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) Ch69 8/01/11 p24

Postby Cardinal » Fri Aug 05, 2011 2:07 pm

Chapter 70

Dinnertime


Liz’s chambermaids had her ready in plenty of time for dinner, and she checked the final result in the full-length stand mirror in her dressing room. Never in her life had she seen such a large and perfect mirror, and the intricately carved and gilded frame that was holding the glass qualified as a minor work of art as far as she was concerned.

The dress she wore was darkly purple with light touches of gold trim here and there. It was the most ‘Parker’ dress she owned, as it was comprised entirely of her family’s colors, and her hair was pulled to the top of the back of her head in a pommel, before falling down the back of her head in a cascade of glossy ringlets. As opposed to the dress she wore at the Harvest Ball back in Krakovia, which had been well-covered in diamond chips, this dress had just a few, which were sprinkled here and there to catch the eye as she walked past. Before the war, this had been Liz’s best dress, and it was still one she cherished.

Heading out the door, she checked the rooms on either side of her own and found her sisters waiting for her so they could go down together and make their entrance as a family. Maria had chosen a muted yellow dress, while Tess’ dress was sky blue, a color which always seemed to go well with her honey blond hair. All three dresses had the deep, square necklines that were still the fashion, which was a good thing, as they hadn’t yet had the time to have anything else made.

As the Parker sisters made their way down the double helix staircase, they joined an ever-increasing tide of women of all ages who were heading for the formal dinner. Once on the first floor, the women headed down the wide main corridor toward the south wing and the State Dining Room. A senior servant in the white and gold tabard of the royal service was waiting for Liz when she and her sisters left the east wing and entered the south wing. The man had a full description of Liz from the prince himself, and called out to her before she could move past him.

“Lady Elizabeth Parker?” the man asked.

Maria and Tess dropped back, while Liz turned to face the man, and asked, “Yes?”

The steward bowed low and then offered her a thick, folded sheet of white paper with both hands. “Milady, this is from His Highness, the prince.”

Liz didn’t think she had time to look at it now, and she didn’t have anywhere to stash the paper in her dress, so she asked, “Could you arrange to have it taken to my rooms, please?”

Upon hearing the word ‘please,’ the steward stumbled, and would have fallen, if Liz hadn’t lurched forward to brace him. The man apologized profusely for his clumsiness, and when he regained his footing, he thanked her for her kindness and then said, “No, Milady, I cannot. The prince was very specific. He said you needed to read the note before entering the dining room.”

More curious than ever, Liz gingerly opened the folded sheet of paper and immediately recognized the handwriting as being Max’s. Lord knows I’ve read and reread his love letters often enough to be an expert on what his handwriting looks like. She was eager to see what he wanted to say now.


Dearest Liz,

Before you do anything else, please shorten the chain on which my signet ring rests, so that the ring rests above your neckline. That will show to one and all that you are under royal protection. It could conceivably help save your life, and should help protect you in case your rivals choose to try to humiliate or discredit you.

I wanted to tell you this myself, but I have obligations that will keep me from seeing you up close until after dinner, and it would be irresponsible of me to wait until then to see that you have the protection you need.

After the meal, I hope to sneak away from the crush of well-wishers and sycophants long enough to hear how your afternoon went. I hope you and your sisters are pleased with your rooms.

Forever yours,

Max


Liz refolded the letter, planning to keep it, even though she had no place to store anything on her dress. She handed the letter back to the servant and asked him to have one of the maids take it up to her rooms. “You need not pass any message to the prince. I will see him soon enough myself. Thank you.”

“As you say, Milady.”

Liz then gave her sisters a quick explanation of the letter and why she was currently doubling up her necklace. That doubling caused the apparent length of her necklace to be cut in half, which put the golden signet ring right below her neck, where everyone could see it. The Parker girls then resumed their walk down the hallway toward the State Dining Room, and marveled at the wide, marble-floored hallway that was lined with white Corinthian columns topped with gold leaf capitals. As the dinner guests gathered, the sumptuously decorated hallway served as an anteroom or sorts where the male and female guests could meet and have a drink before the meal was served.

The Parker sisters quickly found their father, who promptly led them around the room to introduce them to the few members of the capital’s high society of whom he knew and approved. After that, he was pleased to hear how his girls had spent the afternoon, mostly because he still couldn’t quite wrap his head around the news the king had given him earlier. Liz looked and sounded happy, so he chose to withhold the information about her upcoming knighthood as it might ruin her chance to enjoy the dinner and the fine company.

Jeffrey had to admit he was pleased to finally be able to expose his girls to a bit of the capital’s social swirl. He’d already received a dozen invitations for himself, and his daughters, to attend parties at various local mansions of the more wealthy and powerful noble families over the next two weeks. Social swirl indeed! he thought. They will all run out of suitable gowns to wear before the second week is over. If the prince had not offered the services of his sister’s own dressmakers…that could have become a problem.

Maria and Tess told of making a few social contacts before Liz had joined them. They were under no illusions, however, about why they were so popular. Being housed on the fourth floor meant their family was well-regarded by the king. That in itself was enough to draw the interest of the other nobles, but knowing they were the sisters of the famous Lady Elizabeth increased the nobles’ level of interest another notch.

Dinner was called not too long later, and as each family entered, a servant with the master seating list directed other servants on where to lead each family to sit. Liz and her sisters were surprised to find they were to be seated on the dais at the long, gently curving head table with the royal family and other notables. The Parkers were spread out, with each woman at the head table being placed between two men.

Three seats in the middle of the table were empty, and while Liz assumed correctly those were for the royal family, her eyes were focused on the blond beauty who took a seat immediately next to the four center seats. She instantly recognized her main rival for Max’s hand, and couldn’t help but notice that Victoria was seated closer to the royal family than she herself was…in fact, Liz was sure that Victoria’s seat would just happen to put her next to Max for the rest of the evening. A quick, smug look from Victoria was all it took for Liz’s guess to be confirmed. She quickly looked away from Victoria and instead took in the white marble columns along the walls, the golden silk fabric running from column to column, and the white marble mantels in front of the half-dozen huge fireplaces that lined the long walls of the rectangular room.

Tess was seated two spots on the other side of Victoria, and the two women struck up a conversation which lasted until they were separated by the arrival of the Duke of Salzerei, Lord Hanson. He greeted Victoria, thankful Max had been able to secure him this position. The two men had met that afternoon, while Liz was chatting with her sisters, and had agreed to work together to position Hanson as the most agreeable suitor for Victoria’s hand. Implicit in this arrangement was Hanson’s agreement to help Max win the right to marry Liz, if the chance arose.

Victoria politely introduced Hanson to Tess. He knew Tess was Liz’s younger sister, mostly due to Max’s rather thorough briefing on the Parker family. Hanson was in a most unusual position: he was highly interested in Victoria, but needed her to lose to Liz so that he could then have a shot at winning her hand for himself…but he knew he dared not mention Liz in Victoria’s presence, not even to her own sister, not if he wanted to gain Victoria’s favor.

The royal family didn’t come in until everyone else had found their seats. That caused everyone to rise once more and stay standing until the king sat. Phillip wasted no time in signaling for the first course to be served. The meal went smoothly, until after the second course, when the king pounded an empty goblet on the table to draw everyone’s attention.

A twitch of his finger brought a servant scurrying over to refill the goblet, and then Phillip said, “We are here tonight, having this unscheduled banquet, to celebrate the end of the war and to honor a family that did so much to bring about Our victory. Rise and be recognized, Lord Jeffrey Parker, Baron of Roswell.”

Jeffrey, who was seated just three chairs down from Liz, had known this was coming. The king had told him that his family would be honored during the banquet. So, he pushed back his chair and rose.

“The good baron first left his rather secure home at Our behest, traveled to Krakovia, and took up residence there to help hide the crown prince from Khivar. When the crown prince earned his knighthood and decided to return to Alemannia to help lead the war effort, he placed the baron in charge of building a supply line from Krakovia to Roswell, and building a large supply base there. And then, his army led the column of reinforcements that marched over the mountain pass and allowed the royal army to win the Battle of Maiden’s Pass.

“Mentioning that battle brings to mind the maiden for which the battle, and the pass she led her army through, are now named. Lady Elizabeth Parker, rise and be recognized.”

Liz had no idea this was coming. She had been content to see her father recognized for his efforts in front of the most powerful people in the kingdom. Having the king himself direct his attention toward her made her nervous, but when a servant stepped forward to help her with her chair, she rose, thanked the young man, and faced the dinner guests like this was something to which she was accustomed.

“Lady Elizabeth,” Phillip said, which got Liz to look the king straight in the eye, “you have a most ardent supporter in the person of the crown prince. In open court he enumerated the many things you did to defend the crown.” Phillip went on to re-list Liz’s efforts, mostly for the benefit of those who hadn’t been present in court that morning, but also to make sure Liz knew the king knew and was grateful to her.

When his recitation was at an end, Phillip said, “We are of a mind to reward Our many supporters in the coming days. The nobles who actively supported Khivar will be shortly losing their titles and lands, thus opening up new positions for those who supported Us. While those who are moving up have not all been decided on yet, We are hereby promising Baron Parker his choice of the Countships that become available.”

A low murmur of approval rolled through the guests, causing the king to signal for silence. “Furthermore, due in small part to the skillful arguments of her own royal supporter, Lady Elizabeth Parker will be honored with installation as a full member of the Order of the Dragon.” That emphasis was for the people who had suggested that she be made an honorary member since she wasn’t either a man or a knight.

Liz was surprised, but didn’t know how big that honor truly was. Maria, on the other hand, did know, and fainted when she heard her little sister was going to gain an honor that she herself had dreamed about since she'd first decided to try to be the son her father never had. When Maria slumped in her chair, the men on either side of her signaled a servant, who talked to his superior, who sent someone else to fetch a vial of smelling salts to awaken the lady.

While the servants and the two gentlemen were taking care of Maria down on one end of the head table, the king stood, which made everyone else stand, and said, “We propose a toast. To our most loyal defenders, the Parkers of Roswell.” Phillip, who already had his goblet in hand, raised it and drank deeply.

The diners responded to the king’s toast by raising their own goblets and saying, “The Parkers of Roswell,” before draining their own drinks.

Just as the king and his dinner guests resumed sitting, Edward de Laney and his daughter Victoria exchanged worried glances. An increase in rank for Lord Parker from Baron to Count was a serious danger to Victoria’s chances of marrying the prince, and they both knew it.

Liz had trouble eating after that, as a suddenly nervous stomach made her appetite disappear. Maria came to just as the next course was served, and was so embarrassed that she forgot to be jealous of Liz, at least for the rest of the meal. Tess was in fine fettle, however, as occasions like this were what she had dreamed about since she was little, and for her, the truth was better than the dream ever had been.

Max found the dinner much more enjoyable after his father’s announcement regarding the Parkers. Victoria was uncommonly quiet after that, leaving him free to eat and chat with his mother. By unspoken agreement, they talked about anything other than his marriage prospects, leaving them plenty of time to catch up on the little things they’d done since Max had left the Summer Palace last spring.

Other nobles, including Lords de Laney and Hanson, were honored during the meal, helping make the seven course meal last an additional than two and a half hours. Once the meal was over, most everyone was full and felt like seeking their beds, especially those who were staying in the city and had a bit of a carriage ride ahead of them. Liz wasn’t one of them, however, as she was expecting to meet up with Max now that the dinner was over.
"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) Ch70 8/05/11 p25

Postby Cardinal » Tue Aug 23, 2011 9:04 pm

Chapter 71


Poison Ivy



Liz was among those who planned on sleeping soon, but a note passed to her by a servant as she left the State Dining Room altered that. It was written in Max’s own hand, and it asked her to follow the servant who gave it to her.

Upon hearing her agreement, the servant waited for the crowd to leave before guiding Liz down the wide, marble-floored hallway to the only other room on that floor of the south wing. The servant opened the massive double doors for Liz, and closed them behind her once she entered.

