Hi all y'all. This is a request from Anon007, for a medieval/steam-punkish AU with CanAm, FrUK and a couple of others I can't name offhand. I've gone kind of Princess Bride (hence the title) meets Atlantis the Lost Empire on this, and I've thrown in some slightly archaic modes of speech just for shits and giggles. I kind of like the idea of Matt and All not really understanding each other at first and then getting closer blah, blah, mush, flush, I'm going to have a jol with this fic!
Fingers tapping on his arms behind his back and eyes raised to the ceiling, Matt waited with feigned patience for the fourth herald of six to announce his name and title to the empty room before him. This consisted of much throat clearing, a trumpet and, "Ladies and Lords, for thine greatest pleasure, His Royal Highness, Crown Prince Matthew, Heir Apparent to the Kingdom of Gaul, Prince Regent and Duke of Montreal, Ga-Oh, Bear of the Northern Empire graces we humble commoners with his presence!" Six times. Each time the whole procedure took about five minutes, so all in all, it took him about half an hour before the conversation with his father could even begin.
"Your Royal Majesty, High King Francis, ruler of the land of Gaul, He Upon Whom God's Favour Shines Most Brilliant, please allow me, humble servant that I am, to present to His Majesty his son, His Royal Highness, Crown-" the bowing crier was interrupted, thankfully, before he could finish Matt's full title.
"Yes, yes, let him in, I recognise my own son! Matthieu, come, come, petit! What is it that you wish to discuss?" the King smiled down from the raised dais on which his throne sat beside its empty partner.
"You could have let him finish, Papa," the prince chided gently, "He's only doing his job."
"You'll make a fine King with that compassion of yours, but that's not what you wanted to talk to me about, is it?" Matthew had inherited Francis' face, most of his mannerisms and his hair, but his colouring came from his mother. The king's expression saddened. His beautiful wife had long since passed.
The Prince shook his head, a quiet sigh on his lips as he tried to explain without getting his father riled up, which was surprisingly easy. For all that Francis could sit through the tedium of court with an impassive face, it was quiet alarming how quickly he could become excited by something that he enjoyed.
"Your Majesty, my father, I request permission to leave the palace grounds and your kingdom for a period of time I know not how long," he knelt, his head hung low and the king clucked his tongue, rolling his eyes.
"Matthieu, if you wanted to go hunting, all you had to do was ask. There's no need for such formality, stand, please," sheepishly, the young man stood, rubbing the back of his neck, an embarrassed smile on his lips.
"It's not exactly 'hunting', Papa," Matthew cleared his throat. It was now or never. "I'm taking Gilbert as my best man and going to go find a bride. I am of marrying age after all," he gave a half-shrug.
"Matthieu!" Francis smiled fondly, "Are you sure you wish to wed?" His little boy had grown up so fast.
"Quite sure, Papa. I intend to set out at first light."
"I cannot believe him!" Alfred growled, slamming the door to his sister's chambers, throwing himself into an armchair besides her, where she was reapplying kohl to her eyes.
"What are you and dad arguing about this time?" Amelia sighed. Neither of them were on the best terms with their father, but at least she only frustrated him rather than deliberately disobeying him, which only made him angry.
"The market!" he fumed, "I can't go to the damn marketplace without an armed guard! How am I ever supposed to rule if my people are too afraid of my soldiers to come anywhere near me?" the young blond man blew out his lips in a sulky pout.
"How are you ever supposed to rule if you get assassinated while trying to buy cabbage?" his sister asked snidely.
"But what if no one knew it was me, it could be a secret identity!" Alfred leant over, his chin propped on his hands as he grinned at Amelia, "Pleeeaaase, Amie?" he asked, pulling a puppy face, "I really want to get to know my people!"
"Al, you got caught last time. If I dress you up again, then you're going to be barred from leaving the palace and you know it!" she protested, worried about her brother's safety. Alfred had a history of doing stupid things with good intentions, and she didn't want him getting hurt with her help.
But it wasn't like Amelia was the world's most responsible teenager either.
"So don't dress me up like you did last time," he shrugged.
"I'm running out of options here, Al," Amie sighed irritably, turning to face her petulant brother, "You've been a servant, a peasant, a stable hand, an errand boy, a messenger, a knight, a soldier, a cook, what else can you be?" she demanded, "The only thing you haven't been is a woman."
There was a pause as the twins looked at each other, almost reading each other's minds, or at least on the same wave length, because in the instant that Amelia groaned, "Noooo!"
Alfred crowed, "Yeeees!"
"No, Al! I refuse!" her voice rose in pitch as she spoke, lips set in a defiant frown. The twins would never admit it, but they were incredibly alike in both personality and looks.
"Just a few days?" he begged, "I'll bring you back something?"
Rolling her eyes, Amelia sighed, "Because that will make me turn you into a girl."
