Disclaimer & Notices: See Prologue.

In Love and Into War
By Red Hope

Chapter 2

Aurora awoke to an empty bed, which caused her to sit up quickly. Had last night simply been a dream? Her heart jumped into her throat from dismay and upset. But her worries were silenced by the movement from the rekindled fireplace.

“Good morning, beastie.” Maleficent had her back to the human with her wings drawn in close to her body. She sensed that the queen was awake now. She turned her head sidelong and revealed a thin smile. “You slept hard.” She had managed to free herself from Aurora’s hold an hour ago. She warmed up the room with the fireplace and waited for Aurora.

“Did you sleep?” Aurora tempted. She slid off the bed and joined Maleficent on the couch.

“I did.” Maleficent had her staff in her left hand. She had yet to rid of it, but she used it less now that her wings were back. “Your snoring woke me earlier.”

Aurora playfully smacked Maleficent’s leg. “I do not snore.” She enjoyed the fairy’s grin.

“I must return to the Moors.”

Aurora lost her happiness. “Thank you for coming.” She squeezed Maleficent’s knee through the soft brown dress. “Thank you for talking to me.”

“I will try to talk more rather than not.”

Aurora softened at the promise. She collected Maleficent’s freehand into hers. “I understand it is hard for you.”

Maleficent silently agreed. She leaned in closer and admitted, “But it is easier with you.” Aurora’s pure love for her made it much easier. Her eyes glowed a gentle green that reminded Aurora of the Moors.

“I have missed you.”

Maleficent hummed and leaned in until their brows melted together. She and Aurora had formed the new affection within the past year. She relaxed further once small hands held her cheeks. “I have missed you too.” Maleficent could no longer hide in the Moors after Diaval told her how troubled Aurora was by the oncoming war and the last visit to the Moors. Maleficent understood what Diaval was telling her.

Aurora sensed her deeper bond with Maleficent whenever they were quiet and so close. She lost contact with the rest of the world because it was only them.

Maleficent lifted her head, which broke the moment. “I must go.” She started to rise and helped Aurora to her feet. “But first…”

Aurora took a step back when Maleficent lifted the staff.

“I have something for you.” Maleficent kept the staff’s jewel upward but turned it in the circle in the air. She murmured an enchantment in another tongue.

Aurora curiously watched as the ring of green magic above the staff formed into a solid metal then a second one followed it. For a moment, she studied the two floating rings in the air.

Maleficent held out her hand and allowed the green rings to settle into her open palm. Once the rings landed in her hand, she watched them turn golden and a green gem formed in each ring.

“What are these?”

Maleficent held the two rings up with the connecting gem at the top. “A way for us to find each other… and more.” She gave them to Aurora. “I know you feel what I feel.” She saw the confirmation in Aurora’s eyes. “These bracelets will enhance it for us.” She took one from Aurora and lifted Aurora’s right arm. “Only you or I can remove them.”

Aurora watched in amazement as the bracelet expanded so that it fit over her hand. Then the bracelet shrunk again until it was a perfect fit and would stay around her wrist. She smiled at Maleficent and decided to reciprocate. She held up the other bracelet in hidden offer.

Maleficent accepted and held out her right hand. She too watched how the bracelet widened so it could go past her hand. As the bracelet shrunk to the appropriate size, she whispered, “No power can ever break these.”

Aurora softly smiled and added, “Just like us.”

Maleficent had a gentle grin at the queen’s devotion. She drew Aurora into her body and used her wings to enclose Aurora from the world. “Just like us,” she whispered as if confirming it would show her weakness to the world.

“I wish I could return with you,” Aurora confessed.

Maleficent tightened her wings around Aurora. Her right hand affectionately made circles against Aurora’s back. “Just tell me.”

Aurora knew that Maleficent would fly her back in an instant. However, she felt she could do more to protect the kingdoms and Maleficent from her place in the castle. Aurora sadly sighed and murmured, “Perhaps one day… soon.”

Maleficent understood even though it was difficult. She raised her head and kissed Aurora’s forehead. “See me off.” She achingly withdrew from the human. On her trip to the balcony, she casually mentioned, “Prince Philip is here.”

Aurora arched an eyebrow at Maleficent’s tone. Most likely Diaval had given the information to Maleficent. It was painfully obvious that Maleficent disliked the prince from day one. “He came to visit.” She slipped past the curtains and noted the sun barely climbed over the eastern horizon. “His father is sick.”

