“The Muse of Mischief, Your Majesty.” The palace guard announced as she reached the top of stairs and Emperor Bartala stepped out of the palace with a rug rat in tow.

“Autuania, Autuania, Autuania!” Wisssi called running to her. She whisked him up and twirled him around.

“Ezopica Mischievous Wisssdartai you are getting big! How are your piano lessons going?” She asked setting him down.

“Good.” He trotted off saying something about playing the piano.

M embraced her old friend. “Bartala, how are you?”

“I’m fine M. Is everything OK?”

“Yes, Nalau is fine if that’s what you mean.”

“It is. She said the trip to Earth was successful and she would be home later today.”

“Yes, the mission was successful. Did she tell you it was Afrit the Great of Jinn?”

“Yes, what was he doing on Earth?”

“It’s a long story. I’ll let your wife fill you in on the details. I’m really just here to raid the kitchen with my old pal, it’s been too long.”

Bartala lit up. “Fantastic! I could use some fun. Let’s go find Wisssi. He’s probably playing the piano, waiting to show his Autuania his latest song.”

Sure enough. The young pianist was playing something that sounded classical, Motzartesque, when they entered the green sitting room. He played for a few more minutes and then jumped off the bench, bowed dramatically and declared the end of his performance with an enthusiastic “Ta da!”

“Bravo, Bravo!” M said clapping.

He was delighted to have pleased his Autuania, but he was done performing. He went over to the corner of the room where a small table held a three dimensional puzzle and settled in with a serious look of determination.

“He’s been focused on that for a few days now. It’s a Xinood puzzle, a gift from G’ist.”

“How are G’ist and Rogs? And G’saar?” She said the name G’saar with a little question, as though she weren’t sure she had correct hame.

“They’re all doing well. G’saar is even bigger! He is growing so quickly, they must employ a full time tailor to keep up with him.” 

“Speaking of tailors, how is Scomia adjusting to life on Ploosnar? Is she getting along with Kilome?”

“Yes, they are very close. In fact Kilome registered the documentation needed to make Scomia his official heir. He said he wanted to make sure that she’ll be cared for should anything happen to him. I told him that the palace would always provide for her but I think part of the reason he did it was to make sure that she knows she belongs here, with him.”

“Oh that’s great. So she adjusted to the Ploosnar schools OK?”

“She’s a little behind the other students in language, but her mathematics knowledge exceeds that of her peers.”

“Good. I’m glad she’s not so far behind that she’s uncomfortable. So how are you old man?” M said asked.

“Ha! I’m no older than you.”

“Yeah, but you’re a dad and I might be immortal.”

Bartala laughed and finished his drink. “I’m doing well. I’m very thankful that I’ve got Wisssi now that Nalau has found a new calling. Or did Nalau find a new calling because I had Wisssi? Hmmm. Either way, the palace seems quite large when you’re alone. But I’m hungry. Hey Wisssi, let’s go raid the kitchen with your Autuania.”

“Hey when he’s old enough maybe he can take over for you and you can work with Nalau. She’d probably give a place in her crew. Well, after you went through some training.”

Bartala opened his mouth to respond but couldn’t think of a good come back. Instead he just laughed. They laughed like old times, when they were young and free of responsibilities as they headed to the kitchen. Wisssi wasn’t sure what ‘Raid the kitchen meant’ but he wasn’t going to miss a chance for adventure with his Autuania. He followed them down the hall.

M got to the kitchen first and peaked around the door. She put her finger up to her lips and looked at Wisssi “Shhhhhhh, the coast is clear.” She whispered.

He just stared at her with his huge, bright blue eyes as she opened the door and motioned for him and Bartala to enter. She scooped him up and plopped him down on the counter across from the main refrigerator while Bartala started removing containers and setting them on the counter next to Wisssi.

M uncovered one of the containers, it was filled with lusimis. “Mmmmm” she said, as she dipped her finger into it and licked it . “Lusimis.”

Wisssi had never seen this before! He plunged his fingers into the bowl “Lusimus.” he declared and starting licking his fingers.

“Close buddy, it’s lusimis.”

He didn’t bother to try the word again, why would he, he was busy licking his fingers.

Bartala handed him a vegetable that looked like a carrot, “Here Wisssi, use this instead of your fingers. M you’re going to turn my son into a barbarian!” She could tell he wasn’t serious, his grin covered his entire face.

“Mmmmmmm” Wisssi said as he dipped the vegetable into the lusimis, attempting to get more attention from M.

“Hey, remember that time we took a picnic up to the top of Mt. Brara and then found out we didn’t have anything to eat with?”

