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

Finished stories set in an alternate universe to that introduced in the show, or which alter events from the show significantly, but which include the Roswell characters. Aliens play a role in these fics. All complete stories on the main AU with Aliens board will eventually be moved here.

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Cardinal
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Re: In the Name of the King (AU/CC/Mature) Ch59 6/28/11 p15

Postby Cardinal » Thu Jun 30, 2011 5:03 pm

Chapter 60

Making His Case


Max and Michael spent the rest of the morning in Max’s tent, talking about this and that, until it was time for lunch. When a servant entered the tent to inform the prince that lunch was available at any time he wanted it, Max went ahead and ordered a large meal for two. The food showed up within minutes, and was piled high on the two plates the servants brought. Following the food was a large pitcher of ale, which was lukewarm at best.

Once the servants were gone, Max peeked out of the tent entrance to see if anyone was keeping an eye on the tent. He wouldn’t put it past de Laney to have stationed someone nearby to keep track of his comings and goings.

As soon as Max started checking outside, Michael went on alert, though he didn’t know what Max was worried about. “What’s going on? Why the sudden secretiveness?”

“I ordered lunch to convince whoever might be paying attention that I was content to sit and wait for my parents to arrive. But if I actually waited that long, I would not put it past de Laney to arrange an emergency that I would have to deal with, just so he could meet my parents first.”

“You’re assuming he’s aware you plan on asking permission to marry Lady Elizabeth.”

Max nodded his head agreeably. “Yes, I am. God knows we have talked about it enough. All they had to do was listen in on us just once to know. I do not expect de Laney or Vicki to check up on me again until they have finished their own lunch, which is why we are about to sneak out the back of the tent. By the time they come back here, it will be far too late for them.”

Max held out his right hand, aimed it at the back wall of the tent, and focused, causing the tent to open enough for him and Michael to make their escape. Once they were outside, it was a moment’s work for Max to reseal the tent. It looked as good as new.

Max leaned on his training then and tapped his weakest power. He was a lot better at mindwarping now than he had been before beginning his training, but it was still the least natural of his primary powers. He had to work harder for less result, but he thought what he could do would be enough. One thing he had learned from his mother was that he didn’t have to try to warp everyone who could see him, as that was an inefficient use of his power. Instead, he just had to maintain a field around himself and Michael, that would affect only those who actually saw them.

“Stay close to me, Michael,” Max said, as his brow furrowed with concentration, “and be ready to move fast. No one will be able to see us until we reach the horse lines, so make sure you don’t get in anyone’s way.”

Michael led the way, pulling Max along behind him so that the prince could focus on his job. They took out of the way paths, as Michael tried to minimize any chance of accidental contact with a random soldier. It was a nerve-wracking ten minutes, but soon enough they were at the horse lines. As speed was of the essence, Max and Michael requisitioned the first two good horses they found instead of waiting for their personal horses.

As they rode off, Michael asked, “Can you make us and our horses disappear?”

“Not a chance. I don’t have that kind of mindwarping ability.”

Michael paused and then came up with another idea. “What about making us look like someone else?”

Max grinned and replied, “I am way ahead of you. Right now, we look like two soldiers going out on patrol.”

Once they were well clear of the camp, Max dropped the disguises, and they picked up the pace, as they figured it was only a matter of minutes before someone discovered they were gone. It was another half hour before the received the first visual indication that the royal column was approaching.

Max and Michael brought their horses to a standstill in the middle of the slightly-rutted dirt road, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Michael looked south, back toward their encampment, and then north, toward the advancing column that consisted of the royal couple and their guards. Michael couldn’t see the column yet, but he could see a dust cloud over the top of the next ridge that seemed to indicate men and horses on the march.

“So, do we stand here and wait?” Michael asked.

“We’ll move close enough for the guards to see us and then stop. There’s no sense in charging toward them. That would just make their guards nervous and it might lead to an accident. We’ll just stand here and let them identify us at their leisure.”

The two men moved forward once more, stopping a short distance in front of the outriders provided by the Royal Household Guards. The outriders came to a stop and sent word back to the captain of the guard, asking him to come forward. When the rest of the column came to a stop, Phillip asked the driver, through a small window in the front wall of the carriage, if they’d finally found a decent campsite for lunch.

“No, Your Majesty,” the driver replied. “It seems the captain has been called forward. It looks like a pair of men are standing in the middle of the road.”

“Way out here?” Diana murmured.

“Go figure,” Phillip said. Both Evanses were not particularly happy that someone was stopping their progress. Further compounding their annoyance was the fact they were expecting to finally meet their son today, and any delay was intolerable. Their first indication that anything unusual was going on was the ripple of surprised murmurs that shot through the loose ring of guards around the carriage.

The guard captain was back at the side of the carriage moments later. “What is going on out there, Captain?” Phillip asked.

The captain could no longer contain the wide smile that had been threatening to consume his face ever since he had seen the young prince standing in the middle of the road. He’d been so anxious to deliver the news to the royal couple himself, that he’d galloped back after asking the prince and his lone bodyguard to follow him.

“There were two men waiting in the middle of the road, Your Majesty. One has the look of a veteran and carries a wicked looking katana, while the other…the other, is none other than Crown Prince Maximilian.” If the captain had been standing on the ground, he would have been bouncing on his toes. As is, his excitement was picked up by his horse, who started whickering and dancing side to side just a bit.

The king and queen had been expecting to meet their son later in the day, so they weren’t surprised by his presence, just the timing of it. Though neither of the royal couple was happy with their son for violating the Phillip’s order to stay away until called to return, right now they allowed themselves to just be parents and revel in the knowledge that their son was safe.

Huge smiles spread across their faces, and they held hands as they faced each other in the dark interior of the carriage. “Bring our son forward, Captain,” Phillip commanded, “and have someone put the step in place.”

By the time the step was in place and King Phillip began his descent from the carriage, Prince Maximilian and Sir Michael were standing ten feet away, both having been disarmed first as a matter of course due to the royal presence. Once on the hard-packed dirt road, Phillip turned and offered his hand to Diana to help her join him on the ground.

Once she had gotten her skirts in order - with the assistance of the only maid she’d taken on this particular trip - both Phillip and Diana turned their full attention toward their son. Three sets of eyes burned with unfamiliar emotion as they each examined the other, as if to assure themselves that everyone was in good health. Michael felt like an interloper in what was obviously a family only proceeding, but perversely, he knew he couldn’t leave as he hadn’t asked and received permission to leave the royal presence. He’d almost forgotten all about that kind of stuff, as the young prince tended to be lax in enforcing that kind of formality.

Diana reached out a hand toward Max, and said, “My son.” It was all she needed to say, as Max rushed across the remaining distance between them and wrapped her in an all-encompassing hug. As Diana rocked side to side in her son’s arms, her eyes caught those of Michael, and she mouthed the words ‘thank you’ over and over as she cried.

When Diana released Max and turned to formally thank Sir Michael, Phillip finally got his chance at greeting his son. Max bowed, to the depth proper for a prince to his king, and Phillip said, “Rise, my son,” and pulled his son into a somewhat awkward hug, as they slapped each other on the back.

“Just the sight of you soothes my soul, Maximilian,” Phillip said. “I have missed you…far more than I thought I would.”

“For a young man who was dying to get out on his own, I am surprised to find I am having many of the same feelings, Father.”

“Come inside the carriage,” Diana added, from a few feet away, where she had just thanked Michael for his services. “Here we can talk all about your time away in relative comfort.” The royal couple went first, followed by Max, who pulled Sir Michael in after him, despite the older man’s resistance.

“Well…I see you don’t mind allowing your bodyguard in on your private conversations, Maximilian,” Phillip said. “That is as it should be. Any man who trusts another man with his life, should also be able to trust him with the secrets of that life.”

As soon as all four people were settled in the carriage, and the door was closed, Max bowed his head and closed his eyes as he summoned his courage, and his best arguments, to plead for Elizabeth.

His father spoke first, however, as he stared at his son’s head. “What happened to your hair?”

Michael would have answered, seeing as he was the one who’d had the prince’s hair cut off, but he knew better than to speak in this company unless spoken to. As the carriage restarted its somewhat rocky ride down the less than smooth dirt road, Max said, “Sir Michael had it cut off for my safety, as one of my distinguishing physical characteristics at the time I left home was my long hair.”

“I suspect there was more to it than that,” the king replied shrewdly. “I seem to recall your hair being in a warrior’s triple braid. That could not have made an experienced knight happy.”

The king turned toward Michael and gave him a look that indicated he wanted an answer from him. “You are correct, your Majesty,” Michael said evenly. “Your son became my squire the instant you released him to me, and he was wearing his hair in a style he had not yet earned. It was an insult, and I took it as such.”

The king liked the knight’s direct manner. He hated the way people shied away from looking at him, and imagined the knight had done much the same with his son.

“Enough about hair,” Diana said, her voice brimming with a thinly-veiled contempt for a subject she’d have expected her maids to talk about, not her men. “I have something more important in mind.”

Knowing his desire to speak of Elizabeth and his wish to marry her would have to wait until his parents’ desires had been satisfied, Max settled in to wait.

“What I want to know,” Diana continued, “is: who is this Lady Elizabeth we have been hearing about nonstop for the last two days? Who are her parents? Where is she now? And most importantly, are the stories true?”

The royal couple sat back and watched, as their son and his bodyguard exchanged shocked looks. The last thing Max had expected was for his parents to bring up the subject of the woman he loved, even if their focus happened to be on her exploits instead of the goodness of her heart. Michael definitely had no interest in speaking now. Anything he said would run the risk of making things tougher for his friend, so he waited as Max tried to think of something to say.

“I…uh, I do not…I am not sure…” Max’s fingertips began to drum on his thighs as he tried to gather his composure. He decided his best chance was to answer the questions in reverse order and then launch directly into his campaign to win his parents over. After taking a deep breath and then releasing half of it, Max looked his mother in the eyes, and said, “The stories are likely all true, though the truth may have been stretched a bit by now. She’s currently in the small town of Roswell.”

Phillip’s eyes narrowed at the mention of Roswell, as he knew he’d sent Sir Michael and his son to live with the Baron of Roswell.

“Her mother is dead, but her father is Lord Jeffrey Parker, Baron of Roswell, and as for who she is…” Max took another deep breath and tightly gripped his knees with his hands, mostly to keep his legs from shaking, “…she is the woman who has captured my heart and who is my equal on every level except physical ability. In short, I have found my match. Lady Elizabeth Claudia Parker is the woman I intend to marry. And in my view, the sooner, the better.”

This time, it was Max’s parents who shared shocked looks. In the past, whenever they’d sounded out their son on the subject of marriage, he’d looked at them like he’d just bitten into a lemon. They’d run virtually every eligible young woman in the kingdom past him at various receptions, balls, and other social occasions, only to receive nothing for their pains but a series of bored shrugs.

In truth, they could have handpicked a bride and ordered him to marry her, especially since he was a minor, but they were happy in their marriage, and wanted the same thing for their son. The problem was that his marriage also had to satisfy the needs of the kingdom, whether that meant marrying him off to secure a needed alliance, shore up the support of a duke whose loyalty was wavering, or to reward a most loyal supporter.

When his parents didn’t say anything right away, Max looked at his father, and said, “I met Princess Serena while I was gone. She’s smart, pretty, and not at all inclined to marry me. I think you’d have to snooker King Daniel into invading Krakovia before the grand duke would agree to your terms.”

The mention of Princess Serena had drawn his father’s attention away from the queen, but when Max quit speaking, it was his mother who spoke. “That is just as I expected, Phillip. Those are proud people…too proud some might say…and that’s why I asked Duke de Laney to not commit his daughter to a marriage contract.”

Phillip looked back at his wife. “You mean, the girl who was caught…messing around…with our son in the hedge maze?

“Yes,” she said evenly, “that was more than three years ago. She is nearly eighteen years old now, and is accounted to be one of the most sought-after young women in the land. The fact that she and our son liked each other enough to shove their tongues down each other’s throat just means they might still be interested in each other and have a chance to find happiness together.”

Max was used to his parents discussing him like he wasn’t even there, but Michael looked at his young friend as if to say, ‘you’ve gotta speak up, before they decide your life for you.’

Worried Michael might be right, Max raised his hand and waved it slightly as he said, “Excuse me, but I am sitting right here. Since you are talking about me and the rest of my life, you might want to include me in the conversation.”

Phillip eyed his son, and said, “Lady Elizabeth Claudia Parker…Lord Parker’s daughter…I sent you to him to keep you safe, not to find you a wife. Seems like I will need to make my orders more specific in the future.” After some brooding, the king continued. “Why is this Elizabeth of yours in Roswell? I mean, if she is so special that you want to marry her, why did you not bring her with you to meet us?”

“She would have come, but she had a pre-existing duty she could not hand off to anyone else.”

“And that was…?”

“Running the supply base I had her family build there, and also helping one of her lords handle the remaining prisoners.”

“Running the what?”

“Supply base. I had been making plans to winter your army just outside of the town of Roswell, and so I had ordered Lord Parker to gather supplies and build a base. I have reason to suspect that Elizabeth was the one who actually built the base though, since she was the one who gathered the reinforcements that allowed us to win.”

“How did Lord Parker pay for the base and supplies?”

Diana joined the conversation now, knowing exactly how Lord Parker had acquired the funds, since she’d been the one to ensure Max’s bank plate was in his traveler’s belt when he left home. “It seems the kingdom owes our son more than a debt of gratitude, Phillip. What is the total so far, Max?”

“Quite frankly, I do not know. Lord Parker has my bank plate with him, and he is still in Krakovia.”

“So…” Phillip said. “Lady Elizabeth built a supply base, gathered a small army, led that army across to the battle, singlehandedly stopped that small army from routing when it was defeated, reorganized that army to counterattack the King’s Legion, and in doing so, so inspired those men that they used her name as their battle cry…is all that correct?”

“Well…’God, the king, and Lady Elizabeth’ was the cry, I believe. Then add in the fact that she led that army back to Roswell, while taking care of the wounded and keeping the prisoners in line.”

Phillip turned back to Diana. “What do you think?”

Diana tilted her head to one side, resting it on the cushioned headrest. “She is definitely a capable girl, I will give her that. But that is not a queen’s job. A queen’s job is to produce children, males in particular…”

“Is that all you do for Father?” Max asked, as he boldly cut into their conversation. “At home you work with the Lord Chamberlain to direct the social life of the palace, ensuring a string of entertainments to please Father’s guests, and spend hours attending formal sessions of the royal court even though you have no official place there.

“The first job requires a woman of taste and discretion, while the second requires intelligence, wisdom, and a willingness to put the good of the kingdom ahead of that of any one person. Correct?” Diana nodded silently, but both parents were watching their son very intently, as he was showing a side of himself they’d never seen before. Max was fiery, a veritable inferno, as he fought for his lady love. Neither one had ever seen him care about someone or something quite as much as he did now, and it made them listen carefully. “Mother? Both jobs that you have assumed for yourself require, absolutely require, a woman who knows what she is doing, so do not discount Elizabeth’s ‘capability,’ because I need that in a woman.