Maleficent slotted her eyes and turned to Aurora. “King John.” She had a displeased look. “That is bad news.” She had no qualms with King John. She focused back on Aurora. “How long will he stay?”

“Perhaps seven to ten days,” Aurora guessed.

“Hmmm.” Maleficent looked to the dawn sky. “Much too long,” she muttered under her breath.

Aurora laughed and bluntly stated, “You have disdained him from the beginning. He is a good man.”

“It’s jealousy, beastie.” Maleficent tapped her staff on the stone. “For good reason.” She tilted her head, which caused her horns to standout more in the early sunlight. “He has far more to offer you than I.”

Aurora moved into Maleficent’s space. “What he offers is not what I want.”

Maleficent considered the queen for a moment and realized it was true. If Aurora wished to pursue Prince Philip then she would be married by now. However, Maleficent still felt as if Aurora needed all the facts. “One day…” She hesitated then steeled her own concerns. “One day you will be gone, and I will far out live you.”

“I know you will live longer than I.” Aurora had learned long ago that faeries aged slower than humans. It was a weak concern in her eyes. “Another reason we should not let time pass us.”

Maleficent shifted on her bare feet. Her grip tightened on the staff. “You are right,” she finally stated. Aurora’s bright smile drew her in closer to Aurora.

It was unexpected but welcomed when Maleficent leaned down for a tender kiss. Aurora held onto Maleficent’s hip and moaned after long fingers tangled in her golden hair. She was amazed by the love she felt from Maleficent.

Maleficent ended the sweet kiss. Her lip was swollen from Aurora’s unexpected nip at the end. She had a green glow in her eyes. “I knew you were a beastie.”

Aurora smirked and playfully replied, “I learned from you.”

Maleficent was highly amused and drew Aurora into a hug. She bowed her head. “Please be safe.” She nuzzled the queen’s neck. “Come to the Moors if you do not feel safe or protected here.”

Aurora gave a faint nod. However, she had sworn to her duties as queen. “I will see you soon?”

“I am always with you.” Maleficent took a step closer to the balcony’s rail. Her wings opened alongside her. “Diaval will be in contact too.” She climbed onto the rail, but she was knelt down, her eyes almost level with Aurora. “Do not trust any of these humans, Aurora.” She gripped the rail hard, her nails nearly cutting into the stone.

Aurora approached the fairy. “I only trust you.” She then tilted her head and amended, “And Diaval.”

Maleficent rolled her eyes at the mention of the man raven. “Oh praise Diaval.” She sighed and mocked, “The keeper of our hearts.”

Aurora laughed and placed her hand on Maleficent’s shoulder. “He is the keeper of my chastity, actually.” She enjoyed Maleficent’s dumbfounded expression, such a rare occurrence. Aurora laughed louder and this time shoved Maleficent off the balcony.

“Damn Diaval!” Maleficent yelled as she rolled with the push and went into a dramatic fall. She opened her wings and swooped upwards in an amazing display of her power. Maleficent whispered, “I love you, beastie.” But her magic carried it through the bracelets to Aurora’s ears.

“And I love you,” Aurora returned in a tender voice. She suspected the bracelets echoed her reply with ease. She remained on the balcony until Maleficent was merely a speck in the sky. Aurora hung her head and tightened her hands on the rail. She hated the sensation of being split in half once she and Maleficent parted ways. One day she hoped to barely face it anymore.

Aurora turned to the entrance of her chambers. She leaned heavily against the rail. She wished to remain hidden from the troubles of her kingdom. However, it was her duty. Aurora considered her other duty to the Moors and wished she had gone with Maleficent. At the thought of the fairy, Aurora raised her right arm. She studied the bracelet that now linked her even closer to Maleficent. The single gem pulsed a soft green and reminded her of Maleficent’s eyes whenever certain emotions rose within Maleficent.

After a heavy sigh, Aurora pushed off the rail and returned to her quarters. She needed to prepare for her meetings, visit with Philip, and have her usually practice with the captain. She suspected she would see the captain sooner than this afternoon after last night’s incident. Aurora smirked at the captain’s pending anger about the guards’ slowness.

