The winds of change have long blown through Ranceau. A formidable realm, long united, stable and unmatched in the world, has been left to wither away in decades of decline under the now elderly Emperor François VI. An incompetent administrator with no talent save for emptying the royal coffers, he has hid behind the dark basalt walls of the capital, Saint-Véran, and observed with vacillation as his people suffer. Ranceau is like a wilting tree decaying and rotting from within as his strength, and consequently his authority, ebbs away day by day. He stubbornly holds onto what power remains, though where weakness is found there will be those ready to take advantage.
Chief amongst his detractors is his first-born son, the Dauphin of Lacrouge, Crown-Prince Henri. Nearing his thirtieth name-day he has crafted a cult of personality about himself. He is his fathers antithesis; a strong and charismatic man known for his chivalry and altruism. The calls for his father to step aside and allow his named successor to take the throne have grown beyond mere murmurs behind closed doors. Whilst the words have yet to pass from his own lips, Henri does little to quell the support building behind him and revels in their approval, only offering token backing of his father as to keep the peace. However, François has seen the swell of supporters joining the ranks of his son, and he seeks to reset the balance of authority in his lands - through drastic measures if need be.
Henri is not alone in his desire for power. There are plenty of siblings and far removed relatives with tangible links to the throne. Those who so brazenly promulgate their desires the most however are the same nobles and court officials who once swore unfettered loyalty and absolute allegiance to their old Emperor. Where once they manoeuvred to have the man's ear and advance their own goals through François' throne, now they position themselves for personal glory in the aftermath of his impending demise.
But they are pushed along by others more tactile and clandestine in their methods. These shadowy figures do not seek the throne itself, far too messy and public of a role, but rather they seek to make themselves indispensable to whomever does and run the realm by proxy. Be wary of these individuals more than anyone else; they are by far the most dangerous. Their sharpened daggers are unsheathed, their vials of poison uncorked, their forked tongues hiss in the ears of the powerful. They are like maggots festering within the body of Ranceau.
What keeps them subdued for the moment is that they must also keep at eye turned outwards, as external threats are more immediate and leave all in great agita. Neighbouring realms jostle for position to pluck away at Ranceau like carrion to a corpse. Her fertile farmland to the south is prized by both Caglia & Cadaja. For so long they have been separated by their own historical rivalry that they were never a threat by themselves, but there are growing fears that they may set aside their differences in their shared distrust of Ranceau.
To the east, a growing confederation of barbaric tribes are uniting under the banner of the uncivilised Tobais. His people have a deep hatred for the civilisation found to their west and are gathering together to overwhelm Ranceau and plunder it's rich towns and cities. They may be savages but their numbers make them a credible concern should the truly unite as one potent force.
The biggest threat of all comes from the north; King Richard VII of the Celtia Kingdom. Across la Mur du Âmes Perdues, the Sea of Lost Souls, lays a heavily militarised and potent foe that has long rivalled Ranceau as the powerhouse of the region. Whilst not in open war currently, their ships do actively battle for supremacy - under the flag of privateers of course. Wars are expensive and their last left both countries licking their wounds. King Richard, much like his long time rival François, is neither young nor popular amongst his own court, taxing his barons harshly to refill his coffers as he has done. There are many who say a significant victory against the southern realm would do well to steady his control of his own realm. If it should happen to line the pockets of his nobles? Well, that would just be a happy side effect.
So, as you can see, there are many threats - both internal and external. There is great wealth and power to be had, but there is a noose around your neck and a knife at your belly. Make a move and it could be the making of your own dynasty. Or the end before it can even begin.
What is your next move?
With Nullifaction as Flora
- Ranceau - Ron-sue. - François - Fron-sw-ah. - Henri - On-ree. - Saint-Véran - San-veh-ron. - Lacrouge - Lak-rou-j. - Cadaja - Cah-dah-ha. - Âmes Perdues - Am pear-doo.
Firstly, Les Murs ont des Oreilles is French for; “the walls have ears”. Fitting, no?
Now, some key points to know about the roleplay;
- I am craving a 1x1 medieval roleplay that is based heavily around political intrigue, court antics, the constantly shifting alliances and double-crossing of royal life. It will be about never knowing who you can truly trust, whether they are using you and the almost never-ending need to be one step ahead of everyone lest you lose your head.
- I will primarily be playing the Crown-Prince Henri, though will take the role of François, advisors and more as and when needed. Being a 1x1 the other person would ideally play someone fresh to the court, perhaps someone from a newly conquered peoples, perhaps from a lesser lord/minor noble, or even just a lowly merchant/peasant who finds a way to elevate themselves. Just generally not too accustom to this royal court. It means we can introduce characters and relationships without 'oh, you've lived here all your life but don't know X?'.
