Chapter 2 : Fit For Battle
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great ci by KatDaniels here at HPFF - you should read her stuff
Chapter 2. Fit For Battle
Princess Gabriella was pacing floor, biting her thumb nail.
"You'll ruin your nails like that, Your Ma-"
"Be quiet, Sarah," she hissed at her servant, casting her a green glare at the plain girl.
"My apologies, Highne-"
"Did I not tell you to be quiet?!" Gabriella said with an angry sneer, quickening her frantic steps. She felt as though the very walls of her chambers were closing in on her, and had a difficult time drawing breath.
The noises from outside her window were causing her hands to tremble. But she didn't dare peek between the heavy drapes in order to see what she knew was the cause of the racket. She knew the sounds well - too well.
People were arriving from across the land in order to attend her father - the King's - grand ball.
If she were to cast a glance out the window, she would have seen Dutchesses, Dukes, Lords and Ladies in their finest attire stepping out of their carriages and into the castle.
And two of those people would be Lord Marbury and his nephew.
A loud knock on her door made Gabriella's head snap up, and her posture changed to one resembling a soldier fit for battle.
Sarah scurried off to answer the door, and on the other side a guard stood with his head bowed.
"Pardon me, Your Majesty, but the King requests your immediate arrival," he said in a clear voice, but with a trail of nervousness tainting it.
With a deep inhale, Gabriella straightened her shoulders, took one last look in the mirror and proceeded to follow the guard as he guided her out of the room and into the cold corridor.
The hairs on her arms were standing up, reacting to the damp chill of the castle, and she began rubbing the bare skin of her arms to keep warm.
They were walking in silence. The soft sound of her purple dress swishing around her ankles was the only noise breaking the stillness. Their steps seemed to ricochet off the rough stone walls, matching the beat of her heart.
More guards joined them as they neared the many staircases, three in front of her and four following in her shadow as they descended. Sounds arose from down at the Great Hall, feeding Gabriella's inner turmoil, and giving her beautiful features a grave look.
"Her Highness, Princess Gabriella!" cried the man at the entrance of the Great Hall when she entered. His loud, booming voice causing all the guests to turn silent and proceed to stare at Gabriella as she stepped into the vast ballroom.
Her heart was thumping hard within her daringly exposed chest, and she curled her hands into tiny fists as she calmly walked over to the throne where her father was seated. Their eyes met, and she swore she could see the soul of a demon lurking behind the cold exterior.
"My dear," he said just loud enough for people to hear, but she knew it was all a show for his audience. The King stood up to take her hand and guided her onto her own throne, the one beside his. She had to concentrate in order to not shudder as their hands touched, and all she wanted to do was rip herself from his grasp.
Instead, she gave a seemingly grateful nod, and a quick smile to assure the public that she was, in fact, the loving daughter of the King.
Nothing could be further from the truth, but the Princess was nothing if not a great performer. Though she had her serious doubts about being able to be quite as calm when she stood face to face with Lord Marbury. The image of her greeting another one of the snivelling, black-eyed wolves he called nephews caused her to gag, but she covered it with a yawn.
The King sat down on the throne next to hers and she subconcsiously leaned away from him. Nobody noticed, but the King - who knew how his daughter loathed him - turned to her with dead eyes.
"Behave," he sneered in a voice so low that even she had trouble deciphering the terrifying sound. He then proceeded to look her up and down with disapprovement. "You look like a harlot."
"I aim to please," Gabriella retorted without humor in her green eyes, loving the thought of how her dress had irked her father. She gave the public a sly smile, teasing them with her emerald eyes.
"Your Majesty," a man clothed in black whispered into the King's ear, appearing out of nowhere and apparently invisible to anyone but Gabriella and her father. "They've arrived."
The King turned to Gabriella, his snakelike lips curling into a devious grin. Without taking his eyes off his daughter he whispered back, "Excellent. Show them in."
Gabriella's heart came to an abrupt halt. She whipped her head up and fixed her eyes on a particular piece of tinted glass in the massive window to her right. The skin on the side of her face burned with the intensity of her father's continuous stare and she knew he was studying her face for signs of defiance or jolts of rebellion.
Oh, how she wanted to rebel against this torture.
Very abruptly Gabriella was tugged out of her forced sense of calm by the King jabbing his elbow quickly into her ribs. A light gasp escaped her and she wished her father's wide sleeves wouldn't have hidden the violent movement, then people would have caught a glimpse of their real king.
