To celebrate the completion of Leagende as a series, I will post the openings to all the books.
All rights reserved.
Copyright (c) 2019 Cat Hartliebe
It has been an entire year since Madeline Grover was made queen. An entire year since the battle of Germania and Compast. Both complete. Both countries under Leagende rule. Madeline gives her innocent looking head bob to the counsel member who requested audience. Of course they seek her. She looks meek. Still, they leave the same way they would if they spoke with His Majesty.
“Queen Madeline!” Joshua moves through the shadows bypassing everyone. He is a knight, which is as respectable of a title as prince. He married King Zeus’s sister. But even outside of that, Madeline could call him brother. They have the same demon biological father. Dead demon father. He is gone. Again, a year in the past. They both carry the same demon marked blue eyes. Luckily, both carry the rest of the typical Forest Elf looks of brownish hair and green skin. If Madeline was still allowed to spell her eyes the right color, nothing would be wrong at all. Who is she kidding?
“If you are using a title, I grow concerned.” Madeline sighs keeping her head high. Even though she has physically transitioned into womanhood, she still looks like a child. Her breasts are absent. Her height matches up with the ten years old still trapped in the baby room. Thirteen freaking years old and still gets treated like nothing.
Joshua stops before Madeline to give a quick bow.
“Even a bow. What could my brother have done this time?” Madeline throws her hip out shifting her work pad into her other hand.
“Sorry.” Joshua flinches. “I did nothing wrong per say.”
“You just got back from the medical wing.” Madeline smirks at his flinch. “How is Castella dealing with the pregnancy?”
“I swear I did not mean. I know I promised after the loss. But… It is…” Joshua fidgets looking every which way but at the queen.
“Relax. Her name day is in a few weeks.” Madeline starts to walk on. Joshua exhales following. His back is not as straight as Madeline’s, but he is still taller. Stupid body not progressing like it should.
“Her mother lost quite a few in the beginning. She was still able to bear children.” Madeline pats Joshua’s arm gently. “Now I need to see Zeus and report about the counsel. It seems several are of the mind to cause trouble.”
“It comes from having a half elf crown princess.” Joshua sighs.
“They need to get used to it. She is not going anywhere.”
“She is also not pregnant and showing no signs of becoming so. That will only cause trouble.” Joshua leans closer to Madeline. His whispers bother the queen more. “You are still young, so no one can complain.”
“Hush.” Madeline levels her eyes at her brother. “Stop your nonsense jabbering.” She focuses on her task at hand. Her body is not that young. Not anymore. But her looks make everyone think child. In this case, it may be beneficial.
The king walks into their hallway some ways up looking around wildly. He may look like an adult, but his eyes still light with the child inside. He just became king. He just changed his name to Zeus. Before then he was Adain, the one to be pitied. No one pities him now. They fear him or love him. There is no in between. “Madeline!”
“You still have not let him use a nickname?” Joshua snickers.
“I said hush.” Madeline glares at him. “Go practice in the ring since you have a mind to stay here.”
“Tsk. Adain asked me back. I would not refuse his request.”
Zeus steps into the conversation then looking between the two. “I knew Castella carried again. I wanted her to be checked over. Last time, it was found after and never reviewed. This one will not have the mark of prince or princess, but it may still carry the royal eye.”
“Neither of its parents have the royal eye, why should it?” Joshua glares back.
“Relax, Joshua.” Zeus grins patting his brother like a dog. “Go practice as Madeline suggested. You could use a work out. The soldiers like seeing their knight in battle form.”
“Tsk. Fine.” Joshua turns on his heel and stalks off.
Madeline watches him go as Zeus moves to her side. “He is in a mood. Terrified about Castella.”
“He knows about Mother’s losses. She was not treating herself properly during the first three. Dad and Grandmother forced her to take it easy. Do you recall the last birth?”
Prince Isis cries every night still. The others were strong. This child is weak. Madeline worries over him just as the others do. “I do.”
“Mother struggled. Part of me blames it on her use of magic during. Isis barely made it. And most would not be surprised if he dies before he sees his first full year.”
Madeline grinds her teeth. Of course that would happen. Losing a royal child is worse than any other.
“Plus Richard still pouts around the castle.”
“Why have you not sent him away?”
“He always finds some reason to come back.” Zeus rubs his face.
Madeline frowns thinking of the weird royal family she was thrown into. “Everyone will celebrate Castella’s naming day soon. As for the others in the family, we will figure out how to make everyone happy.”
