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Qualified, Stressed Princesses.

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Knight General Rogers looked at Xander the next day before the convergence meeting. "A genie?" he asked. Xander nodded. "Why didn't you stop other bad things with it?"

"Like magic, using a wish is a strong, expensive weapon. Using the genie is for the biggest problems."

"I can see that. Not doing things the easy way is better anyway." Xander nodded. "Is that guy all right?"

"I hope so." He grinned. "Whenever they're near each other he's her appointed guardian and tutor. So if she's kidnaped down that way he'll realize it."

"I hadn't thought about that benefit," Clay said as he walked in looking like hell. "That idiot was worse than an octopus with all his suckers and legs into everything." He got himself some coffee and settled in his seat.

"I have no idea who brought the coffee," Steve warned. "I know we're all a bit paranoid."

Clay sniffed it and nodded. "If it's poisoned at least I'll get a nap. I'll let Princess Gregory nag me for a few months."

"He won't be the only one," Pooch said as he leaned in. "Jensen's well enough to follow her to the stables."

"My daughter's a bit horse centric," Xander said with a grin. "So am I actually. I train all our warsteeds."

Pooch nodded. "That's so weird." Xander blew a kiss but Pooch walked off shaking his head.

Xander grinned at Clay, who was shaking his head but smiling. "You okay?"

"Yeah, I need a nap but I'm good. I haven't told the others yet."

"That's cool. Your team your rules," Xander said. "As long as I don't need to set up another tent in Wayfaira woods."

Steve shuddered. "I heard about that, Xander."

"He earned it," he quipped with a smirk. "You can use my woods to punish someone too if you need to."

"We'll just kill them, thanks," Steve said. "None of ours would've had that history of torturing and being such an asshole."

Genjo walked in and glared at his husband then at Steve. "If you do, remember to add tenting material so they don't sunburn." He sat down, staring at his spouse. "You missed breakfast."

"No I didn't. I ate with Gregory to talk about Amellisame's healing last night."

"Ah." He nodded once then hauled off and hit Xander with the fan. His husband yelped. "I'm going to beat you to death later, Xander."

"I'm sure you and Sam will have a lot of fun taking over for me," he quipped.

"Fat chance. I won't let you die yet. We have Hakkai to help with that." Xander chuckled, hugging him. "I'm going to get you."

"Your people did order that one artifact found, dear. That would've let you have a map."

Genjo stared at him. "Being cutesy won't help you any." Xander rolled his eyes. "Really." He swatted him again.

Stella walked in. "Don't beat him in front of us. You know news will get back to your parents about that."

"They'll think I was depossessing him again," Genjo said dryly. "He sent a genie to me to see if I'd like a wish about an artifact we're all supposed to be looking for."

"Awww, that was sweet of him," Stella said with a smile. "Why did you find a genie, Xander?"

"I found it when I was twelve, demonic whore." He smirked. "You're not Stella. She'd never flash that much cleavage." The demon huffed and changed form. "What did you want, dear?"

"You're a threat, human."

He grinned. "Thank you."

"Your whole line is a threat."

Xander laughed. "Even if you take me out, the bindings on my kingdom are with me forever." She stared. He stared back. "You always underestimate humans. Why would I want to saddle my kid with having kids?" She shrieked and tried to attack him but his protections repelled her. "Hmm, look at that. Research did teach me a lot." He stared at her. "Anything else you wanted today? Considering the prophecy that said killing any with a true healing gift would get you all destroyed?" The demon glared at him. He stared back. "Yup, I read that too. It was in the old tower."

He grinned. "So, anything else you wanted to talk about today? We have to figure out how to take out a problem. You could go help him to annoy us but we have plans for that anyway." He batted his eyes at her. "You know, I could start taking real concubines in." Someone threw in a pretty ceramic box. Clay caught it and handed it to Genjo when he held out a hand. Genjo chanted before the demon realized what it was, sucking her into it. "Bye now. Have fun in there!" Xander waved as the top was put on and it was sealed. He grinned at his spouse. "It's nice that we've countered all but maybe three ways they could come at the kid."

"It is," he agreed. "I didn't know any of those though, Xander."

"I left you a scroll."

"Hakkai, did you take the scroll with Xander's cracked in the skull ideas?" he called.

"Yes. I was hoping it was a fever dream," Crowley said as he appeared, staring at Xander. "That's mean, dear."

Xander blew a kiss. "Thank you." He grinned. "Anything else or do you have new plans? Because I had visions about the plots against my daughter."

"No," he said, shaking his head. "Those ones who had plots are gone now for some strange reason," he said sarcastically. He nodded at Dean and Castiel as they stomped in. He looked at Xander again. "We can make a pledge to not get near your daughter."

"Why would we trust a demon?" Dean demanded.

"We really would get no benefit from going near her," Crowley admitted. "It's not in our plans and it'll be her grandchildren that'll be the ones who need to know how to hunt." He stared at Xander. "You could be less paranoid."

"Then again I could be fighting another idiot alchemist. How many more are there?"

"One. Max."

"Yeah, we knew about him. We're dealing with him."

Crowley stared at him. "Already?"

"He tried for Amellisame. Thought she was the Key."

"That stupid human. He can't use it anyway," he pointed out. He rubbed his forehead with a sigh. "I have stupid minions." He looked at Xander. "We do not want your child. Can you please be less paranoid."

"For not wanting to go near her, Max and some of yours have," Genjo said dryly.

"Point but those of us with real power wouldn't want to. We'll be instructing the others later today for their stupidity before I get a migraine." He looked at Sam then at Xander. "You're not guarding your friend."

"Sam has guards, including himself," Sam noted with a grin and a wave. "I don't care what whoever wants."

"Sam gets possessed and I'll screw the demon out of him," Xander said bluntly. "Not like they have good stamina."

Crowley looked at him. "Wow," he decided, nodding. "We're not going to bother any of you for a few more years. All right? Calm down, have some more kids so your lineage continues into the future?"

"Of course. Amellisame might not want the throne. We're already trying with our surrogate. Because neither of us want to use that spell to knock ourselves up."

Crowley stared at him. "I thought we destroyed all the copies of that spell."

"My mother has one," Genjo said. "She's sworn up and down she was going to use it."

Crowley looked at him then at Xander. "If so, you carry it. It'll protect it more." He waved a hand around. Then frowned. "How on earth?" he muttered, looking at his hand. A female cleared her throat from the doorway. "Abigail?" She smiled and nodded. "Why are you here?"

"This is my kingdom. I'm Jethro's wife."

He blinked. "Huh." He nodded. "I was trying to cure the paranoia."

"If any of you get near that sweet little girl I'm going to mentor, I'll make sure I have a daughter to carry on that curse," she said with a smile.

"That spell would allow you to knock up Jethro," Xander offered with a grin.

"He'd look cute. All fat and round and comfy feeling." She grinned back. Then at Crowley. "Is this Max guy one of yours?"

"No, I don't want stupid or psychotic minions. They take too much work to oversee," he said blandly.

"Cool. Can we have him then?"

"It'd cause a huge problem if I summoned him right now. He's trying to blow up everyone."

"Send me there to fix it," Clay ordered.

"Better yet, send me," Xander offered with a grin. "Or one of the minions that you turn. There's plenty in Abby's brig."

Crowley looked that way and looked smug. "I've been wanting to turn Wade into one of us. Let me use him since he'll lead a prison breakout. An unneeded favor as long as you calm down."

"Sure. I'll quit searching for the ultimate anti-demon weapons."

The demon shuddered and disappeared. Wade as a demon would have more power, and more fun, but wouldn't be allowed anywhere near any of these kingdoms. The price of his change was Max's dead body. He stared at Wade, snapping a contract into being. "Do you want to join me for real power?" Wade moved closer to look at the contract. "I can give you power to get nearly anywhere."

Wade looked it over. "I can't go home, can't get up here, and have to kill Max for eternal life of having fun?" he asked dryly. "What's the catch?"

"The catch is actually Max. We were going to recruit you before but I hate minions like him." He stared at him. "You could go far up the hierarchy, Wade. Or you could die in here." Wade dripped blood on the contract. A demon flowed up to take him over, changing him. "Go get Max's head for me," he ordered. "Then we'll show you places you can have fun."

Wade smirked and went to do that for him. He hated losing his old boss but this was real power and strength, and he'd get to do it forever. It didn't take that long and Max's head was presented to Clay by Wade, who smirked before disappearing.

Clay looked at it. "Huh. The drawing wasn't that far off."

Abby got a pillow to put it on. "So it quits bleeding on my table." She smiled at Jethro. "He was a brutal human-demon anyway, dear."

"All he lacked was the magic," Clay agreed. "Pooch!" He leaned in a minute later. "Here, have a Max head. We'll build a shrine or something for him when we get home."

"Sure." He took the pillow to look at, grimacing. "Eww." He carried it off. "Jensen, don't let the kid see this."

"Gladly." He looked while covering her eyes. "Yeah, that's him. Or the guy who said he was Max anyway."

"Good. Clay said we're building a Max head shrine in some room when we get home."

"Great," he agreed. "Sure, we'll paint it pretty colors." Pooch went to pack it in a bag full of straw so anything that dripped out would be absorbed and not spook the horses. Jensen walked Amellisame off to teach her more things. At least Xander had given him a neat prince to play with. She liked toys too.


Alan looked at Xander. "Don't have more kids," he ordered.

"Sorry, have to have some in case Amellisame doesn't want the throne. Our surrogate's already pregnant. The portents from the priests in town say twins. Gregory said a single."

Alan sighed, shaking his head. "Great. Maybe they'll be sane?"

"She'll have a lot of the raising duties," Genjo assured him.

"So she'll be sane," Horatio agreed. "Good." He looked at Alan. "It's been mentioned a few times recently that someday soon Xander will be in your seat."

Alan nodded. "That's his right."

"We don't allow females," Horatio said.

"Nor am I a woman," Xander shot back, glaring at him. Horatio stared at him. "I'm really not a female. Did you need to check?"

Horatio shook his head. He didn't want Xander to be mad at him. There was no telling how the boy would retaliate any putdown. "No. But I would suggest that we save him that stress by allowing queens who have sense to hold the seat, Alan. Stella would do very good."

"Technically we don't allow any consorts to take the throne," Stella said. "Which would make me ineligible. It'd let Buffy do it though."

