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A Welcome Reunion

 
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Serafina
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 22, 2018 10:20 am    Post subject: A Welcome Reunion Reply with quote

May, 1617

Carantania might have been considered something of a backwater by a good deal of Meringia, but it was held in high esteem by one country whose opinion truly counted. So highly, in fact, that when the Pomeran High Queen had chosen her ladies a few years before, she had expressly requested that the princess of Carantania come to her court. Though only sixteen at the time - a good twenty years or more younger than her brother, the king - she had been sent away, and had not been home since. But now, with a new queen on the throne of Carantania, there was a place for the king's sister, and so, she was coming home, six years after leaving. The new queen herself had been persuaded not to come down to the dock, for the wind was brisk off the sea despite the warmth of the spring day, spurring gossip among the servants about the possibility of her being in delicate condition. But the main truth was that Serafina could tell her husband was eager to see his little sister again, and did not want to mar that reunion by being the stranger at the feast.

Eager and nervous, to be more accurate. Frederick hadn't seen his little sister in six years. She'd been a child when she'd left and was returning home a young woman. Though they had tried to keep in touch via letters sent back and forth, he was not sure what to expect upon her arrival. Would she be happy to be home or annoyed at being uprooted yet again?

At least they would have relative privacy for their reunion. With the tide high, the causeway between castle and town was flooded, which meant only the oarsmen in the boat bearing his little sister to the castle would witness what passed initially between the king and princess. Not that they had ever cared, between themselves, but a lifetime of their father's disapproval had drilled into them that certain behavior was not acceptable within view of the people. Still, that didn't stop Rolanda from standing in the bow of the boat, waving wildly to her brother as the little vessel navigated the choppy waves.

"Good Goddess, girl, sit down," Frederick - or Freddie, as he was known to those closest him - muttered under his breath, clearly appalled that his sister was risking life and limb by standing up just to wave to her brother, who'd she be reunited with in a matter of minutes. At least, her apparent enthusiasm boded well for their reunion. He chuckled a little as he waved back.

It seemed as though six years of courtly manners and education in the High Kingdom hadn't changed that bright grin of hers, or her tendency not to suppress what she was feeling even when others could see. She still had that wildness about her, evidenced by the way she hitched up her skirts the moment the boat hit the dock and leapt onto the floating pier, her shoes slithering on the wet wood.

The King of Carantania - a man who was not well known for laughter - could not help but laugh as he watched his young sister leap from the boat in apparent eagerness to see her brother. As for him, well, her youthful enthusiasm was infectious, as evidenced by his reaction. He started toward her, not quite breaking into a run, as that would not be suitable for a man of his station, but his long legs strode quickly to meet her, ready to take her into his embrace, no matter those who might be watching.

It did not take long for her to meet him halfway, running to throw her arms around her beloved brother as she laughed for joy at finally seeing him again. "Freddie! Oh, don't you look handsome! It's so wonderful to see you!"

"I look old," he corrected, tossing his arms around her waist and lifting her into the air, so happy he was to see her and relieved to find she seemed just as happy to see him. He set her back on her feet and hugged her close a moment before stepping back to take a better look at her. "And look at you ... all grown up into a lovely young woman."

"I know!" She laughed, smoothing the fur that kept her neck and shoulders warm with a gloved hand. "I stopped growing outward and started growing upward!"

"I shall have to keep you under lock and key, so you don't break any hearts," he teased, the corners of his eyes crinkling in amusement, as he reached out to lightly tap a finger against her nose, like he used to when she was little.

"Don't you dare," she giggled, her nose crinkling under his tap as she gave her head a little shake. "And you don't look old. You look distinguished. Where have you put your new wife? Is she under lock and key as well?" A wicked little laugh escaped her throat. "Are you collecting every woman under the age of thirty in a big box somewhere?"

"Not every woman," he replied, his smile fading just a little, concerned whether his young wife and his little sister would find each other likable. He took her gloved hand and tucked it safely in the crook of his arm as he turned to lead her toward the carriage that would take them back to Riftwell Castle, the home he shared with his wife, the queen. "I trust your journey was not too unpleasant," he said, falling into the habit of making polite small talk, even with his sister.

"Oh, just two of us, then?" Rolanda asked in a startlingly cheeky tone. She curled her hand into the crook of his arm, the lightness of her touch proving she had learned something in Pomerania. His fall into small talk made her smile soften. "I was sick as a dog every time the carriage hit a pothole," she informed him, deliberately not giving an answer suitable for polite company. "It's so wonderful to be back by the sea, Freddie. I've missed home so much."

Freddie chuckled at her teasing as he led her toward the carriage. She might have grown into a lovely young woman, but she was the same old Rolly he'd always known and loved. "Just the two of you, yes," he confirmed with a grin. "Home has missed you," he replied further, though he what he was really saying was that he had missed her.

"Oh, is that why home didn't lift a finger when I nearly fell into the water back there?" she asked with impish good grace, knowing perfectly well that there was no need for both of them to get wet if she had fallen in.

"Home thinks you're exaggerating just a little," he replied with a grin. As far as he could see, she hadn't come close to falling in the water and if she had, it would have been no one's fault but her own. "I'm the king now, Rolly. I have to maintain my dignity," he added, unable to hide the teasing smirk from his face.

"You were the king when I left," she pointed out, pausing as the coachman pulled down the step to make it easier for them to climb into the carriage. "That never stopped you from playing my silly games with me."

"I was a lot younger, then," he reminded her, though not all that much younger. Something had changed him while she'd been gone, but what was it? Certainly not the death of his first queen, was it? He seemed a little more somber now than he had then, but perhaps it was merely the weight of responsibility. "I have you and Sera to keep me young," he added with a smile, offering a hand to help her into the carriage.

"Yes, you have to tell me properly about Sera!" The carriage rocked as Rolanda threw herself comfortably down onto the seat, patting it cheekily to invite her brother to sit beside her. "Properly. You spend far too long making your letters safe to read in case anyone else gets their hands on them, I never get the best of the gossip from you. Did she really attack you with an inkwell at a council meeting?"

"She did," he replied with another chuckle as he claimed the seat beside her. Propriety be damned - she was his sister. "You might as well hear it from me first," he said with a resigned sigh, turning serious. "She is Genevieve's daughter."

Rolanda's mouth fell open in shock. She knew the story, of course, though it had taken place before she was born. "Oh, Freddie," she sighed, torn between censure and sympathy. "Didn't she know?"

"No, I should have told her, but I didn't know how, and I didn't want her to think I was marrying her only because of the resemblance to her mother," he explained. That might have been what had initially attracted him to her, but that wasn't why he'd chosen her for his bride.

His sister's smile was not entirely appropriate, but it was definitely a sister's smile. "You deserved it, then," she conjectured. "But she knows now? And doesn't mind it so much?"

"She knows now," he confirmed, pausing a moment before confessing with the faintest of blushes. "I love her, Rolly. More than I ever loved her mother, I suspect." Maybe because he'd had more time to spend with the daughter, as opposed to the mother, or maybe simply because they did not have to keep their affection for the other a secret, as had been necessary when he'd been secretly courting Genevieve.

"I should hope you love her, you've been under her skirts often enough." Proof there that Queen Catherine had managed to keep her younger ladies innocent enough to expect love with desire. Rolanda hugged her brother's arm. "Are you happy, Freddie? You've been unhappy for so long, you deserve to be happy now."
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Serafina
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 22, 2018 10:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

No one had really bothered to ask him that question, perhaps because the answer was self-evident, but now that the question had been posed, he did not hesitate with his reply. "Yes, I'm happy, dearest," he confirmed with a pat of the hand that hugged his arm and a reassuring smile. "But enough about me. You must tell me everything that is happening in Pomerania."

"Everything?" Rolanda laughed merrily. "There is a lot happening, and I'm sure you know the important parts of it. I am, after all, just a silly girl who likes dresses and dancing. You'd be amazed how many people think that talking to me is like pouring water through a sieve."

"I know how much you enjoy gossip," Frederick pointed out with a smirk. Didn't most women? And the men around them often depended on their women to keep them informed.

"Well, there is a rumor that Prince Maksim's absence from court is due to his visiting the encampment of the true king in Coimbra," she offered, proving that gossip was a valued art once again. "The Crown Prince obviously cannot be seen to offer his hand, and Prince Felipe is in Carib for the marriage of the princess there, but Maksim is just the right sort of rogue for a job like that. If it goes badly, the High King can simply state he was operating on his own initiative."

Of course, whether Tralin Nairn was the true king of Coimbra was a matter of opinion, depending on whether or not you were an ally or enemy of Pomerania. The rumor of Prince Maksim's supposed journey to Coimbra cause Frederick to lift his brows in surprise. "Do they think the war with Coimbra will be over soon, then?" he asked, knowing that would likely not come without some amount of force or violence.

"There seems to be some hope that the rebels within their borders will start to gain real ground this season," his sister agreed thoughtfully. Being believed to be empty-headed, a lot of men talked about things they really shouldn't in front of her. "Something about a gift from the Goddess that gives them an advantage, though no one seems clear what that might be."

"We should never underestimate the power or wisdom of the Goddess," he pointed out, revealing himself to be not only a staunch believer in the Church of the Goddess, but in the Goddess Herself. It was not only what was required of him as King of Carantania, but what he had personally believed in all his life.

"If She truly has blessed them, the heretics may be out of Coimbra by year's end," Rolanda agreed hopefully. "Wouldn't that be wonderful? An end to all that fighting along the borders for so many countries?"

"Peace in our lifetime," Frederick quietly agreed. It seemed almost too good to be true, but Rolanda had no reason to lie or to spread false rumors. He trusted her implicitly, more than he did some of his own advisers, so long as the news of what she'd heard was indeed true. He turned quietly thoughtful a moment, as he considered what he might do to ensure such news was authentic.

She considered him for a long moment, able to guess where his mind had gone. "You could write to the Crown Prince," she suggested innocently. "Ask him to thank his wife for being such a good friend to me since her arrival, and slip in an enquiry as to whether your assistance with the current Coimbran troubles might be required?"

"Yes, I was thinking the same thing," he said, though he'd have to be careful with the wording of his letter in case it fell into the wrong hands. "I will speak with Franz about drafting a letter later today," he told her, forcing his thoughts about from the topic of politics back to more pleasant subjects. "I think you will like Serafina," he said, giving her hand another pat, a warm smile on his face at the mention of his young queen.

