The Dance of Steel

The Sword of Shadows

In the heart of Castile, under the rule of Queen Isabelle, there was a young woman named Elena, whose spirit burned as fiercely as the midsummer sun. The daughter of a nobleman, Elena had grown up in the shadows of the grand Alcázar of Segovia, a place where history whispered from every stone and heroes of old seemed to walk in the tapestries that adorned the halls.

From a young age, Elena was entranced by the tales of knights and their noble deeds. She would often be found in the castle’s library, her eyes devouring pages of ancient lore and legends. Her favourite stories were those of Lady Jimena, a fabled warrior who, armed with only a short sword, defended Castile against a horde of invaders. Elena’s heart would race as she read about Jimena’s bravery and skill, and a deep longing took root in her soul – she too wanted to wield a sword and protect her beloved land.

Despite the expectations of her noble birth, which dictated a life of courtly manners and marriage, Elena secretly began training with a short sword. She found an ally in Rodrigo, the castle’s blacksmith, who had once been a soldier. Rodrigo saw the determination in Elena’s eyes and agreed to train her, impressed by her natural affinity for the sword.

Their training sessions would take place in the early hours of the morning, in a secluded courtyard where the first rays of dawn would cast long shadows. Elena was a quick learner, her movements both graceful and deadly. The short sword felt like an extension of her own body, and she named it “Sombra,” meaning shadow, for its ability to strike swiftly and silently.

Word of Elena’s skills eventually reached Queen Isabelle herself. Intrigued, the Queen summoned Elena to the court. Elena arrived, her heart pounding, not knowing what to expect. Queen Isabelle, known for her wisdom and strength, saw something special in Elena. She offered Elena a position in her royal guard, an unprecedented honour for a woman. But there was a condition – Elena would have to prove herself in a tournament.

The day of the tournament arrived, and the air was thick with excitement. Nobles and commoners alike had gathered to witness the spectacle. Elena entered the arena, her short sword Sombra gleaming in the sunlight. Her opponents were seasoned warriors, each skilled in various forms of combat. But Elena was not deterred. She remembered Rodrigo’s teachings and the tales of Lady Jimena.

With each match, Elena displayed her prowess. She moved with a dancer’s grace, her sword cutting through the air with precision. The crowd cheered, impressed by the skill and courage of this young noblewoman. In the final bout, Elena faced the champion of the royal guard, a giant of a man named Alvaro. He wielded a great sword and was known for his brute strength.

The duel was intense, with Alvaro’s strength pitted against Elena’s agility and speed. Blow after blow, parry after parry, the two combatants were evenly matched. In the end, it was Elena’s cunning that won the day. She feigned a misstep, luring Alvaro into overextending his reach. In that brief moment, she struck, her sword finding its mark. Alvaro fell to his knees, defeated.

The crowd erupted into cheers as Queen Isabelle rose from her throne, clapping her hands in admiration. Elena had proven herself not only as a skilled swordswoman but also as a tactician. The Queen declared Elena the winner, and the court erupted in surprise, then celebration.

That night, as the stars shone brightly over the Alcázar, Elena stood on the battlements, her short sword by her side. She had achieved what many thought impossible. But she knew this was just the beginning. Her journey had only started, and she was ready for whatever challenges lay ahead, ready to carve her own legend in the annals of Castile.

In the shadows of the court of Queen Isabelle, Elena, the young woman with a short sword, had become a symbol of hope and strength, a reminder that even the most unlikely heroes can rise and shape their own destiny.

The Shadows and the Heart

“In the realm of steel and shadow, one must not only understand the blade they hold but also the heart that wields it. The sword is not merely a tool of war; it is an extension of the self, a conduit of honor and courage. In every movement, let your actions be guided by valor and tempered by wisdom. For a true warrior, the greatest battle is not fought on the battlefield, but within the chambers of one’s own soul.” – The Philosophy of the Sword

In the days following the tournament, Elena’s life transformed. As a member of Queen Isabelle’s royal guard, she was respected and admired. Yet, amidst the glory and honour, her heart found solace in the quiet moments she spent with Rodrigo, the blacksmith who had become her mentor and, now, her confidant. Their bond, forged in the flames of shared secrets and early morning training sessions, had blossomed into a love both deep and true.

