A Royal Sacrifice Ch. 08byRedHairedandFriendly©
Author's Note:This is a chapter that was written for a chain story under the same title "A Royal Sacrifice." The work that follows is my own and has been written in order to replace a chapter that was removed when one of the writer's in the chain had their worked removed from the site. I will be replacing the other two as well, or a member of the original team will. If you are new to this chain and have stumbled across this story because it is a "new" submission to Lit. I encourage you to read the previous chapters by going to the "Chain Story" section of Lit. and find the corresponding alpha character. The other missing chapters: 13 and 19, will soon grace the chain once more -- patience is needed as I reconstruct the tale. A couple of parting thanks to Darkniciad for editing suggestions and to the readers. ~ Red
The wind brushed silky curls of hair into Evelyn's face; she pushed them away. The rings adorning her fingers caught her eyes causing her to stare blankly at them; the digits were clean - of all signs that she was once a simple village girl who grew up cleaning stalls, riding horses, digging in the dirt for mushrooms were gone. There seemed to be no proof of the girl she was and in her place was a woman who looked as if she'd grown up in the finest castles and had studied with the finest tutors. A long sigh left her parted lips; her hand fell to her lap to join the other that looked equally manicured and fake. The dress she wore was beautiful. It had been made to fit her as if she had always worn such finery. Gone were her wool skirts, torn shirts, and holey shoes. Was there nothing left of her?
A butterfly fluttered down to rest on a flower close to Evelyn. She studied it, wished that her life were as simple as the creature before her. The creature did not have to worry about a kingdom, or about the politics of peace, the destruction of war, nor did they have to relive the horror of their parents death, their biological father's distaste for his only child. A butterfly could travel where it wanted, associate with whom it wanted. She, the Queen of Vix had to have her friends placed in harm to protect her; her trust mistreated and her intelligence questioned by those who deemed themselves better than her. Another winged creature flew up to the first. Their colors matched and the two butterflies tasted each other before flying away.
Evelyn smiled. That was life -- two creatures finding each other and haphazardly fluttering through the wind, eventually relying on one to guide the other, or sometimes sticking the breeze out and rolling with it side by side. Wasn't that what she was supposed to do with Drest? Wasn't that the plan? She would wed him and he would help her to lead their kingdoms into a new era. The sounds of approaching feet brought her up from her musings. Evelyn turned and faced the man she had just been thinking of.
She made motion to rise; Drest lifted his hand and so she stayed in her seat. In truth Evelyn was far from wishing to do anything but enjoy the weather and the serenity of her garden. "Good morning, Your Majesty."
"And good morning to you ,Your Highness."
Drest smiled. "Do you tire of the etiquette one is encouraged to show when royals greet each other? I know I am and if you would like you may willingly call me Drest."
Evelyn laughed. "I shall extend the offer to you, as well. Though I am sure Chancellor Benedict will have something to say about it if he were to hear our greetings so informal."
The prince shrugged his shoulders. "Perhaps, but I believe sometimes you forget that you are Queen and even your Chancellor must pay you heed. Do not let him cower you, or it only reinforces what rumors have spread."
"Rumors?" her brow lifted.
"There is talk that you are just a village idiot - weak and feeble. They say that the kingdom would be in better hands than those of a village girl who was not even good enough for her father to keep."
Evelyn rose up; her features red from anger and shock as well as humiliation at his words. Drest quickly lifted his hands. "Your Majesty -- Evelyn -- I only answered the question you asked. You will show them how wrong their words are. I have faith in you. Much more than I believe you have in yourself."
She turned away, her arms crossed under her breasts and took several long breaths. "I am still learning," she admitted.
"Aren't we all," he answered. "What is that?"
Evelyn turned and faced him to see his finger pointed to the weapon on her hip. "A sword that I was given. It is to help me learn how to defend myself."
His brows rose questionably.
"What?" she asked, pulling it from the sheath.
"It is a fine piece, but the weight is light. It would serve you better to learn with a stronger blade, so that if by some chance you find yourself taking another sword to finish your attacker you have experience with it. A real warrior would blanch if he had but your sword to aid him."