Bartala laughed. “Oh yes. I remember that. We didn’t even have serviettes with us. But we were far too hungry after hiking up there to forgo the food. We ate like animals.”

“Aminals, aminals.” Wisssi chanted as his father handed him a slice of fruit cake.

“So are you going to let him have fun as he grows up, the kind of fun you had, or will you shelter him?” M asked as she slid herself up on the counter, diving into a bowl with some kind of pasta.

“I want to shelter him, to protect him.” Bartala said with a serious look. “But I know that I can’t protect him from everything.”

“And you wouldn’t be who you are, if your father hadn’t given you the freedom to explore yourself and the Universe.” M said.

“I know. Sometimes I think that he gave me more freedom after you stumbled into the palace.”

“Ha ha.” M said sarcastically.

Wisssi immediately picked up on that one and started mimicking her, “Ha ha, ha ha…”

“No really, I think it’s true M. He knew you had some.. unusual? abilities, and that you would protect me.” M nodded in agreement, thinking that might just be true. Bartala continued. “That’s why I wanted to explore the idea of Nguvu being bonded to Wisssi. If they’re bonded by the time he’s old enough to explore I would worry less.”

“Hm, I see your point. Hey Wisssi, do you like Dragons?” M teased.

“Dragons, Dragons like Fercty.” He answered.

“Yes, like Ferocity.”

One of the nannies peaked in to check on Wisssi, her face momentarily displayed shock when she saw the Emperor and his son sitting on the kitchen counter sampling food directly from the storage containers. “Your Majesty.” She said.

“Oh yes, yes. Come in. Wissdartai are you ready for a nap or a bath or both?”

The look on his face was priceless as he realized his first kitchen raid was about to end. He shook his head no and started to pout.

“Ezopica Mischievous Wisssdartai, is that how an Emperor would behave? Suck it up and behave with dignity.”

Instantly Wisssi’s posture changed and he was ready to be whisked away. M took him off the counter and hugged him, “See you later little Bartala.”

“Bye Autuania M.”

The nanny took him away.

Just as M was about to ask Bartala about Nguvu one of the kitchen staff appeared. No doubt taking advantage of the Nanny’s interruption. “Your Majesty. Shall I straighten up now?”

“C’mon M, we’ve overstayed our welcome in the kitchen.” He said smiling. “Yes, please. We’ll get out of your hair now.” He said to the servant.

As they headed to the door he turned to M and in a quiet voice said, “Kitchen raids are much better in the middle of the night, don’t you think? Let’s go have a drink.”

“OK, so what’s up with that suck it up think? Are you purposely teaching Wisssi about Earth slang?”

“Sort of.”

“What does that mean?” It took her a few seconds to figure it out. “OH! You’ve been letting him watch Babylon 5 haven’t you?”

Bartala didn’t answer, he just grinned. They were almost to his study, once inside he said, “Yes, I let him see a few episodes and it was hilarious. He thinks Londo is me, or I’m Londo. But then I became concerned that it might confuse him.”

“Oh I bet it is confusing for him. Although he’s developing so quickly.” M said pouring the first round of espidrun.

They settled on the sofa, feet up on the table, slowly sipping the hot pink liquid with blue steam floating down the sides, it was still early. After a few minutes an idea occurred to M, she blurted it out. “So are you going to have another kid?”

“I’m not done raising this one yet!”

“Uh huh, but I bet you’ve already been thinking about it.”

“So you read minds now?”

“Ha! I knew it!” M said, punching her old friend in the arm before reaching for the espidrun bottle.

“I’ve been thinking about it, once Wisssi is independent I may want to have another child. I want him to have what we have, we bonded like siblings while we were young. But that is a few years off, IF I even do it. When was the last time you heard about Nguvu? How is she doing?”

“Hold on.” M reached for Ferocity. “Ferocity.

Muse of Mischief, what can I do for you?”

I’m with Bartala, and he’s wondering how Nguvu is.

I spoke with Kwaii earlier today. He feels that she is ready to return to Misko under my supervision. If you and Lord Brzko don’t need anything tomorrow morning I will return to Dragona to retrieve her.

OK, sounds good Ferocity, I’ll see you later at home.


Bartala was staring at M. “I really hate that telepathy thing.”

“Hmm. I think you’re just jealous.”

“You’re right.” He said filling their glasses. “What did he say?”

“Nguvu will be returning to Misko tomorrow. Kwaii feels that she’s ready to be mentored by Ferocity.”

“Excellent!” He lifted his glass and clinked it against M’s, “To Wisssi and Nguvu!”

“To Wisssi and Nguvu!” M said, finishing her shot in one gulp.

Bartala immediately reached for the bottle.

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