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A sleeping beauty. A kingdom frozen in time. Only one can save them all. Once upon a time... Lord Siward intended to go hunting, but when he stumbles upon a ruined castle and accidentally wakes the mysterious maiden sleeping inside, he knows his holiday is over. With the kingdom in trouble, Siward should be protecting the realm, but every time Rosamond looks at him, he gets lost in the girl's green eyes. Who is the mysterious beauty, and why does he feel she holds the key to the kingdom's deliverance?
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About the Author
Sleeping Beauty Retold
A tale in the Romance a Medieval Fairy Tale series
A sleeping beauty. A kingdom frozen in time. Only one can save them all.
Once upon a time...
Lord Siward intended to go hunting, but when he stumbles upon a ruined castle and accidentally wakes the mysterious maiden sleeping inside, he knows his holiday is over.
With the kingdom in trouble, Siward should be protecting the realm, but every time Rosamond looks at him, he gets lost in the girl's green eyes. Who is the mysterious beauty, and why does he feel she holds the key to the kingdom's deliverance?
For every one who's ever envied Sleeping Beauty a good night's sleep.
New parents, insomniacs, and all the awesome readers who can't put the book down until they know if it ends in happily-ever-after. Because skipping to the end would be cheating, right?
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2016 Demelza Carlton
Lost Plot Press
All rights reserved.
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In King Erik's crowded cathedral, where countless courtiers jostled each other for a glimpse of their radiant new queen, Lady Margareta of Beacon Isle, Princess Rosamond stood alone.
Or as alone as a girl could be with some lady's elbow in her midsection and yet another baron's cape trying to sweep her veil from her head for the dozenth time that day. Rosamond wished she could have worn her hair uncovered, like Queen Margareta did, restrained only by a crown of roses.
Rosamond longed to be back outside in her own garden at home, far from this foreign kingdom, but her father, King Almos, insisted that a girl her age was old enough to be betrothed, so here she was, an unwilling guest at someone else's wedding, while she wore the gowns and veils her mother had insisted upon in order to tempt some royal younger son to ask for Rosamond's hand in marriage.
Contrary to her father's wishes, Rosamond intended to keep her hands to herself for some time yet. If she could only...
The herald bellowed something about presenting their respects to the new king and queen. Rosamond found herself swept along in a wave of silk-clad humanity as the courtiers hurried to kiss the king's arse. Well, officially his hand, but if he'd turned around and presented his backside, they wouldn't have hesitated.
After what felt like forever, finally the herald announced, "Her Royal Highness, Crown Princess Rosamond, daughter and heir of King Almos..."
Rosamond didn't wait for him to finish listing her father's various titles. Instead, she strode forward and bobbed a curtsey to the king and queen as two guardsmen brought forward her coronation gift for the couple – a pair of pink rosebushes that matched the shade of Rosamond's dress perfectly.
Behind her, she heard the hiss of malicious whispers from men who'd bowed so low their hats fell off and ladies who might as well have dropped to their knees when they'd curtsied. Rosamond lifted her head high, trying to ignore them.
To her surprise, both King Erik and Queen Margareta rose to offer Rosamond similar courtesies. As the queen straightened, she held out her hand to Rosamond, asking the girl to sit beside her.
Anything to get her out of the crush of bodies. Rosamond took the chair beside the queen happily.
"Where did you manage to grow such a delicate shade of pink?" Queen Margareta asked her. "I had an extensive rose garden in the house where I grew up, but all our roses were white." She paused to nod in acknowledgement to some courtier and his family who prostrated themselves face-down before the throne.
Rosamond tried not to laugh. "I am gifted with plants," she replied with no small amount of pride. "When I was born, my fairy godmothers blessed me with two talents – that of healing, and an affinity with plants. When my father heard of your wedding and coronation, he insisted that I bring you two of my finest roses as gifts. So here I am, and so are they."
"But how do you make them that colour pink?" Margareta asked.
