A few days had passed and while Aracely enjoyed catching up and spending time with her lifelong friends, she felt the need to go through her parents’ belongings that she still had. She had Halling drag out two large storage chests into the sitting room where she was able to settle on the floor to look through everything.
Taking her time, she spent a great deal looking over every paper, each drawing that she came across. She had gotten herself lost in the memories that she didn’t hear or acknowledge anything or anyone around her for a long while.
John had watched her for a while and realized that she was emerged into her own little world and wouldn’t come out of it for a while. He had decided to take a walk around the village with Lorne, who kept giving him new bits and pieces on his life in San Franciskus, how he kept butting heads with Halling, and it was hilarious.
The village still had a long way to go, but he was certain that one day they’d be alright. Maybe he was going to send some workmen over once they had returned to the castle, to help out this village with rebuilding their homes, defenses and anything else, just to be sure they would be safe.
“You know what I don’t get though…” John said slowly. “Where does your water come from? I know there’s a well or two in the village, but I don’t see any water around.”
“There’s a lake about half an hour on horseback away from here, it provides for the water via an underground system. Actually pretty sophisticated for a village like this.” Lorne replied. “The lake provides for several villages in the region.”
“Is it protected?”
“Sir, it’s a lake.” his friend chuckled.
“I want to take a look tomorrow, I believe Samanthia is right about someone poisoning the water, what’s a better place to do it at the start of the supply?”
Lorne thought about it for a moment and conceded. “Possibly, yes. But wouldn’t that mean that other villages would be affected? Unless of course whoever is doing this knows how to target the specific area that only comes this way.”
“Nah, if this water comes from a lake and it supplies other villages, other villages should be affected too, but I think that with the attacks from the Chullakans that San Franciskus was always doomed to be worse off than the other villages, maybe you could check a few of them out before night fall?”
“The closest village to here is about a half day travel,” he replied. “We would have to go first thing in the morning.”
“Alright, then do that.” John nodded. “Take whomever you want… preferably everyone who came with me and Aracely,” he chuckled.
“Don’t want to appear imposing, Sir.” Lorne chuckled. “But I share your predicament.”
John sighed as they walked back into the village. “Why do things always need to take time?”
“Because that is all that is consistent. And that no one has devised alternative methods of travel that is more reliable than our horses,” he offered.
“With all those mad scientists around? I’m sure that one day there will be, but not in our life time.”
“True,” Lorne grinned. “Never before have I been more pleased to be stationed here now. I am sure that the council is running circles around you about marrying outside of a royal bloodline. I do not wish to be you – no offense Sire.”
“Aracely has always been of nobility, I told you that.” he replied as he looked at his friend. “There might be actually more to the story but we are still trying to find things out for ourselves, to back up the claims.”
“Sir?” he questioned curiously as they walked.
“Oh, I can’t tell you this Lorne…” John sighed with a hint of regret in his voice. “I wish I could, but I can’t.”
He nodded understandingly. “You know I am around and willing to do the research that you are unable to do. All you need to do is ask.”
“I know, and thank you, I will keep that in mind once I’ve made some plans for the thing I can’t talk to you about yet.” He grinned. “We have to fix this contaminated water supply thing first, and I might ask you to come back with me to the castle for a short while, I’m not taking you away from your David, not after your belongings arrived the other day.”
“Of course,” Lorne nodded. “Just say the word.”
“Sire!” David Parrish’ voice sounded and soon enough, John saw the man stomping his way towards the pair of them. “I thought something had happened to Evan when I couldn’t find him!” David started to check Lorne over, almost like a mother hen. “What happened to telling me where you were going?” he then looked at John and narrowed his eyes. “You should have allowed him to tell me where he was going!”
“David!” Lorne warned him.
“It’s okay,” John laughed and pat Parrish on the back. “I’m sorry, next time I’m taking your Lorne away for a walk to have a more – private – conversation I will certainly let him tell you.”
The herbalist frowned and nodded absently. “I have supper prepared Evan. Let us return before it grows cold.”
“Sir, forgive David…” Lorne stammered as David pulled him with him.
“It’s fine, Lorne,” He answered with a big smile on his face. “Enjoy your supper.” John then returned to Aracely’s old home, finding her surrounded by the contents of her parents’ belongings, appearing not to have moved at all. He squatted down next to her and caressed her hair. “Aracely? You need to take a break at some point.”
Aracely sat with a couple small bound books in her lap as she looked up at him. “I found my parents’ journals,” she said softly. “I don’t know if I can read them.”
“Then don’t. Come and have a seat my love.” John helped her to her feet. “Have you eaten at all today?”
“Um…” she murmured, unsure.
“She has not,” Gabriella said from the doorway. “We have been unable to pull her away from the floor.”
“Well,” John looked around at the scattered letters, drawings and books. “If I hadn’t known my parents well either, I would have been stuck to the floor as well if I’d find a treasure box.” He lifted Aracely up in his arms and grinned. “It helps if you use physical force,” he nodded and carried her to the sitting area. “Gabriella, would you be so kind to get her some fruits? And something to drink? I could do it but sometimes Amelia scares me when I enter the kitchen.” John softly put Aracely down in a big comfy chair in front of the fireplace.
