Ronon met up with John and Aracely as they were walking towards the dining hall. “I’ve heard from Teyla,” the man said with a gruff voice. “She’s not coming back.”
“Well, it would have been nice of her to tell her so myself,” John answered and sighed. “What about her family?”
“They’ll join her as soon as they can.”
“Did she have a reason why she doesn’t desire to return?” Aracely asked with concern. “I hope that I had not angered her so much with John’s choice in me.”
“Nah,” Ronon shook his head. “Something to do with her family and that John doesn’t need her anymore.”
John pouted and looked at Ronon. “Still, it would have been nice of her to come back and talk to me.”
“She said you’d understand.” the other man shrugged. “How are you feeling, my Queen?”
Aracely frowned as she looked at the men. “I was fine before but now I am sad about this,” she admitted.
“Oh don’t worry, the rest of the maids are a handful, you’ll see once you give birth!” the man roared with laughter. “People leave the castle all the time.”
“Not without talking to me first.” John grumbled. Sure, he could understand why Teyla would stay with her family, she was a very caring woman, but he didn’t understand why she wouldn’t have returned to come and talk to him, say goodbye properly. It was scary in some way, because now he would have to do things all by himself, even if he had Aracely now. In a way, Teyla had always been a better adviser in some matters than George, the old adviser of his father, and John would certainly miss the wisdom that she somehow possessed.
She leaned into John’s side, her hand going to her back. “I suppose we should continue now. I do need to sit,” she noted, her back growing painful. “We should sent word to Miss Teyla that she is welcome to visit the castle whenever she wishes. That she’d be welcome despite the conflict that she and I encountered with one another.”
“Yes and we will,” John said as they continued walking. “At the end of the very long letter I’m going to write to her trying to make her feel guilty about leaving.”
Ronon opened the big doors to the dining room for them with a smile, Nicholas already sitting there with his wife Charlotte and Chaya, some of their maids were standing against the wall with their backs. Chaya looked bored and Charlotte looked a little tipsy already.
“You will not. If she wishes to return to her blood, she can do so. You may however invite them all to come back to the castle and live here,” Aracely smiled, but quickly sobered at the sight of their guests already seated for supper.
John saw how the color drained from Chaya’s face at the sight of him and Aracely. “I am sorry for not meeting with you upon your arrival two days ago, I had some urgent matters to attend to,” he said with a smile and gently squeezed Aracely’s hand. “So welcome back to Atlantica, you all remember my wife, Aracely?” John helped her to sit down in her comfortable chair.
“Thank you,” Aracely smiled at him as she eased herself down before adjusting the wrapped layers of her gown more comfortably to be loosened around her belly while they ate.
“I’m not sure if I should congratulate you on an heir so soon or berate you, John,” Charlotte slurred.
“Mother!” Chaya shot at her mother. “Of course we’re happy,” she said with a big fake smile plastered on her face as she looked at John. “Congratulations.”
Aracely looked unfazed by the comments as she stared at the older woman. “Why would you berate the King in his own castle for what he and I choose to do in our chambers? You probably could have stood some benefit to having more children. Family is a blessing.”
“You should forgive my wife,” Nicholas said. John could see the man was almost squeezing his wife’s hand into pulp. “She’s never been able to keep a good glass of wine down. We are happy, of course we are.”
“Right,” John smiled. “Let’s start eating, I’m famished! How have you been, Chaya?” he asked as he pulled a bowl of fruit towards Aracely and had Katie fill his plate with food while he scooped up some fruit onto Aracely’s plate when a few of Nicholas’ maids nearly jumped forward to assist the three in filling their plates.
“Thank you,” she smiled at him as she picked up a piece of melon to nibble on, watching with disgust the level of ignorance the other family displayed toward their servants. “So the plans for the women and children’s shelter are coming along well. The sleeping quarters will be finished first and then we can begin to make arrangements to find the most in need that would benefit greatly by it.”
“So you have been looking!” John said surprised. “I thought we’d go and see the progress together.”
“Women and Children’s shelter?” Nicholas asked as he dug in to his meat in a way that disgusted John. “Are you spending your money on useless things, John?” he said it in a way that John knew that he was referring to their conversation earlier.
“No, just on more important things. It’s Aracely’s project.”
“You gave your wife something to do that involves the funds of your Kingdom? Are you mad, John?”
