Dragon Earl

Chapter Twelve: New Beginnings

Although Just' loved Joth with every breath and thought, he was ready to kill his soul-mate at that moment. It seems that Joth kept finding things he had to do to train his guard and work with the rest of the military. First he had gone off with Just's' new father to the War Games and his brother Neal had returned to them as well. Everyone was flying back late that afternoon for the Coronation Banquet and Ceremony which was the next evening. However, that left Just' alone to deal with all the minutia that such an occasion required, luckily for Just', his bodyguard J'ame was very conversant with most Royal Protocols and therefore a huge help. Also, luckily for Joth, he had left his page John to help Just' and in fact, He and Just' were now on their way to recruit John's brother Stephan to be Just's' Page. Since John had been so nice to him, Just' thought it would be a nice thing to do by making his brother a page as well.


The feel of the sun upon the outstretched membranes of his wings was glorious. Waiting for a few more minutes for the sun to reach its zenith, and for the thermals to reach their maximum strength. Finally the moment he had been waiting for had arrived, the wind blowing across the ledge, causing his wings to lift a bit.

He pulled his wings in slightly closer to his body and lowered his body until it was nearly touching the ground. His mighty shoulder and thigh muscles began to tighten in preparation for launching. With a mighty downward sweep of his powerful wings and an upward push from his tremendous thighs; in a blink of an eye, he was soaring over the verdant plains far below.

With nary a thought for the rider on his back, the dragon totally immersed himself, in the sensation of soaring through the skies on a glorious afternoon. After many minutes of wondrous flight, his rider's thoughts finally made their presence known.

'Okay big guy, time to get back to work.'

The dragon didn't bother acknowledging; he just changed the direction of his flight.


While Just' and J'ame were on their way to see if John's brother, Stephan, wanted to be Just's' page, Jonah was very busy himself.

The Erehwonese Master of Protocol had closeted himself, with Baron Ilúvantír and The Master of Pages. The three unseemly friends were pouring over every scrap of records and documentation relating to coronations, that they could find. Jonah was bound and determined that his new father, Just's', coronation would be absolutely perfect and as majestic as possible.

Just as they had finally come up with the proper ceremony for the wedding, and the three friends began putting all of the records into their appropriate places; a roll of parchment fell to the floor. [Not the ground, Darryl] Being the closest to the floor, Jonah reverently picked up the fragile looking roll of ancient parchment. Jonah carefully unrolled the parchment onto the desk they had just finished clearing off.

Once the parchment was completely unrolled the three realized that they had come across something quite unusual and of great antiquity. For on the parchment in surprisingly bright and distinct colors, was what looked like the plan for a coronation. However, neither the Baron nor the Master of Pages could read the elegant calligraphic script. The Master of Pages, Count Denis Portland, was able to decipher some of the symbols, including the Dragon and Suns, which led him to realize that this parchment was from the days of The Dragon Lords. Neither Baron Ilú nor Count Denis was paying much attention to Jonah, as they were still trying to figure out exactly what the parchment was.

"I am not sure exactly what this is, but I believe it to be something from the days of the Dragon..." Whatever else the Count was going to say was cut off by Jonah.

"This is the Coronation and Consorting Ceremony of the Dragon Lords, and in fact it is a specific ceremony for those who are two of the same. I think that means like Daddy Joth and Daddy Just'."

Neither the Seneschal nor the Master of Pages could get a word out, as their jaws were on the floor. Finally, the Count recovered enough to pose a question. The only reason that he recovered so quickly was the fact that he had learned not to be surprised by anything Jonah said or did.

"How did you read that, yet even more importantly how did you understand that?" An amazed Count Denis asked Jonah.

Jonah looked up at the two adults as if they were crazy;

"It was easy; it is just Olde Folke I thought everyone could read it. 'Goos' and Dwaconis teach me that how." Without batting an eye, Jonah then went on explaining everything on the parchment with Baron Ilú and Count Denis taking copious notes.

Several hours later, they had everything finally planned; Count Denis took his copy to where the King and Queen, along with the Queen Mother were finalizing their own plans. He knew that getting all of their planned changes done in time for the ceremony tomorrow evening would not be easy. But he also knew that the King and Queen truly loved Just' as did all of the Palace Staff, so if it could be done it would be done.

While the Count was on his errand, Jonah and the Seneschal were on an errand of their own. Jonah was bound and determined to search every inch of the Royal Vaults looking for the Ceremonial Robes pictured on the ancient parchment. If they couldn't find the robes which Baron Ilú sincerely doubted could still be around; Jonah was going to look for the mantles that were depicted overlaying the robes.

When the two arrived at the Royal Vaults, they were greeted by the same Junior Archivist Santorumas who had hassled John just a few days before. This time, his behavior was completely different; he quickly jumped out of his chair and bowed to Jonah bending so low his forehead was almost scraping the ground.

The Junior Archivist began speaking before he had completed his bow, as he had definitely recognized the color of Jonah's clothing, and he had also recognized the Seneschal.

"How may I be of assistance, your highness?" The Junior Archivist wasn't taking any chances. Although Jonah hadn't been officially crowned a prince as the son of the Crown Prince and The Crown Prince Consort, he was definitely royalty.

While the Junior Archivist was busy bowing and scraping, Baron Ilú was busy signing Jonah and himself into the log book, which John hadn't bothered to do on his last visit.

Jonah knew who the obsequious toady was, and left it up to the Baron to respond; he just headed towards the vaults as he noticed the door was opened and the sconces and torches had been lit. Additionally, the glowing globes that no one had ever figured out how to turn on or off were glowing as well, so there was plenty of light available to see what was contained in the massive Royal Vaults. Jonah chose the middle vault as he remembered that John had said that was where he found the "Perdido Arrematar". While Jonah was headed toward the vault, the Seneschal informed the Junior Archivist why they were there and that they didn't need any of his help. Baron Ilú then joined Jonah in the vault. Unbeknownst to the two, the light of Draconis was about to shine brightly on them.

The Baron had to stop and just watch Jonah, as Jonah obviously hadn't been in the vaults since he was much younger. Jonah was just staring at everything in sight. As the Baron moved forward, something out of the corner of his eye caused him to stop and begin to stutter. The Baron's stuttering brought Jonah out of his trance, he turned to see what was causing the Seneschal to stutter and then he saw the same thing. A beautiful old chest with very ornate carvings and adornments and most prevalent of all were the same Suns and Dragons from the ancient roll of parchment. The young prince turned and looked at the Baron and they both shook their heads saying, "No that can't be it, it can't be this easy."

The two carefully made their way over to the chest, not knowing that it was the same one that John had removed Just's' crown from. Luckily for the two of them, John had left it unlocked in his hurry to get back to the audience.

"Uncle Ilú, can you see inside, my legs are too short?" Jonah asked the Baron with a slight hint of puppy dog eyes. Secretly wishing for the Baron to pick him up so he could see inside as well.

