NOTE: This was written for Lady P's "Trapped" fic contest, and me with my 2 second attention span, forgot to put in 2 very important requirements. Too darn bad is all I have to say. You're gonna read it and like it anyway.
Thank yous: To my many betas- Monica, Pam, and Jaclyn- I wouldn't have finished this with out you guys! Much, MUCH gratitude to you all! And a BIG thank you to Lady P for having this VERY amusing contest- I squeezed this fic out of me after I thought I was all dried up.. ;) *And I want to add in a SPECIAL thank you to Pam- she searched this fic with a fine toothed comb for any mistakes. I apologize- I was in a rush to meet the deadline and did a rather sloppy job. I am submitting this to and again, all fixed, and I hope you all can forgive and forget, and read the new, improved version. I Love You, PAM! (
By Antea, September 2002
Here's Mud in Your Eye
"Roxton, this is the LAST time I will tell you- get out of my way!" Marguerite screeched, trying to push past the burly hunter who was blocking her path out of the elevator.
"Marguerite- no! I told you you're not allowed in here until later! Challenger will have my head if he knows I let you in before he came back!" he shouted in return, pulling Marguerite's hands from his shoulders and midsection.
*I never thought I'd be trying to get Marguerite Krux's groping hands off of my body...* Roxton thought, bemused. His pleasure showed.
"And what is so funny? I need to use the bathroom, Roxton!"
"Go outside! I'll come guard you- but please, for my sake, don't go in there!"
Marguerite caught Roxton off guard and nearly knocked him down with her force. He caught her around the waist, pulling her powerfully back into the elevator with him. They had been wrestling in there for almost ten minutes now.
"Roxton! If you don't let go of me this instant, I will not be responsible for the mess in the elevator!" Marguerite shrieked as she tumbled down to the elevator's wood floor.
All of a sudden, two loud "snaps!" were heard and the lift started to drop at a rapid pace.
"JOHN!" Marguerite yelled, lurching up off of the floor and grabbing onto his waist.
The elevator continued its hasty dive. Roxton and Marguerite clung to one another, each saying silent prayers to whichever gods were listening. The force of the gushing air caused Roxton's hat to fly off of his head before he could reach a hand up to restrain it. Then he checked apprehensively to see if his beloved pearly handled pistols were still in his gun belt. *Thank goodness* he thought, smiling, as he brushed his fingers over the handles.
"Is it just me, or are we moving faster?!" Marguerite nearly had to yell over the loud wind.
Roxton's shirt buttons started to pop off one by one, as his shirt began to rip off of his lean body.
"Roxton! Now's NOT the time for that!" Marguerite teasingly chastised, glancing at his rapidly revealed torso.
Her shirt started to tear off of her body as well. She hurried to keep a hand over her revealing camisole, for fear of baring all to Roxton and whatever awaited them when they finished falling.
"Marguerite- exactly WHAT do you have in mind? Surely this elevator isn't." but Roxton couldn't finish his sentence. His pants REFUSED to stay on his body. The only covering he now wore was his long underwear and his gun belt. Marguerite's skirt abruptly flew off of her body with the whipping wind, leaving her in her bloomers.
"WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING?! Are we arriving at an underground burlesque show?!" she struggled to keep herself somewhat decent. The two explorers were now facing each other, Roxton with his hands on Marguerite's forearms, she holding his muscular biceps. He tried not to admire her now half naked body as they continued their long, rapid journey to who knew where.
When the elevator began to slow down, Marguerite attempted to cover her body with her hands and arms, doing a very poor job of hiding her indecency. Roxton stood there, awaiting their destination, with his hands covering the appropriate places. Neither would look anywhere but the door.
"Maybe now we'll find out just exactly what's going on here.." Marguerite mumbled, glancing down at her body, looking for anything she left inappropriately showing.
Roxton cautiously exited the elevator, looking around for any signs of danger or life. Marguerite followed closely behind.
Out of thin air, a very petite woman approached the new visitors, silently appraising them both. She wore a very thin, embroidered blouse over her shapely torso. Her thighs were covered with a short skirt, embroidered with a pattern that was the same as the shirt's. She appeared to be around forty years old, was very attractive, with long red hair, and an olive complexion. Her blue eyes bore into the visitors' souls. Roxton jumped in front of Marguerite, shielding her from the newcomer while absently looking around for something to cover their bodies.
"Welcome. I am Zanya- queen of this city; Xarat."