Liz saw the room was easily as large as the dining room, had three massive crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, and an intricate parquet floor that ran from wall to wall. In the middle of the room, standing under the only chandelier that was lit, were Max and a couple of female servants. Once the servants got a good look at Liz, they moved off to stand by a distant wall to act as Liz’s chaperones, since Max wasn’t about to risk her reputation now.

That concern for Liz’s honor, however, didn’t prevent Max from sweeping her into a heated kiss. When the prince’s lips finally relinquished their hold on those of his lady, the side of her face came to rest on his chest, as she said, “I swear our kisses get better and better. I guess practice makes perfect.”

“Not according to Sir Emmerich,” Max replied. “He always insisted that only perfect practice makes perfect. But for me, kissing you is never practice, no matter how perfect it may be.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah. Kissing you is always the real thing.”

“Mmm…I like the sound of that,” Liz said. Not wanting the palace servants to think she did nothing but fall into the prince’s arms at first sight and then stay there, Liz finally levered her herself away from Max’s chest and looked up at his handsome face.

“I hear I have the ‘skillful arrangements’ of a most ‘ardent supporter’ to thank for the honor the king wishes to bestow upon me,” Liz said with a smile. “You would not happen to know who this person is, would you?”

“If it earns a smile from you, then I am more than happy to take the credit.” Max took Liz’s hands in his and pulled her close for a kiss. “Other than father’s surprise announcement, how was your first day here?”

“Pretty good, Max. My sisters and I got settled into our rooms, and got to spend some time together in something other than a bouncing carriage.”

“Do you like your rooms?”

“Like them?” Liz asked rhetorically. “I love them. I can only hope your parents will be as easy to impress as I was.”

“Don’t worry, Liz, you will get your chance at one or both of my parents soon.”

“You think so?”

“Count on it. Mother will want to see you soon, but I am not quite as sure about Father. He may content himself with some close questioning of your father.” Max bit his lower lip and eyed Liz speculatively. “But bigger news than the honor my father intends to give to you was the countship he has already promised to your father.”

“I know. That is so well deserved…and it helps us, too, correct?”

“Most definitely. It cuts the legs out from under one of the strongest arguments anyone could use against you.” Expanding his thought horizon to include the rest of the Parker family, Max added, “It should also help make Tess more attractive to any potential suitor, should her close connection with Kyle not end with a wedding.”

“True…but it may make it harder for Father to accept Sir Michael as a suitor for Maria.”

That idea completely changed the direction of Max’s thoughts. Michael would be crushed. At least he cannot blame me for the creation of Lord Parker as a count; that was strictly Father’s idea. But maybe…just maybe…I can push for a barony for Michael…maybe even the one Lord Parker will have to vacate to accept his countship. The Baron of Roswell does report to me, through the Count of Albemarle, so my preference in that particular case should carry some weight. I just hope it is enough.

Liz stood there quietly and watched. She could see how distant Max looked, and wondered where his mind was at that moment. The one thing she did know was that it had to do with her older sister, and his friend and former bodyguard, so she was content to wait until he was ready to tell her about what he was thinking.

“Maybe I can do something about that,” Max said quietly.

“Care to share?” Liz asked.

When she spoke, Max looked startled to her, almost as if he’d forgotten her presence. “Oh, sure.”

Max went on to explain his idea, which Liz declined to judge, mostly because she didn’t know the king, much less know him well enough to decide how he might react to his son’s request. When Liz asked where Sir Michael was, Max told her he was probably wherever Maria was. That thought drew a smile from both of them.

After that, Liz took a longer, more curious look around the ballroom. She could just imagine the dancers arrayed across the floor, with the musicians in the small balcony overhead, and a crowd of onlookers around the periphery of the room. She imagined herself out there, with her hands resting on Max’s arms as they waited for the music to begin, and she felt how happy she would be.

“When’s the first royal ball?” Liz asked suddenly.

“I do not know yet,” Max admitted. “With the social calendar having been thrown off a bit due to the rebellion, things are going to be different this year. But if my lady is eager for a dance…” Max took her hands in his and swept her into an impromptu dance that carried them halfway down the length of the ballroom. Liz quickly recognized the steps and her feet did the rest, “…then I will see that she gets one.”

Liz was smiling widely by the time the dance stopped, and as they walked back hand-in-hand to where they’d started dancing, he said, “There will be plenty of dancing in the days ahead for you.”

“Hmm?”

“Your father told me he has already received numerous invitations for himself and his daughters to attend parties all over the city over the next couple of weeks.” Max raised a hand to forestall any instant worries Liz might have. “And royal dressmakers have been placed at your father’s disposal to make sure you three ladies have a suitable number of dresses for any number of parties you might choose to attend.”

“That is good,” Liz sighed. “I have to admit we do not have as many fancy dresses as we might wish. At Roswell, we just did not have a lot of dances and parties to attend.”

“It is not all we do here in the winter, but it does seem like it at times.” Max took Liz’s hand and headed them toward the waiting servants. “I will be sure to ask Mother when she is planning our first royal ball of the season. One thing I can say is that we will have a ball to celebrate the new year, if we have not had one before then.”

“Good. Besides getting to dance, in this room, with you…attending a royal ball has been a dream for the Parker sisters since childhood.”

When they reached the far wall, the servants fell in behind them as they left the ballroom and headed toward the east wing. The southeast corner was where they had to stop, as Max couldn’t go any farther without incurring the wrath of the guards. Preparing to head to the royal apartments in the north wing, Max promised to meet Liz after breakfast for a private tour of the palace. When she teasingly asked why after breakfast, Max let her know that breakfast was always a quiet, family-only meal and that he couldn’t get her in there until after they were married.

“Mother and Father just would not allow it. It is the one time we have to be together as a family and say whatever we want without fear of someone overhearing something.”

“So it is all about communication?” Liz asked.

“Mostly, as well as getting to be just Phillip, Diana, and Max for a short while before we leave our quarters and become royalty again.”

“By the way, Liz, make sure everyone sees you wearing that ring around your neck. When I sent that note to you, it was not really to protect you from someone trying to kill you or to break your bones or anything, as anyone trying that sort of attack in the palace risks execution. Having you show the signet was more to protect you from someone trying to humiliate you.”

“Oh?”

Max nodded his head. “One of the nastiest pranks pulled in recent memory was when unknown assailants attacked Lady Erin McFarlane in her bed. No harm was done to her…”

“No harm?” muttered one of the servants incredulously.

“…no physical harm was done to her,” Max said, “except for the fact that they smeared her entire body with poison ivy. Not being Antarian, the lady was covered, from forehead to feet, with an itchy red rash the next morning and she refused to leave her rooms for weeks.”

“What did she do to deserve such treatment?” Liz asked.

“Nothing,” Max said. “The best Father could ever discover was that the lady had expressed a rather frank admiration for the son of an Antarian lord. Father’s conjecture was that a couple of Antarian ladies decided to teach the girl a lesson about reaching above her station in life.”

“Who was the Antarian lord?”

Liz was ready to make a note of whom to avoid noticing, when Max said soberly, “My father.”

“Oh.”

If Liz had been set on wearing the ring before now, she was doubly determined after hearing that warning. She’d seen Maria suffer with poison ivy once when they were little; she couldn’t imagine having that spread all over her body, especially not when something so important was on the line.
"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) Ch71 8/23/11 p26

Postby Cardinal » Tue Nov 22, 2011 10:50 pm

Chapter 72

An Evans Family Breakfast


When the Evans family sat down to breakfast the next morning, the food was brought into the spacious but comfortable family dining room by a line of servants who carefully arranged the platters, dishes, and pitchers on the ornately carved sideboard before retreating from the room.

The Evanses served themselves, as it was the one way to assure complete privacy so they could talk about anything and everything without it becoming news throughout the palace before lunch. And with the previous day’s arrival of the Parker family, there could be only one major topic of conversation at the breakfast table today. The thing was, no one wanted to be the one to bring it up, so they ate in silence for quite some time, until the king finally broke the silence…and he started the conversation as far away from his son’s intended as possible.

“What do you have planned for the day, Diana?” Phillip finally asked.

She carefully wiped the corners of her mouth before replying. “After breakfast, I plan on checking in with my staff to see what progress is being made on the report they are compiling for me on the status of the families of Isabel’s ladies-in-waiting. I expect the report will be ready sometime today, maybe tomorrow. I want that report ready the next time I talk to Isabel in her dreams. I think her ladies must be going mad not knowing which family members did or did not survive the rebellion.

“And after the meeting with my people, I might take Pretty Boy out for a long ride.”

“That’s such a stupid name for a horse,” Phillip grumbled.

Diana rolled her eyes extravagantly as her husband brought up the old argument one more time. “Yes, Dear. We all know you hate the name, but he was such a pretty colt when he was given to me. You did not honestly expect me to name the horse something like War Chief, did you?” Diana took a mouth-cleansing drink of cool, fresh water. “That is still the best gift anyone has ever given me.”

“I would join you on that ride,” Max said, “except I plan on taking Lady Elizabeth on a private tour of the palace this morning.”

Now that the subject of Max’s love had been broached, the parents looked around room uncomfortably, before Diana asked, with some asperity, “All morning, Max?”

“At the very least. I plan on ending Liz’s tour in the library because she loves to read. It may take a royal command to get her to leave the library once she gets in there.”

“That will be okay as long as you make sure she joins us for lunch,” Diana replied. “I fully intend to spend some time getting to know this young woman. If you are going to take up her morning, I will take her afternoon.” Diana tapped a forefinger against her lower lip as she paused to think. “Better yet, I will just send a note to her father commanding her to attend upon me. Less chance of a mistake that way.”

“I think you will be surprised by just how much you like her, Mother.”

“Speaking of Lady Elizabeth,” Phillip said. “I have set her all-night vigil for Sunday night/Monday morning.”

“So,” Max asked, “you are going to go ahead with that, are you?”

“Why not? It is traditional for those promoted to the rank of knight to stand guard over their weapons and armor, while praying to God all night long for His divine guidance…except for those lucky few who earn ‘battlefield promotions’ like you did.” Phillip took a large mouthful of coffee and swallowed it before continuing. “I have decided Lady Elizabeth needs to be a knight before she can possibly become a Knight of the Dragon.”

“But how is she going to do that? Liz does not have any armor or weapons of her own. Everything of military value that she was wearing in the battle was loaned to her by someone else.”

“Baron Parker informed me his daughter has brought all of that borrowed armor and weaponry with her in the hope of returning it to those who lent it to her in the first place, so ‘her’ armor is already here.

“Her knighting ceremony will be a simple one, with only family and friends in attendance, and with her father standing in as her knightly sponsor. That will be on Monday. Her induction into the Order of the Dragon will be that Friday, and for that event, I expect every noble within traveling distance to be here. That ceremony will be in the afternoon, and will be followed by the traditional dinner and ball in her honor.” Phillip tucked his tongue into the corner of his mouth and gave Max a thoughtful gaze. “Does that satisfy you, Son?”

Max nodded his head in response. “It does, Father. It does.” He thought about the long gallery in the north wing of the palace that led from the war room and ministerial room on one end to the throne room on the other end. All along that wall were gigantic portraits of each of the current members of the Order of the Dragon. He was already trying to imagine how Liz’s portrait was going to look. “Has the portrait artist been selected yet?”

“Yes. We will be using the court painter for a work like this.”

That finished Liz as a topic of conversation, and the rest of breakfast was spent on meaningless chitchat. After excusing Max from the table and watching him go, Phillip reached over to Diana and placed his hand over hers. They sat there quietly, with his thumb rubbing the backs of her knuckles. Once he was sure they were alone, he rose from his seat to make sure no servants were waiting in the hall outside the dining room and then closed the door to ensure no one overheard what he was about to say. That simple act got Diana’s attention in a way few other things could have.

