This episode starts right after the prologue, which I did not write. The basic set up is a young girl, raised in a provincial town in the fictional Kingdom of Valois, suddenly finds herself visited by a group of five knights under orders to conduct her safely to the capitol where the King, her father, wants to see her. The young heroine has no idea she is a princess! As the story unfolds, she discovers more of the story: a big crisis is looming in this vaguely French, vaguely 18th century kingdom (think The Three Musketeers or Cyrano de Bergerac. I certainly did while I was writing!) and the princess will play an important role in resolving it.
It will be a dangerous journey and, though all of the knights are sworn to protect her, she must choose one to be her special, full-time guardian.
Each choice opens up a different story route, featuring the Heroine’s adventures with her chosen knight-defender–in this case, Henri Monville, a rather rakish fellow with a reputation as a ladies’ man. The player selects the Heroine’s name at the beginning of the game, so just replace the name of your choice wherever you see “Heroine”.
You will notice that everything is presented from her first-person point-of-view. A couple of times in each episode, the player can choose a different response to a specific situation or line of dialogue. The choices present the player minor variations in dialogue or action that dovetail back into the main storyline. At the end of the game, the points are totaled to determine whether the player has “won” the Happily Ever After ending or merely the “Good” ending.
Location: Heroine’s House (Outside) (Day)
Henri “You’ve made your choice, Princess [USER_FIRST_NAME}. We’d best be going.”
He accompanied his pronouncement with a bow. I responded with a stiff curtsey.
(I’m so out of practice!)
Heroine “After you, sir knight.”
Henri “We’ll be spending a great deal of time together, Your Highness. It will be easier if you call me Henri.”
a) “I order you to call me [USER_FIRST_NAME].”
b) “Can you call me [USER_FIRST_NAME]?”
c) “May I also know your last name?”
Heroine “Considering our difference in rank, you will address me as Princess [USER_FIRST_NAME], Highness, or simply m’lady.”
Henri “Your Highness is correct, of course, if somewhat severe in her tone.”
Heroine “Do you find formalities discouraging, Sir Henri?”
Henri “On the contrary, m’lady. Formalities are enticements, not obstacles.
Heroine “And what are the enticements in our case?”
Heroine “Would it be proper for you to call me [USER_FIRST_NAME]?”
Henri “Your highness may ask for whatever she wants, and expect to be obeyed in most things. . . “
(That’s going to take some getting used to.)
Henri “ . . . but it would not be proper for me to actually do what you ask, in this case.”
Heroine “And why not?”
Heroine “And what, may I ask, is your last name?”
Henri “Monville, Highness. Most of my family fled to Valois from Gladius when I was ten.”
Heroine “Isn’t it unusual for someone born in Gladius to become a knight in Valois?”
Henri “Very. Which is why I pay close attention to the social niceties. It allows me great freedom in other things. “
Heroine “And if I give you my permission to violate the social niceties and call me [USER_FIRST_NAME]?”
Henri “You are of royal blood. My knighthood sets me above those not so honored, but does not give me the status to address a royal by her first name . . . “
Henri “ . . . at least, not until we become more . . . intimately acquainted.”
(Did he just wink at me?!)
Heroine “What . . . do you mean by ‘intimately acquainted’?”He stepped closer to me, a smile on his face but coldness in his eyes.
Henri “Intimacy, your highness, proceeds from frequent physical contact – “
We were interrupted by Pierre and one of the other knights. I’d heard someone call him “Alexandre.”
Alexandre “Henri. Highness. The carriage is ready.”
Pierre “I’ll be keeping an eye on you, Henri.”
Henri “Then the journey should be highly entertaining for you, Pierre.”
(Henri definitely winked at me that time! What is going on with him?)
Location: Outside the carriage (Outside) (Afternoon)
Pierre “Don’t play your usual games with her, Henri.”
(Is Pierre saying Henri is teasing me? Or is it something else?)
Henri “If you are implying that I am not a serious man, then I am wounded to the quick, Pierre.”
Pierre “And you’d be wise not to mock me, either.”
Henri “Is it brotherly concern you offer, my friend, or something more?”
Pierre “Attribute your dishonorable motives to me at your peril, sir!”
Alexandre “Enough, you two. Your Highness, Sir Henri has a habit of flirting with attractive young ladies. He means nothing by it.”
Henri “On the contrary, I mean everything by it.”
Heroine “Nothing or everything. Extreme choices.”
Alexandre “Perhaps it’s best to say his conduct is often misunderstood.”
Pierre “Yes. Many a young maiden has misunderstood his trifling lechery for true affection. And many a father has chastised him for it.”
Alexandre “Your Highness need have no fear that Henri will be less than diligent in his duty. He is the finest archer in Valois . . . “
Nicolas “ . . . and nearly Sir Alexandre’s equal as a swordsman.”
Alexandre “It is kind of you to say so, Sir Nicholas.”
Henri “Kind, but inaccurate, since Alexandre and I have yet to cross swords.”
Alexandre ignored that provocation. I thought better of him for it.