Had Alfred had his own way, he would have crowed his happiness to the skies, but he was dressed in women's clothing, so that probably wouldn't have gone down too well. Amelia had insisted on going the whole hog with this costume – that girl didn't to things halfway. There was rouge on his cheeks and kohl irritating his eyes. And dirt. The princess had had to nick a dress off of one of the serving girls to fit him, so he had to be at least a little grubby. There was a bandana over his hair to disguise it's length and a cloak around his shoulders to disguise their width. On top of all the fabric smoke and ruffled mirrors that his sister had used to make him look like a woman, the little vixen had also roped him into a corset, the sole purpose of which seemed to be to make it so that he could barely breathe.
Still, at least he was out and about again. The morning air was fresh and clear as the prince wended his way down the packed earth road that lead to the cobbled city streets and hoverways. Hover-bikes and sky ships were pretty common-place in Albion. Here magic was the main source of energy, though Alfred was determined to find an alternate source. Magic may have been powerful, but it had certain waste elements that were undesirable – no one wants old magic hanging around. It has a nasty habit of cursing things.
Alfred had a pretty peaceful half hour, wandering around the market, watching magicians preform and alchemists work, and scientists and mechanics work side by side repairing bikes, trackers and locators. Hunters and trappers sold their furs and meats alongside one another, each trying to out-yell the other.
Buying an apple, he bit into it, savouring the crunch of fresh green skin and the sharp sweetness of it on his tongue as he watched a squadron of airships flying overhead. He loved airships, the way they moved so sedately through the skies, prows cleaving cloud like ocean-going vessels did sea spray.
"Hey there, pretty lady," a man with greasy, slicked-back hair and a yellowed smile was standing right beside the young royal, and he bit back the urge to curl his lip.
"Hello sir," he smiled back unenthusiastically, edging away from him. Unfortunately, he followed.
"What about her? She's smoking!" Gilbert pointed out from under the hood that kept the sun away from his eyes.
Matthew wrinkled his nose at the suggestion. The girl in question was in a flounced pink dress and was carrying a parasol in lace gloved hands. Her nose was quite firmly in the air.
"Smoking? You jest, Gil. Were I to wed her, she would be an ice princess," the prince snorted, draped over broad seat of his hover bike, enjoying the heat of the sun on his back.
The albino sighed heavily, "Your Highness, we've searched for nigh a fortnight, yet still there is no girl to please your tastes. I begin to tire of the chase."
"And frankly, dear vassal, I begin to tire of your nagging," the blond laughed, "I am honoured at your offer to be my best man, but had I know you would be this tiresome, I would have chosen another."
"Your cruelty knows no bounds, my liege. What ails you to prompt such unjustified abuse on my magnificent person?" Gilbert scoffed, rolling his eyes, though the other couldn't see him. But Matthew was ignoring him anyhow. His eyes had alighted on a pale blue dress across the cobbled square, a thick, dull cloak covering her. She was tall, strong looking. Noble.
"What of her?" he asked, noting a shock of golden-blonde hair from beneath her headscarf, "Would not she make a fine queen?"
"Oh, no. My lord, I forbid it," Gilbert snapped to attention, eyes squinted as he studied the girl his prince had pointed out. "She has the face of an ox!"
"She has a strong jaw," Matthew countered, "And a proud bearing."
"She is too tall and unseemingly built to be your consort," the Albino gestured to the girl's wide shoulders and set stance.
"She is regal," the prince's smile only grew.
"Sire, she could be a man in a dress!" Gil threw his hands into the air in desperation.
"Speak not so crudely of my future queen," Matthew said, a stern note in his voice.
"Matthew," the albino said, dropping formality in favour of getting his point across to the love-bitten royal, "She is the fucking ugliest harlot we have yet seen in all our time in Albion. Let's about and find you a Gaelic queen."
"Lookit that filth who dares approach her," the prince muttered, gunning his hover bike, which whined, a cloud of dust picking up and blinding his travelling companion in the process. It only took a short burst of speed to get him from one side of the small marketplace to the other, and cut between the lady he intended to marry and the man who seemed to be harassing her.
"What the hell?" Alfred gasped, his respiratory system refusing to function properly in the dust and the tightness of his corset.
"I would have you apologise to my lady," Matthew instructed the greasy-haired man, his tone polite, but cool.
"Wait," Al coughed, "Who said I was your-?"
"Sire, I would wish that your noble self would not charge ahead so," Gilbert snapped, arriving almost directly beside Matt's bike, boxing in the blond in the dress.
Looking up, the young prince of Albion saw red eyes and his breath caught in his throat, refusing to leave again. Starbursts exploded in front of his eyes and he fainted, falling back against the Gaulish prince's bike, making it sway and dip.
Matthew grinned ecstatically across at Gilbert while the black-haired man slunk off,
"Well! Now I shall have to wed her!"