( I accidentally posted this to the wrong prompt it meant to be for the “Write a fairy tale about an outsider trying to fit in” prompt)
Her story lay gilt in gold
Her eyes were as beautiful as a fresh cut rose
She had no heart with which to know
But she knew with all her soul she hated the cold
She was a strange girl
Born of an age long ago
A history of winds and curls
And a memory as faded as a photo
They say that once she shone like the stars
That her heart was kind and soft
Then the darkness came
And took her dreams aloft
A war of blood and broken bones did come
The girl of roses could only weep
She did not want it and only turned numb
A warrior of iron forcing others down to sleep
Her light went out
And her heart was gone
Her soul remained blackened from fallout
She had won, she’d got her crown
But she was broken
Killed from within
Her screams remained unspoken
And she wished she’d never been.
Till the bells they rung
And trumpets sung
For she was saved
With the light she had craved
Rosanne had once been called the dark jewel of the ivory forest. The brightest rose, the warmest star, yet all she felt was tired. Bags as dark as the shadows under an evergreen hung beneath her eyes, and her skin was starched to a sickly white pallor, she looked more like a water washed limestone cliff beside the sea than a girl. The backs of her hands were cracked and dry, riddled with red dots where blood was beginning to well, her throat ached from disuse and her lips had thinned, like an eraser pulled over paper too many times. Her hair was matted and brittle from miscare, she was surprised pieces hadn’t started falling out. Her feet were blistered sore, and standing on her sore ankles made her want to scream.
But the people all around her never saw any of it, she went to great pains, her father went to great pains to make sure that none of them would ever know.
It was amazing what a person could do with some good concealer and a spell or two.
She couldn’t remember the last time she’d felt rested. She spent days were in court and among the people, resolving conflicts and negotiating between arguments. Most days however she forced to attend the council meetings regularly held by all the nearby kingdoms. As her father’s primary heir, it was her job to understand the other kingdoms and peoples. The debates were long and tedious, an utter waste of time, hours upon hours spent endlessly talking about subjects of little importance, and events of even less matter. It was boring and useless, and everyone in those meetings knew it.
Or at least Rosanne hoped they knew, anyone who didn’t was dumber than two men in a liquor store.
War was coming, one way or another, had been for long time, almost as long as she could remember.
Her nights at least were productive, by day she might have been a frilly princess dressed in silk gowns and diamonds, but by night she was the right hand of the queen.
Anything her mother needed done that politics or law prevented her from, there were many things that king could not do, or even know about. So, the queen took care of, always had in the ivory forest. Anything at all. Weather it required bloodshed or a person’s weight in jewels, the queen took care of it. Any backhanded deal, any back corner alliance forged through threats and blackmail, every assassination and kidnapping, the queen took care of it.
The sons of the forest throne were raised in the light, raised to rule, to be good. The daughters were raised with a pair of daggers beneath their pillows and how to hide anything with a smile.
For that reason, no daughter of the forest ever sat on the throne, how could they? They already ruled in the dark, and trying to sit in the light while and pretend to be ‘good’ had never really been the female half of the monarchies style.
Kings could marry in and so could queens, but a born daughter of the kingdom always sat behind the forest throne.
Rosanne’s mother had been sending her on more and more missions lately. Her latest one had been over the border in the nearby kingdom of Bellon.
She had to do anything and everything she could to start a war.
She’d thought it’d be easy, a push here, death there and viola; a war.
No, it hadn’t worked, instead she’d been forced to infiltrate the royal court as a lowborn baroness, if you wanna bring something down you should always start with the supports.
Rosanne had struggled to make the connections necessary for her plan. The adults ignored for both her station and her gender.
And the children of the court, teens the same age as her excluded her as an outsider. Sure, they would gossip and talk about useless nothings, but they never really told her anything.
Her job was made that much harder by the fact that the people of Bellon valued relationships and family bonds over everything else. travelers were not welcome and strangers were practically regarded as criminals. But the moment a friendship was made and trust was given they would welcome you, help you with anything, even die for you.
They were a scary people, but Rosanne had been raised by scarier.
She’d played in the shadows of the forest, pried glittering gems from the crusts of volcanos, had tasted blood on her tongue before she knew how to braid her hair, and she was the right hand of the queen of the Ivory Forest.
The kingdom famously called the home of the fae, it wasn’t, but they didn’t need to know that.
The king and queen didn’t even show their faces at meetings and exchanges with the other rulers, which only added to the mystery.
She could do this.
She started small, with the staff, the cooks and maids, the footmen and squire boys. Slowly, painstakingly working her way into the framework of the palace. That task alone took months, but the information she gained form it was invaluable.
Shed become their friend, the baroness that actually spent time with and cared about them. She helped them with chores and problems, listening when they needed to rant and giving them a shoulder when the needed to cry.
In return she learned little things that they would never care about but that would help her immensely. A certain Lady in waiting’s favorite foods, a royal knight preferred shift duty, the princesses favored spot in the garden, the flowers that the man who cleaned the royal crowns took care of Infront of the public library.
Suddenly she found herself being invited to luncheon the with court ladies, their daughters would take walks with her in the gardens and bring her when they went shopping. The lords would speak with her about their horses and estates. And the sons, while slightly flirtatious, were never more than slightly. It didn’t matter how close she grew to any of them, none would ever marry or even pursue a courtship below their station.
No instead she became something that the other girls of the court could not. A companion.