Rodrigo, with his rugged hands and gentle eyes, saw Elena not just as the warrior she had become, but as the woman she was beneath her armor. In his forge, away from the prying eyes of the court, they would speak of dreams and fears, of a future they wished to build together. Their love was a quiet flame, burning steadily in the chaos of the court.

However, as their relationship grew, so too did the challenges they faced. Queen Isabelle’s reign, though prosperous, had its share of enemies. Whispers of discontent and plots of treason began to surface, darkening the halls of the Alcázar. Elena, ever vigilant, stood as a shield to her queen, her loyalty unwavering.

One fateful night, as a grand feast was held in the palace, danger struck. Amidst the laughter and music, an assassin, cloaked in shadows, made an attempt on Queen Isabelle’s life. The court erupted into chaos, but Elena’s training took over. With Sombra in hand, she leapt into action, intercepting the assassin before he could reach the Queen.

The battle was fierce and swift. Elena’s sword clashed against the assassin’s dagger, sparks flying with every strike. But in the heat of the combat, the assassin managed a lucky thrust. Elena felt a sharp pain as the dagger found its mark, wounding her side.

Rodrigo, who had been among the spectators, rushed to her aid. With the strength born of desperation, he fought alongside Elena, driving the assassin back. Together, they overcame the threat, but the damage had been done. Elena, weakened by her wound, collapsed at Rodrigo’s feet.

The Queen, safe but shaken, ordered the finest physicians to tend to Elena. As she lay in recovery, Rodrigo was a constant presence by her side, his worry etched in every line of his face. The wound was deep, and for days Elena drifted in and out of consciousness, fighting to hold onto life.

In those fevered dreams, Elena saw a different life, one where she and Rodrigo were free from the burdens of court and conflict. They wandered through lush fields and forests, their laughter echoing in the wind. But each dream would end with the stark reality of her injury, pulling her back to the dimly lit room in the Alcázar.

Slowly, with the care of the physicians and Rodrigo’s unwavering support, Elena began to mend. Her strength returned, but the experience had changed her. She realized how fragile life could be and how quickly everything she held dear could be taken from her.

As Elena regained her health, her resolve strengthened. She knew that her duty to protect the Queen was more important than ever. Yet, in her heart, a new desire had taken root – the desire to cherish every moment with Rodrigo, to embrace the love they shared, even in the face of danger and uncertainty.

The attempted assassination had revealed the depth of the threats facing the court. Elena, now more determined, returned to her duties, her sword at her side and Rodrigo’s love in her heart. Together, they faced the shadows that lurked within the walls of the Alcázar, their bond unbreakable, their courage unwavering.

In the court, amidst the intrigue and peril, a warrior and a blacksmith found love and strength in each other. Their story, whispered in the corridors and sung by the minstrels, became a testament to the power of the heart to conquer even the darkest of shadows.

The Legacy of the Blade

“Defense is the art of surviving, the craft of enduring. To defend is not merely to block or to parry, but to anticipate, to see beyond the immediate strike. It is in the calm center of the storm that one finds clarity. Stand firm, yet be fluid. In the dance of blades, it is often the one who masters the art of yielding, who ultimately prevails. Remember, in stillness lies the potential for the greatest motion.” – On the Art of Defense

In the quiet chambers of the Alcázar, where the light of dawn cast a gentle glow, Elena sat, her body still aching from the wound that had nearly claimed her life. The assassination attempt on Queen Isabelle had left its mark, not only on her flesh but on her soul. Yet, within her, the spirit of a warrior burned bright, fuelled by her love for Rodrigo and her duty to her queen.

As she recovered, Elena found solace in pen and paper, channelling her experiences and knowledge into words. She began writing a treatise on swordplay, specifically for women. Her intention was clear: to empower other women with the skills and confidence that had defined her own path. The manuscript, titled “The Dance of Steel: A Woman’s Guide to the Sword,” detailed techniques, strategies, and philosophies of combat. It was revolutionary, a beacon of enlightenment in an era where the role of women in warfare was often overlooked.

Rodrigo, ever her anchor, supported her endeavour, his love a constant source of strength. In the evenings, they would discuss her writings, Rodrigo offering insights from his own experiences as a soldier. Their bond deepened, rooted in mutual respect and a shared vision of a world where women stood as equals in the art of war.