"I asked them to make flowers the colour of my newest gown, so that I might wear them in my hair," Rosamond admitted. Her father's kingdom was not as rich as that of King Erik, which was richer still with the addition of Margareta's dowry of Beacon Isle, so Rosamond had fewer jewels than most of the courtiers present that day.
"So you are saying it is magic? That you can speak to plants, and they do your bidding?" Margareta said, looking intrigued. She removed her flower crown. "Here. Can you make these pink to match your gown, too?"
Rosamond took the wreath in her hands. The roses were wilting in the hot hall, poor things.
She had never tried to change the colour of cut roses, only those still attached to the bush, but she could not refuse the queen's request without at least attempting to fulfil it. Rosamond concentrated on the flowers, feeling the drying sap flow sluggishly through the stems as they valiantly tried to survive just a little longer.
There was no plant to talk to in the dying circlet. Sighing, Rosamond pricked her thumb on a thorn and sent a wave of healing into the twined flowers. The limp stems she touched stiffened once more, as waterfalls of wilting petals turned into perfect double crowns. Within moments, the queen's coronet looked as fresh as if had just been picked from the bush, ready formed, but they were no pinker than before. These were as white as the moon.
"Oh, you have made them so beautiful!" Queen Margareta exclaimed in delight. "But I would so love them to be pink."
Swaying in her seat, Rosamond concentrated harder on the flowers. Now they were healed, they should do her bidding. They should...blush, just as the queen commanded. Blush as prettily as a maid surprised as she bathed. So they would be pink as...as...
Rosamond fainted before she could finish that thought.
"Mistress, you must wake and eat something," Rosamond's maid urged.
Rosamond's head hurt, as it always did after she'd tried to perform magic. What sort of witch swooned whenever she cast a spell? One who shouldn't perform magic at all, her mother's voice echoed in her head. A princess, and a future queen, should be practicing protocol and learning all the arts of a highborn lady so that she could be an example to her subjects.
As this apparently didn't include spending long hours in the castle gardens, Rosamond had ignored her mother as much as possible. What was the point of being a queen if you couldn't do what you liked once in a while? After all, it was the king who ruled. Queens were just...for decoration, and doing whatever it was women did to get children. Oh, she knew it involved men and clothing was not required, but no one had been willing to tell her all the details. Her mother had promised to tell her everything on the night before her wedding.
Wedding. Ugh. Rosamond didn't fancy a single one of the noblemen she'd met at King Erik's court, and she fervently hoped the feeling was mutual. She'd be happy in her ignorance until the right man came to his senses and asked for her hand.
Just thinking about men made her head hurt all the more.
"Bring me willow bark tea first," Rosamond ordered.
"I have it here already, mistress," the maid said, sounding aggrieved.
"Give it to me, then."
A cup touched Rosamond's lips and she gulped down the contents, barely tasting the tepid tea.
"Now you must eat something," the maid insisted.
Rosamond gritted her teeth. Monika had been her maid for as long as she could remember, and she swore the girl liked to boss her around as much as Rosamond's mother did. More, perhaps, because Monika was not much older than her mistress and Rosamond was certain she reported everything she said to Queen Maria, Rosamond's mother. Hence why Rosamond was stuck wearing the gowns and veils her mother had insisted upon for every royal event at court.
So Rosamond took the small loaf of bread Monika held out, broke off a piece and popped it into her mouth. Food helped combat the weakness she felt after casting a spell. More helpful was a visit to the palace gardens, where the plants would restore her far faster, but the memory of yesterday's whispering courtiers was enough to make her wish to keep to her chambers until she was well enough to return home. Under no circumstances did she want even one of them to see her in the palace gardens, talking to the plants. It only took one to spread vicious rumours.
But one vicious rumour might mean no marriage proposals, too, which would be a godsend in Rosamond's eyes. And she would so love to see the roses which had provided the queen's crown.
Rosamond stuffed the rest of the bread into her mouth, forgetting all propriety in her haste. With an effort, she swallowed. "Help me dress," she commanded.
Monika set her hands on her hips. "Are you sure you're well enough? You've been abed, senseless, for a day and two nights, mistress."
