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, Jacques Durand, a rather bookish, stand-off-ish fellow with a mysterious past. 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: The Town Square (Exterior) (Morning)
The others accepted my choice without reaction, save for Jacques himself. An arched eyebrow and twist at one corner of his mouth were all I noted.
Jacques “Truly? You are choosing me?”
Heroine “Yes, I am. You sound somewhat put out by that fact.”
Jacques “Then your ears, at least, operate correctly, even if your judgment is flawed. Come along, then. The sooner we get moving, the sooner my duty’s discharged.”
Sir Nicolas, commander of the knights, cleared his throat and gave Jacques a pointed look. Jacques sighed and gave me a slight bow.
Jacques “The sooner we get moving, the sooner my duty’s discharged, Highness.”
(Having people call me that is going to take some getting used to!)
a) “’Highness’ or not, you are still very rude!”
b) “Just call me [USER_FIRST_NAME].”
c) “May I choose a different protector?”
Heroine “Whether you call me ‘Highness’ or not, you are still very rude!”
Jacques “It is your prerogative to read into my manners whatever you wish, Highness. Regardless of what you think of them, I will always do my duty.”
Heroine “Then I will make it my duty to point up your social inadequacies, since that appears to be necessary!”
Heroine “I am unused to being called ‘Highness.’ Please address me as [USER_FIRST_NAME].”
Jacques “Sir Nicolas would disapprove.”
Nicolas “Indeed I would. There are formalities that must be observed. You are our princess and must be addressed as ‘Highness,’ ‘Princess,’ or ‘m’lady.’”
Jacques “And there you have it: you are doomed to a life of being accorded undue and as-yet-unearned respect. Princess.”
Heroine “I am beginning to believe I acted in haste. May I choose a different protector?”
Jacques “Would that there were time, Highness. In truth, however, you would find each of us inadequate in some significant way, I am sure.”
Heroine “You speak of me as if I were some spoiled child!”
Jacques “I have yet to meet a daughter of the noble classes who was not, Princess.”
Nicolas “Highness, your carriage is being loaded with those possessions Madam Bouvier selected for you. If you would say your goodbyes . . . ”
I turned from Jacques to find Grandmother approaching. Looking into those dear eyes, sadness overwhelmed me.
Pierre, our secret guardian for many years, stopped her to say his goodbyes. As I watched them speak, I pondered how utterly my life was now changed.
(Nothing was as it seemed, and nothing will be the same again.)
Marie “Darling [USER_FIRST_NAME]! I, at least, will still call you by your name, though now that the truth is out – “
Heroine “To you, I would always be [USER_FIRST_NAME]. You have looked after me and raised me all these years . . . “
Marie “With you and Pierre gone, I’m not sure what I will do with myself!”
Heroine “You will wait patiently for a little while. I will send for you when things are clear to me, and the danger not so great.”
There, in the middle of the square where I had played as a girl, I took Grandmother in a tearful embrace.
She held me tight, but wiped away her tears when we separated.
Marie “You must take this with you.”
She offered up a tiny portrait of the two of us, a miniature, no bigger than the palm of her wrinkled hand.
Heroine “I will! I remember this well! We sat for it only three summers gone!”
Marie “Only three summers, yet how much you have blossomed since then. I am proud of you, [USER_FIRST_NAME]. You are a strong and beautiful woman.”
(I feel anything but strong in this moment, and if my tears continue to flow, I will hardly look beautiful!)
Marie “No more tears, now! Go and rule wisely and well and long!”
Location: The carriage (Interior) (Morning)
Sir Alexandre drove the carriage as we left the town behind. Sir Nicolas rode with Jacques behind, leading the horses. Sir Henri and Sir Pierre rode with me.
Heroine “Thank you for joining me, Pierre. A familiar face does ease my heart amid all that is new and strange in my life.”
Henri “Highness, you should know he’s really here to make sure you do not fall in love with me.”
Pierre “Don’t play your usual games with her, Henri.”
(Well, this is an interesting development.)
Henri “The game I play is the age old game of love and chance, Pierre. One cannot gain when one does not venture.”
Pierre “Cast your dice elsewhere, then, sir.”
Alexandre “Enough, you two. Your Highness, Sir Henri has a habit of paying ardent attention to attractive young ladies. It is best not too take him too seriously.”
