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



Chapter Three

H aving never argued with Rayna before, Arcadia wasn't sure how to deal with it. She was angry at the warrior, but then she knew she had said some horrible things in the heat of the moment. As she stomped away from Rayna and into the palace, the princess tried to evaluate what it was exactly that she was feeling. Anger was the main emotion, but beneath that there was fear, like she had experienced when she was a child and had witnessed Rayna swinging from high up tree branches; she was upset by the heated words they had exchanged and by the way she had spoken to her beloved; then there was envy. She felt envious that Rayna had always been brave enough to try swinging upside down, envious that Rayna had been allowed to be carefree, wild, and reckless if she so chose. Arcadia had grown up being told of her importance; she was the only child of the reigning Queen and was expected to take the throne afterwards. Her destiny was already set, whilst Rayna had choices and decisions to make.

Is Rayna right to make our girls feel like ordinary children? Should they be allowed to do things that Rayna did as a child? No harm came to her, so surely they will be fine. Arcadia made her way upstairs towards her office, duties still to see to. But they aren't ordinary children, she argued with herself. Ava is heir to the throne. Rayna has to understand that. Walking into her office, the blonde took a seat behind her desk and called for Lexie, deciding to put aside her troubles until her duties had been seen to. 'Tis her own fault, she thought stubbornly. I told her no swinging from the branches and she did it anyway!


* * * * *

At first understanding why her wife was so angry, but now hurt and annoyed at the words spoken between them, Rayna sought out Biana and her children; spending time with her girls always put her in a happy mood. She found the group in a room that had recently started to be called a bathroom by the palace staff; a room indoors with two bathtubs set within where one could wash in comfort and privacy.

The bathroom was next to the kitchen, the maids only having a short distance to travel with their buckets of hot water. It had a bare stone floor, any spilt water easy to mop up, and a single small window that let in light.

"Mama, why do I have to have a bath?" Raleigh questioned, a small frown creasing her brow. "I'm not dirty, just my hands. See." She held a hand up for the warrior to see.

"You may not look dirty, but I assure you there is dirt you cannot see. Have you been running around today?"

"Yes, I was playing."

"Well, there you go. Even if you didn't realise it at the time, you got yourself dirty, and now," she scooped the strawberry-blonde up into her arms, "you need a bath to wash it all away."

"But, mama!"

"No arguments, Raleigh. I'm already in enough trouble with your mother." Rayna sighed. "I tell you what, if you're good and you do as Biana says, once you are finished I will tell you any story you wish to hear." She set her daughter back down.

"Worry not, Rayna," Biana said. "The Princess won't stay angry for long," she assured. "Jeanette and I have had many disagreements over the seasons and we are still very much in love."

Rayna offered the older woman a small smile. "Thank you, Biana. I'm sure you are right, but right now it feels like the worst thing in the world." Reaching out for her youngest daughter, she took Lynnea from the nanny. "I think I'll take Lynnea for a stroll around the gardens while you see to these two."

"Very well, Rayna. Try to keep her clean."

Rayna left the bathroom and walked along the hall to the dining room to get to the rear palace gardens. The garden was filled with a variety of flowers and trees that weren't all native to the island, some having been brought back from distant lands. Most of the garden's landscape was grass, which was neatly trimmed and kept in order; disturbing the lush green was a neatly made stone path that led around the grounds. Rayna's favourite place was the small pond towards the back, which was home to a number of fish.

That's where she headed with Lynnea, knowing the swimming fish would entertain her daughter. Rayna sat down at the edge of the pond and sat Lynnea on her lap facing the water. "Look," she said softly. "Look, Lynnea," she pointed to the golden fish swimming near the surface and smiled as her six moons old daughter waved her hands at the fish. "'Tis called a fish, Lynnea, and it can only live in water. If you were to take it out, it would die."

The little blonde studied the pond intently, as she babbled to Rayna. She was at an age where everything was fascinating and something to be analysed.

"'Tis so peaceful out here," Rayna said, looking around. "We were deceived by our own people a few years back, and when the warriors got back to the island, we had to come through the gardens to get into the palace." She smiled down at her daughter, knowing Lynnea didn't understand what she was talking about. "We left it in such a state!" she chuckled. "The Queen, your grandmother Athena, was not pleased when she found out. But," she lifted her daughter up, raising Lynnea above her head and smiling as the little girl giggled, "she forgave us, for we saved her life. Sort of."

"Mama! Mama! Where are you?"

Rayna glanced back in the direction of the palace. "By the pond, Raleigh." She waited for her daughter to come charging over and smiled as the girl came into sight. "That was a quick bath, Raleigh. Are you sure you washed properly?"

"Biana said I could come out as long as I have a bath later. I was making Ava angry."

Rayna bit back a laugh. "Come, sit down with us," she said, patting the stone next to her. "I was just telling Lynnea about the time the warriors wrecked these gardens."

Green eyes widened. "You did? Why? Were you angry?"

Rayna did laugh then. "Nothing of the sort, Raleigh. We were off in battle..."

"With the Romans," Raleigh said helpfully, having heard the story before.