Rolanda giggled at the change of subject. "Is she as wild as I am? " she asked sweetly. "Or am I going to be a terribly bad influence on your innocent little wife?" Her smirk deepened at the thought of leading the queen astray now she was home again. As admired as she might have been in Pomerania, Rolanda had not yet met the man who could talk her out of mischief.

Frederick snorted with amusement at her question. Though she had certainly matured into a lovely young woman, it seemed his little sister was as untamed as ever - or so she seemed to claim. Letters that had been sent him from those in the Pomeran court only seemed to prove her claim. "No one is as wild as you, Rolly. Do not make me regret your return," he warned, playfully tapping her nose again.

"Oh, so you have let this court get stuffier without me," she countered, catching his finger in her gloved grip to nibble on the tip teasingly. "I do solemnly swear to be nothing but a good influence on your wife, while also scandalising every last one of the muppets who are trying to make your marriage fail with cruel words." After all, they were siblings. Those letters between them had not hidden everything going on in the Carantan court.

The mention of those who were purposely trying to put a wedge between him and his queen brought a frown to his face. Though he'd been lucky enough to have found someone who he truly cared for to make his wife, they had only been together a few short months - hardly enough to prove those wrong who wanted to see his marriage fail. And yet, he had faith in Serafina, and he hoped she had faith in him. "I want this marriage to succeed. I need this marriage to succeed," he told her. It wasn't just about his own happiness, but birthing an heir to the throne.

"Freddie ..." Rolanda laid her hand gently on his arm. "Give me a week, and you will know exactly who is trying to cause mischief," she predicted. "I am, after all, the empty-headed princess who giggles and preens and dances, and doesn't have a single intelligent thought in her head." It seemed as though she'd learned more from watching the antics of Prince Maksim than from emulating the ladies of the Pomeran court.

"If only they knew the truth," he murmured, with another pat of her hand. The time for privacy was nearly at an end as they were quickly approaching the castle itself, which looked almost exactly the way she remembered it - at least from the outside. It was an imposing looking place to outsiders, and yet, there was a certain beauty about it, too. "Home," he murmured just as quietly. There was no doubt of his love for this place.

So few people made the natural connection between the wildness of the solitary castle with the royal family who lived there. The VonTania bloodline was considered staid, well-mannered, and mild, and yet they all grew up here, surrounded by the elements. Only those who knew them well knew that the sea was in their blood.

Rolanda beamed as she looked up at the castle looming over them. It had been far too long since she had been home. "Why didn't Serafina come with you to the dock?" she asked curiously.

"Officially?" he asked, not expecting or requiring an answer. "Because of the weather, but I have a feeling it is really because she thought we might want a little time alone before you are thrust on the court," he explained, knowing his queen well enough to know that was likely to be the truth. "You will meet her soon enough, dearest," he assured her. "You remember Franz? He is looking forward to seeing you again," he said, changing the subject once again.

The sharp look in Rolanda's dusky eyes softened as he explained why he had not brought his new wife to meet her as soon as was possible. That boded well, she thought, if the young queen could care enough to give brother and sister time together before all eyes were upon them once again. "She seems lovely already," she assured her brother in turn, before laughing at his next change of subject. "How could I forget Franz? I practiced my flirting on him for years before I left. Does he still blush if a woman licks her lips in front of him?"

Frederick chuckled at her question. "I would like to say he does not, but sadly, I am afraid Franz has not changed ... nor has he wed, and I am afraid he never will," he told her. The smile he'd just worn turned into a small frown with obvious concern and worry for his closest friend.

"Perhaps he is simply not looking at the right women," Rolanda told him firmly. "I will have to see what I can do about setting his eyes in the right direction." And she would, too, far too confident in her own ability to matchmake to let an old friend live alone once his duty to his sisters was done.

"Do not take him far from me, Rolly," Frederick quietly warned. "There is no one I trust more or have known longer than Franz," he told her, though she knew this much already. The man was not only his most trusted adviser, he and Franz had grown up together and were as close as brothers.

"How little faith you have in me, Freddie," she teased gently. She knew as well as anyone how much her brother needed his friend. She also knew a few ladies of a more appropriate age who would welcome the invitation to court. "I promise, I will not send him away from the court. Love will just have to come to him."
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 22, 2018 10:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"On the contrary, I have great faith in you, Rolly," he contradicted. "But I do not wish Franz to have to choose between his country and his heart." Or more accurately, between his king and a possible love interest. The carriage came to a halt at last, and Frederick glanced at the window to see they'd arrived. "Are you ready, dear heart?" he asked, knowing they would have to navigate the prying, curious eyes of the court before long.

Schooling her expression so as not to give anyone peering in curious anything to gossip about before she was ready, Rolanda leaned back to look at her brother speculatively. "What are we going for here?" she asked in an innocent tone. "Sweet and empty-headed, or some modicum of mental ability?" She wasn't worried about giving his wife the wrong impression; that would be corrected in private later.

"That is entirely up to you," he replied, not wanting to persuade her either way. He would have much preferred the court to know his sister had a brain in her head, but feigning empty-headedness had always played to their advantage. "I would not presume to sway you either way."

"Well, they will expect me to have changed a little," she considered, flashing him a cheeky smile. "Don't look so worried, Freddie. They'll think I've come back with a scandal under my skirts."

"I do not like the idea of them gossiping and telling lies about you," he argued. Nor did he like them gossiping about his queen, but there wasn't much he could do about it, unless they found out who the perpetrators were.

"Now you listen to me, Your Majesty," his little sister told him firmly, her brows raised above a no-nonsense expression. "Words are just words. Without proof, they are so much hot air. People in your court have put far too much stock in empty words for far too long. So I am going to put them right about it, in my own way. I have been at the center of power for the last six years, Freddie. Trust me. I know how to do this."

He couldn't help but smirk at the expression on her face, as well as her scolding, but it was really no laughing matter. "I do trust you, Rolanda. I just do not want you getting hurt," he replied, turning serious. "And I do not want you to regret your homecoming."

"If they think I am still as easily hurt and led as the sixteen-year-old they waved away with horror stories about Pomeran men, then they are the ones who will regret it," she promised him, leaning close to kiss his cheek. "Come along, your most high kingliness. You have a queen to introduce me to."

He rolled his eyes at his sister's address of him, which was a bit over the top. "Please do not address me that way in court," he urged her, though he was happy for the kiss. "Rolly," he started, one hand on her arm as if to keep her there and to himself a moment longer. "I've missed you."

"I've missed you, too, Freddie." She paused, twisting to embrace him warmly. "I should have come back to visit. But I'm home now. And still living with that ridiculous nickname, I see."

"Don't worry. It's our secret," he assured her, though he could not be held accountable if Franz decided to address her that way. It was a nickname Frederick had pined on her when she'd been just a sprout.

She giggled. "I doubt it, but it's very sweet of you to say so," she teased, gently drawing back. "Well, go on, then. Hop out and let's pretend I know how to be a princess for a while, shall we?"

"I am anxious for you to meet Sera," he admitted with a twinkle in his eyes that hinted at his deeper feeling for both his wife and his sister. He pushed the door of the carriage open and climbed down, turning to offer her a hand.

"I'm anxious to meet her myself," she agreed, taking a moment to draw in a breath and prepare herself for fooling a few idiots in the court who were almost certainly expecting her to be easy prey. Laying her hand into her brother's, she stepped out of the carriage, letting him lead the way into the castle and toward the public rooms where Serafina must be keeping court.

He could almost feel her tense beside him as he led her into the castle and toward the place where Serafina was awaiting their arrival. He would have preferred to have escorted her to their private chambers, but it couldn't be helped. He would be expected to present her officially in court and let them have a look at the princess who'd left a child and was returning a woman.

At least it was only for a few minutes, this first presentation, and Rolanda could easily make herself the excuse for her brother and his wife not to return to the court at all for the rest of the day. She didn't mind it, more excited to lay eyes on her new sister than trepidatious of the courtiers that would be watching. Pausing at the door to the audience rooms to divest herself of fur and gloves, she smoothed her skirt and laid her hand on her brother's knuckles once again. "Ready, brother dearest?"

"I am ready, if you are ready, sister dearest," he replied with a smile. Dearest in part because, without any other siblings, they had only ever had each other. Accustomed to court, he did not need to gather his courage or prepare in any way before ushering her into the room, with a nod of his head to the guards who pulled open the doors for them to enter.

There was no need to announce the king in his own court, nor was there any need to announce his guest. The milling throng of nobles quieted as they entered, eyes that were sharp and curious, fond and unfriendly, following Frederick and Rolanda's passage toward the dais where the queen was hastily retaking her seat. Serafina's beautiful face was warm, marked with an open smile as she watched them approach.

Rolanda grinned back at her, squeezing her brother's hand. "I told you she'd like me."

"She hasn't even met you yet, sweetling," he whispered back, without looking her way, a nod of greeting offered to the court before turning back to Serafina and leading his sister that way. He was relieved to find a smile on the queen's face, though he had expected as much, hopeful the two women would become fast friends.

"Oh, ye of little faith," his sister murmured, releasing his hand as they reached the foot of the dais to sweep into a low curtsy before the throne. "Your Majesty."

Biting her lip for a moment, Serafina rose, sinking into a curtsy of her own. "Your Highness."

There was a pause, both women sank in their own skirts, and Rolanda giggled. "Someone has to say something now, or I'm going to fall over."

"I should leave you both like that," Frederick whispered, stepping forward to take each by the hand and pull them to their feet, presenting them formally to the court. "Lords and Ladies of the Court, may I present my sister, Princess Rolanda," he said, waiting for them to acknowledge her, as was her due.

Judging by the smiles playing around both young women's lips, they were teasing him as much as each other with those ridiculous curtsies. It was a relief to be brought to stand once again, however. Rolanda offered her new sister a wink before allowing Frederick to turn her to face the court for the traditional round of polite applause to welcome her home. On the King's other side, Serafina did her best to school her expression - the Carantan court was so stuffy.

He waited patiently for the applause - enthusiastic and otherwise - to subside before addressing the court again. "Now, if you will excuse us, the Princess is weary from her journey, and we have much to discuss," he told them, including Serafina in that equation, even if he didn't say so in so many words.

