“Where is my husband!” the queen screamed, her voice echoing with the pain filling her body.
“I am sorry your grace. We received word this morning that he is returning from the battle, victorious but he will not be likely to make it in time.” Emily’s words were hurried as she rushed back to the queen’s side. She felt for her, the pains of child birth were difficult enough, even for wolf-kind, without having some kind of family support and absent any siblings, save her brother in law Peter, Talia had no one. The woman was strong nonetheless. She held her head high and pushed aside the pain so that she commanded a calm unlike any her ladies in waiting had ever seen.
Everyone at court knew her story and respected her for it. She was young, a girl barely blossoming into womanhood when the alpha-king had set his eyes on her. She had come to court after her father had been killed in another war the king had started and finished victoriously, as was his reputation. Talia Cornwall had inherited the title Countess of Brighton when her mother had passed away leaving her orphaned at 17. She became a ward of her father’s closest friend, a man she had called uncle, Lord Bishop, Earl of Guildford. The man served at court as a member of the King’s Privy Council and so his family had resided there for some time when he couldn’t part with his wife and she couldn’t stay without her children.
The king of England and Grand Alpha of England’s wolf-kind, William Hale the second, had watched her silently and from a distance at first. He took the time to survey his prey, noting her elegance and grace, the way she seemed to know so much even at such a young age. He watched her impress the ladies at court with her style and pride in all things while stunning the men with her beauty and spirit. Many had made advances but all were turned away as she had no interest in boys. She had always known that her husband would command her attention and respect, rather than attempt at teasing and flirting for her affections.
So over time the king had approached her, their first meeting on the dance floor when he’d joined in the celebrations after another of his many victories. He’d taken her hand before another could claim it and kept her his partner the entire night. He hadn’t spoken a word, just watched her, silently, steadily and ever so hungrily. Talia had known then, even as she’d given him a decent run for his money, that he was the one.
William had tried to bed her when he’d known certainly that she wanted him in return but she refused claiming she wouldn’t be a king’s whore. Her words had stirred nothing in him, he had already decided he would marry and mate her. A true mate coupling was often considered rare but there was no other the alpha-king had ever thought of after Talia had crossed his path. So he took her for himself and the realm had respected and praised their union. All the ladies aspired to be like Talia Hale nee Cornwall and all the men respected the king’s queen and alpha mate while secretly desiring knowledge of what a life with her might be like. Needless to say there was never a day when the king regretted his decision.
“That man…” she stopped wincing as she changed her position slightly in the birthing stool. “That man has always favored a battle it should not surprise me so, that it is what keeps him from his son’s birth.”
“I’m sure he would be here had he known the child would come so soon…”
“Even then Emily…” she groaned, “…even then that man would still be on some battlefield slicing through soldiers rather than holding his mate’s hand in the most…. Ahhhhhh!” she screamed as she felt the head of her baby pushing against her widening entrance.
“It’s time your grace, you must push.”
The queen screamed as she did so, her body clenching as she forced herself to expel the little one she’d kept safely inside her womb for eight months and a few days.
“That’s good my queen another,” Emily coaxed holding the woman’s hand a moment before returning to the child coming from between her legs. The queen pushed again her roar of pain and endurance an echo once more throughout the upper halls of the castle.
“One more my lady, one more, you can do this.”
She pushed a final time and felt the instantaneous relief when the child left her body completely and was caught in the arms of her first lady Emily. One of the others cut the cord and Emily stood laughing as she brought the newborn forth. “A boy my queen, it’s a boy.” Talia’s face lit up, glowing with more than just reflected light off the sheen of sweat covering her, but with her joy at having birthed a son.
“A little prince,” she cooed as she opened her arms to receive him. “My little prince Derek. Your father will be so pleased to meet you.” She cradled the boy in her arms and listened to his welcome wailing as she stared into his blinking hazel eyes, so large and round and bright. He was perfect, not a hair out of place even having come early.
“Talia!” she heard the shout of a voice heaving with having run a great distance. Her lord husband, the King come to his wife from battle, to be greeted with the sight of his heir, his prince in her arms.
“William, you’ve returned. They said you wouldn’t make it.”
