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Disclaimer: I do not own 'A Knight's Tale', nor any of the characters associated with it. I am also well aware that Joan, the fair maid of Kent married Edward, but since 'A Knight's Tale' is a film which wholeheartedly screws with history and embraces anachronism why can't a blacksmith end up with a prince? This is Fanfiction after all ;)
Summary: The prince, the knight, the lover. A man with so many sides, so many different faces to show the world. He had only one heart though. And that would always belong to Kate.
I. Sir Thomas Colville
It's been a difficult day for Kate.
Rouen's the busiest she's ever seen it due to the tournament about to begin in a few days. Knights and their squires have been swarming into the city from everywhere. She's had shoes to make and iron to hammer, lock bars to craft and buckets to mend; but what she dreams of is making armour; armour so light you can barely feel it on, yet wonderfully strong and resilient under the hardest of blows. If she can do it well perhaps she can finally earn her credit, the respect of the other armourers rather than their condescension.
They've been making jokes at her expense all day; snide comments when she walks past. What makes it harder is that she can't make any sort of retort- any sign of tension between the armourers and the blacksmith and she knows she'll be thrown out of Rouen before the day's out. After all, she is just a woman tolerated for carrying on her dead husband's profession, and they are professional armourers, with the Law and the Church on their side. So she has to grit her teeth and stay quiet, instead of giving them a piece of her mind and the iron of her hammer.
She's so intent on her thoughts of recognition for her work and revenge against the armourers that she bumps straight into a hard chest. Knocked backwards by the impact she lands hard on her backside in the evening gloom.
"Ow!" She curses and an expletive in her native tongue trips out of her mouth before she can help it.
"What did you just call me?"
The figure she's bumped into crouches down next to her and his hood falls. In the glow of the burning torches that light the streets her eyes rove over a handsome face, a nose bent slightly from being broken years ago, thick, dark hair closely cropped to his head and concerned eyes.
"Something you don't want me to repeat," she replies and takes the proffered hand.
A smile plays on the corners of the man's mouth. "Are you all right?"
"No harm done." She smiles at him and feels her cheeks warm at his gaze, in a way she hasn't felt in a long, long time. "I'm Kate," she offers.
"Sir Thomas Colville, my lady."
She catches the hesitation before he speaks and warning bells should be ringing in her head if she wasn't so distracted by what he's just said.
"I'm no lady," she laughs, even as he kisses her hand formally. It's only then that Kate realises she's been holding his hand all this time and neither of them thought to let go. In fact if she's honest with herself, she's rather enjoying the feel of his skin against hers.
His lips purse but he doesn't argue with her. "Well Kate, let me buy you a drink to apologise for causing your fall."
She opens her mouth to decline. She doesn't accept drinks from men she barely knows, even if they are knights with lovely eyes and warm hands.
Apparently her head and her mouth are no longer connected and she can't believe she's agreed despite her better judgement. The full smile he gives her however is worth it as he tucks her arm into the crook of his elbow and steers her out to one of the pubs she has been in on the outskirts of the city.
It is fairly quiet this late in the evening- most of the patrons have already stumbled drunkenly home. Now only the few hardened locals remain, swigging their beer and arguing loudly over which knights will win at the tournament in two days time.
Colville picks a shadowed corner to sit in and when the servant comes over he orders wine for them both, giving him enough coins to keep the alcohol coming and the service quick. She watches him as he talks to the servant, notices the way he seems to sit up straighter, look more… she searches for the word, regal, perhaps. He is clearly a man used to giving orders and having them obeyed. As he turns to face her he seems to relax once again and the conversation quickly turns to the approaching jousting competition, a subject they are both comfortable with; the discussion relaxed and friendly.
"And are you just competing in the jousting, sir?" she asks, sipping her second glass of wine. She's used to plain beer, and the wine that Colville's ordered is a little stronger than she's ever had.
"Call me Thomas, and I am, yes. It's my passion, much more so than sword fighting or wrestling."
"Trying to push a man off a horse with a stick?" The spark of amusement in her eyes lets him know she is teasing, and he scowls playfully.
"It's a skilled sport I'll have you know." His expression turns wistful. "I don't get much chance to joust however. This is my first tournament in some years."
She smoothes her fingers over the stem of the wine cup. "Why's that?"
"I have responsibilities," he says bluntly, "at home. There are people who rely on me to make decisions, to sort out problems. My Father expects a lot of me. I don't get much time to do the things I enjoy."
