Chapter 18

It were seven days after saying goodbye to Aracely’s friends in San Franciskus that they arrived back at the Castle. Aracely was exhausted, and John was too, but it was time to prepare for a possible war and he needed to know his options. He had called for a meeting the moment he exited the carriate with Ronon, Lorne and some of his court and advisers when he informed them about their suspicions about Aracely being the true heir to the throne of Proculus, and what kind of proof they had and was met with silence.

The advisers said it was impossible, Ronon and Lorne were just smiling widely and John waited for the commotion to come down.

After a while, John instructed Ronon and Lorne to set up a plan for Lorne to travel down to Proculus to see how the people of Proculus lived, ask around and stay out of trouble while gathering more information and for Ronon to keep the army on alert. John told the advisers to make a plan of attack should they have to go to war with Proculus, and told everyone to keep the information about Aracely, their Queen, to themselves as they did their duties.

It was very late when John returned to his shared chambers with Aracely, who was sound asleep. He didn’t even bother to undress when he climbed into the bed and fell asleep the second his head hit the pillow.

It was early yet the following morning but Aracley turned away John’s staff twice so that he could get his rest. Laying in bed, fully dressed, beside him, her head was propped up by her hand as she watch him slowly stir awake and smiled as she moved his hair from his face with a light touch.

“I’m up…” He muttered sleepily. “See me move.”

“I see that but you do not have to get up yet. Just lay here and relax,” she said softly as she rested her hand on his chest.

“No,” John groaned, forcing himself to get out of the pleasant lull of sleep. He was far from rested, but he needed to do a few things today. “I have some stuff to do today,” he sighed and opened his eyes, smiling at Aracely. “How did you sleep?”

“Fine, however you did not. They will still be waiting for you after morning meal. Nothing with change before then,” Aracely commented.

“Hmm…” he softly kissed her and smiled. “The sooner I can get caught up with my duties and problems with some prisoners that have arisen, the faster I can stay in bed all day if I want to.”

She sighed. “John. You are going to make yourself ill the way you have been pressing things.”

He shook his head. “We were gone for a couple of weeks, my love,” John reminded her. “I still rule this Kingdom. But don’t you worry about trying to think of a way to spend your time, Narim has returned with some information you’d love to take a look at. He was part of the delegation I sent out to inventory villages in need across the Kingdom, and he has some early reports.”

“Who also opposed my becoming your wife over Chaya?”

“That’s the one.”

“Hmm,” Aracely hummed, narrowing her eyes as she considered it. She thought about making the man do whatever she so wished, down to catering for the servants in the castle. “I suppose. After you take your time and eat a morning meal.”

“I can eat later, I’m not really that hungry.” John softly kissed her again and then kissed her stomach before leaving the bed, and undressing himself to get into a pair of clean clothes.

“And if I refuse to eat without you?” she asked, watching him the entire while.

“What? Haven’t you eaten yet?” He asked confused. “You need to eat, you’ve got a life growing inside of you!”

“I am well aware of that but I too worry for you. Please do not argue with me on this subject. Was it not you that said we were equal?” she replied knowingly.

“Yes, we are… but just because I do not wish to have my morning meal doesn’t mean you can withhold yourself from it as well.” John sighed as he tightened the buckle around his waist. “Alright, all the time we’ve been talking about me eating or not I could have eaten something. So let’s eat.”

Aracely soon grinned at her successful win as she climbed off the bed to make her way to the chamber’s doors to inform their help to bring food and what she desired.

Coming back in, she went over to the table to sit as John continued to finish dressing. “What are your plans for the day?” she asked conversationally as she picked up a book she had left there.

“Uhh… invite Chaya and her parents over for a diplomatic dinner,” John winced as he thought about having to invite them over. “It’d be casual, and then confront them when they least expect it… uhm… I have to visit our prison to make sure everything is alright there, the guards recently brought new people in and I need to see if they’re rightfully there or not, and find a suitable punishment. Depending on how many there are, it could take up the rest of the day.” he then thought for a second as he pulled on his boots. “I also have to hear reports on the last few weeks, and send out a scout to Chulakka because Teyla’s not here either and I worry for her.”

“She did not return with the carriages?” Aracely asked, looking up sharply.

“No, she didn’t. She knew we weren’t going to stay in San Franciskus for long, and I understand she wanted to see some of her family and friends, but she has a family here. I don’t want to bring her children and husband bad news.”

“What about sending that other man to go check on her? Ronon?”

