Princesses of War and Pieces.
King Xander gave the man in front of him a confused look. "Why are you talking to me about princess fans? I don't carry one of those anymore and I didn't really like carrying one before. They're annoying little things that keep getting lost."
"Sire, they're important to an upcoming visiting people."
"It's great they like them. The same as I married a Sanzo so he could carry them for me." He stared at the guy. "I don't care about fans. Well, unless I'm being hit by one, and then I complain to my spouse, but otherwise I don't care about fans! Really! They're annoying. I'm not going to carry one. Whoever wants to carry one, go for it. These new visitors, if they can't understand that, that's their difficulties, not mine. We're not the same people."
"Quit pissing the king off before he makes the rest of us miserable," Consort Genjo called from the hallway. "I don't need that today."
"Apparently we're getting visited by people who like fans as much as you do, Genjo."
Genjo stepped into the throne room, looking at the new majordomo. "My relatives?"
"No, Consort Genjo. Someone new. They appreciate fans. I was trying to explain that to the king."
"Who is he?" Xander asked with a point. "Is he their diplomat?"
"No, he's the majordomo you hired to replace the guy who tried the treason stuff," Goyjo said from behind his boss. He grinned and waved. "He's going to take the fan and hit you with it." He ducked Genjo's fan as he walked off.
"He's right," Xander quipped with a grin and a nod. "Really he is. I do not care about fans. If you like fans, great! If you don't like fans, great!" He smirked at the guy. "You can send letters ahead saying we don't mind them having battle fans. It's more than an acceptable weapon in this palace. Genjo proves that often."
"They prefer culturally meaningful fans, sire, not battle ones," he almost sighed. "Certain groups have ones that show their lineage or participation in the group."
Genjo snorted. "Great, it's the pussy-whipped cousins from down south coming," he complained. "They're just as uptight as my people, but it's all ceremonial. They wear a lot of makeup. They put on great shows of art. They consider strumming that off-key guitar to be peaceful. They don't meditate but that's about the only difference."
"Like those ladies that help your mom?" Xander asked him, looking confused.
"Yes, they're all from there because they're gentle and know how to dress her."
Xander nodded slowly. "Why are they coming here?"
"They want to set up peaceful relations, sire," the majordomo said patiently.
"I'm not against that but I'm not changing anything to suit anyone."
"Sire, we could make an effort," he said. Xander stared at him. "It's seen as diplomatic."
"We've barely stopped decorating the palace," he said dryly. Genjo was laughing. "They can be as frivolous as they want as long as they don't cause problems. I am not putting on makeup, carrying a fan, or anything like that. The military would never respect me. They barely listen to Genjo and only those he's beaten with his fan do usually. I'll never get back the respect." He stared at him. "Also, where did you come from?"
"Consort Genjo's people, to the south border, sire."
"Oh, okay. That's cool. Have you been told how I like to have things done around here?"
"Including the flag codes and what goes on when I'm not here?"
"You have many diplomatic trips?"
"I tend to travel with the military if it's that important," Xander said dryly. "I always have." The guy looked like he was going to pass out. He looked at Genjo, who shrugged.
"I didn't hire him, Xander."
"Okay. Who hired him?"
"Sire!" one of the courtiers complained. "That's rude."
"Which is why you don't have a job either. I'm blunt, I know that." He looked at the guy. "We're one of the more lax castles. We have very little protocol. We don't throw huge parties. We listen to commoner problems at least twice a week and handle any problems that come up almost immediately. We work with our military to help protect the rest of the joined kingdoms, and we're pretty badass around here. We carry weapons, not fans. Outside my consort and he can use it to make everyone sorry." Genjo sat down on his throne. "Also, put the couches in here back, people," he called more loudly. "We like the visiting princesses to have a place to sit and talk to us. A lot of times they have very good ideas to solve problems."
"That's not how it's supposed to be!" the majordomo said frantically.
"Well, that's the way it is around here," Xander said bluntly, staring him down. "If you don't like it, tough. We'll give you some nice letters of recommendation as long as you haven't screwed up anything too much." He stared at him. "Now, are you going to actually argue with me about things I want in my own palace?" The man huffed off. He looked up, shaking his head. "Fuck it, I'm going to start naming people from out-kingdom so I don't get stupid people again," he yelled. "Knight Scott, would you like to hold an official position in my kingdom?" he asked since he was in the doorway.
"It's a long way to travel, King Xander, and I have a kid."
"Pity. If any of yours who are honorable and good at things want to come up here, let me know. We could use it." He glared at the courtiers who were pouting. "Get over it," he snapped.
"Sire, are you mirroring your surrogate's mood swings?" one asked with an idiot's smile.
"Kind of hard to do since mine was only inserted for the first time last night," Genjo said dryly. "If it doesn't take, his'll be used next month." He looked out there. "Hakkai, tell the housekeeper to please put things back where they're supposed to be before it irritates Xander even more."
"I've already noted he was complaining about that." He smiled at the courtiers then at his boss. "She's finding the couches he may have put into the barn."
"They were brand new couches," Xander said dryly. "We had to replace them after Dean and Sam got into that brawl with Gregory."
"Don't remind me," Genjo muttered, sipping the tea he was brought by the housekeeper. "The couches and other things that got changed?"
"The couches are in a storage room but crammed in there. I have no idea how he got them in there, Sires. The tapestries look nicely balanced but we had taken them down to clean. The one he ordered us to hide is coming out of the front hallway. We stopped him from cutting it up with his tiny belt dagger," she said blandly. "And we have no idea who hired him either, Sires. We thought the king had." Xander shook his head. "All right, we'll fix all that back. I'm to warn you we're having fish when they show up. They adore fish. One of their gods has a fish head. We'll have to serve fish with the heads and tails on."
"Make sure Sam's there so he won't be possessed by a fish," Genjo said blandly. "I never seem to be able to banish them from him."
"I've already suggested he show up since he's one of the better diplomats we have. We also need to hire two new cleaning maids. They seem to have left."
"Why did they leave?" Xander asked.
"I have no idea, Sire. You might ask one of the generals."
"Generals!" he bellowed. They came running in. "What the fuck happened that I wasn't told about!"
"The majordomo you hired...." one stared.
Genjo held up a hand. "No one we know hired him." They all groaned. "We just kicked him out. Please drown him in the moat to put him out of others' misery. Is there something he did to your people?"
"A few he tried to dismiss for being nasty, Sire."
"They're soldiers! They're not going to be pretty all the damn time!" Xander complained. "No! Fuck no!" The generals all flinched. "It goes back to the way it's supposed to be. You know I'd never do that. Have some damn Goddess-blessed sense!"
"We just mostly hid them," another of the generals said. "And the two maids he tried to dismiss for not being of his kind of people."
Xander growled. "Drown the bastard. I do not accept that sort of racist behavior." They all nodded and ran to fix it. He stared at the housekeeper, who smiled and patted him on the wrist before walking off laughing. "Find a new majordomo for me since you've known me since I was a kid and how the palace is supposed to run."
"Yes, Sire," she called back. "Later today I'll go looking."
"Thank you. Can I have some coffee?"
"None in the pantry, Sire. He threw it out because rulers only drank tea."
"Get. More. We all know I hate tea," he complained, looking at his spouse.
He smirked. "He was apparently from the kingdom of Sanzo, yes. Just a bit less uptight than most of ours. Not even my mother would redecorate without permission. Gregory, they'll bring the couches back in a few minutes."
He flopped down on the stairs. "That's fine." He looked up. "I heard shouting?" Xander growled. "You should probably calm down before your blood pressure ruptures your brain, Xander."
Xander flapped a hand with a grin. "It'll come down. Just let the stupid stop for a bit."
"We all hope it stops for a bit," Genjo said. People carried in the couches and arranged them nicely. That idiot man stomped back in to complain so Xander threw a dagger at him, making him scream as it hit his leg. "You were fired," Genjo said dryly. "Get out of this palace before we have you killed." He finished his tea. "Gloria, can we have a snack as well? It may calm Xander's temper down."
"Doubt it," Xander said dryly. "I hate people trying to screw with me on purpose." The man was still crying and wailing about the tiny injury. "I had worse than that as a child and didn't make that sort of noise. Shut the hell up." He looked over at the general stomping in. "Here, have a training toy." He pointed.
"Yes, sire, we can track him through the woods." He hauled him up and out to the jail then came back. "Sire, why are my soldiers moving things?"
"I have no idea since it's the people on staff here who're doing it now."
"They were moving furniture the other day, Sire. Someone took them of a work assignment."
Genjo pointed. "Same idiot's problem?"
"Oh, all right then." He nodded, giving them a smug look. "The boys will like having fun with him for making them lift couches and stuff." He looked around then at them. "You're missing a statue."
"I thought I was," he admitted, pointing. "That was up here because I stare at it when I'm thinking. So the mermaid one?" The general looked then nodded. "Any idea?" he called out.
"Back hallway to the gardens," one of the staff members moving couches said. "It's very heavy, Sire."
Xander grinned at the general, who sighed but nodded. "I'll have someone shift them around, Sire. Of course we have people who're in trouble."
"Thanks." He took his cup of coffee. "Thank you as well."
"Welcome, Sire. We had to grind from the hidden bags. We're getting more from the storage caverns in a bit."
"How much did he waste?" Genjo asked.
"He threw it down the watering well for the garden," she said. "Two bags worth." Xander moaned, shaking his head. "I've let the head housekeeper know, Sires. They'll make sure we have enough." She curtseyed and walked off with a grin for the general. She came back. "Sir Scott, do you need a room for a few days?" she asked with a smile. "And are you alone?"
"I'm being a messenger. I brought up the trade treaty." He held it up. She handed it to Xander and walked him off to find him a room to rest in.
Xander read it over, nodding before handing it to Genjo.
"I don't like that one clause," he admitted. He let the general see it. "Third clause in the second amendment."
"That sounds like King Stark's doing," the general said. "It's also a poor idea. The rest look reasonable."
"Then we'll talk to Sir Scott later once he's rested," he said, putting the scroll down on the table between the two thrones. "Go fix shit. You know how I run things," he said more quietly. "Find me reasonable nobles and diplomats. Help Gloria find me a real majordomo. Have one of the military protocol bitches show up to fill in please."
"Yes, Sire. One of mine is on crutches after a surgery. He can come fill in."
"I wanted him off his leg," Gregory warned. "Make sure he has a chair or maybe a desk in here." The general nodded and left. He looked at Xander. "It might keep him from carrying stacks of paper anyway."
Xander pointed. "There?" That got a nod. "Can one of you get the writing desk from the parlor we don't use and a decent chair with a footstool for that newly bare corner?" One of them nodded, going to fetch it for them."
"Why do we have bitches of protocol in a military?" Genjo asked.
"They do things like read charges at hearings and make sure the rule books are seen by all and followed. They're not the judges but they're the people that run all the stuffy things that aren't military maneuvers."
"So they're the majordomos of the military," Genjo said.
"Each general's unit has one," Xander said with a grin. "Some of them are more uptight than even your cousin, the one that's blind and refuses to talk to anyone he can't see." Genjo shuddered. "The one mentioned isn't bad and isn't that uptight but he's good at making sure that the military has what it needs for stores as well. He might do good with that job."
