The silence that had fallen over the hall was almost absolute. Not a single sound could be heard as everyone waited eagerly for Lady O'Hare to speak. Her appearance had taken many by surprise but it demanded respect from all. Gone was the beauty that many had been expecting and she was replaced by a woman who seemed to be stepping into a war. There was much confusion but still not a word was spoken.
"Thank you all for coming on such short notice," said Lady O'Hare in a voice that was loud enough for everyone to hear. "On this day I bring you news that I did not wish to bring to you. As many of you know there are lands to the south of here that is rich in iron ore which have belonged to my family for years beyond count. What many of you might not know is that that Lord Sherringham of Willenhall claimed that those lands belonged to him, unfortunately the King in his infinite wisdom has decided to give those lands to Lord Sherringham. This is something that simply cannot be allowed. The O'Hares have owned that land longer than written history and I will be damned if I allow Lord Sherringham to take what rightful belongs to my family. The ore from that land can fund a better quality of life for all in my land and create jobs for those who need them."
For Sir Trucker this was not the news that he would have liked to have heard. From the sounds of it a war was about to begin and he felt that he and Jessica would be caught in the middle of it again. However there was a lot of chatter between everyone in the hall as they were coming to terms with what they had just been told. Sir Tucker felt that it was an opportunity to have a word with his friend.
"This doesn't look good Jessica," said Sir Tucker quietly as he looked up at Jessica. She was close to him so he didn't really have to grab her attention. "I have a feeling that this isn't going to go well."
"Can we do anything to stop this?" replied Jessica who disliked the idea that there might be a war coming.
"I think not, this seems to be out of our hands." He wanted to continue on but there was a loud banging sound which was a clear indication that silence was in order. Everyone looked back at Lady O'Hare who still had more to say.
"Believe me war was the last thing I would have wanted and my father taught me that diplomacy was the way. However this time diplomacy has failed and war is the only solution to this dispute. Many of you will call this as acting against the wishes of the King but I care not for his words. Call be a traitor, call me a rebel but the truth of the matter is that what rightfully belongs to my family is being taken away and I will not stand by and do nothing to stop it. Already I have called for my bannermen and soon we will have the army that we need to defend this land from those thieves and ensure that it remains exactly where it should be. For those of you who wish to leave no one will stop you however those that stay will be forever known as my most loyal of allies. Those who choose to leave may do but know that they will never be welcome again in Featherstone or any other land that is under my rule." She remained confident as she knew that if she showed any kind of weakness then she would lose everything that she had built."
Slowly a few people began to leave the hall as they wanted no part in this war. Sir Tucker began to think and he knew that if he left he would lose access to the location of Three Man's Treasure. There was a chance that he would be able to sneak in and retrieve the treasure but it was too great of a risk.
However as a fully anointed knight Sir Tucker knew that he would be forced to join the army and most likely placed on the front line. He had always thought about fighting on the battlefield but it had happened much sooner than he had expected. He also wouldn't have wanted Jessica to be anywhere near him but he feared that she would be drawn into it as well. He knew that she was a good person and he feared that war might corrupt her in some way and she would no longer the woman that he knew.
Over the course of the next few days a few thousand soldiers arrived to Featherstone. Most of them were camped just outside of the city but their commanders were inside speaking to Lady O'Hare herself. She was going over battle plans with them and she knew that it was going to be a difficult task. The Sherringhams had the crown on their side in this dispute so would likely receive some aid from them.
However she felt that superior tactics would win them the day. Already she was formulating the best strategy for the battle and she even considered marching her army on until she reached Willenhall. At first many of the commanders hadn't taken her seriously due to the fact that she was a woman but her battle sense and keen intellect put them in their place. Even though she was a young woman she spoke with the confidence and precision of a high lord. One even thought to question her credibility as a competent leader, this was met with a harsh threat to remove his head from the rest of his body. The commander kept quiet and reserved after this.
