Dragon Earl

By The Story Lover

Preface and dedication: This story may seem familiar to you and there are reasons for that. This story is inspired by “Memories” and “A New Day Dawns” as well as the true life story of our favorite nephews THP. I want to personally thank both ACFan and Gunrunner for allowing me to write this story which infringes upon their copyrighted material. I greatly appreciate them for doing this. This story is a Fantasy it will have Dragons and Elves and sundry other Fantasy Races. It is also being written as a tribute to Anne McCaffrey and Mercedes Lackey two of my favorite Fantasy Authors. This story is dedicated to August Christopher as a continuation of his legacy.

THIS STORY IS . DISTRIBUTION FOR COMMERCIAL GAIN, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, POSTING ON SITES OR NEWSGROUPS, DISTRIBUTION AS PARTS OR IN BOOK FORM (EITHER AS A WHOLE OR PART OF A COMPILATION) WITH OR WITHOUT A FEE, OR DISTRIBUTION ON CD, DVD, OR ANY OTHER ELECTRONIC MEDIA WITH OR WITHOUT A FEE, IS EXPRESSLY PROHIBITED WITHOUT THE AUTHOR'S WRITTEN CONSENT. YOU MAY DOWNLOAD ONE (1) COPY OF THIS STORY FOR PERSONAL USE; ANY AND ALL COMMERCIAL USE EXCEPTING EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS REQUIRES THE AUTHORS WRITTEN CONSENT. THE AUTHOR MAY BE CONTACTED AT: The Story Lover

 

Chapter Five - The Recovery

This chapter made possible due to the help and input of The Radio Rancher, Dark Star and Str8mayb and I am extremely grateful for their assistance.

From Chapter Four: [Authors Aside I was listening to the song "Perhaps Love" by Placido Domingo and John Denver when I envisioned this scene.]

While Joth and Just' were still sleeping the sleep of the contented Jonah dragged the groggy John into Joth's bedroom; as he opened the door he stopped abruptly at the sight in front of him, but poor John he almost ran the munchkin in front of him over as he didn't expect Jonah to stop like that.

Jonah turned around tugging John's sleeve to bring John's head down to his level.

"John why does Just' have his arm around Joth instead of like usual? And why are they smiling?"

"Jonah it just means that Just' is finally feeling better and is almost healed. It means he now feels safe and comfortable with Joth. Now let's go get some juice until they wake up and maybe we can sneak some of your "Cinmon Crumbles" from cook." John told the boy in a conspiratory tone which got Jonah giggling.

The left Joth's bedroom and then headed out of the suite towards the kitchen and just before they were out of hearing Jonah spoke up, "John are Jut and Jot going to get all mushy face like Jot and Lance?"

Everyone on the planet could hear John screaming "Jonaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!!" as he chased the giggling munchkin through the halls.

[This story is occurring in the year Five Hundred After the Lost Egg or 500 ALE]

Joth was starting to wake up and he realized he felt a little different then he had the last couple of mornings. His back and chest were both warm and comfy and he had an arm wrapped around him snuggling him wonderfully. It took him awhile to figure out that it was Just's arm wrapped around him and that Just' was still sleeping. Since everything was so nice he decided to go back to sleep. As he fell into a wonderfully peaceful deep slumber he thought he heard some noise from his bedroom doorway.

While John was chasing Jonah through the castle Just's was dreaming some strange dreams. While the dreams were strange they weren't as unsettling as they could be, in one of them Just' was flying on Gus but it wasn't Gus; stranger still in another one he was holding a flaming sword aloft while riding the dragon who was not Gus. As Just started to awaken from the strange dreams a calming voice sounded in his head sending him back to sleep.

'Don't worry Just'; they are not bad things and they are in the future. Now go back to sleep.' Gus sent, and then very softly in a strange language that Just's sleepy brain translated slowly, 'What will be will be, and I will be there to help along with friends met and unmet.'

Unconsciously Just' pulled Joth closer into his chest and drifted deep into a well earned sleep.

Just' woke up awhile later feeling better than he had in quite awhile. As soon as he realized he was wrapped around Joth; and some parts of his body were more awake then others, he started to pull away. Joth grabbed the arm that was draped over his chest and pulled it back down and onto his chest muttering sleepily "feels nice more sleep" and then rolled over pulling Just' on top of him and falling fast asleep. Just' quickly decided to give in, and laying his head on Joth's shoulder fell asleep again.

It seemed that shortly after they had fallen back asleep Lance was attempting to shake them awake. Just' in his sleep tried to smack Lance's arm away while muttering "Go away we are sleeping."

Lance replied, "If you don't get out of bed in thirty seconds I am going to yank the blanket off the two of you and dump you on the floor. Breakfast is ready and Cook says if you don't hurry Jonah and John will have eaten it all."

Either the threat of no breakfast or the threat of the cold floor won because Just' and Joth both jumped up and started to get out of bed with their morning problems leading the way.

Lance quickly decided that discretion was the rule of the day and quickly left the room before he embarrassed the two any more. However, he did make a smart remark before he was out the suite, "Breakfast isn't 'clothing optional'."

Just' and Joth struggled to get out of bed without tripping over each other and the bedding. Joth got out first and turned to help Just' out of the large bed, Just' quickly accepted Joth's help until he swung his feet over the edge onto the floor. Just' quickly turned a very bright shade of red and tried to cover himself up. Joth just laughed and dragged Just' into the washroom saying, "Don't worry Just', it happens to all of us and it just means you are healthy again."

When the two teens had finished cleaning themselves they quickly dried each other and proceeded to get dressed. Because Just' was still half asleep he didn't pay much attention to the clothes Joth handed him to wear.

As they were headed out the door to breakfast Joth added as he started walking quickly away, ducking as he went, "You have a very nice one also." Just' tried to smack Joth along the side of his head, but he missed as he still wasn't able to walk as quickly as Joth was moving. He was amazed at how much better he did feel, his legs were still very sore and stiff but his head, arms and ribs were feeling much better than they had been. While chuckling at the antics of Joth who was carefully staying out of his reach he also marveled about the clothing he was wearing. He was wearing an outfit cut of the same fine material as Joth's. He had never worn anything as nice as this and if the colors weren't reversed he could have been wearing the identical outfit to Joth's.

Just' couldn't believe the turn his life had taken. After loosing the part of his family that cared for him, he hadn't been at all sure what he was going to do with his life. He had considered moving in with Tayledro and Lucaso hoping that their soon to arrive nephew was close to his own age. Most of who he considered friends his age had been driven away by that awful Cleric Patoral's preaching. The way he saw it now, the beating by the two bullies and their helper may have been the best thing ever to happen to him. As someone once said, "Sometimes bad things have to happen so good things can;" Just' certainly believed that now.

As Just' and Joth get closer to the kitchen they can hear cook's voice loudly berating someone.

If you two young scalawags don't get away from Just's breakfast I will tan your backsides with my spoon! Then you can explain to the Prince and his friend why you can't sit down!"

Joth was laughing so hard he had to hold on to Just' in order to remain standing upright, he then took a deep breath composed himself and then entered the dining room.

Joth stepped quietly into his Families Private Dining Room and almost laughed out loud at the sight he saw. It seems Cook had decided to really welcome Just' to the family even if Just' hadn't agreed yet. Just' almost ran him over, he had stopped so fast. Cook had set the table just for the four of them with table settings for Joth and Just' at the heads of the table and John and Jonah's on one side.

The table was decked out with bouquets of bright flowers and amazingly enough the dinnerware that Just' had created for Joth. But that wasn't what had stopped Joth so suddenly; it was what Jonah was doing at Just's end of the table. Joth knew it was Just's place because there were several of his Energy Bars on a side plate; but that wasn't the big deal it was the side plate heaped high with "Cinmon Crumbles". Jonah was standing next to Just's chair being restrained by John with Cook holding her large Wooden Spoon over Jonah's head.

"I gotta taste em I just gotta I hav ta make sure they pewfect for Jut, he my fwiend. Jut needs only weally good things." Jonah was whining quietly as he tried to reach some of Just's Crumbles.

[Authors Note: "Cinmon Crumbles" are based on my wonderful childhood memories of my Grandmother Sadie's Kitchen and my favorite cookie Snickerdoodle's. I loved to visit her house when she was baking and especially when I got to help. If you have ever had home made Snickerdoodle's you know what I mean.]

"Jonah Medici this is the last time I am going to tell you; those "Cinmon Crumbles" are from the same batch as the ones you just finished inhaling. If you even touch one of those you will not be able to sit down and eat breakfast with Just' and the Prince. You know we made this breakfast special to show Just' how much the kitchen staff and other servants want him to get better and stay here as long as he needs to. He is a nice boy and is very good for Prince Joth. We are all very glad to see Joth so happy and alive again. Now Git and go sit down." Cook finished her admonition by smacking Jonah lightly on his head with her spoon.

Jonah jumped slightly and then headed towards his seat and then turning bright red as he caught sight of Joth standing just inside the doorway. Joth just shook his head and mouthed to Jonah.

"I will deal with you later you young scalawag"

Jonah brightened at the smile on Joth's face and sat up straight while tucking his napkin in.

Just' was standing just outside of the door totally embarrassed at what he had just heard. 'They should be making this breakfast for Joth not me; he saved me not the other way around.'

'Just' you do not know how wrong you are! You will find out soon enough that while Joth did rescue you; you also saved him. Now quit feeling guilty and go eat. You are still too skinny.' 'Goos' sent to a now startled Just'

"Gustavo!!! Don't do that!" Just' said and sent.

Before Just' could say anything else, Joth stuck his head out and whispered "Come on In."

Just' took a deep breath and stepped through the door and stood in awe at the display before him. It was as nice as when he had dinner with Joth's Family only it was even more beautiful than before if possible. Everything was decorated in Forest Green and Joth's Burgundy with accents of Royal Blue. Each place setting was a picture of perfection.

As he was adjusting to the unexpected grandeur spread out before him; he noticed that the seat he assumed was his had an enormous amount of food including several of Joth's Energy Bars and a whole plate of artfully arranged 'Cinmon Crumbles'. Just' now understood why Jonah was so anxious to attack his food. There was a large mug of his steaming Restorative Tea as well as several glasses of juices.

Joth's seat had a much smaller amount of food a huge mug of his fragrant Dragon's Gold Tea he loved so much. He also had only a few Cinmon Crumbles compared to what Just' had. One of the kitchen staff showed Just' to his seat at the table pulling his chair out for him; once Just' was comfortable he noticed that Joth had been seated as well. Just' then noticed that Jonah and John had been seated as well and Jonah was practically drooling over the food in front of him. Just' stomach chose that time to start growling and rumbling.

"Jot may I say the blessin 'Goos' will help me?" Jonah asked the prince.

Just' look at Joth questioningly who just gave him a smile that said I will explain later.

"Go ahead Jonah I know how long you have waited for this." Joth replied very warmly.

"Golden Draconis whose wings cover an pwotet us, we thank you for the bouunntty of food you hab prowided us with this mornin. We also thank you for lettin us save my new big brudder, Jut, he weally nice and he make Jot happy again. 'Goos' says he has big heart and his mind flies many patts Draconic an Wah Eagle. Thank you Draconis fo givin' me a new friend too. Happy Flights."

Everyone at the table was stunned at what they had just heard; they all stared at Jonah who just replied.

"What?" And then he began eating quickly.

"Just' signaled the young servant who had helped him get seated and asked him to help him up. Once Just' was up he walked over Jonah's seat and gave him a big hug and kissed his forehead.

"That was wonderful Jonah, I liked it very much." Just' told a very embarrassed Jonah.

Just' returned to his seat and with the servants help was reseated and then began eating the scrumptious food before him, he was surprised how hungry he was. Just' was so involved with eating it took him awhile to notice the silence in the room and when it finally sunk in he looked up and saw everyone staring at him.

"What?" He asked embarrassed at all of the attention focused on him.

