Welcome to this story of knights and princesses. Mystery and intrigue. I am proud to present to you, this first attempt I had for White Rose Week until the idea spiraled into a multi-chapter fic of its own.
The Grande Tourney
Flags and banners of dozens of noble families littered the balconies above merchant stores and smitheries. The sounds of drums and horns filled the air as wives and mothers rained down flower petals and corn seeds from the rooftops, showering the long procession of knights and their retinues in joy and cheer. Children laughed and ran through the cobbled and dusty streets, keeping away from the feet of heavily armoured horses and the long pikes of men-at-arms.
The groans of horses as they stomped through the festive atmosphere was only broken up by their delighted whinnies, having been fed grain or carrots by onlookers. Favours were bestowed upon favoured knights. Calls for victory were cried out, stories of championships and victories of old were told and shared among pints in the taverns. Minstrels regaled those young and old with legends of knights and their trusty squires.
A herald cried out the names of each noble family as they entered into the central pavilion. It was the day of Vale's Grande Tournament. As was tradition, all were allowed to attend. From the highest of lords to the lowest of peasants, all could come to cheer on the most valiant of knights as they warred for the favours and praise of the princesses. Squires would fight against squire, for the honour of being knights by his majesty the king himself.
Inside the pavilion itself, the festivities did not end. Great musicians played their violins and drums. Muses sang precious songs and all those who cared to danced as others watched. No two were watched and cheered on more so than the two princesses themselves. With a joyous laugh and clapping, the young princess Ruby twirled in the arms of her elder sister, the princess heir herself, Yang. The two adored one another, and by the way they linked their arms, stepping and swinging to the tune of music, it could clearly be seen.
The king watched them all, sitting on his raised throne at the back of the room. A chair which had once been for his wife, the queen to sit alongside him, laid empty. Yet he was still smiling at his two girls. One which looked very much like him and the other that looked very much like his late wife. Beautiful and strong and smart the both of them.
It would be another joyous tourney in Vale. Where once the warring houses of Rose and Xiao-Long stood opposed, they now stood together in the eyes of those girls. The daughters of the Xiao-Long king and Rose queen. That, however, would not stop the two houses from competing regardless.
There were many others who had come to attend just for the chance to win favour with his majesty and his daughters. From the far off reaches of Menagerie, where the great chiefs came in resplendent silks and ivories, wearing gold and jewels in fashions greatly foreign to the good peoples of Vale. A crown of gold, decorated to resemble one strung together of lilies and poppies adorned the head of the princess Ruby. It glimmered brightly as she twirled in her red dress. The crown looked that much brighter compared to her rouge hair, so dark it looked black in all but the sunlight. The Menagerie garb was sure to become the next trend among the nobility thanks to how much his majesty's youngest favoured it so.
The king nodded his head to the high chieftain of Menagerie, who stood towards the back of the pavilion. He had attended with his own retinue, including his own daughter. Though, while his daughter and wife had chosen to intermingle with the crowds, he was not one to understand the Valian tongue. He stood tall and proud, but it was clear he held much love in his heart for his daughter, who was bowing gracefully to the elder princess, taking her hands and joining in the merriment.
Vale's greatest ally, the king of Atlas, King Ironwood was present as well. While he had no children of his own, nor a wife, he had brought along the children of his close cousin and confident. The Schnee house, by far the wealthiest in all the many realms, was an old house, and often a calm and boring one. Except when it came to tourneys such as this one. The eldest Schnee daughter, Winter, stood alongside the king, wearing an odd mixture of metal gauntlets and breastplate overtop a tightly fastened dress. The younger daughter, Weiss, was not in attendance in the central pavilion. She had done away with her noble lifestyle, choosing to try her hand as a lord's squire. While it was rare to be female and a knight, the girl had the allowance of the king of Atlas himself to grant her a position. It was said that she would be competing for a knighthood in that very tournament. She would be inside the squire's pavilion.