Breakfast was a quick affair like normal, similar to her brief bath this morning. Aurora barely managed a bowl of porridge and fruit. Typically most skipped a morning meal, but Aurora often needed if she were to survive the meetings. She ate her midday meal closer to noon when others had it earlier. Supper was her favorite though.

In the throne room, Aurora ascended the seat on the right while the left one remained empty. She often wished to rid of the second seat since none would fill it, in her opinion. However, many nobles demanded her to do differently. Aurora ignored the demand and ignored the second seat. Her attention fell upon the nobles that entered the grand room.

As of late, the meeting was consumed with affairs with King Hubert. Another message had arrived this morning with King Hubert’s demands. It only fueled the noblemen’s fears and voices. It was chaos, again.

“Silence!” Aurora hollered. She indicated to the guards to quell the court, and they did so with their bronze spears slamming against the stone floor. “Silence, please.” She repeated after the chaos receded in the throne room. “Royal Household of Merawin…” She sat up. “We will not surrender to King Hubert.” She searched the noblemen’s faces. “We will not hand over the Moors.”

“If we continue to intervene this way,” a nobleman spoke up, “We will make enemies of Cadalerd.”

Queen Aurora stood up and declared, “So be it.” She rested her hand on her dagger. “We are allies with the Moors and will hold steadfast.”

“Perhaps not the entire kingdom has such devotion,” the same nobleman spoke out. He bowed and added, “Your majesty.”

“To do otherwise is treason,” Aurora reminded him. She set her cold stare on him. Another look she had learned from Maleficent. “Are you offering treachery, Edward?”

The nobleman, Edward, faltered and hastily replied, “Of course not, my queen.” He bowed again before he carefully added, “But there are some that do not agree.”

Queen Aurora could not deny the truth. “Not all will always agree.” She returned to her seat. “According to King Hubert’s message, we have a fortnight to make our final decision.” She trailed her eyes over to their High Constable. “How does the army look, Constable?”

“Much more prepared than several months ago,” the High Constable reported. “We are nearly ready for war.”

“Can you be by a fortnight?”

The High Constable, Ulric, shifted on his boots. “It will be… close, your majesty.”

Queen Aurora considered this and questioned, “How much more time?”

“Another seven days past a fortnight.” Ulric knew the bronze workers were doing their best and so were the captains, lieutenants, corporals, and other officers were doing their best to train the men. Horses were being brought in from all over to increase the cavalry.

Queen Aurora considered this trouble, but she first focused on the noblemen. “And you, lords? Are your troops prepared for this war?”

“Aye, your majesty.” This time Wystan had spoken up. “My troops are ready to join your army.” He was one of the nobles that had been turned by the queen’s charm. He had grown fond of her over the years. He grinned when many other nobles piped up after him.

Queen Aurora was relieved and stood up, which quieted the nobles. “Let us prepare to show King Hubert what it means to cross the Kingdom of Merawin.” She held her chin up, her own strength shined before them.

The nobles raised their fists and praised the queen. For many years, they had sat quietly without any battles and only losing against the Moors.

“And what of the Moors?” Edward called out. His voice was lost among the cheers, almost. He noted that Aurora did hear him, only because he was close to the throne. “Will Maleficent just hide behind her thorn walls again?”

Queen Aurora focused her attention on Edward. She heard him, but she bit back her harsh reply. She used the nobles’ excitement to exit the throne room. Aurora retreated to the office so she could go over the latest proposals, notices, and current cases in the Manor Court. She sighed when she noted a few trials had to go to the Royal Court. She disdained dealing with murders, thieves, rapists, and the lot. It had slowed down in the past year, but Aurora’s skin still crawled each time.

Tomorrow there were two thieves and a rapist set to go before the Royal Court. Aurora’s stomach always knotted up from the background information about a rapist. It was considerably harder when the rapist and the victim came before her and the Royal Court. Often times the victim’s story about the attack made Aurora think of Maleficent. Somehow she suspected what Maleficent dealt with in the aftermath of having her wings severed from her body was no different than what the rape victim’s suffered through. Aurora had yet to be easy on a rapist, and she grew a heavier hand each time another one came before her and the Royal Court. She prayed one day that it would stop.

The queen lost track of time as she went through the scrolls. Her tedious work was broken by the knock at the door. She called the person to enter her office.

“My queen,” the Captain of the Guards greeted.

Queen Aurora smiled at him. “How are you, Captain Cynewear?”

