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Thread: The Appalling Strangeness of the Mercy of God [M - Hannelorian x DuchessLivilla]

  1. #31
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    Arabella had lost herself in rage as the girl ran from her presence and found herself giving chase. Yelling in her anger she slowly, too slowly began to understand what was about to happen. The girl's words were piercing and enough to give her pause.

    “You’re a monster! No wonder you are barren! God hates you as much as we all do!”

    God did hate Arabella, and she knew it with every fiber of her being. She had been cursed, there was no need for Hetty to impose anything additional. As she ran, her eyes widening, the anger subsiding and the heartbreak setting in she was immediately recalled to her past. Standing on the edge of the highest tower of their childhood home. The last time she had driven someone to their death. She could feel the wind from the heights slamming against her dress, sending the fabric flowing wildly, echoed only by the way striking her as she ran after the maid.

    Arabella could picture it as clear as day, the girl raising her arms much as Hetty was doing, thinking she could fly and just falling. The Duchess had peered over the edge to stare at the mangled body of her friend. A friend who had jumped because she had the audacity to believe the future Duchess. Here Hetty was on the edge, standing and cursing her.

    "For God's sake please don't!" Arabella cried as she ran to the same edge the balcony, arms out in front of her in an attempt to grab the girl but it had been too late. The Duchess now stood torso over the edge, hair falling terribly out of place as she looked down. Hetty had the same look on her face that Lucy had, a kind of tortured, contorted face. A face that was staring up at her as a small pool of blood began to form around the girls mangled and broken body. The Duchess was in a state of shock, silent tears beginning to stream down her face. She remained there for several moments in absolute silence, torso peering out over the railing just looking down as if staring into an abyss at the exact moment the abyss began to stare back at her.

    The Duchess slowly righted her position and stepped backward, stumbling almost away from the edge, she turned to look at Alexandra and Alice, she ambled toward them as though in a daze, stopping before her sister. The Duchess turned and rested her hands on Alexandra's arms and pulled her close to her before finally letting go. "Go... send for the ambulance... and the Duke. Please." The Duchess' tone was soft, and somewhat scattered. She then made her way down the steps to come to the body where the Duchess knelt, knees in blood. By now word had spread and every servant had made their way, lining the gallery, or in the great hall itself.

    Arabella pulled the body up to her and cradled it. She could feel that the girl while still had not yet been dead, but instead lay dying in her arms now, her breaths becoming slower and shallower. "You poor thing..." Arabella whispered as held Hetty. "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me." Arabella had broken now twice wearing the mantle of murderer. She prayed now for Hetty's immortal soul, and her warm welcome to Heaven where surely should would be made to suffer no more. The Duchess kissed the top of the girl's head and held her close, gloved hand holding Hetty's as she drew her last breath and passed into eternal silence.

    "You are right... I am nothing more than a monster cursed by God..." Arabella whispered, paying no mind to the eyes around her, watching her. It was too late.
    You don't need a reason to help people.

  2. #32
    Member DuchessLivilla's Avatar
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    Alexandra watched her sister descend the stairs, the same strange expression on her face as she did so. She glanced to Alice and said softly, “Go and tell John to call a doctor. He need not rush in coming if he is busy…The poor child is beyond suffering now anyway.”

    She too walked down the stairs, pulling on a pair of gloves as she did so -she had a pair kept in the hidden pocket of her gown just in case- and thinking to herself that she felt so strangely calm. There had been a brief shock, but then it had faded and now she looked over the scene with a detached, almost clinical eye, more interested to see how Arabella reacted than anything else.

    Her silken slippers, worn by most ladies when inside and resembling what would one day be called ballet pumps or flats, made no noise as she stepped onto the marble and came closer to her maid, who had just died in her tormentor’s arms. It was a sick image, if every there was one. Her sister, near weeping, over a child -Hetty was not yet seventeen and now never would be- she had driven to this fate.

    She took in the bruises and marks upon her face and shook her head slowly. She could hear the approaching servants, hurrying from all directions at the sound of the screams. Just before they came, she whispered softly, so that only her sister heard, “Exodus 21:12*, sister…” She straightened and said, in her normal voice, “I shall fetch his Grace.”

    Alexandra turned, “Mrs Lyle, please have one of the girls fetch a blanket. Hetty has had an accident and need not have everyone stare at her,” she shot her a meaningful look and the housekeeper, so stunned by the scene, leapt to do as she was told, despite her mistress being the Duchess, not her sister.

    Moving with calm assurance, that rather stunned the servants, Alex took control and gave orders to them all before she went to find the Duke, bringing Mrs Lyle, who looked rather stunned and followed her without a word, with her as her chaperone. Even in times such as these, rules had to be upheld.

