Our Gracious Queen

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Dreams

"May we wish the King and Queen our heartfelt congratulations."

Henry grinned and took Eleanor's hand, kissing her fingers, and sat down beside her. The members of the Royal Council raised their glasses, saying "God save the King" in unison before they all sat down. Eleanor looked around the room at the twelve men who served as her husband's advisors, and felt another wave of nausea.

Betsy had not told her that the morning sickness and fatigue would be this awful. She had to force herself to even eat anything at all, and it was frequently hard to keep her meals down. Her limbs felt heavy, and just walking from one side of a room to the other left her exhausted. Her arms felt heavy and she found herself bursting into tears over anything.

Nonetheless, the sixteen-year old Queen of Gravonia soldiered on determinedly, and she continued with her work on streamlining and modernizing the palace. Now that it was cleaned up to meet her standards, she had asked to see the palace accounting books, to everyone's shock, but Henry had declared that as she had an excellent head for numbers, she should be given access. What she had found in them was twice as shocking as the kitchens, and she was still mulling over what to do about the situation.

"I trust Your Majesty is feeling well?" one of the King's Councilors asked. She closed her eyes and made herself remember his name… good Lord, even thinking was exhausting for her… Lord Hallam.

"Yes, Lord Hallam, I feel… fairly good, thank you, sir."

Don't throw up don't throw up don't throw up, she told herself. Her stomach had other ideas, and she clasped Henry's hand. The King looked at her, concerned, and finally at his Councilors. "Gentlemen, I believe the Queen is a little… worn out. Please excuse us." He helped Eleanor to her feet, and if she had been a little less stubborn about it, she would have allowed him to carry her out of the room. Once outside the door, however, he did pick her up and carry her quickly up to their bedroom, and he crouched beside her, holding her hair and gently stroking her back while she retched up her breakfast.

Lady Agnes had commented that Eleanor had lost weight, but assured her that was normal at this stage of her pregnancy. Lady Harriet, however, had disputed that notion, saying Eleanor should be gaining weight now. Eleanor wanted to slap one for being a dowdy cow and the other for being a skinny biddy, they were both annoying her so much. In fact, everyone was annoying her, except Henry, God bless him. He was the picture of patience and consideration, and whenever she had to get up to retch into the chamberpot, he was right beside her, doing his best to comfort her, and he had no trouble at all with the idea of cuddling her at night.

"I'm so sorry, Henry. I do not think I can bear to go downstairs again today." Walking to the Council chamber, to receive the best wishes of the government, had left her entirely drained and all she wanted was sleep.

The court physician—a strange little man called Doctor Stroud, who wore only black and reminded her far too much of an undertaker—had declared that she was progressing well and advised leaving her be for now. He had been offended when she demanded he wash his hands thoroughly with soap and hot water before even touching her, and the whole experience of being examined had been utterly hideous just the same. The worst part, of course, was when the doctor recommended Lady Harriet be the one to select Eleanor's midwife. Eleanor was thinking of some way to circumvent that ridiculous edict, but so far her fatigue made it hard to even concentrate on matters that worried her.

"That's quite all right, sweetheart. I'll tuck you in and you can get some rest." He picked her up and carried her to bed, gently settling her in and pulling the sheets up around her, already familiar with how cold she was feeling lately. What he seemed to be slightly distressed about was her disinterest in sex—since the day she had discovered she was pregnant, Eleanor was too weary and nauseated for lovemaking. Nonetheless, he slept with her every night, and did not press the issue, though she frequently caught him staring at her with an expression of heartfelt longing.

She was missing sex a good deal herself, actually, however little energy she had for it now. The doctor had had the nerve to say that intercourse was bad for the baby and for her health, but Eleanor remembered Betsy scoffing at that notion when she had told her about sex, pregnancy and childbearing. "The reason you get babies in the first place is because you were having fun in bed, so why on earth should you deny yourself and your husband while the babe is growing? Nothing makes a baby more secure in the womb than parents who love each other and show it!" Betsy had even said that lovemaking could even increase the possibility of a happier marriage during the dreary months of pregnancy, and often ensured a much easier delivery.

Eleanor didn't want to think about the birth, though. She had heard far too many stories of women dying during the struggle to bring their children into the world, and others, like Christiane could not bear more children, after that kind of ordeal. Right now, she just wanted to sleep, and hopefully not dream of dragons or childbirth.