Already Lady O'Hare had sent out scout parties to spy on how many the Sherringhams would have in their army. She hoped that they wouldn't have an army and that they could be taken by surprise. However she knew that it was foolish to hope for such a thing since Lord Sherringham would not be such a fool. Despite her intelligence she knew not to underestimate the intelligence of her enemies. Such an action always led to trouble but she was still confident of victory.
There was one thing that Lady O'Hare was a little disappointed with and that was the fact that a few of the Lords had refused her call. One such Lord was Lord Tyrone Howlet who had plenty of men and was located not far from Featherstone. However since he had blood ties with the Royal Family he couldn't support someone who was actively going against the word of the king.
Since Sir Tucker was just a knight he had no part in these battle discussions but he was still within Featherstone. However they had been evicted from the castle since it was to house more important people. Lady O'Hare did allow them to stay in a large house nearby along with some other knights who were deemed too low to stay at the castle during this period of unrest.
Jessica wasn't allowed to stay in the house with the knights though. She remained in the castle and for now was helping the servants in the castle. It was a way for her to pay for herself and Sir Tucker's stay in the city. It would also keep her close to Lady O'Hare who still seemed to be amused by her size. Although she had seen three other women grow taller than Jessica she felt that she was naturally tall and thus a wonder of Angleland. Jessica had not told her about the potion that had saved her life as a baby but gave her this enormous body instead. Nor did she tell her about the fact that her full height was around one hundred and twenty feet. She felt that this was information that was best to keep out of Lady O'Hare's reach.
Jessica's arm was still in a cast but she knew that it wouldn't be long until her arm was fully healed and it could be removed. It was a great annoyance and she would have loved nothing more than to smash the cast off of her arm. Then she would be free to change size like she did before and be her truth self. Being this size for so long had made her feel a little antsy and she just wanted it off.
Jessica was walking through the corridors as she made her way to the main hall. That was where Lady O'Hare was located as she was still discussing her plans to the other commanders. As she entered she saw that Lady O'Hare was not in her seat but instead she and the other commanders were standing around a large table which had a map of the lands that were being disputed. There were many empty cups around the table that needed to be filled with water. Some of the commanders would have liked to have wine in their cups but Lady O'Hare wouldn't allow it. She wanted everyone to be at the top of their game and wine would only make things worse.
As Jessica poured water into their cups she could hear a few of them commenting over her height. It was something that she had gotten used to but she did feel one of them slap her buttocks. She would have loved nothing more than to strike him back but she knew that it would only lead her to trouble so she allowed it to slide for now. However she did look at the person responsible, he was a fairly old man with most of his teeth missing. She would remember his face and show him the error of his ways later.
Some of the other commanders who were there didn't seem to respect Lady O'Hare that much due to the fact that she was a woman. She had confronted this problem on more than one occasion since becoming the Lady of Featherstone and she would prove to her male counterparts that she was as competent if not more than those who were discussing at her table.
One of the commanders even outright told her that she was incompetent to lead such a force. In response Lady O'Hare had ordered his tongue be ripped out by hot pincers but just before the sentence was carried out she had decided to show a small amount of leniency. She had seen him begging to her not to go through with it and when he saw the hot pincers he had actually wetted himself. However by letting him off the hook she had not done it out of mercy, she had used him as an example to those who thought that she couldn't lead since she was a woman. The commander had been humiliated by his peers but he kept his tongue, she still had some use for him.
Jessica couldn't really hear what was being said as she made her way back to the kitchen. She hadn't been forced to be a cupbearer but she was beginning to regret her choice. However there was one good thing that had come from all of this and that was that she was able to work with Tamara again. The other maidens who had been victims of the potions were also working hard. Like Tamara they had all returned to normal soon after.
One thing that Jessica excelled in was her strength. There were a few times when there were objects that needed to be moved. It was a job that would take two people to achieve however when Jessica attempted them she was able to do it by herself. Even with her left arm still in its cast she was still able to outmuscle everyone else.
