Chapter 1: The Tournament of Flowers
Part One --- Isabeau Rosario
She was woken up by the sound of bells, coming from the main square: it was almost deafening, but at the same time it was the best way to wake up an entire city. Luckily that particular sound was muffled by the walls -- three, with a single opening -- of the bell tower.
Cordonia wasn't a Christian kingdom; there, it still existed an older religion.
A real fortune, for Isabeau, especially when it came to celebrating Beltane. The girl remained under the covers for a few more minutes, her green eyes closed and the hint of a smile on the lips, while basking in the heat of the sun's rays that penetrated through the window glass.
It was a luxury that she could not always afford, moreover... Not with Kana as a boss; the head librarian -- with his rigid attitude -- wasn't the most patient person in the realm; not with Isabeau, at least.
Finally she got out of bed, observing the natural landscape that was outside: Cordonia was a small reign, but it was still beautiful.
It was like something out of a fairy tale; it wasn't a surprise, since in the past there had been people able to use magic: Isabeau had read of them in one of the many books in the library, where she worked as a scribe. A clan who could control fire, bend it to their will, and turn into dragons; an evil queen with the ability to control electricity.
It was truly the stuff of legends.
Anyway, back to our main protagonist. That day would have been different for her; she knew it, but she wasn't aware of how much it would be different. While she was taking off her nightgown, leaving it on the bed, and was getting ready to take a bath, Isabeau's mind returned to the day before and to the visit she had received.
The previous day
For a fortnight the kingdom of Cordonia -- and all its people -- had been like a beehive; Isabeau had failed to see much (thanks to Kana and the amount of work he had assigned her), but the girl was perfectly aware of the reason behind all that frenzy. After all, the Tournament of Flowers didn't happen every day.
Of course her foster family would also be present; at least her aunts, Zya and Elise, and her elder sister, Annalisa. Their parents had died a few years earlier and the girls had taken comfort from each other: Isabeau truly considered Annalisa to be her sister, even if they didn't share the same blood, and she knew that for the brown-haired girl it was the same.
Attend to the tournament would have been a good move for their family; even if the Rosario weren't yet among the other noble Houses, who had lived in Cordonia for centuries, they were rich and Annalisa had told Isabeau about her plans, since she was the new Head of House Rosario. Her sister wanted to amass the queen's favor like their parents had amassed land and wealth. Isabeau believed in her: Annalisa had the keenness and the wit to get in the good graces of Queen Kendra.
She was working, sitting at one of the tables in the library, with another book to transcribe (the Codex Leicester of Leonardo da Vinci), ignoring the looks Kana gave her from time to time (and, furthermore, resisting the urge to stand up, go to him and tell him to stop: it would not have been a wise move at all, not when she knew Kana's personality).
In the end, she was utterly certain of that, he would have gave her only more work to do, as a kind of punishment or revenge. So Isabeau hold her tongue, sighing and concentrating on writing. Some minutes passed before she heard footsteps approaching her table.
"I'm working, Kana", she said in a neutral voice, hiding her irritation toward the head librarian. Her words were followed by a slight laugh and Isabeau's eyes widened, because she was taken by surprise. Could be...? She looked up and immediately recognized him. "Vasco!" She left the quill in her hand in the inkwell, getting up to be able to hug him. After all he was one of the few person she could trust, not to mention the affection she had for him. "It's really good to see you. What brings you here?"
"I wanted to see how you were doing. I still remember the young girl who used to snuck books under the banquet table to read in her lap during dinner", he replied, smiling and letting her go.
Isabeau smiled back. "I'm faring well." One day at a time, she thought, without saying it out loud.
He nodded, taking from the doublet the other reason of his visit, equally important. Seeing that envelope -- the Queen's sigil clearly visible on the red wax -- her smile widened: Isabeau was glad for her sister and she wished Annalisa the best of luck. The brunette deserved it. Vasco's following words, however, took the girl by surprise -- "This is your invitation", he had just said -- and Isabeau looked at the envelope with something akin to astonishment for the first seconds, before regaining control. "But I'm just a scribe", she said; and in any case she didn't think that Kana would leave her a day off. Not to mention the presence of Zya and Elise: even if she truly wanted to partecipate, the odds seemed to be against her. Luckily, Vasco -- who knew her well -- was able to ease her mind: Zya and Elise wouldn't be there and Annalisa had already talked to Kana.
Knowing this, for Isabeau the choice had not been difficult. "I'll come."
