Rose Of Steelby_Lady1SensuaL1Fire_©
London, England 1581,
Lady Roseline Plantagenet pressed herself against the cold stone wall outside her guardian's study, breathless with fear. Her maid had brought her the curt note an hour ago, from her guardian that demanding her presence. She had taken each step with trepidation. As she was about to knock on the oak door of the study, she had heard two men arguing softly. One of them was her guardian, the other, she did not recognize.
"Listen, St. Denis, we cannot do this tonight, the masquerade ball will be filled with Queen Elizabeth's guards. Do you not think that they will post more sentinels on this particular evening?" The other man stated with a bit of nervousness in his voice. Villiars knew why the earl was doing this, he had murdered his ward's parents because they had witnessed his treasonous activities, giving out secret information to Spanish agent.
"That is precisely why it is perfect, Villiers, everyone will be disguised in a costume for this frivolous event. That is when I come in with my delicious weapon" her guardian paused for dramatic effect.
"And what or whom is that?".....Villiers prompted.
"My ward, Roseline. Everyone is excited to meet the exquisite Lady Roseline Plantagenet. Not only is her family an ancient one, but her beauty far surpasses any shrew at court. They will be so distracted by her beauty, that to kill the Queen will be child's play." St. Denis laughed heartily with menace.
Roseline gasped softly, covering her mouth. Her luminous violet eyes, widened in fear, as she quickly grasped the meaning of what was to occur tonight. Her guardian, John St. Denis, Earl of Surrey and this Villiers man, supposed trusted men of the Queen, were planning on killing her tonight at her masquerade ball, declaring the beginning of the season.
Suddenly she heard heavy footsteps coming towards the door, Roseline flattened herself against the cool wall once more, as the door opened swiftly. Biting her lower lip to keep quiet, she waited until the fall figure vanished down the hallway, then waiting a few moments, she approached the study quietly. Knocking quietly, Roseline waited until she was bade to enter.
Turning from the window, the Earl looked at Roseline up and down. Taking in her attire, he looked at her from head to toe. He noticed how her raven black hair rippled down to her waist like a silken cloud. She had eyes the color of amethyst, fringed with thick black lashes, completed with delicately arched brows. Her skin was the color of pale pink roses, that matched the dark pink of her lips. Examining her even closer, the Earl realized how womanly she had become, no longer is she the skinny child she was when Queen Elizabeth had awarded him wardship of her, three years past. She was still petite at 5'1 but very curvaceous., her face was heart shaped. The two characteristics he did not find pleasing about her, was rebellious light in her eyes and the little jagged scar on her left cheek. Roseline had beaten him in a dagger-throwing competition, last year, but he had been drunk. When he had seen the smile of triumph on his ward's face after she split the apple sitting on post twenty yards away, in two, he had backhanded her. His signet ring had cut her delicate cheek, leaving a permanent scar.
As if sensing what he was looking at, Roseline touched her cheek self consciously. "Y...You wished to see me, m'lord?"
"Aye, enter my dear. Please sit down" The Earl conceded that the scar did not detract from her magnificent beauty, if anything, the scar enhanced her mysterious face.......indeed, she will make a great distracting weapon this evening
Sitting meekly upon the chaise, near the hearth, Roseline stared into the mesmerizing flames for a moment. Upon hearing her guardian clear his throat to gain her attention, she raised her violet eyes to his cold blue ones.
"I have a meeting at White's this afternoon, so I will make this brief. We are to attend a masquerade ball this eve, given by the Queen, formally opening the season. You were specifically invited, to be presented to the ton. They want to meet the wonderful creature they have been hearing about, raised in France. Your lineage is far more pure and noble than most of those at court. You are a direct descendent of Henry III of the Plantagenet Dynasty." the Earl droned on.
He was going to use her as bait this evening, so he could kill the queen. Roseline thought hard, wondering how she was going to stop him, if in fact she could.
