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Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7

The Sword and the Rose - REVIEW THIS STORY

Written by Karen Bruce
Last updated: 01/02/2007 02:01:11 AM

Chapter 1

After three hours spent sparring in the sun, the Lady Sabrina leBeau was sweaty, grass-stained and bruised. Practice swords, although incapable of permanent injury, could deliver a nasty blow and it seemed to her that she had taken more than her fair share of injury. Remy, on the other hand, was smirking more by the minute, enjoying his victory over his wife. For what felt like the thousandth time, she was driven back, disarmed and given a sharp smack to her ribs for her trouble. He took his duties as her trainer very seriously. Asking him to teach her had been a bad idea, she thought viciously, one of her worst, if the truth be told.

After her ordeal with the Mage, Sabrina had decided that she did not want to rely on her lover's chivalry - which seemed to have disappeared the instant they stepped onto the field - or flimsy daggers or spells. If the cataclysm which Destiny had predicted was to come to pass, then she needed to be prepared in every way possible. What had the prophecies foretold? That when the Sword and Rose become one, the earth will be plunged into a darkness which only they, united, can dispel. Typical mystic hyperbole, but she had become less skeptical since her last experience with legend. According to her previous world-view, she should not exist. The Great Sorceress was, after all, a myth. Although, as the most powerful magic-user in the world, she was more than capable of defending herself by less conventional means, there was something to be said for a length of steel in her hand. Not much at the moment, she admitted as she took another hit to her thigh. At the moment, magic was infinitely superior for dealing with husbands who got too cocky about their fighting prowess.

With an impish smile, she reached out her awareness to the tough vines that entwined the trees in the copse behind their keep. Their primitive consciousness responded to her mind-touch, writhing and twisting across the grass. Remy was so engrossed in humiliating her that he did not hear their rapid progress across the field. Smile broadening, magically twisting them around his ankles, she had them yank him to the floor with a thud as he lunged at her with the wooden blade. He swore in a manner that betrayed his years spent as a highwayman, then met her triumphant grin with a teasing one of his own.

"I thought the Great Sorceress' magic was only used to nurture and heal."

"I feel better," she parried, touching her 'sword' to his chest, "Much better."

Disintegrating the vines into ash, he stood, dusting leaf-mould off his breeches. Sabrina allowed herself an appraising stare. Muscled more like an acrobat than a fighter, a shirtless Remy was a pleasant, if somewhat common sight. He insisted on helping the villagers build barns or houses and harvest crops in a way that would have made his father proud. Jean-Luc's conception of a Lord was different from the plump, lazy nobles that surrounded the King, and his son took after him in more ways than one. Loving him, she kissed the star-shaped scar on his cheek. The sense of completion, that came every time that she touched him, thrilled through her. How had her predecessors lived without their counterpart, the Avatar? How had they managed to be whole, when they were only half a being? He sighed as the pain dissipated.

"You're the only woman I know who can really kiss it better."

"I'd hope that that knowledge wasn't gained through experimentation," she pointed her practice sword mock-threateningly at him. He smirked, bringing up his own to disarm her. As had happened all the times before, the wooden weapon flew in the air and he caught it. Soon, two toy-arms were directed at her. She groaned theatrically.

"It's hopeless, Rem. You'll win no matter what I do, because that's what the gods created you for. To be a swordsman."

His eyes were mischievious, "Oh, I don't think that's all I'm good for, Sabrina."

She flushed, suddenly fascinated with the pattern of wild flowers on the turf. They had not been married for that long and years of cultural conditioning, however much she despised their influence on her, caused her to avoid discussing . . . certain, not unpleasant marital duties. Still, the few rumors that reached the ears of the 'young Lady leBeau' were to be believed, certain Nice Young Men in the village had belatedly seen the error of their ways when the sky above the keep had filled with firefly-molecules of phosphorescence on their wedding night. As they had fallen on the village like luminous snow, they had become flower petals which retained their freshness even weeks after the event. Good wives still used them to freshen sheets or to decorate cakes. For those who were awake, a sword around which a rose was twined was said to have appeared from the brilliance. A voice whispered or shouted - the villagers were strangely unsure - that: "The Sword and Rose are become One." Frankly, Sabrina was more than a little embarrassed by the whole affair, although she had been blissfully unaware of it on the night itself. For reasons which she felt would be improper to divulge, of course.

