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Queen Elizabeth the Great, Part 1

Written by JKIJ :: [Tuesday, 02 February 2010 13:00] Last updated by :: [Friday, 29 March 2013 17:57]

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Queen Elizabeth the Great, Part 1

 

By JKIJ

 


WRITTEN FOR SGI WORKSHOP 1.6

 

Author's Note: Many of the characters are real historical people, though I don't pretend they would really have acted this way in this situation. Elizabeth's mother is referred to as Elizabeth's mother throughout to avoid confusion as she was also named Elizabeth.

 

In reality, Elizabeth married Henry Tudor and the two of them went on to have several children, amongst whom was King Henry VIII. This reality obviously follows a different course.


 

 

England, September 1485, 1 day's travel from London …

 

Princess Elizabeth of York was less than pleased with her circumstances. This was very obvious to her mother and the few servants who were accompanying them on their way to London where Elizabeth would be sent to stay with her soon to be mother-in-law.

 

"I don't want to live with that old cow again, mother," Elizabeth said stamping her foot petulantly. "She truly is insufferable and has no respect for me."

 

Her mother looked at her unhappily. "You have no more choice about this than I do, dear," she said, smiling somewhat indulgently. The Princess was behaving in a manner more fitting to a 10-year old than a 20-year old soon-to-be Queen, but her mother understood some of her strong-willed daughter's frustration. "The new king, your husband to be, has demanded it and so it shall be."

 

Elizabeth of York shook her head and sighed. Her long blonde hair framed a pale, regal face, though the petulance of her demeanour made her expression somewhat sour. "Why do we have to obey everything that Henry Tudor and his mother says? They have no real claim to the throne."

 

"Except for the most important one," her mother replied. "Henry took the crown from your uncle in battle. Plus he promises to bring peace and stability, which this country desperately needs."

 

"But with my brothers dead I have the best claim to the throne. I should be Queen in my own right, not dependent on a jumped up Welsh lord who has barely lived in England." Elizabeth's expression was getting more and more sour as she considered the inevitable future, a life of being sidelined by her husband and overruled by her domineering mother-in-law.

 

"Elizabeth, stop being ridiculous," her mother said more firmly than she had since this discussion began, banging her hand on the table and shaking her head. "Henry has an army, he has taken the capital, and he holds all the cards. There is no way that you could possibly raise an army even one-tenth of the size needed to seriously challenge him. The only people who would even consider it are your uncle's remaining supporters, and there are too few of them who would be willing to fight for a young girl such as you."

 

"I'm not a girl, mother, I'm a grown woman," Elizabeth said.

 

"Then start acting like one and accept your situation," her mother snapped back. "There's nothing you can do about it. Now, go to bed. Perhaps tomorrow you will be in a more adult mood and we can get on with making this as smooth a transition as possible."

 

"Very well mother," Elizabeth said icily before turning on her heels and storming off to her bedchamber.

 

"That went well didn't it?" her mother said sardonically to the servants and her ladies, a bittersweet smile on her beautiful face.

 

***

 

Elizabeth was still angry a she went to bed. She had to admit that her mother was right, however. "There is nothing I can do about the situation," she sighed after her maid had left her. "I do so wish there was, though. I would make a great ruling queen." She smiled to herself as she remembered her daydreams of not so long ago, of how she would marry her uncle, the usurper Richard III, then kill him and take the throne for herself as a form of revenge for her brothers. She would have been hailed as the great heroine who slew the wicked king and then led her people into a glorious new age.

 

"Not at the moment, perhaps," a gruff voice said from the shadows of her room, "but perhaps tomorrow will bring you a changed outlook."

 

"Who are you and how did you get in here?" Elizabeth asked slightly fearfully, though she was pleased that she couldn't notice much difference in her voice. Obvious fear has no place in the life of a royal princess, let alone a great queen.

 

"Who my associate and I are is not at the present your concern," said a far more pleasant female voice, though Elizabeth could still not see who was speaking from the shadows. "What is your concern is how we can help you."

 

"Help me? Why should I trust people who have broken into my bedroom to help me? You could be assassins or more likely thieves." Elizabeth had recovered slightly from the shock of the intrusion and now there was now more defiance in her voice. "If you don't start making sense, I'll call the guards."

 

"That would not be a smart move, Princess," Gruff Voice said. "You need to use your brains a bit more. If we were thieves or assassins would we really be stupid enough to make ourselves known to you. As to how we can help you, I'm not convinced we should. Are you absolutely sure she's the one M …?"

 

"We agreed not to use names, remember?" the woman hissed, her irritation with her associate obvious to Elizabeth. "Yes, I am sure she is the one. But it is somewhat remiss of us not to show ourselves. Do you mind if we light a candle so that we can all see each other?" she asked Elizabeth.

 

"Not really," Elizabeth said, though she hid more of herself under the covers of her bed so that the man would not get a good look at her body, clad as it was only in a thin nightgown. "I do prefer to be able to see who I am talking to."

 

"My sentiments exactly. If you wouldn't mind?" the woman prompted her colleague.

 

Suddenly there was what seemed like an explosion of light as gruff voice produced a large candle holder with multiple candles which ignited simultaneously as far as Elizabeth could tell. Elizabeth could now see the two intruders. They stood apart from each other on opposite sides of the room. Gruff Voice was dressed in clothes of a plain grey that looked expensively tailored, but somehow the man in them contrived to appear slightly shabby, probably largely due to his long unkempt beard and his wild hair which served to slightly disguise the fact that his hair was rapidly receding. Certainly he was not the sort of man who would have been chosen to accompany either her or

her mother.

 

The woman was a completely different matter. Her long dark hair and pale skin lent her a look of ethereal beauty that was enhanced by her beautiful black gown embroidered with silver. She would not have looked too out of place at court Elizabeth thought, despite the gown's styling seeming quite archaic and the fact that its bodice was cut lower than was the normal fashion in order to display the woman's prominent bosom. But then, Elizabeth thought with a slight smile, if you've got it why not flaunt it? That's what her mother had always said, after all, and it did net her the King of England as a husband.

 

"That's better," the woman said, smiling at Elizabeth. "Now things can be seen more clearly. It should be obvious that we are not here to rob you or to kill you."

 

"Then why are you here?" Elizabeth asked suspiciously. "There should have been no cause to break into my bedchamber. If you wanted an audience, why not just ask?"

 

"Because we don't want people to know what we've discussed," Gruff Voice said. "We don't want anybody to even know we've been speaking to you."

 

"As I said earlier, we are here to offer you our help." The woman smiled ingratiatingly at Elizabeth as she spoke, her melodious voice making Elizabeth feel slightly drowsy despite herself. It felt a bit like she had had too much to drink, although she knew she had not had a vast amount of wine that evening.

 

"Britain is going to be facing difficult times in the years to come," Gruff Voice continued, "and will need somebody of strength to guide the island through the troubles. Henry Tudor can indeed bring peace to the realm, but forces are gathering and it would be potentially disastrous for him to be the country's ruler."

 

"Only you are going to be able to lead Britain on the path that needs to be followed," the woman said, forcing Elizabeth to look tiredly from one intruder to the other as they gradually moved nearer to her. "But only with our help will you be able to lead the island to its potential greatness."

 

"What sort of help are you offering?" Elizabeth asked.

 

"Why, the strength to take that which is rightfully yours, of course. You must become queen." The woman smiled angelically at Elizabeth, though even Elizabeth's fogged mind could see that there was an undercurrent of something else there too, something that disturbed her.

 

"You will give me an army?"

 

"Yes and no," Gruff Voice replied. "What we have in mind will give you more than enough to make yourself queen. I would advise you, though, to keep Henry at your side after you defeat him. His administrative talents will likely be a great help to you."

 

"The first step of what we have in mind is for you to sleep my dear. When you awaken tomorrow all will start to become clear. Before you do sleep, however, please drink this elixir. It will make all your dreams come true." The woman produced from seemingly nowhere a goblet containing a very odd looking liquid. It seemed almost as if it was glowing and rapidly and repeatedly changing colour between red, blue, yellow and green before it finally turned a clear colour.

 

The woman offered the goblet to Elizabeth who initially refused it. Elizabeth thought she saw a flash of anger in the woman's eyes but quickly dismissed the idea as a product of her tired mind since there was nothing but a beatific smile on the woman's face. "Now my dear, there's no need to be afraid. This does not contain poison. It contains the answer to your prayers. Please drink it." The woman continued to smile as she spoke soothingly, lulling Elizabeth more and more into a state of drowsiness.

 

"And if you don't drink it," Gruff Voice said, "I will have to force you. There's more at stake than you can possibly know, so I will have no qualms about it, I assure you." Elizabeth believed him so she reluctantly reached out and took the goblet which she proceeded to drain in one very unladylike gulp. The liquid did not taste horrible. In fact it tasted and smelled of nothing. However, almost as soon as the liquid had gone down her throat Elizabeth began to feel a tingle throughout her body.

 

"That's it," the woman said soothingly. "Your deepest most secret prayers will be answered now. And now you must sleep. Give the elixir time to take effect."

 

Already more tired than she could remember feeling in her life, Elizabeth quickly drifted off to sleep. Before she did, she thought she heard Gruff Voice begin to say "I hope we've done the right thing, Mor …"

 

***

 

The next morning Elizabeth woke feeling very refreshed. That was a very strange dream I had last night, she thought.

 

Elizabeth walked over to her mirror and looked at herself admiringly. Her skin appeared clearer than she remembered while her long blonde hair appeared almost as if it shined in the early morning sun.

 

"Good morning, your highness," her maid said after knocking and entering Elizabeth's room. "You look good this morning."

 

"Thank you," Elizabeth said graciously acknowledging the complement. "A good night's sleep seems to have agreed with me."

 

"Indeed, your highness. Your mother wishes for you to join her for breakfast before we continue our journey to London. Which dress would you like to wear today?"

 

"Whichever you think best. It's not as if it will matter too much. I'll have to get used to wearing what I'm told to wear again instead of what I want to wear."

