A big thanks to every one who reviewed the last chapter and not only, and to "huntergirl" and "samiam" whom I can't thank personally.
Hope you all enjoy. Sorry for any of those slippery mistakes. :(
"Come on in," he did a complete turnaround becoming excessively jovial.
"Any friend of you know who," he waved the note in the air, "is a friend of ours.
The name is Ash by the way."
The brothers shrugged, raised their eyebrows, and followed their mercurial new acquaintance into the building.
Unlike the exterior the inside was much better disposed, although seemingly composed of the one all-purpose room.
"Now that we're inside, we can talk more freely," Ash announced and he indicated a well-used wooden table, with short benches on either side.
"I think there's some fresh beer left over from last night," he muttered as he yanked out an earthenware jug from the little dresser
which was the only other piece of furniture in the room, apart from a large open fire-place, clearly used for cooking as well as heating,
and another smaller side-table, with kitchen utensils and some plates scattered casually upon it.
"Sit yourselves down and give me your news of Franck and Missouri," he declared expansively, as he plonked two pewter tankards down on the table-top
in front of the Winchesters, who were following his antics with unabashed interest.
He filled the tankards to the brim and sat down opposite them, one elbow on the table as if waiting in anticipation for them to begin.
Dean glanced at his brother, indicating that the floor was his and so Sam launched into their story, while Ash's attention grew gradually more intense.
"That's some story you've got there boys, or should I call you princes?" he commented eventually, throwing back his head in thought
and running a hand through his long hair.
"We can no longer aspire to such titles; as those who have lost a kingdom can at the best be called careless, and at the worst fools,"
Dean remarked bitterly, receiving a consolatory look from Sam.
"Well, now," Ash answered. "First of all I must confess to the fact of not being one of the names on Franck's note "
He held up a leisurely hand as he saw Dean pulling out his dagger.
"What I mean is that they were my parents, " he qualified quickly and watched with relief as Dean lowered his blade.
"They did the rounds of the townships with Franck and Missouri more than twenty years ago, but Franck couldn't have known that less than a year ago
they both passed away, one following the other as they had always done."
The brothers exchanged heart-felt looks; they could relate to that.
"However in memory of the great friendship and reciprocal help that they gave one another; any friend of Franck and Missouri is a friend of ours."
"Ours'?" questioned Dean.
"Yes, my sister and I, but she's out at the moment."
"Now, he continued, "Just what can I do for you?"
"Good question," replied Dean resignedly. "We concentrated all our energies in getting out of Lawrencia, and safely away from Azazel;
so much so that we haven't really given much thought as to how to actually get the kingdom back," he admitted ruefully. "Or if we ever can!"
"Hmm, well I would say that the odds are a little stacked towards this Azazel and against you two," Ash stated openly,
managing to make the brothers feel even worse.
"Thanks for that!" was Dean's sarcastic reply.
"Just stating things as they are, man," was the laconic rejoiner.
"He's right Dean," Sam broke in passionately. "Our mission is nigh impossible. We can never hope to defeat the army of Azazel by ourselves!"
"Don't talk like that, Sammy!" Dean berated him angrily."Azazel didn't exactly have to fight the Hundred Years' War to take the Castle.
He did it with treachery and subterfuge, helped along by the Winchester House's own smug sense of security,
and we must turn his same methods back on him."
Sam's eyes met Dean's and he clamped on to them, silently apologising for his momentary defeatist attitude while renewing all his faith,
support and love for his big brother.
Ash observed curiously as the two young men in front of him held an entire conversation by just looking into one another's eyes.
He coughed and the two pairs of eyes broke contact. "Well," he boasted, "if it's subterfuge you want, you've come to the right place!"
The creaking of the front door announced the arrival of the other occupant of the little house and the two princes rose to their feet,
as had been inculcated into them since they were children, at the entrance of a lady.
"Well, well, well, what have we here?" she purred as she took in the pleasurable sight of the two handsome if somewhat scruffy, young men
who had just risen to their feet before her; underlining her blatently obvious appreciation by her suggestive eye-roaming.
