A/N: I just received word that this story won 1st in blind judging and 2nd in public vote as a virgin writer. I am not a virgin writer, but I am assuming that that classification was given to me because I am a virgin contest writer. The judges were very kind and the public vote warmed my heart. Thank you all for reading this story and those of you who left a review...thank you!

~~Valentine's Fae Tales Contest Submission~~

Title: The Kingdom of Northwood

Pen Name: OldAsDirt

BETA Name: Northwoman

Virgin Writer: No

Disclaimer: Charlaine Harris has entertained us for years with her many novels, but Southern Vampire Mysteries and the characters Eric Northman and Sookie Stackhouse have made addicts out of the best of us. Thank you Ms. Harris for allowing Fanfiction to play with these much loved characters.

Summary: The Kingdom of Northwood has prospered and grown under the rule of King Johann and Queen Frieda. After twenty years the royal couple has failed to produce an heir and Johann's selfish brother threatens to take the throne. Johann and Frieda secretly bargain with an evil witch to not only fulfill their duty, but give them the child they desperately want. The witch has an agenda of her own and surprises the royal couple with her demands…will they comply?

~~~~~N~~~~~

"Once upon a time, in the far away land of Northwood, there lived a very handsome King named Johann and his wife, Queen Frieda….

Their twenty year marriage was full of love and happiness, but they desperately wanted a child. Not only did they long for a child, they also needed to provide an heir to the throne in order to continue their reign. If an heir was not conceived by Frieda, Johann was advised to find a younger wife. Johann adamantly refused such an idea for he was deeply in love with Frieda. As was the custom, most royal marriages were arranged for the purpose of creating either a larger kingdom or acquiring more riches. Johann had refused the marriage arrangement his parents provided him, because he wanted to marry for love. Their kingdom was prosperous enough and he did not want a wife just to make their kingdom larger.

His parents allowed the young Prince the alternative of hosting a ball, for which all eligible maidens of the palace and surrounding villages were sent formal invitations. The purpose of the ball was for the soon-to-become King of Northwood, to choose a Queen. At only fifteen years of age, the breathtakingly beautiful Frieda caught his eye as soon as she entered the ballroom. After ignoring all others, Johann chose to dance with Frieda the entire evening and subsequently chose her for his Queen.

After twenty years their love has not diminished, but grown stronger and Johann could no more take a younger wife than not breathe. His wife felt otherwise and they argued much about their predicament. It's not that she did not love him more than life, she felt an obligation to the Kingdom and she knew Johann's brother, Prince Jakob, would destroy it with his selfish ways.

Bang, bang, bang. "Frieda, my love, please open the door we need to discuss this." Johann knocked at the Royal Bedchamber door as the sounds of his weeping wife broke his heart.

"No Johann, go away! You cannot lose the throne to that bastard, Jakob. He will undo all that we have accomplished. If a marriage to a younger, more fertile maiden will help you my love, then I will comply." Frieda was distraught because her husband was given an ultimatum by Prince Jakob. He was to provide an heir before the end of the year, or the King would be forced to abdicate his crown to his brother.

Prince Jakob was selfish and did not inherit the good heart that Johann possessed. He had already produced three sons and two daughters and felt he deserved the Kingdom.

Johann eventually coaxed his wife to open the bedchamber door and he rushed to embrace her. "You are the love of my life. The throne is a responsibility I inherited. I chose you and I will never take another wife…..do you hear me?" The weeping Frieda nodded her head as her husband softly kissed the top of it. "We will find another way. I have put in motion a plan and we will have a visitor this afternoon that might be able to give us what we want. Know this…I will die before I lose you, my beloved!"

Johann's advisors informed him that beyond the Kingdom of Northwood there lived a coven of witches. They were never allowed within the Kingdom because their magic could not be trusted. As far as Johann was concerned, these were desperate times for not only his Kingdom, but his marriage as well. He instructed two of his most trusted servants to bring the leader of the coven to him. He prayed he was not making a mistake.

That afternoon Johann's servants escorted a very beautiful young woman into the King and Queen's private chambers. The rooms were called "The Halls of Reflection" and only the Royal couple was allowed inside.

When Frieda and Johann entered the room the young woman was seated on Frieda's throne and did not get up when the royal couple entered. Johann would have dismissed her, had he not been so desperate. Instead he tried to get her attention, "Ahem….excuse me Miss. I hope you realize where you are and whose company you keep?"

"I love the feel of the soft material on this throne. I fit well on it, don't I?" the young woman was quite arrogant. She looked Johann in the eye and continued to show disrespect towards the royal couple.