However, fate, as it often does, had its own plans. As Elena’s treatise neared completion, tragedy struck. Rodrigo, who had been working late in the forge, was caught in a terrible accident. A sudden fire, fuelled by a spilled crucible of molten metal, engulfed him. Despite the efforts of those who rushed to his aid, Rodrigo succumbed to his injuries.

Elena’s world shattered. The man who had been her mentor, her lover, her closest friend, was gone. Grief engulfed her, as deep and dark as a moonless night. She withdrew into herself, her treatise left unfinished, its pages a painful reminder of a future they had dreamt of together.

Queen Isabelle, seeing Elena’s despair, approached her with an opportunity. A diplomatic mission to Eastern Europe was being organized, an effort to forge alliances against potential threats. The Queen believed that Elena, with her noble birth, skill in combat, and now, her experience in tragedy and resilience, was the perfect envoy.

Reluctantly, Elena accepted. She saw the mission as a chance to escape the ghosts that haunted her in the Alcázar, and perhaps, to find a new purpose in a world that had taken so much from her. She left behind her unfinished treatise, a symbol of a past she could no longer return to.

Traveling across the diverse landscapes of Europe, from the rolling hills of Castile to the snow-capped mountains of the east, Elena encountered different cultures, customs, and challenges. She negotiated with kings and lords, her sword always at her side, a silent testament to her strength and skill.

Elena of Castille, now esteemed as a diplomat, set foot in the provincial lands of Romania ** with a clear vision of fostering peace and collaboration. Renowned for her diplomatic acumen and her knack for navigating intricate political terrains, Elena carried with her a commitment to bridge understanding between her homeland and these culturally rich Eastern European nations. Her mission was to fortify the relationships between Castille and Romania, concentrating on areas of cultural exchange, economic partnerships, and collaborative security efforts.

Upon her arrival, Elena was greeted with a blend of intrigue and respect by the local dignitaries. She delved into understanding the local customs and traditions with earnest, guided by the belief that a true appreciation of the host culture was key to successful diplomacy. Her schedule was packed with engagements – meetings with Romanian political leaders, influential business figures, and prominent cultural personalities. Each interaction was a step closer to her diplomatic objectives. Elena’s diplomatic style was marked by her exceptional listening abilities, her empathetic approach, and her skill in finding shared interests amidst diverse viewpoints. Her tenure in Romania solidified the bonds with Castille and established a legacy of enduring respect and mutual collaboration.

In these foreign lands, Elena discovered new perspectives on life and warfare. She met other women warriors, their stories and struggles resonating with her own. Inspired, she began to write again, her treatise evolving into something more profound. It became not only a manual of swordplay but a narrative of resilience, a testament to the strength of women in a world dominated by men.

Elena’s mission took her to Hungary, where she was presented with a unique honor – a raven crest shield. The shield, bearing the emblem of the raven, the legacy of Matthias Corvinus, the renowned King of Hungary, a symbol of wisdom and strength, resonated with Elena’s own qualities as a warrior and a diplomat. The gift was a mark of high respect but also a symbolic gesture, intertwining her path with the rich heritage leadership, intellect, and patronage of the arts.

As she journeyed, the memory of Rodrigo remained with her, a bittersweet reminder of love and loss. She carried his spirit in her heart, letting it guide her in moments of doubt and darkness. His death, though a tragedy, became a catalyst for her growth, transforming her grief into a drive to empower and inspire.

Elena’s mission eventually concluded, marked by new alliances and a deeper understanding of the world beyond Castile. As she returned home, she was not the same woman who had left. She carried with her the experiences of her journey, the stories of the women she had met, and the unfinished pages of her treatise, now ready to be completed.

In the court of Queen Isabelle, Elena’s return was celebrated. She presented her completed manuscript to the Queen, who recognized its significance and ordered it to be distributed among the noble houses.

Elena, noblewoman of Castile, had become a voice for women warriors everywhere. Her legacy, forged in the fires of loss and shaped by the journey of discovery, stood as a testament to the enduring power of the human spirit to overcome adversity and emerge stronger. In the pages of her treatise, the memory of Rodrigo lived on, his love and teachings immortalized in her words.

