"What the hell was that?" Drake asked Xena. Xena looked at him as if he had gone mad.
"I don't know what the hell it was Drake, I didn't see what was out there." Drake looked agitated.
"Oh well let me enlighten you oh Archduchess of Glacial it was an army of Ice soldiers and they were a warning the question is what was the warning. They shattered as soon as we cut them." Xena looked at him in disbelief.
"You really think I sent them?" Xena asked. "What have I to gain that I don't already have?" Drake didn't answer. "Exactly nothing, I'm already Queen with just as much power as you, my daughter is heir unless this is a boy, and I'll be Queen in my own right of another country. Conquest of this one would be ridiculous, I'd only be conquering myself." Drake seemed to realize his stupidity. "Did you forget you're also the Archduke of Glacial?"
"Forgive me my wife." He took her hand. "I just couldn't rationalize their appearance and you're the only connection." Xena sighed and took her hand away.
"Baby, you can't keep jumping to conclusions like this, anyway the warning is clearly from a sorcerer in Glacial. I'll head to Glacial right away to find out who, obviously they need their authority to be a little more closer in Glacial for awhile."
"Evzenek might know something or be behind it now that I think about it." Xena nodded.
"I trust Evzenek and I hope that I do not find evidence to break that trust. He has been a very good and loyal servant to me…to us." Xena started for the door.
"Head out in the morning we need rest, and the people need to see us tomorrow not just me." Xena nodded. That night was spent cuddled up together with their children around them.
"Melody you're too cold," Drake told her. Melody moved on the other side between Eve and Xena. "Eve you're too hot." Xena sighed and moved so she had her back to Drake, but cuddled with her girls who made each other a perfect temperature enough so they could sleep together. "Oh Xena you're just right." He snuggled closer making her chuckle.
"You're ridiculous you know that," Xena whispered. Drake responded by snuggling closer.
"Oh yeah just right." Xena almost considered making it too cold for him, but decided against it as his hand stroked her rounded belly.
"Will the baby be okay in that weather?" Fiona asked worriedly, she was hoping for a biological grandson, now that she reasoned she had two beautiful granddaughters.
"He or she should be fine, the doctors say the womb protects them from my powers in this unusual circumstance.
"Yes, there are many women from Glacial who have given birth to children fathered by Sultry men, I mean usually a child wouldn't hold both sets of powers in them like our Queen, but the womb protected them or else they would have died from such cold. It's one thing to be in the country, but you're practically dead inside it would be so cold."
"Thanks Lady Daphne for that wonderful image," Fiona said sarcastically. Lady Daphne grinned and rubbed her hair.
"Sorry mother says I should learn to shut up sometimes." Xena chuckled and patted her on the back.
"Only sometimes," Xena responded. She rubbed her belly as the baby fluttered around. He or she hadn't given her too much trouble yet, but that was expected. They said she wouldn't show signs of his or her power until the next month. It might possibly even throw her power out of whack as he or she decided.
"All right you better get going." Xena nodded to Drake before kissing her children goodbye to their sadness. She kissed Drake goodbye who also rubbed her stomach, he hated to be away from her during her pregnancy. He hadn't been there for her pregnancy with Eve, and Melody's had been so unexpected and quick hell he couldn't even call it that these days, so he wanted to experience something new that time.
"I'll come back in a month and a half for the baby's sake, so we can prepare for his or her delivery. If there are plots there I don't want to take any chances this time around." They nodded.
"For once we are in agreement dear," Fiona told her. They still had a love hate relationship, but it was better than it had been. Xena mounted her dragon as well as the others and her soldiers. She waved before taking off. The journey was long, but they enjoyed it as they headed for Glacial, she made a stop in Sultry at her grandmother and mother's request before she had to continue on. She did have a country to run and she couldn't do that with rebels.
"Welcome Archduchess," Evzenek greeted as he bowed deeply. Xena nodded her head as she had come in the back way. "Your lords gather as we speak."
"Thank you Evzenek, I will see myself bathed and out of travel clothes before I shall meet with them." He nodded and bowed deeply once more.
"I shall pass on the message my lady." She nodded and gave him a hug before he could go.
"It is nice to see you Evzenek." He smiled before bowed to her once more and left. They went to her rooms were Lady Nava and the others had already set up her bath. She was cleaned and helped to dress not that she needed it, but she only did it because it was better than watching them sitting around twiddling their thumbs. Xena looked like an absolute goddess when they were done and when she walked into the hall full of lords they didn't dare stay seated as they had whenever Drake walked in.
