Summary: Qualified, Stressed Princesses. New kings being met bring new problems. Including a panicking Princess Samuel and a new bad guy. Plus a kingdom wide sickness.
Categories: Buffy Stories & Crossovers > Avengers, Buffy Stories & Crossovers > CSI/NCIS, Buffy Stories & Crossovers > Losers, Buffy Stories & Crossovers > SG1/SGA/SGU Characters: None
Series: Pretty Princesses of The Joined Kingdoms
Chapters: 3 Completed: Yes
Word count: 44041 Read: 23994
Published: 04/21/2017 Updated: 04/21/2017
Note: I worked in some of the bunnies and the rest may be in later parts if there's later parts. Some people didn't like the last part but this one was written right after that one.
1. Part 1 by Voracity2
2. Part 2 by Voracity2
3. Part 3 by Voracity2
Qualified, Stressed Princesses.
Princess Samuel showed up at King Alan's palace, knowing his brother and brother's consort were there. "DEAN!" he bellowed. "We need a conference right the fuck now!"
Castiel leaned out of the meeting room, staring at him. "That was rude."
"Yay!" He stared at him. "Talk to Alan for a bit, okay? It's a brother thing." Dean strolled out and Sam hauled him out past the barn and out by the town's walls so they had some privacy. He looked around to make sure then looked at his big brother. "I just met with a king who looks a shitload like Dad. Could be his identical twin, just as snarly and kick your ass about things, and he's a military guy," he said quietly.
Dean blinked. "That's a great reason for the freakout. Where is he?"
"By King Steve. I was there doing the treaty with him and then King Clay showed up."
"Clay?" Sam nodded quickly. "There's no one by that name on the family tapestry or in the family book." He considered it. "Did you talk to him?"
"He sneered about the name curse. Called me a pretty princess until I nearly set him on fire." He stared at him. "Consort Danny broke us up and demanded a few answers so I told him why I was freaked out and was going to make sure that one wasn't a revived soul."
Dean nodded. "We in trouble with them?"
"No. Steve met Dad. He was a bit staring too." He shifted his weight and looked around again. "This is going to be horribly nasty. They're coming up here soon."
"Here here? Or our here? Xander's here?"
"Xander's here. It's near the next meeting."
"Okay," Dean agreed. "Though I think Alan wanted us to move them to Jethro's so there's no chance of that hole bothering us." He considered it, licking his bottom lip. "Okay, so how freakworthy is it?"
"I *swear*, Dean. Identical twins down to the voice and the mannerisms." He stared at him. "He didn't react to holy water. I had his dinner drink dosed. Danny glared at me when he heard but he agreed they had to figure this shit out. Steve's kind of amused but yeah, he's worried too with all the demon things going on in the last few years."
Dean nodded once. "Okay. We'll meet with him. Do we know anything about them?"
"They're like cousins to Steve's people but not exactly the same and more like some of us moved down south. Less dark and exotic looking than Steve's but a good portion of their people are actually very dark skinned compared to ours or Steve's peoples. His consort and one of his guard team were."
Dean shrugged. "Let's research them. See if anyone has things on them. Calm down. How soon is that meeting?"
"About a month."
"Sure." He nodded. "We'll figure it out. If they're renewed beings, then we'll definitely figure that out between Cas and Genjo."
"Thanks." He took a deep breath. "This is so freaky."
"Yeah, I'm agreeing," Dean said. "It's a great reason to scream in Alan's castle too. I'll keep him from paddling you like a kiddy princess." He took a deep breath. "Okay, let's go back inside. Call around to see what we can find out about them." Sam nodded, walking back inside with him. "Sorry but huge problem just possibly showed up while he was making that new treaty for everyone."
Alan stared at Sam. "Do I need to treat you like a kid?" he demanded.
"I ran into someone who looks *exactly* like our father. Down to the same voice, the same mannerisms, all of it." Alan winced. "In a neighbor of King Steve's. Even King Steve looked a bit worried that he was revived."
"Is he?" Alan asked.
"Not that we're aware of. I did a holy and blessed water test both and he didn't seem to notice," Sam said. "Danny tried to yell but then realized why I was so freaked out. Oh, and he made fun of the name curse."
Alan nodded. "We've seen that before and if he picks on you, sock him one, Sam." He stared at him. "Where are they from?"
"There's some islands to the south-east of King Steve's islands. They're from there. They're slightly military oriented but have a lot of the problems that Steve and Mac have to fight now and then, and so does Horatio recently." Alan nodded at that. "I'm sorry I yelled but there's no way we're not related and he's literally Dad's twin."
"I get that," Alan said, patting him on the shoulder. "Call Xander's generals first to see if they know about them."
"They're showing up for the next convergence meeting, which I thought was at Xander's."
"Jethro's. I hate that spot of evil in Xander's kingdom."
"It's fully locked up," Dean said. "Otherwise Cas and Genjo would be scratching all the time from the evil."
"Point. Sure, we can have it there. Though Jethro's closer to that set of docks."
"We can send an official notice inviting them to that meeting," Sam said. "And a map."
"We can do that. It's polite anyway," Alan said. "Go call and calm down, Sam."
"Thanks, Alan, and I'm sorry I screamed."
"It's all right. That'd freak me out too," he said patiently. He and Dean walked off. "Hopefully these new people will get along well with the other kings."
"I think they'll probably try Xander if he's a military guy," Dean said. "Most would to see how we're structured. The guys up north tried a few times and Xander basically sparred them into giving up."
"That's not a bad idea," Alan said. "Thankfully I'm more peaceful and his daughter will hopefully more peaceful too."
"She'll have to marry someone who knows about military things then." Dean looked at him. "No one else has kept a good army for the future."
"I hadn't thought about that. Yeah, we can do that." They went back to the meeting.
Sam sat down in front of the fire calling station, calling Genjo first. He was usually less busy. He got Goku. "I need a few generals and Genjo," he said calmly. "We found new peoples."
Goku nodded. "Do they have demons?"
"I don't know. I know their king was enough like my father that I freaked out so much I yelled in Alan's palace."
Goku blinked. "Revived?"
"No clue but he passed the holy and blessed water tests."
"Sure. Let me get the cranky one and a few generals." He walked off. "Genjo, go talk to Sam on the fireplace," he called as he walked past the throne room. "He found new diplomats."
Genjo frowned, coming to the fire calling station. "New diplomats?"
"Really freaky, but yeah. And they don't like the naming curse."
"Great," Genjo said dryly, staring at him. "Why are you so sweaty?"
"Their king, *exactly* like Dad," he said quietly. "So exact I did the holy and blessed water tests on him."
Genjo blinked, nodding once. "That's freaky," he agreed.
"I'm so freaked, I yelled in Alan's castle."
"That's bad. Are they a threat?"
"I don't know. I know exactly nothing about them and King Steve didn't know much about them either."
The generals showed up. "Princess Samuel," one said with a nod. "Huge problems that needs the military?"
"There's a new kingdom just noticed by me while visiting King Steve's people to work on a treaty. They're military oriented, to the south-east of Steve's kingdom, some bigger islands, I think two, and the king looks exactly like my father."
The other general frowned. "I don't know anything about them." He looked at his counterpart. Who shrugged and shook his head. "We can ask some of the others, just to see if we can figure things out. Do they have demons?"
"Not that I'm aware of," Sam admitted. "We know almost nothing about them. I know I freaked out when I met them and I'm still freaked now, a week and a half later. I invited them to the next meeting, which is apparently in Jethro's kingdom instead of yours. We need to send a formal one and a map."
"I can do that," Genjo agreed. "Name?"
"King Clay, with his consort Roque. Who's a bit unstable I think. And jealous."
The generals nodded. "Okay," they agreed. "We'll ask around before they show up. Including the new contacts we have in Queen Catherine's lands and down with those knights." They walked off to ask the other generals, including the retired ones. Someone had to know something. They had always paid attention to any nearby military forces.
Sam looked at Genjo. "They passed the holy and blessed water tests. Dean said that name's not on any of the family tapestries."
"We'll figure it out. He had to come from somewhere, especially if they look so much alike." He waved and hung up, going to tell Xander once he was out of the meeting he was in.
Sam calmed down, calling down south to talk to Knight Widow. She knew half of everyone, or at least knew of them. "Knight General Rogers, is Knight Widow around? I ran into someone strange and wanted to know if she'd heard of them."
"She's off on assignment, Sam. Who did you run into?"
"Someone that looks *exactly* like my father named King Clay? Southeast to King Steve's peoples?"
"I haven't heard anything about them," Steve admitted. "I can ask the others and her when she gets back."
"Please. I invited them to the next convergence meeting."
"That's nice. When and where is it?"
"Jethro's kingdom in about a month. We can send you an official notice." He grinned. "With the princess' usual mail."
"That's fine." He smiled. "She's a sweet kid." He waved. "I'll ask."
"Thank you." He hung up and relaxed, popping his neck. This was so weird and freaky. It couldn't be anything good.
The new royal envoy party landed and disembarked at the port, looking over their horses to make sure they were all right from the trip. The consort nodded at the messenger.
"King Clay's people?" the messenger asked politely.
"Yeah," Clay grunted.
"Map to King Jethro's kingdom, Sire. The meeting was shifted down there. It's also closer to the port." He nodded. "Have a good trip. The map's got inns noted as well so you can plan your trip easily. There's two kingdoms between you and there. Both smallish and not in real favor with anyone in the Joined Kingdoms, but they're not evil. If you rest each night, you should get there in just over three days as you're going across the pointy edges of those two kingdoms. There's three alternate roads if you wanted to avoid them and I've marked them as well. Those are messenger routes so they're the fastest and easiest rides." He bowed and left them to their trip.
Clay nodded, looking at the map. "It's detailed." He let the others see it.
"I say we avoid those two little kingdoms," Roque said. "No idea if they're hostile to outsiders if they can't be polite to their own."
Clay nodded. "It looks like it may add half a day." He traced the route. "That'll leave a long ride today to the first inn as it's after that switchback." He let the other two see it.
Pooch nodded, marking it with his finger. "Not too hard."
Cougar nodded. "Nicely drawn." They mounted up and rode into the town. There was a good sized market so they bought some things to eat on the road and rode on.
Clay rode into the castle's grounds first, nodding at the groom that hurried out.
"King John!" the groom said and bowed. "King Jethro is in his office at the moment preparing for the meeting in the morning."
"Who the hell is John?" he demanded. The groom looked so confused. "Whatever." He dismounted and grabbed his saddlebags. The other three did the same thing. He looked back at the others on his team, who nodded. They walked into the castle.
The majordomo of the castle stared. "King John?" he asked, sounding confused. "I thought you died during the battle to stop the demons."
Clay blinked. "I have no idea who this John is. I'm King Clay. We were invited."
"King Jethro told me about that, King Clay. We have a suite ready for you and your group. It's got three bedrooms?"
"That'll be fine," he agreed. "Can we straighten up before meeting the others?"
"Of course. Let me lead you up there. The others showing up know where Queen Abby would be and will pause to hug her first." He led them upstairs pointing out various areas like the meeting room and the kitchens. "This room looks out on the stables and the training compound." He nodded. "Ask anyone if you get lost and I'll spread around that you are not King John, Sire." He left them alone, going to tell the head housekeeper so she could tell her people.
"That's so weird," Clay muttered, going into the room to look around. His team spread around and got comfortable once they used the bathroom.
Jethro looked up as the new king was let into his office, staring at him. "No wonder Sam freaked out. You do look exactly like his former father."
"Is that John?" he asked.
"Yes." He looked and found a picture. "This was from one of Queen Stella's cousins' weddings. We had to dress native to her people." He let him see it. "In the back is King John."
He found the man who looked like him easy enough. It was seriously identical from what he could tell. Though you'd never catch him in a kilt. "That is freaky. I can forgive Sam for nearly freaking out on me for that." He handed the picture back. "So very weird."
"I know Dean's here already with his consort and his brother. Someone fetch Dean," he called.
"He's out sparring with King Xander," Abby called, opening the door. "You know how the boys are, Jethro." She smiled. "Wow. Are you realived? Was it an alchemist?"
"He's not John," Jethro said.
"That's so weird. I'll lead you out there when you're done with Jethro." She closed the door, going to find Sam. "When you said identical I thought you were exaggerating a bit, Sam."
"No, that's why I nearly caused a diplomatic incident in King Steve's kingdom." He shivered. "I have no idea what's going on. There's no splits from the family tapestry."
"Huh." She took his arm and walked him back to the office. She grinned at Castiel. "We're coming that way. Are they still sparring?"
"Yes," he said patiently. "I was going to find Genjo to trade books and scrolls."
"He's in the plant conservatory that Jethro's mom put in. He can smoke in there."
"That's a good thing then," Castiel agreed, clapping Sam on the arm. "You look worried." He looked over their shoulders, head tipping to the side. "I don't feel any evil or demonic magic," he said quietly. "I should for a revived soul."
"I'm not revived," Clay said dryly. "Sam, I had no idea."
"I'm sorry I freaked out, King Clay, but I'm sure you've seen why."
"Yeah, I can do that. Let's go meet your brother so he gets his shock out of the way."
"Sure." Abby took his arm and walked off with them while Castiel went to tell Genjo and the others in the conservatory with him. Though out of range of his smoking. Abby smiled up at him. "I'm Queen Abby, Jethro's wife."
She grinned. "You're polite sometimes. That's a good thing." She whistled loudly. "Boys!" Dean and Xander quit grappling and Dean stared oddly. Xander pulled a weapon. "Whoa, Xander! He's not John! Even Castiel said he's not realived. Calm down."
"I wasn't sure that Sammy wasn't making up a bit too much closeness," Dean said. "Damn!" He made Xander put the gun away. "He's not demonic."
Xander stared at him for a minute then at Clay. "No, you're not demonic."
"I'm King Clay, boy."
"I'm King Xander." He smirked. "Stepson to the slimy asshole DeMal and real heir to the kingdom thanks to King Arant."
Clay blinked. "I heard about your stepfather. I nearly overthrew him once but he was young and stupid."
"Rory or Tony?" Sam asked. "He's Tony's stepson."
"No, I nearly killed Rory for being a stupid, drunken dick."
Xander nodded. "I did kill him for being a stupid, drunken dick." Clay burst out laughing. "Seriously. At Princess Charlie's wedding."
"What is with the names?" Clay demanded, looking at Sam.
"There's a curse on any first born princesses so the positions are named no matter what. All first born are princes, all second are princesses. Then princess, prince, then alternating back and forth down the kids if you have more than four."
Clay blinked. "When did that happen?"
"Way, way, way back when," Xander said dryly. "Back when my people were mages."
"Huh." Clay nodded. "I'm guessing that's why Jensen's a princess since he's from somewhere around here."
"Is he from the people up north that have that ring device?" Xander asked. "Or from another kingdom we know about? We can easily pass on messages."
"Up north, lots of snow, lots of machines," Clay said with a shrug. "He babbles and I only listen for problem things."
"That's cool." They came over to the ring's fence. "Welcome to the Joined Kingdoms."
Xander smirked. "I may be young but I'm hell when you're mean to us." He smiled sweetly. "Just ask Abby."
"We sic Xander on anyone mean," she agreed. "He makes them really sorry very fast."
Xander hugged her. "I like you. You're so sweet."
"Hands off my wife," Jethro called from a window. "Before you make her want to go home with you to mother you, Xander."
"Yes, Jethro." He grinned at her and she smirked back. "If you want to run away to come class up my kingdom full of military people, you're more than allowed, Abby."
"I know, sweetie." She pinched his cheek and winked then strolled off. "I'm going to make sure no one in the kitchen is possessed and find those special ones in case they're needed, Xander."
"Okay, thanks. I'm okay today. We stopped on the way in."
She grinned back at him. "That's very polite, dear. Thank you." She squealed and ran over to hug Stella and Prince Calleigh. "You finally made it!"
Xander pointed. "That's Queen Stella, King Mac's wife and the senior queen around here. She's a great role model. The blonde is Prince Calleigh, from King Horatio's kingdom. The one getting out is actually my daughter," he admitted. "Hi, sweetie."
"Hi, dad," she called, getting her rightful cuddles.
Xander grinned. "That's my daughter Amellisame. She's a gifted healer."
King Clay looked then at him. "What if she wants to do other things?"
"My consort and I have a surrogate. She's to have about three of them for us."
"Not a bad idea, just in case."
"Oh, here's King Alan. He's in charge of our convergence meetings because he's the longest seated. Alan, this is King Clay."
Alan stared at him. "Sam was so freaked out he yelled in my castle. I can see why. My mind is babbling like Abby can." Xander tried to hide the giggles. "Boys, go do something less sweaty."
"My army won't spar with me," Xander said. "They're scared I'm going to lose my temper again on someone."
Alan stared at him. "When did your generals turn into damsels?" he asked dryly.
"When I had to beat that little shithead from Queen Catherine's kingdom for being a mouthy little dick," he said bluntly. Clay gave him a sideways look. "Large kingdom that was ruled by a warlord named Elinius over that way," Xander said with a point.
"I remember him. He was bad at it," Clay agreed.
"His daughter overthrew him." He grinned. "Her...I can stand. Her diplomat? He had better hope like hell I never find him again since he thought that my castle's staff was for fun playing and hurting. Fortunately Genjo's guard heard it happening and stopped it then brought it me so I could correct the stupid. Me beating the guy for over an hour apparently made all my generals squeamish." He grimaced at Sam. "Sparring?"
"Sure. In a few?"
Xander grinned. "Let me go get a drink. Dean?"
"I'm good. I'm gonna take a shower and find my mate."
"Headed to change books and scrolls with Genjo," Sam said.
"Nerds," he muttered, shaking his head as he walked off. "I married a warrior nerd."
Sam grinned at Clay. "Castiel's a good warrior, very strong and has special skills against demons since our kingdom has more than its fair share."
Clay stared at him. "Demons are real?" he demanded.
"Yeah. Our dad died getting things set up to remove them for a few more generations. We have so many that we have official battle plans against them, depending on what type they are." Clay shuddered. He smiled at the new person riding in. "Knight General Rogers," he said with a nod. "Thank you for attending."
"Sam." He dismounted and handed over his mount.
"That's not a groom," Sam called. "Amellisame, watch out for him." He pointed. The demon smirked and Sam shot him with his demon banishing gun. He went up in a small bit of fire. The horse danced off until Amellisame caught him to calm him down. "Thank you, dear."
"Welcome, Uncle Sam." She led the horse into the barn. "This is Knight General Rogers' horse. A demon tried to take care of it for him and if you're possessed too I'm telling my father." The demons fled, all but one. She scowled and pulled up her healing gift, touching that one on the arm. He screamed, freaking some horses out, and ran out fighting the pain going up his arm. She calmed down the horses and got to work taking care of them.
Someone from further away shot the groom for them. "Stupid ass demons," Xander complained. "Amellisame! Don't do that with your healing skills," he yelled. "Go confess to Hakkai, dear, and I'll handle the horses." She pouted but stomped off to do that. He looked at the horse she had been grooming, shrugging at her. "I don't know, Stars and Stripes. We'll figure it the fuck out. Huh?" He got her and the others calmed and made sure they had good food and water. A real groom came running, gasping in horror at him.
"I do train the warsteeds," he said dryly. "I've always trained our warsteeds. Ever since I could say the word 'horsie'. My daughter got it from me." The groom bowed a few times and came in to help him. "I already checked them. Make sure the demons that were in here didn't fool with the food and stuff," he ordered patiently. He checked the new horses, finding one had a loose shoe. "We'll fix that, sweetie." He patted her on the neck and got her a treat. She nibbled, happy with that. "Call the farrier. This one's got a loose left front shoe." The groom did that and checked on the rest of the barn.
Calleigh walked their carriage set in. "Do we have room or is the Not John's people's taking up all the spaces?"
"We have a whole other barn," Xander said with a grin. He took one of them from her to help her put them up. "He only showed up with three people and himself," he said quietly.
"Diplomatic visit size," she said. "Buffy's due back soon."
"She brought home four soldiers and a female diplomat from them," Xander said with a grin. "Her people are not amused that she's not marrying them and might just have illegitimate kids. Dawn's giggling madly though."
"Of course she is. She's young." They came out of the barn together, finding a rather large, ugly demon standing there. "Why are you here?" she demanded.
"That sort are summoned and sent," Xander said calmly. "I need my special blade," he noted. Calleigh ran up to get someone to get it for him. Genjo came out with it and his guys. "Won't work against them, dear. Needs silver and beheaded. This one is summoned and sent." He grabbed his blade and faced off with it, sneering some. "Who sent you?" he ordered. "Tell me the truth and I'll make it a merciful death."
"The Max sends his regards," the demon sneered back.
Xander shrugged. "Never heard of him. So he can't be that big with my intelligence network." He lunged in and damaged the demon, making it scream. "Sam, a silencing please so he can't spook the horses," he called. Sam did that and they fought the demon together, killing it fairly easily. They got a bit more sweaty and got a few claw marks but about normal.
"Damn," Clay said. "Boy, does your back hurt?"
"Yup," Xander quipped, grinning at him. "Dean and I got into a tickle fight and I landed on top of a rock." He cleaned his blade off and put it into his belt, walking off shaking his head. He didn't need the critique of his methods today. He really didn't.
King Steve stopped him, staring at him. "You overreached a few times but you did better than I could, Xander," he said quietly. "I can't fight things that tall yet."
"Most demons are stronger and faster, Steve. It's just training."
"I know. Are you sure you're okay?"
"Danny, he's swearing he's fine, come do to him what you do to me," he called.
His consort Danny huffed but came to check him over. "Healing cuts."
"I had a disagreement with the diplomat Queen Catherine sent," he said dryly. "For over an hour after he tried to sexually torture one of my people for his pleasure." Steve winced. "I did get a bit cut up then," he admitted. "But they're clean and all that. Thank you, Danny."
"Welcome. Stubborn guys like you and Steve need some fussing sometimes."
"Genjo has fussed quietly before. I nearly got my liver pierced by a demon once and he fussed over me all night." He walked off.
Danny looked at Steve, who smiled at him. "You're good at it," Steve assured him.
"I get way too much practice for it to be healthy," he shot back. "Quit getting hurt, Steven, before I have to get mean."
"Yes, dear." He blew a kiss before going to talk to the new king and the knight. "King Clay," he said with a nod and a handshake. "Genjo, I had Danny check him since he does so well with my fussing I'm fine. He's still got some cuts but Danny said they're clean and healing."
"I noticed," he admitted, looking at him. "The diplomat was lucky Xander got him instead of Goyjo or me." He walked off. "Let me make sure he washes all those cuts clean so the sweat doesn't make them infect again."
"Talk to Ami about how she hurt the demon," Calleigh called. "Xander ordered her to tell Hakkai."
"Oh, she's getting it for that. It can warp healers," he promised. "I'm going to tell Gregory on her." Behind him, the ones who knew Gregory shuddered.
Abby looked at the new king. "Gregory's a healer and a princess of his realm. He's the king of snark and mean though. We all avoid getting hurt if we have to be seen by Princess Gregory." Calleigh nodded to back that up and so did Knight General Rogers. "The only two people who let him fuss properly and meanly at them are Xander and Knight General Rogers' friend Bucky."
"He did say some nice things about Princess Gregory," Steve agreed. "I like the guy as a man but I'd run from him as a healer. He's mean." He grinned at the new king. "Xander's whole army vowed they were not injured from battles they've had just so Princess Gregory couldn't be their healer. He's an excellent one, as noted by being so high up in the ranks, but damn is that man not nice."
Clay smiled. "Sounds like my consort Roque."
"No, he doesn't have any knives," King Steve quipped. "Who did you bring anyway?"
"Roque, Pooch, and Cougar. Jensen's our designated ass kicker if something weird happens."
Abby smiled at him. "We'd never kidnap you for more than orgies if the demons made us, Clay. Don't worry about it. I have Jethro and he's got focus enough to make me start to get happy just by staring at me." She smirked as she strolled off.
"I need one of those," Calleigh admitted, shaking her head. She sighed, looking at Steve. "Would one of you like Eric? He's really annoying myself and Ryan this week."
Steve grinned. "I know he's seen a few people in my kingdom but they never stuck it out."
"Eric never sticks it out with anyone more than two weeks," she said dryly. "Ever. Not even when he had triplets recently. Which got Horatio to nearly beat him to death."
Steve stared, looking confused. "How does one date triplets?"
"It's not easy, but it's damn sure fun," Clay quipped. "Bad girls have more fun in bed anyway."
Calleigh smiled at him. "I'd hit on you but I don't touch taken as Xander puts it usually. I'm too good of a good woman to be someone's mistress." She strolled off. "Let me go snatch cookies before Dean, Sam, and Xander eat them all."
Stella smiled at Clay. "Yes, it's stress relieving but she's a good lady. She has a good hand with their people. Hers and mine both go out to help our higher defense squads stop problems." She linked her arm to Steve's. "Have those gun runners come back again?"
"Worse. Wo Fat's people are back only now they're into drugs, slaves, and guns." She grimaced. "He actually tried to bomb the palace recently." She shook her head as they walked off. "Can I pick your brain about ideas against him?"
"Of course you can. We have our own like that and so does Horatio."
Clay watched them go then looked at the remaining person, who shrugged. "It happens," Sam agreed. "If we have problems we handle it together, depending on what it is." He walked him inside and let him go back to his room to tell the others. Dean was having a long drink in his suite so Sam took his beer from him to drink. "That's why I freaked, yeah."
