All for naught. He couldn't imagine her being upset by the fact that Taliesin was his only child. And surely she didn't want him to have a mistress? None of it made sense, and it made him want to shake her and demand that she tell him what was wrong.
He felt his hands tighten into fists, and he made a conscious effort to relax. He didn't want to push her farther away then she already was, especially if she really was carrying another child. A child conceived in happier times.
He watched her as she slept, with an ache in his heart that wouldn't go away. He had thrown himself into battle with a fervor, hoping that the sword and the blood would make take it away. He wanted it to go away, but no matter how many battles he had fought, or how many foul beasts he had slain, nothing had helped.
Then he had received her letter, and for the first time, he had felt some hope. This coming child may just be what they needed to get past this bump in their marriage. He was tired of being on the outs with his wife, he missed her laugh. He missed her green eyes sparkling at him, her soft hand in his, the smell of roses in her hair, he just plain missed her.
Taliesin stirred and opened his eyes. "Dada!" he exclaimed happily as he slid off the couch and headed straight for Morgan. Once he reached his father, he threw his chubby arms around Morgan's legs. "Dada!"
Morgan smiled at his son. He had missed Taliesin too. He was weary of war and weary of the cold silence between he and his wife. He bent down and picked up an insistent Taliesin. His son had grown since he had last seen him. "You came." His wife's soft voice interrupted his musings.
He looked up at her, her eyes still blinking sleepily, her cheeks rosy, and he knew he had never seen a more beautiful woman, inside or out, than his wife. Somehow he had to fix things. "You look well."
She carefully sat up. "So do you." An awkward silence fell, as Morgan scrambled for something to say.
Ava stood up and reached for Taliesin. "He's hungry, I'd better feed him." Taliesin whimpered a little bit as Ava took him from his father.
"Ava..." Morgan started to say, but she interrupted him.
"I'm tired my Lord, and Taliesin is hungry." With Taliesin in her arms, she left the room, and Morgan wordlessly let her go.
Once safely out of the room, Ava brushed a tear away. Why did she have to care so much? Why couldn't she just let...things...go. When she had first opened her eyes and seen him standing there, she had been filled with a sense of peace and happiness. He was home, safe, in one piece. In the next instant, she remembered all that stood between them, and her happiness faded. What if he had come home to finally tell her the truth? She was such a coward, she didn't know if she could bear hearing the words come out of his mouth.
Ava had stopped in tracks, lost in thought, until Taliesin began to howl his displeasure. Ava chuckled. "Your unhappiness is duly noted my little Prince." She hugged him, then continued on her way to the nursery, and she seated herself in the aging rocker. Morgan had wanted to get her a new one, but she treasured this one. Many Stone Kings had been nursed and rocked to sleep in it, Ava wanted Taliesin to be one of them.
The week passed by slowly, with only their eyes doing the talking, until Ava decided she couldn't stand another moment of it, and arranged to meet Lady McKinley and Lady Ember at the Village Square. There was a royal birthday party to plan, and she could use her friends' help.
Once she made sure that Taliesin was fed and changed, Ava brought him to Morgan. "I need to go to the Village Square." she explained. "I'm meeting with several Ladies there." Morgan nodded as he took Taliesin from her. "I'll be back." she smiled tentatively at Morgan, and he returned it, a bit hesitantly.
Lady Ember and Lady McKinley were already waiting for her. "Sorry I am late." she apologized.
"Goodness, your Highness!" Lady Ember exclaimed. "You certainly do not need to apologize to us!"
Ava smiled at them. "Even so, I did not mean to make you ladies wait. My husband has just recently returned from the battle field for a short time and..."
Lady McKinley gasped. "Oh dear me! My Lady, wouldn't His Highness rather you stay home with him? We would hate to be..."
Ava shook her head. "Nonsense, we have spent plenty of time together already, and we will spend more time together when I get home." If either of the Ladies thought it was strange that Ava preferred to be with them and not with Morgan, they wisely held their council. "Taliesin's birthday is nearly here, and I want to make sure everything goes off without a hitch. Now, you said something about a baker, who can make the most extraordinary cakes?"
"Yes! She makes the best tasting confections, they are unbelievably good, magical even!" Lady Ember enthused.
"Her shop is here, in this little Village Square." Lady McKinley added.
Lady Ember pointed. "Oh, look, there she is now. Perhaps you can talk to her now your Highness?"
