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James Lancaster

"What days of strain, what nights of stress Can cark a throne, Even one maintained in peacefulness, I too have known. "

0 · 570 views · located in Seabel

a character in “Forged: Blood and Steel”, as played by Calvazara

Description

Image


Image


From the slow march and muffled drum,
And crowds distrest,
And book and bell, at length I have come
To my full rest.

A ten years' rule beneath the sun
Is wound up here,
And what I have done, what left undone,
Figures out clear.

Yet in the estimate of such
It grieves me more
That I by some was loved so much
Than that I bore,

From others, judgment of that hue
Which over-hope
Breeds from a theoretic view
Of regal scope.

For kingly opportunities
Right many have sighed;
How best to bear its devilries
Those learn who have tried!

I have eaten the fat and drunk the sweet,
Lived the life out
From the first greeting glad drum-beat
To the last shout.

What pleasure earth affords to kings
I have enjoyed
Through its long vivid pulse-stirrings
Even till it cloyed.

What days of strain, what nights of stress
Can cark a throne,
Even one maintained in peacefulness,
I too have known.


And so, I think, could I step back
To life again,
I should prefer the average track
Of average men,


Since, as with them, what kingship would
It cannot do,
Nor to first thoughts however good
Hold itself true.


Something binds hard the royal hand,
As all that be,
And it is That has shaped, has planned
My acts and me.








Image Role: The Exiled King

Gender: Male

Age: Twenty-Nine

Nicknames: By many he only allows the use of his title ‘King James’ or ‘Your Grace’ He only allows a few select people refer to him as James. Many in the South refer to him as ‘the exiled one’ he doesn’t particularly like that one.

House: Lancaster by blood.








ImageHeight: 5foot 11inches

Build: Slender with layers of toned muscle, he has a warriors build.

Hair Colour: Dark Brown

Eye Colour: Hazel/Green

Scars?: There are various battle scars on his body, but there is one scar in particular that is his favorite. It resides on his abdomen, large and the skin there is puckered. He received it the first day his father placed a sword in his hand and said 'This will be the first of your many wounds, my son. Wear it with pride." This was right before his father sliced him.

Brief written description: James is a man with a look of everlasting strength and headstrong perseverance. He has a rather hard exterior with his intelligent bright green eyes and his tight square jaw. His skin is sun-kissed from years of hunting and combat, and his thick dark locks turn bronze in the sun's rays. He is hauntingly handsome, but there is a coldness in his body and a hardness in his eyes; the look of a man that has seen too much in so little time. Though, he is young, James possesses a wisdom that is displayed in his voice, posture, and stare. He is a man of stern nobility and his body portrays every bit of his knightly persona.








Image
ImageSkills:
~Sword fighting
~Archery
~Jousting
~Loosing his temper
~Persuasion
~Battle Strategy
~Torture
~Intimidation
~Articulate

Quirks:
~When annoyed, James will either smirk at the stupidity of the conversation or he will twist his dagger between his fingers, signaling that he is tempted to get violent.
~When pleased, he doesn't smile, but he will nod in appreciation. The only person that is really allowed to hear him laugh or see him smile is his wife, family or closest friends.
~James prays daily, searching for both strength and guidance for retaking his place as Seabel’s rightful King and avenging his fathers death.
~James has the shortest temper, which often makes him act rashly.
~He is nearly obsessed with producing a legitimate heir.

Likes:
~Challenges
~His wife
~Children
~His kingdom
~Obedience
~Loyalty
~Seafood
~Fruit
~Jousting
~Sleep

Dislikes:
~Threats
~The Rayleighs
~Mutton
~Losing
~Traitors
~Lost trust

Fears:
~Not producing an heir
~Disappointing his people
~Never regaining his Kingdom.

Written description:

James was raised to be a true King. He is dedicated in retaking his throne and bringing an end to the Rayleigh’s reign, and is willing to lay his life on the line for his people and kingdom. At first glance, James may seem like a cold man, he is quick to anger often acting out rashly and you can hear him daily shouting at his advisors. He shows indifference to many of his cabinet members, he can be friendly to some someday and the horrible the next, had this been modern times he would have certainly been diagnosed with Bipolar disorder. He does have a rather authoritativeness that his father has drilled into his mind since he was a child. He was raised to rule, and rule he shall. He leads his men with an iron fist, but still possesses a compassion for those that dwell in his. His stern personality makes those that are close to him question his morals. He seems too uptight, never knowing whom to trust and holding grudges towards the ones that oppose him. When feeling betrayed, he will not let that person go. He will assure that they suffer. Blood, pleas, and mercy mean nothing to him when his trust is destroyed. Those that obliterate their loyalty to him are doomed to die painfully and slowly until their lives slip away. Vengeful, proud, and compassionate, James is a man that believes in justice, be it brutal or relenting.

However he does have a softer side, he likes to feared by his enemy so his true personality if often only shown to his family. He is a generous man, nobody he loves wants for nothing, he will lavish gifts upon his family on a daily basis, he makes sure those loyal to him a rewarded also. One of his biggest weaknesses are children, he hates to see them suffer and does a lot for them, he has set up orphanages throughout the country, funded by his own pocket and has also improved schooling. He is desperate for children of his own, legitimate children that is, it's become an almost obsessive feature with him.







Family:
Wife || Eleanor Lancaster
Sister-in-law || Harriet Rayleigh


Theme Song :

No Church in Wild || Jay Z ft Kanye Westnno

[Frank Ocean]
Human beings in a mob
What’s a mob to a king?
What’s a king to a god?
What’s a god to a non-believer?
Who don’t believe in anything?

We make it out alive
All right, all right
No church in the wild

[Jay-Z]
Tears on the mausoleum floor
Blood stains the coliseum doors
Lies on the lips of a priest
Thanksgiving disguised as a feast
Rollin’ in the Rolls-Royce Corniche
Only the doctors got this, I’m hidin’ from police
Cocaine seats
All white like I got the whole thing bleached
Drug dealer chic
I’m wonderin’ if a thug’s prayers reach
Is Pious pious cause God loves pious?
Socrates asks, “Whose bias do y’all seek?”
All for Plato, screech
I’m out here ballin’, I know y’all hear my sneaks
Jesus was a carpenter, Yeezy, laid beats
Hova flow the Holy Ghost, get the hell up out your seats
Preach

[Frank Ocean]
Human beings in a mob
What’s a mob to a king?
What’s a king to a god?
What’s a god to a non-believer?
Who don’t believe in anything?

We make it out alive
All right, all right
No church in the wild

[The-Dream]
I live by you, desire
I stand by you, walk through the fire
Your love is my scripture
Let me into your encryption

[Kanye West:]
Coke on her black skin made a stripe like a zebra
I call that jungle fever
You will not control the threesome
Just roll the weed up until I get me some
We formed a new religion
No sins as long as there’s permission’
And deception is the only felony
So never fuck nobody wit’out tellin’ me
Sunglasses and Advil
Last night was mad real
Sun comin’ up, 5 a.m.
I wonder if they got cabs still
Thinkin’ ’bout the girl in all-leopard
Who was rubbin’ the wood like Kiki Shepard
Two tattoos, one read “No Apologies”
The other said “Love is cursed by monogamy”
That’s somethin’ that the pastor don’t preach
That’s somethin’ that a teacher can’t teach
When we die, the money we can’t keep
But we probably spend it all ’cause the pain ain’t cheap
Preach

[Frank Ocean:]
Human beings in a mob
What’s a mob to a king?
What’s a king to a god?
What’s a god to a non-believer?
Who don’t believe in anything?

Will he make it out alive
All right, all right
No church in the wild
No church in the wild
No church in the wild
No church in the wild







So begins...

James Lancaster's Story

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James’s fist slammed down on the solid oak table in front, the vibration along with the loud noise immediately catching his adviser’s attention, essentially quietening them, something the young exiled Prince just so happened wanted to do. For close to an hour he had sat listening to men, some even twice his age bicker like children and he had finally reached the end of his tether, it actually surprised him that he managed to with hold his outburst for this long. “Enough!” his strong voice commanded, he could not believe that the men before him were suppose to help him win back his Kingdom. “I am sick and tired of your petty arguments” James roared in fury as he once again hit his fist against the table. He made a intimidating sight right then, for the Kings or rather exiled King’s fury was talk of the land, he could be compassionate one second and ruthless the next, he was unpredictable and thus much feared by many.

Moving from his seat James walked around the table, jaw set, eyes narrowed he looked as if he were about to explode. “You people are suppose to be helping me win back my Kingdom, to bring the man who murdered my father to his knees!” James shouted “And yet here you are fighting each other over land and wealth which you haven’t even won back yet!” his voice echoed around the room, bouncing off the stone walls making his voice sound almost thunderous. He leant forward on the table, his knuckles turning white from the tight fists his hands were forced into, “I want that Rayleigh bastard out of my throne and I want it done soon!” James pressed, swiping his hands across the table sending papers and wooden markers tumbling to the ground.

Begrudgingly, James prodded back to his chair at the head of the table and sat down, taking a couple of deep breaths as he tried to maintain his fury. “Now…” he began in a slightly quieter tone yet he never lost the forceful edge, “Does anyone have any real advise to give me on how to do this?

To James’s right an older man rose to his feet “My liege, It is my own personal opinion that the best form of attack would be by sea. If we could gather enough ships and men we could sail up the Narrow River and right into the heart of Briar.”

James rubbed the stubble against his chin and nodded at Lord Grahams words “Yes, they would never expect a attack by sea and if we can take the Capital then the rest of Seabel should soon follow. Where could we acquire such a fleet?”

“Perhaps an alliance would be the best option” Lord Graham continued.

“Yes, the Emerald Isles remain a sovereign; perhaps an alliance with them could be forged?” Another Lord commented.
“Very well. Lord Harper, get word to the King of the Emerald Isles, whoever that may be now and ask them to draw up terms for an alliance.” James rose from his seat walking past his advisers and towards the door, he needed to solitude to clear his head and he sought this by prayer.

It did not take long for James to reach the chapel, it was simple and minimalistic, nothing compared to the Abbey back in Briar or his own private chapel in Whinnfel Palace, compared to home everything was lower in standards, still a chapel was a chapel and here he could pray. Lowering to his knees in front of the large cross mounted upon the stone wall, James clasped his hands in front of him, his eyes fixating upon the crucifix. “ "Heavenly Father, I come to you with a question, and like most I am not aware of the answers you may bestow upon me, but I will follow your will nonetheless. My kingdom has been taken from me; morphing into a battlefield instead of the thriving land that my father dreamed of. I am conflicted, my Lord...to go to war or to leave Seabel be and live out my exile in peace...it is logical to immediately cease the loathing that runs deep in my blood and bones towards the Rayleigh family, but I don't believe that I am righteous enough to forgive their horrid natures.

Does that make me a disgrace? A sinner? I will admit that the crimson that I've splattered against your earth has been unjust in certain aspects, but they were traitors, liars, people that slain innocence and spat at the weak. In other aspects, I trust that my violence has been scrupulous. All in all, I am turning to you for guidance. In due time, I shall be discussing the fate of this nation. To battle or to unite? To die or to settle our differences. I would be a liar If I said that my desire was to choose the latter, I crave vengeance for my father and I crave that I shall once again sit upon my ancestral throne. You appointed me King of this country, Father, all I ask is for you to guide me to the most exceptional choice for my people...my wife...and if you are merciful, dear God...my heir. Amen."

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Character Portrait: Eleanor Lancaster Character Portrait: James Lancaster
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“I want that Rayleigh bastard out of my throne and I want it done soon!”

A crash followed.

Eleanor continued to walk along the corridor, keeping her steps even and her breathing level. She felt her baby squirm inside her, somehow able to sense the chaos that lay outside the safety of its mother's womb. Eleanor lifted a hand to her rounded stomach and rubbed the side of it, soothing the child. The other side of the wooden wall she could hear her husband ranting and raving at his advisers. His furious tone and the crash of objects hitting the floor as James flung them from his table told her he was in another one of his moods. His tirade was so loud it echoed through the whole castle, though Eleanor tried not to pick out the words. She certainly would not go in there and attempt to offer any help of her own. She preferred to leave that to her husband and then council with him later, in private, where she was more able to manipulate him. In part, she pitied the men who had to deal with his rage, though she was thankful that today it was not her. Although, if it had been her, perhaps his shouting would've been curtailed much earlier. She had a way with her husband and she'd grown quite adept in talking him out of his fury.

Without stopping, Eleanor exited the corridor, making a mental note to seek her husband out later and talk calmly with him. If she did not discus what was troubling him she knew it would only play on his mind and make him irritable in the following days. Beyond the corridor lay the drawing room, which had been Eleanor's intended destination. She made her way towards the window and lowered herself onto the cushioned bench which faced it. It gave a little under her weight, allowing the exiled Queen to settle herself comfortably and take the weight off her feet.

