Disclaimers ~ These characters belong to me. If they have a passing resemblance to you or share your name, it's purely coincidental.
Bad language ~ The odd word here and there.
Love/sex ~ Loving relationships between women all over the island. Sex between consenting women. If this offends you...have a sneak peek, you might enjoy it.
Sickness & death ~ There are some deaths in this story, if that's not for you, I understand completely and hope you enjoy reading something else.
Copyright © June 2009
Author's note ~ Questions, comments & thoughts all welcome. Loves_to_write_fic@yahoo.co.uk
Leaving Keera at the gates, Rayna and Leslie continued; entering the palace and making their way to the meeting room. The room where the senate members met to discuss island matters was a large, brightly lit room, with a long, beautifully carved cherry wood table sitting in the middle. A number of matching cherry wood chairs, padded for comfort, were set around the table.
Seeing her wife walk in with her cousin, Arcadia excused herself from talking with Johanna, the head of the religious community, and waved as she made her way over to the pair. "Good morn, cousin. 'Tis good to see you," she greeted the nervous looking redhead.
"Good morn, Princess Arcadia. 'Tis good to see you, too," Leslie replied politely and properly. As this was official business, Arcadia was to be addressed with her proper title, as was Athena. "If you will excuse me, Yolanda wants me."
As she watched her cousin walk over to the head of the scientists, Arcadia wrapped her arms around Rayna's waist and rested her head beneath the warrior's chin. "She looks nervous."
"I don't blame her; I know I was the first time I attended one of these meetings."
"Did our daughters get to school all right?" Arcadia looked up, smiling. "Of course they did, silly question." Reaching up, the blonde cupped the back of Rayna's neck and eased her mouth down towards her. "I missed you," she murmured before claiming soft lips.
"Even if I didn't know Ava was Rayna's daughter, I could take a guess," Savannah Reeder was saying to Athena.
Athena smiled in amusement. "What has my granddaughter been up to?"
"Nothing bad, Your Highness. Ava is a very smart girl, she just gets a little mischievous when a subject doesn't interest her."
The fair-haired Queen chuckled. "I see. And Raleigh? Is she the same?"
"Oh, no," Savannah replied, shaking her head. "They may be sisters, but they are very different. Ava is very outgoing, while Raleigh is shy and quiet. I must say, Raleigh is a very intelligent little girl; she's ahead of the rest of her class, especially in her reading and writing."
"I'm not surprised," Athena commented. "Arcadia and Rayna read with all three girls every evening, and Raleigh will often come and sit in the art room with a bit of parchment to write or draw on, while I'm in there."
"She is a lovely girl, all my teachers adore her," Savannah said, as she looked around the meeting room. Grey-green eyes came to a stop on the young Royal couple engaged in a public display of affection. "'Tis lovely to see they still act like newly-weds five years on."
Athena looked over to where Arcadia and Rayna were standing in each other's arms, lost in kissing each other, and smiled. "To be young and in love," she commented. "I better get this meeting started before they forget they have company." The Queen remembered a time just after the couple had been married; she had walked into the receiving room with a visiting ally to find the couple completely naked, making love on the Persian rug.
Pulling out her seat, Athena stood at the head of the table and cleared her throat. "Let's get this meeting started, ladies." She watched each senate member move towards their seats, Endora Fisher, the head of the farming community and wife of her younger sister Rosana; Daralis Green, the head of construction; Savannah Reeder, head of education; and Arcadia and Rayna on the left side. And on the right, Yolanda Sexton, head of the scientists; her protégé, Leslie Shepherd; Summer, the shaman's assistant and soon to be head of the newly built hospice; Johanna, new to the island but liked and respected by everyone she met, was the new head of the churches; Lexie Sheehan, and Dionis.
"Before we get down to what is on the agenda, I would like to welcome Leslie Shepherd," Athena said, smiling warmly at the nervous looking woman. The members of the senate warmly greeted Leslie, then turned their attention back to the Queen. "All right, down to business. Daralis," Athena looked along the table to the curly-haired brunette. "How is work on the hospice coming along?"
The head of construction shifted in her seat. "As you all know, the stone masons had been making good progress until...until one of the walls collapsed." Daralis cleared her throat, tight from emotion as she remembered lost friends. "We've been delayed."
"It was a tragedy," Athena said, giving Daralis time to compose herself. "Those we lost are sorely missed."
Daralis nodded. "We...lost a whole wall, which was an awful lot of stone. What we've been doing since is going through the rubble to find stones we can still use. Of course, some of it needs breaking down, or bits chipped away so it fits, and 'tis all a long process."
"So what you're saying is it's going to be a long while yet until we have a hospice," Summer said.
"Not at all, Summer. We were delayed by bad weather, then the accident; but 'tis summer now and the paste we create to hold the stones in place will set faster in the warmer weather," Daralis explained. "We should be finished by the end of the year, if not, then early next year." All the senate members smiled at this good news. "Then we shall turn our attention to building a community for the medical women to live in," Daralis finished.
"That's wonderful, we look forward to the day," Athena said. She turned her attention to her daughter. "Arcadia, you had something you wanted to bring up, though 'tis not on the agenda?"