"And, these people who rely on you. Does that include a wife?" She licks her lips and blames the alcohol for her unsubtle question.
"No," he says, his expression suddenly intense. "I have no wife."
The tapers are burning low when they finally leave the inn and Thomas gallantly walks her back to her forge. Both of them hesitate outside.
"Well," Kate finally says. "Thank you for this evening and the drinks. It's been lovely."
He nods, though he doesn't say anything, and after a beat or two Kate turns to walk inside, disappointed though she doesn't really know why.
"Wait!" he calls just as she is about to disappear into the little back room of her shop. She almost breaks her neck from turning so fast, her attempt at nonchalance failing miserably.
"Will you have dinner with me tomorrow night?"
"The tournament begins tomorrow," says Thomas, as they finish dessert. It's some wonderfully rich, sinful creation that he had his personal cook make for her, and Kate has enjoyed every bite, despite the fact she's probably going to regret eating so much in the morning. Still, sitting in the knight's tent, eating his food and drinking more wine than she's ever had before, she realises she is enjoying herself with this man in a way she has not felt since her first husband died years ago.
Her tongue darts out to lick the spoon clean and she finds Thomas watching her, his eyes dark and hot.
"Will you watch me joust?"
She considers. "If you want me to."
He kisses her then, quick and hard and Kate feels warmth spread in her belly, making her tingle pleasantly. Kissing Thomas is like drinking very smooth wine and she realises she wouldn't mind if she spent the rest of the evening doing just that.
"Would you let me wear your token?"
Kate raises an eyebrow. "You want to wear a token that I've given you?"
"Is that really so strange?"
She trances the grain of the table with a finger. "I thought a man like you would've had women throwing their tokens at him. I'm just a blacksmith. Why do you want mine?"
"Because I like you Kate, a great deal. Perhaps more than I should after two days." She lifts her head in shock, thinking he is joking but his face is serious. "I'm tired of meeting ladies who have nothing more in their heads than dresses and dancing and landing a husband. Being with you is refreshing." He twines his fingers with hers. "I'd be honoured if you gave me a token to wear tomorrow."
"I'll think about it," she responds playfully, and the serious mood is dissolved as she pokes her tongue out at him.
The day of the tournament is hectic. She's already had to deal with the thinly veiled abuse from the other blacksmiths and now some jumped up country knight and his antique armour is giving her a headache.
"I don't work for free."
"And I can't joust with split armour," Ulrich argues back.
Kate shrugs. "Your problem, not mine. Each drop of my sweat has a price." She tosses the horseshoe she's just finished into a pile, and starts on another.
"Just as well. They said I was daft for even asking."
Instantly she is on the defensive and she throws her tongs into the water to cool. "Who?"
"The other armourers."
"They said I couldn't do it because I was a woman?" She can feel the age old anger beginning to flare.
"No. They said you were great with horseshoes, but shit with armour," Ulrich says smoothly. "The fact that you were a woman wasn't mentioned."
She snatches the broken breastplate from him, just as a young man comes up to her.
"I am Sir Colville's herald, my lady. He wonders if you have the token he asked for yesterday?"
She reaches up to her hair and unties the band that is keeping her thick black locks in place. She unwinds the length of blue cotton, woven into a strip with white thread embroidered into the band and gives it to the man, who is staring strangely at the odd group milling around in her forge.
"Sir Thomas sends his thanks my lady, and hopes he will see you in the arena later."
"Ooh Kate's got a man." She glowers at the gangly ginger squire accompanying Sir Ulrich, and then turns her attention back to the broken armour. It's so old she's not sure if she can even salvage it.
"Who am I up against?" asks Sir Ulrich anxiously, as his own herald walks up to them. He sweeps a bow at Kate before resting against the beam of her forge.
"Sir Thomas Colville."
"Not your Sir Thomas?" The blonde knight wheels round to face her and Kate can't help the blush that creeps up her cheeks. She blames the heat of the fire.
"Ooh, better not hurt Colville," the ginger squire sniggers. "Or Kate's going to sabo-"
"Do you want me to fix his armour or bash you into a pulp?" She raises the hammer menacingly.
"Wat, leave her alone," says Ulrich firmly. "The armour gets fixed, whether Kate has to break your nose or not."
Fortunately Kate manages to work a miracle and the breastplate is mended in time for the next joust.
"It won't last you long though," she warns. "It's too badly damaged. You'll need a new one after the tournament is over."
The blonde knight thanks her, promising to pay later. She nods, and having arrived too late to watch in the stands, Chaucer, the friendly, wiry herald invites her to watch from their end. She feels a rush of gratitude to them, and takes him up on the offer immediately.
