The Wynter Lioness - Part 1

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The Wynter Lioness

Chapter 1

 

by Tychonaut

 
 
 
Prince Henry Wynter was the Heir to the High Throne of the Heptarchy and prophesised to one day lead his people to unparalleled greatness. Twenty two years after he abandoned his destiny and his throne for the chance to be the person he felt he was meant to be, he finds that Fate has not yet finished with him. The events surrounding the proposed appointment of a new Heir to the High Throne have consequences that reach as far the remote farmstead refuge of the former prince and threaten to destroy the new life that she has built for herself.

 
 

PROLOGUE

 

The Wynter Palace, The Island of Avalon EY 2449 (22 Years Ago)

If you had asked Lord Daniel Amherst when he awoke that morning to describe his life he would have responded to you with one word, 'blessed'. He was handsome, charming and bright, yet self-effacing enough that no one ever found him to be vain or overbearing. He was heir to the Kingdom of Cantia, one of the richest of the seven sub-kingdoms that comprised the Heptarchy. He was extremely well connected at the High Court of Avalon and was often touted as a future Privy Councillor, due in large part to his friendship with the children of the Angelcyn crown. As a young Lieutenant in the Yeomanry of the Household, the elite royal guard of the Angelcyn High-King, he represented the finest blooming of chivalry amongst the elite of Albion. In short, in the twenty-two years of his life misfortune was not an acquaintance he knew well.

Despite or maybe even because of his comfortable life, Daniel often dreamed of heroic adventures. In truth, the Yeomanry had seen little in the way of battle since King Henry, the current High-King, had brought peace to the quarrelling of the seven kingdoms at the beginning of his reign. The officers of the Yeomanry were to be found as often at banquets and balls as they were at the barracks. Daniel longed for action - a mighty battle or perhaps even a storybook quest in which he would triumph over daunting odds to rescue a beautiful princess imprisoned by her wicked father in the tallest tower of a mighty castle.

Now as the rain lashed down upon him from the starless night sky soaking his torn and bloody yeoman's uniform right through to his skin, Daniel couldn't help but reflect on what a difference a day could make. The rain washed blood running down his sword tarnished the lustre of his chivalry more than the steel of the blade. For rather than it being the product of overcoming dauntless odds against wicked foes it represented a vicious and largely one sided encounter with good men who sought to do nothing more than that which their duty demanded. He had through his actions of the last hour lost everything - the riches, the power and the prestige. Yet, looking at the enchantingly beautiful woman leaning heavily on his free arm, he was never more certain that the price he had paid was worth it.

He felt her fingers digging into his arm as she convulsed under another tremor of pain. She turned her head up to him, causing the hood of her sodden velvet cloak to fall back to reveal a long mane of blonde hair. Cupping his bearded cheek with an outstretched hand she mouthed "thank you" to him before her face contorted in pain as another tremor convulsed her body.

"Thank me in the morning," he said with a smile. "I've still a couple more impossible things to do before you are out of your father's reach."

Moving as quickly as he could, Daniel half-carried, half-dragged his companion across the wide empty courtyard towards their waiting horses. Yet again that night Daniel gave thanks to the Ése, the Gods of the Angelcyn peoples, for without the heavy rain and low clouds the walls surrounding the courtyard would have been patrolled by guards who would have quickly spotted them by the light of the two moons. Still, he couldn't help but glance around nervously as his companion's mount snorted in recognition of its approaching rider. When he told his companion he had some impossible things to do, he hadn't be joking. He'd fully expected to die trying to rescue her, yet at every turn his things seemed to break in his favour. Sheathing his sword he steadied the reins of the great white destrier and guided his companion to the stirrups with his free hand. After several false starts and some help from Daniel, she was finally able to swing herself up into the saddle.

"Sixteen hands didn't seem quite so tall this morning," she whispered half to herself to cover her embarrassment in having trouble mounting the horse. "But then again, you didn't seem quite so tall either this morning," she said looking down at Daniel with a tentative smile.