"This state visit to Havor was three years in the making, Your Majesty," Lord Hallam was saying, watching Henry pace back and forth in the Council chamber. "It was planned and worked out long before… " He let the sentence hang—the marriage of King Henry to the Crown Prince of Livonia's daughter had also taken three years' worth of wrangling and deal-making. Hallam was as surprised as anyone at how well the match seemed to be working.

"So I'm to just traipse off to Havor, and leave Eleanor here alone?"

"The doctor does not recommend the Queen traveling so far, sir," Hallam reminded the King. "You'll be leaving on the twentieth of July, sir, and will return home by the twentieth of September."

Henry's shoulders sagged and he turned to look out the window. "She'll cry. I can't bear it when she cries. It quite breaks my heart." Henry fiddled nervously with the hilt of the little dagger on his belt. "I charge you, Hallam, with seeing to her safety and well-being at all times. No one— " He turned and faced the man. "No one is to harm her. If she has so much as a tiny cut on her finger when I return, it will be your head on a pike outside the tower, do you understand me?"

"I understand completely sir," Hallam said, bowing the head he could only hope would stay attached to his shoulders come September.

"Well," Henry said. "I do have the Progress I'm to take up north, in June. I want to see how things are now the rains have come to the borderlands."

"Yes, sir, of course."

"If the Queen wishes it, she will go with me."

"Uh… is that… I mean, I'm not sure the doctors will… "

Henry nodded, waving his hand dismissively. "I know. But if Eleanor feels up to it, I hope she will go. I want the people to see their Queen, and by June she'll be showing signs of pregnancy, will she not? The people have never seen Eleanor—though I'm sure they have heard of her beauty and virtue, and it's already all over Gravonia that she is with child. She will delight everyone."

Hallam bowed. "Yes, my lord. Of course she will. My own wife is eager to meet her."

Henry looked at him, suddenly perking up. "Your wife is very young, is she not? Twenty or so?"

"Yes, sir."

"Bring her to Court, then. I should like the Queen to have young ladies about her. Lady Agnes and Lady Harriet both seem to… annoy her." He frowned. Eleanor never complained, but he had begun to notice that the Queen seemed uncomfortable and ill-at-ease with her ladies, particularly Lady Harriet.

Hallam almost snorted. Agnes was merely simple, but Lady Harriet D'Acre was not a woman he would want plaguing his own sweet Clothilde or his fun-loving little ones.

"I will bring her tomorrow, if it pleases Your Majesty. She will be glad to get out of the house, I think. Her confinement was six months ago and… might we bring the child with us?"

"Of course you may. Bring your boys, too, if you're of a mind to. Children dashing about the place would be nice, I think. You've got three now, eh? Two noisy boys and now a wee little girl?"

"Yes, sir," Lord Hallam grinned. He was delighted with his two sons, but the baby girl was the apple of his eye. "Might I say, sir, that being a father is a wonderful thing, and I know you will enjoy it immensely."

The King grinned. "I will. I have a feeling it's going to be the best time of my life, James. The very best."


Eleanor was curious about meeting Lady Hallam—all she knew was that she was German, had recently borne a little daughter, and that she was well-educated and known for a rather wicked sense of humor. In spite of feeling queasy and fatigued, Eleanor went down to the Presence Chamber in the morning and sat beside Henry, who signaled for the doors to be opened.

In the past month, Henry had greatly improved how he managed his day-to-day affairs as ruler. For one thing, he had cleaned up the Presence Chamber and relocated his study to a room next door. He was even trying to concentrate more on the work involved in ruling, and even though he still didn't enjoy it much, he was getting better at it, and his Council was noticing and, for the most part, appreciating his efforts.

Lord Hallam and his wife came in after being announced by Boris, and Eleanor was immediately interested in seeing the baby the young woman was holding.

"Lady Hallam, I am very pleased to see you and your baby in such excellent health," Henry said. "The Queen is also very keen to see you and your newest little one."

Eleanor was on her feet already, coming down the steps and peering into the soft blankets at the face of Lady Hallam's daughter. "What is her name?" she asked.

"Anna," Lady Hallam smiled warmly at Eleanor. "Would you like to hold her, Your Majesty?"

"You wouldn't mind?"

"How could I mind my little daughter being held by a Queen?" Lady Hallam laughed. Eleanor gently took the baby and cradled her in her arms. She breathed in the sweet smell of the infant and touched her soft, curling brown hair.

