Chapter 15

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Chapter 15

  1. 1. The Lords of the Isle<br />Chapter 15:<br />A King Once More<br />
  2. 2. Care for a recap, Jeannie?<br />“Not now, Narrator Guy. I’m kinda busy at the moment.”<br />You guys heard the Sim. No lengthy recaps, no long intros. Not much happened last update anyway. Just a battle that threatened to disrupt balance in the Isla and a big Goodytwoshoes subplot. But hey, it’s all covered. So let’s proceed, shall we?<br />(I can’t thank profbutters enough for the Sim loan and the advice. But, nonetheless, thanks, Prof!)<br />
  3. 3. The terror of Xian’an was passing.<br />
  4. 4. After years and years of silence and secrecy, the Mercator Family, that House of many great heroes, at last took to the field once more. Arthur, Heir to the family’s ancestral seat and power, led an army to challenge the Shogun’s Red Army at the Battle of the Elfin Pass. And Arthur emerged victorious.<br />
  5. 5. But battle was also joined elsewhere.<br />
  6. 6. Through the urging of the Half-Elfin princess-in-exile, JasminHeliopator, the Elder Host, clad in fair white armor and armed with glinting steel, rose from centuries of half-forgotten tales and whispered legends to fight evil and oppression one last time.<br />
  7. 7. And in the end, the valor of the united races hemmed the Xianxi in and drove them back.<br />
  8. 8. Defeated in battle, the Xianxi capitulated and withdrew to their lands northwest of the Isla, never again to so brazenly attempt to invade the free lands by armed might.<br />For a new era was at hand.<br />
  9. 9. “Peoples of the Isla—”<br />The Elf-King’s sonorous voice rang throughout the Great Hall as he addressed the gathered the crowd gathered inside.<br />“—As ye all know, of old the land was ruled by the hand of Kings. And yet in time the Kings grew drunk with power, and ye brought them low in revolt, swearing never to let a tyrant monarch rise once more.”<br />
  10. 10. “And yet now,” the nominal high lord of the Isle went on, “A claimant to the throne cometh at last: Arthur Valois of the Mercator family, Mayor of the Great City of Meridia, wielder of the Elf-King’s sword, valiant in battle, victorious at the Elfin Pass. <br />Do ye people all accept his claim, and shall he, and his descendants after him, rule as King over all the Isla?”<br />
  11. 11. “Aye!”<br />“Aye!”<br />“Aye!”<br />“...Aye.”<br />
  12. 12. “And do ye, Arhur Valois Mercator, do solemnly promise to govern with a fair hand and a just crown in peace, a firm sword and an iron resolve in war, and with dignity and integrity for all thy days?”<br />“I do.”<br />“Then rise... Arthur King.”<br />
  13. 13. And in one voice, the arrayed warriors of both Men and Elves shouted:<br />“Long live Arthur King!”<br />“Long live Queen Jasmin!”<br />“Long live the Mercatri!”<br />
  14. 14. The Elf-King stepped back, and Arthur, now crowned King and Suzerain of the entire Isla, seemed at that moment to possess in his bearing a newfound majesty and authority — both of which, indeed, were hidden within him all along even in his past insecurities and uncertainties.<br />
  15. 15. This time he turned to his betrothed and advisor not as a meek child seeking reassurance, but as an equal monarch regnant.<br />“So, what do we do now?” Arthur whispered. “Smile and wave?” he added in slight jest.<br />Jasmin answered, “It depends on you. It is your coronation, after all.” <br />
  16. 16. Arthur thus decided to go with a speech.<br />“Peoples of this Isle,” he began. “For too long we have let our differences and our own interests get the better of us. For too long we have done nothing but look to our own selves and let the enemy tear us apart.”<br />
  17. 17. “For too long we merely stood by, allowing the greedy and the ambitious to rise to power. <br />And those in power massed huge armies, raised high taxes, and ruined many lives.”<br />
  18. 18. “Families were broken. Husbands and sons were taken away from wives and mothers, and brother fought against brother.<br />Blood was shed. Lives were lost. <br />
  19. 19. “So far things had always been so in the Isla. Our histories and chronicles are full of mad tyrants taking advantage over a broken people. And as long as these tyrants ruled, all the good things that could have been achieved were never realized.<br />Our disunity and indecision allowed all this to happen.”<br />
  20. 20. “And yet, my dear friends—” Arthur, having changed his tone, smiled upon the company assembled in the Great Hall “—it was our unity and initiative that caused all the past miseries to un-happen.” <br />
  21. 21. “For together we rode out against those who would oppress us. Together we fought, standing side by side, to end the cycle of evil in this Isle. The victories at the Elfin Pass and the Southern Woods attest to our one resolve. They testify to that day, that glorious day, when Elf, King’s Man, Labouisie, Arkyari — and even a handful of the Xianxi — all rose to champion what is right, what is pure, what is good.”<br />
  22. 22. “So, yea, truly, today you all hail me and crown me as your King, calling me valorous and victorious. But in truth I say that the honor and the victory is not mine alone, but ours — all of us, as we have all been united in delivering the land from slavery and evil.<br />Rejoice, then, ye peoples of the Isla!”<br />
  23. 23. “For whether wealthy or poor...”<br />
  24. 24. “...strong or defenseless...”<br />
  25. 25. “...young or old...”<br />