“Many men like to brag about being a king’s ‘first advisor,’ as if he is somehow the most important one. But watching you two, I have learned that the most important advisor is the last one, the one who listens to all the evidence and all the other opinions before rendering her own. That is what you are for Father, Mother, and that is what I need, what I demand, for myself.

“The fact that I love her may mean little to you in your deliberations, but know that she is the only woman I love or am capable of loving. There will be no mistresses for me. So if my happiness means anything to you, please allow me to marry who I choose.

“In this, my heart and my head are in total agreement. Lady Elizabeth is the only woman for me.”

“Is that what you came out here for by yourselves? To beg for this Lady Elizabeth?”

“Yes, Father. She means that much to me, and...I had to get my plea in before de Laney could ask for a formal contract of marriage for Lady Victoria.”

“Then you have made your case. Go back to your army. I suspect will run into you in time for the evening meal.”

Phillip signaled to the driver to stop, and within a few moments, Max and Michael and left. But before they mounted their horses, Sir Michael had stuck his head back into the carriage, and said, “One thing you might want to know, Your Majesties, your son has been knighted. Not by me, but he truly earned it. So while he’s used to the idea that he has to marry whomever you choose, you and I both know he doesn’t.

“Now that he’s an adult, he can, if he so chooses, renounce the crown. At that point, he’s just the Duke of Borussia, and then, while he still can’t marry without your permission, he can refuse to marry anyone he doesn’t want. And trust me on this, he’s just hard-headed enough to do it.”

After Max and Michael left, and the carriage was back on the move again, Phillip looked at his wife. “Humph,” he muttered, which was enough to break Diana’s attention off of her now distant son, as she wondered about the woman who’d had such an effect on her only boy.

“What?” she asked rather testily.

“It looks like you have another young woman to add to your short list, Diana. See to it that the entire Parker family is invited to Königsberg for the winter. Make the invitation in my name so Lord Parker cannot refuse to come, but make no mention of the true purpose of the visit. Tell him…tell him he’s being rewarded for his role in defeating Khivar. Lord knows he deserves it for what he and his daughter have done. I may have to make him a Count after all of this.”

“What about that smart-mouthed knight?” Diana asked unhappily. “God knows we owe him for keeping our son safe, but cannot we do something about his impertinence?”

“Like what? He warned us of a danger we had not known about. True, he could have left out the part where he told us of the potential consequences of Maximilian’s majority, but I am of a mind to leave him alone.” Phillip reached across to take Diana’s hands in his own. “Besides, my love, Sir Michael was kind enough, or ignorant enough, to not point out one other serious consequence if Max should choose to renounce the throne.”

“What would that be?”

“Simple. If our son renounces the throne, I will be required to divorce you and get married again, likely to a much younger woman that I would not care for at all.”

Diana could feel her stomach churn as she considered having to leave her husband. She loved the man like she had never thought possible before they’d married, but now, the idea of being forced to leave her other half behind was more than she could take.

“You are right. You would have to marry again. I cannot have any more children, and the kingdom would have to have another heir.”
"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) Ch60 6/30/11 p16

Postby Cardinal » Sat Jul 02, 2011 10:41 am

Chapter 61

Special Requests


It was nearing mealtime when the slow-moving column containing the royal couple finally met Max’s army. When he was alerted his parents had arrived, Max took Michael and his ten man bodyguard and rode to the head of the column, stopping along the way to add Lord de Laney, Victoria, and their guards to his procession before continuing on.

Other nobles started showing up on their own. They joined the growing procession, which was beginning to look like it would offer a respectable greeting for the king and queen. The Duke of Salzerei showed up just before they reached the carriage, and placed himself near the front of the line, as befitted his rank. He briefly eyed the succulent fruit that was Lady Victoria de Laney, before fixing his attention on the prince. Seeing the duke wished to speak, Max nodded for him to speak.

“You know now where they have been hiding?” the duke asked.

“Yes, in your castle as a matter of fact.” Max turned to face the duke. “Did you know?”

“No,” replied the duke. “All I knew was that the king sent letters to a number of loyal nobles asking us to prepare our castles for their long-term use.”

“You and your men did well by my family, Hanson. I’m sure my parents are well-pleased. And as they are generous with their friends, I suspect you will be well rewarded.”

“I did not do it for a reward,” the duke replied icily. “I did it because it is my duty to do so.”

“Whoa there, I did not mean to imply your loyalty could be bought. I was merely making an observation.” Max had seen where the duke had looked upon arriving in the column. He took this time to take his own look at de Laney’s daughter. He said, when he looked back at the Duke of Salzerei, “Who knows? Anything could happen. Anything.”

Hanson hoped so. He burned with need for the nubile Lady Victoria. His suit to the de Laney family had been one of the finalists for her hand when the queen’s request to keep Victoria available had come through. And so, the bride selection process for the prince was affecting the choice of brides for an ever-widening cascade of lower-ranking nobles. Once Max had been married off, everyone else would be able to make their own final choices and get on with their lives.

Once the steps were affixed to the carriage, a footman opened the door, and Max waited as his parents stepped down onto the road. The king came first, as he was required to do by royal protocol, and when the queen moved to the door, Max stepped up and offered her his hand to help steady her as she joined her husband on the road. Their greetings for everyone were perfunctory, as the Evanses didn’t want to subject their nobles and soldiers to any more of the cold weather than was necessary.

Max attached himself to his parents once they were done with the official welcome. He led them toward the campsite that had been pre-selected for them, and said, “Having you here is a load off my shoulders.”

“Humph,” Phillip replied, “because everything that goes wrong now is my fault?”

“Yes, Your Majesty,” Max said. “King trumps prince every time.”

Phillip leaned around his wife so he could get a look at his son. “Every time?” he asked meaningfully.

Max knew just what he was getting at. “Well…that is hard to say. This prince might argue a lot first, given the right topic.”

Lord de Laney, Lord Hanson, and Victoria all followed the royal family at a short, respectful distance, even though all three were listening to the conversation. Each had their reasons, but would have been listening anyway out of sheer habit.

The six Antarians watched from the edge of the campsite as the servants who came with the king and queen moved hurriedly to erect the royal tents. Max took one look at de Laney and felt sure the man was bursting with the desire to secure a marriage contract for his daughter. Figuring de Laney would never take the chance unless he himself left, Max decided to ask about something that had been on his mind since the end of the war. Once he had his answer, he planned on leaving.

“Father?” Max asked. “Where is Isabel? Where has my sister been hiding all this time? Where is she? Cipango?”

“Not quite that far, Maximilian,” Phillip said.

Max had been kidding about far off Cipango, but he heard a note in his father’s voice that let him know the distance was great. “Where?”

“Anglia. And since that sea is far too rough and dangerous in wintertime,” Phillip added, “Isabel and her ladies-in-waiting all have to stay there until Spring.”

“A whole winter spent at the palace without Isabel?” Max frowned. “That is going to be boring. Maybe I will just have to spend the winter in Borussia instead.”

That wasn’t an idle threat, and the Evanses both knew it. They needed him to stay home so they could try to get his marriage decided upon before his sister returned in the spring and her suitors started piling up like driftwood on the beach. Their one ace in the hole was that their son didn’t yet know his Lady Elizabeth and her family would be spending the entire winter in the palace.

“I doubt you will want to do that,” Phillip said.

“And why is that?”

“Simple. Lord Jeffrey Parker, the Baron of Roswell, is about to be invited to bring his entire family to the city and stay in the palace with us for the winter.” When Max stared at them as if he’d just been slapped stupid, Phillip added, “We just assumed you would want to be on hand to greet them personally.”

They assumed correctly. Max’s face lit up like a raging bonfire when he heard his parents were going to give Elizabeth a chance. His parents weren’t the only ones who saw his unbridled excitement. The de Laneys had been listening intently and had soured once they learned Elizabeth was being brought to meet the king and queen. Lord Hanson, on the other hand, was pleased to learn the prince’s lady love was a serious contender for his hand, as that greatly improved his own chances of marrying Lady Victoria.

“I do want to be there, very much so,” Max replied. “But may I have your permission to deliver the invitation myself?”

Seeing how much this meant to their son, and knowing it would get him out of the way for a while so they could spend some time with Lady Victoria without him poisoning the waters, they waved him off with twin smiles.

“You can write out the invitation yourself and seal it with your own signet, as we have not had the time to do that yet.” The king paused before adding, “Just make sure the invitation is in my name and the Baron of Roswell will have to come.”

Max was gone from the royal presence in seconds and ready to leave camp in under five minutes. Unfortunately for him, it took his servants quite a bit longer to be ready to leave.

“What’s up, Max?” Michael asked, as he kept one eye on the swirl of activity around them.

“How would you like to visit the Parkers?” Max asked, with an uncharacteristic manic glee readily apparent on his face.

“Go back to Krakovia? Now?” Michael was disbelieving, but he hadn’t heard anything of the conversation between Max and his parents.

“I have a delivery to make, and while you are not my official bodyguard any more, you are still my friend. I would be honored if you would accompany me to Roswell Castle.” Max watched as Michael woke to the possibilities of the trip. “And hopefully, Lord Parker and his other two daughters will have returned from Krakovia by the time we get there. I know Liz sent him a letter weeks ago about the impending battle.”

Michael’s small smile blossomed into something worth seeing before it faltered. “But then we are back to the sticking point, for both me and you, Max. Inequality. You have too much rank, and I have too little.”

“My parents are giving Liz a chance, Michael!” Max ran a hand through his hair, which by now was nearly three inches long. “And if she has a chance with me, you will have a chance with Maria. For now, just worry about winning the girl. Worry about her father once we get to the palace.”

“The palace?”

“Yes, Mother and Father are inviting the Parkers to stay in the Winter Palace until Spring. That invitation is the delivery I am making.”

“That sounds like a trip worth making.”

Back where the Evanses were watching their tent rise quickly under the expert hands of their servants, the royal couple braced themselves for what could be an unpleasant conversation with their foremost general.

Both royals turned to face the remaining three nobles, who were the core of their two most important supporting families. “Lord General de Laney,” Phillip said. “You have earned Our undying gratitude for your loyalty and service in the rebellion.”

“Thank you, your Majesty.” De Laney smiled widely. Even though he already knew he was in the king’s good graces, it was always nice to hear it said out loud. Hearing the royal ‘Our’ made the king’s statement a formal one, one that was almost a commitment. Victoria’s smile was a bit slower and a bit smaller than her father’s, as she had been a bit slow picking up on the inherent promise to reward their family.

“What can We do for you today?” Phillip asked.

De Laney eyed his daughter and teared up at the thought of finally giving away his little girl. His thoughts right then were a time-blurred collage of her life. Like most parents, he chose to pick out the highlights for recognition, and suddenly, thoughts of giving her personal warmth, intelligence, and beauty to the prince made him sad. The prince’s Borussia and his own Pannonia were far apart, which meant visits would be few and far between.

Still, there were the hoped for grandchildren, princes and princesses all, and the knowledge that one of them would someday be king. All he knew was that it was time let her go, time to start the ball rolling that would end with his daughter marrying the king’s son and having her name change from de Laney to Evans.

“I have but one wish. The kingdom needs heirs and the prince is of age. Your Majesties, I hereby offer my daughter, Lady Victoria, as Prince Maximilian’s wife and the mother of his children…may God grant they are many.”

Lord Hanson stiffened slightly to hear de Laney press on with his royal hopes for his daughter. He still had his own hopes for the girl, and thought the Evanses had made it clear that their son’s love would be receiving due consideration to become his wife. Maybe de Laney is just pretending he did not hear the king and queen talking to Max. Either way, I have got to give him points for chutzpah. Walking up to the king and asking for something like that takes balls.

“Come here and stand before Us, Lady Victoria,” Phillip commanded.

Victoria had never been the focus of the king’s attention, and found it to be a little bit unnerving. Nonetheless, she left her place at her father’s side and moved directly in front of the king, before curtseying deeply and then standing upon command.

“Your family connections are impeccable. Furthermore, the queen tells me you are an accomplished young woman. You sing, dance, play an instrument, sew, and speak Frankic and Iberian in addition to Alemannian. All in all a worthy candidate to be my son’s bride. And as your most loyal father asks this honor for you and for his noble house, We would normally choose to grant his request.

“There is, however, an impediment. Our son has asked that We give full consideration to another. He has done enough to convince Us of her worth that We have granted his request. We are truly sorry that We cannot grant your father’s request at this time. This does not, mean you will not be chosen, just that the choice has been delayed.”

Victoria took the end of the king’s speech to be a dismissal, which it was, and curtseyed again before returning to her father. De Laney had fully expected to be turned down, but he had had to ask, mostly to force the king and queen to state their intentions. Lord Hanson was pleased, and smiled pleasantly at Victoria as she walked past him.

All present knew this winter would decide everything. Come spring, the prince would be betrothed, with a fall wedding in the Königsberg Cathedral a real possibility.
Last edited by Cardinal on Sat Jul 02, 2011 10:51 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) Ch61 7/02/11 p17

Postby Cardinal » Sun Jul 03, 2011 8:28 pm

begonia9508 wrote:"chutzpah" what does it mean, please! Thanks :D


chutzpah (noun)

1. Self-confidence – boldness coupled with supreme self-confidence
2. Rudeness – impudent rudeness or lack of respect



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Chapter 62

A Surprise Visit


Max and Michael were accompanied by Max’s ten guards, as the king and queen wanted to make sure their son was well guarded until he rejoined them at the Winter Palace. But that hadn’t been enough for the king and queen, as their son was no longer traveling incognito, so they had asked him to detach a full squadron of his own Borussian knights for added protection. Max had assented with little in the way of argument, as he wanted to begin smoothing the waters with them after all of the things he had done recently.

Michael looked back over his shoulder at the rather lengthy train of mounted knights and supply wagons. “It’s gonna be like this from now on, isn’t it?”

“Yeah,” Max replied. “At this rate, my shadow will be getting its own armed guards soon.”

“At least this is only a four-day trip.”

“Only four days to Roswell, but if the rest of the Parkers have arrived by then we’ll probably travel to Königsberg with them, and you know how slow an entire household can move.”

Michael grunted his agreement, but then he had a realization. “Slow is good. Means more time with the ladies.”

“Slow is good in the fall. It will be full winter before we reach the capital.” Max shook his head. “Can you imagine carriages in the snow?”

“Shit.”

Max knew Elizabeth would be in Roswell Castle when they reached it, and he expected the rest of her family to be there as well; he was just hoping for a little more enjoyment on this visit than the thorough beating Maria had given him the last time he’d been there.

The trip passed with little to be remarked upon, and so it was that four days later, Max and Michael rode their horses up the winding path to the castle’s gatehouse, followed closely by Max’s ten. The rest of their guards had peeled off at the base of the path to report to Lord Parker’s captain-general so they could be assigned a place to make camp.

Thus it was that Lord Maximilian, Crown Prince of Alemannia and Duke of Borussia, rode through the open gate and into the main courtyard with Michael and his ten guards right on his heels. They dismounted, handed off their horses to the grooms, and waited for the guards to notify someone higher up the chain of command that a guest had arrived.

