The Wynter Lioness - Part 2

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The Wynter Lioness

 

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.

 

 

A farmstead cottage on the slopes of the Downs Mountain Range, Kingdom of Cantia

Frige's day (Friday) 19 April EY 2471 (The Present)

As a child Daniel's father had exalted to him the simple pleasures of manual labour and how there was no satisfaction as great as that derived from physically doing something with your own hands. Looking at his sore, bruised and grease covered hands it occurred to him that, despite those words, he couldn't remember a single time when he had seen his father actually doing any manual labour.

Daniel chuckled as he realised that much of what his father had told him fell into the category of 'do as I say, not as I do'. Now a husband and father of four himself, Daniel had tried hard to lead by example and not ask anything of his children that he would not do first. As a nobleman turned farmer of course there were a lot of things he had done for the first time which he reflected did give him a bit of advantage over his father who with his courtly retinue probably couldn't have performed any physical labour even if he wanted too. He couldn't help but smile as he realised that in walking away from the throne of the Kingdom of Cantia, he had in many ways more freedom now than he ever did before despite all of his former wealth and influence.

Daniel stretched trying to ease the tightness in his muscles. The reason his hands were in such a state was that he had spent the last three hours fitting a brand new gearing system to the small six blade wind turbine that powered the water pump for the cottage and the farms irrigation system. Originally, he'd planned to find a local blacksmith and ask him to forge replacements for the damaged parts, even if that meant that the wind turbine was less efficient and at a greater risk of breaking down again in the future as the replacement parts would lack the infusion of magic that the original gearing had in it to increase its performance. In contrast, his wife had taken a different view and had urged him to replace the old artificer made gearing system with a new one, knowing that a gearing system infused with an artificer's magic's throughout would be sensitive enough to turn the blades of a wind turbine in gentle breezes, whilst still being robust enough to withstand the strongest winds. While Daniel understood Georgina's desire for running water at the cottage, he worried that a stranger in town spending money on an artificer's services would attract unwanted official entanglements. This impasse had lasted for a week until under the pressure of his Georgina's urging, then pouting and finally full blown sulking, he'd relented and against his better judgement travelled the two days ride to the market town of Wye to find an Artificer.

As he searched his battered green canvas tool bag for a rag to wipe the grease from his hands, he idly thought of how he could reap the benefits of his labour. The excited shouting from the cottage when he had gotten the pump working again clearly indicated how happy his wife was to have running water again. Perhaps, he mused, a hot bath shared with Georgina would be suitable recompense. As they bathed she could massage the soreness from his muscles while he explained to her the importance of why she should enjoy the simple pleasures of manual work the next time the gearing system broke in a spring storm.

 

~o~O~o~


 

Cadet's Barracks, Royal Military Academy, Island of Avalon EY 2445 (Twenty-Six Years Earlier)

16 year old Lord Daniel Amherst struggled with the clasp on his sword belt, tangling it up with his red cadet tabard. He'd been so proud to be selected for a place in the cadet division of the yeomanry and knew that the next four years training at the Academy would provide him with the opportunities needed to make a name for himself at the Court of Avalon. Of course he reminded himself, that was conditional on passing inspection before the Queen for final admission to the yeomanry and a commission as a cadet officer.

"Damn it!" he exclaimed. He still couldn't get the clasp on the sword belt to clip into place.

His best friend, Harry, moved over to him to assist seeing the problems he was having. "Let me do that before you damage your tabard," he said. With a few easy movements he heard a 'click' as the clasp locked home on the sword belt and Harry stepped back to straighten it up.

Noticing Daniel's nervousness, his friend sought to reassure him with some gentle teasing. "Relax 'Percival', we'll make a dashing yeoman of you yet!". The two friends shared a love of classic literature from the Old World and Sir Thomas Malory's tales of Camelot were a particular favourite.

