Castle Roland

The Art of War

by Ricky

In Progress

Chapter 4

Published: 1 Jun 17

The Art of War

Copyright 2016, 2017 by Ricky and the
Revolutions Universe Partnership
All Rights Reserved

Art of War Logo"Good morning Arthur, I've set your tea on your bedside. Double sweet, no cream."

"Thank you Max, how did you know?"

"A good aide knows to learn these things. So I asked Euan. If you'd like to get your morning ablutions out of the way I'll see to laying out your things for today. Since we'll be going out in the heat may I suggest a nice polo shirt and some shorts with hiking boots?"

"Perfect. Except I think it better be my lightweight khaki Docker pants. If I'm out in short pants the press will have a field day with it saying I'm still in short pants."

"Very wise indeed. Oh and your brother is due to land about one. So as it stands right now, we are supposed to go to the tent city right after breakfast, spend a couple hours talking with the people there and a little sightseeing perhaps. We have a lovely chapel that is right down on the beach. It's St. Anne's Church and was built in 1616. It's a simple church known for the first recorded marriage in Bermuda. I'm happy to say the couple are still together." Arthur looked at him with a raised eyebrow, Max smiled, "They were buried together after a hurricane killed them both."

"Ah! I see. You're a morning person. Try not to be too cheerful until after I've had my morning tea unless you wish to join them." He said tipping his cup up and draining its contents.

"Yes Arthur," he smirked seeing his morning wood leading him into the bathroom. "I've laid out your things and your itinerary as it stands right now. Breakfast is at eight. That's about thirty minutes from now."

"Thank you," came the muffled toothbrush inhibited response, a spitting sound then, "I'll see you there shortly."

"Do you wish me to start your shower for you?"

"Thank you but I think I can manage."

"Really? Should we dismiss the children we hired to wipe your tush then?"

Arthur stuck his head around the door and raised the eyebrow once again. Max chuckled, "It was an ancient custom anyhow." He grinned and smiled as he quickly made for the door when Arthur threw a hand towel at him.

"Good morning Mother." Arthur said as he gave his mother a kiss on her cheek. "Did you sleep well?"

"Yes, I slept splendidly. And I've received your report of yesterday's meetings. You did well. Make sure you call the hotels and let them know that we will not be buying the liquor. Perhaps a drink or two each adult per day but nothing outlandish." Arthur froze and looked to Max who gave the slightest of nods. "I'll make sure that's taken care of. Thank you Mother. It's not something I even contemplated."

"I'm glad to hear that. It means you've behaved yourself while away at school."

"Oh of course I have!" He smirked and glanced at Euan who concentrated on his breakfast.

Margaret looked at the notepad her aide placed beside her. "Have you seen the press today?"

"No," Arthur said, "is there something I should be aware of?"

Max timidly handed Arthur his notepad where the headlines were stacked one on another. 'King endangers caravan and security team', another read, 'King in common brawl on Chicago docks'. He read on, some were kinder, 'King slips away into chaos' and 'Former President Ashwood endangers our King', 'King narrowly avoids being bombed by U.S. forces'.

Arthur sighed, "Well it could be worse I suppose. And a certain amount of that was expected."

"Would you like me to impose information sanctions on the ones who did not report it correctly?" Max asked quietly. Arthur looked at his mother for a moment, then back at Max. "No. They would just make stuff up. At least by keeping them in the loop, the people will know by the others that they are printing lies. And I doubt there is a person in the Empire who has not seen or will not see that interview shortly. It was to dispel this sort of rubbish. I believe the people will see these for what they are. And if they don't, then the actions recorded over the next few days should help. There will always be those we can't please. Father told me that once. He said, 'A King must do what's right even if it's not popular. And no matter WHAT you do, some will not be happy about it.'" He glanced at his mother and relished her smile. She was pleased with him. In her mind, she ticked off that box that said, β€˜He's calm in adversity'.

The motorcade drove the few miles from Government House to the place where the refugees were being housed. He entered the MUST hospital and saw kids playing on the floor and adults playing cards and board games and some sitting and reading. There was contentment. They noticed the young boy with an entourage of suits in sunglasses. It was apparent this was someone important. But he was just a boy. Arthur walked up to the first table where two older men and their wives played cards. "Hello, how are you today?" He asked sticking out his hand to shake the first guy's hand.

