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Grand Surprise

 
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Natalya Bristol
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 01, 2015 7:30 am    Post subject: Grand Surprise Reply with quote

Now that Rhys had seen his sister and her husband and had seen to it that Natalya and Ana were settled in the tower house they shared when in Avalon, his next stop was to see Sir Lionel. He wasn't sure why he'd been summoned to see the man, other than what he'd been told. Perhaps there was some new artifact Lionel wanted to show him, or maybe he wanted to talk to him about Zach's progress with the Enochian scrolls. Whatever it was, Rhys knew better than to ignore a summons from the Grand Master of Avalon.

Usually, the Grand Master of the Temple was to be found in the Library. Today, however, did not seem to be a usual sort of day. It did not take much more than a few words from the ever present Yves to direct Rhys out to the training yard, where Sir Lionel was watching his men and women go through their paces. Watching, that is, until the Champion of Avalon came into view. The robust leader of Avalon's only warriors surged to his feet with a laugh of greeting, moving to meet Rhys like an old friend, hands outstretched to shake and embrace. "Sir Rhys! What an unexpected pleasure it is to see you! And no little women in tow today?"

Rhys had already changed his clothes and was wearing a loose-fitting tunic, breeches, and boots. He hadn't bothered with a sword, as he didn't really need one in Avalon, unless Lionel wanted him to spar or work with the younger knights. A warm smile spread across Rhys' face upon seeing the older man, whom he had once been a little intimidated by but whom he now thought of as a close friend. "Sir Lionel," he greeted him in return, clasping his hands with a firm grasp. "Unexpected, indeed," he remarked with a chuckle. "I'm told you wanted to see me."

"Well, of course, my boy, of course," the older man laughed, clapping his arm before releasing him, his attention utterly turned away from the men and women drilling on the yard beside him. "But I wasn't expecting you for at least another few weeks! We thought you would not be back until little Ana's first birthday. Though this works out very well for me, this earlier arrival of yours." He slapped Rhys on the back, probably unaware that he was still rather strong for his age. "Come along, and see what my bitch has done!"

To his credit, Rhys only winced a little when Sir Lionel slapped him on the back, too happy to see the man and too curious at whatever little secret he was keeping to remark on the other man's strength. If there was anyone Rhys thought of as a mentor and a father figure these days, it was Lionel. "We escorted Ian and Aurelia through the mists to see the Lady, so she can bless their daughter. They named her Morgan Viviane," he added, knowing Lionel might find that interesting, though he was too young to have met the child's namesakes. Almost before Rhys could finish his statement, he was arching a brow at the other man's remark. "Your bitch?" he asked, taking him completely the wrong way. It would take a few days before he became acclimated to Avalon again and remembered he was no longer in New York.

"Ah, so the Lore-master has returned at last," Lionel nodded cheerfully, finally appearing to calm down as he turned to steer Rhys from the training yard and toward the stables. "He should visit more often. And they have a daughter, do they? Wonderful, wonderful. Good name. Strong." He nodded his approval with a whiskery grin on his face. "And how is your daughter? Still attempting to drown everyone she loves in copious amounts of spit, is she?"

Rhys chuckled, beaming a proud smile at the mention of his own daughter. "Not so much anymore. She's learning to use a cup now and thinks it's a game spilling milk all over and watching her mother clean it up. And she knows how to say Dada." That last bit made his heart swell with pride.

"Ah, she's learning to talk. You'll get no peace now." Lionel laughed, patting Rhys' shoulder a little more gently this time as the tack room they were heading for suddenly erupted with four large wolf-like dogs, barking, tails wagging, all seemingly determined to knock both men over with their enthusiasm. "Sit!" Lionel roared, and abruptly the exuberant display became four very docile large dogs sitting impatiently in front of them, each one obviously hoping for praise and affection. "Silly boys," the Grand Master chuckled, bending to give each a little affection with rough hands. "Rhys, this is my pack."

Unexpectedly finding himself suddenly surrounded by four rather large but thankfully friendly dogs, Rhys froze in his tracks. He'd never had a dog of his own and didn't quite know what to make of them, despite what he'd told Nat about his desire to get Ana a puppy. "Your pack?" he echoed wide-eyed. "I hope you're the alpha!"

"Aye, you didn't expect me not to have hunting dogs, did you?" Lionel chuckled, crouched down as the dogs circled both men. "Get down here, boy, let them get a good sniff of you. They're being manly and protective of their bitch - won't let anyone inside the stable but those they trust while the pups are still small."

"I ..." Rhys paused a moment in thought before continuing, turning his head to watch the dogs as they surrounded him and sniffed him out. "I didn't think about it much," he admitted, the thought never having occurred to him before this very moment, though he supposed it made sense. He looked just a little pale, remembering something from long ago, but those had been wolves, not dogs, and he knew he had nothing to fear so long as Lionel was there with him. He instinctively rubbed at the scar on the back of his shoulder. "They won't bite, will they?"

