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

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

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Cardinal
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Re: In the Name of the King (AU/CC/Mature) Ch. 78&79 1/7/12

Postby Cardinal » Sun Jan 08, 2012 1:33 pm

nibbles2 wrote:So what happens to the women of a family that have lost all the males? Do they become penniless? Do they have any rights?


They still retain all of the family's wealth and personal possessions...it's just that Elaine's mom is no longer the countess. But when he fills the empty positions left by the war, Philip will most likely give that countship to a close cousin, who will responsible for the new dowager countess and her daughter.


* * * * * * * * * *

Chapter 80

Knighthood


Once Liz chose the color and design of her coat of arms and had it approved by the Marshal of Alemania, she had little else to do in preparation for her knighting ceremony until Sunday night, which was still a few days off. She did, however, have a couple of parties to attend, including the first of the many to which she and her family had been invited. That meant Max lost his girl for much of the afternoon as she was spent hours getting herself ready for her first major party in the capital.

The parties leading up to Liz’s knighting were good for the Parker girls in more ways than one. Besides being an introduction to the social scene of Königsberg. Max didn’t attend the parties with Liz, though he did attend on his own and managed to spend some time with her. Mostly though, he hung out with his friends and allowed her to spread her wings and develop her own relationships. Maria and Tess also blossomed as many younger nobles rushed to make acquaintances of the family that was so much in favor with the royal family.

Soon enough, it was Sunday, and Max asked Liz whether she’d prefer to attend services in the private family chapel in the palace, or in town at the cathedral. When Liz asked to go to the massive cathedral in town for a change, Max alerted the commander of the Royal Household Guard. By the time Liz was ready, an enormous gilded royal coach waited for them at the formal entrance to the palace, along with a guard of forty knights in gleaming armor. As far as Max knew, it was going to be the first time in recent memory that anyone from the royal family had gone into town for Sunday services.

Liz blanched when she saw the trouble everyone had gone to just so she and Max could attend church together. She would have turned around and stayed in the palace, except everyone had already done the work to get ready, so she might as well make use of their efforts.

“Why did you not tell me I was causing a problem?” Liz asked Max, once they were underway.

“Problem? What problem?”

Liz explained she was embarrassed that so many people had been put out just so she could go to church in town.

“That is nonsense, Liz,” Max replied. “The whole purpose of the knights and other soldiers that reside here as part of the Royal Household Guard is to make sure we can go anywhere we want, whenever we want. The horses need the exercise, and as for this carriage…well, it is part of keeping up the royal image.”

“The royal image?”

“Oh yes. The people expect us to behave in a manner that matches their preconceived notions of what royalty should be like. They expect their king and his family to be grand. It seems to make them feel better about their own lives, when their king and queen are such splendid people.” Before she could say anything, Max hastened to add, “I know, it does not make any sense to me either, but it works. People will talk about seeing you and me in the royal box at the cathedral for weeks.”

When Crown Prince Maximilian walked down the center aisle with an unknown lady at his side, shocked murmurs spread all over the congregation, building into a hushed roar before Max and Liz took their seats. Then another murmur spread, starting at the back of the nave and rolling forward. This one was filled with rumor and speculation about just who it was that was seated at the prince’s side.

The rumors turned out to be surprisingly accurate as they had been started by the palace handmaid that had ridden along with Max and Liz for the express purpose of protecting her reputation. Necks were stretched all service long as the parishioners tried to catch glimpses of both Crown Prince Maximilian and the Battle Maiden, the famous Lady Elizabeth Parker.

Liz was thankful for royal prerogative that day, as she and Max were allowed out of their special box seat before anyone else could leave their seats. That helped them to make their escape without having to deal with a press of people she didn’t know. Once back at the palace, Liz was under instruction to eat well, especially at the evening meal, as she wouldn’t be allowed to eat or drink anything once the meal was over as it would be time for her to begin fasting in preparation for her knighting ceremony the next day.

But before the ceremony came Liz’s all-night vigil. Just when everyone else was turning in for the evening, Liz was to take a ritual bath, which was emblematic of her sins being washed away. But before the bath, Max claimed a very personal, very special part of the evening’s preparations for himself: the putting of her luxurious hair into a warrior’s triple braid.

She’d been surprised at first, and then very pleased, as she’d sat before her love and waited while his hands deftly braided her hair. First, he’d started a braid at the top of the back of her head that went straight down her skull until it reached the nape of her neck. Then he’d made two more braids, each of which had started directly behind an ear and had gone sideways, heading directly for the nape of her neck. At that point, all three braids joined together into one large braid which headed straight down again until it petered out at mid-back.

“There, all done! A proper warrior’s braid and no one can say you haven’t earned the right to wear it.”

Liz checked the look in a smallish mirror right away and then turned to hug Max for his efforts. She also snuck in as many kisses as she could before being ruthlessly led away by her maids so she could bathe. Once the bath was done, she dressed, but was only allowed to wear a pair of heavy winter shifts this night. The shifts were brightest white, signifying her purity and chastity, and she was to spend her night fasting and praying for grace and holy guidance as she took up her new position as a knight.

Liz was then led to the palace’s chapel by a small procession that included her knightly sponsor - her father - and a number of other knights. As she approached the altar, her bare feet slapping softly on the cold flagstones, she saw her armor, weapons, and clothing piled up there, and watched it as her father gave her the charge to watch over and defend her belongings as she prayed that night. Then the men all marched out, the door was slammed shut, and Liz was left with nothing more than flickering candlelight to keep her company.

Liz gave prayers of thanks for the way her family had been protected during the war. She spent time on her knees asking for the wisdom, patience, and strength she’d need as Max’s wife, princess, and eventually queen. But she didn’t find what she was looking for until she changed the focus of her prayers and prayed that God’s will would be done in her life. Once she dedicated herself to being what He wanted her to be, she found an inner peace that sustained her through hunger pangs and nearly frozen hands and feet.

The next morning, her sisters came down to the chapel and dressed her. She soon had on her boots, leather pants, and an undershirt followed by a quilted shirt, all of which was to be worn under her armor. Then came her chain mail shirt which was topped off with a brand new tabard which had been made with her new coat of arms on it: that tabard was made of golden cloth topped with a purple tiger mounted over two crossed purple daggers. As the tabard was cinched in place with a plain leather belt, Liz looked at the way it hung just to her knees, and then eyed the shield that had been made for just this occasion. Like her tabard, the shield was emblazoned with her coat of arms. She didn’t have a sword, but she did have her two daggers sheathed and ready at her waist. A sword and spurs would be hers once she was knighted.

Liz didn’t have long to wait for her sword and spurs. Once she was fully dressed, her father walked in, dressed in his own armor and regalia, and had his breath taken away by the sight of his smallest daughter dressed in such a martial way. “I had always dreamed of a day like this with a son,” Jeffrey admitted, “but to finally have it with you is just…”

“Yeah, I know, Father,” Liz said, “I am pretty amazed by all this, too.”

Jeffrey led Liz from the chapel to the throne room where the king and queen were on their thrones, and where a small crowd of family and friends waited as witnesses.

“In the normal course of events, Lady Elizabeth,” King Phillip said, “this knighting would be one of many and would be conducted with great celebrations worthy of your new state in life, but everyone here knows this is being done quickly in preparation for the other ceremony next Friday. I promise We will make up for the lack of celebration then.”

The king then asked the ritual question. “Who sponsors this woman to become a knight?”

Lord Parker stepped forward, and with pride shining in his eyes, said, “I do, Sire.”

Liz then walked forward to a pre-designated distance from the king before dropping to her knees where she vowed to be brave, speak only the truth, be loyal to her lord, be devoted to the church, and be charitable and defend the poor and helpless. The king then signaled for her to rise. A page came forward with a pair of golden spurs and affixed them to the heels of her sturdy boots. Next, Lady Irilta took the place of Liz’s long-dead mother and placed a wide, white leather sword belt around her waist, before cinching it fairly tightly. Last, her father stepped forward and hooked a scabbarded short sword onto the left hip of her white belt.

Liz had practiced this ceremony several times over the past few days. At this point, she drew her sword and laid it across the palms of her gauntleted hands before kneeling once more and placing her sword at the feet of king: a ritual offering of her service to the monarch. The king rose then and grasped his own sword, which was handed to him by an officer of the court.

Phillip then said, “In the name of God…” and tapped her on one shoulder, “…and in the name of the Kingdom of Alemania…” he tapped her other shoulder, “…I now dub thee Sir Elizabeth of Roswell.” He finished by tapping the top of her head. “Rise and be recognized.”

Liz stood once more, picked up her sword and stuck it back in its scabbard and faced the small but select audience, which broke into spontaneous cheers. Besides her family and the few friends she’d already made, she saw Max standing there, as he’d chosen to stand behind her this morning instead of taking a seat on the dais.

After that was a lunchtime feast for those few in attendance. Liz hadn’t eaten in roughly eighteen hours, and she was famished. She was seated in the place of honor and spent almost as much time accepting congratulations from those present as she did eating. Max finally had to move to his lady’s rescue and forbid any more talk until she was done with her meal. Once she’d sated her hunger, he asked, “So what is it like to be Sir Elizabeth?”

She looked at the beef in front of her and giggled. “Better than being Sir Loin.”

That terrible pun earned her a look of disbelief from Max before he gave in and began to chuckle. “And I guess being a knight makes you eligible now to marry the second daughters of some of the lesser lords.”

“Mmm…get me a wife you say? Definitely not what I was looking for.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah, I have my eyes set on this one man, maybe you know him, called Sir Zan?.”

“Ah! Sir Zan…I do know him very well, and happen to know he has no problem with being part of the first knight-knight marriage in the history of the kingdom.” Max took Liz’s hand in his, grateful she’d taken off her gauntlets to eat. “With luck and a little persuasion, I think that marriage may take place as early as the end of summer.”

“You have got to get the king to say yes first though,” Liz reminded him.

“I know, and that is the strange thing: no one in my family will mention word one about whether or not they intend to allow us to marry. If I bring up the subject, it immediately gets changed to something else. I do not know what to make of it.”

“Well…after that anvil you told me you dropped on your mother the other day, I think they have little choice but to give in. Just give them time, Dear.”

Max kissed the back of Liz’s hand. “As you wish, My Love. As you wish.”
"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. 80 01/08/12 p

Postby Cardinal » Tue Jan 10, 2012 1:35 am

nibbles2 wrote:Does being a knight mean that Liz is now entitled to all the rights that a male knight might have? If she wasn't marrying Max, would she be able to join an army? Own land? Does she have more rights that other non-knighted women have?


Liz does have a lot of rights, most of which other women can only dream. She could swear her service to a lord and maybe receive a tower house and some land in return to help support her. In return, she'd be expected to answer his calls for service, which would likely include a small number of armed and armored foot soldiers that she was to supply. But no one would be nuts enough to do that, especially Liz. She knows her physical limitations.

She could, however, take a position as a castellan or a steward and help a lord run his holdings. She's much better suited to a position like that...as is Maria, a fact which Michael will grow to appreciate in short order.

The one thing that could still give Liz problems legally is if she married someone. Under the law, when a woman marries, all of her property belongs to her husband. But as a knight, she is entitled to own property in her own right. The king would likely have to make a ruling and alter the law accordingly.



“I had always dreamed of a day like this with a son,” Jeffrey admitted, “but to finally have it with you is just…”

nibbles2 wrote:It must have been so difficult for Maria to hear her father say those words to Liz, literally the words she'd been dreaming of hearing from him her whole life, and to have to watch Liz live out her dream while she had to remain in her shadow, as usual. I really hope that Jeff makes some sort of effort to show Maria that she's important to him too and that he loves her even though she wasn't able to make him proud in the way she worked so hard to. He talks about his failings as her father, now's the chance to actually do something about it.


I'm answering this to make an obvious admission: I'd always meant for Jeffrey to like Liz the best of his three girls. He never quite knew what to do with Maria as she grew up and became a tomboy, and Tess always seemed to have her head in the clouds, but Liz was the one who did what she was supposed to...he never had to worry or wonder about her.

That being said, it wasn't supposed to be quite this obvious. I did think of deleting that particular section before posting it, but then I figured...in for a penny, in for a pound. This is just how this Jeffrey is. Of course, I believe most parents have a favorite child, whether they'll admit to it or not...and often, it's obvious to everyone else but them.

Will Jeffrey step up and show Maria that she does mean a lot to him? I hope so. After all, he has a few years now to concentrate on Tess, but Maria's time with him is growing short.


* * * * * * * * * *



Chapter 81

The Order of the Dragon


Liz marveled at the fact that she was a knight. Golden spurs on her boots, her very own coat of arms, even a sword and shield of her own. It was a lot for her to take in, but that night, she had her maids put her armor, weapons, and various accoutrements away…at least until Friday. That was the day the king would honor her hard work and sacrifice by making her a member of the Order of the Dragon. One more day of dressing like a man, Liz thought. One more day of pretending to be a real knight. I know the difference. I’ve seen my father’s knights train, and I saw Max train with Sir Michael. I could never do that.

Though she had no illusions about her knighthood, Liz could now be referred to as either Lady Elizabeth or Sir Elizabeth, and each was equally correct. She preferred hearing ‘lady,’ which had been a major impetus behind her decision to put away her knightly clothing, armor, and weapons.

During the few days between Liz’s Monday morning knighting and her Friday installment in the Order of the Dragon, King Phillip started the process of rewarding his friends and punishing his enemies. The lords who’d actively aided Khivar’s forces were stripped of their lands, incomes, and titles and given until spring to leave the kingdom with their remaining possessions and wealth.

Lords who’d stayed neutral were forced to pay heavy fines under the theory that since other families had paid the blood cost of the war, the do-nothings should pay the gold cost.

Finally, the lords who had loyally supported the king during the rebellion were given promotions and had their financial costs repaid. That included the 500,000+ in gold Max had paid from his ducal bank account to fund the supply base for the army.

The new Count of Albemarle, successor to the deceased Lord Howland, was promoted to become the new Duke of Walachia in Khivar’s place. Normally, a duchy would be reserved for an Antarian family, but the king wanted to show that loyalty and service were more important than blood.

