Sunday, 7 November 2010

The Warrior Princess

Chapter One – An unhappy girl

Princess Amelia gazed wistfully out of the tower, watching her brothers, Edmund and Egbert, practising their swordplay in the yard below. The loud voice of their trainer, Sergeant Haske, could be heard exhorting the boys to work harder, to put some effort behind their strokes.

Amelia looked down at her skirted lap and at the piece of embroidery she had been working on and felt like crying with frustration. Just because she was a girl, she was not allowed to participate in weapons training like her brothers. Amelia was dressed in a full skirted, pink gown, with silken petticoats, wore a pearl necklace and earrings and her long hair encased in an elaborate headdress, with a veil attached, and had to dress like this every day whilst her brothers wore jerkins and breeches and were allowed to wear their hair short.

Edmund and Egbert had far more freedom than Amelia did and got to do weapon training, horse riding and hawking whilst Amelia spent most of her time indoors with the ladies doing embroidery and listening to court gossip. Amelia longed to be outside, in a jerkin and breeches, riding, or hawking or engaged in swordplay.

Amelia knew that she was cleverer than both of her older brothers put together. She was better at reading and writing and arithmetic and showed them up in the classroom. Whilst Amelia worked hard at her studies, her brothers were lazy. They preferred to be idle and to enjoy the pleasures of the court. Sergeant Haske often complained that the boys were not only slow learners but had no enthusiasm for their military training.

Given the chance, Amelia would put every effort into the training she yearned to be allowed to do. But because she was a princess, she was expected merely to look pretty and do her embroidery like a good girl should.

Amelia threw her embroidery aside and stalked out of the room, to the surprise of the ladies with her. She would go outside and walk off her frustrations. Emerging into the palace courtyard, Amelia saw her brothers limply tapping the shield held by Sergeant Haske, who was clearly frustrated by their feeble efforts. Amelia exchanged a look with him as she walked past, her skirts gathered in her hands.

Suddenly, Amelia heard a cry and immediately identified the source. Osbert, Sergeant Haske’s little boy, had reached out to try to touch a swan in the pond and had overextended himself and fallen in. Osbert was only three years old and could not swim. He thrashed about helplessly, panicking at his predicament.

Edmund and Egbert just stood there, whilst Haske threw down his shield and began to lumber towards his son, but he realized he would have to remove his armour first or he would sink to the bottom of the pond and be of no use to his son. He began to undo his armour, but it would take him several minutes to divest himself. He yelled at the princes, bidding them to help him.

Amelia, reacted more quickly than anyone and knew exactly what to do. She reached up to the back of her gown and undid it in a very quick movement and let it slip to the ground.
Amelia rapidly pulled off her petticoats, slipped out of her jewelled slippers and tore off her headdress.

Unconcerned that she now stood clad only in her silk chemise, knickers and stockings, Amelia raced towards the pond and without hesitation dived in. Amelia quickly reached the flailing little boy, grabbed him and swam a very short distance bearing his weight, not helped by the fact that the boy was still in a panic. Haske was standing by the pond edge and pulled his son to safety, hugging him and trying to calm the boy down before handing him over to his wife.

Amelia pulled herself out the pond, shivering and cold, but pleased that the boy was safe. She felt a pair of strong hands lifting her to her feet and suddenly Haske was looking at her with intensity. “That was a very brave act, my lady” he said with sincerity.

Amelia shrugged “It’s only what anyone would have done. I’m just pleased your son is safe”.
Haske turned to glance briefly at the Princes, who were still just standing there watching, before turning back to Amelia “You have my eternal gratitude, my lady, if you hadn’t been there as quick as you were, I dread to think what might have happened to my boy. I know I’m just a humble soldier and have little to offer you, but if there is anything I can do for you, you need only ask”. Haske turned away to attend to his son.

Amelia knew instantly what to claim as her reward. She sidled up to Haske and whispered softly in his ear. Haske gave her a nod, and Amelia literally bounced back to the palace.

