The Heroine wasn't being much of a Princess at the moment. She sat in the most squalid and sorry fort imaginable in the middle of a swampy nowhere having at a leg of meat ravenously almost akin to the German Shepherd at her feet. There was a reason to her altogether inappropriate lack of manners despite her noble upbringing in Bowerstone Castle. She was hungry, an altogether animal instinct that was understandable considering the fighting they'd done last night with Hollow Men. Her fighting skills and contributions in battle had been the equal of any of the men in service at Fort Mourningwood and now she was certainly eating a man's share of the food.
It was a particular change of behavior; especially for her since her appetite was so minute as if to make her extremely slim. Even that was changing about her, her slim figure giving away bit by bit to the bulk of pregnancy. She was several months along now and soon enough she knew she'd not be able to hide it, this journey of hers – the Road to Rule would have to be put on hold that she might bear her child, an heir for Albion.
The Albion I am fighting to create…
The thought of the child gave her both a sense of empowering inspiration mingled with the tender ache of sorrow. She had to succeed if not for her life or the well being of her people, she had to for this very child. There was no doubts in her mind that if Logan found out she stood up in open rebellion against him that her life would be in danger, the same danger would be handed down to any child she bore through mere association. Her mind didn't foster any doubt about that. The very fact that her Brother had forced her to choose, forced her to be the one responsible for Elliot's death, for the reason her child would be born fatherless. If her Brother could be so heartless as to be responsible for the death of her dearest friend with no regard for what it did to her then he'd not have much more compassionate to spare his own blood. The tragedy with Elliot had taught her to place no faith in her brother; she didn't trust that their blood relation would spare her where it had slain so many others.
The problem lay within the fact she'd not be able to lead a rebellion while enceinte, the pregnancy would demand the revolution wait for her good and that of the child. It was a sacrifice that the people could ill afford but after losing Elliot, she'd not lose their child, losing a piece of him would be like losing him all over again. In this she felt she had to right to be selfish, she'd given up her nearest and dearest. Likely the only one who'd have loved her unconditionally not because she was the daughter of a Hero, the Princess, or a Heroine herself but just because she was herself. In having decided on a what path to take in regards to her dilemma she knew she'd have to tell Walter and Jasper and in turn she'd have to steel herself for what protests and lectures would like surface as a result of such a declaration.
However, first they needed to get out of here, an easy enough task as Walter declared they'd be setting out from Mourningwood come early morning and be making beachhead in Bowerstone Industrial by nightfall. Not the most ideal circumstance to entrust such news to them as they snuck into the heart of her Brother's controlled territories but it would at least be a place where she could find a way or place to retire. Bowerstone had many crossroads where she could sneak out and find somewhere quiet to settle until the baby was born.
When she was finished with her meal she went over to the water basin, using the damp cloth to scrub her dish clean. Across the way she saw Walter and Major Swift talking, the knight caught her eye and then made a gesture that affirmed they were about ready to go. She finished cleaning her dish and laid it amongst the other sorry pieces of dishware still intact. As she went to grab her blade and rifle she noticed some soldiers had been put on burial detail. Two of which were burying Private Jammy, the mortar loader from the previous night. The soldier had been a nice enough sort and frankly she was sad to see he'd made it through so much so long only to succumb and die last night. Truthfully she hadn't totally believed his claim of 'seven hundred twenty four wounds an' still standin' but she had NOT been rude enough to dispute it by way of calling him a liar. He hadn't been any close friend but he'd been a helpful comrade in the very short time she knew him. She grabbed her pack and slung it over her shoulder, the soldiers had finished stuffing him securely in his grave just before she got there to pay her respects. Then Walter joined her, "You ready? We should set out while its high daylight…"
"Yeah…," she said, a bit subdued, "I'm ready," she tightened her grip on her possessions as she squarely shoulder the burden and followed, always ten paces or so behind Walter.
"I know he was likely the first comrade-at-arms you've lost but you have to get used to that sort of thing if you are going to lead a rebellion, a leader has to be ready to make sacrifices for a greater good. You need better gumption than this if you are so shaken by the death of one…"
If only the loss of Private Jammy was her problem. She a bit nervously touched the Guild Seal, it warmed to her touch and she knew that the metal would convey whatever was said to Walter AND Jasper at the Sanctuary. It was now or NEVER, "Walter…I am expecting."
"Expecting what?" the old Knight said, instantly misunderstanding her meaning not that she'd been all that clear to begin with.
"Expecting a child…I'm pregnant," the fatalistic, matter-of-fact statement left the old Knight speechless like no other things had and her voice was too serious to dismiss it as a joke, there was certainty, surety to her tone of voice. The Guild Seal was still flared warm in her palm but the only thing it emanated was a silence mirroring that of Sir Walter Beck. She'd surprised them both because neither of them knew or had known just how far her relationship with Elliot had gone and now they did.
The announcement painted a crystal clear picture that they had been…," You where intimate? With him? No, it must be wrong, you can't be."