The Baron took a quick peek inside and saw the glints of precious metals and jewels.

"Jonah, it isn't light enough for me to see exactly what is in the chest. However, what I can see certainly looks promising. I am really beginning to believe Eduardo that Draconis does have a hand in the life of our beloved Crown Prince Consort. I think we should get a few guards to help carry this chest and take it to my office, or better yet, to where your grandparents are meeting. Is that okay with you?"


Meanwhile back in Puritania:

The Avatar/Phelps combo heads to bed in a fairly good mood, as the Avatar has siphoned enough energy from the under priest to speed up his healing. Unknown to Phelps, that Avatar believed that he had enough power to if not eliminate Phelps; he would be able to contain him completely. Once that was done, the Avatar would have complete control of Phelps' body; Phelps would now be just a voyeur in his own body. The Avatar wanted to get some sleep so his body could begin its accelerated repairs. First he had to render the pest Phelps unconscious. A few seconds later, the deed was done and it was time to begin the healing trance; while he had enough energy to fix some of the most critical injuries he would need still more food and time. At least he would be able to walk tomorrow, not well, but walking.

Unfortunately for the Avatar, things weren't going to go as he had planned, as the few priests and workers were scared, very scared. Things went from bad to worse when the under priest returned, looking whiter than the fleece of the sheep they used to have. They quickly talked among themselves and they all came to the realization that they wouldn't be able to supply any of what the Avatar had demanded, without scouring the woods all night long. Without torches or any way of making a fire, their chances of finding any food and beginning any repairs were nigh impossible.

After another thorough search of the village and an attempt to enter the temple, they gave up. Their attempt to enter the temple was rebuffed by the large amounts of noxious fumes; and the intense heat still coming out of the destroyed temple. Draconis had done her job well, very well indeed. With a few quick words here and there, plans were made to leave the village and try and catch up with the soldiers. Unfortunately, they had decided that the under priest would just slow them down and hinder to their chances of escaping. As the under priest turned to take one more look at the temple before they left; the Blacksmith came up behind him. The Blacksmith raised his hands above the under priest's head, made a single fist with both hands. With absolutely no pause at all, the Blacksmith smote the under priest a mighty blow to the back of his head and neck. Without even waiting to see if the priest was still alive, the Blacksmith turned and headed out of the village before the under priest had even hit the ground.

When the Avatar awoke the next morning, he was quite surprised at the quietness of the village; worse than the quietness was the fact that he couldn't smell any food cooking. The Avatar was absolutely ravenous; the repairing of his body had depleted what little reserves Phelps body had, had. If he didn't get food or more energy quickly, all of the repairs would fail. To make matters worse, he would lose the strength to keep Phelps contained. He didn't have quite enough energy to dispose of Phelps and repair his legs. So he built a web of power to contain Phelps and repaired his legs, unfortunately that also meant he could only partially repair his twisted and broken spine. He was able to make it functional, but only barely, he couldn't stand up straight and had to walk hunched over. But at least he was able to walk, sort of, more like shuffle one foot at a time.

When the thoroughly frustrated and upset Avatar finally was able to stumble outside his/Phelps residence, he was stunned, absolutely stunned. Nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, had been done to repair the village; and he couldn't see a single soul. He heard a slight sound from behind the residence and extended his senses. When he did he found a very slight life sign. He quickly made up his mind and headed towards the faint source. The source led him toward the old Temple and as he got closer he could see it was the under priest who was supposed to have brought him food. The under priest was collapsed near the entrance of the Temple. Without even a thought the Avatar walked over to the collapsed under priest and within seconds had drained nearly all of the life energy from the under priest. Fortunately, actually unfortunately for the under priest, that Avatar wasn't strong enough yet to completely drain him. The fact that the under priest didn't have enough life energy to live more than a few minutes never even registered in the Avatar's mind.

With the additional energy the Avatar had acquired he now was picking up another life source. He headed towards the energy source, which as he got closer he saw was coming from a barn. When he arrived in the barn he found a horse that must have returned for his food. The horse was still saddled and bridled and was so busy trying to eat the few morsels of grain and hay that were scattered on the ground that he never noticed the Avatar. The Avatar expended a little of his power to slightly stun the horse. Once that was accomplished he slowly, very slowly and very carefully mounted the horse and rode slowly out of the barn.

Once outside the barn, he picked up a very faint life source at the very edge of his perception. He turned the horse that way and began a very slow ride to what he hoped was adequate food and shelter.


Meanwhile back at Highmont:

His eminence, Eduardo, was resting casually, drinking a chilled sparkling wine and eating cheese and fruit; when suddenly a voice he had never heard before began speaking in his mind.

'Arch Prelate Eduardo my name is Healer Margè and I need your help.'

It took Eduardo several minutes of listening before he finally figured out who Margè was. Luckily for Eduardo, Thomaso was also passing along a stream of information that helped explain who Margè was. 'Royal Healer he thought, so Just' has his own healer when he is one himself that is interesting.' Eduardo worked hard keeping his thoughts to himself while conversing with Margè.

'Margè, it is very nice to make your acquaintance; I am sorry that it had to be this way. Don't worry; I will take care of Gustavo myself, as I owe him a thing or two. As to Draconis, I will have a heart to heart talk with her and see if I can get her to show some restraint in the future. I would also like to meet Sammy, some time, as well, he sounds like a very good friend for your protégé Andreu. As to that other voice that your nephew Arli heard, I have a sneaking suspicion who that is, as well. I will have a word with Misha when he returns from his escorting duties. Trust me; he will have no problem handling Cris. I do think that I need to have a word with their Majesties about your protégé and his village. I think that as soon as Arli is capable, Andreu needs to be brought to Castle Highmont. He needs to spend time with Jonah, Just' and your old friend Doktor Bazaar.' Eduardo paused for a moment to give Margè a chance to respond.

'Eduardo, can you please explain to me just who Just' is and why he is so important; and why should I trust Andreu to him?' Margè asked the question that had been plaguing her for a while now.

'Margè, I will ask Captain Ranulf to explain just who Just' is, completely, once you are solidly on the ground, as his story is not something you want to hear while flying on the back of a dragon. I will tell you that he is the Crown Prince Consort and he is a healer and like your protégé Andreu. Just', as well as young Jonah, in addition to being healers, are in one of the old tongue, Mestre da besta. They will be able to help him learn even more, and also give him some friends closer to his own age, which would be a very good thing for him as well as Jonah. Before you ask, Jonah is Just's son and a prince in his own right. I need to go now, as I am not as used to mental conversations as you, and I find this extremely tiring. I will tell Thomaso that Ranulf is to tell you all of Just's' story on my authority, good-bye for now.' Eduardo broke the connection and within seconds was deeply asleep.

'Don't worry, Margè; Ranulf will explain everything, once we reach Dragonsholme.' Thomaso informed Margè and Ranulf was nodding his head in agreement.

