Disclaimers ~ These characters belong to me. If they have a passing resemblance to you or share your name, it's purely coincidental.
Bad language ~ Nothing I deem bad, but...let's say yes, scattered here and there.
Love/sex ~ Ongoing relationships between women. Love scenes between m/f & f/f. If none of this is your cup of tea or it offends you, you're in the wrong place.
Violence ~ Loads! The warriors are at war so....
Copyright © June 2008
Arcadia shot up into a sitting position in bed, green eyes wide as her stomach rebelled. Jumping up, the Princess grabbed the empty chamber pot and retched heavily. Coughing at the nasty taste once she was done, she felt terrible as she sat on the edge of her bed. By the Gods! It must be all that sun I am currently getting! Gagging, she brought the chamber pot up and clutched her stomach as she retched again.
Val Plummer entered not too long after the blonde had just managed to fall back to sleep. The Princess was curled up, hands clutching at her stomach. The maid smiled, not knowing that anything was wrong, but knowing the Princess was not an early riser. "Princess Arcadia, 'tis the morning."
"Go away, Val," the blonde groaned.
"Princess, you have to get up now if you wish to have breakfast before you leave for the farming community."
Arcadia peeked out of one eye. "I feel terrible, Val. I think the sun has got to me after a week of working in the fields. I woke earlier to throw up all the contents in my stomach!"
Val blinked in surprise at this news, then looked at the Princess in concern. "You know, you don't look all that good, Princess! Perhaps I should call for the shaman?"
Arcadia sighed and sat up reluctantly, taking a couple of deep breaths as her stomach flip-flopped. "No, 'tis alright. I believe I shall be fine once I have eaten something."
The maid hurried over to the bed and grasped one of the blonde's arms as Arcadia got to her feet unsteadily. "I don't know, Princess. Perhaps you shouldn't go and help with the harvest today. I am sure they will understand if we send word."
"I will go. I must," the blonde said adamantly. "I am set to marry Rayna and her family are farmers. If anything, I wish to be there for them."
Reluctantly, Val stood back as Arcadia dressed in a pair of trousers she had borrowed from her cousin and a shirt from Keera. Looking a little less green, Arcadia smiled at her frowning maid and made her way out of her bedchamber and downstairs to dine with her family.
"Ah, sweet pea," Mina greeted with a warm smile. "How goes the harvesting?"
Arcadia kissed her blonde-haired grandmother and her greying redheaded grandmother, who were sitting next to each other, as always, before taking her own seat. "I spotted a couple more grey hairs!" she teased, earning mock scowls from both women. Chuckling, she blew the two a kiss. "The harvest is going well, I think. We are all working well together." The Princess placed her napkin on her lap daintily and smiled. "The lemons, strawberries, olives, corn and tomatoes have all been picked. The last couple of days the women have started gathering the blackberries, but there are so many! And I was helping with the cucumbers."
"Sounds like you are working hard," Aaronia commented, smiling proudly.
Athena and Dionis walked in, both looking a little flustered. "Good morning everyone," the Queen said, more energetically than usual.
Aaronia and Mina shared a knowing look, before greeting the Royal couple.
Dionis smiled as she cupped her daughter's chin in one hand. "My love, you have caught the sun this passed week. You are a beautiful soft bronze colour."
Arcadia smiled happily. "I know, isn't it wonderful! For once I haven't burned and gone red!"
Athena frowned. "Make sure you take a break often, darling. Have a drink and stay in the shade."
The Princess nodded as the serving staff started bringing out the breakfast food. Still feeling a little queasy, she opted for a couple of slices of salted bread with a glass of goat's milk to wash it down. She happily chewed on her bread, finding it seemed to settle her stomach. It was only when she started to drink her milk that her stomach rebelled again. "Excuse me," she gasped, standing up and rushing from the room with a hand over her mouth.
The Royal family watched her run off, all concerned. The Queen sat back in her chair, a deep frown on her brow. "I wonder if she is spending too long in the sun?" she pondered aloud.
Mina nodded. "It wouldn't surprise me. She was just telling us what the women have been gathering and it sounds like they are very busy."
Sighing, knowing how stubborn her only child was, the Queen leaned forward and picked up a slice of cheese. "Surely they are almost done? Then she will be back here fretting over Rayna again."