    Richard was still in his study, writing letters to send to his cronies, almost crowing about the royal visit. He snapped, irritated, when the knock came and looked even more annoyed when it opened to reveal Alexandra and Mrs Lyle, who looked rather ill.

    The Duke frowned, “Yes?” He said, in a tone that suggested ‘hurry up, I am very busy and have no desire to speak to the likes of you’.

    Mrs Lyle, coming to her senses and thinking this was her time to talk; after all, she was the housekeeper and the maid was her charge, and besides, she knew full well the Lady Alexandra had no right to order her about, came forward and went to speak. She got no further than, “Your Grace-“ before Alex held up her hand and shot her a look that even Arabella would have been proud of.

    “Mrs Lyle, you forget your place,” she said, stepping forward instead. “Your Grace, there has been an incident involving your wife’s maid. She was being corrected by her and, for some reason, who can say, took fright and fled. The child was unhinged and fell to her death from the gallery to the floor below. The Duchess is very shaken and asks for you.”

    Richard blinked, stunned both at the calmness and strength that Alexandra was displaying and the way she had spoken to Mrs Lyle. He had always thought the girl wet and biddable…He saw now he had underestimated her. They all had, it seemed. Then he stood, concern for his wife overruling this new development. He could deal with that later.

    He could also deal with the scandal that could erupt if the truth was known…He could read between the lines of the words ‘corrected’ and ‘incident’. The Duke, as quick as his old body could, hastened from the room, followed by Lyle and Alexandra.

    “Darling!” He hurried down the stairs and took in the scene; his wife cradling the maid, who was clearly dead, blood staining the silken gown the Duchess wore. Arabella looked horrific and was whispering prayers over and over. He came to her side and gently opened her fingers, forcing her to let go of the body.

    As she did, one of the maid’s came forward and covered Hetty with the blanket. Richard held his wife in an embrace and whispered, “Dearest, calm yourself…” as he stroked her hair. His gaze strayed down to the covered body then up to where she had fallen from, then to the door to the reception room. His heart froze.

    Had the Prince’s man left before this happened?

    He cast about for John and, seeing him coming, nodded to the door silently, his eyes questing.

    John, adept, as most servants are, at communicating without words, nodded slowly, and signalled the man had gone some time before.

    The relief of the Duke’s face was clear. This could all be swept under the rug. “Darling,” he said gently once more, “Do not cry…An accident is all. The child fell, you tried to save her, I am sure of it. In fact, Lady Alexandra assures me you did,” he looked to Alex, as did the servants, to see what she would say.

    Alexandra stared back, her lovely face calm and serene. She adjusted the cuff of her dress as she did so and smiled sadly, “Yes…Of course. Her Grace did. She is, after all, the spirit of kindness.” The words, and even the tone, were right and perfect…but no one was left in any doubt as to the sarcasm that washed over what she said.

    All three knew that Alex now had a powerful bargaining chip, and one no one could deny given how many witnesses there had been. Lucy had been swept under the rug and never mentioned…This. Well, this was a stick with which to beat that could not be broken so easily.

    *“He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death.”

  3. #33
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    The Duchess in this moment was a woman broken by the consequences of her own actions. An act her sister would not let her forget. Alexandra reminded her chapter and verse. She knew the quote well. Normally, such an act would perceived as a threat. It was clear her sister was now emboldened by what transpired. However, the Duchess for all of her catastrophic faults found herself in agreement with her sister. As her husband emerged and pried her away from the body Arabella stood and felt herself collapse against the Duke. Arabella had calmed herself at her husband's command. She could do anything he asked of her without question.

    The Duke found himself leading his wife away from the hall. Before she departed the room the Duchess turned to her sister, as the ducal couple passed she stopped short to whisper something into Alexandra's ear. "I should have been executed a long time ago for my actions. I am a monster, cursed by God." The Duchess was genuine, remembering her own sins in horrific detail. The Duke brought his wife, now catatonic to her chambers to undress and get into bed.

    Alice meanwhile, once the doors had sealed behind the ducal couple sighed deeply, overwhelmed by her own emotions. Many of the household staff were still staring. "Everyone, that is enough. Back to work." Alice called, having surprised herself as her own conviction. "No one comes through this hall until this has been resolved." Alice didn't want to paint Hetty as simply something that needed to be cleaned up. Normally such order would come from Mrs. Lyle, however she seemed to still be in a state of shock. Alice turned her attention to the Lady Alexandra, who to her credit had been composed and handled the incident rather swiftly.

    "Your Ladyship, I beg your leave so that I may remain with Hetty until she is attended to." This was her request, while the maid should not be gawked at, a part of her felt it would be unkind to leave her alone. Alice felt terrible sorrow for Hetty. She was never prepared to work in a house like this, or for a woman like that. A woman who perplexed her to no end. The Duchess was kind to one person and one alone, her husband. The Duchess seemed to genuinely believe in the teachings of the Church, the Church which did not regard kindness as the highest virtue. How could one so devout and pious become so unfathomably cruel?