The way Monika said it, she made "mistress" sound like "helpless child". This wasn't new.
Rosamond smiled sweetly. "I've rested plenty. Time to be up and about. Doesn't Mother want me to bring a husband home?"
Monika gave her a dark look, but all she said was, "If you hurry, we might make it to the tournament before it starts."
A tournament? Rosamond had heard of such things, but never attended one before.
"With knights? And jousting?" Rosamond asked eagerly.
"That was yesterday," Monika said, helping Rosamond change into a fresh shift. She selected a gown the colour of ripe strawberries and held it out for Rosamond to put on. "Today is the melee."
Rosamond slipped her arms through the sleeves and forced herself to stand still so Monika could thread and tie the laces of her gown. "What is a melee?"
"I am not sure," Monika admitted, giving the laces a sharp tug so that Rosamond was left breathless. "But Sir Warin has entered."
"Sir Warin? But who will guard me?" Rosamond demanded.
"You have a place beside the queen, if you are well enough," said Monika. "I'm sure her royal guard won't mind taking care of one more."
That sounded all right to Rosamond, so she submitted to Monika's toilette with good grace as the maid dressed her hair and tucked it under a white veil.
They made their way out to a field Rosamond barely recognised. Gone were the sheep that had grazed there when they'd arrived. Now it was crowded with brightly coloured pavilions crowned with flags that snapped in the breeze. At one end, there was tiered seating that held a crowd of courtiers. Rosamond suppressed a groan as she felt their eyes turn on her.
"This way, mistress," Monika said, touching Rosamond's elbow. She pointed at a stand shrouded in a purple canopy. In the shadows beneath it, Rosamond could just make out the king and queen.
Rosamond took her seat beside Queen Margareta and tried to hide her surprise as Monika placed herself on the boards at Rosamond's feet.
Margareta turned to Rosamond. "It is good to see you better, Princess."
Before Rosamond could reply, the king added, "She looks like a strawberry with cream on top. She'll distract the knights from combat in those colours. Ha, they'll all want to eat her up!" He laughed at his own joke, as did most of the courtiers within earshot.
Rosamond blushed as red as her dress.
"Do shut up, Erik, or the girl will return home convinced there's an ass on the throne here and her father's army will be at our gates within the week," Margareta said in a low voice, so that only Rosamond and the king heard. The queen's serene smile never faltered. "Now, Princess, let me look at you. He is right about one thing. That colour does suit you. I hope you brought a lot of favours, for all the knights will be asking for yours today."
"Favours?" Rosamond faltered.
Monika pushed a bundle of cloth into her lap with a pointed look.
"Is this your first tournament, Princess?" the queen asked. When Rosamond nodded, Margareta continued, "It is mine, too, but I have had both my husband and many of his knights explaining the intricacies of tournaments to me for weeks until I agreed that all of the men would be allowed to show off in my honour. Apparently, beating each other senseless is a sign of respect to their new queen. Quite barbaric."
While they waited for the day's combat to begin, Margareta regaled Rosamond with tales of yesterday's jousting. Two horses had been killed, several knights had broken arms and legs, and one was sporting two black eyes so dark he'd refused to remove his helmet.
Rosamond couldn't hide her shock. "You mean men were hurt? All I have heard of tournaments is that they are heroic. Romantic, for knights fight for their lady-loves. I had not heard that men were injured."
The king heard this and laughed. "Silly girl, of course men are hurt. This is good practice for battle. And just like in battle, we have physicians on hand to help set bones and the like."
Rosamond felt ill, as though she would bring her breakfast back up again at the king's feet.
"Erik," the queen said warningly.
The king opened his mouth as if to protest, then closed it again without a word and turned to face the empty field.
"I would like to hear more about how you choose your gowns, Princess," Margareta said. "First the pale pink at the coronation, and now this deeper rose for today. What will you choose tomorrow? Purple? So that on the day of your departure, you wear black?"
Embarrassed again, Rosamond mumbled something about how her mother had chosen her gowns for this trip.
"Then you are very lucky. My mother would be perfectly happy to send me out naked, as long as I wore a string of pearls," Margareta declared.