"I'd freak," Buffy said.

"I kept having brain freezes," Dean told her. "Can't do any worse."

"You did fine, Dean," Xander promised. "You got things organized so we can move on from that point. It's experience."

"True, it is," Alan agreed. "You don't have to do a lot of just ruling, Dean. You spend more time hunting than being the king. Just like your father did. Which is okay but some kingdoms would fall apart." Stella nodded. "By the time you take this seat for real, you'll probably be too old to hunt."

"Maybe," Dean agreed. "I hope." He looked at Horatio then at Xander, patting him on the arm. "I'll take pointers from the guy who handles emergencies."

Xander grinned at him. "Thanks."

"Welcome, Xander." He looked at Alan. "I wouldn't mind but a few rulers would have a problem. I'm thinking Pelgar's whole line."

Alan nodded. "It's been noted he's talking to invisible people who live in the walls." He looked around. "Rothsmason's people would be after Xander."

Xander raised a hand. "Pelgar's taking them over soon. He's already decided to invade to spare his people and to bring his prior subjects back. My generals sent that up with the other information. He's already moving over. Not sure how that'll work out for the ruling family since it's where one sister split off from the family over an argument about her womb."

Alan frowned. "I didn't remember why they split." Xander dug out the notes to hand over. "That's handy. Are you bothering with it?"

"No, we're upping our border but letting any fleeing civilians through. We allow refugees."

"Good," Alan said, handing those to Mac, his second-in-command. "We can watch for that. Their nobles?"

"Won't be coming to me," Xander assured him. "Even if they had to. They loathe me for many reasons, including the fact that I call them on their bullshit regularly when they whine at us about something. I've told the generals that they're allowed to let them slip past to go somewhere like yours or Cas's people but we're not harboring any but very young nobles from there due to their attitude problems. We'll gladly take in civies but not their nobles." He snapped. "Some of Pelgar's nobles have been going around to convert people to their homegrown religion. I kicked a few of them out for yelling at a town who wouldn't listen to his ideas."

"We can all up our borders near them," Alan agreed. "Does anyone feel uneasy taking in refugees?" No one said anything. "Does anyone not like the idea to make them keep it inside their own borders?" No one said anything but Stella shook her head. "Good. Then let's watch the borders and force it back if they try. I doubt he can be like Xander's former stepfather but we don't need that sort of stress. Buffy, I know they share your border."

"I ordered mine closed to them unless it was normal people fleeing the stupid," she said bluntly. "I'm not getting in the middle of that mess. They may have been Mom's friends but I barely stand it when they show up for an official visit. I get sneered at because I'm a woman, because of my age, because I don't do their religious stuff, because I don't wear way too much clothes like they do, all that stuff. I've refused any new visits because I'm busy doing things. Which they sneered at because apparently I'm only supposed to sit on my butt listening to people who make it up to me to complain."

"That's fine," Stella assured her. "I'd have sent back a note about why they weren't allowed over for a visit again so they don't just show up without warning."

"My border guards there *know* not to let them through. There's another road an hour further on and they can use that one. I don't like either of those people because they both sneer at me."

Xander patted her on the shoulder. "It'll be okay. They were raised to sneer at everyone not them. That's why they're being overthrown."

She nodded. "Good. Might make their people happier." She looked at Alan. "I'm not against taking in normal people. Their nobles, even the tiny ones, I'd rather pass on."

"Agreed," he noted. He made notes. "Anyone who is willing to take in any of the nobles if they have to flee?"

"They can show up in my kingdom but I'm not doing fancy things for them and they'll be expected to settle in and act like my people," Stella told him. "They'll be like anyone who has money who moves in."

"Agreed," Alan said, making notes of that. "Horatio?"

"I'd rather not. They're the ones we'd have hunt down for various crimes. If they're young and show up to go to school, I'm fine with that."

Alan nodded, taking that down. "Dean?"

"No way in hell. They all sneer at me. They hate us for being more than sitting there looking pretty sorts. Even their kids are snotty little bastards. They push them out being snotty as far as we can tell." Castiel laid a hand on his wrist, staring at him. "If they show up to go to school maybe," he decided, getting a nod. "I'd never let a kid suffer, Alan, but if they cause problems they're going to be sent away."

"Fine. That's reasonable. I've heard their parents sneering at you and Sam in the past. The same as I've seen them doing it at Xander." Xander nodded. "Is anyone willing to take in adults?" No one said anything. "Some of them could be quietly inhabiting a house."

"One of the tried to move into an empty one that has an orphaned heir," Genjo said dryly. "We had to send the military to make them move because they claimed it was free for the taking. Xander sent word that they either left or he'd help that heir rebuild her family home after we burned those idiots in it." Xander nodded. "We have *no* patience for either of those peoples' ways. We have a nice area for diplomats to build a house if they want. That one's near there but there's a notice on the gate that the heir to the house is presently living with an adult. They ignored it."

Alan nodded. "I can see that point. Would you have burned them, Xander?"

"Yup. That house has a lot of structural issues before they got there. They caused more. She told me to burn them in the house when I told her they were trying to move in." He looked at Horatio. "She has an aunt, maiden and ancient crone-like bitchy aunt, in your kingdom. She said the woman sneers at her a lot so she doesn't want to move in with them."

"I've heard nothing about that."

"We have a letter from her to your noble," Genjo said, pulling it out of his pocket. He slid it across the table. "I saw the letter her aunt wrote her. It was full of 'if your parents were so worthless to have died of that minor illness and inconvenience me', to quote her."

Horatio winced but nodded at the name. "I know that noble. She's very cranky. I'll pass that on. Did someone help her write it?" Sam grinned and waved. "So it's diplomatic?"

"Slightly. I made sure it said that she'd never want to take up that woman's invaluable time since she was so busy doing nothing to help take care of her own family. That noble needs to be taken out of life to spare everyone around her."

"Calleigh's said the same a few times," he agreed, tucking it into his pocket. "Do you have schools for orphaned nobles, Xander?"

"We have a few very good schools. We also have some very good orphanages. She lives in one near the castle and she comes up for lessons every week with the other two nobles there. They both have families but they're not in favor due to being from unfavored relationships. I've already sneered at mine about that and noted I did not like that theory so I upheld those kids getting everything that was left to them and possibly more because their relatives were worthless.

"As for a good school, we have three. One's run by a religious order. They're strict, mean, but their kids come out quiet and smart. Usually beaten too. We don't like that but they claim it's the religion's tenets. We've had a lot of talks about that with their higher ups." Genjo nodded he had done a number of those. "We have a school run by some Sanzo priests. It's religious oriented but research priest sort. We have a general school that needs to be enlarged but they're feeling overwhelmed."

"We send most of ours to them," Buffy told Horatio. "We don't have a lot of schools, just little town schools. They have to be good enough to meet up to Mom's standards. Boarding schools or nobles' schools no."

"We send ours to Alan's schools if they're not home tutored," Dean said. "Sammy and I were both taught at home."

"King Aaron has one in his kingdom," Xander said. "Tough school to be in academically but no beating, no religion, nothing like that. It's like an orphanage as a school really. Last I heard Princess Reed was going to be overseeing that school to make it better."

"He'd know. Like Charlie, Princess Reed went to school early," Alan said. "Should we start working on that? Stella, do you have one?"

"Beyond the alchemist's academy? We have one near Horatio's border but they're kinda snotty half the time. We don't like to see them most of the time because they don't listen and they cause their own problems."

Horatio nodded. "I have two others like that."

"I can send you the religious order that does the one we hate," Xander offered. "A few teachers in each school could stop some of that, or at least make the students smarter by making them find ways around those teachers."

"I might ask for that," Horatio admitted. "Some structure could only help those kids."

Stella smiled at Xander. "That's mean." He beamed back. "Yeah, we'll work it out. Are you going to be starting a new school, Xander?"

"We probably should. We're pretty centrally located. We could close that one school after we get a new one started. Hopefully we could get teachers like Princess Reed. He's pretty calm and smart, plus able to deal with prank playing little darlings calmly."

Stella nodded. "I'd like to see those plans."

"I need to get them finished," Xander admitted. "Then put it through the noble's council of nagging." They all nodded they knew how that went. "By the way, the new wedding center down south will be open in a month. It's being run by an orphanage and refugee shelter. The people in those work there for some money and the fees support both structures." They all nodded. "It's near the flower highway but off to the right in that little town that you seem to only find when you're lost."

"That's a pretty area," Stella agreed. "As large?"

"No. The largest area is the main courtyard area. It's about as big as the rooms at the other one. This one is more local people oriented but they did keep some days just for nobles if they wanted it."

She nodded. "That makes sense."

"They also can do sudden weddings," Genjo said. "In case it's needed due to elopement. It's overseen daily by a few monks."

She smiled at him. "That could be handy."

"They like to garden," Xander quipped. "So they're happy doing it. The locals asked them."

"That's nice of them," Buffy agreed. "If I ever get married I might use that instead of the huge spectacle my people expect."

"That's called a vow renewal," Genjo said dryly. "They won't let you out of the huge wedding in at least part of the rituals."

"Great," she muttered, shaking her head. "Dawn can do that."

"If she marries there," Xander reminded her. "She could marry out-country wherever her future spouse is from."

"Point." A page came in to hand her a note then left. She read it over. "We're prophetic. My nobles are trying to force Dawn to marry someone who was training with her." She got up to call them. "Steve, I'll need you to help me yell," she said as she walked out. Steve Rogers followed shaking his head. Buffy's nobles really were a pain in the ass.

Xander shrugged at Genjo. "We need more nobles in ours but not like hers please."

"Gladly. I'd never put up with the stupid she does. We'd need to appoint all new ones when I used my banishing gun on them." He fanned himself idly since it was so hot in there.

Xander shook his head. "I wouldn't be that nice. I really wouldn't. I've dealt with a lot of stupid recently. Including ones that're whining that I'm not giving them things or out conquering peoples. I told one if he wanted to conquer people that much he should go hire an army."

Horatio shook his head. "I'd hope they wouldn't."

"I'm sure not if they could hire an army, Horatio. They think military people only fight during battles and don't have to spar. Their idea of a military unit is perfectly pressed uniforms, no sweat, and weapons they don't touch outside of shining them and a battle."

Horatio shook his head with a sigh. "Wonderful."

