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) Ch 89&90 1/29/12

Postby Cardinal » Mon Mar 05, 2012 1:26 am

Hokay! I'm back.

There are three reasons why this update is sooooooooo late. First, the next three chapters had a lot of content that could not under any circumstances be converted for a Roswell story, so I ended up condensing them and writing a small amount of new material.

Second, my other three stories I am writing desperately needed to be taken care of.

Third, I can be spectacularly lazy at times.

None of these reasons excuses this update being so late; they are just an explanation of why things took so long.



* * * * * * * * * *




Chapters 91-93

Back to the Winter Palace


Lord Michael and Lady Maria didn’t come down from their bridal bedroom until late-afternoon. Liz later found out they’d had a massive lunch sent up to their room, a happening that had been the cause of much mirth amongst the guests, especially the older ones who could still remember that first morning. The older guests had been chuckling and making quiet comments about how Lord Michael was likely going to need that much food to regain his strength if his young bride was keeping him occupied for that long.

Michael and Maria came down from their rooms in time to host another sumptuous evening meal for their guests. This one was a farewell feast since most of the guests were leaving for their homes, or for the royal court, in the morning. Liz and Max were there, but wisely let the married guests lead the teasing of the newly married couple. He was paying close attention as the jokes were coming in fast and furious, and it wasn’t long before he came to the conclusion that he would be damnedif he would allow his bride to be put through the same sort of treatment. In his opinion, Maria’s rougher upbringing seemed to have prepared her to easily return every ribald joke with one of her own, but as for Liz, he could readily imagine the young woman who had fiercely stood up to an entire rebel army blushing the most fiery shade of red at any and all jokes about her wedding night.

And as protecting her would be his role as her husband, he intended to do something about it.

While Max was thinking about protecting his bride, Liz had moved over a few seats to talk to Tess. The two of them had been talking about Maria for some time and had just started in on Kyle. “He has been locked away in his room all afternoon, Liz,” Tess said. “You would think he would be out here trying to win me back. Maybe…maybe he just does not want me that strongly.”

Liz could hear the fear in Tess’ voice, and she did what she could to soothe her feelings without revealing any confidences. “I think he is busy with something important,” Liz said. “Something you may very well like.”

“What?” Tess asked eagerly. “You know something! Tell me!”

“Sorry, Max told me what little I know, and I promised him that I would not tell anyone,” Liz said. “I only told you what I did because I know you are still hurting.” Liz patted Tess on the shoulders. “Trust me. Your Kyle is not done with you yet.”

Once the banquet was over, a servant approached and bowed low before informing Max and Liz that Lord and Lady Guerin wanted to see them briefly in the family quarters. “One last visit to your old residence before we leave; that is very thoughtful of Maria,” Max said. “It seems she is picking up the subtleties of hospitality faster than I would have thought.”

“She has always known how to treat a guest,” Liz replied. “She has just never wanted to play the role of the ‘lady of the house’ before. But while that kind of stuff does not matter much to her, she will do it now because any poor performance on her part…”

“…will reflect poorly on Michael,” Max finished.

“Exactly,” Liz said, glad Max understood. “Maria will do all sorts of things for his sake that she would never do otherwise.”

“That is a very gratifying thing for me to hear. With Michael being new to the nobility, he will be looked down upon by a lot of the more established noble families. They will be looking for him to make the kind of social mistakes that you and I were taught to avoid from an early age. He needs Maria to support him, to be the kind of woman she has never wanted to be, and if she already realizes that, then they are off to a good start.”

Liz snickered then at the idea of two unmarried teenagers passing judgment on the suitability of someone else’s union. Max joined in the laughter for a moment, but then pointed out that they weren’t passing judgment on their personal or romantic suitability, but on how suitable they were in a social and political manner.

“And that is something you and I are qualified to judge,” Liz said.

“Definitely.”

“Thanks, Max, that makes me feel better.”

“Do not worry about it,” Max said. “You and I are already being judged on how suitable we are as a couple. None of them will ever say a word to us, but it is happening anyway.”

“I bet we get high marks,” Liz said confidently.

Perfect marks, and yet…” Max said, as he pulled Liz to a stop and kissed her thoroughly right in the middle of the hall, “…I would settle for less than perfect marks in exchange for me taking more time to ensure you know how much I love you.”

Liz allowed Max to pull her body close as his mouth ravaged hers again, and when he finally released her so they could continue to their walk, a happily dazed Liz asked what she had done to deserve that.

“What other people think of what we do should not really matter, as long as I do not compromise your reputation, but I do not kiss you like that often enough, mostly out of fear of what those ‘other people’ might think, and that is stupid.

“I should just be concerned about you and what you think and feel. I promise to focus more on you and less on ‘them’ from now on. If they want to pay attention to us, the one thing I want them to judge correctly is that we are in wildly in love.” He wiggled his eyebrows at her. “Think you can handle more of me?”

“More kissing? More touches? More affection?” Liz scoffed. “That is one challenge for which I was born ready.”

Once they arrived in the family quarters, Max and Liz waited for Michael and Maria to say their goodbyes to the rest of their guests and come up to meet them. When the Guerins made their appearance, the prince and his lady leapt to their feet and applauded the newly married couple before the four of them engaged in a series of ferocious hugs.

Liz ended up asking the question that Max thought was too indelicate for him to voice. “I think it is high time we get to hear about the first day of marriage for you two.”

Michael and Maria looked at each other and smiled. Liz was kind of expecting the big, goofy smile she saw on Maria’s face, but when she saw the exact same smile on Michael’s normally stern countenance, she knew the night had been even more successful than the wedding had been. Max had come to the same conclusion, and knowing that Liz had to be dying for some private girl talk with her sister, he gestured to the door and asked Michael for a personal tour of his castle.

“A knight’s tour, mind you. Show me the defenses, not the reception rooms.”

“A knight’s tour I can give you,” Michael replied, before he turned to his wife and kissed her thoroughly. “Have fun with Liz, Dearest. I’ll be back.”

“Do not be gone too long, Michael,” Maria said. She had a wicked gleam in her eyes that raised his blood pressure all by itself. And then for good measure, she added, “We still have some unfinished business to attend to.” That left Michael tugging at a suddenly tight shirt collar and both Max and Liz blushing furiously, looking at their toes, and sneaking quick peeks at each other.

When Michael and Max finally slipped out of the family quarters, Liz turned to Maria, who was chuckling under her breath. “How long do you think he will manage to stay away after that last comment?”

“Hopefully, not very long at all. I have found I like sharing a bed with that man.”

Liz sighed and said something she’d not let anyone else in the world hear her say. “I cannot wait until Max and I have ‘unfinished business.’”

“I know you have heard stories from the maids about what it is like,” Maria said, “but stories are nothing like the real thing. It is like the difference between reading one of your history books and being there to see things for yourself.”

“Which is why you, with the memory fresh in your mind, are going to tell me what it is like.” Liz looked up at her sister expectantly and settled in to hear a story that she hoped would feed her fantasies for six long months.

Liz was having her first private chat with Maria since the older woman’s wedding and bedding the night before, and she was intent on getting all of the juicy details. She wanted to have some idea of what it was like for a woman to share her love with her man in that most intimate way, because she was deep in preparation for her own marriage six months hence to Max. She wanted to have something specific to fuel her fantasies during those long months ahead, but Maria was going to disappoint her.

“No, Liz, that is why I am not going to tell you what it was like.” When Liz shot Maria a disgruntled look, Maria said, “Did you not hear what I just said? Stories are nothing like the real thing.” Maria patted Liz on the shoulder. “Right now, there is no way you could possibly understand…and after you marry Max, you will not need to be told.”

Liz grumbled again, but she accepted Maria’s refusal in the spirit in which it was intended. “Okay, soooo I have to wonder on my own for a few months longer. This trip has been nice because it has gotten me out from under the sometimes suffocating presence of my ladies-in-waiting for a few weeks, but I am going to be glad to have them with me once we return to the palace.”

“Why?” Maria asked. She thought she die if she had that many ladies hanging on her every word. She really didn’t understand why Liz put up with them.

“They protect me from my basest desires, Maria. They protect me from myself.”

“You want him that much, do you?”

“With every breath,” Liz replied simply.

Maria pulled Liz into a hug, “Liz, Liz, Liz…it is a good thing that man of yours is as crazy about you as you are about him.” Maria rubbed Liz’s back. “You do know those ladies-in-waiting are supposed to be to protect you from men, not the other way around, right?”

“Says who?”

Maria adopted a preachy tone of voice that sounded exactly like their father’s former chaplain. Both girls had seriously disliked the man in their younger days, but hearing his voice coming from Maria’s mouth gave Liz a case of the giggles that only got worse with each word Maria spoke. “Well…everyone knows women, especially noble women, are paragons of virtue who would only fall from grace because some wicked man enticed them.”

“Oh, God, Maria, stop!” Liz said, as she was holding her sides from laughing too hard. “Whoever said that had to have been a man.”

“A single man at that,” Maria agreed.

“What am I going to do?”

“What they always tell young ladies to do: if unattended, only see a man in a public place. If attended, be careful anyway.”

The next morning Liz waited in the castle courtyard after a quick but hearty breakfast as she, Max, and Tess waited for the ladies’ carriage to be brought up. Just as the carriage was driven through the open castle gate and into the courtyard, Kyle came bursting through the door to the central keep, looking a bit disheveled and wild-eyed.

He trotted up to the three of them, nodded a quick hello to Max and Liz, and then offered a hand to Tess as he asked for a few moments of her time. Most of the rest of their party was standing behind them in line waiting to board their own carriages, but when Tess looked pleadingly at her sister and future brother-in-law, Max waved her away.

Kyle led Tess just far enough away to be out of hearing range of everyone else and then pulled a folded and wax-sealed piece of thick, creamy paper out of his coat and handed it to her. Both Liz and Max were watching intently, but neither one could tell what was being said.

When Tess opened the sealed paper she began to read it, they could see her eyes brighten almost instantly, but then Kyle began to speak and Tess looked up at him with wonder in her eyes, and avidly followed what he had to say until he reached the end of his speech. Then she returned her gaze to the paper in her hands and continued reading it.

When Tess was done reading, Kyle escorted her back to the waiting carriage and handed her up into it before taking his leave and going off to find his waiting horse. Liz and Max both shrugged their shoulders before he handed her inside to sit across from her younger sister.

While Liz asked Tess about the paper and Kyle’s little speech right away, Max had to wait until the procession got on the road to find Kyle and pull him to one side. “Kyle,” Max asked, “was that thing with Lady Tess what I think it was?”

“A love letter?” Kyle smiled. “Oh yes. I spent hours on that. And then when it was finished, I spent more hours committing it to memory so I could say it to her as she read it.”

“From what Liz and I could see,” Max said, “it looked like she paid the letter no attention once you began to speak. So it appeared that speaking the contents of the love letter touched her more than just the letter itself.” Max smiled widely and reached across to slap Kyle on the back. “That looked like a good start.”

Tess seemed to agree with Max, as the letter and its contents were all she could talk about all morning long. And when the party finally stopped for the evening, the effect seemed to continue as she went off to spend the time before their evening meal sitting with Kyle in the common room of the inn they had rented out for the evening.

As the days wore on, and the spring weather remained decent, Max asked Liz, “How would you and your family like to take the trip that we talked about to see Borussia to and the ducal palace?” He’d only seen parts of the palace when he’d been there during the war, and was looking forward to taking the full tour with his future duchess by his side.

“I would love to, but you will have to get father’s approval before I can go.”

“Do you not think he will say yes? Surely he will want to see his favorite daughter sizing up her new home?”

“I do not think he will be able to resist.”

“Good,” Max kissed Liz’s forehead. “I will go ask him. If he says yes, we can be there in a few more days.”
Last edited by Cardinal on Mon Mar 05, 2012 11:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"In the Name of the King"
-----Winner, Round 15 - Favorite Lead Portrayal of Liz Parker
-----Winner, Round 15 - Best Use of a Supporting Character (Jeff Parker)
-----Winner, Round 15 - Best New Fic
-----Winner, Round 15 - Best Period Fanfiction

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Re: In the Name of the King (AU/CC/Mature) Ch 91-93 3/5/12 p

Postby Cardinal » Mon Mar 05, 2012 11:35 pm

Chapters 94-95

Home, Sweet Home


And a few more days was all it took. When the royal party came to a stop for the night less than a day’s travel from the city of Borussia itself, things began to change. The white-uniformed members of the Royal Household Guard who had guarded Max and Liz turned and headed back to the Winter Palace. Count Parker’s small guard of his own men stayed on, while the royal guards were replaced by an equal-sized contingent of knights in the green and gold of Max’s own ducal army. This was because the people of Borussia were proud of their connection to the Evans family and insisted that he be their duke first while in the duchy, and the crown prince second. That fact surprised Liz a little bit, but seeing Max in green and gold surprised her even more, as she was used to seeing him in the gold-trimmed white.