"She's beautiful, Lady Hallam."

"Just like her mother," Lord Hallam grinned.

"And what is your own name, Lady Hallam?" Eleanor asked, still cuddling the baby, which was gurgling happily and staring up at Eleanor with lovely blue-green eyes. Little Anna grabbed Eleanor's nose, and the Queen laughed for the first time in days.

"Clothilde, ma'am. I'm afraid my parents were a bit tipsy when they named me."

Eleanor started laughing again. Henry and Lord Hallam moved away to talk about the king's upcoming trip to Havor, and Eleanor sat down, holding Anna in her lap. "Clothilde isn't such a bad name."

"I suppose it's better than Irmingarde," Clothilde said with a wry smile. She had a strong but pleasant German accent, blue eyes, blonde hair and a slender, statuesque figure. "But beware—my older sister is named Kunigunde, and my younger sister is named Mechtildis. My parents… drank a lot, I am afraid."

Eleanor couldn't keep from laughing—Lady Clothilde Hallam had an excellent sense of humor and an even better sense of the absurd. Those traits alone would, Eleanor suspected, prove extremely helpful in the future.

"Then I have brothers named Carloman, Berengar, Timoleon, Moritz and Waldemar. Plus aunts named Melisande and Herzelgunde and cousins named Taxia and Adelgunde…and a poor confused relative named Godehard. Our family… we never got invited to many fetes. No one could spell our names for the invitations."

Henry watched the two young women talking and laughing together, the Queen lighting up for the first time in quite a while as she chatted with Lady Hallam and played with the baby. He looked at Lord Hallam, pleased. "Do you think your wife would be willing to be a lady-in-waiting to the Queen? It would mean your family moving to the palace, I'm afraid."

"She would enjoy it a great deal, sir. I think Clothilde would be a very good influence on the Queen. You know my wife is very charming and witty and very funny, without being prideful, and… I think the Queen could use a confidante." He cast a cautious look at the king, wondering if he had overstepped his bounds, but Henry was smiling. "Plus the Queen could use the advice and common sense of an experienced mother."

"Well… " Henry shrugged. "That sort of thing will be very good—I want Eleanor to be happy. It's terrible to see her looking so tired, and her nausea and fatigue is frightful. Plus, she finds her ladies tiresome. If it were Eleanor's own mother here, I'm not sure I could endure that for long. A friend for my wife is one thing… a mother-in-law to cope with is another entirely!"


Eleanor definitely felt better. She had finally found someone closer to her own intellect in Lady Hallam, and they actually had quite a few things in common—Clothilde knew a great deal about politics and history, and spoke French, German and Latin fluently, having been educated rigorously by a bluestocking father who believed girls should be taught alongside boys (however much the notion had shocked her mother). The two young women sat in the Great Hall for a long time after supper, talking about babies and simple domestic issues. Clothilde recommended Eleanor try eating cold ham to combat her nausea, and to also try ginger if that didn't help, and to exercise when she could. She had also pointed out that her morning sickness would soon pass and very likely she would be quite energetic once she started to show her pregnancy.

"Once the food stays down and the baby starts bumping, you'll feel quite a bit better. The final two months are the roughest, or so I found, but every woman is different. You are only sixteen, yes?"

"Yes."

"Oh, I remember sixteen. I was just sixteen when I married my James. I was imported here to Gravonia like a prize mare and given in marriage without being told a thing about him." She smiled and cuddled her little daughter, and watched her two boys skitter about, playing tag. "Fortunately, he has proven to be the best of husbands and the most generous and caring of fathers. Many women are not so lucky, yes?"

Eleanor smiled. "I was brought here with much the same purpose, but I was at least told a little about my husband."

"Oh? What do you think of the real Henry, as opposed to the… oh… what is word… I cannot think… oh, yes—the hypothetical Henry?"

"Henry is very sweet," Eleanor said honestly. "He is not complicated, but he is so kind and generous. There is not a cruel or selfish bone in his body, and I flatter myself in thinking that I'm helping him."