Chapter Two – A warrior is born

Amelia crept out of her bedchamber, looking around in case anyone was about. Her ladies had put her to bed an hour ago and Amelia had to contain her impatience and wait the hour out, for the guard would be changing now and this was the ideal opportunity to creep out unseen.

Amelia had “borrowed” a set of jerkins and breeches from Egbert, the nearest to her in age and size and they fitted her perfectly. Amelia reveled in the freedom to move about. In a dress, with its rustling petticoats, it would have been impossible for Amelia to leave her bedchamber in secret. Amelia silently crept downstairs and moved outside to behind the stables, where Haske was waiting for her.

“Good evening, my lady” he whispered, bowing his head slightly in deference to Amelia’s rank.
“Good evening, Sergeant Haske” whispered Amelia in reply “look, Haske, can we please drop the courtesies when we are alone? Here, I am simply Amelia. Treat me just like any soldier. Shout at me and berate me if you have to, but I’m here to be a soldier, not a lady!”

Haske looked at her with respect “Very well…Amelia. Shall we begin?”

For the next two hours, Amelia felt like she was in heaven. Haske showed her how to block and parry with a sword, how to dodge incoming blows and how to use a shield. This was just what she wanted. But, to her distress, the two hours expired quickly.

“That’s all for now, Amelia. I must be getting back for I have to teach your useless brothers tomorrow. I must say, Amelia, that you’re a natural warrior. Never have I seen anyone, man, boy or lady, with such natural rhythm and passion. I must confess, I had my doubts about teaching a girl swordplay, but I’m glad to have such a natural talent as a pupil”.

Amelia almost fainted with happiness! Haske, a veteran soldier, thought she had the makings of a warrior. “Thank you, Haske” she said, giving him a gentle kiss on his cheek. The old warrior blushed, much to Amelia’s amusement, and said his goodbyes.

Amelia had no difficulty creeping back to bed and went to sleep happier than she had ever been in her life.

Amelia and Haske met twice a week after dark. Amelia wanted to train every day, but Haske was firm. Any more frequently than two nights a week and someone would catch on. Amelia stoically bore her disappointment.

For almost six months, Amelia learned all she could from Haske. How to use a sword, shield and spear, how to wear armour, hand to hand combat, wrestling and military tactics. Amelia picked it all up with a speed and enthusiasm that impressed Haske, so much so that one night, having been disarmed in a duel by Amelia, he had to admit that he could teach her nothing more. They nevertheless continued to meet so that Amelia honed her natural talent.

Amelia noticed that she was stronger and fitter than ever before. She had muscles and took care when she had to be the princess that she wore long sleeves to conceal them. Amelia found that she could put up with the restrictions imposed upon her as a princess as long as she could become the warrior at night.

Haske presented her with her own sword, shield and armour that he had “liberated” from the army stores and he would keep for her “This, Amelia, is a kind of passing out parade for you” he said, with respect. “You’re a real soldier. Much better than those brothers of yours. Don’t know one end of a sword from another. God help us when one of them becomes King”. Haske stomped away, tutting, leaving a happy Amelia behind him.

Chapter Three – The kingdom imperiled

Amelia continued her training in secret. Following one session, she had fallen into a particularly deep sleep and had to be awoken by her maid, Amber.

“Come on sleepyhead!” Amber muttered “The King wants to see you!”

The King? Amelia leapt out of bed and, with Amber’s help, got dressed quickly. Clad in her gown and headdress, she was admitted to the royal presence.

King Herbert, her father, lay within. He once had had a warrior’s physique and had been a famed soldier in his youth, but age and illness had seen his muscles turn to fat. The King still had a fine mind though.

Amelia lowered herself into a deep curtsey and kissed her father’s coronation ring. As etiquette required, she remained silent until her father saw fit to speak to her.

“Rise, daughter, and come sit” said the King in a frail voice. How rapidly he has aged, Amelia thought sadly. Amelia moved towards him, her petticoats rustling, and perched herself on the stool that the King had indicated.