"Roseline!" the earl called out her name irritably."Pay attention to my instructions
"Aye, m'lord, I apologize, seems I am simply weary this morn. I did not sleep well" she bowed her head, pretending to be contrite, to placate him.
This seemed to appease him, for he smiled in the next moment. "Now, Roseline, your maid has been making your costume to my specifications. I will see you this evening, be sure to present yourself in the foyer at nine o'clock. You may retire to your chambers for rest." the Earl stood and went to the door and held it open for her.
Raising her chin defiantly, Roseline's violet eyes blazed momentarily with fires of defiance, but she decided to keep to her own council. As she stood, she smoothed out her velvet riding habit and swept gracefully from the study.
Frowning slightly, the Earl frowned at the look of strength in his ward's eyes, but chuckled slightly amusement "What trouble could one little female be."
* * *
Lady Roseline roared with fury, her violet eyes snapping with fire. "I refuse to wear this! 'tis positively indecent" she groaned, her long black hair flying around her shoulders.
"B...But m'lady, the Earl threatened that if you did not wear this costume, I ..." her timid little maid Charise began, but bit her lip to silence her speech.
Standing in front of her maid, Roseline places her hands on the other woman's shoulders. "Charise, the earl threatened what?" Roseline prompted her.
Raising her big brown eyes, she forced herself to continue "M'lord earl informed me that if you did not wear the costume, I would be dismissed with no reference, m'lady". The young maid's young face burned with shame.
Sighing softly, Roseline, took the costume again to examine it closely. Then an idea came to her, examining the red velvet gown, and although it fit her hourglass figure like a glove, Roseline decided to add a black domino mask with two tiny roses on each side to pin into her hair. Another red rose will grace her black hair, yet the best part of that rose, is the tiny dagger inside it. The long tiny dagger, poses as the stem of the rose. The red rose itself can be taken off by pressing upon the bud in the center of the flower; revealing the ivory hilt.
"Fear not, Charise, I will wear this scandalous red costume, but take out my black domino and my red rose hair ornament as well, from my boudoir."
"Aye, m'lady" the maid curtsied, relieved.
"Mon Dieu, ils veulent tuer la reine" Roseline said softly to herself in french.
"What, m'lady?" her maid asked, worried.
She had thought she spoke quietly enough not to be overheard, she quickly reassured her maid "I...ah said I hope it does not rain".
* * *
Roseline sat at on a chaise near the hearth in her chambers, as her maid placed the finishing touches to her hair. Her raven locks were upswept into a french twist, with tendrils falling upon her smooth shoulders." Please do not forget the red rose, Charise".
"Aye, m'lady." the maid picked up the rose ornament from the oaken chest "'Tis a wee bit heavy for a hairpin, m'lady, but beautiful."
"My mother created it for me the year before she died, she adored roses" thinking about her mother, brought tears to her eyes. She thought back to the day when the messenger came, with the news that her parents had parished when their ship went down, on their way back from Italy. Roseline looked into the mirror as her maid placed the flower in her hair, not knowing it really was a weapon. Her father had seen how much she loved daggers, and for her birthday one year, he had asked her what she wanted. Roseline had begged him to teach her how to throw a dagger, so that she can defend herself. She closed her eyes for a moment, envisioning her parents' faces, how deeply in love they were and how much they loved her. A single tear rolled down her cheek, as her heart ached with the loss. Sighing softly, she wiped away the tear before her maid could notice. At that moment, she heard the earl bellowing from downstairs, for her to hurry. Rolling her eyes heavenward for patience, Roseline took one last glimpse of herself in the polished glass, and left her chambers.
Downstairs, the earl of Surrey paced impatiently, awaiting his ward. Hearing a whisper of cloth upon the stone steps, he looked up to see his beautiful young ward gliding down the steps. His breath caught in his throat at the vision of her. She was beautiful, like an exotic red rose. Placing a black velvet cloak around her smooth shoulders, he hurried her out of the door, into their waiting carriage.