“They were wrong, nothing would keep me from this,” he huffed.
“My love, it’s a boy,”
“How can I love you more woman? For you’ve given me all a man could hope for, love and laughter and an heir to carry on when I am dust. Let me look at him.” William took his boy into his arms and raised him up. He smiled approvingly before kissing his son’s cheek. “A fine prince you are and a fine king you’ll be.”
Edinburgh Castle was lit up with shouts of praise and joyous singing in anticipation of the birth of the Scottish heir. The queen Claudia had gone into labor three weeks after going into confinement. The king had commenced celebrations just the day before and left them to be at her side for the duration of her labor. Grand Alpha-King John had refused to be ordered away from his wife’s birthing bed as she gave birth to their son, or at least he’d hoped it was a son. Though nothing would have pleased him more than to see his child, boy or girl brought safely into the world but the monarch and male in him, the king in him held a special hope that the child would be male. A male who could take the throne and continue his line.
“What if he does not take to this world,” Claudia worried to her husband as he held her from behind, holding her shoulders so she could feel him there.
“Ach Claudia he is my son he will be fine. Fine, strong and perfect. Leave your worries to God he will see our boy to us safely.” The king was unwavering in his belief that all would be well. His sureness gave his wife the courage and strength to continue on. He tended to have that effect on her continuously reminding her he was definitely her other half. King John Stilinski had always been a kind and loving man in all things. He had loved his people and earned their respect through his strength and love rather than through fear like a few of his predecessors.
The Scottish people had hailed the king and queen as the truest of true of all Scottish monarchs and would give their lives for either of them at a moment’s notice. The joy of the royal family was the joy of the common people and so when the queen had become pregnant they rejoiced, as much as they did now that she was birthing the future of Scotland.
“The child will be here soon, you must push my queen,” one of her ladies said clearly, with surety and conviction.
“Push Dia,” John whispered calling her the pet name he’d used so many times. She complied, pushing as hard as she could. The cry of pain that ripped from her throat wrenched John’s heart but he held her steady, remaining her rock.
“Again your grace, again.” Claudia pushed and immediately felt a strange pain overcome her, unlike what she’d felt before. She screamed as her body seemed to fight her to reclaim the child.
“Stop stop your grace stop pushing!”
“Adelaide what’s happening?” the king asked as a hint of fear crept into him.
“The child’s shoulder is caught against the wall of the queen’s passage, if she pushes he could break his arm and tear her walls. We must turn him.” The woman spoke solemnly and truthful, sparing no detail. The king had treated her as family all her life and she respected and loved him.
“Then do so quickly,” he said but she didn’t move, giving him a worried look.
“It will be painful my lord, extremely so.” His face immediately mirrored Adelaide’s before he turned down to face his panting and huffing wife. Her face was a mess of sweat and spittle as she tried to hold on.
“I am with you in this thing, I am here, use me, hold me and let us get our son out into the world so he can nurse at your breast and smile at your beautiful face, the way I do,” he winked as he placed his hands in hers and nodded. He mimicked the breathing pattern to remind her to do so and when she final found a breath that almost gave respite from the endless pain she nodded. The king turned to Adelaide and gestured with his head for her to proceed.
When the queen cried out John thought she would die. The pain in her voice was unlike anything he’d ever heard in all his years even as a warrior in the heat of battle. No man had ever screamed out a cry as terrifying as that. Her eye’s flashed golden as she reached for her wolf allowing the supernatural strength to aid her. It seemed like forever before Adelaide pulled her hand from between the Queen’s legs, slick with fluids and blood. She huffed out a breath and urged the queen to push once more, Just one large push.
Claudia did so and the cries came almost immediately. Their son was free and healthy and she laughed when she heard it. Once the cord was cut Adelaide brought the child forth to his parents, presenting him eagerly after smiling down at his face. The king took the babe and placed him in his mother’s arms and the crying ceased immediately. Claudia smiled at the boy and looked up to her husband who smiled as well. There was a soft shriek from the Queen’s arms and the baby began to giggle so much so his body vibrated with it.
“John he laughs, he’s laughing my love what a miracle you are my boy, my precious boy.”
