Amarat Jr Veneer, aka Amarat Beltran Meltran Flinflon Nomintan Killidarvi the second Veneer, Meritant of Honour, Veneer, Lanungmei of Kimaguré, Baron of Sporray, Baron of Konigsee, Count of Stillbergen, Namolec prime of Sottolanga, Loroni-warbaron of Utta-Utta, Prince of Ferrare, High Prince of Benevento, -by-interim, Meritant of Honour was in his aircar, being efficiently driven back to Megamisama Palace, by his side on the back seat was his Hérévallin(wife), Flora Rolli, Meritant of Honour.Flora asked: "Hey, you're not Nellun, nor any of the regular guards, who are you?" Amarat went: "Seems I forgot to do the the introductions, Flora Rolli, Meritant of Honour meet Senya Frangibald, Senya, please meet Flora, my Hérévallin." "Milady." "Frangibald, you're related to Nellun?" "Father wasn't feeling well, he asked me to drive you two today." "I could have driven myself, for once..." "Amarat, you drive like a SkyCutter missing two blades! You'd upset the baby. I appreciate you driving us Senya, but could I also be notified, not just the Namei? I know you can't have your father's clearance for security documents." "Oh, heavens, no, I have a better one than he does, seeming as he's a retired lifeguard, and I'm on active duty." "Lifeguard?" "I entered the service just out of the Academy, and am now a LGOF-04 Brass in her Majesty's protective service, commanding Third Megamisama Lifeguard squad." "Third? I only ever hear of first and second." "Because they are attached, respectively, to Meihomei and Nameihomei, you'd hear about them more. Indeed, now that Milord Amarat is Bameimeito, they are officially responsible for his protection. I'm usually in charge of any other Nameis, embassies, Ambassadors and the like." "And Nellun has a child older than Amarat?" "I'm his second youngest, my eldest sister is less than a decade younger than Amarat's mother, and of an age with your mother, if my file is accurate." "My mother?" "I have children of my own now, in the seventh grade. Twins, a boy and a girl." "Congradulations." "And you on your impending birth." Amarat had been mostly silent, but piped up right thene. "It's the third time this week Nellun has been calling sick, should we be worried?" "Father should be retired for real, this time, his joints all pain him, but he would suffer without something to do..." "Amarat, I know that look. You've been expecting this." "Sadly, yes, even Nellun himself started talking about retirement plans with me, I knew it was a matter of time." "What would he do upon retirement?" "He mentioned running his own inn might appeal." "What about Maitre'd at Redoubt?" "Waste of his talents, I'd have him manager, if that wouldn't flare his joints up more." "I love that you worry about father, but there's another concern, one that should have been raised by my counterpart at Second Lifeguards: Milord has been without protection or proper escort for some time." "Easier to tell just one driver to park the car and leave us alone for an hour..." "Except, Milord, there's no place in Kagomei where it's really safe for you to do that." "Senya, I don't intend to stop living because I'm the heir. And me and my wife..." "Can always wait until you're home." "Where we're even more tightly watched." "Not fooled by the 'we won't watch, we promise' huh?" "No, not even close. It would help if I hadn't known Second Lifeguards had a sex tape of my mother probably conceiving me for years and tried to hide it..." "Noyjitat!" Senya sputtered, her hands gripping the wheel tightly. "The nerve!" Flora was apoplectic. "The officers involved were severely reprimanded, but only after the video leaked." Amarat put in. "Now I know why so many senior officers in the second all got cut off, all at once. That's when I started to rise, myself." "Yes, commanding third was moved to commanding-second, second-in-command-third moved to commanding third, and you moved to second-in-command-third." "Amarat, you've known her for a while?" "Nellun's family, he would receive visits from his other, bigger, family from time to time, and we'd try to make them feel welcome." "Bigger family huh?" "He has five daughters, the eldest of which is a grandmother as of last year." "We all babysat Amarat too, it was almost a rite of passage." "Babysat?" "Well, when it was my turn, he wasn't a baby, but he wasn't going anywhere without someone to keep an eye on things." "And you were?" "A lifeguard officer student in my last year at the academy, with great grades and good command potential, equivalent rank to LGOF-01 Tin. We were being tested as much as he was though." "Oh?" "What to do when your principal outanks you, yet won't listen to reason is a pretty good test for a lifeguard." "Amarat, unreasonable? I'm shocked." "Flora, are you trying to get in trouble?" "Maybe a little, I've been cooped up too long." "We're arriving, should I drop you by the flag porch?" "Whyever for?" "You're going on the top floor, the flag porch will save you waddling all over the palace." "How do you know where I'm going?" "You were both summoned by Meihomei, I might be pitching in for dad 'officially', but I also have jade bank access to everyone involved's schedule."