"We are about as good as could be expected, I'm Joe Pinechart, this is my wife Emily, over here is Earl Jacobs and his wife Charlotte."

"I'm pleased to meet all of you. I'm Arthur Windsor. I'm here to make sure things are running smoothly." But at his declaration the ladies rose to their feet, the men following but unsure why until Emily spoke.

"Your Highness, it's a pleasure to meet you."

"The pleasure is mine I assure you, please sit, I didn't mean to interrupt anything." But the murmurs were starting and everyone was rising to their feet. He turned to address the room, "Please, everyone be seated. You've all been through enough. And I know what that feels like. Let's keep things less formal. I was a refugee myself from the same man that has caused your exile. So we are all in this together. There is a time and place for formalities and this isn't it. I'll be around to each table. If there are needs not being addressed then tell me about them when we get to your table. We're arranging accommodations at the hotels so you'll all hopefully be moving to one of them sometime today or tomorrow. You don't need to worry about paying for anything as it's all being covered by the crown. You've all been through a lot, we're going to do our best to make your stay as comfortable as we can. If you have families in other countries where you could go, please let us know and we will see if we can facilitate that. It might be a great vacation at the crown's expense. We'll help you connect with your family and to get there as quickly as it can be done. If it's in the Commonwealth, we will issue temporary cards to make sure your healthcare is covered, and we'll arrange some living accommodations until you are able to go home or if you choose to stay until you are settled and on your feet. So please be thinking about that and let our database operators know if that is a possibility for you. If you do choose to go and stay with family but are concerned about getting back home, rest assured we will help you to make that happen as well. So be thinking of what needs are not being addressed and I'll be around to you soon."

Joe looked up at Arthur, "So I guess we're first?"

"Absolutely. What needs are being overlooked? We are new at this too."

"Well first I want to thank you for our rescue and the safe place to be. It was pretty scary there for a while. But honestly, the only thing we are lacking is information. Is there some way we can get a TV in here with news of home? We haven't heard much. Some of us were in captivity and all of a sudden these military guys showed up shooting the place up and escorting us out. The next thing we know we are in the air and on our way here. Many of us have been without any news of what's happening and we've only gotten bits and pieces."

"Well as for current events, you'll all be in the hotels shortly and there will be news on the television. As for what we know up to now, there isn't much we can tell you because Ashwood's got most everything east of the Mississippi blacked out. But some horrible events have occurred. I think it will be best if we can condense it and print out an information sheet to bring everyone up to date. Thanks for letting me know. I'll see to that as quickly as possible."

"Thank you," Joe said and extended his hand. Max took out his cell phone and made a call. He was speaking to them quietly and then hung up and made entries on his notepad as Arthur moved from table to table. The most common theme was a lack of information. Satisfied that their needs were being met and that needs were recorded they left the MUST unit.

"Do you want to walk over to the chapel and we can talk on the way?" Max asked quietly.

"Yes, I'm ready for a break." He looked over at his security team, "We're going to walk along the beach and talk as we head over to that little church." A nod was all that was needed as two men ran off to check up ahead.

As they walked, Max filled him in on the call. "I took the liberty of contacting the Royal Gazette. I explained that the refugees were unaware of all that has happened up to today and asked if they could print a special edition bringing them up to date. They heartily agreed and even offered to compile it for free, although they are asking for the cost of the paper because it is so expensive here in the islands. I told them the crown would cover it. I hope I didn't overstep my bounds."

Arthur smiled. "Not at all, thank you for handling that. Feel free to act anytime you see the need as long as it isn't too big cost wise. You are becoming invaluable to me. I don't know what I'll do when I have to leave here."

Max's face turned to a frown, "I'll miss you too Arthur. I've grown very close to you in a very short time. But you know that anytime you need me you have but to ask and I'll be there for you."

"You'd be willing to leave your home here?"

"In a heartbeat. There's nothing for me here."

"You have no family, no girlfriends?"

Max stopped, "Arthur, why do you think my uncle hates me. I'm gay. And there are only a few of us here. Or there are only a few who are known to each other. What's legal and what's accepted are two different things."

