Alyssa la Coste Ariette du Martise is the only daughter of the famed swordsman and fencing master, Seigneur François la Coste Ariette du Martise. His manor in Echine overlooking the city and the sea was famed, in his youth, as a place to learn the intricacies of the Valroux school. Hoping to pass on his mastery of the blade to his daughter, he spent many hours with young Alyssa to instill in her a love of the noble art.
In 1649 the Seigneur's steward, Tomis LaMarche, hired a new chef for the manor kitchen: a young woman named Martín, who brought with her her daughter Beatrix. Hoping that she would find a friend in young Beatrix, François brought the child into the main house and placed her in Alyssa's fencing lessons. Though young Alyssa enjoyed her fencing-master no better, she did grow to befriend young Beatrix.
Alyssa's friendship with the serving girl grew every day. Eventually, she demanded her father place Beatrix in her dancing classes and accompany her on her outing in the city. Indeed, when Martín died, the Seigneur all but adopted Beatrix into his family. She was as a sister to Alyssa, though the divide between them was impossible to bridge—Beatrix was the daughter of a disgraced farmer, and Alyssa of one of the luminaries of the school of Valroux.
Beatrix continued to study the blade long after Alyssa dropped her studies in fencing. She pushed herself to excel, impressing even the Seigneur. Eventually, François himself replaced the fencing master and teach the girl himself. Meanwhile, with Alyssa and Beatrix growing older, they started to visit salons and sneak from the manor at night to cut a red swathe across the city.
One evening, Alyssa decided to taunt a particularly hot-headed young knight at a salon in the city. He grew angrier and angrier as Alyssa and Beatrix made a mockery of his skills at the blade and pistol. Before the night was over, the Chevalier Launairre challenged Alyssa to a duel. "If you're father is such a swordsman, let's see what he taught his daughter!" He assumed Alyssa would decline and stain François' name. But she accepted the challenge, expecting to lose honorably.
Beatrix jumped in front of her and accepted the challenge in her stead. Her years of training with Maître François enabled her to dispatch the chevalier handily. From that day forth, Alyssa's mood with her faux-sister began to sour. She realized that her father saw in Beatrix more of an heir than in herself. As the years went on, Beatrix was given her own quarters near to François' own. He treated her more and more as his natural daughter, and clothed her in the finest of clothes.
When Lord Ariette du Martise died, he left his most valuable possession to Beatrix—the blade Aquiliarde, a puzzle sword produced by one of the last remaining Maîtres. When Alyssa realized what her father had done, she went to Beatrix and asked for the sword. Beatrix refused; Alyssa had never cared for fencing, or the art of Valroux.
When all the accounts were settled, it became clear that the Ariette du Martise estate was nearly depleted. The only item of value left was the Aquiliarde, which Alyssa desperately needed to sell to secure loans to recover her father's wealth. Beatrix, furious at what she saw a disgrace against the old lord's memory, once again refused her.
Since that day, Alyssa has turned all her venom and vengeance against Beatrix, even to the point of forcing her out of the country after having turned the very law of Montaigne against her. The one thing she wants back is the Aquiliarde. For her, it is the crystallization of all her father's disappointment and misplaced love.
Now, Alyssa has married the wealthy and indolent Marquis Aramert Cologne du Martise. Though her coffers are restored, she still seeks Beatrix... and her father's prized blade.