  26. 26. “...we are part of this victory. We share this happy day. Everyone of us.”<br />
  27. 27. “Just as together, we all shall reap the fruits of a wonderful tomorrow.”<br />With that, Arthur’s speech ended with a great thundering applause.<br />
  28. 28. “Hmph. Nice rhetoric,” the Xianxi ambassador simpered amid the clapping and the resumed cries of ‘Long live the King!’.<br />Jeanne, who seemed neither to have heard the comment nor understood its tone, replied with a chuckle. “Yea. That’s my brother, alright.”<br />
  29. 29. It was one good thing to orate in fine rhetoric. But to govern justly and well was another, and Arthur soon had the chance to prove himself.<br />In the Great Tribunal of the City of Meridia the case of a suspected Xianxi sympathizer was about to be heard...<br />
  30. 30. ...and the King and Queen were seated on the Tribunal’s balcony to oversee the proceedings.<br />“Well, it seems that we are about to find out who the Xianxi’s mysterious arms supplier was, at last,” Jasmin said.<br />Arthur nodded. “Yea, truly, at any rate. Either the suspect is guilty, or he could point to the culprit. This may yet prove the most important trial of our time.”<br />
  31. 31. The King went on.“Indeed, it seems people from each of the races have come now to the High Court to witness the hearing...”<br />
  32. 32. “...including our own family and friends.”<br />“No! We will see blood this day! I demand it!”<br />“...Jeanne...”<br />“’Tis useless, Lenard, my friend,” Roland sighed, shrugging. “Even when sister Jeannie is wrong, she is right.”<br />“Yea! Darn right! ...wait, what?”<br />
  33. 33. But the main personages on that day were not the King and Queen, nor their friends.<br />The prosecutor, Karl Viktor Rotloff, could trace his ancestry back to the famous — or, rather, infamous — Marquis ‘the Iron Judge’ Rotloff. The latter, who lived in the days of the Elfin King, was noted for the inexorable cruelty and swiftness of the judgment he passed upon his subjects. Although up to this day one of the College’s dormitories, Rotloff Hall, carry the Marquis’ name (for the Rotloff patriarch had taken up his studies in civil law and political theory there), the peoples of the Isla still shudder at the memory of the Iron Judge, and they look upon Karl Viktor with the same awe and apprehension.<br />
  34. 34. “You may bring in the defendant.”<br />The prosecutor’s fire and iron, however, were balanced by the temperance and clemency of the resident judge, Lord Matthias. Donning the ceremonial court attire (which in turn was based on the old Elfin fashions) for the past forty years had given him a firsthand experience of the cases in the entire Isla. Experience, in turn, made him wiser and more insightful, and insight allowed him to be merciful in need.<br />And yet, even the lord judge himself was not sure whether mercy could be granted to—<br />
  35. 35. “The defendant, Sir Gavin Newson of Meridia, your Excellency,” the court guard announced, bringing a scowling youth onto the raised platform.<br />“And where is his defense?” the lord judge asked.<br />The guard answered in an incredulous tone. “...None have come up to defend him, Excellency.”<br />
  36. 36. “Away with him!” Someone in the audience shouted in disapproval. “Away with that man – there is no defending what he had done!”<br />“Yea, verily!” another joined in. “Take him to the gallows!”<br />“Yeah, he’s guilty! And he tried breaking up my favorite coup— er... forget I said anything!”<br />
  37. 37. Only one person on the lower benches did not join in the jeering.<br />Ginger Newson was on the verge of tears. Again and again she tried to assure herself that she had done the right thing, telling Mr. Goodytwoshoes of her brother’s treachery and ambition. But that is the point, is it not? she always found herself returning to. He is my brother. And I have sold him out. Why, why then did she do such a terrible thing?<br />But she did the right thing, did she not?<br />
  38. 38. “Name the charges,” the lord judge demanded.<br />Karl Viktor was in his element. “The charges,” he began in a cold and high-pitched tone as he rose from his seat, taking his place before the court, “are these: ownership of an illegal arms business. Possession and sale of non-government sanctioned weaponry. Aiding a belligerent party with said weaponry. Plotting for the destabilization of the Mayoralties of the Serena District and the City of Meridia. Refusal to submit to the sovereignty of the High King of Elfinar and the Dual Monarchy of the Isla. Conspiring against the Monarchy. In a word—” and here he smirked, “—high treason.”<br />
  39. 39. “There have been raids throughout the Isla after the war with Xian’an, as you are well aware, Excellency,” the prosecution went on. “For a long time the Alliance had wondered where the Xianxi procured their vast supply of superior weaponry, and had postulated that a certain underground mastermind was supporting the Shogun’s war effort with valuable resources.”<br />
  40. 40. “A week ago, the Allied Constabulary received a tip-off from an invaluable but secret source with regards to the identity of the ‘mastermind’ and the location of his arms factory. <br />The Constabulary gathered men at once and stormed the C.G. Textiles factory, owned by none other than Mr. Newson of Meridia.”<br />
