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by Northlight

Title: Beloved (1/1)

Author: Northlight


Summary: Before Tess, there was the King's young bride.

Distribution: Sure, ask.

Disclaimer: WB, 20thC Fox.

Date: December 21, 2000.

She has spent her life waiting for this moment. If she closes her eyes, her mind naturally flows back to hours spent surrounded by soft hands and rich material. She remembers Laetezia, eyes wide and shining, traced with dark pencil. Smooth white hands fluttering about her, red light dancing across the surface of the rings wound about Laetzia's slender fingers. She would lift her arms, red silk trailing across her flesh, settling across shoulders held straight and proud, always. Laetzia's fingers would slid across wispy strands of blonde hair, shook free by the descending material. The other woman would smile, soft and moist and full, Laetizia's lips reverently touching upon hers. "Beautiful," she would breath.

She is beautiful. She knows, she has been given no room to doubt. She is a Daughter of the Inner Houses, and she is grace and beauty incarnate. She has spent her life learning to inhabit the role into which fate has cast her. She has lived among spacious rooms seen only by female eyes, learning to walk and talk as a woman should, how to dress and laugh, eat and drink, how to breathe most pleasing and unobtrusive to the man who would one day take her as a bride.

Laetezia folds before her, a violent flare of red skirts spilling across the floor. Clever fingers rise, catching at the sash of her robe. Laetezia's warm palms follow the gentle curve of flesh, silk robe twisted in her fingers. She stands bare and lost before Laetezia, the dozen Mothers who have taught her the myriad arts of womanhood.

They hold shallow dishes in their left hands, low against their bellies. Liquid trembles against the sides of the gently sloped sides, a pale, sorrowful blue. Slow steps bring her Mothers in a circle around her, fingers dipped into the bowl, moist with the liquid. She closes her eyes and remembers to breathe as wet fingers trail across her flesh. Across the gentle arch of her spine; trailing between fingers up the line of her arm; tracing pale blue veins visible in her feet, up across calves, winding to catch her knees, higher still; gliding soft and sure around her breasts, catching at her nipples, moving towards her belly. Laetezia leans forward, a kiss pressed soft and reverent low against her Lady's flat belly. Each Mother follows suite, a blessing and promise of child.

Blue streaks line her body, her husband's colours drying against virgin flesh. She has been waiting for this moment her entire life, she remembers. She has been born to be given into marriage, to take her Lord's colour for her own, for their blood to mingle together in a child. She knows that Gatekeepers knelt even now before the altar, as they had since her transport had settled upon this foreign soil. Soft chants, strange and unsettling to her ears, pour past parted lips, glazed eyes lifted towards the sky as the Gatekeepers beseeach their Gods to bless their King's realm with a child.

This is her Destiny, she tells herself, trying not to to tremble, to cry, to fling herself into Laetezia's arms and pray this life away.


The Holy Place is large, round, a high vaulted ceiling that sends voices soaring and battering against her ears. Her Mothers stand ranged behind her, a solemn slash of red, bowed heads and lowered eyes, lips set into the narrow lines worn always beyond the comfort of her inner chambers. It takes her a moment to find her father, his face blurred and uncertain in her memory. Straight and tall and proud in his uniform, the colour of dried blood, medals ranged like dead stars against his chest. He does not look at her. His eyes are narrowed, considering, calculating. Her Lord's father stands at his side, bearing and expression interchangeable with her father's.

Lowered eyelashes veil her eyes as she looks cautiously at this man who is to be her husband. Her eyes stumble against male features, unable to dig beyond the unfamiliar lines and angles that shape his face. Training and Destiny and her bloodline hold her pinned in place, an offering to the politics and warfare which she has been taught are none of her concern.

The Gatekeeper stands before them, solemn and pious, his voice slamming into her like a living thing. She passes from her father's House into that of a stranger with a ringing declaration. A union of blood and flesh and power, and may the Gods bless this most holy of unions, and with the wave of a plump hand, the red bleeds from her gown, blue seeping into the rich weave. The breath dies in her throat, fingers twitching at her sides in silent protest.

Years of practice dictate her movements. She turns, faces her Lord, her hand engulfed in his. His palms are rough and calloused, alien against her own, bejewlled and perfumed. Hours of playacting clatter through the sudden stillness in her mind. She remembers to look at him shyly from beneath lowered lashes and smiles tremuously. Her eyes close and she allows him to tilt her face up for her first kiss.

He pulls back, the distant eyes of a stranger. "Beloved," he proclaims, an empty word, distant and meaningless. She is surprised. When Laetezia had whispered the word against her ear, when her Mothers had named her such, it had belonged to her. This Beloved of whom he speaks is a stranger to her. Achingly empty, training and will, blood and Destiny, still her tears.

"My Lord," she whispers, demure, damned as the words pass rose painted lips.

She looks over her shoulder, into her Mothers' grieving faces, to Laetezia, and finds that the other woman is weeping for her.


Laetezia waits with her in her Lord's chambers. Her husband, his court, and her family celebrate their union in the vast halls of this, her new home. She sits at the foot of her Lord's bed, legs curled beneath her, a mirror clutched in white knuckled hands. She watches the stranger in the mirror as Laetezia tenderly draws a brush through tumbling blond curls. This is the last night she has the right to wear her hair such. It has tumbled around her face and shoulders, an artful fountain. Married, her hair shall be bound, drawn and clipped at the base of her skull.

Laetezia settles the brush on the mattress, her hands free to rest against her Lady's shoulders. Laetezia's head bends, her forehead resting against the crown of her Lady's head. "Fear not," Laetezia whispers, her voice cracking with fear.

"I should not. I do." She twists in Laetezia's arms, face buried between the other woman's breasts, and shudders with her tears.

She aches to see her leave when her Lord enters their chambers. Warm where Laetezia had been pressed against her, her skin begins to chill. She stands, shaking fingers fumbling at her clothing. His hands close over hers, stilling her jerky motions. He sighs, and for a moment his face is open to her. He is young and ancient and weary. He asks her her name, and for a moment she is stunned, lost. She remembers that he took Beloved from her, made it something distant and strange to her. Wide eyed, she shakes her head.

He sighs again, pushing her hands to the side, large fingers easing open her robes.

Girl child, born to be traded into a family not her own, this is what she has lived her life waiting for. This is her Destiny.


She walks three steps behind her Lord, the soft sound of her slippered feet against the polished floor drowned out beneath the heavy tread of his boots. Her hands are folded in front of her, against her belly where her husband spilled his seed, as if feeling for the child that may have been planted within her. Her eyes are lowered, her face calm and composed. Her shoulders are held straight and proud, by training and will.

They are already there, a small cluster of red robed figures brilliant against the cold colour around them. Her Lord and her father stand face to face, fingertip to exposed palm in ritual recognition. They do not look at her. Her eyes shift, searching. She meets Laetizia's gaze, wet and longing. They are not allowed to speak. Neither Lord nor father have the time to think of trivial matters such as her wildly expanding sense of loss.

Her Lord does not wait until the transport is out of sight. She trembles in place for a moment, nearly having to hurry in order to keep her ordained three steps behind him.

She withers and grows ancient in this world. Thoughts twist and rot, unspoken within her mind. This is what she has spent her life in wait of. This is her Destiny.

Where did that come from? After the dupes episode, someone suggested that maybe they were more like the royal four than are Max, Tess, Isabel and Michael. It was also noted that Ava tended to walk behind the other three. There was a suggestion that v.1 Max and Tess were an arranged marriage. And from those comments, this fic was born.

If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Northlight

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