My name is Astraea Conwenna. I was born in the Kingdom of Glæma, on the 190th year of the actual house reign, the house of Scevola. My father is the Duke of Conwenna, which you’d think it is something good at least. The dukes are only second to the royal family, theoretically, having many lands, money and power. Albeit the beautiful title, the duke is only regarded as so in name. For many generations the house of Conwenna has been regarded as a house of idiots. Once it was filled with powerful warriors, great economists and wise statesman. But that was once upon a fairy tale. My grandfather made many terrible investments and lost a great part of our land and money. He literally sold a goldmine in exchange for a horse. My father married my mother, a wise woman but of low status, which was the only good decision he made all his life, but cheated on her so many times and had so many extramarital children that I suspect many of those were just con-artists. His greatest saying is: “no gold in this world can compare with a beautiful woman and a tasty wine”. You can guess where the rest of the family money went.
Luckily, as the third legitimate daughter, and the seventh children overall, I was raised by my aunt, my mother’s sister, Arya Shalhevet. Never married, she was exiled from her own family and took refuge with her youngest sister, my mother. Some say she pretended to be a man and joined the army, but was discovered and her father plead for her life; other say she fell in love with a woman and tried to elope, but was caught. Nevertheless, she was always had a strong aura and faced everyone without fear. Everything I’ve ever learnt, I owe it to her. I may have my mother eyes and my father’s nose, but my life was molded by aunt Shalhevet. And I was pretty determined to have a future like hers: never get married and spend the rest of my life training and studying with auntie. However, my plans were ruined by my idiotic father.
At that point in my life, twenty-two years old and not living in the main house, I thought my father for sure forgot my existence. And that thought was filled with joy: if the main family forgot my existence, I wouldn’t have to act like a noble lady; no need to go to tea parties or to be courted by spoiled brats. However, the king was in search of a suitable wife for his third son and daddy remembered his disposable daughter who had just the right age and no fiancé. And so, in a beautiful morning as auntie and I trained sword in the backyard, a letter arrived. An unrefusable invitation for tea in the royal palace.
“Do I really have to go? Can’t I just pretend to be sick?”, I asked auntie, fake tears dropping.
“Sorry, girl, but if you pretend to be sick, they will just set another date”. Auntie said laughing at my crying face.
“Can’t I run away? I will get some man’s clothes just like auntie!”
“And how did that end for me?”, she said, disappointed.
“But auntie trained me well, I can do it!”
“Just go child. This isn’t even an engagement party yet. You’re just meeting”.
“That’s right!”, I smiled, “He can still hate me!”
“You better behave, or I’ll be mad too”.
“Just leave it to me, I can definitely do it!”
“Do what?” She asked, but I didn’t answer. I had to finish my planning.
Although aunt Shalhevet recommended me to behave, my freedom and future were more important. I never paid much attention to the court and its members, so I had to seek the help of my closest – and only – friend, Countess Sybil Kovač. Better than any official, she knew everything about everyone.
“Sister!”, I exclaimed as I saw her arriving in the next day. The palace event was in less than a week, I needed as much information as possible.
“Sister!”. She ran and hugged me. A manipulative lady and a great strategist, a master in etiquette and a Machiavellian schemer. How could I ask for a better best friend? “I came for a game. What do you have for me?” She was also addicted to gaming and would do anything for a new game.
“Auntie’s friend brought this from the countries down the line, I thought you would enjoy it”. The countries below the Equatorian line were far and would hardly communicate, much less stablish commerce with our Kingdom. My friend was really satisfied with her acquisition. Her eyes shined as I opened the bag and black and white pieces fell.
“What’s this name called?”
“Sounds interesting”, she smiled and looked at me. “What is the payment this time?”
“My father wants me to get married”.
“You? Married?”, she laughed, while trying to keep her lady-like composure. “That’s preposterous”.
“I agree, but I still have to go have tea with his family”.
“I would like to be a fly to watch you acting lady-like in front of the in-laws. But who is the groom?”
“The third prince”. As I said that, her eyes widened. That meant gossip.
“I see”. She gave me a big smile. “If I knew it was this kind of information, I would have given a promotion”
“You don’t want the game?”.
“That’s not it!”, she said grabbing the pieces. “It’s just that this kind of information didn’t even need me to deliver. You see, everyone is aware of the third prince gossip. Specially after he was refused by so many brides.”.
“Is that so? Is he that much of a scumbag?”
“On the opposite. He is regard as an ethical and good man. It’s a pity that he can’t perform”.
“Yeah.” She gave me a sad face that she used every time she told a tragic history. “If you paid a little bit of attention to the court you wouldn’t had to ask me. Have you heard of the Tiger General?”
“Of course. I studied his techniques with auntie. He was the youngest general to ascend to his position, with magic that could rival the mythical Black Dragon Knight and whose sword is now in the Royal Museum. It’s a pity he had to end his career so young. If he was still active, our country would be unstoppable in war”. As I said this, she smiled at me without saying a thing. I looked at her for a while, trying to understand why she brought that up, when it hit me. “The third prince is the Tiger General? How did I not know that?”
“You always ignore everything related to the court and the royal palace. And every time you go out your only interest is books and armor”. That was a well-deserved slap on my face. They could have the same name, and I wouldn’t make the relation. Maybe this marriage was not as bad as I imagined.
“If he is the Tiger General, why was he constantly refused by his brides?” As a legendary general, even if he was not active anymore, he should have lots of women going for him.
“It’s all because of his accident. After he lost the movement on his legs, many suspect that he’ll be unable to produce an heir. The royal family puts a lot of pressure in the production of as many heirs as possible. Specially in this generation”.
“The rumor is that a renown prophet came to visit the first King when he rose to power. He said that a child would be born in the tenth generation to bring harmony and prosperity to the Kingdom. They regard those words as the ultimate truth. Because of that, it is believed that they want to get the prince married only to get rid of him. Of course, they have offered some money in exchange of it, but most noble families considered the money to be nothing more than crumbs. And the girls say that they don’t want to marry a brute cripple, abandoned by his own family”.
“Those girls are the reason I don’t want anything to do with nobility”.
“Well, now that you know who is your husband-to-be, will you marry him?” And the gossiper was back.
“Nah... He can be a great general, but a terrible husband. And I don’t want a husband, even if he is a god”.
“Hypocrite”. She snorted.