“I thought we weren’t going to discuss business during dinner,” Chaya said as she glared at her father. “I think it’s a great idea, that way the women can be more productive and make dresses.”
Aracely remained silent as she watched and listened to the interaction. Chaya’s support was clearly intended only to gain the couple’s good graces and a small part of the woman was able to give her enough credit that she was attempting to settle a subject that would and still could very likely cause a great deal of conflict – unlike the one that would come later. “Just because someone has little money does not mean they are unimportant and not valued to the land. They have many skills that can be utilized if given the proper chance. We have our plans well thought out for the start of the programme.”
“We are trying to make things better for our subjects,” John said as he dug into his mashed potatoes. “It was a shock to me to find out that because of my father’s illness certain things were severely neglected. Anyway, how are you doing Chaya?”
“I’m okay,” she nodded. “Father has been sending me off to various other Kingdoms to meet the princes. Do you remember Fraeir of Asgardia?”
“I do,” John smiled.
“He’s even more crazy than when he was younger. He has some sort of cloth hanging between two trees to lay in it to watch the birds,” she chuckled. “And he’s an awful dancer.”
“Oh yes! I think he sent one of those things over as a wedding present for Aracely and I, that was nice of him to do, we still have to see if it works.” John chuckled, feeling slightly creeped out by how pleasant Chaya was and how easily he was slipping into the idle chatter mode. “I believe the Chulakkan’s have a male heir or two.” John looked up to see Charlotte nearly choking on her piece of meat. There we are, he thought.
“Small bits, mother. Remember what the physician told you.” Chaya gently tapped on Charlotte’s back before looking at Aracely. “I am surprised to find how well you seem to be settling in, considering you’re from a small village.”
“Of course she is, she’s amazing.” John responded and then felt the need to clear his plate in record time, just to have the evening over with and everything else out of the way.
Aracely passed John a hard look after seeing him finish with her taking her time so that she wouldn’t find herself ill later. That was one thing she learned early on after she realised that she was expecting, when she ate fast, she ended up vomiting it back up not long after. “May I have some hot tea please?” she asked Katie who was refilling John’s wine glass.
“Of course my queen,” Katie smiled and signalled one of the other maids to get it.
He hadn’t missed Aracely’s look and scooped some more mashed potatoes on his plate including a piece of chicken. “Surely there must be someone you fancy, Chaya.”
“Someone that is not my husband…” Aracely threw out, unable to forget the slap to the face she received the first night in the castle.
“I must apologize for my behavior that night,” Chaya seemed to sound sincere, or maybe she had become better in fooling people. “I was upset, mostly because I didn’t have faith in John finding what he was looking for, hoping that he’d return empty handed…”
“It’s funny though, that a lot of people think that I am incompetent or not following through with things,” John chuckled and shook his head as he took a bite of the chicken.
Aracely smiled at him. “John is quite skilled in researching the legacy of some people. He had managed to discover an old image of my father when I was quite young right here in the castle in fact,” she commented before taking a sip of her soup to hide the smirk that threatened to come across her face.
“I think that Nicholas and Charlotte remember that day, my father wanted to have drawings of all his favorite people, at least that’s what George told me.” John said and took a sip of his wine. “Of course, it was more difficult to find the rest of the images, father liked to hide things.”
“We have all the time in the world to search the castle. I have confidence that it would not be far from where he liked to spend his time,” she said reassuringly. “They may very well be in his chambers.”
“Yeah well, I’ve begun to turn his chambers upside down, and found some … oh, I think that Janet will come in soon to bring me those things, really Nicholas, you should see it. It’s fascinating,” John said excitedly. “For example, did you know that some people of Aracely’s village are from nobility? They are unaware of this, but it’s fun to see where some people end up.”
“Don’t you have scholars that are doing that kind of research?”
“Oh where’s the fun in that, Nicholas? You never know what you may or may not dig up in old boxes,” he said with a smile and carefully moved away when Katie put a glass of steaming hot tea in front of Aracely. “Thank you Katie.”
“And you cannot always trust that the scholars that conduct the research are always truthful in what they may uncover, if they would inform people of things that would be quite well to know. Such as …” Aracely trailed off as she tried to think of something inconspicuous to begin with. “Information such as that a portion of one farmer’s land actually belongs to the blood line of a poor man who searches desperately for ways to feed his family after the land had been stolen from his father’s father and never knew of it.”