'Thank you, Thomaso, but can you at least tell me if this Just' person is a good person?' Margè asked Ranulf's Dragon with a hint of concern in her mental voice.

'That is an easy question to answer. The Duchess has threatened to behead anyone who even looks askance at her new grandson and every staff member at the castle would give their life to protect him. That is all I can say until Ranulf tells you all of his story, other than to say I would fly Just' anywhere with or without Ranulf's permission.' Thomaso answered Margè's question as best he could within the restraints he was under.

Margè was in a very quiet and pensive mood for the remainder of the flight to Dragonsholme. Arch Prelate Eduardo and Thomaso had given her a lot to think about. Thomaso has answered her question, but like everyone else, had also given her more questions that needed answering. She was feeling a little better about meeting Just' now and wondered how much Joth fit Doktor Bazaar's description of him, now?

As Margè's thoughts returned to the present, she noticed several dragons and War Eagles speeding ahead.

'Thomaso, where are those dragons and War Eagles headed at such speed?'

'We are only a few minutes away, and Ranulf sent them ahead to let the Châtelaine know, so she can properly greet us and have food and water prepared for his wing and the flight of War Eagles.' Thomaso quickly replied to Margè and then prepared for his own descent as Dragonsholme was now becoming visible with the late afternoon rays of Draconis giving the castle a stunning orange glow.


Meanwhile, back at Castle Highmont:

As this was Just's' first foray outside the castle in any capacity, he wasn't quite prepared for all of the pomp and circumstance that occurred when he attempted to leave the castle. Still not quite adapted to being considered royalty, Just' had blithely assumed that it would be just him, John and of course J'ame. However, Just' had forgotten about Ranulf and his own guards, as well as the guards that Joth had asked to keep an eye on his lover. Just' was also surprised that Ranulf was joining them as he had just returned from his trip to Dragonsholme.

"But Ranulf, we can't show up with all of these people and the rest you want to take with us." Just' protested sort of strongly as he was still not used to ordering people around.

"And why not?" Ranulf quickly replied, inwardly satisfied that Just' was displaying some spunk.

"First of all, we aren't going that far from the castle and secondly we don't want to scare John's family to death. If that wasn't enough, from what John says, their cottage isn't big enough for everyone." Just' carefully enunciated each of his points.

'Ahh the boy does have a brain and knows how to use it, and he isn't afraid to voice his opinions to me.' Ranulf was thinking as Just' was answering his question.

"Okay then, Just', exactly who would you like to take with you, your highness?" Ranulf asked Just' and by using his title, showing his respect.

Ranulf's answer was a bit of a surprise to Just', as he hadn't expected to have to make that decision by himself. Deciding to trust someone who had been in similar positions before, Just' turned to his personal body guard J'ame.

"J'ame, what do you think about taking you, Ranulf, one of the Royal Guard, one of Joth's and one more of mine? Oh and don't forget we can't leave Corporal Logi behind; I don't want to answer to Master Sergeant Ramero why we left John's personal minder behind. Do you think that will be enough men; and yes, the shadows can come along as well."

To say that both J'ame and Ranulf were stunned by the mention of the 'shadows' would be a draconian understatement.

"Uhh....uh... your highness, shadows?" Ranulf squeaked out.

"Yes, shadows, you know the one's out of uniform that are always ahead and behind, anytime any of the 'Family' leave the castle. It's okay, Joth already informed me about them, he just told me to ignore them and don't try to argue about them, because I wouldn't win..." Just' paused for a second to listen to a mental voice.

'Just' it wasn't that easy; that scamp Joth tried everything he could think of not to have them; including sneaking out of the castle at night over a wall. It was several years before he gave up.'

'No, he never told me that part,' Just' replied.

While Just' was having his mental conversation, all of the guards had faced outwards looking for anything and anyone who could harm their charge while he was vulnerable. Of course, they needn't have worried for Matty was also surreptitiously following them and had chased any loiterers away by the simple method of growling at them or showing them his claws.

"Your Hi... I mean Just', I believe we can get by with the amount of men you have suggested, if, and I do mean if, you do exactly as J'ame and I say if we encounter any problems. Also, if you will go bring that hissing and spitting monster who thinks he owns the castle." With those words Ranulf turned around and looked directly at the niche where Matty was unsuccessfully trying to fade into the wall.

With Ranulf's words Matty imperiously stalked out of his concealment and began heading toward Just'. Knowing what was about to happen, J'ame stepped behind Just' and prepared himself for the inevitable. Once Matty got close enough to Just' he launched all of considerable size directly into Just's' arms, well it would have been Just's' arms if he was looking the right way. Luckily for Just', J'ame was in the perfect position to catch him as he fell backward. Also luckily for Matty, Just's' arms reflexively wrapped themselves around the Kat.


Several days earlier in Potters Village:

"The parchment was orders for Chima and ceramic pieces for a coronation at the palace, and they are a rush job. They are also very special pieces, mostly to be given as gifts to the attendees. However, there was a major problem. I can't complete the order, and neither can any of our apprentices or journeymen. The only person who could complete the order, besides Justin, is........."

The silence when David stopped speaking was very tense as most of his family knew that they had a serious problem. Though one member of the family was finally figuring out that she wasn't in trouble.

"….... the person who made these." David then unrolled his vest and brought the ewer and teacup into the light.

"Those are absolutely beautiful, who could have made them, David?" Samantha inquired, never taking her eyes off the magnificent pieces.

"Well, I didn't, and I couldn't even come close to matching the quality or detail of these pieces; and you know our boys couldn't create anything like them, either. But I have a sneaking suspicion who can, and I truly hope for all of our sakes that I am right." Pausing, David then turned and looked at his daughter who had finally quit trying to disappear.

"Robyn, my dear, these are your pieces, are they not?" Her father inquired softly.

As soon as he had said 'Robyn', all of the family's attention became focused on the shyest family member.

All poor Robyn could do was hesitantly nod her head yes.

"Why didn't you tell any of us that you could do work like this, Robyn, it is good, very good? It is far better than I, your brothers, cousins or uncles could do."

"Because Uncle was always saying that women can't do this and women can't do that." Robyn squeaked out her answer, which brought her mother rushing over to hug and comfort her.

"Robyn, darling, what kingdom do we live in?"

"Erehwon"

"Where did your Uncle live?"

"Roxio, why?"

"It is very simple, because what your Uncle said was true for Roxio and maybe other places; but it isn't true for Erehwon. Would you like to tell the Duchess that she can't be a winemaker or run her own vineyards?" David could see that he had gotten through to his daughter by the look in her eyes and the fact that she was sitting up straight in her mother's arms.