“Do not tell me.” Zeus looks at the pad. “They complained to you again?” He exhales taking the pad to review. “Stupid idiots. I had Daphne follow me to bed last night. It was complaints from the counsel. All day and all night. Dad told me they need to have limits. I had no idea how much he pushed these people. When I was a kid, I always had Dad read to me. Every night. How the hell did he manage?” Zeus rubs his forehead.
“Because I made it a priority.” Bludi walks over giving a short bow to the royal pair. “How is my son handling it? Sick and tired yet?”
“You are not allowed to leave the castle ever again.”
“It was three weeks.” Bludi glares at his oldest son. “Isis and Ellone needed the freedom. Izzy was…” He looks about. “Actually, where is your little sister?”
“Castella is not helpful at all and should be just now hitting the training ring where Joshua will tell her no more knight duties.” Zeus grinds his teeth expecting to get an attack when Castella realizes she will be off for a full year. “Izzy is I believe playing in the garden. I have Rick keeping a very close eye on her.”
Bludi rolls his eyes with a long sigh. “That child cannot sit still. She is not even eleven yet.”
“She acts far older. Mind her little.” Zeus waves it off. “Rick has been tagged by me specifically. All he has to do is tug my energy, and I will teleport to their side.”
“You need to stop these contracts.”
“Because I lack my own power, the contracts are easy to make and keep active. Plus people can use me as a sink or source. It is perfect.”
“You did not think that way as a child,” Bludi growls back. He takes a breath and stands tall. “I am reporting my return. Prince Isis is doing much better. Ellone has taken it easy and requested to be unable to birth any more children. This last one was too much for her. No one will complain. Even if Isis dies, we have three beautiful well received children.” He stops reviewing Madeline now. “You should think of doing the same.”
“Father, that is a rude…” Zeus sighs as Bludi shuffles off no longer listening. “I am tired, and it is only midmorning.”
“At least court went well,” Madeline comments lightly.
“Well enough. Sven did not seem to have as much trouble there. I had no idea he was almost clueless as to the tasks as king.” Zeus rubs his temple looking more exhausted than he did a moment ago. “I am not ready for this. I feel like such a kid.”
“I may look like a kid still and get treated as one far too often, but you are barely my senior, Zeus. Maybe we should take a break and go somewhere. Relax a little. Call it a weekend date. Many kings and queens have done such before.”
“And normally have a queen returning with child,” Zeus grumbles not looking at Madeline. “Which would not be a thing in our case.”
Zeus turns to her. Madeline stops her words before staying them. The king closes his eyes stretching his body. “We have work to do. I will see if Dad can cover a trip for us. Just realize what it means to return without pregnancy covering our tracks.”
Madeline sighs following Zeus into another area of the castle. There is so much to do. It is like each day does not have enough time in it. “I am starting to see why the four children split the country. And why Leagende did not fight off Germania as much as many thought it should. This is exhausting, and we have not even finished.”
“I know. Sorry.” Zeus reaches back to take up Madeline’s hand. “I have been thinking of forgoing the attack. To stop the battle and leave things as is. Compast is back up and ready for settlement. That is why it is so busy. When that is calmed down and we have a proper governor in place, things will smooth out.”
“The Germanians too have created strife. You added too many citizens in a short period of time.”
Zeus squeezes her hand pushing his way into an office. “I know.” The room looks well used but does not contain anyone. “Still…”
“You want to help Cardenil.” Madeline sits down hugging her pad of notes. She had to deal with unnecessary complaints today. Not only the new lands but a new crown princess who is a half married to the one who refuses any form of physical relationship with anyone. No one in any level right now is happy. Madeline understands Zeus seeks the next piece to his puzzle. “I told you before I want to be queen. I like this position. I like being your queen, even. But I really would rather not be a warrior queen.”
“I know.” Zeus drops into a chair letting himself a little rest between jobs and tasks. “How about we go have lunch? It is about that time.”
“I have the mage court review after lunch.” Madeline ducks her head. “I do not mind most of them, but…”
“They treat you like a child.” Zeus leans back letting his gaze drift away from Madeline. “Which puts more weight on my shoulders when there should not be. But I was not planning on getting a wife quickly. The fact I was not backhanded for choosing a kid helped some. Still, few think highly of the match. So they press on Sven and Natalia. Our crowns should not be shouldering such a burden.”
“Nor should Izzy.”