The captain shifted on his feet and honestly replied, “Uneasy, your majesty.”

“Oh?” Aurora prompted. She set her quill in the inkwell and gave him her full attention.

“I received a report that Maleficent visited you late last night.”

“That is correct.” The queen folded her hands in her lap.

The captain tilted his head and checked, “How did you find the guards, your majesty?”

Queen Aurora puckered her lips and seriously considered the appropriate word for it. She tilted her head to the left and simply stated, “Tardy.” She heard the captain’s heavy sigh.

“I see.” Captain Cynewear toyed with his sword’s hilt before he rested his hands on his sword belt’s buckle. “Thank you, my queen.” He was about to depart until the queen’s voice halted him.

“Do be gentle on them, captain.”

Captain Cynewear paused by the door and gazed back at the queen. “There is no room for gentleness when it involves the queen’s life.” He was gone with the heavy door creaking shut behind him.

Aurora shook her head and silently apologized to the two guards. However, Captain Cynewear had a point. She imagined the two guards would soon be at the end of Captain Cynewear’s sword point.

After a moment, Aurora’s eyes drifted to the scrolls and papers on the desk. She was fixed on the letter from King Hubert, and she picked it up to read it for the fifth time. At the end, Aurora stared worriedly at the royal seal on the bottom. She barely understood his greed, especially because she lived a simple life as a child. Today, she wished to be back in that simple life, never quite getting use to the decadent castle.

Aurora tossed the message onto the desk. She had yet to compose any sort of reply to him, not even an idea in her head. She pushed out of her seat and approached the open window that brought in an early spring breeze. There were very few buds on the trees in the city.

With a heavy sigh, Aurora leaned against the windowsill and considered her next move with King Hubert. She recalled that the High Constable required at least three weeks to complete preparing her army. Thankfully the nobles were ready to act at any moment’s notice. Still, the nobles’ knights were a smaller force than the queen’s army.

Aurora imagined what the war against King Hubert would look like. It would be her army, the nobles’ knights, and the Moors’ protectors. Most likely they would win against King Hubert, even though his kingdom was larger. That concerned Aurora because his chances were smaller and yet he still threatened war. There was a piece that Aurora was missing to the king’s confidence, and the spies had no answers either.

With her head sidelong, Aurora stared coldly at the open message from King Hubert. “What are you hiding, King Hubert?” She needed to know, and she needed more time. Aurora also considered what would stop King Hubert. If it was one thing Maleficent taught her, it was that every human could either bow or be broken. “What’s your weakness?” she whispered.

Aurora needed to find out, before the war. Her clever mind weaved an idea until it became a clear plan. She tapped her fingers against the sill and murmured, “Loved by all who meet her.” She returned to the desk, retrieved a new scroll, and picked up the quill. She set ink to parchment and started her reply to King Hubert.

Around noon, Queen Aurora left her office and met Prince Philip for dinner. They spent quality time over the meal. Afterwards, they retreated to the gardens for a short walk and sat at a bench together. Prince Philip wore casual attire today, but he still carried his sword at his waist. He admired the queen’s soft yellow dress, but he still recalled Aurora’s more manly attire from yesterday. It sparked a new conversation.

“Do you wear trousers often?”

Aurora’s thoughts were cut off, and she laughed at the question. “Philip.”

The prince had a soft smile. “How did you manage to have your seamstress make you a set?”

Aurora sighed and rolled her eyes. “I told her I would send her to the kitchen.” She grinned and added, “She despises the head chef.”

Philip laughed and considered the queen’s tactics. “You have changed much over these years.”

Aurora brushed a blond lock behind her ear. “I had to grow up.” She studied Philip’s curious, brown eyes. “But I can handle myself fine.”

“You must after being raised in the woods.”

“With three aunts,” Aurora reminded.

“Three oblivious pixies,” Philip clarified.

Aurora laughed and nodded. “Yes well… they are still my aunties.” She sighed. “Even if they were less than… prepared for me.” She silently thanked Maleficent again for watching over her through those years as a baby and child. She then sent another thank you to Diaval, of course.

“It is a wonder you survived your childhood,” Philip teased.

Aurora shook her head, her eyes filled with humor. She knew how she survived it, but that was between her and Maleficent. Also Diaval, she reminded herself. She returned the conversation to the earlier question. “I always wear the trousers for training.”