The promotion of the Howland family left the countship of Albemarle open, along with several others. So when it was time for Lord Jeffrey Parker to make the choice of which countship he wanted, he chose Albemarle. It was close to his current home in Roswell which meant a short move and a similar climate, and as the Count of Albemarle was the superior of the Baron of Roswell, it would allow him to make sure the new baron didn’t mistreat the people of Roswell.

But the promotion that caused the most discussion, the one that seemingly came from out of the blue, was one of the last promotions of the day. Phillip had started by filling the duchies that had come open and then the counties and ended with the baronies. Most of those went to second sons of loyal nobles, giving them a chance to establish cadet branches of the family line.

But one barony, that of Roswell to be precise, was not given to a young noble. The behind-the-scenes maneuvering by the crown prince combined with the queen’s feeling of an obligation to reward the man who’d successfully protected her son, pushed the king into giving that barony to a shellshocked Sir Michael Guerin.

Michael had been so against attending the day-long promotion ceremony that Max had finally been forced to resort to ordering Michael to dress up in one of the green and gold full-dress Borussian uniforms he’d had made recently and show up at the ceremony as his personal aide. And when he’d heard his own name called, Michael had refused to believe it, which had made Max to give him a hard shove in the back to make him walk out in front of the dais. After that, Michael had been in a complete daze as he gave a formal oath to serve the king and his feudal superiors, protect his people, and obey the laws of the kingdom.

The Parkers were still present, and all were happy for Sir Michael. But one member of the family was particularly pleased. Lady Maria’s eyes were shining as she witnessed the man she had come to love joining the ranks of the nobility. She knew this changed everything for them. A baron was a real possibility for her, and she could only hope Michael took advantage of his new station in life.

She needn’t have worried.

Michael was astonished by his sudden elevation in life, but as everyone was beginning to leave the just concluded ceremony, Max brought him back to Earth by teasing him about being out of uniform.

“Huh?” Michael replied.

“Oh yeah. You cannot wear the green and gold of Borussia any more, Michael. You have your own army now.” Max eyed his friend critically. “In fact, I do not even know what your colors are or what your coat of arms looks like.”

“My colors are red and black,” Michael said. He’d just seen the Parkers about to leave the throne room, so his interest in Max had just slipped a bit. “Can we talk about this later, Max? I, uh…have some business that needs taking care of right now.”

Max graciously excused Michael and watched as he hurried after the Parkers. He knew Michael would have to deal with Jeffrey, as the older man was now his direct feudal superior, but his suspicion was that feudal obligations were the last thing on Michael’s mind at the moment.

“Sir Michael!” Jeffrey said, when he saw the Dark Knight approach. “But that is not correct anymore, is it? It is Lord Guerin now. Congratulations on that. Maria has just been telling me how deserved your elevation is. Add that to what I know about your former charge and what he put you through, and I am inclined to agree with her.”

The three Parker girls stopped behind their father and watched. Maria was barely able to restrain herself from launching herself into Michael’s arms and smothering him with kisses. Liz and Tess now knew just how false Michael’s reputation as the Dark Knight truly was, and they watched with some interest as they knew just how close Michael and Maria had become.

“Lord Guerin,” Michael chuckled upon hearing himself say the words. “That sounds so funny, like a bad joke played upon me by my fellow knights when I was younger. But since it’s true, I need to make the best of it.” Michael paused, smiled hopefully at Maria, and then returned his attention to her father. “Could you and I talk alone? I have some important matters to discuss with you, Lord Parker.”

Jeffrey waved off his girls, and allowed himself to be guided away by Michael for their talk. Later that afternoon, Jeffrey found his girls again and pulled Maria aside for an earnest chat.

“I am given to understand that you and the newly created Baron of Roswell have formed a strong attachment,” Jeffrey asked. “Is this true?”

Maria nodded her head, and said, “Yes it is, Father.”

“Would you like to marry Lord Guerin? Will he suit you?”

Maria’s face blossomed at the suggestion of marriage. Jeffrey didn’t need to hear a word to know her answer, but she gave him one anyway, once she got her excitement under control. “Nothing would please me more. I would be the happiest of women to become Lady Guerin.”

“I can see that you mean that, Maria. And since Michael has just asked me for your hand, it will be my privilege to tell him I consent.”

Maria took in a deep, shuddering breath and held it. She knew Michael was a man of action, but she hadn’t expected him to make a move so soon. It hadn’t been long ago that Maria was thinking she might not ever find someone to marry. She’d been worried that her tomboy ways had turned off too many potential suitors, only to end up stumbling into the one man in the kingdom that was able to take her as she was and to love her.

Thus it was that Lord Parker stood at dinner that night and proudly announced the betrothal of his eldest daughter, Lady Maria, to the newly-created Baron of Roswell, Lord Michael Guerin. Liz and Tess squealed with happiness for their sister, while most of the rest of the people in the room applauded politely and resumed their meals.

While that night belonged to Maria, Friday was Liz’s day. According to her father that morning, the few remaining nobles of major rank who hadn’t been in town yet this season had made appearances at the palace during the last few days before retiring to their winter mansions in town.

“The king has let it be known that this is a major occasion,” Jeffrey said, “sort of the last celebration of his victory over Khivar’s rebels, so the lords that supported the king will all be here to enjoy themselves, and the lords that did not actively support the king will be anxious to be here now and show their support.”

“So…the throne room will be packed today,” Liz replied.

“Oh yes.” Jeffrey gave Liz a small, secretive smile. “I may even receive more quiet inquiries about your availability.”

Hearing that people had been asking about her alarmed Liz a little bit. “I hope you have told any other askers that someone else is first in line, last in line, and everywhere else in between.”

“I have, Elizabeth, I have,” Jeffrey chuckled, “but that does not stop newcomers from asking. None of them quite believe the king will allow you to marry into the royal family, so they try to position their sons for what they see as your inevitable rejection.”

“That is nice.” Liz said, her voice rife with sarcasm. She could see their point, but it didn’t make her hate it any less. It was something she couldn’t control, so she tried to put it out of her mind as she prepared for the induction ceremony. She knew from practice sessions during the week that the ceremony itself wasn’t very long, and that she would be required to say very little, but that didn’t do much to calm her nerves as she knew she’d be on display in front of most of the major noble families of Alemania.

Just like on the previous Sunday evening when she’d been preparing for her knighting ceremony, Liz came down from her rooms long enough for her beloved Max to braid her hair in a small room just out of the women’s wing. A couple of loving kisses later and Liz was on her way, back up to her suite to dress.

Once again, she was dressed in her armor and weapons. This time, she wore her gold tabard with the purple tiger and crossed daggers over the top of her chain mail shirt and her golden spurs were affixed to the heels of her sturdy boots. She was beginning to get used to wearing leather pants like a man, and wasn’t sure that was a good thing because she was modest and wasn’t comfortable showing the shape of her legs. She took comfort, however, in knowing that her tabard kept most of her leather pants from view.

Once she was dressed and ready, Liz headed to the palace chapel to pray while she waited for the palace servants to inform her the ceremony was ready to start. It was mid-afternoon before everything was set. She was brought down to an anteroom just off the throne room where she met the only four members of the Order of the Dragon who were both young enough and healthy enough to make the trip to the capital city in winter.

All four were in their sixties, and Liz recognized every name because they were in the histories of Alemania that she had studied as a child. Each man she met had done something that had changed the course of Alemani history. It was the first time she had realized just how big her actions during the war really were. I’m going to be in every history of Alemania that is written from this point forward, Liz thought. My name will go down in history with Sir Gunther of Lorne, and Lord Karl Mueller of Ostfalen…this is too much.

Liz nearly fainted, but managed to sit down and catch her breath as the old heroes gathered around her and congratulated her for what she had done. All said much the same thing: that they had never expected a woman to become a knight, much less join their royal order, but that her bravery and determination had earned her the accolades, no matter what anyone else said.

So it was that when Liz entered the throne room, which was chock full of noble guests, she was flanked by the four older men who were also fully garbed as for war. The men were each half a foot taller than Liz, at the very least, but the other major difference in their appearances compared to hers was that each man wore a heavy cloth-of-gold cloak on his back and a thick, jewel-encrusted gold chain that was draped around his neck and hung halfway down his chest.

The steps of all five knights were slow and measured, and they all stopped at the pre-designated spot just in front of the dais. The knights then removed their swords and knelt to lay them on the ground as a symbol of their service to the crown. The knights stayed on their knees then, but didn’t have long to wait. A booming voice that could be heard in every corner of the room called out: “Who brings this knight before the crown to claim admittance into the Order of the Dragon?”

Liz didn’t have to look to know who was voicing the ritual challenge; it was the voice she heard every night in her dreams. Max had a role to play today, and thus was not able to stand behind her in support. He was dressed in full plate armor, this was a fancy suit of armor more suited to ceremonies than battles as it was coated with glossy white enamel and each armor plate was rimmed with gold. Over that armor went a tabard of solid white with a large golden dragon on the chest. Max had always looked large to Liz, comfortingly so most of the time, but with his armor on he looked positively huge and menacing.

The eldest of the four dragon knights that were present spoke up in a clear, commanding voice. “We do. Sir Elizabeth embodies all that Alemani chivalry strives to be. Her actions during the recent rebellion saved the lives of thousands of soldiers, and likely saved the king and the rest of the royal family, too, and thus we find her to be a perfect candidate to join us.”

“Rise then, Sir Elizabeth,” Max said, “and receive your honors.”

Liz stood as Max stepped to one side to allow his mother to walk down the steps of the dais and accept another cloth-of-gold cloak from a servant before draping the cloak over Liz’s shoulders and fastening it around her neck.

“We are indebted to you. Your courage and fortitude are shining examples to Alemani of both sexes. May you always be worthy of their veneration.”

The queen then returned to her throne, but remained standing as Phillip walked down off the dais and picked up a heavy, jewel-encrusted gold chain from a servant who immediately withdrew.

“An invitation to join the Order of the Dragon is not given lightly, Sir Elizabeth. It is the highest honor We can bestow.” Phillip raised the gold chain and draped it around Liz’s neck, allowing the bottom of the chain to hang down almost to her breasts. Then he spoke in a softer, kinder voice meant only for her to hear. “All that We have We owe to you, Sir Elizabeth. You will find that We are not ungrateful.” Then his voice regained its strength. “Turn and face the people, Sir Elizabeth, and receive the accolade due to the newest dragon knight.”

Phillip stepped back to his position on the dais, and Liz turned toward the overflow crowd in the throne room. With her armor, weapons, tabard, and now her cloak and gold chain, she was weighed down rather heavily, but it was a weight she could manage for a while yet. Right on cue, when she faced the crowd, the applause began somewhere behind her and quickly spread to everyone in the room until it rose like thunder.

There were certain ceremonial duties that went with being a dragon knight, but most important was that Liz was now a symbol of national importance: she was a living reminder of what one person could do in the right time and place, and that the kingdom was more important than any one life.

When the applause and the cheers finally died away, Liz led the procession of the dragon knights out of the throne room. After a quick round of congratulations from the other knights and thanks from her, she was whisked away to begin her preparations for the grand gala that would take up the entire evening: a massive feast in the State Dining Room which was to be followed by the first royal ball of the season in the Grand Ballroom which was just down the hall from the dining room.

Liz’s maids worked furiously to transform their lady from martial splendor to a model of feminine perfection. To help them toward that goal, Max had sent a number of his sister’s maids down to help in any way they could. He knew Isabel would kill to be here for this ball, but figured she would be almost as happy to have her maids play a role.

Some things couldn’t be hurried though, but Liz knew the party really couldn’t start without her. Still, she didn’t want to keep the king and queen waiting, so after her body had been cleaned and perfumed, one set of women worked on her hair, while others concentrated on getting her dressed. Liz was anxious the whole time, sure she was holding things up, but when she scurried downstairs with her hair in long, spiral curls and wearing the new pale golden gown made of watered silk provided by the royal dressmakers, she found she was actually a bit early. Not early enough to beat Max though.

When she was directed to the room where all of the people sitting at the head table would collect before entering the State Dining Room, she found several people ready and waiting, including the crown prince. Max quickly claimed her arm and led her around the room, making sure she was introduced to everyone she hadn’t already met. His slightly possessive attitude won him a number of smiles from those people he knew well, as they could tell he was enthralled with Lady Elizabeth. Once the round of introductions was over, no one intruded on their privacy, but many kept their eyes on the prince and his lady.

And those who saw Max in his white and gold uniform and Liz in her golden gown noticed how well they looked together. They moved with the ease of two people who were well-used to each other, but with no one in the small room knowing of their short but intense history, they just looked like a natural couple.

As the set time for the meal approached, Liz began to wonder where her father was. Max was having the same worries about his parents, as it wasn’t like them to show up at the last minute for an important occasion like this one. Just as he was prepared to send a servant to see if his parents were having any trouble, in they walked. The strange thing was that Liz’s father walked in right behind them.

“What could they be talking about today?” Liz asked.

“Maybe you are getting another honor tonight,” Max guessed. “Though I have no idea what it could be.”

Once the king and queen entered the room, things happened quickly. Liz went to her father to ask what was going on, but all he would say was that he’d had some last minute business to attend to.

Nonplussed by her father’s incomplete answer, Liz returned to Max just in time for the seneschal to begin getting people into line behind the king and queen. Each couple would be introduced as they entered, and then they’d split to sit on either side of the royal couple at the head table. With Max and Liz placed in line right behind the king and queen, she would be to the king’s right and Max to the queen’s left. Liz was pleased to see her father right behind her, which meant he would be sitting on her other side during the meal. Once everyone was in order, the procession began. When the king and queen were introduced and entered the State Dining Room, everyone in the room stood.

The next couple was introduced as, “The guest of honor, Sir Elizabeth of Roswell and her escort, Crown Prince Maximilian.”

It took only a couple of minutes for the guests at the head table to be introduced, and then the king and queen took their seats, which allowed everyone else to sit also. The meal was served the instant everyone sat, and Liz found it to be the best she’d eaten in her time here in the palace. Everything seemed to be done just to her liking, which it had been, and she was enjoying it enormously.

Sitting between her father and the king was more enjoyable than she had thought possible, too. Her father didn’t try to monopolize her conversationally, and the king actually seemed to be making a concerted effort to get to know her better on a personal level. This was rapidly becoming one of her favorite days in the palace; she couldn’t imagine what could possibly make it any better.

And then the king called for the dessert course.