Before any murmur disagreement could make itself known, the familiar sound of Franz's mace thumping against the marble made itself known. "Court is dismissed," the chancellor declared in his most officious tone of voice, purely because it would annoy the more entitled among the nobles. "Court will reconvene at six bells after dawn."

Rolanda's gaze flickered toward Frederick curiously - was that his idea?

Frederick could not help but smirk a little at his sister's curious gaze, coupled with Franz's declaration that court was dismissed for the remainder of the day. His own gaze flickered to Serafina's, suspecting it was her who had made that decision and asked Franz to arrange it, long before the king and his sister returned. He watched as the courtiers started to drift away, disappointment on some of their faces.
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 22, 2018 10:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not a flicker betrayed Serafina's collusion with the chancellor on dismissing the court for the day, her timeless beauty a perfect disguise behind which to hide any deception. As the courtiers filed out, she nodded briefly to her chief lady-in-waiting, who grinned and curtsied, moving to usher the others from the audience chamber in a gaggling of giggles.

Rolanda felt her lips twitch into a smile of her own; it seemed that the new queen had friends who were more inclined toward silliness than stuffiness. "So ... am I performing for an empty room or, Goddess forbid, do you have a place with actual chairs and a fire to be family in?"

Frederick chuckled at his sister's question once the queen's ladies in waiting filed out. "Yes, of course. And something to eat. You must be starved after your journey," he said, waving to a servant to take care of those details.

"Forgive me if I have made an unwarranted assumption, but I had the cook make some soup for you," Serafina offered in her soft way. Only the slight tightening of her hand on Frederick's arm betrayed how nervous she was to be meeting his sister at last. "It is a chilly day on the sea."

Rolanda beamed. "Oh, I'm going to like you," she announced cheerfully - perhaps a little too rambunctious for a first impression, but too happy to be home to tone it down just yet. "Lead the way, Freddie, I just have to embarrass your chancellor with the kiss I've been promising him since I was ten."

Franz backed up a step, his eyes wide as the princess bounced toward him, lips puckered teasingly.

Frederick laughed again, obviously happy to have his sister returned home, where he thought she belonged. "Be careful, Franz, or you might find yourself the subject of court intrigue," he warned, though there were no courtiers lingering there to spread gossip. He sensed Sera's nervousness and offered her a smile and a reassuring pat of her hand. He was sure the two women would get along splendidly once they got better acquainted. "Sera, why don't you show Roll-anda to the dining room? I have some business to discuss with Franz," he suggested almost falling into the more familiar "Rolly", but stopping himself just in time.

"I-I would be happy to," Serafina agreed, her smile just a little on the wary side. A wariness that faded into genuine amusement as she glanced past him to where Rolanda had Franz backed up against the wall and was pressing a loud, wet kiss to his cheek. She bit her lip, glancing away as she attempted not to laugh.

Rolanda patted Franz's cheek as she stepped back. "There, never let it be said that I don't keep my promises," she declared, turning back to her brother and his wife. "Someone said soup."

"Preferably while it's still hot," Freddie remarked with a bit of a smirk before turning to touch a kiss to his wife's cheek. "I'm sure you two will get along splendidly," he said, giving voice to his hopes regarding his wife and sister.

"Oh, I'm sure we will, Your Majesty." Rolanda offered her brother a cheeky little curtsy, turning to wrap her arm through Serafina's. "I'm going to guess where we're going, and if I get it right, you will have to share something scandalous from your childhood with me," she informed the queen, who almost immediately blushed.

Frederick rolled his eyes at his sister's cheekiness, for which Serafina was no match. He warned have warned her to behave, but there wasn't much point or chance in that. "Tell me what you're thinking, Franz. You have that look on your face again," he said, once the women departed, leaving them alone.

Franz sighed, pausing in the act of wiping his cheek dry. "I am thinking that within a month, your sister will have this court rather more fun than it has been since before your dear mother's death," he offered, with only a little weariness to his tone. "Perhaps I should convince Alayne and Frieda to attempt court life again."

"Perhaps you should. I don't think the queen has become very close with any of her ladies. Perhaps Rolly will change that. She and Sera are close in age, as are your sisters," Freddie reasoned, pacing slowly, hands clasped behind his back. "She needs companions her own age."

"With respect, your majesty, the entire court could do with shaking up a little," Franz pointed out as carefully as he could. "With the obvious exception of your council, those who routinely visit the court do so because their parents and grandparents did so. Not because they were invited by yourself or the queen. Hereditary positions cause complacency; indeed, their comfort and confidence in their own perceived state of untouchability has led some to making some rather foolish mistakes."

"Such as?" Frederick asked, already knowing the truth in most of what his chancellor was telling him, but curious what mistakes exactly he was referring to.

"Such as the spread of malicious gossip intended to harm yourself and the queen," Franz pointed out mildly. "Unwise investments in the heretical council's much vaunted but ultimately pointless attempts to keep power in Coimbra. There are others, but those are the most egregious."

Frederick's brows furrowed worriedly, eyes flashing with a hint of anger. "Those are not mistakes, Franz. They border on treason," he said, wondering what his most trusted advisor and closest friend might suggest.

"At this moment, they are mistakes," his friend said calmly. "Mistakes they feel emboldened to make because they think their position close to the throne is somehow unassailable. I would suggest dismissing the court as a whole, permanently, and being selective about who you invite back. Make it clear that there are consequences to poor decisions. Remind them who is the king."

"Hmm," Frederick murmured thoughtfully, though he'd been thinking the same thing, including his wife's ladies in waiting. Somehow, they needed to wade through the long list of courtiers and possible courtiers and decide who was loyal and who was not. "I have been thinking similar thoughts, but it will earn us some enemies." Or maybe just flush those who were already leaning that way.

"I think it will bring any true enemies to light faster than allowing them to work here in open secrecy," Franz pointed out. "I would rather have them out in the country than standing within spitting distance of the throne, Frederick."

"Yes, of course. I have been considering Serafina's ladies, as well. Some of them are old enough to be her grandmother. While I understand the importance of experience, I worry that she might feel isolated and lonely, with no real friends of her own," Frederick pointed out, more worried, it seemed for the queen's safety and happiness than his own.

"With Rolly back, I don't think that's going to be a problem," Franz mused with a faint smile. "Frederick, what you need is a broom to sweep everyone out. I can arrange to have one of these idiots unmasked for his foolishness, and we can use that as our excuse to clean house. Some will beg and plead, and some will be invited to return, but unless they can offer something tangible to the court, they should not expect that invitation to be extended."

"I quite agree," Frederick replied without hesitation. With the arrival of his sister and his recent marriage, tongues were going to wag. What was going on in Coimbra didn't help. "Rolly tells me the power struggle in Coimbra might soon be over," he said, turning to face his friend, confident they were alone.

"It does appear that way." Franz didn't look wholly convinced, however. "It will depend upon the rebels taking certain strategic points, and holding them, while Pomerania urges allies into mustering at the borders. If they cannot hold those points once taken, any incursion would be doomed to failure."

"Perhaps we should discuss this elsewhere," Frederick suggested, just a little worried about being overheard by one of those courtiers who might not be what they seemed. One could never be too careful even in their own home, especially if one was a king.

"Perhaps you should stop worrying about state matters for an hour or so, and rescue your wife from your sister," Franz suggested with a faint grin. "I have no doubt Rolly is itching to pick my brains about everything she has learned in the last months."

"Spending time with Rolly can be exhausting and a little overwhelming," Freddie replied with a chuckle, as he swung an affectionate and casual arm around his friend's shoulder. "It is good to have her home," he added. It was good to be surrounded by family again, and as far as Frederick was concerned that family included the lifelong friend he had in Franz.

"I agree," Franz nodded, patting his king and friend on the back. "Though she may take a little getting used to. I understand she has the friendship of the Crown Princess, as well as the new princess of Pomerania, yet the majority of the Hight Court see her as little but a buffoon in skirts." He chuckled. "Masterful, if you think about it."
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 22, 2018 10:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Yes, but I want her to be happy, Franz. I don't want her to have to pretend to be someone she's not all her life, just because that is what people expect or because she can use it to our advantage. She deserves so much more than that, not only because she is a princess, but because she is my sister," Frederick argued.

"Then cleaning out the dead wood should help with that, sire," his chancellor pointed out mildly. "There are many of the appropriate rank in this land who have never so much as caught a glimpse of you, much less visited the court. There may indeed be some among them who will help her be happy."

"Are we talking about suitors, Franz?" the king asked, with a glimmer of amusement in his eyes, knowing what his sister might say about that. "She seems fond enough of you," he teased further, knowing his sister's affection for the man was more sisterly, than romantic.

"Was that not what you were talking about, Frederick?" his friend countered innocently. He rolled his eyes at the tease. "I have enough trouble with my own sisters. I would not even consider inviting Rolly to ply her influence on them."

"Yes, it is," Frederick replied. "But I do not wish to force her into an unwanted courtship. He had a feeling his sister might not welcome any courtship, but that of her own choosing. "And why not? Are you afraid she would influence them or they would influence her?" Frederick continued in reply to Franz's mention of his sisters, alluding to either being a bad influence in some way.

"Frieda is already making my attempts to find her a match as miserable as she possibly can," Franz pointed out. "And Alayne seems to think that it's a fine joke. Rolly has the leisure to pick and choose; to decide not to marry at all, if she so wills it. We of the lower noble classes do not have that luxury, your majesty."

Frederick arched a brow, a little surprised at his friend's statement. "You seem to have forgotten my first marriage, Franz," he reminded his friend, just a little self-defensively. And the woman he'd fallen in love with before her but had been forbidden to marry.

"With respect, sire, you are not your father," Franz said mildly. "You will not force your sister into a marriage purely for alliance's sake, without even a word in her ear to gain her opinion on the matter."

"That is true, Franz," Frederick replied, without further argument. If his father had allowed him to marry Genevieve, things would have been very different. Frederick didn't want to think about that too hard though, as it meant Serafina might have been his daughter and not his wife. "Shall we rescue the queen from my over-talkative sister?"

Franz chuckled. "Yes, I believe Rolly should have had enough time to make an impression by now," he agreed. "I will volunteer my afternoon to be babbled at until she realises that I know how intelligent she is."