Every member of the Borussian honor guard was a veteran of the war against Khivar, and to a man, they knew of Lady Elizabeth’s role. They hadn’t just heard the stories second or third-hand either, they knew. They’d all seen glimpses of Liz leading her crazed soldiers back into battle as they shouted their impromptu war cry. They knew her improbable effort had saved their lives. So when she stepped out of the roadside inn that morning, the entire honor guard dismounted from their horses and bowed low to her before shouting that war cry in her honor: “For God, the king, and Lady Elizabeth!”

Liz was surprised, and touched far beyond her ability to say. All she could manage was to bow low in return and then salute the men who’d risked so much for the kingdom. The reason she bowed instead of curtseying, was because of a decision she and Max had made the night before.

Up to this point on their journey, Liz had dressed like a lady and ridden with her sister in the large carriage with the royal coat-of-arms on the doors. But now, however, she and Max had talked about the likely desires and expectations of the people in the city of Borussia itself, and together they decided it was time for Sir Elizabeth to make an appearance. So this day, Liz was decked out in her lightweight armor and the tabard of a Knight of the Dragon, and instead of riding in the carriage with Tess, she rode a horse. She even had her twin daggers prominently tucked into her belt.

Several people were made happy by that change in events. Liz and Max were both pleased that they would be able to spend the entire day side-by-side. Tess and Kyle were also pleased as Liz’s move opened a seat in the carriage for him to claim so he could continue his campaign to win her back. There was no risk in this to Tess’ reputation, as the other two seats in the carriage were taken by maids, but Lord Parker still chose to give the Krakovian prince a stern glare as he watched the boy climb up into the carriage. The ride into the city was slow, as the distance was short and they weren’t in a big hurry. Even at their current pace, Max’s party expected to make it into the city, out the other side, and to the palace itself in plenty of time for lunch.

Max, Liz, and Jeffrey rode at the front of the procession with the man who was both crown prince and duke in the middle. Behind them were the royal carriage with Tess and Kyle, a couple of supply wagons, and their baggage train. On the sides and at the rear of the procession were the fifty knights in the green and gold of Borussia, and twenty more knights in the purple and gold of the new Count of Albemarle, Lord Parker.

The reason for turning a short march into a virtual parade was that the people of the city knew their duke and his future duchess were coming, and the reason they knew was that Max had sent a pair of riders ahead a couple of days earlier to alert the palace staff about his imminent visit. He was reasonably sure the palace staff would in turn tell the city’s mayor, and that would end in some sort of official welcome. And as the procession neared the city itself, he saw he was right. A thin line of people lined each side of the roadway starting more than a mile outside the city gates, and he could see the lines of waiting townspeople thickening in the distance.

“Are you ready for this, Liz?” Max asked.

“For the crowd?” she asked in reply.

“Well, that too,” Max said, “but I was thinking mostly about the adulation and the expectations. Some of those people are going to expect you to be this huge warrior.”

Liz turned her head, flipping the single tail of her triple warrior’s braid, and smiled. “You mean this and my armor will not be enough.” She knew better than that by now. Months of dealing with the general public when she went into the city had taught her some people just refused to believe such a tiny woman could possibly be the famous Lady Elizabeth who was quickly becoming a legend.

Max signaled with one hand and a knight in his green and gold livery rode forward until he was just behind the young duke. Then the knight took the wrappings off a long-handled bundle he carried before holding it straight up in the air and unfurling a green silk flag that fluttered in the light wind. Embroidered on the green silk was the golden eagle that had been the symbol of the Evans family long before they’d taken the throne.

“This is quite a bit different than the last time I rode through the city,” Max confided to Liz.

“Oh?”

“Yes. It was during the war, and it was just me, Michael, and my ten-man bodyguard. We were dressed as plain soldiers…all except for Michael in his Cipangan samurai armor…and we just wanted to make it through the city without anyone noticing us.”

“And now we are entering the city like conquering heroes or something,” Liz added.

“Well…we did help win the war,” Max pointed out.

Liz used one hand to tug on the haft of one of her daggers before sliding it back into its sheath, and said, “Yeah…I killed oh so many people with my twin blades.” She snorted. “By now, there are probably stories out there claiming I wielded twin swords and slaughtered hundreds.”

“Without a doubt. But there are also those in the crowd who know from talking to the knights and soldiers in my army just how many lives you saved that day.”

Once they’d reached the leading edge of the crowd, the people came alive, showering their young duke and his lady with a wall of cheers as they headed into the town itself…and that was only the beginning. The farther they rode into the city, the greater the crowds and the louder the cheer became, until they rode into the city’s main square which was choked with people, including many of the city’s most prominent citizens. Max and Liz rode close to each other, nearly touching legs as they waved to the crowd. By the time their procession made it to the far side of town, even the normally unflappable Lord Parker was rather impressed.

“I do not think I have ever seen anything quite like that,” Jeffrey said. “That crowd had to have contained more than half the people in the town.”

“Liz is just lucky we have a couple of supply wagons that are mostly empty,” Max chuckled. “Or else she would be carrying a load of flowers bigger than her and me combined.”

That was true, and it was because all along their winding route through town, little girls had run up to Liz’s stirrup to hand her various bouquets of flowers until she was getting overwhelmed with them. After that, the flowers were placed in one of the supply wagons. Max was just happy Liz was an accomplished horsewoman who could easily ride one-handed.

The ducal palace itself was located miles out of town, and people were prohibited from building any closer to the palace for reasons of aesthetics and security. The procession approached the open gate to the expansive palace grounds and began a slow trot up the gravel lane, between a double line of towering cedar trees. Liz began to look around in wonder, drinking in as much as she could of her surroundings. The snow had melted, but no spring growth was evident as she rode toward the distant palace. She had known for months that this palace and its grounds would be her home once she married Max, but this moment was when the reality of it truly struck home.

“This is it,” she murmured, as she gestured at the parkland around them. “This is going to be our home.”

“It is,” Max agreed, “and I cannot wait to explore it with you.”

“You mean ‘show it to me,’ right?”

“No, I was only here for a few short days last year and had no time for a serious tour of the palace and grounds.” Max looked straight into her eyes and smiled. “So now we get to discover our palace together.”

Liz returned her gaze to the grounds, and much like Max more than half a year earlier, wondered what it would be like to go for a ride in these woods, or take a walk in the gardens. And also like him, her imagining had one person by her side sharing those pleasures, and that was her beloved Max.

Nearly three miles later, the wide gravel lane finally turned left out of the alley of trees, where it opened onto an immense, open, stone-paved courtyard. That’s where Liz received her first unobstructed view of the palace. While Max had only seen another in a long line of palaces during his visit in the fall, Liz marveled at the building’s intricate exterior design, the sharply angled blue tile roofs, and the way the white bricks seemed to shimmer in the noonday sun. The main building wasn’t as large as the king’s Winter Palace back in Königsberg, but she could already tell this palace had much more in the way of elegance and style.

She could not wait to see the inside.

Max, Liz, and Jeffrey crossed the courtyard and brought their horses to a stop. The carriage stopped behind them, but the knights continued on around the far corner of the palace with the supply wagons and the baggage train. When those first horses came to a stop, servants liveried in green-and-gold - who had been on alert all day for their lord’s arrival - rushed out to take care of every need. Grooms held the horses by their bridles as the men dismounted. Liz would have dismounted with them, but she had to wait as a pair of servants were carefully placing a mounting block for her to make a more ladylike dismount. As their booted feet touched the courtyard, the grooms led the horses away to be watered, fed, and groomed, while house servants scurried over to offer warm, wet towels so the travelers could wipe the road grime from their faces and hands before moving inside.

Liz looked up the broad but shallow stone-flagged stairway that led to a pair of massive, iron-bound oak doors and shivered. Seeing the grounds as they had ridden inside the main gate had been interesting, even exciting, but that paled in comparison to what she was feeling at this moment. Ever since childhood, when Liz had first imagined marrying a prince one day, she had dreamed of the moment when she would walk inside ‘her’ palace.

This was that moment.

And Liz was more excited than she had been for anything except for receiving Max’s proposal and his parents’ acceptance. She reached over and nervously clasped his hand before almost dragging him over to the stairway in her haste to get inside. Jeffrey, Tess, and Kyle followed a few steps behind, while the house servants disappeared through a service door near the stone stairway.

Just like the last time Max had come to his palace, there were a pair of guards on the top step. Both men stood with their halberds held at an angle, but when their duke drew near, the men ‘presented arms’ and the door was opened from the inside.

The chamberlain himself - the man in charge of the physical state of the entire palace - was on hand to open the door himself for his lord, and a row of servants stood behind him, ready to escort their lord’s guests to their well-appointed rooms and help them prepare for lunch. The chamberlain had been briefed on the names and physical description of the guests by the people Max had sent ahead, allowing him to easily figure out who was who. So when they five travelers stepped inside the doors, the chamberlain was able to greet them by name. What surprised the old man was that his duke did not enter first. Max chose to bow slightly to his lady and follow her inside.

“Welcome, Lady Elizabeth,” the chamberlain said, then, “my lord duke, welcome home…” and as the last of the five was welcomed, the chamberlain shut the door firmly behind them. But before the door even closed, Liz had the best feeling in her gut: she’d never been in this palace before in her life, never had come anywhere near it, but nonetheless, she knew she was home.
"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) Ch91-95 3/5/12 p2

Postby Cardinal » Sat Mar 10, 2012 11:39 pm

Chapter 96

House Tour


Liz wanted nothing more than to grab Max and embark on their palace exploration, but she was still in her armor, which she didn’t think wasn’t suitable for her to wear now that she was in the palace. She didn’t want the servants to see her as Sir Elizabeth, instead, she wanted them to see Lady Elizabeth, a young woman of quality who was worthy of their lord. As she looked around the spacious, marble-floored entryway, the rest of the party entered.

“Is everyone hungry?” Max asked Liz and his three other guests. When they all answered positively, he turned to the chamberlain, and said, “My Lord Chamberlain, my betrothed, our guests, and I will take the noonday meal in the small dining room once we have all had a chance to clean up and change clothes.”

The chamberlain signaled with the wave of a finger and the servants rushed forward to escort the duke and his guests to their rooms. Since Liz wasn’t yet the duchess, she wasn’t allowed to have the duchess’ suite, so instead she was escorted with Tess to the best rooms at the top of the immense Ladies’ Tower. Prince Kyle and Count Parker were likewise ensconced at the top of the Gentlemen’s Tower. There were many other accommodations available throughout the palace, but these were the most luxurious and most prestigious. The young duke was sparing no expense in caring for his first official guests.

Max, however, needed no escort to find his personal suite, which took up half of the top floor of the family quarters. He stopped as he got to the intricately carved, heavy oaken doors to his suite and looked across the hall to a similar set of doors. He’d never been in the duchess’ suite, had never even so much as opened the door to take a look, but now he was tempted.

According to tradition, the duchess’ suite belonged to her, and not even the duke himself was allowed inside without her express permission. The only thing keeping Max from taking a peek now was that he believed those rooms already belonged to Liz, even though he and she were more than five months away from being married.

As far as he was concerned, Liz Parker was already the mistress of the house.

Max then disappeared into his suite and popped out an hour later ready to find Liz so they could greet their guests together. He ran into the men first, however, finding them huddled together talking quietly on one side of the great gallery. They straightened up in a hurry once they saw him approaching, which caused him to wonder what they’d been talking about. He figured it was probably something to do with Tess, which made their talk a private matter. The three men stood around chatting a little bit longer before Liz and Tess made their entrance.

All talk stopped as Max and Kyle headed to meet them. Jeffrey watched with thinly concealed amusement and satisfaction as his two remaining unmarried daughters were greeted by two of the most eligible bachelors currently residing in the kingdom.

“I did not have time to say it earlier,” Max said warmly, after a brief but heated kiss, “but welcome home, Liz dearest.”

“Home,” Liz said breathily. Her eyes shone as she stepped to her beloved Max’s side and took his arm. “We are home. You feel it too, do you not?”

“Yes, I do,” he agreed, “and it will be our home for a very long time.”

Meanwhile, Kyle was greeting Tess. “You are radiant!” He carefully avoided a kiss with her father present, but swept her into his arms for an enveloping hug.