They brought her hunting even on the rainiest of days, knowing she didn’t care about mud. They practiced their archery with her, and even let her spar once with wooden sword, she’d let herself beat the weakest one there before stopping.
She kept that side of her court actives heavily separated from the other girls and woman.
Even the royal family eventually accepted her, throwing her a huge party in honor of her. The princess herself, a young child named Klaroline had given her a flower crown as a present.
All of the sudden Rosanne couldn’t breathe, every movement, every word felt like a lie. She spent hours terrified that they would figure it out, that they would know what she had done and come for her. That they would take away everything she had here.
How could she possibly want a war?
She knew the son’s that would be forced to fight in it, forced to die alone on battlefields with swords that were too big for them in hand.
She knew the daughters that would lose everything, their brothers, and fathers, families and homes, their futures, their innocence, for even in a kingdom like Bellon the daughters could be nurses or maintain weapons in times of war.
She knew the fathers and mothers that would never see their children again.
She knew the king that would lose his head, and she knew the little princess that would become a prisoner of war at only eight years old.
So, she’d fled, claiming it to be a visit to her uncle, everyone had believed her, family was everything after all.
It had already been two weeks, and here she was, tired and hungry and hurting.
Her father had tried to talk to her, but she needed to figure this out on her own.
Her mother had only sent a message that she would be expecting a report on her sudden return.
She hadn’t eaten in days, her stomach lurched at even the thought of food, and her sleep was short and fitful.
And she felt cold, so very cold, she hadn’t realized till now how little physical contact she actually had with others. In Bellon hugs were given every goodbye and hello, everyone was always brushing shoulders during conversations, the girls in the court would grab her hand or arm when they were excited, along with a thousand other casual little touches that she hadn’t known were missing from her life until then.
The only people that touched her here were her father, who still gave her a hug, one hug every time she came back from a mission, and her brother, who was still a little to young to copy everyone else in his life.
That was what it was she suddenly understood.
The people of Bellon had shown her love. Her father and brother had already showed it to her, been showing it to her for years, but somewhere along the line her mother’s words and taken over and she’d only been able to view it as weakness.
They’d given it to her, opened their hearts to her and taken her in as one of their one.
At some point she hadn’t been lying anymore, her laughter when the told a joke was real, her excitement to go hunting or shopping was real, her happiness when the little princess gave her the flower crown was real.
Looking back, she’d been genuine for far longer than she’d been faking. Except for the entire reason why she was there, to bring war.
Everything, all of her friendships and connections had built on lies, and she hated it.
Hated herself for it.
The door to her room creaked open and father came in, he was holding a book and he had a sad smile on his face.
He sat beside her and placed the book in her hands.
Rosanne nearly started crying when she opened it, presses into the middle between sheets of paper, was the flower crown.
She’d left the night of her party, unable to bearing the crushing guilt any longer, she’d still been wearing it when she got home, her father must have found it where ever she’d thrown it. Looking at it only made her heart clench and her bones ache.
She looked up at him, tears in the corners of her eyes as she tried to convey everything she was feeling through her expression.
He smiled gently hugged her tightly.
Without speaking, he seemed to know that she couldn’t handle that right now, he met her eyes, and held out a traveling cloak.
It was if he knew, as if he’d always known that one day, she would either break under the pressure of the dark forest throne, or find someway to escape.
She didn’t want to just leave him here, him and her brother. But for now, she needed to get out of here, she needed to go back to the place where she’d finally felt happy.
She promised herself that she would come back. She wouldn’t leave her family to the same crushing life she’d been trapped under.
When she finally arrived back in Bellon, she was greeted with hugs and smiles. But she couldn’t accept them now, not until she made things right.
She called for everyone to come the throne room, that she needed help.
And for the first time, she gave them the truth.
She pulled her mask from her bag, the one she only wore to royal gatherings and council meetings. The one that belonged to the Princess of the Ivory Forest, a primary heir, and richer then Bellon’s own princess. A mask that Rosanne the baron’s daughter shouldn’t have, that Rosanne that smiled so bright and laughed so loud and cared so much would never even see within her lifetime.
Yet here she was, she showed them her first set of knives, nicked and worn by time but still sharp. Before finally bringing out her jeweled diamond crown, it was the last irrefutable piece of proof to convince them. She set the crown down gently, and opened the book to the dried-out flower crown, hugging it close to her chest before she at last looked up.
Their faces were grim and flinty, their expression as hard as they had been when she first came here, full of mistrust and judgement.
She backed away, terrified that she’d made the wrong call, that they hated her, that they make her leave, that she had lost everything that meant so much to her here.
Maybe she should have wished that she’d kept quiet, but she didn’t, they deserved the truth.
None of them had spoken or moved, they were all just staring at her in terrible silence.
This was it wasn’t it; she was a princess trespassing in a foreign kingdom, they couldn’t kill her but they could still lock her up and throw away the key.
Rosanne felt tears, more tears, how many had she cried in the last few days? Seeping from her eyes, she swiped at them with the back of her hand but the just kept falling, unbidden, and as silent as the people around her.
It was the women that moved first, the ladies and the maids and mothers. She wasn't surprised they were first, women after all know what it is to do what you have to survive.
Surrounding her, pulling her close in comfort, slowly the others joined too. Embracing her, reassuring her that everything was ok. Someone rubbed soothing circles over her back even as she kept crying, but now for a different reason.
For it seems she had forgotten something else about friendship and family.