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Norman stared around the table at his inner council members seriously as the stewards completed their task of pouring wine for everyone, and setting out other small refreshments for them.

Captain Antonio looked grim in his seat, while also remarkably ordinary for once… Instead of donning a fine tunic and fitted black leather vest, or gleaming armor, he wore a simple white tunic and brown trousers. Lord Fuks was struggling with his bandaged hands to lift the wine goblet to his lips looking as bright-eyed as ever. Mage Lee looked exhausted, and for once his leaning on his staff didn’t look to be a production.

Mr. Howard’s complexion was pale, the circles under his eyes deep, as were the lines in his forehead.

Fin wore a black tunic with brown trousers, his travelling cloak already clasped around his shoulders as cool autumn winds whistled between the castle stones.

“We will take back Rollom, and then I will remain there to rebuild the city,” Norman began, his deadened gaze meeting everyone’s. “Once it is safe, Ainsley and the children will join me there. It may be years. Mr. Howard and Captain Antonio will join me permanently, while Lord Ashowan will return once we have vanquished the last of Troivackia’s soldiers. After the Viscountess gives birth, it will fall to him to manage the witches who are remaining here in order to offer their assistance in precautionary defence. Coven Leader Eloise Morozov will be joining me on a more permanent basis in Rollom. Lord Fuks, you are to advise and monitor the Viscount’s decisions. Mage Lee, you too will remain here with your son and wife to maintain our defences in the Viscount’s absence.”

The group collectively nodded.

“I’m afraid this will be our final meeting together.” Slowly standing, Norman managed a warm smile to those around him. “I could not have asked for a better inner council during these times. You have all served me honorably, and I will never be able to thank you all enough.”

Everyone bowed to their King, wordlessly accepting his praise.

“Your Majesty… If I may…?” Lord Fuks suddenly interjected, his eyes twinkling.

The Monarch nodded permissively.

“I need to know… why did you risk sending our dear cook on the Troivackian vessel- even with the witches involvement? It seemed a little odd to me...”

At this, Norman managed a strained smile. “Ah… well… I had a couple reasons for that decision. Almost all of which came to be fruitful. My biggest regret, however, is that it came at such a high cost.”

Fin said nothing, but his face did grow a little paler as he sat waiting expectantly.

“We needed to know when the Troivackian army was attacking. Then, there was the fact that if I had opted to send the Viscountess there was no reason for the Coven to participate in keeping an eye out and rescuing her. It was also a way to form concrete ties with the witches, while at the same time having firm grounds to ennoble our former cook here. A sacrifice in the name of rescuing fellow nobles and learning a precise attack timeline was greatly beneficial.” Norman paused then, and a small blush crept into his cheeks. “Then there was the possibility… that the Viscount could somehow… persuade some of the Troivackians to be more harmonious in nature… given his previous track record.”

At this, even mage Lee cracked a smile.

“I was surprised when fifty Troivackian men suddenly turned on their fellow soldiers during the battle yesterday, but I’m given to understand that… my particular estimate, did indeed come to be accurate. Though, Viscount… I have a message from two of those soldiers.” The King turned to his vassal wearing a puzzled frown. “Two soldiers named Rhett and Dylan- though they said you knew them as Stanley and Bruce?”

Fin suddenly grew sheepish, and the men around the table could only speculate why.

“They requested that you speak on their behalf during a hearing for their fates?”

The redhead nodded with a small smile. “I will… I too was surprised. I didn’t think one night of drinking and flirting with the men would-”

“You flirted with them?!” Mr. Howard burst out incredulously. “Here I was thinking the Bard was terrible for sleeping his way around the castle, but you-”

“Kevin, it’s too late to want me back. I’m married and it’s wrong.” Fin interjected while shaking his head with mock rejection.

Everyone shifted in their seats as they tried not to laugh.

“It’s 'Mr. Howard' to you,” the assistant grumbled darkly.

“Back to more... official matters,” Norman cleared his throat loudly, though amusement still glittered for a moment in his eyes. “The King of Troivack was planning on leaving a handful of his nobles to seize control of the Kingdom and then proceed with having them rule our land as an extension of their own for our fertile fields and resources. Once we beat back the last of them, we can negotiate their penalty- and how we can stop their entire nation from starving. They were resistant to my ideas before, but we will not be entering those meetings with the intent to negotiate.”