Emerald eyes met with an identical pair of emerald, and the King gave his daughter a stiff glare to silently tell her to focus.
Gabriella then followed her father's eyes and her glance fell upon a tall, gray haired snake of a man bowing his head to her and her father. She hadn't even heard the booming introduction from the man by the entrance, that's how distressed she was feeling.
For several moments all she could see was him, her personal devil, Lord Marbury. Her insides tied into a tight knot just by the looks of him.
"Lord Marbury," the King greeted and waved his hand lazily to indicate that his accomplice could dispence with the formal bow.
"Your Majesty," Lord Marbury answered and gave a nod, and then turned to Gabriella before grinning like the devil he was. "Princess Gabriella," he said in his low and intimidating voice, "you're looking as mesmerizing as ever."
"Lord Marbury," Gabriella managed to respond and gave a short smile of thanks. She would rather have eaten a handful of gravel.
"May I introduce my nephew," Lord Marbury said and gestured to his side, "Godric Gryffindor."
It wasn't until then that Princess Gabriella noticed the tense silence in the vast ballroom, and she knew the reason why.
Her bright green eyes widened as she feast them on the tall, golden haired man now giving a short nod to the King and herself.
He was just as they had described him; broad shoulders, ocean-blue irises that lit up his otherwise tan face, an enchanting and effortless air surrounding him. But she found herself surprised with regards to his young age. Older than the Princess, surely, but only by three or four years.
"Your Majesties," he said and flashed the two royalties a smile. "I am honored to finally meet his Higness. I must admit that I've heard my uncle speaking fondly of you on more than one occation."
The King chuckled and exchanged smirks with Lord Marbury.
"It is my pleasure, young man," the King responded. "My daughter and I have been looking forward to your arrival."
"I thank you, sire. The trip was most opportune as I was planning to venture to these woods in the nearby future," Godric explained with the smile still intact. "And I must say I was more than a bit curious about the Princess."
His eyes found Gabriella's and her heart reacted by thumping within her chest. The playful smile of his turned into something Gabriella couldn't put her finger on, but it wasn't unsettling - not like the other nephews' smiles had unnerved her, that was certain.
"Pardon me, Your Highness," he told her directly, eyes twinkling, "but allow me say that the rumors of your beauty does not do you justice."
Gabriella swallowed. She was suddenly very much aware of her hands - how her sweaty fingers were fidgeting, fiddling frantically with the small golden ring on her middle finger - and of how deadly quiet the rest of the room was.
A quick - and unnoticed - jab of the King's elbow to her arm brought her racing mind back to its usual pace.
"Why, Master Gryffindor," she responded with a cold expression, a humourless smile on her red lips, "I think you're trying to put one of your spells on me."
All around the Great Hall the guests gave small chuckles of relief, knowing well the Princess' heated temper. Even Lord Marbury let out a short laugh.
As if by magic, the room began to fill with sounds of mindless chatter and the occational loud hiccup from one of the drunken dukes. Music had taken place in the background, and guests were forming into two lines in order to dance.
Master Gryffindor and his uncle had sat down on a pair of chairs that had been put out especially for them, but†the golden haired man had still not taken his eyes away from the Princess. And she hated to admit that the curious, and not hungry, look in them made her squirm in her seat.
The man in black appeared out of thin air again, and leaned over to the King.†
"Dinner is ready, Your Highness," he whispered. Her father then got to his feet and raised his hands in the air to get his guests' attention.
But the Kings's mere movement wasn't enough to break through to the talkative, and dancing crowd.
The annoyed royal, who wasn't used to this sign of rudeness, was just about to raise his voice to the crowd, but all of a sudden sparks flew up in the air and then exploded in an array of colours.
The silence and awe was almost tangible. Eyes and heads immediately found the front of the throne where Master Gryffindor was standing with his wand raised in the air.
The Princess had never before had the opportunity to see a wand being used this way before. With such force, on such a large scale. Her tutor, Master Salazar, was a wizard as well, but he only used his powers to write on the chalk board from across the room. And no number of hours spent begging him to show her a bit of magic had made the man indulge her. He always laughed at her pout when his continued refusals had irked her, and then slipped her something sweet - even though he wasn't allowed.
For several ever lasting moments there were no sounds in the room. The King was still standing with his hands raised in the air, but luckily found his voice again after dragging his eyes away from the man with the wand.
"Dear guests, let us now retreat to the other side of the Great Hall, where dinner is to be served shortly," he called out with a smile, pointing to the long mahogony table to his side.