 

"Indeed, your highness," her maid said non-committally as she deliberated over Elizabeth's clothes, finally settling on a pale blue gown that she thought would suit her mistress's mood and appearance. "I'll just help you get dressed then we'll go and find your mother shall we?"

 

Elizabeth agreed, standing up to let her maid help her into the dress. As the maid tied the knots she noticed that the dress seemed to be fitting a bit tighter than the previous time she had worn it. She thought it was probably just her imagination until her maid finally succeeded in lacing up the dress after a fair amount of effort. Elizabeth turned to the mirror and saw that where before the dress had been slightly on the large side it now seemed to fit perfectly. Better than perfectly, in fact. The bodice clung tightly to her upper body and she couldn't help but admire the way her bosom appeared. There was a flash of pale creamy flesh and more cleavage than she'd ever seen on herself before. "I look beautiful," she whispered as she ran her hands over herself, smoothing out creases in her dress that she somehow knew she would never have seen before and admiring the subtly different feel of her own body. At every touch Elizabeth was certain that there was more sensation than she'd believed was possible; she could swear that she could even feel each individual thread of her dress both through her hands and every other part of her skin.

 

The maid was more than a little embarrassed to be watching Elizabeth as she did this. Before long the maid lowered her gaze, unable to watch Elizabeth's near euphoria any longer. Elizabeth noticed the tiny movement out of the corner of her eye and stopped her exploration of herself, slightly ashamed of the blush that was spread across her maid's face, though she was still amazed and gratified by how sensitive her body felt. "Let's go and see my mother for breakfast, shall we," she said smiling at her maid. Grateful that the young princess was no longer making such an exhibition of herself, even in the privacy of her own chambers, the maid agreed with a smile and led Elizabeth to the dining room where her mother was already seated.

 

"How are you feeling this morning, Elizabeth?" her mother asked her as she sat down. "Are you more accepting of the future today?"

 

"I am, mother," Elizabeth smiled, thinking of her dream. "Whatever the future holds I will embrace it."

 

"Very good, my dear. Now let's enjoy this delicious breakfast."

 

The servants set a breakfast in front of the noblewomen and their ladies in waiting much like any that they would usually have. To Elizabeth, however, the food seemed out of this world. Firstly, she could smell the food more intensely than she could any other meal that she could remember. Elizabeth closed her eyes briefly to savour every aroma. Then she started to eat and the sensations she was experiencing intensified. The instant the food touched her tongue, the flavour exploded in her mouth. Even something as simple as a piece of bread seemed to be as delicious as the most succulent roast boar or piece of venison. Elizabeth's face showed pure delight as she ate and to the amazement of her companions she went back for second and even third helpings, quite unlike her usual routine when eating.

 

After finishing breakfast, Elizabeth's mother looked at her dining companion's and said "I'm glad that we all enjoyed our breakfast, my daughter especially. Now it's time for us to get ready to go to London. We can't keep the king's mother waiting."

 

Elizabeth returned to her room resigned to the idea that by the end of the day she would be under the roof of one of the people she most loathed. She sighed heavily at the thought that the ride into the city would be the last day of freedom that she could enjoy for some time to come. As she made her final preparations before leaving, she was surprised to hear a quiet cough from behind her. She whirled around and was astonished to see gruff voice and his beautiful companion. "Lovely," she said bitterly. "Not only do I have to end today living with Lady Margaret but I am also going mad."

 

"You are wrong on both counts," the woman said, smiling pleasantly at her. "You are certainly not mad and you no longer have to do anything that you do not wish to do."

 

"Of course I'm mad. How else can I explain two people from one of my weirdest dreams appearing in my room when I know that there's no possible way they could get in here without my dear escorts making a huge fuss."

 

"Ah, the princess thinks she knows everything," Gruff voice said, his tone of voice very condescending. "So much like another noble lady of my acquaintance at the same age, eh? Let's hope that this one makes better use of her gifts and thinks a little bit more about the consequences of her actions." The woman stared daggers at him before turning back to Elizabeth. "Why don't you go off and start to claim your throne then?" Gruff voice asked.

 

Ignoring the absurd question of her imaginary intruder, Elizabeth asked the woman "Since I'm clearly going to be talking to you two non-existent people quite a bit, why don't you tell me your names?"

 

The woman thought for a moment then answered "You can call me Lady Strange and my companion may be known as Falcon."

 

Elizabeth was startled that the woman was claiming a title that she was certain she had no right to, since Lord Stanley's eldest son had certainly never married her, but was shaken out of her reverie by Falcon repeating his question, obviously unused to being ignored and more than a little annoyed that Elizabeth was focusing on what he felt was the wrong thing. "Since you clearly have forgotten your manners, I'll ask you again. Please answer my question rather than impolitely ignoring me. Why don't you get started on taking your throne?"

 

"Since you insist that I answer you, master Falcon, because the idea is patently absurd," Elizabeth snapped in reply, trying her best to convey with her tone of voice and her body language how wearisome she was beginning to find this conversation. "If I were to try I would most certainly fail and the best that would get me is to be even more closely watched by Henry Tudor and his accursed mother than I am going to be. Now, if the two of you would like to leave my head, I am trying to get myself ready for what I am sure will be one of the most annoying periods of my life." Elizabeth turned her back on her two companions, hoping that when she had finished her preparations they would have vanished.

 

"We're getting nowhere fast with this," Falcon said tetchily. "With your permission, my lady, I'll show our spoilt young princess here why she can take the throne, if she really wants to, and why there's not going to be anything Henry and his mother can do to stop her." Lady Strange gave a slight nod of approval. Falcon reached out, grabbing Elizabeth by her shoulder and using surprising strength forced her to face them once again.

 

"How dare you!" Elizabeth yelled, outraged that this scruffy old man, imaginary or not, had dared to lay his hands upon her. "You've gone too far now!"

 

"Oh, I've not yet gone far enough," Falcon said, smiling maliciously at her. Even as he spoke, Elizabeth saw a sword appear in his hand, a sword that she knew he hadn't been wearing. Even though she believed that neither the old man nor the sword truly existed, she took a couple of involuntary steps back. "Prepare yourself, princess." Falcon swiftly closed the gap between the two of them and Elizabeth closed her eyes in fear as she saw him draw the sword back and then thrust it with all of his might straight at her throat. She felt the tip of the sword meet her skin and then there was a horrendous shrieking noise that she had never heard before.

 

A few moments later Elizabeth opened her eyes expecting to see either an empty room or to see the afterlife as she would either be dead or her imaginary attacker would have vanished. She certainly was not expecting to see Falcon holding a sword hilt with a few inches of blade still attached while the rest of the weapon had dropped to her feet. Astonished, Elizabeth bent down and picked up the blade in order to examine it more closely. The tip and much of the rest of the blade were now unrecognisable, having been crushed and bent back upon itself in a manner that would have been impossible even if it had been thrust at the finest armour. "What in the world?" Elizabeth whispered, unable to believe her eyes.

 

"Now do you begin to see why we know you can become queen?" Lady Strange asked softly. That was a finer sword than any you would be likely to find in this country, certainly of far higher quality than any your escorts bear. And yet it couldn't penetrate your graceful and completely unprotected neck."

 

Elizabeth, still shocked at what had happened, held the sword's blade with her left hand while she used her right to feel her neck, trying to detect the slightest scratch. She couldn't feel any evidence that she'd just been stabbed with a sword, though she was certain that her sensitive hands would be able to detect even the tiniest variation from the rest of her skin.

 

Falcon watched Elizabeth explore her throat for a few moments before he again spoke up. "You have nothing to fear from any normal weapon now, princess. Your skin will resist the sharpest and strongest blades while, unlike a knight in his armour, the heaviest mace or war hammer will not be able to dent your skull or break your bones. And as if that wasn't enough, your dainty hands can now inflict more damage than any hand held weapon, more even than the heaviest siege gun." Seeing the look of disbelief on Elizabeth's face he chuckled before continuing. "It's true. If you doubt me just give that blade a squeeze with your hand." Elizabeth hesitated for only a moment before she closed her left hand into a fist around what remained of the blade. For a brief instant she thought that there would be no effect or even that her hand would be cut despite Falcon's claims, but such thoughts quickly fled and she watched open mouthed as the blade began to crumple between her fingers. The sword began to splinter into several fragments under what to her seemed only a tiny amount of pressure. Just before she was certain that the blade would shatter, she brought her right hand down to grab one end and repositioned her left so that it was at the other end and swiftly brought both hands together in a clapping motion. There was again a shrieking noise like the one caused when the sword failed to go through her throat. She opened her hands to find a misshapen lump of steel. The blade was now no longer in existence.

 

Elizabeth stared in wonder at the lump of metal, now completely unrecognisable from what it had been minutes earlier. As she looked closer at the steel she could see the imprints of her fingers in the lump. It now looked a lot like a piece of clay. With sheer joy on her face, Elizabeth began to experiment with the lump, trying to mould it to her will. She was without much success, as the steel only further deformed.

 

"If you've finished having fun," Lady Strange said, amusement in her voice though her face only showed disdain, "why don't we get to your other abilities?"

 

"Other abilities? You mean there's more?" Elizabeth asked turning to face her.

 

"Oh yes. You should now be able to move faster than any other living creature. Would you care to demonstrate, Falcon?"

 

"It would be my pleasure." Elizabeth once again turned towards the old man and she could see that he had somehow managed to acquire another weapon that he didn't have on his person before, this time a loaded crossbow which he was pointing straight at her. "Don't worry about getting hurt. This won't do you any more harm than that sword did earlier. I won't make any such promises about your pretty dress, though. It might have a hole or two in it if you are no good at catching" He smiled pleasantly at her then pulled the trigger to release the bolt. Elizabeth reacted instantly, reaching out to catch the bolt with her right hand before it could reach her then bringing it closer to her eye to get a better look. Another twang from Falcon's direction caught her attention and she looked up just in time to see another bolt heading towards her chest and, impossibly, yet another one ready to fire. She quickly brought her left hand up to catch the second bolt. Another twang announced the firing of Falcon's crossbow for the third time.