"The summer harvest takes many weeks, darling," Aaronia said. "What with different things hitting their peaks at different times. Perhaps you should wander down and see how things are progressing?"
Athena shook her head. "I can't. I was going to the first couple of days, but I was busy with some duties. If I turn up now, Arcadia will only think that I am checking up on her."
"Perhaps you can send word to your sister," Mina suggested. "Invite her and her family up to the Palace and we can slip the question into friendly conversation."
"You know, if you wanted to see Rosana you could always go and see her," Athena said smiling.
"But then she'll think I'm checking up on her," Mina pouted. "You're the Queen, she can't argue with the Queen."
Athena laughed. "I'll send word to her, mummy. I shall see to it after breakfast."
* * * * *
Arcadia walked slowly along with Leslie, each holding a wicker basket, both girls having been assigned to picking blackberries for the day. They were both wearing trousers, despite the heat of the day, and old shirts that were made for days like the harvest. Neither one worried if they got dirty.
"I was woken this morning by my stomach," Arcadia informed her cousin. "I was so sick, I thought I was to die!"
Leslie blinked at her blonde-haired cousin. "I had that last week and this week, I thought it was my fretting over Keera being gone."
"Oh. I thought perhaps it was to do with standing in the sun so long."
The redhead nodded thoughtfully. "That could be it. We were both out here, which would explain both of us getting sick." They stopped at a bush bursting with delicious little blackberries. "Are you missing Rayna terribly?"
Arcadia nodded. "Whenever I stop, pause, or sit with nothing to do, I remember that she is gone and...it makes my chest ache!"
Leslie nodded in agreement. "'Tis crazy, isn't it? They haven't even reached their destination yet!"
"I know! Another week yet, I think."
"I wonder how they are coping with being trapped on the ship?"
Arcadia popped a particularly ripe berry into her mouth and smiled. "I doubt they are!" Both girls giggled. "How was married life for the short time you had together? Is Keera everything you ever dreamed?"
Leslie felt her cheeks redden. "Everything and more, cousin!" the redhead said dreamily. "Not only is Keera a sweet, kind-hearted woman, she is also an amazing lover." Leslie laughed in delight as Arcadia blushed.
"Hello, ladies," Lexie Sheehan called out in greeting from behind the pair.
Arcadia sighed in annoyance. Having been successful in avoiding the obnoxious brunette for a whole week, she was disappointed the girl had found her. "Hello, Lexie," she greeted politely.
The brunette smiled and held up her basket for them to see. "It seems we have all been selected for berry duty. Do you mind if I join you?"
"Well actually..." Arcadia started, before pulling a face. "Excuse me, I need a toilet break." She hurried off, before anyone could comment.
Leslie frowned as she looked at Lexie, the brunette wearing a love sick look as she watched the Princess rushing away. "She loves Rayna, you know."
Reminded that she wasn't alone, the future adviser to Arcadia turned her attention to the Princess' cousin. "By the Gods! Your skin is bad!" she exclaimed.
"It's a heat rash!" the redhead snapped angrily.
Lexie smirked. "If you say so."
"Arcadia will never be with you, Lexie. She loves Rayna dearly. You don't have a chance in Hades!" With that said, Leslie turned around to continue with her job. Lexie left her alone until Arcadia returned, then the brunette followed after them, no matter what they said or did to try to make her leave.
"Mother was telling me you have been attending all the senate meetings," Lexie commented. "She thinks perhaps I should join her more often, seeing how under your reign we will be working...closely...together. Though she doesn't think we will be going to war again any time soon."
Leslie paused as she dropped a handful of berries into her basket. "She can't know that. No one can know what others might try. All it takes is a whisper of riches and they will all come running."
Arcadia shook her head in disagreement. "That is why we have gone to war, to try and dissuade others from attacking the island. Mama believes it will make them stop and wonder if it's worth it after seeing how we reacted this time."
"There will always be someone out there who will think they have what it takes, that they will be the one to succeed. Being power hungry is the worst thing. They don't care who they hurt to get what they want!" Leslie picked up her half full basket as her eyes watered and headed back towards the cart where the gathered berries were being collected.
Lexie blinked in surprise. "Is she all right?" she asked the Princess.