Gabriella got to her feet, but never did she remove her eyes from the golden haired man, even though he by then had put the wand back inside his red robes.
The Princess felt her father's extended arm brush against her hand, and she reluctantly let him lead her down the few steps that separated the royalties from the commoners. A servant pulled out her and her father's chair when they neared the high end of the table, and she noted that Master Gryffindor was seated opposite her. Candlelight flickered and gave his hair a very close resemblance to pure gold.
Not long after, tens of servants appeared and flit about calmly to serve the guests drink and the first of many courses.
All the while picking at her food and consuming much more wine than what was appropriate, Gabriella's gaze kept going back to the only wizard in attendance. Even though she wanted more than anything to hate him with the same scorching passion as all the other nephews - her previous suiters - her efforts to do so were fruitless.†
In that same moment, as if knowing that he was the object of her attention, Master Godric suddenly snapped his head up and met her eyes. The moment where emeralds met sapphires didn't last very long, but it was sufficient enough to confuse Gabriella more than ever before.
He didn't stare at her like all the others, he just looked. Not licking his mouth like a satisfied dog with a bone when he did so, but instead furrowed his brows in curiosity and deep thought.
Most of the others, she'd concluded, didn't even have any thougths worth mentioning. If they did have any, however, then she doubted that they would make for an appropriate dinner conversation.
She stole another glance at Master Godric's figure in the light of the burning candles, and realised that for once she was the one to stare. Something that made her interest for this mysterious man increase yet again.
"..or what do you think, Princess Gabriella?"
"Pardon?" Gabriella only now realised that Master Godric had been speaking to her.
"Oh, I am afraid our dinner conversation is boring our fair Princess," Lord Marbury said in a mocking tone. "Besides, I strongly doubt the matter at hand will prove interesting to a woman. Even one as bright as Her Highness."
Gabriella sent the Lord a scolding glare.
"I am curious, Lord Marbury, as to which subject might only be understood†and appreciated by the roughness of men and not by the brightness of a woman," Gabriella inquired and put a strawberry in her mouth. "So please, Master Gryffindor, repeat your question. I was too deep in thought to have heard you the first time."
Master Godric smiled, but caught the look on his King's face and then quickly tried to hide it by taking a sip from his gilded goblet.
"The King, my uncle and I were discussing the new wizarding sport that's been sweeping the nation. Maybe the Princess has heard about it?"
Gabriella's eyes narrowed. "I am afraid my knowledge on what amuses my father's kingdom is dreadfully low. But do not confuse this with a lack of curiosity," she told him and gave Master Godric the full force of her green eyes, "so I beg of you to tell me."
"It is called Quidditch," Master Godric began before taking a long breath. "Matches are played between two teams of seven players, both witches and wizards. Using four balls and six elevated ring-shaped goals, three on each side of a Quidditch pitch - which resembles a field - and the players ride on broomsticks."
"Broomsticks?" It was a word the Princess had never heard.
Her lack of knowledge didn't cause him to smile mockingly at her, as his uncle surely would have done.
"It is a device one uses to clean. There's a long wooden handle and a bushel of twigs tied to the end."
"And how does one play a sport with cleaning utencils?"
Master Gryffindor grinned excitedly, as if he'd been waiting all his life to answer this question.
"Well, my fair Princess, one makes them fly."
"That's correct, dear daughter," the King said with an impatient sigh, "witches and wizards can ride these broomsticks in the air."
His tone was tinted by the tone one would use to explain things to a small minded child. Gabriella glared at him from the corner of her eye.
"I was asking the King on his views on the ever growing popularity of the sport, and if he'd be interested in attending, or even hosting, such a match," Master Gryffindor told her, and unlike her father he spoke in a natural voice, genuinely interested in making conversation with her.
The idea of seeing a flying broomstick with her own eyes made her eyes widen, and she turned to her father.
"Oh, wouldn't that be fantastic, father?" she plead. "We could do it on the Castle Grounds down by the-"
"My daughter's bright," he cast Gabriella an undermining look, "mind is ruled by an even stronger sense of emotion. You know how these women are, gentlemen, they are easily distracted by new ideas and pretty things."
"Ah, yes, milord," Lord Marbury agreed. "But alas, they are pretty creatures, and which man needs a bright conversationalist when he beholds such beauty."
"Hear, hear!" the King cried and lifted his goblet to salute the snakelike man's words.
Gabriella and Master Gryffindor both stared down at the table.