"I've already thought of him, Sire," Gloria said as she came back, curtseying again. "Sire, meat for dinner?"
"Usually," he agreed dryly. "If it was that idiot's idea, I don't eat too many things that aren't real food."
"He wanted fancier things. I pointed out you didn't eat that way. You were more simple. We did get a call from King Dean's people and he's on his way with his consort."
"Dean eats steaks and roasts too," Genjo said. "They're much alike. So is Castiel. Who I think eats less meat than any of us but me." He cleared up a sudden frown. "What about that mushroom dish? We haven't had it in a while."
"Not the season for them, Consort Genjo. We have a substitute but they're bitter this year for some reason." He nodded at that. "I'll make sure we start making it as soon as we get them back. There are mushrooms cooked with the roast tonight."
Xander looked at him. "You eat more vegetables than even witches do."
He glared at him. "I was raised not to eat living things."
"I know, still weird."
"Yes, but it gets us closer to the Merciful Goddess," Genjo said blandly, scowling at him. Xander grinned back. "We should spar later to make sure you still remember how to use the hand weapons."
"If I must," he sighed. But he was grinning. He looked at Gloria. "That one protocol minister would be a great solution, yes."
"I'll talk to him tonight, Sire. His wife might like that." She heard a horse and looked out by leaning backwards a bit. "I see Princess Tony, Sire. And possibly his brother Prince Timothy." She straightened up to stare at them. "These new people coming?"
"Remember my mother's maids?" Genjo said with a grimace. She nodded slowly, looking upset. "Their people."
"Oh, dear. I'll make sure they have a nice closet and mirror." She walked off shaking her head. They had been quietly uptight the last time and had went behind everyone to fix things to their suiting.
Timothy walked in with Tony behind him shaking his head. "King Xander, can we talk?" Timothy asked politely.
"We often do, Tim." He grinned. "You know I'm not the formal, stick up the ass king. I am not from Castiel or Genjo's people." He ducked the swat at his head. "So what's up?"
"Two of your pouting soldiers came to sob on Abby," Tony said dryly, flopping down on a couch. "We're not sure why."
"We had a new majordomo who thought I was an uptight ass," Xander quipped, grinning at Tim. "Call and ask them if it was him, if so I've already ordered all the stupid things fixed. If it's something else, I'll fix it if I can."
"Thanks," Timothy said, going to the fire calling station. "Queen Abby." She ran to the fire, smiling at him. "If it was about something the majordomo attempt did, Xander's said it's fixed."
"One said it was his general's fault."
"Who are you?" a man sneered.
Tim looked at him. "Prince Timothy." The man backed up, bowing. "Consort Genjo?" he called. "Tony!" He looked at his stepmother, who cooed at him. "We know. Do I really have to meet those uptight princesses?"
"We've got some coming that're uptight in different ways," Genjo said as he came out. "Oh, look, the majordomo attempt has a friend."
"Who are you?" he sneered.
"The King's consort," he sneered back. The man lunged to hit him so Genjo slugged him into a wall. Xander came out to haul that guy off. "I can fight, Xander."
Xander grinned. "I could use some growling relief, Genjo. Go order something painted for me." He hauled the guy outside and to the practice arena where the soldiers were. "Did you miss one?"
"He has another retinue member," one of the generals said. "Have fun with him, Sire." His people were smart, they were getting out of the way.
Xander looked at him. "Which general screwed up enough that a few of our soldiers went to sob on Queen Abby's lap?"
That general groaned, shaking his head. "The newest one ordered no new marriages for six months to make sure everything was settled and because we might be switching people out to the south, Sire."
"You go talk to her." He pointed.
"Prince Timothy and Princess Tony are both here." The general groaned but went to talk to them and their stepmother. Most everyone liked Queen Abby but they thought she was a tiny bit weird.
Xander shoved the guy into the practice ring. "Good. Let's see what else you tried to fuck up in my kingdom." The man was still sneering and pulling out a gun. Xander dodged the attempt to shoot him and killed the guy. "Not any good, were you?" Another female voice screamed. Xander looked around. "If that's one of our people, I'm going to kill whoever just hurt her, boys. Go find out for me." They ran off to see what had happened. They brought back the body they had stabbed. "He raping someone?" Xander asked bluntly, staring at the body. He was half-undressed so it was a logical assumption.
"No, Sire, just trying to force her to service him. He didn't get to the point where he was using actual force, just sneering about her job. We've corrected that and gotten her to the head housekeeper so she can find somewhere safe to calm down."
"Good. I like that." Xander shrugged, kicking some sand on the bodies. "Bury 'em. Their friend in the jail can go with them when you guys treat him like a tracking exercise." They did that for him. Xander walked off shaking his head. "How many people did he have?"
"Four, Sire," one of the pages said. "One of the courtiers brought him in and hired him." Xander grimaced. "That one's ran for his life back to his estate to move."
"Good idea. Let me know who so we can send guards to make sure they didn't leave anything important. I really do have to find new nobles who aren't stupid."
"Sire," the page said with a wince. "Anytime you do that, they complain that they're not related to us."
Xander looked at him. "How would they know with the way my real father wenched around so much? The man fathered 318 kids! I'm sure he's got some in other places." He walked off. "Besides, nobles don't have to be blood related. They just have to be doing good things for the kingdom." He went to flop down on his throne, sighing in displeasure. He looked at Scott. "You sure you don't want a title here?"
"No. Thanks. Maybe for the daughter some day."
"I'm not against females in the military or nobility," Xander agreed. "They have to prove their worth like the rest do." He shrugged. "Bring her up if you want to."
Scott smiled, nodding some. "I'll see if her mother would like that, King Xander."
"We're not that formal," he reminded him. "It's just Xander unless I'm pissed at you." He gave him a pointed look. "We liked it, but one clause. It sounded like King Stark was drunk when he wrote it."
"I didn't read it. Not my job." Genjo handed it over, letting him read it. "That second point is all King Stark's idea," he admitted.
"We hated the third clause under that point," Xander said.
"Okay. We have a fire calling station set up now so I can tell them that." He went to do that. He came back ten minutes later. "The one they have on record doesn't have that clause." Xander snickered, nodding some. "Or one other one. They'll send up a new copy."
"Rest, have fun, train with ours if you want," Genjo said with a hand wave. "We need more sensible people who have ideas sometimes." Xander nodded. "Though it was nice that the palace's people all have good ideas on how to keep things stable."
"It is," Xander agreed. "We really have to do something nice for them this year." He looked at his spouse. "Beyond the yearly raise."
"That is good," he agreed. "We'll figure out something nice." Xander grinned and nodded, patting him on the hand. He looked at the two princesses and the prince. "You guys settled for a bit?" They all nodded. "Good, it's hearings day." He looked at the quiet military person who was in the corner. "Are we ready?"
"Only two requests to be heard, Sires," he said, looking up at them. "There was another one but she came in without any information on her idea and I know the king would want that. She'll be back soon with it." They nodded so he let in the first petitioners. It was much easier if they weren't all in there together, plus safer for the king and consort. The king wouldn't mind that sort of change to his routine.
Xander looked around that night at dinner, staring at the strange arrangement of the tables. "Were we cleaning again?" he asked the server.
"Yes, Sire. We separated out a table because they were going to be talking about things they're bringing to your attention. The other side has one for diplomats who want to settle out of the way and watch people but not be talked to." He pointed at them then smiled at the diplomats in residence. "The rest of them are usually seated by you but I know some of them aren't really liking people talking while they eat."
"That's a good idea if you guys don't mind it."
"No, Sire. It lets us send just one server to them so they don't have to be paranoid."
"That's a good idea," he agreed with a smile. "Thank whoever came up with it for me."
"I can do that, Sire." He went to tell the cook that. She came out to hand Xander dessert personally with a wink for him. He patted her back.
"Your people do eat together more often than we do," Timothy said from his seat. "We only eat as a group once a month because we get complaining."
"We have rules that dinner isn't for heavy subjects unless we're at war," Genjo told him, sipping his water. He grimaced. "That has to be from the well in the garden." He put it aside.
"It may have sucked from there," the cook said, sniffing the water. "Oh, that is. Sorry, Sire." She took it to get him a fresh glass. She brought it back. "Here, right from the pitcher in the cold chest, Sire." She walked off to talk to the maid that had pulled up water.
Genjo sipped and nodded. "That's good." He looked at Timothy. "Us eating in here once a week means they realize we're not too out of touch."
"It also lets minor concerns like some woman wondering if her marriage is going to be complained about talk about it where we can hear it as well as the higher nobles just in case." He looked at her. "I hate your future husband and I think you can do better but if you feel you must...we'll be lenient when you kill him for being an ass to you and your family." She blushed, ducking her head with a nod. He looked at another young woman who had been talking about her upcoming marriage. "I know you showed up to court someone. I have no idea who. Come talk to me about it." She hurried up to hiss in his ear, getting a nod. "Are you sure?"
"My parents are sure."
He sighed, staring at her. "I hate arranged marriages." She nodded. "I know you know that." She nodded again, giving him a hopeful look. "If you two can work it out, that's good, but I'd almost request your parents hire you a bodyguard. It's really not a good choice. There's so many better ones."
"My parents like his family."
He nodded, looking at his spouse then at her again. "Talk to me tomorrow in private. There's things you may not have heard." She nodded, going back to her family's side. He grimaced. Genjo leaned over so he hissed the guy's name in his ear.
Genjo looked at her then at him. "Are her parents trying to have her killed?" he asked quietly.
"I'll compile a list?"
"Please get Hakkai to do that?"
"Hakkai, can you put together a list of eligible people we can marry off?" he asked him. "There's talk of someone doing some sort of event where they can get together to meet everyone at once."
"Of course. The cooks and maids would know," he agreed dryly from his seat. Xander came down to hiss in his ear. "Oh, god, the cannibal," he moaned, rubbing his forehead. The girl in question squeaked, staring at the king, who nodded quickly but stuffed his mouth. "We'll find a list for you, miss."
"Thank you, Master Hakkai," she said quietly. "I had no idea he was that bad." She glanced at his seat but he had stomped off already. She looked at her parents, who were scowling.
Goyjo walked over to haul the father into the hall to share some information with him. The dad came back in pale and grossed out. Goyjo went back to his seat, having to swat Goku to get him out of his plate. "I need the food too." Goku scowled but got seconds of his own.
Xander looked at his consort. "When those new diplomats show up, where are we putting them?"
He considered it. "My house would've been the perfect place," he agreed. "I am not living with a diplomat though. Much less the pack of them since they travel in packs of roaming uptightness." He thought then sighed. "There's two other small houses in the garden or there's the one on the other side of the garden that needs to be fixed. That one may be the best option. It's far enough away to be private and so they won't be bothered by anything but close enough to not look like you're trying to make them flee in horror."
Xander nodded. "We need to see what that one needs." He looked at someone, who groaned. "That house?" he asked him.
"Some work, Sire. I'll bring a list tomorrow when you tour it with me."
"Thank you." He smiled at his consort. "Thanks."
"Welcome. If they want to sit someone up here more permanently they can build a house outside town." He grimaced. "There's that nice set of lots near the orphanage's road. Far enough away that the kids won't bother them too often but close enough to the town."
