Story by T.Charters copyright (C) 2017. email@example.com
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. The only exception is by a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review.
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, Gods or Demons, living, dead or imaginary is purely coincidental.
"I wanted you both to see this," the Queen said as she unfurled the newspaper once more.
Jane promptly laughed out loud. She thought it was hilarious.
Amanda stared. She was pleased that Jane found it funny but she was a little uncomfortable with the thinly veiled sentiment which the headline implied.
Jane sniggered and hugged Amanda. "Do you need to wear a cape?" she asked jokingly.
"No," Amanda thought silently, "just a pillow!"
"I'd love to see that outfit," Jane added rather suggestively.
Amanda smiled and shook her head. "Not going to happen," she replied plainly.
Jane pouted. "So you're saying there is one?" she inquired.
Pop smiled. He laughed. "Come on Jane," he said more seriously. "You and I have work to do."
Jane smiled. She kissed Amanda then was gone.
Amanda stared after her then again looked at the headline. "Is that what they really think?" she asked sounding less sure. She was horrified that people saw her as something different.
The Queen closed the paper and smiled. "Let them have their fun," she said. "There is precious little enjoyment in the world sometimes and in all truthfulness it doesn't really matter." She sat in a chair and directed Amanda to do the same. "Now!" she said more seriously while sounding quite stern. "You put yourself in danger yesterday. You need to be far more careful. You can't do that again."
Amanda nodded. "I know," she replied.
"Marc claims it was his fault," the Queen revealed.
Amanda quickly looked up and stared. "No," she responded shaking her head. "It was mine."
The Queen frowned. "Well now we have a problem," she said.
"We do?" Amanda asked.
The Queen nodded. "Regardless of circumstance," she explained, "Marc failed in his duty to protect you. He rightly expects to be punished and would expect nothing less for any of the other security staff should the same have happened to them. Just because you have abilities to protect yourself that does not excuse what has happened." She smiled. "Your actions no matter how small can have a huge impact on others. If you'd been hurt Marc would never have forgiven himself."
Amanda slowly nodded. She felt terrible. "So what are you going to do?" she asked worriedly. She was upset to know that Marc felt responsible for something that wasn't his fault.
"I'm going to leave that up to you," the Queen replied. "See if you can come up with something that you think seems fitting." She smiled and raised an eyebrow at Amanda's look of complete dread. "Think of it as your first decision if you and Jane were ever to rule."
Amanda reluctantly nodded. "You make it sound so trivial," she said.
"In reality most things are," the Queen replied. She reached for Amanda's hand. "So how are you feeling?" she inquired. "A little better than yesterday?"
Amanda smiled. "I'm good," she responded. "Jane did her best to distract me."
The Queen frowned. "Do I want to know what that means?" she asked.
Amanda laughed. "Probably not," she replied.
Amanda left the Queen to her work then joined Marc and Romana in the throne room outside. They walked in silence to the kitchen where Amanda met with the staff for the first that day. Afterward she sat at the table with Romana. She was a little curious about something.
"Do you get paid?" she asked delicately. She hadn't thought about money or anything like that in ages. In fact she didn't even know what Fey money looked like. It was not an entirely pleasant thought and again had the effect of making her feel different from everyone else.
"Sort of," Romana replied as brightly as normal. She certainly wasn't offended by the question. "For every day we work," she explained, "we earn credits which can be spent anywhere in Arden. We just tell the shopkeeper that we work at the palace and it's deducted from our total. If we were to ever leave then we'd be paid what's owed or have to pay back what is missing. Why?" she asked while smirking a bit and being a little cheeky. "Do you need a loan?"
Amanda laughed. "No," she replied enjoying the joke. "I was just curious," she said. "Has anyone ever left?" she asked.
Romana quickly shook her head. "No Milady" she said sounding quite certain. "There is nowhere better to work than here. We're treated really well, even better since you and the Crown Princess arrived. We have a place to live and are fed and clothed and on our time off we are free to come and go as we please. It's nice. I even have a room all to myself."
Amanda smiled. "I'm glad," she said.
After lunch Amanda walked with the Queen back toward the throne room.
"Have you decided what you're going to do?" the Queen asked.
"I have," Amanda replied. Her talk with Romana was exactly what she'd needed.
When they reached the Queen's study Amanda asked Marc to join them.
"I understand that you feel responsible for what happened yesterday?" she inquired.
Marc nodded. "Yes Your Highness," he replied.
