-+- WARS OF THE ROSES -+-
A Marimite AU story
On the wondrous continent of Lillian, a timeless isle inhabited by mysterious wisps, eldritch demons, frost giants, and friendly dragons, there were three legendary heroines celebrated in the epics and poems of bards, whose feats were woven onto royal tapestries, whose praises were sung in the firelit halls of jarls and chieftains –
Saint Chinensis, Saint Foetida, and Saint Gigantea.
They were the prime Roses, the very first soeurs, lovers among equals, united as peers by their sisterhood. They founded the soeur tradition of sisterly courtship, the transmission of rosaries as tokens of love and devotion. Each soeur, bouton or onee-sama, petite or grande, was sworn to fight for her sister's honour unto death.
No one knew where the Rose saints came from or why, but it was they who raided Lillian's shores, unified the island and became its first rulers. After their deaths, the aristocratic clans they left behind exploded into bloody rivalry for generations. But the prime Roses foretold that a girl from the stars would reunite Lillian's women in the face of the unprecedented threat of terrifying new technologies...
Lillian's old world of magical dragons and faeries is dying, wilting in the face of the coming winter of cannons, muskets, and gunpowder.
The ancient clans ride to their home's defence. I can hear the thunder of wardrums, the distant rumbling of galloping hooves, cries before wind-battered lances. Flutes and pipes whistling. Long, hard nails as tough as diamond; aristocratic, adrenaline-saturated blood as red as the flag of the Chinensis family. Bend your knee before this sword tapping your shoulder, cherished sister...
"Rise, soeur knight."
- The House of Chinensis -
Pomp. Pageantry. Power. With the heraldic crest of a red rose, the kingdom of the Chinensis House dominates the icy seas with majestic longships and naval fiefdoms. Leading her glory-hungry vassals is the ambitious bouton to Rosa Chinensis, Baroness Ogasawara Sachiko. Little does this insecure, vulnerable Baroness know she will soon hold the salvation of the clans in her arms... in the form of a shy imouto with a solemn political destiny.
- The House of Foetida -
Represented by a yellow rose, the aggressive Foetida House maintains a deeply pious force of lady knights, trained to perfection by the undefeated Duchess Hasekura Rei. With its legions commanded by the Dame Shimazu Yoshino, the family's crusaders are mercilessly loyal to their Yellow Rose, Torii Eriko. Yoshino and Rei's loyalty to each other is even stronger, and they will need all the strength their ties of sisterhood can give as they confront the coming conflict.
- The House of Gigantea -
To the frozen north is the vast dominion belonging to the Gigantea House. It is an autocracy ruled by Rosa Gigantea, whose coat of arms is a white rose. An absolute monarch supported by Princess Toudou Shimako, the tyrannical, decadent White Rose is bound by no Constitution or common law. Satou Sei's very gesture is the law, her mere breath the decree for which her impoverished, starving serfs and slaving peasant-women expend themselves in mass graves.
- The Republic of Hanadera -
After a great civil war, seven once-squabbling states have united into a democratic, economic and military superpower with an administraton and technology never before witnessed. In the name of liberating the backward monarchy of Lillian, Hanadera's council wants total colonial control over Lillian, one-sided treaties, and the subjugation of its women by the Republic's men. But not everything will go to plan. The Hanaderians' reluctant leader, President Fukuzawa Yuki (voted in by Chancellor and former President Kashiwagi), shares a fate with an unknown girl that will change Lillian forever.
The first of our worlds was an endless forest, with magical groves and misty springs. Before this was ice, sleet, and chilling frost. Time was unknown in this abyss - no colour, no traces, no footsteps. No life. The craggy abyss was barren.
Then the great spirits arrived. They breathed warmth on the primeval ice and pitched tents across the freezing surface of the plains and mountains. The first sparks and music from their campfires soared high up to the stars. When the night sky is clear of fog, you can still see the celestial pattern of their seasonal cycles, the northern lights of the aurora borealis.
So came the great spirits, the apparitions that, for reasons unknown, blew aside the snow for spring. And the land was given the old, hallowed name of "Lillian". This was the first story, the first fairytale of this green and rolling land.
And then onto these grey shores, from across the isles of distant stormy seas, came the dragon-headed longships of the Rose saints.
Rime battered the bleeding skies and drowned out the screams of the female knights far below. High-pitched screams of frustration and panic cut through the cold winds. Vicious flame continued to batter the circular, iron shields of the aristocratic young ladies, and the supernatural valkyrie cavalry's charges had been beaten back time and again by the brutal power of the old, fire-breathing demon. The armour of bronze and silver was little match for the inferno of orange and ebony.
This hulking giant of fire, with the height of three large men, was a towering mass of hateful black limbs, with a head from which jutted two long, bony horns. It had a guttural roar that shattered glaciers and cracked islands in half. "Pull back! It is shameful, but we have no choice but to rely on our revered saints for survival," cried a blue-eyed, slender valkyrie commander. She raised her spear. "Be not afraid – " she cried, before her steel-helmed face was promptly incinerated by the demon's hellish, fiery gout. The headless body fell off its whinnying horse, and the dead shieldmaiden's already demoralized troops retreated back further, screaming for help.