"That's right. When we found out who was behind the attack, we came rushing back home to protect our loved ones. They were being held inside the palace, and to get inside, the warriors had to come through the gardens."

"Was grandma mad at you?"

"She was for a little while, but she forgave us. We did rescue her after all." Rayna stared into the pond, not seeing the fish, but a different time, a time when she wasn't sure of Arcadia's safety and had worried that her life would never be complete again.

"Mama, are we Greece?" Raleigh asked, snapping Rayna out of her melancholy thoughts.

"Greece? Do you mean Greek? Are we Greek?"

Raleigh nodded. "Miss Audra was saying about the Greek Gods and grandma Nyx was one."

Rayna chuckled and reached out to stroke her daughter's cheek. "Your grandmother Nyx is not a Greek God, but she was named after one. Nyx, said to be the Goddess of the night."

"So we are Greek?" Raleigh questioned.

"We are natives to this island, we were born here, as was your mother and your grandparents, except Aaronia. But long ago, some of our ancestors were born in Greece, and ever since Greek names have been passed down. Like grandma Dionis; she is named after the wine God Dionysus, I believe. Grandma Nyx, I just told you about, and grandmother Athena might be named after the Goddess, but I don't know, you'll have to ask your great grandmothers Aaronia and Mina."

"What about grandmother Mariah? Was her family Greek?"

Rayna shook her head. "No, her family originally came from the land north of Britannia, a place called Nóregr. We have family over there and in Britannia and Greece, too."

"Uncle Brutus lives there, doesn't he, mama?"

"That's right."

"Will he come for my birthday, mama?" Raleigh asked in a small voice, unsure of herself.

"We'll keep our fingers crossed, hmm?" Rayna smiled. "Come now, we should go in for the evening meal. I don't want you or your sister catching a chill." The warrior stood, Lynnea held securely in her arms, and offered a hand to Raleigh. As the little girl jumped up, they made their way back towards the palace, Rayna wondering if Arcadia would be talking to her now, and if the princess had told her parents of their disagreement.


* * * * *

Keera opened the door to her home and smiled as she found her family gathered in the main living area. "Home at last."

Leslie smiled, relieved as always when the love of her life came home safely. She watched as their oldest daughter stood from where she had been sitting in front of the hearth and hurried over to the palace guard, wrapping her arms around Keera, and chattering excitedly about her day.

"Kinsey!" Keera chuckled. "At least let me get through the door," she teased, picking her daughter up and walking deeper into the house. The small, simple home was warm from the lit hearth and lit up by lanterns. The couple had used candles in the past, but with two young children in the house, they decided lanterns were a safer option, even if they had to trade much more for the oil that went inside. Keera set Kinsey down and bent to kiss Leslie's head. "Hello, love. How was your day?"

"Okay. The trip to the palace was nerve-wracking though! Yolanda asked me to present the ideas and I had to stand up in front of all the senate members. They didn't like any of my ideas," she chuckled.

"Why not?" Keera asked louder than was necessary, a frown creasing her brow. "What's wrong with them? They cannot see what a treasure you are!"

"I suggested stone paths first of all," Leslie explained. "Which Dionis said would be a security risk if we were to be invaded again."

As Becky lifted her arms and indicated she wanted picking up, Keera picked up the little girl and walked over to her rocking chair. "I have to agree with Dionis on that one, love. It would be..."

"Like giving them a map," Leslie finished. "Yes, Dionis said. It was suggested instead that we design new footwear to handle the muddy paths, so we are now looking into that. My other suggestion was to create a currency..."

"Why would we want a currency?" Keera asked.

"We don't. Anyway, I know now that I must think all my ideas through fully before bringing them to anybody's attention. How was your day?" Leslie stood up. "You must be hungry, do you want me to make you something, or do you want to go over to the community hall?"

"Do you mind if we stay in?"

"No, not at all. I can make a stew in no time and I have some bread left for you to mop up the juices with," Leslie smiled lovingly at her partner. "Kinsey, get back to writing your letters, please," she said, her attention briefly going to her oldest daughter, before she turned to head for the small, efficient kitchen.

Keera stood with a groan and followed after Leslie. She took a seat at their kitchen table, Becky settled on her lap, the pair watching Leslie bustle about. "My day was as usual, boring and dull."

"Keera," Leslie sighed, glancing over her shoulder at her wife. "I know you miss the warrior life, but your injury..."

"I know, I know. You asked about my day, love, I'm just telling you."

"Did you manage to ask Rayna for more responsibility around the palace?"

Keera shook her head. "That's the one odd thing that happened today."

"What's that?" Leslie asked, getting out a knife to start cutting up carrots with.

"Arcadia and Rayna had an argument in the middle of the courtyard."

"An argument?" Leslie chuckled. "Did one of them forget to say I love you?"

"It was serious," Keera said. "Raised voices, nasty things said, tempers boiling. It really shocked me. They were yelling at each other in the end, I couldn't help but hear."

Leslie stopped chopping up vegetables and turned to look at her wife. "What was it about?"