Amanda smiled thinly. "Even though I don't agree with you and feel completely to blame myself," she said seriously, "I understand that it shouldn't have happened."
Marc nodded in agreement.
"We both need to trust that one of us won't again do something stupid," Amanda added. "You will be docked one week's pay and for that week while you're not working or protecting me you will be confined to quarters, but as I still feel completely responsible for what happened no reprimand will be recorded against you."
"Thank you Your Highness," Marc responded. He bowed respectfully then stepped back into the throne room outside.
Amanda turned to the Queen. She felt deflated, wretched, like she'd just been punched in the stomach.
"Very just," the Queen said while nodding approvingly. "I've said it before, you are going to make a wonderful ruler one day."
Amanda tried to smile. "So why do I feel like crap?" she asked.
"It's never easy to discipline anyone," the Queen explained. "Especially a friend."
Amanda nodded. She stepped back into the throne room and looked up at Marc. "Are we good?" she asked nervously.
"We're fine," Marc replied. "Though I must ask you one question," he said looking a little confused. "When am I not working or protecting you?"
Amanda smiled. "Yeah," she said while grinning a little. "When aren't you? I hadn't even thought of that."
Marc chuckled. "Thank you, Your Highness," he said.
They walked across the throne room then strode into the grand ballroom beyond. The room was full of staff scurrying back and forth, carrying in tables and chairs and generally preparing not only the room but the palace for the anniversary.
Ambassador Grent was standing to one side looking very serious while consulting a floor plan that was almost as big as he was.
"I hope that's not as bad as it looks?" Amanda asked.
Grent smiled. He bowed and chuckled with laughter. "No, Your Highness," he replied. "I'm just making sure everything is correct."
"I'm sure the staff will be fine," Amanda suggested.
"Oh I quite agree," Grent replied. "I'm more worried that I've made a mistake."
Amanda smiled. "I'm sure that's not the case either," she said reassuringly.
Each year a different race helped with the preparations. This year Grent was being particularly thorough. As it was the ten-thousandth anniversary he was determined that nothing be missed.
He smiled once more. "I see you have been in the news again," he said.
Amanda reluctantly nodded. "I bet Meshia must have enjoyed that," she responded sounding a little embarrassed.
"She did," Grent agreed. "And so must have many, many others." He smiled as broadly as ever. "I'm sure the headline brightened the lives of many people both here in Arden and all around the world. Surely that has to be a good thing?" he asked.
Amanda smiled. She'd always thought of herself as a glass is half empty sort of person. She had never really been able to see the brighter side of things especially when they involved herself. She didn't like to stand out.
"My people are engineers, builders," Grent added while standing up quite proudly. "We built Arden and most of the Fey cities around world. I suspect many Dwarves will raise more than a single mug of mead tomorrow."
"You have much to be proud of," Amanda admitted.
"And what about you?" Grent asked. "What will you be drinking to mark the occasion? Fermented-blood?"
Amanda noticeably cringed. "Probably not," she suggested a little timidly while inwardly turning green. "I still haven't really recovered from the last glass I had."
Grent boomed with laughter. "There are many amongst my people who would find it difficult to trust someone who couldn't hold their drink," he revealed without in anyway sounding serious.
"Oh I can hold it," Amanda replied while being as jokingly defensive as Grent was less than serious. "Sort of," she thought. "I just can't drink very much of it."
Grent chuckled. "I'm sure that both Meshia and her mother wished I had the same affliction," he suggested. "Though unlike most of my race I have never been one to drink to excess."
Amanda smiled. "I'd like to talk with Meshia tomorrow if I may?" she said. "I need her help with something. If she's willing."
Grent frowned. "What?" he asked.
"Jessica," Amanda replied.
Amanda left Grent to watch and worry about the preparations in the grand ballroom. She couldn't persuade him otherwise. She could understand. She'd also been accused of worrying about things that didn't deserve the thought. She walked with Marc and Romana back through the kitchen. They stepped into one of the larger staff work rooms where the tailors and seamstresses were hurriedly putting the final touches on table cloths, napkins as well as all manner of decorative things for the anniversary. Amanda liked it here. It seemed real to her and unlike diplomacy and the political manoeuvring of the council it was something she could understand, even if she couldn't sew a button onto a blouse.