“We have not been apart that long, Kyle,” Tess giggled.

“Does it have to be a long separation for me to miss you?” Tess looked up at her prince and shook her head ‘no.’ “Then I missed you Lady Tess Parker. May that always be the case.”

The girls slipped away from their guys long enough to greet their father with kisses on either side of his cheek. The five of them then headed down the wide, marble-floored hallway toward the dining room. This room was much smaller than the ultra-formal grand dining room on the other side of the palace, and was intended for the use of smaller, more personal gatherings. Max privately pointed out to Liz that there was an even more intimate dining room located in the family quarters for their private use once they married.

The meal was long, delicious, and very comfortable for people who had been eating in comparatively ill-equipped inns ever since leaving Roswell. Once the meal was over, Liz was all charged up for a private tour of the palace, but one look shared with Max was enough for her to realize they were no longer just a couple. They were home, and that made them hosts. That meant they needed to include her father, sister, and Prince Kyle in the tour, too.

Liz grumbled to herself for a moment until she realized Max was waiting for her to make the invitation. She knew that sort of invitation was properly the province of the lady of the house. That served to reinforce the point that this was her home, too…and she was suddenly okay with sharing her tour.

Liz then cleared her throat, somewhat more loudly than necessary, to gather everyone’s attention. “Max and I are going to take a tour of the palace in a few moments. We would be pleased if all of you would join us.”

Tess and Kyle looked at Liz, at Max, and then at each other. After a brief whispered consultation, Tess begged off, saying they’d prefer a warm, sunny room to sit in and a pot of hot tea. Seeing that he would be a third wheel now, and having already realized that Max and Liz likely wanted some time to themselves, Jeffrey quietly claimed he wanted to speak with his guard commander about the quarters for his guards.

Max felt that was a vague and completely unintentional slight toward the care offered by his staff, but at the moment he really didn’t care, not as long as it meant he and Liz would be alone on the tour. After turning down an offer from the chamberlain to provide them with someone to serve as their guide, Max and Liz spent a long, sweet afternoon rambling aimlessly through the palace, discovering the throne room, the ballroom, and the library - which almost ended the tour for Liz, once she saw shelf upon shelf of leather-bound books. A walk along the roof of a tower allowed them to look down across the formal gardens which were just starting to wake from their winter slumber.

“Those are going to be gorgeous when they come in,” Liz breathed, as she leaned into the embrasure between two merlons to make up for her lack of height and get a better look over the wall.

Max had taken a quick look at the gardens, but had given up that sight for the superior beauties of Liz’s face as she reacted to the layout of hedges, trees, and pathways below. He’d kept quiet until she spoke, but her words compelled him to speak. “They are gorgeous now.” She looked up and saw where he was looking, causing her to blush prettily and him to grin widely. Liz was so cute at the moment that Max couldn’t help but lean into her and rub the tip of his nose against hers.

After seeing guest rooms, the kitchens, the stables and more, Liz and Max approached the family quarters. Up ‘til now, their self-guided tour had been unsupervised, as there were plenty of servants everywhere to ‘protect’ Liz’s reputation. But now that they were headed into the privacy of the family quarters, Max stopped long enough to get a housemaid to accompany them.

The ground floor of the family quarters contained the family dining room and other equally private rooms for the ducal family’s enjoyment, while the second and third floors contained rooms for many children, including a nursery and room for a full complement of nannies.

Liz had been oohing and ahhing over their living quarters, but when she saw the children’s rooms, and especially the nursery, she looked up, and said, “Max, I have just realized I am going to be a mother before I am twenty. Do you think I am ready for that?”

“I do think you’re ready. If you could successfully handle an old bastard like Lord Howland during the war, surely you can handle a child.” Max replied simply. “And we will have lots of help for you. You saw those rooms for the nannies. But remember, Antarians do not get pregnant all that easily, so it may actually take a little bit of time for you to get pregnant.”

“We do not?”

“You did not know?”

“No,” Liz replied, “no one ever bothered to tell me about that little complication.”

Max was crestfallen. For some reason, he had always assumed she had known. “I am sorry, Liz. I should have made sure you knew.”

Liz was silent as she contemplated this new information. Then she thought of the stories she heard from her chambermaids over the last few years, stories about what men and women actually do when they are trying to make babies. Stories she was increasingly anxious to put to the test. A slow smile swept across her face. “Well then, we will just have to get in plenty of practice.”

Max smiled then, too, and swept her into his arms for a hug. “Lots and lots of practice.”

Last on their tour were their personal suites on the fourth floor of the family quarters. Max stood back in the hall and waited as Liz pushed open her door and peered into what would soon be her suite. A gasp escaped her lips as she took in the huge anteroom. She gestured to Max to get him to join her, but he shook his head and declined.

Liz was confused by his refusal until the maid stepped in and explained the tradition regarding the duchess’ quarters. She then rolled her eyes extravagantly and pointedly gave her man permission to join her for an exploration of her suite. But Max declined again, more emphatically this time, and before she could get any more confused than she already was, he said, “It is not that I do not want to see your rooms, Liz. I do, but it just occurred to me that I would like to save that first viewing for our first night here as man and wife.”

Liz liked that Max was already thinking of them as man and wife, but she wondered how long it would take them to reach here once they were married as she figured their first night together would be in the Winter Palace back in the capital, since that’s where the wedding was taking place.

She asked Max about that. His response was to say, “Not a chance. We may be getting married at the Winter Palace, but we will not be spending the night there.” This was the first Liz had heard of this, so she merely raised her eyebrows in surprise and waited for him to go on. “I am already making plans for us to avoid the kinds of post-wedding ‘traditions’ to which Michael and Maria were subjected.

“After the wedding and the reception and everything that comes with it, it is my intention that we disappear into the North Wing of the palace, as if we are going to bed. Only, once we leave the sight of the people at the reception, we will sneak out of the other side of the palace dressed in clothing appropriate for travel and leave by carriage. Pre-arranged relays of fresh horses will allow us to outstrip any attempt at a friendly pursuit, so that we can be completely private at whatever place we choose to stop.”

Liz rose up on her tiptoes and planted a quick kiss on his lips. “You are devious.”

“I think ‘inspired’ is the better word,” Max replied. “For you, I would move mountains.”

Liz sighed happily. “Yes, I think seeing the rest of my suite can wait until after we marry. That will be one more thing to share with my husband.” She nodded toward the stairs at the end of the hall. “Come on, Max. Let us go.”
Last edited by Cardinal on Tue Mar 13, 2012 12:26 am, edited 1 time in total.
"In the Name of the King"
-----Winner, Round 15 - Favorite Lead Portrayal of Liz Parker
-----Winner, Round 15 - Best Use of a Supporting Character (Jeff Parker)
-----Winner, Round 15 - Best New Fic
-----Winner, Round 15 - Best Period Fanfiction

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Re: In the Name of the King (AU/CC/Mature) Ch 96 3/10/12 p20

Postby Cardinal » Sun Apr 01, 2012 5:22 pm

Chapters 97 & 98

The Welcoming Committee


Once the evening meal was over, Max was wondered if this would be a good time for him and Liz to talk about, and maybe even schedule, the procedure that would biologically turn her into an Antarian. His mother had assured him that the results would be reasonably quick but remarkably painful for Liz, so he wanted to get it out of the way as soon as possible once they returned to the relative safety of the Winter Palace. He just wasn’t sure when she wanted to do it.

Liz, on the other hand, was still thinking about the meal just ended. She had been amazed by the dinner and its featured course, mustard-crusted rack of lamb, which was a longtime favorite of hers. She’d learned early on in the meal that Max had sent a special request for the meal to the palace along with the riders he’d sent ahead a few days earlier to alert the palace staff of his imminent arrival. And while she thought he was sweet, and planned on rewarding him with some special attention of her own later on, nothing would do at the moment but for her to go to the kitchens and thank the chef herself.

The chef, his assistant cooks, and the various scullions and pot boys were shocked when Lady Elizabeth walked in while everything was still being cleaned and put away. None of them could recall a dinner guest ever coming back to visit the kitchen after a meal…and definitely not someone like the future lady of the house. The chef rapidly assembled his staff, and Liz thanked them for their work on her and Max’s behalf, giving her special thanks for the mustard-crusted lamb. The upshot of the visit was that the chef, as soon as he got over his shock, started asking Liz what other dishes she favored so he would have a stream of sure-to-please meals to lean on while he came up with recipes of his own that the duke and his betrothed would really like.

Max had not accompanied Liz into the kitchen. His thought was that she needed to start establishing her authority as the lady of the house. In that role, she was the titular head of the entire household, which included everything produced by the kitchen staff, so if she chose to speak with them, it was his job to stay out of the way so she could run things the way she wanted them.

When Liz came back from the kitchen, and the last of the dishes were whisked away, she and Max led their guests across the wide hallway and into a large, richly-appointed evening drawing room. The men headed to a walnut bar and poured themselves each a healthy snifter of cognac. Lord Jeffrey had only recently allowed Liz to drink full-strength alcohol herself, but since Tess was two years younger and was still not allowed any alcohol except for well-watered wine, Liz joined her in a glass of that to keep her from feeling left out.

The five people continued their conversations from the dining room in the opulent luxury of the drawing room, with the Parkers forming one little knot and Max nudging Kyle back to the bar where they could talk privately.

“What are you doing over here with me, Max?” Kyle asked.

“I saw you and Jeffrey talking today while we awaited the ladies. Did he say anything that you want to tell me? Or is it private?”

Kyle grimaced. “No, he told me first, but it will be publicly announced as soon as we reach the Winter Palace.”

“What will?”

“That Tess is off limits for the next two years,” Kyle said sourly, “as far as any engagement or marriage is concerned anyway.”

“Well…I see his point. I mean, she is only fifteen.” Max knew other reasons, too, but hesitated to speak them. Then he reluctantly decided his friend needed to hear them. “And while you are her first suitor, you will not be the last. These two years will give her and her father plenty of time to meet and evaluate those other suitors.” Max clapped a meaty hand on his friend’s shoulder. “Do not think your work is over merely because you have got Tess smiling again. Lord Jeffrey just put you on notice: every move you make is being watched and evaluated.”

Max, Liz and her family, and Kyle spent the next several days enjoying the comforts of the palace as they rested from the rigors of their journey. Liz and Max proudly led an informal tour of their new home, showing off rooms they themselves hadn’t seen before the day of their arrival.

During this second tour, Liz got a better look at things and started to notice the furnishings and decorations were somewhat out of date. When she pulled Max to one side and told him this, it didn’t bother him, because he didn’t care much about things like that. He did know, however, how long it had been since his parents had first taken over this very same palace.

“You know how old my parents are, right?” Max asked. When Liz nodded yes, he went on, “Well, they first moved into this palace back when they were not much older than we are now. I’ll bet it’s been that long since there has been a major renovation or redecoration of this place.”

Liz gave a low whistle, and Max dropped another load on her shoulders. “So once we marry and move here permanently, you will be in charge of updating and renovating this place.”

“Me?” Liz asked, somewhat surprised.

“Of course you,” Max replied. “Do not tell me you want to trust me with a job like that…we might end up with captured war banners hanging as tapestries in our formal dining room.”

Liz shuddered delicately, and said, “Okay, Max. You win, but I do not want to hear you complaining about my choices…or about the bill for what this is going to cost.”

Max leaned in and quickly kissed Liz on the lips, dragging her lower lip into his mouth before releasing her and gazing at her goofily. “I trust you, Liz…with the contents of my treasury…and the contents of my heart.”

Liz wanted to melt into Max’s arms that very instant for a major kiss, but a slight clearing of the throat from her nearby father brought them back to reality, and she blushed as they rejoined the others for the rest of the tour. Acting as if nothing had happened, she announced, “Max and I have just decided the palace is in need of a major renovation, so do not get too used to anything you are seeing. And it looks like I will get free rein over the ducal treasury to do it.”

Jeffrey nearly choked when Liz announced that, earning him a few light slaps on the back from her. And when he then murmured, just loud enough for everyone to hear, “Good luck with that,” Liz’s light slaps became slightly harder as she rolled her eyes at him, and everyone laughed.

While everyone enjoyed their time in the ducal palace, soon enough it was time to go. When the wagons were finally reloaded with chests filled with personal belongings, and everyone was ready, Max pulled the Lord Chamberlain aside, along with the Housekeeper, for a brief but pointed conversation. Liz asked Max what he’d needed with the staff just before leaving, but he refused to answer, smiling and saying only there were certain small things she didn’t need to know. She eyed him curiously, but let it go, as she trusted him the same way he trusted her.