A few moments later, they arrived at Whitehall Palace, where Queen Elizabeth was presiding over the masquerade ball this eve. Clutching her cloak close to her body, Roseline climbed the steps, along side her guardian. Servants came out of no where to take their cloaks, as another servant loudly announced to the grand rooms, the arrival of the guests.
"The Earl Of Surrey and Lady Roseline Plantagenet" the servant announced as they descended the marble steps.
In the shadows, two figures stood quietly. One started forward upon seeing Roseline entering, but was stopped by a black gloved hand.
"Wait. We have waited this long, a bit longer only, my dear." was all the man said. The other figured whimpered softly in distress.
* * *
Approaching the raised dais, the earl steered Roseline in front of the queen. The young woman curtsied low to her monarch and kissed the outstretched hand.
"Rise, my dear" the queen looked at her with intelligent dark eyes.
Standing back slowly, Roseline raised her eyes to the queen and squared her shoulders. "Good evening, majesty, thank you for inviting me."
"Majesty, if I may present my ward, Lady Roseline Plantagenet" the earl intoned, with a voice dripping with false sweetness.
Aye, indeed, this queen thought, carefully masking her distaste of this man. Turning her knowing eyes, she again looked at the young woman beside him, and decided there was no deceit in those beautiful violet eyes. Touching her own sparse red hair, she knew she disliked most other females, yet this one had an intelligence that she respected. Looking into her eyes again, the queen noticed the young woman shift her gaze to her guardian. Realizing the young woman tried to send her a silent message, she turned her gaze to the earl. The man's attention was across the room, settled on Pierre Villiers, then came back to settle upon the queen.
"May I fetch you ladies a glass of wine?" the earl suggested strongly.
"Aye, you may" the queen all but dismissed him.
Turning to Roseline, the queen spoke" That is an exquisite rose in your hair, it suits your raven mane"
Curtsying gracefully, Roseline blushed " Thank you, your majesty, my mother made it for me before she...."
The queen interrupted her " Your mother is a strong and noble woman, my petite, I know her well."
"My mother is d..."
But before she could respond, her guardian returned with two glasses of wine. The queen turned her gaze away before she could see the glint of malice in the earl's eyes. When he left to join Villiers, Roseline bumped into the queen on purpose, spilling the wine on her costume.
The queen gasped and stood up, taking a kerchief from her bodice, she dabbed at wine on her gown. Noticing a white residue on her gown, she raised her black eyes.
"I am so sorry, majesty, I am very clumsy. Please forgive me!" Roseline was horrified that she had to do that, but she knew her guardian had put something in the wine to poison the queen.
The two women faced each other and at that moment, Roseline realized that the queen knew the wine was poisoned as well. Gripping her hand, the queen thanked her silently.
Seeing this from across the ballroom, The earl of Surrey growled with rage at his thrwarted plan. Noticing that most of the men were watching his beautiful ward, he slipped into the shadows and doubled back to hide behind a marble pillar. He watched the queen and his ward, and somehow he knew it was over for him. The queen had not drunk the wine, and now looked at his ward knowingly. The queen stood up and called for her man-at-arms, but bade the minstrels to continue playing their music.
The earl knew it was now or never. He was going to be rewarded with a dukedom by the Spanish monarchy if he would get rid of the queen. His greed had long ago, blinded him to logic, his madness had truly overcome his mind. Taking out his dagger, the earl aimed for the queen's back.
Across the room, Roseline spotted a movement behind the pillar. Crying out softly, everything seemed to happen in slow motion. She took the flower from her hair, took off the flower, exposing the hilt and blade. In one swift moment, she aimed her dagger and let it fly, at the same moment the earl did. Pushing the queen out of harm's way, Roseline felt hot pain pierce her shoulder, as the blade intended for the queen, hit her instead. She cried out in frustration as she noticed her dagger only caught the earl on the shoulder. Roseline's head nearly hit the ground, when a figure caught her in time. Laying in someone's lap, Roseline's gaze raised to her rescue her. Eyes wide, she gasped.....