“A miracle indeed. Adelaide look upon the miracle my wife has given us. Prince Germin Stilinski future king of Scotland.”
Once news had reached the outside the celebrations roared to a fever pitch as people danced and sang, lifting their voices to give praises for their blessing.
Metal smacked hard against metal as they sparred, master and student. King William had insisted his son be trained by the best there ever was, who he admitted, only privately, wasn’t himself. Sir Alan Deaton, the commander of the King’s army was the most excellent swordsman in all of England. There was not a man who could best him when he held his blade and the king had hoped his friend Sir Alan would train his son to be quite the same if not better.
“I can feel the weakness of your stance when my steel collides with yours. Spread your legs, one further away from the other giving you a strong foundation and bind your arm to that sword boy.”
“I’m trying,” Derek articulated. He was only thirteen but he was tall for his age and his body had begun filling in early giving him an air of manliness.
“Try harder my prince, in battle there are no take-backs or do-overs. Your first chance is your last chance.” Derek nodded his understanding. “Now let your hand mold to the hilt of that sword and allow it to move as though it were part of you, an extension so that your reflexes are the sword’s reflexes.” Before Derek had a chance to nod again, Alan was coming at him, charging with an elongated arm, stabbing his steel toward Derek’s middle. Immediately the boy parried his hand swinging around, counter clockwise so that his sword swatted the knight’s away. He smiled at his own progress but immediately the knight retaliated, swirling about and bringing the sword with him so that its flat edge smacked Derek’s upper back and sent him toppling over thanks to his weak stance.
Alan walked toward him before standing there, towering over the boy, his face serious as his hand stretched down to offer the prince aid in rising. Derek turned over and pulled himself up before assuming an adjusted stance making sure his legs were far enough apart that he wouldn’t repeat his previous mistake and find himself flat on his face. Alan gave him a brief smile of acknowledgement and encouragement before resuming his impeccable mask of impassivity and attacking once more.
King John and queen Claudia walked together, hand in hand along the ramparts, their eyes down at the ground near the side of the great castle, where they could see Germin and his teachers. The prince had taken to a nickname over the years so that all the court referred to him commonly as prince Stiles. John had tried to hold off on Stiles’ ambition but the young lad at his tender age had begged for his father to begin his training with a blade.
As soft as he was on the inside when it came to his boy the king could not deny him. He had hailed a few of the swordsmen of his guard, the ones he trusted above all else and petitioned them to be the prince’s teachers. Of course the men had happily agreed, few of the members of court even knew how to say no to the prince and the only ones who did tended to have good reason for taking such action. Like the cook for example who had to deny Stiles late night sweets as she had insisted he would wake on the morrow with one less tooth in his mouth each day until there were none at all.
The king’s smile was always present when he regarded his son, and especially now when the boy had basically put himself into swordsmanship lessons with the aspiration of being every bit a warrior as his father. “He is a fine young warrior,” the king remarked.
“I believe your opinion maybe unfairly influenced in his favor my love,” the queen pointed out, but love was shining in her eyes. John wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her against him. His chin nestled in the crook between her neck and shoulder.
“Perhaps it is so but I fear the truth is all that escapes these lips my darling.”
“And I do so agree. The men have taught him well. Look oh haha…” she laughed as she watched Stiles take on one of the knights. Sir Ralleigh had charged from behind, while Sir Fendry stabbed the boy’s middle. Stiles simply parried the thrust and quickly spun in some dance step of his own creation to smack away the other knight’s blade. Though they were holding back, well some of them considerably, before Fendry could regain his balance, Stiles had swiped down at his leg sweeping it out from under him so that he fell on his arse.
“That’s my boy,” the king murmured softly.
“You realize he only does this for you.”
“And by that you mean?”
“He’s learning the art of war to be a son after his father’s pattern,”
“What else would the boy do Claudia?”
“He does many things, and he is greatly talented in them. He also finds passion in them.” She had a tone in her voice the king couldn’t quite identify.
“What are you saying woman be plain about it.” John bit down on her shoulder playfully even as he commanded an answer.
“I don’t want him in battle.”
“He is a man Claudia and a prince at that, these things should they come about are unavoidable.”