"Can we just get down to business…..Miss…..what do you call yourself?" Johann asked as he wished to rid himself of the young woman if she proved to be a mistake.

"You may call me Hallow for now. My family name is Stonebrook and you should not threaten me because I possess more power than you or your beautiful wife. Why have you taken it upon yourself to drag me here, when my family has never been allowed to step foot in your kingdom?" Hallow Stonebrook was indeed a very powerful witch and she had no respect for royal blood. Johann's servants offered her a large sum of money to return with them to the palace and she could feel the urgency of the situation.

"Very well, I will excuse your disrespect for the time being. I am willing to pay you a large sum of money if you can use your magic to help us conceive a child. We are desperate and pray that you don't take advantage of our plight." Johann was stern but could not hide his desperation.

Hallow's wicked smile could not be ignored by the royal couple. King Johann was just about to truly dismiss her this time and pay her for the inconvenience he had caused her, when she spoke. "I will help you, of course. When I return to my cottage the forces will be put into motion that will give you a beautiful baby boy. He will be known throughout the world for his beauty, intelligence and power." Frieda began to smile and she hugged Johann in her excitement.

Their excitement was short lived, however, when Hallow conveyed her demands for payment. "I require that you give the boy to me when he reaches the age of twenty. On his twentieth birthday, you are to host a combination 'Birthday/Engagement Ball' and you are to invite maidens from the entire kingdom for the ruse of finding him a bride. Since I am ageless and my beauty never fades, I will be the beautiful maiden he chooses to rule beside him. He must chose me or all that he loves will die!"

Johann and Frieda gasped at her words.

"I will be benevolent today and tell you both that there is a way to break my spell, but I doubt it will come about. The spell can only be broken if a beautiful virgin falls in love with the young prince while he too is still a virgin. Since he will be a famous Prince, she must love him as a commoner and not know of his place in life. Finally, she must love him more than her own life and be willing to give her life for his." Thinking upon her demands to the Royal Couple, she paced back and forth and placed a finger to her head as she continued. "To prevent this from happening, I demand that after you have been given this most precious gift from me, that you honor my wishes by keeping the Prince sequestered within the walls of the palace. I, however, require an experienced lover and he is to be given as many courtesans, concubines or chambermaids he desires as long as they are not virgins. He must never come in contact with a virgin…do you understand? These are my demands and you will have your son as long as you agree to all of them. So my royal friends, if you find my demands agreeable to you, I will see you in twenty years."

Johann and Frieda agreed to all of Hallow's demands and two months later Queen Frieda was very pregnant. Happiness filled the palace and they chose to ignore Hallow's demands for the time being. They just wanted to enjoy the life that was growing in Frieda's womb and await the arrival of their beautiful son. Twenty years was a very long time and surely we will find a way to break the spell, they both thought as they enjoyed their complete happiness.

Almost twenty years later:

Exactly nine months after Hallow had assured Johann and Frieda of the coming of their son, Prince Erik Johann Northman was born. He was indeed beautiful and very much loved by the entire kingdom. He was never allowed to be taken outside the palace walls and after nineteen years of loneliness he wondered what lay beyond. Many travelers came to sell their wares to the palace and the word of Erik's incredible beauty and intelligence travelled throughout Northwood and the entire world.

Erik was well educated in all subjects and very knowledgeable of the world beyond the walls, but for the life of him could not understand why he was not allowed outside to see the many wonders he had read about. Perhaps he was ill and his parents did not want the kingdom to know. The unknown haunted Prince Erik most of his life and his urge to leave the palace only became stronger as his twentieth birthday approached.

It soon became time for Erik to receive the many ladies in waiting that his parents had arranged for him. He was never told of Hallow's gift and subsequent curse, so his parents' actions left him quite confused. He was told, however, that he needed to gain experience so that when his twentieth birthday arrived he would choose a maiden to wed. Why? Why on earth would he have to choose a wife on his twentieth birthday? This demand was also not understood by the young Prince. Are all parents this demanding and secretive? So many questions whirled around in the young Prince's head he needed to get away for awhile.

Night after night a different beautiful woman entered his bedchamber and each one was paid handsomely to tell his parents they enjoyed the Prince's company. In reality Erik did not find any of the women to his liking and he once again wondered why his parents would put such strange demands on him. To him these women were dirty and even though they longed to touch him, he did not allow it. At first Eric wondered why he was truly not interested in these women. He knew that since he was a man he should get excited over them, but not one of them made his manhood stand at attention. He was blessed with a large muscular body and along with that his manhood was quite proportionate.

