In the Name of the King (AU/CC/Mature) 7/19/12 COMPLETE

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In the Name of the King (AU/CC/Mature) 7/19/12 COMPLETE

Post by Cardinal » Sun Apr 17, 2011 12:13 am

Banner made by mary mary, otherwise known as the glorious Ginger. Thanks. :wink:
Awards for Round 15
for the use of Jeff Parker as the Baron of Roswell
Thank you one and all who voted for me and this fic; you make me feel like I know what I'm doing.

Title: In the Name of the King

Author: Cardinal

Disclaimer: All the characters, except for my self-created supporting characters, belong to the usual suspects...WB, UPN, Jason Katims, and Melinda Metz.

Everyone but me.


If I had an ownership interest in this property, season two would NOT have happened the way it did.

Pairings/Couples/Category: Max and Liz are the focal point here, but every major canon couple is here in some capacity. And guess what? No evil Tess.

Rating: Mature, for some language.

Summary: Crown Prince Maximilian of the House of Evans is the heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Alemannia...a kingdom that is ripe for revolution. Lady Elizabeth of the House of Parker is the second daughter of a minor noble in Alemannia, who lives far from the intrigue of the royal court. Their meeting will change the course of history.

A/N:This fic was originally written and posted by me for a different fandom. I have decided to remake it as a Roswell fic, which will take some work on my part, but not too much. I'm really curious to see how this will end up changing the story.

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Chapter 1
Manfred was riding a horse hard and leading another one behind him. As the senior servant assigned to Crown Prince Maximilian of the House of Evans, Manfred was unaccustomed to playing the role of messenger unless his charge had seriously irritated his parents, King Phillip and Queen Diana. That was not the case today, not that he knew anyway, but if the scuttlebutt among the servants was right, Prince Max might wish he was being punished after today’s audience.

As Manfred drew near the waryard, he could hear the clang of sword on sword or the thunk made when a metal sword glanced off a wooden shield, and there in the middle of it all, under the watchful eye of the kingdom’s most honored knight, Sir Emmerich Bauer, was the prince himself. He was just short of his nineteenth birthday, just short of six feet in height, with long brown hair that was currently held back in a warrior’s triple braid, and amber-flecked brown eyes that made women swoon.

Max’s face glistened with sweat as he worked out under the watchful eye of the royal arms master. Everyone thought crusty old Sir Emmerich was a tough, uncompromising bastard, but no one believed that more fervently than Max. He was the crown prince of the kingdom, and yet Bauer worked him harder than anyone else. Over and over they went, day after day, working on technique until Max had every move down pat…and then working some more. Once his two hours of martial training were over, he hung up his practice weapons, and then turned to his servant as he began to remove his practice armor.

“What am I late for this time, Manfred?” Max asked disinterestedly, as he took off his leather gauntlets and put them away. “Language lessons? Economics classes? Dancing instruction?”

Off all the things a prince needed to know, Max considered dancing to be the most useless. To his way of thinking, dancing was just another chance for his parents to put their prize calf on display, not to mention a chance for every newly marriageable daughter of the most powerful nobles in the land to step all over his feet and giggle at him.

Just then, the cloud cover broke and Max felt the sun blazing down on him, making his already overheated body even hotter. He quickly stripped off his chainmail shirt and padded leather undershirt to keep from heating up even more. Once the armor was stored away, Max rinsed the sweat from his body, accepted the crisp, clean shirt Manfred held out for him and pulled it on.

“No, your highness. No instruction today,” Manfred said, just before he headed to the many equipment racks to make sure everything his master had put away was stored correctly. Max followed the man and deposited his half helm and camail on a post to keep them out of the dirt.

Max’s eyes narrowed and he came to a full stop so he could take a good look at his servant. The man was a veteran of twenty years service and yet he was nervous, almost to the point of shaking like a leaf. “If I’m not late for another tutoring session, then why are you here? You never get sent just to deliver simple messages; that’s a job for lesser servants.”

“I am here to convey a royal summons, your highness.”

“In the middle of the afternoon? Most unusual.” Needing to know where to go, Max asked, “From which one, my mother or my father?”

Both, your highness.”

Oh crap! They must have found out about the necklace. Kyle was supposed to keep that a secret until he got home. Damn him! Pretending he hadn’t a care in the world, Max smiled, mounted his horse, and asked where he was to go.

“The throne room, your highness.” That bit of news stopped Max in his tracks. Shit! Shit! Double shit! This isn’t about an emerald and pearl necklace, not in the throne room it’s not.

“When?” Max breathed.

Without a timepiece anywhere nearby, Manfred still knew the answer. “Five minutes ago, your Highness.”

Max spurred his horse and raced toward the distant palace, first over dusty, crushed gravel paths, and then over cypress-lined, cobblestone-paved lanes. Normally a lover of the varied sights the miles of open parkland that surrounded the summer palace could bring, he only had eyes for the road as he raced at a breakneck pace in a bid to keep his parents, the king and queen, from waiting any longer than they already had.

By the time the gleaming white marble edifice of the long and low palace came into Max’s view, Manfred was quite far behind him since his horse was smaller and slower and because he was a weaker rider than Max was…and because he had no wish to accidentally end up being called into the throne room. There were some things even the servants didn’t want to know.

The prince reined in his horse at a side portico and handed over the reins to a liveried servant as he raced into the palace, through the conservatory, and into the adjoining music library, where he pressed his ring to a notch on the wall. The ring, in turn, opened a hidden door into the palace’s network of narrow, dimly-lit secret passages.

Once hidden from view, Max ran at full speed and was in the residential wing of the palace in near-record time. Apparently, word of his need had already arrived, since a bevy of servants were ready and waiting. When he stepped into his suite of rooms, he was whisked into his bedroom and undressed before being made to stand in a large tub of water to be scrubbed clean by a pair of servants with horsehair brushes and soap.

At the same time, his hair was undone and thoroughly brushed out before the royal hairdresser rebraided the entire style, starting with the braid on top of Max’s head right at the back which dropped straight down his head to the nape of his neck. There it was joined by a braid from both sides, each of which started right behind the ear and conformed to the curve of the skull on the way to the meeting point at the nape, at which point the three smaller braids were woven together into one thick braid that went down Max’s back to a point below his shoulder blades.

When the hairdresser was done, Max stepped out of the portable copper tub and waited as more servants dried him off, before yet another set of servants set about dressing him. He managed, only just, to pull on his own underwear, but he stepped into white silk hose that ran up to his knees, and close-fitting black breeches which ran down just over the tops of the hose before being tied tight behind the knee.

Meanwhile, a clean undershirt was pulled on him followed by a crisply starched white shirt which Max buttoned up himself as he stamped his feet into glossy black knee-high leather riding boots that had never come close to an actual horse, but did have the saving grace of covering his hose and the bottom edge of his breeches.

Lastly, the servants pulled on a brilliant white military uniform coat that had golden shoulder boards bearing white enameled pins of rank, and a short, stiff collar with more golden cloth and smaller versions of the rank pins from his shoulder boards. The coat was double-breasted, and the two rows of golden buttons stood out against the white of the coat. The last thing on was a golden sword belt which circled his waist and had two descending straps for holding a sword in place at his side. As no one wore a sword in the royal presence, those two straps were removed, and he was sent on his way.

Max contented himself with walking to the distant throne room to give himself time to collect his thoughts before this official audience. He had to be careful now. Inside the throne room, those two people were the King and Queen of Alemannia first, and his parents second.

What really had him worried was that they hadn’t discussed anything with him beforehand. That usually meant either he was in deep trouble and was being punished publicly, or else they had made up their minds about something and were sure he wasn’t going to like it. Telling him about it when court was in session rather limited his opportunity to argue until well after their course of action had been announced and made official.

The sound of his boots as they struck the black-veined white marble floors would have been enough to tell Max that the spacious halls were nearly empty as he made his way across the palace. Figures, either everyone is in the throne room to see what happens, or else Mother and Father have ordered the palace emptied so no one will learn what happens. Minutes later he stood in front of the giant gold-sheathed doors and waited to be introduced.

The seneschal gestured, and a liveried doorman pulled the door open. The seneschal then stepped through and said in a booming voice, “Your Majesties, announcing the Crown Prince of Alemannia and Duke of Borussia, Maximilian of the House of Evans.”

Max looked down at the golden house ring that proclaimed him a member of the royal family, and the green and gold ring that tied him to his position as the Duke of Borussia, before taking a deep breath and striding into the vast throne room, which was completely empty except for the two people sitting on the dais. The king’s throne was larger than the queen’s because of his size, and it was a couple of inches in front of the queen’s because this was a kingdom, not a queendom.

Max knew such distinctions meant little to his parents, as his mother had been his father’s closest confidant and advisor since the earliest moments of their marriage. He wasn’t sure if they were in love or not, but that had nothing to do with royal marriages anyway, a point that had been hammered into his head for years.

When Max got close to the dais and saw that even his younger sister Isabel wasn’t present, he began to be intrigued. This had essentially become a private meeting, one that could have easily taken place in the royal apartments, but having it here made it an official meeting and, as he’d noted earlier, it kept him from arguing. Reaching the proper place, Max knelt on one knee and kept his face on that of the king, waiting for the signal to rise.

King Phillip signaled wordlessly for him to rise. Max did so effortlessly and waited. Patience had never been his strong suit, so Phillip had cultivated it over the years, making his son wait when his inclination had been to go now, to know now. When Max waited for a couple of minutes with no show of impatience, Phillip nodded to himself and spoke.

“You have, no doubt, noticed the extraordinary precautions we have taken to assure our privacy this afternoon. Not only have we emptied the throne room, but the queen has warped the minds of the nearby guards to ensure they don’t hear us.”

Max shivered slightly, as he’d never gotten completely comfortable with his mother’s ability to bend minds. She had also raised a glowing green shield across every entrance to the throne room. Max’s eyes shifted to those of his mother for the first time, as he tilted his head, raised his eyebrows, and his mouth dropped open. All she did by way of acknowledging his unspoken question, how serious is this? was to nod her head almost imperceptibly, before he returned his gaze to his father.

“I’ll be direct with you, Max,” Phillip said. “These precautions have been taken because we have reason to believe a military coup attempt is imminent.”

Max was filled with outrage. “Who would dare?!”

“Sources within the General Staff indicate that General Khivar is the likely mastermind.”

Max thought back over his years of training. He knew Khivar was the commander of the King’s Legion, the elite forces of the Alemannian army. If he could command their loyalty, he might be able to pull it off. The soldiers wouldn’t even have to know they were part of a revolt. They could just be told the king’s life was in danger and then be assigned to take or hold a particular area, with only a few key officers actually in on the plan. By the time the rank and file realized what had happened, Khivar would already be installed as the next king.

“How do you plan on countering him?” Max asked.

“Carefully. We need to isolate him from any possible support among the nobles, especially the Council of Dukes. If they were to ratify his coronation, the game would be up, barring another army coup of course. And while you’re on the Council of Dukes, you’re not old enough to vote there yet. In any case, he’d kill you long before the dukes would ever get a chance to vote.

“So…we need to keep you safe so that even if he somehow gets us, he’ll know he still has a claimant from the House of Evans to deal with before he can have himself crowned.”

“Quite frankly, my prince, my son,” Diana said, speaking up for the first time, “it’s time for you to vanish.”

Knowing there had to be more to it than that, Max just raised an eyebrow and waited.

“We’ll start rumors of sending you in many different directions, and even send out a company of the household chivalry to escort you to your ducal palace in Borussia…”

“Except you won’t be in the midst of that escort,” Phillip continued, “you’ll already be long gone.”

Max was beginning to get a bad feeling about this, as if it was a half-assed plan that would end up making him suffer.

“And why is that, Sire?” Max asked formally.

The king and queen glanced at each other. Max being formal with them like that meant he was suspicious and had his guard up. That, in turn, meant being direct was their best course of action.

“Because you’re leaving the palace tomorrow morning, and you won’t be allowed to come back until we send for you,” Phillip said. “You’ll leave the palace from an out-of-the-way sideyard, appearing to be just another squire trailing along behind his knight.”

“That knight,” Diana said, “will be charged with protecting your life, even at the cost of his own. Along with that, he will be responsible for completing your weapons training.” And, hopefully, he’ll help you grow into the man this kingdom needs while he’s at it.

“What about my training with my powers?” Max asked. He was looking directly at his mother for this question, as she had been, until now anyway, his instructor in the mystical arts.

“Your training is complete, Max, and has been for some time.” For the first time in this meeting, he saw an expression from his mother that actually looked like the woman he loved and respected. It was pride, pride in her son, and pride in a job well done. “You learned quickly, and most importantly have learned the value of caution. Most young Antarians think they can do anything once they’ve learned to control their powers.”

“Well…it is an insanely difficult process to learn,” Max allowed, “and mastering it is even harder, so you’d have to see where they are coming from.”

“True, but in this one area, you have shown maturity and restraint. In other areas, you have been…less successful.”

Max nodded his head in rueful agreement, privately wondering which of many events she might be referring to this time. “Who is the knight I’ll be squiring for?” Max had known from the moment his father had mentioned him being a squire that this was considered to be an essential part of his disguise, and was probably the reason his parents were having this discussion in court.

The king looked at his son with some trepidation, and when Max saw Phillip nervously lick his lips, he suddenly realized who he had been assigned to. This was the real reason the meeting was here: they weren’t worried about him accepting the role of a squire, as onerous as that may be, they were worried about him arguing about being assigned to…

“Sir Michael Guerin,” the king said quickly.

The queen leaned in then to add, completely unnecessarily, “Better known as the Black Knight.”

Completely forgetting he was in court, Max swore. “Ho-ly shit!”
Last edited by Cardinal on Thu Jul 19, 2012 8:39 pm, edited 127 times in total.
"In the Name of the King"
-----Winner, Round 15 - Favorite Lead Portrayal of Liz Parker
-----Winner, Round 15 - Best Use of a Supporting Character (Jeff Parker)
-----Winner, Round 15 - Best New Fic
-----Winner, Round 15 - Best Period Fanfiction

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Re: In the Name of the King (AU, CC, Mature) 4/17/11

Post by Cardinal » Mon Apr 18, 2011 2:09 pm

Chapter 2
Taking Leave
Max heard a set of steps marching rapidly toward him from the gloom at the side of the throne room. A glance gave him a quick impression of a figure wearing what appeared to be all black armor of some oriental type just before that figure prostrated itself on the floor right next to Max himself.

