In the age where men ruled the world, women were nothing more then pawns in the vast game of chess to be sacrificed and traded to get the ultimate goal of raising their family's status. There rarely was ever choice; this story is no different.
There is a king, a king of England who all the people in the villages loved, he was certainly a charmer to court and merry person to be around, and it was no exception for me. Kind Edward V was top of the world.
As I sat down as gracefully as I could manage, I glanced over at my uncle who was already into his food, because the king had already started to eat. My name is Isabella Swan, I am 17 years old and I have been a part of many different courts since I was 4.
The soft background music of the violin played on as the mouthwatering smells tickled my nose and the crowd laughed and chattered on merrily.
My bodice was laced very tightly thanks to my sister Alice, which caused me great discomfort and made eating and breathing alone quite a challenge. I brought the spoon the carried broth on it up to my lips and tool a dainty sip of it.
My father sat on my left side eyeing me very critically watching my every move and ready in a seconds notice to correct me. My mother on his side, staring down at her food quietly, waiting to be engaged in a conversation or not even at all. My older sister Alice sat straight across from me talking to the Duke of Wales, Jasper. She was fanning herself with a fan in her right hand which meant she was clearly feeling flirtatious.
"For God sakes Isabella, smile," my father didn't even look at me as he smiled over at the cardinal Carlisle and talked to me out of the corner of his mouth. I put on my endearing and happy face that I had learned thanks to Her Majesty, Queen Tanya.
I was the one of the queen's lady in waiting. Along with seven other girls we spent most of our time entertaining her. Some would sing or play instruments, others would play cards or dice, and then rest of us would either talk politely about the weather or sew clothes for the orphans.
The queen was very out spoken when it was just the ladies and no king or the Privy Council. She was not afraid to disrespect us if she felt even in the slightest way bored. She often talked about her father who was the king of France and therefore England's ally in a war against Spain. And she liked to keep up with the latest court scandals.
The thing that I found most interesting that came out of her perfectly pink lips was her talk about heirs and children. Queen Tanya was only 33 years old; one year the king's senior, but she feared she was not able to conceive. Her courses that should have come every month were irregular and she always fell ill for an entire week when they came. She feared she would be a barren woman by her next birthday, if not sooner. It was rather sad to see such a beautiful women have to go through that.
My teeth clenched together as I continued to smile and try to have my soup at the same time. I distracted myself from Alice's obvious flirting with the Duke, my fathers loud talk about a jousting match to my mother -who was extremely disinterested-, by looking over to the where the king and queen were seated.
The clenching of my teeth was forgotten when I saw king Edward looking at me very intently and his eyebrows furrowed as if I had just appeared out of thin air. I tilted my head a little to the side in curiosity but the hood on my head was quite heavy and made my head flop to the side clumsily.
His eyebrows smoothed out and he chuckled catching some people who were sitting around him to look over at me as I looked down and blushed. When I peaked through my eyelashes back at him his was perfect complexion was bored and irritated. I looked to the right of him to see queen Tanya talking to him and running her hand down his arm which he shifted away from.
I finished my dinner quickly and quietly along with the rest of the court, and went over to the ladies in waiting so I was cleared out of the space they were emptying for dancing.
Alice, looking completely stunning in her blue velvet French dress and hood came over to where I was standing behind the queen and pulled my elbow so that we took a couple steps back. My heels clicked hurriedly against the tile until she stopped and was out of the queens hearing.
"The king was looking at you throughout dinner," she told me in a hushed whisper. She then smiled up innocently at several men who walked by before quickly turning her attention to me.
"The maids were gossiping when I went to the queens chambers to get my embroidery and I overheard them say she hasn't bleeded in two months and they haven't had to change her sheets for any occasion." That poor woman, at such a young age, not able to bear children.
"Alice, what are you suggesting?" I questioned her with my eyebrow arched at her, Alice was a very vibrant person and she always had ideas.