"I was going to set up an area for diplomats," Xander said. "I have a few lots up north of us just outside of town, but that's near the forest, and there's another three lots that're good for those sort of houses. The orphanage might get bothered and I'd hate that." He ate a bite. "Map?" he called. One of the guards got him one from the walls in there. He waved the princesses, prince, and knight over. "What about here, here, here, and here for diplomatic houses?" he asked, looking at them.
"I didn't really pay attention to that," Scott said.
Tony pointed. "I like Genjo's idea of this area but you're right, they might hate being near the orphanage. Some people are like that and are horrified at orphans." He frowned. "Nice manor house?"
"Falling in wreck," Xander said. "I was thinking about breaking up that estate anyway."
"That's not a bad place," Genjo agreed, looking it over. "You have another wreck of a house here," he said with a point of his fan.
Xander nodded. "That's an inherited one and there's an heir, she's in the orphanage since it was that or her father's people would kill her to take out the rest of the family."
"That could cause later problems," Tim agreed. "Like Duke level?"
"She's a tiny little Duchess," Xander agreed. "She's eight." He grinned. "I introduced her to Amilisame and they were polite but not too friendly. Her being her lady in waiting would've solved a lot of problems for the kid."
"She adopted one of Dean's cousin's last daughters," Genjo said. "Her last letter said she's nice and likes to read too."
"That's good," Xander agreed. "My baby girl needs more friends." He grinned at Scott. "She so squealed about writing your daughter."
"I heard. Cassie squealed back about knowing an actual princess." He pointed. "This one's not too far away."
"It's a good twenty minutes," Genjo said. "By carriage. They might think that's a snub."
"Okay, so I'll break up this one, let these three lots," he said, circling them with a finger. "Be allowed to be built on for diplomatic things, and we'll look at the house across the garden for sudden visits." He accepted some ink and a pen to write that out. Including a note to leave that one estate alone because there was still an heir. He handed it to a guard, who took it to the council that argued with him a lot.
"Sire, that one estate you mentioned?" one of them called.
"Their daughter still lives." He sat down, looking at him. "I'd like her to keep doing that. I'm not going to take her family's history from her."
"That house is all but destroyed, Sire."
"Then when she's older, she can rebuild it if she wants or she can tear it down and build a new one. Did we put the things in there into storage?" The guard nodded. "Thank you. I'll be checking on her more often to make sure she's learning how to be a good woman as well as a good heir."
"We offered to bring her into our family, Sire," another noble said with a shrug. "She refused."
"Her nanny tried to kill her," Xander said bluntly. "She thinks someone's going to use her and she may be right in some cases. Not you, or your wife, but your brother's like that."
"He is," he agreed with a grimace at his wife. He looked at him again. "Have you introduced her to your daughter?"
"I have. They were polite." A few people smiled. "Amilisame picked up one of Dean's cousins recently."
"With any luck, that young woman will find a good home," another old dame of the old lines said. "Her mother was a good woman. Her father, we put up with."
Xander nodded. "I'm going to be giving her instruction in how to handle an estate too. She'll need it some day." They mostly nodded at that. "You know, there's three heirs out there, right?" A few frowned at him. He pointed at one person. "Her distant niece? Um...." He looked at Genjo then snapped his fingers. "Sir Reginald's last in the family as well. I remembered there were three."
"Reginald had family," that old dame said.
Xander shook his head. "The kid's from someone's first marriage and the family refused to take him in. He's a good kid most of the time."
"Bit slow," Genjo admitted. "But he can still handle things."
"Hmm. I should go look on their family." The old dame grimaced. "That is not right to do that." She stared at the slightly less older dame Xander had pointed out. "Your niece?"
"From a dalliance," she said with a grimace. "My actual niece accepted her into the family but we don't like her that much."
"That's not what you do to family," Xander said quietly, staring at her. "Even if they're your step-nieces." She glared at him. He stared back. "Yes, that means her inheritance is upheld." The old dame started to sob. He looked at the older dame. "Straight heirs always win out."
She nodded. "Yes they do, as you did." He nodded. "Thankfully you're not having many heirs, Sire."
"We're trying with our surrogate now," Genjo said dryly.
"We haven't seen the palace's surrogates," that old dame said.
"We picked one that's at the engineering school from King Steve's island kingdom," Xander said with a smile. "She's beautiful, smart, not related to anyone in this kingdom already. It's becoming a problem, really."
"We do need to arrange for our children to marry out of the kingdom," the older dame complained, looking at Tony, who grinned at her. "Could your nobles and ours get together to talk about such things?"
"Of course. They could use the same help," he agreed with a smile. "You could hold a whole convergence from all the kingdoms to work on those things. That way the children could meet each other and may actually have a preference."
She nodded, looking around. They all nodded. "We can do that."
"Hold it in Queen Buffy's kingdom," Genjo said. "She needs a spouse as well. Before her sister is forced to take over."
"Yes she could," that old dame agreed. "A good one, unlike some she's seen officially." She sipped her tea, getting back to dinner. They could plan all that easily enough.
Xander grinned at Genjo. "At least I don't have to go to that."
"No you don't. Sam might."
"Sam probably could if he wanted to."
"I need to go to that," Timothy said. "But I can't marry Buffy. I respect her but I'm first in line and she's a queen."
"You could use someone like our stepmother," Tony agreed with a grin for him.
"You can borrow our surrogate to write home so she can see if others want to come up here to marry in," Xander quipped. "King Steve said not to touch the upper level royals he has but the lesser nobles were open to marrying out country if they want."
Tony smiled. "They have some beautiful women. Your surrogate is one of the prettiest women I've ever met, and her mind is just as pretty and scary. She's like Princess Charlie with better hair."
"Ami met her," Xander said with a smile. "She said her hair's prettier than Charlie's and then got happy she was so smart because it meant her siblings would be great if she wanted to just be a healer. They so bonded over books and her horse." Tony grinned.
Genjo wiped his mouth then put his napkin back into his lap. "I heard the squeals from across the garden. They were very happy to help each other with homework." He looked at Xander. "I do find her mind stimulating. It's good to talk to her about things. She has a good mind for problem solving."
"She does," Xander agreed. "She's a good person to ask for suggestions. Even if she wasn't our surrogate she's a great addition to the castle."
"We have not met her yet," one of the council said.
"She's out working with the engineers," Genjo said with a point at the barn they were working in. "She's working on other things you can do with steam power like the showers."
"Interesting." They shared a look and decided they'd get to know her the next day. If she was that good, they'd try to name her the official engineer for the kingdom so she was close at hand for advising the king. He could use more normal advisors.
Queen Buffy looked at the people there for the 'unmarried person's meeting' and groaned mentally. It hadn't taken that long to get it set up once someone suggested it. Within two months everyone who was single and looking for a spouse was heading to this tiny duchy's castle near her kingdom. She knew most of them and they weren't her type, or really anything she wanted to have touch her. She looked at her advisor, who shrugged back slightly. She sighed and sat there fanning herself. "Can we open a window? It's dreadfully hot in here," she said quietly to the Sanzo princess next to her.
"It might mess up people's hair," another one said with a grimace.
Buffy looked at her. "Not with as stiff as most of the guys' hair is." They laughed. She got up and went to open a window then sat next to it, sighing in relief. She waved at one she knew, one of Genjo's cousins. "There's some air flow here if you need to rest," she offered.
"No, I'm fine. The robes we wear are nicely lightweight. Thank you though," he said, waving his closed fan around.
Buffy looked at the fan then at him. "Xander said some of the people like you but less religious are coming up soon for a diplomatic visit."
He grimaced. "I've heard about the frivolous people. They're not all that amusing to us but they do have their uses I suppose." He shook his head. "Some may find them suitable to marry."
Buffy looked at him. "I don't think I could stand someone who took longer to get dressed than I do." The man looked horrified but smiled and nodded once. "Is there anyone here that is ...nice enough?"
He looked then at her. "Not truthfully for my people. You just need a suitable consort, Queen Buffy."
"Yes, but my consort has to be able to keep up with me. Preferably by sparring so I stay in shape. There's always other threats coming."
"True," he agreed. "I'll go see if some of the ones in the outer room are more suitable." He went to do that. None of the ones in here were suitable to him but he knew he'd be arranged with someone soon enough. At least he might find someone he could speak to regularly. He nodded at a few, who nodded back. "Queen Buffy is looking for someone suitable to come talk to her."
A few of them looked at him. "We're not strong enough to meet up to what King John trained her to be as a queen," one of the dukes said dryly.
"She only expects some sparring."
They all nodded. "Others will be here tonight," the Duke said. "We made sure we can do this all week." A few were already pairing off to talk so that was nice. He looked at the priest again. "If you go into the left chamber, there's others from your kingdom, including a few who trained with nuns." He nodded, going that way. The Duke in charge shook his head. Finding Queen Buffy a true mate was one of the top goals he had to accomplish. As well as finding someone suitable for Prince Timothy, possibly Princess Samuel and Prince Don, and maybe even Prince Dawn if he was lucky. If not, they'd have to hold it again next year.
Xander walked in and pointed. "I've asked some from other kingdoms to come help. Also the warrior kingdom on the other side of the ocean sent some diplomats." He looked around, shaking his head at a few hopeful looks. "I'm still looking for nobles for my people," he said dryly. "Ones I'm not related to and who aren't greedy assholes." He looked at the Duke in charge. "Buffy?" He pointed. Xander looked. "Buffy, convergence meeting," he called.
"Thank you," she said, hurrying after him. She looked and pulled Dawn away from the thug she was talking to. "Not him, thank you."
"I'm not looking all that hard, Buffy. I'm not fully old enough to get hitched yet," Dawn said.
Xander grinned at her. "You're cute, but young."
She nodded. "It's a huge problem since most of the eligible ones are older than I am." She pushed her hair back over her shoulder. "Why are we having a convergence meeting?"
"We have new diplomats." He smiled. "They're from a warrior kingdom on the other side of Mac's ocean and Stella's people's islands." Buffy beamed and nodded. "I met with the king to see if I needed to start a treaty with him before I overthrew my stepfather," he said as they walked. "His wife had to battle to win his hand."
"Oooh," Buffy said. "Maybe they'd have someone worthy to help me."
"Maybe," Xander agreed. "There's always hope you find someone decent. We'd hate to marry you off to someone from Pelgar's people." She hit him on the arm with a scowl. He grinned. "They're worthy of your status."
"A lot of them are bigger assholes than your stepfather was." Dawn giggled, getting the door for them. "Hi, all. Thank you for the saving. There was no one to talk to and the rooms were stuffy." She sat down in her usual spot. Xander sat in his. Dawn pulled a chair over to sit behind her sister. "I'm sure most of you have met my little sister Dawn." A few waved at her. She smiled and waved back. She looked at Jethro. "I didn't see Timmy."
"He's hiding with Abby," he admitted. "He got into something that set off his allergies so he's sneezing on her." He looked at Alan, who came in last with the new diplomats. He didn't look pleased. "Xander, did you send some of your spoiled and annoying ones in there?"
"I did but I know they're not worthy. That's why I don't want them doing anything for my kingdom. They're like my stepfather was." He smiled. "King Elinius."
"Prince Xander," he said with a nod.
"King. I overthrew my stepfather years ago now."
"Good." He smirked at him. "Your people are cute."
