[For the girlnation ficathon. Written for miezen. Hope you like! :) ]
“My lady, Rosalinde.” The page said, bowing. In his outstretched hands lay a delicate looking package, wrapped in a beautiful red ribbon and decorated with the most gorgeous rose that could be found. It was lightly scented with perfume that would make a woman weak in the knees. The page presented the package to Rosalinde. His head bowed.
Rosalinde took the package, her expression one of careful neutrality. It was indeed lovely and she had no doubt that the gift within would be extravagant and gorgeous. She barely listened to the page’s next words or open the adjoining letter. She already knew that it was from Francis. The rose and perfume were tell-tale signs of his courting gifts. She had already received three of them so far. Each one had been more beautiful than the last and Rosalinde had no doubt that this would follow the pattern.
It took all of her will power to keep her expression neutral. She wanted nothing more than to toss the package out of the window…but there were protocols and etiquette to uphold. She was a lady, and ladies behaved a certain way even if they were being courted by pompous men. Instead she dismissed the page, giving instructions to respond with the appropriate letter of thanks as etiquette demanded. Her staff knew what to do by this point.
She sighed and opened the letter, though she already had an idea of what it said. It caused her heart to sink. She knew from the beginning where this would be going, though she had to admit that she had hoped that the man’s flighty nature would take hold and he would forget about her. Unfortunately that was not the case, as it seemed.
Despite the elegance of the package and the present within, Rosalinde looked at the gift as though it were covered in swamp water. It was another reminder of the unpleasant man who was courting her…well, of one of the men courting her.
Slowly she smiled as she closed her eyes and recalled the past two weeks. Francis had been sending her lavish gifts, with elegantly composed letters that quite frankly were rather…risqué. But in secret, someone else had been sending her gifts as well. They were small, with none of the extravagance of Francis’ presents, but had more meaning and heart to them than the finest diamond.
For the past two weeks she had been finding small poems resting in various places around the castle. Small and sweet, each one a humble and modest proclamation of love. She was also finding small gifts here and there, not lavish but sweet and touching. Just the other day she had entered her bedchamber to find another poem and a small bag of her favorite candies. Just thinking about the adorably cute poem made her smile.
Rosalinde gave a small shriek and spun on her heel, nearly dropping both the letter and the present. She was faced by Elizabeta, who calmly helped her to settle.
“My apologies, lady. I did not mean to startle you so.” The knight smiled gently at her charge, who returned the smile.
“It’s alright, Elizabeta. I was merely…preoccupied.” Rosalinde didn’t have to specify, Elizabeta already knew everything. As her personal knight and bodyguard, she was privy to everything that went on in Rosalinde’s life...well, almost everything. She sighed sadly, holding up the letter. “…He is participating in the jousting tournament tomorrow. No doubt he intends to announce his intentions then.”
“It would be well within his nature to do so, considering the nature of gifts he has sent to you.” Elizabeta replied, not losing the smile.
In a rather unladylike motion, Rosalinde tossed the package onto a small table along with the letter. “That is what I dread the most.” She didn’t want to wed Francis and there was little doubt that he wouldn’t ask her. It would be within his style to do something like that in the middle of a tournament, and she couldn’t turn him down like that. Proper etiquette wouldn’t allow it. “I…I don’t know what to do, Elizabeta…what do I do? I don’t want to be wed to that-that…”
Elizabeta gently took Rosalinde’s hand, bringing it to her lips and kissing it. Rosalinde’s eyes widened and she blushed at the uncharacteristic behavior of her knight. But Elizabeta merely continued to smile, gently stroking the knuckles oh the captured hand. “…Have faith, my lady. Things will turn out for the best, you will see.”
Rosalinde stood in front of the podium. There was quite the crowd, the tournament had drawn quite a number of people to watch the festivities. Of course, somehow she was under the impression that they really turned up to watch who would win her hand. There was no shortage of rumors going about that Francis would propose to her if he won. She could hardly bear to watch him preening himself, decked out quite handsomely in his armor. Now, in all honesty she did not hate the man, but by God his arrogance left a bad taste in her mouth. But he was a fine jouster, and that worried her.
As she thanked the contestants and the crowd for attending, she saw a new competitor ride into the stadium upon a brilliant steed. Her eyes widened. She could not see the face of this mystery knight, for he was wearing a full set of armor and was hiding his identity. She faltered somewhat, staring at this knight. Soon eyes were drawn to this mysterious knight, who only dismounted and bowed before her, signaling his intention to compete.
He looked up briefly at her, and though Rosalinde could not see his face, she felt her heart flutter in her chest. She could barely breathe under the weight of that stare. Her eyes widened. She had only felt this way a few times before…each time she had found one of the mystery gifts left to her by the unknown suitor. This knight…he was the one. She was certain of it.
She soon regained her composure, straightening and speaking to the crowd in a more confident voice. “I also declare, that the winner of this tournament…shall have my hand in marriage.”
It didn’t cause quite the uproar she had hoped, but it did get the people talking in a flurry. Francis looked shocked, and quite disappointed that his “surprise” had gone. But Rosalinde only had eyes for the knight, who she was sure winked at her before joining the others.
She sat down to watch the competition, congratulating victors and honorably thanking the losers for trying their best. The entire contest was a flurry of anticipation. Her stomach was full of knots and butterflies and each time her mystery knight competed, she was on the edge of her seat watching him. Until at last, it came down to Francis and her knight. The entire crowd went silent. The two bowed to one another, mounted their horses…and charged.
Rosalinde could feel the tension in the air, the silent animosity between the two riders as they charged for one another’s blood. There could only be one winner, and each one intended to take the prize. As their horses drew closer, Rosalinde covered her face in terror, barely stifling her shriek as she heard the clash of armor and weapons. The entire crowd gasped, and there was nothing but silence. When she finally looked up…she nearly fell out of her seat in shock.
Francis lay upon the ground, his horse trotting off, his helmet several feet away…defeated. Upon his horse still was her knight…her champion.
The crowd roared with the victory of the mystery knight, the winner of the competition. Rosalinde herself was in a daze. Her eyes were fixed firmly upon her knight as the rest of the world passed in a blur. She was only barely aware of herself giving the victory speech, of her knight bowing in front of her and gently taking her hand. The action snapped her out of her stupor, and she gazed down at her knight.
“…Sir knight…if you wish to have my hand as the rules allow…I must see your face.” She had to see him. She had to see the one who had sent her those gifts, who had won this tournament for her. She had to see his face.
The knight seemed to chuckle, nodding and gently letting go of her hand to clasp his helmet. In a swift move, it was gone.
Rosalinde’s eyes widened. “E-Elizabeta?” She could barely get the word out in her shock. How could this be? It had been…her?
Elizabeta smiled. “Of course…I told you, everything would work out. If my lady still wishes to give me my prize…I would like that very much.” She smiled widely up at Rosalinde, her eyes sparkling with mischief and love. The same love that drove her to protect Rosalinde for all these years, to become a knight and to serve her. The same love that had been infused in the small gifts and humble poems she had received.Rosalinde felt her eyes starting to fill with tears, taking her knight’s hand. “…Those were the rules…were they not? I would give you your prize, and more…”
Elizabeta swiftly rose to her feet, grasping the hand in hers and gently kissing her prize on the cheek. “I already have all that I had ever wanted, my lady.”