The Extinguishing of a Flame

“Strength in swordplay is not solely drawn from muscle, but from the harmony of body and mind. Grace is not a weakness, but a display of controlled power. Let your movements be like water – flowing yet forceful. In each stance, each thrust, each parry, combine the firmness of the oak with the suppleness of the willow. The greatest warriors are those who embody the balance of strength and grace.” – The Balance of Strength and Grace

The passing of Queen Isabelle marked the end of an era in Castile. With her death, the court was plunged into a period of uncertainty and change. The new reign, led by a council of nobles wary of Isabelle’s progressive policies, began to reshape the kingdom in their vision, one that favoured traditional values and roles.

Elena, once a favoured member of Isabelle’s court, found herself increasingly isolated. “The Dance of Steel,” her treatise became a subject of controversy. The new rulers viewed it as a challenge to the established order, a threat to their vision of a society where women’s roles were confined to the domestic sphere.

The council decided to suppress “The Dance of Steel.” Copies of the treatise were collected and destroyed, and its teaching was banned. Elena’s life’s work, a testament to her love and her resilience, was being systematically erased from history. Her name, once spoken with respect and admiration, became a whisper of dissent.

Elena’s position at court became untenable. Her advocacy for the rights of women to bear arms and her outspoken nature made her a target for the conservative faction. Under the guise of maintaining stability, the council exiled Elena, branding her a radical and a threat to the peace of the realm.

Forced to leave the land she had served and loved, Elena embarked on a life in exile. She travelled across Europe, a nomad in a world that was rapidly changing. Despite the suppression of her work, “The Dance of Steel” continued to live on, passed down in secret among women who dared to dream of a life beyond the confines set by society. The treatise became a symbol of resistance, its teachings spreading like quiet whispers in the shadows.

As she wandered, Elena encountered many who had been touched by her work. Women, inspired by her story, sought her out to learn the art of the sword. Elena taught them, each lesson a defiance against the council’s attempts to silence her voice. Her teachings took on a new form, adapting to the changing times, but the core of her message remained the same: strength, resilience, and the right of women to defend themselves and their beliefs.

Elena’s exile was a journey within. She grappled with the loss of her home, the suppression of her work, and the memories of Rodrigo and the life they had shared. Yet, in her solitude, she found a deeper understanding of herself and her purpose. She realized that her legacy was not bound to the pages of a book or the walls of a court but lived in the hearts and minds of those she inspired.

Years had passed, and Elena’s legend grew. Tales of the exiled swordswoman, the author of a forbidden treatise, spread far and wide. In hushed tones, people spoke of her bravery, her skill, and her defiance in the face of oppression. Elena, once a noblewoman of Castile, had become a mythic figure, a symbol of the enduring fight for justice and equality.

As an old woman, Elena looked back on her life with a sense of peace. She had loved, lost, fought, and inspired. Her journey, marked by both triumph and tragedy, had been her own dance of steel, a dance that had left an indelible mark on the world. And though she remained in exile, her spirit, like the teachings of her treatise, knew no boundaries, echoing through time as a testament to the power of conviction and the unyielding strength of the human

The Raven’s Manor

“In the face of overwhelming odds, where shadows loom and hope seems but a distant light, remember the courage that dwells within. Bravery is not the absence of fear, but the will to persevere despite it. Let your sword be a beacon, cutting through the darkness, a symbol of the unwavering spirit that resides in each of us. For in the heart of struggle, lies the opportunity for greatness.” – The Courage to Face Adversity

Elena’s final days were spent in England, in a place known as Raven’s Manor. Nestled in the rolling hills of the English countryside, the manor was a far cry from the sun-baked stones of Castile. Yet, it had become her refuge, a place of quiet and contemplation, far from the courts and conflicts of her past.

Raven’s Manor was owned by one Lady Margaret, a widow of noble birth who had heard tales of Elena’s courage and wisdom. Moved by her story, Lady Margaret offered Elena sanctuary, a place where she could live out her days in peace. The manor, with its sprawling gardens and ancient library, was a haven for Elena, a place where she could reflect on her life’s journey.

As the years passed, Elena’s once fiery spirit mellowed like the setting sun. Her days were spent wandering the gardens, her evenings lost in the pages of books. She often wrote, her penmanship shaky yet determined, documenting her thoughts, her memories, and her philosophies. These writings, less about swordplay and more about the lessons learned from a life rich in experience, were her final legacy.