"I suspect you are. The best marriage, my mother once told me, is when the husband is deaf and the wife is blind. But perhaps that is not quite true. The best marriages are when we learn to listen and to watch twice as much as we talk—God gave us two eyes and two ears for a reason, yes? We have to turn a blind eye to some things and a deaf ear to others, though. If he is a bit messy, but is a loving husband, pick up the mess. If she tends to prattle on about things, try to listen and parse out what is important to her—at least, that's what my father told my brothers. That takes a while to learn, of course, and sometimes men and women are stubborn about learning what they need to know. My father, ever a romantic old bluestocking, said that wives and husbands are witnesses to each others' lives--there is not stronger type of intimacy, I think, and it is a long lesson."

"How long does it take to learn?" Eleanor asked, tickling Anna's chin and watching the baby smile.

"Oh, I don't know any married couple that has lived quite long enough to figure it all out, but it's really a matter of trying. If you are wise, you will try to appreciate the effort and do not complain about shortcomings."

"Surely you get aggravated with James sometimes."

"Oh, yes, I do sometimes. But less and less so as the years have gone by. We have three children to cope with and he has tenants and his service as a soldier and lately as a Councilor of State, and I must deal with the housekeeper and the servants and using the right English words… we have no time to waste on frivolous things like arguing over whiskers in the washbasin or underclothes on the floor. That is all… small. Trifles. I have learned that there is almost nothing worth arguing about. Not that we haven't had our squabbles, but… " She smiled. "It's making up that can be quite fun, yes? That is how we ended up with little Louis."

Eleanor smiled, sitting back in her seat, feeling relaxed for the first time in weeks. "I cannot say I have found much in Henry that truly annoys me. Very little, in fact. He has never so much as raised his voice at me, and I know I am anything but perfect… "

"Really? He looks at you as though you are a goddess. Perfection itself." Clothilde grinned and held her daughter up and blew on her belly, causing the baby to squeal and laugh.

"I have my faults. I'm… stubborn and I can be very judgmental and I don't like lamb or mutton in a country where much of the national income is based on sheep… "

"Oh, well, those are hardly horrible flaws. What it takes, really, is training. Let him train you in how he wants things done, and you can train him." Clothilde leaned forward, smiling conspiratorially. "I have trained my James very well, you know. A few nights ago we were in bed and I told him I felt overheated, and he got up and opened a window. He was halfway back to bed when he stopped and said, 'I wasn't even cold! How did you do that?' See? Training, Eleanor. We train them."

"I've done that too!" Eleanor giggled. "Henry opens the windows for me all the time, or closes them, and if I say I'm hungry he's immediately heading for the door, asking me what I want to eat!"

"We're very lucky then," Clothilde said, tickling Anna and cuddling her. "And you… you will have a beautiful, healthy baby."

"I am praying for a son," Eleanor said softly, touching her belly, which was still more or less flat.

"All of Gravonia prays for you to have a son, Eleanor. But mainly we pray for you. Childbirth is very difficult and painful…"

"And can be fatal," Eleanor whispered.

"Yes. It can be. My father's mother died of childbed fever. But if you survive the ordeal, the rewards… oh, they are wonderful! To hold that little new scrap of life in your arms for the first time, and to nurse them, and play with them and teach them…" Clothilde smiled. "There is nothing like it in the world."

"I have been told that my children will go to a wet nurse, and then governesses," Eleanor said, looking down. "I'm not sure I can bear that."

"Then don't," Clothilde said, giving Eleanor a firm look. "Assert yourself. Aren't you the Queen? Then don't let anyone push you around. Mothers should nurse their own babies if they can. True, some can't and probably shouldn't, but if you're healthy…" She tickled Anna again, and the baby gurgled happily. "I nursed my boys and am nursing Anna and they all glow with excellent health and my boys don't run to nurses on Christmas morning or when they're sick or hurt or scared. They come to me and to James. That is how it should be." She nodded. "You are the Queen, and when the time comes, you must make them remember that."


Eleanor curled up beside Henry, resting her head on his chest and idly letting her fingers get entangled in the curly hairs. He reverently touched her belly and looked into her eyes. "How are you feeling, sweetheart?"

"A good deal better, actually," she said with a smile. "I hope the morning sickness is going to pass soon."

"Me too," he said. "I hate seeing you so miserable. It's just awful—I don't know what to do for you."

"You're doing very well as it is." She kissed his nose. "Though I have been missing… our… you know… " She smiled a little, blushing becomingly, and she caught that familiar gleam in his eyes.

