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Thursday, December 5, 2013
Sanguine - Part 13 - The Finale
This is the final chapter of Sanguine, and so if you haven't read any of it, now is a good time, starting here: Sanguine - Chapter 1 OR, if you have read it and only wish to reread the previous chapter so that you remember what's going on, here's the link: Sanguine - Part 12
Gavin sat in his favorite apple tree listening to the little noises of the farm. He felt as if the entire week was nothing more than a dream. A dream in which he'd met his mother and learned that he was the Heir to Clan Blood...
It had mostly been fun. His mother had been almost everything he had day-dreamed about; kind, beautiful, mysterious... And then there were her wards. Listening to his three adopted sisters bicker had made him laugh.
“But why couldn't she have adopted any boys?” He asked himself in a whisper. “It'd be nice to have a brother...”
“Hey Gavin! You're back!” A group of boys around his age stood at the foot of the tree looking up at him. “You left so suddenly, and all that your grandparents would say is that you were visiting your mother for the foreseeable future.”
Harvey – the boy Gavin considered his best friend – took over the conversation. “I didn't know you had a mother. I mean obviously you have a mother, but everyone assumes that she must have died.”
“My folks say that Gavin was adopted.”
“My folks say that too!”
Gavin sighed. He wasn't really supposed to talk about his mother just yet. She wanted to make an official announcement at court first. Besides, he didn't think his friends would believe him, or worse! That they would believe him and start treating him differently.
“It's true. I met my mother, but I don't want to talk about her,” Gavin insisted as he climbed down the tree.
“Why not?” Harvey wondered, teasing Gavin lightly. “Is she some horrible old witch?”
Gavin took a deep breath. “No... She's... She's wonderful... and terrifying!”
“Sounds like -” Harvey was interrupted as a different boy covered his mouth.
“Shh! Do you see that girl riding this way?”
“Oh man! She's beautiful!”
“Shut up you idiot! Can't you see? She's one of the wards of Clan Blood!”
As the boys argued in whispers about the girl's identity and just exactly how beautiful she was, she got close enough to them to clearly prompt them all to shut up. She looked angry about something.
“Hey Gavin, would you like to race me? I need something to do!”
“Aren't you supposed to be busy today, Ardent?” Gavin asked, surprising all his friends.
“I WAS!” She shouted to the sky. “But Uncle Frayeur kept making me sooo angry! I couldn't see straight, so I left to try and cool down.”
Lily and Sandra heard the shouting and came to investigate. “Ardent!” They called out happily. She waved at them, but then returned her attention to Gavin.
“So please race me! I only feel calm when the wind is tossing my hair about!”
Gavin shook his head. “Sorry, but I'm not very good with horses. I mean I can ride and all, but I'd lose the race and possibly fall off the horse.”
Harvey laughed. “Plus, his horse is old!” This referred to the horse that had belonged to his father for as long as Gavin had been alive.
Sandra bounced excitedly. “I'll race you! I'm great with horses!”
Ardent frowned, almost sneering. “But you're such a... girl!”
Sandra crossed her arms and glared at Ardent. “You're a girl too!”
“Yes, but I'm not weak like you!” Ardent insisted.
“I am not weak!” Sandra protested. “I'd like to see you haul in bales of hay!”
“You are so! At the first sign of trouble, you ran to hide behind your father!”
“Ardent!” Gavin snapped. “That's uncalled for!”
“Well it's true!” Ardent yelled. “All three of you, in fact. You could do nothing but stand back and hide while we protected and saved you!”
“What were we supposed to do?!” Sandra demanded. “They had a crossbow aimed at Lily! We were terrified!”
Ardent sneered at them. “Terrified? Of six pathetic men? You're a disgrace to Clan Blood! Your mother could have easily taken them single-handedly, and yet you all just stood there!”
“That is enough!” Danny shouted. He had heard them arguing and rushed to intervene. “I think you should return to the castle now, Ardent.”
Ardent roared in frustration. “Why does this always happen?!” She kicked her horse into a run. “Nobody wants me around!”
“Ardent, wait!” Sandra called after her. “Dad, she needs someone to talk to. I'm going to ride after her.”