"Rayna had been teaching the girls to swing from a tree branch."

"Oh, no! She knows Arcadia used to hate it when she did that! What would possess her to teach their daughters?"

"There is nothing wrong with it, Leslie. We all use to do it as children and no harm ever came to us."

"Yes, but we aren't Royalty."

"That's what Arcadia yelled at Rayna. She told her that she was of no importance and not an heir to the throne. Rayna yelled back that the girls were half Royal. I feared they might come to blows, but Arcadia stomped into the palace."

Turning back to the vegetables, Leslie shook her head. "They never argue, they love each other dearly. I'm sure it will blow over swiftly."

"That's what Camilla said," Keera nodded, though Leslie didn't see it. "We'll see. They both looked very angry and you know how stubborn they can both be."


* * * * *

Holding on to Bedilia's hand, Gayle led the way into the community hall and smiled as the other women waved and called out in greeting to them. Telling her wife to go find a seat, Gayle headed for the front of the room where the serving ladies were dishing up the evening's meal.

"Hello, Maxwelle," she greeted one of the Gardiners. "How are you this evening?"

"All is well, thank you, Gayle. How are you, dear?"

"Weary after a day of walking the orchards, but that is life, as is said." Gayle picked up two plates and held them out for the older woman. "Is all well with Joan?"

Maxwelle smiled. "She is fine, thank you. Can't stop smiling after roaming through the vineyard. She tells me 'tis to be a good year."

"I'm glad to hear it," Gayle said honestly. "What are we having tonight, Maxwelle?"

"Meat pie. Very nice so I've been told." Maxwelle cut a large slice for Bedilia, knowing the young woman could put a lot away. "Oh, I have a suggestion for you."

"All right," Gayle replied in amusement.

"To help you two have a baby," Maxwelle said softly. "Try some dogs tooth violet, 'tis said to provoke...bodily lust. You could also try bathing in some cleavers." She smiled. "Enjoy."

"Th-...thank you." Gayle turned, blushing crimson, and paused as she sought out her wife. Smiling as she spotted her across the room, the redhead carefully made her way over to where Bedilia was sitting with her parents and the Shepherd family.

"An argument?" Bedilia said, shaking her head. "I can't believe it! They never argue."

"Who, love?" Gayle asked, setting down Bedilia's plate in front of her.

"Karita was just telling us that Rayna and Arcadia had a huge argument in the middle of the courtyard," Bedilia told her wife. "Thanks, love, looks good. What is it?"

"Meat pie. I think Maxwelle has given you a double helping," she chuckled.

Bedilia grinned. "She knows how much I can eat!"

"Rumour has it they didn't speak for the rest of the afternoon," Karita said. "And the maids are claiming Rayna is leaving."

"Now that I truly do not believe," Bedilia said, her fork pointed at the palace guard. "There is no way Rayna would ever leave Arcadia, they love each other dearly."

"I'm with Bedilia," Valonia said, nodding. "I have seen them around the island, after five years of marriage they still act newly in love with each other. There is no way one would leave just because of a silly argument." She looked at her wife curiously. "You must have been with them if they left the palace, why were they arguing?"

Karita looked down at her plate and poked at the crust of her pie with her fork. "When they went to meet the children from school, Audra wished to have a word about Ava. So the Princess went, telling Rayna to behave whilst she was gone. Well, when she came out of the school, she found Rayna and us guards with the two little Princesses by the trees. Rayna had been teaching them how to swing from one of the low branches."

"Karita!" Valonia exclaimed, slapping her wife's arm. "No wonder the Princess was so angry! You should have known better."

"Me? What did I do?" Karita protested innocently.

"You allowed it!"

"But Rayna..."

"You should know by now what she is like, we have watched her grow up!" Valonia scolded.

"If you want my honest opinion," Karita said, keeping calm, knowing her wife's temper would soon cool. "I think it will be good for the Princesses to be a little more like Rayna."

"What do you mean, Karita?" Gaylene asked, frowning.

"Well, the Royals have always wrapped their children up in fine blankets. Besides letting them attend school for a few years, what else do they do? Nothing. Until Princess Arcadia took it upon herself to help at a harvest, a Royal had never before done such a thing. Surely, letting them be a little more like us can't hurt?"

Ida Orchard nodded her agreement. "We grow up just fine, maybe one or two of us come to harm, but 'tis minor accidents. I can't remember the last time a child was hurt seriously."

"The only children I know who come to harm are those who train to be warriors," Gaylene said. "They get cuts from their weapons, they fall from trees..."

"There was one of the Nash girls killed once," Valonia said, thinking back. "She was chopping a tree down and it fell the wrong way or something and she was crushed."

Karita nodded. "I remember that. But like Ida said, 'tis rare that we come to harm."

"So Arcadia was angry with Rayna and they argued something fierce?" Gayle asked. "Surely it will blow over, if for no other reason than 'tis Raleigh's birthday soon."