“Ronon is the leader of my army. I need him here.”

“Do you really think it will come to that?” she asked with concern.

“I don’t know…” John sighed as he sank to a chair. “Maybe, I don’t know. I want to give you what’s rightfully yours, and should Lorne come back with news that the people of Proculus aren’t well taken care of, then I think that we should do something about it. However, if you don’t want me to do this, then tell me so. I will recall Lorne, and I will not invite Chaya.” He ran a hand through his hair as he thought. “On top of that, I have suspicions that they are behind the poisoning of San Franciskus and the surrounding villages, and they need to be stopped.”

She did not need to think twice. “This is larger than you or I. If the people are not well, then we need to do whatever we are capable of to help. I suppose the sooner…” she shrugged, trailing off.

“And I know that we haven’t even started to take care of our own… which is why it is important that you’re meeting with Narim, so you can get started on giving our people what they need. But I am confident that we can take care of our people, and if needed, the ones of Proculus.” He paused as the maids brought in their morning meals and drinks and then smiled at Aracely when they left again. “iYou/i, well WE, won’t have to rule Proculus or make our home there if there won’t be anyone to rule the people. iWe/i can appoint someone to do so, we can even address the spiritual leaders of our Kingdom and the one of Proculus to crown the one we ask to do so.” He took a bite out of his bread. “I’ve read that in some of the papers the advisers showed me last night.”

“We cannot simply combine the lands and lead from here? Or have some place built between the two lands?”

“I’m naturally lazy. I don’t want to move, and sure, we could combine the lands and see what happens.”

Aracely stood from her seat and went over to him. “If that were true, then I would not have found such resistance when I tried to have you relax.”

John pulled her in his lap and fed her a piece of fruit as he took another bite from the bread. “We barely even begun to rule Atlantica… what if the people of Proculus aren’t willing to listen to us? Any other King will use force to earn their respect, but what if they do not accept our help and will despise us for showing them that Chaya and her parents are nothing more than jealous and power hungry relatives of you, their true ruler?”

“Depending on the state of their lives, it would be a risk worth taking. How much worse could anyone else be?” she smiled.

“Any other King goes to war for money, power… and here I am, preparing to go to war as retaliation of poisoning my subjects, because the current Royal family are frauds and for the likelihood that they’ve treated their people poorly.” John chuckled. “If they didn’t already think I was mad, they’ll certainly think so after all this is over.” He softly kissed her. “But I am glad that I’m not the only person who’s mad around here, I’ve got you!”

“You are an odd man John,” Aracely laughed before moving back to her seat to finish eating. “This child is growing quickly. I wonder how they will react to the news of an heir already on the way. It would really be fun to see their reaction. At least I can still mask it under the clothing.”

“Oh yes, we’ll raise a child that will be just as mad as we are,” John nodded and took a sip of tea. He didn’t want to eat too much, because he knew he’d empty the contents of his stomach soon enough if he had to give the order to execute a prisoner or two later on. He didn’t like that part of his life. He had accompanied his Father a couple of times, when he was still in decent enough health, and truly hoped that he didn’t have to say the words. “I’ve eaten my bread, my beautiful wife.” John set the mug of tea back on the table and made his way over to her, kneeling down in front of her. “Do I have your permission to tend to my duties?”

She nibbled on a dried biscuit. “Very well, but as I am eager to confront my – them. I will sit with your council person shortly.”

John kissed her tenderly before taking his mug filled with tea towards his office and worked on an official invitation to the Royal Family of Proculus to have dinner at his palace and dispatched a messenger with the letter towards Proculus.

It was time to travel to the prison situated at the edge of the city. Ronon didn’t like it that John decided to iwalk/i there instead of using a horse or carriage, but accompanied him anyway. They were followed by a handful of soldiers and horses, should John decide to ride on the way back.

He was stopped occasionally by some villagers with burning questions or dilemma’s and little girls ran up to him with bundles of flowers to give to his Queen. Some villagers asked about Aracely and how she was doing and it was heart warming that at least his people had accepted her.

As colorful and happy the settlement seemed to be; the prison was far from it. It was dark, smelly and depressing and the guards looked beaten up. “My King, thank you for coming,” Jacobus, the warden, bowed him in greeting. “I was not sure if you would come down yourself.”

“You requested my presence, I am here. What can I do for you warden?”

“Well, the other prisons spread over your Kingdom were filling up and thus they sent their worst criminals our way, sire, but we are facing being over crowded as well.”

