Title: A Garden of Decaying Flowers
Pairing: AmericaxEngland (main), AmericaxVarious, FrancexEngland, PortugalxEngland
Warning: AU, deviations from canon characterisation
A/N: It seems no matter which fandom I'm in I can't help gyrating toward 'harem in a court' situation (*cough cough* abandoned KKM WIP *cough*). Well, here it is.
Prologue: The Casts
His First: The Rose
The Rose had been the first of His Majesty's consorts. Many guessed that the Rose was His Majesty's oldest.
The Rose looked nothing like the esteemed flower the title suggested. Pale and frail, the Rose was seldom seen outside official ceremonies, decked from head to toe in layers and layers of various shades of dark green, grey and white, fabric covering almost every inch of skin from view. Gloves shielding slim fingers, stiff high collar and cravat choking thin neck, a gable hood hiding ears and hair from view.
But the Rose had delicate, aristocratic facial features; a straight nose, high cheekbones puffed with powders and blush, rouged thin lips, long-lashed large eyes which were often downcast beneath strands of thick blonde fringe. Most servants couldn't recall what colour those eyes were. Modest and well-mannered, the Rose never sparked any scandals and could always be depended upon to play a gracious (if slightly sharp-mouthed) host.
Yet, the Rose couldn't escape from the vicious natters that ran rampant across His Majesty's hedonistic court. Young Barons and Counts whispered that the Rose had dark, dark secrets embedded on its veiled skin, speculated riotously over the Rose's 'shameful' history and 'skeletons in the closet'. The older nobles and servants kept their silence and spoke of white lies over polite smiles, their refusals only serving to fuel the fire.
The Rose merely turned that poised back against the gossip mill, content with books, tea, trusted servants and imaginary friends in company.
His Most Cruel: The Chamomile
The day a big-boned, fair-haired ambassador with an unnerving smile arrived in His Majesty's court bearing greetings from the North, no one suspected that the diplomat would be His Majesty's consort.
The Chamomile must have been the most indelicate flower in history: seven-feet tall, with a bulky frame made bulkier still with the consort's choice of thick beige or purple robes and that threadbare, ancient scarf the Chamomile refused to part with. The courtiers supposed the Chamomile had pretty violet eyes and cute chubby cheeks, but not everyone found the Chamomile's large aquiline nose attractive.
His Majesty and the Chamomile had peculiar chemistry. They could be threatening to annihilate each other through the entire duration of a five-course-meal (the North remained the only empire that rivaled His Majesty's empire in military strength) while playing footsie under the table (no, the servants weren't mistaken thank you very much!). Expressions of agony would bounce off the walls of the Chamomile's chambers whenever His Majesty visited, but after the sun peeked out of the horizon they wore the bruises like one would precious stones, with pride, and no small amount of possessiveness.
On these days, the Rose would leave the breakfast table with a hand over smeared lips, cheeks white even with blush liberally applied to the Rose's face.
The Chamomile was volatile. The Chamomile could charm the court with cheerful, innocent, child-like smiles one moment, and wreaked havoc with public, violent punishments of servants, inquisitions of criminals, and mockery of lower-ranked concubines the next (the later causing the Rose, who was in charge of maintaining order in the household despite not being His Majesty's Empress Consort, much headache). The capital's square could see up to a double digit of hanging a day, depending on the Chamomile's mood. Servants and courtiers were always on edge around the flower, afraid of breathing the wrong way.
Secure in its position due to the North's military strength and His Majesty's favours, the Chamomile continued blithely, leaving a trail of red in its wake.
His Most Obedient: The Rue
The Rue's kingdom was a state of the Chamomile's empire. The Rue's titles mattered not a whit, the Rue was but a servant to the Chamomile. So when the Chamomile decided to enter the harem and move to the West's capital, the Rue was part of the North's dowry to His Majesty.
The Rue never said 'no' to a request (much less a command). The Rue was a skittish, soft-spoken, scrawny brunette who had the tendency to stutter when the Chamomile was around (and almost no one ever saw the Rue without the Chamomile looming its shadow).
The Rue was friendly, and helpful to the servants. But the Rue was quiet, overtly so. Within the flower's first year of residency, only a handful of courtiers admitted to having heard the Rue speak.