She gazed out of the window at the snow which was blustering down in a vicious gale. It never got especially warm in the furthest reaches of the north, where Eleanor had been exiled to, and on most days she found herself longing to feel the sunshine on her skin. Although the season was becoming winter, she was certain that in the south the air would still be at least little warm. If she was Queen, as she was meant to be, she would be able to sit outside in Briar, breathing in the fresh air. Here, she had long since been warned not to spend any time outside for fear of catching a chill and ending the little life inside her. But it was not just the climate of her home she missed. As much as she hated to say it, she missed her family dearly. Her mother and father, her sister, her brother. Two nieces, one who'd barely been out of infancy when she'd left and the other just a tiny baby. She'd barely known them, yet she missed them too.

Eleanor was dragged from her thoughts by the sound of movement behind her. She felt the cushion she was sitting on give as another person came to rest beside her.

"How do you fare this morning, my sister?" her brother, Jonathan Stanford asked as he took a seat beside her. His usual charm was evident in his voice.

"Quite well," Eleanor smiled truthfully. In fact, she was feeling the best she had done in a while. At the beginnings of her pregnancy she'd been so riddled with unrelenting nausea she had found herself bed bound many days. When she'd begun to recover from that, she'd been struck by awful pain in her abdomen and bleeding which she was certain was a sure sign she was losing her baby. But, miraculously, the physician told her her child had survived. But now, it seemed things were progressing quite well. Eleanor still got the occasional pain, but was finally, in what she believed was her seventh moon of pregnancy, beginning to feel hopeful for the survival of her child. However, her cruel memory never allowed her to forget her last pregnancy where she'd made it almost to term before delivering a cold baby boy.

"Well then, this must be cause to celebrate!" Jon told her with a smile of his own. For a moment, Eleanor wondered if her whimsical brother intended to begin drinking at this time in the morning. He turned to the maid, "Bring us some tea, and some of those little cakes my sister is so partial to."

Eleanor laughed and the maid hurried back with what Jon had requested. She poured the tea for the siblings and set a plate of tiny cakes down on the small, wooden table before them. Eleanor immediately reached for one and took a bite.

"I was just in with your husband..." Jon told her. He paused to take a long drink of his tea before continuing, his tone bordering on sarcasm, "Quite the fuss he was making..."

Eleanor sighed, polishing off the cake and taking a mouthful of her tea. "Don't, Jonathon," Eleanor told him. "James' under a lot of pressure at the moment. His mood cannot be blamed on him." It seemed to Eleanor as though she constantly found herself trying to smooth things over between her rash brother and her hot-headed husband

Her brother huffed, finishing his tea. "Sometimes, that man can behave like a raving madman. Maybe it'd be best for everyone if I just took the throne!"

Eleanor laughed. "He's a good King, Jon. A better King than you could ever hope to be. He's just frustrated he can't have his time upon the throne..."

"Very well, darling sister, make your excuses for him. I must take my leave now, I have other places I must be. Farewell." He kissed her on the cheek before standing up and leaving the room.

Eleanor sat alone for a while, finishing her tea and the cakes. Then, she eased herself up and set off to find her husband. For a moment, she wished she'd asked her brother where her husband had gone, before she realised that, of course, she knew. After one of James' tirades he liked to find silence and took solace in the chapel. As she reached the back of the small chapel, she leant against the wall and watched her husband pray.

"Father, all I ask is for you to guide me to the most exceptional choice for my people...my wife...and if you are merciful, dear God...my heir. Amen." His voice was soft and his position yielding. There was something lovely about seeing her husband like this. Not the worry and turmoil that filled his voice but the truthfulness of his words. For a moment, she felt a wave of guilt for interrupting his peace and considered leaving, trying to pretend she'd never been here. But the idea of having to seek him out again later when his mood might have escalated back to another fit of anger changed her mind once more.

"Love," she greeted him softly, after giving him a little while of silence. She made her way to the front of the church and stood beside him, not wanting to place the extra strain of trying to kneel down on her body. She reached down, taking his hand in hers and placing it over her swollen stomach, just over where she could feel the child moving.

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Character Portrait: Eleanor Lancaster Character Portrait: James Lancaster
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Chapels had always been a rather solitary fortress for James, as a child he often hid in them from various tutors and sometimes even his parents; from a young age the importance of god had been drummed into him, both of his parents had been devout Catholics, perhaps his mother more so and with gentle nurturing but strict upbringing he had come to think of god as his protector, someone to be worshiped, loved and feared, but he would always protect his children and this had been the main reason for James to think of a chapel as sanctuary. As he had progressed into adulthood, his need for sanctuary had not lessened in anyway, if anything it has deepened, he had become a deeply conflicted man, everyday he seemed to break one of gods many rules. James believed that he was the divinely chosen King, there was no doubt in his mind about that, he was chosen by god to rule over the Kingdom of Seabel and by god good grace he will. Still the prospect of war troubled the young exiled King, he wanted his ancestral throne back that much was certain, but no matter how many times he went to war the prospect of killing always haunted him. He feared becoming a sinner. He feared going to hell. Still, he believed if there was another way god would have willed it by now.

James was a far from perfect man, this much was certain, he was ill tempered, unfaithful with his body, he had killed and all of these things weighed heavy on his heart. When his father had died and the Rayleigh’s had seized the throne, James believed that this was his punishment and then latter with his wife’s miscarriages had only confirmed his worries, he had angered the almighty lord and that made him quake more so than anything else, for everything one does in this life affects us in the next, or so his mother had once told him, still his faith never wavered like most would. Then came a turning point, his darling Queen announced her pregnancy and now here they were in her seventh month and he knew right then that god once again looked favourably upon him and he would do anything to keep it shinning on him forever more.

To say James cleaned up his act would be a hyperbole for he still took part in pleasures of the body and not necessarily with his wife, but wasn’t it a Kings right to partake in such activities? His father had certainly thought so for his mistresses had once soared into double features. Still no matter how much he fornicated nobody could steal his heart like Eleanor had, other may share his body but no one would ever share his heart.
“Love,” His thought’s seemed to call to her and within an instant of hearing the honey sweet nectar of her voice, his anger subsided.

James’ eyes travelled upwards as Eleanor came to his side, first running over her ever expanding stomach, feeling the familiar rush of emotions as he thought about their child, their healthy and strong child growing securely within his mother’s stomach. He felt her gentle touch guiding his hand towards her stomach and laid it upon over the fabric of her dress. All anger and worries dissipated and with the perfect moment serenity washed over the exiled King. His free hand came to the other side of his wife’s stomach and gingerly laid his lips upon the mound before bringing his gaze to meet Eleanor’s, “My love…” James murmured rising to his feet. “How fares you both this morning?” he enquired before placing a short but tender kiss upon Eleanor’s lips. His arm linked through her own, leading her away from alter, a walk may clear his head and although he would have preferred a stroll around the gardens the wind was too harsh and the air too cool for his wife to venture outside in her condition, so they would have to make do with a walk around the castle.

There were many things James hated about the Northern Kingdom, the cold was one of them, although James had been raised in the northern part of Seabel and so was no stranger to the cold, however, here there seemed to be no letting in it. Retreating this far north had always been a last resort, something James never though he would have to do, not for one second did he believe that his father would be defeated but he had underestimated Charles Rayleigh then, a mistake he would never make again; now they were at the mercy of King Willem, a rather brutish man who’s loyalty only stretched as far as the purse. Willem had been generous in accepting their refuge and giving them Lochleyer Castle but James did not think for one second that it was out of the goodness of his heart, still, he suppressed such worries for another time; right now he would enjoy his wife’s company without such plaguing thoughts. “I hope the cold isn’t bothering you too much, dear?”

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As her husband's hand reached the swell of her stomach, any turmoil and and strain that had been evident in his face before evaporated. Instead, a beautiful look of calm and happiness took over his features.

It was that look she adored. When they'd first fallen in love, it was the look that had appeared each and every time she'd met with him. It had been stolen moments, in the beginning. When he had been fighting nearby he would send a messenger for her and they would meet in secret under the cover of night. It was illicit and it was betrayal, but she loved him. It wasn't some loveless arranged marriage that most girls of her time suffered. She truly believed his father would win, James would take her as his bride and they would sit upon the the throne together as King and Queen of Seabel. But then they'd lost. James had come to her. He'd told her what remained of his family were fleeing north. She remembered beginning to cry, tears tumbling from her beautiful ice blue eyes down her snowy cheeks. But then he'd asked her to come with him, and her whole world had shifted slightly on its axis. And she didn't hesitate. They eloped together, and her brother followed. She didn't think it'd be for long anyway. Eleanor believed James would retake the throne and they would return to Whinnfel to see her family. But Eleanor had been mistaken...

James lifted his other hand to lay it on the opposite side of her stomach, before leaning in and pressing a cautious kiss to her swollen belly. He lifted his head to meet her gaze and she saw in his eyes everything that'd made her love him. Everything that had drawn the young, innocent blonde from her beloved family. But it had brought her into a new family. One she would soon complete with the birth of their baby. And she prayed that birth would finally fill the void the loss of her southern family had created...

He stood up slowly. "My love... How fares you both this morning?" There was tenderness to his voice and he leant in to press a short, sweet kiss to her lips. He linked his arm through hers and they began to walk together.

"We're both well," she responded, smiling at him. "He must be strong. He's been moving a great deal this morning." She rubbed the underside of her bump affectionately, allowing her eyes to linger on her child.

They exited the chapel together, his arm still through hers. They began to walk through the castle, and though Eleanor wasn't certain whether they were going somewhere in particular or just walking together, it didn't bother her. She was quite content to go with him, to simply to be in his presence. She had followed him north, and she would continue to follow him wherever, forever. Although, never blindly.

“I hope the cold isn’t bothering you too much, dear?” James asked.

Eleanor sighed softly. "It's quite warm enough inside for me. And this won't be forever, darling. Soon we'll be back in the south, sitting under the sunshine, with our son playing on the grass," she smiled.

This was what he needed to hear. He needed to know she believed they could one day have all that and that it was possible. Though, most of all, she needed to know she believed he could achieve all that he coveted. She believed in him.

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Eleanor’s words comforted James as she spoke, "We're both well…He must be strong. He's been moving a great deal this morning." The exiled King nodded in response, lingering on her every word James couldn’t help the astonishing feeling of warmth rush within him. The way Eleanor’s eyes lingered on her stomach, her hand lightly rubbing circles over the fabric of her dress made him certain that she would make the most wonderful mother, she so deserved to be. Looking at her James almost felt overwhelmed with emotion, she was beauty and grace in its purest form and such beauty should be reserved for happiness and joy, never sorrow and turmoil; Eleanor had been so joyous with the revelation of her pregnancy, they both were. They had been excited of the prospect of this babe, growing in her womb and what it would mean for their family; however his fears still haunted him.

Memories suddenly hit him like a wave and James inwardly winced at the pain they inflicted; his eyes closed briefly, in a attempt to shield his pain from Eleanor, she did not need to see his anguish. James’ pain had been equal of his wife's when she had miscarried their children, perhaps not physically but mentally certainly. The news had been devastating, the first time, she had only been a little past the three months she was now and although the pain was rife it could not compare to the second time. Eleanor’s screams of anguish were what James remembered most about that fateful night, not so long ago, the worst part had been there was nothing he could do to help her, he could only pace outside her room, waiting patiently for news; that night he had been certain, god would have recalled his Queen back to the Kingdom of Heaven yet he only recalled his son, a rather bittersweet outcome.

In honesty he had preferred it that way, only god knows what would have happened to him, losing both wife and son on the same night, men had turned mad for lesser. His son had been called Walter Lancaster; as he held him in his arms, his face so perfect, he looked almost as if he had been sleeping and if it hadn't of been for the coolness of his skin and the stillness of his chest, James could have mistaken him for being so. That memory still haunted his sleep and even waking moments in his darkest days, the days where he felt god was punishing him for letting the Rayleigh's get so far in their quest for power, letting them murder his father, it was on these days that this memory was sent to show the King that he would never have an heir and that was the closest he would ever had come to one. Yet here, in the darkness of his world, James had one beacon of hope with this news, a sign from god above that he was doing the right thing and that was his darling wife, her light was enough to guide him down even the darkest of paths.

“I am glad” James finally answered his wife having been lost in his thoughts. “He seems to grow stronger by the day” James chuckled lightly, laying his over his wife’s, both protecting the child within her. James never really thought about the child not being a boy, he supposed he should prepare for the child being female as it was not impossible. Although he longed for a boy, he supposed a girl would not be disastrous to begin with, he would need a boy eventually to carry on his line but he had no doubt that other children would follow this one, they were both young after all.

"It's quite warm enough inside for me. And this won't be forever, darling. Soon we'll be back in the south, sitting under the sunshine, with our son playing on the grass." James sighed at the mental image, now that would be serene, hearing her speak so positively about their child being a boy made him believe her. He couldn’t wait to once again be south of the wall, these lands were far too savage, even for himself. “That sounds wonderful sweetheart” he murmured, “Soon the Rayleigh’s will be no more and we shall take our rightful places as King and Queen and our little boy will secure our future” he smiled placing a kiss upon her brow.

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Character Portrait: Eleanor Lancaster Character Portrait: James Lancaster
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“That sounds wonderful sweetheart,” her husband told her, and Eleanor knew she had said the correct thing. Her image had given him hope, and in truth, saying it aloud made Eleanor believe it just little more too. “Soon the Rayleigh’s will be no more and we shall take our rightful places as King and Queen and our little boy will secure our future.” He kissed her forehead.