"Not unless you look and smell like a deer or rabbit," he was assured. "Or decide to try and harm me. In which case, they'll do more than bite. They're not usually so boisterous, but I've not had the leisure to run them for a couple of days, and in any case, they're refusing to leave the stable yard." Lionel chuckled, rising up onto his feet once again. "They all defer to Demeter, of course - she's the bitch in the pack - no doubt off stretching her legs right now. She'll be back later to poke around at the pups."

Rhys extended a hand to the dogs to let them sniff at him, looking wary but interested. "I don't have much experience with dogs. I mean, I always wanted one as a boy, but ..." He trailed off, not bothering to finish that story. Didn't every boy want a dog at one time or another? He might have had his wish had his father not been possessed by a demon.

"Ah, they're not that hard to handle," the Grand Master grinned, reaching out to draw Rhys toward the tack room the dogs had erupted from not so long ago. "Get out of the way, you." This was to one of the dogs who had decided to dance around in front of him, delivered with far more gruff fondness than impatience. "Always remember with dogs the three Ps - patience, persistence, and lots of praise."

Rhys nodded his head, listening and committing that to memory, as he followed the Grand Master to another room nearby, openly amazed at how easily the man handled the dogs and at how obedient they were to his commands. "I've been thinking about getting Ana a puppy," Rhys mused aloud as he followed along.

"Think no more," Lionel chuckled as they ducked into the tack room. All the equipment had been moved out of the room itself, the stone floor scattered with thick rushes. A short fence cut the room in half, barely more than two feet high, and on the other side of that little fence came the sound of little paws scrabbling for purchase on the rushes. "Demeter whelped this lot a couple of months ago," the Grand Master told Rhys with a proud smile. "In another few weeks, they'll be ready to go to new owners."

Rhys' brows arched upwards at the sight of all those pups all barking playfully, tails wagging, and vying for attention. "New owners?" he echoed again, questioning gaze darting to Lionel as he put two and two together. "Did you summon me here to pick one out?" he guessed, hopefully.
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 01, 2015 7:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"More than one," Lionel corrected him warmly. "They don't do well on their own, get lonely when their humans aren't around. I'd suggest a bitch and a hound, and do whatever it is you do on your Earth to keep them from breeding. The lads can be aggressive if they've no way to run off that energy." He eyed Rhys for a long moment, reaching down to catch one of the fluffy terrors by the scruff and lift her up to be inspected, all licking tongue and wagging tail and big eyes made for pleading. "You get first pick."

Rhys' eyes widened further at the invitation to choose not one but two pups and at the fact that Lionel was giving him first pick. "Why not two females then?" he asked, curiously, wondering why a male and a female if they weren't going to be allowed to breed. He extended a hand again, this time to the female pup, before daring to scritch her behind the ears. "She's soft," he said, almost as if he hadn't been expecting it.

"Two bitches together, especially litter-mates, can get aggressive and impossible to live with if they can't work out who is the pack leader," Lionel explained, dumping the wriggling bundle of fur into Rhys' hands before the other man could object. "Likewise, two hounds have the same problem. One of each, the bitch is in charge, and there's no arguing. You just have to get her respect, then."

For a man who'd hunted and defeated vampires and werewolves and demons, Rhys suddenly looked utterly terrified and lost by the simple prospect of raising a couple of puppies. He'd had that look on his face when he'd been first faced with a newborn baby, as well, but he'd proved a natural at fathering. He turned that terrified look on Lionel as he suddenly found himself with an armful of wriggling, licking, furry puppy. "I don't know how to take care of a dog!"

The Grand Master chuckled at the look on his face, his own arms filled with at least three of the puppies, all clamoring for kisses and cuddles, and rough-housing with each other for that privilege. "It's a lot simpler than children," he told Rhys, juggling his armful. "Feed them twice a day, walk them for a few hours each day, give them some discipline and rules to live by ... dogs are very easy to manage. And, of course, if you choose a pair, or even three, today, I can have them obeying basic commands by the time they are ready to leave their mother."

"Three!" Rhys exclaimed with a gasp. "Nat will kill me!" They had been talking about the possibility of getting a puppy for Ana, but one puppy, not three. Still, they were adorable, and Rhys had a feeling Ana would be in her glory. But three? That was not a decision he could make without checking without the boss. He turned his face back the puppy in his arms who was trying to climb all over him in order to get to his face and give it a good licking. "She is awfully cute," he said with a chuckle as she clambered up his chest to lick his cheek.

