A Knights Tale...
(of another sort)
As Princess Rosebud entered the tavern, she was both pleased, and disappointed that no one recognized her. Pleased that her disguise was effective, and disappointed because as a Princess she had a measure of the "Royal Arrogance". She had put a lot of thought into her disguise, trading items of value to some of the palace servants to acquire "less than royal" clothing. To an outsider, she appeared to look like one of the lesser nobility, as no one would expect "The Princess" to look anything less than royal, or to appear in a common tavern her arrival went mostly unremarked. Although to get here she had a hard time slipping past the palace guard, and outwitting her royal bodyguard.
The one person in the tavern who actually recognized the Princess was a knight of the realm. He preferred the camaraderie of a common tavern to the palace banquet hall and its stratified social order. This particular knight felt that the monarchy was loosing touch with the common man, so he made it his duty to stay connected with the public, and besides this tavern was more relaxed and friendly as it was away from the palace intrigues. Many here (and across the kingdom) knew him, as a kind, fair, just, and gentle soul and as such accorded him his privacy when he appeared to desire it. Tonight he was sitting at a table back in the shadowed corner by the stairs where he could observe all that went on around him.
When Rosebud entered the tavern, he recognized her immediately and wondered what she was doing here. That was when he noticed she was alone and wearing a disguise. He liked this more down to earth look she was wearing, the long dress instead of a formal gown, green to match her emerald eyes. She wore her hair, the color of red gold, loose and flowing rather than the accustomed coiffure she normally affected. Her gloves reached her elbows, and were also green to match her dress. Her full pouting lips with just the barest hint of shine needed no coloring to draw the eyes. She had an elfin quality in her heart shaped face, just hinting at the smoldering passion hidden behind her eyes. Her skin was the purest alabaster. She looked no more out of place here tonight than she looked in the ballroom back in the palace.
There was the usual colorful clientele here tonight, and the party was in full swing. The knight resolved to keep an eye on the princess unobtrusively until such time as she needed to know that he was there. If anything happened to her, there would be hell to pay. So she was rather fortunate that she selected this particular tavern to visit. As a princess, she had no inkling of the possible repercussions of her night out alone.
As he watched her enjoy the party with a wild abandon that she could never show at home, he marveled at how easily she mingled with the common folk here and wondered if his previous assessment of her personality was indeed mistaken. He had always thought her aloof, arrogant, and above the "little people" as it were. Seeing her here now, he wondered if she acted that way at home because it was expected of her. So he watched her dance. That she would dance with anyone who asked her without concern of their status, or station proved that she was indeed a down to earth person rather the haughty Princess that many assumed her to be. She seemed to be enjoying herself immensely. He decided to make his presence known to the Princess, in a subdued fashion. He flagged down one of the barmaids for a refill of his tankard, and directed her to serve the princess a drink the next time she sat down to rest and put it on his bill.
Shanna the barmaid who had been known to bundle with an attractive patron or two for extra income returned to the knights table with a fresh tankard and remarked to him "She must be special indeed, for in all the years you have been a customer here I have never seen you send a drink to another patron." He smiled up at her and said "that indeed she is." and did not elaborate.
Shanna always had a soft spot for Stranger, though she knew next to nothing about the man. She did not even know that he was a knight of the realm. In spite of her occupation, and how she earned her extra money he had always treated her with respect, and dignity. He never tried to take advantage of her, nor did he smack her ass like other patrons sometimes did. He was always kind, polite, and well mannered, and always thanked her for her service. He had never visited her after closing even though she had made the invitation several times. But tonight he had asked her to deliver a drink to "the woman in the emerald dress" and to mention that it was from him. This got Shanna's curiosity up, but she decided that it might be best not to inquire too close. Though she did vow that if the woman in the green dress did cause Stranger some grief, she would take up the matter personally.
When Rosebud finished with her current dance, Shanna brought her a tall glass of fruited wine, and told her it was from the Stranger in the corner. As they both looked at him, he lifted his tankard in a silent toast the the pair. Rosebud was pleasantly surprised by the drink, and decided to go thank the stranger herself.
As she approached the table Stranger rose, and bowed. "Your Highness" he said. She stopped, hand rising to her mouth a look of fear coming into her eyes. Before she could move or speak, he continued. "Oh yes Princess Rosebud, I know who you are, and your secret is safe enough with me. In fact I think you look more at home here among these folks than you did at the Grand Ball last month. So you need not fear me mentioning your presence here alone if you catch my meaning. I am here for the same reasons you appear to be here. To relax, have a good time, and enjoy the simple pleasures of the evening. I am known here and other places as Stranger, though that is merely a nickname, I would request that you tell me when you are ready to return home that I may escort you. The streets are not always safe after dark. Otherwise enjoy yourself, I will keep an eye out for you in case of trouble, but otherwise I will remain here in my corner and keep to the shadows for the evening. I just wanted you to know that I was here, and available if you need me." As he remained standing, she still could not quite find her voice. As her gaze traveled up from the table to his face, she could not help but get butterflies in her stomach, and weak in the knees for here was the most perfect specimen of a man she had ever laid eyes on.
