The days stretched into weeks as Lorelai sat upon the throne of Camelot, performing her duties as Queen with an inherent regality she hadn't realised she'd possessed. Her people came to court with minor complaints, petty squabbles and half-truths, begging for their Queen to settle them. Lorelai greeted everyone of them with the utmost politeness, giving them more respect than she often gave her advisors. Sat upon the wooden throne, Lorelai would lean forwards, her elbows resting on her knees as her people spoke. Genuine interest in their lives sparked within her, and she would settle the disputes the best she could, for the legitimate claims at least.
Those who falsified their quarrels were met with impatience and sarcasm. A couple arrived arguing over a trade deal- some chickens for a cow, but the cow would not provide any milk. The two gave vastly different accounts, and when Lorelai probed them with questions, their stories began to fall apart. The deal had never fully been made, and the men that stood before her merely wanted to observe their Queen. Lorelai had dismissed them with nothing more than a raise of an eyebrow, and they bowed their heads meekly to her, ashamed at being caught out on their ill devised plan.
Her understanding of court politics grew, but never, she felt, fast enough. Feeling constantly ill-at-ease in the court, Lorelai hated the way people would lie and cheat their way through the courts. Lords and Ladies were willing to say anything, do anything in order to gain more power. She had known court politics was a dangerous game before, but she had never realised what a blood bath it truly was. However, with every power-craving lord she met, her heart swelled with compassion for those suffering at their hands. She watched kitchen boys be bullied for no reason, handmaids slapped roughly across the face for bringing the wrong dress from vague instructions. Each time Lorelai waited for the lord in question to leave, before hurrying to the servant and checking in on them. She would ask after them later, having not forgotten the abuse directed at them. Unbeknown to the servants, Lorelai would often also renounce titles, and banish lords from her court when they mistreated her servants.
She had not, as so many rulers before her had, doled out gifts of jobs and wealth in an attempt to seem benevolent, but had rewarded those she truly thought deserved them. The blacksmith's apprentice had appreciated her kindness more than most. He was the young boy Lorelai had passed in the lower towns on her way back from Albion, away from the Cambrais. Jamie Smithson had not expected the Queen to remember him, yet only days after she had met him, Jamie received an invitation to work at the royal forge, as the blacksmith's apprentice. He certainly had not expected her to make daily visits, inspecting his work nor for her to praise him. Lorelai seemed to take a genuine interest in him, and, whilst she understood nothing of his craft, she would listen to him talk about each weapon individually.
Lorelai was returning from a visit to Jamie when she was intercepted by one of her many, many bearded advisors. The smile she greeted her advisor with was far stiffer, more false than her greeting to Jamie had been. The smile did not quite reach her eyes, but it performed its function.
"My Queen, you have presided as Queen for a number of weeks now," Began her advisor, clearing his throat before he spoke. Lorelai let her gaze drop for half a second, scanning the man's frame. He clutched a scroll in his hand, the skin atop it loose and spotted with age. His spine curved slightly, yet when he spoke, he made an effort to push his shoulder blades back, chin raised. "Perhaps, we should consider your coronation."
The word took Lorelai slightly aback. She had forgotten that she had not formally been announced as Queen, not officially crowned the monarch of Camelot. She brushed a strand of hair back off her face and faltered.
"Yes," She stumbled over her words, "Yes, of course. A coronation."
Her corset suddenly felt a bit tight, her ribs too enclosed. She was forgetting how to breathe properly, but she could not allow this advisor to see that. Lorelai forced herself to breathe normally, controlling her breaths actively and halting her hyperventilation in its path. With her heart pounding, Lorelai moved serenely over to a window, and gazed out of it, looking over the castle gardens and towards the richer part of the Upper Town. The coronation flooded her with dread, a large public spectacle. She would have to invite royalty from the four other Kingdoms. Including Cambrai. Who would expect to stay in her home.
Her advisor stood patiently next to her, hands folded over each other, the lower hand crumbling the scroll slightly beneath his fingertips.
"Might I suggest we begin planning the coronation, say, for a fortnight?" He asked, still struggling to maintain his posture. Lorelai nodded distractedly, gazing out the window for a fraction too long. When she turned back to the advisor, her fake smile had returned.
"If you believe a fortnight provides sufficient time for planning, then I am inclined to agree. I shall leave this in your capable hands, Sir Andrew," Lorelai nodded at the man, and in a sweep of her skirts, left the corridor and the castle.