“And you know how it goes, some of the poorer inhabitants of a Kingdom sometimes refuse to travel so many days to inform the registrars in the capital of a new birth or a dispute… but we’re working on changing all of that.”
“That is absolutely fascinating!” Chaya squealed. “I wish that father would have allowed me to learn something of importance when I was younger. Knitting and sowing makes me dizzy.”
“Your parents might not wish for you to have discovered information like that. I am sure that they fear you might have learned that you are not -” Aracely began to say as John cut her off, a look of disgust and anger flashing in her eyes at the two who seemingly attempted to ignore her presence at the table.
“I am sure that if Nicholas and Charlotte had been more free in their beliefs, you could have, Chaya, it’s never too late to learn new things. I mean… Aracely and I are going to become parents, and I have already told my staff that we want to change the dirty cloths, feed the baby ourselves, all those things, and it’s scary because we have to learn something new.”
“Women aren’t meant to have projects of their own that are important, or do studies,” Nicholas said grumpily. “Which is why I think you’re still mad, John, for having her rule as your equal.”
John shrugged. “I don’t,” he then sighed as he saw Janet walk in with the crate filled with journals and other papers. “She would have been a ruler, even if I hadn’t married her.”
“Women can’t rule!”
“Really? Have you checked your own laws, Nicholas? You never seemed to have changed them when you stole the throne from your own brother.”
“John, that’s ridiculous! Daddy doesn’t have a brother.” Chaya said disgusted.
“We have mountains of records that say otherwise. He overthrew him, where King Robert and his wife Eileen were forced to flee, seeking sanctuary in the lands of a friend. My parents,” Aracely said evenly, leveling her eyes on the three.
John took the crate from Janet, and without minding the plates on the table, he put it down in front of Nicholas. “Not only that, but you knew that they had fled to one of the villages out of reach from yourself and even my father’s, and have poisoned not only your villages, but more in Atlantica, for years.”
John could see that the color had drained from both Nicholas and Charlotte, and Chaya was looking as clueless as ever. “Oh, and not forgetting this… you had people of Proculus pay off people of Chulakka to steal the girls from the villages near the border. And had them bribe my own soldiers!”
Aracely sat in her chair, staring at her own uncle by blood. She wished that things may had been under different circumstances but after all the man had done to her family and the people she loved, she felt nothing good for him. “The only question now is what do you have to say about it. I would not even attempt at denying the facts. We have collected plenty of testimony and are prepared to protect those that has confessed to their crimes on the orders of the royal family of Proculus.”
It was quiet for a while, John was patiently sipping his wine, to let everything sink in. Chaya had picked up some of the papers and was actually paying attention to the words as she read them. “I don’t like war, Nicholas,” he said eventually. “Anyone else in our position would have sought blood. You know that. Why did you do what you have done?”
“You have no idea what it’s like to have an older brother, see him get everything he needs, see him get more attention of your parents just because he’s the heir to the throne,” Nicholas said bitter. “Robert was a push over, a pacifist, like yourself, not fit to be a king, and we did everything we could to prevent him to take back the throne. We knew that he had a daughter, and we hoped that by doing what we did, we could safeguard our future.”
“You killed a lot of innocent people on both sides of that lake, Nicholas,” John stared him down. “Good, innocent and hard working people got sick and died. Or were taken by the Chulakkans. Families, ripped apart.”
“You have no right to preach to me boy!” Nicholas bellowed. “I ought to have your head for the words you dare to use against me!”
“Last time I checked, we were in my castle,” John said evenly and held up his hand to stop Ronon from approaching any further. “That makes it that I can say whatever I want, it’s you who’s out of line.”
“You never should have bothered seeking out a – a pheasant girl to marry you! My daughter is far more suited to bear your heirs to your wretched little kingdom here,” the older man argued.
“Watch your mouth, Nicholas.” He shot at him. “You have two choices. One, you forfeit the throne right now and hand it to Aracely. Two, you leave and go back to Proculus, but I have to warn you, my army is bigger, stronger and faster than yours and lives will be lost.”
“If your female takes the throne like you claim, then what would you have to do with two kingdoms? You barely are capable to deal with the problems in your own,” the man laughed.
