I realise I have not yet posted anything from my completed novel Dieu et mon Droit and I want to introduce you to one of my favourite supporting characters. Though this snippet is from its unfinished sequel Alea Iacta Est, I think it really demonstrates some of the finer points of her character. Though she plays more of a supporting role in the first book (she doesn’t appear for the first half), she has a far more prominent role on this one. Please meet Olesia – the half British, half Portuguese queen.
‘Some would hang you for sitting on it,’ the voice from the door startled him. He turned to face Olesia; after all these years her voice was unmistakable.
His mouth fell open. No longer was she the skinny girl with rabbit teeth and eyes so piercing that it gave him a headache. Before him stood an elegant woman with straight raven black hair cascading down her back and brilliant emerald eyes that beamed at him from a soft olive complexion. Her poise was confident in the plain full-length purple dress that enhanced her natural curves. Hands confidently clasped behind her back, Olesia approached with the merest hint of a scowl.
As she got closer, he could see that she wore no make-up; not that she needed it, this ugly duckling had certainly become the most beautiful of swans. Besides, he was family and there was little need to go to so much effort.
She gracefully sat onto the marble throne and crossed her legs in a way that only a woman can get away with.
‘Queen Olesia, it’s been a long time,’ he bowed.
She nodded, showing no emotion. ‘Is this just a social visit?’
He licked his lips feeling slightly put out at her lack of warmth. ‘Partly, but I do have a favour to ask from my favourite second cousin.’
Olesia looked unimpressed. ‘You came to ask for my help?’ she raised an eyebrow in annoyance. ‘The great Prince Fernando needs my help?’
He nodded, all hope and informality gone.
‘You, who used to pull my hair and call my teeth tombstones? The same boy who put a frog into my bed and locked me in a wardrobe here at this palace?’
He nodded again, his cheeks turning red.
Olesia let out a howl of laughter. ‘Oh cousin! Your face is a portrait!’
‘You’re not angry with me?’ now he was confused.
Olesia stood and gently embraced him, he responded in kind and kicked himself at falling for her ploy. She withdrew quickly and gave Fernando a wide smile.
‘You’ve been waiting a long time for that, haven’t you?’
‘You can only guess how long,’ she beamed. ‘Please, let’s go somewhere more comfortable.’ She gestured to the door through which she entered. They passed through another but more elaborate audience chamber. This room was adorned with good quality carpet and fine art paintings.
The next room was warmer and less formal, considerably smaller than the audience chambers but contained more furniture. Two red silk sofas faced each other across a table of marble. Thick Persian rugs covered the wooden floor and a drinks cabinet stood open against the rear wall next to which, a servant waited patiently.
‘As you can imagine, only close acquaintances and family ever get to come in here,’ she sat on one of the sofas and gestured at the other for Fernando. ‘My father preferred simplicity but I’m a modern woman and without being extravagant, I’m too used to comfort.’
Fernando nodded and relaxed into the divinely comfortable chair.
‘Can I get you anything to drink?’ she gestured at the servant. ‘We have everything from Gin to Turkish tea. I strongly recommend the mulled mead. It was extremely popular at Christmas and we have so much of it left.’
Olesia waved the servant away and minutes later he returned with two cups and a steaming jug. With his first sip, Fernando had to agree that it was delicious.
Now, please tell me what can I do for a second cousin I’ve not seen in… seventeen years?’
‘I would prefer nobody else heard.’
The servant nodded and left the room without complaint.
‘I need you to help me stop a marriage.’
‘The marriage of whom? And for what reason?’
‘There is a woman. She is beautiful, intelligent and strong-willed. In fact she is everything her father ever dreamed of and she is everything a man could ever wish for. This woman is kind, compassionate and has a character that could soften even the hardest of hearts. Her sense of humour is perfect and no man could ever grow bored with her conversation. She is, for want of a better word, perfect. In that respect, she can marry any man she wishes and it pains her to think that some would take that choice away from her.’
‘Fernando, people of our position rarely have the luxury of marrying for love. My father was one of a few. It’s sad and unfortunate but sometimes it must be. If you love this woman then-’
‘Dear cousin,’ he interrupted, ‘I do not love this woman.’
‘I’m sorry, I just presumed. Then please explain to me…’ Olesia asked, confused.
‘I am the man she is being forced to marry.’
In my original novel, Olesia started life as “William” but I felt “he” was too stiff, too banal and couldn’t really seem to get a handle on the character. Turning William into Olesia was a shrewd decision, I feel, because it allowed me to strengthen the bond to her father. He became a broken man after his wife died giving birth to Olesia’s brother (the brother also died as a result of complications) and therefore doted on his one and only child. That side of their characters didn’t fit with a male heir, and it worked much more with a female heir especially as in his words “I see so much of the mother in the daughter”.
As for why Prince Fernando and this unnamed woman are being forced to marry against their will, why they both oppose it, and how the pair intend to resolve it, you will have to keep reading to find out!