After finishing bathing herself, Isabeau thought back about her own decision; sure, she loved that particular work (the books were a source of knowledge and kept her mind sharp): just being surrounded by books was a joy for her -- but Isabeau would have preferred a different boss, more patient than the actual one. But that day was gonna be different even for her. Isabeau smiled again, while wearing the dress that Annalisa had sent her for that day. It was green -- like the coat of arms of the Rosario -- but its shade accentuated that of her eyes and fit with her fiery red hair.
"I am ready", she told herself, looking at the reflection in the mirror; then, she heard a carriage stop before her home and nod to herself. "I am like the fox." Then she went to open the door, a breath before Annalisa knocked on it and the sisters hugged each other.
"I knew this gown was perfect for you, Isa. It will be a fantastic day, I swear. And I have a surprise for you, before the start of the tourney. Let's go, sister."
Chapter 2: The Champion and the Scribe
"It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and honorably and justly, and it is impossible to live wisely and honorably and justly without living pleasantly." --- Epicurus
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Part One --- Percival Beaumont
He had every intention of winning that tournament; he knew he could: it wasn't a matter of bravado -- for he had felt that sensation when he was younger and he knew how to recognize the difference. No, it was simply a matter of knowing himself, his own cleverness and his ability with the lance. In addition to this, he could also count on his own steed: the horse, in fact, was used to tournaments and hunting parties and was able to mantain control. Aye, Thunder was a good horse and he and Percival trusted each other: it was a trust built over the years, ever since the lord of House Beaumont had seen it; Thunder was the birthday present for his fifteen years.
There were times when Percival wondered how long it had been: ten long years, where he and Thunder grew up together. He was grateful to his father for giving it to him. The horse was one of the few things that reminded Percival of his sire... Especially now that he was the Head of House Beaumont, after his father's death a year earlier.
He was in the stables, preparing Thunder for the day; he had always been in charge of the horse, after all. Percival was cheking the saddle when his younger brother entered, stopping beside him.
It was rare to see Emery in the stables; the young Beaumont was more interested in books and philosophy -- so much that it worried Percival: of course, his brother could do what he wanted, within reason, but would he be able to find love or a marriage? Perhaps he might help his brother in the future; after all, he was the Head of the House and could say something about it.
On the other hand, neither Percival was married or simply engaged: he didn't like very much the women at court, because they were too interested in simple gossip... and there was nothing that Percival hated more than idle chatter. He finished to check Thunder's saddle and turned to his brother with a sincere smile: "Are you planning to participate in the tournament as well, little brother?", he asked, in a slightly amused tone of voice: he could be funny when he wanted, he simply didn't show that side too much.
Emery gave the horse an apple, shaking his head in denial. "It's not my scene... not now, at least. Actually, I wanted to ask you a question, a very important one."
Percival raised his eyebrows slightly: Emery was known for his "important questions" and the fact that he had looked for Percival in the stables said a lot about it. Plus, he was now really curious about the question. "So, tell me. I will be glad to answer you, if I can do it."
Emery looked at him for a moment, as if he were deciding something; then he spoke, catching the older brother by surprise at the implications of that particular question.
Part Two --- Isabeau Rosario
The tournament was like she had always pictured it: Isabeau was walking with Annalisa near the tents reserved for noble families; certainly they were beautiful and the girl recognized some of the coats of arms. "You told me you had a surprise, Lisa, but I have not even seen its shadow yet", said Isabeau, watching the other maiden.
The brunette smiled, knowingly. "If I told you, it would no longer be a surprise. Be patient for a few more minutes and you will see it", replied Annalisa. Isabeau sighed: she could have been patient, but a clue would certainly not hurt. To distract herself, she thought about the future: if Annalisa's plan would had come to fruition, someday their House's tent would have been amidst the others. If they were lucky. Annalisa stopped, forcing her to do the same. "We are here", she said, pointing briefly to the tent before them.
Isabeau's eyes widened. "Lisa, what have you done? We can't--"
Her sister smiled, while simultaneously encouraging her: "Of course we can. During my visits at the court I got to know him and talk to him face to face. Percival Beaumont would be an excellent ally, between the other nobles. His family is old, powerful and respected."
"He could be all these things, but why me? I mean, I don't even know what to discuss with him." She kept her voice low, so that only Annalisa could hear her. The brunette reassured her again. "Isabeau. You could thrive here, with me. Not in the library. I just want to see you happy and this could be your chance, too. Grasp it. About your other question, you could talk with him about history, law or something about the tournament of today", Annalisa warned her.