"They'd probably want to go inland, which would give them a lot of hell. Even my stepfather didn't do that good going that way. They might go over to the ones having a war and take over on them once it's stopped, but I doubt he'd be able to. Or his daughter that he thinks is stupid, but has a mind she doesn't want to show. She married out-country without nagging and picked someone who'd keep her from seeing her family. Some day I hope she takes over her husband's family and her own too."

Horatio shook his head. "Where did she marry?"

Genjo smirked at Alan. "She's the Duke of Loriel Pass's wife."

He shivered. "She's shrewd but you never see it," he agreed. "Until she wants you to."

"Exactly," Xander said with a grin. "She'll have kids just like her."

"You could use some of them back," Alan said.

"When they're old enough I'd welcome them coming to take over their grandparents' estates. They'd have to be less greedy and annoying. I suggested that to her when we ran into her at Charlie's wedding. She just smiled and assured me her children were going to be raised properly." Alan snickered, nodding some. "I'm hoping that means they're going to be better at it than her parents." He looked at Horatio. "One of mine wanted to know about protocol to moving to a warmer kingdom for their health and if they could take the title or if it stayed with the house. I suggested they talk to someone down there that might want to move up so they could probably just exchange titles?"

"I'm not sure how that would work," Horatio admitted. "Do we know who they were talking about?"

"Not yet. I was told the old lady that held the actual title was ill with something in her lungs and they were considering sending her down toward yours for the heat."

"The humidity we have is probably not going to be great. We've had a few people that had to move to Knight General Rogers' people for that problem."

Steve leaned in. "Huge problems?"

"Talking about how to handle nobles that need to move for their health," Xander said.

"Oh, okay. Let us know if you need us. We're arguing."

Genjo went to look over Buffy's shoulder. "If you keep treating your queen like an idiot she'll take lessons from Xander on how to treat the nobles." He stared at one.

"Prince Dawn...." he started.

"Is learning how to protect herself from the next thing that wants to try her sister," he said impatiently. "Even if they were fucking on the sparring ground it doesn't mean she wants to marry him." He gave them a pointed look. "And the more you push, the less they want to do things for you. Just look at how my spouse treats his."

"I..." That one swallowed and nodded. "We can see the sense in a prince learning how to protect herself," he decided. The others nodded quickly because it meant that they'd lose power. "Though we could prefer her having female tutors so she's not tempted to tease them?"

"I'm pretty sure I ordered Dawn to never have sex," Buffy said dryly. "She vowed to me if I didn't quit she'd find a military unit to bed."

"Your mother would have done the same," another of the nobles' council agreed quietly. "We will not upset her to push her toward a reaction we found find foul. Thank you for helping us, My Queen, and Knight General Rogers and Consort Genjo." They all bowed and hung up.

Buffy looked at Genjo. "How do you get that scary rep?"

"You build it," he said dryly. "You play airhead too often, Buffy." He went back to his seat. "Settled."

The other two followed in. "They're really desperate for new family," Steve Rogers said dryly as he sat down.

"No one to take the crown past Dawn," Xander told him. "If I didn't have my daughter, I'd have been pushed to knock up the country's surrogate within days of my coronation."

"A stable lineage of good rulers does mean a stable country," Alan said. "That's why most of us have at least two kids."

"You know, Pelgar has a daughter he kicked out for not liking their ways," Xander noted. "She's in Cas's family's kingdom being a nun in seclusion thanks to them shipping her there while drugged."

"I remember hearing rumors," Horatio said. "Isn't that one that takes a vow of silence?"

"From the rumors I heard while eavesdropping, they cut out her tongue before sending her," Xander admitted. "So she could not note her real name."

Horatio winced. "Can we rescue her?"

Castiel shook his head. "My mother had heard about that and visited. She is mute," he said. "Mother said she felt great sorrow for that girl but she was basically vowed there and if she tried to leave, the nuns were ordered to brick her into her suite. It wouldn't be the first they did that to. My father decided not to cause distress by stopping their ways."

Xander grimaced. "That truly sucks."

"It does," he agreed. "I have no idea if she can still be saved. The order told my mother not to come back and my mother said she could kick them out of the country for it. She could go wherever she wanted as the queen. Most of their higher ups left but a few remained with their sent-in novitiates."

"Can we do things about that?" Stella asked Alan. "We should have that right."

"It usually comes down to a war against that religion," Castiel told her. "Is it worth it?"

"Yes, a lot of them are," she said. "Especially things like that."

"Then I would assume you had the power to do that, Stella," Alan agreed. "I've got a few I'd like to run off but it'd cause problems with a few villages."

"Make a formal announcement that you have heard there are groups in your kingdom that do not live up to your method and ways," Castiel said. "Warn them they will have to change or they will be banished."

"That's not a bad idea," Alan decided, writing that down for himself. "I could get Don to give it too, that way the people get used to him."

"You told him three years unless he gave you grandkids," Xander joked.

"He hasn't started to work on that yet," Alan complained. "Then of course Mac would take my seat since he's the next longest serving."

Xander heard people walking past the door in armor and looked. "Generals, we're still meeting," he called, making Rogers and Clay both jump.

One of them walked in and bowed to them. "King Jethro, we've been hearing stories of two kingdoms going to war."

"Pelgar invading the snotty assholes?" Abby asked. The general nodded. "We heard about that earlier. We all agreed, we're going to make them keep it inside their own borders and let refugees out, though no one wants to take in their ruling nobles."

The general considered it then looked at Xander. "No, ours is closed to them outside of letting refugees flee," he said. "If they're nobility over there, they'd better flee faster by the other road. They're keeping it to themselves. The newest king in Pelgar's kingdom is talking to invisible wall people. He's invading to spare his people and to rejoin their kingdoms." He let him have the notes his own people had sent. "Also," he said, handing over another note he had made notes on. "Some of them are going around to proclaim everyone must change to their religion or else. They've been kicked out of many places."

The general grimaced. "We can gladly run them out for those threats." He handed the notes back. "Thank you, King Xander. The ones in our brig?" Xander pointed at Clay, who nodded. "Excellent. We'll start trials tonight." He bowed to Abby and Jethro again then left.

"I like him," Abby said with a smile for her spouse. "I scare him and I like that."

He nodded. "You scare many people, Abby."

"Thank you," she chirped, grinning at him. "I'm going to pounce you later." He snorted but looked pleased. "When are we getting the walls fixed?"

"Next month. Sorry, people. I thought this was being held at Xander's."

"Us too," Sam quipped.

"I don't like the idea of that hole," Alan complained.

"It's totally sealed," Castiel told him. "Otherwise a few of us would feel it and have to go fight it."

Genjo nodded. "I can tell when it's unsealed. Even the scroll gets antsy when it's open. Though that does explain why it kept itself hidden from Xander."

"Still does," he said dryly.

"I think it reads the energy you carry," Genjo told him.

"Probably," he agreed, grinning at his spouse. "Or it thinks I'm unholy because I made you break your celibate priest thing you had going on by marrying you."

"That could be as well," he admitted. "I'm not sure how sentient it is. Huh." He shook his head. "I'll see if I can figure that out."

"Does it hide from anyone else?" Mac asked him.

"Sam," he admitted.

"We've said a lot of times that Xander and Sam can do the impossible together," Dean quipped. "That proves it."

The others all shook their heads and some sighed at the playfulness. Horatio cleared his throat. "Xander, someone asked me why your army was so far down south recently."

"We got asked to overthrow someone down that way who was a horrible king and was injuring a lot of his people. The citizens asked for some help so I lent them a few generals. They were happy to help once they heard about that guy."

Horatio considered it. "In that one kingdom of no admittance to outside blood?"

"Below them," Xander said. "Their one to the southwest."

"Oh, that one," he said dryly. "Yes, they could have used the help."

"They asked. I lent them some good people who had ideas and could tell people how to set up things easily." He grinned. "They were very handy I'm told. They sent back a very nice thank you letter from their new general in charge who'll probably last about two years then be overthrown by someone with new ideas."

Horatio nodded. "We've seen that happen in the past." He looked at Alan. "Is that going to cause any of our allies a problem?"

Everyone shook their heads. "I fire called the knights and the kingdom of King Steve to tell them we had been asked for advisory help in case one of their allies get pissy."

"That's good," Horatio agreed. "We still have to work on the treaty problems," he noted. "We all brought some to be done this meeting."

"Yes we did," Xander complained. Genjo pulled out the scroll case to get into. "It's about time for me to redo most everyone's treaties," he said. "Plus next year's harvest ones needs to be started soon." They all groaned. He shrugged. "I could just assume but that's how bad things get started."

Alan nodded. "The treaties had a time limit?"

"Eight years after I took over," Xander said, digging out his to toss down the table.

Alan looked it over. "It does. Why did you put a time frame in it?"

"Because I figured by then one of you, at least one of you, would be out of your seats by retirement so that'd give me a foundation to redo the next one instead of it just dying off with one of you retiring," Xander said.

"It hasn't mattered to most of us in the past," Jethro said. "But I can see that point. Personal issues would get in the way of things and could lead to a huge problem if something like what just happened happens again but they're not willing to send help." Xander nodded. "That makes a lot of sense, kid. Especially since it was before you overthrew your stepfather and finished growing up." Xander nodded again. "Okay, we can go over them and extend the time frame. With the way it's written, it'll still be in force even if we all abdicate and you have to help our heirs. That way they can build up from there."

"Unlike what Buffy went through," Alan agreed. "I had no idea they were that complicated. I glanced over ours since Don made it." He took his from Genjo sending it down to him. The others got theirs. "What is this last clause?" He peered at it. "Who did the scribe work?"

"The one my stepfather used to use," he admitted. He handed over Horatio's. "That's a standard one. My writing's a bit better than his was."

"I'll go find my pens," Genjo said, getting up to find them and parchment for official things. He had the best handwriting so they leaned on him for that. He came back to find Alan scowling. "Is that shocking?"

"No. There's an earlier one that's written poorly that could indicate aggressions."

"Poor word choice on my part but I wrote most of them when I was ten. Jethro's has a better word choice and the later ones have even better than that one."

"I like the one in mine," Jethro said. He let the others see it.

"I like it more than this one," Alan agreed. He looked at Horatio's. "Or his. Okay, can we move that word back to Jethro's? Though I'm not sure if you got the meaning behind any of them right, Xander."