 

Elizabeth dropped the two bolts and sprinted towards Falcon, dodging the third as she ran. She tore the crossbow from his grip and gave him what felt to her like a gentle shove but which had the effect of propelling him across the room and into a wall. Falcon winced a little as he got to his feet. Elizabeth started to apologise but then remembered that he had just stabbed and tried to shoot her so instead she asked "What is it with you and trying to kill me?"

 

"Trying to kill you?" Falcon laughed, amused at the idea. With a cheerful smile on his face he looked more like one of the tutors Elizabeth's brothers might have had rather than a dangerous lunatic. "My dear, if I was trying to kill you I wouldn't be using swords and crossbows like these. They couldn't even scratch you. I just think that using objects you are used to thinking of as deadly is the quickest way to get you to appreciate how you've changed."

 

"Did you notice how quickly you moved there? You were able to catch crossbow bolt that moves with enough speed to punch straight through plate armour. And you were able to dodge another. No human being could do what you just did." Lady Strange said. Elizabeth thought about this for a moment, before realising she was right. "Why don't you go for a bit of a run around the house? Then you'll see what you can really do."

 

That sounded like a good idea to Elizabeth, so she opened the door to her room and set off at a gentle jog. She hadn't done much running since she was a little girl and her dress wasn't really designed for the exercise so she took it easily to begin with. She soon noticed though that she was moving more gracefully than she had ever done in her life, her feet knowing exactly where to position themselves to avoid becoming entangled so she decided to test her limits. She began to run as fast as she could, marvelling at the effect. She could tell she was moving at a terrific speed as no sooner did she enter a room than she was through it and into the next room. As she raced through the house she could see the busy servants almost crawling along and she heard them wondering where the draft came from. She left the house and went outside to where the horses were being prepared for the journey and some of her escort were practising their combat skills. Elizabeth noted that to her they all seemed to be moving at a snail's pace. She decided that she would have a bit of fun with the escort who had consistently annoyed her with their aloofness and, from more than one of them, praise of Margaret Beaufort.

 

Elizabeth first decided to see what would happen if she stopped running. She ran into the line of sight of one man and stopped for an instant. The man looked straight at her then blinked as if he couldn't believe his eyes. He started to say something, but Elizabeth didn't wait to see what it was. She set off running as fast as she could again and a moment later she had reached a nearby tree which she dived behind. Careful not to be seen, she peered out from behind the tree to see what happened. The man she had halted in front of said "Princess?" bewilderedly before blinking again and shaking his head as if to clear it.

 

Another nearby member of the escort who had not been able to see Elizabeth turned to him and said "What are you yelling about, John?"

 

"I could have sworn I saw Princess Elizabeth there a moment ago," he said, pointing directly at where Elizabeth had paused.

 

"Don't be daft. She must be getting ready to leave like the rest of the ladies. There's no way she could have been there," the other man scoffed.

 

"I'm telling you, Richard, I saw her," John insisted. "Don't you think I've seen her often enough on the trip here to be able to recognise her. And it's not as if there are many other beautiful young blondes here, especially not ones who could afford to be wearing such a fine dress, or who would look so stunning in it if they could." Elizabeth blushed slightly as she heard the description of herself.

 

"Where is she then?" Richard pressed him, clearly amused and determined not to let his friend forget this for some time. "It's not as if she could have left already. You must have been training too hard. I'll ask Sir Roger to let you take it easy for a while. I won't even tell him that you've started to fantasize about our charge."

 

Amused and quite flattered by the effect her brief pause had had, Elizabeth thought about how she could enjoy herself a bit more. Looking around she saw one of the escort, a man who had annoyed her more than any of the others, practising against another man. Elizabeth knew that he was possibly the best swordsman in the escort and his opponent was one of the worst, so she decided that it would be a good idea to take him down a peg or two. How embarrassing would he find it to drop his sword for no reason? As he drew his sword back to strike at his sparring partner, she sprinted in front of him and, with no more than a tap of her palm to the flat of the blade, sent the weapon flying out of his grip. The sword hit the floor with aloud clang as Elizabeth continued running. When she was sure she was hidden from the view of both soldiers, Elizabeth stopped running and eagerly turned to see the effect of what she had done. Instantly everybody resumed their "normal" speeds. The man she had disarmed cried out in pain and dropped to his knees. His opponent dropped his own weapon in order to examine the other man, obviously concerned. The man Elizabeth had disarmed was helped to his feet and with concern she could see that his right wrist was bent at an unnatural angle. To her horror, Elizabeth realised that in her fun she had unintentionally caused somebody some real damage. The man might have been annoying, but she hadn't intended to hurt him.

 

"That's an important lesson for you to learn," came the quiet sound of Falcon's voice from her right. Elizabeth looked around, expecting to see the old man but he was nowhere in sight. "Try looking up," Falcon said sounding amused. Elizabeth did as he asked and could see Falcon and Lady Strange very clearly peering out of the window of her room on the third floor. In fact, she noticed that she could see them almost as clearly as she could the men of her escort despite her distance from the house and what she knew to be a very dusty window. "Now, why don't you come back to your room so we can hold an actual conversation rather than you just listening to me?"

 

With one last concerned look at her unintended victim, Elizabeth sprinted off again. She streaked past the almost stationary servants and up the stairs arriving back in her bedroom only moments after she had set off. "I didn't mean to do that to him," she said defensively as she turned towards Falcon and Lady Strange. "I only intended to disarm him."

 

"I know you didn't, your highness," Falcon replied sympathetically. "You didn't kill him though, and if you've learned how fragile people are to you now then his pain won't be entirely without benefit. I'm sure you will not be as careless again."

 

"Yes, yes," Lady Strange put in, her tone of voice clearly lacking any sympathy for Elizabeth or her victim, an impression confirmed by the disdainful look on her face. "The important thing is what will you do now? Will you continue on to London and see what awaits you there? Your would-be husband and mother-in-law would be quite happy to see you, though I expect they won't be quite so pleased to meet the new you as they would have the old. I'm sure that you could persuade Henry Tudor to stand aside from the throne for you if you wish."

 

Elizabeth paused, giving the idea some serious consideration. It was certainly attractive; in her mind she could see herself meeting Henry then, just before their wedding, she would show both him and his mother who now had all the power and who should therefore occupy the throne. She somewhat regretfully shook her head and said, "No, I don't think I will go to London just yet. Even if I can persuade Henry Tudor to make me Queen in my own right I don't think it will be quite a public enough display to unite the poor divided kingdom. Henry's supporters might accept me, though I doubt they all would, but that would still leave Uncle Richard's remaining supporters. I'm sure they have their own plans. Henry won the throne and some time in battle. I think I should do the same."

 

"How will you arrange a battle?" Lady Strange asked, an intrigued look on her face. "I don't think Tudor will obligingly send an army to face you."

 

"I'll gather as many supporters of Uncle Richard together as I can. If there are enough of them, Tudor won't be able to ignore them. And I'm a far better candidate for the throne than anybody they could come up with, even without these fantastic abilities you've given me."

 

Falcon and Lady Strange pondered this for a moment before responding. "Yes, that sounds reasonable," Falcon said. "Do you have any idea where to begin looking for them, though? They are likely to be keeping their heads low at the moment. It's too soon after their defeat for them to be ready to act."

 

"I'm not totally sure, but I do know that I'll have to go north. That's where Uncle Richard got most of his support and I'm sure that's where mother's sent some of her letters to while she's been keeping in contact with his supporters. I think York is as good a place to start as any. I think I'll demonstrate to my escort that their services are no longer required before I leave, though. That should give Henry something to think about too. Thank you both for the incomparable help you have given me." Elizabeth said, curtsying to both of her mysterious guests.

 

"Since you have a plan, I think it's time we left you to get on with it. Good luck your highness." Falcon bowed deeply to Elizabeth before leaving through the suddenly open door.

 

"Good luck, my dear," Lady Strange said before following Falcon. She paused in the doorway to add "I don't think you will need it though." She then went through the door without any further acknowledgement of the princess. Elizabeth listened as the two walked away, though she realised moments later that she could no longer hear their footsteps. Elizabeth went to the door and looked through it. Sure enough, Falcon and Lady Strange were nowhere to be seen, even though Elizabeth could clearly see every part of the long hall and down the stairs. The pair had vanished as quickly and silently as they had arrived.

 

A huge smile on her face, Elizabeth quickly made a few preparations for her trip north and then her maid came to tell her that the escort were ready for departure. Elizabeth let herself be lead out of the building to where the escort and her mother were already mounted on their horses ready to go to London. She was relieved to see that the man she had injured was with them. His right hand was bound up and he did appear to be in quite a bit of pain, but at least he hadn't been hurt so badly that he wasn't able to ride. "Where are my things?" she asked her maid who indicated one particular packhorse. Elizabeth walked over to the horse where she halted and began to remove all of her clothing and other belongings from the horse. Within a few moments she had set everything that she felt she would need in the immediate future down on the floor.

 

Elizabeth's unusual actions were causing a barely audible conversation among the watching servants and soldiers, though Elizabeth found that she could easily hear every word that was spoken. Soon enough her mother rode over to her along with Sir Roger Willoughby, the commander of her escort. "What are you doing, Elizabeth?" her mother asked. Elizabeth could clearly see a concerned and baffled look upon her mother's face. She just smiled back at her mother in response and continued making preparations, binding her belongings into a single bundle.

 

"Don't you think it's time for you to get ready, your highness?" Sir Roger asked sternly. "We need to be off as soon as possible."

 

"You can set off whenever you're ready, Sir Roger," Elizabeth said, still smiling. If anything, her smile widened slightly. Many of the observers thought that Elizabeth was as happy and looking as beautiful as she ever had at that moment. "I am afraid I won't be accompanying you though. I have other plans."

 

"What!" Sir Roger exploded, his face turning red in rage. "If you think that you are very mistaken, your Highness. King Henry has ordered me to escort you to London and his mother and I intend to obey his orders. I can assure you that I have no qualms about tying you to your horse if that's needed in order to get you there."

