"All the time I feel I must justify my existence."
~ Prince Of Wales Charles
March 30th 1607
It had been three years since the mad king died and I had ascended the throne. Uncle Aro had all but driven England to the brink of collapse and even now as he rots in his grave the people still bare ill will for all things concerning the monarchy…including me.
"Your majesty?" My advisers all looked to me, waiting for my thoughts on the riots in the north.
"My lords I will not waste my energy, time, or army on dispensing a group of angry farmers." I stated leaning back in my chair. "Who are they to demand more of me? It is not peace they seek. It is my head on a spike for crimes that are not my own."
"The people are frustrated—"
"It is I who is frustrated!" I stated rising to my feet causing them all to stand as well; "It has been three years. Three years since King Aro has passed. Must I be haunted by him for the rest of my life?"
"May I suggest another alternative?" My cousin Prince Jasper, the Marques of Gloucester, said to me.
Waving my hand to him as I sat back down he nodded.
"Your majesty, as you know I am marrying the sweet Lady Alice Jackson," All the men around pound the tables as if he were some victor. But then again Lady Jackson was highly coveted for her beauty.
"Your alternative is for me to marry the Lady Jackson?" I asked seriously causing him to freeze. I grinned; "breathe duke, I merely jest."
"Very good your majesty, however my suggestion is to accompany my lady and me to Devonshire. Lady Jackson's godfather, the Duke of Devonshire's is due to return from his ships within the coming weeks. It will appear as though you have come to hear their cries due to your undying love for your people. The Devonshire are highly respected and revered, I am certain these riots will come to a halt at the mere sight of you, add that with the Devonshire family at your side."
"The Duke of Devonshire is Lord Charles Swan," Prince Emmett, Royal Duke of York, and my brother frowned before turning to me; "It was him who wrote the Follies of a King."
"And the Follies of The Common Man." Jasper added quickly.
"Nevertheless he has spoken out against a king before. Who is to say that the Duke, whom I should add has gained a vast amount of wealth from the seven seas, will not write another novel provoking the people?"
"Are you saying to me brother that the Duke's words more highly regarded than my own?" I snapped back.
He bowed shortly; "Majesty the Follies of a King was read by every man, woman and child in England…."
"Yes, because the people loathed King Aro with a fiery passion. Since the death of his wife almost a decade ago the Duke has written nothing more. Instead he has devoted his life to his ships and by doing so brought riches far beyond coin." Jasper interrupted causing Emmett to simply shake his head.
I thought for a moment; "Cousin you speak quite highly of the Duke. However if he thought so highly of me why did he not attend my coronation? Is that not an insult?"
"I cannot speak for all of his motives but I do believe he was out at sea and could not make it back in time, your Majesty." Mike Newton, Earl of Bath, spoke up.
"Did he not have a son to stand in his place?" Emmett said.
"The Duke lost his son to yellow fever a week after losing his wife. All that last of Devonshire is his daughter Lady Isabella Swan. I believe she was ill and could not make it to court as well." Jasper replied.
"A sickly family it seems." I stated before nodding to Jasper; "Very well I wish to leave tomorrow morning."
"Tomorrow sire?" They asked me as I rose. They all stood as well.
"Yes the faster we get to the north the quicker we shall return. After all how can I choose a wife from court if I am not here?" Since I had become king it was as though all we could speak of is riots and securing my family line.
Lord Denali bowed just a bit lower, with a smirk on his old wrinkled face. He had thrown three of his daughters in my face all year. The youngest was only thirteen but he didn't care. What would I at twenty-four speak of with a child?
Leaving the room it was more of the same bows and fake praises. Everything within the stones walls no matter how hard I tried to remove it reeked of him, Aro. He had ruled for fourteen harsh years, burning men, women and children alike for false treasons…my father being one of those men. I remember staring into his eyes as the sword came down; the blood that followed across the cobblestone mixing into my mother's blood when she too met her end. It was only because of Carlisle and Esme, Jasper's parent, who hid Emmett and me in Scotland, that we lived.