The servants scurried in like worker ants, removing the previous course and laying out the desserts. No one ate though, as each course remained untouched until the king took his first bite. This time, once the servants withdrew, something curious happened, something that drew Max’s attention and let him know something strange was going on.

The servants came back in and began pouring glasses of chilled champagne for every person in the room. Max knew that was generally saved at banquets for formal toasts. The wine served with desserts was almost always a sweet dessert wine. Curious, he asked his mother what was going on, but she just smiled and pretended ignorance, which only served to irritate her son.

Once the champagne was poured and the servants left again, the king stood and took his champagne glass with him, but signaled for everyone else to stay in their seats. Max figured this meant his father was going to toast Liz, which was a nice gesture, but totally unnecessary as the entire banquet and the ball to follow were in her honor.

“Today, we are gathered here to honor a young woman of uncommon bravery and determination. Sir Elizabeth is a shining example of what we should strive to be as individuals…but, her actions during the war are not what I am here to discuss right now.

“Instead, I want to talk about Lady Elizabeth, her future…and the future of my son.” The mention of the crown prince’s future sent a murmur through the crowd, and caused Max and Liz to lean forward in their seats and look at each other in confusion. “Crown Prince Maximilian, my son, met Lady Elizabeth during the rebellion when he was pretending to be nothing but a squire and he thought she was nothing more than a stable girl.”

The crowd tittered at the thought of the prince playing at being a squire and wondered just how he’d ever thought such a lovely young woman could have been a stable girl. Max and Liz both turned red as they remembered that fateful first meeting.

“By dinner of that first day, each had stolen the other’s interest, and from that point on, no one else had a chance.” By this time, both Max and Liz were beginning to allow themselves to hope for what the rest of the diners already believed was coming. “So today, I am asking my wife and Lady Elizabeth’s father to attend me and help make official what these two young people recognized months ago in a small manor house on the outskirts of Varshova: that they belong together, now and forever more.”

Queen Diana and Lord Jeffrey stood and moved to either side of the king. Max was silently pounding his fist onto the arm of his chair and biting his lower lip as tears welled up in his eyes. Liz was in a state of shock. She sat there hoping the king would choose to repeat what he’d just said as she was sure she had misheard him.

Diana held out her hand toward her son, and Max accepted it as he rose from his chair. Jeffrey held Liz’s chair and pulled it back for her before holding out his hand. When she hesitated to take it, he leaned down and said quietly, “It is happening, Liz. It is real. This is the day when dreams come true. All you have to do is take my hand.”

Afraid to move, as if she would somehow break the spell she was under, Liz finally stretched out her hand and clasped her father’s before standing. Her lower lip was quivering now and her eyes were as full of tears as Max’s were.

“It is now my pleasure to officially betroth my son, Crown Prince Maximilian Evans, to Lady Elizabeth Parker,” Phillip said.

The king stepped back and Diana and Jeffrey moved side by side, dragging their children along with them, before placing Liz’s dainty hand face down into Max’s upturned one. It wasn’t until his fingers curled around her hand that Liz truly believed…and as they turned to each other and Liz collapsed into Max’s arms, the king raised his glass.

The entire crowd rose as one, and then the king said, “A toast! To my son, and to his future queen. May God bless their union as He has blessed my own.”

And the crowd thundered its reply. “To the prince and his future queen.” Glasses of champagne were being drained all over the State Dining Room by all but two people.

Max and Liz didn’t care about the champagne, couldn’t even remember it existed. All they knew was fierce hugging, heartfelt crying, and passionate kissing. And then, when the kissing was over at long last, they were laughing. The pressure was off, the victory was theirs, and now they could truly enjoy each other without worry for the first time since a young squire first saw a filthy stable girl.
Last edited by Cardinal on Tue Jan 10, 2012 6:08 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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Re: In the Name of the King (AU/CC/Mature) Ch. 81 01/10/12 p

Postby Cardinal » Wed Jan 11, 2012 8:02 pm

Chapter 82

Shall We Dance?


Once the royal betrothal was announced and the toast was made, everyone sat down and tucked into the dessert course. Even Max and Liz ate, though they had no idea what they’d eaten, or what it had tasted like. They’d been far too busy leaning forward and sharing helpless smiles with each other to be expected to notice a little thing like food.

When the dessert course was finally over, as determined at the whim of the king, he and Diana stood to begin the procession from the State Dining Room to the Grand Ballroom. They walked around opposite ends of the head table and met in the center before walking arm-in-arm down the center of the room toward the wide double doors at the far end.

Normally, Max would go next and single out some predetermined girl to be his escort for the long ceremonial walk to the ballroom. It was always a politically-motivated choice, and one that was always made by his parents, but now that he was betrothed, the choice was already made…permanently so. From this moment forward, his escort for every formal event was his bride-to-be, Lady Elizabeth Parker.

So the moment the king and queen began to walk down the length of the dining room, Max winked at Liz and gestured with his head toward his receding parents, as if to say, Come on, it’s our turn now. Liz got the hint, and they stood as one. Max walked one way and Liz the other, with them repeating the actions of the king and queen by meeting in front of the middle of the head table, linking arms, and heading toward the distant ballroom. It was their first time together since the unexpected betrothal, but they were on public view, so they managed to limit their display of affection to a simple change from linked arms to held hands. What they didn’t know was the way they seemed to glow as they walked.

Liz was particularly luminescent, as everything she’d ever dreamed about as a child had just come true. Like many very young noble ladies, she’d once dreamed of marrying a prince and living in a palace, but as she’d grown older and come to understand a bit about the politics of noble marriages, and royal marriages in particular, she’d let that childish dream go. And now the dream was back in full force…only it was no longer just a dream.

In a matter of months I, Elizabeth Parker, will be marrying my very own charming prince…or is that Prince Charming like in the old bedtime stories?…Liz giggled…All that’s left will be the ‘happily ever after’ part. I think Max and I can manage that.

Max just had a silly grin on his face, as if to announce he was the luckiest man in the world. Internally, he was challenging any man present to be half as happy as he was at that very moment. Mine! I can’t believe she’s really mine, he thought. The warmest heart, smartest brain, and most beautiful appearance all in one woman and she’s mine. I am sooooo happy.

The diners were noticing how truly attached the young couple was, while some of the more mercenary adults in the crowd were already making quick calculations and coming to the realization that Lord Parker’s third daughter was suddenly of great interest. The eldest had just recently been betrothed to the newly-created Baron of Roswell, who was in turn well-known to be a close friend of the crown prince. And now Lord Parker’s second daughter had just been made the second most powerful woman in the kingdom. It was clear as good glass that many powerful families would be fighting during the next few years for the chance to marry one of their sons to the last Parker daughter, as she would be a conduit to the ear of the next king.

But that was for future days. Lady Tess was still only fifteen, and blissfully unaware of the storm that would soon build around her. She’d long since put away her early feelings for Max, and was crying with joy at the sight of Liz and her prince and how happy they were. In fact, she was so happy for Liz’s romantic success, that she hadn’t quite realized her sister would be the next queen. Her thoughts flitted briefly to Prince Kyle off in distant Varshova, and she wondered if he still thought of her. She hadn’t received a letter from him yet, but they hadn’t been at the palace very long, so she thought maybe a letter from him was still finding its way to her.

As for Maria, she sort of knew Liz had just been betrothed, but that was all she noticed. She’d spent the night cozying up with Michael well down on the other end of the dining room. As one of the lowest ranking nobles, he had received one of the seats farthest away from the head table, but that suited him and his soon-to-be bride just fine. Googly eyes weren’t their thing, but subtle touches and glances were, and anyone who’d taken the time to observe them would have known they were in love, just like the prince and his lady.

As Max and Liz made their way down the center of the room, other couples on the head table paired up and followed the crown prince. Once Liz and Max crossed the connecting hallway and entered the Grand Ballroom, they moved off to one side, with her craning her neck to take in the beauties of the ballroom, while Max turned toward her to take in her beauty.

Liz had been in the ballroom before, but it had looked nothing like it did at this moment. Now, all three chandeliers were lit and the fireplaces lining the room blazed brightly. The parquet flooring had been waxed and polished until it gleamed, and Liz could see a balcony along one wall at the center of the room that was where the musicians would play. All of that went straight out of her mind though when she saw her father walk into the ballroom in the company of a woman she did not know.

Who is that woman?” Liz asked. “He has barely been named to the position of the Count of Albemarle, and already the sharks are swarming.” She knew he’d not had any close calls with marriage after Tess’s mother had died; now she wondered if that was because of a lack of interest or a lack of suitable prospects.

“I do not know,” Max replied. He waved a hand and a servant hurried to his side. A few whispered words sent the servant off, only to return a few minutes later with the desired information. “Her name is Lady Lydia Von Jungen. She is apparently the Dowager Countess of Goteborg, and since her son is the new baron, there is no worry for her as far as material support goes.” He shrugged his shoulders. “Maybe they just enjoy each other’s company…or maybe neither one had an escort for tonight and the royal staff made the arrangements.”

Once the head table was clear, the rest of the diners stood and followed the same path into the ballroom. Soon, the walls of the ballroom were lined with hundreds of celebrants, all of whom were waiting for the king and queen to signal the start of the ball by performing the first dance together.

But this day was not the king’s day, and he knew it better than anyone. King Phillip and Queen Diana walked out to the middle of the ballroom. The room fell quiet in very little time, and the king spoke loudly to make sure everyone heard what he had to say. “My lords and ladies, we are all here to honor the elevation of our first female knight to the Order of the Dragon, and now have extra reason to celebrate as I have just betrothed that very same knight to my son. Thus it is my very great privilege to yield the floor for the first dance to my son and his bride-to-be, Crown Prince Maximilian and Lady Elizabeth Parker.”

Surprised once more on this night of nights, Max and Liz recovered quickly and walked out to the center of the ballroom where his parents stood waiting. They exchanged quick congratulations all around, with Diana going to Max first, while Phillip talked warmly with Liz. Then they switched. Father and son shared a bonecrushing hug, while the two women hesitated slightly before Diana stepped forward and hugged her future step-daughter.

“Come see me tomorrow, Lady Elizabeth,” the queen said, “for lunch in the family quarters. I have much for which to apologize.”

Then the king and queen drifted away, taking their place in the front row of the crowd. When the music started, Max and Liz took their positions, he in his white uniform with gold trim, her in her shimmering pale golden dress, and once eight bars of music passed, they began to dance.

Long hours of dancing together in the makeshift dancing room back in Krakovia paid off, as not only did Liz know the dance, but she and Max moved together as one. She practically glowed as she looked up at her beloved, and his return gaze was nothing less than worshipful. Back and forth and around and around they danced, until the music ended and the other dancers moved out onto the floor.

The ball continued late into the night, with the older celebrants calling it a night and heading home long before their children were even close to being done dancing. But one adult was paying special attention to her child. That one adult noticed how eager her son was to touch and kiss his intended, and how eager that young woman was to return his affection.

I think Phillip is wrong, Diana thought. Those two aren’t going to last fifteen months. We’re going to have to move that wedding up. Hmm…it can’t be a spring wedding because Lord Parker needs to marry off his eldest girl first and because the guests for a royal wedding are far flung and won’t start traveling until the weather improves, even if messengers could somehow deliver the invitations tomorrow.

A summer wedding is out because the humans won’t like the heat in the capital, and there’s not nearly enough room for all the prospective guests at the summer palace…so it looks like a fall wedding will have to do. Maybe in September or early October.

So…nine or ten months instead of fifteen. It will just have to do. I hope those two can keep their clothes on until then. What a disaster
that would be! We may have to split them apart for their own protection.

The next day was Saturday. Almost everyone got up late due to the aftereffects of the banquet and ball. Many skipped breakfast altogether and compensated with an early lunch. Liz, however, was up early and went through her normal daily routine, mostly because she was nervous about another lunch with the queen. She spent the morning with her sisters, as they both wanted to hear about everything between her and Max. Liz knew things were a bit screwy when Maria was as interested in her romance with Max as Tess was, but she was okay with that, as she was happy to see her older sister finally find a man who understood and accepted her…and she was more than happy to dish on the basic details of her relationship with Max, as long as Maria reciprocated and told her and Tess all about Michael.

Max spent the morning with Phillip, intending to watch how his father handled the business of state. Instead, he ended up spending most of the morning receiving congratulations from everyone he met. While he was thrilled with his betrothal, the incessant best wishes began to get on his nerves after a while.

When lunch time arrived, Max was looking forward to it as a break from his duties, but Liz was more nervous than ever…at least, until she saw Max waiting for her at an entrance to the ladies’ wing to personally escort her to the royal apartments for lunch.

“I thought I was supposed to be eating with just your mother,” Liz said.

“Maybe initially,” Max replied, “but apparently mother changed her mind once she had some time to think about it. Now, I am going to be there and so will my father and my grandmother.”

“Good. Less chance of me being ambushed again that way.” Liz looked up at Max then, and added, “Of course, your mother did say something about having a lot for which she needed to apologize, so maybe this lunch will be different.”

“No matter how poorly she acted to you before, Liz - and she was abominable - remember that in the end, she approved our betrothal.”

Max escorted Liz into the relatively small room where lunch was going to be served. They were there first, but were joined momentarily by Lady Irilta and then by Phillip and Diana. Before anyone was seated or served, Diana approached Liz, and began to speak.
"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. 82 01/11/12 p

Postby Cardinal » Fri Jan 13, 2012 1:56 pm

Chapter 83

Down to Business


“The last time you were invited to eat here, Lady Elizabeth,” Queen Diana said, “I was determined to protect my son’s life from what I saw as an unnecessarily early end. The goal was admirable, but my methods were…much less so. I chose to hammer away at you until you gave in and accepted my view that a marriage with Max was not in anyone’s best interests except yours.

“There were other ways to try to get my point across - gentler, more polite ways - and yet, I chose not to use them. For that, and for causing you however much distress I did, I am truly sorry.”

Liz wasn’t sure it was her turn to talk yet, and Max was purely blown away by hearing his mother apologize so totally and completely. The fact that she did it in front of witnesses was another surprise. Phillip had known what was coming, as Diana had confided in him that morning, but Lady Irilta was looking at her daughter like she’d just grown a second head.

Diana made everyone in the room blanch, though, when she then gave Liz the freedom to speak her mind in reply. Liz didn’t know a lot about royal protocol, but she did know that gave her the power to say anything she wanted to say to the queen, and she could not be punished for it in any way…not now and not ever in the future. The granted power would end with the meeting, but to say anything she wanted to Queen Diana was a powerful temptation.