She was truly amazed at the transformation her friend had undergone before her eyes during the course of that evening, even though she knew he was physically the same man he had always been. She knew that like all Yeoman he was at the peak of his physical fitness but it was only when she was clinging onto his arm that she realised how much she enjoyed what that meant in a man. Unbidden thoughts of her hand exploring his strong torso made her face flush red with embarrassment. In her heart she had always recognised that he had been handsome but now she felt, to her surprise, the butterflies in her stomach that told her that she found him pleasingly attractive. A small shiver coursed through her body as she recalled the feeling of his embrace when he had taken her in his surprisingly strong arms after breaking down the door to her prison in the High Tower. The thought of how much she had wanted him to kiss her agitated the butterflies in her stomach even further.

'Is this what the poets mean when they talk about love?'she wondered. 'And does he feel the same way about me?' A sudden panic gripped her at the thought that her feelings - whatever they were - might be unrequited. Feeling tears beginning to form in her eyes she was almost grateful for the excuse to cry when her body convulsed with another tremor of pain as she felt the magic wash over her in an attempt to twist the fabric of her very being, only kept at bay by her latent magical talent augmenting her willpower to be herself.

"My lady?" he asked, interrupting her thoughts.

She could hear the concern in that simple question from him. Pulling herself upright in the saddle she stuck her tongue out at him in jest in an attempt to mask the uncertainty she felt about him and what they were doing.

"Well come on then," she said with a wavering voice. "I thought you were the man with the plan after all."

Daniel could see a brief hint of fear in her eyes as realisation of what crossing the threshold of the gatehouse meant occurred to her. Just as quickly as it had appeared, the fear in her eyes was replaced with a forced look of determination as she turned to face him again. At that moment, even with her sweat covered face flush from a mix of exertion and uncertainty and her hair matted from the heavy rain, Daniel couldn't help but think his friend never looked more beautiful than right now. Taking the reins of his own bay coloured destrier, he led both horses towards the castle gatehouse and freedom.

 

~o~O~o~


 

The High Tower of the Wynter Palace The Island of Avalon EY 2449

"Luminaire!"

The darkness in the room receded as a growing orb of light appeared above the outstretched palm of a figure in room. Once she was certain that the rapidly brightening light source was sufficient to see by, she moved towards the only window in the circular room and looked down into the courtyard below. She smiled as she saw the two figures crossing through the gatehouse and into the grounds beyond the palace. She was confident that she had arranged things so that no one would notice their departure for several more hours. The deaths of the guards in the tower itself had been regrettable but she had been unable to find a solution to their presence other than to let Daniel do that which he had been trained for - to fight and to kill - and hope he would triumph.

That aside, it had taken a lot of work but she had finally managed to change the path of the timeline to a more positive balance of probable outcomes. That she had also used her opponents two prized pieces in the game to do it was even more satisfying she thought. Pushing her half moon reading glasses further up her nose as she turned to face the shadows cast at the fringes of the room by her glowing orb.

"Skulking is unbecoming for beings like us," she said haughtily before turning back to the window. Tendrils of inky black darkness flowed through the air and started to coalesce into humanoid form in response to her comment.

"I thought the rain was a simply delightful way of easing their exit, even if juggling with wind patterns to shift this rain storm over half the continent was a tad tricky," she added with a degree of smugness.

"You broke the rulessssssssss..." hissed the shadowy figure in response.

"Nonsense," she interrupted. "I obeyed the rules of the Hunt to the letter. I never made anyone do anything - freewill was exercised at every turn. I never created the rain, I just guided it to this location on the back of winds that already existed. I never used magic on her, but as her godmother I was invited to tutored her when she was little in the use of her own latent Weaver gift to protect her from harm. There was no direct intervention by myself in any aspect of this, at every stage I worked through indirect measures. Personally, I think it's just sour grapes that your pawns have worked so well to deliver my aims."