She cheers loudly with the rest of the crowd as the knight's lances smash into each other, splinters spraying everywhere. Her heart's beating so fast she wonders whether she's going to pass out. Part of her can hardly bear to look, the other half is fascinated. She watches as the lances connect on the armour for the second time and as Ulrich passes by them she notices the breastplate is still holding up. The two men wheel round, but instead of charging again, Colville trots up on his horse and Ulrich goes to meet him in the middle. Kate bites her lip.
"What's going on?"
But none of the men she's with know either and as the knight's return to their ends and lower their lances she feels a thrum of worry twist her gut.
The knights begin to ride out, but suddenly pull their lances from level to upright and instead pass each other, completing the joust. As the match is announced a tie, Colville is helped down heavily from his horse.
Kate rushes off to help him before she realises what she's doing. His attendants have already helped him off his horse and he leans on them as they hurry him to his tent. They take him inside immediately but she's stopped from entering by two burly looking guards who won't let her pass.
"But I know him!"
The one guard frowns. "The doctor needs to see to him in private. No women."
She scowls in return and storms off to her forge, but her mind isn't on her work at all, and all she's good for is making horseshoes. Eventually, as the sun begins to set a messenger arrives at the forge from Colville. The two guards are still there when she arrives, but this time they open the tent flap without comment, and with a final glare in their direction she is inside.
Her eyes adjust to the change of light and she spots Thomas, propped up in his bed, his bare chest wrapped in bandages, leaning against a mountain of pillows. He looks tired but glad to see her.
"How are you?" She sits down on the chair next to the bed and he reaches for her hand. With a smile she notices it's the one with her blue band tied around his wrist.
"Liar," she says and motions to his bandages. "By the looks of it you've got bruised ribs. You're lucky you didn't break one."
"I've been better," he admits and she rolls her eyes at his male bravado. Thomas touches her cheek softly and smiles. "Thank you for the token though."
"Aye, much good though it did you," she smirks. "Would you like me to kiss it better?"
His eyes darken immediately. "I'd be obliged."
She bends down and his mouth is on hers, warm, slow kisses, which make her toes curl and her heart race, as a hand threads through her hair.
There is a loud crash and they break apart to see a servant scrambling on the floor for a dropped tray and cups that are rolling across the floor.
"I'm sorry my lord, I didn't realise-"
"It's alright," says Thomas, clearly frustrated.
Kate smiles at him. "I'd better go."
Thomas' hand on hers stops her as she sits back up. "No, stay, please."
"You're hurt, even if you do try and pretend you're fine." She kisses him again, long and deep. "Maybe when you're better," she grins wickedly.
She can't believe she's been roped into doing this, but she has to admit she is having fun.
"And 1 and 2, 3 and 4, 5, 6, 7 change partners! And 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, polonaise!" A giggle escapes her at the motley crew of dancers they make. Seeing Wat playing the part of the woman is also incredibly satisfying.
"So what are you all going to be doing whilst I am at the dance?" asks Ulrich, or William, now she knows the truth of this little charade they're trying to pull off.
"Eating, drinking and meeting women," Wat grins as Roland slaps his back. Even Chaucer can't help smiling.
"And you Kate?"
"She's off to see Colville after you bashed him in," says Wat leering.
Kate rolls her eyes, but she does slip off when the others go down the pub. She creeps into Thomas' tent and finds him playing chess against himself.
"Am I interrupting?"
A smile breaks out across his face. "No come in. Do you know how to play?" She shakes her head. "Then I'll teach you."
Somewhere along the line the chess game gets abandoned and she ends up lying on the bed underneath him, his mouth pressing hot butterfly kisses down her neck.
"What about your ribs?"
He shakes his head and breathes his reply across her skin. "I'm fine."
And then his mouth moves lower and Kate loses all ability to think, as pleasure sears across her skin.
In the quiet afterglow, with her head resting in the crook of his neck, his fingers drawing lazy patterns on her skin she reluctantly decides she must go if no-one is to see the position she's put herself in. He is unwilling to let her go so soon, but eventually she manages to pull away from his kisses and get dressed.
"I'll come and see you tomorrow before I go." She slips on her dress that has managed to find it's way all across the room.
"Of course, the end of the tournament."
She doesn't fail to notice the flicker of panic that flits across his face before his expression smoothes over. She hates it when he pretends everything is fine.
