Its unexpected ending, that not even I expected myself, was that it became an anti-war trilogy chronicling the causes, development, and ending of a war in a flintlock fantasy world; as it retold many more stories (such as Othello, the death of Uriah, or Bunbuku Chagama... not to mention the basic premise of the Trojan War) and crossed over with other characters in other Yu-Gi-Oh continuities (Sherry Leblanc, Alexis Rhodes/Tenjo [here, the Tenjo siblings' mother]...) in its progress as it deconstructed tropes such as royal inbreeding and the damsel in distress during its three arcs:
- The Queen of Rhye
- The War of Rhye
- The Fate of Rhye
The dramatis personae (whom I'd cast as the prince, the princess, the robbers...) were already on my mind right from the start:
Rio Kastle in the role of Gerda
Thomas "Quattro" Arclight in the role of Kai
Reginald Kastle in the composite role of Kai/the Snow "Queen" (King of Rhye)
Byron Arclight in the role of "Gerda's grandmother" (Arclight father/guardian)
Christopher "Quinton" Arclight in the role of the good chancellor
Michael Arclight as himself
Aika Hanazoe in the role of the springtime enchantress
(In her garden:
Fire Lily - Alitho's story
Raccoon - Girag's story
Snapdragon - Mizar's story
Larkspur - Dumon's story)
Katherine "Cathy" in the role of the "princess's pet crow" (Queen's pet cat)
Dextra in the role of the "crown princess" (Queen Dextra Aleksandra)
Nistro in the role of the "prince consort" (Lord/Prince Consort Sinistro)
Kite Tenjo as himself in the role of the commander of the Queensguard
Hart Tenjo as himself
Anna Kaboom in the role of the robber maiden
Yuma Tsukumo in the role of the robber "maiden" (robber boy)
Akari Tsukumo in the role of the robber woman/leader
Charlie McCoy in the role of the robber second-in-command
Scorch and Chill in the roles of robbers
Rokujuro in the role of the "Finmark woman" (Sage of the Summit)
Vector in the role of the "mirror troll" (Prince of Phecda/King of Phecda/Usurper of Rhye)
Vector's parents as themselves
Dumon as himself (the pegasus knight who whisked the pregnant Queen away from Rhye)
The story begins with a tribute to the Topelius novel series Stjärnornas kungabarn (The Royal Children of the Stars): in the realm of the Heartland, on a dark and stormy winter night, as Lord Byron Arclight and his eldest son and heir repair from the royal court to their estate in the provinces, and the former tells the latter of the shattered Mirror of Truth and its relation to the royals of the militaristic great power of Phecda (warning that it's no folktale, but real history!), their carriage winds up having run over a ragged yet jewelled beautiful azure-haired lady, who has just died protecting her infant twins, a boy and a girl. Feeling guilty over having orphaned both children, and no matter if his own wife Ada left him a widowed father of three, he decides to raise the twin orphans along with his own boys.
Raised at Arclight Hall with the three Arclight brothers, adopted Reginald and Rio thrive, wearing the silver star-lily pins that their birth mother had once worn as a clue to their heritage, the azure-haired boy becoming gradually more defiant and his twin bonding with middle child Thom, whom she calls Quattro, who becomes her fiancé... yet underneath the façade something is cracking; something that becomes more apparent when the patriarch does not return from a diplomatic mission to Phecda and his heir is made advisor to the underage Queen of the Heartland. Then, right as the youngest Arclights are coming of age, misunderstandings between Reggie and Quattro occur (due to shards of the mirror getting inside both of them), a fire breaks out in the garden arbour, both young men flee the château at different times, and Rio is left bedridden.
When she has recovered, our heroine, feeling both guilty and responsible, goes forth in search of her brother and her fiancé. What she doesn't know is that her quest is full of twists and turns, encounters with royalty and drunken outlaws, and a revelation relating to her, the silver star-lily (the crest of Rhye), Queen Dextra's parentage, and the southern/Antarctic island nation of Rhye... that changes Rio's life forever.
When at the ice palace of Rhye, she sacrifices her own freedom in exchange for Quattro's to her twin brother, now the rightful King of Rhye, Alkaid II of House Benetnasch, having defeated the Phecdan usurper... it comes to light that she must claim her right on a throne by his side as Queen Megrez; the Benetnasches marry brother-husband to sister-wife. This also explains why Dextra's mother chose to marry a prince of the Heartland. The arc closes as Quattro returns home to Arclight Hall, meeting royals, outlaws, and assorted friends in their wake and telling them of the maiden's sacrifice: the rash ones burn with desire for war, while the sensible ones cool their hot blood... the Heartland royal pair exemplifying both stances the best.
Within the fortress-like ice palace, Rio, Megrez, is now trying to break free from her destiny as a crowned sister-wife, escaping on her own back home, as the Heartlanders (after much deliberation) declare war on Rhye; and the ruler of Phecda, who stirs up the war in the first place, does exactly that by scheming undercover at the court of the Heartland... among other things, by trying to convince the prince consort, a former officer of fortune, that his queen has an affair with Kite, her childhood friend... which leads to a fatal Uriah gambit and to the declaration of war. The reason why so many children, such as Hart (later on revealed to be a Drakharin) and Charlie's niece, are critically ill in the first place, also comes to light... All of that happens in the second and third installments: The War of Rhye and The Fate of Rhye...