Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. I am in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise, I just use their creations to have my wicked way with them. No copyright infringement is intended.

Beta'ed by Jadsmama.

~ One ~

"The Lady Isabella is starting to become a threat to us."James stretched, his body worn and sated after its most recent tryst as he sat by the fire, his voice even and calm as if contemplating murder was nothing out of the ordinary. "Something has to be done about her and soon too for people are already whispering her name around the marketplace."

The words spoken by her companion left little to the imagination, not that Victoria needed any imagination to know the truths her lover just spoke. Still, as much as she wanted the Lady Isabella dead, she also knew that this matter was as precarious as they come; one that had to be dealt with quickly, cleanly and in a way that would not trace back to her. After all, the strength of her position depended on it.

"Since when do you listen to the idle gossip of townsmen?" She sneered sarcastically, trying to make light of the situation. It was not that she didn't trust James' insights, after all, they had proven most useful in the past, it was just that she didn't want to follow orders from a man who was miles beneath her in rank and station. She stretched, deliberately letting her robe fall open to reveal her pale, porcelain skin as she shifted on the bed, creating an alluring distraction of naked skin and rippled velvet for her lover as he lingered near the hearth. "What do we care about the mob?"

"Only a fool would dismiss the mob as unimportant." James muttered, wondering how a woman so grand in many aspects, could be so dense where it came to her own position and what had to be done to keep it. "Individually they may be as insignificant as they are ignorant but banded together…."

He didn't need to finish the sentence, his queen catching on quickly as her lips pursed into a dissatisfied sneer. She'd always hated being in the wrong.

To Victoria, the mob had never been something she wasted her time or thoughts on. She liked to rule them, that much was true, and most of all she liked the money and the position of power they had brought to her. But as for the rest, she figured that as long as she had the support of her vassals and enough soldiers to enforce her iron rule across the lands, she had nothing to worry about.

James, however, ventured out among the people of Forks much more than his sovereign lady and by doing so he had come to realize just how much trouble Victoria's relentless policies were slowly starting to get her into.

She was unloved by virtually everyone who wasn't directly tributary to her; the constant tax raisings and her fervent endorsement of corporal punishment to scare the people into obedience swiftly eradicating all goodwill her late husband's capable rule had carefully built.

James had watched it happen and had even quite enthusiastically contributed to it all, for up until a few months ago he had never seen any cause for worry. Yes, the people were unhappy with their ruler but what was new? As far as James knew it had always been like that and probably would be until the Day of Reckoning. No, it wasn't until, right after the Lady Isabella had turned sixteen that James had cause to be concerned.

It had been a random day at the market, one like all other tedious days he'd spent trying to keep abreast of what the people were saying, that he'd overhear two serfs discussing the potential of that little brat as an alternative to Queen Victoria's rule. The fact that, not only did their words gain much approval from those within hearing distance of their conversation but that they were audacious enough to utter them out loud in a place as public as the town market, cause a chill to settle in his bones. He knew then that something had to be done to nip this spark of public unrest in the bud before the flames would grow out of control, if they hadn't already.

"So the Lady Isabella's days are numbered." It seemed like Victoria's mind had wandered along a similar avenue, her lips pulling into a malicious smile as she contemplated the definitive removal of the girl who had long been a throne in her side. Without that little pest loitering around, her mere existence a never-ending cause for alarm, she would finally be free. No one would ever dare to challenge her once Charles' annoying little offspring would be cold in her grave.

"I'll take care of it." James smiled, his chest puffing out with pride as he started to imagine all the possible ways he could get rid of the little female nuisance that threatened his position of power. "It would be my pleasure to rid you of that little pest."

"No," Victoria spoke, her voice decisive enough to surprise her lover. "It cannot be you. The risk of detection is too great. It has to be another." She rubbed her chin, the movement causing her robe to fall even further away, revealing the dark pink of her nipples as the puckered to the chill in the September air. "Someone we can trust."