“You may rise, Sir Michael, and take possession of your charge,” King Phillip said grimly.

Michael rose with as little effort as he had fallen, and wasted no time in delivering a crushing blow to Max’s ear which stunned him, and sent him sprawling on the floor.

Michael faced the throne then and knelt, bowing his head as he said, “Your Majesties? Please accept my humblest apologies for my squire’s foul mouth. Swearing in front of a lady is bad enough, but swearing in front of your personages pains me greatly as he is my charge; my only plea is he has just entered that state and has not yet begun to be instructed in that which a boy of eighteen should already know.”

Max was rubbing his chin and struggling to his feet as the king replied, “Rise once again, Sir Michael. The fault is not yours, but instead belongs wholly to myself and a long line of permissive governesses. Women, it appears, have small chance to resist my son, which you may find to be a continuing trial on your journey together.

“Correct your squire’s errors however you see fit, Sir Michael.” For he has much to learn…and to unlearn.

Max wobbled back to his former position, only to be thrown effortlessly to the ground by Michael in some foreign fashion Max had never seen before. How is he doing this to me? Damn, I’m already seeing stars.

Michael leaned on Max’s shoulders, holding him face first on the floor. Still not quite sure which way was up, Max didn’t even bother struggling.

“Lesson number one, Squire…” Michael suddenly realized he couldn’t use the name Max once they left the palace, for the prince’s own safety. “Your Majesties, this squire requires a new name, one I will use and he will answer to, for the length of his time in my service. Is there any name you wish to bestow?”

“None,” King Phillip said.

“In fact,” Queen Diana added, “it’s better for his safety that we not know.”

“Agreed,” the king replied. “Should we be taken, the less we know about Max’s current condition, the better.”

“That being the case,” Michael said, “I have a name that will suit my charge just fine.” Michael returned his attention to Max, who was staying still and hoping the room would quit moving sometime soon. “As I was saying, lesson number one: from now until you earn your knighthood or until the king relieves me of my duty, you are no longer a prince, but my squire.

“Those people on the thrones over there are still the king and queen, however, and your action toward them just now was reprehensible. And as you are my squire, your action reflected poorly on me.”

Still confused by the first blow he‘d taken, Max asked, “Which acti…”

Michael pounded Max on the back of his head, driving it into the floor, which bloodied his mouth, and nearly broke his jaw. “Speak when required to, Squire. And for your edification, swearing in front of a lady, much less doing it in front of the king and queen, is the action to which I was referring.”

As angered as Max was by his rough treatment at the hands of Sir Michael, his mind was occupied by his parents. He’d always excelled in his studies, both academic and martial, and had been spending increasing amounts of time with his father as he began to learn all that went into ruling a kingdom, even as he kept up his mystical studies with his mother.

And yet, his parents had measured him and found him lacking. That shook his confidence in himself to the core, and seriously damaged his trust in his parents. Until this moment, he’d thought himself to be close to them, but apparently he was not.

Michael dragged Max to his feet, they both bowed low to the king and queen, and then waited for the queen to release her shields on the doors before using a small side door to exit the throne room.

“We don’t leave until early morning,” Michael said, once they were clear of the throne room, “so you have tonight to yourself before taking up your new duties.”

“In that case, Sir,” Max said acidly, “I’ll need to heal myself before the evening meal. I don’t think anyone wants to see me bleeding while they eat.”

As Michael let Max stomp off by himself, he could hear the disgruntled prince mutter, “Give a guy a little power and it goes straight to his head.”

Once Max was out of eyesight of Sir Michael, he stopped in a small alcove and healed himself. “Stupid sonofabitch!” he raged, without really knowing whether he was truly referring to his father the king, Sir Michael, or even himself. He sped up to his suite of rooms and ordered a meal to be sent to him there. He had no intention of spending his last free night sitting at a table with the people who’d arranged for him to leave in the first place.

Max realized he would have to swing by and visit Isabel before he left though; he just couldn’t leave without seeing his kid sister one last time. Thinking of her brought thoughts of her numerous ladies-in-waiting, who were by reputation the finest young women in the kingdom. When looking in on them as they sat with Isabel in the solar room, he often wondered if one of them would be chosen by his parents to be his bride someday.

He suddenly wished this wasn’t such a big secret, otherwise, he might be able to turn this hurried departure to his advantage and wangle a kiss or two from a few of Isabel’s ladies-in-waiting, when she was looking the other way.

Phillip and Diana were disappointed, but not surprised, when their son took his meal in his rooms. They’d hoped to go over this again, as a family this time, but Max refused to see them. The meal was a somber affair, with Isabel asking to be excused early so she could escape the oppressive gloom. She immediately sent a note to the men’s quarters to ask Max to meet her in the expansive parterre garden. She took one of her ladies with her, and headed outside after pulling on a light wrap.

Isabel didn’t have to wait long, as Max hurried down from his suite and met her by the garden’s centrally-located marble fountain, where she was sitting on the coping with her escort. Both women stood at his approach; the women curtseyed deeply and he responded with a formal bow.

Isabel was sixteen, almost three years Max’s junior, and the brightest ornament of the Alemanni court. Tall for a girl, she had masses of long, golden curls, porcelain skin, warm brown eyes, full, pouting lips, and a voluptuous figure that was only hinted at by her saffron yellow dress.

The young woman next to her was one Max didn’t remember. She appeared to be three or four inches shorter than Isabel, and maybe a year or two younger, with straw-colored hair in loose curls, cornflower blue eyes, a smattering of freckles across her nose, and a pleasingly-shaped face. He could tell the dove gray dress was new, and adding that to the fact he didn’t remember her, he thought it likely the girl was a brand new addition to Isabel’s coterie of ladies-in-waiting.

“Hi, Izzy,” Max said, smiling genuinely for the first time since leaving training with Sir Emmerich earlier in the day.

“Hi, Max.” Isabel gestured to the woman standing at her side. “May I present Lady Elaine Ricard. Elaine? This is my brother, Prince Maximilian.”

Max stepped around Isabel and held out his hand, palm up, to clasp the hand Elaine had held out for him to take. Keeping his brown eyes focused on her blue ones, he raised her arm to his mouth and kissed the back of her hand.

“I’m pleased to make your acquaintance, Lady Elaine.”

“The pleasure is all mine, your Highness.”

“Please, Prince Max will do, Milady.”

Lady Elaine smiled widely. “As you wish…Prince Max.”

The young woman was all of fifteen, having just been sent by her family to the capital to spend a year as one of Princess Isabel’s ladies-in-waiting. It was a prime position, as it allowed Elaine a wider range of cultural opportunities than she’d ever experience at home, and her family also hoped she’d acquire a new level of sophistication, a final polish if you will, that she’d never achieve talking to tutors.

This plum assignment also made it possible for her to meet a large cross section of the most eligible young nobles in the kingdom. Every noble family with a daughter hoped their girl would catch the eye of a young man that would be an advantageous match, and Max knew they all considered him to be the ultimate prize. What better way to improve your family’s fortunes than by marrying the crown prince?

Max had, predictably, tired of the marriage game long ago. All he waited for now was his parents to tell him who he must marry. Since he couldn’t marry for love, he hoped the girl was at least pretty; the idea of having to endure regular sexual relations with a woman he neither cared for nor could stand to look at was pretty much his idea of the ninth circle of Hell.

Having done his duty and met Lady Elaine, Max asked her if he might borrow his sister for private conversation. “Sure, take her wherever you want, just as long as I can still see her.”

“I’m glad to see you take your responsibilities so seriously, Lady Elaine. Isabel and I will just be over there.” So saying, Max led his sister to the far side of the large fountain, where the burbling sounds of the water were sufficient to mask their voices from any listener.

“Hi, Kiddo, what did you want to see me about?” he asked.

“Dinner. You weren’t there, and Mom and Dad were less lively than I’ve seen them at at least two different state funerals. What’s up?”

“I’m leaving tomorrow, at their special request, so I doubt I was missed much at dinner by anyone but you.”


“The palace, the city,” Max shrugged his shoulders, “maybe the entire kingdom for all I know.” He took Isabel’s hands into his own, and chose his words with care. “The king and queen have decided I need some training or experiences they cannot provide for me here. There are other things going on that I dare not speak of.”

“You are beginning to scare me, Max.”

“Sorry about that, Iz. I don’t mean to push my problems off on you.”

“Your problems frequently become my problems, Brother,” Isabel said with a smile. “For what affects one member of this family affects us all.”

“Be strong, Iz. I will write whenever I can be assured of the safety of doing so, though that may not be often.” And then he ventured a smile, twin to the one she had just given him. “Whatever else happens, Little Sister, do not allow them to marry you off until I’m here to see it.”

“Marriage? Father hasn’t even begun receiving envoys, much less actual candidates.”

“Yet attendance at court functions is always highest when it’s known well in advance you will be there. Be careful. Pay attention. Our parents don’t always tell us what they are doing.”

“I promise, Max.” Isabel tilted her head in thought and then her eyes lit up. “I know just the thing. My ladies hear all sorts of gossip, all I have to do is gently direct them on the kinds of gossip for which to listen.”

“That sounds workable, and safe.” Max lifted his sister’s hands to his mouth for the briefest brush of his lips. “I had better go. The knight I have been assigned to means for us to leave early in the morning, and I believe early to him means before dawn.”

A simple hand kiss wouldn’t do for Isabel, so she pulled her beloved older brother into a hard hug that left her crying into his shoulder. “Come back to me, Max. You hear me? It does no good for me to stall our parents if you don’t survive. Come back. I want you to be at that wedding…of course,” she added slyly, “you may be the one getting married first. The kingdom does need an heir.”

“So I hear…constantly. That’s the one good thing about leaving now,” Max replied. “I don’t have to attend next month’s royal ball for my birthday. No more prospective brides to meet.” Max hugged his sister hard and hurried off, stopping only to take his leave from Lady Elaine.

“You look sad, your Highness,” Elaine observed once Isabel made her way around the fountain again to rejoin her escort.

“It’s only Isabel when we are alone, Elaine. I thought I’d told you that by now,” Isabel scolded gently. “And yes, I am sad. But I can’t tell you why, it’s a secret.”
Last edited by Cardinal on Mon Apr 18, 2011 3:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"In the Name of the King"
-----Winner, Round 15 - Favorite Lead Portrayal of Liz Parker
-----Winner, Round 15 - Best Use of a Supporting Character (Jeff Parker)
-----Winner, Round 15 - Best New Fic
-----Winner, Round 15 - Best Period Fanfiction

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Re: In the Name of the King (AU, CC, Mature) Ch 2 4/18/11 p

Post by Cardinal » Tue Apr 19, 2011 9:19 am

Chapter 3
On the Road
The four Parkers sat around the private dining table in the family quarters and ate an evening meal one last time. The last week had been a whirlwind of preparations for them as they decided what had to go, what needed to stay, and then made the hard decisions about the things they wanted to bring that were not necessary: which ones got to come along in the limited space they had left in their wagon train, and which things would have to stay due to lack of space.

At the head of the table sat Lord Jeffrey Parker, fourteenth Baron of Roswell, and fervent supporter of the Evans dynasty. Seated at his right hand was his eldest daughter, Maria, who was just eighteen. Slightly taller than average, she was athletic, with long, blonde hair, and green eyes. Her musculature was well-defined without making her body the least bit bulky. Even with her obvious physical fitness, she was still considered to be beautiful by those who met her.

Sitting across from the Baron was his second daughter, Elizabeth. She was sixteen, slender, of average height, with creamy skin, silky brown hair, small, soft lips, and what were considered to be her signature feature, large, enchanting brown eyes.

Lastly, on the Baron’s left, was his youngest child, Tess. Newly fourteen and proud of it, she was the same height as Elizabeth, with sapphire-blue eyes, long, wildly curly blonde hair, and a winning smile that got her nearly everything she wanted.

Together, the three girls were their father’s life. After his third wife died almost eight years earlier, he’d thrown himself into helping raise those girls, which might tend to account for them having a level of education and independence that was unusual in women of any social class in the kingdom.

Once the dessert course was set before them, Jeffrey signaled for the servants to leave for the evening. He figured the breakfast servants could take the empty dessert dishes down to the kitchen tomorrow, but right now, he needed to talk to his daughters in private.

“Once we finish loading tomorrow, we’ll go ahead and leave,” Jeffrey said. “Maria? I’ve decided you’ll stay here with the skeleton staff of servants to wait for my new arms master who is coming to join us all the way from the Summer Palace.”

“From the capital city?” Tess asked dreamily.

Jeffrey smiled indulgently at his youngest daughter. “Almost, Dear. The Summer Palace is about thirty miles outside of Königsberg itself. The arms master’s being sent here by the king himself.”

“I should ever so much like to see the capital someday,” Tess added. “I hear it’s a grand city, with wide, tree-lined boulevards, ornate mansions, embassies from every kingdom that matters, and a never-ending swirl of social engagements.”

“It’s all that and more, Tess, but right now, my duty takes us in the other direction, and for that, I am sorry.” Jeffrey paused to look at each of his girls in turn, to let them see the truth of his sorrow, for each of his girls opposed the move, and had their own reasons for doing so. But when they realized his decision was final, the girls had swallowed their complaints and pitched in to make the move a success.

“As for tomorrow,” he added, “as I’ve already given Maria her assignment, all that remains is to tell her she’s waiting for Sir Michael Guerin and his party.”

“The Black Knight?” Maria asked eagerly.

Elizabeth rolled her eyes at her sister’s excitement over a man with such a brutal reputation. Tess perked up a bit at the mention of a knight, and Jeffrey just continued to speak. “Yes, the Black Knight. And while I’ve no doubt he’s earned his reputation, remember that he is on our side and has been sent by the king to aid us.

“Why do we need the aid of a brutal man like Sir Michael, Father?” Elizabeth asked. The quiet way she asked the question let her father know she was seriously concerned.

When his most level-headed child had a question, Jeffrey paid just a little more attention to his answer. “Because, Poppet, times are getting dangerous. Most of my small army is staying here to protect our people and to support the king. Our arms master will stay here to help train them, but the household guard we’re taking with us needs an arms master, too, to keep its individual soldiers as sharp as can be. And since the king is sending me on this mission, he gladly supplied a knight to be an additional arms master. Given the gravity of the situation we are now in, he sent the roughest, toughest, hardest to kill man in the kingdom to teach my men those same skills.”

Elizabeth had heard vague rumors of unrest from her contacts with the various merchants that came to the castle, but she hadn’t had any idea just how serious it was becoming until now. Not wanting to alarm Tess, Elizabeth kept any further questions to herself.

