3AM Epiphany #95–Ysobel

This assignment from the 3AM epiphany is entitled “Summary” and we are tasked with telling a short narrative summary in the third-person point-of-view that takes place over a span of years.

I wasn’t too happy with this assignment. It didn’t speak much to my creative spark, as I prefer deep characterization and descriptive details–elements that seem to preclude summarization.

Nonetheless, here is my take on this assignment, with a new character, Ysobel:

When Ysobel was eight years old, the King’s only child died, and her father became the Heir. Ysobel knew she would one day become Queen. An anger filled her heart and she swore that she would never let them crown her and chain her to the throne.

When the tutors came, she fled into the Royal Woods and hid amidst the boughs of the rowan trees. She found a quiet contentment there and learned the language of the birds.

When she was forbidden to leave the castle walls, she fled to the highest ramparts and crawled into the arrowslits to stare out into the countryside, where the serfs toiled in the fields and the lords hunted foxes and quail for sport.

When she was ten, her breasts began to grow, and she was strapped into a jeweled corset for the first time. As the laces tightened around her waist and she gasped for breath, the maids and ladies giggled about the suitors for her hand already flocking to the Court.

Ysobel cultivated a scowl, demanded that all her meals be prepared with garlic, and refused to wear the powdered, jeweled bouffant that proclaimed a Lady’s wealth, rank, and beauty.

Instead she bound her raven-black hair into a plain gold caul.

Despite all this, the suitors persisted. At the age of 13, the King pledged her hand and body to the 27 year old Duke of Gascony. As a Queen, she must produce heirs.

They were wed a year later. That night, she fought against the consummation, and her husband struck her across the temple. Then he took her whilst she lay stunned from the pain. Five months later she miscarried, after a fall from a horse. None knew that she had thrown herself off the galloping beast.

When Ysobel turned sixteen and still childless, her father died, and she became the Heir in truth. The King was old, and she knew she had too little time left. She began an clandestine correspondence with a petty princeling from the Bavarian Provinces, who never knew with whom he actually spoke.

“Take the Princess” Ysobel urged him. “She is weak, meek, and mild. Dull of wit. She will not fight. Her ransom will bring you chests of gold and jewels and herds of horses. But you must come before the King dies and the guard upon her becomes inpenetrable. Beware the Duke. Her husband will not easily relinquish his claim to power.”

The princeling leapt at this chance to gain wealth, and readily agreed to the conspiracy. On the day of the planned kidnapping, Ysobel crept into the kitchens and laced the vats of mulled cider with powdered hennabane. She used only enough to make those who drank very ill. That night, all the nobles and the knights staggered through the stony halls with stomach cramps and hallucinations, while Ysobel feigned sleep. Under her sleeping gown she wore wool breeches and riding boots, with a long steel dagger sheathed at her belt and a pouch of silver coins in her bodice. The excitement of her impending freedom consumed her, and she clutched at her pillow while she waited for the Bavarian to come.

When he burst into her rooms, she pretended suprise and horror, screamed once, and let him carry her away. One week later, deep in the wilderness that formed the border between the Kingdom and the Bavarian provinces, she used the last of her powdered hennabane on the bandits’ stew, and quietly slipped into the woods, claiming her freedom at last.

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