However she didn't do this to show off but simply to get the job done. To her the job was much like when she was back on her farm. She did miss her family and she wondered how they were doing without her being there to help. They were probably worried sick about their only child going out on such a dangerous quest, they had even tried to convince her not to go but she had wanted to simply to look out for Sir Tucker.
At the beginning of the quest she knew that Sir Tucker needed her protection but now she wasn't so sure. He had proved himself on numerous occasions that he was capable of looking after himself. However she knew that one day he would run into a situation that he wasn't capable of getting out of. That would be where she would step in to help him get himself out of trouble.
She also knew that he would always protect her in whatever way he could. He couldn't protect her physically but he could mentally. She didn't know what her life would be like without him, she could still remember playing all the games with him when they had been children.
One thing that her mind had drifted to was the kiss that they had experienced the week before. It had simply been a distraction but she had enjoyed it more than she would say. She would have loved nothing more than to carry him off to a bedroom and allowed him into her private parts. However she had kept herself composed and she still believed that they shouldn't have sex before they were married.
Inside the house Sir Tucker was sitting down and having a drink with the other knights. Some of the knights he already knew thanks to the fact that they had served together while taking out the great wolves. The other knights he had not met and some of them looked down at him. This was due to the fact that they were from prestigious families while he admitted that his family were blacksmiths. To them it was unusual for someone of a low birth rank to become a knight but it wasn't unheard of.
Despite the fact that they were likely going to war soon the knights were actually relaxed. They played card games with one another and told stories about past glories and women that they had bedded. When they asked Sir Tucker about the women that he had bedded he normally stayed silent and when they asked about women he was seeing he would only respond that his friend was someone that he could really look up to.
However during the games there was a dispute that broke out between two knights over a card game. One accused the other of cheating and it turned into a heated argument between the two. Eventually even swords were drawn and this was when the other knights decided to step in to make sure that it did escalate further.
Eventually it was decided that there would be a dual between the pair and the winner would be in the right. Normally a contest like this would be to the death but since Lady O'Hare wanted as many able knights as she could it was decided that tournament swords would be used. It would also be under tournament rules and would take place outside. It was raining slightly but still the duel went on regardless.
Sir Tucker was amongst the knights watching and in the rain he saw them square off against one another. There were a few heated words between them before the contest began and it continued on as they fought. One particular knight had even be nominated to be the judge of the contest which he was more than happy to do. Just as long as it meant that this matter would be put behind them. The other knights just wanted to see a good fight and already some were betting between one another.
The sound of sword striking shield was heard along with the cries of excitement from the other knights. Some were even cheering on each knight while Sir Tucker remained neutral in the contest and just watched like most of the others. He didn't know who either knight was and he hadn't witness the event that had caused the argument.
The contest continued on until eventually the accuser won the contest when he had been judged to have made a fatal blow. There was some disappointment from some of the knights as they were not too happy with the results. Whether they liked it or not the winner was decided and the contest was over.
Because the accused knight had lost he was forced to pay the victor and admit that he had been cheating in the game. Whether this was true or not didn't matter, the fact was that there was a winner and in the rules of the contest the winner was always in the right since the gods had sided with them.
With the contest over everyone else went back into the house to continue their socialising. Sir Tucker took a moment to look at the castle and think about Jessica before he too stepped back inside and out of the rain. The mood inside had calmed down now that the contest was over.
Sir Tucker sat down at a table and had a drink of ale to try and get himself ready for whatever might happen next. He expected some Lord to come by at any moment and tell them that it was time for them to march out. The thought of fighting in a battle was both exciting and terrifying for him. He had a real chance of glory but there was also a good chance that he would be killed as well. Some of the most famous and prestigious knights in history had fallen in the battlefield. Their moment of glory had gone hand in hand with their doom. Sir Tucker wanted the first part of that but the second part was something that he wasn't keen on doing.
One thing that was also on Sir Tucker's mind was the treasure that he felt was really close to becoming his. He only needed to wait until Jessica's arm healed properly before he could finally move on and claim it. He was still thinking about what he was going to do with all of that gold. He thought about buying a lord out of their land and then becoming a lord himself or maybe even buying one of the islands in the Prime Islands and setting up his own kingdom. One thing he knew was that he would never have to work again and the rest of his life would be in rest and relaxation.