"You may be seated," Xena told them as she took her seat on what was once Ubel's throne, there was no throne for Drake as of yet the people had been refusing to build one saying it went against tradition. The lords sat looking at the formidable woman before them. They all papers on the small round tables in front them, two lords to a table, and ten in all. At least they were ten lords who mattered because they had the most men, and wives. Lady Nava, Lady Eira, Lady Gwyneira, Lady Eirlys, Lady Eirwen, and Lady Polara were from the six most powerful and oldest of families.
"The Archduchess will have you make your reports before we move on to our most pressing of business." They all made their reports in turn skimming through what Evzenek had already sent her, but going into detail with all the new information. She took it all in.
"That being said your grace, I would request that the palace farming techniques be given to our farmers, as per law Farming Act 103 Peasants and Nobles will not be allowed to use Palace techniques. As you know the Palace harvest is always good and develops new ways often to keep famine at bay. While we nobles have the privilege of eating here, none of the work around my estate is getting done when people are too weak." Xena gave Lord Abiel a small smile.
"You are the first thoughtful lord I have come across Lord Abiel Evzenek, have the papers drawn up to change the law, we shall see this country prosper." The other lords seemed to give a sigh of relief. They had been planning to usurp Ubel anyway and while they would prefer to be in power, their new Archduchess was turning out to be quite reasonable.
"Thank you your grace, but this was not my wish alone, but all of ours, his grace was quite unreasonable before your marriage." Xena nodded.
"Ubel was an idiot with a god complex trying to make up for his short stature," Xena told them. "Evzenek please find me all the laws like the one I wish to abolish."
"Yes your grace." Evzenek left out and they wait for him. She went through them all there were laws by Ubel stating that females were to be deflowered by him before marriage and if he wasn't satisfied he would deny them the right to marry.
"Excuse me your grace, we should best send back the convoy to Arcadia, where the girls were being sent to be deflowered for marriage." Xena groaned she could imagine how that would have looked to Drake.
"Please hurry," Xena told him. They sent runners to deliver the message. The next law to go was royal approval of all marriages concerning peasants.
"This is out, why should I concern myself with whom they choose to marry, and in any case I am also going to allow for peasants to marry into noble houses, also adoption laws will change as well. Orphans will be wards of the Archduchy there by making them noble blood it will enable you to pass on estates through adopted sons or daughters." They nodded. Xena only required approval of nobles for their marriage, because it was the same law that reined in Sultry and Arcadia.
"Archduchess you had come here for another matter," Lord Abiel reminded as the men began to pack up and Evzenek moved things out of Xena's way.
"Yes, indeed I did." The doors were shut by soldiers There were quite a few from Arcadia and Sultry that she could count on to always protect her. She showed good faith by allowing Glacial soldiers into Arcadia, although Sultry they had rebelled against going there.
"Three months ago Illussia was attacked by ice soldiers." They gasped.
"Ice soldiers your grace?" a Lord asked. She nodded.
"They disappeared as soon as they were struck, they were a warning so my question is which one of you sent the warning." She sat back looking at each and everyone of them as they suspected the other as well. There was no one who soon out as guilty and when they had given their answer of innocence she saw the truth.
"All right than if it wasn't any of you than some lesser lords perhaps that you know of?" Lord Abiel stepped forward as he was the speaker of the lords.
"Your grace, that would be impossible, they couldn't possibly achieve such a thing, warning in the form of non human ice soldiers takes powerful magic, your grace." He bowed as he spoke licking his lips.
"Well could a group of people harness their power to achieve such a feat?" He licked his lips again.
"No you're grace with the power of the Archduchy only you can." Xena frowned. He was half lying, a group of people could, but the question was who."
"Well someone is harboring a power of sorts, I put you in charge of finding out who, and if there's another attack on Arcadia or Sultry, I will be forced to assume that you my lords are behind it." They all gulped.
"I will make it my priority Archduchess." She nodded and stood up in clear dismissal of them as she walked out.
"Did you get any new leads?" Emily asked as she poured the last bucket of freezing water in the tub before letting Daphne heat it. Xena preferred cold baths, because the baby had begun fluxing her temperature during the journey, so depending on her temperature she could use certain aspects of her power. The power she had used before she knew of Sultry was even out of whack turning everything into flowers or daggers you never knew these days.
