Enchanted Twelve 3byRedHairedandFriendly©
Author's Note:. A warm and heartfelt thank you to all the writers that have been participating in this very unique chain story. Another warm and heartfelt thank you to the readers that have left comments or sent us emails. We appreciate it very much. These chapters are all very unique in one way or another and I have enjoyed everyone of them. We will be concluding the chain soon, yet I have a feeling these characters will forever live in our hearts and minds. Whenever we hear the story of the Twelve Dancing Princesses I believe we'll have names and faces for them now. Thank you again. ~ Red
Andrew sat quietly in the gardens of Westingfield castle. His hands rested on his knees. His head was bent down and to anyone who didn't know him, they would have thought he were sleeping. Yet, he was not. Sleep had alluded him. He had tried to catch a nap when he had finished retelling the Queen and King of the events that had transpired during the night. However no rest came as the images of Danielle and Simon flooded his mind. The sound of a witch screamed in his ear. The frolicking of sister after sister in the enchanted world or Oarthland... all of it hindered him and left him weak and worried.
"There you are."
He did not need to turn around to know who had approached. He had sensed her before she'd even spoke. "Yes, I am here," he whispered quietly, then rose offering his hand to the eldest Princess...his Danielle.
She smiled softly, stood up on her toes to kiss him and closed her eyes. Only a second or two passed before Andrew placed his lips on hers. He still fought the demons that told him she was the whore that many had rumored her to be years ago. As her tongue darted timidly over his lips, a moan of both desire and anguish poured from him. He pulled her against him, crushed her breasts into his chest and plundered her mouth like a man possessed. When they parted, both were left breathless. Danielle's eyes were full of wonder, excitement and desire. Andrew studied them, curious as if those eyes reflected the same emotions whenever she was in Simon's arms. He had seen her body respond as any woman's would when they were being aroused, yet he'd never been close enough to read her eyes. If he ever was... he feared what he would see.
"Did you need me?" he asked, pulling away and then leading her down a worn path of brick and stone. The gardens grew thicker the more steps they meandered and he felt a sense of peace brush over them. He knew during the daylight hours Danielle was his and his alone.
"I remembered something this morning... when I woke up."
Andrew stopped short and stared down at her. "A dream?"
"I think so. It was quick to come. I opened my eyes and the images were still fresh, so I wrote them down." She quickly produced a small notebook and pressed it into Andrew's palm.
He looked at it. His hands trembling as he worked through whether or not he wanted to read her memories. What if they were of Simon? What if she did not recall the brush of his lips against her ear when they had rested in the forest? What if she professed desire to remain in Oarthland and leave him and Westingfield behind?
"Aren't you going to read it?" Danielle suddenly asked, her imploring question invading his musings.
"I'd rather you tell me," he admitted, pushing the journal back into her hands.
Danielle frowned then shrugged her shoulders, tucked the book back in the pocket of her gown and reclaimed his arm. As they walked she spoke in a quiet voice. "It was strange...waking up that is. I felt as if I were in two worlds. There was a fog surrounding me. Voices. Music... and you." She blushed brightly as she told him how she had dreamed about their time in the meadow, their first time together and then she paled as she spoke of how the dream shifted. She was suddenly in a castle and in the arms of a stranger. A man that she coupled with, but one that when the act was over made her feel empty.
Hope surged through Andrew and he mentally thanked the Queen for the words she had repeated throughout her council. Danielle acted because she had no control of her actions when she was in Oarthland. Surely he told himself, that this "empty" feeling she had was due to that loss of "control." She did love him...didn't she? Andrew shook his head, trying to dispel the doubts that plagued him. "Is there more?" he asked.
"Yes. There was evil there; I'd never felt such evil. Screams echoed through my head and shouts of betrayal. Just as quickly though all that fear melted away because there was this energy. A sort of peace settling over me." Danielle blushed becomingly and looked up into Andrew's eyes. "It was as if you were there with me. Protecting me from whatever is trying to harm my sisters and myself."
Andrew pulled her to him, tucked her head under his chin and ran his fingers over her hair. "I'm trying Princess. I'm trying."
Danielle shook her head against him. He knew so much about her dreams and yet he could not stop them. The Queen had told him to return again, to take the blood stained dagger he'd used on her sister and dip its tip into her drink. She explained to him that her sister had not always been evil. They had been close once, but then a man had come between them. Or at least that was the excuse Angora had for choosing to walk on the dark side of the moon. In so doing this, her blood became poison.
Andrew had sat entranced by the tale his Queen told. As she spoke he had to remind himself it was not a fairy one, but it was all true. It all seemed so simple, yet he knew it would not be. He had to return to Oarthland, expose himself and somehow get the witch to drink her own blood.
Andrew held onto the woman he loved more than life itself; he swore to not leave Oarthland until Angora lay dead.
Her voice brought him back to the world around him. "Yes?"
"What are you thinking about?"
Andrew chuckled softly, pulled away slightly and ran a palm over her cheek. "You," he answered truthfully. "Come let us find our own private place and try to get some sleep. I too had dreams and they were not ones I wish to share with you...yet."
Danielle nodded and the two continued down the path, only veering from its safety when Andrew felt they were deep enough in its lushness to remain hidden from any prying eyes.