Eleanor flinched slightly at her husband's words and she rubbed her stomach again, trying to pass it off as the child kicking. She wanted nothing more than for her husband to achieve his goal and for them to retake the throne of Seabel. He deserved that throne and he belonged on it, he truly would make a wonderful King and his dedication would know no bounds. She would be able to return to the south, to the home she loved so dearly. Her children would be raised as Princes and Princesses, given everything and protected unreservedly by the country's loyalist and most skilled guards. But she did fear for what would happen to her family by blood when James did finally take the crown. He said the Rayleigh's would be no more. Though Eleanor did not care much for the so called 'King Charles' and the rest of his family, her sister's name, by law, was also Rayleigh. Her nieces, Harriet's beautiful, golden-haired daughters, Elizabeth and Cecily, not only possessed the Rayleigh name but Rayleigh blood. And if her sister were to birth a boy before James retook the throne, her husband would be pressed to slay the child to prevent any remaining Rayleigh loyalists from attempting a coup to place him upon the throne. And what would become of her parents and brother who had remained south also? They would be considered Rayleigh supporters too, and she truly was not certain what would become of them.

"Certainly, my love," Eleanor responded, decided the issue of the fate of those she loved could be left until the threat was more imminent. She paused, before deciding to turn her mind to a matter she preferred to dwell on. "Our son..." she smiled. "He'll be so beautiful James, I simply know it. I cannot wait for him to be here." Her words were a little rushed, evidence that she too had not forgotten the past.

Every time Eleanor spoke of the child growing inside her and his arrival, two feelings came to the forefront of her mind. One was wave of joy and elation. She was delighted at the prospect of finally being able to be a mother, as she always felt she'd been born to be. She could finally give her husband the heir he so desperately craved. She pictured herself holding her beautiful son in her arms, having someone that was truly hers, raising him and loving him more than life itself. But then another emotion gripped her chest. One that induced panic and fear and tears. She'd made it this far before. She'd walked with her husband like this before, hand on a her large, swollen stomach as they looked forwards to the happiness that was to come. She'd been so close to term when her pain had begun last time that she'd simply assumed the child was ready to come. But then she had begun to bleed, she had been in the most terrible of agony that she knew something was wrong. When she'd finally given birth to the lifeless baby boy she was certain she was close to death. She'd slipped out of consciousness and she'd never seen her beautiful son again. And she was so very fearful it would happen again.

However, Eleanor never spoke of her fear to her husband. She knew the losses they had suffered, especially their second, had driven him near to madness. His desire for an heir bordered on obsession and she worried that any expression of her terror may push him over the edge. She had kept all her worries to herself, allowing them to roll through her head when she was alone, terrifying her.

In her chest, Eleanor felt her heart beginning to thud and the boy inside her squirmed, aware of his mother's distress. She took a deep breath and rubbed firmer circles through her dress, trying to still his turmoil. "My brother tells me you met with him and some others this morning," she said, in an attempt to draw her mind on to other matters and deciding this would be the perfect time to discus his earlier tirade. "Were you able to make any advances in plans?" she enquired.

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Character Portrait: Charles Rayleigh Character Portrait: Harriet Rayleigh Character Portrait: Margaret Rayleigh Character Portrait: James Lancaster
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"Please may I go outside, Geoffrey?"

"No, madam, I'm afraid you may not. You are not allowed outside the castle walls. It was your eldest brother's and late father's orders," the short man replied, his expression and voice bland. His wiry mustache moved and bumped on his face as he spoke, almost seeming to be fake, and he moved his nose in much a way that was similar to a rodent's. His beady eyes peered out behind his spectacles, boring into the papers in his hands.

"I understand that, Geoffrey, but I wouldn't leave the walls, I promise!"

"A no is a no, Princess. I cannot go against the King's orders," the small man snapped out, his voice slightly irritated and tired.

Margaret could feel her lower lip beginning to tremble. The familiar sting of tears in her eyes burned and an ache began in her throat.

"You do not have to be so rude and inconsiderate of my feelings when you answer me, Geoffrey. I wish that my father had never hired you in the first place!" she exclaimed, sniffing after she did so. She whirled away as the pudgy man sputtered, his face turning slightly red with a mixture of annoyance, anger, and embarrassment.

"M-M-Miss! How dare you speak to me in such a manner! You may be the princess, but I am of the most regal of status's when serving the royal family. You haven't the right-"

"Oh, can it, baldy. Stop giving her a hard time. All she wanted to do was sit outside and read a book. Where's the harm in that?"

Maggie turned, her eyes teary and tinged pink with crying, and after rubbing at the tears, she could recognize the young man that stood not too far away from her.

Tall and lean at the young age of eighteen, Jerald was the ideal image of a substitute older brother. Charles was always too busy to spend time with her anymore, what with his daughters and Harriet. Jasper was the same, only he was too busy fawning over Charles. This left Margaret alone and out in the cold.

It wasn't fair, to be frank.

She wanted her brothers and sister back. She wanted her mother and father back. But it was all extremely unrealistic, she supposed. Her father was dead, her mother fixated on her hatred for his killer; her sister engulfed in her marriage and children, just as Charles was, only he had the added weight of being King on his shoulders; and Jasper, who had completely and utterly idolized Charles, almost to the status of a Saint. She had even heard him speaking with one of the guards, claiming that he would, in quote, 'Do anything to protect his brother'.

She may be sixteen, but in very moments like these, she wanted only to have her family there for her. Not ordering guards, maids and butlers to look after and raise her. It was useless, however; as if she would ever confront her brother about manners such as these. Instead, she focused on the task at hand, which was to convince Geoffrey to allow her to go outside. During her small moment of self-deterioration, Jerald had strode closer, his sword bouncing slightly against his lightly-armored thigh.

"B-B-But sir! I must insist that she remain indoors, for the sake of all of his. If her brother returns and finds her to be outside -"

"Oh, hush up, Geoffrey. Honestly, all you do is whine, whine, whine. Charles said this, Charles said that. You know, some rules are made to be broken," he chuckled, casting a devilish smile and a wink in her direction. "What if I go with her and sit outside while she reads? Is that realistic and simple enough?"

Geoffrey scowled, debating between simple loyalty to the king, or loyalty to his immediate superiors in that moment. The latter eventually won out, and with a thrust, he tossed his finger in Jerald's face.

"You had better keep a close eye on her, lad. There have been one too many threats from the Lancaster's that they will indeed act. They may just target the weakest of the royals. Who knows? They could attempt to kidnap her, for the Almighty Lord's Sakes!" he exclaimed, throwing his hands in the air, a slightly-wild look in his eyes.

Jerald grinned and patted the far-shorter man's head. "I'll watch her closely, Geoffy," he grinned. With a hand held in her direction, she dropped her own into his, accepting the offer.

Immediately they were off, him tugging her down the halls and her hurrying to keep up to his long-legged pace. A few times she giggled as she nearly fell, him catching and steadying her easily. They finally managed to reached the doors that would lead them to the gardens behind the castle, and after weaving through the pathways, he brushed off a stone bench for her to sit upon, which she gladly took the offer of.

It was quiet, for the most part. Neither of them spoke, for she was too enraptured in her book, and he too kind to her to interrupt her reading. It was a mutual friendship, one that they had shared since they were children, and she enjoyed it immensely. In all honesty, she wouldn't trade the friendship for the world.

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Character Portrait: Eleanor Lancaster Character Portrait: James Lancaster
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"Our son…He'll be so beautiful James, I simply know it. I cannot wait for him to be here." A chuckle rose from James’ throat, a rather rare occurrence these days, so much had been on his mind that he hardly remembered a time when he had last done so. His mind was so plagued with politics and obsessions for the crown and an heir that laughter and enjoyment simply faded into the background, neither would help his cause so he had simply cast them astray; he had not realised how refreshing something as simple as laughter could be upon his soul, not until now anyway. Eleanor had always been a breath of fresh air for him, even upon their first meeting James was amazed at how a stranger could make him feel so…at peace.

It had been a reconciliation that brought the Stanford’s to court one summers day; his father had executed Lord Henry Stanford’s father and grandfather, for reasons James had never truly found out, he had heard rumours of treason amongst others but he had never doubted that his father had just cause. That day would be forever engraved in memory as the first time James laid eyes upon Eleanor; she had entered the crowded throne room with her family, behind her parents and brothers, stood with her sister so composed and innocent, seemingly unaffected by the harsh whispers of ‘traitor’ courtiers muttered as they passed. Out of both sisters, Eleanor had appealed to him the greatest; Harriet was beautiful, yes, but he saw in her eyes an ambition which would drag a man to ruin and had Charles Rayleigh been a friend he would have pitied the man for such a man. Alas, he was not and so hoped there might have been some truth in his quick judgment of the eldest Stanford sister.

Eleanor, now Eleanor had stirred something within the Prince that he could not shake. At the beginning he had watched her from a distance, her elegance, charm and grace seemed to win over everyone she spoke to and the Stanford girl quickly rose to a court favourite. It had been a week before James approached her, the charisma and gallantry exuded from him just like it should from a Prince and heir to a throne. From an early age James had been taught the importance of façade, it did not matter what one felt on the inside as long as concern and dignity shadowed his features, it was a must as a ruler to possess such skills. However, James had been young and a hardy fellow, it did not take long for him to incorporate this with charming women. Although it seemed that the young and beautiful Eleanor Stanford had been unwitting or pre-warned about his charms on women, as she had not paid him little attention nor encouraged his actions and this had just spurred James on.

Somehow, amongst the chaotic court, he and Eleanor had fallen in love, though some would argue James made up his mind that Eleanor would be his wife from the moment he saw her. And then they had been torn apart by war and it would be a whole year before he laid eyes upon her once more, yet his love for Eleanor never wavered. In amongst the bloody battle of Mountains Pass, when his father was struck down by a Rayleigh blade his very next thought had been on Eleanor and what this would mean for them. He would have time to mourn his father later, at that moment he had to secure his future and so he rode hard for a whole day having sent his remaining supporters and men north, he had ridden south, towards Pendlebury, towards Eleanor, against his adviser’s wishes. The Stanford’s had turned their backs on the Lancaster’s the moment Lady Harriet had married Charles; it had been no surprise who they had sided with in the rebellion. But even with her family name, James could not leave without at least asking Eleanor to come with him; he needed to see her, even for one last time.

They had eloped that evening. Luckily Charles Rayleigh had ridden on to Briar, taking the Stanford men with them, too his knowledge anyway. James had been surprised when Eleanor agreed to flee north with him, he understood what he was asking her to do, leaving her family behind, severing contact and he’s honestly thought she would have said no, but like a light shining through the darkest tunnel, she had said yes and they had ridden North. Jonathan had intercepted them and for reasons still unknown to James, he had too ridden north with them. Their married life had not been easy, however their time in the light would come, he could feel it in his blood and one day soon they will sit upon the throne of Seabel as King and Queen and their son will be a Prince.

“Well if he is anything like his mother, he is bound to be,” James smiled gaily, wrapping his around his wife’s waist, pulling her close to him, his hand coming to rest on her stomach, “And after we shall have princesses and more princes, so many that no one will ever be able to threaten our dynasty again.”

"My brother tells me you met with him and some others this morning…Were you able to make any advances in plans?" James removed his hand from Eleanor’s stomach as the words fell from her lips, running a weary hand down his face as a heavy sigh escaped from within. “Not particularly sweetheart. They are too busy fighting over lands we have not even won back yet.” His words became more forceful with every utterance and before he knew it, James’ arm had dropped from Eleanor’s waist and he stormed towards the window, his defined jaw setting as he thought back to his disastrous meeting. “They are fools the lot of them.” Lowering his head, James was exhausted, not so much physically as he was mentally, but still his situation was affecting his everyday life. A good night’s sleep was seldom now, he’s often wake with a start from nightmares or have no sleep at all from a mind full of worry.

Glancing over his shoulder, James smiled towards Eleanor, it was small but affectionate, all he could muster at that moment. Seeing her face eased him slightly; as he turned back towards her, James gently cupper her dainty hands in his own and quickly brought them to his lips, placing lingering kisses upon both. “Forgive me, my love, I promise you it is not all as bad as that. We are proposing an alliance with the Emerald Isles. Should they agree we could retake the crown just after the babe is born.”

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“Well if he is anything like his mother, he is bound to be,” her husband responded. Eleanor laughed softly as James smiled at her. His arm snaked round her waist, drawing her closer to him. She lifted her head and kissed him quickly, the comfortable affection evident. His hand came to rest on her stomach. “And after we shall have princesses and more princes, so many that no one will ever be able to threaten our dynasty again.”

His confidence reassured Eleanor. He had always been a confident man and when he spoke like that, Eleanor was almost convinced every word he spoke would surely come to pass. He made it sound as though their past had been nothing more than unfortunate incidences and it was not in fact her that was broken, so to speak. In the years before Eleanor had married James she had watched her sister conceive with relative ease and give birth to perfect, healthy, pink cheeked children. Elizabeth Rayleigh was born in the year following her parent's marriage and though childbirth was no easy task, Harriet's first had been relatively uncomplicated. Cecily's was not so simple and Eleanor had truly feared for her sister's life. She had not left Hattie's side the entire time, talking to her sister, reassuring her, trying to keep her conscious and calm. But Cecily had come into the world and was soon screaming, announcing her safe arrival.