John put his hands in his pockets. “Send word to every prison to send thieves home, and send thieves home from here too.”

“Sire?”

“Warden, it is no secret that while my Father was ailing, his subjects were overlooked. I can imagine that people would resort to thievery to make sure they could feed their families. Set them free. Give them a chicken on the way out.”

“Sire, that’s…”

“Do not object your King!” Ronon growled and started to move forward, but John held up a hand to hold him back.

“It’s unheard of, yes. But if I wouldn’t pay you as well as I do, warden, you would have stolen something a long time ago. Was there anything else?”

“There’s the matter of executions, sire. You made it clear on your first day as King that you do not want criminals to be executed in plain sight.”

“There are little children in the village.”

“But won’t they learn not to misbehave by witnessing public executions?”

“I said no.” John said sternly. “Do you have murderers in here?”

“Apart from the thieves you just told us to release, we have brawlers and wife beaters, sire. It has been quiet on the murder front. At least in the city.”

John nodded. “Very well. Ask me again in a year what to do with them. But release the thieves if they’re remorseful. If there are murderers in other prisons, yes, it’s time to end their lives to free up space.”

“Sire, permission to speak freely?”

“Haven’t you done so since I set foot in here, warden?”

Jacobus smiled wryly. “Forgive me. As you may know, your Father had strict rules about prisoners and their sentences.”

“And so do I, but I’m a little bit more lenient.” John was glad when he exited the prisons. He had expected the situation to be far worse and looked at Ronon. “You could have made these decisions too, or at least told him to come to me.”

“Next time.” Ronon nodded. “But this was necessary for you to do as you haven’t been down to the prisons since your Father passed.”

“I know,” he sighed and climbed onto his waiting horse. “I want you to send someone towards Chulakka to find Teyla.”

“Don’t you trust her?”

“Of course I do, I’m just worried, that’s all.”

hr

Aracely sat in her chair as she leveled her gaze on Narim. She had not said anything past accepting his presence into the small room because she knew of the man’s original opinion of her and had yet decided if the man’s attitude had changed since their last encounter during the not so welcoming dinners in the first evenings after the coronation.

“Excuse me, my Queen…” Narim hesitantly started. “But don’t you want to wish to hear what I have found out?”

She turned her head only slightly as she kept her eyes on the man. “Is that not why you are here?” she asked in turn.

“Yes, my Queen, but forgive me for being bold, you have not asked me to tell you about my findings.”

“Well, what have you found?” Aracely asked simply, her eyes narrowing slightly before relaxing again.

“Many villages are in need of your help. I haven’t received word back from a few of members of the court that were sent out, but it seems that the villages have had it worse than the larger settlements.” Narim showed her a map of the Kingdom and pointed to the Northern region. “These people have suffered from various deceases in their crops that ruined their lands and killed their livestock. They are confident that the threat is now gone, but they simply do not have the means and money to thrive again.” He then pointed towards the Southern region. “You’re most familiar with this region, we’ve made it a priority to thoroughly investigate this region. After Sir Dex rooted out the corrupt soldiers, we have seen a lot of progress in rebuilding this region in something thriving. The villages closest to the Proculus border however, seem to be suffering from some kind of poison.”

She slowly stood from her seat as she eyed the map as she tried to wrap her mind around it. “Who else have you spoken to about what you have seen?” she asked in a low voice.

“My queen, you must understand, this information could very well be old by now, we still don’t have faster travel than the legs of our horses. We’ve spoken with several villagers who claimed to be ill and unable to conceive. As they water their crops with tainted water, it’s a vicious cycle.”

“Are you saying you never actually went to these villages to see the people with your own eyes?” Aracely demanded, turning to face him. “You were instructed to go there, to account for stories, rumors, the conditions. Not to relay information you heard from one person or another!”

“I am merely the appointed spokesperson, my Queen. These reports were handed to me as I travelled many days to collect them for you to know about.” Narim explained. “As I said before, these reports are at least a few weeks old. A lot could have changed since then, haven’t you travelled to your old village yourself lately? Surely you must have better information about how they are doing than these reports to make a good comparison.”

She turned back to the map, running a hand over her forehead before letting it fall to her stomach. Quickly, she grabbed the map and rolled it up. “Come with me,” she ordered as she hurried from the room with the papers to go see if John and Ronon had returned yet.