"His death would have been Homeric in its poetry. Instead you condemn him to a life of mediocrity. Yet despite all your efforts, this world is still doomed like so many of the other human worlds. I will find another pawn to play the role of the destroyer. It is after all in their very nature to destroy themselves," the shadowy form whispered as it moved closer to her.

"Do you not accept that this world is different from the other human worlds on which you have run the Wild Hunt? They seeded this world in keeping with their longing for a simpler time, when man and the Earth Mother, Nerthus, lived together in harmony. On this world they have turned their back on the disastrous pursuit of technology - gone is the obsession with the atom and fossil fuels and forgotten are their Einstein-Rosen Bridges - in favour of more harmonious, sustainable and balanced alternatives. Even the name of this world, Eorðe, is a celebration of the humans common roots with our kind."

"Your kind, Saxnōt!" hissed the figure

"Not mine! Never mine! I will see this world run with the blood of your Saxon children."

Turning away from the window to face the shadowy form, she took a moment to marshal her thoughts while adjusting the oversized red bow at the front of her blue dress. Her normally jolly round face contained a look of sorrow as she reached out to the dark figure.

"Please let me help you Herla," she pleaded. "You have led the Hunt for too long now and you are losing touch with your humanity. I will petition Woden himself on your behalf. Trust me, it's not too late to save you."

For a moment the swirling darkness seemed to pause, as if in thought, before barking out a bitter sibilant laugh.

"I trusted someone once before and look what it has done to me. I am cursed to lead the Wild Hunt for ever more, never able to leave my horse in human form. Still, if I must hunt then let it be a challenging one. I have enjoyed the thrill of this hunt, Saxnōt. You have been a better opponent than any I have played in two millennia but when we meet again for the final run, your pawns will not escape my horsemen and hounds." With that, the tendrils of shadow began to unravel and fade back into the dark corners of the room.

With a cry of "Eteindre!" she extinguished the glowing orb as she completed her walk to the door of the tower. Her brow wrinkled in concentration, she knew there was still much to do before the next run of the Hunt. As she stepped over the shattered door she started to hum a jaunty tune to herself as the beginnings of a plan formed in her mind. A tune that was interrupted by a taunting voice calling out of the darkness from the room behind her.

"Oh Saxnōt. Next time we run the Wild Hunt together sword god, do me the honour of showing me your true form, not that of the rotund old maid that you currently wear. I have no interest in anyone'sFairy Godmother..."

 

~o~O~o~

To be continued...

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Prologue to Wynter Lioness

This is the prologue to the Wynter Lioness story I had originally started writing before 'I Hate Wednesdays' kidnapped my muse and forced it's way out of my head. Just in case it needs to be said, this isn't meant to be a comedy! ;-)

I've got another 10,000 words written with probably the same again to write to complete the story. Assuming no more muse kidnapping or heavy re-writing (I know my conversational dialogue needs a bit of polishing having read through the sections I've already written) I'd look to post the chapters every 10-14 days.

It is a TG story but like 'I hate Wednesdays' the TG element is part of the story and not the whole story.

I'm also learning HTML as I go along, so please keep that in mind with formatting issues!

Questions

I get the there are big people and little people thing, Gods and mortals. One has been transformed but not completely. Her own magic is fighting against the spell trying to complete itself. You have all the great elements here. The dashing hero, and the fair maiden defying the odds, but perhaps all is not what they seem? Great start!

Hugs!

Grover

Plan? Ain't got no Plan!
"Beyond Thunder Dome"

Answers

Thanks Grover!

The prologue was intended to throw up a sketch of the world and the two main protagonists (Daniel and the soon to be named princess). What they are running from and the consequences of the decisions Daniel has made will ripple out as the story progresses. All the questions you've raised are pertinent though!

The first proper part will be posted during the weekend (it's a three day weekend here in the UK) and then hopefully every 10-14 days, work (and Britannia) permitting.