* * * * *

Athena stood on the flat roof of the palace, looking out into the darkness. Only the night stars offered any light; that was all she needed as she stood in Dionis' embrace, the former warrior's arms wrapped around her waist securely. This was a ritual of theirs, in the summer months they would venture up to the roof at night and relax back on the large pile of different coloured pillows that lay in one corner. Athena loved to spend the evenings wrapped in Dionis' arms star gazing.

"Did you notice something wrong at dinner this evening, Dionis?" the Queen asked quietly, fingertips tracing her wife's hand resting on her stomach.

"Something wrong?" Dionis repeated, frowning in thought. "No. Why, what did you notice?"

"Arcadia and Rayna didn't speak to each other once, and they sat apart."

Dionis blinked as she absorbed Athena's observations. "Oh. Well, that is odd. They very rarely sit apart."

"I know, that's what has me worried. I was informed by one of the guards that they had an argument this afternoon. Dionis, they've never argued, not seriously." Athena turned in her wife's embrace. "What could have happened?"

Ducking her head, Dionis kissed soft pink lips and smiled. "I know not, love. Perhaps you should ask Arcadia, or Rayna, rather than imagining the worst?"

Athena smiled and returned the kiss. "That is why I love you so, darling. You are always the voice of reason. If I seek out our daughter, would you talk to Rayna?" As a dark eyebrow lifted at her suggestion, Athena patted the former warrior's chest. "You know you are better suited talking to a stoic warrior than I am, my love."

"Not true," Dionis chuckled. "But very well, sweetheart. In half a candle mark, after they have put the children to bed, I will seek out Rayna and have a quiet word." Taking one of the Queen's hands, Dionis stepped backwards. "For now, though, let us lie back and star gaze with each other, hmm?"

"You know I love nothing more, Dionis." As her wife settled back against the plump pillows, the blonde lay down beside her, her head on Dionis' shoulder, an arm wrapped around Dionis' waist.


* * * * *

"Come on now, Ava, get yourself into bed," Rayna said quietly, pulling back the bedcovers on her eldest daughter's bed. "You too, Raleigh. Quiet now, you don't want to wake your baby sister."

"Mama, I'm not tired," Ava protested, as she crawled into her bed.

"Well, that's why I'm going to tell you a story, sweetheart. That will send you right off to sleep."

"To have good dreams?"

"That's right," Rayna said, tucking the little girl in. She moved across to the bedchamber to Raleigh's bed and tucked her in. "All right, what story do you want? Remember, I'm not much of a story teller, though, so pick a simple one."

"Mama, tell us about the Greek Gods," Raleigh requested, fascinated ever since learning a little about them in school. "Tell us about grandma Dino's God."

Smiling, Rayna took a seat on the edge of Raleigh's bed. "The God Dionysus? No, sweetheart, you don't want to know about him. How about...the Goddess Demeter?"

"Who's she, mama?" Ava asked.

"Demeter is the Goddess of fertility, grain and harvest. She was the daughter of Cronus and Rhea, the Titans, and sister of the God of Gods, Zeus," Rayna started, wrapping an arm around Raleigh as the strawberry-blonde snuggled against her side. "She is known as the bringer of seasons, and many a farmer on this island prays to her."

"Do grandmother and grandma?" Ava asked.

"Yes, they do, for as long as I've been alive, for they need healthy grass to feed the cows. The greatest gift Demeter gave us was teaching us the art of sowing seeds, ploughing, and harvesting. The story of Demeter involves her daughter Persephone. Hades snatched her away one day and took her to the underworld, making her his Queen. Demeter was so heartbroken that her little girl was gone that the earth died, all the crops failed, and flowers wilted."

Dionis stood near the doorway listening to Rayna telling her story and couldn't help but smile. Warriors weren't story tellers, they were trained to be quiet and it went against everything they had ever been taught, but here she was telling her daughters a story because they liked hearing from her. Dionis knew what a good heart Rayna had, she knew the warrior loved Arcadia more than life itself, and knew that no matter what, she would help them sort out their disagreement. Giving the family their privacy, Dionis slipped away.

"So, for six moons each year, Persephone is made to return to the underworld. When Demeter and her daughter are together the earth flourishes with vegetation, the crops grow strong and healthy, and the weather is real fine. But when Persephone has to leave her mama, Demeter gets upset again and mourns for her, the plants don't grow, and the sun doesn't shine."

"They're together now then?" Ava asked. "It's almost harvest time and there is fruit to pick."

"That's right, sweetheart," Rayna whispered, Raleigh fast asleep on her shoulder. With her story told, Rayna gently lifted her daughter and set her on the bed, before standing up and settling the covers over her. Walking over to Ava's bed, Rayna smiled and bent to kiss her daughter's head. "Go to sleep, sweetheart. Your uncles, aunts and cousins should be arriving tomorrow, and you're going to want to have energy to play with them all, aren't you."

"Mama...are you angry with me?"

Rayna frowned. "Angry with you? Why would you think that?"

"Mummy's angry at you because of me, she didn't speak to you all day."

