In the morning it was time for her grandmother’s lizards to be moved and there was a great deal of frenetic activity resulting from a young drake deciding that it was time to be inquisitive and making a break for freedom. Bethany retrieved him from an apple tree and got him into a travelling cage before he could try to bond with a removalist’s offsider, any removalist’s offsider as far as Bethany could tell. With her grandmother switching between blaming Bethany for the escape, accusing the removalist’s offsider of trying to steal her lizard, and wanting Bethany to come with her to ‘settle the lizards in’ it was a fraught hour more before the convoy set off down the driveway for Colpatch. Bethany hoped the offsider was getting extra for having to put up with her grandmother and went to look after her own lizards for a restful half hour.
Her Aunt Terilba’s move in the afternoon was far less stressful and more organised. Bethany tried hard not to think that was due to the absence of her grandmother.
By the time it was done, there were only a few inconsequential sticks of furniture left in the house aside from Bethany’s bedroom furniture, and that would be going with her in the morning to her new home. Her father, that important man whom she didn’t know, had promised that she could have her own things around her, at least until she decided that she wanted a change. There was still packing to be done and Bethany added to it by taking cuttings or digging up roots of every single dragon lizard related plant on the farm.
That night was the first and only night she’d spent in the farm house alone.
Morning brought everyone back, eager to be present for the handover to the local authority.
Lord Korne and his familiar arrived at eight in the morning, shepherding three removal vans: one for Bethany’s furnishings, mementoes and suitcases; a specialised one for her dragon lizards; and an even more specialised one for the precious brooding dams and their clutches. Every Aimwright, Worthmare, and occupant of Tetherington present examined the interior of that third van with palpable envy.
Bethany’s things were loaded into the removal van, with the exception of an overnight bag that went into the boot of her father’s car and her handbag which he insisted that she put on its back seat. The non-brooding lizards were put into their travelling boxes and carefully loaded into their van, and the climate control and the vents carefully checked.
Then the much more delicate task of moving the clutches began. Bethany had already moved the precious eggs from their original nests into portable ones, and explained to the dams what was going to happen. Mistress Aimwright had insisted on everyone present sweating blood over moving her brooding dams but her daughters had to corral her near the gate to keep her put of the way while Bethany’s were being transferred. It had the added advantage of genuinely keeping an eye out for the local authority’s representatives, but Bethany realised that her aunts really didn’t trust their mother not to do something vindictive at the last moment because she wasn’t getting exactly her own way.
It was rather saddening because, perhaps, her grandmother had never really been the person Bethany loved at all.
Lord Korne’s removal men had laid out traffic cones along the side of the road that ran past the farm, blocking in a section of verge parking for their trucks, or so Bethany had presumed, but another large, expensive car with tinted windows arrived and was carefully ushered into the parking space closest to the driveway. No-one emerged from it but Bethany did see her father, Lord Korne, giving it a funny sort of half-salute. Bethany’s grandmother and aunts looked puzzled, but then started talking excitedly among themselves. It was very much the sort of car that, if anyone in the district had owned one, everyone in the district would have known exactly whose it was.
When the representatives from the local authority arrived, their cars were far less impressive than either Lord Korne’s car or the mystery vehicle. The magistrate’s lady wife was outshone too when she swept up in a stylish roadster, and had to park on the muddy, shady side of the farmyard because that was what was left.
Anyone could have told her that those shoes were going to be completely impractical.
The removals truck carrying Bethany’s things pulled out of the farmyard and parked on the side of the road outside, leaving plenty of room for the formalities. Mr Rushmore, Mistress Aimwright’s solicitor, arrived in his modest little sedan and was ushered into a nice little parking space that the family had been saving for him by standing in it.
Mr Rushmore emerged from his car, a folder of documents in hand, greeted his client, and after conferring with her, went over to the local authority’s party and said in a clear, carrying voice, “Good morning, I’m Mistress Aimwright’s legal representative. Given Mr Simmon’s recent sudden departure from his employment with the authority, who is representing you?”
“I will be,” said the mayor stepping forward, his chain of office worn over a business suit. “I am the official head of the authority, after all.”
“Yes, indeed,” replied Mr Rushmore and Bethany wasn’t sure whether his expression meant that he disapproved of the mayor’s action or that he wasn’t going to vote for the man at the next election. Maybe both. “Very well, as per the contract entered into between Mistress Urana Aimwright and the Wetherbridge Townlands and Surrounds Local Authority and in acknowledgement of the consideration received by Mistress Aimwright under the agreement contained in that contract, I am authorised to release to you, as the representative of the Wetherbridge Townlands and Surrounds Local Authority, all keys and deeds relating to this property. This completes the transfer of the property to the ownership and control of Wetherbridge Townlands and Surrounds Local Authority, subject to the particular terms of the Royal Charter to which this property is subject.”
The mayor accepted the roll of documents and the large ring of keys that the solicitor handed him. “Thank you. Please assure your client that we appreciate her decision to do business with the Authority despite the legal difficulties that we were previously involved in.”
“As to that,” said Mr Rushmore, “in view of the particular provisions of the Charter you now hold in your hand, do you wish my client and her family to remove all of their dragon lizards from the property at this time?”
“Oh, yes, we do,” the mayor nodded. “It is our intention to begin work on turning this into public parkland as soon as possible.” The magistrate’s wife looked very smug.
Bethany went over to the moving vans with her lizards, spoke quietly to her animals and closed the back doors. The drivers locked the doors and then carefully drove out of the farmyard, down the drive way, and parked on the side of the road outside.
