Title: Temptations of the Heart
Distribution: My site…"Always Forever" and those previously given permission. All others must ASK first!
Disclaimer: All characters belong to Joss Whedon and ME. I'm just borrowing them as to highlight my boring life.
Setting: Completely AU. Fantasy realm with NO vampires, although the occasional wizard, hobbit or dragon may pop up, so I guess if you can imagine it, it's probably here! ALSO…… I know some of the names won't fit in this time period…so overlook them…it's JUST a story!!
Summary: In a time of unsettled rest, the balance and future of two Kingdoms lies in the hands of a future Queen….and her protector.
The landscape carried, the rolling hills littered with every color of the rainbow as wildflowers covered everything in her view. The smell of fresh pine from the forest and the sweet scent of the flowers carried in the breeze, helping to calm the raging tide of emotions that brewed at the surface as the evening drew near.
The sounds lofting up to her caused a heavy sigh to escape her throat as the preparations for the feast were underway.
"Are you going to stare out there all day?"
Buffy turned her head, smiling as her youngest sister walked in behind her. "Actually I was thinking of how far I could get before anyone noticed I was gone."
"It won't be that bad."
"And you know this how?"
"Because I've seen Prince Angelus and if I were older, I'd be all over him." Dawn said grinning. "If all of your suitors look like him, you'll have no problems at all."
Buffy shook her head, smiling at her sister. "You are too young to even be thinking such things."
"Yes maybe, but I can dream, can I not?"
"Dreams are for fairytales." Buffy said quietly, as sadness fell upon her features. She smiled slightly, noticing her sister staring at her, before she turned back to the calming serenity of her Kingdom.
"I heard the Prince from Fannon was going to be in attendance tonight? Have you ever met him?" Dawn asked, trying to get her eldest sister to lighten up and not worry so much.
"No." Buffy replied uninterested as she continued to stare out her window. "Is he not the one with the unusual name?"
"Yes." Dawn replied smiling. "Riley… or something like that." She answered, her forehead scrunching as she thought. "Willow told me what it was several days ago."
"And Willow would know this how?" Buffy asked as she turned once again.
"She intercepted the messenger when he delivered the Kings request to attend the Banquet." Dawn told her. "She had him turning to mush with her flirtations as she asked him all about the Prince. I hope she's as interested when I need to find out about my suitors."
"You have plenty of time for that Dawnie." Buffy said smiling. "And I do hope that there will be no need for a forced marriage on your part…..you should marry for love." She finished quietly.
"Is that why you are so against this?" Dawn asked. "Because you are not in love?"
Buffy inhaled deeply, smiling as she released the cleansing breath. "I've only seen what true love is by the love our parents shared and I had hoped to one day experience it, I guess that chance will only be a memory now."
"There is still time for love." Dawn told her. "The Prince will surly see to that."
Buffy chuckled softly. "You are so young Dawn." She told her, a sad smile on her face. "Love that is forced is not real. True love is passion and fire, a burning in your soul that can only be quenched through the bonds of mutual respect and understanding. True love is as mysterious as the Enchanted Forest. A Mystical thing of beauty that everyone deserves the chance to experience."
Dawn gave her sister and heir to the throne a gently smile before turning and leaving her to her thoughts. She did not know the full extent of the affairs surrounding the turmoil her Kingdom was in, but knew that an alliance with a neighboring Kingdom would help rebuild the damage done when her father the King was killed.
The marriage was to combine the two families as it would the Kingdoms, making them a powerful force. The newly chosen Prince would gain the fortunes of both, becoming King and ruler of both lands.
The responsibility of seeing the union through fell to Buffy, as she was the oldest heir to the throne. Her responsibilities lie to her Kingdom and as much as she understood her sisters' desire for love, she also knew that affairs of state came before the affairs of the heart.
"The guest are arriving Miss Elizabeth."
Buffy turned, smiling at her chamber maid before pulling herself from her window. "I suppose it is too late to run?" she asked, walking over to where Anya stood.
"Yes Miss Elizabeth." Anya replied giving her a tiny smile. "We must get you ready. It would be undignified to keep her majesty waiting."
"Anya, please call me Buffy." Buffy said, smiling as her newest chamber maid blushed and bowed her head.
"Yes Miss Eliz…I mean Buffy." Anya said smiling. "Anything you wish."
"What I wish is to be in a far away land, miles from the war ravaged lands and the groping hands of smelly prissy Prince's that are more stuck up than the Royal Armies noses." Buffy said dramatically as Anya helped her slip into her gown.
"Well, stuck up or not, they looked very dignified."
"Dignity has nothing to do with manners." Buffy told her as she sucked in her breath as Anya closed her dress. "Have you ever met a Prince?"
"No Miss Buffy."
"They are arrogant and snobbish, worse than Cordelia ever thought about being."
A small chuckle escaped Anya's throat as she finished with Buffy's gown. "Yes, your sisters are so different; I am amazed you are all even related."
"I suppose she is prancing around thinking this is her ball?" Buffy asked, turning to her dressing table and sitting.
"Oh yes, that she is." Anya said, grabbing a brush as she started to fix the long golden tresses that fell down her mistress' back. "She has been going on about how she should be the one to marry since you are so against it."
"Well she has no qualms about marring for stature alone."
"Yes well…" Anya started but stopped as a light knock on the door was heard.
"Are you about ready?"
Buffy turned, smiling brightly as her mother entered. "You look radiant Mother." She beamed as the Queen entered her chamber.
"As do you my dear." Joyce said smiling. "I had hoped we could talk but it seems every Prince in the country has decided to show…and early." She said laughing slightly. "Seems everyone wants a chance at marrying the most beautiful Princess in the land."
