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Two is Not Always Better Than One

By Aeliel

Romance / Adventure

Chapter 1

The hurried feet of the servants echoed throughout the halls. Queen Mary of Scotland was returning to stay at the castle, for her protection and to prepare for her upcoming marriage to Prince Francis. The pressure to arrange the grounds hung thick in the air as the West Wing of the stone edifice was readied for her homestead, and that of her ladies-in-waiting.

Sebastian gazed out the window of his chosen hiding place, thinking about the coming visitor, his little brother's fiancé. They had played together as children. To be more truthful, it had been Mary and Francis playing together. Sebastian had always thought himself too mature to play in their silly games, or had at least positioned himself as such.

Things had changed since she had last been at court. For the love of his favorite son and longtime mistress turned confidant, King Henry had petitioned Pope Julius III that Sebastian be declared legitimate. This did not change his stance in the line of succession, however, as his father so pragmatically reminded him. Francis was the only true heir to the throne. Sebastian would potentially be considered upon Francis' death, if that should ever happen, lest they create murmurings amongst their countrymen.

None of this mattered to Sebastian, as being King had never been something he had felt strongly for. His dreams consisted of never having to shoulder the responsibility that came with taking care of a country. The wind often called to him when he was alone, whispering tales of travel and adventure that a king could in no way have. It was enough for him to wish never to have to choose, for if he ever had to do so he knew his country would surely be left to the mercy of the English vultures.

He was not the type who could lead such a rigid and stationary life.

"Bash what are you doing hiding up here? We should be down in the main hall with our Mothers, awaiting Father." came a voice from the doorway. Francis stood with his hand pressed to the door frame, half leaning against the solid oak. The playful slant in his frown gave away his teasing demeanor.

"I was just waiting for you to come collect me little brother." Sebastian responded in kind. Francis laughed and stood back from the door so his half-brother could exit into the hallway.

Thankfully, throughout the whole process of Sebastian's legitimization Francis had been at his brother's side. Queen Catherine had been fuming and, he was fairly sure, plotting the end of the king's second line. It had been stressful, and still was many times, but the support of his younger brother had meant more than he could have realized. It surely helped that Sebastian had brought his feelings regarding the crown to the Prince's attention, making them both feel more at ease about the situation. Let the elders play their game, for it mattered little to either of the pawns involved.

"Well we had better be on our way. Mary and her ladies will be arriving any moment. You will have some observing to do in order to decide which to hunt while they are in residence. Of course you could always pursue them all, if you are as good a huntsman as you claim to be."

Sebastian smirked at the thought.

"That's right. I get to have all the fun now don't I? How is being next in line treating you than little brother?" Chuckling, he dodged the feigned punch that Francis threw at his jaw. Collecting themselves as they rounded the corner into the main hall, they joined their respective mothers and proceeded onto the grounds to be joined by King Henry II.

The procession was followed by the family guards, and servants from throughout the castle, all eager to meet the new arrivals. Mary's ladies stood in front of the carriage which had brought them to the palace. Waiting for their Queen, they fussed with their skirts and fixed the loose strands of each others hair to be sure they were looking their best for her arrival. Francis grinned at his brother, and Sebastian couldn't help but fix him a sly look in return.

Trumpeters sounded as the royal carriage pulled up in front of the procession. The waiting crowd held their collective breaths as the Queen of Scotland, and, if the alliance held, their soon to be Queen Consort, stepped to the ground. Her dark eyes sparkled with happiness as Francis moved forward to greet her.

Watching from his place beside his mother, Sebastian was struck by how beautiful she had become. Her raven hair shone in the bright sun, complimented by a silver diadem that perched softly atop the waves like a sapphire studded ship on a night sea. Her skin held a warm rose glow that gave the illusion of softness.

Sebastian suddenly realized he had been unabashedly staring at Mary while everyone was welcoming her. Francis turned and began to lead her back toward the castle, her ladies in tow. Her eyes connected with his and he felt unexpectedly lost in the depth of her gaze. Bowing low, he took her hand and kissed it welcoming her to the palace. "Your Majesty. It is a pleasure to see you again"

"Oh Sebastian. It was a long trip, but I am glad to return. I hope that we will be able to become reacquainted, as we were when we were children. I always enjoyed your stories the most."

Her eyes lit up with memories and she smiled sideways at Francis, allowing him to escort her into the castle.

Sebastian felt his breathing catch. Thoughts of her attractive ladies in waiting fled from his mind as he watched her idly brush a stray hair from her face. Internally groaning from the strain of his thoughts, Sebastian turned and followed the throngs back inside the estate.

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