It was utter bedlam.
Snow battered the exhausted commanders of the lady knights. They had already dismounted their steeds, and having fought together all their lives, they advanced as one. "Saint Chinensis! Saint Gigantea! Rally the girls around us!" shrieked the first of the equals. Saint Foetida thrust up her majestic longsword, signalling to her troops that she was still alive and there was no excuse to retreat yet. Her long hair, as yellow as the sun-dappled chrysanthemums of the ancient lands she sailed from, billowed in the howling northern wind. Her diadem, encrusted with diamonds and gold, gave a rare shimmer amidst the hoarfrost. Her cool, Nordic eyes remained undaunted. "This is the last of the demons. Victory is almost at hand. Do not give ground, but hold steadfast in faith to the Virgin."
The forest huntress called Saint Gigantea smiled wearily, her elfin tresses as white as the snow around her, her eyes as grey as the glum heavens above. This otherworldly, perhaps-not-completely-human female clutched a brown bow made of oak in her leather gloves, and strapped behind her were deadly arrows dipped in snakes' venom. Her armour was much lighter and mobile than that of her peers'. "Easy for you to say, you do-gooder."
"For as long as I remember, we've raided and plundered those who took their unjust riches by ill-gotten gains to give to the poor. Now fate has brought us to these miserable isles, this grim continent. You may laugh, but we will be forever united," said the Yellow saint, smiling. "In life and death."
"I suppose I can't deny the truth of your words. Ready, my love?" cried Gigantea to the final noblewoman, who would come to be worshipped as the spiritual ancestor of all Red Roses.
"You are right. Together, sisters," hissed Saint Chinensis, raising her deadly, spiked mace. It bristled with iron teeth, glistening with blood, just like her matted, fiery crimson mop. Her gore-coloured cape, matching the violent landscape, billowed around her body. Quite obviously a human in contrast to Saint Gigantea, the redhead dug her fur boots further into the ground, blue eyes blinking away the snowflakes among her lashes. "We've claimed this continent for ourselves. Lillian belongs to the Holy Mother, and the founding of our kingdom will not be stopped!"
Saint Foetida clutched her sword with two bleeding hands, and a smirking Saint Gigantea pulled back her bowstring, closing one eye and aiming a poison-tipped arrow at the demon. "Everyone pull back!" barked Saint Chinensis. "Leave that aberration's end to us. Three will overcome one! My dear soeurs, my soulmates in this life and the next -
A dozen hateful hands reached down from the towering monster, shooting straight past the scattering knights and making for their leaders. Saint Gigantea's grey eyes glinted as she released her bowstring, and the whooshing arrow shot through two squirming hands, forcing the monster to recoil angrily. A blink, and Saint Gigantea had already drawn another arrow and fired it in rapid succession. "Go!" she shouted. The demon screamed, distracted by the agony, and Saints Chinensis and Foetida quickly took the chance to close the distance. Muscles burning and aching, hearts thundering louder than the smoking battlefield, blinking away their sweat and blood, they sprinted across the snow and gore-caked ground, hopping over the charred or bleeding corpses of their own warriors. They ran towards the frozen lake, on which the horrific giant stood amidst a pile of dead women and horses. It bellowed as they approached, vomiting yellow bile and purple gore. It prepared to breathe fire again, but the saints were ready. As Saint Chinensis swung her mace and bashed it against the monster's knee with all her strength, her yellow counterpart jumped, thrust high with her sword, and ran it through the doubled-over creature's chin, her blade pushing past the jaw and burying itself in the soft, sensitive jelly of its mouth. "I must sever the head," whispered the Yellow saint, as three more poisoned arrows from Saint Gigantea lodged themselves in the monster's chest. It was beginning to topple, and Saint Chinensis roared, breaking its last kneecap. Groaning, the beast could no longer stand, and it fell towards the saints like a toppled tree.
"My darlings," cried Saint Gigantea, "watch out!"
"By the Virgin's tears - " Saint Chinensis and Saint Foetida scrambled aside and dived out of the way as the demon's twitching body smashed into the solid ice of the frozen lake, partially cracking it with a dull boom.
"Do it," snarled the red-haired warrior, rushing back up. "Now!"
"I shall," barked Saint Foetida, drunk with holy, righteous bloodlust. She stomped over to the fallen, still groaning beast and bent her knees. Her sword was still lodged inside its mouth. She grabbed her sword's handle, gritting her teeth, and gave a mighty yank upwards. The monster could only let out one last gurgle of protest before there was silence. She roared as violet fluids and hot tissue splattered across her light hair and the two-horned skull flew from the limp shoulders. She began to heave with emotion, and she staggered backwards, leaving Saint Chinensis to pick up the trophy. The latter, almost stunned by the sudden end to the battle, dropped her mace and thrust up her hand that gripped the heavy, gaping head of the demon, high in the chilly winter air.