Many other nobles and knights were in attendance as well, even though their lords were not. The fabled combatant Pyrrha Nikos was there, having traveled all the way from the Empire of Mistral. Prince Jaune of house Arc, the heir to the throne of Argus held her hand. The rumours of their recent engagement were indeed true. Sun Wukong, an expert fighter and wily high noble from the spice rich kingdom of Vacuo, was talking with Sir Neptune, Sir Scarlet and Sir Sage, all lowborn nobility from that very kingdom.
As the music changed, growing more rapid, princess Yang skipped merrily up to her father, dragging him to his feet to join in on the dancing and celebration. Much to the laughter of those in attendance. Ruby clapped along to the drums, jumping at her father and sister's fanciful footwork.
All too soon, loud trumpets blared, calling all to attention. Instead of dismay at the end to the song and dance, there were great cheers as all in attendance made their way towards the lists, where the first competitions and jousts were to be held. The king kissed his daughter's hand and made his way towards the king's booth at the top of the stands, leaving his heiress to her own devices.
The young princess ruffled up her skirts and made her way outside the pavilion tent, slipping past the many lines of knights and her father's men, towards the squire's pavilion.
Came the low bows from passing lords, servants, and knights, as she waited outside the squires' tent, bouncing from heel to toe in anticipation. Hands clasped behind her back, her smile a picture of innocence.
"Is it clear?" A voice said from inside the tent.
"Uh-huh. Coast is clear," the princess whispered her reply.
She felt a hand on her wrist, pulling her backwards. With a smile, she let it drag her away from outside prying eyes and into the arms and lips of her confidante and close friend. Ruby sighed, calming down greatly at the feeling of those lips on hers once more. It had felt like forever since they had been together, let alone in such a way as this.
Ruby leaned back for a breath only to dive back in, her hands running through her lover's long silky hair, enjoying the feeling of her partner's on her waist and bottom.
"Ruby," her partner moaned into her neck before taking a light and loving bite of her flesh. She gasped, feeling like thorough-spun cloth under her lover's ministrations.
The two finally parted, breathing heavily, their faces flushed, lust filling their gazes. "I've been wanting to do that since we parted ways two summers ago." Ruby held tightly to her lover's hands.
"I have too. I'm just so relieved that you still feel the same way. Between each of your letters, I've just been so scared. What if the letters were discovered? What if you've been found out, and-and…"
"Weiss," Ruby held her lover's cheeks, forcing her to look the princess in the eye. "Our letters were never discovered. And as you can see, neither was I. I promised you Weiss. I promised you when we parted that I would never reveal our secret. Not with the pain of death, nor while burning at the stake. I only have eyes for you."
This seemed to calm down the young squire. Her stormy blue eyes shone with unladen tears and her breathing slowed. Weiss pulled the princess into a tight embrace, enjoying the feeling of being reunited with her love.
"I thought about you every day."
"As did I," Ruby replied, brushing away a small tear from Weiss's eye.
The silence which fell between them was a relaxed one. One which came from many secret nights speaking with one another in their youth. It was filled with pleasant memories and silent whispers and hopes passing between them.
There was a loud trumpet call.
"It seems like you are required by your lord," Ruby sighed, taking a step away. "I would hate to be the one to keep you."
Weiss pulled the princess in once again, their lips finding each other, perfectly molding to the other's mouth.
Pulling back with a smile and a blush, Weiss whispered, "you are the only one that may keep me. Wish me luck?"
Slipping out from the tent, Ruby was left alone watching as Weiss's boots left her view, clutching onto the warmth in her chest which had come from being so close to her lover. With a heart-calming breath, she checked to ensure the way was clear before leaving the squire's tent and making her way through the many smaller tents and merchant stalls set aside for the nobility and richest attendants of the tournament.
She loved tournaments. Not only for all the fighting and chivalry and swordsmanship, but also for the merchant stalls. It was not often when a Vacuan spice vendor shared air with an Atlesian cloth merchant, and both stood across from an Argusian glassblower.
There would still be some time before the first of the jousts. The heralds would be documenting the credentials of their noble lords prior to the first tilt, and even prior to that, the king's own herald would cry out the long history that made the Grande Tourney as famed and prestigious as it was. While her father and sister had to be there to watch these "opening celebrations", being the king and crowned princess, Ruby was given a little more freedom when it came to her departures and arrivals.