Jeffrrey could tell Elizabeth was holding back, and was grateful for it. He did not want to make the journey tomorrow with a perpetually frightened Tess jumping at every shadow along the way.

“Anyway, Maria…once Sir Michael and his people are here, you are to take the small escort I’m leaving with you and travel with him through the Stein Pass and into Krakovia. It’s a shorter, harder route to travel that should let you catch us before we reach our destination, depending on whether or not Sir Michael is delayed along the way. The rest of the route, from the top of the pass, is on the map my cartographer made for you. You’ll find it on your bed.”

“Yes, Father.”

“As for you, Elizabeth, you’re charged with taking our head housekeeper and another small escort to ride ahead of our baggage train. I want you two to make that manor and its stables livable before we get there. That includes hiring any additional servants you think we’ll need, both temporary ones to get the place ready, and permanent ones in case the staff we’re bringing with us isn’t enough. Stop by the treasury before you go to pick up a small chest of gold and silver to pay any hires, and to begin stocking the pantries with foodstuffs and the stables with fodder for the horses.

“And you, Tess, will ride with the baggage train. You are in charge of distributing food at each meal stop. I know you’ve already worked out a schedule for that. I’ve seen it and approved it, so you get to implement it.”

Elizabeth nodded thoughtfully to herself, as she was used to the way her father leaned on her, but Tess puffed up with pride, as this was the first time she’d been assigned an adult duty, and an independent one at that. Lord Parker had seen his daughters educated like men, for the most part, and now he was going to reap the benefits of it.

Once the small marzipan cake had been eaten, everyone said their goodnights and headed to bed. The girls removed their dresses and stuffed them into nearly full trunks, to be cleaned upon reaching their destination. After they dressed for bed, the only thing left out was a change of clothes for the morning.

Maria was staying to wait, but had no idea just how long she’d be waiting, so her things were just as completely packed as those of the other girls. Most of her finery was already loaded on wagons for the trip anyway .

Elizabeth had two additional changes of dresses and underclothes with the extra clothes which would be stuffed into the large saddlebags on her horse in the morning. All three dresses had split skirts, so she could ride astride a horse without baring her legs, and each dress came with a hat to match to keep the sun off her face and to keep the dirt out of her hair, which would be knotted on top of her head in the no-nonsense style she preferred.

Tess had the same number of dresses ready, but hers were all conventional ones since she didn’t like to ride and had no intention of doing it for weeks as they made their way westward and then southward. She would ride in a plain, but sturdy carriage, and take the long route along the distant but flat coastal road with her father and the baggage train.

After a hearty breakfast, the Parker family went their separate ways. Elizabeth collected the head housekeeper and the assigned guard which consisted of two knights and eighteen other armored horsemen, along with one light wagon for the money chest and their supplies.

Elizabeth kissed her sisters and her father goodbye, before she pulled on her supple leather gloves, adjusted her hat and tied it securely under her chin, and then used the mounting block to step onto her horse. A groom from the stables was at the ready to adjust the length of her stirrups if necessary, but that was not needed as the equerry had them perfectly adjusted. One of the two knights led the guard of twenty, but Lady Elizabeth led the mission and thus everyone waited on her. Giving one last crooked smile to her family, she clucked at her horse, used the reins to point him in the right direction, and then lightly dug in her heels to get him moving forward.

Once the whole procession had filed through the small city which huddled around the base of the small mesa that Roswell Castle was on, and had made it out onto the open, dust-choked, narrow road that led directly to the coastal road off in the distance, Lady Elizabeth told the leader of her guard to array his men as he saw fit and to set a reasonable pace for them and their wagon.

Later that day, Lord Parker, the Baron of Roswell and Lady Tess left the castle in the midst of a long wagon train of soldiers, servants, supplies for the trip, and belongings. Being her first assignment that really mattered, Tess was as nervous as a cat in a roomful of dogs. Jeffrey made sure to stay out of her way, but watched with burgeoning pride as his youngest spread her wings and flew for the first time. She was a nervous wreck by the end of the first day, but one look at her father, and seeing him look back at her the way she knew he always looked at Elizabeth, and she knew she was doing well. Her father’s approval, never bestowed lightly, was all the confidence she would need. The rest of the trip would pass easily for her.

Maria was bored out of her skull less than half a day after the wagon train left the castle, and turned to sharpening her martial skills for entertainment. She stripped off her dress and its attendant underlayers and pulled on her custom-made suit of brown leather armor. It was enough to give her a decent amount of protection, while being light enough to let her make use of her quickness to get around someone’s guard and stab them where their protection was minimal.

Maria knew she wasn’t ever going to overpower a man in a toe-to-toe slugging match with sword and oaken shield, so her style eschewed the use of a shield completely, instead relying on dual short swords to deflect blows she wasn’t quite able to dodge with one blade, before striking with her other one.

Working out in the castle’s waryard involved dull weapons, but they could still leave spectacular bruises and even break bones if a blow landed flush. Maria had been given the best instruction her father could manage, and while she had some talent, she suspected most of the men took it easy on her. But if they took it easy on her, she didn’t reciprocate, instead choosing to beat the snot out of anyone who was a hair too slow. If they were going to patronize her, she had no problem with making them pay.

The next morning, well before dawn, while Maria’s victims were still sleeping off their beatings, Max woke up as a bucket of rainwater drenched his sleeping form.

“Wake up, Prince Charming,” Michael yelled derisively. “You’re done lolling about.”

Max leapt to his feet right in the middle of the bed, going from prone to standing with no in between. Michael was beginning to wonder if the cold water had been wise when Max’s eyes locked on him as the water’s source.

You,” Max breathed, as he choked down a sudden urge to beat the obnoxious knight from head to toe. There was a fire in his eyes that didn’t have anything to do with women. Michael had been warned about the prince’s volcanic temper. He was said to be hard to anger, but even harder to cool off.

Both men just stood there until Max’s eyes slowly lost their fire-like gleam, and then a suitably chastened Michael pointed to a chair. “There’s your clothing and armor, Max. You’ve got one more set of clothes in your saddlebags, except for the boots. Get dressed, it’s time to go.”

Once Max was dressed, the two headed downstairs, walked through empty passageways, and out a rarely used door. From there their path was lit by the moon as they wended their way through the various gardens near the palace, steadily heading toward where Michael had their horses waiting. There were four horses in total, a palfrey for each of them to ride, a packhorse for Max to lead, and Michael’s warhorse, a courser, which he would lead himself.

Also waiting for them was a nominal guard of ten armored horsemen. The extra soldiers were enough to make Michael and Max an untempting target while on the road, especially since neither of them would be dressed in anything other than plain armor now that Michael had his fancy stuff packed away.

“At our first stop of the day, once it’s light and we’re well away from anyone,” Michael said, “we’re going to have to cut that damn hair of yours. That pretty long hair you have now is too recognizable, and in any case, you haven‘t earned the right to wear a warrior’s braid.”

Max reflexively reached up toward his hair just before pulling on a half helm with a camail that hung down from the helmet to protect his neck. He really liked his hair, but had the feeling that arguing would just earn him another beating. “I’ll need to get a new half helm and padded liner then. This one won’t fit.”

Michael looked sourly at Max. “You need to stop talking whenever you feel like it, Squire, but, you did say something I needed to take into consideration, so don’t worry about it…this time.” Michael pointed to the horses. “As my squire, you’ll be responsible for taking care of both palfreys and the packhorse at every stop. Don’t…touch…the warhorse. He’s as likely to kill you as you are to do anything useful with him. I will show you how to care for the horses one time and one time only. Screw it up after that and you’ll wake every morning with my boot in your ear.”

Max tried to signal that he had something to say. Having to wait for permission from a man who seemed as far from nobility as he was from being a woman galled Max, but as a squire, he had no other recourse.

“Yes, Max?” Michael asked indulgently.

“Your squire is well aware of how to care for a horse, unless one of these three has a particular requirement.”

Surprised, Michael asked, “How did you come by knowledge of anything resembling work, Squire?”

“You obviously haven’t trained in horsemanship under the eye and sharp tongue of father’s Master of Horse. To him, learning to ride meant learning how to care for the horse as well. Once I was large enough to handle the care of my horse, riding lessons stopped until I could care for him.”

Max noticed Michael seemed to be looking back toward the palace, as if he was expecting someone. Curious, but not interested in getting clouted on the ear, Max waited patiently. They were rewarded when three darker shadows resolved into his mother in a hooded black cloak and two nasty looking bodyguards, whose swords were already out, because every soldier in the clearing had weapons they really couldn’t get rid of. Everyone in the clearing bowed on one knee and waited.

“You may rise,” Queen Diana said quietly but clearly. “I am pleased you got my message to wait, Sir Michael.”

“As always your Majesty, a pleasure to serve.”

Diana studied Michael closely. “A word with you privately, Sir Michael.”

Michael nodded and followed the queen into the gloom, but not until handing Max his swordbelt, from which hung a sword and two daggers. He knelt once more before the queen, but this time, she did not invite him to rise. “That stunt you pulled in the throne room was as unnecessary as it was brutal. Had my husband done as I wished, you would have been beaten to within an inch of your life and thrown into the dungeon at Adlerhorst Castle. When someone finally remembered you were there and had served your time…well, people don’t usually do so well up there.

“My husband seems to think you’ll make a man of Max. I say he already is and just needs some responsibility to make him grow up the rest of the way.” Diana stretched her arms straight out on either side of her body. Her hands glowed whitely, and firebolts shot out of each one to streak across the predawn darkness in the small sideyard before striking two separate trees. The trees were on fire from root to tip in mere seconds.

“So let me be perfectly clear. Bring my son back in one piece. Mentally as well as physically, or I will come find you, and what you did to my son will be as nothing to what I’ll do to you.”

Michael had been around long enough to know the difference between a threat and a sworn promise. He’d just been on the receiving end of the latter. There was no doubt in his mind that the queen was willing to lay it all on the line to protect her son. “You may rise, Sir Michael. Be worthy of your title, not your reputation, and you will succeed in the duty my husband has laid upon you.”

“Yes, your Majesty.”

Diana led Sir Michael and her two bodyguards back to the small gathering and called her son forward. “Your sister came to me in tears tonight and begged me to give you some assistance, even though she didn’t seem to know much about where you were going or even exactly why.” One of her guards handed her a leather traveler’s money belt, and she handed it to Max. “Look inside, but only use the contents in an emergency. And I don’t mean so you can buy an extra bottle of wine to impress a girl.” Then she handed him a small, folded sheet of expensive-looking paper. “Isabel sent this and insisted you read it before you go.”

Max looked inside the leather belt first before affixing it to his waist, under his undershirt, his padded leather overshirt and his shirt of chain mail. Then he opened the note, and, using the red-gold glow from the burning trees, read it.

Dear Max,

It is strange, but when Lady Elaine and I came back from meeting you, we found out from one of my other ladies that I, too, am to be sent away. I know not where or when, else I would tell you straightaway. I am beginning to be afraid, though I must not show it in front of my ladies, as they look to me for guidance in how they themselves are to act.

As for Mother, I hope she found your rings and got them in there as they were the only things I could think you might make use of in an emergency. Oh, Mother also mentioned including your bank plate, but I do not see how that will help, not after the money you spent on that huge necklace for Kyle’s sister. Of course, you might have more money than me, I don’t know.

Be careful, Max. Come back to me.

Your loving sister,


Max extinguished his light, and stuffed the note into one of his saddlebags. He then took up his position next to his new horse, and waited for his knight’s command. Michael had his eyes and ears on the queen, waiting for her command to depart.

When she finally nodded her head, Michael bellowed, “Mount!” and all twelve of them climbed into the saddle at once. All rode by the queen, in a slow, disorganized parade and saluted her silently. Diana stood there like an apparition in the early morning darkness, silently haunting their exit, her eyes seeming to burn as they bored into Sir Michael’s back.

“Captain?” Michael asked.

“Yes, Sir Michael?” the senior officer of the guard detachment asked.

“Lead us to the armory, and wake someone up if you have to. We need a smaller helmet for my squire, and a padded liner to match.”
"In the Name of the King"
-----Winner, Round 15 - Favorite Lead Portrayal of Liz Parker
-----Winner, Round 15 - Best Use of a Supporting Character (Jeff Parker)
-----Winner, Round 15 - Best New Fic
-----Winner, Round 15 - Best Period Fanfiction

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Re: In the Name of the King (AU, CC, Mature) Ch 3 4/19/11 p

Post by Cardinal » Wed Apr 20, 2011 6:28 pm

Chapter 4


It was nighttime of Michael’s and Max’s first day on the road. Michael had set a strong pace during the day, but it was one their horses could easily maintain, especially on the smooth, flat stone highways maintained by the crown for reasons of defense and trade.

Not long before sunset, Michael located a suitable campsite, and after caring for his warhorse, busied himself with consulting the map the king’s cartographer had prepared for him, while his squire kept on tending to the other three horses they had. They all had to be watered, but not allowed to drink too much, too fast, then fed a small bag of grain from their stores before being allowed to supplement that grain with grass.

All three horses then had to be curried. Max really put his back into his efforts or else he’d be at it too long to get any of the dinner the soldiers were making in the pot. Once he was done with the horses, he reported to Michael and waited for him to inspect his work. When he was satisfied the horses’ needs had been met, Max was released to see to his own needs.

Max would ordinarily be responsible for making sure his knight ate first, but Michael had eaten two bowls of beans after he had finished checking their day’s progress against his new map. Max ate one bowl of beans and a hunk of the bread they’d bought in the last town they’d been through. The food was of poor quality and scant quantity, but he’d be damned if he’d eat more than his share on this trip. Travel food was something he’d have to get used to.

So was being completely bald.

He rubbed his head again, still remembering the acrid smoke his long brown hair had made when he’d burned it after he’d hacked it off with a dagger. Michael had then shaved his head completely bald using a sharp razor and a bit of soap and hot water. At least my new helmet and padded liner fits properly, Max thought ruefully.

The other thing he had to get used to was being called…

“Squire Zan, at our current rate of travel,” Michael said, “we will be in Roswell in less than three weeks. After a layover of a couple of days to rest, the last leg of the journey will take us roughly another two weeks.”

“Thank you, Sir Michael.”

“Don’t thank me yet. Grab a practice sword from my things. It’s time for me to see you work through the various sword forms you’ve learned.”

“Yes, Sir.”

