Rocqueburne was a kingdom on the west coast. A forest behind it, an ocean in front, really, it was a self sufficient place that rarely required any real attention from the Empire it was apart of. Now. But, it wasn't always so.
Bustling enterprise doesn't just happen. The King and Queen of Rocqueburne were implanted here by the Empire ages ago. Back when the town was held together by sticks, crime and even a whole different name, Capebluff. It was only by years of blood, steel and iron, did their kingdom become a great shining gem by the sea. The people became educated and were more prosperous for it. Crippling plagues were forced from the city, winter after winter, fewer innocents died. Each spring, a budding culture renaissance came closer and closer. A proud, civilized nation was forged from the once dilapidated mire.
And when Capebluff was washed away, Rocqueburne stood.
Problems were expunged but capitalism has always been fraught with troubles. As happiness and wealth came, people who could farm the seas and turn the land, exploiters arrived. The pirates arrived and brought their own views of capitalism and business ventures.
The good King and Queen fought them too, like they had fought everything else. With a heavy, unmerciful hand, they pushed their corruption back into the dark, seedy bars and shadows. However, their battles would never be done, evil never rests, the eternal quagmire that it is.
Eventually, when the pirates and crooks were suppressed, and their kingdom thriving; the King and Queen had an heir. Wanting a boy, a strong male to drive their legacy forward, the proud parents were stone faced to hear the news of a girl.†They weren't unhappy, just shocked, having followed all the lore to ensure a boy.
They even had the name ready, Jack-Chester of Rocqueburne.
†††††††The Queen had drank Crocodile egg yoke daily, dressed warmer than the weather permitted, bathed in a lake-face cast moonlight once a month, but, alas God had other plans. They chalked it up to fate and left it at that. The pair had killed many men, maybe this was revenge from beyond the grave. †
In the end, childbirth had been quite terrible on the Queen, so the Princess of Roquburne was alone.†Resilient to tragedy, parents did what all parents do, make do.
Jack turned to Jacqueline, and Princess Jacqueline-Marie of Roquburne was crowned.
It wasn't such a horrible punishment really. Princesses are pretty cute anyways, wearing their lavish dresses and holding tea parties with the other kingdom's little daughters. The King and Queen found their political uses for their daughter. Adorable, just like strength, could be manipulated for propaganda too. Jacqueline had soft golden red hair and tiny freckles across her nose, a perfect representation of the Kingdom.
But, any parents plans come to a screeching halt when their children, one day, wake up and are young adults themselves.
The etiquette lessons, the tea parties, the silence, the obedience, the frills and expensive Spanish lace disappeared as she grew up. Jacqueline loved riding horses and being lost in the town, being anywhere but in the castle. Her dresses were always ripped, shoes muddy and hair unkempt. She came late to her diplomatic responsibilities but seem somehow to woo friends in court and the Empire as whole. She could chat a room, but could not manage a single thing. The crown was boring to her and she never curbed her opinion about it. The people loved her kind, philanthropic nature, but a Kingdom does not survive on charity alone!††
As Jacqueline was becoming an independent woman, her parents, gray and aging, saw their legacy simply dissolving away.
"Why? Oh why, can't you be like your cousin Lillian." The Queen scorned, pressing the bridge of her nose, "Respectful, ready to serve."
Jacqueline was walking away, having learned to tune out her mother's cawing. She pushed a hole in her dress together wanting it to magically repair itself.
"You've things to do here, tasks to manage!" The Queen called out loudly, still pinching her bridge and having her eyes tightly shut, "I want you before me tomorrow, dawn sharp. Perhaps we can fix your grain mess." Though, she was talking to an empty room now.
The Princess had zero interest in the so called, 'grain mess.' The people needed grain, she gave them grain. Alright, maybe an unfair shares to balance out the seasons, but any subject going hungry in a civilized nation was completely ludicrous.
"Did you at least undress your horse Tristan of her reigns and her saddle?" Annoyed, her mother called out.
"No. That's what we have stable boys for. " and Jacqueline escaped up the stairs, taking them two at a time. Servants were lighting the lamps as the evening twilight was waning. She scurried to her room and disappeared inside, leaving her mother and her angst at the door.
Maybe, just maybe she could really wake up at dawn. Sit down, study and try. At least try. The Princess lit a small lamp and turned the flame to a strong burn. The room was small, nothing too unnecessary. Some of her fellow teen royals had entire castle levels dedicated to their 'bedrooms'. Here it was simple, it was the only place in Rocqueburne that was.
A bed, a mirrored vanity and a closet, were the furniture.††A lush, fat rug took up almost the entire stone floor, woven, and a deep grey color. A large pile of papers were pushed into a dark, barren corner of sadness and neglect. All her reports and investments sat there, dusty and spider infested. Some girls got vacations and prince charming for their birthdays, like normal princesses. She got financial opportunities and fund options. Lucky her. †
All she wanted was one of those Arabian stallions.
Jacqueline sat at her vanity and slouched downward. Lazily, she picked up her glittering tiara of sapphires, emeralds and aurora sunburst diamonds. It was heavy thing, laid in a rich, shiny copper to blend with her hair. The ornament was one of many, but the Princess liked this one best.
She daintily placed it on her head, "My Girl if you nurture these business investments, one day you won't need this kingdom!" And Jacqueline shook her finger at her reflection, mimicking her father.
"Grain, grain, grain, grain, grain!" And the Princess changed her voice to something shrill, mocking her mother, like a crow.
Keeping her tiara on, she got up to get ready for bed. Changing into a nightgown, sloppily braiding her hair and fiddling with a candle, she sighed and looked out to the large French doors that opened out to the ocean. Night made everything seem peaceful and at ease.