Arthur sighed and looked around to see who was near. "At least you are free to be you. I have to consider duty first. And part of that duty is to marry and have heirs." He glanced at Max, "Sometimes I think the creator of the universe is one sick bastard. If my older two brothers had not been killed in that earthquake it wouldn't be an issue. But I am now the oldest."

"I'm sorry. Who knows?"

Arthur looked at Max, "You." He took a breath, "I'm sure Euan knows. But I've never admitted it to anyone. Not even him."

"Thank you." Max said quietly. It told Max just how much Arthur trusted him. They approached the steps to the church. The security was standing at the door but had not gone in. He discovered why as they got to the top of the steps. A treble voice was singing. They listened. The voice was pure and crisp and the brilliance notes of the Pie Jesu echoed off the walls. They all stood and listened. There was a certain mournful sound to this rendition. The boy was feeling the pain the song sang about. Arthur opened the door expecting a narthex but it was a very large open sanctuary. He stepped in and the voice stopped.

Arthur walked forward knelt and crossed himself and turned to the boy kneeling at the altar. He had tear tracks on his cheeks, "That was beautiful. Please, sing it again for me? It's a favorite and I've never heard it sung so beautifully."

Despite his emotions the boy turned back to the front of the church and began to sing again as Arthur sat in the pew behind him. The notes of sorrow were prominently delivered with its meaning. It's a requiem for the bombing of an orphanage during World War II. Arthur listened and the words struck the dam in his heart like a cruise missile. The children at the school and so many others poured out of his soul with the salty tears. His tears flowed freely and by the bucket. Max had stayed in the back respecting his need to commune but even he felt the pain that this youngster poured into the song. As the last notes settled in the sanctuary the silence was broken only by Arthur's shuddering silent sobs. The boy turned around and saw his pain, his tears fell again and he pulled Arthur forward and they hugged until they both ran out of tears. Arthur pulled out his second handkerchief and handed it to the boy who wiped his eyes and turned and sat down next to Arthur.

"So who did you lose?" The boy asked. Arthur was stunned at the question.

"I haven't lost anyone, but we've lost many." Arthur replied.

There was silence for a minute before Arthur asked, "Who did you lose?"

"Both of my dads. They killed them both right in front of me and told me they were saving me from them." Arthur grabbed the boy and pulled him into him, "I'm so sorry that happened to you." And his heart wrapped around the boy as he hugged him tightly. "Do you have any family?"

"No," the boy replied. "All we had was each other. Neither dad was loved by their families because they loved each other. And then they adopted me. They were the only ones who loved me and now they're gone. I'm alone again."

"No, you're not. What's your name?"


"Well Peri, I'm Arthur, what would you think of coming back and staying with me and my family?"

"Don't you need to ask your mom?"

"Yes, but I think it'll be ok. Trust me." He stood and took Peri's hand and walked back to the waiting group. "Max, this is Peri, he's going to be my ward." The security opened the door and they headed back to the waiting cars.

Peri looked at the guards, and at Max. "What's a ward?"

"It means you are under my protection, my care."

"But you're not much older than me."

"That's true. Is that ok?"

"With me yes. But I sorta want to know how you're going to get this past your mom and dad."

"Well it's just Mom, me and my little brother. My dad died serving his kingdom."

"Your dad was a king? Pull the other one."

Arthur just smiled. "Come on, I'll introduce you to the queen." They got in the car and Peri noticed that they had a driver and a two car escort service. He looked at Arthur, "You're serious, aren't you?"


"So you're a prince?"

"No, that would be my brother."

"But doesn't that make you a prince too?"

"Nope, I can't be a prince."

"Why not? Are you like a royal bastard or something? I read about those in history."

"Nope." Arthur was really smiling now as they pulled up to the Government House. They exited the car and walked up to the door where a footman opened the door for them bowing slightly.

Mrs. Giddings smiled, "Welcome back your Majesty."

"Thank you Mrs. Giddings. I'd like to introduce Peri to you. He's my new ward."

She smiled, "Welcome Master Peri." She turned to Arthur once again, "Your mother is in the main sitting room. I was about to bring in a snack. You boys just go ahead on in there and I'll bring it in in just a jiffy."

