Wednesday, April 16, 2014

L'Adventurer, Orb's Year 945-948

Orb's Year 945
Elyssa L'Adventurer sighed as she let her hand drop down.  It just wasn't any use.  Her heart wasn't in painting right now... She felt... lost...
Wearily, Elyssa crossed the room and sat down on the chaise and sighed, leaning her head back.  She'd thought she'd put the anger and sadness behind her after Prince Phillipe had abandoned her for a better heiress, her cousin, the crown Princess Felicity.  After all, she was just the daughter of the evil Prince Geoffrey that had tried to overthrow the kingdom.  With a pedigree like that, no wonder Phillipe had chosen Felicity!

She shut her eyes and gritted her teeth when she felt the tears threaten once more.  She would not cry about this...
"Elyssa?" her mother said cautiously, "I have something for you."

Elyssa cracked her eyes open and looked towards her mother.  She gasped with surprise and scrambled over to her mother.  
"For me?" she asked with awe. 
Celeste smiled as Elyssa eagerly pulled the soft puppy into her arms and snuggled it against her.  "Just for you, darling."
"Oh, mother, thank you!" Elyssa cried as she sought her mother's comforting hug.  This was exactly what she needed!


Their autonoman Castle Guard was tasked with getting all the supplies the castle would need for the puppy that Elyssa had named Rembrandt. 
Elyssa smiled as Rembrandt followed behind her, nipping at her heels.  He was such a playful puppy!  With a grin, she stooped down and pet the little puppy.  "Are you ready for some dinner?" she asked as she tickled his nose, then walked over to his bowl.
After filling his bowl with food, she couldn't help but laugh as he hurried to eat as much as he could, almost falling in the bowl with his eagerness.  Sated, the sweet little puppy waddled over to his velvet bed and fell directly asleep.

Elyssa felt happy and needed for the first time in a long while...

Orb's Year 946
"But you're her cousin, Elyssa.  You must go to the wedding!" Celeste said sternly.  Really, where had this rebellious streak come from?! 
"She'll hardly notice I'm gone!" Elyssa argued petulantly.  She just couldn't bare to watch Felicity marry Phillipe!  She had pictured her wedding a hundred times over with Phillipe when they'd been together.

Celeste's lips thinned and she crossed her arms.  "You are going and that is final.  You will not offend the Crown Princess."
On her way to the Royale Castle, Elyssa stopped to snuggle one last time with Rembrandt.  "Wish me luck," she whispered softly before putting her beloved pet down.


"Really, there is no need to have walked me home," she said waspishly. 

Right before Prince Phillipe and Prince Felicity had exchanged their vows, Elyssa had been overwrought and had slipped out to the Entrance Hall to sit.  Moments later, this man had slipped from the Throne Room with an intense frown on his own face.  She'd wondered what his story was. 

Then, their eyes had met and his face had cleared of anger as he approached her.

And she hadn't been able to shake him since!
Prince Berjes hid his smile at the prickly woman and was thankful he had come across her at the Wedding Feast. 

He had stepped from the Throne Room to avoid watching Princess Felicity marry her prince.  He'd been ready to do violence on anything or anyone when he'd glanced across the Hall and seen a vision of an angel with such sadness in her eyes.  She hadn't been happy for the company and had continually tried to think of excuses to be free of him.

With a wicked grin, he teased, "Ah, but I could never allow such a beautiful woman to return home unassisted!  What would the Crown Prince think of his friend?"  In his experience, it never hurt to make mention of his close ties to the Royales.
His ties to the Crown Prince and Princess only made her scowl deepen.  "Well, I am home now. Thank you for your assistance," she said scathingly.

"Won't you give me leave to stand by your fire a moment or two before you send me out in this weather?" he asked quickly.  For some reason, he just wasn't ready to leave her company.

Elyssa scowled at Prince Berjes.  What the devil could he want, pestering me like this! she thought with exasperation.  Good breeding warred with the desire to slink off alone and lick her wounds.  She supposed her pity party could wait a short while.  "Very well," she announced regally.  "You may come in."

