There was once a woman who would be queen over her small province of Montegordor. Though she was but a peasant, she was both lovely and cunning–attributes that she would need, as the land’s crown prince was a vainglorious, self-absorbed young man. She trapped him in a web of moonlight one night as he hunted, and obliged him to promise her gold in exchange for his release. The prince was wise enough to agree.
The eve of the next ball, a stranger showed her face amongst the king’s court, and all men within desired her for their own. She danced every dance, drank the offered refreshments, charmed her way into many a heart, and declared herself smitten by Alban, the handsome prince of Montegordor. The king, chivalrous at heart and always pleased to promote marriage amongst his subjects and court, ordered that the wedding should take place at once, as the baron of Montegordor had been ill for years and was not long for this world.
And so she became a princess then, and a queen later.
Despite her scheming, this woman truly loved her prince and devoted herself to pleasing him. The day that she was visibly with child brought joy to them both. If the child was a boy, the heir apparent was established immediately.
If it was a girl … Prince Alban had his avaricious eye on the neighboring kingdom of Broadswath, a land under the regency of a toddler prince and his uncle, and the birth of a female would make an excellent reason to pay a diplomatic visit.
Brooke remained very still in the midst of the river reeds. She did not like to be cooped inside of the dark, gloomy manor, and ever since discovering that she could escape the confines of the house through an ill-patched hole in the wine cellar, she was rarely indoors, even on days of inclement weather. Her governess inevitably found her and brought her right back in, tanned from the sun. “My word! What a fright you are, ruining your skin in the sun! You’ll be as brown as the bread if you keep this up!”
Still scolding, her governess ordered her back to the manor house, reasoning with her that she was too old to behave like this. She needed to dedicate herself to being a young lady. She was a princess and she was expected to marry the Prince of Broadswath in a few short years. The marriage would bring great prosperity to Montegordor, and she needed to play her part well.
So Brooke continued her lessons in French and Latin, studied art, learned poetry-writing, and stared out of the window at the overgrown spring just beyond the confines of the wall.
As the time of her formal engagement drew closer, Brooke found herself restricted to the upper rooms of the manor, where she could stare with ever-mounting resentment at the garden that she could not visit and watch the rain that she could not touch. She lost her desire to learn and withdrew from her pursuit of achievement, and spent every waking moment gazing down at the spring.
Its waters beckoned to her, the enticements of a forbidden lover.
Her queen mother came to her and accused her of gross selfishness. “You are a foolish, short-sighted little chit. Surely you are not so blind as to see that women are valued for little more than our ability to produce heirs. You stand upon the very threshold of power and you dare to refuse!”
“When they are pushed far enough, pawns become queens,” the older woman snarled. “Do you realize how much sacrifice was made to put you in this position? You have a fairy’s blood in your veins. You are allowed one wish that is destined to come true. It was to be your bequest at my death, but I see that you will not be satisfied until you have squandered it. Stupid, stupid girl! Whatever becomes of you from this point forward is no concern of mine. You have brought your own fate on yourself.”
The queen stepped forward, eyes flashing, teeth bared, hand raised. Though she seemed more like a feral animal than a royal consort, at that moment she was the most beautiful that Brooke had ever seen her.
Receive your inheritance.”
“I used my wish to gain power the only way a woman can–by controlling a powerful man. And I became queen for it. You might have had your name known through the ages as the woman who saved Montegordor. Now you will simply live and die unknown.”
By the time the servants arrived, there was no sign of their princess, and her very clothes had undergone a transformation. Montegordor’s springs and lakes had always been barren before … but no longer.
For despite what her mother thought, Princess Brooke also wished to save Montegordor.
She simply wanted to do it her own way.