He crossed them out and rewrote it. They all agreed that was better stated without any aggressive overtones. "If I hadn't put that in there, then my stepfather could've declared them an act of war," he reminded them. "And taken out me and all of you." They all nodded they remembered that. Hakkai came in to help with the scribe duties. He had the second-best handwriting of anyone around here. Abby's official note writer came in to help too. She had pretty penmanship but more ornate. They settled in to rewrite all those and then moved onto the other treaties that had to be redone. Everyone had some. Genjo was going to have wrist cramps. Only a few were going to have to wait for later visits because it was getting nearly midnight by the time they were done.

Abby raised her hand when they finally decided to give up. "We need to look at the Joined Kingdoms charter as well. It's got some archaic language that's nasty underneath."

Alan looked at her. "That 'your sins are your own' clause let us ignore Xander's stepfather and just handle him."

"It also lost us one king when he hurt his own kids and they killed the whole family." She stared at him. "Thankfully I had relatives in Dean's kingdom I could hide with and my father was smart enough to send me and then get out of the way."

"We can look at amending that," Alan decided. "Next meeting." She smiled and nodded. "All right. I'm done for the night. Everyone pack up and we'll arrange things for next time in the morning since we mostly planned to leave then." They gathered things and went up to their suites. He went to look that clause over while he got ready for some sleep. Though most of them had gotten a nap earlier while dealing with trade agreements. It was really boring.


Xander tossed the treaties at his nobles' council as he walked in. "We all got a lot done this time." He sat down.

They looked them over. "You redid the ones you made before you overthrew your stepfather?" one asked him.

"I had built in a finite time limit so even if they weren't on the throne they were still in force so I had the time to work."

"That's a good idea," another one agreed. They looked through them, only separating out two of them. "These ones have different clauses?" They looked at him.

Xander looked then nodded. "That's what Mac wanted and negotiated." They nodded. "And Horatio, who was giving me looks like he thinks I'm demented again. I'm guessing being his age is a bit more uptight. Though it hadn't affected Alan as much."

"Are we going to be hosting more meetings?"

"A lot of them don't like the idea of the hole," he said dryly. "So we've basically been moved around on the schedule." They sighed.

"We could use another large public works project," one of them said. "We could build a pretty new castle."

"We're needed here to protect the hole," Xander said. "And we need to work on the roads and guard posts."

"Fine, Sire. Those are important." They got into the trade versions. They were on different colored scroll rods by custom. "This one with King Horatio?"

Xander shrugged. "I don't know why they wanted to lower the amount of regular food but they were giving Buffy's kingdom a boost this time."

"That's nice of them I suppose. Are we going to war with King Horatio?"

Xander shook his head. "No. I think it's mostly his age catching up to him. He's always thought I was too playful and young."

"You are quite young but you have good ideas," the nobles said.

Xander nodded. "I know Alan had worries about the hole in the basement so my daughter might not be around as much. If they do try to shun us, it'll be their loss. We're not one trick ponies and really, we're not getting much from them outside the fruit from King Steve." He shifted and shrugged a bit. "I also pointed out that someday I'd be King Alan's seat and it kinda freaked a few out. Horatio suggested allowing queens to sit there, since they're presently not allowed. He was hoping for Stella but she had to point out she's a consort." A few smiled. "And Buffy was behind me. We talked about the Pelgar situation. We're allowing refugees to flee but they're to stay inside their own borders."

"Good," they all agreed. "Are we taking in any of the nobility?"

"Hell no!"

"Even better," another agreed. "Has anyone notified that one daughter with the centaurs?"

"I'll go do that tomorrow." He shifted again and winced this time.

"Are you all right, Sire?" one of his council asked.

"I fell. Buffy's guards had super shiny armor and my horse shied at one and threw me. Since they were doing it on purpose...." He smirked. "I let Genjo write the letter."

"Why are they all picking on us all of a sudden?" one of them asked.

"No idea but if they don't stop it they're going to find we're not that easy to push around. They need us a lot more than we need them. I already told the generals if they get disrespected at any time during any planned and asked for cross training they are free to call a halt and walk off. I'm not putting up with it. I won't turn into my stepfather but I can damn sure sit back and watch some things." They all nodded. "We'll see how this works out."

"Could it be that they're worried about the new demon things?" one asked. "We've noted that they're back."

"Those are higher ones that weren't covered by that plea and they're not moving on anyone's kingdom. They've got their own power struggles and don't usually bother with us. They're the bad cousins to Cas's angelic people of old."

"Oh, them. All right. And?" one asked.

Xander grinned. "We have ways of making them die too. It might taint me but I've arranged the wards so it won't be a huge problem for anyone." They all nodded. "The last movement of them here, it was more about Dawn." That got another nod. "I'd hope they were all home by now."

"Except for maybe a few watching what's going on, I'd hope so too and any that way were quiet," that one said. He looked at Xander, who smirked at him. "Not me, Sire. My brother."

"Is he able to be saved?"

"Consort Castiel managed to free him on his way down to the meeting."

"Good. Let me know if Genjo or I can help."

"We can do that." They looked over the roads needing to be fixed. They went to get Princess Charlie to see how best to do the roads instead of just grading what was existing. He had to have ideas since he was one of those engineering sorts who loved math. Fortunately he was in the kitchen eating without being reminded by his tolerant spouse.


Princess Tony looked at his prince when Don snorted while reading a letter from his little brother. "Bad news that way?"

"Prince Xander is feeling like we're shunning him."

Tony winced. "That's bad."


Tony held up a hand. "Don, you may have been raised right by Alan. Xander was raised rougher than Dean was. He will literally go 'fuck it' and let you all hang because of the snubbing I've seen some of the kings doing. This isn't the first time. Xander doesn't have to prove himself, he's already done that." Don blinked at him, looking confused. "What? Do you think Xander's going to take that? He's had enough of that in his life. Why would he put up with more."

"He wants attention?" Don asked.

"How about respect?" Tony suggested. Don looked confused again. "You don't. Your dad barely does and only in military matters. Hell, my stepmother does more than most of you do. Stella mostly does but now and then she gets frustrated that Xander doesn't see some of the social cues the rest of us were brought up with."

"He was raised in a palace."

"Yeah, by a warlord. It's a whole different mentality. There's different expectations. Jethro's got plenty of that in his but it's a lighter thing and he won't take out people for a perceived weakness. Warlords do. They just need to find a weak spot to chip at." He stared at him. "Xander doesn't need any of you, Don. He's got treaties with a vast number of people. He did it mostly without Sam's help too because Sam was too young and too busy back then himself. As Xander says, he may not be book smart but he's damn sure people smart and research sorta smart when he needs it. You may not have seen it, but I'm pretty sure some of the nobles' council has. Go ask 'em." He went back to his reading. He'd send Xander a letter later.

"He'd break treaties?"

"No. That doesn't mean he has to show up to every little thing unless he's asked. You guys never ask, you assume he'll be there by casually mentioning it." He stared at him. "Xander could be a hardass and demand a formal request. He was about to do that to Horatio a few months back."

"When did this start?"

"Probably when he was about four and able to be judged on his own actions?" He gave him a pointed look. "What few friends he has are about me, Gregory, Dean, Sam, and maybe some of the knights. Both generals see him as an oddity because he knows what he's doing but he's not formally trained in anything." He went back to his book again. "Dean and Cas are wrapped up in stuff. Sam's wrapped up in another problem that's going on in the knight's kingdoms that appears to be magic in nature since they don't really use it down there. I went to school with him for that semester and Gregory's more Genjo's friend than his."

"Is he going to snap you think?"

"No, I think he's going to snub." Tony looked at him again, partially closing his book on his lap. "I think you're going to have to actually *ask* formally for things. Xander doesn't need the stuff he trades you guys for. Warlords don't allow any weaknesses in their armies. Including supply lines. He learned well how to be self-sustaining. He might like some of the stuff he trades others for, but he can do without it or it'll prompt some black market underground to start, which will bring more money into certain parts of the kingdom.

"Pelgar needs more stuff in his kingdom than Xander ever has in his. That's why most kingdoms lean on his." Don shook his head as he walked off, taking the letter to his father. Tony sighed. "Well, we'll see what happens," he noted, grabbing some paper and a pencil to write Xander a letter telling him he'd be visiting soon as a friend, not as a princess. He sealed it with his own seal and sent it out with Amellisame's letter to them. He'd bring her with him he decided. Alan was overreacting and she'd be fine with her father.


Don looked at his father. "Xander's feeling like we all hate him and treat him like he's an idiot."

"He's had that feeling a few times and with some of the others that may be true," he admitted, taking the letter. He read it with a grimace. "I was hoping Horatio's little pissing match was done with."

"Can Xander actually not show up to events?"

"With the way the treaties are written? Yes. If we don't ask he doesn't have to show up." He looked at his older son. "Will he? I don't know," he admitted.

"Tony said we need him a lot more than he needs us."

"He still imports things."

"From what Tony said, not that much."

Alan got up to get a book on the shelf. It listed all the treaties currently in place, by magic, and what they were for. He looked at Xander's section. It was mostly a blank page. "He's right." He let Don see. The non-aggression treaties, two trade treaties with King Steve, and one that's due soon with King Horatio. "I know he was working on two others, one with Jethro and one with Mac. I think the one with Jethro was for military training for higher officers. The one with Mac was for some food I believe." He closed the book, looking at his son. "I'll see if I can smooth things over with him."

"You have the same problem with his kingdom. Otherwise you'd let Amellisame go see him more often."

He winced. "Perhaps," he agreed. "It's too dangerous to travel alone at her age."

"We don't have any warlords trying to rampage around."

"Cougar's giving her odd looks."

"He's looking for a mare and he's been a teenage horse," Don said dryly. "I asked Impala the last time and that's what Dean said she thinks."

"It's still a bit dangerous with that war going on."

"Sure," he agreed, nodding, staring at his father. "If you're sure." He walked off. Maybe he could help fix this. He respected Xander, but thought he was a bit bouncy. Which was probably Genjo's fault somehow.

Alan went back to his desk to write to the other kings about how they were making things more difficult diplomatically by snubbing some members of the convergence.


Xander rode out to where the centaur village was, nodding at the guards. He was a few days later than he had expected. "I have to notify someone of family news. Is Princess Malinora here please?"

"Who are you, human?"