"It may be time for a Swan to step in soon," she said with a grin, referring to the king's sexual life. It was no secret he was unsatisfied but there has been no talk around of a new mistress.
"Oh hush Alice, to suggest that is practically treason," I told her sternly. She giggled but put her hand to her mouth to mute it as the musicians started their first song. I did not comprehend what was so amusing to her so I glided over to the queen and swept into a look curtsey.
"Mistress Swan, go fetch your sister and the two of you along with, Mistresses Hale, Stanley and Weber are to start off the dance," she told me affectionately. The queen was a wonderful woman when she was generous and the Swans were her favorite ladies.
"Thank you, Your Grace," I smiled brightly up at her, curtsied again and went to find Alice then went to the open space.
"Mistress Isabella, may I be so fortunate to have this dance?" I curtsied deeply to the king who came across the space. I had danced with him once before but it was for a masque.
"Of course Your Highness," I nodded as elegantly as I had been taught and he offered me his arm which I place my hand lightly on. We were followed by four other pairs of dancers to the center of the circle with the crowd standing around to watch and the queen smiling down from where she was seated, she was smiling pleasantly but she had no other choice.
The mask was always worn on her face; she had no choice but to endear her husband dancing with a young lady more then 15 years her junior. Women weren't to complain; it wasn't our place and we most certainly would never bother the king with such matters.
Before she could turn her head straight to me and catch me staring at her openly I diverted my attention to the king who was nodding to the foreign ambassador.
I admired him as we glided to the center. I wasn't openly staring but just looking. He had a beautiful mess of bronze hair that was combed out in a sophisticated manor and a pale complexion with the most handsome green eyes and not a blemish located anywhere on his face. His lips were the perfect shade of red and he walked in such a refined way.
He stopped walking as did I and the couples around us get positioned and he nodded over the musicians and the music started. I took his hand, and we twirled around the dance floor in perfect harmony with the other couples and I spun and felt all the eyes on me as he brought me close to him so I could feel his sweet breath on my face. By the time the dance ended I smiled breathlessly up at him to see him smiling back at me brilliantly.
Without breaking his gaze on me he boomed "Continue the fine music!" And the music started right up again. A country upbeat song was starting to play. I was about to move out of his arms in search for a new partner but he didn't release me.
The dance was very fast beat and kept us on our toes, during the middle was when the dancers formed a circle around a couple and they would take turns dancing until all the partners had been in the middle. The king led me to the circle to start, keeping to the rhythm of the song.
It felt good if I was being honest with myself, knowing that the people all around me right now were whispering my name to their companions and envying me.
"All men here will envy your husband tonight, you look simply ravishing in that dress milady and likely even more stunning when it comes off," he smiled at me before he took my hand and twirled me around, not seeing me blush.
Out of the corner of my eye I caught my father smiling so hugely that I thought it would jump off his face as he over looked his two daughters dancing with the two most important men in Europe.
"I am not wedded Your Majesty," I told him just loud enough for him to hear. I had assumed he knew. As I told him his he just nodded but I could tell he was now distracted from the dance by his thoughts.
"Would you like to join me in the garden tomorrow morning, then we shall break our fast in my chamber?" he asked me as we glissaded to the rim of the circle and let Alice and the Duke Jasper takes our place.
"If Your Highness wishes it, then I accept," I let my lips turn into a smile at him. He grinned at me and nodded. Keeping the smile on my face was no longer a task as it had been earlier this evening, this was my smile, and no one could force me to do this.
"Isabella Swan," The king said thoughtfully to himself as the final dancers entered the inside of the ring and started to dance.
"Your Kingship?" I was just making sure that he wasn't talking to me rather then himself. He sighed and smiled at me, making me suck in my breath, but then regret it quickly as my corset was laced very tight.
"Behold, you are beautiful. Your eyes are doves. Beloved," he took his strong pale hand and brushed across my cheek as he quoted the Song of Songs from the Bible. I closed my eyes to his touch.