James was temporarily distracted, his eyes glued to the place his lips had just a moment ago worshipped with an ardent desire, until his queens sharp voice pulled him out of the lustful haze his mind had gotten lost in. "Attention," she barked, withdrawing her body from sigh as she pulled her robe to cover her body once again. "We cannot tarry, James. Something has to be done and it has to be done now, before that little parasite ruins us both. I cannot and will not risk my crown because of your lechery."

"Don't fret milady," James spoke, dipping into a low curtsey to hide his malevolent smirk from her sight. It was at times like those that he hated the woman almost as much as he lusted after her, his professional pride deeply wounded by her mistrust and arrogance. "My lechery has never affected my work and I endeavor to keep it that way."

Victoria had to admit he was right. For all their secret assignations, her lover had never lost sight of what mattered most: her supreme rule over Forks. However, as much as she knew she'd bruised his professional pride by hinting that their affair had clouded his judgment, she wasn't about to apologize. After all, a queen answered to God alone, not to a lowly knight.

With that thought in mind she pulled up her chin, assuming that haughty look that her people had come to know her for as she spoke, "Then pray tell me: do you know of anyone within our guard trustworthy enough to complete the task?"

"Oh, I know just the man." James' smug grin was back in place as a plan started to take shape in his head. It would be almost as good as his original plan but with the added bonus that execution of it wouldn't lead back to neither himself or Victoria.

As self-assured as James seemed to be, Victoria was a little more hesitant to put her faith in the unknown. "Can he be trusted?"

"He's as loyal a man as I ever came across," James nodded. "A true knight; one nobody would suspect of foul play should the Lady Isabella come to harm under his noble, ever watchful eye."

"I didn't know those still existed!" Victoria snickered, her long, slender fingers playing with the fur trim of her robe. "I figured they were just a silly fantasy young maidens dream up while they bed their old, lackluster husbands."

"Did you?" James knew that he was threading dangerous waters with his question but he couldn't stop himself.

Victoria arched her brow at her companion's audacity to question her like that, her thoughts briefly flittering to the aging king who'd long ago shared the bed she was now lying upon. "I had a better plan, as you very well know."

"So I do, my queen," James snickered, his mind filled with the violent end King Charles, the man he'd once sworn his allegiance to, had met at James' very hands. "Either way, trust isn't the issue here. We need a man who can fulfill his duty for queen and country and make it back to the castle baring some sort of evidence to the fact that he rid us of that bothersome little bitch. Afterwards….." James let his voice trail of as he shrugged, his hand almost automatically gliding over the hilt of the dagger that never left his side, not even in his queen's bed. "…accidents can happen."

"Good." Victoria leaned back, her head relaxing against the soft pillows of the bed as she smiled; a weight lifted from her shoulders. "Now do you have time for round two or-"

"Better not, milady," James interrupted her. "There are duties that need to be discharged of before tonight's banquet or things will go awry."

"We cannot have that," Victoria pouted, waving him off with a flighty gesture of her hands. "I will see you tomorrow, after it's done."

James bowed low, the look of mischief in his eyes filling Victoria with desire as he walked out of the room. If she had known her lover's thoughts were already elsewhere, she might not have looked forward to the time when they could steal a few more moments together as eagerly as she did when she called out for her maid.

To James, the servicing of his queen had become a tiresome duty of late, though not one he ever contemplated rejecting. No, as bothersome as bedding his queen sometimes was, he knew full well that she, and she alone, was the cause of his rise to fame. Having been born a lowly knight, his father a mere gentleman farmer, he had always known that if he were to advance in society, a scrupulous mind would be the last thing he needed.

And so far, his lack of morals had done him good. He might have done some things along the way that he wasn't exactly proud of, but if at the end of the day he could still call himself the captain of the armies of Forks and first knight in the queen's service, it would be worth the eternal damnation that awaited him when he changed this life for the next one. According to the church that was.