"Do you think… we could…? The doctor says we shouldn't… "

"How many pregnancies has he had?" she asked. Eleanor sat up, smoothly pulled her cotton gown off, and straddled his hips. Henry stared up at her, aroused and eager, but he was hesitant. "Do you think I don't know what my own body needs now, Henry?" she asked him, seductively rubbing her body against his, knowing just exactly how to drive him crazy.

He was breathless, and eagerly stroking her thighs. "Yes, you do. I do, too."

"You certainly do. I remember one night when you kissed every inch of my body." She kissed him then, and was gratified when he began caressing her breasts before sliding one hand between her thighs, touching her and making her moan with pleasure. "You said you were determined to memorize me."

"That was… a… oh God, Eleanor… a wonder--… oh dear God… wonderful night…" He lost any ability to speak or think when she took him inside and began to move.

"I feel insatiable tonight," she whispered against his mouth, feeling him beginning to lose control. "I need to put you through your paces." She kissed him deeply as he began to guide her, and he began kissing her breasts when she cried out, tipping her head back before moving back into his embrace, sliding her arms around his neck and kissing him lustily. "In fact, I think it's time for me to memorize you."

"You can do anything you like to me," he gasped. "Anything at all. I belong to you, my darling. Only you. Oh, God, Eleanor. Eleanor… my belov-- … "

Much later, as she lay on his chest, purring and looking rather smug, Henry gave her bottom a gentle slap. "Naughty girl."

"I can't help it," she giggled and sat up again, which made him sigh happily. "And neither can you. You got rather naughty yourself!"

She squealed with laughter when he suddenly flipped her onto her back, but she became quiet as he rose up onto his elbows and looked into her eyes. "I love you, Eleanor," he said fervently. "With all my heart."

"I love you, too, Henry," she whispered back, and he grinned, transparently happy, and he kissed her deeply. As he began loving her again, she closed her eyes and saw the red dragon, the wound on his chest bleeding as he roared in pain and rage. The image triggered her climax and she screamed into Henry's shoulder, clinging desperately to him, suddenly wild with need, and she burst into tears when she felt his release.

Henry shuddered and withdrew, terrified that he had hurt her. "Eleanor? Baby, I'm so sorry, I… "

She sobbed helplessly, shaking her head from side to side, and he rolled off her and gathered her into his arms, holding her as she wept into his chest.

"What's wrong? Is it the baby? Did I hurt… "

"No, no," she shook her head, wrapping her arms around her husband. "You didn't hurt me or the baby."

"Why are you crying? Please don't cry, darling. I hate seeing you cry," he said, looking stricken. "Sweetheart… I would do anything to make sure you never cry again. My sweet, beautiful, wonderful Eleanor. My beloved."

Smiling softly, she touched his cheek and kissed him, and he kissed away her tears, then hugged her tightly, whispering his love over and over, trying to soothe her. She closed her eyes and saw the dragon again, and wondered how she might ever sleep again. The huge red beast was trying to fly but had a chain around his neck, but she couldn't see what he was bound to. Wings beating, roaring furiously, he pulled and clawed at the sky, blood pouring from his wound, and Eleanor began to weep again. Henry held her, stroking her back and murmuring, trying to calm her. Soon, she was hungry for her lover again, and it only took a few caresses and kisses to seduce Henry into taking her again. Afterward. he fell asleep with his head on her stomach, exhausted and sated.

She let her tears flow unchecked then, as the sky grew lighter outside. She did love Henry in many ways, but she knew her heart was still chained to Constantine. No amount of satisfying lovemaking or declarations of ardent adoration from her husband could sever that link. Nonetheless, she was Henry's wife, lover, and friend and she had to accept that her loyalty and devotion had to be to him and no other. She was carrying his child—possibly the future king—and there was no going back now. She was Queen of Gravonia, and her path was set, with no deviation possible.

If she could not excise Constantine from her heart, she could at least cut him out of her thoughts. She had to, for her own survival and sanity. There was no other option.

When she closed her eyes again, the dragon reared up, still bleeding from his wound, great wings spreading as he rose into the sky, spewing fire as he flew away at last, heading southwards, the chain still attached and trailing behind him as he left her, and when she looked down she saw the end of the chain attached to her heart.

She woke with a start, and Henry snuffled against her and kissed her breast before slipping back into a deeper slumber. She gently stroked his hair. "I will always be loyal to you, Henry," she whispered. "I will never let you down."