"I think she misses Keera terribly." Arcadia sighed, thoughts of Rayna making her feel more than a little sad. "That and the damn sun is frying us alive!" The blonde picked up her basket, intent on taking it back to the cart and taking a water break.
Lexie followed after her. "What are your plans for after the harvest?" she asked. "Perhaps we could get together and, you know, hang out."
Arcadia sighed and stopped walking to look at the brunette. "I don't think that's a good idea, Lexie."
"Well, you like me. You've mentioned time and again that you think we would make a good couple." Arcadia put up a hand to stop the girl from speaking as her mouth opened. "I am betrothed to Rayna. I love her dearly and always will. I just don't think it would be right to hang out with you." I know for certain that Rayna wouldn't like it. Smiling sympathetically, the blonde started walking again, leaving Lexie behind.
* * * * *
Seated alone beneath an old oak tree, Arcadia sat reading her ancestor Agnes' diary, while picking at her lunch of lettuce, tomatoes, cut up slices of cheese, and a few slices of cold meats. She had first tried eating fish, but her stomach had rolled in a bad way, convincing her it was a bad idea.
Eros has gone! Returned to Britannia and back to his life. I feel...empty inside. Like a piece of me is missing! What makes it worse is I don't even know when I shall see him again!"
The Princess sighed. I know exactly how you feel great grandmother!
"Our last eve together, we tried to pretend everything would work out, but how can it? We are so far apart! And I am to be Queen! I fear we shall never meet again and that...that breaks my heart!"
A week has passed and still I cannot shake my gloomy mood. I barely eat at dinner and instead of having company, I prefer to sit up in my chambers alone.
I find myself wondering if Eros misses me. I wonder if perhaps he has a girl back home in Britannia that he neglected to mention? I never thought to ask at the time!
Mother, I have taken to calling her that, now that I am a woman - much to her displeasure - noticed my depressed state and asked me what was wrong tonight. I had no answer. I couldn't exactly tell her that I was pining for a man I had stumbled across in the forest. A man who I...joined with many times like an animal in heat. In the end, I told her my monthly courses were due and it must be that. She seemed to accept that and let me be."
This evening I went on date. Her name is Ceres Fisher and she is most interesting. She informed me that her great grandmother Marta was on the first ship with great grandmother Ailis and abuela Callena! She told me stories that she had heard of the early struggles the family had trying to get the farms built and the animals mating to produce food for everyone.
I had a really nice time with Ceres, but still I pine for Eros, even though it has now been a whole moon since he left. I fret so much so that I have made myself sick! The past two morns, I have woken and thrown up after restless nights of trying to sleep. I find myself wondering if I ever meant anything to him, if perhaps he used me, if he has married or is married, and when I might, if ever, see him again.
I sat down the other day to write to him, only to discover he never actually gave me anywhere to send it to. I know he is in Britannia, but he told me there are many scattered villages, so I could never actually find him anyway! I suppose I could ask someone in his family, but surely that will look very strange and arise suspicion.
Why hasn't he written to me? He knows where I am.
Ugh, I have upset myself - my stomach feels unsettled again. I think I will go and lay down for awhile."
"Princess Arcadia," Mariah called out gently, so as not to startle the Princess. "How are you?"
Arcadia smiled up at Rayna's raven-haired mother. "I am well, thank you. Yourself? And your family?"
Mariah smiled, touched that the blonde had asked. "We are well, missing Rayna, which I am sure you are too."
"Very much so."
The raven-haired woman sat down. "I was talking to my wife, Nyx, the other night," Mariah said conversationally. "If you are interested, we would like very much to have you and your family over for dinner."
Arcadia blinked in surprise even as a delighted smile spread across her lips. "That sounds wonderful! Thank you very much for thinking of us."
Mariah smiled. "Well, we are to be family, so..." The older woman looked out across the berry fields. "You are picking blackberries today?"
"Yes, I am enjoying it, not just today, but all of it. I think perhaps I will volunteer every year."
"I think that would make Rayna very happy." Mariah sighed. "I know it bothers her slightly that we are farmers and that you are of Royal blood."
Arcadia frowned. "I don't care where Rayna comes from. I love her dearly and you have a wonderful home and life. That is nothing to be ashamed of."