  41. 41. “Newson tried stalling the hand of the law—”<br />“What is this?!” Gavin demanded of the officer in charge. “You are disrupting business hours! This is outright villainy, this right is!”<br />“Step aside, Mr. Newson. This factory is to be searched by the authorities. Resistance from your part will only amount to obstruction of the investigation process.”<br />
  42. 42. “—but to no avail. <br />The Chief Constable was able to discover a secret door disguised as a bookshelf behind the cashier's counter. It led straight to the secret war factory.”<br />
  43. 43. “After further investigation,” Master Rotloff continued, “the prosecution has determined that for months now Gavin Newson had been in league with the Shogun, and was under contract to supply the Red Army with arms. And, if this humble prosecutor may add, Mr. Newson had in the process enlisted the aid of the ignorant and the uninformed masses, exploiting cheap labor for an end the workers did not fully comprehend. That, I believe, is also against the Codex Labora, Excellency.”<br />
  44. 44. “False! All are utterly false, you—!” only at the last second did Gavin Newson remember to not utter the final expletive. “It was not I the so-called ‘mastermind’ you seek!” <br />“Truly, now!” scoffed Master Rotloff. “And tell not the Court that you know who the one is, in truth?”<br />“Yea, I do!” Gavin snarled.<br />
  45. 45. “The culprit,” Gavin said, after some hesitation, “is none other than Mr. Goodytwoshoes himself!”<br />“What? The Mayor of the Serena District? That selfless donator and patron o so many of the Isla’s public works and structures? You are deluded, boy!”<br />“Yea — I mean, nay! Nay, it is he! He has a mind of an unfeeling machine, Master Goodytwoshoes has! He it is who sold weaponry to the Xianxi! For him, as he said, it is all ‘good business’. It is he, believe me!”<br />
  46. 46. “And what role do you play, Mr. Newson? Tell me not that you were the Mayor’s lone voice of conscience?”<br />The audience laughed cruelly.<br />“No — I admit that I have been his apprentice. But that is all! I only oversee the evil done, but I am not the Evil, myself!”<br />
  47. 47. “But alas, Gavin, your Excellency,” the prosecutor said, cutting Gavin short. “The Constables had thought of this very exact thing, a week ago. Only... a number of convincing proofs and testimonies have convinced us all otherwise.<br />And, at any rate,” he smirked, “who are we all to doubt the good word put on Master Goodytwoshoes’ wholesome reputation, when the word was put forth by none other than—”<br />
  48. 48. “—his Majesty’s own twin himself?”<br />“What? Why did you not tell us of this, brother?” Jeanne exclaimed, turning sharply at Roland as if she had never seen him properly before. <br />“Er... mine apologies?” Roland proffered. <br />
  49. 49. Then, gazing down toward the trial proceeding once more, Roland added, “Oh, lo! Here comes another testimony, methinks.”<br />And truly enough, one of the so-called women of ill repute in the Rue Rouge walked her way along the courtroom’s aisle, shielding her face for shame of her status.<br />
  50. 50. And yet, upon reaching the platform, the new witness showed no signs of inhibition as she took a cup full of water and threw the contents at Gavin’s face.<br />The crowd applauded. <br />
  51. 51. Save for one.<br />
  52. 52. “That’s for dishonoring us to shut us up,” the wench snarled.<br />“What!?” Gavin spat out. “I didn’t—”<br />But the new witness had already preceded to tell the Court how they, the girls of the Rue Rouge, knew of Gavin Newson and his villainy. And so, to discredit them, he had, at first, spread the rumors that the girls did... questionable business. But when that did not suffice, he had them illegally detained and threatened to have their business — a most honorable one, she assured the lord judge — shut down.<br />
  53. 53. “Lies, lies!” Gavin objected. “You are women of ill repute! And the arrest was only just! Master Goodytwoshoes had it ordered to clean up the District of your foul business!”<br />“Oh, yeah?” the woman challenged him. “And where was the warrant? And where was the proper constable?”<br />Gain sputtered.“But... but—!” Mr. Cecil Goodytwoshoes had in fact, Gavin now recalled, not issued an actual warrant. The former had, after all, only expressed his wish to purge the District. Gavin did the rest.<br />
  54. 54. It took another fifteen minutes and an attempt to slap Gavin out of his wits before the court guard could restrain the wench from the Rue Rouge and let the trial proceed.<br />“The prosecution,” Karl Viktor spoke again at length, “calls for the testimony of yet another witness.”<br />
  55. 55. “Miss Cecilia Goodytwoshoes, if you please.”<br />
  56. 56. “Alright, just how many things have you kept secret from us, Roland? From me?” Jeanne demanded upon witnessing the recent developments. “I am your eldest sibling, by Elves!”<br />But Roland only shook his head. “Trust me, I knew nothing of this one! Ceci must have done this of her own accord and her own honest volition.”<br />“Unlike you, who are doing this only to save her family’s reputation, correct?”<br />Roland looked away. “I know nothing of what you say, Jeanne...”<br />
  57. 57. Indeed, truly enough, Cecilia Goodytwoshoes guilelessly presented whatever she knew, testifying to Gavin Newson’s character.<br />
  58. 58. It was true, she confirmed, that Mr. Newsonwas under her Papa’s employ. But even then she and her Papa both noted the eagerness of Mr. Newson to flatter his employer and to fulfill the latter’s bidding. The Goodytwoshoes household minded this little in the beginning, though they liked it not. But at length it seemed that Mr. Newson had begun taking matters into his own hands, as evidenced by his bribing Mila of the Rue Rouge to seduce Mr. Roland Mercator – a deed that Mr. Goodytwoshoes himself had no hand in, as he admitted to his daughter.<br />