The next morning, the skies are heavy with rain clouds. Everyone is packing away their tents and belongings readying themselves to move onto the next tournament. In fact the only tent that has little activity around it is Colville's. She taps on the flap lightly and then pokes her head through when Thomas calls her in. He is lying in bed where she left him, though an elderly man dressed in black is standing next to him, rewrapping bandages soaked in ice around the knight's chest.
"He should stop at the tournament grounds a little longer to stop his injuries worsening," says the doctor. Thomas looks extremely unhappy about this but the doctor doesn't look like a man who will be moved from his position. Kate links her fingers with the dark haired knight's.
"I agree with the doctor."
"Fine." Thomas grouches. "Since everyone is against me this morning."
The doctor leaves, muttering about stubborn patients under his breath and Kate sits, rubbing her thumb against his palm.
"Come with me?" he asks suddenly.
"I can't." Part of her really wants to say yes. "I'm Sir Ulrich's blacksmith and I won't leave him."
Thomas sighs. "Then I'll have to wait till the next tournament to see you again."
"It's only a few weeks, you'll be better again," she reasons, though she is as disappointed as he is. "It'll be perfect."
He grips her hand tightly before she leaves and kisses her hard, as though he is memorising the feel of her lips against his. "I'll see you again Kate, I promise."
"Aye, I know," she smiles.
The next few weeks are hard.
She misses Colville more than she will admit, but she throws herself into her work and her friends, and by the time Will is ready for another tournament she has finished her new armour and even manages to get him to wear it, test it and approve it. She's so happy she almost kisses him.
Then a letter from Thomas finds her to say he will meet her at the tournament at Lagny-sur-marne and she feels the thrill of excitement run through her.
Her one disappointment is that there is no time for her to meet him beforehand- Colville is in tournaments early and he is up against Count Adhemar. Kate bits her lip- Thomas is excellent but Adhemar is the best.
"Colville looks fit," says Will, "this should be good."
Kate taps her fingers nervously against the balustrade rail as she watches with the others from the side of the jousting arena.
It doesn't help that there is a growing sense that something is not quite right as the stewards begin to talk with each other. The herald hesitates as he watches the men talk, but decides to carry on.
"The noble, the illustrious, Sir Thomas Colville!"
Kate beams and the crowds cheer but Adhemar's herald suddenly places the white flag over the shield and the knight withdraws, saluting Colville. There is a shout of disappointment from the crowds and she watches Thomas's shoulders drop in displeasure. The stewards are still talking and Geoff's face is growing paler.
"A withdrawal like that can mean only one thing," says Roland as they all step onto the jousting ground. "Royalty."
"Don't be ridiculous," says Kate, laughing. "Thomas, royalty?" She watches him acknowledge Adhemar's withdrawal even as Geoff claps Will's shoulder.
"I'll go and see what I can find out."
Dread however small starts to build in her stomach. She helps adjust Will's armour as he prepares to fight Thomas.
"It's the Black Prince!" Whispers are flying around and Kate's fingernails are digging into her skin.
"It can't be," she mutters to herself. "Of course he's not a prince. This is ridiculous."
And then Chaucer comes up to them and he can't look Kate in the face, his eyes sliding away from hers even as the bottom falls out of her world.
"Colville is Edward. The Black Prince of Wales and future king of England!" he says and suddenly Kate feels numb, as though nothing is real anymore.
"He's in disguise like me so he can compete," Will realises.
"He's never met an enemy without victory, he's never attacked a town he could not defeat-"
"We're English, Geoff, we know who he is!" says Wat bluntly.
"You must withdraw Will, they're about to start, go tell them Geoff," says Roland. "Drop the flag!"
But Will is charging, and the joust is on again but she can't care. She shakes with anger as all her illusions are blown away like chaff on the wind. She's never been so humiliated in all of her life and all she can do is watch as the two men smash their lances against each other. Her vision narrows and the match blurs until she hears voices and cheering and realises the whole thing is over.
"Are you mad?" She hears Geoff cry. "You knowingly endanger a member of the royal family?"
"He knowingly endangers himself," Will retorts.
"Well fought Sir Ulrich, as it was in Rouen," says Colville as they meet in the middle and Will nods.
"And you also, Prince Edward."
Colville grins and lifts off his helmet. The crowds gasp but all Kate can feel is cold, cold anger, and disappointment shredding of all her dreams. She'll never be able to marry this man, never be able to bear his children. Not when he is so high above her, like a star in the night sky. William wants to change his stars, but Kate knows she will never be able to even touch hers.