"You must be feeling A LOT BETTER Just', your plate is almost clean." Was Joth's smirking reply. 'He really must be feeling a lot better that is the most he has eaten since I found him. Doktor Bazaar will be pleased.' Thought a very pleased Joth.

When Breakfast was finished Joth took Just' on a short tour of his families quarters while John took Jonah with him to his page lessons. Nana had some business with Queen Angelina and King Rafaelo and had decided that a little bit of learning wouldn't hurt her grandson. John's instructor on the other hand might have a different opinion.

Joth had a brilliant idea and was about to tell Just' about it when a very amused Gus contacted him.

'Joth you need to take Jonah and John with you before The Seneschal and The Master of Pages end up in the Royal Dungeon for strangling Master Jonah!!!' Gus was barely able to send that as he was laughing so hard that it was surprising that the castle itself wasn't shaking.

Joth started laughing so hard himself he stopped very suddenly causing Just' to almost walk into him. Joth helped Just' steady himself and then started to explain when Just' put a finger on Joth's lips and said;

"I know you just told me!"

Before Joth could frame a suitable reply Gus sent to him the following sarcastic message.

'For a Crown Prince you don't pay a lot of attention sometimes! Both Doktor Bazaar and I told you that since I could talk to Just' and he was able to talk to me even while he was in his coma; that your healing along with Jonah's may cause his mind to develop more fully. If he can now receive your thoughts that means we were right! Any questions?' A very smug Gus then sent to Just'

'Don't worry Just' it is just a side effect of your healing all that happened is that your mind has just expanded its capabilities a bit. I just finished explaining that to the dolt you call a friend. I am also sending this message to him; doesn't he look cute in that shade of red?' Gus started laughing and closed the link leaving Just' and Joth standing looking like statues each afraid to laugh at the other.

Joth took the cowards way out and just said;

"I think we should go rescue The Seneschal and The Master of Pages from being imprisoned and then I will show you one of my favorite places in the castle."

When Joth and Just' arrived where the pages were taking their lessons they didn't see the chaos they were expecting. Instead they found Jonah calmly telling the assembled pages and instructors the legend of DragonsHolme. Joth and Just' quietly moved into the room and listened to Jonah's description of the Ancestral home of The Dragon Earl. Jonah was describing the eerie lights the ghostly dragonlike shadows and the strange fact that DragonsHolme was always clean even though it had been vacant for decades.

The Seneschal carefully made his way over to where Joth and Just were listening intently. Bowing slightly The Seneschal indicated that he would like to talk to Joth outside where Jonah couldn't overhear them. Joth agreed and with The Seneschal leading the way he and Just' had just come.

Once outside The Seneschal began speaking in a surprisingly calm tone.

"Prince Joth, when I and the Master of Pages agreed to let Jonah share young Johns lessons we never realized what havoc that would cause. But Jonah isn't the problem, but he did cause problems with out realizing it." The Seneschal paused to gather his thoughts and consider how to chastise The Crown Prince for putting him in this predicament.

"I am not sure we understand you or the problem Seneschal either Jonah is a problem or he is not" Joth responded to The Seneschal now completely confused because the official in front of him was being so calm. "Was he interrupting, cracking jokes, did he give wrong answers? Please explain the problem."

"I will gladly do that in just a moment but could you please answer two questions for me." The Seneschal then continued before Joth could respond. "I have seen Jonah here before and I know he has some connection to your family but could you please enlighten me as to whom he is? Secondly who has been teaching him?"

"Okay, I will answer your questions; however, I fail to see the relevance of them." Joth replied slipping into formal mode of speaking as he was unsure of where this conversation was going. He had been taught that when unsure of a situation fall back on formality. "Jonah is the favorite grandson of Mistress Rebekah and has been taught by his mother, his grandmother, Doktor Bazaar and both of my parents. He is staying with my family as my guest helping me care for my 'friend' Just'; I hope that answers your questions."

"Oh My!!!! It all makes sense now, I do understand what happened now and I can put you at ease. But first one more question; "How did you know there was a problem?" A now relaxed Seneschal replied.

"As soon as you explain your side first Seneschal." Coolly replied Joth not too happy with another question.

"Yes, your Highness, as I said Jonah didn't mean to cause any problems I am sure, however his education did. He was so eager to be with the older boys that he tried to answer every question. I meant he wanted to answer every question and in fact when he was called on he did answer every question asked of him and I do mean every question. Today's lesson was on the protocols dealing with the Elven Ambassador and his entourage and Elven Royalty. He knew answers no one else did except for your page John, that was the problem he was unconsciously showing up everyone else in the class. The other students couldn't really get mad at him because he didn't know what he was doing. As far as he knew he was just answering questions, he had no way of knowing that the other students had been studying those protocols for months and still didn't know all of the answers. Jonah is an amazing young lad and his parents and Mistress Rebekah should be proud of him."

'Why is Jonah speaking so clearly now and not sounding like the younger kid he normally does?' Just' was thinking while The Seneschal was explaining the problems Jonah had inadvertently caused.

'Jonah can speak very clearly most of the time but still gets shy around strangers and when he gets excited. He could never pronounce my name when he was younger so I became "Jot" it has become his pet name for me so he uses it around friends and family. I think he calls you "Jut" for the same reason, Nana and Doktor Bazaar also have said it is a defense mechanism for him. People overlook him and the other children don't tease him or put him down as they would if he spoke like my Parents or Me. As you can see he is a very intelligent child, a precocious brat at times but I still love him. He loves me almost as much as he loves Nana and now he loves you as well, you are very lucky because he is very careful about whom he opens his heart to.' Joth answered Just's' unspoken question causing Just' to jump slightly but only Joth noticed.

'Ho...howww did you do that?' Just' sent back bewildered.

The Seneschal figured out something was going on when both Joth and Just' stood still and theirs eyes turned slightly glassy. 'Hmmmm it looks like Gustavo is having a word with the prince but what is going on with his friend?' Were the thoughts going through the Seneschal's head.

'Joth that wasn't very nice!' A perturbed Draconian Voice rang out in both Joth's and Just's' heads. 'Now apologize to Just', Doktor Bazaar told you, break the news to him gently, that you could speak mind to mind with Just' I don't know what I am going to do with you.'

'Just' I apologize for the fathead who is my rider he was supposed to explain to you in private that as a result of his healing you, the two of you can talk to each other like you and I do. I apologize if I scared you and I will take care of that fathead later for now just be as cold to him as you can until he apologizes to you. Don't worry John and Jonah will also make life miserable for him and just wait until Nana gets a hold of him.' A very apologetic Gustavo sent privately to Just'.

The Seneschal interrupted the mental conversations with a slight cough and then spoke very deferentially to Joth.

"Your highness might I suggest that you take John and Jonah someplace with you and explain to young Jonah what happened. Please praise him for his knowledge at the same time and inform him that The Master of Pages along with myself are highly impressed with him. Once you have explained 'the facts of life' as it were to him, he will be welcomed back to our classes anytime with or without John as an escort. I thank you for your time and a very enlightening morning." The Seneschal then bowed deeply to Joth and then, surprisingly, to Just'.

"That sounds like a good idea and I have just the place to talk to Jonah, so he won't get upset. Would you mind sending Jonah and John out to us and then we can be out of your hair? By the way 'Goos' told us." Joth replied to The Seneschal. He then turned to look over at Just' and found Just' giving him a strange look and not making eye contact.

The mood was broken slightly by John and Jonah slipping out the door; only slightly because both John and Jonah gave Joth only the slightest of head bows while hugging Just'. Jonah was bubbling over with excitement at what had happened in John's class but at the same time he was very upset with Joth for upsetting Just'. Jonah began to say something to Joth but John interrupted him.

"Prince Joth as long as I have been your Page I have never been more embarrassed and upset with you since you dragged me through this castle with nary a please. You know that Just' is still recovering and was not supposed to have any shocks like both Gus and You have given him today! You are very lucky that Doktor Bazaar or you parents aren't here or you would be in a lot of trouble. Gustavo, I know you can hear me I will deal with you later! However, the both of you better apologize to him right now or I will take Just' to the King and Queen and find another place to stay! Now speak both of you, and one at a time!"

To say that Joth was surprised at being told off by his normally shy page was an understatement. Before he could even frame a reply though Gus was sending to him, 'He is right Joth we were both wrong, very wrong, I will apologize and I strongly suggest you do also.'

"Prince Joth, you be mean to Just' now say you sorry or I ask Nana to take me home!" Jonah told the prince very slowly and carefully, working very hard to get all of the words out correctly.

Just' in the meantime was stunned but the hugs he was getting from John and Jonah and the love that was in their eyes helped him recover quickly. Now he stood quietly waiting to see what was going to happen next.

He didn't have to wait very long because Jonah quit hugging him and then turned and faced the prince placing both hands on his little hips and glaring at the prince. Jonah's eyes were sending the message 'start speaking now if you know what is good for you'.

Joth realizing that his 'goos' was cooked dropped to one knee and while looking Just' in the eye with a very apologetic look began speaking.

"I Joth Forte Crown Prince of Erehwon do humbly apologize and beg forgiveness for my unseemly actions. I meant you no harm by my actions but I did not think them through or think how they would affect you. Please accept my most heartfelt apology? Will you still be my friend?"

Just' was stunned at the depth of sincerity in both Joth's demeanor and his voice. He was completely amazed that the Crown Prince was on his knee begging an Journeyman Potters pardon. [Just' still thought of himself as a Journeyman Potter when in actuality he was a Master Potter and in fact had inherited his father's position as Master Potter to the kingdom of Erehwon.] He was standing there in a daze when he felt a tug on his arm.

John had tugged Just's' arm and was whispering,

"Say Yes, he really means it. Do it formally so he can retain respect then, hug him as a friend."

"Prince Joth I do accept your heartfelt apology and I do understand that you meant me no harm. I was only shocked by your and Gustavo's actions and I now want to learn more about this mind speech thing. I definitely want to remain a friend to both of you and to my two stout defenders here."

Just' then gave both John and Jonah hugs before stepping over to where Joth was still kneeling extending his hand and helping Joth to his feet. Just' then gave Joth as strong a hug as he could while whispering;

"I will always be your friend."

Kissing Joth on the forehead Just' then released the prince and very carefully sent to Gus.

'I accept your apology also Gus and will always remain your friend. I am doing it this way to save you from shocking me again. Please have patience with me I have only done this with one other friend and never when he wasn't near me.'

'I do understand my friend and thank you very much I to will remain your friend always in spite of that rider of mine :).' Gus sent very softly and laughingly.

Just' just smiled at that remark and then asked;

"Joth, you said you were going to show me one of your favorite places in the castle once we got the two munchkins."

Of course both Jonah and John smacked Just' before breaking out laughing with;

"Juuuuuuuuuuuuusssssssssssssssssssssttttttttttt'"

Joth just shook his head and then taking Just' by the hand said, "Let's go swimming."

Before Joth could get out the second "M" Jonah was already flying down the hallway yelling "Swimmmiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnn"

John gave Joth and Just' a quick look and then grinning took off after his young charge and friend picking up the flying pieces of clothing as he went.

Just turned to Joth and with a very quizzical look asked his friend, "Swimming in the castle?"

Trying not to break out laughing Joth replied, "Didn't Neal or Deanna show you our Calderium when you were last here? I thought for sure Neal would have shown it to you, he spends as much time there as possible when he is home." When Just' shook his head, "No," Joth began his explanation. "You do know that Draconis is a volcanic planet and that Erehwon is divided by a Volcanic Mountain Range?"

"Yes but what has that go to do with swimming indoors? Swimming in rivers I understand, swimming in castles?????" A now very curious Just' asked his friend.

"Well it seems that when Castle Highmont was originally built the builders chose this location because of the Volcanic Vents, Hot Springs and Cold Springs. This allowed them to include things the original Kingdom Seat did not have. Did you ever wonder why our private baths have hot and cold water without John having to lug buckets of hot water from the kitchen?" Joth paused in his explanation to see if Just' was paying attention.