A hush fell over the room as Liz thought. So many things to say. It would feel so good to return some of that bile to her…to make her feel like I did when she accused me of being selfish.

But…when I speak now, I don’t speak just for myself. Max’s name and reputation will get attached to everything I say…and furthermore, this woman will be my mother-in-law - and the grandmother of our children - for a very long time. Maybe the wisest course in this case is the most difficult one: eat my anger and hurt, and instead offer an olive branch.


Liz swallowed hard and then addressed the queen. “Your Majesty, I thank you for reconsidering your position on a betrothal between your son and me, and I thank you also for your apology. I accept it most humbly.” And now for the hard part, Liz thought. “As for what happened in the garden, I believe nothing more need be said. I can only hope the betrothal has opened a new chapter in our relationship.”

Diana had braced herself for a verbal onslaught, but was pleased, both personally, and as the mother of Liz’s future husband, by the way she conducted herself. Max reached over to Liz and squeezed her hand under the table, even as he flashed a happy but unsurprised smile at everyone else. Her grace under pressure wasn’t anything new to him. Phillip released a deep breath he hadn’t even known he’d been holding, and Lady Irilta gave Liz a piercing look before breaking into a bemused grin. “I think she actually means it. Hah! That’ll be a first; someone in the Evans household who can govern her mouth.”

That earned her sour looks from the king and queen, and made Max tease his grandma with his reply. “That sure as Hell includes you, Grandma.”

Lady Irilta froze halfway between choosing whether to complain about Max’s language or reminding him she wasn’t an Evans, but then she just laughed at his impudence for disrespecting an elder, and replied, “You got me.”

After that, the servants were summoned, and lunch was served. Everyone in the room pretended nothing unusual had just happened, and by the end of the meal, with some gentle prodding on either side by the men in the room, Diana and Liz made a somewhat tentative effort to strike up a normal conversation.

At the end of the meal, Liz was about ready to retreat from the royal quarters and declare the meal a success, when the king brought up the primary reason for the lunch.

“We are here today to begin the huge task of organizing the first royal wedding in…”

Diana cut in with a dangerous look, and said, “You had better not even dare say how many years ago, Phillip.”

Phillip gave his wife a pointed look, and continued, “…in many years.” He tilted his head and raised his eyebrows. “Satisfied?” Then he looked at Liz and muttered, just loud enough so everyone could hear, “Even though she’s a long-lived Antarian, she’s still very touchy about her age.” That made everyone around the table chuckle, and managed to dispel most of the remaining tension over the queen’s apology.

“Anyway, as this is a royal wedding,” Phillip said, “the Queen’s office will be in charge of the preparations. Formal occasions are, in fact, one of the primary reasons her staff is so large.” All of this talk was for the benefit of both Liz and Max. Liz, because she wasn’t expected to know royal protocol, and Max, because he’d never cared to learn anything having to do with royal weddings. “But while the queen is in charge, she will need the assistance of you and your staff, Lady Elizabeth.”

“But…but I do not have a staff. I just have the normal complement of maids in my service.” Liz would have been slightly worried by now, except she could feel something was slightly off. And as the roles of the other three people in the room were quite clear…Liz suddenly realized why Lady Irilta was present. She turned her head and faced her. “My staff, I presume?”

Lady Irilta’s face went from impassive to a wide grin in the blink of an eye. “Oh, this one’s sharp, Your Majesties. I’m going to like working with her.”

“She is but the start of your staff,” Phillip said, “if you choose her. And I seriously recommend that you do. Her primary task will be to turn you into a royal princess in truth by the time you become one in fact.”

“Your Majesty?” Liz asked. She was rather confused by that statement and wanted some clarification.

“She’ll be your tutor for all the things about being a princess that you do not know, but need to.”

Diana perked up. “And believe me, that list is a lot longer than you think it is.”

“As far as the rest of your staff goes,” Phillip said, “you and your father need to sit down soon and choose a chief of staff, who can then work with you to fill the other staff positions.”

“Why, exactly, do I need a staff?”

“Because you’re about to join the royal family,” Phillip said. “While you will not officially become an Evans until the wedding, you are effectively one of us right now. Becoming betrothed to my son has just tripled the number of your social obligations, and probably multiplied your incoming mail by a factor of ten. Just having a social secretary to keep your appointments straight and a few correspondence secretaries to sort, open, and sometimes even answer your mail, will be a lifesaver.

“In any case, you now have a royal budget for your new staff. I expect the staff to be filled within two weeks. And now that I am done talking about the staff, I am turning this meeting over to the queen.”

“Thank you, Phillip,” Diana said, before turning to her small audience. “I only have two things on my agenda for today, but they are both important. First off, Lady Elizabeth, I will need a list of every person you wish to invite to the wedding. The initial list needs to be in my hand - mine and no one else’s mind you - by New Year’s Day. You are allowed to invite as many as one-thousand guests to see the service itself in the cathedral and then attend the open-air reception to be held back here at the palace. I recommend you ask your sisters for support in this task, as your staff won’t be in place yet. Once the final guest lists are done, we can begin to send out the formal invitations.”

Liz was sure she didn’t even know a thousand people, but she thought maybe her father could help her by naming some families he knew and would want to honor with an invitation.

“The second thing I need to mention is that I’ve already started the process of setting the actual date of the wedding.” All four sets of ears perked up as the queen went over her logic from the night before. “So…a late summer or early fall date will work best. We’ll get more specific when it’s time to send out the formal invitations.”

Later that day, royal messengers were sent to the many noble residences affected by the king’s reassignment of titles and lands. The people in Roswell were soon to discover their beloved Parkers were leaving. They were unsure of their replacement being a man with Michael’s less than sterling reputation, but were mollified to learn he’d be marrying one of the Parker girls. At least one of the Parkers will still be here, seemed to be the prevailing thought in the town and throughout the Parkers’ former lands.

Liz soon settled into a routine of spending her mornings with her father and sisters, as they had to help Maria prepare for her wedding as well as make the list of guests for Liz’s part of the royal wedding. Max made use of that time to keep shadowing the king and learn more about how to rule.

Early afternoons, however, belonged to the young couples. Some days Max and Liz might spend their time together in the royal library as she searched for books she’d only heard rumors about. Other days - after the first big snows of the season fell - they would go for a ride in an open-air phaeton which had had its wheels replaced with runners to turn it from a carriage into a sleigh. They would be bundled up against the cold, while at least one of her ladies sat across from them under a sea of furs of her own.

New Year’s Day approached, and Liz turned in her initial list of guests. After her list had been vetted for the political suitability of the proposed guests, she was given one last chance to make last minute changes. Finding none were needed, she and her father turned the list back in and waited. By the time she turned in her final list, the date for the wedding had been chosen. It was to happen on the first Saturday in early September, not too long before her eighteenth birthday.

Now that all the pertinent information had been assembled, the queen’s staff went into overdrive - and they borrowed every last girl off Liz’s new staff - to write out the formal wedding invitations. Once they were ready, the messengers of the Royal Mail Service handled delivering the invitations to the lucky people of Alemania who were to receive them, while the Foreign Office was to deliver the invitations that were headed to other kingdoms.

While Franconia, Iberia, and many other kingdoms large and small were to receive royal invitations, only one kingdom got a visit from the royal prince. Max visited Isabel in her dreams to tell her personally of his success. He explained what had been happening, and Isabel ate up every last detail, right down to finding out the wedding was planned for Königsberg Cathedral on the first Saturday in September.

“Max! Max!” Isabel cried. “I am so happy for you!” She hugged her older brother fiercely, which caught him off guard.

“I am happy for me, too, Isabel,” Max replied, as he laughed. “Liz and I are so thrilled. She is working with Grandma on court etiquette and stuff, and she is even getting along with mother now, as they work together on planning the wedding.” Max went on to explain what had happened between the two.

“Mother apologized?” Isabel asked. “Wow. And people say miracles do not happen.”

The two kept chatting and eventually brought up Alex and how she and he were getting along. Max ended the long talk with a friendly word of warning. “I have done my part; now you two should be able to do yours. Just do not do anything to antagonize Father and the rest should be easy.”
Last edited by Cardinal on Sat Jan 14, 2012 12:51 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. 83 01/13/12 p

Postby Cardinal » Mon Jan 16, 2012 12:26 am

Chapter 84

Heading Home


The next morning, Max met up with Michael right after breakfast. Max had thought Michael would be busy training his abilities.

“To what do I owe this unexpected pleasure?”

Not one for beating around the bush, Michael said, “It’s time for me to leave.”

“Leave?” Max asked. “Where are you going?”

“For the first time since I became a knight,” Michael said, “I’m heading home.”

“Home? You mean Roswell?” When Michael nodded affirmatively, Max said, “Why now? You have just become betrothed to my future sister-in-law and we still have most of the winter social season ahead of us to celebrate.”

“If it was just Maria and me,” Michael replied, “I’d stay. Wild horses couldn’t drag me away then, and a royal command would only be grudgingly obeyed. But now I’m a baron, and I have thousands of people that are depending on me to take care of them. It’s time I headed to Roswell to start learning what a baron does.” Then a wistful smile crept across his face. “Besides, Maria and I are going to have a spring wedding in Roswell. I need to be there to make sure everything that can be done to prepare for our wedding is being done. I want Maria to have a wedding that surpasses her dreams.”

Max was rather surprised by what he’d just heard. Not so much by the words themselves, as by the intensity with which they’d been said. He clapped his closest friend on the thigh, and said, “Be careful, Michael. You are almost sounding…romantic there.”

“Maybe I am. Even if the things in Rouchka Pass didn’t happen the way most people think, I’ve still spent most of my life exploring my brutal side. I think…I think it’s time to see what else I can be.” Michael spent a moment adjusting the fit of his leather gauntlets and then asked, “Now, with your kind permission…?”

Remembering his own recent experience with the procedure, Max decided this was the time to tell Michael and Maria about it. They needed to know everything to make the decisions that were right for them. And given what Michael had said about the way his previous girl had met her demise, he could only imagine his reaction to learning he’d have to give Maria a fatal wound.

“You cannot leave just yet.”

“Why not?”

“There is something you and Maria need to know first.”

“Really?” Michael deadpanned. “Why do I get the sudden feeling this is something I’m not gonna like?”

Max picked out a sunny morning sitting room and sent for both Maria and Liz. While they were waiting for the women to appear, he sent for some light refreshments, as he figured this could take a while.

When the women arrived, Max pulled Liz aside for a few moments to tell her what was going on. It was his hope she would be able to support Maria in case she didn’t react well. After Max presented what was involved in the procedure, Michael was quick to point out the minor problem that he wasn’t good at healing small wounds, much less major ones.

“I guess that will give you some extra motivation as you practice your skills,” Max said. “By the way, I’ll make sure your instructor goes with you to Roswell.”

“Good, I was gonna ask about that.”

“Now,” Max said, “there is at least one thing that is different for you two compared to Liz and me.”

“What is that?” Maria asked.

“You two aren’t required to have children. If you choose to, you can forego the procedure, and when Michael dies, the king would have to choose a new baron.”

Liz then stepped in and pointed out the benefits of undergoing the procedure, like a much longer life and Antarian powers. “Also,” she added, “you two do not have to undergo the procedure right away. You can think it over for a few years while Michael increases the strength and control of his powers.”

Michael and Maria spent much of the rest of the day talking over the pros and cons. Michael made it plain as day that he wouldn’t agree to the procedure unless he was sure they would survive it. For her part, Maria said she had never really been looking forward to being a mother. She’d always known, however, that having children would be the biggest part of her official duties once she married.

“Like Liz said,” Michael said, “we have time to figure this all out. And as Max said, I just received a powerful incentive to become a good healer.”

The next morning, Maria, Max, and Liz gathered outside the south wing of the palace to see Michael off. He was backed by a large group of well-armed knights and armsmen, lined up four abreast. Liz said her goodbyes first and then Max stepped up, and said, “Lord Guerin, go to your new home with all my blessings. But remember one thing.”

“What’s that Your Highness?”

“Liz and I are expecting formal invitations to the wedding.” Then the prince’s face broke into a huge grin. “And we will be at the wedding whether we receive invitations or not.”

Michael snorted with laughter and shook his head before moving off a few feet to have a private last moment with Maria. Max and Liz couldn’t hear a word they were saying, but the affection between them was obvious from the way they stood, the way they kept touching each other, and most especially, from the way they kissed.

Michael mounted his horse then and led his column of troops out of the palace courtyard on the first leg of the long journey home. Max and Liz stood and watched until the last horse and rider disappeared into the tunnel that went under the building, and then headed up the steps into the south wing. As soon as Michael left, Maria went her own way, but instead of being alone with Liz like he had hoped, a couple of women popped up seemingly out of nowhere and took station a few feet behind her.

“I wish we had more time to ourselves these days,” Max said, as he looked over at her ladies.

“More time truly alone.”

“Yeah. Discreet as they are, those women are still here, watching our every move.” Max looked more closely at the women and finally noticed they really were ladies and not just maids. “When did this happen?”

“What?”

“You having your own ladies-in-waiting.”

“Yesterday,” Liz grumped. “It is apparently not enough that I have a full staff. Your parents insisted I take on a full complement of younger ladies to be my companions and to help guard my virtue.”

“Says who?” Max replied. “And guard your virtue from whom? Me?”

“Your parents said, though I suspect your mother was the driving force behind the move. She said they had seen enough of us together since our betrothal to warrant this step. Apparently it was either accept this or else they would send you on a diplomatic mission somewhere far away until it was time for Maria and Michael to get married.”

Max looked away from Liz briefly and took some time to compose his thoughts before returning his gaze to her. “If it keeps me near you, then I hope it is a burden you can bear, because I could not deal with spending another two or three months away from you. I am not that strong.” Max pulled Liz close for a slow, sweet kiss and then wrapped his arms around her shoulders as she rested one side of her face on his chest.

“I will get used to it,” Liz assured him. “I would have had to do it after the wedding anyway. My only real problem is that I am having a lot of new things thrown at me all at once. The new personal staff, spending time being taught by Lady Irilta, and now my ladies…all while trying to help as much as I can with the wedding stuff.”