He was tall, but not too tall. Broad shouldered but not disgustingly muscled like most men of her acquaintance. He had a certain lithe grace, and economy of movement that before she was even aware of falling, he had placed a chair and eased her into it. He had a clean shaven face that could stop her heart, and the deepest most unusual gray eyes she had ever gazed into. A red bronze suntan with medium length neatly trimmed dark brown hair to top it all off. She fair swooned when she saw him up close by the light of the candle on the table. "Just who are you?" she asked in wonder. "I am one of the Knights of the realm" was the reply. "You wouldn't recognize me because every time you have seen me I was in full parade armor suitable for standing in at formal palace functions."
"If when you return to the palace with me, I were to mention that I was your chaperone, you would not get into as much trouble for ditching your bodyguards, and they would not get punished so severely for loosing their charge." She had to agree with this assessment when she thought about it logically, she knew she would be in a lot of trouble for sneaking out alone. She had planned to take responsibility for the repercussions of her actions, and plead leniency for the unfortunate bodyguards. If she accepted Strangers offer of protection, it would minimize the unpleasant consequences all around. Knights of the realm she knew were the embodiment of honor and integrity above and beyond reproach. Each and every one hand selected by the King to be his personal cadre answerable only to him. They were proven to hold the highest moral code, and loyalty to the throne (not the person on it). They were answerable only to the throne its self, and were otherwise considered by all to be above the law. This authority has never been abused in all the millennia of the realms existence.
As Rosebud came out of the dream sequence, she marveled at the man she had been paired with. She knew deep inside that she could come to love one such as he, and knew also that he was a rare gem among mankind the like of which she was particularly fortunate to meet. She was so enthralled with him, she wondered that his residual image was her ideal man. The hardest part of her lessons was the letting go required to let her partner provide, control, and maintain the dream. That she looked upon awakening exactly the same as he saw her in the dream, but for the dress and the gloves, caused her no small amount of pleasure. She arose from the dream bed with a big smile knowing that she must tell her best friend Shanna about her experience.
As she headed down the corridor to see her tutor, She saw her friend Shanna speaking to a young boy, most likely a messenger of some sort. Shanna was of normal height, with a slim build except for her ample bust. A feature that attracted the eyes of a lot of guys she had no doubt. Curvy hips with a compact derriere to complete the package. What really set Shanna apart from the crowd was her gorgeous chestnut colored hair, her smoky brown eyes her olive skin and her permanent half smile caused by a slight harelip. Rosebud smiled to herself, "Anywhere else, with dynamite looks like that Shanna would have her pick of any guy around." "Shanna!" She called, waving to her friend, "wait till you hear about my first sequence with my new partner." "Who did you get paired with?" Replied her friend. "I don't know much about him, but it seems he is a dashing young Knight of the Realm. Whats more, he knew you!" Shanna stopped in her tracks and looked at Rosebud in awe. "He knew me?" "Yes he seemed to know you as a tavern wench that he very much respected." was the reply. "What's more, you and I both looked in the sequence almost exactly like we do now. Although, in the sequence it seemed that you didn't know me." Shanna closed her mouth with an audible snap. "It wasn't by any chance Stranger was it?" "Yes, how did you know?" Rosebud asked. "We were tried out as a pairing, and we hit it off very well, but it seems we didn't quite get the immersion that was required." was the reply. "You have the best most loyal partner you could ever hope for, if you can earn his trust."
"Earn his trust? you say that like it is something hard to do" "It is" replied Shanna. "Seems somewhere in his past I got the impression that a lover, or close female family member hurt or betrayed him so badly that he was barely hanging on to his life for several months in the monastery's infirmary. I don't know this for fact, this is just the feeling I got from our pairings. I never was able to earn his trust, so we didn't make it as a pair." Rosebud considered this information for a minute before continuing.
"Shanna, do you believe in 'Love at first sight?" "Yes, why?" "Because I believe that is what is happening to me. He is such a catch!" "Tutor says that if we can fall in love, it would strengthen the bond between us and help us both protect each other in times of danger." "because of the emotional attachment that you would have with each other." mused Shanna. "Well I gotta run and drop off this work with tutor, see you tonight at the feast Shanna!" Rosebud said waving at her friend as she strode off.
During her visit with the tutor, she was told that she had in fact performed much better than expected in her pairing, and was now instructed to begin trying to become an active participant instead of being purely a recipient being directed at the random whim of her partner. She thought about this as she was leaving the tutors room several hours later, and saw the wisdom of the instructions, working as a loving couple side by side in perfect teamwork seems like it would increase the odds of survival.