  59. 59. Grievous to Gavin that testimony was, however, it was naught to the letter the prosecutor presented to the lord judge.<br />The letter came from none other than Mr. Goodytwoshoes himself.<br />
  60. 60. To the High Court of the City of Meridia, and to The Royal Majesties King Arthur and Queen Jasmin:<br />The warmest of greetings. It has come to my concern that the name of a certain Mr. Gavin Newson, currently under the investigation of the Isle’s Constabulary, is as of this writing being linked with my own, and my own interests. I endeavor to undertake this correspondence with the High Court to represent my own side as best as I may, for I am currently engaged with entrepreneurial concerns in the Isle of Twikkii. <br />
  61. 61. It has been said, I believe, that this Mr. Newson was for a time in my employ – and indeed he was, as my daughter Cecilia can attest. However, this does not necessarily prove that I am also the employer of Mr. Newson with regard to an illegal armament. In a word, I am not the so-called ‘mastermind’ and the Xianxi’s ‘secret ally’. For in truth, though up to some three months ago the C.G. Textiles ran under my nominal ownership, I had entrusted the smooth operation of my business and my estates to Mr. Newson, who, as the enclosed documents would prove, was legally my manager and right hand. If you charge me of fault in this light, then I must admit that I am guilty as charged, but my trespass is only of blind faith and a lack of foresight, for which you must forgive me.<br />
  62. 62. But of the hidden armament I have no knowledge, nor do I have any part in such a nefarious venture. It is my opinion that Mr. Newson had in all that time constructed the so-called ‘hidden factory’ behind my looms, for he had, as manager and supervisor of my estates, command of of my masons and craftsmen. From there he must have forged the weaponry in secret, and acted as purveyor of arms in my name. <br />And I have the painful duty to note that, though the sales of the factory had ever gone down after I gave him the deed (so the local papers say, for I subscribe to them still), Mr. Newson had, from some reason unperceived by yours truly, sustained himself... by what source I know not what to say.<br />
  63. 63. That is all, in fact, that I can share, for I know nothing more. Appalled as I am with my former employee’s conduct, I cannot but leave him to the High Court for according and just judgment.<br />I am, respectfully, etc.,<br />Cecil Goodytwoshoes.<br />
  64. 64. And that sealed Gavin’s fate.<br />
  65. 65. “Away with him! Send him to the gallows!”<br />
  66. 66. “Now, now! Peace, my brethren!” Karl Victor’s voice rang again across the Tribunal. “And yet — for all of you doubtless have heard the testimonies against him — is there still denying this man’s guilt? Consider, and consider well, good sirs and ladies! Temper your revulsion with cool judgment and weigh the evidence! Should Mr. Newson be held contemptible and be delivered to justice, or are we to allow him the grace of clemency? Choose well!”<br />
  67. 67. As one, the audience replied:“He is guilty! Guilty!”<br />“And what say you, then, my good sirs and ladies? What penalty does Mr. Newson deserve?”<br />“The gallows! off with him to the gallows! Death to all traitors!”<br />
  68. 68. With a smug smile, the prosecution concluded, “So have the people spoken. Lord judge?”<br />“My vote...” the judge wheezed at length, “...is of the same mold. It cannot be but otherwise.”<br />“So! What say you now, Mr. Newson?”<br />
  69. 69. But Gavin Newson, seeing that all was undone, chose to keep to himself.<br />“Hmph. You and your lot will never understand.<br />Well, then, I submit myself to the Court’s judgment. Let it be so.”<br />
  70. 70. But upon the balcony the new rulers of the Isla were in speech.<br />“It seemeth to me that justice is now to be dealt, at last,” the King Arthur spoke. “And yet, for reasons I know not, I am ill at ease with this.”<br />The Queen replied, “Yea, I knowest what you say. Remember, lord Arthur, that the law is of dead words and cold iron, but justice is made of other things besides.”<br />
  71. 71. And so it was that Arthur, Mayor of Meridia and King of all the Isla, stood up and addressed the Court.<br />“Hold still, my friends, and peace upon you all,” he began. “I say these things now not to postpone or revoke the cause of justice, but rather, to amend it. Indeed, taken by itself, what Master Newson did was a repulsive act of high treason, to which the only response of old could only be but a death upon the scaffold. There is, I am sure, sound reasoning behind the old laws, but I wish to address you all now and think of all the other facets of this case.”<br />
  72. 72. “Arthur went on, “I have, prior to this trial, come upon the background of Master Newson — of the poverty to which his family have been reduced to. And now I ask the entire Court: if we are, straightaway, send this man to his early doom, where would the justice be in that?”<br />