"King Xander."

The guard blinked at him. "Interesting. Is it that important? She's resting because her daughter has been sick."

"I can send the palace's healer out to check on her and the baby if you want. Princess Gregory's a bit snide and mean but he's an excellent healer."

"It's a normal childhood thing," the guard admitted. "Is it important?"

"Her family just declared a war on her cousins."

The guard winced. "That's bad." He sent one of the kids to get her. "Malinora, this is King Xander."

"I remember him," she said, blinking up at him, looking exhausted.

"Two things. Would you like Gregory to see the child? He's mean but he's an excellent healer. All you have to do is send me a note or fire call."

"I..." She looked back then at him. "Please?"

"Of course. The other's bad news. Your uncle just invaded your cousins." She winced, shaking her head. "We're forcing them to keep it in-country but we're letting refugees out to be humane. I can only imagine one will find you here."

"I can imagine why they'd want to," she agreed, straightening up. "I'll keep an ear out and talk to the village elders about them, King Xander."

"That's fine. Want me to take the baby with me? Or should I send him?"

"She's got an infection with spots. You should probably send him. I've kept her alone in case she's contagious."

"I can do that. Be at peace and let us know if you guys need things. We're reworking some of the trade treaties at the moment," he told the guard. Who nodded. "All right, I'll send him out by tonight. You're not that far from the palace and he's complaining he's bored anyway." She smiled. "Let me do that." He bowed and rode off, going back to the palace the fast way through the woods. He rode in about an hour later. "Get Princess Gregory and his supplies. We've got a case of a fever with spots on a child," he ordered a groom. They went running to his house out back. Gregory came limping out with two bags, one being carried by the groom. "They said it was a childhood thing. She said a fever with spots, Gregory."

"Some of those are more contagious than others," he agreed. "Best to make sure." He mounted with a wince. "Where?"

"Centaur's human village. I'll take you." Gregory got the two bags tied down behind him and they rode off together. Xander nodded at the same guard once they got there. "This is Princess Gregory, an Ascelpian country healer."

"Well met, Princess Gregory. We thought it a simple childhood infection." He let Xander help him down and hand him the bags. Xander waited with the horses as a sign of respect. It was nice that the new king was so nice.

An older centaur rode up and sneered at him. "What are you doing here, human?"

"I brought a healer to look at a sick child," he said, looking at him. "I had to deliver a message out here earlier for someone."

"Their families are not our matter."

"Hers just started a war. It could become one."

The centaur blinked. "We have one here who belongs to the king?"

"I'm the damn king," Xander said bluntly. "My stepfather died last year and was in the woods as a banished princess for years. We're not warlords anymore." The centaur stared at him in shock. Xander stared back. "Pelgar's kingdom," he said with a point their way. "Is attacking their neighboring cousins. We're trying to only let refugees through but you do have a princess from that lineage here and they might try to find her. I had to warn her. Then I heard her kid is sick so I brought a healer."

"That's good of you. Which one are you?"

"Xander." He smiled. "I was the one that was doing everything behind his back."

"Oh. Thank you for that. I'm our usual healer." Xander moved his horse out of the way. "The healer you brought?"

"Princess Gregory is an Ascelpian healer."

"They're very good usually," he agreed, going in there. He looked at the elders. "That's the king?" he asked quietly. They nodded. "I had not heard such news."

"We appreciate him. He treats us well and took out the last one, who was the one that killed so many of us." He pointed. "Princess Gregory ordered the hut closed. Apparently it's contagious."

"Many childhood fevers are," he agreed, going to check. "I'm the local healer. We're mostly immune to those sort of fevers, Healer Gregory."

"Not this one. You guys got the last problem fever and this looks like a redo of it." The healer walked in and looked then grimaced but nodded. "So you may be contagious now."

"I had it during the last bout, nearly passed on from it as well." He stepped back outside. "How are we treating this?"

"We're quarantining," Gregory said. He leaned out. "Xander?" He leaned around the end of the fence. "It's like the last fever the country had." He nodded. "Tell the others I can't be back for two weeks. At least."

"I can do that, Gregory. I'll leave your horse tied up out here."

"Thank you. Make sure the healers check everyone else."

"I will. Be safe. Let me know if you need anything by fire call." He mounted up and rode off again, going to the coven first. They were only an hour north. He walked in and sighed. "The centaur village up the forest," he said with a point. "Has a fever starting. Princess Gregory's there."

"We can support him with that," one of the elder witches agreed. "You look tired."

"I am tired but it's going to be a long day. Check everyone who comes through and warn them?"

"I can do that," she agreed. "We'll set out warning flags and road watchers, Sire."

"Thank you. Tell all the healers? I'm on my way back to announce it." She nodded, handing him a brownie. He smiled and nibbled as he walked out to remount and ride back to the palace. It was a good three hour ride but it was nice today. He dismounted and looked at the groom, who he didn't know. "Where's my groom?" he asked.

"In the barn, Sire." He went to get him.

Xander waited. "Give him a bath. Be careful and quarantine him. I had to go to the centaur village earlier and they have a fever starting. Princess Gregory's there with them. They have a fever with spots again."

"I can watch him, Sire," he promised, leading him off to the seclusion barn for sick horses. He looked at the other groom. "He knows I'm single if I have to spend time here."

"That's good."

Xander walked into the palace with a sigh. He looked at the majordomo, who stood up looking alarmed. "Ring the sickness bell. The centaur village is starting a fever with spots like the last one we had. Send official notices to every single healer in the kingdom to beware and warn the road guards."

"Yes, Sire," he said, limping off to handle that. The bell codes were well learned by every child in the kingdom during their educations. Everyone understood it was an emergency.

Xander walked into the throne room. "People, there is another sickness starting in the Woods," he announced. "We are under the state of quarantine just in case. We don't think it will spread, but it is in a human child right now."

"A changeling?" one asked.

"No, a human in the centaur village. I had to deliver a message earlier and then a healer." He looked around. "Be safe and be aware, report any odd cases to the healers nearest you. We will be keeping track and we will be doing what we must if anyone is contagious for more than a few days. If it is in your house and you are in there with them, do not come outside. Please. That's how those things spread." They all nodded. "Any with business with me it will have to wait for about thirty minutes while I finish making the announcements." He walked off, going to his office to put out the official decrees. And send a letter to his daughter about it being too dangerous until this fever was done with. She was a healer, she was learning about such fevers.


Xander looked at the fire that night. "We need a senior healer experienced with public fevers for a few weeks please," he requested.

"Princess Gregory can't?"

"He's with the sick child."

"He sees actual patients?"

"I came to get him earlier to make sure it wasn't the sort of fever it turns out it was," Xander said. "It's in a child in a centaur village. We've sent out all the warnings but we need someone who's your kingdom trained. Ours are mostly home trained instead. The only other Ascelpian trained healers are in the military and are on maneuvers in Jethro's kingdom right now. None of them are experienced in fevers. We found that out last time."

"That's fine. We can lend you one, King Xander." She smiled. "Is it bad?"

"So far only the one case. I'm hoping it's not going to spread more than that. The village is pretty small and mostly adults who work with the centaurs."

"I can handle that. I'll send one out later and make sure they're not the sort that was sent last time that wanted to burn the sick alive so they didn't spread."

"Thank you. He was great stress relief but...."

"Exactly." She smiled. "I'll send one tomorrow after breakfast."

"That's fine. We'll be here." She smiled and hung up. He went to check on Genjo and the others. "There's a really sick kid at the centaur village," he said when Goyjo opened the door.

"We heard. You good?"

"I've gotten that fever before. Twice because I was just healed when I got exposed again. I nearly ended up in the quarantine village for that."

"Got it. We'll keep watch on each other and Hakkai if he has to go out."

"Thanks. Gregory's there."

"I feel kinda sorry for the Centaurs," he admitted, shaking his head. "Go rest. You're exhausted."

"Yeah, but that's normal." He went up to his room to rest. He wouldn't get real sleep for a few hours at least.

Goyjo closed the door. "Hakkai, he wanted you warned about that fever," he called.

"I heard." He leaned down the stairs. "It'll be fine. All healers are taught how to reduce fevers and the like." He nodded at that. "We'll figure it out. Let me give Hakaru a bath." He went back to it. His splashing tiny dragon friend was happy in his bath tonight.


Hakkai came in a week later, bowing to Xander. "I'm having to quarantine your spouse, Sire."

Xander winced. "We have a few quarantine rooms set up in the palace."

"I had him moved to one last night when the first spot appeared. Goku's on his guarding to annoy him enough to rest and eat properly." Xander grinned. "He should be fine. His fever's not too high."

"Thank you for letting me know. Anyone else in the palace?"

"Two maids, which is probably how your spouse got it." He walked off. The healers checked each other every day. If one of them was infected they could be healers from inside the quarantine village. They already had one of those. He added Genjo's name to the list and put Goku's in parentheses since he was helping him.

The healer from Asclepias looked then winced. "That's going to annoy the consort."

"Exactly, which means he'll nap to get away from Goku complaining." He grinned. "Plus Goku can't help me if I have to go out. Goyjo's better at that."

"Fine. In the palace quarantine rooms?" Hakkai nodded. "Excellent decision. Let me check you over." He did that and Hakkai checked the others with his special skills. They all passed and went to check with the sick ones and with the healers going to the villages to make sure no one new pops up. It was a long few weeks but had to happen.


Amellisame rode into the kingdom, nodding at the road guarding military people. "I'm a healer in training," she noted.

"Prince," one said. "You should not be here. You can't be sick until you have siblings."

"I'm a healer first and a prince second. I serve all people, including my own," she said firmly. "We're going to help Princess Gregory." They all shook their heads. "Yes, I am. Let me pass."

"We can disobey direct royal orders during emergencies," one told her. "I'm sorry, Prince, but no. You should not be here."

She sighed and pulled a weapon. "Don't make me injure you and heal you." They all laughed but she did injure a few lightly and then healed them as she walked past them. She went to where Gregory was and slid off her horse's back, tying him next to Gregory's mare. "Okay, Cougar?" He nodded. "Good." She grabbed her two bags and headed in there. "Gregory, I brought you new herb stores," she said when she found him.

He stared down at her. "I'm going to paddle you to death for risking yourself, Amellisame."

