Clío: A Princess Gets Her Prince
Full name: Clío Raena Ekaterine Ashworth Maquesta
Age: 19 ~ Nameday: Spring of the Year of the Indigo Siren, Century One, Age of Diamonds (2sp.3011)
Height: 5'2" ~ Hair color: caramel-y golden blonde ~ Eye color: cerulean blue ~ Nationality: Anglica'an
Titles: Princess of Anglica'a (called My Lady), High Princess of the Sister Kingdoms (Your Grace), [later] Queen of the Sister Kingdoms (Your Majesty)
Spouse: Trystane II Maquesta, High Prince of Aesha'an, second son of King Gavin (2 years)
Princess Clío Raena Ekaterine Ashworth was born in the spring of the Year of the Indigo Siren, Century One, Age of Diamonds (Sp., Indigo Siren, C1, Dia. ~or~ 2sp.3011); to Duchess Raena Berring Ashworth (d.) of Baldricshire, High Princess of Anglica’a and Rohannon; and Duke Randon II Ashworth (d.) of Baldricshire, High Prince of Anglica’a, brother of King Alleck III (d.). Delivered at Baldricshire Castle in the duchy of Baldricshire in Anglica’a, Clío is the niece of the King of Anglica’a, making her a princess of the realm. Princess Clío married Trystane II, High Prince of Aesha’an, son of King Gavin; in Wi., Sapphire Wyvern, C1, Dia. (3wi.3028); at the Maquesta Fortress, which became her new home; becoming Princess Clío Ashworth Maquesta of Anglica’a, High Princess of Aesha’an. Trystane and Clío are also the the wouldbe duke and duchess of the duchy of Ashworth—but the events of this story prevent that: following the deaths of King Gavin and the Crown Prince Liam, they become the rightful king and queen of Aesha’an, duke and duchess of the capital city of Majere, instead. Our story begins in Sp., Indigo Phoenix, C1, Dia. (3sp.3031).
Clío spent the former half of her childhood at Baldricshire Castle, in the care of her parents and several nannies and tutors. Her relationship with both parents was good, albeit a bit formal and structured (as relations within noble families tend to be), and she loved both parents dearly. They made it a point to spend time with their only child: they had a habit of spending two hours each evening with young Clío, with few exceptions, just before putting her to bed themselves, and they often took meals with her as well. If this meant their duties kept them up until all hours after bringing them to a halt for two hours each evening, so be it. This is not a given in busy noble households, but it was important to this duke and duchess that their daughter have as traditional an upbringing as possible for one who carries a royal title.
Beginning at the age of four and continuing until sixteen, Clío received an education befitting one of her status: a formal education in reading, writing, etiquette and other social matters, as, being a princess, she would be tasked with managing those aspects of her future marriage and home; a semi-formal education in the other basic areas of study: maths, sciences, history and the like; and an informal education in all matters political. It was another aspect of her upbringing in which both of her parents were highly interested and heavily involved. They raised her in as close to the manner in which the average parents would as was possible.
Which is why the nature of their deaths when Clío was only eight years old was a shock, not only to Clío and those close to the duke and duchess, but to the majority of the realm.
Two unmarried women of the lesser nobility came forward with claims that Duke Randon had fathered illegitimate children on them. When the duke refused to acknowledge the children as his, as he claimed he had never had relations with the women in the first place, they hatched a plot to murder him—a plot which proved successful. Prince Randon was set upon one night while on his way back to the castle after conducting business in town, and his throat was slit. The High Prince of Anglica’a had long since taken to traveling with just a single guard at his side, as he saw it as less ostentatious and attention-grabbing, and it had so far proved unnecessary to travel with an entourage—especially short distances, as he had that night. But he and his bodyguard had been ambushed by three men; outnumbered and taken more-or-less by surprise, both were easily cut down.
No High Prince of Anglica’a would ever travel with only one bodyguard ever again, the grieving king decried—not that there would ever be one again, as it happened.
