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After hearing of Antheia giving birth, Lucius’s parents seek him out but they miss him at the amphitheater. They head to the castle to see Lucius, Antheia and the children. Jonah and Illeena enter the castle and make their way up to the queen’s chambers. They knock and Lucius opens the door.
”Dad, Mom, come in.”
Hellos are exchanged as they enter and gather around the bed. Antheia, having just fed her daughter, is holding her. “It is nice to see you both, she says.”
”It is good to see you as well. How are you feeling?” Jonah asks.
”Good but tired, thank you.”
”Why didn’t you send word of this? We had to hear of it at the games when it was announced.” Ileana’s asks as she looks at Lucius. She continues “have you named her yet?”
”No, not yet. We will in time.” Antheia answers then looks at Lucius.” Why didn’t you tell your parents when I went into labor, Lucius?”
”I was so worried about you, that I didn’t think of it.” He answered.
“That’s okay, son. I was the same way every time your mother went into labor. We are just happy to see you all well. Where is Alexander?”
”In the nursery with his nurse. I’ll get him.” Lucius says then leaves.
Antheia lets Illeena hold her granddaughter. “She is beautiful.” Illeena says.
Jonah takes a look at the baby and agrees.
Lucius soon returns with Alexander.
While I get some lunch at the local pub, Galen heads off to send our message. As I enjoy my burger, salad and tea, I have a chance to think about what happened earlier. Those young dragons never actually harmed anyone; they only dove at us and flew by. Thinking about it, I realized that they were playing a dangerous game of some sort. Around me, people were discussing it and I could make out different opinions. One thing was clear for sure, they wanted those dragons punished.
Elsewhere, more of Lucius ‘s family have shown up to celebrate the birth of the newest member of the family. They move the gathering to the queen’s solar and food and drink are sent for.
Birch lay in his favorite spot by a window on the second floor of the Castle on the pillow he stole from Poppet and Ben’s bed.
Suddenly his ears perk up as he hears talking and laughing outdoors on the ground floor below.
He witnesses Blackie / Lee jumping into Pegasus’s right saddlebag and Hermes at the helm as they are ready to take off into the sky.
Oh my, there’s absolutely no way that his buddy is going on an adventure without him! Birch thought.
And with a leap of faith and his pathetic toy in tow, Birch pounces out of the window and miraculously lands in Pegasus’s left saddlebag with no one the wiser.
Let the adventure begin he meows
Galen joined me for lunch after running his errands that he needed to do without me for some reason. After stopping at the general store fir a few necessities, we headed for home.
Our day ended with dinner at home, play time with Buddy and then a movie.
Antheia needing to hunt and feed her dragon, after all of the celebration and visiting was done, saw her children put to bed.
”I need to hunt. I can feel my dragon half’s hunger.”
”Then let’s go feed her.” Lucius says. He kisses her then heads outside. Antheia follows and soon they are winging there way to find their favorite prey.
It was cold. Bitter cold. The wind blew through the roof and walls of the little cottage, as if the structure merely a minor impediment to its fury soon to be covered and filled with snow.
The old woman was shivering as she stirred the kettle over the smoldering fire. Nearby, her husband lay on a makeshift bed, buried under blankets, his eyes fixed on the spoon going round and round. Neither said a word.
It was not always this way. This had once been a prosperous farm, the fields tilled and sown with wheat and vegetables, the nearby orchard tended and laden with fruit. Although the farmer and his wife were elderly, they were able to make a life for themselves.
Then last spring a hole appeared in the roof and the farmer, as he had done in the past, went up on the roof to fix it. He fell. His wife found him later, on the ground, barely conscious. She managed to drag him into the house and then rode into town to summon a doctor. The prognosis was grim. The farmer’s back was broken.
From that point on, her world became smaller and smaller. She could not leave her husband alone as he could not take care of himself. The crops withered and died, since she could not harvest them. She gathered what fruit she could that fell to the ground, but most of it rotted. She sold the livestock, since she could no longer care for the animals and needed the funds to buy food and necessities. When winter came, her world became a single room, in which the fire was the center. A fire for which she was almost out of fuel.
Out of the silence, there began a scratching sound. At first the woman though it was tree branches blowing against the house. But then she realized the sound was coming from the door.
She went to the door and what appeared to be two snowballs came in and shook. A black and a grey tabby cat appeared and went over to the fire. Green and blue eyes regarded her thoughtfully.