Not that it gave her all the freedom she wished for, however. Technically, she was engaged to some high-born duke in Mistral, but he was a few years her younger and still being trained in the lordly fashion. Lord Oscar Pine, she recalled. Not that she thought of him all that much. They had met but twice before. Once as young children, when the late lord Ozpin arranged the match with her mother and father. And a second time a few years later for the burial of her mother, the queen. That had been a little over a decade ago.
Even Yang had more freedom in love than she did. It was such a strange dichotomy between the two of them. Yang's life was regulated by the hour; forced to spend her days doing tea with ladies-in-waiting, or studying languages, arts and music with fancy tutors, or even weapons training with the master-at-arms. Yang was planning to be a warrior queen after all, to follow the Xiao Long tradition. Ruby's life was free and open to fancies of whim. She could spend her days in classes, or out in the fields picking strawberries, or even wandering the castle talking to whomever she wished. Yang however, could marry who she wished. Whomever she chose would be the queen's consort after all and hold a great deal of authority and power in the kingdom of Vale. It did well for her to marry someone she trusted, if not loved. Ruby was thrown into a forced engagement to someone with a very high social standing, as befitted a second daughter to a king. It would link yet another noble to the royal household, ensuring their good standing, and it would allow Ruby to keep her life of luxury. Everything that a non-crowned princess would ever apparently want. She was truly jealous of her sister. Not that much could change if she was given the freedom to marry who she wished.
Weiss and she were destined to remain apart, regardless of what they both wanted and fought for.
Shaking such negative thoughts from her head, the young princess continued her stroll down merchant's alley, pausing at every couple shops to check their wares.
Another reason she loved the Grande Tourney. There were so many of her father's soldiers stationed around the tournament and fair grounds, there was next to no need for her to have any personal guards around her. It gave her the freedom to wander around as if she was just a lowborn lady. Well, not too lowborn, considering she was still wearing highly coveted garments from a kingdom halfway across the world. And a flower crown. Was she jealous that Yang got to wear their mother's rose crown, while she had to wear one with lilies and poppies? Not that she altogether disliked lilies and poppies. Just that they weren't…
They weren't her mother's roses.
There was so little of her mother's things that were truly special to her, and by extension her children. And being the eldest, Yang seemed to have collected all of it. Leaving just a soft-spun, tattered old red cloak which was said to have been worn by her in her youth. It was Ruby's most prized possession.
Thinking of that red cloak, the princess noticed two small handkerchiefs dangling from a clothesline outside a Patchite shop. The two kerchiefs were each no bigger than both her hands, brilliantly bordered by interchanging sapphire blue and crimson, with small flowers in each of those colours. While the main body of one kerchief was a sunny red, the other was faded white. Along with the border, the white cloth held a red rose and the red cloth a blue snowflake.
"Ah! You like this? You feel?" The Patchite merchant said in strongly accented Valian. The merchant was creepy, with a short, burnt-end moustache and beard accentuated to look like a 'V'. His garb was shabby at best, littered with holes and marks which looked to be from burns and too much use. All in all, clothing of a merchant who should very much not be in an alley for noble wares.
But he did have a stall, albeit a fairly small one. After what was most likely too long, the princess nodded and smiled lightly. "Yes, can I feel the cloth?"
At once, the Patchite merchant took down the sunny red kerchief, gesturing for Ruby to hold onto it. To rub it between her fingers, which she did. Letting out a squeak of surprise, she held it to her cheek, delighting in the extremely soft fabric. It felt remarkably cool on her pale skin. The threads weaved into the cloth had to have been thinner than silk, for she could not see any one individual stitch. It was a beautiful handkerchief. Probably one of the best she had ever seen before. She made sure to tell the merchant such.
The merchant bowed his head thrice, speaking in his language. Though Ruby did have some tutelage in the Patchite tongue, it was a difficult one to master, with so many words joined together to form new thoughts and ideas so very different than how the base words were used. And spoken by someone truly fluent, it was much too fast for her to catch the full weight of what he was saying.
Reaching up to his clothesline, he grabbed the second handkerchief and gestured for Ruby to take it as well. Realizing what the merchant was doing, she stepped back, hands raised.
