Title: The Famous Flower of Serving Men
Author: SuperherogirlCat (Cat Price)
Disclaimer: Don't own DC Comics. Never will.
Description: Wonder Woman/Batman elseworlds based on a traditional English ballad. So I guess it's a songfic. Wonder Woman/Trevor Barnes overtones at the beginning.
Explanation: I went to see Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida, and told a friend that it would make a great Wonder Woman/Batman story. She jokingly said that I could turn anything into a Wonder Woman/Batman story. Later on, while listening to my Martin Carthy CD, she said that she'd found something I couldn't turn into a Diana/Bats fanfic; a traditional English ballad. This is to prove her wrong.
My mother did me deadly spite, for she sent thieves in the dark of the night
Put my servants all to flight. They robbed my bower, they slew my knight
They couldn't do to me no harm, so they slew my baby in my arms
And left me naught to wrap him in, but the bloody sheet that he lay in
They left me naught to dig his grave but the bloody sword that slew my babe
All alone the grave I made, and all alone the tears I shed
And all alone the bell I rang, and all alone the song I sang
I leaned my head all against the block and there I cut my lovely locks.
I cut my locks and I changed my name from Fair Helena to Sweet William
Went to Court to serve my King as the Famous Flower of Serving Men
So well I served my Lord, the King, that he made me his chamberlain
He loved me as his brother, then, the Famous Flower of Serving Men
And oft times he'd look at me and smile, so swift his eye I did beguile
And he blessed the day that I became the Famous Flower of Serving Men
But all alone in my bed I lay, and there I dreamed a dreadful dream
I saw my bed swim with blood and I saw the thieves all around my head.
Our King has to the hunting gone; he's taken no lords or gentlemen
He's left me here to guard his home, the Famous Flower of Serving Men
Our king he rode the wood all around, he stayed all they but nothing found
And as he rode himself alone it's there he spied the milk-white hind
Oh, the hind she broke, the hind she flew, the hind she trampled the brambles through
First she'd melt then she'd sound, sometimes before, sometimes behind
Oh what is this, how can it be, such a hind as this I ne'er did see
Such a hind as this was never born; I fear she'll do me deadly harm
And long, long did his great horse turn for to save his lord from branch and thorn
Oh, but long ere the day was o'er it tangled off all in his hair
All in the glade the hind drew nigh, the sun grew bright all in his eye
And he sprang down, his sword he drew, she vanished therefore from his view
And all around the grass was green, and all around there a grave was seen
And he's sat himself all on the stone, great weariness it's seized him on
Great silence hung from tree to sky; the woods grew still the sun shone high
As through the woods the dove he came and through the woods he's made his own
Oh the dove he sat down on the stone, so sweet he looked so soft he sang
"Alas the day my love became the Famous Flower of Serving Men"
The bloody tears they fell as rain and still he sat and still he sang
"Alas the day my love became the Famous Flower of Serving Men"
Our King cried out as the dove wept sore, so loud unto the dove he did call
"Oh pretty bird, come sing it plain…"
"Oh it was her mother's deadly spite for she sent thieves in the dark of the night
They come to wrong, they come to slay, they made their sport, they went their way.
And don't you think that her heart was sore as she lay the dirt on her husband dear
And don't you think your heart was woe as she turned her back, away to go.
And now she wept as she changed her name from fair Helena to Sweet William
Went to court to serve her king as the Famous Flower of Serving Men."
Oh the salty tears they lay all around, he's mounted up and away he's gone
And one thought's come to his mind, the thought of her that was a man.
And as he's rode himself along, a dreadful oath he there has sworn;
That he would hunt her mother down as he would hunt the wild wood swine
Oh there's four-and-twenty Ladies all and they're all playing at the ball
Oh, but fairer than all of them is the Famous Flower of Serving Men.
Oh he's rode in into his hall, and he's rode in among them all
He's lifted her to his saddle brim and there he's kissed her cheek and chin.