As Max began to limber up, something he needed to do without his powers, he was thankful he didn’t have to wear armor for this exercise. He stripped down a bit, leaving his chest bare and only wearing his loose brown leather pants and his boots. Then he moved through the various sword forms one after another, in an ever more rapid dance.

Michael had been prepared to be disappointed by the young prince, but was pleasantly surprised by the speed and accuracy of his movements. He then began calling out specific forms and watched as the young prince deftly worked his way through each one.

When Max worked up a thin layer of sweat all over his face and chest, Michael picked up another practice blade, and the two began to dance. Neither one was wearing armor, but he had seen enough to believe Max was at the least a very good swordsman, one who might become great if he got to spend enough time with it, so he had little fear of any injury.

Even so, they worked at three-quarters speed, shuffling back and forth across the sun-burnt grass of early summer. Max was soaked by the time a halt was called; Michael was sweating heavily, too.

“Tomorrow morning, early, before breakfast,” Michael said, as he wiped the sweat from his face, “I’ll begin your training in hand-to-hand combat.”

“Throws, strikes, holds, and chokes?” Max asked.

“Eventually,” Michael replied, “but the first thing you need to do is learn how to fall down properly; to learn to dissipate the force of your fall over your entire back so one hard blow doesn’t injure you too badly.” He collected the practice weapons, and as he moved to store them with their supplies, he added, “Go clean up in the stream and get some sleep. Morning will come early for you.”

And that’s how it went for Max over the following two and a half weeks. Morning training in hand-to-hand combat, preparing the horses for the day’s trip, overseeing the watering and feeding of those three horses at each stop during the day, caring for the horses at night, followed by more training with weapons. Max suspected he would feel half-dead if he wasn’t healing himself every night before bed.

When Roswell Castle finally came into view, still miles in the distance, the whole party smiled. The prospect of getting off the road and sleeping on something other than the ground along with having real meals was looking particularly attractive after eating road dust, beans, and the occasional piece of salt pork for almost three weeks. As a knight and Lord Parker’s new arms master, Michael could look forward to more than solid meals and a sleeping pallet. He’d likely sleep in a private room on a feather mattress with a down-filled quilt over the top of him. Max, while sleeping in the same room as his knight, would have no such comforts.

One of the castle guards, this one stationed on top of the castle gatehouse, saw the approaching party of twelve and raised the alarm. As the road up to the castle from the town below was long and winding, Maria was ready and waiting along with her father’s castellan, and the commander of the guard that she would be traveling with from here to Krakovia. The one thing she forgot was that she was still in her body-hugging leather armor, which was surely not how any group of visiting men would expect to be received by a lady.

Michael was in the lead, with Max at his side and slightly behind him. They trotted into the main courtyard with their other two horses and the ten armored horsemen behind them. Riding directly up to Maria and her two escorts, Michael dismounted and handed his reins to Max. He then bowed low, but did not kneel. Maria returned his bow with a shallower one of her own. The bow was because she was wearing armor rather than a proper dress, which scandalized all of the visiting men…including Michael. But it bothered, and intrigued, Max most of all.

As Michael straightened up and went through the formal exchange of greetings between himself and Maria, Max watched her intently, wondering what kind of lady dressed that way, and could she really use those twin short swords she had belted on her hips. He rather thought she’d need to if she went down into town dressed like that; otherwise she ran a strong risk of being raped by a man who’d never even seen a prostitute dress in such a provocative manner.

Still, Max admitted to himself there was no denying the lady’s beauty. Her armor left no doubt where her curves were located, and her smile was free and easy. He suspected the long, blonde hair that was pulled back in a ponytail would look rather nice should she ever take a notion to fix it up.

After introducing the castellan and her guard commander, Maria gave a signal, and a rush of stable boys came forward to take charge of the horses. Michael reclaimed the reins of his horse from Max, so he could then dismount and hand over his horses to a waiting stable boy.

The men all grabbed their saddlebags and any other personal belongings, before a junior housekeeper led them off to where they were going to be housed. Max held both his and Michael’s loaded saddlebags over one arm with ease, while his half helm was held in his other hand, with its chain camail stuffed inside.

Just before she started to have the acting head housekeeper lead Sir Michael and his squire to their room, Maria got her first good look at the young squire and started to stare. She admitted to herself the Black Knight was ruggedly handsome, especially if you didn’t mind a man with a few scars, but the squire was…was gorgeous. Damn, she thought, where do they grow men like these two?

There was a small welcoming feast that night, and Max had just enough time to wash out his second set of clothes to make himself presentable. Michael, of course, had a larger selection of clothes with him, including one nice set of clothes for formal occasions. Dinner wasn’t too formal, or else Max may have found himself serving his master during the meal instead of eating, but while Michael sat at the head table at Maria’s right hand as the guest of honor, Max was far down the dining hall, past most of the soldiers in attendance. The blow to his dignity was small as he had a fairly good idea ahead of time this would happen, and the soldiers he sat with were good-natured company, though a bit vile in their habits and language for his taste.

After dinner, Maria expressed a desire to hear some of Michael’s stories from some of the campaigns he’d been on, but he pled tiredness from the long trip and begged to be allowed to sleep. She wasn’t especially happy with his reticence, but played the gracious hostess and allowed herself to be persuaded.

Max was in position behind Michael before he left the dining hall to head to his reasonably comfortable room. Max’s bed was in a very small room meant for a servant that branched off from Michael’s much larger one. All he had room for was a narrow pallet, with a few hooks on the wall for his clothes, his sword, and any other belongings. His armor was outside, waiting for him in the waryard.

Max knew better than to ask why Michael had denied their hostess’ request. He figured an impertinent question would just end with him cleaning out the stables with the stable boys in the morning or something even worse. Michael didn’t talk about that, or any other subject, until they reached his bedroom. As one of his duties as a squire was to defend his knight from attack, Max searched Michael’s room, even looking into his own tiny closet of a room, before declaring the it safe.

“There was a reason I asked Lady Maria to withdraw her request,” Michael said abruptly. “Too many people sit safe in their castles and palaces and revel in the glory of war and killing.” He looked at Max, making sure he had his squire’s attention. “There is no glory in war, other than achieving your objectives at the smallest possible price.” Michael stepped into the room then and said wistfully, “I’d give anything to do the things you can do.”

Max was used to hearing that from almost everyone he came into contact with socially, and he assumed the servants and other commoners were the same. It was the first thing he’d heard from Michael to indicate he was anything like regular people. Curious as to his reasoning, Max asked, “Why is that, Sir Michael?”

Using the brutal honesty that was one of his hallmarks, he replied, “I could kill more enemies and do it much faster. Then more of my people would survive uninjured, making our side happier, and making it easier for us to win the next battle with little loss.”

Max nodded to himself, noting once again Michael’s extremely pragmatic attitude: anything that helped him and his side win faster and more cleanly was good; anything that didn’t was a waste of his time. Sir Michael could use some expanded horizons. Maybe when this is all over, Father can give him an assignment that goes beyond killing or training for it. A life that narrow is really no life at all.

One other thing about Michael that Max noted in passing was that he sounded less blood-thirsty than expected. He only wanted to kill faster and more efficiently to save lives on his side. It was something Max needed to think about.
"In the Name of the King"
-----Winner, Round 15 - Favorite Lead Portrayal of Liz Parker
-----Winner, Round 15 - Best Use of a Supporting Character (Jeff Parker)
-----Winner, Round 15 - Best New Fic
-----Winner, Round 15 - Best Period Fanfiction

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Re: In the Name of the King (AU, CC, Mature) Ch 4 4/20/11 p

Post by Cardinal » Fri Apr 22, 2011 11:24 pm

Chapter 5

A Price
The next morning was the same for Michael and Max as any other since Max had begun training. They were in the waryard as the sun came up to begin the day’s training in hand-to-hand combat. Max was looking forward to another spectacular collection of bruises from the morning’s workout…bruises that would fade faster than the morning mist once he was able to gain some privacy and heal himself.

Michael was a harsh taskmaster and was giving Max the bruises he expected, when Maria came down to the waryard, dressed in her leather armor, roughly half an hour after the two newcomers had started. She had heard of this type of fighting, and thought it originated in the distant lands of Cipango and Cathay, but she knew her father would never tolerate her learning it, as it would require her to be handled in far too familiar a way by a man she had not married. Still, she watched with interest as the older, more experienced man demonstrated holds, throws, strikes, and kicks and then used them on his squire.

Max was sweating profusely by now and wanted nothing more than to remove his undershirt so he could cool a bit…and to keep Michael from getting an easy hold on him any time he wanted. But Michael had told him prior to coming down here than his clothes had to stay on because it might make someone wonder how the bruises he had earned in the morning were gone by the time they had evening weapon practice.

The ten soldiers they’d brought with them knew the truth, that Squire Zan was really Crown Prince Maximilian, but they were retired members of the king’s own household guard, brought out of retirement specifically for this vital mission. There wasn’t a man among them that owed a debt or had a family to threaten, and all had proven their loyalty to the crown many times over. Those stiff qualifications were why there were only ten of them, but as fit men in their late thirties and early forties, they were still capable of anything Michael might demand of them.

The men leaned against the wall of the waryard, a few feet below where Maria stood on the steps, and made derisive comments about Max’s skills, or lack thereof. To them, it was part of his camouflage, as well as being a rare treat to try and humiliate a royal prince without fear of retaliation.

The morning’s practice ended when Max did something new: he landed his first bruise-causing blow square on Michael’s midsection, causing the infamous knight to roll on the ground gasping for breath. The ten veterans raised a lusty cheer for Max, which had him feeling pretty good, until one of them snidely pointed out it had taken him almost three weeks to do it. That made the men laugh even harder, and Max walked over to Michael to drag him to his feet.

“That’s enough for today, you bastards!” Michael said, with just a bit more heat than he had intended. “Get your armor on. It’s time to see if you can handle the ten men of Roswell Castle that Lord Parker assigned to guard his eldest on our journey.”

Max fetched his master a dipper of water from a nearby bucket, which Michael promptly dumped over his head to cool off as the men arrayed themselves for a workout. Max immediately brought another dipper full which Michael drank, not minding the slightly warm taste one bit.

“Thank you, Squire,” Michael said. “Now help me on with my armor, then get some water for yourself.”

With Max’s help, Michael quickly pulled on his shirt of chain mail, which hung down past his waist, steel-banded vambraces to cover his forearms, thick leather gauntlets to cover his hands, steel-banded greaves to cover his shins, and last on, his helmet with its dangling chain mail neck guard called a camail.

Michael intended to be out amongst his charges, as he had no doubt that most of them were below Max’s abilities and were in need of some serious instruction. Even though they all had blunted weapons, his armor was on to ensure his safety. His full battle armor was still in his room, where it had been delivered before bedtime the night before. While it was from the far east, much like his curved, single-edged sword and hand-to-hand fighting style, and was lighter than its Alemanni counterpart, it was still comparatively cumbersome and hot and thus not for him today. Things were going smoothly, though, until Maria thought this looked fun and decided to join in.

“Who’s going to fight me?” she asked.

“No one, Milady,” Michael replied. “All the men are paired up already, and they need the training.”

“But I want to practice! You fight me.” Max began to smile inside, as he wanted to see how Michael handled someone he could not order around. Max had met many petulant ladies at court, just not one with swords strapped on her hips…and such hips. Seeing her in that tight leather was giving him thoughts he couldn’t afford to have, especially not if he was going to keep his cover as Squire Zan.

“Sorry, Milady,” Michael said, keeping his manner as apologetic as he could, which wasn’t too much, “but I have to watch my charges and correct their mistakes. I have no time for fighting.”

Frustrated, Maria pointed to Max, who was just getting his drink of water. “What about him? He’s not doing anything.”

“Squire Zan has just completed a lengthy and rigorous training session. Asking him for more right now would be unfair, and possibly dangerous.”

Michael was appalled to see Maria was unmoved. She wanted to fight and wasn’t going away until she got what she wanted. Reluctantly, Michael turned to Max. “Squire Zan!”

“Yes, Sir Michael!” Max replied instantly as he snapped to attention, fearing he knew exactly what his master wanted.

“Your armor, if you please. It seems Lady Maria feels the need to receive a beating. You are hereby ordered to give her one.”

Maria had begun her stretching exercises, but stopped and snarled at Michael when she heard that.

Max thought of a dozen arguments he could use, but he knew arguing was of no use. Michael intended for Maria to learn a very hard lesson, thus making her learn it only once. But Max had other ideas because the very idea of striking a woman, much less a lady, was something he could not countenance.

“My armor will not be necessary, Sir Michael,” Max said evenly. He walked over to one of the racks of practice weapons and chose a decent, and properly blunted, long sword.

Maria had only thought she was angry when Michael had so casually ordered his squire to give her a beating…but now, with the squire insisting that he didn’t even need to wear any armor, she was livid! She readied her short swords, preparing herself to deal with a man who was much larger, and obviously much stronger, than she was. Like always, she’d just have to rely on her quickness.

The other twenty soldiers stopped what they were doing and gathered around at a safe distance to watch. The men meant to escort Maria knew her ability, but they’d never seen her go up against someone who knew what he was doing and was willing to go all out against her. The idea that someone they didn’t know might harm their lady had these men itching to leap to her defense.

The ten brought from the Summer Palace kept looking nervously at Michael, as they knew he was the one in charge of Max’s safety. They could see the tension in his sword arm, and thought he was on the verge of drawing to put a stop to this before it began.

Max held his practice sword in one hand, with the tip dragging on the ground at his side. Michael was nervous, ever so slightly, but having made the match, all he could do was step in and say, “Begin,” before stepping out of the way and wondering if it was too late for him to start believing in prayer.

The moment Michael started the fight, Maria moved in at an angle, and nearly fell over when Max’s first move was to drop his sword on the ground behind him and stand there as still as a statue, with his arms at his sides. Michael blanched, and the twenty other onlookers gasped as Maria stopped, completely perplexed, and yelled, “Pick it up! Pick up that damn sword, Squire. Fight me. Fight like a man.”

“No, your Ladyship,” Max said steadily, “I will not pick up the sword, nor will I fight you.” When Maria continued to bellow her challenge, calling Max a coward and telling him she’d have the castle’s seamstresses make him a raft of dresses if he was so determined to be a woman, all Max said by way of reply was, “Someone here has to be the lady, and if that will not be you, then so be it. I will not strike you…” Max then gave a hard look at the men based here in the castle, “…and neither would any man worthy of the name.”