The trip from Borussia to Königsberg promised to be quick and easy, as the kingdom was spider-webbed with wide, smooth stone-paved highways that connected all of the major cities. Liz wanted to ride a horse along with Max and her father, but this was her first real chance to spend extended time alone with Tess since Max had told her about her father’s proclamation. So, Liz smiled and pre-empted Kyle’s wish to ride with Tess, claiming that seat for herself.

Once the carriage was underway, and the clattering of horses’ hooves and the rattling of the carriage made overhearing them impossible, Liz pulled a tightly-stoppered bottle of fresh lemonade out of a large wicker hamper of treats she had asked for the day before, and asked Tess if she wanted some for herself. Tess was about to decline, as she wasn’t fond of warm drinks on a warm day, when Liz rather pointedly showed her that Max had chilled the bottle’s contents just before they had left the palace.

“Oh,” Tess said quietly. “I keep forgetting about that.” She scratched aimlessly at the corner of one eye. “In that case, I will take a glass.”

Liz had also sent the maid that had been scheduled to ride with Tess and Kyle back to the maids’ carriages so they could have a private chat. That stopped any unnecessary gossip by the maids, but it meant Liz and Tess would have to do for themselves. So, Liz poured out two glasses and handed one to Tess. When the bottle of lemonade was tightly stoppered once more, she looked over at her sister, and asked, “So, how are things between you and Prince Kyle? Has he truly made his way back into your heart? Or does it just look that way from the outside?”

Tess took a careful first sip of the lemony-sweet drink, and then stared at the glass as it rested on her lap, before looking at her older sister and saying, “I am not sure. When Kyle’s with me, everything feels like it did back in Krakovia. He has apologized very sincerely and written me several love letters, and in general, made me feel like I am the only woman in the world for him.”

Liz could tell just from the way Tess spoke that there was another side to the story, and she began to wonder if her father’s two-year moratorium on anything official for Tess might not have been Tess’ own idea in the first place. Still, Liz wanted to know for sure, and there was only one way she could do that. “But…?”

“But,” Tess said, agreeing that there was more to her story, “I have felt like I was the only woman in his life before, and yet, as soon as our family left for home, he seemed to forget about me.”

Liz nodded. “Out of sight, out of mind.”

“Exactly!” Tess agreed. “And when I compare that to how Max treated you, managing to write you love letters while in the midst of fighting a war…”

“You want someone to love you like that.”

“Yes, I do…and now that I do not have to marry someone just to secure a comfortable life or improve the family fortunes, I am determined to have it.”

“So,” Liz said speculatively, “you did get Father to put a stop to any and all proposals, did you not?”

Tess shook her head no, and took another sip of her lemonade before replying. “Not really. I just told him I didn’t want to get rushed. He decided this was the best, surest way to be positive I had all the time I needed.”

Liz reached across the narrow seating area to pat one of Tess’s arms. “You are right, you have plenty of time to choose.” Liz could think of another reason for Tess to wait: if the girl waited two more years to get married, her wedding would get the attention it deserved instead of being buried by the hoopla surrounding Liz’s own wedding. But she knew Tess didn’t want to hear that, so what she said was, “According to Max, King Alexander should bring a number of his favorite lords with him when he escorts Princess Isabel and her ladies back home, and some of those lords are still looking for the right lady.”

The idea of a new set of prospects brightened Tess mood, something Liz had known would happen, and that made her wonder more and more about how much work Max’s friend Kyle still had left to do to win Tess’ hand.

After a few days of easy traveling, the small cavalcade approached the outskirts of Königsberg and headed directly to the spacious grounds of the winter palace. Liz and Max were riding side-by-side on horses for the last portion of the trip, and as they made their way through the capital city, their small, well-guarded procession drew crowds of curious onlookers.

When the column of horses, carriages, and wagons neared the cathedral, Liz brought it to a stop, and guided her horse a few steps forward so she would have an unimpeded view. Curious, Max followed along behind a few moments later.

“What is the matter?”

Liz turned toward Max as he reached her side. “Can we attend some more services at the cathedral before we get married?”

“You do not like the chapel at the palace anymore?”

“No, the chapel suits me just fine,” Liz shifted her position on her saddle and turned more fully toward Max, “but I think I would like to be more used to the cathedral on the day I walk down the aisle to marry you.”

“I guess that could be a little intimidating.” Max nodded his head thoughtfully. “The building is huge, and I have always thought it looks even bigger from the inside.”

Liz turned her eyes back to the cathedral for one last look before wheeling her horse around and returning to her spot in the column. Once Max had joined her, he signaled for the column to begin to move once more.

When the main palace gates finally came into view, the whole column unconsciously picked up its pace, trotting by the members of the Royal Household Guard who manned the gates, and heading down the tree-lined lane before finally passing through the tunnel and into the huge central courtyard. Max quickly dismounted, and hustled over to help Liz down from her horse.

As the grooms walked off with their horses, the prince and his soon-to-be princess made their way up the steps, hand-in-hand, to the wide double doors which were flung open just as they reached the top step.

“Who do you think will find you first?” Max asked, as they stepped through the doorway. “Your ladies, Mother, or Grandma?”

“Well…” Liz said. She paused a moment as the servants approached to take the rain cloaks she and Max had been wearing all day. And as the cloaks were taken away, a second wave of servants approached with both wet and dry towels, to allow the newcomers to wash the road grime from their faces and hands.

Jeffrey, Tess, and Kyle were just coming in the front doors and handing off their cloaks as Max and Liz were holding out their hands for the wet towels, when suddenly, Max was knocked to the floor and Liz was sent flying across the room, until her slender figure smashed into the far wall.

Jeffrey saw it happen, and while he didn’t quite believe what he had seen, he knew what it had to mean. He immediately bellowed “Treason!” as loud as he could manage, even as Liz slid down the wall and hit the floor. That one word galvanized the guards into action. Swords were drawn and guards looked for the imminent threat, even as they rushed to form a human shield around the prince and his lady.

But they were too late.

As Max’s head bounced off the floor, he looked around, desperate to find Liz. Just as his eyes locked on her small, still form huddled on the floor several feet away, he heard her scream in a way that made him feel like he was dying.
"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) A/N 4/10/12 p22

Postby Cardinal » Tue Apr 10, 2012 2:39 pm

Chapter 99

Just Breathe


Liz slumped against the wall and fell in what seemed to her like slow motion. When she finally hit the floor, she screamed until she ran out of breath…and then discovered she couldn’t breathe without more agonizing pain. After that, the world sped back up and everything happened in a confused rush.

Panicked servants fled the entrance hall as the Royal Household Guards charged forward. Some guards knocked the assailant to the floor, while others formed rings around Max and Liz. The guards might have ended the assailant’s life on the spot, had Lord Parker not rushed up from behind and screamed at them to keep their prisoner alive so he could be questioned. Kyle, meanwhile, grabbed Tess around the waist, threw her up against the closest wall, and stepped in front of her as he pulled his sword and dagger to defend her against the unknown threat.

Once Jeffrey was sure the guards wouldn’t kill the prisoner, he turned to his personal priority and wormed his way inside her guard ring – after giving up his own sword and dagger – to help his beloved daughter. Just then, more guards poured into the room from their nearby posts with swords already drawn.

As Max desperately scrambled across the floor to Liz’s side, it was obvious she was in agony. Regretting the necessity, he rolled her onto her back so he could see her face. She screamed again, causing him to wince and apologize under his breath as he swept bloody hair from in front of her eyes. Not knowing how much time she might have left, he looked into her unfocused eyes to demand her full and immediate attention.

“Liz! Liz Dear! Look at me!” He placed one hand over her head wound and pressed down, trying to limit the bleeding until he could get enough of a mental connection with her to heal the damage. “I need you to focus. Follow the sound of my voice and look at me.”

Feeling groggy from the blow, and hurting in places she didn’t even know she’d had before, Liz latched on to the one familiar thing in her life at the moment – Max’s voice – and tried to do as he commanded. “Maaaaaaaaaax?” she whimpered. “Whahappen?”

“Shh, shh,” Max said in what he hoped was a soothing manner. “I will tell you all about it later, Liz, but right now I need you to look at me. Right in the eyes. Can you do that for me?”

“Mmmkay.” And with what to her was a monumental effort, she got her eyes to focus on his.

Giving her the lopsided grin she’d come to love, Max kept his voice soft, as he said, “That is it. Keep your eyes on mine, and we will be through with this in a matter of moments.”

Seeing Max smile made Liz smile briefly, even through the haze of her injuries. Tears of pain streamed out of the corners of her eyes as he delved into her mind, making the connections he needed to access her mind and restore her body to the way it was supposed to be. Once the last connection slipped into place, he read how her body was and how it was supposed to be. The images in his mind of her six broken ribs and dangerous head wound were as clear as good glass; so too was what he needed to do to fix her.

And while he was healing her injuries, the flashes came,: a much younger Liz twirling down the length of a parapet at Roswell Castle; her, Maria, and Tess, sitting for lessons with a tutor; the Parker family attending a funeral, all dressed all in black...faster and faster the memories came, until the rib knit themselves back together and the wound in her head was healed with Max being the one gasping for breath. As he collapsed on top of her, all he wanted, all anyone wanted, was to hear her speak.

And they got their wish.

“Maaaaaaax?” Liz whispered tentatively, as she wondered if her sudden lack of pain was just a momentary thing or not.

“Yes? Tell me where it hurts.”

“I…I do not seem to hurt anywhere.” Max, and everyone else within earshot, heaved a sigh of relief, and leaned in to give her a chaste kiss.

Jeffrey was standing over them at the moment, and while he normally frowned upon the idea of young men lying on one of his unmarried daughters, he was more than happy to indulge the prince at this moment. But when Max rolled off of Liz a moment later and ended with his back on the floor, his breath left him with an audible “Oof!”

That drew everyone’s attention, and when Max couldn’t manage to get to his feet, the panic started anew. Now it was Liz’s turn to worry about him, and as she took up a position at his side, she was already regretting the fact that she had yet to undergo the procedure. It would be really nice if I could heal him the way he just healed me, she grumped to herself. We are taking care of that little detail as soon as possible. And while Liz stayed by Max’s side to comfort him, Jeffrey was busy arranging for help.

“Someone send for the king and queen. They should be able to heal the prince.” After the guard captain sent a runner to find either King Phillip or Queen Diana, Jeffrey added, “No one but the royal family is allowed in here until the king says otherwise. That most specifically includes all other Antarians.”

The captain was quick to pick up on Jeffrey’s reasoning, as he already knew the attacker had used a power blast. There’s no sense in letting someone else with that kind of power near the prince until we have some sort of idea about what we are dealing with.

At that moment, a couple of the servants that had been stationed in the entrance hall made their way to the anteroom where everyone waited before being allowed entrance into the throne room itself. Inside the throne room, the king and queen were holding court, listening to one petitioner after another, when they heard a growing disturbance out in the anteroom. They were content to allow the seneschal and his guards to handle the problem, but within moments, the immense bronze doors were thrown open and the seneschal ran, not walked, toward the dais. A pair of guards stepped forward to intercept the man, but he stopped well short of them. Both royals were concerned, as the seneschal was a dignified older lord who never hurried anywhere at any time. For him to be running now meant something serious had happened.

“What is it, Lord Buckner?” Phillip asked as he leaned forward.

“Your Majesties,” the lord replied, his eyes wide with panic. “There has been an assassination attempt.” Those words were spoken loud enough for every person present to hear them easily. That caused an uproar as everyone speculated on who had been attacked.

“Silence!” Phillip roared. “I will have silence or I will have this room cleared!” When his uncharacteristic vehemence was reinforced with a stern glare, absolute silence was achieved in mere moments. Once the throne room was quiet once again, Phillip said, “Who was attacked? And where?”

Both Phillip and Diana were unconsciously leaning in to listen now as Lord Buckner gathered his composure, and said, “The report was confused, Your Majesties, but the servants who witnessed the attack saw both Crown Prince Maximilian and Lady Elizabeth Parker collapse during the brief moments before they themselves turned and ran.”

Even the threat of royal displeasure wasn’t enough to silence the crowd now, not after hearing that the prince and his lady love had been attacked. And as the crowd noise built, Phillip pounded his armrest in frustration, and then leapt from his throne, racing forward to put an arm around Lord Buckner’s shoulders and drag him out of the throne room. Diana followed along and struggled to keep up with her husband’s rapid pace. Once they’d left the throne room and passed through the anteroom, the three stopped in the relative quiet of the hallway, and Phillip asked a one-word question: “Where?”