"Aye, they're loving little things," Lionel agreed, with a proud smile for the graceful entrance of a fifth dog - the mother of the twelve puppies, it seemed. Demeter inspected Rhys from head to foot before deeming him suitable to be holding one of her babies, settling herself down with her head in the Grand Master's lap to watch the Champion with mild interest. "And as you can see," Lionel added, setting his armful back down to turn his attention onto the beautiful dog lying on him, "they don't lose that affectionate side."

"She's beautiful," Rhys said, in honest appreciation of the female dog who'd just joined them. He set the pup loose to cavort with her brothers and sisters, but it seemed she was just as happy to remain in his lap and lick his fingers. He laughed again, lifting his free hand to run his fingers through the puppy's soft fur. "I think maybe this one's picked me." Instead of the other way around, it seemed.

Lionel chuckled, his fingers ruffling the warm fur at Demeter's neck as she stretched and looked up at him adoringly. "It happens that way," he nodded cheerfully. "Perhaps you should bring Natalya the next time you come to visit, and Ana, too. I am sure there is a manly pup in this lot who will want to protect them both." He considered Rhys a moment longer, and added, "Your sister and her husband have the second pick of this litter."

"What am I going to name you?" he asked, laughing again as the puppy licked his face in response. "You really are too cute." Slightly distracted by the puppy's affection, he blinked over at Lionel when he mentioned his sister. "Do you think they're really ready for that?" he asked. Though full grown adults, his sister and her husband were almost as innocent as children, slowly learning how to take care of themselves and each other.

"I think, if they are going to have sons in the future, they should learn to look after a life smaller than theirs before it happens," the Grand Master told him. "Your sister does not say it aloud, but it is clear that she is longing for a child of her own. Having the care of a couple of dogs will ease that longing for a time, and teach them both a little of what they will need to know. Or do you not agree?"

Rhys didn't have to take much time to think about that. "Oh, no! I agree completely." He frowned a moment before adding, "I'm just not sure they know how to take care of themselves yet." Though he trusted Lionel to be a better judge of that, as he saw much more of them than Rhys did. "How's Zach doing? He was working in the library, wasn't he?"

Lionel raised a brow in his direction curiously. "They've been married over a year, Rhys," he pointed out. "I've heard there's no house kept neater, nor any food put on the table better than by Rachel's hand, and Zachariel never ceases to offer assistance to anyone who needs it. But since they have grown closer, they have both learned to say no to those who would trespass on the time they would spend together. I believe they know how to care for themselves by now." He smiled, easing back to lean against the wall as Demeter rose and sat herself fully on his lap, leaning her big head on his shoulder as he chuckled and embraced her. "The texts he is translating make for fascinating reading. There is one that he began, but refuses to complete. Apparently it is the angels' bible, and contains the true word of God. He will not translate it for just anyone to read it, and rightly so."

Rhys' eyes widened again, not sure much at the news of his sister and brother-in-law's advances in being able to take care of themselves, but at the news of a text that supposedly contained the true word of God. Though Rhys' own spiritual beliefs and faith had been shaken over the course of a lifetime, he still believed in an all-powerful being who had, at the very least, created them all. "The true word of God?" he echoed curiously. "What good is having such a text if you don't know what it says?"

"In many ways, Zachariel is still an angel," Lionel mused, patting Demeter's back as she sighed and made herself comfortable on him. It was an odd thing, to see the Grand Master of the Temple sitting on the floor with a dog draped over him, but it fitted Lionel almost perfectly. "He sees it as his duty to protect the true word of the God that created him, and I see no reason to object. The Lady, however, did wring a concession from him. That if he will not translate that particular text, then he will teach a student to read, write, and speak Enochian within a few years, to ensure that the knowledge does not die with him."

There was that frown again, mostly at the realization that though his brother-in-law was angelic in origin, he was now just as mortal as any of them. "What about teaching a son of his own to read the texts?" he asked. As far as Rhys was concerned, that seemed the most logical thing to do, though it would take some years for that to happen. Of course, Rhys had once had angelic origins, as well, but he did not consciously remember any of it. "Or, you know, he could teach me ..." he suggested further with a shrug, though that would not solve the problem of passing that knowledge down to the next generation.
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 01, 2015 7:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lionel chuckled. "I believe that was the compromise reached," he told Rhys in amusement. "He seems certain that he shall father sons with your sister, and agreed with the Lady that he would teach his sons Enochian as they grow. I am uncertain quite where that certainty comes from, but he is adamant about it."

"Well, um ... I sort of saw them with sons in the Lady's pool," Rhys admitted with a slightly sheepish smile. Though he couldn't recall whether or not he'd passed that information along, it was likely he had. "I wonder if I could read them," he mused aloud, though he doubted it. He couldn't recall anything about being an angel, nor could he remember what had happened after he'd died fighting Abaddon in the Pyrenees. "You know, sometimes I don't really believe I ever was an angel," he said, admitting something he rarely, if ever, spoke of. That small piece of information showed Lionel just how far Rhys had come and how much he trusted him.