“No Ronon, I want you to order someone to make sure those people get home safely. Hell, if they’re so desperate for a job, see if they’re material for our army, the soldiers get paid very well, so they can start looking after their own families!” John ranted as he paced up and down a corridor. “If you’re worried about shelter, we can always expand the city can’t we?”

Ronon was quiet and just raised an eye brow.

“Oh come on!”

Ronon then sighed. “Forgive me, John. I can’t help but think that your way of ruling is a culture shock to everyone.”

“Good, it keeps them awake.” John grumbled. “I need food.”

Aracely entered the main throne room that made it easier than to go through all the surrounding corridors. Seeing John and Ronon entering from the other end, she let out a sigh. “We need to speak. Now,” she called out to the two.

John blinked at the tone in Aracely’s voice and saw Narim coming up from behind her. “What is it?”

“The problem that we have suspected – it is more widespread than either of us realized,” she said softly once she reached them and looked around to assure no one else was around. “He can explain more of what he was told.”

“I know, my Queen.” John looked at the map. “Why do you think Lorne and the herbalist spent the entire day in the water? All villages connected to that lake were suffering.” He looked again and nodded. “See? All these villages are connected to the same lake. They should be fine in some time.” He could see that Aracely wasn’t satisfied with that answer. “If you like, I could send word to David to have him being taught the antidote by Samanthia and spread it along those villages to speed up their recovery.”

She nodded slowly. “And what do you make of words of the villages in this area inside Proculus also being affected?” she asked, pointing to another area not connected to the lake he referred to.

“Like I said, now that the lake is clean, the water supply should get clean as well,” John tiredly ran his hand through his hair. “Look, she gave us a sample of the poisonous plant, how about I go and bring it to Carson to see if he can make an antidote that will last longer than Samanthia’s?”

“Is he capable of such feats?”

John shrugged. “I don’t know, maybe with the help of our herbalist in the city he might. Carson is a brilliant physician, I’m sure he’ll think of something… if there isn’t already a real medicine antidote for the plant… not that I don’t trust Samanthia, she has obviously done a lot of good.”
When Aracely nodded for an answer, John continued. “Okay, you’re not going anywhere near that plant, I’ll take it to Carson after Ronon and I finish up in my office.” He then looked at Narim. “You two continue chatting and come up with a plan to help the villages in need.”

Aracely didn’t say anything as she stepped back and let John and Ronon continue on as she fixated her eyes on the man left. “Do you have any suggestions?”

hr

“Carolina! Bring your King some food!” Ronon barked, his deep, loud voice echoing through the main hall.

“I would have asked her myself,” John objected and looked at Ronon.

“No you wouldn’t.” Ronon grabbed John by the scruff of his neck once they were in less public space. “Teyla would have made sure you had plenty of food, wasn’t she supposed to train someone to take over for her?”

“Gabriella is mostly tending to Aracely’s needs and I’m a grown man, Ronon.”

“And yet, you still have to beat me in a fight.”

/hr

“Well, as a matter of fact, I was thinking about it, my Queen,” Narim said as he watched the King and his advisor leave the hall. “I do not think that it’s wise to give them gold coins, they should be able to make a living on their own. We could send them seeds, and when Spring comes, we could send them a pair of goats or cows, when their offspring has reached maturity, and of course, more seeds then, as we will have inventarisized their needs better by Spring.”

“Make sure each family has bread and dairy in their homes. If they require medicines, see to it. Of course, they should be trained to grow their own food. If need be, excess food from the castle can be given to those hungry. Single mothers with children – I want a housing area built closer to the castle, if not behind the walls. We can offer them support that they cannot get on their own.”

“You want single mothers to travel all the way to the Castle?” Narim said surprised as he made notes. “How? Would you like them to walk for days with their offspring? Or heavily pregnant? Also, building a housing area for single mothers… I doubt it will be cheap and it is not as if they will do anything for our economy, is it?”

She began walking back through the hall. “They can ride in carriages. Make larger ones to accommodate more. And they can contribute by helping working on the land, whether it be in the marketplace or within the castle. I do not care, but it is not easy for them to be on their own when their partners either ran off or died of disease.”

“I think it would be better to make housing for young orphaned boys, or boys of mothers who are unable to provide for them.”

“Orphans as well, yes. But not just the boys. Girls could be just as beneficial to our kingdom. They should not just be dismissed like trash,” she growled.

Narim was quiet for a while. “How about I’ll ask the King what to do? I doubt that he will approve of your idea of adding more housing to the immediate vicinity of the castle, especially for single mothers.”