Amelia noticed that for the first time that both of her brothers were present. Edmund was eating an apple and Egbert was staring out of the window, bored.

“My beloved children, the kingdom is imperiled. Our old foe, the king of Osland, is claiming the city of Gork for his kingdom. Our kingdom is too small and weak to resist him. If I give up Gork, I will lose fully half my kingdom!”

The King paused to allow his words to sink in. This is serious, Amelia thought.

“So” the King continued “rather than surrendering or fighting against impossible odds, I have proposed that the matter of Gork be settled by a single combat. King Sanchez has agreed to the proposal, but with one condition. He is sending his son as his champion and Sanchez has laid down the condition that our champion must be royally born and of equivalent rank”.

The King turned his head towards his sons “Edmund, Egbert, one of you must fight Prince Talam! I would fight the prince myself were I only twenty years younger and in better health, but in my present state I am unfit even to ride, much less fight such an opponent”.

Amelia was disappointed to see the look on her brothers’ faces. They were white and blanched and Edmund was so shocked that he dropped his apple.

As well they might be frightened. Amelia thought. Haske had told her of Prince Talam. He was older and more experienced as a soldier than either of her brothers and had won many duels.

If the King saw the fear on his son’s faces, he made no comment “Depart and decide between you who is to be our champion. The welfare of the kingdom depends upon you, my boys”. The boys, their faces still white, stumbled out of the room hurriedly. The King bade Amelia to stay.
“Daughter, stay with me a while. You are such a pretty girl and I like your company” said the King.

Amelia had to contain her temper. Pretty was the last thing she wanted to be right now. She knew instinctively that she would be a better representative than either of her brothers. Edmund and Egbert just weren’t up to the job. Gork was doomed.

She stayed with her father awhile, feeding him sweetments and reading to him. He patted her hand and said what a good girl she was.

Amelia was worried. The loss of Gork, and possibly one of her brothers, could well kill her father. The shame and humiliation would be too much for him.

Chapter Four – The Lady Princes

Edmund and Egbert were in their sleeping chamber, frightened out of their wits. One of them would have to go up against a veteran warrior. It was a virtual death sentence.

“You’re the eldest” said Egbert “You’ll have to do it!”

“No way!” replied Edmund “Talam will kill me in a few seconds!”

“Well, I’m not doing it!” said Egbert.

The two boys looked at each other and nodded “We’ll have to hide until all this ends. Sanchez can have Gork, for all I care” said Edmund.

“But where can we hide?” asked Egbert “Not here, that’s for sure. This will be the first place they’ll look”.

“Obviously” said Edmund. “We’re in a real hole. We can’t leave the palace, there are guards everywhere and they’ll turn the palace inside out to find us once they realize we’ve gone!”.

“What about Amber?” said Egbert.

Edmund looked at his brother in puzzlement “What about Amber?”.

“She might have an idea where to hide us” suggested Egbert.

“You’re right. Let’s go and talk to her”.

The boys found Amber in Amelia’s chamber, putting away their sister’s gowns.

“Amber, you have to help us!” Edmund pleaded “Father has handed one of us a death sentence. We have to hide!”

“But, my lord, doesn’t the kingdom rely on one of you fighting this prince Talam?”.

“We don’t care less about that” said Egbert. Amber looked shocked.

“You have to help us. There must be somewhere we can hide”.

Amber was thinking “You can’t be disguised as servants, your faces are too well known”. Then her eyes lit up “Of course! I know exactly how to hide you!”

“Where?” asked Edmund.

“With the ladies, of course! Guards cannot search ladies”. Then Amber smirked and said “Of course, for this to work, you will have to become ladies!’

Edmund and Egbert looked at each other. Become ladies? “No, you will have to think of something else!” they replied, almost in unison.

But Amber was firm “There is no other way. The ladies are the only courtiers immune from the guards. Of course, it’s up to you…” Amber began to walk away.

