The Duke's words at first brought a stunned silence to the restaurant, but before the Reeve was able to carry out the Duke's orders, ringing applause rang out. The applause for the Duke's words was so thunderous that the Ark began to rock as if it were still sailing the High Seas.
Once the Reeve had Etan and Parisah outside, he gave Etan the document that proclaimed Lucaso a ward of the kingdom. He then began explaining their situation to them in no uncertain terms.
"Etan and Parisah, as of this moment you have no standing at all in regard to Blacky; in fact if I see or hear of either one of you bad mouthing or laying a hand on him, I will arrest you, put you in jail and throw away the key. If Blacky chooses to live with his grandparents, which I believe he will, don't even think about being a minute late or a penny short with your payment. For, if that happens, you will be in jail before you know it, and Blacky will own your Shoppe! Now get out of my sight, before I arrest you for loitering!" The Reeve then turned and returned to the Ark and his dinner, hoping that his appetite would return; dealing with those two had soured his stomach.
While the Reeve was outside, reading the riot act to Blacky's egg and sperm donors, inside Blacky was busy interrogating the Duke as only a child could.
As soon as the Duke's words had penetrated Blacky's skull, and he understood what the Duke's words meant, he launched himself onto the Duke's lap and began showering the stunned Duke with hugs and kisses.
"Do you weally mean it? I don't hab to live with them meanies anymore? Is it weally twue? Can I go live with Granma and Granpa?"
The Duke finally had to put his hand carefully across Blacky's mouth, so he could answer at least one of his questions before Blacky could blurt out another one. Blacky had been speaking so fast that the Duke wasn't sure that he had even heard all of the questions. "Blacky, can you give me a moment to answer your questions, one at a time?" the Duke asked his lap-mate, and, once Blacky had nodded yes, carefully removed his silencing hand.
"Blacky, the answer to the first question is yes, Etan and Parisah are no longer your parents." Blacky started to ask another question, but the Duke just calmly placed a finger across Blacky's lip, and Blacky settled back down.
"Now for the big question............." The Duke never even got a chance to finish.
"Yes, I wanna go live with Grandma and Grandpa; they love me." Blacky then turned and looked at his grandparents.
"Can I come and lib wid you fowever and ever?"
Surprisingly to some, it was Mercy who answered, not Norweg.
"Of course you can child; we were going to ask you ourselves tonight. I even went to the Mayor's Office this afternoon to take care of just that. Does that answer your question?"
Blacky didn't answer in words instead he jumped off the Duke's lap, nearly rendering the poor Duke unable to father any children. Blacky then ran over to his Grandma and, after jumping into her ample lap, began hugging and kissing her to death.
"Tank you, tank you! I lub you so much, grandma."
"What about me, you little scamp?" Norweg asked his euphoric grandson.
That question caused Blacky to literally fly to his grandpa and repeat the same treatment he had just given his Grandma.
"Of course, I lub you, silly, you my real daddy; that other man was just my pater." Blacky's answer brought joy to Norweg's face, as well as a few tears.
"Why you cwying, gwanpa, did I say da wrong ting?" a now solemn Blacky asked.
"No, child, you said nothing wrong; those are tears of joy. You have made me the happiest man in Mantasia." Norweg's words brought another round of applause from throughout the restaurant.
Before anyone else could ask another question the Ark's owner appeared, carrying a small cask and followed by a server with a tray of beautiful wine glasses. Once the server had set the exquisite glasses on the table, he turned to help his boss. The owner had tilted the cask slightly upward, with the bung facing the server, who reached into his apron pocket and removed a small tap. He then reached up and smoothly and efficiently removed the bung from the wine barrel. In basically the same motion, he replaced the bung with the tap, and the owner began filling the wine glasses.
As the owner was filling the glasses, he turned the cask just enough for Norweg to recognize the seal on the cask.
"My old friend, is that what I think it is?" Norweg inquired of the owner.
"Yes, Nor, it is the cask you gave me for my anniversary those many years ago. For those of you who don't know what Norweg was asking about, let me tell you. This cask is filled with some of the finest Sangiovese that you will ever taste. It is from the Royal Vineyards of the Kingdom of Erehwon, and is probably the only cask of its kind in all of Mantasia," the owner replied with justifiable pride.
"As to why I am broaching this cask now, I personally can't think of a more opportune time. Looking around the table, I believe you all agree." With that said, the owner resumed pouring a wonderfully deep burgundy colored wine, whose bouquet was beginning to excite the adults. Blacky, of course, was a completely different animal.
