This is the beginning back in in the late 15th Century when Hsu Danmei and Fanny Met.
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July 6, 1483, Westminster Abbey
Three months ago no one had imagined that this would happen. That King Edward IV would die and his brother, Richard of Gloucester would take the crown for himself after learning that Edward’s sons were illegitimate. Now Gloucester stepped out of the Abbey as King Richard III of England. Some paces behind followed one of Richard’s most reliable knights who had done much to secure his claim, including taking the young princes to the Tower of London, Sir James Tyrell. He was a tall, imposing figure with thick dark curls and piercing blue eyes. His ascent in Richard’s household had been swift and rewarding, and while Hsu Danmei certainly wouldn’t have minded the crown for himself, but such things were not possible for his kind. The second best solution was to be a power behind the throne and get rich while doing so.
There were many people present, both guests and onlookers who cheered their new king on. The vast majority of the population relieved that they would not have a child for their monarch to plunge the country into the chaos of the last few decades.
(OOC: reposted due to really bad typo)
Frances MacKay stood beside her kinswoman,Lady Isabelle, the wife of the First Chancellor to Scotland. The throngs of onlookers cheered their new king. Immediately to their left stood the Chancellor who had made himself a mask of imperceptibility. Perhaps, in light of the climate in England, it was best, Frances thought. Tonight at the King Richard’s coronation ball, she would have to make certain that her own face would be a mask as well. She was far away from home and though by marriage she was a part of these proceedings, she felt more like a tolerated presence.
It was the tall form of Sir James Tyrrell that drew Frances’ eye away from the form of the King. In the halls and among the other women his name was often whispered, especially behind the hands of the youngest ladies. She did not avert her eyes even when it appeared from several yards away their eyes had met. Rather than look away, she inclined her head ever so slightly, but did not avert her gaze. These were dangerous times, but even in dangerous times the show of fear would not have been wise. Not, she noted, if all that she had heard about the knight, Sir James Tyrell were at all true.
Having just assisted the new Queen onto her mare, Tyrell was turning to see if Richard needed anything more of him before he too made his way to the palace for the festivities that would follow. In doing so, he wasn’t sure what it was that caught his attention, perhaps it was the fact she was looking at him rather than the monarch and his wife as everyone else was. Even then he couldn’t be entirely sure, not until he noticed that slight movement of her head.
He frowned, quirking an eyebrow slightly and sure that he did not recognize her. It was he who broke the gaze at hearing Richard asking if he was coming or not. “Of course, my lord King.” And he caught Richard’s pleased grin as he mounted his own stallion. Reining him in and letting him paw at the ground, excitable as he was by the crowd, he controlled the horse with unconcious skill as he looked again for that lady.
Frances knew that Sir James Tyrell had seen her. Whether or not he notiorious lord would think her unwavering gaze was impertinent was not of overconcern to her. Her eyes followed him even as Lady Isabelle pulled her with a gentle hand further back into the crowd. “Come, Frances, my dear, “she said her wimple beneath her elaborate headdress bobbing as she spoke. It was a wonder to Frances that women of the court didn’t bump into each other more often than they did with the elaborate hats that they insisted on wearing. Frances herself was not inclined toward the fashion. “We have much to do before the ball this evening when we will actually be in the royal presence!” Isabelle prattled, “This will be most exciting I am sure.”
“Of course cousin,” Frances murmured pulling her head back once more to see the Royal Party moving toward the palace. The throngs of onlookers cheering and jostling to catch a glimpse of their new King and Queen had obscured the royal party from view.
The summer’s moonlight spilled onto the pavings that led to the palace. Large branches of oaks and rowan trees that lined the path wove a lace of shadow over the path as Frances and Lady Isabelle walked together. Surprisingly, even Isabelle, who normally prattled endlessly when excited was overawed and strangely silent. The better part of the afternoon Frances had sealed herself away, getting ready for the evening’s festivities. Against the protestations of her ladies, Frances had insisted upon a bath. The rest of the court could cover up their uncleanliness with perfume and incense. But to Frances, it was not the same. She was representing her family and her homeland, she could never understand the penchant of the even the most high to forego something as essential as bathing. Besides, if she were to be presented at Court this evening, then she insisted that it be was a favourable one.
The two women mounted a large stone staircase that led to the entrance of the palace, the soft velvets and silks of their heavy gowns rustling softly. The guards did not even flinch as they and other courtiers milled past into the grand display of festivity of light, colour and merriment.
