Once upon a time there was a girl named Jacqueline. She was the princess of France and she lived in a palace in Versailles, but to her it was a prison. She was never allowed to leave the palace walls, she had to dress a certain way, act a certain way, be a princess in her very essence. She wanted nothing more than to see the outside.
She wanted to see what the noblemens' daughters saw. They got to travel; to see the good things in life and the bad. They were wordly. Jacqueline envied them; wanted to be them. She had gotten opportunities to run away before, but had always been afraid to take them.
Then she learned that France was going to war with Spain. It was a terrible idea; Spain had the biggest and best military in Europe. France was most certainly to lose. Despite that, it was quite possibly the only chance she would have to escape in a long time.
So, on the eve of the military's departure to the battle ground, she cut most of her hair off and found boy's clothing. She slipped out in the night, avoiding the guards at every turn. She managed to climb the wall and with that she was free of the palace.
It took several hours to find the army camp, but when she did she slipped in, signed up, and joined the ranks as Jacques a peasant boy. At dawn the bells rang and the march began. All through the daylight they marched and marched in orderly lines and identical footfalls until they couldn't see the ground they walked on. At that point they set up camp again.
Meals of gruel and stale bread were served with water. The men took their rations and separated into groups of friends. Fires were started, games were pulled out, there was merriment all around. This seemed strange to Jacqueline; they were headed toward almost certain death and these men were happy. She observed this as she tried to find a place to sit. Seeing nothing, she was about to sit on the ground alone when the most beautiful boy she had ever laid eyes on called her over.
Hessitantly she approached his group. He smiled and her heart fluttered.
"Want to join us?" He asked. Failing speech, she nodded and slid into the spot he had made for her. He stuck his hand out for her to shake.
"Bastian." He identified himself.
"Jacques." She replied shaking his hand.
He smiled and went on to introduce everyone else at the table, but Jacqueline forgot the names as soon as Bastian said them. After introductions were finished, the boys went back to their conversations. They were all eager for battle; eager to bring honor to their families whether they lived or died.
"You're very quiet Jacques." Bastian said during a lull in the conversation, "Not excited for the upcoming battle?"
"I was just wondering how everyone can be so happy when we are headed to war." She told him, to which he laughed.
"We are indeed headed for war, and there is a good possibility that we will all die. In times like these we need something to keep our spirits up or there will be no hope of survival and then it won't even be a war because at that point we wouldn't even put up a fight." His explanation clarified things for Jacqueline.
"I see. Keeping up morale." Bastian grinned at her simplification of his words. She spent the rest of the night listening to their joyful noise.
In the morning they marched again, all through the day. At dusk they set up camp . For weeks it was the same routine. The only benefit other than finally seeing the real world was that Jacqueline got to spend time with Bastian and the others. Even if he did think she was a boy. The more time she spend with him, the more time she wanted to spend with him. It was safe to say that she was in love with him. The thought made her more and more apprehensive about the upcoming battles.
A couple of weeks after they had shipped out, gossip spread like wild fire. The gossip consisted of the news that the princess had gone missing. Jacqueline grew nervous that someone would discover her secret, but nothing changed. Everyone still treated her like a man. For the time being she was still safe from discovery.
The night they set up camp for the final time, she was terrified. She could lose Bastian tomorrow. That thought kept her up all night, but in the morning she was determined to fight like a man. She would show no mercy for the enemy.
"Nervous?" Bastian asked as they watched the sun break over the horizon. In the distance the Spanish military could be seen preparing for battle.
"Terrified." She replied. Bastian nodded in agreement, though to anyone who looked at him, he looked confident. He looked every bit the soldier he was about to become.
In the blink of an eye, armies were merging. The fighting had begun. Jacqueline was thankful then for the fencing lessons she'd been forced to attend as a child. She fought just as she had intended to the previous night. It was kill or be killed and she wasn't going to let anything get in the way of protecting the man she loved. But she was so focused on protecting him, that she didn't notice the soldier behind her wielding a sword. Not until the piercing pain in her shoulder occurred anyway. At first the edges of her vision began to blur and go out, but following that everything went black.