“Wait!” Egbert almost shouted “Alright, we’ll try it. We haven’t any choice”.

“Alright then, come along with me!”.

Edmund and Egbert trailed along after Amber as she led them to unfamiliar territory, the wing of the palace reserved for the ladies of the court.

Amber pushed open the door to a chamber and ushered the boys inside “Lady Anne is absent from court. I think her clothes should fit you. Now strip, please!”

The boys shed their jerkins, breeches and underwear hurriedly. They stood in the chamber, naked and embarrassed.

Amber looked them over “You haven’t much muscle and are quite small. I believe that this will work well and you will make pretty ladies!”

The boys blushed.

Amber took a bottle with an atomizer and perfumed the boys’ bodies with scent “Now you smell nice and feminine”.

Amber took out silk chemises and knickers and handed them to the boys.

“We don’t need to wear these things do we?”

“Yes, you do” said Amber firmly “What if you tumble over and someone sees your underwear?”

Blushing, the boys slipped into the silky lingerie. They already looked cute and more feminine, Amber decided with a smile.

Amber produced pairs of silk stockings and helped the boys put them on. The boys had great legs, legs any girl would be proud of.

Silk petticoats followed. The boys found that they could no longer see their feet, they felt their petticoats swish against their legs when they moved and heard them rustling as soon as they made any movement.

Amber pulled out some gowns and lay them on the bed “Choose which gown you’d like to wear. Edmund, I think the pink one would suit your complexion well. Green for you, I suggest, Egbert” said Amber.

The boys reluctantly picked up the gowns that Amber had suggested and Amber helped the boys put them on and up and over their petticoats. Edmund’s gown, as well as being a very girly pink, was festooned with lace and frills. Egbert’s gown was emerald green and had jewels sewn on the skirt that shimmered in the light.

The boys looked at each other in embarrassment, but this was better than getting killed.
“Sit on the bed please, boys”. The boys obeyed as best they could, encumbered as they were by their voluminous skirts. Amber proceeded to put pearl necklaces around their throats and applied cosmetics to their faces. The boys’ faces and lips were now rouged and their eyes covered in something Amber described as kohl. Finally, Amber produced elaborate headdresses that matched the gowns and fitted them to the boys’ heads. It felt very strange to the boys to have to wear such things. They had to turn their heads to see anything.
“You will have to put up your veils. Some of the ladies may recognize you otherwise”. Amber attached their trailing veils to their headdresses and the boys looked out on the world behind a gauze veil. Amber was right though. This was the perfect disguise.

“You both look very pretty!” said Amber “This will work. Now, names! Boys, pay attention. Edmund you are to be the Lady Cecily and Egbert you are to be the Lady Grace. You must remember your names and give them if anyone asks. Oh, and you’ll have to get used to being referred to as females”.

The boys nodded.

“One last thing. The curtsey. I will teach it to you. You must curtsey to anyone of higher rank than you”. Amber showed them the graceful feminine obeisance and made them practice until she was satisfied.

“Now, ladies, follow me please and I’ll take to meet your new companions”.

“Can’t we stay here” asked Edmund “I don’t want anyone seeing me like this!”.

Amber shook her head “No, your ladyship, you must be with the other ladies. You’ll be less obvious in numbers. Say as little as possible and don’t make yourself conspicuous and this will work”.

Amber took them along a corridor. The boys found it hard to move about in their wide skirts, jeweled slippers and headdress but somehow managed it.

Amber stopped outside a chamber. The door was open and the boys could see three ladies concentrating on their needlework. “Are you ready, ladies?” Amber asked.

boys reluctantly nodded. For anyone to see them dressed like this!
Amber marched into the room, curtsied to her superiors and announced “Your ladyships, we have been joined by two more ladies. Please welcome the Lady Cecily and the Lady Grace!”.
Amber turned around “Come along please, your ladyships, don’t be shy!”