“Did you get to select any of them, or did mother just give them to you?”

“Some of both,” Liz said wryly. “She gave me a list of politically acceptable young women to choose from. I had met most of them already during the almost nightly soirees you and I have been attending, so choosing nine wasn’t too hard. Lady Irilta was invaluable there, as she made sure I balanced my selections so no area of the kingdom was left out.”

“Anything new on the wedding planning?”

“Not really. Right now, your mother is fixated on planning our individual processions to the cathedral.” Liz stayed there leaning up against her man, just enjoying the way she felt in his arms, until she remembered something. “Oh! Your mother wants you and me to meet with the archbishop sometime soon.”

“Us together? Or separate visits?”

“Together, I think, though she did not make it clear.”

“Hmm…I can handle that.” He leaned back a bit and kissed Liz’s forehead. “Do you think the archbishop counts as a chaperone for you?”

Liz snickered. “The highest ranking churchman in the kingdom? I should hope so.” Liz took a turn at asking a question. “How was Isabel?”

“Excited beyond belief, just like you thought she would be,” Max admitted.

“Ha! I knew it!”

“Yeah, she would not let me leave her dream until she had asked every question she could think of.” Max tilted his head down for another kiss, and then asked, “How are your studies with Grandma coming along?”

“She is a hard taskmaster,” Liz said carefully. “She is strict, and she really lays into me when I mess up,” boy, does she ever, she thought, “but I am learning so much.”

“She still cracking your knuckles when your concentration wavers?”

“Yeah. I am beginning to hate that riding crop of hers.”

“Just as long as she does not use it anywhere else,” Max said. “If she tries to, take the riding crop away from her. Heck, I do not know why Grandma’s got that thing; she does not even ride horses. As far as I know, she has always used a carriage.”

The lovers stayed in their comfortable embrace for some time, talking about little things, anything that happened to come to mind, really, until they noticed it was nearing noon. As they headed inside, Max said, “Please tell me we do not have another social engagement this evening,” he begged. “I just want to stay home and spend the night doing something quiet with you.”

“Sorry,” Liz replied, “I want more private time like you do, but we have to go. This is not just anyone’s party tonight; this party is being thrown by Duke de Laney.”

“Oh. We definitely cannot miss that one…but I wish I could just whisk you away from here. Somewhere private, somewhere special.”

“That sounds so romantic, Max, and it would be so much fun. But…”

“Yeah, but…us running off alone would compromise your honor and end our chances of getting married. I would never do that to you, Liz, or to us.”

“I know you would not,” Liz replied. “It is just one of the many reasons I love you.” She settled back against Max’s massive chest. “Rumor has it the duke is going to make a very special announcement tonight.”

“You mean about Duke Hanson and Lady Victoria?” Max asked casually, as if he already knew all about it.

“Yeah, that is the rumor anyway.” Liz heard the tone of Max’s voice and peered up at him. “Tell me.”

“You want me to betray a confidence?” Max asked in mock surprise.

“Not if you promised to keep it a secret.” Liz bit her lower lip and gave Max her best puppy dog eyes. “But if you could tell me, I would be ever so grateful.”

“Like I could refuse you anything you chose to ask for.” Max nodded his head toward the stairway leading to the royal quarters. “Come on, let us go eat lunch. I will tell you all about it on the way.”
Last edited by Cardinal on Mon Jan 16, 2012 10:22 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. 84 01/15/12 p

Postby Cardinal » Wed Jan 18, 2012 3:30 pm

Chapter 85

Time Flies


As the weeks flew by and winter prepared to give way to spring, Liz completed the adjustment to her new status. Not only did she become used to having ladies-in-waiting, but she began to discover a number of convenient uses for them. And as for her staff, she was beginning to wonder if she could function without them, especially her correspondence secretaries.

Those young women had to deal with the large volume of mail Liz received from the star-struck little girls of nobles and well-to-do merchants all over the kingdom, even those families that weren’t spending the winter in the capital. Most of their fathers had no interest in their daughters turning out like her, but with the secret help of their mothers, aunts, or older sisters, the letters were written and sent anyway.

Liz spent a lot of time writing out answers to particular questions that seemed to get asked a lot, so that her secretaries could answer the girls properly. Sometimes a new question was asked and she answered those, and once her girls had finished the replies, Liz had the job of signing her name to every letter.

The one thing she enjoyed most about her correspondence with the girls of Alemania was her insistence that every letter included a paragraph near the end that encouraged the girls to take every chance they had to get an education. She had hopes of helping to create an entire generation of young women who were as capable as their brothers. Max had nearly choked the first time she’d shown him the standard encouragement, but not because he disagreed with her intention.

“Father is going to hear about this, and soon,” Max said, after he’d caught his mental balance. “A number of these letters will be going to families that are spending the winter in homes here in the city, so when the fathers of those families find out about this - and some of them will, no matter how well the girls try to hide things – they will come storming into the palace en masse to complain about your ‘subversive’ writings.”

“Subversive?” Liz nearly choked herself. “I just want these girls to have the advantages I did.”

“Yes, Dearest,” Max replied as he took Liz’s hands and kissed the backs of each before going on. “You know as well as I do that not everyone has the enlightened approach to young girls that your father did. For most of these men, their daughters are seen as property they can use to improve their families’ fortunes. You, my Dear, are about to upset their apple cart.”

Liz squeezed Max’s thick fingers and smiled up at him. “As long as I have your support, then I can manage the rest of them quite well.” Max turned Liz down the spacious hall, which was lined with wall sconces for light and niches for small but elegant artworks. The two of them were followed by two of her ladies-in-waiting, who remained reasonably close but weren’t allowed to hear a word that was said.

“How are the trade treaty talks coming along?” Liz asked. She wished she could be with him as he listened in on the negotiations between the trade minister and the party that had just arrived from the neighboring kingdom of Franconia. While the talks themselves could actually be rather tedious, Liz liked knowing what was going on at the highest levels of government, and considered things like the trade treaty talks as chances to further her own education.

“Boring,” Max replied. “They spent all morning politely arguing over the smallest detail you can imagine…but I had been charged by Father to pay attention and report back to him at lunch, so I had to listen closely. When I gave him a rundown of the talks during a long lunch, he explained just how important that ‘smallest detail’ really was. He said having that item get decided in our favor could save Alemani merchants who trade with Franconia as much as ten-thousand kroner per year.”

“Wow. That is some ‘small detail.’” Liz had become rather familiar with large-scale finance during the war, but hearing Max talk about that much gold as if it was a commonplace amount of money made her fingers twitch. Of course, she could remember a time a few months ago when the thought of spending hundreds of golds on her dress for the Harvest Ball had also been way too much.

“Do you think I could sneak into some of those negotiations?” Liz asked, a few minutes later. She wanted to learn, and since she already knew Max planned on having her as his most important advisor, she figured it was never too early to start learning.

“Can you find the time?” Max replied bluntly. “I mean, the last time I checked, getting a space on your morning calendar was only slightly less difficult than raising the dead.”

Liz chuckled at that, and conceded that her desire to learn the workings of royal government would have to wait until after her wedding. “I guess there are limits…” she said, before her voice trailed off. “But I want to do everything and do it all now.”

“Pace yourself, Milady,” Max said. “We have got a very long time together for you to do and see everything. I likely will not even be king for another forty or fifty years.”

“That just gives us more time as Duke and Duchess of Borussia. Time to learn; time to practice.”

“True,” Max replied, “and that reminds me: you have not even seen the ducal palace yet.”

“No,” Liz agreed. She’d never even been near the city, as the path her father had taken to travel to Königsberg had bypassed Max’s seat of power.

“I think we will have to arrange for a slight detour to Borussia on our way back to the capital after the wedding of Maria and Michael.” Max finally located the sitting room where a prearranged tray of refreshments awaited them, and ushered Liz inside. “The funny thing is that I have not been at the palace very often myself, and never more than a week or two at a time.”

“So we can explore the palace’s secrets together,” Liz said, as a servant filled their teacups and then placed the tray of light snacks where they could be easily reached. Her ladies had their own table and snacks, which was another of Max’s prearrangements.

“Together,” Max sighed. “I like that word more and more with each passing day.”

“How much longer until our procession begins to head south?” Liz knew the exact date better than Max did, but she was feeling a little bit tired at the moment and didn’t particularly want to think.

“Another couple of weeks.” Max watched with some concern and a little humor as Liz gave a huge yawn, just like a cat. Thinking of the powerful jungle cat that was on both Jeffrey’s and Liz’s coats-of-arms, he said, “My tiny tiger. So fierce. So graceful. So beautiful. So strong.”

Liz had been about to ask if he was mocking her with the ‘tiny tiger’ comment, but the string of compliments that came after that made her smile sleepily instead. She was really beginning to want an afternoon nap, but she couldn’t quite remember if she had a social engagement that evening, and her social secretary was in an entirely different wing of the palace at that moment. She could ask Max though. He’d know.

Please tell me I do not have anywhere to go tonight,” Liz pleaded. “I just want a short nap, a light dinner, and then maybe enough time to challenge you to a couple of games of chess before bedtime.”

“Chess is it?” Max asked. “Better make it a loooong nap if you are planning to take on me.” Max knew he and Liz were expected at a very small, very exclusive get-together that evening, but he didn’t like how tired she was all of a sudden. After she shuffled off for her nap, he’d send a courier with a personal note to their host for the evening to explain why they wouldn’t be there, and another one to Liz’s social secretary to let her know their plans had changed.

Liz was happy to be staying at home. Not only was she tired, but the closer the calendar got to springtime, the harder she’d been working to stay out of the limelight so Maria could fully enjoy her betrothal and everything that would lead up to her wedding with Michael. Showing up her elder sister now, even accidentally, was something Liz would not allow.

A few months earlier, Maria had been a little worried that the general excitement over anything related to Liz would turn her own wedding into nothing more than a sideshow. But Liz’s efforts at fading into the background had been noticed and greatly appreciated by Maria, and after a long heart-to-heart talk between the sisters, they had found themselves closer than ever.

While Liz napped, her sisters were getting ready to attend a big bash that night on the far side of the city, and their major topic of conversation was Maria’s fancy wedding gown, which had just been completed the day before. The services of the royal dressmakers had been given to her as an early wedding present by Max a few days after his own betrothal. She’d been thrilled at the time, but that was before the dressmakers had put her through no fewer than four long, laborious fittings for the gown.

Now that the process was complete, though, Maria had agreed it had all been worth it. The gown was stunning - everyone who had seen her in it thought so - and she couldn’t stop talking about it, not even a day after being presented with the finished product.

“I can only hope my gown’s half as beautiful when it is my turn to marry,” Tess said wistfully.

“Do not worry about that,” Maria grinned. “By then, our father’s treasury will be flush with money. Moving up from baron to count tends to do that. He will be able to afford just about anything you could want.”

“Do you think so?” Tess asked hopefully, as one of the maids began to cinch up her corset. Tess was doing what she could to help Maria prepare to marry Michael. After that wedding, she planned on switching to a temporary position on Liz’s staff so that she could help there, too. Her goals were to help and to learn. She wanted to take the best ideas from their weddings to help her make informed choices when it came time for her own.

And though Tess still didn’t know how many noble families now wanted her to marry one of their sons - for reasons of political advantage - she did know she was receiving a lot more male attention than ever before, and she was loving it. To her mind, her sudden popularity was just a case of natural progression: as Maria and then Liz were taken off the marriage market, it seemed only natural to the fifteen-year-old girl that she should be next in line.

Maria and Liz hadn’t had the heart, or the time, to set her down and straighten her out on that subject. Besides, they both thought she’d figure it out on her own sometime in the next couple of years….especially if she ever started attracting attention from the more powerful families in the kingdom.

“Yes,” Maria replied. “Father will want your wedding to be nice. Obviously he will not be able to match the splendor of Liz’s upcoming wedding - God only knows how much the king is going to end up paying for that little shindig - but father will be able to make sure your wedding matches mine, and I know you are pretty excited about mine.”

“Yeah,” Tess said, “your wedding is going to be so pretty in the castle’s chapel back home.”

“It should be,” Maria agreed, “as long as that knight of mine stays out of the way and lets his housekeeping staff run things.”

Maria and Tess were long gone, and Liz and Max were deep in thought as they battled on an ornate marble chess set. Liz had lost the first game rather easily, which was something that didn’t sit well with her because she knew she was good at the game. Max, however, was in a class by himself and he respected his future wife far too much to patronize her by letting her win. So she always got his best effort when they played, which meant she always got her butt kicked.

The second game, which was currently underway, was going better for Liz than the first one had, but she was still down an exchange and was suffering with a constricted position, while Max’s pieces were finely posted and had plenty of mobility.

“I can’t believe this,” she groused. “I am better than this.”

“Obviously not,” Max replied archly, “or else you would be beating me.”

Liz quirked an eyebrow at him upon hearing that. The smartass comment from her beloved wasn’t helping her mood any.

“But if you play me often enough,” Max continued, “Your game will steadily improve.” Then he leaned over the board and gave Liz a special smile; a smile he reserved just for her. She could feel her face flush red and her toes curl in her velvet slippers, as he said, “And just imagine how you will feel when you finally win. It will not be luck, and I will not have taken it easy on you; you will have earned it.”

“You know,” Liz ventured, “these games between us are not a real competition, not until I do win one anyway. But once that happens, and it will happen someday, then watch out.”

Max leaned in the rest of the way and stole a quick kiss from Liz. “So…are you ready to concede this game yet?”

Liz grabbed her king and toppled it over. “I concede…this time.” Then she leaned over the table and grabbed her prince and kissed him hard. “And other times, I just take what I want.”
"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. 85 01/18/12 p

Postby Cardinal » Thu Jan 19, 2012 11:27 pm

Chapter 86

Jitters


“How much farther is it, Liz?” Max asked, as he helped her climb down from the carriage she’d been riding in with her family.

“Not much more,” she replied, as she rested in his arms for a few seconds before stepping back to a respectable distance. “Father says we just have to make it over that last low saddle up there, and then it is downhill into the Roswell valley from there.”

“Good. This has been a long trip.”

Lord Parker had just helped Maria climb down and was helping Tess next, as he asked, “What do you mean ‘long,’ Your Highness? You have not been cooped up inside a carriage with three silly girls for nearly two weeks.”