  73. 73. “After all, would you, O lord prosecutor, not be driven to your last resorts upon seeing your family living under the vilest of conditions? Would not a beggar come to steal in the midst of the night, if his ailing daughter faint?<br />Think of all the lesser folk —the ignored folk of this Isla. Years of endless war had no bearing upon us lords and ladies and those in power. But think of all those lives ruined by our neglect. These people would care not about the movements of the powers in this world, and I for one believe that their estrangement, their misdeeds, their treasons, rebound upon us until these become ours, too.”<br />
  74. 74. “My friends, do not, in your haste, delude yourselves into equating justice with callosity, the law with cruelty. It is only through mercy that we can heal all the wounds of our land and redress all wrongs, renew all that is good still upon our world. <br />And so, I, as Mayor of the City of Meridia and King of this entire Isle, do hereby commute the sentence upon Master Gavin Newson to ten years in priosn, and from there, banishment from the City of Meridia. For grave though his betrayal was — and accordingly, grave must his punishment be — he is, after all, but young according to the reckoning of our people, and had acted with the good of his family in mind, no matter his means.”<br />
  75. 75. “And yet, as to his family, the government of this Isla shall henceforth provide support to Miss Ginger Newson and all her younger siblings, and their children after them, until the have so improved their stature as to require no more aid. This shall be for as long as my line stands.<br />So I, Arthur Mercator, Mayor of Meridia and King of the Isla, decree it. So shall it be done.”<br />
  76. 76. At that the entire Tribunal was silent.<br />And yet one face smiled.<br />“I am content,” Mr. Gavin Newson declared, quietly.<br />
  77. 77. “Well, Ginger...”<br />
  78. 78. “Take care of the others, won’t you?”<br />
  79. 79. “Ah, well,” an unruffled Jeanne said, shrugging. “That was satisfyingly anticlimactic.”<br />Still, life went on all throughout the Isle. <br />
  80. 80. Jeanne, for instance, had at last accomplished her dream of knowing all there is to know. <br />She went on to be hailed as a general and the supremo of the underground world. After that, though, she settled for the less lofty but more fulfilling roles in a Sim’s life.<br />
  81. 81. Such as being an adoptive mother, for one.<br />Everything was not all fun and games, however.<br />
  82. 82. Sometimes, rebellions do happen.<br />“Er... Jeannie... not that I doubt your cooking, but last time even you...”<br />“Hush, Eowyn. I will not be gainsaid. My cooking is excellent.”<br />
  83. 83. Eowyn, though, still seemed quite unsure of Jeannie’s prowess with omelettes. <br />By the way, have you guys noted something peculiar in the picture?<br />
  84. 84. “Really, Eowyn, you must eat. The omelette is good, I promise. Oh, and that is none other than Vulcan, my new manservant.”<br />Jeannie, you know better than to address me directly whenever someone else is around. What would Eowyn say, eh?<br />“What? She already thinks I am crazed. I might as well encourage her to keep believing that, no?”<br />“Jeannie, are you addressing thin air yet again?”<br />
  85. 85. Waving aside all issues of Jeanne’s sanity (or lack thereof), the narrator shall now relate Jeanne’s latest adventures with her creation, Vulcan.<br />The readers might do well to remember Jeanne’s project even back then in college. After months and months of grueling work, her craftsmanship had reached its apex. At about the same time, Jeanne had sought magic power, and by now she had mastery of the art, though she did not go too far as to be an overtly manifest Light Witch. <br />For all that mattered to Jeanne was her plan, of which Vulcan was but the first step. <br />
  86. 86. And that plan seemed ready to come into fruition.<br />
  87. 87. “Vivicusmachinae!”<br />
  88. 88. And with the casting of the spell, the crafted man of steel and wooden sinew rose, awake and alert. <br />“Command me, master!” the awakened machine spoke in a rasping voice that suggested cogwheels and hammers falling.<br />
  89. 89. “Yes! It is successful!” Jeanne shouted in glee. Addressing the machine now, she said, “You are Vulcan, my manservant. You are bound forthwith to the service of the Mercatri. My branch, to be precise.<br />And I have things in mind for us to achieve.” <br />
  90. 90. The following day, Jeanne brought her creation, Vulcan, to her newly-bought property at the Serena District. It was a derelict and abandoned warehouse, once the property of the District government before it was condemned. But Jeanne bought the property instead at a sharply marked-down price...<br />
  91. 91. ...and converted it into her own wondrous workshop.<br />
  92. 92. And soon enough, Jeanne’s Workshop grew through the hard work of both Jeanne and Vulcan (who was innately gifted with the blacksmith’s skill).<br />Having two impressionable and easily subdued brothers helped, too.<br />
  93. 93. But of course, Jeanne’s family was not forgotten. She brought Eowyn over during the latter’s free time and, after a brief tour of the facilities, proceeded to swing her around.<br />
  94. 94. Either in her leisurely rounds or at her home, the Tourblanc, her Papa and Mama (and friends and... other unexpected parties) visit and maintain relationships with her and her adopted child.<br />Though everyone still was not quite sure why Marie, of all people, was the one who taught her granddaughter the basics of axe throwing.<br />
  95. 95. And as for Eowyn, well, she could not be any happier.<br />Her marks in the local school were excellent, for one.<br />
