Disclaimer: I own the plot, though I apologize if it's been done before. Everything relating to Tamora Pierces novels, obviously, belongs to her.

AN1: Well, here's the much belated Chapter 6! Sorry for the wait, and enjoy!

Chapter 6: A Long Day

By Jess S

"Vivien Hunter is many things, but whimsical is not one of them, My Queen."

Alanna nodded in agreement to her Spy Mistress's point. "No, it is not."

"Minako Iseasa is dangerous because of her fervor, but she is always honest. She voted against the order, as we expected. She opposes it, but she recognizes herself as a member of the minority and is willing to accept that, though not happily." Iris was quiet for several moments of contemplation, her dark eyes distant with her mind focused inward. "Hunter is dangerous because she would not consent to the commission unless there was a way for her to gain from doing so, or if doing so would allow her to oppose it in another way."

"The guards should be able to prevent that, should they not?" Kalasin asked with a frown.

Here the Spy Mistress sighed again. "That is their purpose, and one they should be able to fulfill to a point, but no plan is infallible. Hunter is clever; she may be able to find a way around her guards. I've told her guards to be exceedingly cautious, but they may grow lax if there charge doesn't appear to be a threat."

"And with Iseasa to compare herself to, Hunter will seem all the more harmless." Alanna nodded, before shaking her head with a sigh. "What do you suggest?"

"Caution," was Iris's immediate response. "And with your permission, My Queen, I would like to talk to your Celerum and increase your guard."

Alanna blinked, "You think she might attack me?"

The former Carthaki Assassin nodded, "You are the greatest threat, My Queen. With you out of the way, whether it is temporarily or permanently, there is no one among the Amazons who can directly challenge the Lacaena."

"If a Lacaena Leader harmed the Queen the people would never stand for it!" Thayet protested, a scowl marring her fair features.

"The Lacaena make up most of our sharpest military minds, milady. Though the people may not be happy accepting their reign, if the discontent caused by your death brought us into a civil war, it is very likely that the Lacaena would emerge victorious. And there are already many who have an aversion to opening relations with the Patron's world. That alone may be enough for the Lacaena to seize power without bloodshed, should they play it right."


"If they could place the blame on the representatives of the Patron's World, the people would undoubtedly prefer continued extreme isolationism." Before anyone could protest, the Carthaki-born Amazon shook her head and continued. "And Hunter is an extremist in every sense of the word. From observation we know that she is not as out spoken as Iseasa, but her beliefs are actually quite a bit more radical."

Alanna nodded, "Yes, Hunter has always kept her own counsel, but according to Elise she is extremely devoted to her sisters."

"Which are the Amazons of the Lacaena Movement, not all Amazons, in her mind."

Thayet shook her head, frowning. "Have either of you considered that she might just be more loyal to the Crown than you give her credit?"

"A pleasant possibility, princess," Iris replied with a soft smile, before shaking her head. "But an unlikely one. Hunter has never shown a great deal of respect for authority, quite the opposite actually. It is far more likely that she just wanted to get out of the Palace."

"But that's why she's being watched and guarded at all times, isn't it?" Thayet insisted, still frowning. "That's why all of them are under guard. You picked the agents that would be guarding and watching them yourself!"

"As I said earlier, no plan is foolproof. She may yet find a way around them."

Silence hung about the throne room for several moments before Alanna sighed and rose from her throne, bringing a hand up to her aching temple. "Very well, I will trust in your discretion. You may speak with the Celerum about increasing my guard, but they cannot obstruct my schedule in any way, understand?"

"Of course, My Queen."

"Good," Alanna nodded, moving down the steps of her throne and towards the back exit that led to her chambers, her three sister-Amazons following quietly. "Now I believe we have a very busy day planned?"

"Yes, My Queen," Kalasin replied, offering a small smile at her foster-daughter's over-wearied expression. "There are several matters of state and finance to be addressed before the celebration this evening."

"Is there enough time in the day for these 'matters of state and finance'?" Alanna asked, her tone conspicuously declaring just how much she disliked said matters.

"It's not even time for luncheon yet, My Queen." Thayet offered with a small smile at her foster-sister's annoyance. "You have more than eight bells till the celebration begins."

Alanna frowned at her, shaking her head. "I must dedicate two bells to preparation, as you want me to be in full royal regalia," she pointed out, even as she rolled her eyes at the amusement that was clear on the other Amazons faces. "And Kalasin will undoubted insist that I devote the hour before that to resting due to the stress of the day. That leaves me merely five bells to meet with the recently arrived representative of the Rouge, meet the new Carthaki scholar-mage, debate whatever matter of magic Numair throws at me during said meeting, meet with the priestesses, study the reports on the Patron's World and the plans for the negotiations—"

"My Queen—"

"And I still need to sort through however many reports, dispatches and appeals I've received in the past few days while more immediate matters have held my attention, and reply to them!"

"Yes, My—"

"And I believe it is Call Day."

"It was Call Day, My Queen," Kalasin told her, "but I took the liberty of rescheduling all said appointments for three days hence."

"Some of them have been waiting for weeks, Kalasin." Alanna frowned, offering a small nod of thanks to the pair of guards that had opened and was holding the doors to the 'Crown's Hall,' the inner-most and most secure area of the palace, within which her chambers, study, private library, and the Inner Royal Garden resided. No guard would ever stop Her or any of the ladies with her from entering this part of the palace, but anyone else would fall under a great deal of scrutiny if the wished to pass through one of the few public entryways to her home. "Thank you, Jydra, Karan."

Kalasin also nodded in thanks, as the other ladies did the same, even as she quickly replied to her monarch's remonstration. "And they recognize that their requests are not for anything important enough to take your attention away from vital court proceedings, not to mention the negotiations with Patron's World."

"Which have not yet started."

"Officially, no. But the representatives do need time to learn more about us; otherwise we can't possible hope for fair, successful negotiations." The First Consul of Thalami raised her hand to forestall her liege-lady's protests. "First, I think it might be wise for you to devote that bell to relaxation now rather than later. Everything else can wait a time. Master Reed certainly does not expect an immediate audience with you, I'm sure Numair will keep him entertained. Numair was recalled from his field examinations with said examinations still incomplete, so he has nothing to report, and therefore you two should not need to get into any debates at this time."

Thayet quickly began talking as her mother slowed, "You'll be meeting with the high priestess tonight anyway, as they will be here for the welcoming ceremony. If you'd like, we could request that they come earlier, for a brief meeting." Instead of giving the redhead time to respond, she hurried on, "And I have been sorting your correspondence these past few weeks. It shouldn't take you much time to go through the more important letters, and I've written summaries of all of it anyhow."