With a deep sigh, Daniel's head drooped. "To be honest, 'Arthur', I'd be content just to make it through this morning and receive the red and white chequered tabard of a yeoman given how much your mother seems to dislike me." He gestured to a tall, immaculately turned out cadet a few metres away. "And if you are looking for a dashing yeoman, I'd suggest you try 'Lancelot' over there."

The young prince glanced over at the man Daniel had referred to as 'Lancelot'. "Tom? Naaah, he'd be a better Yeoman if he spent more time training and less time chasing ladies-in-waiting!" Harry stuck his tongue out at the handsome young dark skinned yeoman cadet to signify his comment was in jest before turning to face Daniel again his face taking on a bitter expression.

"You'll be fine. My dearest royal mother has no problem with you per se, rather I think she knows how much I value your counsel and is concerned that I would be listening to anyone but her. She won't reject you for fear it would push me closer to my father and undermine her in whatever twisted game they're playing this time."

Seeing the jocular mask that Harry usually wore drop for a second, Daniel desperately sought to say something to ease his best friends pain. However, he knew whatever words he came up with, none could change the fact that Harry was right. "Harry, I'm..."

Daniel's words died in his throat as Tom's large hands clasped themselves across each young man's shoulder, pulling the two yeomen cadets to him. "My brother yeomen, today will be a great day! Not only will we only be shortly commissioned in the Queen's Own Regiment of the Yeomanry of the Household but afterwards the night of celebrations we shall lead will become legendary in the annals of yeoman history!" Both young men found themselves smiling at Tom's exuberance.

"Now let's not keep the Queen any longer from her finest yeomen!"

 

~o~O~o~


 

The Market Town of Wye, Kingdom of Cantia

Frige's day 19 April EY 2471 - late afternoon

Lieutenant Jack Fairfax moved through the crowded market streets towards the local offices of the Lord High Steward where his commanding officer was waiting. He noted with a degree of satisfaction that the sight of his distinctive red and white diamond chequered tabard with its ornately embossed golden crown in the centre caused the crowd to part in front of him making his path that much more easy. Entering the offices, he briefly clicked his heels to attention and bowed his head slightly as a mark of respect to his commanding officer.

With a courteous bow his commanding officer turned away from the richly dressed woman he had been speaking to and acknowledged the Lieutenant with a slight nod of his head.

"Yes, Lieutenant?"

"Good news, sir. I followed up the lead from the merchant you spoke to earlier and found an Artificer who confirms that a man similar in appearance to one of the pair we seek used his services four days ago. From a conversation overheard by the Artificer between our quarry and a youth who accompanied him, it seems that they were heading for a farmstead on the eastern slopes of the Downs Mountains range."

Fairfax carefully studied the face of his commanding officer trying to spot any emotional response from the man he desperately wanted to impress. Major Sir Thomas Albany was a legendary figure amongst the ranks of the Yeoman of the Household, the elite personal guard of the High King of Albion. A charismatic figure, the handsome black man was rumoured to have been romantically linked with many a young noble woman at court. During his nearly thirty years of service to the yeomanry he had distinguished himself fiercely in battle, playing a prominent role in quelling the uprising twenty years ago in the Twin Kingdoms of Bernicia & Deira by a pretender to the throne of the High King. As 'Queen's Champion' he carried her favour and commanded an entire regiment of the yeomanry. More excitingly for the young yeomen officers were the whispered stories that the short shallow scar that ran diagonally from his forehead across his left eye to his cheekbone was the result of a duel against the traitor Lord Amherst during said Lord's flight from the Wynter Palace.

"Lieutenant, you said there was a youth with our quarry. Did you get a description?"

"Sir, the Artificer believed described the youth as being in his late teens, tall with blonde hair."

"And the Artificer is certain about the other one?" said a frowning Sir Thomas.

"He had lost the beard the man in our description had and his hair was longer but the Artificer swears that he matches the overall age and physical description for our quarry, Sir."

Lieutenant Fairfax waited as Sir Thomas looked heavenward for a moment in a manner that the he had come to learn was a sign that his commanding officer was weighing up the pro's and con's of a course of action. Rubbing his close cropped dark hair with the palm of his open right hand, Sir Thomas turned his attention back to the young Lieutenant.

"Very well, Lieutenant. Gather your detachment and Lieutenant Bathurst's detachment as well. Instruct Sergeant-at-Arms Ackers that she will be leading Bathurst's detachment in the absence of the lieutenant as he is to remain in Wye and oversee the other search teams in my stead. We will be leaving for the Downs Mountains in two hours."

 

~o~O~o~


 

A farmstead cottage on the slopes of the Downs Mountain Range, Kingdom of Cantia

Moon's day (Monday) 22 April EY 2471 - early afternoon

Madeleine Amherst put her book down and gently scratched the fur on Greytail's head in response to his nuzzling against her. The dark shaggy coated old dire wolf had been adopted by the family as a cub when Madeleine's father had come across him as a small cub tucked up under his mother's corpse hidden amongst the bodies of a dead dire wolf pack. Madeleine knew that many of the farmers on the valley plains paid hunters to kill the wolves as often in lambing season they would move down from the mountains in search of easy prey. So it was that instead of returning with the escaped auroch that her father had originally been searching for, he brought back the cub. She had been three years old at the time and one of her earliest and fondest memories was holding the sleepy cub in her arms after her father had removed it from an open pouch on his pack.

That had been fourteen years ago and her mother, who had been heavily pregnant with her younger brother Noah at the time, had hand reared the cub. Madeleine and her older brother Hal, had spent many happy evenings playing games with the wolf cub like it was a normal farm dog. He was now considered one of the family by all and her mother often joked that Greytail was the least troublesome of all her children.

Closing her eyes momentarily, Madeleine laid her head back against the tree she was sitting against and luxuriated in the warm late spring sunshine. In addition to the gentle breathing of Greytail lying next to her with his head or her lap, she could hear her mother humming a happy tune from the kitchen. Like her mother she had been overjoyed when her father had finally repaired the wind turbine and running water had returned to the cottage, not least because the alternative of carrying buckets of water from the well was one of her least favourite chores. Opening her eyes she turned her head to the look at the right side of the large 'U' shape courtyard the cottage formed around the tree she was sitting against to check on her younger sister Charlotte who was playing with her raggedy dolls. Satisfied that her younger sister was okay, Madeleine picked up her book again and continued to read.

 

~o~O~o~


 

The Wynter Palace, Island of Avalon

Moon's day 22 April EY 2471 - early afternoon

High Queen Aliénor Wynter stood on the balcony of her royal apartments looking out at gardens on the terrace below her. Anyone who cared to look up from the terrace gardens would have seen a woman of delicate beauty whose appearance would meet most people's description of a fairy tale princess. Her white and gold silk dress was cut to show her tall, trim athletic figure to its best and her long bright golden blonde hair was curled into circular buns on each side of her head and held in place with an elaborate spun gold hairnet decorated with small gemstones that glinted in the sunlight. Like many of the noble born, the blood of the ancient and now semi-mythical race known the ælfe ran through her bloodline and had extended her youthful looks by decades so that despite being in her mid-seventies she easily passed for a woman in her early thirties. Without turning her head she spoke to the figure that had entered the doorway to the balcony behind her.

"My King, to what do I owe the pleasure of your calling upon me?" Her soft melodic tones contained the merest hint of an accent that revealed the High Queen's foreign birth.

"Does a King need a reason now to call upon his Queen?"

"Not usually, but since 'princess trollop' arrived you have not called upon me or warmed my bedchamber."

"I'm afraid since Princess Alys arrived, affairs of state have been all consuming," said the King with a hint of humour in his voice. "and will continue to be... consuming... for several more nights."

"If you are not here to warm my bedchamber then why am I honoured with your presence?" she asked, her voice containing barely restrained fury.

"My Queen, I fear you have misplaced your regiment of yeomanry for they do not seem to be in Avalon other than for a small personal retinue. You also seem to rather carelessly have lost your Champion," replied the King.

"My King, your concern flatters me. However, I can assure you that my Champion and my yeomanry are not misplaced and I'm certain that they will be returning before too long with that which I have sent them to find," said the Queen turning her head to give him her brightest smile.

In response the King snorted derisively. "It will do you no good. It has been over twenty years now and in all this time there has been no attempt made to contact us. Even if your Champion succeeds, what good will it do you?"

"Blood and absolute primogeniture. One of my children will one day reign," said Queen Aliénor turning to look back out across the gardens. "If you intend to legitimise the bastard offspring begat by your loins and 'princess trollop' to displace our son Geoffrey in the line of succession, you leave me no choice but to find the Heir. You swore before the Archbishop and the Ése on the night before our marriage that you had not lain with another woman so you cannot legitimise an older child than our first born even if the whoring of your youth were to have produced countless more bastards. And, if we were to have grandchildren by now from the Heir they would automatically take precedence in the line of succession."

The King roughly grabbed the Queen's arm pulling her around to face him again. As he spoke he increased the tightness of his grip with every word. "One day you will go too far Aliénor. And on that day I shall take great pleasure in publicly thrashing you until you beg for my forgiveness."

Aliénor leaned forward and pressed her lips hard against the King's. As she withdrew from the kiss, she gently nipped at his lower lip with her teeth.

"Promises, my King. Promises," she whispered, holding eye contact with the King through hooded eyes.

The look of anger in the King's eyes changed to that of lust momentarily before the anger returned as she withdrew further from him. With a furious shove he released her arm and stormed back into the royal apartments. Behind him he left the Queen staring with a look of smug satisfaction at the King's retreating back.

 

~o~O~o~


 

A farmstead cottage on the slopes of the Downs Mountain Range, Kingdom of Cantia

Moon's day 22 April EY 2471 - late afternoon

The clear blue spring sky let the late afternoon sun illuminate the cottages courtyard without the need for any additional light from the lanterns hanging from the walls. In the centre of the courtyard two tall male figures wearing white tabards over padded white serge jackets raised their foils in salute to each other before assuming positions for another fencing bout.

"C'mon Hal!! You can beat your father this time!" yelled Georgina in encouragement to the swordsman with the collar length golden blonde hair protruding from the back of his mesh facemask.

She looked on with pride at the heraldic design with which her eldest son's simple white tabard was adorned. It was only at times like now in the privacy of their cottage that the family could wear its distinctive arms rather than pretend to be the commoner 'Stockbury' family and Georgina delighted in seeing them worn as they had been in her youth. She was inordinately fond of her own heraldic design of a rampant 'argent' coloured lion on an 'azure' coloured field which had been awarded to her on her eighteenth birthday. Unlike the arms she would have inherited in later life from the Angelcyn Throne by virtue of her station, these arms had been unique to her. She often chose to reflect the white and blue colour scheme of her arms in the ribbons she wove into her braids. As was the custom for an Angelcyn woman, her own coat of arms had been impaled with her husband's when they married dividing the field vertically in half so that the left side of her arms was now occupied with the image of an 'argent' coloured rampant horse on a 'gules' coloured field while her arms were compressed onto the right side. Personally, Georgina thought her husband's white and red coloured arms lacked the charm of her own but the two combined symbolised a union that was the most important thing in the world to her, her family. Hal should by Angelcyn tradition have worn his father's arms with maternal charges marked on a cadency label of five points that denoted his status as eldest son in a royal lineage - that of the Kingdom of Cantia and the High Throne. That Hal had chosen to breach heraldic tradition in order to reflect both family lines equally through adopting her impaled arms, all be it with the five point cadency label, caused her to love him all the more for it.

Georgina returned her attention to braiding the shoulder blade long dark blonde hair of her youngest child, Charlotte, with red and white ribbons. Georgina's own waist length golden blonde hair was platted with gold, white and blue ribbons and hung over her shoulder. From their vantage point sitting beside one of the walls of the courtyard Charlotte frowned at her mother's encouragement for her elder brother and called out in support of her father.

"When can I play swords?" asked the spellbound little girl to her mother without turning her head.

Georgina couldn't help but smile in response to her daughters question. It was one Charlotte had asked with increasing frequency of late and with a contrariness she recognised all too well from herself.

"As I've told you before Lottie you can't play with grown up swords until you reach Noah's age. Nine years old is just too young for something so dangerous."

"But momma..." pleaded Lottie, her eyes never leaving the fight before her.

"No 'but momma' young lady. You have to wait another five years before you can learn to play swords," interrupted a stern sounding Georgina, although a smile played across her lips out of Charlotte's sight. "I've said you can learn the bow in another two years, sweetie," Georgina said in a much softer voice.

Leaning forward to envelope her youngest in a hug, Georgina whispered in her ear "Patience my little lioness your time will come." Temporarily mollified Charlotte continued to watch with rapt attention her father and brother, cheering on her father as he made a dramatic advance-lunge for his opponents torso.

"I think the honour of the family will keep resting with father if Hal doesn't improve his technique," noted Madeleine sweeping her skirt under her as she sat down next to her mother.

"You may be right. Although I also seem to recall from yesterday that your passata-sotto needed more work," said Georgina.

In response Madeleine blew a strand of her dark fringe from her eyes to signify her disagreement with her mother's observation of her technique. There was a few minutes of awkward silence punctuated by the noise of steel on steel as mother and daughter formulated their next comment, each trying desperately to think of a response that would not start another round of the mother - daughter arguments that had beset Madeleine's teenage years.

"I would accept that my passata-sotto could do with some small improvement, mother," sighed Madeleine "though how am I going to improve my technique? I've done everything father has taught me and it's not like I can study from you after all! You may be good with the bow but I've never seen you even handle a blade."

Georgina couldn't help but giggle a little at that. As a member of the Royal Household she had been tutored by the best teachers in every field, including the sword and the bow. She knew from experience that when she was a teenager she was more skilled with the sword than her younger brother Geoffrey and had even beaten him at a few tourneys to underline the fact.

"I know you consider me to be a bit flighty Maddy, but I've watched your father practice with the blade since we were both children. And I can assure you that your father's technique is worth studying further, even if his footwork could do with some improvement."

Daniel choose that moment to execute his own passata-sotto to dodge under the blade of his son. With a sigh of relief Georgina noted that Hal just managed to turn out of the way of her husband's foil. However, any response from Madeleine was interrupted by a shout from Charlotte as her father's blade struck the torso of her brother on the following strike.

"What's that make it?" asked Madeleine.

"Three bouts to your father and two bouts to your brother. Hal nearly turned the second bout in his favour though. I think the day when Hal beats your father may be close at hand," said Georgina, the pride in her son evident in her voice.

At Madeleine's sudden stiffening next to her, Georgina recognised all too late that she had offended her by forgetting to acknowledge Madeleine's own prowess with the blade. Georgina was momentarily torn with indecision as to how to redress her mistake before she finally spoke, desperately trying to avoid a repeat of previous arguments between the two of them over Madeleine's perception of her mother's bias in favour of Hal.

"I'm sorry Maddy. That was insensitive of me," said an embarrassed Georgina. "You may just as well be the first one to beat your father."

Tilting her head slightly, Madeleine swept one side of her dark collar length bob behind her ear with her curled index finger, a sign Georgina recognised with some relief as her eldest daughter biting her tongue from a retort.

"So you think we can improve on our Ēostre festival second place in the sword competition come the Harvest festival in September?" asked Madeleine.

Georgina, grateful for the conversation change, reached out and tentatively pulled her daughter to her with a one armed hug. "Improve? By the time the Harvest Festival comes around, I'm expecting to 'reap' a first in the archery and sword competitions between you and your brother for the 'Stockbury' family," she said with a wink.

Madeleine just groaned in response to her mother's poor joke.

 

~o~O~o~


 

The White Bridge, The Island of Avalon EY 2449 (22 Years Ago)

Daniel cradled his companion in his arms as he walked back to their waiting mounts. He'd been so focused on struggling to see the bridge ahead of them in the murky pre-dawn light that he hadn't been paying much attention to her and it had taken a second to realise what the startled squeak from behind him had meant. The fear that had gripped him after he heard her impact on the ground had been so intense he'd almost pitched out of his own saddle while trying to hastily dismount. His hands shaking slightly with fear he'd gently turned over her prostrate form to discover to his relief that she had fallen from her horse onto wet grass rather than the hard cobble stones of the path on which they had ridden. As far as he could see she had not suffered any significant injuries from her fall, although her face showed her discomfort as another tremor of pain shook her. Resting her against a plinth that marked the entrance to the White Bridge he wiped some mud from the left side of her face with his hand, aided by the rain still pouring down upon them. As the mud washed away to reveal her porcelain complexion more clearly, all be it with some angry red marks hinting at some bruising to come, Daniel once again drank in her almost otherworldly beauty. Her perfectly kissable cupid's bow lips, her delicate nose, her vivid blue eyes with their thick lashes, her high refined cheek bones and her elegantly pointed ears gave her a appearance that he felt could drive men and nations mad like in the tales from the Old World of Helen of Troy. It had after all driven him to abandon everything he had ever valued for a life of potential hardship as a fugitive.

"Are you able to carry on?" he asked with concern.

Ahead of their horses the first signs of dawn could be seen on the horizon. He had deliberately taken them by the hardest route to track rather than the quickest way off the island, knowing that the High-King would send his light cavalry over the open plains in search for them as soon as he realised they were gone. The narrow steep path and thick woods of his chosen route made this a less obvious escape route and more difficult for any pursuers to follow, although Daniel knew that the High-King would send men to check this path and time was not on their side.

"I'm scared Danny," she whispered in reply. "Scared that that they will find us. Scared that I will not be able to counter the reversal spell cast upon me by the Royal Weaver. Scared of what they will do to you if they catch us. Scared that we will be fugitives with no money, no status, no land... and that you will come to hate me for what you have sacrificed to help me."

Daniel could see tears forming in her clear blue eyes and as one tear broke free from the pool building on her eye lashes he cupped her cheek with his hand so that he could wipe away the tear with his thumb. He couldn't imagine how stressful and painful this day had been for her and he could see she was close to breaking point. Feeling her face press into his hand he realised that she desperately needed reassurance.

"My best friend once told me the ancient proverb that 'a bean in liberty is better than a comfit in prison'. I never truly understood what that meant until tonight," said Daniel with a smile. "I can't promise you the wealth, land or status that you deserve but I can promise you this: I will not let any man take you back and I will do everything I can to make you happy. Now let us not tempt fate any longer and get you across the bridge, your highness."

He offered his hand to her and helped her to a standing position. As he placed his arm around her to guide her to her horse she surprised him by standing on the balls of her feet to kiss him on his beard covered cheek.

"Thank you again, 'Percival'," she whispered, her face flush with embarrassment at being so forward.

"My pleasure, 'Blanchefleur'," he said with a grin that grew even wider in response to the pout she gave him.

"Surely I warrant a 'Guinevere'?"

"Sorry, Princess. Lancelot loved Guinevere, Percival loved Blanchefleur, and I love you."

He watched as her eyes grew wide and heard a small gasp of surprise at his confession of love. For a moment he wondered if he had been too presumptuous in his confession, until that was when she grasped him in as tight a hug as she could manage. He returned her embrace, resting his chin against the top of her wet head. He held her like that for a few moments before gently releasing her from his embrace. A move which he was pleased to see she reciprocated with a degree of reluctance.

"C'mon, let's get going before I catch my death in this rain," he said, turning her towards the horses. "Besides, once we've crossed a few miles beyond that bridge and into the mountains you should be safe from both your father's militia and the range of effect on the Royal Weaver's transformation spell."

As he gripped the saddle preparing to assist her up into the stirrup, he was dismayed to see two mounted figures in the livery of the Yeomanry round the bend and come to a halt a dozen metres away from them. He felt her pull away from his grip as she backed away. Barely audible over the noise of the rain he could hear her whimpering in fear as she retreated to the plinth. Stepping forward he adopted a defensive stance, drawing his sword from its scabbard.

As the riders dismounted, Daniel's heart sunk with recognition of the lead horseman. "Tom," Daniel said with a nod to his friend. "I'd hoped that it wouldn't be you that found me."

"I must admit that I hoped not to find you either," said Thomas unsheathing his own sword. "Could I hope that for the sake of our friendship 'Percival' that we can resolve this without any more bloodshed?"

"Only if you let us go, 'Lancelot'."

Thomas looked away for a second, his jaw clenching in frustration at the circumstances he found himself in. "I can't. I'm oath sworn to bring you both back to the King."

"I can't let you do that," said Daniel.

Thomas let out a grunt of frustration to Daniel, his free hand clenching into a fist. "Why are you doing this? Why are you throwing away everything over someone who won't even exist tomorrow? She's nothing more than an illusion, you must know that?" cried Thomas, the anger rising in his voice and his sought to find a reason to avoid the friendship ending fight he knew was coming.

"Maybe she won't exist tomorrow. Maybe she will," said Daniel with a shrug. "Did you know that she has a latent Weaver gift? As with all latent's it's instinctive and based on her emotional state and willpower. And we both know she has never been short of willpower. She has chosen to fight the transformation spell, so this is who she chooses to be."

"And what about the wise woman's prophecy?" asked Thomas. "She clearly said that for our people to know greatness your princess cannot live. All traces of her deviancy must be purged so that the 'Wynter Lion' may live to fulfil his destiny."

"I was there too remember. We spent two bloody days climbing that mountain with the King to see the great 'Oracle' and all we found was a woman who wasn't even wise enough to know what soap was. Gods, she reeked," said Daniel. "Where I come from wisdom isn't measured in terms of pungency!"

"I remember, you wouldn't shut up about that for days," said Thomas breaking into a smile. His smile quickly disappeared as the moment of shared memory passed. "Dan, don't make me do this."

"Tom.... I don't want too. The princess was given a choice between peace and war, and she chose peace. I'm asking you to do the same now."

A sad smile slowly crept across Thomas' face in response to Daniel's statement. "I'm oath sworn."

Daniel nodded his head in understanding of the situation his friends honour placed him. Pulling himself up to his full height Thomas extended his sword arm towards Daniel, who mirrored the en-garde position.

"Dan, we never did resolve which one of us was better did we?"

 

~o~O~o~

End of Chapter One

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This is Good!

Not that I'm surprised you know! I do like how this is developing and can see several ways for the story to go. Of course, I fully expect you to pull something and take it in some direction I never dreamed of!

I'm looking forward to the next installment.

Janice

Thank You!

Thank you Janice! I was a little unsure if the flashbacks disrupted the flow of the story too much. I'd tried writing it in a linear fashion but this seemed better in allowing me to sew the seeds of future developments. So I'm glad it worked for you!

Chapter 2 is already written and will go up sometime during the week of the 7th June. Chapter 3 is half completed now and is where the threads sewn in the first two chapters and the prologue start to come together. Hopefully, I can keep you guessing over some of the plot aspects until then!

Finally

got to this one! Things are beginning to pull together and make sense. I'm guessing the 'heir' had a choice to make contrary to the King's and most of all the Queen's wishes. Strangely, it appears it might be a forced masculinzation with a twist. I'm looking forward to more!

hugs!

Grover

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

Thanks Grover! In writing

Thanks Grover! In writing this one (which although not posted first, is actually the first story I had started writing!) I'd wanted to focus on the implications of the change more than the change itself. In particular the question really of how different a path our lives take if we transition (magically or otherwise!).

In the next part things should hopefully make even more sense.