Nicolas “I am Nicolas du Maurier, Princess, commander of our little band.”
Alexandre “Your pardon for not introducing myself earlier, Princess [USER_NAME_FIRST], I am Alexandre Belmont, your faithful servant.”
Nicolas “Of course, you know Pierre Dubois, your secret protector for all these years . . .”
Heroine “Yes. And we’ll have a conversation about that ‘secret’ sometime soon, Sir Pierre.”
Pierre “As you wish, [USER_FIRST_NAME]”
Henri “I have just informed Her Highness that proper etiquette requires she be addressed as her rank demands.”
(I’ve never seen Pierre blush like that!)
Pierre “Of course . . . your highness. Forgive me.”
Heroine “I’m sure it will be fine if you, at least, call me [USER_FIRST_NAME]. We’ve known each other for so long!”
Henri “That qualifies as a certain kind of intimacy, to be sure, though not the kind I expect you and I will soon enjoy — ”
(Is he . . . saying what I think he’s saying?”)
Jacques “Your pardon for interrupting Henri’s charming banter, Princess, but if I wait for a proper introduction, I fear I shall languish in obscurity.”
Heroine “Of course, sir. You have my full attention.”
Jacques “I am Jacques Durand. Among your protectors, I am neither the best horseman, the best swordsman, nor the best archer . . . “
Jacques “. . . I do, however, bear the distinction of having read a book.”
Heroine “Hahaha! Touché, Sir Jacques.”
(He’s got a nice sense of humor. I like him already.)
Jacques “I understand a love of literature is something you and I share?”
Heroine “Oh, yes! I love books! I’m glad to know we’ll have something to talk about on the journey.”
At that moment, a huge white horse – by the look of his saddle, a knight’s charger – nuzzled up to Sir Henri and began to chew on his hair.
Henri “Ouch! Stop, Philippe! You gluttonous oaf!”
Heroine “Hahaha! Does he mistake your hair for straw, Sir Henri?”
Henri “He mistakes me for his servant, rather than his master. He knows his dinner will come at the end of our ride – and not a moment before.”
Philippe’s gentle gnawing on Henri’s hair turned into a not-so-gentle head butt. Henri lost his balance and fell into the muddy path.
Henri “You . . . ungrateful . . . mule!”
That was just the wrong thing to say. Philippe snorted loudly, shook his mane proudly, then turned and walked away.
Henri climbed to his feet, obviously furious.
(Philippe’s feelings are hurt!)
Sir Nicholas nudged me. He offered me a bag of apples, then nodded in Philippe’s direction.
Nicholas “M’lady, perhaps a peace offering . . . “
Heroine “For Philippe? Or Henri?”
Sir Nicolas smiled broadly.
Nicolas “That would be up to Your Highness.”
I’d never been so close to a warhorse before. Philippe towered over me, but as I approached, pulling an apple from the bag, he whickered gently.
Heroine “There you are, Philippe. A little snack to tide you over until dinner.”
The charger’s huge head bent down toward the apple in my hand. Ever so gingerly, he caught the apple in his mouth and began to chew.
Henri “Be careful, Princess, he could easily remove your hand with those teeth.”
Heroine “He’s gentle as a lamb, Sir Henri. It seems to be you with whom he has a problem.”
Henri “It’s true enough. He takes advantage of my good nature, nuzzling up to the stable boys and the grooms while treating me with disdain.”
Heroine “You might begin by not calling him a ‘mule’.” He’s a magnificent animal.”
Philippe nodded his great head. I petted his muzzle and he whinnied softly.
(It’s like he understands what we’re saying.)
Jacques “He seems to have taken a liking to you, your highness. It’s like the story of Leandra and the Lioness!”
Heroine “Yes! Leandra helps a lioness to escape from the hunters and, years later, she is saved from the snake pit by the same lioness!”
Henri “Philippe always takes to the pretty women.”
(Is he trying to draw my attention away from Sir Jacques?)
Henri “Would you like to ride him, your highness?”
Heroine “Oh! I . . . I’ve never ridden anything larger than a pony – “
Henri “No time like the present.”
Before I knew what was happening, Henri leaped onto Philippe’s back and had pulled me up to sit in front of him. The others began to protest . . .
. . . but before they could act, Henri put the reins in my hands and gave them a quick snap before releasing them himself. We were off.
Location: On horseback (Outside) (Afternoon)
Philippe’s canter quickly turned into a gallop.
Henri “Philippe seems to enjoy showing off for you.”
Heroine “So you two have something in common after all?”
Henri offered no response beyond a dismissive grunt.
The wind in my hair, the feeling of guiding Philippe’s immense strength with a flick of the reins , and the pressure of Henri’s body against my back . . .
. . . it all made me feel like the heroine in one of the stories I read so avidly each winter before the fire.
Henri “I’ve suddenly recalled an old tradition, Highness. It’s considered highly improper for a couple who are not courting to share the same saddle.”
Heroine “What? I’ve never heard – “
Henri “Oh, yes. It was a common tradition in my province. Widely known and accepted. We’ll have to begin courting at once!”
