Disclaimer: I surrender all to Tamora Pierce.

Chapter 27

Merric of Hollyrose leaned against the iron wrought grid that wound around the window's panes of glass. Tilting his head, he looked down at the practice grounds and grinned as he watched the training master lecture the pages on winter packing. He could almost hear the words as if Wyldon of Cavall had been speaking them more than ten years ago to a group of eager children that included the first lady page.

The knight's attention was drawn back to his surroundings, high above the practice courts. He was surrounded by nobles on all sides and even some commoners although they looked extremely out of place. Something wiggled between his legs and Merric looked down to see Neal's damned puppy being chased by Cai as the child waddled after it.

"It's almost surreal, isn't it?" came Neal's sarcastic drawl. The Healer drained his wine goblet and took another from a young squire with a tray. "It seems as if we all grew up and somehow missed the steps along the way."

Merric could only nod and look beyond Neal to where Kel's back was visible amid a crowd of cooing mothers and girls. Neal could feel the sense of Déjà vu envelope the crowd as he watched from the standpoint of guest, where almost a year ago he had been the father.

"It always felt like no matter how much the rest of us tried, she was always leaving us behind" Merric finally answered. "She was always trying to prove that she could do everything and Dom was always trying to prove that being a second son did not put him in second place. I always wondered what would-" He stopped mid sentence as the object of his musings came towards him carrying her child and leading a young woman by the hand.

"Merric, have you met Lady Cistrine of Fox's Hollow? She has recently been added to the Queen's Ladies" Kel informed her friend, smirking as the girl dropped a deep curtsy.

Merric lost all sense of thought, reason or the ability to form conversation. She was quite beautiful but he could already tell that her personality and wit outshone her looks.

"My Lady" he finally spit out, flushing only shades lighter than his hair.

"My Lord. My father's fief is merely leagues from the Swoop. We heard what you did at the gates" she said demurely, pausing to look up through her lashes.

Merric lost the one sentence he had managed to form. Something about duty or something equally useless now that he had been rendered mute.

"I can understand why my lord and lady of Masbolle would name you Godsfather to their son" Cistrine said in genuine interest.

Merric smiled. Kel had made good on her promise. She had refused to make Owen a Godsfather yet, claiming he still needed a parent most of the time. No, she had insisted, Merric deserved it. Nobody dared to argue with her.

"I am honored to share the duty with her Highness" Merric finally felt his intelligence return to him.

Shinko had been named the other half of Landon's Godsparents. Thinking of the princess, Merric looked up to realize that Kel had disappeared. He inwardly grinned and offered Cistrine his arm.

"Would you care to accompany me to the temple, My Lady?" he asked, grinning as she smiled her reply.

The temple was dimly lit by the candles at the altar as Kel and Dom held their child before the priests of the Mother Goddess and Mithros. Immediately behind them stood the Princess and Merric. The guests flooded the chairs beyond the altar.

"I ask the Great Mother and her shining brother Mithros to grant mercy on this child and lead him along the path of righteousness and peace. I ask that each of you add your own wishes to those of the beings that guide us" the priest instructed the four nobles gathered before him.

Dom looked to Merric to start.

"I ask that you grant him the bravery to face adversaries big and small, seen and unseen, physical and otherwise." Merric's voice resonated against the pitched roof.

"I ask that he be given the grace to treat all equally in the face of tradition, society and his peers." Shinko took a step back, leaving Kel and Dom alone with Landon.

"I ask that he find peace and joy, even when surrounded by darkness." Dom kissed his son's forehead, watching his wife's eyes glistened with tears.

Kel finally stood before the altar and bowed her head over her son. Closing her eyes, she found the peace within herself that had settled there the day Neal had handed her Landon for the first time. She felt her heart swell every time she saw him. She smiled as she raised her head to gaze at the icon of the Mother Goddess before blessing her son before the crowd.

"I ask that he make his own path and trust the possibilities of where it could lead."

A/N: I want to thank those who have reviewed and encouraged an ending and those that followed it faithfully.