Romance has been elegantly defined as the offspring of fiction and love. -Benjamin Disraeli
Henrietta was in awe as she waded through the sea of people. Earlier in the evening, she had been elated at the idea of a masquerade, one celebrating Albion's own triumph over the Crawler, and felt it would bring a much needed end to a very turbulent year.
She had taken great care to pick out the perfect costume. It was a very plain brown and white corset dress, made of a simple cut with little ornamentation save for a few white feathers adorning the collar and the hem. It was the type of dress someone of the lower class would wear if they had saved up a little money for something finer, but a distinguished noble wouldn't be caught dead in.
But the mask... The mask was the best part of the entire ensemble. She had it custom made, so that it would look exactly the way she wanted it to. The gold on the beak had quite a brilliant shine to it, and white feathers that radiated from the eyeholes extended just far enough back to cover most of her short brown hair. It was the finest chicken mask she had ever seen.
The complete costume was nothing short of perfect. She would be able to enjoy herself at the party without people constantly bowing and scraping every time she walked by, and was prepared to have the time of her life. Or so she thought.
Instead, her costume worked a little too well. Everyone in the room not only didn't recognize who she was, they avoided her. Her dress identified her as common, and since most of the people in the ball room were of the upper class, they acted as if she was diseased. Every single person had avoided eye contact with her, and the one time she had tried to join a conversation with a group of nobles, the one speaking merely cleared his throat and acted as if she hadn't said anything at all. Either the nobles were terribly intolerant of the lower classes, or they all strongly disliked chickens.
It was most distressing, and not nearly as much fun as she thought it would be.
The queen sighed as she reached the far end of the ballroom, leaning herself up against the wall. Even the wallflowers there moved away from her. This just won't do at all, she thought as she brought her hand up to cup her chin. Henrietta watched the gowns swirl elegantly to the polite music as she lost herself in thought. What gave these people the right to look down on the common folk? She was the bloody queen of Albion and she didn't go about sneering at anyone beneath her station. Part of the reason she wanted a simple costume for this masquerade was so that she wouldn't be seen as superior, so that she could simply blend in and get to know her people. That plan had certainly backfired.
"My my my... What have we here?" The distinct voice snapped Henrietta from her reverie, causing her to look up abruptly. Standing before her was none other than Reaver, the deviant master of Albion's industry, wearing the very same mask he had worn at the last masquerade she had seen him at. Aside from that previous unfortunate encounter, Reaver had never spoken to her other than to argue against any ruling she would pass. Even if he was perhaps the most influential member of her court, the queen very much liked not having to talk to him, and she wasn't about to start now.
"Just one of the city folk, my lord, enjoying my own company," Henrietta said, offering him a curtsey. Reaver wasn't exactly empathetic to the less wealthy, so she hoped he would act as all the other nobles had and ignore her. Instead Reaver just grinned devilishly, looking very much like a spider having just discovered a fly in his web.
"Well we can't have that now can we," Reaver exclaimed. "You've dressed up and come all this way for a party. What kind of gentleman would I be if I left you here alone in the corner?"
You sir, are no gentleman, Henrietta thought. Almost as if Reaver had heard the voice in her head, he offered his hand to her for a dance, a prospect Henrietta found most horrifying. She barely looked at his hand before shaking her head and giving him his answer. "You'll find I'm quite a bad party guest, I'm afraid," Henrietta said. "I fare very poorly at making merry, and never make any attempt to be sociable."
"Which is precisely why you need me to amend this little situation," Reaver replied. He stepped closer until he was standing directly in front of her, his top hat towering over Henrietta's head. "Oh, but you're a tall drink of water, aren't you?" he said, examining her from head to toe. "It's very rare that I come across a woman where I don't have to stoop down to kiss her." He nodded approvingly. "I'd say your lips are at a very agreeable height."
"They're at an agreeable distance as well," Henrietta added. "From any persons that may be entertaining ideas about claiming them." Reaver's grin only grew wider.
"You know, I've known very few women in my lifetime that share my space a head and shoulders above the rabble," he said, tucking his walking stick under his arm. "Only one of which is alive and well in Albion." Henrietta visibly stiffened at his remark, leading Reaver to take on a very smug expression as he continued. "It's only fitting that such heroic stature visibly separates the queen from the common folk. Something to remember the next time you try to fool someone who actually possesses the power of observation... Your Majesty." He raised his walking stick and slowly moved aside her mask to reveal her very red face, further serving to punctuate the entirely unsurprising reveal of her identity.
As much as Henrietta tried to be a refined lady, she couldn't help but pick up some of the saltier language her mentor used around her growing up. An exclamation that cost her a moment that she could have been very quickly walking in the other direction, or trying to come up with some sort of excuse that would save her from further embarrassment. Certainly not just standing there mouth agape and frozen to the spot like a statue, complete with a title plaque reading Confounded.
