---Dreams of a Lady---
Chapter Eight: A Fine Lady
Disclaimer: Characters and places belong to Tamora Pierce. I own the plot and my scattered original characters.
Author's Note: I always return. Silly kids, you should know that by now! I know it's been, um, like a year and a half, but I updated. I always plan to, but college is busy, and work is busy! I will stress again that I have absolutely NO desire to stop writing this fic, and indeed have future plans for it, so stick around!
Thanks to all those that have stuck with me and the new readers that have pledged support! It means so much to me!
It was several hours before Alanna stirred again, this time waking enough to try to sit up. Her thoughts were hazy, her mind clinging to the horrific dreams that had plagued her sleep. Her own brother, beaten and dead. Jon's still corpse, regally dressed as he lay upon the altar in the grand hall that had held so many joyous celebrations--and now, a funeral. George--her George--hands tied, head held high as he was carted to the gallows to be hung…
She blinked a few times in the dim light of her sick chamber, before struggling to her elbows, tensing when she felt a hand at her back, helping her sit.
"Easy lass," George murmured. "Easy there." He fluffed her pillows to support her and eased her back against them. Ignoring the dazed look on her face, he poured her water from a porcelain jug at her bedside, and held it to her lips. She drank thankfully and rubbed at her eyes.
"My brother?" she whispered.
"Healing slowly, darlin'," George said softly.
"It was the Duke, wasn't it?" Anger flitted across her face.
George bit his lip. "I certainly believe so, and a few of my lads have some leads, but nothing firm enough at this point. But, for now, lass, don't you worry. He's healing up, and you're in no state to be worrying so."
She frowned, mind working, before pushing the dark thoughts aside and settling back against the pillows. "Jon's well, I trust?"
"More than, it would seem. He should be up and about tomorrow. Naturally, the king and queen are more than grateful. I should imagine their opinion of you has changed, and Jon's done nothing but ask for you."
Alanna scowled, and George chuckled. "Arrogant prig he may be, but I daresay he's realized the error of his ways," he chided.
Alanna's frown deepened. Damn that Prince Jonathan. He'd called her all manner of lovely names at last sight, and no summer's love could have convinced him of her innocence. But now, a change of heart? The prig. And--
A step ahead of her, George broke her concentration with a sigh. "And that Tirragen lad hasn't shown his face since he fled. Reports trace him back to Carthak. No surprise, really. He's been exchanging correspondence with Roger, naturally, though, nothing has been successfully been intercepted and read."
George nodded, and pat the back of her hand. "I know, lass. It's frustrating. But, you mustn't worry now, or at least four fans of yours will have my head for getting you worked up--you hear?" He grinned broadly, before teasing, "And, if you ever worry me like that again, it'll be both your ears."
The redhead grinned. "Yes, your Majesty."
He rolled his eyes and captured her hand in his. "You had all of us worried, Alanna."
Alanna's breath caught, and she looked at George with wide eyes. "You've stayed by my side the whole time, haven't you?" she asked slowly, as the memories of the magic and that warm flush of his magic that had helped her live… "You, you saved me. You--that could have killed you, and, and--"
Color rose in his cheeks, but he nodded. "I had to," he said quietly. "I-I'm quite fond of you, you know, and I didn't--I was terrified, Alanna, at the thought of losing you like that."
Alanna smiled a genuine bashful smile, and scooted a few inches forward, leaned over, and embraced him tightly, a few hot tears wetting her cheeks at the tender sentiment. "Thank you."
He pressed a kiss to her forehead. "Only for you, lass. Now! You need your rest!"
She nodded against into the warm crook of his neck and leaned back into the pillows, her red curls like flames against the starched white pillowcases. "Tell me a story?" she asked, suddenly, and when she felt the need to explain, added, "I'm wide awake now…"
George cocked his head, bemused, but obligingly launched into an exciting tale of a previous King and his band of rogues, and it was only time before his soft voiced soothed her into a dreamless sleep.
Alanna woke to sunlight streaming in through the shades and the sound of a knock at her door. She sat up quickly, wide awake in surprise, and found that George had just woken, as well. She nodded toward the privy, and he grinned and disappeared.