"Even Cas freaked at that, Sammy. Damn!"
Sam smiled and finished the beer. "Yup." He went to his room to read.
Dean went to his room to lay down for a nap so he could keep his consort up later. Cas was fun that way.
Xander came down for dinner that night, having to button up his shirt as he walked into the dining hall. "Sorry I'm late. I was napping like a kiddy princess again," he said dryly.
Jethro looked at him. "You could've taken another two minutes to finish dressing, Xander."
"No I couldn't. I haven't eaten since yesterday." Jethro stared at him. He grinned back. "Buffy's people had a problem when we were riding past." Jethro groaned but shook his head. "She is back and her people are complaining that she brought back really cute soldiers as semi-diplomats. Ones who might even let her pounce them into bed."
"Is she coming?" Abby asked.
"Not sure. You'd have to fire call her to see, Abby. We could get Dawn instead. She was giggling at her sister again."
"That's fine. Dawn's a good girl. The same as your daughter is."
Xander looked down there. "Are you possessed? You're never that calm and formal."
"We have visitors we'd like to make a good impression on," she said, glaring at him.
Genjo walked in and looked at her, frowning. "I thought we got rid of all those problems," he complained, staring at Jethro. Genjo sighed and opened his robe, letting the scroll out. It started to move. Both demons screamed and fled, and the one pretending to be Horatio fled too.
Calleigh looked at the empty seat then at him. "I knew it wasn't him."
"I'm wondering how they got around the restrictions and why," Dean said, looking at his mate.
"I didn't get any feeling of weirdness from them," he admitted. "That gift seems to be fading recently."
"Maybe it went into your future kid," Xander quipped with a grin. Alan looked over from his table. "Just think, Dean. Some day we'll be the senior kings. You'll be my second in that."
Dean blinked a few times. "That's a bad idea, Xander."
"You were the last one throned. Castiel's family hasn't picked a new one yet. Genjo's family won't be naming a new one until after you. All the others are after you. So it'll someday be me in Alan's seat and you in Mac's."
Dean sipped his water, shaking his head. "That's going to so suck. Things are going to be weird."
Xander grinned at him. "Just think what'll happen when the demons come then." Dean shivered and moaned. Xander chuckled, a warm, happy sound, and looked at Alan. Who poofed up. So did a few of the courtiers and Stella's helper. Xander wiggled his fingers at them. "So," he said, staring at one. "Why are you here?"
"We want the Key," one said. "We were sent to get her."
"I'll kill you all so hard you'll forget your names," Xander said bluntly.
"The Max wants her."
Xander grinned at the demon. "Looks like I have a problem to solve then."
"He's our problem," Clay said quietly.
Xander grinned. "He's making himself my problem so would you like help?"
"Maybe," he admitted. "We had to fight because he's trying to discredit us and take us out."
Xander laughed. "Yeah, we've seen that before. Alchemist?" Clay nodded. "We can help if you want. We've handled a few of them." A demon ran in screaming with a dagger, right at Dean. Xander and Genjo both shot it. It screamed for other reasons as it went up in flames. "Cheery bonfire demons," he quipped. "GENERALS!" he bellowed. Two ran in, staring at him. He pointed. "Demons. Where are they?"
"Queen Abby went to help the healer because one of her ladies in waiting is in labor," one said. "King Jethro is, or was, in his office, King Xander. Who else disappeared?"
"I suddenly had a helper," Stella said. "We had a pretend Horatio. Some of the courtiers fled."
Xander pointed. "Those three open seats and that one there," he said. He looked at the generals. "Where's Knight General Rogers?"
"He's on his way up, Sire. He had to take a firecall." The second general looked at him. "Why did they show up?"
"One of our problems wanted to prove he had worth," Clay said, putting down his napkin. "We should go before he tries again."
The generals laughed. "King Clay, if they try again, we're here for that," he noted. "That's our job."
The second general nodded. "Which idiot magic user is it?"
"The demons called him The Max," Xander said, leaning back in his seat. "He sent the demons according to them."
The generals shared a look then looked at Xander. "He's powerful," one said.
The second nodded. "Very powerful. He has people bought in many places."
"Do I have to search out more of mine?" Xander asked.
"No, King Xander. He has higher weapons."
Xander grinned. "I love me some weapons, guys. Can I have some?" They shivered. Dean groaned, shaking his head again. "We made the others flee because some day soon I'll be in Alan's seat as the head King of the Convergence."
"Alan, Mac, Horatio, Jethro," Stella said, counting off on her fingers. "Rothmason. Pergal, no he was crowned after Dean." She considered it. "Genjo's family since they weren't uncrowned yet. Shit, we're seven away from yours."
"Eight," Calliegh reminded her. "Wouldn't Buffy be before Dean? Aaron would."
"Aaron's refused," Stella admitted. "He's busy and doesn't want anything administrative adding to it. Do we allow a head queen? Sam, have there been queens in charge?"
"The last time one was, we had a huge war among ourselves," Sam said. "So they blocked it. So that takes Buffy, the Ascelpian kingdom's queen, probably Castiel's family's queen since it's looking like they'll crown Emma." He considered it. "Damn it," he muttered. "Yeah, Xander's eight or nine people away from the head of the table." Xander grinned. "Then since King Aaron doesn't want it that would leave Dean two back after Pelgar's heir Pergal."
"Who we won't let take over," Stella reminded him. "He's talking to people who aren't there. Again."
Xander nodded, grinning at them. "You guys know I'll be a nice guy."
"You're going to drive us all nuts," Stella said. Then she smiled. "Not that you don't now, Xander."
"You give me such nice compliments, Stella." He looked at the two generals, who were moaning. He grinned. "So King Jethro's where so I don't have to take over to handle this issue? I was looking forward to some fun tonight."
"We'll get him out of the office, King Xander," the second general said, going to do that.
The first general smiled at Xander. "If you go after that alchemist, do be careful. He's ended more than one king."
Xander laughed. "If he kills me, Sam and Genjo take over my throne together to guard my daughter."
"Oh my goddess," the general muttered. He knew enough about Genjo of Sanzo to know that he'd never want to see him ruling a kingdom. "We'll make sure your daughter is safe as well, King Xander, and if you die, we'll make sure she's staying with Prince Don at least." He bowed and left to tell the generals who were having a meeting. They had to get the young prince a military advisor soon who'd listen to her. Max wasn't one to screw with and they'd hate to see King Xander dying for it.
Xander blew a kiss at his mate. "So, dear."
"You need your mind diverted," Genjo said dryly. "Please go pick up another concubine, Xander. Tonight."
He grinned. "We can try that. Until then, we can talk to King Clay about his idiot to see if we can ferret out his people up here." Clay nodded that was fine. "And if we have to, we can handle it if and when he shows up."
"He tried to have my group dropped off and killed in the jungle," Clay warned.
Xander grinned. "I haven't had a real problem that challenged me in a bit, Clay." Clay stared at him. "Really."
Knight General Rogers walked in, shaking his head. "Our problem didn't."
"The last one with the people up north was more annoying than a huge problem. Except for Stella." She smirked at him. "I heard you were pretty."
"Shut up, Xander." Xander grinned. "Were you poisoned again by something else?"
"Possibly. But I'm okay." She choked, groaning. "It's not affecting me more than making me giddy." He looked at his mate, who was staring at him oddly. "What?"
"When?" he asked patiently.
"Not totally sure," he admitted with a smile. "But I woke up this morning in a giddy mood with a fever. I would've asked Gregory but we left him in charge because my generals all turned into weeping girls."
"Fuck," Genjo muttered. "Those poor generals." Steve stared at him. "He left *Gregory* in charge."
"I feel sorry for them if they annoy him but they should be smart enough to go on field maneuvers for a few days." He looked at Xander. "Let me go find a healer for you."
Danny got up and came over to test Xander's forehead and check his eyes. "Yeah, it's a light poisoning from our way. It's that flowery one that makes you giddy and stupid until you hallucinate." He grinned at him. "You're as bad as my Steve."
Xander hugged him. "You're so sweet. Dear, that's the second compliment he's given me today."
Genjo sighed. "Let go of King Steve's consort. You can't steal him. Steve would try to beat you," he said patiently. "Can we get a healer?" he bellowed. One came running in.
"He got poisoned with something from our area."
"Oh, dear," she said, coming over to check him. "That's not good, sire."
Xander grinned at her. "You're a half demon." She flinched back, nodding. "Okay. As long as you don't mean harm."
"No, Sire. I take my vows as a healer very seriously." She helped him up and out to the castle's infirmary. This was going to be so nasty. She had to call Princess Gregory to see if he had any strange dosing instructions thanks to his older poisonings. She *really* hated talking to Princess Gregory.
Dean looked around. "Does that make me senior?" Stella nodded. "Fuck!"
"Ditto," Genjo said with a wave of his glass of saki. "So, now what?"
"Now, we find out more about this Max guy," Dean decided, looking at Clay. "Then we sic the goofy, sick Xander on him to cuddle him into being a good boy." Genjo burst out laughing at that idea. "It'd make me be a good boy."
"Ditto," Sam quipped.
Consort Danny grinned at them. "He's cute when he's cuddly."
Steve growled. "Really?"
"Not like I'm looking to trade you in for a younger model. He'd drive me more nuts than you do because I've sanded down your bad edges at least a tiny bit," he said sarcastically, looking at his mate.
Dean looked around then at Genjo. "Could all this fighting be a spell?"
"You ask like I do magic," he said dryly.
"Point. Sammy?" he asked more loudly. "Could all this fighting be a spell?"
"Yup," he agreed. "I'm working on countering it."
"Thank you. Let us know please?"
Xander strolled back in. "Dude, Xander doesn't *stroll*," Dean called. "He struts. So demon begone." Genjo was sneering as he stood up to handle the demon. Cas was snarling as he moved to help him. "The demons are not getting smarter," Dean quipped. The demon left with a scream of pain once both hunters got to him.
"Let me go find out what's going on," Genjo said, strolling off. His guards followed him. Cas went with him just in case they were his sort of demon instead of Genjo's type of demon.
Stella cleared her throat. "I thought they were done for. That was the purpose of that wishing or whatever thing."
Dean nodded. "Different breed and a different plan. They were blocked from that problem and from bothering people. Not from impersonating people."
"Okay, so how do we solve this one?" Stella asked him.
Dean nodded. "We figure out the reason because they can't get into any of the Joined Kingdoms without already having possessed someone outside the kingdom or being sent." She grimaced but nodded. "We couldn't close the loophole of them taking over a new host when they were inside the boundaries."
"So, have to come in from outside," Stella said. "Is there some sort of spell to tell us if someone possessed crosses the borders?"
"If they're at a regular crossing, yes," Sam said. "But you can cross at other points at most outer kingdoms. Through forests and the like, Stella.'
She nodded. "Is there a way we can make sure of it?"
"I'm not a regular magic user. You'd have to ask one of those. I can start the research but they might know without it." She nodded at that. "Ask your alchemist academy, Stella. Make them do something good for everyone."
"That would be helpful. I'll talk to them when I get back." She sipped her wine then choked since it had been refilled. "What is that?"
"I had the wine holy water tainted," Castiel called from the hallway.
Dean sipped his. "Everyone take a sip please." They all did and the few others that choked got brought with the not-Stella to talk about things. They really needed to find out why the demons were here and where the real Stella was.
Dean walked into the meeting room that night. Xander was there, and still a bit goofy but mad looking. So was Princess Gregory. Dean stared at him. "How did you get here? It's a three day ride."
"Unless the witches upcountry send me." He stared at him. "Holy water," he said, holding out a hand. Dean handed over some, letting him drink it. "Thanks." He looked around. "They found the others and Buffy's on her way in. They called her." He shifted. "Stella, the two courtiers, and the others were found earlier in a cave by Mac. They're on their way here and Stella was complaining about why people were picking on her."
"Good," Dean agreed, looking at the other queens and senior officials. And King Clay. "All right, so who is not heard from?"
"Horatio but he's in the field chasing some homicide suspect," Xander said. "I called around while I was in the infirmary. Got Calleigh too."
Dean grinned. "Great. She disappeared earlier so that was a higher demon pretending." He grimaced. "Are they sending anyone?"
"Ryan's on his way in. It's a four day trip if he goes cross country and rides hard without many pauses. I'm not sure how good of a rider Princess Ryan is." He looked at Gregory. "Your people didn't send anyone yet again."
"I'm acting in their stead. I called before I got heaved this way."
"Then you should be at the table," Xander said with a grin. Gregory got up and came to the table. "That leaves....honey?" he asked with a smirk.
"They're still fighting. Mine and Cas's people are arguing."
"Why did your father step down?" Dean asked Genjo.
"A bad portent in his yearly offerings," he said dryly. He shrugged. "No idea otherwise. That's all they said in the official announcement and I doubt they would've told me even before then."
"Mine are still fighting about who should rule," Castiel said. "Many don't like the idea of a ruling queen. Emma's nice and steady but she's still female."
"They don't have any males that aren't part of that plot to get back their old status," Xander told him.
"I know." He grimaced. "There's a few but they're farther out in the lineage."
Xander nodded. "Should we go welcome Queen Emma?"
"No, not yet. The mystical choosing crown has to choose her. She's the regent at the moment while someone finds where my father put the crown."
"It's in the crypt," Xander said bluntly.
Castiel looked at him. "How would you know?"
"One of the demons sneered they'd never find it because humans don't like to deal with dead bodies. I stabbed him for you."
"Thank you, Xander." He got up to go call home. "Queen Emma," he said in greeting with a nod.
"Princess Castiel. What's going on?"
"An alchemist," he said dryly. "The crown was said to be in a crypt. One of them taunted King Xander about that."
She smiled. "That's helpful. There's eighteen family crypts. We can start there even if we have to check every single crypt in the country." He smiled slightly. "Are things going well?"
"Mostly. We're having a convergence when a warlord wannabe alchemist named Max tried to act up against the new kings we've found."
"Is that the one that looks like the late King John?" she asked with a point behind him. Castiel nodded. "Interesting."
"Sam and Dean both had a slight mental freakout." She laughed but nodded. "He has been sending demons."
"I'll let the others know that fix wasn't absolute."
"They have to be possessed when they come into the Joined Kingdoms. They can switch host bodies inside however." She nodded once. "And they can be sent directly."
"Which makes sense. All right. We'll handle that. Thank you for that information, Castiel."
"Let us know when the crowning is so we can show up as is proper," he said with a nod and hung up, going back to the room. He paused in the doorway, staring at people.
Xander threw something at him, making him blink. "The idiot tried a spell and it faded into an illusion thanks to the protections Abby had put on."
"Good," Castiel agreed, sitting down again. "They'll search for it."
Dean nodded. "That's fine. So this Max guy?"
"Bad news. He took out the king prior to me. He nearly took us out but we made it out of his trap. He took out some kids we had to save at the same time."
"That right there means he's an ass who's gotta go," Consort Danny said. "Today if possible."
"We've been fighting him for over a year," Consort Roque said. "He's like a hidden puppet master."
"He's tried to turn my team too," Clay said. "They thankfully shot at his people."
"It's a charming offer," Roque said. "He's removed people from their identities so they were declared dead. He tried that with us but Jensen popped up with an 'I'm not dead' note in public at the announcement. It sent him into a rage and the herald choked. The official there for the announcement heard why from Jensen's big mouth and got us restored at the castle."
Clay nodded. "I'm still going to gut that asshole for that."
"You've got help now," Dean told him. "We hate beings who take out kids."
"I've got an entire army who hates people who take out kids," Xander agreed happily. "They're going to be mad."
"They're going to be pissed you got poisoned," Dean quipped.
"That they think might make him less tempered," Genjo said. "I called. They think his temper's a sign of an earlier poisoning."
"I think it's just that they caused him to get mad," Gregory told him. "I told them that when I heard that speculation. That new general is an idiot and the others are letting him hang himself by starting rumors."
"I can fix that," Genjo assured him. "The guy can't even beat Goku, much less me."
"You spar?" Dean asked.
"No, I fight. I sparred when I was in training," he shot back with an evil smirk. "Did you think I got anointed to fight a great demon army without knowing anything about protecting myself or battles?"
"I never thought about it. You avoid sparring with us," Dean admitted.
"I hate being that sweaty."
"Who taught you?" Clay asked.
Genjo smirked at him. "Warrior monks."
Clay shuddered. "I trained with one of those for a few years. Meanest asshole ever."
"They all are. That's why they're so high up in their temples. Is it just that one general?" he asked Gregory.
"Princess Tony heard about one of the other newer ones, from the last batch he had to send up thanks to idiots. That one I tripped with my cane once or twice for being a moron."
"If I remember right, that was about the only choice with the experience issue. We've had a few groups that wanted to take over and return to the warlord days," he told Clay. "Then we had demons, and demons again, and last time we had some demons."
"They're trying to take out the strengths?" Clay guessed. Genjo and the others nodded. "That figures."
Xander smirked at him. "My people do cross-train with everyone's militaries. When my stepfather was taking over everyone whenever he wanted to visit their countries he made the army train with theirs. It made a lot of them stronger too. Then again, he's the reason my kingdom has so many problems with demons. He summoned them."
"Charming," Roque complained.
"Yeah, it wasn't," Xander said. "But I'm much better."
"Most of the time, yeah," Gregory agreed. "Now and then you show up like you're going to take over but it solves things. I heard how you went to solve things with the knights' kingdom, Xander."
Xander blew a kiss. "They didn't listen to the diplomat I sent so me showing up like the badass I am made them listen and talk. Plus I helped solve an invasion of their palace by their idiot alchemist."
"Why alchemists?" Clay asked. "I thought they did things like raising the dead and dealt with funny chemicals."
"The various types of magic users rolled a few different specialities into the alchemist name," Castiel said. "Then they included them in their academies."
"There's still others type of magic users," Dean agreed. "It's just the ones in the alchemist class that seem to bother us. The last time we had a mage problem, Xander's stepfather captured them and made them sorry in many horrible ways before finally letting their bleeding, slightly mangled body go."
Xander nodded. "He's teaching at the academy by Stella and Mac's place," he agreed. "I sent death announcements up there because I heard about that. That's while I was trapped in a tower." He rolled his eyes. "That way the poor guy wouldn't have to worry about him showing up again anymore."
"That's something I'd do," Castiel said. "How many did you have to write?"
Xander looked at him. "Don't ask. Really, Cas. Just don't ask if you don't already know." Castiel shuddered but nodded. "My father was an evil jackass and I'm only evil when I need to be."
"We've seen other warlords," Clay assured him. "Mostly they're all that bad. Max just has magic on top of it."
"That makes him an extra special asshole to take out," Xander agreed. "We need the bigger weapons." Clay stared at him. "My father had a serious yen to be an engineer," he said with an evil smirk. "He got beaten by them so whenever he could capture one for a bit he made them build his drunken ideas."
"We've got a third of the academy in one of our outbuildings looking them over to see if they can make anything of them," Genjo said. "Including Alan's second son and that son's spouse. They're only halfway through with the building and getting to the more practical things."
Xander nodded. "Mine they looked at and cooed over but the instructors took them to work on." He grinned. "I have good ideas usually."
"Is that why there's a fountain in our moat?" Genjo asked him.
"It's pretty. Plus the people that can ignore there's a moat will notice the fountain so they don't walk into the moat again and possibly drown. Again."
"I take it the options were a fountain or a moat monster from King Aaron's kingdom?" Genjo asked dryly.
"We already have a selkie. She's really happy in our moat. She agreed to hand over any kids that get tossed into it but adults are fair game if they walk into it."
"So the fountain's a second choice. Great," Genjo said dryly. "It's not even a huge moat."
"It's five feet wide and has a huge wall behind it," Gregory said. "I still handled seven drownings in two weeks from idiots who walked into it. And three that got thrown in there by someone else."
Xander nodded. "Did we get that guy who drugged his wife and threw her in?"
"Yup, and the mother who snapped and threw her kids in," Gregory said. "Her the guards caught and beat the living fuck out of her for it while saving the kids. The selkie helped the guards rescue them."
"I like her for that. She's sweet."
Genjo nodded. "I'm sure I'll like her too when I meet her." He used his fan for the original purpose, to cure his overheating moment. "Dean, can you open the windows?"
He looked then sighed. "No, Nailed shut."
"Crap." He kept fanning himself and Xander when he leaned closer, but he did roll his eyes at his husband's antics. "How do we find him?"
"He finds you," Clay said.
"Like that idiot Zemo," Xander said dryly. "Great."
"Who?" Roque demanded.
"Knight General Rogers' people was dealing with a group that was run by an idiot alchemist named Zemo," Genjo said. "He did neat things like revive King Horatio's brother and had Xander poisoned." Xander grinned up at him. That got him smacked on the head with the fan, earning a yelp. "Xander helped break him."
"They were swearing allegiance to an octopus and calling it a hydra," Xander quipped. "I offered to summon the one that King Steve was dealing with so they could swear allegiance in person."
"I wouldn't have minded if you had," Steve admitted.
"No, you wanna do that, go right ahead," Danny agreed with a grin. "Was he part of Zemo's plans?"
"Don't know," Clay admitted. "I never heard anything about a Zemo or a hydra of some sort." He looked at his second-in-command, who shook his head. He looked at the goofy kid. "What did that one poison you with?"
Clay blinked then moaned. "Damn."
"Yup, his second one," Dean agreed. "After two months in a coma-like state...." Clay shuddered. "Gregory has a paper on how to handle it if your people want it."
"Please, just in case. We've only had one case show up in the fifty years we've known about it but it was about ten years ago."
"I wanted to put forward a plan to destroy all those flowers, no matter where they are," Xander said. "Before another one tries it. Next time I might have to turn into an incubus to stay alive."
"I thought most of us eradicated the flowers in our countries," Castiel said.
"Your people are selling them openly," Xander told him. Cas groaned, shaking his head. "One of the military guys tried to hand me one as a joke. His commander caught him first and beat the living fuck out of him." He looked at Dean.
"Bring that before everyone, Xander. I agree, I don't want dosed with that. That'll screw up everything if I am since our kingdom doesn't allow infertile rulers." He looked at Sam, who shrugged. "Have we proven it?"
"Yep," Gregory quipped. "I sure have. He has no active little swimmers and his fluid is actively able to infect someone else with Gentrus poison." He looked at Dean. "He's more dangerous to fuck than an incubus."
"Wow," Dean said, looking at his brother. "Did you know that?"
"Why do you think I use those condom things every single time?" he asked dryly. "Are we really discussing my sexual organs here and now?"
"Sorry, little brother." He looked at the others. "If you guys need us to find your kingdoms an emergency incubus we can do that. Xander keeps one tied up in his prison and lets him sometimes feed on the really stupid ones." Xander nodded.
"An incubus helps?" Clay demanded, looking at Xander.
"Yeah. If you've had the poisoning you have to release it from your blood by sexual contact. Otherwise it grows and you end up dying from it or becoming really sensitive to any touching of any skin. Which makes it worse and then you end up dying eventually."
Clay blinked. "So an incubus could suck that out of you," Roque said. Xander grinned and nodded. "I didn't even think about that use."
"They can also suck out some black magic exposure," Castiel told them. "Which has helped many survivors of it in the past."
"They're also great for post battle stress because they can fix that without the sex if it's inconvenient," Genjo said. "Or you're celibate."
"I didn't think they were for more than fun," Roque said, blinking at them.
"No, they're for fun too," Xander quipped. "They think I'm really hot and nearly as good as chocolate." He grinned. "We need a fan." He wiped off the sweat. "Okay." He got up to open the door and sighed in pleasure. "Someone open the front door and some windows. It's steaming in here," he called.
"King Jethro had the windows nailed shut because we need structural work," the nearest page said. "They're shut until we do the work."
Xander looked at him. "Then open both the front and back doors so we get some breeze?"
"The stables bring in a stink, King Xander. The housekeeper complains."
Xander groaned. "Great. Leave the door open. Make sure no one's eavesdropping."
Xander went to sit back down. Dean was shaking his head. "I say we hold this meeting on the roof. He has a nice flat roof or a tea garden."
"Some of us aren't really tea garden sorts," Roque complained.
"It's next to the river, so it's got to be cooler down there. And if we have to, we can skinny dip for it," Xander said, grinning at him. "We're not formal, stick up the ass sorts in the Joined Kingdoms in case you didn't realize that."
"No, we're not," Genjo said. "Though some of us don't skinny dip either." He glared at his mate.
"You can pull a chair closer, dear." He got swatted with the fan. "Ow!" he complained, rubbing the sore spot. "That's mean."
"Yes, I can be," Genjo said sarcastically.
"It comes from denying yourself everything good in life outside your drinking and cigs," Gregory quipped. "I agree, we need to go to the river. It's *got* to be cooler down there." He flapped his shirt a few times. "Is there a dragon or fire elemental in here?"
Xander went to look and came back nodding. "Fire elemental in the kitchen," he said with a point. "In the oven. It's about fifty feet that way and the vent pipe's in the wall." He pointed.
"River's good," Gregory decided, standing up.
"Let's go down to the river. Those who want to swim can, the rest of us can sit on the bank and talk," Dean agreed. He grinned at Clay. "Xander would be in charge but since he got poisoned we need to have him proved sane and well."
Xander blew a kiss. "Alan would say I've got to prove that most of the time." He ducked the fan swat this time. "Or we can break up the meeting until everyone else gets here and just swim tonight."
