Orb's Year 933
Queen Deidre smiled. "Lady Danica Knowles gave me this sweet puppy. Reign is his sire."
King Barron dropped to one knee and petted his lifelong pet. "Yes, I think he does know."
Looking back up to his son, he added, "Little Rex is the third generation of Royale pets. It is only fitting that he be your responsibility and your lifelong companion."
"I wanna pup-pup!" little Felicity said in her sweet toddler voice.
Queen Deidre smiled down at her daughter and gathered her hands in her own. "This special puppy is your brother Earl's puppy. But maybe when you're older you shall have your very own special pet, too!"
He arched a brow at his brother Benedict, silently sharing their distaste for their companion.
King Barron glanced up from the cards and shrugged. "It has been handled," he said simply. He did not trust Prince Geoffrey in the least. Geoffrey might think that he was being coy, but Barron saw straight through him. The prisoner, the elusive Prince of Thieves, was of interest to him. The only question now was - why?
Prince Benedict cleared his throat and changed the subject to something he knew Geoffrey would find mundane and boring - children! "Did I tell you what Earl said the other day when I got home?" he asked his brother before launching into a tale of his clever young son. It only took a few minutes before Geoffrey's eyes glazed over and he threw his cards down to stalk away.
Prince Geoffrey had been so close to finding out what Alibaba had told the King and his blathering idiot of a brother had changed the subject to children. Who cared about the little brats anyway! They'd begun gossiping about their little dearies like women!
Angry and determined, he stalked towards the tower where the prisoner was being kept.
Alibaba sauntered over and smirked, "Haven't you heard? There's no honor among thieves!"
"I don't know why you've kept your mouth shut about my request. But, see that you continue to do so!" he ordered.
Alibaba shrugged. "I'll tell them what I want when I feel it's in my best interests."
Geoffrey returned Alibaba's smirk. "Cut off from the world as you are, perhaps you have not heard that your dear wife has met an untimely end."
Alibaba paled. "Leave my family out of this!" he growled.
"Your mistress has expressed an interest in me, of course. Did she tell you?" he asked, taunting the man. "She paid me a visit one night." He chuckled. "Although I must say that your daughter Henna appeals to me much more. She's a fiesty little fighter! It's too bad you're not there to protect them," Geoffrey trailed off gleefully.
Geoffrey was shaken, although he tried not to show it. He made a big production of smoothing his shirt and lightly laughing.
Ennis woke up, surprised that he'd slept so late. Usually Aunt Emily woke him up and shooed him from the cottage to work.
Glancing over, he saw her sleeping peacefully.
"Auntie Emily," he said, walking over to wake her up. "Auntie Emily?"
Ennis pulled back in shock when he realized that his dear aunt was not sleeping, but had passed away sometime in the middle of the night. With a sob, he mourned the woman that had been like a second mother to him...
Rest in Peace Emily Baker, Orb's Years 893-933
"Daddy!" she said gleefully as she held her arms up to be held. Barron picked her up and hugged her tight before handing her over to his wife. Kissing Deidre on the cheek in goodbye, he headed towards to waiting carriage.
"Now, Mama?" Felicity asked, for the 10th time.
Deidre laughed. "Oh, alright. You may go ask your father!"
Felicity grinned and ran from the room.
King Barron grinned and turned around to face his daughter. "I don't know. A pet is a very big responsibility. Are you sure you're old enough to handle it?"
"Very well, we shall get you a pet of your very own!"
"I did hear, dearest. What pet do you think you'll decide on?"
Suzanne giggled and blushed.
Earl hesitated. "I don't know..." he said.
"Come on, man! Out with it!"
"Alright!" Earl said with a grin. He leaned over close and whispered in his friend's ear, "She let me kiss her..."
"No!" Berjes said in astonishment. "Lucky man!" he added with envy. "Anything else?"
Earl sighed. "No," he said dejectedly. He'd almost summoned the courage to take it further when she'd pulled away and announced they should wait until marriage.
Berjes grimaced along with his friend, then suddenly brightened. "Well, there's always next time! Here's what I think you should say this time!"
Earl and Berjes had been friends since boyhood. Berjes always had a way of talking Earl into doing things that he knew he shouldn't be doing.
Like talking about his kiss with Suzanne, he thought. Suzanne would be furious if she knew he was discussing their passionate embrace...
But, Berjes had been the one to come up with the idea about saying she'd stolen his heart, so Earl listened eagerly.
"Nothing," they answered quickly, hoping Earl's little sister would go away.
She never did.
"It's nothing!" Berjes said, shooing her away. "Boy stuff! You wouldn't understand!"