The local villagers, initially wary of the foreign ex-warrior, grew to respect and admire Elena. Her wisdom, her grace, and her stories of distant lands and grand battles captivated them. To the children of the village, she was a figure of fascination, a living legend who spoke of a world beyond their wildest dreams.

Elena found a kindred spirit in Lady Margaret. The two women, both shaped by loss and resilience, spent long hours in conversation. They spoke of politics, of history, and of the changing roles of women in society. Elena’s presence at Raven’s Manor became a beacon for other women seeking knowledge and guidance, much like how “The Dance of Steel” had once inspired.

Despite the distance from her homeland, Elena kept the traditions of Castile alive. She celebrated its festivals with the staff and villagers, sharing stories of Queen Isabelle, the Alcázar, and the vibrant life she had once led. In these moments, her eyes would sparkle with the fire of youth, her voice carrying the warmth of a land she still held dear.

Elena’s health began to fade. She knew her journey was nearing its end, but she faced it with the same courage that had defined her life. On her final day, as the sun dipped below the horizon, casting long shadows over the gardens of Raven’s Manor, Elena passed away peacefully in her sleep. She was surrounded by her writings, the memories of a life lived fully, of battles fought, both physical and ideological, and of a love that had transcended time and tragedy.

Word of her death travelled, and those who had been touched by her life, her teachings, and her legacy paid tribute. In Castile, despite the years of exile and the suppression of her work, her name was spoken with reverence and respect. “The Dance of Steel,” though officially banned, continued to be shared in secret, a lasting symbol of Elena’s spirit and ideals.

At Raven’s Manor, Lady Margaret erected a modest stone in the gardens, a tribute to the remarkable woman who had graced their lives. Engraved upon it were words that Elena had lived by: “En la danza de la vida, sé valiente, sé verdadero, deja que tu corazón te guíe y tu espíritu te dirija.”



Elena’s story, from the courts of Queen Isabelle to the quiet hills of England, became a tale told through the ages. A tale of a woman who defied convention, who fought for her beliefs, and who, in the face of adversity, never lost her grace and dignity.

Elena of Castile, the swordswoman, the writer, the exile, left a mark on the world that would never be forgotten, a legacy of strength, wisdom, and an unyielding fight for what she believed in.

The chronology to the story of Elena of Castille, we can situate her life and events within a historical context that aligns with the reign of Queen Isabelle of Castile. Queen Isabelle reigned from 1474 to 1504. This timeline places Elena’s life in a plausible historical context, intertwining her story with the reign of Queen Isabelle and the political and social dynamics of late 15th and early 16th century Europe

The timeline for Elena’s story within this period:

  • 1470: Elena is born into a noble family in Castile.
  • 1484 (Age 14): Elena begins secretly training in swordplay with Rodrigo, the blacksmith.
  • 1489 (Age 19): Elena impresses Queen Isabelle with her sword skills and is appointed to the royal guard.
  • 1490 (Age 20): Elena participates in and wins a tournament, gaining fame.
  • 1492 (Age 22): The assassination attempt on Queen Isabelle occurs, and Elena is wounded.
  • 1493-1495 (Ages 23-25): During her recovery, Elena writes “The Dance of Steel,” and her relationship with Rodrigo deepens.
  • 1496 (Age 26): Rodrigo tragically dies in an accident, leaving Elena heartbroken.
  • 1497 (Age 27): Elena is sent on a diplomatic mission to Eastern Europe.
  • 1500 (Age 30): Elena returns to Castile and continues her diplomatic and instructional endeavours.
  • 1504 (Age 34): Queen Isabelle dies. Elena’s treatise is suppressed, and she is exiled.
  • 1505-1515 (Ages 35-45): Elena lives in exile in various European countries, continuing to teach and inspire.
  • 1516 (Age 46): Elena settles in England at Raven’s Manor.
  • 1525 (Age 55): Elena passes away at Raven’s Manor, leaving behind a lasting legacy.

Queen Isabelle of Castille

Queen Isabelle of Castille, commonly known as Isabella I of Castile, was a significant figure in Spanish history. Born in 1451, she became Queen of Castile in 1474 and ruled until her death in 1504. Isabella is best known for her marriage to Ferdinand II of Aragon, which was pivotal in unifying Spain. Her reign saw major events like the completion of the Reconquista, the expulsion of Jews and Muslims from Spain, and the sponsorship of Christopher Columbus’ 1492 voyage, which led to the European discovery of the New World. Isabella’s rule significantly influenced Spanish politics, religion, and exploration.

