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.
* * * * * * * * * *
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.”
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
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?”
“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.