“I understand that you must have a lot of questions for me,” Baron Lexavier said as he closed the door. “Please, sit anywhere you like.”
He waited just long enough for everyone to take a seat, and then sank himself into one particularly large armchair. Cerys noted then that he was quite a big man, tall and muscular– or so she assumed he was, beneath his clothes, judging by his broad shoulders and wide hands. She could see what the baroness liked in him, and where James got his good looks from. They had the same woodland-brown hair, with its careful waves that dared someone to touch them, except that the baron’s was swept with gray. It was the kind of gray that only made him seem honorable and experienced, not in the least too old for his position.
Cerys realized that Himeko was staring at her. It was the stare that meant ‘you are looking a little too closely at that man, Cerys,‘ and she had to hide her blush before either James or his father could notice it. Himeko always looked out for her in that regard, making sure that she did not get too deeply involved with boys when she had other things that she could be focusing on. Himeko always seemed to busty to pay attention to boys, so it was easy for her to help her friend avoid distractions.
“I am afraid that I need to apologize to you, before anything else,” the baron began at last. His rich blue eyes– another gift that he had passed on to James– met with each of his guests as he spoke. “I have never brought other-worlders here without their knowledge and consent, and I wish that I could afforded you the same courtesy.”
“What do you mean, your grace?” Cerys asked. “Have other people from Earth been to Summerlay?”
“Only a few, here and there,” he replied. “They were friends that I trusted very closely. You, however… I need your help.”
“If you do not mind, your grace,” Himeko told him, “we might have given our help if you had only asked for it ahead of time.”
“Might have,” James repeated, his voice heavy. “I cannot tell you enough how sorry I am that I had to bring you hear the way I did. Perhaps I should have trusted you more, but…” He gave a long sigh.
“It’s just too weird,” Peter finish for him, his tone not at all understanding. He did not seem willing to accept the apology, no matter how humble.
“Peter, be nice!” his sister told him. “I think they really mean it.”
He only glared at her, and then turned away, gripping Bayani’s hand.
“What kind of help did you need?” Himeko asked, although she was almost afraid of the answer.
“That meeting I mentioned earlier,” the baron began, “was not just any sort of meeting. The other nobles specifically did not want Baron Richard and I to know what they were plotting.”
“A plot?” Cerys said with a frown. “That does not sound good at all.”
“It gets worse,” James told her.
“We have a heirarchy in Summerlay,” Lexavier explained. “It is not too different from what your country has. When the highest leader loses his life, there is someone to take his place.”
“What about the prince?” Peter cut in. Clearly had had been looking for holes in the baron’s story.
“King Leonars has but one child, and he is away on a diplomatic mission with the elves,” the baron explained. “That forest is terribly far away. If something were to happen to His Majesty…” Lexavier shook his head mournfully. “The Duke of Ellynswift is next in line for the throne.”
“Do you mean as regent?” Cerys wanted to know.
“I suppose,” James replied. “But this duke is not going to be satisfied with being regent. He wants the throne all to himself, no matter what he has to do.”
“Are you kidding me?” Peter said suddenly, jumping out of his seat as he raised his voice. All eyes were on him. “This duke wants to take out your king, and you bring a bunch of teenagers from Earth to help you? What kind of help do you expect us to be?”
“Oh, don’t start telling me to be nice!” he said to his sister. Then he met Lexavier’s eyes. “Why us?”
Cerys pouted, but listened to the baron all the same.
“The things that you think of as fantasy, Peter,” the older man explained, “are very real here. Nobody understands how it works, but when you com here, you gain something that you never had before. Trust me when I say that you will be able to very helpful to us all.”
Peter did not look like he was entirely ready to trust, but he at least seemed ready to listen with an open heart.