Them Richest Who Dare to be Free

Clatan 9, 1015

There’s my chubby little lad,” said Simon as he bent to pick up the baby. “Good mornin’, Andre. Did ye sleep well, m’lad?” He hesitated. “Well — other than those parts when ye were wailin’ fer yer dinner.”

Roma yawned as she got the knife out to begin to chop the peppers and shred the cheese for their morning omelets. Having a newborn in the house somehow never got any easier, even though this was the third time she’d done it. Maybe it was because only one party in the equation ever had any experience in the matter. Roma might think she knew what she was doing — but the baby never did.

And not for the first time, Roma was glad that she worked evenings and nights, not during the daytime. There never were enough hours in the day to get anything done — that was a constant. But during the day, she could let the washing slide or hurry through the mending to catch a quick catnap when Andre and Jemmy were down for their naps.

And … as much as she hated it … maybe there was something to be said for the odd hours Simon kept, too.

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Gonna Try with a Little Help from My Friends

Clatan 4, 1015

Of course Freddy would be here first.

Rob managed a small smile as he crossed the worn flagstones that made up the floor of the Dragon’s Teeth. He wished he could be in a more cheerful mood tonight. He was having a guys’ night out, wasn’t he? Far from being annoyed or put out by that, Dannie had practically chase him out the door with a broom, hadn’t she? Business was going well, the children were happy and healthy, Elena was blessedly between teeth at the moment.

But he could never manage to be as happy as he ought to have been at their impromptu fraternity reunions. Not because of the men who came without fail. But because of the one man who couldn’t come any more.


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Welcome to the Family

Darid 30, 1015

“We should have a fire in here,” Gino muttered, jumping from his seat on the sofa. The tinderbox was always kept on the mantel, and the servants were good about leaving a fire laid and ready to light now that the weather was cooling. So it wouldn’t take Gino very long to get the fire going.

But that didn’t matter. Sometimes, a man took all the distractions he could get. Like when his wife was in the next room, laboring to give birth to his child.

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I Wanna Hold Your Hand

Darid 25, 1015

Things had certainly gotten better for Anja since Erich turned twelve. It wasn’t that the family had more money now that he was old enough to go work on Sir Mordred’s fields. They didn’t. He barely made what she did. But since Master Barber didn’t like paying more people than he had to, and since their father wanted to teach Erich even more about hunting now that he was that much older, their father had hit upon a novel scheme: let Anja and Erich switch off days when they went to work in the fields. The family got the same amount of money, Master Barber didn’t much care who it was he had to pay, and Anja got more time to do things.

She got a lot more time to do things.

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A Thing on Mother’s Milk and Kisses Fed

Darid 20, 1015

Wei Li crept closer to the crib where Takara slept. She looked so serene, so peaceful, just lying there. Her tiny cupid’s-bow lips were closed, as were her eyes. There was nothing here to suggest that the child would turn into a wailing banshee the moment she had a need and it was not met. Anyone looking at Takara would have easily mistaken her for an angel.

And were they so far wrong? Takara, after all, was helpless. She could not feed herself; if she soiled herself, she could do nothing to clean herself up. If she had an ache or a pain or a pin sticking her, she could not move herself to a new position or remove the pin. What option did she have but to scream and scream until the adults in her life determined what was bothering her and fixed it?

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Free Advice, Worth Exactly What You Paid for It

Darid 16, 1015

Joshua took a deep breath, slow and even. This was the time of day he liked. It was early enough that the bank was technically open, but few customers had bothered to show up. Best of all, the ones that were present were the — to put it bluntly — less-important clients, the ones Humphrey Kennedy and the rest of the clerks could see to without Joshua’s interference. The whole day stretched out before him, and Joshua could delude himself that this would be the day that he finally got everything done he’d planned.

And he was in such a better mood than he’d been in this time yesterday! When he’d married Cressida, he’d seen nothing but advantages to the fact that her birthday, their anniversary, and St. Romeo and St. Juliet’s day were combined. He just needed to find one (very special) present, and he was set for the whole year until Robertmas. Well, unless you counted the weekly bouquet of flowers, but they were routine for Joshua by now, so he didn’t count them.

Unfortunately what he hadn’t realized is that while Darid 14th of every year from now until death they did part would be very, very good, the morning of Darid 15th would be very, very bad. He’d discovered he needed at least five cups of coffee to be passably human, and this year he’d fallen asleep on the couch as soon as dinner was over. Cressida thought it hilarious and had given the kids some of mixture she used to darken her eyelashes and had encouraged them to draw cat-whiskers on his face while he slept.

He was still trying to think of a suitable revenge for that.

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But What’s Puzzlin’ You is the Nature of My Game

Darid 11, 1015

“And even Sir William says you have to go along with it? My Lord, Aglovale. What’s he going to say next — that perhaps Dindrane should have inherited the estate and everything, simply because she’s older?” asked Elyan.

Aglovale had was about to stab that stupid dummy to the heart, but he had to pause. The idea of Dindrane having the estate … well, it meant it wouldn’t be his problem anymore, and best of all, he wouldn’t have to deal with Garnet on a weekly basis. Was he a horrible person to find the idea strangely attractive?

Not that it mattered. Aglovale stabbed at the dummy like — like it was the person who had murdered Lamorak. The robbers or what-have-you. If he ever got that bastard or bastards on the business end of his blade —

But Elyan needed an answer, so he gave it. “Sir William only interpreted the contract. I don’t think he’s about to advocate for revolution.”

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