"You've been going through my mail?" Alanna frowned. "Is that legal?"

"I am a member of your Council, My Queen. I was assisting you in your governance as I am supposed to you. And it is not legal without the addressee's acquiescence, which you granted me two weeks ago."

"I did?"

"Yes," Kalasin cut in, shaking her head slightly. "Though you were a bit distracted at the time, as you were casting against the mages from Scanra so that the sentries could capture them unscathed. You did say that it sounded like a good idea, though. And it made sense."

Alanna glared at them, "You know not to ask me questions when I'm casting. Most of my attention is in the spell, especially when I'm dealing with the border wards."

Spy Mistress Iris coughed slightly, clearly attempting to hide her amusement even as she hurried a few steps ahead of her queen to open the outer doors to her royal chambers.

The Queen of the Amazons nodded her thanks as she stepped through, her head advisors falling in behind, even as the Celerus charged with guarding the outer door when she was present closed the door behind Iris and took up her post. She then made her way through her boudoir, and down the hallway that led to the balcony that overlooked her private garden, quickly raising the protective wards that would guard against spies and eavesdroppers even as she took her usual seat and watched the others do the same. She suppressed a frown as another celeres poured tea for them, her eyes resting on the seat Elise would usually take during such meetings even as she accepted her tea with a nod. "Thank you, Janine." She offered with a slightly strained, small smile, before nodding to all of the present Celerum, "You may go, for now. Iris would like to speak to all of you soon, though. Perhaps at the next bell?"

Kalasin smiled, shaking her head at her Queen's clear attempt to insure that this meeting on 'matters of state and finance' would not be too long. "That should be fine, My Queen, if you would like to rest then."

Alanna rolled her eyes at the gentle reproach, but nodded nonetheless as she dismissed her Celerum. "Yes, that should be fine. Thank you."

The five Celerum that had stood at attendance quickly, but nonetheless gracefully, bowed before taking their leave, Janine quickly checking to make sure they had everything they need for their tea before picking up the tray she'd brought it in on and bowing her way out.

"Mistress Iris called it a feast, did she not?" Raoul pointed out, smirking as his fellow noblemen rolled their eyes at him. "That would indicate fine dining, not dancing. And as Sir Myles pointed out earlier, not a ball."

"So it's really just an invitation to supper again, but with more people there." Prince Jonathon summarized, shaking his head at his large friend's glee at this summary.

"I'm sure there will be fine food there, yes," Sir Myles offered with a shrug. "We'll have to wait and see on anything else, although I would not be surprised if there was a ceremony of some sort to officially 'welcome' the newcomers."

Duke Gareth nodded, "Yes, that would make sense, wouldn't it?" After a moments thought he nodded towards the documents the other elder Tortallian knight was reading, which appeared to be very similar to his own. "Any luck on your research?"

"Well there's nothing on balls here," Myles immediately replied, before going on with a smile. "But there's plenty about politics, and customs. It's all really quite fascinating."

"What about politics?" Duke Roger asked, looking at Sir Myles with interest as he drew himself out of the scrolls he had been reviewing. "Mine is mostly about the history of the city itself, and summaries of the magicks surrounding it. Nothing one could really work with, but impressive implications nonetheless."

"Well, one of the most detailed descriptions in here is about the Lacaena Movement, probably because of everything that's been happening with them recently." Myles presumed, nodding a few times as he continued to read before continuing his account of said reading. "Apparently the Lacaena have their own internal government of sorts, and that would be whom Queen Alanna would be meeting with now. They have six leaders, all elected by members of the Lacaena Movement. They need to be nominated by a minimum of five hundred members to run for a seat as a leader, and need to be confirmed by a minimum of thirty-five percent of the movement. Their rank within the governing Council of the Movement is determined by a separate vote, in which they are already considered a leader, but the members then vote for which position they will hold. Lady Elise was elected by a majority of forty-one percent, probably because she is also the founder of the movement."

"That means that fifty-nine percent of the Lacaena members wanted someone else in charge, right?" Sir Gareth inquired; frowning at the scroll his former history teacher was holding.

"Yes, fifty-nine percent were voting for one of the five other leaders." Myles nodded, scanning the following paragraph. "Though Lady Elise's forty-one percent is actually a very clear majority, as her second in command, a Keldra Shelling, was empowered by seventeen percent. Denise Shadonn received fourteen, Vivien Hunter eleven, Minako Iseasa was nine percent and Annette Whiting was only one percent less than her."

"Fascinating, but what does that have to do with what's currently happening?"

"Hmm? Oh, not much, it's mostly just background information... Except they apparently still govern by voting. Whatever choice the Amazon Queen gave them will be decided by the votes of those six people. If they tie, Lady Elise can either override the vote with her forty-one percent in favor of the Crown, or if she's against the Crown she could take it to the Movement as a whole and hope that they will vote against the Crown."

"I thought the court session is closed to the public?" the Prince of Tortall remarked, frowning in clear confusion. "Doesn't letting the entire Lacaena Movement know about it mean opening it to the public?"

"It does indeed." Sir Myles nodded, before shaking his head at the dilemma. "Quite a problem for the Queen if they decide to oppose her."

Duke Gareth nodded, "How large is the Movement? We were told it was a minority, but..."

"The Movement inducted its thirteen thousandth member a few months ago, apparently."

"A group of thirteen thousand people is a minority?"

"Well, considering how many are supposedly immigrating into Agerlea every week, thirteen thousand may very well be a small percentage. Though a minority can be anywhere from less than one percent of the whole to forty-nine percent of that same whole, really."

"So the Amazon nation could therefore contain anywhere from twenty-seven-thousand people to thirteen million?"

Duke Gareth nodded at his son's assessment, "If these numbers are true, then yes... though I certainly hope the actual population is closer to the latter," he shook his head, "that this land and its people has remained hidden from the outside world for as long as it has is shocking enough... that it might also have a larger population then the vast majority of the northern nations combined is disturbing."

"Especially if they're all trained for combat," Prince Jonathon offered in agreement to his uncle's statement. He shook his head also, "Can you imagine?"

"It would mean that there was a northern nation capable of competing with the Carthaki Empire and winning with ease," Sir Myles offered his opinion, frowning at the thought. Then he shook his head. "But Queen Alanna is moving slowly enough and warily enough of these Lacaena that they must be a fairly powerful, and therefore large minority."