    She reflected on the knowing glance the Duke had given John. The two were perfectly adapted and matched for one another. Alice couldn't help but watch John from the corner of her eye, he too was more mysterious than the Duchess. Alice stood in silence behind the blanket that covered the remains. She would wait patiently until the Doctor arrived, Mrs. Lyle and Mr. Carson answering questions having emerged themselves and directing them to take the body away. Alice herself would clean the blood from the marble, even though this was not the work of a ladies maid, she felt she owed this much to the deceased.

    There would be no serious questions asked, at least not for the time being. Servants died all the time, they were killed all the time. This would be chocked up to an unfortunate accident. Alice would then return herself to the service of the Lady Alexandra until ordered otherwise. Whispers ran through the halls like wild fire. The Duchess had finally snapped. No one could say they were surprised. Everyone knew Hetty was unstable and would crack under the pressure of such a cruel hand. Everyone else simply steeled themselves, did their jobs, stayed out of the way. For Hetty this was never a real hope.
    You don't need a reason to help people.

  4. #34
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    Alexandra nodded and smiled gently, “Yes, of course, sit with her…” she sighed, shaking her head, “Poor child…She deserved better. You all do,” she added softly, out of earshot of Mrs Lyle and Carson, who stood by the stairs, staring at the sheet covered body.

    As she stood, waiting for the doctor to arrive, Alex pondered what would come of this. Everyone had seen her sister’s little performance, and servants loved to talk, even in this society. Households talk too. If you wanted to know something, Arabella had always said, you interrogated the household’s maids. She imagined it was a common enough thing. The party would provide the perfect opportunity for any of Bella’s rivals to overhear thigs and to have their own maid’s, who came with their mistresses and waiting in the servant’s hall for them, to speak and gossip…

    Bella would have a fight on her hands to contain this. Not the death, no. God forbid, no one in society would care about the death of a maid, nor even the suicide of one. Such things happened every week, even in the royal household. No. What would cause talk would be the Duchess’s reaction. It was not ladylike; it was not how a Duchess should be and it spoke of an unhinged mind…Talk of that nature was often enough to ruin even the highest member of society.

    In her death, without knowing it, Hetty may have gifted her mistress a way to survive and even thrive in the viper’s nest that was society. The word of a lady, though hardly useful to a man, was as gospel to other ladies; if Alexandra said the servants were lying and Arabella conducted herself as she should…well, no one would say otherwise. If Alex happened to remain silent and let the servants talk…

    She could not help but give a little smile. It was cruel, she knew, but perhaps, after all, she was what her sister had always wanted her to be.

    “I am what you made me,” she thought as she watched Carson cross to the door to let the doctor in.

    -

    The doctor, who had seen similar before, was profession but disinterested. He took the body with him when he left, leaving a note for the Duke to arrange whatever funeral and such he wished, or, if none was needed, the body would be delivered to the medical school for use by the students in their autopsy studies.

    That made Alexandra cringe and she revolved to unsure Hetty was given a proper burial. As she and Alice went to her room, she said as much and sighed. “Poor child,” she repeated. “I should have…I don’t know. Done something more. I knew she could not handle Bella…” She opened her bedroom door and, annoyed at herself, tore off her gloves and threw them on the bed.

    “And what a show she put on,” she added, biting her lip. “Sadly, I do not think it was an act though. If she behaves like that at the party, God help her, and the family.”

    -

    Meanwhile Richard sat beside his wife’s bed, holding her hand, and looking at her, concern growing in his gaze. “Belle, dearest one…Please, stop this. You must be strong, for me, and for the family. We cannot have this behaviour. You have a royal visit to plan, turn your mind to that. She was only a maid, there is no need for such hysterics.”

  5. #35
    Member Hannelorian's Avatar
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    The Duchess, having regained much of her composure had come to a decision, a rather radical one at that, but she could see no alternative. Her behavior would be an embarrassment. A Duchess was not fit to lose her head such as she had. "Richard... the time has come." Arabella, sitting up in bed, covered appropriately looked at her husband. "You know what I mean." She spoke softly and with a sense of hesitation. Arabella could not bring herself to say it so easily. "The maid, Hetty. Her death is my fault. I drove her to such action. That is ungodly." Just as she had done with her father so many years ago, she repeated now to her husband. She accepted responsibility for her actions. "My behavior following was unbecoming of the nobility, and with the Prince of Wales coming... Alexandra will make sure it is known. It will bring you great shame." The Duchess was almost humbled by the experience, and unsurprisingly candid with the man she had come to love so dearly.