She just hoped she didn't regret it...


"How is it that we've never met?" Berjes asked the lovely woman as he sat down next to her.  She flashed him a frown as she glanced across the seating area to the unoccupied seating.  Berjes hid his smile once again.  He hadn't been this amused since he'd worked ever so hard to tease Felicity... his cheerful mood vanished in an instant and he frowned abruptly.

"We tend to keep to ourselves," she said softly, shifting uncomfortably after his fierce frown. 
An unwelcome thought occurred to Berjes and he asked, "We? You and your... husband?"

Elyssa flushed.  He should've been her husband.  "No," she answered quietly.  "My mother, Princess Celeste."

Berjes eyes snapped to hers.  "Princess Celeste? So your father was.."

She nodded silently, mentally preparing for the thoughtless comments.  Once, someone had actually asked her if she'd known what her father had been planning.  But his response surprised her.

"That must have been very hard," he said with understanding... and compassion.  Berjes knew how Prince Earl had worried the safety of his aunt and cousin as they sought to capture the murdering traitor.  Bless the Orb they had captured the lunatic before he'd had a chance to harm anyone else!

Elyssa cleared her throat softly, her gaze darting around the room.  Although he had chosen to completely ignore her earlier cues, Berjes found himself honoring this one.
Standing, he smiled, reaching for her hand.  As he kissed her fingers, he announced, "M'lady, I thank you for allowing me to warm my poor bones before making my way home. You have been most gracious!"

Elyssa's eyes fluttered and her pulse quickened as he charmed her.  She supposed he was very practiced at this...
As she watched him leave, she kicked herself for feeling disappointed that he had left so soon.  Scowling, she shook her head. 


With a sigh of disgust, she set down her paintbrush.  Her heart just wasn't in it. 
As she cleaned and filled Rembrandt's food dish, her gaze strayed to the parchment nearby.  Perhaps I could send him a note, thanking him for accompanying me homeAfter all, it was the polite thing to do.  She shook her head.  NoShe would seem too forward!
But, somehow she just couldn't resist.


Elyssa gasped when CG told her that she had a guest requesting an audience.  She hurried outside, full of hope.  "What are you doing here?" she asked breathlessly.
Prince Berjes grinned at her.  "I have a proposition for you," he said with a wink.


Orb's Year 947
Elyssa fitfully paced as she waited for her mother to leave.  Berjes had insisted on complete privacy.
"Are you ready, m'dear?" he asked with a wicked grin as he sauntered inside.  Elyssa's pulse thrummed.  He was standing far more close than was proper.  Unsettling her, she suspected, on purpose.

"Of course, let's go upstairs," she said nervously.


"There! Now don't move a muscle!" she instructed him sternly.  

Berjes grinned saucily and flexed his muscle.  "What about this one? Doesn't it make me look more manly?" he asked.

Elyssa bit back a smile, impressed despite herself at his muscular body.  "Unless you can hold it in that manner for hours..." she teased. 

Berjes look smoldered.  "I can hold it like this as long as you like," he promised silkily.

Elyssa took a shaky breath and began painting.
Berjes watched Elyssa as she became absorbed by the painting.  She seemed to glow as she whisked her paintbrush back and forth across the canvas.
After a short time, too bored to remain sitting, he hopped up and ambled over to try to take a peek.

"Berjes! No! You can't look until it's done!" she said in surprise when she saw him approach
"Oh no?" he asked mockingly.  "And just who will stop me?" When she turned as though to hold him back, he leaned over and began tickling her sides.

"Berjes! Oh! Stop it!" she laughed.  "You are incorrigible!"
Berjes leaned closer, lifting his hand to her golden locks. "I'll show you incorrigible," he said huskily as he leaned in for a kiss.  What was it about this woman that drew him to her? he thought absently.
"No!" Elyssa yelped.  "Berjes! No!" she flattened her palms against his chest and pushed him away as his lips descended.
Angrily, she stepped out of his reach.  "You forget yourself, sir!" she said scathingly. 
"Elyssa, I'm sorry if I offended you.  I just..." Berjes began before he was cut short.
"No! I don't want to hear it! This is just a game to you! A game I don't want to play! Just GO!" she snapped, close to tears.  When it looked as though Berjes would argue his point, she shouted as she pointed towards the stairs, "GO!"
After Berjes left, she released the breath she'd been anxiously holding.  She wasn't sure who she was mad at more - him for trying to kiss her or herself for wanting him to...
"Oh Rembrandt, I've made such a mess of things," she said sadly.