"Yes, I...I wanted to suggest that Karita Shepherd be put back on guard duty, as I don't need a personal guard any longer."
"What?" Rayna and Dionis questioned together, eyes on the princess.
"I am married to the best warrior the island has; I hardly think I need a personal guard," Arcadia argued. "No woman would be foolish enough to attack me."
"'Tis not the women of Belleza you have to worry about!" Rayna retorted. "You do remember that attack on us from outside forces?"
"Of course I do," Arcadia snapped. "But what are the chances of it happening again? It has been five years, Rayna, and they have left us in peace."
"Even though I am married to a warrior, I still have a guard," Athena spoke up, hoping to stop the young couple from arguing.
"And besides," Arcadia continued, ignoring her mother's comment. "I rarely go anywhere without you. I am sure Karita would prefer to be doing something else."
"No!" Rayna said adamantly. "You need a guard. You heard the Queen, she still has a guard despite who she is married to."
"I agree," Dionis said, her only child's safety the important thing.
Arcadia looked to Athena. "Your Highness, I rarely go anywhere without the warrior."
"I'm not sure this is a senate issue, Arcadia, but since you have brought it up, I have to agree with my head of security," Athena said, turning her attention to the other senate members. "All those who agree the Princess needs a guard, raise your hands." All hands went up. "There, 'tis decided. You need a guard. Now," the blonde looked to Yolanda Sexton. "Yolanda, what ideas do you have to present to us?"
"Actually, Your Highness, I would like Leslie to present the latest ideas we've had, for many of them are hers."
Athena smiled as her green eyes flicked to Leslie. "Very well. Leslie, share with us your ideas."
Leslie was very easy-going, the life and soul of any gathering, friendly and quick to share a kind word; but as everyone turned to look in her direction, she felt her throat go dry and her palms begin to sweat. Gods, how I wish Keera was by my side right now! She picked up her water mug and took a quick sip, licking her lips as she set the mug back down. "The...first idea I would like to share is...the idea of stone paths," she started. "As you know, the paths we have aren't really paths at all, but trails that have been worn down by use. These are fine and serve us well, until we have rain and then 'tis a nightmare! With stone paths we wouldn't have to worry about sinking into the mud, or losing a sandal."
"I like the idea," Johanna spoke up, nodding her agreement to the idea. "Like Leslie has said, when it rains the dirt turns to goo and I don't dare wear sandals."
"I agree," Summer said. "The hill that leads up to the shaman's house is particularly bad."
"Well I disagree," Dionis said. "I think it would be a security risk." All eyes turned her way. "When the island was invaded, the one advantage we had was they couldn't find their way around. If we build stone paths, it will be like giving them a map."
"I agree with Dionis," Endora said, nodding. "When we were invaded we were very fortunate not to lose anyone. If we had paths that led them to our communities...think of the damage they could have done, our children taken as slaves, lives lost."
The room fell silent as the women each remembered the night the island had been invaded. Dionis had been captured and would have been taken if it hadn't been for Rayna rescuing her.
"I wasn't here when that happened," Johanna spoke up, after studying the mortified looks on the other women's faces. "But I have heard stories and it occurs to me we should perhaps be grateful for our simple way of life. The first settlers fled their homes to set up this simple life, knowing what the outside world was like. Should we really be trying to change their image of the island so much? Perhaps stone paths aren't the way to go, but," she looked at Yolanda, who was closest to her, "maybe you should look into better shoes for the women. Sandals and mud don't mix well, neither do the slip-on shoes we have."
Yolanda nodded. "That's an idea. I shall mention it to my women once we return to work."
All attention returned to Leslie, awaiting her next idea.
"Uhm...the other thought I had was perhaps introducing a form of currency."
"We have no use for currency," Endora said. "And what good would it be? We could only use it here on Belleza, it wouldn't be recognised anywhere else."
"I agree," Dionis said. "All metal should go towards weapons and armour anyway, we shouldn't spare any for something we have no use for." She looked around the table to see the other members nodding in agreement.
"You didn't have to be so harsh, love," Athena said, leaning over in her chair so only her wife heard her. "This is her first time and she is nervous enough as it is." With Dionis scolded, Athena sat up straight. "What else, Leslie?" she asked, offering the flustered redhead an encouraging smile.
Not sure she could take any more, Leslie folded her parchment and shook her head. "Nothing more, Your Highness." I shall have to go back and think long and hard about all my ideas. I have to try and see the pros and cons for each.
"Talking of the invasion of our home," Dionis said, getting everybody's attention. "As you know, the Romans returned to Britannia with many legions and conquered the tiny isle. In a recent letter from Cornelius, he informed me they are now building forts, and something called bath houses."
Athena looked at her wife in shock, wondering why Dionis hadn't mentioned this to her before. "Should we be worried, Dionis?" she asked quietly, fear lacing her tone.
"I'm not sure," Dionis admitted. "They seem to want to take over the world. We should be all right, they have no way of finding us. My only concern is that Egbert Sheehan was a native of our island and he turned against us. Who is to say another won't do the same?"
"I was thinking the other day about how we all have our own communities," Endora spoke up. "Except the warriors. They live with their families or partners. Should we perhaps consider building them their own community near the middle of the island?"