“Izzy is unable to get pregnant. And you looking your age gives them the same thought. I would rather you not tell them otherwise. I would not want them strangling you with the need for new royal children.” Zeus shifts resting his head on his hand. “Mom…”
“Isis is alive.”
“But weak. And Mom’s removing her chances. I will only have three siblings. Not that I mind, but if I lose my little brother…” He shifts again.
Madeline glances to the floor no longer watching the king. He mentioned lunch, and yet they are still sitting there in the office hiding so to speak. It has been random events like these that have her feeling calm about the relationship she has with him. Still he never seeks her for anything relationship-y. Even his kisses have been to the hand or forehead.
“Why have you started fuming, Madeline?” Zeus watches Madeline head slightly tilted. “Did I upset you?”
“No.” Madeline exhales her anger. No point making such a comment right now. A year in and nothing has changed. “We should head for lunch.”
“To think even you are tired of me.” Zeus stands offering a hand to her. “Will you seek me tonight?”
“I think having our nightly talks helps calm my own concerns and fears as king. Does it not help you?” Zeus waits for Madeline to accept his hand. Once hand in hand, he walks her out of the room. “I cannot believe in a year, you still have not grown.”
“I hate it.”
Zeus chuckles and lifts her up on to his shoulders. “Now you are much taller than anyone.”
Madeline pounds Zeus’s head. “I am thirteen not five.”
“I like carrying you.”
“I will accept another form of carry, not this. This is for children.” Madeline pounds his head.
Zeus stops and slips her off his shoulders, but keeps her in his arms. “So is this an okay way to carry you?” His head is close, eyes dark green of the royal line. His smirk impressive on such a young adult face.
Madeline shifts looking to the ground knowing the heat should be noticeable. “Please let me down, Zeus.”
“Okay.” Zeus places the queen on the ground. Once she is properly standing again, he takes her hand and slips it into the nook of his arm. They begin their walk again ignoring any who watched such a spectacle. “I hope they have those tomato specialties again.”
Madeline sighs. Her husband does not see her as anything besides another friend to talk to. Nothing has become of this relationship. She tugs at the crown on her head. Twice now, she has had blood drawn because of it. If Zeus presses and gains Cardenil and Dereksean like he wants, she will bleed twice more.
“Worrying is wasted energy,” Zeus whispers. Madeline turns to him and his smirk.
“You play too much,” Madeline huffs out. Still she has not broken the grasp he has on her. Does not want to.
“Even though I am the elder.” Zeus rolls his eyes. “I believe you should play more.”
“There is no time for us to play at all. Not until the country is stable again. If you would stop your bid for world domination, then…” She leaves the words purposefully unsaid. Zeus clicks his tongue not taking the bait. It is better they do not have such a fight while walking into the hall. People will watch them dine at the head table.
Since Sven and Natalia rarely take lunch, it will be just the two of them. Everyone will get to watch as the royal couple does not have a romantic relationship. Madeline sighs. Most elves marry their best friend from childhood. Then any child of the mother’s is claimed by the father. Biological fathers matter when creating a child, not for titles or the like. Except when it comes to the king and queen.
“Lord Grover will be coming in shortly for Castella’s Name Day,” Zeus finally comments as they sit down before the collection of gawkers. They prefer to see at least one of the two royal pairs sitting at every meal. Madeline and Zeus will occasionally skip out on breakfast and eat in Zeus’s room or office. It is always one excuse or another, but no one fights with the crowns there. To make up for it, Sven and Natalia skip out on lunch.
“Father will be happy to visit for such a glorious occasion.”
“Are you ready for him to see you as a proper queen?”
“This last visit was an insult to everything I stand for. I may not meet with him.” Madeline turns her head aside. When he came for the last major event a few months ago, he questioned why have a child on the throne. Madeline can hear the underlying message, though. He does not think the demon blooded Grover should have children at all. The queen must have children.
“You do not have to meet with him personally, Madeline.” Zeus grips her hand bringing it above the table to kiss lightly. His eyes focus in on her probably offering a show to those in the room. “But you must meet with him as the queen. I can be by your side. We can ignore the fact he is your father and just treat him as any other governor.”
Madeline grinds her teeth at the plate before her. “I cannot wait for my little brother to take over.”
“You have a long wait ahead of you.” Zeus shifts to continue holding her hand while also facing front and center. “Look, it is the tomato dish. I am quite pleased. We should offer a bonus to whoever decided it.”
