Gather round boys and girls and let me tell you a tale; a tale of intrigue, valour and one woman’s fight for equality in a man’s world.
Juliette Favreau, the only daughter of Lord Jerome Favreau and Lady Mathilde Favreau of the Avignon Favreau’s and most coveted beauty in all of France balled her fist and slammed it into the grinning face in front of her.
His eyes widened in shock for a split second and then glazed over as he slumped to the hard marble floor. Juliette scowled down at Lord Durand’s prone figure then lifting the hem of her dress so as to avoid the slowly expanding pool of blood hopped over the rotund aristocrat and strode across the ballroom her narrow eyes fixed on two figures in one corner.
“Oh merde,” cursed Mathilde Favreau. “I told that buffoon not to mention us, I knew if he said we approved the match this would happen. Well maybe not exactly this,” she said waving her silk fan at where Lord Durand’s footmen were trying desperately to revive their liege. “But I knew she wouldn’t go for it what was he thinking?”
“Lord Durand is not well know for his skills in thinking,” pointed out Jerome Favreau with a sigh.
“He isn’t a bad looking man, he’s within a suitable age and is well know for his deep pockets…”
“…and his short arms,” interjected Jerome.
“Don’t start with me Jerome,” hissed Mathilde. “You agreed to this match too you know.”
“Well she has to marry someone…”
“I’ll marry who I bloody well choose mother, and I’d thank you to keep you big nose out of it,” fumed Juliette.
“But dear, Lord Durand is a good friend to King Henry…”
“I don’t care if he’s a good friend to Jesus Christ I’m not marrying him…”
“Dear…” began Mathilde.
“No the man is a moron…”
“Julie…” tried Jerome.
“And he smells of fish. I mean there isn’t even any fish being served how the hell does he smell of fish?”
“I mean he’s not as much of a moron as King Henry but…”
“Juliette!” exclaimed Mathilde grabbing her daughter by the wrist. Juliette looked round to give her mother a piece of her mind but she stopped when she saw her mother eyes wide, face pale.
“A moron am I?” asked King Henry with a raised eyebrow.
“Yes, but it’s not your fault all that inbreeding can’t be good for you,” said Juliette dismissively.
The King’s face flushed with fury. “You’ll marry who I damn well tell you girl or I’ll lock you up and throw away the key.
“I bloody well won’t you’re not the boss of me.”
“I’m the boss of everyone I’m the King of all of France.”
“Well you’re not the king of my knickers,” replied Juliette defiantly hands on her hips. “and I’ll not drop them for some fat, fishy idiot just on your say so.”
The King was apoplectic with rage and started pacing back and forth clenching and unclenching his fists. “I’m the King of France and some little strumpet means to defy me? No. No. This cannot stand, this cannot stand!”
“Might I suggest a solution?” ventured Jerome shooting his daughter a ‘shut-up and let me save your life look’. “How about a wager? Juliette does so love a wager.”
“What kind of a wager?” asked the King cautiously.
“If you can beat me in a joust you can pick who I marry,” said Juliette jumping in before her father could speak.
“A joust? You a girl?”
“What’s the matter you chicken?”
“It’s not seemly, jousting with a woman…”
“Buck, buck, buck, buck, buck…” clucked Juliette flapping her arms like a chickens.
“Fine, I’ll thrash you and then you’ll marry who I bloody well tell you to,” spat the King. “I’ll see you in the lists.”
“This is a stupid idea,” said Jerome for the fifteenth time as he paced in front of his daughter’s horse Buttercup. “You’ve never even held a lance before.”
“Ah nonsense,” said Juliette with a dismissive wave. “If that lump Durand can do it how hard can it be? Pass me a lance.”
Jerome signalled to his page who hefted a lance from the rack and held it out to Juliette. Juliette took it and nearly toppled from Buttercup before she let the weapon crash to the ground.
“That’s pretty heavy,” she said with a frown. “Do you have anything smaller?”
“It’s time milady,” said a groom in the livery of house Valois poking his head through the tent flap. “They’re calling for you in the lists.”
Juliette hefted her lance and closed the visor of her helmet with a thump. “Bloody men,” she muttered her voice echoing around the steel helmet. “Always thinking they know best well we’ll see if bloody King Henry knows best.”
“And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for,” began the announcer. “A first for our fare nation and the whole world as our good King faces off against Lady Juliette Favreau…”
The announcer droned on as her groom led Buttercup to the end of the list; Juliette blocked him out and concentrated on waving her lance up and down to get a feel for it. “Just stick him with the pointy end Juliette, it’s not rocket science. no need to get him in his smug face, although that would be preferable just point it…” There was a loud crack and Buttercup was off galloping. Juliette could see the world whizzing by at a tremendous pace through the gap in her visor, then the charging figure of the King filled her view.
Juliette raised her lance, pointed it at his face and held her breath. The world slowed to a crawl; she watched in amazement as her lance clipped the King taking his helmet clean off. She saw the surprise and anger in his eyes. “I did it! I did it” she thought. “I beat the basta… oh that’s not good.” She felt a pressure in her shoulder and the world slammed back into full speed as she shot off the back of Buttercup and slammed into the hard dirt.
“Shit,” she said lifting the visor on her helmet. “So close.” She tried to climb to her feet but couldn’t do more than force herself into a vague sitting position as the cheers of the crowd turned to gasps of astonishment and then groans of despair. Juliette looked over to where the King, wild-eyed with fury was signalling to his page for another lance. When one appeared he snatched it from his hand, kicked his horse in the ribs and charged forward towards her again.
Laying on her back in the dirt Juliette saw her death riding towards her. Juliette prayed to God that a righteous vengeance would come to the King for all he had done to her. then with a deep breath to calm her racing heart, she locked her eyes on the petty man with a dented shield and a lance tipped with shining steel. The ground underneath her trembled as the giant roan charger bore down on her but she refused to look away; if he was to kill her he’d God damn do it looking her in the eye, the coward.
With horse mere feet from her the sky lit up with a blinding light and Juliette turned away scrunching her eyes closed. Her eyes burned with invisible fire and even closed she could see nothing but the fearsome white light. There was a roar and a dull thud and then nothing. Juliette opened her watering eyes a crack
“Great Scott!” exclaimed the older man, his shock of white hair swaying as he looked climbed out of a strange metal carriage and looked around the lists. “This isn’t 1955!” He ducked his head back inside. “Egads, it’s 1559! Damn my dyslexia! Come on Einstein we need to get… Back to the future!”
He ducked back into his carriage and it rolled backwards then tore off down the lists and vanished with a deafening roar in a burst of flames. Through the haze of smoke Juliette could just make out the crumpled form of King Henry II where the strange carriage had crushed him against the tilt barrier.
“Umm… thanks God,” muttered Juliette crossing herself. “Thanks a lot.”
And that my friends is the tale of how an unlikely young woman saved all of France from the evil grasp of King Henry II.