“You be careful!” Danny cried out as his daughter raced toward the barn. She didn't even bother to saddle her horse – Sanguine had given them each a horse of their own – and was soon hot on Ardent's trail. Danny was thankful that she really was good with horses and used to riding bare back.
Danny noticed the hurt look on Gavin's face and put a hand on his shoulder. “What's the matter?”
“Ardent is wrong! I am not a disgrace to Clan Blood! I'll show her!”
“Son, Ardent didn't mean that. Don't let her provoke you into doing something rash,” Danny advised.
“You don't understand!” Gavin insisted. “If I do nothing, then she's right! But I'm going to prove her wrong. I need to finish my studies...”
“You want to return to the castle so soon?” Danny asked in disbelief.
“Yes,” Gavin confirmed, and then sighed. “And no.”
“Mama!” Lily cried out joyously and rushed to greet her.
Sanguine reached down and scooped Lily onto the horse with her as she rode the last little bit to Danny and Gavin. She glanced only once at the group of boys who were standing behind Gavin with their mouths hanging open in astonishment.
“What brings you here?” Danny asked as he took Lily and then helped Sanguine off the horse. She smiled at him for a moment before turning to focus on Gavin.
“I've been summoned to the Royal Palace. I need to leave tomorrow morning, but I'm giving you a choice.” Sanguine held out a thick book that she pulled from a saddlebag. “Do you wish to stay here and work on your studies, or do you wish to come with me as I make the announcement.”
Gavin hesitated for a moment. This is all happening so quickly! Then he squared his shoulders and gave her his most serious gaze.
“I'll go with you,” he stated firmly.
“Are you sure?” Danny asked in concern.
“Do we all get to go?” Lily wondered, tugging on her mother's sleeve.
“I'm sure,” Gavin affirmed.
Sanguine smiled at him, and then turned her attention to Lily. “I'm sorry, but it's best if you stay here with your father.”
“Why?” Lily asked.
Sanguine looked up at Danny. Her look told him everything he needed to know. He picked Lily up so that he could look her in the eye.
And then he lied. “You're too young to go to the Palace.”
Lily groaned in disappointment, but accepted this answer as the final word on the subject.
“Gavin, will you please go ready your horse?” Sanguine asked.
Gavin nodded and then motioned for his friends to follow him so that they could make an escape. Based on their expressions, they were all just a bit terrified standing in the presence of their Lady. He was sure that they would welcome any excuse to run away.
“Lily, will you go tell your grandparents that Gavin is leaving?” Danny asked. Lily nodded and ran off to shout the news.
Danny watched Sanguine struggle not to cry. She stepped into his arms and held him tight.
“I've been summoned both to return the prisoner now that I've reformed him, but also to...” She simply couldn't say it.
“Get married,” Danny murmured sympathetically, finishing her sentence.
Sanguine nodded and then rested her head against his shoulder. She sighed heavily. “When I decided to retire... I made plans to get married, but not to him!”
Danny felt his heart contract. He'd been waiting his whole life to hear her say that she wanted to marry him, and now that she was finally ready... It just wasn't fair!
“I love you,” Sanguine whispered in his ear.
Danny kissed her deeply for a moment. “I love you.”
Sanguine could hear Christopher and Shelly saying their goodbyes to Gavin – as were his friends – so she decided to mount up and leave before she started crying. She could do that all she wanted in the solitude of her bed tonight. Hopefully, she'd also get some sleep before they left in the morning.
Gavin had no idea how long it would be before he saw his father again, so he made sure to hug him tight before mounting up and following his mother – who was still mostly a stranger to him. He rode behind her silently, wondering what he should say to her. Nothing sounded good, so he kept his mouth shut. This is going to be a long trip!
Sanguine sighed in relief when the Palace came into sight and mentally kicked herself for putting her son in a carriage with a man who was attracted to young boys. Prince Collin was behaving himself, but she could sense that he did so only because she was sitting in the carriage. Gavin sat next to her and Collin sat across from her, so she was essentially between them. Collin seemed to smell Gavin's innocence, and that made Sanguine bristle protectively.