All ten men shrank back, ashamed to have to be taught such a basic lesson by a kid who was still learning his trade. Maria, however, went into a towering rage, beginning to strike Max on the arms and legs with the flat of her blade, demanding he fight her. Her blows were coming faster and harder the longer Max held out on her. He flinched with each and every blow, as her strikes added bigger and uglier bruises to the ones he’d already collected earlier, but strangely, his eyes weren’t focused on Maria…they were focused on Michael with a grim determination that let the knight know Max was taking this beating in her stead.

Michael was of two minds. One belonged to the man whose life was forfeit if Prince Max did not come back in one pretty little piece. That man wanted to rush in and put a stop to this stupidity right now. But the other mind belonged to a man who was watching in sheer admiration as Max took a serious beating on a lady’s behalf, even though the lady in question appeared to deserve no consideration of the sort.

Max accepted each painful blow, some of which were now landing across his pecs and abs, as the price of being a gentleman. A hard price to be sure, but one he’d rather pay ten times than strike a woman once. A particularly hard series of blows finally drove him to his knees, but still he kept on denying Maria and struggled back to his feet.

An onlooker who was afraid Maria might end up killing Max in the midst of her rage had run back into the main keep and hunted down the castellan, who ran for the waryard as soon as the situation was explained. The aging knight dove for Maria, tackling her and keeping her from doing any more damage, as Max finally toppled flat on the ground from the last blow, a vicious swing that nearly broke his collarbone. Wild-eyed with adrenaline and still furious, Maria tried to break free, but the castellan overpowered her and took away her swords. The acting head housekeeper rushed in then with two of her assistants and set to checking Max for serious injuries. Finding none, they backed off and finally allowed the men to approach.

Michael wanted nothing more than to pull Max into a private room so he could heal himself, but he suddenly realized he couldn’t. Any kind of instant recovery from this massive amount of bruising would be instant proof Max was a son of one of the eight major houses in the land. And he had enough other physical clues to give anyone in the know a chance to figure out his identity rather easily once they suspected, so Michael knew his squire was going to have to suffer for his principles, especially since they were due to resume their trip the day after tomorrow. Michael did not relish Max’s first day in the saddle; he knew it would be nothing short of brutal…one of the legendary trials of Job.

Not being able to let his charge heal himself, Michael settled for raising him to a sitting position and then propping him up against a wall so he could rest and watch the practice. One result of Maria’s beating of Max, was that the ten retired guardsmen took it personally and took it out on the castle soldiers, giving them a humiliating defeat in drill after drill. Michael kept trying to fix their faults, but that just gave them something new to think about in the middle of a fight and got their asses kicked even faster.

Max cheered on his comrades in arms with great gusto, even though doing so was costing him, as each deep breath was a brand new adventure in pain. He fell asleep halfway through the drills, and ended up having to be carried to Michael’s room, where the knight directed the soldiers to place him on the bed, instead of on the thin pallet in his little side room.

Michael spent the day using unguents brought by the household staff to soothe Max’s injuries, and when a solid meal proved more than his stomach could handle, Michael fed him some chicken broth to get some food inside of him. He had been torn all day by anger at and admiration for what Max had done, and finally the two spilled over.

“Freaking jackass!” Michael muttered. “Leave it to you to do something that was so incredibly selfish and so awe-inspiring at the same time.” He shook his head as he applied the unguent to an especially nasty bruise. “Making that kind of point to a bonehead like Lady Maria has only limited effect. She won’t be horrified about what she did to you; she’ll be angry you humiliated her by taking her best shots and waiting placidly for more.

“And while I do admire your rigid insistence on not ever striking a lady, I have a hard lesson to pass on to you.”

“And what might that be, Sir Michael?” Max wheezed softly.

“You are the Crown Prince of Alemannia. You are also the only Prince of Alemannia. If you die…total chaos. At the very least, your father would have to divorce your mother so he could marry a much younger woman who could give him sons.” Hearing that got Max’s attention. “You have no right to stick to such lofty ideals of chivalry when they place your life in danger. You don’t have the luxury of being ‘the perfect knight.’ When a woman pulls a blade on you, you have to respect the blade, not the woman.”

“So…I should have beaten her like she did me?” Max asked. The disdain in his voice was evident, even though he still spoke in a whisper.

“No. You would have stopped long before she did. The castellan told me she is a rash, prideful woman, and I admit our actions shamed her. Me insisting you thrash her, as if she wouldn’t have anything to say about it, and then you, stating that your armor would not be needed. Of course, how could she know you intended to do what you did?” Michael shook his head in wonder. “I still say that was a remarkable sacrifice.

“Anyway, as a result of that mess, Lady Maria has proven herself to be untrustworthy with weapons. The castellan and I have agreed upon this and he will send a letter with us to Lord Parker describing the incident in full. Lady Maria will be angry, with the castellan, with me, and most of all, with you.”

“With me?” Max spoke louder than he intended and winced with pain.

“Yes. With you. The castellan and I have also decided Lady Maria needs to apologize to you…in front of the entire castle garrison as we leave two days hence. She will likely blame you for this additional layer of humiliation, to go with the ones you’ve given her already.”

“That’s just great. Riding will be a continuing misery, and I’ll be riding with another misery close by.” Max thought back to the waryard that very morning. “Her technique is sloppy, but she moves faster and hits much harder than someone her size ought to be able to.” He moved slightly and winced.

“So…in the midst of getting the shit knocked out of you, while defying a direct order from me, you still managed to notice her footwork and other moves.” Michael cracked a smile. “If you survive your insane need to adhere to an overly romantic view of chivalry, you might actually have a future in this business…should the trifling king thing not end up working out.”
"In the Name of the King"
-----Winner, Round 15 - Favorite Lead Portrayal of Liz Parker
-----Winner, Round 15 - Best Use of a Supporting Character (Jeff Parker)
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Re: In the Name of the King (AU, CC, Mature) Ch 5 4/22/11 p

Post by Cardinal » Sat Apr 23, 2011 10:13 am

Thank you one and all for your replies to my fic. Know they are all appreciated.

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Chapter 6


Max had spent the entire day of his beating resting, but surprised everyone, including Michael, by dragging himself out to the waryard for hand-to-hand combat practice the next morning. He was stiff and sore, and Michael tried to get him to go back to bed so he could conserve his energy for the long ride ahead of them the next day, but Max wouldn’t have it.

“It would take something away from the honor of that beating if I then hid myself in a soft bed like some weak-kneed prince. I made my choice. Teach me something useful…if it please you, Sir Michael.”

Michael’s admiration for the young prince grew with each day, but once Max loosened up with some prolonged stretching, Michael let him have it with a full workout that centered on throws. Max was in pain from the first, and by the time the workout was over, he felt like his bruises had bruises. And though he wanted nothing more than to rest, his duties as a squire intruded, so he had fetch water for Michael and then help arm him for the practice session he was going to hold next for the twenty men who would be accompanying them south the next day.

Only then was Max released to see to his own comfort, and he greedily sucked down a couple of dippers of lukewarm water before finding a shady spot to sit in. Now that he was done fighting, his abused muscles began to stiffen, and he knew that standing up again would be a real challenge.

Maria had heard about the young squire’s attempt at rejoining his morning training session and had watched from a shaded window high over head. She blamed Max, at least partially, for the loss of her weapons, and was thus still a bit angry with him, but seeing his determination to train, despite the beating she’d given him and the way it hampered his mobility, forced her to admit he was tough, and was someone she’d want on her side when things got desperate.

But then she recalled the public apology she was going to have to make to him the next morning. She didn’t want to, but her father’s castellan was in charge of what happened in the castle and he had ordered her to apologize, so she would. Knowing the squire was responsible for another humiliation caused her to turn her back and drift off into the castle, looking for something to do.

By the time Max was ready to make his way to the waryard for his lesson on fighting with weapons, he was beginning to seriously wonder if pride had gotten him in over his head. The only good thing about this workout was that he was a talented swordsman and knew it, and thus should be better able to defend himself. Still, almost every muscle ached from the start, and today’s training involved him using a long sword in one hand and a small shield made entirely out of iron, called a buckler, in the other. Both implements felt like lead in his arms once Michael was through with him, and only the fear of not being able to get back up kept him on his feet. Max ate heartily that night, the largest and most solid meal he’d had since leaving the palace three weeks earlier, and then made sure he had everything laid out that Michael might need before moving into his closet of a room and sleeping the sleep of the dead.

The next morning, Michael led a party of twenty-four riders and any number of packhorses on what was to be a two-week trip. Three days to climb Stein Pass and ten or eleven days from there down the pass and through the Grand Duchy of Krakovia to the large manor house and associated lands that Lord Parker had leased.

That same day, at the far end of Alemannia, a strong, hard-looking man in his mid-forties ran a hand through thinning, graying hair and stooped over a large table that dominated the room in which he was standing. With steel gray eyes the man reviewed the disposition of military forces on the map spread over one end of the table. Located high in the central keep of Walachia Castle, the Map Room was where Khivar, Duke of Walachia and Lord General of the King’s Legion spent most of his time when on one of his rare stays at home.

Today, the brightly painted wooden counters signifying the units of the King’s Legion and all the smaller forces belonging to the various nobles of the kingdom meant little to him; he knew their locations and strengths by heart, and was only looking at them to have something to do while he waited for a special messenger to arrive from his spies in the Summer Palace.

The duke had received a terse report almost two weeks ago stating the crown prince had disappeared from the palace. This worried Duke Khivar somewhat as it came so close to the launching of his plans, but without more specific information, he could not hope to choose a correct course of action, so he sent a request for clarification back to his spies.

The limiting factor here was time. Such a message took nearly a week to reach his people in the palace, and then two or three days for them to gather what information they could, before their gleanings could make the nearly week long journey back to Walachia Castle. By then, roughly three weeks would have passed from the time the original message had been sent from the palace, three weeks in which the boy could have gone anywhere.

The one thing that was obvious was that the boy was not gone on any official function. No goodwill trip to a neighboring kingdom, no visit to the royal dockyards with his sister to christen a new warship, not even a visit to his future seat of power in Borussia. Any trip like that would have drawn attention like blood draws flies, and I would have known about it before he left the palace.

Shortly after a lunch of red wine and redder beef, the long-awaited messenger made the long climb up the keep’s stone-flagged spiral staircase and waited to be shown into his master’s presence.

The messenger approached within three steps of the duke and then dropped to one knee while holding up the oiled leather message pouch where the duke could take the message at his leisure.

“Rise, Boy,” Khivar said, roughly. “I’m not the king.” Not yet anyway.

Reaching into the pouch, the duke found two rolled up sheets of vellum. A quick look showed both to be written in the small, precise hand of his spymaster in the royal palace. Both were written in code, but the code was known to Khivar and the mental transposition required to read it was easy. Both sheets were read twice and then he placed them in the cold fireplace and used a small blast of fire to incinerate the vellum sheets almost as quickly as if they were paper.

So, it’s confirmed that the prince is gone, and has been for three weeks now, and his sister has been gone from the palace for at least two weeks. Not only that, but no one seems to have seen them leave or know where they might have gone. He pounded his fist on the map table and watched the counters jump in reply. Damn it! The only way those two would disappear so completely, at the same time, was if my intentions have been discovered.

My only choices are to go, now, with all that I have at hand and try to take the throne by force of arms, or sit back and wait for a more opportune moment. But I must go for the throne before the boy becomes an adult and takes his place as Duke of Borussia. With that strength at hand to support his father…no, I must go now. No more waiting.

Not having been dismissed, the messenger had moved to one side of the room and awaited his lord’s pleasure. Khivar summoned him now.

“Find my Chief of Staff, and tell him to convene my full battle staff in one hour here in the Map Room.”

The messenger bowed low in wordless acknowledgment, and backed his way out of the room before hurrying off.

Khivar wasn’t the only person busy making plans. Elizabeth, Louise the head housekeeper, and their escort of twenty had reached the manor house the day before Michael led his party south to join them. From her father’s estimates, it should take him and his long wagon train roughly twice as long to complete the trip, so she had roughly three weeks to get the manor house and the extensive stables in ship-shape condition.

After their midday arrival, the soldiers spent the first afternoon cleaning the small family stables near the manor so their horses would have a proper home. Elizabeth and Louise immediately began an inventory of the manor house and the soldier’s barracks, which were a good distance beyond the family stables, to see what was needed in the way of materials and staffing.

The next morning, they went to the nearby city of Varshova, which was Krakovia’s capital, with an escort and their one wagon to buy both food and cleaning supplies. A second trip was made after a hasty lunch to begin the process of hiring some help.

Elizabeth and Louise had agreed on making all initial hires temporary ones, and telling them all that any permanent jobs would be given to the temporary hires who proved themselves as being most worthy. Louise had asked around a bit while they were shopping for supplies earlier and had discovered what the prevailing wage for house servants was. Elizabeth had then authorized going higher than the prevailing wage to give them a shot at the best people.

After that first afternoon, the soldiers didn’t do much more cleaning, because the twenty of them were primarily tasked with providing security for the women and the money chest, all three of which stayed in the same room at night, with two armed guards immediately outside the door, and two patrols of four circling the house. The other ten men were on duty during the daytime.

No one was looking forward to the arrival of the Baron and his additional seventy armored horsemen more than Elizabeth’s escort was. She figured they’d be worn to a frazzle by twelve hour days in full armor by the time they were relieved of their lonely duty.

Once Elizabeth and Louise had hired a suitable number of employees, they brought them back to the manor house, where their first jobs were to clean their own sleeping quarters in the basement level. While Louise was overseeing that, Elizabeth conferred with the knight in charge of the guards over how much grain and hay would be needed to stock the stables for their horses now, and then how much would be needed to stock the family stables and the much larger soldier’s stables for when her father’s party would arrive.

All in all, Elizabeth and Louise had things well in hand, as Elizabeth had no trouble working with a talented commoner like Louise on a virtually equal basis. Making the best use of the talents and knowledge of those around her was second nature to Elizabeth, who rarely paid attention to things like rank and nobility, thus allowing her to achieve results others could not. But despite the satisfaction she derived from doing her work, she was looking forward to seeing her family again; after three weeks apart she was even beginning to miss Maria.
Last edited by Cardinal on Sat Apr 23, 2011 10:24 am, edited 2 times in total.
"In the Name of the King"
-----Winner, Round 15 - Favorite Lead Portrayal of Liz Parker
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-----Winner, Round 15 - Best New Fic
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Re: In the Name of the King (AU, CC, Mature) Ch 6 4/23/11 p

Post by Cardinal » Sun Apr 24, 2011 2:22 am

Chapter 7

First Meeting

Michael’s smaller column of travelers had been slowed coming down out of the mountains by heavy rains which made a couple of streams impossible to cross for a few days. Those delays cost them most of a week, so they didn’t meet up with Lord Parker’s larger, slower column until they were within two days’ ride of Varshova. Max was riding comfortably by then because Michael had allowed him to heal himself a full week into their trip, as he figured Lady Maria and her soldiers would believe Max’s bruises had mostly healed by then. Michael just told his squire to make sure he kept his clothes on until they reached their destination so no one could see he was bruise free.