"The Lady be praised!" she cried, tears pouring down her face while blood splashed from the creature's black eye sockets. "All soeurs to me! My brave jarls, clan queens, and valkyries! Feast your eyes! Our dead are avenged, their sacrifice recompensed! They smile down on us from the blissful afterlife of the Heroines' Hall! This repulsive head rises with the coming sun! The dawn will warm our new, cold kingdoms!" she shrieked incoherently, as her bawling comrades scrambled to her and hugged her jubilantly, almost childishly. And with them, the decimated but victorious ranks of the lady knights also screamed in triumph, their cries dispelling the mists of red and grey that had hung over the battlefield. Swords and lances were raised, spears and axes jangled together, shields beaten in a grateful rhythm of celebration. And a trio of billowing banners rose high above the threefold armies of armoured women and valkyries…
One was of a red rose; another of proud yellow, and the last standard matched them with a pearly white counterpart.
Hundreds of victorious knights and shieldmaidens punched their fists and rattled their shields at the sky, shouting their support in the form of a great chant, their high voices booming in triumphant, earthshaking unison. It was a magnificent chant, a warcry that sung of a battle finally won:
"CHI-NEN-SIS! FOE-TI-DA! GI-GAN-TE-A! CHI-NEN-SIS! FOE-TI-DA! GI-GAN-TE-A!"
"Sisters," wept Saint Chinensis amidst her ladies' cheering and chanting, pulling a blubbering, sobbing Saint Gigantea and Saint Foetida closer. The exultant warrior planted a warm, grateful kiss on each of their smudged, grimy foreheads. They had won. Their red, blonde, and white locks intertwined and tangled, as if straining for each other. "This victory tastes as sweet as our enemies' blood. Thank you. Don't ever leave me, you two."
"Never," swore Saint Foetida fiercely, clasping Saint Chinensis's arm as if she would collapse without the support.
"Ever," chuckled Saint Gigantea, tears of joy streaming silently down her cheeks.
They had purged the continent of Lillian of the last of the ancient demons. It was now up to the founders of Lillian to reap the rewards of their conquest. It was on this day that they would introduce civilization to this green and white land.
All hail Chinensis, Foetida, and Gigantea: greatest of all sworn sisters.
Ancestors of the boutons.
The prime Roses.
The very first soeurs.
Four hundred years later
The nearly infinite forest canopy sheltered worlds of life underneath the majestic branches and lush leaves. If one was quiet, one could see stunning sights of the thicket groves and ponds where the fairies and unicorns lived. Fresh waterfalls crashed upon lush lakes with deep waters of reflecting sapphire. The bright blue empyrean was as clear as crystal dew.
And upon the rolling green fields beyond the great forest meandered colossal dragons with emerald scales, snorting flame lazily while loafing or rolling about in the grass. Yawning and draping their relaxed wings around their bodies, they were tame, pleasant creatures (as long as one didn't poke their sensitive underbellies with sharp metal swords). Co-existing alongside human settlers, they preferred to indulge their curiosity by watching the cows, horses, and sheep grazing on the pastures, idling contentedly in the countryside.
The amiable dragons frolicked on the meadows and hills beyond small villages, shires and peaceful hamlets. Watching over these villages and shires was a glittering, starlike citadel.
The hill fort's façade glinted with marble and other precious stones and crystals that comprised the superstructure. A breathtakingly tall quartet of spires reached up into the clouds and kissed the wispy celestial cotton. These spires were defensive towers reaching from a glimmering castle, which boasted grand parapets and archways that seemed to meld into the crisscrossing, roofed and walled bridges connecting the manors. Magnificent colors of brown, white, and marble graced the architecture. Water fountains cast against opulent estates, with private gardens and fields stretching across the horizon…
This was the Tower of Lillian, seat of royal power since a time before legal history and memory. According to established Lillian tradition, anything ancient beyond memory or record had to reach back to the era of the Rose saints.
Under its gallery and amongst its twelve columns, a young lady with short, cropped black hair stood at attention inside the Chapel of the Virgin, the main hall of the Tower. Decked in a tight outfit of crimson satin, she bowed her robed body in the barrel-vaulted space, sweeping her blood-red cape behind her shoulders. Meticulously sewn onto that lavish, seemingly gore-stained mantle was a glittering rose with vermillion petals. She kneeled silently, her right arm resting on her right thigh. After this brief ritual, she was ready to announce her presence. She parted her pink lips, pressed with ochre.
"Blessed be Saint Chinensis, blessed be the House of Chinensis, and blessed be I, Rosa Chinensis," she tittered quietly.
Beside her, a chestnut-haired girl went on one knee too. She was also honoured with an opulent cape, but it was far brighter, its colour a jubilant gold with an embroidered yellow rose. Decked in jewels of the sun and and with a gem-encrusted headband forged in the armouries of gruff dwarves, Eriko spoke, her refined voice bouncing off the stone walls. "Blessed be Saint Foetida, blessed be her holy house, and blessed be I, Rosa Foetida."
Behind Youko and Eriko stood one last figure. She had a flawless white grin that seemed to twinkle as she genuflected, although much more informally. Like her peers, she was garbed magnificently, extravagantly, but her cape and winter garments were dominated by a dazzling white, paler than the fluffiest snow. Her hair was shorter than Eriko's but longer than Youko's, and lighter in hue than both. "Rosa Gigantea of the Gigantea House, present and accounted for. It looks like all three of Lillian's Rose clans were summoned today. What could be so important, High Queen Shiori?"