“Silly girls?” Max replied, pretending he had no idea to whom Lord Parker was referring, even as all three Parker girls gave their father an amused look. “I do not see any silly girls here; all I see are three of the most sought-after young ladies in the entire kingdom.” He turned Liz to fully face her father and then stood behind her while resting his hands on her shoulders. “Well…two are already taken, including the light of my life over here,” he squeezed her shoulders, “but Lady Tess is almost in need of her own social secretary just to help sort out who gets to talk to her next.”

Having seen the cloud of young men that seemed show up wherever his youngest went back in the royal palace, Jeffrey couldn’t help but agree and then looked at his daughter as if it was her fault. “At least I do not have to worry about marrying her off for a couple of years yet.”

The small procession of people traveling with the Parkers to Roswell for the wedding of Maria and Michael stopped with them, as there was no place between where they were and the town of Roswell itself where they could have a hot meal. The dried meats and fruits they’d brought with them might not have been anyone’s first choice, but they were enough to satisfy everyone’s hunger pangs and get them back on the road for the last hours of their trip.

A couple of hours more were all it took for the heavily guarded train of carriages, supply wagons, and horsemen to roll into Roswell. Michael’s staff had already decided which guests would be able to stay in the castle’s guest rooms, and which would need to take rooms in the town itself, so the column of newcomers split in town, with a few of them continuing up the winding path that led to the castle high over the town itself.

Max was first into the castle’s courtyard, but he wasn’t the person of the moment, so he slipped off his horse, exchanged brief greetings with Michael, and then quietly drifted off to one side as the Parkers’ carriage came to a stop. One by one, Michael’s future in-laws piled out of the carriage. Lord Parker came out first, followed by Ladies Liz and Tess, all of whom received large cheers from their former subjects.

Last to alight from the carriage was Lady Maria, the woman for whom everyone was waiting. Michael had greeted the other Parkers politely, but with Maria, nothing would do other than sweeping her into his arms for a hard kiss, followed by whispered endearments.

“I have missed you so much!” Maria said quietly.

“Me too,” Michael replied. “If I had known how hard the time apart would be, I would’ve stayed at the palace with you and insisted on a wedding back in Königsberg.”

Max smiled when he thought back to the people these two had seemed to be when he first met them. Michael had been a hard case who really didn’t seem to care for women, and Maria had been a woman bent on proving she could be as tough as any man. The part he didn’t like to remember was that both of them had given him a rather serious beating soon after meeting him. What is it with these two? They seem to like violence.

Once Maria and Michael finished greeting each other, she stood by his side as he greeted the rest of the guests that were waiting in line, while servants were waiting to direct Crown Prince Maximilian and the Parker family to the various rooms that had been set aside for their use.

By the time Max got settled in his room, washed up after the long trip, and had put on a fresh change of clothing, it was nearly time for the evening meal. He met Liz in the Great Hall, which had rarely been used for a big meal like this when her family had been in residence. It warmed her heart to see her old home come alive like this.

Michael had made sure Max and Liz would be seated together, as were Jeffrey and Tess. The first thing that was apparent to the Parkers was that someone new was in charge of the cooking in the castle. They’d had a decent cook, but the woman hadn’t been capable of putting together a succulent meal like the one they were busy enjoying. Liz was sitting between Michael and Max, and leaned over to ask her host where he’d found such a treasure in Roswell.

“At the Oaken Bucket down in the town itself,” Michael replied. “My first day here I got to town too late to make the climb up to the castle and be sure of a warm reception, so I and my men took rooms in town and was amazed by the quality of the fare served there. When I was less than impressed by the food served in the castle over the next few days, I rode back down to town and hired the cook from the Oaken Bucket on the spot.”

“Father will kick himself once he hears that,” Liz said. “Missing such a talented cook right under his own nose. On the other hand, having a great cook might have caused him to put on weight.”

Once the meal was over, Liz pulled on her heavy fur robe and led Max and a couple of her ladies out onto the roof of the main tower of the castle. It was the highest point of the castle, and even in early spring, the air way up here was seriously cold at night. On the other hand, the air was perfectly clear, allowing an unparalleled view of the stars that rose above the rim of distant mountains.

“Remember the last time we were up here?” Liz asked.

“Yeah,” Max replied, “I had just come to pass on Father’s command for your family to come to the winter palace, and you brought me up here to take one last look at your favorite view before leaving on our trip to the capital.”

“You remember!” Liz said delightedly. “And here I thought you had just been focused on getting a kiss or two from me.”

Max pulled Liz in close and pressed his lips against hers. “Like this?”

“Mmm…yes. I think that is just about perfect.” As Liz’s lips disengaged from Max’s, she turned within the circle of his arms and pressed her back against his chest, allowing him to wrap his arms around her and snuggle in close.

“This time, though, I am looking up at the moon and stars. On a cloudless night, the stars seem so large from up here and they sparkle like drops of morning dew on blades of grass.”

Max looked at the sky with her. “Or like diamond chips on someone’s Harvest Ball gown.”

“Mmm…that was a gorgeous gown,” Liz said, as she closed her eyes and thought back to that wondrous evening.

“True,” Max agreed readily, “but not half so gorgeous as the woman who wore it. You were the belle of the ball. No other woman could hope to compare to you, not even Princess Serena.”

That kind of flattery made Liz smile uncontrollably, mostly because she knew Max meant it. “I think I would have been the belle of the ball, in your eyes anyway, even if I had been wearing a burlap dress that was five sizes too large for me.”

“True again…but I wanted everyone to know how beautiful you were, not just me.”

The two stayed there until Max detected Liz’s ladies-in-waiting were starting to shiver from the cold. They did have on fur robes of their own, but they weren’t used to the cold like Liz was, and they were really starting to feel it.

“Let us go inside before your ladies turn into icicles,” he whispered into her ear.

As they headed inside, she asked, “Has Michael said anything to you about having a rehearsal of the wedding before it is time for the actual ceremony itself?”

“Not yet.”

“I will ask Maria before bedtime. Surely we will not be expected to wing it.”

“No. We have a whole day tomorrow with nothing official planned before the wedding the next day. I cannot imagine Michael neglecting to have at least one run-through of the service before we do it for real.”

As Max thought, the next day involved plenty of practice for the official wedding party. While the guests were involved in a series of entertainments Michael had arranged for them, the wedding party was going through a strict, very regimented practice session. They went through the whole service over and over and over again until Maria finally put a stop to things by telling her nervous husband-to-be that they could all recite the entire service in their sleep. A sheepish Michael then dismissed everyone for the day, with explicit instructions to be back immediately after lunch the next day for the real thing.

The next morning came nice and early for the people in Roswell Castle, as the first rays of morning light hit the stone edifice high up on its hill long before the sun bathed the town down in the valley. Michael was up and gazing out over the battlements of his castle as those first rays arrived. He was still there sometime later when Max came to find him.

“Nice view from up here,” Max said. “It is Liz’s favorite.”

“Mine too,” Michael said. “It’s so peaceful up here.”

“Wanna tell me why you missed breakfast?” Max asked. “I am not sure, but it looked to me like Maria was starting to get a little worried when you did not show.”

Hearing Maria had been distressed today of all days made Michael grimace. “Damn!” he said softly. “I did not mean for her to be affected by this.”

“This?”

“Yeah. My nerves are a little on edge today.”

“Wedding day jitters?”

Michael rubbed his hands on the front of his thighs to dry his damp palms. “Yeah, I guess so.”

“She loves you. You love her. What’s to worry about?”

“I got this far once before, Max,” Michael muttered, “in fact, I might have told you about it once. It was a sunny wedding day, with me in my finest clothing. I rode in a borrowed carriage to pick up my intended and take her to the small church in town. But her father was a jealous old man. He cut her down rather than let me take her from him, and I killed him in response. Two graves were filled that day…but three people died.

“It took that crazy, obnoxious Maria to bring me back from the dead, and now…I fear having her taken from me, also.”

Max froze for a moment and then cautiously clapped a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “I do not really know what to say, Michael. But the way I see it, you have two choices: live in the past, and be continually afraid of what the next day might bring, or live each moment to its fullest, and thank God every day for giving you a second chance at joy. Either way, Michael, it is your choice to make.”

“You really think it is that simple, huh?” Michael asked sourly.

“Nah…what the Hell do I know? I am just an unmarried kid. Right?”

“Sure, you’re nineteen years old,” Michael replied, “and twenty in less than a month. But you’re also my liege lord and closest friend. If you can’t give me a kick in the ass when I need it, who can?” Michael turned toward Max for the first time and the two friends shook hands before hugging fiercely. “Decide to be happy. That should be easy enough. A gorgeous, spirited wife. A barony. The friendship of the crown prince. In truth, I have a lot to be happy about.” Michael took a deep breath, rolled back his shoulders, and straightened his back. “Come on, let’s go inside. I have some guests to greet.”
"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. 86 01/19/12 p

Postby Cardinal » Sat Jan 21, 2012 12:08 am

Chapter 87

Candy


Michael quickly found Maria and pulled her aside to explain his jitters and their cause. Max was close enough to see them but made sure he was well out of hearing range to allow them some sort of privacy. Still, he saw the moment she drew Michael into her arms to comfort him. Max smiled when he saw that; it was good for him to see another proof of Maria’s softer side before she married his best friend.

After that, Michael and Maria disappeared for most of the morning to share some private time before lunch. That was fine with Max, as it allowed him to go for a walk atop the walls of the castle with Liz. She was bundled up in her fur robe once again, as were the ladies that were following them at a discreet distance.

“I have never seen Maria this consistently happy before,” Liz said. “With the way she burbles with excitement whenever she talks about Michael, you would almost think she has turned into Tess’ twin.”

That would take some getting used to,” Max said. “I cannot imagine two sisters who are less alike than those two.”

“Yeah, and to complete the personality switch, Tess has been a little bit moody ever since both Maria and I were betrothed.”

“Really?”

“Mmhmm,” Liz said. “I do not know if she is jealous of us, or if it is just because she has not heard anything from Prince Kyle since we left Krakovia.”

Max cracked a smile then which he tried to quickly hide, but Liz noticed it. “Are you laughing at Tess’ pain?” Liz peered at her man more closely. “Or is there something going on that you have not told me about yet?”

Max shot Liz a look of pretended annoyance. “It is a good thing we are getting married. You are too good at discovering my secrets.”

“So what is the secret that involves my little sister?” Liz and Max stopped on the parapet over the gatehouse and looked down at the dizzying drop to the narrow, twisted road that led up to the castle.

“You really want to know?”

“Of course!”

Max shrugged his shoulders, placed an arm around her shoulders, and gave her a squeeze. “Someone should be at the wedding today, as a last minute surprise. But I did not want to say anything until I was sure he was here…and I have not seen him yet.”

“When did you have the time to talk to Prince Kyle?”

“Who said I did? But when the messenger Mother sent to Varshova returned with word that Kyle would be leading the Krakovian delegation to our wedding, I asked Maria if it would be okay to invite Kyle to come early to Alemania and attend her wedding.

“When she realized my goal was to get Kyle and Tess together, even if just for a short while, she agreed and sent a letter to Michael to make sure he included the Krakovians in his preparations. Then, I sent the messenger back to give Kyle the official invite to Roswell, with the unofficial inducement of Tess being scheduled to be here also.”

“And Tess has no idea Prince Kyle is on the way?”

“None,” Max affirmed. “Not unless Maria let something slip.”

“Ohhhh!” Liz said excitedly. “Tess will go crazy if he shows up. I do not know what Father will think, but according to her, the prince treated her wonderfully after I left to come back here and build the supply base.”

“And I am guessing the Grand Duke might finally allow Kyle to seriously pursue Tess, now that your family’s fortunes have risen so dramatically. I mean, before now, Kyle was likely being shopped around to marry some princess or maybe a powerful duke’s daughter.” Max chuckled. “Lord knows when he spent that year in Alemania with my family, he tried hard enough to gain Isabel’s interest. Unfortunately for him…”

“That bad, huh?”

“Isabel liked to refer to Kyle disparagingly as ‘Handsy Kyle.’” Max looked back to the castle’s main courtyard to make sure Kyle hadn’t come in before he and Liz and reached the gatehouse. “What I want to know is: where is he now?”

Lunch was a small affair, only for the friends and family who had spent the night in the castle. No one had much of an appetite, and as soon as the meal was over, Maria disappeared into her rooms to prepare for the wedding. Liz left Max at that time and attended upon her sister, while the prince followed Michael into his chambers. They’d barely been there a minute, when an anxious knock on the door brought word that Prince Kyle of Krakovia had ridden into the castle courtyard.

“Made it after all, did he?” Michael asked. “I was beginning to wonder.”

Michael started to head for the courtyard to greet his high-ranking guest, but Max waved him back. “Stay here and make yourself pretty for Maria.” Max started to snicker. “I will get Kyle and try to keep Tess from discovering his presence until later…which hopefully will be after the ceremony.”

Max found his friend waiting in the courtyard with his small guard. The two young men greeted each other with a hearty, back-slapping hug.

“Kyle, what brings you here?” Max asked. As if I didn’t know.

“I am here to watch the first Parker girl get married, see the proof of the second one’s betrothal to you, and spend as much time with the third Parker daughter as I can manage.” Then he grinned widely. “Thanks for getting me the invitation, Max.”

“No problem, Kyle. Just do not screw it up.”

Shortly after Kyle arrived at the castle, the wedding guests who had stayed down in the town started arriving in the castle courtyard, and soon they had all been directed to the castle’s chapel. Michael had strictly limited the guests to one-hundred in number, but even so, the smallish chapel was full when it was time for the wedding to start.

It was too early in the year for flowers to be blooming, especially at this altitude, so the chapel wasn’t strewn with colorful buds, but carefully placed ivy, holly, and mistletoe decorated the altar, the sides of the chapel, and the center aisle.

Max was resplendent in one of his royal white uniform jackets with gold trim and black pants and boots, while Michael was wearing the brand new red and black dress uniform of his small army. He was proud of the new design, and his people were slowly becoming proud of him. But the only person whose opinion mattered to him - on this day at least - was just coming into the chapel.

The crowd stood as one as Maria started down the aisle, taking measured steps, with Liz behind Maria, holding her train, and Tess trailing Liz. Maria followed tradition exactly, as her dress was in her father’s own purple and gold colors. The dress was an elegant representation of the royal dressmakers’ art; a masterpiece that hinted without showing, while making the most of Maria’s sinuous curves.