"Uh, yes, hi. I am Lord John Roxton, and this is Miss Marguerite Krux. Pleased to meet you." Roxton introduced them with an uncomfortable smile on his face.
"Could you tell me, please- where exactly are we and why are we half naked?" Marguerite asked from around Roxton's broad shoulders.
"You have entered our 'city in the center'- we prepared you for the welcome ritual. You are to bathe in a pool of mud." She stated regally.
Roxton smirked, glancing at Marguerite whose eyes became wide as she indignantly stepped out from behind him.
"Excuse me? Mud?!" she questioned, a bit annoyed.
"Yes. All visitors must be cleansed in the kingdoms' mud pool."
"Just exactly what did you mean about 'city in the center'?" Roxton asked with interest.
"We are in the center of the earth- you have traveled many miles in your contraption." Zanya gestured towards the now vacant elevator.
"Center of the Earth? But we've already been in the center of the earth and it's hot, steamy, and took its toll on my hair." Marguerite explained.
"Ah, yes. We have traveled there as well- it is not a nice place. We call it 'the city for lost souls.' None of my people venture there but the ones that have wronged." Zanya told them.
"Hold on- back to this mud thing." Roxton continued, remembering the interesting time he and Marguerite had spent in a pool of the smooth goop.
"Roxton!" Marguerite reprimanded him, swatting his arm.
"What? I'm curious about these people's rituals." he stated, grinning wider.
"Come. I will show you. Then, we will have a feast in your honor and you will bathe in the mire." The Queen started to lead them to the city's core.
Marguerite stayed behind Roxton, suspiciously glancing around their new surroundings. John had a serene smile on his face; nodding to the few people they passed on the way, all the while covering himself as appropriately as he could manage with his hands.
"Here." Queen Zanya directed them, moving aside and pointing to the mud bath.
Marguerite's eyes opened in horror. "Can't we just eat, drink and call it a night?"
"I am afraid those who refuse to bathe in the mud shall have to be sent to 'the city for lost souls.'" The Queen answered Marguerite.
"Well, I could go for a dip in the dirt." Roxton cheerfully replied, gesturing Marguerite in.
"But, what purpose does this serve? Why is this part of your ritual?" Marguerite was fine bathing in mud when it was just her and Roxton, and they were trying to get rid of their poison ivy rash, but when it was for no apparent reason in front of a whole town of people. . . Well, that didn't thrill her too much.
"The mud cleanses off any evil spirits that might have traveled down with you from the world above. It contains many purifying elements. I cannot say much more." Zanya explained to a very irritable Marguerite.
"Fine! I'll dunk in this disgusting sludge. There better be a FINE feast after, though!" she grumbled, pulling her boot off and testing the mud with her toe.
Roxton climbed in the pool. It was edged by colorful stones, and kept as neat and clean as possible, considering it was mud. He was up to his thighs in the chestnut colored goop.
"Come on in, Marguerite. It's warm." He quirked his brow at her, daring her to join him.
"I should've KNOWN you'd be enjoying this.." She sighed, clambering in after him, but not before removing her gun and placing it with Roxton's.
"Lady Marguerite, if you will be so kind as to remove your blouse-" Zanya stated.
"Ohhhh, no! I already have to sit in this gunk in front of a whole town of people- I WILL NOT sit in here with no clothes on!" she nearly shrieked, as Roxton looked on in amusement.
"As you wish. I will let you keep some aspect of privacy." The Queen agreed.
She heaved a great sigh of relief, thanked the Queen, and joined Roxton. He was already seated; one arm idly flung over the colorful stones, and with his other hand, was drawing lazy circles in the mud.
"Okay. That was lovely. Now we eat, right?" Marguerite abruptly stood up, but lost her footing in the slippery goo. She landed with a 'splat' in Roxton's lap.
"Ohhhh. Now I have this stuff in my hair- how am I supposed to wash it out?" Marguerite complained, lifting herself off of the content lord, who had to lend her a hand.
"I'll help you, love." He smiled, placing her back in her seat next to him.
"Lord John-" Queen Zanya began as she turned away from talking to one of her people who had come up to her as he had been standing, surveying the cleansing ceremony. "One of my servants found this lying near your contraption." She bent gracefully and handed his beloved hat over. He smiled in delight, nodding his thanks and placing it on his head.
"What about our clothes? Will we be able to have them once we get out of here?" Marguerite questioned, gesturing to the mud that now covered her from head to toe.
"I am afraid your clothing is shredded beyond repair. We will supply you with the proper garments."
"At least they'll let us put something on after this." Marguerite murmured out of the corner of her mouth.