He did not wish for the company of men, he was not like that. He would, however, dream of a woman who was very different than any of the women who came to him. Since he had never left the palace, he did not recognize her or her clothing. She looked like an angel, but her clothing was not like the fancy ladies of his court. She was natural with no paint on her face and her hair was blond like his and hung down her back in long natural waves. He would wake each morning with a huge erection just thinking about his dream maiden.

Unlike the women his parents forced on him, his dream maiden knew nothing about the art of making love. She was passionate and beautiful and asked Erik to teach her. He knew she was somehow real, and he was going to save himself for her. Each morning he would stroke his erection imagining he was making passionate love to his dream angel and he would soil his sheets. The laundress would confirm the soil in his sheets to his parents making them think he indeed bedded the woman in his chamber the previous night, when actually he did not.

During his explorations of the palace as a child, Prince Erik had discovered a virtual highway lying beneath it. He discovered that each arm of the tunnel eventually ended outside the palace giving access to the outside world without detection. This was his way out! His excitement was evident as he returned to his bedchamber each evening to plan his escape.

It had finally come time for him to go beyond the palace walls and see the world. He did not tell a soul of his plan because he was too anxious to leave and didn't trust his servants. Many peddlers lived within the walls of the palace, so he was able to procure some very plain clothing and decided to go on foot, because his white steed would draw too much attention. He brought along a few gold pieces and felt that he was prepared for his journey.

Since he didn't have a clue where he was going, he decided to leave a few hours before sunset and told his servants to excuse his nightly female visitor. He told them he was quite exhausted and needed his privacy and sleep. Much to his dismay, it wasn't necessary for him to sneak because the guards all seemed to be preoccupied. When I become King I fear I will have to replace my father's guards, because the ones on duty this evening are not very competent. Eric thought to himself. One guard was sound asleep and another one was in an alley having sex with what he assumed was a concubine. It was for that reason he did not want to bed the concubines, he cared not for sloppy seconds. He longed for his dream maiden and he was sure he would find her.

Prince Erik was astounded by the living conditions throughout the kingdom. His palace was full of opulence and grandeur. The people who lived in the neighboring villages lived in what could only be described as huts made of twigs and straw. The residents looked quite hungry and dirty. I suppose they did not get a daily warm bath. Eric thought to himself.

He had gone quite a long ways from the palace when in a clearing he spied a cottage. The cottage was nicely built and surrounded by wildflowers and many fruit trees. Chickens and rabbits roamed the grassy area in front of the cottage and there were cows and pigs to the left in neatly kept pens. The aroma that was coming from the house made Erik's mouth water. He was always fed the finest of foods, but nothing ever touched his nostrils as this. He decided to be bold and knock at the door and pose as a hungry wanderer.

After the third knock an old woman answered the door. Erik announced what he was posing to be and the old woman invited him in. She looked him up and down, but did not fall to her knees as everyone did at the palace. Thank the Gods she does not know of my place in life. I want to be common. Erik's worries were for naught, because the old woman knew nothing of the royal family.

"I hope you like leek soup and pork roast, because that is all we have this evening. You are welcome to share our meal and stay the night if you need a place to rest your head. Now go wash up before we sup, I am sure you are dusty from the road. There is a pond a ways behind the cottage and the water is very clean and clear. Now be off with you, I will not hold supper if you are late. My granddaughter will be here shortly. She is a wonderful child but is very lonely in these woods. You are quite handsome, young man. Are you married?"

The old woman had a twinkle in her eyes and Erik soon became embarrassed. Does this old woman want to have her way with me too? He thought, but he shook his head as she gave him a wink and he headed for the pond. Although the old woman was quite spry and comely for her age, he did not want to bed her. He was saving himself for his dream maiden!

Much to Erik's surprise, the pond was already occupied by someone. He saw the clothes along the shore, but did not see the owner of said clothing. Since the clothing was that of a female, Erik figured they belonged to the old woman's granddaughter. Erik continued to think that since the cottage was so well hidden and private, the young maiden has no friends because she is probably a homely wench. No matter to me, I only seek solitude and a respite from my daily rigors at the palace. For some reason my parents keep me so busy during the day with lessons and court and expect me to entertain women in my chamber every evening. I just feel this cottage is a God send, so I will enjoy the hospitality that is offered and be kind to the old woman's kin.

