Camelot sighed as he turned around to face his wife. "What is it this time?" he asked wearily. He cursed himself as a baseless beast for impregnating his wife again when her mind simply could not tolerate it. She'd become shrill and vexing the further into pregnancy that she got.
"I am not their mother!" she fairly screeched.
Camelot sought to soothe his wife. "I'm sure it was a misunderstanding," he said, "I'll speak to him."
Camelot sighed. He wished he knew how to ameliorate the animosity between his half-class children and their stepmother. Unfortunately, Eryka viewed them as competition. He closed his eyes and fervently prayed for another girl. If Eryka bore him a boy, the future of his twins would be very bleak...
When she confronted him, he raised his hands, palms out, in a symbol of peace. "Eryka! I didn't see you there..."
Eryka continued to glare at him distrustfully. "I will give him his heir and then you and your brother will be sent packing!"
Uh, she grunted, clutching her belly. The baby... Eryka panted as she delivered, desperately panting, please be a boy... please be a boy...
Guy grunted as he knelt down to feel her pulse. "No, her heart beats." Smelling her breath, he winced and turned away. "She's soused!" He paused and added, "It looks like she's given birth..."
There were none...
"The baby!" Hugh cried out with concern.
"That was kinder than she deserves," Hugh said coldly.
Guy stilled. "The baby is okay?"
Hugh nodded, "Yes, the nanny was here to care for the girl. But it's clear Eryka wanted nothing to do with the child because it wasn't her sainted heir..."
"How are we going to tell father?" Guy asked.
The twins glanced at each other and willed the other to speak. "Your daughter..." Hugh started with trepidation.
Orb's Year 946
Guy started to snicker & Camelot shook his head slightly. "Your mother's not feeling well," he said simply as Guy and Hugh looked down at their plates.
Felysha narrowed her eyes. "Father has been talking to Guy about beginning his training!"
Eryka frowned. "Well, isn't that cozy!" she scoffed. So Camelot had gone ahead and declared the half-class his heir. Eryka was distracted from the black haze that descended by Felysha's prattling.
"...and Elyana has been talking to both the scoundrels!" her daughter continued to tattle.
"Well, if Elyana wants to lie down with dogs, she'll be bitten by fleas. There's really no other alternative..."
"What's that, mama?" Felysha asked eagerly.
"Show her how it feels to be treated like dirt beneath our shoes. It's for her own good."
"Felysha! Stop it!" Elysha demanded. "They're our brothers!"
"Mama should take away your pretty gowns and make you dress like a peasant since you want to be one so bad!" Felysha yanked on her hair again.
"You are acting like an immature brat!" Elyana cried as she pushed past her sister and hurried upstairs.
Eryka crossed her arms and scowled. "What do you care? The girls and I could die for all you care! Not when you have your sainted heir!"
Camelot shook his head. "That is a vile accusation! I love my girls! But you can't see past your own bitterness to see that! You," he said pointing his finger at her, "have turned into your mother!" Camelot stalked out the door, slamming it behind him.
Eryka gasped with displeasure. "I am not my mother!" she screeched at the closed door.
She heard a chuckle from the kitchen.
Guy grimaced and turned to look away.
"What is it?" Hugh asked. "What's wrong?"
"Not want it? Why not? To serve the King?! To serve in the Guard?! To defend the kingdom? It's amazing!"
Guy scoffed. "Maybe to you, but not to me! I don't feel like I deserve it..."
"It's not that," Guy said weakly. "It's just... I don't know..." he finished lamely. "It's nothing..."
Forcing the scowl from her face, she arranged her hair neatly. Appearance were everything...
Eryka scoffed. "She should've been a boy! You should've been a boy! You're nothing and don't you forget it!"
Eryka just glared at the half-class rascal, sticking her finger in his face. "I haven't had enough! I'll have enough when I say I've had enough... and I haven't had enough!"
She put her mouth under the spout and turned it on, letting the ale pour down her throat.
"Ha! Like I care!" Eryka laughed, dancing on the tabletop and lifting her skirts higher than was proper. Elyana frantically tugged at her mother's skirts, trying to preserve her modesty.
Thankfully Camelot's notice was finally drawn to the commotion his wife was making.
Eryka gazed down at him with a wide grin on her face. She gracefully hopped down...
Eryka wrapped her arms around his neck and held on tight. "Oh yes! Take me to bed!" she called out as he weaved through the crowd. Everyone turned to watch as they passed.
Eryka arched up against him, offering encouragement and whimpering in excitement.
Eryka attempted to follow him across the bed. "But I am your wife! I ache for you!"
Orb's Year 947
"Please Camelot... be reasonable..." Eryka begged.
Then she heard the raised voices and her stomach plummeted. This wasn't good...
Eryka grabbed at his hands, pleading for forgiveness. "You would cast me out after fifteen years of faithful..."
"Silence!" he thundered. "I have doubt you were ever faithful, you cruel viper!" Pausing, he contemplated what to do with this cankerous woman that was his wife. "I will speak with your family about your return."
"No! I could never be a merchant again! I am a noble!" she argued desperately. "Please! Camelot! Camelot!" she begged as he turned and walked from the room, flipping down a bar to keep her inside.
Eryka crossed her arms and glared without saying a word.
"So here we are, your Dowager's home," Camelot announced with a flourish. "You will not have male guests, you will not visit with the children without supervision, and you will perform penance for your actions," he said, ticking the list off one by one.
Camelot shrugged. "It is what you make it, I suppose."
Eryka opened her mouth to respond, but Camelot quickly responded instead. "Your mother needs to stay here for rest and recuperate."
Felysha looked sad for a moment and then brightened. "Maybe I could come live here with you!"
Orb's Year 948
She felt like a cattle being sold at auction, she thought sourly.
Guy shook his head, profusely sweating.
"Are you ill?" she pressed.
Camelot charged his eldest son, "What is the meaning of this?" he demanded, "As heir..."
Guy crossed his arms. "That's just it! I don't want to be heir! You never asked! You just thrust this onto me! I can't do it!" he said with a breaking voice. "I never wanted to fail you... but I can't..."
Finn clenched his fists. "What am I to do?" he asked his friend Camelot. "Ihriel was promised in betrothal to your heir."
Guy frantically looked to his brother. "You are the heir. I rescind everything to you! I have never wanted it!"
Ihriel regally nodded her assent.
Quickly, Hugh stood and looked to his father and Finn Consul. "Does this meet with approval?" he asked.
Camelot and Finn tightly nodded their heads, glaring at Guy.
Hugh ignored his attempt at humor. "We've never been apart."
"I know," Guy said with a weary sigh.
"I'm going to miss you, too," Guy whispered with tears in his voice.
"I climbed up through those bloody rose bushes, scratching myself. There had better be a good reason for your summons!"
"What do you want with me? He'll tear me limb from limb if he finds me! As it is, he's blackened my name! No royal or noble will have me for work now because I was found in your bed!"
"Poor dear," Eryka tsked softly. "We'll have to teach him a lesson, won't we?"
"But first," Eryka said lightly trailing her fingers down his chest. "I have been without a man for far too long!"