"Perhaps you could mention that to Rayna, I am sure it will make her feel better."
The Princess smiled. "Will you be writing to her soon? The ship will be back before we know it."
Mariah nodded as she waved at a couple of women passing by. "I will be, yes. And my sons as well." She looked at the blonde. "You did know Rayna had brothers?"
Arcadia frowned, trying to remember back to her childhood with Rayna. "No...I don't think I knew. Perhaps she told me years ago. Tell me all about them," the blonde smiled, eager to hear about her love's family.
"Well, they are twins," Mariah started, chuckling as the Princess' light green eyes widened. "Named Benedict and Brutus. Benedict is the more adult one of the pair. He is married to a young girl two winters older than yourself and they have two young sons of their own." Mariah smiled proudly. "Brutus...well, he is another matter. When he was here as a boy, I had to always keep him and Rayna apart. Together, they were forever finding trouble!" she laughed. "I think he hasn't changed a bit. He rarely writes, but Benedict does, and he keeps me informed with his brother's life."
"He is well?" Arcadia asked.
"More than well. He enjoys his life as a fighter, never afraid to go into battle. I think perhaps that is where Rayna gets it from. I always used to wonder when they were growing up, if perhaps Brutus and Rayna should have been the twins, they are so alike!" Mariah stood up, groaning as her knees popped. "I have kept you long enough, Princess. I must let you finish your lunch, while I get back to work."
Arcadia smiled warmly. "I have enjoyed your company, Mrs. Banks. Thank you for joining me."
"Oh, please, call me Mariah, we are almost family."
"Then you must call me Arcadia."
Laughing, Mariah nodded her head in acceptance. "Very well, Arcadia."
The Princess stood up as well, no longer hungry anyway. "I will mention dinner to my mothers. I am sure they will send someone to you with an invitation."
"That sounds wonderful. See you soon, Arcadia."
Arcadia watched her love's mother walk away, before bending to pick up her plate of uneaten food and hurrying off to find her cousin.
* * * * *
That evening, the Princess joined her family for the evening meal, filling them all in on what she had done that day, as she hungrily ate her salad, much to the amusement of the other Royals. "I got to work with cousin Leslie," the blonde said, between mouthfuls. "We were discussing...you know, this and that."
Aaronia, Mina and Athena smiled knowingly, while Dionis scowled, not sure she wanted to guess what they were discussing.
"Anyway," Arcadia continued. "Lexie Sheehan appeared and wanted to tag along! Which she did, despite Leslie and I hinting heavily that we wished to be alone."
Dionis snorted, clearing her throat when her wife scowled at her.
"Then, when Leslie went off to empty her basket, Lexie asked if perhaps we could hang out!" Arcadia exclaimed in disbelief. "Can you believe that! The girl is obsessed with me and pursued me relentlessly before my betrothal, then wonders why I tell her it's not a good idea." Arcadia pushed her plate back, having finished two helpings of salad food. "On my lunch break, I got talking to Mariah Banks and she suggested we go to her farm and dine with her family. I told her they would be quite welcome to come here also."
Athena smiled in delight. "What a wonderful idea, love. I shall check my schedule to see when would be a good time to invite them."
"Might I suggest we do it before the ship comes back," Dionis said, setting down her fork. "We don't know what the crew may bring back with them," she softly hinted.
Catching her wife's meaning, the Queen covered Dionis' larger hand with her own. "Good thinking, my love. I shall see what I can do."
The serving girls started bringing out the next course, a dish of raw oysters, to be enjoyed with a fine wine. Arcadia looked down at her plate as it was set in front of her and felt her stomach turn at the smell and what greeted her. "Oh, Gods!" she mumbled, covering her mouth with a hand and flying out of her seat to hurry off to the chamber pot.
"What on earth is wrong with her?" Dionis frowned, delicately picking up a shell.
Athena turned from watching the doorway her daughter had ran out of and smiled. "I am sure 'tis nothing, perhaps it was her busy day," she suggested.
Feeling incredibly nauseous, Arcadia excused herself from the rest of the meal and retreated to her bedchamber, intent on getting into bed and relaxing until it was time to sleep.
Changed into her nightgown, Arcadia settled down comfortably and opened Agnes' diary, removing the feather she had placed inside to keep her place.