Gabriella chuckled. “Of course, John. You do realize that some of your entourage doesn’t like it that you want our friends to treat you like you’re one of them, don’t you?”
“Yes, I’m very well aware of that, thank you.” He said tiredly, wondering where Teyla was. “Have you seen Teyla?”
“No, I haven’t, but I’m sure she’s fine. I’ll go fetch Aracely some fruit. Will you be joining Halling and his family for dinner?”
“Uhm, no, get me some too then.” John squatted down in front of his Aracely, looking tired and withdrawn. “My sweet Aracely,” he smiled as he caressed her cheek. “It’s time for you to pay some attention to the world around you.”
She sat with the continuous pout on her face. “I wish for us all to be past this. Would you look through the books for me?” she asked, looking at him.
“Yes, but I will do that tomorrow when Lorne’s away checking up on the nearest village.” He softly kissed her lips. “Tonight, it’s just you and me, and we’re going to relax.”
“Can we go through one of the books tonight? Well you…I promise to rest with you while you look.”
He smiled at her. “You know I can’t deny you anything. After Gabriella brings you something to eat, and you’ve actually eaten, I’ll get one of the books and I’ll have a look at it while you rest comfortably in your bed.” He got up and put some more wood into the fire. “Don’t worry, I’ll be with you.”
“I’d rather stay by the fire for awhile longer. It has grown rather cool over the day,” she smiled softly.
“Yes, and it doesn’t help much that you didn’t take a break.” Gabriella said annoyed as she put the platter filled with fruit on the table next to Aracely, accompanied by a jug of wine. Amelia was behind her with a plate filled with supper for John. “But I’m sure you’ll warm up if you had some wine.”
Aracely frowned. “If I was hungry, I would have gone to find something to eat. There is no need to scold me,” she replied as she began to slowly eat a piece of melon.
“Are you kidding? After you nearly passed out yesterday in the marketplace, I realized that you need to eat more and be glad that I’m scolding you instead of Teyla.” Gabriella shot at her. “You’re eating for two now, you can’t starve your body as your unborn child needs food too.”
The woman scowled at her friend. “I am eating. See?” she said, taking an exaggerated bite from another piece of fruit. “I do not know what was wrong yesterday. I just – it only lasted a moment.”
John sat down in a chair opposite of Aracely and quietly dug into his food, and realized he was quite hungry after skipping on lunch.
“You need to eat more. And something other than fruit!” She put her hands in her sides. “I know you love fruit, but you have to eat some meat and vegetables and even potatoes at some point. I do not wish for Dr. Beckett to scold me or John for not taking care of you upon our return.”
“Everything else makes me ill. What is the point in eating other things if it would not stay down?”
“Because then at least your body would have had a short time to absorb the necessary nutrients a little.” she huffed. “John, say something.”
“You know… I’m staying out of this.” He replied and shrugged as he took a sip of the wine, wincing at the bitter taste of it. “If Aracely wants to eat fruit, she eats fruit, if she wants something else, she’ll have that.”
Aracely smiled at him and lowered her head. “Thank you,” she said “Gabriella – I’m just tired and am eating because I have to. Please, just let it rest.”
“I’ll draw you a bath so you can warm up,” Gabriella said as she pulled Amelia with her as she left the sitting area.
John smiled at her. “What did you find today? Some drawings?”
“Yes. Looks like ones they had made when I was younger. I don’t know where. I don’t even remember them,” she explained. “There were some that I could tell was clearly done here, but others I just do not know.”
He took a bite out of his meat. “Just drawings of you and your parents? Or other people too?”
“There were some people in a couple, but I really did not look at them as much as my parents. If you want to look, you may,” she smiled.
“I’m just curious, that’s all. If what the herbalist told me is true, my father knew your parents. I’m curious in what way, apart from the obvious.”
“What did he have to say?” she asked as she took his glass of wine instead of pouring her own. “If your father knew my parents, then why could he not have done something to help them?”
“I think he did. According to David he offered his help to your father, but he politely refused, mostly because he was afraid that something would happen to his family. My father then offered refuge in Atlantica and gave your father the fictional title of Earl of Hoffe, maybe the journals can tell us what really happened.”
Aracely looked over at the disarray on the floor. “I hope so. However I do not know if I really wish to know the truth. It’s so confusing,” she sighed.
“It is…” John took his glass back from her and took another sip of the wine. “But it may give us some answers, and maybe some advice on how to proceed next… because if we find solid proof that your father was the one supposed to be on the throne, we have a lot of mysteries to unveil and to deal with and hope to avoid a war.”
“And if he was? What does that mean for us? If would make me the heir and I never wanted it before and to be truthful, I still do not. I just wish to be at your side and nothing more however I am at ease with performing the duties that is expectant of me by the people with reluctance.”
John shrugged. “We could always remove the borders and make Atlantica and Proculus one big Kingdom, make it our own, because honestly, I don’t want us to be separated from each other like that.” He then sighed. “I was planning on sending one of my men into Proculus to find out the opinion of the citizens, and check to see how they’re really doing. I haven’t been to Proculus in years and I don’t wish to go there now.”