“I am of a mind to allow Max to marry Lady Elizabeth,” Phillip said slowly, “unless you can show me a good reason why not. Her work during the war showed she is a very capable young woman. Her work building and running the supply base showed a logical, well-organized mind, and her work in creating and leading the army that reinforced our son and won the battle showed how capable she is at inspiring people. Add to that the fact that Lady Elizabeth Parker is currently the most popular woman of any age in the kingdom, and you have got a very, very, very strong candidate for our son’s hand. Think of all that, and then tell me that the additional fact that she is Max’s true love doesn’t weigh heavily in her favor.

“I know you asked Lord de Laney to keep his daughter available, but you did not promise him our son for his daughter, nor could you, so what is it? What is your interest in keeping them apart?”

Diana knew Phillip had been putting a lot of thought into the subject, just by how neatly organized his argument was. But there was one thing he had not mentioned, and that one thing was eating her up. “My reason for keeping them apart…is you and me, Phillip.”

“Huh? Would you please run that one by me one more time?”

“You were born an Antarian; I was not. We married for political reasons, but because I was not an Antarian, and could not provide you with heirs without being an Antarian, you and I had to undergo ‘the procedure.’” Phillip started to say something but was waved to silence by his wife. “I know the procedure is safe, but if I had known how much I would end up loving you, Phillip, I would never have gone through with the marriage or the procedure. You will end up losing thirty years of your life because of that. I do not want the same thing to happen to our son.”

Diana was normally a hard woman, so to see her near tears had Phillip hurting, too. He took his hand off hers and wrapped that arm around her shoulders to draw her tightly against him. As she rested her head on his shoulders, he said, “So what if I live for one-hundred and ten years instead of one-hundred and forty? You are looking at this from the wrong end.”

“Oh?”

“Yes. Suppose Max and Lady Elizabeth marry. He will be twenty by the time the marriage ceremony happens, and she’ll be what, eighteen?”

“Mmm-hmm.”

“Without undergoing the procedure, he will live to be roughly one-hundred and forty, while she will live to be eighty. And that is only if she does not contract a deadly disease or break her neck in a fall from a horse. That means, at best, they can look forward to sixty or so years together. Not bad.

“But if they undergo the procedure, she will gain Antarian powers, and live to be about one-hundred and ten, the same as him. So while he has to give up thirty years of his life, she gains thirty years, and more importantly, they gain thirty years to be together. Just like us, Max and Lady Elizabeth would be together for ninety years instead of just sixty.

“Have you not seen how in love those two are? Do you not think Max would gladly surrender thirty years of his life if it also meant giving up having to live the last sixty years of his life without the love of his life?”

Diana nodded her head. She and Phillip looked to be in their forties, but that was thanks to the age-slowing properties of being an Antarian. In reality, they were both in their sixties, had been married for forty-plus years, and could look forward to another fifty years together. Those forty-plus years had mostly been very happy ones, and she knew her son well enough to know he would want something like that for himself and his wife. True, she thought, it would be better if he was in love with a Antarian girl like Lady Victoria and didn’t have to lose thirty years of his life, but you cannot have everything.

“I do not think he has told Lady Elizabeth about the procedure yet,” Diana said. Her quiet voice was all Phillip needed to hear to know she’d surrendered. “And I still want to rake her over the coals for a while before I decide she is good enough for our son.” Well…mostly surrendered.

“Fine,” Phillip said. “Talk to her until you are blue in the face. But I have yet to meet anyone not from the de Laney family who has anything negative to say about her.”
"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 11/23/11 p29

Postby Cardinal » Wed Nov 23, 2011 11:52 pm

Chapter 73

The Procedure


While the Evanses were discussing Liz’s love life, she was having breakfast with her sisters in the sitting room in Maria’s quarters. The meal was over and the girls were just about to head back to their rooms to dress for the day, when a note was hand delivered to Liz.

“Sorry girls,” Liz said. “I will have to take a look at what is left of the royal gardens some other day. Max wants to give me a private tour of the palace this morning, and his note promises plenty of time in the royal library!”

While a tour of the palace sounded nice, Maria and Tess wanted to see something of the fabled palace gardens as well as give Liz and her prince plenty of alone time. Most of the foliage there would be dead or leafless by now, but they could still see the evergreen boxwood hedges of the parterre garden and the layout of the other gardens would still be visible, even if the leaves and flowers of the rest of the gardens were not.

Liz met Max on the first floor of the South Wing and the two commenced their tour. He started off by showing her the rooms she’d been in the night before. This time, the rooms had sunlight streaming in through their windows, and he told her a bit of the history of each room, before taking her through the other floors of this wing, which were mostly filled with relatively unimportant rooms. She’d already seen the women’s East Wing, and wasn’t allowed in the Men’s West Wing, so they strolled arm-in-arm across the breezy and cold open courtyard as they headed to the royal North Wing.

Max led Liz up the steps to the first floor, and the doors were opened by liveried footmen just as the couple reached the top of the steps. This was the oldest part of the palace, and Liz noticed the rich wooden paneling on the walls that was waxed to a gleaming finish, with small oil lamps mounted in silver wall sconces every few feet to provide light.

Max led her to the cabinet room, with its richly appointed table, chairs, and other fixtures, and said, “This is the room that runs the kingdom.”

“Not the throne room?” Liz asked.

Max shook his head. “No. Father makes pronouncements and rulings there, but the day-to-day business of the kingdom is handled here. All of the royal ministers meet here, with Father at the head of the table, Mother at his left side, and now me at his right side, and they go through whatever issues they have that needs a royal decision. Also, father brings his new decrees and laws here to be written down so they can be copied and sent throughout the kingdom.”

“How often does the king meet with his ministers?”

“At least once a week, though Father can call a meeting whenever he wishes.”

Max watched as Liz walked the length of the room. He imagined she was thinking about the history that had been made in this room, about the decisions that had affected so many lives. She never stopped walking, never tried to sit in any of the overstuffed chairs, but allowed the tips of her fingers to trail along the tops of the chairs as she moved.

“Your mother is welcome here?” Liz asked pointedly, as she finished her walk. “She is allowed a say in things?”

“Not by law or custom,” Max replied, “but because Father wills it so. I do not know how long it took him, but once he discovered how incisive Mother’s mind was, he brought her into all of his meetings as his last, most important counselor.” Max reached out and took Liz’s hand, leading her out of the room. “The same that I plan on doing with you.”

“You mean that.” Liz said. It was a statement, not a question, but she couldn’t quite keep the wonder out of her voice.

“Definitely. Even if I had not been intending to do so already, your actions during the war earned that sort of consideration.”

Together, the noble couple made their way down the wide hall, looking into various rooms that housed government offices, and sometimes startling the occupants, all of whom raced to their feet when they saw the prince.

Taking up most of the other end of the first floor was the throne room itself. Liz was in awe as she stepped into that room for the first time in her life. She didn’t want to be, but she was.

“This is where you will be accepted into the Order of the Dragon,” Max said.

“Maria has told me quite a bit about that,” Liz whispered. “She says everyone else in the order is a great hero of the realm, and is likely old enough to be my father’s father.”

Max smiled, knowing Maria must have oversimplified things. “She is right…as far as she goes,” he said, as he led Liz deeper into the room, to stand just before the dais. “Everyone who is a member of the order has done something that saved the kingdom, or a member of the royal family, often at great risk to their own lives.” Max turned toward Liz and took her hands in his. “I still get sick to my stomach when I remember seeing you had left your assigned spot that day. I will freely admit that I do not know if I would have been able to do the same thing if I had been you at that moment.” Liz was surprised by that admission, and when she asked Max about it, he replied, “Well, I am never without my powers, so I do not know if I would have had the courage to ride into the midst of a losing battle like that wearing only leather pants and a chain mail shirt.”

“When is the next session of court?” Liz asked, as she tried to change the subject.

“Not any time today,” Max assured her. “I checked with Father this morning.”

“Good. I would rather my first personal meeting with the king not be a case of me being where I am not supposed to be.”

Max smiled and pulled Liz in for a kiss. “You are exactly where you are supposed to be, Liz.”

Figuring she knew the answer, but wanting to hear it nonetheless, she asked, “And where is that?”

“With me.” The answer was simple, direct, and exactly what Liz had expected him to say, but the words made her tingle from head to toes anyway.

Max looked around the throne room one more time, wanting to ensure that no one was nearby. The massive double doors he had opened to enter were still wide open, which was a good thing as it was enough to keep people from thinking they were doing something in there.

“There is something important I need to tell you about,” Max said. “Something I have sort of been neglecting in the rush of events of the past several months, but my mother sent me a note, which I received just before meeting you this morning. In it, she reminded me I needed to bring up this topic with you.”

“What is it?”

“Whenever a Antarian marries a non-Antarian, there is a procedure they must undergo if they are to have any hope of having children.”

“Thus making it mandatory for me if I want to marry you,” Liz said.

“Exactly…and if children were all that was involved, this would not be such a big thing to worry about…”

When Max hesitated, Liz gave him a gentle push. “But there is more. The procedure is fairly straightforward and safe, but it is not painless. Not at all.”

“Oh.” Liz pondered that for a moment, and then asked, “What, exactly, is involved in this?”

“You know all Antarians can heal to one extent or another, right?”

“Yes…” Liz said cautiously. The fact that this was going to hurt her, combined with Max’s mention of Antarian healing abilities, had spiked both her curiosity and her fear.

“All of us can heal, but it is my strongest ability by far.” He was nervous and wiped his palms on his thighs to dry them. “That is an especially good thing right now.”

“Why?” Liz was sure she wasn’t going to like hearing what Max had to say, but she knew she had to hear it.

“Because, the procedure requires you to suffer a…amortalinjury…and then be healed,” Max said. His eyes were locked on hers and she could see the pain he was suffering at that very moment. “You see, my people discovered a long time ago that a human could become one of us by being healed, but only if the injury was so severe that they would have died without healing. That is because those injuries require a lot of power and some intense concentration from the healer, and a connection on the deepest level between the injured and the healer.”

“So...healing a paper cut will not do the job, will it?” Liz asked impishly, quite clearly trying to lighten Ma's mood.

“A paper cut.” Max very nearly giggled at the thought. “No, Liz, a paper cut will not work."”

“But despite the severe injury, I will not be in an real danger, right?”

This question was serious, and Max treated it with the consideration it deserved. “Yes, exactly. I will be right by your side to heal you the instant you are hurt. And then, over a period of two or three years, your body will change and you will become one of us.”

Liz frowned and looked down at her toes as she digested everything Max had told her. When she looked back up at him, she asked, “Does this mean I will get your special abilities?”

This was a happier topic for Max; the very thought of Liz wielding Antarian powers made him smile. “Yes, Liz, you will have the full range of our powers. Though which one will be your strongest power has nothing to do with me. We shall just have to wait and see.”

Liz bit her lip as she tried to hold back a hopeful grin. “Healing? I would feel like a god.”

Her enthusiasm was contagious, but Max knew he still had to tell her the hard part. “There is one other effect of this procedure that I really need to tell you about. The normal lifespan of a human body - one that does not suffer disease or other illness anyway - is about eighty years. The normal lifespan of an Antarian is about one-hundred-and-forty years. This procedure has the effect of equalizing those numbers for a half-and-half couple at about one-hundred-and-ten years.” Max paused to let Liz do the math for herself.

“Meaning…an extra thirty years for me, likely more than that once you figure in the likelihood of contracting some sort of illness, but you lose thirty years.” Liz teared up at the thought of her Max surrendering thirty years of his life just to be with her.

“Hey, hey! No crying allowed, Liz. None.” Max said, before pulling Liz into a strong hug. As he held her close, he went through the same argument his father had used on his mother. “I…lose…nothing! Do you not see? I gain thirty years, the same as you do. We go from maybe having sixty years together to having ninety years together. And as for those thirty, so-called lost years you are crying over? They are just part of the sixty years I would have spent mourning your loss after your death. Giving up those years is another gain for me, not a loss.”