Philip grinned at this news. It made sense because practicing in a dress was impractical and even dangerous. He then lowered his voice as his features grew concerned about the current events. “What of King Hubert?” He watched Aurora’s features turn somber. “Will you really go to war?”

“Yes, if I must.”

Philip considered this and then whispered, “You really do love the Moors.” He hesitated for a moment. “You are willing to sacrifice your human kingdom to protect your Fay kingdom.”

Aurora stiffened when the truth cut through her chest. “I… I…” She was at a lost.

“I’m sorry,” Philip cut off. He shook his head once he realized how cold his words came out to Aurora. “I did not mean-”

“It’s okay.” Aurora shifted on the stone bench and nodded. “Perhaps you are correct.” She was indeed willing to do anything to protect the Moors, especially Maleficent. Philip’s statement only reinforced her pending plans.

“I will stand with you,” Philip declared, suddenly. “The Moors have been greatly damaged by humans.” He nodded in certainty. “It is only just that we assist them after so many bloody years of war.”

Aurora considered it while she stared at her lap. She played with the contrasting piping fabric along her waist. “Maleficent’s parents…” She met Philip’s gaze. “They were killed in battle by humans when she was rather young.”

Philip considered this information, not quite picturing any parents for Maleficent until now. However, Maleficent had to have parents otherwise how was she born.

Aurora cleared her throat, uneasy about saying anything about Maleficent’s past. However, Philip was one of her closest friends. “The Moors have lost a lot to us.”

“Yes,” Philip softly agreed.

“And you should be focused on your father,” Aurora insisted. “We will handle this war.”

Philip frowned, but he said nothing else about it. “What time is your lesson?”

Aurora considered the sun. “Perhaps in an hour.” She met Philip’s gaze. “I will need to change soon… into my trousers.” She grinned.

“Of course.” Philip chuckled. He then tilted his head and curiously studied Aurora’s profile. He found her so beautiful, and she stirred many things in him. He became uneasy but still brought up something that had been on his mind for some time. “Have you considered further… my offer, that is?”

Aurora lowered her hands to the bench and gripped the edge, tightly. She had hoped to slip past this discussion, but it was inevitable. She had to give him a firm answer. “Philip…” She gathered her courage, much like Maleficent had to do last night.

Prince Philip already knew Aurora’s answer, yet he had hoped otherwise.

“I love you as a dear friend.” Aurora searched the prince’s earthy brown eyes. She recalled the first day she had met him by the pond. She immediately was infatuated with him because she had met so few boys. However, Aurora’s crush burned out within months while her feelings for Maleficent only grew like a steady fire.

“But nothing more,” Philip concluded.

Aurora reached over and took the prince’s hand into hers. “You will be a loving husband for a princess or queen.” She squeezed his hand tighter. “If my heart was yours, it would have been by now.”

Philip gave a low nod, and he swallowed hard. “I know.” He returned the grip on the queen’s hand. “You will always be family to me. It doesn’t change anything.”

Aurora smiled and quickly moved closer for a hug. She held him tightly and whispered, “My family as well.” She indeed had few she considered family. Philip was certainly family to her.

Philip gathered himself after the hug and hard talk. He stood up, pushing his black fencing cape aside. “We must return you for those trousers.”

Aurora laughed and swatted at her friend. “You are just jealous that I wear them so well.”

Philip returned the laugh. “Aye, your majesty.” He traded a smile with Aurora.

For the afternoon, Aurora spent her time with the Captain of the Guards. However, she was a little distracted by her concerns for the war. It seemed as if Captain Cynewear sensed it and was easier on her than normal. He promised that tomorrow would not be as easy. Aurora knew that meant she would be practicing with a wooden waster against a wood pole. It would be a hard afternoon ending with plenty of soreness. Yet, she had developed plenty of muscle and technique thanks to the waster.

It reminded her of the fortnight she was required to continually flex her grip on a wood stick about the size of a sword hilt. She had spent hours doing so, all through the day and night. Her hands had been so sore that it had been hard to write at first. Eventually, her hands went from soft to firm with calluses. Her grip and strength had improved tenfold. It was no doubt that Captain Cynewear would make a fighter out of her, the right way, as she requested it to be so.

