Rocqueburne was a kingdom on the west coast. With a forest behind it and an ocean in front, it was a self-sufficient place that rarely required any real attention from the empire. However, it wasn’t always so.
Bustling enterprise doesn’t just happen overnight. The King and Queen of Rocqueburne were planted there by the empire ages ago. Only through years of blood, steel, and iron did their kingdom become a great shining gem by the sea. The people became educated and were prosperous. Crippling plagues were forced from the city; winter after winter, fewer died. Each spring, a budding cultural renaissance came closer and closer. A proud, civilized nation was forged from the once dilapidated mire.
Problems were expunged, but capitalism has always been fraught with its own troubles. As happiness and wealth came along with people who could tame the seas and turn the land, so did exploitation. The pirates came and brought their own distorted views of capitalism and ventures to Rocqueburne.
The good King and Queen fought them as well, pushing their corruption back into the dark, seedy bars and shadows. Their battles would never be done. Evil never rests, being the eternal quagmire that it is.
Eventually, when the pirates and crooks were suppressed and the kingdom was thriving, the King and Queen had an heiress. Wanting a boy, a strong male to drive their legacy forward, the proud parents were stone faced to hear the news of a girl. They weren’t unhappy, just shocked, having followed all the lore to ensure a boy. They even had the name ready: Jack-Chester of Rocqueburne.
The Queen drank crocodile egg yolk daily, dressed warmer than the weather permitted, and bathed in moonlight once a month, but, alas, God had other plans. They chalked it up to fate and left it at that.
In the end, childbirth had been quite terrible on the Queen, so the Princess of Rocqueburne was alone. So the parents did what all parents do - make do.
“Jack” became “Jacqueline,” and Princess Jacqueline-Marie of Rocqueburne was crowned.
The birth of a princess instead of a prince wasn’t such a horrible punishment, really. Princesses are cute anyway, wearing their lavish dresses and holding tea parties with the other kingdoms’ little daughters. The King and Queen found their political uses for Jacqueline. She had soft, golden red hair and tiny freckles across her nose, a perfect representation of the Kingdom. Unfortunately for them, any parents’ plans come to a screeching halt when their children, one day, wake up and become teenagers.
The etiquette lessons, the tea parties, the silence, the obedience, the frills and expensive Spanish lace disappeared as she grew up. Jacqueline loved riding horses and being lost in the town or anywhere but in the castle for that matter. Her dresses were always ripped, shoes muddied, and hair unkempt. As she flung herself into adulthood, the Princess became unruly and outright lazy. She could woo friends in the court but came late to her diplomatic responsibilities. She could chat with an entire room, throw a party, and give generously but absolutely could not manage a single responsibility.
The crown was boring to her and she never hid her opinion about it. She appointed anyone else to manage in her place. In her mind, farmers knew about farms. Fishermen knew about fish. The people loved her kind, philanthropic nature, but a kingdom does not survive on charity alone!
At twenty-four, she remained unmarried. Despite the King and Queen’s efforts, three engagements were quite publicly broken. Jacqueline simply ran away from the first one. She broke the second engagement by entertaining the idea of becoming a nun and holding her meetings in various convents. The final engagement she broke by saying “no” at her own engagement party, which she organized and threw in her own honor.
It was no longer the days of arranged marriages. Chivalry, love, and all that other nonsense were part of the equation now. The practice of just dropping the princess off at another castle with a treaty was quite looked down upon now.
As Jacqueline became a young woman, her parents, grey and aging, saw their legacy simply dissolving away.
“Why can’t you be like your cousin, Lillian?” the Queen scorned, pressing the bridge of her nose. This was a common comparison. “Respectful, refined, and ready to serve!”
Jacqueline was walking away, having learned to tune out her mother’s cawing. She pushed a hole in her dress together wishing it would magically repair itself.
“You’ve things to do here, tasks to manage,” the Queen called out loudly, still pinching her bridge and shutting her eyes. “I want you before me tomorrow, dawn sharp! Perhaps we can fix your grain mess.”
The Princess had zero interest in the so called, “grain mess.” The people needed grain and she gave them grain. Alright, maybe there were a few generously “unfair” shares to balance out the seasons, but any subject going hungry in a civilized nation was completely ludicrous.
“Did you at least undress your horse Trystan of her reigns and her saddle?” her mother called out, her voice bending down the hall.
“No. That’s why we have stable boys,” and Jacqueline escaped up the stairs, taking them two at a time. Servants were lighting the lamps as twilight was waning. She scurried to her room and disappeared inside, leaving her mother and her angst at the door.
But maybe, just maybe, she could really wake up at dawn. Sit down, study, and try. At least try! However, she had been pseudo-trying for years.
She lit a small lamp and adjusted the light to a strong but compact aura. The room was small - nothing too unnecessary. Some of her fellow teen royals had entire levels dedicated to their “bedrooms.” Here it was simple. It was the only place in Rocqueburne that was.
A bed, a mirrored vanity, and a closet were the only furniture. A lush, fat rug took up almost the entire stone floor, woven a deep grey color. A large pile of papers were pushed into a dark, forgotten corner. All her reports and investments sat there. Some girls got vacations and Prince Charming for their birthdays. Jacqueline got financial opportunities and fund options.
All she wanted was one of those Arabian stallions.
Jacqueline sat at her vanity and slouched downward. Lazily, she picked up her glittering tiara of sapphires, emeralds, and aurora sunburst diamonds. It was a heavy thing, laid in a rich, shiny copper to blend with her hair.
She daintily placed it on her head. “My girl, if you nurture these business investments, one day you won’t need this kingdom!” and Jacqueline shook her finger at her reflection, mimicking her father.
“Grain, grain, grain, grain, grain!” The Princess changed her voice to something shrill, mocking her mother’s cackling admonishments.
Keeping her tiara on, she got up to get ready for bed. Changing into a nightgown, lazily braiding her hair, and fiddling with a candle, she sighed and looked out to the large French doors that opened out to the ocean.
Meandering over to the opening, she pushed out the doors to smell the sea air. Life wasn’t hard, but it certainly wasn’t what she wanted to do. “Oh well,” she thought to herself and shrugged with an unfinished thought, “If these are my only problems…”
Leaving the doors open, Jacqueline let the ringing of the bells from the seafaring buoys, along with crisp salt air, into her room. Climbing into bed, she extinguished her lamp and dug the side of her face into the soft cotton pillow, still wearing her tiara because she could.