No one said a word, only waited for the King to continue. “As Charles and Phillip Piereva was the last technical male heirs to the Earldom, his wife inherited the house title and wealth. Though we will need to have her decide whether or not she is willing to return to the land given that she will most likely be forced to remarry quickly. Mr. Howard, please make sure to record this topic when we eventually begin our rendezvous with the remaining Troivackian leaders.”

The assistant was already scribbling away.

“Excellent. Now, are there any other matters we need to address?”

“Err… I have a question…?” Fin raised his hand tentatively.

“Yes, Viscount?”

“What are we going to do about the very large dead reptile on the lawn?”

At this there was a beat of silence before Norman spoke again. “What does the Coven of Wittica believe we should do?”

“Hide the corpse. People have enough on their minds without thinking about ancient beasts. It will also allow us to study its physiology and compare our records.”

The King nodded. “Very well. Draft up the official paperwork of the exchange, but please make sure that all their findings are shared and transparent with myself.”

The redhead nodded.

“Now, I believe we should see to packing and getting on the road by morning,” the King announced imperially until Fin stood suddenly.

“Sire, what if we… er…” Fin picked up the goblet of wine and downed its contents before clearing his throat awkwardly. “Because it is unlikely we will all be back in the same place for a long time… what do you all think about having one more evening of…” the witch trailed off as the wine bottles on the table magically drifted into the air and began topping up everyone’s goblets.

The men all raised their gazes to one another, a slow smile spreading to each of their faces.

Camaraderie, and good humor suddenly began to warm the room, and the fire in the hearth crackled merrily behind them all as though promising that their evening would indeed be a good one.

“I suppose… one night to let off steam before rejoining the battle doesn’t change the schedule. After all, we’re all mostly packed anyway…” Norman began slowly while raising his goblet to his lips.

“Not to mention the Viscountess is probably not going to say anything if we happen to… borrow… a bottle or two of her private stock of moonshine…” Mr. Howard noted casually.

Fin’s grinned turned cheeky. “Very well. Perhaps go ask my aid, Peter, if he also has any of his family’s absinthe to spare.”

The assistant was out of his chair launching himself across the room before the redhead had even finished speaking.

Chuckling to himself, Fin turned to his right to see the Captain studying him carefully, his lone blue eye somehow appeared darker since earlier that day…

“Ashowan… are you… really alright? Your father was beheaded this morning,” Antonio observed carefully, making the room once again stiffen.

Fin’s smile faded from his face as he lowered his gaze to the table.

“I… I don’t crave violence or revenge. I know he needed to be stopped, but to me, I suppose he was dead to me long ago, regardless.” No one spoke as the witch clearly was bracing himself to say a little bit more. “There is too much happening to properly process it admittedly, but… if I’m being perfectly honest… I don’t want the last night I have amongst friends for a long time to be lost because of Aidan Helmer.”

Even saying his name brought bile into the redhead’s throat.

The Captain beside him nodded. “I, too, do not feel taking his life was sufficient for the pain of losing Kate, but… at least he isn’t a danger anymore.”

Everyone stayed silent for a long thoughtful moment, until, with a shake of his head, Fin grabbed his goblet and lifted it to the air.

“To Daxaria, the best home I could’ve asked for!”

***

Six months later…

Pulling up to the castle doors of Austice on a snowy white steed, Fin lifted his hand, bringing the Knights following him to a halt. Dismounting swiftly, and walking purposefully up the steps, Ruby rushed out to greet him in the sunny, yet damp early spring day that wasn’t all that unlike the day he had first arrived as the Royal Cook…

Pulling off his leather gloves, the sword clipped at his side now like a second limb, he nodded to the servants that lined the steps and bowed to him.

“Viscount! Viscount, oh thank the Gods you are here! The Viscountess and her maid are trying to throttle each other, and no one can tell when the pains are coming, but poor Physician Durand cannot examine her properly at this rate!”

Fin frowned. He had only felt Annika’s initial panic when the labor pains had started, but couldn’t sense anything else… perhaps the birth hadn’t really started?

He had received word late the previous night that she had first felt the contractions, but he had already known and had been in the middle of saddling his horse when the messenger had come to tell him.

As Fin strode through the castle, he noticed several smiling faces greet him and many people waved to him excitedly.

“Better get up to the fourth floor, Viscount! You can hear the screams from the stairs!” Lord Fuks’ chipper voice rang out as he passed Finlay in the great hall. The man didn’t even break his stride despite not having seen the witch for half a year.

The redhead broke out into a jog, and by the time he was sliding into the corridor near where his wife was supposed to be giving birth under the Royal Physician’s care, he witnessed Clara being thrown with great force out of his beloved’s chamber.