"You knew me?" She can hear the words carry on the breeze. "And still you rode?"
But Kate doesn't know this man. This man whose skin she had mapped as they lay in his bed, who wore her token still as he rode, who she could have loved. Who she does love.
She runs from the arena, her heart choked with ice and tears streaming down her cheeks.
II. The Black Prince
It is two hours later that he finds her in the armourer's tent. He stands in the doorway watching her work, smiling to himself, but the look she gives him chills him to the bone.
"Sire." She is cold civility and nothing else.
"Kate, you don't have to be so formal."
She hammers the iron with more force than is strictly necessary. "Don't I? I'm in the presence of royalty."
He shifts and for once he looks uncomfortable. It's strange – here stands a man who's used to being so sure in his motives and actions, whose movements against her body, on her skin were deft and smooth and confident. This sudden awkwardness makes him more human, less royal and Kate softens slightly.
"Kate, about what happened at Rouen-"
Her heart hardens immediately and she is reminded why she is so angry in the first place. All her worst fears are confirmed. Her mother was right- all men are liars and she fell for a face and a story and she didn't know him at all.
"No need to worry, sire, it was clearly an experiment. You fancied roughing it with the commoners and I obliged you." Her words are said with bitter precision. If she stays cold then she can't hurt so much.
"Kate, please, I couldn't tell you who I was." He is suddenly angry. "Would you have believed me if I had?"
"No," she says immediately and her gaze fixes him in place. "But would you really have ever told me the truth?"
"Eventually," he admits and Kate tosses her tongs in the cold water. The steam hisses up around them.
"Not good enough." She walks past him to leave but his hand grabs her arm.
"Where are you going? I'm not finished."
She pulls her arm deliberately from his grip and he lets her go. "You might not be, but I am." She lets her anger fuel her words. "What else is there to say? You lied to me, you used me and now you can swan off back to England." Her voice dips and she suddenly can't meet his eyes. "I won't be mentioning this to anyone so you don't have to worry about your reputation."
"No," she shakes her head, her dark hair flying around her. "You were a prince playing at being a knight, and I was a blacksmith playing at being a woman. And now it's over so let's just forget it ever happened." She strides off, blinking back tears as Edward stands alone and disappointed in the doorway.
"As you wish," he says quietly.
She can't avoid his name wherever they go now there's war on the southern front. It's all anyone can talk of, and repressing only helps so much. Especially when she sees him in her dreams constantly, the way his face looked when they last met-his expression worried and sad.
She watches William win at Bordeaux but she is silent as she holds his horse and tends his armour, and when Chaucer quietly announces that Adhemar has been recalled back to the Free Companies, she feels as black as Will does as he throws his helmet down to the ground.
"First Jocelyn and now Adhemar," says Wat thoughtlessly.
"Well done," snaps Kate as Will storms off in a rage. But she's not angry with him. She's angry at herself, for letting herself be seduced by a man she thought she knew, who lied to her and who she can't wipe out of her heart or her mind.
It doesn't help that William is having romantic troubles of his own. She darns a handkerchief as they sit round one night, trying to compose a love letter to Jocelyn, trying not to let her heart ache too much.
"And now to finish it." Chaucer turns to Kate for her contribution.
"With hope. Love should end with hope. My first husband, God rest him, told me something I'll never forget. Hope guides me. It is what gets me through the day and especially the night. The hope that after you're gone from my sight it will not be the last time I look upon you." Her voice trails off as she chokes on the lump in her throat.
"And finish it 'with all the love that I possess, William'."
"You mean Ulrich."
Will's smile fades.
"'The knight of your heart' may be better," says Kate quietly. "That way you're not confirming the lie you're leading and the feelings are still true." She stabs the needle into the soft material. "Then nobody's lying."
She almost thinks they are going to pull this off when Will lands himself in the stocks and the whole charade is pulled to pieces.
In the middle of London she stands with her hammers in her hands ready to defend him to the last. Kate glances out into the crowd searching for a kind face anywhere and then the robed men in the crowd unveil and there is Edward, in a white shirt and his long leather coat with the royal insignia on it. Her heart thuds painfully in her chest. His men behind him draw their broadswords as the crowd suddenly quietens realising who is in their midst. She stands in shock. He is excruciatingly handsome and she hates him just a little for making her love him despite everything.
He walks up her side of the steps but doesn't look at her as he leans on one knee next to Will's head.
"What a pair we make. Both trying to hide who we really are," he smiles bitterly, "both unable to do so." And if Kate didn't know better she'd think behind this speech to Will there was an apology being spoken to her.
