Of Royal Blood: Pt Two

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Image From Google

Of Royal Blood: Pt Two

“Guildford don’t you see, it’s perfect! They will never suspect a thing, why would they?!” Her excitement was almost visible in the darkened room; she inched her hand forward and laced her fingers through his. He gave her an encouraging squeeze before shifting under her so that she lay curled in his arms, her head on his chest. She listened to the steady sound of his breathing, his heart thudding softly against her ear.

“While I do agree my dear that this scheme of yours does sound rather intriguing,” he skimmed his fingertips down her side, causing her to squirm in delight and swat his hand away playfully. “I must wonder at how I am to pull it off. Surely you do not expect me to loathe you so vehemently; I think I would be a poor actor indeed.”

“I do not expect you to truly abhor me silly, but I am sure you could pretend just nicely. Yell at me, ignore me, run to that horrid mother of yours and complain about how wretched I am; it cannot be that difficult. Mind you this is only to be done in the public’s eyes, for if I find it carries over I will be most displeased and you will find I can easily give you ample cause to dislike me. But as for the pretense just improvise, I’m sure you can get ideas from watching our parents in action.” Her words were meant in jest, but Jane felt her husband stiffen around her.

“Never,” he whispered so quietly she had to strain to hear him.

“Hmm?”

He lay quiet for a moment before answering, “My father…often strikes my mother.”

This was no surprise to Jane, almost every marriage she knew of involved violence, even her own parents fought tooth and nail at times. Mostly she was the outlet for their rage but she had seen her mother cover more than one black eye with her cosmetic paint. It stunned her that Guildford was so unnerved about it though, but she could not deny it made her happy. “I do not expect you to hit me Guildford.” She said seriously, snuggling closer to him.

“Good, because I won’t.”

“I know dear, but we mustn’t let them think that we like one another. I am sure our parents did not force us to marry out of the goodness of their black hearts. No…they are up to something I’m sure of it, and you know what will happen if they discover out true…feelings. Every time they want for something it will be our job to produce whatever it is for them, even if it puts our necks on the chopping block. They would use you against me and me against you.”

“Don’t they do that already love?” Guildford asked, twisting a lock of her hair round and round.

“Yes, but you know it would be different. I do not want them to hurt you Guildford and they would, in one fashion or another. You know as well as I, there is more than one way to wound someone.”

Jane looked up when her nurse Ms. Ellen shook her shoulder lightly. “My Lady Jane, did you hear me? We must be going now. It’s time.”

Everyone was staring at her like they feared she had finally snapped. “I am sorry Madame; I don’t know what came over me.” Tossing her head back proudly Jane began the long walk to the top of the hill, leaving the others to gawk after her. She ate up the distance in her long stride. There was no use trying to prolong the inevitable and she tired of its constant presence in the back of her mind. Enough of this slow agonizing death, she was ready to live.

“My Lady, please…slow down,” Dr. Feckenham huffed, she could hear the old man wheezing as he fought to catch up with her. “Do not give up hope Lady Jane, Queen Mary may yet send out a royal pardon.”

“Doctor you know as well as I that Queen Mary will not pardon me, the usurper.” Feckenham opened his mouth to contradict her when Jane stopped abruptly and whipped around to face him. “Do not think I am a hopeful fool, I know very well what will happen when we reach the top of Tower Hill. The Queen did not pardon my husband did she? There is no chance then of my receiving this saving grace from Mary, now is there?! Do not patronize me Sir, I deserve more than that.”

“Yes, My Lady.”

Mollified slightly, Jane returned to her galloping pace. Her breathing was suddenly erratic, her blood pumped in her ears. It was unusual for her to lose her temper like that. Tantrums had never been her prerogative, nor would they have gotten her anywhere. Punches, slaps, pinches and beatings; her parents did not tolerate insubordination. Thinking back on it, Jane realized she had only ever tried to refuse her parents twice in her entire life: once when they announced her impending marriage to Guildford Dudley, and once when they proclaimed her the new Queen of England. The Protestant queen they needed, England’s savior was what they called her after her cousin, the King’s death. For nine days she had been their bloody Protestant Queen and look where it had gotten her.

“We must have a protestant ruler Jane, even one as dim-witted as you should know that!” Northumberland sneered as he wrapped his thick fingers around her slender wrist and bent down to press his lips to her hand; a grotesque display.

Her mind was buzzing, Queen! How could she be Queen of all England, it wasn’t her right, she was not meant for this! “No.”