- You will be expected to play multiple characters but you can keep it to just the one main character. I'm not expecting you to play 5 people all at once. However if you are pushing a particular plot/storyline, I expect you to utilise characters already made or bring in your own to supplement your idea. Don't just be 'Main Character' and expect me to play everyone else in this world.
- Feel free to use Henri and François as needed and harm them too if you wish. If it improves your post to have someone attack Henri, perhaps someone slashes at him and cuts his arm etc, then just do it. I will do the same to you. Short of killing Henri or your main character, I do not feel the need to ask 'does this attack hit?' I am trusting you not to abuse this and to use the permission to extend your post.
- The bigger details will be hashed out in the roleplay itself. You can make or I can provide a character who will act as a kind of 'Wikipedia' of this realm. They'll point out important people, give you lore and provide context. It will save you constantly messaging me about things and also be believable within roleplay that you need to ask and learn about what is going on rather than just inherently knowing.
- Your character can be whomever you want. Man, woman, old, young, foreigner, local, etc etc. Just know I will be highly critical of characters in the sense of how you fit into the world. You can go for any role from serf to foreign royal, but the character must make sense in the world.
- I don't envision this being fantasy but more so an alternative reality of earth. You're bright, you realised Ranceau is France and so on. Work within that general idea.
- There is no magic. No fantasy races. I will only make an exception for elves, dwarves, hobbits, giants etc. if you have a good idea or are convincing for why I should allow it. No orcs, no shapeshifters, no dragonkin, no fae, no furries and so on.
- Essentially it will be open ended in plot, though with some as yet secret milestones to hit as I don't want it to go on forever. Please note; it is very open for action to be taken by the other party (you). They can introduce their own characters, plot points, hell, start a war and kill a few characters off. I'd love you to weave in your own sub-plots.
- Finally; there will be romance, death, harsh language and swearing a-plenty - it is a royal court after all - but sexual stuff will likely be 'fade to black' and so on for site rules. Obviously. Although it's a medieval setting, racism won't play a part – again, obviously - however expect a good deal to revolve around ones class, around certain privileges, about ones social status and such.
- Gender and sexuality will come up, it is medieval life, but these will be used very rarely. With a mature partner to write with, this may be mitigated slightly, but I'm not expecting that to change. Although given the setting you'd expect 'women treated poorly for being women', I find that quite dull. Thus the focus will be more on your social status than whom you find attractive or what gender you are.
So that is basically it. Medieval royal life. Should have just left it at that really.
What do I expect of you?
I expect someone who can give me a few paragraphs to work with but isn't afraid of offering me 100 words if simply reacting. If I ask you 'where is X person', then I don't expect 1000 words or 20 paragraphs. It's okay to have conversations that are 20+ posts of 100 words each. It's back and forth etc. It makes sense in that context. But in general, I want a few paragraphs to show your feeling, your thoughts, your progression of the plot etc. Not too much right?
I have no expectation regarding pictures; I probably won't use them or character profiles but feel free to do so yourself.
I also don't expect any kind of posting frequency. If you reply in an hour or a month, that's fine. I'll probably check in after a fortnight, make sure you're not stuck or want to leave etc. But no rush.
Finally, I do expect you to reach out to me to talk if you feel apprehensive or unsure about writing something. I'm here to talk in DM's etc if it means a better roleplay in the end.
Whilst Lord and Lady Grey were only lesser nobles in the land, they were well placed within the royal world. Lord Grey had taken considerable time, effort and above all else gold to endear himself to the Emperor Francois. Gifts of rare wine, the finest silks, beautiful paintings and just simple chests filled to the brim with gold had gotten him so far, but not far enough.
Even now, with all that he had given over to the old man, he was only afforded a small house in one of the outer buildings of the great keep. In all honesty, it was akin to a palace to all but the elite of the world, but for Lord Grey, it was merely a hovel in the corner. He wanted more. He had brought his wife and servants to stay in the capital for the winter, knowing the cold weather of Saint-Veran would force Francois to remain stationary, and therefore more susceptible to further shiny trinkets and sweet honey words whispered in his ear. Lord Grey had his task and was quite open about his aims in front of his wife, though this left her with plenty of time to herself.
For Flora, this meant doing as any hand maiden would; whatever Lady Grey told her to. Most ladies of the upper class had several servants and Lady Grey was no different, though her particular cabal of helpers was decidedly smaller than others. Aside from Flora she had two other fair girls who saw to the cleaning of the house and the cooking of all meals. Further more she had her personal attendant, Michel, who had been with her for a number of years and was treated with a fairer hand than the others.