 

To the surprise of Sir Roger and the rest of the onlookers, his threat didn't cow Elizabeth as they had expected it to. Instead, they could see that Elizabeth was amused. "You're welcome to try, Sir Roger," she said politely, "but I'm afraid that it's not going to work. I've changed quite a lot, you see, and I've decided that I'm not going to do a thing that I don't want to do, at least not if I don't feel it's necessary. I will let you tie me up, though." Elizabeth continued to smile, her posture exuding confidence.

 

Elizabeth extended her wrists towards the increasingly irate Sir Roger. "You heard her highness. Peter, bring some nice thick rope here." The soldier he had called came over slightly nervously. It seemed he was not keen to bind the daughter of a former king and somebody who would soon enough become queen. She might bear a grudge in the future after all.

 

"Sir Roger," Elizabeth's mother said anxiously, "I don't really think this is needed. Of course Elizabeth is going to accompany us, aren't you dear?" She was obviously concerned for her daughter, not wanting to see her tied up.

 

"I'm afraid not, mother. As I said, I do have other plans. I will give Sir Roger the chance to force me though." Elizabeth continued to smile beatifically causing a few muttered whispers about her sanity.

 

"I'm afraid that your daughter is leaving me no choice. I am sorry, your Highness," Sir Roger said sympathetically to Elizabeth's mother, though his annoyance with the princess was still clear. "Peter, tie her arms together tightly. We don't want her highness to hurt herself struggling now, do we?" The soldier reluctantly obeyed and Elizabeth found her crossed arms bound as tightly as she thought possible while still giving her a slight degree of comfort.

 

Elizabeth continued to smile. "You can tie the knots tighter, Peter," she said. "We can't have Henry thinking that you were unwilling to obey orders. Besides, you'll probably never get this chance again. It will be quite a story to tell your grandchildren." Peter worriedly looked towards his commander who, enraged by Elizabeth's irreverence and disrespect towards his royal master nodded. "I'm sorry, your highness," Peter said quietly as he tightened the knots as far as they would go, though Elizabeth heard him clearly and nodded in acknowledgement. She also heard the murmurings of the onlookers increase, a fair proportion now being certain that she had completely lost her mind.

 

Elizabeth knew that only the previous day she would have found the rope tying her wrists unbearably uncomfortable and even painful, but now she couldn't feel anything beyond the pressure of the rope. "Have a look at Peter's handiwork, Sir Roger," she said, calmly showing her bound wrists to the much larger man as he loomed over her. Sir Roger looked closely at the rope, tugging it a little bit before pronouncing himself satisfied.

 

"Good," Elizabeth's smile grew even wider as she anticipated what was about to happen. "I wouldn't want you to blame him for this." As she spoke the final word, Elizabeth yanked her wrists apart. To the stunned disbelief of those watching, the rope snapped as she easily freed herself from the bonds. Elizabeth felt an immense amount of satisfaction as she displayed her newfound strength for others to see, though she had no intention of letting them know just yet that she hadn't even exerted herself. She was amused at the sudden silence that had descended around the outside of the house, though she could still hear servants obliviously carrying out their duties inside.

 

Elizabeth's mother recovered quicker than most of the other stunned onlookers. She gathered up the snapped rope and looked closely at it then passed it to the shocked Sir Roger to do the same. They could quite clearly see that the rope was not rotten and that all of the knots had stayed tied. "How did you do that Elizabeth?" she asked. Sir Roger dumbly nodded his head in agreement.

 

"I said I've changed quite a lot. That's one of the changes. As I said, Sir Roger, I'm afraid I won't be going to London with you. You'll have to make my excuses to Henry and his mother and I suggest you pass on the following message to him." Elizabeth stopped smiling, suddenly serious. Up to now she'd been having fun, but what she was about to do would soon enough completely change the power structure of the country. "Tell Henry that I don't accept him as king and that I won't set one foot in London until he recognises me as the rightful heiress to my father's kingdom. If he wants to discuss the matter, he can do it on the battlefield."

 

"You've gone completely mad!" Sir Roger said. "You may be able to snap that rope, but there's no way the king will accept that. His army will defeat you if you force this and you will probably end up dead. Give this idea up, your Highness, for the sake of the country!"

 

"I'm afraid that I can't do that. Since these changes I can't accept the idea of playing second fiddle to Henry and his mother. Goodbye, mother," Elizabeth said, giving her mother a gentle kiss on the cheek. Her mother responded by squeezing her hand then she stepped away, clearly realising that there was nothing she could do to make Elizabeth change her mind. "I'll see you again once I'm Queen. Oh, and before I go, Matthew I'm sorry about your arm. When I'm queen come and see me and I'll make it up to you."

 

"I can't let you leave, your Highness," Sir Roger said. "Men, take Princess Elizabeth into custody." At his command the escort drew their weapons and moved towards Elizabeth.

 

"You can't stop me," Elizabeth said as she gathered her belongings, then easily hoisted them onto her shoulder with her left hand. "Goodbye." Elizabeth then set off into a run, going from a standstill to a blur from the perspective of all the onlookers. Elizabeth heard Sir Roger shouting orders to find her, though she soon ran so far that even she couldn't hear what was going on back at the house. Before she was out of her hearing range, though, she heard John say "See Richard, I told you I saw her," a comment that put a smile on her face as she headed north.

 

***

 

London, the afternoon of Princess Elizabeth's escape …

 

"You let her do what?" Henry Tudor screamed at Sir Roger as soon as the unfortunate man had reported to him the events of that morning. The king sat in his study behind a heavy wooden desk strewn with papers. His austere face was bright red, as angry as anybody present had ever known him. "I thought I could trust you, Sir Roger. That's why you were assigned to escort Princess Elizabeth to me. I thought you could keep her out of trouble and now you tell me that you allowed her to run off to who knows where entirely unprotected? What were you thinking?"

 

"I didn't have much choice, Sire," Sir Roger replied quietly from his kneeling position, his head deeply bowed. "She somehow managed to snap strong ropes as if they were nothing more than string and then she vanished in a blur. I don't know how it was possible, but that's what happened."

 

"So you are mad as well as incompetent!" Henry raged. "Either that or you and your men were drinking themselves into a stupor. Get out of my sight. If you're lucky, maybe I will find some use for you in the future."

 

"Yes, your majesty," Sir Roger mumbled as he left the king to his brooding.

 

After a few moments thought, Henry sent a member of his household to summon some of his most trusted councillors. "Have you heard what's happened?" he asked as the councillors assembled in his study. "Princess Elizabeth has decided to go on the run and, if Sir Roger Willoughby is telling the truth and not mad or hung over, she has decided that she will become the ruler of this kingdom. What do you think of this?"

 

"I think Sir Roger is telling the truth, Henry," his mother, Margaret Beaufort, said calmly. "My informants in Elizabeth's retinue tell me virtually the same story as Sir Roger told you. That wilful girl has decided that she won't be told what to do. We need to show her that she will do what we tell her, whether she likes it or not."

 

"So what do you think we should do, mother? You are the person who will be looking after her, after all."

 

Margaret pursed her thin lips in deep thought. "Firstly we have to find her. Then when we've found her, we bring her to heel and teach her to obey much like any disobedient dog. I'm sure I know exactly how to do that. I will not let her spoil our plans." Margaret smiled, seemingly happy at the anticipated clash.

 

"Where do you think we should look for her?" Henry asked, turning to the other men in the room.

 

"If I may, Sire," his chancellor, Bishop Morton said ingratiatingly, "If her highness wants to rule she will need to gather an army. The only one remotely available was raised by her uncle to oppose you. If I were her, I would try to gather that army."

 

"But they've scattered throughout the country," the experienced Earl of Oxford demurred. "Even if that is her plan, we are no further forward as to where she is. And we can stop the assembly of Gloucester's army quite easily."

 

"We can, but why should we?" Morton argued a cold and devious smile on his lips. "If we let her raise a force we can follow it to her and once we've found her, we can crush whatever troublemakers she has managed to cobble together into a pitiful army. After all, why would the masses be willing to follow a weak and utterly unproven young woman? This way we can round up those we missed earlier and then my Lady Beaufort can begin to discipline her 'disobedient dog'."

 

Margaret nodded a smile very similar to Morton's on her face. "My Lord Bishop makes a lot of sense. I think that is the best plan. Trounce the Glouscesterites again and then we can train the princess before marrying you to her."

 

"I don't like it," Oxford said, shaking his head emphatically. "I think we may be underestimating the threat she poses, much as we were underestimated."

 

"Do you think that the idea can work, though?" Henry asked, pinning the older and more experienced man with one of his shrewd gazes.

 

"It could do," Oxford agreed somewhat reluctantly. "Though we shouldn't take any chances. When we find the princess we need to take everybody we can get to confront whatever she has got."

 

"You worry too much, Oxford," Henry's step-father, Lord Stanley, said, airily dismissing his concerns. "There is no way a slip of a girl will take over. Why, I'd bet my son on his own can defeat whatever she can persuade to follow her on a fool's errand.

 

"Very well," Henry said, bringing the discussion to a close. "We will keep our ears open for any hint that an army is gathering and when we find it, we defeat it and take the princess into custody for her own protection. If we find her earlier, though, we will do whatever we can to secure the princess. I must marry her if I am to ensure that the Yorkists remain bound to me. The marriage is more important than anything else." Henry dismissed his advisors, soon sitting back behind his desk and getting down to the urgent business of running the country.

 

***

 

York, Late October 1485 …

 

Elizabeth had timed her arrival at York to coincide with the middle of the night. As she had expected, the gates to the city were locked, though this made no difference to her. The sparsely patrolled walls were no obstacle and, waiting until she could see and hear that the section of wall in front of her was clear, Elizabeth took a massive leap effortlessly clearing the wall before landing inside the city.

 

The next few weeks were very frustrating to her as she spent much of her time running throughout the north of England seeking out supporters of her uncle. Though she managed to find many people who were in favour of him, she found herself unable to persuade many of them to join her in an attempt to overthrow Henry, especially as she was unwilling to show her abilities to anybody if she could avoid it. The rest of her time she spent badgering the reluctant servants at the house she had occupied in York to teach her some of their skills so that she would be able to take care of herself. "I can't rely on having servants around me to take care of my food and clothes anymore," she said to one of them. "Please teach me how to cook." She had found that she was easily able to remember everything that she saw or heard and was easily able to repeat somebody else's movements and learn from the experience, so she was very soon more than capable of taking care of most day-to-day tasks and she was surprised to find that she enjoyed learning and practising the servant's skills.