Duke Roger nodded in agreement as he looked up from another document he'd selected from the archives they maids had provided them with. "True. A small minority wouldn't hold enough sway over the general population to merit such concern, but according to these reports, the Lacaena's main beliefs are deeply rooted in the hearts of most Amazons."

Thom snorted, drawing attention to himself for the first time since the documents had been left at their disposal several hours before. "That makes it sound more and more like this is a nation of women who hate men."

Prince Jonathon frowned at his squire's petulance, shaking his head in disapproval, "They've already explained that, Thom. There are some Amazons who have every right to hate the men they've known, and they brought that hatred here with them. But your sister—"

"Was not running from men in general, but the patriarchal society that wanted to enforce its disagreeable conventions and means upon her." The men turned to see all three of their caretakers had returned, with Mistress Iris offering a small, sad smile to them as she shook her head and continued. "We do not hate you, Lord Thom. Nor do we hate men overall. We simply want to live our lives the way we choose. To be able to seek happiness for ourselves in ways that the world we were all born into simply does not allow."

"And the Lacaena?"

The older Amazon sighed, shaking her head sadly. "Believe we should remain isolated from the Patron's World indefinitely."

"Why don't you?" Prince Jonathon asked.

This drew a real smile from the Amazon, "We are lucky in that though Our Queen is young, she is nonetheless much wiser than most. Wise enough to see that isolating our society indefinitely could only harm it." Seeing the uncomprehending looks most of the men bore, she elaborated. "Our people are happy as they are, but more are coming and will continue to come for a long time yet. They come in hopes of finding better futures in a new, rising society that is only just finding its feet. But in order to truly stand up and prosper in this world, we must be recognized. And though many may fear your society as the greatest threat to our way of life," she sighed, shaking her head once more, "the Queen recognizes that if we remain isolated our society will ultimately stagnate. And probably die out."

"And by not taking their own standing among the other nations of the mortal realm," Sir Myles offered with a nod, "the Amazons' message might never be heard."

"Message?" the Gallan Mage, Montivaga, asked in confusion.

"For change, that is what the Amazons want, is it not?"

The Amazon offered a slight smile in reply, "Perhaps in part," she nodded. "And therefore we can't be afraid of change ourselves. Our Queen certainly won't allow it."

"How is she?"

Iris turned to her liege-lady's brother in surprised, and eyed him speculatively for several long moments before replying. "As well as can be expected, my lord. These proceedings, combined with political troubles from the Lacaena and all of the other duties she must carry out wear on her. But she endures."

After a short moment of thought, the young Lord of Trebond nodded. "May I meet with her again?" he requested, a little nervously.

"I shall relay your request, my lord." Iris nodded, offering another small smile specifically to the young redhead before she opened her attention to the room as a whole once more. "My Queen hopes you find these records helpful?"

"Very much so, Mistress." Duke Gareth replied immediately, nodding in thanks before asking, "Are we meeting for the official negotiations soon?"

"I'm really not at liberty to say, sir. You are, of course, welcome to attend the festival. And I expect My Queen plans to meet with you in the near future, barring any further complications. I will ask, if you'd like?"

"Yes, please do. And please extend our thanks to your Queen for her generous invitation."

"Very well then, gentlemen, my lords." Here the Amazon offered a slight bow before turning on her heel and leaving.

Alanna sighed as she made her way through the brief summaries Thayet had made of the seemingly endless pile of emissaries and court documents she'd lost track of in the course of the busy weeks already past. On one hand, she supposed she should be thankful to Thayet for granting her an escape from the sheer boredom of reading all of these letters in their entirety, on the other; the summaries were still terribly tedious. Of course, she'd never liked looking to matters of state, especially unimportant matters. Perhaps she should give Kalasin the authority to handle all minor matters of state in the future, with a definition of what minor is, of course.

That would leave her free to worry about far more dangerous problems like the dispute with the Lacaena and the pending negotiations with the representatives of the Patron's World. Another sigh left her lips at the thought.

Six years ago she had been a little girl happily following a voice only she heard through the wilderness, with several friends following along behind her and an exasperated Shang Unicorn wondering what to do with them. Now she had become the highest-ranking lady of a newborn nation, and was thereby burdened by many more troubles than ordinary ladies and their lords would ever need to worry about...

But it wasn't something she could brush aside. 'Once a queen, always a queen,' Kalasin had said. These burdens were hers to bear; she could not pass them to another... No matter how irritating she found the heads of various guilds.

A sudden knock on her office door drew her eyes and a smile, pleased at the interruption. "Yes?"

Iris Opaca raised an eyebrow at the smile on her liege-lady's face as she entered, carefully closing the door to the Queen's study behind her even she innocently offered, "Am I interrupting, My Queen?"

"No, may I help you with anything?" Seeing the disbelieving look her Spy Mistress shot her, Alanna rolled her eyes. "Believe me, Iris, you're not interrupting anything important." She picked up the summary she had just been reading and the document it was attached to and waved it briefly in the air before setting it back down on her desk, "I honestly don't understand why the Weaver's Guild feels it must seek my approval for every acquisition they make. I don't even understand half of what they want anyhow. That's why this always takes so long; I have to find out what they're talking about without any help from them in order to make an educated decision on the matter." She shook her head, "Honestly I'm beginning to think Kalasin's idea of delegating duties to experts has a great deal of merit, despite your protests."

The Spymistress shrugged, shaking her head. "The more you delegate duties the more bureaucracy you need to worry about, My Queen. That is what the Carthaki Empire now runs on, and not always well."

Alanna nodded, "That still doesn't mean a controlled, regulated system wouldn't be a good idea." Then she shook her head, waving both hands dismissively at the papers on the desk before smoothly folding them together in front of her and returning her gaze to the elder Amazon. "Regardless, what may I help you with?"

"I came to tell you that the first shift change on watching the Lacaena Leaders has occurred, and none have as of yet reported anything suspicious."

"That's good to hear."

"I thought it might be, but..."

"But you're still worried." Alanna nodded, sighing. "So am I. Thayet thinks we're paranoid, but she's forgotten what life in her father's court was like. She was very young when her mother spirited her away to K'mir lands a few years prior to our meeting. Kalasin is worried too."

"As she should be, she was no stranger to intrigue as the Wife of the Warlord, and there are many ways this situation could become very hostile very quickly."

"I know..." Alanna shook her head, frowning as many of those possibilities flew through her thoughts before she blinked them away and redirect her attention back to the former Carthaki assassin. "Is there anything else?"

"I believe you are already aware that we received another emissary from the Court of the Rogue, My Queen. He will be shown to their embassy quarters shortly, with your permission."