The first meeting with Lord Parker had been polite, but neither he nor Michael wanted to talk about his mission out in the open. That would wait for later, when they could achieve a modicum of privacy. Lord Parker had raised an eyebrow upon seeing his eldest daughter without her usual short swords, but one look at her face let him know that explanation would have to wait also.

On the last day of their trip, with the manor almost in sight, and the long line of wagons, horses, and people strung out along the dusty road, Michael looked across the wagon train and saw Maria. He spent a moment admiring her beauty before she felt someone looking and glared back at him. He politely dipped his head toward the lady, who replied by jerking her head back to the road in front of her.

“Pretty woman,” Michael said to Max, who was riding on his other side. “But lots of anger. I still say you should have let her apologize to you when we left the castle.”

“She didn’t mean it, so what was the point? If she’s ever truly sorry for what she did, I shall be glad to hear her apology.”

“But that’s not the point I was trying to make and you know it.” Michael looked around hastily to make sure no one was listening in. “There she was…a lady of the house, going so far as to humble herself in public to apologize and ask your forgiveness - which is more than I thought that old castellan could have gotten out of her - and you went and added to her humiliation by refusing to hear her apology.”

“It is my right,” Max pointed out stiffly.

“Squire Zan is not in a position to let his pride rule his actions. Here, in this place, making that woman an enemy is dangerous. There are any number of men in her father’s service who would consider seriously injuring you to be a badge of honor right now…especially the ones who did not see the beating you took from her.”

“Good luck to them, I’d like to see them try.”

Michael led Max off to one side of the traveling column, far enough that no one could hope to hear them.

“Damn it, Squire, they’ll either come after you while you’re training, in which case you or I might have to kill someone to make it stop, or else they’ll try to get you when you’re out running errands for me, in which case you might have to use your powers. Then your Antarian heritage will be revealed and your cover will be blown.” Michael gave Max a glare that was reminiscent of one from the day they’d first met.

That gave Max pause.

“If that happens,” Michael continued, “we may have to leave, even though I doubt Khivar would try to send someone to kill you here, since doing so would risk the anger of the grand duke and might bring him to actively support your father.”

“The grand duke ought to be supporting father anyway,” Max said. “He sent his oldest son Kyle to live with us for a year. Word has it he was interested in a possible match between Kyle and my sister, and that sending him to us was just to see if they suited each other.”

“Well…did they?”

“Mmm…not really. Kyle and I got on famously, and he seemed to have fallen under Isabel’s spell like every other male over the age of twelve and under the age of ninety, but she didn’t warm to him at all.”

“Oh, that’s too bad.”


“I was hoping we could lean on that future connection in an emergency.”

“Well, if it’s a future connection you’re looking for, it’s a well-known fact that my father lusts for a marriage between Kyle’s older sister and myself. Mother’s not quite so sure.”

“Your mother scares me,” Michael admitted frankly.

“You’re not the only one. She’s all sweetness and light most of the time, just like Isabel, but cross her at your peril.”

“So that’s where you get the temper from.”

“Temper?” Max scoffed. “You haven’t even seen me slightly angry yet. I’ll have you know I’ve been on my best behavior ever since we left.” Curious now, he asked, “Who told you I have a temper?”

“It was a big part of my briefing when I was given the job.”

“Hmmph. Traitors,” Max said, with a good deal of humor. “I suppose they’re right. I do have a temper. It may have a slow burning fuse, but once someone sets it off, it stays lit for a long time. Only Isabel has never been the object of it.”

“She’s that sweet, huh?”

“Sir Michael…men will be fighting for her hand like they fought for that of Helen of Troy in days of old.”

Michael chuckled. “I don’t know much about ancient stories, but I do know how that one ended. A faithless wife, a thousand-ship armada, and a ten-year war of retribution.”

“Well then, maybe you should marry her. A ten-year war sounds like something you’d relish, and I know she’d be able to make you smile once or twice.”

“And have you as my brother? God spare me. Anyway, back to you. Why is the king so hot about marrying you to some minor princess. The grand duchy is nice, but it’s not your largest, wealthiest, or most powerful neighbor.”

“Yes, but it’s the only neighbor that has a woman as its heir.”

“You mean…?”

“Yes, Krakovia is too small to waste half of its best and brightest just because they were born women. They long ago dropped male primogeniture, and thus, because Princess Serena is older than her brother, Prince Kyle, she is the heir to her father’s throne.”

“Ah. That explains your father’s interest in the marriage. If you marry the princess, your kingdom and her grand duchy will combine and be ruled as one kingdom by your offspring.”

“True…but there are a lot of obstacles. Chief among them is trying to reconcile our way of doing things with their way.”

“Sounds unlikely then.”

“Maybe…in any case, just before Kyle left to return home, I ‘borrowed’ my bank plate from my parents’ rooms and then commissioned and paid for a huge emerald and pearl necklace. Kyle took it home with him to give to his sister Serena as a token of my esteem.”

“Even though you’ve never met the girl.”


Michael shook his head in disbelief. “I’ll never understand the nobility, not if I live to be one-hundred.”

The manor appeared in the distance, with one of the two mounted patrols raising the call once they saw the banner of the House of Parker flying proudly at the head of the column. Showing a golden tiger on a rich purple field, with the purple field then edged with a thick golden border, this particular banner was fresh and clean and had been brought out just for today’s arrival.

Lord Parker rode ahead with his banner right behind and Tess’ carriage immediately behind the banner. Once inside the extensive grounds of the manor, both Parkers pulled out of the way and then turned to watch as their people entered and headed for the manor house beyond. The people with Lord Parker’s column had been on the road for six weeks solid and were thoroughly tired of road dust, uncomfortable sleeping accommodations, and riding on either a horse or in a wagon.

Due to Tess’ unstinting efforts, the food had been plentiful and surprisingly decent for something on the road, which everyone in the party took pains to thank her for as they entered the manor’s property and passed by her carriage. As on the road, Lord Parker stood back, this time allowing his youngest to bask in her just reward for completing the arduous, if not overly difficult task of feeding everyone.

Elizabeth had been overseeing the cleaning of a last few chimneys when the patrol alerted her to her family’s impending arrival. Even though she hadn’t been doing the cleaning herself, she had gotten close enough to be coated with a fine layer of soot. As usual, she had dressed very plainly that morning and had just thrown her hair up in a messy bun because she thought the constant preening her social class tended to do was unnecessary for her as it just kept her away from the things she needed to be doing.

Elizabeth raced to her father’s side in time to see most of the wagon train pass by, and after a warm exchange of greetings, which included a hug between the dusty lord and his sooty daughter, she nodded toward her little sister, and said, “So, I see Tess was up to the task after all. I normally hate to say ‘I told you so,’ but not when there’s money on the line. That’s fifty gold Crowns you owe me.”

“You were right, Elizabeth, and I was wrong. I thought her nervous disposition would be her undoing, but once she had that first day under her belt, it was like she had been doing the job her entire life.”

Elizabeth looked up at her father who had dismounted from his horse, but still towered over her. “She’s a Parker, Father. That means she can do whatever job she sets her mind to.”

“I’m not so sure about that,” Lewis said, as Maria finally rode by without looking at any of her family members even once. “I’m beginning to think your older sister has done something rash.”

“Why do you say that?” Elizabeth asked, and then she saw the empty sword sheaths and answered her own question. “Her swords! She never goes on a trip without them…never! I wonder if she crossed the new arms master.”

“We’ll find out soon, I’m sure.”

Elizabeth began standing on her toes and craning her neck as she looked for the infamous Black Knight, but saw no one who matched her imaginings of what such a brutal man should look like. “Speaking of our gift from the king, Father, where is he?”

Lord Parker looked about and located Michael and Max on the far side of the wagon train as they finally made their way onto the property. “Over there, Elizabeth. Just riding in now.”

Elizabeth saw two men wearing half helms, chain mail, and other armor. One was a bit larger and looked to be older than the other, but it was hard to tell ages with the wagon train in the way and all that armor on. “Which one?”

“The larger one, my dear.”

“Who’s the other one? Seems somewhat young for a knight.”

“I wasn’t introduced when Sir Michael’s party joined up with us, so I don’t know the boy’s name. But I’ve heard Sir Michael has a squire, so that must be him.”

Seeing his guard captain ride in, Lord Parker handed his reins over to Elizabeth and asked her to see his horse got proper care. Elizabeth, in turn, looked around for a stable boy, as this horse was intended for the first stall in the family stables. She wanted him to get fed, watered, and rubbed down as soon as possible.

Michael and Max dismounted, with each one holding the reins of two horses as they looked for someone who could tell them where to take the horses to be stabled. Neither one had any idea of who to look for here, so they kept a watch for anyone who might be in charge of handling horses.

Max finally spotted a horse being led by a dirty young woman in a plain gray dress. He’d never heard of stable girls before, as he couldn’t imagine wearing a dress for stable work, but he figured there was a first time for everything so he trotted up to the young woman, pulling his horse and their packhorse behind.

“Hi,” Max said, “I wondered if you could help me, Miss.”

Elizabeth stopped when she heard a warm, friendly voice. Looking up, she saw Sir Michael’s squire fast approaching. Since he’d ridden in a few minutes earlier, he had taken off his half helm, which gave her her first good look at his face.

Other than the filth from being on the road for three weeks, Elizabeth had to admit he was handsome…very much so…in fact, the closer he got, the more handsome he became. Suddenly, she was embarrassed to be covered with filth herself. She didn’t know this boy, didn’t know for sure if he even came from a good family, though she suspected he did, but nonetheless she wanted to look nice for him, and failing that, she wanted to crawl into a hole and die.

As Max drew closer to the dirty stable girl in gray, he noticed she was rather pretty, and thought someone who looked that nice should be serving in the house. Realizing he had the girl’s attention, he spoke again. “Since you’re obviously going to the stables, would you be so kind as to take my horses, too? They’re good horses and are both rather tired, so they won’t give you any trouble.”

Elizabeth watched in dumbfounded amazement as the squire handed her his two sets of reins and walked off. She didn’t know whether she wanted to cry for looking so bad or go over there, hand the squire all three sets of reins, and drag him along to the stables by his ear.
"In the Name of the King"
-----Winner, Round 15 - Favorite Lead Portrayal of Liz Parker
-----Winner, Round 15 - Best Use of a Supporting Character (Jeff Parker)
-----Winner, Round 15 - Best New Fic
-----Winner, Round 15 - Best Period Fanfiction

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Re: In the Name of the King (AU, CC, Mature) Ch 7 4/24/11 p

Post by Cardinal » Mon Apr 25, 2011 12:28 am

Chapter 8

Second Chances

Figuring she might cry if she got anywhere near that squire again, Elizabeth turned and walked the horses until she found an actual stable boy. She handed him the squire’s two horses, told him the horses belonged to Sir Michael’s squire, and then instructed him to take them to the immense soldier’s stables out behind the barracks. She continued on to the family stables close by and handed off her father’s horse to a waiting groomsman, with explicit instructions for its care, as it was her father’s favorite horse.

The evening meal was at least a couple of hours off, and while Elizabeth hoped her newly hired kitchen help was up to assisting the newly arrived head cook and the few assistant cooks she had brought with her, she decided to leave that all up to the regular staff, who would probably be happy just to have regular facilities to work in from now on.

That left her with plenty of time to show a certain squire just who he was dealing with. She didn’t normally go in for finery and messing with her hair, so when she stormed into the manor and commandeered a number of the chambermaids to help her prepare for dinner, it sent mild shockwaves throughout the household.

The cooks were ordered to put a huge kettle of clean water on to heat up, and once it was reasonably warm, the chambermaids began carrying water up to Elizabeth’s room by the bucketful to fill the portable copper and wood tub that was sitting in the middle of the room.

Elizabeth had spent the time waiting for the warm water having a couple of footmen bring her chests of clothing up to her room so she could root through them and find a suitable dress, underclothing, and shoes. The clothes were turned over to housekeeping to check for tears before taking a hot iron to it to straighten the creases and smooth out the wrinkles, and the elegant velvet slippers were brushed to remove any dust and to uniformly raise the nap.

Once the tub was properly filled, Elizabeth disrobed with the help of a couple of chambermaids - who clucked at how filthy she had gotten her dress - and then tested the water before gingerly stepping into the tub. As soon as both feet were in, she sat down and lifted her legs so the maids could clean them as high as they could while yet other maids washed her long, thick chestnut hair. Once the hair was washed and rinsed, and her legs had been cleaned as high up as the maids could reach before hitting the water, Elizabeth stood so the rest of her could be scrubbed.

Louise, the head housekeeper, had appeared by this time to see what the commotion was all about. Seeing that Lady Elizabeth was making a real effort at being a lady this evening, nothing would do but that she roll up her own sleeves and scrub the girl’s back, bottom, and the backs of her legs down to the top of the water with a long-handled brush and some finely-milled perfumed soap until her skin glowed with all the dewy freshness of springtime.

Once Elizabeth’s front side was equally clean, she stepped out of the tub and into a thick towel to be dried off while the maids dried her hair as much as possible by hand before using special curling irons, that had been sitting next to the fire to warm without getting too hot, to curl her hair. Then came paints and powders on her face. Not much, as this wasn’t a ball or a royal court appearance, but just enough to highlight her strengths and minimize whatever weaknesses she might have.

Next came her clothes. The maids thought Elizabeth was lucky to be slender enough that her corsets didn’t require much in the way of whalebone stays. She also wore a linen shift and thigh-high stockings, among other undergarments, but the dress itself was so long that only her velvet slippers would ever be visible to anyone who saw her.

Not so with her top half, where the current style was a deep, square neckline to show plenty of skin from the neck down to the tops of a lady’s breasts, and from shoulder to shoulder. Elizabeth always claimed she didn’t have breasts, but was pleased to find that the dress and her time-consuming underclothes helped foster the illusion that she had more up top than was really the case.