"Dear-heart, what your father says is true, in Erehwon it is important what you can do and not whether you are a man or a woman. How many of the Kings Royal Messengers are women? Yes, a lot of them, and how many of the Kings and Duke William's Private Messengers are women. So, see you can be a potter, and from the looks of those pieces that your father is holding, like they were made out of Dragon's Gold, you could be a great potter. But dinner is ready; we can talk about the rest of this after we eat. Roast Lamb doesn’t taste very good cold, now go wash up and we will eat when you return; that includes you as well, hun." Robyn's mom gave her a hug and a kiss and then helped her to her feet and then headed to the kitchen.

After Dinner was over, Robyn slowly related her story, it seems that one day when she was helping out and cleaning the Shoppe she came across Justin's notes and some of his glaze powders. She had also noticed that her Uncle had trouble firing things because he had a very poor eye for judging the heat of the kilns and furnaces. Robyn had learned many things about creating pottery by watching her Cousin Justin and her Uncle James. Her Uncle and Cousin never treated her like a girl, unlike her other Uncle and Cousins. James and Justin always answered her questions without being condescending or rude. She even surprised her Uncle James when she asked questions about the different colors of the flames and the different heat shimmers. 'Robyn you have a better eye for temperatures than I do, your eye is as good as your Grandfather Michael and your Cousin Justin's. Why don't you try your hand at pottery?'

"Because, Uncle Harry says, women can't be potters."

"Neither can your uncle, so we just won't tell him." James told her with a grin and a hug.

After Justin had disappeared, Robyn worked even harder perfecting her skills and developing new glazes. She even surreptitiously helped her Uncle out with his firings by distracting him with questions when he was going to pull pieces from the kilns early.

The family finished their discussions and realized that they would be working straight through until they had finished the commission. It was determined to use all of the family members in any way possible in order to accomplish this huge task.


Meanwhile back at the joint military encampment:

Things were just beginning to settle down after the arrival of William and Joth when Neal and his Elfin escorts came racing into camp, their arrival surprised everyone as they weren't expected back until after the Coronation and Wedding. Neal, William and Joth were just getting caught up with all of the court gossip when they were interrupted by Colonel D'avid.

"William, you and Joth have big problems and need to get back to Highmont yesterday!"

"What could be the problem? When we left, everything was under control, My Mother and the King and Queen had all the preparations in hand and Just' was doing a great job learning his duties and filling in for Joth." William replied a bit confused.

Colonel D'avid then turned to Joth and addressed him directly.

"Your Highness, the Lord Mariscal unknowingly hit precisely on the problem. You see, Just' is the problem..." The Colonel had to pause and raise his hand to stem the cries of consternation that were arising from the three Erehwonesians.

"Just' himself isn't the problem, the problem is who he now is, and what he is. Your father accomplished far more than he intended when he raised Just' to the peerage and your marriage just compounded things. If that wasn't enough, when your Arch Prelate Eduardo made a Prelate out of Just' that was the proverbial straw..." The Colonel's answer was interrupted by Williams roar.

"Get on with it, man, quit dilly dallying and tell us what the problem is!"

"Alright on your head be it! The High King of Draconis and all of his court are attending the Coronation, as well as the ruling parties of Roxio and Mantasia. If that wasn't enough, so is the Royal Family of Elvandia!" With the Colonel's last word, complete silence overtook the tent.

The silence lasted for only a moment and then the Lord Mariscal took charge with a roar.

"Corporal, go and find General Dellus and have him report here immediately, Neal, issue orders for everyone to pack and prepare to move to Highmont immediately. Joth, get a hold of you know who and tell him we need every available dragon and troop conveyance here ten minutes ago."

General Dellus arrived and was quickly brought up to speed and then headed out with Colonel D'avid to assist Neal. Thanks to all of the integration exercises that the troops had gone through, the preparations were going very smoothly and quickly.

As soon as Joth had finished communication with Gus, who was on his way, he then addressed the Lord Mariscal.

"Duke William, as soon as my ride arrives, I need to head to Potters Village and let them know of the change of command. I need to go, as the villagers and some of Just's' family know me, and I can explain what is needed without leaking the fact that their Justin is still alive. I will take Neal with me, as he knows the village even better than I do. I have also had orders sent for all of the available potters to be sent to Potters Village to help. I am sure that Kyle will help them as well. As soon as I am finished there, I will head back to the castle; I only hope we can make it in time."

"Don't worry about making it in time, Joth, the Duchess and Rebekah will keep your love and my son out of harm's way. Woe behold anyone who tries to get near or interfere with my son with those two in his corner. Make sure that someone informs your son, The Royal Master of Protocol, what is happening." William replied to the Crown Prince.

Suddenly Joth stood perfectly still and his eyes glazed over.

"Jonah says they already know, and no one is going to tell Just' and upset him. When I asked him how he knew, he just answered, 'Dwaconis'. When I asked him if the King and Queen were upset by the surprising turn of events, he calmly replied 'it is they who will be surprised!' Gus then broke the link."

There was a sudden trumpeting of a large amount of dragons.

"Let's get this show on the road so we can hopefully arrive before the unexpected guests arrive. That way, we should be able to have most of their security in place. Good luck in Potters' Village." William then hugged Joth and the two friends left the tent so it could be broken down and packed. A few minutes later, Joth and Gus, along with a few of both his and Just's' Guards were on their way.


Meanwhile back at Castle Highmont:

Just' and his party were finally headed to John's home; it took a few minutes to get Matty situated. Just' had at first tried to put Matty down to walk with them; but the Kat was too smart for that. Rather than having his clothes shredded into very small pieces, Just' intelligently acquiesced. Matty was now comfortably ensconced in the arms of Just'. Matty was still just as vigilant as if he was prowling on his own.

"Ranulf, I think we should send John and Corporal Logi ahead, so John can at least give his family some warning of what is about to happen. What say you?" Just' asked the Captain of his guard.

To say that Ranulf was surprised again would be an understatement. He was beginning to realize that being the head of Just's' Guards was not going to be a boring detail. He would need to give thanks to Draconis for his promotion as soon as possible. Not only was Just' showing signs of intelligence, but also of a healthy dose of common sense and pragmatism. He was still having problems dealing with the fact that he was in charge of officers with more rank and far more seniority than himself. It was finally dawning on him that those officers and enlisted men below him felt the same way about working for Just' as he himself did. 'Just' is amazing he treats everyone from the lowest scullery maid to the highest Noble with the same amount of love and respect. He never orders anyone to do anything; he always asks and then says thank you. If he had his way Just' would do all of his own laundry; the servants assigned to his quarters complain that he is always doing their work. If that isn't enough, I swear he knows the name of every person who lives or works in the castle. I have lived and worked in the castle for many years and I still only know about a fourth of them. I have never seen anyone work as hard as he does in learning his position, not only does he attend classes with the pages and his son, when he can, he is also wearing J'ame out with his weapons training. When he is fully recovered physically, Just' will be a force to be reckoned with, both Militarily and Politically.'

"That sounds like a brilliant idea, Just, in fact, J'ame should have thought of it." Ranulf cheekily replied, which caused J'ame to raise an eyebrow in return.