"Yes, I was aware, and he may be taken to the embassy quarters, though why the guards can't just accept recognized allies is beyond me…"

"I believe it is a matter of principle for them, My Queen, until you rule otherwise, though now might not be an apt time to make such a ruling."

Alanna shook her head, "No, with the troubles the Lacaena are already giving us it'd me better to wait, your right."

"Perhaps after the negotiations a more appropriate system for ambassadors may be organized."

"Of course... Who is it? The Rouge Ambassador, I mean."

"I believe he answers to the name Scholar, My Queen. Formerly an honest scribe in his youth, he is now in the wayward vocation of forgery."

Alanna smiled slightly as she remembered the mentor and drinking buddy George sent to her court more often than not. George Cooper himself generally only came when he had really bad news to offer her, perhaps wishing to ensure that she didn't shoot any of his favorite messengers. Scholar was a reliable messenger, and a fairly clever man so long as was somber. "Very well, I'll try to meet with him tomorrow morning."

"Very good, My Queen."

Seeing that the Spy Mistress wasn't turning to leave, as she usually would when they'd finished addressing everything she felt needed the Queen's attention, Alanna asked, "Is there anything else, Iris?"

"Officially, no, My Queen."

Alanna raised an eyebrow. "And unofficially?"

"If it is at all possible, Lord Thom would like to meet with you in the near future."

"Lord Thom?" Alanna frowned, and then shook her head. "My brother?"

"Yes, My Queen."

Alanna shook her head again, bringing one hand up to message her temples as she thought. After several moments of silence, she sighed. "I can't deal with him right now, Iris."

"He is your brother, My Queen. And he wants to be family to you again."

"But I can't be Alanna now!" The Queen of the Amazons' snapped, rising to her feet abruptly to pace around the room like a caged lioness. "I can't! The Amazons need their Queen!"

"You can be the Queen and a sister at the same time, can you not?"

"No!" Alanna shook her head, fighting for the words to explain her consternation. "I... I can't. There are too many problems between us. Too much pain... I hope in time that that pain can be healed and the rift between us closed, but I cannot afford to let it color my judgment at this point in time."

Now the Spymistress's normally neutral face expressed honest confusion, "Color your judgment, My Queen?"

"Yes!" She once again bit her tough softly, and counted to ten, forcing herself to consider her words before she spoke them. "If there were anything that could convince me to grant the Lacaena leniencies they do not deserve, it is my pain at my brother, at my beloved twin brother's rejection." She raised her hand when the Carthaki-born Amazon began to speak, silencing her as she collected her thoughts. After several moments of silence, she shook her head and continued quietly. "I told him, Iris. I told him that I couldn't go to the convent... that I hated everything it represented... And he threw it back in my face."

The Carthaki-born Amazon's frown deepened but she remained silent as her Queen continued in that same quiet, emotionless tone, so stark a contrast to the thunderous, expressive outbursts she'd started off with.

"He told me that I should go to the convent, like all the other girls that probably didn't want to go... And that in a few years I would see my dreams for what they were: childish nonsense... He told me that the stories of lady knights and women warriors I'd clung to in my youth were nothing more than myths and fairytales. And that I had to accept that." A tear escaped one of her exquisite eyes, shining with both fury and sadness. "He was my brother, Iris. My dearest friend and closet confidant. I told him everything. I supported him in every way I could. He didn't want to be a knight, he wanted to be a mage and when I gave him a chance to seize that dream he treated me like an idiot!"

Iris watched as the Queen finally sank back into the chair behind her desk, her anger giving way to weariness, her sadness to nostalgia.

"Fool that I was, I never even considered that he might shoot my plan down. Not with Maude's vision from the Goddess supporting it. But he did. And it hurt." Alanna shook her head. "I may have gone to the convent on my father's orders, but my father was just another man to me, I hardly ever saw him and he was never really interested in me, so he wasn't really family. Thom was my twin brother, a cornerstone of my world. And he shot my dreams down with a few cutting words. He sent me to the convent..."

After several moments of silence, Iris inquired, "Should your brother be removed from the negotiations entirely then, My Queen?"

The Queen of the Amazons shook her head, "Lord Thom has every right to take part in the negotiations... But until they are past that is all he can be to me."

"A private meeting with him might help resolve some of your pain, My Queen."

Alanna shook her head, "I assure you, Iris, a meeting with my brother at any time in the near future would be far from restful, much the less resolving."

"It may yet offer one less thing praying on your mind that need not be."

"It might," Alanna allowed, before shaking her head. "But as the Queen of the Amazons I must remain impartial at this point in time. I cannot bring personal problems into the equation. And my brother is the only one that can force me to forget that... Other Amazons may be allowed the luxury of hating those who have harmed them, but I cannot allow that to affect my rulings."

Seeing that this was something her Queen was not going to yield on this matter, Iris nodded and offered a deep, respectful bow before opening the door behind her and backing out of the room.

Alanna was still for several silent moments after the door clicked shut behind her head spy, before she brought one hand up to her face to wipe away the stray tear that had fallen. Still not uttering a sound, she brought her elbows up onto her desk and leaned forward to rest her face in her hands and mask her face from the room as more tears began to slide down her cheeks. Her near-soundless sobs seem to echo around her empty study as she let them come, just as she let her tears fall.

After several long minutes of silent sorrow, she brought her head up again and looked down at the summaries she had been reviewing a short time before, shook her head, and began to reorder them back into the folder she'd found them in, before putting them away in one of her desk's drawers. She knew all too well that there she had no hope of finishing any of them now; not with thoughts of family and the past bouncing around her head.

Once her desk was in order, she rose to her feet and made her way over to one of the mirrors that hung along the wall by her desk. Shaking her head at the red, tear-stained state of her face, she called a diminutive amount of her Gift forth, sighing as she let a thin wave of healing magic flow through her face to reduce the swelling and dispel the redness even as another quick spell rendered her face completely clean and free of any signs that she had been crying mere moments before.

That done, she made her way out of the room, headed for her gardens with two of her Celeres trailing behind her. A walk and fresh air should clear her head; her heart, however, would have to wait...

Scholar had to hand it to the Amazons; at the very least they were consistent. He could only hope that their practice of introducing all outsiders to their dungeons upon arrival would change with opening relations with the 'Patron's World,' as they called it. As it was, he knew ever nook and cranny of this particular cell, since he was always tossed into the same one when the sentries brought him in.