"All right. Now Lord John, you have to rub the mud on Lady Marguerite's face. That is the portal of the body- the face reveals the most feelings- the most expression. That is where the evil would enter." The Queen instructed Roxton what needed to be done next.
"Oh, no! I've already dunked my whole body in this stuff. I think we're all clean, thank you!" Marguerite huffed, trying to inch herself away from Roxton who was grinning like a Cheshire cat.
"Please. Then you will do the same to him and the cleansing ceremony will be complete." Zanya assured the unhappy brunette.
"As long as Lord Roxton gets some mud in his eye, I will do whatever you ask." Marguerite agreed with obvious reservations, closing her eyes to wait for the facial. Roxton happily dunked his hand in the goop, pulled out a great big glob, and slapped it on his companion's awaiting face.
Naturally, she let out a high- pitched screech. "ROXTON!" Marguerite stood up roughly, snatched John's prized hat off his head, dunked it in the mud, and plopped it on his dark hair, all in one swift motion. She abruptly left the pond as Roxton sputtered after her.
"What did you have to do THAT for?" he yelled after her, digging the slime out of his ears. "And where are you going?!" townspeople had gathered to watch the visitors perform the inauguration ceremony.
"Away from you, away from that mud, and out of these- out of my underwear!" She yelled over her shoulder, storming off with Zanya following closely behind.
"I'm sorry your majesty, but sometimes that man makes me FURIOUS!" she explained, slowing down a bit so the Queen could catch up to her.
"It's quite all right. Our customs are a bit different than other culture's customs. I am aware that our mud bath is not common for the people on the surface." She said, coming to a stop in front of a magnificently built hut.
"No, no. You have every right to expect visitors to comply with your customs. We are guests here. Now, if you wouldn't mind- I'd like to get out of these things." Marguerite turned to face the palace. She needed to get away from the onlookers and from John- at least until she was clean and clothed.
"Is this your palace?" she asked, admiring the finely carved stone around the doors.
"It is. It has been the Queen's palace from the birth of Xarat- over 200 years ago." Zanya explained, running her hands up and down the carvings.
"Come in. Your room is already prepared and there are fresh clothes on the bed. I have also taken the liberty of having one of my servants draw a bath for you." The Queen continued before Marguerite could say anything, "Do not worry- it is not mud."
Marguerite had peeled her drying underwear off of her body and relaxed in her warm, soapy bath. She was completely ignorant of the fact that Roxton had already washed off his mud, dressed in the shirt and pants laid out on his bed, and was now sitting in a chair outside her bathroom door. After soaking in the tub for nearly half an hour, Marguerite emerged, a towel wrapped around her shapely body. She nearly jumped out of her skin when Roxton swiftly rose off of the chair he had been sitting in as she exited the bathroom.
"What are you doing here?! Why couldn't you wait outside like a civilized gentleman until I was dressed?" she choked, clutching her chest.
"I wanted to apologize for what I did back there- it was uncalled for. Why are you so jumpy?" he asked, his eyes becoming hard with concern.
Marguerite moved over to the bed where she fingered the embroidered shirt laid out for her. "It's nothing. You just gave me a scare, that's all." She clutched the lacy black skirt to her chest, facing away from the lord.
"Marguerite, I can read you like a book. I know you go to great limits for self preservation. You are NEVER this agitated unless you sense something is wrong." He slowly walked over to her, placing his hands on her shoulders.
"It's really nothing, John. I just have a weird feeling about this place. Call me paranoid, but I think there's more to that ritual than the Queen wished to divulge." Marguerite turned around to meet Roxton's questioning gaze.
"Well, get dressed and I'll meet you in the front of the palace."
"All right John- and- I forgive you." She said with a warm smile, which brushed away the reservations that had been stamped on her face only seconds before. Roxton turned to leave.
"Oh, and John?" he stopped in his tracks and turned around "You look good in that shirt." She beamed.
Roxton glanced down at his tight blue shirt, and smiled in appreciation "And you look good in that towel." Before Marguerite could throw a pillow in his face, he had made a hasty retreat through her door.
While Marguerite was getting dressed, Roxton surveyed the surroundings. It seemed like a normal town; kids running in between their parent's legs as they bought fruits and vegetables, men milking goats, women sitting in circles weaving baskets- nothing out of the usual.
Marguerite exited the palace, and saw Roxton gazing at a little boy with his father. She crept up behind him and lightly tapped him on his left shoulder, hurrying to his right side. Roxton foolishly turned to the left as Marguerite tapped his right shoulder. This time, she stayed in place.