"Ah." Lionel nodded - he didn't need any further confirmation than this. If the Lady had seen sons, then sons there would be. He snorted quietly at Rhys' comment, not mocking him in any way. "Having seen some of the antics you and your wife get up to, I have some difficulty myself in admitting to your angelic origins," he drawled in amusement. "But I can understand it easily enough. It was a different lifetime, as I understand it. If we were meant to know all that our souls have lived through, then we would remember from birth."

"I guess," Rhys admitted with a thoughtful frown, not that it mattered really. He was perfectly happy to be who he was and didn't really want to remember any of what had come before. "It's just weird sometimes. Zach knew me before, or so he says, but I don't remember any of that." The puppy scrambled up to lick his face again, as if sensing he needed a little affection, and before he knew it there were three of them scrambling to join their sister and inspect him. He laughed again as he tried to escape, but instead laid down on his back and let them do their worst.

In his element with Demeter on his lap and a couple of the puppies poking at her, Lionel smiled at the sight of the Champion of Avalon relaxing enough with the puppies to let them crawl all over him. He didn't think Rhys would have much trouble with dogs, and Natalya would at least be able to control a female out of solidarity, if nothing else. "Maybe you should talk to Zachariel about the days before," he suggested mildly. "The memories must be there, but perhaps they are blocked away, to keep them from overwhelming your mortal mind."

"What makes you think I want to remember?" Rhys countered, laughing as the puppies attacked him in a licking, sniffing frenzy. Who would have thought a man who was afraid of dogs would suddenly subject himself to a dozen curious puppies?

"Mind your boots," Lionel warned in a mild tone, more amused than anything at the sight of at least one of the pups determinedly trying to remove one of Rhys' boots. "You have expressed curiosity about the subject on several occasions, you know. Whether you are aware of it or not, you seem to have a wish to know what it is you have forgotten."

"I'm not really sure I do," Rhys countered with a small frown, even as he tugged his boot back from one of the pups who seemed intent on playing a game of tug-of-war. He frowned over at Lionel, his expression worried, perhaps even troubled. "I'm afraid of those memories. I'm afraid it will change me somehow. I don't want to be like ..." It wasn't that he was afraid of becoming like Zach; it went a lot deeper than that. "If I traded my angelic soul for a mortal one, then I must have had a good reason for doing it, and I'm not sure I want to remember all that."

"And yet it is a part of who you are, even if you are no longer angelic," Lionel pointed out gently. "I am not saying you should rush headlong into such memories. But perhaps ... do no discourage Zachariel from remembering you as you were. Perhaps he has stories to tell of you from those millenia you spent together as brothers in arms, as any friend has stories to tell. Would it be so very difficult to listen to them?"

Put that way, Rhys had to think about it a moment. What was it he was afraid of exactly? It wasn't stories that he couldn't remember. It wasn't his friendship with Zach. "I don't think I could discourage Zach from doing anything," Rhys admitted, unaware of what the angelic hierarchy might have been and what his rank might have once been in relation to Zach's. He was Champion of Avalon now, and that was all that really mattered; and yet, he didn't feel as though he was better than anyone else or had ever been. "The Lady told me I wanted to be human because of Nat, because I fell in love with her. It sounds like a cheesy movie plot, doesn't it?" he asked with an embarrassed smile, as the female pup claimed his lap, his fingers lazily smoothing her fur.

"Cheesy or not, love is one of the more powerful forces in humankind," the Grand Master told him. "It is also, we are told, something that angels are incapable of feeling, unless it the the wide-ranging compassionate love they are ordered to give to their charges. So perhaps it is not so strange that, of all the angels, it is you and Zachariel who have been given mortal souls. In loving just one person, a human, a mortal ... you were already giving up some part of your angelic nature."

"Maybe," Rhys replied, unsure whether Lionel's theory was right or not. It might be something to ask Zach about later - he was the resident expert on angels, after all. "Why do you think he retained his memories and I didn't?" he asked further, curious what Lionel's theory might be, though Rhys had already guessed the answer for himself.

Lionel snorted, shaking his head. "I have not the foggiest idea, my boy," he admitted with a rueful cast to his smile. "It could be because you died, in truth, and were returned to this world a true mortal, whereas his life was saved by the creation of that mortal soul of his. That would be my theory, though I have not the knowledge to understand truly why such a thing might be."

"Or maybe because I'd be overwhelmed by those memories, but Zach is accustomed to them," Rhys reasoned, though he really wasn't sure. "I mean, Zach isn't like me. He wasn't born human. If he lost his memories, he wouldn't have any idea who he was. He'd be like an amnesiac. He might not even remember Rachel."