Rayna crouched down next to the bed and stroked soft, raven locks that were so like her own. "Sweetheart, people argue sometimes. You've seen them when the weather gets real hot, temperatures rise and people shout. 'Tis just that way sometimes. Our argument will blow over, sweetheart. By tomorrow it will all be forgotten. I am not angry at you, Ava. You're my little girl, my first baby." Rayna smiled. "I'll tell you a secret, a secret that no one else knows. Do you want to hear it?"

Ava nodded, blue eyes wide at the thought of her mama trusting her with a secret.

"I was over in Britannia fighting the Romans when your mummy sent me a letter. She sent me loads, but this one letter was very special. Do you know why?" Ava shook her head, hanging on every word. "In this letter, she told me she was with child. She told me about you." Rayna smiled. "My secret...that you can't tell anyone...I was afraid I would never see you, afraid I would never get to hold you. But, I made it home all in one piece, and moons later your mummy had you, and the first time I held you and looked down into your little blue eyes, which were looking back at me, I knew I would love you forever and ever." With a tear in her eye, Rayna kissed Ava's head and quickly stood up. "Now, go to sleep."

"Goodnight, mama."

"Goodnight, Ava."

"Love you."

"I love you, too." Rayna closed the door behind her as she left and took a deep breath to get her emotions under control. Gods above! I'm turning soft in my old age! Shaking her head at herself, she walked away, going in search of a strong drink.


* * * * *

"Ohhh, mummy! She makes me so angry sometimes!" Arcadia grumbled, lavender-scented bathwater splashing up as she slammed her hands into it. "She knows it used to scare me something awful when she would swing in the trees, so what does she do? She goes and teaches our daughters to do it!"

Athena bit back a smile, knowing that wouldn't help her daughter's temper at this point. "Arcadia, Rayna loves you and those little girls dearly, you know that. Whilst I quite agree with you about it being dangerous to climb trees and swing from their branches, to Rayna it isn't. She did it when she was a child and no harm ever came to her, she probably sees no harm in teaching the girls to do it."

"Well she should!" Arcadia snapped unhappily. "What if...Gods above, mummy, what if one of them slipped? Why can't she see how it worries me so?"

"As serious as this is, Arcadia, is it really a good reason not to talk to her all evening? Is it reason enough to be so angry with her? I know for a fact you love each other dearly. Poor Rayna looked down right miserable at the evening meal."

Arcadia reached over the edge of the tub for the cloth she used to wipe her body down. "I wanted to make up with her as soon as I walked into the palace," she said, smiling a little. "I just wanted to run right into her arms and tell her I was sorry." She looked into green eyes that were so like her own. "Do you think she will forgive me, mummy?" she asked in a small, fearful voice.

"Oh, Arcadia! Of course she will! In a heartbeat!"

"I hope so. I said some pretty horrid things to her and about her."

"Maybe you should find her once you have had your bath..."

"No! I'm not the one who is in the wrong!" the princess snapped, her temper swiftly rising again. "She should be the one to apologise. You know, before I left her standing there, I warned her not to swing on the tree branches. But does she listen! No, I won't be the one to apologise first, she was wrong first so she can apologise first."

So stubborn! Athena thought. She is so like Dionis sometimes 'tis truly surprising! "Very well, love. You know what's best. Changing the subject, Lexie informed me that Jada wanted to meet with you. Did she bore you with the same concerns she bored me with?"

Arcadia smiled. "I would assume so, mummy. She told me that the committee would be doing their very best on the day, that they plan to be up as soon as there is light to start setting up the banners and such, and that they had no control over the weather, so if we get horrid weather they shouldn't be blamed."

Athena laughed loudly in amusement. "Yes, that's pretty much what I got. I don't know why they worry so, every event for as long as I can remember has gone off smoothly."

"Well, there you go. Sooner or later that will change and they fear the repercussions." Arcadia stood from the bath and took the towel Mavis Ash, one of the water maids, held out for her and wrapped it around her body. "Thank you, Mavis," she said, stepping out of the tub. "Do you know where Rayna is, mummy?"

"I think she is with your girls, tucking them in for the night."

"Mmm. I think I shall go to our chambers and read for a bit. Will you be going up to the roof with mama?"

"No," Athena said, shaking her head. "We've already been up there for our nightly ritual. It's been a long day, I'm weary, and longing for my bed. Goodnight, sweetheart." Closing the gap between them, the blonde-haired Queen kissed her daughter's cheek. "Try to talk to Rayna, you'll only both be miserable until you make up." Smiling, she turned and left the bathroom, leaving Arcadia to think things over.


* * * * *

Rayna sat in the receiving room, staring into the flickering flames of the burning fire, a mug of wine held in one hand. Now that the sun had set the air had quickly grown chilled, the rooms made even colder by the stone of the palace walls and floor. The warrior found herself continually thinking over her argument with Arcadia, the things they had said, things they shouldn't have said, hurt feelings, Arcadia not talking to her for the rest of the day, avoiding her as much as she could.

Dionis stood in the open doorway watching her only daughter's true love, staring morosely into nothing. I remember my first argument with Athena, Dionis thought with a small smile. 'Twas like the end of the world. Clearing her throat, she walked into the room and stopped at the seated warrior's side. "Do you mind if I join you?"