Mother is furious with me! Even more so with Eros! I...I am with child!
I shouldn't really be surprised. The amount of times we...well, I can see how and why I am.
That sickness I had started worrying me, so I went to speak with the shaman. After reading what happened to grandmother Abi, I was worried I might...die also. She examined me and asked me many questions. I told her everything, from meeting Eros, to his leaving and my fretting over never seeing him again. After some uncomfortable prodding and even more embarrassing questions that made me blush furiously, she sent me home with a small bag of herbs. She told me they would settle my stomach for the time being.
The next thing I know, I was summoned downstairs by my parents. I went downstairs to the grand living room and found both my mothers seated together on one of the soft seats and the shaman seated opposite them.
Mother started shouting right away! Yelling things like - how could I be so stupid, how I wasn't married, how I didn't even know who he really was. I got very scared. Mother has never raised her voice at me before.
Mama stood up and walked over to where I was standing in place, shocked. She was so calm, it was scarier than mother's anger. Mama took my hand and looked into my eyes, and I saw the sadness in her own. "Do you care for him?" she asked softly. And I realised that if anyone was to understand, it would be mama.
I nodded, tears suddenly burning my eyes. "Very much," I whispered.
"You do realise you made a very silly mistake?"
She smiled sadly and sighed. "We have summoned his family, then he will be sent for. We shall keep our fingers crossed in hope that he hasn't married some other girl. You shall be married," she said, in her Queen tones. I couldn't help but smile, the thought of seeing Eros again and being married to him, his child growing within me. "Then you shall return to wherever it is that he lives. Only your first born daughter is to return to take your place as Queen."
My eyes widened in shock. I wasn't to be Queen? I had to leave my home? The home I had always known! "I..." I looked to my now silent mother, but she wouldn't meet my eyes, then back at my mama, the Queen.
"Agnes, you have got yourself into an impossible situation. Men are not allowed on the island, you know that. You have joined with him out of wedlock and are now with child. A bastard child, until you marry."
"But...but I am the next in line! Your only child!" I uttered in disbelief, not quite believing what was happening.
"You gave up that right when you let him fill you with his seed!" Mother yelled, glaring angrily at me. "There cannot be a male on this island, especially not one helping to rule over the Belleza women!" I watched as mama walked across to my upset mother and took her hand. I had never seen them be affectionate with each other. I could only stare wide-eyed, as I realised just how serious this was."You must marry him," mother continued. "Otherwise the child is illegitimate and cannot rule!"
"But..." I shook my head, realising for the first time what a grave mistake I had truly made. "Who would rule?" I asked quietly.
"It would fall to my sister, your aunt Belicia and her children," mama said.
They sent me to my room after that, telling me to keep a low profile until Eros's arrival."
Arcadia blinked in surprise. Wow, they really laid into her! She placed the feather back into the diary and placed the book on the table next to her bed. Blowing out the candle she had been using, the Princess lay in the dark, quietly staring up at the ceiling. Obviously Agnes married Eros. Grandmother has spoken of her father. I wonder if great grandmother Agnes ever came back to the island? How old was grandmother when she came to Belleza? How old was she when she became Queen? Weary, the blonde's eyelids grew heavy and started to droop. I know great grandmother Agnes had six children, so surely they were happy together. I wonder if Rayna and I will be that happy together? Arcadia smiled in the dark. I am sure we will be, we love each other dearly. The Princess rolled over onto her side. I wonder how big a family Rayna wants? I wonder if Rayna will always be a warrior? I...should sleep. With a soft sigh, the blonde was quickly asleep.
* * * * *
"Arca..." Athena stopped in surprise as she walked into her daughter's bedchamber to find her daughter bent over the chamber pot retching heavily. "Oh, my darling!" The worried Queen hurried over to the blonde and placed a gentle hand on the small of her back, rubbing soothingly, whilst grasping her loose hair with the other to keep it out of the way.
"I'm fine, mummy," the Princess gasped out, once she had finished. "It is just all the sun I have been getting." She sat down on the side of her bed, an arm wrapped around her mid-section, knowing it wasn't the last time she would be hurrying to the chamber pot.
I'm not so sure of that, my love! Athena thought as she took a seat next to her daughter. "Are you sure, Arcadia? You haven't been eating properly, picking here and there or rushing off to the chamber pot."