"Your men love you." The Black Prince looks at Roland and Wat but still he won't turn to Kate. "If I knew nothing else about you that would be enough. But you also tilt when you should withdraw. And that is knightly too."
Kate is hanging onto his every word, boring holes in the back of his neck. Finally he looks in her direction and the expression on his face is unreadable.
"Release him." As his guards unlock the stocks he turns round and addresses the crowd who are absolutely mesmerised by the spectacle.
"He may appear to be of humble origins, but my personal historians have discovered that he is descended from an ancient royal line. This is my word and as such is beyond contestation." He turns around and smiles. "Now, if I may repay the kindness you once showed me. Take a knee."
He draws his sword with the easy grace of a trained warrior. "By the power vested in me by my father, King Edward, and by all witnesses here, I dub thee, Sir William."
The crowd cheers.
"Arise, Sir William." Will takes the prince's hand in a familiar movement that has her remembering their first meeting.
"Thank you, my lord."
Gratitude for saving her friend wars with her still aching heart within her. She takes her chance as the crowds begin to disperse and she slips off quietly into the multitudes before the he can catch her, telling Will she has final adjustments to make to his armour. She feels eyes on her back as she leaves.
Her heart is in her mouth all the way through as Will battles Adhemar, her attention solely focussed upon whether her friend can win or not. She is not glaring at the most beautiful woman she's ever seen, sitting next to the Black Prince in the royal box. Her blonde hair crowning her head and dressed in a pure white coat, she sparkles in the crowd and Kate resign herself to the fact that this is the woman who will most likely become the next queen of England. Still, she swallows her jealousy and watches Will triumph over Adhemar. She takes particular pride in bringing the Count down a peg or two as they peer over him as he lies on the flat of his back.
But once that excitement is over, and with the crowd still cheering, Will kisses Jocelyn in the middle of the arena and she's left feeling slightly hollow.
Here is a love that defied all odds, which overcame all barriers. Her mouth tastes of ash and she has to get away, has to escape, before she ruins the moment and tarnishes everyone's happiness. Her eyes, almost against her will find Edward's. To her shock he's staring straight at her with an intensity that makes her step back a little. Geoff turns and swings her round in his enthusiasm, but then sets her down as he sees her expression.
"Kate what's wrong?" He follows her gaze. "Oh."
"I have to go."
And then she slips out before he can stop her, leaving her friends to celebrate. She turns into a near empty street and leans against a wall, emotionally drained from the events of today. She is so tired and all she wants to do is sleep. When she opens her eyes then she is not a little shocked to find the beautiful young woman with shining gold hair in front of her.
"You must be Kate." She nods a little unsurely. "You left so suddenly we had to come and find you before you disappeared off!"
"We?" says Kate warily and then freezes as the Black Prince himself comes up to them, still dressed in his trademark coat and white shirt, moody and electrically magnetic in this persona. She curtseys and finds herself staring at the air two inches above his left ear.
"Edward, she's even more beautiful than you said."
Kate can't hide the shock that crosses her face. "I'm sorry?"
"You're all he's talked about all this summer," the beautiful lady confides.
"Joan," the prince warns, but his cousin merely smiles prettily and pats Kate's hand.
"You are coming to the celebration aren't you?" She doesn't wait for an answer but nods cheerfully. "Good. Oh! There's Lady Rosamund, I must speak to her. But it was lovely to meet you at last." She smiles warmly at Kate and then the blacksmith and the prince are left alone in awkward silence.
"Thank you," Kate says quietly. Edward raises an eyebrow.
"For saving Will, for protecting him from Adhemar, for making him a knight."
"Think nothing of it," he says but his brow is a little smoother, his stance a little more relaxed now he knows Kate is not about to yell at him or run off. "I like William. It was my pleasure to be of service to him. And of course seeing Adhemar's face was reward enough."
A smile touches Kate's lips. "Yes, he had that coming for a long time."
"Kate, about Joan…"
"Don't worry about it," she interrupts before he can say something she knows will hurt her even more. "She seems lovely. I'm sure she was just teasing you."
"She was right," he says bluntly and his large hands suddenly find hers. They are both calloused- his from sword fighting, hers from her tools and the heat of the forge. "You're all I've thought about since Lagny-sur-marne. I had them send me the tournament listings just so I knew where you were," he admits. "I was supposed to be fighting a war, and instead all I could think of was your face when you realised who I was." He smiles ruefully. "No-one's ever been so disappointed to learn I was a prince."