“Why did you not tell me sooner?” Liz asked, as tears began to trickle down her cheeks.

“I do not know…not for certain anyway. But I think I was so tied up in my feelings for you, and then in helping lead the army, that I just did not think about it much, if at all.” Max pulled back from Liz just enough to be able to look down and see her face. “Forgive me for my carelessness?”

“Yes, of course,” Liz sniffled. “You need only ask and anything I have to give is yours.” She went silent as she collected her thoughts. “Ninety years. I can hardly conceive of such a long time.”

“It does sound delightful, does it not?” Max leaned in and kissed Liz once more when he saw her face break into a small smile. “There is one more thing that I know you will not mind.”

“What is that?”

“Starting about the time you hit twenty years of age, your body will start to age more slowly. So when you’re thirty-five, you’ll look like you’re thirty, and when you’re fifty, you’ll look like you’re forty. Think you can handle that?”

Liz nodded emphatically. “My sisters will be so jealous.”

“They will not be the only ones. Not at all.”
"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. 73 11/23/11 p

Postby Cardinal » Sun Nov 27, 2011 10:18 pm

Chapter 74

The Royal Library


Next up on Max’s itinerary was to take Liz up one floor to the royal library, which was so huge that it consumed the entire second floor. He remembered how proud she was of her family’s library, and justly so given how limited her family’s finances were compared to most members of the Alemannian nobility. He knew the Parker library was nothing like the this one, and that there were thousands of books here Liz had never seen, many of which she had likely never even heard of.

Max took her hand and began to lead her back out of the throne room and toward the double helix staircase in the middle of the floor. The double helix design was essentially two separate spiral staircases wound together in one design so that people could go up one spiral while others came down the other spiral. Since the two groups of people never met, it made for much more efficient traffic flow on the steps. That consideration wasn’t particularly important in this part of the palace, as not too many people had access to the North Wing, which cut down on the traffic rather dramatically.

“Where are we going now, Max?” Liz asked, as they stepped onto the first tread of the staircase.

“The royal library,” he replied. He watched as an anticipatory gleam came over her face. At that point, her building excitement took over, and suddenly she was pulling him along as she rushed up the stairs.

Stepping off the staircase on the second floor, at Max’s direction, Liz saw a narrow, walnut-paneled hallway extending to either end of the floor, and what appeared to be a number of doorways lining each side of the hallway. Nothing about what she saw looked anything like her family’s library back home, and she turned to Max with a questioning look on her face.

“Where are the books?” she asked.

“Pick a direction,” Max said.

Liz chose to go right, and as they reached the first set of doors, Liz could read a brass plaque set into the wall right next to each door. One read “Alemannian History - Pre-Conquest” and the other, right across the hall read, “Alemannian History - Post-Conquest.”

Liz was quick to catch on.

“So, each room is a smaller library dedicated to a particular subject?” she asked.

“Mostly. The rooms on this end are all about history and science, while the other end contains rooms that are all about the arts: music, novels, you name it.”

“The entire floor is the library then,” Liz said. Her voice was filled with awe, as she could barely contemplate having that many books. “Can I…umm, can I have a look?” She was nervously biting her lower lip, as if afraid he might deny her request, but there was as little chance of that as there was of the sun rising in the west.

All Max did was gesture for her to precede him down the hall, something that would have caused a mild scandal if he had done it in public, but up here with no one to see them, he didn’t care if Liz went first. He just wanted to watch her as she discovered the varied delights that were awaiting her.

Liz wasted no time in taking advantage of the access Max was allowing her. She scurried down the hall, moving from door to door as she tried to choose which room she wanted to look at first. Max followed at a distance, wondering if his lady love would be able to choose on her own, as every door she came to seemed to intrigue her.

But finally, Liz came to a door marked “Heraldry.” She turned to Max and waited for him to catch up with her. “Is this room all about the coats of arms of every noble and knight in the kingdom?” She was pretty sure she was right, but wanted confirmation.

“Yes.” Max produced a large brass key and inserted it into the lock. When the door opened, he stepped into the room and walked to the far side to pull open the heavy black felt curtains and let the sunlight pour into the room. Once it was bright enough inside to see, Liz followed Max into the room.

She walked along the shelves and looked at the richly decorated, leather bound volumes and was surprised by the lack of dust. When she asked Max about that, he smiled and told her the housekeeping staff had a number of housemaids whose sole job was to keep the books dust free. Liz’s smile was all he needed to see to know she approved.

“You know,” Max said, as he leaned back against the window sill, “you’re going to have a place in here soon.”

That stopped Liz in her tracks. “Oh? How so?”

“Once you become a knight, one of the things you will have to do is select your own coat of arms.”

Liz had suspected something like that, which was why she had stopped at this room. Also, she was fairly sure she didn’t have the time right now for a thorough exploration of any of the other rooms, not with lunch being so close, so she had intentionally left those for another day.

“Are there any rules about what I choose?”

“Not many, but your choice has to be approved by the Marshal of Alemannia, who at the current moment is trying to marry his daughter to me.”

“You are kidding me.”

“No. I am afraid not. Duke Edward de Laney holds the position of Marshal of Alemannia.” He shrugged his shoulders. “Just one of life’s little coincidences. You could, of course, just choose to use your father’s coat of arms, or maybe start with his and make a few changes.”

“I will not worry about it too much, Max,” Liz said, after a moment’s thought, “because once I marry you, I will get the royal arms, will I not?”

“For sure. A golden dragon on a white field. I can just imagine the royal armorers making a tiny suit of white-enameled plate armor for you to wear. It would likely be the first breastplate they had ever made that had to take into account actual breasts.” Max snickered as he tried to imagine the armorers at their forges trying to hammer out the necessary rounded shapes.

Liz continued to check out some of the more personally interesting rooms of the royal library, making plans to come back later for a more thorough investigation when she had more time, before a servant came to find the prince and his lady to let them know lunch was being served.

“Has your father talked to you about receiving a note from my mother?” Max asked.

“No. Why?”

Max sighed. “Since he has not, it is my duty to inform you that the queen commands your attendance upon her for lunch and for much, if not all, of the afternoon.” Liz’s eyebrows rose and her eyeballs threatened to pop out of her face as she heard the unexpected news. “Sorry I did not tell you earlier, but Mother was supposed to send a note to your father, so he could tell you himself.”

“Oh,” Liz said. “Where am I supposed to meet Her Majesty?”

The servant who’d informed them lunch was ready was still standing just inside the open doorway. Max signaled for the girl and asked where the queen was to be found.

“In the family quarters, Your Highness,” the girl replied. “Her Majesty was going to eat in her private solarium, but the king decided to join her and so the meal was shifted to the family dining room.” The servant turned to Liz. “I was specifically ordered to escort Lady Elizabeth, as she has been given permission to enter the family quarters for this occasion.”

Liz knew by now she was a braver woman than she would have ever believed before the war, but that did not help her much now, as her knees nearly buckled upon finding out she was to have a private meal and audience with the king and queen. Minutes later, she was being led past the burly guards that watched the third floor entrance to the family quarters, and was headed for the small family dining room.

As she approached the open door, she whispered a nearly silent prayer. “God? I know I do not talk to you as often as I should, especially given what I have been through recently, and I am sorry about that. Things have just been crazy this year. I will try to do better in the future. What I would like now, however, is for just a little more grace, a little more composure, to deal with this meeting. So much is riding on this, and I do not want to let Max down. Not now, not when we have come so far.”

And then Liz was there. By royal command, she was reintroduced to the king and queen, who then had themselves reintroduced as a way to hopefully break the ice so they could get a good read on her.

“Please sit down, Lady Elizabeth,” the king said pleasantly.

When she sat, the queen nodded at a servant, who rushed in to give Liz the choices available for her meal. After she’d made her order, the servant disappeared, and the room became very quiet.

Liz knew better than to speak unless spoken to and thus waited patiently. She spent her time looking around the richly appointed room, with its elegant furniture and exquisitely embroidered tapestries, and wondered at the wealth this one small room hinted at. The Evanses waited a long time to speak, testing Liz to see if her nerves would crack and she would begin talking out of turn like so many others.

When they finally came to the conclusion that Liz wasn’t giving in, Phillip cleared his throat and prepared to speak. Diana eyed her husband, wondering what he was doing here in the first place. This was supposed to be a private meeting between her and this girl everyone was trying to foist on her and her son. For his part, Phillip had decided at the very last minute to sit in on the meal, as he really was curious about this girl, and because he wanted to make sure Diana wasn’t too rough with her.

“First off, Lady Elizabeth,” Phillip said, “I want to thank you personally for saving the lives of my family and for saving my crown.”

“I, too, wish to express my most profound thanks,” Diana added somewhat hastily.

“You are most welcome, Your Majesties,” Liz said cautiously, “but I have to be truthful and admit I was thinking more about saving the life of your son, than saving your lives and the crown when I rode into battle.” When prompted by the Evanses, who hadn’t heard this part of the story, Liz told how she had been led to believe their son Max was in fact a squire, and then a knight, by the name of Zan.”

The two royals eyed each other and were about to say something when the meals arrived fresh from the kitchens, which were in the basement directly beneath the North Wing. The smell was so delicious, that all conversation came to a close as the three concentrated on enjoying every morsel of their meals. When the last plate was pushed away, Liz waited for someone else to speak.

The king and queen ended up quizzing her on what had happened, from the time she had met their son and he mistook her for a stable boy - an event that had both Evanses laughing at their son’s misfortune - right up until the end of the battle, when she had charged into battle to save their son.

“He really killed twenty-four men?” Phillip asked again, at the end of Liz’s story. “I did not think he had it in him to kill when necessary.”

“I do not think he would have killed quite so readily if he had been the only one there,” Liz replied, “but I was at risk, and so was my dressmaker, and so were a number of my father’s men. We all would have died that day without my squire.”

Both Evanses heard the deep affection in Liz’s voice when she called Max ‘my squire,’ and they shared a look that needed no words to get across its meaning. The king didn’t need to hear anything more; Liz had just confirmed his intention to allow the match. And as for the queen, her walls were beginning to crumble.

“If you will excuse us now, Phillip,” Diana said, “I would like to take the young lady for a private walk.” The king smiled indulgently and excused himself from the table, gesturing to both women to remain seated as he rose, and then kissing his wife on the forehead before leaving the room.

When the queen stood, Liz stood also and followed her from the room. After Diana indicated a desire for a long walk down the crushed gravel pathways of the royal gardens, Liz was allowed to ask for a servant to visit her suite and come back with a suitable cloak from her wardrobe.

“Did my son tell you about the procedure this morning?” the queen asked, as they waited for Liz’s coat to arrive. Diana knew Max was supposed to have told Liz by now, but she wasn’t taking any chances.

“Yes, Your Majesty.”

“What exactly did he tell you?”

Liz told the queen what Max had told her: how she would have to suffer a mortal injury before being healed by him, and that over a period of two or three years, her body would change and she would become an Antarian. “I am not completely happy to be gaining so much at his expense, but he explained that in his eyes, he is gaining, too, and…well, I will have to learn to be happy with that.”

Damn that ignorant boy! The queen dry-washed her face before looking at Liz. “I am sorry, Lady Elizabeth, but Maximilian only told you part of the story, and part of what he did tell you was wrong.”

“What did he leave out, Your Majesty?”

“The part of the procedure he told you about would be all that is necessary, if we were only worried about making you partially Antarian. You would gain a few abilities of your own, and it would be over a two or three year period, but it would not make it possible for you to bear an Antarian’s child.”

“Then what would do the trick?”