He was an effeminate figure, found from the southern shores of Ranceau where the sun had kissed his skin and bleached his hair the colour of sand. He was a thin figure of middling height and innocent beauty, though devilish thoughts danced behind his auburn eyes. Approaching his thirtieth year, he’d been with Lady Grey for near a decade and so had taken on a leadership role with the other servants. He was kind enough to the girls, though he had the ability for cruelty and a venomous tongue should it be called for.
This particular morn’ he was in a pleasant mood. Lady Grey was off with one of the girls seeing to the purchase of a new dress and so the small home they were in was peaceful once morning chores were done. Coming into the kitchen to where Flora was, he grinned as he swept in close, grasping the counter with wicked delight.
[b “Have you heard the news?”] He asked only to met with a quizzical look; she was often last to hear the news. [b “They say Crown Prince Henri is coming to the capital to speak with his father.”] Whilst such political machinations were above their heads, and they would never think to be involved, Michel simply adored gossip and hypothesising on the inner workings of royalty. It was a simple treat alongside the grape he picked from the bunch before him and duly popped into his mouth. With a deft nod of his head he beckoned her to take one for herself and join him in the small act of rebellion.
[b “Oo, I can see it now. He bursts into the throne room, striding in all strong in his shining armour, brushing back that dark hair as all the ladies of the court swoon~”] He theatrically swivelled on his heel, the back of his hand to his forehead as he leaned back over the counter some. [b “It’s sending me into hot flushes as we speak.”] He grinned, biting down on the grape and revelling in its rich earthy taste, the juices so vivid and delightful. A small treat that no-one need know about.
This wonderful place was a far cry from where Flora had originated, her village had been small with not a lot of prospects for a young woman. She could have married a farmer, perhaps had a nice family and settled down but opportunity had presented itself with Lady Grey. She had found herself in need of a hand maid and Flora had leapt at the chance. This place was beautiful and full of exotic people, there was always something going on. It was hard work but she did the very best she could. It had taken a little time for her to really catch on and understand the demands but she had done well. Flora was usually found in a spritely mood, making the most out of situations and seeing the bright side which could often be tough when things got difficult but she was a regular beam of sun to most.
Flora knew to keep her head down, speak when spoken to and always mind her mannerisms and tone with those above her. Flora fixed the bonnet she wore and tucked some red hair out of view, pale and freckled face giving way to a smile of amusement when Michel entered. He was quite the character and never failed to brighten the mood. Michel also had a penchant for gossip and kept most of them informed.
[b "Oh?"] Flora said and averted her gaze when he ate some of the offerings as she peeled some potatoes over the basin. She let forth a giggle when he spoke of the Prince and his grand entrance, she had heard stories and only stories, never quite managing to grace the scene herself and she doubted this time would be any different.
[b "What do you believe his business is? Perhaps he's finally going to take a wife and we'll have a beautiful princess!"] Flora smiled at the thought. It would certainly give way for grand celebrations and of course every woman of the court would want to be recognised and have a chance with the Crown Prince himself. Flora supposed it would need the Kings approval too and it was sure to set tongues wagging and Michel would keep them all informed.
[b "I should like to see the courts one day, Lady Grey always takes the more experienced of her maids with her but I've heard stories about how colourful it all is."] Flora grinned wistfully at the thought, of course they all spoke together at night by the lantern lights about what could possibly happen but idle chit chat was frowned upon during the working hours. Lady Grey was likely too old to be considered as a viable candidate for Prince Henri but perhaps she could bend a few ears, she was certainly wise and incredibly kind for the most part. Lord and Lady Grey were in good standing with most but Flora also knew things could change quickly, the slightest misstep would land in less renowned territories but they were clever and wise in their age.
[b "Perhaps it's just business, something boring and political."] Flora said, picking up another potato to peel the skin away with the sharp knife between her slender fingers, careful with her work. Flora had often like the bright coloured gowns and she was rather excited to see Lady Grey's newest addition to her wardrobe. She hoped it was a beautiful sapphire dress Lady Grey always looked magnificent in such dresses. Perhaps one day Flora would find herself in a lovely gown, unlike the cream and plain dresses she wore that were unflattering and ill-fitting on her.
Flora was so young and naive to the world that Michel took delight in teasing her with his wicked thoughts and fantasies. Whilst he was blushing and thinking of devilish and amoral acts, she was like a girl on her mothers lap, dreaming of Princesses and weddings and the like. It was sweet in a way and he would smile at her as she cast potato skins into the basin with a flick of her wrist.