"He would always remember Rachel, just as you will always remember Natalya," Lionel said, his confidence in that fact unshakable. He was, after all, privy to certain information. "You each share a piece of your soul with the women you love. Nothing can ever take away that feeling of affinity."

"But I didn't remember her when I was born, Lionel," Rhys pointed out. It seemed to him that when he was incarnated into a mortal body, all those angelic memories were repressed, just as the memory of any human soul's previous lifetimes would be suppressed - if one believed in such things. "I mean, I didn't know who she was when I met her. I didn't fall in love with her instantly. There was certainly a mutual attraction, but if I hadn't run into her at the Louvre ... if we hadn't both been after Joyeuse ... I might have never seen her again."

"I do not believe that," the Grand Master told him with a gentleness to his usually gruff expression that was encouraging. "Tell me, Rhys ... before you met Natalya, were you in the habit of sleeping with a woman, while sober, after barely an hour's acquaintance? And when you parted from her, was she ever far from your thoughts?"
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 01, 2015 7:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rhys' fingers were still combing through the soft fur of the puppy who seemed to have chosen him, as he thought that over. He'd slept with more women than he could count, but he'd only been in love three times - once when he'd been little more than a boy, once when he'd been with Riley - but that relationship had been full of turmoil - and then with Nat. There had been a few other serious relationships scattered in between. There had been Cara, who he'd almost proposed to, and there had been Leila and Kellie, but he hadn't really loved them - not the way he loved Natalya. She had knocked his socks off right from the first moment he'd seen her and even after only one day, he'd been unable to get her out of his head. "Okay, you made your point. Maybe some part of me remembered her on a spiritual level, but it's still different from Zach."

"Of course it is," Lionel agreed. "This is his first lifetime as a mortal man. He knew of Rachel long before she ever realized he might have existed at all, and loved her all that time. It is in their next lifetime that bond will make itself known, and bring them back together in a way neither one of them can imagine at this moment."

Rhys didn't think that comparison was all that different from his own experience. "It's my first lifetime as a mortal man, too. And if what I was told is right, I knew about Nat long before she ever knew about me." What Lionel said next though really gave Rhys pause for concern. Now that he had been given a mortal soul, would he be returning to Earth for another life, and if so, would he be able to find Nat again amidst all the other souls that crowded the Earth? "We have some friends back home in New York ... They claim to have been together for multiple lifetimes. They even remember some of them, I think. Something about a gift from a Goddess or something. They claim that no matter what happens, they always seem to find each other. Do you think that's true?"

To his credit, the Grand Master did consider this for a long moment before he gave his answer. "Everything is possible," he conceded after a while. "I am sure only the Lady could give you an answer you would take as gospel, but there are other forces, other powers, out there in the world. It is entirely possible that one such power has chosen to bind your friends in such a way."

"And what about me and Nat? Do you think we'll be together again, like they will? Like Zach and Rachel?" He couldn't imagine his life without Natalya anymore and he had a feeling he already knew the answer to his own question. "I don't want to have to find her all over again," he admitted gravely. I don't want to be alone again, he thought to himself. But if he was given the gift of a mortal soul, it seemed logical he'd die a mortal death and be reborn again and again, until ... what? Until the end of time? Even an angel like Zach might not have the answer to that question.

And if that was the case, would he ever see his parents again? What about Dylan and David and Jessie? Had they only served to play a part in his life this one time, or would he know them again in some aspect or other? He knew he couldn't love Jessie the way he once had, but he hoped she had found some sort of peace after her death. It made his heart ache to think about her, about how she had died because of him. And what about all the other people in his life who he'd cared for? What about Nikki? Were lives really like webs, complex and interwoven, lifetime after lifetime? Perhaps these were questions better left for the Lady or maybe Zachariel. He had a feeling they were questions that weren't meant to be answered, though he might already have the answers somewhere in his own head.

"My dear boy, you really must learn to listen when the Lady explains some things to you," Lionel chuckled fondly. "I know she told you, as she told me when I asked her. No mortal soul can be created from nothing. It must be born of another soul if it is to thrive. Your mortal soul can only have been created using a portion of Natalya's, and as such, you are bound to one another for eternity, just as Rachel and Zachariel are bound to each other. A soul does not like to be split apart - in some way not even the Lady can explain, it will seek to be reunited with its other half, and in so doing, will bring you and your love together again in each lifetime you live."

"No, I get that," Rhys admitted. "I just don't understand how it happens." But then, maybe not everything was meant to be understood. "You know, I had this friend once ... Her name was Nikki. At least, that's what she called herself, but she disappeared after I ... After the accident, after I lost my memory." He furrowed his brows in thought again, wondering why it mattered so much and why he was mentioning it to Lionel. "There are a lot of things I still don't understand and probably never will."

