Gregory let his meditation fade, a smile still on his lips as he came back to awareness. His wives had stayed behind at the end of the party; they’d stayed awake most of the night, indulging in each other as much as they could. The need to get as much time together as possible hung over all of them. With only a couple of hours until breakfast, they’d meditated, using their combined paths to keep them fresh and ready for a full day of travel.
Gregory looked at his desk where four letters sat. He’d written them out last night when he’d needed a few minutes between time with his wives. Yukiko would deliver two of them for him, one for his father and the other for Gunnar. The third letter was to Elsa, catching her up on how their year had gone. The last letter was to Clover, Ling, and Roshana to sum up the end of the year. His wives had done similarly, writing letters to their parents and to the others. Mindie promised to get them sent out for them, as she’d likely see a courier’s office before they would.
“Hmm… good morning, dear one,” Yukiko murmured, leaning over to kiss him.
“It is, but it’s also a terrible morning,” Jenn sighed. “If only it was possible to stop time so we could have a bit more of it.”
“Agreed,” Mindie said, then pulled the smaller woman to her to share a kiss.
The four of them went around a couple of times sharing kisses before they all got up to get dressed. Silence filled the room, each of them lost in their thoughts of how they wanted the year to speed by.
Yukiko gathered the letters for Gregory’s family while Mindie collected the rest. Those were the last few items that Gregory was going to collect from the tent before he stored it and everything in it into his ring.
Gregory pulled Yukiko to him, holding her tightly. “My father will help in any way he can. My village will welcome you warmly. Every village in that area will be kind and welcoming. Oh, you might get to stop by Linom and meet Victoria’s parents, too.”
“I was planning on it,” Yukiko murmured, holding him back just as firmly. “I hope they will accept that she’ll join our family, but I won’t broach that with them.”
“It’s not a terribly dangerous place. The bane wolf on my age day was the only thing…” He trailed off, thinking about his mother’s death, then forcing the lump in his throat down. “Only thing we’d seen as dangerous. Whatever killed my mother never made a second appearance, so do be cautious of that.”
“I will, dear one. If I find something that could’ve managed it, I will avenge her for you.”
Gregory closed his eyes, holding back the tears. “Thank you, Yuki, but your life is more important to me. Please… caution, first.”
“Understood, my heart.”
Pulling back, he bent his head and kissed her with all the love in his heart. He hated that they would be separated for a full year, but they would endure for what would come after that.
When the kiss ended, Yukiko handed him off to Jenn, who squeezed him tightly. Gregory wheezed, and Jenn eased off a little.
“Sorry,” Jenn muttered into his chest.
“It’s fine, my heart,” Gregory whispered, kissing the top of her head. “Your patrol has the chance of being dangerous, so keep an eye out for raiding parties across the border.”
“I will, but my post isn’t as dangerous as yours. You’d better heed your own words, dear one. We all want you safe. No dying or being scarred badly.”
“I’ll do my very best,” Gregory whispered. “Every day, I will check the future enough to know if we found trouble. Just enough that we can be ready for it while keeping some aether in reserve so I can act as needed when it happens. No surprises.”
“Good. I’ll be cross with you if you fail to come back to us as you are now.”
Bending forward, he waited for her to tilt her head up. Their kiss was soft and gentle to start, but quickly became inflamed passion that had Jenn leap up. She wrapped her legs around his waist, his hands under her pert ass to hold her as the kiss continued.
“Goodness,” Yukiko giggled. “I thought I’d worn you out, Jenn. If I’d known, I would’ve pushed you for another round with our husband.”
The pair parted a moment later, but Gregory didn’t put her down right away. “All of you can always tempt me for more. I only need to rest a little at times.”
“True,” Jenn said huskily as she unwrapped her legs, and Gregory set her down. “But we don’t have time for that. Besides, our precious healer needs her kiss, too.”
Mindie took Jenn’s place, leaning into Gregory as he wrapped her in his arms. “I wish I was going with you, Greg. I know you’ll need healing, or your men will, at least. We’ve divided out the supplies as best we could, but if possible, pick up more on the way. My fear of not being there grows. It’s only tempered because your aether lets you know what dangers you will face.”
“I wish you could, too. I wish all of you could,” Gregory murmured as he nuzzled her neck. “I have my hearts to meet again, so I’ll do everything I can to make it back to you all as safely as possible. You get to help our dear friends; they’ll need your guidance. Do all you can for them, and remind them that my promise waits for them. Teach them about the rings.”
“I will. They’ll be as eager to make it through their magus posting as we are to have them with us fully. Next year might feel forever away now, but it’ll pass quicker if we focus on what’s before us each day.”
“What’s before me today is a beauty who deserves a kiss,” Gregory said as he gently tilted her head his way, then kissed her.
The kiss lingered as the pair embraced. Mindie let out a soft whimper when she felt the eyes on them before she leaned into him.
“You should break the kiss there or she might drag you to the floor, dear one,” Yukiko giggled.
Gregory pulled back slowly. Meeting Mindie’s eyes, he gave her a sad smile. “That would delay everything today.”
“I know…” Mindie sighed.
The hour began to chime, and everyone felt as if the bell was cutting into their hearts. When it ended, the four of them hugged in a group for another long moment before they finally left his room.
As they stepped into the main part of the tent, Rafiq bowed to them. “Magi, I will do my best to assist him. It isn’t much, but I will do my very best.”
“Rafiq, you’re a dear friend,” Yukiko said. “We thank you for that, but we would feel terrible if you put yourself in danger. Gregory will be doing his best to mitigate the worst that can be. What you could do is be there for him. He might need a shoulder more than a shield.”
“Understood.” Rafiq bowed again.
“Thank you, Rafiq,” Jenn smiled. “We’ve grown a lot over the years because of you and the other archivists. We’ll repay that in time.”
Rafiq’s eyes seemed to spark knowingly. “It is not required. We just aim to see the young magi learn, and perhaps grow past what is.”
“Stay safe,” Mindie said. “I’ll see you in a year, and I can help with any lingering problems, but you need to be there for me to do that.”
“Very well.” Rafiq bowed again. “I will do my best, Magus.” He straightened up to look them over. “I do have to say, the emerald looks far better on you than the orange.”
Gregory chuckled. “I feel better in it.”
“It matches his eyes wonderfully,” Yukiko smiled. “Alas, we must get to our men for breakfast. Rafiq, we’ll see you in Krogga.”
They all bowed before leaving just Gregory and Rafiq in the tent. Mindie had explained that she had to get back to Willof, who’d gone to spend the night with the other former advisors.
“Your wives are good people, Gregory,” Rafiq said softly. “Truly, you four will show other magi what kindness is.”
“I hope so. Breakfast, then the road. We have a bit of a trip to get to Coldwood or Icelake.”
“Indeed, we do,” Rafiq said, stepping out of the tent.
Gregory exited after him, then touched the tent, willing it into his ring. With a long look over the camp, he saw his people getting ready for breakfast, but also the trip. His third year of study was done, and now, it was time to put his learning into practice. Taking a deep breath, he put a smile on. His heart might ache now, but he needed to keep up appearances for his men. The next year would test him in new ways, he was sure, but his wives would be waiting for him. Nothing would stop him from meeting them again… nothing.