His nobles stood and they stretched their eyes, the ladies took to their fans and smiled
For such a strange homecoming no gentleman had ever seen.
And he has sent his nobles all, and to her mother they have gone
They told her that in such wrong, they'd lay her down in prison strong
And he's brought men up from the corn and he's sent men down to the ford
All for to build a bonfire high, all for to set her mother by
Oh, bonny sang the warning thrush from where he sat in yonder bush
But louder did her mother cry from the bonfire where she burned close by
And there she stood among the thorn, and there she sang her deadly song
Alas the day that she became the Famous Flower of Serving Men
Oh the fire took first all on her cheek and then it took all on her chin
It spat and rang all in her hair and then there was no life left in.
-The Famous Flower of Serving men, a Traditional English Ballad as sung by Martin Carthy
Introduction: For the purposes of this story, I made Hippolyta evil, and altered the "Amazon Champion" story so that what really happened was that she ran away from Themyscira when she turned seventeen, unable to live with the Amazon's violent hatred of all men.
Soon after, she met Traeverus Baron, a wealthy baron (thus the surname people had taken to calling him) who had migrated from Ethiopia and managed to overcome medieval prejudices to the point where his bravery and valor (not to mention his accumulated wealth) had earned him a place among the Briton's aristocracy. In the space of three years, the two fell in love, were married, and had a son. During that time, Diana put memories of Themyscira behind her, ready to start a new life with a partner who gave her love and respect and freedom, and she in turn stayed passionately devoted to.
Unfortunately, Diana's life of joy did not last. Her mother managed get wind of where she was. Furious that her daughter had forsaken a life with her and the Amazons for life with a man, she ordered a band of Amazons to storm the Baron's castle, killing everyone save Diana--everyone, including Diana's infant son.
Here begins her story…
"No!!!" The shrill cry of the Baroness Diana cut through the air like a scythe. Two of the people she had once called sisters held her back with her own golden lariat while another drove her sword through the bare chest of her husband. His eyes widened in something akin to surprise and he strained to say her name as he reached for his horrified, struggling wife as his heart stopped beating. Diana gave a cry of rage and anguish that quickly turned to a plea for mercy as the unfeeling Amazon Captain lifted her son from his cradle. The coffee-colored child screamed and Diana felt her tears multiplying and she struggled doubly against the golden rope that held her. Her voice cracked as she begged them; "Oh, Hera please…If you have any feeling left in you, spare my baby…Goddess…don't take him away from me, too…" It was no use. Ignoring her pleas and cries, the Captain carefully pressed the razors-edge of the sword against the child's throat, permanently silencing his frightened cries.
"No…Oh, Goddess, no…" The Princess sobbed as the lifeless bodies of her husband and son were kicked disdainfully aside as the Amazons departed, casting smirks and sneers at their former princess who-in their eyes- had betrayed them.
It took her hours to struggle out of her bonds, but when she did, she just knelt there for a long moment, salt caked on her cheeks. Her own mother had done this…She knew that her mother had been furious when she'd left, and that she herself would never again be welcome on Themyscira, but…how could she be so heartless….
She rose and went to the bodies of her husband and son, closed their eyes. She kissed the bloody lips of her husband one last time, and cradled once more the little body of her son. Their deaths would be avenged. Hippolyta would pay.
It took her days to bury the bodies of her servants (which she did in the graveyard behind the church in the town that the Baron and she had been in control of), and her husband and son (in the glade in a nearby forest where she and Trevor had first kissed and where they had still spent occasional days reveling in the greenwood's undiluted silence).
At last she had packed the last shovel full of dirt on the graves.
"Please, Great Goddess Persephone," she whispered, "Usher them safely into the Elysian Fields where they may dwell forever in bliss." She stood with her head bowed for another moment in silent prayer. A single tear trickled slowly down her cheek. Then she sighed and turned from the clearing. She could not storm Themyscira alone. She needed allies. She needed help. She knew what she had to do.