Kate manages a smile too and he seems to make up his mind. "Can we begin again?" He bows low. "My name is Edward of Woodstock and I am the Black Prince, eldest son of King Edward III of England."
Kate curtseys deeply. "Kate McAllister my lord, armourer to Sir William Thatcher." A smile plays at her lips. "Perhaps you've heard of him?"
He doesn't ask her to accompany him to the Hall later that evening and she tells herself she is relieved. Her emotions are still too raw for any kind of overture on his part. If anything is to happen (and Kate doubts very much whether it ever will), they are going to have to take things very slow and very steady.
Still, it doesn't stop her choosing her best dress to wear to the celebrations and brushing her hair till it shines, glossy and black. She is on her guard around him, especially tonight and as she enters the room with her friends and curtseys to more people than she can ever remember she determines to try and avoid him, maintain her distance.
Except that plan is thwarted by the fact that the prince leave his seat at the head of the table and greets Will immediately, followed by the rest of his friends. He stops when he reaches Kate and bows low, taking her hand and kissing it. She suddenly realises her treacherous friends have disappeared, and she catches Wat grinning at her from the corner of her eye.
"Kate, you look beautiful. As always."
"Thank you, sire."
He stiffens at the memory of the last time she called him that. "No, call me Edward. Please."
"All right, Edward." She tries the name out on her tongue and she can't help smiling as she does so.
He looks as handsome as ever in dark blue with the royal crest on the back of his jacket. And tied around his wrist peering out every now and then under his shirt sleeves is her token.
He notices her gaze and speaks earnestly. "I haven't taken it off since you put it there."
She doesn't quite know what to make of this and once again Edward, (and she luxuriates in saying that name, his Christian name) has begun to chip away at the defences she put up specifically against him. She pulls her hand out of his and begins to back away. She won't make this easy for him. Not when he broke her heart last time.
"I'm afraid I must go and speak to Lady Jocelyn." He frowns but before he can do anything she is across the other side of the room and her friends gather around her.
"I can't believe you've just snubbed the future king of England," breathes Geoff, in a tone of almost admiration.
"It's a game," she says determinedly. "He won the first round and now I'm going to win the second."
Will groans and pours himself a drink. "This not going to end well."
"Edward always plays to win," warns Jocelyn, her hand wrapped securely in her champion's. "He never loses where it counts."
The blacksmith crosses her arms defiantly. "There's a first time for everything."
"Kate," says Chaucer. "I think you lost a long time ago."
And then as the weeks pass, the presents begin to arrive.
"What's he doing?" she asks in bewilderment as she unwraps a dark green cloak with silver fastenings from the wrappings. She runs her fingers through the soft material and presses it to her nose, inhaling the scent of the rose petals and jasmine that lie scattered in the folds, infusing the material with the sweet smell.
"He's courting you Kate," says Geoff seriously.
She drops the cloak on her bed in shock. "But he can't! I mean…I was just a blacksmith, and then we were friends and…"
"He loves you."
"It's sweet," says Jocelyn, rubbing her swelling belly, her wedding ring catching the light. "You never bought me presents when we were courting," she says to William.
"I lost and won a tournament for you woman," the knight points out, unamused.
"I'm starting to think jewellery would have been a better idea," his wife muses as she watches Kate unwrap a simple silver locket with the royal seal engraved on one side and her name on the other. "It's beautiful. Oh! Think of the gifts you'll get when you're queen!" Jocelyn says dreamily. Kate sits on her bed with a thump however, swiftly brought back to reality.
"Princes don't marry blacksmiths," she says quietly, and wraps the presents back up, locks them in the box they came in and slides it under her bed.
"You can't just hide your head in the sand and pretend it'll all go away," says Roland pragmatically.
"I can try," she says and changes the topic to Jocelyn's impending birth. Her friends let her get away with it but as the months pass and the presents keep on coming, each one secreted under Kate's bed, she wonders when the prince will tire of her and marry someone else instead.
Christmas arrives and it has been five long months since she last saw him. Edward has been in France finishing his war and she misses him despite her pretence of indifference. It's only when she unwraps her presents with her friends in Will and Jocelyn's home, the baby gurgling in the background, that she realises Edward has sent her no gift.
The disappointment makes her feel sick and she realises this is it- he's finally finished the strange relationship that had blossomed between them. In some odd way his little gifts had affirmed that the past year had not been some bizarre dream, or that it had not been wishful thinking on her part. She is so caught up in her misery that she fails to notice the guest being announced in the hall, or her friends grinning to themselves.