Joth could see by the look on Just's' face that he hadn't had time for that fact to sink in. Of course the fact that he had been only conscious for a few days might have had something to do with it.

"Originally there was only supposed to be two small bathing pools a hot one the Calderium and a cold one the Frigidarium. When they were fixing those two pools and their drainage system one of the dragons assisting them miscalculated the strength of his flame; and instead of digging a drainage ditch the flame blew a hole in the rock separating the two pools. Now instead of two pools, one hot and one cold they now had one in between which they called the Tepidarium. Well everyone was so excited with what had happened they approached the King and he agreed to delay construction while the architect redrew the plans to incorporate the hot springs more fully into the building plan. After some consultation it was decided to build one large Royal Calderium with all three pools and several smaller ones throughout the castle. The Crown Prince had just returned from a visit to Mantasia where he had been unable to get in his morning swim/bath as the river had ice floating in it. He suggested that if possible they build a pool big enough for him to get his daily swim in during the winter months. The King and the rest of the court agreed so we now have the only indoor swimming facilities on Draconis plus hot and cold running water almost everywhere. Now let's go catch up with Jonah and John before they splash all the water out." Joth ended his history lesson with a smile.

Just' decided he had to let Joth know that he wasn't furious with him but didn't want to let him completely off the hook.

"Thank you for the architectural history lesson o' esteemed wise one." Just' then turned and walked down the corridor without another word leaving Joth standing there stunned.

[If you haven't read "A Christmas for Andreu" I suggest you do as this section takes up at the end of that story.]

Needless to say when Andreu walked back into his village with Sammy at his side the village was stunned. Although many of the villagers had seen signs of Wild Kats no one in the history of the village had seen a Wild Kat, even in the distance let alone up close and personal. The only person who wasn't surprised by Andreu's feat was Margè who said a word of thanks to Draconis for giving Andreu some status in the village. His father better watch his step now as Kat's were very possessive and very protective.

Andreu was in 'Seventh Heaven' as the village's Winter Solstice Celebration ground to a halt and all eyes were on him and his Kat Sammy. Andreu started to gloat a little too much inside at his father's stunned expression.

'Andreu that isn't nice you are better than that!' Sammy sent and then smacked Andreu in the leg with a paw no claws though.

Andreu and Sammy spent the next several days bonding and getting to know each other better. The villagers soon began getting used to seeing the two walking together throughout the village followed by the curious children and some of the other animals. Of course Sammy ignored the animals as he was a Kat!

The villagers eventually got semi used to seeing Sammy and Andreu walking together and would stop and say hello to Andreu and a few even would say hi to Sammy. But when Sammy would walk throughout the village by himself the villagers would cross to the other side of the lane or go back indoors.

Andreu's father gave Andreu and Sammy a wide berth staying out claws reach for some unknown reason. Just because whenever he came near Andreu and Sammy; Sammy would growl baring his wickedly sharp fangs and at other times would clean his three or four inch long claws while gazing at Andreu's father.

Sammy would sleep with Andreu at night curled up right next to Andreu's chest and his purring would put Andreu sound asleep every night. The strange thing was that Sammy was always gone in the morning when Andreu woke up but he was always waiting for Andreu when he left the cottage in the morning.

When Joth and Just' reached the Calderium they found John and Jonah's clothes in a pile just inside the door. Just' was amazed at how warm and wet the air felt and how loud his two friends were and how lucky it was that no one else there. Joth showed Just' where everything was and where they could hang their clothes unlike the two kids. They waved hello to Jonah and John who were sporting like fishes in the large Tepidarium. Joth took Just' into the private rooms which had a smaller series of pools for more relaxed soaking or bathing. Joth knew that Just' would get too tired in the large pool where Jonah and John were having a blast.

Just' was so amazed with the Calderium that he had stripped out of his clothes without thinking and was allowing Joth to help him into the small four person hot mineral water pool; before he realized that both of them were nude. The warmth of the mineral waters felt so good on Just's' body that he forgot everything else for a few minutes as a lot of his minor aches and pains disappeared. For the first few minutes Just' just enjoyed the wonderful feelings before attempting to carry on a conversation with Joth who knew exactly what Just' was feeling.

'Oh the days and nights I have spent in here soaking away the aches and bruises given to me during weapons training by Duke Campbell, Neal or even Lance.' At the thought of Lance Joth became very wistful hoping that Just' would become his lover, no, his Life Partner! Joth realized then that as much and he and Lance loved each other they weren't "In Love" or at least the type of love to carry them through a life time. Joth felt a much deeper love and a sense of completeness when he was with Just' that he never felt with Lance. Joth would always love Lance dearly and would always cherish him as a dear friend but they would never have what Joth hoped he and Just' could have.

Just's' murmurings dragged Joth out of his retrospection and realizing that Just' was speaking too softly to be heard over the natural bubbling of the water and the echoes of the munchkins; stood up and carefully moved over and sat down on the ledge next to Just'.

"Thank you for bringing me here this feels absolutely wonderful." Just' told Joth just before he leaned over and snuggled into Joth's shoulder with a heartfelt sigh of comfort.

"It is my pleasure dear one plus Doktor Tingle Fingers prescribed it. I believe his words were 'let the mineral waters work their magic on his abused body or you will need them Prince or Not!' So since I value my body and I will need it to continue to take care of you here we are." Joth replied with a grin not noticing Just's' ear to ear smile at Joth's "Dear One" comment.

'I wonder if he really means all those things he keeps slipping in to conversations? I hope he does, because I feel things for him I have never felt for any one else. I think this is what Misha was trying to tell me when he said, "we may love each other but we are not in love with each other." I could really get used to this; Joth is wonderful and Jonah is like a little brother to me and John could be also. I wonder how Brion is doing I need to ask Joth if I can find out?' Just' ended his thinking with a loud yawn.

Joth and Just' shared some small talk for a few minutes getting to know each other a little more. They found they liked very similar colors and quite a few other things. Just as Joth was trying to find out if Just' was interested in being his boyfriend the two munchkins came knocking through the door. Knocking because the first words out of Jonah's mouth as he struggled to get out of John's grasp were;

"See Jot I knocked this time."

Joth was laughing so hard that he couldn't respond to Jonah and John almost let go of him as he broke out laughing also. Just' quickly surmised what Joth had probably said and told Jonah so.

"Jonah, I think Joth meant knock first and when someone says 'enter' or 'okay come in'; then you can enter. I am sure he didn't mean knock and then come in at the same time" Just' was stifling his own laughter while talking to Jonah.

Joth recovered long enough to tell Jonah, "Yeah, what he said."

John used the lull caused by Joth's answer to get a better grip on the squirming naked youngling. As soon as John had Jonah standing still for a second he smacked Jonah lightly on the back of his head and said, "Apologize to Joth and Just' for interrupting them!"

Jonah turned bright red which was evident all the way to his toes, he got a thoughtful look on his cherubic face and began speaking very politely and subdued. "I am very sorry Prince Joth and Prince Just', I will try and re...remm...remember to wait for permmmission befo comin in. Please forgive me, I just want to see if the hot waters made Just' feel better and wanted to swim a little with him cause Doktor Tickle Fingers said it be good fo him and I can help him cause I swim like a fish." Once Jonah got over stumbling on a few words the rest of the words came pouring out of his mouth like a waterfall.

John was trying to whisper into Jonah's ear that Just' wasn't a prince yet and Jonah whispered back.

"I know, but everyone wants him to be and he is nice. I was just trying to be really nice to him cause I like him and I want him to play 'Catch the Kid' with me and 'Goos' soon."

What neither John nor Jonah realized was that both Just' and Joth could hear every word and while Just' was confused by the "Prince" comment Joth was embarrassed mightily.

Joth decided to change the subject quickly and announced to everyone that it was time for him and Just' to move to the Tepidarium for awhile as they had been in the hot water long enough.

"We don't want to tire you out too much the first time and I will make sure that you can come here whenever you need it. Jonah you and John can join us if you behave yourselves. Do you understand me?" Joth spoke first to Just' and then to John and Jonah looking the mischievous 'imp' straight in the eye.

John answered for him and Jonah while grabbing Jonah's ear gently but firmly, "We will behave Joth or Jonah won't get any of the "Cinmon Crumbles" that Cook saved for our afternoon snack." John's hand had moved from Jonah's ear to the back of Jonah's head and he was helping Jonah nod "Yes".

John not taking any chances with Jonah messing things up began shepherding Jonah over to the Tepidarium while Joth was helping Just' get out of the Calderium. John quickly realized that Joth needed help with Just' whose muscles had relaxed just a little too much.

"Get in the pool Jonah I will help Joth" John instructed his youngling friend." John then turned to help Just' climb out of the Calderium from one side while Joth helped him from the other.

Jonah and John both had to stifle a gasp as the hot water had loosened all of Joth's and Just's' "muscles" Jonah started to say something but was stopped by John.

"Jonaaahhhhhhhhh! NO! Not now!"

Jonah quickly ducked under water to stifle his giggles.

John and Joth finally were able to walk Just' down the steps into the Tepidarium and the cooler water began its restorative work. Just' hadn't realized how relaxed his muscles were until he tried to stand up. He would have been very embarrassed but Joth's apologetic tone convinced him it was nothing to worry about.

Once Just' had settled onto the ledge Jonah came over and sat in his lap and started cuddling Just'. Between the mineral waters, Joth's nice words and all of the munchkin love he was receiving Just' felt better than he had in a long time.

"Okay Jonah get off of Just' he needs to stretch out and swim a little to stretch and strengthen his muscles." Joth told both Just' and Jonah.

John burst out laughing and nearly drowned himself when he slid under the water; Joth was trying very hard not to laugh himself. Both Just' and Jonah were giving Joth the most hang dog look with puppy dog eyes thrown in. They both said simultaneously;

"But Joth what if we don't want to?" And then they burst out laughing.

Just' did some quick thinking and as he stood up used that motion and some of his recovered strength to toss Jonah at Joth while he then slid into the water and went to the opposite side of Joth from where he had tossed Jonah. Jonah being the smart youngling he was helped Just' by also jumping at Joth screaming with glee while Just' made good his escape.

Just' found that moving through the perfectly warmed water felt amazing and he completely was lost in his thoughts when he felt his feet caught and then he was pulled backwards in the water. Just' being no fool instead of fighting and trying to swim away just relaxed, which meant, of course that Joth was caught completely off guard and started floundering.

Just' was having fun now that the cooler water had revived him. Joth had no idea that Just' could swim like a fish and watched in awe as Just' swam around as if he had been born to the water. Joth had placed Jonah on his shoulders but the youngling quickly fell off as Joth tried to catch Just' and now Just' was swimming rapidly around the both of them. Just' came up directly behind Joth and scared the heck out him which caused both John and Jonah to burst out laughing. Just' grabbed Joth in a hug, giving him a kiss on the back of his neck before letting Joth go and sitting back on the ledge with John and Jonah.

Joth turned around and saw his three friends laughing at him and with him and asked, "Just' why didn't you tell me you could swim like a fish?"

"You never asked and I did mention that there were swimming areas in the river near my old village." Was the smug reply from Just'.

"Okay I surrender I won't assume anything about you again my friend." Joth then bowed to Just' which of course cause the "Three Stooges" to fall off the ledge laughing.

"I think it is time we hit the Frigidarium for a few minutes and then it is time for Just's' and Jonah's naps. Jonah don't try and wheedle out of it Gus says you need it because you were up all last night talking to him instead of sleeping! We will go to lunch before then, so quit pouting, Jonah."

"Don't worry Jonah, I will take my nap with you and we will leave Prince Worry Wart here alone for awhile to contemplate the error of his ways." Just' told Jonah and the as quickly as his recovering body would let him headed for the Frigidarium.

But Joth had the last laugh as the Frigidarium was exactly what its name implied; FRIGID! Just's scream of shock could be heard as far away as The Palmetto Crag Outpost.