Evelyn's mouth contorted slightly, giving indication that she was thinking on his words. She nodded to the weapon he wore. "And yours is one a soldier would be proud to wield? It looks heavy, but with those fancy intricate carvings and jeweled hilt, it looks more glamorous than useful."
Drest said nothing, but proved his weapon was far from useless. The hilt was in his palm and his fingers wrapped around it before Evelyn drew a breath. The sound of it being drawn made her gasp and the easy slice it made on her rose bush startled her.
She stepped back and eyed his weapon. "I see," she whispered.
"It is very much useful and the glamor is not only for show, but for practical purposes. The jewels could be dug out and used to bribe someone."
"I would not have thought of that," she told him.
"Yes, you would have. You have a strong mind - a practical outlook on life. Something that those raised behind these walls do not. You would have thought to use the jewels before you would have resorted to violence. The jewels would have bought you food, safety, covered expenses for your travels, and because you know the value of a coin, you would have most likely made the best deal and returned home with monies left over."
Evelyn laughed. "You are most likely correct!"
"Evelyn in all seriousness, might I show you the difference in the two weapons? You need to familiarize yourself with something that will make a man take a second glance. It will give you the time necessary to plan a course of action. Because in all honesty, a woman brandishing any blade will cause a man to pause, not because he fears you, but because he will try to contain his laughter."
She smirked. "A woman with a blade would make a man laugh?"
"Of course; no woman dares to defend herself in such a fashion. Do you not know that women are frail creatures who must be tucked behind a man or she will lose her virtue if not her life." Drest added a wink to his cocky grin.
Evelyn rolled her eyes, but sensed his teasing tone. "I'll accept a lesson or two from you, so that I may not kill my opponent with laughter."
Drest handed her his weapon and discarded her own, lying it upon the bench upon which she had been sitting. She took it and felt the difference in its weight and length. "It is quite a contrast," she admitted.
He slowly showed her the proper stance and how to swing the blade. They worked for an hour before she begged none-to-jokily for mercy. He returned the sword to his side. Evelyn wiped the sweat from her brow.
"Why the poor Queen must be parched."
Both Evelyn and Drest turned to face the newcomer.
"Ah, Viviane a pleasure seeing you," Drest said before leaving Evelyn's side. He pulled his sister into a warm embrace.
The Queen shuttered within herself. Viviane made her uneasy; the woman's presence seemed to sicken her. She knew she had no real reason to find Drest's sister disloyal, but she did, and the fact that her brother only saw the good in her made Evelyn question as to why she was so quick to doubt the sincerity in the woman's actions.
"I was just showing the lovely Evelyn the difference between her weapon and my own."
Viviane's lips rose in a grin that Evelyn knew to be one of unspoken thought. "Oh, my dear brother," her hand rested on his chest, "your weapons are vastly different."
Evelyn did not need to be told what the woman was implying. Disgust rolled over her, but she kept her demeanor that of a Queen. She picked up her weapon, sheathed it and stood for a moment next to the pair. "I appreciate your lesson Your Highness, but I must take my leave. I have requested a meeting with the Chancellor and I do not wish to be late." She spared a brief glance to Lady Viviane, "good-day your ladyship."
The Queen of Vix left the siblings; her stomach churned at the soft laughter that poured from the other woman's lips. There was something wrong with that woman, Evelyn knew it, but she also knew that Drest was more than capable of handling his sister -- or at least she hoped he was.
Back inside the castle rooms, Evelyn quickly made her way to the Chancellor's ready room and found him staring aimlessly out the window. She cleared her throat.
"Alone again, no one guarding your back, no ladies to chaperone you. It is good Lady Viviane appeared before things got out of hand."
"You were spying on me?" she asked. Evelyn walked to the window and was rewarded with a view of her garden. Drest and Viviane were still there, but had chosen to take a tour of the grounds. She turned away and stared back at Benedict. "Then I am to have no privacy -- ever?" she asked.
He shrugged his shoulders. "You are the Queen and your privacy means little to me," he admitted.
Evelyn glared at his back. She hated how he turned away from her and spoke with her as if he were her better. Drest's words came back to her and she knew that how the Chancellor behaved toward her would eventually be the way others chose to. She could not allow his disrespect to continue, no matter how much she feared him.