"Duke, can I still work in the Shoppe?"
Blacky's question quickly brought everyone's attention back to real matter at hand.
"Of course, Blacky, but only if your Grandmother or Grandfather can come with you," was the Duke's surprised answer, as the question was totally unexpected.
The Captain of the Drakis Quest decided that it was time for his input, as he had a much better solution. He did not want Blacky exposed to his parents any more than necessary; he considered Blacky one of his grandsons, just like his real ones.
"Nor, I know that Blacky is very young, but I also know how much he knows about the business, and I know how much you have taught him about trading. With the right help, could you and he run the Shoppe the way it should be run?"
That question caught everyone by surprise, and the restaurant owner used that slight respite to set the Sangiovese in front of the adults, while his assistant placed an iced glass of mixed fruit juices at Blacky's place.
"Okay, Walter, old friend, just what do you have up your sleeve, and what do you mean by the 'right help'?" Norweg calmly asked the captain, trying to restrain his excitement.
"Why, Eric and Crane, of course; who else would I mean? You know they only sail with me because they love me; they don't love the sea. And you know they love trading just as much as you do, and they think of Blacky as one of their younger brothers." The Captain had to pause, as he realized that all of the adults were absolutely silent and staring into the depths of their wine glasses. He took a sip of his wine and was overtaken with rapture and instantly transported to the land of bliss.
While everyone except Blacky was busy experiencing their wonderful wine, the restaurant staff was silently and unobtrusively serving their salads and the restaurant's prized Cioppino1. Even Blacky was supplied with a full portion of Cioppino, as it was his favorite soup. In fact, it was so much his favorite that he and his Grandpa would actually go fishing and bring their catch to the Ark, so they could take some Cioppino home to eat with Mercy. Of course, they got to eat it with some of Mercy's wonderful fresh baked bread, hot out of the oven.
In between sips of wine and the mouthwatering Cioppino, which were a perfect pairing, Walter began explaining the rest of his plan.
"Eric and Crane have already been putting some of what you have taught them into practice, Nor, and that has helped our family's finances quite a bit. But they have begun chafing at the bit, as it were, and they don't want their own ship; for them the sea isn't a mistress, she is a jailer. If that weren't enough, their younger brother and his boyfriend are trying to kick them off my ship." That last bit brought a little laughter, and almost some sprayed Sangivese and Cioppino.
"Not only that, Nor, but twenty five percent of our cargo is theirs for you to sell for them. They were going to ask you tomorrow if you would sponsor them in business. I can tell you that, if they can sell only half of what they have, they could buy Blacky's ex-parents' Shoppe outright. If you will take me up on my offer, I will buy the Shoppe myself for them, and they can pay me back."
"Captain Walter, I have a question or two for you, if I may?" the Duke inquired.
Poor Blacky, he was torn between paying attention to the adults and eating his Cioppino and the fruit salad that he had instead of the yucky adult salad that everyone else had. His stomach won out.
"Of course, your highness, and I will do my best to answer them," Walter replied very politely, as he really didn't know the Duke.
"First, how old are your sons, and do either of them know anything about accounting? And, while we are here among friends, you don't need to call me 'highness', Duke or Kevin will be just fine," the Duke responded.
"The twins are eighteen; they are both serving as Purser on this trip, and the ship's accounts are in excellent condition. The only issue that I can't take care of is introducing them to all of Norweg's land connections. But Blacky probably knows all of them, and could do that, if Norweg was unable to help with that side of the business. Does that answer your questions, Kevin?"
"Thanks, Captain, you gave me everything I needed to know."
"Okay, folks I think we need to change our plans, as, the more I think about it, the more I don't want this sweet boy anywhere near those two miserable excuses for Mantasians. I think we need to meet with the twins and see if they would be amenable to taking over the Shoppe, under the direction of Blacky and Norweg." The rest of whatever the Duke was going to say was interrupted by the arrival a huge platter of lobster tails, quickly followed by a platter of steamed vegetables. The servers then removed the salad plates and the Cioppino bowls. When they returned, they brought a huge platter of Drakis rice pilaf and another one with a large, succulent roast on it. The conversation was quickly stilled, while everyone partook of the wonderful repast set in front of them.
'Dwakis Rice twice in one day, wow!' thought Blacky, as he dug into his food before someone else ate it all.
After the adults had some time to eat a fair portion of the wonderful meal that they had been served, the Duke began speaking again.