Erik stripped himself of his clothing which consisted of thick black hose with a white tunic shirt. The only article of clothing that might give his station in life away were his black handmade boots. He was standing with his codpiece still intact and at first decided to bathe with it on, in case he came in contact with the old woman's granddaughter. He hid his clothing and just as he was about to acclimate himself to the temperature of the water he heard a very large splash. Apparently the maiden was playing with someone. The old woman didn't mention another person residing at the cottage? A puzzled look appeared on Erik's face as he feared the maiden had a husband.

Before he had time to continue thinking along that line his eyes were blessed with a most wonderful sight. He had studied the folklore of the many cultures of the world and the Norse Gods and Goddesses interested him the most. The sight before him could only be described as Freya in the flesh. The angel that jumped out of the water had the breasts of a fertility goddess and the face of a heavenly angel. Her wet hair hung down her luscious back and her skin was a golden color.

Before Eric realized it, his codpiece became painfully tight as his erection pushed up against it. His tailor had mentioned many times that his codpieces required much more material than a normal man's. So as not to make the bushes he had been hiding behind rustle, Erik quietly removed his cod piece and his erection jutted out from his body in all its glory. Although he was a bit conceited, he was not sure if a lady would be impressed with his manhood, because he had never revealed it to the many women who came to his bedchamber. This was the first time he actually became hard at the sight of a woman. No woman before this goddess had excited him so.

As the young maiden swam to the shore where her clothing lay, Erik got the view of a lifetime. Not only were her breasts round and full with nipples just begging for his lips, she had a tiny waist with beautiful curvy hips. Her legs were long, tan and muscular, unlike the women of the palace. From what he had been subjected to, the palace maidens had very pale skin and were extremely soft and flabby. From Erik's vantage point he witnessed the angel's lady parts as she bent over to clothe herself. He wanted to be inside of her. He longed to touch her. He had never felt this way and he wanted to make it happen. Like a lecherous old man, he took hold of his painful erection and after a few strokes came hard. He had to stifle his cries of joy, because this time he did not imagine his dream maiden, she was a living, breathing angel.

After Erik watched the maiden walk away he slowly, quietly entered the pond and bathed himself. He figured that a good amount of time had passed since he encountered her, so he swam to shore and dressed himself to return to the cottage. He once again knocked at the door and still only saw the old woman.

"There you are young man! Susanna, come here my child, I want you to meet a hungry wanderer. What is your name sir?" Erik nodded to the old woman and from the rear door came his dream angel.

"A pleasure to meet you Susanna, my name is Erik." Hopefully she didn't recognize him either, because he wanted to continue being a commoner and get to know his dream maiden.

Susanna blushed at the sight of Erik. Even though her body was etched forever in his mind, her face was an angel's with blue eyes and full, pouty lips. All of a sudden the thought occurred to Erik that the women may have husbands about. "Where are your husbands?" Erik asked, hoping to get the answer he desired.

"My husband died ten years ago, along with Susanna's parents, when the black plague ravaged the village. We are alone out here and pray you do not take advantage of us with this knowledge." The old woman smiled as she spoke and a trust developed between the two.

Thank the Gods, no men. I will make it my lifelong duty to protect these women and make them mine. Erik's prayers were answered as he quietly glanced toward the heavens.

He bowed to Susanna and she in turn curtsied back. "Pleasure to meet you Erik, have you been wandering long?" Susanna asked with a soft musical voice and thankfully Erik's long tunic hid the evidence of his happiness at the sight of her. This damn codpiece will have to go. From now on when I visit this cottage I will go without….I believe freeballing would be what the commoners would call it. I think the comfort of going without will become my standard dress choice from this day forward, Erik thought as his erection seemed to have a life of its own around Susanna.

"To answer your question about my wandering, I have only been out and about just a few days. I wish to experience nature and the beauty of the forest. I was wondering Susanna, if you would join me later and show me your land. I am a stranger and wish to learn the names of the flora and fauna. Your hospitality and kindness has given me a reason to return for future visits, if your grandmother would allow it." Erik felt slightly nervous about his request. His lack of experience with women was showing and he did not wish to appear desperate.