After watching her sister's experiences, Eleanor though she too would birth healthy babes, and so her first miscarriage came as a shock to her. She truly believed it was a tragic event, but not one that would be repeated. But after her second loss, Eleanor began to fear she was in some way broken. That it was her fault. Her husband had done everything required of him to be the perfect lover and companion. He provided for her, showered her with gifts and adoration and loved her in a way she didn't believe any other man could. He had done everything required of him, despite his struggle to reclaim the throne. Eleanor had only had one job as a wife; to provide a son and heir for James. Yet, she could not. Women had been birthing babies for years before her, bringing children into the world and continuing their family line. But Eleanor could not even fulfil this simple duty. Her body was, in some way, faulty. Maybe it was something she was doing, she'd thought desperately. Or something she wasn't? Perhaps it was punishment for her sins, God's way of telling her she had done wrong in His eyes? Eleanor had become increasingly convinced in the months following their second loss that all responsibility fell to her. That her baby's death had been her fault. James' obsession with having an heir that was driving him to near madness was because she had failed as a wife. By the time she discovered she was pregnant for a third time she was at her wits end. If she were to lose this child, it may destroy her.

At Eleanor's political enquiries, she felt James' hand fall from her stomach and rise to his face, sighing. "Not particularly sweetheart. They are too busy fighting over lands we have not even won back yet.” Though he had originally begun gently, his tone became increasingly angry and as he reached the end of his sentence he let her go and stormed towards the window, away from her. For a moment, Eleanor wondered if it had been too soon to ask and she had only succeeded in inciting anger.

"Love..." she began to placate him, but he was not finished.

"They are fools the lot of them.” He dropped his head for a few moments. It was just as Eleanor had feared. If James couldn't cooperate with his advisers and those nobles who supported him, any campaign he may attempt was already condemned to failure.

James glanced back at her and smiled. She returned it with an understanding smile of her own and he turned back towards her. He captured her hands in his and lifted them to his lips to kiss them. “Forgive me, my love, I promise you it is not all as bad as that. We are proposing an alliance with the Emerald Isles. Should they agree we could retake the crown just after the babe is born.”

"There is nothing to forgive, my darling," she responded gently before allowing her mind to linger on the news.

The Emerald Isles had been considered as a Rayleigh ally for a while now and if this proposal had been made in the time of King Alexander she would've dismissed the proposal as foolish in an instant. However, the new King was a greedy man who lacked morals and it was widely known that his alliances was one with a price in the form of a gold. Though the Lancaster's were no longer the reigning family, they still had plentiful supplies of money which they could certainly spare if it brought them the throne, which there was a strong chance of if the alliance was a success. The Emerald Isles was renowned for their strong naval power and they had a large, well trained and equipped army that, when coordinated with the Lancaster's own army, would certainly be a formidable force for the Rayleigh's to face.

"That is wonderful news indeed. The Emerald Isles may truly be force we need to overthrow the Rayleigh's," she told him confidently. "And when you reclaim the throne, our son will be christened Prince of Seabel," she added, allowing that image she knew her husband longed for to linger in the air between them.

However, Eleanor's political mind had already realised the fatal flaw in the seemingly perfect plan. The Emerald Isles were, at present, and important ally to the Rayleigh's and they were well aware of the detrimental effect losing them would have to their hold on power. The moment James had handed the gold to King Kavan, Charles would attempt to buy back the loyalty, which would be easy due to the King's corruptibility. They needed something more permanent that would not only sweeten the deal but hold the Emerald Isles to their alliance. King Kavan had a son named Richard who had just come of age to marry, if the were to offer James' younger sister Sara to him, it would ensure their loyalty. Eleanor was well aware that James would be hesitant to let his sister go overseas, family was everything, but King Kavan may see offering a lesser born Lancaster as an insult to him, destroying the fragile alliance before it could be utilised.

"Yes, it will be a powerful alliance that will certainly return you to your rightful place," she smiled, she withdrew her hands from his grasp and placed one on his waist and and the other at his shoulder, leaning in to kiss him, allowing her lips to linger against hers for a little longer than would be expected. "However... I do fear for the loyalty of this alliance. The Rayleigh's will not wish to lose the Emerald Isles and will certainly try to buy back their support. We must ensure their loyalty to us, and there is no better way to achieve that than by marriage. King Kavan's son, Richard, is looking for a bride," she suggested calmly, as though the thought had just come to her, allowing her to solve all their problems.

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James’ had always been a observant man, his attention to detail was next to none and so the quick change in his wife’s demeanour as he mentioned the Rayleigh’s did not go unnoticed, nor was he ignorant to why the change happened, it was all to do with her family, more precisely it probably had something to do with Harriet. She was Charles’ ‘Queen’ now but had been Eleanor’s sister first and he saw the effect of them being separate almost every day, especially now the birth of the baby dawned ever closer, from what he could remember Eleanor had been present at both births of Harriet’s daughter and apparently the latter child, Cecily he believed her name to be had been particularly tiring on her and by the looks of things this had scared his wife somewhat. Although James’ had never said in so many words that she were not to talk about her family, their names were very rarely uttered between them, if they were James was prone to becoming distant and snappy, despite remorse afterwards he could never truly forgive that her father and brother George had aided the man who had killed his father and her sister was married to that man.

In all honesty James’ had never really thought about what he would do to the Stanford’s when he won back his crown, Charles would not be spared, that much was certain, either he would be slain on the battle field or he would face the executioners block. As hard as it sounded, he did secretly wish that Henry and George Stanford would too die on the battlefield, it would save him the agonising decision on how to deal with them, no matter how much he would want to spare them for his wife’s sake, his advisors would demand their heads, a part of him would also for the part he played in his father murder. Annabelle would be allowed to remain with her Eleanor, she was a good woman who had no other choice than to side with whoever her husband did, it could not be easy for her to have children on opposite side and so he concluded her loyalty lied more so with her children than a particular house. The girls, Elizabeth and Cecily, his nieces by law would be raised by their grandmother, for James could never allow harm to come to innocent children despite their parentage and he was certain with their grandmother’s want for peace, she would not stir revenge within them. Their mother however, now she was a different story entirely. Harriet was not a child nor could she be manipulated easily, her weakness was her children and with the assurance of their safety perhaps she could become submissive but he doubted it. She would want revenge for her husband and if there was any woman in the world who could carry that out it would be Harriet Rayleigh.

The thought scared him, not so much out of fear for his own life or that of his families, but rather for her own, should she show signs of treason she too would be sent to the tower, tried and punished accordingly, which by the law would mean death. And if that were to happen then Eleanor would certainly never forgive him and the thought of her hating him scared him more than anything. However if they were all lucky she would take her daughters and claim refuge in the North or sanctuary at the Abbey and save him being the decider of her fate.

"That is wonderful news indeed. The Emerald Isles may truly be force we need to overthrow the Rayleigh's." Eleanor spoke with an air of confidence and grace which made him smile, her knowledge of politics was one of many things which drew James to her, she was not just a pretty face, no, she had brains as well, something which he admired greatly with women. “With their ships we could sail up the river Tarn and right into the heart of Briar and there would be nothing the Rayleigh’s could do to stop us” he replied with equal confidence. "And when you reclaim the throne, our son will be christened Prince of Seabel," right then he could have sworn Eleanor had read his mind and saw his need to hear her say those words, with her approval he could do anything, conquer the world if he wished.

"Yes, it will be a powerful alliance that will certainly return you to your rightful place," Eleanor began once again, though he sensed a ‘but’ coming, sometime he swore she was better at seeing flaws in his plans than his own advisers. Her lips captured his, yet more confirmation that more was to come, regardless he welcomed such affection, his arms reached around her waist, his hand barely unable to meet from the babe growing in her stomach and smiled against her lips. "However... I do fear for the loyalty of this alliance. The Rayleigh's will not wish to lose the Emerald Isles and will certainly try to buy back their support. We must ensure their loyalty to us, and there is no better way to achieve that than by marriage. King Kavan's son, Richard, is looking for a bride."

James paused momentarily, his mind working over her suggestion, it quickly dawned on him what she was proposing, “Are you saying what I think you are saying?” he asked quirking his eyebrow. The look in her eyes was confirmation enough, with a heavy sigh James rested his forehead against Eleanor’s, “Sara won’t like the idea” he declared firmly, “but it is a good idea none-the-less.” With a swift movement of his head, James once again captured Eleanor’s lips with his own, bringing them together in a short but passionate kiss, before quickly pulling away. “I’ll go and make the necessary preparations, I will see you in a little while my love.” With one last quick kiss on her lips, James turned swiftly on his heels and stalked back down the corridor from which he had previously just walked, swiftly and purposely like a man with a purpose. The smile on his face seemed innocent enough to those who didn’t know James’ mind anyway, he was joyous beyond belief for his wife had just given him the way key to winning this war.

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“Brother please, you cannot ask this of me” Sara Lancaster’s pleas echoed around James’ private chambers. Not ten minutes ago James had informed his only sister of the plan to marry her to King Kavan of the Emerald Isles’ eldest son, Prince Richard to secure an alliance between the two. James never once expected Sara to take the news well, she was a good girl who had been raised by a gentle mother who engraved into her daughter a woman’s duty from an early age, yet the iron of Lancaster blood still pumped within her and she would not simply play her part without having some say. Part of James was glad of this, deep down he hated the thought of using his only sister a bargaining chip in his quest to recapture the throne, the thought of her being away from him and Henry was nearly unbearable, she was their little sister, they were suppose to protect her something they could not do with her so far away, but Eleanor had been right, it was simply not enough to offer King Kavan gold and jewels.

James had sent a messenger to the Emerald Isles almost immediately after his wife had suggested the marriage. It had taken over a week for the man to return and for those days, James waited apprehensively for him to return bringing him news of his suggested proposal. A part of him did not know what to expect, for all he knew Kavan could have already pledged an alliance to Charles, James often forgot that he had sisters also to marry off as he wished. Still, if that was the case it put his family in great danger, should Kavan turn around and tell Charles of James’ plans of a alliance then Charles would certainly do everything within his power to stop them and should Charles attack the now, he was certain they would be defeated without help from the Emerald Isles. The thought was a unprecedented worry for the exiled King, one that had caused a lack of sleep for days, James was becoming a desperate man and desperate men were a dangerous breed.

Fortunately James’ waiting had ended that very morning, the messenger he had sent out returned at first light, bringing with him some very important news. It would appear that Kavan had been interested by this proposal of his son to James’ sister and had requested their presence at their court within the month so Richard could decide whether or not he wished to take Sara as a bride. At first James had been angered by this act of disrespect, they should have been honoured just at the mere thought of that boy marrying a Lancaster but as his advisers had pointed out, he was indeed an exiled King and although wealthy they momentarily lacked the power or influence great houses needed in this land. The Parson’s had realised that the Lancaster’s needed them a lot more than they needed them, there propositions and promises were built on what ifs, something Kavan had kindly noted in his letter, but still if Richard liked Sara then a marriage would be arranged and a alliance forged. James had been backed into a corner giving him no other choice than to accept these terms, no matter how subjective.

The only thought which had kept him sane was the one that he would shortly be upon the throne once again and rule over the great land with his enemies scattered in front of him.

James drummed his finger on the arm of chair as he listened to his sister’s pleas, although her words pulled on his heart a little, his mind was currently ruling. Behind her stood their brother, Henry, his arms folded across his broad chest making his feeling towards this situation undoubtedly clear, he did not like it as much as Sara did. “James can’t you see that this is madness, the Parson’s cannot be trusted and yet you offer our sister to them like cattle. It’s simply unacceptable!” Henry spoke up in Sara’s defence.

Shaking his head James could only listen as his sibling argued against his decision, although their words strung a chord with him, he would not relent to their wishes, not when so much was at stake. “Neither of you understand, this may be our only choice to put our family back on the throne!” James argued back.

“You mean put you on the throne, this has very little to do with me and Sara, we are merely pawns in your game!” Henry’s voice rose as his anger boiled over, “father married me to Bess to secure her father’s support and men for the cause. Now they are dead and if you had your way you would divorce us and marry me off to some foreign princess to secure another ally! But this won’t work James the cause is dead!”

James rose to his feet in a swift display of ferocity “Don’t you dare say such things!” his voiced thundered around the room, “dammit Henry, why can’t you see that this is all for the good of our family!”

“Because its not! It’s all for you and yet you don’t seem to be willing to make any of the sacrifices” he retorted stepping from his position behind Sara to directly face his elder brother. “This is all for you but it’s me and Sara who are subjected to a lifetime of misery whilst you get to marry whichever wench you please!”

“Get out!” James roared in fury “And don’t you ever speak about my wife in such a manner ever again, so help me god Henry being my brother would not help you” he fumed through gritted teeth, “Now get out, the both of you!”

