A Royal Sacrifice Ch. 23byRedHairedandFriendly©
This is the final chapter to a chain story that was first posted on May 24, 2007. The 22nd chapter was posted April 17, 2008. For those familiar with the story, it is my fault that it took so long to complete this wonderful tale and I apologize not only to the exceptional group of writers that accompanied myself and Evelyn, Queen of Vix, on this journey, but to the readers as well. My heartfelt thanks goes out to slyc_willie, deathlynx, Talynnda, MrsDeathlynx, Darkniciad and another wonderful and talented writer who has since left Lit., so out of respect for her I will not give her Lit. name. I hope for all those that remember this story, they enjoy the end of Evie's adventure...or is it just the beginning to another story... ~ Red
The sound of bells ringing filled the air; a young woman stopped the firm fingers that played with her skin, choosing instead to listen to the melodious music. A smile filled her youthful features; a giggle escaped her pink lips and laughter sprang up as a pair of warm hands began to torment her naked flesh with heartfelt tickles.
"Stop Henry...the bells...we have to..."
"The Queen will wed whether we are there or not," Henry, the son of the village blacksmith, said before allowing his hand to travel down the girl's naked flesh.
"Yes, but..." She hissed when his thumb pressed against the tender nub of her sex. "Everyone will be there and afterward there is a great ball." Henry mumbled that he was very much aware of this, but still continued to move his finger against the velvet flesh. Eventually the couple forgot the pending nuptials, too lost in their own fairy tale to worry about another, even if it was a royal raised within the walls of their own village.
The sound of laughter, joy and merriment seemed to echo through every inch of space that Evelyn tried to find peace in. She felt that same happiness; there was, however, an underlying emotion that seemed to call to her, guilt. A long sigh escaped her parted lips as she heard the sound of the bells ringing, their unbroken melody reached into the gardens where she had sought solace.
She had less than an hour to reach her love's side and begin her new life, a life where she would rule with another over two countries, if she so chose. She laughed softly at the image that suddenly presented itself to her. A young woman, her face smudged with dirt, her nails broken and chipped, stood before a man who intimidated all and held nothing but disdain in his eyes when looking down at her.
"You've come a long way," Evelyn whispered to herself.
"Yes, you have your Highness."
Evelyn turned, the soft swish of her dress went unnoticed, but the shimmering of its beauty did not. Muriel stared at the young woman who had been raised as a commoner only to gain possession of a crown her father had sought to deny. She saw not only the pearls, beads, and silver threads woven into the lace and silk, but also pride, strength, and gentleness portrayed in the woman, the same three things that Muriel had recognized the first time Evelyn was presented to Benedict.
"Muriel," Evelyn whispered the name, as her lips rose in a friendly greeting that radiated the love she felt for the woman before her. "I hoped you would come," she said as she walked toward the outstretched hands. Evelyn gripped the worn, yet soft fingers of her friend, and brought her closer. The two women embraced; Muriel eventually pulled away after she tucked a stray curl behind Evelyn's ear.
"You know the bells are ringing," Muriel said as she stepped back, "you have a Prince to wed and a country to address."
Evelyn chewed on her lower lip, sighed and moved away. "I know...it is just...I don't feel as if I deserve this," she said, sweeping her hands across the gardens.
"Why is that?" Muriel asked, confusion easily read by the tone of her voice. "You are the rightful heir to the throne and..."
"I know that. I don't doubt my right as far as my bloodline...but am I worthy of it. So many died and what if they died in vain?"
Muriel stepped back, only to stop short of speaking when she saw another move into the garden.
"They did not die in vain, unless you become a selfish, bureaucrat who sits on her arse all day looking at the newest fashions while dipping strawberries into chocolate."
Evelyn turned toward the voice. "Benedict." Her brows lifted and her lips rose in a tilted smirk.
"Shouldn't you be standing at an alter waiting for your Queen?"
Benedict shrugged his shoulders, made his way to Muriel's side and slipped his arm around her waist. "Why rush when the bride hasn't even left the castle?" His lips pressed softly against Muriel's temple. "How are you my love?" he asked as he felt her press into his side.
"I'm well; thank you for asking."