Susanna smiled her angelic smile and answered, "Erik, it would be my pleasure to show you around and you may return to our home as many times as you wish.

As time passed for the couple, a very deep friendship grew:

Erik spent every free afternoon and evening with Susanna. He had become quite an expert at getting out of his duties and since his parents began to dread the approach of his twentieth birthday, his every whim was allowed. They never forced another woman on him or asked him to appear in court. His parents had warned him that he would be forced to take a bride soon, so Erik felt he needed to take a chance and confront Susanna. He had fallen deeply in love with her and couldn't imagine taking another as his bride.

During their daily walk, Erik decided he needed to speak up, "Susanna, since we have become friends I believe a good amount of time has passed, so I am asking if you would agree to allow me to court you. I also would like to ask your permission to touch you. You have enthralled me and I can no longer keep my hands to myself." Erik felt very bold in his request, but still felt he had to try before his time ran out. The image of a naked Susanna haunted him each night when he returned to his bedchamber and his sheets were soiled many times.

"I feel the same for you Erik, but I am so grateful you have allowed us to become friends first. So many men in the village look at me and I can feel that they wish to have their way with me. I am a virgin and only want to love one man. I am saving myself for the one I love. Have you had many women?" Susanna's pleading eyes begged for an answer and she was afraid she would not like what she heard.

"I too am saving myself for the one I love. Would it bother you if I told you a secret?" Erik asked.

"Not at all, it would bother me more to think you would keep your true thoughts or feelings from me." Susanna knew in her heart that she had fallen deeply in love with Erik and would give herself to him right there in the forest.

"It's more of a confession than a secret and I pray that I do not scare you with it. I must tell you because I may have to be away from you for awhile and I don't want to leave without telling you that I am hopelessly in love with you. I don't expect you to return that love yet, but hope that I will be able to earn it in the future." Erik's confession came from deep in his heart.

As he continued to confess his love, Susanna could not hold back the tears that had begun to form in her eyes and trickle down her cheeks. That was all she needed to hear as she ran into Erik's embrace and they were both completely lost in each other.

"Erik how do you do this to me? I feel like I need you more than breath. Since we are both new to this passion we seem to have for each other, I hope you will be able to teach me how to touch you. I need you to show me." Susanna's eyes were pleading as Erik could only concentrate on his lover's lips.

"Well I think we should first taste each other's lips. Then I have read of the many ways to please a woman, so you will be the recipient of that knowledge." Erik wiggled his eyebrows as Susanna blushed.

"Oh my goodness, Erik I am very much impressed that you read and I surely want to see what you have in store for me. I haven't told a soul about this, but I too can read. My grandmother was a lady of importance, but she needed to escape the wrath of an evil witch. She fled the kingdom of Southwood and found happiness and solitude here in our cottage which my grandfather built with his own hands. She not only taught me how to act like a lady and how to read, she told me that some day a handsome gentleman would win my heart. You are that gentlemen Erik. We are very well suited my love!" My angel was not just an ignorant country maiden; she was the granddaughter of a lady! We are indeed very well suited. I still cannot let her know about my position. Erik couldn't help but worry about the way Susanna would perceive his status. He wanted her to accept him as a man and she undoubtedly had.

They continued to passionately kiss as Erik's lips slowly lowered down to the breasts he had wanted to taste from the first day he saw his beauty in the pond. He slowly lowered her thin dress and found she too had no chemise on. Her breasts were so round and full and her pebbled nipples were begging for him to give them the attention they required. He licked and swirled his tongue on her right breast and Susanna lost control of herself.

"Erik, this feeling is very pleasurable. I feel something deep in my soul and my need for you is getting very strong." Susanna whispered as she began to pant.

He stopped his ministrations for a second so as to find a comfortable place to lie his beauty down. His manhood was aching, his mind was racing and he needed her now. He just prayed he could last long enough to bring his lover pleasure. He had read that there was such a thing as a maidenhead that a virgin possessed. It was probably God's way of proving a man had truly married a woman of virtue, so he needed to confront that matter first. He very much wanted this maiden to be his and his alone, and if another man had touched her, his heart would be broken.

He laid his beauty down in a soft grassy area and as Erik looked down upon her, her eyes were so full of lust and passion he was sure he was going to explode. She pulled her dress over her head and lay there pressing her glorious thighs together trying to find the friction she seemed to need. He could no longer watch her as her fingers roamed her lady parts seeking release.