"Do not turn away from me," she said. Her voice was shaky, but loud enough.
Benedict turned and with a raised brow looked back at her. "My apologies," he said, as if he almost had been waiting for her backbone to appear.
"I understand that you have chosen to detain Rebecca in the dungeons and she has been questioned by your men, yet she gives you no answers - or at least answers you do not find truthful."
Benedict's jaw tightened. "You have no need to worry yourself in regards to prisoners. We have the traitor under constant guard and she'll not harm you or anyone else in this realm."
"I doubt she harmed anyone prior to her capture either."
"You say that even after your friends have been attacked and your adoptive parents slain?"
"Do not call them that. They were my parents; they do not need to be called 'adoptive'."
He said nothing and for that Evelyn was grateful. "My lady-in-waiting is my responsibility and I wish to see her and to question her myself. You will take me to her now," Evelyn demanded.
Benedict's jaw tightened further; Evelyn could swear she heard his teeth scrap against each other as he fought for control over the words he ached to spill. She waited for him to concede or battle with her. The former was her reward and she followed Benedict out of the room, down through the halls and even further into the bowels of her castle.
The air was moist and the stench of excrement strong. "I want this sty cleaned immediately!" she hissed as she covered her nose.
"It is a dungeon your highness."
"That is an excuse only a man with little regard for life gives. Have it cleaned or have it filled. The only creature who deserves these dwellings is The Spectre."
"As you wish," Benedict answered. He approached one room, where a guard stood at the door ready for any unseen foe.
"Open the door," the Chancellor said; when it was done, he and Evelyn stepped through, the guard followed, a lit torch in his hand cast light on the room. Rebecca lay on a cot that was stuffed with straw. Several ends poked out. The room was no cleaner than the other parts of the dungeon and Evelyn knew the girl would most likely suffer nightmares from the state she'd been forced to live in -- even if it had been a short stay.
Evelyn moved to approach the girl. Benedict grabbed her arm and hauled her back. "Are you a fool?" he screamed, "she is your enemy yet you approach her as if she has done no wrong?"
The Queen jerked free and stared at the Chancellor. "How dare you touch me," she whispered. He shrank back slightly. "She is not my enemy until I find her guilty of the crimes you accuse her of. Take care of her. I want her bathed, and dressed. Now!"
The sound of their voices echoed off the walls; Evelyn turned when she heard the woman on the bed rustling. "Your Majesty?"
Rebecca's voice was soft and broken. Evelyn moved to her side, aware that the fine gown she wore would no longer be of any use to her; the soiled floors now stained the silk hem. She lowered herself to her knees and thought nothing of the material. Her mind was full of worry for Rebecca. Evelyn heard the guard approach and knew that he would intervene if Rebecca tried to hurt her like Benedict had warned. The Queen smoothed down the girl's hair. "What happened?" she asked the woman.
Rebecca opened her eyes wider, rubbed them and stared off into the distance. "I don't know. They brought me here. The words they say make no sense."
"I hear you have been with the evil one -- have you seen him?" Evelyn asked.
"No -- no Your Majesty, never I ..."
Benedict stepped closer. "She lies! She was seen with him. She is his lover. She's spread her legs and lain with him. She most likely carries his spawn and..."
"Enough!" Evelyn shouted and took a deep breath. "Rebecca I need you to remember, but I believe you. I can see in your eyes that you are lost. You are confused and I know the powers of Bagdemagus and I know he has something to do with your memory and what the others saw."
"Your Highness, I meant you no harm. I don't understand what is happening. I ... I ... just don't know," she covered her face with her hands and cried.
Evelyn pulled her in for a tight embrace, but released it when the guard advanced. She rose; he sheathed his weapon. "Arrange for her to be removed to one of the housemaids' quarters. Whomever gives up their rooms without fretting will be rewarded. I want a bath and fresh clothes brought to her and she is to be seen by the healer."
She turned to Benedict and spoke to him before he had a chance to open his mouth. "Do not counter my demands or I will remove you from your lofty perch. I am sick of you running my life and trying to make me your puppet. She is my lady and I will see to her in my own way. Do we have an understanding?"