Evelyn watched the love radiate between her two closest confidants. If one did not know better they would never guess how ruthless Benedict was. In the presence of his wife, Muriel, he was nothing more than a whipped pup. She dare not make a verbal accusation to the man's face but she knew it to be true. Benedict and Muriel had wed quietly two weeks after the burial of the men that had given their lives to protect her and her kingdom. There had been so many, some she knew well, others she only knew through the stories that were shared the night of their final ceremony. It hurt to know that she was the cause of so much sorrow.
"Well Evelyn, are you going to become a selfish bureaucrat?"
Benedict brought Evelyn out of her musings.
"Perhaps I will," she grinned half-heartedly, "sitting on my arse, eating treats would be an easy life, much easier than what brought us thus far." She watched Benedict leave Muriel's side, noticing the reluctance of it, and hoped for just a fraction of that love to show forth in her upcoming life with Drest.
"No," Benedict said as he reached her side. He took her hands in his, squeezed them and leaned in, placing a kiss on her forehead. "You would waste away if you took up that life. You fret overmuch, my Queen. You deserve all this and more. The men who gave their lives did so with honor and they did so knowing that you would do them justice. Do not tarnish their memory by making yourself unworthy of their gift."
"Even though I give my crown to another?"
"So you have decided?" Benedict asked. "Sir John will become the King upon your nuptials to Prince Drest?"
"Not immediately, but soon. You disapprove?" Evelyn asked as she pulled her hands free from Benedict's strong, but gentle hold.
Evelyn watched as Benedict moved back to Muriel's side, taking up his rightful place next to her. "Evelyn, you ask me an unfair question. You are the Queen and in my heart I feel this is the place for you, but...I do know that Sir John will rule with honor, just as you would have. In the end it is not my place to approve or disapprove, it is my place to serve, no matter who my King is."
"But...in the end, I do not disapprove of your choice. He will make a fine King, just as you will be a fine Queen for our neighboring land. Now...I must leave you and I trust that you will bring my wife to the church so that we can get this affair done with and we may return to our own little slice of heaven?"
Muriel chuckled; Evelyn noticed her blush, but said nothing except that she would indeed bring Muriel along and that though they may be a few minutes late they would arrive before Drest set an army out to find them.
The two women soon left the gardens, their heads pressed close together as were their bodies. They made their way back to Evelyn's bedchamber, pausing briefly only to acknowledge those that offered Evelyn congratulations. Outwardly Evelyn smiled; inwardly she wondered how many of these noblemen and women had snickered behind their manicured hands when she was presented to them shortly after her father's death.
"Stand tall," Muriel whispered. Evelyn did as she was told, knowing that in the end what those thought of her did not matter, and it was how she ruled that would make her a Queen.
Once back behind the familiarity of her chambers Evelyn relaxed. A welcomed greeting was caste her way, by her maid, as she sat down to have the final touches placed on her hair, before the veil of white was rested on top.
"A lovelier Queen I've never seen."
Evelyn, Muriel and Evelyn's maid turned at the voice. An unexpected guest stood at the threshold of Evelyn's bedchamber door. Her expression held one of awe and flattery, but Evelyn and Muriel knew the bravado was false.
"Viviane...I had thought..." Evelyn's words were cut off.
"That I was not coming?"
"That you weren't invited, is more like it," Muriel interjected on Evelyn's behalf. Evelyn took a deep breath, and placed her hand on Muriel's arm.
"Oh, I wasn't invited, matter-of-fact had it not been for the untimely death of my escort I may never have heard of your pending nuptials. I would have been across the sea, unaware that you had indeed landed my brother's heart."
The tension in the room was unmistakable as Viviane made her way into Evelyn's room. She spared no glances at either Muriel or the maid, instead choosing to keep her brown gaze leveled on Evelyn. "So tell me Your Highness...do you need advice on how to bed your King? You are aware that I know exactly what excites him and makes his blood boil."
Evelyn felt her stomach knot from Viviane's words. She took a calming breath and addressed her beloved's half-sister. "Lady Viviane... and I use the title loosely, seeing as we are all aware of your true linage, how you made it past the gates, let alone into my lands is a mystery to me, though I'm sure it had much to do with you on your back, and your legs spread wide..." Evelyn felt a twinge of glee when Viviane's features showed a hint of shame, revealing that Evelyn was indeed correct in her assumption. "But you will refrain from offering me advice, as well as addressing me at all."