"Thank you, Franz," the king told his friend, giving his shoulder a squeeze. "I am sure Rolly and Sera will become fast friends before long, but Rolly is best taken in small doses, at first," he added with a smirk.

"As I'm sure she is aware." The chancellor chuckled, shaking his head at the thought of the afternoon ahead of him. "Shall we, then?"

"I believe we shall," Frederick replied, making his way from the audience chamber. He would talk to Franz in more depth about the situation in Coimbra in the next few days, but today was about welcoming his sister home.

A sister who had his usually quiet, soft-spoken queen cackling with laughter by the time they reached the princess' private rooms. Serafina was flushed and blushing, her blue eyes bright with laughter as she covered her mouth with her sleeve. Rolly, on the other hand, was lying on the floor, skirts hooked on her toes, with her feet resting on the mantle over the fire, apparently warming her less than lady-like parts while regaling her new sister with some less-than ladylike stories.

There went that eyebrow of Frederick's again, flickering upwards as he interrupted whatever story Rolanda was telling that had Serafina cackling with laughter, but it wasn't so much the story-telling that had his brows getting a workout as it was his sister's less than lady-like way of warming herself. "Ahem," he murmured, clearing his throat to announce his arrival. "Am I interrupting?" he asked, though that much seemed obvious.

Rolly tilted her head back to look at her brother, not even hinting at being happy to move just yet. "Only if you heard what I was saying before Serafina started giggling," she said with brazenly impish sweetness.

"I am not sure I want to know," he replied, obviously the more serious of the two siblings, but then, there was far more responsibility weighing upon his shoulders than there was on hers. "Franz would like to speak with you," he told his sister, though he didn't say what the chancellor wanted to speak with her about.

"Well, these are my rooms, brother dearest," she pointed out with a low giggle, but obligingly dropped her feet to the floor, smoothing her skirt down to cover her knees and ankles as she sat up. "I take it he's recovered from being kissed by a princess?"

"I am not sure actually. Perhaps he's hoping for another," Frederick replied, trying to keep a straight face. He knew Franz would never forgive him, but he just couldn't help himself. With Rolly back at the castle, there would certainly be no shortage of entertainment, but he thought she was far more valuable than just as a court jester.

"Oh, you temptress." Rolly laughed, pulling herself up onto her feet. She wiggled her finger at her brother and his wife. "No investigating my chests when they arrive. At least, not without me present, anyway." Slipping into her shoes, she pressed a kiss to her brother's cheek and skipped out of the room, content to leave them in her own chambers without fear, it seemed.

Frederick opened his mouth to ask why the content of her chests was a matter of secrecy, but she skipped away before the words found their way to his mouth. He had no intention of investigating those chests or of violating her privacy in any way. She was his sister and a princess of the realm; there was no need. Instead, he looked to Serafina with a slightly puzzled look on his face. "I will not ask what she was telling you when I walked in," he said, hoping it wasn't some embarrassing story of his own childhood.

Sera was still smiling, but thankfully the blush had calmed as she rose onto her feet. "I do not think you would thank her for sharing some of what she has been regaling me with," she agreed with him, almost teasing in her soft way. "She is lovely, Freddie."

"She is mischievous, impulsive, and wholly unrepentant, and I've missed her terribly!" he said, laughing. He was obviously glad to have his sister home again and glad that Sera seemed to like her, so far. "It is my hope that you two will become good friends," he told her, reaching for her hands to help her to her feet.

"She is not what I was expecting, I must admit," Sera laughed softly, her hands curling into his tenderly. She had been expecting a feminine version of her husband - quiet and calm, a little playful in the right mood. Not that she didn't like Rolanda, quite the opposite. It would just take a little time to get used to her.

"I admit we are like night and day, but she is far more intelligent than most give her credit for," he told her, assuming she had probably figured that much out already. He drew her close to touch a warm, but chaste kiss to her lips, before drawing back with a smile. "I thought we might retire to our rooms for a little while before the evening meal."

Drawn close for that kiss, one of her hands slipped from his to touch gently over his heart as her lips curved into a smile that was for him alone. "I think that is a lovely idea," she agreed warmly. A very faint flush crossed her cheeks as her smile deepened, a flicker of something that might have been mischief in her eyes for a brief moment. "A lovely idea, yes."

He arched a brow, catching what might have been a hint of mischief in her eyes. Was his sister's mischief catching, he wondered. "Dare I ask what embarrassing stories my dear sister was sharing with you?" he asked, as he tucked her hand into the crook of his elbow and led her toward the door.

"Are you concerned that they may alter my perception of you, sweetheart?" she asked curiously, tucked close against his elbow as he drew her from his sister's rooms and toward their own. "I do not see how knowing you made a practice of carrying her on your shoulders when she was but two years old to every official meeting your father convened could possibly change the way I see you."

"Hmm, is that all she told you?" he asked, not denying the story's truth. They had not been alone together long enough for Rolanda to share too many tales of his childhood, but he had a feeling she would be sharing more in the days to come.

"She had a few choice stories from her time in Pomerania, too," Serafina assured him, her smile flickering to life for a moment once again. "Though I do not believe she would wish me to share them with you until she has decided what is suitable for you to know."
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 22, 2018 10:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"These stories do not involve men, do they?" he asked, though he thought perhaps he shouldn't be asking that. She was a grown woman now, but as her king and older brother, he was still ultimately responsible for her.

"If they did, they came to nothing, and are in the past," Serafina pointed out in her gentle way, not revealing any detail to him that Rolanda had not given her express permission to share. "Either you trust your sister to behave according to her station, or you do not, sweetheart. Which is it?"

"It is not Rolanda I do not trust, dear heart," Frederick was quick to point out. He also trusted their allies in Pomerania, but he knew there were men everywhere who were not so honorable with their intentions. "I only hope nothing unsavory happened." He almost immediately dismissed the thought, knowing his sister would have written him if it had and asked to come home.

"I am sure it did not," his young queen assured him. "Queen Catherine is known for protecting the young women in her care, and since the rise of the Crown Princess Marianne, I understand the Pomeran court has become far less of a dangerous place for young ladies."

Frederick frowned a little worriedly as he escorted his wife to their own quarters. "I do not wish to smother her, but I made a promise to keep her safe," he said, never having spoken of this before. In fact, in the last few months since he and Serafina had gotten married, he'd hardly mentioned Rolanda at all until recently.

"And she is a grown woman who has navigated an international court for six years without scandal or mishap," Sera reminded him, gently squeezing his arm. "Do not worry so, sweetheart. If she can handle the intrigues of Pomerania, she is more than capable of twisting our own court about her fingers."

"I know," he replied, relaxing a little as they approached their own quarters. "It is only she was little more than a child when she left and now, she's a woman. I hardly know what to think of it," he said, admitting to feeling a little bit at a loss as to how to reacquaint himself with the little sister he'd once doted on.

"Then you simply have to get to know her as she is now," Sera said simply. "It is not that she is so very much changed as that she has grown, as have you. You are still her brother; she still adores you as she once did. She simply has a mind of her own now."

Frederick chuckled a little as he ushered her into their rooms and past the guards who were standing outside their door. "My darling wife, my sister has always had a mind of her own," he told her, waiting for her to follow him inside before closing the door behind them.

"I would have expected no less from a sister of yours," was her demure reply as she stepped across the threshold into their private quarters. As was her habit, she checked the side table by the door, where servants were apt to leave any messages that had been sent to the king's chamber, a faint smile touching her lips as she found one there for herself. "May I?"

"Of course," he replied, tugging the cravat at his neck loose, now that they were no longer in the public eye, and shedding the overcoat he'd been wearing since he'd returned from the dock with his sister in tow. He refrained from asking who the message was from, as he trusted his wife implicitly.

Smiling gratefully, she broke the wax seal with her thumb, unfolding the short missive to scan the words written there. Her beautiful face slackened with surprise, then something that seemed to be joy. "Oh ..." Blue eyes rose to seek his face, eager to share what she had read.

"Good news?" he asked, brows arching upwards at her apparent pleasure at whatever it was she'd just read. Curious though he was, he didn't want to pry into her personal and private correspondence, unless she wanted to share it with him.

A slow, delighted smile lit up her face as she nodded, offering him the letter to read. "Yes," she managed. "I-I truly do think it is very good news, sweetheart." She pressed the letter into his hands, unable to bring herself to tell him aloud. There, on the page, in the hand of the royal physician, was a single sentence that spoke volumes. It is reasonable to assume that, should no complications arise, your majesty will be delivered of a healthy babe sometime between Solstice and the new year.

He gave her a curious look as he took the paper in hand, turning his gaze to read what it said, his eyes moving over the page. He furrowed his brows as he seemed to realize the message's meaning, though it seemed almost too good to be true. "A babe?" he echoed, lowering the letter and looking to her for confirmation. "You're with child?" he asked her incredulously, only because it was so soon and so unexpected.

She bit her lip, finally finding words to answer him through her smile. "I-I didn't want to mention it, but ... I haven't bled since we were married, and I wanted to be sure before I told you. You've had so many disappointments, I did not want this to be one of them."

"Disappointments?" he echoed, looking further surprised by her statement. "My darling," he started, setting the letter aside to take her by the hands. "You have never disappointed me," he assured her, nor could he imagine her ever doing so in the future. "Are you really with child?" he asked again, though he'd just read the message that proved it with his own eyes.

"It would seem so." She nodded, gentle anxiety touching her smiling eyes as she looked up at him, hoping this was good news. Perhaps the timing was not perfect, with his sister so newly arrived, but how could she keep such tidings to herself? This was why he had needed a wife in the first place.

"Darling, that's ..." he broke off, unsure quite what to say. Good news wasn't strong enough. "That's ..." he echoed again before breaking into joyous laughter as he threw his arms around her waist and swung her around in a circle.

Sera gasped, letting out a squeal of laughter as he hoisted her off her feet, her own arms thrown about his neck to hold on tight as her shoes were flung away with the moment of wildness. Her anxiety faded, reassured with barely more than a laugh and an enthusiastic embrace that this was good news.

If that was not enough proof that he considered this good news, then perhaps the kiss he planted on her lips once he set her again on her feet was. It wasn't a hungry kiss, ripe with desire, but one of pure love and passion that told her without doubt and without saying a word how happy she had just made him.