“Are you going to offer bonuses to those who guess what the king wishes?” Madeline turns to him and notice twinkling eyes. He is having fun. “We can offer bonuses randomly if you like. With contests for the various people throughout the castle. How about we ask Izzy to come up with some? She cannot perform most of the duties as princess. I have seen her sneak into some pretty dangerous situations.”
“Izzy is a handful. I had no idea what my parents went through with her.” Zeus sighs glancing at Madeline. “I am glad your mood has improved. At some point, you became depressed. I questioned the medical wing about the coming of age, seeing if maybe we were wrong, but no. You are physically capable, not that we will do anything.”
“The fact they told you such…”
“I am your husband. Your king. And the one you will lay with.” Zeus kisses her hand gently. The smirk he has afterwards has Madeline jerk back covering her warm cheeks. “If I seek such information, they would gladly provide me with it.”
“What about just asking me?”
“You have been… Forgoing of information? It leaves me at a loss. Even when I speak, what you say is blunt without offering me the knowledge I need to fix anything.” Zeus sighs letting Madeline go to finger his utensils. “You have rights to your privacy. In most things anyway. Your medical health is my concern.”
“Your health is my concern as well.”
“I am healthy.” Zeus grins motioning to his body. Whoever is watching this display should be properly confused by now. “Although if you as the queen and my wife decided to visit the medical wings and ask for my records, they would gladly hand them over. You are right. You have rights to my health just as I have a right to concern myself over you.”
Madeline shifts in her seat looking at a random server walking in their direction. The dish does not interest her as much as it does the king. Nothing food wise has been of interest.
“Madeline?” Zeus leans closer.
The queen shifts gaining some more distance.
“Now, now. What could this new trouble be? I have no clue how to handle it. When Castella had issues with me, all I had to do was make her angry, and she would burst out every little thing she deemed I did wrong. I doubt that would work on you. Although, I did tell Joshua about it.” Zeus frowns sitting in his seat improperly while looking at Madeline. “How do I get what is in your mind out your mouth?”
The queen shifts again watching as the server comes over to place dishes before them. Zeus offers the proper thank yous before the waiter could walk off.
“You have not given me anything to go by. I see you are struggling with something. Is it something to speak of in private?” Zeus pauses. Madeline bites her lip nodding lightly. “Then I will ask again tonight. Decide how best to explain things by then. It is rare we can spend so much time together in one day anyway.”
“Few people wish to spend all their time with one person.” Zeus smirks again at Madeline creating another blush. “Well, we can see at some later date if we can handle each other for long periods of time. You have come out of your shell, Madeline. When I first met you…”
“I was afraid…,” Madeline whispers to her plate. “When I first met you, I feared for my life. I attacked you. My demon blood forced me to. So I feared you would kill me as many others would have. I knew after that moment, I would need to be with the king’s castle. I could not become a demon. I just couldn’t.” She sighs pushing her food around her plate. “You saved me multiple times in the beginning. You gave me everything I could want in life. So from day one, I felt like I owed you something.”
“And now?” Zeus asks proving he listened.
“I have repaid you back several times over. Perhaps one day, I will push all the chores of royal blood on to you and focus on my mage studies again.”
Zeus chuckles letting his eyes light up with his childlike innocence. He may be king, but to Madeline he is a close friend and a child inside. His goals may be lofty and hard to ignore, but knowing him better, they are not meant to be evil. Zeus wants to protect everyone.
“You think I joke?” Madeline clicks her tongue taking a piece of tomato into her mouth. After hours without food, the taste explodes in her mouth. It seems she needed something. Ignoring hunger is bad.
“Never. At least not with this.” Zeus kisses her cheek. “You are allowed to step back when you feel confident the country will run fine without your support.”
“That sounds like never.” Madeline rolls her eyes.
“You hurt me.” Zeus touches his chest lightly pulling back as if shot. “I am a proper king. I have studied and watched and waited as I should. I was not meaning to become king right now, but I was not going to fool around either.” He leans closer to Madeline. “And I am glad I found someone as diligent as you for a match. Even if things did not go quite as planned, I think I would still find you just as intriguing when you entered my court as mage.”
Madeline ignores the heat in her cheeks. If she ignores it maybe no one else will know. She focuses in on the meal glad there is something to focus on.
Before Zeus can make a new comment, Sven storms into the room. Given the unlikely event, Zeus forgoes all form of tease for the intrusion. As much as Madeline knows Zeus has put himself on guard, he still has the bright smile and open position.