Ava turned and looked at who Lady Ember was pointing at. "That's her?" she asked curiously. "She doesn't look like a baker."
"That is her, your Highness, Mistress Walker." Lady Ember confirmed.
Ava frowned slightly, she had tried in the beginning to get her new friends to call her by her name, but they had refused. Out of respect for her they had said. All the your Highnesses really grated on Ava's nerves after a while. It would be nice for just a little while to forget her position and duties, and responsibilities. It would be nice if she could just be plain Ava, for just an hour or two, she thought wistfully. But it was not to be. "Thank you, I'll go speak with her then." Ava nodded regally, letting them know with her body language that they were free to leave her presence.
"Mistress Walker?" Ava called out, and the woman in question froze, then belatedly curtsied.
"Your Highness." Mistress Walker kept her head bowed deferentially.
"Please, at ease." Ava said, and Mistress Walker looked up at her, cautiously. "I hear that you make the best of cakes?"
Mistress Walker smiled shyly. "So I've been told, my Lady."
"Well, then, I should like you to hire you to bake a birthday cake for my son, the Prince. The day of his birth is quickly approaching, and we are having a birthday celebration in his honor, the whole town will be invited. So I will actually need to commission several cakes from you, do you think you could do it?"
Mistress Walker's eyes shone. "Indeed my Lady, I am honored that you would request my humble talents in baking for such an important event as the young Prince's birthday celebration!"
"Excellent!" Ava said. "I look forward to having a slice of those wonderful cakes that I have heard so much about!"
As she walked back home, Ava finally came to an important decision. She could not forgive, nor could she ever forget Morgan's lies and treachery, but she had Taliesin to consider, and the new little one that nestled under her breast. Ava was well aware of what happened to the children who were unfortunate enough to be raised in a household with an unhappily married couple. She remembered the yelling voices and slamming doors of her childhood, the cold glares and icy words, she didn't want her son to have to go through that. So, she would simply put a smile on her face, and pretend as if nothing had ever gone wrong. She would do it for Taliesin.
Feeling that there was no time like the present to put her plan into motion, as soon as she arrived home she sought her husband out, and found him in the back court yard, nearly naked from soaking in the hot springs. Before she could change her mind, she quickly stripped off her dress, and stood in her underthings, the tears clogged in her throat, but she refused to let them out.
She was determined that Taliesin would not grow up with parents that hated each other, no matter the cost to herself. Morgan simply stared at her, with questions in his hungry eyes, questions she did not want to answer. Nor did she want to hear him voice those questions, so she distracted him by reaching out and kissing him, almost angrily.
Morgan was surprised by his wife's boldness, but he had no complaints, and he didn't dare dig any further into her apparent change of heart. He was only relieved that instead of the Ice Queen, he had his passionate, warm Ava back in his arms. He had missed her so much. Her kisses seemed desperate, hard, and her fingers tore at the few clothes he still wore. He gently grabbed her hands, and softened the kiss, slowing things down. She resisted at first, but he was persistent with his tender assault, until finally with a soft sigh and moan, she surrendered to him.
Their passion spent, they laid on the grass, wrapped in each other's arms. Morgan idly twisted a strand of her hair around his finger. "I was thinking." he said softly.
"Thinking what?" Ava murmured.
"That maybe you would like some help with Tal..." She stiffened in his arms, and he hastened to add, "There's this village girl, and her mother is quite sick, her father was wounded in battle, and they could use help, but they are too proud to accept any handouts. I invited her to come by the Castle, and to speak with you. I thought maybe, with you increasing and being so tired lately, that you could use a little help with Taliesin, just for a little while, not forever. Tal is a handful." Morgan chuckled ruefully. "As soon as I took my eyes off of him today, he was off and into trouble." He felt Ava start to relax again, and he breathed an inward sigh of relief. She was so prickly when it came to her child.
Morgan lightly kissed her forehead. "You are a wonderful mother, but you need to take care of yourself too, and the little one that you carry."
"Okay." she acquiesced. "Just temporarily." She disentangled herself from him, and started dressing, he followed suit. "I'll let you do the talking to her." Ava forced a smile. "You know, a nap sounds pretty good about now, I think I'll go check on Taliesin, and then lay down for a while."
Morgan looked at her, at the hollowness in her eyes, and nodded solemnly. "As you wish."