"Yes?" Alanna called, her voice hoarse from nonuse.
"Might I come in, Lady?"
Jon. George, from his covert hiding spot, swore under his breath, though knowing that the visit had been inevitable.
Alanna swore vehemently. He was the very last person she wanted to see right now, well or unwell. "Of course, your Highness."
The door slid open and Jon stepped in, regal in a dark blue tunic and black hose. If he felt at all sheepish or abashed, he hid it perfectly. Alanna smiled benignly and bowed her head, her expression bland.
Jon bowed low and finally addressed her, "I am deeply in your debt, Lady Alanna. You have done the Crown a great service, and your risks and actions will not be forgotten. You have shown yourself to be honorable and noble," he said pointedly, and Alanna knew he finally understood that she'd been the victim in Alex's little game and wished to express this as well, however, the simple admission wasn't an apology, and Alanna was certainly not satisfied.
"My actions were that of a noble vassal, your Highness," she said archly. "It was my duty as a Tortallan." Hearing this, George practically whooped with delight at her icy tone, knowing that it was his lady rogue in there delivering the verbal blows.
Jon grimaced at the cold manner of the words and took a step forward, "Please, Alanna, can't we drop this pretense? You have no idea how happy I am that you're back in Corus, back with me." George's spirits dropped quickly and he glared at where he assumed Jon was standing. He had little to worry about, however.
"Back with you, your Highness? I wasn't aware that we had worked through previous matters? After all, you are a firm believer that I am a woman of no morals, isn't that right? You said so rather expressly."
Jon frowned, and Alanna knew she was getting to him. George could not have been more ecstatic.
Jon struggled to find the words to dispel the problems, but Alanna spoke before he did. "Your Highness, perhaps we may be friends, though I struggle with even that idea right now." You, sir, she thought, have a great deal of kissing up to do. "Perhaps these matters might be discussed at a later time, for, after such an exhausting bout of healing, I find myself still rather fatigued."
Jon's mouth tightened into a firm line, but he nodded stonily, bowed and left, the door snapping shut with an audible slam.
Alanna was about to call George out from the privy, but another knock sounded at the door. Alanna scowled, hoping for his sake that it wasn't Jon again, but, upon invitation, a graying old knight stepped into the room and bowed.
"Lady Alanna," he greeted, and Alanna frowned, dreading this man who knew too much.
"Sir Myles." She bowed her head cordially. "To what do I owe this pleasure?"
"Relax, lady," Myles replied with a smile. "Your secrets are safe with me."
Alanna studied him for a long moment, wondering just what he knew. He'd witnessed the healing. He'd witnessed her trickery and he had to know, then, that she knew the Rogue. She frowned.
"Cooper's safe too," he said, with a small smirk. Alanna's relief must have been visible, for Myles continued, "You're good friends, then, with the Rogue?"
Alanna nodded, but did not continue and Myles didn't press the matter. "I understand that you are something of a rarity, Lady Alanna. I do believe I heard Goldenlake and Naxen murmuring something about 'high blocks' as you were on your sickbed, and Cooper's whispers have been nothing but complimentary of your various skills."
Alanna struggled to remain passive. After all, what had she to say? There was obviously no way she could defend herself against the implications, as Myles had her pegged, and no trickery could convince the man otherwise.
He paced before her bed, staring at her thoughtfully. "You are not ashamed," he mused. "I suppose, then, that you have often been unhappy about the life you've lead in the past?" He paused. "No, I don't suppose poetry has ever been a favorite diversion of yours. Tell me, Lady Alanna, what do you take pleasure in?"
She balked at the question, but chose to answer it honestly. "I find myself more interested in histories and politics, strategy and war. But, do not believe for one moment that I would bring shame to my family. I have the education and practice of a court lady."
"I would never doubt your graces, lady, but I must admit, you intrigue me. But, I must digress, I have laid this all upon you as you are just recovering. I trust I find you well, Lady Alanna?"