The very swank car already out there started its engine and drove into the farmyard. One of the rear passenger doors opened and a man climbed out. He was carrying a leather folder about the size of a sheet of writing paper and he was wearing morning dress, the dark blue stripes on his trousers matching his coat and waistcoat. He walked out over to the group of people clustered around the mayor and said, “Good morning, I am Gordon McGordon of McGordon, Donnington, Litchfield and McGordon, Solicitors at Law,” he handed the mayor a business card and went on, “I am here to represent a client with an unalienable interest in this matter. Am I correct in saying that there are no longer any dragon lizards upon this property, and that you have no intention of housing and breeding other dragon lizards on this property?”
“It is our intention to convert this area to a public recreation park and nature conservation zone,” replied the mayor. “Uses that are more in keeping with the needs and amenity of our growing population.”
“And you do realise that ceasing operations as a dragon lizard stud activates the cessation clauses of the Royal Charter under which this land is held?” Mr McGordon kept his tone neutral.
“Yes,” replied the mayor. “I’m aware of that. I’m also aware that where a local authority has taken over a Charter property and needed to terminate the activity for which the Charter was granted,” he glanced at the magistrate’s wife, “then it’s current practice for the local authority to be granted control of the property.”
“That is so,” agreed Mr McGordon, “when the land involved was Crown Land and reverts to Crown Land. This is different. The land involved was the personal property of the monarch, and so it does not revert to Crown Land.” He turned and made a gesture with his right hand in the direction of the car that he’d arrived in that was clearly a truncated version of the old mind, voice and heart loyalty and service salute.
The other rear passenger door opened and a chestnut haired man of not quite middle age climbed out. He too was wearing morning dress but with a charcoal coloured coat and striped trousers teamed with a light grey waistcoat, a lavender necktie, and a lavender and hot pink pocket square. He was also the King: Elvarus II Seremptor, Heir of the Elkman Warlords, Redeemer of the North, and Scourge of the Vasha.
Everyone except Mr McGordon bowed, curtsied, or, in the case of Lorde Korne, saluted. His Majesty strolled over to the Aimwrights and greeted the nation’s senior military wizard, “Lord Korne, a pity you weren’t brought into this matter earlier. This gathering might have been avoided.” His gaze drifted to Bethany, who was standing beside her father, and he smiled warmly, “And I would never believe that this young lady is not your daughter. You must bring her to Court, and present her to my wife and lady mother. We’ll find her a husband or a job. Or both, if she wants,” he added.
Leaving a stunned Bethany in his wake, His Majesty moved on to her grandmother and remarked genially, “I’m sorry that we’re meeting for the first time in these circumstances, Mistress Aimwright. A pity, it would have been good to see you at Damesir Theda’s investiture.”
“Investiture?” echoed Bethany’s grandmother faintly.
“Yes, well after the Sultan of the Five Emirates wanted to elevate her to their nobility, I could hardly deny her the same honour here, now could I?” The king smiled, “And we really should establish who her legal heirs are, for both nations.” He moved on to the group from the local authority.
The mayor presented himself first and bowed over the royal hand, to be told, “You have made an interesting series of decisions to bring us here today, haven’t you Your Honour?” The mayor went to withdraw his hand in accordance with protocol that stated that only a brief grip on the royal appendage was appropriate, but found the king hanging on with a grip of steel. “I must congratulate you, it’s not often someone can get their chief legal and financial officers to resign in protest over the same decision. The persons charged with our nation’s governance sent you your prize of a full Chancellery audit team this morning. I believe that they’ve been in the local authority building for at least twenty minutes by now.” As he released the mayor’s hand, Elvarus asked, “So, just how accurate do you hope your records are?”
Leaving an apparently shell-shocked mayor behind him, the king passed down the rest of the impromptu reception line murmuring variations on, “How brave of you to be here,” to each local authority official in turn. Last in line, dressed in knife-edge pressed pink and white, was the magistrate’s wife.
She sank in a curtsey over the king’s hand and followed, “Your Majesty,” with, “I do hope you’ll be coming to the opening of the recreation park when we finish it.”
“Lady Magida Furswern-Parsons,” Elvarus smiled thinly as he released her hand, “you really should curb this desire of yours to close down military suppliers because they clutter up your view. It could get you into serious trouble, compared to which never being received at Court again will seem a mere fribble-frabble. Oh, and there will be no park.”
“Your Majesty?” The magistrate’s wife looked confused.
“I believe Mr McGordon explained it quite well,” the king sighed, “but if you missed it, or blanked it from your self-obsessed mind, now the Charter has been rendered void the land does not revert to the legal entity that sits on my head but to me, personally, as my own property. To do with as I wish, and frankly I do not wish to reward a bunch of idiots who listened to the spoilt holder of a first class law degree who’s never done the slog to get herself any professional qualifications or experience, and spent a lot of public money in the process.” He drew breath and went on, “I haven’t decided what I’ll do with the land yet, and certainly some of the ill-advised changes to land zonings in this area might yet be overturned after the audit. There are several worthy matters I might permit use of it to, a few military issues, the Recidivist Society is looking for space for a youth camp, or I could keep it for private use.” Lady Magida’s face brightened but then the king went on, “Of course, if I did that then I would require anyone overlooking the property to brick up the windows on this side of their buildings and build…solid ten foot high walls along their boundary to preserve my privacy.”
Mistress Aimwright watched the expression on Lady Magida’s face with glee. Bethany’s cousin Simone giggled, and covered her mouth with her hand to stifle the sound.
“So,” muttered Lord Korne to his daughter, “what does this teach you?”
“Never, ever, piss off His Majesty,” muttered Bethany back.
“Not what I had in mind, but that works too,” agreed her father. “We can talk about it later.”