His young wife smiled into his kiss, reassured and elated with his joy at her news. Perhaps she should have told him sooner, when she first suspected it, but perhaps it was better this way. He did not need to worry over the possibility, when the possibility had been confirmed. "I-I did not intend to tell you on the day your sister came home," she confessed. "I did not think the physician would be certain today."

"Any day is ..." He broke off as a knock sounded at the door, and he sighed. "Yes?" he called, his hands sliding from around her waist to clasp her hands, as the door to their rooms creaked open.

One of the guards peeked his head inside, almost immediately regretting the interruption when he saw the two of them standing so close together. "I'm sorry, Majesty. I thought I heard a scream, and I wanted to - to make sure nothing is amiss."

Serafina's smile broadened at the discomfort on the guard's face. "There is a difference between a squeal and a scream," she said gently. "But thank you, for responding so quickly to what you thought might be trouble."

"Yes, Majesty," the guard said, with a nod of his head, his face flushed with embarrassment. "I apologize, Majesty," he repeated, for her sake this time, before quietly slipping back out.

Frederick watched as the man departed before turning back to Serafina and breaking into laughter. "Perhaps we should be more careful, or we might find the guards breaking into our room at night," he teased.

She giggled, leaning into him happily. "I did not realise that my laughter sounded so much like a scream!" Raising his hands to her smiling lips, she kissed his knuckles tenderly. There was no fear in her for the chance of bearing a girl, for he had already told her he would be as happy with a daughter as he would with a son. "A new child of this house come the winter, sweetheart."

"A new child to bring us love and laughter," he agreed, pulling her closer, a warm smile on his face. Indeed, despite his advisors' preference for a son, he hardly cared whether their child was a girl or a boy, so long as the baby was healthy and well. "Such a happy day," he said, as if his sister's homecoming was not happy enough.
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 22, 2018 10:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Unwinding her hands from his, she laid her palms against his chest, leaning into his embrace with her soft smile firmly in place on the beautiful face she had inherited from her mother. "I am so glad to see you happy, Freddie," she told him softly. "You are too solemn much of the time."

His arms circled her waist as he drew her close, frowning a little at the knowledge that she thought him too solemn, and yet, there were many reasons for that. "I am happy, Sera," he assured her. "It is just the responsibility of being king that makes me solemn," he explained. That and the fact that he'd been alone for so long, he'd almost forgotten was it felt like to be happy.

"You have Franz to help you," she reminded him, "and the council. You do not have to carry the weight of it all, surely?" Yet didn't she carry the burden of the court much of the time? And she, too, had ladies to assist her in that task.

"I know. I depend greatly on Franz. Sometimes I think perhaps too much," he confirmed. She was right in that he had Franz and the council to advise him, but in the end, the decisions were still his. "Franz and I have been discussing dismissing the court and starting fresh," he told her, drawing her toward an overstuffed chair.

Sera blinked in surprise. "The entire court?" she asked, a little intimidated by what that might mean for them. "There are so many who claim a place in your presence - they will not like to be told it is not their decision to make."

"And there are those who have been working against us behind our backs," he pointed out, as he sat down and pulled her onto his lap, his arms going around her waist again. Here in the safety and privacy of their quarters, there was no need to worry about propriety. "We can't dismiss only those we don't trust. We will have to dismiss the entire court and then invite back those who we trust."

Though it had taken time and patience, he had finally taught Sera to relax on his lap. She curled easily down into the wrap of his arms, stroking her fingertip against his jaw as he explained to her. "How will we know who can be trusted?"

That was a good question, but not one that needed to be answered right away. "Franz and I will sort it out. If you wish, this might be a good time to dismiss your court ladies and invite those of your own choosing," he suggested.

She couldn't quite hide the look of blessed relief that crossed her face at his suggestion. "I may? Oh, but ... may I keep Lysette?" Her only real friend still in Carantania was the childhood friend who had come from Kediri when asked.

"Yes, of course!" he assured her, smiling at the look on her face, relieved she didn't seem upset with the idea. "You should have companions your own age and of your own choosing. Young women who you trust and whose company you enjoy, not women who've been thrust on you only because of their rank or station."

"No more horrible old women with opinions on the fact that I apparently smile too much and am too nice to everyone lower in rank than myself," she mused, liking the idea more and more. "But I know so few ladies of this land. Will Franz have a list, do you think?"

He couldn't help but chuckle a little at her blunt honesty regarding her court ladies, now that he'd mentioned the subject. "I am sure Franz can help, and perhaps Rolanda, as well," Frederick replied, though his sister had been away from court for some years and may not have kept in touch with many of the younger noblewomen.

"Goodness, wouldn't it be lovely to have a court filled with people we actually like?" Sera laughed softly, tucking her cheek onto his shoulder with a low sigh. "Not dreading certain conversations before they even begin."

"And trust," he added, as one seemed as important as the other. As for himself, there were few he considered friends, except for those closest him, those he trusted implicitly - chiefly Franz and his closest advisers. "I want you to be happy here, Sera," he told her, brushing her hair away from her face as she rested her cheek on hs shoulder. And if it took dismissing the entire court and starting from scratch to make her happy, so be it.

"I am happy with you," she promised him softly. "It has only been two months. I would be a fool to expect to have settled in completely so soon." She tilted her head, touching her lips gently to his jaw. "I think resetting the court is a wonderful idea," she assured him in a fond tone. "To be able to push aside those stuffy ideas of what is and isn't appropriate with people who enjoy life, rather than want to suck it dry."

"Something like that, yes," he replied with a smile at the knowledge that she was happy and that she understood why he and Franz had come to this decision. It wasn't all about making Serafina happy though; it also had to do with replacing disloyal courtiers with ones they could trust. "Franz and I will have to decide who will be invited back, but you will be free to choose your own ladies."

"I shall likely rely on Rolanda and you to help with me with that," she confessed. "You both know the nobility of this land better than I. I have only experienced the current crop who seem to believe their right to visit the palace is ordained by the Goddess Herself."

"They believe it to be their birthright," he explained, though who was he to judge them when he had become king by right of his own bloodline. "The world is changing, Sera. With any luck, soon there will be peace, but there will always be those who seek power for themselves."

"People do not change, only the circumstances around them," she murmured. It sounded like a quotation, likely from her father, who had been a wise man for all his faults. "But we will have peace in Carantania, won't we? I do not like to think of you having to go to war, sweetheart."

"I am confident we will continue to have peace here, dear heart," he assured her, with a brush of his lips to her forehead as one hand came to rest against the flat of her belly. "Peace and prosperity for ourselves and our children." So long as no one stirred trouble in any of Pomerania's vassal states.

Sera bit her lip around a smile as his palm covered the still flat plane of her belly, her own hand falling to cover his. "Our children," she repeated softly, unable to disguise the delight she felt at this quiet assertion that one child was not where they would stop.

Whether their first child was a son or a daughter hardly mattered, as he was hoping for more than one, though the risk of childbirth worried him enough that he didn't want too many. He brushed another kiss to her lips, soft and tender and loving, telling her without saying a word how happy she had made him.

Her lips softened beneath his, slender fingers rising to pour through the silver-dark of his hair. "Mmm ... how long do we have before we absolutely must be presentable for your sister, do you think?"

"Hard to say," he replied, touching his forehead to hers as he breathed her in. He had told Franz that they were retiring to their chambers until the evening meal, but that would hardly stop Rolanda from joining them for a visit well before that. "Shall I tell the guards we are not to be disturbed?" he asked, lifting a hand to caress her cheek.

She hesitated, not wanting to push her own wishes over his duty or desires. "Do you wish to?" she asked softly. "That is ... I should like to, but, well, you are the king, Freddie. I know my desires do not compare to the needs of a nation."

"Do I wish to?" he echoed, his smile softening at the almost shy way she had asked. "I need little convincing, love," he assured her, touching another kiss to her lips before patting her behind so he could move to his feet. "Give me a moment to speak with the guards."

Kissed softly in reassurance, Sera giggled as she rose onto her feet, allowing him the leisure to rise and speak with the guards as he so chose. And he had thought, once, that she would be repulsed by the gap in their ages; that she would put more store by the grey in his hair than by the fondness and passion in his heart. He could not have been more wrong in his new queen. She adored her husband, respected the king, loved the man, and she took every opportunity to remind him of that fact.

While he had once worried that she would find him too old, he had never thought her too young. In fact, it was in part her youth that had first attracted him. She was sweet and charming, innocent and fresh, unspoiled and trusting; as lovely and graceful as a flower in summer, with a heart that was loving and kind. He had simply never met anyone like her, and she had captured his heart almost overnight. There was nothing he wanted more than to make her happy, and by making her happy, he was happy himself. What more could a man ever desire, whether he was a king or a pauper?
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 22, 2018 10:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

By the time he returned to her, she had removed the tiara from her sable-black hair, the diamonds from her neck and ears, letting the long length fall free from the pins that held it in its twisted braid about her head. He brushed her hair every night, braided it before they slept, something she had promised him on their wedding night and intended to hold to for the rest of their life together. Tilting her head back to look up at her handsome husband, she smiled once again, tucking a fingertip into the vee of his waistcoat to tug him a little closer. "Do not disturb?"

"The guards have orders to let no one disturb us until dinner, not even my rambunctious sister," he told her, settling his hands against her hips as she tugged him closer. Though he was roughly twenty years her elder, he never had any trouble keeping up with her in bed and otherwise.

She laughed, tugged closer by his hands than she had pulled him, letting her own slither up to curl about his shoulders. "I think we should be able to stave off the inevitable boredom, don't you?"

"Oh, I doubt we ever have to worry about boredom," he agreed, smiling back at her, green eyes sparkling with amusement. He wasn't only referring to their sex life either, though it seemed that was what both had in mind at the moment. She might already be pregnant, but practice made perfect, as they say. "Shall we worry the guards again or try to be quiet?"

"Closing another set of doors between us and them should solve that problem, don't you think?" she asked sweetly, rising onto her toes to pull him down into a slow kiss. "Oh, I do love you, Freddie," she whispered against his lips, knowing he needed to hear it from time to time, to understand that it was true.