Henry took a step forward as if to protest, but quickly decided against it, turning back around he took Sara by the arm and quickly ushered her out of the room. As they left James sank back into his seat, pinching the bridge of his nose as a headache threatened to rise. “What do you think Jonathan?” he asked tilting his head slightly to the left as he regarded his wife’s brother, “Am I doing the right thing?”

“I think you are doing the only thing you can do” came Jonathan’s reply.

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Eleanor set her mother's letter down on the desk with a smile. She was so very glad she still had this method of contact with her family by blood, however slow and insignificant it seemed sometimes. Of course they had received the news of Harriet's pregnancy through the usual channels as it spread up through the kingdom, but to hear of it from her mother too made it feel more personal. It made Eleanor feel a little less distant and abandoned, out here in the cold northern lands. She ran her fingers across her mother's words, tracing her beautiful, familiar handwriting. But suddenly, Eleanor just wanted to cry. She knew a pregnancy always made women more emotional, and in part she could blame her brimming tears on her child. But this small token of her mother and all that she'd been away from for so long was the true cause of Eleanor's tears. She missed them so dearly, her mother's gentle, ever present love especially. But she also missed her sister, her brothers and her father, even though they had forsaken her. A wave of jealousy washed over Eleanor as she thought of her mother comforting her sister as she'd been so terribly ill. Who had been there for Eleanor when she'd been bed bound with her own sickness? Of course her husband and brother had come to visit her, but it was not thought right for them to sit with her, stroking back her hair and holding her hand when she'd been so very sick. She could not have her mother's constant reassurance and company the way her sister had now. She was left to suffer alone with the physicians and her maids, wondering if it would ever stop. And to Eleanor, that somehow felt so very unfair.

Eleanor picked up a clean sheet of paper and a pen, laying it out before her. She then dipped the pen into ink and began to write carefully.

Dearest Mother,

News of Harriet's pregnancy reached us just days before your letter. This is truly wonderful news. I will keep my sister in my prayers and hope that God sees fit to bless her with a healthy babe.


Though the news of Harriet's pregnancy caused much anger among their own court and her husband, Eleanor herself truly did not hope for a bad outcome. Harriet was her sister and this child would be family. Of course she wished for them to be happy. However, Eleanor did pray this child would not be a boy, for that would put them in a very difficult position.

I am sorry to hear of Harriet's sickness. I hope she recovers quickly. As I am sure you well remember, I was quite unwell in the earlier months of my own too. Has she tried ginger tea yet? I found it helped greatly in settling my stomach. How are the girls? I hope their mother's ill health is not causing them too much suffering. Give them both a kiss on my behalf, mother.

Eleanor flinched suddenly, gasping slightly, a hand going to her stomach as her boy kicked her hard just beneath her ribs. It drew her mind back to her mother's enquiry about her own pregnancy.

Both my boy and I are well. It amazes me how quickly he is growing and maturing now. In the last week it feels as though I have expanded before my very own eyes. I cannot stand for too long anymore and even walking is a task in itself. But my boy is doing well. He has become quite active and usually not an hour goes by when I don't feel him.

That itself was a comforting thought to Eleanor. Even if she was uncomfortable, it meant her baby was safe and God had not seen fit to take her son from her yet. Like her last baby boy...

But I am so very afraid, mother.

Eleanor's words were a confession. She couldn't talk to James about her fears. He was still devastated over their last loss and to tell him she thought it might happen again would drive him near to madness. But her mother she could tell the truth to.

His birth is close, and I am afraid it will happen again.

She need not explain exactly what she thought it was that would happen again. Her mother would understand, instinctively.

I do not know what I would do if I were to lose him, mother. I feel so alone, and I'm frightened.

Eleanor put a hand to her cheek to find tears running down them. She brushed one away and it dropped onto the paper, smudging the edge of a word. She took a deep breath.

I hope you and father are well and that this letter reaches you safely.

Your darling daughter,

Eleanor


She sealed the letter into an envelope and sent her handmaiden to bring her most trusted messenger. She gave him the letter wordlessly, knowing he needed no instructions for its delivery. He was her private messenger and she held him in high regard. He could get a message across the county in just two days and she trusted him implicitly. He'd been carrying messages between Eleanor and her mother for years and had never failed to do exactly as was expected of him.

With her message sent and her emotions brought under control she decided to visit her husband. She knew he was to break the news of the marriage to Sara this evening and he would certainly need consoling after that. She was fully aware that at this point in her pregnancy she was not allowed to leave her room. But she could bear the boredom of simply sitting there, and who was going to stop her leaving? She believed it to be a foolish practise anyway.

She crossed the castle slower than she would've liked, her condition meaning it was all more effort than usual.

As she reached James' private chambers she saw Henry leading a tearful Sara along the corridor. Evidently, the meeting had gone as badly as they had expected it would. She knocked lightly on James' door before letting herself in.

James was collapsed in his seat, his fingers pinching the bridge of his nose in a manner that could only be described as worried and stressed. Her brother was stood to his left, his expression unreadable.

"Please leave us, Jonathan," Eleanor requested gently. Her brother nodded and exited the room, not needing to be asked twice. Her brother disliked dealing with James in this state and gratefully left her to deal with him.

Eleanor eased herself down into the seat opposite her husband, the walk across to his chambers having tired her out a little.

"How did it go?" Eleanor asked, despite being fully aware the outcome was only a little less than disastrous.

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James groaned into his hands which covered his face, running them over his tired eyes before slumping back into his chair, he was exhausted, both mentally and physically and he had been for a while now, both day and night his thoughts were plagued with concerns over his Kingdom and revenge. Revenge, the word sounded bitter on his tongue, it was the cause of so many troubles and yet despite this everyone desired it at least one point in their lives, so why would god make something so violent human nature? In the northern reaches of the globe a custom was carried out to prevent such devastation, it could seem harsh and undignified to those further South, but to James he could see the benefits, you see should a man murder or steal from another, the said man who be required by law to report it to the next house along from the crime, then he would be brought before a court and a settlement would be thought up to compensate the deceased’s family, however should this man fail to report such a crime he would be brought before the chieftain, tried and executed. Now in James’ eyes there were many things wrong with this, judging a loved one’s life by the value of money was one of them, although he did not doubt that this would be sufficient for some men; however it did make revenge less bloody and collateral.

Not that James would ever accept this, no matter how much his mind persuaded him to leave his father’s death out from the quest to regain his Kingdom; he could not shake the image of his father’s face as Charles Rayleigh’s sword thrusted into his stomach. In the eyes of god they were even, an eye for an eye, James’ father had killed Francis and now Charles had killed Harold, a father for a father but James would never forget, his heart wouldn’t let him, even when Charles’ blood stained his sword he doubted he would be able to move on. He supposed Charles felt a similar way, for revenge was essentially as empty as the void within ones heart, it occupies yours mind for a while, keeps you distracted for a while but in the end it never really numb the pain and that’s what made it most dangerous. If only men were less prideful, if only they could take the higher ground and just let it go, alas men were not built for such things, least of all him and Charles.

Charles had taken everything from him, his legacy and his blood and as much as he wanted just to seize his crown, this would not be enough, no he needed Charles to suffer also, he needed the bastard to know that everything he and his father had worked for was crumbling around him, he wanted him to die in fear of his family like his father had, not knowing what their fate would be, then and only then would James be truly content. Supposedly that made him a spiteful man and many would seldom argue with you on that, it wasn’t enough to simply crush the Rayleigh’s; he wanted to completely obliterate them also.

"Please leave us, Jonathan,” Eleanor’s soft tones carried across his room, looking up he offered Jonathan a quick nod showing his appreciation for his support in the matter. “Wife” he greeted stoically, a rather pathetic excuse for a smile forming on his thin lips, what was the point in trying to convince Eleanor that all was well, she knew him far too well. “Shouldn’t you be in your confinement?” he asked with a quirk of his eyebrow, she was in a delicate state and it was customary for woman to stick to their rooms when so close to birth.

“How did it go?” James repeated with a curt chuckle, his fingers drumming once again against the arm of his wooden chair, his directed gaze was cool and unreadable but he was sure Eleanor would be able to sense his rising anger, “I don’t doubt that you passed Sara and Henry on your way? Even if you didn’t how the hell did you expect it go woman!” he voice rose. His anger was not for his wife, he was rarely angry at her but Eleanor made a mistake coming here today and a part of James wanted her to know it. Standing to his feet suddenly, the sound of his heavy chair scraping across the stone floor offered a obnoxious screech to echo around the room, “Sara hates me Eleanor, Henry too! But that’s not even the thing that plagues me the most; it’s your blasted family!” he roared, his fist shaking the heavy table. Shaking his head, James ran a hand through his brown hair, “If your fucking sister has a boy Eleanor, I swear to god…I’ll…I’ll” he stuttered unsure of the words to finish the sentence.

At a loss he fell back into his chair, his hands coming to cradle his head, “I don’t know what to do anymore” he admitted in a weaker voice, which shook almost as if he were scared. He held a heavy burden upon his shoulder s and it was days like these that made him wish it had been bestowed upon anyone else but him.

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James greeted Eleanor rather plainly, lacking his usual love or affection. He smiled at her thinly, the smile not reaching his eyes. Truly, things must be bad if he did not have even one word of care for his wife. Usually, he would kiss her, or at least ask after her health, offering terms of endearment. But there was nothing endearing about the way he spoke to Eleanor now.

"Shouldn't you be in your confinement?" he asked, raising his eyebrows.

Eleanor's eyes went skywards and she shook her head, sighing softly. "You know I believe it to be a foolish practise," Eleanor replied dismissively, adjusting herself to alleviate some of the pressure on her hips. She truly did love her husband, but sometimes he could be terribly stubborn over the silliest things.

At her question, James echoed her words back to her. He laughed lightly, gazing at her. Eleanor felt a shiver crawl across her skin, warning her to tread carefully. James' mood was clearly worse than she'd initially anticipated. She'd known this meeting wouldn't go well, but James had known that also. She was certain he would be prepared for such an outcome.

“I don’t doubt that you passed Sara and Henry on your way? Even if you didn’t how the hell did you expect it go woman!”

Eleanor took a deep, calming breath, hoping that by maintaining her own collected mood, James would be influenced by it. Her hand stroked the underside of her swollen stomach protectively.

"James..." she began reasonably, her tone even and comforting. But she was cut off by the screech of a heavy wooden chair against the floor as James stood up suddenly. Under normal circumstances, Eleanor probably would've stood up too, so he did not tower over her, losing her power and influence over him. But her better judgement told her to stay off her feet so she remained sitting.

“Sara hates me Eleanor, Henry too!"

Eleanor shook her head, about to explain to him that it was momentary anger and they did truly understand the importance of their role in all this. But, again, James spoke.

"But that’s not even the thing that plagues me the most; it’s your blasted family! If your fucking sister has a boy Eleanor, I swear to god…I’ll…I’ll."

Of course. Since the news of Harriet's pregnancy had reached Lochleyer Castle James had been worked up and irritated. Though he was still positive over the Emerald Isles plan that had been made, he was easily angered and short tempered, all classics signs that something wasn't sitting right with him. She'd guessed it might be because of Harriet's news, though she'd had so little time recently with her husband that she was yet to discus it.

Eleanor watched her husband fall back into his chair, resting his head in his hands. “I don’t know what to do anymore," he told her weakly.

Eleanor stood up slowly, wincing slightly as everything shifted inside her. She crossed the small distance round the table between her and her husband, standing just in front of him. She reached out to touch his cheek, lifting his head to look at her.

"We will have our boy, James," Eleanor promised her husband fervently. "Then hers will be insignificant. That is, if she even manages to birth the child safely." Eleanor knew she shouldn't even speak of such misfortunes, but her husband looked so broken that she simply wanted to give him some hope. "My sister is terribly sick, and after the complicated birth of Cec- her youngest daughter, I'm not certain something won't happen to her baby."

That was the truth. Eleanor did wonder after Cecily's birth if her sister would ever have another child, and with her sickness now, Eleanor feared her sister's pregnancy would end in the same fate as her own past two. Honestly, she did not wish for her sister to lose her baby. But she knew offering the possibility to her husband may stop his worrying so much.

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James did not look up, he kept his face buried in the palm of his hands but he heard the scraping of his wife’s chair followed by her gentle footsteps and for a moment he thought she had gotten up to leave, he wouldn’t have blamed her, he had acted disgustingly with her, something which caused a stir of guilt from within him, he shouldn’t take his temper out on his beloved, it wasn’t Eleanor’s fault. He was surprised as her footsteps drew nearer and suddenly he felt her gentle touch upon his cheek guiding him to look at her. His eyes were brimmed with angry tears and utter frustration, the red blotches and dark circles indications of lack of sleep, that was what James’ fit of rage had ultimately boiled down to, he was completely exhausted.

"We will have our boy, James…Then hers will be insignificant. That is, if she even manages to birth the child safely…My sister is terribly sick, and after the complicated birth of Cec- her youngest daughter, I'm not certain something won't happen to her baby."