"Let's just swim," Dean said. "I'm out of ideas until we get some intel." They all nodded and left. Roque went to get the other two while Clay followed the boys and others to the river area. It was nicely set up with a sitting area, complete with iron tables and lounging couches that were comfortable, and a nice swimming area already marked off by ropes. Most everyone went into the water. Genjo sat on one of the couches enjoying the breeze while talking to Castiel about how to fight this new alchemist. Their mates tended to get way too hurt doing that so they had to take a lot of the work from them.
Dean and Xander were ignoring their husbands' bitchfest and plotting. It was diplomatic of them and made for a less pouty consort.
Clay decided everyone in the Joined Kingdoms were like Jensen, and that was okay enough but it was annoying too. He'd have to put up with it for allies.
Xander walked out of the kitchen that next morning, handing everyone cups of coffee. "Morning. We agreed last night that we'd help Clay with his idiot alchemist problem that got you guys taken." He grinned. "Dean's in charge though because somehow I got poisoned by someone to make me more goofy than usual." He walked off. "Going to the stables to spend time with my kid."
"Sure," Alan agreed, nodding slightly as he sipped his coffee. The others drank but Horatio, who got glared at until he did. "I figure he dosed the coffee with something to make sure none of us were possessed."
"Yes I did," Sam called. "Jethro, when are you fixing the windows? We adjourned the meeting last night to the riverside."
"I knew I let her put in that meeting area down there for a reason," he said dryly as he walked off.
"It's cute and me being happy means I don't play with succuba," Abby quipped with a grin at her spouse's back. "A happy Abby is a content Abby."
"As Speed used to say, happy wife, happy life," Horatio agreed. "Because he could get cranky when he wasn't busy doing something." He walked off. "Let me see who's not here yet."
"Mac and Stella are behind us somewhere snuggling," Abby quipped. "They keep picking on poor Stella." She bounced off. "Let me go check on things so we can hold a real meeting later. Good morning, Consort Roque."
He grunted and nodded. "Everyone back?" he asked between bites of food.
"Mostly. A few are still a bit away. We'll be restarting the meeting properly later."
"Good. The boys are playful."
She smiled at him. "Of course they are. They're boys and demon hunters. Any happies are to be enjoyed because things will get bad again soon." He nodded he understood that. "Let me check on food stuff."
"Why do you have a fire elemental?"
"It likes me." She grinned. "It's sweet and eats my burned cookies." She went to talk to the cook, who was feeding the fire elemental burned bread. "Aww, thank you." She grinned and hugged the older woman. "You're very helpful to my friend Bert."
The cook patted her on the arm. "He's helpful, Queen Abby. I've got lunch planned to be minor nibbling things. We've already dosed the wine for today with holy water, just in case on orders of King Dean."
"That's fine, dear." She grinned. "We could use it anyway." She bounced off. "Let me bathe and change."
"Of course, ma'am."
Roque watched the bouncy, happy queen go, blinking at her energy. She and Jensen were not allowed to hang out together he decided. The world would be bounced into debris.
Xander walked into the stables. "Morning, my daughter." She stared at him. "Where's Cougar?"
"He's at home. He wasn't feeling good."
Xander stared at her then handed her his coffee. She sipped and shrieked but disappeared. "Someone's going to die." He looked at the horses, who were all staring at him. "Huh." He walked off nodding. He summoned something in the practice yard, staring at the higher, yet not very high, demon. "Who. Has. My. Daughter?" he asked calmly and coolly.
"Who?" the demon demanded.
"Amellisame. My daughter."
"She's Alan's daughter."
"She's fostering with him. She's my daughter." He stared at him. "And a healer. When did she disappear and who has her?"
"She's...it wasn't us, King Xander," he said, backing away. Xander pulled his special dagger off his back waistband. "I swear it was not us! She's near here!"
"Was it that idiot Max? Or another demon? Since she had been replaced?"
"Um...I really don't know," he begged. "I don't know! I really, really don't know!" He saw Steve and started to wail. "I had nothing to do with it! I promise. Please!" he begged, falling to his knees.
"Steve, would you please tell Jethro my little girl is somewhere around here but missing?"
"Um, yeah," he agreed, hurrying to do that and sending Sam and Dean to help him.
Sam strolled out, blade in his own hand. "I didn't know *anyone* was that stupid," he admitted, staring at the demon. "To take Xander's little girl. His only child. The one that rides one of Impala's sons." The demon was sobbing on the ground. He glanced at Xander, who was livid. "Am I here to prevent the mess?"
"Steve asked you to help, Sam. I can destroy him myself."
"Sure, I'm here to prevent you from having to clean up a mess." He grinned. "If she's still here, we'll find her. It's not like we have a power point in this castle like in yours."
Xander nodded. "They replaced her with a simaculum."
"So they were going to remove her from the castle later," Sam decided. "Wow. Someone really wanted their whole country destroyed." He nodded once then smiled at the demon. "Who is behind it? I'm sure you've heard rumors at least."
The demon sniffled, staring up at him. "I had nothing to do with any of this! He summoned me!"
Abby came jogging out. "Xander, are you torturing him?" she yelled as she ran.
"Not yet," he called back. "But a demon kidnaped Amellisame and tried to put a golem in her place this morning."
"Oh fuck," she said, stopping her running and staring at them. "No wonder we're searching the castle." She stared at the demon. "Is he behind it?"
"No but I'm pretty sure he knows who is. I just need to know if it's a demon's plan or if it's someone like Max's plan."
"Max wouldn't want her," Sam said. "He hasn't started to come after you yet, Xander."
"Maybe." He glanced at Abby, smiling a tiny bit. The demon moved so Xander threw the blessed dagger at it, killing it. "Let me handle this guy." He winked at her. "Go find my baby girl?"
"Yeah. I can do that and make cookies. It's important after big problems." She ran back inside as fast as she could. "Jethro! We have to find his baby girl before he goes after all the demons and the idiot alchemist! Xander's so cold he's smiling at the fun."
"Fuck," Alan said. "He won't save me any."
Abby stared at him. "They seemed to think they haven't snuck her off yet, Alan. I know she's like your kid or grandkid." She gave him a hug. "You can help Xander dismember the demon he summoned for information."
"I'll do that after I make sure Amellisame's fine." He walked off to help search.
Abby unclenched all the tense muscles, including her butt ones. This was going to be super messy. She heard the 'whoomph' from outside, looking out to see the demon bonfire. There was more than one in there. Yup, Xander was being efficient. She went to search some of the more weird area of the castle. She had explored it when they had first moved her in to protect her and so she could assist Jethro as his secretary. She found the girl locked in a tower, asleep on a bed. "Oh, baby," she cooed, coming over to check on her. "SOMEONE GET ME PRINCESS GREGORY!" she bellowed like Jethro. "I FOUND HER!"
Jethro ran in and looked around. "How did you known this was up here?" he demanded. "This was boarded up when I was a kid."
"I explored when I first moved in." She hefted the baby up. "C'mon, let's go back downstairs since apparently they couldn't find the hidden door." He nodded, following her. Alan took Amellisame from him at the bottom of the stairs. "I think she's just asleep, Alan. I yelled for Gregory."
"He couldn't find the door," he admitted. "Gregory!" He came limping in and took the kid from him to check over. "Is she all right?"
"Just under a sleep hex," he admitted, looking up. Xander and Sam walked in together, Sam behind Xander. "Sleep hex."
Xander looked then nodded and Sam ended it. "That all that's wrong?"
"We can check for demon taint later," Gregory said calmly.
Amellisame woke up and yawned, rubbing her eye. "Daddy Alan, why am I here?" she mumbled, falling back asleep.
Alan blinked, looking at Xander.
"You're doing the job," Xander assured him. "I don't mind, Alan. She should grow up like you and Don anyway. It's better for her and she'll be a better queen."
"True. Do you want first watch over her?"
"I'm going to figure out who had this bad idea," he admitted. "How long has she been without Cougar?"
"Six weeks," Alan said. "He turned an ankle so he can't travel. She's been fire calling him each night to check on him. Except maybe last night. She was pouting in the corner after Gregory yelled at her for using her healing skills against a demon."
"I sent her to be yelled at," Xander admitted. "Because that could've hurt her a lot."
"So far she seems all right. Anyone seen Hakkai?"
"He's on his way up from the river," Genjo said as he joined them. "He spotted another demon and went after it with Goyjo." Goku stomped in and got swatted by Sam to let Xander, Alan, and Gregory nearest to the kid. "Goku," Genjo ordered quietly. "Let the parents do parent things."
Goku nodded. "I hope she's okay. She's nearly as neat as Dawn is but she likes books more." Xander grinned at him. Hakkai hurried in. He squatted down to test her with his own skills, nodding some. Xander relaxed.
"Not demon tainted," he noted. "The sleep hex is wearing off, feels like some herbal encouragement as well. She should be fine, Alan and Xander." They both nodded. "I don't know why they'd want her so hard. Healers aren't as wanted as those who are seers."
"No, she doesn't show that gift," Alan admitted. "I had that tested by Tara's coven."
Xander nodded. "It runs in my mother's family. Hers had a few healers but no seers. Mine got activated by a demon hugging me once during a fair," he said dryly. "I had no idea why but my stepfather threw a huge fit about it."
"It does make you harder to beat," Genjo said quietly. "Will she be fine?" Both healers nodded. "Bed?"
"She can rest on my bed," Alan said.
"We can ward it," Sam agreed. "Plus sit someone with her." They nodded, Gregory getting up with a moan and some help.
"I'll sit with her," Hakkai said. "I can't help much with the current problem but if a demon comes for her I'm multi-talented at killing them."
"Good," Xander agreed. "Alan?"
"That's a good idea," he agreed. He picked her up and carried her to his bed so Sam could ward it with Castiel and Hakkai could set up as her guardian for a few hours.
Sam paused, looking at both parents. "The demon yesterday mentioned the Key. Could they think it's her?"
"They could be that stupid," Xander agreed. "If so, I can sneer about that as I destroy them."
Alan nodded. "I can't help too much with that but I'll gladly help where I can." Xander patted him on the arm with a grin. "I need to teach her what I taught Don about leading a military. Don't I?"
"Yeah," Xander agreed, nodding some. "Some day she may have to lead mine. I'm about to sic a general I know is good enough to teach on her education."
"I'd welcome that," Alan decided. "They have to be stronger than mine." He kissed Amellisame on the forehead then they went to tell the others.
Xander stepped back to consider things going on around them. He knew Clay wasn't at fault for this. There was still some stress there. He went down to call his people. His general blinked back at him once the page had seen it was Xander and went running to get him. "Two things, General Brofton." The general swallowed. "One, some idiot alchemist tried to kidnap my daughter," he said very, very calmly. The general shuddered. "She's safe and fine. I want *everything* we know on this idiot Max."
"He's powerful but your stepfather sneered at him many times, Sire. Are you still in King Jethro's kingdom?" Xander nodded. "We'll send what we can up there tonight by special fast courier. What was the other thing?"
"Some day my daughter may have to lead all of you."
He winced, but nodded. "King Alan's generals are good for what they handle but our army has to stay stronger," he agreed. "I'll pick out someone to advise her."
"To teach her," Xander corrected. "I know very well advisors can be waylaid. I want her to have someone like General Ashton was to me."
"The old bat taught you very well, Sire, and I'll try."
"Also, I've heard the rumors," he said dryly, staring at him. "Stop them before I stop them. I need something to wear this anger out on until I can get my hands on that idiot alchemist."
"Yes, sire." He nodded and backed up. "Have a better day, sire, and I hope she's fine. Amellisame is a great little prince." Xander nodded and the general hung up, calling the others as he went to the military's guard house. "Get the other three in here," he ordered to their military majordomo. "You can warn two of them that the king's heard their rumors too." He walked into their meeting/dinner hall. It was safe back there. They had protocols to make sure they weren't poisoned and attacked.
He settled into the head seat. The others came in, two of them frowning. "Yes, he heard about the rumors you've been spreading. Princess Gregory probably told him," he said bluntly. "He's in an awesome temper today as well, not just because of you two though." The last one came in and shut the door, his guard standing in front of it. "The king called in two notes. One, that idiot Max tried to kidnap his daughter. Amellisame's fine but he's *livid*."
The generals looked at each other and nodded at each other. "We need to fix that problem."
"Interestingly enough, we've heard rumors that they met up with King Clay," one of the new, trouble making, generals said.
"He did demand anything we knew be sent down by courier. He's at King Jethro's for that meeting." The other generals all nodded. "Second, it escaped all our notices that Amellisame is someday going to be our queen, and therefore in charge of the military."
"She's female," one of the new ones said.
"That doesn't matter. This kingdom's been run by queens in the past," one of the older ones said. "Xander's grandmother ran it for nearly ten years between her marriages and we were strong then, if not stronger than usual." He looked at the head general. "We can teach her how to run the military."
"He asked for her to have a tutor like he had with General Ashton."
They considered it then nodded. "The old asshole did the king good," another agreed. "We can figure that out."
"The king pointed out advisors could be turned against you so she'll need to know how to run us herself with some input."
They all nodded. "It's safer," they all agreed.
"What if she marries?" the new idiot one asked. "Wouldn't he want to take over?"
"A consort can never lead the kingdom unless they're a regent," the oldest general said. "Even if King Xander dies, Consort Genjo is only Amellisame's regent. With Princess Sam by what the king said. Consort Genjo doesn't exactly have patience."
"Which is probably better for her in case something happens," the other new general agreed. "That way if something happened, Princess Samuel could handle it while Consort Genjo handled the kingdom. Princess Samuel proved himself very good to us all when he took over for the king while he was repoisoned."
"True," the oldest general agreed. "What're we doing about that idiot Max?"
"He's powerful," another general warned. "Don't be overconfident."
"I'm not but I'm pretty sure our king would go on a vendetta hunt and kill his ass all by himself if no one stops him." He smirked a tiny bit. "He might turn the guy's things against him."
They all considered it then nodded. "Max did do the one thing that is sure to set off the king, touching his daughter. The demons learned after last time. Pity the alchemists haven't."
The oldest general smiled. "You have no idea. I saw the boy the last time he was in a temper like that. Remember that move we had toward Elinius?" That got a nod, though a few looked confused. "The boy fixed that by going behind his back and ruined our whole military at the same time. Didn't kill any of us but turned us all against his stepfather." He stared at one, who realized what he was doing. If that story got out, someone was telling tales out of hand. "He could take us down and out if he had to. Most of us didn't fight when the palace got attacked, we were busy." They all nodded at that, a few smiling. "We did great raising him to be our king. We can do it with his little girl."
"Can a healer fight?" one asked.
"Yup. I've seen Princess Gregory with a foil. She can if she trains it. She's got a few years before she goes into hard healer training. She does good with her horse too."
"King Xander still trains our warsteeds," one agreed. "He's got a lot of work with the new crop."
"Princess Samuel joked that some fertility goddess showed up to pet the mares," one of them said dryly. "I think he may be right. We have nineteen foals so far this year." The others all nodded. "Maybe she'll learn from him about training them. She did good with Cougar and Princess Charlie's consort helping her."
"She's almost exactly like her father but doesn't have his temper," one of them said. "Thankfully."
They all smiled and got down to taking down information they knew for certain and any rumors they had heard. They'd ask the others later and make sure Max didn't have anyone in their ranks.
Dawn got the message from Xander's kingdom, staring at it. She grimaced, walking out to show it to Buffy. She held it up and let her sister snatch it. "Is the use-by date gone past?" Buffy asked her. Dawn nodded. "Can you be used in other ways?"
"Maybe." She walked out, heading down into town. She was sure that someone down there was looking for Max's information. She walked up to one she knew was a real bard who sold information. "Has there been anything written about me being chased by Glorificus?" she asked.
"What?" he asked. "Prince Dawn, who is that?"
"A hell goddess that meant I had to be guarded while Buffy was off fighting up north."
"Um..." He looked. "I haven't heard of anything written about that subject but I'll gladly look for you, Prince Dawn."
She smiled. "Thanks. I want to see how right they got it. Because if it's too right they got into classified information and we need to know why and how. We think there's a new idiot alchemist trying things just past King Steve's islands."
"Huh. I'll gladly ask the other bards for you, Prince Dawn."
She pinched his cheek with a smile. "Thank you, dear. I'm escaping my sister cooing at the new diplomatic soldiers so I'll be in town for a bit longer." She strolled off.
The bard closed his cart and went to talk to the others in town. Only one knew anything about that situation and he didn't know that much that he'd say. One of the junior bards in the kingdom was trying to make his first story about both their prince and queen going off to fight menaces but he didn't know more than why they had. There had clearly been battles. Queen Buffy came back with people from another military and Prince Dawn had shown up with Sanzo kingdom guards who trained her daily. So something huge had happened. The bards called a few others he knew in other kingdoms, getting a larger story. Which he did slip to that one junior bard. They'd need someone to replace them some year, might as well make sure they had the skills now.
Prince Dawn came back that night with a few new tidbits having been found. She paused in the dining hall, staring at her sister. "Someone spread that the event happened, that *she* was going after someone, but they thought it was Amellisame. I've subtly pointed out it was me if you know what you're looking for. Oh, and a tiny bit of the story about why you have new friends down got out. Not a whole lot. All they know is there had to have been a battle. Though there's rumors that Queen Stella is telling one of the bards in her kingdom to help him get a good start."
Buffy shook her head, sipping her wine. "Great." Dawn grinned at her. "Did you eat?"
"Yeah, I was in town at the pub. I talked to a lot of people. They're worried about field strength again so I suggested they ask one of Tara's coven to come check the planting fields this fall so they could bury whatever they needed to rest all winter."
"That's good. Any other problems?"
"We have umpteen billion bards in town and that's because they're expecting huge news out of you, Sister. Not a wedding because they're sure they won't hear that sort of news." She strolled off. "A few asked when I was getting married but I pointed out there weren't that many who were worthy of me out there."
"You're not to have the sex anyway," Buffy called after her. "Even if you are married."
"Shut up before I go pounce some people like you have."
"Hey!" The military guys laughed but she pouted. Her word was law and Dawn was to stay a virgin.
That one bard that sold information made a fire call to a contact he had down south, staring at the cloaked face. "I have some information that Max would want since he's incorrect about who the Key is. I know he was looking for it."
"Who?" the figure asked.
"Payment." A bag was dropped next to him on the table. "Prince Dawn was the Key. She was the one that a hell goddess was going after for her extra power." The figure nodded once, seeming to almost grimace in the shadows that hid his face. "That's why she's got guards and is in training. My queen went up north to fight in some battle up there but Prince Dawn got hidden by a coven and was overprotected by everyone. Including being chased by some sort of knights after a marriage meeting event."
"Interesting. Max will be pleased."
"You might want to warn him that pissing off King Xander about his daughter is deadly," he noted. "King Xander may be young but he's not nice. He's the one that took down Zemo's people with those knights."
"He's of no concern to Max," that figure sneered.
"Max tried to take his daughter thinking she was this Key thing. He's now a concern of King Xander's."
"That king can change hands."
"If you're certain. I wouldn't be." He hung up, going to his cart to get ready for the night. That bag of money would be sent to him or he'd curse that guy again. They'd had that talk once before. He avoided the poisoned food and drink Max had sent at him this time so he couldn't tell anyone else. He looked up with a smirk. "If you kill me, the first person who touches my things will get told. I've already laid that curse. Even if you burn it all, the ones who come to put out the fire will hear. And if not, I'll simply send my spirit back to talk to someone. I'd be bored in the afterlife." The poisons disappeared.
Xander listened to the new news that he had gotten from a bard, nodding. "Thank you. Any idea where these people are?"
"No, sire," the bard said quietly, staring at her king's feet. Xander tipped her face up. "We know not where he is. He is said to never appear to any but he has seconds-in-command who do things for him."
"Wise of him. Thank you." He paid her. "Be safe." She nodded and ran off. Xander went into the meeting room, nodding at Alan, who stared at him. "Go ahead, I'm digesting new information."
"Who was the messenger?" Dean asked him.
"A bard." He grinned. "Dawn laid an information trap to get the idiot away from my little girl."
"Good," Alan agreed. "So whatever reason he wanted her is actually Dawn?" Xander nodded. "The same reason?" Xander smirked and nodded. "Excellent. Then what?"
"Then I got told that almost no one's seen this person. He's got seconds-in-commands."
"If he can find a way to make them stay loyal it's an ideal protective solution," Clay agreed. "But you can usually break those loyalties."
Xander nodded. "Yes you can." He looked at Roque, who glared back. He stared at him. He grinned. "We can draw out an attack. Or you can go hunting," Xander told Clay.
"Hunting I can do. We have been. Drawing out an attack hasn't worked."
"He wants you dead, Clay. If he knew you had to be publically visible and out in the open for at least a little while, would that work?"
"Maybe. But we don't have anything like that."
"So hold a marriage," Dean said. "Or a vow renewal."
"We're not married," Roque said. "It's not allowed among our people. Our military would kill us."
Xander nodded. "Perhaps. How many of them are in Max's debt?"
"Probably at least half," Clay admitted.
"So start binding vows among teams." Xander stared at him. "Nothing like 'I'll be with you forever' but something along the lines of 'I will not break from my team' or something like that. That way if they turn on you it'll be noticeable when they get injured from it."
"Might still happen but it'd be part of a plan," Clay said. "Thinking ahead of time we could word it so that wouldn't violate it. Do those actually work?"
Genjo nodded. "Depends on how you do it. If you want one that'll visibly punish the ones that break it, then I'd get a few types of priest to do one. Otherwise it's just a swearing of a vow like you did to your military commanders."
Knight General Rogers walked in and nodded at everyone. "They all okay?"
"That Max guy tried to step into Alchemist Zemo's shoes and lost. Hard." He sat down. "He lost three of his top people to that."
"How many does he have?" Clay asked.
"No idea," he admitted. "I can share what we got later on if you want."
"Please." Rogers nodded. He looked at Xander. Who smiled and handed over the notes his military had sent. Clay looked through them. "Not a lot we didn't know but a few things we had hints of." He stared at one then at Xander, who stared back. "How sure?"
"Bard given rumors. They heard it somewhere and no one's sure of the originating source."
Clay nodded. "That's something to figure out." He let Rogers have it and he nodded as he handed it back. "You heard?"
"Yup. One of the new prisoners noted it."
Xander looked at Genjo. "I'm a priest in name only," he noted dryly. "I can do it but it might not be as strong as a regular priest. Me or Castiel doing it wouldn't have the same force."
"We have three priests in town," Abby said. "One's a Sanzo priest of the pretty lotus flower crown people. He wanted a visit, Genjo."
"I can do that." He looked at Clay. "If you wanted to try that with your present team?"
"Could," he agreed. "They'd agree and we'd get Jensen on the way home."
Buffy smiled at him. "One of the soldiers I hang out with remembered him." She had just barely gotten there before the meeting started again.
"He's from up that way by what I've heard," Clay agreed dryly. "He talks a lot too but hardly ever says anything."
"Yeah, that's because they're not supposed to tell about what they've seen," she agreed. "I get a lot of that then remind them I saw the things too." Clay smirked at her. "It was freaky fighting on another realm. Especially since that one was a really hot jungle and this end of the portal was snow covered."
"We had fun," Xander quipped, smirking at her. "At least things are going to get nicer."
"True. My nobles' council likes the military guys I'm not going to be marrying and said if one showed up who was marriage material they'd celebrate that. By the way, Dawn's to stay a virgin prince, people."
Xander snorted. "Are you sure she's still one?" She gaped in horror. Xander stared back. "Things come for virgin witches, Buffy. They have rituals for that. Plus it'd taint that little blood problem she has so it's less useable."
"You're just uptight because she's your sister," Xander said bluntly. "If she was a brother..."
Buffy slumped but grimaced and nodded. "I wouldn't care if she was a boy. I guess."
"Thanks." Amellisame walked in and went to Alan to sit on his lap. Hakkai walked in and nodded at Genjo, handing over a note before leaving. "Thank you, Hakkai," Xander called after him.
Amellisame looked at her father. "You're going to be evil, aren't you?"
"You sure bet I am since he tried to kidnap you." He stared at her. "Is Cougar all right?"
"I called him earlier. They bring him to the kitchen to talk so he can nibble veggies while I talk to him. He's fine. His hoof's nearly healed. Though he's getting cranky for some reason and glared at me."
"He's about old enough to want to start having foals," Xander said. "It does it to all of us sometimes."
"Oh. That nasty stuff," she muttered, shaking her head. "Okay then we'll figure it out. He'll come back?"
"Probably. You can ask Impala," Dean said. "She's in the barn."
"I could do that. Do I need guards?"
"Um, yeah," Xander quipped with a grin for her. He got a hug when she walked near him. "I want you to be safe. That's why I'm making the generals teach you how to do great things that way too." She nodded with a grimace. "It's one of the jobs if you take over the crown, dear."
"I know but it sucks."
"Then marry a warrior who'll help you." He stared at her. "You have to learn it and use it when you must." She nodded. "The same as you're starting bigger self defense lessons just in case this idiot alchemist tries for you again."
"I can do that, Daddy. Thank you." She kissed him on the cheek. She kissed Genjo on the cheek too. "Thank you for lending me Hakkai too." She got down and straightened out her t-shirt and jeans on the way outside. "Goku, I'm going to the barn to talk to Impala," she called.
He followed, shaking his head. "You could've had some of the other guards."
"I know, I was just telling you that." She gave him a look. "I have to learn icky military stuff."
"Yup, because if you're the queen you'll have to run your dad's military. And possibly train your kids to fight demons."