 

It was while learning from the servants that the breakthrough finally came. Elizabeth was helping to cook dinner when she heard a voice familiar to her from her time at her uncle's court. "So it is true," said the deep voice of Viscount Francis Lovell, one of her uncle's favourites and one of his principal advisors."I'd heard that the young princess had lost her mind and here you are turning your hand to servant's work. You even want to try to topple Henry Tudor. Your father and uncle would turn in their graves looking at you now." Elizabeth turned towards the older man, seeing him shaking his head with a look of disbelief on his face. His clothes were immaculate as usual despite the months he had spent avoiding being found by Henry and his agents, though the time seemed to have taken its toll on him as there was far more grey hairs on his head than there had been when she'd last seen him, just weeks before the Battle of Bosworth. The plain brown dress she was wearing was something that she would never have been seen dead in two months earlier, but she had now leaned the usefulness of such garments; when she was helping the savants her fine gowns were very likely to get dirty and potentially damaged while her rapid movements throughout the north were quite hard on whatever clothing she was wearing at the time.

 

"I am afraid you have me at something of a disadvantage, my Lord," Elizabeth said as regally as she could, bringing a smile to Lovell's face. "As you can see, I was not really dressed for visitors. Claire, would you please show Lord Lovell to the library. I will join him as soon as I have changed." The servant curtsied then led the Viscount to the room Elizabeth had requested. Elizabeth then raced off at a speed nobody else could match to find one of her maids to help her get dressed in one of the court dresses that she had brought with her, though Elizabeth had had it and most of her other best gowns altered since her arrival as, inspired by Lady Strange and the way her figure had subtly altered since her transformation, she had the neckline lowered to show off a bosom every bit as impressive as Lady Strange's and probably even more so if Elizabeth was allowed to flatter herself a little. Though the changes hadn't done much for getting people to support her she had fund that her modified gowns were excellent at focussing male attention on her and distracting the men she had to deal with. One or two had been so distracted that they agreed to join her without really thinking and now found themselves unable to back out.

 

"What are you doing here Lord Lovell?" Elizabeth asked getting straight down to business, as soon as she joined Lovell in the library, her voice level and her gaze emotionless despite the insult of his earlier words. "Have you come to join my little rebellion?"

 

Lord Lovell laughed very loudly in response, a disbelieving smile on his face. "I'm afraid not, Princess, though I must admit the rumours of your presence in the north and your plans are what persuaded me to come to York. If I thought you had any chance at all of winning I would probably be willing to join you. I'd like to see your uncle avenged. You have no chance though, and you are truly insane if you think you do." As he firmly spoke the last words Lovell looked Elizabeth directly in the eyes and she could see the utter conviction in his look. He seemed to be very sad, both about whatever he had planned and the events since Bosworth, though he clearly had made his decision about his course of action and it did not involve helping her.

 

"So why have you come, my Lord?" Elizabeth asked coldly, her gaze seeming to penetrate deep into Lovell's soul. The Viscount shuffled his feet a little, clearly unnerved by the way this young woman was looking at him. "If you have no plans to help me, there was no point to your visit."

 

"Oh there was, your Highness. I came here to see if I could persuade you to give up your mad plans. But I can see that there's no chance whatsoever of that, is there?" Lovell asked as Elizabeth shook her head defiantly. "I'd thought as much from the moment I set eyes on you here. Since you cannot hope to defeat Henry Tudor you will only succeed in leading your uncle's supporters to a new disaster at least as bad as Bosworth and set back any chance of overthrowing Tudor for years. I must insist that you join me in travelling to the continent. We'll be able to get support for your cause there, even if we have to marry you to somebody."

 

"You insist I join you on the continent?" Elizabeth asked, an eyebrow raised quizzically. "And what if I refuse to join you? I am far more optimistic about my chances than you are, so I must refuse your kind offer."

 

"If you will not come with me willingly, then I am afraid that I will have to force you to join me." Lovell regretfully rose from his seat, a look of distaste on his face as he moved menacingly towards Elizabeth. He grabbed hold of her arm and began trying to force Elizabeth to go where he wanted her to. "My men have begun to gather your belongings together and I have arranged our transport. It's time for us to go." Lovell tugged Elizabeth's arm but he found that however hard he tried Elizabeth did not move so much as an inch. In fact, she almost seemed to be bored with the proceedings.

 

"Lord Lovell, please let me go," she said, giving him a stern look. "If you don't, I will hold you responsible for the consequences."

 

"You will join me, your highness," Lovell said, becoming increasingly irritated at his lack of success. He began tugging so hard that he was certain that Elizabeth would start to wince in pain, but all that he managed to do was rip the sleeve of her dress. She stayed absolutely still.

 

"Damn it," Elizabeth said examining the rip closely, her face shifting from stern and bored to irritated. "I'll need to get that repaired now. I'm not going to let you damage this dress any more. And you owe me a new one, my Lord." Elizabeth used her free arm to grab Lord Lovell's hand and effortlessly pried it off her arm. Lovell reacted with astonishment as his hand was moved completely against his will by the princess's smaller one however he tried to resist. His mouth involuntarily drifted open, bringing a smile to Elizabeth's face. She let go of Lovell's hand which dropped to his side.

 

"How?" Lovell asked incoherently. Elizabeth just smiled enigmatically in response. Lovell decided that since his efforts had proved fruitless he would try the intimidation route. He drew his sword and moved threateningly towards Elizabeth. "Come with me now Elizabeth. I don't want to hurt you." Lovell's shock and irritation was clear from the way he called Elizabeth directly by her name. To his surprise, rather than showing fear Elizabeth was smiling.

 

"I said I wouldn't let you damage my dress. I won't let you hurt yourself with that toy either." Before Lovell's eyes Elizabeth seemed to vanish from in front of him. He felt a tug on his right hand and looked down to find that his sword had vanished from his hand. "I'm glad I practiced doing that," Elizabeth's voice said from behind him. "I didn't want to hurt you." Lovell whirled around to see her casually standing with the point of his sword to the floor, her hands resting on its pommel.

 

"What just happened?" Lovell asked, his amazement absolutely clear.

 

"Oh, I disarmed you," Elizabeth replied, beaming from ear to ear. "We can't have you hurting yourself now, can we?" Elizabeth picked up the sword before casually tossing it high into the air then from one hand to the other, finally grasping the blade with one hand. "Would you like it back now?" she asked, offering the stunned Lovell sword which he took, examining it closely. He could see five small imprints in the blade, clearly left by Elizabeth's fingers. "I'm afraid I damaged it a bit. You'll need to take it to a smith to get the blade mended," Elizabeth said, smiling widely. Lovell, unable to believe what he had just seen, stared back at her slack-jawedly.

 

"Witchcraft!" he whispered, only for the Princess to vehemently deny the charge. "I certainly didn't use witchcraft, my Lord, and I'll thank you not to go spreading any such rumours. So, do you think we might be able to agree that I do have a chance of beating Henry Tudor? A very good one in fact, I think." Lovell nodded dumbly in response.

 

"I'm glad we're agreed. Now, why don't we sit down and discuss how we are going to raise the army I will need." Elizabeth gently manoeuvred Lord Lovell into a seat before sitting opposite him as she got down to the business of telling the still shocked Viscount exactly how they were going to proceed.

 

***

 

London, Early November 1485 …

 

Henry Tudor was as usual in his study pouring over the royal accounts when an excited Bishop Morton burst in on him. "I trust there is a reason for this intrusion, my lord Bishop?" Henry said, one eyebrow raised quizzically.

 

"Forgive me, Sire," Morton said, bowing to his king, his robs and chains of office jangling. "I've just received a letter from Archbishop Neville in York. He tells me that Princess Elizabeth has been seen around the city on multiple occasions. Of late, there have also been sightings of Viscount Lovell and an increasing number of armed men. It seems that we've found where her highness is readying herself for her attempt on the throne. It might be time to strike."

 

"It might indeed," Henry said, nodding calmly. "You are excused. I am sure we will speak again soon." Morton bowed again before leaving Henry's presence. Henry quickly called on a member of his household. "Please find the Earl of Oxford and invite him to join me here," he requested.

 

Two hours later Oxford joined him. "It seems our elusive princess has appeared," he told his old advisor. Oxford's eyes briefly widened in surprise before he recovered his composure. "How do you think we should proceed?"

 

"Where is she?" Oxford asked.

 

"According to my chancellor, she's shown up in York along with some of our friends from Bosworth."

 

Oxford began to pace around the room, obviously giving his reply serious consideration before speaking. "Unless you've changed your mind, we should call on our retainers then march to York." I don't suppose you have?" he asked, knowing full well the likely response as Henry very rarely changed his plans. Henry merely shook his head in reply."Then I would suggest that you free the Earl of Northumberland from the Tower and send him north to raise as many troops as he can for you. He should be able to persuade more northerners to join us or at least stay away from Elizabeth than anybody else could."

 

"You think we can trust him? He didn't move to aid us at Bosworth, after all." Henry asked, not arguing but merely curious.

 

"Nor did he help Richard. The worst that can be said of him is that he was looking after himself rather than his king. Since Elizabeth can't hope to raise more than about 3,000 men, he'll know we should be the winning side. He'll join us; I have no doubt of that." Oxford was very emphatic, forcefully arguing his case. There was no doubt that he would give Henry the best advice he could, regardless of if it was what the king wanted to hear. "I have no more worries about him than I do about your step-father. A more self interested man than Lord Stanley I've never met."

 

Henry laughed, acknowledging the slur on his mother's husband as largely accurate. "Very well. I'll send Northumberland back to the north to raise what troops he can while we get our own together. Then we'll head north to crush the princess's insane ambitions." Henry started to dismiss Oxford before the earl spoke up again.

 

"One other thing. We don't want Elizabeth to die, do we? So we should send somebody to look after her. Battles are chaotic things. Who knows what would happen to the princess in the middle of one?"