"Thank you Mrs. Giddings." They walked into the sitting room and up to his mother, he bowed before kissing his mother on the cheek. "Mother I would like to introduce you to Peri, he will be my ward." It wasn't often that he could surprise his mother so he delighted in it. She was speechless for a moment before regaining her composure. She turned to Peri, "Uhm Welcome Peri. Have a seat and tell me about yourself."

"Thank you your Queenness, or uhm I know that's not right, how do I address you?"

"Well in public you would call me your Highness, but right now let's use Aunt Margaret."

"So Peri do you have a last name?"

"Yes Aunt Margaret, Tremblay, Peridot Tremblay."

"You are American?"

"Well yes and no ma'am. You see, my one father was Canadian from Quebec. He married Papa who was American but immigrated to Canada. They adopted me in America and had started the paperwork. All they were waiting for was my paperwork before we moved up to Daddy's home in Quebec." His eyes welled up, "If they hadn't adopted me they'd still be alive." He hadn't come to that realization until that moment and Arthur was at his side in a flash. He held him and turned to his mother, "Both men were executed in front of him and they told him they were protecting him from them. It was Ashwood's men. Both men were estranged from their families because of who they loved."

Margaret moved over and sat next to them and took Peri from Arthur's arms. "Peri, you are not alone anymore, I promise. You are my ward until such time as Arthur is old enough, then you will be his. I'm so sorry that you went through that. If you ever need extra hugs, you just come to me. We'll see to your life from here on. I promise." She looked to her aide. "Let security know we are one more, Mr. Giddings will need to know as well. Ethan should be here shortly, I think you'll like him. He's about your age. And I think Raj is with him too. We'll need to go shopping for you."

"I don't have anything. I don't even have pictures of my Dads." There was a huge sadness about him even though he was grateful not to be alone. "We'll see what we can do about that.” She turned to her assistant and said, "We need to contact Canadian authorities and explain things to them. His paperwork is in the system, we just need to push it through and then draw up the proper paperwork to make him a ward of the Crown. Ask them for photographs from their passports."

Mr. Giddings came in and bowed slightly, "You needed to see me your Highness?"

"I did, Mr. Giddings, this is Peri, he is now my ward. Can you assign him a room please? Preferably close to where Ethan and Raj will be. Oh and could we get someone to get his measurements? Nose to toes? We'll need to get a wardrobe for him."

"I'll call a tailor right away your Majesty." Mr. Giddings smiled at him and extended his hand, "If you'd like to come with me Master Peri, I think I have a broom closet you'll like." He smiled and winked at Margaret. Peri stopped before he left the room and turned to face the Queen, "Thank you both."

They smiled and Margaret spoke, "Get settled into your room and explore, then come back down, Mrs. Giddings is bringing us a snack and some of her delicious strawberry lemonade."

They left and Margaret turned to Arthur. He looked at her, "Mom," and she knew he was stressed because he had not called her mom since he was little. "We had finished our tour of the MUST unit and went to see this old cathedral. I heard this sorrowful but crystal clear treble voice. It was singing the Pie Jesu. I went in and found him at the altar. Tear tracks running down his face. I asked him to sing again. He did. And well, the memories of all those kids shot at that school and those who died in those chemical attacks and the earthquakes. I couldn't hold it in anymore and I drained myself. I had no more tears left."

"Good, because right now I want to nuke the entire DC area just to kill that bastard." Arthur just looked at his mother his mouth agape.

"This is the hard part of being in supreme control Arthur. Having the power and not using it. I could pick up the phone and do just that. But we don't even know where he is hiding. And we could not hurt so many innocent people. But what we CAN do is offer our assistance anywhere it is needed to get President Bryce back in power." Arthur had never seen this side of his mother. It was scary. She looked to her aide, "Get me the Admiralty of the Commonwealth please. I'll take it in my room." She stood as did everyone else. She turned to Arthur, "You did the right thing. Stay here and I'll be back in just a few minutes. I need to tidy up a bit and I want to start the ball rolling to get Jack Bryce anything he needs. He's always been sensible, honest and a good man."