He might have responded to that, but he was too distracted by her kiss and too busy returning her kisses, but she was right - it was time they retreated to the privacy of their bedchamber where they would not be overheard or disturbed. With that in mind, Freddie swept his young wife off her feet and carried her that way, even while he continued to ply her with tender kisses.

She giggled into his kisses as he lifted her up, never fearful that he might drop her, the long length of her hair swinging loose with each step he took past the doors to their bed chamber. One foot gave that open door a push to hear it snap closed, clever fingers removing his cravat as her lips teased his tenderly.

He had just as many layers to peel away as did she, and peel away the layers they did - slowly at first, savoring each moment like a glass of fine wine, until mutual desire could hold them back no longer. Here in their private chambers - their inner sanctum - they were free to forget the responsibilities of being king and queen and just be man and woman, husband and wife. Free to love and be loved, hold and be held, for just a few hours and the rest of their lives.

Time had already taken the shyness from her when it came to her skin before his eyes, the virginal sense of something immodest about displaying herself to the husband that had made her a woman. This was proved just a few hours later, when she stood naked before the mirror, her only veil the sheen of her hair at her back, one hand touching over the flat plane of her belly as she tried to imagine what she would look like as the child within continued to grow.

Frederick quietly watched his wife at the mirror, admiring the view, constantly amazed at how lucky he was to have won such a young and beautiful wife. And now that she was with child, she couldn't have made him happier. He came up behind her, only half-dressed himself in anticipation of the evening meal, and slid his arms around her to cover her hands with his own. "Happy or worried?" he asked, knowing she might be a little of both.

She shivered happily at the wrap of his arms about her, leaning back into his embrace as her reflection shared the uncertain smile on her lips. "Happy," she promised. "Delighted. But ... I am a little wary, too. I know nothing of pregnancy or childbirth beyond what I witnessed my stepmother go through, and I was still a child then."

"There must be someone who can give you advice. There's the midwife for one," he mused aloud thoughtfully. Of those she'd made friends with, none were married or had had children, as far as he knew, but there were a few older ladies in the court who might prove to be helpful. "What about the Lady Beatrice?" he queried, his gaze meeting hers in the mirror.

"The Dowager Duchess of Doonan." Sera couldn't help laughing as she said this; the title was absolutely accurate, but Lady Beatrice truly delighted in making heralds announce her exactly that way. She was a playful sort of woman, with two marriages behind her, and seven children who had all survived their infancy. "Would she help me, if I were to ask?"

He shrugged uncertainly, though he supposed that since she was queen, it would be hard for anyone to refuse such a request. "I do not see why not, but perhaps you should ask her before Franz and I dismiss the court." That way, the Duchess would have a reason to stay and there would be no talk of favoritism.

She nodded, twisting in his arms to face him, no longer too shy to be nude when he was not. So long as his were the only eyes to see her, modesty could go hang. "Are you happy, Freddie?" she asked yet again. "About the baby and everything that goes with it? Am I foolish to be just a little afraid of it?"

"Of course, I am happy," he assured her with a serious expression that matched his words. "I do not think you foolish for being a little afraid, Sera, but I promise you I will do everything in my power to make sure both you and the baby are safe and healthy." He could not promise there would be no problems with the pregnancy or the birth, but he could promise to make sure she got the best care possible.

"Thank you." Soft hands rose to touch his cheeks, drawing him down into a tender kiss as she leaned into him, skin to skin, heart to heart, glad to her bones to have been chosen by a man who loved her, whom she was falling more deeply in love with as time went on.

"I do not know what I would do without you, Sera," he told her quietly, almost afraid to admit how much he needed her in his life, how much she meant to him. He didn't need to explain about the dangers of childbirth, and yet, he could only be hopeful, refusing to give in to his fears, if only for her sake.

"You will never need find out," she promised him - the promise of a young woman without much fear of what life brought to her, the promise of a young wife with a heart full of love. "But I should dress before your sister decides to disregard your orders and barge in, anyway."

"It would serve her right for being presumptious," he replied with a chuckle, but he understood his wife's desire for modesty. "I do not say it enough, but I love you, Serafina," he told her, his fingers in a soft caress of her cheek and back through her dark hair.

Her cheek tilted into his touch, content to let him skim his fingers through the long fall of sable softness that seemed to delight him so much. "You do not need to say it for me to know," she murmured in her tender way. "You show me every day, every hour. Words are not the only way to prove love, Freddie."

"And yet, you deserve to hear it more often than I say it," he argued, leaning close to touch a soft kiss to her lips before taking her hands to draw her away from the mirror so that he could help her get dressed.

She smiled into his kiss, letting him lead her away to where the simple layers of her garb awaited them. "I thought a wise man did not argue with his wife?" she teased softly, skimming fingertips over the plane of his chest as she turned to take up the delicate batiste of her chemise.

"Ah, but whoever said that I'm wise?" he argued further, a teasing grin on his face. It could be argued that one of the wisest things he'd ever done was to make her his wife, but he didn't bother to point that out just yet. He watched her dress admiringly for a moment, smiling to himself, as he turned to finish getting dressed himself before they were summoned to dinner.

"You are a king," she pointed out. "A king is always wise, if he knows what's good for him." She giggled, the sound muffled as she navigated her way into the folds of her underdress. Perhaps she should have called for her maid, but she did not feel the need to. She had been dressing herself for years, after all.
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 22, 2018 10:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

And he was there to help if she needed him, though he wasn't very good with the complexities of women's clothing. "And what exactly does that mean, dear heart?" he asked curiously as she giggled, hinting that she was teasing him.

Emerging from the neckline of the underdress, she smoothed it down, reaching to her back to tighten the laces. "I'm supposed to know what it means?" she asked innocently. "I am, after all, just a queen. Our purpose is to look pretty and be kind, insofar as I can discern it."

He caught sight of her reaching backwards and moved over to help with her laces. It wasn't the first time he'd done so, though he thought himself far clumsier at it than that of her maid. He frowned a little at the description she was giving herself. Some might say her purpose was to give him an heir, but as far as he was concerned, that was not her sole purpose. "Is that why you think I asked you to be my wife?" he asked curiously, wondering just what she did think.

Sera tilted her head back over her shoulder, seeking his gaze. "Freddie, you know I don't think that," she reminded him gently. "But it is the perception of royal women. We are expected to do our duty, be beautiful, and kind, and that is all."

"What duty is that?" he asked further, merely curious as to what women perceived as their duty or duties in the royal household. Again, he knew one of those duties was to provide an heir, preferably a son, but Freddie had his own thoughts about what he wanted in a wife and a queen.

"To provide heirs and set the tone for the court." Sera shrugged, shaking her hair out as she reached for the overdress, which again was easier to pull on over her head.

"And to serve as a companion for the king," he added, though that was more a wifely than a queenly duty. "I wonder if we should travel to Pomerania to visit the court there," he said, thinking she might enjoy a change of scenery, as well as a visit with the ladies of the court there. Then again, his sister had just come from there and would at least be able to provide her with all the juicy bits of gossip she'd brought with her.

She blinked in surprise, drawing her hair over her shoulder as she adjusted the laces at her hips this time. "I did not know you could visit the High Kingdom without an invitation from the High King himself."

"I am sure I could obtain an invitation, but perhaps we should wait until after the birth," he said, rethinking the possibilities. He wanted her to make friends, not just within Carantania but with their allies, as well. "Perhaps Rolly could write and introduce you to Princess Marianne via letter," he suggested further.

"Is that allowed?" she asked, her eyes bright with the hope of reaching beyond their borders to make friends by letter. "I did not know I was permitted to send letters outside the country. But ... well, I am still learning about this."

"Yes, of course," he replied. "I do not think you will be writing to our enemies in Coimbra," he added with a chuckle, as he shrugged into his jacket and adjusted his cravat.

She laughed at the thought of that. "Somehow I do not think any of the heretics would care to even receive a letter from a Goddess-fearing queen, much less answer one," she assured him in mirth, examining her reflection in the mirror. Her hair was not something she could tame without help, but dinner was only with Rolanda. She did not think her husband's sister would mind a little informality.

As much as Freddie loved brushing her hair, he hardly noticed the mess. To him, she was just as beautiful, whether her hair was perfectly coiffed or messy. "Well, if Franz is right, we may have peace before long," he told her, as he sat himself down to pull his boots on.

Mmm, perhaps she should pin at least some of it back ... Sera glanced over at her husband as he pulled on his boots. "You have said yourself that Franz is rarely wrong," she reminded him in a fond tone. The chancellor had become a friend to her, though they would likely never be as close as he was with the king. "Did he not predict the solution to the Carib problem months before it was announced?"

"Careful, it might get around that Franz is a warlock with some sort of demonic powers," Frederick teased, with a smirk on his face. That was definitely not something he wanted to circulate around court, but it amused him to think of it.

She laughed, hands high as she twisted a layer of that long, shining dark mane of hers back and into the embrace of a pin that should hold it there. She outright refused to wear the tiara again. "Intelligence and a keen eye for politics are not signs of evil, Freddie."

"Tell that to our enemies," he remarked, knowing not everyone was in support of himself or of Franz, but there was little they could do about it, short of treason or outright assassination. Now that his boots were on, he moved to his feet, noticing she might need help with her hair and moving closer with the intention of doing just that.

As the pin fell free for the third time, Sera sighed in frustration. "Why can't I just braid it and leave it?" she demanded, irritated by her own failure to tame her own hair. "Or just leave it down? Why do I have to look so perfectly put together all the time?"

"Not all the time, love, and Rolly won't mind if you're not perfectly put together," he remarked, as he took up the brush to smooth out the tangles with a hand that was gentler than even her maid.

She breathed deeply, relaxing as he drew the brush through the long fall of her hair. Her eyes met his in the reflection of the mirror. "It's a silly thing to be frustrated about, isn't it?"

"I would not say silly. I do not envy you and all the care you must take to look perfect," he remarked, though as king, he had to project a certain image himself. He did not consider himself to be much to look at, but he knew he could appear to be an imposing figure when he wanted to be.

"Perfection is not as endearing as so many people seem to think," she giggled softly, holding up a pin so he did not have to reach for it. "I would rather be liked for myself than for the image I project, though I know I would let down the country to appear in less than perfect fashion."