"We're inbreeding too much," Xander said dryly. "So if you want some of your diplomats introduced, go right ahead. We could all use the new blood."
"I'll see if any are single and want to take a tribute home." He smirked.
Xander smirked back. "I doubt they'd be a tribute, King Elinius. We don't play that way here in the Joined Kingdoms."
"You can't defeat my army, boy."
Xander smiled. "Actually, there are ways. There always are. No army is immortal." He grinned a bit more brightly. "And you're forgetting that we're not the formal sort yours are. I took out my stepfather with a smoke grenade and a big rock." He stared at the impressed looking king. "But that's not why you're here I hope. I'd hate to have to mobilize everyone."
Abby came in and sat in Jethro's lap to hiss in his ear, getting a nod. She looked at the king, who was staring at her oddly. "I know I'm beautiful but eyes right," she sneered. He glared back. She threw something at him, making him yelp as it ate him.
"I never thought about imps that way," Dean said dryly, nodding. "Nice, Abby."
"Thank you, Dean." She kissed him on the forehead. "Your little brother's here." He looked back at Sam. "Adam."
"Did they get him free?" Dean demanded.
"We're not totally sure."
"Put him in a room. We can come talk to him in a few minutes." She smiled and nodded, strolling off.
Xander looked back, handing over his blessed knife. "Noticed you didn't have yours."
"Thanks," he agreed, putting it onto his belt. "With your leave, Alan?"
"Please make sure it's not another demonic event," he ordered.
Xander slid down something. "Holy water, Alan?" he suggested with a smile. He got a dirty look but drank it. That calmed others down. He looked at the king. "So, why did you decide to come to our merry marriage event?"
The king stared at Jethro. "He's mouthy."
"He's not mine. He's his own king. He's actually a very good king."
"Thank you," Xander said. He looked at that king again then at Alan. Who waved a hand. "So, why the showing up?" he asked, staying polite.
"We have news of a problem coming from a source on the other side of your people."
"Like my mate's battle in the west with the demons or something else?" Xander asked.
"Like from those people up north that use machines and are said to be weird?" Buffy asked.
"Them," King Elinius said, pushing back his gray, long braid. He glared at the imp he had killed then at Jethro. "Your daughter..."
"My wife," he corrected dryly. "Is quite protective of what's mine."
"That's a good thing," he decided. "We believe the people to the north have started a problem that they cannot handle."
"We'd be more than happy to help them handle problems," Alan said. "We have aid treaties with nearly everyone near us but they didn't want to be bothered at that time."
Xander looked over as King Steve of the islands came in. "King Steve." He smiled, getting up to shake his hand. "Welcome to our convergence of kings. Dawn, can he have your seat?" She handed it over and went to get another one for herself and the new guy. "Thank you," he said when she came back.
"I love moving chairs and it shows," Dawn quipped.
Steve sat down, staring at the new king, nodding at him. "Elinius."
"Steven." He stared at him. "You have treaties with these ones?"
"I do. They're very nice. Xander freed me and my kingdom from a sorceress when Queen Stella sent him."
"He does so well at that," Stella said with a smile for Xander, who grinned back. "What do we know of those people?"
"Very little," Buffy said. "I met a bard who said he was up there. They have ice dragons, a lot of machines, and some strange weapons. No demons though, which is a nice change."
Sam nodded. "A very nice change." He looked at that king. "Are their problems coming down here or should we go up there to help? I'm one of the people that they send on mass diplomatic events so I need to know where I need to start. And if I need cold weather gear."
King Elinius stared at him. "Why would they send you? And which one are you?"
"Princess Samuel, little brother of King Dean." The man gave him an odd look. "Name curse," he said dryly. "I'm sure you've heard."
"I had, but I hadn't remembered," he admitted.
"That's what makes me a prince," Dawn quipped. "Instead of a princess."
Jethro looked at her. "If you weren't so young, I'd be suggesting you for Tim."
"I'd kill him in bed," she said dryly, smirking at him. "He's a bit uptight, Uncle Jethro."
"He is," he agreed. "But he can handle things."
"Yeah but he's still uptight. I want someone who'll make me have fun sometimes, not just have kids and listen to people who need things."
"That's a lot of the job," Buffy told her. "I didn't realize that before Mom died." Stella patted her on the wrist. "I know, but she did it so much better than I did."
"Everyone thinks you're doing good," Sam told her with a smile. "The bards said that no one's said anything bad about how you're doing, even on your airhead days." She smiled back.
King Elinius looked at Alan. "How do you get things done?"
"If it's diplomatic, I sic Sam on it. If it's a threat, I sic Xander on it," he said dryly. "Then they come tell us how they handled it." Sam burst out laughing but nodded. "If it needs tact I send Sam and Genjo, because he has some sometimes. They're both strong enough to get themselves out of things and Xander would come save them if he had to. If it's something demonic, Sam, Dean, and Xander handle it with Castiel. If it's lesser demon related then Genjo's team handles it with those four. If it's something that needs researched, we inflict on my son and Sam. If it needs a lot of fighting, we have Queen Buffy as well as Kings Mac and Horatio with their families. We handle most things easily enough. Which one of you has the portal?"
Xander raised his hand. "Genjo." He looked at him. He was nodding as he wrote. "Who?"
"Really?" Buffy asked. "I thought that was a myth."
Genjo looked up. "I have the other end of the charmed parchment back with Hakkai. He asked the witches in our kingdom to scry. It's aliens that came via a machine. We might have to ask someone like General Stark to break it."
Xander got up and went to look for someone he knew he had seen. "Hey, Knight Hawkeye?" he bellowed. He leaned out of a room. "Need you in the meeting about a huge problem up north." He nodded, saying something before following. "Here we go. He should know how to break things." Xander sat back down. Dawn sighed and gave him her seat and got another one. She also brought back King Elinius's wife and Consort Danny for King Steve. They had their own chairs. "We're hearing that there's a problem to the north with some machines bringing aliens."
Hawkeye blinked, reading what Genjo handed him. "Wow. That's weird." He considered it. "None of us have went up there but General Stark is a king with weapons and machines. He can probably help them break it so it won't work again." He considered it. "I need to call down there." He looked at the staring king, grinning at him. "King Elinius."
"I know of your people."
"Our joined people or just one people?" he asked. "We're still having a slight civil disagreement."
Xander looked down at him. "You guys know you're welcome to come visit. Please bring people to the merry marriage meeting as well."
"We have a few in there," Hawkeye admitted with a smile. "I could use one but I have one who is interested at home. And a former one."
Buffy stared at him. "You guys don't marry for life?"
"Supposedly. It can be broken since there's nothing more than a legal binding," he told her.
"Wow. I need one of those."
"Spike still wouldn't be acceptable," Alan said sarcastically. "Really, Buffy."
"I'm trying!" she complained. "Most of the nobles are kinda assholes."
Xander nodded. "Yup. Sorry." He shrugged. "See if King Steve's people have anyone. Find a commoner to date as long as he's decent to your people. Or a military person. Just not Spike."
King Steve looked at Xander then at her. "Most of mine don't want to marry out-country, sorry."
"That's fine. They're pretty but I have to stay at home or abdicate so my sister has to take it and who knows what'll try to marry her this time."
Dawn flipped her sister off. "I only get kidnaped because they want your attention, sister. Settle down and I'd have less stress in my life."
"You could take Sam," Buffy offered with a grin.
Dawn smirked back. "If he wants me to, I'm up for that because he has fun and is smart. I'm pretty sure if he thought I was hot, he could come talk to me too." She looked at Sam. Who smiled and shrugged back. "I'm very hot."
"You are," he agreed with a smile. "I'm still infertile."
"Means my sister can have spawn," she quipped back. "Instead of me pushing a few out. Because it looks kinda gross."
"It is," Genjo assured her. "We had to help with one once so we'd know how those things we gave up went. I was drunk for six months after that." Xander patted him on the wrist. "Thank you."
"Our surrogate will have Gregory with her," he said with a smile. "He's a healer, it's their job."
"Excellent," he agreed with a slight smile for where Gregory was sitting in a corner.
"Fuck you both for that thought," Princess Gregory shot back. "I don't deliver kids. There's healers specially for that and we're getting her one from my people. Thanks anyway, asshole."
Genjo smothered a smile. "Well, healers are taught that and you are the head healer in our kingdom until you marry, Princess Gregory."
"Don't look at me, I'm too young for him," Dawn quipped.
Gregory glared at her. "No you're not."
She waved a hand. "I am for another year and you'd have to teach me how much fun some things are because my mother wanted us to be chaste until we broke someone in after she gave us her permission."
Gregory looked at her. "We can find you a good tutor in that," he said. "Abby said she had one." Jethro nodded, smiling slightly. "We can find you one, Dawn."
"Cool. Thank you. I'd like that."
"I wouldn't," Buffy complained. "You're not allowed. Pity. Until I marry you're not getting in anyone's panties."
"Men don't wear panties from what I've been told," Genjo said dryly.
Hawkeye looked at him. "Does that mean you guys go commando under your robes? A few of us have wondered."
Genjo glared at him. "If I was married to you, you could check." He hit him with the fan, making the knight yelp. "Ask my spouse."
Xander looked down. "Yes, he does. Or sometimes a ceremonial thong." He flipped the chair backward and stood up to right it to avoid the fan hit. He grinned at his mate. "You told him to ask me."
"Shut up, Xander."
"Yes, dear." He blew a kiss. Then he looked at the holder of the parchment. "Anything new?"
"The aliens look human but are infected with something like a demon that's not." Hawkeye looked at him. "I don't understand."
"Like a possession?" Castiel asked.
"Or like they have something inside them?" Xander asked. The parchment and pen was handed down. He wrote that question. "They have something inhabiting them that looks like a worm thing. It's in their stomach and/or brains depending on the age." He let Castiel see it.
Sam snapped. "I've seen a myth on those. Of course, the book is in Stella's kingdom." He went to call, coming back with the notes copied from it being read to him. "Here we go." He handed them to Alan, who read it and sighed, handing it to Castiel and Xander.
Xander nodded. "If we kill the thing it can kill them. They're vulnerable like humans but have special armor and weapons. The thing in them lets them age slowly so they can be hundreds of years old." He handed it on, grimacing at Sam. "Any other information on them?"
"No. There's myths that they were down here at one point in time but just captured slaves and left. That was back when your people were building the towers."
"Did magic repel them?" Castiel asked.
"No notes given."
Buffy raised a hand. "Call mine, Sam. That sounds familiar. It's in the black library." He nodded, going to do that. She looked at Dawn. "If I fall in this battle, guess who has to wear the ugly gown."
Dawn stared at her. "If so, I'll handle it."
Buffy smiled. "Don promised to marry you off to half a military unit during the last one."
Dawn glared at her. "While that might be fun to break them all and make them beg, I'm not one who was poisoned that way, Buffy. Sorry but I only need one, not more than that. Maybe two if they're not good at it but seriously, just one would be fine." She looked at Hawkeye. "Do you guys have people my sister can flirt with and break in? She like them tough and dangerous. Spike used to drink blood and she nearly married him." She snapped and looked at Xander. "Willow's ghost is floating around our castle." Castiel stared at her. She nodded. "She tried to make Buffy marry Spike."
Xander snorted, shaking his head. "Dean does ghosts, Dawn. We can handle that."