Rayna looked up at her mother-in-law and blinked, trying to clear the fog from her head. "Not at all, Dionis."

Dionis sat down and stared at the fire, remaining silent for the time being. She knew Rayna wouldn't speak unless asked something, wouldn't willingly give up her thoughts and feelings; all warriors were the same. "You and Arcadia had an argument, I hear?"

"We did."

"What was it about?"

Rayna sighed heavily. "When we went to pick the girls up from school, Audra wanted a word with us so Cadie went. While she was inside, I...taught the girls how to swing from a tree branch."

"And Arcadia wasn't pleased, I imagine."

"No," Rayna smiled. "In fact, just before going off to speak to Audra, she warned me not to swing from any branches. I swear, sometimes she has a sense I'm going to do something before it even enters my head!"

"I know that feeling!" Dionis chuckled. "So, your argument was over you doing something that scares her?"

"Yes, but I did it when I was a child. Why should I not teach my girls to do the same?"

"I remember when Arcadia was a child," Dionis reminisced. "She came charging into the palace, shouting at the top of her lungs, wanting to tell Athena and myself about how you had been hanging upside down from a tree branch, and that it scared her because she thought you were going to fall." She smiled. "They are different from us, Rayna," Dionis said, looking at the warrior. "They have spent their lives wrapped up safely because of who they are, whilst we were given freedom to do as we pleased. Before Arcadia became betrothed to you, a Royal had never helped out at the harvest, to get dirty doing such a thing was unheard of and frowned upon. I'm glad things changed, things need to change, but you have to remember the differences in your upbringing to Arcadia's."

Rayna nodded, understanding. "Have you and Athena clashed then?"

"When Arcadia was small, yes," Dionis smiled, looking back to the flickering flames of the fire. "As you know, my family are blacksmiths. I was brought up around weapons, I witnessed the hard work that goes into everything made. When we had Arcadia, I wanted her to appreciate the importance of the working families on our island, their work helping our survival. I wanted Arcadia to spend some time with my family to witness it from their eyes. Athena wouldn't allow it, she said a blacksmith's shop was no place for a princess to go. She was afraid our daughter would be hurt mainly. The other time we clashed was when we pulled Arcadia out of school. Arcadia was devastated and I didn't think she was ready, Athena disagreed, quoting the fact that the same had been done for generations."

"Have you ever actually won an argument?" Rayna asked smirking.

Dionis laughed and bumped the younger woman's shoulder. "I'm sure I have, I can't actually recall one right now, but I'm sure I have." She grinned as Rayna laughed heartily. "Do you want my advice?"

Sobering, Rayna nodded. "Yes, though I'm sure I already know what you're going to say."

"Oh, really? And what oh, great oracle, am I going to say?"

"You're going to tell me to apologise, that I was in the wrong this time, and to make up so we're both happy again."

A dark eyebrow lifted. "There are no oracles in your family, are there?"

Rayna laughed and shook her head. "Not that I know of. I was spot on then?"

"Near enough. Sadly, this is the first of many disagreements you will have throughout your lives together. I know it feels like the end of the world, but that quickly fades once you make up." Dionis stood and stretched, her shoulders popping and drawing a groan from her. "Making up is the best bit," she winked. "I must get to bed. I'm getting too old to be up at these hours," she smiled. "Find Arcadia and make up, hmm? Tomorrow we will be greeting new arrivals and there will be little time to yourselves."

"Thank you, Dionis," Rayna said quietly, eyes on the Persian rug her fingers idly played with. "I appreciate you coming to talk to me and for not yelling at me for falling out with your little girl."

Dionis laughed. "Yes, well, I believe I threatened you the day before you wed Arcadia. You know I'll hurt you if you ever break her heart. Good night, Rayna."

"Goodnight." Rayna turned her attention back to the flickering flames, thinking over all that Dionis had said to her and knew the older woman was right; they were very different and she had been in the wrong, she would swallow her stubbornness and apologise this time. Draining what was left in her mug, the warrior stood up and moved to put out the fire, knowing what she had to do now.


* * * * *

Athena watched Dionis undress, admiring her wife's muscular form as her clothes were stripped off. Even after all the years they had been married, the former warrior still set her aflame.

"Do you see something you like, love?" Dionis asked, smirking at Athena.

"I see a lot I like, sweetheart," Athena retorted, smiling brightly as her wife blushed. "How is it you have managed to stay in such good shape after all these years, my love?"

"I know not, Athena, but I am glad I please you." Dionis stalked towards their bed, forgoing a nightshirt. She slipped beneath the covers and wiggled closer to her wife, romantic ideas forming in her head. Smiling lovingly at the Queen, Dionis lowered her lips to Athena's neck and kissed her way down. "My love, I wish to make love to you," she murmured. "I wish to watch you reach the crest and fall, following the waves of pleasure, calling my name as you go."

