In the Land of Ever After

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Chapter 43 - The Journey Home

The trip back to Valeureux is a bittersweet one for Adam.

The trip back to Valeureux was a bittersweet one for Adam. He’d taken leave of his sisters and brother-in-laws at Arendelle’s castle gates –  tearfully, and he wasn’t ashamed to admit it. His own four guards who had accompanied him were of course with him, and two guards from Arendelle’s retinue as well because John and Elsa had insisted upon it, as the wagon which had come with them was now returning with him in an even more heavily-laden state. Arendelle did have a rather robust sea-trade, in spite of her other worries, so John had sent a variety of goods with him that the people of Valeureux might decide what type of things they wished to trade for, and gifts for everyone as well. Not only from himself and Elsa, but also from some others in Arendelle who had wished to show Adam honor as the eldest son of their former king. And then of course there were the baby presents for his coming heir…well, the wagon had filled up rather quickly.

The extra guards parted ways with them once they arrived at the inn – which was now sporting a gilt-painted sign proclaiming that it was ‘The Kings Inn’, which told Adam that someone had finally remembered Kristoff after all – and after a few more days of uneventful travel they were riding into Valeureux up the road that led to the village. Adam stopped at the fountain to let the horses drink, and to let his very excited subjects know that all was well in their sister kingdom and that the Comte and Comtesse de Valeureux were now officially the King and Queen of Arendelle as well. He thought he would most certainly have to let John know when next he wrote him that there had literally been dancing in the streets at that announcement.

The gates to the castle road were opened for him, and then closed behind the wagon, and Adam rode up the winding mountain road at the head of his little procession with his mind and heart full of a strange wonder. Two years ago he’d not have been on this horse, wouldn’t have been greeted with joy by his people…wouldn’t have been expecting to return home to the same type of greeting from his wife. Two years ago no one had been able to leave the valley and return, trade had been impossible, and the lingering curse over both valley and castle had been a dark burden no one knew how to rid themselves of.

Two years ago, a determined man had come riding up this very road on a somewhat stolen horse with his terrified, wondering princess, seeking employment from a prince he knew of only through rumors, but who he knew needed his help. And two years ago, Adam would never have guessed just how much help that man would be to him or how much their friendship would come to mean to him, would never have imagined that within two short years the curse would be broken, the matter of his succession to the throne settled, and his kingdom and family prospering beyond anything he might have dreamed of.

The pealing of the village bell had followed them up, of course, and so the wagon had no sooner come clattering into the cobblestoned courtyard than people came pouring out of the castle and surrounding buildings to attend to it and take the horses. Adam swung down out of the saddle, patting Dard’s neck before handing the reins over to Mr. Fabron. “You had a good journey, Your Majesty?” the stablemaster asked him.

“A very good journey,” Adam told him. “John was threatening to try to come steal you off into his service when I left, though – his stablemaster is about one more snide remark away from being demoted to stable-cleaner, or possibly scullery maid.”

Fabron laughed. “I’ve no desire to move North, Your Majesty, but if I find a likely prospect who does I’ll be sure to let him know.”

He led Dard off, and Adam walked past the splashing fountain up the steps to where Cogsworth and Belle were waiting. He immediately swept Belle into his arms and kissed her soundly. “Next time you’ll be able to go with me,” he told her. “We were kept quite busy most of the time I was there, but when we weren’t I missed you terribly.”

“I know you did,” she said, kissing him back and then wrapping her arm around his waist. “They’re getting a hot bath for you, I knew you’d want it.”

“Oh do I,” he agreed. Cogsworth was giving the wagon a raised eyebrow, and Adam shook his head. “Some of it’s trade goods, samples of what they have to offer so we can decide what we might or might not want. The rest of it is presents, and the big cask is salted fish – luckily the castle’s new steward is a man who thinks ahead, he had the cook write out some of her recipes so that Mrs. Potts would know what to do with it.”

Cogsworth had to smile. “She’ll appreciate that, I’m sure. They’re all settled in?”

“Well settled in,” Adam assured him. “John rode in ahead of us, and by the time we caught up with him one councilor was in chains, another was dishonored and trying to decide what to do with himself, and the third was skulking around plotting petty intrigues.” He smirked. “They were all wearing velvet robes, John was not happy.”

That made the steward laugh. “No, he wouldn’t have been. Is there anything I need to know before you retire to your rooms, Your Majesty? And will you come down to supper or should we bring it up to you?”

“I’ll come down, thank you,” Adam told him. “I’m not that tired. And no, the only gift that required special instructions was the fish – which I do not want to see for at least a week, please, as in Arendelle they eat it at almost every meal.”

“I’ll warn Mrs. Potts,” Cogsworth assured him. “Everything has been quiet here while you were gone. The quarterly tax came in without incident, and nothing untoward has happened in the village. I’ve really nothing to report that can’t easily wait until tomorrow.”

“Good,” Adam told him. “I’ll be happy to tell everyone all about the goings-on in Arendelle after dinner, although I’m sure the guards will be telling tales of their own in the meantime.”

“I’m sure they already are,” Cogsworth said, and bowed to him. “It’s good to have you home, Your Majesty.”

“It’s good to be home, Sir Andrew.” Adam let Belle lead him up the stairs, doing his best not to look at the door to the office that wasn’t John’s anymore, knowing he’d be missing his friend for some time to come. They could write to each other, of course, and there would doubtless be visits between the two sister-kingdoms whenever they could manage it…but it wouldn’t be the same.

Belle seemed to sense his melancholy shift in mood, and she pulled him to a stop on the stairs. “He’s your brother in all but blood, of course you’ll miss him,” she said, then stood up on tiptoe and kissed him again. “We can go for a visit next summer, once the baby is old enough to travel. I don’t suppose you brought me back any books about Arendelle to read in the meantime?”

She knew him so well. “Several, but you can’t have them until tomorrow.” Adam tucked her back under his arm and continued up the stairs. It truly was good to be home.



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