"Thanks." She patted him on the arm. "You're nice."
He smirked back. "I'd make you beg, dear. You know that."
"Begging is better than the squealing you usually cause," Jethro complained. "Kept us up last time making some military guys squeal like Abby in the candy store."
Xander shrugged. "It was good."
Genjo nodded. "Kept us up too." He looked at Steve, who was smirking back. "Sanzo priests are usually celibate."
"I remember when you two visited." He looked at Xander. "How is she?"
"She's very happy and I've had to go nag all the engineers to eat," Xander said dryly. "Because they forget. Me and Prince Charlie's consort Ian have all brought out food to nag about eating before they pass out. But my council has decided she should be an official advisor. They're happy she knows nothing about demons."
Castiel laughed. "Your nobles council is a bit uptight," he agreed. They all heard the scream and he looked that way. "I'm not feeling any evil."
Xander pulled out things and headed out. "Oh, beloved, why are you bothering us?" he called. The two beings were upsetting some of the nobles and the knights from Hawkeye's people were fighting back. Xander threw something after pulling the pin, making those two choke and fall over. "Fuck this shit. People, let's get them to the convergence so we can question them." He hauled one. The knights hauled the other one. Xander dropped his beside Alan's seat. "They were being annoying." He sat back down. "Not the ones we're worried about but clearly a problem from somewhere," he said, staring at the visiting king. Who grimaced but waved a hand. "Yours?"
"My second son. He hasn't proved himself worthy."
Xander nodded. "Has your daughter?"
"She's a daughter."
"We have queens," Xander said, pointing at Buffy. "She rules. If I had been a girl I would still be ruling."
"They're still women."
Buffy glared at him. "Yes, that means we're more fantastic and we look better doing it," she said dryly.
He snorted. "I doubt you could even beat my wife."
She shrugged. "We can see. I haven't sparred today."
"Buffy, his wife is good," Xander said. "If it's the same one I saw when I was younger, she's very good. More than good enough to lead by herself."
She nodded. "Good, I could use a challenge. I haven't had one since John died." Dean looked at her as he came back to sit down again. "King Elinius has offered us the opportunity to spar with his wife."
Dean nodded. "That's fine. You're the best trained that Dad did so far. I learned more from the military and Xander's people than Dad." Sam nodded he had too. "Maybe it'll impress someone."
She nodded. "It might be nice if it weeded out the ones who want me to sit around and sew stuff," she said, looking at her sister.
"Don't look at me, I like weapons," Dawn quipped. "I've been learning weapons."
Xander smiled at her. "I sent you a few."
"I saw," she said, getting up to hug him. "Thank you, Xander."
"You're welcome, Dawn. It can only help you not get kidnaped again."
She laughed. "We all hope so." She sat down again, smiling at King Steve. "Thank you for helping the last time I got kidnaped to your people's lands."
"Welcome, Dawn." He stared at her. "Can't you stop that?"
"Please have my sister married off so they will," she said dryly. "And get Willow's ghost to quit since she summoned one of them."
"Welcome," Castiel said dryly.
"Thank you, Cas." She smiled at him. "Can we get the ghost out?"
"It's good to talk to her," Buffy said. "She can't cause any harm, Dawn."
Dawn sighed and rolled her eyes, staring at her sister. "Summoning a higher level demon to come seduce me so I'm not a pure princess isn't harm?" she asked bluntly. "Or summoning something to come kidnap me to sacrifice me isn't harm? Excuse you?" Buffy winced. "I don't care if she was your friend. She's causing harm. Mom would've been *way* pissed at that, Buffy. I'd like to live somewhere that's not that dangerous to me. So let me find a nice place to live without you and the nobles looking over my shoulder. Xander, can I have sanctuary?"
"Yup," he said. "Just don't cause us stress while you're being forced to take self defense lessons."
"Thank you, Merciful Goddess," she said, looking up. She looked at Genjo. "Can I train with Goku too please?"
He nodded. "Yes, you will be. You're too valuable to risk, Dawn."
"Thank you." She hugged his arm. "I'd hug Xander but I might turn into a bad girl." He smirked at her.
"Dawn!" Buffy complained. "Not the time for that."
"Shut up, Buffy." She stared at her. "I've already gotten free of the two demons she sent after me this time." Buffy slunk down in her seat.
"Got 'em," Sam quipped, shifting in his seat. "They were minor things and one was an incubus." Dawn shook her head with a sigh. "If you broke that would it help?"
Dawn looked at him, shrugging some. "Probably not." She got up to hiss in his ear.
"Dawn, that is a family only secret," Buffy said firmly.
"At least he's protective and if something comes we'll need someone beyond you." She looked at Sam. Who was staring at her. "How?"
"Fuck," he said, blinking at her. She smiled. "Why?"
"Aw, shit." He hissed in Castiel's ear.
He looked at her. "You're starting self defense lessons tonight, Dawn." She hugged him. "Get off please. You bounce too much and Dean would get jealous." She sat back down. "We'll handle that," he told Dean. Genjo looked at him. "She needs a guard on the level that Gabriel was."
Genjo blinked a few times. "Why is that such a problem?"
Castiel hissed in his ear. "That one's after her."
Genjo blinked. He had barely read something that mentioned her name and if he remembered right that was a horrible prophecy. He hoped he was wrong but by the look on Castiel's face, he wasn't worrying enough. "Dawn, did you pack practical clothes so we can evacuate you?"
"Yes. I only packed two bags, one has a few dresses but the rest are jeans and t-shirts."
"Good," Xander said with a smile. "Though I knew. Moonlight," he told her.
"Yup." He smirked at Genjo. "Hakkai is at home."
"Goyjo's here flirting," he said, getting up. "Let me get him so he can take Dawn to safety." He left, going to find his guard. Nope, not around the princesses that liked to flirt with him. He went to the kitchen, where Goyjo liked to flirt with the working women. "Goyjo." He lifted his head from kissing a maid. "Get Dawn evacuated back to our castle. There's a hell goddess after her. We're working on her self defense."
"Why is there one of those even around?" he demanded, standing up.
"Not related to the other demons," he said bluntly. "Though I've heard that Willow of Rosenburg's ghost is floating around Queen Buffy's castle and keeps trying to get Dawn laid by incubi."
"Oh, fuck," he muttered. "She's clingy."
"She's young and asked to study self defense with Goku."
"Well, they're about the same age," he said dryly. "She packed?"
"Probably all but. She's in the meeting room." They walked that way, him shooting an incubus that was trying to get a noble daughter. "Incubi are not as fun as my spouse makes them seem," he told her. She walked off sniffling. "Dawn?"
She stood up and went with him, going to repack quickly. If things wrinkled it could be fixed later. She lifted her main bag and he grabbed the smaller pack that had books and a few things. Genjo stared at her. She smiled. "Things to do the necessary things and some research on this problem," she said, taking that bag from him. She looked at the groom. "Horses?" she asked dryly when he stared at her.
"You're leaving already, miss?"
"I'm Prince Dawn. Yes I am. Thank you." The groom hurried off. She followed, petting a few horses she knew. "Sorry, Coffin, Abby's still inside. Hi, Coffee." She petted Jethro's horse's nose. Her horse was brought. "Thanks." She tied things down and mounted with a push up from the groom. Goyjo shook his head but took his and they rode off together. Dawn looked at him. "Great timing," she decided, pointing at something. "The idiot Goddess' cranky knights." They went off the path, heading into the woods at his direction. "I'm not great at jumping," she warned. "But the horse knows how. Buffy wouldn't let me have those sort of lessons," she said at his dirty look. "I've snuck some and some self defense behind her back."
"Your sister needs her head rearranged."
"Yes she does. Her dating proves it." They had to jump a small stream. She glanced back and then at him, getting a head shake. "Are we cutting across mine?"
"Yup. I'm hoping they'll help."
"Me too. The military guys don't listen to Buffy all that often because she's not trained like them." He winced. "She's good enough thanks to King John." They rode on. She paused her horse by the border gateway. "We're being chased by cranky knights that belong to a hell goddess," she told the guard. He winced but nodded. "I'm going into hiding. Get us some help on the way?"
"Yes, Prince Dawn." He called to his superior. They could see the knights gaining. "They're chasing the prince."
"They belong to a hell goddess," Dawn quipped. "Help? A bit?"
"Go with your escort, Prince Dawn," he said. "Who are they?"
"Kinda psychotic knights who think I'm going to be a sacrifice so the hell goddess can only have my body, not my blood." The guards winced but nodded and the head one pointed. She rode on. Goyjo let her catch up. "They're going to block them a bit."
"Good idea," he agreed. "We can go over why later."
"I have a book with that," she quipped. "It's in the bag with my formal tiara in case my sister's next boyfriend eats her instead of just her blood."
Dawn looked at him. "I heard about him drinking blood and her period, Goyjo. That's eww. Really."
He nodded. "Yup." They rode to the real guard post, him going in to call the palace. "Hakkai," he told the page. "Now. It's desperate."
"He's in the gardens," the page said, running off. Hakkai came running back alone.
"Dawn's being hunted by a hell goddess."
"Great!" he said sarcastically. She smiled and waved. "Why?"
"I've got a book."
"They have psychotic knights who're going to try to let the goddess only have my body, not my blood."
He blinked then nodded once. "How long?" he asked Goyjo.
"About ten hours hard riding going cross-country," he admitted.
"Good. We'll meet you at the border." He hung up.
Dawn took a snack from a guard. "Thank you." She kissed him on the cheek. "Goyjo?" He took a snack and some water too. "Any word on those knights?" she asked the guard.
"They got paused by the gate. A few got injured." Dawn winced, shaking her head with a sigh. "They'll heal, Prince Dawn. You're going to King Xander's?" She nodded, looking at Goyjo. Who nodded too while he chewed. "We have a map. There's a faster off-path way. Usually only healers use it in emergencies since it's such a poor ride." He let them see the map. "Go west then north across the road," he told Goyjo. He nodded. "We've changed your horses for fresh ones. We'll bring them up and trade back in a few days. Yours is throwing a shoe."
"Thank you," Dawn agreed. "The convergence meeting with King Elinius in attendance was getting a bit heavy too. They're talking about the people to the very north."
The guard captain looked at her, looking confused. "The warrior king past Queen Stella's people?"
"Yes," she said with a nod. "Them. Buffy's going to spar with his wife to encourage her to take over since he thought women were worthless."
"Oh, Lord," he moaned, shaking his head with a sigh at the end. "All right. We'll handle it and I'll brief people at the palace about that problem coming up so they expect her to go handle it and you to handle things from hiding, Prince Dawn."
"Thank you." She hugged him. "We should go before we endanger you."
He nodded, taking them to the stables. Dawn checked her bags. The groom handed the second one over, getting a nod. "It dropped," the groom said.
"That's fine," Dawn said. "Nothing's real breakable. I just need to pad my crown's sharp and pointy parts." She did that and noticed something was missing. "Did the books fall out?" He looked alarmed. She went to find them, bringing it back. "Thank you, guys." They nodded. She mounted and tucked the books into the bag. They rode off following the map.
"Why would he take the book?" Goyjo asked.
"Because the nobles at the palace are confused about why we have a ghost in the palace and why people are after me." She pulled out the book to hand to him. "Page three."