Dionis shook her head. "I don't think so. I like having them spread out around the island. If we are to be invaded again, would you not feel better knowing you had a warrior nearby?"
Rayna nodded. "I agree with Dionis. Putting all the warriors together wouldn't be wise, not only if we were invaded again, but could we handle all those hot-heads in one place?" she chuckled. "The island would surely be damaged!"
The women laughed, knowing how short-tempered many of the warriors were, and how stubborn.
"Back to the agenda," Athena said, breaking up the conversation and laughing around the table. "Savannah, you have a couple of subjects you want noted?"
The brunette nodded. "As Daralis mentioned earlier, the tragedy of the wall collapsing at the hospice site not only left us without friends and family, but also left us with injured women who can no longer do their chosen career," she said. "I was approached by Hilary Segerstone. As you may or may not know, she was a stone mason and was injured that day and can no longer work. She wanted to know if she could perhaps retrain to do something else. She doesn't wish to spend the rest of her days doing nothing."
Athena nodded, a thoughtful look on her face. "That's an idea to think on. I can remember a section in my ancestor Ailis' diary about a woman called Francis, who did the early building work on the island. She was injured and could work no more. Ailis didn't note what this woman did after, but it proves the point that any one of us could be injured and left no longer able to do the job we wanted. Did Hilary say what interested her?" she asked Savannah.
The head of education shook her head. "Not exactly. As she wasn't sure if it was allowed, she sort of hinted around writing about stone work; techniques, good tools to use, and such."
"That could be handy for future stone masons," Arcadia said to Savannah. "She has years of experience to share, it would be a waste not to write down her knowledge."
Athena smiled at her daughter. "I agree." She looked back to Savannah. "I shall have her sent for and have a talk with her. If it truly is something she is interested in doing, I don't see it being a problem. If her interests lie elsewhere, she may have to be retrained. What was the other thing, Savannah?"
"I was thinking that perhaps we could create a new career choice for the next generation," she said. "After looking over her options, Audrey Inman, daughter of Edie and Sherry, asked why she couldn't be a musician. She has a passion for instruments and plays many very well. I thought if we made a creative career, we could encourage girls to play music, or do art, or write poetry." Savannah smiled at the Queen. "You yourself, Your Highness, are a very talented artist."
Athena smiled and ducked her head in embarrassment. "Are you to trying to charm me into a positive decision, Savannah?" she teased.
"Not with your wife in the room, Your Highness," Savannah replied, making everyone laugh.
"I like the idea, but how resourceful is it?" Athena questioned. "We need stone masons, and warriors, and writers to note our history and lives; not musicians and artists. What happens if a whole year of children decide they want to be musicians?"
"Perhaps you could limit it to those who have a genuine talent," Summer suggested. "Like I am doing with those interested in medicine. The girls who have rhythm and really do enjoy music should be considered, those looking to get out of having a proper job will be declined."
Athena nodded. "That's an idea," she said to the redhead. Green eyes turned back to Savannah. "You must know who has a little talent and who doesn't?"
The head of education nodded. "We spare some time for the children to play around with instruments. As you know, when there is an island event, I select the best to play for everyone."
"What about these artists?" Daralis said. "'Tis not a very handy career, more like a hobby to do in their spare time."
Athena looked thoughtful. "It can be very profitable," she finally said. "I myself have purchased a few pieces when I have visited distant lands, and have been brought some amazing pieces by visitors. If they do have a talent for painting or sculpting, or writing poetry, perhaps we could look into setting up a business somewhere and selling the pieces. My brother Ely told me of a market place in Greece. They set up tables and sell their goods, like material, weapons, food. Why not have one of the boys or girls who leave, set up such a business?"
"But that is for currency," Dionis spoke up. "We have no use for currency."
"They could exchange the goods for things they do need, or use the money to buy things they need," Athena replied. "I don't know, this is all off the top of my head." She turned back to Savannah. "I will give the matter some thought and let you know." The Queen looked down at the piece of parchment in front of her. "Dionis, you had a concern to mention?"
Dionis nodded. "The wild pig numbers are up again this year," she grumbled. "Ever since the early days of our life here, when the damn creatures escaped, they have steadily been growing in numbers. We can't have them coming to the farmers' land and destroying their crops and vegetables."
"What do you suggest we do, Dionis?" Endora, the head of the farming community, asked. "That year they came and caused such destruction, they broke down the fences we had built with ease."
"I was thinking that perhaps I should organise a hunt," Dionis replied. "It would do the warriors of old and new some good I think, as well as supplying many a home with good meat."
"When would there be time?" Yolanda asked. "'Tis Princess Raleigh's birthday celebration, then the young warriors go off for their year away, and 'tis almost time for the harvest also."
"I would rather make time to deal with these beasts, than have them ruining prosperous farm land," Dionis replied. "I need not remind you that we all rely on the farmers' produce to survive. If the wild pigs eat their share, what would we do if there was a shortage? Are you prepared to starve through winter?"
"Make time, Dionis," Athena spoke up. "Even if it means sacrificing a duty to another time, we cannot have women and children going without food. I won't allow it."
Dionis nodded her understanding.