Before their prone forms was an obscenely opulent seat, one made of pure white marble. On that throne sat the Queen of the Realm, the nominal authority of the Lillian Kingdom, the nobility's source of legitimacy. She was so dainty that her generous fur coat and robes, decked with glimmering emerald shards, dwarfed her whole body. It was as if a head, two arms, and a pair of thin legs was sticking out from a mass of luxury satin and silk. The frail, sickly, thin girl sat at ease with her hands modestly on her lap, her long dark hair draping down her fur-covered shoulders. A golden diadem with encrusted rubies, emeralds, and sapphires sat atop her head. Her dark eyes watched Sei carefully, as if wanting to say something to her. But, seemingly thinking the better of it, she continued speaking to the Roses, her vassals.
"I serve the living representatives of the Rose saints as their fount of legitimacy. As such, it was I who crowned you three, two years ago, as the inheritors of the Lillian houses. Centuries ago, the Lillian Kingdom's great founders were the closest of comrades. They loved each other. They drew their weapons for each other's honour. They shared each other's food, mead, and beds. But how the ages have changed. Your armies wage war against each other on a daily basis." Shiori's voice was completely neutral, her expression impartial, but her words were not ones of pleasure. "And I, as High Queen, am all too aware that my ability to restrain your wars is minimal. I am simply a figurehead. Chinensis, Foetida, and Gigantea are no longer united in the Lillian Kingdom, but on the verge of dismembering it."
Youko and Eriko remained silent. Sei smiled. "May I speak, High Queen? Or should I say, my dear former lover?"
"Say it quickly, Sei-sama," said Shiori the Pious curtly, her gentle but steady eyes indulging themselves in a lingering gaze on the White Rose. "And do not invoke our past."
"It wasn't the Gigantea clan that started these wars between the Roses. Read the archives." Sei shrugged. "Wanderlusting elf that she was, Saint Gigantea didn't found her lineage until many years after Chinensis and Foetida. It was Youko's realm that began surrounding our kingdoms with her longships and huskarl raiders. Surely what followed was a natural outcome of domains seeking to defend themselves."
"The fanatical expansionists and legalists of the Foetida family are to blame for closing our trade routes and murdering our merchants," snapped Youko, pointing an elegant finger at Eriko. "This... treacherous young lady... cannot tolerate coexistence with others. You do your ancestor, Saint Foetida, a grave injustice."
"We simply can't overlook the murderous hatred the White Rose has for her own people. It is that simple," sniffed Eriko. "She insults her own office and degrades her own tenure. Her backward autocracy has turned entire races into mindless, soulless slaves. The culture of her kingdom stifles the superior development of ours. I will have her answer to her irresponsibility and dissolution."
"Are you just jealous you don't have your subjects under your thumb like I do?" taunted Sei, winking with a grey eye. Eriko's brow twitched, and her hand slowly inched towards the glittering sword pommel strapped to her waist.
"Ohohoho," mock-cried Sei, cupping a hand to her taunting lips and clasping the handle of her own blade with the other. "I made the Yellow Rose angry!"
"Sei, you insufferable knave!" cried Youko, who had half a mind to turn her own sword on Sei too.
"Enough!" shouted Shiori, and the sudden, biting rebuke of the usually quiet and mild girl sent the stunned aristocrats into silence. Her eyes flashed dangerously. "All of you. How we have fallen from the sisterhood of the supreme Rose saints! You know well, as inheritors of the Rose crests that have ruled over Lillian since time immemorial, that the real reasons for your mutual hatred have long been lost. There are no chronicles for our reference, no living witnesses to testify why your people tear at each other's throats. But I do know this. One day, you will regret your endless bickering, the toying of your subjects' lives in your petty great games. I sense that a mighty threat is about to rise against our dominions, and you are sleepwalking into it. I can only hope that the wisdom of our ancestors, the great spirits, and the Rose saints can guide you before your hubris engineers the downfall of everything you hold dear to your hearts."
The three rulers fell silent, not quite brazen enough to challenge Shiori on exactly what threat she was referring to. They sullenly bowed before the High Queen, before backing away from her marble throne. But the tension did not defuse after they left, and indeed, it was the panting Shiori who slumped in her seat once they had departed, sweating and exhausted.
"Maria-sama," she whispered, clutching at the stone. "Give me strength to hold Lillian together before the Roses tear this ancient continent asunder."
It was a day of battle, of bloody hatred and discord. But so many other days were similar indeed, and Lillian's churches had almost lost track of time thanks to the incessant wars fought between the three houses of royalty. This was just another occasion for that most pleasurable of excuses to bicker over souls and lives and hearts. Today, it was a battle over the province of Albion, waged between the forces of the Chinensis and Gigantea houses.
The society the Chinensis House ruled over was strictly hierarchical. Just below the Red Rose herself was her bouton, who assumed a noble title as she pleased. This day, a thousand-strong force thundered against foes in much greater numbers, although these enemies were far less trained than they. The miserable serfs and indentured slave-women of the Gigantea House numbered in their tens of thousands, easily outstripping the lady knights of Chinensis in numerical advantage. But they were starving, poorly equipped with inferior swords and spears, with little armour to spare, and their poor organization easily crumbled before the determined charge of the Chinensis lances. "Forward!" barked a chieftainess, pointing her sword at the charging serfs. Many of these ragged ruffians didn't even wear shoes, their bare feet bleeding from sores and splinters and caked in mud and grass. "I almost pity these poor souls. But the true criminal is the White Rose, and we will destroy her!"