The castellan came out of his office to see what the commotion was about and dropped his meerschaum pipe on the ground with a clatter. The white uniform coats were all he needed to see, so he grabbed his errand boy for the day, a young page from two baronies away, and sent him scurrying off with a verbal message for the Baron himself, which was: You have a royal visitor in the main courtyard, Milord.

The Parkers were eating a quiet dinner in the family quarters when the castellan’s page reached them with the message. Silverware hit plates with a clatter, as all four Parkers looked back and forth as if seeking to discover if anyone had known of this unexpected visitor. Inevitably, all the gazes settled on Liz, as she was the one being romanced by the crown prince.

She, in turn, looked at the three of them like they were all crazy. “What? Max did not tell me he was coming to visit.” And that was completely true, as he had kept his impending visit completely secret during their nocturnal visits because he wanted to surprise her.

“So,” Maria teased, “it’s ‘Max’ now, is it?”

“For me it is,” Liz countered hotly. She had been dealing with a fair amount of jealousy from her sisters for various things ever since they had come home, and she was not in the mood to be teased about her love.

“Sitting around here is not getting our visitor welcomed,” Jeffrey said. “Come on girls, let us get going.”

The Parkers trooped down to the courtyard in strict order of age. That was the proper way to receive their royal guest, but being third in line didn’t stop Liz from uttering a delighted squeal when she saw a slightly dusty Max stand up and prepare to be received. A dazzling smile burst across his face once he heard that familiar voice; he couldn’t have stopped the smile had he tried, and he most certainly did not try.

The family and senior servants lined up along the base of the main keep for a formal introduction. Lord Parker was first, and then he walked down the line with Max, a step behind and to the side of him, as he introduced everyone as if Max hadn’t already met them. Maria looked vaguely irritated at Max, Liz was radiant, and Tess seemed wistful. The servants looked at him like they’d never seen him before in their lives, even though several had ordered him around with regularity when he was hiding out at the manor in Krakovia.

The other thing that was plain on the faces of the senior servants was how proud they were that their lord was receiving the high honor of a royal visit. Max winced as he could already tell he would be receiving the best treatment these people could devise on short notice. It was going to be a loooong night. They don’t call it ‘receiving the royal treatment’ for nothing, he thought to himself grimly. When he’d finished being introduced, he turned to his host, who asked if he was hungry.

“I cannot speak for my men, Milord, but I am almost always hungry these days,” Max admitted. “You would think riding a horse would not be such work since the horse is the one doing everything, but a day in the saddle always leaves me with an appetite.”

“I assume you remember the way to the main hall, Your Highness,” Jeffrey said. “If you are really hungry, the evening meal is being served in there right now. Or if you would prefer something nicer, I can have the cooks whip something up. That will, unfortunately, take a few minutes.”

While Max liked fine food as well as anyone, he was just plain, old hungry right now. He looked at Michael, who gestured with his head toward the main hall. That settled things for Max, as it was plain they both wanted large quantities of something hot and filling, and wanted it right now. “The main hall will be fine.”

The girls were sent on their way, but one look between Max and Liz was more than enough to tell everyone present that he would be joining them as soon as he had eaten. As he and his men followed Jeffrey through the castle, Max caught his host’s attention and said, “I am going to need some ink, a quill, a good sheet of parchment, your best sealing wax, and my royal signet.”

Jeffrey flagged down the first servant they passed and gave her a rapid fire series of orders, to be carried out immediately. “The writing supplies will meet us in the main hall, Your Highness.” As they reached the doors to the hall, the men could smell the savory scents of a hearty lamb stew; they were about to burst through the doors, when Jeffrey asked, “How fare your parents, my prince?”

Pleased to hear Lord Parker’s concern for his parents’ well-being, Max turned to him and replied, “They are in perfect health. It turns out they were holed up in the Duke of Salzerei’s castle, and we met them on the road several days ago.” Max’s smile widened and became smug. “Sir Michael and I snuck ahead of the army to insure I was able to make my case for marrying Lady Elizabeth before Duke de Laney was able to push for a marriage contract between myself and his daughter Victoria.”

“Do I push too far to ask what result you obtained?”

Max’s smile shifted from smug to delighted in an instant. “They have agreed to give Elizabeth a chance. They want to get to know her, and to that end, have issued a royal invitation for you and your daughters to join them in Königsberg at the Winter Palace for the rest of the winter, which is why I need the writing supplies. I have to write out the formal invitation.”

The men were in the main hall, and Max, Michael, and the guards had collected wooden bowls filled with the lamb stew they had smelled earlier, before the writing supplies were rushed in by the same servant who’d hurried off to collect them. Just behind the servant was Liz. She smiled upon seeing her beloved, who had stood immediately upon seeing her enter the room, which had the unintended side effect of making every other person in the room stand as well.

“You called for me, Father?” Liz asked.

“Yes, I did,” Jeffrey answered. “The prince needs his signet ring.”

“I thought you…” Max started to say to Jeffrey before turning back to Liz, who was pulling the gold chain over her head. “But you kept my ring, even after your father returned?”

Liz moved in close to Max, and held out his signet ring. “It is all I have of you, Max. I had to keep it close to my heart.”

Max scooped up the dangling ring and chain. “Please turn your hand up.”

Liz did as asked, making her palm into a small cup, into which Max poured the ring and chain. “I will not take it from you; at least not until I can place a different ring on this hand.”

Liz looked at her hand, instead of the ring, and realized it was the hand on which she would someday wear her wedding ring. The warm promise in Max’s statement made her start to tear up. He saw her incipient tears and took her into his arms for a long, slow hug. Jeffrey felt the tide of emotions swinging back and forth between the two and stepped back to give them a modicum of privacy.

“And as for having nothing of me but a ring,” Max whispered into her ear, “you have my heart. You have my very soul. You have every part of me, dearest Liz…and you carry it with you wherever you go.”

Liz was crying now, she couldn’t help it. Max was being so sweet to her that she just couldn’t stand it. “I love you,” she blubbered through her tears. “Oh God, how I love you. You had better win your parents over, or I do not know what I will do.”

“Well now,” he said softly, as he rocked her in his arms, “that is all up to you.”

“What?” she sniffled.

“My parents have been convinced to give you a chance, but you will have to be the one to convince them.”

“I do not understand.”

“You will once I write this letter. I will need you to stay close by and seal it for me.”

“What will it say?” she asked. Her curiosity was mounting just as fast as her trepidation at being the one who had to convince his parents, the king and queen, to allow her to marry their son.

“It will be a royal invitation for your father and his daughters to spend the winter in Königsberg at the Winter Palace. While everyone in your family is coming, you will be the focus of their attention. They will want to see if you will do…and I think Mother secretly wants to meet the woman who saved us all.”

“Oh…” Liz said. Her voice was as soft as a lullaby as she realized what was riding on her ability to make a good impression. “Who…who will likely make the decision?”

“You mean, who do you have to impress the most?” Max asked. Liz bit her lower lip and nodded anxiously. “You do not have to impress anybody, Liz. Just be you.”

“Just be…”

“…you. How do you think you stole my heart? Let them see the Liz I know, and they will be reading the proclamations for a royal wedding before you know it. Okay?”

“Mmm…okay.” Hearing Max’s confidence in her helped buoy Liz’s spirits somewhat, but she was still worried.

“What may be harder for you is dealing with potential dirty tricks from the competition.”

“Lady Victoria and who else?”

“Could be anyone of high rank, from here in Alemannia or abroad. Anyone at all who decides they want a queen’s crown.”

Max decided to write out the invitation before finishing his lamb stew. It took him little more than a few moments to write the invitation, and then he used the thinnest trickle of his power on the stick of sealing wax to allow some to melt, drip off the stick, and onto the page.

Liz was ready to do her part and firmly pressed the intricately carved dragon’s head ring into the already cooling wax. Max blew lightly on the ring, once she was done, to insure it wasn’t hot before allowing her to return it to its resting place, tucked between her breasts.

Max then stood and walked with Liz over to where Jeffrey had been waiting. “This is written for you, by me, at the express command of the king.”

Jeffrey read the letter, already knowing its contents, and immediately called for his steward. Max was back at the table eating and talking to Liz, who was plastered to his side, by the time the steward had been found and had been able to scurry into his master’s presence.

Without a word, Jeffrey handed over the letter. The steward read the letter quickly, with only a muttered ‘oh my’ to interrupt his progress. When the steward looked up from the letter, Jeffrey said impassively. “We leave tomorrow…by noon at the latest. We need to get out of the foothills before the first serious snowstorm hits. You, of course, will have the management of the barony while we are away. I am depending on you to arrange everything for our trip, while I help entertain our royal guest.”

“As you command, Milord.”

Lord Parker waved the steward out of the room and on his way, as he knew the man had a sleepless night ahead of him. With that bit of business done, he turned back to the young couple and saw the prince had finished his bowl of stew and was engaged in small talk with his precious Elizabeth. He hated to disturb them, but he had to go make sure his other daughters heard the news from him instead of a servant.

“Your Highness?” Jeffrey asked.

Max turned from Liz for a moment. “Hmm?”

“Might we inform my other daughters of this invitation? I am sure they will be thrilled to know they are finally getting to go to the capital.” Jeffrey frowned at Liz. “In fact, why are you not a little happier, my dear?”

“Max told me about the invitation, and at the same time, let me know that convincing his parents to allow us to marry would be up to me.”

Jeffrey forgot himself and looked at the prince as if he was a particularly dense child. Max responded with a sharp-eyed glare as he said, “In marrying me, Elizabeth is going to be moving into a world where cutthroat politics are a way of life. If she is not tough enough to handle a little unhappy news now, well before it becomes a fact of life for her, then I may need to reconsider my choice. Liz needed to know everything she does will be watched and evaluated from the moment she sets foot inside the palace.” Then Max looked back to Liz, caught her eyes, and smiled, before returning his gaze to Jeffrey. “The thing is, I was so convinced of her intelligence, adaptability, and level-headed approach to things that I had no qualms in telling her now, so she could have the most time to prepare herself.

“Make no mistake. Supporters of the de Laney family will take every chance to mess things up for your daughter, and by now, there may be other contenders for my hand that will show up this winter completely unannounced. Winning this competition, and that is exactly what this is, will not be easy. My father wants what is best for the kingdom, while my mother wants what is best for me…which in her mind is not necessarily what I want.”

When he was sure he had gotten his point across, Max stood, helped Liz to her feet, and said, “Let us go inform the other ladies. You are right, Lord Parker, about them deserving to hear about the invitation in some way other than gossip from a servant.”

Liz and Max led the way, holding hands and walking side-by-side, even though the castle’s passageways were barely wide enough for them to stand next to each other. Jeffrey followed them and watched, happy for the chance to hide his growing smile, while Michael trailed behind. He didn’t care whether Lord Parker thought he was hanging around to guard Max or not; he just wanted a chance to speak with Maria.

Maria and Tess were sipping hot drinks and chatting amiably in the family’s private quarters when Liz, Max, Jeffrey, and Michael found them. Jeffrey held the letter out to them, and Maria took it and read it out loud, with Tess peering over her arm. Maria’s voice kept rising in pitch and speed all through the letter, while Tess was squealing excitedly by the time her sister was done reading it.

“Are we going, Father?” Maria asked breathlessly. Like her younger sisters, the imagined delights of the capital had been a long-time fascination of hers.

“It does not say so anywhere on that letter, but that is not really an invitation. It is more like a royal summons.” He nodded his head. “So we are definitely going. We leave by noon tomorrow and will be staying in the royal palace itself for the winter, so make sure your maids pack accordingly. I think you should all turn in now and get up extra early so you can spend a long morning directing your packing.”

Tess agreed and hurried off, but not without hugging Max for bringing the invitation. Liz, however, turned to Max and asked if he was going to make the trip with them. Maria and Michael were eyeing each other from across the room. While neither broke eye contact, Maria listened intently.

“If your Lord Father does not mind us joining your caravan,” Max replied, “then we would be delighted to help escort you all.”

Both Parker girls turned their focus to their father, willing him to say yes. The intent looks on the two girls’ faces were so nearly identical that for a moment, you might have thought they were twins.

“We would be honored by your presence, Your Highness.” Taking brief looks at both of his girls, he added, “It seems my daughters will be more than honored.” Jeffrey looked over at Michael for the first time and frowned slightly. He’d heard something from the servants about letters being sent to Maria while they were back in Krakovia, and now he suspected he knew the identity of the culprit.

He quickly evaluated Sir Michael Guerin as a potential suitor for his eldest. On one hand, he was a knight, a hired blade and little more. He knew Maria could do better than that, and he believed she deserved better than that. Oh the other hand, Sir Michael was quite obviously a close, personal confidant of the next king. That was a political connection of the highest, most unassailable sort. And people with connections of that quality tended to accumulate additional honors and wealth at an amazing rate. It appears Sir Michael Guerin will bear some careful watching, Jeffrey decided. His suitability for Maria could change on a daily basis.



Knowing she only had a little time left to spend with Max, Liz slipped her hand into his and pulled him along behind her to the highest point in the castle. Along the way, she picked up a super-heavy, ankle-length fur robe and a maid to chaperone them. The maid stayed just inside the castle and admonished Liz to stay where she could be seen. Liz smiled as she slipped into the fur robe Max was holding for her.

“Do not worry,” Liz replied. “I have come too far and have far too much to lose to risk my honor now.”

“You have my word,” Max added, “I will do nothing to give people reason to doubt Lady Elizabeth’s reputation.”

The maid still eyed the prince like a filthy stable boy she expected to run off with the household silver at the first opportunity. “You just see that you do that, your Highness, and we’ll be fine.”

As Liz and Max moved out onto the roof of the main tower, Liz tried to apologize for the rough manner of the maid. “I’m sorry about that, Max. She means well, and takes her duty very seriously.”

Max had been amused, and pleased, by the maid’s willingness to stand up to him for Liz’s sake. “I’m glad she does, Liz. Few things can equal the importance, to me at least, of you reaching our wedding day with your reputation intact.”

Liz stepped in between two merlons and looked out over the valley below. The small town at the base of their hill was dark, but in the light of the full moon, she was able to pick out all the major buildings. Max stepped in right behind her and wrapped his arms around her for a warm hug, before bringing his hands to rest on her shoulders. Feeling he had been brought here for a reason, Max waited for Liz to speak.

She was quiet for a time, as she drank in her surroundings. “You know, Max, this is my favorite view in the entire castle. I can look down over the town and the fields…and now, over the supply base…and I know it is ours. I feel good knowing my father is the one in charge of everything I see, the one in charge of our own little world, and yet…and yet, now I know there is a much larger world out there, one that my father does not control, and I am about to dive into it head first to stake my claim to the spot by your side.” She shrugged her shoulders. “I guess I just wanted to come up here to take one last look at the simple life before I go.”

Max lightly squeezed Liz’s shoulders and then instinctively pulled her back against him. “There are other views, Liz, ones I hope you will learn to love just as much as this one, and another life to live that I hope you will find more challenging, interesting, and fulfilling.”