An investigation was conducted: the noblewomen’s plot was quickly discovered and they and their accomplices were brought to justice with a quiet non-public hanging at Baldricshire, which the duchess attended. Exactly what the women hoped to gain by killing the duke was never clear, but justice was served nonetheless.
But no amount of justice could quiet the duchess’ distress at losing her beloved husband. Two months after his murder, Duchess Raena herself was found dead, having hanged herself by a bedsheet from the rafters of her bedchamber.
Great must her grief have been, for her to have left the daughter she loved so much an orphan. No other explanation could be reached by those close to her, as none made sense—but then, suicide rarely does.
At only eight years of age, Clío had only a cursory knowledge of these events. But she knew what it was important to know: within less than a winter, both her parents were suddenly dead, and Baldricshire Castle seemed abandoned, haunted. The beautiful gardens she had loved to explore no longer seemed as colorful; meals no longer tasted as delicious, and her bed did not seem as welcoming without her parents to tuck her away tight for the night. Her dolls seemed to cry along with her, and even the spaniels who slept with her in her bed seemed sad and distressed; as much as she loved them, they were a poor substitute for parents. As an only child and a princess, Clío had been kept relatively isolated from other children as a matter of course: she had no siblings and no real close friends. She felt very much alone.
Duke Randon’s castle was put in the hands of a very capable steward until a new duke could be appointed—one was a year or so later, a distant cousin of the king’s—and Clío still had her team of loving caregivers tending to her day and night. Still, Clío floundered; a mere three fortnights after her parents’ deaths, the king and queen decided Clío should come to the Ashworth Palace, where she could be close to their daughter, her cousin the High Princess Haylia.
The coming months were difficult for the young princess. Her life had been turned upside down by the time winter melted into spring that Year of the Platinum Siren (M.H.3019). Her parents were gone, never to return to her again; her home had turned cold, and she had to leave it, along with her beloved dogs. Most of her caregivers traveled with her, so that she may maintain some sense of normalcy amidst all this change, but that did little to soften the blow.
Nonetheless, the decision to move her to the capital was the right one. Clío quickly bonded with a branch of her family she had rarely spent time with before: her aunt Queen Olessa, her cousin, and even the king no less.
On his way across the palace yards one afternoon, King Alleck crossed paths with Princess Clío wandering the grounds alone, eyeing the Swan Maze, a prominent feature of the Ashworth Palace and famous across the kingdom. Though he no doubt had some duty or other to which to attend, the king stopped and took the time himself to introduce Clío to the maze, which would become Clío’s sanctuary in the coming weeks and months. Whenever she needed to be alone, she would make her way to it and find a new way through it, to the center where an enormous white marble fountain in the shape of a swan—the sigil of House Ashworth—with its wings spread wide as if to take flight. She would sit at that fountain for hours, reading, embroidering or simply lost in thought, the soft sound of the perpetually running water soothing her. Anglica’a was southerly enough that the weather was often beautiful, without being oppressively hot. To Clío, it was the most perfect place in the world. And she needed such a place, for she would spend the latter half of her childhood at that palace, and it would become as much a home to her in that time as Baldricshire had been.
At the first Yule Feast following the loss of her parents, Clío would as soon have kept to herself in her rooms as attend that feast. The yule was simply not the same without her mother and father to celebrate with her. But the king required her attendance, and so she obeyed, as she always did. It was at that feast that she met Trystane, the second son of the king of Aesha’an, their southern neighbor and closest and oldest ally. Little did she know just how important Aesha’an and its well-known High Prince would become to her in the coming years. They would, in every way, become hers, and not always easily.