After a short while Sir Tucker sat in at a small table with three other knights and they were talking to one another. Like Sir Tucker none of them were of particular noble birth so they felt that they were on the same level as one another.
Each of them had a large cup of ale and they were drinking it while they spoke. One knight was called Sir Gareth Garfield whose family had been carpenters until he had proven his worth and become a knight. The second was Sir Henry Stuart who had been more of a sparring partner for in-training knights before he too showed his worth. The final knight was Sir Roderick Martin who had actually paid a minor Lord to give him a knighthood. Although he was skilled with a blade he would not have become a knight without the bribe to let him become one. It was not the most honourable way to earn a knighthood but it had been enough to get the job done.
Each of the knights spoke about the ladies that were waiting for them upon their return. Sir Roderick and Sir Gareth both had wives at home while Sir Henry had someone that he had a keen eye on. Eventually the question was pointed at Sir Tucker who just had enough time to take a drink from his ale.
"So come on tell us," said Sir Gareth who seemed to be a little impatient with the young knight.
"Well there is someone who I would like to make mine," replied Sir Tucker as he struggled to pick the right words.
"So what is she like?" replied Sir Henry. "Is she a pretty one or does she have a face only a mother could love?"
"No she is very beautiful and tall, very, very tall. With hazel eyes that a man could lose himself in and with lowing locks of brown hair. Her lips are warm and yet soft to the touch." This caused the knights to giggle a little to one another which made Sir Tucker stop speaking for a moment.
"You don't need to become a poet on us." He laughed as he took a sip of his ale. "How tall is she anyway because once I met a maiden who was so tall that she had to duck under door frames. She was probably one of the ugliest women I've ever seen here and she had a voice that sounded like a man's."
"Are you sure that it wasn't a man in a dress?" replied Sir Roderick. "There are a few of those around."
"No believe me she was a woman, sadly she isn't with us any longer. Found out that not too long ago she died. No one really knows how, she just went to sleep and didn't wake up. That was a shame though because she was only young. Does your lady friend have to duck to get through doors?" He doubted that she would since this other woman had been the tallest woman he had ever seen.
"Yes she does need to duck through doors," replied Sir Tucker. What Sir Roderick had just said was somewhat worrying for Sir Tucker because he had always thought about Jessica's health even though there wasn't really anything for him to be concerned about. "In fact if she was here with us right now her head might hit the ceiling." This made Sir Gareth almost choke on his ale.
"Impossible," replied Sir Gareth as he regained his composure. "No maiden is that tall, are you sure?"
"Oh believe me I'm sure. She hit her head against the ceiling too many times for me to not think she was that tall." He left out the fact that she could grow even taller than that, for now it wasn't important.
There was a silence that fell across the table as the three other knights registered what they had just been told. They wanted to believe that Sir Tucker was just telling a tall tale but from the tone of his voice and his mannerisms they could tell that he was telling the truth. They never imagined seeing a woman who was that tall but if they were inside the castle they would have seen her working away.
"How do you expect to reach up and kiss such a maiden?" asked Sir Henry who was still in some disbelief.
"She bends down and kisses me." Rather than being in wonder the knights instead seemed to laugh at what he had just said. It was like he had just told them some kind of humorous joke.
"A maiden should never have to bend down to kiss a knight. It is why he should only be with maidens who are shorter than they are. A knight ducking down to kiss a maiden is perfectly normal but the other way around is just not right."
Sir Tucker did feel a little embarrassed but also a little angry with what was being said. He didn't care how much Jessica towered above him, she was still his best friend and he wouldn't think anything less of her or himself. He just let the knights have their laugh until they changed the subject and instead talked about the opponents they had fought during one on one contests.