"Hear ye, hear ye. Second Officer, Kagomine Sixth Fleet, Arriving. Bameimeito of Kagomei, Arriving." Arndan customs means the most important guest is announced last. "Amarat!" That was his mother, who gave him and her daughter-in-law tight hugs. "My hero!" That was his aunt, who sat on her throne, and looked a little forlorn. "I'm afraid I asked Senya to lie on my behalf... Nellun Frangibald was found dead in his bed this morning of natural causes." "We don't know that yet!" "I'm sorry, Senya?" "I've spoken to my sisters, we all knew he was not aging as gracefull as he wanted, but it was still unexpected, and his health was much more robust than to let us believe he would pass away... We've all agreed to request an autopsy." "Well, all right, Nellun Frangibald was found dead, and no signs of violence were on him." Amarat was hugging Flora quite tightly, Nellun had taken care of him all his life... "I'm going to have to insist you stay in Megamisama, under guard of the second." "No, the third." "What?" "The third, or half second, half-third. I don't know if I like how certain everyone is that I'd be guarded by specific individuals, they could be suborned, after all." Amarat's teeth were grit together. "Those are serious accusations." "And the fact that Nellun's own daughter, who's a trained investigator, wants a second opinion on his cause of death isn't serious?" Flora added. "Hmm, my hero, you're making a salient point." She replied to Flora, who did a double-take, so used was she to 'my hero' being her husband from Meihomei, but it was clearly directed at her, for her response. "I don't know if I can take over from second for his entire schedule, but the idea of splitting schedules with second is certainly doable, what are we trying to prevent or achieve?" "Full personnel rotation, I want crew assignments to guard me to be as much of a surprise, as possible. And any shifts going to officers and , I want them reviewed. How come no one investigated them after those two deaths in the palace last year?" "He was investigated, cursorily. Nothing was found, but that isn't itself proof, they were alone, and if all he did was throw him down there'd be no obvious signs to flag further investigation." "I don't want them to get any shifts, period. Also, I want a four-person rotation on Flora." "That's too much. And I'd like to remind you I can take care of myself. "I want two times two, in case one's suborned, and just waits for a bathroom break." "You're paranoid!" Flora sputtered. "He's insufficiently paranoid to be on my lifeguard, but it's still an improvement." His aunt added. "What, you think it's a good idea?" "Flora, between those 'falls', the Plague and those new 'natural causes', there's been a lot of deaths where there normally isn't any." "How many?" "Nellun's the third 'natural cause', after Robyn's keeper and Mikhi's Gardener." "All elderly folk." "Yes, but all unusually robust, sturdy individuals, two of the three were priests." "How does that change things?" "Nellun would have died a middle-aged priest, had he been a priest. Amarat's paternal grandmother is stil Aumhava. She retired from church politics, only." "What? Hmm, Amarat, I have an urgent question..." "Yes, dear?" "Have you told your grandmother she was about to be a great-grandmother yet?" "No..." He gulped. "It slipped my mind." "Aumhava knew, dear, he did tell his dad..." In walked , from where she'd performed the last rites one more time. Not breaking stride, she walked into half the royalty in Kagomei in the room, her body language clearly expecting them to give her space, and they did. Once, when she was much younger, she had successfully asked for Meihomei's Throne to sit on, but she was so enormously pregnant, Meltran-who-was-Meihomei held her no rigor. And Schoonvance, his wife, had become one of her best friends on the spot. "Grandmother." That was Amarat. "Aumhava-Stepmother." That was Meihomei, echoed by Mikhala. "Aumhava-stepgrandmother." Flora chimed in. "Aumhava." Senya added. "Such precious children, and with one more on the way. Did no one offer you a chair, Flora?" "I'm fine standing, my legs itch from too much sitting as it is." "Trying to get it over with?" "It won't cause the child to drop early, I'm better informed than that." "Aw, I hate it when they do away with all the urban legends, so hard to prank people now. But you are well?" "I am as well as can be expected, the baby is coming in less than a month now." "Oh, can I peek?" "Peek?" "At the baby, see how it's doing?" "Of course, Aumhava." "My, what a strong heartbeat, that baby's intending to be a force of nature it seems." "Takes after Flora." Amarat quipped. "Oh, you. Lucky for you now that I'm off limits." "What?" "Last three weeks, medical recommendation is for us to sleep apart, and to avoid any strenuous activity, especially including sex." "I thought that was only for non-sorcerous moms?" "No..." "Let me field that dear." Doka Ma interjected. "A sorcerous mom can use only the lightest spells and only those cast while dressed. Part of that is tradition, and we are very conservative in , but even the Over-conclave recommends some caution, and to abstain from the more demonstrative aspects of sex while terminally pregnant." "And when the baby arrives." "Usually a week of rest before you start catching up to all you've missed. I would not shave time off that either." "Which you did. But only one day..." The tall, silver-haired man who walked to her, arm in arm with another priestess looked familiar to Flora. "And you are?" The man let his escort link arms with Doka, and then only replied: "I'm sure you could guess, but I am Tan Ma, pleased to meet you step-granddaughter." He pointed to his escort. "And this is , our hérévallin, and Aumhava-for-life in her own right." "Honour to serve. Faith to observe." "Ah, you're better read than most, little one." That was Mirsala, whose sing-song voice chimed just then. "Congradulations, I guess that makes you my step-granddaughter-in-law." "Aumhava-inlaw." "And I finally meet my step-grandson, I've waited for this quite some time, Namei Amarat, Meritant of Honour." "Aumhava-stepgrandmother." "Making me a great-grandmother so young..." Mirsala was clearly younger than both her spouses. "No disrespect was intended." Amarat tried to lighten the mood. Mirsala and Doka's laughter surprised everyone, so strong, and unrestricted, soon joined by everyone. "Ah, wit, in my grandchild? I may have to go easier on Dan, he clearly's done better in love than I gave him credit for..." Mused Doka. "Mirsala, are we snobbing Meihomei? I presume you're not exempt from greeting." Tan asked his younger spouse. "Highest-of-Highs, I, an unofficial representative of the Kautanissian Conclave, greet you and call for the Element's blessings on you and yours." "Let's go down, it's time for tcha. Please join us Aumhavas, we would love you to bless our tcha while you are with us." "Thank you Meihomei, I believe it's Doka's turn." "No, it's yours, I blessed it... this morning." She was blushing, clearly, this was something she'd done with her two spouses. "All right, I shall bless then. Flora here is Aumhava of Veneer, isn't that interesting dear?" "Why dear?" "She's almost our neighbour." "A smaller Aumhava though." Mirsala objected. "We're the conclave, dear, everything's smaller than a conclave." Doka knew Mirsala had no answer to that. Here, I have blessed the Tcha, can you serve please, Mirsala?" "Of course, here, let me pour yours first."