“In the entrance hall to this very…palace.” Lord Buckner’s voice trailed off as one moment he was faced with a very anxious-looking king and queen, and the next moment, they were running like their very lives depended on it. When the king and queen found Max and Liz, she was still huddled next to him with a cordon of menacing-looking Royal Household Guards surrounding them. When they got close, they could hear Liz’s quiet words and his slightly labored breathing.

Diana, being the better healer, dove to Max’s side, right across from Liz, while Phillip strove to make some sense out of what had happened. As Jeffrey began to explain, with the guard captain there for support, Diana gave Liz a tremulous smile and then turned her full attention to Max. What had been a trying ordeal for him – because he was dealing with someone who had never been seriously healed before – was little more than a few moments’ work for Diana. He quickly focused on her, and once she had established a connection with him, her power flowed into him to knit together bones and connecting tissues into a whole being once more.

When Max propped himself up on his elbows, Liz fell onto his chest, sobbing loudly now that the danger was past. “Why, Max? Why did someone attack us? What have we ever done?”

Max wrapped his arms around her and fell back to the floor. One arm was around her shoulders and his other hand stroked her long, lustrous brown hair. He was focused on soothing her as she loosed her emotions, but someone else was listening with a colder ear.

“‘Why’ is exactly right, Diana,” a steely-eyed Phillip said to his wife, who had just stood up again. “Whoever attacked them just attacked my family, and I am going to find out who it was.”

“And if the guilty party was put up to the attack by a foreign power?” Diana asked, fairly sure she already knew the answer.

“Then a state of war will exist between Alemania and that foreign power, one which I will prosecute to the bitter end.”

Max also heard what his father said, and he fully agreed, but at the moment, Liz was still his priority. He nuzzled the top of her head, burying his nose and mouth in her soft tresses, just before he murmured, “I was so scared, Liz. I thought I was going to lose you.”

“I have to admit,” she replied, in between sniffles, “for a few moments minute there, I thought you were right. But then you healed me…and everything was all right again…until I could not heal you.”

“You want to undergo the procedure.” It was not a question; Max knew it for truth.

“Tomorrow,” she said agreeably, “if not sooner. I cannot let something like this happen ever again.”
"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) Ch100 4/17/12 p24

Postby Cardinal » Tue Apr 17, 2012 1:37 am

Chapter 100

The Forgotten Couple


Liz and Max wanted to stay in their own little world, but the reality of their situation intruded upon them soon enough. While physically fine, he was a mess and she was worse, and they both needed some time to deal with what had almost happened. Wanting to avoid another scene and have time to clean up before facing the diners at the evening meal, Liz suggested going outside and scurrying around the palace before reentering it from an unexpected direction. Max agreed and everything went as planned, until the moment they hurried up a wide garden path just outside of the palace itself.

There they met two people they hadn’t expect to see for several days yet; Isabel and Alex were rushing up the steps to the palace door just as Max and Liz came around the corner of the palace. Each couple was shocked by the other’s appearance, and the four of them just stood there for a moment looking at each other.

One look at Liz’s blood-soaked outfit was all it took, however, for Isabel to shake herself loose. “What happened?” she gasped, as a horrified look swept across her face.

“She is fine, Isabel,” Max said calmly. “Perfectly healthy in fact.”

Assured on that point, Isabel turned to her brother, and asked heatedly, “Maybe she’s fine now…”

“Liz and I were hit with a power blast from close range,” Max said grimly.

That made Isabel hiss, a sound much like water on a hot griddle. Her gaze grew in intensity, as she asked, in carefully modulated tones, “Dead or alive?”

“Alive…but not for long,” came the reply. All three of Max’s listeners knew the would-be assassin had to be executed for his crime; the only question in Isabel’s mind at the moment was whether the headsman would get the chance to do his job, or if Max would save him the trouble. She knew how fierce he had always been about protecting her – his initial reaction to Alex had been proof of that – so she could only imagine the anger that filled him after seeing his love struck down at his side.

Liz hadn’t seen Max’s face, but she had heard his tone of voice, and could just imagine barely controlled rage contorting his face. She half-turned toward him and reached a hand up to stroke the smooth skin along his jaw line as she looked into his eyes. She didn’t say a word; she didn’t have to, as her touch and her soft gaze were all that was necessary to calm him.

Isabel smiled when she saw how Liz’s merest touch could ease her brother’s mind; Alex, on the other hand, saw in Max and Liz a mirror of the way he and Isabel had come to feel about each other. Much of the long winter months in Anglia and the storm-tossed sea voyage back to Alemania had been spent broadening and deepening their love, to the point that the young king was half wishing he could marry Isabel now, instead of waiting to get married at home in front of his own people like a good king should do.

Now that Isabel knew her brother and her love were well, she batted her big brown eyes at Max and asked him to make the introductions. He happily assented, and thought for a moment before he turned to Isabel’s escort, and asked, “Alex, may I introduce someone to you?”

Alex’s reply was formal. “Yes, you may.”

Alex’s sudden formality made Isabel roll her eyes extravagantly, which showed Max and Liz just how close their counterparts really were. Alex pointedly ignored Isabel’s eye roll as Max pulled Liz to within an arm’s reach of the king. He chuckled at the play between Alex and Isabel. She tended to act so seriously, so maturely, that he sometimes forgot she was still only seventeen years old. Of course, that realization made him look at Liz, as she was seventeen also. Such a burden to place on her, Max thought. I wonder if she realizes all she’s getting herself into by marrying me.

“Alex?” Max said. “This is Lady Elizabeth Parker, the second daughter of Lord Jeffrey Parker, the Count of Albemarle. She is also my betrothed, and as such is our kingdom’s next queen.”

Max then turned to Liz to complete the introductions. “Liz, this is Alexander, King of Anglia.”

At that moment, Isabel bit her lip and looked over to Alex, who gave her a quick nod of encouragement. She turned back to Liz and Max, keeping her eyes on him to gauge his reaction. “Not only is Alex the King of Anglia, but sometime next year, I am going to become his wife.”

Liz grinned immediately, happy that someone else was obviously getting who she wanted. Her first instinct was to grab her future sister-in-law into a tight hug, but she realized just in time that she was still a bloody mess, and instead chose to reach out and squeeze the back of Isabel’s hand while giving her an excited smile.

Speaking to Liz, but making sure everyone could hear him, Max grumbled, “You would think that last bit of information could wait until after I had introduced you to her, but noooooooo.”

“Well…” Isabel defended “…I just could not wait to share our news.”

Isabel was expecting Max to be thrilled for her and Alex. He, however, was dumbfounded. “You are serious? Father’s approved?” he asked, somewhat hesitantly.

“It is official,” Isabel affirmed, as Alex moved in behind her to wrap his arms around her slender waist. She leaned back against his chest when she felt his encircling arms, and rested her hands on top of his.

A slow, wondering smile spread across Max’s face, as he asked Alex, “Do you think I could borrow my sister for a few moments?”

When Alex released Isabel, the siblings came together in a joyous hug, while Liz and Alex stood off to one side, watching the Evanses while quietly congratulating each other on their impending nuptials. Once the congratulations were over, the four of them moved inside, where Liz was immediately intercepted by Lady Irilta.

“Took you four long enough to come inside,” Lady Irilta grouched.

“How long were you standing there spying on us, Grandma?” Isabel asked pointedly.

“Spying, schmying, I was inside where I couldn’t hear a damn thing,” the older woman said. “I’ve been waiting at this door for Liz almost from the moment she and this great big lummox she’s intent on marrying took off.”

“Thanks, Grandma,” Max chuckled. “To the rest of the world I am a prince…to you I am just a big lummox.”

“Well…you were supposed to protect Liz, were you not?” Irilta shot back heatedly. “And you failed…miserably.”

Stunned by her verbal assault, Max wasted no time in firing back, while Isabel and Alex chose that moment to slip away. “What the Hell was I supposed to do, Grandma? We were attacked in Father’s own palace by one of our own servants…with a power blast!”

That stopped Irilta in her tracks. She really hadn’t heard the conversation outside, and what little she’d heard about the attack had been second and third hand. “So it really was a power blast, eh?” She tucked her tongue in the corner of her mouth before looking at Liz. “You really need to be Antarian now.” It wasn’t phrased as a question, and Liz confirmed the idea with a nod.

“How does an Antarian manage to get on staff here? And how desperately must he or she have wanted to kill us to do so? The assassin could not have been bought, as he would never get to spend the gold.”

“Especially not now that he’s about to be executed,” Irilta joked darkly. She turned to Liz, and said, “Dear, go on up to your rooms and get changed for dinner. I’ve made sure your chambermaids are waiting for you. Meanwhile, your ladies-in-waiting are standing out front to help make everyone think you’re going to come back to that entrance with Max, so you should have enough time to get ready.”

Liz and Max kissed, keeping it brief and sweet, before she scurried off to cleanup and change into something more suited to a palace than to a day’s riding. She wouldn’t mind something a little less bloody, too.

Once Liz was out of sight, Irilta looked up at her grandson and asked, “Lend an old woman the use of your arm?”

Max knew his grandmother was as spry as they came, but he figured she wanted to talk to him for a bit, so he humored her and offered her his arm to lean on. They’d made two turns and were headed in the general direction of the crowd in the courtyard before she finally pulled him into a deserted room and shut the door behind them.

Sure that no one was listening, Irilta finally spoke. “When your father finally allows you to execute that son of a bitch,” she growled, “make sure it’s done publicly and that the little shit suffers and suffers and suffers before he’s allowed to die.”

“What the Hell, Grandma?” asked a shocked Max.

“This would-be assassin must be made an example of. The people have to know there is no mercy, no leniency, for any who would try to kill any part of your family.”

“Dead is dead, Grandma. I will not be a party to needless torture.”

“Max…” Irilta said, as she continued her argument.

“No!” Max said, as he cut her off. “Have you ever killed anyone?” His eyes were sharply focused on hers as he asked a question he already knew the answer to. When all Irilta did was to shake her head ‘no,’ he said, “I have. I killed twenty-four soldiers who were doing their master’s business. They had killed some of Liz’s servants and were either going to kill me, or kidnap her. I butchered them like so many hogs, Grandma, but none of them suffered needlessly.

“No act of brutality was necessary to get across the point I intended to make. And neither is brutality needed here. A simple execution in front of the lord mayor’s palace will be a perfect object lesson. So unless Father orders otherwise, that is all that will happen. Got it?”

Max didn’t even wait for his grandmother’s answer before storming off. He changed out of his clothes and took the hot bath that someone thoughtfully had waiting for him as he arrived. Looking at his bloody uniform being whisked away, he knew someone would ‘clean’ it using Antarian powers and hoped someone would do the same for Liz’s clothes. If not, he thought. I will just have to do it myself.

A long, hot soak was what Max wanted, but he knew he didn’t have the time for that sort of luxury today. So once he was clean, he hopped out of the tub and let his servants dress him in a royal white uniform jacket with lots of gold trim on the cuffs, collar, and lapels, along with black trousers and glossy, knee-high boots. Once he was out of the royal quarters, he spoke with a few servants to locate Isabel and Alex and joined them, before sending a servant to guide Liz to the room in which the three of them would be waiting. When she joined them nearly half an hour later, Max and Liz finally got to hear the story of how Alex and Isabel had reached the winter palace ahead of schedule, while they all waited for dinner.

It turned out that Alex had gotten antsy and had ordered the small fleet that was scheduled to escort Isabel and her ladies home to set sail a couple of weeks early. The journey had been rough, as they’d caught the fringe of one last winter storm, but no ships had been lost. The entire party had reached the winter palace a few days ago, with the kings of Alemania and Anglia meeting for the first time. Phillip had publicly thanked Alex for tending to his daughter and her ladies for most of an entire year, which was useful, as later that night, Isabel and Alex spilled the beans, admitting everything to Phillip and Diana in a private meeting. The young lovers had been anxious, desperately hoping Phillip’s initial reaction wouldn’t be like Max’s had been.

They needn’t have worried.

Phillip had paused for a few heartbeats, barely long enough to look over to Diana for confirmation that she had heard the same news he had, before turning back to Isabel and Alex and grinning like a loon. That was when Isabel first learned her parents had been hoping all along that she’d land the bachelor king. That had caused an all-night negotiating session between Phillip and Alex, followed by a joint royal proclamation the next day about the betrothal of King Alexander and Princess Isabel and a formal alliance between the two kingdoms. That announcement had caused an impromptu day of feasting and celebration which had only ended the night before.

