This is part of the A to Z Challenge. A story told in 26 parts. Yay! The End! I made it!
Xavier was awakened by the ear piercing screams of his youngest daughter, Althelia. At nine months of age, she had a set of lungs on her that put Valerius to shame. He got up from the cot in the gardens where he liked to nap and went in search of Althelia and his wife, Dianthe. No doubt, Dianthe would welcome some relief from the little ones, as she fussed about the upcoming ceremony.
Dianthe, his beautiful Dianthe had married him six years ago the same evening the old king revealed Dianthe was his seventh daughter. By acknowledging Dianthe, he had paved the way for Xavier to join his kingdom with Quirinus’. The old king had lived a full year after they had wed, long enough to see his first granddaughter, Diedre born.
Diedre, Claudia, Julia, and now Althelia. Xavier smiled to himself as he found himself papa to four girls. Quirinus had had all girls too. Dianthe couldn’t understand how she, who was in high demand as a midwife known to deliver boys, should keep having girls herself. It didn’t matter to him, though. He loved the girls, all as lovely as their mother, and looking nothing like himself. At that moment, he became aware and grateful for the zenith of happiness he had obtained. He closed his eyes, savoring the moment for a few precious seconds.
Xavier’s scars had healed so they were not quite so noticeable. People now looked directly at him without revulsion. It may have something to do with his succeeding Quirinus to the throne. The first year had been difficult, a foreigner coming to rule through marriage. But Cardelia supported him and led the people by example, something for which he would be eternally grateful.
“There you are,” Dianthe said, handing him little Althelia, who was resting on her hip. “I must help Cardelia,” she said, disappearing before he’d even had a chance to give her a peck on the cheek.
Once he’d rounded up all the girls and herded them towards the nursemaids, he put on his finest robes and went in search of his brother.
“Can’t believe it took you this long,” he said as he slapped Valerius’ back. Valerius looked uncharacteristically pale, like he was about to throw up the contents of his stomach.
“Don’t… not today…” Valerius moaned. Which of course meant Xavier would have to double his efforts.
“Are you ill, my brother? Could it have been the greasy pig we had last night? Do you think it may have been rancid? Of course with all the wine you consumed, you may not have--”
That was all it took for Valerius to run towards the low hedge outside. Xavier chuckled as he heard Valerius heaving.
“You ass!” Valerius yelled as he returned from rinsing his mouth out at the fountain. “You did that on purpose!”
“Payback for Cardelia,” Xavier said, as he slung an arm around his brother’s shoulder, reminding him of the day Cardelia had almost drowned so long ago. “You feel better, don’t you?”
Valerius nodded, grumpily. Xavier led his brother down the long corridor to the great room, the same great room where Xavier had pledged his fidelity to Dianthe six years earlier.
“Now, don’t be shy. This is your last chance to ask me any questions regarding what goes on in the marriage bed.”
“You ass!” Valerius smiled.
Valerius took his place before the priest in front of what seemed like the entire kingdom. Xavier and Dianthe stood by his side as Cardelia, lovelier than any goddess or vision he could ever imagine walked the length of the room to join her life with his.