 

"God, you're right!" Henry exclaimed, surprised that he hadn't thought of that before. "We'll need to get some people into her confidence to make sure she's safe. Thank you for your advice, my Lord." Oxford bowed, leaving Henry to make the required preparations for summoning an army and for keeping the most important young woman in the country safe.

 

***

 

A Field Just Outside York, Early November 1485 …

 

Elizabeth stood in one of her finest gowns atop a scaffold outside the city watching her army as it trained in a large field that she had managed to get set aside for the purpose. Although, she thought ruefully, it doesn't really qualify as an army. While Viscount Lovell had managed to persuade a reasonable number of former Ricardians to join them and there were more trickling in every day from throughout the north lured by the promise of the chance to avenge their king or for adventure, it had long since become obvious to Elizabeth that she was never going to be able to raise an army to challenge Henry's. By now she had managed to raise between 3,000 and 4,000 men who were willing to fight for her which, as Lovell was quick to point out on several occasions, was nowhere near the total Henry could count on. "He had about six or seven times that number at Bosworth and he has the authority of the crown behind him now too. This collection of defeated men and newly-trained men will not be able to stand against Tudor's army. We'll be lucky if he only manages to bring 10,000 into the field," he had said the first time he saw the 1,000 or so would-be soldiers that Elizabeth had managed to assemble on her own.

 

"It's just as well that we don't need them to stand for long then, isn't it?" Elizabeth responded, smiling prettily at her somewhat reluctant new recruit. "We just need to get Henry and his army to a battlefield and I'll do the rest, or do you doubt me?" Remembering his lesson just hours earlier, Lovell frantically shook his head making Elizabeth smile even wider.

 

Now Elizabeth knew that the decisive moment was very near, an opinion confirmed as Lovell seemed to be getting increasingly agitated at their lack of success in creating and training the army. While it was larger than he'd believed possible ("I'm not going to be able to persuade many men beyond my own personal retainers to support a woman's claim to the throne," he'd gloomily told Elizabeth) and far better equipped with swords, axes, maces, bills, pikes, bows and handguns than he'd had reason to hope, the men were still lacking in armour when compared to Henry's force and, even more worryingly, they had either never fought in a battle or lost the only one they had. "We need more time, your highness," he had said earlier that day.

 

"We aren't going to get too much more time. I heard some of Bishop Neville's servants gossiping about the letter he had sent to Bishop Morton, though of course they didn't realise there was anybody who could hear them. Henry knows we are here now and he won't wait too long before he moves." Elizabeth absent-mindedly focused on her followers as she said this, though she couldn't fail to notice Lovell's intake of breath at the news.

 

"In that case, I think you need to address the men. Let them know that if they want to back out, this is their last chance. Their presence has accomplished what you intended it to, after all," Lovell said looking at her shrewdly.

 

Elizabeth acknowledged that this was a good idea, which was why she was now standing on the stage in front of her men. "Men of the North, followers of King Richard," she began without shouting, using her newfound control of her voice to make herself clearly heard throughout the field. Every soldier turned to stare towards her as she continued. "The man known as King Henry VII is gathering his army to oppose us and to deny my right to be crowned as Queen of England by right of my father, good King Edward. In the near future we will meet him upon the field of battle where we must triumph. You should not be denied the chance to participate in the government of this realm because you chose to support the loser at Bosworth and I should not be denied the right to succeed my father because I am a woman. If we lose, I will become Henry's wife, a woman with little freedom, but you, my brave comrades, will very possibly die or be attainted as traitors. Let us not pretend that we will not be outnumbered, because we certainly will. Henry will have at least two men for every one of us. If anybody wishes to back out do so now, safe in the knowledge that I will not think any the less of you." As she surveyed the thousands in front of her Elizabeth could see that they were all hanging on her every word, though some seemed to be giving her offer to withdraw from the army serious consideration. "But know that I will face the dangers of this course of action with you," she continued. "I will be on the field myself, fighting under my own banner, and any of you who choose to join me will be greatly honoured. And in years to come, you will be able to tell your children and grandchildren that you were there on the day that God and men decided that this daughter of York would be the Queen of England."

 

When Elizabeth finished her speech there was silence throughout the field, the soldiers seeming to have been hypnotised by her voice and appearance. It took about two minutes before the crowd exploded into cheers and returned to their training. "That was certainly an interesting speech, your highness," Lovell said sourly acidly as he joined her on stage. "The men seem to have decided that they will follow you into death if need be. If only more of them had decided to do the same for your uncle."

 

"If they had," Elizabeth replied, turning towards him and keeping her tone level with a clear effort, "then I would not be in this position now. I think I prefer this alternative to all the others I can imagine."

 

Before they could continue the discussion, which looked likely to degenerate into an argument as Lovell sharply drew in breath to respond, they were interrupted by a clear voice that Elizabeth could clearly remember, although she could remember everything if she wanted to. "If I might interrupt, your highness," the voice said in a broad Welsh accent, "do you happen to have room for another two retainers?" Elizabeth turned towards the voice and, although she was sure she knew who it belonged to, she still drew in a surprised breath when she saw the two men standing just in front of the stage.

 

"Owen?" she said, "What are you and Stephen doing here?" Owen and Stephen were two members of the escort who had been assigned to her under Sir Roger who she had quite liked. The two were experienced Welshmen who had served Henry ever since he had landed in the country earlier in the year and they spent a large portion of their time good-naturedly bickering with each other and they had always treated the princess well, regularly speaking politely to her. She had never expected to see them here, though, as she knew they were had been staunchly loyal to their king.

 

"Well we're in a bit of a bad odour at the minute," Stephen said, grinning broadly. "Ever since you left Sir Roger's been in disgrace and we have too. The king dismissed us, you see, so we decided we'd come north to see if you had room for us."

 

Elizabeth thought she could detect some hints that Stephen wasn't being entirely forthcoming, but she just turned to Lovell and said "We can always use another couple of experienced, well armed and armoured men, can't we?" Lovell responded with a non-committal grunt. "Why don't you come with me into the city?" she asked the two new arrivals. "I'll see that you get fed and you can

tell me what's been going on down in London."

 

The two readily agreed, Owen saying "We'd be honoured to accompany you, your Highness. Somebody needs to keep you out of trouble, don't they?" so Elizabeth headed back to York, the two Welshmen following close behind her.

 

No sooner had the trio walked through the city gates than Elizabeth heard a commotion on the far side of the city. She could hear screams interspersed with the odd shout of "Fire!" and when she sniffed the air, she could detect the smell of smoke. "There's a fire near the North gate," she told her two companions. "I'm going to see what I can do to help. Catch me up as soon as you can." Before they could respond, Elizabeth sprinted northwards, very shortly arriving at a scene of chaos. A prosperous merchant's house had seemingly caught fire, quickly spreading to the houses in the immediate vicinity. Most of the people inside the houses had escaped the blaze, but Elizabeth could hear a few shouting out in fear.

 

Not even pausing to slow down, Elizabeth burst through the door of the nearest house, effortlessly breaking the door down. She sped throughout the house finding one woman who was alive though unconscious so she carefully picked her up before racing back outside, gently laying the woman down on the ground before sprinting into the next house. To her it felt like she spent hours running through houses that were uncomfortably warm, though the bystanders and people who were trying to fight the fire later told her that it was only about 10 minutes before she emerged from the last burning house with the final man who had survived inside the buildings. Now that the houses held only rapidly burning corpses, she felt she could move on to preventing the fire spreading.

 

Elizabeth first set about creating a firebreak by knocking down the nearby buildings that had been abandoned after the fire started. When some of the owners objected to her action she told them "Don't be stupid. If I don't knock these houses down they'll burn soon enough. I'll make sure that you get compensated for the loss of the building and any belongings you can't recover," before continuing to demolish the buildings. It only took a few punches to the walls of each before the buildings collapsed and within minutes Elizabeth had made sure that the fire wouldn't be spreading for the moment.

 

She then joined the people who had made bucket chains in order to bring water from the river to pour onto the burning buildings. She didn't merely pass the buckets along the chain, however. She instead grabbed the biggest barrel she could find in the immediate vicinity, took it to the river where she filled it with water. The members of the chain filling the buckets were amazed to see the slender woman in her by now tattered dress easily lift a barrel that would normally require at least two men to transport as if it weighed nothing, even with the massive weight of the water inside. Within half an hour Elizabeth had made multiple trips between the blaze and the river, dumping the contents of her barrel into the flames on each occasion and soon enough the fire was extinguished.

 

"Your highness," Owen said, staring open-mouthed at her as he and Stephen escorted her away from the stunned inhabitants of the district who had been loudly thanking their deliverer. "That was absolutely amazing."

 

"I couldn't just let the fire spread and people die when I could help them, could I?" Elizabeth replied almost sheepishly. "My only regret is that my dress is absolutely ruined, and it was one of my best too." She was glad that Owen had wrapped her up in his coat as soon as the fire was out, since her exertions had caused the dress to become increasingly less and less effective at covering her, eventually leaving her clad in a manner that would be sure to cause a scandal in almost any other circumstances as the skirt was almost gone and there were holes throughout the bodice leaving little to the imagination.

 

"You could have done," Stephen said quietly."It would perhaps have helped your cause. People are sure to talk about this, and there's a good chance that it will get to the king's ears. He may decide that you can't be fought now."

 

"I don't think that's very likely, but if it does happen then so be it. What sort of a Queen would I be if I were willing to let my people die when they don't have to?" Elizabeth asked seriously. Stephen and Owen looked at each other, seemingly communicating wordlessly before they both solemnly turned to Elizabeth and went down on one knee before her. Elizabeth looked quizzically from the taller dark haired Stephen to his shorter and fairer friend. "What are you doing?" she asked them.

 

"Your Highness," Owen replied, clearly uncomfortable, "we came here because King Henry, I mean my Lord Tudor, asked for volunteers from your escort to make sure you were kept safe until he could come for you. Now we can clearly see that you don't need us for that and you've convinced me, at least, that you are the right person to lead this country."

