I don't own these characters. They are the sole property of Stephenie Meyer. I only borrow them. No humans are permanently harmed through my actions, though I do confess to harassing, annoying, torturing, and exasperating them – just because it's fun. I make no money from my little stories, sad day. I only play in the sandbox, I didn't build it.
Author's Note: I've always been enamored of history and let's face it, the name Edward just screams REGAL! So, here's a little plot bunny that found its way into my head. It won't be long, between 10 and 20 chapters. It's just for fun and not intended to be taken seriously in any way. Mostly, I just like to imagine Edward wearing a cod piece. :p So consider this a guilty pleasure.
From the Cup of Duty
Chapter 1: An Alternative
"You need an heir," my mother stated quietly.
I looked to my chief advisor and the look on his face was just as stern and uncompromising as that on my mother's face. Usually the most gentle of women, when she set her mind to something even the strongest knight had been known to quail before her. My father had said she was the most dangerous weapon in his kingdom – a keen, intuitive mind hiding behind a pretty face.
Once more, I missed my father desperately.
I scowled and stared at the table, wishing with all of my heart that I could avoid this conversation for at least another three or four years. I had been crowned two years ago and my mother was becoming restless, as were my people. I knew that because Carlisle had informed me of that fact that very morning. His words has been as blunt as they were unwelcomed.
"Your people want to see you settled," he said quietly. "They want a royal wedding...they want an heir in the royal cradle."
That was all very well and good for them to wish; they weren't the ones who would be saddled with a whey-faced noblewoman who had no interests beyond embroidery and gossip for the rest of their lives. My mother and Carlisle had been parading an endless stream of such women in front of me for two years. Princesses from foreign lands, heiresses from duchies, it didn't seem to matter. They all simpered and giggled and talked about fashion. Some of them hadn't even known how to read. I accepted that women reading might be a modern notion, but I demanded that my wife at least be literate.
My mother must have sensed my growing resolve to find a way out of my dilemma because she sat down and took my hand in hers. "Edward," she said. "You've done so well in your two years on the Lion Throne. I've been so very, very proud of you. You've continued your father's legacy of protecting your people, encouraging trade and prosperity instead of involving them in endless, expensive wars. That is to your credit."
I met her eyes.
"However..." I should have known that there was a however coming. "You need an heir. Life is uncertain, and your people need to know that our line will continue to watch over them and protect them."
"I'm young yet," I protested. I was yet two years away from my thirtieth birthday. Surely I had at least a decade before I needed to-
"Even if your wife conceives right away, and you were married by the end of summer, it would be a year at least before your child is born," Mother said. "Your people want and need this, Edward. I know you won't fail them. You never have." I was well accustomed to them reminding me of my duties. I'd grown up being reminded of my duties on a daily basis. For the most part, I could understand. But the idea of being bound to a woman I dislike for the rest of my life...
I glanced at Carlisle and he was merely waiting for my surrender. We both knew it was inevitable. "I've met all the appropriate royal and noble ladies," I mumbled like a petulant child. "And none of them suited." I grunted and settled lower in my seat as if I could escape my mother's eagle eye. "Besides, we're a small country, and though we have a strong economy, it isn't as if I can look too high for my bride. And thus far, no one who is suitable has much appealed."
My mother shot an amused glance at Carlisle. "That is true."
"Sire," Carlisle said tentatively. "If I might suggest an alternative to the candidates we have entertained in the past?"
I motioned him to sit and he did so, pausing a moment as if to gather his thoughts. "Sire...your lady mother and I have been discussing the situation." My mother merely shrugged when I quirked a brow at her. "We think that perhaps we have been approaching the problem from the wrong direction." Mother nodded.
"Go on," I said. Anything to avoid one of the women that had been brought forward for my inspection.
"Sire, one of the difficulties facing your family is a lack of male issue," Carlisle pointed out with less than delicate circumspection.