“To make you fully Antarian, to make it possible for you to bear my son’s child, you both must suffer mortal wounds and then Maximilian must heal you both at the same time. He using his healing power to save you both at the same time will form a most powerful bond between you, one that will blend your life-forces together and grant you our full range of powers. And unlike what he told you, the change will take place over a matter of days, not years.” Liz smiled beatifically until Diana finished what she had to say. “Those few days will be a whole new world of pain for you to discover.”

Shocked by what she’d just heard, Liz mulled it over quietly until a servant approached with her coat. “Why did he not tell me?” she asked, at long last. Her tone of voice evinced not a little hurt that Max might have kept something so important from her.

“My son was a very good student of our Antarian abilities, except when it came to some of the more esoteric uses of them. My guess is that Maximilian got his lessons confused in his mind. He probably never expected to need this particular bit of Antarian lore, and thus paid little attention when I taught it to him.”

Liz was helped into her fur cloak by the servant who had retrieved it. The queen wrapped her own cloak around her before heading out of the palace into the back garden and its wide pathways, with Liz right behind. The young heroine couldn’t imagine what the queen had to say next, but she definitely wasn’t ready for what she heard.

http://i731.photobucket.com/albums/ww320/Card1na15/PalaceGarden.jpg
"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. 74 11/27/11 p

Postby Cardinal » Sat Dec 17, 2011 11:36 pm

Chapter 75

Arrival


The garden’s bright flowers were gone, and the grass was winter brown, but the coniferous trees lent a strong green to the view in every direction, and the tea house on top of the ridge behind the palace was outlined against the clear blue sky. The crushed gravel of the garden paths crunched under their feet as they walked, and Liz thought she could see her sisters down at the far end of the garden, sitting on the coping of the massive fountain which had been drained for the winter. Liz walked a step behind and a step to the side of the queen, and as always, waited for the queen to speak first.

The queen had seen the signet ring on the chain around Liz’s neck. She didn’t like the girl wearing such a potent royal symbol like it was common jewelry, but she admired the lengths her son was willing to go to when it came to protecting his lady love from a potentially humiliating personal attack. This Lady Elizabeth might make a very fine mistress for him, Diana thought, should he find Lady Victoria less than acceptable after they marry.

“You know, Lady Elizabeth,” Diana finally said, “you are somewhat like me.”

“You honor me, Your Majesty,” Liz replied, “but I would never presume…”

“Yes, yes, I know you would not, but the similarity is there anyway.” Diana eyed the young woman who was looking more and more like her successor, but not just yet. “Like you, I was not considered to be a serious contender for the hand of the crown prince. In fact, most of the people who mattered could not have named either you or me when our respective mating games became serious. My father was a count of middling power and wealth, while your father is a border baron who makes my family look rich.

“And yet, we both came from nowhere to snatch the hand of the crown prince.

“We are also both accounted as particularly intelligent women. I am the king’s closest advisor, a position earned with years of loyal service and shrewd advice, while your actions during the rebellion just past are already taking on legendary status in the kingdom. Building that base and then getting those male chauvinists to follow your orders as you led them to battle showed intelligence, the ability to delegate, and sheer political guile.”

“Thank you, your Majesty.” It was all Liz could think to say until the queen asked her a question.

“But that is where the similarities end. I had no personal interest in the prince when I was your age. My parents were political infighters of the first rank, however, and mother was particularly determined that I would marry above my station and drag my family with me to higher status. In the end, I married the prince because it was my duty to my family and to the kingdom to do so.”

Diana paused and gave Liz a steely glare. “What about your duty to the kingdom, Lady Elizabeth?”

“Your Majesty?” Liz asked. She was confused, as she believed she had always done her duty, whether to the kingdom or her family.

“What kind of king do you believe my son will become?”

Even a slight mention of Max was enough to make Liz smile radiantly. “I think he will be very good for Alemannia, Your Majesty.” I intend to do everything I can to help him. Liz knew better than to voice that last thought, as she didn’t want to do anything to irritate the queen.

“You think Maximilian will be ‘very good for Alemannia,’ and yet you are set on following a course of action that will kill him.” Liz’s eyes widened, even as Diana pressed her attack. “Your wish to marry my son, instead of allowing him to marry one of his own people, will kill him…and it will do so thirty years early.

“That’s thirty years where the kingdom should be benefiting most from Maximilian’s accumulated wisdom and experience, instead of being led by an untried boy, and it will all be because you two are giving in to your own selfish desires.

“But there’s still time. Time to end this foolishness before it goes too far. The future of the kingdom may depend on it.” Liz waited, wondering if the queen had more to say. “Well, Girl? Say something!”

“If your father was just a count, your Majesty, then…” Liz was thinking on the fly, and yet, trying to choose her words carefully as she did, “…then you were not born Antarian either, which means your marriage to the king shortened his life, too.” Liz then asked a very pointed question. “What made your marriage any different from what Maximilian and I want?”

“You may need to delve a little deeper into the history of Alemania,” Diana said derisively, “because what you do not seem to know is that Maximilian grandfather, the previous king, was in a much more precarious position at that time than Phillip was during the recent rebellion.

“Phillip just had to survive a single charismatic strongman, while his father was new to the throne and had at least three major factions that wanted to bring him down. He was desperate to solidify his hold on the throne; my parents had just what he needed to do so and they knew it.

“To make a long story short, the kingdom needed immediate political stability far more than it needed Phillip to live an additional thirty years at the end of his life, so my parents used their privileged position to force a marriage.

“You, on the other hand, do nothing special for the kingdom right now other than being your lovely self, and yet you still wish to end my son’s life early to fulfill your own selfish desires…how is that fulfilling your duty to the kingdom?”

Liz had no answer for that question and she began to tear up. She hated crying over something like this, especially in front of the person who’d made her upset in the first place, and she was fighting so hard to not cry that she never noticed the liveried servant who rushed to within a respectful distance of the queen and waited to be recognized and called forward.

Seeing Liz about to fall to pieces, Diana wanted nothing more than to give her one last push, but she knew a servant wouldn’t dare bother her at this moment unless the message was of true importance. Assuming the servant had come straight from the king, she waved the young man forward. Not having been given permission to leave the royal presence, Liz stayed close to the queen as she tried to gather herself. I will not let her see me cry! Liz thought. I can’t!

“What do you have for me?” Diana asked. She wanted to deal quickly with the servant and his message so she could get back to working on Liz.

The servant moved to the proper distance and swept into an elegant bow, “The seneschal bids me inform Your Majesty that a visitor of particular interest to your august self has just arrived at the palace.”

“Oh? Do tell.” Diana commanded, even as she privately wondered which jumped up minor nobility it was this time. She was going to have to have a talk with the seneschal about who was truly important and who could be handled by the regular protocol.

“Your Majesty, the Dowager Countess of Hannsberg, Irilta Von Schalkenberg has arrived at the palace and is even now claiming rooms just down the hall from Princess Isabel’s suite.”

Diana’s face went from flushed to ghostly pale in little more than a couple of seconds. If there was one person on the planet she did not want to see right now, who she had in fact hoped to never see again, it was the dowager countess, who was known otherwise to Diana as Mother. The queen’s mind went into a tizzy and all thoughts of hammering away at Liz were forgotten. What in the Hell could Mother be doing back here? Diana fretted. Doesn’t that nosy bitch have enough to keep her busy elsewhere? If not, I am sure I can find something for her to do that involves leaving the palace.

“I’m sorry, Lady Elizabeth,” Diana said hurriedly, “but we will have to continue this interview at a later date.”

Liz watched the queen scurry off, wondering why she was leaving, but mostly just happy that she was. She had been surprised to be ordered to eat with the king and queen and then to be taken on a walk by the queen, but she was not the only one to be surprised with a lunch invitation that day. As one servant led Liz to her private lunch, another came to Max and handed him a note. He instantly recognized the writing as being his mother’s, and what it said was that she wanted him to have lunch with Lady Victoria, at the very least, and then spend some time with her in the afternoon while Lady Elizabeth was otherwise occupied.

Now that Max was an adult, he didn’t have to follow her orders, but he didn’t want to make her angry by rejecting a meeting she had likely already set up. He thought about it for a minute and finally decided to go when he realized this was a prime chance for him to advance Lord Hanson’s chances with Victoria.

Max met Victoria in a comfortably warm, well-lit sitting room on the fourth floor of the South Wing. A table was already set for an elegant meal for two, and she rose as he entered the room. She turned toward him and curtseyed low as he approached her.

Max stopped and sighed. “It is just you and me, Vicki, please do not act like that.”

Victoria took his words as permission to rise. “Why not, Max?” she asked. “You have been home for some time now and have not come to see me even once. I know things between us are a little difficult because of the marriage stuff, but not seeing you at all makes me feel like we are not even friends any more.”

Max knew there was some truth to what she said, but he’d been busy with Liz, and he’d also made a conscious decision to avoid Victoria so no one, including Liz, got any wrong ideas about him and her. “I cannot be spending a lot of private time with you, Vicki. People would talk.”

“Is that so bad, Max?” Victoria said as she stepped within arm’s reach of him and placed her hands on his muscular biceps. “I can remember a time when you wanted nothing more than to be with me.” Her voice smoldered and so did her eyes. Victoria was throwing everything into this, as she thought it might be her last chance to make some headway with him. There were two servants in the room, standing up against the wall and waiting for orders, but she knew they wouldn’t move an inch unless called for.

Max stepped back as he brushed her hands from her arms. “I thought I loved you once,” he admitted. “But that was years ago. I was just a child, and so were you.”

“Why Lady Elizabeth?” Victoria asked. Her voice was shaky, as were her hands. “Why are you so fixed on her that no one else has a chance?”

Instead of answering her question, Max responded with one of his own. “Why are you so fixed on me? Many men would dearly love to pay court to you.” He stepped around her and headed for the table, determined to eat as quickly as possible and end this arranged meeting. When he moved to sit, a servant stepped forward and seated Victoria. “One particularly worthy man has pursued you for some time, but now that my mother has asked your father to hold off on any contracts, he can get no response from your father.”

Once they were both seated, the servants stepped forward again and plated the first course of the meal on their chargers, before pouring a goblet of wine for each and then retreating to their positions along the wall.

Curious in spite of her goal, she asked, “Who? Father has told me of no one.”

“The Duke of Salzerei, Lord Hanson.” Max watched Victoria closely and saw the surprise that washed across her face.

“I…umm…really?” Victoria set her utensils down and took a long drink of the light, fruity white wine. As she swallowed the faintly sweet drink, she allowed herself to think about Lord Hanson for a moment. The Hansons…a proper Antarian family…wealthy, powerful, and popular with the royal family after his actions in the rebellion, Victoria thought. Personally, he’s not especially handsome, but not repulsive. Intelligent, well-spoken, and polite. But somewhat old. He’s got to be thirty years old if he’s a day. Still, knowing that such a man was interested in her to the point of pursuing her hand was a definite feather in her cap. “Why hasn’t Father mentioned him?”

“Do you really need me to answer that?”

Victoria shook her head. “No. He wants me focused on you.”

“Please understand this, Victoria,” Max said impassionedly. “My parents can prevent me from marrying Liz, but they cannot force me to marry anyone else.” He paused to make sure she was listening carefully. “This is not in any way meant as a slight on you, but I will never marry anyone but Liz. Never.”

Victoria swallowed hard, even though she didn’t have anything in her throat, and the two of them turned to their meal, eating it in companionable silence. After the meal was finished and the dishes were taken away, Max felt comfortable enough with Victoria that he didn’t mind taking her on a walk inside the palace. He pulled aside the first servant he saw and ordered him to find Duke Hanson and have him start walking the halls of the South Wing.

When Max and Victoria ran into Lord Hanson, the prince asked the duke to join them. His job after that was nothing more than to facilitate conversation between the duke and his intended. They were doing well, with little help, when a servant approached him, much as one was at that moment approaching the queen.