Mere moments later, Morgan strode through the Castle halls, muttering to himself. The girl was early. He had hoped to spend a little more time with Ava before she fell asleep. He had not even bothered to dress himself properly for he had been hoping to follow his wife upstairs to their bedchamber. Instead, his Steward had informed him that a young girl was requesting to speak with the King. With a last longing look at his wife, Morgan unhappily headed downstairs to talk to the chit.
He nearly ran into her, but she quickly skittered to a stop, and stared at him with wide eyes. He cursed under his breath. Hiring help had seemed like a good idea, but he was starting to have second thoughts.
"Mmmyy Lord, I mean, your Highness." the girl stuttered as she blushed.
"What's your name girl?" Morgan asked as nicely as he could, mindful of her age. He was impatient to rejoin his wife, he didn't want to stand around wasting his time talking with a servant girl, when he could be talking with his wife instead.
"Ianthe, your Highness. Ianthe MacPhereson, of the MacPhereson clan." She stammered, even as her eyes boldly roamed over his body. Morgan sighed wearily, whose great idea had this been? Well, partially his but... "I'm grateful for this opportunity to serve you my Lord." she continued. "My Uncle, Lord Ember, has told me..."
Morgan no longer heard the girl's voice, he was thinking about that last conversation he'd had with Lord Ember. Lord Ember had started with asking if Morgan had been pleased with his service, to which Morgan had answered in the affirmative. Ember was Morgan's right hand man, his second in command, Ember was of invaluable service to him. Not to mention a good friend.
Ember had hesitated slightly, confessing that he was afraid of being too familiar with his Highness, but Morgan had waved that off with a simple, "We are friends, Ember, what is it that you require?" Ember had then launched into an explanation, that his brother in law had been badly wounded in the Borderlands War, and he was no longer able to provide for his family. His sister was gravely ill, and was not expected to live much longer, they'd had several children, but only one of them was really old enough to work, however no one would take her on. So, Ember had asked, would Morgan have room for one more servant on his household staff? The girl, Ember's niece, was a hard worker, Ember assured him, even as young as she was. Ember had kept his eyes downcast, and had waited quietly for Morgan's answer.
Morgan had instantly thought of Ava, of how tired she was, and if having one more servant girl would ease his wife's burden, he was all for it. This chit, however, with the bold eyes, he didn't see how it would work out. Though he would give the girl a chance out of his great respect for her uncle, Lord Ember.
"We are in need of help in the nursery. How are you with handling young children?"
"I am the oldest of twelve, my Lord, I could change diapers in my sleep."
"Don't your parents have need of you at home then?"
"My brothers are old enough they can help out with the younger ones now. My family needs me to earn some coins so that we can buy food and pay for our lodging, more than they need my help at home."
"You will be the Queen's servant, and as such you will answer directly to her, do you understand?"
Ianthe dipped her head slightly. "Yes my Lord."
Morgan sighed irritably, he had a bad feeling about this, but he was bound by his word. The chit would stay for now. But by the Ever Living One, if she so much as twitched wrong, he would let her go.
Ianthe watched the King stalk off, her cousin was right. He was stunning. She pictured her hands running over his magnificent body, her name whispered so sweetly from his lips, and she sighed dreamily. Necessity had forced her to take many men to her bed, her family had to eat, but the King, he would be pure pleasure.
She had been taught many ways to pleasure a man. The men she took to her bed had loved her youthful flesh, her firm breasts, and long shapely legs, so she knew his Highness would be no different. If she could become the mistress of such a man, a man that ruled the Lands, she would no longer need to earn her keep on her back, or even worse, forced to be some Lord's servant girl. She would only need to please one man, and not many.
It was simply a matter of making him desire her, and she knew many ways to do that as well. Subtle ways, her cousin had cautioned her. The King would not respond to overt advances. He preferred to play the part of a protector, many men did, Ianthe scoffed to herself. Fools, the lot of them, led by what was in their breeches instead of by their brains. Ianthe could play whatever role was required of her though, men were so pathetically gullible, just look at her Uncle. He, who thought she was some sort of drab milk sop of a woman, content to live in squalor and breed a bunch of screaming brats, just like her mother did.