"Yuck." He laughed but patted her on the back. "I know. It's all the life that a prince must live." She walked into the barn, noticing a few horses shied away from them. She stared at one. "I'm not mean." Goku backed off. Still away from her. "Huh." She frowned, going to Impala, who laid her ears back. "I've been a good girl. I haven't hurt anyone but that one demon. So why do I stink to you?"
Impala faded to her elemental form and sniffed her then nudged her on the chest and returned to normal horse form. "Am I tainted?" The horse nudged her again. "I wish you could tell me like Cougar did with the thought stuff." Impala rested her head against hers and showed her. "Huh. I'm marked by a demon. Is that why Cougar's hoof isn't healing very fast? He chipped it in the field." Impala nodded. "I've got of fix that. Is it older or from when they tried to kidnap me?"
Goku went to the pages. "Go find King Xander." He ran off. Goku went back to guard this little prince.
Xander, Genjo, and Castiel walked in. "She said I'm marked, Dad. Somewhere on my chest."
Castiel walked her off to see if he could find it with Genjo's help. Xander looked at Impala. "How is she marked?" She showed him. "Mother fucker. No, she can't do that. It's my job until I get banished as a ghost." She stared at him. He stared back. "It is." He walked outside and took the chalk Genjo carried to mark something on the ground, staring at the demon. "Unmark my daughter. Even if she's the queen some day the blood bindings on my kingdom are mine and mine alone. She'll never have to update them." The demon stared at him. Xander stared back. "Really. Take it off. Before I lose my temper. It's already pretty high. And do you know anything about that alchemist named Max?"
"He's going to taint her so your protections go down."
"He can't do that. I rebuilt them with my blood with one of Castiel's kin."
The demon blinked at him. "That means you'd be there."
"Yes I will be." He smirked. "I'll get to see all my generations of kids." The demon shuddered. "Now, remove it. Please. And tell Max what I said. If he wants me that much, he can come for me. Otherwise he's a coward. A stupid one at that." The demon shrank down. "Now please." He reached over and took the mark off her. Impala strolled out and checked then glared at the demon until it fully removed everything. Then she nuzzled the girl and let her run inside. Xander smirked at the demon. "Be a messenger. It'll save your life." It fled. He looked at Genjo. "I'm going to be totally unethical."
"That's fine. Don't bring home anything like an STD." He lit up and stared at his mate while he smoked. "Don't make me clean up your mess."
"Do you need a minion?"
"Not yet. You could use a few. Maybe." He took another drag. Impala glared at him. "I'm not in the barn. I know better than to smoke in a barn, Impala." She snorted but nuzzled Castiel before going back inside. Amellisame was petting every horse and doing their mane brushing for now.
Xander grinned. "Let me go find that out."
"Figure out the one problem first," Genjo ordered. Xander nodded, walking back inside to report that. Alan was livid. It was making Don hide in fear of his ass being beaten. It wasn't going to get pretty. Genjo looked at Castiel. "How can we deal with this?"
"The demons need to give up," he noted. He scuffed the markings until they faded and then went back to help Amellisame with the horses. Genjo went to talk to his team. That way they could hide from the upcoming evilness Xander would be using.
That night, Xander knocked on Clay's door, nodding at him to walk with him. "I have two points of information you may not have," he said once they were on the roof. "One, they have someone who trained near you or worked with you as his second-in-command. Named Wade?"
"Wade's a psycho," he said. "He enjoys it."
"Okay. Second, yeah, he's turned." He held up the contract. Clay snatched it to look at, growling. "I had to pay off a former concubine who made the mistake of drawing Max's attention." He flipped it over to let him see the drawing. "She wasn't great."
Clay stared at the picture then nodded. "Okay." He looked at him. "Thank you."
"He's gonna pay and pay damn hard, Clay. Even if you don't handle it."
"I can and will. It's our lives he's playing with."
"One of the seers in my kingdom said beware of the witch Aisha who isn't fully on your side. She's on her own. She'll take your whole team once she's taken down Max."
Xander grinned. "Yup, and mean. She's waiting on you to come back."
Clay nodded. "I can handle that."
"You can send your team, outside that one, up to me to guard. I've helped them before. That way they're not caught. I heard one's got a kid, Clay. I'm not that sort of leader."
"I can do that," he agreed. "Thanks."
"Not a problem. I'd hate to lose more steady, straight influences that could help hold the world steady if we have another demon invasion that my mate has to handle."
"Yeah, if it comes down to that, they're hurrying to you."
He nodded. "I'll leave Aisha alone for you to handle if you want. But if Max steps foot this way, he's ours."
"Agreed." He shook his hand. "Any idea how he's moving around?"
"He has a hidden house. You've heard of genie bottles?" Clay nodded. "He has something like that only it's to hide him. One of his minions always has it. Almost none know what it is, just that it's important. It's hard to break but it can be done."
"Wade has it most often. Apparently Max gives him his fix."
"We can take out Wade."
"You hope," Xander corrected. "He has Jensen."
"Yup. Though." He grinned. "Let me do something kinda evil." He pulled out something he usually carried these days, rubbing the small bauble. A form faded into view. "I wish for his teammate Jensen to be here and to be listed as a guard for my daughter Amellisame until she's of age to handle it herself." The genie moaned. Xander grinned. "Please?"
"Fine." He summoned him and the guy who was touching him. Clay killed that one. Xander put the bauble back into his pocket while he worked on the new guy's chains. Xander looked at the still hanging around genie. "You needed to be there?"
"Yup. To make it so he can find her."
"Amellisame?" he called quietly. She was down the tower from them and slept with a window open all the time. Jensen was drawn to hug her.
She stared at him then concentrated and healed him. "That's mean of someone." She looked at her father. "Who's he?"
"He's one of Clay's guys. As you get older, he's going to be teaching you military things from their people. Whenever he's around, he's your guard."
She blinked then smirked at him. "Sneaky, Daddy."
"And slightly evil in the name of good." He smirked back. "Take him down to clean up."
Jensen stood up. "Who're you?"
"He thinks you're an annoying flea."
Xander grinned. "I know. He's wrong though." Jensen shivered. "Go with my little girl please. Just...accept it for now. It'll only matter when you're close enough."
"Thanks for the rescue." He looked at Clay. "Wade had me."
"I heard. That's why he had you summoned."
"Huh. How?" he asked Xander. Who pointed at the genie. "Wow. That's....wow." He walked the kid off. "C'mon, before you have to see nasty things. You're too young for that."
Clay smirked at the younger king. "You're a smartass."
"Yes I am." He looked at the genie. "I wish we had Wade and Max's other top minions in the brig right now. And all the traitors he's turned in the Joined Kingdoms with them."
"Yes, sir," he sighed. "Can't you give me hard things?"
Xander grinned. "You can ask Genjo if he'll wish to help him find something." The genie went to do that. Hakkai would freak out but yay. He grinned at Clay. "Shall we?"
They went down to see them as they appeared. Clay pointed. "Separate that one out. He's a killer. So is the blond." They struggled but got them out and to separate cells. The others were all taken up by quite a few people. Some bards. Some military people. A few advisors. King Steve's personal majordomo. A good haul. Especially when Roque came flying out and landed in a cell. Clay stared at him.
Xander patted him on the back and went for a walk to give him time. He knocked on Alan's door, getting Don. "I used my little genie I found when I was younger to help with both things. Jensen's one of Clay's guys. He's military. He's protective yet fun by what I've been told. He'll like to play with her and go on long rides. So when he's near her she's being guarded by him by the wish to save him." Don groaned. "She's fine. She healed most of his injuries and walked him off." He grinned. "He's got a niece about her age." He walked off to talk to Jethro. The guards glared at him. "I just filled your brig." He reached between them to knock, getting Abby. "Jethro in the shed?" he asked her. She nodded. "I can go find him there."
"What did you do?"
"I used my little genie to wish your brig full." He grinned as he walked off. She moaned and went back to bed. That was a Jethro job. He found him in the brig house again. "I used a wish with my little genie."
Jethro looked at him. "I heard. That one guy?"
"Clay's youngest team member."
"He's got a niece her age," Clay said. "He's good with kids and he's super protective of them. Plus he can teach her a lot of stuff. Jensen's really bright but bouncy."
"So's Abby," Jethro agreed.
"If he wasn't blond, I'd say they were related," Clay said dryly. "She healed most of his injuries."
"That's strong for someone her age." He looked at Xander. "Hakkai?"
"Probably. Or Gregory. She knows to let one of them check her workings." Jethro nodded. "Sorry to fill your brig."
"No, I want them out of the way. This is a good way to do that. That way he can't try again." Clay handed over that note. "From?" he asked.
"One of my former concubines." Xander grinned. "She was kinda vanilla in bed but I guess he's not that creative or good with what she complained about with that note. She said he was boring in bed. She hadn't had to squeal and didn't believe that women needed pleasure."
"Great, one of them," he said dryly. He looked at the picture on the back, then smirked, handing it back. "Great." He stood up. "Let my people know if you need help, Clay. Be damned if I want their sort around my kingdom. They might make Timmy mean." He walked off with Xander following him. He looked at Xander. "Genie?"
"Yeah. I tripped over him when I was twelve. I talked him out of changing places with me too. He's kinda bored now and then so I let him play sometimes. Usually small things so he keeps in practice. He's nagging Genjo to use him to do something more exciting."
"We'll ignore him beating you in the morning," Jethro said dryly, going up to his suite.
Xander went to his own. Genjo was glaring at him but Xander blew a kiss. "He's bored, sweetie." He went to his own room and locked himself in before Genjo could think about grabbing his fan or any other weapon.
"I'd kill him but I'd have to take over," Genjo complained. "Where's Hakkai? I need a headache potion."
"Hopefully she's checking what Amellisame healed," Xander said from his safe area. It didn't have a good bed but he had given that to Genjo anyway. He usually did.
Genjo glared at that door then laid back down. "Fine. Begone, genie." It fled back to the bauble in Xander's pocket. He huffed and seethed. He'd get his husband in the morning. When he wasn't as self protective. Hakkai came in. "She do okay?"
"She missed a few deeper injuries but she healed all the superficial things. Very strong healing at her age. Jensen's a lot like Goyjo but got a darker bit to him so he's like Goyjo and Xander had a kid."
"Don't say that with a genie around," Genjo said blandly.
"It's usually in his pocket." He went to his own mat to sleep for now.
Genjo huffed but seethed the rest of the night. He was going to smite his mate yet not kill him so he didn't have to take control of the kingdom yet.
Knight General Rogers looked at Xander the next day before the convergence meeting. "A genie?" he asked. Xander nodded. "Why didn't you stop other bad things with it?"
"Like magic, using a wish is a strong, expensive weapon. Using the genie is for the biggest problems."
"I can see that. Not doing things the easy way is better anyway." Xander nodded. "Is that guy all right?"
"I hope so." He grinned. "Whenever they're near each other he's her appointed guardian and tutor. So if she's kidnaped down that way he'll realize it."
"I hadn't thought about that benefit," Clay said as he walked in looking like hell. "That idiot was worse than an octopus with all his suckers and legs into everything." He got himself some coffee and settled in his seat.
"I have no idea who brought the coffee," Steve warned. "I know we're all a bit paranoid."
Clay sniffed it and nodded. "If it's poisoned at least I'll get a nap. I'll let Princess Gregory nag me for a few months."
"He won't be the only one," Pooch said as he leaned in. "Jensen's well enough to follow her to the stables."
"My daughter's a bit horse centric," Xander said with a grin. "So am I actually. I train all our warsteeds."
Pooch nodded. "That's so weird." Xander blew a kiss but Pooch walked off shaking his head.
Xander grinned at Clay, who was shaking his head but smiling. "You okay?"
"Yeah, I need a nap but I'm good. I haven't told the others yet."
"That's cool. Your team your rules," Xander said. "As long as I don't need to set up another tent in Wayfaira woods."
Steve shuddered. "I heard about that, Xander."
"He earned it," he quipped with a smirk. "You can use my woods to punish someone too if you need to."
"We'll just kill them, thanks," Steve said. "None of ours would've had that history of torturing and being such an asshole."
Genjo walked in and glared at his husband then at Steve. "If you do, remember to add tenting material so they don't sunburn." He sat down, staring at his spouse. "You missed breakfast."
"No I didn't. I ate with Gregory to talk about Amellisame's healing last night."
"Ah." He nodded once then hauled off and hit Xander with the fan. His husband yelped. "I'm going to beat you to death later, Xander."
"I'm sure you and Sam will have a lot of fun taking over for me," he quipped.
"Fat chance. I won't let you die yet. We have Hakkai to help with that." Xander chuckled, hugging him. "I'm going to get you."
"Your people did order that one artifact found, dear. That would've let you have a map."
Genjo stared at him. "Being cutesy won't help you any." Xander rolled his eyes. "Really." He swatted him again.
Stella walked in. "Don't beat him in front of us. You know news will get back to your parents about that."
"They'll think I was depossessing him again," Genjo said dryly. "He sent a genie to me to see if I'd like a wish about an artifact we're all supposed to be looking for."
"Awww, that was sweet of him," Stella said with a smile. "Why did you find a genie, Xander?"
"I found it when I was twelve, demonic whore." He smirked. "You're not Stella. She'd never flash that much cleavage." The demon huffed and changed form. "What did you want, dear?"
"You're a threat, human."
He grinned. "Thank you."
"Your whole line is a threat."
Xander laughed. "Even if you take me out, the bindings on my kingdom are with me forever." She stared. He stared back. "You always underestimate humans. Why would I want to saddle my kid with having kids?" She shrieked and tried to attack him but his protections repelled her. "Hmm, look at that. Research did teach me a lot." He stared at her. "Anything else you wanted today? Considering the prophecy that said killing any with a true healing gift would get you all destroyed?" The demon glared at him. He stared back. "Yup, I read that too. It was in the old tower."
He grinned. "So, anything else you wanted to talk about today? We have to figure out how to take out a problem. You could go help him to annoy us but we have plans for that anyway." He batted his eyes at her. "You know, I could start taking real concubines in." Someone threw in a pretty ceramic box. Clay caught it and handed it to Genjo when he held out a hand. Genjo chanted before the demon realized what it was, sucking her into it. "Bye now. Have fun in there!" Xander waved as the top was put on and it was sealed. He grinned at his spouse. "It's nice that we've countered all but maybe three ways they could come at the kid."
"It is," he agreed. "I didn't know any of those though, Xander."
"I left you a scroll."
"Hakkai, did you take the scroll with Xander's cracked in the skull ideas?" he called.
"Yes. I was hoping it was a fever dream," Crowley said as he appeared, staring at Xander. "That's mean, dear."
Xander blew a kiss. "Thank you." He grinned. "Anything else or do you have new plans? Because I had visions about the plots against my daughter."
"No," he said, shaking his head. "Those ones who had plots are gone now for some strange reason," he said sarcastically. He nodded at Dean and Castiel as they stomped in. He looked at Xander again. "We can make a pledge to not get near your daughter."
"Why would we trust a demon?" Dean demanded.
"We really would get no benefit from going near her," Crowley admitted. "It's not in our plans and it'll be her grandchildren that'll be the ones who need to know how to hunt." He stared at Xander. "You could be less paranoid."
"Then again I could be fighting another idiot alchemist. How many more are there?"
"Yeah, we knew about him. We're dealing with him."
Crowley stared at him. "Already?"
"He tried for Amellisame. Thought she was the Key."
"That stupid human. He can't use it anyway," he pointed out. He rubbed his forehead with a sigh. "I have stupid minions." He looked at Xander. "We do not want your child. Can you please be less paranoid."
"For not wanting to go near her, Max and some of yours have," Genjo said dryly.
"Point but those of us with real power wouldn't want to. We'll be instructing the others later today for their stupidity before I get a migraine." He looked at Sam then at Xander. "You're not guarding your friend."
"Sam has guards, including himself," Sam noted with a grin and a wave. "I don't care what whoever wants."
"Sam gets possessed and I'll screw the demon out of him," Xander said bluntly. "Not like they have good stamina."
Crowley looked at him. "Wow," he decided, nodding. "We're not going to bother any of you for a few more years. All right? Calm down, have some more kids so your lineage continues into the future?"
"Of course. Amellisame might not want the throne. We're already trying with our surrogate. Because neither of us want to use that spell to knock ourselves up."
Crowley stared at him. "I thought we destroyed all the copies of that spell."
"My mother has one," Genjo said. "She's sworn up and down she was going to use it."
Crowley looked at him then at Xander. "If so, you carry it. It'll protect it more." He waved a hand around. Then frowned. "How on earth?" he muttered, looking at his hand. A female cleared her throat from the doorway. "Abigail?" She smiled and nodded. "Why are you here?"
"This is my kingdom. I'm Jethro's wife."
He blinked. "Huh." He nodded. "I was trying to cure the paranoia."
"If any of you get near that sweet little girl I'm going to mentor, I'll make sure I have a daughter to carry on that curse," she said with a smile.
"That spell would allow you to knock up Jethro," Xander offered with a grin.
"He'd look cute. All fat and round and comfy feeling." She grinned back. Then at Crowley. "Is this Max guy one of yours?"
"No, I don't want stupid or psychotic minions. They take too much work to oversee," he said blandly.
"Cool. Can we have him then?"
"It'd cause a huge problem if I summoned him right now. He's trying to blow up everyone."
"Send me there to fix it," Clay ordered.
"Better yet, send me," Xander offered with a grin. "Or one of the minions that you turn. There's plenty in Abby's brig."
Crowley looked that way and looked smug. "I've been wanting to turn Wade into one of us. Let me use him since he'll lead a prison breakout. An unneeded favor as long as you calm down."
"Sure. I'll quit searching for the ultimate anti-demon weapons."
The demon shuddered and disappeared. Wade as a demon would have more power, and more fun, but wouldn't be allowed anywhere near any of these kingdoms. The price of his change was Max's dead body. He stared at Wade, snapping a contract into being. "Do you want to join me for real power?" Wade moved closer to look at the contract. "I can give you power to get nearly anywhere."
Wade looked it over. "I can't go home, can't get up here, and have to kill Max for eternal life of having fun?" he asked dryly. "What's the catch?"
"The catch is actually Max. We were going to recruit you before but I hate minions like him." He stared at him. "You could go far up the hierarchy, Wade. Or you could die in here." Wade dripped blood on the contract. A demon flowed up to take him over, changing him. "Go get Max's head for me," he ordered. "Then we'll show you places you can have fun."
Wade smirked and went to do that for him. He hated losing his old boss but this was real power and strength, and he'd get to do it forever. It didn't take that long and Max's head was presented to Clay by Wade, who smirked before disappearing.
Clay looked at it. "Huh. The drawing wasn't that far off."
Abby got a pillow to put it on. "So it quits bleeding on my table." She smiled at Jethro. "He was a brutal human-demon anyway, dear."
"All he lacked was the magic," Clay agreed. "Pooch!" He leaned in a minute later. "Here, have a Max head. We'll build a shrine or something for him when we get home."
"Sure." He took the pillow to look at, grimacing. "Eww." He carried it off. "Jensen, don't let the kid see this."
"Gladly." He looked while covering her eyes. "Yeah, that's him. Or the guy who said he was Max anyway."
"Good. Clay said we're building a Max head shrine in some room when we get home."
"Great," he agreed. "Sure, we'll paint it pretty colors." Pooch went to pack it in a bag full of straw so anything that dripped out would be absorbed and not spook the horses. Jensen walked Amellisame off to teach her more things. At least Xander had given him a neat prince to play with. She liked toys too.
Alan looked at Xander. "Don't have more kids," he ordered.
"Sorry, have to have some in case Amellisame doesn't want the throne. Our surrogate's already pregnant. The portents from the priests in town say twins. Gregory said a single."
Alan sighed, shaking his head. "Great. Maybe they'll be sane?"
"She'll have a lot of the raising duties," Genjo assured him.
"So she'll be sane," Horatio agreed. "Good." He looked at Alan. "It's been mentioned a few times recently that someday soon Xander will be in your seat."
Alan nodded. "That's his right."
"We don't allow females," Horatio said.
"Nor am I a woman," Xander shot back, glaring at him. Horatio stared at him. "I'm really not a female. Did you need to check?"
Horatio shook his head. He didn't want Xander to be mad at him. There was no telling how the boy would retaliate any putdown. "No. But I would suggest that we save him that stress by allowing queens who have sense to hold the seat, Alan. Stella would do very good."
"Technically we don't allow any consorts to take the throne," Stella said. "Which would make me ineligible. It'd let Buffy do it though."
"I'd freak," Buffy said.
"I kept having brain freezes," Dean told her. "Can't do any worse."
"You did fine, Dean," Xander promised. "You got things organized so we can move on from that point. It's experience."
"True, it is," Alan agreed. "You don't have to do a lot of just ruling, Dean. You spend more time hunting than being the king. Just like your father did. Which is okay but some kingdoms would fall apart." Stella nodded. "By the time you take this seat for real, you'll probably be too old to hunt."
"Maybe," Dean agreed. "I hope." He looked at Horatio then at Xander, patting him on the arm. "I'll take pointers from the guy who handles emergencies."
Xander grinned at him. "Thanks."
"Welcome, Xander." He looked at Alan. "I wouldn't mind but a few rulers would have a problem. I'm thinking Pelgar's whole line."
Alan nodded. "It's been noted he's talking to invisible people who live in the walls." He looked around. "Rothsmason's people would be after Xander."
Xander raised a hand. "Pelgar's taking them over soon. He's already decided to invade to spare his people and to bring his prior subjects back. My generals sent that up with the other information. He's already moving over. Not sure how that'll work out for the ruling family since it's where one sister split off from the family over an argument about her womb."
Alan frowned. "I didn't remember why they split." Xander dug out the notes to hand over. "That's handy. Are you bothering with it?"
"No, we're upping our border but letting any fleeing civilians through. We allow refugees."
"Good," Alan said, handing those to Mac, his second-in-command. "We can watch for that. Their nobles?"
"Won't be coming to me," Xander assured him. "Even if they had to. They loathe me for many reasons, including the fact that I call them on their bullshit regularly when they whine at us about something. I've told the generals that they're allowed to let them slip past to go somewhere like yours or Cas's people but we're not harboring any but very young nobles from there due to their attitude problems. We'll gladly take in civies but not their nobles." He snapped. "Some of Pelgar's nobles have been going around to convert people to their homegrown religion. I kicked a few of them out for yelling at a town who wouldn't listen to his ideas."
"We can all up our borders near them," Alan agreed. "Does anyone feel uneasy taking in refugees?" No one said anything. "Does anyone not like the idea to make them keep it inside their own borders?" No one said anything but Stella shook her head. "Good. Then let's watch the borders and force it back if they try. I doubt he can be like Xander's former stepfather but we don't need that sort of stress. Buffy, I know they share your border."
"I ordered mine closed to them unless it was normal people fleeing the stupid," she said bluntly. "I'm not getting in the middle of that mess. They may have been Mom's friends but I barely stand it when they show up for an official visit. I get sneered at because I'm a woman, because of my age, because I don't do their religious stuff, because I don't wear way too much clothes like they do, all that stuff. I've refused any new visits because I'm busy doing things. Which they sneered at because apparently I'm only supposed to sit on my butt listening to people who make it up to me to complain."
"That's fine," Stella assured her. "I'd have sent back a note about why they weren't allowed over for a visit again so they don't just show up without warning."
"My border guards there *know* not to let them through. There's another road an hour further on and they can use that one. I don't like either of those people because they both sneer at me."
Xander patted her on the shoulder. "It'll be okay. They were raised to sneer at everyone not them. That's why they're being overthrown."
She nodded. "Good. Might make their people happier." She looked at Alan. "I'm not against taking in normal people. Their nobles, even the tiny ones, I'd rather pass on."
"Agreed," he noted. He made notes. "Anyone who is willing to take in any of the nobles if they have to flee?"
"They can show up in my kingdom but I'm not doing fancy things for them and they'll be expected to settle in and act like my people," Stella told him. "They'll be like anyone who has money who moves in."
"Agreed," Alan said, making notes of that. "Horatio?"
"I'd rather not. They're the ones we'd have hunt down for various crimes. If they're young and show up to go to school, I'm fine with that."
Alan nodded, taking that down. "Dean?"
"No way in hell. They all sneer at me. They hate us for being more than sitting there looking pretty sorts. Even their kids are snotty little bastards. They push them out being snotty as far as we can tell." Castiel laid a hand on his wrist, staring at him. "If they show up to go to school maybe," he decided, getting a nod. "I'd never let a kid suffer, Alan, but if they cause problems they're going to be sent away."
"Fine. That's reasonable. I've heard their parents sneering at you and Sam in the past. The same as I've seen them doing it at Xander." Xander nodded. "Is anyone willing to take in adults?" No one said anything. "Some of them could be quietly inhabiting a house."
"One of the tried to move into an empty one that has an orphaned heir," Genjo said dryly. "We had to send the military to make them move because they claimed it was free for the taking. Xander sent word that they either left or he'd help that heir rebuild her family home after we burned those idiots in it." Xander nodded. "We have *no* patience for either of those peoples' ways. We have a nice area for diplomats to build a house if they want. That one's near there but there's a notice on the gate that the heir to the house is presently living with an adult. They ignored it."
Alan nodded. "I can see that point. Would you have burned them, Xander?"
"Yup. That house has a lot of structural issues before they got there. They caused more. She told me to burn them in the house when I told her they were trying to move in." He looked at Horatio. "She has an aunt, maiden and ancient crone-like bitchy aunt, in your kingdom. She said the woman sneers at her a lot so she doesn't want to move in with them."