Liz and Tess each wore a dress of muted lavender and pale yellow which had been designed to complement the dress Maria wore without offering it any competition. Today of all days, those girls wanted nothing more than to blend into the background and let Maria have center stage. Even so, while everyone else was focused on the bride, Max found his eyes drawn to the small, slender woman who was right behind her.

Liz’s eyes, however, were on her duties. She was just trying to make sure Maria’s train didn’t catch on anything and that she herself didn’t stumble and bring everything to a crashing halt. But once Maria was standing next to Michael, Liz snuck a peek at Max, only to find him peeking back. They smiled then and turned to face the altar as the bishop took his place.

The bishop had come some distance to perform the marriage. There was a priest in the castle, and another one down in the town, but with a wedding as important as this one, nothing would do except for the bishop himself to make the trip so he could lend the weight and honor of his office to the proceedings. Standing in front of Maria and Michael in his richly embroidered ecclesiastical robes and bishop’s miter, the bishop gestured for the crowd to be seated, and then he proceeded with the service. His flowery words and long, drawn-out speech was nothing less than expected, but even so, the time for the exchange of rings and vows was on them soon enough.

“I, Michael Guerin, take you Maria Parker, to be my wife, to have and to hold for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and cherish, from this day forward, until death do us part.” Michael then slipped the gold wedding band onto Maria’s left ring finger.

Maria had only a moment to marvel at her golden band before it was her turn to swear to Michael before God, the bishop, and their esteemed guests. “I, Maria Parker, take you Michael Guerin, to be my husband, to have and to hold for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and cherish, from this day forward, until death do us part.” Maria then slipped a gold ring onto Michael’s left ring finger.

The rest of the service passed by in a blur for Maria, Liz, and Tess, as all three women were had teared up and were on the verge of crying. Soon enough, the bishop placed Maria’s hand in Michael’s and turned them to face the crowd before he said, “It is my great privilege to introduce to you the Baron and Baroness of Roswell, Lord Michael Guerin and his wife, Lady Maria Guerin.”

The crowd rose as one and showered the new couple with cheers and applause as they walked back down the aisle, this time together, with Max and Liz right behind them, as Liz still had to handle Maria’ lengthy train. Tess was right behind Liz, but all she had to occupy her were her thoughts of Maria and the short and simple ceremony she’d just witnessed…until the she neared the back of the chapel and saw a formal uniform she hadn’t seen since the Harvest Ball back in the palace in Varshova all those months ago.

Tess slowed her pace and blinked her eyes once, then twice, but still the uniform remained as she remembered. It, too, was red and black, but much different in style from the new uniform Michael was wearing. This uniform was red and black with silver trim on the jacket’s stiff collar and all across its chest. Tess finally risked a look up, daring to hope the face would also be as remembered. She was rewarded with the first glimpse she’d had of her prince since leaving their rented manor house in Krakovia months earlier. Her heart leapt and her suddenly scrambled mind had room for only one giddy thought: Kyle!
"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. 87 01/20/12 p

Postby Cardinal » Thu Jan 26, 2012 1:48 am

In case you've wondered before, alcohol has no special effect on Antarians in this fic. Why? Because it has no role in this story, so I decided to drop that particular Antarian characteristic to avoid any annoying complications.



* * * * * * * * * *



Chapter 88

The Wedding Feast


The bridal couple, their attendants, and the rest of the witnesses headed directly for the castle’s Great Hall, which had been carefully decked out for this moment. Massive fireplaces on both sides of the room roared, keeping the room warm, and pine torches set in highly reflective wall sconces added a merry light. The walls were decorated with more of the ivy, holly, and mistletoe that had been present in the chapel, and the long, wooden trestle tables that filled the room were draped with snow white linens.

As Lord Michael and his new wife Lady Maria led their guests into the Great Hall, his chamberlain directed a bevy of servants to lead the guests to their assigned seats. Michael and Maria took the center seats at the head table, and normally, they would have alternated men and women from there in a somewhat random order, but knowing both that Prince Kyle was expected, and that Tess would be crazy unless she got to talk to him, Maria had talked to Michael and had the head table rearranged so that couples were seated together.

Tess had known about the new couples arrangement ahead of time, but not that Prince Kyle was expected to be in attendance, so she had been expecting to sit with her father, as Michael had only had Max standing up with him during the service. When she reached the head table, she was directed by the new Lady Guerin to sit on Michael’s left and when she saw her father escorting an unknown lady to a pair of seats on the other side of Prince Maximilian and Liz, Tess began to hope…and when a somewhat sheepish Prince Kyle was escorted to the head table, it was all the girl could to restrain herself from leaping to her feet and waving him over to her.

Good things come to those who wait - in this case anyway - as the servant held the empty chair next to Tess and helped seat Prince Kyle right next to her. Suddenly, her appetite went from voracious to nonexistent, and she couldn’t quite make her eyes meet his. Very conscious of the fact that she had three blood relatives sitting at the table with her - one of which was his hostess - Kyle was extra careful with what he said and did.

“Hello, Tess,” Kyle said. “I cannot begin to tell you how happy I am to see you again.”

“Hi, Kyle,” Tess replied, as finally ventured a look at his face, only to shyly look away from him again. “I was beginning to think I would never hear from you again.” She bit her lower lip and then continued, determined to say what was on her mind. “I noticed the lack of letters from you after our family left Krakovia.”

“That is true. I owe you a profound apology for that and an explanation, but we do not have the time for that right now. Please allow me the chance to set things straight after the meal.”

“When our time is our own and we do not have an audience?”

“Exactly,” Kyle agreed.

“I will think about it,” Tess said, “but I will not make any promises.”

Internally, Tess was as excited as she could possibly be, but she hadn’t been lying when she said she hadn’t received a single letter from Kyle in the months since she, her father, and Maria had left Krakovia to return to Roswell. That was a long time for any woman, but more so for a fifteen-year-old young woman who was new to romance. Tess fully intended to give Kyle his chance, but she wanted to make him sweat a little first. She thought he needed to know she wasn’t to be taken for granted.

The wedding feast itself commenced almost as soon as the last guest was seated. Michael stood, and thanked them all for honoring his lady wife - he gestured at Maria - and himself by making the arduous journey to this distant outpost of the kingdom. Once he had thanked the guests, he looked at his chamberlain and nodded. That was all it took for a seeming flood of servants to rush in with the first course of the meal. When everyone had been served, Maria rose and stood next to her husband to perform her role as hostess.

“Be welcome, and enjoy the bounty of our table,” Maria said. “Everyone, please eat.”

The dinner had many courses and cask upon cask of wine to drink; thus fueled, the celebration lasted from mid-afternoon well into the evening. There were many toasts to the health and happiness of the newlyweds, toasts that tended to become slurred over time. Max and Liz were both being very careful to drink small portions of well-watered wine as they ate. Neither one felt they could afford to bring shame on the royal family or on their selves. But there were enough of the other celebrants who didn’t mind what they did to keep things lively for all.

Max and Liz had one more official duty that night, and that was to decide when it was time to end things so the ladies present could take Maria off to prepare for bed. It was their job because they were the ones who’d stood up with the newlyweds as their best man and maid of honor, but both of them leaned on Liz’s father’s experience to help them decide.

Jeffrey paid close attention, wanting to balance the desires of the crowd to celebrate with the need for people who could still walk and talk well enough to help his eldest daughter and his new son-in-law get into bed together with a minimum of fuss. When he’d seen enough, he leaned over and tapped Liz on the shoulder.

“Hmm?” Liz asked, when she’d turned to Jeffrey.

“It is time,” Jeffrey replied.

That was all he needed to say. Liz nudged Max and passed on her father’s judgment, and then he stood and raised his voice enough to get everyone’s attention. Once the dull roar of conversation had subsided, Liz stood, and said, “Ladies, it is time we take my sister upstairs. She needs to be made ready to receive her lord and master.” Liz wanted to snicker at the very idea of any man thinking he was Maria’s master, but this wording was an ancient tradition in what was still a very traditional land…her own rise to prominence notwithstanding.

That was the formal signal for the women to rise and escort Maria from the room. For some of the ladies, that was as far as they went before retiring to a smaller room which was set up for their comfort as they gossiped, snacked, and had the kinds of conversations that women can’t really have in the presence of men. High on the list of topics that everyone talked about was how Lady Maria would do in performing this most essential wifely duty. Some of the more drunk women even ventured to say that after getting a good, long look at Lord Michael, they wouldn’t mind taking her place in the marriage bed.

Thankfully for everyone involved, Maria wasn’t able to hear that, as she and her escorts were now approaching her rooms. Liz, Tess, and several other women Maria had become close to over the winter had guided her down the halls, teasing her about what was to come all the while. The married women in their midst were both the most vocal and the most explicit. Maria knew the mechanics of what was to happen, but that didn’t help her with her nerves. Right now, she was looking at this as a dry run to see how everything works before she and Michael made a final decision about undergoing the procedure. And while they were at it, she hoped it would be at least half as enjoyable as some of her maids made it out to be.

The idea of having children was one Maria hadn’t even seriously thought about until she began to become serious about Michael. While she’d admitted to her sisters that she’d always been interested in the idea of sex, she’d always found the thought of becoming a mother to be rather intimidating, especially given the way women tended to die in her family. She knew her father had been married three times already and that none of his wives had survived very long after giving birth. It was just another piece of information to think about; one that she and Liz had talked over a lot recently.

But those fears were for another day. Today, she had married the man of her dreams, and as the ladies helped her out of her wedding dress and into a nightgown, her mind was racing with thoughts about what she and Michael were about to do.

The men, meanwhile, had taken advantage of the absence of the women to draw in closer to Michael. While the ladies had been fairly light in their teasing of Maria, the men were much more explicit and brutal as they went after Michael. They made all sorts of comments, ranging from wondering how he could possibly hope to please his new wife with such small ‘equipment,’ to what a waste it was for such a beautiful young woman to be the bride of such a decrepit old man. Michael took all the comments about himself with humor and good grace, while not even the drunkest among the men was stupid enough to make a single teasing comment about Maria.

Once Maria was dressed, she climbed into bed, and her sisters went to work on arranging her hair on the pillow just so for Michael’s entrance. Meanwhile, a couple of the other ladies went back down to the Great Hall to inform the men that it was time for Michael to prepare himself to do his duty.

Michael had been careful to moderate his alcohol intake during the lengthy meal, as he knew the old saying that ‘strong drink giveth the desire, but taketh away the ability.’ He was not about to be drunk and unable to perform on his wedding night. No way.

Now, as he rose to his feet, most of the men abused him with one last torrent of good-natured, intentionally useless tips on pleasing his wife, while Max and a few other friends rose with him to follow him up to his room. He didn’t need any help, but this was a tradition, one that passed in silence as Michael quickly undressed and pulled on a heavy nightshirt. Only when he was dressed and ready did he show anything other than quiet confidence, and then, the small crowd around him could see a bit of apprehension on his face.

“What is wrong, Old Man?” Max chuckled.

“Cannot get it up?” another man, know to one and all as Brankovic, wondered aloud. That caused snickers from several other men in the group, and brought a sharp retort from Michael.

“Maybe if I had married your sister, Brankovic,” the newly married baron shot back. “I cannot imagine having to service her.” The guys laughed in turn at Michael’s comeback, as there was a running debate amongst the single men at court over which one of them would end up marrying the less than pleasant, less than beautiful girl just to get his hands on her rather sizable dowry. “Come on now Men, lead me to my bride before Brankovic forgets how unattractive his sister truly is and decides to challenge me over the matter.”

Max decided Michael was right. They’d better get him alone with Maria before the already rough teasing escalated into something more. Looking at Brankovic’s red face, Max surmised that the only two things keeping him from challenging Michael on the spot were Michael’s underserved reputation as a vicious killer and the fact that this was his wedding day.

Both of those reasons were accurate, but unbeknownst to Max, Brankovic had another reason: he was one of the many men at court who had suddenly decided Lady Tess would make a suitable wife, and he figured that trying to kill her brother-in-law was not the way to interest either her father or herself. The walk from the lord’s sleeping quarters to those of his lady wife was short, and soon Max was knocking sharply on the oaken door.

“Who is it?” came the somewhat muffled words from inside. Max didn’t know who spoke them, only that it wasn’t either Liz or Tess.

“We have brought Lord Michael to lie with his wife and do his duty by her,” Max replied.

The door opened.

“Then let him come in.”

Michael left his male escort and was led to the middle of the room, where Liz and Tess met him.

“You may be thinking of Maria as the brash, confident woman you’ve always known,” Liz said very quietly to Michael, “but tonight, she is nervous. Though she will not say it directly, I think she is worried about pleasing you.”

“She pleases me already,” Michael replied, as he looked over Liz’s shoulder and saw his wife in her bed. “I do not think she could ever not please me.”

“Then let her know that, Michael,” Tess said.

Liz nodded in agreement. “Give her a little reassurance. Help her to relax.”

“Okay. I think I can do that.” And thus saying, Michael moved past his sisters-in-law and moved bedside. “Hi, Maria.”

“Hello, Michael.”

He leaned over her and looked at her face intently, burning this special moment into the deepest recesses of his mind. “Have I ever told you how much I love you…all of you?”

“A time or two,” Maria allowed, “but do not let me stop you now.”

“Unbounded fury,” Michael said.
“Exquisite beauty and grace.
Maria Guerin.”

Maria wasn’t used to hearing poetry, especially poetry that had been written for her, and definitely not poetry from Michael, but it only took her a few seconds to replay the moment in her mind before reaching up, lacing her fingers around his neck, and yanking him down on top of her for a fiery kiss. Michael wouldn’t leave that bed for a very long time.

Maria’s bedroom had emptied of watchers by the time Michael had started talking to her, and everyone except for Liz, Tess, and Max had gone on ahead to rejoin the other celebrants. The only reason Max and Liz hadn’t joined them was because Tess had held them back.

“What can we help you with, Tess?” Liz asked. Max just took Liz’s hand and listened.

“I…I want your help,” Tess said hesitantly. “Both of you.”

“Whatever you need, you will get,” Liz assured her.

Max figured Liz’s statement covered him, too, so he didn’t say anything, but after she gently elbowed him in the gut, he spoke up. “Oh, yes, I will be pleased to help, too.”

