© 2005 revised 2011
Well, here it is, I have a few errors to edit out on some of the previous chapters, but real life has crept up on me until at least Wednesday, but I will get around to it, just wanted to thank for the heads up from a reader.
Nine months had passed, Helen, Nikki, Sean and Trish had got married in a joint ceremony a month after they returned home. That had been quickly followed by a bonding ceremony in The Grith. Val found, to her delight, that she was able to travel freely between the realms and joined her daughter for the main celebration at the Tutelories village.
Life was slowly returning to normal. Helen and Nikki had bought a small remote farmhouse with 10 acres of pasture and 2 acres of woodland close to Nikki's parents, Nikki and Horace loving their time together as they explored the local countryside. Sean and Trish had also moved, finding the perfect house a mile from their friends. Thomas had relocated to Wiltshire and fell in love with Trish's old house. It was a sale that suited both parties perfectly.
Once a week they tried to get together, work permitting. Today Helen and Nikki were hosting the group. Summer was starting to dominate and the weekend had dawned cool but bright.
Annoyed Nikki tossed the pot into the corner. Helen alerted by the noise appeared in the doorway. "Whoa, what did that poor thing ever do to you?
"Nothing, I'm just fed up of empty spaces, I want results."
Helen moved up behind Nikki, put her arms around Nikki's waist and nuzzled her chin against Nikki's neck. "What would you like to see happen?"
Nikki gestured to the plant pots that remained unscathed from her tirade. "These damned seeds, I swear they're lying in wait, mocking me, nothing seems to want to grow. A few seedlings, that's all I want, I planted them in plenty of time. I know I did. I'm not greedy, surely that's not too much to ask? Is it?"
Helen buried her head into the tall woman's shoulder and Nikki could feel Helen's body rocking slightly from laughter. "Admit it, you don't have green fingers."
"Maybe you're right," Nikki agreed in a resigned tone. "It's more like black thumb. And from a farmer's daughter, Dad must be mortified."
Nikki turned and linked her hands behind Helen's neck. "That's it. I surrender. From now on the garden is your responsibility."
"I think I can agree to that, so, are we ready to greet our guests? They should be here any second now."
"Any idea what the big surprise is?"
"Not a clue, all I got out of Sean while we were at work was a Cheshire cat grin."
Closing her eyes, Nikki dropped her head and groaned. "Oh no, if you got that then it's something extreme, you're about to witness one of Sean's hare-brained schemes."
Helen lifted her eyebrows in surprise. "Why? What sort of thing has he done in the past?"
Nikki opened her eyes and said. "Let's see, one time he spent a whole night painting the entire outfield of the local cricket pitch bright pink to promote breast cancer awareness week. Trouble was he forgot to ask permission first and didn't use the correct type of paint and they were playing on a pink pitch for weeks. I can't begin to explain how the stripes looked once the grass grew and they were able to start cutting it out. The team still gets ribbed about it."
Nikki waited for Helen's explosion of laughter to calm down before she continued. "Then there was the time he decided to get Trish a 'really cool birthday present'. He went to all the expense of buying a series of sailing lessons for her, great idea, only she gets sea sick just looking at boating pond which, in Sean's excitement to impress, he clean forgot about. Or the time he decided to take up off-road driving, joined the local green lane club. In his first competition he missed the turn into the river, the Land Rover sank up to its roof, Sean and his co-driver got out fine and waited for somebody to rescue them but to add insult to injury the canoeist going past asked if he wanted a tow. Sean can laugh about it now, but even his legendary sense of humour failed him that day. Then there... "
"Alright, alright, I get the idea." Helen visibly cringed at what Sean might have planned. "Can we cancel?" She added hopefully.
"Too late," Nikki glanced over Helen's shoulder hearing a noise in the distance. "There goes the doorbell."
Leading Nikki by the hand Helen opened the front door, and they were greeted by Val, Thomas, Sean and Trish.
"Mum," Nikki's eyebrows rose in surprise as she embraced her Mother. "Lovely to see you."
"You too, I understand Sean has a surprise for everybody this evening. And it seems I was also invited."
"Do you know what it's all about?" Helen took her turn to hug Val.
"Not a word. All I got from him was a smug grin."
"He's certainly looking smug," Nikki agreed as she turned her attention to the others. "I just hope it's nothing too outrageous."
"Outrageous, me?" Sean pretended to look affronted. "All will be revealed once we have availed ourselves of your facilities and this charming woman has fed us. I expect only the best and tales of you slaving over a hot stove."
"Sorry Nikki, he wouldn't even tell me." Trish looked apologetic.
"Oh well, if that's the case and if people are hungry, we can eat straight away. As for Sean's assertion that I had been slaving over a hot stove, I hate to disappoint him only Helen cooked this evening."
An hour later Sean led the group back outside and headed up to the wood that ran alongside the house.
"Well, I can't begin to imagine what he's cooked up this time." Nikki was brought up short when out of nowhere Alastrine appeared in front of them. Perfectly camouflaged against the trees, she was only visible to the group of people in front of her.
"God, give a person a bit of warning," Helen had visibly jumped at the sight.
"Cool things these projectors," Sean enthused.
"I am sorry," said Alastrine. "I contacted Sean yesterday while he was working alone at the dig site and he refused to let me pass on any messages saying he wanted to surprise everybody."
"He certainly managed that," Helen muttered.
"My Lady," Thomas nodded a formal greeting. "It is an honour to see you again, I trust you are well and peace still reigns."
"Thanks to all your efforts peace has been achieved, this is why I wanted to share this news with you." Alastrine motioned to somebody out of the projectors sight, then, hesitantly, a very young Tutelory calf appeared, obviously viewing the projector with suspicion.
Alastrine beamed with joy. "My allies, unbeknownst to us all at the time of the great battle I was pregnant with Gildas's child. I would like to introduce Gildas the younger."
The young calf mewled at his Mother.
"Alastrine that's wonderful news," Nikki was clearly delighted. "I'm so glad some good came out of that loss."
"As am I," Alastrine's voice took on a wistful quality. "And for that reason I invite you all to the naming ceremony. 'Tis to take place one league from now."
Thomas took a moment to work out the time difference. "That is one month in human terms." he confirmed the date.
Nikki looked at everybody and saw they were all as excited as she was at such an honour. "Then in one month we shall gather at Stonehenge for transport to The Grith."
"I look forward to seeing you at that time."
Young Gildas was obviously getting restless. Alastrine regarded the youngster with affection. "I take my leave."
Bowing goodbye to them one final time Alastrine and her son winked out of sight.