"Oh, Gods, Dionis!" Athena moaned, as her wife moved to lie on top of her, hot lips scorching her skin everywhere they touched. She ran her fingers through Dionis' dark locks, fingers scraping her wife's scalp the way she knew Dionis liked. "Wait, my love! Did you talk to Rayna?" Athena panted, needing to know all would be well between the young couple.

"Mmm-hmm." Dionis traced Athena's ear with her tongue as her hand wandered down her wife's covered body. "Sweetheart, this nightshirt must go."

"Dionis!" Athena giggled, as Dionis rolled off her and started tugging at the offending nightshirt. "My love, wait, I wish to know what you said to Rayna."

Impatiently sliding the material up her wife's delectable body, Dionis frowned as Athena's words filtered into her otherwise occupied mind. "I said "Rayna, go to bed so I can go and make love to my wife"," she teased.

Athena slapped at the nearest arm to her. "You did not!" She sat up and pulled her nightshirt up and off. "What did you say?"

"I told her to apologise, and tried my best to talk some sense into her. This should all be resolved by the morn." Dionis grinned lasciviously. "Now, where were we?"

Athena squealed as Dionis swiftly worked her way down the bed to settle between her parted legs and moaned as warm lips began their exploration of her.


* * * * *

Nervously opening the door to her bedchamber, Rayna was slightly relieved to find a candle burning for her to see by. Stepping inside and closing the door behind her, Rayna made her way deeper into the room and started stripping out of her clothes, her blue eyes on her stationary wife who seemed to be asleep. Naked, Rayna blew out the candle and slipped under the covers, wiggling close to Arcadia. "Cadie?" she murmured, kissing the blonde's neck. "Are you awake?"

Arcadia couldn't bite back a moan as the warrior teased a sensitive spot. "I'm awake."

"I want to apologise, love. I was wrong this afternoon."

Arcadia rolled over to face Rayna. "You admit it?"

Rayna nodded. "Yes. I know it scared you when we were children, of course it would scare you now. I was in the wrong and I apologise."

"Oh, Rayna!" Arcadia captured her wife's lips in a passionate kiss, wanting to let Rayna know just how much she loved her. "I'm sorry, too. I didn't mean any of what I said when we argued, I was just angry and afraid."

"I know, love, me too." Rayna leaned closer and kissed Arcadia again, her tongue tracing soft lips, asking for entrance. As Arcadia opened her mouth and pulled the warrior forward, Rayna didn't hesitate to push her tongue into her wife's mouth. She wrapped an arm around Arcadia, gently caressing her wife's back as her tongue teased Arcadia's. After an afternoon of heartache, all she wanted now was to reconnect with her wife, wanting to reaffirm her love with the beautiful blonde. "Cadie," she murmured desperately, her bigger body pushing into Arcadia and pushing the princess backwards until she was on her back. "I want to make love to you."

Arcadia moaned aloud and wrapped her arms around Rayna, holding the warrior against her. "Please! I want you, I want to put our argument behind us," she pleaded, craving Rayna's touch, her kisses, her tongue, her fingers. She wrapped her legs around one of Rayna's powerful thighs and moaned again as she pressed her swollen need against the solid muscle.

Rayna whimpered as the princess' leg rose to press against her sex; quickly reminded how ready she was. Not wanting their lovemaking to be swift, the warrior lifted her body from her wife's. "Wait, Cadie! Let's make this last."

"Oh, Rayna! Not this time! Please! I can't hold on!" Arcadia panted, desperately grasping at her wife's shoulders and attempting to pull Rayna back on top of her. "Can't we just...take the edge off this time, then go slow later?"

Rayna smirked and briefly lowered her hips, thrusting against Arcadia and making her gasp, before lifting her body again. "No." Ducking her head, Rayna nipped at Arcadia's ear lobe. "I want to go slow this time," she murmured hotly into the pink ear, chuckling as her wife groaned. Ignoring the princess' repeated protests, Rayna kissed her way down Arcadia's neck, teeth nipping at the delicate skin of her smooth neck; Arcadia arched up from the bed as she desperately tried to get purchase on any part of Rayna's body. "Patience, Princess," Rayna said, before kissing her way down to Arcadia's collarbones and tracing each one with her tongue.

Arcadia's hand went to the back of Rayna's head, her fingers sliding easily through silky dark locks, as she gyrated frantically, desperate for contact, any contact, where she needed it most. "Rayna!" She pleaded, already knowing it would do no good. Her warrior was in one of those moods. She just hoped the teasing mood would quickly disappear. She couldn't help but whimper as Rayna left a wet trail around her nipple, deliberately avoiding the tightening nub. Arcadia gasped, then moaned as the warrior's tongue flicked across her nipple and tightened her grasp on Rayna's hair.

Rayna loved her wife's breasts. She could happily spend hours just loving them. She loved their shape, their texture, the way Arcadia gasped and moaned as she lavished attention on the soft mounds. When the princess was with child, her breasts became incredibly sensitive and Rayna took great delight in bringing pleasure to Arcadia just through loving her breasts. Tonight though, tonight she wanted to treasure the whole of Arcadia's body, wanted to taste every inch, wanted to touch and caress every patch. She knew this was going to drive her wife crazy, but after having their first fight, Rayna just wanted to cherish Arcadia. "You are so very beautiful, Cadie," she whispered against the smooth skin of the princess' stomach, her callused hands running along the blonde's spread thighs. "I fear I don't tell you that often enough."