“Thank you.” Tess was so distracted by what she was thinking about that she hadn’t noticed Liz elbowing Max, and he wasn’t quite sure she’d heard him anyway. “What I need is for you two to be my escort, my chaperones you might say, when I have a private talk with Kyle tomorrow.”

“What happened between you two during the meal?” Liz asked interestedly.

Tess relayed how they’d talked and how she’d made it clear Kyle had some work to do to get back in her good graces. Then she said, “Any woman could do if all I wanted was someone to protect my reputation, but I want you two there for support. I am not always as strong as I should be, and I am afraid if he gets me off alone with no one but a maid watching us, he will turn on the charm and I will melt into his arms without the slightest apology or explanation from him.”

When Tess finished, she was quite emotional and Liz quickly pulled her younger sister into her arms for a fierce hug. Max watched the two remaining Parker sisters and wondered what Kyle had done. Maybe he is just a jackass when it comes to women. I know Isabel would agree with that assessment. Later that evening, when the party was finally breaking up and everyone was returning to their accommodations for the night, Max pulled Liz aside just long enough for her to catch him up on the state of things between Tess and Kyle.

“I think she is in love with him,” Liz said, “but once she left Krakovia, she did not get a single letter from him. Not even after we came to the palace for the winter. It had to have felt to her like he had been toying with her affections and that once she was gone, he had forgotten all about her.”

“And yet she still loves him.” When Max said it, it was a statement, not a question. He’d seen the emotional distress on Tess’ face and had known just what this meant to the girl.

“Prince or not,” Max said darkly, “he had better be begging on his knees if he expects her to take him back. To not even write…” Max rand a hand through his close-cropped hair. “I was in the middle of a war and I found time to write to you. Thinking of you and of what was happening with you drove me to distraction, and yet Kyle, who was safe and secure at home, could not be bothered to write? That is inexcusable. You do not treat the woman you love like that.”
Last edited by Cardinal on Thu Jan 26, 2012 11:45 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. 88 01/26/12 p

Postby Cardinal » Sun Jan 29, 2012 1:23 am

Chapters 89 & 90

Chaperones


The morning after the wedding, the castle’s guests shared a quiet breakfast in the Great Hall. Now that at least half of the seats were empty, the room seemed almost cavernous compared to how crowded it had been during the wedding feast. Max and Liz had claimed a corner for themselves, and anyone who thought to intrude on their solitude quickly chose another place to sit after the prince glared at them. Liz giggled after the fourth time that happened, which earned her a look of slightly strained patience.

“What did I do?” she asked.

“Is wanting some time alone with you too much to ask?” Max grumbled. “It is bad enough these people cannot let us eat in peace, but I had at least thought you would be supporting me.”

Liz knew she was just a convenient target for Max’s irritation over the interruptions, but after a moment’s reflection she thought it might be good for her to explain. “I do,” she replied, “but you just looked so fierce when you glared at whoever walked up, and they invariably jumped like they were afraid you would hurt them.”

Max’s eyebrows rose. “Oh? I did not notice.”

“Of course not. You are too bleary eyed this morning to notice much of anything, which is funny, because I thought you were drinking the same watered wine I was drinking.”

“I was, before the bedding,” Max replied. “Afterward, however, I had some ale with the men.”

Liz leaned in to check Max’s eyes. “Did you get drunk?”

“I do not think so.” Max thought for a few moments. “Not stinking drunk anyway, as I do not remember having slurred speech or any trouble with physical coordination.”

“Me neither.” Liz patted his forearm. “But you are slightly hungover. That explains why you are so gruff this morning.”

“Not to you though.”

“No,” she conceded, “somehow I get nothing but love from you.”

“Heh,” Max chuckled. “Sometimes I think the love I show you is merely a poor reflection of what you shower me with.” Before Liz could voice her protest, Max added, “But I do love you so very much, Liz.”

“See?” Liz said triumphantly. “You made my point for me. Who was first to profess love today? You were, and you usually are.” Liz leaned her shoulder against Max’s shoulder and wrapped her arms around his. “I love you, too, Max.” She squeezed his arm. “You cannot know how jealous the women of the court are that you love me, and that you are so willing to make sure I know it. And believe me, that second part is as important as the first part.”

Max closed his eyes and luxuriated in the knowledge that he loved, and was loved by, the finest woman he knew. Some might think him lucky to have Antarian abilities, or to be a crown prince, or to have wealth almost beyond imagining, and he wouldn’t disagree on any of those points, but he was certain his greatest luck had been running into a grubby ‘stable girl’ and giving her some horses to look after. She’d taken the horses, and soon after, had taken his heart as well.

“As far as the hangover goes,” Max finally murmured, “I can get rid of it any time I want with my healing abilities. That is the theory anyway, but I have never been hungover before, so I have never gotten to test the idea.”

Liz caught sight of Tess out of the corner of her eye, and then looked around the room for Kyle, but didn’t see him. “Where is he?”

“Hmm, Kyle?” When Liz nodded her head affirmatively, Max said, “Walking, and thinking.”

“About Tess?”

“Sort of…more like thinking about how he will try to apologize.”

“How do you know that?” Liz asked.

“I ran into him on the way down. It seems it occurred to him just this morning that this may be his one and only chance to make things right with Tess.”

“Did you offer him any encouragement?”

“No,” Max replied, “he screwed up, so I think he should have to sweat it out on his own. The only person who should be offering him encouragement right now is Tess, and only when she thinks he has earned it.”

Liz and Max each took a sip of from their cups and sat quietly for a moment. He was contemplating what his old friend Kyle was facing, while she was thinking what she would do if she was in Tess’ situation. It wasn’t long before they were called on to chaperone the real thing.

Tess, Liz, and Max stood together on one side of the audience chamber that her father had used when wanting to make a meeting feel more personal than was possible in the spacious Great Hall. Tess had tasked a servant with finding Kyle and escorting him back to the audience chamber, and the three of them were talking quietly while they waited.

“You’ll do fine,” Liz assured her sister. “Just remember that he is the one that is in the wrong here.”

“I think Kyle is basically a good guy,” Max added. “But like me, he is not used to having to explain himself very often, so he may be a little bit awkward.”

“In this case, awkward is okay,” Tess replied, “in fact, it may be preferred.” When both Liz and Max raised their eyebrows at that, Tess said, “If he is being awkward, then maybe he is not going off some script he has prepared beforehand.”

Liz nodded her head in agreement, as she wondered at how maturely her little sister was reacting to this whole thing. She’d half expected Tess to race into Prince Kyle’s arms as soon as she saw him, and then she’d sort of expected Tess to accept any attempt at an apology that the prince managed to make, but now it was clear Tess was serious about this. Liz realized her little sister was not quite the same girl as the one that had traveled to the royal palace at the beginning of winter.

Liz was chagrined to realize she’d spent so much time with Max and on her various duties that she hadn’t spent much time with her sisters. Maria had obviously been busy with Michael, but she had little idea of how Tess had been spending her time. All she knew for sure was that a winter in the big city had helped her sister grow up. She wondered if Prince Kyle had any idea this was not the same girl he’d last seen several months ago. If not, Liz thought, he is in for a rude awakening.

Kyle made his way into the room a few minutes later. Tess’ eyes lit up upon seeing him, but she quickly mastered her emotions and turned to Liz and Max to say, “Wish me luck!”

“You do not need it; not now.” Liz said. Max just smiled supportively and slid an arm around Liz’s shoulders. Tess walked far enough away from them to gain some privacy and then waited. She was going to make Kyle come to her.

As Kyle approached Tess, his head was held high and he favored her with a confident grin, but he couldn’t keep his hands still, and that was a dead giveaway to Max. “See the way he is twisting his hands?”

“Yes. What about it?” Liz replied.

“That just confirms he is really nervous about this.”

“Good. Tess deserves someone who appreciates her.”

Liz and Max settled in to watch as Kyle offered Tess his arm. She accepted it and together they walked to the far end of the room to gain a little more privacy.

“Thank you for seeing me, Tess,” Kyle said, as he turned to face her. “I am sorry.” The words were said slowly and carefully by a man who was not used to needing to apologize or explain much of anything to anyone. “As a man who has strong feelings for you, and who hopes those feelings will grow into something more, I should have written you, often, to keep the embers of our relationship alive. Instead, I am ashamed to admit I allowed palace politics and my own indecision to keep me from writing.

“There is nothing to excuse my behavior, nothing to absolve me of responsibility. I made a mistake that hurt you, and for that, I am truly sorry.” Kyle sank to one knee then, surprising everyone in the room. “Will you forgive me and allow me another chance to show how much you mean to me?”

Tess was stunned into silence. She had steeled herself for some big snow job about how he had been prevented from writing to her, but his abject apology had just cut the legs out from under her. Kyle waited breathlessly on bended knee, as she struggled to calm her thoughts. Even Liz and Max were paying close attention once Kyle’s knee hit the floor.

“What do you think he said?” Liz murmured.

“No idea,” Max replied, “but seeing him on his knees makes me think he is begging for mercy.”

“Tess looks shocked.”

The lady in question swallowed hard and gathered her composure. “I do not know if I can, Kyle. You hurt me…hurt me a lot. I waited day after day for some small token of your regard. At first, I assumed I had not received anything because we left Roswell for Königsberg too soon for the mail to catch up to us. And when nothing came to me at the palace, I told myself that the winter weather was slowing your letters. But neither excuse was true. I was just fooling myself.

“I understand the politics of royal marriages; spending this winter in the palace has been eye-opening in that regard. I know now that your father was unlikely to allow us to be together, but…damn you!…you could have said something. After a few months of waiting, I began to give up hope.” Tears were filling Tess’ eyes, as she quietly said, “All you had to do was send one little note telling me what was going on and why we could not be together. That is all I would have required.”

“Please…” Kyle pled, as he reached out and grasped Tess’ hands. “I know I messed up and do not deserve a second chance, but what do you want? Do not choose for me. Choose for you. What do you want, Tess?”

When he put it to her like that, her choice was easier. “I want a man who wants me more anything. I want the man I thought you were back in Krakovia. I really do.” Kyle ventured a hopeful smile, but Tess continued to speak. “So I will give you another chance; the same chance every other noble in the kingdom has. Prove yourself to me, Kyle. Win me all over again.”

Liz and Max watched with bated breath as Kyle rose to his feet. When he offered Tess his arm and they walked toward their ‘chaperones,’ the tears in both sets of eyes were plain to see.

“What happened?” Liz asked anxiously.

“No hug…maybe she dumped him,” Max replied. He couldn’t read the expression on Kyle’s face as he and Tess approached. “Maybe I should go with Kyle while you talk to Tess.”

“Good idea. I’ll meet you in the Great Hall for lunch.”

“Do you think Michael and Maria will have left their bed in time for lunch?”

“Max!” Liz exclaimed, “we are supposed to pretend they do not exist until they come back amongst us.”

“I know. I know,” Max said. “It is not polite to mention the newlyweds for fear of mentioning what they are doing.” He grumbled lightly and then added, “It is a stupid tradition. I cannot help but think of what they are doing.”

Liz blushed, but was kept from replying by the arrival of Tess and Kyle.

“Kyle and I have reached an understanding,” Tess said. “He apologized, and I decided to give him the chance to win me back.”

“And I,” Kyle said, as he gave Tess a grateful look, “am happy to have that chance.”

Liz took Tess then and headed off to find somewhere private and comfortable so they could have some much-needed girl talk. Max waited with Kyle and watched the two Parker women disappear from their sight.

“Good job,” Max said. “I thought you might mess that up. What did you say?”

Kyle shrugged his shoulders. “When you have no defense, the only way forward is the truth. I told her I made a mistake and pleaded for another chance.”

Max folded his hands behind his back. “I do not have much experience with women, so I do not feel like I can give you much in the way of advice. I will just limit myself to this: do not ruin this chance; I suspect it is your last one.”

“Oh, I do not intend to waste a moment.” Kyle peered up at Max. “In fact, with your kind permission, I intend to return with your party to the palace. Officially, I will be staying in Alemania to attend your wedding in the fall, but I fully intend to use those six months to pursue Lady Tess. One way or another, she will know what I feel. I can only hope that is enough.”

“In that case, I have one more piece of advice.”

“Oh? What?”

“Go to your room and write a love letter to hand to her just before we leave for home tomorrow morning,” Max said. “Pour out your heart to her. Give her something she can read, savor, and reread all the way home.”

“That sounds good, Max. Thanks. Anything else?”

“Yes. Keep writing her all the way home. Keep her on her toes. Make her wonder what you will do for her next.” Kyle grinned in anticipation of beginning his campaign to win Tess’ heart, as Max added, “Look at this trip back to the palace as a head start for you to win her back.”

Meanwhile, Liz and Tess had found a suitable room and had sent off for a pot of piping hot tea to sip on while they chatted. A merry fire burned brightly in the fireplace as the girls sank into a pair of comfy chairs.

“So,” Liz began, “tell me what happened.”

Tess was proud of herself for standing up to the prince and happily related every moment to Liz in loving detail. Liz stopped her a couple of times to ask questions, but she mostly provided Tess with a rapt audience of one. When the story came to the end, a servant showed up with a tray of tea, sugar, spoons, and cups. Once the girls had made their cups the way they wanted, they returned to Tess’ story.

“That was a very shrewd compromise, Tess. Very nice. Halfway between taking him back and kicking his behind out the door.” Liz took a sip of her hot tea. “I am proud of you, and Father will be, too.”

“Thanks,” Tess replied. Before she could fully bask in her older sister’s approval, the mention of their father brought another idea to mind. “Who was that woman he was with at the wedding dinner? She was not with us on the trip down here.”

“No, she was not, and I do not know who she is either.” Liz shrugged her shoulders helplessly. “He is an adult, and he has been alone for well over ten years. Now that Maria and I are spoken for, and he only has one daughter left to marry off, maybe he is finally looking after his own needs.”

The two girls sipped their tea and traded comments on the wedding until something that had been bothering Tess finally came to the forefront of her mind. “You do not think Father has…”

Liz quickly picked up on Tess’ concern, and finished the sentence her more delicate sister had been unable to complete. “…has slept with one or more of those widows he has been seeing?” Both girls shivered at the thought of their father doing that with anyone, whether that person was his wife or not. “Next subject please. Quickly!”
"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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