Benedict said nothing, only lifting a brow and stepping back so that the Queen of Vix could pass. She felt her stomach tighten; Evelyn knew the victory was small, but knew it had been hers. She still had a long way to go in regards to making him see her as his monarch and not a guttersnipe.
After leaving the dungeon, Evelyn quickly went back to her rooms. The women who had worked so hard to prepare her for the day, were there. They had heard their Queen had found her way to the dungeon and all knew that the results would do nothing good for her clothing. The dress was removed, and the Queen was told that it would be cleaned and given to the orphanage. One woman told her that it would most likely be cut down and used as dresses and pieces would be used to make sashes or hair ornaments for the girls.
"Certainly a good use," Evelyn committed as she sunk into a hot bath full of rose petals. She closed her eyes, dismissed the women after asking them to return in an hour.
While she lay in the tub, she thought about Drest and their morning conversation as well as the lessons he'd given her. He was fast becoming her friend and she found herself curious as to if they could become more than that. Their kingdoms once joined would forever prosper from each other and would a marriage built on friendship and perhaps love only bring a larger reward to the people? It was evident that the marriages of her father had done nothing for the kingdom.
Thoughts of her father brought her to thoughts of her mother. A woman who had given birth to her, but had died moments later. Had her mother looked upon her visage and known what was going to happen? Evelyn sighed, sank deeper into the water and saw the images of her parents float behind her closed lids. Benedict had called them her "adopted" parents. She hated the word; they were her mother and her father and they were no longer a part of her life. Only their memory remained.
How she hated Bagdemagus. Why had he only now become a more constant presence in the kingdom? What did he want with them? And how could they defeat him? Evelyn wondered over all of this and more as the water cooled. The women returned and soon she was forced to push away thoughts of those she loved, and those she now knew hate for.
After she was dressed, she was given food that filled a belly she had not known to be empty. She ate the bread and cheese, drank the wine and sucked on the fruit before popping its meat into her mouth and enjoying the remaining sweet texture. A roasted hen had been prepared for her and she found herself indulging in most of it.
The women laughed as she pushed her plates away and patted her full stomach. "Your Highness, if you continue to eat like that we will have to remove the seams of your gowns."
Evelyn blushed. "I was famished," she admitted. "Please see that the villagers are given an increase in foods from the kingdom's stores. If I am given this much than surely we can give a more generous amount to my people."
The women grinned, bobbed their heads, took her discarded food and dishes and hurried to do her bidding. Words of adoration fell from their lips and were caught by Evelyn's ears. She smiled, realizing that the little things she did in front of her servants would in time reach the hearts of her people and they would know she was nothing like her father.
The Queen left her chambers with thoughts on what she would do before the dinner tonight that had been planned earlier in the week. It was to be a way for her to show that she was coming along in her lessons on etiquette as well as a way to prove she could recall the important stations of those who were a part of her kingdom. She had been forced to memorize bloodlines and treaties that had brought what lands to her doorstep and what husband was married to what lady and what lady had which children. The family tree of her notable allies had given her many headaches and she hoped that tonight all would be rewarded for her efforts.
A loud bang startled Evelyn, she walked over to Benedict's ready room; the door was slightly ajar, so she pushed it open and stepped through, allowing it to gently close behind her. Several men of various ages either stood or sat in chairs surrounding Benedict's desk. She approached cautiously as she heard them whisper words of the "evil one" and "demons -- traders -- ignorant women in power". The last statement made her skin prickle.
"I believe it is the ignorance of man that has allowed Bagdemus to walk this world so freely? Is it not man who has been leading this kingdom generation after generation and is it not an 'ignorant woman' that may be the only key to defeating him?"
All turned to stare at Evelyn. She lifted her chin in defiance. "Why do you hold this meeting without my knowledge?" Her eyes held the Chancellor's in a steady gaze.
"Your Highness. I assumed you were resting and did not wish to trouble you. We as the elders and military leaders of your kingdom know what we are doing," Benedict said. The other men nodded their heads in agreement.