“Well, I cannot offer you food, but I can offer a little warmth,” she thought to herself. She went back to kettle and began to ladle out a bowl of stew for herself and her husband. Taking the bowls over to the bed, she helped the farmer eat. She cleaned up the dishes and placed over the fire the few branches that she had left. She went to bed and both her and her husband fell asleep.
Sometime during the night she woke, feeling overheated under the blankets. She was startled to see that the fire was now blazing merrily, with cords of wood stacked neatly by the fireplace. The cats were gone.
(To Be Continued)
The young man stared in the empty glass. He had arrived at Salty’s Tavern a few hours earlier, tired and hungry from his travels. With what little funds he had left, he purchased food and drink. Now sated, he was contemplating his next move when he noted a small black cat watching him. The cat walked towards him and made an indication it wanted to be picked up. The man reached down and picked up the small creature. The car began to softly purr.
The young man sat back in the chair, petting the cat. “It must be nice, he thought, to be so content with life.”
He had left home to seek . . . something. He never knew what he ws seeking, only that it was never where he was. It was not wealth, as his father was a wealthy man and his son could have anything he wanted, just by asking. Ask he did, but he soon realize that things were not what he wanted.
The young man noticed the cat was no longer purring, He went back to stroking its fur.
“My grandmother had cats,” he said softly. “She lived on a farm; I used to stay there when I was little. But father did not like to visit that often. “Too much work for little gain”, he would say. That was why he left. He tried to make her come live with us. But she refused, she loved her home.”
The cat jumped off his lap and looked up at him. “Come”, a voice whispered
He looked at the cat. “Come.”
The cat then turned and ran to the door. The young man followed out of curiosity.
It was daybreak. The cat ran ahead, seeming knowing where it was going, never looking back. The young man followed, the word “come” repeating in his head. Until at last he saw they were heading to an old neglected farm. The only sign of inhabitation was the smoke coming from the chimney. The cat went up to the door and scratched. The door opened and an old woman stood in the doorway, looking at him.
“I followed your cat.” the young man stammered.
She smiled at him. “You must be the person who brought us the firewood. Come in.”
“Firewood?” he thought. He entered the house and looked around. He noticed the fireplace with the neatly stacked wood. He noticed the hole in the roof and cracks forming in the walls. He looked at the farmer and his wife. And as she offered him breakfast, they began to talk.
Spring came. The farm fields are now tiled and ready for planting. The house has been repaired and given a new coat of paint. The farmer is no longer bedridden; he now moving around in a wheeled chair, giving advice and instructions on how to manage a farm. A horse and cart had been purchased and now each week the old woman goes to the village, driven there by the young man who she refers to as her grandson.
The young man, finally content and at peace, calls her “Grandmother.”
The farmhouse always has cats.
Two men sat in Salty’s tavern, one with grey and white hair and blue eyes, the other man with black hair and green eyes.
“It’s time to go back to the Castle,” Leander said.
Birch looked at Lee sadly. “But I have enjoyed helping people; do we have to go back?”
“Yes, I was supposed to report to Sebastien at the end of the year. You need to go back to Poppet.”
Birch sighed. “Perhaps another adventure awaits, and then I can go with you.”
Lee smiled. He had enjoyed Birch’s company on his travels. The two men finished their meal, paid their tab and left. Then both men shimmered and two cats appeared; a tabby cat and a black cat. They both ran towards Midnight Castle.
It was at the front of the inn, that Leander felt that something was wrong. Both the inn and the castle were dark. The shishi were not at the inn, nor were they protecting the castle. The stables were empty. There was no sign of Pixiu.
The cats shimmered and turned into shishi. Blending into the woodwork, they cautiously entered the Midnight Castle.
The players were there, making their rounds at the HOS, trying to finish the Winter Event. But the player ghosts were missing; only the ghosts that were part of the game remained.
They moved on to Sebastien and Belle’s rooms. They were empty. Poppet’s and Ben’s rooms were the same.
Birch became agitated. “There are no felines here; I am going to check the Sanctuary.” He shimmered back into a cat and disappeared.
Lee went back out and searched the village. There was no sign of Grey and the wolves. He went back into the Castle to his room. Just as he had started a fire in the fireplace, Birch rushed in.
“They are gone, all gone.”