"I am sure. Cousin Leslie told me she has been suffering the same. Now that my help is no longer required at the harvest, I am sure I will soon be back to normal."
Athena smiled in acceptance, though still concerned. "Oh, that reminds me. Your cousin is here wanting to see you. Perhaps I should ask her to come back tomorrow or some other time?"
"No." Arcadia jumped up. "I am fine, mummy. Don't worry so."
Athena stood and kissed her daughter's tanned cheek. "I will always worry so. You are and will always be my baby."
Arcadia hugged her mother. "I love you too, mummy. I must get cleaned up. See you later."
Chuckling, the Queen watched her daughter rush from the room, shaking her head at her only child. Sighing, she sat back down on the edge of the bed, taking time to glance around her daughter's room. Throwing up, rushing to the chamber pot, eating a lot or barely anything...Athena frowned. That sounds so familiar? She gasped. By the Gods! That night I...heard...they...they joined! Green eyes widened and she stood on shaky legs. But surely they were just sharing themselves with each other? The only way Arcadia could possibly be....The shaman! The Queen frowned. The shaman would have had to have given them....Oh, Arcadia! Tell me you haven't!
Arcadia took Leslie out into the Palace gardens, a beautiful place filled with a variety of trees and flowers, not all native to the island. The Queen had many brought back from distant lands and made a paradise for her family to enjoy. The two girls walked amongst the blooming flowers, the air heavy with the aromas. They chatted amicably, catching up after a week apart.
"You seem in a particularly good mood this morn, cousin Leslie," Arcadia said smiling.
Leslie smiled brightly and nodded. "I am in a good mood, cousin! Right now, though my wife is off somewhere else, all is right in my world."
"Well, good. I am glad to hear that."
Grinning, Leslie leaned in close to her blonde-haired cousin. "I am with child!" she whispered into the nearest ear.
"Really!" Arcadia exclaimed, eyes going wide in delight.
The redhead nodded. "I went to see the shaman a couple of days ago," she said. "I was worried about being so sick, though I thought nothing of it at first. I put it down to worrying about Keera, then being out in the sun. But then, as well as throwing up, I was suddenly rushing to the chamber pot a lot and I started to hunger for garlic coated in lime juice."
Arcadia's nose scrunched up in disgust. "Ewww, Leslie!"
"I know!" the redhead laughed. "Anyway, that kicked in just as we started the harvest, two weeks ago, but again I just put it down to Keera being gone and my worrying about her. Then my breasts started..." she blushed. "Getting bigger," she whispered. "Along with my waistline, and still I never once considered I could be with child! Even though we...well, you know." Leslie smiled, as her cousin blushed. "It wasn't until Valonia walked in one day and saw what I was eating. She asked me about my monthly courses and I told her they hadn't come. In fact this week will be the second month they haven't come. She gave me a knowing look and suggested I go and speak with the shaman."
"And she told you," Arcadia guessed.
Leslie nodded, wearing a big grin. "And what about you, Arcadia? Did you and Rayna...did you two...uhm..." she blushed crimson, not sure she really wanted to know. "Did you two lay together?" she blurted out finally.
Arcadia blushed again and looked away from curious green eyes. "We did," she admitted.
"Do you regret it?"
"No!" the blonde shook her head. "Never would I."
Leslie pulled the Princess into an embrace. "I am truly happy for you, cousin. I pray Rayna returns safe, along with my wife."
"Thank you. I am so happy about your news!" Arcadia replied, grinning. "And for Keera as well. Congratulations."
The redhead placed a loving hand on her abdomen. "Thank you. I can't wait until she finds out! I have written it all into a long letter I am sending her." Leslie was almost glowing with happiness. "Are you feeling better now?" she enquired. "Now that you're not spending all day in the sun?"
"I actually just finished throwing up when I was told that you were here!" The Princess frowned. By the Gods! Could I be....
"Arcadia...could you be...?" Leslie asked cautiously.
The blonde looked into her cousin's eyes, her own light green filled with apprehension. "I..." Was just thinking that! She started nibbling on her bottom lip. It is truly possible. We...joined enough times! Oh, by the Gods, I know it was what we intended, but...now that it could be, have we done the right thing? Mama is going to go mad!