"I've heard nothing about that."
"We have a letter from her to your noble," Genjo said, pulling it out of his pocket. He slid it across the table. "I saw the letter her aunt wrote her. It was full of 'if your parents were so worthless to have died of that minor illness and inconvenience me', to quote her."
Horatio winced but nodded at the name. "I know that noble. She's very cranky. I'll pass that on. Did someone help her write it?" Sam grinned and waved. "So it's diplomatic?"
"Slightly. I made sure it said that she'd never want to take up that woman's invaluable time since she was so busy doing nothing to help take care of her own family. That noble needs to be taken out of life to spare everyone around her."
"Calleigh's said the same a few times," he agreed, tucking it into his pocket. "Do you have schools for orphaned nobles, Xander?"
"We have a few very good schools. We also have some very good orphanages. She lives in one near the castle and she comes up for lessons every week with the other two nobles there. They both have families but they're not in favor due to being from unfavored relationships. I've already sneered at mine about that and noted I did not like that theory so I upheld those kids getting everything that was left to them and possibly more because their relatives were worthless.
"As for a good school, we have three. One's run by a religious order. They're strict, mean, but their kids come out quiet and smart. Usually beaten too. We don't like that but they claim it's the religion's tenets. We've had a lot of talks about that with their higher ups." Genjo nodded he had done a number of those. "We have a school run by some Sanzo priests. It's religious oriented but research priest sort. We have a general school that needs to be enlarged but they're feeling overwhelmed."
"We send most of ours to them," Buffy told Horatio. "We don't have a lot of schools, just little town schools. They have to be good enough to meet up to Mom's standards. Boarding schools or nobles' schools no."
"We send ours to Alan's schools if they're not home tutored," Dean said. "Sammy and I were both taught at home."
"King Aaron has one in his kingdom," Xander said. "Tough school to be in academically but no beating, no religion, nothing like that. It's like an orphanage as a school really. Last I heard Princess Reed was going to be overseeing that school to make it better."
"He'd know. Like Charlie, Princess Reed went to school early," Alan said. "Should we start working on that? Stella, do you have one?"
"Beyond the alchemist's academy? We have one near Horatio's border but they're kinda snotty half the time. We don't like to see them most of the time because they don't listen and they cause their own problems."
Horatio nodded. "I have two others like that."
"I can send you the religious order that does the one we hate," Xander offered. "A few teachers in each school could stop some of that, or at least make the students smarter by making them find ways around those teachers."
"I might ask for that," Horatio admitted. "Some structure could only help those kids."
Stella smiled at Xander. "That's mean." He beamed back. "Yeah, we'll work it out. Are you going to be starting a new school, Xander?"
"We probably should. We're pretty centrally located. We could close that one school after we get a new one started. Hopefully we could get teachers like Princess Reed. He's pretty calm and smart, plus able to deal with prank playing little darlings calmly."
Stella nodded. "I'd like to see those plans."
"I need to get them finished," Xander admitted. "Then put it through the noble's council of nagging." They all nodded they knew how that went. "By the way, the new wedding center down south will be open in a month. It's being run by an orphanage and refugee shelter. The people in those work there for some money and the fees support both structures." They all nodded. "It's near the flower highway but off to the right in that little town that you seem to only find when you're lost."
"That's a pretty area," Stella agreed. "As large?"
"No. The largest area is the main courtyard area. It's about as big as the rooms at the other one. This one is more local people oriented but they did keep some days just for nobles if they wanted it."
She nodded. "That makes sense."
"They also can do sudden weddings," Genjo said. "In case it's needed due to elopement. It's overseen daily by a few monks."
She smiled at him. "That could be handy."
"They like to garden," Xander quipped. "So they're happy doing it. The locals asked them."
"That's nice of them," Buffy agreed. "If I ever get married I might use that instead of the huge spectacle my people expect."
"That's called a vow renewal," Genjo said dryly. "They won't let you out of the huge wedding in at least part of the rituals."
"Great," she muttered, shaking her head. "Dawn can do that."
"If she marries there," Xander reminded her. "She could marry out-country wherever her future spouse is from."
"Point." A page came in to hand her a note then left. She read it over. "We're prophetic. My nobles are trying to force Dawn to marry someone who was training with her." She got up to call them. "Steve, I'll need you to help me yell," she said as she walked out. Steve Rogers followed shaking his head. Buffy's nobles really were a pain in the ass.
Xander shrugged at Genjo. "We need more nobles in ours but not like hers please."
"Gladly. I'd never put up with the stupid she does. We'd need to appoint all new ones when I used my banishing gun on them." He fanned himself idly since it was so hot in there.
Xander shook his head. "I wouldn't be that nice. I really wouldn't. I've dealt with a lot of stupid recently. Including ones that're whining that I'm not giving them things or out conquering peoples. I told one if he wanted to conquer people that much he should go hire an army."
Horatio shook his head. "I'd hope they wouldn't."
"I'm sure not if they could hire an army, Horatio. They think military people only fight during battles and don't have to spar. Their idea of a military unit is perfectly pressed uniforms, no sweat, and weapons they don't touch outside of shining them and a battle."
Horatio shook his head with a sigh. "Wonderful."
"They'd probably want to go inland, which would give them a lot of hell. Even my stepfather didn't do that good going that way. They might go over to the ones having a war and take over on them once it's stopped, but I doubt he'd be able to. Or his daughter that he thinks is stupid, but has a mind she doesn't want to show. She married out-country without nagging and picked someone who'd keep her from seeing her family. Some day I hope she takes over her husband's family and her own too."
Horatio shook his head. "Where did she marry?"
Genjo smirked at Alan. "She's the Duke of Loriel Pass's wife."
He shivered. "She's shrewd but you never see it," he agreed. "Until she wants you to."
"Exactly," Xander said with a grin. "She'll have kids just like her."
"You could use some of them back," Alan said.
"When they're old enough I'd welcome them coming to take over their grandparents' estates. They'd have to be less greedy and annoying. I suggested that to her when we ran into her at Charlie's wedding. She just smiled and assured me her children were going to be raised properly." Alan snickered, nodding some. "I'm hoping that means they're going to be better at it than her parents." He looked at Horatio. "One of mine wanted to know about protocol to moving to a warmer kingdom for their health and if they could take the title or if it stayed with the house. I suggested they talk to someone down there that might want to move up so they could probably just exchange titles?"
"I'm not sure how that would work," Horatio admitted. "Do we know who they were talking about?"
"Not yet. I was told the old lady that held the actual title was ill with something in her lungs and they were considering sending her down toward yours for the heat."
"The humidity we have is probably not going to be great. We've had a few people that had to move to Knight General Rogers' people for that problem."
Steve leaned in. "Huge problems?"
"Talking about how to handle nobles that need to move for their health," Xander said.
"Oh, okay. Let us know if you need us. We're arguing."
Genjo went to look over Buffy's shoulder. "If you keep treating your queen like an idiot she'll take lessons from Xander on how to treat the nobles." He stared at one.
"Prince Dawn...." he started.
"Is learning how to protect herself from the next thing that wants to try her sister," he said impatiently. "Even if they were fucking on the sparring ground it doesn't mean she wants to marry him." He gave them a pointed look. "And the more you push, the less they want to do things for you. Just look at how my spouse treats his."
"I..." That one swallowed and nodded. "We can see the sense in a prince learning how to protect herself," he decided. The others nodded quickly because it meant that they'd lose power. "Though we could prefer her having female tutors so she's not tempted to tease them?"
"I'm pretty sure I ordered Dawn to never have sex," Buffy said dryly. "She vowed to me if I didn't quit she'd find a military unit to bed."
"Your mother would have done the same," another of the nobles' council agreed quietly. "We will not upset her to push her toward a reaction we found find foul. Thank you for helping us, My Queen, and Knight General Rogers and Consort Genjo." They all bowed and hung up.
Buffy looked at Genjo. "How do you get that scary rep?"
"You build it," he said dryly. "You play airhead too often, Buffy." He went back to his seat. "Settled."
The other two followed in. "They're really desperate for new family," Steve Rogers said dryly as he sat down.
"No one to take the crown past Dawn," Xander told him. "If I didn't have my daughter, I'd have been pushed to knock up the country's surrogate within days of my coronation."
"A stable lineage of good rulers does mean a stable country," Alan said. "That's why most of us have at least two kids."
"You know, Pelgar has a daughter he kicked out for not liking their ways," Xander noted. "She's in Cas's family's kingdom being a nun in seclusion thanks to them shipping her there while drugged."
"I remember hearing rumors," Horatio said. "Isn't that one that takes a vow of silence?"
"From the rumors I heard while eavesdropping, they cut out her tongue before sending her," Xander admitted. "So she could not note her real name."
Horatio winced. "Can we rescue her?"
Castiel shook his head. "My mother had heard about that and visited. She is mute," he said. "Mother said she felt great sorrow for that girl but she was basically vowed there and if she tried to leave, the nuns were ordered to brick her into her suite. It wouldn't be the first they did that to. My father decided not to cause distress by stopping their ways."
Xander grimaced. "That truly sucks."
"It does," he agreed. "I have no idea if she can still be saved. The order told my mother not to come back and my mother said she could kick them out of the country for it. She could go wherever she wanted as the queen. Most of their higher ups left but a few remained with their sent-in novitiates."
"Can we do things about that?" Stella asked Alan. "We should have that right."
"It usually comes down to a war against that religion," Castiel told her. "Is it worth it?"
"Yes, a lot of them are," she said. "Especially things like that."
"Then I would assume you had the power to do that, Stella," Alan agreed. "I've got a few I'd like to run off but it'd cause problems with a few villages."
"Make a formal announcement that you have heard there are groups in your kingdom that do not live up to your method and ways," Castiel said. "Warn them they will have to change or they will be banished."
"That's not a bad idea," Alan decided, writing that down for himself. "I could get Don to give it too, that way the people get used to him."
"You told him three years unless he gave you grandkids," Xander joked.
"He hasn't started to work on that yet," Alan complained. "Then of course Mac would take my seat since he's the next longest serving."
Xander heard people walking past the door in armor and looked. "Generals, we're still meeting," he called, making Rogers and Clay both jump.
One of them walked in and bowed to them. "King Jethro, we've been hearing stories of two kingdoms going to war."
"Pelgar invading the snotty assholes?" Abby asked. The general nodded. "We heard about that earlier. We all agreed, we're going to make them keep it inside their own borders and let refugees out, though no one wants to take in their ruling nobles."
The general considered it then looked at Xander. "No, ours is closed to them outside of letting refugees flee," he said. "If they're nobility over there, they'd better flee faster by the other road. They're keeping it to themselves. The newest king in Pelgar's kingdom is talking to invisible wall people. He's invading to spare his people and to rejoin their kingdoms." He let him have the notes his own people had sent. "Also," he said, handing over another note he had made notes on. "Some of them are going around to proclaim everyone must change to their religion or else. They've been kicked out of many places."
The general grimaced. "We can gladly run them out for those threats." He handed the notes back. "Thank you, King Xander. The ones in our brig?" Xander pointed at Clay, who nodded. "Excellent. We'll start trials tonight." He bowed to Abby and Jethro again then left.
"I like him," Abby said with a smile for her spouse. "I scare him and I like that."
He nodded. "You scare many people, Abby."
"Thank you," she chirped, grinning at him. "I'm going to pounce you later." He snorted but looked pleased. "When are we getting the walls fixed?"
"Next month. Sorry, people. I thought this was being held at Xander's."
"Us too," Sam quipped.
"I don't like the idea of that hole," Alan complained.
"It's totally sealed," Castiel told him. "Otherwise a few of us would feel it and have to go fight it."
Genjo nodded. "I can tell when it's unsealed. Even the scroll gets antsy when it's open. Though that does explain why it kept itself hidden from Xander."
"Still does," he said dryly.
"I think it reads the energy you carry," Genjo told him.
"Probably," he agreed, grinning at his spouse. "Or it thinks I'm unholy because I made you break your celibate priest thing you had going on by marrying you."
"That could be as well," he admitted. "I'm not sure how sentient it is. Huh." He shook his head. "I'll see if I can figure that out."
"Does it hide from anyone else?" Mac asked him.
"Sam," he admitted.
"We've said a lot of times that Xander and Sam can do the impossible together," Dean quipped. "That proves it."
The others all shook their heads and some sighed at the playfulness. Horatio cleared his throat. "Xander, someone asked me why your army was so far down south recently."
"We got asked to overthrow someone down that way who was a horrible king and was injuring a lot of his people. The citizens asked for some help so I lent them a few generals. They were happy to help once they heard about that guy."
Horatio considered it. "In that one kingdom of no admittance to outside blood?"
"Below them," Xander said. "Their one to the southwest."
"Oh, that one," he said dryly. "Yes, they could have used the help."
"They asked. I lent them some good people who had ideas and could tell people how to set up things easily." He grinned. "They were very handy I'm told. They sent back a very nice thank you letter from their new general in charge who'll probably last about two years then be overthrown by someone with new ideas."
Horatio nodded. "We've seen that happen in the past." He looked at Alan. "Is that going to cause any of our allies a problem?"
Everyone shook their heads. "I fire called the knights and the kingdom of King Steve to tell them we had been asked for advisory help in case one of their allies get pissy."
"That's good," Horatio agreed. "We still have to work on the treaty problems," he noted. "We all brought some to be done this meeting."
"Yes we did," Xander complained. Genjo pulled out the scroll case to get into. "It's about time for me to redo most everyone's treaties," he said. "Plus next year's harvest ones needs to be started soon." They all groaned. He shrugged. "I could just assume but that's how bad things get started."
Alan nodded. "The treaties had a time limit?"
"Eight years after I took over," Xander said, digging out his to toss down the table.
Alan looked it over. "It does. Why did you put a time frame in it?"
"Because I figured by then one of you, at least one of you, would be out of your seats by retirement so that'd give me a foundation to redo the next one instead of it just dying off with one of you retiring," Xander said.
"It hasn't mattered to most of us in the past," Jethro said. "But I can see that point. Personal issues would get in the way of things and could lead to a huge problem if something like what just happened happens again but they're not willing to send help." Xander nodded. "That makes a lot of sense, kid. Especially since it was before you overthrew your stepfather and finished growing up." Xander nodded again. "Okay, we can go over them and extend the time frame. With the way it's written, it'll still be in force even if we all abdicate and you have to help our heirs. That way they can build up from there."
"Unlike what Buffy went through," Alan agreed. "I had no idea they were that complicated. I glanced over ours since Don made it." He took his from Genjo sending it down to him. The others got theirs. "What is this last clause?" He peered at it. "Who did the scribe work?"
"The one my stepfather used to use," he admitted. He handed over Horatio's. "That's a standard one. My writing's a bit better than his was."
"I'll go find my pens," Genjo said, getting up to find them and parchment for official things. He had the best handwriting so they leaned on him for that. He came back to find Alan scowling. "Is that shocking?"
"No. There's an earlier one that's written poorly that could indicate aggressions."
"Poor word choice on my part but I wrote most of them when I was ten. Jethro's has a better word choice and the later ones have even better than that one."
"I like the one in mine," Jethro said. He let the others see it.
"I like it more than this one," Alan agreed. He looked at Horatio's. "Or his. Okay, can we move that word back to Jethro's? Though I'm not sure if you got the meaning behind any of them right, Xander."
He crossed them out and rewrote it. They all agreed that was better stated without any aggressive overtones. "If I hadn't put that in there, then my stepfather could've declared them an act of war," he reminded them. "And taken out me and all of you." They all nodded they remembered that. Hakkai came in to help with the scribe duties. He had the second-best handwriting of anyone around here. Abby's official note writer came in to help too. She had pretty penmanship but more ornate. They settled in to rewrite all those and then moved onto the other treaties that had to be redone. Everyone had some. Genjo was going to have wrist cramps. Only a few were going to have to wait for later visits because it was getting nearly midnight by the time they were done.
Abby raised her hand when they finally decided to give up. "We need to look at the Joined Kingdoms charter as well. It's got some archaic language that's nasty underneath."
Alan looked at her. "That 'your sins are your own' clause let us ignore Xander's stepfather and just handle him."
"It also lost us one king when he hurt his own kids and they killed the whole family." She stared at him. "Thankfully I had relatives in Dean's kingdom I could hide with and my father was smart enough to send me and then get out of the way."
"We can look at amending that," Alan decided. "Next meeting." She smiled and nodded. "All right. I'm done for the night. Everyone pack up and we'll arrange things for next time in the morning since we mostly planned to leave then." They gathered things and went up to their suites. He went to look that clause over while he got ready for some sleep. Though most of them had gotten a nap earlier while dealing with trade agreements. It was really boring.
Xander tossed the treaties at his nobles' council as he walked in. "We all got a lot done this time." He sat down.
They looked them over. "You redid the ones you made before you overthrew your stepfather?" one asked him.
"I had built in a finite time limit so even if they weren't on the throne they were still in force so I had the time to work."
"That's a good idea," another one agreed. They looked through them, only separating out two of them. "These ones have different clauses?" They looked at him.
Xander looked then nodded. "That's what Mac wanted and negotiated." They nodded. "And Horatio, who was giving me looks like he thinks I'm demented again. I'm guessing being his age is a bit more uptight. Though it hadn't affected Alan as much."
"Are we going to be hosting more meetings?"
"A lot of them don't like the idea of the hole," he said dryly. "So we've basically been moved around on the schedule." They sighed.
"We could use another large public works project," one of them said. "We could build a pretty new castle."
"We're needed here to protect the hole," Xander said. "And we need to work on the roads and guard posts."
"Fine, Sire. Those are important." They got into the trade versions. They were on different colored scroll rods by custom. "This one with King Horatio?"
Xander shrugged. "I don't know why they wanted to lower the amount of regular food but they were giving Buffy's kingdom a boost this time."
"That's nice of them I suppose. Are we going to war with King Horatio?"
Xander shook his head. "No. I think it's mostly his age catching up to him. He's always thought I was too playful and young."
"You are quite young but you have good ideas," the nobles said.
Xander nodded. "I know Alan had worries about the hole in the basement so my daughter might not be around as much. If they do try to shun us, it'll be their loss. We're not one trick ponies and really, we're not getting much from them outside the fruit from King Steve." He shifted and shrugged a bit. "I also pointed out that someday I'd be King Alan's seat and it kinda freaked a few out. Horatio suggested allowing queens to sit there, since they're presently not allowed. He was hoping for Stella but she had to point out she's a consort." A few smiled. "And Buffy was behind me. We talked about the Pelgar situation. We're allowing refugees to flee but they're to stay inside their own borders."
"Good," they all agreed. "Are we taking in any of the nobility?"
"Even better," another agreed. "Has anyone notified that one daughter with the centaurs?"
"I'll go do that tomorrow." He shifted again and winced this time.
"Are you all right, Sire?" one of his council asked.
"I fell. Buffy's guards had super shiny armor and my horse shied at one and threw me. Since they were doing it on purpose...." He smirked. "I let Genjo write the letter."
"Why are they all picking on us all of a sudden?" one of them asked.
"No idea but if they don't stop it they're going to find we're not that easy to push around. They need us a lot more than we need them. I already told the generals if they get disrespected at any time during any planned and asked for cross training they are free to call a halt and walk off. I'm not putting up with it. I won't turn into my stepfather but I can damn sure sit back and watch some things." They all nodded. "We'll see how this works out."
"Could it be that they're worried about the new demon things?" one asked. "We've noted that they're back."
"Those are higher ones that weren't covered by that plea and they're not moving on anyone's kingdom. They've got their own power struggles and don't usually bother with us. They're the bad cousins to Cas's angelic people of old."
"Oh, them. All right. And?" one asked.
Xander grinned. "We have ways of making them die too. It might taint me but I've arranged the wards so it won't be a huge problem for anyone." They all nodded. "The last movement of them here, it was more about Dawn." That got another nod. "I'd hope they were all home by now."
"Except for maybe a few watching what's going on, I'd hope so too and any that way were quiet," that one said. He looked at Xander, who smirked at him. "Not me, Sire. My brother."
"Is he able to be saved?"
"Consort Castiel managed to free him on his way down to the meeting."
"Good. Let me know if Genjo or I can help."
"We can do that." They looked over the roads needing to be fixed. They went to get Princess Charlie to see how best to do the roads instead of just grading what was existing. He had to have ideas since he was one of those engineering sorts who loved math. Fortunately he was in the kitchen eating without being reminded by his tolerant spouse.
Princess Tony looked at his prince when Don snorted while reading a letter from his little brother. "Bad news that way?"
"Prince Xander is feeling like we're shunning him."
Tony winced. "That's bad."
Tony held up a hand. "Don, you may have been raised right by Alan. Xander was raised rougher than Dean was. He will literally go 'fuck it' and let you all hang because of the snubbing I've seen some of the kings doing. This isn't the first time. Xander doesn't have to prove himself, he's already done that." Don blinked at him, looking confused. "What? Do you think Xander's going to take that? He's had enough of that in his life. Why would he put up with more."
"He wants attention?" Don asked.
"How about respect?" Tony suggested. Don looked confused again. "You don't. Your dad barely does and only in military matters. Hell, my stepmother does more than most of you do. Stella mostly does but now and then she gets frustrated that Xander doesn't see some of the social cues the rest of us were brought up with."
"He was raised in a palace."
"Yeah, by a warlord. It's a whole different mentality. There's different expectations. Jethro's got plenty of that in his but it's a lighter thing and he won't take out people for a perceived weakness. Warlords do. They just need to find a weak spot to chip at." He stared at him. "Xander doesn't need any of you, Don. He's got treaties with a vast number of people. He did it mostly without Sam's help too because Sam was too young and too busy back then himself. As Xander says, he may not be book smart but he's damn sure people smart and research sorta smart when he needs it. You may not have seen it, but I'm pretty sure some of the nobles' council has. Go ask 'em." He went back to his reading. He'd send Xander a letter later.
"He'd break treaties?"
"No. That doesn't mean he has to show up to every little thing unless he's asked. You guys never ask, you assume he'll be there by casually mentioning it." He stared at him. "Xander could be a hardass and demand a formal request. He was about to do that to Horatio a few months back."
"When did this start?"
"Probably when he was about four and able to be judged on his own actions?" He gave him a pointed look. "What few friends he has are about me, Gregory, Dean, Sam, and maybe some of the knights. Both generals see him as an oddity because he knows what he's doing but he's not formally trained in anything." He went back to his book again. "Dean and Cas are wrapped up in stuff. Sam's wrapped up in another problem that's going on in the knight's kingdoms that appears to be magic in nature since they don't really use it down there. I went to school with him for that semester and Gregory's more Genjo's friend than his."
"Is he going to snap you think?"
"No, I think he's going to snub." Tony looked at him again, partially closing his book on his lap. "I think you're going to have to actually *ask* formally for things. Xander doesn't need the stuff he trades you guys for. Warlords don't allow any weaknesses in their armies. Including supply lines. He learned well how to be self-sustaining. He might like some of the stuff he trades others for, but he can do without it or it'll prompt some black market underground to start, which will bring more money into certain parts of the kingdom.
"Pelgar needs more stuff in his kingdom than Xander ever has in his. That's why most kingdoms lean on his." Don shook his head as he walked off, taking the letter to his father. Tony sighed. "Well, we'll see what happens," he noted, grabbing some paper and a pencil to write Xander a letter telling him he'd be visiting soon as a friend, not as a princess. He sealed it with his own seal and sent it out with Amellisame's letter to them. He'd bring her with him he decided. Alan was overreacting and she'd be fine with her father.
Don looked at his father. "Xander's feeling like we all hate him and treat him like he's an idiot."
"He's had that feeling a few times and with some of the others that may be true," he admitted, taking the letter. He read it with a grimace. "I was hoping Horatio's little pissing match was done with."
"Can Xander actually not show up to events?"
"With the way the treaties are written? Yes. If we don't ask he doesn't have to show up." He looked at his older son. "Will he? I don't know," he admitted.
"Tony said we need him a lot more than he needs us."
"He still imports things."
"From what Tony said, not that much."
Alan got up to get a book on the shelf. It listed all the treaties currently in place, by magic, and what they were for. He looked at Xander's section. It was mostly a blank page. "He's right." He let Don see. The non-aggression treaties, two trade treaties with King Steve, and one that's due soon with King Horatio. "I know he was working on two others, one with Jethro and one with Mac. I think the one with Jethro was for military training for higher officers. The one with Mac was for some food I believe." He closed the book, looking at his son. "I'll see if I can smooth things over with him."
"You have the same problem with his kingdom. Otherwise you'd let Amellisame go see him more often."
He winced. "Perhaps," he agreed. "It's too dangerous to travel alone at her age."
"We don't have any warlords trying to rampage around."
"Cougar's giving her odd looks."
"He's looking for a mare and he's been a teenage horse," Don said dryly. "I asked Impala the last time and that's what Dean said she thinks."
"It's still a bit dangerous with that war going on."
"Sure," he agreed, nodding, staring at his father. "If you're sure." He walked off. Maybe he could help fix this. He respected Xander, but thought he was a bit bouncy. Which was probably Genjo's fault somehow.
Alan went back to his desk to write to the other kings about how they were making things more difficult diplomatically by snubbing some members of the convergence.
Xander rode out to where the centaur village was, nodding at the guards. He was a few days later than he had expected. "I have to notify someone of family news. Is Princess Malinora here please?"