It might be nice if they also didn't blindfold him on the way in, make the trip there more interesting at least. Although they hadn't seemed overly impressed by his question on the matter as he'd submitted to the now routine blindfolding. But really, what was the fun of being escorted somewhere by a dozen beautiful warrior women if he couldn't see any of them?

At least this time, though, they hadn't left him in that cell for too long. And there weren't any nob's there. That was a definite plus. But within a bell of his arrival, a guard arrived to escort him to the quarters that were reserved for Representatives of the Rouge. Though he also would have been happier if they'd just let him give them his King's message and be on his way, but that wasn't how they did things.

"Her Majesty is unfortunately very busy with the new arrivals and a number of other court matters, Master Scholar." The guard told him with a frown at his question. "Her council believes she will be able to meet with you tomorrow morning, but not before. She trusts that your usual accommodations are not lacking?"

"Oh no, no, love. The rooms' ar' great, as always." Scholar assured her, shaking his head with a smile. "I'd really like ta be gettin' back ta my King, though."

The Amazon nodded in understanding. "We understand, Master Scholar. But your arrival was unexpected, and you said your message was not imminently important."

"Well tha's wha' the King said, lass. I think i's abou' troop movements an' the like. But he did wan' 'er ta 'ave it."

"And she will, Master Scholar, on the morrow." The guard replied, before nodding slightly in farewell as she turned to leave his room. "Your afternoon tea should arrive shortly. Her Majesty invites you to join in the festivities this evening, if you wish to, but understands if you'd rather not associate with the other Representatives of the Patron's World at this time."

"Ah, please give 'er Majesty me thanks, love. Bu' I don' really feel up to dancing with the nob's."

"Of course. Your supper should arrive around the seventeenth bell then. A good night to you, Master Scholar."

"Good nigh', lass."

Alanna suppressed a sigh as Hanako finished the last-minute touch-ups she insisted were necessary for her Queen's appearance. Such things had never really appealed to her. She could appreciate fine gowns of silk and satin, along with sparkling gems and gold and silver from time to time, but such finery was far too reminiscent of the function of convents for her tastes. Nonetheless, they did still have their place in the world, and that place was not something she could ignore at this point in time, or most likely in any to come any time soon as well. The elaborate attire she would be wearing at the welcoming ceremony and feast were fast becoming as much a part of her position as the decisions she was called upon to make every day.

"There you are, My Queen," the slightly younger, Yaminian-born Amazon assured her after more than a few more of her 'last-minute touch-ups,' "All done!" she exclaimed with a smile, her dark eyes dancing with good humor and satisfaction.

"Thank you, Hanako," Alanna replied, sparing her reflection in the mirror a brief glance before making her way out of the room with all of her Celerum following. "Janna, will Kalasin and Thayet be meeting me here or at the celebration itself?"

"Their excellencies indicated that as they already reviewed all pertinent information with you earlier in the day they would be awaiting your arrival in the grand throne room, My Queen."

Alanna frowned slightly, before forcing a neutral face. "The grand throne room? Might that not be a bit much for the new sisters?"

Knowing full well that Her Queen did not want to greet the new arrival there because of the awe it never failed to inspire in them, an awe that never seemed to fade thereafter, the Captain of the Celerum's hazel eyes danced in amusement as she replied, "Lady Kalasin believes it is necessary due to the presence of the Patron's World's Representatives, My Queen."

Now Alanna did sigh, before nodding her head. "I suppose," she agreed, before pausing at the entrance to her private library, which was located halfway between her chambers and the grand throne room. "I should not arrive early then, and spoil the show she is undoubtedly anticipating."

"That might be best, My Queen."

"Very well, you go ahead then, and please return when you believe my arrival would be best."

"As My Queen commands," the Celeres bowed, before hurrying out of the library and in the direction the entire group had been headed moments before, trusting in the other members of the faithful Celerum to guard Her Queen.

Alanna shook her head before seating herself in her favorite chair and laughing when her feline companion leapt into her lap. "And where, might I ask, have you been?" she smiled as she began scratching in the exact spot behind his right ear that she knew he liked most of all.

'Oh, here and there,' the enigmatic Faithful replied, purring at her attention. 'I understand tonight is a big night.'

"It might be," Alanna sighed, shaking her head. "We'll see soon enough, though."

Faithful's purrs were only that for a few more moments, before he spoke to her once more. 'I should warn you not to party too long tonight, for you still have another important meeting.'

Alanna nodded in agreement, ignoring the nervousness this statement clearly evoked in her Celerum, who never liked the rare occasions she met with The Goddess if only because She was one of the few things they could never hope to protect their Queen from. "Of course," she agreed before nodding to the Celeres who had had already procured a book for her.

With the royal nod, the older Celeres that had once tutored her in the finer points of etiquette began to read aloud from one of the books she knew Her Queen loved, as they awaited the time to leave for the celebration.

"I wouldn't get my hopes up if I were you, Thom," the Champion of Tortall told his nephew's squire as they awaited their escort to the evenings celebrations. "Much as your sister might want to reconcile with her brother, present circumstances might not allow the Queen of the Amazons such recourse."

"What do you mean, Your Grace?" Thom asked with a frown.

"As sovereign of a newborn nation, she might not have the luxury to indulge in her own individual needs, particularly when those very needs might affect her judgment."

"How would meeting with me affect her judgment?"

"You are one of us, Thom," Prince Jonathon told him, "a representative of the Patron's World, as they call us. You are also her brother, but under these circumstances, she might find it necessary to differentiate between the two."

"But I want to meet with her as her brother, surely—"

"And she may want to meet with you as your sister, but that does not mean both of you are able to do so." Duke Gareth cut in, shaking his head. "If she believes meeting with you might endanger the upcoming negotiations, as it very well might, she would be making a perfectly sound decision if she chose to deny your request for a meeting." He sighed, shaking his head once again, "Frankly, I'm rather surprised She or one of her Court have not insisted, or at least requested that you be excluded from the negotiations."

"What? But—"

"I'm already considering requesting it myself, Squire Thom," the Duke of Naxen told him. "A young sovereign I can deal with, an irate sister who just so happens to be a ruling sovereign could prove much more difficult."

Prince Jonathon cut in before his squire could protest again. "It's a valid point, Thom. And think of the afternoon she invited us to tea. She clearly wanted to see you, but she still wasn't meeting with you as your sister, she was meeting with you as the Queen of the Amazons with a few moments to spare, not— Oh, good evening, milady." He broke off, rising with a smile towards the entrance even as all of the other men in the room hurried to do the same.

