Sanna woke before Páron, with a delicious soreness between her legs. This time, she didn't hate the man who had caused that soreness. She looked down at him, still asleep, with the dawn slowly turning his skin to a pearly sheen. She smiled, and tucked a lock of his red hair behind his ear, then bent and lovingly kissed the pointed tip. He stirred, and woke, his green eyes locking onto hers as she smiled down at him.
"Good morning, Captain," she whispered. He pulled her down into his arms and greeted her with a kiss, which turned into several more, and then somehow it was much later when they finally rose from bed.
"What took you so long ?" demanded Oberon when they entered his study. He was agitated, pacing the room, and clearly had expected to see them both earlier. Páron and Sanna exchanged a look, puzzled.
"I am afraid it is my fault," said the young man who had acted as Sanna's squire on the journey into Carne, "I, er…" he turned red.
"Spit it out, man !" said Oberon.
"Um….well, I did knock, but….."
"We were busy," said Páron smoothly. Oberon raised an eyebrow, then smirked as he realised what his Captain had spent the morning doing.
"I'm glad you were enjoying yourselves," he said drily, "but I have had urgent news from Isken. Your father, Sanna, has decided that treaties are evidently not worth the paper they are written on, and is marching a force of several thousand across the border. Apparently that was his plan all along, since there's no other way he could have mobilised an army at such short notice otherwise. I am afraid this leaves me with no choice but to declare you under house arrest as a hostage. Please be assured that I wish you no harm whatsoever, and that I will make sure you come to none, though my message to him is to the contrary."
Sanna chewed at her bottom lip. "Do you think my father will care ?"
"I have no idea, Sanna. He may decide that we can go ahead and fulfil our threats to kill you if he doesn't leave Derún, and then that of course will give him an excuse to raise Carne to the ground – and make no mistake, I don't have the means to stop him. On the other hand, he might very well care about you, and I have no other hand to play. I have to at least try." He frowned at Sanna's daughter, who was sitting on her nurse's hip with the crown in her hand.
"That's not a plaything," he said. Páron took the child with a chuckle, earning a frown of his own from Oberon. He yelped as the little girl suddenly squawked with delight as she placed the crown lopsidedly on Páron's head.
"Pwun," she said happily.
Several things happened then; Sanna started gasping and laughing in delight at her daughter's first word, Oberon started issuing orders for the court's scribes and lawyers and historians to come immediately, and Páron stood, transfixed, as the ancient words on the crown came to life, glowing with a blue light as it recognised the true heir.
He took it off.
"It's a mistake," he said, distressed, "it's not me."
"The crown doesn't lie," said Oberon, "though how…"
"No, no, not me !" insisted Páron, "I don't want this !"
"That's as may be," said Oberon sternly, "but you've got it. Come along, Captain – you too, Sanna, let's get this all official and set in stone before the good Captain decides to throw himself off the Bridge of Carne and ruin our chances of peace forever !" He opened the door and ushered them out of the study and along the halls to the throne room, which was already a-buzz with the various officials Oberon had summoned to be witness.
"This makes you a Queen," hissed Páron to Sanna as they took their places near the throne. She smiled.
"Do you see me panicking ?" she said sweetly, "I was born royalty. You'll be fine with me helping you along – and don't think you can run away, Mortua's the only place you can go and they'll either send you back, or throw you in prison."
He stared at her wildly. "I thought you loved me !"
She smiled beatifically. "I do."
Oberon cleared his throat, raising a stern eyebrow at them, and beckoned Páron forwards. Páron knelt, reluctantly, but knowing he had no choice in this. He glanced back at Sanna, but saw no sympathy in her eyes at all, just pride and happiness. He resolved to give her what she deserved once they were alone again, and turned his attention back to his king, who was standing over him with the crown poised ready to prove the true heir of Derún. He felt the coolness of the crown's metal as it settled on his brow, and then he heard the sudden hush in the court as the ancient Carnish words flamed to life: I am sky and valley, woodland and water, the heart and soul of this country. I am fire and frost, the heart of this country. I am ruler, warrior, lover and servant; I am the heart of this country.
Páron felt the tears spring to his eyes as the words etched themselves on his brain, the words he would speak at his coronation, in two weeks at the full moon. He felt Oberon's firm hand on his shoulder, urging him to rise, and he stumbled to his feet as shakily as a newborn deer, unsure of how to face the company before him in the hall, who were staring at him in awe and disbelief.