"Ah, lad, there are many mysteries in this world and the next that no man is meant to unravel," Lionel sighed contentedly. "For my part, I do not delve too deeply. I accept, and in that acceptance is my leap of faith. Yet I do not begrudge those who would seek to uncover such mysteries, for they, too, are committing their own leap in such endeavors. It is for no one to decide but yourself as to how you will go about your life and the mysteries contained therein."

"And, no, I wasn't in love with her. Not the way I love Nat, anyway. She was a friend, but she had some kind of powers. I've never met anyone like her since." Rhys shrugged, looking puzzled. It was one of life's mysteries he'd never quite solved. At least, he had seen his mother. There was some comfort in that. "I'm content. Happy, even. I just wonder sometimes." Especially about those who seemed to have paid such a high price for his happiness - or had it been about him at all? They had avoided the Apocalypse, and his hand had not been the only one at work there.

"No great victory has ever been won without sacrifice," the Grand Master said quietly. "For without that sacrifice, how would we know, truly, the cost of such a victory? We cannot explain how or why. All we can do is live our lives as they are given to us, and hope to be remembered as good men when we are gone."

"I don't think you need to worry about that," Rhys told his friend with a warm smile. There had been a time when he'd been jealous of Lionel - of his relationship with Natalya - but that time had long since passed. The Grand Master had become one of his closest friends these past months and one he hoped to have for a long time to come. He chuckled again as he looked to the bundle of fur that was curled up in his lap. "I think I know which one I'm choosing," he told the other man with a smile. Now he just needed to break the news to Nat and come up with a fitting name.

"Which female, anyway." Lionel laughed, the movement dislodging Demeter, who sat up and looked at him in a startlingly disgruntled manner. "Oh, I apologize, my dear," he assured the beautiful dog, stroking her head. "Isn't it about time they ate, though?" Blissfully unaware of the actual words, Demeter took the fond tone for an apology, and settled down on his lap once again, ignoring the jolting as he chuckled, shaking his head. "Women. They're all alike, no matter what shape they're in."

"I think she's chosen me," Rhys replied with a chuckle, watching as the mother of the pups laid her head back down, looking in no great hurry to feed her children. To be fair, her children didn't look like they were starving either. "Why'd you name her Demeter?" he asked, curiously, knowing what the goddess represented but unsure what that had to do with a dog.

"I'd say that little lass has definitely chosen you, yes," Lionel agreed warmly. He looked down at Demeter with a fond smile, one large hand stroking her fur. "They're noble dogs. They deserve noble names, don't you think?"

"I suppose," Rhys considered quietly a moment. "I suppose Fluffy is out," he remarked with a smirk. He'd have to give her name some serious thought. He'd never really been responsible for naming anything before, other than his daughter and his car.
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 01, 2015 7:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lionel laughed. "She will be yours to name as you wish," he pointed out. "Though I would, perhaps, consider how you will feel shouting the name to call her back to you as a grown man in a public place. My predecessor once had a dog he had named as a boy - it was quite embarrassing for him to be calling for Rumpole once he had gained his rank."

Rhys chuckled. "I'm sure that didn't occur to him when he was naming her." He regarded the sleeping pup a moment, fingers flexing against her fur. "I was thinking about Sasha. I'm not sure why," he said, the name popping into his head. He wasn't sure why, but it seemed to fit. He wasn't sure how the dog felt about it though. "What do you think of that?" he asked, leaning so close to the dog that she popped her head up to lick his nose.

"She certainly likes you, that is plain," the Grand Master chuckled, finally groaning and heaving Demeter off his lap. "I'm sorry, my darling, but you really are a little too big for cuddles of that sort these days. And I am a grumpy old man." He kissed the muzzle that turned to him as he made to stand, wincing as his muscles objected. "Far too old to be sitting on floors."

Rhys scooped the puppy from his lap and followed Lionel to his feet. "I suppose I should be going before Nat wonders where I've been. I'm not sure if I should tell her about the puppies or just show her myself." He thought getting a look at them herself would do far more to convince her than just being told about them secondhand.

"Well, they know you now," Lionel assured him, "so they'll let you in to see the pups. You're welcome to come along here as often as you like while you're here - as I say, they're not quite ready to leave their mother yet. I'd put Sasha back, though, if I were you." He chuckled teasingly.

"Oh, right," Rhys remarked, before crouching down to let the pup re-join her brothers and sisters on the floor. "I guess that's decided then," he said, looking over at Lionel with a smile. Thankfully, Ana was old enough that adopting a couple of puppies shouldn't be too much trouble. If she was still a newborn, it might be a different story. And speaking of newborns, Rhys' thoughts turned to the reason behind their little unplanned visit. "It's not my place to speak for anyone, but you might want to have a word with the Loremaster while he's here."