Two serving women walked into the meeting room, carrying large trays loaded down with mugs of refreshments. The youngest and newest serving girl to the palace, ten year old Joy; daughter of the warriors' staff teacher Kendall, walked in with a smaller tray holding snacks for the members.
"Let's take a break, ladies," Athena said, as the serving women laid their trays on the table and took their leave. The blonde reached out for a mug of water sweetened with honey and a couple of slices of apple.
Gossip and conversation started up as the agenda was put aside for the moment, the women relaxing and enjoying the break.
"Just to let you all know, my Kemina is expecting again," Yolanda said proudly. "Kemina and Calliope are delighted."
"Congratulations," the women toasted the head of the scientists.
"Did she only just find out?" Johanna asked.
Yolanda nodded. "With work on the barn they are building coming along nicely and the crop doing well, they decided to try for another child whilst they have spare time for the pregnancy period."
"How far along is Calliope on her work ?" Dionis asked, curiously. "I know she planted barley, but I have heard she plans to plant wheat as well."
"The fences around their property are all built now and the barley crop is growing strongly. Work has now started on the barn where she'll store her produce after the harvest, and she has started readying the set aside land for wheat," Yolanda said. "The large workhorse Calliope owns has become a father, the two mares giving birth at the beginning of spring; things are going well."
"Her family use to have a successful barley farm back in Greece, didn't they?" Endora asked.
Yolanda nodded. "That's right. They grew barley and wheat in their fields and also had bee hives which produced honey, which all picked up a more than fair price at market."
"That reminds me," Endora said, after finishing her wine. "The harvest is fast approaching. Rayna, will you be helping this year?" she asked the silent warrior.
Rayna smiled and nodded. "Yes, of course. I help every year, as does my wife and our children." She glanced at Arcadia who smiled and nodded. "Besides, if I didn't show up, my mother Mariah would never speak to me again!"
As the women finished their drinks and snacks, Athena looked down at her parchment and smiled. She looked along the table to the head of religion. "Johanna, you have something to announce? Good news I hope?"
The pale blonde-haired woman nodded. "Yes, Your Highness. The warrior Emmanuelle asked for the former Mrs. Walker's hand in marriage. Dawn said yes." She smiled as the women murmured and nodded their agreement to this news. "They are to be married at the end of the week, if there are no protests to their union."
"This is wonderful!" Athena said. "Both have suffered much, let us all hope they now go on to find happiness and solace with each other." The members of the senate all nodded in agreement. "Anything else?"
Johanna nodded. "Gia Cartman and her wife Fran are expecting their first child." Johanna smiled as the women all lifted their mugs in salute of the good news.
"Finally, I wanted to bring up the idea of a hall of learning," Athena said, looking to Daralis. "At the moment we have the historians spending their working days in one of the temples; I thought perhaps we could have a place of their own built for them, constructed to meet their needs."
The members of the senate looked from the Queen to Daralis, who looked bewildered. "I...well, 'tis an idea to ponder, Your Highness. But I must confess...my people are already stretched as it is with the building of the hospice."
"This isn't something I want done right away," Athena reassured the curly-haired brunette. "'Tis just an idea. I thought perhaps I would meet with Cass Masoun and go over some ideas, along with you Savannah," she looked to the head of education. "You can meet with the historians and then relate to us what their needs are. For example, I know they like little light on the books, for 'tis believed sunlight damages them."
Savannah nodded slowly. "'Tis a grand idea, Your Highness. The next time I have a meeting with them, I shall bring up your idea and have them draw up a list of possible ideas."
"And finally, I wanted to bring to your attention the amount of Royal celebrations there are," Athena said. "My family were discussing it this morn when my granddaughter asked why she didn't go to school for her sister's birthday, but had to for her friend's. As you know, whenever we celebrate a birthday or anniversary, the whole island takes the day off. I think we should cut down on this now, as my family is ever growing and it will soon be ridiculous."
"Your Highness, with all due respect, the women set up stalls and show off their goods," Endora said. "Bargaining goes on, goods are traded and orders are made, 'tis all work really."
"I agree with Endora, Your Highness," Savannah spoke up. "And I believe we should celebrate anniversaries and birthdays."
"Why should we celebrate every year a Royal couple stay together?" Athena argued. "Celebrating an anniversary just doesn't make sense to me. The women on this island marry and when they do, 'tis usually for the rest of their life."
"So you want to cut down on the anniversaries we celebrate?" Yolanda asked.
Athena nodded. "Maybe we could celebrate when we reach milestones, like the fifth year, the tenth, and such. That would give the women something to look forward to. 'Tis just something I wish for you to think on," the Queen said, standing up. "That's all, ladies. Until next time."
The members of the senate stood up and started leaving the meeting room, talking and arguing over the last subject. Athena sat back in her seat and glanced over at her wife. "When do you plan to have a hunt for wild pigs?" she asked.
"Perhaps while the other family members are here," Dionis suggested. "I'm sure Cornelius would enjoy it."
"During Raleigh's birthday!" the Queen exclaimed in dismay.
"No, of course not," Dionis soothed quickly. "People are set to start arriving tomorrow and they all stay for a week long visit. A day or two after Raleigh's birthday, that way the young warriors can join us before leaving for their year away."