Meandering over there, she pushed out the doors to smell the sea air. Life wasn't hard, but it certainly wasn't what she wanted to do. Oh well, she thought to herself and shrugged, if these are my only problems. Figuring that of all the world's troubles, these weren't bad to have. †
Leaving the doors open Jacqueline let in the ocean sounds, dinging bells from the sea fairing buoys, along with salt air, into her room.††Climbing into bed, she extinguished her lamp and dug the side of her face into the soft cotton pillow; still wearing her tiara because she could.
Tomorrow was a new day and surely, Jacqueline could make amends with her mother then.
Elsewhere, in the darkness of Rocqueburne, someone was trampling the royal rosebushes. The person's heavy boots crushed the young plant to the root, smothering it. Over a wall, across grass, jumping from shadow to shadow, the only sign an intruder was the soft rustle of leaves as it disappeared, slinking upwards into a tree.††
The moon aided the stranger's journey as its prying light was hidden behind a cloud.
Hidden in darkness, a hook came out from the green foliage and anchored to a stone balcony rail. The person swung from the tree branch to the stone face of the fortress. Hovering feet above a passing guard patrol, the shape slithered up the rope, soundlessly, until it was standing firmly on the Princess's balcony floor.
The rope was pulled upwards, flicking over the railing and coiled on the ground. Before the moon revealed itself again, the figure was through the elaborate french doors and inside.
The boots, pierced with thorns and covered in dirt, silently moved across the lush carpet. Wasting no time, picking whichever side the royal body was sleeping closest to, it descended upon her, gag first.
Jacqueline awoke to her breathing being interrupted and something forced between her teeth. Literally choking at the surprise, she fussed, believing she was only dreaming some man was trying to smother the life out of her. The Princess scratched upwards, grabbing at the air as she was pulled from her laying position,to †up sitting.
The smell of salt and leather invaded her nose as a gloved hand covered her mouth, only allowing a bit of her nose to do the breathing for her whole body.††
Her legs were held down by the man's knee and with one hand he bound her ankles with rough, sea faring rope. She kicked in protest but only resembled a flailing mermaid.††
"Settle down!" The voice snapped at her hoarsely, the bottom half of his face covered with a black cloth. He had brown eyes and a tan skin that hadn't been shielded from the very sun much. The brim of his hat clicked against the top of her head while he tried to grab her wrists.
Jacqueline, not very astute at fighting, grabbed the closest thing and hit her assaulter with it. A luxurious pillow smacked the rogue in the face.
Her blueish grey eyes narrowed, not approving at her own choice of weaponry. The stranger looked down at the Princess, an unreadable emotion in his eyes. Was it surprise? Disapproval? Maybe bewilderment? Jacqueline couldn't tell. †He simply tilted her forward and then threw her body back into her hard, cherry wood headboard.††
This smacked her head so hard, it pushed her tiara forward. She bit against her gag and tried to shake off the stunned feeling but a sense of balance didn't turn quickly. Now, with little protest the man tied her wrists together with the rough, workers rope.
Still seeing stars, Jacqueline was easily hoisted up and out of her warm bed. At the action, her gleaming tiara slid off and bounced on the floor. Thrown over a shoulder, her legs pressed against his chest, the Princess was carried out of her room.††
She thrashed but didn't get anywhere. The two found themselves out on the balcony but the captor hesitated, like he were taking in the elevated view.
The castle rocked suddenly, a violent explosion lit up the sky. Fire and bellowing black smoke polluted the air. A second smaller explosion let off a softer aftershock and every guard rushed in the direction.
Which was the other side of the castle.
The furthest point from Jacqueline's quarters.
Seeming that was the signal, the man uncurled the rope and hook. Hooking the edge to the rail, he grabbed the rope and claimed over the side gracefully.
For some reason, NOW was when Jacqueline got that she was being kidnapped, so started her muffled screaming. As she was hunched over her captors shoulder like a sack of spuds, she was wetting her gag with spit and trying to bite thought it. Screaming all the while.
It was all inaudible but she tried. Now, of all times, but she put some effort into it at least. Man's feet were on the cobblestone ground and the galloping of horses could be heard. In the far distance, fire curled up into the night, the stables were a blaze.
He braced himself, clenching her around the middle, like a precious barrel on his shoulder. With his free hand he snatched the reigns of a passing mare.
Tristan. Jacqueline recognized the brown and speckled white coat. Well, she guessed the stable boys didn't undress her after all.
Horribly, she and he were swung into Tristan's awaiting saddle, in a hurried manner. The poor spooked animal ran like the wind, eager to escape danger and certain death that was the entire palace and all of Rocqueburne.
Captor and captive disappeared into the night.
"Jacqueline! Jacqueline!" Screamed a voice while torches and swords clattered behind it.
The Queen and King, dressed in only their sleep robes ran down the hall to the princess's room, "Answer me!" †
With a ram from a guard's shoulder, the door effortlessly broke inwards to the empty room. Igniting the oil lamps, they saw the tossed bed and muddy footprints leading both to and from the balcony doors.
The guards quickly found the princess's tiara and also, a long, brown and black pheasant feather, half stuck in the bed's pillow. There was no Princess.
They solemnly brought the feather to the Queen and oddly, her demeanor changed. Twirling it, she looked to her husband with a slow, knowing glance. Mourning seemed replaced with a thoughtful, complicated expression.
"Pirates?" She mused, flicking the very tip of her chin with the pheasant piece, "This just may be a blessing in disguise."