Carlisle had always said he knew his brother well enough to foresee the terror. The moment Aro became king Carlisle renounced all claims to the throne or any sort of power both publically and privately. Finally he simply fled with his wife and son. It was only because of that were we safe when Aro came hunting. He knew nothing about the Scottish hills.
"Blessed evening your majesty," Byron the royal dresser said to me bowing so low I thought his wig might fall off.
"Byron," I nodded to him out stretching my hand as he took off my rings; "Come day break I shall be off to Devonshire."
"Would you like me to pack fur your majesty?" He asked moving to remove my belt.
It was spring but I was not aware of the weather in the north; "Light fur. It very well not be essential."
"Very good your majesty," he said as I wore the nightdress.
Moving to the pissing pan I eased myself before washing my hands with the water and towel he provided. Walking up the stairs to my bed I rested wishing for sleep to come… peaceful sleep. However it never seemed to find me in the largest room of Windsor Palace.
April 3rd 1607
"One would think God ran out of paint and colored Devonshire with only green." Emmett snickered as we rode horseback towards the grand house in the distance. As far as the eye could see was nothing but green tress, grass covered hills and more damn trees. It reminded me of Scotland in a way.
"The best wood in the country from here." Jasper snickered and I fought the urge to roll my eyes.
"Are those thy words or that of thy fiancé cousin?" I asked him glancing back to the six royal carriages behind us that held not only Lady Jackson but Emmett's wife Princess Rose. All of them would remain princesses and princes until my heir was born.
"She cares for this place deeply," he smiled looking back. "After her parent's death the Duke took her in and she became very close with his daughter. They have not seen each other in years, since Alice… Lady Jackson came to court."
"So to answer thy question it is the woman talking not him." Emmett laughed pulling on his horse reins to keep it steady.
"Yes and the extra carriage brought merely to accommodate your wife's needs was your doing?," Jasper asked fighting back a grin.
"Well brother?," I added eyebrow raised.
He sighed looking back at the guards surrounding all of our carriages and us,"My King when you are wed there will be some battle that are not worth winning."
"Yes, the wedding all of England is waiting for," I frowned. "Can I not just bed some wench produce an heir and be done with it?"
"I doubt the pope would agree on that," Jasper shook his head at me. "I thought you were favoring the Lady Tanya Denali."
"I was favoring her breasts, beyond that there is nothing more." Though her breasts are quite nice.
"And her sisters? The youngest…"
"Is too young and I believe the middle one fears any sort of manly touch," I cut him off.
"And what of Lady Victoria Rossburg or Jessica Demount?," Emmett questioned neither of those ladies were bad per say. Victoria was well informed while Jessica seemed to not have a care in the word.
"What of this Lady Isabella Swan? Why has she not made her presence known to me?"
"She is to become engaged to her father's sea mate Jacob Black, Marquesses of Connaught and Strathearn at the end of the year," Jasper answered again knowledge that must have come from Lady Jackson.
"I've also heard rumors of her wildly nature," Emmett frowned.
"Wildly? The daughter of the Duke is a whore?" And the people still respected these people?
"No milord," Jasper said quickly, "Lady Swan apparently has always been displeased with guards and makes a habit of leaving into the townships with no protection. But no one has ever questioned her virtue."
"Her virtue no, her mouth yes. I have heard she once spoke down to the Earl of Cornwall, James Perry. She called him a 'fool of the highest order.' They say James almost slapped her, calling her a mad woman."
She was right but I guess that wasn't the point.
"I trust this trip will keep me entertained." I said as we reached the grand Devonshire house, the guards stood head straight as an old butler came forward with two equally elderly housemaids.
Every part of Devonshire seemed to shine on top of the green hills it was set upon. Pulling the reins of my horse they bowed and curtsied.
"Welcome to Devonshire your royal majesty." The old butler spoke with reverence I liked. From one sentence I see he held not only great pride in the house but of me.
"I understand the Duke is out but where is Lady Swan?" It seemed like this family tried to avoid my presence.
"Your majesty, our humblest apologies, Lady Swan was not expecting you all to make it here until tomorrow however she will…"
"Dear God who is that?," Rose called out as Emmett helped her out of the carriage.