The castle seemed larger now that it was hers, and hers alone. Lorelai was no longer given rooms tucked away over on the east wing, to be woken by the harsh sunlight in the summers, and frozen by the bitter winds that blew through the glass in the winters. She moved herself to the expanse of rooms in the west wing, where she could watch the sunset stain the sky hues of oranges and pinks. She had a spiralling staircase right down the hall from her suite that lead straight out into the gardens, where she could roam free amongst the knee-height hedges, and wander under the canopy of fruit trees, their delicate blossoms spilling in the wind during the springtime.
It was in these very gardens, under the branches of apple trees, laden with snow, that Lorelai faltered in her step. She had been lost in thought as she wandered around the gardens, her afternoon free to keep to herself, yet the thought of inviting the monstrous Cambrai into her own home clung to the back of her mind. Her foot found the ground awkwardly, and her leg jolted out from beneath her. Her stomach dropped through the ground suddenly, disproportionately swiftly compared to the rest of her frame. Gravity clung to her and dragged her towards the ground, inelegance and disarray clattering down around her. An arm caught her, and held her firmly, stopping herself from crashing into the ground,
"It is not often one sees royalty stumbling in an orchard," came the amused voice from above her. Lorelai combed back the hair that had fallen over her eyes back into place, and looked up at her rescuer. A small smirk lifted the corners of the young man's mouth, the amusement reaching his eyes. Lorelai straightened her back, brushing snowflakes and dirt alike from the skirts of her dress, rustling of the fabric filling the air. The young man looked at Lorelai with a curious expression, his eyes narrowing slightly, his gaze lingering slightly too long. Faint, purplish bruises seemed to be forming under his eyes, and, as Lorelai looked properly at him, she could see his face was an unhealthy pale. The man before her hadn't slept in days, but his actions as he fell into a short bow were lively.
"Well, might I know my saviour's name?" Lorelai asked, an insincere smile gracing her lips. She tried desperately to regain the regality she had lost in her fall. Her face was void of emotion, only a pleasant nothing-ness adorning her face as his fell. His mouth was tugged downwards, and his eyes seemed to grow a deeper bruise.
"Don't you remember me, Lore?"
Lorelai couldn't keep her face in check as she racked her brains, thinking of all the people she had met in her busy, fluctuating life. The realisation hit her like a sack of flour. She peered at the man, and searched for the young boy she had known as a child. With a wry smile, she finally responded.
"Definitely not. The Aylwin I know would have let me fall to the ground, and has a missing front tooth," She grinned. Aylwin bowed once more.
"My apologies, My Queen." And with that, he placed his hands firmly on her shoulders, and pushed her over.
"You've timed your arrival rather well, Aylwin," Lorelai began, as the two of them headed back towards the castle, walking side by side. Aylwin twitched an eyebrow, but did not speak. Lorelai glanced up at him once, then stared straight ahead, lifting her chin as she continued. "Someone is trying to kill me, and I hear you're rather good at discovering plots against monarchs."
Aylwin's fists clenched briefly, before he moved them behind his back, twisting his hands together, fingers pressing white spots into the backs of his hands.
"It's a skill I have learnt to acquire," He answered vaguely. Lorelai didn't shift her gaze, staring fixedly at the ground floor window, and at a poor kitchen maid who froze under the Queen's glare.
"And I hear you have an equal skill at removing these…" Lorelai searched for the words, her hand tasting the air as though it might find it floating in front of her nose. "Threats." She finished limply. Aylwin stopped walking. He grasped Lorelai's upper arm, jerking her backwards, and spinning her to look at him.
"No." He spoke flatly, a deadness lurking in the back of his eyes. "You will not ask me to do that." Lorelai stepped back half a step, and drew her head back from her old friend.
"I was not going to," She snapped, pulling her arm back. Aylwin let his hand drop to his side. "I was going to comment that Cambrai has not been kind to either of us- by trying to have me killed, and destroy your reputation. Unless there is some truth in what he is saying?" Lorelai raised an eyebrow at Aylwin. Like a scolded child, he looked at the ground and fidgeted.
"Not all of it is true," He answered quietly. Lorelai burned her gaze into his bowed head, anger bubbling inside her.
"It appears we have much to discuss, Duke," Lorelai spoke quickly, and began walking again as she continued. "However, I have matters to attend to, so it shall have to wait until after dinner. If you find Lord Duncan, he will provide you with rooms for the night." A finality hung in the air after Lorelai finished speaking, and she strode away, her footsteps echoing with the rustling of her skirts, every step like the whispers of leaves in an autumn breeze. Aylwin shivered as she left, the hairs on the back of his neck prickling upright.