Now, where was I? Oh, yes. So my family was wealthy, powerful, and very well loved by everyone.” Steven grinned as I rolled my eyes. “Royalty and peasants alike respected and adored nearly every member of my family. There were a couple bad seeds, but we tended to ostracize them or handle their disloyalty in other ways. I enjoyed every moment of my life. As a boy, I had full run of the house and surrounding lawns and forests. I raced with friends, hunted with my father, learned to read and write from my mother, and I even learned to sew from my sister. It was a huge secret. Boys were not supposed to learn to sew. That much still hasn’t changed, surprisingly. Very few boys can get away with being a seamstress nowadays, unless your name is Tommy Hilfiger, of course.
“Anyway, as I grew older, my father started taking me to the palace on court business. It was fascinating stuff. You always hear about the intrigue and plots and whatnot, but it was so much more. Everything was so complex and thought was put in the minutest detail, right down to the shape of the wood screws in the king’s table. Meaning was read into the slightest movement and you had to be careful not to yawn at the wrong moment or you would lose your head faster than you could flinch.
“My father taught me the ins and outs of the royal life and raised me to follow in his footsteps. He arranged a marriage for me to another noble family. They were not as well liked, but they were very powerful, and an alliance between our families would make anyone stand up and take notice. The woman I was to marry was attractive enough and, though not as kind and generous as my mother, she was tolerable. So we prepared for the wedding, which was to take place two years from the time the marriage was arranged. I continued learning from my father while we lived at court and the young woman moved into my family’s mansion in La Marais to learn from my mother.
“A couple months before I was to be married, a stranger came to court. He was short and stout, but he was a barrel of laughs and everyone immediately fell in love with him. His name was Josef De Marq, or so he said.
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