"Bitch!" Angora screeched as her hand flew out to connect with the mute girl's head. The thud was clearly audible and an inaudible wail escaped the child's throat. "Don't make that sound!" Angora hissed, "I should have slit your throat instead of just removing your foul tongue!"
The girl only nodded, agreeing with her Mistress, for she knew to disagree would only add more bruises to her disfigured form. Angora winced as her slave cleansed the wound that the invisible demon had placed on her. When the girl was finished with her job, she watched as the soiled linen and all the red fluid of life was destroyed by the licking flames of the fire. Only then did Angora breathe easier in the room where her life had for a moment hung in the hands of a child who had every right to wish her dead. Fear however had kept the girl from acting. Angora knew this. She feared her fate without Angora in her life, more than living with the evil enchantress.
Eventually Angora was left alone. Her mind working frantically on how to capture the one that had a piece of her, a deadly piece. She needed to find the traitor, the one that still held precious drops of her blood. Though it was dry, she knew that even a flake would destroy her. There was no doubt that her sister had once again invaded the lands of Oarthland with her magic. She'd smelled it, the odor of happiness had been easy to recognize. It was the same foul smell that Andrea had worn when she wed Bartholomew. Joy. Happiness. Love. Uniques fragrances that drove those who did not possess it mad.
Bartholomew held his wife. His fingers toyed with the thick strands of her hair that lay across his broad chest. "I feel for that young man," the King admitted.
Andrea nodded her head, agreeing with him.
"He is struggling to maintain control. I hear his voice; he wants to shake her, to slap sense into her and yet he wants to protect her, love her," she whispered, propped herself up and stared at her husband, "It will happen soon. I feel it. I feel that connection to my twin slowly being severed. I just do not know how many of our daughters will return to us. How many lives will Oarthland claim? Will Angora win the souls of all of them? Some? None?"
Bartholomew sighed, pulled Andrea to him and kissed her softly. "I do not hold the answers. I wish I did. Sometimes I wish we'd..."
"Shh," Andrea whispered, pressing one finger against her husband's lips, "do not ever wish that. No matter what happens we will get through it. I pray we are allowed to keep all our children, but if we are not, then at least we had many years with them."
A tear fell from Andrea's eyes. Bartholomew caught it and rubbed it away. "I love you, my Queen."
"And I you."
With a tender nudge of his hand upon her shoulder, Andrea moved to her back. Her arms opened to welcome her mate into their warm embrace. Soon their worries were pushed away as their bodies molded together.
The dining hall was full of chattering females and two men. Both had given up a long time ago in conversing with the women of Westingfield. Bartholomew had taken Andrew to his left and waved off any type of communication revolving the sleepless nights. He instead tried to size up the man he was sure would succeed in the quest put before him and win the hand of one of his daughters. There was no doubt in his mind Andrew would chose Danielle and once the spell was broken, he was sure Danielle would chose Andrew.
He had observed them together just before the dinner hour had approached. He'd watched them emerge from the gardens. Their fingers had been twined tightly together. Their clothing rumpled. Their hair littered with various leaves and twigs. They had not seen him and he was rewarded with the sight of their parting ways. He could not miss the joy that had been so easily read on his eldest daughter's face. It had been many years since the smile of happiness had crossed her beautiful features.
A soft frown settled on his lips as he thought of the past and how Danielle's one indiscretion had made her bitter and almost soulless to men. The rumor's had only been partially true. Danielle had loved one of the guards, she'd bedded him, but all in the name of love... yet he had not loved her. He was just doing what some men do...hoping to find a way into the royal family by any means and his means had been by working on the eldest Princess's heart.
When Danielle discovered the man in the arms of not one, but two of her most trusted ladies maids, she swore all men were vile, evil, and dishonest sorts. No one had touched her heart again...now though, as Bartholomew stared at Andrew, he felt that Danielle had found her match.
"It is time," Andrea whispered to her husband, pulling him back to the dinner conversation.
"Aye, I just wish to linger... I too worry this will be the last meal we spend with them."
Andrea bit down on her lower lip, nodded her head in understanding, but rose from the table. "But look at them, my love. Even now as we sit at the table they are changing. Their eyes grow heavy, the yawns longer and louder. Even our cobbler is exhausted. We all need to retire. In the morning, if God wills it, all of this...will be over."
They spoke in hushed tones, mostly ignored by their offspring. Bartholomew rose from his seat, patted Andrew on the shoulder and moved to kiss each one of his daughters on the head. When he returned to Andrea's side he claimed her hand. "But for it all to be over...how many will we lose?"
"I don't know," Andrea admitted with a soulful look on her face.
The night seemed darker to Andrew as he followed the Princesses through the garden and into the rolling mist that magically appeared from some portal that he had traveled through two other nights. It still surprised him, though every step he took he told himself to expect it. He kept his eyes open, constantly looking for some door, or some magically hallway that would suddenly appear, taking them from one garden into another. Nothing ever appeared though. They all simply moved and the mist rolled in.
Once more they all reached the water's edge and once more the Princesses of Westingfield either went away on their own, together, or with the men that were somehow tied to them. He fought the urge to follow Danielle. He longed to be with her, even if it meant watching her couple with another man. Yet, he could not. He had to venture down his own path in Oarthland, one that would lead him back to the castle of Angora.