by Elegant Butler

-Chapter 1:

Edison Carter tried to snuggle up to his wife of many years. But tonight, despite being wide awake, Vanna wasn't having it.

"You promised me when we married that you wouldn't put yourself in danger any more." Vanna said, stiffly. "And tomorrow where are you going? To war!"

"I'm not going to war, Vanna," Edison explained. "I'm going to London as..."

"As an ambassador. Yes, I know." Vanna rolled over to face him. "And when that fails, then what? Are you going to come home to me? Is the great Edison Carter going to walk away from friends in need and come home to his wife? Of course not!"

"I haven't been the great Edison Carter for years," Edison pointed out.

"But you still have that reputation! That's what this Magnus guy is counting on."

"It's what we're all counting on," Edison said. "And let's say you're right. Let's say I am going to end up in war, do you really want to miss out on what might be our final cuddle?"

"You better make sure it isn't, mister," Vanna said, finally letting him hold her close.

They did not make love that night. The mood was too solemn. Instead, they enjoyed each other's warmth as they held each other until sleep finally came.

In the attic guest room, Bryce curled up with his wife Jenny, marveling at how young she always looked after they'd spend precious moments in a tender act of love. To him, her streaks of gray hair made her look more like a comic book hero than a woman who was getting on in age.

"I hope Edison will be able to talk sense into those people," he told her. "He's always had a knack when it comes to speaking with important people."

"We can only hope for the best Bryce," Jenny told him.

"Is that really all we can do, Jen?" Bryce asked her. "I wish there was more. It seems so unfair to have the intelligence that you and I each have and not be able to do anything more than hope."

"I know, Bryce," Jenny agreed.

In the morning, Vanna got dressed and walked into the kitchen of the old farmhouse to find it empty. Even Sadie wasn't up, yet. Looking at the old analogue clock on the wall, she saw that the time was close to four in the morning.

Too nervous and anxious to sleep, she sat at the table and waited to see who would be the first to join her. She hoped it would be her husband. She wanted a little more time alone with him before he was sent to London as their ambassador.

Getting bored with watching the clock, she let her eyes really take in this little farm kitchen for the first time.

There were no modern appliances in here except for the sink. The icebox in the corner was as old fashioned at the Jotul stove that their hostess, Sadie Eccleston, used to cook their meals. That stove, the Jotul, was an old cast-iron wood burning stove with a pipe that fed out through the kitchen wall. Not too far away the crockery shelves held pots, pans, and plates.

She sensed a movement nearby and saw Sadie in her work clothes.

"Good morning," Sadie whispered. "I could use help scattering the morning hay."

Part of Vanna wanted to turn the request down, in case she missed seeing Edison off. But she knew she wouldn't. And it would seem rude to deny a request from a woman who had been such a wonderful hostess.

She followed Sadie to the barn where they collected the hay bales and brought them to the pasture, scattering each with pitchforks until plenty of hay was laid out for the cows to eat.

"Now, let's go inside and get some breakfast going for everyone," Sadie said, as she led the way back to the farmhouse.

"Coffee ready?" Edison asked them about ten minutes later.

"Not yet," Vanna said. "Five more minutes."

"While you're waiting," Sadie suggested "why don't you help out and set the table? I'm sure the others will be up soon. You go ahead and help," she added, addressing Vanna.

Recognizing that Sadie was giving them a chance to talk before Edison's late morning departure, Vanna gave her a grateful smile as she joined her husband at setting the table.

Magnus joined them in the kitchen some minutes later followed Claire and Charlotte. Then came Eric and Todd Lynch, followed soon after by the Oliver who bypassed the kitchen and went straight out to the milking barn.

"Bryce," Magnus said, as Bryce and Jenny joined them soon afterward. "Are you really sure we need to send Edison? It seems pointless. We know they're going to just turn down any offer we put on the table."

"I know," Bryce admitted.

"What!" Vanna exploded. "If you its a pointless risk then why do it?"

"War is the same as playing a game. Just with more dead people at the end,"

"Nice attitude," Vanna chewed him out. "You think war is fun! Like video games? Is that what you mean? You don't just look like a child, you even act like one! This is not play, Bryce!"

"Of course not, Mrs. Carter," Bryce corrected her. "I mean that like a game, war is played, or governed if you prefer," he amended when Vanna glared at the word 'play' "by a set of rules. Codes of conduct, things of that nature. One of these rules is that negotiations are attempted before armed combat. That is why we are sending Edison over on this mission. If it fails, then we will have to resort to our military style back up plan."

"I suppose we don't have a choice,"

"We do have a choice," Edison told her. "Our choice is clear. Either do as we plan to, or let the world fall into chaos and ruin."

"Why not let someone else do it?" Vanna asked. "Someone with more training and experience?"

"If everyone were to let someone else do it," Edison explained, "then no one ever would."

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