Jonah and John both went to the aid of their friend telling Joth as they went, "Joth you're mean, you should have warned him"

Joth joined the three in the Frigidarium as soon as he had stopped laughing. He apologized to Just' who said no problem. After a few minutes in the cold water Jonah's stomach started rumbling and he said, "Lunch time my tummy is growling' let's go eat." Jonah then got out of the cold water with John and Joth helping Just' out who was complaining that he didn't need any help.

As Joth and Just' got out of the cold water Jonah burst out giggling;

"John look they are the same size as you now!" Jonah turned tail and ran to the other room where his clothes were, leaving his three friends shell shocked.

Just' took a little pity on John and said, "It is okay John, you can look and don't worry you are still growing. Jonah is just jealous."

John mumbled, "Okay and thanks." He then let go of Just's' hand and went chasing after Jonah.

"Jonaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh Mediciiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii when I catch you..."

Just' turned to Joth and asked, "Are things always this crazy around here?"

Joth not sure of how to answer that question replied cautiously, "Sometimes, why?"

Just' reply didn't help Joth much at all. "Good, then I won't get bored, let's get dressed and get lunch I am hungry and I do need a nap." Just' then headed towards where Joth had placed their clothes leaving Joth standing there staring after him.

Since it was a fairly nice day outside the cook had setup a table outside on the balcony for the four of them. Just' was surprised to see that he had a seat at the head of the table again. This time though there was only a small plate of Joth's Energy Bars and a pot of the Restorative Tea. Jonah and John were busy stuffing their faces with sandwiches bigger than their mouths. Joth and Just' took their seats and started fixing their own sandwiches from the array of meats, cheeses and condiments. As soon as Just' had finished fixing his sandwich Cook appeared with a small plate of "Cinmon Crumbles" just for him.

"Jonah those are for Just' you have your own for when you get up from your nap, so I don't want to hear you try and wheedle any from Just'. Do you hear me young man?" The Cook inquired of Jonah.

"Yes Cook I unnerstand I won't bother my friend Just'." Of course Jonah was giving Just' Puppy Dog Eyes the whole time he was answering Cook.

Cook just turned and headed back to her kitchen shaking her head and muttering, "Children these days..."

Just as the four were finishing lunch a Royal Page appeared looking for Joth. "Your Highness your father would like you to meet with a delegation from Mantasia as his current meeting is taking longer than planned. He also bids me to tell you they have brought "The Princess" again. The Seneschal will be joining you to add some "Courtly Presence"; he is leaving it up to you whether to use your Audience Chamber or the Main Audience Chamber. He also says that he will join you as soon as possible; and the Queen says please be nice." The page gave Joth a deep bow and then waited for his answer.

"Ahh okay, they want the dog and pony show again, well that is what they will get only not quite what they were expecting. We will use the Main Audience Chamber please inform my bodyguard Lance that I will e need him and a squad of my guard in full dress uniform. Please inform Lance that he is to appear in his best court dress not his uniform...... Okay Rolando what is so funny?" Joth asked the Royal Page who had broken out grinning.

"Sorry your Highness but your Father just lost a bet to your Mother. The Queen predicted exactly how you would respond and the King your Father disagreed. It seems your Father will be getting that new carriage he thought was too gaudy. I apologize for any impropriety your highness." Rolando then bowed very deeply to the Crown Prince.

"Rolando it is not a problem don't worry about it, this is my Family's Private Dining Room and these are my friends and yours so just relax a bit. I just thought of something please inform the Seneschal that we will use the Consort's Chair and I would very much appreciate if he would also get the Consort's Coronet.... Now what?" Joth asked as Rolando started laughing again.

Rolando didn't answer Joth directly instead he turned towards the door and said;

"Thomaso bring it in the Prince needs it."

At Rolando's words Joth threw up his hands and began laughing his head off muttering, "My Mother, My Loving Mother!!!!"

John, meanwhile knowing a little more about what was going on was trying to explain things to Just' while Jonah was stuffing his face and his pockets with "Cinmon Crumbles". When Rolando called Thomaso in he almost fell off his chair he was laughing so hard at Joth's antics. He finally got himself under control enough to tell Just' that one time his mother had overheard Joth's whining about all the princesses and a few queens and duchesses that were presented to him as possible marriage material.

"It is all your fault Joth you haven't found anyone you love enough to become your consort; and you won't let us make a public announcement that you aren't interested in women that way. So Shut Up and Deal With IT!" John repeated the Queen's speech to Just' who was agog that the Queen would speak to her son that way and said so to John who laughed and then replied;

"Just', she was smiling the whole time and gave him a big hug when she was done. Joth just said yes Mom and then grinned; the King started to snicker but quickly turned and walked away when both his wife and son started to glare at him. Just in case, you haven't figured it out yet this whole castle lives and thrives on the love of The Royal Family. Haven't you wondered why all of the servants are always smiling? It is because the King and Queen and their Son share the love with all of us as they do each other. The Kingdom of Erehwon doesn't need any alliance made by marriage and they love Joth too much to force him into one anyway."

"So what is going to happen next?" Just' asked John now very curious. As Just' was questioning John, some movement, out of the corner of his eye, caught his attention. Just as he turned to look he caught Jonah trying to steal one of his "Cinmon Crumbles"; rather than say anything to Jonah, Just' looked over Jonah's head and said;

"Cook thank you for bringing me more "Cinmon Crumbles"." As Jonah turned to look Just' took his cookie back and then acted like nothing had happened.

Jonah was sitting there with a shocked look on his face for not only was "Cook" not bringing more cookies but his hand was empty. He had no idea what had happened as neither Just' nor John had said anything.

Joth having seen everything as he had left his chair and moved over to where Rolando and Thomaso were standing so he wouldn't interrupt the other three's conversations. Joth decided to take a little pity on Jonah but only a little.

"Busted Jonah!!! You aren't as sneaky as you thought; you got caught and you don't even know who caught you."

Jonah just turned bright red and didn't say or do anything except start eating the last cookie on his plate as if nothing had ever happened.

Just' and John were chuckling quietly at Jonah trying to act innocent. {Just like a certain Admin/Author we know "AC" yes you :)}

"Just', let me explain quickly what is going to happen as I need to go help Joth get dressed and get dressed myself. Thomaso will take that Coronet he is carrying on that velvet pillow to Lance while he is doing that the Seneschal will have the King and Queen's thrones moved back a little bit on the dais and Joth's throne and the Consort's moved in front of them. Now comes the fun part, Joth and Lance have done this several times even after they became just friends. Ranulf will take Lance's place and Captain Kyron will command the Prince's Guard. The Seneschal and several of the Privy Council whose turn it is to attend will enter and then the Mantasian Delegation will enter. The Seneschal will make his usual flowery speech and then as soon as all of the bowing and kowtowing is over, Joth and Lance will enter arm in arm, Joth will also be wearing his Coronet which is made of Dragon's Gold with a Dragon's Eye as its center piece. As you can see the Consort's Coronet is made of "Ordinary Gold" The Seneschal will introduce Joth as the Crown Prince and Lance as his "Companion". Although he is sitting on the Consort's Throne and wearing the Consort's Coronet he is never introduced or referred to as such. That way no one can claim that they were misled." John paused in his history lesson and took a well earned breath.

"Is that fair to Lance?" A concerned Just' asked John while keeping an eye on Joth's conversation with Rolando.

"Fair......." John had to pause and stifle his laughter. "Just', Lance gets treated like a Prince he gets to dress and eat like one. Additionally he gets to keep all the gifts he is given. He loves doing it; plus he gets to sit down and have people bow to him and kiss his hand while Ranulf and Kyron have to stand and wear their ceremonial armor. He also loves the Formal Dinners where gets to call Angie and Rafe by their first names or Mom and Dad. Of course that is because they consider him family still; but the outsiders don't know that. So all in all he considers himself lucky to be able to help Joth. Do you understand things better now Just'?" John asked his new big brother; as that was how John was thinking of Just' no matter whether or not Joth had asked him the big question yet.

"So Lance is just helping those he considers his family out and he can say no if he wants?" Just' asked John and then reached over and smacked Jonah's hand as Jonah had not given up his mischievous ways.

"That is exactly what is happening Just'. I now have a big favor to ask you?"

"Ask away and if I can do it I will." Just told John with a smile and then sat up quickly as Joth was sending him a message.

'See Just', my Mom and Dad meant what they said the other day about Lance being family and I am sure you will find out they meant you also.' Joth sent with a smile and then went back to finalizing the details of representing his parents.

"Just' I hate to ask you to do this but I need to help Joth get ready and then get dressed myself. I then need to get to the Main Audience Chamber and act as liaison for Joth with The Seneschal to make sure everything will be perfect. Would you mind taking Jonah back to his room and getting him ready for his nap and make sure he sleeps? I usually have to sit on him until..............."

"Joooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn you're mean!!!" Came pouring out of a scowling Jonah's mouth.

"It's okay Jonah; I will just take my nap with you and cuddle you like you have been doing for me. We can play some games when we wake up or you can tell me funny stories about Joth and John. Okay?"

Instead of answering Jonah got up out of his seat and ran over and hugged Just' while saying;

"I love you Jut we will have da bestest time you will see. Are you done now? Can we go now?"

Just' gave Joth a quick glance as he was not used to Mind to Mind Communications when not in physical contact; Joth gave him an affirmative nod.

"Yes Jonah I am finished we can go now John take good care of Joth for me........." That was all he could get out before Jonah was attempting to pull Just' out of his chair.

When Just' gave out an involuntary "grunt" Jonah realized his mistake and quickly stopped pulling on Just's arm and started tearing up.

"I am okay Jonah; you just surprised me is all, you can still help me up now that I am ready." Just' told his young friend who he thought of as a little brother while ruffling Jonah's hair to show him he meant it.

"Thanks Jut, I dint want to hurt you." Jonah then very carefully helped Just' out of the chair as if he was very fragile causing everyone in the room to stifle a grin.

When Just' was about to walk past his Joth he stopped next to him and pulled Joth into a one arm hug whispering; "Be good I will miss you" He then kissed Joth quickly on the cheek and was then out the door before Joth could respond.

Rolando and Thomaso looked over at John because of what they had just seen; John just grinned and winked at the two pages. He then mouthed "later" to them before heading to the kitchen to let "Cook" know they were finished with their lunch and to say thank you.

While John was in the kitchen, Joth sent Rolando and Thomaso off to finish their assignments. He had also asked Thomaso to act as Lance's Page which brought a huge smile to the young page's face.

As soon as John was finished in the kitchen, he and Joth headed of to Joth's suite to get themselves ready for the Audience. On the way, they stopped in the doorway of Jonah's room and peeked in and saw Just' and Jonah sound asleep smiling peacefully with Just' curled protectively around his young charge.

In his sleep, Just' felt Joth and John checking in on him and Jonah, and deepened his smile from the love he felt flowing from the two. He muttered "Love you" very softly before sleep overtook him completely. His last thought was how much he enjoyed taking care of Jonah and he hoped he could have a child or younger brother some day to care for.

The Audience went perfectly and Joth had most of the issues ironed out before his parent's arrived, and they solidified his standing as an Ambassador Plenipotentiary by staying in the background until all of the negotiations were completely finished. Their Majesties had their guards just move their thrones a little closer to their son's but still behind his. When The Seneschal's Page asked them if they would like seats at the conference table, they demurred saying, "It is our son's Audience". To the amazement of all; several hours later, when the treaty was ready to be signed, the King pointed to The Crown Prince and gave a nod to John who quickly headed to the vault(5). Joth signed his name 'Joth Alejandro Forte' with a flourish and then quickly added underneath his signature 'Príncipe de Coroa'. He had just finished signing the treaty when John returned with the Crown Prince's Seal and Sealing Wax. His father had quietly come up along side him and said;

"Wonderful job, son, then initialed the treaty below Joth's signature and then he added his own seal as affirmation.