Just then the door to the sitting room opened and Ethan and Raj came in. Ethan approached his mother, bowed and then kissed her on the cheek. "I've missed you Mother.” Margaret pulled him into a big hug. "It's good to see you too. Have a seat and Mrs. Giddings is bringing in a snack, I need to tidy up. I'll be back in just a few minutes." She turned to Raj, "Hi Raj, it's so good to see you, I'll be right back."

Ethan turned to Arthur but spotted Max. Ethan stuck out his hand, "Hello, I'm Ethan." Max extended his hand, "Hello Your Highness, I'm Max, Arthur's assistant."

Ethan raised both eyebrows and grinned. "I'm pleased to meet you Max, would you like to call an ambulance for my brother? He's going to need one." He rounded on Arthur, "Do you know what your little holiday did? They ran out on the pitch and snagged me just as I was kicking the ball for the winning goal! They couldn't even wait two minutes for the end of the game! It was the championship!"

"I know Ethan. I'm really sorry. We really didn't intend to set sail. We went on board a yacht and before we knew it they set sail. We really didn't mean for it to happen. Then we got off in Chicago and all hell broke loose. Euan and I got the stuffing kicked out of us. Did you see the interview?"

"What interview?"

"You have your notepad? Here let me log you into the network." He entered the code and then found the interview, "Here you go."

He and Raj started to view it when Peri came in. "Oh, Ethan, Raj, this is Peri. He's our new brother. Mom made him a ward just minutes ago."

"Hi," Peri said and he sat down and looked to see what they were watching. He turned to Arthur, "Is that you?" Arthur just nodded.

Ethan said, "Here I'll back it up to the beginning, they just started."

He watched the greeting, "Wait, pause it please." He turned to Arthur, "Why'd he call you 'your Majesty' instead of your Highness?"

"Oh they always say your title first. After that they just say your Highness."

"But that would mean you're like a king or something."

Ethan looked at his brother, "Put him out of his misery, please."

"Yes, or something." Arthur said.

Ethan looked at Peri, "Arthur is the King as soon as he gets out of diapers. Right now Mom is the Queen Regent, she makes him shit his diapers. I'm just a prince that gets yanked off the football pitch when the king turns up missing. Now, let's watch the interview so I can see why I shouldn't kill my brother, seize the throne, and get Raj to help me bury the body."

The door opened and Mrs. Giddings came in followed by the all too familiar trolley of delights. She poured everyone her strawberry lemonade and handed them plates and sandwiches which they all eagerly attacked. "We'll have lunch ready shortly." She said as she left the room. The boys were glued to the interview.

Margaret had come back much happier, now that the royal bladder was emptied. She took a seat and watched the boys as she sipped the drink left for her and nibbled on the sandwiches. She studied them, looking for their reactions. Children did not know how to school their looks, so their reactions would be genuine. They also did not have knowledge of the events that happened during that time.

Ethan stopped the playback and looked at his mother and then at Arthur. "They killed the children?" His look was incredulous. Arthur only nodded as a single tear rolled down his cheek. "Why did he kill children? What possible advantage could he gain from such a thing?"

Margaret answered him, "He wanted to try and blame it on Bryce. He's calling him a terrorist."

"But I've met him. He's not like that at all Mother."

"Yes, but he has a vice president who is gay, and that upsets him. So he is trying to build a case against Bryce. I've spoken with President Bryce and pledged our support."

Ethan just shook his head, "Too right," and pushed play again. When they got to the part about the chemical bombs, Ethan went slack jawed. And when it finished, Ethan just stared at his notepad for a moment before he looked at his brother. "Arthur, I feel awful. After hearing what you went through and I'm whining about a football match. I am sorry."

"No Ethan, you were right to be angry. None of it would have happened to us if we had not snuck away from our detail. So it is me who is truly sorry. But if seeing the price we paid for that transgression softens your anger towards me then I am grateful. I can assure you it will never happen again. But learn from it. The detail is there to see to your safety. Don't ever contemplate giving them the slip. You can see what it can lead to."

Ethan walked over to his brother and hugged him, then he hugged Euan, "Thanks for sticking by him."

Euan responded, "We helped each other. It's what best friends do." Ethan looked at Raj as he walked over to him and tentatively felt his biceps, "Hmm, maybe I should get a beefier best friend. I don't think Raj could fight his way out of a paper bag."