Even though the journey took more than half a day, none of them felt like talking, so they had suffered an awkward silence. Sanguine was so focused on trying to figure a way out of her predicament that they were literally at the Palace steps before she realized that she hadn't warned Collin about their impending nuptials. It was too late now!
The King and Queen had sent word for her carriage to be escorted to a far more private entrance so that Collin could essentially be smuggled to his room and properly prepared before anyone saw him. He was rumored to be confined to his chambers with a lingering illness. Certainly the pallor he had cultivated in the dungeon would go a long way to confirming this theory.
As for Sanguine, she was also somewhat smuggled into the Palace. She was brought to a chamber to stay in until the King and Queen summoned her. A note awaited her from the Queen asking her to settle in and wait patiently until tomorrow for an audience.
Having no other choice, she did exactly that. With a sigh, she studied Gavin as he read the book of laws and wondered how she could bridge the gap between them. More like infinite chasm! She thought with a inaudible snort.
Deciding that nothing would ever change unless she started somewhere, Sanguine sat to talk to him. Even idle chitchat was better than silence! Or so she thought until they'd spent nearly 20 minutes talking about the weather. She was almost ready to give up!
“Can you tell me more about Lord Wolf so that I know not to make the same mistakes he did?” Gavin asked.
Relieved to finally have something to talk about, Sanguine told him everything she knew about Lord Wolf. Even what she could remember from before she was taken by the Tax Collector. The rest of the evening was spent talking about anything that crossed their minds. Both went to bed that night feeling optimistic about the future of their relationship.
⋨ ⋩ ⋨ ⋩ ⋨ ⋩
Sanguine was both anxious and relieved when she finally got her summons to go before the King and Queen. She brought her son with her, praying that they treated him kindly. She'd fight tooth and nail before she ever let anyone harm him!
A servant showed them to a private sitting room, which actually surprised her. She thought that she was supposed to meet with the Royals in public so that they could announced her pending nuptials. Of course, invitations had been sent out, so it was common knowledge, but none of the courtiers had ever met her before. It just made sense that she'd be put on display.
“My dear Sanguine,” the King greeted her with a kiss on her cheek. “You look lovely as ever. How are you?”
“Fine, Majesty. I'm simply curious as to the details of my wedding,” Sanguine informed him pleasantly. She even managed to smile!
“I'm sure you are, but first, I wanted to thank you for working your magic on my son without harming him. He has made a solemn vow to us that he will never take a lover younger than 15 again,” the King stated, smiling happily. Sanguine could tell that he was a bit disappointed that she hadn't completely stripped his desire for boys from him, but that he was grateful for the compromise. There was also a hint of a smirk that told her that he was relying on her to keep his son in line.
The Queen hugged Sanguine to convey her gratitude as well, since she'd had nightmares of rats chewing on her son until he died. They'd had several cover stories prepared to explain either his death or his severe disfigurement. That he had been returned to them whole and contrite was a miracle that they hadn't dared pray for!
“And who have you brought with you?” The Queen asked curiously.
“My King, my Queen,” Sanguine intoned formally. “May I present to you my son and heir, Gavin?” She beckoned for him to come closer to her, and then took his hand in hers.
“Oh...” The Queen murmured thoughtfully.
“I knew you'd had children, my dear, but I didn't realize that he was this old,” the King stated, also looking as if he was thinking about how to handle this news.
Sanguine rushed to speak her mind before they could say anything else. “Yes, I had him raised by his father, my long time lover, so that he would not be tainted by my important work. Now I am training him to successfully govern my lands while my adopted daughters continue to reform criminals in my dungeon.”
She paused to take a deep breath. “It was my hope – now that I have officially retired – to marry his father...”
The Queen smiled at her sadly. “Unfortunately, my dear, that cannot happen. We were quite serious when we said that you are the only woman qualified for the job of our son's wife. There is not a single other woman in the entire Kingdom that is strong enough to control our son and capably rule the Kingdom.”
Sanguine sighed in disappointment, but then nodded. “I understand. I knew you were going to say that, but forgive me, I had to try...”
The Queen brushed Sanguine's cheek in a motherly way. “I understand what you are giving up in order to serve your Kingdom, so I have decided to reward you with a promise. We will guarantee that your son may live out his life as Lord of Clan Blood without any interference or machinations from us... However... Should he turn out to be a bad Lord, we expect you to correct him.”