Around the age of eleven, Clío stumbled across a book in the palace library—one that the librarians probably did not know was there, for it was a work of fiction of the sort that was considered terribly scandalous and in bad taste. It was by sneaking this book up to her bedchamber, hiding it under an enormous armoire where the maids were unlikely to find it, and reading it late at night after she was supposed to be asleep, that she learned of the things lovers do when they are alone together. When she read those pages—every last word on every last one of them—they made her flush with embarrassment, even though she was alone. Still, she was enraptured, and she often found herself thinking of the beautiful Aesha’ani Prince Trystane, who was growing more beautiful and impeccably chivalrous every year.
She was thoroughly taken with him, as many girls her age were; but she was luckier than most—she actually got to spend time with him, speak with him, touch him, laugh and dance with him. And each time he or she left to go home, she could hardly wait until the next time she would see him; she longed for him when he wasn’t near her, which of course was, unbearably, far more often than not. She often went to sleep with visions of kissing him dancing behind her eyelids.
In the Year of the Emerald Wyvern (M.H.3026), after seven years of spending every possible moment together during royal visits, seventeen-year-old Trystane and fifteen-year-old Clío, realizing they were desperately in love, became lovers. Not in the carnal sense; not right away, at least. He courted her, making more frequent trips between the Maquesta Fortress and the Ashworth Palace on his own, with only a small entourage in tow. They would do what most young lovers do: sneak off to some out-of-the-way spot or another as often as they could to steal kisses and hold each other close, dreaming of a future together. Trystane, as a High Prince of the most powerful kingdom on Morgadesh, had a certain amount of power at his disposal, as well as a fair amount of control over his own future; he swore he would move heaven and earth if necessary to convince their families to allow them to marry.
Alas, King Alleck had other plans. The prince a princess wishes to marry and the one it would be most politically advantageous for her to do so, are rarely one and the same, and Clío was no exception. Anglica’a and Aesha’an were practically one and the same already, and Aesha’an’s biggest rival for power—Rohannon to the east, the oldest kingdom on the continent—was growing closer and closer to equaling Aesha’an every day, it seemed. A potential problem, considering the kings of the Sisters and Queen Deanna of Rohannon had never been on the best of terms. A stronger unity through marriage with Rohannon’s own sister kingdom Kartha’an was the best solution, to keep the balance of power more-or-less in check. Kartha’an’s High Prince was eligible, and so was a princess of Anglica’a; it was a perfect fit.
For all except Clío and Trystane. They would obey the kings’ decry—to do otherwise was simply not an option. But both were devastated.
Clío was still adamant that Trystane should be the one to have her maidenhead, despite the knowledge that, should anyone find out she was not a virgin when she married Altair of Kartha’an, the punishment would be severe. At first Trystane resisted, loathe to treat her as one might a common whore; but he loved her so much, it didn’t take all that much pleading to change his mind. That night was a magical one, and one they would repeat twice more as the date of Clío’s marriage quickly approached.
Clío formally met her betrothed just weeks before their intended wedding date. Altair was strikingly handsome: tall, with golden blonde hair and very light blue eyes. If circumstances had been different, Clío would happily have married him. Though his demeanor was cool, he was not an unkind man, and when he kissed her, her heart responded as she would have wished.
His kindness was either an illusion, or it would change dramatically before very long.
Immediately after that kiss, flutter though her heart might, she had felt a sense of regret, as if she had been unfaithful to the man she loved. It was in that moment that she knew she would never be faithful to the man she was to marry. She loved Trystane too deeply to ever let him go.
You, dear reader, if you have been told the tale, know how the story goes from there: King Alleck’s sudden death from pneumonia leaves Anglica’a vulnerable with no king and no heir to take the throne. Fearing civil war, Queen Olessa acts fast—though perhaps a bit rashly—breaking Clío’s betrothal to Altair to marry her to Trystane. That marriage, along with that of Princess Haylia and Aesha’an’s Crown Prince Liam, as well as the signing of the Blending of the Sisters Treaty, in the Year of the Sapphire Wyvern (M.H.3028), provides Anglica’a with a king and two strong heirs, and therefore a more secure future.
It is a decision that will prove calamitous indeed.