 

"It pains us to be in the position of breaking our bonds to Lord Tudor," Stephen added as Owen tailed off a little, "but we can't serve two masters, or even one master and a mistress. Queen Elizabeth," he continued, becoming the first person to address her by that title, "if you will have us we swear to be your loyal and faithful retainers until our dying day." A lump in her throat, Elizabeth accepted their oaths, pulling the two men to their feet before leading them to the house where she was staying for their fist meal in her service.

 

***

 

A field in Nottinghamshire, mid November 1485 …

 

The afternoon was beginning to darken into evening when the army of Elizabeth met that of Henry. From her position on top of a hill, Elizabeth could clearly see the dispositions of Henry's army which, as everybody had expected, easily outnumbered her own. Her force of between 3000 and 4000 men were formed in a single mass of foot soldiers around her new battle banner of a sun rising from a chalice, with her few archers and hand gunners arrayed on their flanks and a small force of mounted men in reserve while Henry's formation was explained to her by Lovell. "He's doing much the same as he did at Bosworth. The Earl of Oxford has command of his vanguard," he said pointing out a mixed formation of about 4000 footmen and archers with Oxford's proud banner of a star with streams of light prominent in the centre. "Henry himself commands the rest of his forces," he continued, indicating the remaining 6000 or so troops and the flag bearing the red dragon of Wales with another nearby banner showing the lion of England. "And I can see that he's decided not to take any chances with people's loyalties."

 

"What do you mean?" Elizabeth asked, turning to look at him as she'd memorised the entire layout of the battlefield.

 

"You see the banners in the vanguard?" Lovell replied. Elizabeth nodded, saying "Better than you can." Lovell shook his head, still unnerved by her abilities before continuing. "Well, there's the blue lion of Northumberland prominent amongst them and while Lord Stanley himself is with his step-son, I'm sure I can see a large number of Stanley retainers there too. Northumberland did nothing at Bosworth and the Stanleys always try to keep out of the fighting until the battle's won, so I'd guess that he's put them were they have no chance of avoiding getting stuck in. You'd best hope that there's no limit to your abilities," he finished apprehensively, "otherwise we're as good as beaten."

 

Elizabeth had to acknowledge the truth of his words as most of the nobility of England seemed to have sent retainers to fight for Henry if they hadn't come in person. The king's army was well equipped with the light of the setting sun reflecting off of many fine suits of armour and blades, while a glance at her own showed a similar array of weapons but depressingly few men wearing the full suits of plate armour that would give them near invulnerability. "Don't worry, I'll be fine," she said, both to Lovell and to her two new Welsh retainers who were hovering nearby. "I'll make sure that this is a memorable evening." She tried to sound more confident than she felt since, although she had no reason to think her abilities would desert her now, she'd never tried to use them on the scale and precision she intended now.

 

A loud bang caused Elizabeth to whirl around so that she was looking at Henry's army again, the skirts of her bright red dress swirling about her legs as she did so. Blinking once, she entered what she had come to think of as 'speed-time', where every motion seemed to be taking place at no more than a snail's-pace. She could see the first cannon ball of Henry's opening barrage heading very slowly towards the hill, followed by the slowly escaping cloud of flame and burning powder as the neighbouring cannon also fired. Blinking again, tine returned to what everybody else would consider normal. She turned back to Lovell and said "Time for me to go to work. Try to make sure that everybody stays on this hill and alive. I don't want any more deaths than absolutely necessary." She smiled a little nervously before making a huge leap into the air.

 

Elizabeth had timed her jump and aimed perfectly, landing with her right foot on the first cannonball which splintered as soon as she made contact with it, shredding her skirts but doing no damage to herself. She then sprinted to position herself in front of the second cannonball. She drew back her right fist and punched the ball, redirecting it harmlessly away from everybody else on the battlefield, though to her annoyance her dress was further damaged. That takes care of the first two cannons, she thought, knowing that they would take at least half an hour to reload and she didn't intend to give them a chance to fire again. Now I'd best deal with the other four.

 

Elizabeth raced to the right hand flank of Henry's army were the cannons were positioned so they would have a clear field of fire, arriving there within a minute of hitting the cannonball. Before the gunners could fire another shot or react to her presence, Elizabeth halted in front of the next gun they were preparing to fire. She picked the cannon up with both hands, tipping its barrel towards the ground so that the ball the gunners had just loaded rolled out onto the floor. Then, putting the gun back on the ground, she placed her hands around the mouth of the barrel and squeezed the sides together. The barrel protested at first, but it soon gave way with a shriek of metal, the two sides meeting in a raged join that rendered the gun utterly useless. Some of the gunners at the other guns saw what Elizabeth had done and moved menacingly towards her, trying to force her away, but she merely leaped over third heads before landing by each of the unfired guns and giving them exactly the same treatment as the first before squeezing shut the barrels of the two that had fired for good measure. In less than five minutes after the first cannon shot had signalled the start of the battle Elizabeth had rendered Henry's artillery useless for anything other than scrap metal. All six guns would need to be melted down before they could be of any use to anybody.

 

A cheer rose up from the hill as Elizabeth's army saw how she had mangled the guns. Elizabeth glanced back towards the hill and saw to her dismay that while Owen, Stephen and Lovell had managed to keep the army in relatively good order, a group of about 500 young northerners were running directly towards Oxford's vanguard, seemingly oblivious to the fact that they were utterly unsupported. If I don't go and help those idiots, she thought with annoyance, they'll get themselves slaughtered. With that thought, she ran right into the teeth of Oxford's strong centre which was packed full of well armoured pike men, the tips of their weapons gleaming. Elizabeth moved like a blur to every man on the battlefield and once again measured her jump to perfection, this time jumping straight through the pike shafts of a dozen men, snapping the points and leaving the men holding only a long blunt stick. The pike men reacted slowly to her presence, giving her the opportunity to disarm a large number of them, but she very quickly found that for every man she disarmed there were a hundred more that she hadn't. Eventually, the swordsmen who were interspersed with the pike men reacted, dozens of them turning their blades on her. Elizabeth parried umpteen attacks with her hands and kicked out with her feet, causing many a man to collapse unable to breathe easily after his ribs cracked or his armour was dented in a manner that knocked the breath out of him. Despite her speed, though, some of them managed to get their attacks through even her blinding defences, cutting the arms and bodice of her dress to shreds. Annoyed, Elizabeth spun round in a rapid circle, knocking men flying into the air with them landing hard on the ground with an ungainly thud. Her attack caused Oxfords men to whirl about in confusion, looking for the foes that were stalling their march towards the hill.

 

Elizabeth took advantage of the chaos she had caused to bowl through the front

ranks of the pike men, racing back to the men of her army who were racing

towards their doom. As soon as she reached them she halted and yelled "Get back

on the hill! I've slowed down the advance, but I am not going to kill all of

them for you. If you don't turn around and get on the hill, I'll leave you to

their tender mercies." Most of the men obeyed her, either affected by the

occasionally hypnotic power of her voice or having come back to their senses.

They turned and ran back to the hill, leaving the 50 or so who decided to carry

on charging at Oxford's men to their fate.

 

Elizabeth realised that the battle had so far lasted about half an hour and, although she had put out of action all of Henry's guns and over 500 men, she would at this rate not finish before the sun set. This is taking too long, she thought. I think I'll imitate uncle Richard and take the fight directly to Henry. She ran directly towards Henry's main force, forcing her way through both Oxford's men and Henry's who were in her path, sending hundreds flying off their feet to impact on the floor with a hard landing. She stopped before Henry, folding her arms across her chest and staring at him in a challenging way. "Henry Tudor, I presume," she said, never having met him before, though sure that he was who she was looking at because of his close resemblance to his mother.

 

"Princess," Henry replied, examining her closely, taking in every inch of her appearance. He was seemingly unsurprised to see her suddenly appearing before him. "You're even better looking than I'd been led to believe, but I can't say much for your clothing sense."

 

"I think that it's time we end this battle, don't you?" Elizabeth said. Henry seemed to agree. He gestured towards his personal retinue, indicating they should move forwards as he took a few steps backwards. "Take her Highness into custody," he told them. "That should put an end to this little rebellion."

 

As one, Henry's men drew their swords and advanced on Elizabeth. They seemed to expect her to meekly submit to them, but she didn't. Instead she accelerated towards them, then leapt over their heads, landing directly on top of Henry, driving him to the ground and knocking the breath from him. She took his sword from his hand and snapped it in two before tearing his armour apart piece by piece. She first of all tore the arms from his suit, then removed the legs and his helmet, finally tearing off Henry's breastplate all the while taking care not to damage him too much. She could tell that Henry would be badly bruised and may have a few broken bones, but nothing worse than that. "I think it's time you surrendered, don't you?" she asked as he lay helpless and unprotected on the ground, obviously completely at her mercy.

 

"What are your terms?" Henry asked, pain clear in his voice and an unhappy grimace on his face.

 

"You are going to abdicate the throne in favour of me," Elizabeth replied, a grin on her face as the moment she had been dreaming of arrived at last. "We will be married; you're right about the necessity of peace, and our marriage will help bring this poor disunited kingdom back together. Firstly though, we need to end this battle." She paused as she picked up Henry's banners before throwing them far into the sky, seeing and hearing them land in a distant field. That will confuse whichever farmer finds them she thought before gently picking Henry up in her arms and sprinting back to the top of the hill.

 

"Your Highness, my Lord, is it over?" Owen said as Elizabeth and Henry appeared before him. Elizabeth nodded enthusiastically while Henry grimaced his agreement. "In that case, you'd better hurry if you're going to end this without more bloodshed. Oxford's vanguard will reach us in a few minutes." He gestured towards the bottom of the hill where the vanguard had reached having regrouped from Elizabeth's earlier attack. Arrows were now arcing back and forth from both forces as Oxford's pike and sword armed men began to climb the shallow incline towards the hilltop.