He would be lying if James said he wasn’t momentarily shocked by her words, he swallowed the lump in his throat feeling something similar to guilt, shaking his head he released a heavy sigh. Was this what he had been reduced to? Wishing the death of a unborn child. What was worst for him however, was hearing such words come from his wife’s lips that was where his true agony lay. Eleanor had always been benevolent and nurturing, had he been such a corruption in her life that she was becoming as hollow as he? He prayed to god he was wrong.

Despite himself he began to smile and in that moment he felt like a complete sinner. The truth was that hearing such words was a comfort to James; he needed the reassurance that it was not a lost cause and should Harriet birth a healthy boy, an heir, then James would quite possibly begin to doubt everything. Taking his wife’s hand in his own larger and calloused one, he gently pulled her into his lap, his free hand instantly coming to rest upon the swell of her stomach as his lips nipped at the creamy flesh of her neck. “I can’t wait for our son to be born,” he paused to capture her full lips with his own, becoming lost in the moment; he could barely remember the last time he had properly kissed his wife. Pulling back briefly he smiled at the beauty in his lap, “not just for an heir but also to get you back in my bed” he voice growled with a hunger that only Eleanor could replenish.

He needed her desperately, he wanted to feel the heat of her flesh upon his, trail kisses across her beautiful porcelain skin as he memorised every curve and freckle. James needed to make love to his wife, wanted almost as much as anything else. However there was a part of him that was fearful, fearful that he may cause damage to his unborn son, he could not risk his heir for the pleasures of the body. Sighing he rested his forehead against her shoulder, inhaling her intoxication scent as he did, before quickly bringing his gaze back to Eleanor’s, “I think I would die without you.”

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At first, Eleanor watched James sigh and shake his head. She wondered if she had drastically misjudged the situation and the suggestion was not at all one he wanted to hear. But then he began to smile, taking Eleanor's hand and pulling her towards him. She sat down into his lap and James lifted a hand to her stomach. Of course it had been what he had needed to hear. She did not think her husband cruel for smiling though. He had worked so hard, given up so much to reclaim the throne that was rightfully his. Now, when he was finally getting close, it was as though her sister's pregnancy was simply another blow. Another blow that James could not take. James put a lot of weight in signs from God to tell him that he was doing the right thing and he would certainly see this as God moving against him. He needed to be promised he was still doing right, and if that was what she gave him by saying such terrible things then she could live with that on her conscience.

James' pink lips met the skin on Eleanor's neck, nipping lightly. The combination of her pregnancy and being starved of his attention due to her confinement was making Eleanor hypersensitive to even the smallest of his touches. At the feel of his skin on hers, Eleanor felt her breath catch in her throat and her eyes closed briefly. She wanted him desperately. It had been far too long.

"I can’t wait for our son to be born,” he told her.

She was about to agree with him, but found her lips captured by his and she returned his kiss passionately. When he pulled back she was almost disappointed. Their kiss had not lasted long enough, in her opinion. Though she wasn't sure a kiss from him could ever last long enough. All she desired was to spend the entirety of her life in his arms, kissing him. In that moment, she did not care for the throne or the Rayleigh's or the Emerald Isles and their political marriages. She simply wanted her husband, more than anything she'd ever wanted before.

“Not just for an heir but also to get you back in my bed,” James finished. Eleanor laughed softly in response.

"There is nothing I would like more, my love," she said, her voice almost a whisper into his ear. "When our son is born, there is nothing in this world that will keep me from our chambers," she promised him.

James sighed deeply, resting his forehead against her shoulder before lifting his head to meet her eyes. “I think I would die without you.”

The mere mention of her husband's death was enough to make Eleanor flinch, but she was not about to let that show on her face. "As would I without you," she replied smoothly, her voice as soft and pure as silk. She took his hand in between hers and lifted it to her cheek, almost as though she was cradling it, treasuring it.

She looked at her husband's face, truly looking at him this time. He looked almost ill. Dark circles sat heavily beneath his eyes and his skin was pale under the red blotches. He was still as attractive to her as he had ever been, despite the exhaustion that was so very evident in his features, but she worried for him. She was no longer sharing a bed with him at night and did not know personally of her husband's troubles, but the maids had told her that he had not been sleeping. They said he sat awake at night, sometimes pacing, sometimes in the church, sometimes simply gazing out of the window. But wherever he was, whatever he was doing, they said he constantly wore this near tortured expression on his lovely features, as though he were on the verge of slipping into madness. Away from him, cut off from the world in her confinement, she could do nothing to comfort him, and she was beginning to agonise over it.

"Please, come to bed, my darling," Eleanor suggested softly. "Be with me for just a night. Even if we cannot be together in the way we would both wish us to be, I may still lie in your arms." She prayed her presence, if he allowed it, may settle her husband and allow him to finally get a night's sleep. She couldn't bear to keep seeing him this way. "One night can do no harm," she promised softly.

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There was just something about Eleanor’s tone that soothed James’ anger, it was gentle and loving like a mothers, yet also fierce and strong like a true Queen. She would make a wonderful Queen, he had no doubt about that, she was beautiful and graceful and she certainly would not be one of those women who sat obediently at his feet, nor did he want her to be. James’ wanted a Queen who would rule alongside him, be his voice of reason when he was too blind to see the truth and he knew with Eleanor he had found all that.

He gently moved his across her heavily swollen stomach, the action bringing an immediate smile to his usually pursed lips. Once their child was born everything would be different, that much was certain, together they would raise their son and whatever other children god deems fit to bestow upon them, he would have a beautiful family, teach his sons how to fight as he taught his daughters about inner strength, it was a beautiful dream but a dream nonetheless. James sighed heavily, he relied too much on this child already and he knew firsthand what too much pressure could do to children, he had been his father’s heir and whilst he would watch his sibling play merrily in the gardens of Briar he would be stuck in the library learning about matters of state. He had been miserable, but now he saw why his father had done what he had, it was all character building and James’ would have to know every inch of the realm should he one day rule over it and sadly it was also the fate which fell upon his unborn son.

However, first they had to retake the crown and along the way there was no doubt more hard decisions would have to made, along with sacrifices, many sacrifices, but they were all worth it for the greater good, weren’t they? To be frank, it was a question James’ had pondered repeatedly, it scared him the lengths he would go to secure the throne, he just prayed he wouldn’t go too far and ruin all that he loved. Withdrawing his hand from Eleanor’s stomach, James offered his wife another tight smile at her suggestion, there was no malice behind the expression but rather just frustration, either way the idea was appealing to him.

“I can honestly not think of a better than to fall asleep with you in my arms,” James uttered placing a longing kiss once again upon her pink lips, “let us go to bed.”





“What do you mean, ‘he’s nowhere to be found?” James asked in reference to his younger brother Edwin, although his voice seemed relatively calm as he spoke, his tone level, the anger in his eyes could be seen, “This is a large castle, but not so large that you can lose an eighteen year old.”

The man before him shifted uncomfortably in his stance, his glance downcast as he dare not look the Lancaster heir in the eyes, he cleared his throat before speaking, “we have not lost him your grace, we fear he has ran away south, our intelligence indicates that he has crossed the border into Seabel.” James’ nostrils flared as he glared at the man before him, was he really stood before him saying that his own flesh and blood, his younger brother had defied him and travelled south? Surely it must have been some joke, Lancaster’s were stronger than that, their bond was strong he simply could not believe that his brother would do such a thing.
“Your intelligence…” muttered James, “Your intelligence!” he repeated in a firmer tone, the vein in his neck throbbing as adrenaline surged through his bloodstream. Beside him Henry grimaced, his hand coming to rub at his weary face, he had to admit he himself had not noticed his brother absence until his wife had mentioned it to him that morning, at first he hadn’t thought much of it, Edwin had always been slightly more solitary than the others due to their age gap and he had thought Edwin simply being confined in his rooms. It was only after he had checked did he realise he bed chambers were empty and looked like they had been for a few days and that had made him nervous. After telling James, his older brother had dispatched guards to scour the castle and still there was no sign of him, of course he shared his brothers sentiments, Edwin would not have defected, it was impossible, neither of them were the best of brothers but their bond was still strong, he would not betray them.

Things had been going surprisingly well for James until this moment, his brother and sister have returned to the Emerald Isles bearing brilliant news, it would appear that Kevan’s son had taken a particular shine to Sara and it looked like a marriage would take place within the upcoming months. James had been ecstatic when he received the news, even given his sister the most splendid of necklaces, although she had accepted it he could still see the resentment in her eyes, she felt it was compensation and James could see why it would have looked that way. She was not a performing pony and him gifting her the jewels had seemed like a treat for performing well, the look in her eye had immersed him in guilt and his elation had quickly dissipated.

This news now did not ease his burden, like Henry he had not noticed Edwin’s absence since someone mentioned it and that in itself made him disappointed with himself. The castle was large and it was not uncommon for him not to see his siblings for a day or two, especially should he be busy but his mind had not even wondered to Edwin before this morning. “You should better hope that your intelligence is wrong Sir Beaston, otherwise it would be your head on the line.” James was aware that statement wasn’t exactly fair and in reality it was most probably an idle threat, but it seemed to instil a fear within the man and he certainly would not fail him again.

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Eleanor gazed out of the window as silvery flecks floated from an endless sky, scintillating with dazzling grace. The season's first snowfall had begun early that morning, and though the flakes were just light, they had given the ground a white, powdery coating. Though Eleanor longed for the warmth of her home in the South most everyday, she was still able to appreciate the utter beauty of the snow. The flakes danced elegantly as they drifted by, glittering like flowers of silver lace. In the South, snowfall had been exceptionally rare. As a child, only in the very depths of winter did she and her siblings awake to a coating of soft snow. It would cause such excitement for the Stanford children and they would rush outside, draped in winter furs, to play among the small icy drifts until the bright winter sun melted their fun. It had taken Eleanor until her later years, when they had been exiled to the North, to realise that the true beauty of snow was not when it coated the ground but as it tumbled from the heavens.

Eleanor sat in solitude, simply watching out of the window. Beside her, flames danced brightly in the hearth, making sure the coldness of the outside did not consume the inside. Eleanor's eyes swept the ground outside. Although the snowfall was still young and fresh, it was already marked by the large footprints of men's boots as they came and went in a hurry. Since she had made her husband aware of his younger brother's absence this morning, there had been a flurry of people entering and leaving the castle, searching for him. Truly, Eleanor was quite concerned for him. Though she'd never known him especially well, he seemed like a sweet boy who simply didn't quite understand his place in all this. She prayed briefly that some sort of ill fate had not befallen him. She knew her husband would be devastated if anything were to happen to his brother.

It was at that moment that one of the more senior guards who she recognised as Hugo passed through the room, fast melting snowflakes flecking his dark hair and beard. "Hugo?" Eleanor said quickly, bringing the man to an abrupt halt.

"Your Grace," Hugo turned and greeted her with a bow. Though the title was not officially hers, James would've flown into such a rage if he heard anyone refer to them by any lesser status. Honestly, Eleanor found it a little uncomfortable that they were still required to call her Queen when everyone knew she was no such woman. "Is there something the matter?" he questioned with concern. The staff now treated her as though she were made of glass in her condition, pussyfooting around her as though they expected her to lose her baby and bleed to death at any moment, as had so nearly happened previously.

"No," Eleanor reassured him. "I wanted to know if there was any news on Edwin," she said.

"He's thought to have crossed the border into Seabel, Your Grace," Hugo replied formally.

"What would he be doing in-" Eleanor began, but stopped, as she realised he had not been taken, nor had he been sent there, but had left, of his own accord. "Does the King know?" she asked with a soft sigh, all too aware of what such news would do to her husband.

"He had just been informed, Your Grace," Hugo responded.

"Take me to him," her tone held the clear message that she did not want to be questioned, or advised against it, for any reason. She watched Hugo briefly contemplate warning her not to, but decided to keep his mouth closed and simply nodded instead. He offered her a hand to help her get up, which she gratefully accepted, before following him along the halls of the castle. He kept a slow pace, making it easy for her to keep up. In the past few days, it felt as though her son was sitting much lower inside her, perfectly normal, she had been reassured by the physician, and the correct position to allow an easy birth. Though it gave her some relief, making breathing and eating easier, his new position was now causing an unpleasant pressure on her pelvis, which was making walking much harder.

They entered the room to find her husband stood over a cowering Sir Beaston, who looked as though he'd rather be facing the entire Rayleigh army right now than be stood before James.

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Anger had never been a trait which James tended to deal well with, especially since it had been somewhat of a new development. He had been a relatively happy child, despite his reservations about the duties he was obligated to carry out being the heir, his childhood was still good. He and Henry would often play soldiers around the grounds of Briar, using wooden swords to fight each other or pretend to slay dragons in order to rescue the maiden fair. Then when his sister had been born they had practised in order to protect her as their father had made them both promise, all this seemed like a life time ago now, nothing but distant memories. Things had not been perfect, especially after the death of James’ mother but King Henry, their father, had always made time for his children and that seemed to eradicate all resentment he had ever felt towards the man. Now it even made him feel guilty, the amount of times he would complain to Henry about his father’s absence and how he had been selfish to leave them alone for long periods at a time, for now he truly understood the burden of power and even so he wasn’t fully in it yet.

Would it be worse?

Would his absence become greater?