A hail of arrows from behind the Chinensis frontline showered down onto the terrified slaves, and they crumpled like wilting flowers before a flame. Watching the spectacle of slaughter was a tall and stunningly attractive young lady, her body language alone enough to indicate her superiority. It was a genealogical superiority deliberately bred into her, refined to what might even be called a skill - the art of self-conscious greatness and supremacy, privilege that one didn't need to earn because privilege was one's right. The current bouton had accordingly assumed the title of "Baroness". She personally led the armies of footsoldiers, women-at-arms, and lady knights that fief-owning jarls and chieftains of the Chinensis domain were obliged to provide. She wore no helmet, but her light chaincoat protected her red underclothes and body from being unexpectedly injured or maimed by any stray spears or arrows. Her cold eyes betrayed the somewhat uneasy feeling that this was either some trap, or that Rosa Gigantea was carelessly sacrificing her own pawns just to play.
"Baroness… Rosa Chinensis en bouton," said a vassal chieftain beside her, "our archers have repulsed the peasants of the White Rose. We've barely suffered any casualties." Her voice betrayed her uneasiness. "This is either a rout, or a ruse."
"It is neither. She is insulting us. She's not throwing lives at us, but insults," declared the heir to the Chinensis House coldly. Her satin cape billowed in the cold, grey wind. "Rosa Gigantea knows she won't win with such a half-hearted effort. She has her elite troops, her boyars, but she will not use them. Nor does she enjoy tricking her foes. I can only conclude that her arrogance is stunning, even for an autocrat." Her elegant jaw clenched. "I can imagine her smirk right now, even as her subjects die in her name and we sacrifice our precious warriors for someone like her... I shall challenge her in a duel to the death - "
The voice of Mizuno Youko interrupted the Baroness. "Are you delusional, my petite soeur? You would be beyond mad to even fantasize yourself as an equal to Rosa Gigantea." Rosa Chinensis placed a gentle gloved hand on Sachiko's shoulder, her dark eyes glinting. "You are not yet ready for the White Rose. Let me deal with her. Stay here, beloved bouton, and finish off this riffraff. You will have a chance to shine another day, I swear my throne on it."
Sachiko suppressed her anger and protest. She swallowed the injustice of being denied glory by her own mistress. "By your will, my grande soeur."
The Chinensis knights were far more competent in battle than the endless hordes of serfs the Gigantea ruler threw at Sachiko, but Youko knew Sei wasn't ignorant enough to not know this. She smiled knowingly. This was just a distraction. No, not even a distraction.
It was an invitation.
The battle continued to drag on into the afternoon. Wave after human wave of Gigantea serfs continued to throw themselves at the increasingly tired knights of Chinensis. Wearing armour was extremely taxing, and the women could fight at most for only an hour or so inside their chain mail or plate armour. The battlefield was littered with many more corpses belonging to the Gigantea House, to be sure, but the frozen realms ruled over by the autocrat Sei were also larger - and therefore more populous - than that of the Chinensis and Foetida families. Sei had plenty of fodder to spare, whilst the Chinensis knights were drawn from an elite, selected pool of noblewomen, their daughters, and their sisters. And just like any aristocracy, there were only so few to spare.
"It's time," said Youko suddenly, as she surveyed the changing tides. The Chinensis knights were visibly exhausted. A few were even being dragged down from their horses by brute numbers, thrown to the grass, and set upon by the hungry Gigantea serfs like venison before wild dogs. Sachiko shuddered as she watched her warriors being savaged by the starving peasants, and she looked angrily at her grande soeur. "Hold back these animals," commanded Rosa Chinensis. She slowly drew her sword, a long, one-handed blade with a hilt and pommel encrusted by rubies and the Chinensis coat of arms. "I will handle their mistress myself."
She waved her gauntleted arm. "Archers!" she cried. At her shout, a fresh torrent of deadly arrows pummelled the green field, beyond which was a high hill and the objective of the battle - Castle Albion, a great white fort that overlooked all four directions. It was a perfect beacon and stronghold for any of the Houses' armies. As the serfs and knights continued to shove and batter at each other, dead bodies falling to the wet ground with each heartbeat, Youko broke into a run, leaving behind the grimacing Sachiko behind and charging towards the bloody mound of fighting bodies, beyond which lay the hill and Castle Albion. Some clashing serfs noticed the head of the Chinensis House running at them, and they tried to run at her too. Some reached her quicker than others, but Rosa Chinensis was already on the offensive, slashing aside the peasants that tried to block her way. She shoved her way past a struggling slave-girl and slit her throat with a brutal cut of her blade. She ducked under an unwieldy pitchfork that tried to stab her head and thrust her longsword into its wielder's stomach, drawing a cry of agony from the peasant woman.
"Out of my way, young ladies," she commanded loudly, not losing her cold smile. "And you needn't die here today. Face me, and you will certainly lose your lives." Some of Sei's peasants, with terror in their eyes, were actually wise enough to heed her. They backed away, turning their pitchforks and rusted blades back on the Chinensis knights.