Orb's Year 948
"Princess Felicity!" Elyssa said with surprise.  "What brings you by?"

Felicity kissed her cousin's cheek. "Is there a law against coming by to see my cousin?" she asked with a grin.  "Oh! Cesar!" she called out as the unruly young pup bolted inside.

"Oh no! Rembrandt!" Elyssa cried out, hurrying in after Cesar.
The cousins found the dogs happily playing together, though.
So Felicity hurried over to the lounge and sat down, patting the seat next to her.  "While they get to know each other better, we can have a little chat," she said brightly.
Elyssa took a seat, "Congratulations on your daughter.  Gillie is a beautiful name," she said.

"Thank you," Felicity said graciously, then got straight to the point.  "Elyssa, have I done something to anger you?" she asked.

"No! Of course not!" Elyssa answered hurriedly.  "Why ever would you think that?"

Felicity paused and lowered her voice.  "My husband told me of your history," she admitted.  "I thought you might hate me terribly."

"No! I don't hate you! I don't even hate him!" she said, realizing it was true. 
"Oh, what a relief!" Felicity said with a sigh.  "I was quite angry with him for the way he treated you, but he was only trying to do what the best in a untenable situation."

Elyssa nodded, her cheeks flushed. "I understand.  I'm glad you have found true happiness together."

Felicity smiled again, the secret smile of a woman in love with a happy family.  "We certainly have," she said softly, then turning to Elyssa, she announced, "And so that is why, dear cousin, I will not rest until you have found true love as well!"

"Oh no! Please do not worry yourself!" Elyssa said quickly.  "I am quite happy!"

Felicity waved her hand dismissively.  "I'm afraid my mind is set! I will be your fairy godmother!" she announced cheerfully.

Elyssa groaned with dismay.


"...I will not rest until you have found true love as well" her cousins words rang in her head as she finished Berjes painting. 

The paintbrush swept over the planes of his smiling face, as though he knew a secret she did not.  But she knew the truth.

Love is a word that comes readily to lips, but love is an emotion that does not exist.


"Oh Rembrandt! What am I to do?" she wailed miserably as she flung herself down on the lounge.  She was terribly afraid that she'd gone and fallen in love with a rogue!
Rembrandt licked her face and then hurried off to chase after her puppies, Duke and Duchess.


"Celeste, I have news..." King Barron said with a letter clasped tightly in his hand. 

Celeste's face paled.  "What is it?" she asked tersely.  She had put behind her husband's treachery these past years, rebuilding her life.  She didn't think she could stand it if he destroyed her sense of peace!  She clasped her hands together nervously as she tried to read her brother's eyes.

Barron put the missive in his sister's hands.  "Geoffrey L'Adventurer is dead," he said.  "His cousin, the new king, sent the news as soon as he learned it."
Elyssa hurried to her mother's side as her mother let out a sob, and then another until she was sobbing pitifully into her hands. 

"Mother, it will be okay," Elyssa promised, stroking her mother's hair tenderly. 

"I know," Celeste sobbed. "I'm just so... happy..."
She glanced up at her brother.  "It's over! It's truly over!" she said as she launched herself into her brother's arms.  "I always worried deep down that he would return and make my life a living nightmare again.  But, he's gone and it's truly over! Blessed Orb!"

Elyssa closed her eyes as a shudder went through her at her mother's words.  It was over. He didn't have the power to hurt them anymore. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Royale Guard, Orb's Year 945-948

 Orb's Year 945
Kea Royale spent much of her day dealing with correspondence. 
Her husband liked to tease that there wasn't anyone in Celestia that she wasn't best friends with.  She would modestly respond that he was too generous - she couldn't possibly have more than twenty best friends!