She shrugged. "I'm a healer as well, even if I am in training. It's my duty to help those who need my help. Even my own people if they should need it." She held up a bag with a smile. "New fever herbs? I stopped in the border market in your kingdom to get some fresh ones."

"Thank you. Still paddling you later."

"I've already had this fever. I've had a few." She followed him, nodding at the mother. "Ma'am. I'm healer-in-training Amellisame."

"The prince?" she demanded.

"I'm a healer today," she said bluntly, staring at her. "We all serve our people, I just do so multiple ways." She smiled. "And sometimes I'm the best there is with kids. They don't get scared of me." She walked in. "Hi. What's your name?"

"Malian," she said then coughed.

"That's gotta hurt. Let's sit you up for a minute, Malian." She helped her sit up to cough, patting her on the back. "Oh, that's weird. Gregory, she's got a sore."

He looked then nodded. "Those are bed sores from laying too long," he said quietly. "We try to avoid them but sometimes it happens. You use that green antiseptic goop on it." She nodded, going to get the right jar and some gauze to cover that sore with. She checked for others, finding one. "Good job," he said quietly. "Every six hours if you ever need it again."

She smiled. "I've had this fever, Uncle Gregory. It'll be okay and I'm a healer first. As Daddy and Uncle Alan wanted me to be."

He nodded. "If you're sure your father won't be beating you after I get done with you."

She grinned. "I'll learn more this way than I will in classes." She got to work drawing up some water to warm on the hearth. "We'll wipe you down too. The sweat can't be good for you. It's necessary but can help bring down your fever, Malian." She nodded, staring at her. Amellisame smiled back. "I'm a healer in training. This is how we learn."

The kid nodded. "I learn from books."

"Books are great. I love books. I learn a lot from them too but healing people is a hands-on job. Like crafting things is." She settled in with the kid's mom to give her a bed bath.

Gregory went to check on the other patients, pausing at the fire to toss some of the powder in. "King Xander," he called. A page popped up instead. "Tell Xander I have Amellisame helping me please?"

"He's in an awful temper, Princess Gregory. Must I?"

"Get him to the fire. I don't need to handle his temper but I can." Xander stomped in a few minutes later. "Must I really give up being a healer to deal with you?" he asked dryly.

"Yes! My daughter shot two military people and then healed them!"

"Yeah, she's here. She decided it was best to learn hands-on."

"Beat the little bitch for me."

"Gladly." He smirked. "I told her I would be after you."

Amellisame walked out to stare at her father. "I am a healer, Father. I serve all people, even my own. Calm down! Before you upset my stepfather and get hit with the fan again!"

"He's in a quarantine room," Xander said dryly, staring at her. "We're going to have words about you being so forceful at your age, daughter. You do not shoot people trying to stop you from doing what you want. Those rules are in place for the good everyone, even you!"

"I'm a healer, Father. No pass rules do not apply to us."

"Bull fucking shit until you graduate, little girl!"

She huffed. "I am helping take care of my own people, Father. I don't care if you don't like it!" she shouted back.

"I don't mind that part, though I do not want you in danger yet, daughter. I will not have you acting up that way. Especially when the rules are there for your protection!"

She sighed. "We'll talk about this when we're both more calm. Check on my stepfather and tell me how he is?" She hung up and glared at Gregory. "It's not good for the king to be throwing a temper tantrum. Don't make him do that!"

"I'm not the one that set off his temper," Gregory assured her. "You're the one that got pushy and put yourself in danger. If there wasn't a quarantine, he wouldn't have called. He'd be here to beat you himself. The rules apply even to healers, Amellisame, and we're going to be talking about that. You don't get to do things like this until you've graduated and passed the princess exam." She rolled her eyes but went back to help Malian. He walked off shaking his head. "Just like her father," he muttered as he walked. "Really just like her father. And stepfather."

The village elders looked at each other then shook their heads. A future healer as the queen? Things would be interesting all around the kingdom.


Hakkai rode into the centaur village and dismounted, leaving his horse with the other two. He stared at one. "Cougar?" He lifted his head to nuzzle him. "Her father's going to freak out." The wind elemental/horse nodded. "Sure." He walked in there with the supplies. "Gregory?" He leaned out of a tent. "Here, more things you needed. She's here?"

"She decided she's a healer in training, it was her duty."

"No wonder I was warned not to pause at the palace," he muttered. "Well, Goyjo can calm him down hopefully."

"She stopped to get me some herbs I'd need. Did you get the rest?"

"I did. All but the berries for flavor. They're out of season."

"That sucks. That medicine is nasty without them."

"I got some melon to juice and some other fruit that might help." He went with the healer to check on the patients. He stared at the little healer, who shrugged and went back to sponging off a sweating person. Hakkai tested it and frowned. "That's not the same fever."

"It mutated here," Gregory agreed. "When the few centaurs got hit it mutated it some."

"Okay. Do we know who was the first infected?"

"The first we know of is a child," he admitted. He led Hakkai to her. She was feeling better now.

Hakkai smiled as he squatted down beside her. "Hi, I'm Healer Hakkai. I'm going to test you for a second. It won't hurt." He put a hand on her and concentrated. "She shows that mutated version. So not the first case. Just the first noticed." He ruffled her hair. "You're getting much better. You'll be fully back to playing in a few weeks." He smiled at the mother. "She's recovering well."

"Thank you, Healer Hakkai." She shook his hand.

"Its not a problem." He walked out with Gregory, going to the village elders. "She wasn't the first case," he noted. "It shows some mutation from the original strain we have in the rest of the kingdom."

"Some centaur got it first," the elders realized. Hakkai nodded. "We can check the smaller herds and single groups. That one likes to pick flowers and visit the single centaurs out in the woods to make sure they're fine. She's a sweet little girl that way."

"Thank you. Let me know if you need things. I'm handling the ones in the palace."

"Is the king sick?" another elder asked.

"No. His consort's pretty sick. A few of the maids. The king's really mad at his daughter apparently." They all smiled and nodded. "But she's right, healers respond to emergencies, even when they're only partially trained. This is how we learn. It's how I learned too."

Gregory looked at him. "At her age?"

"My powers didn't come out until I was older."

"Point. I'll talk to Her Stubborness later about such matters."

"Good. Want me to take Cougar back to the palace with me so he can rest?" he called.

"If he wants," she called back, leaning out of a doorway. "I won't mind if that's what he wants. I can always walk back. It'll give Dad time to calm down anyway." She went back to helping.

"Fat chance that'll be enough time," Gregory snorted. "Go ahead if he wants. Mine's fine. He's grazing."

"Sure." He patted him on the arm. "You're going to get sick if you don't rest."

"Both of us are resting tonight anyway," he agreed. "My limit's three days. Hers shouldn't be more than eight hours but she's stretched it somehow."

"Studying binges," Hakkai said. "Princess Charlie does the same thing." He left, going to untie Cougar. "C'mon, we'll get you in the quarantine stable and have you spoiled rotten until she can do it herself." He mounted and walked off with the other horse following his. The few hours of quiet riding were nice, calming him down from the hecticness of dealing with the fever going on. By the time he got back to the palace he was centered, calm, and actually smiling. "Quarantine groom," he called as he rode in, as he was ordered to do. That one hurried out, staring at the other horse. "She's helping Princess Gregory," he said quietly. "He's been grazing near there with Gregory's mare."

"That's fine. We'll gladly clean him up and let him rest with us until she's done and proven fine," the groom said, holding his horse's head while he dismounted then taking them both to the quarantine barn. The night groom was sleeping in a corner and looked, then stared with his mouth open. "She's being a healer."

"It's good she's taking care of her own people." He flipped over. "He likes that sweet mash that gets made now and then."

"I can find you some of that, Cougar," he promised, petting him on the neck. "Let's get you cleaned up and we'll find you some." He settled in to brush the horses and make sure their hooves were clean then give them the bath to make sure they stayed clean. Cougar enjoyed all this, his human hadn't gotten to spoil him in days apparently.

Hakkai walked in and stared at Xander, who was still scowling. "She's not sick."

"That's a good thing!" He stared at him.

"She's doing good and they're all happy to teach her things. They're proud she's their princess, even if she is a bit pushy with some complaining people. They're a different strain."

"Mutated due to a centaur getting it?"

"Yup. Let me go note that to the healer in charge." He went that way, making notes on the book before handing it over.

He looked then at Hakkai. "Amellisame? The crown prince?"

"Is a healer. In both types actually."

"Interesting. Is she fine?"

"So far she hasn't caught it yet and it is clearly mutated from the one everyone else has."

"That's good to know. Did you check any of the centaurs?"

"One of the little ones has it and is being nursed back too. It's the same strain that one has but the little girl they noticed it in first has a mutated strain as well."

"So our primary cause gave it to the cities and a centaur both," he realized. Hakkai nodded. "All right." He made that note. "Do we know how many?"

"They're searching them out now."

"Wonderful. Let me know when you hear."

"Or you can fire call Gregory. He's still fine as well."

"Good. He'd be hell to handle while sick. He has been in the past from what I've heard." He looked at him. "This kingdom has a lot of information on poisonings and the like."

"His stepfather liked them."

"Charming," he mouthed.

"Did you get the one on Gentrus?"

"I started there actually. Very odd but helpful. It included a lot of things found by those who're home-taught as well."

"Most of the kingdom is. Most healers in most kingdoms are. There's probably ten of them to two of you and probably ten of you to one of my kind of healer."

"Point. Amellisame has yours and mine?" Hakkai nodded. "That's good. Do we have training notes on her?"

"In my things. I've been working on it with Gregory when she's here. Let me go handle the cranky princess. I heard him yelling at Goku outside." He went up there to handle it. You could hear Goku complaining through most of the palace. He knocked on the door, staring at the younger guy who opened it. "You're both too loud. People need to rest. Goku, I could hear you in the throne room. Genjo, I could hear you outside. Do you mind?" Genjo glared at him. He stared at him. "Seriously. Everyone's uptight and tense. We don't need that shit. So calm down."

"How long before I can get out of here?" Genjo demanded.

"Until all the spots are healed," he said. "Just like it was the last twenty times you've asked. Now, let's check you over. Maybe it's closer."

"Please, Merciful Goddess, let it be healed," Goku prayed, looking up. "He's miserable and making the rest of us miserable."

Hakkai looked at him. "Shut up before I assign you to help Gregory and Amellisame in the centaur village."