"Hey, stranger." She smiled mischievously.
He smiled warmly down at her. "Hey- Feel a little better?" he asked, just as he realized what Marguerite was wearing.
"Wow- you look- beautiful." He took her by the hand and spun her around, which caused her lacy skirt to swirl hungrily about her legs.
She giggled in delight, letting Roxton's gaze roam freely over her body.
"Yes, I feel a whole lot better- thank you for asking, John." She gazed deeply into his eyes until Queen Zanya interrupted them.
"Forgive me, but we are all prepared for the feast- if you would be so kind as to walk this way." Zanya grabbed Marguerite's right arm and Roxton left and steered them in the direction of the Great Hall.
The activities lasted far into the morning- there was dancing, singing and feasting. When people finally started to retire to their huts, they had to lean on each other for support. The two guests of honor decided to remain at the great table until everyone had left.
"Ros-ton?" Marguerite warbled into her glass. She realized that she had said his name into the pungent alcohol, and burst into giggles.
Roxton was staring hard at her nose, and burst into gales of laughter as well.
"Whas' so funny?" she asked crossly, almost slamming her mug down on the table.
It took Roxton another minute until he was calm enough to explain. "You have wine on your nose!" as he vehemently threw himself over the table and licked it off, then placing himself back in his seat.
This threw Marguerite into another fit of laughter, and she had to clutch the table for support. When she finally stopped snorting into her drink, she took a long, hard look at the remaining liquid, and threw it into Roxton's face.
"Hey!" he shouted out, but before he had a chance to wipe it off, Marguerite swiftly flew across the table, and began to lick it off his face.
Roxton sat it utter surprise, until he was finally able to grin in contentment. When Marguerite finished her duty, she slid back across the table into her own seat, and proceeded to fall asleep with her arm in the pork dish.
The intoxicated lord sat looking at his lady love for a few minutes, until he decided to put her in bed before she marinated her arm any more. He gently scooped her up in his arms, and proceeded to walk back to the bedrooms.
When Roxton had removed the heiress's boots and gun belt, he slid her under the covers and kissed her on her forehead.
"Roxton?" she asked drowsily.
"Right here." He replied softly, brushing a lock of hair out of her face.
"Will you stay with me? I don't feel so well." Marguerite trailed off, suddenly clutching her stomach.
"Can I get you something?" the lord asked with concern.
"No, no. Just sit with me." She finished, absently patting the space next to her on the bed.
Roxton took off his boots and vest, and placed himself next to Marguerite, careful not to jiggle the bed. He stroked her luscious chestnut curls, trying to take her mind off of the pain she was experiencing.
"Ohhhh. I am never going to have another drink again." she moaned, grabbing Roxton's other hand that was placed next to her stomach.
"Are you SURE you don't want something? I could get some tea."
"No! No, thank you, John. Just stay here." She interrupted him with more urgency than was neccessary.
Roxton chose to ignore the anxiety in her voice, for Marguerite would never tell him what was really wrong.
"Ok. Just relax. I'm here." He continued to gently brush his hands through her hair as Marguerite was lulled into a fitful sleep.
Marguerite woke up in a cold sweat, not remembering where she was. She felt a warm presence along her back, and spooned against her, she realized, was Roxton. His arm was draped lazily over her waist. She suddenly felt VERY nervous. *Wait- I am completely clothed, and* she turned her head as far back as she could to glance at the lord *so is John!* she let out a great sigh.
*Ohhh... Why does my head hurt so much?* she wracked her brain trying to remember what happened the night before. She couldn't. At all.
"John!" she whispered harshly, trying to wake him. He didn't respond.
"John!" she said more urgently; he clutched her tighter.
"Would you wake up, you sack of potatoes!" Marguerite elbowed him in the gut.
"Uh! Marguerite! What's the matter?" he finally stirred.
"Where are we? I can't remember a single thing that happened last night." She turned on her other side to look Roxton in the face.
"Well, you. . . I. . . I actually can't remember what we did." His eyebrows crinkled as he rubbed his forehead, trying to massage the events of last night into his memory.
Marguerite's eyes became wide with worry. "John, what's going on?"
"Beats the heck out of me, Marguerite. Don't worry, I'll figure something out. We'll be okay." He clutched her hand to his heart.
"We don't even know where we are! How are we going to be ok?" she looked desperately into his eyes, searching for reassurance.