The boys moved slowly into the room. The ladies present rose and curtsied to them and the boys curtsied back. As Amber was leaving the boys to their ladylike new existence, she heard Lady Margaret say to the newcomers “Come sit with us, ladies and take up your embroidery. I must say, you are both fine looking girls!”

Chapter Five – A Champion is found

The king was almost tearing what little hair he had left out of his head.
“What do you mean, gone? They must be found at once! The future of my kingdom depends on it”.

The Captain of the Guard shrugged “Sire, we have searched everywhere, even in the ladies’ quarters. They must have either been kidnapped and spirited away or they somehow got out of the palace undetected”.

“This is a disaster! A disaster, I tell you! I have no-one of my family to duel against the prince!”.

“Yes, you do sire!” came Ameila’s clear voice.

The King looked up to see his daughter, but she was not wearing her usual gown and headdress but a boy’s jerkin and breeches. Her hair had been cropped short.

“What’s the meaning of this, daughter? Why are you dressed like a boy?”.

“So I can fight, sire, for the kingdom. For you”.

“Impossible. You’re a girl. The enemy is expecting a prince to fight the duel, not a slip of a girl like you! I haven’t time for this nonsense! Leave me be girl!”.

Amelia picked up the parchment the King had received from King Sanchez containing the terms and conditions under which the duel was to be fought “I’m not leaving you yet, father. Look, King Sanchez specified that a member of the royal family had to fight the duel and that they had to be of the same rank as Talam. It does not specify that our champion has to be a male. I’m a member of the royal family and I am a princess, so I’m Talam’s equal in rank. I can fight the duel for you, father”.

“You’re a clever girl, Amelia, much cleverer than your brothers and even perhaps myself, but you’ve had no training. You can’t use a sword! You’ll be killed! I couldn’t bear that, I just couldn’t! I will have to concede Gork to King Sanchez”.

“Sire, that won’t be necessary. Look!” Amelia took out her sword from its scabbard and turned to the Captain of the Guard “Defend yourself!”

The captain protested “My lady, please..”

“Fight me, captain, that is an order!”.

The captain looked at the King. “Do as she says, Captain” instructed the King, intrigued.

The captain reluctantly drew his sword “I’ll try not to hurt you, your ladyship”.

The captain soon found that it was he who was most likely to get hurt. His opponent’s speed, skill and strength were astonishing! It took all of his skill and experience to avoid being defeated early in the contest. As it was, ten minutes later, the captain, the king’s most skilled swordsman, was lying flat on his back with Amelia’s blade at his throat.

“I yield” said the captain, embarrassed to have been beaten by a girl in front of his own men and his sovereign.

Amelia graciously helped him to his feet “Thank you, captain” and was then astounded to hear everyone in the room, including her defeated opponent and including her own father, applauding her. Amelia blushed.

The King looked at her with love and with genuine respect “That was a truly awesome display, Amelia. How did you acquire such skills?”

Amelia told him about her sessions with Sergeant Haske “He taught me all I know”.

“He has made a warrior of you! Captain, I want Sergeant Haske found and brought to me, please. He deserves reward. Between them, my daughter and the Sergeant may have just salvaged a desperate situation!”

An embarressed and awestruck Haske was brought to the King, bade to kneel and was dubbed a knight.

“Sire, I am unworthy of this honour”.

“Nonsense. You have given us our champion. But I have favour to ask of you, Sir Harry”.
Haske smiled at his new title “You have only to name it sire”.

“Good, would you accompany my daughter to the duel and act as her second?”

“Gladly, sire” Haske said, smiling at Amelia.

“Amelia. Kneel please” ordered the King.

Mystified, Amelia obeyed and was overjoyed when her father dubbed her a knight also “Arise, knight Amelia and go with our love and blessing to vanquish our enemy”.

Chapter Six – The Duel

Amelia, clad in the gold plate of the king’s champion, and accompanied by Haske, rode out to meet Prince Talam outside the palace. She was nervous, aware that there was a risk that Talam might be too good for her and kill her, but she was determined to go through with it. The King and the kingdom was relying on her.