Glancing out into the clearing I saw only the deadliest angel riding powerfully on a cream colored horse towards the house. Her chocolate colored hair undone whipping back in the wind, as she and the horse moved in perfect harmony, the smoothness of her cream colored leg exposed as she rode not like a woman but like a man. It was like time slowed all around me and all I could focus on was her every movement. The way her breast bounced in her light blue corset dress, the bead of light sweat working its way down her neck. The smile taking up her whole face as she pushed the horse harder and faster through the grass…She had no shoes on allowing the world to see her beautiful toes. She looked almost erotic…like a woman of Shakespeare's making for all of us to see.
"Isabella!" Alice called waving towards her.
The woman's head snapped towards us finally as if she was being pulled from a beautiful dream into her a nightmare. Her smile dropped and brown eyes widened as terror set in. Her eyes shifted to what I could only assume were the stables before looking back at us.
She was trying to see if she could escape.
Would you really put off your King, Lady Swan? I smirked at the thought as if to dare her.
She pulled back hard on the reins changing the horse direction towards us…the right choice.
She rode softer and adjusted herself to sit saddle side as she came as if that would undo the sight we had all just witness.
Finally when she reached us the butler took the reins from her, helping her down, however I doubted she needed the help the way she rode.
She curtsied so low it might have looked like she was sitting, her skin flushed red but from embracement or her ride I was not sure.
"Your royal majesty, my humblest apologies I believed you would not arrive until the morning." She spoke softly with her head down.
"As your maid was just telling me. I was coming to believe you and thy father did not wish to be seen in my presence."
"Never that!" She said quickly glancing up at me before looking back at me. She maintained her curtsy; "We would have both come to court at your wish."
"I see. You may rise."
She did but still did not look to me.
"Do you dislike my face Lady Swan?"
She flinched in confusion; "No your majesty."
"Then why do you not look to me when you speak?"
Again her skin flushed; "Again your royal majesty, my humblest apologies for being quite underdressed."
"Well at least you are dressed." I snickered along with a few of my men.
Taking a deep breath she looked at me standing strong in her convection.
"Do you always ride with such vigor Lady Swan? I do believe many us have never seen anything like it." I could not wipe the grin off my face.
"I was not aware there was any other way to ride your majesty." She said with surprising confidence for a woman without shoes. "You and your party must wish to wash up from such a long journey. Mr. Melbourne, Ms. Copper."
She nodded to the older woman who had first spoken and the old butler.
"Yes of course, Milady, we would not wish to seem improper or wild." I smirked jumping off my horse and petting his nose.
She frowned and it seemed sinful to me, she should smile.
"Where are your stables?"
"The stable boy can take thy horse your majesty." She said.
"I know he is able I wish to do it myself. Unless you believe I am unable?"
"No, your majesty." She said calling forth the young lad already holding to her stead; "Alfred the king wishes to see the stables."
He looked so young…so terrified; "Of course, it is an honor."
I could feel the guards as they followed behind me for "my protection" on the walk back.
Glancing back I watched her as Alice wrapped her arms around her.
"Stable Boy tell me about your Lady? Does she always act as such? "I asked the blonde beside me; even though I was unaware of where I was going one must never walk in front of a king.
He frowned pausing to bow; "forgive me but I do not know of what you mean your majesty?"
His question had answered mine. He did not find it odd that Lady Swan rode not only without shoes, but also as a man, meaning she did it often.
"When does the Lady Swan ride?"
He looked pleased he knew the answer to that question; "Early every morning sire, sometimes once in the evening. She has a great fondness for 'feeling the wind in her hair' as she calls it."
He grinned; "The Duke always had someone ride with her but she would just lose them in the forest. She's an expert rider sire; it's hard for others to keep up."
"I see., When you are preparing her horse, prepare mine as well." I stated when we reached the stables. There had to be nine different horses within the stables.
"Make sure she is not in with any other horse." I commanded petting Beth's coat.
"Of course sire. My God bless you and keep you well."
Nodding I left, and for some odd reason I felt the urge to look upon the face of an angel again…
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