Small note: Like Dragon this is not based on a game I have played, more on a potential game I would love to play, and know that CK can provide; all the main elements of the story are there in the game, including the princess with intrigue skills and selective heir issue.
This will be rather long and updates will be random, this is something I am writing for relaxation while working on my book. Sometimes it is nice to write in lower quality English and have your characters do silly things. I should be able to do a minimum of one update a week, probably more.
I should warn that it does take rather longer to get going than I would like; the beginning is very necessary background but it is kind of boring. Just wait until our princess grows up...
This is...character and plot based, with comedy, mush, intrigue, big events and tragedy mixed in. It is not as serious or demanding as Dragon, in many respects it is more like Red Hand, except it will not be turned into a book
The Machiavellian Adventures of Princess Eleanor
The realm of England in the year of our Lord 1337
England 1325: The royal palace at Waltham, Essex
In a patch of empty grass less than half a mile from the royal palace two children were playing outside in the summer sun; one a boy, short for his fourteen years, with sandy hair, the other a girl of nearly six, her jet black hair bound up into a thick braid and coiled at the nape of her neck. They were both dressed in rich clothes, and spoke the educated French of the noble classes.
“Come on, Nell, you’re not even trying.”
Eleanor looked up at the sandy haired boy and pulled a face, “Princesses aren’t supposed to do swords, we’re supposed to look pretty and dance and stuff.”
“And you hate doing that, dear sister.” Stephan grinned and raised his wooden sword to the en garde position, “You always say knights get to do the interesting stuff, well now’s your chance to do some fighting.”
“But you’re older and bigger and stronger and you’re a squire now” replied Eleanor uncertainly, scuffling up the soil at her feet with the tip of her wooden sword.
The boy rubbed his pug nose and shrugged, “If you are too scared…”
“I’m not scared, Stephan!” Eleanor drew herself up to her full short height and glared at her brother’s chest, “I’m nearly six now and I’m not scared of anything!”
“Prove it.” Stephan looked down at Eleanor and raised an eyebrow. She stepped back a pace and struck an imitation of her brother’s pose, holding the sword gracelessly in both hands. “Now try lunging at me.” invited Stephan, “That’s an easy move for beginners.” Eleanor lunged forward clumsily and Stephan easily parried the blow, “Good.” he said encouragingly before slowly attacking to her left. Eleanor stepped back, tripped on the hem of her dress and fell over. Immediately Stephan closed the small gap between them, limping with his twisted right leg “Are you alright?”
Eleanor nodded, dabbing at the mud on her clothes, trying to scrape the worst of it off, “Now I’m going to get in trouble; I’m not supposed to get covered in mud because it’s not elegant”
“Don’t worry, you’ll wriggle out if it same as usual” said Stephan confidently, “Just burst into tears and wail about it being an accident”
Eleanor giggled, “That always works. Since I’m all muddy…” she threw her sword down and began pulling out her hairpins, then untied the end of her plait, loosing her hair into a dark mass that reached almost to her waist, explaining as she worked, “If I’m going to be yelled at for being undignified I’ll let my hair down, I hate wearing it pinned into a proper lady’s style.” She picked her sword back up and brandished it at her brother, “Come on then! Bet I win in the end!”
Stephan laughed and swung his sword slowly enough for her to block and easily dodged her counter stroke, making it look much harder than it was, “One day, Eleanor, you’re going to be a better with a sword than any knight.”
Eleanor’s eyes went wide, “Really?” she gasped.
“Of course, why would I lie? I’m your brother, and I always tell you the honest truth.”
Her confidence boosted by Stephan’s praise, Eleanor threw herself into a wholehearted attack, raining clumsy blows down on him, which he easily blocked.
King William, sixth of that name to rule England, sat brooding in his private chambers, waiting for his spymaster to arrive. He went over his decision many times, as he had been doing for days now; his mind was made up, it had to be done, but that did not make things any easier.
A knock at the door preceded Trempwick’s appearance; the spymaster entered and knelt before his king, “Sire, you summoned me.”
“Yes, a matter of great import has arisen, or should I say I can no longer delay.” William began to speak, his heart heavy as he finally faced that which he had delayed for so long, “Stephan is…a good boy, he has great potential and is my firstborn son and therefore my heir; it is a shame, then, that his leg has mended badly. But for that fall he might have made an excellent king.”
“Sire? Am I to understand…?”
“Yes, kill him.”
“Sire.” Trempwick chose his words with equal care; William was well known for his foul temper, “Sire, the boy only has a slight limp-”
“No.” interrupted the king, “No, I am a king first and a father second, the good of the realm must come first. I cannot remove my son from the succession, but nor can I let a cripple rule – how would he lead an army? Who would ever respect him? He walks with a limp and has trouble riding; he could not even travel the country on royal progress to keep his vassals in check. I have two more sons, I may yet have others; I will not – cannot leave my crown to Stephan. As long as he is alive he can contest my succession, reducing the realm to civil war between brothers; he has been raised to expect the crown, he thinks of it as his already, he would never accept being passed over.”
“He is just a boy.” Trempwick felt obliged to make the protest; he knew it would do no good, but he needed to be able to tell himself he had tried, that someone had spoken up for the doomed boy. He may have worked his way to spymaster over the dead bodies of rivals, all of whom had died in perfectly unsuspicious circumstances of course, and he may arrange assassinations on a regular basis, but he still needed something to salve his conscience from time to time.
