KC Wednesday prompt: Caroline is a headstrong, brave French princess promised to a Viking Brute. He comes for her and their wedding day will be their first time meeting.
Caroline sat at her dressing table, gazing calmly at her reflection in the glass as her ladies maids carefully and masterfully plaited her long flaxen tresses to one side. Soon the couvrechef was in places, the silken cloth framing her face beautifully, but the calm, beautiful countenance of the woman didn’t match the war that was waging behind the ethereal visage.
Caroline had always known that being the only daughter of King William of the House of Forbes meant that her hand in marriage would be but a bargaining chip in France’s foreign affairs. But she had no way of knowing that her hand would be the deciding factor in whether her country’s resources and people were plundered and pillaged by Vikings. And now, in the wake of her father’s sudden, unexpected death, Caroline was unequivocally France’s only hope to surviving foreign invasion by means of treaty﹣matrimonial treaty.
“I heard that Klaus and his félag have plundered and pillaged beyond measure and Klaus is by far the most notorious, ruthless and feared viking warrior…” Elena, one of Caroline’s ladies maids murmured to Bonnie, another of Caroline’s ladies maids, as she re-tied the ribbon fastening Caroline’s braid.
“But isn’t he a jarl?” Bonnie replied. “Stefan was telling me that the majority of vikings are ‘karls’ and are middle class free people… Stefan says that Jarls are the noble class, and their wealth is measured not just in their amount of treasure or number of ships and estates, but also in their number of followers… This Klaus must be a noteworthy man to have such an army of warriors at his disposal…”
Caroline tugged nervously at her long wool sleeves before fiddling with the shorter tapered sleeves that were layered over the top of her gown at the mention of her closest friend Viscount Stefan Salvatore.
The Salvatores had been close allies of the Forbes family for generations, and Stefan’s eldest and only brother Damon served as her mother’s close personal advisor. Despite the fact that she did her best to steer clear of the eldest Salvatore after some questionable behavior towards her in her youth, Stefan was one of Caroline’s dearest and most trusted friends. When even the young Salvatore conceded that Klaus and his Vikings were France’s best chance after her father’s death, Caroline knew her fate. She was just glad that Stefan had agreed to escort her down the aisle in the absence of her father.
“Enough, you gossipy, insipid half-wits. The Princess has been dressed and you’re starting to bother me, and if you’re bothering me, I shudder to think how the Princess feels,” Lady Katherine Pierce said, her voice and presence commanding the room, as Caroline’s chief lady-in-waiting should. “Be gone… Out with you… Out out OUT!” she said, all but grabbing the servants’ petticoats and dragging them out of the room. Once there were alone, Katherine turned back towards the quiet, poised blonde and chuckled with a sigh. “Lord in Heaven, I haven’t the faintest how you can stand all that chirping day in and day out… I’d rip their throats out if they were my ladies maids…”
“They’re usually much less… a twitter…” Caroline murmured with a small smile, the commentary chirps echoing in her mind and she took a shuddering breath as her gaze flitted back to her reflection in the glass.
“Caroline… are you… alright?” Katherine asked tentatively, approaching her friend and sovereign with worried eyes as she kneeled slowly beside the seated princess.
“The greater good…”
“The greater good takes precedence over self-preservation…” Caroline repeated, finally tearing her gaze away from the glass and landing it on her lady-in-waiting. Katherine watched the blonde’s beautiful cerulean irises become blurred with tears as the princess said, “Tell me that the greater good takes precedence over self-preservation…”
“With all due respect, your highness, I’m the last person to relay that sentiment with anything close to resembling sincerity…” Katherine replied sheepishly. Caroline chuckled and quickly wiped away a stray tear with her free hand as the exiled Bulgarian baroness rubbed the other. “I will say, however, that were I in your place, I’d trust Stefan. I’d trust Stefan with my life…”
Caroline took a deep breath and nodded at Katherine with a close-lipped smile.
Katherine passed Caroline off to Stefan with a supportive and reassuring squeeze to her hand and went to take her place amongst the French nobles and dignitaries assembled for the ceremony. The only thing that kept Caroline from collapsing into a trembling mess was Stefan’s firm, comforting hold on her hand.
“Stefan, what am I doing? I’m selling myself off to a barbarian for the sake of security… my father would die of shame if he knew that I was compromising myself in this manner…” Caroline whispered as they gradually strode towards the altar.
“Your father would be proud of your selfless courage and your immense concern for not only your family, but for your people…” Stefan whispered back. “And I would not support you ‘selling yourself off to a barbarian’ so easily or so confidently… you know me better than that…” Caroline sighed, squeezing Stefan’s hand knowing him to be true.
“And I wouldn’t be escorting you towards your future husband had he not proven himself an honorable, diplomatic, chivalrous human being… no matter his genuine and unabashed interest in you…”
“Funny you’d categorize a pillaging, plundering, murderous and treacherous heathen as—” Caroline began, but as the sea of people began to part and clear, the sight at the end of the aisle stopped her mid-sentence.
The menacing, terrifying, coarse, bloodstained monster Caroline had expected to be waiting for her was no where to be found. Before her stood a man in an unadorned, yet respectable tunic free of bloodstains and gore, and not only was clean but his facial hair was meticulously groomed, as was his the natural dirty blond curls atop his head despite the close shaved sides. The only way to distinguish him from any other foreign attendant was the simple gold banded crown atop his head.
Stefan must have seen Caroline’s gobsmacked expression, because soon she heard him recite, “A Lion once fell in love with a beautiful maiden and proposed marriage to her parents. The old people did not know what to say. They did not like to give their daughter to the Lion, yet they did not wish to enrage the King of Beasts. At last the father said, ‘We feel highly honoured by your Majesty’s proposal, but you see our daughter is a tender young thing, and we fear that in the vehemence of your affection you might possibly do her some injury. Might I venture to suggest that your Majesty should have your claws removed, and your teeth extracted, then we would gladly consider your proposal again.’ The Lion was so much in love that he had his claws trimmed and his big teeth taken out. But when he came again to the parents of the young girl they simply laughed in his face, and bade him do his worst. Love can tame the wildest.”
Caroline’s gaze turned towards her dear friend who was smiling supportively and she turned back to the notorious Viking warrior that awaited her with a knowing smile and blue eyes blazing with understanding and passion.
She took a calming, deep breath and strode towards the altar with added confidence, suddenly less fearful of the lion’s mighty roar knowing she had to power to tame the King of Beasts.