The next day, the former Baroness awoke at early dawn and dressed herself in men's clothing, using strips of cloth to bind her substantial breasts close to her chest. Heavy, leather-studded armor disguised her still unmistakably feminine form. She buckled her sword at her side and stood in front of the full-length mirror in the sizeable quarters that she and her husband had shared. This was the hard part. She unsheathed her boot dagger and held it in her hand for a moment, eyeing its steely glint. Its edge was honed sharper than the sharpest razor, and seemed to sparkle in the early-morning light that the tall, opened window let in. This was going to be difficult.
Then, with a resolute gleam in her eyes, she drew the blade across her hair. After fifteen minutes of relentless shearing, her hair was cut in the fashion of men; shoulder length. She tied it back with a leather thong and shook her head. Reaching back to feel the place where her hair had once been. The sudden weightlessness was strange and disconcerting.
A hat covered her head to partially obscure her feminine beauty. Then, leaving her home of five years, and the only two people who had ever meant anything to her, she rode in the direction of Gotham.
King Bruce of Gotham's Yuletide festival was famed for its length and crowds. It was the perfect opportunity to establish herself at court, Yuletide being he closest of the eight solstice and Equinox celebrations. Her ultimate goal was to impress the King himself with her prowess, and gain his trust as a loyal Knight.
As she approached the castle gates, two Guards stood to bar her way. She suppressed a surge of nervousness. If she failed to fool the guards, she would fail at everything.
"Who comes!?" One demanded, brandishing his pike.
"Sir William of the Barony Sumurset," she cried back to the guards, deepening her voice. "Let me pass."
The one who had spoken shifted his weight. "'Sir William', eh? Then 'ow come I've ne'er 'eard of ye?" "I know not, good sir, but I am here to rejoin Court for the Yuletide Celebration. I will not be denied." She unsheathed her sword. "Let me pass."
The castle guars both unsheathed wicked-looking broadswords. "Then ye'll 'ave tae fight yer way past," Growled the more talkative of the two.
Diana leapt down from her charger and faced the two men fearlessly. "Very well, sirs." She attacked.
The fight took all of fifteen seconds, during which she disarmed both of the guards and knocked them unconscious. She re-sheathed her sword and was about to mount her stallion and ride on when a voice lashed out of the shadows.
Diana whirled in the direction of the voice, her eyes narrowing. She was an Amazon, and it was consequently very difficult to sneak up on her. The man who stepped out of the lengthening shadows had done it, though.
She was tall, but he stood over her by at least two inches and looked taller by the way he carried himself. He had dark hair that was cut shorter than the norm and sharply chiseled, handsome features complemented the dark, and frightening look he carried. Brown-gray, piercing eyes stared intently at her, as if he was trying to see into her soul. He was dressed mostly in black; black tunic, black shirt, and black tights, with a cape of the deepest midnight-blue flowing down from his shoulders and snapping behind him in the evening wind like a living being. He was obviously a Knight—he had an extremely powerful, muscular build. Like a bear…no, not a bear. He was too agile and clever-looking for that. Like a cat…like a panther.
She might have given herself away and asked who he was had she not seen the golden circlet on his brow.
"Your Majesty,' she bowed. He smiled. "Hail, Sir William," he stated in a voice that was as ominous as the leaves of tees rustling before a hurricane, and as soft. "You are as unknown to me as you are--perhaps I should say "were"? —To my guards. But any Knight who could have dispatched two skilled, trained guard as if it required no more effort than as a practice exercise…well, I would rather have you in my court than I would one of my enemy's." He tilted his head and stared at her for a moment, regarding her with unreadable eyes. "May I count you amongst my friends, William of Sumurset?"
Diana/William knelt and offered the King her sword. "You may, Majesty, and count my sword amongst those of your captains!"