The Mantasian Delegation expressed their gratitude to Joth and to his parents as they were amazed at the quality of the negotiations and the amount of effort Joth had put into them. They were still talking about the fact that Joth had overruled the members of his father's Privy Council several times and the fact that the Seneschal just kept smiling throughout had them confused, until they finally realized Joth knew what he was talking about and that he was not just a figurehead. All in all, the treaty was a good one for both kingdoms and all would benefit by it. The only fly in the ointment was the fact that their choice of negotiator turned them down saying it would be a conflict of interest. For it seems Lucaso had sent an Ewer of the best Highmont Sangiovese as a gift to the Mantasian Monarchs and the rest is, as they say, history.

The King and Queen invited the Mantasian Delegation to a Formal Dinner to celebrate the signing of the treaty. The Delegation respectfully declined as they were leaving before dawn in order to make it back to Mantasia for the King's Birthday. However, they did respectfully thank them for the offer and returned the gesture if The King and Queen, Crown Prince and his "Companion" were to visit Mantasia.

Once all of the bowing and kowtowing was over, and The Mantasians had headed towards their quarters, Angie reminded Joth that he and Lance were still expected to attend the dinner, as they couldn't cancel it at the last minute. Lance asked to be excused as he and Ranulf had planned a private dinner to celebrate Ranulf's Mother's Birthday.

"Of course Lance, we understand; Captain Kyron, I am sure that you can find a few Junior Officers in the Prince's Honor Guard as well as my husband's and mine, that could use the exposure." The Queen replied to Lance with a smile and what amounted to a Royal Command to Captain Kyron.

Lance replied warmly; "Thanks Angie, we appreciate it." Lance and Ranulf then took their leave.

Captain Kyron, who was not as bold as Lance replied, "At once your Majesty." And then before the Queen could bite his head off added.

"I mean Angie." And then quickly took his leave.

While these high level conversations were going on, Nana had entered the Audience Hall and was speaking to Joth privately.

"Joth, I know how dearly you want to take Just' to this dinner tonight; but do you think he is really ready for that? I think you should take young John, as a reward for all of his hard work. I will get a carriage and take Jonah and Just' down into Highmont for dinner at The FireHaven Pub. Just' and Jonah can play Darts and Draughts while I curl up in front of the fire with a nice big mug of Cider. It will do Just' some good to get out for a little bit, but not the excitement and stress of a Formal Dinner. I don't think he is quite ready to answer a lot questions about his early life, not yet anyway. Since Doktor Bazaar will be there cheating at Darts, as usual, Just' will be in good hands. Jonah wants to challenge his Doktor to a game of 501 because the Doktor beat him the last time they played. What the good Doktor doesn't know, is that Neal Campbell and Paladin have been teaching him. He can now beat the Castle's Master Armorer, and Dragoneer Jeffords, so "Doktor Tickle Fingers" is in for a big surprise tonight. I will have them both back home and in bed before your dinner is over. Just put John in Jonah's bed with him, when you get back from the dinner. That way you and Just' can have a night's sleep by yourselves; I am sure he has a lot of questions for you. Will that work for you Joth?" Nana asked the prince.

"Yes Nana, that is a great idea . John can show the Junior Officers how to behave at a Formal Dinner. I think it also might do Just' some good to see a few other people besides of us.

As much as Joth enjoyed the Formal Dinner that night, he kept trying to think up excuses to leave early. 'I hope Just' is having a good time and is taking it easy. I miss him already and it has only been a little over an hour. What am I going to do? I want to tell him I love him and propose to him and ask him to be my consort, but it is too soon; he still needs time. But what about me?'

Joth was abruptly brought out of his melancholy thoughts by Gus's smart-alec sending.

'Snap out of it, Joth, he is with Nana, Jonah and the good Doktor; he is in excellent hands. Plus you know Lance sent several of your guards to help keep an eye on him. As to that other business, Que Sera, Sera. You will know when the time is right, or he will. Now good night and quit waking me up!' With that, Gustavo cut the link leaving Joth stunned.

John, seeing the look on Joth's face, had an idea what was going on and started asking questions of a few of the Junior Officers about the wines they had tasted. Of course they were a bit taken aback to have such questions coming from a youngling. One of the braver ones looked to Captain Kyron for answers and his Commanding Officer just nodded his head towards the King who was looking directly at the Junior Officers, waiting to see how they would respond. The Sub Lieutenant took a deep breath and then tentatively gave his answer; and with that, the "game" was on with the King, Queen, Joth and Captain Kyron asking questions and offering opinions. Things became very interesting when contrary opinions were given and the Junior Officers found themselves either arguing with their bosses, or having to defend their answers. Joth became so involved with the "game" he forgot about Just' and started having a good time.

'Well at least that worked, Angie and Rafe are having a blast with these Junior Officers. This is as much fun as watching Jonah put all those stuffy pages in their place this morning.' John thought to himself and then went back to causing havoc by questioning something Joth said.

Once John was back in the fray, Captain Kyron sat back and observed his troops in action. Overall, he was very pleased at what he saw; once the ice was broken, his Junior Officers began to acquit themselves quite well. He looked around and saw that his Senior Officers were doing the same thing he was and they all were grinning broadly when their charges weren't watching. All of the Senior Officers held their breath though when the King decided to bait the youngest officer, a newly promoted Lance Corporal. The King made a statement that was obviously false, in answer to the Corporal's question.

The Lance Corporal stiffened slightly in his chair and then in a very formal and polite voice rebuked the King. "Excuse me your Majesty, but I do believe you are mistaken....." With those words you could have heard a pin drop, or the patter of mice feet, if Matty had let any in the palace. All of the Junior Officers first looked to Captain Kyron for help; but he was just sitting there swirling his glass of Sangiovese and admiring the color. The young officers next looked at The King who was sitting there calm as can be with a look that can only be described as "The Kat who ate the Canary". Needless to say, the young officers were perplexed at theses happenings. Meanwhile, the Lance Corporal was reciting chapter and verse why the King was wrong.

As soon as the Lance Corporal had finished, the King stood up and applauded along with The Queen, Joth and Captain Kyron. Of course, that caused all the Junior Officers' jaws to drop in shock.

"Thank you very much, Lance Corporal Taxis you acquitted yourself quite well, and We are sure you will be with my Son for quite a long time. Ladies and Gentlemen, if you haven't figured it out by now, this dinner was a test. As members of our Honor Guards you will be representing our Kingdom in many different situations and places. We need people who can think on their feet, stand up for themselves, and are not afraid to speak their own minds. To answer your question, yes this dinner was a little tougher than normal, but a similar test would have happened even if the Mantasian Delegation was here tonight. We have been amiss in our duties to educate all of our supporting staff. Captain Kyron, will you meet your brother Commanders and see that we get back on track?" The King paused until Captain Kyron nodded positively.

"Now you can see why you have to attend all those classes on Draconisian History as well as your Military Classes. We want well rounded officers and enlisted men in all Military Positions. We believe that having a well educated Military can only benefit our Kingdom as well as neighbors and Allies. We believe that having educated officers and enlisted men has prevented many miscommunications and misunderstandings from escalating into raids and more. As Captain Kyron and The Lord Mariscal will tell you, this policy has also been a lot of help when we have had to fight. With our Officers and Soldiers having knowledge outside of our Kingdom's Borders, we have been able to plan our Tactics and Strategy with a much higher degree of precision than without their input. We hope that between your classes and dinners such as this, you will learn how and when to stand up for yourselves and to your superiors. This is not to say that We are asking for insubordination; that is far from the case, We just want honest opinions and information that can help prevent Diplomatic and Military Disasters. We want to thank all of you for attending and your wonderfully active participation; We also look forward to seeing you again at similar functions." The King gave a slight head bow to everyone at the table which caused a few blushes from some of the Junior Officer's.

With that, the King regained his seat and finished his glass of Sangiovese while subtly looking around the table. He saw that all of the Junior Officers were sitting a bit straighter in their seats and had a more confident look about them. 'Hmm it looks like Angie was right again; it has been far too long for this type of dinner. Look at how they have helped Joth; it was as if I was doing the negotiating myself. I doubt I could have done a better job; Joth was able to offer the things that Mantasia needed, and he knew which parts of the agreement weren't really needed or necessary for both parties. It also looks like Angie and The 'Duchess' were right, we need to expand and increase the Diplomatic and Finishing Classes for all of our Military; and the sooner the better, it seems.' Rafaelo returned to the present just in time to see his wife signal that it was time for them to leave.

Angie and Rafe rose at the same time, raising their glasses in the air and they began speaking in unison. "To Erehwon and Draconis!"

At that, everyone quickly rose, stood raising their glasses in response, and then in one voice, responded, "Their Majesties; long may they reign and may Draconis always watch over them and Erehwon."

Angie and Rafe raised their glasses in acceptance of the toast and then signaled Joth to remain for awhile. Then with a nod of their heads, turned and left the Dining Room with only their personal Body Guards and Pages. Everyone remaining stayed standing until the King and Queen had left. Once everyone had returned to their seats, Joth restarted the conversation with a few questions about who had ridden a dragon and who had not. The rest of the evening went very quickly, and before anyone knew it, it was after midnight. Joth finally realized how late it was, and that no one could leave until he and John did.

Joth and John stood and Joth announced very smoothly;

"This has been a wonderful evening and I hope to see all of you again either for dinner or Arms Practice. Peace and Good Night."

Joth and John left to cries of "Peace Highness" and "Good Night Highness" and from his own men "Night Joth."

Meanwhile, down at the FireHaven Pub, Just', Nana and Jonah were having a wonderful time just relaxing drinking tea and juice. Nana and Just' were talking about Jonah and Joth, while playing Draughts and Just' was loosing badly.

"Nana, how are you beating me so badly and every time? I could usually beat my grandfather three out of five times and I can't beat you even once." A perplexed but very relaxed Just' asked.

"Well Just', I do come by it naturally; my father taught me and then the 'Duchess' and Duke Campbell taught me even more......" Nana paused at the look of concern that passed over Just's' face.

"What is it Just', what did I say?"

"It is okay Nana, I just realized that I need to let William know what happened to my family; but I don't know how to get a hold of him, or where to tell him I will be living. I need to let the 'Duchess' know also, I definitely don't want her mad at me!" Was a slightly frustrated Just's' reply.

"Don't worry about them Just'; I can take care of that when the time comes, and I will personally tell Matilda what she needs to know." Was Nana's reply to a now surprised Just'.

"Matilda?" Asked Just', as that name wasn't familiar to him.

"Matilda Campbell, also known as 'The Duchess' has been my best friend for years, ever since I was Joth's Nanny. She is a really nice person to her friends, as to her enemies....well that is another story. She will be glad to hear you are alright, so don't worry about that." Nana replied warmly to a now slightly more relaxed Just'.

"Thanks Nana, Duke William and his family were very nice to me and my family."

The conversation then turned to lighter topics and then stopped completely, when Jonah, who had been playing with some other children, walked over to Doktor Bazaar who had just finished a huge mug of ale.

"Well, if it isn't my bestest assistant in the whole wide world." Cried out Doktor Bazaar, as he picked up Jonah, hugged him, and then spun him around before setting the giggling youngster down on the floor.

"You be silly Doktor Tickle Fingers, I be your only assistant ocourse I be your bestest one!" A giggling Jonah replied.

While Jonah and the Doktor were busy acting silly, Nana was closely watching Just's' face and she was very pleased with what she was seeing. When the good Doktor picked Jonah up and spun him around a smile crossed Just's' face and his eyes began to twinkle. 'He is finally beginning to heal in his heart, now if Joth can only wait long enough.' Nana decided to feel Just' out a little bit about how he felt about Joth, and living in the castle. She also needed to find out the answers to a few other questions, in order that what was discussed with Rafe and Angie would work. She was extremely confident in her Maternal Instincts, and she also knew that if Plan "A" didn't work Plan "B" would be almost as good. Nana was gathering her thoughts and figuring out what questions to ask Just', without out making him suspicious, when he caught her off guard with his question.