“You can ask him but I doubt he would object to my desires. Go,” Aracely replied as she stormed away with irritation as she headed for the kitchens.

hr

“No… I don’t know, is that wise?” John frowned as Ronon explained his proposed plan of attack, should there come a war, as he was writing an invitation to Princess Chaya Sar of Proculus.

“I’d say it’s wise to leave well enough alone, to be honest.” Ronon huffed. “It’s not unheard of to have impostors on a throne.”

“No, but impostors usually do a good job of ruling a Kingdom,” John pointed out. “These people basically evicted Aracely’s parents out of their own castle.”

There was a knock on the door, and when Ronon opened it, John saw Narim standing there, looking a little lost. “Enter.”

“My King…”

John rolled his eyes. Sure, it was great that there was some respect for him as a ruler – despite John’s objections, but the way Narim said it it was almost as if it was a snide remark. “Narim?”

Narim then begun to talk about the conversation he had had with Aracely and John didn’t like his tone of voice. It was almost as if he didn’t respect women equally, as most men did. But, John was patient and waited until Narim was done talking.

“Narim, I asked my wife, the Queen, to make sure that every village in our Kingdom is well taken care of, whatever the cost may be. If she wishes to build a home for single mothers outside the castle walls, you will make sure it gets built. If she wishes to build a home inside the castle’s walls, you will build it. If there is no room, you will start on an extension of the castle’s walls to make sure it will fit, nice and snug.”

“But Sire!”

“I am not done yet!” John got up from his chair and walked towards Narim. “I usually tolerate it when one talks back at me, but they are people I respect. I, Narim, do not respect you as you were opposed to everything I stand for since I became King. You shall wait with responding, until I am done talking, do you understand?”

“Y-yes Sire,” the man stammered.

“I alone am not ruling Atlantica, I do that with my wife, as my equal. All of her words, suggestions and ideas should be heard as if it was coming from my mouth. I haven’t heard any flaws in her reasoning, so I suggest you go and find Queen Aracely, apologize and see to it that all of her wishes are being fulfilled, have I made myself clear?” John glared the man down.

“Y-yes Sire.”

“Now leave us be.” John walked back to his chair and sat down and looked at the food he hadn’t touched, before reaching for his mug of luke-warm tea and took a sip of it. He watched Narim exit the command chambers through his eye lashes and tried hard not to laugh. The man was a weasel, but he was good at what he did.

“Impressive,” Ronon said once Narim was gone.

“Tell me more about that plan of yours.”

hr

Aracely had wandered down to the kitchens and was busy eating away at a dish the cooks had been working on that satisfied her cravings. It wasn’t so bad that she stayed there however the discomfort of the staff was not missed on her.

“You all are free to return to your duties. I am just eating here. I won’t be in your way,” she commented.

“My queen, forgive me, but you should not eat that, it’s made with less attention than the Royal food, it is meant for everyone working here at the castle. If you like, I could make you something?” Kenneth, one of the cooks, responded.

“No, no. This is good. Very pleasing actually. Can you prepare this for me tomorrow?” she smiled, taking another mouthful.

Kenneth blinked. “Of course, my Queen, if you wish for me to do so.”

“Excuse me, my Queen?” Narim’s voice sounded. “The kitchen is not a place for someone of your importance, without someone to accompany you.”

She breathed in a deep breath as she rolled her eyes. “I am quite well where I am. I doubt anyone is considering causing me harm,” she said, glancing around at the chefs. “What do you want now?”

“Shall I sent an architect to you tomorrow to discuss the matters of the home for the single mothers and orphans?” Narim asked as he looked to his toes, fiddling with his hands.

Aracely smiled as she continued to eat. “I assume you spoke to John?”

“Yes, I have, my Queen. I shall send for the best architect and he will meet with you tomorrow.”

“And what are you to do during this project?”

“I’ll try to find more people to help out on this project, my Queen, as it is obviously something bigger than I, or even your King, anticipated.”

She seemed pleased enough with the response as she nodded. Turning back to the cook, she smiled. “May I have some more in order for me to take with me please?” she asked pleasantly as she held out the bowl.

“Of course, my Queen.” Kenneth gently took the bowl and filled it with the mutton stew. “If you’d like, I could save you some for evening meals?”

“Mm please,” Aracely grinned and took the bowl back. “I will head back up now. Lord knows what John is up to now. Have a pleasent day everyone!” With that she headed back up, her use of the space to escape Narim spoiled.