Amanda and Jane would have been quite happy to attend the anniversary dinner in their usual casual attire, but the Queen had insisted that they dress more formally. Unlike Allegra neither of them had any interest in ballgowns or dresses, bustles and trains. The Queen, as always, had the perfect solution. Their new outfits were unmistakably feminine while at the same time being masculine enough to not be too girly as Jane like to put it. In a way they appeared almost military to complement Pop's own uniform. They were similar enough to suggest that Amanda and Jane were together and sufficiently different to indicate their royal standing. Jane's uniform was slightly more detailed around the collar while Amanda's was plainer with less decoration. In the last week they'd both spent hours being measured and poked, while being ordered to hold their breath or stand in one strange pose or another. They were both extremely glad that the anniversary dinner was almost here.
Amanda apologised for the pillows once again then quickly walked around and briefly chatted with everyone she could. She didn't stay too long as she'd found her presence could be a distraction, which was yet another thing she'd never imagined she would ever have to worry about. As she'd explained to Jessica being royalty certainly wasn't as easy as it sounded. She had to be so much more careful with everything she said or did. She had Romana cancel her second meeting with the staff but advised she would be available if needed. She was confident that the staff would be more than capable without her and at the moment they were far too busy preparing for the anniversary. Some of them had been working in the palace for hundreds of years and knew what needed to happen far better than she. Amanda certainly wasn't vain enough to insist that things be done her way or not at all. She was extremely thankful for the help and would take any advise she could get, from whomever was willing to give it.
Romana looked a little worried.
Amanda smiled at her. "I'm fine," she advised, before Romana could ask. "I just don't think anyone needs the distraction this afternoon."
"You would never be a distraction, Milady," Romana replied.
Amanda immediately smirked then laughed out loud. "I'm pretty sure that the Crown Princess might disagree with you," she suggested.
Even Romana smiled. "Yes Milady," she responded.
Amanda returned to their quarters and changed into some exercise gear. She sat in the centre of the mat closed her eyes and tried to clear her mind. She had once been quite skilled at meditation but she hadn't seriously done it in years. When she finally opened her eyes once more Jane was sitting nearby quietly watching her.
"How long?" she asked.
"About an hour," Jane happily replied. She crawled over then kissed Amanda then laid across her lap. "You looked so peaceful," she said.
Amanda smiled down at Jane and gently ran her fingers through her hair. "Are you ready for some practise?" she asked.
"The usual stances?" Jane asked brightly.
Amanda shook her head. "Something a little more difficult this time," she said.
"So you're the one," Damian said. He couldn't hide his contempt. He stared through the bars of his small cell at Marshall outside.
"I am," Marshall replied.
"Why?" Damian asked.
"My sire ordered me to find you," Marshall responded quite plainly. It wasn't like he had a choice. "She'd hoped that you might cause the Princess Ward some pain."
"And who is your sire?" Damian demanded. It actually hurt to learn that he was just a pawn in someone else's game.
"The former princess Allegra," Marshall revealed. He filled a mug with blood from an urn on a trolly he was pushing, then he slid the mug through the serving slot on the door before moving off down the cell block. He actually looked rather content.
Damian picked up the mug and sniffed at it. He immediately screwed up his nose. "What is this?" he called out.
Marshall turned and smiled. "Rat!" he replied. "Seems appropriate, don't you think?" he suggested.
Jane collapsed on the mat and breathed deeply. She was exhausted. "That was amazing," she said her eyes wide. "I never knew I had it in me."
Amanda both smiled and chuckled as she sat on the mat beside Jane. "You didn't at first," she explained. "To begin with you were mostly using my memories of how to do it."
Jane sat up and smiled. "Thank you for giving this to me," she said. "And you don't need to worry," she added reassuringly and with great respect. "I would never do anything to dishonour you or Cassandra."
Amanda stared. "You know?" she said.
Jane nodded. "Marc told me," she explained. "Weeks ago," she said. "He thought you seemed a little down at the time."
Amanda smiled. She pulled Jane close and hugged her tightly.
They kissed for a long moment.
Amanda whispered in Jane's ear. "Why don't we see what other memories we have to share?" she suggested.
Jane sniggered. "With suggestions like that coming from you," she said. "I think we already have."
They both laughed.
It was normally Jane who took the lead in their love making and she was typically the more assertive one.
"Maybe I want to be more like you," Amanda said.
Jane smirked. "So what is your command my mistress?" she asked while being playfully submissive.
Amanda again whispered in Jane's ear.
Jane blushed bright red and chuckled out loud. "Wanting to get a little noisy are we," she said.
"Whatever it takes," Amanda replied.
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