He read while they rode, grimacing at what he saw. He looked at her. "That thing?" he asked, handing it back. She smiled and flipped some of her hair over her shoulder. "Fuck."
"Yup," she quipped. "That's why one wants to waste the blood and the other one wants to bleed me on an altar."
"Yeah," Goyjo agreed. "Fuck, so fucked."
"Not that it'll help," she said dryly, earning a short glare. She smiled. "I told Sam, he recognized it."
"Sam's like that," he agreed. "And so's Castiel." He sighed, thinking about it. "When?"
"By the third new moon of the new solar year. That's the last useable date. Though there may be others that could use it."
"Yeah," he decided. "Okay, we can help you learn how to protect yourself. We'll see if there's a way to protect you better. We have some big book nerds around the palace." He looked around. "That river should be here."
She pointed. "I can hear water." They rode that way and forded it over some slick rocks, but made it. The border was only a bit away and the guards were waiting. Dawn smiled and waved at a few of the guards. They nodded and let them through.
Goyjo pulled up in front of the guards to King Xander's kingdom. "Let us in. She's being chased."
"King's orders say papers," one of the guards said.
Dawn looked at him. "Why are you possessed? And are you working with Glorificus?"
The guard flinched and the demon stared at her, mouth open. "You're...."
"Fucked," she said bluntly. "So let us in. Xander said it's a good idea. I'll let Xander deal with you on his way home." They let her in and they rode off again.
Goyjo looked at her. "Was that wise?"
"Maybe not but we know that the average demons aren't working with her."
"Point, but be more subtle."
"I'm not saying her name again," Dawn assured him. "If she's awake and hears she'll come to see who's gossiping about her."
"Good idea," he decided. They ran into a regular military unit, who surrounded them and got them onto fresh horses.
"I need the bag, it has books," Dawn said, taking them to hitch to the new saddle. "Okay, let's go, guys." They rode them back to the palace. She patted the bag, making sure she had the books and her crown. With her luck, Buffy would die soon and leave her fighting the hell goddess on her own. When they finally got to the palace she could barely dismount she was so sore. Hakkai helped her down. "Thank you," she said with a wince. "I need more stamina." She sighed, leaning on the side of the horse. "Smaller bag has the book," she said quietly. "And my crown." He nodded, taking them with them to her room. Dawn collapsed on the bed with a groan, then dug out the book to hand over. "Page three."
He read it over, frowning at it. "That sucks," he said, looking at her. She nodded, waving a hand at her chest. "How?"
"Something about the queen's vow to the kingdom to protect them meant that she was the most protective place they could put me." She sat up with a wince. "Buffy didn't want anyone to know," she said quietly. "She thinks it'll put me in more trouble. But I think that I'm going to need some help protecting myself so someone's got to know to help me do that. She could die at any time and then I'd have to fight by myself."
Hakkai nodded. "It'd be hard to protect you from something this huge without knowing why," he agreed. He took the book with him "Rest tonight, Dawn. We'll be on guard tonight." She flopped backwards with a sigh, falling asleep pretty quickly. Hakkai went to the meeting in the kitchen. He saw the same demon that Genjo had mentioned seeing during the swearing and vowing at the power points. He stared at him. "What are you doing here?"
"I'm here because there's two complications that we don't want either. That guard was one of mine keeping track of a problem and I've already recalled him so you don't have to get your panties in a twist."
"I'm telling Castiel and Xander," Hakkai said bluntly.
"That's fine. They're charming young men," he said with a smirk. "We make many bets on them sometimes."
"Are you here about Dawn?"
"No. Though I did realize why earlier when the minion noted she had power." He stared at him. "The point in the castle won't bother her. The one after her...it won't help her much but she'll need access to near it to do her portals." He waved a hand. "The problems they're discussing up country are stupidly annoying. They're the reason my people and Castiel's people joined up to fight on the same side once." He held out a book with a smug look. "He'll need that."
"Thank you." He took it. It tingled in his hand some but many things did. "Anything else to pass on when I call down there?"
"No. Though it's interesting...."
"They took my fiancee. They paid for it."
"Good. Those sort need to pay for their stupid times. That's why we didn't help them when they tried to take over the world." He stared at him. "Tell the king to call out for me please. Things are going to go spectacularly sideways if they go up to fight those aliens, or get that one king overthrown for his wife." He disappeared in a small flame.
Hakkai went into the kitchen, putting the books on the table. "Don't touch yet." He went to call down there. "Get King Xander," he ordered. "Now."
"I don't know who you are," the maid sneered.
"I'm Consort Genjo's personal guard." She huffed but walked off turning off the fire. He called the other one. "Go get Xander," he ordered to the guard. "We found out more about the problems they were talking about earlier thanks to a demon he met making a complaint." The guard ran off. Genjo strolled over. "It's a long rant. Transfer it to a private fireplace," he ordered.
"I'll call with him. Anyone else?"
"Castiel maybe. Maybe Sam."
"I can do that." He hung up and went to gather them into the meeting room, kicking Alan and Buffy out. "Sorry, learned new stuff. Hakkai looked pissed off." They didn't want to see that so they left quietly. He called back. "Okay, lay it on us." Hakkai told him about that meeting. Xander turned and kicked the wall.
Castiel blinked a few times. "I had heard a myth about that. It's where the stories of us being angelic and them being our cast out brothers came from," he said. Hakkai nodded once. "Which one was it?"
"The same one that Xander described," Hakkai said. "Oh, and the guard that was possessed was his minion. He was watching over the problems up there too. He's recalled him."
"Great," Genjo said dryly. "What was his name?"
"Crowley," Castiel said. The demon appeared looking smug. "That was not a summoning."
"I'll allow it this time because it's so damn important," he said, staring at Xander. He handed over two scrolls. "On our fights with those alien ones to make them leave. And on the poor prince's problems. Because we can't let her do that. She'll bring her realm here and I don't want to share accommodations." He stared at him. "We pity that prince but we'll help handle it with you because we don't want her either."
Buffy stomped in. "Stay away from my sister."
Crowley stared at her. "Queen Buffy, the slayers vow you took upon getting your crown allowed her to be guarded by you but we don't want to deal with her. You can't fight her since you can't take out her host body. It'll take damaging it greatly to make her change back and then killing it." She choked a tiny bit. "We don't want her to pull open a portal to pull her people here. Therefore you're getting help." He stared at her then at Xander, who nodded in a 'sure, whatever' way. He smirked. "Those aliens are annoying and think they're gods. We proved them wrong before. They can heal ones that aren't fully corrupted, just holding the baby ones. You can tell by the voice." He sighed, looking up then at him. "It's going to get nasty as hell, no pun intended."
"Why weren't you blocked by the request?" Xander asked.
"I'm not the usual sort of demon. Like Castiel's people aren't the usual sort of angel." He smirked as he disappeared.
Xander looked at his spouse. "We need to do some research."
"Sam has been since we finished that."
"Cool." He let them look over the scrolls by spreading them on the table. Buffy came to look too, groaning at what she saw. "Alan!" he bellowed. "You can come back now!"
Alan and Don walked in. "Who was it?" Don asked.
"Crowley," Buffy said. "We finally found out what his name was. We saw him at the healer's tent."
"We saw him before the vowing," Xander said.
Castiel nodded. "So did we." He pointed at something. "This is about those aliens."
"We can bring this to the others," Alan said. "They're all eating together anyway. General Stark is on his way up too." He looked at the other one, wincing. "Buffy?" he asked dryly.
"Something about the queen's vows meant that she had to come to us to protect, which I'm trying to do," she said firmly, glaring at Xander.
Xander stared at him. "She can't get into my palace without destroying it and if she tried that, my army's tougher than yours. Also, I'm going to teach her how to kick some ass herself so she's safer. The incubus that ghost keep sending can't get to her there. Neither can most of the other demons she's sent."
"That's the real Willow, not the demon that was infecting her," she said firmly.
Xander nodded. "Sure," he agreed. "I don't care. With all the shit I went through thanks to her, don't care." Buffy huffed again.
Alan looked at him then at her. "Buffy, I agree with Xander. I wouldn't have put up with her ghost either. Especially since she was responsible for your mother's death." Buffy huffed off. He looked at Xander. "Can she stay with you?"
"Of course. And when the visions of Buffy dying and leaving Dawn for six months, then coming back, come true, we'll handle it."
"I got that note set. It's a cluster screwing," Alan said bluntly. "Where did you have it?"
"Jethro's kingdom. Something around there or some herb Abby spreads around means visions come faster and easier." He shrugged. "At least we know in advance."
"True. We can prepare her people to be missing her for six months when she's out of commission." He walked off with his son. "Handle it, Xander, and we'll handle the aliens for a bit."
"Yup." He looked at his spouse, who shrugged. "We can do that. The boys are with her."
"Sure, they can handle it." The scrolls went with them to the dinner they were having. Most of them were quietly nibbling at a table in the back of the room. They sat down and food got passed down by Knight Thor. "Thank you, Thor."
"Welcome." He looked at the others.
"I don't eat living things," Genjo said quietly. "Can I have the broccoli?" They passed those to him. "Thank you." They dug in and ate quietly, watching the others try to find a connection that would lead to a marriage. He looked at Thor and his friends. "We need to add more people they don't know."
Thor nodded. "Some of ours are here," he agreed. "It's a needed thing for many peoples right now. How goes the problem up north?"
"We have information," he said, handing over that scroll after checking it.
Thor read it, nodding slowly. "Interesting." He let the others see it.
"How did we get this?" Horatio asked.
"You remember me noting the three figures we met during the plea?" Xander asked. Horatio grimaced. "The one that's not related to Castiel showed up in my castle and then down here." Stella moaned, shaking her head. "He said the last time this happened he and Castiel's family ended up having to work together. That's when the rumors started."
"Okay," Stella decided, taking the scroll to look over. She passed it onto Mac, who was glaring at it. "What now?"
"We've got to talk about Dawn's safety," Xander said. Buffy glared at him. "Which we'll be doing at my palace. Buffy, talk to Abby about that vision I had," he ordered with a point. "Right now. It's important." She looked at Abby, who moaned but hissed in her ear. Buffy burst out crying. "Yeah, so it's safer."
"It is," she said between sniffs. "She has her crown with her, Xander." She got up. "Let me go cry a bit then we'll handle things." She walked off sniffling.
Xander looked at Horatio and Mac, who were glaring at him. Xander pointed a hand at Abby. "He had a vision that she'd be temporarily dead," Abby said. "For about six months."
"Oh, damn," Mac muttered.
Xander nodded. "We didn't know why until I caught Dawn outside last night." He leaned his elbows on the table. "So we're protecting Dawn while helping you guys with that other problem." He grinned. "Good thing I'm so great."
"Ego," Horatio complained.
Xander smiled. "It's not bragging if it's true."
"Maybe," Mac said, giving him a look. "Maybe not every time."
"No one is great every time," Xander agreed. "Just a lot of the time when it matters most."
"Which is when it's most important," Genjo said. "And if he falls this time I'm going to kill his ass."
Xander blew a kiss. "You'll be fine, dear. Remember you'll have Sam to help."
"Uh-huh," he said dryly.
Buffy came back. "If he falls can you marry my sister? She shouldn't have sex anyway," Buffy told him.
