"Thomas?" I inquired of Colin's pleasant and efficient batman. "When you have a minute, will you drop by the school and have Ralph, Terence, and Harry Cyffylog attend me in the garage after school?" Thomas had just completed the final brushing of Colin's uniform. Now outfitted in his staff blues, Colin was ready for fun with artillery.
We went down to breakfast. Having been thwarted in his effort to usurp Aethnen in management of the palace, I now permitted Humphrey to join us for breakfast twice a week as a face saving exercise. I received a full briefing on how the school project had been implemented and was working. Humphrey wanted to hire some tutors in more specialized subjects for gifted or promising students and I thought that was an excellent idea and commended him nicely.
"But there's been lots of complaints," Humphrey advised. "As you know, we employ a number of young people: hall boys, stable boys, under maids, scullery maids, gardener's assistants, and such like. The school takes them away from their other duties and nobody's happy about it, except the kids, of course."
"Hire more kids so that we can fill the rosters and get all the work done. This is a good thing. And they all go to school. The new ones, too."
I was toying, vaguely, with the notion of a morning ride with Kameyn. I was dressed for it; I was still not fond of the plus 4's, or knickers, that Vyvyan thought so highly of for walking about, but I thought I looked rather dashing in boots and jodhpurs i . I was standing in the entrance, on the cusp of a decision, when Mrs Mwyar came bustling up.
"Oh! Your Royal Highness! Have you heard the news? I've two pregnant house maids! Alice and Clarisse! They're both elves too! Ah, the wonder of it!" And she was off before I had completely lost my composure, to say nothing of having an opportunity to regain it.
CAMMRRONNN !! COLLLINN !! HELP !!
Visions of household calamity rioted through my imagination. I could see outraged Elven patriarchs descending upon me with eldritch shotguns and demands for marriage; or possibly they would tender extortionate palimony demands coupled with loud 'den of iniquity' accusations; they could level aspersions about flagrant disregard for the 'virtue' of maiden elves entrusted to the palace and renewed demands for matrimony, or outraged refusals to wed non-elves; and what about all the insults they could invent about good names trashed, what would the tabloids make of it – though it occurred to me that I'd seen no tabloids here; then there could be numerous variations on the theme of and-what-kind-of-a-palace-is-this-anyway and: who knew, maybe there'd be republicans clamoring.
Relax my Prince, Cameron arrived. I barely noticed that he had a stork with him.
I'm on my way, Colin seconded.
"OhmiGod!" I began. "Two of the housemaids are pregnant! What will we do now?" It dawned on me that I'd neglected to even ask who the parents might be.
"Desmond," I dragooned a passing footman, "Have Mrs Mwyar join us in the library, please.
"Come into the library," I said to Cameron and the stork. By now, I'd become familiar enough with my new world that a stork in the library didn't register as odd.
Closing the door, I repeated myself, "What will we do now?" Not a terribly princely comment, but the thought occurred as my composure began to return. I sat down.
My prince, Cameron began. Please meet my associate, Expectant. She's an authority in these sorts of things.
" Is she a lawyer?"
Your Royal Highness, Expectant bobbed her head on her remarkable neck. What seems to be the problem?
I glared at her and stifled the impulse to screech. Princes don't, you know – screech. I stood up and strode stiffly to a window and glared at the beautiful morning scene before me. I never use spurs on Kameyn, so I was unable to distract myself by spurring myself in the ankle. I didn't even have a riding crop to slap me with. I breathed deeply. I saw Colin cantering up the drive on his bay charger. I noted, not for the first time, his beautiful seat.
The door opened and Mrs Mwyar rejoined us. Distracting me from my thoughts on Colin's seat, I collected myself, "I believe you mentioned earlier that two of the housemaids are pregnant. Is that correct?"
"Yes sir, it is," she seemed positively buoyant.
"How did this happen?" I regarded her calmly though she seemed somewhat bemused. At that moment, Colin entered the room looking inquiringly at me. At that moment, a light seemed to go on for Mrs Mwyar.
"Well, Sir, what happens when a young man and a young lady get together is, well, sometimes they have ah, well, a liaison I guess you could say. And sometimes, if this liaison is particularly blessed, a child ensues."
Colin laughed outright. I glowered. We had both had sex education at school; at the same time and in the same classroom. We understood the mechanics of the thing. I did not need a review of the process in the rather opaque language of the palace. I opted for a different tack.
"Do you know who the fathers are?"