Liz then got to really speak with Alex for the first time, while the two siblings caught up. Liz had heard a little about Alex from Max, but not a lot, while Alex had heard much the same about the mysterious Lady Elizabeth from Isabel. They were each happy to put a face and a personality to the name, and neither was disappointed in what they found: Liz found Alex to be a handsome, considerate, utterly charming man who was completely unaffected by his crown; Alex found Liz to be as beautiful as reputed, and completely dismissive of her hard-won fame. As far as she was concerned, she was at heart a country girl named Liz who’d fallen for a city boy named Max. Everything else was just window dressing.
Last edited by Cardinal on Tue Jul 03, 2012 7:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"In the Name of the King"
-----Winner, Round 15 - Favorite Lead Portrayal of Liz Parker
-----Winner, Round 15 - Best Use of a Supporting Character (Jeff Parker)
-----Winner, Round 15 - Best New Fic
-----Winner, Round 15 - Best Period Fanfiction

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Re: In the Name of the King (AU/CC/Mature) Ch 100 4/17/12 p1

Postby Cardinal » Tue Jul 03, 2012 8:26 pm

Chapter 101

Torture


Liz had been expecting to have to explain what had happened to her over and over during dinner that evening. Phillip saved her from that, however, by announcing at dinner that there had been an assassination attempt, that Liz had been its target instead of Max, and that she had indeed been hit by a power blast.

That last comment caught the attention of every Antarian in the room and caused a collective gasp to roll up the length of the State Dining Room like a wave rolling up the beach. Phillip then had Liz stand to show she was perfectly healthy, and ended by ordering the crowd to not bother his future daughter-in-law with any questions about what had happened.

Liz could have kissed Phillip at that moment, but settled for flashing him her most brilliant smile when he sat down and snuck a peek at her. And then the most amazing thing happened: Phillip, King of Alemania, took in her smile and winked at her. She thought she was going to faint.

When everyone finally settled in to eat, Liz nudged Max, who had been sitting by her side at every meal since the day of their betrothal, and asked quietly, “What was that all about?”

Max looked over at his father, who had a very satisfied grin on his face, and then leaned forward to look past the king and queen, to where Isabel and Alex were sitting. Isabel smiled back at her brother, before he turned to Liz, and said, “Looks like you are Father’s second daughter.”

“What?”

“You are family now, wedding or not. Father is doing his best to shield you, when he can do so without getting in your own father’s way.”

That made Liz look past Max and at Phillip again. This time, she was seeing him as her future father-in-law and not as the king; it made a definite difference. She now knew for sure she had won over one of Max’s parents; the other parent she wasn’t as positive about.

After that, Liz’s evening was fine, and while her sleep was late in coming, and then disturbed by a confused nightmare that had her shouting and then waking in a cold sweat, she was still able to get up in time for a quiet breakfast with Max…with a couple of her ladies-in-waiting close at hand. That had been another surprise, as she’d been met in her own sitting room by all of her ladies. It seemed they were determined to resume their duties on her first full day back in the palace. It was a surprise she could have done without for just a little bit longer.

During that breakfast, Liz asked if any progress was being made with questioning the assassin. Max told her that nothing had changed from the night before; the man was telling them the same story over and over…a story no one believed.

“Are they…” Liz was having trouble even mentioning the word, but she knew it was a distinct possibility, so she pushed it out. “Are they torturing the man?”

Max carefully wiped his mouth and set aside both his napkin and his eating utensils and watched as Liz did the same before he answered. “He has been getting tortured since before dinner last night. Please do not ask me for any details, Liz. A lady should not have to hear any of that.” Max grunted. “Neither should most men.”

“Why use torture so quickly?”

“One reason is this was a direct attack on the royal family, or so Father has stated, and that means we need to learn everything we can about the attacker and the people supporting him before there is another attack.” Max leaned back in his chair and folded his arms across his chest before eyeing Liz speculatively. “Did you know at least part of the reason Father revealed you’d been attacked with Antarian powers was to make sure our fellow Antarians knew the danger was real…even for them? Now, all across the city, noble families are having meetings about what precautions to take to make sure they are not next.”

“Today, the heads of houses and their security chiefs will come back to the palace - if they’re not already here - to find out what we’ve learned and who the guilty party might be. And that is the second reason to use torture so quickly: we need to have some kind of answer ready when those people come back here asking tough questions.” Max took a big drink of his chilled fruit juice and drank it down. “The strange thing about all of this is that last night, Grandma just about tried to order me to make your attacker suffer before he gets executed. I told her I would not do that, but here I am calmly explaining our need to do the same exact thing to him now, with the one difference being our pressing need for information.”

Liz reached across and clasped one of Max’s hands, rubbing the backs of his knuckles with the pad of her thumb. “I want to see him.”

What?” Max asked in frantic surprise. Then his eyes grew large and dangerous-looking as he stood, planted his fists on the table, and leaned toward Liz. “No! I do not want you near that man.”

Liz felt like rolling her eyes at Max’s attempt at commanding her, but instead, she turned her focus to getting her way. “He is well-guarded, right?”

“Of course,” Max replied.

“And he cannot extend his arm to blast anyone, right?”

“No, his arms are bound tightly, as are his hands.”

“So,” Liz continued, “even if he did get loose, his guards could destroy him, right?”

Max sighed, already knowing he was going to lose this argument, but determined to play it out anyway. “Yeah, they would totally destroy him.” He paused for a moment and then went on with what he wanted to say before Liz could stop him. “It is not fear for your physical safety that has me worried about you meeting this man; instead, it is the thought that seeing this monster might give you more nightmares like the one you had last night.”

“How do you know about that?” a completely flabbergasted Liz asked.

“I learn what I need to know,” Max said smugly. “One of the perquisites of being a prince.” He set his utensils down on either side of his plate, and said quietly, “I was told you were heard screaming. It was said to sound as if you had been hit with another power blast.

“I did not sleep very well,” Liz admitted. “Sleep was slow in coming, and fitful once it did arrive.” She then peered closely at Max’s face then, searching for telltale signs of exhaustion. “You did not get any sleep last night either, did you?”

His only answer was to shake his head no. “I was too angry, too nervous, too scared for sleep. And now, you are going to insist on seeing this bast…” he took a deep breath, “…this would-be murderer, are you not?”

“Yes,” Liz admitted, “but not to be contrary or to show how tough I think I am; instead, it is to face my attacker. My nightmare was about being blasted. Maybe seeing him and finding out why he did it will help me put this incident behind me so I can get on with my life.”

So it was that, just before lunch, Max and a cloud of knights from the Royal Household Guard escorted Liz through the city and to the hilltop castle which guarded the western approaches to the city. Once they had stepped out of their carriage, he required instant admittance to the prisoner’s presence. That order got them a personal escort from the castle’s commander, who led them down through the dungeon and into the would-be murderer’s cell, before he was released by Max to go about his regular duties.

Half a dozen of the members of the Royal Household Guard followed them down and took up stations inside the room before Max allowed Liz to enter. While the guards had been getting into position, he had been busy also, checking everything in the room, including the murderer and the interrogators, to be sure there were no surprises for them.

Max wasn’t taking any chances.

Liz blanched, and very nearly vomited, when she first laid eyes on the lone man in the center of the room. He was bound to a thick wooden post, with his hands tied behind him on the other side of the post, and his wrists wearing heavy iron shackles. That was enough to assure Liz that he was securely bound, but what had her on the verge of sickness was his physical condition. The man was heavily bruised and bloodied, and with his head hanging down onto his chest, he looked to be unconscious as well.

“Wake him up,” Max said roughly. “Lady Elizabeth is here to see him for herself.”

While a guard went to fetch a pail of fresh, cold water, Max ask the chief interrogator what had happened since the dawn brief.

“Nothing new, Your Highness,” the chief interrogator replied. “When he’s been conscious, he’s told the same story time and time again, with remarkably little variation in details.” The interrogator looked over at the lone prisoner, and Max caught something in the man’s facial expression that he wanted to explore a bit.

“What is wrong?”

“Do you know how rare it is for a liar to be able to stick to his story that closely, time after time, or how incredibly hard it is to do that under the extreme duress of torture?” The interrogator didn’t wait for an answer, as he knew the young prince had no experience with such matters as of yet, so he asked, “Permission to speak my mind, Your Highness?”

“Granted.”

“We’re wasting our time here. Either the prisoner is a rather simple man with a simple goal in mind, or else he’s the most exquisitely trained, insanely loyal secret agent of a foreign power I have ever seen. Further torture of this prisoner will gain the king nothing.”

Liz had listened to all of this with rapt attention, and was about to ask what the prisoner’s story was, when the guard returned with a large wooden bucket filled with water and unceremoniously threw its contents in the prisoner’s face.

It took a few seconds, but the cold water had the intended effect, bringing the unconscious prisoner to life. He needed a moment for his head to clear and his eyes to focus, and when they did, the first thing he recognized was the prince himself, followed quickly by the girl at the prince’s side.

“Nooooo…” he moaned in a croaky voice. “She lives after all! The she-devil lives! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!”

“Do you actually know this man, Liz?” a bewildered Max asked.

She shrugged her shoulders and moved in a little bit closer, still careful to stay out of arm’s reach of the still raging prisoner. “As far as I know, Max, I have never seen him before in my life.” She then turned her full attention to the man who’d tried to kill her just eighteen hours earlier. There were many questions piling up behind her eyes, but at the moment, only one question mattered. “Why?”
"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
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Re: In the Name of the King (AU/CC/Mature) Ch 101 7/1/12 p11

Postby Cardinal » Tue Jul 03, 2012 8:57 pm

Chapter 102

Confession


“Why? Why should I tell you?” The prisoner spat in Liz’s face, which caused every guard in the room to flinch toward him, and had Max wishing mightily that he didn’t need to know whatever this man might choose to tell them. Once Max quit curling his fists into tight balls, he fished into a pocket of his uniform and came up with a linen handkerchief for her to use to wipe her face clean.

While she was cleaning herself off, Max stepped in front of the prisoner and rasped, “Try anything like that again, and I promise you I will fulfill my grandmother’s wishes for you. You, of all the people on this planet, do not get to disrespect Lady Elizabeth.”

The prisoner thought his way through the prince’s family tree and quickly realized which grandma he had to mean. “You mean the Countess Irilta von Schalkenberg? That grandma?”

“Yeah, that Grandma. She wants your last few hours on this Earth to be ones of unremitting pain.” Max leaned in so close that their noses were almost touching, and whispered, “And I am getting closer to allowing her to have her way.” Max moved back and checked on Liz and decided to stand much closer to her than before.

“Yeah well, the Iron Bitch can rest peacefully then,” the prisoner said, before a sudden coughing fit wracked his wounded body with pain, “as your interrogators’ techniques have pretty much assured me of that pain already, making your threat toothless.”

“Just think about this for awhile then,” Max said mildly. “Imagine me using my abilities to incinerate the skin on the soles of your feet. Then imagine being forced to stand on those ruined feet all day long.” Max just smirked at the prisoner, who gulped and wondered for the first time if he’d made a mistake by being flippant with the young prince.

When Liz finished wiping the disgusting mess off her face, Max dropped the nasty cloth into the waste bucket at the chief interrogator’s nearby desk. And together, they faced her would-be killer.

The prisoner carefully eyed the young couple as he weighed his hate for the future queen against his suddenly growing wish to die quickly, with as little additional pain as possible. The ideas of what a man with the prince’s powers could do to his already damaged body didn’t bear thinking about. He now just wanted it to be over with.

“The Evans family is good for one thing: keeping their word,” the prisoner said, at long last. “Swear to me, before God and Man, that you’ll kill me quickly and with as little pain as possible, and I’ll tell you what you wish to know.”

“I, Maximilian, Crown Prince of Alemania and Duke of Borussia, do swear, before God and Man, that I will make sure the man who tried to kill my betrothed dies quickly and as painlessly as possible. Good enough?”

The prisoner stared Max in the eyes for a long moment and then nodded his head. “It will do.” The prisoner asked for some clean water to drink, as his throat was parched, and his lips were papery and about to crack. Once he’d drank his fill, the prisoner said, “My name is Georges Trevillian, and before the late rebellion, I was a senior member of Duke Khivar’s personal staff.”

Hearing Khivar’s name spoken out loud, and in such a passionately proud way, jolted both Max and Liz, which gave Trevillian cause to smile. It was nice for him to realize his former master was still inspiring fear in his most hated enemies.

“When vague rumors first began trickling back to us about a disaster in the field, we denied that our lord, the greatest living hero in the entire kingdom, could have possibly lost, much less in catastrophic way. But the rumors persisted, and day by day they grew stronger, until we couldn’t ignore them any longer. We sent out scouts to gather as many details as possible, as well as sending an official messenger to Duke Khivar’s army to enquire as to the army’s status.