“Jane! You stupid girl, you will do as you are told!” The hand her mother brought down upon her cheek was heavily decorated. It was obvious that she had already picked through the royal jewels and had chosen her share.

“No mother, I cannot…Mary is to be Queen, not me…I…I cannot…”

The slap that followed from her father knocked her to the floor. She held a hand to her reddened face, tears clouded her vision.

“Father…oomph!” A hard kick to her stomach and she reeled in agony as waves of nausea curled her inward, unable to breathe.

“NO! YOU WILL OBEY!”

“But father, Mary…” another blow to her gullet and she began to sob openly.

“Mary is the Catholic daughter of that Spanish whore, we cannot have a Catholic on throne she would kill us all. She cannot be Queen!”

“But Elizabeth then…”

“Elizabeth! The witch’s daughter, you would put our country in the hands of a witch, a devil-worshiper!”

Northumberland yanked her up roughly with by a fistful of her hair. “No, it is you that must be Queen, and my son King. You will name him King! Your mother has graciously given up her place in line for you and you will do as you are ordered.  Do you understand?”

Jane shook her head. No, this was not what God intended. She was not born to be Queen.

Northumberland’s face turned a dangerous red and spittle flew from his lips, “You will make my son King!”

But she had not crowned Guildford. She tried to save him by keeping that title from him. They had forced the crown on her, almost killing her in the process but she didn’t want that for her husband. Once she was proclaimed Jane, Queen of England there was nothing her family or his could do about it.

Winded, Jane paused when she finally reached the top of the mound. There before her stood her death; tall and imposing she could see the block sitting against the railing of the wooden scaffold. The people who came to watch her die mulled around impatiently until they caught sight of her. A collective murmur ran rampant, the woman who stood before them looked too young to be dangerous, too beautiful to be put to death. The black silk gown she wore lifted gently in the breeze and there in the slit sleeves the crowd got a glimpse of the blood red silk that Ms. Ellen had sewn in hurriedly the past night. The people shuddered. The poor girl, she had the courage of a queen.

Jane waited for the others to catch up to her before taking a step toward the wooden structure. Please God I ask you for strength, for forgiveness, please be with me now! The crowd parted when she reached them, men whipped off their caps and women bowed their heads. Everyone but Jane prayed for a pardon from Queen Mary. It only took a few seconds for her to reach the scaffold. Slowly now, she lifted her foot and placed it gingerly on the first wooden stair. Her legs shook as she placed her weight on the stair but were mercifully hidden beneath her black skirts; nonetheless Jane was thankful there was only four stairs for her to climb.

One.

Two.

Guildford, three.

Please, four.

A black clad man stepped towards her when she reached the floor, “Do you forgive me  My Lady?”

Her throat closed suddenly. Finally after all these months this was it. Squaring her shoulders, Jane lifted her head and stared directly at the gentleman. “I do Sir.” With a wave of her hand, Ms. Ellen and her other handmaidens stepped forth and began removing Jane’s cloak and collar. When they had completed their work the two ladies squeezed their mistress’s hands in support before slowly backing away.

The block of wood before her was stained a permanent rust color but the hay around it was fresh and clean. “I am ready.”  The executioner stood behind her for a moment before wrapping a black cloth securely around her eyes. The sun died, the sky tumbled from the heavens and the ground vanished beneath her until all she could see was the black of the night as it swallowed her whole.

“Kneel and spread your arms My Lady,” the executioner said bluntly.

Jane sank to her knees in an almost faint-like motion, her arms limp at her side. Oh God, please… Slowly like she was dragging them through water, she lifted her arms and reached for the block of wood before her… but it was not there. Her stomach began to rise in her throat. Where was it, was this some kind of sick jest on her part, was she to suffer more?! “Where is it?” she demanded, “Where is it?!” Jane could hear the sound of people gasping and a woman sobbing in front of her before she felt the vibration of someone coming towards her. Whoever it was grabbed her hands and placed them on the rough wooden square, “There you are My Lady.”

“Thank you.” She wasn’t sure if the words spilled from her lips or not, but she no longer cared. Placing her neck to the block she breathed deeply, sucking in all life as she remembered it and all she hoped it would be once this was over. Guildford. He was waiting for her. With a small smile on her lips she let go and threw wide her arms…

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Of Royal Blood: Pt One

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!

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Image From Google

                                                                                                                                          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.