DISCLAIMER: This part was written
under the influence of "Kittyís Fairytale" (one of my favorite
X-stories) and "The Path of Daggers" (ah, my other obsession
even if that one was stultifyingly dull. It was all
Perrin Ay-bore-a.) As such, you can expect it to be fantasy,
which it is. Far be it from me to pull the old switcheroo.The
characters, however, are Marvels but these incarnations are
mine as is their situation. Comments to email@example.com
Thanks to my two editors\beta-readers. [Lomas - I promise
the next part will be less Jordany, but I couldnít stomach
rewriting all of this and even the CREATOR copied Tolkien
for EotW :P Keri - I promise Rogue will be sweetness and light
in the next part. Or not, because I find her bad moods great
fun to write. :)] Previous parts are archived at http://www.geocities.com/roguestar3
The Sword and the Rose
Scowling at the road in front of her, Sabrina wondered if
she was going to be able to get through the day without screaming.
The gash in her side was bad enough, but she felt as if several
carriages had rolled over her in the night. Where she was
not saddlesore, she was stiff from sleeping on the rocky ground.
Her arms felt too heavy for her shoulders, her neck was a
single crick, while her legs ... It was probably better that
she did not think about her legs. It was incredible, she reflected
sourly, how many muscles you realised you had when they all
ached. As a result, although the reasonable part of her knew
it was her fault for having been so stubborn and proud, the
unreasonable remainder swatted the horse.
Her husband, Remy, obviously had sensed her mood and he was
riding some way in front of her. His horse was a chestnut
spot in the far distance that disappeared into the woods every
now and again. He, similarly, was a black blob that glinted
intermittently as the sun caught the pommel of the Spirit
Sword. He had said, of course, that he was scouting ahead
for her protection, and, while she had allowed him his gallant
pretense, she knew he was avoiding her. Or the sharp edge
of her tongue, more probably.
It was not her injuries alone that put her in a bad mood.
There was nothing more boring than cantering through identical
countryside for days on end. So much for all the novels where
the heroes rode for miles without seeming to grow tired of
it, she thought wryly, although they did tend to travel in
bands of happy companions and pass the time in witty, yet
edifying, conversation. She would have settled for discussion
on the weather, but, looking at Ororo and Jubilation, even
that seemed too much to expect.
The healer and her apprentice were trotting a few feet behind
her, and Ororo seemed to be using the opportunity to teach
Jubilation about herblore. Every few minutes, the woman would
point out a plant that was seemingly indistinguishable from
its neighbours and launch into a tedious lecture on how it
could be useful. Sabrina had heard more about the medicinal
properties of roots, leaves and stems than she had ever wanted
to know. As a weaver, it was fairly disquieting to hear that
a plant that produced a blue dye could also be used as a poultice
to cure suppurating pustules, so she blocked out the voices
and concentrated on regaining control over her magical power.
If she strained herself, she could almost feel it, like a
glow glimpsed on the edge of vision, but she certainly could
not do more than that. She had tried to reach her mind out
to it on more than one occasion since the soldier had stabbed
her, only to have it slide out of her grasp. This occasion
proved no exception - a brief moment of lightning glory thrilling
along her nerves, then an emptiness. She grunted in frustration,
swatting the long-suffering horse a second time.
"Thereís a town a few meters ahead," Remy called as he reappeared
from around the bend of the road, "We need to put in a few
more supplies now that Ororo and Jubilation have joined us,
so I think weíll spend the night there. Pantheon knows I could
do with a shower."
Seeing an end to the tedium of riding, ignoring the pain
that came at every jolt, Sabrina touched heels to the horseís
side and galloped after him.
Sebastian, Lord of the Sapphire Shore, would not be remembered
by future generations as a good king. Unlike his father who
had been as noble in spirit as blood, he believed the military
campaigns that had brought him personal glory and riches more
than compensated for his lack of good governance. Bread and
wool meant little to him when compared with swordclash, conquest
and blood, and, while the kingdomís boundaries increased,
the people they enclosed were neither prosperous nor happy.
The number of bodies in the gibbets increased daily, and only
the threat of the Praetorian Guard was enough to prevent a
As a result, the conclave which had previously only survived
as a tip-of-the-hat to tradition was going to be of vital
importance. He needed to confirm the nobilityís loyalty and
to ensure that they would stand with him in the civil war
that was beginning to seem an inevitability. Peasant uprisings
could easily be put down by the guards, but, if they had the
funds and military backing of the upper-classes, he knew he
would be the one being driven to a public execution.
Sebastian of the Shore might have been a bad king, but he
was not a stupid one. From his spies in the courts, he knew
that the nobles thought back to his fatherís days with regret
that the great man was no longer ruling. He knew that they
were secretly setting up candidates of their own - Alexander,
whose open and generous nature had earned him the appellation
of Lord of Summer; Piotyr Whitewolf of Bifrost; even Teresa
the Red of Cassidy Keep. He knew that the day would come when
they would hold a sword to his throat and ask him to abdicate
in favour of the true ruler. He knew his future, so the question
was how much he was prepared to pay to avoid it.