"I have been thinking about something I had said earlier today, and I have come up with the perfect way to put those two people in their place. First, I am going to sign the decree making Norweg and Mercy Blacky's new parents permanently. Second, and this is only if Eric and Crane agree to our plan, is that we wait until after the invitation for Blacky, Mercy and Norweg to the King's Birthday Ball arrives. Once that happens, and they are humiliated, because they didn't get an invitation, Norweg and Blacky can take over the Shoppe, with Crane's and Eric's help. From then on out it will be up to all of you to take care of the details. If there is any problem with purchasing the Shoppe, just let the Reeve know; I will leave him documents giving him the power to arrest Etan and Parisah and give the Shoppe to Blacky, with Norweg as his executor. Does that sound like a plan?" While the Duke had been presenting his revised plan, he was signing the decree.
"Blacky, can you come over here and help me for a moment?"
Blacky nodded yes, and then his Grandpa helped him down from his special chair. He stood next to the Duke. Kevin reached down and helped Blacky up onto his lap.
"Can you write a 'B' on this paper, if I help you?" the Duke asked Blacky.
"I can do it by myself; I don' need help," Blacky replied.
The Duke looked over at Norweg, who nodded yes.
"Okay, Blacky, write a 'B' right on this spot." Kevin pointed to a spot just below his own signature.
Blacky struggled just a bit, because he was using a full size quill pen, not his customized one that his Grandpa had made for him. Once he was finished, Kevin quickly melted the sealing wax and pressed his seal onto the decree, then onto the copy for the Kingdom's Archives.
"Jan, please make another copy and have the Reeve sign and seal it, so Blacky can have his own personal copy."
"Blacky, from now on, you are going to live with your Grandma and Grandpa, and you never have to see or speak to Etan and Parisah, unless you want to, and only--and this is very important--only if one of your grandparents is with you. If Etan or Parisah ever try to see or talk to you alone, run to the Mayor or the Reeve. Do you understand me?"
Blacky answered by turning around and giving the Duke a big hug and a kiss. Kevin surprised him by returning the hug and kiss.
"Blacky I do have a great big favor to ask you. On the days you aren't 'working' at your Shoppe, could you please go to the Royal Orphanage and play with a young boy named M, who lives there? It would make me very happy if you would do me that favor, and I am sure that it would make him happy, too. Do you think you could do that?" Kevin hugged the boy again.
Blacky looked up at him. "I can have a fwiend to play with?"
Here is another chapter in Lucaso's early life; finally, things are starting to look up for him. Will his ex-parental units cause trouble, or will they just disappear? Will Blacky and Marty become friends? Hopefully, these questions will be answered in the next chapter.
The Story Lover
I am sorry to have to admit that I haven't seen the previous chapters of this story, but I am already hooked on it. Blacky's earlier life must have been very unhappy, if the Duke felt it necessary to intercede and take him away from his parents. But it certainly looks as if he has a much happier future ahead of him. His grandma and grandpa obviously love him, and everyone seems to be setting plans into action to provide him with a much better life. I hope to see more of Blacky's story (including the part I've missed) very soon.
Hey, that's Me! I have read the earlier chapters, and I also know a bit more about Blacky from some other things I have read. I, too, am very fond of him, and I hope all will go well for him, and that he will be very happy.
I am so glad that TSL has chosen to give us so much more detail about the lives of the people of Mantasia. A not so little bird has told me that there will be some more surprises in store from TSL, that will add more details from elsewhere and elsewhen. I know, there is no such word as elsewhen. So sue me.
Great Job, TSL, and thank you for writing all the stories from the DEU.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher
Nice to get a bit more in this saga of the DEU. Maybe a cliff hanger in the next chapter. It looks like Blacky has a new and much better life all ready to begin. It is going to be interesting to see just what adventures are on store for him.
We are ready for more.
1Cioppino is a fish stew originating in San Francisco and derived from the various regional fish soups and stews of Italian cuisine. Cioppino is traditionally made from the catch of the day, which in the dish's place of origin is typically a combination of dungeness crab, clams, shrimp, scallops, squid, mussels and fish. The seafood is then combined with fresh tomatoes in a wine sauce, often served over spaghetti or other long pasta and toasted buttered bread, either sourdough or baguette. The dish is comparable to bouillabaisse, burrida, and bourride of the French Provence, suquet de peix from Catalan speaking regions of coastal Spain, and to cacciucco and brodetto from Italy .