"No, they all want a chance to become ruler of our Kingdom Mother."
"Buffy dear, I do wish you would see why this is necessary."
"I do see, but that doesn't mean I have to like it."
"I suppose you are entitled to your opinions, as long as they are kept to yourself." The queen said, giving her daughter a stern look.
"Yes Mother." Buffy said, "I will try to flatter all in attendance. You are the one making the decisions."
"Yes, but a little input from you will be helpful." Joyce said smiling. "I can't have my first daughter marry an Ogre, now can I? What would our heirs look like?"
Buffy giggled as her mother leaned down and kissed her cheek. "I must go." Joyce told her. "We will start the proceedings as soon as you are ready."
Buffy smiled, watching as her mother left her room. The nervous butterflies that had been stirring in her stomach all day were beginning to become too much. How was she going to be able to sit through the entire evening listening to Prince after Prince tell her why he would be best suited to rule her lands.
She sighed heavily, looking up at Anya before making a face in protest. "Who said being a Princess was easy?"
Buffy stood at the top of the stairs, nervously staring down at all the guest mingling in the banquet hall. She was chewing on her bottom lips, her stomach doing flips and turns as she waited to be announced.
"You'll do fine." Anya said smiling happily. "And if I may say, your suitors look dashing."
"Them looking dashing has nothing to do with the affairs of my Kingdom." Buffy said, straining her neck to get a better view of the room. "Not a one of them are here for any other reason than to get their hands on our land."
"Well, ready or not, here we go." Anya said as she saw the musicians raise their horns.
Buffy straightened, walking slowly towards the balcony. The horns playing signaling her arrival as she made her way over to the crowd that had turned to the stairs, eagerly awaiting to see what they had all come to acquire.
Buffy felt the stares of all those gathered as she topped the balcony, looking down before slowly making her way down the stairs. All eyes were on her and the pressure alone was almost more than she could take.
The smiling faces of dignitaries from across the country greeting her as she made the way down the stairs and into the main banquet hall, before walking down the isle that had been created for her.
She smiled in spite of her nervousness, the dread she was feeling at choosing a Prince who would rule her land and do it with Honor making the queasy feelings she had had all day worse, as her potential 'Husbands' all stood before her as she approached them.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, Kings and Queens, I present you…..Princess Elizabeth of Parissa, Heir to the throne and future Queen."
Buffy smiled as she was introduced to all in attendance, stopping as she reached the reception line where all the Royalty had lined up. She curtsied to the gentlemen, each of them bowing before she was joined by her Mother.
"Your Majesty, may I present His Royal Majesty, King Raine and his heir, Angelus, Prince of Colligt." The King's page said smiling.
Joyce and Buffy both nodded their heads as King Raine and Angelus bowed, showing reverence before they moved to the next potential suitor. All eyes were on the Princess and whispers were heard as each suitor was introduced, the guest placing bets on who the Queen would pick to rule her lands and offer her daughters hand in marriage to.
Buffy was barely even listening as she reached the end of the line. There wasn't a single man there that held a spark of interest to her. The only Prince even bold enough to speak for himself was Prince Riley of Fannon.
She had smiled, biting her cheek to keep from laughing as he stumbled over his words, his apparent nervousness shining through. Of all she had met, he was the only one that seemed to even be interested in her and not the fortune he would be receiving.
As Buffy and her Mother reached the last one, Buffy's eyes widened as she stared into the face of a man clearly in his fifty's. He was alone and she felt her knees shake as the potential suitor smiled.
"Princess Elizabeth, I…I am King Rupert of Alcala. I am honored to make your acquaintance." He said, reaching for her hand, placing a small kiss on it before smiling sweetly at her. "I do apologize….for the absence of my son; Prince Edward as he was unavoidable delayed from making his appearance.
Buffy smiled, staring up at the man before her as he stuttered through his words. His smile was genuine and his voice seemed to hold a kindness that she had yet to hear from any of the other men present.
"I am sorry to have missed him your Majesty." Buffy said, bowing her head slightly. "I do pray he is well?"
"Yes, quiet so." King Rupert said smiling. "He was……called away unexpectedly." He lied. Never would the Queen understand his sons refusal to come, the invitation was an honor, not a duty as his unruly son had so adamantly suggested. The notion of marrying for love seemed absurd with the dark rife washing through the neighboring lands.
"I do beg your forgiveness, and hope that Prince Edwards absence will not hinder the chances of his place in the formal negations for your daughters hand." King Rupert said, bowing to the Queen.
Joyce smiled, the same thoughts running through her mind as were Buffy's. Of all the royal heads of state that were present, King Rupert was by far the most endearing. The absence of the Prince was questionable, but if he were anything like his father, then he was very well represented.
"Please give our regards to your son." Joyce said returning the warm smile offered her. "His absence is noted and his place in the negotiations is secure." She told him before turning to Buffy and motioning her forward.
Buffy took a deep breath, relaxing as she made her way to the Throne, taking her seat beside of her mother. She smiled as music began to fill the Banquet Hall and the feast was brought forward.
She looked around the room as everyone took their seats, the dread of the evening beginning to ease as she knew the worst part was now over. The rest was left up to her Mother, the union would be at her sole discretion, as it is her title as Queen she was relinquishing.
The husband her Mother chooses not only received a bride, but the wealth of her kingdom and the title of King and Ruler of the Kingdom of Parissa, her home and her late Fathers legacy, all in the name of duty and not the one thing Buffy wanted…….love.
To Be Continued……………