"Sir William, may I take Kate for a walk around the garden?"
Her head shoots up and there is Edward, leaning against the doorway, all easy grace and strength and she can barely breathe, let alone think.
Will's lips quirk in amusement at the prince asking him for permission and he nods. Kate glares at him even though she's practically running to Edward.
Outside it is just beginning to snow and she wraps her shawl around herself as they walk amongst the evergreens, bark crunching under her boots.
She has so many things she wants to ask him but for once in her life she can't think of a single thing to say.
"Did you have a good war?" She realises how inane that sounds. "Sorry. Forget that."
Edward's look though is gently amused. "Are you enjoying the holiday?"
"Aye, it's lovely. Jocelyn's had the baby and Roland's engaged to Christina and…" she's rambling now, but nerves have taken hold of her tongue and she can't stop. "I've had so many requests for armour by various knights that I'm thinking of opening a new forge and-"
She thinks she's misheard as she frowns up at him. "Sorry?" He can't possibly have said what she thought he said…
"I'm asking you to marry me Kate. I love you." He trails one gloved hand over her face and unconsciously she leans into his touch as he cups her cheek, and tucks a stray strand of hair behind her ear. "I've loved you since Rouen. You don't know how much I regret what happened at Lagny-sur-marne, if I could take back how I handled that and spare you the pain I would have. This summer has been torture-"
She doesn't need to hear any more.
His kiss is eager and insistent, and as the snowflakes begin to fall around them, landing on her hair and her cheeks, she's smiling so much she wonders if she can die of happiness.
"Come, we should tell your friends."
Kate laughs and buries herself in the warmth of his arms. "I think they already know. They've been watching from the windows ever since we left."
Of course the fairytale ending is not always that easy.
"But I love her!"
King Edward remains unmoved. "Then have her as your mistress. We need alliances."
"I've just won a war for you!"
"And marriage to a foreign bride would solidify that." The King stares at them both. "Edward, I allow you these little adventures of yours, dressing up in disguise and running off to play jousting, but you are no longer a boy. The time has come to stop playing games and settle down to your responsibilities."
"I marry her or no-one else." Edward's ultimatum sends a ripple of whispers through the courtiers, and as the two men dig their heels in Kate decides it's time to be unselfish. Gently she begins to pry herself from Edward's side as they stand in front of the Royal Court.
"Edward, perhaps your Father's right." She can't believe the words are coming out of her mouth. "Perhaps you should marry someone of higher birth."
He stares at her incredulously. "How can you say that?"
"Because one day you're going to be king," she sighs. "Let's be realistic. This is never going to work- your father…"
"I don't care what my father says!" The whole court gasps, enjoying the drama, but Kate can only concentrate on the man in front of her, whose heart she is breaking. "I care about you, I want to marry you."
"Edward." Her voice cracks. "I release you from our betrothal."
His face pales but his eyes are fiery. "Don't do this Kate."
"I, I have to go…" and she would walk away but she can't because Edward is holding onto her like a drowning man to a rock.
"Never," he says fiercely into her hair. "I will never let you go." His voice is steely and she can believe that this man is the scourge of his enemies, a fearsome warrior in battle, and yet beneath his shirt she can feel the fine trembling in his muscles.
Kate can hear the Queen talking to her husband. "Edward, when you had to get the Pope's permission to marry me, did that stop you? Barriers meant nothing to you. Can't you let your son have the same happiness?"
And then Joan's voice pure and clear ringing out as she addresses the royal couple.
"Actually, your Majesties, my personal historians have found that Kate is descended from a very ancient and noble Scottish family, actually from a branch of my cousin's family in Edinburgh."
"And I can give you a patent of nobility," offers Chaucer as he steps forward and Kate can't help but smile into the prince's chest, as her friend's rally round them.
King Edward stares at them both, as his wife puts her hand on his arm. Edward knows his father doesn't believe this tale for one moment but the king's mouth is twitching in what he suspects may be a smile.
"There seem to be a lot of ancient royal lines floating around suddenly," the King observes dryly, before he sighs and gives in. "Very well. You may marry the girl Edward."
His mother is beaming at him and there is a great cheer from the court who have been spellbound by the spectacle being performed in front of them, and Kate can hear her friends celebrating too.
All of that fades away however, as Edward's lips meet hers and everything is suddenly, perfectly right.
Perhaps her stars are not so untouchable after all.
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I hope all of my readers enjoyed this as much as I loved writing this story.