This is a short story I wrote my first year of college and I will section it off into two or three parts for length reasons. Look for part two tomorrow!
Of Royal Blood: Pt One
Royalty flowed thick in her blood, it burned through her veins and scarred every inch of her young body. Sadly, this disfiguration was masked beneath smooth porcelain skin, sparkling red-flecked brown eyes, curling lashes and ripened lips. Suffice it to say, the Lady Jane Grey was a beauty like no other, a royal beauty at that and thus all the more important. And so these golden-traits made her something else all together, they made her dangerous.
Jane’s heart constricted when a hollow knock sounded at the large wooden door across from where she lay strewn across her bed. The gown her nurse, Ms. Ellen, had stayed awake into the wee hours of the morning altering for her, rustled soothingly as she rose to greet the man who had become in a way her greatest friend during these troubled times. He looked as he always did, hurried and grim. She often wondered if he had forgotten how to smile long ago or if it were a new occurrence.
“Good morrow Doctor Feckenham. I trust you are well?” Her voice was soft, feminine but far from weak.
The old man noted the blaze of hair that spilled over her young shoulders and cascaded down her back but didn’t comment; it seemed fit to let her win a small rebellion. At sixteen years she stood tall, her back a perfect line; proud and determined she was a fiery Tudor rose. Breathtaking didn’t come close to giving her justice. “Good morrow, My Lady, we haven’t the time to speak as I would have wished but I am here as promised.” He sighed, uncaring was not the tone he meant to use on this of all mornings but he couldn’t bear her kindness, he did not deserve it. “Are you ready madam?”
A small smile curled the edges of her lips. This poor man, even he suffered for other men’s mistakes. She suppressed a proud chuckle when he started at her smile; they thought her broken! How far off the mark they were. After what she had been through she refused to give her soul to them. “Yes…yes we’re ready. Come along ladies.” On cue her two handmaidens stood and flanked their beloved lady. Not sparing the room another glance, Jane gathered her skirts and stepped regally out into the dim corridor. Poised, she looked every bit a Tudor royal; the only visible comfort she took was the trailing of her soft fingers over the smooth stone wall.
Her mind raced as her heart beat in her ears, but she refused to give them the pleasure of seeing her stumble. Damn beauty! And damn the tainted blood that flowed below her skin! Both had caused her grief and made it easier for those who controlled her life to manipulate not only her, but countless others into their well-laid trap. Jane couldn’t say that she was truly sorry that their overzealous venture had failed, but regret still clawed deep into her heart for it seemed fate spat in the face of the innocent. Now the few she truly loved had to pay the price for her family’s and Northumberland’s greed. Only a desperate fool would have thought the people would follow someone they considered merely Northumberland’s puppet, and a usurping woman at that. No one would see she too had been used only as a means to an end. Blame must be cast onto someone and why not her everyone thought, hadn’t she started it all?!
Jane took the countless stairs one by one, each step wrenched forth a hundred different memories, most of which centered on the one person who had never betrayed her: Guildford Dudley. Guildford was her everything: her dearest friend, the funniest person she knew, her confidant and lover, and her husband, a fact that Jane could only comprehend as miraculous. And yet, this made him her worst terror imaginable. Had their parents discovered their true feelings, she would have lost what little freedom she’d had in her life, as would have he. Jane shuddered. Poor Guildford, what atrocities her parents would have done to him merely to get to her. It sickened her stomach to think of it even now, when it was too late.
As they neared the midway point of the stairwell, Jane couldn’t help but think longingly of her wedding day. How long ago it seemed to be, how perfect it had been. Well, as perfect as possible for two young people who didn’t know each other from Adam and Eve.
The May Day was warm and bright and the sun shone thick upon the finely clad men and women. Flowers bowed heavily and lent their pungent rosy scent to the air. The Durham House sat friendly and inviting as she made her way to its open doors. Her stomach lurched nervously but she focused on not stepping on her gold and silver tissue wedding gown. Her parents would kill her on the spot if she tore the expensive material sent by the King to his favorite cousin.
Pausing before the entrance she stole a glance at the gem-encrusted brides on either side of her, her sister Catherine Grey and her husband-to-be’s sister Katherine Dudley. They looked as frightened as she felt; the knowledge comforted her faintly. Jane took a deep breath and held it as she stepped over the entrance and made her way to the celebration hall. The ear-wrenching noise dimmed into a dull murmur as the mass of people saw the brides enter the hall. She clenched her eyes shut as she and her companions turned and stepped onto the wedding aisle. The sharp gasp from the other girls tickled her curiosity and slowly she opened her eyes, only to regret her sudden bravery.
The man who stood between the other grooms was nothing short of a golden fey creature. Had she believed in fairies, Jane knew he would have been born of their wild stock. His fair hair spilled into dark inky-green eyes and a frown tugged unpleasantly at the corners of his mouth. His lithe build was regal, tempting. She gulped sickly; this handsome young man wouldn’t want to marry her, some short, red-headed little girl who always said the wrong thing and cared for nothing more than her books. Her eyes widened in fear. What if he didn’t want her? In truth she hadn’t wanted him until this moment and she still carried the fading bruises to prove it but now what was she to do? She tugged uncomfortably at the end of her sleeves to better cover the brownish-yellow markings that decorated her skin. God help her, please.
She felt her cheeks redden and knew that tears were not far off. But before they could arrive, Guildford Dudley raised his eyes to hers and smiled; a shocked smile but pleased nonetheless.
The cold scrape of metal against metal made her cringe and destroyed the peace that accompanied the memory. The man guarding the door nodded stiffly to her but refused to look her in the eye. “God be with ye My Lady,” he said gruffly, obviously uncomfortable. The lass was just a child after all and what awaited her on Tower Hill was nothing short of appalling.
“And you Sir,” she smiled, stepping out into the daylight.
“This way My Lady,” Dr. Feckenham motioned for her to follow him up the grassy slope. She had looked upon this hill every day since her imprisonment and had watched the men bring forth the wagons of lumber and hay. She knew what awaited her there.
“I am well aware of where I am headed Doctor, for if you remember I watched my husband make this trek not so long ago,” Jane stated, shaking her head slightly to bury the memory of Guildford standing where she was now. Had she known before how things would turn out she would have forgone their inane pretense. It had wasted so much of their time together. A jagged shard sliced through her heart. The charade had been her idea; perfect, she had thought, for their survival.