Without waiting for direct orders, John grabbed Logi's hand and took off running toward his house.

"Let's go, before they change their minds."

At Ranulf's nod one of the leading shadows took off ahead of John and Logi.

Once John and Logi were on their way, the main group regrouped and headed off a little slower than before. This way they would give John a little bit more time to prepare his parents for being invaded.

John and Logi arrived at John's house fairly quickly as they basically ran the short way left.

"Mom and Dad, we are having company very shortly; but don't worry, they are all my friends and are really nice. First of all, this is my friend Logi he is sorta my big brother and my protector."

John's parents were quite amazed at their young son's new maturity and presence. They still had an even larger surprise to come, and it was coming very shortly.

"Mom and Dad, what I am about to say is very, very important; and I need for you to understand how important this is for me. One of the people coming to see you is a very good friend of mine, and he is a really nice guy. His name is Just', nothing else not 'Your Highness', 'Your Majesty' or 'Eminence'. I am telling you this because he isn't very comfortable with titles. Please don't be shocked when I introduce him with his titles, as he is more important as my friend and big brother. He is the person Joth rescued, and I have been helping him recover, as well..." Before John could say anything else, there was knocking on the door. John went to the door and after opening it ushered in Just, Ranulf and J'ame.

Matty didn't wait for an invitation he jumped out of J'ame's arms where he had been residing majestically. It had only taken a minute or two before his weight was causing Just' a lot of discomfort. Without a by your leave Matty had resolved the problem by telling Just', 'J'ame now!'. Matty sprung out of J'ame's arms and strutted into the cottage as if he owned it. Unfortunately for Matty's pride, no one noticed him as they were too busy staring at J'ame. As John had skillfully not mentioned that one of his friends was an Elf!

"Mom, Dad, I would like to introduce my friends to you. This is Ranulf, Captain of the Crown Prince Consort's Guards; next, we have J'ame, Bodyguard to the Crown Prince Consort and last but not least, we have my new Big Brother and Best Friend the Crown Prince Consort, Just' Michael Campbell-Forte." In spite of John's warning, Elizabeth and John Luc were shocked and were standing there with their jaws hitting the floor. [See Darryl, I said FLOOR not GROUND] Stephan was standing there laughing like crazy, because the scene reminded him of the way John became Joth's Page.

Flashback:

Joth had just turned twelve winters old and had been doing who knows what with some of his cousins and some of the younger castle children. Joth wasn't a snob then, and still isn't. Joth was coming up the castle steps dressed like any twelve year old Highmont kid, when he sees this eight year old boy crying on the steps. Joth went over and talked to him and found out that John had been trying to get a job to help out his family. When Joth heard his story, he pulled himself up to his full height of four foot ten inches, puffed out his chest, and in as Royal a voice as he could manage, announced to John that he was going to work for him! John couldn't decide whether to laugh or cry. Joth decided the issue by reaching down and taking a hold of John's hand; he pulled him to his feet and without asking, dragged John up the stairs and into the castle. The Guards attempted to stop them but Joth just glared them down and said, "Take me to the King, NOW!" As this was the first time they had ever seen Joth act as the Crown Prince, the Senior Guard started off immediately with the two youngsters in tow. When the guard reached the door to the small audience chamber, and raised his fist to knock, Joth strode right past him, opened the door and strode in. His father was just finishing a private audience and looked up at the interruption. He raised his hand in Joth's direction and ordered "STOP" Joth and John skidded to a stop. The King apologized for the interruption, finished his audience which just happened to be the last of the day. "Now, what do you have to say for yourself, young man? And who have you dragged in here to see me?" At the stern tone of the King's voice John turned and started to run out. Before he could take two steps, he ran into the guard who had escorted them. The guard caught John in his arms and gently held him. The King's next words took John totally by surprise "Young man, you do not need to run. You are not in trouble, my son is, not you." John's world was torn asunder by those words, because until then, he didn't know who Joth was. The King then addressed his son "Joth, what is the meaning of this unseemly interruption and why have you dragged that fine young boy in here, obviously against his will?" For some unknown reason, Joth decided to grow up at that moment, "I am truly sorry for interrupting you, Sire; I would not have done this, except the issue was very important to me!"

"Okay, son, what is so important that you had to interrupt an audience with the Prime Minister of Roxio? Before you answer, just let me tell you how lucky you are that he was your Uncle!"

Joth pulled himself up straight, and looking his father directly in the eyes, calmly announced, "I need a Page, and John is going to be it."

"I see, and did you even bother to ask John if he would be your page? I can see by the look in John's eyes that you did not! How rude of you, we will discuss that later!" Joth, shocked at his father's response, dropped his head in silence for a moment.

"John, you can relax, I will deal with my miscreant of a son later. Please come up here so I can talk to you easier. I don't bite; I let my guards do that." The King chuckled as John bolted out of the guards' arms and cautiously walked over to the chair where the King was seated. "Sergeant, please inform the guards that this room is closed. Allow only family members in, unless it is an emergency. Also please ask Mistress Rebekah to join us."

"At once, Sire." as the Sergeant turned to leave; he was stopped by another voice.

"I am here, Sergeant, so you can go on the rest of your errand. As to you, Joth, I will deal with you later, also!" Rebekah informed the room.

John was totally amazed by what was happening and still had a greater shock coming.

When John approached close enough, the King reached out to John and said "Come sit on my lap, so I can talk to you easier, and we can both hear what my miscreant son has to say for himself."

All John could do was nod as the King pulled him up onto his lap.

Once John was seated, the king pulled him close and whispered 'Relax, John, everything is fine. I think Joth is right, but let's see if he can get himself out of this pickle."

John just giggled and nodded his head.

"Okay, son, start explaining."

Joth decided to play this as if he were in an audience with the King, requesting a boon. "Your majesty, I came upon this young member of our kingdom distraught and in tears. I inquired as to the reason for his distress, and after listening to his story, decided that as a kingdom we should help him and his family. His family is a proud and hard working family and extremely loyal to our family. They need real assistance and not charity. As I don't have a page, yet, I decided that John should become my page. I humbly beseech you to allow John Lansing to become my Page?"

"Bravo, son, Bravo; that was an amazing performance!" roared the King in amazement, for it seemed his son had finally grown up and become a man. He was now ready to fully receive his mantle as Crown Prince of Erehwon.

John was amazed when the King started laughing at his son. When John took a look at Joth, he was even more amazed, for Joth was standing perfectly still with a perfect court face. There wasn't an emotion visible, except for the steely look of determination in his eyes.

The King continued before the silence became deafening. "As of this day, I hereby declare that the Honorable Master John Lansing becomes The Royal Page to his Highness, the Crown Prince Joth. His duties are to commence immediately with the appropriate compensation to come out of the Crown Prince's Household Accounts. Is that acceptable to you, young Master Lansing?"

John was so happy and overcome with emotion that he forgot where he was and gave the King a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. He was overcome with shame when he realized what he had done. He tried to get down from the Kings lap to apologize for his offense.