Her beautiful daughter, Francine Royale, seemed to follow in her mother's footsteps.

"Oh thank you mama! I promise, you won't even notice I've invited anyone over!" Francine promised earnestly.
Francine was having the time of her life.  All the royals and nobles had come to her little house party!  Not that she was paying attention to anyone other than her true love - BJ Esquire! 

She didn't even notice the scowl her cousin, Elyssa L'Adventurer, sent to Prince Phillip Patron when he attempted to talk to her with his newly betrothed, Princess Felicity Royale.
She did turn for a glance when she overheard Prince Phillip tersely demand how long she was going to hold it against him.

Interesting, she thought.  I wonder what that's about?
Not long after, Elyssa hurried over and gave her a quick peck on the cheek, making up some excuse about somewhere else she needed to be. 
Francine wondered what had happened between Phillip and Elyssa that would have sent Elyssa scurrying away so quickly.
Not that she spent too long ruminating on Elyssa's troubles when there were more entertaining things to do!


Although they were newlyweds, Earnest Royale and his new wife, Faelyn, had not settled into marital bliss.  Though they slept in the same bed, but they had not consummated the marriage yet.

Each morning they awoke with their bodies tangled around each other and hastily darted apart, each frustrated and embarrassed in equal parts.
It shouldn't be surprising that tension stirred between them!

Faelyn Royale crossed her arms and glared at her husband.  "Over my dead body!" Faelyn said heatedly.

"Cursed Orb - it's not going to hurt that much! Don't be such a baby about it!" Earnest said with condescension.

Faelyn sputtered unbecomingly.  "Not going to hurt?!" she asked incredulously.  "It'll bloody well kill me!"
"Oh for...!" Earnest cursed low and long.  "Why can't you just admit that you're wrong?" he asked impatiently. 

"Because I'm not wrong!" Faelyn said through gritted teeth. 

"Fine! I suggest we look it up! The winner must grovel before the other... so prepare for your knees for groveling because I know that I'm right!"
The duo stomped through the house, mindless of Earnest's family glancing at them with surprise, and holed themselves up in the War Room (aptly named), grabbing books and flipping through them in search of evidence.
"Ah ha!" Faelyn finally announced with triumph, stabbing the page in the book forcefully with her finger.  "Here it is! I knew I'd seen it recently!" 

Earnest swiveled to look at his wife, peering over to try to look at the page of the book she was reading.

Reciting from the page, she read triumphantly, "Head Pains are treated with sweet-smelling herbs such as rose, lavender, sage, and bay.  See? I was right!"  Going further down the page, she added, "Coriander is used to reduce a fever! HA!"

Cursed Orb, Earnest swore as he let his book snap together. He'd been so sure he was right when he'd suggested his cousin take some coriander for his aching head.  Faelyn had overheard and immediately corrected him, as usual.  With a frown, he glared at her as she gloated with victory.  "I believe I'm in need of some lavender myself..." he said dryly. 

"I'll be a dutiful wife and hurry off to get you some.  But first, I do believe you said something about groveling..."

Orb's Year 946
"Why have we not found her yet?" Benedict Royale banged his fist on the table.  "This slip of a girl is making a mockery of all the King's Guard!"
"I followed her husband to edge of the Haunted Woods, but he slipped away in the trees and disappeared," Earnest said with frustration.  "And since her escape, we've scoured the woods to no avail!"

Finn Consul added, "It's as though they vanished into thin air!"

"But, we know that they didn't vanish into thin air.  That's not logical," Earnest countered.  "We need to systematically comb through those woods..."
Bradshaw Knightley shook his head.  "We've already spent time and resources going through those woods.  We would've found them by now."  He turned to look at Benedict.  "Those woods are very close to the ocean.  I'm willing to bet they use the cover of the forest to slip in and out of the kingdom at will."

Benedict nodded his head thoughtfully.  "That does make some sense.  Perhaps it's time to begin looking outside our kingdom..."