Then I remembered the entire court surrounding us and quickly opened my eyes as to not disrespect the queen who was surely watching us now.
"For, behold, the winter is past. The rain is over and gone," I quoted a different song that I had randomly racked my brains and selected. This was a quote about new beginnings and it felt right. But this was the king the greatest man in England and I was a girl of inferior birth.
"How have you been here and I've never realized it?" I looked up a few inches to see him looking down at me with twinkling eyes.
"Maybe you haven't really been looking," I flirted back at him with a smile; he chuckled and lifted my hand and brought it to his lips. The song ended and I curtsied to him while gently pulling my hand back from his grip, he nodded and walked off to dance with my cousin Rosalie Hale.
I looked over to the queen whose eyes flashes from the now dancing couple to me as I looked longingly after him, she raised an eyebrow ever so slightly at me and something in her gaze told me that one of the Swan girls was no longer her favorite. I was now her rival, though only she knew it.
"Lady Swan, may I have this dance?" I looked to the right of me to see the Duke Alice had had her eyes on now bowing to me and straighten up and offered his hand to me. I saw Alice who was smiling brightly at me, I gave her a quick Swan look that made sure this was all right and her head bobbed quickly.
"Of course milord," I nodded to him and gave him my hand. He smiled and led me gracefully out to the dancers while nodding to other members of the Privy Council.
"May I be so bold as to wonder about the relationship between yourself and my eldest sister?" I asked him with a smile and a tiny hint of humor in my voice. The Duke blushed just a little bit but laughed.
"Very bold indeed," he nodded with a chuckle, "your sister fascinates me to no end, and is a stunning young lady as well," I nodded, pleased to see that Alice had her eye on someone who had respect for women unlike other pigs here at court.
"Now, in turn, it is hard not to wonder about the king struggling to keep his eyes from wandering you to obviously during dinner and then him coming straight to you when the dancing started," he raised a perfect eyebrow at me, with a hint of a smirk in his face.
"It is easily hard not to wonder," I agreed with him and flashed him a teasing smile as he spun me around in sync with the others. I wasn't feeling particularly in the mood for conversation about the king and myself.
"But still, one cannot help himself," his eyes twinkled and I laughed, not the dainty laugh I use with women or the fake laugh for my father of cardinal but the one when I thought something was truly amusing.
"May I cut in?" My older brother Emmett tapped on the Duke's light blue shoulder on his tunic politely.
"But of course," Jasper bowed his head down while Emmett did the same and I was released out of his arms. I curtsied down to him and he bowed slightly to me before heading off in the direction where Alice was still watching, with a giant smile on her face.
"How is the king, my dear little sister?" Emmett smirked at me as we stepped back and forth together with the rhythm of the music.
"Very fine," I told him as I tilted back and let his huge hand support me. Emmett was a jokester at court, not the court jest or even close, he was the king's favorite, but he had a wry sense of humor and always knew how to get a laugh.
"Right behind my back I wager he's staring right at me in envy," Emmett inclined his head towards mine so that we were as close as lovers would be and whispered this. I would have glanced over Emmett's shoulder, but he was very brood, and therefore I wouldn't be able to see past him.
"Emmett be quiet," I shushed him with a playful swat on the shoulder and he just grinned not in the slightest way repentant.
When the dance had us turned, I was able to get an illustration of the king's profile as he danced with Angela Weber. The poor lady looked as if she was about to fall from faintness. As soon as I had turned my head to glance I had met the king's eyes as he looked me over.
I put on my best smile and nodded at him, making him smile and nod right back to me before Emmett turned suddenly and started laughing silently to him self.
"That is exactly what I meant, I'll give you 3 crowns if Father doesn't call a meeting tonight," he was greatly amused by this but I could hear the hope in his voice. If the Swans were in the king's favor, the whole world would be at our feet.
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*EDIT: 12-28-10. I have now changed Bella's age in the story. She is 17.