"Good evening, Your Highness," Iris replied with an answering smile even as she quickly scanned the room before nodding. "I trust you are ready for the celebration?"

"We are, Lady Iris," Duke Gareth replied, smiling even as he saw her suppress a wince at the title. "May we leave now?"

"In a moment," she nodded to one of the numerous guards that had entered the room with her. Said guard was obviously a mage, and was doing something to the spell on the doorway to this area with several other mages supporting her. When the normally near-invisible barrier changed to a glittering, transparent yellow, the mage nodded and Iris turned her attention back to the assembled men as another guardswoman came forward bearing a large chest to a table not far from the entrance. "As Her Majesty may be somewhat distracted this evening, we must insist that while out of this room any who wish to attend the festivities wear these armbands," the other Amazon opened the chest to reveal dozens of single armbands. "They will ensure that you are not a threat to any present, and that no harm can come to you as well."

"Harm to us?" Duke Gareth asked before any of the other men could protest. He had been wondering how they were going to safeguard themselves without holding any of the party ransom to their compatriots behavior.

Iris nodded, "There is some concern that certain individuals may use this celebration to their own advantage, and in so doing compromise the upcoming negotiations. We cannot allow this. So any who wish to attend must wear these armbands."

"What do the armbands do?" Duke Roger inquired curiously.

"They will bind the Gifts of any who are Gifted, or to be more precise, they will bind your Gift based on intent. By putting the armband on, you agree not to harm anyone while wearing it and that you will not try to leave the Palace, if you try to break that agreement while wearing the armband, it will stun you and you will be returned to the dungeons."

The Duke of Conté nodded, "Clever."

"Indeed," the Carthaki-born Amazon agreed, before raising an eyebrow at the rest of the room. "We really should be going, so those of you that do wish to go, please come forward now, and Vincia or Catenata will place the band on your arm for you."

Seeing the glare that several of the older men in the room were sending their way, none of the younger men protested this treatment, and after several minutes all were wearing the now glowing armbands.

"With the armbands on you can pass through the entryway when it is transparent as it is now. If it is opaque, as it has been a few times since your arrival, you cannot pass through." After receiving a few nods of understanding in response, Iris offered a bright smile before turning on her heel to lead them out of the room. "Please follow me."

Alanna sighed as she watched Amarie, the Amazonian High Priestess to the Great Mother Goddess, finally finish inducting the last member of the new arrivals. The group still had a ways to go before they were truly Amazons, but they would be under the guidance of their mentors now and no real concern of hers until it was time to recognize them as full Amazons. She forced a smile to her face as the priestess turned to her, suppressing a smirk as she knew her Queen did not like these ceremonies that the general public was so fond of...

"Welcome, My Sisters, to Thalami and Agerlea. We are most pleased to have you all here, and hope you find the end of your long journey worth the venture in the many trying months to come. You will undergo a number of trials over the course of the next year, and your performance she determine your place in Amazonian society for when you become a full Amazon in one year's time. Your mentors will offer you guidance and consul in the trying times to come, as will many other Amazons you may befriend. Rest assured that you need only undergo the tasks you yourself believe you are believe yourself capable of completing, though you will be encouraged to explore the very limits of your endurance and abilities... But all of that will begin on the morrow, with your first confidential meeting with your mentor, for now, your elder sisters have gone to great lengths to welcome you this evening, so while I wish you all the best of luck with your futures, I must insist that you not worry about all of that for the time being, and enjoy the celebration!" She kept her smile in place for several moments while a round of cheers and applause died down before nodding to Kalasin who stepped forward slightly as all eyes turned to her.

"The Facere have prepared a show for us this evening, which I'm sure shall be most enjoyable, so if you would please make your way into the dining hall," she waved slightly to grander entrance to said hall, "they shall help you find your seats so that we may begin."

Alanna kept her smile in place as she watched the assembled audience begin to follow her first consul's directions, watching as they began to mingle somewhat nervously on the way into the dining hall, the quickly formed line moving at a fairly good pace as the facere hurried to usher their upcoming audience into their seats around the dining hall. She turned and let her face relax with a sigh as she moved through one of the side doors beside her throne that led to her personal, royal entrance to the hall they were entering. As she sensed more than saw Kalasin and Thayet draw up beside her, with her celerum surrounding all of them, she turned her head slightly to raise an eyebrow at her foster-mother. "Well, that went well, I suppose."

"It did," Kalasin nodded, smiling slightly. "You made quite an impression."

The Queen of the Amazons snorted, "I was supposed to, wasn't I?" she offered, somewhat rhetorically as her mind turned back to the numerous times throughout the last hour when she had been forced to suppress winces at the sight of outright wonder on the faces of the new arrivals. She knew she had done her job and truly impressed the representatives of the Patron's World once again, but she wished it could have been done at a time when it wouldn't ensure that she would remain a venerated icon to her newly inducted sisters forever. It was a life she was becoming used to, but it was still an image she did not like to encourage.

"It was necessary," Thayet offered gently, her voice sympathetic as she offered her queen and foster sister a caring smile.

"Yes," Alanna sighed again. "Yes, I suppose in a way it was... doesn't mean I have to like it though."

"No," Kalasin agreed quietly as they arrived at the entrance to the hall, pausing to return the head facere's welcoming nod as they stopped to wait for the time their queen would enter the hall. "You do not."

Thom looked around with a sigh as he nodded his thanks to the strangely clad Amazon that had led him to his seat even as she hurried back to the entrance to lead more of the others over. From what he could see, he was going to be sitting with all of the other men a ways apart from most of the Amazons, including his sister, as what was obviously her throne was on the other side of the bizarrely large, round table.

It was the only table in the entire room, and it was a very strange one to his eyes, if only because it was so large that it was capable of sitting hundreds of people, and because it seemed to waste so much space, as though the open floor in the center might have allowed for easy serving, it only seemed to make it difficult, as there didn't seem to be a way for servers to get into the center area. Nonetheless, it was different to be sure, much like everything else they'd seen since they'd arrived in this strange land his sister had fashioned...

"I beg your pardon," he heard Duke Roger ask as he was being seated a few seats away from him, next to Duke Gareth, who was on his Prince and knight master's other side. "But is there a particular reasoning behind the table being fashioned as it is? It's a curious sight, and recently mage made, if I'm not mistaken."

"No you are not, your grace," the Amazon replied with a nod as she answered him. "The table was mage made some time ago, but it is altered for every welcoming ceremony, to the exact size needed to seat all who will be attending. Her Majesty liked the idea of a round table to promote equality, as you can see it has no head, so apart from Her Majesty's throne, nothing sets anyone apart at this table, so all who sit at it are equal. The performance we shall give throughout the evening will also be performed in the center, throughout the course of the servings."