"Of a certainty," Mrs Mwyar replied. "Master St Marie was with Alice and Master Sanford was with Clarisse. The girls are ecstatic. I only wish Master Wolsey might show some interest. But he's the youngest I'm thinkin'. So there's that."
Cameron, where the hell are Paul and Christian. Have they fled?
No my Prince, they are in San Diego working on a bullying case at their school.
Well, they're to report to me the instant they return.
I returned my attention to Mrs Mwyar. "What do you mean the girls are ecstatic?"
"How not, Sir? Tis a boon many pray for and few are granted."
"But they're not married."
Mrs Mwyar looked at me blankly.
I looked at her blankly.
"Thank you Mrs Mwyar," Colin interjected. "You've been a great help. Let us know if there is anything we can do to assist."
Mrs Mwyar gave her patented half-curtsey and left. I returned to the sofa and sat down. "Okay. Can someone please explain this to me?"
My Prince. Cameron began. It is not the same here as it is at home. Marriage here is nothing like the institution that you are thinking of.
Indeed, Expectant interjected. If I may, just about every idea you have about marriage from your experience in California is apt to be wrong here in Ellendale. There is, for example, no large ceremony that invokes an unseen and unheard spirit to bless and monitor the marriage.
Rather the two pledge their love for one another, and for the children, and that pretty much does it. Once this pledge is made, that's it. They may live together, they may not, but they will always have a care for each other and they will always love any children if they're lucky enough to have them.
Think for a minute, My Prince. Cameron continued. When your Dad came into your bedroom when we were dressing you in San Diego that day, he fainted. He had no clue. Then, when the Lady Beatrice appeared and transported your Dad-o he was, like, dazed. But when Cheryll was hijacked by Beatrice, she was unimpressed, took no shit, and told Dafydd to mind her groceries. She knew. She has always known and if your mother had survived she would have known too. The both of them were married to your Dads. But your Mom died suddenly and I was the one who was always looking out for you. And I had to wait for the right time to contact you.
"So you're telling me it's no big deal?"
Well no. It's a very big deal indeed, Expectant interjected. Only not in the way you might have been thinking. Everyone is jubilant; children are a great boon and will brighten the lives of the parents and the people around them. I suspect even yourself will come to know and enjoy them.
Then, too, everyone involved has a position in your household, so there are no concerns for the practicalities of life – employment, rent, school and all of that stuff.
"Well that's good," I observed in a princely manner, "please keep me informed. I'm going riding." I left in the serene certainty that everything would be taken care of without any further involvement from myself. I would be told, from time to time, by competent authority, what to do next. Rather like getting dressed.
Kameyn was glad to see me. I visited with Arion for a bit, and then Kameyn and I started off on my favored bridle trail in the woods. Kameyn was eager to go and he fell into the smooth canter of the Arabian horse; the canter that his ancestors had used to carry their riders out of Arabia and across North Africa and into Europe. We cantered for several miles and then Kameyn decided to walk and that was fine with me, I continued to tell him of all my tribulations, fears, and concerns and all of these were smoothed away in the breeze of his motion, the calm certainty of his presence, the knowledge that all was as it should be. There is nothing like having a good horse to talk to.
My Prince, Cameron was calling me back to work. You should start back to the stable if you're to meet the Cyffylog boys as you arranged.
Thanks, I replied. It seemed as though Kameyn must have heard this exchange. We had been walking and he had come to a halt as Cameron was talking. I barely touched his neck with the reins and he turned smoothly and started us home. I could feel him collect himself so I was fully prepared when he stepped into the trot and I posted along with him. I felt rather dashing. There really is nothing like a good horse.
The Cyffylog boys were fidgeting with uncertainty when I rode up to the stable. They snapped to attention and saluted me smartly. I returned their salute with nothing like their precision. They were turned-out nicely in their school clothes which looked suspiciously like a uniform: khaki jacket and shorts, white shirt with green striped tie, and a red waistcoat. They appeared slightly rumpled and one of the twins had a lovely shiner developing and the other had some dried blood below his nose.
"Shouldn't do rugby in your school clothes. Don't think your Mum will like that."
"Warn't rugby," one of the twins responded.
"Yon DeVries called us 'palace flunkies' so we hadda dust 'im up, don' cha know? 'Im an 'is pals."
"You were fighting," I commented with feigned worry.
"Nah. Just sortin' 'em out a bit," Ralph soothed.
"Other than that, you're looking well today, men. I suppose your Mum can take care of the uniforms."
"Not to worry, yer 'ighness, she'll not be knowin'."
