Belle quickly pinched her cheeks to give them more color, before throwing the front door open and greeting her visitor with a wide smile. "Morgan!" she said with delight. "You're here early! My parents are still here." she whispered. She grabbed his arm and pulled him inside. "Come into the Conservatory Morgan, Mama won't fuss as much if she finds us in there." Morgan allowed himself to be pulled inside, down the hallway, and into the Conservatory.
The room was bright and airy, and empty. Once they reached the windows that overlooked the South Gardens, Belle stopped, turned, and threw her arms around him. "I've missed you so." she whispered against his lips.
Belle ignored the warning in his voice, and kissed him passionately while pressing her body closer to his. Morgan hesitated momentarily, before responding. He groaned under his breath as her clever fingers reached for his breeches. "Not here." he muttered. He captured her lips again, stilling her fingers, her other hand grabbed his waist and pulled him closer to her.
When they came up for air, Belle smiled wickedly at him. "You should have come later, then you could have been in my bed for the full feast, instead of pushing me up against the wall for a little taste."
Morgan pulled back slightly. "You are a tease, my Lady."
"And you love it." she said confidently. "I cannot wait until we are married, my Lord, and no longer need to sneak around." He fingered the neckline of her dress, drawing a shiver of pleasure from her. Her lips parted. "I love you." she whispered. Morgan withdrew his hand and sighed heavily. He took a deep, steadying breath, and slowly let it out. "Say it." she demanded. "Say you love me too, for I know that you do."
Morgan briefly closed his eyes. "I love you Belle." She smiled in satisfaction. "But we have to talk."
Her smile quickly turned to a frown. "That sounds ominous."
He cupped her chin and stared down into her eyes. "You make me lose my head," he said softly, "and that is not a good thing." He stepped back.
Belle placed her hand on his chest, he caught her hand, and held it there. "How can that be bad?"
"Belle," he paused, searching for the right words. But there were none. "There is no other way to say this, you know I am not a man of pretty speeches, or pretty words. I have been told that I am plain spoken, blunt, rough even."
Belle laughed softly. "And I love your rough words, they are so much sweeter than the prettiest of speeches from another."
He smiled sadly at her. "My Advisors sat down with me, and gave it to me plain. My father has paupered us. I would kill him with my own two bare hands, the miserable drunken cur, if he weren't already six feet in the grave. He has ruined my life."
"It is bad then." she said, matter of fact. Morgan nodded. "It means nothing to me, Morgan. We can still get married, and then together we can rebuild this Kingdom."
Morgan shook his head. "Belle, listen." he said seriously. "There is nothing left, the Wars have taken what little there was. The wolf prowls our borders, and we are powerless against it. The Peasants are starving, and within weeks, we will be starving as well. There is no seed for this year's crop, let alone next year. This Land, this people, we will all perish by Winter's Frost."
"Surely it cannot be as dire as that!" Belle cried out.
"My father's Wars have taken all my choices from me. There is only one thing left for me to do."
"What Morgan? What can be done to change our Fate?"
"I must marry a wealthy heiress."
"Well, Papa has a fair amount..." her voice faded when she saw Morgan shaking his head.
"Our Nobles have financed my Father's Wars as well. They have as much money as I, and indeed, even the peasants, do. Not even a farthing to rub between us."
"You mean I'm poor?" Belle said in horror. Morgan nodded yes. "But what of my clothing, and our furnishings and..."
"All of it, is only for show, we, my council of advisors and I, did not want the neighboring lands to know how destitute we are. We have signed peace treaties with them, and that solved one problem. We searched for solutions to our economic troubles, and only came upon one real solution. Duke DuBois, from Medlindir, has only one child, a daughter of marriageable age. He is seeking a Titled husband for her, and my Title is intact." he said bitterly.
Belle began to cry in earnest. "No Morgan! Don't tell me that you are to marry another! I could not bear it!"
"Her dowry is more than enough to get us through the next few years. With careful planning and management of the money she brings to this marriage, we can even pull our Land out of this financial hole that it is in, and maybe we will even began to prosper a little. I have already negotiated the Marriage Contract with Duke DuBois, and they have been signed. I am now wed to the Lady Avalon DuBois."
