The horrendous crash from the front of the house proved to be the arrival of the dumpster in her driveway. Dina peered worriedly at the narrow space left and wondered if she was trapped for the duration.
Elves were always inconsiderate. King Lucian was delighted to put them to work hauling trash. They daren't complain, and he noticed that the longer they worked the less snotty and impolite they were.
Dina turned away from her vision of her husband's – her Exes – team of lawyers carrying out what the orcs had demolished, with a rueful smile.
Taking a stretch break, she strolled out to the street and tried to decide if she wanted to change the exterior color of the house. Cream with brown window edges and so forth wasn't bad, but could it be better?
"What in God's name are you doing to Mrs. McGruder's house?"
The man was standing on the lawn to the side of her house, and was thus instantly identifiable as her neighbor. He was middle aged, with brown thinning hair and a paunch.
"Remodeling the upstairs bathrooms." she said. "Hi. I'm Dina Masters."
"Charles Hastings. Glad to meet you."
King Charles of the neighboring Kingdom of Middle Paunch.
"Err, is your husband around?"
Not a very tactful king, but then, kings didn't need to be.
"I'm divorced. Two kids away at college. It'll just be me living here."
"Oh?" Faint gleam in eye.
Not a letch. Please. Please just let it be some unmarried friends he want to match make for or somesuch.
A door slammed on the porch behind the man and two women emerged from the shadowed recess. Mother and daughter, no doubt at all about that. Both blue eyed blondes, both thin, both with a bit too much makeup on.
"This my wife, Mary Francis and my little hostage to fortune, Mary Victoria." Charles beamed fondly at the women. "This our new neighbor, Dina, err…"
"Masters, sorry about the noise." Dina glanced apologetically at the dumpster. "I had no idea how involved renovating a bathroom could get."
Had he called his daughter a hostage to fortune? Oh yes, a hostage. Or perhaps a potential wife for Lucian.
"Well, I'd best get back in and see what they're doing. Nice to have met you." Dina smiled and bolted back to her computer.
Princess Marivic and her entourage had been his guests over the winter . . .
Finally the tramping of feet creased outside her closed office door, and she ventured a peek.
The _much_ enlarged bathroom was cavernous dark and empty. Oh yes, definitely a dungeon.
"Got everything oot in one day," the cheerful dwarf said, behind her. "Tomorrow we'll start on the framing and then the floor."
"Oh," she said. "It looks, umm…" good? No. "Like you're making progress."
"Weel, this stage always goes fast. It's putting it all back together that's the slow part."
"I see. Well, I'll see you tomorrow, then?"
"About ten o'clock, we'll go by the lumber yard first, get everything we need."
"Right." She nodded as he left, and wandered into her bedroom. They'd put a drop cloth over the bed. It had snowdrifts of chalk from the smashed wall board. The hole in the wall gaped.
"It is going to be really nice, when they get done." She forced her voice into firm confidence. Then headed downstairs to locate the sheets for the other bed. She'd be sleeping in the downstairs bedroom for the duration.
The knock came as she was loading the washing machine. It was Mary Victoria at the side door. With a paper plate full of cookies in hand.
"Wow! That's the biggest refrigerator I've ever seen!"
In fact, it dominated and overwhelmed the pokey little kitchen. "Come in, won't you, Mary?"
"Oh _puleeze_! I can't believe my parents still call me that. Can you tell they're Catholic?"
"Vicky." She poked at the fridge as if she couldn't believe it was real.
"My ex-husband tended to buy the biggest and best things he could afford, and he could afford a lot." Eventually. The first years of their marriage had been a bit tight, after her royalty on The Western March went for the down payment on their first house.
"And you divorced him, anyway?"
"Some things are more important than money."
Vicky gave her a disbelieving look before scuttling off homeward.
The Princess joined him for dinner in the formal dinning room. The daughter of the neighboring king who'd foolishly encroached on Lucian's territory, she was staying for awhile as a guarantee of her father's good behavior. Lucian suspected her Father expected to gain the Kingdom of the West by marriage. And he knew that marrying her would be a good political move, but could summon little enthusiasm for the prospect. She talked too much about ordinary things.
Not that she had anything against Vicky, who seemed like a perfectly normal teenager. Sixteen or seventeen years old, at a guess.
But every story needed a female.
She popped a cookie into her mouth and contemplated the nearly empty shelves of the fridge. There was another good thing about divorcing. She'd never clean the fridge because _he_ criticized her housekeeping ever again.
Of course she hadn't bought much since moving in. She closed the fridge and phoned for a pizza.
She ate pizza and wrote about King Lucian's problems till two in the morning.
The doorbell was ringing. Dina peeled an eye open.
She leaped out of bed, snatched her fluffy robe and scurried to unlock the door. The dwarf took a step back and blinked nervously. _How bad do I look?_
"Sorry, up late." She stepped back and left the door open, waving a general wave, that he apparently interpreted as 'go for it'. Which had probably been what she meant.
She fled for the kitchen, put on a pot of coffee.
"We'll be needing to turn the water and power off in aboot half an hour." the dwarf's tactful voice came floating down the stairs.
"Right." she yelled back, throwing herself frantically into the bathroom.
Fortunately her UPS was good for hours.
With her hair still dripping down her back, she backtracked and started in on King Charles's assault on the Border Castle of Dunsters, and King Lucian's brief hardships before he broke the siege and charged over Charles's troops and positions, capturing the King.
With a satisfied sigh, she backed it all up before she ran out of power.
She wondered how bad her hair looked _now_, having dried sometime in the last few hours. Hmm, King Lucian _needed_ a really ugly gatekeeper. Butler. What the Hell did castles have, anyway? Hadn't she known that twenty-five years ago? Chatelaines? Castelions? Depended on the culture, she supposed.
She scuffed off downstairs and dressed, brushed her hair, pulled it back into a pony tail, like she hadn't worn for, well, twenty years.
There still wasn't anything in the fridge. Time to shop.
She squeezed her car past the dumpster, and decided she needed to go to the library as well as the store.
The local branch only had the middle book of the trilogy, but that was a starting spot. Hard to believe she didn't have any copies of her own book.
She spent half a fortune at the grocery, stocking fridge and pantry with the basics.
When she got home the electrician had finished and left. The orcs were peeling up the vinyl floor covering when she peeked in.
The dwarf smiled, "Got everything ready for the actual fixtures, only had to make a tiny hole in the bedroom ceiling to locate the wires for the subfloor heater." she must have looked worried because he continued, "It'll be easy to patch, don't you worry about it."
She smiled and glance around the room. The bathroom, half bath and closet were now all one nice big room. The wall board was in and taped, but not textured, the power outlets moved…"Umm," she pointed at one, "Isn't that where the sink is going?"
The Dwarf frowned at it.
"And that one is kind of high, how far down are the upper cabinets going to come?"
"Don't worry, I'll check the plans and we can move them when the electrician is back to put in the floor heater."
"Right." Dina backed out and returned to her computer.
The electro-mage was young and inexperienced. Even with the Dwarf keeping an eye on him, the dungeon renovations were going badly …