“Should she be locked away with the others who stood in the Rebellion?” The Commander of the Kings own sat at the large meeting table with a controlled expression, Sir Raoul's natural cheer drained away by the dilemma before them. No one had foreseen this complication, but there in the next room sat a skinny 13-year-old woman with Conte blue eyes and dark brown hair. “She’s his bastard daughter, leave her to the streets and be done with it.”
“She is of Conte blood and an heir to the throne,” Sir Gary drawled, and looked to the silent King. “His followers may rally around her.”
“Then exile her and let us be done with the trouble of it all.” Snapped the Lady Knight, Sir Alanna, her violet eyes darkened by the memory of the child's father. The man who had murdered her twin brother, Thom, just days before.
Lasille wondered if they knew she could hear their every word and remark. Her father had taken her from her mother only three short months ago to see her made a princess and in order to secure the alliance with a northern kingdom. The dress she had been given fit her poorly, she was sleek muscle and it made for a wider girl. Lasille had worked her whole life helping others and now, at thirteen was being judged for the mistakes of a father she barely knew. Would she have no chance to speak?
“Exile would not be the worst thing, my King,” Queens Theyet’s voice was barely audible but it broke the last straw in the young girl.
“Ya’Majesties,” Another man began to speak only to be interrupted but alike knocking at the door.
“Enter,” The newly crowned King of Tortall called, raising an eyebrow when his younger cousin walked in before them with her head held high. Lavender fabric fit loose around her body. This surprised him, Roger had always been meticulous in his clothing. He watched silently until she knew before the thrones where he and the queen sat on. “Lady Lasille, what do you request?”
“Only an opportunity to speak, my Lord King,” Keeping her eyes trained on the ground below her, she fought not to react to the mummers that spread through the small conference room.
With a gentle squeeze of encouragement from his wife, Jonathan answered, “Then rise and speak, cousin.”
“I did not meet the Duke of Conte until three months ago when he stole me from my mother’s home. But she was the maid in a noble’s home and considering the visitors my Lord of Stonemountian received, it was likely I had some royal blood in me, therefore I was trained with his children and lady-maids.” She stood carefully as she spoke, knowing everything she said could condemn her. “I do not understand all royal customs, but I do understand that some in this room acknowledge that every breath I breathe could be a threat to your Majesties and the kingdom you are creating.” Lasille waited for the muttering to end again. “My mother was of the Cooper Isles, where Kyprioth reigns over the native Raka, the way they handle such worries in with a… a blood oath.”
“And ya’are willin’ ta make such a pledge, Lass?” The voice she had not recognized stepped up from the wall he had been leaning against. He was tall with green eyes and a crooked nose, Sir Alana looked at him as if he had hung all the stars in the sky. “A’the age of thirteen? Now, Ya’Majesty, perhaps we can arrange somethin’ a wee bit betta?”
Lasille watched the man with a lower city accent curiously. Was he trying to help her?
“You have a suggestion, Baron Cooper?” Only those who knew the king well would be able to see the relief in his eyes. Lasille saw nothing but contempt and was afraid.
“T’family Penrose ‘as been placed in a light disgrace since Lord Meclon raised a small revolt some twenty years back. He has several acres, a house, barn, an’ some other various attachments, nothing that is terrible valuable t’ the Crown.” George smirked as the younger girls eyes slowly filled with hope. “I’d say it be a perfect place ‘or his lost daughter, Caetyn of Penrose, to be granted for her service of not following her father’s examples.”
The Majesties looked to each other, having a silent conversation as only the closest couples can. The rest of the guest in the room had conversations of their own, most approving the arrangement.
“So be it them,” Jonathan looked at the young girl before him and spoke with authority. “In exchange for your agreement to never seek the throne, you will be given a new name, land, and title.”
“I accept your most merciful gift, your Majesties,” Caetyn curtseyed low before them.
“George, you’ll see to everything? Won't you?” Her Majesty looked to the crooked nose man.
“Aye M’lady, should not take but a week or two to see it all settled.” Baron George Cooper bowed before them both as he leads the young woman from the room. Once they were walking the halls, he grinned at her,” That was something clever, walking in and speakin’ up like that.”