“You,” she told him. “Start working on the plans but bring anything and everything to me for final approval.”

“Yes Queen Aracely,” Narim quickly said and scurried off in the opposite direction, muttering to himself.

hr

John had managed to locate the poison plant in one of the stables. For some reason the servants had thought it’d be animal feed. John wondered what would happen if the animals would eat some of the other… istimulating/i plant that Samanthia had given them and had left it behind for his own entertainment as he made his way to Carson.

“Good afternoon, doctor.”

“John!” Carson exclaimed with a wide smile on his face. “How are you? How is your other half?”

“Yeah, fine.” He set down the plant on the table in the big room. “This plant is poisoning a few villages near the Proculus and Chulakkan border. It’s being put in a lake, deliberately, and even though an alchemist has found a temporary cure for it, it’s only one village and I want you to figure out a way to permanently help these people. Think you can do it?”

“Ohh,” the man breathed out as he studied the plant. “I can certainly try. This plant is very difficult to counteract, I will admit. Where did you learn of this?” he asked curiously as he looked at the leaves closer.

“San Franciskus, the place where Aracely grew up. I talked to the alchemist, she’s an old woman and will soon be dead, and then to the herbalist. Some of the villagers spent an entire day removing the plant from a nearby lake, the water supply for at least a dozen villages… that we know of.” John sat down in a chair and sighed deep. “Apparently if you’re healthy the plant won’t do anything to you, if you’re sick, it will make you sicker and unable to conceive.”

Carson nodded. “Fortunately for you, her Highness was fairly healthy throughout her time there that you were able to conceive your heir then. I will have no problem in beginning to work on this. How are you fairing yourself?”

John nodded for an answer and then shrugged. “I might be burning myself out again… Aracely wanted to go to San Franciskus so badly after Ronon returned and declared it safe, and I … Since we returned two days ago, I have this feeling that I’m missing something, that I’m not performing to the best of my ability to make sure that imy subjects/i are safe, well taken care of and that Proculus… well let’s just hope we don’t have to go to war with them but all the planning, ideas, and all that stuff…” He sighed. “All that istuff/i… it gets stuck in my head. I worry for Teyla as she hasn’t returned yet. And then there’s Lorne who I sent into Proculus… and of course Aracely. I …” John shook his head. “Forgive me, I’m rambling.”

Carson smiled softly. “It will work out in time. I recommend you focus on yourself and your wife who is expecting. Despite her good health, she is not immune from complications. She did have to drink that same water. Just be there for her right now and let your people do their jobs,” he said in support. “It will come together when it is meant to.”

“Yes, probably… but it is not like it was when Father was still alive. I could easily stay in my chambers, in my bed, the entire day if I felt like it. I feel that if I do that now, I will give everyone more reason to doubt me, doubt my way of ruling this Kingdom…”

“You do not have to shut yourself out like you once did. Just take a breath and go one day at a time. You are still just one man, with a family on the way.”

John nodded and sighed. “Thank you Carson,” he said as he rose from the chair. “Let me know the moment you find something with that plant, please.” With that, John slowly made his way back to the castle, hoping that once he returned to his chambers, that Aracely would be there, and that there would be plenty of food.

After dealing with a few other minor things that she was curious about, Aracely retired to the bed chamber for the evening feeling exhausted. She laid down in bed with the intent to just relax but quickly fell into a deep sleep that had her snoring loudly from the way she collapsed on top of the covers.

John was accompanied by servants carrying platters of food, including some sort of eerie looking mutton stew. He was told that it was by the request of the Queen, but he doubted that it tasted good. He let them do their business as he slowly crawled onto the bed towards his peacefully snoring wife. Grinning, he planted a kiss in her neck as he lifted up her dress to gain access to her growing stomach and brushed the stubble of his chin against it before kissing her stomach.

He returned the dress back to its original position and softly kissed Aracely on the lips. “Wake up, my beautiful wife, the servants brought you some ill looking stew you requested.”

“Hrmph, I just want to sleep,” she mumbled, turning her head away to tuck it into the pillows. “Let’s just sleep?”

“If you don’t mind, I will have some food and something to drink. I have only eaten a piece of bread this morning.” He softly caressed her hair. “I might take a bath after that, but after I’m clean I will certainly join you in bed my love.”

“Mmhmm,” she hummed, already back to sleep before he even moved off the bed.