"The King of Derún," announced Oberon, and the hall erupted with cheers.
Isken was forced to withdraw from Derún once the legitimacy of Páron's claim to the throne was proved and backed up with an alliance with Mortua. Sanna in particular wanted to know how he'd achieved that, and threw up her hands in horror when he told her.
"I am quite willing to do it," he laughed, catching her in his arms and kissing her. Three months pregnant with his child, she was a fine sight, radiant and glowing. "It was the first thing I did for you that did you any good."
"But, my love, spinning ?" she protested. "Slaves spin ! Not kings !"
"And I will always be a slave in one respect," he said softly, his lips against her ear. She shivered in delight as his hands moved down her back and over her buttocks, stroking gently. He nipped at her neck with his teeth and she hissed in sudden pleasure.
"Not now !" she giggled, but he wasn't to be put off so easily, and wrapped her up in his arms, kissing her thoroughly.
A cough from the doorway interrupted them, and Páron reluctantly put his wife down and turned to receive the visitor.
"My Lord," he said, bowing as Oberon entered the room.
"Captain," Oberon smiled, "or should I say, your Majesty of Derún ?"
"I'd rather you didn't," Páron winced, "it's a bit formal. I prefer my old title, if you must use one at all. Though I still want this one explained. Wine ?"
"Please. But this isn't a social call. I believe it is time that Carne had another bridge – one into Derún, now that there is no threat from Isken. And that way I don't have to spend several days at sea whenever I wish to visit you."
Páron sighed. "I can see where this is going," he groaned. "you have the stone and labour, I have the gold, am I right ?"
"Am I that obvious ?"
"I'm afraid so."
Oberon chuckled. "The sooner we get started on it, the better. Given your…ahem…apparent pedigree, I doubt it will be long before Isken decides to try it on again."
Páron nodded, then sat. "My pedigree is what's puzzling me," he said, looking up at Oberon, who had not taken a seat despite being offered, and was pacing restlessly, evidently eager to be getting on with things, "my mother was a courtesan, my father one of your minor lords. How does this make me royal blood ?"
"A question that puzzled me also, so I had the scribes go through the records again. Your birth isn't noted unfortunately, but I can remember it, and your father's line goes back a long way. Back to Derún, in fact. It appears that after the first major war between Carne and Isken, Derún sided with us, and suffered greatly for it. The royal family were all but wiped out, though one of the king's sons survived and fled for his life across into Carne. He was a weak man, and our own king claimed Derún for himself for a time, until it fell into Isken's hands. The dispossessed prince married, settled in Carne, content with his lot apparently."
"Can't say I blame him," quipped Páron. Oberon shrugged.
"Not everyone is born for ruling," he said, "though I have every faith in you, having been raised at my court."
"I'm still the son of a whore," said Páron, with a trace of bitterness in his voice. Oberon regarded his young Captain with a mixture of amusement and affection. Páron had been well aware of his illegitimacy since he'd been old enough to understand, and as a result had always pushed himself to be better than most of the other noble-born boys at the court, despite their attempts to drag him down.
"You're the son of a king," corrected Oberon, "And at this point I think that no-one in this court or the entirety of Derún will care about the particulars of your birth. Speaking of which, how long until the happy day ?"
"Your baby," Oberon laughed. Sanna blushed, wondering how he knew. He kissed her lightly on each cheek. "Congratulations," he smiled, "Páron, try not to turn this one into a frog, if you please."
Páron scowled, wondering if he was ever going to be allowed to forget that one. Sanna, however, was unfazed, and dimpled prettily at Oberon.
"Oh, I'm sure that if he does, there's room for him back in your court," she said sweetly, "although I'm sure he could put his talents to better use and turn all our enemies into frogs ! I'm sure that would make my father realise that he really shouldn't try and break the treaty this time…"
"No doubt; however, I've learned my lesson, wench," growled Páron. A smile tugged at the corners of his lips, and he wrapped one arm round her waist as he poured wine into three goblets. He handed one to Oberon, then one to Sanna, and lifted his own.
"To peace in our time," he said, and drank, watching happily as the two people he loved most in the world followed suit.
O ...............THE END………..O
A/N: Woohoo !! I finished at last ! Hope you all enjoyed it, many, many thanks to my reviewers, you kept me going..... I hope you all got that Sanna's child was indeed the child they wanted, to unite Isken and Carne – just not in the way they expected. She certainly revealed the heir……