When Jacqueline woke, she was laying on something soft. She looked around herself and immediately recognized her own bedroom in the palace. She tried to sit up, but as she did the pain in her shoulder returned and the memories of the last few months rushed back. What had happened in the battle? More importantly, was Bastian alright? Was he alive? No one seemed to be around to answer her questions. But then the door opened, and the king stepped in.
He looked upon his daughter, and it seemed to take a moment for him to realize she was awake. Upon this realization, he rushed forward and embraced her. Jacqueline ignored the pain running through her because she was overwhelmed by the feeling of being in the arms of someone who loved her. When he pulled away he cradled her face in his hands and kissed her forehead.
"I'm so glad you've returned home!" He exclaimed. His voice was rich with that happiness.
"I'm glad to be home as well father. I missed you and mother." She replied softly. Before the king could reply the queen entered followed by a face she never thought she would see again. Bastian closed the door behind him with a soft click.
"Mother!" Jacqueline exclaimed excitedly. She wished very badly that she could stand to embrace her mother. The queen rushed forward and embraced her daughter in much the same way that the king had.
"Why did you run away from us?" She asked with tears brimming in her eyes. Whether from happiness or not Jacqueline couldn't tell.
"I wasn't running away from you mother. I was running away from this place. I felt like a prisoner here. I've never been anywhere but here until I ran away." She told her mother feeling guilt for leaving for the first time.
"We never meant for you to feel that way." Her mother said, "We only wanted to protect you from the misery outside the palace."
"You're the monarchs of the kingdom, why couldn't you change it?"
"It isn't that easy sweat heart. The economy is failing, we cannot change that. We can only try to keep up the hope of our citizens." The king said with sadness.
Jacqueline sighed. She hadn't known any of these things, and yet she was going to take over the kingdom someday. How was she going to make a good leader if she didn't even know what was going on outside of the palace walls? Then another thought occurred to her,
"Um, how did I get home?" She asked. Her parents smiled, she had always had a bit of a short attention span.
"Well, while you were all in battle you were injured. One of the Spaniards had a sword that her put through your left shoulder. It just barely missed your heart. You're very lucky to be alive love. Anyway, when you were in the medical tent they discovered that you were a woman. One of the commanding officers used to be a palace guard and recognized you. He was too far gone to bring you home himself so Bastian volunteered." Jacqueline's eyes slid to the boy in question. He smiled a little sheepishly at her. She found herself smiling back.
"This young man saved your life. And, after several days of him being here while you were resting, we have decided that the two of you would make a fine couple to rule the kingdom in our wake." She blinked taking in the words her parents had just uttered.
"Are you saying..."
"You two will be married." Jacqueline's mother exclaimed excitedly.
When the king and queen were pulled away for something governmental Bastian and Jacqueline were left alone. The silence was palpable.
"So, we're betrothed." Bastian said in an attempt to break the silence.
"It would appear that way." She giggled, the girliest sound she had made in months.
"You know, I'm very glad you turned out to be a girl. I was beginning to question myself being attracted to you." He said nervously. She burst out laughing which made him laugh as well.
"What happened in the battle?" She asked him. He sighed.
"We lost. You and I and just a few others made it out alive. The others brought honor to their families with their deaths." She reached over and pulled his hand into hers. His fingers curled around hers sending tingles through her body.
Three months later, Jacqueline found herself standing before the kingdom with the man of her dreams. Her mother had out done herself with this event. It was extravagant with exotic flowers, silk draperies, the wedding dress. Everything was over the top. Jacqueline had protested; she didn't want the extravagant details when the people in the streets were starving. But then she learned that the economy was growing again. The industrial revolution had begun.
So, she stood proudly before the kingdom she would one day rule. She stood with the black haired, blue eyed man she fallen in love with during a war who she would get to spend the rest of her life with. She had no doubt that even in hard times they would pull through together.