Prince Sven walks over determined and annoyed. Not war then. He would be uneasy if war made him enter. “Your aunt arrived today.”
Zeus tilts his head. “Aunt Anna was not planning a visit. Nor would you think it so rude to see her.”
“Not that one.”
Zeus pauses reviewing his family tree. Madeline has no idea, so she cannot help answer. “Aunt Catherine.”
“Yes. The annoying. It may be the biggest reason I am glad to be married. She cannot be readily ignored as the aunt to the king.” Sven tugs his hair into a tighter braid. He looks ready to flee. “So how shall you handle her?”
“I cannot very well watch her during this fabulous time. I need Father acting as king’s support too.”
“Decide so I can send the wolf at them.” Sven lowers his voice and raises his anger.
“Catherine is not that bad, Uncle Sven.”
“She is clingy and needy. Be wary of that before tagging someone to her.” Sven turns on her heel. “I better be given freedoms the moment lunch ends.” He storms off silencing the room. Once the door is firmly shut, the noise starts up again. Sven has been known to make big entrances and exits before.
Zeus smiles playing with his cup while planning silently.
The queen shifts gaining less room between her husband and herself. “So who?”
“Castella would be unwilling. She would be likely to set the castle on fire if she has to deal with Aunt Catherine. Castella has no skill with such diplomats.”
“Never Joshua. If it was a visiting mage or soldier, I could see it. My fancy frilly aunt from Germania? Never. Normally I sent her to Sven. He is using his crown prince title and his marriage to release the duty elsewhere.”
“You are cruel.” Madeline shakes her head and takes another bite of food. “What of Izzy?”
“Although better than Castella, Izzy would use her aunt to her advantage.”
“Richard is not busy…” Madeline pauses knowing the answer would be too dangerous to allow. “Never mind.”
“Who does that leave?”
“Lady Ellone?” Madeline questions turning to Zeus.
“Mom? Perhaps. She will probably want something social like after suffering with the baby.” Zeus nods. He waves to the royal family member’s table. Bludi notices first. “Mom, please.” Bludi nods and gives the notice to Ellone.
“Do you think she would mind?” Madeline questions.
“I hope not.” Zeus waits for Lady Ellone to stand before the table. “Mom, would you mind watching out for Aunt Catherine while here? Sven refuses to shadow her, and she is not trusted alone. Unless you have a better plan?”
Ellone looks to Madeline then her son. “To keep me safely away from work. Catherine is not a fun person to follow.”
“I am not saying you are unable to help with the castle and the country…” Zeus hisses.
“I am not as valuable,” Ellone huffs out.
“I thought of several before you, but doubt they can handle such a…” Zeus weighs his words carefully. Ellone waits. “Aunt Catherine is a good hearted human, but lacks a lot of the more delicate touches of elves. Her grasp of the language is poor. Even with the help from my magic, she looks and acts human still. She is a danger while here and must be guarded at all times. I believe you can handle her.”
“My husband would do better; he was not suggested.”
“No. I need Father to handle the more difficult matters of the country.” Zeus runs a hand through his hair. “I need his help in more serious matters. Matters that concern the country on the top levels. You do not have such a title to reach there, even if Father lets you go whenever you wish.”
Ellone turns offering one final comment before leaving, “You will not always have Bludi and me here. Learn to handle life on your own.”
“Thank you, Mom.” Zeus exhales as Ellone moves to the door. She will take on the job as guard. It may hold some backlash later, but she will do as requested.
“Lady Ellone is a tough cookie.”
“I love Mom. And she is right. I lean on Dad and her far too much. One day both of them will be gone.” Zeus exhales fixing his position.
“I hope that day is a long way off. Both are still young.” Madeline turns to Zeus. “As are we.”
“As is this recent addition to the country. Father gave me the reason to try. Seeing him act as king without being king was something I grew up with. He deserves the title and no one respects him enough for it. I want equality so that everyone sees what I see. That every elf, human, or other could be on the same level. So we can all fight for the same country and be accepted as the same citizens.”
“I understand, Zeus.” Madeline pats his hand. “You do not need to tell me. I get it now. It took a while. Still, you are putting a lot on our plates. We can only handle so much.”
Zeus nods. “Things will get slightly better after Castella’s Name Day.” Zeus looks hopeful. But Madeline realizes that is probably more hope than truth. After the name day, the papers will be pushed aside again as Zeus heads for Cardenil. Francie is progressing and pushing. Cardenil needs help. Zeus will not be willing to stay back.