"Who are you, human?"
The guard blinked at him. "Interesting. Is it that important? She's resting because her daughter has been sick."
"I can send the palace's healer out to check on her and the baby if you want. Princess Gregory's a bit snide and mean but he's an excellent healer."
"It's a normal childhood thing," the guard admitted. "Is it important?"
"Her family just declared a war on her cousins."
The guard winced. "That's bad." He sent one of the kids to get her. "Malinora, this is King Xander."
"I remember him," she said, blinking up at him, looking exhausted.
"Two things. Would you like Gregory to see the child? He's mean but he's an excellent healer. All you have to do is send me a note or fire call."
"I..." She looked back then at him. "Please?"
"Of course. The other's bad news. Your uncle just invaded your cousins." She winced, shaking her head. "We're forcing them to keep it in-country but we're letting refugees out to be humane. I can only imagine one will find you here."
"I can imagine why they'd want to," she agreed, straightening up. "I'll keep an ear out and talk to the village elders about them, King Xander."
"That's fine. Want me to take the baby with me? Or should I send him?"
"She's got an infection with spots. You should probably send him. I've kept her alone in case she's contagious."
"I can do that. Be at peace and let us know if you guys need things. We're reworking some of the trade treaties at the moment," he told the guard. Who nodded. "All right, I'll send him out by tonight. You're not that far from the palace and he's complaining he's bored anyway." She smiled. "Let me do that." He bowed and rode off, going back to the palace the fast way through the woods. He rode in about an hour later. "Get Princess Gregory and his supplies. We've got a case of a fever with spots on a child," he ordered a groom. They went running to his house out back. Gregory came limping out with two bags, one being carried by the groom. "They said it was a childhood thing. She said a fever with spots, Gregory."
"Some of those are more contagious than others," he agreed. "Best to make sure." He mounted with a wince. "Where?"
"Centaur's human village. I'll take you." Gregory got the two bags tied down behind him and they rode off together. Xander nodded at the same guard once they got there. "This is Princess Gregory, an Ascelpian country healer."
"Well met, Princess Gregory. We thought it a simple childhood infection." He let Xander help him down and hand him the bags. Xander waited with the horses as a sign of respect. It was nice that the new king was so nice.
An older centaur rode up and sneered at him. "What are you doing here, human?"
"I brought a healer to look at a sick child," he said, looking at him. "I had to deliver a message out here earlier for someone."
"Their families are not our matter."
"Hers just started a war. It could become one."
The centaur blinked. "We have one here who belongs to the king?"
"I'm the damn king," Xander said bluntly. "My stepfather died last year and was in the woods as a banished princess for years. We're not warlords anymore." The centaur stared at him in shock. Xander stared back. "Pelgar's kingdom," he said with a point their way. "Is attacking their neighboring cousins. We're trying to only let refugees through but you do have a princess from that lineage here and they might try to find her. I had to warn her. Then I heard her kid is sick so I brought a healer."
"That's good of you. Which one are you?"
"Xander." He smiled. "I was the one that was doing everything behind his back."
"Oh. Thank you for that. I'm our usual healer." Xander moved his horse out of the way. "The healer you brought?"
"Princess Gregory is an Ascelpian healer."
"They're very good usually," he agreed, going in there. He looked at the elders. "That's the king?" he asked quietly. They nodded. "I had not heard such news."
"We appreciate him. He treats us well and took out the last one, who was the one that killed so many of us." He pointed. "Princess Gregory ordered the hut closed. Apparently it's contagious."
"Many childhood fevers are," he agreed, going to check. "I'm the local healer. We're mostly immune to those sort of fevers, Healer Gregory."
"Not this one. You guys got the last problem fever and this looks like a redo of it." The healer walked in and looked then grimaced but nodded. "So you may be contagious now."
"I had it during the last bout, nearly passed on from it as well." He stepped back outside. "How are we treating this?"
"We're quarantining," Gregory said. He leaned out. "Xander?" He leaned around the end of the fence. "It's like the last fever the country had." He nodded. "Tell the others I can't be back for two weeks. At least."
"I can do that, Gregory. I'll leave your horse tied up out here."
"Thank you. Make sure the healers check everyone else."
"I will. Be safe. Let me know if you need anything by fire call." He mounted up and rode off again, going to the coven first. They were only an hour north. He walked in and sighed. "The centaur village up the forest," he said with a point. "Has a fever starting. Princess Gregory's there."
"We can support him with that," one of the elder witches agreed. "You look tired."
"I am tired but it's going to be a long day. Check everyone who comes through and warn them?"
"I can do that," she agreed. "We'll set out warning flags and road watchers, Sire."
"Thank you. Tell all the healers? I'm on my way back to announce it." She nodded, handing him a brownie. He smiled and nibbled as he walked out to remount and ride back to the palace. It was a good three hour ride but it was nice today. He dismounted and looked at the groom, who he didn't know. "Where's my groom?" he asked.
"In the barn, Sire." He went to get him.
Xander waited. "Give him a bath. Be careful and quarantine him. I had to go to the centaur village earlier and they have a fever starting. Princess Gregory's there with them. They have a fever with spots again."
"I can watch him, Sire," he promised, leading him off to the seclusion barn for sick horses. He looked at the other groom. "He knows I'm single if I have to spend time here."
Xander walked into the palace with a sigh. He looked at the majordomo, who stood up looking alarmed. "Ring the sickness bell. The centaur village is starting a fever with spots like the last one we had. Send official notices to every single healer in the kingdom to beware and warn the road guards."
"Yes, Sire," he said, limping off to handle that. The bell codes were well learned by every child in the kingdom during their educations. Everyone understood it was an emergency.
Xander walked into the throne room. "People, there is another sickness starting in the Woods," he announced. "We are under the state of quarantine just in case. We don't think it will spread, but it is in a human child right now."
"A changeling?" one asked.
"No, a human in the centaur village. I had to deliver a message earlier and then a healer." He looked around. "Be safe and be aware, report any odd cases to the healers nearest you. We will be keeping track and we will be doing what we must if anyone is contagious for more than a few days. If it is in your house and you are in there with them, do not come outside. Please. That's how those things spread." They all nodded. "Any with business with me it will have to wait for about thirty minutes while I finish making the announcements." He walked off, going to his office to put out the official decrees. And send a letter to his daughter about it being too dangerous until this fever was done with. She was a healer, she was learning about such fevers.
Xander looked at the fire that night. "We need a senior healer experienced with public fevers for a few weeks please," he requested.
"Princess Gregory can't?"
"He's with the sick child."
"He sees actual patients?"
"I came to get him earlier to make sure it wasn't the sort of fever it turns out it was," Xander said. "It's in a child in a centaur village. We've sent out all the warnings but we need someone who's your kingdom trained. Ours are mostly home trained instead. The only other Ascelpian trained healers are in the military and are on maneuvers in Jethro's kingdom right now. None of them are experienced in fevers. We found that out last time."
"That's fine. We can lend you one, King Xander." She smiled. "Is it bad?"
"So far only the one case. I'm hoping it's not going to spread more than that. The village is pretty small and mostly adults who work with the centaurs."
"I can handle that. I'll send one out later and make sure they're not the sort that was sent last time that wanted to burn the sick alive so they didn't spread."
"Thank you. He was great stress relief but...."
"Exactly." She smiled. "I'll send one tomorrow after breakfast."
"That's fine. We'll be here." She smiled and hung up. He went to check on Genjo and the others. "There's a really sick kid at the centaur village," he said when Goyjo opened the door.
"We heard. You good?"
"I've gotten that fever before. Twice because I was just healed when I got exposed again. I nearly ended up in the quarantine village for that."
"Got it. We'll keep watch on each other and Hakkai if he has to go out."
"Thanks. Gregory's there."
"I feel kinda sorry for the Centaurs," he admitted, shaking his head. "Go rest. You're exhausted."
"Yeah, but that's normal." He went up to his room to rest. He wouldn't get real sleep for a few hours at least.
Goyjo closed the door. "Hakkai, he wanted you warned about that fever," he called.
"I heard." He leaned down the stairs. "It'll be fine. All healers are taught how to reduce fevers and the like." He nodded at that. "We'll figure it out. Let me give Hakaru a bath." He went back to it. His splashing tiny dragon friend was happy in his bath tonight.
Hakkai came in a week later, bowing to Xander. "I'm having to quarantine your spouse, Sire."
Xander winced. "We have a few quarantine rooms set up in the palace."
"I had him moved to one last night when the first spot appeared. Goku's on his guarding to annoy him enough to rest and eat properly." Xander grinned. "He should be fine. His fever's not too high."
"Thank you for letting me know. Anyone else in the palace?"
"Two maids, which is probably how your spouse got it." He walked off. The healers checked each other every day. If one of them was infected they could be healers from inside the quarantine village. They already had one of those. He added Genjo's name to the list and put Goku's in parentheses since he was helping him.
The healer from Asclepias looked then winced. "That's going to annoy the consort."
"Exactly, which means he'll nap to get away from Goku complaining." He grinned. "Plus Goku can't help me if I have to go out. Goyjo's better at that."
"Fine. In the palace quarantine rooms?" Hakkai nodded. "Excellent decision. Let me check you over." He did that and Hakkai checked the others with his special skills. They all passed and went to check with the sick ones and with the healers going to the villages to make sure no one new pops up. It was a long few weeks but had to happen.
Amellisame rode into the kingdom, nodding at the road guarding military people. "I'm a healer in training," she noted.
"Prince," one said. "You should not be here. You can't be sick until you have siblings."
"I'm a healer first and a prince second. I serve all people, including my own," she said firmly. "We're going to help Princess Gregory." They all shook their heads. "Yes, I am. Let me pass."
"We can disobey direct royal orders during emergencies," one told her. "I'm sorry, Prince, but no. You should not be here."
She sighed and pulled a weapon. "Don't make me injure you and heal you." They all laughed but she did injure a few lightly and then healed them as she walked past them. She went to where Gregory was and slid off her horse's back, tying him next to Gregory's mare. "Okay, Cougar?" He nodded. "Good." She grabbed her two bags and headed in there. "Gregory, I brought you new herb stores," she said when she found him.
He stared down at her. "I'm going to paddle you to death for risking yourself, Amellisame."
She shrugged. "I'm a healer as well, even if I am in training. It's my duty to help those who need my help. Even my own people if they should need it." She held up a bag with a smile. "New fever herbs? I stopped in the border market in your kingdom to get some fresh ones."
"Thank you. Still paddling you later."
"I've already had this fever. I've had a few." She followed him, nodding at the mother. "Ma'am. I'm healer-in-training Amellisame."
"The prince?" she demanded.
"I'm a healer today," she said bluntly, staring at her. "We all serve our people, I just do so multiple ways." She smiled. "And sometimes I'm the best there is with kids. They don't get scared of me." She walked in. "Hi. What's your name?"
"Malian," she said then coughed.
"That's gotta hurt. Let's sit you up for a minute, Malian." She helped her sit up to cough, patting her on the back. "Oh, that's weird. Gregory, she's got a sore."
He looked then nodded. "Those are bed sores from laying too long," he said quietly. "We try to avoid them but sometimes it happens. You use that green antiseptic goop on it." She nodded, going to get the right jar and some gauze to cover that sore with. She checked for others, finding one. "Good job," he said quietly. "Every six hours if you ever need it again."
She smiled. "I've had this fever, Uncle Gregory. It'll be okay and I'm a healer first. As Daddy and Uncle Alan wanted me to be."
He nodded. "If you're sure your father won't be beating you after I get done with you."
She grinned. "I'll learn more this way than I will in classes." She got to work drawing up some water to warm on the hearth. "We'll wipe you down too. The sweat can't be good for you. It's necessary but can help bring down your fever, Malian." She nodded, staring at her. Amellisame smiled back. "I'm a healer in training. This is how we learn."
The kid nodded. "I learn from books."
"Books are great. I love books. I learn a lot from them too but healing people is a hands-on job. Like crafting things is." She settled in with the kid's mom to give her a bed bath.
Gregory went to check on the other patients, pausing at the fire to toss some of the powder in. "King Xander," he called. A page popped up instead. "Tell Xander I have Amellisame helping me please?"
"He's in an awful temper, Princess Gregory. Must I?"
"Get him to the fire. I don't need to handle his temper but I can." Xander stomped in a few minutes later. "Must I really give up being a healer to deal with you?" he asked dryly.
"Yes! My daughter shot two military people and then healed them!"
"Yeah, she's here. She decided it was best to learn hands-on."
"Beat the little bitch for me."
"Gladly." He smirked. "I told her I would be after you."
Amellisame walked out to stare at her father. "I am a healer, Father. I serve all people, even my own. Calm down! Before you upset my stepfather and get hit with the fan again!"
"He's in a quarantine room," Xander said dryly, staring at her. "We're going to have words about you being so forceful at your age, daughter. You do not shoot people trying to stop you from doing what you want. Those rules are in place for the good everyone, even you!"
"I'm a healer, Father. No pass rules do not apply to us."
"Bull fucking shit until you graduate, little girl!"
She huffed. "I am helping take care of my own people, Father. I don't care if you don't like it!" she shouted back.
"I don't mind that part, though I do not want you in danger yet, daughter. I will not have you acting up that way. Especially when the rules are there for your protection!"
She sighed. "We'll talk about this when we're both more calm. Check on my stepfather and tell me how he is?" She hung up and glared at Gregory. "It's not good for the king to be throwing a temper tantrum. Don't make him do that!"
"I'm not the one that set off his temper," Gregory assured her. "You're the one that got pushy and put yourself in danger. If there wasn't a quarantine, he wouldn't have called. He'd be here to beat you himself. The rules apply even to healers, Amellisame, and we're going to be talking about that. You don't get to do things like this until you've graduated and passed the princess exam." She rolled her eyes but went back to help Malian. He walked off shaking his head. "Just like her father," he muttered as he walked. "Really just like her father. And stepfather."
The village elders looked at each other then shook their heads. A future healer as the queen? Things would be interesting all around the kingdom.
Hakkai rode into the centaur village and dismounted, leaving his horse with the other two. He stared at one. "Cougar?" He lifted his head to nuzzle him. "Her father's going to freak out." The wind elemental/horse nodded. "Sure." He walked in there with the supplies. "Gregory?" He leaned out of a tent. "Here, more things you needed. She's here?"
"She decided she's a healer in training, it was her duty."
"No wonder I was warned not to pause at the palace," he muttered. "Well, Goyjo can calm him down hopefully."
"She stopped to get me some herbs I'd need. Did you get the rest?"
"I did. All but the berries for flavor. They're out of season."
"That sucks. That medicine is nasty without them."
"I got some melon to juice and some other fruit that might help." He went with the healer to check on the patients. He stared at the little healer, who shrugged and went back to sponging off a sweating person. Hakkai tested it and frowned. "That's not the same fever."
"It mutated here," Gregory agreed. "When the few centaurs got hit it mutated it some."
"Okay. Do we know who was the first infected?"
"The first we know of is a child," he admitted. He led Hakkai to her. She was feeling better now.
Hakkai smiled as he squatted down beside her. "Hi, I'm Healer Hakkai. I'm going to test you for a second. It won't hurt." He put a hand on her and concentrated. "She shows that mutated version. So not the first case. Just the first noticed." He ruffled her hair. "You're getting much better. You'll be fully back to playing in a few weeks." He smiled at the mother. "She's recovering well."
"Thank you, Healer Hakkai." She shook his hand.
"Its not a problem." He walked out with Gregory, going to the village elders. "She wasn't the first case," he noted. "It shows some mutation from the original strain we have in the rest of the kingdom."
"Some centaur got it first," the elders realized. Hakkai nodded. "We can check the smaller herds and single groups. That one likes to pick flowers and visit the single centaurs out in the woods to make sure they're fine. She's a sweet little girl that way."
"Thank you. Let me know if you need things. I'm handling the ones in the palace."
"Is the king sick?" another elder asked.
"No. His consort's pretty sick. A few of the maids. The king's really mad at his daughter apparently." They all smiled and nodded. "But she's right, healers respond to emergencies, even when they're only partially trained. This is how we learn. It's how I learned too."
Gregory looked at him. "At her age?"
"My powers didn't come out until I was older."
"Point. I'll talk to Her Stubborness later about such matters."
"Good. Want me to take Cougar back to the palace with me so he can rest?" he called.
"If he wants," she called back, leaning out of a doorway. "I won't mind if that's what he wants. I can always walk back. It'll give Dad time to calm down anyway." She went back to helping.
"Fat chance that'll be enough time," Gregory snorted. "Go ahead if he wants. Mine's fine. He's grazing."
"Sure." He patted him on the arm. "You're going to get sick if you don't rest."
"Both of us are resting tonight anyway," he agreed. "My limit's three days. Hers shouldn't be more than eight hours but she's stretched it somehow."
"Studying binges," Hakkai said. "Princess Charlie does the same thing." He left, going to untie Cougar. "C'mon, we'll get you in the quarantine stable and have you spoiled rotten until she can do it herself." He mounted and walked off with the other horse following his. The few hours of quiet riding were nice, calming him down from the hecticness of dealing with the fever going on. By the time he got back to the palace he was centered, calm, and actually smiling. "Quarantine groom," he called as he rode in, as he was ordered to do. That one hurried out, staring at the other horse. "She's helping Princess Gregory," he said quietly. "He's been grazing near there with Gregory's mare."
"That's fine. We'll gladly clean him up and let him rest with us until she's done and proven fine," the groom said, holding his horse's head while he dismounted then taking them both to the quarantine barn. The night groom was sleeping in a corner and looked, then stared with his mouth open. "She's being a healer."
"It's good she's taking care of her own people." He flipped over. "He likes that sweet mash that gets made now and then."
"I can find you some of that, Cougar," he promised, petting him on the neck. "Let's get you cleaned up and we'll find you some." He settled in to brush the horses and make sure their hooves were clean then give them the bath to make sure they stayed clean. Cougar enjoyed all this, his human hadn't gotten to spoil him in days apparently.
Hakkai walked in and stared at Xander, who was still scowling. "She's not sick."
"That's a good thing!" He stared at him.
"She's doing good and they're all happy to teach her things. They're proud she's their princess, even if she is a bit pushy with some complaining people. They're a different strain."
"Mutated due to a centaur getting it?"
"Yup. Let me go note that to the healer in charge." He went that way, making notes on the book before handing it over.
He looked then at Hakkai. "Amellisame? The crown prince?"
"Is a healer. In both types actually."
"Interesting. Is she fine?"
"So far she hasn't caught it yet and it is clearly mutated from the one everyone else has."
"That's good to know. Did you check any of the centaurs?"
"One of the little ones has it and is being nursed back too. It's the same strain that one has but the little girl they noticed it in first has a mutated strain as well."
"So our primary cause gave it to the cities and a centaur both," he realized. Hakkai nodded. "All right." He made that note. "Do we know how many?"
"They're searching them out now."
"Wonderful. Let me know when you hear."
"Or you can fire call Gregory. He's still fine as well."
"Good. He'd be hell to handle while sick. He has been in the past from what I've heard." He looked at him. "This kingdom has a lot of information on poisonings and the like."
"His stepfather liked them."
"Charming," he mouthed.
"Did you get the one on Gentrus?"
"I started there actually. Very odd but helpful. It included a lot of things found by those who're home-taught as well."
"Most of the kingdom is. Most healers in most kingdoms are. There's probably ten of them to two of you and probably ten of you to one of my kind of healer."
"Point. Amellisame has yours and mine?" Hakkai nodded. "That's good. Do we have training notes on her?"
"In my things. I've been working on it with Gregory when she's here. Let me go handle the cranky princess. I heard him yelling at Goku outside." He went up there to handle it. You could hear Goku complaining through most of the palace. He knocked on the door, staring at the younger guy who opened it. "You're both too loud. People need to rest. Goku, I could hear you in the throne room. Genjo, I could hear you outside. Do you mind?" Genjo glared at him. He stared at him. "Seriously. Everyone's uptight and tense. We don't need that shit. So calm down."
"How long before I can get out of here?" Genjo demanded.
"Until all the spots are healed," he said. "Just like it was the last twenty times you've asked. Now, let's check you over. Maybe it's closer."
"Please, Merciful Goddess, let it be healed," Goku prayed, looking up. "He's miserable and making the rest of us miserable."
Hakkai looked at him. "Shut up before I assign you to help Gregory and Amellisame in the centaur village."
"EXCUSE ME?" Genjo growled. "She's *what*?"
"She's being a healer," he said with a smile. "She's learning a lot from Gregory. Xander had an awful fit about that." He stared at him. "Now, calm down before it makes your fever worse and I have to force you to drink that fever tea again." Genjo settled back to seethe instead. Hakkai smiled at him. "If she's smart she's going to run back to Alan when she's clear but it'll take an extra two weeks to make sure she and Gregory are both clear of the infection."
"That's gonna suck," Goku said dryly. "Princess Gregory and an enclosed space? Maybe she'll want to give up training to be a healer."
"It'd make me do the same thing," Genjo agreed but was still scowling. Hakkai checked him over. "Am I better yet? I can just imagine Xander's growling at people."
"He hasn't had an open complaints session due to the infection. It's a health risk. Only important things are heard and they're heard individually. I check him each night." Genjo nodded and settled in with the tea that had been brought and left outside the door for them. "Better but not fully yet," Hakkai decided. "Another week at the most."
"Thank you, Merciful Goddess," Genjo complained quietly.
Hakkai smiled at him. "I set Goku on you because you'll want to rest instead of letting him nag you." He left them to complain at each other. He watched Goyjo lead someone off. "Are they sick?" he called.
"Yup, but not the one that everyone else has. She was throwing up."
Hakkai came to check that one over nodding. "Congratulations."
"I haven't been with a man," she said, blinking at him.
"If you're not pregnant, you've got a growth that feels alive." Her eyes went wide. "Go see a regular healer." She nodded, rushing off to talk to the real healer. Hakkai smiled at Goyjo. "They're fine. Another week before our princess is better."
"Great. Goku still alive?"
"Yup. I told him why I put them together. Genjo's seething about that and Amellisame helping Gregory."
"I heard," Goyjo admitted with a nod. "And the fit Xander threw." They went to get some dinner and rest for a few hours. "At least this fever's not causing many deaths."
"No, we've only lost about ten people out of the three hundred or so infected."
"That's good." They yawned and went to sleep for a few hours. It was a long month.
Alan looked around the dining hall. "Where is Amellisame? I thought she was busy studying or playing with her horse but she hasn't shown up in two days."
Don cleared his throat. "Heard from Xander, Dad." Alan groaned. "She snuck down to be a healer with Princess Gregory in a centaur village where one of the first noted cases was."
"Great! I'm going to beat that girl to death when I find her."
"It's going to be a while. They'll have to quarantine all the healers for two weeks to make sure none of them end up sick as carriers."
"Two weeks locked up with Princess Gregory...." Alan said, considering it. "That might be a worse punishment." He dug in, shaking his head. Don relaxed again. "Any notes from that fever?"
"He called for a public health healer," Don said before eating another bite.
"So they've got it handled?" Alan asked.
"Yeah, apparently. We'll know in about a week or so. The first cases should be better by then."
"Excellent. Xander handles emergencies very well." He dug in, considering his poor little Amellisame being in danger. His head came up slowly. "Centaur?"
"Yeah, a human's child in their helper village was one of the first sick," Don said with a nod. He stuffed his mouth.
"Huh." He went back to eating. "Any word from Charlie or Ian?"
"They're enjoying building stuff from Xander's stepfather's idea barn. They've used the remains to build some really nice stuff."
"Good. Is he heading back to the school soon?"
"I'll ask in my next letter down there. Maybe he can spank Amellisame for us." He went back to eating, still frowning.
Don smiled. His dad was going to teach the little princess sense and to leave a letter for him. She'd never sneak off again.
Mac looked at his messenger as he got back. "He didn't answer?"
"I was turned away at the border, Sire. They're having a fever."
"A fever?" he demanded.
"Yes, Sire. The border guards reported that only emergency traffic was being let in and sent on the sealed message they sealed into a bigger envelope for me."
"That's fine. It wasn't *that* important. Are they handling it okay?"
"Sire, why wouldn't King Xander know how to handle a sickness? They handled one two years ago."
"I wasn't aware of that one either." He considered it. "Anything noteworthy that way?"
"The guards did say they were a bit worried for his consort. Consort Genjo was trapped in a quarantine room with one of his guards."
Mac considered that. "Hakkai's a healer so he's got to be locked in with one of the other two. Goyjo?"
"No, Sire, the short, loud one according to the guard. The guard thought it was a brilliant way to make Consort Genjo nap to get away from the nagging." He smiled. "And there's a rumor that the Prince Amellisame showed up. She ended up injuring but healing a few of the guards on the other border so she could come in as a healer."
"Alan's going to shit elephants," Stella said as she came in. "Xander's got to be screaming." She looked at the messenger. "Any other gossip?"
"Queen Buffy has pounced at least one of those soldiers she brought back but they're not going to have a wedding. She was screaming at someone that she'd be an unwed mother and if they didn't leave her alone so would Prince Dawn. You could hear the arguments from the garden to the inn I was at."
She nodded. "Sounds like Buffy, yeah," she decided. "Any other news?"
"Queen Abby was sniffly when I paused there to drop your message on the way up, but no idea why, Queen Stella."
"That's fine. I'll call Abby." She smiled. "Thank you." He bowed and left them to talk. She sat in her throne, looking at Mac. "The only time they've ever called for help was when Xander was repoisoned," she said quietly. "He knows how to handle fevers, Mac."