“I couldn’t let them steal away who I am, my lord Baron,” she was solemn as they walked towards the guest wing to gather her things. “I may have his blood, but he’s not my pa.”
“I know child, I know,” George winked and opened the door for her, frowning a bit when she was barely able to fill a knapsack. “’ere’s the rest of your things?”
“Duke Roger wasn’t sure if I was worth keeping, so he said he wasn’t going to waste the funds,” She shrugged, unfazed by the actions of a royal she barely knew. “He wanted me to learn all kinds of magic, so…”
“So?” George squinted slightly at the shielded girl.
“So, I acted like I didn’t have any,” a grin finally pulled at her lips. “He thought I was as dumb as a box of rocks.”
“And the truth?” He loved a good joke and she had run one on a man he had hated for years.
“I can do a few tricks,” The small grin melted to a smirk, they were going to be good friends.
“Excellent, let’s sneak you outta the city and see what we can find ya’” George messed up her hair as he walked by and led the way down into the secret passageways and out of
Corus, Caetyn prayed it was for good.
Chapter 2: The Traitor's Daughter: Progress Welcome
It had been Ten years since her father’s death since she went into a witness protection program of sorts. An outcast family’s title and lands. A workload she could never manage and the ever-growing group of outcasts. Caetyn is more than anyone expected of the traitor's daughter.
“My lady!” A blond boy of about eleven years ran up from the forest line and into a large building. “My lady! My LADY!” He scooted around several younger children and ducked under a collapsing beam to find who he was looking for. Panting and out of breath, he spoke, Milady. The Progress. Mayor Turd sending them.”
The brown-haired woman smiled sweetly at her charge and set the sleeping child she had been rocking into the arms of one of the older girls. “Then we shall have to make it our idea, Michael, won’t we?”
“Shall I go?” His honey-colored eyes lit up with excitement, and he ran to their lone horse the second she gave the briefest nod. They had gone over the conversation multiple times, and he was ready to do his part.
The woman allowed her expression to drop to a frown as she observed their sanctuary. Much had been done to repair it in the ten years she had been blessed to live there, but there was much to do and many coming to wait on her hospitality. Scooping up a basket of laundry, Caetyn made her way out to the yard and looked around for those she needed, grinning when a pair of raven-haired teens rushed to her side.
“We just finished clearing the land this morning, and the stables are prepared,” Nix bounced in excitement, holey clothes covered in muck. “The boys who are old enough are ready to help with the tents and horses.”
“We just finished moving the last cribs into the classrooms, Milady,” His twin sister Nia added as the followed her to the wash tubs. “We set up the small fences like you requested so the younglin’s can plan and not be stepped on. Everyone who does not have a chore is in their classes.”
“Excellent as always,” Caetyn smiled at her closest apprentices. These two had committed to staying with her and helping her in all tasks. “We need the main hall cleaned out, food hall expanded to the outer awning, and cots in the healing hall replaced with clean sheets.”
“Will Master Roran be home by the time they arrive?” Nia grinned. She had long since decided that Lady Caetyn and Master Roran should marry and have many children for her to watch.
“I don’t know Nia, but I do know large crowds bring accidents and sicknesses, it’s always wise to be prepared. Now,” Caetyn clapped with a smile. “Off to your chores while I await the Master of Ceremony.”
Both students left swiftly to see her request fulfilled as she set out a bowl of fruit and chilled water under one of the awnings and rocked a restless toddler.
To say the King Jonathan of Conte was frustrated with his current situation was an understatement. The Grand Progress had been on the move for three months, staying on various estates and towns as they moved through the country to count their people and remind them the crown reaches more than just the capital city.
“This is an OUTRAGE,” The Master of Ceremonies bellowed from down the hall.
“What am I to do then, My Lord?” Mayor Turiht was a short, slimy ball of a man that no one really cared for and reeked of greed. “This is all the space and supplies I can manage on such short notice.”
Just as the King would lose his temper, young Michael slid under the guard’s feet and landed in a pile at his feet. Looking up her beamed at the King, unknowing, “’scuse me Sir, My Lordliness, Sir. But my I talk to that is in charge of the Granprogress?”
Jonathan bit back a laugh, “I suppose you may speak to me; what do you have to say?” Jon reached down and helped the boy to his feet as the Master and Mayor entered. The Mayor turned bright red when he saw the boy, and the King knew it must be a good sign.