Rosa Chinensis moved on. Pushing past the mounds of bodies littering the bottom of the hill, she finally caught sight of the tyrannical White Rose on top of the mound. The enemy wasn't even standing, but lying down on the grass with a thin reed poking from between her lips. She had her dagger's scabbard placed over her eyes to shield them from the afternoon light. Her chest fell up and down lightly, her breath serene and relaxed amidst the screams and clanging of bloodied iron and steel. Saint Gigantea's current scion was garbed in the clothes of the frozen forests. Her legs, covered in chain armour and a pair of fur boots, were splayed out in a most unladylike manner. Her resting arms were spread complacently on the grass.
She was taking a nap as her impoverished army butchered and was butchered by the enemy.
She was an autocrat, yes, but was she also beautiful, painfully so.
Her eyes were closed, but now they opened as Youko's shadow fell over her. She slowly lifted a lazy hand and removed the scabbard balanced on the ridge of her nose, blinking and squinting up at the Red Rose. "You're quicker than I thought," said Rosa Gigantea plainly, her irises the same hue as those of her ancient ancestor's.
"Your army is pathetic. They are no match for my knights. Of course it would be easy to carve my way through them. But you knew that. Do you appreciate my culling of your serfs?" asked Rosa Chinensis harshly. "As twisted as ever, but at least now your population census will match the High Queen's expectations."
"War keeps me from having to feed too many of my subjects. You can have these weaker ones. They're all hungry, so they're no good anyway. But if you think you and Baroness Sachiko can defeat Princess Shimako and I, I suggest you not expect too much."
"You're going to lose today," whispered Youko. She pointed the tip of her blade at Sei's throat, staring at the reed between her lips. "I could make a move now. I could slice open your neck right here, and our little games would end."
Sei grinned, not budging. She didn't even reach for her dagger or her sword. "Let's see. You're threatening me, fellow Rose. I suppose that's supposed to spur me to hurry me up."
"I have you now. On your feet, Rosa Gigantea," demanded Youko, her dark eyes glinting.
Sei yawned and stretched. "You'll brook no resistance, then. Very well. Then shall we take this to another... arena?"
Castle Albion was supposed to be the prize of this bloodsoaked skirmish. It was supposed to be the fort that, if held, would provide an important stronghold for future incursions into rival territory. That was what the commanders of the Chinensis and Gigantea armies had told their followers, the women who fought so desperately for them outside the fortress. Victory would assure them the next step to conquering their enemies… and peace at last.
That was a lie.
They had locked themselves privately away in one of the castle's defensive towers, from which they could watch their miserable soldiers kill each other. There was a certain perverse sense of happiness in that. Their sheathed blades were laid to one side. Leaning against the stone-carved wall, next to a narrow window from which the battle could still be seen raging in the distance, Mizuno Youko beckoned with a single finger. "Come here, Rosa Gigantea."
Her mortal enemy grinned, sliding off the armour – and then the fabric – that covered her shoulders.
"The High Queen believes that our ancient houses are in decline. That is why she fears for us so, that we would not be able to defend Lillian were an external threat to challenge our civil war," said Youko, watching Sei sidle towards her. Smiling, she undid the clasp that held her chain mail and satin together, uncovering that tantalizing pale flesh that invited further exploration below. She kept her languid gaze on the White Rose as the latter slowly got on her knees, licking her lips in anticipation. "But Her Majesty is wrong," sighed Rosa Chinensis, clenching her eyes shut and inhaling sharply as Sei's slippery tongue began to gently massage her. Already, this impatient appendage of pleasure had entered her, and the wet contact was indescribable. "She… she doesn't understand… only perpetual war can keep our houses from tearing each other apart. The Rose saints never knew a moment of peace. Neither shall we."
Sei smiled wistfully through her dampened lips. She swallowed, savouring the taste of her eternal, mortal adversary. "You're a cruel woman," she said softly, breathing sensually and playfully into Youko's womanhood, so warmly that Youko gasped uncontrollably, her toes curling within her fur boots. Sei pushed her hands against Youko's thighs and pressed her harder against the wall, closing her eyes when she felt Rosa Chinensis' hands gripping her head and pulling her deeper inside her. Youko gritted her teeth, the sensation of Sei's soft flesh rubbing raw and hard along her most sensitive and tender of corners. She pulled Sei closer, forcing her harder upon her burning regions.
"Ah... oh, Sei! Sei!" cried Youko, as her knights in the distance trampled several shrieking Gigantea peasants to death.
"Mmmm. So," murmured her rival, as her troops hacked at and dismembered a dying Chinensis soeur. "Is your heart racing, about to burst like your womanhood below?"
She sucked harder, and the ruler of the Chinensis House screamed for Sei's lips to bite further down, kiss her fast, press her ever stronger with that dripping tongue. Briefly suffocated, unable to talk coherently, the panting Sei moaned submissively, cooperatively as Youko shoved her face against her again and again, her struggling voice muffled through the Red Rose's pubic hair. It felt good to be used by the Red Rose like this. She began to lick and kiss and suck vigorously, gaining in pace and aggression until Youko's throat gargled out a helpless moan, her grasp convulsing and tearing at Sei's blonde hair. Sei gasped for breath as Youko lifted up her head, staring down into her eyes.