They stopped at the Duel zone, an enclosed square. King Sanchez and Prince Talam were waiting, along with a nobleman who was to act as Talam’s second.

Amelia spoke to the King “King Sanchez, as agreed and at the appointed time, I am the King’s Champion and I am ready to fight”.

There were guffaws of laughter “But you’re a ..girl! Has your king lost his wits? Sending girls to fight for cities”.

Amelia had expected this reaction but ploughed on “I am the Champion for the King nevertheless”.

Prince Talam spat on the ground in disgust “I don’t fight girls!”

“That’s your right, of course, not to fight, but under the terms of your own letter, if you do not fight me, Gork remains my father’s by default!” said Ameila firmly.

King Sanchez and Prince Talam looked at her. A girl, she may be, but she had guts and brains in ample measure. They were impressed by her fearlessness and ability to stand her ground.

“Very well” said King Sanchez “I’m not willing to concede Gork, so fight her Talam. It should be an easy win for you in any event”.

“Father…” Prince Talam began, but his father’s expression made him silent.

“Shall we proceed your highnesses?” Amelia prompted “I don’t have all day you know!”.

That angered Talam, as Amelia had hoped “Cheeky wench! Very well, get ready for the worst pasting of your life!”

Fifteen minutes later, Talam and Amelia faced each other in the dueling square. As soon as the instruction to fight began, Talam launched a vicious attack against his opponent and was surprised to find the girl not only coping with the onslaught, but counter-attacking and forcing him on the defensive. He had to admit that the girl was as good as, if not better, at swordplay than himself. The two opponents fought for a solid half hour and became weary.

Amelia found the weight of her armour oppressive and was flagging. The energy seemed to be sucking out of her and it was all she could do to defend herself. There was another blow and Amelia went sprawling to the ground. She couldn’t move, let alone get up. She expected to feel the blade of her opponent at her throat and her life ended. I’m sorry, Father, she thought. I have failed you.

To her surprise, the feel of cold steel did not come. She looked up to see Talam just standing there, looking at her.

“Well, come on then, finish me off!” Amelia shouted at him.

Talam responded by throwing his sword to the ground and calling for help to get Ameila on her feet. Talam removed her helmet and gave her water. Amelia felt herself being lifted up.

Talam turned to his father, who was dumbstruck at what he was seeing.

“Talam! Explain yourself!”

“I concede” said Talam simply “this girl is the finest opponent I have ever dueled with. She has earned my unstinting respect. I will not end her life just for a city”.

The King swore and shouted at his son, calling him a fool, but Talam simply walked off the field.

“Your highness” said Amelia, now feeling much better “I believe that under the terms of the contest, Gork is undisputedly part of my father’s kingdom”.

King Sanchez reluctantly nodded, turned his horse around and rode away, eager to leave.

There were cheers from the spectators for the winner and champion, Amelia.

Chapter Six – The Hero returns

The King was overjoyed to see his daughter alive and gave her a tremendous hug “Thank the gods you are alive!” he said, which made Amelia happy.

Amelia related to her father what had happened in detail. “This Prince Talam, it seems, is a man of great honour. He could have killed you and won the city for his father. I am glad he did not”.
“As am I, father. I found myself liking him. He was a formidable opponent”.

There was a commotion outside the chamber and the Captain of the Guard rushed in “Sire, we have found the princes and arrested them, as you ordered”.

“Where were they?” asked the King.

“Perhaps, sire, you had better see for yourself. Bring the prisoners in!”

Amelia was astonished to see what appeared to be two ladies being led into the chamber. Their veils had been removed to show their painted faces. They looked oddly pretty and feminine and their skirts rustled as they moved. Amelia had to stop herself from bursting out laughing.

“As you can see, sire, their lordships disguised themselves as ladies and hid amongst the women. A very convincing disguise, if I may say so, sire. We only found them when your daughter’s maid tipped us off”.