"Faelyn, if you have a moment," Earnest said as his wife had turned to walk from the room.  He found himself clearing his throat as she turned those beautiful grey-eyes on him.  "I  trust you remember the bet we made concerning the healing  herbs," he began.

Faelyn nodded her head.  "Of course. I believe I floated on a cloud for a week after you knelt before me and admitted that you were wrong."

Earnest frowned at the memory.  Not only had Faelyn gloated after he'd grumbled that he'd been wrong, but she'd gone too far by telling him that he needed to grovel as he admitted she was right.  And though it had galled him and the words had stuck in his throat, when he'd gazed up at her smiling face, he'd only thought, do it again. Smile at me like that again!

And so his little plan had been hatched.  Eagerly, he grabbed her hand and pulled her towards the stairs.  "Come upstairs to the tower. I want to show you something!"

Faelyn hurried along behind Earnest as he pulled her upstairs.  "You're not going to hurl me out of the tower for gloating, are you?" she asked breathlessly.

Earnest shook his head. "No, something better!"
Then he stepped aside and showed her the room he'd set up for her.  She looked around with wonder.  "A laboratory? You made me a laboratory?" she asked.

Earnest grinned at her sheepishly.  "I tried to copy the one Haydin set up at the Consul castle."

"Earnest! It's.. it's..." Faelyn had actually found herself speechless. "It's wonderful!" she cried as she wrapped her arms around him, hugging him close. 

Earnest wrapped his arms around her and smiled, reveling in the heady feeling he'd received when she'd smiled and pressed up against him.  Do it again, smile at me again, he thought.

Faelyn leaned back a bit and smiled shyly up at Earnest.  She could feel Earnest's muscles tensing beneath her hands and she felt an incredible desire to run her fingers through his hair.  "Perhaps," she said, swallowing her nervousness, "Perhaps it's time for a round of experiments."

Earnest grinned. "Well, that is why I set had it set up for you. What would you like to test first, m'lady?"

Faelyn reached up and touched his cheek.  "I would need your assistance," she said, her voice huskier than usual.

Earnest met her gaze and found it impossible to look away. 
Faelyn stepped closer and leaned up on her tip-toes to press her lips against him.  "I hypothesize..."

And then suddenly they were in each other's arms, passionately kissing and all logic and rationality flew out the very window Faelyn had worried she'd be tossed over. 

They didn't even make it to the comfortable bed that waited for them downstairs, instead falling to the stone floor and consummating their marriage


Faelyn and Earnest were once again in the War Room.  Faelyn was researching medicinal uses of berries while Earnest pored over the Celestia map.  "They have to be here somewhere," he mumbled with frustration.

Faelyn glanced over at her husband and found herself unable to look away.  How had she not seen how handsome, strong and intelligent he was?
Earnest felt her gaze on him and turned to look at her in return. 

Sexual tension flared between them instantaneously.
And both dropped what they were working on and met each other with arms twining around the other.


Francine grinned at her reflection and blew a kiss.  Today was the day! she thought happily.  She would no longer be a child, but a grown woman!
"Are you ready?" Kea asked her daughter with a smile. "Everyone's here!"

"I'm ready, mother!" Francine said eagerly. 
"Happy Orb's Day!" everyone gathered cheered.
BJ Esquire's gaze drifted down to Francine's hips as she leaned over to blow the birthday cake out.  She was one beautiful maiden... just ripe for the picking! he thought with a chuckle.
When no one was watching, he slipped over next to her and whispered in her ear, feeling triumphant when a blush stole over those porcelain cheeks.  Ripe for the picking...


Earnest's concerned gaze shot over to Faelyn.  She'd been sick lately and he was worried about her.  When she didn't reach for a piece of cake, he made his way across the room to be by her side.
"Are you feeling well?" he asked lowly.  "I notice you didn't try the cake."

Faelyn smiled mysteriously at him.  "Oh no, I don't think the cake would agree with me." 

Earnest frowned.  "Do you think you're in need of some dried lily root?"

Faelyn let loose a laugh.  "For what? The Black Plague? No, this is something that won't be resolved any time soon."