"Ah. Well come walk with me as we cool down Kameyn."
We chatted amiably about school; I gave the required speech about attending to lessons and the inherent evil of schoolyard brawling: you could almost hear the eyes rolling; we discussed rugby at some length and I noted that my liegeman, James Wolsey, had been transformed into "Jamie" and was thoroughly approved of.
When we returned to the stable, Kameyn whinnied imperiously and Elowin, his principal groom came out to collect him. I usually would help curry him but had business with the lads to attend to. I led them around to the garage that housed my car.
"'Ere sir, wot's that ribbon yon lumbering 'Erb ii 'ad on 'is jacket?" Wondered Terence, or was it Harry? I'd been expecting a question about the car and was, not surprisingly I guess, caught off guard again.
"Oh, that. Well that's my order. The Prince Royals Own Order. You're awarded it for being in my personal service.
"You're probably wondering why I've gathered you here." (I smirked to myself.) "I have this car and will be getting one or two more cars in the future. So I was wondering if the three of you would like a part time job. You'll need to come here a few hours a week and keep the cars clean and polished and help Arion with them. He'll help you schedule the work and you will receive a salary."
"Wot about the medal. Do we gets the medal if we werks fer you?" Ralph wondered.
"Well. Yes. I think you have to be in service for a year. I think we could say it's been that long that I've known you three."
"You was sayin', yuh know, about money." This from Terence, or was it Harry, one of whom, at least, had some small degree of practicality.
"I was thinking probably three shillings, but I'll have to double check with Arion before we decide for sure."
"Yes," exulted Ralph punching his palm. "A medal!"
"Yes," exulted Terence, or was it Harry. "Three bob!" The three of them did a little jig.
Pleased with the reaction of my young friends, I left them with Arion and started back to the palace in a rambling and unhurried sort of way. I remembered that I had a question for the military so I sauntered over to the garrison office, casually returning the salutes from the two sentries. As I entered, the corporal at the desk snapped sharply to attention.
"Please corporal, relax." I know there's a command for this, but naturally, I'd forgotten it. "I just want to ask a couple of questions."
He relaxed a trifle and managed to look attentive though his gaze was clearly affixed to something over my shoulder. "Are there any engineers attached to the garrison here?"
"You know, build forts, roads, bridges, that sort of thing."
And it was at that point, that an inner door was flung open and a young officer strode magisterially into the office. He was actually attempting to glare at us. "What's the meaning of this?" He was trying to sound formidable and threatening at the same time and I was wondering what the poor corporal might have done.
"At ease! I'm not talking to you." He snapped rather rudely at the corporal, and again attempted to glare at me. "Well?" He inquired officiously of me.
And at that moment, in the person of GSM Aberhonddu, the young officer's guardian angel arrived. He crashed to attention before me and saluted, "Your Royal Highness! How can we help you today?"
"Major. How nice to see you. I stopped by because I'd like to talk to a military engineer. I didn't know if one was attached to the garrison or not. I didn't want to be a bother, so I just came to the office. Do we have one here?"
"No Highness, we don't. But we kin get one quick enough."
"Excellent. Let Cameron know when he'll be arriving. I'm planning some things and have some questions.
"I'm glad you came by." I actively like GSM Aberhonddu and I smiled and nodded to him. I gave the young officer a look: it was the dismissive glare.
Cameron. Have we heard anything from our liegemen in San Diego?
Not yet my Prince. But they've been notified by their familiars, they're not in any danger, but apparently they've managed to get involved in a fairly complex case. I didn't want to give them any orders. They're on-scene. I thought it best to let them sort it out before returning here.
Excellent, thank you Cam.
There was the occasional letter.
Colin and I had enjoyed a wonderful dinner, just the two of us; then we'd retired to our bath where we'd had great fun bathing each other and that, of course, evolved into loving sex; we were now relaxing in our huge bed in the afterglow of a glorious evening. "You know," Colin observed, "You need a confidential secretary."
"You what?" I spluttered. Then I laughed. Then I hammered him with a pillow. "We spend hours dining, bathing, fucking and sucking, and then, as we relax for sleep, you start talking about palace personnel. Rather than cuddling – you start administrating! Sheesh! I love you!"
We kissed. And stuff.
i Riding britches favored by the Maharajah of Jodhpur that became fashionable throughout Europe; worn by all the best cavalry regiments and, to be sure, by others in emulation of their betters.
ii An "'Erb" is someone whose name is unknown to the speaker, but it is not a derogatory term. First used by Kitchener's Army.
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