She hated her mother, and hoped she did die. Her mother had married beneath her station, consigning Ianthe to a life of backbreaking hell, with little chance of climbing out. But the King now, he could turn her life around. Her cousin had said he was attracted to the demure type of woman, so Ianthe had dressed the part, but she could not stop her greedy eyes. His body had inspired such lust in her, his firm muscles, strong hands, and golden skin, he was nothing like the pale flacid flesh of her past lovers. She couldn't help but look at him and think of him lying naked beside her.
Go slowly, her cousin had advised her. Go slowly and in time, he would be hers. Ianthe would do exactly as her cousin instructed, though it chafed to allow someone else to have that much control over her. Her cousin had seduced the King once before, however, so obviously her cousin knew what she was talking about. Ianthe would do whatever was required of her, to make the King hers.
Ava couldn't take Taliesin's crying one more minute. He had been fussy all day, and no matter what she did, he would not be appeased. She felt like crying with him.
She was just so tired, and she felt numb inside, and she couldn't deal with Tal's fussing anymore. She set him on the floor and called for Ianthe. The girl was abominably rude and haughty, acting as if she was the queen, but as soon as the King was around, her attitude mysteriously disappeared and she acted as if she was as innocent as a lamb. Ha! That girl was no innocent, and Ava would sack her, and without references too!, just as soon as she could get up the energy to care. Or maybe she was just testing Morgan. Would he go for such a conniving little baggage?
Her stomach rebelled at the thought, and she tried to swallow the bile down, but she was unsuccessful. She ran for the garderobe, and barely made it as her stomach heaved out its contents.
Once her wretched stomach was empty, Ava rested her head on the rough wood and closed her eyes. She could still hear the muffled cries of Taliesin, but she couldn't muster up the strength to do anything about it. She just wanted blessed sleep.
Tal whimpered as he crawled towards his mother. When he reached her bed, he pulled himself up on chubby legs. "Mama!"
No response. He sniffled and tried again. "Mama!"
She still didn't respond. Tal started to cry, big fat tears rolled down his cheeks. "Mama! Mama!"
Tal was startled when he suddenly heard his father's voice behind him, he was speaking in a scary tone, it made Taliesin cry even harder. He wanted his Mama. "Ava, would you at least talk to your son?"
Ava didn't move. "I'm tired your Highness. Just leave me alone so that I can sleep." she said tonelessly.
At the sound of his mother's voice, Taliesin began to cry in earnest. "Mama! Mama!"
"He doesn't understand why you've withdrawn from everyone." Morgan said harshly, raising his voice so that he could be heard over his son's cries. "I don't understand why you've withdrawn, especially from Taliesin, we tried for so many years to have a child, and now you ignore him!"
"Go away." Ava's voice was muffled as she pulled the pillows over her head to block out the noise of Taliesin's crying. "and take him with you."
"Ava, this is not like you. All this sleeping can not be good for you. Please get up, and come spend some time with us. Maybe we could go to that garden that you so enjoy?" Morgan tempered his voice, trying to stay calm, when he felt anything but calm.
Silence, except for the howling cries of his son. Morgan didn't know what to do for her, or what was wrong with her. She refused to see anyone, including the midwife, or even her friends. She just slept. All day.
"Taliesin." Morgan called softly. "Come here son." Taliesin turned around, and ran as best he could towards his father.
Morgan enfolded him in his arms, and hugged him tightly as Taliesin sobbed against him. Morgan offered his son what little comfort he could. "There, there Taliebug." Morgan whispered, calling Taliesin by Ava's pet name for him, "It's okay. Mama is just sleepy." He picked Taliesin up, felt the heavy solid weight of him, and hugged him tightly again. Taliesin clung to him, his little shoulders heaving with each sob.
Morgan carried his son out of the room, and away from his mother, as she had requested. He hoped against hope, that maybe she would come out of whatever it was she had, in time for Taliesin's birthday celebration the following night. She had spent weeks and months on the preparation of it, surely she wouldn't miss it?
Ianthe curtsied. "I'm sorry, your Highness." Ianthe said demurely. "But her Highness is not feeling well, and will not be coming down."
"I am sorry to hear that the Queen is still feeling unwell." Lord Ember said.
Ianthe briefly looked at her Uncle, before turning her gaze back to the King. "She sends her regrets."
Morgan frowned. "Perhaps I should look in on her."
"Begging your pardon, your Majesty, but she said to tell you that she will be fine, it is nothing that sleep can not cure, and she hopes you will stay here with your guests."