Wearing the same richly embroidered clothes as earlier as befitted his status as one of the King’s trusted circle, Tyrell stood on one side of the dais awaiting the arrival of Richard III and his queen. Guests were arriving, but he paid them very little attention, his head tipped towards another man with whom he was engrossed in quiet but emphatic conversation. “You know they can’t be held there indefinitely, Lovell,” he growled at Lord Lovell, probably the King’s oldest and closest friend but a bit of a sentimentalist.
Any further conversation would have to wait as the arrival of the king and queen was heralded in, and Tyrell straightened and then bowed as they entered. His mind, however, was still on the problem of the young princes. Something had to be done about them, and he felt leaving them in the tower only served as a rallying point for Richard’s enemies, of which there were plenty.
That would have to wait, and this was a feast for celebrating the coronation. With an internal sigh, Tyrell conceded that things could wait until at least tomorrow.
As he rose from his bow, he swept his gaze across the gathered revelers from his vantage point, taking in the different faces to see if he recognized if trouble would come from any of them. For a moment his gaze lingered on a particularly finely dressed lady, and it only took a second for him to recall that she had been at the ceremony. His interest piqued a little, he moved slightly closer to his King as subjects were beginning to be presented and hoped that this lady too would be among those coming forward so at least he would discover who she was.
Frances kept close to her kinswoman and to the First Chancellor. She was determined not to show any sort of nervousness, even though her stomach was tying itself in knots! The Gentleman Usher called out the names of the Nobility. Each in turn came before the dais, either individually or as a group to pay homage to their knew king and queen. Sometimes the royal party would acknowledge the person or persons by bringing them closer to the royal dais, with brief exchanges of words or even allowing a kiss on the ring as a sign of obeisance.
By the Goddess! Were they to be last to be presented in this ceremony? She wondered. Just when Frances was beginning to surrender herself to the inevitability of waiting even longer, the Gentleman Usher called out their names.
“Your Majesties, the First Chancellor of Scotland and his party.”
The Lord Chancellor and her cousin moved forward down the seemingly endless length of red carpet toward the dais, Frances behind them. When they had reached the appropriate distance, her kinsman bowed and Isabelle curtsied. Frances, who was terrified she might trip on her gown and make a spectacle of herself, therefore embarrassing her family, followed suit. She kept her head held like an empress, her eyes downcast until she heard the voice of her kinsman.
“May I present to your Majesties, my wife’s cousin, the Lady Frances MacKay,” he said, holding out his hand for her to move closer to the dais. She took one, two three steps forward and began to curtsey again. The King grunted something to a nearby member of court and gave her a smile. It was the touch on her arm by the Lord Chancellor that indicated they had been presented and now would make their exit. Carefully they stepped backward, backing away and to the right of the throne so that the next members of the Court could be presented.
Inwardly Frances was grateful that she had not made a fool of herself and that her body had waited until they were safely among the throngs of the nobility in attendance before she felt herself begin to tremble. She was about to heave a sigh of relief when a footman touched her on her arm. She turned to see a young man of no more than fourteen looking up at her.
“My Lady MacKay,” the footman inclined his head, “Their Majesties have requested your presence at their table.”
The Lord Chancellor looked at his wife and then at Frances, obviously preterbed that the invitation was not extended to himself and his wife as well. It was an obvious slight, but one that could have been for any number of reasons. Still…
“If I did not know better, my dear,” Isabella whispered in her ear, “I would say that you made quite an impression.”
As the party were presented, Tyrell stepped back further behind his king his intense gaze studying the young lady as she curtseyed as certain of the fact that he was almost completely obscured by the throne. As she turned, he bent forward to whisper something into Richard’s ear.
The king masked his surprise as he glanced up. “I thought that you had more of a fancy for the fair of hair, Tyrell. But the Lady Frances does fall pleasantly upon the eyes.” He nodded. “Do invite her to our table.” Richard let his regal coolness fade a moment as he smiled. “And I promise not to tell your wife.” That was answered with Tyrell’s usual smirk that revealed nothing as well as a thank you. A few moment’s later Tyrell engaged a footman to relay the royal command.
From a distance he watched and could see her surprise at receiving such an honour as well as her family’s clear disappointment that the invitation had not been extended to them. Yes, it was a clear slight, but he didn’t care about that. He was more concerned with why this lady had captured his curiosity. She was beautiful, although Richard was correct, he preferred fair hair, and even with her wimple, he could see that Lady Frances was dark, perhaps even bordering on exotic. Perhaps it had been the way that she had watched him and not the king out side of Westminster. Perhaps it was the intelligence he had caught in her eyes. In an age where women were just expected to remain in the background producing embroidery and babies, to see even a hint of something more sparked his interest.