As promised, Captain Cynewear ended the archery early, and they rode directly back to the city. Aurora dismounted on the road and walked the rest of the way with horse in tow. She walked beside the captain. She talked to him about the guards last night and learned what had happened to them. It caused a few giggles as Aurora pictured the two guards having to sprint for a solid hour in full armor. She decided it was a fitting punishment for their lack of response last night.

Captain Cynewear seemed proud of himself too. He had learned early on to try different methods to punishing his men, unlike the prior captain. The last captain, who served under King Stefan, was immediately stripped of his rank and returned to the army. Aurora wanted nothing to do with him after he had been a helping hand in the capture of Maleficent. Not only was Captain Cynewear new to his position but so were all of his soldiers in his command. It was a fresh start but also a difficult one since it was up to Captain Cynewear to train all new guards.

“The tanner is this way,” the captain instructed the queen. He made a left once they entered the city.

The queen followed and curiously checked, “Did you tell him that I would be coming today?”

Captain Cynewear only smiled.

Aurora sighed because the tanner had no idea. She considered whether the tanner would recognize her at first. She decided to play along.

The captain approached the tanner’s home. He hitched his horse to a post and waited until the queen did the same. Together, they entered the small building set apart from the home. As he entered, he called, “Avery.”

The queen ducked under a skin that hung from the entrance. She gazed about the interior of the building, which smelled heavy of animal leather. She noted several furs for both a person and a home.

“Cynewear,” a feminine voice greeted.

Aurora’s attention quickly snapped to the right and centered on the woman, who came around the work space behind a counter.

Cynewear exchanged a quick hug with the tanner. “It’s good to see you.”

“You as well.” Avery had a warm smile. “Need new leathers, I take it?”

“Actually, my friend requires a set.” Captain Cynewear held out his hand to the queen.

Avery was always happy to have a new customer. She followed the captain over to the stranger, and Avery stilled upon taking in the golden locks, feminine form, and blue eyes. “My queen,” she breathed in surprised. She instantly bowed properly.

“It’s all right,” Aurora insisted. She lightly touched Avery’s forearm and smiled once the tanner gazed at her again.

Avery looked at the Captain of the Guards. “You should have forewarned that your friend is the queen.”

Captain Cynewear folded his arms and offered, “Avery, this is the queen.” He earned a gently swat.

Avery then ignored him and focused on the queen. “What can I do for you, my queen?”

Aurora softened and realized how much she already liked Avery. She expected a man to run the business, but she was encouraged by the fact that it was a woman. She considered if Captain Cynewear had brought her specifically to Avery for that reason. “I am in the market for a set of leathers.”

Avery shifted on her feet, not quite sure how to handle it.

Cynewear lowered his arms and looked at Avery. “Perhaps a leather jerkin,” he suggested.

Avery nodded and studied the queen’s figure, already taking mental measurements. “Is it to be leather armor?”

Aurora looked between the tanner and Captain Cynewear. “There is a difference?”

Avery smiled, broadly. She held out her hand. “This way, my queen. I will show you examples then we can go from there.”

“That would be lovely.” The queen followed the pair deeper into the workshop. She spent at least an hour with Avery and decided exactly what she needed for training and also later for war. Avery took several measurements, but she never asked why the queen needed such attire. However, the queen’s current trousers and tunic were enough for her to know it was serious.

On the way to the door, Avery promised to have one set completed within a week. She would start tomorrow, expected to complete her portion within three or four days, and then would send the items to the leather craftsman. From there, the craftsman would add the finishing touches and embellishments to make the leathers unique to the queen.

Aurora asked about the price and embarrassing realized she had no coin with her to at least give a down payment. The tanner brushed her off and said payment could be made later. Avery jokingly knew where the queen lived anyway. Aurora traded a smile and thanked Avery again before she left with Captain Cynewear.

Outside, the two collected their horses and continued to the castle. Aurora pointed a finger at the captain and said, “You could have told me the tanner was a woman.”

“Does it make a difference?” The captain grinned at the queen’s eye roll. He then mentioned, “She is an excellent tanner, and one of the finest in your kingdom.”

Aurora was pleased to hear so. She looked forward to seeing her new leathers. After they returned to the castle, Aurora parted ways and went to her room before supper. She needed to clean up and change before she joined Prince Philip. She was already worn, but she kept busy so she could keep her promise to Philip. She had spent very little time with him so far. She decided tomorrow she would take off after the morning Royal Court. Then she and Philip could go for a ride together. Aurora thought it best before tomorrow’s training with the captain because she would be too sore afterwards.

