Disclaimer: Let this disclaimer serve for all subsequent chapters: I do not and probably will never own anything relating to Gossip Girl.
The Rose's Ruse
The ship arrived from the west - that much she knew for sure. She watched by her window as the men, grunting mountains of flesh as they were, tied the full, billowing sails at the dock. The flag of British Empire waved proudly at her against the dawning sun and she felt its power even if she could cover the distant thing with an outstretched hand. The chambermaid stories were enough to keep her lying awake at night, eyes wide and seeing those savages pillaging innocent villages and burning them to the ground.
An empire built on piracy was no empire for her. Even if the captain of the ship was devastatingly handsome.
She could almost hear his armor as he stepped out of his cabin, the silver shone a flare into her eyes. His hair, magnificent as spun gold, blew carelessly in the wind and though she could not make out his features as cleanly as she would like, she knew it to be beautiful. Everyone spoke of the captain of The Rose and his devotion to riches and whores. It seemed impossible for her to believe that a man with such a face could be as villainous as the stories portray.
From the small window in her tower, Blair Waldorf watched the men who had come to take over her home. Lord Waldorf had displeased the king and following his beheading, his property was split amongst the king's current favorites. She looked down on them all - none of them were half the man her father was. He had been loyal to a fault, kind to his people, and sought for peace in lieu of greed and conquest. Lord Baizen was a disdainful, lecherous being who would, and had, turned his back on his brethren when he saw fit and Captain Charles Bass, not even of royal blood, was not an ounce better in morality. Yet, here he stood proudly, with his head held high, at the reward of his bloodshed and theft.
She shook her head, hair still tangled from slumber, and willed herself to turn away. She still had to get ready - it would hardly do to meet the future master of the land in a white cotton nightdress. Just as she was about to turn away, the cherubic one looked up and they locked eyes. Her traitorous heart pounded against her chest and vapid breaths blew from between her lips. He gave a slight nod, which she returned. She was certain he could see her face, a pale rose lit by the dawning sun, and she hoped that he would be pleased with her.
A second figure, dressed in a white tunic covered by a velvet vest of deep plum approached the assumed captain and looked up to follow his companion's gaze. If Blair had been flushed warm by her captain's gaze, she burned crimson at the second's leer. She could hardly contain herself when he pointed and shared a laugh with the captain and contented herself with a huff and a pout before turning away.
There are no good English gentlemen left. Of that she was certain.
"We have not yet set foot on the soil and I am already half dead with boredom, Nathaniel."
It was unnatural that such a man as Nathaniel Archibald would willingly befriend and join one such as Charles "Chuck" Bass. Circumstance, however, was a powerful motivator and when his father's business in metal trade failed, Bartholomew Bass had lent a helping hand. Thus, the two grew as brothers and had been inseparable since. Nathaniel made certain to keep Chuck's indiscretions as tightly sealed as possible and Chuck was insistent that Nathaniel never had to do any of the heavy lifting aboard his ship. "Certainly, Chuck, even you can appreciate the fortune you have stumbled into." He finished polishing his shoulder guard and dressed fully. He had to look esteemed when presented to the lady of the house. Rumor foretold that Lady Waldorf was not an easy woman to please.
"Ah yes. It is exactly what my father wants, Nathaniel. A place to shackle his wayward son where he would learn discipline and responsibility and all that nonsense that is supposedly helpful in life. I assure you, friend, there exists no worse punishment for Chuck Bass." The young captain moaned from his bed as if he was burdened with a terrible ailment. "You know how I detest these country folk, Nathaniel, with their virtues and old, archaic ways. Bring me back to London if you even hold an ounce of love for me, brother."
"It is because I love you, Chuck, that I refuse your request. Surely, your father would have you killed on sight if he were to find that you had, once again, directly disobeyed his orders."
"He would not. He has no other heir and he has declared himself that he will take no other wife after my mother and his failed courtship with Lady van der Woodsen. An ingenuous declaration if you ask me."
"Oh? You will have your father die old and alone?"
Chuck swung his legs over the side of the bed and reached for his black boots. "He retains all the sensibility and reputation of a grieving, loving widower while opening his arms to all the whores and ladies he desires." He strode to the mirror and stood beside his best friend. His breeches required a wash, but they would have to do for now. They were the only pair that matched his vest.
"I pray that you will not experience the pain your father must go through in missing your mother, Chuck." He looked at his friend's attire in the reflection. "Are you certain that you're properly dressed for meeting Lady Waldorf?"
