither beautiful nor charming by any stretch of the imagination.

Her thoughts were interrupted as he caught her in a gentle embrace, her flushed cheek brushing against his lightly-stubbled one. "I'm sorry I couldn't be here today," he whispered softly into her ear. "Roderick is quite upset about this priest business and has no idea how to go about it; he was never cut out to be a king if you ask me, and if you don't mind me saying something like that about your cousin," he added hastily as he released her, biting his lip as if--for some strange reason--in fear of her disapproval.

"I don't mind, your grace," she assured him. "I trust you managed to help him."

Dalston shook his head. "I was never cut out to be a king myself, and neither was Octavius. All the priests are back in Dovia, and we cannot think of a single one who would be willing or obliged to come here. And Celina?"

"Yes, your grace?" Celina answered, her hazel eyes fearing to meet his startlingly blue ones.

"None of this 'your grace' nonsense, if you please," he told her. "We've been married for a good four months now, and you've been pregnant for at least three; Lord knows the only women who have seen me naked as many times as you have are my mother and my childhood nurse. You, dear wife, shall call me Dalston."

Celina stared at him in disbelief; he, a duke, had just asked her to call him by his given name! For a moment, she could not speak a word. He continued to look at her expectantly, a slight grin on his face. Finally, she replied, "Of course, your--I mean... Dalston."

His name was honey on her tongue. So many times she had mouthed it, imagined what it would be like to savor that name on her lips, but it was only now that she had tasted it for the very first time; never before had she known a sweeter flavor.

Dalston smiled. "You must have had a lonely day; I shall make it up to you tomorrow, I promise."

Before she could say anything, he had lowered himself to the level of her newly-visible bulge and began to make conversation with their unborn child, silly faces, hand gestures and all.

"Oh, but you kept Mama company, didn't you?" he cooed; she struggled to stifle her giggles. "You're much better than Papa, aren't you? Oh, you know you are! You'll make your mama much happier than I ever could, won't you? Oh, I think so!"

"But you do make me happy, y--Dalston!" objected Celina without thinking.

He looked up at her, one eyebrow raised. "Do I really? Ever since we've settled in here, we've scarcely seen much of each other at all, seeing as I haven't bothered to set aside any time to spend with you. I'm sorry, Lina; I've been a terrible husband."

"Lina?" she repeated slowly, trying to comprehend the fact that he had possibly just given her a pet name.

Dalston's eyes widened slightly. "Celina, I mean. Sorry about that. You see, I've been calling you Lina in my head since we were first betrothed. I never meant for it to slip out; I won't call you that again."

"Oh, but I do like it," she insisted truthfully, "and you're not a terrible husband."

"Oh. Well, thank you," he acknowledged her, taking her hands in his, causing her to jump slightly in surprise. "And Lina it is, then."

Celina felt herself smile slightly. "And Dalston, not 'your grace'."


For a moment, they simply stood there; for some reason, he didn't seem to want to let go of her hands. Then, suddenly, he leaned closer and...

He had kissed her before, of course, but only at their wedding, and then before each time he had made love to her. She didn't know what had brought this on; but whatever it was, she was grateful for it.

"Forgive me, my angel," he addressed her as they parted lips, "but I must go and pay a visit to our tenants. I do hope you will try to rest, for your own sake as well as the baby's. The cook is preparing dinner right now--I'll tell her to send it up with Cassada."

Quickly, he pressed his lips to hers once more, then made his way through the door and into the corridor.

She stared after him for a few minutes, then opened her wardrobe and exchanged her dress for her nightgown. She let down her hair, then settled herself down on the bed, alone with her thoughts and her child once more.

Dalston actually cared about her, he had shown in that brief encounter, and, she could tell, not just because she was carrying his child. He genuinely cared about her, and maybe even--dare she think it?--loved her.

For the first time since the death of her father, someone wanted her. She had a home, someone she belonged with, a bright future...

She gently clasped one hand to her stomach. "Well, my love," she soothed her baby, "I think we're going to be very happy here in Naroni."


October 21, 2008

In Which Roderick Becomes a King

A fond hello to anyone who may be reading this. Just a little history (and maybe a few excuses on my part) before you start on this blog:

This was originally going to be an attempt at the Royal Kingdom Challenge for Sims 2. However, it just so happens that I am now InSimenator-dependent and can't possibly spare a minute to make my sims use a toilet or prepare a meal or anything like that. So I'm just storytelling.