"No Lover, let me do that. I will show you a much more pleasurable release before I enter you. We are meant to be together and I want to please you." Erik whispered sweet words to Susanna as he stripped down to his nakedness. Susanna gasped at the size of him and her tiny hand could not stop from fondling his manhood as he knelt down beside her. No one had ever touched Prince Erik in this manner, except for himself. His Susanna pleased him immensely and his anticipation of their joining excited him.

"You are truly a beautiful man Erik. I feel unworthy of your love. Now I need you so badly….please make love to me." She begged.

Erik knelt down between Susanna's legs as he softly parted them so as to give him better access to her bounty. He removed her hand from her lady parts and bent down and began to taste her. As he did this he placed a very long finger to her vulva and caressed her fleshy folds before entering her. Since Erik was a very large man, his long fingers could only get so far before the barrier he desired was evident. She was so tight and soft and there it was….the proof she was his and his alone. Mine….Erik thought as he continued.

"This may hurt you Lover, but it is necessary for us to join properly." He whispered. He took two fingers and pushed hard. Susanna wiggled a little from the pain but soon pushed herself into his fingers and grabbed his head as he continued to lick and bite her clitoris. She soon came undone and her very first orgasm hit. Erik came at the sight of her ecstasy. He continued to wiggle his fingers inside of her through her waves of pleasure as he spilled his seed on the grass beside her.

Now he was going to feel her. Now he was going to make her his. He had dreamed of this day for the last five years. This angel had been the star of his dreams and now he was going to make them all come true. He pulled his fingers out and they were tainted with a bit of blood. Erik pleaded, "Look at me Lover." And Susanna opened her eyes and watched him lick his two fingers clean as he moaned at the taste of her. He decided that he would be tender the first time he entered her so he softly parted her legs a little further. With one strong arm holding him over her, he took his other hand and guided his once again engorged manhood and rubbed it up and down her entire vulva. She moaned and raised her hips up to meet him. "Erik…please I need you now." Her tiny sighs and moans were his undoing.

He slowly, carefully entered her and the feeling of her tight, wet vagina drove him mad. He looked her in the eyes as soon as he was completely buried inside of her and she whispered "Please."

Erik pulled out as Susanna whimpered when he withdrew and sighed blissfully as he rammed back into her. She moved up to meet his every stroke and they soon found a rhythm as he glided in and out of her smooth, slick heat. She was so tight and wet for him that as he touched her clitoris, her eyes rolled back at her ensuing ecstasy.

To prevent bastard children, it was the duty of every single man to withdraw himself at the moment of climax, but Erik cared not to do so. If a child came from this joining, he would welcome it. He wanted to feel everything his lover had to offer as he swiftly glided deep inside her one last time and she sighed and moaned as he filled her completely. He felt the end of his cock swell and soon his powerful climax hit. The only way to explain how his manhood felt was that it blew with such a powerful force as his lady gripped him tightly with her velvety smooth vagina. The waves of pleasure were synchronized as Erik continued to pound harder into his lover. She screamed his name and they heard a flutter of birds in the distance. This was new to both of them. The total feeling of joy, ecstasy and contentment as they finally came down from their high.

"I love you," Erik whispered as he sucked hard on her right breast and made a huge bruise. Ownership was what he was after and now she was his. He had given her his seed and marked her breast with his mouth. She too marked him with her mouth as she bit his breast leaving a trickle of blood. "We belong to each other forever," Erik proclaimed, "and no one will ever come between us. You are to be my wife and I must hurry home to prepare the arrangements."

"Susanna Stackhouse, you are my treasure and I will hold you above all other women." Erik proclaimed his love to her as he helped her get dressed and returned her to her grandmother.

"Would you laugh if I told you I have a nickname?" Susanna asked shyly.

"Of course not, my Lover. I would enjoy calling you a special name. Please tell me what may I call you….besides Lover that is?" Erik actually became excited at the thought of a special name for his soon-to-be wife.

"Alright….it's Sookie. Now don't laugh because only those very close to me are allowed to call me that name." Sookie placed a hand over her mouth as she giggled with excitement.

"I love you, Sookie, "was all Erik could say as he bid his lover adieu and was on his way home.

Six weeks later:

Susanna was sad because over a month had passed since she had last seen her lover and she missed him desperately. She had also missed her time of the month and worried that she may be with child. Just as she was finishing her morning chores, a beautiful carriage pulled up to their cottage. The carriage bore the royal seal of King Johann Northman. Susanna and her grandmother both bowed to the messenger as he handed them an invitation.