She inclined her head politely. "I am feeling much better, Sir Myles, and I thank you for your concern."
They shared a smirk and Sir Myles nodded ruefully and took his leave, leaving a very befuddled Alanna to stare after him. She dropped her gaze when George slid back out into the room, falling into the chair beside her bed, a huge grin plastered across his face.
"Goddess was that strange!" she mused, shaking her head.
"I believe Sir Myles to be a friend," George replied, hoping to banish her worries. "He visited you a great deal after you saved Jon, actually. We talked, some, and played many a game of chess. He seems to have a genuine interest in you."
"The Duke of Conte has a genuine interest in me too," Alanna muttered.
George shook his head. "Myles understands that you're a very special force, Alanna. And, he hasn't spoken of your actions yet, nor did he make any attempt to keep me away. He practically saved my skin once or twice."
Alanna nodded. "The attention worries me. That's all. And Jon's attentions!" She scowled. "I should have let him suffer longer!"
George let out a laugh, and said, "Haven't you been treasonous enough these past few days, what, with sneaking around the king's orders? I daresay that's quite enough treason for this week."
"Never." Alanna smirked and cast the lanky thief a decidedly mischievous wink.
Alanna quickly grew bored of the enforced bed rest, and when he saw that she was well enough, George's visits became less frequent, as he had manners of his own to attend to. He did, however, go to the lengths he could to keep her entertained. He told her stories, matched her in chess and snuck in the sweets the healers had forbade her to eat. But, when he was gone, the hours seemed to drag by. A pile of books had mysteriously appeared on the table by her bed, books on ancient war techniques, she was amused to find out, and these too amused her for some time.
It was the inactivity that bothered her though, that and the noncommittal reports she heard of her brother's health. Her insistence to see him came to blows one afternoon, as she got out of her bed and determinedly walked down the hall, and had practically flung the door open, when a tall, and very solid figure stepped out and nearly straight into her. She took a few quick steps, and when she saw who it was, curtsied with a scowl.
"Lady Alanna, you were given express orders to remain in bed, I believe," Jon said, eyes flashing.
Alanna grit her teeth. "I would like to see my brother, your Highness."
Jon shook his head. "I'm afraid that simply isn't possible, lady. Now, please return to your chambers."
Alanna swore, her temper flaring. She wasn't going to let him talk down to her like that. Not after all the troubled he'd put her through. Not after she'd saved his life. "Gods damn it all, Jon! You will let me see my brother, or I will force my way past you!"
And it was that that she tried to do. Jon, a step ahead of her though, grabbed her expertly by the wrists and held her at bay, whispering darkly in her ear. "It isn't proper to raise your voice so, lady Alanna." He let her go, albeit a bit roughly, blocking the door.
She struck him, right across the face as any other lady might have, causing him to stumble past backwards. "Don't you dare patronize me, your Highness. I believe I have more than earned the right to see my brother, or was saving your life not enough?" She quickly pushed passed him, slid into the room and shut the door behind her, locking it mechanically and magically.
She rushed to her brother's bedside, finding him bandaged and prone. "Oh Goddess, Thom," she said softly, running cool fingertips across his brow.
"A-Alanna?" he croaked, eyes cracking open.
"I'm here," she murmured, eyes wet with tears. "You're going to be all right, Thom. Please tell me you will be…"
He nodded a very small nod. "Just need rest…healer's did a fine job, but I'll have a few ugly scars…"
Alanna grinned at the comment, catching the ghost of a smile at her twin's lips. "You'll look brave, maybe look like that sword actually does belong to you."
A thunderous knock sounded at the door. "Lady Alanna, I demand that you open the door this instant!" Jon commanded.
"Prig," the Trebond twins spat. Alanna smiled and settled down beside her brother's bed to watch over him as no one else could.
Author's Note some more: I didn't have it in my to write anything too dark. Instead, I was keen on Jon bashing (a favorite pastime!) and fluff. Fluff. My goodness. This chapter felt nothing like the other chapters. It didn't really go anywhere, but I got a few things taken care of. Mm, yes. Stay tuned! The next installment will come…eventually.