"Hold me," whispered the Red Rose, as their armies continued to brutalize and be brutalized.
"You're in an indulgent mood today." Sei got up, lifting her sore knees from the cold stone floor. Neither bothered to undress completely. It was more exciting like this. They kissed each other on the lips, angrily, aggressively, eagerly, and soon the sensual melody of their pawing and licking at each other drowned out the screaming and clanging of blades in the background. Let their armies slaughter one another in their name. It heightened the tension, sharpened their desire, and intensified their lust. "Hear that?" whispered Sei, cupping Youko's flushed cheek. "The sounds of our unhappy subjects dying for us?"
"Yes," murmured the aroused Youko. "Their cries seem quieter than our sighs, don't they?" This was their time to themselves. Their little fight, their miniature war as their subjects died en masse for them. Her fingers began to play with Sei's exposed nipple, drawing a melodious moan from Rosa Gigantea. Sei adjusted herself so that her half-naked body pressed completely against Youko, and they continued to make love, rocking and bucking against each other, skin against skin, armour against armour, cloth against cloth. Youko wrapped her arms around Sei's neck, kneading the latter's shoulders feverishly as their mutual heat shot up from within them to astound their already frazzled senses. Their aching lips fought and wrestled each other, their wet, dripping tongues duelled ferociously, neither aristocrat willing to back down until one was defeated by the seductive weapon of ecstasy.
"Sei, you fiend!" shrieked Youko through her kisses, her senses momentarily losing themselves in Sei's embrace. She repeated her sworn enemy's name passionately, scratching the back of her head angrily, her nails digging deeper and leaving red, sore marks. Helpless Sei wasn't to be denied her own pleasure either; she had already climaxed, pouring herself out onto Youko's dishevelled robes and bared skin. She trembled, hugging Youko tighter, calling out her name, her quivering voice struck with loneliness. Youko sighed in exhaustion, cradling the White Rose as they panted in each other's arms, waiting for the rapturous thumping inside them to subside, prolonging the moments they could spend together so honestly, away from the bothersome presence of their houses.
Several long minutes passed in priceless, intimate silence.
"Who was victorious today?" moaned Sei, kissing Youko's lips, rubbing for a bit longer against the Red Rose. "Who was first, damn it?"
Youko guided Sei's head down on her chest – she had missed a spot, and Sei kissed her breast obligingly, nibbling her pert nipple in fond conclusion. "I wasn't keeping track, Rosa Gigantea. Truce?"
"Then I suppose we'll have to arrange another great battle for our convenience, then. My victory over you is far from settled." Sei's grey eyes darkened. "Any longer, and they will be suspicious of our absence, Youko. I'll pretend to call a retreat. You'll need to convince Sachiko-chan you've won this one." She lifted herself off Rosa Chinensis, gently releasing her. Youko's knees were still weak and unsteady, so Sei tenderly guided her from the edge of the wall to stand before stepping back. She adjusted her clothes and glanced at the armour she had discarded. "I'm going home."
"Back to the capital of the Gigantea House, then," murmured Youko dreamily.
"Yes. I'll head back to my northern stronghold. Oh… and do tell Sachiko that she has many lifetimes to go before she can survive against me in a duel. Perhaps Princess Shimako will be a better match."
Youko's eyes were distant as she looked outside the window, from which she could see their weary armies still clashing. She pulled up her red satin, covering her damp breasts and sweating shoulders. "Do you think we will ever have peace?"
"Not until we need it. Not until something... or someone... forces us together," smiled Sei. "After all, we are Roses. We are de facto queens, spiritual descendants of the Rose saints. War and hunger for power are our birthright."
Youko smirked, reattaching her golden brooch. "You never fail to impress me with your selfishness." She hesitated, as another, more uncomfortable question found itself on the tip of her tongue. Rosa Gigantea noticed, and she waited. Youko paused, her face vulnerable, before uttering those words.
"Only you deserve me. I am faithful that your honour tells you that only I deserve you."
"If the head of the Chinensis house is willing to sacrifice hundreds of thousands of her precious jarls and soeurs to kiss me, then I won't force her to confess any more. You don't need to, Youko." The light in Sei's irises was unhurried. "These feelings between you, me, and Eriko were ordained by the Rose saints themselves… so that even as their descendants keep each other in check, they can never break the balance of power. I should kill you right here and now, but I can't imagine my life without you."
Youko closed her eyes. "Good day to you."
Sei chuckled darkly, throwing her fur coat around her. "Goodbye for now, Youko."
And so the Roses departed without so much as a care about winning Castle Albion, heartlessly leaving their doomed armies out on the green hills to continue murdering each other mercilessly for the sake of their brief tryst, by the hundreds of thousands.
But they would not be the first to slaughter each other's people. Much more would come. For in a castle in Foetida territory, a tall, strong woman with short hair slid her hand into her metal gauntlet. She took a deep breath and opened her handsome eyes, which had been shut in meditation. And then she slid her vicious greatsword in her sheath and strode out of her chambers, in preparation for war.