Liz turned to face her man. Drenched in the nocturnal glow of the looming moon, they looked to the distant maid like a silvery sculpture, an ideal of what youthful love was supposed to look like. And as Max’s arms went around her shoulders to draw her in close, Liz stood up on her toes and pressed her lips against her prince once more, but this time, she didn’t settle for his cheek.

Lips met lips in their own fiery embrace. Once…twice…three times they pressed against each other, until Max managed to nibble on her upper lip and draw it slightly into his mouth before releasing it. They both knew they couldn’t kiss for long without risking other passions boiling up out of their young bodies, but they made the most of the time they had.

Max was the first one to pull back, and as Liz burrowed her face into his warm chest, he held her close and said, “It is a good thing we stopped. Any longer and I would have started to worry your maid.”

You?” Liz giggled. “I would have had her gagging with horror as she rushed over to pull me off of you.” She sobered up and asked, “Besides coming to see me, Max, why are you here? That message could have been delivered by anyone.”

“I am here because I asked to be, and because I would then have the chance to travel with you to Königsberg.”

“To spend time with me?”

“Mmm…that was part of my reasoning,” Max agreed. “But more importantly, I wanted your first meeting with my family to happen with me standing by your side, instead of me standing with my parents at the top of the palace steps. I want everyone to know right away whose side I am on from the very beginning.”

“So us being together as I meet your parents will be symbolic?”

“That, and it will allow me to offer you my support, just in case you need it.”

“I will always need you, Max. Always.”

“Me too, Liz.”
"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) Ch62 7/06/11 p18

Postby Cardinal » Fri Jul 08, 2011 10:53 pm

Chapter 63

Packing


When Liz pulled Max up to the top of the castle, it gave Maria an idea. “Stay, Michael. Please. I will be back in a moment.” She took a couple of steps and then looked back, as if to assure herself that he was still there. “You had better be here when I come back.”

“As you wish, Milady,” Michael replied softly. And as she turned away once more, he smiled faintly as he watched her head to what he assumed was her bedroom. When she disappeared from his sight, he looked around the room and found that Lord Parker was standing mere feet from him with his arms crossed over his chest and a frown on his face.

“I understand you have been writing to Maria, to my Maria,” Jeffrey said icily. He’d already decided to give Michael a chance, but he fully intended to lay down the law right now. “Writing her without my permission, I might add. His Highness had the grace to ask, when his rank made asking unnecessary. While you, who should have been on your knees begging me for the chance to write one of my girls, had the brass balls to write her whether I willed it or not.

“I will tell you right now, Sir Michael, that sort of behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated, now or in the future. There are rules and you will follow them.”

“Yes, Milord.” Before Lord Parker could go on, Michael added, “I apologize, Milord. I didn’t start writing Lady Maria until the prince and I were well on the road. I saw the prince writing to Lady Elizabeth and thought things were too dangerous for me to wait for permission to write. I needed her to know how she makes me feel.” Michael paused and then decided he might as well ask now. “May I write to Lady Maria, Lord Parker? You know, should we get separated again?”

“Normally I would say no as a punishment for not asking me in the first place,” Jeffrey said, “but you were laboring under some unusual circumstances. Besides that, Maria is tough. I think she can handle herself and I think she can handle you.” Jeffrey got right up in Michael’s face. “But know this: she has limits like anyone else. She may be my toughest girl, but I think she’s also my most brittle one. Abuse my trust in any way, and I will end your association with Maria without delay. Intentionally hurt my daughter in any way, and I will pay every last gold piece in my treasury to the man who kills you.” Speaking more quietly, Jeffrey finished. “I have failed Maria as a father in so many ways over the years. I will not fail her in this.”

Jeffrey felt a bit better this time around. He hadn’t been able to lay down the law with Prince Maximilian, because humble barons don’t do that to royal princes and live. He had done his best to steer the young prince away from Liz but he had failed. But this time, he was more in control of the situation. He knew he was going to have to do some research to find out just what had happened in Rouchka Pass, but even if Sir Michael passes that test, he still has to find the means to support Maria in the style to which she has become accustomed. And that doesn’t even factor in what will happen to Maria’s prospects if Elizabeth does manage to marry the prince. Still, what he had seen of Sir Michael had been nothing less than exemplary, and he did have those connections to the prince. Those two factors alone will make him watch and wait.

Not knowing quite how to respond to Jeffrey, Michael stared at the man resolutely until he was sure the lord was done speaking. “It’s a credit to you, Milord, that Lady Maria means that much to you. I think she’s pretty special myself. Why she seems to like plain knight like myself, I may never know. But I intend to smooth a few of my rougher edges and see if I can be worthy of her.”

“What then are your intentions?”

“Should I become capable of supporting Lady Maria, I intend to do everything I can to make her happy.” He narrowed his eyes at his prospective father-in-law. “She’s been second best for far too long.”

Lord Parker looked up just then and saw Maria waiting just outside of the room. He didn’t know how much she might have heard, but he knew better than to stay any longer. He left, after making sure there was still a maid in the room to protect Maria’s honor. Michael had been focused on Lord Parker, so when the man quickly left the room, Michael whipped around and saw Maria leaning against one side of the doorway and looking at him with a curious smile on her face. Like Lord Parker, Michael had no idea how much she had heard, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to find out.

When Maria remained silent, Michael cleared his throat and half waved at her. “Umm..hi. You wanted me to wait, so here I am.”

She nodded her heard slowly as she pushed away from the doorframe and entered the room. “I do not think I was asking too much,” she said, “but you are still here.” She walked right by him and casually ran a fingertip down the length of his jawline. “Seems you might be trainable yet.”

Trainable?” Michael spluttered, as he turned to follow her slow walk. “I’ll have you know no woman is training me.”

“Eh…that is what they all say,” Maria spun and took a seat on a well-cushioned chair. “But the proof is in the pudding. I guess we will just have to wait a year or two before we see how this turns out.”

“That’s supposing I’m still here in a year or two, Maria.”

Maria pulled a small sheaf of paper from a small waist pocket on her dress. She unfolded the sheets and waved them a couple of times to get his attention. “I have read your letters, Michael.” And so she had, though his writing had been difficult to decipher at times. “‘Miss you already,’ ‘can’t wait to see you again,’ ‘I am counting the days until we meet again,’ ‘will do anything for the chance to make you mine.’” She shook the papers once more. “Did I misread anything?”

“No,” he said quietly. While he was impressed by the passion she put into her onslaught, what shook him was that she had known those lines by heart. She’s read those letters several times each, he thought. They mean something to her. Michael’s posture improved and his look went from uncertain to confident. “Maybe I’ll still be here in a year or two, Maria, but me being here means you’re still here waiting for me.”

“Wha…?”

“You heard me, Parker,” Michael said as he cut her off. “You want me just as much as I want you.” He started to turn away from her, but then turned back as another thought hit him. “And I don’t think you have any real interest in training me either.”

“Oh no?”

“No.”

“And why not?” Maria asked.

“Because I may be the only man in the kingdom who’s not threatened by a woman with a sword in her hand.” He turned and walked to the door leading back to his rest of the castle. But just before he left, he looked back over his shoulder. “That’s something you should think about.”

When Max went to his rooms, upon leaving Liz for the evening, he found his earlier prophecy was correct. He was set upon by a horde of servants, each determined that their lord’s royal visitor should not do a single thing for himself, so much so, that Max believed the servants would have done his breathing for him if it had been possible.

His sleep that night was unusually restful, a fact he attributed to being so close to Liz. His morning preparations were just as choked with ‘helpful’ servants as had been his going to bed the night before. The prince bore it with good grace, however, as he was used to being manhandled by well-intentioned servants, and because he knew he would see Liz at breakfast. He was ready and waiting when she came out of the family quarters, and they walked together to breakfast in the main hall.

“Sleep well, Milady?” Max asked.

“Not really,” Liz admitted “I had too many thoughts whirling through my head. Thoughts of our trip and what to pack for it, thoughts of having to win over your parents once we get the palace, thoughts of the palace itself, but mostly, thoughts of you.” Liz blushed prettily and Max squeezed her hand lightly. “I swear I could smell your scent long after you had gone to bed. And well…that just made me want to kiss you again.”

Max pulled Liz into a secluded alcove and swept her into a brief but passionate kiss. “Was that what you had in mind?” he asked.

Liz was seeing stars after that kiss, and feeling a bit giddy, said, “Oh yes! Only, the kisses I imagined lasted much longer.”

“I know what you mean,” Max replied. “One taste of you is not enough…it’s never enough.”

“Yeah. It is the same for me,” Liz admitted. She hesitated and then went on. “I never imagined needing someone the way I need you. I had an almost desperate longing for you when we were apart, and seeing you come back was the greatest rush. I love you, Max.”

“I love you too, Liz. I had always hoped to find someone to love…but you have surpassed all of my wildest imaginings.” Max took her hands in his. “This trip to the capital should only take a few weeks, and then the winter is ours.”

“I will like that very much.” She tilted her head toward the main hall. “Come on, let us get in there before my father suspects something and sends someone to find us.”

Max wanted one more kiss, but acquiesced to her request, and the two of them made their way into the main hall. Having a long, cold day ahead, everyone was eating heartily, even the ladies. Once the meal was over, Liz hurried to head back to her quarters.

“I would like to be able to spend the morning with you, Max,” she admitted, “but I have to get back to the family quarters and help direct my maids as they pack my things so we can leave.”

“And since I am not allowed anywhere near your private rooms,” Max said, as he picked up on what Liz was getting at, “I will need to find some way of entertaining myself in the meantime.”

Max escorted Liz as far as he was allowed, and then released her regretfully before heading down to borrow a horse. He knew the Parkers were quite some time away from leaving if Liz hadn’t even started packing yet, so he decided to take a personal look at the base his lady love had built.

The servants had dressed him in something appropriately royal, but much less showy than his ultra formal full-dress uniform. Still, any form of royal white and gold should be enough to gain him admittance to the base, and if not, he could always call for someone to verify his identity. But when the castellan heard of the prince’s wish, he not only made sure the prince was equipped with one of Baron Parker’s best horses, he also sent for the steward, who sent his top assistant, as he himself was busy with supervising the preparations for the family’s trip.

Max had tried to forgo an escort, but the castellan thought a guide would be good, both to help avoid any misunderstandings, and to give the prince something of a guided tour. And of course, they couldn’t go anywhere without a decent-sized escort of purple-and-gold clad Parker soldiers to make sure no one messed with them.

Max spent half of the trip down the winding road to town making the young assistant feel comfortable in his presence. He couldn’t really blame the guy, as he likely hadn’t had any idea he would spend the morning in one-on-one conversation with the prince, but Max was used to that sort of reaction and was somewhat tired of it. I cannot allow myself to think that way, Max admonished himself. For many of these people, it is the only contact they will have with their royal family during the course of their lives. Being nervous is only natural.

Once the assistant steward relaxed somewhat, he became a veritable font of information on the town and the combination supply base and makeshift hospital. Max learned the base was still well-supplied and that there were few wounded left in the hospital. Most had either recovered enough to be sent home, or else had died from their wounds and been buried. He also learned the steward would be the one responsible for seeing to the supplies and the remaining wounded during Lord Parker’s absence.

“Lady Elizabeth did a remarkable job getting this built, Your Highness.”

Having seen the base, Max already agreed, but he wanted the perspective of someone not involved with his courtship of Liz, so he asked, “How so?”

“She came back and took over from three highly intelligent, experienced, and competent men. Men who’d proven themselves to Lord Parker over and over. There was every chance for her to insult the men with a careless gesture or inconsiderate word, which might have turned them against her.

“Instead, Lady Elizabeth got them to accept her and then convinced them to work with her, not for her, and everything was as smooth as could be hoped for after that.”

“So…getting them to help her, instead of just following her orders was the key, in your opinion?”

“Oh yes, Your Highness,” the assistant steward said. “She had all the expertise she needed in those three men. Getting them to want to help her was the key to a smooth building process.”

Even though he hadn’t believed it possible, Max’s admiration for Liz’s skills, her sheer competence, grew with each word from the assistant steward’s mouth. By the time the small party returned to the castle to await the family’s departure, they learned things were running a bit behind schedule, and Lord Parker had ordered a good-sized lunch for everyone. After the meal, they would finally get going. That meant another meal spent by Liz’s side for Max, who was one person not complaining about the unexpected delay.

Seeing Maria sitting just down the table from him during the meal made the prince think of another man whose hopes for a new start in love and in life resided in this very room. “Does Maria ever mention Michael?” Max asked. “Is he wasting his time with her?”

“Maria and Michael?” Liz asked. “I hand-delivered that message from him you had given to me, but Maria has not mentioned it again. She has been playing things close to the vest ever since she has been feeling increased pressure to marry. I do not know if anyone caught her eye, and vice-versa, after I left Krakovia, so she could have admirers from there. Other than that, she has not seen much in the way of gentlemen callers since their return.” More like no callers, Liz thought, but Max doesn’t need to know that.

“Would you mind if I went to talk to her for a minute?” Max asked. “I just want to put in a good word for Michael.”

“You think he deserves her?” Liz asked, somewhat surprised, but very pleased to see Max putting himself on the line for his friend.

Max looked down and licked his lips before his eyes came up and claimed hers once more. “I think he deserves better than her,” Max said, “but she is what he wants. Far be it from me to dissuade a man from the woman he has chosen.”

Liz shooed him away with both hands. “Go on than and talk to her.”

Everyone in the hall had stood when Max did, and that was enough to irritate him. It reminded him of what was in store for him when he returned home. More pomp, more rituals, more of everything he hadn’t realized he hated until he’d been able to escape it for a few months.

“Everyone, please be seated. And when I rise once more, please stay in your seats.” Feeling a need to excuse his sudden order, he added, “That will allow us to eat faster and get the Baron and his daughters on the road as soon as possible.”

“Hi, Lady Maria,” Max said as he approached Maria’ shoulder. “May I sit beside you?”

“Like I would deny you the right to sit anywhere you wished to, Your Highness,” Maria said baldly. Once Max took the seat beside her, she asked, “To what do I owe the signal honor of a private conversation with the Crown Prince of Alemannia?”

Max rolled his eyes at Maria’s little dig, and said, “We do not have time for the niceties of civilized conversation, Maria, so I am going to be very direct.”

Curious to see what the prince had in mind, Maria set down her utensils, and waited. “Please, Your Highness, do go on.”

“What feelings do you have for Sir Michael?” Max felt it couldn’t hurt to mention Michael’s knightly rank. “As his lord, I have some interest in whom he pursues.”

“He is yours now?” Maria asked.

“He did not tell you?”

“No. He spent all of his words…” Maria paused and smiled then, a private sort of smile Max wished he had not been there to witness. “…let me just say he used his words sparingly but well.”

“Thank you, Maria. That is all I needed to hear.” As Max started to rise and turn away, he added, “And quit calling me ‘Your Highness.’ This is not court.”

“Maybe not,” Maria said, “but I need the practice.” She shook her head in disbelief. “Sucking up to you is going to be tough.”

Max burst out laughing and returned to Liz without further comment. The rest of the meal was unexceptionable, and soon, he was standing at her side as she prepared to climb into her father’s largest, fanciest carriage. That made it the best out of two, but the best of two is still the best.