Instead the queen just huffed and pulled the mask back down on her face. "I won't submit to a confrontation in the middle of a royal masquerade Reaver," she said. "If you wish to settle unfinished business then choose a time and a place, but not here."
"My dear lady, who said anything about confrontation?" Reaver replied, all too innocently for Henrietta's tastes. "I simply wished to compliment you on your very clever costume. You certainly seem to have everyone fooled. Apparently Henrietta, Queen of Albion draws much more attention than Henrietta, Queen of Hens."
"Thank you for the compliment sir," Henrietta replied coldly, crossing her arms across her chest. "But you knowing my identity ruins the effect. Perhaps you should go stand over there, on the other side of the ballroom."
"If it's the sheer effect you're after then you should accept my offer for a dance," Reaver suggested. "Surely no one here would expect the perpetually single queen to be dancing with the greatest lover in the queendom."
"They wouldn't be expecting you to be dancing with a chicken either," she quipped.
"Even more reason to accept," he countered. "A double layered rouse. Just imagine the people's surprise at the end of the evening when you reveal yourself." He dramatically raised his arms as if to paint a mental picture. "Just who is that woman dancing with the glorious Reaver?" he said, imitating a stuffy woman's voice. "Oh my! It was the queen all along! How very unexpected!" He moved to stand beside her as he pointed out at the sea of people before them. "Whereas now..." he said, his voice having returned to normal. "No one is giving you a second glance."
Henrietta had to admit that Reaver did have a point. It wouldn't be much of a surprise if no one was paying attention. And the queen did have a fondness for the unexpected, even if it involved distasteful company. "Very well, Reaver," she replied. "You've made your case. I'll dance with you." Reaver's grin shifted from scheming to triumphant.
"And here I thought you were rejecting all my propositions out of spite," he said, bowing and offering her his hand.
"But!" she interjected, holding up a finger. "You have to remove your top hat." Reaver looked at her as if he had been shot.
"Why in the world would you request such a thing?" he asked, much more dramatically than expected of someone who has been asked to remove their hat.
"Because," Henrietta replied. "Even though it was my apparent height that revealed my identity to you, I happen to like being tall. And that hat simply makes me feel short." Reaver chuckled at her response.
"As you wish, Your Majesty," he said, setting his hat and walking stick on a nearby table before claiming the queen's hand and pulling her into the sea of people.
"You're not afraid someone will take your belongings if you just leave them there like that?" she asked.
"No one who fears my wrath would even consider such a notion," Reaver answered. "And I do believe everyone here has the wisdom to avoid doing so," he added, before pulling Henrietta in close and placing his free hand on her hip.
"Do you enjoy terrifying everyone around you Reaver?" she asked him as they began to dance.
"Quite. Though clearly some people simply refuse to be terrified," he said, looking at her pointedly. "I must admit, I very much enjoyed having the queen address me as 'My Lord'. It's certainly something I could get used to."
"No," Henrietta countered. "No it is not." Reaver tossed his head back and laughed out loud at her comment, at which point the queen noticed his hair. Not only was it perfectly coiffed even after being tucked under a hat, but it moved like magic. She could have sworn his hair was engineered to look spectacular no matter what the situation.
"Reaver," she said, voicing her thoughts before she could stop herself. "Your hair is magnificent! Why do you insist on hiding it under that silly hat?" The knowing eyebrow he raised indicated he was quite used to being admired.
"I could ask you the same thing my dear," he replied smoothly.
"The crown provides little coverage and my hair is less than remarkable," Henrietta stated flatly. Her short brown hair was so painfully ordinary that she felt a tiny bit of jealousy over Reaver's own voluminous locks.
"No not your hair," he countered. He paused to twirl her around in step with the song, bringing her back much closer than before so her her chest was flush up against his. "Your exquisite bosom," he added, squeezing her a little tighter. "Why do you insist on hiding your lovely breasts under that silly corset?" The queen offered him a frown and a sigh, before twirling herself away from him and bringing herself back at a respectable distance.
"I suppose I should have known better than to offer you any sort of compliment," she said, resuming the dance. "Your ego doesn't need any stroking, I'm sure." Reaver's eyes twinkled as he grinned at her comment.
"Well, perhaps not my ego, but..." he said. Henrietta stopped dancing and stared him down.
"Finish that sentence and I'll have you arrested on the spot," she said. Reaver's grin remained firmly fixed in place as he bowed his head curtly to her. He didn't wait for the queen's permission to start dancing again.
"What an enlightening little outburst," he said wryly. "The looming threat of a jail sentence must be why you've had no lovers lining up to escort you to such a prestigious party." Henrietta scoffed, annoyed that he would suggest such a thing.
"I'm not nearly so disagreeable," she replied. "The better explanation is simply that I have no lovers."
