[u]Conclusion[/u]

[b]A month later[/b]

"There. Perfect!"

Mary and Elizabeth exchanged glances. Isabel noticed their unnatural silence and raised her head and catching them at it. "What? What's wrong with it?" She turned her gaze back to the section of tapestry she had been working, tilting her golden head and examining it closely.

It [I]was[/I] decidedly lopsided in comparison to the sections created by her sister-in-law and friend. She rolled her eyes in annoyance and waved her hand over the weave. "There! Is that better?" The threads danced into place.

The two other ladies started giggling. "I knew she wouldn't be able to stop herself," Mary said cheerfully. "You owe me two pence Lizzy."

Isabel glared at them. "If you two weren't so judgmental, I wouldn't have to use my gifts!"

"If you weren't such a perfectionist, you wouldn't have to use your gifts," Mary corrected teasingly.

"It is lovely Bella," Elizabeth interrupted their bickering smoothly. She stepped forward, ran her hand over the colourful threads. "I am glad that you wanted to do this part yourself. Alexander will be touched."

"It is my wedding scene," Isabel replied. "It should be by my hand."

Mary reached down and squeezed her new sister-in-law's shoulder affectionately. "I am glad that you are here to do it."

"But not as glad as I am sister dearest." Alexander's voice boomed down on them from above. The three ladies all turned their heads to watch their husbands descend into the great hall.

"Must you always be so loud Alexander?" Mary complained, moving towards Michael, who was pulling his helm off his shaggy head.

"Yes," Alexander replied, quirking a saucy grin in her direction. He brushed past her and swept Isabel into a lengthy embrace. Isabel's blood rushed through her veins and she could feel a blush rising on her cheeks as Michael stared at them, still clearly adjusting to another man touching his sister so intimately.

Michael was quickly distracted by Mary though, who had reached up to pull his head down for a welcoming buss. "You smell like a horse," she told him, wrinkling her nose.

"Probably because I have just been riding a horse," Michael snapped, although he obviously wasn't truly annoyed.

"Hmmmm," Mary said, eyeing him critically. "No more kisses for you until you take a bath."

"Thank the Maker for small miracles," Alexander grumbled.

"You are certainly not one to be judging Delucie," Michael snorted. "You stink to high Heaven as well."

"PEACE!" Max ordered as he walked toward them. He had paused near the stairs in order to pick up his son who had been happily playing in the rushes. He now went to stand beside Elizabeth, pausing to gently kiss her on the lips.

"Well, it does not matter who smells worse," Elizabeth declared, smiling up at her husband. "We are simply pleased that you are all back safely."

"We have been missed then?" Alex asked, grinning at Isabel, who blushed again. She could feel her toes curling at the expression on his face. She had not expected to enjoy the marriage bed quite as much as she did and she had truly regretted Alexander's absence over the past sennight.

The three men had ridden to London to pay their respects to the king and his mother. It had been a necessary evil and it had been decided that the ladies would stay behind because the cort├Ęge that would have been required for them all to go to court in the style that would have been expected of those in their positions would have taken far too long. The mere thought of it had been enough to make Isabel remember their stint in the forest fondly.

It was surely one of life's great ironies that while born a princess, she cared not a whit for any of the pomp and circumstance that most would consider her due. She had never been as content as she had been on her wedding night, which she and Alexander had spent in the little hunting lodge in Sherwood. While she did not regret living in a castle, were she and Alex to live in the forest for the rest of their lives, she would be perfectly comfortable. All that mattered was that they were together.

She would never regret returning to Earth. While it had intrigued her that the other Rath and Vilandra had seemed content on Antar, she had not been the least bit tempted to try such a relationship with Michael. Because, in the end, Rath and Vilandra had never met Mary and Alexander Delucie.

They did not know what they were missing.

"You have certainly been missed," Isabel whispered, kissing him on the cheek.

"We have missed your strong muscles!" Mary interrupted. "This tapestry is ready to be raised."

"What?" Michael demanded, sounding outraged, although Isabel could tell he was teasing his wife. "This is what we have servants for."

"Michael." Mary's hands were on her hips and she glared at him. "Are you telling me that you expect me to trust [I]servants[/I] to raise my masterpiece?"

"Don't you mean [I]Lizzy's[/I] masterpiece?" Alexander asked, smiling wickedly. Isabel elbowed him soundly in the ribs and, much to her satisfaction, he grunted, in spite of his chain-mail. He deserved it after all. He really should not take so much pleasure in tormenting his sister.

He had other things upon which to focus his energy after all. Namely her.

"What do I get if I do it?" Michael was asking slyly.

"What do you want?" Mary returned, her eyebrows raised in annoyance.

"I want another kiss. Before I take a bath."

"Very well." Mary sighed dramatically. "But I assure you, this is under duress." She marched forward and grabbed Michael by the back of the neck, kissing him so thoroughly, he was red in the face when it was over.

"Take it to your chamber," Alexander exclaimed, clearly on the verge of being completely traumatized.

"No!" Elizabeth interjected, laughing merrily. "We must get the tapestry up." She was leaning against Max, who still held Dickon in his arms, the little boy's resemblance to his father even more pronounced due to their close proximity to each other.

Isabel moved forward and took her nephew from her brother. "Get to work boys."

In the end, however, the servants did end up hanging the tapestry. Michael, Mary and Alexander argued so hard and so long about where it should go, followed by how high it should be placed on the stone wall, that by the time they were done, Max had directed the attendants and it was up.

At the sight of the lovely weave finally in place, even the trio of good- natured arguers were silenced.

"It is beautiful." Isabel sighed with pleasure, admiring the masterpiece her sister-in-laws had created.

The story of how the six of them had been brought together spread across the castle wall, visible in all its glory for the first time. It was dominated in the centre by the woven symbol of the whirlwind galaxy entwined with the shining sun, representing the Earth's solar system.

"It did turn out rather well, didn't it?" Elizabeth agreed, sounding pleased. Isabel turned her head in time to see Max come up behind his wife and wrap his arms around her, whispering something in her ear which made her blush.

"It turned out perfectly," Mary murmured, her arm linked through Michael's, her head on his shoulder.

Dickon, who had been sitting on the rushes near the fire, climbed to his feet and toddled over to the tapestry, his dark eyes wide with awe. The sight of her small, miraculous nephew, the true embodiment of the bond that had been forged between the six of them, standing in front of the story that had brought him into their lives, was enough to make tears come to Isabel's eyes.

The past would never be forgotten, laid out as it was in coloured thread for the rest of their lives. But now, finally, they could look to the future knowing that it had at last been laid to rest.

The adventure in the forest was over.

The adventure entailed by the joining of their lives had only just begun.

The End