"It is a simple matter of keeping up appearances," he said, setting down the brush and carefully twisted her hair upwards before reaching for a pin. He took as much care with her hair as he did with the signing of an important document or the creation of a speech, focused on the moment and task at hand so that it was completed to the best of his ability, no matter how unimportant such a task seemed. "It would never do if the king and queen looked like hooligans, would it?"

"You could never look like a hooligan," she laughed softly. "Even if you appear in short trousers and muddy feet, you would always be a handsome king."

"You flatter me, Sera, but I will not argue. I could do with some flattery," he replied, a hint of amusement in his voice, as he finished off pinning her hair up almost as neatly as one of her maids. "There, that should do for dinner," he said, practically daring her to examine his handiwork and disagree.

"It is not flattery if it is true," she pointed out, tilting her head this way and that to inspect his handiwork. A warm smile brightened her face. "Perhaps I should have you dress my hair every day, sweetheart."

"Shall I add it to my long list of kingly duties then?" he teased in return, smiling as she admired his handiwork, though it was hardly that which made her beautiful. "Perhaps you and Rolly should start a new fashion trend for less elaborate hairstyles," he suggested, with a wave of his hand toward her hair.

She giggled, turning to face him, that bright smile just for him in these quiet moments. "I will have to speak with her about it," she agreed. "Perhaps to save the truly elaborate styles for special occasions."

"It would save you both enormous trouble, not to mention time," he reasoned, though he was hardly an expert on fashion. "Shall we, my love?" he asked, hooking his arm and offering it to her so that he could escort her to dinner.

Wrapping her hand to the crook of his elbow, Sera drew in a slow breath. "I think I am prepared to meet your sister again, yes," she agreed, the faintest suggestion of mirth on her voice. Rolanda was certainly an experience.
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 22, 2018 10:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"You will not find her so changed from a few hours ago. Hungrier, grumpier, perhaps," he warned with an amused gleam in his eyes as he took her arm and led her from their quarters.

And Rolanda was waiting outside their quarters. "I heard that," his sister informed him. She didn't look any grumpier than she had when she'd arrived, but she had definitely dressed down. Her gown was simpler, her hair was down and, yes, she had decided to forgo shoes entirely. She flashed them both a cheeky grin. "Did you have fun debauching each other?"

"I am so glad you dressed for the occasion, dear sister," Frederick remarked, with a grin upon noticing her appearance. He offered her his free arm so that she could take his other side as he escorted the two women he loved most in all the world to dinner.

"You don't have to be fancy for family," Rolanda insisted, grinning as she took her brother's arm. "Not answering the question, though, I notice."

"Is it debauchery if the participants are married?" Sera asked in a curious tone.

"Only if ropes, blindfolds, and spanking is involved," Rolanda assured her with an absolutely deadpan expression.

"I believe what goes on in the royal bedroom should be privy only to the king and queen, but if you insist on indulging your curiousity, perhaps you should ask the guards what they overhear from outside our doors," he said, almost daring her again, but trusting the guards he'd handpicked for the task to keep their mouths shut, no matter what they may or may not have heard.

"Oh, look at you, encouraging gossip about how well you perform in bed," Rolanda laughed wickedly, tossing her hair back over her shoulder. "You're almost as stuffy as those old fops in the court, Freddie."

Freddie only smirked and tossed his wife a wink, the two of them knowing something his dear sister did not. "'Tis not gossip, but the truth," he teased further, elbowing Rolanda playfully. "What do you say, my queen?" he asked Sera.

Blushing, Sera bit down on her giggle. "I have no one to compare you with, your majesty, but I would say you have far exceeded my expectations."

On his other side, Rolanda snorted with undignified laughter. "Oh, you two are adorable!"

"I will take that as a compliment, dear sister," Freddie said as he led them both into the much smaller and more private dining hall where the three of them would share the evening meal before retiring for the night. There was one bit of news that he especially wanted to share with Rolanda before anyone else found it, but he thought it was Sera who should tell her.

"It is most certainly a compliment," Rolanda assured him, flouncing ahead to plant herself in a chair without allowing anyone to pull it back for her. "It would still be a compliment even if I called you nauseating."

"Are you often called nauseating?" Sera asked her husband with a curiously teasing smile.

"Not to my face, but then, the last time I saw Rolly, she was still in pigtails and breeches," he teased, as his sister flounced away. He was obviously exaggerating, but then, so was she. He led Sera to the table and pulled out a chair for her, waiting for her to make herself comfortable before claiming a seat for himself. Even with a few decades between them and more than a few years since they'd last seen each other, the affection between the siblings was obvious.

"I haven't worn pigtails in years," Rolanda announced with a laugh, tacitly not denying that she might still wear breeches on occasion. "I had forgotten how complicated the Carantan hair-styles are, though. The Pomeran style is much less complex, and far more comfortable."

Sera glanced at Freddie with a faint smile.

"Yes, it took me nearly all day to get my hair right," Freddie returned, with a smirk. He met Sera's gaze, but touched a finger to his lips to indicate that she not share the news just yet, at least until the servants were finished serving dinner.

Noting the secretive look with a smile, Rolanda obliged with small talk as the servants served the steaming lobster bisque that was the first course for the royal family. "Oh, you're a man," she pished, waving a hand. "You don't have to have your hair sewn into place."

"Thank the Goddess, no!" Freddie retorted, laughing. "I was just telling Sera that perhaps you two should start a new fashion trend," he suggested, pausing a moment to murmur quiet thanks to the servants.

"That is one of the perks of being a woman at the top," Rolanda agreed, looking curiously across the table to Serafina. "What did you have in mind?"

Blushing a little at the attention, Sera's smile flickered into existence. "I thought, perhaps, something less elaborate," she suggested. "Something easier for us to do for ourselves? With the king's permission, of course."

"Permission granted," Freddie replied, with a wave of his hand. If there was some way he could make life easier for his beloved wife, he would, even if it only meant allowing her to simplify her hairstyle.

"Oh dear ..." Rolanda laughed into her soup. "Does he approve your small clothes every morning, too?" Sera choked on her mouthful, groping for her napkin.

"That is a matter of privacy, dear sister," Freddie reproached his sister playfully, as he dipped a spoon in his soup in an attempt to hide the smirk from his face.

"And hardly something to be discussed where others can hear," Sera added, her face bright red.

Rolanda snorted with laughter. "You're so precious," she grinned. "We'll knock that formal out of you soon enough."

"Forgive my sister," Freddie said, turning to Sera. "She has spent too much time in the Pomeran court and has forgotten she is a princess of the blood in Carantan," he remarked, in a tone that might be mistaken for scolding, but was in reality, teasing.

"There's a time and place for formality, and it is not when you're with family," Rolanda insisted. "This court has only grown more stuffy in my absence, I feel it is my duty to inject some life into it. Starting with bringing back the old traditions Father outlawed in fear of my virtue being lost somewhere along the way."

Frederick, who, to his recollection, was still king of Carantan, blinked in surprise of his sister's remarks, teasing or not. "I beg your pardon?" he asked, trying not to be insulted and wondering just which old traditions she was hoping to bring back.

"The Maying, Freddie," Rolanda reminded him. "Don't you remember? A day when there are no duties at court, where the nobility go out and pick flowers and have fun to celebrate the coming of spring. We did it every year until I was twelve years old, and then Father decided I couldn't be trusted not to spread my legs for the first boy that kissed me." She pouted, scowling at the memory.

Sera laid a gentle hand on Frederick's arm. "That does sound like a good tradition to renew, sweetheart."

"A bit too late for this season, though," he remarked, not opposed to the idea of bringing back some of the old traditions. "What would you think about a midsummer festival?" he suggested, before taking another sip of his soup. It was not so much that he hadn't been interested in renewing the old traditions as he'd been too busy trying to run the country.

"Oh, the faire!" Rolanda was instantly excited, leaning forward to share her memory of midsummer with Serafina. "When I was a child, at midsummer, the town would hold this wonderful festival for three days, and they would invite cooks and artists and musicians from all over to come and share their talents. Oh, and on the last day, there would be a masked ball, with nobles and merchants and commons mixing."
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 22, 2018 10:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sera's expression brightened hopefully. "Oh, that does sound wonderful," she agreed, turning her eyes to Frederick. "I know you are awfully busy, love, but ... may we arrange such a thing?"

"I will put you two in charge of making the arrangements. How does that sound?" he asked, looking from one to the other. That should keep his sister occupied and out of trouble, he hoped, and it would be good for the country as a whole to hold such a celebration, especially with the end of war looming.

"Wonderful!"

Rolanda laughed at Sera's unexpectedly delighted outburst. "Yes, absolutely wonderful, Freddie," she agreed, leaning over to kiss his cheek. She glanced about the room, making certain no doors had been left open by the departing servants. "So what is it you were pretending I wouldn't notice you not saying?"

Despite the king's minor irritation that his sister had proclaimed his court boring and stuffy, he couldn't help but smile at both her and Sera's enthusiastic response to the suggestion of a faire, as well as the knowledge that he knew a few things she didn't ... yet. "I don't have any idea what you are talking about," he said, pushing his soup bowl aside in favor of something he could actually chew.

The confusion on Sera's face was glorious to behold, though she held her tongue for the sake of presenting a united front, even if she didn't quite understand why he was pretending not to have news all of a sudden.

Rolanda raised her brow, leaning back in her seat as the doors opened to admit the servants and their main course. "Still timing each course to the second, hmm?"

"I should think I would at least have that perfected by now," he replied with a smirk. It seemed the siblings were doing a little goodnatured verbal sparring now that they were reunited, so long as they didn't carry things too far. He had every intention of sharing the news with Rolanda, as soon as there was no risk of them being overheard. He slipped a hand under the table to give Sera's a squeeze, as if to reassure her and ask her to be patient.

"Oh, darling, you're already perfect in almost every way that counts," Rolanda assured her brother teasingly, leaning back to allow the various dishes to be sampled on her plate.

As Sera's fingers tangled with Frederick's for a moment, the queen raised her eyes to the footmen. "Thank you, that will be all," she said in her soft way. "We will ring when we desire dessert."

In his own way, Freddie was helping Sera assert herself by saying nothing to the servants in hopes that she would, and she didn't disappoint. He knew it would take time before she felt comfortable in her role as queen, but small steps were better than no steps at all. "Not hardly, Rolly, but thank you for saying so," he said, offering his sister another smile. If he'd been younger, he might have stuck his tongue out at her, but he'd learned to be more dignified than that.