Isabeau nodded, steeling her resolve: she could do it; she was perfectly able to talk about such matters, considering the books she had transcribed in the library. She straightened her back and Annalisa smiled. "This is my little sister. Now come, I have to introduce you first." And, after saying this, Annalisa turned around and raised one side of the tent, looking inside. "Lord Beaumont, I have someone to introduce you to."
Isabeau stepped forward and met a pair of blue eyes that would have made the most crystalline sea look disfigured. For an instant her sister and the rest disappeared, leaving only herself and the noble -- and, for some strange reason, Isabeau thought he felt the same way. Then Annalisa spoke again and the moment passed, mostly.
"I hope we are not bothering you, but this is my sister, Isabeau. I trust you can keep each other company before the tournament starts." With that, Annalisa bowed and leaved them alone, while Isabeau entered the Beaumonts' tent. "It's an honour to meet you, my Lord." She looked around for a moment, before noticing a movement from the corner of her eye. Percival was looking at her with curiosity, like she was some kind of exotic animal.
"An honour, really? I've heard that you work as a scribe, my lady."
She turned and looked the man in the eyes. "True. It's a good work, perfect for sharpening the mind. And I've heard that you, sir, are interested in laws and war. Did you know that the battering ram was created between the ninth and the eighth century before Christ, by the Assyrians? There's a lot to learn in books, after all."
Percival watched her for a moment, silent, before smiling, with a mix of joy and pride. "It's nice to see that a woman can talk about something more than gossip. It's a breath of fresh air.." He walked towards her, taking her hand for a brief kiss: Isabeau felt a slight shock, even if not unpleasant. "I look forward to see you during the tournament, Lady Isabeau. And I hope to receive your favour, then."
Her skin was still tingling, where his lips had touched her. She nodded again, with a brief smile. "You will have it, sir. For good luck. But I trust in your skills, too." She wanted to add more, but the sound of the horn stopped her: so, Isabeau simply bowed and left him to prepare himself, while she returned to her sister. One thing was sure: she would never forget that first meeting.
In "The Royal Masquerade" the main character and Percival Beaumont meet for the first time during the feast at her home; here, on the contrary, they know each other during the Tournament in which Percival will became the Champion, although this encounter will be shortly.
And I will make a mention about this in a future chapter.
Again, no one of these characters belongs to me, but to Pixelberry.
Chapter 3: Author's note
Hello to you all, who are reading my fanfiction on "The Royal Masquerade"; I truly hope that you are finding it nice, at least, and I'll be glad to read some comments (taking into account the rules I wrote in the first chapter, of course); also, I was thinking to add something else to this series: if someone is thinking outside the schemes -- and the ships with Hunter and/or Kayden -- and would like to give me a prompt, I'll be glad to use it with the due acknowledgements.
This is a brief pause, before which I'll continue with the next chapter -- this time about another one of the proposed pairing: any guesses about who will be involved? Hint: the story will be a "what if?" (maybe) and will involve a character that is quite hated. An advice: stay tuned.
Until next time, hugs for all (especially for who will leave a comment).
New edit: Update; after this story I've decided to write something about Kane and the Main Character from "The Elementalists". What can I say? I've a soft spot for some kind of villains and he is the perfect candidate.
Chapter 4: A Change of Heart (Part One)
"What if?" --- What will happen if Zya (and Elise), although blackmailed by Renza, succeeded in disavowing Isabeau? And what if Cyrus himself -- after being betrayed by Renza -- went back to being like he was in the past and will seek her out with a proposal to overthrown their common enemy once and for all?
All was lost... at least for her: Renza had managed to accomplish her goals and Isabeau had failed to do anything to stop Hunter's sister. Like Annalisa, that couldn't do anything to prevent their aunts -- especially Zya -- from disown her. And therefore Isabeau was again working in the library, under Kana's orders. She was transcribing a new book, her red hair combed in an informal way, when Kana approached her table.
"What is it?", Isabeau asked, watching the old man: maybe he was there to give her more work; she wouldn't complain. Writing was the only thing that prevented her from stopping to think about what had happened. It was like a safe haven, a place where she felt secure: especially now that she was no longer a Rosario.
I'm just a girl without name. I'm simply Isabeau, the scribe, she thought, without bitterness.
It was as if something in her had broken. Her heart. Her hopes for a different life. She had not even seen her own sister. Not because Isabeau now hated her -- this would never happen (and Annalisa wasn't responsible for her "fall") -- but simply because she didn't want her sister to see her so... resigned. The same was true for Hunter and Kayden, for similar reasons.
Isabeau focused again on Kana. The head librarian had not yet answered to her question and it was decidedly unusual... although Kana's attitude towards her had changed after Isabeau's return. It was as if he felt sorry for her: definitely something that had never happened before. Maybe, with time, he would go back to behaving like he used to; the woman wasn't sure if she liked him more this way or the previous one.