Philip found Constantine being assisted into the last pieces of his armor. The young page attending him was trying to keep his distance from the increasingly touchy prince, but the way Constantine's fists were starting to clench, the poor boy was not much longer for this world. Philip gestured for the boy to make himself scarce and when Constantine turned around, growling as the boy dashed off, the King of Morvenia stood his ground.

That took some nerve, considering how volatile Constantine had become in the past three months. He had gone from being a quiet, carefully controlled but fairly good-natured man to a scowling, short-tempered, and ill-humored ogre. Philip knew his brother's heart had been broken by the death of Eleanor Reeve, but now it seemed as though it had turned to stone.

"What do you want?" Constantine snapped, green eyes almost black. He was almost unrecognizable. His hair had a lot more grey, and Philip knew his brother wasn't eating or sleeping well. The only things he wasn't doing was whoring and drinking—Constantine seemed to have a deep-seated loathing of both practices.

"I've found you a wife," Philip said.

"Is she blonde?"

"Red-blonde, with green eyes, or so the reports say. Her name is Isabella—of Navarre. Niece of the King of Navarre, no less, but sort of a poor relation. Her parents died when she was very young and she and her younger sister were… somewhat… uh… neglected."

Constantine said nothing. He smacked his sword into his scabbard and started toward the stables. Philip caught up with him only by actually having to break into a run. "Dammit, Constantine, stand still."

"I have some Turks to thrash," Constantine muttered. "For once I'd like to actually go to Vienna for some other reason than having arrows shot at me."

"Well, don't get killed—the girl is supposed to arrive here by ship on the twenty-ninth of December."

"A bit cold for sailing," Constantine grunted, gesturing for a stable boy to bring Amiel to him.

"Lacovians have branched out into piracy—you know that."

"A landlocked nation with pirates," Constantine shook his head, frowning. "What's next? Have the French stopped surrendering?"

Had Philip not known better, he could have sworn his brother had just made a joke. Quite the contrary, though—Constantine hadn't smiled once since returning from Livonia. All the light had gone out of him—if he did smile at all, for appearance's sake, it was actually a grimace.

"Anyway, brother, be careful."

Constantine needed no assistance to swing astride his horse, despite his heavy armor. Philip stepped in front of the horse and crossed his arms, waiting.

"What, waiting for a kiss goodbye?" Constantine snapped, gathering the reins and glowering down at Philip.

"I want you to listen to me, brother."

The prince's shoulders sagged. "All right. Let's have it. I can always use a lecture."

Philip frowned at his brother. "This girl is a shy, sweet, innocent seventeen-year-old who has already endured neglect and I think even a bit of abuse from some very unkind people. She does not need further cruelty. Do you understand me?"

"Why not pick some princess with a tougher skin, then?" Constantine growled.

"Because she was the only one available!" Philip snapped back. "Her relatives seemed eager to pay up on what little dowry she had to offer, and meanwhile, all the other fathers in Europe were quite uneasy about sending their daughters off to marry a cold-hearted dragon. The King of Navarre didn't seem to care either way. I'm not sure which is worse—his callousness or your lack of compassion."

Constantine's eyes narrowed, and he began to run the blue silk ribbon on his sword hilt through his gauntleted fingers. "So what's wrong with her, aside from some undesirable relatives?"

"Nothing whatsoever. All reports are that she is pretty and healthy, and has a sweet, gentle character with even a bit of feistiness that has done well for her throughout her rather difficult life. For God's sake, Constantine, don't crush her with your bitterness."

The prince looked up at the sky, watching a flock of birds fly by. "I will be here on twenty-ninth December and I'll marry the girl and get—… "

"Yes, yes, I know. You'll get sons. Of course you will," Philip said, aggravated. "But for the love of God, you can't get sons without a wife, and I still find it hard to believe that you would not treat the poor girl with some kindness--whatever misfortunes have befallen you are not her fault! She's walking into your lair, unaware of what she's getting into. Please, brother. Please try to be kind to her. I know you are not a cruel man. She will be your wife… the mother of your children, and she'll deserve at least some deference and respect, Constantine. You must… try."

Constantine stared down at his brother for a moment, and Philip almost saw some of the ice break behind those bleak, cold eyes. Finally, he nodded, clucked at Amiel and trotted past the king and out the gate, red cloak flowing and Hades following behind him.

Philip hoped those poor Turks in Vienna had enough sense to run.

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