Standard Start-of-Fic Disclaimer: I do not own Jane and the Dragon, or any of the characters or places herein, except perhaps the evil invaders, and who would want them? I receive no compensation for writing works of fanfiction except possibly some nice reviews.
Author's Note: Well, here it is, my first attempt at a non-Harry-Potter fanfic. (And it isn't Twilight either, sorry Noelle!!) This is a kind of obscure fandom too – at least in comparison to Harry Potter's ginormous following – but I love the show, and I love the dynamic between Gunther and Jane. It's very, very Dramione-esque, so if you enjoy my Dramione fics, I suggest you give it a try. It's rated T for language and mature themes (in this story, mature themes have more to do with danger and combat and bloodshed than with smut: this is NOT a smutfic.) Anyway… I hope you enjoy the read. I'm definitely enjoying writing it.
Chapter 1: Prologue and Backstory
Jane stared at herself in the mirror, frowning. She was not at all happy with the reflection that was currently frowning right back at her from the burnished metal surface. She didn't look like herself at all.
And she most certainly didn't look like a knight.
Which, of course, was most of the problem.
She hated formal attire. It wasn't who she was. Gowns made her feel exquisitely uncomfortable, and more than that… vulnerable, somehow.
With her usual wild corona of copper colored hair twisted into a sleek knot at the nape of her neck, with her normal comfortable, sensible attire replaced by a midnight blue gown that rustled when she moved, and with her sword-belt detached completely and lying across the foot of her bed, she barely recognized herself.
She sighed unhappily, turning away from the mirror with a shake of her head. Dwelling on it would do her no good. Better simply to go down, put in the mandatory appearance, and get it over with, hopefully winning herself the opportunity for an early departure from the "festivities."
Gunther is going to give me hell about this, she thought resignedly, casting one more longing glance at the sword-belt on her bed; even as bedecked and beribboned as she currently was, the truth was that she felt naked without it on her hip. He is never going to let me live this down.
Then again, Gunther was the least of her worries at the moment.
She remembered back to a time when, little more than a child, she'd stood up for her right to attend a palace ball dressed as a knight – dressed as herself , not some silly, simpering, corseted maiden – and had won.
The unfortunate truth was that things had changed a lot in the kingdom since then, in the years it had taken Jane to grow from twelve to nineteen, and very few of those changes had been for the better. The real catastrophes, though; those had begun with the death of King Caradoc in a hunting accident two years ago. Prince Cuthbert, barely fourteen at the time, had decided against the advice of the entire court to take the Kingship upon himself immediately, rather than allowing it to pass into regency until he was older and better suited to rule. To those who objected he merely pointed out that his own father, the late king, had ascended to his throne at the age of thirteen – which was a half-truth, at best. While Caradoc had been only thirteen at the time of his father's death, he had done the sensible thing and allowed for a regency. This part of the story, however, Cuthbert was careful to omit.
The only person who might have had a real chance of reasoning with him – his mother – was too stunned by grief to try. To the contrary, following a tradition of her homeland, she had taken herself away to a distant convent to mourn her beloved husband in solitude. Six months later, Cuthbert had sent his only sibling, the young princes Lavinia, to the same convent's boarding school for girls so that the heartbroken child could be near her mother. This left him the sole member of the royal family still residing in Kippernia Castle; a headstrong, inexperienced, adolescent king.
Trouble soon followed, as it has a way of doing.
Word quickly spread that the kingdom, with its rich, fertile farmlands, lush timber-producing forests, and valuable coastal ports, was in an extraordinarily vulnerable state – ripe for the taking, as a matter of fact – and this news, predictably, had attracted all manner of undesirable attention. Six months ago, things had really begun to go to hell.
Now, with a ragtag invading army camped just a few leagues from the castle, Jane paused to offer up a quick prayer of gratitude that the queen and princess were out of harm's way – and that her own mother had accompanied them hence.
And whilst all this was going on, the juvenile king was throwing a ball.
Nor was that the worst of it.
The juvenile king was throwing a ball for the invaders.
To the horror of his advisors, he had decided that instead of meeting the enemy force in open combat, he would try a strategy of appeasement first. Good King Caradoc – whom, in the privacy of her thoughts, Jane still insisted on referring to as the "true king" despite the oath of allegiance she and the other knights of the realm had made to Cuthbert upon his coronation – had to be rolling over in his grave right now.
The warriors of Kippernium should have been drenching the ground with the blood of these vile invaders – not wining and dining them!
Caradoc would never have taken this cowardly route… but then again, that was a moot point because Kippernium would never have been in these dire straits had Caradoc remained on the throne.
He was young now, but even if he lived to be a hundred (which was unlikely, given the circumstances), Cuthbert would never be half the king his father had been… and deep in his heart of hearts, Jane believed, he knew it.
And now she had, at the direct orders of this weak and frightened child-monarch, to go down to the ballroom, dressed in this ridiculous costume – for so the heavy gown and all its myriad accessories seemed to Jane – and help entertain people she would rather have seen on the end of her sword.
She shot one last mute, yearning look at that particular item before letting herself out of her room.