“Your Highness,” the servant said, after being signaled to approach, “the Dowager Countess of Hannsberg, Irilta Von Schalkenberg has arrived at the palace and is claiming a suite next to Princess Isabel’s suite.”

Hearing that his grandmother had broken her self-imposed exile and returned to the palace hit Max hard. “Grandmother’s come home?” he couldn’t manage to repress the smile that swamped his face. “Does anyone else know?”

“Servants have been sent to the rest of the royal family, Your Highness,” Max was assured.

Max then made his excuses to the duke and lady and headed for the courtyard at a fast walk. As he walked, he wondered where the rest of his family was. The prince would not have been surprised to learn his father was still in the family quarters, as he had never liked his mother-in-law, and that his mother was out back in the garden, heading his way.

When he saw his mother pop out of the north wing of the palace, he wondered where Liz was, as he knew the two of them had been scheduled to spend the afternoon together. A few quick questions directed at the Lord Chamberlain – who had just showed up to oversee the dowager countess’ arrival – let him know his mother had just been out back in the gardens. Wondering why she had been abandoned, he was torn between meeting his grandma for the first time in years and going to Liz to see what had gone wrong with his mother.

His indecision only lasted for a moment.

As much as I want to see Grandma, Max thought, she can wait. Liz might need me, and she is ever my first priority. He raced across the huge courtyard, through the north wing, and into the garden, where he was shocked to find her quietly choking back sobs.

“Dearest…beloved…” Max said, finding his own voice thick with emotion as he tried to imagine what could have happened, “…what is the matter?”

He ran to her side and had her wrapped in his arms, with her tear-streaked face pressed tightly against his chest, before she said, “The queen…she says…says marrying you is a violation of my duty to the kingdom. She says you need to marry Victoria.”

Max hugged Liz even tighter and encouraged her to let her feelings loose, even as he turned his head toward the palace and glared at the spot where he knew his mother was standing. You and I are going to have a talk, Mother. It’s going to happen soon, and it’s not going to be a happy event.
"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. 75 12/17/11 p

Postby Cardinal » Mon Dec 19, 2011 1:03 am

Chapter 76

Grandma


Liz sank further into Max’s arms and allowed her body to mold itself tightly against his as she let loose. For his part, Max held Liz as tightly as he dared, wanting her to know without having to hear another word that he wasn’t going to let anything happen to her.

Liz had been correct about her sisters being the ones down by the empty fountain, and when they saw her fall into Max’s arms, they hurried down the length of the wide, crushed gravel pathway to see what was going on. It was obvious long before they reached Liz that she and the prince weren’t stealing kisses in the middle of the garden, so when they came to a stop, Maria asked what was wrong.

“Nothing special,” Max said. He wanted Liz to be able to decide just how much she told her sisters, and he was pretty sure she wasn’t emotionally ready to think about that just yet, so he tried to get Maria and Tess to move on. “Oh, but there is something interesting happening in the courtyard.”

“And that would be…?” Maria asked.

“My grandmother just arrived. It is her first appearance at the winter palace since before I was a teenager.” Maria gave Max a look that said boooooorrrrrrrriiiinnnnggg! without her even having to move her lips, but she was sharp enough to hear the dismissal he intended, so she asked to be excused from the royal presence and scurried off once Max granted his permission. Tess had watched silently, allowing Maria to take the lead as was her right as the eldest sister. But now that Maria was gone, Tess edged forward.

“Your Highness, I would like to stay and help Liz, but I think I am just in the way right now.” Max then waved one hand as a signal for Tess to withdraw. She ran one hand down Liz’s back, letting her sister know she cared. “If either of you should need assistance, please call on me.”

Max watched Tess walk away and rubbed Liz’s back with one hand even as he whispered in her ear. “What Mother wants does not matter, Liz. Not to me, and it should not matter to you either.”

“But she is the queen,” Liz sniffled.

“That is true. It is also true that she is a prideful woman who has been trying to arrange a match between me and Victoria since before I ever met you. She does not take kindly to being wrong or to losing.” Max leaned in and kissed Liz’s cheek. “Someone just needs to set her straight. Right now, that is my job.

“I am sorry I let her mess with you like that, Liz. Palace political infighting can be dirty at times.”

“That is okay, Max,” Liz said. “You cannot be with me all of the time, and I have to learn how to deal with attacks like this one on my own. I did not do so well this time. I guess I just need more practice.”

“You will get it, too,” Max said. “People will be testing you for as long as we are together…at least until we marry.” He thought for a moment and then a permitted himself a small smile. “Want to see someone give my mother some trouble?”

“Yes,” Liz said, “I would like that.”

“Come on. We need to hurry.”

Max took Liz by the hand and they hurried along the gravel path back to the palace. He took her along the most direct route to the courtyard, hoping royal protocol was slow enough that his grandmother was still there. If not, there would be plenty of chances to see them together later.

Max and Liz burst through the double doors at the top of the stairs and saw an ornate carriage of an older style sitting in front of the steps. It was mud-spattered from what were likely weeks on the road, but it didn’t hold their attention any longer than it took for them to spot the small knot of people on the bottom few steps. Queen Diana was easy for Liz to pick out, and she assumed the rest were Max’s grandma and her ladies, but since they all had white hair, she couldn’t quite figure out which one was the dowager countess.

Max ended Liz’s confusion by directing her to look at the tallest woman there. “Isabel and I love Grandma,” he said. “She has always treated us like gold.” Then he nodded toward the queen. “Mother, on the other hand, has always detested Grandma.”

That the queen was uncomfortable was evident even to someone like Liz who didn’t really know her. Body posture alone made that plain, as Diana held herself stiffly and had her nose up in the air ever so slightly, as if she smelled something she didn’t like.

It looked to both of them like Max’s grandma was just about ready to walk up the steps and enter the palace, a thought that was confirmed when they heard her strong voice say, “What are you doing keeping me out here in the sun, Diana? In case you’ve forgotten, I’m old. My skin is wrinkly enough without being exposed to the weather!”

“Yes, Mother,” came Diana’s patient reply.

“I’m going inside,” she turned and gave her ladies a jaundiced look. “These cackling hens can stay out here and freeze for all I care.”

“Is that any way to speak of your ladies, Mother?” Diana asked.

The older woman whipped her head back around and glared at her daughter. “You haven’t spent the last month cooped up in a carriage with them. A more nonsensical group of women I’ve never been around.” She turned then and started to climb the steps, before finally spotting Max.

“That can’t be…” she breathed, “…can’t be my boy. Is that really you, Max?” She gestured at the prince with a gnarled hand, and he waited only long enough to excuse himself from Liz before racing down the steps and into his grandma’s arms. “That’s my boy,” she murmured happily. “That’s my grandson.”

“I love you, Grandma,” was Max’s heartfelt reply. “I was beginning to think you were not ever coming home. I thought we had lost you.”

Liz could hear the raw emotion in Max’s voice, and started tearing up herself. She hoped he would be careful, because he was hugging his grandma awfully hard, but from what she could tell, the older woman didn’t mind the bone crunching hug one single bit.

“You can’t get rid of me that easily, Grandson, I intend to be around for quite some time yet. Long enough to see you married and have children of your own at the very least.”

“Married, huh?” Max said as he released his grandma and stepped back. “In that case, I have someone I really want you to meet.”

Max turned and offered his arm to his grandma, who curled her arm around his and allowed him to lead her up the steps. She spotted Liz almost immediately, and asked, “Who is that lovely child?”

“She is not a child, Grandma,” Max said, “she is my intended.”

That only served to intensify his grandma’s look at Liz. “Max, at my age everyone is a child, including your parents.”

“Yes, Ma’am.” He knew it didn’t pay to argue with his grandmother, especially when she was cranky.

When Max and his grandma gained the top of the steps, he stopped in front of Liz, and said, “Grandma? This is Lady Elizabeth Parker, second daughter of the Baron of Roswell.” He turned to Liz. “Liz? This is the Dowager Countess of Hannsberg, Irilta Von Schalkenberg.”

When Max was finished with the formal introductions, Liz curtseyed deeply, even though the difference in their ranks was slight. Her act was more a measure of her respect for the older lady’s years and experience, plus the fact that Max loved her.

“Rise, Lady Elizabeth, I don’t have time for that bowing and curtseying nonsense…and call me Lady Irilta, the rest of that title is too much of a mouthful.”

Liz rose and said, “Yes, Lady Irilta.”

Irilta looked at Liz with a critical eye. Nothing escaped her steely gaze, and Liz had the distinct feeling that by the time the older lady’s eyes returned to her face, she had been measured to such a degree that Lady Irilta could have sewn her a dress.

“She’s definitely pretty enough, Max,” Lady Irilta said, “and you say her father is just a baron?”

“Soon to be promoted to count. Father’s promised him his choice of the counties that come open once the disloyal counts have been dispossessed.”

“Wait…” Lady Irilta said, “…Parker? Lady Elizabeth Parker?” She slapped a hand to her forehead. “I am getting old,” she mumbled, “we’ve only been hearing of the mysterious Lady Parker for the last two weeks, and yet when I meet her, I treat her like…”

Lady Irilta made a show of deliberately gathering her skirts and then curtseyed as low to Liz as the much younger girl had done to her. Max was worried his grandma might lose her balance and fall, but the older woman was spry and suffered nary a wobble. Liz was a quick enough study to realize that she was being given a signal honor. She was quite sure Lady Irilta wasn’t the kind of woman to curtsey to just anyone, no matter what their rank.

“Please, Lady Irilta…” Liz said, but the older woman cut her off as she stood straight once more.

“…marrying the war hero to my grandson. What a brilliant stroke.” She turned to Max. “I didn’t know your father had it in him.”

“He does not,” Max replied. “Not yet anyway. I chose Liz…and she chose me.”

“A love match?” Lady Irilta’s look was one of incredulity. But when both Max and Liz nodded yes in reply to her question, her face broke out into a huge smile. “Better and better. Marrying her will help tie the barons to the crown, and with the way her legend is already sweeping the kingdom, marrying her will tie the common folk more securely to the crown also…you say your ham-handed father hasn’t consented to the match yet?”

“Not that I know of, Grandma,” Maximilian said, and then he had a nasty thought, which he followed through on right away. “Not only that, but Mother just played dirty as she tried to get Liz to change her mind.”

One look at Liz was all Lady Irilta needed to confirm the truth of her grandson’s statement. The growing murmur from the small crowd behind them let the dowager countess know her daughter was on her way back up the steps.

“I’m dead tired after all of this traveling,” Lady Irilta said, “so I’ll be spending my time today getting some rest, but I expect to see you both right after breakfast tomorrow.” She jerked a thumb over her shoulder at the advancing queen. “It sounds like we may have some work to do.”
Last edited by Cardinal on Mon Dec 19, 2011 10:36 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. 76 12/19/11 p

Postby Cardinal » Thu Jan 05, 2012 7:45 pm

Chapter 77

Talking


Max had set up an Antarian trainer for Michael – one the prince had referred to as being a harsh taskmaster – and Michael had spent a few hours of hard labor discovering the description had not been a joke; by the time he’d been dismissed from training for the day, the fabled Black Knight had been breathing hard and sweating like a pig. He’d been able to dry off before leaving the training grounds – which were far from the palace proper for reasons of safety – and now he was looking forward to a hot meal and a mug or two of hot cider to go with it. Cleaning up completely would have to wait until after the meal, or else he might not get fed.

Just as Michael was about to cross the palace courtyard in search of a meal, Lady Irilta was meeting her grandson on the palace steps. Not knowing what was going on, but damn sure he had no interest in getting caught up in whatever it was, Michael rerouted himself to a palace side door he thought might get him near one of the smaller and less formal dining rooms that were for everyday use.

Instead, he almost ran right into Maria.

“Where in the Hell do you think you are going?” Maria asked sharply.

Michael had hoped to be fed, clean, and freshly dressed before meeting Maria, but it wasn’t meant to be. Without breaking stride, he looked back over his shoulder, and said, “Lunch.”