"Not really I'm still left with nothing," Xena told them as she wrote a letter to Drake. "I've set Lord Abiel to the task of finding out who with the threat of disposing of all my main lords should he fail to produce any leads and there's another attack."
"So you think he was lying about having nothing to do with it." Xena shook her head.
"No Lord Abiel I find is a very honest man, but he might be reluctant to hand over the true rebels. If anyone knows anything in this country it's those ten noble houses. Those houses have been ruling this country for centuries until Ubel's great-grandfather came to power and changed everything, and things have just gone downhill from there."
"But these men, they aren't their father's sons from Evzenek's reports," Lady Blair commented as she brought over her bathing things.
"No, no they aren't that's clear from the history books, but still they stand to gain much from breaking our hold on them. If they were to break from us they could rule once more. At the same time they find me a most agreeable and reasonable ruler. The laws I have abolished or rewritten today are laws they have been striving to band for almost a hundred years in some cases. Like the deflowering of their wives and daughters, here there is a bride price or if they've stolen her, the basic right of the man is that he deflowers the woman he captures to be his wife. It's a total break with tradition although from now on stealing a woman is illegal and not a marriage. Marriage will be formal from now on and it will be agreed upon by all."
"Yes, well I can't stop them forcing her to say yes, but I can try to make the circumstances more agreeable."
"I suppose that is all a woman can hope for in man driven countries, an agreeable circumstance," Lady Saffron sighed.
"My marriage to William won't be an agreeable circumstance," Lady Tabitha pointed out. They all smiled at her, she was so young and sheltered. They had cautioned her to wait and experiment perhaps, but she would only have her William.
"Well it was to start, you got very lucky that you love William and he loves you back," Xena told her. They all nodded.
"And you and the King, are you so lucky?" Xena nodded.
"We're very blessed Drake and I to have loved one another at the start." Xena finished her letter before folding it and dipping red wax on it and placing her seal on it. She set the letter by magic rather than messenger.
"And you Lady Agnes." Lady Agnes smiled.
"Sometimes you can grow to love your husband, and the circumstances were quite agreeable." Lady Elizabeth and Lady Sonya laughed as well as the others who by now knew how Lady Agnes had come to marry her husband.
"What?" Lady Tabitha asked as she helped Xena begin to undress.
"It's just Lord Overbearing found Lady Agnes and General Milton with her skirts up in the stock room in his merchant shop."
"She was only meant to be taking measurements to fit him with the right premade shirt," Lady Elizabeth laughed.
"So you see the circumstance that demanded my marriage to the Earl of Druid well, I think it was very agreeable." Everyone laughed including Lady Tabitha.
"When will you all see your wedding day?"
"As soon as I've had an agreeable circumstance," They all chuckled.
"And you Lady Clara will you marry Gabrielle." Lady Clara shrugged.
"It would be nice to marry a Queen, but I don't think Gabrielle is ready for such a thing."
"What does it matter, I saw you eying Ephiny the other day," Xena teased. Lady Clara and Gabrielle's relationship was quickly becoming a friendship, Xena figured that in the long run Gabrielle wouldn't agree with Lady Clara, however she could def see her with Ephiny, who probably wouldn't have minded.
"Oh so that's who we're interested in now," Lady Emily teased as Lady Nava and Lady Polara helped Xena into her bath. Lady Eira had her hands in the water turning it water alongside Daphne.
"You're one to talk with you and Daphne secret meetings." Daphne blushed a deep red as the same as Emily as they all laughed in good fun.
"Secret meetings," Lady Nava said upset. "As head of the Glacial ladies, I should think to be invited to such meetings." Lady Nava's words sit everyone including Xena into a fit of laughter even her own ladies.
"I'm sure you could uh make things warm," Lady Eira said surprising them all before they laughed as the play on words clicked in their head.
"You know actually that would make things a little easier," Lady Daphne commented lowly, but they all heard and wiped the tears from their eyes.
"Oh you ladies are impossible, I'm missing something again aren't I?" Lady Gwyneira came up and whispered into her ear before she took over the task of bathing with Lady Lalainia. Lady Nava went red in the face when she realized what they were talking about making them laugh more and give her a hug at how sheltered she was.
"You guys kill me," Xena chuckled.