The dress itself was a rich burgundy, a color her stepmother had once told her complimented her complexion most excellently. The dress stayed close to her body until it reached her waist, and then it flared slightly until it reached her slipper tops. It wasn’t her best dress, not even close, what with it having no seed pearls or intricate brocades or embroidery, but it was plenty of dress for this occasion.

Once Elizabeth was ready, she was paraded in front of her maids, right to a long mirror. After a long look, she was thrilled with the effect, and clapped her hands excitedly before profusely thanking everyone she could see for their efforts. After she left, all the servants cared to talk about was why their beloved Lady Elizabeth had suddenly decided to dress the part. There had to be some reason, there had to be someone, but no one knew.

When Elizabeth made her way down the hall to Tess’ room to show off a bit and to see if anyone else was ready, her little sister gasped with amazement, and then a truly pleased smile spread over her face. “Oh, Elizabeth. You truly are beautiful when you try.”

“Thank you, Tess. I don’t usually have any use for dressing up, but today…”

“What is different about today?”

“Someone mistook me for a stable girl today,” Elizabeth admitted ruefully. “Hearing that hurt more than it should have, but tonight, I intend to set that young man straight.”

“Well…you were kind of dirty, and you were dressed rather plainly, so I can see the mistake,” Tess said, oblivious to her sister’s feelings. “But yes, if someone said that to me, I would just about die from shame.” She eyed her older sister one more time. “If this look doesn’t get this man on the right track, then nothing will.” Tess’ eyes narrowed all of a sudden. “Speaking of which, who is this man you’re dressing up for? Is he cute? Have we been introduced yet?”

Leave it to Tess to figure out there is a man involved, Elizabeth thought. I swear that girl has read every romance story in father’s entire library.

“Taking those in order: question one, I’m not telling you, question two, he’s very handsome, and question three, we haven’t been introduced yet, though I assume Maria has.”

Once Tess’ servants were done readying her for dinner, the two young women went in search of their oldest sister, who they expected to be ready and waiting with their father. They learned from a servant that she was with their father, but that the two were having a heated discussion in the room Lord Parker had claimed for his library. Not eager to be anywhere near that argument, the two younger Parker women waited in a drawing room several rooms away and hoped Maria and their father wouldn’t be too long.

Back when Elizabeth was beginning the lengthy process of making herself presentable for dinner, Max and Michael were somewhat more pressed for time. Max had just brought up a bucket of water for Michael and one for himself, when a servant arrived to tell Michael that Lord Parker would like a private interview in his library at Michael’s earliest convenience. He correctly took that to mean ‘as soon as possible,’ so Max used a small firebolt to raise the temperature of the water in Michael’s bucket for washing, and then both men stripped and used their buckets and the small cakes of harsh lye-based soap they had been provided with to scrub themselves clean.

Halfway through their ablutions, there was a firm knock at the door to Michael’s room. Each man looked at the other, before Max set down his soap and other cleaning supplies and headed for the door. “Who is it?” he asked. It turned out that the knock had been from two girls from housekeeping who said there were there to help Sir Michael and his squire prepare for dinner.

Confused, Michael looked at Max as if to say ‘I didn’t ask for anything.’

Max just rolled his eyes at the master warrior and wondered if he knew about anything when it came to living in this sort of situation. “Just a minute, Girls,” he called out, before walking over to Michael to explain. “These girls weren’t sent here to help us, though they probably will if we let them. They just want to get their sweaty little hands on your body.”

“What about you?” Michael asked.

“Nah…to them I’m a nobody…but you have a famous name and a bloody reputation. Mother always said there are a lot of women who are drawn to that kind of man. She said they find being with him exciting and a little bit dangerous.” Max pointed back to the door. “Want me to let them in?”

Michael looked like he was seriously considering it for a moment, but then he smiled and said, “Chase ‘em off, if you please, Squire.”

Max bowed slightly. “As you say, Sir Michael.”

When Max returned to the door, he told the young women, without ever opening the door, that they didn’t want any help. When the girls persisted, he told them he knew they hadn’t been sent and that he’d tell the head housekeeper about them if they didn’t leave at once. That scared the young women, who were scurrying down the hall before he could crack open the door to make sure they were really leaving. Once he was satisfied they were gone, he closed and barred the door before returning to washing.

Michael looked at Max, and saw he was smiling as he began to finish up. “What?” Michael asked irritably.

“Oh nothing. Just that those girls may start telling people we prefer boys, or each other, instead of women since we didn’t even take a look at them before sending them away.”

“You’re kidding.”

“I wish I was, but stories have a life of their own in palaces and castles of any size.”

The two men were quiet for a moment, and then Michael asked, “You get a good look at ‘em when they left?”

“Good enough.”

“Were they cute?”

“Not bad,” Max replied.

“Damn. It’s been a long time.”

“Since you’ve had a woman?” Max asked, not quite believing what he was hearing.

“No, since I’ve had two women at once.”

Max couldn’t quite tell if Michael was serious or was just giving him a hard time, but he wasn’t about to ask and advertise his ignorance. Instead, he helped Michael dress in his one sharp outfit, a scarlet and gold military jacket and black uniform trousers from his last posting with the Royal Mountaineers, which was a small but highly select army unit that was charged with keeping the mountain passes relatively easy to travel, and free of bandits. A great deal of his savage reputation came from his three years in the mountains.

Max’s last duty was to clean Michael’s boots, something he did with a little molecular manipulation. The boots had a parade ground gleam in no time. He then had scant time to make sure his second set of clothes was passably clean, before cleaning his own boots, dressing, and following his knight out of their room.

Once they had been directed to the correct room on the third floor, Michael and Max heard what sounded like a heated discussion going on between Lord Parker and his eldest daughter. Unsure of how long this could take, both men settled in, as they would need to wait on the pleasure of his lordship.

They didn’t have to wait long, as Lord Parker came bursting out of his library looking like he wanted to break something, or someone, in half. Seeing Michael standing there patiently stopped him in his tracks.

“I’m sorry, Sir Michael, but if you don’t mind, I need to postpone our meeting until after dinner. As you may have heard, I’m currently dealing with a rather contentious matter right now.” Lord Parker then saw Max trying to fade into the woodwork. “Ah, Squire Zan. I understand from the letter I just received from my castellan that you are the chivalrous young man who took a horrendous beating instead of striking my eldest.”

“Yes, your Lordship.”

“I thank you for your consideration, Squire, but the next time Sir Michael orders you to thrash my daughter while she’s pretending to be a man, swallow your fine upbringing and do it. It may save us all a lot of headaches in the future.”

Max looked uncertainly from one man to the other, and Michael turned to Lord Parker and said, “He may not be able to do it, your Lordship. I think he’s spent his whole life wanting to be the kind of knight that only exists in romances told by troubadours.”

Lord Parker heard Maria start up again, bringing up an old argument from years ago. “Please excuse me, Sir Michael, it appears my daughter is not done with me yet.”

Michael and Max left the library and headed down to the great hall, which was on the first floor and was arranged for dinner with a long head table across the front of the room with individual chairs at each seat, and then longer tables that ran the length of the room perpendicular to the head table. These two tables had long benches beneath them for seating. Taken together, Max thought, the tables look like the letter U.

The dining tables were already starting to fill, and while there was no food set out yet, there were pitchers of warm ale and watered wine for the assembled diners to drink as they mingled and talked.

Michael was up on one end of the head table as he was essentially one of Lord Parker’s officers now. Max, as he had expected, was seated down near the end of one of the other tables with the soldiers. Each of the perpendicular tables was seating people on both sides to allow them to have the needed capacity.

The rumble of conversation ceased though, the moment the double doors behind the head table opened and the Parker family entered. Anyone already seated stood, and those still standing stopped what they were doing to face Lord Parker and his daughters as they took the central seats at the head table.

As Lord Parker sat, so did everyone else. Max was too far away from the head table to make out too much detail, but he could tell Lord Parker had changed into something fresh once he was done with the argument in the library. There appeared to be an empty place setting where Lady Maria might be expected to sit, and he saw the Lady Tess, who he’d seen from time to time after their small party had joined up with Lord Parker’s wagon train. He thought Tess was more beautiful than her sister Maria, even though she was supposed to be younger by four years. Still, pretty as she was, he thought she was nothing special by court standards.

Max had tried to explain this to Michael one day during the early part of their journey to Roswell Castle. They’d seen a pretty girl in a tavern they’d stopped in along the way. Michael had called her gorgeous, while Max had allowed that she was merely okay. Michael had instantly called Max an elitist snob, and Max had responded by telling him that every noble house, all across the kingdom, sent their most beautiful, most talented, most charming daughters to the capital. The crème de la crème joined his sister’s ladies-in-waiting, while the rest stayed at their family’s mansions in town so they could join the winter social season and find suitable husbands. Max had finished by saying that since he was used to seeing the kingdom’s best on a daily basis, he ought to be given some slack for having a higher standard of beauty.

None of this, however, applied to the stunningly gorgeous young woman who had just taken her seat. She had to be the heretofore unseen Lady Elizabeth. Max stared at her with slack-jawed amazement, almost forgetting to take his own seat as he studied her silken chestnut curls, glowing complexion, gleaming teeth, and the admirable expanse of creamy skin she was showing with her square neckline.

Still, what meant the most physically to Max had always been a woman’s eyes. Some poet or philosopher had labeled them as ‘windows to the soul.’ He had always found that phrase overly dramatic but essentially accurate, so he waited to see her eyes, as right now they seemed to be occupied by searching the room for someone.

It was only when she finally turned her eyes on him that he realized he had seen her before. Her eyebrows lifted a little, as if to say ‘how do you like me now?’ while his heart sank into his boots. Crestfallen was an understatement when used to describe the way he felt at that moment. It was bad enough that he’d had trouble with the obnoxious eldest daughter of the family, now he’d treated the second daughter like a lowly stable girl, which not only was a gross insult for a person of her rank, but also a gross insult for a woman of her beauty.

Elizabeth, on the other hand, was delighted with the way the squire reacted when he realized who she was. It made a couple of hours being manhandled by her chambermaids worthwhile. She planned to spend the rest of the meal watching the boy and making him as uncomfortable as she could. This is going to be such fun! she thought.

Max, however, had come to a decision. There was only one way to make up for his mistake, no matter how understandable it might have been. He needed to make an apology, and he needed to do it now, before his resolve failed him. He stood, walked around the far end of his table, and moved up the open space in the middle of the ‘U’ to approach Lord Parker. He used his knowledge of court etiquette to stop at the proper distance and wait for Lord Parker to officially recognize him and signal him forward.

Once that signal came, Max stepped forward, wondering what to say by way of apology. First he’d have to talk to Lord Parker, and then he’d have to beg for Lady Elizabeth’s forgiveness, something for which he had little taste and no experience. Still, it had to be done. Here goes nothing!
"In the Name of the King"
-----Winner, Round 15 - Favorite Lead Portrayal of Liz Parker
-----Winner, Round 15 - Best Use of a Supporting Character (Jeff Parker)
-----Winner, Round 15 - Best New Fic
-----Winner, Round 15 - Best Period Fanfiction

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Re: In the Name of the King (AU, CC, Mature) Ch 8 4/25/11 p

Post by Cardinal » Tue Apr 26, 2011 12:07 am

Chapter 9


“Squire…Zan, I believe?” Lord Parker asked.

Max bowed low and then rose. “Yes, your Lordship.”

Michael was almost bug-eyed as he couldn’t imagine what Max was doing now. All he knew was Max talking to Lord Parker before their after-dinner private discussion could not be good.

Lord Parker eyed Max’s clothing more carefully, and then gave Michael a steely glare. “Sir Michael? It would behoove you to find your squire more appropriate attire for the evening meal and for more formal events. I assume this is the best he has, as it is scrupulously clean, therefore the fault is yours. Talk to my daughter Tess tomorrow, and she’ll set you up with my household tailor.”

“Yes, Milord.” Michael had no option but to agree, but he glowered at Max for getting him in even this small amount of hot water on their first day here.

“Now,” Lord Parker said, as he returned his focus to Max, “what do you have that needs my attention? You are a new addition to my household, so I will make some allowance, but know now that while I do not mind dealing with genuine problems, I despise having my time wasted.”

Max’s eyes flitted over to Elizabeth briefly, and then returned to her father. Even in that small moment, Max was struck by how much more attractive she was up close, and he knew it was because now he could see into her eyes, her ‘windows to the soul.’ Brown…her eyes are brown. Big, round, brown…and completely beautiful.

“Thank you, your Lordship, for your generous consideration. I’m in front of you now because I made a hasty mistake today and made an assumption which caused me to insult one of your daughters.”

When Michael heard that, his face sank into his hands, as he wondered what Max could have done to this daughter of the house. The boy had barely had the time to insult her, he thought. Does he have his insults planned so well now that he can squeeze them into a tight schedule?

“It’s beginning to sound like you intend to insult my entire family, Squire.” Max was cautious, as Lord Parker’s words sounded dangerous, but his tone of voice didn’t. “First you refuse to hear my eldest daughter’s apology for her admittedly…inexplicable actions, and now you say you’ve insulted another of my girls. Which one, might I ask, and how?”

“The Lady Elizabeth.”

Lord Parker looked over to his middle child, who nodded slightly in affirmation, but didn’t appear to be angry.

“As for how,” Max took a deep breath and then let half of it back out, “I treated her like a stable girl this afternoon upon our arrival by handing her my two horses and asking her to see that they were taken care of properly.” He turned his eyes full upon her for the first time, steeling himself against the sensation of being overwhelmed by her beauty. “I’m here to make amends, as best I can, by offering her my sincerest apology.”

Michael, who’d been dying a slow death inside ever since learning his charge had struck again, was listening intently now, hoping Max’s apology would be enough.

“Well, Elizabeth,” Lord Parker asked, “what do you think? Are you willing to accept his apology? Or should I just assign him some extra labor for punishment?”

“I don’t know, Father,” Elizabeth said, “I rather think that depends on the quality of the apology.”

Lord Parker gestured to Max, who immediately dropped to both knees, careful to do so slowly for fear of cracking his knees on the stone flooring. His amber-flecked brown eyes sought out Elizabeth’s own brown ones and they locked. In that moment, no one else existed for either one of them.

“I am sorry, Lady Elizabeth. I should have asked your station instead of assuming I knew. The insult was completely unintentional.” She saw his eyes were earnest, pleading with her to understand and to forgive. “I would like to be able to claim mitigating circumstances, but the truth is I could have avoided the problem by taking a little more care. I am truly sorry, and I hope you’ll accept my humblest apology.”