"Arcadia? Arcadia, are you alright?" Leslie asked, voice filled with worry.
I can't tell cousin Leslie, not until I know for sure and have alerted my parents! "No, Leslie, of course I'm not with child!" the blonde laughed. "I have just had too much sun lately."
Leslie smiled, though she seemed a little unsure. "It was a surprise seeing you helping at the harvest. In trousers, no less!"
The Princess smiled proudly. "I had fun. It was hard work, but everyone was so friendly and helpful. And I learnt a lot and went home feeling like I had really done something worthwhile."
"You did do something worthwhile," the redhead assured her cousin. "The women haven't stopped talking about how you turned up, let alone the fact you actually worked."
"Excuse me, Your Highness," someone called out, disturbing the two girls.
Arcadia turned to look at Biana Plummer and smiled. "Yes, Biana?"
"Your mother asked that you come in for breakfast."
The Princess nodded. "Tell her we shall be right there."
The maid nodded and retreated back towards the Palace.
"You do want to join us for breakfast, don't you?" Arcadia suddenly asked, turning to look at Leslie.
"Are you kidding? I'm starving! And I can pig out because I am eating for two!" Laughing the two girls made their way back towards the Palace.
* * * * *
"Hello, Leslie," Athena greeted. "'Tis good to see you. How are you?" the Queen asked, as the redhead sat down.
"I am well, thank you." Leslie looked round the table and nodded a greeting to Aaronia, Mina and Dionis. "I am more than well in fact," she continued, wanting to share her good news. "I am with child!" she beamed.
"Oh! Congratulations, sweetheart!" Aaronia complimented, smiling brightly. "You must be so happy!"
Leslie nodded. "I am. Though I wish that Keera was here to share the good news, I am sure she will be delighted once she finds out."
Athena saw the flash of guilt cross her wife's face at the mention of the departed warrior and reached out to take her hand.
"How wonderful!" Mina smiled. "Another child to our ever growing family! Congratulations, darling."
"Thank you," Leslie blushed.
The Queen unfolded her napkin and placed it on her lap as the serving girls started bringing out the breakfast food. "You can't be that far along, Leslie? You only married shortly before they left."
Leslie nodded. "The shaman told me nine weeks, so no, I'm not too far along."
"Have you had any cravings yet?" Mina asked. "When Aaronia was expecting Ely, she had a thing for sardines with honey drizzled on top!"
Everyone chuckled, while Mina pulled a face at the thought of it.
"I have, yes. I favour garlic coated with lime juice, I just can't get enough!"
While everyone laughed at the redhead's admission, the Princess frowned. I haven't had any cravings and my body hasn't changed. Perhaps I am not with child?
"I remember when I was expecting Arcadia," Athena said. "By the Gods! The strange cravings I had!" The Queen smiled at her wife, who had suffered just as much through the pregnancy.
Dionis grinned. "I don't remember your cravings, I just remember getting the sickness!"
Athena laughed and leaned over to kiss her wife's cheek. "That's right!" She looked at Leslie. "Poor Dionis got the morning sickness! The shaman couldn't explain it! My poor love!"
"I would believe your sympathy if you weren't laughing!" Dionis pouted, before grinning and returning to her breakfast.
"Poor you," Leslie sympathized. "I can't say that has happened to me, unfortunately! I have been terribly sick, though 'tis passing now."
Dionis noticed her daughter was sitting quietly, frowning down at her food. Must be hard on her. "Any plans for today, Arcadia?" she asked, hoping to get the topic away from pregnancy and children.
The Princess looked up in surprise, startled out of her thoughts. "Sorry, mama?"
"I asked if you have any plans for the day?" Dionis repeated.
"Oh. Uhm...I haven't made any."
"Would you like to join me for a walk?" Athena spoke up. "I was planning to go and see the Banks family," she informed her daughter, grasping her wife's hand when she realised what Dionis had done.
Dionis squeezed the blonde's hand and winked at her wife, grinning broadly when the Queen blushed.
"I can do that," Arcadia replied. "When do you plan on going?"
"Oh, I don't know. Let's enjoy breakfast and young Leslie's company first."
The family continued eating breakfast and talking about this and that as they ate, catching up on news from Leslie's family and filling the redhead in on news about the Fishers and other members of the large family.