“He is a boy yet, and even in his manhood he will not delight in the fight as you and your men do. He prefers…”
“The art and music and his voice is divine, all these things I know.”
“Then promise he will not fight, promise you will keep him from it.”
“Ach woman I am the king I cannot send men to battle and lead them out there and yet ask my son to remain behind. How would that look to the men, to our people?” The king released her and walked a short distance, his lips pursed now.”
“Germin is tender hearted and the men and the people know it. Our son has a light in him that lifts their spirits, they would want that protected just as I do, just as I know you do inside. Besides he is your only heir the good lord has seen fit to give to us…”
“Come,” he said turning about and reaching for her when he heard her words. “That is a blessing that I will cherish for lifetimes and love you until the end of those lifetimes… I will allow him the choice. I will not pressure him, I will make it his decision but you cannot counsel him should the time come and neither will I. Does that sound reasonable?”
She nodded. Her hand came up to brush gently at his cheek with her knuckles. She kissed him then deeply before turning to watch her son dominate the lesson his teachers had enacted.
“Come on Derek she’s probably the most beautiful and definitely the most talented girl at court,” Isaac prodded.
Isaac was one of the sons of the vassal houses. His father lived at court since his wife had passed. Isaac and Derek had become close friends. He’d also fell into line with the king’s brother Peter who was young enough that he spent an awful lot of time with the boys. Peter had taken a few of the girls to his chamber and Isaac had pulled Derek along to join them. “I’m sure she’s quite talented.” Derek agreed, watching the woman strewn across Peter’s bed, her head on her hand and a glass of wine pressed to her lips. Her blue eyes undressed the prince openly as her hand skimmed the front of her skirts, fingertips pressing tightly against the fabric so Derek could see she was pressing against flesh.
Isaac shook his head, giving up and walked into the room taking the hand of another girl, Marguerite Chambers. She immediately slipped her hand into his and fell into his lap as he eased onto the bed higher from the young woman who stared down the prince, Jane Crowley. Jane lifted her free hand and beckoned the prince forward but he simply stood and watched, half reluctant half lustful.
“What’s the matter lad, is she not attractive enough for you?” Peter called from behind the girl who was straddling him. His hand fumbled between his legs to pull his cock free of the flap in his trousers. When the head of his erection met the wet warmth of the woman, Lynsey Doyle, he gasped in pleasure. “I’m sure she’s eager to make up for it in other ways, little prince.”
“Don’t call me that,” Derek mumbled.
“What was that little lord I didn’t quite hear you?”
“Don’t call me little uncle, for I assure you,” he stepped forward then the sly smile on his face spreading devilishly, seductively, dangerously, “I am far from little and merely worry that the young lady may find herself climbing the wrong ladder…” his eyebrow raised as did hers, but her own smile endured.
“Come then my prince, I have climbed many a tree in my youth and I’m surely prepared for the length and breadth of your own.” Derek had come to stand right in front of her and she moved then, slowly climbing his body until her eyes met his and he reached in to take her tongue with his own in the hot cavern of her mouth. Her hand went to his pants and he laughed raw low and throaty.
“How does she taste my lord?” Peter called.
“Is she as sweet as malmsey wine?” Isaac queued.
Derek reared his head back from the woman and held her chin in place as he looked over her shoulder, “Sweeter even than honey…” he smiled wickedly for his friend and his uncle while slowly pushing Jane’s head down so that should take his manhood into her mouth. The show of power and sexual dominance bolstered his image in the eyes of the men as they cheered him on.
“His grace Prince Germin…” Stiles looked to the man with a creased brow and the gentleman quickly cleared his throat and covered, “…ahem Prince Stiles and Lord McCall.” Stiles had adopted the new name so well he almost completely replaced his own with it and probably would have had it not been royal. He and Scott entered the great hall and he smiled widely as he watched the people dance and sing in celebration.
“There she is Stiles the girl I told you about,” Scott whispered to his friend as he pointed less than discreetly at a pretty, tall and fair young woman with long waves of dark brown curls flowing down her back.
“Well then, she is gorgeous. And you still don’t know her name.” He laughed as his friend made a face before turning to greet his parents at the head table. “Lord father, lady mother.”