As someone who has dabbled in novel writing, I'm finding it rather difficult to accommodate the pictures with my writing at the moment, but after a while, I should get over this.

I may not be the most frequent updater out there, just as a warning; I'm painfully lazy. I didn't even bother to make up new names for these characters and places--they're recycled from an old, doomed story I wrote in junior high.

I apologize for any inconsistencies in the text formatting. This is my first time using Blogger, and when I pasted my post in from word, some paragraphs were randomly a different size or font. It looks fine in compose mode, but absolutely disgusting in preview mode. I have no idea why it's doing that--I guess I'll figure it out eventually.

Anyway, that's enough rambling from me. I'm pretty sure anyone who purposely navigated to this page probably has some degree of interest in reading this blog, so without further ado, here you are. :)

January 1, 1155

Roderick stared blankly at the wall in front of him, his mind both full and empty at the same time. He was seated at the desk in his second floor study, as he had been unable to sleep the previous night and did not wish to wake his wife and baby. How Geneva had found such peaceful slumber, he would never know—nor understand.

It hadn't been long since the sun had risen; he guessed that it was about seven o' clock. The coronation was to be held at three, meaning he only had eight short hours left as Prince Roderick of Dovia. In eight short hours, he would be King Roderick of Naroni.

Once more, he found the recent events of his life replaying themselves in his mind's eye. It had all started out so innocently—merely a forbidden bachelor party for his cousin Rudolphus, held at a tavern in the village instead of at the castle as his father and uncle would have preferred. Just five or six young men drinking, mingling with the village whores... nothing too serious at all.

But then, Roderick had one beer too many. Two too many. Three too many.

Before long, he was standing on the bar counter, drunkenly spewing his list of grievances against the kingdom for all who were there to hear. He had been told he had called his father "an incompetent fool", and he vaguely remembered something about referring to his older brother as "a man of uncontested idiocy." Shortly after, he began making promises to the patrons of the tavern, assuring them that all would be well "when I am king".

The next morning, a terribly hung-over Roderick had been woken by the steward, telling him to be in his father's study within the hour. There, with the Crown Prince Oswald and Duke Lonriad of Luperia, brother of the Queen of Dovia, as witnesses, King Farilon formally banished his younger son from the kingdom for high treason, along with his wife and newborn baby.

Of course, the young family had not been exiled from Dovia alone. Feeling some guilt, Roderick suspected, his father had sent along two Dovian nobles of about his same age to accompany him, as well as their wives and a priest. Three peasant couples, each leaving Dovia for their own reasons, managed to tag along, as well as a few servants sent to tend to the nobles wherever they ended up staying.

The first few days had been difficult. The party had wandered mindlessly, barely speaking, stopping only to eat and sleep. It wasn't long before they had found themselves in the mountains, cold, hungry, and hopelessly lost, most of their food gone and nothing they could readily use to hunt or build a shelter. This was the end, they were sure of it... until something incredibly unusually—if not positively miraculous—occurred.

The group had found themselves in a large, lush valley, nestled neatly between the majestic peaks. A wondrous forest spiraled downward around it from the surrounding mountains, and a clear blue lake could be found in the southern corner. There was plenty of good earth for farming, green grass for their surviving livestock, and an abundance of wild animals for game. Of course, there had to be something strange about so perfect a new home...

Dovian lore told of a small kingdom in the mountains. It was a kingdom of unrivaled prosperity, home to the Naron people. The Naron, so the legends spoke, were the half-human descendants of the pagan gods of an age long past. They lived in isolation in their valley kingdom of Naroni, until, one day, they vanished entirely. Some said that men had began to make their homes in Naroni. Others said that the gods of old had called their children to the next world. But whatever the reason, the Naron no longer dwelled in the mountains, though some elders seemed to agree that the time would come when the ancient race returned to their kingdom.

Roderick, however, was not a man to put faith in old legends. The way he saw it, the valley had been a gift from God—there were even empty castles and houses waiting for them, as if they had been built mere weeks ago! Only God could have provided them with such an unexpected blessing. A miracle, this was; not any proof of those foolish childhood tales.

Sighing, he pulled himself to his feet and hurried down the corridor to his bedchamber, where he found his wife, Geneva of Bandera, still in her nightgown, their son in her arms.

Roderick loomed over young Prince Ietrin, making a face as Geneva held the baby up to him. He felt foolish, as he always did when he played with his son, but fortunately, only his family was there to see him.