The servants took their leave, the doors closing quietly after them, and Sera visibly relaxed. She was still not used to being the head of a household, much less a country, but slowly she was beginning to settle into the role. She smiled at the interaction between brother and sister. "Did Franz mention to you this plan of cleaning out the court?" she asked curiously.

Rolanda nodded, swallowing her first mouthful even as she nudged her brother's shin with her bare foot. "He did," she said. "And I think it's a marvelous idea."

Freddie arched a brow at the nudge from his sister, wondering if she was trying to tell him something or just being her usual mischievous self. "She has been here less than a day and already she thinks it's a marvelous idea," he echoed with a smirk.

"Freddie ... I was applauded unenthusiastically by a room full of bored people when you presented me," Rolanda pointed out in amusement. "They need a shock to the system."

"Oh, I agree with you and Franz wholeheartedly," Frederick pointed out. "But there will be those who do not appreciate being dismissed from court, without an invitation to return." He was a little worried there would be repercussions, but he wholeheartedly believed it needed to be done.

"Well then, maybe you should base it on the Pomeran system," Rolanda suggested. "They have a large court, it's true, but only those specifically invited to be members of the royal household are allowed free access to the inner palace itself. That's why there are so many Lords and Ladies of the Bedchamber in Pomerania - it's a title that declares that invitation."

"There are a few who will not be dismissed from court," he pointed out. Franz was one of them; Lady Beatrice another, though he had not mentioned her yet. He glanced at Sera before sharing another bit of news with his sister. "I would like Sera to become better acquainted with Princess Marianne. Do you think you could arrange that?" he asked, turning back to his sister.

"Well, clearly you cannot empty the palace entirely of companionship or working advisors," Rolanda agreed with a nod. The suggestion of introducing Serafina to the Crown Princess of Pomerania was welcomed with a wide smile. "I'm sure she would be delighted," she promised. "And will likely offer to introduce you to other queens across Meringia."

Sera flushed, a little surprised by the wide offer. "I should very much like to be able to ask advice from ladies who are already in this position."

"Good," Frederick said, digging enthusiastically into his dinner. One did not run a country or make love to one's wife without working up an appetite. "I will talk to Franz about adopting a more Pomeran-style court. Perhaps it is time to make some much-needed changes here."

"It would be lovely to have ... have friends at court," Sera confessed hesitantly, quick to duck her head and fill her own mouth.

Rolanda stilled, horrified by the implication that the queen was so isolated in this stuffy court that she didn't even have a friend. It was something she had not even considered.

"I am trying to change that for you, dear heart," Frederick reminded the queen quietly, with a gentle touch of his hand. He did not want Rolanda accusing him of isolating his wife, but change did not happen overnight and Sera had only been queen a few short months.

There was silence for a moment, as Sera smiled fondly to Frederick and Rolanda came to a decision. "Well, it may be too late for a Maying, but we can still throw a festival to welcome me home," she said a little stubbornly. "With a wide invitation to everyone of the right rank, regardless of their wealth or status."

Frederick chuckled at his sister's outspoken nature. Had they not just held such an event a few months ago at which time the king had chosen a queen? "If that is what you wish, sister, we will make it so. We do have another reason to celebrate, though," he said, looking expectantly to Sera.

"We do?" Rolanda glanced up, following her brother's gaze to his wife, whose shy expression almost gave the game away entirely. But she was prepared to wait for Serafina to share whatever this reason was.

Sera swallowed, pausing a moment to wipe her lips before gently curling her fingers into Frederick's grasp. "There-there will be a new heir, come the winter."

Frederick wasn't afraid of his sister getting jealous, knowing she had no desire to be queen. He gave Serafina's hand a gentle reassuring squeeze before turning to touch a soft kiss to her cheek. Perhaps as a couple, they were adorable, but he saw nothing wrong with the fact that they openly and deeply loved each other and that love would eventually result in the creation of an heir. "I do believe you have rendered my dear sister speechless," he remarked, as he turned to Rolanda with an amused and silly grin on his face.

Rolanda blinked slowly, absorbing the fact that not only was her brother in love with his new wife - and she with him - but that they had achieved their goal within two months of marrying. A wide grin broke across her face. "I'm going to be an aunt?" There was a clatter as she dropped her fork onto her plate, a scrape as she pushed her chair back, and suddenly she was lurching around the table to throw her arms around Serafina in a laughing embrace.
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 22, 2018 10:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"I assume that means you are pleased with the news," he said, laughing again as Rolanda throw her arms around Serafina. He smiled at the two of them, sure that if given the chance, they would become fast friends.

Sera was giggling as Rolanda planted loud kisses on her cheek. "I would assume that is the case," she agreed with her husband, squeaking as Rolanda tweaked her nose before turning to drop herself into her brother's lap.

"I am very pleased with the news," she declared, kissing his cheek just as loudly. "Are you?"

Frederick grunted as his sister dropped herself into his lap, laughing at her continued cheekiness. "Of course, I am pleased! Why wouldn't I be pleased?" he asked, reaching up to tweak his sister's nose, just as she'd done to Serafina. He was admittedly a little worried, but nonetheless pleased.

"So ... don't you think it's about time you changed the constitution?" Rolanda's grin was all kinds of cheeky, knowing she was pushing her luck but chancing her arm all the same.

"That may take more than a royal decree," he replied, knowing there were some who would not agree with such a change and who would fight against it.

"Get enough support in the right places, and it could easily happen," Rolanda pointed out, kissing the tip of his nose and deliberately mussing his hair before rising to re-take her seat.

Sera had composed herself again, her eyes bright with amusement and pleasure at the excited reaction to their news.

"Yes, well, all of these changes will not happen overnight," he reminded her. Though they were all good ideas and things he and Franz had already discussed, implementing them would take a little time. "I think we should pick which battle is most important to fight first," he suggested.

"One will inform the other," Sera said quietly. "I believe having a court we can trust around us will allow for better ease in changing laws that have stood for generations. And perhaps we should invite your cousin to visit. Allow him to show himself for what he is to those who think his maleness is all he needs to be a suitable ruler."

"I do not wish to make a fool of him publicly, but there are those who should see that one's bloodline is not the best way of judging one's ability or character," he said, though he knew this kind of talk bordered on rebellion. He was a king himself, born from a line of kings, but not everyone born to rule was capable of doing so.

"So I'm not allowed to bait him into showing what an idiot he is this time?" Rolanda asked a little plaintively. She delighted in showing stupid men up for what they were in public, but even Princess Marianne had scolded her for it on occasion.

Sera laughed a little. "I should think he will show himself without much help, if we populate the court with those who will see it."

What they were discussing was not actually rebellion so much as reform. "The simplest solution would be to have a son, but even then, it will take years for him to grow into a man capable of ruling a kingdom. I have always thought you would make a better queen than Albert would a king," Frederick said, in reference to his sister's far superior abilities and intellect.

"But as it stands, if you have no son, Albert will take the throne and probably marry me to give himself legitimacy," Rolanda pointed out. "Those friends of his are not fools. They would likely marry your daughters off to allies outside Carantania, too."

"You are right, of course, though I am not yet decrepit," he pointed out, with only the hint of a smirk. He had no intentions of dying anytime soon, but the future was uncertain, and they needed to be prepared. "The council is well aware of Albert's shortcomings," he reasoned further, though nothing had been done to ensure the man wouldn't become king in the unlikely event that Frederick died before producing an heir.

"But there are a lot of traditionalists," his sister pointed out. Pomerania still held ot the right of primogeniture, the insistence on a man's right to rule over a woman's, and as the High Kingdom, many followed their example. Edessa was the sole exception in Meringia, and even they had been pressured into having their female heir sent to another country to become someone else's queen.

"Real change is never easy, Rolly," Frederick stated the obvious, not for the first time today. After a moment, he turned to Sera, who'd been silent through the entire debate. "What do you think, dearest?" he asked, obviously valuing her opinion, as well as that of his sister.

Sera bit her lip, not sure she had anything to contribute to the conversation so very much. "I think the world is changing already," she suggested softly. "With a new bloodline on the throne of Carib, and the hope that the heretics will be gone from Coimbra by year's end ... I think if change is what we need, then there will not be a better time to try for it."

Frederick considered thoughtfully. Though he admired, valued, and trusted the opinions of the two women he loved most in all the world, in the end, the decision was up to him. It was, indeed, a changing world; there would be no better time than now for reform. "Very well. We will send for Albert and see how our dear cousin reacts to the prospect of an heir. I do not wish to see him made a public fool of, but with any luck, he will make the point for us."

"After I am out of the initial months," Sera said, unexpectedly firmly. Her expression was stern for possibly the first time. "I do not know this man, nor does he know me. I will not invite him to put our child in danger through foolishness."

Across the table, Rolanda hid a smile behind her hand. She'd been wondering how her brother was so happy having married what seemed to be the most submissive woman in the world, but this proved that Sera knew how to put her foot down.

Frederick arched a brow as Sera said her peace. He wasn't opposed to waiting, but he wasn't sure if she only wanted to wait to invite Albert to court. "Do you wish to wait to announce the news, as well?" he asked, eager to share the good news of her pregnancy, but understanding her reluctance. Still, observant courtiers were bound to notice anyway. A thought came to mind that might solve all their immediate problems. "Perhaps we should announce the news and then dismiss the court, stating that the queen's health requires quiet and rest," he suggested. It was not exactly a lie, but the quiet and rest would do them both good and give them time to sort out the court, among other things.

"That is a very good idea," Rolanda agreed. "You would be able to keep on certain people at the same time without anyone giving much thought to it."

Sera considered it for a long moment, and finally nodded. "Yes," she agreed, her voice soft once again. "I do not know quite how I am expected to behave or feel; it would be good to experience it without all eyes on me, at least for the first months."

"It is decided then," Frederick declared, with the same tone of voice he might use when in the presence of his council members. "I will speak with Franz in the morning and make preparations to share it with the council and court," he said, matter-of-factly.

He was right in his claim that change took time, and yet, they were about to take the first step toward making real change. Change was one thing the king was not afraid of, knowing that unless they welcomed change, the world would become stagnant. He only hoped the time for change was right, and that it wouldn't blow up in their faces.
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