Stepping out into the courtyard he took a deep breath, his eyes briefly shooting to the lean tower at the other end of the yard, a small window at the top showing the flickering brightness of the hearth burning inside. He smiled evilly, his sword hand twitching by his side. For years now the lady who lived within that tower had been a thorn in his side, her innocent face not betraying the enormous threat she posed to the life he'd made for himself. It was a relief to know that at that time tomorrow, he would finally be rid of her.

Her name was Isabella, princess Isabella, the only child of the late king and his first and much beloved wife. She had always been a favorite of the people, even though it had been years since Victoria had allowed the little bitch to wander free within the castle or show herself to the people on festive occasions, her fine, noble features reminding them of their dear, departed queen and the wave of agony that had rolled over the land of Forks when people had heard of her passing. So beloved had been the queen Renee that many people spoke evil of the haste with which their king sought another bride after his first lady had died in childbirth.

But, of course, the king, though deeply bereft, didn't have time to waste. Already at an advanced age, he'd felt the need for a male air growing more acute with every day he breathed; his need bringing him to the neighboring kingdom of Volterra where the reigning king was all too happy to depart with one of his daughters if it meant elevating her to an even more venerated position. If only Charles had known that in a matter of years his new bride would condemn him to an untimely death and rob his daughter and sole heir of her inheritance, he might not have looked forward to his wedding day with as bright an outlook as he had that fateful day. But, as always, the course of history cannot be predicted.

Fifteen years later the king had long been dead, his people almost forgetting the kind, fair ruler he was as they toiled under the tyranny of his widow. For with no mature heir to take over, Victoria had easily snatched the crown, posing as regent for the child Isabella and slowly and methodically drawing her away from sight in the hope people would forget there had ever been a more just claimant to the throne. Until now….

"Cullen, a word," James barked, the thought of the young girl locked inside the tower bringing to mind his latest assignment.

A young man rose from the group gathered around the water pump cleaning their armor, his face curious but his eyes reverently downcast as he joined his captain. His name was Edward Masen of Cullen, the second son of a wealthy but insignificant nobleman who bore the name of the small estate his family had ruled for as long as anyone could remember. Around the castle he was simply known as 'Cullen'; one of many knights quite like him who had entered the queen's service in search of a steady income and a promise of advancement. He was the man who would come to bear the burden of safeguarding his queen's reign.

In a way Edward reminded him of himself when he was younger, though their outlook on life differed like night from day. They had both been modestly born but stood out because of their bravery and their fighting skills, making them rise up through the ranks with a speed that made them both awed and envied amongst their comrades.

Yes, James thought, Edward Cullen was going places. If not for his skills then for the way Victoria's eyes seemed to be drawn more and more to the new knight's handsome features.

All the better! he snickered, waiting for the young man to reach him. As long as it didn't endanger his own position, James was all for sharing the 'honor' of being his sovereign's bedfellow. For as alluring as Victoria's body might have been, the blatant disrespect she showed him whenever he dared to gain the upper hand cast an ugly light on her.

In spite of the great name he had made for himself, Cullen was still a relatively new face around the castle, having joined the queen's service only a few years ago. But in spite of his newness he had already made name for himself through his strong sword skills, knightly behavior and complete dedication to the job and his sovereign, completing many tasks others would have balked at.

It were those very traits that made him so perfect for the task; his skill and dedication making it so that James was sure he would complete the job swiftly, cleanly and meticulously while his great reputation for knighthood would give no one cause to suspect anything untoward.

As James walked away, having briefed his subordinate extensively on the task he'd been given, he was already congratulating himself on a job well done. As peeved as he still was about not being able to fulfill the task himself, he knew that in young Cullen he'd found the man most capable of doing so instead.

Little did James know that he was completely and utterly mistaken.


Since this story is already completely written, you will get a new chapter every day until it is complete.