Surprised and slightly miffed that he hadn’t stopped when he heard her, Maria scurried after him. “Michael…Michael…”

No response.

Michael kept on walking and Maria was having a hard time keeping up with him, much less catching him. Feeling more and more irritated with every stride, she stopped, put her hands on her hips, and bellowed, “Michael Guerin, you stop right this instant.”

After he brought himself to a stop, he turned back toward Maria and waited impatiently for her to catch up. “What, Maria?” he asked. “We’re supposed to have the whole afternoon together today for once. What’s so important that you have to keep me from getting a quick meal before then?”

“Would it hurt you to slow down a bit and walk with me?” Maria huffed, as she caught up to her man.

Michael was well aware of how he looked and smelled at the moment. He had tried to get away from Maria to keep from embarrassing her in front of everyone they passed, and to keep from embarrassing himself in front of her. But since she insisted, he was just going to have to grit his teeth and bare it. He turned back in the direction he had been heading and awkwardly offered her his arm. She was only slightly smoother in looping her arm through his before they set off down the hall at a more sedate pace.

Looking for polite conversation, as he tried to be more like the kind of man Maria should have, Michael fished around in his memory for what she had been scheduled to do in the morning while he trained his Antarian abilities. “How…umm…how were the gardens?” he asked, with only the slightest of pained expressions on his face.

Maria smiled slightly before answering. And while she answered him, her thoughts were centered on him. She found his social awkwardness to be endearing, and his determined efforts to improve himself on that score – for her sake – gave her a case of the warm fuzzies. She found it singularly ironic that it took the roughest of men to turn her heart into melted butter; her only wish was that they could find a way to be together on a more permanent basis.

After Lady Irilta walked off to her rooms in search of rest, Max looked at Liz - who was still wearing her heavy fur - and asked if she’d like to go for a walk through the gardens.

“As long as it means spending time with you, Max,” Liz replied, “I will go anywhere.”

They spent much of the afternoon walking aimlessly up and down many of the paths in the gardens. They didn’t talk of anything of importance as they walked, but Liz’s hand never left Max’s and they didn’t come back inside until it was time to dress for dinner.

Once Lady Irilta was in her quarters in the royal apartments, she turned to her ladies-in-waiting and set them all a task: to find out everything there was to know about the Crown Prince Maximilian’s marital situation and report it back to her before bedtime. If she was to be of use to her grandson, she had be on equal footing knowledge-wise with the king and queen.

The evening meal passed without incident, something everyone was grateful for given the way tension had risen in the palace after Lady Irilta’s arrival, but after the meal was when the real fireworks started, as two young nobles, Max and Victoria, each sought out one of their respective parents to have a serious talk.

Victoria found her father first. She had spent her lunch that day with Max, and that was what he wanted to hear about. She, on the other hand, wanted to tell her father about the long afternoon she’d spent in the pleasant company of another worthy noble. More importantly, she wanted to know why she had been kept in the dark about her suitors.

“Maximilian was polite, Father,” Victoria said, “but he made it perfectly clear I have no chance of marrying him.”

“Oh? Is that so?”

“Yes, that is so.” She screwed her face into a mask of concentration, pretending to think hard, and then said, “I believe his exact words were: ‘I will never marry anyone but Liz. Never.’”

“We will just have to see what the king and queen have to say about that.”

“What can they say? You know the law. The king can prevent his nobles from making a marriage he does not approve of, but he cannot force them to marry who he chooses. The only way they could have forced Maximilian would have been to marry him off while he was still a minor. Now that he is an adult, he gets to choose.

“And speaking of choice,” Victoria said, with a distinct edge to her voice, “why have I not been kept apprised of the men who have been pressing suits for my hand? Hmm? I know you have wanted me to focus on Maximilian, but we have always needed a viable backup plan, now more than ever.”

“Who?” Lord de Laney was smart enough to realize someone must have contacted his daughter directly. He wasn’t happy with that, but as long as the man followed the forms of expected behavior, he couldn’t complain about it. Not openly anyway.

“The Duke of Salzerei, Lord Hanson.”

Hanson, Lord de Laney thought, a good man. Loyal. Honorable. In high favor with the king.

“How did you like him, Victoria?”

“Better than expected. He is rather old…”

“He is only thirty!” Lord de Laney interjected.

“And I am eighteen. That’s a distance of twelve years, a distance that is usually a gulf when it comes to marital relations.” Lord de Laney conceded the point with a nod, and Victoria pushed on. “Anyway, I did not expect much, partially due to his age, partially due to the fact he spends little time in the capital, but mostly due to the fact that he was pushed on me by the prince himself.”

“The prince?” Lord de Laney sputtered. That sneaky son-of-a-bitch! “So tell me about Lord Hanson. I know him in the council chamber and on the battlefield, but know nothing else to recommend him to my daughter.”

“He speaks roughly, with little of the tutored elegance of the royal court, but he speaks with a directness and candor that I have come to appreciate after spending so many months with the army.” Victoria took a deep breath. “Father, he wants to marry me.”

“And what about you? What do you want? Do you not want to be the next queen and have your children and grandchildren rule this kingdom?”

“That would have been nice, but it is not to be. Maximilian would have been a good husband, I think, but he does not want me.” Victoria took a drink of fresh, cool water. “Do you know how exciting it is to be wanted by a worthy man? Being wanted is a more powerful aphrodisiac than I ever could have dreamed.”

“Could you be happy with him?”

Victoria paused to think. “I believe so. I would like more meetings with him though to make sure. Visits at his castle and visits at our palace. I would like some time to get to know him the way he already seems to know me.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“He seemed to know almost everything about me already. He had studied me, talked to people who know me…he said initially he was trying to learn if I might be compatible with him, but then he said his focus shifted and then he was trying to show just how serious he was about me.”

I wish Helen was here, Lord de Laney thought, as he rubbed his forehead. She was always the one who knew what to do about marriages and such…but she’s still out of the kingdom trying to get our son a suitable wife.

“No more meetings with Lord Hanson until I talk with him first, Victoria. That is an order.”

“Yes, Father.”

“Time for me to see what else is out there for you.” Victoria smiled slightly upon hearing that, which caused her father to give her a small smile of his own, before he said, “You know I only want what is best for you, Victoria, right?”

“I know. You and Mother both.”

“But even if I agree that Lord Hanson is good enough for you, we still need to wait for the queen to release you. If I go off and make a marriage contract for you while she is still trying to marry you to her son, she would be highly insulted and might harbor a grudge that could damage our family for years.”

As for Max, he found his mother in the family library. Not the massive royal library one floor lower, but the private library where she liked to take her ease after the evening meal. A quick rap of his knuckles on the half open door was enough to get her to look up from her book.

“Maximilian!” Diana said. “What a pleasant surprise! I thought I had dropped off your social horizon.”

“This is not a pleasure call, Mother,” Max said. “I am here to straighten a few things out, before Grandma sinks her teeth into you.”

Diana set down her book and rubbed the bridge of her nose. The mere mention of her mother was threatening to give her a rare headache. “I do not know why that woman still affects me so,” Diana mused. “I am not a girl anymore.”

“As I am not a boy.” Diana tried to cut in, but Max rode over her. “By all the laws and traditions of the kingdom, I became a man the moment I was knighted. And in the matter of my marriage, I have been trying to act like the man I claim to be. But your stunt with Lady Elizabeth in the gardens this afternoon has stretched my somewhat limited patience to the breaking point.

“You may be able to prevail upon Father to keep me from marrying Liz, but if you do, I swear I will pay you back in kind.”

Diana got a sick feeling in her stomach that made her forget all about her oncoming headache. “What ever can you mean, Maximilian?”

“The day Sir Michael and I stopped your carriage on the open road, he ducked back into your carriage for one last comment. I kept on walking, but he later told me every word he said, and he is correct. If you prevent my marriage to Liz, I can and will forswear the crown, thereby forcing Father to divorce you and marry a new, much younger wife.”

Diana was stunned to silence. It looked to Max as if she was ready to vomit.

“There is one good thing in all of this, Mother: Lady Victoria might get to be the queen a lot sooner than you had hoped.” Max bowed formally to his mother and backed out of the room. Just before he pushed the door closed, he added, “What is more important, Mother? Your pride or your love? I have made my choice. I have already chosen Liz’s love over being the next king. What is your decision?”
Last edited by Cardinal on Fri Jan 06, 2012 2:38 am, edited 2 times in total.
"In the Name of the King"
-----Winner, Round 15 - Favorite Lead Portrayal of Liz Parker
-----Winner, Round 15 - Best Use of a Supporting Character (Jeff Parker)
-----Winner, Round 15 - Best New Fic
-----Winner, Round 15 - Best Period Fanfiction

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Re: In the Name of the King (AU/CC/Mature) Ch. 77 01/05/12 p

Postby Cardinal » Sat Jan 07, 2012 8:32 pm

Chapter 78

A Concession


Breakfast the next morning in the royal apartments was a tense affair. Diana refused to look at either her son or her mother, while Max kept quiet as he tried to judge what his mother was going to do after their run-in the previous evening.

Once the meal was over, Max asked to be excused, as he planned on seeing if Baron Parker and Lady Elizabeth wanted to go to the royal library so they could begin the process of creating her personal coat of arms for her upcoming knighthood. Diana quickly excused her son, and then dismissed the servants so no one would overhear what she had to say.

Phillip had known something was up, as his wife hadn’t slept well all night long and had been crabby when she’d finally gotten up that morning. Lady Irilta didn’t know anything other than her daughter was upset, but being a shrewd observer, she suspected it had something to do with her grandson, just from watching the way everyone interacted during the meal.

Diana waited until her husband and her mother set down their utensils and gave her their undivided attention before she spoke. “Though it pains me greatly to allow my son’s life to be unnaturally shortened by marrying outside our people, I find I have little choice in the matter and thus am announcing my official…support…for the union of Crown Prince Maximilian and Lady Elizabeth Parker.” The whole speech sounded strained to both of Diana’s listeners, and the word ‘support’ had sounded as if it had been forcibly dragged from her body, but what mattered was that she had said the words.

“Good!” Phillip exclaimed as he wiped his mouth with a heavy linen napkin. “I am glad you came around, Diana. I did not relish having to make that announcement without you by my side.” He was blatantly ignoring Diana’s tone of voice and her assertion that she had been forced into making this concession, at least while they were in company. He intended to talk with her privately about that later on, but right now they had a royal wedding to discuss.

Surprised that her daughter had come around, Lady Irilta could only imagine what her grandson had done to twist his mother’s arm. Her spies hadn’t caught a whiff of whatever it was. “‘Little choice in the matter,’ eh?” Lady Irilta jibed. “Sounds like someone’s learning to play palace politics if you ask me, and none too soon either.”

“Max?” Phillip asked his mother-in-law. He may not like the woman, but he knew how good she was when it came to politics and respected her opinions accordingly.

“Oh yes. Diana wouldn’t even look at Max during the meal, and we both know how she dotes on the boy.” Lady Irilta tucked her tongue into the corner of her mouth as she thought on a slightly different subject. “Of course, if she was stupid enough to stand between those two for any length of time, her relationship with Max may be seriously strained right now.”

Diana flinched at being called stupid by her mother, though she supposed she ought to be used to such treatment by now. Lady Irilta had pushed her as a child, pushed her relentlessly if the truth be known, so much so that Diana was used to always falling short of the exacting standards her mother set for her. If Mother was the judge, Diana thought sourly to herself, I would finish third in a two-person contest.

“So, we are having a royal wedding, to be followed immediately by another ceremony where the new bride is consecrated and then crowned as a royal princess. Despite your fears about the shortening of Max’s life, Diana, I think Lady Elizabeth is a nearly perfect fit for our son, and she now carries a matchless reputation that can do nothing but strengthen our family’s hold on the throne.”