Trevillian took another long sip of water and continued, “Word wasn’t long in coming, and that word spoke of a disaster of the first order. The few sketchy details we knew suggested that an army led by the crown prince and Duke Hanson had crushed our lord in open battle. Other details tended to conflict with each other, except for one thing: all agreed that our lord was either dead or captured.

“Everyone was panicking inside, but we held it together as a staff, until the official messenger returned, much earlier than he should have been able to, and told us that not only had our lord’s army been utterly crushed, but that our lord himself had been taken by the enemy.

“Pandemonium reigned then. Everyone wanted to leave and leave instantly, for fear that forces loyal to the king would show up soon and start arresting us. Some people stole money from the ducal treasury, while others stole rich clothing, or mementos of the duke's famous victories as a keepsake. I, however, took just enough money for travel expenses before taking my life savings and riding hard for the capital.

“As I left, my intention was to kill the crown prince, as the initial rumors indicated he had been the one to ruin my lord. But then, the closer I drew to the capital, the more I started hearing the wildest rumors about a new commander, a mere woman, who’d led the royal reinforcements on a crushing flank attack that had unraveled our line. That was clearly the rankest insanity, and yet…the closer to the capital I got, the stronger and more detailed the rumor became. By the time my tired horse and I reached Königsberg, the woman had earned a name and a rank, and the story was clear.

She was why my lord and master had lost the war and his life. Her last minute rally of her defeated troops had turned the tide of battle. She was the one who must die. The rest was just a matter of getting a palace job and waiting for my chance once I learned the infamous Lady Elizabeth was coming here to spend the winter.”

While Trevillian took another sip of water, Max asked, “So…this was just a revenge plot? No one else was involved, foreign or domestic?”

Trevillian smiled. “You got it in one.” He looked over at the interrogators. “Now convince these ‘gentlemen’ of that and we can get on with my execution. If we’re all lucky, I may last until tomorrow so you’ll have enough time to erect a proper scaffold.”

“Don’t worry about that. Every carpenter in town will be eagerly volunteering his services once word gets out that the scaffold is for your execution.”

Trevillian shot Liz a looke filled with nothing but loathing and contempt. “And now I hear you’re to become an Antarian. Such a fucking honor. Ruin the greatest man in the kingdom and get a reward. What a goddamn joke!”

Max turned to the chief interrogator. “Get him off that post and back into a proper cell. Feed and water him decently, and no abuse from the guards, accidental or otherwise, or else you will answer to me. He is going to die tomorrow anyway. There is no further point in harming him.”

As Liz and Max returned to the surface, and climbed into their carriage for the ride home, she broke her long silence to ask, “Would you really have burned his feet and made him stand on them?”

“No,” Max replied chidingly, “you know me better than that, but the key is, he did not know that. You see, if he knows enough about my family to know which grandma of mine was likely to be a bit rough, then he probably also knew my family has a less than savory reputation when it comes to doing whatever it takes to get what we need.

“It is a disgusting reputation, but after today, I have to admit it can be a useful one too.”

That put a damper on their conversation, until the carriage and its ample number of Royal Household Guards passed through the square where the execution would take place the next day at noon.

“Are you going to attend the execution tomorrow, Liz? I can see where you might want to, but no one will think any less of you if you do not.”

“I will be here,” Liz assured Max as she squeezed his arm. “With you to lean on, I will be able to handle it. And I confess, right now, I want to see him die.”
"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
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Re: In the Name of the King (AU/CC/Mature) Ch 101-102 7/1/12

Postby Cardinal » Thu Jul 05, 2012 8:29 pm

Chapter 103

Becoming Antarian


A morning spent thinking of her near assassination had driven the idea of the procedure from Liz’s mind, but the moment she and Max finished a late lunch, they were descended upon by two women who had not forgotten: Queen Diana and Dowager Countess Irilta. The two older women swept into the small, private dining room and informed both Liz and Max that it was time for them to undergo the procedure.

Max nodded his head thoughtfully, before taking his leave, planting a kiss on Liz’s forehead and returning to his rooms to dress in something more appropriate than the uniform he currently was wearing. Liz accepted his kiss and gave him one of her own on his cheek, before she turned to Diana, and asked, “Do I need to change, too?”

“Yes, Dear,” Diana replied. “The seamstresses threw together a raggedy dress with the skirt cut away on one side to bare your leg.”

“Bare my leg? In public?” Liz was aghast, but she need not have worried.

“You will remain covered until you reach the room that has been set up for the occasion. And before you ask, the reason your leg will be bared is that we do not want to risk the sword being tangled in the fabric of your dress and somehow fouling the sword strike. We want a clean, precise cut so Max can heal you both with a minimum of fuss. We would also prefer to not have the sword drive any bits of fabric into the wound itself, as that could cause other complications. And yes, Max will also have a leg bared.”

Sounding cheekier than she really felt, Liz said, “Leg on leg? And we are not even married yet.”

“…which is why your father will be present. Besides wanting to go through this with you, he will be there to certify nothing happened between you and Max that should not have.”

So it was an hour later that Max and Liz were lying on their sides on a hard wooden table, bare legs touching, strapped together in fact, with their bodies pressed close together. The king and queen were present, as were Isabel, and Lady Irilta on Max’s side, along with Lord Parker and Tess on Liz’s side. Diana was tableside, as a safety precaution in case Max failed, while the finest swordsman in the Royal Household Guards was there, too, holding a razor-sharp blade to make the cleanest cut possible.

Max and Liz knew all this, but their attentions were focused inward, as he worked to establish and deepen the mental contact needed for healing. When they were ready, he nodded ever so slightly, never taking his eyes off of hers. The swordsman had practiced his stroke on animal carcasses, striking deeply enough to cause a mortal wound, without cutting through the bone.

The stroke was quick, and blood fountained from the wound once the blade was withdrawn. Tess paled and then fainted at the sight of the blood. Lord Parker managed to catch his youngest daughter while he fought the instinct to try to save his second daughter, as he knew nothing could be allowed to distract Max now, not even parental concern. The young man had to fight off his own pain, and Liz’s, as he worked to close their wounds.

And fighting the pain he was. The mental connection formed between him and Liz allowed him to access her body and mind enough to heal, but it also rerouted her agony and sent it to him. So while all she felt was a dull ache in her thigh, Max cried, shrieked, then made himself drink in her pain, accept it as the price he had to pay, and forced the twin wounds to close. It was this act: healing two fatal wounds at once, one for him and one for her, that caused the transformation. His power surged through both of them, healing their wounds and binding them together as one, mind and body, in a way that nothing else could replicate.

When the wounds sealed up, the leg strap was undone, the two were pulled apart, and both were covered with robes that hid them from neck to ankle. Max was still sobbing, even as the pain of the wounds faded from his mind. For Liz, on the other hand, the pain was just beginning. Her body would spend the next week or more undergoing the radical transformation from human to Antarian. On the outside, nothing would change, but inside, she was being rebuilt on the cellular level, and while she would not suffer the sheer agony Max had, her pain would be more than enough, and it would last until the rebuilding process was complete.

The pain kept Liz bedridden, which meant she wasn’t able to attend the execution the next day. Max attended in her stead, and sent a note to her to inform her of how things had gone. In fact, he sent her a lot of notes, as did Lord Jeffrey, as they were not allowed to enter the women’s wing of the palace, not even for this. The two men spent a lot of time together out of mutual need, with Alex and Kyle coming by for long stretches of time. Isabel, Lady Irilta, and even Queen Diana did, however, spend hours by Liz’s side. Isabel took the chance to get to know her a little bit better, while Lady Irilta and the queen merely kept her company.

Tess was there, too, and while she would normally have been awestruck by being in the queen’s presence, the fact that her sister needed her brought her determined, competent side to the surface. When Liz needed a cold compress, Tess was the one to order it, and when the compress warmed, she was not above putting the queen to work, asking her to use her abilities to cool it once more. When Liz felt like she could eat, Tess ordered soup, and when she didn’t feel like eating, Tess ordered soup anyway and made her older sister eat it to keep up her strength.

A little more than a week after the procedure, Liz woke early and grumbled at still being in bed. After using a chamber pot, she asked a servant to ask the prince for something to read from the royal library while she waited for her breakfast. “And that is a real breakfast, mind you,” Liz told the retreating servant. “No more soup.”

Upon hearing that Liz wanted to eat a regular meal and felt like reading, Tess sent another servant to find the queen and then rushed into Liz’s rooms. Word of her condition spread like wildfire throughout the palace. An impromptu celebration broke out in Liz’s rooms, but once she got clearance to be up and about, nothing would do but a long soak in a hot bath followed by fresh clothing.

Liz wasn’t ready to leave her rooms until nearly noon, and upon stepping into the hall for the first time in a week, she was met by a maid who handed her an invitation to a private lunch with Max. Liz smiled widely, as seeing him was first on her list of things to do, so much so that she blew right by her secretaries, both private and social, on her way to her prince. And once she found him, she cannoned into his arms for a hug and kiss that felt like it might go on for days.

When they finally broke the kiss to come up for air, Max said quietly, “And now you know why this procedure isn’t undertaken very often.”

“And Michael and Maria will have to undergo this procedure, too, won’t they?”

“They will if they want children,” Max affirmed.

After a little more conversation about the procedure and its after-effects, Liz and Max settled down to a light meal, accompanied only by two servants. And when the last dish was cleared away, and the servants resumed their positions along the wall, Liz leaned in conspiratorially, and said, “Now, about these visions I had when you healed us.”

Max had gotten another batch of flashes from Liz during the healing, but it had never occurred to him that she would get some flashes of her own this time, but she obviously had. Oh well, he thought, I have always wanted to get closer to her. I just hope she did not get anything too embarrassing.

“The visions are something we call flashes, and they are real,” Max said. “What you saw were glimpses of my memories, things I might not even remember consciously myself.” Curious as to what she did see, Max leaned in, and asked, “What did you see?”

“Well…”
"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) Ch 103 7/5/12 p12

Postby Cardinal » Fri Jul 06, 2012 6:52 pm

Chapter 104

Time Marches On


Liz woke from a deep sleep to find her chief chambermaid hovering within easy arm’s reach, ready to personally see to any need her mistress might have, while the rest of her maids scurried about her bedroom, throwing open the heavy nighttime curtains and pulling out a selection of dresses and undergarments for her to choose from. In general, they were preparing to ready her to be seen in public on this, the last full day of her maidenhood…for tomorrow, she was to be married at long last.

The mere thought of tomorrow brought on a slew of feelings and emotions for Liz, ranging from relief that the long months of meticulous preparations would be over, to sheer exhilaration that she would finally be married to her beloved Max. She looked at her bed and wondered what it would be like to wake up next to him in two days’ time. She’d never admit it, not publicly anyway, but she’d been having an increasing number of dreams recently that starred her and Max doing things she’d only heard stories about…things she was dying to finally try herself.

As Liz swung out of bed, and allowed her maids to set to work on her, she had plenty of time to think. She usually used this time to mentally go over her day, especially if one of her social secretaries felt it necessary to attend upon her to remind her of a particularly tightly scheduled order of events. But today’s events had been planned out weeks ago by Queen Diana’s wedding staff ; no reminders were necessary today. So, Liz was free to think of other things. And now that the big day was almost upon her, all she could think of was how fast everything had happened.

Since the day she had almost been assassinated, she had picked up more and more social obligations, most of which were related to the wedding in some way or another. That caused her to turn over her former duties of assisting the queen to her eminently competent chief of staff, who ran her staff with ruthless efficiency. The good thing about the additional social obligations was that almost all of them required her prince to be there with her.

Together, they greeted newly arriving official delegations from all over this quarter of the world. Most rulers didn’t come themselves, as they couldn’t afford the time away, but they sent princes, princesses, grand dukes, prince-bishops, emirs, sultans, and others. Just yesterday, in fact, they had spent the afternoon under a canopy of the most glorious white silk tents, as they greeted the late arrival of Princess Suma al-Kubeisy and her horde of guards and servants from a distant desert sultanate.

Liz and Max had needed an interpreter to speak with the princess - who had been nearly completely covered with brightly-colored fabrics - and had learned she and her party had been delayed for weeks trying to find a large enough naval escort, as the waters near their sultanate’s only major port had been suffering from a surge in piracy.

Princess Suma had been embarrassed by almost missing the wedding, but Liz and Max assured her they were honored and amazed she had made the long journey in the first place, and doubly amazed she had risked pirates to do so. Pleased that the prince and his lady appreciated her position, the princess had visibly relaxed, and the rest of their time together had gone well.