"Yes, you're also fairly useful around the kitchen," she replied, deliberately misunderstanding.

He quirked an eyebrow, "That's one of the two rooms I meant."

To her intense relief, she saw a liveried servant picking his way across the field from the Keep. Unlike the heraldic gules and vert of the leBeaux, this one was dressed solely in gold with a floppy, purple-velvet hat on his head. He had an expression of extreme distaste on his face as he picked his way through the still damp grass, as if it were beneath him to step on anything lower than mink or velvet.

"Do you recognise the colours?" she asked, gathering her will to strike if he was an enemy.

Remy nodded, a grim expression on his face. The wooden sword in his hand had suddenly become blue-steel, crackling with energy up and down the length of the blade. His eyes blazed, while his voice had the same supernatural resonance as it had when he confronted the Mage. He was completely the Avatar at the moment, she thought, while she was merely herself.

"The King."

As the youth approached, she could see that he was one of the fops who inevitably were in the service of His Royal Highness. The King was not fond of sturdy, brave men who might plan rebellion, and who might overthrow him. His eyes were elaborately painted in gold and purple, while his cheeks and lips were brilliant red in a mime-pale face. Disgust on every feature, he looked Sabrina up and down disapprovingly.

In a pair of Remy's spare breeches with a loose cotton shirt that showed too much skin to be respectable for a Lady of the court, she knew she looked a picture. Drawing on reserves of hauteur that she did not know she had, she stood straighter and met his stare. Deciding that he too needed a lesson in manners, her husband's clothes shimmered into a green, silk gown, dotted with embroidered moon-flowers. The silver half-moon in her throat glowed white-hot and the servant gasped, backing away slightly from her.

"Have you met my wife?" Remy said pleasantly, "Sabrina. She's probably better known as the Great Sorceress though."

To her secret delight, Remy had taken the opportunity to call upon the gleaming, red-gold Aegis Armour. Now more flame than man, the scar on his cheek - the Celestial Cicatrix - burned, rivalling the brilliance of his eyes. The fop dropped to his knees, grovelling in a manner that would have delighted the King.

"Milady, Milord, I . . . I had no idea . . . Can you . . . .?"

"Stand," her voice was cool, but not unfriendly, "Why are you here?"

"I have . . . I have an invitation from the King," he proferred an invitation with a shaking hand, averting his eyes, "He . . . There is a conclave at Court and . . . he thinks you should . . . . attend."

"Why?" he sounded suspicious, taking the thin card from him and wrinkling his nose as he read the script. The amount of gold coating the edges was ridiculous, Sabrina thought, it would feed their village for a year.

"It . . . to discuss matters of government . . . . Milord, you are responsible for this land and must give an account to the King."

This ridiculous fop truly expected them to believe a scheme as transparent as this one? It was evidently an attempt to lure him to court where the King's guards could take him into custody and finish the job that the Mage's guards had botched. She snapped, "Your King tried to kill my husband. How are we to know this isn't another plot?"

"Milady . . . ."

"Sabrina," Remy put a soothing hand around her wrist, "Tell the King that the Lord and Lady leBeau will be honoured to attend his meeting and that we hope that this will be the beginning of further amities between our two families."

The coxcomb smiled in relief, then dipped into a bow that should have dislocated his back. All but genuflecting as he walked, he made his way back up to the Keep. Sabrina waited until he left, regarding her husband with a decidely dangerous expression on her lovely face.

"Rem, have you gone quite insane?" she exploded, rounding on him, "The King won't be able to act directly with the other nobles there, but he will have every assassin and bounty-hunter in the kingdom on your tail."

"For my father's sake," he replied grimly, hand resting on the hilt of the Spirit Sword, "I'm counting on that."


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