"I don't know Marguerite, but we'll get through this- I promise." Roxton nodded his head encouragingly and she was able to summon a small smile for his benefit.
"Now, why don't we get some more sleep and we'll figure this all out in the morning. Everything looks better in the morning." He said; Marguerite nodded in response.
"Just don't leave- please, Roxton." He had never seen her so fragile and scared before.
"I'm right here, Marguerite. Always." He smiled at her and she smiled back, turning over once more. Roxton snuggled up to her back, his face nestled into her delicate neck. He wrapped his arm around her waist and she grabbed his hand, bringing it to her lips.
"Thank you, John. Yes, things will look better in the morning." she whispered, as the couple drifted off, not knowing what to expect when they would next awoke.
When the heiress finally woke up, she was no longer in pain nor did she mind the warm body pressed up against her back. Marguerite remembered the conversation they had shared in the early hours of the morning, and the comfort that Roxton had offered her. She reveled in the contentment that she now felt in the circle of his arms. Marguerite didn't want to wake up her sleeping prince- she wanted them to stay this way forever. At least, if that happened, she wouldn't have to face whatever obstacles lay in the way of them returning safely home. She tried to keep her breathing as even as possible so as not to disturb Roxton, but, as usual, he sensed the change in the woman he loved more than life itself.
"What is it?" he whispered into her hair.
"Nothing. Go back to sleep- I didn't want to wake you." She soothed, taking his hand once more and snuggling it under her chin.
"We have to get up at some point, Marguerite. We need to figure out how to get home. I don't think we should stay here any longer than necessary. Veronica and the others are supposed to be back by dusk today, and I don't want to see their faces when they find out the elevator is not attached to the Treehouse." He raised himself up to a sitting position, much to Marguerite's disappointment.
After using the water supplied for them on the nightstand to cleanse his face, Roxton held out a hand to Marguerite. She grumbled some incomprehensible words, reached for his hand, and pulled herself out of bed. She washed her face in the same manner, and joined Roxton at the door to the room.
"Are we ready to see what awaits us?" the lord asked, taking Marguerite's hand.
"I guess as ready as we'll ever be." she answered, supplying him with a small smile.
Roxton opened the door to the room, and Marguerite followed, still clutching his arm. A servant greeted the emerging guests.
"King, Queen; breakfast is all prepared- if you could make your way to the Great Hall."
"Wait! WHAT?! King, Queen?! What is this?" came Marguerite's astounded voice from behind the towering man.
"Breakfast- as usual." the servant began uncertainly.
"NO! She means, why did you just call us those names?" Roxton corrected the confused man.
"You, you are our royal leaders- of course I am to address you as King and Queen." He stammered.
"Where is your REAL queen- Zanya?" it all came back to Marguerite in a dizzy wave.
"Zanya? The blacksmith's wife? Why, she's in her hut-"
"Why that double crossing, mud bathing, wench!"
Roxton tried to calm the agitated heiress "Now, now Marguerite- we can clear this whole mess up a lot faster if you just-"
"ROXTON! Don't you remember now? The elevator, the mud, the drinking last night? THAT'S what probably erased our memories! We have to find Zanya and fix this whole matter up."
"Oh! The gushing wind- our clothes being torn off- I remember!" he realized, rubbing his temple.
"Of course that's what you remember." Marguerite mumbled under her breath "Please, could you take us to this blacksmith?"
"Why, certainly my Queen- but, no breakfast first?" the servant bowed deeply.
"No, thank you. The sooner we sort this whole matter out, the sooner we can get back home." Roxton told the man who furrowed his brow in confusion.
He led the 'royal couple' through town to the edge of the city, where a run down shack stood with an iron anvil out front and horse shoes hanging from every post.
"Hey! Zanya! Come out here before I come in and drag you out by your pretty red hair!" Marguerite screamed at the door. It flew open and Zanya stood determinedly in the doorway.
"Can I help you?" she calmly asked.
"Oh, don't give us that crap! You know EXACTLY who we are and why we're here. We want our lives back!" Marguerite would've jumped through the door and tackled Zanya, had it not been for Roxton's arm around her shoulder.
The real Queen dropped her act. "Please, come inside." She waved away the waiting servant and closed the door behind Marguerite and Roxton.
"Lady Marguerite, Lord John; please forgive me, I didn't have any other choice!" her façade crumbled and she almost sobbed now that the three were alone.
"Now, now, calm down Ma'am- if you could just tell us what this is all about, maybe we can help each other." Roxton soothingly suggested.