After all had been presented, the king and queen withdrew and the hall made ready for the feast. A long table was set upon the dais with several others out in the hall. When all was prepared, the royal party, except for Richard and his wife, reentered and took their places.
The same footman approached the empty chair beside Tyrell and ushered in Frances. “My Lady MacKay, may I present Sir James Tyrell, Master of Horse to His Majesty. Sir James, Lady Frances MacKay kinswoman to the First Chancellor of Scotland.”
As Tyrell bowed, the footman continued the introductions to the other nobles at the table as he took her hand and kissed it with well-mannered chivalry, but his pale eyes rose and met hers. “An honour to have you join us, my lady. Please.” He indicated to the empty seat.
For weeks she had heard no news of the Court without also hearing the name of Sir James Tyrell associated with it. It was only just earlier in the day that she had lain eyes upon this man and now she not only was presented to the King and Queen themselves, she would be seated next to him at the banquet. If her kinsman had been allowed to offer his opinion on the matter he would have said that she had probably planned it from the beginning and then would damn her to hell. How dare she as a woman be at all interested, much less inclined toward politics? Frances pushed the thought from her mind, instead focusing on the intense blue eyes of Sir James Tyrell.
“An honour to have you join us, my lady. Please.” Tyrell made the indication of the seat next to him almost a graceful gesture.
“My Lord Tyrell,” Frances courtsied slightly, lowering her eyes for just a moment, when she finally raised them again, she noted that he was still looking at her, studying or perhaps even assessing her.
After he had helped her with her seat, Tyrell took the chair next to her.Servants filled each of their cups with wine and moved into the crowd, all but invisible, certainy ignored. The banqueting hall was ablaze with light and sound, and musicians in the corner had just begun to play in order to add to the evening’s festivities.
“I am honoured by this singular favour, my Lord Tyrell,” she said fondling the edge of the chalice, but not taking a sip from it, “I am certain that your Grace would have his choice of courtiers to dine with you,” at last she took a taste of the wine, her eyes flashing at him over the rim of the cup, “but to be completely truthfull, I am grateful to you most of all for being rescued from my kinsman this night.”
“My lady, I do not question my lord King’s decisions, only agree with him that he has the most impeccable tastes.” His eyes softened a little, sparkling with subtle humour as he followed the movements of her fingers around the cup and then to her mouth before he raised his eyes to meet her gaze. “I’m glad I could rescue a lady from such dire circumstances. If you’ll forgive me for saying, your kin do not seem to be the most interesting of people.” Unlike you. He still could pinpoint exactly what it was about her that roused his curiosity.
“Although, I do hear that they were rather disappointed not to share your invitation.” He smirked, and it seemed that it was the closest his mouth ever came to a smile. The footman had reported back to him how put out her kin had appeared.
As they waited for the king and queen to be announced, Tyrell poured them both a little more wine. “But what about you? All I know of you is that you are Lady Frances MacKay and that you are Scottish.” He leaned forwards, his voice lowered to a whisper so that their conversation would not be easily overheard.
“You are absolutely right, “ Frances allowed herself a small smile, “my kinsmen are not at all interesting. In fact, he tends to be rather boorish, if I may be so bold as to say so,” Frances flashed a look at her elder kinsman who was in fact staring at her and Tyrell, no doubt his mind speculating wildly as to why the evening had turned out the way that it had.
Pulling her gaze away from her family who were no longer making a great show of being excluded, she turned her gaze back to Sir James Tyrell. When he inquired about her, showing what appeared to be genuine interest, there was something about him, something that she could not pinpoint, but for whatever reason she felt strangely at ease with him. He was disarming in his own way but not in the usual way that members at court usually were. Still, she reminded herself, when one is at Court, any Court, one had to be wary even of those posing as potential friends. When he leaned toward her to make certain they were not overheard she took a careful sip of the freshly poured wine and followed his lead.
“It is true that I was born in Scotland, my Lord,” she said in a low voice, “However, for mostly I reside on one of the fair and oft missed islands off the Scottish coast. I am merely visiting my family here. It was just good fortune that my journey coincided with His Majesty’s ascension. Had I known that I would be being presented at Court, I might have prepared all that much more.” Her eyes danced as she spoke to him, and she was certain that she had incited even more questions than the ones she had just answered.
She was about to take another sip of her wine and inquire more about Sir James Tyrell when there was much scurrying. Certainly, she thought, the King and Queen’s arrival were imminent.