"No, I couldn't possibly pay for both of these now. Maybe one, but the second will have to wait until I have my father's permission."
"No. No," the man repeated, continuing to wave the beautiful cloth at her. He said something in his language, then frowned. "Eh, gift. Present. Is present to pretty princess. Two, two."
"Two?" Ruby squinted in confusion. "Oh! You mean both. Please sir, I couldn't possibly. They are such beautiful and finely crafted wares. Please, at least let me buy them off of you."
"Ah, no, no. No pay. Is gift. Is special." The Patchite merchant smiled with crooked, yellow teeth, still flailing his cloth at the princess.
Finally having enough, she let the merchant give her the second cloth. It felt just as finely made as the first one. Just as cool in her warm hands. "Thank you," she acquiesced. "I will ensure to take good care of your kerchiefs. They are lovely beyond belief."
"Is good. Is special," he nodded in agreement. "Give present, get luck!" He continued to nod, repeating the message regardless of how confused it was making the princess.
"Well, thank you for these. I hope you have a good tournament day!" She waved goodbye to the strange man, promising herself that she would return to offer him some coinage in exchange. She was used to fanciful gifts, being royalty and all, but these fabrics were just too good to accept for free. She wouldn't rest until she gave that man something of value in exchange. Whether that be money or her own silk and gold-inlaid handkerchief, it would be up to him.
At long last, she was walking under the great banners of the great houses which came together to host the Grande Tourney. Directly overhead the wooden archway which stood as the entrance to the lists, was the king's banner. A beautiful rose surrounded by a long wingless dragon, smoke in its gullet. It symbolized the combined houses of Xiao Long and Rose. It was a banner created by her father following the end to that nasty civil war. It would likely be the banner of the royal line well into the coming century. It was her father's banner and would be her sister's banner. It would not be hers.
No, if her father got what he wanted, hers would be the twin cedar trees of house Pine. Not something she was overjoyed by. Ruby very much preferred the rose of her mother. Or the intricate snowflake of the Schnees. Ruby rubbed her fingers over the blue snowflake on the handkerchief. Yes, she knew exactly who deserved to hold one of these kerchiefs.
On either side of the king's banner were those of the houses which it had come from. The Xiao Long dragon on the right and the Rose rose on the left. Smaller, yet still noticeable were many other banners of those competing. The setting sun of Vacuo's Wukong line, the windswept ship of the Vasiliases, even the seven blazing suns of the Arcs. So many banners, all littered with history and importance. So many symbols and symbology and all very much chosen by the males of the family.
Ruby rolled her eyes at the sight and continued onward through the arched entrance and into the tournament proper. What seemed like a wall of cheering descended on her as she once more entered into the sunlight. Hundreds, if not thousands were surrounding the fences, all gazing in on the bannered fence which would separate the two jousting knights.
Sitting in shaded off boxes and stands were the many nobles and their wives and children who would not be participating in the competitions. It was where she was planning to sit. Not in the stuffy high box where his majesty the king sat, surrounded by his advisory and guards. She had enough of that every other day of the year. At least Yang looked happy. Standing in the center of the field, clad in thick black armour which only made her long, vibrantly golden hair glisten in the light. She looked like a true warrior queen, dressed as she did, with her golden rose crown on her head.
She waved to the crowds cheering her name. She laughed and shouted back at them, enjoying her time in the spotlight. Ruby marvelled at her sister. So confident around so many people. So tall and strong and still feminine and beautiful. She was everything that Ruby wished she was. Strong, smart, competent. Brash, yet understanding. Worldly, yet humble. Powerful, yet elegant. Ruby would never say that she hated her sister…
But she could readily admit there was an abundance of envy there.
A blast from a ram's horn signified the true start of the jousting games. Yang made her way off the field and Ruby rushed to the stairs up towards the noble's seating, choosing a seat in the front row, closest to the action. She had thanked the young lord for allowing her to claim his seat. She did promise him a dance at that night's celebratory feast in exchange. Sir Yatsuhashi Daichi from the Kuchinashi islands off the coast of Mistral. A baron, or a viscount. Ruby could not quite remember his status. He was there for the fight with mace and sword. She also promised to watch him compete, though she had planned to watch that competition anyways.