I sighed. It was true. I had been an only son, an only child, as had my father before me and his father before him. We were not a prolific lot, we Masens. Legitimate children had been scarce, and bastards hardly more plentiful though there were a few. Even my mother, descended from a distant branch of the family, had no brothers or sisters still living. Each generation of the family seemed able to produce one child, perhaps two – and never more than one son in a generation. In a risky and dangerous world, that left our people in a precarious position and even I, who most longed to deny it, could not escape that fact. My people needed the reassurance that came from having an heir from the house of Masen, their house, their ruler.
"Edward," Mother said. "Have you ever noticed that some families seem to thrive, to produce a bounty of children that not only survive, but go on to create their own flourishing families as well?" She paused. "Such families seem to have many branches, whilst our own house seems to have only the trunk, with little growth to be seen."
I nodded, having no idea where the discussion was going.
"A specific family has come to mind," Carlisle said. "He's a minor noble, a baron on the border lands."
Mother smiled. "He rarely comes to court, and has not since you ascended the throne," she said. "So you've never met him. But his sons are legends in the joust, even the youngest, only fourteen, is a beast of a boy, requiring the largest of horses."
"I can hardly marry a lad of fourteen," I said with a poor attempt at humor. My mother sighed at my antics and suddenly I felt five years old again, called to task for misbehavior.
"This baron has three sons," Mother continued. "And a daughter."
It took a moment for me to comprehend what they were proposing. "Oh no, I won't marry some landless little nobody who is likely to resemble an Amazon warrior, Mother. And I most definitely will not be bred out like a stallion to a mare. I would do almost anything for my people, but not that. Please don't ask that of me."
"You have no idea what she will look like," Carlisle pointed out.
"I can only imagine," I muttered. "With three brothers who are reputed to be such warriors?" I shuddered. She would tower over me and pat me on my head while she talked about the latest court gossip. Imagining a lifetime tied to such a woman was painful and terrifying to say the least.
"Let me call the family to court," Carlisle advised. "You can at least meet the young lady. If you absolutely won't suit, then you won't suit. We will keep looking. But you must marry, Sire, and soon."
I got to my feet. I needed to escape the palace. I needed the fresh air in my face, the feel of a strong horse beneath me. "I'm going hunting," I said. "Do what you will."
Two months later, my mother was sitting in my chambers. We were playing cards but I was doing an abysmal job of paying attention. "The Swan family arrives tomorrow," she murmured.
"Yes, I remember," I answered. "How could I forget? Either you or our good Carlisle is constantly reminding me." My mother had the good grace to blush slightly.
"I think you will find the girl to your liking," she said.
"Girl?" I asked. "Exactly how old is she? I'm not taking a child to wife, and besides if I'm in need of an heir, it would do me no good to take a child. I've no taste for flesh too young to be called a woman."
"Rest easy son," Mother soothed. "She's fully sixteen years, soon to be seventeen."
"And no betrothal?" I asked with a snort. "You would have me take a girl no other man wants to wife?"
"There are many reasons for a girl to be unattached at sixteen," Mother pointed out.
"Such as?" I had my mother there, for most girls were betrothed by the time they were twelve and securely married before their fifteenth name day.
"Well, in young Isabella's case there was a betrothal," Mother admitted. "But he died three years ago and her father has yet to make another match for her."
I grunted and my mother gave me an admonishing look. "She'll need to use a war horse to get about the kingdom, so large and ungainly she'll be."
"You do not know that, Edward," Mother said with a sigh.
"You will see, Lady Mother," I promised. "Well, at least I shall be able to meet her under slightly less strained circumstances."
My mother had arranged for a masquerade ball to welcome the border barons' families. In order to disguise our intentions, several of the border barons had been invited, though I had sent men in their stead to guard their lands. It would have been foolish to leave my borders unguarded. Besides, I had hopes that the barons – and their daughters – would soon be sent home.
"Just promise me that you will give the girl a chance," Mother said softly. Her hand was on my arm and she smiled. "For the sake of your people, I would like to see you with an heir. For your sake, I would like to see you happy."
I sighed. "Very well, Mother. I shall try." It was the best I could do. Besides, my mother was right. I had to marry. I needed to get myself an heir. No matter how distasteful it might be, the time had come to marry and try to plant my seed in fertile ground.
It was my turn to drink deeply from the cup of duty, and I could only pray to the gods that the brew would not choke me.