“Yes. Despite your being wedded and to be a father, I believe Chaya would still find a way to keep you for herself,” she said, making a face at the thought of the woman.
“Or she might slay me on sight,” he pointed out. “So after we return to the castle, I’ll send out someone into Proculus to assess how well they’re running the kingdom while you and I make sure we have all we need to confront Chaya and her parents about their icrime/i and once my man returns with more information, invite them over for a peaceful talk… hopefully they’ll oblige.” He then sighed. “Oh this is going to take such a long time,” he chuckled. “But it will be worth it, to bring some clarity in your life, and the truth in the lives of the people of Proculus.”
She smiled as she leaned in to kiss him. “Whatever happens we will be fine. I believe that,” she said.
“Yep, if all fails, we still have each other.” He grinned and kissed her back. “Now eat your fruit.”
“Yes your Highness,” Aracely sighed as she went back to picking at the assortment on the tray. “Do you wish to begin looking through the journals soon?”
“I believe Gabriella is drawing you a bath, and I want you to take your time to relax in hot water. After that, I’ll start looking.”
“Or you can come join me in the bath while we relax together? I believe the bath is large enough for the both of us.”
“Sure,” he chuckled and finished his plate of food. John then got up and helped Aracely out of her chair before pulling her into a hug, smiling as he looked down on her. “You are so beautiful,” he said, caressing her hair.
It was quite some time later that evening when John brought a few of the journals to their chambers and laid down on his stomach next to Aracely on the bed. “You know, you are so lucky that your parents, especially your mother, kept a journal and never discarded of them,” he smiled at her as he pointed at the journals. “Are you sure you don’t want to read them yourself? I am feeling as if I’m about to intrude on someone else’s life.”
“I am positive. By reading them with me, we both can learn to know my parents together,” she smiled as she pulled a pillow closer to herself for the comfort of something soft to hold. “These journals may shed some light on the reasons why they were forced to leave their home. You deserve to know those reasons as much as I as you were very nearly forced to wed who may very well be my cousin.”
John slowly nodded. “Where do you want me to start? Your mother numbered all of her journals.”
“The beginning is always a good place as any,” she replied.
The first journal he read with Aracely was when her mother was about 15 years of age, explaining that she had seen one of the maids write in a book, and wondered what she had been doing. Eileen thought it was a good idea to collect thoughts and experiences, especially after seeing her grandmother get confused and forgetful at an elderly age. At the end of the journal, she was describing one of the Royal balls and how Robert, the heir to the throne of Proculus, had made a complete fool out of himself in front of her, and how George of Atlantica had been asking her to dance.
“Who was George?” Aracely wondered aloud as she laid there listening. She felt something warm inside her at the fondness her mother wrote of the people mentioned, especially that of her father and her amusement of him.
“I suppose it’s my father,” John said surprised. “Not that I am completely surprised, as my father’s father had been King, but that he met your mother and father on this ball… it’s a little surreal.”
“So your father and my father were both vying for the attention of the same woman,” she could not help but grin. “I believe that despite the turmoil, I am very pleased that she did not choose George for you and I might not be here in this moment now.”
He chuckled. “From what my mother told me, it was very hard for my father to find his lifelong companion, there weren’t many girls of nobility around in that time.” He grabbed the second journal and laughed as he opened to the first page. “iPrince George and Prince Robert graced me with a visit today, they both arrived at the same time, holding the same sort of floral bouquet. I wonder why the King of Atlantica allows his only son to travel all this way to my father’s house. We had lemonade in the garden, while the maids kept an eye on us. Prince Robert managed to spill his glass all over him. I fear for his competence as a King, but I cannot help but to think that he is a wonderful young man. Mother and Father are pleased that both the Princes have taken a liking to me/i.”
“Well – we know that she chooses Robert, unless another man of the same name comes along,” she mused. “Although all indications of what we know show that he is the same man.”
“Yes,” he smiled and continued to read. At the end of this journal, she had decided, even though she was only 16, that she’d marry Robert one day, simply because she didn’t want to leave Proculus and because Robert needed someone to look after him.
Aracely watched John as he read. “How are you feeling about this so far?” she asked quietly, reaching for his hand. By that point they had adjusted in the bed to lay beside one another and her head resting on his shoulder. “Do you know your father any more or less as well?”
“Oh, I always knew my father, I just didn’t know this side of him,” he replied and put the journal away. “However, I think that’s enough for tonight, how about we get some sleep?”
“I’d like that,” she smiled as she leaned up to kiss him. “Thank you John.”
“I’d do anything for you,” he smiled and kissed her back as he caressed her hair. “If reading these journals with you help you, then I don’t mind doing it, because it’s for you.”
Aracely sighed at his touch. “Let us rest. We have a great deal more to do tomorrow, not only with the journals.”
He looked at her. “You made plans?”
“No. I thought that maybe you and I can do something together is all,” she replied.
“Alright,” John smiled and kissed her again. “Sleep well, my love.”