"Nana, what is a Consort and why is it important"? Was Just's seemingly simple question.

"What brings up that question?" Asked a surprised and slightly perplexed Rebekah.

Just' told her about everything that happened at lunch, and while he was doing that, she noticed that his eyes and face lit up whenever he mentioned Joth.

"Just', the simplest answer to you question is, a consort in the non noble mate of a King or Queen who shares the life of his or her mate. In most cases the consort would not rule if anything happened to his or her mate, except in very rare cases. Are you with me so far?" Nana checked with Just', who while listening, was keeping an eye on Jonah.

"A Consort is basically a non ruling husband or wife, in most cases." Replied Just' with just a hint of smugness in his voice.

"Okay, before I go on to answer the rest of your question; I need to explain our monarchy here in Erehwon, as we do things a little differently than some of the other kingdoms. Although the throne is normally handed over to the next in line, in this case Joth, there have been exceptions if the Crown Princess or Crown Prince would not make a good King or Queen. In most of those cases, the Outgoing Monarch or their Privy Council would either appoint a Regent to rule with them, or find a Consort with the right qualifications. As things stand now, if Joth for some reason became incapacitated that role would probably fall to Matilda, the de facto Queen Mother, and the kingdom would keep on rolling. Now, in your case, if and I say if, you and Joth decide to join, and he asks you to be his Consort, for now, nothing much would change; of course you would have to attend a lot more classes on ruling and history and such stuff; but for now, unless you are ennobled, you wouldn't have to worry about ruling. Mostly, you would just accompany Joth and keep him happy. Of course it would also mean a lot more public appearances; however, we will cross that bridge when we come to it. Just', you must know that no matter what happens between you and Joth, you will always have a place here at the castle or with my family; Rafe and Angie meant what they said, and Lance is definitely proof of that. Does this help any?" Nana asked Just' while reaching out and holding his hand and looking directly into his eyes.

"Yes Nana, it does, I was unsure of what I should do if Joth asked me to be his lover and his Consort. I could tell from this afternoon's lunch and some other comments he has made, that he may do just that. I realize now that I really do have a new life, and a new family here. Thank you for explaining everything and being so honest and loving." Just' answered Nana and then arose and gave her a big hug and kiss before returning to his seat to watch Jonah.

'Ahhh, so it looks like we will be going with "Plan A" now, if only Joth gets off his bum and pops the question.' Mused Nana.

Once Jonah got over his giggling fit, he challenged Doktor Bazaar to a game of 501. Doktor Bazaar thought Jonah was only kidding, but he took one look into Jonah's eyes and could see he wasn't.

"Okay Jonah, you are on. What is the bet going to be?"

"Jonah replied; "You be Just's' Doktor for ever if I win, and if I lose you get to fly on 'Goos' instead of me the next time I get to ride him."

"Are you sure, Jonah? I know how much you love to fly on 'Goos' and I heard he has a new harness just for you to use." The Doktor replied casually, more concerned about Jonah getting hurt if he lost than the chance the Doktor would lose.

"I be sure; Just' need a good Doktor in case he don't live here!" Jonah replied with a stiff upper lip; trying to not to laugh.

"Okay Jonah, I accept your bet if I win, I get to fly on 'Goos' with Joth's permission of course, and if I lose I will be Just's Doktor. But let's play 301 to make it fairer. Okay?" The good Doktor replied, still trying to give young Jonah an out.

"I can play 501, but if you want to play 301 cause it is easier okay; but we play Double On Double Off.1 'Goos' says he gives his permiss..... He say it okay. Can we flip for start?" Was Jonah's reply, with a very innocent look on his face; as he knew the good Doktor would let him go first.

Of course, the Doktor had no idea of the tsunami that was about to roll over him; so he, out of the goodness of his heart, told Jonah he could go first.

Jonah quickly ran over to his grandmother and gave both her and Just' a big hug and kiss.

"Nana can I have my darts please; I gotta go pulvawize Doktor Bazaar?"

"Jonaaaahhhhhhhh! Mind your manners and you are going to play Darts and you will try to win, not PULVERIZE him. Do you understand me?"

"Yes Nana, I be sorry Nana. I forget Neal said I have to be sutal not cocky. I told I didn't know what sutal meant but I wasn't a rooster!" A somewhat less cocky Jonah told his grandmother.

"I think he meant subtle Jonah, he meant don't give the game away. Don't let your opponent know all of your strategy, or how much you practiced. Do you understand now and can you really beat Doktor Bazaar?" A now very curious Just' asked Jonah.

"Just' I think so, I have been pwactising very hard, I can beat Neal and Dragoneer Jeffords, and they weally, weally good." Jonah replied to Just' with just a hint of a swagger.

"Okay Jonah, you go do your best, and when you win, be nice to the good Doktor and if you lose, take your medicine like a man and say thank you and congratulate him. Either way come back here and I will give you a hug and a kiss, okay? Now let me give you a good luck hug."

Jonah went over to Just, for his hug and got a kiss on the forehead for luck.

"Here are your darts Jonah, now remember what Just' said; be a gentleman. And good luck and beat the pants off of him." Was the surprising comment from Rebekah.

Jonah grabbed his darts and blew his Nana a kiss and then hurried over to the Dart Board where Doktor Bazaar was waiting for him. The Doktor and Jonah shook hands and bowed to each other, and then Jonah took up his spot behind the secondary line. When Jonah tossed his first dart the volume in the pub dropped slightly. By the time he had tossed his third dart, the pub was virtually silent; you could have heard a fletching hit the floor.

To say that Doktor Bazaar and the rest of the crowd inside FireHaven were shocked would be a grave understatement. Doktor Bazaar was so rattled that even with the complete silence he was given for his tosses, he failed to score a single dart. When Jonah stepped up to his line for his second round, he was also given complete silence. Jonah tossed his three darts like a veteran. He took a slight breath exhaled and then lightly tossed his darts one right after another. There was a slight pause after he finished his tosses, as Jonah stood there staring at the board as if he could not believe what he had just done. FireHaven broke out into such a round of applause that Just' thought the building was going to tumble down around his ears. When the Pub Master went to verify the score, he called out Triple 20, Triple 8 and Triple 9 remaining score 30 for Jonah. With that announcement Doktor Bazaar played the part of a gallant gentleman and conceded the first leg of the match.

As the match was to be the usual two out of three, Doktor Bazaar stepped up for his flight to start the second leg. Things started out a little better for the good Doktor this time, or at least it looked like it. His first dart flew unerringly towards the Double 20 and seemed to just nick the wire separating the 20 from the 5. Doktor Bazaar gained some confidence with that toss and quickly tossed his other two darts and had to restrain his glee when he tossed what he thought were two Triple 20's, however when the Pub Master called out the scores the groans rocked the walls. Double Five, Triple One, Triple One score sixteen remaining 285. It seems that the all three darts were just on the wrong side of the separating wire.

Luckily for the good Doktor, Jonah could not recreate his smashing first flight; he was only able to score a 57 with a Double and Single 19 and one Dart just outside the ring of the Double 19. The next two flights went in the good Doktor's favor; when the noise had subsided, the good Doktor had worked his way down to an easy out a 32 a very simple Double 16, the mainstay of many Veteran Darters. As Jonah stepped up to the line, he knew he had to toss a magnificent flight if he wanted to win this leg, and win the match. Jonah did exactly as his teachers had instructed; he took a very slow deep breath, held it for a few seconds and then slowly let it out while emptying his young mind of all distractions. When he finished exhaling, he concentrated on the board, hearing and seeing nothing but the board. Carefully pulling his first dart back to his ear, he took another slow breath and then exhaled and in seemingly the same motion let the dart fly. Time seemed to crawl, as the dart flew through the air and many, including Jonah, turned away afraid to look. Suddenly in the empty silence, there was a solid thud as the tip of the dart sunk into the softer material of the dart board. The Pub Master never even had to move; he simply announced leg and match to Master Jonah Medici, by Double Bull. The crowd roared its approval and Doktor Bazaar walked over and shook Jonah's hand before picking Jonah up and nearly hugging him to death. While the celebration was going on, Dragoneer Jeffords and the Master Armorer quietly left the pub without being seen.

Doktor Bazaar laughingly carried Jonah through his throng of well wishers, over to where Just' and Rebekah were sitting, trying to take in what had just occurred. Setting Jonah down, he addressed Just' and Rebekah.

"Since I have been beaten fair and square; Master Just' as my forfeit for loosing the match, to my assistant here, I am now and forever shall be, your personal Doktor wherever you choose to live."

Just' was completely stunned by the magnanimous gift he had just received and was barely able to stutter out a thank you.

"Doktor Bazaar, I am not sure what to say; this is something I truly never expected. As soon as I figure out where my life is leading me, I will let you know. Again thank you very much for being such a gentleman and honoring your bet with Jonah." Just' extended his hand to shake the Doktor's.

"It is my pleasure Just' and I will be by to check on you shortly after breakfast and my assistant had better be ready." Doktor Bazaar replied to Just' and then ruffled Jonah's hair as he turned and left.

For the next several minutes, Jonah was busy accepting congratulations from most of the Pub. It was a night unlike any that FireHaven had seen before and probably would never see again. Finally Jonah was done shaking hands with all the menfolk and getting hugs from the few females in the Pub.

"Nana, can we go home now, I tired?" Jonah asked from Just's' lap were he was curled up cuddling with his friend.

"Nana, I think that is a wonderful idea; I am exhausted myself, but I am very glad you brought me here tonight. The people here are as nice as they are in Potters Village, and I wouldn't mind getting to know more of them. I had heard from Cleric Patoral that the people who live in or near the castle are all stuck-up, rude and greedy. When my father and I tried to tell Cleric Patoral that all of the Castle Folk we have met here and at the castle were very friendly and they also went out of their way to help us; he just said they were pulling the wool over our eyes. He said that all of the people near and at Castle Highmont called us "Country Bumpkins" and looked down upon us. My father and I just shook our heads and told him he was wrong and as we started to walk away, my father turned back and said 'Don't forget Patoral, Cleric Tomas came from Highmont'. We then left him muttering to himself. "I think it is safe for us to head back now; all of Jonah's well wishers have left and he is snoring cuddled up against me." Just' finished his comments to Nana who nodded and then helped Just' stand so he wouldn't wake up his young friend.

Nana placed Just's' cloak over his shoulder and together they made their way through the pub. Nana signaled to the doorman and he went to fetch their carriage. Once the coach pulled up Nana carefully took her grandson from Just's arms so he could climb into the coach. Once he was inside, Nana handed the still gently snoring Jonah back into Just's' arms. Just before Nana climbed into the coach, with the coachman's help, she nodded a thank you to Joth's Honor Guards who were mounting their horses for their own trip back. 'Joth cares very much for his new friend and I wonder if Just' really knows how much. Those were some of his best guards here tonight, instead of being at the dinner. That alone says how much Just' has endeared himself with us and the staff. He treats everyone with the same courtesy and respect; I would have loved to see him trying to explain to Housekeeper Anne that he didn't mean any disrespect when made Joth's bed one morning. Anne of course, thinks all men are worthless when it comes to cleaning and bed making. Just' asked some very interesting and intelligent questions regarding what being a Consort entails. I hope he really understands how much Joth' needs him and needs him as his Consort.' Nana's thoughts were interrupted by Just' question.

"Nana, why did Jonah make that bet with Doktor Bazaar? If he lost, he would be giving up something he loves dearly!" A confused, and at the same time happy, Just' asked.

"I did cause I luv you, and I wanted you to have help if you left us." A slightly groggy and teary eyed Jonah answered; shocking both Just' and Nana.

Just' leaned over and kissed Jonah on his head and gave him a hug saying;

"Jonah, I love you too and that was one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me. I really appreciate it very much, but what about 'Goos' how would he have felt if you had lost?" Just' asked his young friend who was feeling more and more like a little brother.