The King took her free hand in his. “Does that sound fair to you?”
Sanguine nodded, nearly faint with relief and gratitude. “Yes, thank you!”
The King smiled at her and then turned his attention to her son. “Young Gavin, we pray that you govern your lands as well as your mother did and wish you luck in your future endeavors.”
“Thank you, Majesty!” Gavin replied, flustered by the personal attention from the King. He still thought of himself as nothing more than a farm boy, and under normal circumstances, a farm boy would never have a chance to meet and speak with the King!
“Now,” the King returned his attention to Sanguine. “About your wedding...”
⋨ ⋩ ⋨ ⋩ ⋨ ⋩
Sanguine smiled at her son as they waited for the doors to the throne room to open. “Thank you so much for doing this for me. I know a lot has happened to you in such a short time, but you seem to be handling it beautifully.”
Gavin shrugged, and then looked at the floor. “Maybe, but I think that's because I still think I'm dreaming and am going to wake up soon. Imagine... me – some nobody country bumpkin – now an Actual Lord with a castle and a mother who is about to become a Princess and the future Queen of the Kingdom!” He sighed. “Only I can't decide if it is a dream or a nightmare, because if it were a dream, wouldn't things be happier?”
Sanguine hugged him. “Life is not always happy and never turns out the way we intend it to. If I knew all those years ago what I know now, I may well have married your father when I first realized that I was pregnant with you, but...”
“But what?” Gavin wondered curiously.
“I really don't think you would have turned out so well growing up in the dungeons with me,” Sanguine stated with a shrug. “And I am so very proud of who you are!”
Gavin blushed, looking at the floor in an attempt to cover this. The music suddenly changed and the doors to the throne room opened. Without a word, Gavin escorted his mother down the aisle towards her groom.
Most people simply stared at them curiously, but Sanguine was happy to see that Abattre and her husband Godric of Clan Storm were waving at her from near the front. Both knew that she really wanted to marry someone else, but were being cheerful to show that they supported her no matter what. It helped Sanguine steady her nerves.
Prince Collin was in a state of shock and it showed on his face. He had begged his parents not to go through with this from the moment they told him until literally about 10 minutes ago when the Queen had finally gotten fed up with him and slapped him across the face. His father had firmly told him to just do as expected, and then pointed through their private entrance to the spot in the throne room where we was to stand while waiting for his bride.
Collin sighed once more in frustration, but rightly feared that if he refused, his parents would only send him back to the dungeon until he relented. His only hope was that Sanguine had proven herself a reasonable person, and so might make a tolerable wife. If he had his way, he would never marry at all!
To his dismay, the wedding proceeded despite his desperate prayers that something would happen to stop it. All too soon, it was irrevocable! Collin kissed Sanguine and then watched as she was made the Crown Princess and future Queen. A thought occurred to him that made him look over at his parents.
They want her to rule so that I don't have to! This thought startled him and made him happy at the same time. It was well known that he didn't have what it took to run a Kingdom, and now, he wouldn't have to. He returned his attention to his bride, a new respect gleaming in his eyes.
When it was time, everyone moved to the banquet hall to celebrate and feast. Collin and Sanguine held hands as they walked around, smiling at everyone who wished them well in their marriage. Between conversations, the two of them had a private one of their own.
“Collin, I think that to make the right impression and leave no doubt in everyone's mind that our marriage is solid, we should always address each other as dear or dearest,” Sanguine suggested.
“Yes Mistress – Er, dearest?” Collin replied uncertainly.
Sanguine smiled at him. “Good, now say it again.”
“Yes dearest,” Collin stated, smiling at her in return.
“My dear,” Sanguine addressed him sweetly. “Don't you think it's time that we sat down to eat?”
“Of course, my dear,” Collin replied, playing along.
The two of them pretended to fawn all over each other until everyone was talking about how wonderful it was that the Prince and his bride seemed to really get along well. By this time, Sanguine had a raging headache.
“Collin dear, maybe it's time that we retired for the evening?” Sanguine stated in a way that sounded like a question but really wasn't.