Aracely’s eyes narrowed. “John and I are more than capable of organising and ruling both lands. You clearly are incapable of managing the one, considering the state of the lives of the people. It makes me ashamed to think that you and I are of the same blood. Forfeit the throne and I may be more kind enough to show you the same kindness you showed my parents. However,” she added, her tone softening slightly. “Being that I am about to be a mother soon, I will allow you to have a small piece of land so that you may farm and sustain yourselves.”
“You broke your kingdom’s own laws and got caught. It’s that no child should be without his or her parents or we would have publicly made an example out of you.” John said. “It’s your choice, Nicholas, but I suggest you take the less embarrassing one.”
“This is ridiculous, you can’t do this,” Charlotte eventually said. “You simply can’t, you’re ruining our lives! What about Chaya? She had nothing to do with this.”
“This is your own fault, Charlotte. Your own greed and jealousy caught up with you. Besides, Chaya isn’t a child anymore, she’s an adult, she can make her own decisions.” He answered. Sure, Chaya was spoiled, very spoiled, but she genuinely seemed to have changed, matured, somewhat over the last few months. “Save yourself, Nicholas, you’ve always only looked out for yourself and your family, so why stop that now?”
“Can we choose where we will spend the rest of our lives?”
“No, in fact, there’s this island off the coast of Proculus, isn’t there? It would be the perfect place for you to be able to take care of yourself for many years to come.”
Chaya looked between them, unsure of what to say or do. “Father?” she asked, her voice with hurt and disbelief. For the man to be silent now, actually considering the offer from John and Aracely, it was enough of an admission to her parents’ guilt for her.
“An island of your own. It is a generous offer. More than I was willing to entertain to offer you,” Aracely commented as she sipped her tea, her tone with no nonsense.
“How about Aracely and I will give you a moment to yourself, so you can think about all of this, look over all the things in that crate and know that there’s no way to turn? Ronon will make sure you won’t leave this room.” John slowly rose from his seat and held out his hand for Aracely.
Putting her tea down slowly, she stood and joined her husband as they went out to the hall to leave the other family to discuss their situation. “I do not believe they will try to go to war with Atlantica. It would mean suicide for them.”
“They know,” John nodded. “I just want to give them the time to realize that, and for Chaya to chew them out,” he chuckled.
“And what of her? As much as it pains me to say, she appears to have nothing to do with her parents’ affairs. It would be wrong of us to punish her for their crimes,” she sighed, sitting down onto a servant’s chair that had been left outside the dining room doors.
“How about we give her a choice? Stay with her parents, or… well, maybe she could learn a lot from someone, in a certain village…”
Aracely instantly frowned. “I would not dare to have my friends suffer from her petulance. They have done nothing to me to bring them such a burden.”
“Fine,” John sighed. “What’s the other choice? I mean, she needs to learn the right things in life, knowing Chaya, she wouldn’t last for a day in a random village.”
“This is something that I believe your Teyla would have been perfect for. She knows quite well how to manage a girl such as her, but Chulakka still isn’t the safest land if one does not share their blood.”
“Teyla’s not here,” John sulked. “Halling would be great, I’m sure if we’d ask him to take care of her, he’d do it, and I’m sure that she would turn around quickly. That… or… have Fraeir more interested in her.”
Aracely raised an eyebrow. “Is he truly that despicable?”
“No,” John chuckled. “He’s like me, just a bit more… eccentric and scientifically orientated.”
“Let us see what she has to say. Perhaps she might have a request worth considering,” she offered.
“Yeah… how are you feeling? Are you okay?”
“I am fine. I am feeling very well, all things considering,” she smiled.
He squatted down and softly kissed her. “I’ll be so happy when this is all over.”
“You and I both. What do you say we head back in and see what they have decided?”
“Alright,” He got up and helped her up from the chair. “But really, if there’s crying involved, I’ll walk right back out,” he chuckled as they walked back into the room. Chaya had switched sides of the table, looking sternly at her parents. “Chaya, I want you to know that none of the options we’ve given your parents include you. You’re always welcome to join in their future, but I want you to know that you will have our support if you decide not to.”
Chaya turned from her parents and looked at John and Aracely. “I know we have not gotten on so well, but I do wish to change that, in time. I ask that you may allow me to stay here, with you. Perhaps I can help with your infant when it is born. I wish to do whatever I can to make up my short comings to you and the people.”
