© Connard Wellingham 2004
Author's Note: this was one of the first stories I wrote. Over the intervening years the second half became lost. The original was intended to be a simple fuck story but the re-write seems to have taken an unexpected direction and it has turned into a M-F romance.
"You will wait here," ordered the stern-faced woman. Without waiting for a reply, she disappeared through a large double door.
Left to himself for the first time since this whole incredible adventure had begun, the young man began to have serious doubts.
'You fool," he said to himself. 'What have you let yourself in for? I knew your recklessness was going to get you into trouble one day and I shouldn't wonder that that day has arrived.'
Still, a summons to the palace was hardly an invitation one could decline, especially when the princess's name itself had been mentioned. But why him? Despite his most assiduous attempts at charm, normally most successful, the woman who had come for him had ventured no information. Indeed, she had not spoken other than to issue commands in a curt monotone. She had met him and led him through the labyrinthine corridors of the palace; a back route to judge by the dim lighting and general air of neglect. She had insisted that he was bathed, shaved, perfumed and dressed in these strange and uncomfortable clothes. In fact she had stood by and supervised the whole ignominious process, assisted by an equally poker-faced ancient. And now she had left him to wait in this vast, cold and over-decorated room - for what?
A sudden noise made him start. The woman had returned.
"Come." She ushered him through the doors and down a short corridor. At the end she knocked, paused, then entered, signalling him to follow.
They entered a comfortable sitting room where a log fire burned merrily under a large, carved mantel. Before the fire stood two girls in low-cut, satin dresses bedecked with ribbons and lace. In the latest court fashion the dresses were pulled in tight at the waist and flared out into wide skirts. Silently the woman turned and left, closing the door softly behind her.
For a moment he just stood, gawping. The contrast between the cold, cavernous rooms he had seen up to no and this cosy room was too much to take in. Then, almost as if he had just become aware of them, he faced the girls and made a sweeping bow... these were girls and girls were something he understood. The smaller one stifled a giggle.
"So you're the young man? Come closer into the light. We will not bite," said the other. "Be still Evelyn," she addressed her companion who was stifling another giggle.
As he stepped forward, he saw that the girls were both young and exceptionally pretty, rejoicing in the first flush of womanhood, as the poet has it. He noticed that the dresses, despite the abundance of frills and flounces, were designed to emphasise the nubile bodies they covered; to proffer half-concealed, ripening breasts for eager admiration, to draw the eye to the narrowness of waists and the inviting flare of feminine hips. Sweet, red lips and bold, sparkling eyes gave promise of willing complicity in the pursuit of Eros to one bold enough to seize the opportunity. Slightly more sure of himself, the young man gave his most charming smile and was rewarded by a fleeting response from the younger, blonde girl. Both frankly appraised his trim, masculine figure, now shown to advantage by the loose shirt and tight breeches of his adopted finery.
"Well, you are certainly pretty enough," said the elder. "What is your name?"
"Jem, gracious lady." he responded, bowing again.
"Jem... an apt name, I think. Do you know why you are here?"
"No, gracious lady."
"I am the Lady Sarah and this is the Lady Evelyn. We are the close companions of her Royal Highness Princess Aidana. In a few minutes you are going to be admitted to Her Highness' presence and asked to perform a certain task. In this task you must not fail or the consequences will be severe. However, unless you reputation is entirely without foundation, you need have no fear. Do you understand?"
Jem did not but nodded anyway as it was obviously the response the Lady Sarah expected. His mind, however, was awhirl. His reputation? What task could his reputation possibly suggest as being worthy of royal service? And besides... his reputation for what? He was neither clerk nor scholar. His fighting prowess, while adequate for youthful scraps, hardly qualified him as a warrior. He was neither diligent nor dexterous enough to be a craftsman and he was hardly schooled in the niceties of court etiquette. In short, he had done nothing in his relatively short life to warrant the attentions of the Princess Alexia. Unless... No! Impossible! Still... there were rumours about the Princess and her husband. But there were always rumours - tavern scuttlebutt fanned by too much beer and natural envy of unsuccessful mostly. No. It could not be.