“Travel safely.”

“Me?” Liz smiled. “You are the one that is going to riding a horse in this weather. And as for security, Father’s not taking any chances. We are taking a full two-hundred armored horsemen with us, including all of our knights.”

“Good. When added to the men I brought, we will have a small army to protect us.” Max held out his hand for Liz to use as she climbed into the carriage. When she sat and looked back at him, they both managed to muster a smile. Their last ‘I love yous’ were simultaneous, and then Max shut the door before being led to his horse by a waiting stable boy.

As the carriage pulled away, crossed the courtyard, and passed through the gatehouse, Max kept his eyes on it until it was completely out of his sight. “I love you, Liz Parker,” he mumbled. “I love you so very much.”
"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) Ch63 7/08/11 p19

Postby Cardinal » Sun Jul 10, 2011 9:58 pm

Chapter 64

Antarian Abilities


That night, as the long caravan of nobles, soldiers, and servants ground to a halt and prepared to camp, Max grabbed Michael and pulled him to one side. Max’s ten guards followed, but everyone else was shooed away.

“What’s up?” Michael asked. There was a definite edge to his voice, because he was itching to spend some time with Maria that didn’t involve him on a horse and her bundled up in a carriage – and he’d assumed Max had wanted the same thing with Liz – so he wasn’t in the mood to talk politics or anything else with the prince.

Max pulled Michael farther away from the bustling servants before he said, “It is time for us to begin training before the evening meal again.”

Surprised, Michael reached for his sword, even as he looked at Max and asked, “Are you sure you have time for something like that anymore?”

“Put your sword away, Michael. We are not here for that sort of training.”

“Then what…?” Michael quit speaking the moment Max held up one hand and a small flame flickered on the tip of each finger.

“This kind.”

Max spent an hour working with Michael to improve his power blast in both accuracy and strength. Since it was the one Antarian skill Michael knew something about, he figured it would be the one he would make the largest gain in the soonest. And Max knew from experience that there was nothing like making quick progress to make a student eager to learn. Michael, however, didn’t need that sort of encouragement. Once he found someone was willing to teach him, he drank up instruction like a sponge.

After the simple but hot meal, the men went to the Parker campsite to call on their ladies. After a short conversation by the fire that included Lord Parker, the ladies chose to bundle up and go for a walk with their suitors as escorts. And as a matter of course, two maids bundled up and followed the two couples at a discreet distance. Later that night, a thoroughly exhausted Max and Michael bedded down for whatever sleep they could manage to get.

“I will sleep like the dead tonight,” Michael said. “A stampede of horses right through this tent could not possibly wake me up.”

“But one whiff of the scent of Maria’s perfume would, I think,” Max shot back.

“Very likely,” Michael admitted, as he got settled beneath a thick fur blanket. “That woman is…is…” he paused to think of the right words, but came up empty. “Well, I don’t know what she is, but I sure do want the chance to figure it out.”

Max also wanted sleep, but aimless slumber was not his goal. He intended to check in with his mother to report on their progress, and then he wanted to spend some time with Isabel. Their first visit had been fun, but now that their parents knew about Liz, he thought his sister should know about Liz, too.

The check-in with Queen Diana went smoothly, mostly because he didn’t tell her he was giving Michael some basic instruction on using his powers. He knew she wouldn’t like the idea of him being anywhere near an Antarian who was just learning.

After that he made his way to Isabel’s dream. Once he’d assured himself she wasn’t having a sensual dream, he looked to see what she was dreaming about. The setting appeared to be an expansive, well-kept garden with hedges, fountains, and shaded walks among its many delights. A number of lords and ladies were crisscrossing the paths and lawns as they went from one delight to another, but Max didn’t recognize any of them. He was just congratulating himself on making it into Isabel’s dream undetected, when he saw her in the distance.

He quickly made his way over to her, and once she recognized him as being the real Max, he dream faded away. They managed to exchange pleasantries before Max blurted that he was in love.

“Does Mother know?” Isabel asked.

Max grimaced slightly. “Yes, Mother knows. So does Father. And it seems a lot of other people do too. The bad news is: she is not one of Mother’s preferred contenders and her father does not have enough rank, yet anyway, to excite Father enough to have him order Mother to accept my choice.”

“You have made a choice?” Isabel was beyond stunned. “That’s…that’s incredible!” She’d only been gone for a little over half a year, and now her brother, who’d always been happy to wait when it came to marriage, was ready to get down to the business of producing royal heirs. When all he did was nod his head ‘yes,’ she asked, “If that is the bad news, what is the good news?”

“Our parents are giving her a chance to prove herself. Her family has been summoned to the palace to spend the entire winter as our guests.”

“Who is the lucky girl, Max?” Isabel wondered who he had chosen. He’d had just about every eligible girl in the kingdom paraded past him at one time or another. “No, do not tell me, let me guess.”

Max stopped Isabel from talking with a finger pressed to her lips. “Do not waste your time. You have never met her. You have likely never even heard her name.”

Hearing that pronouncement put Isabel on pins and needles. When her brother didn’t immediately tell her the name of his intended, she said, “Well? Don’t keep me waiting. Tell me!”

“Okay. Okay.” Max took a deep breath and said, “She’s Lady Elizabeth Claudia Parker, the second daughter of Lord Jeffrey Parker, the Baron of Roswell.” He was apprehensive as he waited for Isabel’s reaction. In many ways, what his sister thought meant more to him than the opinions of either parent.

“Oh, Max…” Isabel said. She knew how well the choice of a baron’s daughter had to have gone over with her parents. As she thought about it further, she wondered how in the world Max had managed to get them to give this girl any consideration at all. “Did her father do something heroic in war? I mean, how did you…?”

“…get them to give Liz a chance?” When his sister nodded, he said, “Her father did not do anything heroic, but I did hide with his family in Krakovia for a time, and when I went to war, I made him my quartermaster and gave him the money to buy supplies and set up a supply base for us.”

Isabel was shaking her head ‘no’ before her brother even finished. “That is not enough and you know it…there’s no way that gets this baron’s daughter a shot at your hand.”

“I was not done yet, Kiddo.”

“Oh. Sorry.”

“What did get Liz her chance,” Max said, “besides my fervent begging, was what she did during the war.”

“Oh?” Isabel sat up straight and then leaned in a bit. This was bound to be something interesting.

“First off, Lord Parker has no sons, but he needed to send someone to Roswell to oversee the construction of the supply base while he stayed behind to buy supplies and ship them to Roswell. Since he had always had his daughters educated like men, he chose his most levelheaded daughter, who was my Liz, of course.

“She succeeded admirably, and by that time, I was with the army and headed toward the base. We had decided we were going to have to fight at least once before we could reach winter quarters, so I sent an order to Lord Parker, who I thought was at Roswell, and ordered him to use my signet ring to order the nearby loyalist lords to gather their armies at Roswell and then march over the mountain pass to join us.”

“But Lady Elizabeth was the one who received the letter. How did she get that many proud nobles to obey her? Most of those men were much more likely to kiss a pretty girl than to obey her…I’m just assuming she’s pretty.”

The mention of Liz’s beauty caused Max to stop in mid-thought. Isabel watched in astonishment as a transformation swept across his face. “‘Pretty’ is only the slightest hint at the beauty she possesses.” Thinking he was lost for words, Max added, “I would tell you more, if only I could. Mere words cannot hope to compete with the sparkle of her brown eyes, the shimmer of her chocolate curls, the glow of her alabaster skin, or the pout of her plump, kissable lips.” He sighed, and then concluded, “She is beyond compare.”

“You sighed, Max,” Isabel said in astonishment. “You sighed about a girl!”

“No…I sighed about my future wife.” Max had been looking off into the distance, when he said that, but his gaze returned to Isabel and he said, “You have got to meet her, you have just got to.”

“I will I am sure, but that pleasure will have to wait for spring.”

Max spent the rest of the time before lunch explaining how Liz had gotten the lords to follow her. That had earned an appreciative smile from Isabel, but when she heard about Liz’s exploits in the battle itself, and how her actions had turned the tide of the battle and ultimately won the war, she finally nodded her understanding of how Lady Elizabeth had won a spot in such elite company.

“My God! She’s a national heroine! People must be going nuts. I know all the girls must be. I can hardly wait to meet her myself.” Isabel stood and began to pace excitedly. “Too bad Grandma’s off on her world tour, because this is the kind of story that would make her smile.”

“World tour my ass,” Max said. “You know as well as I do why Grandma Von Schalkenberg left.”

“True, but calling it a world tour makes it more palatable.”

Looking at his toes, Max murmured, “It sure beats ‘self-imposed exile.’”
Last edited by Cardinal on Mon Jul 11, 2011 3:47 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) Ch64 7/10/11 p20

Postby Cardinal » Wed Jul 13, 2011 11:24 pm

Chapter 65

Max Knows


“What do you think of King Alexander?” Max asked, now that he knew the kingdom in which Isabel was hiding.

Isabel paused for a moment to think. She intended to be cagey when it came to King Alexander as she strongly suspected her devoted brother wouldn’t be too happy once he learned how close she and Alex had become. “He has treated me well. While the war was in progress, he had a standing order that anyone who came to the castle with news on the war was to be sent to me immediately. He knew how hard this has been for me and my ladies, so he was kind enough to do what he could to alleviate our suffering.”

“I like him better already,” Max replied. “The man was entrusted with your honor, health, and well-being. Making sure that you did not have to suffer needlessly is no less than I would expect from him.”

“Also, he made sure that I and my ladies were well taken care of otherwise: entertainments, protection, good society, anything we might have wanted.”

“That sounds great,” Max said. “I cannot wait to tell you more about Liz, and you,” he teased, “have yet to tell me anything about your suitors.”

Isabel gulped, hard, and said, “Umm…maybe. We will see.”

Max’s eyebrows shot up as he gauged his sister’s unexpected response. “Since I know these people cannot all be blind, I have to assume you have had more than your share of suitors, and since father had not yet allowed anyone to court you back home, I had figured you would be pleased by the attention and have all sorts of amusing stories to tell me. But if it is bad enough that you do not want to tell…then I guess I will tell Mother and Father that they will not find a husband for you out here.”

“Noooo!” Isabel said hastily, “do not do that!”

“Then there are suitors.” Max nodded his head thoughtfully at Isabel’s sickly reaction to his statement. “Or should I say, there is one suitor in particular. Who is he, Isabel?”

“That is just what I am afraid of, Max,” she said plaintively. “I know how touchy you can get when it comes to protecting me.”

“Mother and Father will want to know,” Max pointed out. “And besides, with the king himself looking out for you, what man here would dare trifle with you?”

Isabel wasn’t worried about someone ‘trifling’ with her, she was worried what her brother would say once he learned the man in her heart was none other than the king himself. It was not a moment to which she was looking forward.

“If you do not tell me, Isabel,” Max pointed out, “then you know Mother will do more than just chat the next time she visits you.” When Isabel hesitated, he asked, “How bad can he possibly be? I am the one trying to marry a baron’s second daughter; anyone you bring to the table will shine like the sun in comparison.”

Isabel still dodged the question, turning the topic of conversation to him. “It is a good thing you are not here, Max.”

“Why is that?” Max said, as he humored his sister’s wish.

“Because, between my ladies and the many available ladies of King Alexander’s court, your devotion to Lady Elizabeth might be tested somewhat.”

“By those women?” Max asked. He was rather incredulous, and his tone of voice showed it. “Nope. Not going to happen, Isabel. Those ladies are delightful, I am sure, but none of your ladies could tempt me away from my Liz, even if I was not in love with her.”

“You are sure she is that pretty, are you? Isabel was wondering just how affected he was by his love for this Lady Elizabeth. “I know you waxed poetic about her beauty earlier, but you really mean to tell me she’s more beautiful than all of those ladies I mentioned?”

“Easily. I think she is even more beautiful than Lady Victoria de Laney.”

“Lady Victoria…Lady Victoria…” Isabel quirked an eyebrow up at her brother. “You mean the kisser?”

“The kisser?” Max laughed.

“You know, the one you got caught tonguing in the hedge maze during your birthday party a few years ago.” Her tone of voice showed she was amused by her brother’s past indiscretion, but her emphasis on the word ‘tonguing’ made it clear she still considered such behavior to have been shocking at the time.

“Do not knock it until you have tried it, Little Sister,” Max replied. “There is an extra intensity of feeling when it happens…and if I ever find out you have tried it before your wedding night, I will be tempted to pull out the tongue of the offending man.” His words sounded serious, but his tone of voice did not. Still, Isabel thought it would be best to make sure he never learned whether she had or hadn’t tried it herself.

Max, meanwhile, was thinking of the last kiss he’d shared with Liz in that secluded alcove. It had been brief but intense. His tongue had made its way into her open mouth, where she had surprised him by responding, and doing so quickly. It had been his shock at her response that had made him break off the kiss so quickly. And then it had made him want more, but he’d quickly realized that had to be saved for another time.

“I have got to go soon, Iz,” Max said at last. “I need some real sleep before we leave camp, so this is your last chance to tell me about your suitor.”

Isabel weighed her options. She knew Max was right about their mother. Queen Diana was completely capable of appearing in her dreams and demanding to know the identity of Isabel’s suitor. Being forthright was her best chance, as it made it look like she had less to hide. What she was worried about was her brother’s reaction. Still, he was going to learn sometime, so it might as well be now. “The man who is my suitor is most eminently eligible. Mother and Father could not possibly complain about his credentials.”

Wanting to hurry this along, as he did need that real sleep, Max asked, “And his name is…?”

“He is none other than Lord Alexander of the House of Whitman, the King of Anglia.” Isabel almost hunched in place as she mentally braced herself for Max’s reaction.

Max was shocked that Isabel’s suitor was none other than the king himself, the one man who was supposed to be looking out for her welfare. Max found his mood souring rapidly. Looks like Father trusted the fox to guard the henhouse.

Isabel felt her heart sink, as she’d seen the look of shock on Max’s face when she had said Alex’s name. It was plain he wasn’t happy. Finally, she knew he had a temper that was slow to trigger but burned white-hot for a long time when it was triggered. She just hoped and prayed he’d learned a little more self-control during their time apart.

“I do have to go now, Isabel,” Max said formally, as he worked to maintain control. “But rest assured that I will be back tomorrow. And if you have the ability to bring sleepers into your dream, please ask His Majesty if he will join us. We three have much to speak of. Much!”
Last edited by Cardinal on Thu Jul 21, 2011 11:04 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) Ch65 7/13/11 p20

Postby Cardinal » Fri Jul 22, 2011 12:23 am

Chapter 66

Testing the King


The next evening, Max was back. It was the middle of his night, as Isabel and Alexander were living far to his west, and he found them both waiting on him. Max was pleased to see who this king was, and he was proud that Isabel had the strength and focus to bring the king along into her own dream. He knew he himself would likely never be able to accomplish that feat, as it just wasn’t one of his better skills.