Earnest's face drained of color.  "Are you that sick then? Should we summon a physic? Perhaps Haydin..."
Faelyn reached for Earnest's hand and placed it on her belly, blushing as she did so.  "It's nothing that won't be cured in about 9 months..."


Francine met BJ at the Taveryn's Kitchen and followed him up the stairs as he winked at the bartender, Collin Taveryn.  "Don't worry, pet. I've got everything set up," he promised.

Francine couldn't help but worry!
Walking into the room, she joined him as he stretched out on the only comfortable surface in the room - the bed.  "BJ?" she asked nervously.  "I thought we were going to have dinner..."

BJ reached his arm around her back and began to pull her close.  "I just wanted to get some private time with you.  We can eat afterwards."

"Afterwards?" she asked with a hitch in her voice.

BJ grinned as he nuzzled her neck. "After we make love," he promised.

Francine closed her eyes as the pleasure shot through her body. It almost felt good enough to ignore her morals.  Almost...
"BJ!" she said, pushing him away from her and scrambling off the bed.  "This isn't right! I can't do this!"

BJ sighed. "Why not? This is where our courtship has been leading. I thought you wanted it, too!" he grumbled.
"Come back to me," BJ said, reaching his hand out with a wicked grin.
Francine shook her head.  "No! I can't! You disrespect me to suggest this before marriage!"

"Marriage!" BJ scoffed. "Be reasonable Francine. I set sail for the newly discovered land across the ocean in a short time!"

"You... what?" Leaving?  Francine buried her face in her hands with a sob.  "I'm so confused..."
She hurried from the room, leaving a very frustrated BJ behind.


Arriving home, she flung herself down on her bed and stared listlessly out the window.  They had never discussed their future, but she'd been sure that BJ would speak to her father and offer her marriage! 

Foolish, foolish girl, she thought harshly.

Orb's Year 947
Earnest cleared his throat as he sat across from his father-in-law, Dresden Consul. 

Dresden fixed the boy with a stern look.  "...and you just thought that you could leave the King's Guard and become an Intelligence Counselor?" he asked dryly. 

Earnest rubbed the back of his neck, "Well, yes..." he answered, only to be interrupted.

Dresden fired off another question, "Have you had any formal training?"

"Well, not exactly..." he replied hesitantly.

Dresden's lips thinned.  "And have you considered..."
"Father! Are you giving my husband a hard time?" Faelyn asked as she hurried into the War Room.  Earnest breathed a sigh of relief.

Dresden shot Earnest a baleful look.  "Of course not.  I don't see why he thinks he's cut out for the intelligence counsel.  He's too easily intimidated!"

Faelyn laughed. "Well, you are a very intimidating man, father. But, I was the one to suggest the intelligence counsel to Earnest.  He has such grand ideas and plans! Your counsel will be well rounded with his addition."
 Dresden didn't look convinced, but accepted Faelyn at her word. "Very well. I will speak to Cirdon about this."

He smiled fondly at his eldest daughter and asked, "And how do you fare these days, my child.  You and my grandson?"

"Ha!" Faelyn scoffed. "You and Earnest! Well, don't get your hopes up, it's going to be a girl!" She shot her husband a triumphant look. "And you know I'm always right!"

Earnest's shoulders slumped.  She did have an annoying way of always being right, he thought.  He'd so been hoping for a first-born heir...


"Father, there is something I need to speak with you about," Earnest began hesitantly.  It had been his father's greatest joy that he had followed in his footsteps.  But, the truth of the matter was that he needed something more demanding than the King's Guard.  He needed to use his brains rather than his brawn. 

Benedict smiled at his son. "You've really impressed your uncle, the King," he said proudly.  "Receiving the top accolades and still in your twenties! I'm quite proud of you son. It makes me relieved to know one day when I step down, you'll be there to lead the men."

"Actually, about that..." Earnest said with a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.  He had a feeling his father wasn't going to take this well...