Supper had been a light affair. The food was good and Philip’s spirits were better. He and Aurora chatted about many things, especially old stories from their childhood. Philip laughed at many silly stories about the pixies, who attempted to care for Aurora. He greatly admired Aurora’s upbringing, so different than his own. It was obvious that Aurora’s needs were much smaller than any normal princess. Philip hoped he could someday find a princess or queen equally as beautiful as Aurora, but he sadly doubted it.

Once back at her chambers’ doors, Aurora peered up at the guards. She noted they were the same ones from last night. She tried to contain herself, but her newly developed devilish side poked to the top. “I hope you gentlemen are more tentative tonight.”

“Yes, your majesty… very much so,” the right guard reported.

Aurora smiled. “Excellent.” She studied him but took a step closer to the door. She waited as the guard opened the door for her, but Aurora still had her hand on the dagger hilt. “Do you perhaps mind doing me a favor?”

“Of course, my queen.”

“Can you retrieve Captain Cynewear for me… before he goes off duty.” Aurora remained in the doorway, facing the two guards. “I wish to speak to him.”

“Aye, your majesty.” The guard closed the door and decided to handle the request himself. He hurried off and left his partner to guard the queen.

Aurora enjoyed the warmth of her quarters. As she strolled over to the burning fireplace, she untied her braided hair. She often braided it for training, as long as she had time. Aurora took a seat on the sofa and waited for the captain. Her mind was on the pending conversation.

The captain knocked before he was called to enter. He had been prepared to retire for the evening until the guard found him. Captain Cynewear could only imagine what the queen needed at this hour.

“Sit with me, captain.” Aurora patted the empty space.

Captain Cynewear did so and curiously studied the queen’s stern features. “My queen,” he gently tempted.

Aurora rubbed her hands together, in a nervous way. She was hardly cold. After a quiet moment, she looked at Captain Cynewear. “We are going to go on a mission.”

“My queen?” the captain questioning repeated.

“It will be a dangerous one.” Aurora shifted on the sofa and faced the captain better. “King Hubert demands an answer in a fortnight from today.”

Captain Cynewear had heard that another message had arrived this morning. It meant that a war was upon them because Queen Aurora refused to kneel to King Hubert.

“I will deliver that answer,” Aurora softly explained, “Myself.”

Captain Cynewear stared worriedly at the queen then shook his head. “My queen, you must not step foot into the Cadalerd Kingdom.”

Queen Aurora was quiet and read the genuine fear and concern in the captain’s eyes. However, she had made her decision already. “I did not ask you here for advice.” She placed her hands in her lap. “I am here to ask you if you will accompany me.”

Captain Cynewear tried absorbing what the queen had in mind. He saw all the dangers, and he knew the queen did too. But, why was she so foolish to go to King Hubert herself? Did the queen truly expected to safely return to the castle? Aurora touched the captain’s knee, which brought him out of his thoughts.

“I… my queen…” Captain Cynewear gathered himself and declared, “I took an oath to protect you.”

Aurora nodded. “That is enough for me.” She stood up after accepting his words. “We will most likely leave in a week.” She went over to the mantle over the fireplace. “You must select a dozen soldiers to join us.” Aurora took the sealed scroll form the mantle. “They can be from the army or the castle guards.”

Captain Cynewear was still bewildered by the plans. The scroll in the queen’s hand was then held out to him.

“This message is to go to King Hubert. I want it sent out tonight by rider.” Aurora released it once the captain took it.

Captain Cynewear studied the message for a moment then stood up, towering over the queen. “I apologize, my queen but this is suicide.”

Aurora touched the captain’s forearm; she felt his taut muscles under the tunic shirt. “It is a game… a dangerous one. This is an important move.” She read the captain’s worries. “Trust me.” She moved away from him. “See that the message is sent off?”

Captain Cynewear made his way to the door. “Aye, your majesty.” He paused beside the sealed door when the queen called to him.

“See that nobody is made aware of our mission,” Aurora instructed him.

The captain nodded and placed his hand against the door.

“Thank you, captain.” Aurora meant it and watched the captain leave her chambers. She released a low breath. She had put the wheels into motion. She prayed it was the right move in a dangerous game of chess.

To be continued.