 

"You're right. Henry, if you'd please join me." Elizabeth said, dragging the unresisting Henry towards the slope with her left hand. She kept her right hand free to protect him from any stray arrows that might otherwise do him harm and on a couple of occasions she did have to reach out and snag one before it could puncture the unprotected man. She paused in plain view of Oxford's vanguard, her outline silhouetted by the setting sun leaving the image of a warrior goddess indelibly etched in the minds of those who saw it. "My Lord of Oxford," she said clearly, injecting her voice with every ounce of command and personality she was able to. If she was ever going to hypnotise people with the power of her voice, now was the time she needed to. "I have your master standing right here beside me. He has been forced to surrender. Please, lay down your arms before I am forced to make you. I don't want to have any more deaths on my conscience." Turning to Henry and lowering her voice she said "Now, could you please tell Oxford to lay down his arms? We need to end this battle and begin uniting everyone behind their new Queen."

 

Henry, feeling utterly dejected, agreed, raising his voice and saying gloomily "Everything that she's said is true. Please end this battle, my Lord. If you don't, she will go through the army disarming every single man and I'm afraid that there will be far more bloodshed than there has been so far." Oxford, recognising Henry's voice and the utter despair in it, ordered his men to lower their weapons and furled his own banner before turning around and marching back to the main force to pass on the order. Most of his men obeyed, but a few chose to fight on. Leaving Henry in the care of his former retainers, Elizabeth swiftly moved to disarm the remaining rebellious few. She was none too gentle about it as they had disobeyed her, their king and their commander. She soon left the men a beaten, bloody mess.

 

Within the hour, Henry's army obediently marched to the hilltop to lay their weapons at her feet. Sat upon a throne that she had rapidly fetched from Nottingham, Elizabeth graciously accepted their surrender, though she was amused by the covetous glances a few men shot her way and even more by the disapproving comments she could hear about how it was scandalous that a young noblewoman should be wearing such a tattered dress. Once she would have agreed with them, but now she was Queen Elizabeth, protectress of England and all who dwell within. The Battle of Stoke Field was over. Now all that was left was for her to go to London and claim her prize.

 

***

 

London, Christmas Day 1485 …

 

Following the example of her ancestor, William the Conqueror, Elizabeth arranged her coronation for Christmas Day. Following a grand procession to Westminster Abbey, her fiancé following a pace behind her with him in turn being followed by her mother, her new Ladies of the Chamber and Wardrobe, all the Lords and Ladies of the realm who could make it, the Bishops and countless commoners, she sat upon the throne clad in her ceremonial gown while the Archbishop of Canterbury conferred on her all the regalia of the Kings of England before placing the crown on her head. She had heard her father complain how heavy it was, but the crown felt nearly weightless to her, aside from the duties that she knew it to represent.

 

Later, as she sat upon her bed in the palace where she had chosen to stay for the moment, she heard a familiar voice say "Congratulations, your Highness." Although she had only heard that voice twice before, she had no trouble realising that it belonged to Falcon and that he had somehow once again sneaked into her chamber.

 

"Thank you, Master Falcon. I couldn't have done this without you," she replied, turning to face him. Falcon looked much the same as he had the last time she saw him, though this time his hair and beard were better groomed and he was wearing robes more suited to a priest than the clothing he had previously worn. She looked throughout her room but she was surprised that she couldn't see Lady Strange anywhere. "Where's Lady Strange?" she asked curiously.

 

"She had other things she wanted to take care of tonight. As for your thanks, while they are welcome they are unnecessary. All we did was give you the tools. It was up to you how you used them." Falcon moved over to Elizabeth's bed and took a seat beside her. "I came to see you tonight to give you a gift and some advice. First, the gift; I couldn't help noticing that your hair is starting to get a bit long. Soon it will be as unkempt as mine is on occasion."

 

"Yes," Elizabeth sad, self consciously grabbing her hair which now reached down to her waist and running her fingers through it. "I've tried to do something about it but my hair's as impossible to cut as the rest of me."

 

"Indeed." Falcon smiled amusedly before gently manoeuvring Elizabeth over to her mirror and seating her in front of it. "I believe I can do something about that. You see this knife?" he said, handing her a plain looking blade that he had produced from somewhere. The blade seemed very sharp.

 

"I don't think that knife will do the job," Elizabeth said as she handed it back to Falcon.

 

"Au contraire, your highness," Falcon said, sweeping the knife through her hair with a swift cut. Moments later, he had trimmed her hair down to the middle of her back, a length she had been fond of before her transformation. "As you can see, this knife is rather special." He smiled widely at her.

 

"How?" Elizabeth asked open-mouthed, picking up some of the cut locks with her hand and trying to tear them. Even with her strength, she found it impossible.

 

"This knife is a magic knife. And let that be a warning to you, my Queen," Falcon said suddenly serious. "An enchanted weapon is likely to be able to harm you. Even a tiny magical dart could do more harm to you than the sharpest steel. While there are not many magic users in this world, there are enough that you shouldn't take your immunity from harm for granted. And don't spend too much time in the company of large groups of churchmen. Enough of them may be able to strip you of your abilities, at least temporarily. That's something the Maid of Orleans found out to her cost."

 

"What?" Elizabeth exclaimed, surprised at this declaration. "Joan of Arc was like me?"

 

"Oh yes. How did you think she was able to persuade the Dauphin that she could lead the defeated French armies to victory? Until she was betrayed, no mortal weapon could hurt her." Falcon took in Elizabeth's surprise at this news and began to lecture her about history, pacing back and forth before her as he did so. "You are not the first person to be given these abilities. Magic users throughout history have been endowing people with great abilities, though for some reason they seem to take better to women than men. Boudicca, Cleopatra, Joan, yourself, history has plenty of examples of remarkable women and a few men who have been given the tools you were. The elixir you drank would have had quite a different effect if you were a man though."

 

"What do you mean?" Elizabeth asked, curious now that she had began to recover from her shock.

 

"Are you familiar with the tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight?" Falcon asked. Seeing Elizabeth nod, he continued."Well, the elixir was a much improved version of the one that Morganna le Fay gave to the knight of that tale. In the years since she gave it to him, Morganna worked out how to make it do precisely what she wanted. She found that the original knight was too reluctant to do her bidding, so she changed the elixir to make the man who drinks it totally submissive to her will. Any man who drinks the elixir will become a slave to the person who made it, with the terrifying strength and near unkillabilty of the original Green Knight. When a woman drinks it, she gets at the very least much improved health and limited enhancements of speed, strength and senses, though since Morganna had qualms about taking over the mind of another woman she will remain in complete control of herself. And when she is young, in good health and has not yet given birth to a child, the woman becomes like you."

 

Falcon walked behind Elizabeth while he was speaking, so she turned to follow him. As he began to head towards the door of her room, Elizabeth asked "Why are you telling me this?"

 

Falcon paused on his way out and turned back to her. "Because it's important that you realise that becoming Queen may not be the end of your adventures. We have reason to think that there are those on the continent who know how to make the elixir and that they are assembling an army of Green Knights. Oh no, this may just be the beginning, and if it is, you need to be prepared." Falcon turned again and walked out of the door. Elizabeth got up and followed him through, but as she had expected, he had vanished as if he was never there.

 

***

 

Margaret Beaufort had had a very trying day. She had been forced to attend the coronation of her rebellious soon to be daughter-in-law, something she hadn't got the opportunity to do for her son. And as if that wasn't bad enough, she had found the opportunity to speak alone with her son and found him to be resigned to the turn of events. "We have to make the best of it, mother," he'd told her, "and at least Elizabeth doesn't seem to be planning anything vindictive. In fact, she's been more conciliatory than I would have been. Probably because she knows she has nothing to fear from a rebellion since she could put it down single handed."

 

That little bitch has got him completely brainwashed and submissive, she thought before saying aloud just as she entered her bedroom "Why did this have to happen? Everything was going perfectly."

 

"It happened because I felt it needed to happen," the haughty voice of Lady Strange said from inside her room. "Your plans were all well and good, but you and your son would not have been able to deal with what I think is coming, so my associate and I created Queen Elizabeth."

 

"Why didn't you give Henry those abilities, or me?" Margaret demanded, advancing towards Lady Strange with murder in her eyes. "If you had, my son would still be king."

 

"It wouldn't have worked the same on you and trust me, you would not have

wanted your son to have taken the elixir that made Elizabeth the woman she is today. You would have completely lost your son."

 

"So you think this is better, do you?" Margaret spat back. "Henry would have been a great king, now he's just going to be the chief administrator to a conniving bitch."

 

"You know, that is almost exactly what Elizabeth thought of you," Lady Strange said, an amused smile on her lips. "You will have to content yourself with your granddaughters inheriting Elizabeth's abilities and the throne. I'm certain that they will. If you manage to ingratiate yourself with her, I'm confident that with your skills you will be able to help mould your grandchildren as you need to. And," she said, producing a goblet full of elixir as she spoke which she offered to Margaret with her right hand while creating a ball of flame with her left, "I intend to make sure you are able to take a key role in affairs. The elixir will make you healthier and should keep you alive for longer and I will teach you enough of this magical art to let you fight Elizabeth if you must, or somebody like her which seems more likely to me."

 

Lady Strange juggled her flame from one hand to the other after Margaret accepted the goblet with some trepidation as over her years she had learned not to trust magic, but she was desperate to be able to play some role in the kingdom's affairs, which she was sure Elizabeth would be reluctant to allow her. Margaret made her decision and drained the goblet swiftly, feeling a warm glow spread throughout her body as the elixir began to take effect. "I accept your offer, but please tell me what I should call you?" Margaret said, all trace of reluctance gone from her voice.

 

"You can call me 'Mistress', Lady Strange replied, a cold smile on her face, "but if you ever need to call me to your side, just say my name and I will be with you as soon as I can."

 

"And your name is?" Margaret asked, trying to stifle a yawn.

 

"My name is Morganna. Now sleep, Margaret Beaufort. I will begin your lessons tomorrow." After saying this, Morganna le Fay waved her hand over Margaret's face, lulling her into a deep restful sleep then used her magic to convey Margaret to bed. Morganna then vanished, making plans for her return the next day.

 

End of Part 1

 


 

Coming in part 2: The Scottish invasion of the north; the kidnapping of Princess Mary and the attack of the Green Knights.

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