  96. 96. She also had the companionship of a mechanical manservant, which, although admittedly unconventional, certainly none of her friends from the orphanage or the school could boast of.<br />
  97. 97. Also, Eowyn also had an adoptive mother who allowed her certain unprecedented liberties, such as the right to demand a makeover.<br />
  98. 98. All in all, then, Eowyn was thankful of the night Jeanne Mercator stopped by, merely by chance, the orphanage and rescued her from the terrible black rider.<br />
  99. 99. And somehow, this narrator believes Jeanne is of the same mind, too.<br />
  100. 100. Indeed it seemed the first time for a long time that Jeanne was fully content of her stature...<br />
  101. 101. ...or so it would have been, if only Eowyn would eat her cooking.<br />
  102. 102. But elsewhere, it was wedding season.<br />Lenard and Ysabel, the oldest of all the couples, were first to be wed. It was an excellent match, all parties agreed. Lenard was now come to a large private estate and a thriving business, and he was a proven friend as well as a reliable ally. Ysabel was lovely in her snowy gown, stainless white even as her heart was pure. <br />And they were both in love.<br />
  103. 103. So, before the representative of the Isla’s Church the two exchanged vows.<br />“...Staying the course together, even after all passions were doused, firm in the belief that the fair winds of true love would guide and move us along this voyage.”<br />“And I, in turn, do promise to obey my husband and lord where obeisance is due, to assist him in all his endeavors, and henceforth to be as one with him in love, in all dreams and efforts until death do us part.”<br />
  104. 104. Rings were exchanged...<br />
  105. 105. ...and all was glad.<br />
  106. 106. As all proper wedding celebrations go, the Labouisies held a gay and sumptuous feast, which lasted from late in the afternoon all the way into the heart of evening. Playful antics were played, interesting conversation was held, and everyone looked forward to a prosperous and fruitful union between the groom and his bride.<br />
  107. 107. And friends were reconnected.<br />“The best of wishes with your marriage,” Cecilia Goodytwoshoes said to Ysabel. “All promises to be splendid. I wish...”<br />“Oh, do not fret, Ceci, my dear,” the new Mrs. Labouis giggled. “What, had my brother Roland not proposed to you yet?”<br />Cecilia paused for a while. “Well... he did,” she told the bride at length. “But...”<br />
  108. 108. “Then worry not. Everything will be all right for you, too.”<br />There were still a number of things that harried Miss Goodytwoshoes. True, she knew more than ever that Roland loved her as she him, but was it really necessary, her Papa’s going away? And now that she remembered her life at her home, in Pleasantview, Cecilia could not but worry that perhaps the same darkness may yet befall them both. What then? But Ysabel’s assurance drove these things from her mind.<br />“I thank you, Mrs. Labouis,” Cecilia managed to answer.<br />
  109. 109. But for Ysabel, her marriage to Lenard was a successful and blissful celebration.<br />
  110. 110. Well, let us leave them be, shall we?<br />
  111. 111. Midsummer in the Isla saw the most prestigious marriage for the generation. The King Arthur, renowned in battle, Mayor of the great City of Meridia and Heir to the Mercator patriarchy, was to be wedded with the half-elfin Queen Jasmin, wise and fair heiress to the old Heliopatri and the line of Elf-Kings. <br />Naturally the ceremony was held with great pomp and ceremony in the Great Hall of the newly-built Royal Palace. A company of the King’s Knights were arrayed in a fair line with the elfin White Regiment, symbolizing the unity of the two illustrious lines.<br />
  112. 112. But most resplendent of all was the Queen herself. While it was true that her ancestry and lineage kept her from changing so swiftly, as men were wont to, it seemed that on that day, veiled and wreathed as she was in snowy white, Queen Jasmin was first revealed in all the glory of her fairness and majesty.<br />
  113. 113. And so, with the unfurling of bright and noble banners...<br />“Doest thou, JasminHeliopator, take me, Arthur Mercator, to be thine husband in the eyes of the Creator, the Elf-King, and the law, in frailty and in vigor, in prosperity and in privation, until we be parted by our departure from the circles of this world?”<br />
  114. 114. ...and the peeling of a thousand bells...<br />“Doest thou, Arthur Mercator, take me, JasminHeliopator, to be thine wife in the eyes of the Creator, the Elf-King, and the law, in frailty and in vigor, in prosperity and in privation, until we be parted by our departure from the circles of this world?”<br />
  115. 115. “I do.”<br />“Yea, I do.”<br />...that the Queen and King were wedded.<br />
  116. 116. After a round of applause and a moment of respite, the traditional wedding reception and banquet ensued.<br />
  117. 117. But soon a grand ball followed the celebrations. The dancing was led by the royal couple...<br />
  118. 118. ...and other pairs followed suit, of course.<br />
  119. 119. And as all the lovers danced to their heart’s content, one pair in particular was lost in the midst of all flamboyance and elegance.<br />“So...? When?” stammered Roland.<br />Though, indeed, he needed not to ask.<br />