"Hello, Ietrin," the future king greeted the boy in a silly voice that the child seemed to like, but he himself hated; Ietrin giggled, a vile bubble of snot emerging from his left nostril. Babies were so disgusting—Roderick prayed that Ietrin would grow up both as well and as quickly as possible.

However, he chose to ignore the boy's nose in front of Geneva. "Who's going to be Crown Prince of Naroni in eight hours? Is it Ietrin? I think so! Oh, yes it is, yes it is!"

Geneva smiled, but said nothing. Roderick's wife was an exquisite creature, with her sun-kissed skin, soft blond hair, and violet eyes, but there was something about her that had always made him feel uneasy. The earl's daughter's gaze rarely ever settled upon him, at least while there were any other men in the room, from King Farilon down to the new groom. Ever since their wedding day, she had preferred to avoid speaking with him if possible, never starting conversation and replying briefly if at all. In the bedroom, however, she never gave him a chance to defend himself; not once in a million years had Roderick ever expected to meet a woman so aggressive sexually. Almost every night, she flung herself on top of him before he even had a chance to protest—in truth, he found her wild passion rather painful.

Was he in love with her? Not in the slightest. She was his wife and the mother of his heir, so he loved her merely out of obligation, if at all. He also knew that she in turn had no romantic feelings for him; she just liked having someone she could take advantage of. Despite all this, it wasn’t as if they hated each other. No, in Geneva, Roderick had a beautiful treasure that drove other men mad with jealousy, and in Roderick, Geneva had a husband of both royal breeding and considerable stamina, so in the end, they both had all they could want or need. Roderick had little doubt in his mind that Geneva would make a decent queen, having grown up in the court of the Earl of Bandera, and she would raise their children well.

Before either Roderick or Geneva knew it, it was three o' clock and the coronation had begun. In exchange for permission to return to Dovia, the priest that Farilon had sent quickly crowned them King and Queen of Naroni, then hurried on his way, leaving them to celebrate with the other two noble couples. It was a rather dreadful party with only six, really, one of whom was pregnant, but it beat resorting to inviting the lowly peasants and servants; that, of course, would have constituted a true disaster.

Their first few days as rulers passed uneventfully. One day, a messenger from Dovia arrived, bringing with him some displeasing news.

"Oh, Geneva," Roderick sighed as he joined her in their bedchamber. "It so happens that none of the priests wish to join us out here."

However, she didn't seem to grasp the seriousness of the situation. "Lighten up, Roderick. It can't be too difficult to get a priest from somewhere. Don't you have a cousin studying to become a priest at the monastery? He should be done his training soon, correct? And he’s a very handsome man."

The king frowned—how he wished women would pay attention when they were informed of such things! "If you mean that half-gypsy bastard of my uncle's, you must not have heard the news we received several months ago back in Dovia. My cousin ran away from the monastery and hastily married a young noblewoman—the very same young noblewoman my cousin Rudolphus was to marry before they betrothed him to Eudocia."

"So he's married now?" she mused aloud. "What a shame."

Roderick's scowl deepened. "In case you've forgotten, you also are married now."

"Really?" demanded Geneva in mock surprise. "Maybe you should remind me once in a while."



"I do remind you... every single night."


Later that week, Geneva invited her dearest friend over for tea. Medea was the Baroness of Tetran, one of the four shires Roderick had established in Naroni. The king and queen themselves resided in Ambrin-Naroni, the south-western corner of the valley. Tetran, ruled by Medea's husband Octavius, lay diagonal to them, in the northeast. The northwest shire was Armion, where Duke Dalston reigned. The remaining shire, Veldora in the southeast, was currently unoccupied; no peasants could settle there until Roderick found them a lord.

"Oh, Geneva, even your own father didn't know how well you would marry!" exclaimed Medea as she sat down in Geneva's sitting room. "King of Naroni! And to think, my husband is a only a humble baron."

Geneva didn't seem overly proud. "It is nice, I suppose. But I do wish he was a little more exciting. He's rather something of a prude—I daresay he and you would have been quite happy together!" she teased.

Medea smiled. "I could use a frigid husband; my own can scarcely keep his hands off of me."

"You lucky little devil!" exclaimed the queen in envy.

"Hardly. He only does it because he's desperate for a baby."

"Babies," sighed Geneva. "That is why I asked you here today, actually."

The baroness raised an eyebrow. "Oh?"

"You see, Medea... I believe I may be pregnant again."