All the questions riffled through his mind, he already felt enough guilt for leaving his wife alone for such prolonged periods of time and especially how her sister was the supposed Queen of Seabel and her brother-in-law the ‘King.’ Many people in his court appeared wary of the woman, they deemed her previous miscarriages signs that she was not meant to become Queen, naturally no man, woman or child dared utter such words to his face but James had heard the rumours, of course he had, lips were never sealed for long in such a toxic environment. James had always dismissed such rumours, never once entertaining them, Eleanor was so close to term now that he could almost feel the babe in his arms, unfortunately the nagging voice in the back of his mind also whispered crude thoughts about another miscarriage and that made James nervous, he wasn’t quite sure what he would do should another child die.

Pinching the bridge of his nose, James finally looked up from the man kneeling before him and looked towards the throngs of people all looking towards him whispering and instantly his anger grew once more. When had everything become so complicated? When had the heavy burden started to form upon his shoulders? The questions were rhetorical, he knew when everything had begun to crumble, he knew the root of his anger and it was all contributed to the battle of Mountains Pass, his father’s last battle. It did horrible things to a man seeing ones father dragged from a horse and skewered through the heart like he had been nothing more than an animal, horrible, horrible thing. For one it made James incredibly bitter, not many things brought him joy anymore, not a beautiful sunset or sparring with his brothers. It also made him feel empty, like a void which nothing could truly fill, even his darling wife, god bless her soul and all the happiness and love which she brought him could truly mend his broken heart. This was undoubtedly the stem of his anger, so many emotions raced through his body and they manifested themselves in the only way they could, slowly building until he would erupt with sharp bursts of violence and harsh words.

Oh what he would give to go back in time and change everything, but life was not that simple nor that easy, this was the fate he had been dealt and the only thing James could do was to take life one day at a time. Bringing his gaze back down to the solider before him, James shook his head, “get out of my sight.” Deep down James knew this was not the man’s fault, his brother was eighteen years old, they could hardly keep him locked away and his adventurous spirit had sometimes been cause of trouble in the past. He could remember Briar being turned upside down on numerous occasions when the Little Prince Edwin had wondered off, things he had found humorous at the time, but this time James was not laughing. Partly because a part of him truly believed Edwin had deserted them.

The sound of the doors opening caused James and the majority of his court to look towards the back of the hall and too his surprise, along with everyone else’s, Eleanor walked in. The sight of his beautiful wife usually stirred a sense of happiness within the man, but today it brought a little annoyance, not necessarily with her presence but rather with the fact that she should be in her rooms resting, it was plain to see that the babe was making things uncomfortable for her.

Walking past the still kneeling man, James took big strides down the centre of the hall, people parting for him as he moved and within a few seconds he was at his wife’s side. Lightly taking her arm, his lips pursed together in a thin line as he led her swiftly from the room, waiting until they were out of earshot before speaking, he would not give the courtiers more reason to gossip. “Darling, you should be in your rooms. Look at you, you can barely walk!” James spoke firmly yet his tone remained soft, it was true his wife’s walk resembled more of a waddle, something he probably would have found quite humorous had he not feared the swift movement of her dainty hand colliding with his cheek. For such a small woman, Eleanor could certainly gather a lot of force behind her swing.

“Let me escort you back. I know I must have been a terrible husband of late but I promise I shall remain with you for the remainder of the afternoon.”

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As Eleanor entered behind Hugo, she found every eye in the court looking upon her, each making their own judgement. Almost a little self-consciously, Eleanor's fingers lightly stroked the fabric of her dress where it was stretched tautly across her swollen stomach. Eleanor was used to being scrutinised by others, she had been a woman of status all her life and everywhere she went she was watched. Marrying James had served to elevate that status, but it also brought her more disapproval. With each failed pregnancy, those of James' court formed an increasingly stronger opinion of her. Some showed her obvious pity, but most simply thought her a failure. They regarded her with contempt for her weakness and she knew they talked about her in less than favourable tones when those holding the Lancaster title were not within earshot, and when they were, their eyes only confirmed those rumours. But this attention was different. What they had resented her for in the past had been beyond her control by that point. Her babies had been cold in their graves and as much as she damned herself and her body for whatever it was that had gone wrong, there was nothing she could do to change the past. But the disapproval they looked upon her with now was judging her as a mother. They thought her careless and reckless. They all believed she was putting their heir in danger. And the truth was as selfish as they all believed. Eleanor simply couldn't bear to spend one more cruel moment in that room.

Her husband lifted his head and drew his eyes away from the quivering man before him, allowing his gaze to fall upon his wife. There was an obvious care and concern gracing his orbs, but the softer emotions also swum with something else; irritation. He felt the same as his court, she began to worry. But she simply didn't know how to admit to him the truth about why she couldn't stand to remain in confinement any longer.

Eleanor watched James stride towards her with marked purpose and intent, his expression tense and strained. His hand clasped lightly round her arm and he quickly led her out of the room, a little too hastily for Eleanor's heavily pregnant frame to deal with, so when he finally came to a halt away from the prying eyes and ears of his court, she found herself panting lightly to catch her breath.

“Darling, you should be in your rooms. Look at you, you can barely walk!” James scolded her. His tone was not cruel nor angry, but it held a definite air of strictness.

"I'm perfectly fine," Eleanor replied tightly, although her still slightly laboured breathing did not aid her at all in making her point. "I simply fear I may go mad if I am to be forced to spend another moment frivoling away my days in that blasted room!" She was trying to keep her tone even and calm, hoping to underplay her abhorrence for having to sit there to her husband, but her voice edged slightly towards hysteria.

In the beginning of her confinement, Eleanor simply thought it foolish that she was being forced to remain in her room and despite the mind-numbing boredom, she could have stood it. But now, in the last few weeks of her pregnancy when she was uncomfortable and did truly need the rest, she could not stay there. As Eleanor sat in her own company, undertaking whatever foolish pastime it had been suggested she partake in that day, she found herself alone with her thoughts. At first, her mind was able to linger on imagining her baby, mulling over what they might name him and picturing herself rocking him gently. But other thoughts had began to creep in, winding their way through her pleasant ones, like the most malignant, deadly weeds in a beautiful garden. The thoughts taunted her, reminding her in the cruellest, harshest way of her past losses and promising her that this time would only mirror those.

The thoughts became more prominent the more time she was forced to sit idly until they became synonymous with sitting in her room. When her mind wasn't occupied and she was trying to rest, they induced an unrelenting panic for her unborn child. And when Eleanor finally slipped from consciousness into sleep, the thoughts transported themselves into her dreams, creating terrifying, haunting nightmares for her to contend with. They were flashbacks to the loss of her last boy, a trauma Eleanor truly thought she had dealt with. The pain felt so real, the agonising, hot waves that splintered out across her abdomen, and she truly thought she could feel the warm, sticky dampness of her blood as it pooled around her body faster than the maids could clear it away. Then she felt his tiny, still body slip from between her thighs onto the bloodied sheets. She watched the midwife scoop him up, so real and brutally fresh that it could be happening that very moment, tapping firmly against his fragile back, trying desperately to make him breath. But the pale boy couldn't even pull one little breath into his tiny lungs. Then, the midwife leant over her and told her how very sorry she was for her third loss, and Eleanor realised with horror that this was not a flashback, but a premonition of history repeating itself. Then, she would awake, her hands clamped over her mouth in an eerily silent scream, her beautiful blue eyes filled with a sea of tears, for the children she had lost, and those she was yet to lose.

But Eleanor had not told a single soul, aside from the snippet she had allowed to break through in her letter to her mother, before things had become truly bad, as that, to her, would finally shatter the last window between her thoughts and reality, dooming her baby to a certain death. To tell anyone was as good as signing her child's death sentence. So Eleanor hid her fear from the maids and from her husband. Some thought her behaviour a little odd, but wouldn't dare whisper about it in the presence of anyone of significance. Eleanor did everything she possibly could think of to avoid her own company, and if that meant avoiding confinement, then she would simply suffer her discomfort, for no pain could be worse than that of her dreams and thoughts becoming reality.

“Let me escort you back. I know I must have been a terrible husband of late but I promise I shall remain with you for the remainder of the afternoon,” James told her.

But Eleanor shook her head. "Don't be foolish, my love. Your attention is required here, in locating Edwin and assuring his safe return," she told him, ignoring any knowledge that his disappearance could be self-inflicted. "Let me help you. I spoke with him a little in what must have been just before his disappearance. Perhaps we can piece together where he might have gone."

In truth, Eleanor had exchanged little more than a few words of pleasantries with the boy, but she was so desperate to avoid being sent back to her room that manipulating her husband was a small price to pay. She spoke slightly too quickly, though, the tiniest inkling of panic showing through her otherwise controlled and perfectly reasonable words.

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Eleanor’s refusal did not come as a surprise to James, she was a Stanford woman born and bred and stubbornness seemed to be a trait which surrounded them all. He should have known that confinement would not sit well with his wife, for the entire time he had known her the woman had never been able to sit still for more than a few minutes; it was both irritating and adorable at the same time. Countless times he had told her to stop fidgeting, especially when he was working, it had become exceedingly difficult for James to concentrate when Eleanor was in the room with, partly because the mere waft of her perfume was enough to drive his senses into a wild frenzy- at the beginning of their marriage he had hardly been able to keep his hands off her for more than a moment or two, insisted on having her close to him at all times, mostly for her own protection but also for his own piece of mind. At least if he could see her he could keep her safe and away from rumour, not to mention that in his presence no man dared even look at his wife with any hint of lust- he was protective like that. However the other reason his concentration wilted in her presence was due to the excessive drumming of her finger nails, it drove him stir crazy at times but it was all clear indications that his wife was indeed bored.

With a sigh, James shook his head as a chuckle rose in his throat. Gently placing his hands upon Eleanor’s rosy cheeks he could not help but smile, she was simply exquisite, a truly wonderful example of god’s creation and she was entirely his, he couldn’t have been luckier. Pressing light kisses against her lips James savoured the sweetness, which he likened to honey, “my darling, I hardly doubt you could ever go insane, your mind is much too strong for that.” He pressed another kiss upon her lips, “I on the other hand. I fear you will drive me stir mad!” His teasing held a light tone, he honestly did feel that she would drive him insane at times, it was one of the reasons he loved her so dearly, but deep down James knew the only cause for insanity would be if he ever lost her. Now that would be a fate worse than death.

Of course she dismissed his attempt to take her back to her apartments, like he suspected she would but a slight disappointment was held in his features. The truth was James was terrified that something would happen to Eleanor should she remain out of her room for too long, for centuries it had been said that confinement in a woman’s final stages of pregnancy was a must in order for the babe to be born safely. They had already suffered too many tragedies; too many lost babes that he could not hold in his arms or watch blossom into adulthood. He had mourned for those lost children, perhaps more than he should have done and the pain was still felt within his heart on almost a daily basis, still there was hope with this new child, hope that his line would continue through this son.

His fears were plenty and frequent but the look on his wife’s face swayed him otherwise, the woman had far too much control over him at times- again another factor that he both loved and loathed. “Damn you woman” James chuckled playfully with a shake of his head, “but you are wrong, those knaves in there cannot tell me anything about Edwin’s disappearance, it’s just speculation, speculation.” He shook his head with a mixture of dismay and pure annoyance, there was certainly no way he was going back into that room to listen to more irrelevant dribble from men who clearly had no idea what was truly happening.

Instead James took Eleanor’s arm and led her down the hall, “We shall go and sit in my chambers then, you look like you could use as seat.” The walk wasn’t too far away but James kept his pace slow and steady as to not tire out his heavily pregnant wife, who was quite evidently made rather uncomfortable by the babe growing within her. Once they reached his chambers, James ushered her inside, making sure she took one of the comfortable seats immediately beside the fire, as he set about getting them refreshments.

He poured two chalices to the brim with wine and walked back over to Eleanor, handing her one before taking a seat adjacent to her, “so my love, tell me what you know about Edwin?” He pressed eagerly, although on the inside he remained desperate about finding any information on his brother whereabouts, he did not want his wife to worry about him and so kept his façade relatively passive.

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James chuckled softly and lifted his large, cool hands to Eleanor's warm cheeks. He smiled at her, an expression that showed such love and care for his uneasy wife. It calmed her a little to know he was there and he did not despise her for disobeying him. He pressed a gentle kiss to her lips.

“My darling, I hardly doubt you could ever go insane, your mind is much too strong for that.”

Then he brought his lips to hers again. She received it less passively this time, capturing his lips and returning it with her own affection. His words in some part comforted her. Over the past week she had been so very afraid she had truly been losing her mind. She felt she was losing a grasp on reality and desperately slipping into a world of terror she could not find a way out of. Things seemed to be getting progressively worse as her state of mind weakened. But his belief in her gave her a little more strength and allowed her to push her ensuing panic back for a time.

“I on the other hand. I fear you will drive me stir mad!” James teased her, bringing a small smile to her pale features. It wasn't until Eleanor had her husband at her side that she realised quite how much she'd missed him these past few days. Eleanor understood how very busy he was, and for that reason she did not blame him for his absence. But being with him now only made her crave his presence more. She prayed that when they retook the throne and James was safe in his position he would have a little more time to spend with her, though she knew any dreams of such a fate were probably just a fantasy.