Athena nodded. "Why did you not tell me the news on the Romans?"
Dionis exhaled heavily. "I know I should have, I'm sorry. To be honest, I didn't want to worry you over nothing. For now, they have conquered Britannia and seem content to develop the land. I shall worry if I get news they plan to head our way."
Sitting forward, the blonde Queen reached out for Dionis' hand. "Do you...think that's likely?"
"No, in all honesty. There are maybe one or two who know of our existence and we are of no importance. What would they gain from invading us? 'Tis just not worth the resources."
Athena patted her wife's hand. "I shall trust your judgement, my head of security."
Dionis smiled. "Thank you, Your Highness. Your faith in me is...comforting," she laughed. "What are your plans now, my wife?"
Athena sighed. "I have to meet with my public relations committee to go over details for Raleigh's birthday, a meeting with the shaman, and another with a disgruntled blacksmith. You?"
"I have to meet with the head of the guards to go over procedures and security for the upcoming event."
The Queen stood up. "I shall see you later you for the evening meal then."
Dionis stood as well, towering over Athena. "See you then, my wife."
* * * * *
Rayna followed Arcadia upstairs to her office, a rosewood decorated room with cherry wood panelling on the walls and soft rugs on the stone floor. The princess' office was a warm and inviting room. Behind the closed double doors, Rayna took her wife into her arms and held her close. "What were you thinking, trying to get rid of Karita, sweetheart?"
"Rayna, I'm married to you, the best warrior the island has. I rarely go anywhere without you by my side and I just don't see the point in having her following us around."
"What if something happens to me?" the warrior asked. "What if I was knocked unconscious, or they held me prisoner, like they did Dionis?"
"Enough, Rayna! I realise now I was mistaken. I just...hate being followed everywhere I go; I always have."
"I know it irks you, my love," Rayna conceded. "You like your freedom. But what would I do without you, Cadie? You are the love of my life, my soul mate, I would be devastated if I lost you."
Arcadia cupped her raven-haired wife's cheek, her thumb gently caressing the warm, smooth skin. "Now you know how I felt when you went off to war," she whispered. She pushed her fingers through Rayna's silky locks and pressed her body into Rayna's. "I believe we were interrupted this morn, my love," she murmured huskily.
Rayna smiled, recognising her wife's sultry tone. "That we were, sweetheart." She felt her body start to burn, her heart beating more rapidly, her fingertips tingling to feel Arcadia's skin. With a feral growl, she claimed the blonde's parted pink lips, her tongue slipping into Arcadia's mouth to caress her wife's waiting tongue.
As Rayna lifted her with ease, Arcadia wrapped her legs around the warrior's waist and her arms around her neck; moaning helplessly as Rayna leaned her back against the wall, effectively pinning her in place. The warrior trailed teasing kisses down her neck, as she worked a callused hand beneath the princess' skirt and shift. "Rayna! Oh, Rayna, please!" she murmured desperately.
Rayna groaned upon hearing Arcadia's heated words and opened her eyes to met Arcadia's lust-filled gaze, as her fingertips followed a familiar path up the blonde's smooth thigh. Teasing her wife, Rayna stopped her ministrations just shy of reaching the place Arcadia desperately wanted her to touch.
"Please, love. Touch me!"
Thrusting her tongue into Arcadia's mouth, Rayna caressed swollen wet folds with a gentle touch, the princess bucking and moaning aloud.
"Your Highness, you ha-..." Lexie Sheehan walked into Arcadia's office looking down at the parchment she held. Looking up, brown eyes widened as her mouth dropped open in shock. "Gods above!" She spun on her heel and fled the office, her face burning crimson.
Rayna growled in frustration. "We have obviously upset the Gods!" she muttered. Looking into Arcadia's eyes, the warrior gave her a sexy smile and leaned in to reclaim kiss-swollen lips. "Now...where were we?"
"My love, we can't," Arcadia groaned, moving her head to avoid Rayna's lips. "I have a busy day and you are late for training, Zamira will be most unpleased."
"No buts, love," Arcadia interrupted, kissing the pouting warrior. "Later." As Rayna set her down on her feet, the princess straightened her dress and made herself presentable. "Send in Lexie as you go out, love. I'm sure she hasn't gone far."
Taking Arcadia into her arms, Rayna kissed her wife's head. "I'll see you later then?"
"In time to pick up our daughters from school," Arcadia said, as she released Rayna and moved to take a seat behind her rosewood desk. "Try to stay out of trouble, Rayna," she said, as her wife opened the doors and stepped out. The princess smiled in embarrassment as her adviser walked in. "Lexie, I apologise for what you witnessed. Occasionally my wife and I get rather...amorous, and forget where we are."
"No need to apologise, Your Highness," the brunette replied, unable to meet Arcadia's eyes. "Shall we get started?"
"Yes, a good idea. Take a seat."
Lexie sat down opposite Arcadia and looked down at the parchment she held, trying to decide where to begin. "Jada Theccan would like to meet with you to discuss the upcoming celebration of Princess Raleigh's fifth birthday. She is currently meeting with the Queen."