"Oh, indeed?" Lionel's expression turned genuinely curious - it wasn't often that he didn't know what was going on, but Ian had visited in his lifetime only twice. "What would you suggest we talk about?" As he asked, Demeter leaped gracefully over the little fence holding the pups in and threw herself down, precipitating the frenetic free for all that was her puppies scrambling for a teat all to themselves.

"His place in the grand scheme of things," Rhys replied, turning to watch as Demeter went about feeding her puppies, his gaze fixed on one in particular. He could already tell her apart from the others and wondered if she'd remember him when next he visited. "He seems a little lost to me, but maybe it's just sleep deprivation."

"It could be, it could be," the older man nodded, tearing his own eyes from the dogs. He could lose hours watching the pups at play, and had done, in the past. "I am sure to cross his path while he is here. I will do my best to assure him of his role on Avalon."

"I imagine they're still trying to wrap their heads around it. I mean, it took me a while to feel comfortable here," Rhys added, though now Avalon felt as much like home as New York.

"We will look after them," Lionel assured him. "They will find their own place here, after a fashion, though they are ours to care for as they learn to be parents in this new world of theirs. I trust they are not alone in the world outside, either?"

Rhys practically winced at that question. "Yes and no," he replied. It was a bit of a long story and not one he felt was his to tell really. "We've been trying to convince them to move to New York," he said, before remembering Lionel knew very little of the city he and Nat called home. "They're a little isolated where they are now, and it was good for a while. They needed the peace and quiet, but Nat and I are worried they'll get lonely there."

Lionel's brow rose above his smile. "And if I know young Natalya, she already has a plan in mind to make that decision as easy and painless for them as she possibly can," he mused laughingly. "They have a daughter now, Rhys. Their thought will be for her, not purely for themselves. If they need peace, they can come to Avalon, but their lives should be out there, in your world."

"Of course, Nat has a plan!" Rhys replied with a chuckle. "But not everyone is comfortable accepting charity without being asked for something in return." Even Rhys had had misgivings about accepting Nat's money even after they'd been married. It had simply been a matter of pride, but it didn't matter so much anymore. "Ian has a job about five hours away from us. It's not far, but I think Nat would like them to closer. She's very fond of Aurelia and wants our children to grow up together."

"It is not charity from a friend, but alas, it is difficult to explain such a thing," he chuckled faintly. "Perhaps, whatever you both decide to do, you should put together a way in which your friends may repay you, over time. Then it is not charity, but a loan to be paid off, yes?" He smiled at the description of the two women, finding it entirely too easy to imagine Natalya and Aurelia hovering over children in a kitchen somewhere.

"Maybe," Rhys replied. They'd made the same offer to Gina and Adam, but the other couple had insisted they were perfectly happy where they were. That hadn't stopped Nat from reserving a house for them, anyway. At least, Adam and Gina were nearby; he couldn't say the same for Ian and Aurelia. "If it was up to Nat, she'd just buy an entire neighborhood where all our friends could live together."

"Such is the wish of one who did not know love from those who should have loved her," Lionel said wisely. "She would surround herself and her family with the love of friends and family if she could. Still, I do not think you would object overmuch to having them all there within a few minutes' distance, would you?"

"No, I wouldn't object," Rhys replied. And wherever Avalon was hidden in time and space, it was as easy for them to get to as walking across the street. "I think there's something else holding them back, but I'm not sure what it is," Rhys added. He assumed it was Ian's job, though now that he was the Loremaster of Avalon, he was going to have his hands full with that. Rhys wasn't quite sure if that would pay the bills, though. He remembered when he and Nat were in the same position as Ian and Aurelia. It had taken some time for them to figure it all out, but now that their lives were settled, he wouldn't have changed a thing. "I guess it's up to them," he said with a shrug of his shoulders. "You know, when I saw Zach and Rach in the Lady's pool, I could have sworn they were in New York."

"I am sure they will discover sooner, rather than later, how to mesh their lives in the way that suits them best," Lionel agreed with a nod, finally tearing himself away from the nursing pups to draw Rhys from the stables."Perhaps your sister was visiting you. Or perhaps, some day, they too will make their home outside Avalon. It is too soon to say."

"Maybe," Rhys replied in agreement. He couldn't say for sure himself either, but as far as he could tell both Zach and Rachel seemed happy and content here in Avalon. "Are you going to offer two puppies to them, too?" he asked, remembering Lionel's having mentioned something to that effect.
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Natalya Bristol
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 01, 2015 7:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"That is my intention, yes," the Grand Master nodded to Rhys, sidestepping a groom as he hurried by. "Can you not see them with two or three dogs gamboling about them?" He chuckled at that mental image, finding it only too easy to imagine both Rachel and Zachariel with a small pack of their own.