Collin nodded and promptly got to his feet. “My beautiful bride wishes for us to retire, and I find that I cannot deny her anything, so I must bid you all to carry on with out us.” He held out his hand for Sanguine, who placed hers in his and smiled as she got to her feet. They walked to the King and Queen and briefly paid their respects before being granted permission to go on and start working on an heir.
Sanguine bit her lip in worry, wondering how she was going to accomplish that task. “Collin dear?” She asked the moment they were alone in the private hallway that led towards the royal bedchambers. “Are you even capable of having sex with a woman?”
Collin shrugged. “I don't know, I've never tried it before.”
Sanguine sighed, tempted to rub her temples. Then a plan formed in her mind. “Hmm... How well can the servants procure things?”
“Such as?” Collin wondered curiously.
“Such as herbs to help make this a bit easier on both of us,” Sanguine stated.
“Oh those!” Collin responded with a laugh. “Yeah, they can get their hands on as much of those herbs as we could ever want!”
Sanguine chuckled. “Well that makes things a whole lot easier than I thought they would be!”
Collin showed her around the spacious chambers dedicated to the heir to the throne. Despite her assumptions, Sanguine found that he had excellent taste in decorations. His entire apartment look rich yet comfortable, which suited her just fine.
A maid waited to tend to them, curtseying and addressing them both with the utmost respect. Sanguine smiled at her, never one to belittle her servants.
“Do you think you could bring us an infusion of these herbs?” Sanguine asked as she wrote them down on a piece of stationary. The maid glanced at the list and blushed.
“Yes, my Princess, at once!” She exclaimed and rushed off.
While she was gone, Collin's personal body attendant undressed him as Sanguine walked around making mental notes off all the little things she would need to change, such as buying an armoire for all of her belongings. The maid returned with the infusion just as Collin was finished undressing. Sanguine was interested to note that while his male attendant had attracted a large portion of Collin's attention, the frankly gorgeous maid didn't even garner a second look from him.
The infusion was poured from a teapot into two cups, which Sanguine gestured for the maid to serve Collin first. “Drink up, my dear.”
“Yes dearest,” Collin replied automatically, obeying her command. As he did so, the maid helped Sanguine out of the fabulously intricate dress. It had at least a hundred tiny pearl buttons running along her spine, and would have been impossible for her to undo by herself. Soon, she was undressed except for her lacy undergarments.
“I can do the rest myself, thank you,” Sanguine informed the maid with a kind smile. “Please leave us alone.”
All of the servants and guards nodded and promptly left the room. Sanguine sighed deeply, and then downed her cup of herbal infusion.
“I wonder how long until this kicks in?” Sanguine muttered to herself.
“Not long,” Collin promised, patting his bed in an invitation for her to join him. “Why don't we at least talk until the drink takes over and we attack each other?”
Sanguine giggled, wiggling her fingers at him. “Careful, my attacks are not so easy to survive!”
Collin gulped at the sight of her claws – which had looked like strange decorations while she was dressed up earlier. “I know...”
Getting into bed with him, Sanguine asked him to tell her some of his more erotic adventures, hoping to put him in the mood. He regaled her with a surprising bevy of naughty tales, which – combined with the infusion – inflamed them both with lust. By the time they fell asleep, they could honestly say that the marriage had been consummated and that an heir might have been conceived.
Unknown to them, a servant had been assigned to watch them in secret. He rushed to give a full report to the King and Queen, who sighed in relief at the news. They had been afraid that the newly wedded couple might decide to never share a bed, which could potentially threaten the future of the Kingdom.
⋨ ⋩ ⋨ ⋩ ⋨ ⋩
A little more than a year and a half later, Sanguine sat resting in bed, nursing the new heir that she'd recently given birth to. He was soft and precious and adorable! She just knew that he would be everything a Prince was supposed to be; noble, kind, and intelligent. It was a new and unique experience for her to know that she would actually be able to raise him.
The thought frightened her as well! “I haven't actually done this before, you know?” She whispered to him. “I gave all my babies to their father, so I have no experience with young children. Older children, yes, but not infants and toddlers. Promise that you won't be too hard on me...”