Arcadia frowned. "All right, though what is left to discuss I'm not sure."
Lexie smiled. "Your grandmother, the Queen mother Aaronia, informed me that the closer a celebration gets, the more nervous the public relations committee gets. They fear anything going wrong, knowing that they will be blamed."
"So I should expect to see more of them in the run-up to Raleigh's birthday?"
"I get that impression, Your Highness."
Arcadia smiled. "Pencil Jada in, I shall do my best to relax her. What else?"
"As you know, 'tis now the summer. Will you and your consort be going along to the farming community for the harvesting? I need to know so an announcement can be made."
"Rayna has already told Endora we will be going," Arcadia replied. "We've participated every year since the first time I went along, and the girls always enjoy it; the time with their grandmothers, aunties, and cousins. But let us concentrate on Raleigh's birthday first." The princess sighed. "My little girl is turning five and this will be her first public celebration. I think she's prepared for it after witnessing Ava's birthday celebration, four moons ago."
Lexie nodded. "Do you wish to postpone discussion of your anniversary then?"
"Yes," Arcadia nodded. "Everything not of importance can wait."
"Very well then. Uhm..." Lexie scanned down the parchment. "You wanted an appointment with the shaman," she mentioned, looking up at the blonde. "Are you...well?"
"Send a note to the shaman and tell her an appointment is not necessary," Arcadia replied. "I had plans to try for another child, but Rayna isn't keen. I'll put that discussion aside until after summer I think, we're all going to be so busy, there is no time."
"I have to agree with your consort, Your Highness. You have only just had Lynnea."
"That's what my consort said," Arcadia grumbled.
"I'll send a message to the shaman after we finish up here," Lexie said, making a note on her parchment. "That's everything then, Your Highness. Unless there is anything you wish to bring to my attention?"
"Excellent." Arcadia said, smiling and sitting back in her seat. "No, I have nothing to add," she informed her adviser. "Actually..."
"Yes, Your Highness?"
"How is your young apprentice coming along?"
Lexie scowled. "She is young," the brunette said slowly. "I hope she grows out of the attitude she has."
Arcadia laughed. "I remember someone who used to have an arrogant attitude! She was under the impression we should marry, in fact!"
Lexie blushed. "Yes, well..."
"How are you, Lexie?" Arcadia asked, changing the subject. "Is love in the air for you?"
The adviser blushed. "I am well, Your Highness. As for...love...I have been...seeing someone."
"That's wonderful, Lexie! I am very pleased for you."
"Thank you for your kind words, Your Highness. I am...relieved someone is happy for me," Lexie confessed. "Some women are still...upset over my mother's act of treason. They don't understand that I am upset over what she did, too. The whole affair ripped apart my family; Tamara was killed, along with my brother, and rightly so. But I also lost my other mother because she left the island."
"My mother pardoned you of any blame, my wife publicly thanked you for saving my life and that of Ava, what more do they want?" Arcadia shook her head in dismay. "Your business is your own and they should be more concerned with their own than everyone else's!" The pair fell silent as memories of the past each came to them. Arcadia stood. "Would you care for a drink? I have wine or sweetened water."
"Thank you, Your Highness. I'll have some sweetened water, please."
The princess poured two mugs and turned to hand her adviser one of the mugs, her lips slowly curling up into a smile. "Who is the lucky woman?"
Lexie blushed again. "Marina. She was a slave in Rome, but one night slipped away, escaping to Britannia. She lived with our friends over there before coming here with her son. She is...an amazing woman. She has been through so much and yet she is still so giving and caring." She smiled as she thought of the beautiful, dark-haired woman, who was fast stealing her heart. "We get together and just talk and talk about everything that occurs to us." Lexie sipped at her drink as she started fidgeting. "Though...lately I have...started worrying that someone will tell her of my family's shame. If they haven't already. Do you...think I should tell her, before someone else does?"
"Yes," Arcadia replied instantly, nodding. "If you're going to have a relationship, you have to be honest with her, especially because of her past. In fact, she has confided in you about her own past, so you should tell her the truth, before one of the other women tell her their version of what happened."
Lexie nodded, seeing the logic to the princess' words.
"And Marina's son? How do you get along with him?" Arcadia asked, knowing that would be important to the relationship.
Lexie smiled brightly. "I adore him; he is a lovely little boy. Even with all he has witnessed and been through, he is like any other three year old, full of beans and curious of everything."
Arcadia smiled. "I am glad you get along, 'tis important I believe."
Finishing her drink, Lexie stood from her seat. "I best get on with some work, Your Highness. Thank you for listening and...being a friend. I really appreciate it."
"Lexie, you are a friend. Not only to me, but my family as well." The princess reached out for a nearby quill and knife, intending to sharpen the tip. "Inform Jada I will see her, I may as well get her concerns out of the way."
"Very well, Your Highness," Lexie smiled and bowed her head. "Good day."
* * * * *
Holding on to Rayna's arm, the Royal couple made their way towards the school to pick up their daughters; the pair being followed by Karita Shepherd, Arcadia's personal guard.
The afternoon was warm and bright, the sky a bright blue. The light breeze carried a hint of sea salt; the summer ahead promised to be a good one. The forest they walked through was alive around them, the sound of the wildlife filtering through the air to them, along with the mixture of aromas from the many plants and flowers growing.