Morgan glanced at the stairs leading up to his bedchamber, he had hoped she would come down and enjoy the celebration that she had put together. He wanted nothing more than to march up the stairs and demand that she come down and participate, but he did not do so, it was not the time or the place, they had guests. He looked longingly at the stairs once more, before nodding to Ianthe and dismissing her.
"My niece, she is working out then?" Ember asked.
"Well," Morgan chuckled, "at first I was sure she wasn't going to work out, she was too forward."
Ember groaned and then laughed. "I'm sorry your Highness, I have heard that she can be a bit bold, she has not had the easiest of lives, but I believe her boldness to be her way of coping."
Morgan nodded. "Well, be that as it may, she has been the very picture of a humble servant since then, so she just may work out. She has been a tremendous help with Taliesin, as you have heard, my wife has been in poor health lately, and Taliesin has been too much for Ava to handle. I have a kingdom to run, a war to fight, I cannot always be here to play nursemaid, or nanny."
Lord Ember nodded solemnly. "I pray to the Ever Living One, that her health is returned to her, and quickly."
"Thank you Ember." Morgan smiled sadly. "I fear it is the babe she carries that makes her so ill. Once she has the child, I think she will bounce back to her old self. I am at a loss on how to help her." He confessed to his friend.
"I have heard that there are some women who take to their beds when they are breeding." Ember concurred. "I am sure she will be fine after the birth."
"I pray so." Morgan said, then he clapped his friend on the back. "Excuse me for a moment." Ember nodded, and Morgan disappeared into his bedchamber momentarily so that he could change out his clothes. He rarely used his bedchamber, preferring to sleep with his wife in hers, but for this night, he would not disturb her. Perhaps it was as Ember said, some women simply took to their bed while they were increasing, but back to normal after the birth. If that was true of Ava, this child would be the last one they had, for he could not stand the way things were.
After changing back into his regular clothes, he gathered everyone together, and picked up his son and carried to him to his birthday cake. Ava had it specially made for Taliesin, a chocolate cake, a rare treat indeed. Taliesin approved of the cake, it was all Morgan could do to keep his squirming son from getting his hands in it.
The room erupted in laughter at Taliesin's enthusiasm. "Not until we blow out the candles Taliesin." Morgan cautioned, holding his son back so that he couldn't reach the candles. Morgan helped him blow out the candles, and with a swirl of colors and sparkles, Taliesin became a child. The first thing he did, was help himself to a piece of his birthday cake.
He was quite disappointed to realize it was a magical cake, and not really all chocolate after all. It still tasted really yummy though.
Notes: Yes---it is magical cake, poor Tal, lol
Sims just love to change their clothes for no apparent reason, which is why I had to write Morgan's clothes change in. Darn sim, how dare he do that, and even worse, I did not catch it until I was putting this chapter together!
I was going to have Ava attend her party, but I was using the Party statue thing, so that they would have an awesome party, but it kept trying to force her to change into special costume clothes, and since she is pregnant, that caused her to reset, over and over and over. The statue did not like pregnant sims! So finally I just sent her to the beach, lol
Ianthe is a trouble maker, and while Morgan doesn't trust her 100%, he's starting to think that maybe she isn't so bad. Ava sees her for what she is, but Ava has issues of her own, lol I'd called it major depression, not sure what they would have called it then, but either way, she is unhappy and unable to do much about it at the moment. And poor Tal, he just doesn't understand any of it, he just wants his mama, but at this point, she is unable to care for him.
As for the challenge part of it, the careers are already done, Ava's lifetime wish has been completed, and Morgan is about half way though his. He wants to be popular and have 20 friends, so far he has 10. =) Their locked in wishes have been pretty simple, catch such and such animal, snuggle Tal, pet the dog (he makes guest appearances in the story, lol), be friends with so and so, that type of thing.
Now for some outtakes and other pics I won't be using in the story---because this chapter was rather sad, sorry about that. Next chapter will mainly feature Taliesin, but in the meantime...
Pretty sure it is against the law to use the King's bed for woohooing during the Prince's birthday party! But they line up to use it anyway. BTW, that is Lord and Lady McKinley under the sheets there.
Messy, messy, messy...
I have never had a sim cheer when their minor pet died! I guess she's happy she'll never have to clean out the cage again!
I wonder what it is about that green ball that is just so fascinating?
And here is little Bethany McKinley with her father, Lord McKinley. At the moment, she is the only sim that qualifies as a potential mate for Taliesin.