There was a moment of silence and Diana was afraid he had caught her in her lie, then he smiled and the moment was past. "Rise, Sir William," He told her. She did. "Come," he smiled. "My hall has just sat to their meat. You may join us." He absently motioned for the new shift of guards to clear away the unconscious bodies of the former two. Diana nodded and followed him. "My thanks, Majesty. My thanks."
The King entered his hall with the enigmatic Knight next to him, and proffered him a place at his left at the great table that sprawled in the center of the hall. This came as a bit of a surprise to everyone, not to mention a juicy bit of gossip. Who was the strange, slender knight who sat who their King?
The man on the King's left wearing the sky-blue tunic and red cape frowned over at him. He looked at his King and friend and mouthed, "Who is he?" The King only mouthed "Ask him yourself" and continued his meal. After a moment the big man cleared his throat to get the Knight's attention and looked over at him. "Well, strange knight," he said. "I must admit, you have much of the high table confused. Our good king brings you to this hall as a guest, but none here knows your face. Pray, who are you?"
William straightened slightly and inclined his head in a slight bow. "I am Sir William of Sumurset, and come to this hall in friendship." "William of Sumurset, eh?" Questioned a man in an archer's uniform with blond hair and a beard. "I suppose you consider yourself a bold knight?" He ignored the glare the King sent his way. The slender, clean-shaven knight fixed Sir Oliver with an icy stare. "After a fashion, yes." he replied in a cold voice. The Archer guffawed. "You look about as bold and brave as a hillside flower!" he laughed. The king watched William go slightly pale at the insult and paid careful attention to see what he would do. The young knight with the night-sky-black hair, deep, exotic blue eyes, and eerily beautiful, strangely womanish features intrigued him.
Suddenly, faster than his eye could follow, William had launched one of his throwing-daggers. It caught Sir Oliver's roguish, feather hat and knocked it off of his head. Another two daggers pinned the sleeves of his green outfit to the high-backed chair he sat in.
"Damn," He said dryly. "If I carried a fourth dagger, I could have killed him. Ah, well. Another time, perhaps."
There were a few seconds of silence, then suddenly; everyone at the table burst into raucous laughter. After a moment, even the bested Archer-Knight chuckled dryly as well.
"Well done, Flower of Serving men," he said good-naturedly, extricating himself from Sir William's daggers. "Well done indeed. You humble me with your skill." He passed the daggers back, hilt-first. "Only pray you never meet me on the archery range." The knight laughed. "I'll keep that in mind, good sir."
The King smiled. He liked this clever young knight.
Diana spent the next few weeks waiting for the Yuletide festival and establishing herself at court. It was easier, she reflected, to fit in to Patriarch's World as a man than it was to fit in as a woman. Since everyone thought she was a man, she was treated as an equal rather than as a subordinate. It was a refreshing change from the normal prejudices of everyday life in Gotham society. She took a place as one of the King's most skilled knights, and soon her name was as commonplace as Sir Oliver's or even Sir Clark's, the King's second-in-command.
So it was no unusual thing when she went to the training yard one day in the misty early morning when no one was awake yet to practice. She was often alone when she practiced, finding herself hard-pressed to find an opponent as skilled as she. She had first held a sword before she could walk, and was well versed with the weapon by the time she was seven, albeit only with a twenty-inch dagger; as she grew older she learned to handle short-and-longswords.
She also trained alone because she often wanted time to herself; time to think, time to assess her situation at court, time to work on her plan. Also, a time to asses her growing friendships with the knights.
Now, she unsheathed her eagle-hilted blade and began warm-ups and stretching exercises, then began her fighting sets. She had practiced these particular routines so many times that she was able to put her body through the motions while her mind wandered. She thought of the King of Gotham, of his steadfast loyalty to those he called friends. And yet…and yet, he always kept everyone, even those closest to him, at a certain distance. As if he never let anyone get too close. As if there was some arcane secret that he had; one that he told no one. She could not shake the feeling that he was hiding something.