With the servants banished from the room, Phillip got up and refilled his goblet from the pitcher on the sideboard. Using a quick touch of his hand to chill the juice to his liking, Phillip retook his seat before continuing.

“That wedding will not be for another fourteen or fifteen months at the very soonest, but that won’t prevent us from getting started on the preparations. And those preparations will begin with drawing up a prospective guest list and sending out royal invitations.”

“That will be my task,” Diana said. “I suppose I will have to work with a couple of your ministers on that, before bringing the preliminary list to you for approval.”

“And I will have to meet with any number of ambassadors whose kings and queens were still hoping to arrange a marriage with our son.” Tugging at his chin with one hand, Phillip added, “Maybe I can just have them all here at once and have the audience in the throne room. Then we can send out the invitations a few days later. Hmm.”

“Your Majesty?” Lady Irilta asked. “What role do you wish me to play in this?”

Diana shook her head as if to say ‘Do not dare to shackle me with her.’ Phillip hadn’t been planning on it as he wanted the wedding preparations to go smoothly, so he said, “Lady Elizabeth has no close, older female relative to help guide her through the process. I have been told you got along famously with the girl when you met her yesterday,” Phillip shot his wife an evil look at that moment, leaving no doubt in her mind that someone had told him about her run-in with Liz the day before in the garden, “so I would consider it a favor if you would take that role with Lady Elizabeth.”

Lady Irilta nodded her head. “I would be honored to, your Majesty.”

“I am unsure of her knowledge of court etiquette and politics, Lady Irilta, so I leave her remedial education in those areas up to you also.”

“As you command.”

“One more thing: word of this impending betrothal is not to go beyond the people in this room until after Lady Elizabeth’s knighting ceremony and her later investiture as a member of the Order of the Dragon. Until that time, she will need to keep her focus on those things. And that order of secrecy definitely includes not telling our children. Max could not keep a secret like this from that girl if he tried, and if Isabel finds out during a dream meeting, she would give everything away to Max with one of her smiles.”

Phillip knew Diana wasn’t used to receiving commands from the king, but when she did, she’d never disobeyed them. Lady Irilta was more likely to go off on her own and do as she pleased, but he was fairly sure she saw the necessity of this particular command.

“I never thought I would be marrying off my only son to a knight,” Diana joked quietly.

Making a joke like that was so out of character for her that both Phillip and Lady Irilta froze for a second before howling with laughter. Diana joined in the laughter, and tears were streaming down all three of their faces by the time they got themselves under control again.

Taking advantage of the lightened mood, Phillip leaned over and kissed his wife on the lips. She closed her eyes as her mouth yielded to his, and when her eyes opened once more, he asked, “So, are you going to be able to live with this?”

Diana thought and then nodded. “Yes. Now that the decision is made, I can.”

“Good.”

It took Max a few minutes to locate Jeffrey and Liz. Both were happy to get a start on the design of her coat of arms, as they knew it had to be done by the weekend, and so the three of them spent the morning in the royal library looking at older designs and discussing various possible color combinations.

After a hurried lunch, Liz, Jeffrey, and Max returned to their work, and by mid-afternoon she had finally settled on a simple design. Her father’s coat of arms had a gold tiger on a purple field. She kept the colors, but reversed them and made the tiger smaller so there’d be room to place a pair of crossed daggers below the tiger.

“It is not fancy…” Liz said, as they looked at the rough sketch of a purple tiger on a golden field with two crossed purple daggers below.

Max finished her sentence, “…but it does not have to be, as you get the royal coat of arms once we marry.”

Each wrapped a single arm around the other then and they hugged. Jeffrey took the drawing and rolled it up before saying, “We’ll present this to Lord de Laney in the morning and get things moving.”

“Hmm?” Liz asked.

“Oh yes. Once that is approved, the shield that is being made to go with your light armor will be painted with your arms. Also, some seamstresses will need to make you a tabard with your chosen design.”

“That is a lot of work to go through for just one woman,” Liz said.

“Not just one woman, Liz,” Max said, as he gave her another one-armed squeeze. “The woman. The first woman in our kingdom’s history to have earned a knighthood. I suspect that fact alone will cause the seamstresses to stay up late as they make sure your tabard is the finest example of their craft. Some might even refuse to be paid for the honor of making your tabard.”

Lord de Laney was in an upper room of the South Wing at that very moment. He was not alone, however. He turned to the man standing beside him, and said, “As you were saying, Lord Hanson…”
Last edited by Cardinal on Sun Jan 08, 2012 1:38 pm, edited 2 times in total.
"In the Name of the King"
-----Winner, Round 15 - Favorite Lead Portrayal of Liz Parker
-----Winner, Round 15 - Best Use of a Supporting Character (Jeff Parker)
-----Winner, Round 15 - Best New Fic
-----Winner, Round 15 - Best Period Fanfiction

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Cardinal
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Re: In the Name of the King (AU/CC/Mature) Ch. 78 01/07/12 p

Postby Cardinal » Sat Jan 07, 2012 9:20 pm

Chapter 79

Bad News


That night, Isabel and Diana met in their dreams. They’d been meeting on a fairly regular basis since the end of the war, both to keep Isabel informed about what was happening, and because, quite frankly, they needed each other. But this night, things were different. Not only did Diana have to hide the fact of Max’s impending betrothal, but she was also delivering the final report on what had happened to the families of Isabel’s ladies-in-waiting during the war.

The next day, Isabel had the duty of passing that information on to her ladies. Before they came to see her, one by one, she went to Alex for a fortifying talk. Isabel had left the dream with her mother multiple times to write down careful lists, and now she was going over them, completely appalled by the losses some of her ladies were going to have to bear. When she could delay the inevitable no longer, she stood, and muttered, “Here I go.”

Alex stood with her, and replied, “When you are done supporting your ladies, Isabel, then it will be my turn to support you. Know that I will be here for you.”

“Thank you, Alex. That means a lot to me.”

Alex took his leave and within a very short time, Isabel’s ladies began to be summoned one at a time, starting with the lady with the most seniority, and ending with the newest of her ladies-in-waiting. Once she was done with a lady, the servants would notify the next one in line, while the one she had finished with would be sent on her way with the provision that she not see or speak with any of the girls who hadn’t yet had their private meeting with her. Isabel’s purpose in ordering that was that she didn’t want the girls who’d talked to her to be around the others who were waiting and inadvertently make the wait harder for them by telling what had happened. She did, however, fully expect the ladies who had already talked to her to cling to each other for support.

“Once I help you all I can,” Isabel explained, “you will need to help each other as I move on to the next girl. Then once I am finished with the last girl, we can all commiserate together. This is going to be one long, sad day for all of us, even for those of us who lucked out.”

Isabel ended up spending a few hours giving out the news and dealing with the aftermath. The happy girls only took her a few minutes, and those were mostly spent on admonishing them to not rub their good fortune in the faces of the girls who had lost family members. But out of the first seven girls, three had suffered losses; two of the girls had each lost a brother, while the third had lost a brother and two close cousins. That just left one lady, the newest member of Isabel’s entourage, the shy and sweet Lady Elaine Ricard, who had met Max in the royal garden of the summer palace the night he had left with Sir Michael.

Holding up the last part of her lists, Isabel gestured for Elaine to take the seat opposite from where she herself was sitting. Isabel was something of an emotional mess by this time, having spent hours crying with three of her girls before sending them to be comforted further by the others. She was so looking forward to spending some time with Alex after this, but she was desperate to hang on long enough to help one more girl.

“What have the results been so far, your Highness?” Elaine asked. “How many of the others have lost?”

Isabel couldn’t help but smile at Elaine’s concern for her ‘sisters,’ even though she didn’t yet know the fates of the people in her own family. That tender-hearted concern was so like the Elaine she’d come to know over the past several months. She decided then and there to take a personal hand in finding Elaine a proper husband if the men of Anglia somehow goofed up and didn’t realize what a gem she was.

“Three of your ‘sisters’ have lost family members. Four, obviously, were lucky.” Isabel turned to her list. “Now it is your turn to find out.” Isabel read the information she’d jotted down the night before and nearly broke on the spot. Her lips quivered and her eyes filled with water before it began rolling down her cheeks in big, fat tears. She couldn’t understand how she had forgotten this.

Elaine’s eyes widened in fear, but she fought to control her voice, as she asked, “What happened, Princess Isabel? Please tell me. I can take it.”

Isabel willed herself to stillness, but was having to fight her emotions with every fiber of her being. This is going to devastate her. The poor kid. It’s not even my family, and my heart is broken.

“There is no way around it, Elaine. Your family’s losses were heavy.”

Elaine sucked in a sob and held on.

Reading carefully, Isabel said, “Lost were Count Paul Ricard, and his sons Lord Alphonse, Lord Etienne, and Lord Reynaud. All were lost in the Battle of Maiden’s Pass.”

All of them?” Elaine asked rhetorically. “All?” She began to fall apart in front of Isabel’s face as she tried to deal with the fact that her immediate family had just lost every single male member.

Isabel was on Elaine in a flash, wrapping her in a powerful hug, knowing there were no words she could say to ease her pain, other than to get her to release it and start crying. “Let it go, Elaine. It is okay to cry; just let it out.”

Elaine stared off into the unseeable distance for a while, and Isabel kept up her gentle encouragement to give in to her feelings. Soon, Isabel’s unrelenting kindness and love overcame Elaine’s defenses, and the younger girl began to cry in big, wracking sobs, shuddering violently in Isabel’s embrace. The sobs then gave way to full-throated wailing, as the horror of the situation finally settled in: Elaine’s father and all of her brothers were dead.

Isabel held on to her own shaken emotions, knowing she had to be Elaine’s rock at this moment and that she would continue to be so until the girl gathered enough control of herself to rejoin the other seven girls. Then she herself could seek out Alex.

By the time Elaine had utterly exhausted herself through crying and Isabel could assign a servant to put her straight to bed, the princess was worn to a frazzle. She had dark circles under her bloodshot eyes, and her normally perfectly coiffed hair was all over the place. She sank back into her chair, wondering if she could muster the energy to go find the king, when he showed up at the door.

“Oh, Alex…” she sobbed as she stood in the presence of the king.

In mere moments he had her in his arms, whispering how it was going to be all right. Once she’d had a good cleansing cry and had herself back under control, she explained that half of her girls had lost loved ones, including Lady Elaine, who’d lost everyone. “She just has her mother left now.” Then she sniffled and looked into Alex’s eyes. “How did you know when I was done? You sure got here awfully quickly.”

“Servants have been giving me reports all day about your progress,” the king admitted. “Once I knew you were on your last lady, I came down and waited next door, so I would be sure to be here the moment you needed me.”

A beatific smile spread across Isabel’s tear-streaked face. “You are so sweet to me.” She then laid a deep kiss on her man. “Is it any wonder that I love you so much? I can barely wait to marry you.”

“Marrying you sounds better and better, Isabel,” Alex grinned. “And if I am sweet, it is only because of you. You have made changes in me during your few months here. I see things differently now, and…and there is finally someone in my life I care about more than myself.” Alex gently caressed her cheek. “I do not know what I would do without you.”

“May you never have to find out. But right now…” Isabel eased her way out of his arms and drew herself up to her full height, “…now that you have soothed me, I have to go see to the rest of my ladies. My duty to them is not over yet.”

“Should I have food and drink sent to you and your ladies? Or will you be able to join us in the dining room? I worry about you. Your ladies all ate lunch at one time or another, but being busy down here, you managed to miss out.”

Isabel’s stomach chose that moment to emit a most unladylike rumble.

“The last thing you need to worry about is the physical condition of an Antarian, Alex.” She kissed him on the cheek to take away the sting of her mild rebuke. “But knowing someone is looking out for me is so comforting. As for the food, I will send word if we are too distraught to be proper dinner companions. Otherwise, you may expect us for dinner.”
"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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