"John! She somehow made us King and Queen! We might never get home! Don't be kind to her!" Marguerite glared at the queen as she scolded Roxton.
"Please, I can explain everything."
Roxton nodded his approval and elbowed Marguerite lightly in the side.
"Fine, fine. My ears are open." She relented, and Zanya ushered them into chairs around her rickety table.
"About twenty years ago, I was just the blacksmith's wife. Oh, do not worry- he knows the story- and he's sleeping anyway." Zanya began, "Our King and Queen were faced with a horrible dilemma- the Cobalts from "the city for lost souls" were planning an attack on our people. We are not driven by war- we are peaceful and welcome all visitors. The King was not prepared to fight off these strong beings, and the day the news came, his Queen took ill with a deadly disease- she died the next morning."
Roxton and Marguerite continued to listen in silence, occasionally glancing at each other.
Zanya took a breath and continued "The King needed a Queen. That is the law in this city. The Queen is allowed to live without her King, but he needs a wife. He saw me and became enraptured. But I was married. No one is allowed to break up sacred unions in this town- not even the King. Nonetheless, he forcefully bathed me in the mud- that sanctifies a person so he or she can become royalty. All the past Kings and Queens have bathed in there before they died- so their noble essences could drain into the mud."
Marguerite shivered uncharacteristically at this.
"I was proclaimed Queen even over my and my husband's protests. The Cobalts attacked the next day. Few people survived- our King was killed in the battle. The Cobalts retreated only when I promised not to take a man as my King. They don't believe women have much power. I promised this to them to save my remaining people. And here I have ruled ever since. I had no choice."
"So, the Cobalts left you with some of your people, you can't get married, and- where does that leave us?" Marguerite questioned as soon as she suspected the story was finished.
"The Cobalts have sent word that they will attack again tomorrow. I had no choice- I am not able to fight them myself. We weren't able to beat them twenty years ago. I saw the two of you through our portal- strong, independent, and virile. I brought you down to our city in hopes that you would be able to help us- to defeat the Cobalts once and for all." Zanya explained.
"Why didn't you just ask? Why did you go to all that trouble?" Roxton questioned.
"I knew you would not volunteer. Especially not Lady Marguerite."
Marguerite snorted "Damn right, we wouldn't! We've dealt with the Cobalts before- they are not the most negotiable of beings."
"We will help you, though." Roxton spoke up.
Marguerite's eyes widened in incredulity "What are you talking about?!"
"Marguerite, really. You know we can't leave these people to fight the Cobalts. They are obviously not trained in defending themselves." Roxton turned to Zanya, ignoring the exasperated sigh escaping through Marguerite's teeth, "Your majesty, we will help you. You didn't have to bathe us in the mud, though. How are we supposed to go home now that we're King and Queen?"
"There is a simple ceremony- Oh, Lady and Lord, thank you SO much! I am so very grateful!" she exclaimed.
Marguerite nodded sullenly in agreement. "Now, we need a strategy if we are to defeat the Cobalts." Roxton started. Marguerite and Zanya leaned in to listen to the lord's plan.
"What are the others going to think when they get back to the Treehouse and there is no elevator?" Marguerite breathlessly questioned Roxton as she tried in vain to keep up with the lord's long strides.
"I really don't know Marguerite. But we really don't have time to sit and think about that. The Cobalts should be coming around that hill in roughly ten hours." He answered her absently, going over the plan again and again in his head.
"But won't Veronica be mad when she finds that her elevator is missing along with us?" she pushed the matter further.
"Marguerite! Don't you need to help the Queen with something?" he barked back.
"Well, fine! If you're trying to get rid of me, you should've said so in the beginning!" she stopped suddenly and crossed her arms over her chest.
"I'm sorry- you just broke my concentration, that's all." He stopped five feet in front of her and threw his arms up in exasperation.
"You know Roxton- sometimes it just seems like you only care about people when they're in distress. Last night when I woke up- today with Zanya and her tribe. Why don't you just travel the world looking for people that need your help?" she glared at him coldly.
"Marguerite- please. Please understand why I need to help them- Why I need to save them from death." he came back to her and put his hands on her upper arms, untangling them from the knot they had formed across her chest.
"Your brother." Marguerite nodded in remorse. "I'm sorry John. I'm just stressed- having to face those horrible creatures again-"
"And I'm sorry for snapping at you. Why don't we just rest here for a minute?" he directed her to a bench near a pond, drawing her down beside him.
Marguerite sighed deeply "I hope we live through this one, John." She leaned her head against his broad shoulder.
