A/N 01/16/07: Edited to fix the changes in tense. It should be all in past tense now, if you notice anywhere that the tense still changes please let me know.

A/N 01/22/07: Made a few more changes based on suggestions from reviews. Thank you everyone for your helpful hints.

The Lady, The Mage and The Warrior

a NaNoWriMo 2006 story

Chapter 1: Danger

Lady Gwen of Vallede awoke with a start.

The room was dark and silent, except for the steady breathing of her husband Alex who lay next to her on the bed. She glanced around willing her eyes to adjust to the darkness of the room, wondering what it was that had awoken her, and why she had an instinctual feeling that something was wrong.

As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she could see in the small trickle of moonlight coming through the window, a basic dark outline of her room. It was a simple room, the walls and floor were stone, although the floor was covered with heavy carpet, and the walls covered with thick wall hangings to help keep the room warm. There was a large fireplace on one wall, but the fire had burned down just to embers. The large bed was at the center of the room, and took up most of the floor space. Its four posts were ornately carved and stretched up to the ceiling. There was a large dresser against one wall, and a larger wardrobe against another. It would have been any typical room except for one striking trait.

Every surface in the room was covered with potted plants. There were flowers and herbs, and vines climbing the walls and snaking across the ceiling and spilling down upon the floor. There were pots covering the floor everywhere that it was not necessary to walk, and there were even pots hanging from the posts of the bed.

Gwen loved plants, and she loved being close to them. Her husband of only a few months had initially protested at having his room filled with plants. However since they served a purpose beyond just Gwen's love for them, he had eventually relented. It had only taken a little prodding from his father, Sir Edward, Lord of Vallede castle.

The plants were necessary to Gwen for she was a mage, and drew her power from plants. Naturally, as this was how all mages drew their power. A room full of plants gave her a place within the palace that she could draw enough power to perform all her necessary castings. Edward also agreed that it should be in her room because it gave her safety should anyone ever break into her and her husband's room. Besides, she had always had her room full of plants while she was growing up. It would have been unfair to ask her to give them up when she moved into her husband's room.

Edward had adopted her when she was only a few years old, after her parents had passed away. She was the daughter of lowly field workers, but Sir Edward had brought her into the castle and raised her like his own daughter. Her room in the palace had always been filled with plants, as Edward encouraged and nurtured her mage skills.

When she had moved into Alex's room, after their wedding, it was only natural that her plants come with her, along with the new ones she had received as wedding gifts.

Tonight everyone would be glad that Gwen and Alex's room was filled with plants because Gwen was realizing what it was that had awoken her. It was the plants.

It was not just their rustling leaves and petals that had awoken her, she could feel their power coursing through her body. The plants were speaking to her. At first she was afraid. It was not Gwen that had drawn the power in, like every time before. This time, the plants had pushed the power into her. The difference was subtle, but it was definitely there. This time Gwen was not in control.

She sat up in bed suddenly, the cold air hitting her naked back even as she clutched the blankets close to her chest. Her heart pounded and her breaths were short. She forced herself to calm down and struggled to get a hold on the power coursing through her. Slowly she got hold of it, and drew power into herself, forcing the uncontrolled power out.

The plants around the room continue to rustle in an odd agitated way. They seem more alive then usual.

Danger.

Gwen looked around in confusion, and down at Alex who was still sleeping peacefully. She heard the word 'danger' clearly, yet the room was silent, except for the rustling of the plants

Danger. Danger.

The words were clear and calm in contrast to their message, but the messenger was unseen. Gwen took another deep breath and focused her power on the plants in her room.

Danger.

Gwen realized that she was not hearing the word out loud, but through the power running within her. The message was from the plants in her room. They were trying to warn her of something.

She almost let go of the power, both in surprise and fear. She had always felt closeness to plants and nature, and their power is something she was intimately familiar with, but they have never initiated a connection before, or communicated with her. For a moment she wondered if she was going crazy.

Shaking her head she focused on the power running through her. She could feel the plants, their leaves, their roots, and their unrest. Then she pushed past that and felt the nature outside the castle, the grass in the courtyard, the plants in the garden, the trees in the forest, and then she sensed something wrong.

There was something out there in the forest that did not belong.

She turned to Alex and shook him awake. He groaned as he turned towards her and looked up at her sleepily.

"Alex wake up! There's an army of men in the forest, they're heading this way!"

Alex shook his head slowly, "There are no men in the forest Gwen, you must have had a bad dream," he slid his hand around her waist caressing her bare skin and pulling her gently towards him, "Come back to bed."

"You do not understand Alex, I felt them there. The trees, the plants, they know they do not belong and they warned me," she pulled his hand from her waist and shoved at his shoulder to get him to pay attention to her, "Alex we have to go warn Edward."

Her husband groaned and sat up next to her. Gwen looked at him expectantly as he reached out to brush her long blond hair over her shoulder with his fingertips, "Do not worry Gwen. If there are men out there, the guards will see them coming and warn us," he bent over and nibbled on her neck, "Come back to bed," he whispered in her ear seductively as he gently pulled her back down on the bed.

Gwen looked over her shoulder at the plants growing throughout the room and shook her head, "No, Alex," she pulled away from him. They warned me for a reason, I have to tell Edward," she slipped out of bed pulling one of the blankets with her to protect her from the chill of the room. The air froze her toes despite the heavy carpeting.

Alex sighed and flopped back on the bed angrily, "You're crazy Gwen. The plants do not talk to you, they cannot warn you. You use them for their power, I understand that, but they do not think. You just had a bad dream, now come back to bed before you catch a chill."

Ignoring him, Gwen crossed the room to the wardrobe and pulled it open, "I do not understand it either, but I cannot ignore that they are warning me, and when I drew on their power I could sense the disturbance in the forest. There are men there, I know it, and Edward will thank me for warning him," she pulled her winter dressing gown from the wardrobe and wrapped it around her body tightly as she let the blanket drop to the floor at her feet. She bent down and pulled a pair of fur-lined slippers from the bottom of the wardrobe and slipped them onto her feet.

She turned back to Alex but he had rolled over and his back was to her. She shook her head in confusion. She did not understand how he could be so different from his father. Edward was always interested in her magic and encouraging her to try new things, but Alex only ever seemed resentful of it and made it seem like everything she did was a huge inconvenience to him.

Gwen had known Alex for almost her whole life, Alex was Edward's biological son, and Edward had adopted her when she was too young to remember, but she felt like she hardly knew him. He was ten years older then she, so they had never been close growing up, and just as Gwen had been reaching maturity he had left to travel the kingdom for four years. They had been married as soon as he returned, as Edward had always planned. When he returned he was little more then a stranger, and three months of marriage had done little to change that.

He was not cold to her, but he paid her little attention. The only time he showed her any emotion was while they made love, but even then, Gwen suspected it had little to do with her, she might be any woman to him, it mattered little that she was his wife.

Perhaps if she were right about the men approaching the castle, perhaps if her magic actually saved them from an attack, Alex might come to respect her power, and to respect her. She hurried across the room and out the door, taking care to close it quietly behind her.