(Edward POV) Years later...
I smiled. It still felt strange to be riding without armour. However, we had had no need of it in the years. Tybalt had made strong alliances and peace with other kingdoms. He chose that route before all others and it paid off for him.
I looked beside me. Bella was smiling as she sat with Anne. Our family was travelling to the flag city to visit my daughter and son-in-law. We made the visit at least three times a year. Except when the year was calm, then the visits were more frequent.
This visit, however, was special.
The years had been kind to us. Food was plentiful, taxes were low and obliterated where unnecessary. It was almost hard to believe a civil war had ravaged this land.
I turned to see my twin ride up to me, "Masen! You made it!"
"I am sorry for the delay. The night was kind to me."
His mother sighed, "I really do wish you would settle down with a family Masen. A wife is just what you need to temper that wild streak of your's."
He put his hand on his chest in mock pain, "Oh! I am hurt."
We laughed. After all was healed, Masen became a freelancer, taking to the road and riding around the kingdom. He was a free spirit but welcome in many villages and towns openly. However, he had learned that he was desirable and used it to his advantage. Any woman who saw him seemed to know his charms. Especially the courtesans.
He was taller now and looked more like myself in my youth. His hair was a mess and I began to understand my mother's frustration when I was younger. It certainly would take a long while to get under control. Regardless though, my son chose to keep his copper locks wild. The ladies loved the rugged look and one of the Masen bloodline wore it well.
Brandon came up next and stopped next to Jasper. He was dubbed a travelling scholar. He went wherever the road took him and learned all he could. He had grown into a vision of his father as well, only Alice's smile and hair could identify her as his mother. He never told us of any romantic adventures but we assumed there may be or been a conquest or two. He had the clean look of a placid man, only with enough scars to show himself a good fighter. Women loved men who could defend them.
"Forgive my late arrival," he said, "I was absorbed in church archives all night."
Jasper patted his shoulder, "It is good to see you again, my son."
The boys began to recall their adventures to us - Masen's being a bit more cavalier than his cousin's - and the rest of our journey was quick. We arrived at the gates of the city and were let in straight away. Many called to us with greetings and kind words. We were considered heroes for placing Tybalt on the throne and none forgot that. Plus, we were the family of the King now that Belle and Tybalt married.
The journey to the castle was fairly quick. The streets had been returned to their former state and the caravans weren't scheduled for another couple of weeks. We reached the courtyard quickly and I couldn't help but look at the spot Leo's blood had spilled upon. Of course, all was clean and he was buried but the spot still triggered something in me. It was the spot where the old regime fell and the new one was born.
I shook my head and turned to the stablehands waiting for us, "Please, care for our horses. They have all seen war and are aged."
They nodded and handled the beasts with care.
"My Lords!" A young boy ran up, "My Lords, hurry! It's time! It's time!"
He ran back inside and we followed him, grins on our faces. It seemed we had arrived just in time. He led us down the hallways toward the royal chambers. Belle was crying out loudly. She sounded as though she was in a lot of pain.
We entered the room hurriedly and went to her side. Carlisle had ridden ahead of us to help her. I sat beside my daughter and kissed her brow. She wore a simple white gown and sat against pillows. The water and linens were already prepared and Tybalt looked about ready to pull his hair out from his scalp.
Masen smiled at his sister from beside me, "Hey there Belle."
She smiled weakly, tears in her eyes, "Hello brother. I-It's good to see you."
Tybalt looked shaken and worried, "Is this much pain natural?"
"It is," Bella smiled at him, "Do not worry."
Mother helped Belle get more comfortable. My daughter grinned at her husband, "If women had their choice, dear husband, men would deliver children."
This drew laughs from all the women in the room. I smiled. Isabelle had been so happy when she discovered she was with a child. She could have even rivaled Alice in her joy and that was no small feat. Tybalt had been joyful too but concerned. He wanted to be a better father than the one he had. He was even going so far as treating his wife with extra care and gentle actions. Belle had found it amusing.
She cried out suddenly.
"All right Belle," Carlisle said, rolling up his sleeves, "Time to bring about new life."
Much time later...
Belle collapsed when the crying started. It was long but worth it. Carlisle cleaned the crying child off gently, "It's a boy."
Tybalt looked relieved and kissed his wife. She was smiling brightly, despite being exhausted. Once the boy was cleaned and wrapped warmly, Carlisle put him in Belle's arms. He was small and a soft down of black hair covered his head.
"He's beautiful," Bella said, "Well done Isabelle."
"He's so small," she whispered in an awed voice, "so fragile."
"All babes are, my daughter," I said softly, "but they grow strong. Just as you and Masen did."
Masen grinned and Belle smiled at me, tears of happiness in her eyes.
"What will you name him?" Mother asked.
She smiled wider, "Micheal."
Masen and Brandon both softened.
"That's a perfect name," Jasper said, "And it does honour."
I softened as well. The tale of Micheal was told in great detail to us. We knew his story and grieved for his loss. A gentle soul lost in the ravages of battle. He truly was a lost innocent, "Prince Micheal. It is quite perfect. His name shall promote a calm spirit."
Belle hugged him gently, more tears coming.
I wrapped my arm around my wife and sighed happily. To see my grandson being brought into this world filled me with peace. I closed my eyes and smiled. I had dreamed of it for so long and, finally, it had happened.
Our lives were our own and did not belong to any man. We were completely happy and free.
I opened my eyes again to watch as my daughter held her son with her husband wrapping his arms around them both. On the day Belle told us all she was with child, he took me aside. When it was just the two of us, he saw me more in a father sense than a simple adviser. He sought my advice in personal matters more. He swore to me he would not repeat passed mistakes in his line. He would be a father to his child. I believed him and told him he could always call on me for anything.
I did not doubt him even at this moment. By the wonder and light in his eyes, I knew he would remain faithful and not fall to corruption as his father did. In fact, I was half worried he'd dodge his lesser duties just to be with his family. A smile crossed my face at that thought. I would do the same.
"The local priest told me that he'd come whenever we were ready," Tybalt said.
"Tomorrow would be best," I advised, "Belle will have some strength to recover. Then we can announce the birth of the Prince."
"How long did you need mother?" Belle asked, showing signs of heavy fatigue.
"I was bedridden for a while," she said with a smile, "but I had twins. You will not be bereft of strength for as long."
She smiled and shushed Micheal gently when he began to whimper.
In that moment, I allowed myself to fully believe it... Peace.
It was obtained, the kingdom prospering, and new life being brought into the world. I could lay my sword down more and turn my attention to any issues in my port city. It would be strange to relax and look at the income and wellbeing of a city. I was used to war and death. Instead, I would be looking at the continuation of life.
I looked upon my grandson and smiled. It would be difficult, but I could achieve it. Just as Tybalt achieved the growth of the flag city.
I believed this was only the start. Peace would reign for a long time. He and his sons will learn from this war and take from their ancestors' examples. I was sure of it.
I want to thank everyone for following this story from the start of the first Age of Empires. You've all been very supportive and I'm glad you all pushed me to the sequel. I had a lot of fun writing it. Cookies for all!