Public service announcement: this story is a gay romance.
Which you should/could have infered from the 'slash' warning in the summary. If you didn't, well, now you know.

Chapter One


A long time ago there was a king who had six daughters, but no sons.

Long before that there was a king with six sons, but no daughters.

Some time after that there was another king with six sons, who also had no daughter, but who wanted one very badly.

And that is where our story began.


"Princess Windra?"

The princess in question glanced up from her weaving.

The maid at the door curtsied. "The king is awake, my lady. Awake and asking for you."

"Thank you," Windra said quietly as she set aside her weaving tools and extracted herself from the loom. Her father had been sick for months now, and he had not been expected to recover from the latest bout of fever, despite what all but one of the doctors said. But he was awake now, and lucid enough to call for her at least.

Sighing quietly to herself, Windra swept through the halls of the castle towards her father's chambers, the trail of her brown dress stirring the dust as she passed.

She slowed as she reached the passage in front of her father's door, turning up her nose slightly as she saw who was waiting for her there.

"Princess Windra," Cousin Laruk said, inclining his head slightly as he saw her. "I heard the good news about your father."

"The good news?" she asked. "I have not yet heard that he is dead." Laruk stood to inherit upon his death, and Windra, for one, could not think of another tidbit of information about the king that Laruk would think of as 'good.'

He gave a half-smile that was more sneer than anything. "I referred, of course, to your father's continued life and renewed lucidity."

"Ah yes," Windra said, "Then you must have heard that my father wanted to speak with me," she put a subtle stress on the last word. "So perhaps you could enlighten me as to why you are here?"

He bowed slightly. "I wish only to help you through these troubled times," Laruk said. "I would not want people to say that I was unsupportive of my queen in her time of need."

"I will not be queen," Windra said, before pushing past him to her father's door. The only way she would be queen is if she married Laruk. Thankfully, with her father so ill, she could not be married to Laruk without her consent- something that she would never, ever, give. Not to him.

Making sure to push the door fully closed behind her, Windra made her way through the crowed room. She would never understand why one doctor needed a second doctor, why two doctors needed three more doctors, or why five doctors each needed three helpers, let alone why all those hundreds of people constantly needed to surround her father, stifling the air and filling it with the sharp scent of medicine.

The whispers died down as she approached the bed where her father lay, some of the doctors stepping back to give them space.

"Windra?" her father's voice was soft and hesitant, a sad thing to the girl who still remembered him loud enough to be heard clear across the hall even at the height of revelry.

"I am here, father," she said back, reaching out to take his hand.

"Don't marry your cousin," he rasped out.

"Thank you, father, but I figured that one out on my own."

The king made strange panting noise, and it took Windra a moment to realize that he was laughing. "You were always a clever girl," he said after a moment. "If I tell you that if you do not marry your cousin, he cannot be king, what will you say?"

"I would say that you have forgotten the laws of inheritance in your sickness, father," Windra responded. "He is your closest male relative, he will inherit with or without me as his bride."

"No," her father gasped before breaking into a fit of pitiful coughing. A doctor handed Windra a glass of water, which she in turn helped her father to drink. "Your brothers inherit before him."

"Brothers?" she asked. As far as Windra knew, she was the only child of the king. Her mother had been his second wife, that was true, but she had always assumed that the first marriage had been childless, and had never heard otherwise.

"Yes," the king said, his eyes distant. "Six of them, every one clever and strong. I had everything a man could ever want in a son six times over, but I wanted a daughter. As your mother was in labor, I foolishly wished that I had one daughter instead of all my sons." He paused for a moment to catch his breath. "Someone heard my wish, and when you were born, pink and screaming, your brothers vanished." He paused, breathing heavily.

"Father?" Windra asked softly after he had been silent for a long time.

"You need to go and find your brothers," he finally said. "Free them of their curse and bring them home. Laruk should not be king."

"Father!" Windra protested, "I cannot leave you when you are so close to death."

The king tugged on her hand, and Windra leaned forward until her ear was nearly touching his lips. "Doctor Lemone has given me a secret," he whispered. "I will live until you, and your brothers, return. But I will be in pain, so hurry back."

"I will, father," Windra said, leaning forward to kiss him on the forehead. "I love you."

"I love you, too, my beautiful daughter," he rasped, giving her the ghost of a smile.

Laruk was waiting for her when she exited the room. "Well, princess? What words of wisdom did our lord have for you?"

"He told me not to marry you," Windra said, tipping her nose into the air so she could look down at him.

"Oh?" Laruk hid his surprise and disappointment well. "And why did he tell you that?"

She sneered. "Ask whichever doctor is in your pay. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a journey I must prepare for." She swept past him and down the hall, already planning what she would need to pack for her search.