Belle sobbed. "You were promised to me! You are mine, not hers!" Morgan held her tightly as she wept against his chest.
"I am sorry Belle. There was no other choice." he repeated.
Belle's tears subsided a little, and she looked up at him. "I will be your mistress then." she decided.
Morgan shook his head no. "I believe in my vows, despite my reprehensible behavior this day. I have promised to be her husband, and all that entails. She deserves my fidelity, it is the least I can give her."
"Your fidelity! And what of me? I am no longer untouched, because of you. What do I deserve?" her voice rose.
Morgan winced. "You shall find another to marry, you are a beautiful woman, any man would be proud to have you as his wife."
Belle narrowed her eyes. "Any man but you?" she hissed, her pain making her strike out. She wanted to hurt Morgan, wound him, tear his heart from his chest, as he was breaking hers. "Perhaps I shall marry Argus, he has always fancied me. I shall tell your best friend that you are a troll, and that you raped me. I'll turn him against you!" she threatened.
"Do what you must, Belle." Morgan sighed. He turned to leave. "I have released you, marry Argus with my blessing."
Belle grabbed him from behind, tears in her eyes. "Do not do this awful thing, Morgan."
Morgan closed his eyes. "What would you have me do Belle? Let us die?"
"No, marry this girl, if you must. I will marry Argus, but things do not need to change between us. I will be your mistress, and bear your children."
Morgan shook his head. "Children, Belle? The choice is either bastard children or a cuckolded husband? What of honor? What of Argus, my friend? No, I will do not do this ugly thing to either him, my future children, or my wife. What we had, Belle, is over, and I am more sorry than I can say." He pulled out of her embrace, and without looking back, started for the door.
"You will regret this Morgan Stone. If you leave me this way, if you walk out that door, " she said coldly, "I will not rest until I have had my pound of flesh, and have taken everything you hold dear."
"It is too late for that." Morgan said sadly. "Good bye Belle."
Jezebelle Ember watched Morgan stalk out of the room. Her heart shriveled black within her, and a cold darkness entered her body. "I hate you Morgan Stone." She felt the rightness of the words, and tasted the sweet bitterness of them. "You will regret this, I promise you, Morgan." she whispered to the empty room.
"There you are Morgan." Turin said. "I have been looking for you."
"You have found me." Morgan said shortly. "What of it?"
Turin's eyebrows rose in surprise. "Testy, are we?" He arranged his cloak and sat on the stone fence close to Morgan.
"I have had a bad day. I talked to Belle, and ended things."
"Ah." There was a wealth of understanding in that one word.
"That is all you have to say?"
"What more could I say?" Turin asked mildly.
"That I did the right thing."
"Do you think you did the right thing?" Turin countered.
"Enough with the lessons!" Morgan said irritably. "I am no longer a small boy in constant need of teaching, I see no reason why you must always answer me with a question!"
"The day you stop learning lessons Morgan, will be a sad day indeed."
Morgan sighed. "I know I did the right thing for the People, the right thing for Morgan the King, but for Morgan the Man, it feels very wrong. I love her." Turin held his silence, and waited. Several minutes went by before Morgan spoke again. "By my oath I swore I would keep the Old Ways, but I have already failed. I have not honored Belle, we should not have anticipated our wedding night before our vows were spoken. Now I fear that this mistake of mine will haunt me for the rest of my life. And I am wed to another. How am I to be a proper husband to this woman, when the thought of bedding anyone but Belle fills me with revulsion?"
"None of us are perfect Morgan. We do the best we can to follow the Old Ways, and when we fail, we pick ourselves up and we strive to do better. You cannot live in your past mistakes, that is the path of sorrow, regret and bitterness. Get to know your Lady Wife, she may surprise you, or even more, you may surprise yourself." He stood up, and looked Morgan squarely in the eye. "And now, enough of this maudlin nonsense, it is what it is, and you must make the most of it. Your Lady Wife awaits you by the pond."
"She is already here, and you did not tell me?"
Turin's eyebrows rose. "Isn't that what I just did?"
Morgan hurried along the path, but slowed his gait when he saw the slight figure standing by the pond. "My Lady," he called out to her, "I apologize for your long wait."