"An intriguing idea," Duke Gareth murmured with a nod as he and the others who had been listening to her response looked around thoughtfully, "Thank you, Mistress..."

Though she undoubtedly recognized the request for a name the Amazon only smiled and bowed slightly with a "you are most welcome, milords," before turning hurrying back to the entrance to finish seating the last few members of their party. Once they were all seated, the Amazons that had led all of them in hurried over to the stairwell that all of them had passed on the way in, and the set of double doors at the top were opened as they led first Lady Kalasin and then her daughter to their seats at the table, which were on either side of the still empty throne, though both remained stranding and watching the stairwell once there as the entire group of strangely dressed Amazons sped back to the bottom of the stairway and lined up there.

With the line formed, another, older but still oddly dressed Amazon made her way down the stairs to join the assembly, and the group of Amazon's he just then realized always seemed to be near his sister in some way moved down the stairwell in a swift, graceful procession of regally red-robed and hooded pairs, until what was essentially a wall of them had formed on the stairs, and finally Alanna entered. Her entrance, however, made her brother start as he watched her descend down to them. Consciously, he had known that his sister was a monarch and sovereign to these people for some time, but subconsciously he supposed it hadn't really struck home before.

Now it did. Dressed in a shimmering gown of golden silk with what appeared to be a combination of diamonds, pearls and amethysts embroidered into the skirts, waistline and bodice, she looking incredibly regal and all the more royal with the glittering diamond crown atop the elaborate arrangement her hair had been placed in.

The warrior he had accepted as fact some time before. The lady, he had not. Alanna had never wanted to be a lady, yet she had become a queen. 'A true queen,' according to Sir Myles, Duke Gareth and Prince Jonathon.

He accepted that. But still was left to wonder if that meant that though she still lived, she might nonetheless be lost to him forever...

Alanna carefully concealed a sigh of relief when she was finally able to relax as much as she could on her throne as the lights in the room dimmed and the performance began. In the dark, she still stood out, but her face was concealed and her form partially so. And in a few moments time, any who might still be trying to watch her would be caught up in the performance the Facere had prepared.

Usually at such ceremonies, the leader of the Facere would pick one of the many collected myths, legends, or fables of old that focused on women who were warriors long ago and perform the story for them. She had given them permission to create a performance of the beginning of their nation, but they had never given it. If Thayet was to be believed it was because they had yet to find someone who both could and would play her part in the story, so it wasn't likely that she would see the performance any time soon. Maybe in a generation or so someone would be both brave and bold enough, but not yet...

Still, she smiled as she took a sip from the goblet that one of the servers had just filled for her, their performances were always enjoyable. Though she especially liked them for the fact that they drew attention away from her...

She winced as the taste of the wine she had just taken broke into her thoughts and she set the goblet down with a slight frown as she waved just a slightly to one of the servers to bring their attention back to her.

"Yes, My Queen?" the server asked quietly, bowing as deeply as she could at her side with a tray of more wine goblets in one hand.

"Laurel, right?" Alanna asked with a smile, continuing when the Amazon confirmed her guess with a nod. "My wine is rather bitter; you might want to check the bottle it came from to make sure it hasn't turned."

Now the slightly older girl really frowned, confusion clear in her eyes as she took Her Queen's goblet and placed in on her tray with another bow. "I apologize, My Queen. Usually someone in the kitchens checks such things, but I shall bring you more."

"Thank you, but there's no rush. I'm quite happy with water."

"Of course, My Queen," the other replied, bowing again. "I hope you enjoy the show."

"Thank you, Laurel." She repeated with a smile as the girl hurried away, before turning her attention to Kalasin, who had been watching them. "Just a bit of bad wine."

Kalasin nodded, still frowning slightly even as both turned their attention back to their sisters' performance and Alanna did the same, fighting to keep her eyes on the show she'd seen several times before, rather than the guests she had invited to attend alongside the new inductees, made all the more difficult when she noted in a quick glance that her brother wasn't even holding up the pretense of watching the show.

It was an intriguing display, to be sure. The story they'd chosen to perform was a fairly well-known fairy tale in the northern realms, and as such something all those who were present were already likely to know, but not necessarily something they might have paid much mind to before. The staging of the story highlighted many things that the modern 'patron's world' tended to conceal and inadvertently neglect. For one thing, all of the characters in the story shared some measure of equality from what the audience was allowed to see. Even before the heroine was forced by fate to seek a destiny far harsher than the one her high birth should have bequeathed her, being a 'lady' meant something different, something more in her time from what it did in their present.

The Prince of Tortall wasn't sure what he felt about this realization. This was the way things were and always had been, for him at least. It was the world his parents had happily grown up in and the world he'd been born into and raised apart of to one day rule... But he was beginning to realize that that did not necessarily mean that such things were right and should be allowed to continue.

From how fast the Amazon nation was growing, it was a problem everywhere, too. Including Tortall. The idea that the Code of Chivalry was only a standard instigated to protect something wholly wrong didn't sit well with him either...

But what could he do about it? He was the Prince of one of the new nation's neighbors, yes. He would probably give his father a glowing report of the Amazons and their Queen and encourage him to seek peaceful relations with them... But beyond that there really wasn't much he could do.

Frowning in thought, his eyes drifted to his squire, who sat on his left hand. It took him only a moment to notice that as their desserts were served and the performance drew to a close, Thom had barely touched his food and hadn't been watching the show at all. Instead his eyes had been focused on the lady across the table and floor from them.

The Amazons' Queen, the cause of so much of all that had transpired in recent months and the lady who had set all the events leading up to it into motion. Impressive to any standard even without the claim that she had been Chosen by no less than the Queen of the Gods, the Great Mother Goddess, Herself for the task. Queen of a nation that might be more than four times the size the one he would one day rule, and she was only just eighteen, her twin brother wasn't even a full-knight yet!

Here he sat, wondering what he could do to change the world, to right at least some of the wrongs he now knew existed, and a lady several years his junior had already done so much. Much more than most would have ever thought of trying. One with even her a tenth of her evident strength of character could have been respected for surviving the convents with their spirit and mind intact and striving to change the world upon their arrival to Court. Instead she'd chosen exile for herself, not to retreat from the world, but instead to build a new, better nation and thereby wake some of the world's people to the numerous wrongs that it praised...

