I sort of got the idea for this when I read 2 other fan fictions to do my own period piece. The main influences for the setting of this story are the Elizabethan time period and a Korean movie called The King and Clown. I pretty much mix up anything that I think will add to the story. Lemme know if you recognize anything, and I'll let you know if I used it. :D Hope you like it!
I nervously waited for my music to play, staring at my hands that were crossed and floated in front of me as I supported most of my weight on one leg with the other slightly bent behind me. I heard the rattle and began moving my arms and stepping out like a quiet horse. The drums beat and I swayed my hips as if they weren't attached to my body, emphasized by my extravagant costume, my expression hidden behind a feathery mask. I tossed my head back and around, followed by my torso, stretching out my arms before stepping out on one leg then down on the other and then spinning around. My eyes could barely focus on the audience that sounded me, the royal family and her guests. It was my coming out performance, the first time I would perform in the royal court. My future within the kingdom rested on the audience's good opinion, otherwise I'd be outcasted and sold again to a circus or caravan. I was grateful to Miss Alice who had discovered me and introduced me to her company of ingenues who agreed upon my talent. Whatever happened, I was indebted to her. When my dance allowed me to connect with my observers, I recognized King Carlisle of Aurelia and his Queen Esme. Even without the extravagant throne they sat in, I would've guessed their titles. The had a most magical and royal aura about them. To their right sat the heir to the throne Prince Edward and his betrothed Lady Isabella whose reputations had exceeded the walls of the kingdom. On the queen's left sat the most beautiful and elegant woman I would later find out was Princess Rosalie. Her looked worried me slightly since, unlike her family, she did not smile. The rest of the court was filled with the dukes and duchesses, ladies and sirs, and other upper class citizens who were privileged enough to attend the Royal Performance. Dance was my forte, and I had not ignored the cheers and whistles as I danced this sensuous piece. I could only hope it was enough to earn my place. My hips shook with the rapid drumming, perfectly timed to stop at the last loud beat, my smile seductive enough to not give away my pride of a flawless performance. Even walking away needed to be graceful, so with another start of the drums, I spread my arms and crossed one leg behind the other so I bowed and pranced gracefully away to meet Alice behind the curtain.
"Was it okay?" I quickly asked her as she helped me change into the next costume.
"You were spectacular, May," she answered encouragingly, though I knew my place relied more than just my performance.
"Do you think they'll let me stay?" I asked.
"I have no doubt. You are most certainly beautiful enough and you can sing, dance, act, and play any instrument beautifully. I can't imagine why they would turn you out." I bit my lip, still worried of the outcome. But both of us now had the finale to focus on. We gracefully walked out with the other girls from the curtains and to the center of the circle, tambourines in hand and as if we were clones of each other, we moved and sang as one.
I received a knock that night in my tentative room as I waited in agony of the decision. I greeted a tall and stout Mr. Banner who was the coordinator, arguably leader, of the ingenues.
"My Lady," Mr. Banner started, "I have come to offer my congratulations on your performance tonight. It has been a long time since finding Alice to find such a gem as you. I hope you will be very comfortable with us."
"Thank you, Sir," I said, my joy and enthusiasm barely contained in my voice and composure. "I will no doubt be."
"Alice has fully informed you of our responsibilities?" he asked. A position as an ingenue only served to provide decent living situations, but otherwise demised almost every other social aspect possible. The ingenues were intended to be entertainers for the royal family and her guests only, and entertained they did in every way. Consequently, their status would be forever reduced in society, which would be detrimental should an ingenue be unable to continue performing. We were the most sought after form of entertainment, admired and envied, yet taboo to be associated with. Japan had its geishas, Rome had its gladiators, France had its courtesans, and Aurelia had its ingenues.
"Yes, I am aware," I said meekly. I was born, abandoned, sold, bought, and traded; my class could never be worse than it was. Mr. Banner left my now permanent quarters. I thought no more of the strange future that lie ahead of me. Tonight, I would be happy. I quickly grabbed a bottle of wine that Alice had graciously given to me to celebrate this occasion and hurried to her bed chambers to tell her the good news.
I tiptoed barefoot through the hallway, only to be stopped by two people arguing. I paused, conflicted with either return to my room and celebrate later, or wait out the argument. I innocently thought to just listen enough to see if they indeed would be arguing much longer.
"Jacob, please, I said no," I heard a woman plead.
"Bella, I can't watch you marry him, we can leave, it's not too late," I heard the man say. Intrigued, I peered around the corner, hoping the darkness would keep me from being seen. Jacob's hands were cupped over that of Lady Isabella. She tried to pull free, but he wouldn't let go.