"Pardon me, gentlemen, but I need to excuse myself," Gabriella mumbled. She should be furious, she should be spitting fire at both these men who made her feel like nothing but a gilded object one could purchase whenever, she should make a scene... But she was tired. Too many times had her father and his minions given her grief, and too many times had her tongue lashed out words that stung every man in attendance. But she had tasted the fierce pain of leather against her round, scarred behind too many often after doing so.
Tonight, all she wanted to do was go to her bedchamber without the knowledge that her father would barge in later with a leather belt and hear it cut through the air like a whip before it met her skin.
With eyes averted, she stood up. And to her surprise, another man did the same.
"Master Gryffindor?" the King said, slightly puzzled. "Anything the matter, good man?"
"No, Your Majesty," Master Gryffindor answered, but his eyes were on the Princess. "I was just wondering if the Princess would allow me to escort her to her bedchamber? I'm feeling rather tired after today's journey, and wish to get to my own." He turned fully to Gabriella now, speaking solely to her. "Would you do me the favour of letting me walk with you?"
All Gabriella did was nod. So he was like the others! The man had merely waited for the right moment to get her alone like the other wolves, and this was the perfect opportunity to pounce on her.
Well, the man had another thing coming if he thought she'd let him devour her like the other's had many times tried to do.
The Princess knew exactly where she would swing her foot to make any man crumple to the floor in pain.†This man was no exception. She didn't care that he was one of the most talented and brave wizards that had ever walked the earth, or that stories of how he and his sword had won the war raging between wizards and humans. †She didn't care if he was on her side in said war.
If he took advantage of her or her deep cleavage, he would share the same fate of his cousins.
Master Gryffindor extended his arm and bowed slightly. Gabriella took his hand and bade her father and Lord Marbury goodnight before leaving the Great Hall.
They walked in a comfortable silence for a moment.
"Where to, Princess?"
Gabriella nodded to the stairs, and the second they began ascending the many staircases, guards swarmed to accompany †her.
"Pardon, gentlemen, but the King gave me the sole responsibility of escorting the Princess back to her bedchamber," Master Gryffindor told them, to which they all looked thoroughly dumbfounded. With confused bows, they retreated to their stations.
"So, have I come under your protection, Master Gryffindor?" she inquired in a teasing voice with a hint or annoyance.
"Is the Princess in need of protection?"
"Then you have your answer, milady," he answered smoothly, giving her a teasing smile in return.
And in that moment Gabriella fully realised that for once in her life, she walked practically alone up the many staircases to her chambers.
"You're grinning," Master Gryffindor noted. "You should do it more often, if you don't mind my saying so."
Gabriella turned her smile at him, having almost forgotten for a moment that he was at her side.
"Yes," she touched her face with her other hand, "I suppose I am."
After another few minutes of silence, they reached the floor of her destination. The Princess stopped in front of the cold hallway.
"I-I can take it from here," she stuttered, and wished her voice would sound more convincing than it did.
"Don't the guards usually escort you all the way?"
Gabriella shifted her weight from one foot to another. "Yes," she whispered with a sigh.
Master Gryffindor studied her for a moment, and her cheeks flooded with colour. This man made her nervous in a way the others hadn't. Like he could see right through her. The Princess' usual quick remarks and cold eyes wouldn't have worked on him - she knew as much from the honest aura surrounding him - so she didn't even try.
"Lucky I'm not your guard then," he said suddenly, and she looked up to find his blue eyes gleaming. He untagled her arm from his, and released it after shaking her hand like they were men of equal stature. "Would you know in which direction I'll find my accommodations?"
"Second floor, at the end of the hall," she answered, baffled.
"Then I bid you good night, Princess," he said with a smile and didn't even wait for her to respond before turning his heel in a spin and vanishing on the spot.
"M-Master Gryffindor?" Gabriella called out toward the stairs, whipping her head from one side to another for any sign of him.
After calling his name another time, she concluded that his vanishment was another act of magic.
And with the sense of total control and independence, she danced all the way to her bedchamber.
But she couldn't seem to shake the nagging feeling in the pit of her stomach that this was too good to be true, that there was a bigger scheme lurking in the background. Though she pushed it away the best she could, and instead pictured Sarah's expression when she arrived all on her own.
Sorry for not updating in forever, but Otherwise Engaged and Expecting Otherwise has taken up a lot of my time.
What did you think of this chapter? And how do you find Godric?
Thanks for reading!
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