Eleanor watched James' resolve crack. “Damn you woman,” he chuckled, shaking his head. His words instantly brought relief to Eleanor and she released the breath she didn't realise she had been holding. She had got herself in such a state over being forced by him to return to battling with her demons in her confinement that the news that he was going to give in to her began to gently smooth her ragged nerves.

“But you are wrong, those knaves in there cannot tell me anything about Edwin’s disappearance, it’s just speculation, speculation. We shall go and sit in my chambers then, you look like you could use as seat.”

As James led her slowly down the hall, Eleanor sighed and rolled her eyes in an attempt to dismiss her husband's concerns over her well-being. Though worry for her baby plagued Eleanor's every waking thought, she did not want her husband's terror to mirror her own. He had such a lot to worry about already that she feared further concern for her and their child may bring him even closer to his tipping point. Before him, she needed to portray the illusion that she was without fear and positive everything would go well.

They walked slowly together until they reached his chambers. Eleanor was entirely grateful that he kept a slow pace, to appear exhausted by such a short walk or to have to ask him to slow down wouldn't have helped her case in the slightest. James directed her towards the cushy seat right by the fire and, placing one hand on the small of her back and another on the arm of the chair, she gently lowered her weight into the seat. She felt the cushions give beneath her as it accommodated her body and the fire instantly began to warm her. James had been right, standing had been highly uncomfortably, and now she was sat down, she felt a little less guilty. Though she couldn't bear to be in her confinement, she was fully aware that the purpose of it was to prevent the baby from coming too soon. So many times that week, Eleanor had found herself torn between standing and moving around, trying anything to distract herself from her torturous thoughts, and wanting to sit perfectly still for her baby's safety and health. She had battled with herself, and more and more she had found her own selfish terror winning out over what she knew she should have chosen.

“So, my love, tell me, what you know about Edwin?”

As he spoke, Eleanor remembered her desperate exaggeration that she might know where Edwin was, and now she had to give her husband something about his brother. She cast her mind back to their conversation a few days previously, which must have been just before he left. She'd stopped him in the halls, yet another attempt to occupy her troubled mind. She'd asked after the weather outside, as he'd just returned in and she was forbidden from going out into the fresh air. He had told her it was chilly and that he was sure snowfall was due soon. Then, out of good manners, Eleanor was sure, he had enquired after her health, to which Eleanor had given the usual answer, that she was well. However, as Edwin's eyes fell on the clock, he took on a slightly more jumpy demeanour. He had then excused himself rather hastily, telling her he was running late for something important he had to do. But when he left, Eleanor thought she had noticed a sense of hopefulness that wasn't usually evident in James' quite, introverted brother.

"When I spoke with him, he excused himself from the conversation quickly after noticing the time, telling me he was late for something important he had to do," Eleanor explained. "I don't think he simply ran away, James. I think he was going somewhere in particular, to do something he had planned. He seemed hopeful about whatever it was." She knew it wasn't much that she could offer, but hoped it gave her husband some peace of mind about his brother's safety.

By now, the fire was now warming her quite comfortably, removing all of the tension from her body. She hadn't realised how much she had needed this. For the first time in what felt like an age, Eleanor finally felt calm. She rested her head back against the chair and her eyes closed briefly as she relaxed. But, in an instant, her vision was consumed with the image of her child, tiny, his white skin tinted blue and horrifically stained with red blood. Her eyes flew open again, wide with shock, unable to mask her horror. Suddenly, responding to his mother's emotional turmoil, her baby landed a hard kick in tender flesh between her right hip bone and her pubic bone. Eleanor gasped sharply and her hand flew to the source of the pain, doubling over slightly.

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James observed his wife, his emerald eyes focussing on her from over his chalice; she really was an exquisite woman, especially by the dim light of the burning fire. Her hair was a shade of gold he had never seen before laying eyes on the Stanford sisters, the honey tones were not to dissimilar from the sun’s rays on a summers day nor the shimmering shine of freshly spun silk and beside the fire this was only accentuating. Eleanor’s visage truly mimicked that of an angel and as cliché as it sounded that was truly how James felt about his wife, her porcelain skin almost the shade of freshly fallen snow and her eyes the same shade as the metallic palate of steel, truly and undoubtedly unique. Ever so was her beauty made all real by the swell of her stomach, protruding attractively beneath her dress, there had been many occasions in their marriage when James had been truly struck dumb by Eleanor’s beauty, now was one of those times.

ImageThere was something about seeing Eleanor with child that made James’ heart leap, the thought that their child grew swiftly within brought immense happiness and joy. To know that their futures would begin with this child was comforting and also frightening, although his worries were still present, they would be until the babe was safe in his arms and even then James doubted he would ever be able to stop his worry.

As Eleanor began to speak about Edwin, his brow knitted together at her words, “ I don't think he simply ran away, James. I think he was going somewhere in particular, to do something he had planned. He seemed hopeful about whatever it was.” Her suspicions had furthered his confusion upon the situation, was it true, had Edwin a plan behind his disappearance? James had never considered the possibility himself, it half seemed ludicrous. What could he possibly have to do in Seabel? Why would he risk his life and that of his family, didn’t he know what damage he could cause by simply stepping foot within the country? So many questions raced through his mind as he slowly processed the information, her words were compelling to say the least and he was not one to doubt his wife’s words.

“Could it be true?” James murmured sinking back into his chair, his visage spared from any true emotion save for confusion as his mind still raked for a plausible explanation, still none came to the forefront of his mind. His hand came to rest upon his pointed chin, rubbing the stubble flesh as if it would help him locate his brother just that little faster. In truth James was more worried for Edwin than anything else, granted should he find out that is brother had left willingly for Seabel he would probably see it as some betrayal, but ultimately just the knowledge that he was safe would have been sufficient.

Even with his gaze directed towards the dancing flames of the fire, Eleanor’s sudden and sharp movements had not gone unnoticed. Her gasp had originally drawn his attention, the sudden intake of breath echoing through the room; his own green orbs had widened at Eleanor’s actions, they were unnerving and worrisome for the exiled King and the moment she doubled over his own heart stopped. James was by her side within a second, falling heavily to knee’s ignoring the pain which caused through his bones, “my love, what is it? Is it the child?” He asked in a brisk tone, almost fearsome. James’ hand gently entwined with his wife’s, his slightly calloused thumb from years of sword play gently running across her knuckles. “Should I send for the physician?”

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Eleanor took a few, rapid, shaky breaths as the pain in her side began to dissipate, trying to regain her composure. She was losing her mind. She was truly losing her grip on reality. She couldn't even close her eyes now, not even what should be the comforting company of the man she loved most in the world. Her fear and paranoia was consuming her and winning, despite her best efforts to hold herself together. Other than James and her brother, there was no one here in the North she truly trusted, and she could tell neither of them about her fears. Here, she wasn't adored by the court or watched fondly by those who'd seen her grow up as she had been at home. Here she was looked upon with cold, judging eyes. If her mother was here, or even Harriet, she could tell them of her terrors, and she may find some solace in that. But she couldn't. And, she truly thought if she lost this child it may be the end of her.

"My love, what is it? Is it the child?” Eleanor heard her husband say, his demanding voice suddenly close to her. She felt his hand take her trembling one. “Should I send for the physician?”

"No, no. I'm fine," she reassured him softly, lifting her head and straightening her body a little. "He's just kicking," Eleanor promised, excluding exactly what it was that had caused her child's unease. Her husband did not need that worry. Not with his brother missing, his sister being sent away to the Emerald Isles and the impending war with the Rayleigh's all weighing on his mind. The last thing he needed was to worry about his wife's mental state and the health of his child. All she had to do was was remain, to all appearances, perfectly well for a few more weeks and deliver a perfect baby boy. As a wife, she should be able to do at least that.

"Feel how strong he is," Eleanor's voice was a wisp of breath, for fear that if she put any more force behind it, it may crack and show her true terror. She lifted the hand that was intertwined with her own to a spot just above the original source of her pain, where the babe's foot had moved to and was now nudging her lightly. Eleanor placed James' hand over where the child was moving, holding it there for a few seconds of silence, the only sound being that of their own breaths. She then lifted her head to meet James' eye, almost as though she was searching for his approval.

Eleanor then leant in and placed her lips against his, kissing him sweetly. "I'm fine," she reassured once more, pulling back, a tight smile fixed on her features. "He's fine. He's...perfect," Eleanor promised, as though if she repeated her version of the truth enough times it may just come to pass.

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James Lancaster was many things, some called him arrogant, others called delusional and there was those who though him nothing more than a bastard, all of them were true to some extent or another. However there was one thing that James was not and that was heartless, no, there were many things which could be said about the exiled Prince, but being heartless was certainly not one of them, especially when it came to children. When the news arrived from Seabel about Princess Elizabeth’s untimely death, he had been genuinely remorseful, not because he believed he was at fault for the child’s death by all accounts she had died of the sweating sickness, quite a common cause for all children’s deaths in the realm. However he did feel remorseful for wishing them harm in his darkest days, a time not so long ago when it felt everyone in the entire world was against him and he had stooped so low as to pray for the death of all the Rayleigh’s, the two small girls included, wishing for the end of Charles and Harriet was one thing, but to wish the deaths of two innocent little girls was utterly incomprehensible and only now could he see this.

Technically Elizabeth was his niece, Cecily too, they were of Eleanor’s blood and had the circumstances been different he could have perhaps loved them as such, however things were how they were, they were Rayleigh’s, Charles’ flesh and blood more so than Eleanor’s and for that reason he could not allow himself to feel much for them, at least not in public. That had been the main reason James had almost seemed impassive when he received the news during a council meeting a few weeks going, his advisors and supporters could not see him pitying the Rayleigh’s, any of them, even the children, they would see it as a weakness and weakness was crippling these days.

“How plans developing with the Emerald Isles?” James asked suddenly, stopping the Lord who had been in the middle of speaking about some irrelevant nonsense once again. As expected the man, a certain Lord McGuire had seemed startled if not a little annoyed at James’ interruption, although this did not fail the Prince, “Well my Lord?” he pressed his fingers drumming lightly on the arm of his chair.

McGuire cleared his throat as Henry looked towards his brother with a disapproving glance, then again no amount of glances or quiet words could sway his brother stubbornness and downright rudeness at times, James had a Kings mentality but without the official titles and he would have to sooner rather than later that his men may still defect against him, he was not King yet. “Well, your grace…preparations are good, although we have heard that the Rayleigh’s have sent their own ambassadors to King Kaven’s court, it is not unlikely that they will do what they can to push Charles’ younger sister Margaret towards the Prince.”

James merely nodded, absorbing the news, although his reaction was not one people had suspected. There was neither temper nor flare, just simply acceptation of the news, “well that was to be expected. However I don’t feel we have anything to worry about, I remember this Margaret Rayleigh and she was nothing compared to our Sara.” He spoke confidently, his faith in Sara’s appeal unwavering, it was no secret that the youngest Lancaster was a beautiful woman, the perfect woman in most respects and to James the pair were already as good as married. By all accounts Prince Lewis had been infatuated with his sister and this had only instilled James’ confidence with the alliance. “How is there any other news?”

“Actually you grace…” Lord Belmont rose from his seat, a letter clutched within his grasp, “I have some news from my nephew in the Rayleigh’s court, it would appear that the Princess Elizabeth has died of the Sweating Sickness.” The news stunned the men sat around the table and James himself was knocked back by the news, his hawk like emerald eyes took in people’s different reactions, some looked almost rejoiced and others made a quick cross upon their chest out of respect for the young girl. James himself did what he could to seem impassive, he nodded releasing a heavy sigh as he contemplated what to do with information, “This news must not leave this room and by no means must this be repeated to the Queen, I do not wish to cause her any distress in her current situation.” The Lords agreed most nodding and mumbling under their breaths, but all ultimately decided it would be best not to distress James wife at the risk of another miscarriage.


That had been weeks ago and still James had to find away to tell Eleanor that her niece had died, it was something that he thought about daily; on one hand he wanted to tell his wife, she deserved to know but a part of him feared what the grief would bring, could it bring about another miscarriage? Eleanor was so far along he had hoped that they were past most dangers, but the threat constantly remained and that scared James more than anything. As he walked along the corridor towards his wife’s chambers the thought remained heavily at the forefront of his mind, although all thought were cleared suddenly at the sound of a high pitched scream resounding down the halls.

Eye’s wide with fright as James recognised his wife’s high pitched tones; his legs seemed to react before his mind and he took off running towards the direction of the scream. “Eleanor!” He screamed, tearing open the door to her dining room, freezing at the sight of his wife upon the floor, “Eleanor!” he roared once again, rushing to her side, dropping to his knees at her side and gathering her into his arms, “Go get the physician now!” he ordered a still startled Jonathan. “It’s okay my love, I am here” he soothed rising to his feet once again and rushed towards the door which lead into her bed chambers, placing her upon the bed immediately, his hand grasping hers, “Come on love, you’ll be okay!” James spoke hastily, unsure whether the words were more for his benefit and reassurance than Ellie’s.