"I love him, Jacob." Her words looked to had pierced his soul. His was the most beautiful face I had ever seen, even though he was pained. "I have fallen in love with him. I'm sorry." He dropped her hand. I stared at the two of them. Lady Isabella was dressed extravagantly, considering the hour of the night, beautiful as the moon. The man Jacob stood so much taller than her, skin as dark as the Sun would allow itself to affect. But I couldn't tear myself from his lovely face. He was truly beautiful. I felt drawn to him, mesmerized. I knew Lady Isabella would have been otherwise swooned by him if a lesser man than Prince Edward had not claimed her.
"Bella, please," Jacob begged almost in tears. "Don't do this."
"I'm sorry, Jake. I have to go." She swiftly fled, leaving Jacob to watch her go. I saw him start to turn so I quickly whipped back around the corner, praying he hadn't seen me. I heard footsteps growing more and more faint until they were no more. I hurried to Alice's bed chambers not as excited as I had been earlier, but still hustled nonetheless.
Court gossip was a very popular pastime amonst the entertainers. Though this company of ingenues were comissioend by the Royal Court only a few months prior to my arrival, its members knew almost everything there was to know. Only the right question needed to be asked.
"So Lady Isabella was a commoner?" I asked Alice after after celebratory toast.
"She was. Her title was granted after Prince Edward selected her to be his bride," Alice explain. "But she seems happy, which is a shame for poor Jacob. They grew up together and were even engaged."
"Engaged?" I gasped. "And she just left him?"
"She had to. Once selected, it's either wedding bells or a funeral song. But I would suspect she didn't love Jacob the way she does Prince Edward. And I'm sure the prince would not have executed her had she refused him; he's too good of a man." I took a sip of my wine, forcing down the burning bitter taste. Alice noticed and took the glass from me.
"I guess we will need to practice your other duties," she said. I sighed. How was I supposed to be fun and flirtatious without being able to hold down a half glass of wine? "But for tonight, you should be heading back. We have a long week ahead of us." I gave Miss Alice another hug and like a mouse, I scurried back to my quarters, dreaming of poor Jacob, wishing to be the one to make his heart feel at ease.
There were more than 30 ingenues in the royal company. Not only did we perform and entertain, we made our own costumes, masks, scenery, and props. The next week, when we weren't rehearsing, we were sewing, pasting, and weaving. I had developed these skills when I worked in my other companies before coming to court. The costumes were gaudy and extravagant. We always tailored the performance to the occasion, the next one being a duke's homecoming celebration. The royal family would not be attending as they rarely attended parties outside of their own and women were not invited. This meant more exotic numbers. I was nervous. Only my second performance and I would be shamelessly turning men on with my exotic dancing and singing. Of course my dancing always had some class, but it made me nervous of the emotions that would intentionally be aroused. These occasions also provided Mr. Banner a unique business opportunity when a male found a certain attraction to an ingenue. (Women never followed this same suit.) I was certain I was not yet of acceptable age for this to be concern, but the sentiments behind it were disgusting. But perhaps Jacob would be there. After hours of sewing on the beads to the hip of a skirt, my body was in need of a break, so I decided to take a walk around the premises of my new home.
The castle grounds were beyond the human eye, the main castle being where the royal family and her guests and nobles resided. The entertainers' wing was in a house nearby the castle, but altogether separate. Gardens spread out in front and around the castle, including a beautiful and impressive labyrinth in the heart of it all.
"Out of my way, Clown!" I heard a woman cry, looking up to see Princess Rosalie brushing past Mr. Emmett with her nose in the air on her way to the castle. He looked slightly hurt as he bowed, but he was smiling.
"Good day, Mr. Emmett," I greeted him when I approached.
"Good after, May" he said. I found him friendly and comfortable, the kind of man who always sought out a smile. He was six years my senior, so I liked to give him a title even though our roles were equal within the castle. He gave me his arm and we walked back to the entertainer's wing.
"No! She's too young! Not yet sixteen!" I heard Alice screaming as I changed out of the ornamented skirt and bra after the performance into a long white dress.
"Alice, this is not your place," Mr. Banner said roughly. "You've seen her talent, don't tell me she is too young."
"Her service skills are not what concerns me, Sir," she growled. I slowly approached them, curious, but neither noticed me.
"You were not much older than she when you started," he barked, "and see how well things have turned out for you. All your fine clothes and expensive things. She'll only be grateful for the chance." Alice turned to see me, fury in her eyes. I could only guess what they were talking about. Alice averted her watery eyes and stormed out of the room.
"My dear, May," Mr. Banner greet me charmingly. "You have given quite a performance. Tonight, you are a star." He walked closer to me, never looking away from my eyes. "Tonight, you become a woman. Duke Nahuel has asked for your company this evening." I closed my eyes. "Be sure to take your lute. He has requested for you to sing. The girls will help ready you."