Setting his crown aside on the large, wooden table, Sebastian
pulled the bell that would call his court-magician to his
private study. Much like the man himself, the room was martial
and grim. The only decoration on the walls were the sword
and shield that had belonged to his father, the seahawk that
was the symbol of his house etched or painted on them. The
floors were covered in bearskin rugs - his one concession
to the growing cold of autumn - and similar skins were draped
over the chairs. All the furniture was dark wood; all the
stone, grey granite. It was a dark, bleak and oppressive room
- a room that fitted the personality of its occupant.
When she entered, Selene, the court sorceress, stood out
against it like a flame. A handsome woman with a cloud of
dark hair and piercingly blue eyes, her dress-sense could
kindly have been called flamboyant. That day, she had chosen
- seemingly more for what it revealed than what it hid - a
red, silken gown, into which rubies and diamonds had been
sewn in the shape of flowers. Her skirts became a pool of
blood as she dipped into a deep curtsey. Some superstitious
part of him shivered.
"My good lord," she murmured, eyes flashing as if to suggest
that she knew how much he really merited the adjective, "You
called for your humble servant?"
"Weíre alone," he growled, "You donít need to stand on ceremony,
"A king is a king no matter how many people are present",
she protested, but added with a faint smile, "Or that he comes
as a supplicant to the woman who will allow him to keep his
throne. You do still wish to go through with this, I assume?"
For an instant, he knew without a doubt that he would tell
her to go to her master, to take her deal and be damned with
it. He knew he would give up his title, his riches, his fame
and send himself into a noble exile. He knew he would spend
the remainder of his days farming on a croft or serving any
lord who would accept the pledge of his sword. He knew he
would show his grandchildren his fatherís sword and shield,
and tell them that they had once been kings and that the royal
blood of the Shore still ran through their veins. He knew
that he would tell them that there were some prices too high
to pay, that his soul and his conscience had not been bought
for the price of a crown.
The instant inevitably passed.
Looking over her shoulder at his fatherís sword, too ashamed
to meet her blue stare, he nodded and knowingly delivered
his people into the hands of death.
Resisting the urge to lift her skirts off the pavement, her
nose wrinkled fastidiously against the cityís stench, Ororo
looked up at the inn where they were to spend the night. For
a mercy, the building itself was clean and well-maintained
- white paint gleamed in contrast to the black timbers that
crisscrossed its facade and there were pots of wilted petunias
in the windows. She could even separate the smell of roasting
meat and apple pie from the general miasma of sweat, rot and
poverty that always clung to towns of any size. Of course,
she thought wryly, a great deal of the stink could probably
be blamed on her and her companions. A bath was more than
overdue for all of them, although Sabrina still had an inexplicable,
lingering fragrance of green, growing things about her.
Ororoís mouth tightened as she glanced over to where the
young woman was unpacking her horseís saddlebags and handing
various parcels to Remy who had taken on a martyred expression
with them. For all her fine resolutions to mend fences with
the Great Sorceress, she had spent the journey lecturing Jubilation
on properties of herbs which her apprentice already knew and
in which she had had very little interest the first time.
It was not that she was unwilling, she told herself, it was
that she did not know what to say to a stubborn, foolish woman
who would not listen to common sense. With injuries such as
hers, Sabrina should have been in bed and not galloping around
the countryside. If she refused to see that, there was little
Ororo could say to her that she would accept. She certainly
would not apologise for her medical judgment.
"Be nice to sleep in a proper bed tonight, wonít it?" Remy
said from beside her, staggering under the weight of an enormous
pile of packages, "Leave the ground to the seeds and worms
and give me a feather mattress, I always say."
She raised an ironic eyebrow, "I see the noble life has made
you soft, Lord LeBeau. What ever has happened to the highwayman
who lived off dirt, roots and insects?"
"He vanished the first night I slept on a feather mattress,"
he chuckled but soon sobered, brown eyes probing her intently,
"Do you mind if we stay here a few days, Ororo? I donít think
my wife should be riding in her current state and sheíll insist
on doing so if we travel farther. Iíve told her I have business
in the town and, although Iím sure she has her suspicions,
she seems happy enough to remain here for my sake."
"My friend, I retract my earlier accusation. Youíve lost
none of your low cunning or your deviousness," she said with
a smile, "I agree that it would be wisest for Sabrina not
to travel and, to be honest with you, I could use the rest
myself. I rode the horses flat to get to Mooreís Pond in time
to heal her."
"Youíre a good woman, Ororo, and Iím in your debt."
"Consider it repayment for saving the world from the god
of earth\sky for us, my friend," she laid a hand on his shoulder,
"However, seeing what a good job you are doing with those
parcels, you could bring in mine and spare Jubilation some
Looking backwards at the sorceressí bulging saddlepacks and
seeing in them another two trips across the courtyard, Remy
Continued in Chapter Six.
In the next chapter of "The Sword and
the Rose" , Destiny foresees:
Fred J. Dukes, the disgraced Praetorian guard, catching
up with them in the city.
A very strange soldier appearing at the Seahawk Court
Sabrina and Ororo having a very uncomfortable conversation
A narrow squeak for Jubilation Lee.
Read and find out if Destinyís prophecies arenít as cracked
as her crystal ball! :D
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