"It's possible it could spread."
"That's why you lock your borders." She got up and went to call Abby. "I heard sniffling. Is there good news on Timmy?"
"Tony and Don decided they could finally make a go of it before I married Tony off to Dawn." She smiled. "So we have a wedding to plan."
"Great! How soon? Will it be after Xander's kingdom is unlocked?"
"Why did he lock it?" she asked, looking confused.
"Public health because of another mass fever."
"Fuck," Abby said, making someone on that end jump in fear. "Not you. Xander's having a public fever." She looked at Stella again. "Did you send help?"
"I had messages going that way. They have the borders locked."
"Then we'll definitely have to plan it to happen after they reopen. Otherwise it'll add another week and a half to traveling." She considered it. "Does Alan know?"
"Amellisame's there by the rumors. She injured a few military guys and healed them before going to do healer duty."
"Someone really needs to talk to that girl about sense. You would've thought Alan would've," Abby said, shaking her head. "We need to tell her about that, Stella."
"Definitely. But she'll have to be quarantined for a few weeks afterward just to make sure she didn't catch it." She grinned. "So she'll be quarantined with a lot of healers to nag her about her age."
"Oooh. No, Gregory wouldn't be treating them. He'd be in charge because of his leg." She shook her head. "Pity. He can give talks about reality better than most."
Stella nodded. "True." She waved a hand. "Let us know when."
"Okay." She hung up and went to talk to Jethro and their top general, who she caught by the wrist and pulled after her. He was used to it and just sighed but followed. She knocked on Jethro's office door and opened it to lead the general in. "Xander's borders are locked due to a fever."
"I'll tell his people," the general agreed. "Is it serious?"
"Probably if they locked the borders," Jethro said. "Is he sick?"
"Not that I've heard of but Amellisame is down being a healer after forcing her way in. Apparently she hurt a couple of guards trying to stop her but paused to heal them on the way in."
Jethro looked at her, then at his general.
"I'll have them talk to the prince about that as well," he promised. "We can send healers."
"Have their own military healers call up there to check. They'd get honest answers and not blown off like the healer we have here who is an imbecile. Or the head injury guy we had to call in for Tony's many head injuries."
"We have Ducky. We can send him," Abby reminded him with a smile. "That will push back Tony's wedding."
"Good point. It'd take a lot longer to get up to Alan's kingdom without going through Xander's. Yeah, go ahead and fire call Tony to make sure he realizes that. I really hate going through that pass from Dean's to Alan's kingdom anyway." She nodded bouncing off to do that. He looked at the general, who pointed at Abby's back. Jethro smirked. "Go pass along those and then come tell me how the cross-training is going."
"It's good. A few sneered and their generals put them to work for it, Sire. They don't put up with shit from anyone. And bluntly told us they weren't going to put up with shit from anyone."
"Why?" he asked.
"For the same reason that they said their king was considering being a lot more insular. Something about disrespect and outright snotty behavior between kingdoms, Sire."
"Horatio's thing," he muttered, shaking his head as he took a deep breath. "We'll figure it out. We always do."
"Let me know if I have to train the troops to defend our borders against his, Sire." He left.
"I doubt Xander would do that," Jethro decided. He wrote a letter for Xander and Genjo, sending it out with a messenger. Abby was happily chatting with Tony so it was fine for now. He went to find Ducky out at the house out back, with all the corgis. "Ducky?" He came to the door, staring at him. "Xander's kingdom has a fever."
"I've talked to the healing school. He's asked for someone to fill in for Gregory for a bit since he's taking care of a centaur helpers' village."
"Great. Is it that serious? How long do you think it'll take. Tony's trying to plan his wedding to Don and Abby's trying to get an idea."
"Probably not more than another month, Jethro. Those things usually last about two weeks."
"Good. I'll let her know. Let me know if we have to send some healers?"
"I can do so." Jethro nodded and walked off. He looked at his dogs. "King Xander could use a few of you. He really could." He went back to brushing them. Corgis did have coats that needed brushing.
Stella called Calleigh that night. "I'm pausing your messenger," she said in greeting.
"Is there a problem? I know we sent him to deliver a few places. We usually do send him."
"Xander's letter can't get through. His borders are closed due to a fever."
"Oh! Okay, that's fine. He can drop it with the guards if he wants or send it on with another messenger." She smiled. "Are they okay?"
"As far as I've heard. I haven't called them. I figure the healers are hogging the fire calling station up there."
"That's good then. Let us know if you hear anything, Stella. He's got almost no support up there."
"I can do that." She hung up and looked at the messenger, who put that letter with her own going up there. She smiled. "You can stay with ours tonight." He nodded, going to do that. Stella went to talk to Mac. "I guess Xander didn't tell anyone about the fever."
"He doesn't have to unless he thinks it'll spread," Mac agreed. "Though we usually do warn each other. He probably had the guards pass on information to the kingdoms around them instead."
She nodded. "That's what I figured. The healers are probably busy with the fire calling station." She settled in to eat. "Tony's finally agreed to marry Don."
"That's good news." He smiled. "We'll have to find them something nice."
She nodded, digging into her own dinner.
Xander looked at the princess in front of him. "Charlie, I'm going to propose something wacky."
"Why?" he asked. "Coming from you, 'wacky' is a dangerous word."
"I was thinking that since you guys are going to be doing that for at least another year, if not more, and someday our surrogate will be back here most of the time, that maybe we should put an off-shoot of the engineering academy here. We're already rebuilding the better school in the kingdom because it's so old and tiny." He waved him up to look at the plans he had. "These are for the regular school. We could put a few buildings around it to help with specialized training like engineering or healing."
"That's not a bad idea," he admitted. "Most of the trained healers are at least a week from you and a few weeks from the more southern countries." He considered it. "Is that going to be big enough?"
"Maybe not. I was going to ask your teacher for his ideas on how to expand it, out or up."
"Both could be helpful probably. How big is the school?"
"Right now it's about a hundred-twenty kids. We're thinking about making a boarding option so some of the orphans can go that way instead of the local schools if they're good at things."
"Interesting and that's how we do it." He smiled. "I wouldn't mind if you did. It's six less days of traveling from here than the school to home."
"And I've gotten a letter from a border post saying that Tony and Don have worked something out."
"So a wedding soon. We'll have to figure out what to make them." He smiled. "I'll tell my teacher and I do like teaching so I wouldn't be unhappy with that idea. Thanks, Xander."
"Welcome. I'll send Amellisame out when she's out of quarantine."
"She's what?" he demanded. "Why is she in-country? She should be in school."
"She forced her way in by injuring two guards she healed then went to help Gregory."
"Oh, damn, that poor kid. Trapped with Greg. Plus post-incident healing quarantine." He walked off shaking his head. He'd talk with her when she got free. He went to find his teacher, smiling at him. "King Xander is upping the local top tier school and was thinking about adding areas for specialized training like ours or healing."
"That's not a bad idea. Both schools are pretty far away. Only the bards' school is near here." He went to look at the plans. Xander gladly showed him and asked if he should build out or up and about the boarding option. They could work on that. His students needed something more to think on for class projects. Though two had already worked on this one. He got them summoned and went over how to change it and why. They agreed and showed him maps they made of the area. It was a bit rocky but they could compensate pretty easily. They could definitely build that and it'd be a great help to them as well since they were so crowded.
Xander looked at his generals since they were all back. "Has everyone who hasn't had this type of fever gotten away from people?"
"The ones in the military who haven't had something similar are out in the mountains to the west, Sire," one of the generals assured him. "There's been almost no infections that way and it's a pretty deserted post as well."
"Good thinking." He smiled. "I'm going to propose a few things that the nobles' council thought was a bit unnecessary but will definitely help our kingdom." They all stared at him, mostly looking at him like he was weird. He grinned and rolled the plans out on the table. "The updated plans for the top tier school in the kingdom. This is the main school, with a boarding option for those who need it, including orphans. These buildings around it, within about a mile of each other at the most, are the higher level training schools. Engineering, healing," he said with a point. "Bards." He grinned and pointed at one. "Yours." They all gaped. He smiled. "That way you can train officers at a standard place with a standard training with a standard troop you have up there to guard the school. There's one left and I'm open to making it an official noted library of the kingdom or something else."
One of the generals cleared his throat. "So all the education stuff we insist on officers having..." Xander pointed at that building on the drawing. "Would others be eligible?"
"At your discretion and mine." He smiled. "If we're at war with someone, no. If they're just assholes to us, probably just to reduce some of your work load. We're nicely centrally located but still."
The generals all smiled and nodded at each other. "We can train our other official needs there too. The military protocol people, the judges? We can do it without taking our time here."
"Which would mean decentralizing a few things," Xander reminded him. "Not the main military, you're still headquartered here."
"No, Sire, that's an *excellent* plan," another general agreed. "Do the other schools like it?"
"So far." He grinned. "I may have even talked Princess Charlie into teaching there."
They grinned at him. "That would be a great help," they all agreed.
"We'll figure out what sort of facilities we need and talk to the engineers to get them planned, Sire," the head general said.
"These three are doing it. The teacher out there is assigning some things as a class project," Xander said, pointing at the names. "They have drawings of the areas. Some of it's kind of full of rocks. I will insist on safe areas in case of attacks, of course, and I'll insist that the military group up there start a self sustaining farm."
"Are we short on trade treaties?" the head general asked.
"No, but if you haven't noticed we've been getting a lot of sneering from those that we used to conquer. Frankly, I don't put up with it from anyone and they can do it themselves unless they ask for help."
They nodded. "We can work on that, Sire. The ones that were training with King Jethro's troops shot down their sneering pretty fast." They looked at each other. "We'll start on the plans for needs now, Sire. Will it be a full guard post?"
"In the town. It won't be associated with the schools. It'll be there to protect the school."
"I have a great group for that," the head general said. "I can start training them for that area specifically. I even have some people from that area, Sire. Thank you for thinking of our needs." They bowed and left.
"Oh, tell them that we're taking bids on who'll build it fastest and best," Xander called after them. "Not using military or public works budgets."
"Even better, Sire," they agreed.
"Public works projects tend to be quickly but crappily built," one of the generals agreed. They went to their meeting areas to talk about it. If they could get all three of those other schools set up and running well, it'd definitely help their military. Training their own engineers and healers? It'd definitely help the military. Bards they could stand because they did bring down-time happiness and news.
Genjo finally got released and Goku went to hide for a few days of relief. Genjo went to find his spouse, who was going over his plans. He looked at them then at him. "What're we building now?"
"The new school." He smiled. "Feel better?"
"Much now that I'm not trapped with Goku. I'm never getting sick again before Hakai has to prove his evilness." He sat down, looking at the plans. "That's bigger than it was."
"We needed more room and I've planned for some specialists schools nearby. That's for the one to train healers." He pointed. "They're on top of a natural cave system and we're going to use one of them as a morgue for the students to learn from. I heard they do that up at the Asclepian schools too."
"Yes but it does happen. I asked the healer we're borrowing to handle the fever's overall treatments about it."
"Interesting. Gregory probably won't go teach."
"That's fine. We can find some of theirs that can teach and have retired from treating people." He looked at him. "Our military's healers could use the additional training. The ones who train at home can get that much more training."
"Point. Would this have anything to do with the snubbing at the last meeting?" Xander nodded. "They won't bar students from going, Xander."
"No but it's too damn far away." He smiled. "Pelgar's people tried to take over the engineering school again."
"Wonderful. Are they on their way here?"
"Not with the fever. They're going to mass visit Jethro to look at his dams."
"Interesting." He stood up with a wince. Xander came over to help him. "I'm fine."
"I say that a lot and you call me on it," he quipped with a grin.
"Uh-huh. You're usually bleeding. I'm just tired."
"Go sit in the throne room and rest, Genjo. We're not hearing petitions or anything so it's quieter in there."
"I can do that." He gave him a pointed look. "Bring the plans and explain them to me? That way I know what to deal with when I kill you for being an asshole?"
"Sure." He carried them out there to sit on the couches and show him what the present plans were. All the new schools would have independent, but nearby, buildings and their own needs were being met. Xander had made sure of it. Plus the main school's buildings and dorms. The new military post that was going to be built. The small town didn't have much but it had the prerequisite markets and things to support the new buildings. The town would grow some and that wasn't a bad thing in that part of the country. That's why Xander had put it there, that and it was defensible since it was on the inside of a mountain area that had a few passes to it but they were hard to get through if you didn't want someone using them.
Genjo took the mail the next morning from the guard unit. "Thank you." The guard bowed and left. He looked it over. "Alan wrote about our deplorable manners." He tossed it aside to go to the rest. "Hmm. Tony's getting married," he called.
"That's great news. How soon?" Xander called from the parlor to the rear of the throne room where he was working on something with a general. They had to plan out how to get more bloodlines into the horses soon.
"Great. That'll give us time to get over this fever and reopen most of the roads."
Genjo shook his head. He had no idea how to handle a fever beyond what he'd seen the last time. He opened up the other letters. His mother's stack was tied together so he'd start with the top one first in case it was something important. "Prince Calleigh and Queen Stella wrote." He read one. "Amellisame's in trouble when I find her," he noted patiently.
"She's got it coming from a lot of us," Xander agreed.
Genjo shook his head but went on to read the other ones. He'd answer the other ones. One required a call, it was from his father complaining about something. He went to call him. "I'm barely out of a sick bed. He didn't murder me," he told the guard that answered. "Did no one tell them that we're having a fever?"
"No, Princess Genjo," the guard said. "I can tell them that. We do a messenger relay so it might not have gotten back to us."
"Please do. It'll probably be another month before the borders are reopened."
"I'll let them know, Princess Genjo." He bowed and hung up, going to interrupt the queen fretting about her 'poor, slightly worthy princess being murdered'. He cleared his throat, making her stop wailing. "Princess Genjo just called, My Queen. He's just out of a sick bed. They're having a fever there." He bowed and left.
She blinked. "Why did we not hear of such?" she demanded.
"Because the relay messengers probably didn't pass it back, My Queen," he called. "Our messengers here take the message to one near our borders, who takes it one nearer to them and on until the one near their border to pass it onto their own guards."
She huffed, going to tell her husband they didn't have to mourn that son. "Genjo apparently called. They're having a fever and he was ill."
"It would've been good for us to know," he complained, tossing down his pen. "At least I don't have to plan his tomb now."
She nodded. "We can put the rest of things on hold or use them for an extra anniversary celebration." He nodded, making those notes for his majordomo. "I'm going to write him to berate him." She huffed off to do that.
The king called in his staff. "Princess Genjo apparently did not die but they're having a fever. Apparently he was sick. We must find a way for those sort of messages to get back to us."
"I'll work on that order, Sire," the majordomo said. "What are we doing about the celebration already put into place for his mourning?"
"We can turn it into another anniversary celebration."
"That should work for most everything but the dyed flowers."
"We can mourn that we have no children left to raise and are out of our young years. Mourn for the years we've done and how much more we have to do." The majordomo made notes as he nodded. "Make it tasteful though."
"Yes, Sire. I'll get on that." He left, going to gather his staff to tell them that. It'd look a bit odd but they could make up some sort of significance relating back to the queen being no longer able to bear more heirs.
Xander waved from his seat in front of the fire calling station. "I'm here."
Alan nodded. "Is the fever breaking?"
"We're down to under thirty cases in the kingdom so within a month it'll be gone. The healer we borrowed is most happy how we handle such things."
"Not Gregory?" Alan asked, looking confused.
"I got him to look at the first case to make sure it wasn't the sort of fever it was. He's out at the centaur's helper's village with their cases. Apparently they have a slightly different strain because the first case there had been a centaur."
"Interesting," the queen from the Asclepian kingdom agreed. "That would matter some because it could lead to reinfections or allow it to be passed to animals. Did we find the initial cause?"
"Refugee that got made sick by the royal family's personal healer to test antidotes," Xander said bitterly. "Got the normals and them as he ran through the woods to get away. Which I don't blame him escaping from that."
"No, I wouldn't either," she agreed. "Have they been identified?"
"Buffy's kingdom's healers called ours about the sick, dead person."
"Are they infected?" Alan asked.
"No. One village is quarantined with a healer just in case." Alan nodded, making note of that. "So what's the purpose for this meeting?" he asked.
"A few things. Tony and Don have announced they will wed," Alan said with a smile. "In six months so we can use Xander's roads again."
"They're on the public works list this year," Xander warned. "So might have some bumpy areas."
"We can plan for an extra few hours then," Jethro agreed. He made himself a note. "I had our stonemasons asking our guards about the roads. Why?"
"I'm building the new school to take the place of the one that's too small and falling in. Plus a guard post in that area to protect the schools," Xander said. "I'm including space for healing, engineering, and military higher training as well. That way they have their places to train closer to where we are. Are the engineers okay, Jethro? I know a few here are worried about their peers."
"They're fine. They think most of the dams need rebuilt. They all made it out together and everyone's fine."
"I'll let them know."
"You're going to open up a small building to let the engineers who can't travel that far go there?" Alan asked with a frown.
"Yes. That way there's one that's farther away in case they get invaded again. Plus they're going to be dealing with my stepfather's stuff for probably at least another year. It'd be a good thing to give them a place to hold lessons and invent. Their present school's getting crowded. This gives them a second building to work from and it's a bit closer for the healers in case something happens in Horatio's kingdom or down there."
"That's actually really wise," King Aaron agreed. "I know the bards have been thinking about a second campus."
"They can have a building too," Xander promised. "It's in a nicely sheltered area with a small town nearby. If I was up there I could show you guys plans some of the engineering students drew up when I was working on some. They even took maps of the area for it."
"Did you ask the healer down there about what we'd need?" the Asclepian queen asked.
"I did. He agreed that maybe retired healers could teach those that are taught at home more and the military healers as well."
"That's actually an idea we've been thinking about," she admitted. "We're too far away to get to most emergencies in a speedy manner. That would still leave the western areas uncovered."
"We have a direct pass to well traveled road access to King Aaron's kingdom within two days from that point," Xander said.
"Which is over a week faster than ours or the healers to the north," she agreed. "I need to figure out where to put one to the west."
"Ask Stella to ask the people just above them if they have one and make an agreement," Xander said. "I was going to try to get healers from the Knights' kingdom and others in to train as well so the information could get spread."
"That's actually something some of us have suggested but got turned down by the older ones who're set in their ways. I wanted to know what the ones to the north know."
Xander grinned. "I'm not against adding them in if they want to send teachers."
"That's actually a really good idea," Alan decided. "Stella, can you ask that kingdom?"
"Of course. Or we can put one near the border there. It's in the mountains so no one will just wander up and bother them without it being a problem. If we put it a bit further south and west, where the border dips in, it'll have a large town there too."
"Which would help," the other queen agreed, smiling at her. "Thank you, Stella."
"You're welcome, Annabeth. Xander?" He hummed since he was swallowing some coffee. "Is everyone all right?"
"Genjo's taking a nap. It left him a bit tired but he's only been out of seclusion for three days."
"That's fine. As long as they're fine."
"We've only lost about three percent of everyone that got sick," he admitted.
"Interesting," Queen Annabeth agreed.
"None in the centaur village."
"Very interesting. Is theirs a lighter case?"
"Only Gregory or my daughter could tell you that. You can ask her after I beat her ass and yell at her for injuring two military road guards trying to stop her that she then healed."
That queen winced. "I'll ask Gregory. It'll take a long time for her to finish that punishment and she might forget such details. Can you have that healer call us?"
"I can do that. Healer Tyler, call your queen later at King Alan's," he called.
"Yes, King Xander," he called back. "I'll gather my notes for her."
"He'll call you later up there," Xander said with a grin. "I put him near the throne room so no one had to run too far to find him."
"That's excellent," she agreed. "We put ours in the front of the hospital and they have an unused office there by tradition in case something huge happens and they need someone to keep track of records. That new teaching college, is there a city nearby?"
"There's a town where a protective military post is going up to protect all the schools. It's not too tiny right now but I expect it'll grow. There's another six towns outside the mountain ring, so within about six hours at the most by carriage."
She nodded. "Not bad for hands-on training then. Good thinking."
He smiled. "I asked those who'd know. There's even some underground caves that they suggested they use for hands-on training or a morgue."
"We have one we insulated for that," she agreed. "A cave should do just as well as long as it's well lit. I want to look over those plans."
"When I can send things out I'll send you a copy," he promised with a smile.
"Good." She smiled at Jethro. "Would a military college work the same way?"
"They'd be teaching tactics and how to lead."
"Also their judges are getting trained there," Xander said. "And their higher level protocol managers."
"An excellent use," Jethro agreed. "It could be very handy to train there in a standardized training. Would it be open?"
"As long as we're not being aggressive with someone, probably. Your army would have to ask ours if your people could attend. They wouldn't say no unless it looked like a spy for a future war."
"That's good and we could slip in teachers from the other kingdoms' militaries," he realized. Xander smiled and nodded. "Very handy. Thank you, Xander."
"I always think of my own, Jethro. I was trained by them."
"Point." He nodded, looking at the others. "That could help a lot. We do a lot of it now with cross-training."
"Which would probably have to continue," Stella agreed. "Some terrains you have to train in to understand."
Xander nodded. "That would still continue but this would be for officers to train things into them. Like maps and tactics."
"That'd make us all happier," Stella decided with a smile for him. "Are you feeling all right? I know you can probably get a bit more sick thanks to all that poisoning."
"I'm okay. A bit tired but otherwise I didn't catch it."
"Good. You hate being sick."
He smiled. "Hakkai made Goku go into Genjo's sick room with him to keep him resting."
She laughed. "That'd do it for me too." She smiled at Alan. "What do the boys want?"
"No clue yet," he admitted. "Is that Gregory?" he asked.
Xander looked then shook his head. "The new butler at a house in the country. Is your family sick?" he asked him. He nodded. "The healer's beside the throne room." He pointed. The man went to report that. "He's closer to the western edge so we'll have to see if it's another wave going that way. I have the military people who haven't had anything like this before go to the western posts to hopefully keep them from getting sick."
"That's what I'd do too," Jethro agreed. "Do you need anything you're running short on?"
"No. We're good on food and medicines. The healers have all been planting herbs with the witches' help so they'll grow easier. We're good on most everything but some fruit. Our fall fruit won't be in for another two months and our summer fruits are just about out of harvest. But we'll be fine for another few weeks. Harvests are starting in about a month and a half."
Jethro nodded. "That's good."
"The bards are bored," Xander admitted. "Since there's no gathering in mass groups but they can't leave during the fever."
"They'll have fun once things get back to normal and harvest celebrations start," Stella said with a smile. Xander grinned and nodded. "Don't you have a harvest celebration?"
"One of our traditional big holidays is right after the harvest. We should all be not sick by then."
"That's good." She smiled at him. "We can ship in some fruit."
"I think we'll be okay. Unless the healers want it to help flavor the fever potions. That's why most of the berries are gone now. That stuff's nasty even with the berry juice added."
"Yes it is," Jethro muttered. "The healers can talk later about that."
"If he does, that's fine," Xander agreed. "We're about two weeks from a shipment from King Steve's islands of really nice fruit too."
That got a mass nod. A few of them were getting some too.
Queen Annabeth frowned. "How are you keeping the shippers from getting sick?"
"We have special units set about a mile from our borders, with the neighbor's knowledge. They take anything for the kingdom and bring it in. They were checked for sickness and kept separate on purpose. The guards on the border are checked daily by their healers to make sure no one's sick. If so they send a unit of not sick people down and quarantine those. The ones taking anything like shipments and letters take it to the border in our own carts and let the guards come over the few feet to get it inside."
"So you change carts?"
"If it can hit a centaur it could hit a horse," Xander said. "That's standard for any mass sickness though."
"That's not a bad idea," she admitted. "As long as you make sure that they're not in contact with anyone sick."
"No, they drop the carts off just outside the border crossing fence and then reload it into a cart to go inside the border. The border guards come out once they've left to get that shipment and bring it inside. For smaller things they come in once a day and get left in a big metal box in a rock stand so nothing gets wet."
"We just usually have the border guards take things," Stella admitted. "We have healers with them to make sure no one's sick anyway and they take it from the messengers."
"Ours on the outer ring seal anything like messages inside a bigger envelope with the name of the sender on it. That way no one can get nosy." Xander smiled. "I made that up when I was about seven because of that one itching one we got, that I got too, and it came from the former Rosenburg kingdom."
Stella nodded. "That sounds safer."
"It is," Queen Annabeth agreed. "Do those outer ones have a healer with them?"
"The border healer checks them once a day and the outer one's are checked once a week to make sure they're not sick. All the other healers in the country are checked daily by each other."
"That's reasonable. You do take good precautions."
"We've had a number of sicknesses from other places," he admitted with a small shrug. "It makes sense we do that. The same as any military unit coming back from somewhere else are in week-long quarantine to calm down and get off battle mindset while the healers make sure they didn't bring anything back. It cuts down on family injuries if they pounce him too soon and makes it safer for everyone."
"It does," Queen Annabeth agreed, smiling at him. "Very well thought out, Xander."
"After I suggested that inner/outer ring quarantine thing to the generals, they came up with that one themselves. They said they usually made sure on the way home but it usually took a few days to treat any injuries anyway."
"That's a good idea," she agreed. "I'll have to suggest that to others."
Jethro shook his head. "We don't quarantine ours but we don't usually go anywhere that has problems."