Raj punched Ethan playfully. "I don't have to. I just stay near you and the detail takes care of all the fighting." His Indian accent getting a smile out of everyone. Peri took in Raj's golden skin and black hair and his unusual sapphire eyes. They were such a contrast to everything else about him. But those eyes were captivating. The lunch gong chimed. Arthur stood and extended his arm to his mother which she took gracefully allowing him to escort her into the dining area.

After being seated, Mr. Giddings came in. Looking to the Queen Regent, "Your Highness, the tailor will be here at two. Would you like the other gentlemen measured as well?" Margaret looked at her boys, "Yes, I think that they are all growing so fast." She looked to her aide Anne, "Make sure you get copies of their measurements would you please? And instruct him to put together a full wardrobe for Peri. He'll need to look dashing when we get back to London. As for suits, of course a black one and what color are his eyes?" She peered down the table at him but Raj blurted out, "Green." And blushed.

Ethan just looked at the two of them suddenly being shy. "Jesus! Am I the only one here that likes GIRLS?" The room went silent. Max, Arthur, Peri and Raj all had open mouths and were frozen in place.

Margaret didn't waste a moment, "Ethan! Your manners! And we all know Euan is quite fond of the ladies." She looked at Arthur with a smirk and gave him a wink.

Ethan was abashed, "Quite right Mother. I'm sorry, everyone. Sometimes my mouth is engaged before my brain is aware it's going anywhere."

"Only sometimes?" Raj chimed in. and received a squint from Ethan. But the tension was broken, and massive amounts of food were vanishing.

Peri laid down his fork. "So what happens now? I mean you can't just say I'm a ward and poof it's done right?"

Arthur looked at him, "Yes, pretty much." He smiled, "Sometimes it's great to be King."

"But why me? I mean I'm grateful but there's lots of kids out there that need help."

"And we'll help them. But Peri, your voice just touched me and I knew that I had to try and take that sorrow from you. Of course I know I never can but perhaps in time it will hurt less. But your singing set something free inside of me. It's truly beautiful."

Margaret chimed in, "Will you sing for us this evening? I'd love to hear you sing."

It was as good as a royal command and although he didn't know what that meant, Peri knew he was singing for them tonight. He secretly hoped Raj wouldn't be there. What if he didn't like it? "I'd be happy to sing for you." Peri dove into the sorbet that was now placed before him.

"Mother, here are the reports of our findings and actions on behalf of the refugees from yesterday. The printers are going to have the information sheets ready to be delivered to the hotels. We are having some delivered to the cruise ship that is housing the majority of the refugees. I plan on going and visiting them tomorrow. I'll take Master Timothy with me as I told him I would need him to help cheer up the other kids and I rather got sidetracked with Peri."

"An excellent idea. Will you take Peri with you?"

"I hadn't thought of that. Perhaps Ethan and Raj will want to go along. I'll ask. Peri is with them now. He seems to have made himself a third. So now the Musketeers are complete!" Arthur smiled.

Margaret smiled and looked at Max, "Would you excuse us for a few minutes please Max?" She also looked at her aide who rose and left as well.

Max smiled as he rose, "Most certainly your Highness, I'll let my uncle know the good news about alcohol." And he left the room. Arthur looked at his mother. He knew this talk was coming after Ethan's outburst.

Margaret started, "Arthur, are you doing alright?"

"Yes Mother, why do you ask?" He was guarded. Perhaps this wasn't going to go the direction he thought.

"You've been through a lot Arthur. And you are still very young. It is alright to be overwhelmed. Don't forget that you have Durrell to call upon."

"Yes Mother. I've also given him copies of the reports. So far I've managed to do it without asking for help. And I've talked over the things I've authorized with him to see if they were lacking. He works very closely with Max too."

"Yes, Max is quite a find. He's quite skilled for someone so young." She was waiting for Arthur to comment. His shields went up in full now.

"Yes, I've found him to be quite thorough. And he is quite clever." He explained the help he had rendered in negotiating the hotels for the refugees.

"He's also quite handsome." Margaret just looked for his response. His stoicism was gone, he was clearly uneasy.

"Yes Mother, I suppose he is."