"It does not show yet but I feel its growth by instinct and in time, it will show for all to see. A baby will not wait for a revolution; it will continue to come regardless in spite of the turmoil blooming about the circumstance of its birth."
"What in bloody hell came over you that you SLEPT with him?"
"Unmarried!" Jasper added at the end, "Madam, you're child is fatherless and your virtue, if you ever acknowledge the child it will be a bastard and your virtue will be in RUINS!"
Jasper sounded about ready to pull out his hair and Walter sounded more than mildly disappointed and upset, it was the first time she'd heard him speak like that to her. Walter had, like her Mother, always expressed hopeful pride in her and her abilities. It was clear both of them had underestimated her, even with Jasper and Walter protecting her from the mire of the royal court and its suitors they'd failed to protect her from the spy who wormed his way into her heart and eventually her bed as well.
The Princess loved Elliot and nothing would ever make her 'regret' it but if anything made her feel remorse for her affair with Elliot it was for betraying the trust of them both. After the death of her Father and the distance that grew between her and Logan they'd been her closest friends, her only family. Jasper especially felt guilty for he was the primary custodian of her affairs from her waking at dawn to settling against her pillow at night, if anyone would have caught the affair and put a stop to it (and its possible consequences) it would have been Jasper. She tried to put as much consolation into her voice as possible and her fingers gently smoothed over the Guild Seal, "It was my decision, my choice, and you bear no responsibility despite your duty and what it entails."
Her words, though true, did nothing to lessen Jasper's sense of self-loathing and guilt and clearly he worried about the position this would leave her in. She'd never attract an honorable match with a bastard at her heels as heir. Such rumors might even place complication upon her claim to the throne during the revolution or a shade of misfortune upon her very reign one day. It was sad and unfair truth that it was more accepted for a man to have child out of wedlock than a woman.
Walter swore openly, something he usually tried to keep to himself in front of her, "Do you realize this will set the whole revolution on hold until you pop out that kid?"
She frowned at how he referred the whole affair but she knew he had a point, "Yes, I had already reasoned that out myself."
"And I suppose you've already rationalized WHERE you'd like to settle."
"So you give though to the decisions after the fact but not before? What in the hell where you thinking carrying on an affair unmarried and unpromised?!"
"If you must be angry be angry with me," she finally snapped, saying crossly, "Elliot is dead and that child didn't ask to be here! He or she is here because of what Elliot and I did. Perhaps in light of the RECENT circumstances it was a stupid thing to do but remember a few short months ago I didn't see myself leading a rebellion against my brother for the Throne of Albion. I loved my Brother and I was in love! I knew I'd never be able to marry a commoner like Elliot. My Mother would have consented but Logan? Never, he always saw better for me, he would have seen me in a marriage of convenience to the benefit of his reign. You know and I know it! I took my fate into my own hands; I wanted to force my Brother's hand through scandal if not anything else so that I could have the love match I desired. Then the peasant uprising happened! And I lost Elliot, this child is ALL I have and I don't think it's too much to ask that I be able to keep it!"
It was something about her defense of herself and her actions that seemed to break Walter, to make him soften, as if he just realized the price of being a Princess and what price she'd paid that fateful day, when without hesitation, she'd spared three peasants who meant nothing to her personally for the one person that had come to mean everything to her. It had been an unselfish decision, the decision of a Princess that had prevailed that day, to save her people at the expense of her one true love. The truth was she wasn't just a Princess or a Heroine, she was a young lady, she had been in young lady in love for the first time and the price paid had cost her much, it had a cut a deep wound in her innocent heart that still bled out to this very day. It was time to staunch the bleeding and allow for her to heal, they owed it to her and a broken leader was not the kind of leader they needed. They needed her ready and whole for this foolishness to succeed; Walter nodded, finally seeming to understand, "We'll make it happen BUT you will be wed before the child is born so take a nice long look at the men you come across because soon you will be marrying one of them. SOON!"
It was clear he'd put the revolution on hold but would not allow this child to be the ruin of her good name. It shocked her though, more than she wanted to admit, "You would have me marry only to lie?"
"You may divorce him once the child is born but Jasper and I will be agreed on this, no room will be left for slights upon your good character or virtue. Court, wed, and bed another man within the week then we'll find a quiet place for you to retire and bear the child in peace away from the buffoon you flummox into a marital farce. After the child's paternity is acclaimed for all to hear and none to doubt you may divorce him over a small settlement of your fortune."
This time it was Walter's voice that left no room for argument. Jasper seem to sense her reluctance to cooperate with Walter's 'condition' and finally chimed in, "Madam…listen to him, however repugnant it may seem, he speaks sense and as always has your best interests at heart. Courting another maybe enjoyable and perhaps your heart will find another alternative way to heal…"
The Princess doubted it but she kept her doubts to herself, allowing the Seal to fall into a dead silence as she and Walter carried on through a forest as flat and dead as she felt at the prospect of entering another relationship this time built upon sheer deceit.