"If a fever starts in the mountains while we're cross-training with Stella's units it could be weeks before it's noticed," Xander told him. "That's why I put the most formally trained healers with the military units going out and about. That and any injuries need to be taken care of immediately."
Jethro nodded. "I do the same with the healers but I hadn't thought about the need to watch for fevers."
"Then again, yours don't go hardly anywhere," Stella told him with a smile. "Xander takes at least a unit with him when he has to go somewhere important or hard."
"Those we have a healer on hand and Hakkai if I bring Genjo," Xander agreed. "He's Genjo's healer and sometimes I have to impose on him. Plus all units are mandated to take at least basics of field treating injuries so they can treat a minor thing or let someone know it's something huge."
"I suggest it heavily," Jethro said. "Not mandate it."
"It's part of our basics in training," Xander told him. "You learn how to march, follow orders, bandage cuts, and treat bug bites."
Jethro nodded, looking happy. "I have to suggest that to mine."
"Definitely," Stella agreed. "We keep a healer with the outer units that're so far from a regular town's healers but still could be handy."
"Your mountains do have a huge problem with fleas," Xander told her. "We have to smoke everything when they get back."
"So do we," she agreed. "There's no good way to kill them out there though. They're things that bring diseases and we'd love to get rid of them."
Xander nodded. "Us too. We have towns that have feral cat populations to cure any mice or anything else that's running around carrying bugs. Like Genjo's people's temple cats, they roam everywhere whenever they want but they're useful."
"That's not a bad idea," Stella admitted. "Maybe we can start doing that too. Feral cats would be better than rats any day."
"You need to watch out for ones who might get rabies," Genjo said as he walked behind Xander. "We get a few every year and have to end them before it spreads."
"If there was some sort of medicine to give them, that'd be easier," Stella said. She looked at the healer.
"The animal healers have one. Hasn't it been spread?" Everyone shook their heads. "I'll talk to them when I get home. It's a simple yearly injection." They all smiled at her. "We'll handle that somehow." She made herself a note. "Xander, would you be willing to teach animal healing as well?"
"Of course. We could use a few new ones."
"Not a problem. It benefits everyone." She smiled and nodded. "Maybe I'll even find someone to help me train war steeds. We had fifty-two foals born this year that look good enough to train. Also, we're adding in some new bloodlines."
"I'll warn the sellers," Stella said. "Will you be out in time for the fall sale?"
"I hope so. If not I might ask Dean to go for me."
"He hates going. Someone always wants to steal Impala," Stella quipped. "But sure." She got back to what she was writing down. "Fifty-two foals?"
"Yep. From forty-nine mares." He stared at her. "That's why we joked about Genjo's Merciful Goddess coming in one night to pet them."
She nodded. "Yeah, I'd say." He grinned. "How many studs?"
"Five that we know of but there's a few that came from somewhere."
She nodded. "I'll note you're looking for new stud stock." She made that note too. "Any riding ones?"
"They all can be ridden, Stella. Any heavy enough are taught to pull things too. You have to be able to."
"Point. Any I might like? My mare's about fifteen and getting cranky with cold in her knees."
"I've got a few that're good but they're not pretty."
"How not pretty?" she asked.
"One's twelve and got burned in a barn fire when she was a filly. It's scarred her back half but it doesn't hurt her any and she's a great mare. I ride her sometimes. She's my training mare."
She blinked a few times. "The scars don't hurt her?"
"No. She's only got a tiny bit of scarring where a saddle's back edge would go. The rest's on her flanks. Or we have the pretty but kinda stubborn and dumb one that we nearly named after Buffy. She was born right after I got back from the academy." Buffy huffed but shook her head. "Genjo rides her sometimes. I think to the last convergence meeting."
"I rode the red one last time," Genjo said from the kitchen, it was just around the corner.
"Or the time before that maybe," he admitted with a grin. "She's dappled."
"I might think about that. I'll pause on my way to Tony's wedding."
"We can look then," he agreed with a smile. "We'll have last year's in heavy training by then too."
Genjo walked back to stare at him while leaning on a wall. "You only have six in heavy training. One got claimed by a new general who wanted to finish her training himself and the other one's the gelded one that turned his ankle. We're waiting on the healers to look at him from what you grumbled. The third one...I'm not sure where she is. I haven't seen her being exercised and my quarantine window looked down on it."
"She's in the quarantine barn. She went after one of the grooms with her teeth again. We're not sure why. Again, waiting on the animal healer and she's sick."
"You could ask for one to be sent," Queen Annabeth noted.
"The one we have here is a gifted one with touch healing gifts. She's the head groom's daughter."
She smiled. "That's wonderful. I can still send one so they can learn from each other. Your people have ways of straightening bones that we don't."
"Sure. I don't mind." She smiled and nodded, making that note for herself.
Alan looked at him. "Who else helps you train the horses?"
"Me." He looked at him. "It's what I do outside of sparring practice."
Alan shook his head. "You need more help sometimes."
"I'm used to it." He shrugged. "I do need to train a protege."
Alan nodded. "I can see why. Maybe you'll find one soon." He looked at the others. "On to other business. Aaron?"
"Mine's mostly solved if the bards will have their own school with Xander's new school plans. They're overcrowding the school and becoming a nuisance to the kingdom."
"Send them traveling," Xander advised. "They have to journey to prove their skills anyway. Talk to the head of the school about the new lands we've met so they can possibly travel there."
"I can do that."
"Or note that there's not that many noble families that need personal bards in attendance."
"That's also possible," he agreed, smiling at Xander. "Do you have one?"
"No. We go down to the town when we want to hear bards."
"That's not a bad idea." He nodded then wrote out a long note to send later. "I can have Emily go talk to them. She's good at that."
"Can I steal Princess Reid to come teach?" Xander quipped.
"I might lend you JJ." He smirked. "She might like it. She's got a kid on the way."
"That's cool. If she wants it'd be a great thing."
"I'll approach her for you, Xander. In about a year?"
"Yeah, it should be built by then. We're on the last week of taking bids to build it."
"I'll let the builders in my kingdom know," Aaron said. "They're complaining there's nothing new to build."
"We have a yearly public works program," Xander told him. "This year's the roads again." He nodded. "They don't build buildings that well but things like roads and dams? They do great and it gives people who want to do day work some."
"That's not a bad idea," he agreed, making that note as well. "A week?"
"I'll add on two days for out-kingdom ones for mailing time."
"Thanks." He got up to go call his palace from the other fire calling station.
"Our public works projects include rebuilding from storm damage," Horatio said.
"I'm glad my kingdom doesn't get huge storms like yours, Horatio," Xander said. "It'd suck."
"It can," he agreed. "There's always people who use it to cover up bad ideas. We all work extra hours right after one."
"You the family or you the guards?" Queen Annabeth asked. "Healers have mandatory hours we can't go over because it wears us down and we start making mistakes."
Horatio blinked at her. "You do?"
"Yes, we do. Because if we're too tired, people die." He nodded slowly. "Though I have heard that they will go over them in the immediate hours after an emergency."
"Sometimes. I've seen some that have. How many hours are they allowed to work?"
"Not more than twelve in a row. They have to rest at least four hours."
"I did not know that," Horatio admitted. "Though it makes sense."
"It makes sense for disaster response teams," Xander told him. "Because you can't heft and tote debris as fast after twelve hours and you're too tired so might end up a victim yourself."
"I've done that," Horatio admitted. "I took a break long enough to get some food and water down then went back to it. We don't have time to wait."
"You need more people," Xander told him. "Has your military trained for it?" He nodded, looking angry. "Are they helping the immediate needs or just keeping order?"
"Increase the military by two percent," Xander advised. "That's about ten more people per city probably. Maybe a few more in your biggest one. That'd give you a whole new shift of people to help. Even trainees can help. They can't catch criminals but they can help move buildings off people. That's what Jethro's does."
"I also have separate groups for finding criminals and the military," Jethro agreed. "You do have the smallest military, Horatio. You're on a vulnerable coast. If that was mine, I would've already increased it by at least five percent. Just to keep people from trying to come in and take over. Plus, none of your people have had updated disaster training. They don't know how to put up the new winches that got devised. Most of them don't know how to splint and bandage. There's a lot of training they could use. Make units specifically to handle the clean up duties that have the right to call in regular troops to help."
Horatio considered it. "What new winches?" he asked.
Alan smiled. "They've been focusing on disaster clean up machines this year."
"The new winch is an overhead grabber," Xander said. "Like to lift a wall off the ground."
"That's not a bad idea. Can I talk to Charlie or someone?" Horatio asked Alan.
"Not his field but the rest of the engineers are in Jethro's kingdom looking at his dams."
"I can travel up there. It'll only take five days," Horatio admitted.
"Speaking of, why didn't we cut that road through that forest?" Xander asked. "It's flat."
"It's cursed," Stella said. "Like your woods."
"Oh, that reason. I was thinking it'd mean at least a day off Horatio's travels."
"There used to be a road on the other side of the woods," Jethro admitted. "It hasn't been used so it's overgrown. It could be reopened easily enough. Mostly flat but one small rise near the center. It'd still cut at least half a day off most travels."
"That might be nice," Horatio admitted. "My country is basically off to the side with Mac and Stella's, and no one's nearby. The nearest borders are to that woods."
"We need to maybe redraw some boundaries," Xander offered. "Because we've got lots of places like that with no one watching it." Jethro and Horatio both glared at him. "Forest. Fire."
"That," Jethro sighed, nodding. "That's true. It's a necessity that my military usually handles."
"We have no one up by there because no one comes through that border. I have my water border and the one to the south covered more heavily."
Genjo coughed. "Also some of those batty zealots that're related to Pelgar," he told him. "They're trying to kill off your citizens who don't convert."
"I had to shoot one group to get them off the coven," Xander admitted. "They went on a huge hissy fit finding one of them doing some touch healing of a broken leg." Jethro winced. "I got there about when they tried to beat them to death with their walking staffs and then tried to burn them. It was the only way they quit. The one I wounded got back up to try it again. They've got a few groups of them wandering around."
"Abby heard one and stomped over to yell at them," Jethro admitted. "They sneered until her guard arrested them all and dragged them off whining that she's not *their* sort. The judges are trying to find a reason to charge them."
"We heard about one of the enemies up north, with those people, who do the same thing."
"They have magic behind them," Xander told her. "They're ashy and fireball places. These ones just use their methods as far as I can tell. But we could ask the guys in Buffy's kingdom if they're the same."
"I can lend you one," Buffy agreed. "They're the diplomats anyway." She leaned over to look at the fire. "Would you be asking one of them to come teach?"
"Of course. Of anything they want to teach." He grinned. "They know things we don't. The engineers all wanted to learn from them anyway."
"Point." She nodded. "Are you sure you're okay? You're sweating, Xander."
"It's really hot today and I'm sitting in front of a fireplace, Buffy," he said dryly.
"Oh, that stuff." She sat back again. "I'll have the diplomats brought to each of your kingdoms in a few weeks. We're starting with Jethro's since he's closest and they're military guys."
"That's fine," Stella said. "Give us some warning. If we have to, they can do mine and Horatio's by joining us on our way back from the wedding."
Horatio nodded. "That would make sense if we can arrange to go together. Though that one inn had a fire."
"I know the uses of a tent with a cot," Stella told him. "If we have to, we can do that or sleep in the carriages overnight."
"Point. We can do that with some of mine. I'll have to have it cleaned up."
"If we need to, I can let someone bum one," Xander offered. "We have ones that're nice to nap in."
"I might," Buffy said. "I don't have any at all." Alan scowled at her. "I had one, it's really broken. Mom's last fit had her taking a bat to it because she was mad at her body."
Alan nodded. "That's reasonable, Buffy. The major carriage makers are in Xander's lower city or there's one in Stella's upper city."
"I can write them letters, see if it can be fixed. Or how much a new one will be."
"Even if the carriage part can't be fixed, they can probably reuse the frame," Xander told her. "Just put a new passenger part on top."
"That could be cheaper," she agreed. "And it might be pretty. Our last one was all gold stuff from my grandmother. Mom hated it and only used it for official things."
"She had a smaller one," Stella said with a frown.
"All but destroyed. The frame bent when it got tipped that time."
"Oh." She nodded. "That makes sense. Might be able to be fixed?"
"Not sure. Mom didn't."
"You can check. It won't cost that much to have someone look," Xander told her. "Plus you could ask the people who do carts to look at it, might be even cheaper to fix the framework."
"That's a good point. Why does no one else have any of these things? I understand why Xander does, for the military."
"The carriage makers have been here for about three hundred years," Xander told her. "One of the younger relatives married into the country and moved a branch of the family business from Cas's people to here so he could run one."
"We need to do that," Buffy said.
"You'd need more woodcrafts being available," Stella told her. "They have to use a lot of wood and you don't have any in your country. That's why we have one and a lot of stone masons. They go where they can do their work."
"I have a lot of stone workers," Alan agreed. "Some of them went to work on Jethro's castle."
"I have a tower they need to look at," Xander said. "Can you have one contact me?" Alan nodded. "The back tower, overlooking the garden, is about to fall in."
"The one your stepmother stayed in?" Genjo asked. Xander nodded. "Have we even cleaned up her space?"
"Yeah. I had guards go up to sort through it for anything. It's in storage. They burned all the papers she had up there that looked like junk."
"We can sort through it," Genjo said. "Who knows, she might've had some of the crown jewels."
"We need to search the tower for that," Xander admitted. "There's a hidden room up there that my stepfather used to put special weapons in. I looked once but I couldn't get it open."
"We can figure it out," Genjo promised. "If worst comes to worst, I'll let Goyjo break the door." Xander grinned. "Do we need to fix the carriages?"
"One's cushions need to be replaced. The rest are kept in good shape and the one that the engineers got stuck they fixed."
Genjo nodded. "I still can't believe you have a carriage that turns into a siege engine." He walked off to get more tea.
Xander grinned at the staring people. "My stepfather's idea."
"Seen it in use," Stella said dryly.
"Saw it at that battle," Buffy quipped with a grin for her. "It was kind of handy."
"It's comfortable to travel in too," Xander told her. The others just shook their heads.
Genjo smirked at Xander. "We need to find out what the happy couple wants so we have time to have something made."
"They have no idea yet," Alan admitted. "You'll find something nice. They're moving to their own small house in town as well."
"That means we can find something nice for it," Xander decided. Genjo nodded.
"Just don't get Don any books," Alan said. "He's got plenty."
The others made notes and nodded. They got back to business for a while.
Xander and Genjo looked at their crafts guild's higher ups. "All right, we have three things to talk about today," he noted. They all nodded. "First, we're setting up the new school." A few smiled. "We took bids and didn't get hardly any. One of the groups from King Aaron's kingdom is going to be in charge and will be hiring local workers as well." They nodded at that. "Second, the school is going to housing specialists colleges."
"For the crafts?"
"One's for engineers." Xander smiled. "And the town's also building a military post to protect it."
"So the stone masons are going to have a ton of work," one of them quipped.
"And probably some of the rest of you too. The schools are going to need plates and stuff from the ceramics people. The wood in the schools. A lot of stuff needs to be put in." They all got happier with that.
Genjo cleared his throat. "Also, it's been noted that we're looking a bit...shabby."
They stared then a few nodded. "We've noticed that your stepfather didn't do much maintenance on things like public buildings," one of the woodworkers said.
Xander grinned and nodded. "And we need to fix it. We can't look shabby. We already get plenty of dirty looks for not being warlords." They moaned. "So you guys have a *lot* of work coming up." A few more moaned again. "But hey, it means getting more apprentices. I will allow out-country apprentices and possibly new masters if you want to steal some from someone."
They smiled at their protective, kind of insane, king and his bitchy consort. "We can do that," they agreed. "Thank you, Sire."
"Welcome, guys. Make us pretty again please." He grinned. "That way people quit sneering." They nodded. "These three engineers designed the new schools," he said, passing down the plans. "That's what's going up."
They unrolled them to see what they'd need to put in. The wood and stone workers were going to be horribly busy for *years*. The ceramics people were going to be spending months making plates and cups. The rest were going to have accessory workings going on.
Xander smiled at one specifically. "Write Queen Buffy about her carriages."
"I can do that, Sire."
"Good. One's broken thanks to former Queen Joyce and a bat. The other one tipped and I suggested she talk to the regular cart makers since it'd be cheaper and it's a frame problem."
"We can definitely do that," he agreed. "Do ours need work?"
"One needs new cushions," Genjo said. "They could be examined but I don't think they need a lot of work." He looked at Xander. "Can we afford to do this all at once?"
"Yeah. We have plenty of money now that we're not supporting wars everywhere."
"Okay then that's my only objection as long as it's tasteful." He looked at the stones people. "We're having someone look at that tower as well."
"Great. It could use it. We're good enough to build but fixing something already built takes special skills."
"We've asked King Alan to have someone call us," Genjo said. "We're going up today to look through it." The stone masons all smiled and nodded they'd help. They all took notes of what they'd need to be building in how many dozens and then the stone people went up to the old tower with the royals and one guard with a rope. He was paranoid and really wanted a rope in case they had to get out a window. Xander stopped at the door to look at it. Genjo looked. "Is that the switch?" he asked with a point at a brick that stood out.
Xander tapped it, shaking his head. "No, that one's just sticking out." He pointed. "That's the switch I know of but it seems to be locked."
The stones masons got them out of the way and opened the hidden door. One found a trick stair too by accident. The guard saved him. The door got opened and Genjo stepped back, staring at the shiny things. "I thought you said it was weapons," Genjo said.
"Those are. They're poisoned," Xander said, staring at them. "That's the necklace no one could find for Stella too." He leaned in to look around. "Weapons." He climbed in and found the side doors, pulling out boxes.
Genjo looked. "They're probably weapons. It looks like they throw things." He closed them and put them on the stairs. The poisoned jewelry was put into a box that was mostly empty, outside a few grenades. Xander found a few more weapons then climbed back out. He closed the door. Then he reopened it and found more weapons. He looked up since the floor was higher. "It's an elevator system?"
Xander climbed back in and up the new hole, nodding. "Yeah, there's a ton up here." Genjo moaned. "We'll bring it down later." He came out and they went up to the two rooms up there. His former stepmother's quarters. The boxes were still in there. The walls were crumbling in one spot.
One of the stone masons looked at it. "Was her chamberpot here?"
"She has a full bathroom," Xander said with a point. "Could she have ignored that? Possibly. She was fully drunk most of the time." They nodded. "We'll need these down so we can go through them." He looked at the furniture. "This is all to be trashed. We can offer this to someone as a work studio. Maybe a weaver." They went to the other room. "Hey, someone threw out all the empty bottles. Great." The guard laughed. "This was her storage room for that stuff."
The guard nodded. "I remember, sire. We parked a cart down below the window and just threw them down. It took us six hours." The stone masons looked at them. He nodded. "All empty wine bottles." They groaned. "The walls aren't in bad shape."
"No, they're not. It's mostly the external walls that have the problem," they agreed, patting one. "We can tell the ones that can fix the tower about the shape of things, Sires." They left, the others following while carrying down the stuff they had found. Xander went back to the storage room to get more stuff out with some of the military grunts. He found some older artwork that had been put up too. He also found the other entry, which led to a huge drop from the parapet of the tower into the moat. He went back but left that door open for a bit. It was too chilly today for birds. More people came up to heft things down. The statues took a few people each. Including Xander helping. He wasn't immune to hefting and toting. It was all his stuff now.
Xander called Horatio's kingdom. "Is Stella there?" he asked Eric.
"They're having dinner with Horatio, King Xander. Is there a problem?"
"I'm pretty sure we found that missing necklace of hers." He smiled and went to get her. She came back. He held it up and she smiled and nodded. "One small tiny problem? It's poisoned. He soaked the whole thing into a poison. I'm not sure how to clean it. We don't have the jewelry makers, you and Horatio do."
"I can have ours look at it. Is it a dangerous one?"
"Yeah. It's a seriously nasty one. The healers tested it and went on fits about his plot to use it as a mistress remover. It's labeled." He showed it to her. The note was written on the bottom of the jewelry box.
"That's so nasty," she decided. "Okay, well, when you can get out, send it with a special courier. I'll have someone look it over. Were there others?"
"Yeah. Some were even worse. They were sitting in poison that had dried around it." She grimaced. "And we found the old storage area in that tower where they put some of the statues to save them from my stepfather or that needed mended. We spent the last three days moving things down out of the tower."
"Wow," she said. "That's a lot."
He grinned. "Yes, it is, and it's mostly naked women statues." She laughed. "I'll send it with a special guard but I thought I'd ask since it's dangerous."
"Have you heard anything about a warlord trying to start?"
"No. I heard about a group of spoiled rich, lesser heirs trying to pretend to be warlords. And them not being able to do a thing but use weapons they order on credit."
"Okay. Can we end them?"
"They're in Genjo's people's area. We can tell him."
"I can do that. Thank you, Xander."
"You're welcome, Stella." He hung up with a wave. The box got closed and put into a sealed case. The healer had a note about the poison to go with it. It got put aside for a special courier when it was safe for them to leave the country.
They had more cubby holes they needed to find. Even the housekeeper didn't know about those spaces and she had been working here since she was a young girl.
Stella sat down at dinner, smiling at Mac and Horatio. "Xander found that missing necklace but it was dipped in poison."
"His stepfather did like that method," Mac said.
"He wrote 'mistress remover' on the bottom of the jewelry box," she told him. He rolled his eyes. "So they'll send it to me when they can safely reopen the borders." She dug in again.
"Xander's doing a lot of things," Horatio said.
She looked at him. "So why are you so down on him?" He glared. She stared back. "Not like we haven't noticed, Horatio, and I'm sure you got Alan's letter too. I know we did."
"It seems like that ploy of theirs failed. It killed King John and no one seems to care."
"It did work. We're not getting the minor demons that had been plaguing people. Now we're getting their versions of gods." She sipped her wine. "None of the minor possessing things have happened. They have to be possessing someone to get into the Joined Kingdoms and we have protections on the borders that show they're possessed."
"That one who gave us the scrolls."
"Is the level of the ones that were causing problems' gods," she said bluntly. "He's the one the lower ones all pray to."
"I'm worried that somehow Xander got warped by all that. We did lose a king. Most of us got injured. Xander got a bit cut up but nothing else?"
Mac wiped his mouth off. "John knew what he was going to," he told him. "By his journals, he had been there before about his former wife, who died at the one the boys went to up north. They reported seeing her. She had tried to stop that higher demon problem and died doing it." Horatio winced. "John was trying to find a way to get back to her side since the day she died. That's why he used to run off to hunt the demons that took her out, Horatio. They knew what they were doing. As for Xander's injuries," he said, looking at Stella.
"I overheard him talking to Genjo about the protections he has on his kingdom. He linked his soul into them. So no matter what, he'll be floating around as the price he paid to keep the kingdom more free." Horatio winced, shifting some in his seat. "He had one of Castiel's family help him. It kept the problem of what happens if the bloodline dies down for good."
"So we're not handling the minor level things possessing people, but the higher level that are more dangerous," Horatio said. Mac and Stella nodded. "That will cause more problems."
"No," Stella said. "There's not as many of them and they're the sort that plan things then send out minions. We're immune to the minions and they don't want to screw with Xander for some reason. Or Amellisame."
"There's some sort of prophecy that states them taking out healers would lead to their downfall," Mac said. "I asked Xander. They're scared of him because he's got some skills of his own that he doesn't use too often. He's had a few visions, which would make him a bigger target but he also got possessed at his stepfather's instigation before he was sent to the academy. Some sort of large hunting creature. He kept enough of the instincts that he scares them."
"That plus where he was born," Stella decided. "That lets him get to that point easier and possibly even use it if he wanted to study any form of magic. Which I'm thankful he doesn't."
Horatio relaxed. "Perhaps. He does seem so smug."
"Horatio, he's more than a third of your age," she said dryly. "That's a young guy for you."
"He is annoyingly bouncy," Horatio agreed.
She looked at him. "He needs better concubines." Horatio spluttered. "You know, if he was like his stepfather, he probably would've taken in Calleigh as one. Or Ryan."
"And probably Danny, Don, or Aiden," Stella said, making Mac smile at her. "No, he wouldn't have taken me. I'm not squealy in bed." She ate a bite of chicken with a grin.
"We really do need to find him one he can keep more than two years," Mac said.
"I think they're tired by then and he does give them gifts for their service," Stella reminded him.
"Even when Timothy was alive, I still never wore him out that way," Horatio said, grimacing some.
"Yes, but Xander's more like Eric," Mac said.
"He does do the same thing," Horatio agreed. "Maybe I should suggest him to be Xander's concubine. He does have princesses sitting around."
"Not as many now that Tony's marrying," Stella said. "That leaves Gregory and Genjo's guard team. Maybe whoever's visiting. His own daughter."
Mac smiled. "Amellisame's growing into the same stubborn her father is. I'm not sure who I feel more sorry for when they're locked in quarantine together." He smirked as he ate a bite of chicken and stuffing.
"Gregory can be sarcastic but he does care for her. He's been helping train her." Stella nodded while she chewed. "I'm sure he can get his point across," Horatio decided. "Maybe things will slow down soon. It'd be nice if things got boring for a bit."
"Too true," Mac agreed. They got back to their nice, friendly meal. It was good to have friends.
I'm pretty sure this is the End.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. Any original characters or plot are the property of the author. No claims are being made as to the actions or orientation of the actual actors, and none of this is meant to say anything about them. No copyright infringement is intended. No money is being made from this work.