Where they were in her dream when he found them was on top of a tall castle tower. One look around confirmed to Max that it was the tallest tower in this dream castle. He expected the castle to fade away once Isabel was aware of his presence, but this time she held the image of the castle firmly in her mind, as she thought holding this meeting in one of Alex’s castles would make him more comfortable when being faced with a less-than-happy relative of hers.

Once she saw Max, Isabel excused herself and headed over to her brother, wanting to talk to him first before making official introductions. For his part, Alex was happy to stay put as he was both apprehensive about this meeting, and was still getting used to being conscious in a dream…and not a dream of his own making at that.

“Max?” she said, with some hesitation. “I am sorry you had to find out this way.”

Max didn’t move. He stayed on his side of the tower, and turned away from her to look out toward the sea. He studied the seagulls as they dove for fish, as he wanted something else to focus on to keep from boiling over. “I am not mad at you, Kiddo,” he said carefully. “I am furious with the king. Some guardian he turned out to be.”

“Do not be that way, Max,” Isabel pled. “Alex did not try to seduce me or anything, and no one else tried anything either. In fact, the conduct of the gentlemen here has been nothing short of exemplary during my stay.”

“And yet,” he said, as he drummed the fingers of one hand on a merlon, “you are in love with him.”

“Yes, I am. I do not deny it,” Isabel replied. She had decided that bold was the way to handle Max today.

Max took one hand off the stonework to run it through his straight brown hair. “You do not understand, Isabel. Father will be sorely tempted to rip off King Alexander’s head.” He searched for a way to explain the danger. “You are still a minor. Father sent his only daughter, legally still a child, to the king to be housed and protected. While under other circumstances Father might want a marriage alliance with a sea power like Anglia, right now he is likely to be furious that King Alexander ‘took advantage’ of his privileged position as your guardian to get you to fall in love with him.”

Isabel’s already fair-complexioned skin paled further as she tried to imagine her father’s reaction. “What do you think he will do?”

“I am not sure. He could choose to declare war over the insult once you and your ladies come home, and then he would likely marry you to someone else as fast as humanly possible…preferably as far away from Anglia as he could arrange. That is, however, a worst-case scenario.

“Alternatively, Father could demand a humiliating public apology from King Alexander for violating the trust that he placed in him, and then insist that the king marry one of your ladies as penance for that violation.”

“Umm…what’s the best-case scenario?” She really didn't want to hear any more 'worst-case scenarios' right now.

As for Max, he could tell from Isabel’s pleading tone of voice that she desperately needed to hear something hopeful. She is so in love. If the king does not return her sentiment, I swear I will…Max was afraid to complete that sentence, even in his mind, for fear of making a promise he might feel obligated to keep. His sister was the second most important person in his life, and anyone who trifled with her affections was asking for an up-close-and-personal meeting with his fists.

“Best-case? Best-case…hmm…I think that would start with King Alexander convincing me that he loves you as much as you obviously love him.” He gave his sister a mock glare which immediately softened into a helpless smile. “Due to my current situation with Lady Elizabeth, I can hardly fault a true love match for you if I want one for myself. But convincing me is not going to be easy. Any further plans will have to wait until such time as I am convinced.”

Isabel took that as her cue to return to the king. “It is time for you to shine, Alex,” she said, as she looped one of her arms through one of his. “Just be the man I love, and I know Max will love you, too.”

“I hope not,” Alex joked in reply. “I am not like that.” That goofy joke and an accompanying grin from him was enough to break the ice and get her to laugh.

“Okay, smart ass,” Isabel said, as she nudged him with an elbow. “Come over with me and win my brother over.”

Alex eyed Max and then returned his gaze to Isabel. “You did say he is the overprotective sort, if I remember correctly.”

“He will not be satisfied unless you prove to him that you love me,” Isabel warned, “and are not just toying with my affections, or using me for my connections.”

As they headed over to Max, Alex murmured, “How in the devil am I supposed to prove that?”

Max had turned to watch Isabel return to Alex’s side, and he kept watching as they came over to meet him together. Isabel made the introductions of a king on one side and a future king on the other, then she stepped back as prearranged to allow Alex to state his case. He kissed her once on the cheek before she stepped back, figuring anything more might incense Max. Alex then paced nervously, hands behind his back and eyes fixed on his toes. Occasionally, he’d look up at the prince and wondered if he was already being judged. He came to a stop, squared his body with that of his companion, and said, “I came here tonight to tell you something that is not a state secret, in fact, it is not any kind of secret at all.” Alex’s hands came out from behind his back and he shrugged. “I am hopelessly in love with your sister.”

“So is every other man who has ever met her; join the guild,” Max replied. His voice was glacial. The prince began to circle the king as if he were nothing more than prey. “What I want to know is what attracts you to her? Her beauty? Her family connections? The chance of producing children with our abilities?” He continued circling the king until he was immediately in front of him once more. “Which is it?”

Max had been watching the king closely as he launched into his attack, and noticed his fists clenching and the way his shoulders got tighter with each additional insulting question. Both reactions were signs of anger, which in this case were good signs. He is offended by me. Good. Maybe there is some real affection here after all.

“You are mad,” Max said. “Why do you not hit me? You do not think my father would let Isabel marry a coward, do you?”

“Rather a coward than a moron, I should think.” Alex shook his head slightly. “Hit an Antarian? I am not stupid.”

That was just the opening Max was looking for. “Oh, Your Majesty,” he said mockingly, “that is where I humbly beg to differ.” Max’s tone of voice changed from mocking back to glacial. “You were entrusted with one of my father’s most precious treasures in the person of my sister, Princess Isabel Evans. You were to be her guardian, to protect her from those who would take advantage of her trusting nature…and yet, who do I find her claiming to be in love with? The very man charged with her protection.

“It is amazing how that worked out,” Max sneered. “How better to protect the most eligible maiden on the continent from all the other men than by abusing your privileged position to make an impressionable sixteen year old girl fall in love with you.”

“But that is not how it happened!” Alex protested.

“Maybe…maybe not,” Max replied, “but that is exactly how it will look to my parents when they find out.”

The king blanched upon hearing that. He knew what his reaction to hearing news like that would be. He only hoped King Phillip and Queen Diana would choose to see things differently than the way the prince suggested they would.

“Gods…there would be a war.”

“Possibly, but I would bet my fortune Isabel would be married off to someone other than you, likely as quickly as royal protocol would allow.”

“Then…what do I do?” Alex asked. “I will do anything that does not compromise my kingdom…anything…if only it will make Isabel my wife and queen.”

Max could hear the raw emotion pouring out from Alex’s heart, and it resonated with something deep inside his own. He knew that he, too, would do anything short of damaging Alemannia to ensure that Elizabeth would be the one standing by his side at the altar on the day he married. He was finally convinced; Alex loved Isabel.

“I was looking forward to beating you half to death,” Max admitted. “I love my sister, and would do anything to protect her…or in this case, to help her. I do not know exactly how to make this work, but you, Isabel, and I need to have a serious planning discussion if we’re going to pull this off.”

The two men shook hands and made tentative arrangements to meet the next night to see what plans they could come up with. As Max finally left the king’s presence, and Isabel’s dream, he was glad the king hadn’t taken permanent offense at the way he’d been treated. But just then he realized what trouble he was in now. Shit! I do not even know how to get my parents to allow me to marry the woman I love, and here I am offering my so-called “valuable” advice to help Isabel marry Alexander. Me and my big mouth.
"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) Ch66 7/22/11 p21

Postby Cardinal » Sun Jul 24, 2011 11:27 pm

Chapter 67

Homecoming


The next night’s meeting between Alex, Isabel, and Max occurred in Isabel’s dream version of Alex’s council room. The room was a large rectangle with a burnished walnut table and well-padded chairs running down the length of the room, and suits of steel plate armor and wooden torches along the walls. The meeting got off to a rocky start when Isabel discovered what her well-meaning brother had put Alex through the night before. A small power blast knocked Max the length of the room, where he skidded into the legs of a standing suit of steel plate armor. The suit teetered precariously before falling on top of him with a resounding crash.

When he disentangled himself from the armor and began to stand, Isabel placed a foot on his chest and pushed him flat on the stone-flagged floor, as she said, “I would not move if I were you. I am not done with you yet…Brother.” The last word was laced with contempt, and Max stayed flat on his back, as he knew he’d woken a sleeping dragon. He was known for a temper that was hard to trigger, but red-hot once it had been; Isabel was just like that, but even more so. Her temper was buried deep, very hard to find, and as blazing hot as the Sun itself when it did surface.

The Evans’ royal heraldic beast is not a dragon by accident, Max thought ruefully, as he waited for what was to come.

“Of all the lame-brained, half-assed things you have ever done, Maximilian…” Max winced when he heard her use his full name. It made her sound far too much like their mother for his comfort. “…this one might just take the prize. I thought you were going to have a calm and reasoned discussion of things with Alex; not verbally assault the man.”

Alex watched from the side, very amused by this turn of events, as the sweet and gentle woman he loved unleashed her staggering strength. He couldn’t imagine being able to so casually handle a man the size of the prince, and he admired the prince’s restraint in not raising a hand to his sister, even in his own defense.

“Some prince you are,” Isabel continued heatedly. “I know our parents taught you better than to act like a jackass…” Isabel went on for a few minutes more, continuing to verbally tear into her brother, but she couldn’t find it in herself to strike at him again since he kept so still and passive. When her anger finally petered out, Alex walked up behind her and wrapped her in an encompassing hug and risked a kiss on her neck, which made Max’s eyebrows rise and caused Isabel to collapse back against him in tears.

As Max climbed to his feet, he kept his eyes on his sister and the king. He watched as she cried and he offered comfort, watched as she turned within the compass of his arms to nuzzle her tear-streaked face against his neck, and felt shame that he had been the cause of her pain. Even a blind man could see how truly in love they were; only a man who was blind to the young woman Isabel had grown into would have assumed that she needed his help with her love life.

Max waited for Isabel to cry herself out. Once she turned back to him, carefully staying within the circle of Alex’s arms, Max began his apology. Isabel listened, sniffling all the while as the king leaned his head forward to see her face so he could rub the tears from her cheeks with the calloused pad of his thumb

“Isabel?” Max asked with a broken voice. “I know it does not mean much right now, not coming from me anyway, but I am sorry, I am truly sorry for having interfered in your love life that way. I guess I still saw you as the wide-eyed girl who always wondered why the boys paid such particular attention to her. That is over, however, I see you now for the woman you have become. To his credit, Alex discovered that long before I did…” He looked up briefly at Alex, and their eyes met, one pair silently apologizing and the other knowingly accepting the apology, before he turned his attention back to Isabel. “…and no one could blame him for falling in love with you, except for our parents.”

“Apology accepted, Max. You can be so sweet sometimes,” Isabel said. “I hope this Lady Elizabeth of yours gets to see this side of you more often than I do.”

Max‘s reply was simple. “I worship the ground she walks on.”

“Oh? I cannot wait to meet this woman,” Isabel said with a giggle. “Anyone who can bring you to your knees is worth it.”

Max paused, and then said softly, “She brings me to my knees every day, Isabel. I kneel by my bed first thing every morning and pray that she might be safe and healthy for one more day…and at night, I hit my knees to thank God that Liz lives and that I am the one she has chosen to love.”

“You are not quite the same Max who left the summer palace all those months ago, are you?”

“You noticed, huh?” Max said with a sheepish grin. “I try hard to be a man Liz can be proud of.” He looked at the stone floor in embarrassment. “Last night I failed…miserably so. I’m sure she would have been just as mad at me as you were.”

“Maybe so,” Isabel said, “but today, you admitted what you did and took the results of your actions without flinching or fleeing. You acted like a self-centered boy last night, but you are a man today. I think your Lady Elizabeth would be proud.”

Once the drama was over, the three royals sat down and tried to come up with the best strategy for improving Isabel’s chances of marrying Alex. Several approaches were considered and quickly discarded as being unworkable, and in so doing, they were able to identify their biggest problems, which were Isabel’s ladies-in-waiting. Any attempt to hide the connection between Alex and Isabel had to deal with the fact that Isabel’s ladies all knew the truth and that some of them were likely to talk to someone once they got home.

“If it weren’t for your ladies, Isabel,” Max said, in frustration, “this would be quite simple.”

“I know.” She sighed, and Alex, who was sitting next to his lady love, slid his hand over the table to cover hers and give it a gentle squeeze. “They are dears, but they do like to talk, and they all have chambermaids who are eager to hear the least little tidbit of gossip and spread it throughout the servants’ quarters, and from there…throughout the palace.”

“If your servants are anything like mine,” Alex said, “any rumors worth hearing will be all over your father’s palace within a day of your arrival home.”

All three romantic conspirators were quiet for a time as they tried to think their way out of the corner in which they found themselves.

“If we had a war looming,” Max said, “father might be thrilled to find he had a ready-made son-in-law with his own fleet and army. But I do not think we can count on any of our neighbors to pick a convenient fight, and in any case, I think I speak for us all when I say I would rather not have any of our soldiers die just so you two can marry.”

That statement drew immediate agreement from both Isabel and Alex and then the three went quiet again.

“It seems we are either faced with telling the truth and hoping for the best…” Isabel began.

“Heaven forbid we tell the truth to the monarch,” Alex interjected, which got both Evanses to start laughing, even though they saw his point. He was a king himself, and he expected honesty from his own subjects every day. He knew King Phillip needed the same honesty from his own subjects to rule as best he could.

Max looked at Isabel and then at Alex. “So…are you two comfortable with telling the truth and facing the music?” Alex and Isabel squeezed hands, looked at each other and smiled nervously before saying yes, together. “Well, the one thing that might help you is my marital status. If our parents have not decided my fate by the time you come home, Isabel, they may be too focused on me to worry all that much about a daughter who has brought home a royal suitor, even if the circumstances of the romance are somewhat sketchy.”

Max looked squarely at Alex. “Your Majesty, my only recommendation for you is to escort Isabel and her ladies personally, both to make sure they return home safely, and to minimize the amount of time the palace rumor mill has to make a mountain out of a molehill.”

“Throw myself on his mercy right away then?”

“Yes…do not let Father hear about you and Isabel from anyone else.” Max thought for a second, and then added, “You know, it might actually be better for you two if Liz has won the right to marry me by the time Isabel returns home next spring. She could then be a most useful ally.”

“How so?”

“I have learned that when Elizabeth wants something to get done, it happens. She is just that kind of woman.”

Isabel could hear the admiration and respect that her brother had for his lady love. That just further fueled her desire to meet this woman. Isabel had high hopes they would be friends, and from what Max said, this Elizabeth was roughly her own age, so that would be a nice bonus.

Once the meeting was over, Max returned to his own dreams, there to spend the rest of the night in typically confusing dreams about Liz. The rest of the journey to Königsberg was filled with spending time with Liz, getting to know her family, and continuing to work on the strength and control of Michael’s power blast.

As for Michael, the trip was his first extended time with Maria, and though he was hesitant at first, he relished the chance to peel back a few of her more obvious surface layers, and get to the woman beneath. It seemed to him that she was benefitting from the romance between Liz and Max as much as they were. No longer needing to marry to protect her sisters, she seemed to be more relaxed than ever before. Being more relaxed allowed even more of her natural personality to shine through, and that allowed her to drag him out of his shell.