~~~N~~~

A Royal Invitation

Miss Susanna Stackhouse is cordially invited

To attend the 20th Birthday Celebration Ball honoring the royal child

Prince Erik Johann Northman

After the birthday celebration, the Prince will choose a bride

From the maidens in attendance

This is a great opportunity for the maidens of Northwood, therefore it is pertinent that every, unmarried maiden be in attendance.

All maidens are allowed to bring a responsible Guardian in anticipation of the Prince's choice.

Please join us:

Saturday the 15th of September

The Year of Our Lord 1592

~~~N~~~

Susanna and her grandmother were shocked by the invitation. "Gran, we have nothing to wear. I don't want to be chosen by the Prince because I love Erik." Susanna got a far away look in her eyes and professed, "I have never seen the palace and a ball would be so exciting. Perhaps I could dance with the Prince and then my Erik would most certainly be jealous." Then Susanna began to cry as she thought about how much she missed her lover. Even though she would prefer to be with Erik, the child she was carrying would be a constant reminder of the love they shared. She would pray for his return and wait for him forever.

Just as Susanna finished her statement, another carriage arrived and two very proper women were escorted out with two footmen carrying bolts of material and books.

"Miss Susanna Stackhouse, we are to create ball gowns for you and your grandmother. We are instructed to not worry about the cost and you may pick whatever you like in accessories." The two women appeared to be dressmakers and they hurried Gran and Susanna into the cottage to begin their work.

Since the ball was only four days away, Susanna could not understand how the dressmakers could finish two ball gowns in such a short time. The dressmakers assured them it would be done, because it was the Prince's orders. Once again this statement confused both Susanna and her Gran. Why would the Prince order such a task? Perhaps every maiden in Northwood was given this gift and Susanna smiled at the thought of such a benevolent Prince.

The day of the ball finally arrived and Susanna was feeling quite ill. She knew it was the child inside of her that was giving her so much trouble and prayed she would feel better by the middle of the day. Perhaps this had all been a dream and there would be no ball gowns and no ball. By midday three carriages arrived. The two dressmakers had completed the ball gowns and now with an entourage of six women they commenced to do the two ladies' hair and make-up and lastly put on their most regal ball gowns.

When the transformations were complete the entourage departed and an elegant white carriage arrived with a driver and two footmen. There were glass windows all around and two beautiful white stallions in front. Susanna and her Gran were escorted into the carriage and they were off to the Northwood Palace.

The Ball:

Hallow Stonebrook arrived in a very plain black carriage that had been in her family for years. She seduced two young neighbor boys to act as driver and footman. Her dress was pretty enough and she hadn't aged a day since she gave the Northmans what they so desperately wanted. She knew she would not be the prettiest maiden there, but she was confident Erik would pick her and the royal couple assured her he had not met a virgin or been out of the palace walls. That was all she needed to hear. She was prepared to not only have a rich and handsome prince make love to her; she was going to get her kingdom. The King and Queen were going to die no matter what happened tonight, because they stood in her way of becoming the Queen of Northwood! She felt that she kept her side of the bargain by giving the royal couple a child. They were no longer needed in the larger scheme of things. She would allow the Prince to have his birthday celebration and the ruse of choosing a bride, and then she would clear the unwanted maidens out of the palace and take what is hers.

The carriages began arriving and Erik became very nervous. What if Susanna hates me for lying to her? What if the lies drive her away and she leaves the ball never to return again? He knew he couldn't live without her, so he was prepared to leave with her and allow his uncle to inherit the throne when he abdicated his right to the crown. He would find a way to make her forgive him and they would be together forever.

The King and Queen were asked by Hallow to put a mask on Erik. She claimed he was too beautiful for all the maidens to see and she did not want them to swoon when they danced with him. Since they feared her wrath, they complied with her wishes.

Erik was indeed beautiful. He stood 6'4" with long, golden blond hair that hung to his shoulders. His training as a warrior provided him with a most glorious, muscular body and his face could only be compared to that of Adonis. If the Prince would have been allowed to travel the world, he would have met a virgin and then her spell would not hold. Her future would have been destroyed along with the dreams of becoming the Queen of Northwood. Since that didn't happen, Hallow was very grateful that her demands were met. She would definitely enjoy their lovemaking tonight after he chose her.

Erik sat beside his parents and presided over the Ball. His birthday was announced and an elaborate cake with twenty candles was brought in on a rolling table that looked like the carriage that brought Susanna and her Gran. After birthday wishes were conveyed Erik was allowed fifteen minutes with each maiden to dance and ask them a little bit about themselves. Hallow was the first to dance with him and he could feel her evil powers. Erik became very uncomfortable with her and found her to be quite ugly despite her outward beauty. He intentionally saved Susanna for last and when he approached her, she had a sad look on her face.

"You are the most beautiful maiden in attendance this night my lady. Why are you so sad? If I chose you for my bride tonight would you say yes?" Erik didn't know what he expected her to say, but her answer definitely warmed his heart.

"I beg your forgiveness your highness, but your stature reminds me of the one I love. I have not been with him in over a month and I worry for his safety. Please don't get me wrong, I am honored by your compliments and that you have invited my Gran and me to this ball. We are both in awe of the beauty of the palace and this evening will provide beautiful memories for the rest of our lives. As to if I would accept your hand in marriage, I must decline. I am deeply in love with another, and even if he is not as rich and powerful as you, he and I will be married when he returns to me." Susanna felt so at ease with the Prince and saw that he was not upset at her refusal to marry him. They danced the rest of the evening and Hallow became jealous.