Isabelle the Catholic was as forceful mujer varonil (unsexed woman) or “virago” as seem one is likely to meet in this period. The term “virago” historically refers to a woman who demonstrates qualities traditionally associated with men, such as courage, strength, and leadership. This concept, rooted in ancient and medieval societies, often carries both positive and negative connotations. Positively, a virago might be seen as a woman of great bravery, akin to a warrior. Negatively, it can imply a departure from traditional feminine virtues. In literature and historical accounts, a virago is often a complex figure, embodying a blend of admired strength and problematic defiance of societal norms. Noble women at the court of Isabella I of Castile played significant roles and had considerable influence, especially in the context of the power dynamics of that period. Isabella herself was a strong and influential figure, setting a precedent for women in positions of power. The presence and roles of these women at her court would have been shaped by the broader political and cultural climate of the time, reflecting both the opportunities and limitations faced by women in positions of nobility and influence during the late 15th and early 16th centuries.

Lady Jimena

The name “Jimena” (sometimes spelled Ximena) is of Spanish origin. It is derived from the medieval Spanish name “Ximena,” which itself likely originates from the Basque word “semen,” meaning “son” or “offspring.” The name has historical significance in Spain and is often associated with nobility and historical figures. One of the most famous bearers of the name was Jimena Díaz, the wife of the Castilian nobleman and military leader Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, known as El Cid 1043 to 1099) where as his legacy was to became a Spanish hero and legend, known for his military exploits in the Reconquista, the Christian reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula from the Moors, played a significant role in the history of medieval Spain, and his life and deeds have been immortalized in various literary and historical works. Her legacy, intertwined with the legends of El Cid, has contributed to the name’s enduring popularity and association with strength and nobility in Spanish history. Lady Jimena, the character in the story of Elena of Castille, is a fictional figure from medieval Spain. She is depicted as a legendary warrior who, armed with a short sword, defended Castile against invaders. Jimena’s bravery and skill in combat serve as an inspiration for Elena, the young woman in the story who aspires to become a skilled swordswoman and protector of her land. Jimena’s character symbolizes the valour and prowess in battle that Elena strives to embody.

The Blacksmith

An ex-soldier transitioning to a blacksmith in medieval times is a plausible scenario, especially if the soldier had been exposed to the crafting and repair of weapons and armour during their military service. Many soldiers developed a basic understanding of metalwork and the maintenance of their gear. After leaving military service, a soldier might apprentice with a skilled blacksmith to learn the trade more formally. The skills required for blacksmithing – strength, precision, and an understanding of metal properties – could have been attractive and suitable for a former soldier seeking a new livelihood.

In medieval courts, the blacksmith played a crucial role, though not typically a prominent one in the hierarchy of court positions. The blacksmith was responsible for forging and maintaining a variety of metal items, including weapons, armour, and tools. In a military context, their skill was invaluable for ensuring that knights and soldiers were well-equipped. Additionally, blacksmiths often crafted various household items, making their trade essential for the daily functioning of the court. Their expertise in metalwork, though often not glamorous, was fundamental to the maintenance and effectiveness of the court’s operations.

The Roman Provinces

During the late 15th and early 16th centuries, when Elena of Castille would have been on her diplomatic mission, Romania as a unified state did not exist in the way it does today. The territory of modern-day Romania was divided into several principalities, the most prominent of which were Wallachia, Moldavia, and Transylvania. These regions were often under the influence or intermittent control of neighbouring powers, such as the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary.

Wallachia: During the late 15th century, Vlad III, known as Vlad the Impaler or Vlad Dracula, was a notable ruler (reigned 1456-1462, with some interruptions). Later, around the turn of the century (the time relevant to Elena’s story), rulers such as Radu the Great (reigned 1495-1508) and Mihnea the Bad (reigned 1508-1509) were prominent.

Moldavia: Stephen the Great (Ștefan cel Mare) was one of the most significant rulers of Moldavia, reigning from 1457 to 1504. He was known for his defensive campaigns against the Ottomans and for solidifying the cultural and architectural heritage of the region.

Transylvania: During this period, Transylvania was more closely tied to the Kingdom of Hungary. In the late 15th century, it was part of the Hungarian Kingdom, and various Hungarian nobles governed it. John I of Zápolya (Ioan de Zápolya), for instance, was an influential voivode of Transylvania in the early 16th century (reigned 1510-1540).