"Arthur, I may be the queen regent, but I am also your mother. Sometimes I think I know you better than you know yourself. Ethan and I will have a talk later. For now, I need you to know that I am fine if you like boys, girls or both; however, we are not a normal family and I want you to know that there are ways around such things. Do you understand?"

"Yes Mother. I know what is expected of me."

"Arthur, you are expected to be happy to be you. And that is what you must be. I think you misunderstood me. The king does not have to marry. The line of succession can continue through Ethan when you go to step down if there is no heir."

Arthur looked at his mother then looked at his shoes, "But what if I want to get married someday. And it's not a woman?"

Margaret sat back for a moment in thought, "That's a very good question. It is legal for everyone else to marry in the Commonwealth so I would suggest it would be for the king as well. Just because it has not ever happened in the past does not mean it can't now."

"What if I adopt, Mother? Would that child be considered an heir?"

"Honestly I will have to research that one. I don't know. Legally when you adopt, that child is brought into your bloodline. So I would suppose so. Let me get back to you on that one though. Meanwhile, be discrete unless you want it to be known, and know that once it is, we will all stand with you. Alright?" She stood to leave. He stood too, but then she pulled him into her for an embrace. "I love you Arthur. And I'm so very proud of you. I was going to wait to see how things played out but with all the stress you are under I thought I needed to clear the air with you now. I want you to know that Durrell is also in our corner on this."

"You've spoken of it with Durrell?"

"I have. And he suspected it. I don't think Euan has said anything to his father though." She looked at him, "Euan knows doesn't he." It wasn't a question.

"He does; though I've never admitted it, even to him." Arthur looked in his mother's eyes, "Mother, do you think Father would be disappointed in me?" She could see the concern in his eyes.

"Arthur, I think he suspected it long before anyone else did. Approving LGBTQ rights was your father's fastest legislation. He pushed hard for it. When we talked about our boys he always noted that your heart was the largest of them all. He noted that you were more sensitive than the rest. And it was the pause as he searched for the word 'sensitive' that makes me think he knew. But he loved you dearly. And I know he would be just as proud of you today as I am."

Arthur hugged his mother, "Thank you, Mother. I've worried so about this."

"Yes, I knew you were preoccupied. It has been more apparent since you and Euan returned. Max has been a bit of a lifeboat for you has he not?"

Arthur thought for a moment before responding, "He has. I guess I didn't realize just how much."

"Well don't keep him waiting. He has to be quite nervous right now. Please tell him not to worry. You boys just be careful. Keep in mind that your actions and your very demeanor will determine whether the public finds out on your time frame or theirs. And just one more thing, I'd like for Max to have a complete physical by our doctor." Arthur gave her a quizzical look. "I'm assuming you will keep him as your aide when you head back to London?"

"I had thought about that, yes Mother."

"If he is going to spend time with you, particularly if that time is intimate, we will want to make sure his health is good. Do I make myself clear?"

The penny dropped as fast as Arthur's blush rose. "Yes Mother, but we haven't . ." he was stopped by a raised hand.

"And I'm not saying you will. I'm saying that if he is to be attached to the king, we need to know his health is up to snuff. Have him make an appointment tomorrow please. And while you are at it, let's have the doctor do a complete workup on Peri as well. It's just a good idea to make sure he is alright and that nothing has been overlooked in his care." She changed the subject. "After dinner, I would like to meet with you, Max and Durrell to discuss some things regarding the refugees and our involvement in this conflict in the U. S. Would you let Max know and we'll meet in the drawing room. Let's have Ethan and Raj, Euan and Peri also. Would you notify them please?"

"Certainly Mother." Their personal time was over. She was in the Queen Regent mode again.

"And tell Ethan I would like to speak to him privately when he is done with the tailor."

"Yes Mother." And he left the room.

"Durrell, Peri is our new ward. Ashwood had his fathers executed and right in front of the boy. They were both Canadians. I want a formal protest lodged with the Ashwood administration, provided of course that you can reach someone. He had his men summarily execute two of the Commonwealth's subjects and kidnapped another. This can not go unanswered. Let him know we are holding him personally responsible for any Commonwealth citizen on their soil.