She was so wrapped up in her thoughts that she did not hear the shadowy figure creep up behind her. Suddenly, the foot of the shadow lashed out and caught her squarely in the back of the knees. With a shocked yelp, she toppled to the packed-dirt floor of the training yard.
Furious she glared up at her assailant, only to see the king of Gotham standing above her, a slight smirk on his face.
"It is unwise to let your guard down so obviously." He began, before Diana/William lashed her own foot out and swept his ankle out from under him. He fell next to her, a priceless look of shock on his face. She fought hard to keep from smiling. "Aye, my king." She replied. "It *is* unwise."
He smiled slowly. "Hmmph." He grunted, climbing to his feet along with her. "Well done. But do not think you'll get away with it more than once. For now, I am on my guard." He drew his sword.
It was an unmistakable challenge and Diana dropped easily into a combat crouch, sword in hand. "We shall see, Sire."
The two circled each other, both looking for openings. Suddenly, the king lunged. Diana parried and drove in, trying to use superior strength to her advantage, but the king slipped under her offense with uncanny agility. She barely managed to block his flurry of strikes.
Diana struck and Bruce blocked, both of them testing the other's strength, swords inches from each other's faces, both straining to gain the upper hand. Then they broke away and circled once more. In a surprise move, the king brought his sword around in a hissing arc. Diana ducked low, the swing clearing the top of her head, but just barely. She swung her foot out to trip him, but he danced out of the way.
She surged forward, thinking that an unrelenting offense would wear him down, but that was not the case. He met each of her blows solidly, then found an opening, lunged forward to drive the point of his sword towards her collarbone.
It may well have worked, too, if Diana had not been conscious of what he might attempt bare milliseconds before the thought crossed his own mind. She bent nearly double backward, causing him to miss his target and overbalance. He stumbled forward and she darted out of his path and pounced, pinning him to the ground. That, too, may well have worked, if he had not been aware of what she might attempt seconds before the thought crossed her mind. He managed to bring his knee up hard into her solar plexus, causing her momentary, intense pain. In seconds, he had straddled her, pinning her under him, holding her wrists above her head with one hand.
"You almost had me, Sir William." He said, breathing hard.
Diana pushed experimentally against him, but it was no use, his hold was too strong and well placed. She pushed harder, then suddenly froze, acutely conscious of the proximity of his body, the way his hips pressed into hers and his chest pushed against her own. She felt something deep inside of her tremble, but shoved the feeling away as best she could. She was fervently glad that she had the foresight to bind her breasts close to her body, or else this might very well have given her away. She felt a blush rise in her cheeks and prayed to the Goddess that he would assume it was simply because she'd overtaxed herself. "V-very well, my King." She managed to say in a relatively steady voice. "I yield."
He nodded and, to her undying relief, rose and stood away from her. "I must admit, for a moment I thought you would win." The king told her, wryly. Diana/ William forced a laugh. "Next time, Majesty, I shall." The King's rich laughter seemed to fill up a tiny bit of the aching emptiness that Diana had carried with her since the death of her husband and son.
"I've no doubt of that, Flower of Serving Men." He said. Diana groaned at the moniker, which made him smile all the more. "Flower of Serving Men" had become her nickname since Sir Oliver had said it at the banquet. To many, it seemed appropriate because of her feminine look and appeal. She didn't think anyone actually suspected she was female, though.
The king made her promise to meet him the next day, early morning, for another sparring match. Diana/William agreed and bowed as the king took his leave of the courtyard. Once he was gone, the Flower of Serving Men slumped against a pole marred with countless notches from practice swings of the sword.
She sighed. Despite the embarrassing situation, she had had an excellent workout. It had been a long time since someone had defeated her in a sparring match, and the experience was both humbling and interesting. She was apprehensive about their next sparring session, though. She'd never felt like that for any man but her husband, and feeling desire for someone else frightened her.
(Well? What think you? This is a multiple part story, part two should be up within a couple of weeks. Please R&R. Thanks.)