"How was your training session?" the princess asked softly, reluctant to disturb the tranquillity around them.
"As it always is, tiring, but exciting at the same time."
"And how are the new generation of warriors coming along?"
Rayna puffed out her cheeks. "They're not as good as the girls I grew up with."
Arcadia chuckled. "Is that your honest opinion? Or are you just complimenting the women you call friends?"
"'Tis my honest opinion, my love." Rayna smiled down at her wife. "You know, a topic at the senate meeting got me thinking."
"Which topic, love?"
"When Savannah suggested a new career choice and Summer suggested limiting it to only those who had a genuine talent. Why can we not do that with all the careers? I mean, some of the girls who are now training to be warriors really shouldn't be and would surely be better off choosing something else. I certainly wouldn't want them at my back during a fight," Rayna said, thinking of some of the unskilled fighters. "Look at Kemina. She disliked her chosen career so much, she gave it up to be a full-time mother."
"There is nothing wrong with being a full-time mother, Rayna. Many of the women do it."
"I'm not saying there's anything wrong with it, love. My point is Kemina purely opted for it because she didn't like her chosen career. What if she could have changed her career choice? Do you think she would have opted to stop working?"
Arcadia frowned as she thought over what the warrior was saying. "But Kemina was with her chosen career for eleven summers. Surely that is too long a time to suddenly be allowed to change careers?"
Rayna nodded slowly, frowning in thought. "Perhaps the girls should be allowed to decide during their first year?"
"Perhaps this is a subject you should broach with my mother," Arcadia suggested. "She will surely put it on the agenda for the next meeting. I for one think you have a point, my love."
Rayna grinned. "Is that your honest opinion? Or are you just complimenting the woman you love?"
Arcadia laughed, a delightful sound Rayna loved to hear. "Lexie has a love," she said, changing the subject.
"I know, Keera told me this morn. 'Tis causing quite a stir apparently."
"Why did you not tell me?"
"There has been no time today," Rayna replied. "First we had the senate meeting, after that we...had other things on our minds, until we were interrupted by your adviser."
"That's true," Arcadia said, smiling. "You have me to yourself now, is there anything you wish to tell me?"
"You grow more beautiful every day."
The princess smiled as her cheeks flushed pink and pulled Rayna to a stop so she could bestow a loving kiss upon the warrior's lips. "Thank you, my love. You always make me feel very special."
Rayna returned the kiss. "You are special, and beautiful, and very much loved." She started walking again, her arm going around her wife's shoulders.
Reaching the school, the couple stood waiting with all the other mothers; Arcadia talking to anyone and everyone who approached, while Rayna tapped her foot impatiently; she never had been one to just stand around. The princess had always been friendly and approachable, the women of Belleza loving her as much as they loved the Queen.
The doors of the school opened and a horde of squealing and shouting children charged out and ran for their mothers, talking loudly about their day, as they bounced around, unable to remain still. Cassius and Hollie, Valentina and Cass' two children ran for Karita instead of their mother, Valentina, who was busy gossiping to one of the other mothers. Kinsey followed her cousins, said hello, then raced off with a friend. Excusing herself briefly, Karita walked her two grandchildren over to her eldest daughter.
As the mothers outside the school started heading for home, Lorenza Cartman walked over to the Royal couple, holding Raleigh in her arms. "Your Highness, Rayna," she greeted them. "Audra Reeder has asked if you have a moment to spare?"
"Is all well? Ava? Where is she?" Arcadia asked in a panic, grabbing Rayna's arm tightly.
"The Princess is fine, Your Highness. My apologies for worrying you," the guard said quickly. "Ava is waiting with Audra and Sarita."
Seeing her daughter was fine, but obviously in trouble with her teacher, Arcadia looked up at her wife and smiled mischievously. "I'll go. I always was the good one," she teased.
Rayna smirked as her wife's green eyes sparkled. "I believe, my darling wife, that you were the one who drew all over Lexie's face that first day of school."
Arcadia laughed as she started moving towards the school. "No swinging from the tree branches, warrior," she said back over her shoulder, making Rayna and Lorenza laugh. Reaching Audra, Sarita, and Ava, the princess smiled warmly at her dear friend. "Hello, Audra. How are you?"
"Hello, Your Highness. I am well, thank you. Yourself?"
"I am very well, thank you." Arcadia crouched down in front of her daughter. "Ava, go and wait with your mama, please." She stood and watched her oldest daughter charge off in Rayna's direction, then turned her attention to Audra. "What has my little terror been up to?"
Smiling, Audra led her friend inside.
* * * * *
"Mama! Mama! Can we climb the tree?" Ava yelled, as she ran towards Rayna.
"Your mother doesn't like it when I climb trees," the warrior replied.
The little raven-haired girl came to a stop in front of Rayna and frowned. "But you're a warrior, you're suppose to climb trees, aren't you?"
Rayna grinned. "When I was your age I climbed trees all the time," she confessed. "But it used to upset your mother whenever she saw me do it. In fact, we shared out first kiss one afternoon, soon after she had pleaded with me to stop swinging upside down."