Genjo looked at her, fingering his fan. She was just out of range. He handed it to the female knight. "Would you," he said politely. She swatted Buffy with it. "Thank you." He glared at her. "Dawn is much too lively for me. Thank you anyway."
"She can be like a mini, female Xander when she wants to be," Sam agreed.
"See, it'd fit perfectly," Buffy quipped. Genjo held out the fan again so she ducked this time. "Don't be mean to me. I'm being a good girl today. Really."
"You're not a little girl," Horatio told her, giving her a look. "Quit trying to be cute like one." She rolled her eyes. He looked at Xander. "You could be more serious too."
Xander looked at him. "Are you possessed again?" he asked, patting himself down. Castiel sighed but handed over a vial of holy water. Horatio glared. "You really should drink it, just in case, Horatio."
He took it to drink and did feel better. "Fine. Thank you, Xander."
"Welcome." He looked at Buffy. "When are you sparring with her?"
"Okay." Xander nodded. "Let us know if you need a second? I have no idea how theirs go."
"I can do that." She dug in again, then sighed and looked at Xander. "Don't turn Dawn militant, Xander."
"I'm not. She's going to be the same girl only she'll be able to protect herself. It'll be like she was raised the kid of Dean and Castiel."
Dean looked down at him. "Don't give me bad ideas about our future kids or yours."
"Mine's going to be raised by their mom," Xander said dryly. "You can help me train him or her when they're older."
"Sure," he agreed. "We can handle that when they're older and your current one is nearly old enough to do more than learn from the guard teams."
"Sure," Xander agreed, smiling at him. "That's great actually. She could probably use it before she starts to like boys. With her luck, she'll draw ones like I used to."
"Used to?" Genjo asked dryly, staring at his spouse. "Really? When did that stop?"
"I quit going out with them when we got married, dear," he shot back sarcastically. "If you want I can pick up a few concubines from among them."
Genjo stared at him then sighed and shook his head. He couldn't really swat Xander for doing that. This time. "Please don't. I don't want to have to take out one that's really a demon one night after you've made him squeal enough to reveal his true form."
"I've only had one of those and that was before the poisoning the first time," Xander said with a shrug.
Genjo blinked a few times. "Why?"
"Well...he was cute and liked blow jobs, and giving blow jobs.... It was kinda fun that weekend but that last night he broke form and became a gorgon looking guy with teeth on his dick and in his ass. I'm not really into that. He pouted because he wasn't going to eat me, but I wasn't going to let him on top either with his dick teeth."
Genjo face-palmed and groaned, shaking his head. "I know of that creature," he moaned. He finally looked up, ignoring all the amused looks. "Why did he come onto you?"
"He heard I was fun. I don't know where he heard of me, but he told me he showed up because he heard I was fun and he wanted to get to me before someone killed me for being so fun. I ran into him a few weeks back and he pouted I was married but he said I still seemed like a lot of fun."
Genjo stared at him. "Did we take him out?"
"No," Sam said, shaking his head. "Not in the least. He was only flirting with Gregory. Gregory wasn't flirting back or I would've done more than noted I knew he wasn't a normal human." He ate a piece of meat with a grin for his brother's husband. "He was really polite and nice. I think that's why Gregory didn't flirt back." He looked at Horatio, who was scowling at Xander. "He flirted with Calleigh too."
"I'm having her married off," Horatio decided. "Today." He looked at Mac.
"Don's single," he offered. "Unless Danny's given up on his baby's mother since they're fighting again."
Stella nodded. "He has taken Don in. They're raising Lucy together. Horatio?"
"Too closely related," he admitted. "Gregory?" he called. He looked up, staring at him. "We need to introduce my prince around as well."
"We have a few that she might like," he admitted, coming over to talk to him. "We have a few that would remind her of her former boyfriend who killed himself but without all the warrior times."
"That would be pleasant. Thank you."
"Did you know the one flirting with you that Sam drove off wasn't human?" Stella asked.
Gregory looked at Sam. "Which one?"
"The one that said you were adorable," Sam said between bites.
Gregory sighed, shaking his head. "How do we know this?" He never used to have this problem. It had to be where James had died on him or from hanging around with Xander.
"He saw Xander before he was poisoned and he loved him well enough that he broke form," Sam said dryly.
Gregory looked at Xander, who grinned but shrugged. Then he looked at Sam. "Let me know next time by taking them out." He walked off. His friends would make things seem normal again. Before he beat the living shit out of Xander for doing things like that.
Stella looked at Horatio. "I'll work harder to introduce her."
"Thank you," he agreed. "She could use it before she turns into Xander or Gregory." She patted him on the hand. "Xander, are there more of those sort of stories?"
"Only two and one was supposedly a god," Xander admitted. "Not sure what type but he was hell in bed. Really not the best ever even though he thought he was."
"Could he have been like the one we were briefed on earlier?" Genjo asked dryly.
"Not sure," Xander admitted. "No clue. I barely remember him. Like I said, not that great at it." He drank some water and then nibbled on some food. "The other one I'm pretty sure he was a higher demon like the one that visited. I realized that later. He definitely wasn't a lower one like we'd take out. Though it did smell like he had rubbed an incubus on himself. I was desperate due to the poisoning. He wasn't bad, but wasn't notable."
Castiel looked at him then sighed and stuffed his mouth.
Dean looked at Xander. "Only you."
Xander grinned. "Me and Sam you mean?"
Sam nodded. "I remember him. He wasn't great at it." Dean gaped in horror at his little brother. "Not like I didn't get poisoned too, Dean." He stared at him. "Really."
"Oh, fuck," he muttered, rubbing his forehead. Castiel got him a beer and he leaned on his arm. King Dean didn't cuddle but he could lean affectionately on his consort for support. "Damn it." He looked at his brother. "Was he a higher level like Cas's people would take out?"
"He felt like the one that showed up earlier," he admitted. "But less powerful."
Xander nodded. "Yeah, but he didn't have the receding hairline that one had. He was still young and pretty."
Castiel looked at him then huffed. "We will have to find out who so we can make sure he can't come back."
Xander shook his head. "I wouldn't anyway. He was okay but nothing to note in my journal. And it's not like I got him pregnant."
"If you do that, we'd all remember it," Stella quipped. Genjo nodded while gulping his beer.
"If something like that could happen it'd be me or him," Sam reminded her. "Thank the Goddess I'm infertile from the poison."
Stella looked at Sam then at Xander then at Genjo. He looked back. "John did try to get him to marry Sam instead of me." She nodded, patting him on the hand. "We'll talk about this after we're out of public, boys." They nodded and went back to eating.
Dean looked at his little brother. "You ever do that again and I'm going to drown you in holy water," he vowed. "I really am and Cas will help me."
"I'm not sure if that would cure anything but it'd be worth a try," Cas said dryly, staring at Sam. "At least to save you from them coming back."
Xander shrugged. "He hasn't come back yet."
Sam shook his head. "I haven't seen him. If I do, I'll tell you guys so you can introduce yourselves."
"My brother would adore such talks," Thor admitted, shaking his head with a sigh. One of his people patted him on the arm. "Thank you."
"Welcome, Thor." He looked at Xander. "Prince Loki declared himself a chaos god."
Xander nodded. "I've met a few who thought they were but they couldn't even play pranks well enough to be a minion of chaos."
Sam nodded. "Definitely." He and Xander high-fived and grinned at each other then went back to eating.
Genjo stared at the trouble buddies then down at Stella. "He needs a new concubine," he told her. "That should help wear some of that chaotic urge out of him."
"I'll see if I can find one beyond Sam," she quipped. "Just in case Sam has to marry for the family."
Sam looked at her then shrugged. "Still infertile, Stella." He grinned. "Besides, I'm not Xander's concubine. We're just friends."
"Who get into a lot of trouble," Horatio said. "None of us stepped into that trap that released the genie," he said at Xander's pouty, hurt look.
"Point," Xander agreed. "Though I was only twelve. I'm just happy I talked him out of taking me as his newest concubine or taking his spot in the lamp. Because if I hadn't talked him out of it, he would've substituted and he could've taken my place. Then what would've happened?"
"Genies, by their natures, are sexual creatures of myth," Castiel said.
"So probably he would've taken your stepfather out with a dildo," Dean quipped, getting swatted by his consort.
"Funny thing is, every time the jackass put up a statue it was a naked one and every time someone broke the dick off it," Xander said dryly. "So someone has a huge collection of stone statue dicks to use."
Stella and Horatio both looked horrified but Abby burst out giggling and came up to hug him. "They broke it because they knew he exaggerated," she promised, going back to her seat.
"Him being killed by a stone representation would've been nicer," Alan said.
"It would've let the demons in permanently and nothing we could've done about it," Dean said.
"Never mind then," Mac agreed. He shook his head. "You guys are really warped sometimes."
"Just think, some day I'll be the elder king," Xander quipped with a smirk for him. "All of your heirs will be after me."
"If you survive that long," Genjo said dryly, staring at his consort. He really had to get Xander laid apparently.
"If we're still around nagging people, we'll ask someone to make him abdicate," Stella said with a smile for Xander. "Before you drive everyone in our families nuts."
"You say the sweetest things but by then Lucy will probably have the crown," he quipped with a smirk.
"I've got at least a decade left in me," Horatio told Mac.
"I maybe have fifteen," he agreed. "Danny would have another ten at least."
"Xander would be an old lech hitting on the young and pretty concubines," Dean quipped. "With Sammy helping since our country won't let an infertile person be king."
"Great!" Sam said with a smile. "Thanks, Dean."
Castiel looked at Dean. "We'll talk to our chosen surrogates when we get home. Like Xander's, the mothers can raise the properly since we're never at the castle."
Dean nodded as he chewed. That was a great idea.
"What about your half-brother?" Stella asked.
"The demon taint didn't fully leave," Dean sighed. "So he's not possessed but he's marked. It's not a good idea because the child can be used as a more powerful sacrifice."
"Why can't they have a proper battle for mates like we do," King Elinius's oldest son complained from their table. "All this is improper."
Buffy glared over there. "Because our people are different than yours culturally," she said bluntly. "I don't want to fight any of these people to be my consort and most of our people don't fight unless we have to. If we did, very few of us would have consorts. Frankly, I don't want to marry Dean, Sam, Xander, Genjo, or Castiel. Even if they weren't already married. They're not the consorts I need."
He sneered. "Your people are all frivolous."
Xander glared at him. "Sit down and shut up, you whiny little brat. You're a visitor, act like it." The man huffed and glared, getting up and pulling a sword. "Sure, let's do that." He pulled his and walked out there. "C'mon. I beat you when you were twelve and I was thirteen. I can damn well do it better now." The man lunged with a yell. Xander sidestepped his lunge and cut him on the back, making the room gasp as he drew a lot of blood. The son spun around to hit back and Xander parried a few times, getting a few minor cuts from the thinner sword that son used.
"Hold," King Elinius ordered. His son didn't back down. Xander stepped in to try to behead him, getting him on the throat but not more than a deep cut. "I said hold!"
Xander glared at him. "Your son started it, he should finish it." He glared at the younger man panting on the floor. He leaned down. "Real warriors and kings know when fighting is the right thing to do and when it's the wrong thing to do. I may have answered your challenge but you are not worthy of my blade and I should not pick on lesser men who believe they're princes. Nor were you right in challenging me in a crowded room. If I wasn't merciful I would end you. As your people say is right." The man whined.