“Thank ye, my lord, sir, “Michael stood a little straighter and cleared his throat. The boy nearly crossed his eyes as he spoke carefully, “Milady, Caetyn of Penrose, bid me offer her estate as a sanctuary for Their Majesties and their road-worn companions. It is not a lot, but she believes, with the king’s permission, that she can assist the Lore Master of Ceremonies in placing everyone proper. The only thing she knows she will not be able to provide is food for all, but perhaps Mayor Turd, I mean, Mayor Turhit, would be of some assistance in that. “
The major huffed as he puffed out his chest in annoyance, “Th-That is just un-except-“
“Tell her ladyship,” King Jonathan just the plump man off with a hard look. A look like that form a king could easily mean loss of station or even loss of life. He turned to the boy with a kind look, “Tell her ladyship that we thank her for her hospitality and will accept her invitation. Would you be so kind as to lead the Master of Ceremonies and the Third to her estate so they can assist with preparations?”
Michael bowed himself in half be for smirking, “Yes, m’ lord King, I thought it might be you. Oh! I have a message from Master Roran as well. He said that you ought ta know that a few of the Own and Riders will be right at home.” Turning to the Master, he beamed, “Ya gots a horse?”
“Let’s be on our way, lad,” The stuffy Master could not help but be amused at his new companion.
Within half an hour, Michael was racing the Knight and some of the Own in through the gates.
The sound of racing horse pulled Caetyn from her tasks, and she walked quickly to the gates with a bright smile. She was truly excited to see her guests, some she had only met briefly as a child. Michael had done as she had instructed him, giving them a full tour of the large field that had already been harvested and was ready for the large crowd before leading them back to the main estate. It was her every intention to look as much like a proper lady as possible when greeting her guest, but some of the men had other plans.
“LADY CAE!” Ariz, a tall baizer man, slipped from his horse followed by three other men and ran to her. “Mi’dy, we each have enough to sponsor a man to the Own.”
“Praise Mithros,” Caetyn laughed as they each kiss her cheek. “Keep it, for now; you may see those we have of age and pick one if you like.”
“So, you are the Lady of Penrose,” The Master of Ceremonies looked her over expectantly, nodding when she curtseyed low in respect. “It is always good to see someone honored in their own home; now, I was informed that you have maps prepared?
“Of course my Lord,” she smiled kindly and led the way to the small tented area. “These are the maps of land as were given to me. I also have a chart of recommendations if it pleases you.”
“You’ve done well,” He looked over them with a deep focus as she poured him a glass of water, setting it within reach. “Thank you, my dear. This will take me some time, and I believe you have other responsibilities to attend.
“Yes, thank you,” Caetyn bowed and went to check on Nix. The teen had managed to assist all the own to stable their horses and have the boys who were candidates assisting the stable hands and squires. It was an amusing sight considering some of the boys barely reached the horse's shoulders. “Is my Lord Raoul here? I was sure it was his banner I saw with this squadron.”
“Yes, Caetyn, I’m here.” The tall man grinned as he stepped out from his horses stall. “Another fine group of Own and Riders you have trained here. I already see potential.”
“Thank you, my lord,” She smiled and ruffled the hair of younger boy who walked by. “Are you pleased with the accommodations?”
“Of course, these will do very nicely for everyone as will the extra help.” Raoul led them out from the stables. “How many younglings are you housing this time around?”
“Twenty four at last count,” she sighed, letting a little of her weariness shine through. “Seven are up for graduation as soon as I have the funds. Four to the Own and three to the Riders.”
“That is a lot of mouths to feed,” The knight watched her from the corner of his eye. Last summer she had been more healthy looking, it concerned him to see the amount of weight she had lost. “Do any of the towns give you assistance?”
“Some give me work if that count,” she smiled at him, hearing the concern lacing his voice. “I work two nights a week at the tavern, and some of the farms rent out our draft horse when we can spare him. I also tend a few of the local vegetable gardens to make sure all mouths are fed.”
“Even yours?” Stopping his stride, he raised an eyebrow at her.
She shrugged with a grin and walked around him. Their Majesties would be there soon, and she needed to oversee the final preparations.