"Now, now, sister," Ash drawled. "It's not what you think. These two are friends of Franck and Missouri, come to ask us for aid."
The woman's attitude changed a little but the appreciation in her eyes remained.
"Huh, and just what do they think we can do for them?" she enquired.
Dean had already gotten his hackles up at her inspection of himself and his brother, but she was a lady and therefore to be treated with the
greatest of respect, so he held back on any prickly remark and instead came forth with, "My gracious lady, we expect nothing from your gentile self,
but to be able to thank you for any shelter or help that you may be able to offer two miserable travellers such as our two unworthy selves."
It came out courteously but rather too pompously Sam thought and he grinned, earning Dean's equivalent of a bitch-face and the mouthed epithet "Bitch".
"Jerk!" replied his grinning brother, completely unfazed by Dean's withering glare.
She made her way over to Dean and with an amused smirk she mocked him, "Well, now, I m sure that no Prince could have said
what you just did, any better."
"Maybe," broke in he brother, matching his sister's smirk," that's because he IS a Prince, although temporarily without a kingdom"
Ash smiled, as for once his quick-witted big sister had been taken by surprise.
However she soon recovered her snarky composure by announcing that she was so, so sorry not to have adequate means to host such regal figures.
They stood there awkwardly until Ash refilled their tankards and the two princes took their places at the table again,
while Ash's sister disappeared through an adjacent door; to refresh herself, so she said.
Although her attitude had rubbed Dean the wrong way, he wasn't impervious to her charms, and her high spirits and feistiness appealed to him
after being used to the simpering attentive young women with whom he was usually surrounded at Court.
Sam chortled to himself.
He had seen Dean's interest spark towards the handsome woman and anticipated the fiery interaction between them.
Dean was used to being courted and fawned upon by clinging and giggling females; his position as Crown Prince of a rich kingdom like Lawrencia
and his own personal good looks making him an eye-catching target for ambitious mothers and princesses from far and wide.
Sam was curious to see just how he would manage now that he was no longer such a prized prey.
Before long Ash's sister returned and took her place at the table and he made the formal introductions. "Sam, Dean, this is my sister Pamela. Pamela
these are the two fugitive princes from Lawrencia, their Royal ex-Highnesses Sam and Dean," he joked.
The two brothers grimaced wryly at Ash's summary of their actual position.
"Sam chirped in helpfully with, "You forgot to mention that we haven't got more that a few pennies between us, so you can add, destitute to the list."
"You did good there little brother. Let's remind them that we can't even pay for their hospitality should they decide to give it," stated Dean ironically,
earning himself a bitch-face from his younger brother.
"Boy, boys, I'm sure you'll be able to pay us back adequately for any help we can give you," Pamela cooed teasingly.
Ash rolled his eyes, well used to the attitude of his big sister in the company of such handsome young men.
However she became more serious as she narrated.
"There is talk of a reward being offered by the new king for the capture of the two traitorous princes of Lawrencia,
so you will have to be very careful if you go out into the streets; although if one does not know you personally
they would never expect to see two rich princes in the scruffy and poorly dressed boys you are now.
Is there anyone who might know your faces here in Arkadelphia?"
"Well," Dean answered glancing at his brother. "The Arkansan Royal Family have been visitors at our parents' Court, and many of their attendants
and servants would recognise us too; as would many of their men-at-arms.
Also Sammy here had a little crush on the King's daughter Jessica, and certainly all of her hand maidens and ladies will know his face."
Dean smirked as he saw the blush come over his little brother's face but he just couldn't resist this chance at baiting him.
Sam's glare however promised vendetta and Dean knew that sooner or later it would be carried out; but it had been worth it to see Sam's face
turn beetroot red.
Sam was silently going through a list of the most horrible pranks he could think of, to pay Dean back for revealing his teenage crush on the Princess Jessica,
when he felt his head explode into piercing agony, and a vision of Azazel and his troops entering the valley that they had recently left,
formed itself nebulously in his mind.
He fell to the floor; and seeming to come from miles away, he could make out his brother's panicked voice yelling his name.
XXXXXXXXXX TBC XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX