Princess Charming Ch. 02byladyofdark1981©
This took longer than I expected, been distracted of late. World events can give great inspiration yet can also break the heart and I sincerely hope that we have seen the worst of it.
As before I warn you that this story involves bisexuality so if you do not like same-sex relationships or divided affections than this is not the story for you. If you are okay with it than enjoy :þ
Chapter 2: The Grand Ball.
Jelena had heard the whole conversation, King Talus had already made up his mind who Athanasia was to marry. She was scared for her Princess as any number of the men who waited for an audience with her could have made a deal with her father. Her choice might not matter any more.
Athanasia marched out of the throne room in a bad mood, "The insufferable bastard," she seethed as she took Jelena into her arms, "He has already sold me!" Her resolve not to shed a tear at the hopelessness situation came dangerously close to failing.
"Then I suggest we think quickly about what to do," Jelena whispered urgently in the Princess's ear, "The one out you have is to pick a man before the deadline."
"But who?" Athanasia swallowed hard to stifle the sorrow she was slowly drowning in, "My precious Jelena, if I make the wrong decision I may never see you again." The gravity of the notion hit Jelena hard. "Hush my delicate flower," Athanasia caressed Jelena's cheek lovingly, "I will not let anyone take you from my side, ever."
The shorter young woman gripped her tighter, "We must act soon or it will be too late."
Athanasia tilted Jelena's chin up and met her lips with a tender kiss, "I love you."
The young women returned to the Princess's room to ready for the evening, neither of them talking as the only topic to talk about depressed both of them.
Jelena solemnly dressed the Princess for the third time that day, a ball gown that suited Athanasia's mood. A midnight blue with black diamonds and sapphires now graced the tall Princess making her pale skin look ghostly, she looked as though she was ready for a funeral and not meeting her future husband..
Athanasia stood before her mirror and took in her image, "Just like the tragic Queen on the way to the executioner's block," she commented, "Though I almost envy the prospect."
"Maybe I could find out who your father made the deal with," Jelena suggested.
"How?" Athanasia broke down again, "Only my father and the man he made the deal with knows that information." The Princess turned to look at her lover but she had already left.
Jelena ran as quietly through the halls as possible, she had her goal in mind and would do what ever it took to make sure that Athanasia would remain close. Her feet carried her to Prince Castor's room, she knew where it was but had never been in there. She knocked quietly on his door.
Castor opened it, the shock he felt at seeing the woman of his dreams standing in front of him paralysed his body to the spot.
"May I come in?" Jelena whispered, her voice filled with fear.
Castor nodded and stepped aside. Axel, who had been sitting with the Prince in a vain attempt to calm his fear of rejection, made his good byes and left. Jelena began to pace in much the same way Castor had no more than a minute ago.
"You sister is in trouble," she informed him, "Your father has already decided who she will marry."
The news had distracted Castor enough to, "What?"
"King Talus has made a deal with someone," Jelena could not hold her fear in any longer, "I'm afraid for her." She collapsed into his arms and sobbed.
Castor had dreamed of holding this precious young woman for so long but not like this. He pulled her into a tight embrace and took in the warmth she radiated. To see her in such a state broke his heart, he wanted to take her pain away to kiss that trembling lower lip. "How do you know my father has already made a deal with one of the suitors?"
Jelena sniffed, "He told her that if she fails to decide then she will marry of his choosing."
Castor began to worry, who could have made a deal with his father so quickly? "And you have no idea who?"
She shook her head, "I was hoping you would know."
"I wanted Sir Axel to be my sister's suitor," the Prince mentioned, "I have to somehow get my father to give him a title."
Jelena's head shot up, "That would be perfect," she said excitedly, "I could see that she was at least attracted to him." She hoped that Castor would manage to succeed, she prayed that he would succeed. "Castor, I know that you have plans for me to become your wife," her statement caught Castor by surprise.
"I had planned to court you after Athanasia was married," he admitted, "I have wanted to court you since you arrived at the palace."
"I will agree to marry you if you can guarantee Sir Axel as Athanasia's bridegroom," she rushed out before she backed out.
Castor's jaw dropped, "What?"
Jelena composed herself, "I said that I will be your wife if you can arrange that your sister becomes Sir Axel's bride."
She chanced a look up at shocked Castor's face, "This was not how I imagined it would be," he finally said sadly. "I had wanted you to fall in love with me, not offer yourself as payment to save my sister from an unfavourable match."
"You don't want me," she sighed, feeling the fear rise in her again.
"I did not say that," Castor reassured her, "I will compromise, I won't marry you but you must agree to allow me to woo you and if you find yourself falling in love with me then, and only then, will I marry you."
He gave her the same smile Jelena had frequently seen on Athanasia's face, perhaps he would not be so bad as a life partner. He clearly loved her but she still could not feel the same intensity for him as she did for his sister. "Alright," she nodded, "But you must find a way to rescue your sister."
"I will," Castor smiled and kissed her hand, "Promise me that I will get the first dance."
Jelena's face split into a small smile, "I promise." The Prince released her and watched her leave. His heart swelling with hope.
In his room, Baldassare opened the cylinder he had packed with a few choice potion recipes inside. He had one in particular on his mind, a sleeping draft designed for the Princess. The scroll was delicate and old but the information it carried was worth more than its weight in gold. The Wizard King laid the parchment out on the desk in his quarters and began to assemble the ingredients together taking care to place each phial, jar or bundle in its place ready for use.
With a flick of his wrist a bronze urn appeared and floated gently onto the desk, "Eye of newt, virgin's tongue," he chuckled at the cliché use of fake items, "Really smelly stuff." He grasped a jar of ground hollyhock buds and emptied half the contents into the urn, the powder looked like dried blood. "Valerian root juice," he mumbled as he added a few drops along with the powdered remains of an odd ocean fish and a bunch of dried berries.
Baldassare picked up a stick to mix the concoction then added a whole bottle of red wine and sparked a fire under the urn. He let the stick continue to stir as he moved onto something else, a jewelled ring with a hidden compartment, "The classics are always the best," he murmured moving back to the urn that had boiled down to a thick syrup with the berries still spherical though somewhat wilted.
Pouring the contents into a flat dish he pulverised it as it was dried into a powder. Scooping a little into the hidden compartment in his jewelled ring he tipped the rest into a small bottle and slipped it into his coat pocket.
Baldassare had used the sleeping draft many times in his plans to gain power. The night he drugged the Lunetta family was so easy it was laughable. The entire clan had gathered for a celebration and he was invited as a trusted member of court and adviser. It took little effort to drug them as they toasted his loyalty and friendship, ironic that they chose to toast him as they drank the wine with the sleeping draft sealing their own demise. After that it was easy to cast the spell to lock them in the painting that now holds them prisoner, forever to look out at the world but never to walk it again.
His plan this evening would be similar to that night, only he would slip it into the Princess's wine and wait until she excused herself to retire for the night then it was only a matter to follow suit and take her while everyone was still busy with the ball.
With a wicked grin he began to prepare for the ball ahead.
"I tell you Axel," Dirk remarked as he selected another garish outfit to impress the royal family, "Once the Princess is my wife she will not be allowed to wander out of my sight without an armed guard by her side."
Axel rolled his eyes at the obnoxious Count, "I am sure she would like some time alone or to spend with her entourage of ladies."
"And she can," Dirk smiled, "As long as she has someone to watch over her she may do what ever she likes." He turned towards his Knight, "I would like you to be the one to watch over her."
Axel needed to inform his employer to the request from the Prince to also try for Athanasia's hand. "Sir," he began, "I have something to tell you."
The Count chuckled, "Are you to tell me about what you were up to with the Prince?" Dirk turned back to his work, "Putting in a good word for your employer?"
"Not exactly," the Knight huffed, "Castor has told me of a concern he has for one of the potential suitors."
"A trouble maker?"
"The King of Galnoa," Axel answered calmly, "He is one of the likely successful suitors."
"Why would he talk to you about King Baldassare?" The man's curiosity piquing.
Axel hesitated, he had to say something. "The Prince requested that I try my luck with the stubborn Princess."
Dirk glared at him, "You are my body guard, not a suitable suitor for a Princess of the realm!"
"I have been offered a title should I succeed," he explained, "And I have met the Princess, albeit briefly. She is quite beautiful, enough for me to accept the suggestion to try my luck."
The far from handsome Count threw the outfit in his hands to the floor, "How dare you take what is rightfully mine!"
"She is not yours!" Axel yelled, "She will choose who she will be with and I highly doubt you have a chance but by all means try your luck."
"Are you saying she won't choose me because of my looks?"
"I am saying that a woman as intelligent as she is looks past physical appearances," Axel moved closer to the little weasel of a man, "And I am certain that when she talks to you she will see a truely ugly little man who hides behind his title and expensive clothing. Yes your appearance leaves a lot to be desired but if you were an honourable man rather than a fiendish scheming usurper of the throne you would actually stand a chance."
"I think it would be a very good idea that you leave my services immediately, Sir," Dirk snarled at Axel with all the menace he could muster, which was not much.
"Gladly," Sir Axel Fletcher agreed with loathing and left, wondering what he would do about an outfit for the ball in just a few hours ahead.
Castor marched to his father in the throne room, he was a man on a mission to find who his father had chosen to marry his sister off to. He had agreed to do everything in his power to guarantee Axel's proposal would be the successful one but he needed to know who his father had formed a deal with. He prayed that his father was not foolish enough to agree to any deals with the Witch-King of the north but he would not hold his hopes up.
As he hurried through the corridors he collided with Axel, "I am sorry," Castor apologised, lifting himself up off the floor, "I was not watching where I was going."
"My Prince," Axel bowed, "It is I who must apologise for my rudeness."
"Nonsense," Castor shook his head and stood aside to allow Axel to pass.
"My Prince, may I ask a favour?"
Castor was taken aback by the urgency of the request, "By all means."
"I have a dilemma," he explained, "I know you wish for me to be the one who saves your sister from a possible unsuitable match however I am lacking the appropriate attire and with not enough time to rectify the situation under my own control."
Castor gave him his bedroom key, "Pick anything you wish, but my sister will most likely wear something dark to reflect her reluctance to marry."
Axel gave him a quick hug and raced off to ready himself for the ball. Caster continued to the throne room to confront his father about the rumour.
"My son," Talus greeted him, "What brings you here?" The King did not look amused at the worried expression on the Prince's face.
"A little bird has told me you have already decided who Athanasia will marry," he asked more directly than he intended, "Is this true?"
King Talus laughed, "I gave her an ultimatum," he explained, "If she does not make her choice she will marry someone of my choosing."
The King cocked his head at the simple question, "Why would you wish to know? It will be a very good match and the kingdom will benefit from such a union."
"It sound like you have already accepted this suitor's proposal on behalf of my sister," Castor was worried at his father's grin, it suggested a hidden plan.
"It may as well be," Talus huffed, "Your sister will knock back any who approach and she will be left with my choice instead. The marriage might as well happen tonight."
"Then father," Castor probed, "Who is the lucky, or should I say unlucky man?"
"King Baldassare of Galnoa," Talus chuffed, "And he wishes to pay me the honour of marrying her."
Castor's heart sank, how could his father allow such a man to marry Athanasia? But he guessed that the prospect of gold was more valuable to the King than the happiness of the Princess. Without asking to leave he made his escape.
"Where do you think you are going?" The King demanded, "I have not dismissed you!"
"The warm thighs of a certain lady-in-waiting back in my room," this false yet amusing statement caused the King to laugh and not stop Castor in any way.
Castor closed the door behind him once he reached his room, he was greeted with a very pale and naked Axel as he rummaged through the Prince's wardrobe. Castor made not sound at first, the man was quite the specimen with his lean muscles and broad shoulders. The Prince found himself staring at him in a way he had never looked at another male before. He found him beautiful.
Axel was oblivious to the Prince's presence, he held up a midnight blue dress coat with sapphires for toggles. "That would be perfect," Castor called out, alerting the Knight of his company, "I think it would look better on you than I."
Axel turned, giving the Prince full sight of his body in it's slightly aroused state before covering himself, "You're Grace," he choked, "You frightened me."
Castor walked over with a smile, "This from the legendary hero? I am honoured," he let his eyes drift lower to try glimpse the impressive phallus again, "No need to hide Sir Axel, it is not as though I have never seen a naked male before."
"It is not customary in Averny for men to be naked around other men," he explained, "But if customs here say otherwise than I will have to adapt."
The two men were of similar height and build, Castor slightly taller, enough to look down to Axel, "To tell you the truth, I have never thought about it."
Axel watched him walk over to the mirror, "Does something bother his majesty?"
Castor just smiled, "Would you find it strange to hear that I find you handsome?"
The Knight shook his head, "I have received compliments like that since I was young, I am use to them."
"Men have complimented you before?" Castor asked, curious at Axel's remark.
"Mostly women," Axel thought about the question a little more, "I believe you are the first man to do so."
The Prince walked closer again, taking the outfit out of Axel's hands and laid it on the bed. "Would you be scared to know I find you handsome?" The Knight shook his head so Castor continued, "I am quite use to getting what I want Sir Axel, can I trust you to keep your lips sealed with this secret?"
"You're Grace?" Axel was unsure where this was going but his curiosity won out, "Yes, I will."
Castor ran his calloused fingers up Axel's arm, "Have you ever kissed a man before?"
Axel was not sure he heard correctly at first however when the Prince began to looked concerned he had to speak. "No," he replied, "It is against the teachings."
"I am not a follower of the new religion," Castor confessed, "Once I am King I will allow people to worship how they want and never to impose their beliefs on those who are not so inclined."
"What are you saying my Prince?"
"I wish to know what it is like to kiss you," Castor's deep violet eyes were filed with more than the chaste desire to press his lips against the Knight's, "A real kiss, not what you would give a friend."
Axel was confused, this was a man who wanted him to marry his sister and yet here he is attempting to seduce him. The worst part was Axel found himself wanting to go along with it, the wicked act itself only making the forbidden kiss more desirable. With a subtle nod Castor descended to Axel's waiting lips, clasping his golden locks to pull him close. Axel did the same, entwining his fingers in the elderberry mane of the Prince, all his cares disappearing in an instant. For how long to two explored each others mouths neither of them knew but as they parted they tried to pretend it did not happen and silently readied for the ball to start. Each gave the other glances when the other had their back turned trying to process the new alien feelings that had sprouted within them.
Jelena felt ashamed, she had offered herself up to the one man she refused to marry only an hour before. She slowly made her way back to the Princess's room to find that the Princess was struggling with her hair, "There you are," the Princess sighed in relief, "I was worried my brother decided to kidnap you and rob you of your virginity," she joked but quickly stopped when she saw the worry on Jelena's face. "I jest you know, I do not want to upset you."
"I'm sorry Athanasia," Jelena chocked, "I'm just a little out of sorts."
The Princess hugged her lover, "For the record, you would make a wonderful Queen," she reassured her.
This made Jelena laugh, "If only your brother were King already we would not be so stressed about tonight."
"True," the Princess agreed, hiding her own nerves, "Castor will be a just and wise King ... and he would probably make me marry Sir Axel."
Jelena, who had begun to style Athanasia's hair nearly dropped the brush at the comment, "Why do you say that?" She asked with a distinct wobble in her voice.
"He introduced us today and he has admired him in a hero worship way since the goodly Knight's adventures reached our Kingdom," Athanasia explained, "If Castor were a woman he would marry the Knight without hesitation, but he is not so he will settle for brother-in-law."
"And would you?" Jelena queried, "I mean, he is handsome, more so than I thought he would be." Jelena held her hope in check and waited for Athanasia's response.
"He is handsome," she concurred, "And he has a kind face, not one you would expect on someone who had cut down men in the heat of battle." Athanasia grinned, "I wonder if he can dance?"
Jelena felt both happy and jealous at once, she did not want to share Athanasia with anyone but she knew she would have to. "We shall find out soon," the lady-in-waiting said, "We are already late ... again."
Athanasia laughed, "Fashionably late," she corrected her, "There is a difference." The Princess inspected her hair, make up and jewels. The midnight blue velvet dress flowed like water over her form and she silently prayed that she would choose right this night.