His Majesty did not find the flower's behavior suspicious (rather, he did not notice – he had many flowers in his harem, after all) until he incidentally caught the Rue laugh as the flower conversed comfortably with the Rose's lady-in-waiting.
That glimpse of his flower's character prompted him to start a private investigation, which led to his discovery of the very much public secret that the Rue was frequently subjected to abuse under the Chamomile's torment. That night, a loud, heated debate could be heard from the Chamomile's chamber; it marked the end to His Majesty's visits and the beginning of a cold war.
The week following that discovery had been all sorts of hell. The fight between His Majesty and the Chamomile had forced every aristocrat and servant to walk on tiptoes for days on end, parading through a charade of daily life with bated breath, stilted words and shivering limbs, waiting, waiting for the other shoe to drop, a declaration of War, a violent debacle – anything that could diffuse the tension.
This went on for another torturous seven days until the two finally started screaming and tearing at each other's throat over dinner. Everyone vacated the Dining Hall once the touches turned to that of another nature, and the next day, when His Majesty pondered aloud, gleefully, whose quarter the Rue could be transferred to, the Rose offered without a second thought.
So all in all, things went well for the Rue. As well as things could be, anyways.
His Most Calculative: The Peony
The Peony was a petite fair-skinned darling with silky shoulder-length hair and delicate oriental features. The Peony always carried a worn, well-loved stuffed cat (which had an eerie smile) everywhere. At first glance, the Peony appeared like an innocent, adorable teenager. Yet no one seemed to be able to find out what went on behind the Peony's beady dark eyes.
Despite the Peony's youthful facade, rumours had it that the Peony was possibly older than the Rose, but no one dared to mention anything out loud. Why, the Peony had an extremely strong foothold on the West's economy, as the Peony had come from a prominent clan in the East, a wealthy oriental empire that had been the West's major trading partner and supplier of coals for the past fifty years. The nobles were always making an effort to please the Peony.
And pay well the effort did, for the Peony would always return a favour owed, and most importantly, exact fair payment for a request granted. The Peony could be depended upon to promote and demote a noble in the blink of an eye, as soon as gold coins exchanged hands.
The Peony was probably the only flower who felt nothing for His Majesty, and vice versa, but nobody minded. Nobody cared. Business went on, as usual.
His Most Polite: The Chrysanthemum
The Chrysanthemum arrived in His Majesty's court with the Peony, yet the shorter-haired consort was vastly different from the elder relative. The Chrysanthemum, too, had impenetrable dark eyes and spoke in words that belay multiple interpretations. Painfully polite and tactful, the Chrysanthemum avoided conflicts whenever viable.
The Chrysanthemum had been the only flower who could get along well with both the Rose and His Majesty. Equally well-mannered and respectful of traditions, the two flowers were often seen enjoying afternoon tea together, sharing views on literature and the arts. The Chrysanthemum could be seen spending more afternoons with His Majesty, discussing their interests in science and technology over snacks and embarking on ridiculous projects the court had no doubt were started by His Majesty.
The Chrysanthemum was the strongest running candidate for His Majesty's Empress Consort. The Chrysanthemum's supporters were in constant opposition with those of the Chamomile. The two had been the most dominant factions in the court, with the Peony backing its sibling. Such an alliance would profit the East, and what did the Peony cared about if not costs and benefits?
The painfully patient, impartial Chrysanthemum worked around the tensions in the court and merely continued maintaining good relations with the Rose, the Chamomile and His Majesty.
His Most Passionate: The Dahlia
The Dahlia was vibrant, sensual and enticing, with figure-hugging red silk covering smooth chocolaty skin and sparkling rubies adorning her long, luscious, black-as-midnight curls. The Dahlia's laughter was melodious as chimes of bells and lively as little boys racing across green prairies. Courageous and passionate, the Dahlia was possibly the only person in the whole of the West who could talk back to His Majesty. The gem of His Majesty's eyes, the Dahlia would have been His Majesty's Empress Consort if she weren't His Majesty's beloved half-sister.
His Past: The Iris
The Iris was a beautiful, beautiful woman with clear sky-blue eyes and soft golden curls. His Majesty was the apple of the Iris' eyes. The Iris was His Majesty's mother.
A/N: And no, I don't have 'The Maple' because dude, that is one incest I seriously don't feel comfortable with (but, to each, his own). And maple isn't a flower.