She whirled around to face him, startled. "My Lord." She held out her hand, and Morgan gingerly caught it, and placed a light kiss on the back of her hand.
"Welcome to Camelot Castle, my Lady."
"Thank you my Lord."
"Please, call me Morgan."
She smiled. "I am Avalon, but I prefer to be called Ava."
Morgan straightened up. "Ava, it is then. I am sorry that you were forced to wait outside for me, I..."
Ava gently interrupted him. "I prefer to be outside, my Lor, Morgan. I have already met the staff, and I asked if I might wait for you by this lovely pond. It is so peaceful here."
Morgan contemplated her for several moments, before asking, "Would you like to go for a stroll Ava?" Morgan offered her his arm, and she placed her hand on it.
"I would enjoy that very much."
They walked in companionable silence for a short while, with Morgan only interrupting it to point out certain flowers or garden features that he thought she might find particularly interesting. "The gardens are very pretty." she commented, as they neared the end. She let go of his arm, walked a few feet away, and bent to look closer at one of the plants. "Did you know that I like to collect small critters?" She was looking carefully under the large bush.
"Indeed? I have not caught, small critters, as you call them, since I was a small boy."
She turned to look at him. "Do you find my hobby strange?"
"Strange? No, a bit unusual perhaps."
She stood up, and walked back towards him. "Is there a nearby woods or lake that I could explore?"
"We have several forested areas, that you might find of interest." he said formally. "There are only two places that I would ask you to stay away from, and I ask this for your own protection. They are far too dangerous."
"My protection? Dangerous? I'll have you know that I am quite capable of defending myself. My father arranged for me to have private sword fighting lessons."
Morgan smiled briefly at her. "That is good to know, Ava. However, I still ask for your promise, that you will not go exploring these dangerous places."
"How am I to know what to avoid, unless you tell me their names and where they are located?"
"I will not tell you their names or location, " he countered, "until you give me your word."
"Very well." she said irritably. "If it means that much to you. I promise, though I could be someone who does not honor her word."
"Somehow, I doubt that, you seem like the type of woman that will honor her promises. Now to honor mine. The Wildwoods have all sorts of beasties roaming through them. We have not seen a troll or a dragon in a hundred years, but there are feral wolf packs, and other things that spill blood that do still roam those woods. Please stay out of them."
Ava nodded. "And the other?"
Morgan hesitated. "The other, it is called Siren's Cove, and many a person has perished on its shores. There is an old magic that lives there, yes, old magic. Your eyes laugh at my words, but I am quite serious. The old magic causes people to see that which they fear most, and it drives them to despair, and to their deaths."
"A pretty little tale." she said dismissively.
"Perhaps." Morgan said thoughtfully. "But I still ask you to please stay away from it anyway."
"Very well, my Lord."
Morgan forced himself to relax and smile at her. "My apologies Ava, I did not mean to come across as so overbearing. Would you like me to take you to my favorite catching spots as a boy?"
Ava smiled back at him. "That would be lovely, thank you." He held out his arm to her again, and she took it. "You will find my Lor, Morgan, that you have not married a woman that likes to sit idly and do needlepoint, or gossip with other ladies about the latest scandals. I find it all a taxing bore, and I would much rather be outside with my sword, or trudging through swamps searching for that illusive toad."
"Indeed. I have heard tell that it is a rather large toad, and that if you kiss it, it will magically turn into Prince Charming." Her eyes laughed at him.
Morgan grinned back at her. "I have been called a toad a time or two."
Ava feigned surprise. "Really, my, Morgan. I would have had no idea."
My new old legacy, lol. I'm still getting used to using poses, I don't use them very often, and while I am getting better, I still have room for improvement. So--ignore the oopsies in the pics, lol.
Ava's career roll was animal wrangler. I have never done very much with the minor pets, so this should be interesting.
If you haven't already done so, you may want to read:
Random Royal Challenge: How will it work? Just a little guide regarding challenge rules and heirs.
How it all began A short introduction to the Stone Kings.
For those following my Kahekili Random Legacy, I am not abandoning them, so don't worry. :) The updates on this will be a whole lot slower, because I will be using a lot of different poses and things.
Thanks for reading! :)