Ava's blue eyes and Raleigh's green widened upon hearing their mama had swung upside down.
"Upside down! Can you show us, mama?" Ava pleaded. "Please, mama."
Getting the look she could rarely say no to, Rayna chuckled. "I'm too tall to swing upside down now," she lied.
"And too old," Karita added, laughing.
Rayna shot the guard an amused look. "And too old, but...I could teach you two, I suppose. And a long time from now you two can teach your own children." The warrior turned and headed for what had once been her favourite tree.
"Uhm...Your Highness," Lorenza called out, all the guards scrambling to catch up with the warrior. "Rayna, I wouldn't recommend this."
"It will be fine, Lorenza. Don't worry."
"But the Princess..."
"Will understand," Rayna interrupted, cutting the guard off. She stopped in front of the old and very tall tree she had climbed when she was young and in school and stroked the hard, scratchy bark, as fond memories filled her head. "The thing to remember, girls, is that the tree is dangerous and you can get hurt," she said to her watching daughters. "You have to remember that even when you're climbing and having fun." She lifted Ava up. "Reach up, Ava, and hold on to the branch."
The little girl did as Rayna said, the warrior's arms still holding on to her so she wouldn't fall. "I'm a little monkey, mama," she said excitedly, before making monkey sounds she had heard coming from the forest.
"Tell us the story, mama," Raleigh said, watching her older sibling hanging from the tree branch.
"What story, little one?"
"The one with mummy telling you off for swinging in the tree."
Rayna smiled and nodded her acceptance. "Very well. Sarita, come and hold your charge." The warrior released her hold on her daughter only once the guard had taken over. Scooping up Raleigh, Rayna told her to reach up for the tree branch, then started telling the story of the day she had first kissed Arcadia.
* * * * *
Arcadia walked out of the school frowning from what she had been told. Ava had been playing up in class, so Audra had moved her to the front, away from her friends, but the situation was getting worse. The teacher thought the princess was just showing off and wanted to let Arcadia know. Not immediately spotting her wife, children, or the guards, the blonde peered between the nearest trees and growled in annoyance at the sight that met her. With sudden anger coursing through her, it overrode all her other emotions. Arcadia marched towards her family and the guards. "Rayna Banks, you are in so much trouble!" she muttered.
Reaching the group, she cleared her throat when she went unnoticed.
Knowing she was in trouble, Rayna slowly turned to face her wife, sporting a sheepish look. "Arcadia..."
Rayna helped her daughters down from the tree and trailed after her upset wife. Raleigh ran on to catch up with Arcadia, holding her mother's hand as she told the blonde about her day and all she had learnt, while Ava walked with Rayna, her small hand engulfed in the warrior's larger one. Sarita walked ahead of Arcadia and Raleigh, Lorenza behind Rayna and Ava, and Karita walked beside the group, focused on the surrounding forest.
"Is mummy very angry with you?" Ava asked, looking up at her tall, dark-haired mother.
"She's a little angry, yes."
"Because you let us climb the tree?"
Rayna nodded. "Do you remember me telling you the tree was dangerous?" she asked, glancing down to see her daughter nod. "Well, that's why your mother is upset and angry with me. She was worried about you and your sister, she wants no harm to come to you."
"But it was my fault," Ava protested. "I asked you to teach us."
"But I agreed," Rayna replied. "I should know better as I am the adult."
Reaching the palace, the group waited as the thick, sturdy doors were opened for them. Biana Plummer was waiting in the open doorway of the palace with Lynnea in her arms and greeted her two returning charges with a warm smile.
"Biana, would you have the maids prepare them a bath, please," Arcadia said. As the former maid nodded, the princess turned her attention to her wife, green eyes locked onto blue as the courtyard cleared. "What were you thinking?" she asked in a low tone, once they were alone.
"Cadie, I used to do it all the time, 'tis a part of growing up."
"You were of no importance! Ava is the future heir to the throne!" Arcadia snapped, her tone getting higher the more incensed she grew. "Climbing trees and playing in the mud is not becoming of a Princess!"
"They are half Royal," Rayna retorted, angry and hurt that Arcadia was belittling her. "They are of my blood, too. And if I want to teach them how to swing from a tree branch, then I will do so!"
* * * * *
Up in one of the guard towers, Keera couldn't help but overhear her two friends arguing. She watched on in disbelief as the pair grew angrier and angrier with each other. "I can't believe they're fighting," she muttered.
Camilla Lake glanced down in the Royal couple's direction and snorted. "They're married and they have children, of course they are arguing."
Keera looked at the older guard. "But...they are Rayna and Arcadia. Friends, lovers, soul mates! Every woman on the island wants what they have!"
Brown eyes rolled. "They are no different than us, Keera. They may be soul mates, but arguments will still happen. You have to remember that the Princess has been brought up one way, Rayna another, of course they will see things differently. Especially when it comes to their children. Rayna is the daughter of farmers, getting dirty is nothing to her. Don't worry, my friend. I am sure they will work it out eventually. Most women do."
Looking back down at her friends, Keera watched Arcadia spin on her heel and stomp inside the palace. Rayna reluctantly following after a moments pause.
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