The girls dressed me in a sultry red dress and powdered and rouged my face, squealing in delight. Miss Jessica told her tale of her first encounter and how excited she was and how wonderful it felt. Girls of our status grew up believing sex was the step to womanhood and what a great honor it was to have someone of rank to "break the seal". They paid a great deal to do so and the price was something to be bragged about. I saw Alice's grave face in the mirror before walking on. I probably would not have felt so reserved about the offer if I hadn't known Alice's sentiments. She seemed defensive and distraught, and it made me second guess my own opinion of the matter.
When I was deemed ready by Mr. Banner, I headed to the room with my lute in my hand.
"Good evening, Sir," I said curtsying to the dark man who had just opened the door. He was a handsome man with skin as smooth as satin and dark as mahogany. "I was told you enjoyed to be lulled to sleep." He looked me up and down before stepping back to let me in.
"I'm afraid I've had a very difficult time falling asleep," he said closing the door. "I was hoping a lullaby would correct that."
"Certainly, Sir," He began unbuttoning his shirt revealing a well-defined chest and abdomen. I grew increasingly nervous, but did my best to continue playing my part. The duke lay on his bed on his side facing me while I sat on his feet. I began lightly strumming the lute and sang a lullaby.
"You have very delicate fingers," he commented when I had ceased playing. "Such a light sound, a sweet voice."
"I am honored of your compliments," I said softly. He got up on the bed and crawled over to me. He put his fingers on mine, which were still on the lute. I stared at our entwined fingers. He released me and brushed up the sides of my neck and back down. He kissed my throat, chest, breast, his hands at my back. The dress I wore was rigged to be turn off easily as men usually preferred convenience, which is exactly what Duke Nahuel did. His mouth grew hot, his breath heavy. At first I enjoyed the new sensations, feeding his desires by reaching into his touch, moaning, and removing his clothing. It was until I was completely naked with him did my fear set in. This man was more than twice my age with nothing other than lust emanating from him. I began to squeal and squirm.
"No, no," I cried softly, knowing he wouldn't, but hoping he would. I tried to push him off, but he only got hungrier and more aggressive. I could do nothing but let it pass. I wrapped my arms around his neck to at least give the illusion of fulfilling my duties. His face was buried in my chest, neck, or the pillow, so he never saw me crying. I could only hope he would be unsatisfied and request a more experienced ingenue for his future encounters.
An entertainer could never be caught leaving a nobleman's room as it tarnished his reputation amongst his class. So in the middle of the night, I got dressed in my corset and all and slipped out with my lute back to my room. I threw my lute onto my bed and curled myself into a ball in the corner and wept until I fell asleep where I lay. I began to understand my role much clearer in this world, and dreaded what the future had in store for me.
Our next performance was an intimate gathering with just the royal family and a few guests. For these occasions, we often repeated acts and routines and reused costumes. I marveled at how well Mr. Emmett performed. His charm and charisma made him a natural comic. He was a skilled juggler and balanced things on himself, but today he was showing off his strength by lifting strange things like two girls holding watermelons or four hogs. I noticed he wouldn't look anywhere else other than Princess Rosalie, who weakly smiled. Whether she was forcing it or holding it back, I couldn't tell. Alice performed a rather elegant solo, that Queen Esme deemed her favorite, which was something to be said considering her own experience with dance.
After about an hour, we had a break to freshen up, as well as give the audience time to mingle and converse, so I used this opportunity to try to relieve myself. I walked out of the courtyard aiming for the nearest facilities. I turned the corner, realizing I didn't know where it was. I began to wander, trying hard to think of something other than waterfalls. I turned another corner and almost gasped out loud before clapping my hands over my mouth. Mr. Emmett had a lady friend he was passionately kissing and groping, pinned up against the wall under a covering that connected two small structures. I didn't mean to stare until I recognized the woman he was with. I knew the scandal this would cause Princess Rosalie if she was discovered. Were not upperclass women supposed to be really strict about their fidelities? Just as I turned, the princess looked up and gasped, fighting Mr. Emmett off and burying her face in her hands. He looked up to see me, but before he could react, I quickly ran back, forgetting all about my bladder's cry.
"You won't tell anyone, right, May?" Emmett pleaded that night after the show as everyone congregated in the main area of our wing.
"How long has this been going on? She's a princess, you know!" I said, the shock rushing back to me.
"Of course I know! Why do you think I'm doing this?"
"Is that why you're doing this?" I asked.
"No, it's not," Mr. Emmett confessed. "It happened like eight months ago, a few weeks after we got here." Eight months. Wow. I sighed.
"I promise I won't tell," I said. I was so curious about their relationship, but it didn't seem appropriate for me to ask. Well, I guess the ingenues didn't know everything after all. Or at least said nothing if they did, though I was sure this would have circulated.