The King just pulled John even closer and returned both the hug and the kiss. "I guess that hug and kiss meant yes?"

John just nodded his head and then turned to look at the Prince.

Joth's stance had relaxed slightly, but he was still standing at attention awaiting the next response from the King.

"John, please go stand over with Mistress Rebekah; she will make sure that you are taken care of. She will take you home and inform your parents of your new status. She will also bring a few guards along, to help you bring anything you want, back to your new rooms." The king then leaned down and whispered to John "Don't ever call her Mistress Rebekah, you must always call her Nana, unless in public, okay?" at John's nod then King then said "Okay now, scoot."

John then carefully climbed down from the King's lap, took a few steps away from the chair and made a perfect court bow to the King. In amazement, the King gave a bow of his head. 'I can't believe my lucky stars; my son grows up and in the same day finds himself a page with manners and intelligence. Also a page who, when thrown into the fire, doesn't panic and walks out unsinged. It looks like My Kingdom will continue to thrive under my son's rule. Now to straighten him out!'

"Prince Joth," at those words from the King, the temperature in the room dropped precipitously. "While your intentions were well meant, your actions were ill thought out and unseemly, not to mention rude! You never bothered to inform Master John of your identity, or even ask him if he would like to be your page. You dragged a distraught young member of my Kingdom pall-mall through the castle, disrupting many people trying to perform their duties; you also managed to scare Master John half to death. I am extremely proud that you want to help John and his family, and that you are ready to become The Crown Prince. However, in the future, you must think through your actions before embarking on them! Do I make myself clear? Do you truly understand the import of your actions and behavior?"

"Yes, your Majesty, and I will apologize to those persons whose duties I interrupted. I am also sorry, John, for what I put you through, will you please forgive me?" Joth replied with a very sincere and chagrined tone in his voice; for he knew he had drastically overstepped his bounds. He then turned to John and patiently waited for his answer.

John turned and looked up at Rebekah to see if he should answer and at Rebekah's nod replied. "Yes, your Highness, I forgive you."

Before either the King or Joth could reply, Rebekah announced in a no nonsense voice "His name is Joth, to you, John unless you are in public with him. After what he did to you, you certainly deserve that right."

"Absolutely, and it is so ordered." responded the King.

"Rafealo, after your son has finished apologizing; I think I have a suitable set of punishments for him to atone for his errors." Rebekah informed Joth and the King.

"I think that is a wonderful idea; now young prince, I believe you still have some groveling to do? Isn't that correct?" Rafealo asked his son.

"Yes sire, I further apologize for interrupting your audience and for frightening John. I will also think through my actions and words before acting on or speaking them. I will also try very hard to consider how these actions might hurt other people." a very subdued young prince replied.

"Thank you, Joth, please remember those words for the rest of your life and you will save yourself and others a lot of grief. Now, you have one more thing to do before I turn you over to Nana. You must formally ask John to be your page; if he says no, you will have to find someone else, the proper way, this time. Now ask him, and do it correctly." The father told his son.

Joth then turned and slowly walked over to where John was standing with Rebekah's hand on his shoulder supporting him. Joth stopped three paces away and, as a sign of contrition, dropped to one knee in submission. "Master John Lansing, will you do me the honor of becoming my Personal Page; and assuming all the duties and responsibilities that come with that position? If you agree, I will do everything in my power to provide for your needs and wants. I will also endeavor to protect you and your family to the best of my ability."

John, unsure of how to answer, first looked at the King who now stood behind his son with a huge smile on his face. The King nodded yes then nodded towards Rebekah.

Rebekah leaned over and whispered in John's ear.

"I humbly accept your offer and the honor of becoming your personal page. I will do everything within my ability to fulfill those duties and responsibilities." replied John stumbling over some of the words, but the whispered words of encouragement from his new Nana helped him through his Speech. He then gave another court bow to Joth and his Father.

Rebekah and the King both gave him hugs and said, 'Welcome to the Family."

While the King took John aside to explain some of his duties, Rebekah was addressing her young charge.

"As for you, young man, you are extremely lucky you have such a loving and tolerant King and Father! Now, while John and I are bringing the good news to his family and collecting his belongings, you, and you alone, are going to prepare his rooms. That means all the bedding must be changed, the windows must be opened and the rooms aired, the linen closet and bathing room are to be stocked. You will also ensure that all the facilities are working properly. When you have finished with that task, you will draw John a proper bath, using your favorite soaps, bath salts and lotions. Then you have a choice; you can either go to the Head Housekeeper and requisition John's Page uniform, or find some of your older good clothes that will fit him until we can have proper uniforms and clothing made for him. Any questions, young man?" Rebekah asked the now chagrined Prince.

"No, Nana. May I be excused now so that I may get started on my tasks?" queried the Prince, eager to get started before his punishment got worse. As soon as Rebekah began to nod, Joth was out the door.

The King and Rebekah both began to laugh at the speed of Joth's exit and the look on his face. John started to relax and began to laugh a little. "Nana, does he really have to do all that just for me? Will he hate me because he got punished?"

"No, little one; Joth won't hate you, right now; he would do almost anything to keep out of trouble. Joth really does need a page, and you, young man, will make a very good one. You are exactly the type of page he needs." The King interrupted Rebekah as he knelt down and pulled John into his chest.

"Joth needs you, because you know what hard work is and you are not afraid to do it. You are also very brave, because not many people your age would have come looking for a job at the castle without an adult or friend with them. Plus, you never showed any fear of me or your situation, until I yelled, and that would have scared anyone. You also seem to be very intelligent and Joth will like that. You are supposed to serve and look after Joth and run errands for him when needed. But you are also supposed to be his friend and have fun, also. If Joth ever does something you know he is not supposed to, or tells you to do something that is wrong, you come tell me, Nana or Queen Angelina. Okay, do you understand this?"

John nodded yes.

"John, I know Rafealo told you to call me Nana in private, well the same thing goes for him and the Queen. Although you work for Joth, you are a member of the family, now. When we are alone like now, his name is Rafe and her name is Angie. Now say thank you Rafe." Rebekah finished her reassurance of her new young charge.

"Thank you Rafe."

End Flashback

Seeing that John's announcement had shocked his parents out of their wits, he decided to do something to make them feel at ease.

"Bad John, you know my name is Just' now you have scared your poor parents to death. Let's start all over again." Just' said while grinning and shaking his finger at John.

"Jean Luc and Elizabeth, my name is Just' and I am here to ask your permission for your son Stephan to be my page, as John is Joth's. I will take very good care of him and John will help him learn his job. That is, if he is willing to take the job." While Just' was explaining why he was there, Stephan and John were giving hugs to one of their parents.

Nothing happened until Matty strolled over to Elizabeth and began rubbing up against her leg. When that didn't get Elizabeth's attention, he began alternating Meows with Purrs. Suddenly without realizing what she was doing, Elizabeth detached herself from Stephan's hug and reached down and picked Matty up.

