Jinksy challenged me to write a romantic tale to accompany her computer artwork for her new prompt
How could I refuse.
Long, long ago, on the banks of the mighty River Rhine, there stood a castle. Well, actually, the banks were positively littered with a multitude of castles on both sides, all populated by pretty maidens, heroic knights, dragons, robber barons and greedy archbishops, but for now we are concerned with just one of them, Schloss Schönburg.
The Castle of Schönburg, now in ruins, was once a place of extraordinary fame, for here dwelt seven sisters of transcendent beauty; the fact that their proud sire, the Graf of Schönburg. was also reputed to be very rich, did them no harm in the marriage stakes. Their father had acquired his enormous wealth in predatory forays, his exploits on crusades were legendary; and when he wasn't busy cataloguing and registering his ill-gotten gains, he was off robbing and pillaging nearer home. Because he was so good at it, nobody except his victims minded. The nobles of the Rhineland at the time found this all totally in order, in the Graf's shoes, they'd have done much the same.
An endless number of knights flitted about the castle, all hoping to catch the eye of one of the beauteous maidens; the girls, having been spoilt rotten by their doting daddy, made fun of them; egging them on, flirting mercilessly, then dropping them again, one after the other. They simply weren't ready for the constraints of marriage. Suitor after suitor retired in despair; "what do women want?" they asked bitterly.
Little by little the girls achieved an unsavoury reputation. Lack of female virtue was a heinous crime and once the tittle-tattle got started it simply couldn't be silenced, no matter how much the Graf threatened and bullied and paid.
He called his girls to order. "It's time you got married", he said, eyeing them fondly. "Each of you had better choose the one you like best. Make sure he is of decent breeding stock, that's all I ask. Once you are married, the rumours will stop. There'll still be parties and hunt balls and I'll make sure that you'll never lack a pretty rock or two from my jewel chest".
The girls knew that they'd have to comply with their daddy's wishes but first they'd play one more trick on their suitors.
The Graf arranged for a huge party to be held in his Schloss high above the river. Crowds of suitors appeared, gorgeously dressed in the finest raiments, in silks and gold brocades, crimson cloth and rich, soft velvet; nearly all of them had fathers and uncles who had followed King Frederick to the Holy Land on crusade and had come home laden with treasure.
Assembled in the staterooms, the suitors waited for the maidens to appear, to choose seven husbands from among them. They waited and waited. No maidens appeared. Then one of them, who had been looking out of the window, gave a great shout.
"There they are, in the river, sailing away", he cried. Everybody rushed to the windows.
The girls looked up at them, waving and shouting, laughing and dancing with pleasure at having outwitted the dim knights yet again.
I would love to end this story on a happy note, but alas, a sense of humour was not the most desirable quality for a girl to have in those far off days. That and their addiction to coquetry and practical jests were to be their undoing.
As the knights were watching, their dismay at having been the butt of the girls' jokes quickly turned to consternation. Unheedful of the current the girls' light craft was led into the fast flowing stream; had they sat still, all would have been well. As it was, the craft was overturned, none of the girls could swim and before another boat could be launched the Rhine had claimed its victims, and the perfidious damsels were drowned in the swift tide.
Near the place where the tragedy occurred, seven rocks appeared, visible to this day on the rare occasions when the river is low.