Velvet Petals, Piercing Thorns - Prologue
Rating: PG this chapter; will escalate to NC-17 in future chapters
Genre: Romance, AU, Historical Fiction
Spoilers: While events and references from both seasons of Glee may be adapted and worked into the story occasionally, it's otherwise fully AU.
Word Count: Thus far, 1400
Summary: England, 1484: The forces of Lancaster see Edward Blaine Anderson, Viscount Dalton, as key to their plans to retake and hold the throne of England. The House of York has come to the same conclusion and wants to stop that from happening. Their secret weapon is Kurt Hummel, stableman's son and reluctant spy.
Additional Notes: While musing that the narrative structure of my other large-scale fic is not unlike that of a courtly dance, the idea for this story began to percolate and the next thing I knew, I had a stack of Wars of the Roses research materials a mile high. I'll take some pretty free license with history (I mean, there's never been a Viscount Dalton and clearly the names aren't period appropriate...), but I will try to stick as close as I can manage when it's relevant. And yes, things are going to go to smut at some point, because it wouldn't be historical romantic fiction without implausible sex, now would it?
Edward Blaine Anderson and Kurt Hummel have never met.
There's no reason why they should have, really. Edward - or Blaine, as he prefers and his friends indulge - is the orphaned heir to a very small, politically insignificant holding in England. He never knew his mother, Katherine, who died giving birth to him. His father, Neville Anderson, Viscount Dalton...well. Neville lived a bit longer, so Blaine remembers some things about him. But when the boy was only seven, Neville met a brutal end at swordpoint during the Battle of Barnet. His dowager aunt Alice Beaufort, Baroness Linwood - the only relative on either side of the family willing to take on the responsibility of raising a small boy and act as Regent to the Viscountcy until Blaine came of age - is his favorite person in the world.
Anderson men are known for their intelligence, determination and charisma. Baroness Beaufort had these innate qualities with which to work and added a healthy respect for women, treating lower classes with kindness, and a love of music to her nephew's upbringing. As a result, Blaine is now a young man of merely twenty years, yet he nonetheless manages his lands well. The small staff of people that help him run Dalton House are completely loyal to him – he has never beaten anyone, never forced his attentions on any chambermaid or kitchen girl, and he tries to give everyone time off when he can. His aunt thinks the sun rises and sets on his head, a sentiment he returns to her wholeheartedly.
Though he is not an overly tall man, Blaine is an extraordinarily handsome one. Wide hazel eyes sparkle warmly under an unruly crop of ebony curls. Since he enjoys horseback riding, he is well muscled and lightly tanned. He always dresses very well, thanks to his valet, but he often laughs and waves off shaving until his aunt refuses to allow him to kiss her on the cheek unless he does so and is no longer at risk of scraping her delicate skin. His laugh is infectious, his singing voice excellent, and he is surprisingly skilled with a lute. All of these attributes combine to make Viscount Dalton popular amongst other young men of his peerage, and he does not suffer of a lack of attention from the fairer sex.
His title may be politically insignificant and his holdings small, but Blaine's quick smile and clever mind have ensured that he has captured the attention of the nobles loyal to the House of Lancaster. The Lancastrians are quietly marshaling their forces for an uprising and need a solid base of young, minor nobles committed to their cause. Their goal is to solidly overthrow Richard III, King of England and the leader of the York forces that routed Lancaster 13 years previously at Barnet. They think that Blaine would be ideal for their initiative, and they would be utterly correct: the young Viscount has every reason to loathe the House of York, possesses a good mind for strategy, and would not be averse to moving up in the ranks of English nobility.
He is, in short, exactly what the House of Lancaster is looking for.
Kurt Hummel is the motherless son of an Austrian stablemaster. Burt Hummel married a pretty English girl not very many years after he first set foot on the soil of his new homeland, and shortly after that, their only son was born. A spirited but physically frail creature, sadly, Elizabeth Hummel would perish of consumption when young Kurt was only eight years old.
It is fortunate for the Hummel men that Burt was a stablemaster and horse trainer of excellent reputation. It was a job that allowed him to keep Kurt with him and train the boy as his apprentice as he grew up. Was it what Kurt wanted to do? Not really. But he was reasonably good at it and he loved his father, so he did what he could. He found that he did his best work in tack repair, thus he was frequently found with waxed thread, needle, and battered leather in hand, his tiny, even stitches forming a perfect line no matter what he was sewing together.
Were it not for their unusual pale green eyes, no one would note Burt and Kurt as father and son at first glance. Burt is a stocky, slightly gruff man, the very epitome of what you might imagine a horseman to be. He is tanned from his years working outdoors, muscled from training horses, and has a bluntly honest way of speaking. His head is as bald as a boiled egg; his son is always nagging him to wear a cap to protect his scalp from the sun.
Kurt, at twenty, is tall, slender, light brown of hair and pale of skin. He is clever and taught himself to read from books both pilfered and honestly obtained. His voice is as sweet and clear as a flowing river and he sings as he stitches straps onto saddles and repairs bridles. His high cheekbones and pink lips have often gotten him called “ladyboy,” “little girl,” and “Princess,” but Burt taught his son to throw punches at an early age; Kurt may be lanky and wiry, but he is one hell of a scrapper. No one nickname or taunt sticks for long.
Of course, it means he doesn't have many friends, but he doesn't mind.
When Kurt was fifteen, Burt secured a position as Head Stableman and Horsemaster for the Earl of Huntingdon. Huntingdon is high in the ranks of York's nobility. He hired Burt away from a far less significant Baronetcy when the elder Hummel happened to be in a position to stop the Earl's prize palfrey from rampaging through the streets of London after a bee stung its flank. Burt fearlessly threw himself in front of the charging horse, seized the dangling bridle, and within ten minutes had the terrified animal calmed and standing patiently, waiting for his panicked master to catch up.
Huntingdon engaged Burt's services on the spot, and the Hummels have been essentially happy and securely employed ever since. The nobles of the House of York have never been anything but kind to them, and the pair see no reason why their loyalties should ever deviate one iota from the faction that has treated them well.
Blaine and Kurt are of different classes and warring political factions. One boy has many friends, the other has virtually none. One is a noble, one is a reluctant apprentice stableman. All they have in common are quick minds, an appreciation of music, and missing parents.
Under normal circumstances, they would never meet.
But it is coming to once again be a time of war. The House of York wishes to maintain their grip on the English throne, but they acknowledge that if a clever enough gambit is played, all could be lost. They are seeking any advantage they can find, and daily send more spies into the ranks of Lancaster.
The Lancastrians, of course, would like nothing more than to end decades of civil strife once and for all, preferably with their house emerging victorious. To that end, they are grooming the sons of nobles minor and major, for it is only with a firm foundation laid that a solid house can be built. The elders believe they can take the throne, but it will be up to the next generation to defend it. They think that one Edward Blaine Anderson could be the keystone to their initiative.
Huntingdon, on the other hand, has just received critical intelligence regarding young Viscount Dalton that he and other nobles loyal to York see to be the linchpin in their plot to bring down the House of Lancaster. There is one more missing puzzle piece to find before the forces of York can use this information, however, and they are getting the sinking feeling that time is running out.
The winds of war have begun to blow. While normally we are accustomed to seeing them do nothing but destroy, these winds will slowly, inexorably bring our two disparate young men together. Velvet petals of roses red and white will dance on the breezes of conflict – but all roses have their thorns, as the saying goes, and some will pierce more painfully than others...