Since her birth, Bella had been taught the ways of grace and sophistication. She acquired a mastery in early Renaissance art at the age of five and was fluent in Latin, Greek, French, Italian, and German before she turned seven. Her remarkability modelled finesse, of which only a lady from a powerful household could ever procure. But Bella was no damsel, let alone in distress.
There came a time when Bella Fortunia refused to play by the rules of society. What was the meaning of life if all she ever did was don burgundy velvet dresses and feign bashfulness in the presence of men? No, she was going to wield a sword in a quest for honour and justice. And what finer way to begin her heroic and valiant adventure than with the rescue of her betrothed, Ziennaticus Vera.
It had been a week since Ziennaticus Vera went missing. He was last spotted at the Temple of the High Society, pounding on the oak double doors in request for entry he was seemingly denied. The High Society was an organization for the noblests of nobles—Bella’s father would attend its weekly meetings whenever it was required of him. And though she had heard of the exclusivity and prestige of the High Society, Bella knew little of what went on beneath the ribbed dome roof—never was a lady invited and never will a lady be. Alas, to the High Society’s dismay, Bella was about to kick its doors in the name of love.
Since it wasn’t ladylike, Bella had acquired a fine level of swordsmanship from a retired musketeer—excusing herself every alternate afternoon in the name of literary pursuits. And, because she knew of no one else who would be in possession of suitable garb, Bella paid her teacher an unexpected visit—at his cluttered room above his favourite tavern—on the morning of her quest. After an intoxicated night, the middle-aged man stood fuddled as Bella swiped a deep crimson doublet with golden laces, a black cape, and the retiree’s polished rapier. Promising to return the attire, she slipped into the swordmaster’s former persona and wasted not a second more—storming toward the Temple of the High Society.
What was Bella’s grand plan? Surely, the chivalrous young lady had it well thought out. And she did, without any need for theatrics. Standing at the heavy double doors of the High Society, Bella demanded for her lover—whom she strongly believed to have been kidnapped by the coterie of elitists—to be released.
“Do not make me swing my blade,” Bella threatened. “Release Sir Vera this instant and I shall be on my way.”
“We have not heard of this Ziennaticus Vera. So be on your way, woman,” a voice replied from behind the doors.
“I am no woman,” Bella stated, in abhorrence of the foul appellation. “I am a lady and I am here for my knight in distress.”
“We do not have your knight. So be gone!”
Oh, how the stranger regretted his words. Instead of a futile argument, Bella responded with a forceful kick at the door. The sudden impact—despite failing to send the door crashing down—led to an oof as if the doorkeeper had fallen on his back.
“Have you caught the plague?” the man yelled—outrage present in the resonance of his voice.
“My knight or I’ll send you the plague!” Bella raised her own in competition.
Bella hesitated for a moment—in contemplation of offering the stranger a chance to concede—but the thought of her beloved locked in a cage, hanging high above treacherous spikes, sparked her to action. Bella raised her knee high, ready for another kick, when-
“What the devil is going on in here?” Lady Fortunia asked, failing to hide the horror that had swept across her face the second she walked through the reading room door.
“We’re… just playing,” Bella replied, promptly tossing the wooden sword onto the floral hand-woven carpet.
“Is this how a lady behaves?” Lady Fortunia questioned. Ziennaticus, who had placed an armchair between him and Bella as the imaginary door, lowered himself from view.
“No,” Bella replied, dropping her gaze as she did. Instantly, she knew her fate had been sealed—additional hours pouring over manuscripts with her aging tutor and the arduous task of embroidering the entire garden with her nursemaid.
“Ziennaticus,” Lady Fortunia ordered forward.
“Yes, Your Ladyship,” Ziennaticus muttered, daring not to raise his head.
“Tell Lady Vera that you’ll be too ill for anymore visits this month.”
“No,” Bella interjected. Reading and needlework was acceptable, but prohibiting the only time she could be herself was cruel.
“Not another word from you, young lady.” Lady Fortunia snapped. “Now off you go, Ziennaticus. I don’t want to see you until the month is over.”
If there was a time Bella Fortunia needed to wield her sharpened rapier, that was the time. Alas, some rules of society couldn’t be broken. Even if Bella Fortunia refused to play along, her mother would see to it that she did. After all, Bella was a damsel… but one in distress? No, never—at the very least, that decision was hers and hers alone.
12 Genre Months © 2019 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.
(Click HERE for the list of stories in this writing challenge.)