Just as Liz’s maids were finishing with her, Tess popped into the room, hoping to walk with her down to breakfast. When the blonde girl started bouncing on her toes with barely restrained enthusiasm, Liz rolled her eyes and asked, “Who is it this morning, Tess?”

“Lord Ashford,” Tess replied, her voice bubbly as ever. “He is even coming for breakfast.”

“Maybe he will ride over with Max then,” Liz said.

“Oh? He’s going to be able to get away from the Evans family breakfast today? I thought those were inviolable.”

Liz chuckled. “Max said he told his parents he was going to spend the whole day with me, including breakfast. So yes, he should be here this morning.”

Technically, the Evans family breakfasts weren’t inviolable, as he’d had several breakfasts with her while she was still living in the Winter Palace, but since her father had purchased this mansion halfway across the city, Max hadn’t been able to getaway to see her until after the morning meal.

As Liz left her suite of rooms, she looked in both directions, drinking in her elegant surroundings, still not quite able to believe this place actually belonged to her father. Being the father of the bride, Jeffrey was expected to throw a number of parties leading up to the wedding, but he hadn’t even owned a place in the city, much less one of sufficient quality to host those types of social gatherings. And as his increased income from his new position as a count wouldn’t start rolling in until after the fall harvest, he had to find the money somewhere, so he quietly borrowed a significant sum from Max to purchase a stately mansion which was being sold by a family that had lost their noble title and income as a consequence of supporting Lord General Khivar.

Liz was under no illusions that this mansion in any way compared to the Winter Palace, but it was very nice and she thoroughly enjoyed that it belonged to her father. The fact that she and Tess had moved in with him was a little less enjoyable, as it had necessitated daily trips to and from the palace, where she still spent most of her days neck deep in wedding preparations. Thankfully, those preparations were over now, and Liz could try to relax somewhat, even if she was one of the main players in the so-called ‘wedding of the century.’

Tess and Liz descended the steps to the marble-floored foyer, only to find Max and Lord Ashford waiting for them. Lord Ashford was one of King Alexander’s companions and a Duke in his own right back in Anglia. It hadn’t taken long for a young woman of Tess’s beauty, brains, and connections to gain the interest of a few of the foreign visitors, to go along with the increasingly intense competition for her attention from local lords.

During the five months that had passed since her return to the capital with Max and Liz, Tess had been sure she was in love no fewer than three times, with three different men. Liz was sure Tess hadn’t been in love any of those three times, which made her wonder if her little sister had ever been truly in love with Prince Kyle, who was still here and still trying to win her back. Lord Ashford seemed to be Tess’s current favorite, but that title was known to change on a weekly basis. She seemed to be enjoying herself, and as long as she hadn’t made any promises to any of the men, Liz didn’t see a problem with it. After all, there was roughly a year and a half left in their father’s ban on proposals, so there was no point in getting serious just yet.

Once breakfast was over, Liz rode to the Winter Palace with Max in the carriage he’d used to come to her. “Where was your father this morning?” Max asked as soon as the carriage got underway.

“He left a note with the staff. It seems he was having breakfast with Lady Baden at her home.”

Max gave Liz a slightly surprised look. “He seems to be getting close to her. This is the third or fourth time I have heard of them together.”

“Oh, it has been a lot more than three or four,” Liz said with a wide grin. “I do not think he has seen another woman for an entire month.”

Max digested this bit of information before asking, “What do you think about Lady Baden being the next Countess of Albemarle? A stepmother for you, Tess, and Maria after all this time?”

“Lady Baden may become my stepmother in name, but she will not have to raise us. And even though Tess might be able to use some womanly advice about men, most of Lady Baden’s efforts can go toward Father. That is the only thing that really matters to me with regards to her right now. If she makes him happy, I can definitely be pleased with her.”

Max nodded in agreement, and then said, “At least the only family member I have to worry about getting married is Isabel. You and I both know she has been as lucky as we have.”

“Well…I still think I have been luckier than her,” Liz grinned, “but I agree Alex is the right man for her.” Then she looked over at Max, who had a goofy smile plastered all over his face. “What is on your mind?”

“I know how tough it was for you and me to keep our hands to ourselves in the year and a half that we have known each other…”

“Just one more day to go,” Liz interjected happily.

“Yes.” They leaned in toward each other for a brief but heated kiss, vaguely scandalizing the handmaid who was riding in the carriage with them, before Max finished by saying, “It has been tough for us, but Alex and Isabel have waited almost as long as we have, and they have another six months to go before their wedding next spring.”

“Oh my God! You are right.” Liz smirked. “Good thing we got in line to get married first.”

As the carriage neared the gate to the palace grounds, Max asked, “Where were Maria and Michael this morning? I was hoping to see them at breakfast.”

“The servants told me they dressed early and took their own carriage over to the palace,” Liz replied. “Supposedly, Maria has an early morning appointment with the royal seamstresses so they can make the final alterations to her dress for the wedding,” Liz giggled, “but I just think Michael was intent on showing off his wife to as many people as he could manage to see in one day.”

Max chuckled. “Which is funny, because everyone’s going to see her tomorrow. I mean, it is going to be hard for anyone to miss the Matron of Honor.”

Liz leaned back against the headrest and thought back a week to the day when Maria and Michael made their reappearance in Königsberg. The carriage had come to a stop right at the base of the steps leading to the mansion’s massive oak double doors. The guards who had opened the iron gate to allow the carriage inside the property had sent word to the mansion, so that by the time Michael stepped down from the carriage, Jeffrey, Liz, and Tess had been lined up on the top step to greet them.

Michael had only smiled up at his in-laws, as the servants scurried to place a set of steps in place for Maria to climb down out of the carriage. He then turned back to the carriage and held out his hand. Out from the carriage came a long, slender arm to take Michael’s hand, followed by an elegantly coiffed head, and a foot which searched out the top of the portable steps. The rest of Maria came into view then, with her body seemingly unfolding as it came into view. Maria had positively glowed as she joined Michael on the paving stones. What a change she had undergone in a mere six months. It had looked to Liz as if her older sister had wholly embraced her role as Lady Guerin, which was something she would have bet against before the wedding.

But I guess that was unfair to Maria, Liz thought. Maria has always been as duty-bound as the rest of us; she just used to wear a different wardrobe.

Liz and Max had plans to spend the day together, and her ladies-in-waiting were at the Winter Palace’s entrance to meet her. She sent off all but two of her ladies, ordering that the next two could take their turns after lunch. Max knew she’d have sent them all away if she could get away with it. Also waiting for them was a grim-faced set of Royal Household Guards who would follow both Max and Liz all day long, and in truth, be more of a nuisance than Liz’s ladies ever were. Max sighed as he watched the mounted guards trot away after having turned over their charges to the next set of guards. “At least the mounted men can manage to keep a decent distance and give us the illusion of privacy.”

“True. How are your parents dealing with the increased security provisions?”

“Not well. Mother has even been making Father brush up on his power blasts just in case, and in turn, he’s been complaining about the time spent away from the affairs of state.”

What Max said brought to mind something that had been bugging Liz since before she became an Antarian. “How come you and your father do not use your powers very often, but your mother does? I mean, she has shown me a few powerful abilities since we underwent the procedure.”

“Antarian men are trained to be warriors from a very young age. Using our energy on our powers wears us out, which can be a danger on the battlefield.” As Max and Liz made their way into the palace, he asked, “When does Mother intend to start educating you on your powers?”

Liz looked straight ahead, purposely not looking anywhere near Max. “I told her I would be available sometime after our wedding.”

Sometime?” Max was vaguely annoyed by the possibility of a newly-married Liz spending more time with a royal instructor than she was with him.

“Like maybe a month or more after. And even then, I am not going to spend more than a couple of hours on it in the afternoons.”

“I bet that news made Mother happy.” Max chuckled. “I am surprised she has not tried to lean on me to get you to increase that time.”

“Well…she might have, except I was very careful to point out that not only did I need to learn how to use my powers, but I also had to learn the ins and outs of being both your wife and your duchess.”

Max stopped in the midst of the wide hallway and pulled Liz in for a sweet kiss and a hug. “That was clever. Mother cannot say anything to that.”

“Anything to get more time for us.” Liz stood on her toes and hotly kissed him, raking her teeth across his lower lip before dragging it into her mouth. When her mouth finally released his, she lightly rubbed the tip of her nose against his. “After all, we will have a lot of things to learn together.”

Max felt a familiar twitch and gave Liz a lustful stare, complete with amber-flecked eyes that seemed to glow in the morning light. “Evil, evil woman. I dare you try that tomorrow night.”

“That was just a sample,” Liz said with smirk, as she released the hold she had on his jacket. “Tomorrow night you will get the whole thing.”

Max grinned suddenly, looking every inch the predator, which left Liz wondering how wise it was to tease him, and very anxious to find out.

They spent the rest of the day together, enjoying their first free day in months with a long stroll through the brilliant early fall displays in the palace gardens, an easy ride through the rolling parkland out beyond the gardens, followed by a couple of hard-fought games of chess. Liz still hadn’t managed to defeat Max, but she came close in the second game, finally having to settle for a draw. Liz was fuming over a couple of blown chances, until Max pointed out he couldn’t remember the last time he’d even been tied. That changed things a bit in Liz’s eyes; suddenly, the draw looked like an accomplishment instead of a screw-up.

After dinner, they spent the evening with their families and friends, killing off the last few hours before they attempted to sleep with card games and conversations. Liz, Tess, and Diana all huddled around Maria, with questions coming from the younger women, while the queen offered advice. Liz was surprised Diana was being so friendly, but she figured the pressure was off for the queen now, too.

The guys played poker for piddling stakes and chatted while mulling over their cards. Michael was slightly ill at ease sitting across from the king himself and playing with him like he was just another guy, until Max leaned over and whispered, “Right now, he is just my father. Think of him that way for the rest of the night.”

Phillip had heard every word his son spoke, but only smiled at his cards, as what his son said was what he himself wanted, which was a night of relaxation before the long day tomorrow. Soon enough, the small party wound down, and Max escorted Liz to her family’s carriage for her ride home. Each knew the next time they saw each other would be at the cathedral itself, mere minutes away from marriage. They stood together, a few feet away from the carriage, as Tess and Jeffrey climbed inside. Michael and Maria were getting into their own carriage, and a significant number of knights were forming up to escort them. But no one was going anywhere until the soon-to-be royal couple had their last moments together.

“Even with you here by my side,” Max said, as her raised Liz’s hands to his mouth for a light kiss on each one, “this was the longest day.”

“I know exactly what you mean,” Liz replied. “Without any wedding plans to go over to occupy my mind, all I have been thinking about is the wedding and you.”

“One more day. By this time tomorrow, we will be married.” Max turned Liz and then pulled her to him, with her back against his chest. “You will be Liz Evans, and I will be the happiest man in the world.”

As Liz’s arms folded themselves across her chest, Max’s arms moved to cover hers even as he leaned down to place a string of kisses on the side of her neck. Her eyes fluttered closed as she savored the moment.

“I will be Liz Evans, your loving wife, and you will be my loving husband.” Liz shook her head ever so slightly, as she asked, “How did he second daughter of a very minor noble ever get so lucky?”

“I am the lucky one,” Max countered. “I was expecting to have to marry just to meet the needs of the kingdom. Love was never a consideration, until I met the world’s grubbiest stable girl. And now, everything’s changed.”

“My knight in shining armor…or was that just a filthy, road-weary squire?” Liz chuckled. “I was so mortified, and then at dinner, so impressed.” Liz turned within the circle of Max’s arms, and looked up into his eyes. “I love you, Max. I love you so much!”

“And I love you, Liz. I may never be able to accurately express just how much I love you, but I will spend the rest of my life in the attempt.”

Their mouths came crashing together then for one long, heated kiss. Moist lips brushing, sliding, pressing…tongues writhing and exploring…hands caressing soft skin on necks and cheeks. The kiss was only broken when Jeffrey made an overly loud series of hacking coughs from the depths of the carriage. Max and Liz pulled back, laughed softly at Jeffrey’s impatience, and then reluctantly separated.

After handing Liz up into the carriage, Max closed the door and said, “See you tomorrow, Lady Elizabeth Parker.”

“Better get that out of your system now, my prince,” Liz laughed, “for it changes tomorrow. I will see you then.”

With that, Jeffrey signaled his driver to start. As the two carriages pulled away, Max stayed rooted in place and looked at Liz until long after her carriage moved out of sight.
"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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