Imagining them with a pack of dogs wasn't quite the same thing as them actually having one, and Rhys still wasn't sure they were able to handle it, but he had to admit they had come a long way. "Are you sure they can handle them?" he asked, as he followed at the Grand Master's side.

"My dear boy, I am certain of it," Lionel insisted. He turned to look at Rhys, a gentle frown on his face as he considered his companion. "You must allow her to grow up, Rhys," he said gently. "You were deprived of a childhood together, but she cannot remain a child forever. All I can do is help prepare them both for the challenges ahead of them, and this is how I am choosing to do that."

"I know," Rhys replied with a frown of his own, before turning away so that the other man wouldn't see the look of sadness and regret on his face, despite how things had turned out. "I used to talk to her when I was a kid, before she was born. That night ... the night everything went to hell ... when my dad ..." He broke off, unable to continue with his thought. He'd thought he'd lost his sister forever, only to find she'd been alive all along. "How'd she get through that without losing her mind, Lionel? If I'd known, I would have done anything to save her."

"Perhaps someone was protecting her, in their own way," the older man said, his voice still gentle, aware of how volatile this conversation could become. "Perhaps they knew you would come for her, one day."

"Zach, maybe," Rhys admitted. He didn't want to get into the pain of the past either. All he wanted was to know that his sister was happy here, and he had no reasons to doubt that. "Thank you, by the way."

"Maybe." Lionel had his own ideas about who it was that had been watching over Rachel Bristol, knowing as well as Rhys did that Zachariel had fallen in the moments following her disappearance from the world. It could not have been the Lady, who had not truly known of her existence until very recently, but perhaps some ... Fate ... was still at work in the world. He blinked, glancing at Rhys in bemusement. "What on earth for?"

"For a lot of things," Rhys replied with a warm smile. "For trusting me, for one thing. For believing in me. For welcoming me to Avalon. I know how much Nat means to you, and I know it couldn't have been easy. For helping Zach and Rachel and for helping Zach find a purpose here. For the puppies. For being a friend. I don't have too many of those these days."

"Ah, lad ..." Lionel smiled, laying his hands on Rhys' shoulders. "If it had been mine to choose, Natalya would have been my daughter, and even then, I would have given her happily into your care. I see in you what you do not see in yourself. You have a greatness of spirit, my boy, and it is my honor to be able to call myself your friend. As to your sister and Zachariel ... perhaps they do not need my interference so much. But they are family to you, and to Natalya, and therefore I consider them the family I shall never have. It is my pleasure to care for them in your absence."

Rhys was tempted to hug the other man, but resisted doing so, instead offering him a hand and then an affectionate clap on the shoulder. His eyes were suspiciously misty for a moment before he regained his composure. "Whatever you are to us, I am proud to call you my friend." And he would have been proud to call him more than that, if he'd been able. He wasn't quite able to tell him exactly how he felt or how much the older man meant to him, but he hoped it went without saying. He'd already said more than he dared.

There was a dangerous moment when both men's eyes were misty, but Sir Lionel rallied in predictable fashion. "Aye, and no doubt delighted to be able to say you brought me to the brink with nothing more than words," he accused Rhys affectionately. "Go back to your wife and daughter. Let them bat you about for a while, I'll not have mischief in my training yard veiling my eyes." He grinned, clapping Rhys' shoulder once again.

Rhys laughed, not quite believing he'd brought the Grand Master to the brink of tears. He knew also how much the Lady meant to the man, and he knew there was far more to him than he let anyone else see, but it would be their secret. "Yes, sir," he replied with a grin of his own. "We should be here for a few more days, at least. Shall I bring Nat and Ana by tomorrow to see the pups?"

"Aye, you're welcome to, my boy," he was assured. "Take care Demeter doesn't mistake your pup for one of hers, or you might have a battle when you leave!"

"I thought they were all hers!" Rhys replied with a laugh. "I'll see if we can come by tomorrow. I need to check on Zach and Rachel and I haven't seen the Lady yet."

"I mean the pup on two legs," Lionel chuckled, rolling his eyes as he waved Rhys off. "Go on, Sir Rhys, attend to your wife and family. You will be missed at the dinner table if you tarry too much longer with an old man and his memories." He nodded to Rhys, moving back to the training yard to bark out orders to the men and women there. Whatever the Templars of Avalon were preparing for, the Grand Master would not see them disgraced.

Rhys got his meaning at last and laughed again. "She doesn't have a tail!" he called back with a grin, waving as he started for his home here in Avalon. He couldn't help but chuckle a little to himself as he thought about the surprise Lionel had for his wife and daughter, as well as for Zachariel and Rachel. This visit was certainly going to be an interesting one.

((Yet another scene that spiraled somewhat out of control! Fun, though. Very Happy ))
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