"We will, love. I promise." He soothed, as he wrapped his arm around her slim waist.
"Lady Marguerite! Lord John! Hurry please!" the Queen called through the door of the bedroom they shared for the second night in a row.
"What does she want now?" Marguerite groggily inquired, rolling over to face Roxton whose arm was draped casually over her waist.
"I think we need to make some last minute preparations- the Cobalts should be arriving in a few hours." John replied while he grudgingly extracted himself from Marguerite's arms. He tried to straighten out the shirt he had worn to sleep, washed his faced, and returned to pull Marguerite out of bed.
She perched herself on the edge, dangling her stocking feet over the side. She took Roxton's extended hand graciously, shakily stood up, smoothed out her new skirt, and washed her face in the same manner.
"Ready?" Roxton asked, as Marguerite pulled her boots back on.
"As ready as I'll ever be." She straightened up stiffly and proceeded to walk out of the door, with Roxton at her heels.
"Oh, thank the land above- you two are finally here." The Queen rushed over to them as they entered the Great Hall.
"What is it Zanya?" Roxton asked, grabbing two apples off of the table and handing one to Marguerite.
"The Cobalts sent a messenger- they will attack at ten past the hour. That gives us about 45 minutes!" she urgently squealed, her beautiful blue eyes almost tearing at the thought.
"Not to worry! Are your warriors prepared?" Roxton calmly asked.
"Yes. They know what they have to do." She heaved a sigh.
"And all the women and children are safe?" Marguerite questioned.
"Some are in the rooms of my palace; others will be filing in here soon." Zanya was finally composed.
"Then you have nothing to worry about. We have battled the Cobalts before. This will work, Zanya. We will not kill the Cobalts, but they will be so scared, they won't bother you again." Roxton assured the Queen. She nodded her head in agreement.
As Roxton checked that all the men were properly armed, Marguerite went around, making sure that all the elders, women, and children were safely hidden. She then immediately walked out of the palace, in search of Roxton.
"Everything's all ready- they're all out of harm's way. How are the men?" she came up silently behind him, placing a hand on his shoulder.
He started, not having sensed her presence "Oh- they're all set. They Cobalts should be here soon." He bent down, grabbing one of the many buckets of water. Marguerite did the same.
"What do you think you're doing?" he quizzed, eyes widening.
"Do you think I'm going to go hide in a dank room with a bunch of sniveling children while you battle the Cobalts alone?" she huffed.
"As you can see," Roxton gestured around "I have one hundred men fighting beside me."
Marguerite's eyes glistened as she lowered her voice and leaned slightly into his chest "I meant- without me."
Roxton's eyes lit up as he brought a hand to her face "Who am I to tell Marguerite Krux she can't get her hands wet?" he grinned, brushing his thumb over her smooth, porcelain cheek.
She smiled appreciatively, turned around to face the bend where the Cobalts would appear, and clutched the bucket tightly to her chest with one hand. Roxton grabbed her other hand.
"Everyone ready?" Roxton bellowed. The men shouted a sort of battle cry.
The first few Cobalts could be seen coming around the hill.
"One!" Roxton started to count as more of the luminescent beings marched towards the group.
"Two!" the men held their buckets in the ready as the Cobalts descended upon the warriors.
"Three!" all at once, like a man-made waterfall, the untried men of Xarat hurled their buckets of cool water at the on coming crowd.
Some of the Cobalts shrieked, grabbing their throats, as their shining skin started to crack and fall to the ground. The beings behind the stricken front lines retreated somewhat, knowing they were out numbered. The Cobalt's king stepped out from behind his people.
"Zanya! Come out at once! I will not wait here any longer- show your face!" he hollered.
All was silent.
"Woman! Do not anger me- my men will do much damage to your meek village!" he held up his right hand to signal his remaining people.
Still, she did not appear.
He let his hand fall to his side and two Cobalts rushed to the nearest hut, setting it aflame with a touch from their scorching hands.
"NO!" Zanya screamed suddenly from beside her palace.
"You bloody- !" Roxton raged, charging forward and throwing a bucket of water on one of the Cobalts. The other ran back to his lustrous king.
"Michael! I assure you- you do not want to fight my people anymore! We have new found freedom- we will not let you defeat us again!" Zanya yelled, moving to the front of her men. "Leave us now and no one else will get hurt." She stood with her arms lithely crossed over her heaving chest.
