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1

"This lime pudding is simply wonderful!" my old friend Jean le Vorsage declared. It was Tuesday night in Javelin's wardroom, where I traditionally hosted our weekly commanding officer's dinners. "Sheer heaven! Could you pass the dish, David?"

"Of course," I replied, sliding the bowl down the table. I still wasn't sure exactly how it was that the very nastiest of the human-style food kept ending up parked directly in front of me. But somehow it always did. So far, however, this was the only serious drawback I'd found to "family-style" dining. It was all the rage everywhere these days, ever since James had begun dispensing with strict precedent and protocol at all but his most formal functions. Nestor had first suggested it to him, I wasn't supposed to know, as a means by which His Majesty could have personal interactions with the lowly free Rabbits whenever he came and visited my estate. The rest was history. And quite beneficial history at that, so far as I was concerned. Not only was it probably good for James, but dispensing with formal ceremonial and switching seatmates every week allowed me to get to know all my subordinate captains better, not just the same two or three that I'd ordinarily partner with again and again. The better we all knew each other, the more effectively we could work together as a team. Which was precisely why I held the weekly dinners to begin with, of course.

"Here you go, sir," my personal servant and chief aide muttered as he placed a cup of after-dinner tea in front of me. I smiled as he then immediately vanished back into the kitchen. My friend Nestor didn't have to function as a cabin boy anymore; Javelin was a big enough ship and my current assignment dictated a large enough staff that there was no need for him to make beds and brew tea. "No, sir," he'd replied when I'd offered him a formal berth as a temporary-duty naval officer. "I wouldn't know how to function aboard a king's ship if I didn't have informal access to the galley and the other bunnies. What would they think of me, sir, if I wore a fancy uniform like yours?" To be fair, Nestor only acted as my valet these days when his other duties permitted; we'd had a nice long talk on the subject, and he well understood what I wanted and needed his priorities to be. Still… I had to smile as I watched him darting back and forth into the galley with the other cabin-bunnies. He seemed happiest doing such work, in a perverse sort of way, and I wondered sometimes if he wasn't the wise one after all.

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