"Elizabeth, meet Matty, Matty meet Elizabeth. Matty is or should I say was Joth's Kat, but he seems to have adopted me now and J'ame as well. He seems to like you very much, which makes sense considering he likes John as well. That will make Stephan's job a lot easier because Matty will probably be around a lot. Jean Luc and Elizabeth, before you give me your answer, maybe we should ask Stephan if he even wants the job?" Just' had barely got the words out of his mouth before he found his arms full of a very excited youngling screaming "YES, YES!"

There was a small celebration after all the excitement had died down, Elizabeth served fruit and cheeses and juice for all. There was only one slight glitch that came up and it was quickly remedied. It seems that she and Jean Luc had an announcement of their own to make.

"We are really happy that you have decided to make Stephan your Page as Joth did for John, however, that causes a slight problem."

"How does that cause a problem?" Both Just' and John asked.

"Well, it is because we are going to have another baby in a few months and we were planning on having Stephan help care for it." Elizabeth replied somewhat slowly.

"I don't see that being a problem at all. My husband has had plenty of experience with babies and children, since he helped Rebekah with Jonah. Plus Stephan and John aren't that far away most of the time. You could always send the baby up to the castle for us to watch if necessary." Just' told Elizabeth as he walked over and gave her a hug; after handing Stephan over to J'ame.

"Congratulations to the Lansing family on their upcoming addition!" Just' announced as he raised his glass of juice in a toast.

Soon the room was echoing with congratulation by all.

"Folks, I would love to stay longer and get to know everyone better, but we need to get back to the castle and ask the King and Queen for permission to have Stephan as my page. I am not going to do the same thing as my dolt of a husband did. If it wasn't for Gus, I don't know if Joth would have survived childhood. Before we forget, John has your official invitations to the ceremonies tomorrow night. Joth and I are really looking forward to seeing you there." Just' then gave Jean Luc and Elizabeth a hug and got ready to leave; but then he remembered something.

"Stephan, please go and get a few changes of clothes to tide you over until we can have your new uniforms and clothing made. Don't worry about tomorrow night, Lance's Page, Thomaso, is almost your same size, according to your brother. Mistress Anne is busy taking care of your clothes for the ceremonies. So hurry up and get your clothes as we do need to get back soon."

"Okaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyy..." Was all everyone heard as Stephan grabbed John and headed off to their room.

Just' nodded to Corporal Logi to go and help the boys. It wasn't much more than a few minutes later that everyone had finished all their good byes and the entourage was headed back to the castle.

Schwan Castle

A visualization of Castle Highmont.

If Just' had only known what a whirlwind he was headed for, he would have stayed at the Lansings. It seems that somehow the messenger sent to tell him of the visitors had gotten lost. His son, Jonah, the Seneschal and the Master of Pages had been pressed into duty as a Welcoming Committee.

Unfortunately for Just' and his entourage, there was a page stationed at the private entrance. It seems that someone had explained to the page how to address Just', well sort of.

"Just', Sir..."

His eyes rolling up in dismay, he only shook his head and answered before Phillip could finish his statement. 'I may never get used to this royalty stuff, luckily Joth is worth it.'

"Your presence is requested at the main entrance along with John and Captain Ranulf as well. Prince J'ame your father has requested your presence there as well; and before you bite my head off, we are completely in private. None of the castle staff will call you Prince whenever there are outsiders around. However, all of us like you and will show you proper respect when we can." With that, Phillip bowed toward both Just' and J'ame and then turned and was gone before they could respond.

Quickly taking command, Just' announced,

"Okay everyone, listen up; we are all going to head to our quarters and change into our Court Dress and we will meet outside the Prince's quarters in ten minutes exactly. John, you can take Stephan to Thomaso's quarters and see what you can find for him to wear. I know you won't know what to do, Stephan, but..." Just' stopped speaking as he went perfectly still and his eyes took on a faraway look.

'Just' you are right; Stephan will be needed to make a point. Don't worry about him not knowing what to do, John and Jonah will be there to help. And if you will explain things to him properly, unlike your Soul Mate did, my friends and I will help him as well.'

'Thanks, Gus.'

"Okay, sorry about that, Gus had a few words to say to me." Just' then knelt down so he could easily look Stephan in the eye.

"Stephan, I know that you are aware of the fact that Joth can talk to his dragon Gustavo and as you just heard, so can I. What you may not know is that Gus can also speak to your brother, and that John can also speak to him, in a fashion. Now what I want you to do is completely relax, and then think 'Hello Gus'. Do you think you can do that?

A surprised Stephan nodded his head yes and in a few seconds, his eyes predictably glazed over. [You thought I was going to say predictably disappeared, didn’t you?]{No, because then you would have owed royalties.}

"Yes, Gus, I think I can do that, and thanks." Stephan, just like his brother spoke out loud while conversing with Gus. He then went over to Just' and gave him a big hug and a kiss.

"That was from Gus, and he says thank you as well. He also told me that it is a secret that John and he and now I can talk to each other. He made me promise not to tell anyone, and I won't.

"Okay, folks, we need to get moving so we can go and do our duty at the main entrance, whatever that duty is." Just' said as he stood up and everyone then headed to their appropriate quarters.


Meanwhile back at Palmetto Outpost:

After seeing Margè and her escort off, Andreu and Arli mounted their respective mounts and headed back to Andreu's village. Since Arli had brought a lot more things with him than Andreu and Margè had planned for, the poor mule was loaded to the gills. The mule proved the fact about the capriciousness of its species by being happy loaded so heavily.

The trip home began fairly well as Arli and Andreu became better acquainted. Everything was going smoothly until Sammy decided it was time to make Arli's acquaintance in the flesh, instead of just in the mind. Without any warning at all, Sammy leapt from an overhanging branch onto Arli's saddle. Scared out of his wits Arli nearly jumped off the horse, but was able to catch himself just barely. The horse hadn't moved a whisker as Sammy had warned it in advance.

"SammMMMMMMMY, what do you think you are doing? You could have scared the horse to death and killed Arli in the process. You know that Margè would be very unhappy with you if anything happened to her nephew! I am sorry about him, Arli; are you alright? He has a mind of his own, sometimes. Oh and Arli, meet Sammy, Sammy meet Arli."

Arli was unable to respond to Andreu for several moments as the proverbial Kat had gotten his tongue. [Sorry folks, it was just too good to pass up ;)] When he was able to speak he stuttered slightly.

"Ahh...it...is a plea...sure to me…eeet you, Sammmy." Arli paused a bit to regain his equilibrium.

"It is nice to put a face to the voice from my head. Andreu, I believe I will be alright in a few weeks."

At Arli's last comment, Sammy just looked up at him and purred.

'I like him, we will keep him.' With that, Sammy curled up and went to sleep on the saddle in only the way that Kat's can.