After the music stopped and the entire ballroom was quieted, it came time for the Prince to make his choice. The level of excitement in the room had risen as each maiden hoped she would be the new Princess of Northwood. Not only would it be an honor to be chosen, the Prince's beauty was known throughout the land and he alone would be a prize.

The declaration was made and Erik rose from his throne and walked around the room toying with the maidens. Susanna paid him no mind because she had specifically told him that she loved another and she trusted he would not pick her. Hallow was not in the least bit worried, because if she was not picked, all that the Prince loved would perish and she would take him by force. She would have her way with him and then lock him up while she ruled the Kingdom.

Susanna still looked down as Erik was within two maidens of her. As he finally approached her he stopped and stood directly in front of her. She looked up as him and crossed her brows in a questioning manner.

"Prince…." Susanna whispered. "I love another and I can't betray him. You don't want me, because I am with child and he will return soon. So….shoo….go find yourself another wife…..I will belong to him forever." Certainly that was sufficient enough for him to leave her alone? Susanna thought to herself.

Instead of passing by Susanna to the next maiden, Erik ripped the mask from his face and picked Susanna up and twirled her around. His joyful expression was so evident to the other maidens they were certain this lady was to be his choice.

"Mother, Father I want you to meet the love of my life….Susanna Stackhouse." Erik proclaimed.

Susanna closed her eyes as the Prince twirled her around and could not understand how he didn't understand that….no means no….where were his brains? She opened her eyes to chastise the Prince when she was pleasantly surprised by a very welcome sight. It was Erik…..her Erik.

"Erik…." Susanna whispered. "The prince will punish you for impersonating him now put me down and let us talk. I meant what I said about the child and my love for you, so we need to leave now before the real Prince catches you."

"I am so sorry I have not been entirely truthful with you, Lover. I am the Prince and it has been my intention all along to marry you and make you my Princess." With that Susanna fainted dead away.

Hallow became enraged. This was not supposed to happen. Erik was supposed to choose her and now everyone must die. The pathetic maiden who fainted will be the first to go. Hallow thought to herself as her anger got the best of her. She could no longer maintain the image of a beautiful maiden. She had saved her strength hoping it would last until the end of the ball, but now her anger grew.

Hallow began to make a startling transformation as she aged considerably and took on the features of a hag. She pointed her ragged finger at the king and queen and screamed. "You are all dead, starting with the pathetic maiden your precious son chose over me! He is mine and I will kill him before I will allow him to marry anyone other than me!"

Johann and Frieda cowered on their thrones and Erik rose from the floor beside his lover to defend his parents. "What is the meaning of this, hag? You will not harm my parents and this woman will indeed be my wife. Make no mistake, this woman is mine and mine alone. We were meant to be together and our virgin love has created a child. We will be married tonight!" Erik's parents began to cry. They were all doomed and now an innocent maiden and Erik's child would surely perish too.

Susanna woke up just in time to hear what the hag had to say. Reality hit her as the evil witch's words sunk in. She will never harm my love. I will die first! Susanna thought as the evil witch lifted her finger to twirl it around creating a tremendous amount of magic in the room. A great wind began to swirl around the ballroom as the furniture began to slam into the walls and the maidens were forced to lie on the floor to seek refuge from the powerful force around them.

Susanna rose from the ground and leapt in front of Erik, just as the magic was about to enter his body and presumably kill him. In that instant, the magic subsided and stopped altogether.

"No, no this cannot be happening!" Hallow screamed as she realized her demands had not been met. The spell had been broken and all of her magic was gone. She had relied on becoming Queen of Northwood and ruling the Kingdom the way she saw fit. Prince Erik would have been her sex slave and her magic would have surpassed that of the Queen of all witches. Now she pathetically began to age and as she eventually turned to dust, all her evil magic died along with her.

Erik twirled his love around and began to hug and kiss her. "I love you so much." he proclaimed in front of the maidens in attendance and they all bowed to the couple.

"Mother, Father I do believe you both have a lot of explaining to do!"

Because the wedding had a dual purpose the royal wedding was the event of the century. Erik and Susanna would be crowned King and Queen of Northwood directly following their wedding, so Erik wanted the entire kingdom of Northwood in attendance. Erik and Susanna felt that the cottage in the forest was the most romantic place for their wedding and so it was proclaimed.

As the years went by, Erik and Susanna changed the way monarchs were perceived. They were never detached from the people of the surrounding villages. They both worked hard to provide suitable dwellings for each citizen and no one would ever want for food. Water was plentiful and instead of small villages surrounding the palace, an entire marketplace was constructed for the villagers to sell their produce and wares. Erik and Susanna's constituents loved them because of their charity and extreme kindness. Their Kingdom became a model for other struggling Kingdoms and King Erik Johann Northman along with his Queen, Susanna "Sookie" Northman, went down in history as the best loved and most respected monarchs that ever lived.

Erik and Susanna produced four remarkable and beautiful children who were allowed to travel the world and experience life to its fullest. After twenty years of reigning over their kingdom, Erik and Susanna retired. Their eldest son Marcus became King and Erik and Susanna returned to their cottage in the forest and lived….

~~~Happily Ever After~~~