John looked at Chaya, blinked, and then looked at Aracely before looking back at Chaya. “I don’t think…” he started to say before Chaya spoke again.
“Please, John? I always thought that I didn’t have family apart from my parents. Had I known about Aracely… you know I would never have hurt her if I had, please? I would really like to stay here, help you and Aracely and get to know each other?”
“I’ll leave that to Aracely,” John said after a while and then approached Nicholas and Charlotte. “Well?”
“Very well, we’ll do whatever you want us to do,” Nicholas said tiredly. “I’m getting too old for this, John.”
“Don’t.” He replied and shook his head. “You’re welcome to stay the night, but tomorrow, a few of Ronon’s men will escort you to Proculus, to the castle to pick up your belongings, and take you to the island off the coast.” John continued. “You will also order your entire court to come to Atlantica with all the documents, books and everything else that Aracely and I need.”
Aracely had watched Chaya from the moment of her request before nodding slowly. “With the combined resources we can focus on the health of the people before rebuilding a structure between the two lands. Perhaps of use for the council to communicate with the people more efficiently with my John.”
“I’m glad we see eye to eye on this, Nicholas.” John said to the older man as he nodded. “I suggest you retire for the night, you’ll have a busy couple of days ahead of you.” He walked back towards Aracely and put an arm around her waist as he looked at Chaya. “Tomorrow, Janet is going to help you settle in, give you different chambers and will make sure you’ll have enough clothing until your belongs arrive from Proculus. She will also be your shadow for the time being, I hope you don’t mind.”
Chaya nodded in relief. “That is fine. Anything. I just feel so bad about this, and them.”
“We’ll see how it goes, good night, Chaya.” John gently pulled Aracely towards the door as he nodded at Ronon, who then walked towards Charlotte and Nicholas to show them to their quarters.
The walk back to their bed chamber was quiet. As they neared closer, Aracely looked up at John as she ran a hand over her belly. “You managed to avoid a war. How do you feel about everything now? The work on the well-being of the people just doubled after all.”
“I don’t know,” John said thoughtfully. “It probably won’t make much of a difference in the amount of work considering we’re still working on improving the well-being of our own people.” He opened the doors to their chambers. “We’ll see, when we get the documents, in just what kind of a shape Proculus is. Maybe we can reorganize the land there, grow better tasting tea leafs and get the mine operational with healthy people… but we’ll see. Right now, I just want to take it easy for a while.”
She raised an eyebrow in amusement. “You? Take it easy? I find that difficult to believe that you are capable of such a feat.”
“Well, I haven’t been into my garden in a long time, so maybe I’m going to do that.” John shrugged. “Or help out with building the home for the mothers and children… it doesn’t hurt to do physical labor every once in a while. Or maybe find a great stallion for my mare. Or… I don’t know… design and build the crib for our child.” He waved his hands around as he spoke, closing the door as they entered their chambers.
“So many ambitions for one man. Where will you begin?” she smiled.
“Taking things easy,” he shrugged. “You choose.” He grinned and put his arms around Aracely. “Or you know, we could start with having some more fun today,” John softly kissed the top of her head. “Or, we could go to bed and get some sleep…”
“After all the fun you and I experienced today, I think a full night of sleep is very appropriate. As much as I would like to have more – fun, I simply cannot right now,” she sighed, falling onto the bed and laying back still in her garments.
He crawled onto the bed and gently helped her out of her dress. “Alright my love, let’s catch up on some much needed sleep,” John said after getting out of his own clothes as well and snuggling up against her. “I love you, my beautiful Goddess.”
“And I love you my husband,” Aracely smiled, content and happy with changes that had occurred in her life since meeting the strange man that came into her village.
John had the sudden realisation that night that everything was going to be alright. Everything that he had feared hadn’t come across, in fact, he was doing a better job at being a King than he thought he would do. It helped that he had Aracely standing next to him. He was sure that in time, both Atlantica and Proculus would be thriving again and maybe, in a couple of years, the rest of the Kingdoms would start to see that being different in your ways, didn’t necessarily mean that it was a bad thing.
He was amazed by what he and Aracely had accomplished in the few months since his Father passed, and knew that they would continue to do amazing things the rest of their lives. He felt honored that Aracely chose to be with him when he asked, because she gave him the strength to stay true to his beliefs and ideas, instead of sticking to the old ways and old traditions.
It was truly the start of a new era.