AN: Hi all, Since I published Check Mate I have had a little itch to write another story. So after a while I gave in to the itch. This story will take a while to write I know that since I have only written one and a half chapters, but if you bare with me I hope I won't disappoint you all.
As you maybe able to tell by the title this is a sequel to Check Mate. I'm keeping up with the chess theme. Check Mate is the final move that makes the king surrender, which is what happened at the end of the previous story as Eric final gave in. Castling is another chess move where the King moves to a safer position on the board. It has to take him out of check, but for the purpose of this story its just that Eric will in the end feel safe in his relationship with Snow. Or at least I hope.
Please enjoy, I love you guys xxx
Snow was bored; this session of parliament was taking far too long.
When she had originally set up parliament three years ago; which had been two years after the struggle with the outlying territories it had seemed like a good idea. Snow had decided that she was not going to be a tyrant like her stepmother; she wanted the people to be involved in the decision making. She had just been too naive at the time to understand what difficulties would come from the idea. As the proverb said the path to hell is paved with the best intentions.
For this parliament she had each head of the re-established noble houses mixed in with all the outlying village elders and shamans all under one roof. The nobles had no idea about the economics of small villages and the elders did not understand the duties the nobles performed on a daily basis that usually had an impact on the reforms they wanted to make. The room was a powder keg and one small spark would ignite the situation and ruin all the effort she had put in over the five years that she had been on the throne. The peace and stability she had finally won after a hard struggle was fragile and she knew it, but for once she hoped that her battle had not been in vain.
"I can't ask my people to pay a tax that will not benefit them!" Saalik shouted slamming his fist on the mahogany bench, "Once again it would appear that the Duke wants money for which to go to war with!" He snapped again glaring at Duke Hammond across the room, if looks could inflict damage she was sure that the Duke would have been flayed by the sheer hatred that burned in Saalik's eyes. The Duke cleared his throat in response and puffed out his chest in a way that Snow had come to loath. He maybe her advisor, but sometimes his arrogance was unfounded; it was him after all who had spent his time watching the world burn while she had been locked away.
"We need a means of being able to defend ourselves from any threat; if the need should ever arise. If we wait it will only make it worse when the time comes and at that time it will be all too late. Then you will crawl to us on your knees as the outlanders will need protecting and you will have no army with which to fight!" When the Duke had finished they both looked towards her expectantly. It was the part she hated most about her position; even more so when both parties had very valid points.
Saalik was the village elder from the northern hills a people of strong will and strict morals. His people were farmers and pacifists to boot. He had made it clear to her that if war ever broke out he and his people would not be involved in battle. They would not lend their men to be slaughtered for something that normally caused more harm than good and she believed him. She also respected him deeply for his beliefs and wished that she herself could be as steadfast as Saalik.
She took a deep breath before she gave her ruling hoping it would be the last of the day,
"I understand the need for the tax, should the worst come to worst," The Duke grinned thinking he had won, "but the last thing I want is for us to be at war with each other. I have worked hard with the elders and shamans to come to terms with all the horror that befell them before my reign. I will not ask them to pay for a war that they want no part in." Saalik bowed to her and she smiled, he may be hot headed, but he knew when to quit. "I am not asking for others to pay the tax either. We have enough money to fund four wars. Four wars that I do not want my people to fight. If we prepare for war it means we do not think it can be avoided. It means we have no faith in the people outside the kingdom. I will not accept that!" At this all the elders and shamans stood and bowed to her before showing her their own separate signs of respect. The nobles nodded amongst themselves and her advisor looked as proud of her as he did mad. It wasn't often that she fought him on policy, but the days she did she knew made him more proud of her than the days where she said nothing at all.
"With that said gentlemen I think we have coved all that we had planned for today, so I call this session of Parliament to order, until next week then." She stood and bowed to the crowd and left the room.
After she had closed the door on the council meeting she leant against the wall to catch her breath and clear her head. As she pushed herself off the wall she saw her friends and before she knew it she was smiling.
"So how was it?" Rose asked as she walked towards her friends across the courtyard, "Saalik cause a fuss again?" At that Snow smiled wider, Rose thought that her infatuation with the man was a secret; little did she know that it was the worst kept secret in the whole Palace.
"Of course he did." Snow replied still smiling, "But he was well within his rights to do so." Rose sighed which only made Greta and Anna roll their eyes at her.
"Have you ever spoken to the man?" Anna asked as she gently rubbed her swollen stomach.
In that moment Snow stopped listening to their conversation about Saalik and watched her friend. Anna was positively glowing from the life growing inside her. Out of all of them she had been sure Anna would not be the first to marry. She thought that the widow had seen enough of love and heart ache to last her several lifetimes, but she had been lucky to be afforded a second chance at love when Snow had brought Benedict back with her as a liaison to the outlands in the south.