William’s eyes hardened, he leapt to his feet and advanced on the spymaster; despite his short stature the king was an intimidating man, heavily built and a famous warrior, “You dare question me?” he hissed, “You think I have no idea of how to rule my kingdom, my kingdom, the kingdom I have ruled for nigh on eleven years?”
Trempwick bowed his head, his interjection had only increased the king’s determination to kill his eldest son, “No, sire. I shall get to work as you command, immediately if you wish.”
“Yes, get it done and over with; make sure none can suspect the death was anything but natural.”
The royal nursey often resembled a battlefield more than anything, most of the children in this family had inherited their father’s famous temper, which lent those inevitable childhood squabbles a rather loud edge. The nurse assigned to care for the royal children had long since gained the ability to block out and ignore the ear splitting noise her charges created when quarrelling, arguments such as the one going on now.
“You broke it!” Matilda flourished her necklace at Eleanor, displaying the snapped gold chain; “You broke it, you stupid, clumsy, idiotic-”
“I didn’t!” yelled Eleanor, “Why would I want your stupid necklace?”
“Because you’re determined to ruin my wedding! You are jealous of me-”
“I’m not! What have you got that I don’t? Nothing!”
“Beauty, seniority in our family, a sense of decorum, brains, a nice large dowry, a fiancée who is heir to the German emperor.”
“I don’t care!” Eleanor’s face was going red, “I don’t care – I like being plain, I don’t care if I’m muddy, and I don’t want to get married!”
Matilda laughed scornfully, “Good, because no one will ever put up with you; you shall end up in a nunnery.”
“No I won’t.” Eleanor’s denial didn’t have much energy behind it; she had been worrying about that herself, there were only two paths open to women of her rank, and she didn’t like either of them.
“Yes you will, unless father finds some poor dope who is utterly desperate for your tiny dowry and loathsome company.” Matilda smiled her best superior, smug elder sister smile “I will be an empress one day, you will remain a grubby little girl who speaks like lower nobility, looks like shabby minor royalty, and acts like a churl.”
The nurse was rather surprised when prince Stephan entered the nursery; he was now far too old to live here, he slept in the main hall with the other squires now. She was rather pleased he had arrived though, as he usually managed to break up his arguing siblings, restoring peace before she got a headache; for this reason alone she encouraged him to visit regularly, something he was already inclined to do.
“What is going on here?” Stephan crossed the room to join his two sisters as quickly as his limp would allow him. “I could hear shouting half way up the staircase.”
“She broke my necklace, I am supposed to wear it when I arrive in Germany-”
“No I didn’t!” shouted Eleanor, balling her fists up and trying not to cry, “You blame me for everything, I hate you!” she pushed her sister as hard as she could, then ran off, slamming the nursery door behind herself.
Stephan sighed, “You should try to be nice to her, Tilly.”
“Why? She is a disgrace to our family; I was never like that, and nor were Rowena and Adele.”
“She is our sister, and she is only five; you are eleven, you should look after her.”
“She broke my necklace, I leave for Germany in a week, and she broke it.” Matilda was furious to find her eyes filling with tears, “This marriage is important, father is relying on the alliance it will create, and it’s all going wrong already.”
Stephan put his arm around his sister, “You will be alright, Tilly, I know you will; you will be a credit to our family, you have no need of a necklace to make an impression.”
“I do wish…I did not have to go to Germany now. I want to be empress and all, but…it is so far away.”
Stephan waited a few hours before going to search for Eleanor; when she didn’t want to be found she was very good at hiding. He could tell she had been waiting for him; she was in the first place he looked, the great oak tree out in the meadows where they had been sword fighting earlier. He sat down in the shade under the tree, waiting for her to drop out of the branches and join him.
It took a while but eventually she did; she began pulling up blades of grass and tying them in knots before throwing them away, “I didn’t touch her necklace, Matilda always blames me. I saw nursey playing with it.”
“Really?” Stephan couldn’t help doubting that a wet nurse would ever dare do such a thing.
His doubt showed in his voice, Eleanor leapt to her feet, “She did, I saw her.”
“I believe you.” replied Stephan hastily, he wasn’t sure if he did, but he didn’t want to upset his baby sister again, “Honest, I do.”
Eleanor studied him from under lowered eyebrows, “Alright.” she said, and sat back down. She knew he didn’t believe her, but it was the truth; no one ever believed her. She felt compelled to ask a question that had been bothering her all her life, What am I supposed to do?”
“What do you mean?” asked Stephan, smiling slightly.
“I’m the seventh and youngest of the family, everything I can do someone else can do better, and I’m none of the things a princess should be. I’m not pretty, or graceful, or nice, or gracious, and there’s not much left over for me as a dowry so I’m a poor princess too – Matilda was right.”
“Contrary to what they would tell you none of your sisters were born as ideal princesses either; when you are older you will be every bit as regal as them.”
“I don’t want to be a princess.” confessed Eleanor guiltily, “I’d rather be a really rich peasant, then I could start my own business and not have to marry anyone or be a nun or anything What can I be if I’m not a princess or a nun?”
Stephan laughed and said kindly, “You can be Eleanor, and I think you are quite good at that.”