A reunion

Jarl took advantage of the calm before the storm he was sure was coming and invited friends and family around for a celebration of Aldan’s birthday. He was now a teenager,

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and was now permitted to listen in on state matters,

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even if it was just idle chat over the dinner table. He even tried to contribute to the conversation but his uncle Yohn was keeping Jarl up to date with activities at the barracks.

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His time would come. He wasn’t quite old enough yet, he knew.

Invited to the party were Jarl’s father’s old friend, Til, and his aunt Arya.

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Til was in his 70s now but still kept an interest.

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Arya seemed to have aged, or perhaps she was just remembering her youth in the castle.

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The bathroom, an ever attractive venue at parties for some reason, was the place for some dancing, which Samira just couldn’t understand (considering she did want to use the toilet).

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Sir Maynard thought it rather sweet that Prince Aldan was congratulating him on being loyal and dutiful.

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And this from a young prince who would never be king (if nothing unforeseen happened).

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Sir Maynard thought it probably a good idea to start training him.

 

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Primavera’s family

Primavera and her family had moved into the house her grandfather had wanted.

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Edmund had his birthday shortly afterward.

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Edwina, meanwhile, grew to an adult and was bitterly disappointed that she had not been permitted to attend university.

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She was looking a little chubby, but lost the weight soon after.

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She wanted to move out but where to go?

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Primavera suggested she look for a nice young man in the village.

Edwina just sighed – her mother was getting senile. “Nice young man” indeed – there was barely anyone suitable. Did Edwina really just want a husband and children? She wondered about the option of becoming a warrior or enter politics – something useful.

Ella, on the other hand, was thinking of becoming a nun. They needed more worshippers there, she’d heard.

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Whatever her daughters decided to do, Primavera was at peace with the world.

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Developments

One of the first new warriors to arrive was Brom Stonegate.

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He was a little baffled to enter and find a high-class woman talking to a boy about music. Was this the royal barracks or not?

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He went in search of a captain, but only found Wulfric who explained that women and children were leaving to make room. Erina and her daughter would move in with Miriana behind the barracks. So much for her dream of living in the castle.

Hivera, now residing in Primavera’s castle, didn’t have much success with promoting her claim to new resident, Adela Heatherton, who had moved into Hivera’s former house.

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Adela wasn’t particularly interested,

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and positively cringed at the woman’s bold plans.

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She wanted nothing more to do with it and sent her on her way.

Adela’s brother, Harald, just looked on with mild curiosity. Adela told him all later. This was a concern. Perhaps she was just the local madwoman?

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Now that Richard was coming of age, Hivera outlined her strategy.

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She now knew who her supporters were and could drum up enough to put her plans into action. “I hope you have been practising your skills, Richard.”

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Calm…

So life continued peacefully, which worried Jarl. Was it too peaceful?

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He arranged to see Haldus. Haldus had been ill lately, so Jarl decided to visit him at his cottage.

In the meantime, little Samira had a birthday.

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Inge tried to spend some time with Aldan, who still felt a little left out with his little sister getting all the attention, and the king preoccupied.

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Haldus welcomed the king to his humble abode and shared his findings with regard to the gossip in the township.

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“I have heard good and bad, your majesty.”

Haldus had been sitting discreetly away from gossipers while still able to hear what they were saying. He had also heard Hivera’s boys arguing, hearing Richard’s plans to “storm the castle and take the throne”.

“Then it’s true. She still has plans, but not it seems for Alfred and his son but her own son perhaps? What have the villagers been saying?”

“I have no idea whether Richard has his own plans or whether he meant take the throne for Alfred, but it appears that Hivera has been proclaiming Alfred and his son as the rightful heirs. I have heard various things. Some are against Hivera’s plans while others seem to be in favour.”

“What do they say exactly?”

“Well, examples of those against” Haldus consulted his notebook. “‘How do we know this Alfred is Winter’s son anyway?’ ‘Winter was a traitor.’ ‘We’ve got a king now anyway, why’s we need another?’ ‘The present king is better-looking.'”

Jarl laughed, but not heartily. He was yet to hear the opinions of those supporting Hivera. “Go on”.

“There was some who were neither for or against. ‘What we need a king or queen for anyway?’ ‘That’s treasonous that is.’ ‘But we didn’t need one before. We gots on well enough without.’ ‘No, we didn’t, we muddled along not getting anywhere. Now we’s got facilities.'”

“I see. And those for Hivera’s plans?”

“Well, in answer to the statement that Winter was a traitor, one villager said ‘The only thing he did wrong was have a third child and the old queen had three.’ ‘Yeah but they was twins – you can’t help twins.’ ‘Three is three’. Others seemed to spout Hivera’s claim ‘Direct line, father to son.’ ‘Well, she’s got a point.’

“Hmm. What am I to do?”

“Come upstairs with my, majesty. I have some books to consult.”

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Jarl waited patiently while Haldus read something.

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“There is a case for imprisonment, majesty, but that may only stir things up, as I had earlier supposed.”

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“Try and get her words down, with witnesses. In the meantime I will recruit more warriors.”

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Jarl looked around. “Are you sure you are comfortable here, Haldus? It seems rather basic.”

“It is perfectly fine, majesty. I am used to worse. This suits me well.”

Jarl nodded and left, with much on his mind.

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A new sovereign

Jarl became the first king of Desiderata Valley. His household swore allegiance to him, even though he thought it unnecessary, but Haldus insisted.

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He was finally on the throne. It only seemed like yesterday that he asked his father when he could sit there. Now he was, he wasn’t sure he liked it. He was glad he had Haldus but was sad to have lost Bard who had also been a counsellor.

Yohn arrived late to the ceremony and was unsure how to address his brother, the king.

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Jarl let him suffer for a bit, then just dropped the formalities. He was glad to see his brother.

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“So, how does it feel to be king?”

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“Too early to say.”

Sir Maynard brought it home to him though, expressing his concerns.

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“Later. I’ll call a counsel. We’ll discuss it later.”

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Another death

Queen Valenzuela wasn’t the only one to pass away.

Over at the barracks, Bard’s time had come.

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He was 70.

Miriana was, naturally, upset. Her young cousin didn’t know what to do.

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Yohn tried to comfort her but there was nothing to say to ease the pain.

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Bard missed out on seeing his son, Roland, grow up.

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And little Ashera also had a birthday.

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Wulfric realised they needed new warriors.

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Valenzuela

Jarl could see that his mother would never recover from the death of Nikko.  She had lost interest in everything, and barely cracked a smile when meeting Luther. Normally she would have greeted him warmly. She had even feigned illness when Haldus called round, leaving Jarl to talk to him.

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He worried, but knew also that it was time to prepare for his succession.

Valenzuela did spend some time with little Samira.  Val knew her time had come and tried to instil love and bravery into the girl.

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She gazed on her granddaughter for some time,

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then put her down and stood there, as if waiting.

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She knew, and welcomed it. “I’ll be with you soon, my love.”

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The queen was dead. She was 72.

Knowing it was coming didn’t make it any easier for Jarl.

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Sir Maynard did wonder what would happen next. Would Hivera’s plans stall because a king would now sit on the throne? Somehow he doubted it.

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