"I will not let a weak woman defeat my powerful people!" the Cobalt king insisted in disdain, crossing his own arms over his silvery torso. Marguerite took a menacing step forward, but Roxton realized her intentions and grabbed her arm forcefully.
"If you think I am weak, you are sorely mistaken. I will not have you harming my people again. You give us your word that your Cobalts will never bother my people again, and I give you my word that not one of your men will ever have to touch a drop of water." She coolly stared the other ruler down.
The King sighed, finally realizing he was beaten "I give you my word." He solemnly promised. Zanya nodded her approval and he gestured for his men to leave. When the last Cobalt was out of sight, the Xarat men cheered loudly, hugging and clapping each other on the back. Marguerite heaved a huge sigh and squeezed Roxton's arm.
"Lord! Lady!" Zanya rushed over to them "We have done it! The Cobalts will never harm my people again!" she pulled them into a fierce hug, Marguerite's head banging against Roxton's shoulder.
"YOU'VE done it, your majesty." Marguerite beamed, rubbing her head as the Queen let them out of her embrace.
"But you are the ones to thank. Come! We shall feast!" she replied gaily as the men left to find their families and share the good news.
"As much as we'd love to, Zanya, we really must be going- if that ceremony could be performed. . ." Roxton trailed off.
"Oh! Yes- how foolish of me. You must be longing to get back home." She smiled warmly, leading them back to the mud pit.
"Oh, no! Not in there again!" Marguerite exclaimed, stopping short when she recognized where they were headed.
"No, no. It is I who must bathe in the mud now. Cleansing your hands will be quite sufficient." She replied, and Marguerite sighed complacently.
Zanya called to her people who were gathered around the palace, excitedly celebrating their triumph over their old enemies. "Come! Come my people- you are to bear witness to the ceremony that will once again pronounce me Queen. A ceremony that will also pronounce Butrick, your blacksmith, King!"
A very ragged but happy round faced man broke through the crowd. He hurried over to Zanya, sweeping her up in a warm embrace. He might have been rather good looking if it weren't for the rolls of fat tucked furtively under his smelting apron.
The crowd cheered, evidently happy with the news.
When Zanya and Butrick were settled in the mud, Roxton and Marguerite dipped their hands in the goop, following the Queen's directions.
"I now proclaim you, Zanya, Queen." Roxton said, planting his hands- gently- on her face with a grin.
"And I proclaim you, Butrick, King of Xarat." Marguerite leaned over, right before she took an unexpected tumble into the awaiting goop.
"We are so sad to see you go." Zanya said, her arm around her husband's waist as she planted a kiss on Marguerite's cheek. "And so very sorry about the mud, dear Lady." She whispered in her ear with a smile.
"No problem at all, your majesty. It does wonders for my skin." Marguerite grinned.
"Well, we should get back. It was lovely meeting you. I'm glad we could be of some service. Maybe we will see each other again." Roxton beamed, checking their weapons, and placing a hand on Marguerite's shoulder.
"Oh, I doubt that very much. We come from a different time- a different place. We, along with the Cobalts, float freely throughout time and space. Only once in a great while do we settle in one position. Ah-" Zanya waved it off "it is too complicated to get into now. I know where we will go next because of my portal. It shows me all."
Marguerite looked at her curiously "But-"
"I believe you will have no problems getting back. Just step inside your contraption, and it will take you straight home." Zanya smiled, backing up with Butrick. He waved jovially.
The two explorers decided not to ask any more questions and did what they were told. Suddenly, the elevator began its hasty ascent. Marguerite clutched Roxton's arm reflexively. They glanced down below and saw the happy royalties walking back to their restored kingdom.
"Roxton!" Marguerite shouted over the wind. The buttons on her new blouse began to rip.
"Yes?!" he yelled back, fighting his pants back on. They refused to stay. Soon, the two were standing once more in their underwear as the elevator came to a complete stop. They found themselves level with the main floor of the Treehouse, their friends gaping at them in astonishment.
"Just what exactly were you two doing in there?" Veronica grinned, wagging her eyebrows delicately. Roxton stepped out of the elevator, Marguerite close behind.
"It isn't what it looks like!" Marguerite squeaked from behind Roxton's body.
He stammered "Yes, you see, the elevator fell, and we lost all of our clothes, and this Queen made us sit in mud, and the Cobalts. . ." he was desperately trying to cover his half naked body.
"I just have one question Roxton-" Challenger started "Where is your- " but the scientist's question was promptly answered when seemingly out of thin air, something propelled itself on to the lord's head.
"hat." He finished, as Marguerite stifled a laugh.