If Elizabeth knew who Max really was, she’d have some idea of how unused to apologizing he really was. Crown Prince Maximilian rarely had to apologize to anyone for any reason, and yet, here he was humbling himself before her and everyone in the household.

But Elizabeth didn’t need to know who Max really was. To her, he was just a seemingly nice, sincere guy who’d made an easy to make mistake, and who’d been forthright enough to step up and apologize the second he realized his error instead of waiting until later, when there would have been fewer witnesses around.

While she liked his apology, she loved the guts it had taken for him to approach her father like this. She knew her father could be difficult, and he’d definitely been unhappy when he’d come in here. She assumed that had something to do with why Maria wasn’t here, but she’d leave that sleeping dog alone for now.

“Your apology is accepted, Squire Zan,” Elizabeth said warmly. “I know what I looked like this afternoon and realize just how easy it would have been to think I was a stable girl…especially since I was already leading my father’s horse.”

Pleased that whatever tiny damage that had been done to his daughter’s honor had been repaired, Lord Parker dismissed Max with a wave, and the kitchen servants began bringing out the food. This first dinner in the manor was somewhat smaller and less varied than what Lord Parker’s kitchen staff usually provided, as they hadn’t had the time necessary to prepare a full meal the way they usually did.

Max still ate heartily, pleased to be able to down a proper meal for the first time since they’d left Roswell Castle. Michael, however, ate like a man with indigestion, having just watched his life pass before his eyes. He’d been afraid Max had goosed the poor girl or something, and had been relieved to learn how minor the supposed transgression had been.

The one thing Michael noticed during Max’s apology, that he was sure no one else in the dining hall had noticed due to their unfamiliarity with the boy, was the way he had looked at Lady Elizabeth. He’d bet a year’s pay Max had found a woman whose beauty had impressed even a jaded observer of the comings and going at the royal court like himself. He couldn’t wait to needle the squire about that little tidbit.

Lord Parker had also noticed the look between Elizabeth and Max, but his focus had been on his daughter. Seeing her react so positively to a young man, in what to him was an obvious fashion, made him want to ask Sir Michael what family the squire belonged to. While he was most conscious of Maria’s need to marry and do it quickly due to her age, he was also keeping an eye out for marriage prospects for his other daughters. With no sons to inherit the barony after his death, Lord Parker needed to find suitable marriages for all three, or else hope one of his girls would somehow attract a big match, which would give the other girls some security, while also improving their chances of making good matches themselves.

After Lord Parker and his two daughters left the dining room at the end of the meal, Michael made his way down the table to Max and collected him so they could meet up with Lord Parker in his library for their long-awaited talk. They got there well ahead of their host, giving Michael the chance to give Max some last minute instruction.

“Can you do what your mother did in the throne room?” Michael asked.

“You mean the green shields on the doors, or mind warping anyone who gets too close to keep them from remembering anything they hear?”


“The shields will be easy, the mind warp less so.”

“Good,” Michael said, “I want you to do your thing to the inside of this room once Lord Parker arrives. There are some things we need to talk about that no one else needs to hear.”

“Okay,” Max replied. “Once he arrives, give me a few seconds. When you see the shields, I’ll be ready.”

Lord Parker showed up a few minutes later, mumbling to himself about needing a woman to deal with daughters as he entered the room and beckoned the two waiting men to follow him in. Max immediately raised his shields, and a shimmering green energy field spread across the doorway and every window in the room. He then watched and listened for potential snoops.

Lord Parker was across the room, just setting himself down in the only chair when he first noticed the green shields. He knew what the green glow meant. “What? Who?” His eyes traveled back and forth between Michael and Max, unsure of which one was the Antarian. Whoever it was, he knew his life had just gotten much more dangerous.

“Sir Michael, why am I imprisoned in my own room?”

“Right idea, your Lordship. Wrong direction,” Michael answered. “We’re not keeping you in; we’re keeping everyone else out.” Figuring correctly that the mystical Antarian abilities had been a surprise, Michael decided he needed to know what Lord Parker had already been told. “What has the king told you so far, your Lordship?”

“His Majesty’s one letter ordered me to establish a residence in or around Varshova on or before Crown Prince Maximilian’s nineteenth birthday…that’s not for two more days, so we have done it.” Lord Parker leaned forward. “He also said you would have further instructions for me once you joined us here.”

Michael reached inside his scarlet and gold jacket and pulled out a thin, brown leather wallet, opened it, and handed the folded sheet of vellum inside to Lord Parker. Unfolding the vellum, Lord Parker read it and then studied the seal at the bottom before setting down the sheet on his lap.

“I am to try and convince Grand Duke James I to support the king if it comes down to a rebellion?” Lord Parker stood, taking the vellum with him, as he began to pace back and forth. “How in God’s name am I supposed to do that? What do I have to negotiate with?”

Michael just looked at Lord Parker while surreptitiously pointing at Max. Max saw him, however, and said quietly, “Not funny, Sir Michael.”

“Who’s laughing, Squire?” Michael retorted.

Lord Parker hadn’t heard specifics, but he knew something was going on and asked Michael if there was something he needed to hear. Michael eyed Max briefly, then cleared his throat and said, “Actually, your Lordship, there is something more. That mission you just read about is real enough, but it’s mostly a cover for your real mission.”

Curious, yet dreading what he was about to hear, Lord Parker stopped pacing, and turned his full attention on Michael. “And that is…?”

Michael tilted his head toward Max. “Him.”
"In the Name of the King"
-----Winner, Round 15 - Favorite Lead Portrayal of Liz Parker
-----Winner, Round 15 - Best Use of a Supporting Character (Jeff Parker)
-----Winner, Round 15 - Best New Fic
-----Winner, Round 15 - Best Period Fanfiction

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Re: In the Name of the King (AU, CC, Mature) Ch 9 4/26/11 p

Post by Cardinal » Wed Apr 27, 2011 5:21 am

Chapter 10

The Mission

“Him? Why a…wait. Squire, how old are you?”

“I’ll be nineteen, milord…in only two more days.”

Lord Parker hadn’t been selected for this mission merely because he was loyal. His intelligence had been just as important. But realizing the truth of this matter did not require smarts. All the blood drained from Lord Parker’s face, as he sank to one knee in front of the squire, and bowed his head.

Squire Zan became Max for a short time. His voice changed suddenly, becoming sharper, stronger, more commanding. “Rise, Lord Parker.”

As Lord Parker struggled to his feet, Max turned to Michael, and said, “Make the introduction.”

“Your Highness, it is my distinct pleasure to introduce to you Lord Jeffrey Parker, Baron of Roswell.” Michael turned to Lord Parker. “Milord, I am pleased to introduce you to Prince Maximilian, Crown Prince of Alemannia, and Duke of Borussia.”

“Prince Maximilian has been entrusted to my immediate care,” Michael said, “but I thought it important one other person know exactly who he is in case something should happen to me. Keeping him alive and out of the hands of Khivar’s men is vital.”

“Thanks for making me sound completely helpless, Sir Michael,” Max said, as he grinned.

“You know you have my complete cooperation, Sir Michael,” Lord Parker said. “Anything you need…”

“…I’ll be sure to ask for, don’t worry about that. The king, and even more so the queen, made it quite clear that bringing their son back in anything less than the condition he left in would cost me dearly.”

“So…what am I to do with him? I can’t give him any special notice like I would a visiting prince.”

“Since ‘Squire Zan’ and I have been traveling virtually non-stop ever since he became my squire, he hasn’t really had the opportunity to experience the full breadth of a squire’s duties. Therefore I am making him available for service throughout your household. I already use him somewhat as a personal servant, but feel free to assign him to various duties throughout the manor.

Michael looked directly at Max, who was obviously reduced to the state of being a squire once more, and said, “At the very least, he should be able to develop an appreciation for what the servants go through to provide Prince Maximilian with the comforts he takes for granted when he’s at home.”

Michael looked back at Lord Parker. “My only requirement is that he be free for his early morning and late afternoon training sessions with me in the waryard.”

“In that case, Squire Zan,” Lord Parker said. “Report to the head housekeeper tomorrow after your morning practice. I’ll inform her you are coming and she’ll put you to work.”

“Yes, Milord,” Max said. Michael then dismissed him and sent him to their room to prepare it for sleep. The day had been long, and Michael intended to be up early the next morning, for besides training Max, he had to take over his new duties training the one-hundred-and-ten knights and soldiers that were now gathered here. He consoled himself with the knowledge that he didn’t have to set the watch schedules or devise the patrol patterns for the security of the manor. That chore would be up to Lord Parker’s guard captain.

Once Max was gone, Lord Parker waited long enough to assure himself the young man wasn’t coming back, before saying, “Sir Michael. We have a small problem.”

“Yes, Milord?”

Both men began to whisper as they belatedly realized their protection had disappeared when the squire had left.

“I noticed my daughter Elizabeth…well, seems to be taken with Squire Zan.”

“Really?” Michael asked. “I noticed the same thing about him as relates to her. The way he looked at Lady Elizabeth as he apologized let me know he’s interested.”

“Now normally, as a father who has three daughters to marry off, I would be thrilled that a chivalrous young man from a noble family had taken an interest in one of my girls.” Lord Parker gave Michael a grim look. “But this is anything but normal. The kingdom’s on the edge of open rebellion, and the royal children are some of His Majesty’s best bargaining chips went it comes to strengthening old alliances or forging new ones. The king will not be pleased if I should allow my daughter and his son to form an attachment that might make an arranged marriage more difficult to complete.”

“I was told that Prince Maximilian believes his father wants him to marry Grand Duke James’ daughter, Princess Serena.”

“And well he should!” Lord Parker replied. “The eventual combination of the two lands that would be created by such a union has been a dream of the Kings of Alemannia long before the Antarians ever set foot on this planet. It would lead to greater strength and security for both lands, as well as increased prosperity for merchants on both sides of the old border, as various tariffs no longer apply to them.

“With all the good that would come from a union of Krakovia and Alemannia, how could I possibly place more importance on the chance one of my daughters might be happy with that young man? I cannot do it, cannot allow it to happen, and if it did happen, the king would be well within his rights to take both title and lands away from me.

“For the sake of the kingdom, and for my family’s own selfish purposes, we have to keep my Elizabeth away from Squire Max.”

“How encompassing do you think that prohibition needs to be?”

“I was a teenager once myself. I remember the way passion seemed to flow through my veins like the richest blood, until I couldn’t stand it anymore…the prohibition needs to be as absolute as I can make it. No contact whatsoever.”

“Looks like Max will get out of serving at table then. Which is too bad really. I was looking forward to watching him bring food and wine to his assigned persons without he himself being able to eat.”

Elizabeth, meanwhile, had gone to see the guard captain to make sure his men all had adequate bedding in the barracks, before she turned in for the night. Thus it was that she was making her way to the family wing of the manor, while Max was on his way to Michael’s room at the other end of the manor, when the two of them collided as they tried to round the same corner in opposite directions at the same time.

Elizabeth’s nose smacked into something solid as her entire body was brought to a screeching halt before rebounding backward. Max didn’t feel much, but his reactions were lightning fast, as his arms snaked out to grab onto whoever he’d just run into before she could fall to the ground. It was only when he held his victim securely in his arms that he looked down and realized it was Lady Elizabeth. Torn between his need to release the lady and step back before anyone saw them in a clinch, and his desire to hold on to her softness and warmth just a bit longer, Max compromised and slowly but regretfully released her, but didn’t back off.

Elizabeth was thankful she’d been saved from an unceremonious landing on her backside, and looked up just as Max let go. Afraid of saying anything for fear of breaking the spell and making the squire run off, Elizabeth bit her lower lip as she continued to look at him. See how much larger he looks from this close, Elizabeth thought. And yet, for all his size, his hands felt as soft and gentle as his lips look.

Realizing what she was thinking, Elizabeth flushed a brilliant red and muttered a hurried apology for being so clumsy and ran off, leaving a confused Max in her wake. Unsure of what to do, but positive that chasing after a lady of the house was not on the short list of good ideas for a lowly squire, he shrugged his shoulders and trudged off to straighten up Michael’s bedroom and then make sure his little pallet was ready for himself.

Tess was waiting for Elizabeth in her bedroom when the little brunette dynamo came charging in and slammed the door shut and locked it, as if Max’s kissable lips had somehow chased her down the halls, up the stairs to her room, and would come charging in behind to ravage her if she didn’t.

“What in the world is the matter with you?” Tess asked. “You look like you saw a ghost or something.”

Realizing for the first time that she was not alone, Elizabeth tried to bring her breathing under control as she walked over to join her sister on the edge of her bed.

“Oh…nothing’s wrong,” Elizabeth said.

“Liar,” Tess replied, which in this case was only stating the obvious. “What’s going on?”

Elizabeth looked at Tess and wondered just how far she could be trusted, before deciding to tell her. “Tonight, for the very first time, I wanted to kiss a boy. And by that I mean a specific boy; not just a nameless, faceless shadow from a daydream, but a real, live person.”

Tess clapped her hands happily, as if she’d been waiting years for this announcement. “Well, it’s about time! I only seem to want to kiss boys on days that end in ‘Y.’”

You want to kiss far too many boys, Tess. Be careful about that. It’s the sort of thing that leads to trouble.”

“Oh, I know that. I didn’t say I was going to kiss any of them, just that I wanted to…like that dreamy Squire Zan who was so handsome and earnest when he apologized to you tonight.”

When Elizabeth heard her sister mention Zan's name, she tensed up and came close to telling her to keep her mitts off of him, before she remembered neither one of them could have him unless and until they found out he was from an acceptable family.

“Was Squire Zan what you came in here to talk about?” Elizabeth asked irritably.

“No, actually. I heard from my chambermaid who heard from another maid who heard from someone who just happened to be passing by the library when father was in there with Maria.”


“So?!” Tess leaned in conspiratorially. “Apparently their argument reached the boil over point for Father and he turned Maria over his knee and spanked her until she couldn’t sit.” Sitting back triumphantly, Tess added, “That’s why she missed the meal.”
Last edited by Cardinal on Thu Apr 28, 2011 12:29 am, edited 3 times in total.
"In the Name of the King"
-----Winner, Round 15 - Favorite Lead Portrayal of Liz Parker
-----Winner, Round 15 - Best Use of a Supporting Character (Jeff Parker)
-----Winner, Round 15 - Best New Fic
-----Winner, Round 15 - Best Period Fanfiction