"EXCUSE ME?" Genjo growled. "She's *what*?"

"She's being a healer," he said with a smile. "She's learning a lot from Gregory. Xander had an awful fit about that." He stared at him. "Now, calm down before it makes your fever worse and I have to force you to drink that fever tea again." Genjo settled back to seethe instead. Hakkai smiled at him. "If she's smart she's going to run back to Alan when she's clear but it'll take an extra two weeks to make sure she and Gregory are both clear of the infection."

"That's gonna suck," Goku said dryly. "Princess Gregory and an enclosed space? Maybe she'll want to give up training to be a healer."

"It'd make me do the same thing," Genjo agreed but was still scowling. Hakkai checked him over. "Am I better yet? I can just imagine Xander's growling at people."

"He hasn't had an open complaints session due to the infection. It's a health risk. Only important things are heard and they're heard individually. I check him each night." Genjo nodded and settled in with the tea that had been brought and left outside the door for them. "Better but not fully yet," Hakkai decided. "Another week at the most."

"Thank you, Merciful Goddess," Genjo complained quietly.

Hakkai smiled at him. "I set Goku on you because you'll want to rest instead of letting him nag you." He left them to complain at each other. He watched Goyjo lead someone off. "Are they sick?" he called.

"Yup, but not the one that everyone else has. She was throwing up."

Hakkai came to check that one over nodding. "Congratulations."

"I haven't been with a man," she said, blinking at him.

"If you're not pregnant, you've got a growth that feels alive." Her eyes went wide. "Go see a regular healer." She nodded, rushing off to talk to the real healer. Hakkai smiled at Goyjo. "They're fine. Another week before our princess is better."

"Great. Goku still alive?"

"Yup. I told him why I put them together. Genjo's seething about that and Amellisame helping Gregory."

"I heard," Goyjo admitted with a nod. "And the fit Xander threw." They went to get some dinner and rest for a few hours. "At least this fever's not causing many deaths."

"No, we've only lost about ten people out of the three hundred or so infected."

"That's good." They yawned and went to sleep for a few hours. It was a long month.


Alan looked around the dining hall. "Where is Amellisame? I thought she was busy studying or playing with her horse but she hasn't shown up in two days."

Don cleared his throat. "Heard from Xander, Dad." Alan groaned. "She snuck down to be a healer with Princess Gregory in a centaur village where one of the first noted cases was."

"Great! I'm going to beat that girl to death when I find her."

"It's going to be a while. They'll have to quarantine all the healers for two weeks to make sure none of them end up sick as carriers."

"Two weeks locked up with Princess Gregory...." Alan said, considering it. "That might be a worse punishment." He dug in, shaking his head. Don relaxed again. "Any notes from that fever?"

"He called for a public health healer," Don said before eating another bite.

"So they've got it handled?" Alan asked.

"Yeah, apparently. We'll know in about a week or so. The first cases should be better by then."

"Excellent. Xander handles emergencies very well." He dug in, considering his poor little Amellisame being in danger. His head came up slowly. "Centaur?"

"Yeah, a human's child in their helper village was one of the first sick," Don said with a nod. He stuffed his mouth.

"Huh." He went back to eating. "Any word from Charlie or Ian?"

"They're enjoying building stuff from Xander's stepfather's idea barn. They've used the remains to build some really nice stuff."

"Good. Is he heading back to the school soon?"

"No idea."

"I'll ask in my next letter down there. Maybe he can spank Amellisame for us." He went back to eating, still frowning.

Don smiled. His dad was going to teach the little princess sense and to leave a letter for him. She'd never sneak off again.


Mac looked at his messenger as he got back. "He didn't answer?"

"I was turned away at the border, Sire. They're having a fever."

"A fever?" he demanded.

"Yes, Sire. The border guards reported that only emergency traffic was being let in and sent on the sealed message they sealed into a bigger envelope for me."

"That's fine. It wasn't *that* important. Are they handling it okay?"

"Sire, why wouldn't King Xander know how to handle a sickness? They handled one two years ago."

"I wasn't aware of that one either." He considered it. "Anything noteworthy that way?"

"The guards did say they were a bit worried for his consort. Consort Genjo was trapped in a quarantine room with one of his guards."

Mac considered that. "Hakkai's a healer so he's got to be locked in with one of the other two. Goyjo?"

"No, Sire, the short, loud one according to the guard. The guard thought it was a brilliant way to make Consort Genjo nap to get away from the nagging." He smiled. "And there's a rumor that the Prince Amellisame showed up. She ended up injuring but healing a few of the guards on the other border so she could come in as a healer."

"Alan's going to shit elephants," Stella said as she came in. "Xander's got to be screaming." She looked at the messenger. "Any other gossip?"

"Queen Buffy has pounced at least one of those soldiers she brought back but they're not going to have a wedding. She was screaming at someone that she'd be an unwed mother and if they didn't leave her alone so would Prince Dawn. You could hear the arguments from the garden to the inn I was at."

She nodded. "Sounds like Buffy, yeah," she decided. "Any other news?"

"Queen Abby was sniffly when I paused there to drop your message on the way up, but no idea why, Queen Stella."

"That's fine. I'll call Abby." She smiled. "Thank you." He bowed and left them to talk. She sat in her throne, looking at Mac. "The only time they've ever called for help was when Xander was repoisoned," she said quietly. "He knows how to handle fevers, Mac."

"It's possible it could spread."

"That's why you lock your borders." She got up and went to call Abby. "I heard sniffling. Is there good news on Timmy?"

"Tony and Don decided they could finally make a go of it before I married Tony off to Dawn." She smiled. "So we have a wedding to plan."

"Great! How soon? Will it be after Xander's kingdom is unlocked?"

"Why did he lock it?" she asked, looking confused.

"Public health because of another mass fever."

"Fuck," Abby said, making someone on that end jump in fear. "Not you. Xander's having a public fever." She looked at Stella again. "Did you send help?"

"I had messages going that way. They have the borders locked."

"Then we'll definitely have to plan it to happen after they reopen. Otherwise it'll add another week and a half to traveling." She considered it. "Does Alan know?"

"Amellisame's there by the rumors. She injured a few military guys and healed them before going to do healer duty."

"Someone really needs to talk to that girl about sense. You would've thought Alan would've," Abby said, shaking her head. "We need to tell her about that, Stella."

"Definitely. But she'll have to be quarantined for a few weeks afterward just to make sure she didn't catch it." She grinned. "So she'll be quarantined with a lot of healers to nag her about her age."

"Oooh. No, Gregory wouldn't be treating them. He'd be in charge because of his leg." She shook her head. "Pity. He can give talks about reality better than most."

Stella nodded. "True." She waved a hand. "Let us know when."

"Okay." She hung up and went to talk to Jethro and their top general, who she caught by the wrist and pulled after her. He was used to it and just sighed but followed. She knocked on Jethro's office door and opened it to lead the general in. "Xander's borders are locked due to a fever."

"I'll tell his people," the general agreed. "Is it serious?"

"Probably if they locked the borders," Jethro said. "Is he sick?"

"Not that I've heard of but Amellisame is down being a healer after forcing her way in. Apparently she hurt a couple of guards trying to stop her but paused to heal them on the way in."

Jethro looked at her, then at his general.

"I'll have them talk to the prince about that as well," he promised. "We can send healers."

"Have their own military healers call up there to check. They'd get honest answers and not blown off like the healer we have here who is an imbecile. Or the head injury guy we had to call in for Tony's many head injuries."

"We have Ducky. We can send him," Abby reminded him with a smile. "That will push back Tony's wedding."

"Good point. It'd take a lot longer to get up to Alan's kingdom without going through Xander's. Yeah, go ahead and fire call Tony to make sure he realizes that. I really hate going through that pass from Dean's to Alan's kingdom anyway." She nodded bouncing off to do that. He looked at the general, who pointed at Abby's back. Jethro smirked. "Go pass along those and then come tell me how the cross-training is going."

"It's good. A few sneered and their generals put them to work for it, Sire. They don't put up with shit from anyone. And bluntly told us they weren't going to put up with shit from anyone."

"Why?" he asked.

"For the same reason that they said their king was considering being a lot more insular. Something about disrespect and outright snotty behavior between kingdoms, Sire."

"Horatio's thing," he muttered, shaking his head as he took a deep breath. "We'll figure it out. We always do."

"Let me know if I have to train the troops to defend our borders against his, Sire." He left.

"I doubt Xander would do that," Jethro decided. He wrote a letter for Xander and Genjo, sending it out with a messenger. Abby was happily chatting with Tony so it was fine for now. He went to find Ducky out at the house out back, with all the corgis. "Ducky?" He came to the door, staring at him. "Xander's kingdom has a fever."

"I've talked to the healing school. He's asked for someone to fill in for Gregory for a bit since he's taking care of a centaur helpers' village."

"Great. Is it that serious? How long do you think it'll take. Tony's trying to plan his wedding to Don and Abby's trying to get an idea."

"Probably not more than another month, Jethro. Those things usually last about two weeks."

"Good. I'll let her know. Let me know if we have to send some healers?"

"I can do so." Jethro nodded and walked off. He looked at his dogs. "King Xander could use a few of you. He really could." He went back to brushing them. Corgis did have coats that needed brushing.


Stella called Calleigh that night. "I'm pausing your messenger," she said in greeting.

"Is there a problem? I know we sent him to deliver a few places. We usually do send him."

"Xander's letter can't get through. His borders are closed due to a fever."

"Oh! Okay, that's fine. He can drop it with the guards if he wants or send it on with another messenger." She smiled. "Are they okay?"

"As far as I've heard. I haven't called them. I figure the healers are hogging the fire calling station up there."

"That's good then. Let us know if you hear anything, Stella. He's got almost no support up there."

"I can do that." She hung up and looked at the messenger, who put that letter with her own going up there. She smiled. "You can stay with ours tonight." He nodded, going to do that. Stella went to talk to Mac. "I guess Xander didn't tell anyone about the fever."

"He doesn't have to unless he thinks it'll spread," Mac agreed. "Though we usually do warn each other. He probably had the guards pass on information to the kingdoms around them instead."

She nodded. "That's what I figured. The healers are probably busy with the fire calling station." She settled in to eat. "Tony's finally agreed to marry Don."

"That's good news." He smiled. "We'll have to find them something nice."