"What do I care what the old bat thinks of me? I own her now and every breathing thing in this godforsaken place."
"It will do you well to be congenial with the former ruling family of the people, Chuck." He stepped out into the sun from the cabin of the ship and breathed in the fresh air as he took in the quaint little port before him. It was not as filthy as their usual stops and the women, surely much to Chuck's dismay, were covered modestly in their frocks, their faces unpainted. It only took him a moment to spot a pale figure by a window from the tallest stone tower in the town. Her dark features contrasted spectacularly with her porcelain skin and her lips were as ripe as the strawberries in his mother's garden.
She seemed to be looking curiously at the ships and he was certain that the young thing had never seen such a fleet as theirs before. To be sure, she wasn't as devastatingly beautiful as Serena, but he was charmed by her untamed brown curls and fresh face. Serena, even before her marriage, wore a perfumed powder everywhere she went and had her eyes and mouth painted exquisitely to go along with her extravagant gowns. It was the way of the van der Woodsen women. This girl, however, her innocence was refreshing, and he found himself greeting those doe eyes with a nod trained for court.
"It is not even the Lady Waldorf we will be meeting, Nathaniel. She is visiting a cousin in France. Her daughter is the one greeting us and I will not dress up for a tiny little speck who probably resembles a dog." Chuck followed his friend out and tried to catch his attention, but as he stared unwaveringly, Chuck followed his gaze. He smirked, a smirk famous on both sides of the English Channel, and pointed at the girl. "If the women all look like that here, perhaps I could myself entertained after all." He was even more amused when the little thing pouted those blessed lips and turned away, hidden from their sight.
"How is it possible that you can already offend someone without having set foot on the ground?" Nathaniel asked, a bit annoyed that his friend had frightened away the maiden.
"'Tis part of my charm, Archibald."
"Oh, if you had seen him, Jenny. It is apparent that he had no manners to speak of. Why any captain would associate himself with that sort of scoundrel is baffling! The boy was raised with wild animals, I am sure of it. His breeches were also unclean-"
The blond maid chuckled as she combed her lady's hair. She had grown up with Lady Blair's antics and she was grateful to be so used by her. "Milady, you saw him from a great distance. How could you be-"
"I am certain, Jenny. I absolutely cannot be around that sort of company. Although he seemed to be the Captain's First Mate. Oh, whatever should I do? If I must consort with that mannerless pig, I shall die, Jenny! I shall surely die!"
"Lady Blair! Why do you speak of death so early in the morn?" Her nanny had entered the room and took the comb from the blonde, who had been unable to tame her curls with the frantic shakes of her head. Jenny walked over to her dresser to prepare her garments for the day. "And why are you not dressed? You are to meet the gentlemen as soon as they arrive to the manor!"
"Oh, Dorota! Do not speak of such men! There are no more gentlemen in all of England! Not after my father." She hugged the woman who had been so good to her all these years. "They are dreadful, aren't they? The gold haired pirate captain and his dark featured friend."
"You are mistaken, Lady Blair. It is the pirate who is dark featured and the first mate who is-" Dorota paused when she felt the girl leave her bosom and grip her arms, staring deadly into her eyes.
"It cannot be. That-that pig cannot be the one to ruin everything my father worked for. I-I am to sit at meals with him? Be civil to him? Play hostess to him?" At the maid's nod, she let out a dreadful sigh. "Oh, I feel faint. I cannot bear this news. Tell them that I will not be able to join them, that I have been struck with a terrible fever."
"Lady Blair! Your father would be very disappointed in you if he were to look down from heaven and see you in such a state. Now, get yourself ready to greet your guests. Remember, the fate of your people lie in your hands. Conduct yourself in a manner worthy of a lady." When Dorota used her authoritative voice, Blair would revert to her five year-old self. She pouted until the maid left her chambers to prepare the rest of the manor.
She watched on, dreading every moment as Jenny laid out her finest sapphire gown and gold sashes. Then she looked at the girl and a smile curled its way to her face. Sensing the sudden shift in atmosphere, the blond girl found that familiar expression on her mistress' face and became frightened. "Milady?"
"Jenny, remember when we used to play ruses when we were younger? The ones that would make my father laugh every time he recounted them?" Jenny nodded, a little less hopeful with each word. Those ruses often resulted in her punishment. "Let us play one last ruse. A game to end all games. It will be one for the ages." Jenny only prayed that she could keep her head at the end of this game.