* * * * *
Arcadia lay back on her bed, her back propped up by pillows, thinking about her cousin's pregnancy. A hand covered her own abdomen, slowly rubbing left to right as she thought over all that Leslie had said. I too have missed my courses, the Princess thought. Though they could just be delayed because of worry or something, 'tis only....Green eyes widened. By the Gods! Three weeks! I am late by three weeks! She frowned. Can they be that late due to worry? Who can I ask? If I do, it will only raise suspicion!
Standing up, the blonde lifted her dress and examined her stomach, seeing nothing had changed. Still flat as always. She lowered her dress and sat down on the edge of her bed. She nibbled on her bottom lip. Perhaps a trip to the shaman would be a good idea, just in case.
Someone knocked on the closed bedroom door.
"Come in," Arcadia called out, wondering who it could be at this time in the evening.
Athena smiled as she stepped into the candle lit room. "Hello, love. How are you feeling?"
"I'm fine, mummy. Why do you ask?"
The Queen thought over her words, as she made her way across the room to sit on the edge of the bed next to her daughter. "Arcadia," she picked up one of the blonde's hands. "I..." Gods, how do I say this! "One night, a few moons back, Sarita came running into my office in a panic," she started. "She feared there was an intruder."
Arcadia gasped, eyes going wide.
"This was just after we had been attacked, and everyone was jumpy and afraid," Athena explained. "I...well, I came upstairs to check on you." No point telling her I had my suspicions. "When I got to your door, which was closed, I heard...I..." she cleared her throat as her cheeks burned crimson.
"You heard Rayna and I making love," Arcadia guessed, embarrassed and afraid.
The Queen nodded. "I did. I wasn't angry with you," she hastily added, seeing the look on her daughter's face. "In fact, I sympathized with you both. I know you wished to marry but couldn't. I figured it didn't matter because you would marry once Rayna returns." Green eyes met similar green. "But, Arcadia, I didn't realise you...you were..."
Arcadia looked away, eyes going to her unlit fireplace. "I spoke with the shaman. Both Rayna and I did. She told us it was only our traditions stopping us from marrying, and when I told her I was afraid of losing Rayna and wished for a child with her, just in case...." The Princess looked back at her mother. "We both wanted it. We love each other and we will marry. But...if anything..." Arcadia took a deep breath, hating to say the words. "If anything were to happen...I...couldn't go marry and join with someone else, not like great, great grandmother Abrona. I just...I couldn't!"
As her daughter started sobbing, Athena cradled the girl in her arms. "So there is a chance you could be with child?"
Sniffling as she sat up, Arcadia nodded. "Yes, I could be."
Nodding, the Queen smiled suddenly. "We must make time to go and see the shaman."
"I was just thinking that before you came in," Arcadia smiled weakly.
"Your mama is going to go mad!" Athena sighed. "We won't mention anything until we know for sure, okay?"
"With her temper, she is likely to swim off after poor Rayna!" The two blonde's laughed at that image. Athena stood up and bent to kiss her daughter's head. "Get some rest, my love. We'll see where we stand soon enough."
"Thank you for not being angry with me," Arcadia said in a quiet voice.
"Oh, darling! I understand, really I do." She walked over to the door. "Good night, love. See you in the morning."
"Night, mummy." The Princess watched the door close behind Athena and smiled softly. That wasn't too bad, she thought in relief. Of course, we don't actually know if I am with child or not. I guess we'll find out. Then we'll see what happens.
After changing for bed, Arcadia walked around her chambers blowing out the candles she had lit then slid beneath her thin covers. The summer weather made it too hot for anything heavier.
Blowing out the candle she had lit on the table besides her bed, the blonde lay in the sudden darkness, her hands coming to rest on her flat abdomen. I must make time to go and see the shaman tomorrow, she vowed. I am desperate for confirmation now. She remembered her last moments with Rayna down on the shore before the warriors left, her dark-haired love caressing her stomach lovingly. I am fairly sure that I am with child, but perhaps I am just hoping! She rolled over onto her side and smiled softly in the darkness. Oh, to be able to tell my love that I am with child! she thought happily, eyes closing as she started thinking of her possible future and family.
To be continued...Return to the Academy