"Notify our embassies and consulates that they are to take in any citizens of the Commonwealth, and notify the Admiralty that we may have to rescue them and their staffs."

The queen regent turned to her aide. "I want to speak to the Commonwealth Privy Council tomorrow at 3 PM. Have the main council assembled. I need to speak to the Armed Services Commanders as a group at ten tomorrow morning."

She looked at Arthur, "I am putting all our forces on a war footing and getting the Privy Council up to date. We need to prepare for the possibility of entering this war more fully, if it continues to go unchecked. We need to fortify our Canadian border, increase security at all of the Commonwealth Consulates in America, and prepare to help President Bryce further. While 'We' are not 'at' war as of yet, some of our countries have been supporting Bryce. However, there is a strong possibility that we will be in the very near future. We need to be prepared when the call is given, not gearing up for it. Peri's parents, as well as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer, have given us the keys necessary to enter this more fully if needed."

"Your Highness," Arthur said, switching back to official mode, "may I suggest that we place a battalion near the border by Kettle Falls? They may be needed for peace keeping. I would contact the Vice President, who is there currently, and ask if he would like our forces to fortify his own. At the very least, we should be nearby as I am sure Ashwood will want to plug that hole of escape."

"A very good idea. I'll be contacting President Bryce right after this meeting. He can contact the Vice President, and we will go from there. Meanwhile I think it would be prudent to place a significant force there. Perhaps we can do it under the guise of aid for the earthquake victims. We should have moved on that sooner but turmoil has made that pretty much impossible. At least now we know whom to ask."

"She wants me to see a doctor?" Max asked, a question in his voice.

"Yes, you and Peri both. I expressed a desire to take you with us when we travel and since you will be near me she thought it prudent to make sure you are in good health. And Peri as well."

"Oh good. Yes, I can see that. I was concerned that she may have had issues with something else after Ethan's remarks."

"Uhm, well we did discuss that as well. And she's fine with everything." Arthur was in a full on blush now but Max was instantly too nervous to notice.

"May I ask what was said?"

"Well my mother is quite observant. She told me that she was fine if I was gay, she just wants me to be happy. We talked about marriage and adopting and the lines of succession and all that me being gay would affect. Some things we will have to research. But that was the main reason for having you get a physical." Arthur realized what he just implied and blushed furiously looking away.

"Wait does she think that we are, uhm, like together or something?"

"Wha. . oh no, not at all." Arthur lied.

"But you said it was because of something she observed. If not that then what?" He was starting to panic.

"Relax. She merely said that you were, uhm, quite good looking and I agreed. She just wants to make sure that you are healthy because, well, we are both gay and she thinks I might be attracted to you at some point and well, shit this is awkward."

"Arthur, I have to quit."

"What? No you can't I need you."

"But Arthur, I work for you. If word got out that we were intimate even if we weren't my career would be over! I could never work for ANYONE."

"Max, I don't intend that you will work for anyone else ever again anyway. And get used to accusations. They will happen. Even if we were both straight someone would twist it around. The press doesn't look for news, they look for sensationalism and if they can't find one, then they will make one up. And if by chance you decided you wanted to go to work for someone else. I can assure you that a Royal reference would overcome any rumors. So stop panicking."

"Arthur it's not just that. I'm two years older than you. If your mother thinks that I am taking advantage of you I could be in a lot of trouble here."

Arthur placed his hand on his shoulder and turned him to face him so that he would look at him eye to eye. "Max, she asked, I told her we have done nothing. But you are right in that she can see that it was a possibility. And I'm here to tell you that she was good with it. So relax." Arthur let go of his shoulder and stepped a couple steps away turning so Max could not see his face, "Max. I need you. Without you I don't think I can do this. Everytime I get stuck, you are there and you show me ways to make what I have to do work. And I'm not just talking about the hotel thing. I don't know how to explain it, but when you are around me I have confidence that I might just be able to pull this off." He turned back to face Max, "So please, stay."

Max exhaled, "We'll need to be careful Arthur. If your mother can see we have feelings for each other, it won't be long before others see it too."

Arthur couldn't help his grin, "So you do have feelings for me too?"

"Uhm, did you really tell your mom you thought I was good looking?"

Arthur took a step towards Max. . .

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