(Is he serious?)
Henri “I would not be averse to such an arrangement, of course, but regardless, it will be necessary to preserve your reputation.”
I felt a rush of blood to my face that had nothing to do with the excitement of my first ride on a charger.
Heroine “You . . . I . . . you can’t be . . .”
(I don’t usually splutter, but Henri really confuses me! One minute he’s flirting and teasing, the next minute –)
Henri “I am only joking, your highness. There is no such tradition . . . as far as I know.”
(Oh! This man is so infuriating!)
Henri “I needed to see if my instinct about you was correct.”
Heroine “And what instinct was that, sir knight?”
(I’m going to get one straight answer out of him today if it kills me!)
Henri “That you are even more beautiful when you are blushing.”
If it was possible for me to blush even deeper, I’m sure I did in that moment.
Henri “Horses are amazing beasts, are they not? So versatile they can carry a knight to war, pull a carriage for a king . . . “
(That’s quite a change of subject. Where’s he going with this?)
Henri “. . . draw a merchant’s wagon or a farmer’s plow. In a pinch, one can even cook and eat them.”
(That’s awful! Why would he – oh, no! Philippe didn’t like that at all!)
The horse tossed his head violently and doubled his speed in a few quick strides. What had been a gentle gallop became a headlong rush.
The field we’d been running across flashed by in a blur. A dense copse of trees loomed ahead and we were approaching too quickly.
Heroine “Philippe, please slow down! Henri! Why do you say such terrible things!?”
Henri “Hahaha! The only way to get Philippe to give his all is to anger him a bit.”
Heroine “Well, you need to change your tactics!”
I pulled on the reins, then leaned over Philippe’s neck and soothed him with soft whispers. He began to slow just as the first trees whipped passed.
Location: Edge of the woods near a road (Outside) (Afternoon)
In a few moments, I was able to rein him to a halt. Henri dismounted. I followed shakily with Henri’s hands on my waist lifting me down.
Henri “Philippe and I have an understanding, m’lady. We abuse each other mercilessly, but I know his true heart, and he mine.”
Philippe, barely winded by his fierce run, whinnied as if in confirmation. What a remarkable horse!
And what does it say about Henri that he commands such loyalty?
Henri’s hands lingered on my waist. Feeling a blush rising on my cheeks again, I pulled away.
(Why does he make me feel like this!)
Henri “And now for Philippe’s reward . . . “
Henri pulled three apples from the saddlebags draped over Philippe’s smooth flanks.
Henri “Would you do the honors, Highness?”
(Maybe I can collect my thoughts if I focus on Philippe.)
As the horse munched on the apples, one at a time, Henri stood close behind me, stroking Philippe’s noble snout.
Henri “You seemed to enjoy your ride.”
Heroine “I did. It was a little fast there at the end –Henri “But fast is good, yes? After your slow, careful life in the village, you must be ready for things to move quickly for a time.”
a) “In a way. It’s . . . complicated.”
b) “No, everything is happening too quickly.”
c) “Yes. I have outgrown the village.”
Heroine “In a way. It’s . . . complicated.”
(He has a point about my life in the village. I’ll miss my Grandma, but I’m starting to feel better about what lies ahead.)
Heroine “You don’t mince words, do you, Sir Henri? You always find a way to say what you’re thinking.”
Heroine “No, everything is happening too quickly.”
(Oh, Grandma, I hate that you aren’t here! What if I make a terrible Princess?)
Henri “That’s the way of life, Your Highness. Things happen at their pace, slow, fast or in-between. It is up to us to adapt and persevere.”
Heroine “I believe that’s very wise advice, Sir Henri. I thank you . . . and I find you to be a surprising kind of man.”
Heroine “Yes, I have outgrown the village.”
(Perhaps I have. But I do so wish Grandma could be here! Things are happening so fast!)
Henri “That may be true, Highness, but you have not been gone long enough to know that. And the lesson of that former life will always be with you.”
Heroine “You’re a mine of surprising moods, Sir Henri. Do your friends know you’re a philosopher?”
Henri “I have a great talent for simplifying complex things, Highness. Some mistake that for wisdom.”
Henri grabbed me around the waist and thrust me up against the trunk of a tree. His body pressed against mine.
(My heart! It’s beating as fast as Philippe’s hoofs.)
(Is he going to kiss me?)
His face dipped toward me, but his lips went not to mine, but to my ear. He spoke in an urgent whisper.
Henri “Quiet, Highness, and remain perfectly still. Follow my lead in all things.”
A shiver passed down Philippe’s flank that was echoed in my own body. The great horse shifted his footing and tossed his mane. He sensed something!
(Is this fear I’m feeling, or something else? Henri is so close, his breath so warm in my ear . . . on my neck.)
Again, an involuntary shiver passed through me.
Henri drew me closer, edging us deeper into the shadow of a tree trunk.
And then, I heard the sound of horses – a group of them – moving on the nearby road.
(Could this be the enemy? The ones who are after me?)
And then another terrifying thought raced across my mind.
(We’re here all alone, without the other knights!)