"If it is work I will do it", she said, interrupting the silence and the course of her own thoughts.
Finally the head librarian spoke. "It's about that, partially. There is a noble who wish to speak only with you, Isabeau, about a book to transcribe. Come, he's waiting for you in one of the reading rooms."
There was something strange in that situation; if Isabeau had to trust her instincts, she would have thought that the nobleman who was waiting her might have been Hunter. Or Kayden, to prevent her from refusing to meet him. Isabeau thought about the various possibilities: perhaps it was time to get closure, despite her concerns... The sooner, the better. Thus, the young scribe stood up, determined -- above all the rest -- to discover the identity of the mysterious noble.
"Well, let's go. I'm certain that this noble doesn't like to wait", she said to Kana, waiting for him to lead the way. She hoped, with that sentence, to receive more informations: but Kana didn't take the bait and both remained silent, until they reached the door of the reading room where the nobleman in question was waiting.
Kana knocked and a male voice from the inside (one she couldn't quite recognize, although it sounded familiar) said: "Come on in." Isabeau steeled her resolve and opened the door, ready to confront that person from her "past".
He had lost almost everything. Almost, because he still had his pride and he was alive. There was still a chance to get revenge on Renza. But to do so he needed allies. First, he had considered Kayden: they were brothers, after all, even if Cyrus was to blame for many things; mostly for the fact that he pushed Kayden away, after becoming the Head of House Vescovi. Kayden didn't deserve it, now Cyrus was aware of this.
So, he had taken the first step. He had talked with Kayden, apologizing for the way he had behaved; initially, the Crown Shield had proved skeptical, but Cyrus was determined to repair things between them... even if it took years to do it. What had happened had made him open his eyes.
The sting of betrayal, above all, was what made him furious.
At least he had not been accused of the assassination of the queen: it was typical of Renza, to resort to blackmail; that woman had control over the real killer -- the man with four fingers -- and was paying him. Another victory for her, especially because Renza could make sure that Cyrus cannot dare to cross the line. The assassin would testify against him. And so Cyrus was keeping a low profile, to avoid her suspicion. Making conquests among the women of the court, mostly. Just to keep up appearances. But actually... alas, he loathed the way the power had gone to his head. It had corrupted him, in a certain sense. That was what had driven him to the library... That, and a woman with red hair, the colour of fire.
Or that of a fox's fur, he thought with a smile.
As he had done with his brother, Cyrus wanted to apologize to Isabeau. He owed her. And, mayhap, he could even convince her to ally with him. He just had to be able to wake her from that state of torpor, though metaphorical. Cyrus hoped to succeed. He just had to show her that he had changed. It would have been difficult -- considered their past -- but not impossible. After all it wasn't Cyrus who poisoned her with the cantarella.
Anyhow, the man had thought it appropriate to use a small subterfuge: certainly she wouldn't have talked to him, otherwise. And Cyrus had already avoided Renza's spies following him to the library. With the hood pulled down over his face and with his back to the door of the room, he was reading a book to pass the time; something that would have surprised his peers, he was sure of this: he was not know to be fond of reading. It was a secret, mostly. And.. it was something that, in the past, he had shared with Kayden.
Someone -- most likely Kana -- knocked on the door and Cyrus said they could come in: the head librarian had been quickly, luckily. Cyrus waited for Isabeau to enter the room -- and for Kana to close the door behind him, to give them privacy -- before turning and lowering the hood of his cloak, leaving the book on a table.
She recognized him immediately. Cyrus gave Isabeau a brief bow, keeping an eye on her: it was a simple caution, since they had to talk, and it turned out to be a good move when Isabeau tried to leave the room. He jerked forward, grabbing the woman by the arm and blocking her between himself and the wall. Isabeau tried to free herself, without success.
"What do you want from me?", she asked, then, seeing that there was no escape; of course, Isabeau could have kicked his family jewels -- even if that would have been a decidedly low blow, since they were important to him. The thought brought an amused smile to her lips, while she was still waiting for a response from Cyrus. It seemed that that day she was destined to wait, before having answers. She had done it with Kana, previously. She could have done it with Cyrus, too. Even if his presence reminded her of Renza and the fact that now that back-stabber was the Queen of Cordonia.