Evelyn turned away, ignoring the woman who had been a minor bump in the chaos of the last several months. She instead walked to the door where Viviane had made her presence known and peered into the hall. A young guard stood casually waiting to escort the Queen down to the lower level where she would be handed off to Cedric. Evelyn softly cleared her throat, catching the man's attention. Immediately he rose to his full height and composed himself by puffing his chest out proudly.
"Your Highness, are you ready?"
A soft smile graced her features. "This..." she turned back toward her chamber and indictacted Viviane with a slight tilt to her head, "needs escorted out of the palace and off the grounds. Be sure whomever brought her here is also shown the way out."
The guard's face paled. "I'm sorry Your Highness...I assumed she..."
Evelyn gave the young lad another warm smile. "It is quite alright. She has a special ability to coax men into doing whatever she wishes...so I will send my maid along with you, so she does not have an opportunity to sway you."
The guard blushed and stepped into the room, where he stood waiting for the stranger to take her leave. Evelyn walked past Viviane once more, this time taking Muriel's hand in hers. "Come Muriel; let us go while this young man removes the dung from my chamber." The gasp that fell from Viviane's lips only brought a smile to Evelyn's face.
As the two women made their way down the hall, then further down toward her waiting escort, Evelyn paused and spoke to her mother's best friend. "That was childish of me wasn't it?" she asked.
Muriel shrugged her shoulders. "Perhaps, but when one is addressed by a child, one sometimes has to stoop to their level in order for their simple minds to comprehend what is happening. You handled it swiftly and showed Lady Viviane that her presence will not be tolerated. I do wonder how she found her way back here..."
Evelyn too was curious, but refused to dwell overly much on the mystery. She knew that Viviane would be a nuisence in her life no matter how far her half-brother sent her. Viviane was a member of Drest's family and eventually all black sheep come back to the herd. When that happens she would be ready as would Drest, but for today she felt confident that Viviane had only appeared to remind her that she was still there...still a possible threat to an uncharted future.
The sound of Cedric's voice pulled Evelyn from her thoughts. She felt her cheeks warm as she looked upon her best-friend and childhood companion. Cedric walked toward her, a large smile filled his weary features. Inwardly she felt pain at the loss of youth that Cedric no longer held in his features. They were of the same age, yet he looked as if he had lived a decade or two more than she. Her hand moved to caress a small scar that lay across his cheek. He cupped her hand, brought it to his lips and kissed her fingers. "You wound me when you look at me with all that pity."
"It is not pity, my friend. It is love." Evelyn left Muriel's side and embraced Cedric. She held him tight, not caring who saw her devulge the love she felt for her friend. When she pulled away, she looked up at Cedric and once again felt the pang of regret for all he had lost in order to save her and her kingdom.
"You worry too much about me, Evie. I am healing," Cedric whispered before pulling away. "Let us go. You are running late, though I'm sure that will come as no surprise to your groom, but if I don't deliver him to you safely then he'll have me in the list come morning."
"No...he'll be too busy in the morning," Evelyn whispered back, winking mischieviously at Cedric. He laughed heartedly, offered his arm and waited for Evelyn to lay her's upon it.
Evelyn and her escort, as well as the entourage that followed behind her, made their way from the keep toward the church. Though it was only a few minutes, the walk itself seemed to take an eternity. Evelyn smiled at those that lined both sides of the path, winking at small children that tried to sneak a peek at the Queen. A part of her wanted to caste her eyes to the horizon, to look for a demon to descend and squash her happiness, but she fought the urge. Bagdemagus was dead; they'd burned his remains and allowed his ashes to be carried away by the wind. His followers had been dealt with and peace seemed to hover where terror had lain thick.
"Are you ready?"
Muriel whispered the question to Evelyn, though Evelyn knew she did not expect an answer. The Queen of Vix licked her lower lip, chewed nervously on the tender flesh, squeezed Cedric's hand and nodded her answer to the woman who had asked it.
Cedric pulled Evelyn back, so that Muriel could take the lead. The three were greeted by hushed whispers and sighs of jealousy as they made their way over the threshold of the church and walked slowly down the aisle.