Francine opened her eyes, startled to discover someone in the room with her.  Panicked, she jumped out of bed, ready to raise the alarm.
"Shh... it's only me," BJ said, reaching for her hand in the darkness.
"BJ, what are you doing here?" she asked breathlessly. "I thought you were sailing out of Celestia tomorrow."
BJ pulled Francine against him. "I am. And I came to say goodbye for now," he said.  "But, I promise, when I return, I will speak to your father about marriage!"

"Oh, BJ!" she cried out happily.  "Do you mean it! I thought you didn't care!"

"Of course I care, pet! You're the only girl I've ever loved!"

"I'll miss you and dream of you each night," Francine sighed.

"Will you kiss me goodbye, pet?" BJ asked, slipping his hands down her back to hold her closer still.

"Oh yes!" she cried out happily.
Without warning, BJ tightened his arms around her and kissed her passionately. 
Francine was whisked away by the maelstrom of feelings and pleasure that flowed over her.  She didn't even think to protest when they stumbled back onto the bed, BJ's heavy weight pressing her down.


"You promise you'll come back to me?" Francine asked shyly as she sat in BJ's lap. 

"Of course I will, pet.  As soon as I can, I'll be back with tales of daring and adventure!"

Francine buried her face in his neck, kissing him the way he had done to her just a short while before.  "I wish you didn't have to go!" she said mournfully.  "I wish you could just stay!"
Tenderly, BJ set Francine on the ground and stood up.  "Cheer up, pet. I'll be back before you know it!" he promised with a wink and a bold goosing pinch on her bottom.

Then he was gone.
In the cold, lonely darkness, reality slowly settled in Francine's bones.  Perhaps she should not have surrendered her maidenhood so casually. Perhaps BJ would not be as quick to return now that she'd given him what he wanted, she thought with worry. 
Then, shaking her head, she pushed the little seed of doubt away and climbed back into bed.  Of course he'll hurry home to me. He loves me! she thought firmly. 

However firmly she believed he would return, sleep still eluded her the remainder of the night.

Orb's Year 948
"Why are pressuring me so about it?" Francine raised her voice with frustration.  "He's coming back!"

"It's just that if he doesn't," Kea said cautiously.  Her daughter had become quite prickly regarding any mention of her childhood love.  "We will need to arrange another marriage for you.  It wouldn't be my first choice, but Prince Scot Trottier has been suggested..."

"Just drop it, Mother! BJ is coming back for me! He loves me! I would rather die than marry someone without love."  Dropping her voice, she added with a voice full of pain, "I want what you had..."
Turning on her heel, she hurried away before they could see her tears fall.

Benedict and Kea exchanged a knowing glance and sadly watched their daughter hurry away.  It was clear that if BJ were coming home, he would've returned by now...
"He's coming back," Francine said as she laid on the bench across from her brother. 

"I'm sure he is," Earnest said absently as he studied. 

"He is!" she insisted forcefully.

Earnest glanced up and felt pity when he saw the look on his sister's face.  His tone gentled.  "I'm sure he is, Francine. How could he not want to return to you?"  he asked, thinking of his own blessed marriage.


Faelyn timed the contractions and then finally told Earnest when they were coming close enough together. 
Earnest barely had time to panic before his daughter, Gaela Royale.
Earnest proudly showed off his baby girl to his mother as Faelyn rested.  He was sure once Faelyn was fully rested, she would demand he grovel before her since she was right again  And oh, how he enjoyed it, he thought with a smile.

Francine splashed her face with water.  As she dried the water from her face, she gazed in the mirror.  She supposed there was no hiding this any longer...  Especially now that it was clear he wasn't returning.
"Father... Mother... I need to speak with you..." she began in a trembling voice.   She winced as they both shared a knowing look.  "I'm pregnant..." she whispered.
Benedict jumped up in anger.  "I knew it!" he shouted.  "I'll rip him apart with my bare hands when I find him!"

"Daddy...!" Francine said, scared.  "Please...!" she begged as he pushed past her.
Her Mother came up to her and pulled her into her arms.  "Don't worry. Everything will be okay," Kea said with a certainty that she didn't feel.  My baby girl, she thought with a sob she tried to hold back.  She had wanted to much more for her than this...