"You will learn to behave better or I will claim you since I won the battle against you and I will sell you to someone I hate. Am I clear?" The man nodded, holding his throat. "Good." He straightened up. "Any healer that wants him can have him to fix up. I'm not going to go by their rules of honorable combat equaling death or the right to claim him, even if I should so nothing like this ever happens again.
"I believe he'll be a good enough example of that without being sold into marriage." He walked off, getting some more wine and a cloth to wipe down his blade with. He looked at all the staring people. "Go back to eating. The excitement's done with." They went back to gossiping with each other about that. He sat down and sipped some of his wine. "King Elinius, I look forward to seeing what sort of diplomats your other sons and daughters are. I'd hope they were more culturally aware." He saluted him with the wine glass then drank some more before putting it down so he could eat. Mac shuddered at that statement and the cold tone Xander had used.
Gregory stomped over. "Let me see the wounds, Xander."
"Nothing huge," he said, but let him see his arms. "Him?"
"Two healers are coming for him from the healing wing we set up before this began." They came in with a stretcher and carried the young warrior out. No one followed them. "I'm glad our people don't throw sons away for being dumb, we just make them sorry for it."
Xander grinned. "If we did, we'd have a lot fewer kids around."
"True, even mine would've when I was a little shit." He bandaged the last few and went back to his seat. He noticed the king was glaring at his wife. "Boys like that and Xander are what happens when men don't raise their children," he quipped loudly enough to be overheard. He saw King Steve wince. "No, I believe any children you have will be raised to be the right sort of being."
King Steve nodded. "Danny's daughter is very nice and very protective as well." He stuffed his mouth. He had trained with King Elinius and owed him some loyalty.
Gregory looked over. "Xander, are your going to let your surrogates do all the raising?"
"We're going to be very fond of them, like stepparents that the mother's no longer with. If she wants to marry then that's fine with us as long as he'll treat our heirs properly. We just know we'd be horrible around kids. I have little patience, Genjo meditates, and babies are needy. So we'll be fond uncle sorts until they're old enough to understand."
Alan sighed and looked up, saying a not so silent prayer of thanks. "We'll make sure all your future children are sane and capable," he promised.
"Thanks, Alan." He smiled. "Or whoever's still inhabiting you." The demon flew out and out of the room. He looked at Horatio. "I can get stronger holy water." It flew out too. And one out of Prince Don.
"Knew something was wrong with him," Buffy complained. "Don wasn't teasing me about my hair." A few people gave her odd looks. "I spent a year with him at the prince's academy. He did some of my training." She looked at Alan. "Were they here for a reason?"
"That higher one sent them to make sure he didn't need to send warriors to help Castiel deal with those ones up north's problems." Alan sipped some of his wine. "Why didn't the holy water work, Xander?"
"Difference between holy water and blessed water," Xander said. "I usually only carry blessed. Holy has to come from certain blessed wells."
"Oh. That makes more sense. Is there one near here?"
"I've sent someone to get some," Castiel said. "With some guards going with them to make sure no one tampers."
"Thank you, Castiel. You're a credit to your people and Dean's people both," Horatio said quietly. He finished his dinner. "I believe I'll go lay down before I see if I'm still infected." He left, going up to his suite.
Stella looked at the boys. "How do we stop that?"
"Like the one that showed up, they're not part of that wish," Xander said dryly. "These aren't minor things. The others would be like priests to these, Stella."
"Very few things can stop them but we can figure it out," Sam promised. "I've been looking." She nodded, getting back to her dinner.
"King Xander, we've heard your daughter is expecting," one of the women a few tables over said.
Xander choked, shaking his head. "She's eight! There's no way she can be expecting!" The woman pouted at him. "Beyond that, she's got healing gifts. She's going to train that before she's married."
"Yes, she is," Alan agreed firmly. "She's not allowed to marry until after her training's done."
"Is she still fostering with you?" another noble asked.
"For as long as she wants to," Alan agreed.
Xander smiled and nodded. "She switches back and forth. Which is fine with us. Alan's more set up to train her unique skills. With us she learns from a healer and Princess Gregory."
Queen Annabeth, of the Asclepian kingdom, smiled at them. She had taken over after King James had passed on of his tumor. "We'll welcome her when she's old enough, King Xander. Gregory's notes on her have said much of her multiple skills and her mind."
Xander beamed. "That's all due to her mother and Alan. He's had her since she was three and it was too dangerous right after I overthrew the jackass."
"Charlie is responsible for a lot of her education," Alan admitted. "He's done fantastic getting her to study by helping him with his math."
Queen Annabeth smiled and nodded. "You've raised two excellent thinkers and Prince Don is an exceptional prince, King Alan. I hope your future grandchildren live up to that standard."
"Me too but right now I'm just hoping to have grandchildren," he said dryly, staring at his sons.
"I'm not done with my education yet," Charlie said with a grin for his father. He had been told to come so his big brother would have to attend. "Get Don knocked up, Dad."
"Charlie!" Don complained.
"My mother swore to me that she had that spell," Genjo said dryly, cracking up Stella, making her shake her head. "You can ask her if you want to carry a grandchild, Charlie."
"Not this year, thanks. It'd get in the way of building things." He stuffed his mouth.
"If Ian knocks him up, at least Ian's hair will tame some of Charlie's," Gregory said, getting a glare from Ian and Charlie. He smirked back. "It would. Yours is a lot straighter than the Princess of Frizz there."
"It was humid," Charlie complained. "All curly hair frizzes in humidity."
"Amen to that," Stella complained, pushing back her own curls. "I have got to find something to help with that."
"Have you tried our oil yet?" King Steve asked. "It works on ours with curly hair and we have almost constant humidity."
"I should do that when I come in for a vacation soon," she said, smiling at him. "I could use some laying on the beach time."
"We have a beautiful one near the palace," he assured her with a smile.
She grinned. "I'll be taking you up on that next winter." He laughed but nodded.
"That's one thing I don't miss from King Mac's kingdom," Consort Danny agreed. "Snow. Though I'd rather have it than hurricanes." His consort gave him a dirty look. "Most of the time, blizzards don't destroy houses like hurricanes do. You can stay in the house during a blizzard as long as you can stay warm instead of evacuating into the hills."
"Point, but you bitch about the cold," Steve shot back then stuffed his mouth.
"Yeah, I can do that. I'm from where it gets cold." Steve rolled his eyes but they got back to eating too. They all looked when some woman across the hall squealed but it had been some other woman spilling soup on her good dress sort instead of a problem squeal.
"I know that there's not enough *great* mates," Xander called patiently. "Don't fight over them. Some of them only need a bit of working on to become good enough." A few of the guys pouted. "You do," he told one. He slunk down some.
Dean looked over. "For those hoping to elope before their parents can give permission, the priests from three different religions are in town," he noted. "That way you only have to justify yourself to the parents and maybe hold a renewal ceremony."
"For those marrying a Sanzo, it's a lot less formal," Xander quipped, not ducking the fan this time. He looked at his mate. "Mounting. Outfits." Then he stuffed his mouth with some meat.
"Point. It is much more reasonable and takes only three days instead of twenty," Genjo agreed. "Fewer clothing changes you'd be expected to preserve for your children to whine about being forced to wear. Or stored in the museum for certain of us." A few of the ones wanting Sanzo country people looked at their wanted one, who nodded back. "You have my blessing as long as they'll bring honor to your family."
"Ditto," Castiel said with a fork wave. "Since my parents did not send anyone higher in the family." Some people made plans to slip away that night to find those priests. It would ease some of the crowding going on. The duke hosting the event had decided that those who were barely of marriageable age could show up the last two days to give the others a better chance. So all the young, fanciful ones would be annoying them the last two days instead of the whole week long event. Most of the higher ups considered that a great thing and getting some of those who had chosen out of the way would give them some breathing room until the young ones got there.
Xander looked over. "Any in my kingdom, I will approve as long as they're not from our people. We'd like you to marry someone not of the family's lines please, people." A few nodded at that and one couple had to pout. Xander looked at them, pointing at the girl to come up to him. "Where are you from, dear?" he asked.
"I'm from King Horatio's people," she said shyly, smiling hopefully. "We just moved to yours."
"Are you related to the old lines?"
"I think so, King Xander. My mother said that she slept with your father but that was while she was carrying me."
"That's not how genetics works," Stella told her. "You're only related if he's in your lineage." She ate a bite of broccoli. The girl squealed, hugged Xander, and ran back to tell him that. They ran off just then before something could be said by anyone. Stella looked at Xander. "Your kingdom won't ever be as bad as that blocked off one," she said.
"Nearly. I have over a thousand cousins, Stella."
She winced. "Wow, thankfully you can't have kids with Genjo and your surrogate came from King Steve's people."
"True, King Arant never traveled there," Steve said dryly.
"Thankfully with the way he had to wench around," Danny said. "Did he get hit with the same thing, Xander?"
"No, he got hit with a different one and that was about five years before he died. The rest...it just runs in the family I guess." He grinned.
"Which is why his current concubine is taking this week to rest up," Genjo said dryly. "Because she really could use a nap. Both of them."
"Not your fault and I didn't get to beat John before he died for it," he said patiently. "I'm just glad I'm mostly celibate so I don't have to squeal that way." He stuffed his mouth.
Knight Thor looked at him. "You're a priest?" Genjo nodded as he chewed, moving his hair aside to show the special red dot on his forehead. "Ah!" Thor nodded. "It's good you could find an accommodating mate."
"He helps with demon battles too," he agreed once he swallowed. Xander nodded. "It was a good choice. He lets me be myself and only makes me listen to people having problems with him. And sometimes sends me to check on the orphanages if I've pissed him off again." Xander grinned while chewing.
Knight Thor shook his head. "Your kind usually have a retinue."
"At home guarding Dawn," Xander quipped with a smile for him. "He's got three guards he fights demons with."
"Huh." He nodded. "I met Hakkai. He seemed pleasant and well learned."
"He is," Genjo said. "We often have to stop Goku and Goyjo from tussling and fighting because they both need to grow the fuck up some days." Thor burst out laughing but patted him on the shoulder. "The only problem we have is thanks to Xander's poisoning he needs more sex than the average military troop. We've worked most of that out."
"I change them out every two years with thanks and a reward," Xander said dryly. "Mostly for putting up with me."
"They squeal," Genjo told him, cracking up Stella and Abby. Abby came over to hug him then went back to her seat. "He needs a few more if you know someone who wants to spend two years squealing."
"I shall ask," Thor agreed. "Do you have a preference?" he asked Xander.
"Living, not demonic? Otherwise, it's all good." Thor smiled but nodded he'd suggest to some people. "Hopefully not from my own people or my own bloodlines, which is a problem I run into now and then. My father sired over three hundred children and we suspect more that weren't noted."
Thor stared, mouth open. "Oh, dear."
"Oh yeah," Xander said with a nod. "I'm not into incest so yeah, that's become a challenge. We're centrally located so he traveled easily to wench too."
Thor nodded. "I can see why. Perhaps you'll find a new one this weekend as well." The doors slammed open. "There's Generals Stark and Rogers," he announced.
Princesses of War and Pieces.