The maid looked unhinged, her normally neat hair was disheveled and her cheeks were tinged with pink. She was in the process of rolling up her sleeves and muttering expletives while mage Lee and Keith who stood outside the door tried to hold her back.

“CLARA!” Fin shouted out, slowing down his speed the rest of the way.

Fortunately, his shout seemed to snap the woman out of her haze of ire.

“Viscount! Thank Gods you made it in time,” she breathed and groaned at the same time, her eyes closing.

“Yes, thank God you are here. I never knew that the Ladies of the court had even heard such colorful language, let alone… this!” Keith admonished, his eyes carrying a haunted look that immediately brought many questions to Fin’s mind.

Stepping around the two mages, Fin threw open the chamber door in time to see Annika gripping Hannah’s shoulders and letting out a loud moan of pain as she swayed her enormous rounded middle back and forth.

The blonde grasped the Viscountess’ shoulders and swayed with her as though the pair were in a strange dance.

“Ah, Viscount, thank Gods you’ve arrived.” Physician Durand was standing beside the hearth, his face already matted with sweat that he was attempting to dab away with a clean linen.

Annika, standing in nothing but her night shift, and her long black hair woven back in a loose braid with several flyaways looked up immediately at hearing the announcement of her husband’s arrival.

“You’re here!” she cried out, grateful tears springing to her beautiful eyes. “Godsdamnit where’ve you been?! This hurts, Fin! Gods, it hurts so much. Why the hell did you have to look so damn good at the ball…” she whimpered nonsensically, making the Physician and Hannah both look at the Viscount with wry amusement.

Clearing his throat awkwardly, Fin unclipped his sword from his belt, and stepped forward to take Ahhika’s hands off of Hannah. “Where is the Queen? Wasn’t she supposed to be helping you?” he asked, lowering his voice as he marvelled at the sight of his swollen wife.

“She’s calming Eric down… he seems… traumatized about people giving birth…”

Fin nodded in understanding. “Is Kraken there with him?”

“Yes, though… I won’t lie it was strange, but it URGAAAAGHH-” Annika shrieked, her grip on his shoulders becoming impressively painful.

“Viscount, could you please get her on the bed for me to examine. Her fight with her maid prevented me from checking her progress.”

“That frigid bitch started it! Saying I’m carrying on like a Godsdamn brood cow! I’LL CUT HER LIKE A COOOOW-OWOWOWOWOWOWOW!”

Tears were running down her cheeks.

Swiftly, Fin, with the help of Hannah, managed to maneuver his wife back onto her bed where Physician Durand checked how close she was to giving birth.

“Alright, Viscountess, we still have a ways to go. I imagine by nightfall you will be ready to pu-”

“I HAVE TO DO THIS UNTIL NIGHTFALL?!” the normally composed Viscountess roared making the poor man jump.

Fin began rubbing soothing circles around her lower back, making her moan in appreciation, her previous gusto immediately deflating.

“It’s alright, love. We know you can do it,” the witch soothed while trying to settle his own nerves.

Despite having assisted in countless births, he had to admit this one was more than a little nerve wracking as it was not only twins, but his twins.

“Exactly! Look Viscountess, there’s no other way out of this one, you’re just going to have to shove out those little witches at some point. So just suffer through best you can,” Hannah announced, smiling confidently while placing her hands on her hips.

Annika fisted the front of Fin’s tunic and dragged his face down until it was inches from her own.

“Get me your Godsdamn frying pan. I am going to need to hit something if I’m going to keep doing this.”

The redhead gulped. Perhaps Hannah wasn’t the best person to be giving motivational speeches in these scenarios…



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A note from Delemhach

Thank you everyone who read, rated, reviewed, favorited, followed, subscribed and joined on discord! 

My Patreonnis, you are wonderful kind folk, and I am so incredibly grateful for your support! Thank you!

Well everyone, 1 more official chapter, and 2 Epilogue then we are burrito finito for the first installment of The House Witch! 

It doesn't even feel real at this point, and it will be very strange to make the transition to the sequel. 

I hope you all enjoy the closing of the story, and know how integral you were to motivating me to sit my ass down each week to write and push myself to complete a story for the first time. It has been a learning curve and a half (So... like a learning spiral...), and I'm excited to take everything I have learned from this experience into the next work! 

You're all amazing, fantastic, kind people, and I wish you all the absolute best. 

Cheers friends!
Delemhach




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Delemhach

Bio: ... I'm weird and obsess about this kind of thing. Don't worry about it. Thanks for reading my work if you have!

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