Soon enough they were teasing each other and trading unmeant insults back and forth like they had known each other for years. Tess had watched a good part of their courtship on the road, and thought theirs was a most unusual relationship, but by the time the caravan reached the outskirts of the capital city, she thought it was one that suited them both.

Upon reaching the city gates, Max was given a note by the gate’s captain of the guard. It was written in his father’s own hand and sealed to boot. The note ordered him to go on to the palace immediately. It was late in the day, and after a brief conference with Jeffrey, Max, Michael, and their escort thundered on, while Jeffrey turned aside to look for a few large inns to house the Parker party.

The reason Jeffrey didn’t move on to the palace was that a lot was at stake here. First impressions were vital, and for the honor of his family, and for Liz’s sake, he planned on making as grand an entrance as he could manage. That meant not trudging on to the palace after weeks of travel and showing up at the palace entrance looking like vagabonds. Instead, they would stop for the night here, take their time to look their best in the morning, and then complete their trip. Max had assured Liz, and Michael had assured Maria, that they would be back by their sides before the Parkers reached the palace itself.

Max, on the other hand, was headed for a late meal and an early public audience with the king and queen. They had ordered him to come on ahead because they wanted a word with him before they met his intended bride.

The meeting was not going to go the way they expected.

After a hearty breakfast, Max and Michael were scrubbed clean and dressed in court-appropriate clothing; they met up outside the royal apartments and headed through the marble-floored halls on their way to the throne room.

Word of their arrival was all over the palace by now, and everyone who was anyone had rushed to get a place in the throne room from which to watch. Those not important enough to rate a spot in the throne room lined the halls and bowed as the prince and his former bodyguard. They both had swords belted at their sides, but gave them up before entering as no one was allowed to have a weapon in the throne room. It was an antiquated tradition at best, due to the powers wielded by those of Antarian descent, and yet, the tradition was still followed.

Once the swords had been ceremonially handed over, the immense bronze doors were thrown open and the seneschal announced them. “Your Majesties, announcing the Crown Prince of Alemannia and Duke of Borussia, Max of the House of Evans, and his companion, Sir Michael Guerin.”

The assembled nobles bowed in a wave that rippled up both sides of the center aisle as the prince and his friend walked toward the dais and the gold leaf covered thrones that sat on it. Seeing his parents on there, Max had a sudden flashback to the last time he’d seen them like this, and he had a sudden urge to make sure Michael wasn’t going to beat him senseless.

The humiliation of that day came rushing back in a flood, and so too did the hurt he had felt when he realized his parents hadn’t trusted him and instead, had sent him away with a minder. He’d forgotten all of that the last time he’d met up with his parents, but that was because he had Liz on his mind then. Now, as he and Michael drew closer to the dais, he struggled to master his old anger.

Once they reached the appointed spot, just in front of the dais, Max dropped to one knee and bowed until his chest was resting on that one knee. Not used to royal protocol, Michael followed Max’s example. Both held those positions until they heard the king tell them to rise.

Speaking to the Max first, King Phillip said, “You have made good time getting here, my son.”

“We seemed to be able to stay just ahead of the weather,” Max replied. “Though I expect full winter will strike soon enough.”

“And the rest of your party?” Queen Diana asked.

“They are safely ensconced on the other side of town. Lord Parker and his family should be here sometime today.”

An excited murmur rolled through the crowd at the indirect confirmation of Lady Elizabeth’s imminent arrival. The stories already being told about the young woman were difficult for anyone who hadn’t been there to believe, and each new story seemed to be trying to top the one before.

Max was pleased beyond words to hear that Elizabeth was already the talk of the palace. He couldn’t imagine it would do anything but help their cause. That helped take his mind off of his anger and allowed him to relax. “I see you are not the only ones interested in meeting Lady Elizabeth.”

“Everyone wants to meet your lady, Maximilian,” Phillip assured him. “She has done Us a great service and We owe her Our thanks.”

“You owe her a great deal more than that, I think, Your Majesty,” Max replied. He was taking a mild risk at this point, but it was a calculated one, and in any case, he was a little too upset with his parents to care. “Were she a man, I daresay there would be a military parade in her honor, and maybe even a place in the Order of the Dragon, for her role in suppressing the recent rebellion.”

The crowd was shocked by what they heard, but whether they were more shocked by the slight rebuke offered by the prince, or by the idea that a woman might be worthy of enrollment in the kingdom’s most honored order of chivalry, was open to interpretation.

“The Order of the Dragon you say,” Phillip replied coolly. “Heady stuff for a girl who’s just turned seventeen. But We seem to remember something about a maximum of ten Knights of the Dragon at any one time…and that membership is restricted to men.”

“True,” Max said, as he slowly nodded his head. “However, I happen to know there has been a recent…death…amongst the Knights of the Dragon. In fact, Sir Michael here killed the most recent honoree. It had something to do with him leading a rebellion against his lawful king. Does that bring anyone to mind?” All Phillip could do was grimace at the memory of the betrayal by his former friend. “So we know there is an opening, and as for the bar against female membership, that is a notion whose time has passed. Furthermore, it is a notion you can change with the stroke of a pen and the press of a seal.”

Max pressed his advantage.

“Lady Elizabeth has earned the honor, whatever her connection to me. Every person in this room already knows of her. Every ear has heard of the wild counterattack of thousands tired and bloody men who would not allow themselves to be defeated because they fought for ‘God, the king, and Lady Elizabeth.’”

The king, too, had heard many stories of that one great battle. Most of the stories conflicted, but they were remarkably consistent whenever they mentioned the ‘Battle Maiden,’ the ‘Maiden of the Pass,’ or any of the other names by which she was being referred. In each story of Lady Elizabeth, it was told how the slip of girl had marched into the teeth of battle with little more than stupid courage and a twenty-man escort, and had ended up saving a kingdom.

His kingdom.

Phillip sat and thought, while Max held his breath. Finally, the king looked over to his queen and gave her a look that only she could decipher. She waited for only a moment before nodding her head. Phillip then turned back to Max, and said, “You are right, my son. If a woman cannot be honored for that, then a woman can never be honored for anything.” Max let himself breathe again. “Lady Elizabeth will have her day. We regret that the parade will have to be passed over, but Lady Elizabeth’s charge destroyed the King’s Legion as an effective unit,” the crowd chuckled at that, “and that is the only force close enough and large enough for a suitable parade.” Phillip wiped a hand over his face. “But she will be knighted, one way or another.”
"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) Ch67 7/24/11 p22

Postby Cardinal » Thu Jul 28, 2011 9:41 pm

Chapter 68

‘Greetings’


After the official ‘welcome home’ was finished and the crowd had returned to their various pursuits, Max and Michael headed toward Michael’s fourth-floor suite to have lunch – since only the king and queen could invite guests into the royal apartments – before heading out to meet the Parkers on their way to the palace.

“What in God’s name brought on that little request of yours, Max?” Michael muttered.

“I don’t really know. It just sort of…happened.” Max thought back and tried to pinpoint the moment when he decided to push for formal recognition of Liz’s efforts during the war. “When Father started using the royal “We” and seemed to indicate that he owed nothing more to Liz than his ‘thanks,’ I got a little bit mad. She deserved more than a private meeting with Father and a few words of thanks, and I decided to see that she received what she had earned.”

“Okay. That makes sense.” The two walked a little farther before Michael spoke again. “Just don’t expect the king to be happy once he gets a hold of you later. You made him look bad in open court.”

“Maybe it is time for him to learn I am not a boy any longer. Mother and Father sent me away before the war, instead of allowing me to help. They did not trust me. Maybe now they will see they were wrong.”

Michael chuckled. “Don’t count on it. You’ve received one miracle today already. Asking for two is pushing it.”

Max smiled reluctantly. “Yeah. You are right about that…and if I only get one miracle, I would rather have Liz benefit from it than me.”

Michael looked at his former charge like he’d been replaced by a doppelganger. “You really have changed. Being content with someone else’s happiness over your own is not something the boy I first met would have been capable of.”

“Her happiness is my greatest happiness, Michael,” Max replied. “Whatever it takes to make her happy is what I am willing to do.”

“Shut up,” Michael breathed, “before someone hears you and starts sizing you up for a dress.”

Both men laughed at that and continued on to Michael’s suite. Lunch was a simple affair, but the food was both hot and tasty, a vast improvement over what they’d had to eat on the road.

“How is it you’re not fat like a pig?” Michael asked, after finishing off the last of his meal.

“What do you mean?” Max asked.

“I mean…” Michael pointed at the empty dishes on the cart, “all of this. If you eat like this three times a day, you’d have to workout in the waryard half the day to stay in decent fighting shape.” For a guy like him who’d been in the army for years, and who’d been in training before that, this meal was especially sumptuous.

“This is nothing,” Max replied. “Wait until you see dinner, or even better, wait until we have our first serious banquet. We might easily have ten courses then. Just remember, you do not have to eat every bit of every course. Pace yourself.” He then eyed his friend, sitting there in formal court clothes. He thought dressing Michael Guerin in court clothes was like trying to dress a wolf in sheep’s clothing...you just couldn’t hide the wolf, no matter how hard you tried. “And in any case, Michael, your idea of ‘decent fighting shape’ is somewhat more stringent than anyone else’s.”

After the meal, the two men ordered up their horses and pulled on gloves, heavy woolen overcoats, and wool-lined hats. They picked up an escort from the Royal Household Guard and headed back down the cypress-lined lane to find the Parkers, who by this time should be headed toward the palace.

At that moment, Liz, Maria, Tess, and Jeffrey were in the Parkers’ best carriage as it rolled down the impossibly wide thoroughfares of the capital city, followed closely by a large troop of Parker knights and wagon after wagon of clothing and other belongings. All three girls were unabashedly gawking at the sights, as they had never believed such a grand city existed. They saw mansions for the wealthy - most of whom were of the nobility - in a number that made counting pointless, and close to the city center, they spotted Königsberg Cathedral. This sprawling building was the home of the Archbishop of Königsberg, who was the highest ranking churchman in the kingdom.

Liz had a personal interest in the cathedral that went beyond its central role in the religious life of the kingdom. She knew that’s where all the royal weddings took place, each one officiated by the archbishop himself. Jeffrey noticed Liz continuing to look at the Gothic spires of the three-hundred year old building long after her sisters’ eyes had moved on to some other wonder, and he correctly guessed what she was thinking about.

“Don’t worry, Liz,” Jeffrey said, as he reached across the carriage to pat her folded hands. “If anyone can make it happen, your prince will. He is a most determined young man when it comes to you.”

Liz didn’t answer, didn’t even turn her head, until the cathedral slipped from her view. Then she looked squarely at her father and smiled. “I know. I was just getting familiar with the place. After all, I am getting married there someday.”

Jeffrey found his daughter’s supreme confidence to be appalling as he knew how very far from sure her marriage to Max was. She knew it as well, but had chosen to believe in herself and in her man. She refused to admit the possibility of defeat.

The Parkers had delayed their arrival at the palace with the express purpose of getting rested and properly attired so they could make the best impression possible upon arriving at the Winter Palace. He knew that in Liz’s case, a good first impression could be critical to her chances. If the king and queen saw her as dirty and tired, a member of the poor nobility from the hinterlands of the kingdom, then they might never be able to shake that impression and her cause could be doomed before she ever said a word. So today, she had on a simple but elegant burgundy dress that her sisters claimed brought out the warmth of her skin tone, along with a few understated jewelry choices that served to enhance her appearance without making it look like she was trying too hard.

Soon after passing the cathedral, the carriage passed by the giant, open-air market where all manner of fresh foods could be purchased. Meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, herbs, and spices were all available…a veritable cornucopia of things to eat. Alongside the market was the bazaar, where vendors from all over the kingdom, and points beyond, sold their wares. Hand-woven carpets, bolts of fabric, jewels both raw and finished, intricately glazed ceramics, and too many other things to mention.

All three girls turned toward their father when they saw the bazaar and made him promise they’d get a day or two of shopping while they were here. Having denied his girls the delights of the capital for so long, Jeffrey was only too happy to agree. He knew that even as a relatively poor member of the nobility, he was rather wealthy by any other standard and could easily afford to indulge his daughters.

All talk of shopping stopped cold, however, when the carriage rounded a turn and the vast royal park that surrounded the palace came into view. The capital city had been a planned development dating back to the earliest days of the Antarian conquest. The palace had been built first, and the city was then built around it, which accounted for the wide, tree-lined boulevards, open plazas, and graceful fountains and statuary, all of which combined to make the most elegant city any of the Parkers had ever seen.

The carriage rumbled along the hedge-lined, spike-topped iron fence that bordered the royal park. The ornate gate that marked the main entrance to the palace grounds sat in the middle of one side of a square of land that was two miles by two miles. The gate was open, with a guard sufficient enough to keep out anyone who wasn’t invited. Jeffrey presented their royal invitation through the open window. The guard didn’t even bother looking at the invitation, however, as Max had seen the Parkers approaching and had told the man to let them through.

Max and Michael took positions on either side of the carriage and then looked inside it and smiled, as the Royal Household Guards joined the Parker knights in the line behind the carriage. Once everyone was in position, the newly enlarged procession made its way past the guard station and into the park proper to begin the mile-long ride down the arrow-straight Cypress-shaded lane that led to the palace itself.

The combination of the two parties held up the Parkers long enough to allow the guard captain to send a messenger racing to the palace at top speed, as the king had ordered that word be brought to him the moment they arrived. Even before his son had impressed upon him what a debt he owed to the Parkers, and to Lady Elizabeth in particular, he had decided to come out to meet them at the entrance as a special mark of his favor.

The Parker knights peeled away early to arrange for bunk space in the immense barracks of the Royal Household Guard, and the wagons of belongings headed for a palace service entrance, but the carriage itself and its Royal Household Guards continued on until it rolled through a tunnel in one wall of the palace and came to a stop at the foot of the marble stairs that led up to the formal entrance of the Winter Palace.

All four Parker mouths were agape at the outward splendor of the palace. It topped anything any of them had ever seen. Built of golden stone and with a red tile roof, the massive four story building was of a hollow square design, with four wings surrounding a huge central courtyard. Whatever nerves Liz had been feeling just tripled upon seeing the grandeur of the building that Max called home.

And waiting on the top step to greet their very important visitors, were King Phillip and Queen Diana, who were out of sight to the Parkers until they stepped out of the carriage. The king and queen looked down the wide steps as Max and Sir Michael moved in to greet the disembarking family. Phillip and Diana wondered the same thing: which one is Lady Elizabeth? Phillip decided she must be the tall, athletic-looking girl with the dark blonde hair, because she looked the most like someone who would charge into a battle. Diana couldn’t decide, however, so she just watched with bated breath.

Max shook hands with Lord Parker, and kissed the cheeks of both blondes before kissing the dark-complected brunette hard on the mouth and then sweeping her off her feet for a quick spin before setting her carefully back on her feet, where the kissing continued. Michael did much the same, except he greeted Liz and Tess first before moving on to Jeffrey and Maria. He did, however, not pick Maria up and give her a spin. He wasn’t that type of man, he didn’t want to upstage Max on his big day, and he was fairly sure Maria would slug him if he tried it.