The King looked at his sons in disbelief and disgust “You sirs, dare to shirk your duty to defend this kingdom and place my kingdom in jeopardy? This is outrageous! My sons are revealed to be cowardly and weaklings whilst my daughter risks her life for me and my kingdom? You have earned my contempt”.

The feminine figures remained silent, their heads down.

“Well, you will be punished for your dereliction. For one thing, I think it is clear which of my children deserves to succeed me. Princess Amelia, I name you my heir apparent! I can think of no one more worthy to succeed to the throne”.

Amelia was taken aback “Oh, father!....thank you!”

“You have earned it. I am so proud of you!” the King turned to his sons “As for you two, I will decide your punishment later. Captain, take them back to their quarters”.

There was another commotion as a messenger rushed in, bowed, and delivered a letter to the King.The King opened it and his eyebrows rose as he digested the contents. He turned to Amelia.”

“Amelia, Prince Talam has asked for your hand in marriage”.

Amelia was stunned.

“This is a significant development” continued the King “You are the heir to my kingdom, not that Talam would have been aware of that when he wrote this, and he is the heir to his father. Our kingdoms would be united. What do you think?”

Amelia was astonished by the question. She was a royal daughter and owed obedience to her sovereign. If her father told her she was to marry someone, she would have to obey him. Her father was according her respect by asking her what she wanted and that he valued her opinion. Amelia felt giddy with pleasure, but she knew what her answer would be.

“I think, father, that I will accept!” Amelia answered without hesitation. A future with another warrior and a man who respected her was very appealing.

A day later, Amelia was practising with Haske in the courtyard. She had adopted male clothing and had complete freedom of action. Her father would not deny her anything. A banquet would be held to celebrate the engagement of herself and Talam and Talam himself would be attending. Amelia was greatly looking forward to meeting him.

From a window in the tower, two painted and veiled faces gazed with envy at the girl in the courtyard, inhibited by their tight gowns, stockings, voluminous skirts and petticoats and the headdress that made their heads warm and obscured their vision. They were conscious all of the time of their silk chemise and knickers that they had to wear beneath their dresses and petticoats. Their ears had been pierced on the instruction of their father and heavy pearl earrings now hung from their lobes. Their fingers ached from hours of needlework and embroidery and their bodies gave off a sweet fragrance of rose.

They lived in a chamber decorated for a lady and their father had spent heavily to purchase for them pretty gowns, undergarments and jewellery. They spent all day, every day, under the supervision of a tyrant, Lady Margaret, who had absolute authority over them and chided them constantly. They had to answer to their feminine names and were treated just like any lady.

If that was not shameful enough, Lady Cecily and Lady Grace had to attend the banquet being held in honour of their sister. Expensive gowns with huge skirts had been made for them, with a mass of silken petticoats and a heavy headdress. They were not going as guests though. They would have to wait upon their sister and even curtsey to her. Worst of all, they would have to appear in public, gowned and petticoated and painted. Everyone present knew exactly who the Lady Cecily and the Lady Grace were, and the shame would be unbearable.

Their father had decreed that their punishment would be, fittingly, to live in the disguises that they had used to shirk their duties for a whole year! A whole year!

They had been forced to live as ladies for almost two days now and they could already sense that having to wear female clothing and underwear had an effect on the wearer’s mind and instincts. They were already becoming more feminine and ladylike. Goodness only knows what they would be like when they were finally released from the bonds of femininity!

“Lady Cecily! Lady Grace!” Lady Margaret snapped “be good girls and attend to your embroidery please!”

“Yes, Lady Margaret” Edmund and Egbert replied dully, thinking of their future with horror.

2 comments:

  1. I like your nice fantasy story.

    ReplyDelete
  2. So far this one is my favorite, has a Tamora Pierce feel to it. This sounds like something that could've happened in real history, if only people saw women as capable of far more than just domestic work and looking good

    ReplyDelete