Her little Prince cooed at her despite the fact that her nipple was in his mouth. He also waved his fist at her, utterly melting her heart.
“Oh! I just love you so much!” She squealed. “I could just squeeze you to death!”
Collin entered the room at just that moment, laughing at her statement. “I suggest that you refrain from strangling our baby!”
Sanguine rolled her eyes at him. They had an interesting relationship. It was clear that she was in charge and that he respected her authority, but he was also smart and refined and surprisingly fun to talk to. He brought her places she'd never been before, and always showed her a good time. In a way, he had become her best friend. They didn't have sex very often, but that was fine by them.
“Mother and Father have grown impatient,” Collin announced with a wry smile. “They demand that you bring the baby to them immediately so that they may look him over and work on spoiling him right away!”
Sanguine laughed. “I'll bet!” She took her time getting ready, thinking about her life.
She had settled into her role as future Queen nicely and was confident that she could handle the job when the time came. She already did quite a bit of the duties that were once the responsibility of the King and Queen, and was astonished to find that she liked her job. It was fun, especially after so many years spent in her dungeon!
I would still give up everything to marry Danny in a heartbeat, but if I have to serve my Kingdom until I die, this isn't a bad way to do so...
There was just one thing she wanted to do; something that kept nagging at the back of her mind. It took her at least a week to organize, but soon, she was ready.
⋨ ⋩ ⋨ ⋩ ⋨ ⋩
Sanguine stepped out of the carriage, careful to hold her baby so that she didn't drop him. Several of the servants for Castle Blood stood rigidly attentive to her in case she might need something.
“Has everyone arrived?” She asked curiously.
“Yes, my Princess,” a man answered immediately.
“Good,” she responded with a relieved sigh. As much as she wanted to just slip in unceremoniously, she knew that was impossible now. A herald blew a trumpet and announced:
“Her highness, Princess Sanguine!”
Sanguine entered Castle Blood eagerly, excited to see her loved ones again. She wasn't quite sure who to expect since she felt that it would be callous to invite (which would be construed as an order) Danny and his family, so she had simply written him a letter leaving that up to him. Even so, the most important people were her parents.
Thankfully, Gavin had arranged it so that there would be a small feast when she arrived, so everyone was seated, chatting away merrily. Sanguine greeted her son and all her daughters with a hug and a kiss, smiled sadly at Danny, and then turned her attention to her parents.
“Mother, father... I know that I have not been the easiest daughter, often making choices that baffled you. I also know that I cheated you out of so many moments that you surely longed for, so I only hope that this can make up for that...”
Sanguine held up the bundle in her arms. “May I present to you the first grandchild that you may openly acknowledge and brag about!”
She handed her baby over to her father, kissing him on the cheek. “Just be careful, the King and Queen will kill me if anything should happen to him!”
“Wow, I'm holding a real Prince in my arms!” Her mother murmured reverently when it was her turn to hold the baby.
“I know the whole Kingdom celebrated his birth already, but I thought it was only right if we had our own little celebration as a family,” Sanguine said, finally voicing the thing that had been nagging at her. She didn't want any of them to think that she felt she was too good for them now that she was royalty.
Watching her family fuss over the baby, Sanguine was filled with hope for the future of the Kingdom. Danny put an arm around her, pulling her off to the side.
“And how are you doing?” He asked, honestly concerned about her.
“I'm... surprised,” Sanguine admitted. “I didn't think I would be happy, but...” She shrugged apologetically. “I am, or at least something very close to it.”
“Good,” Danny stated, kissing her on the temple. “I'm glad to hear that.”
“And you?” Sanguine wondered, nudging him playfully.
“Same as I ever was,” he informed her with a smile. “I'm actually pretty happy too. It's a joy to watch Gavin be a good Lord, and the girls are learning so much... I'm amazed just watching them!”
“So...” Sanguine murmured hesitantly. “The future may not have turned out the way we wanted it to, but it's still good, right?”
He nodded in confirmation. “Yep, still good.”
Sanguine smiled at him, relieved that he hadn't fallen into depression like he used to when she couldn't be with him. Looking around, she realized that everything was perfect in the same strange and twisted way that her entire life had been.
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