She nodded, digging into her own dinner.


Xander looked at the princess in front of him. "Charlie, I'm going to propose something wacky."

"Why?" he asked. "Coming from you, 'wacky' is a dangerous word."

"I was thinking that since you guys are going to be doing that for at least another year, if not more, and someday our surrogate will be back here most of the time, that maybe we should put an off-shoot of the engineering academy here. We're already rebuilding the better school in the kingdom because it's so old and tiny." He waved him up to look at the plans he had. "These are for the regular school. We could put a few buildings around it to help with specialized training like engineering or healing."

"That's not a bad idea," he admitted. "Most of the trained healers are at least a week from you and a few weeks from the more southern countries." He considered it. "Is that going to be big enough?"

"Maybe not. I was going to ask your teacher for his ideas on how to expand it, out or up."

"Both could be helpful probably. How big is the school?"

"Right now it's about a hundred-twenty kids. We're thinking about making a boarding option so some of the orphans can go that way instead of the local schools if they're good at things."

"Interesting and that's how we do it." He smiled. "I wouldn't mind if you did. It's six less days of traveling from here than the school to home."

"And I've gotten a letter from a border post saying that Tony and Don have worked something out."

"So a wedding soon. We'll have to figure out what to make them." He smiled. "I'll tell my teacher and I do like teaching so I wouldn't be unhappy with that idea. Thanks, Xander."

"Welcome. I'll send Amellisame out when she's out of quarantine."

"She's what?" he demanded. "Why is she in-country? She should be in school."

"She forced her way in by injuring two guards she healed then went to help Gregory."

"Oh, damn, that poor kid. Trapped with Greg. Plus post-incident healing quarantine." He walked off shaking his head. He'd talk with her when she got free. He went to find his teacher, smiling at him. "King Xander is upping the local top tier school and was thinking about adding areas for specialized training like ours or healing."

"That's not a bad idea. Both schools are pretty far away. Only the bards' school is near here." He went to look at the plans. Xander gladly showed him and asked if he should build out or up and about the boarding option. They could work on that. His students needed something more to think on for class projects. Though two had already worked on this one. He got them summoned and went over how to change it and why. They agreed and showed him maps they made of the area. It was a bit rocky but they could compensate pretty easily. They could definitely build that and it'd be a great help to them as well since they were so crowded.


Xander looked at his generals since they were all back. "Has everyone who hasn't had this type of fever gotten away from people?"

"The ones in the military who haven't had something similar are out in the mountains to the west, Sire," one of the generals assured him. "There's been almost no infections that way and it's a pretty deserted post as well."

"Good thinking." He smiled. "I'm going to propose a few things that the nobles' council thought was a bit unnecessary but will definitely help our kingdom." They all stared at him, mostly looking at him like he was weird. He grinned and rolled the plans out on the table. "The updated plans for the top tier school in the kingdom. This is the main school, with a boarding option for those who need it, including orphans. These buildings around it, within about a mile of each other at the most, are the higher level training schools. Engineering, healing," he said with a point. "Bards." He grinned and pointed at one. "Yours." They all gaped. He smiled. "That way you can train officers at a standard place with a standard training with a standard troop you have up there to guard the school. There's one left and I'm open to making it an official noted library of the kingdom or something else."

One of the generals cleared his throat. "So all the education stuff we insist on officers having..." Xander pointed at that building on the drawing. "Would others be eligible?"

"At your discretion and mine." He smiled. "If we're at war with someone, no. If they're just assholes to us, probably just to reduce some of your work load. We're nicely centrally located but still."

The generals all smiled and nodded at each other. "We can train our other official needs there too. The military protocol people, the judges? We can do it without taking our time here."

"Which would mean decentralizing a few things," Xander reminded him. "Not the main military, you're still headquartered here."

"No, Sire, that's an *excellent* plan," another general agreed. "Do the other schools like it?"

"So far." He grinned. "I may have even talked Princess Charlie into teaching there."

They grinned at him. "That would be a great help," they all agreed.

"We'll figure out what sort of facilities we need and talk to the engineers to get them planned, Sire," the head general said.

"These three are doing it. The teacher out there is assigning some things as a class project," Xander said, pointing at the names. "They have drawings of the areas. Some of it's kind of full of rocks. I will insist on safe areas in case of attacks, of course, and I'll insist that the military group up there start a self sustaining farm."

"Are we short on trade treaties?" the head general asked.

"No, but if you haven't noticed we've been getting a lot of sneering from those that we used to conquer. Frankly, I don't put up with it from anyone and they can do it themselves unless they ask for help."

They nodded. "We can work on that, Sire. The ones that were training with King Jethro's troops shot down their sneering pretty fast." They looked at each other. "We'll start on the plans for needs now, Sire. Will it be a full guard post?"

"In the town. It won't be associated with the schools. It'll be there to protect the school."

"I have a great group for that," the head general said. "I can start training them for that area specifically. I even have some people from that area, Sire. Thank you for thinking of our needs." They bowed and left.

"Oh, tell them that we're taking bids on who'll build it fastest and best," Xander called after them. "Not using military or public works budgets."

"Even better, Sire," they agreed.

"Public works projects tend to be quickly but crappily built," one of the generals agreed. They went to their meeting areas to talk about it. If they could get all three of those other schools set up and running well, it'd definitely help their military. Training their own engineers and healers? It'd definitely help the military. Bards they could stand because they did bring down-time happiness and news.


Genjo finally got released and Goku went to hide for a few days of relief. Genjo went to find his spouse, who was going over his plans. He looked at them then at him. "What're we building now?"

"The new school." He smiled. "Feel better?"

"Much now that I'm not trapped with Goku. I'm never getting sick again before Hakai has to prove his evilness." He sat down, looking at the plans. "That's bigger than it was."

"We needed more room and I've planned for some specialists schools nearby. That's for the one to train healers." He pointed. "They're on top of a natural cave system and we're going to use one of them as a morgue for the students to learn from. I heard they do that up at the Asclepian schools too."

"That's nasty."

"Yes but it does happen. I asked the healer we're borrowing to handle the fever's overall treatments about it."

"Interesting. Gregory probably won't go teach."

"That's fine. We can find some of theirs that can teach and have retired from treating people." He looked at him. "Our military's healers could use the additional training. The ones who train at home can get that much more training."

"Point. Would this have anything to do with the snubbing at the last meeting?" Xander nodded. "They won't bar students from going, Xander."

"No but it's too damn far away." He smiled. "Pelgar's people tried to take over the engineering school again."

"Wonderful. Are they on their way here?"

"Not with the fever. They're going to mass visit Jethro to look at his dams."

"Interesting." He stood up with a wince. Xander came over to help him. "I'm fine."

"I say that a lot and you call me on it," he quipped with a grin.

"Uh-huh. You're usually bleeding. I'm just tired."

"Go sit in the throne room and rest, Genjo. We're not hearing petitions or anything so it's quieter in there."

"I can do that." He gave him a pointed look. "Bring the plans and explain them to me? That way I know what to deal with when I kill you for being an asshole?"

"Sure." He carried them out there to sit on the couches and show him what the present plans were. All the new schools would have independent, but nearby, buildings and their own needs were being met. Xander had made sure of it. Plus the main school's buildings and dorms. The new military post that was going to be built. The small town didn't have much but it had the prerequisite markets and things to support the new buildings. The town would grow some and that wasn't a bad thing in that part of the country. That's why Xander had put it there, that and it was defensible since it was on the inside of a mountain area that had a few passes to it but they were hard to get through if you didn't want someone using them.


Genjo took the mail the next morning from the guard unit. "Thank you." The guard bowed and left. He looked it over. "Alan wrote about our deplorable manners." He tossed it aside to go to the rest. "Hmm. Tony's getting married," he called.

"That's great news. How soon?" Xander called from the parlor to the rear of the throne room where he was working on something with a general. They had to plan out how to get more bloodlines into the horses soon.

"Six months."

"Great. That'll give us time to get over this fever and reopen most of the roads."

Genjo shook his head. He had no idea how to handle a fever beyond what he'd seen the last time. He opened up the other letters. His mother's stack was tied together so he'd start with the top one first in case it was something important. "Prince Calleigh and Queen Stella wrote." He read one. "Amellisame's in trouble when I find her," he noted patiently.

"She's got it coming from a lot of us," Xander agreed.

Genjo shook his head but went on to read the other ones. He'd answer the other ones. One required a call, it was from his father complaining about something. He went to call him. "I'm barely out of a sick bed. He didn't murder me," he told the guard that answered. "Did no one tell them that we're having a fever?"

"No, Princess Genjo," the guard said. "I can tell them that. We do a messenger relay so it might not have gotten back to us."

"Please do. It'll probably be another month before the borders are reopened."

"I'll let them know, Princess Genjo." He bowed and hung up, going to interrupt the queen fretting about her 'poor, slightly worthy princess being murdered'. He cleared his throat, making her stop wailing. "Princess Genjo just called, My Queen. He's just out of a sick bed. They're having a fever there." He bowed and left.

She blinked. "Why did we not hear of such?" she demanded.

"Because the relay messengers probably didn't pass it back, My Queen," he called. "Our messengers here take the message to one near our borders, who takes it one nearer to them and on until the one near their border to pass it onto their own guards."

She huffed, going to tell her husband they didn't have to mourn that son. "Genjo apparently called. They're having a fever and he was ill."

"It would've been good for us to know," he complained, tossing down his pen. "At least I don't have to plan his tomb now."

She nodded. "We can put the rest of things on hold or use them for an extra anniversary celebration." He nodded, making those notes for his majordomo. "I'm going to write him to berate him." She huffed off to do that.

The king called in his staff. "Princess Genjo apparently did not die but they're having a fever. Apparently he was sick. We must find a way for those sort of messages to get back to us."

"I'll work on that order, Sire," the majordomo said. "What are we doing about the celebration already put into place for his mourning?"

"We can turn it into another anniversary celebration."

"That should work for most everything but the dyed flowers."

"We can mourn that we have no children left to raise and are out of our young years. Mourn for the years we've done and how much more we have to do." The majordomo made notes as he nodded. "Make it tasteful though."

"Yes, Sire. I'll get on that." He left, going to gather his staff to tell them that. It'd look a bit odd but they could make up some sort of significance relating back to the queen being no longer able to bear more heirs.

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