"I would so!" Felicity argued. "I know lots of stuff about boys!"
Earl rolled his eyes and glared at his pesky little sister. "Go away, Felicity!" he said irritably.
"Fine!" Felicity said and turned on her heel and flounced away.
Berjes had headed home and Prince Earl was outside playing with Rex. In the quiet of the night, he thought he heard a twig snap. Glancing up, he looked around.
At first he didn't see anything, but then he heard the snap again. There, he thought, behind the tree!
"You there! Stop!" Earl yelled as he chased after the dark figure in the dark.
Earl had almost caught up with the lurker and reached out to grab his shirt to pull him back. His hand grabbed a handful of something decidedly not male. "You're a girl!" he gasped in surprise as he let go as though his hand had been burned.
"Leave me alone, you rogue!" the girl cried out.
Earl reached back out to grab the girl's arms, "I'm sorry! I didn't mean to grab you... there!" he said. "Calm down! Tell me what you're doing here!" he demanded as she continued to struggle.
"Let. Me. Go!" she cried again before elbowing him in nose.
Earl dropped to the ground in blinding pain and when he next glanced up, the girl was gone.
"Father, I was out with Rex and saw someone close to the Tower. I gave chase, but lost her."
"Her?" Barron asked with surprise. "Are you sure?"
Earl felt himself blushing due to the nature of his certainty. "Quite sure," he said.
King Barron jumped up and yelled for the Castle Guard. "Check the perimeter and see that the prisoner is still our guest!" He walked over to his son and clasped his shoulder. "Good job, son," he said before striding from the throne room.
Ennis bowed slightly before the king. "I will see it done, your majesty," he vowed.
King Barron nodded back. "See that you do. With all possible haste."
"So good of you to join us," King Barron said when he glanced up and saw Geoffrey hurry into the room and take a seat. "We were just discussing the matter of the possible prison-break."
Geoffrey looked sharply at the King. "Did he get away?" he asked quickly.
"No, he is still our guest at this moment," King Barron said. "Prince Earl said that it was a young female, approximately his age. I want to know what she was doing near the tower."
"What did she look like?" Bradshaw Knightley, the head of the military, asked. "Perhaps we have seen her."
Barron kept his eye on Geoffrey as he answered, "She's thin, muscular with short black hair."
"If only we knew were to look for his band of thieves," Hyun Knowles added. "I don't think I've seen anyone matching that description."
Barron tapped his finger on the table. "When he surrendered, Diebin said that he stayed at campsites and returned an expensive sapphire trinket he had bought with the money. We were going to let him sit in the cell until he wanted to tell us who he worked with and where they were based, but maybe we've been too lenient."
"We should string him up!" Geoffrey announced. "Make an example of him! If he's gone, then I'm sure his band of merry men will slither away like the snakes they are."
Prince Benedict scowled. "That is a barbaric suggestion, brother. He has had his trial and has been sentenced to prison."
"But..." Geoffrey began to argue. If he could convince the King to sentence Alibaba to death, it would tie up many of his loose ends. Without a strong man to protect them, Alibaba's mistress and brats would move somewhere more lucrative. And perhaps he could convince Henna that he wanted to help and offer her a position in his household. Surely Celeste would be happy for the help...
The King held up his hand for silence as everyone began talking at once.
"My brother is right. We will not sentence anyone to death for thievery," he announced to the group. Turning to Benedict, he added, "Increase your patrols. See if you can find the girl."
Benedict nodded. "Of course."
Barron sighed as he stood up. "This weighs heavy on my heart. By the Blessed Orb, let us pray this is resolved quickly!"
Orb's Year 936
Early in the morning, the King's favorite dog, Reign, passed away.
Queen Deidre covered her eyes and sobbed for she knew the news would crush her husband.
Ever since the girl had slipped in so close to home, Barron had been busy seeing to their protection. He had taken it very personally, worried that harm could have come to Prince Earl had it been more than a slip of a girl that had snuck so close to their castle. The worry seemed to have aged him overnight.
"Husband!" she said when she caught him alone in the music room. "I have some news..."
"Pardon, majesty," Ennis said, running in and interrupting. "King Barron, I have finished your request."
King Barron grinned. "Good! Come, show me!" he said. Glancing at his wife, he quickly apologized before following after Ennis.
They had made it a few steps when his sister, Celeste called out, hurrying towards him. "I need to speak with you, immediately!" Barron looked at his pale sister and saw the worry and fear etched across her face. He patted Deidre's hand and again apologized.
A tear traced her cheek as Celeste told her brother, "I have much to tell you..."