Four hundred years ago
The celebrations and wild revelry in the jarl's halls were complete. Songs had been sung, mead had been downed. The sleeping bodies of deliriously smashed warrior maidens lay strewn across the tables, benches, and wooden walls, and the three Rose saints had retired to their private bedroom. It was very sparse. It had a tall fireplace and a large bed with a single, large fur blanket. In breathtakingly cold climates like that of this continent, it was warmer to sleep together with their bare bodies providing comfort to each other.
"The boring work begins tomorrow," sighed Saint Gigantea, who lay between her two comrades. Saint Chinensis had crawled in before her, her naked form illuminated by the firelight. "And I want no part in it. Mop of flame, you can have the baronesses and duchesses swear fealty to you. You can deal with all the peasants' taxes. I just want to ride and hunt in the forests of this great island."
"Very funny," tutted Saint Chinensis, lifting her red tresses to tickle the elfin woman's cheek. The legs of the three were tangled together. There was an almost childish innocence to their intimacy, even though all three knew how lusty and sensuous their way of life together was. "We all have a part in this great new kingdom. We must sign the law of the soeur system into feudal law. Each of us will rule a portion, and we must elect a High Queen to keep our own power in check. That is what I have promised our new people. And although I know we will never turn our backs on one another, I cannot say the same for our heirs. We must ensure that there is a balance of power between our three provinces, so that even if our houses are one day sundered, none will be able to completely overpower the other.
Saint Foetida stroked Saint Gigantea's snow-white hair, admiring her elfin smile and that mischievous twinkle in her eyes. "An excellent proposal. But even if you do that, we cannot guarantee the unity of the kingdom. I worry, my dears, if our spiritual descendants can maintain it. We seem invincible now, but we cannot foretell what lies in the mists of unbecome time."
Saint Chinensis sighed, closing eyes. "Fear not, sweet love. There is one prophecy that I know. One that was revealed to us all in piecemeal dreams, visions of fragmented sight."
"A girl," whispered Saint Gigantea in realization. "No mere commoner, but a girl born of the passion of the stars."
"Of course," agreed Saint Chinensis. Her blue eyes glittered as Saint Gigantea ran her knuckles along her freckles. "It always begins with a girl. She will appear in the Kingdom's greatest time of need."
"She can save our kingdom?" asked Saint Foetida in surprise.
"No," murmured Saint Chinensis, her eyelids beginning to droop. She held onto Saint Gigantea's arm tightly, but sleep was overpowering her. "But… she… can… reunite it… should our unity ever… be betrayed."
The White saint smiled amusedly. "Look at her. She can't even speak properly, and presumes to prophesize." Her grey eyes softened as Saint Chinensis drifted off. "I want to kiss those freckles more."
Yellow-haired Foetida closed her eyes, snuggling against Saint Gigantea's shoulder. "It's been a long day. We deserve to rest like this. Chinensis is already ahead of us. You sleep too, now. Don't you want to join us in our dreams? Come, tuck in."
"Alright, alright." Saint Gigantea relented, shutting her eyelids too. She was about to let out a quiet sigh when Saint Foetida spoke up again.
"Let us swear ourselves to each other. Reaffirm our undying loyalty to each other's honour."
"I thought you wanted me to sleep."
Saint Foetida's hand guided Saint Gigantea's face to hers, and her blue eyes stared into the other's grey mirrors. She fingered the metal cross between her bare breasts, drawing Saint Gigantea's gaze to it. "I will give you my rosary, my keepsake. Promise me you will pass it down to your heiresses, entrusting them to keep my token of love. What better affirmation of soeurship than for our descendants to own the rosaries we exchanged?"
"Sounds fun. I'll play. Shall I give my cross to redhead when she's awake, then?" chuckled Saint Gigantea.
"Yes," whispered a satisfied Saint Foetida, giggling too. "And she will give me hers. Not that she has any say in the matter, since you consent to my proposal."
"Deal, then." Saint Gigantea indulged herself in a gentle stroke of Saint Foetida's nipple before she let her head relax, and soon the three Rose saints were breathing quietly as one (with an occasional snore from Saint Gigantea), asleep in the warmth of each other's naked bodies and the crackling flames of the fireplace. They had just founded an empire. They needed to recuperate like this.
The first age of this land was that of the great spirits. The coming of the first Roses, and the founding of the great Kingdom of Lillian and its traditions, came to be remembered as the continent's second age.
And in this age, under the reign of High Queen Shiori the Pious, we come to its third and final story – its titanic struggle against the Republic of Hanadera.
Next Act: The wrath of Clan Foetida.
A/N: This is my new AU. I hope you found this pilot fun, if a bit crazy and probably nonsensical. I've tried to make this AU as multi-faceted and three-dimensional as possible, complete with its own mythology. In a way it was necessary, because this really is a completely made-up universe, not like my previous ones which were grounded in "our" world. The blend is intended to be anachronistic and hodgepodge because the Lillian Kingdom is unrealistically matriarchal anyway. Finally, there was the need to make it a proper Marimite story, rather than an original tale with superficial Marimite names for the characters. I hope you didn't mind my... liberal interpretation… of the Rose families' origins.
Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy the rest of the story!