(OOC: Don’t faint! *g*)
Indeed she had provoked more questions in his mind. There was something in the way her eyes danced as she spoke that hinted to so much more. He had many faults, most of which he would never admit to, but lack of curiosity had never been one of them. He wanted to hear more, but with the playful look in her eyes guessed that it might become a game, and probably a very pleasant one at that. “I have never been much further into Scotland than the border lowlands.” And then as a border raider. “I hear tell that the rest of the country and its mysterious islands are quite beautiful.”
It seemed as if he would continue, but suddenly the scurrying stopped and a fanfare sounded announcing the monarch’s arrival. Something very briefly flashed across Tyrell’s pale eyes that could have been annoyance at being interrupted, but it was as quickly gone. Taking Lady Frances’ hand, he led her in standing, bowing to King Richard as he and his wife took their seats. Now the meal could begin and trays of food where brought in.
The amount of food was huge, with meat being the primary dishes and a varied selection of those there was; whole chickens stuffed with meat, nuts, eggs and spices; geese stuffed with eggs, onions and grapes; roasted piglets with meat, eggs, Brie cheese and chestnuts to name just a few of the dishes. To accompany just rich food there were dishes of rice, noodles, bread. With such a feast in front of them, after the priest’s blessing, Tyrell focused on the meal. It had been a long day, and like everyone else a good meal a just reward. Even so, as he took bites his gaze would now and then flicker over to Frances. Despite the wonderful fare, he looked forward to the dinner being over when he could excuse himself — and her — and retreat to somewhere more private.
Once the main course was finished, there was a brief respite from the copious amounts of food as the desserts were served. The sugared sculpture, shaped like a boar (Richard’s own crest) with the Yorkist rose that was presented to the King drew impressed gasps from all but Tyrell, but people were used to his stoic reactions. To everyone else, delicate pastries and pears cooked in wine spices were served.
“My lady,” he said as he finished. “I wish we would continue our conversation in more private. Perhaps you would care to walk with me in the gardens.” Even though his invitation was polite, even formal there was an underlying edge to his manner.
(OOC: Hope it’s okay…thought I’d move them along a bit.)
(OOC: Now it is your turn not to faint! *g* )
Frances could feel Tyrell’s gaze upon her from time to time as they ate. The meal was sumptuous and the food rich and extravagant. She had done well, she thought, not to have eaten for most of the day. There was just too much to eat, even though she took small bites, opting for variety rather than quantity.
By the time dessert arrived, Frances had eaten more than enough. Unlike most women, she did not care for pastries or overly sweet things. She did, however, manage to take a few bites of it before Tyrell leaned closer to her and invited her for a walk in the gardens. Her gaze flashed quickly around the room and to her kinsmen who were already deep in their cups and happily indulging in the near orgiastic profusion of food. The overall party, in spite of the royals in attendance, had become raucous. Entertainers and revellers were falling over each other sometimes in sprawling heaps on the floor. It was certain that she would not be missed by her family, or any others for that matter, and if she were, she could explain it well enough. A few might deign to talk, but it would be of no matter. Few were foolish enough to question the honour of Sir James Tyrell, and that included her rather boorish kinsman.
“The air in this room has grown stale, my Lord, she smiled at him and nodded, “however, I would very much enjoy continuing our talks in a quieter place.” She had not missed the look in Tyrell’s eyes. He was as intrigued by her as she was by him. There was an inexplicable draw between them, and Frances knew within the depths of her that she needed to follow it wherever it might lead. She took the hand that she was offered and they made their way through the revellers toward the exit. She had been right, few if any noticed their departure into the gardens.
Frances and Tyrell made their way along the paths of night blooming jasmine and fragrant flowers and trees, her hand draped across his forearm. They talked of her homeland and of the King and Queen and of court, both being careful to keep their conversation in more genteel subjects as they grew more and more accustomed to each other. Tyrell, Frances noted to herself, carried himself even more regally than the king himself. Perhaps it was because he was himself a warrior and somewhat of a power behind the throne, but Frances sensed there was much more to this. How much should she truly tell him about herself, she wondered? There was a moment of long silence as they stepped closer to a stone fountain near the center of four intersecting paths that wound through the garden. The soft trickling sound of the water in the fountain, the moon at its full and the fireflies lazily buzzing about like many faerie lanterns made the moment almost magical. A bush with heavily scented flowers beckoned. With slender fingers she reached out and caressed the leaves and petals of the full shrub.
“These gardens are lovely. They remind me of the ones of my home,” she said at last, leaning forward to take in the scent of the flowers. She plucked one and straightened up once more holding out the delicate, fragrant bloom to him, “if I may be so bold, my Lord Tyrell, “she said, “You have a standing invitation to visit.”
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Fanny Fae: Excavating Our Souls From the Ruins