She seemed so sure of herself, but he had to wonder. Despite her numerous accomplishments to date and the tremendous self-confidence she clearly possessed, surely the future, what she might face, must seem daunting at times, even to her? It had to be. Why else would she surround herself with so many advisors? That was why all rulers had numerous advisors to help them rule. It only made sense. It was also probably why there were light bags under her eyes; barely noticeable, but there nonetheless.

"Why the frown, Jon?"

Jonathon started slightly, before turning towards his uncle with a sheepish grin. "Just thinking, uncle," he replied, pausing in thought for a moment before shaking his head. "All of this is a bit overwhelming."

"It is impressive," Duke Gareth nodded, taking another sip from the wine goblet he'd barely touched throughout his meal even as he finished his dessert off. "But then again it's supposed to be."


The Duke of Naxen raised an eyebrow at his nephew, smiling slightly as he replied. "Surely you've noticed how much being the prince of Tortall calls upon your ability to perform for different audiences? Bravery for the soldiers, honor for the knights, gallantry for the ladies, pride for the noblemen, and so on. All those born to privilege are bound to such obligations, varying depending upon who they were born as and whom they are expected to become." He nodded slightly towards the Amazon Queen before he continued, "It is always rather impressive when one manages to raise themselves far higher than most would ever expect of them. Although I have to wonder where she might go from here."

The Prince of Conté shook his head, "What'd do you mean? Why would she want to go anywhere?"

"You misunderstand me, highness. She is several years your junior, and has raised herself from the lady of a minor holding by birth to the Queen and liege-lady of what has the potential to become the greatest of the northern nations."

"So?" Gary asked from his father's other side, drawing the pairs attention to the fact that the performers had vanished into the floor again, probably with the end of the performance, since they had been asked not to applaud anything until the curtain call, while more wine was served.

"So, she has risen greatly in power, stature and wealth in just a few short years. She is young, driven and gifted. Though she may still be struggling with some of the responsibilities of a sovereign, she may once her country is recognized by all others, find herself frightfully bored. I would fear that her crown and throne might one day begin to feel like the cage she claims her convent was..." He trailed off as the lights in the room returned once more and the topic of their conversation rose to her feet.

"I for one enjoyed both the performance and the meal immensely," the Queen of the Amazons offered with a smile, as she nodded to the performers that had somehow lined up along one wall and the servers and chefs along the other. "Thank you all," she continued smiling as the servers and performers bowed out to the audience's applause before continuing after the room had emptied. "We hope you all found your meal and the Facere's act equally rewarding." She paused again at the brief applause this statement received, still smiling though not seeming to focus on anything. "But we shan't keep you any longer as the hour has drawn rather late and many of you have early mornings tomorrow. For those that wish to stay later, drinks and snacks shall be provided in the grand throne room, which you passed through earlier tonight. So, once again, welcome to Thalami and Agerlea, home of the Amazons. And good night."

With that the Amazon Queen moved away from the table and back up the stairs she had entered from earlier, her red-robed guards once again partially concealing her even as she nodded and smiled repeatedly to all those who had risen and were bowing or curtsying at her departure.

Watching her carefully, Thom realized that his Training Master was right. Alanna, despite the necessity of the appearance and the fact that it had probably been necessary for quite some time, clearly did not like dressing up and smiling for an audience. She never had liked playing dress-up, or acting all that much, so it wasn't surprising. But it really did make him wonder how she could ever hope to be happy as a Queen...

Startled gasps drew him out of his inner thoughts even as he turned towards the sight that had caused the commotion, bringing a yell of dismay from his throat even as his Knight Master and the Duke of Conté quickly grabbed a hold of him to keep him from running towards the stairwell...

"Are you feeling alright, Alanna?" Thayet asked quietly as he followed her from an appropriate two steps behind up the stairwell.

"No, I'm not." Alanna replied, just as quietly, releasing a soft sigh as she finished. "I'll be glad to reach my bed tonight."

"We all will," Kalasin agreed, even as she shook her head. "But you might want to call one of the Healers first."

"Why? I'm just tired."

"You're barely walking straight."


"Please, Alanna... We... can't..."

Alanna frowned as her mind tried to comprehend what her head advisor was saying, but her words suddenly didn't seem to connect in any kind of logical fashion. Then suddenly a wave of dizziness much more intense than the bursts that had been plaguing her since she rose from the table hit her, and everything went dark...

End of Chapter 6: A Long Day


Thalami – Abode of Women(Capital City)

Agerlea – Land of the Lionesses(County)

Astu-lea – City of the Lioness(Inner Capital City)

Lacaenapex – Crowned women

Lacaena – (technically) Spartan women(Radical Amazon Movement)

Hosticus – foreign, usually "of the enemy/hostile"

Facere – "to make, form, do, perform...of feelings and circumstances." (Amazonian Actresses)

Side Notes/Credits:

(1) "The Patron's World" – Taken from a reference in "Trinity" made by "Wonder Woman"

(2) I'm just using Latin as the language of the "Old Ones" – writer's license, and the fact that we don't really know much about them...

(3) Celeres/Celerum – "Early name for Roman nobles, especially bodyguards of the kings..." other than that, I'm making this up; "The Celerum" are essentially the best of the Royal Guard, the Queen's personal assistants and bodyguards, who also act as her ladies-in-waiting or handmaidens. A "Celeres" is a person who is a member of "the Celerum."

AN2: Hi everyone!

Sorry for the wait, I couldn't seem to write the last few scenes in this chapter. I still don't like them, so I might rewrite them sometime in the future, but I figured you'd waited long enough. Though it honestly would have been a much shorter wait if one or two people had been kind enough to respond to my request for ideas on the celebration.

Anyway, I've left you with a bit of a cliffhanger, so I'll try to give you more as soon as possible. I should be able to finish at least one more chapter before I leave for school, though working kind of makes that hard, so you might have to wait until the last two weeks of August, when I'm free from work and only packing for school.

I hoped you enjoyed the chapter, and would love to hear some ideas for the next chapter. Really. I have some, but speculation always helps, so please give me your best shot with a review and I might be able to update sooner.

Bye for now!

Jess S

Time Unedited Chapter Posted on JessStorm Mailing List: 2:00 AM, 7/29/2007

Time Unedited Chapter Posted on 2:54 AM, 7/30/2007

Time Chapter Beta-Read: NA

Time Chapter Revised:NA

REQUEST: I know someone offered to beta-read this story for me, but I can't find the email they sent me. So if you're willing to beta for me, please let me know. If you want to get a head start, the first thing I'm going to ask you to do is go through all of the posted chapters for errors. Thanks! Bye for now!