Heroine “But surely he is serious about his frivolous attitude toward love.”
Pierre “If you mean Henri’s love is of the chase, and not of any particular object of that chase, then I would agree.”
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 maiden’s male relations have chastised him for it.”
Alexandre “Yet, Your Highness, to give Henri his due, he is diligent in his duty and, in sooth, stands as the finest archer in Valois . . . “
Henri “ . . . and swordsman.”
Pierre “He may very well think so, but Sir Alexandre is generally acknowledged as the superior artist with that weapon.”
Alexandre “It is kind of you to say so, Sir Nicholas.”
Henri “Is it truly kind when others support you in your delusion, Alexandre?”
Alexandre ignored that provocation. I thought better of him for it.
(They are, at least, good company. Clever and witty and full of life.)
Location: Carriage (Exterior) (Dusk)
After some hours, Sir Nicolas called a halt, availing everyone of the opportunity to eat and stretch travel-weary bodies.
Nicolas “Highness, in our haste to depart, I neglected proper introductions. I am Nicolas du Maurier. I command this detachment of the Knights of Valois.”
Alexandre “I am Alexandre Belmont, Highness. It is my honor to serve you.”
Nicolas “Of course, you know Pierre Dubois.”
Pierre made a small bow that included a wink and a warm smile.
Heroine “I hope you, at least, will call me [USER_FIRST_NAME], Pierre. Formality between us after so long an acquaintance would be most awkward!”
Henri “If dispensing with formality encourages intimacy, Highness, then dispense with it with me. Sir Henri Monville at your service, Highness.”
Nicolas “Your pardon, Princess, but if we wait for Sir Jacques to introduce himself, this dusk may turn to dark and again to dawn.”
The knight in question lay prone upon a large, flat stone beside the road, using the last of the day’s light to read book bound in calfskin.
Heroine “What read you Sir Jacques?”
Jacques “The Troubadour and the Hawk, Highness. A history of – “
Heroine “Of the Belravian Uprising. Yes. I found it fascinating, if a bit sensational.”
Jacques rose and approached me in apparent surprise.
Jacques “I am Jacques Durand, m’lady. Among your protectors, I make no claims to superior skill with horse, bow, blade, or wooing . . .
Jacques “I am, however, the most well-read of this sorry lot.”
Nicolas “Hahahaha! Very true, Sir Jacques. He is the most studious among us, to be sure.”
(Jacques has a dry wit . . . and my interest in his book may have elevated me in his estimation.)
Heroine “It seems we share a love of letters. ‘Tis gratifying 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 the dinner he knows will come at the end of our ride – and not a moment before. Leave off you great mule!”
Philippe snorted loudly, shook his mane proudly, then turned and walked away. Though not before slapping Henri vigorously with his tail.
(Philippe’s feelings are hurt!)
Jacques nudged the Princess, offering her a bag of apples. He nodded in Philippe’s direction.
Jacques “Perhaps a snack will make him feel better.“
Heroine “Sir Henri likes apples?”
(So Sir Jacques does have a smile in his repertoire. And a rather nice one.)
Nicolas “Gentlemen and lady, it is nearly night. We shall stop at The Fox and Hare, the inn at Bywater.”
As the others prepared to move on, I spent a few minutes standing besides Sir Jacques, feeding Philippe apples.
Location: Fox and Hare Inn (Entrance/Exterior) (Evening)
Before full dark was upon us, the inn was in sight. As the others unloaded our baggage and saw to the horses, Sir Nicolas approached me.
Nicolas “Highness, there is more news I must impart to you. I have hesitated to add more to your burden on this day – “
a) Ask him to wait a while longer.
b) Ask him to go ahead with his news.
c) Tell him he was wrong to wait so long.
Heroine “I am still burdened with much confusion about what has come to pass that I would wait, Sir Nicolas, to hear your news.”
Nicolas “Would that I could delay longer, Highness, but what I have to say bears on the measures that must be taken for your security this night.”
Heroine “Very well, then. Tell me what you must.”
Heroine “Go ahead, then, Sir Nicolas, and tell me what you must.”
Nicolas “I would not open this conversation tonight but that it bears on the . . . unusual measures we must take for your safety.”
Heroine “My interest is now sufficiently piqued. Go on.”