Two knights riding atop their steeds stepped into the lists from either side. Carrying a banner with a black crow in flight on a field of silver, was Sir Qrow Branwen. He was a jumped up knight, and the king's master-at-arms. He had taught Yang everything he knew and taught Ruby everything she knew. And there he was. His dented steel armour was faded from long years of use, but still held that glint of gallantry which made him so popular with the ladies of the keep. His helmet was tucked under one arm so that all could see his cheery face as he trotted in. Holding up his free hand, steering his horse with just his knees, the crowd shouted and cheered. Ruby very much among them.
"Go Uncle Qrow!" She shouted, her arms waving frantically for him to notice her. He seemed to, as he lead his mount over to where she was to blow her a kiss and wink smugly.
On the other end was a knight wearing black with silver highlights. His armour looked brand new and perfectly moulded to him. Sir Cardin of House Winchester, as seen by his banner with a crimson cross on an equally confusing field of light crimson. His house was said to be descended from warrior monks, but the amount of blood red seemed to be overkill in Ruby's eyes. His helmet was off too, showing off his fascinating bright red hair. It was said that bright red hair like his meant he was destined for glory. That he was touched by a fire priestess. Yang was fascinated by him, though Ruby could not help but wonder why. He just looked so smug and full of himself, waving to the adoring crowds of nobles, not even bothering to gaze at the dozens of times greater number of lowborn citizens standing along the fences.
"His majesty, King Taiyang of House Xiao Long, welcomes all to this very first of tilts in his royal lordship's Grande Tournament!" Shouted the king's herald, a scrawny, tall man by the name of Bartholemew Oobleck.
His voice was drowned out by the roar of the crowd. Letting it die down after a few moments, he continued, holding his scroll of parchment aloft.
"Competing in the Rose corner is his majesty's master-at-arms, Sir Qrow Branwen!"
The shouting reverberated through the arena. Dozens of small flags with Branwen's flying crow crest waved madly.
"Competing from the Xiao Long corner is the Marquis of Winchester, competing for the hand of the crowned princess, Sir Cardin of Winchester!"
The shouting reached a crescendo. There was chanting of "Cardin! Cardin!" and cries of "Marquis de Winchester!" from noble ladies. Princess Ruby politely clapped and smiled for him, as to not come under the ire of anyone that may be watching her, but it was nowhere near as much as she cheered for her in-name-only uncle.
Leaning over the stands to gaze up at the king's box, she saw Yang leaning over the railing to cheer and wave the Winchester's flag. She was smiling happily at least.
Sir Cardin reached for a lance his squire offered him and trotted over to the stands, directly under the crowned princess. He held his lance aloft, allowing all to marvel in his strength, while the princess tied a white cloth to the tip. He smirked as he returned to his side of the lists, the masses cheering all the wilder. The crowned princess herself had bestowed upon him her favour.
Sir Qrow reached down for the lance his own squire handed to him, readjusting his grip on it and relaxing his shield arm.
"Sir knights to your sides!" the herald bellowed, allowing a small flag-bearer onto the field to call the start of the match.
The boy lowered the flag and looked at either of the knights. A second later, he pulled up the flag and ran from the field. Both horses whinnied and charged.
Silence fell around the stands. The only sounds were that of the fierce breathing of noble steeds and the smacking of hoofs against sand. With every gallop, the two were closer and closer. Their lances lowered to striking position. Gazes no doubt fiercely true on their opponent's.
Ruby shut her eyes away, she greatly disliked this part of the joust. Where a man was likely to be killed by an improper move on his or his enemy's part.
I would first like to thank Avistar123 for editing this chapter. It was a huge help. Go check out his stuff!
So, this story will have sporadic updates, as I am attempting (for the first time) to have a minimum word count of 4k. So, like all my other works, if I post something under 4k, I will let you know so you can all shame me and call me mean names. I'm hoping to have the first arc done, or mostly done before I start posting this one more regularly.
But until then, thank you all for reading and until next time!