Diana was surprised by the intensity of the connection between her son and this Lady Elizabeth. Even at this distance, she could tell their love was anything but ordinary. Phillip, however, was still stuck on the battle. He was having the hardest time imagining the little brunette wearing a boy’s armor and riding into the midst of a panic-stricken mob and coming out the other side with a desperately determined group of soldiers at her back.

Once Liz was back on her feet, Jeffrey took a look at the king and saw what he thought was a look of impatience. He was not going to keep the king waiting if he could help it, so he quickly tapped the prince on his shoulder. “Um…Your Highness? The king is waiting. It might be advisable to get on with the introductions so you and Elizabeth can go back to, ah, greeting each other.”

Tess and Maria heard the special emphasis their father placed on the word ‘greeting.’ That made them both laugh out loud, a laugh they immediately fought to smother. Max and Liz pulled back from each other’s face then and he sheepishly took a step back. A look at Michael showed enough of a smile to show that the Black Knight thought it was funny, too.

“My lord and ladies,” Max said, as Liz tried to get one foot back into the shoe that had fallen off during Max's wild spin, “please follow me and allow me to introduce you the king and queen.” That last bit of information caused all of the Parker girls to stop whatever they had been thinking and summon all their poise and upbringing, as everything they had ever learned would be needed now.

The Parkers followed Max back up the marble steps, with Michael bringing up the rear. Max stopped one step short of his family and moved to the end of the line of Parkers, next to Liz, all of whom had stopped two steps short of the top. His body faced right down the step he had stopped on, and he angled his face up to his family, as he said, “Your Majesties, may I have the pleasure of introducing you to a family that is near and dear to my heart?” He waited for a nod from his father before continuing. “It gives me great pleasure to introduce to you Lord Jeffrey Parker, the Baron of Roswell, and his daughters, Lady Maria, Lady Elizabeth, and Lady Tess.”

Jeffrey bowed low when being introduced, and each lady curtseyed when her name was mentioned. All of the girls were glad for the nicely deep step treads at that point, as they gave the girls enough room to safely curtsey without risking falling over.

“You may rise,” Phillip said.

Max then went on to formally introduce his family. He turned his head back to the Parkers and said, “And now, it gives me just as much pleasure to introduce my parents to you: my father, Phillip the First, King of Alemannia, and my mother, Diana, Queen of Alemannia.”

Once the greetings were over, the two families broke up and moved off, grouped together by age. Jeffrey walked a step behind the king and queen, while Max and Michael took charge of the three girls.

“What was up with the spin, Max?” Michael teased, once the parents were out of range. “You acted like you hadn’t seen Lady Elizabeth for a month.”

“He protected Elizabeth from death or dishonor on the road,” Maria added, “but who is going to protect her from him?”

“No one,” Liz shot back. “I do not need a guard with him, even if society does demand a chaperone. And anyway, I am not the only girl here with a man.”

“True,” Maria said, “but Michael did not just molest me.”

“Nope,” Max replied, “he did that in the garden during the Harvest Ball. What I cannot quite figure out is how he got the grass stains on his elbows.”

Tess’ eyes bulged, and Liz almost had to bite her hand to keep from laughing, as Maria’s pale face went beet red in a matter of seconds.

“I told you they knew, Maria,” Michael said. He then turned to Max. “I did get the stains by falling down.” He shrugged his shoulders. “I just happened to be kissing Maria at the time.”

“What about Tess and Prince Kyle?” Liz asked, making sure her youngest sister was included in the teasing. “You two told me he was around a lot after I left Krakovia.”

Max hadn’t heard that yet. He looked over at Tess just in time to catch her blushing. “Whatever you do, Tess, do not let him get you alone in the garden.”

“Why not?”

“Because my sister does not trust him. That makes me wonder why.”

“Prince Kyle has never been anything but a perfect gentleman around me,” Tess countered a bit stiffly. “He even stepped in to stop a potentially nasty feud between my family and that of a prominent Krakovian duke. Those twenty-four men you had to kill to save Elizabeth were the duke’s.”

Michael could see how uncomfortable Max looked at being reminded of the roadside slaughter. His eyes then went from Max to Liz, as she moved to soothe his feelings. Michael quickly drew the other two Parker girls away from the quiet couple so they could spend some time alone.

When Michael, Maria, and Tess disappeared into the first cross hallway they could find, Max immediately brightened up and hugged Liz close. “I was beginning to think they would never leave us alone.”

“You were faking?” Liz swatted Max lightly on the bicep. “I cannot believe you made me think you were upset.”

“The point is, I made them think I was upset, and they left us alone.” Max’s hands settled behind Liz’s back, and her hands found their way up his arms before coming to rest on his bulging biceps. Their eyes met, and their speech softened. “Now, I seem to remember your lord father saying that if I introduced your family to mine, then I could go back to ‘greeting’ you.”

“No,” Liz replied, “he said we could go back to ‘greeting’ each other…and Max?”

“Hmm?”

“We haven’t greeted each other nearly enough yet.”

“I like the way you think.” He noticed the occasional servant rushing by every few seconds and added, “Right here will do. There are enough outsiders present to protect your honor.”

“Then what are you wait…?” Liz began, only to be cut off in mid-word by a potent kiss from her one-man welcoming committee.
"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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Cardinal
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Re: In the Name of the King (AU/CC/Mature) Ch68 7/28/11 p23

Postby Cardinal » Mon Aug 01, 2011 10:09 pm

Chapter 69

Lodgings


As much as they enjoyed the kissing, the young couple finally forced themselves to disengage their lips, more because Liz needed to breathe than anything else. She pressed lightly against her prince, placing the side of her face against his upper chest, as his arms enfolded her into a warm cocoon that was equal parts muscle and the pure, manly scent she had come to identify simply as ‘Max.’

“Please don’t go away,” Liz whispered. “Promise me we will have the entire winter together.”

“Barring a command from the king, I promise,” Max replied, “that no one else in this kingdom, or any other, will send me away this winter.”

“Where do you think my sisters and Sir Michael have gone?” Liz asked. Her voice was above a whisper now, but still quiet enough that no one but Max could hear her.

“Are you asking for an opinion, or asking me to find out?”

“Mmm…whichever you want. I am not particular.” Liz raised her head from its perch on Max’s chest, and moved back just enough to be able to look up at him and see the amber flecks in his brown eyes. She wasn’t about to move away from his touch though; she thought that might require a direct order from either her father or the king.

Max flagged down a passing servant and requested she find out where Lady Maria, Lady Tess, and Sir Michael had gone. While they waited for the servant to return, they took a seat on a plush bench located in a small, windowed alcove that looked out over the vast courtyard.

Even with the servant enlisting everyone she ran into, it still took several minutes to locate three people in the immense palace, and a few minutes more for the servant to return to where Max and Liz were waiting.

When Max ordered the servant to rise and speak, she said, “Your Highness, the ladies are in their suites. Sir Michael was last seen heading outdoors after seeing the ladies to an entrance to the east wing.”

Max smiled at the servant and politely dismissed her before turning back to Liz. “Your sisters have found their suites; would you like to see yours?”

“I would love to.”

“I can only go so far,” Max warned. “The east wing is off limits to men, except for male servants who are required to bring coal at specific times of the day for heat. Even the king himself is not allowed inside.”

“Where do the men stay?” Liz asked, as she and Max went from a warm embrace to holding hands as he guided her toward the east wing and the sumptuous rooms that awaited her.

“The men stay in the west wing, and the north wing has the royal apartments on the top two floors and important government rooms like the throne room and the cabinet room on the first floor. In between is the Royal Library, which takes up the entire second floor of the north wing.

“The south wing, where we are now standing, is the most public of the four wings. It has the State Dining Room, the Grand Ballroom, and a lot of other rooms where the men and women can mix together during the day.

“As for you,” Max said, “I happen to know you have been assigned a suite on the fourth floor.”

“Is that good?” Liz asked apprehensively. She knew status would matter in the days ahead.

“That is the best,” Max said. “Those suites are the largest, most luxurious, and most prestigious ones in the entire wing.”

Max and Liz climbed the double helix staircase in the center of the south wing from the first floor to the fourth. The double helix design did wonders for traffic flow as one side was strictly for going up, while the other was for going down. That prevented people from running into each other and tying up traffic. Once they were on the fourth floor, they headed toward the east end, to a heavy, iron-banded oak door which was closed and guarded by two serious looking men in the gold and white livery of the Royal Household Guards.

“This is as far as I go,” Max said sadly. “Just step inside and ask a servant to help you find your suite.”

“Will you wait here for me?” Liz asked. “I will not be long.” She did want to see where her rooms were, but she also wanted to spend some more time with him before she got sucked into whatever competition there would be to win his hand. This is all backwards, she thought, with not a little humor. All the fairy tales have men fighting for the chance to marry a princess, not the other way around.

“Go on and get situated in your rooms, Liz. We will see each other again at dinner.”

The two enjoyed one last, quick kiss before Liz regretfully released her man and disappeared through the doorway. For the first time in his life, Max was thrilled there was a heavy guard on the entrances to the women’s quarters. Never before had he had someone in there that needed protecting. When the door to the women’s quarters closed behind her, Liz walked down the hallway, looking for anyone who could guide her to her rooms. Up ahead were two older ladies, but they were headed away from her toward the double helix staircase that was in the middle of that wing. Just as Liz was beginning to wonder if she was going to have to start knocking on random doors, she heard a pair of voices that could only be her sisters’ coming from farther down the hall.

Liz picked up her pace and reached the open door the sounds were coming from. A quick knock on the door brought prompt permission to enter. She edged her way into the room and found her sisters sitting in what appeared to be a very elegant and very expensively decorated sitting room. On a low table in front of the women was a silver tray laden with finger foods and a pitcher of something to drink. When Maria and Tess saw Liz, they welcomed her and asked her to join them. As she did, a servant moved forward to place a third chair next to the others around the refreshments.

“Help yourself, Shortstuff,” Maria said happily. “I know we had a light lunch before coming here, but it is going to be hours yet before the evening meal.”

Liz placed a few of the delicacies on a small plate and began to nibble on one. She had planned on pouring herself a drink, until she realized it was some sort of mulled wine designed to help warm then after the cold ride over here. Wanting her wits around her, she took a pass on the wine. When Tess noticed Liz’s hesitancy to drink the wine, she asked if there was anything she might prefer instead.

“Water would be very welcome,” Liz said. When Tess gestured to the servant, who scurried off to fulfill the request, Liz figured these rooms must belong to her little sister.

“Do you believe this place?” Maria asked. “This makes that so-called Sun Palace back in Varshova look more like the Minor Moon Palace.”

“True,” Tess agreed, “and unlike that palace, we are going to have plenty of time to see all there is to see here.”

“But what about Prince Kyle, Tess?” Liz asked.

“What about him?”

“I do not know,” Liz shrugged her shoulders. “I guess I thought he might have brought you to his family’s palace a few more times. At least enough times for you to see the place in its entirety. I mean, I was told his interest in you did continue after I left.”


“Oh, he did,” Tess admitted, “but I was a little too caught up with him to spend much time looking at my surroundings.” She wiggled her eyebrows suggestively. “He was quite enough to occupy my thoughts.”

The Parker sisters spent a few more hours nibbling, sipping, and chatting, until they gave into the fact that dinner had to be getting close and they weren’t dressed for it yet. Liz asked which suite was hers, only to find out she was already standing in the one assigned to her.

“I thought this one was yours,” she said to Tess.

“Oh no,” Tess said, as she waved off that idea. “The servants were working on my rooms and Maria’s rooms before you got here. They should have finished a long time ago. It turns out this floor has its own Housekeeper – with a staff of her own - and she was very nearly scandalized when we tried to oversee our things as they were moved in.”

“She is not kidding, Liz,” Maria added, when she saw the incredulous look on her brunette sister’s face. “You would think we had offered her a mortal insult. Still, I intend to go in there and give everything the once over anyway. She may know how other ladies like things, but she does not know me yet.”

“I feel the same way,” Tess said. And when the delicate Parker agreed with the martial one, it was generally a lock that the sister born between them would agree, too.

“When do they start in here?” Liz asked, knowing she would check things over once the maids were done, just like her sisters were going to do.

“As soon as we leave, I would imagine,” Maria replied.

And that is exactly what happened.

The Housekeeper asked Liz for her permission to begin, and then waved in a small army of maids who lugged every chest of clothing and all the belongings of Liz’s that had been packed for the trip. Each chest was opened before the Housekeeper, who eyed the contents and then directed the maids as to where it should go. The whirlwind of palace staff was over before Liz knew it, and the Housekeeper was then ready to give her a tour of her suite.

“As the dinner hour is very close, Milady, I can make this quick so your chambermaids can get to work. Would that suit you?”

“That would be fine,” Liz assured her.

“Good!” The Housekeeper gestured around the room they were in. “This, as you can tell, Milady, is your sitting room.”

“It is larger than all of my personal space combined back home,” Liz said, as she eyed the room with a renewed sense of wonder.

The Housekeeper then gestured toward one wall of the sitting room. “Those two doors lead to small sleeping rooms for a pair of personal maids. The rest of your servants will either live in the attics or in the basement, but two will be able to stay here during the night to see to your needs.” She then led Liz to a door opposite to the two servants’ doors, and threw it open. “In here is your dressing room and its capacious closets. It has another door that leads directly into your bedroom.” Finally, the Housekeeper led Liz to the wide double doors in the center of the sitting room’s back wall. Throwing them open, she said, “And this is your bedroom.”

Liz peered into the room and gasped at the size of the four-poster canopy bed. The thing was enormous and it dominated the room much the way a dinner table dominated a dining room.

“I can hardly believe all of this is for me.” Liz had a thought then that made her uncomfortable. “Please tell me my sisters’ rooms are as nice as these.”

The Housekeeper smiled indulgently. “Yes, Lady Elizabeth, your sisters are equally well housed. Their rooms are on either side of this suite.” Once she was sure Liz had no questions, the Housekeeper asked for permission to withdraw and then backed out of the room, closing the doors behind her. That left Liz alone in her rooms for the first time. Well, as alone as she could be with two royal servants standing attendance on her at all times, along with her full complement of personal chambermaids from back home.

Liz was about to explore her suite more thoroughly and give it what Maria had referred to as ‘the once over,’ when a knock at her door was followed by a servant who slipped in just long enough to signal to Liz’s royal servants that it was time to dress for dinner. She knew enough of the way servants operated to know something was off. Normally, that sort of notification was not needed. Just as she was about to ask what that had been about, one of her servants informed her that the evening meal was to be a formal affair held in the State Dining Room. Liz had hoped for a private dinner with Max, but she realized that from here on out, those were likely to be few and far between.

At a gesture from Liz, her chambermaids went into motion. She followed them from her sitting room into her dressing room, where an array of formal gowns was trotted out of her capacious closets for her inspection.

“Come on girls,” Liz said enthusiastically, “let us do this right; I have a husband to win.”
"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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