[b “Now Flora, you’ll learn that everything that goes on in the court is exciting, never boring. The politics of it all is where the most fun is to be had.”] He moved off the counter to inspect a tray of vegetables she had already prepared, taking a moment to look over the parsnips and give it a dash more oil for when it was roasted later. [b “I know for now you are just the working serf, but that is the best place to be. No-one will pay you much heed and they’ll discuss all kinds of details in front of you,”] he looked over his shoulder at her, [b “the sweet, unassuming hand maiden.”]
Moving from the parsnips he saw a crate that was off to the side, the lid having been pried off and he took the time to inspect the contents. The wine within was worth their lives ten times over, a single bottle enough to pay their wages for a lifetime. Lifting one out he inspected the label and mused over just how such an item could be worth more than a life, but then he was more easily replaced than this wine.
[b “Would you like to go to court Flora?”] His question came as he set about carefully returning the bottle to the crate of straw and timber, nestling it gently within. [b “You know, if Lady Grey was inclined to take you.”] He returned to her side, inspecting one of the peeled spuds and deeming it adequate work as it was dropped back in with the others. [b “Because I heard she was becoming fatigued with Gertrude and her fretting ways.”]
The older servant, nearing her fiftieth year, was Lady Grey’s favourite but also most stubborn of servants. Whilst she may have been the most experienced, often she would worry too much or be too forward with her opinion. Michel had coerced the frustration from the Lady when tasked with scrubbing her feet the night before, his serpents tongue once again at work.
[b “Of course, you’d have to do more to your appearance,”] he said as hands came to her shoulders and turned her to face him. [b "You are simply blessed to have me to help you there."] He picked at strands of hair to move them about this way and that and grasped the shoulders of her uniform to pull up and let it settle back more evenly. She was not an ugly girl. She had an even face, good cheeks, a feminine jawline and a rosy complexion, not to mention she had the peasant girl figure too - not thick and heavy, not thin and dainty. She had potential. [b “I’m sure I could do wonders and in no time you’d be the one attending the gala’s with Lady Grey. What do you think?”] He said as his devious eyes caught hers and a demure smile tugged at his lips.
Flora glanced over at Michel as he inspected the parsnips and added a dash of oil, she didn't utter a word of protest, he tended to know best when it came to these things and who was she to tell him otherwise? He knew the ins and outs of this place more than she did and she was still young, coming up to her eighteenth year and she hummed a little at his mention of politics. Flora always fancied herself too uneducated for such things but she had been taught to read and write by Lady Grey's good graces. She chuckled a little when he mentioned she was tiring of Gertrude.. It was unsurprising, Gertrude was so set in her ways sometimes it could get exhausting but she would never speak such a thing out loud.
Michel took her off guard when he approached her and suggested fancying her up some to gain favour and she eyed him over. At first, she thought he was jesting with her, poking some good natured fun her direction but he looked serious as he spoke and she looked herself over. She could never go to gala events and such, could she?
[b "I suppose there's no harm in it."] If she tried and failed then it wouldn't be the end of the world. Truth be told, she wanted so desperately to see the colours and vibrant ways of the courts and galas. If anyone could make it happen, it was Michel. He was renowned around everyone for his smooth talking and ability to get his way and he was a good ally to have. Flora gave a small, excited smile but almost seemed reserved because it might not happen. [b "I'm sure out of everyone around here, you would be the one to polish me up."] She remarked to him with a giggle and put another potato in the basket, ready for a sprinkle of rosemary and oil. Flora looked herself over, she knew a time would come when she would marry and continue her service, after all she was getting older and perhaps even Lady Grey would help her fin a suitable match one day.
[b "I don't own anything else, I have one other day dress but it's horribly similar to this one."] No bright colours and her red hair was wavy but uninteresting beneath the bonnet she wore to keep her modesty and her eyes clear. She swallowed some and wondered if this was such a good idea, it might end poorly after all but she could hardly be punished for trying to become Lady Grey's next favourite and personal escort to all the lavish events.
[b "You really are a marvel, Michel."] Flora said to him with a smile, she was just about finished with the meal preparation, scraping away the peelings from the potatoes, nothing went to waste here and she dipped a cup into some clean water and took a drink. She had been one of the prettiest girls back at her village but of course most of the girls features were hidden and dull in these clothes and bonnets, perhaps Michel would be the one to shine her up brand new.