This was where Sir Tucker did excel since he had been in a few one on one contests and had done surprisingly well in all of them. Sir Roderick mentioned how he had taken down some knight during a trial by combat. He described the ease of the contest and how his opponent had been quick to die. He felt no guilt over it though because it showed that his side of the argument had been the just side in the eyes of the gods.
Elsewhere Lady O'Hare had finished with her commanders and she was just about to relax for a moment until her scout party returned. The news that they had was not to her liking, it seemed that Lord Sherringham had also amassed his own army and was willing to fight to keep the mines that the King had decided was his.
Despite the news this was something that wasn't entirely unexpected. She would have thought much less of him if he had just given up the lands so quickly. She even saw this as her way of showing that she was the right leader for Featherstone and that her father would be proud if he were still alive to see this.
Lady O'Hare was inside her chambers and on a nearby table the four potions were still there. She looked at them for a moment and she thought that potion number four would be useful to her in battle. Potion number three would be useful if she was able to give it to her enemy stealthfully.
However such a thing would be a last resort. She had seen what had happened to the other maidens and she was cautious with them. They were extremely effective and too much of any of them would only spell trouble. Instead she decided to use them if all her other options had been exhausted.
On her wall was another tapestry but this one depicted herself with her late mother and father. She was only depicted as a young child in the tapestry but she still looked at it closely. She especially looked at her father and she wished that he was there to guide her, he had died young and she had inherited his lands and titles much younger than she would have liked to have been. She missed him every day but wishing he was there to guide her wouldn't help her. The truth of the matter was that he wasn't there for her now no matter how much she would have wanted it the other way. She and only her could steer Featherstone into a better tomorrow.
However with the information that she had just been given she knew that she had to do something to ensure her victory. She decided that her army would be fully mobilized and ready to move by dawn. She had one of the messengers tell each of the commanding officers and she began to look at the map that was going to be the battle field. This would be her first real battle and her first true chance to shine.
One advantage that she did have was the fact that her troops would have the high ground. The battlefield would be on a hill and she didn't wish for her troops to push forward any further than they needed to be. Her only objective was to secure the lands that were at the centre of the dispute and not any further. It would lead her troops into enemy territory and technically she would be invading another Lord's land.
However for the eve of battle it was normally customary for soldiers and commanders to have a night with a woman just in case they didn't make it out the next day. Lady O'Hare commanded a particular maiden named Emily to enter her chamber. This maiden was quite short, she only just about grew over five feet in height and she had raven black hair and the most beautiful face that Lady O'Hare had ever seen. She also had very large breasts which was one of the reasons why Lady O'Hare had taken such a liking to her.
"You summoned me my Lady?" asked Emily as she carefully entered the room. She knew that not many were allowed inside.
"Yes tomorrow I go to battle and I need something to ease my mind," replied Lady O'Hare. "I thought that you might help."
"I think that there is something that I could do." She turned to make sure that the door was closed before allowing her dress to drop onto the floor revealing her naked body. It was a magnificent sight for Lady O'Hare to see. She stood up from where she was sitting and stepped towards the naked woman.
"That would do very nicely." There was a smile on her face when she reached Emily. However she turned her back to the shorter woman but there was a good reason for this. "Do you mind if you undo my dress. I can't seem to do it myself." She was more than capable of doing it herself but it was a form of foreplay between the two women that they had done numerous times before.
"Of course my lady. Nothing would give me greater joy." She then pulled on the laces keeping up Lady O'Hare's dress. When they were undone the dress fell to the ground and the taller woman turned to her. Lady O'Hare had freckles on her body and it only added to her overall beauty. "Would you like me to take the lead tonight or would you prefer if you do the honours."
"I'll let you lead tonight. But be gentle with me, I had a rough time during my last sex session."
"As you wish my lady."
The two women moved to the bed and both were soon lost in pure bliss. Outside of this room Lady O'Hare was considered to be a very independent and capable woman. However inside of the room she was at the mercy of Emily who was below her in both height and social standings. This short woman could make her feel so many different feelings that she couldn't fully comprehend what she was feeling. All she knew was that she was happy but she knew that soon she would have to go back to reality.