He was the son of the town's mayor and he had fallen in love with Anna at first sight. She had often told Snow in the months they had been together that he didn't see the scar that marred her beautiful face and never had. To him she had always been beautiful. Not only that he had become a brilliant father as well even though Snow knew he had been terrified of the thought at the beginning. Anna had passed on her role as the elder of the marshlands and lived in the Palace with Benedict and her daughter; soon enough there would be another sharing their rooms. Not that it mattered as Snow had more than enough room to spare.
After Anna; Greta had surprised everyone when she admitted that she was in love with one of the stable hands, but it seemed like the pair were happy and it always made Snow ecstatic to see them in the cold stone corridors holding hands or chastely kissing one another when they thought no one could see them.
"How can you know he is the perfect man for you if you have never spoken a word to him?!" Anna asked Rose incredulously,
"Because I can feel it!" She replied with all the conviction she could muster,
"What rubbish is Rose talking about this time?" William asked from behind Snow and Rose fell silent. This was the second secret that was well known at court, Rose did not like William and try as he might he still hadn't won her over. It may have had something to do with the fact that most of the time he was insulting her. If he were trying to be mean to the girl he likes Snow wished he would learn that it didn't work.
"I don't think it is any of your business." She said haughtily as she crossed her arms across her body. William looked a little hurt at the comment, but didn't say anything.
"You're Highness," William said after a pause and Snow turned to him smiling softly,
"Yes?" She asked not entirely sure what he wanted,
"Will you be going for a ride today?" He asked with a furrowed brow. At the thought of a ride her heart leapt in her chest,
"I was thinking about it possibly after lunch," She said refraining from running her hand over the cord at her neck. "Why?" she asked as William's brow furrowed all the more.
"Well it would appear that you have a visitor, David showed them to your chambers; not that I thought it were proper." Snow almost punched him in the arm for his final comment, but as her palms had been clammy she thought it was better that she keep them clasped behind her back as and instead she just nodded to him.
Greta, Anna and Rose all began grinning like Cheshire cats and when Anna waved her away she smiled at her friends and then nodded at William again before she left the courtyard as quickly as she could without attracting attention to herself.
She made it to her chambers without incident and fell through the door in her haste; from the direction of the morning room she heard a dark chuckle that warmed her from the tips of her toes to the roots of her hair.
"It would appear that you are in a rush to get somewhere," he said with what she could only assume was a smirk, "Please don't let me keep you from it." Snow looked up as she smoothed down her skirt and smiled at the sight before her. Eric was sat at the table in the morning room with his feet on the table top and a book in his hand. She thought he must have been trying to cover up whatever it was that he had been doing before she fell through the door, but it didn't really work as he was holding the book upside down. She cleared her throat as she tiptoed across the expanse between them to sit opposite him at the tiny ironwood table.
"I was told I had a visitor, whom David had surreptitiously whisked away to my chambers against William's disapproving looks. I thought it was the handsome gold merchant and decided that haste was the best part of valour." Snow said resting her head on her upturned hands,
"I'm not sure you have that sentiment right..." Eric said a frown creasing his brow, "Also sorry to disappoint," he finished putting the book on the table,
"You could never disappoint me." Snow said before she could stop herself and Eric smiled at her across the glossy black wood as her cheeks turned a fiery shade of red.
"Is that so?" he mused as he leant over the wood to capture her face in his hands before he kissed her slowly and sweetly; stealing her breath. When he broke the kiss she bit her lip softly in a gesture that Eric knew meant she was embarrassed as she nodded.
Her eyes sparkled and he took in every inch of her; it seemed like months since they had last seen each other, when in reality it had only been about a week. He knew that when he got himself in to this situation that it was not going to be easy, but he didn't expect his heart to hurt so much at her absence. He had lasted as long as he could before he left his farmhouse and made his way to the Palace and made his way to her world. As his eyes reached her neck he saw the leather cord that rested there and felt the blood in his veins heat up as his pulse began to rise.
"You still wear it?" he asked leaning over the table once again to rest his and on the cord at her collar bone. Snow glanced down and smiled as she took the charm out from the front of her bodice where it lay hidden from prying eyes.
"Of course I do," she said running her hands over the smooth warm wood and stone, "It rests over my heart always," Eric looked at her in what she thought was disbelief as she handed the end of the cord to him. As she placed it in his palm he felt the warmth of her skin imbedded in the wood and her scent of Lilacs and summer rain drifting on the slight breeze in her chambers. He ran his thumb over his work and felt the beauty of the piece he thought she would have hidden in a box.
She touched his hand lightly making him look in to her bottomless brown eyes,
"This way I have a part of you with me, to guide me and comfort me." Eric had never heard more precious words fall from her lips. He took her hand in his and raised her palm to his lips, kissing the centre of her hand with the tenderest of caresses. Every time he saw her it felt like he fell in love with her for the first time; no matter what happened she could always surprise him and as he looked down at the pendant that was made of a rose quartz heart surrounded by a tangle of roses that held the heart in place like a frame and he once again felt blessed that she had chosen him.
AN: As before the naming of new characters is important and Saalik is no different his name means follower of a spiritual path and as an elder of his people he inspires them to be better and he wants to do the same for the members of parliament, even when his efforts seem to be in vain.