Delighting in her enthusiasm, Michel clapped his hands together as he watched her fetch a cup to dip into a fresh bowl of water. He listened to the droplets splash back into the bowl as he contemplated all the opportunities that were opening to him because of her, [i what he could do with her potential]. [b “I am far and above a marvel.”] He said as he drew back to the present moment. [b “I am a wonder of this world and it shall be a sad day indeed when I’m gone.”] He grinned as he inspected the potatoes she had peeled for any imperfections.
Content that she had done a good job, or good enough, his hands met behind his back as he turned back to her. [b “There is one key fact that you hold over all others here Flora; and it is that you are young,”] he said as he approached her, [b “[i very] young, and that is good, [i very] good.”] He was changing into his mentor role and it was evident how much he was enjoying letting his thoughts free. It was difficult for a man of his skill to find means of flexing such experience.
[b “A woman like Lady Grey is all about appearances. She's forever shopping for new dresses, new jewels, the newest trend currently controlling the court."] If the women of the court were running around naked save for a pair of long pink socks and bright blue gloves, then Lady Grey would have a dozen of each ordered by the evening. [b "There is nothing better, however, than being the one to set the trend. Currently, experience trumps everything when it comes to a Lady's personal escort."] And why would it not? Better to have a woman who knew you better than you knew yourself, to be there with a drink before you were thirsty and to whisper the right advice without having to ask for it. [b "Why not change that?"] Oh to break the boundaries, to change society - albeit in a small and insignificant way.
[b "Perhaps she could delight in having a youthful soul around her, especially after that veteran Gertrude. By simple proximity you will exude youth and energy and freshness and she will feel young and vibrant herself. Surround yourself with pigs and you will learn to oink.”] He chuckled, his mind was racing with several thoughts and ideas but he was quickly tempering his expectations against reality. There was no sense in rushing this. Being a servant, even one of Lady Grey’s more senior servants, did not offer many paths for entertainment, so he needed to savour this.
In that regard he hummed with indecision as the cup rest in her hands and he circled around her like a predator sizing up their prey. A light tune played in the air as his eyes inspected her. With the second passing he nodded to himself as he strode for the door. [b “Tonight, after you have seen to clearing the dinner table and finished your nightly chores, come to my room.”]
He paused at the door to look back and ensure she had been listening to him. Fixing her with a serious look he held the door handle firmly, [b “And please, do not speak a word of this to the others girls. I have no doubt that they would spill it all to Gertrude and that stubborn old hag will burrow herself closer to Lady Grey like a tick in a dog.”] An apt if somewhat unpleasant comparison. With that he would leave Flora in the kitchen to continue her duties as he strode off with a wicked grin.
Well, he certainly seemed like a proper expert in this field and Flora realised he wasn't joking. Michel knew how to play these games well and she gazed at him as he circled her. Flora supposed it made sense that Lady Grey would want a youthful soul around her, as opposed to someone old and withered, a few new flowers to add to the garden. She furrowed her brow and wondered if she truly understood what she had let herself in for. Flora nodded in affirmation, she supposed it would be unwise to go telling tales to everyone but she would also have to be careful, a young woman going to a mans room would set tongues wagging but Flora was so lithe and fitted so well, nobody really noticed her.
Flora watched Michel leave and stared at the door for a while. It was only then, in the privacy of the kitchen area whilst she was alone, did she let some excitement come forth as she smiled and gave an experimental twirl. A ladies escort, her, no less. She knew it was a grand leap to take and she would have to make a rather stunning impression for such a thing to occur but she would relish every moment and she planned to take them all by surprise.
[b "Dinner, for heavens sake girl, people will think you've lost your mind to the fumes if you carry on prancing like that!"] A voice cut off Flora and she almost jumped into the ceiling with fright. It was only Genieva, the older cook with greying hair and she cleared her throat but there was a hint of mirth in her eyes. Genieva was at least much kinder than Gertrude was these days and Flora mumbled an apology as she started to help with dinner preparations.
There was the usual chit chat, the women spoke about some of the gentlemen and the knights that they had seen passing by in the halls and Flora was deaf to it all as she focused on her talk, wondering what Michel had in store for her and she was so lost in her daydreaming that she barely heard Genieva bustle up and take over, everything had to be perfect, she was the cook after all and perfection was all that was accepted. She smiled some to Genieva but the older woman supposed that maybe some man had taken her fancy or perhaps she hadn't had enough sleep last night.
[b "Right, I want the tables cleared promptly after dinner, the quicker that's done the quicker I can prepare for the mornings meal."] Genieva instructed and everyone knew better than to argue with a cook in her own kitchen.
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