As the earl growled in pain and anger as his ward's little dagger embedded itself into his hand. Angrily he ran towards the queen with his sword raised, but another figure cut him off on his path. A sword swung high in the air, impaling the earl through the stomach. The earl's eyes widened in shock as he looked into the dark eyes of James Plantagenet, Roseline's father.
Sputtering up blood, the earl spoke uneasily "I thought I had killed you, you vermin"
Looking down at the pathetic earl, the giant smiled frostily "Oh you nearly did, St. Denis, but Jocelyne and I pulled through after a long fever. On the way back to England, we were captured by a Turkish slave trading ship. A friend of ours, Pierre Villiers helped us escape." At the widening of the earl's eyes, James continued "Aye, I see the name rings a bell. We wanted to prove to the queen that you were a traitor and Villiers helped us. You are done, St. Denis" the dying earl grasped James's lapel, then breathed his last.
Turning towards his daughter, his eyes misted over as he thrust the earl's body away from him and walked towards his family.
As he approached his wife and daughter, he heard the queen's remark.
"She saved my life, for that, we are eternally grateful. I will have my personal physician attend her at once."
Roseline's violet eyes fluttered open, as she took in her surroundings. Struggling up to a sitting position, she moaned in pain, but it was quickly forgotten as she gazed into the loving eyes of her parents, she thought were long dead.
"M...mother?" Her eyes filled with tears of joy, as her father stood behind her mother. "Father....how? I thought you were...."
"Dead? Nay lass, we are here my Rose". Her father recounted what happened to them, from their near death at the hands of the earl, to their capture."What kept us alive, was knowing we had our daughter that still needed us so much. We kept that imagine to help us survive." Suddenly, the giant of a man that never showed any pain, suddenly gathered his beautiful wife and daughter in his arms and held them both, never wanting to let them go.
After a few moments, James Plantagenet turned towards the queen and explained how they had witnessed St. Denis conspiring with informants from Spain for his own gain. How he had nearly killed them to keep them quiet and leading up to their capture. Then explaining how Pierre Villiers aided them to expose St. Denis's plans, after helping them escape captivity.
"Aye, Cecil came to me last evening, informing me how you would be ferreting St. Denis out to betray his intent. to assassinate me. You and your daughter have saved my life. Come and attend me at court on the morrow." It was not invite, but a summons.
* * *
The next evening, James Plantagenet and his family attended the queen in the hall. After paying their respects, all three stood in front of the raised dais and faced the queen. Roseline smiled at her as she stood beside her parents. There was a genuine friendship that developed between the two women.
Turning towards James Plantagenet, the queen raised her voice loud enough for all the assembled court to hear her announcement. "James Plantagenet, for your bravery and noble act of saving my life, I hereby bequeath to you, the lands, formally entailed to the Earl of Surrey to you. You will also be given the dukedom I am creating in your name. You are now to be known as James Plantagenet, Duke of Surrey, and all the monies entailed". Turning to Roseline, the queen intoned "Lady Roseline Plantagenet, there are no rewards worthy enough to give you, for saving my life."
"Majesty, I failed to save you, my dagger only slowed him down, but..." she stopped as the queen interrupted her with a raised hand for silence.
"Lady Roseline, true bravery is not measured by what you failed to do, but that even though you were scared, you found the courage to try anyways, despite your fear. You are a Rose of Steel; delicate yet strong in courage. I have decided to name your new castle: The Rose Of Steel, after you." at those words given, in an unprecedented show of affection, Queen Elizabeth 1 of England, hugged her new friend in gratitude.
From that day forward, Lady Rose Plantagenet was known as The Rose Of Steel.