Rosamond couldn't help herself. She burst out laughing. "Your mother would let you go out naked? Not even wearing a shift?"
Margareta nodded. "Naked. Clothing is just a distraction, she said, when the way to catch a husband is to show him what you will bring to the marriage. If you truly wish to enchant a man, let him see you naked. I assure you, it will torment him until he finds the courage to ask for your hand so that he can see such beauty again."
Rosamond doubted she would ever have the courage to do something so brazen. Not to mention that there was little chance she would ever want to enchant a man. King Erik seemed like a nice enough husband to Margareta, yet she'd called him an ass. If even the best men were donkeys, where did that leave her?
Thinking to change the subject, Rosamond ventured, "I can't imagine it. You look so lovely in your gown, Your Majesty. What manner of creature grows fur in such a rich red colour?"
The queen laughed. "This is not fur. It is velvet – made on a loom by a weaver who brought her knowledge of its craft from distant foreign lands. I shall make you a gift of some, if you wish it."
"I do," Rosamond said fervently.
Conversation ended for a little while, as a cacophony of trumpets signalled the beginning of the tournament. Two teams of knights lined up on opposite ends of a field, while a page in the king's colours set what looked like a blown-up pig's bladder in the middle of the field.
Rosamond turned to the queen to ask about the bladder, but someone blew a short blast on a trumpet and the thunderous clatter of two dozen men charging across a field toward one another drowned out any sound she made.
She lost sight of the bladder amid the madmen trying to kill each other, though only armed with wooden staves.
It was nothing short of brutal. She went from gasping at every blow to leaving her mouth permanently open. Rosamond tried to close her eyes but a fresh shout or crack of bone only made her snap her eyes open again until finally she clapped her hands over her eyes so she could only peek through her fingers. Even that limited field of vision made her sick to her stomach.
All around her, people cheered and groaned as their favourite knights gained or lost some sort of victory, but Rosamond couldn't tell one mud-spattered man from another, especially with them clad head to toe in boiled leather.
Finally, when she was certain she could endure no more of this violence, the king called a halt to the match. Servants stood beside the field with flagons and the squires raced to get their knights a drink. Only then did helmets come off, and Rosamond realised she recognised one of the half-dozen men left standing as the captain of her guard, Sir Warin.
The king saw him at the same time Rosamond did. "You man fights well," he said. "You should make sure he carries your favour into battle, for if he fights for one of the ladies in my court, I will do everything in my power to persuade him to stay in my service instead of your father's."
Her man. Rosamond hadn't thought of the knight that way before, but now that she looked at him, she had to admit he was quite handsome. He was no simpering courtier but a brave knight who fought well. Who would fight for the woman he loved, and her honour. She sighed. So romantic.
Rosamond flapped her hand to get Monika's attention. "Go to Sir Warin and give him this," she instructed, thrusting a piece of pink fabric at her maid. "Tell him he fights for his princess's honour."
Monika didn't say anything. She simply took the handkerchief and made her way from the royal stand to where Sir Warin stood, drinking his cup of ale.
The queen, noticing Rosamond's preoccupation, followed her gaze. "So that's why you aren't flirting with the courtiers here. You have better men at home."
Rosamond reddened. "I don't know how to flirt, Your Majesty. And even if I did..."
Margareta patted her hand. "Most men won't notice anyway. They're simple creatures, really. Let him kiss you, find a way for him to glimpse you naked, and then refuse all else until you are married. Everything else is just so you can make sure he's not a complete ass, right, Erik?"
"Mm?" the king said. His attention was on the remaining six men forming up on the field once more. "Yes, of course. They're about to fight again."
Margareta's serene smile surfaced as she added softly to Rosamond, "And never agree to host a tourney. I swear, this will be our last."
The horn blasted its command for the fight to begin, and Rosamond hid behind her hands. But if she peeped between her fingers, she could still see the pink handkerchief tied to the shoulder of Sir Warin's cuirass as six men became four, then three, then two, until he faced a single foe who was much larger than him.
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