While Isabeau was immersed in those thoughts, Cyrus watched her in silence: what did he want from her? The Head of House Vescovi had gone there, to the library, with a specific reason in mind. At that moment, however, it was a bit difficult to think, given her proximity and the fact that he himself was holding Isabeau in his arms... though to keep her from running away. He watched her mouth, with the sudden desire to kiss the scribe; the previous statements that he had used to seduce her (although with bad results) in the past, were nothing compared to that feeling. For a moment he wondered what it would be like to really kiss her.
But Cyrus immediately dismissed the thought; Isabeau certainly would not have appreciate a kiss from him, and the noble was there to discuss about things that were more important. Therefore he cleared his throat and stepped back, to then lock the door. He saw Isabeau roll her green eyes with an annoyed expression, but didn't replied; instead, Cyrus began to play around absently with the key, before answering Isabeau's previous question.
"I came here to apologize: I didn't behave in the best way, ever since we met. I know my words may sound empty, but I'm sincere. For what is worth. Now, I'm aware that I wouldn't have been a good King for this realm-- Gods, I can barely take care of my people. But I also know that Renza is not the right person to reign, and I know that you may have your reasons to watch her fall. So, would you help me to stop her?"
He looked her in the eyes, but Isabeau's visage was unreadable, like a blank page; an appropriate comparison, considering her work as a scribe. Then, she approached him and took the key from his fingers. He didn't stop her.
"I shouldn't trust you, but you seem really changed, Lord Vescovi. Anyway, I need some time to think about your proposal."
Cyrus expected it, although he didn't like it. He nodded. "Well then. I think one day is enough to make a decision. Moreover, it will give us an advantage over Renza.. especially since I lost her spies to come here. I'll do it again tomorrow, when we meet again. I'll come to your house at dusk."
With that, Cyrus lifted the hood to hide his face, while she used the key to open the door. Hopefully, that meeting had not been a fiasco, and Isabeau would have made the right decision. The noble just hoped that the next day everything would be fine.
Chapter 5: A Change of Heart (Part Two)
At twilight, when the sun had already set and the sky had begun to take on a dark purple hue, Cyrus left his palace to reach Isabeau's house; the twenty-four hours had passed and he wanted to know -- he needed to know -- if she would help him. The dark would protect him: especially if Renza was still using spies to control him. He was sure he could get to Isabeau without a problem, keeping the hood down on the face -- like the previous day -- and following little-known roads.
It was both a matter of cunning and luck. And he was perfectly aware of having to be cautious: since Renza was now the sovereign, plotting against her would have been seen as a betrayal; it was, but Cyrus Vescovi had no intention of dying as a traitor.
And, strangely, he didn't want Isabeau to do the same death.
It was a thought he had never had before; of course, he was disappointed when Renza had told him that she had poisoned Isabeau with the cantarella... but it was only because he had failed to sleep with her (and sleeping with Isabeau was the last thing he had in mind, if he had seduced her). At that moment, instead, it was something different and Cyrus promised himself to explore it later.
He had a more important matter to deal with.
He followed the same route of the day before, listening to both the sound of his own steps and the noises that surrounded him. A simple precaution, but a useful one. This allowed him to hide in the shadows when he heard footsteps different from his own. He waited until the man -- a simple peasant -- had completely disappeared from his view; then, he resumed his path, without knowing that that peasant was one of Renza's spies.
The day before, his "visit" at the library had surprised her; she didn't think he would ask her for help... particularly against Renza. Both were hungry for power, after all. Perhaps Renza was even more power-hungry than Cyrus; it was not a novelty, if what Isabeau had heard was the truth: that Renza had taken the crown only for herself, without marrying Cyrus and making him the King of Cordonia.
Isabeau had expected to be faced with the same arrogant -- and sometimes vain -- man that she had known during the feast at House Rosario, when her family had become noble. She had thought he had gone there to threaten her, or to do something similar; this was the reason that had driven her to run, at first.
Then, when he had stopped her, Isabeau had noticed that there was a change in him; he was less hateful and bold. So she had decided to stay and listen to Cyrus, after asking him what he wanted from her; after all, she was a scribe once again. And a girl with no name, nor a noble family, had no power. She was painfully aware of this.
The proposal she had received the previous day had also been a surprise. But, as she had promised to Cyrus, she had thought about it, while she continued to work. Find a way to prevent Renza from continuing to reign was the right thing to do; Isabeau had evaluated the pros and the cons. And, in the end, she had decided to help Cyrus: he could have had his revenge and Cordonia would have had a better king, in the person of Hunter. While Isabeau... well, she could have had lands and a house of her own. And, obviously, she would return to being a Rosario.
It was the perfect revenge, without killings, bloodshed, poisonings and whatnot. Those were things that she gladly left to Renza.
Work in progress