“My Prince come, kiss your mother. Where have you been the celebrations have sorely missed you.” Stiles moved then to embrace Claudia and press a kiss to her cheek. His father gave him a faux withered look as he pulled away and stepped down as if forgetting the man was also present. Immediately he leaned in to kiss the king on his forehead.
“My affections do not wane father,”
“As they better not.”
“I have been assisting Scott here with his lady troubles.”
“Your graces,” the boy said as he bowed to his king and queen.”
“Lady troubles, why you are far too young a lad to be dealing with such a thing,” the king remarked.
“And so handsome, you should be free of any troubles at all Scott. Where is your lady mother she is missed at court?”
“I shall tell her you are thinking of her, she still settles a few matters of my father’s estate as she has only now felt up to the task, and refused me lay a hand in it.”
“Ay she is a strong woman, she will survive, as you clearly have.”
Just then a familiar tune began to play, one the prince had come to call favorite. Scott turned to Stiles as did nearly half the room including the king and queen, expectantly.
“Well go on then boy the people are waiting for a show,” the king prodded. Stiles merely smiled and took off. He began prancing toward the circle of people dancing in the center of the room. His feet switched into a rhythmic pattern as his body swayed from right to left and then he spun in a circle.
Almost immediately the circle of people moved with him, matching his steps, following his choreography until they all danced in unison. The beat built and built until it hit a hook and Stiles began to sing, his voice raising and echoing throughout the room. The tune was joyous, upbeat and made everyone smile as they watched him.
His spirit was the talk of his court and many other kingdoms. All who knew of Scotland spoke of its prince, the master of sword and song, the artful prince, the dancing prince. The women in the room regarded him longingly, and so did many a man, their eyes roving possessively as if they would like to get him alone and keep his glory to themselves.
“We may have to provide him a guard just for the admirers he gains every day, to fend them off gently, some even forcefully,” The queen said dryly as she watched the looks of lust and wanting from many of the single people at court.
“Would that they had the courage to approach him, I would fear far more for their chances, as well as their sanity.” The king laughed knowing all too well his son’s ambition and standards.
“Wipe your face boy, your mother would have hated to see you crying like a child over this. What’s done is done she used to say and it is the truth. England needs a strong prince. Even more so if we are to take France to war for what they have done.” The king’s words were harsh and cold. His tone unfeeling, his face a mask. He had done his wailing in private and had sent away all those who had witnessed his fit of grief as he did not want to be reminded of his moment of weakness. When Queen Talia died, or rather, was murdered the whole of England was dark and silent for weeks. The king had placed himself in seclusion until her funeral and then seemed to become a different person. He was colder, more cruel and short as well as harsh with his son.
“It’s my fault,” Derek mumbled. The king remained silent. “I accepted her, I should have seen what she was doing. I should have known.”
“I will say this just the once. There is no use casting blame. We all accepted Catherine Argent into our lives and we have paid the price for it. Your mother, brother and sisters are dead. There is only what lies ahead and we will survive to see the house of France fall for their crimes against us.” The king turned to look at Derek then. The two men stood level as Derek had grown tall to match his father’s height. “This is the last we speak of this. Hales never admit weakness or defeat, we are strong and enduring do you understand me… Do You Understand!” He yelled to which Derek replied with a nod of compliance.
With that the king turned and walked out of the room leaving Derek alone with a fresh set of tears and all his regrets to keep him company. Catherine Argent had come from France, their princess with a deal for the royal English family. They were, through her marriage to Derek, to bridge the gap between the worlds of the wolf-kind and the humans by binding the wolf-prince Derek to the human daughter of France.
The entire deal had turned out to be a farce created by the French king in order to infiltrate the kingdom of the Hales and execute the royal family. Fortunately they had not succeeded in killing the King, Derek or Peter but the rest of the Hales had paid the price.
Stiles leaned into his father who hid the young man’s face away from the rest of the crowd that had gathered. “It’s time my son,” the king murmured against the boy’s ear as he stroked tresses of his silken brown hair. Stiles pulled away then and gave his father one parting gaze before he turned to Scott who squeezed his hand and then walked away.