  120. 120. It was once nothing but a dream, Ronald recalled. Verily, even when they were young he told his brother Arthur that he would, contrary to the idea most have of Romancers, deem it well to get married in this hallowed chapel. But Roland never thought, never imagined, that his own little dream would come true.<br />
  121. 121. And yet, he reassured himself, here he was, was he not? In spite of war and turmoil and betrayal he was standing here, at the end of the isle, the priest nearby, as he awaited with longing, with anxiety, and with anticipation for the realization of that dream. Or, rather, the beginning of the realization of his dream.<br />
  122. 122. This is what I want, Roland told himself, in surety and in happiness, as he saw his bride enter, beautiful and elegant and brimming with a quiet joy that, if let loose, would fill the mountains and the valleys with the pealing of a thousand bells.<br />
  123. 123. The ceremony began, as traditional as it was private.<br />“Dearly beloved we are gathered here in the sacred hall of Saint Cecilia to celebrate in the union of two young people...”<br />
  124. 124. “...Indeed I cannot say whether from now all our grief and labor are ended. But this I, Roland Valois Mercator, swear: from this day I promise to cherish thee and uphold thee, yea, even in spite of all challenges, and, together, we shall in our day to day life live out our happy conclusion.”<br />
  125. 125. And a new chapter in Roland and Cecilia’s life promised to end as it began: in hope.<br />
  126. 126. The lone (and accidental) guest approved of the event.<br />“Ah, weddings. I cannot get enough of them. Can you?”<br />You’re one to speak. You don’t even consider getting married.<br />“Oh, you know the reason why. I think you would do well to narrate on, though.”<br />
  127. 127. ...<br />
  128. 128. “This will be your new home from now on...” the Matron, Sr. Clara, paused to allow the newly-brought girl to introduce herself.<br />“...Tina.” the girl answered in a small voice.<br />“Ah, yes. Tina. Now, would you like to go inside, or would you like to join the other children outside?”<br />
  129. 129. “Tag! You’re it!”<br />“Hey! That’s a sneak attack!”<br />“And so? You do it all the time, ‘Sidra.”<br />“...Well? Tina?” the Matron continued to ask.<br />
  130. 130. “It’s still not fair, ‘Perion. Come on, Zane, tell ‘Perion that it’s not fair.”<br />“Is too! Tell ‘Sidra, Zane!”<br />“...Alright, then. I’ll leave you be with the others, Tina. LiaLan here will take care of all of you. Go and have fun, okay?”<br />
  131. 131. But Zane chose not to involve himself with Isidra and Hyperion’s endless bickering. (The last time he officiated between them, he ended up at odds with his two best friends for the rest of the evening.) Instead he turned around and addressed the new girl.<br />“Hello!” he said in greeting. “You want to join us play tag? Xianchen, Sandy and ‘Sidra have been beating us boys for days and Sephy doesn’t want to join us and ‘Perion and I really need a new teammate.”<br />
  132. 132. “...”<br />“What’s the matter?” Zane asked. “Am I... am I annoying you? Sorry for that, I guess.”<br />“...”<br />Zane asked the question he would (and did) as himself. “What’s wrong? ...Do you miss your Momma?”<br />
  133. 133. “I have no Momma,” the girl named Tina answered. “I have no Mom, no Dad.”<br />“You mean... they’re...?” he could not bring to say the d- word.<br />“I don’t know.”<br />
  134. 134. “You don’t know? You don’t know if they’re... you know...?” Zane scratched his curly head. “But surely there must be a time when you knew. Everyone’s got to have a Momma.”<br />“...I don’t,” Tina repeated. “I live alone.”<br />
  135. 135.
  136. 136. “But where did you live?” Zane went on asking. He couldn’t understand. He himself remembered little of his Momma, of course, as all in the orphanage did, but Matron did assure him he had a Momma. That he had a home. How could anyone not?<br />Tina answered tonelessly, “Luceroja Street, Serena District. Near the old factories.”<br />
  137. 137. Zane recalled his geography lessons at school. “But that’s the slum area!” he gasped. “It’s where bad men and bad women... you know... it’s a bad, bad place, the slums!” <br />“So?” Tina snarled, a little defensively. “What of it?”<br />“But you don’t belong there. You’re an a—” he stopped himself from saying the last word: angel. It made him feel rather warm, somehow. “Never mind.”<br />
  138. 138. “Well I got along there,” Tina insisted, still in a sour tone. “I got along for days or for months — I don’t know how long I lived there, but it was long — until the constable caught me.”<br />
  139. 139. “It was the constable who brought me to the nuns.” Tina was telling her story of her own accord now. “He saw one passing hurriedly along. ‘Here, take her,’ he said. ‘She does not belong in this... place.<br />Funny. He said the same thing you did.<br />But I did. I did belong there,” Tina concluded. “I stole, I cheated, I survived there. Other kids know that. To them I’m the slum girl. And that’s okay. I don’t mind. I’m stronger than they are. I can take care of myself.”<br />
  140. 140. “But you don’t,” Zane replied. “You don’t belong there. You belong here in the Orphanage now. And here it’s nice, with lots of grass and flowers and cookies and a big lake for swimming.<br />And also, you’re no slum girl.” Before he could stop himself, however, Zane had further said, “I think you’re pretty.”<br />
  141. 141. A smile broke across Tina’s long-hardened face. “Thanks... I guess,” she murmured.<br />