He suddenly became aware that the dark girl, Sarah, was standing by a door, not the one by which he had entered, and was waiting for him. She regarded him with serious eyes.
"Remember. Do not speak unless you are spoken to. Keep you eyes lowered until instructed and always address the Princess as 'Your Highness'. You are being given a privilege not granted to many." Her expression softened and she smiled encouragingly and touched his arm briefly. "Good luck, young man."
She knocked on the door and, without waiting for a reply, opened the door. She pushed Jem in front of her into through the doorway. He managed to register the fact that he was in the royal bedchamber and that the Princess was reclining on a huge four-poster bed before the girl curtsied and said, "Here is the young man, Your Highness," and he was forced to perform another sweeping bow. By the time he had straightened, remembering to keep his eyes lowered, the girl had withdrawn, leaving him apparently alone with the Princess.
His heart was thudding and his mouth was very dry. His knees were trembling so much he could barely stand and his only coherent thought was that he ardently desired to be somewhere far away from here. There was along, tense silence and he knew that he was being minutely examined.
"You may step closer," a languid, husky voice informed him.
With great reluctance, he forced his legs to carry him towards the voice. He risked a quick glance at the bed and then immediately regretted it. He had seen the Princess but once, from afar, on her wedding day as she paraded through the streets to the cheering of the populace, so he was unprepared for the reality of her presence. She was beautiful... more beautiful than any woman he had ever seen before. So beautiful it took his breath away and he almost stumbled. He stopped at the foot of the bed, eyes still downcast.
"Closer." He moved round the side of the bed. "You may look at me."
He raised his eyes and was trapped by the gaze of the princess. She reclined in a pile of cushions, clad only in a simple white silk gown that moulded itself subtly to her contours. Her auburn hair, unbound, cascaded over smooth ivory shoulders and framed her heart-shaped face.
"What is your name?"
"Jem, your highness," he stammered. He was about to bow again but her hand stopped him.
"No. Do not keep bowing or we shall never get anywhere. Do you know why you are here?"
"Not exactly, your highness. You companions said something about a service - and my reputation."
"Your reputation. Yes. Do you have a girl?"
He was taken aback by the sudden question.
"A girl. A young woman. Are you courting?" the princess demanded impatiently.
"No, you highness. At least, no-one special. I'm too young to settle down."
The princess smiled, "Yes, and too fond of your freedom, too, I think. You are popular with the girls."
Jem was not sure if this was a question or a statement. "So I've been told, your highness."
"And you've had many girls?"
"Some few, your highness."
"So you are an experience lover then, despite your youthful appearance?"
Jem drew a small sharp breath as a hint of where this conversation might be leading dawned on him although he hardly dared to contemplate it.
"I like to think so, your highness. I've had no complaints." He replied a trifle more boldly.
"Do you think I'm desirable?"
He felt a flush suffuse his features and had to swallow several times before he could speak. "Desirable, your highness?"
"Yes, desirable." There was a touch of asperity in her voice.
Jem forced himself to look at her again, this time as a woman, not a princess. He saw her in the full flush of womanhood, perhaps a little more full bodied than he cared for but... He took in the auburn hair, the unblemished skin on her bare arms, the satin cushions, the silk sheets.
"Your highness is the most desirable woman I have ever seen," he blurted.
"Good. Now as to why you are here. It is not common knowledge but my marriage to the prince owes more to politics than to heaven. The prince is an ambitious man and does not, how shall I say it... place as much emphasis on the conjugal side of our marriage as I desire. I must, therefore, make up for that lack elsewhere. Are you following me?"
Jem was not following this circuitous explanation at all but had no wish to admit it. "Yes, your highness."
.... There is more of this story ...