Heroine “You were wrong to delay in speaking of anything bearing upon my fate, Sir Nicolas. Speak at once.”
Nicolas “Yes, Highness, but first I must say that, because of what I am about to tell you, you must be prepared for some . . . unusual measures regarding your safety this night.”
Nicolas “The nub of it is, Highness, that your father the King is not ill, as we have told you. He has been captured by the enemy and is, even now, their hostage.”
(Though I have not seen Father since I was a very young child and would know him not, this is an ill-wind indeed!)
Heroine “How did this come to pass, Sir Nicolas?”
Nicolas “The King was visiting his fortress at Mouraine, on the northern coast. Gladusian cavalry fell upon them . . . “
Heroine “Our forces failed to protect him?”
Nicolas “The Gladusians came in surprising numbers, and they were led by a most ruthless and clever knight, Sir Frederic Duclos, an old enemy of your family’s.”
Heroine “What is being done to discover my father’s whereabouts and free him from his captivity?”
Nicolas “Small groups of knights search far and wide. We believe he is being held in Valois itself.”
Heroine “I . . . I have many questions, Sir Nicolas, but they are for the morrow. I would to bed to rest and think.”
Nicolas “And here is the heart of why I felt it necessary to speak of this to you tonight: Sir Jacques will sleep in a room with you.”
(What?!! A man . . . in my room?)
Nicolas “I see your shock. I regret it, as well as any affront to your modesty this may cause, but the enemy may know where we are – “
Heroine “And your duty is to my safety, not my dignity or modesty. Yes. Very well, then.”
(I suppose I shall have to consent, but how . . . discomfiting!)
Location: Heroine’s room at the inn (Interior/Night)
And so it came to pass that Sir Jacques and I shared a bedroom (though not a bed!) on the first night of our acquaintance.
Sir Jacques accepted this arrangement with what I was beginning to sense was his customary ill-grace.
He established himself in a chair by the window, his feet up, reading by candlelight.
I found his presence another impediment to my efforts to find peace.
(I want nothing more than the oblivion of sleep after this chaotic day, but I cannot settle my mind or my heart!)
Jacques “Highness, your sighs are so frequent and of such poignancy that it disturbs my concentration.”
(Ohh! What a beast! No thought of me at all, only of himself!)
Heroine “Then I shall endeavor to put your convenience above the deep personal distress I feel at having all I have known turned upside down, sir!”
Jacques “Thank you, Highness.”
(And he is immune to sarcasm. Another black mark for Sir Jacques!)
I rolled over, burrowing into the covers. After a time, Sir Jacques breathing took on the slow, deep rhythms of the sleep that still eluded me.
(He’s asleep?! Is there no justice?!)
Determined to discover the truth, I eased out of bed and crept up on the knight.
Jacques’s eyes flew open. Grabbing me, he threw both of us onto my bed with astonishing speed.
(What is he — ?!)
As we landed on the mattress, the jingling sound of a small bell rang out.
Jacques “It worked!”
Heroine “What worked? What is that noise?”
Jacques “Do you know your Aristarchus, Highness? ‘The first principle of knowledge . . . ‘”
Heroine “ ‘. . . is proof by experiment.’ Yes, I know it. What is your point?”
He drew me to observe an intricate device of springs and calipers and a small bell attached between the mattress and the frame of my bed.
Jacques “It registers any addition of weight to the bed’s surface, thus sounding the chime.”
Heroine “But what – ?”
Jacques “Now, I can comfortably sleep in a chair outside your door, yet be forewarned should anyone approach in your sleep.”
With that, Sir Jacques flung himself from the bed, collected his chair, footstool, and book, and stepped out of the room.
Jacques “Guard duty is tedious, Highness. It bores me to watch you sleep as much as it disturbs you to share your chambers with me.”
Jacques “Thus, my device is a boon to us both, for you will have your peace and your modesty and I will be able to finish my book.”
He dug into his pocket, produced a piece of hard candy, and tossed it on the foot of the bed.
Jacques “A chamomile mint, Highness. Helps with sleep. Goodnight.”
With a small smile and a wave, he closed the door.
(What an insufferable moose he is! For loss of his company if no other reason, I would wish this journey over.)
Yet I did sleep better, though I could not say whether it was from the chamomile candy, from having my modesty honored . . .
. . . . or from knowing Sir Jacques was at my door.