"I am very sorry about him, Arli; sometimes he can be very willful. However, he is a wonderful friend and protector. Now, tell me more about Gustavo, I haven't had the pleasure of meeting him, as of yet." Andreu tried to change the subject away from his Kat, to calm his new friend down.

"Well, to tell you the truth, I am not sure that I would call what happened a pleasure..."

Once he got started talking, he never seemed to stop as the three friends made their way up the beaten path to their home, a new home for Arli.

On The Beaten Path JPG

The Beaten Path

By the time the three of them had reached the village, they were fast friends.


Meanwhile at Dragonsholme:

Margè and her entourage finally arrived at Dragonsholme. She was amazed at her welcome, for it seemed that everyone who lived or worked at or in the castle was there to meet her. Her entourage was quickly swarmed by pages and other servants and before the greetings had even commenced, the dragons had been completely unloaded and taken away to the Weyr. All of Margè's clothing and supplies had either been taken to her room or to the Herbarium as appropriate.

The Châtelaine gave a short bow to Margè and Ranulf and then introduced herself and her staff. Once that was done, Ranulf went to check on his men and their dragons. The Châtelaine then gave Margè the royal tour. Margè was very impressed with Dragonsholme and its environs. She was duly impressed as well with the Châtelaine and her staff. She was curious as to why the castle had a Châtelaine instead of a Castellan, later she would find out that, that was just the way things had always been done.

Things began to get a little interesting when the tour arrived at the bathing and swimming facilities. Upon hearing from the Châtelaine that they were unable to get the water running, Margè asked a simple question.

"Did you trying saying 'Water On'?"

Her question was answered by a sudden outpouring of water from various spouts and faucets; and the cheers from the castle staff. That wasn't the only surprise of the afternoon, though; Margè was left standing speechless when she was shown her quarters. Her quarters were in the Royal Family's Wing and she had a suite of rooms including one for her servant. If she thought her rooms were awesome she was still amazed when she saw her Herbarium and the Still room that she was to share. Both rooms were located near the Solar and had plenty of light, heating and even running water. This was a totally amazing castle.

The Cook came in and announced that she was serving a late lunch for those who had just arrived. Margè had found out during the tour that the Village Healer had a daughter who had been helping with the planting. She then asked if the daughter would join her for lunch, so they could plan out how to accomplish everything that needed to be accomplished.

"How about we do this......"


Several days earlier back at Castle Highmont:

Ranulf was busy running some of his new guards through some hand to hand drills when a page he didn't know arrived and was directed to Ranulf.

"Captain Ranulf, your presence is required by Dragoneer Jeffords and Thomaso at the Royal Dragon Weyr, immediately." The young page announced in his shrill voice that had yet to settle into a deeper timbre.

"Tell them I will be right there." Ranulf then immediately turned and barked orders to his men to continue their drills until he returned.

'This request confuses me, Dragoneer Jeffords ordering my presence I can understand, but the Page Thomaso? That makes absolutely no sense at all. Oh well, I guess I will find out when I get there.' Ranulf then headed off in the same direction that the Page had gone.

When Ranulf arrived at the Weyr of the Royal Dragon Guards, he was very surprised that there was no one there to meet him. Then he remembered that the message said The Royal Dragon Weyr. Muttering to himself, he quickly headed to the correct Weyr. 'I hope nothing is wrong with Gustavo.' He thought, as hurried on his way.

When he arrived at the correct location, he was relieved because Dragoneer Jeffords was waiting for him, no sign of Thomaso, though. Dragoneer Jeffords didn't look upset, so Ranulf figured whatever he was there for couldn't be too serious. As he was to find out, he was mistaken, boy was he mistaken.

"Ranulf, sorry to bother you as I know you are very busy, but in this matter I had no choice. Please follow me as there is someone who wants to meet you."

"Yes, Sir, whatever you say, Sir." Ranulf then followed the Dragoneer into the Royal Dragon Weyr, still confused. 'Where is Thomaso? I thought he wanted me here as well.'

Dragoneer Jeffords was striding at a very quick pace heading deep into the weyr and getting near to Gustavo's Weyr. Ranulf could hear Jonah's giggles and squeals which caused him to relax a bit. 'Nothing must be wrong with Gustavo if Jonah is playing with him'. Ranulf had to hurry his pace a bit as he had slowed down while thinking.

"In here, Captain, if you would, please." Without waiting for an answer, Dragoneer Jeffords turned and headed inside the weyr two down from Gustavo's.

By the time that Ranulf had caught up with the Dragoneer, he was standing about half way into the weyr, waiting for Ranulf.

"This is as far as I can go; the one who wants to meet you is just around the corner. Have fun." With that, Jeffords was gone.

Mystified, Ranulf had no choice but to follow his instructions. He headed toward the corner and turned it and there, before his eyes, was a dragon he had never seen before. The dragon was colored in glorious shades of green with Forest Green predominating; with eyes of yellow flecked with gold. The eyes snared all of Ranulf's attention and he never noticed that the dragon had very similar markings as Gustavo, only in burgundies and blues.

As Ranulf stood there mesmerized, a strange voice rang out in his head.

'Hello, Ranulf, my name is Thomaso, and you are my rider.'

Dragon GifAuthor's Notes:

Well, almost Twelve Thousand words later and we have the long awaited Chapter Twelve. I semi apologize for not getting to the Coronation Scene, but I still can't wrap my head around it.

There is still a lot more to come in this story and in the connected stories as well. I also want to thank those of you who have written to me, 'Goos' or Jonah. All of your comments are greatly appreciated. Big hugs out to Ian, Chris and George for your extensive comments; they let me know how well I am getting my messages across.

Sorry, Str8mayb, I just' couldn't come up with twelve or thirteen cliff hangers. I did resolve one or two in this chapter, though. ;)

I am off to continue work on Potters Village Chapter Four and then hopefully more of A Tale of Mantasia.

Til we fly again,

The Story Lover

Dragon GifMid Atlantic Editor's Notes:

Very interesting. I just' can't figure why he apologized to me for cliff hangers. Jeez(c)! So, another chapter passes without the MUCH awaited coronation. Now if we can have two Kats and a new Dragon, why not a coronation? Neal and the other guys are not happy!

Str8mayb

Dragon GifMid West Editor's Notes:

Thank you very much, TSL, for another Exciting chapter in this wonderful story.

For a few moments I thought I might have been reading Kurt Vonnegut, what with all the scene changes, back and forth.

It was nice to get to see the original scene where John became Joth's page.

I think this chapter did move things along very nicely. I was very glad to see more of Andreu. I know you realize how fond I am of him.

Dear Readers,

I know there is, indeed, much more to come, and I, for one, can hardly wait for more, but I know how much work goes into writing stories of such a complex nature as this one is.

Please write a note to TSL and let him know how much you like the story. Perhaps that will give him some more motivation to continue this marvelous story.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher

Comments greatly appreciated at The Story Lover