  142. 142. “Great!” exclaimed Zane. “Now will you join us, please pleaseplease? Sandy’s becoming very unbearable. ‘Perion and I do need all the help we can get.”<br />
  143. 143. Tina shuffled her feet. “...I... I don’t know...”<br />“Come on, we’re all fun here!” Zane reassured her. “Well, all except Sephy. He’s weird. But he’s great, too, sometimes. You’re going to fit right in! Promise.”<br />
  144. 144. “Oh, all right then.”<br />“Hooray!” Zane reached for Tina’s hand to shake it. “I’m Zane. Welcome aboard...”<br />
  145. 145. But she went on to hug him. “It’s Tina. And thanks, Zane.”<br />
  146. 146. “So you are interested in adopting one of the children, Mr. and Mrs...?”<br />
  147. 147. “Labouis.”<br />“But... as you yourself say, the medics have found nothing wrong...” Sr. Clara rephrased her thoughts, “That is to say... you and your husband are well able to produce children of your own. Why then this decision? Adoption is not something to be trifled with.”<br />
  148. 148. For in truth Sr. Clara was loth to part with any one of the children, which she had in time come to consider as her own.<br />But YsabelLabouis answered, “In the wake of the recently ended war our husband and I have thought that we should play our own part in healing the Isla. Many families have been torn asunder by battle, and we thought that we may at least help one child mend his or her hurts by taking full care of them. At the same time, we get to enjoy an early taste of parenthood. All parties are happy, no?”<br />
  149. 149. “Well... yes...”<br />“Moreover,” Ysabel added, “I have heard that your institution has been a great grace for all the abandoned children. So Lenard and I thought that by adopting one child, you would be enabled to take care of another in his or her stead. Is this not so, Sister?”<br />Sr. Clara sighed. “You are... quite right, Mrs. Labouis.”<br />
  150. 150. “Please. The children are this way.”<br />
  151. 151. One child at once caught Ysabel’s eye.<br />“Um, ‘Perion? Would you move over a bit, if you don’t mind? Besides, what are we doing here? Just when we’re about to win, too!“<br />
  152. 152. Ysabel found herself attracted with the boy’s sweet tone as much as his puzzled expression.<br />“Hello, there,” Ysabel said cheerily. The boy answered with a cordial, “Hi! You’re pretty, too,” he commented. “You’re the second one this day. But you’re an adult, so it’s okay if I tell you that.”<br />
  153. 153. Ysabel laughed. “Well, that’s very nice of you, young m’seur, merci beaucoup.”<br />“You speak Labouisais?” the boy said in astonishment. “Are you Labouisienne?”<br />“My husband is. He is the chief Labouisie.”<br />“Whoa! So you’re of the Sea-folk! Do you go Seawards often? I’ve heard the Sea is nice. Many people come from the Sea, ‘tis said.”<br />
  154. 154. Ysabel smiled. This boy is very engaging, she thought. “Say,” she said at length. “My name is Ysabel. What is your name?”<br />“Zane, Lady Ysabel. Just Zane,” the boy replied.<br />“Well, Zane,” she began. “How would you like to know for yourself? That is to say, how would you like to be Zane Labouis? C’estbien, non? “<br />
  155. 155. “Really?!” Zane quickly hugged the pretty lady. “Can you be my Momma, Lady Ysabel?”<br />“Yes, Zane. But that is if — well, would you like me to be your Momma?”<br />
  156. 156. “Yes!” He exclaimed at once. But Zane grew suddenly quiet after that. “...But what about... Tina?” he whispered, as if more to himself.<br />“Tina? Is she that pretty girl yonder?”<br />“Yes! ...Erm... no! Erm... yes, but she’s a child like me so I can’t say she’s pretty. It’s... embarrassing,” Zane trailed on. “But what about her? Or my friends? Don’t I get to see them anymore?”<br />“Of course you would get to see them! You can invite them home any time.”<br />
  157. 157. And so, while Ysabel went on to inform Sr. Clara of her choice, Zane the orphan talked with Tina for one last time.<br />“You’re leaving,” Tina spoke first. It was not a question.<br />“Don’t worry. My new Momma said I can invite you all any time! We’ll still get to play tag with ‘Perion and ‘Sidra and Sandy and Xianchen — and Sephy too, if he wants.”<br />
  158. 158. “But that’s not the same...” Tina started to say.<br />Zane interrupted her. “Of course it is! Everyday you and I and the others will get to play in a big new house and we can eat all sorts of good cake and cookies and then we’ll all be best friends forever!”<br />“...You... you mean it?”<br />It was Zane’s turn to draw Tina into a hug. “Yes,” he answered conclusively. “I mean it.”<br />
  159. 159. “Goodbye!”<br />“Bye, Zane! We’ll miss you!”<br />“Don’t forget to send us those Sea-Cookies!”<br />And so it was that Zane moved out of Sr. Clara’s Orphanage, leaving behind his first adoptive Momma and his good friends, old...<br />
  160. 160. “Goodbye, Zane.”<br />...and new.<br />
  161. 161. Zane was brought by Mr. and Mrs. Labouis, two very kind people, to their home, the Merchant’s Manor, overlooking the Sea. <br />And there, at last, he found his Momma.<br />But Zane labouis’ story is just beginning.<br />
  162. 162. Credits: <br />Thanks to profbutters (The Squeaky Clean Legacy) and peasant007 (The Devereaux Legacy) for the loan of Cecil and Cecilia Goodytwoshoes, and Zane and Lillian Devereaux. <br />Sorry for the delay — but I hope you guys liked the newest installment of LOTI. I know I did. First pic spam to come (as recompense for the late update)! That is, if schoolwork doesn’t eat me alive first.<br />Cheers!<br />

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