"Former lovers then," he amended. "Surely one would have accompanied you had you been just a bit more pleasant," he said, mock pity dripping from his voice. The way he casually baited her was too much for the queen to simply keep quiet on the matter.
"I am a maiden, sir," she said huffily. "I've had no time to run about seducing men when the queendom is at stake." Reaver merely laughed at her response, but his smile died when he realized that she was being completely serious.
"Ohh... Oh my," he replied, reevaluating her with this new bit of information. "How very troubling. You simply must let me take care of that little problem for you." Henrietta's expression turned dubious.
"Since when is a woman's virtue a problem?" she asked.
"Since it concerns a very shapely, attractive, audacious hero of a queen," Reaver said with no small amount of impatience in his tone. "It would be a tragic waste to go on existing in this miserable state. And since it would seem you're not currently enlisting anyone to do anything about it, it's only right that I volunteer my services as your loyal attendant."
"So it's only a problem for you," Henrietta clarified. "But I happen to be perfectly content with myself." At that moment the song they were dancing to finally came to an end. Henrietta breathed a sigh of relief, eager to be done with this line of conversation and her dance partner. "Well then," she said as she moved to excuse herself from his company.
"No no no, you're going about this all the wrong way," he interjected, following her as she walked back to the wall she had been leaning against before he interrupted her thoughts. He paused in his speech only to retrieve his top hat to put back in its rightful place, and his walking stick to tuck under his arm.
"Try to think of your virginity as a melon," he said, adjusting his hat as he spoke. The queen paused for a long moment, unsure if she actually heard him correctly.
"A... melon," she stated, not even sure she wanted to know what he meant.
"Yes, a very large melon," he replied as he leaned against the wall beside her. "One which you're forced to carry around with you at all times. It's very difficult to get close to someone if you're holding a melon between you. No doubt such a hinderance is the reason you've yet to form any romantic attachments even still." The queen opened her mouth to protest his statement, but Reaver cut her off before she was able to utter a single word.
"But if you were to hand that melon over to me," he said, leaning in close and lowering the volume of his voice to a much more intimate level. "I would shatter it into a hundred pieces, engorge myself on the tender flesh found within, and lap up the sticky juices so that not a trace remains." Henrietta was very glad to be wearing a mask at that point, but she could feel her ears burning and knew they must be just as red as her face.
"Then you'd be rid of your unnecessary burden," Reaver continued on normally as if he hadn't just very suggestively propositioned her. "And no one would have to know. You could even title yourself 'Henrietta, Virgin Warrior Queen of Albion' and I wouldn't tell a soul."
"Ugh, Reaver, you make my name sound like the title of a vulgar novel when you say it like that," she complained. She crossed her arms across her chest, desperate to change the subject.
"Now there's an idea," he mused. "Such a story would be sure to bring in a tidy profit."
"No." The queen calmly uttered the simple rejection without even bothering to look at him.
"There, there, Your Majesty." Reaver mussed up the plumage on her mask as he patted her head, mimicking the tone one would use when placating a small child. "I promise to make it tasteful."
"Stop ruffling my feathers, Reaver," she replied, smoothing out the top of her mask. "I'm a maiden, not a child. My virtue isn't a weakness."
"Oh isn't it?" he asked a bit too jovially. "Tell me your majesty, in what arena does a lack of experience make you a stronger opponent?"
"Since when is passion comparable to combat?" she cut.
"The parallels aren't painfully obvious to you?" he asked, the surprise in his voice sounding almost genuine. "Ah well. You'll learn in time, I suppose. For now, it's comparable because despite staging a royal coup, defeating an otherworldly monstrosity, and embarking on a number of intrepid adventures, you've decided to so ardently defend your own forced innocence in only this aspect of your life. I don't know why you've chosen to fly in the face of reason, but as the steadfast proponent for all things pleasurable I can only interpret it as a challenge." He made a small flourish through the air with his walking stick as if it were a sword.
"All right, I think it's about time we parted ways," she said with an exhausted sigh. Henrietta considered herself a very tolerant person, but she had had quite enough of Reaver.
"But I'm having much too much fun to end our dialog now." He planted his walking stick and feet to signal that he wasn't going anywhere. "If I knew you'd prove to be such delightful company then I would have been much quicker to personally make your acquaintance."
A mild horror descended on the queen as she wondered just what she had brought upon herself by associating with Reaver. "What then," she asked. "Are you planning on sticking to me the entire evening?" The grin he answered her with was nothing short of wicked.
"Only if you have the stamina for it, my dear."
I was really annoyed by how Reaver never even really talked to the queen, and instead was all up in Page's business. He was all like 'Ooh Page you're such a heroine for saying a generic angry statement to me', while the player is the one perilously hanging from a cage. It's like being chopped liver next to her. Ben Finn didn't help matters much either.
Anyway, insert generic Fable and all its characters are property of Lionhead and Microsoft statement here, and reviews would be very much welcome!