If Elena of Castille visited these regions around the late 1490s or early 1500s, she would have encountered a complex political landscape influenced by these local rulers and the overarching powers of the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary.

During the 1500s, Wallachia, Moldavia, and Transylvania were under significant influence or control by neighbouring powers such as the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary. Wallachia and Moldavia had become tributaries of the Ottoman Empire by the 15th century. Transylvania, while preserving a degree of autonomy, also became a tributary of the Ottoman Empire after the Hungarian defeat at Mohacs in 1526. The historical context indicates a focus on political and military collaboration among these principalities, primarily aimed at containing Ottoman power. There were periods of collaboration and rivalry between Wallachia and Moldavia, with each principality asserting its pre-eminence.

Matthias Corvinus, who was King of Hungary and Croatia from 1458 to 1490. Matthias was known for his military leadership, patronage of the arts, and efforts to modernize Hungary’s government and military. He was a contemporary of Queen Isabella of Castile, though their reigns did not completely overlap. An encounter between Elena and the court of Matthias Corvinus would involve a blend of military, political, and cultural exchanges, reflecting the interests and achievements of both figures. The coat of arms of Matthias Corvinus of Hungary is distinguished by its inclusion of a raven, which is a central element in the heraldry. This symbol is deeply associated with the Corvinus family and is emblematic of Matthias Corvinus’ reign. The raven emblem reflects the Latin name “Corvinus,” which means “raven,” and this bird is prominently featured in various representations of his coat of arms.

Regarding diplomatic relations with Castille specifically in the 1500s, the historical records from this period do not explicitly mention direct diplomatic interactions between these Ottoman Empire’s Romanian principalities and Castille, however given the suppression, following Isabella’s death, records of both Elena’s mission and the her manuscript are lost.

The Dance of Steel

“Ars Gladii Feminarum” an ancient treatise on swordplay for women. In the narrative of Elena of Castille, “The Dance of Steel” could be linked to this treatise as a continuation or modern adaptation of the ancient teachings of “Ars Gladii Feminarum.” Elena’s work could be presented as a rediscovery or reinterpretation of these older teachings, tailored to the contemporary needs and conditions of her time, symbolizing a lineage of female warriors and their art of swordplay through ages.

The suppression of manuscripts by the Catholic Church, particularly following the reign of Isabella I of Castile, was part of the broader context of controlling religious and ideological narratives. The Church, aiming to maintain its authority and doctrinal purity, often targeted writings that were seen as heretical or contradictory to its teachings. This included various texts, from theological treatises to works that promoted ideas perceived as challenging to established norms. The Church’s efforts were intensified with the spread of Protestantism and the onset of the Reformation, leading to increased censorship and suppression of books and manuscripts.

1515’s England

The political climate of 1515, Europe was undergoing significant changes. The Renaissance was in full swing, bringing about shifts in art, culture, and intellectual thought. The era was marked by the rise of powerful monarchies, exploration, and the beginning of European colonialism. The Catholic Church’s authority was being increasingly questioned, setting the stage for the Protestant Reformation. This period was also characterized by complex political alliances and conflicts among European powers.

In the early 16th century, England was embroiled in political and religious intrigues, especially with the onset of the Reformation. For a Catholic woman like Elena, seeking refuge in England during this time would have been complicated. The country was transitioning from Catholicism to Protestantism under Henry VIII’s rule, which created a volatile environment for Catholics.

However, Elena could find sanctuary in the estates of noble families who remained secretly or openly loyal to Catholicism. These households would have provided a safe haven, allowing her to live and practice her faith discretely amidst the shifting religious landscape of England.

Lady Margaret, the owner of Hræfnes Geard (Raven’s Manor), was a noblewoman known for her wisdom and generosity. Widowed at a young age, she turned her estate, located in the serene English countryside, into a refuge for scholars, artists, and those seeking solace from the tumultuous world. Raven’s Manor, with its sprawling gardens and grand library, became a centre of learning and peace.

Margaret was a patron of the arts and a supporter of progressive ideas, often hosting intellectual debates and cultural events at her manor. Her kindness and open-minded approach made Raven’s Manor a haven in a time of political and social change.