Just's' question brought a very surprising answer; Jonah started giggling so hard he couldn't answer and very nearly fell off of Just's' lap.

'It was my suggestion Just', I wouldn't have minded at all, and besides Jonah would have had to come along anyway Doktor Bazaar can't talk to me mind to mind like you, Joth and Jonah. Good Night now, we both have a busy day tomorrow.' With that Gus was gone out of Just's' mind.

"Jonah you are a little scamp, and if I didn't love you so much, I would smack you a good one." Just' told Jonah who just started giggling all over again.

"I gather Gus told you something about the bet?" Inquired Nana of Just' as she reached across the coach and smacked her grandson on his bum; Jonah by now was laughing almost hysterically.

"How did you know I was talking to Gus?"

"Because you had the same look on your face Joth gets when he and Gus are talking; except your eyes don't glaze over as much. So how much trouble is Jonah in this time?" Asked Nana, with a smile on her face and in her voice.

"Ahh okay now I understand, as to this scamp in my lap; he had nothing to lose he was going to win either way. It seems it was partially Gus's idea, and it seems that Doktor Bazaar, as much as he can read us, he can't mind talk to Gus; so that meant Jonah would have gone along anyway to handle the conversation. I still really appreciate what he did for me though. I will really have to keep my eye on him now; Jonah is a really sneaky munchkin!" Just' finished his reply to Nana and then began tickling Jonah so he couldn't answer.

Shortly after that, the carriage arrived at Castle Highmont and the three were met by what seemed to be an army of servants. As Nana descended from the carriage, she noticed the lieutenant of Joth's Honor Guard who had accompanied them incognito slipping through the castle door before she could say thanks. Nana's servants took her away to her suite and Rolando, who had been assigned to look out for Just', helped direct them to Joth's Suite. Just' was very happy that Rolando was there, because he had no idea how to get to Joth's Suite from the Royal Entrance.

Jonah was mumbling in Just's' ear about sleeping in his own bed cause John was going to sleep with him, so Joth and Just' could talk.

"Okay little munchkin, sleep well and I luv you." Just' whispered to Jonah as he tucked Jonah into bed.

Rolando helped Just' finish tucking Jonah in and turn down the lamps and then led Just' into Joth's Suite, and turned down Joth's bed while Just' wrote a short note for Joth. Rolando asked Just' if he needed help undressing and getting into his night clothes; Just assured him that he could undress himself, and that he slept as Draconis birthed him. Poor Rolando blushed crimson from the tip of his ear to his toes. Just' gave him a hug and ruffled his hair and said good night to Rolando. Little did Just' know that Rolando was entering puberty early, and had a huge crush on Just' since he first saw him. Rolando, like many young male Draconisian's who only had sisters and no older brothers, was very curious about older male bodies. Unfortunately for him, Just' was in a hurry to get some sleep and ushered Rolando out the door before undressing.

As soon as he slid his now clothing unencumbered body under the covers, Just' was entering the land of nod. Due to the fact that he was sleeping alone, he did not go completely under; he was so used to sleeping with Joth or Jonah cuddling him, that he never went all the way asleep until one or the other joined him and wrapped their body around him. Because of this, Just' was on the verge of consciousness when Joth came into the room, undressed and climbed into bed, wearing the same clothing as Just'. As it had been a long day Joth turned on his side and gave a very relaxed sigh when Just' scooted closer and wrapped his arms and body around him. Joth lay their soaking up the warmth and caring he was getting from Just', while radiating the same and his deep love for Just'.

"I love you very much Just' and I wish you would consent to be my Consort." Not realizing that he was whispering and thinking Just' was asleep; Joth was very surprised when, as he was falling deep asleep, he heard these whispered words.

"I love you also Joth, and I will be your Consort." The only thing heard further was their gentle snores, and Matty's deeper rumbling from where he was curled up asleep by the boy's feet.


Nearing dawn as the castle was just beginning to stir; the image of a ghostly Golden Dragon could be seen circling high over the castle had anyone chanced to look. The same scene was taking place over Potters Village and over Andreu's Village.

Joth and Just' stirred slightly as the dream began as did Jonah as well. 'All that could be heard was the screams of War Eagles and the roar of dragon's as they dove to attack the enemy. The dragons were shooting large streamers of sulfurous smelling flames at any enemy that got in their way or wherever their riders directed them. The enemy had started to advance forward when suddenly diving out of the clouds was an extremely large Orange Dragon with Royal Burgundy Markings. The rider was wearing the Battle Dress of The Justiciar Prelate and was waving a Flaming Sword that seemed to send lances of flame towards the enemy...........'

There were several strange things about the dream; foremost was the fact that although the dragon was of Gustavo's size and overall coloring, there were several slight differences. The second strange thing wouldn't be known until the dream was discussed at breakfast, and that was Joth and Jonah clearly saw Just' on the dragon, while Just' couldn't see the face of the rider. Joth was stunned and slightly concerned about the dream and needed to talk to his parents about it and its portents. Jonah thought it was really cool that Just' got to fly a dragon and he really liked the flaming sword. When Jonah started to say something, Joth signaled him to silence. Uncharacteristically, Jonah closed his mouth and instead took a sip of his juice and then looked at Just' who had a very pensive look on his face.

"It is okay Jut, it is just one of the stories about the old Dragon Lords. It just means I is a good storyteller." Jonah told Just', trying to make him smile.

Before Just' could respond, 'Cook' came through the door carrying a platter heaped with grilled sausages followed by several assistants with the rest of breakfast. As the four boys began eating, John had been dragged in moaning and groaning by Jonah; Joth's parents came in for their breakfast. Just' was caught off guard when both Rafe and Angie gave him a hug and a kiss good morning. Just had started to rise when Rafe and Angie entered, but John's stepping on his foot reminded him that he was considered family. That was something Just' was still having problems accepting, but he loved the feeling that being considered family gave him. Breakfast was a fun and very casual affair with Rafe and Angie congratulating Jonah on his mighty victory which caused a great big smile on his face. Everyone ate a little bit faster than normal this morning because Jonah and Just' had their appointment with Doktor Bazaar, Rafe and Angie had several meetings to attend and Joth had several hours of Arms Practice before attending a Privy Council Meeting with his parents. Joth asked if Just' could attend as a guest to get an idea of how the kingdom was run. Angie and Rafe thought it was a great idea, but Just' gracefully declined stating he wanted to attend class with John to learn more about how the castle was run and pay back John for all of his help by spending some time with him. Just' was also a little more tired than he wanted to be and didn't want to cause a scene by falling asleep in such an important meeting. John of course was positively beaming; Rafe and Angie though that was a wonderful idea, and told Just' so.

The next several days seemed to fly by, Joth and Just' never seemed to have much time alone, but spent what time they had together always attached at the hip. They talked of everything and nothing, taking slightly longer and longer walks throughout the castle, slowly building up Just's' strength. Although they never actually talked about what Joth had asked that night, they did find themselves holding hands more often and occasionally kissing each other lightly on the cheek. Jonah of course was the proverbial fly in the ointment, he was forever underfoot, trying to be as close to his new friend Just' as he could. Lance and John had their hands full trying to keep Jonah occupied, and out of Joth and Just's' hair. It seemed that the entire castle, except Joth and Just', realized the pair was falling in love.

Joth finally came up with a brilliant idea that killed two birds with one stone; there was a large birthday party the next day for several of the children who lived in the palace. Joth was supposed to attend as Master of Ceremonies but he had planned a private romantic lunch for Just'. Joth went to Nana and his parents and presented his plan, and surprisingly, they agreed. Unknown to Joth not for the reasons he thought; his parents were very glad to see Joth tackling problems and arriving at workable solutions and even delegating authority. That evening at dinner, Joth presented Jonah with a brand new set of Court Dress. Joth then proceeded to ask Jonah if he would do him a big favor tomorrow. Jonah of course said, "if I can" and then asked what the favor was.

"Jonah you know that Birthday party that we are going to tomorrow afternoon?"

"Yes Joth, all my fwiends will be there, Nana and I have lots of presents for everyone. What's wrong, can't we go?" Asked a now concerned Jonah.

"You can still go Jonah, but I can't go. I have something else I need to do. You see the new clothes I gave you, go ahead and open them up please." Joth paused while Jonah unfolded his new clothing and watched the amazement in Jonah's Eyes.

"Joth, these are your clothes, but they are too small for you! What does this mean? A confused munchkin asked his best friend, and pseudo Big Brother.

"Jonah, since I can't go to the party tomorrow, I want you to go in my place. If you say yes, you will be The Crown Prince of Erehwon for a day. Ranulf and John will be there to help you, as will Nana. I trust you to behave like a Crown Prince and not a brat. This is really important to me, and I trust you to do this right for me. Will you do this for me, I would really appreciate it?" Joth asked a now glowing Jonah.

Jonah started to jump out of his chair and run over to Joth when he suddenly stopped and then began speaking in a very calm and formal voice.

"Your highness, you do me a big honour in this, and I gladly accept and I will do my best to uphold your name." Jonah's reply stunned everyone except Just' who knew that Gus was supplying the words and the calm.


As with the best laid plans of Mice and Men Joth's plan for a romantic lunch was doomed to failure. As Joth was checking with the Cook making sure everything was ready he was interrupted by one of his father's pages. It seems that they had just received an important message from the Elven Kingdom which required an emergency meeting of The Privy Council and all of the King and Queens Advisors. The message stated that when the Elven Ambassador arrived he would be bringing a very large retinue and would be requesting permanent lodgings. Additionally he along with his expanded retinue would be negotiating a new and expanded trade agreement and a new and stronger Military Alliance Treaty.

Joth wept inside when he heard the news but quickly sucked it in and sent John to find Just' and Rolando so he could break the news to Just'. Joth hoped that Just' would not be too upset as Joth knew Just' was looking forward to their lunch together also. Joth was very glad that the Elven Kingdom had decided to establish a Permanent Embassy in Erehwon. To Joth's knowledge it was the only such Elven Embassy outside of the High Kingdom of Draconis.

John found Just' and Rolando in Joth's study going over the Heraldic History of Erehwon; that was the subject of the next days Page Class and Rolando was having trouble remembering whose shield and colors were whose. Just' was on 'cloud nine' as he had to memorize the same things based only on descriptions and very crude sketches in the few books they had in Potters Village.

"Prince Joth would like you and Rolando to meet him in the Family Dining Room there has been a change in plans I need to change also. Rolando please escort Just' to the Family Dining Room and plan on staying with him the rest of the afternoon. I need to go see both of you at dinner hopefully" John relayed the prince's messaged and then headed towards his room to change.

When Just' and Rolando arrived at the Family Dining Room they could see a table for two set up on the balcony. Joth quickly joined them from the kitchen and began apologizing.

"Joth stop, I know you wouldn't cancel this lunch unless it was absolutely necessary. I assume you have to go to a meeting or something very important so just tell me where you will be and go be the Crown Prince." Just' told his dear friend before Joth could apologize too much.

Joth quickly explained what was going on and then told Just' to enjoy the lunch without him.

Just' walked over to Joth gave him a hug and a kiss and then said; "Have fun at your meeting and tell your parents I said hello"

Joth returned the hug and the kiss and replied; "We will have a private lunch as soon as we can even if I have to have Gus fly us somewhere else."

'Just say when' Echoed in both Joth and Just's' head from a laughing dragon.

As Joth left the dining room Rolando started to follow him. "Where do you think you are going Rolando? You are going to eat lunch with me didn't you hear John say that you were supposed to stay with me all afternoon?"

"But Just' I can't eat with you that meal was for you and Prince Joth and I am not a Prince or Royal." Rolando spat out the words as fast as he could before he fainted. 'Me eat with Just', Draconis thank you I can't believe my luck. Too bad Just' belongs to Joth even if he doesn't know it. If I screw this up John will tan my hide.'