"Oh, Rayna! I know! I know you love me, I know you think me beautiful." Arcadia looked down her body to where her wife was settling between her legs. "But I swear to the Gods above if you don't bring me pleasure soon, I shall do it myself!"

Rayna chuckled, knowing Arcadia was quite serious. "As you wish, my wife." She lifted Arcadia's legs and draped them over her shoulders, her hands coming to rest on Arcadia's hips and holding on, knowing her wife would buck and thrash about wildly. Lowering her head, Rayna breathed in Arcadia's musky scent, the delightful aroma making her mouth water. Slowly, ever so slowly, the warrior lapped up Arcadia's swollen wet folds, humming in pleasure at her first taste of her wife. As Arcadia arched off the bed, moaning aloud, Rayna dipped her tongue inside the seeping font, wanting more of Arcadia's essence.

"Gods above, Rayna!" Arcadia squealed. "Have mercy!"

Taking Arcadia's hard throbbing need between her lips, she suckled as though she were dying of thirst. She stroked, harder and faster as Arcadia began to throb, her body tensing as she approached the pinnacle, waiting, waiting for that last elusive soft touch that would send her flying over.

Arcadia's breath caught in her throat as her orgasm hit her hard; her eyes squeezed tightly shut, fingers curled to grasp the sheet she was lying upon, her body arched as if frozen until it shuddered uncontrollably and her scream of pleasure came forth, a thousand different colours exploding behind her closed eyes, all of them with Rayna's name on. Completely spent, she limply fell back into the softness of the feather-filled mattress, chest heaving as she gasped for breath. She held on to Rayna as her wife clambered up her body, the warrior straddling one of her limp thighs, needing to take care of her own need. Exhausted, but wanting to be an active participant, Arcadia tensed her leg and lifted it to press against Rayna. "Rayna, you're so wet!" she murmured in amazement.

"You...you make me..." Rayna gritted out through clenched teeth, gyrating frantically against her wife's thigh, oh so close to climax.

"Come for me, sweetheart," Arcadia whispered into Rayna's pink tinged ear. "I wish to feel you. You won't deny me, will you?"

The softly spoken words were all it took. Rayna's muscular body jerked twice as she exploded, her mouth agape and Arcadia's name slipping past her lips, before she fell on top of Arcadia.

Smiling lovingly, Arcadia wrapped her arms around Rayna, holding her tightly to her. "Rayna, let us try never to fight again," she murmured, fingers stroking damp strands of raven hair. "Though, if this is how we're going to make up..."

Rayna lifted her head, a crooked smile on her lips. "We don't need to fight to have this, Cadie." She kissed her wife's swollen lips and rolled over onto her side of the bed. "I am yours to do with as you wish, whenever you wish, Princess."

Snuggling against Rayna's side, Arcadia tucked her head beneath her wife's chin. "That's good to know. I love you so much, Rayna." Green eyes drifted shut as her weary body finally gave in to its need to rest. The last words reaching her were Rayna's.

"I know, but I love you more."


* * * * *

"Cornelius," Dagwood called out, getting the big man's attention.

"Dagwood," Cornelius smiled. "What can I do for you?"

Fingers curling around Cornelius' bicep, Dagwood led his friend aside for privacy. "People are sick, Cornelius," he started, letting go of the grey-haired man's arm. "They shouldn't be allowed on Belleza."

"We are in the middle of the ocean, Dagwood. What would you have me do? Throw them overboard?"

"No, of course not. I just meant they shouldn't be allowed off the boat."

Cornelius looked at the man he most trusted, his second in command in the absence of his eldest son, his life long friend, in disbelief. "You want me to order them to stay on the ship? After they have come all this way? Even though they have friends and family waiting for them? Dagwood, that is madness and will surely cause a mutiny!"

"Think of the women, Cornelius!" Dagwood argued. "If you let our people off the ship and they have the sickness they will surely run the risk of giving to their friends and loved ones. Cornelius, you could kill off the Belleza women!"

"Don't talk rubbish!" Cornelius scoffed, moving away from the raven-haired man. "You can't know that the people on this ship have the same sickness those back home have. We have been sailing for a moon, how can it be the same thing?"

"Even if it isn't, you shouldn't let them set foot on Belleza. We are returning for a celebration, think of your niece, your great grand-children, what if by letting our people on the island, you cause them to get sick?"

Cornelius spun around, grabbing a fistful of Dagwood's shirt. "I would never do anything to endanger their lives," he growled, his one good eye burning in anger. Releasing his hold on his friend, he smoothed the man's shirt. "I understand your concerns, Dagwood. But it can't surely be the same thing. We should reach Belleza in the early hours tomorrow. Report to me if anyone coughs up blood, then we shall talk," he said, dismissing Dagwood's fears and turning his attention back to the silvery moon.



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