Author: Witch Fu
Far from our maiden/prince of England...
The castle-home of the King Francois Boussard was vast in its repulsive display of wealth, as all castles are, and boasted a treasury of far greater value. The people of the French countryside would never dare to mention to the King or any of his dignitaries how much they disliked his habitual surplus to requirements.
With the largest portions of land, the greatest treasury, and the most tactical invasion positions in his continent the King had nothing to worry about for his future plans, save where to build his next castle. He knew that no ruler in their right mind would attack such a large and well-funded army. And although there were no shortages of insane and overly ambitious dictators, the soldiers assigned to set foot against the French army deserted.
The King ruled with efficiency that some would call tightfisted in all things save his own personal finance. His prudence for the wealth allowed to the people was spoken of on many different continents with both regard and contempt. His subjects lived in nearly abject poverty at all times, and he preferred it that way. It kept his treasury full, and to any visitor a grand palace would be quite the sight. A splendid castle that outshone anything for one hundred miles made the beauty all the more endearing.
The long corridor that stretched out beyond the princess's chambers did so with the ease that comes from large proportions. The sounds therein echoed on each wall or crevice and the tall ceilings did little more than keep out the rain and it was easily imagined that the sole purpose for their erection was for arrogance.
As the princess stood under the soaring arch that led to her chambers, she sighed again in gentle frustration. All she could think of was that any girl in her state of affairs would be overjoyed to stand where she did, and she herself felt nothing but apprehension and vulnerability.
She was to be educated. That is, at least, what they had told her. She had known better than to hope for as much, being well aware that educating a woman bordered on heresy. She was told little other than to have her accouterments packed and ready to journey for her 'education'.
It was more than obvious that her father was stalling for time. "He knows he has the most eligible daughter on the continent, I dare say, in the world. He'll send me off to make myself useful in exchange for the freedom to set about choosing the best match."
Her jaw set, and her skirts firmly griped by delicate hands, Lady Tara began her journey toward whatever may come, being quite used to having no control over any aspect of her life. She hated the subservience, the domesticity. She wanted to be able to want. To feel what she truly felt and act upon it was more than she could ever hope for. "I am my father's land. He will find the best price, and sell me without remorse. Onto a life where I will still lack the ability to think for myself, and also have to serve the pleasures of my husband-King." That thought, while sending uncomfortable sensations to her already disgruntled stomach, was not overwhelmingly different from the others. She was still to be a well-dressed slave. Nothing more than a bartering tool for the massive sport of land-purchase was she, refined, but not encouraged to think, well-mannered but dissuaded from all speech.
This was to be her life, and whether it was keeping still in bed, or using the proper utensil while dinning, she was to serve out her sentence regardless of task.
On the carriage trip to the harbor, Lady Tara sighed as she looked out the windowpane to a home that she had never really felt 'at home' in, and would quite possibly never see again. The brief valediction that she had shared with her parents had to be expected, and yet it struck a part of Tara that she had forgotten she possessed. They were uninterested at best that their only daughter was to be leaving for an indeterminable amount of time, after which she might well be betrothed to the young man of her father's choosing, never to return to the castle she was raised in. She loved them, detested them; wanted to please them, wanted to run from them all; wanted them to love her even as they barely noticed her presence.
The house drew from her sight and as it slipped behind a high hillock she turned to the interior of the coach. Her eyes fell first on the serving girl, scared and quite in the farthest corner from her lady, the brown hair and doe-eyed youth understandably dreaded the oncoming journey. "She undoubtedly has a loving family at home that she will miss, and who will miss her terribly." Tara thought with more than a little sadness.
The woman next to herself was to accompany her through her studies, having been learned in them all at an earlier stage in her life. She was much older than Lady Tara and, having never been married, spent the entirety of her life in scholarly pursuits and to the training young maidens for their futures as the brides of kings. She sat ramrod straight, with her hair unfashionably pulled tightly to the back or her head where it stood at attention in a strict bundle. She kept her eyes forward and slightly downcast as she explained the up and coming requirements of the day-dreaming princess.
"You are to be conditioned with the ut-most propriety in the ways of an exceptional young lady. Those studies include sewing, etiquette and the mannerisms of a gentile lady. A wonderful class in the quiet leisure of painting and a daily music lesson where you will further your education of the clarinet and vocal applications for future entertainment." She had said all this with a calm enthusiasm, for wasn't it the dream of all young ladies to be properly conditioned and then sent away to be with her king?
Her voice was mild and well-controlled. The accent put on every syllable was so well executed that Tara was sure this woman was partially constructed like a machine. Her own voice, though without training, was gentle, and unassuming. She carried the accent of a French princess who had been taught the English language at a young age. Whenever she happened to say a particular word that she had always had trouble pronouncing, her companion would flinch as if struck.
This woman, who had been introduced to Tara as Madame Flockton, actually believed that one should feel privileged to be requisitioned for the position as bride to a king. While Tara didn't abhor her position she continually questioned its significance. She felt sorry for those with allusions as to what the life of a princess/queen really meant. She understood that starvation could naturally be much more painful and harsh than that of a 'noble born', and she wanted so badly to help those who needed it and would accept it, but she knew that her role as mother to the people depended directly on whom her father chose to be her suitor. She knew that the most likely winner of such a contest would be a man from a country with great prosperity, and prosperity to her father equaled the control of its peoples and monies. She disliked how her father dealt with his people, like animals, there for his own uses. And she feared being paired with someone of the same mind.
It was unavoidable, the man whom she was destined to marry, but how she then handled it would matter greatly. She disliked the idea of using manipulation for her benefit, but she thought rather thoroughly about what ways she could manipulate her future husband-king into letting her help the people of her lands.
Tara's gaze returned again to that of the serving girl opposite of her. She studied the youth with much interest. She wore her clean, though untended hair down, and it reached well past her mid-back. Her face, pink from the scrubbing she had most certainly received before departure, was withdrawn and subdued. She couldn't have been much older than Tara's own 12 years, and her thin frame was clothed in a shift with a tie at her waste, tights covering the legs. This, of course, was the tactic used by her very own Mme. Flockton. Making the serving girl look like an unappealing androgynous server, made Tara all the more royal. Tara again wondered at the girl's lament. Was she leaving behind a family? A beau, perhaps? Maybe she simply wasn't told what was to be expected of her, and she feared the worst. This brought Tara's mind to the idea of servitude as opposed to nobility. She hated the idea of being superior to another human being because she were spurned from the loins of the victor of wars long ago played out. What made her better than they, the people of hers or any other kingdom? Nothing, and she refused to be caught up in that preposterous game of believing anything against that.
This girl had done nothing wrong, and yet, she was torn out of her home, taken from her companions and those whom she loved, knowing nothing of what was to become of her for the ridiculous reason of being at the princess's will and command.
Sighing again with frustration and helplessness, Lady Tara leaned back into the seat of her coach. She was to be 'educated' until the victor of her father's affections was found, this, she was told, was to be expected to take two years at the least. For this she was untellingly grateful. She had known she would never be ready for a loveless suiting, but the knowledge that she was to have two additional years, soothed her. She didn't feel like she was ready to be anyone's wife, or queen. She was twelve, and she knew that most princesses of her age were already betrothed or married. She would be fourteen when wedded.
How much older would she be emotionally by that time?