Evelyn glanced back and forth, noting some familiar faces that had attended her coronation, as well as a few that she had not yet had the opportunity to meet. There was one face that did not appear in the crowd, and that was Viviane's. Inwardly Evelyn felt calm close over her, thankful that the sister-in-law from Hell would not be attending her wedding. The guard that had done his duty would be greatly rewarded, she thought to herself.
Muriel moved away from the center of the Alter; Cedric stepped forward, softly prodding Evelyn along. She looked up, brought back to the moment at hand from the pure essence of the man that stood in front of her. Her long lashes rose from her soft cheeks. Evelyn stared at the strength she saw in Prince Drest's hand and felt once more her world shifting. She looked up at him and wondered how she, a simpleton raised by simple folk had managed to capture the heart of a true prince, not one just born into it, but one that actually lived it. She felt unworthy, but also would do everything in her power to keep him at her side.
Evelyn listened to Benedict speak the words that would join her to Drest, not once did she fear losing her independence nor becoming less than his equal, his gaze never left hers as he repeated the promise to keep not only her safe from all forces of evil, but her people as well. A tear slid silently down her cheek as the veil was lifted from her face. Her husband reached out and wiped the warm drop before moving closer to her trembling form. Their lips touched and the kiss, in Evelyn's mind, was unlike any she and Drest had ever shared before. It marked the end of one chapter and the beginning of another.
Their tongues merged to play teasingly with one another and if it had not been for the muffled cough of Benedict, Evelyn wondered what more they would have done in front of all their guests. A warm blush washed over Evelyn, bringing a snicker from Cedric and Sir John who stood next to Prince Drest. Evelyn fought the urge to stick her tongue out at her childhood friend; instead she gave them both men haughty stare, which stilled their tongues, though only long enough for her to not hear their jesting. Drest led his bride once more down the aisle, this time the hushed whispers were shouts of congratulations, good tidings, and "hip-hip hurrahs."
The young couple walked out of the church, a breeze lifted several locks of hair from Evelyn's shoulders. She looked up at Drest, smiled wide and threw her arms around him. He held her close, kissed her deep and was rewarded with more joyful greetings from those that had not been inside the church to see their lieges joined.
Outside the church stood four guards, all dressed in their finest. The metal they wore both for show as well as protection gleamed from the countless hours of polishing. They escorted the couple, two in front, and two falling in behind back to the castle, where Evelyn and Drest were separated from each other. Evelyn was forced to go with several of the noble women of Vix, while Drest was pulled into the study where he was given much to drink and a plethora of advice on how to properly bed his bride. Two hours had passed before the couple was reunited; even then their reunion was done under the watchful eyes of several dozen of the Upper class.
Drest pulled Evelyn against him, and led her to her chair at the dining table. He took his seat and they tried to appear nonchalant about what was to come after the celebratory feast. As toast upon toast progressed around the table Evelyn looked pleadingly for a way to escape the festivities. Her eyes met Muriel's and the woman read her young charge's expression, smiled softly, winked and sent her a reassuring smile. "No help there," Evelyn muttered and giggled when she heard Drest's curse. "I do believe we'll be here all night," she whispered to her husband as yet another unknown Earl lifted his glass in congratulations.
"We will slip away after the dancing has started," Drest answered back, lifting his glass and signaling for another to rise and give thanks for the great union that would profit both countries. "And we shall not be disturbed for days...or I'll slay the first man that steps through our door."
Evelyn blushed. "I'll keep my dirk handy...perhaps under the pillows?"
Drest blanched. "I think not...there are things I plan on doing that will make you beg me to stop and a dirk would be your only savior."A rush of heat washed over Evelyn; her skin burned as her body tightened in anticipation for Drest's promise to come to light.
The dinner, though delicious seemed bland to the couple as they both imaged feasting on other decadent delights. An announcement was made that dinner was complete and the dancing would begin. The group of diners rose almost all at once, as did Evelyn and Drest. Evelyn turned to make her way toward the doors, but felt a knowing grip on her hips. She stopped, allowed the firm hold to slowly draw her back until she and her Prince were almost at the edge of the throng of people.