"Rolando if you are going to be my Page you will be eating with Joth and his family a lot. You will have to get used to it just like I have; and if you don't help me eat all of the food Cook will be hurt and I don't want that. Hold on a second I just had an idea let me go ask Cook if she will help." Just' patted his now blushing page on his head and then went into the kitchen to talk with Cook. She thought it was a very thoughtful idea and sent her staff off to change into their formal serving uniforms.

"Rolando in a few minutes we are going to out on the balcony and we are going to eat lunch as if it was a Formal Lunch. I know you haven't had a lot of experience or training on what to do at these types of lunches and I haven't either so Cook is going to help both of learn the proper way to eat at a Formal Lunch. Okay?" Just looked at his new page who looked at his feet before answering.

"If you say so Just'."

"Rolando look at it this way now you can brag that you had a Formal Lunch with me on the Royal Family's Private Balcony not many pages can say that can they?" Just' asked his page who now was smiling from ear to ear.

The two boys had a wonderful lunch with fantastic service and were both surprised at how simple Cook made the lessons. Before long Just' and Rolando were acting as if they had been eating like that all of their lives. One of the best things Cook told them was to keep an eye on their personal server who by their expression would warn them if they were going to make a horrible mistake. While they were eating a page arrived for Rolando from the Queen.

The message was simple, after lunch, go to the Royal Tailor and get measured for some new clothes for the two of them. Neither of them knew it but "Plan A" was in full swing.


Several days later, when Just' could finally get out of bed for extended periods of time without tiring and needing a nap, Joth took him outside for some fresh air. Jonah and Rebekah had gone to visit Gus, while Joth was giving Just' a short tour of the castle grounds outside of his rooms

Since Just' had mentioned how much he had loved watching War Eagles fly over his village Joth had decided to show him the Aerie. Jonah had also told Joth privately that there was more to Just's story about War Eagles but it caused him pain to think about it.

Joth and Just' were walking along the balcony surrounding Joth's suite, with Joth pointing out the sites along the way. They reached the private landing platform of Gustavo and The Prince. Looking over the valley at the green fields and the meandering river both Joth and Just' felt at peace the first time since Joth had rescued Just'. Just' moved closer to Joth and then leaned his head on Joth's shoulder; and with a huge sigh of relief whispered, "Thank you."

Joth turned and gave Just' a peck on the forehead and whispered, "You are welcome."

As Joth started to say more, a shadow passed overhead and the sound of beating wings. Just looked up and saw a War Eagle shaped shadow turning the corner. A look of excitement followed by a quick look of loss crossed Just's face. "Where did he go" asked Just' with a bit of trepidation in his voice.

As Joth turned to answer the two were interrupted by a shrill young voice coming towards them screaming "Jot, Prin Jot" As Joth and Just' turned to see who was calling them Jonah came flying around the corner as fast as his little legs could carry him. "Jot, ooooooopppppps Prin Jot 'Goos' said to come find you it is impotan!"

"Okay Jonah, you found us, now take a deep breath and calm down," as he was saying this Joth leaned down and picked up the little boy who was just beaming at his friend. "Okay little one, what is so important that you had to wake up the whole castle?" asked the smiling prince while ruffling Jonah's hair.

"Sorry Jot, but 'Goos' said I had to be here with you," and then Jonah leaned forward and whispered into the princes ear, "'Goos' says Just' needs to see the eagles; it will help make him well." Jonah then kissed the Prince on the cheek saying. "I wuv you," and then quickly turned and threw himself out of Joth's arms directly at the totally surprised Just'.

"Whoa little one!" squeezed out Just, as he grabbed the cute young tyke before he hit the ground.

"I wuv you, too, Just'," babbled Jonah.

"I do too little one, but I can't hold you too long or I'll start hurting again," replied a still stunned Just.

"Okay let me down and I'll hold your hand and you'll feel better," replied the munchkin.

"As I started to say, before I was interrupted by the little munchkin……………………"

"Jot I am not a little munchkin'" whined Jonah.

"Jonah, you are mine, Nana's and Just's little munchkin, and we love you for It.'" replied the Prince.

"We love you little buddy, Joth was just teasing you cause he loves you." Just' said smiling and giving Jonah's hand a little squeeze.

"Okay guys, let's go and see where that War Eagle went" announced The Prince grabbing Jonah's hand.

The three friends started walking towards the corner where the War Eagle's shadow had disappeared. The three were chatting back and forth about everything and nothing. While they were walking, Joth was trying to have a conversation with his dragon only Gus wasn't cooperating.

'Gus, why must Just see the eagles, when they make him sad?' questioned Joth.

'You will see what you will see,' was the cryptic reply from Gus.

'GUS!! That is not an answer,' sent the now frustrated Joth.

'Que Sera, Sera………….Nap Time,' sent Gus, then the link went silent.

"Ugghhh," muttered Joth.

"What's wrong?" asked Just' in a slightly concerned voice.

"Nothing, Gus is just being a Royal Dragon Pain in the ……………"

"JOT don be mean to 'Goos', he is a nice dragon, he is my friend!" came flying out of the mouth of an indignant Jonah. Who then removed his hand from The Prince's and smacked him on his cheek.

"OK, OK! I'll be good," replied the laughing Prince, as he reached down and retook Jonah's hand to protect his posterior.

"Where are we going" asked Just' as the three came upon a doorway on the side of a large building that had many window like openings where the second and third floors floor would normally have been.

"This is The Royal War Eagle Aerie; it is where that shadow went." Joth announced to his curious friends.

Just' replied, "OH," with a range of emotions washing across his face, ranging from excitement to dread.

"Cool, maybe Paladin is here, is he Jot? Do I getta see Paladin?" Jonah eagerly questioned The Prince. Jonah bubbling over with excitement questioned The Prince again before the stunned Joth could answer, "Well, is Paladin here, I wanna see him?"

"Whoa Little One, slow down! One question at a time. Now, who is Paladin and how do you know him?" answered a now bemused Prince. Joth almost broke out laughing when Gus awoke from his 'nap' and sent, 'Joth be nice, don't tease him.'

Before Joth or Jonah could reply Just' interrupted with, "Huh, who and what is Paladin, and how does Jonah know him? I thought you said this was where the Royal War Eagles lived?" this from a completely confused young man.

Placing his finger across Jonah's lips, Joth answered Just's' question;

"Paladin is a friend of my fathers, and an old friend of Jonah's, I will explain more inside." With that, one of the guards stationed outside of the Aerie opened the door for the Crown Prince and his party with a slight bow of his and his partner's heads.

Once inside Just' was amazed at how roomy and light the Aerie actually was and how high the ceiling was. As Just' looked around he saw that the second and third floor were open in the center so the roof way above was visible. The entrance way that they were standing in was very nicely appointed as if lots of dignitaries visited there. While Just' was getting his bearings in the new place, Jonah was looking everywhere trying to find his friend Paladin. Jonah started to run towards the end of the Aerie where he saw several War Eagles being groomed and being given some training exercises; Joth however, caught him before he had gotten too far. The Master Falconer who was in charge of The Royal War Eagle Aerie, along with The Royal Mews was making his way down the aisle towards the Royal Party; as he reached the party there was a commotion at the far end of the aerie where an Assistant Trainer was attempting to attach the leather covers to a War Eagle's Talons. The War Eagle was having none of it and kept attempting to fly towards the visitors, the assistant trainer was keeping a very tight hold on the leather leash that was attached to the War Eagle's ankle. The Master Falconer gave Joth and his party a very perfunctory bow and then turned back to help with the problem. Before he had taken more than two steps a young and shrill voice with all of the power and command an eight year old could muster rang out through the aerie.

"Release him! it okay!!!!" Shouted Jonah as loud as he could and his voice echoed through the cavernous aerie.

'Trust him Joth he is right,' sent Gus in a no nonsense tone.

The Master Falconer turned back to look at Joth who nodded yes; the Master Falconer told his assistant to let the War Eagle loose as the assistant complied, the War Eagle took flight.

Joth took one look at the War Eagle mightily winging his way towards them and went into a slight state of shock; and nearly missed the second War Eagle winging his way towards them also. The poor Master Falconer was in such a state he had no idea what to do; here were two of the largest and most powerful War Eagles in the Aerie hurtling towards the Crown Prince and his friends. The two War Eagles were almost identical in coloration the lone exception the second War Eagle's head was white while the first one was gold. Both War Eagles had the same pattern in golden feathers across their wings they resembled titanic bolts of lightning. As the War Eagles neared the party two very excited shouts echoed through the Aerie.

"Paladinnnnnnnnnnnnn!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Came screaming out of Jonah's mouth as he ran towards his friend.

"Mishaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!" Was the excited call from a very choked up Just'.

Before anyone could figure out what was going on, Misha hit Just' while back winging knocking Just' to the ground and then proceeding to smother Just with War Eagle kissing and grooming Just's hair with his beak.

While that was happening, Paladin had come in for a picture perfect landing inches in front of an ecstatic Jonah; Paladin then encompassed Jonah in his wings and began likewise grooming Jonah's hair with his beak.

The moment Misha hit Just' the Master Falconer hit the floor in a dead faint leaving Joth standing their tongue tied in wonder.

'Joth meet Misha, Misha meet Joth' Sent Gus, while laughing in Joth's head. Joth received a further shock when a voice he had never heard rang in his head.

'You are Just's' and he is yours, and the little one belongs to both of you. All is well with Draconis now!'

*********************

Author's Note:

Well another chapter is finished, I hope this answered some of your questions and didn't ask too many more :). Just' is recovering and starting to adapt his new life and while he may think he knows what is going to happen he still has quite a few more surprises in store for him. Jonah and John are starting to grow up and move on with their lives; Nana seems to have something up her sleeves with the King and Queen.

Joth and Just' have something going or do they? If you want to blame someone for Joth and Just' being in Limbo blame Ted Louis author of Joel I got the idea from him since he has been stringing Eric and Crane along for along, long time ;).

For those of you who have written asking for more about Brion and Kyle I have good news for you; Brion and Kyle will be starring in the own story titled "Potters Village" and the first chapter is being written as I type this. "Potters Village" will tell the story of the village and what is happening there while "Dragon Earl" will continue the main story.

I am also in the process of writing another story in the Dragon Earl Universe titled "A Tale of Mantasia" which is a prequel to both "Dragon Earl" and "Potters Village" and is the story of Lucaso and Tayledro before they arrive in "Potters Village".

Don't forget to read Akeentia's new story Drakis Dracon also centered in the Dragon Earl Universe.

So stay tuned for the further adventures of the four J's. Please drop me a line to let me know what you think of this story.

Before I close I also want to thank all of my friends, fellow authors and editors for allowing me to include them in this story. Thanks guys and gals I really do appreciate it.

The Story Lover AKA TSL.

Editor's Note:

Just about Just' is just too difficult sometimes. Jeez. PLEASE no more characters with names beginning with J, please.

TSL, wonderful job. Poor Joth seeing Just' and Jonah 'attacked' by War Eagles, and then find they were really old friends. Now he and Just' need to have some serious talk time. We do not need to string out the consort thing. I don't care what other authors do (obvious if you have read my stories).

Having seen some of what's coming, you fellow readers are in for a wonderful treat in the future.

Well done TSL.

Str8mayb AKA Evil Author & Master of Misdirection

Other Editor's Notes:

I have to tell you that you made me cry with incredible joy when Just' found Misha. There were several other times in here as well, but that last bit still has me with tears in my eyes. Thank you so very much for this wonderful chapter.

Now I apologize for taking so darn long to get it back to you. I also want to thank Str8mayb for his help in getting the editing finished. I know that I am not the only one who is happy to have this chapter. I love it. As always TSL it was a great chapter.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher

1You must hit a double to start scoring and you must hit the correct double to win. For example if your out number is Thirty Six you must hit a Double Eighteen to win.

Comments greatly appreciated at The Story Lover or at Dragon Earl Universe Disscussion Forum

More of this story is available at The Story Lover's Home

Stories at Gay Authors