This story has been around for a while, as I've worked on it while others were causing writer's block. Now I have 13 chapters done so I thought I would post. They will go up every weekend, but this should not affect the other stories as I'm hoping to finish up some of the others soon. Hope you like this, its a favorite of mine!

There will be lemons in this fic, as you might expect from me, but there will also be plenty of intrigue and more than a few executions as well as some images of war and violence. I promise not to be overly graphic, but some description will be necessary. A warning will precede any chapter that has such images.

SM owns, I'm just sitting in her sandbox.

Pretenders to the Throne

Chapter One

The sun had long since set over Meyer Castle, but there was a blanket of tension keeping all those who dwelled within the castle walls on edge. Their King was ill; this was well known throughout the kingdom of Dwyer, but where many believed the King would not live long beyond his daughter's coronation at the end of the fortnight, those closest to the crown knew better. The King would likely not see the next sunrise.

The Royal Family's physician had been alone in the King's chamber since nightfall, but he knew that he could no longer prolong what was to come next. Rising from the stool that had been his perch for most of the night, Duke Carlisle of Cullen emerged from the chamber to see his wife, Esme, waiting.

"How is he, my Lord?"

"Fetch the Princess, my medicine has failed him, only she can ease him as he passes to the next life."

The Duchess gasped, then remembered herself and quickly made her way to the Princess' chambers. Making it past the guards, she entered the room and went about waking Her Majesty.

After gently shaking Isabella's shoulder, the young woman stirred in her bed and looked around sleepily. "Lady Esme, why have you roused me? Alice is normally the first to enter my chambers."

"It is the King, your Highness, his time is short," Esme whispered.

Thoroughly awakened by the news, she slipped out of bed and into her robe, her slippers nearly forgotten in her haste. "Duke Carlisle could do no more for him?"

"He has been with your father all night, he asked that I fetch you now, for fear he will not see the sun."

The words being spoken by the woman, who was as close to a mother as Isabella had known, quickened her pace even more as the guards led her to the King's chambers. Once outside, she bid them all wait at the door as she entered alone.

The room was dark, a few candles lighting the room enough to prevent injury, the fire was no more than embers, as was her father.

"My Lord?" Isabella asked, willing the tremor out of her voice.

"My beauty has come to me." King Charles exhaled a heavy breath, his maladies making many things laborious. "There is so much of your mother in you, it is only fitting that you usher me from this world as she welcomes me to the next."

"Father, you mustn't speak of such things, they are not done," Isabella chastised him, much as her mother had done in her life.

"My daughter, I beseech you to listen to me. The Dukes are good men and will guide you on the right path. You must be shrewd in your company, for there are many who will seek to gain your favor in hopes of bringing about your undoing. A female is seen as weak, you must prove to them that Queen Isabella is not someone to be trifled with."

A tear escaped her eye as her father praised her for what would be the last time. "Thank you; I will heed your words, my father, my King."

"Goodbye, sweet child," King Charles whispered, and then was gone.

Spending a few more silent moments with her father, Isabella wiped her eyes and then exited the chamber to face her audience.

"The King has passed," she spoke, taking a moment before continuing. "Send out the messengers to the various counties so that the people may mourn the loss of our Lord and Master. Also, have someone make it known to the court, this week will be a time of mourning as we pay respect to the King."

"Your Highness, if I may," Duke Cullen began, but she raised a hand to silence him.

"Not yet, Carlisle, I'm not yet dressed as the Princess. While I'm so informally outfitted, let us not talk of what I know is on your mind."

He nodded and allowed her to pass, "I will meet you at ten o'clock in the royal offices."

"Carlisle-" Isabella went to stop him, but he held firm this time.

"Your Majesty, they are your offices now, I will not push other aspects of the transition, but we need a show of strength."

"Very well, good morrow."


A rider broke through the silence of the predawn as he returned from his long journey. The news he was given had been delivered and he must now return to his post. As they had been expecting the messenger, the Barons Volturi had waited for it at the pub near the border between Aro's land and that of their nephew's. It would be an early ride for them to meet him for breakfast, but there was much that needed to be done and little time to do it.

The carriages rode under the protection of their ever-present guard. Many of the more prominent nobles joked about the Barons and their self-importance, but a time had passed when a lack of vigilance had cost their ancestors the crown, so none made mention of the show to their face. They had long since shown that they knew their place and their borders with Pamlico and Albemarie were the least infiltrated in the Kingdom.

As they crossed into the land of the Viscount, they picked up their pace, only an hour more and they would be at his door.

The time passed and they were not surprised to learn that their former ward had already risen that morning. Walking across the field to the area that held the stables and beyond that the barn that housed his varied livestock, they knew it would be the end of their search.

The crunching of hay followed by the keening of a maid gave them pause, but only until they heard the guttural moan that signaled the completion of the master of the viscounty and then Caius made their presence known.

Kicking open the door to the barn, the young girl, the men recognized as a member of the house's kitchen staff, screamed as she tried to cover herself, but Edward simply laughed as he reached for his britches.

With a jerk of his chin, he dismissed the maid and turned a hard eye on his uncles. "What could be so important that you are beating the cock out of the hen house?"

"We waited until the cock had finished his pleasure, but the subject of our arrival is grave. It is time for the White's to reclaim what was stolen from us, but this time we will use cunning to earn it," Aro explained, a hard laugh from his nephew showed that he better continue with as much haste as possible.

"Quit with the jokes, breakfast will be delayed enough as it is due to our Lord's poor choice in companion," Marcus quipped.

"You found fault with the lass?" the Viscount asked.

"No, but you don't put it to one of your maids when it will interfere with her next task. It could have been done after breakfast, Edward."

Edward laughed heartily, "I was not expecting an audience with my dear uncles this early, now say what you've come to say."

"The King will be dead before the coronation, he may even be dead now. Someone who is still loyal to the old way has told me that there will be a Coronation Ball where many of the nobles will parade their sons before the newly crowned Queen so she may choose a husband and future King. You will be there and you will secure her hand, so we may right old wrongs and bring about the proper rule of this land."

Edward blanched, "What you speak is treason."

"No," Aro implored, "It is truth."

"How long?" Edward inquired as he ran his hand over his face and finished dressing.

Marcus was the one to reply, "The coronation is in twelve days. But we need to make haste, we've arranged to have some garments made for you and along with your other fineries, we will not need to dally. You must make an impression before the other outlying nobles can arrive. If she were interested in someone at the court presently, they would not be making such a deal out of this Ball. Can you be ready to ride by tomorrow?"

"If it is what is needed, then yes. Now let us break the fast and then I can see to the packing."

"Good, it is a three day ride; we will need to depart as soon as possible." Caius added as they walked toward the house.

Edward spent a good deal of his morning overseeing the packing and running of his house in his absence and then ventured out during the afternoon to speak to Felix, a brute of a man, who would be entrusted with seeing to the security of his viscounty while he was at court. It was the first time the Viscount had gone to court for an extended period of time since his youth, and he was looking forward to his return.

The night passed slowly as the Viscount took his leave of one of his milk maids … several times.

As dawn broke on the day, the noblemen ate heartily and then each entered their own carriage and prepared for a long ride in solitude. Edward took the time to peruse the small chest that held possible gifts for the new Queen, trying to decide which would be the best to present to her.

The ride was long and Edward had chosen to employ two men known to Aro for his personal servants once they arrived at the castle, they would know better than his own what would be best. Now he just hoped to survive the boredom of his journey to Meyer Castle.