“Fire!” someone yelled, and several flaming arrows hit the funeral pyre. The blaze rose quickly and as it dead the sobbing and cries lessened until they ceased and eyes settled on Stiles.
The prince stepped forward nearer the burning pyre and toward the center of the circle and lifted his voice beginning a song of mourning and of celebration. The tune was soft at first then built up rising to higher notes and the melody almost seemed to be a tangible thing in the air. Soon everyone joined him and sang a final song to their fallen queen who had died of a fever.
The fields were rank with the stench of blood. The grass was covered in the thick red liquid and the earth soaked it up but couldn’t make it all go away. The hot afternoon day was filled with the sounds of steel on steel as well as the growls of English wolves fighting Scottish ones. Screams of pain, groans of fading life and cries for mercy could be heard just under the sound of warring as the day went on.
Time had finally pitted Scotland and England against each other. Prompted by his wife’s murder the king had set on a campaign to unite all the lands through blood, by eliminating their monarchs and creating one country under his rule. His son the prince Derek had followed him into battle against every other country. France had endured as an independent but all the others had fallen to King William’s command. All except for Scotland and Ireland. The countries had united declaring the Alpha-King John ruler of both lands and commander of the great armies of them both which he’d used to go into battle.
Stiles had followed his father into war, refusing to let the man out of his sight as he was afraid to lose another parent. He’d been a beast on the battle field, staying as close to the king as possible while cutting down any who stood in his way. Men had clambered to stay close to him and protect him but he hadn’t needed them to. Every now and then he’d shoot a glance around to find his father and make sure the man was safe.
The armies fought with fang and claw and steel until the land was so filled with blood it didn’t seem like it would ever wash away. And then the tide changed. King William had been cut down by King John and the roar of anguish and anger nearly vibrated the ground as Derek’s eyes changed from glowing sapphire to crimson and he knew instantly even as the power flooded his system that his father was dead and he was the new alpha-king of England.
Somehow father and son became separated in the grand charge led by Derek and Stiles was knocked to the ground. His vision blurred until he went dark and the last thing he’d heard before losing consciousness was the Scots call for retreat.
“What have we here,” the sound penetrated his dull, brief sleep and as he came to he could hear the hush that had settled over the battle field.
“Raise him up I will have his head,” Derek said as he came forward curling fingers around the hilt of his sword. Stiles’ head lolled as they lifted him and he fought to regain consciousness. He blinked rapidly as he tried to draw his surroundings into focus. Derek removed his sword from its scabbard and raised it when a halt was called.
“Your grace wait,” Sir Alan stepped forward inspecting Stiles armor, which was rather expensive, a compliment to his wealth and position. The knight’s eyes dropped to his dangling hand and noticed the ring on his finger and he gasped. “My king, this is the son of King John and Queen Claudia. This is Germin the prince of Scots.”
“I hear they call him Stiles,” another called.
“What’s a Stiles?” Derek queued.
“This boy apparently,” Deaton answered.
“I am no boy, I am a man and we will have your head for marching on us absent cause,” Stiles spewed the words venomously as he finally came back to himself and looked up to face the new king. As their eyes locked something uncertain occurred, Stiles wolf’s eyes flashed it’s bright and rare green as Derek’s scarlet shone for just a moment, before they returned to normal.
Derek gasped, “Your ey....” he took a breath and went on his face becoming cold and his tone mirroring that, “Haven’t you heard boy, the battle is done. Your father runs back to his castle and I come to find that I have his only heir. What a prize. I should kill you though, as he killed my father, a life for a life.” Derek’s tone became dark as he spoke of his father, his eyes flashing blood red.
“Your father deserved his fate and I will gladly see you to yours should you put sword in my hand.”
Derek laughed but it was withered and dark. “Not today little bastard, it’s the tower for you, and then we will decide what happens next. You’ll hardly enjoy it there but if only you can suffer some measure of discomfort then I can delight in some form of vengeance.”
Stiles spat in Derek’s face before growling his gaelic curse, “Go hifreann leat! – To hell with you.”
A hand came up to wipe the spit from his face before Derek swiftly brought the hilt of his sword down across Stiles head knocking him out.