    "You must ask the King for an annulment... or divorce." Arabella knew the gravity of her words. "Please, don't think I've lost my head as well." She arose from the bed and walking to her husband's chair, in the privacy of her rooms she set herself upon the arm of the chair, leaning her head now against his. "It's been six years, my love." The Duchess understood that above the shame of this incident, there was the well known shame of her inability to produce an heir. "I have not given you even a single child, nor a miscarriage, nothing." The tears had returned to her eyes as she brought up the subject. "I have prayed and prayed. Yet God has not deemed me fit for motherhood. I have failed you. I have failed God, and for that great shame I can only apologize." Arabella had grown tired, and the love of her husband was the only thing that had carried her forward, and now she had done nothing but fail. She wanted him to have what she could not give, she wanted his good name to be spared.

    "We can wait until after the visit from His Royal Highness. My sister can be free from her marriage proposal, as the sister of a disgraced Duchess is undesirable. You'll be rid of her as well." Arabella felt herself shaking, she felt at least if she offered, it was better than being simply told later. Richard's last wife ended up in an asylum, and Arabella would be determined to avoid that fate. Rather she would condemn herself to a life of service for another great family. "I have loved nothing greater in my life than you... but you mustn't let me take you down." It would be easy for the Duke to cast her aside and to do so before the situation dramatically worsened.

    Her fall would likely take Alexandra part of the way, but she would then finally be free to lead her own life. Perhaps with reduced prospects but with options never the less. "This is me being strong for you and for our family. This is me admitting what needs to be done." She moved to let a bare hand find his own and intertwine their fingers. "Let me do this one last thing for you." Arabella humbled herself for perhaps what would be the final time.

    Alice meanwhile had returned to service, wishing they all had been dismissed for the afternoon, something, anything. "There was nothing you could have done, your Ladyship." Alice spoke rather quietly. It was the truth, no one could have stopped what had happened except Arabella. Alice attended to the gloves thrown on the bed, looking them over for traces of dirt or loose threads before folding them neatly. "I think it was...reassuring to know she's still human under all that armor." Alice was distressed by the entire situation. "Still, I suppose everyone gets their comeuppance sooner or later." This much was true, society had a way of being cruel.

    "Though I hope her actions do not reflect upon you in any way... This whole thing has been something of a nightmare. Her poor family... just thought they were sending their daughter up in the world... working for nobility and all." Alice was at a loss for words, what exactly could she have done? Should she have worked harder to reassure Hetty, to calm her down after the lashing, more than likely. Yet she too had failed. Everyone had failed the young maid.
    You don't need a reason to help people.

  6. #36
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    The Duke sat, listening, and staring off at the wall as she spoke. He thought of many things as he listened…His first two wives and the loss of them, his place in the world, of which he was so assured of, his future, his name and house, his dynasty…that hung so on him and Arabella…Such a little thing. He cast his mind back to his own parents and their marriage. They had seemed happy, he thought, from a child’s point of view but now he could see there had been strain and tension.

    He had five sisters, all older than him and had been thoroughly spoiled by them all; life had been good. He had not noticed the unspoken words and looks, the endless visits to spas and such for cures…His mother had died in the end, when he was four, trying to give her husband a second son. All families needed that, the heir, and the spare, just in case. After that his father had become obsessed with protecting him as his only son, and also in begetting more.

    It had not been a happy house for the adults after that. His sisters were quickly married and soon he was left alone in the schoolroom…waiting for the day when a little brother might come. That day had never arrived, though 4 stepmothers had tried and failed.

    He had married Arabella because she had been young and pious and from a good family; he had not expected nor looked for love. From either side. He had respected her and been all he should be, but…slowly but surely, he had fallen in love. And, surprising, she had fallen in love with him too. It was a marriage that many would kill for. A happy one, with trust and respect and a deep connection. They had no children, but he knew many of his friends who had many children yet were miserable.

    And what if Arabella did become pregnant and died in the attempt? Yes, he may have an heir, but he would lose her. If she and the infant died, it would all have been for naught.

    Like a voice from God, he knew his choice. He gripped her hand and pulled her to him in an embrace. “No,” he said softly, kissing her forehead. “No. My love, I shall not give you up for anything…I would give up my title, my wealth, my dynasty. You are mine, and that is that.” He brushed her hair back from her face and smiled kindly. “I love you, Arabella,” he spoke softly. He rarely used her name but now it was more precious than any pet name. “We are married, we swore…for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. I shall not abandon you. Never. Even if commanded to by his Majesty himself. You are mine. And I am yours.”

    He moved back to hold her hands gently in his, his thumbs stroking over her bare skin. “We have options, my love…There are…ways and means. That do not carry a risk to your health.”

    -

    Alexandra sighed. “Perhaps. I’ve not seen that side to her in many years. I had almost convinced myself that she had never been the sister I knew her as once. I thought I had imagined it all but…She is still there. I just wish she could be herself again, or…come back to herself. She was always pious, but she did not delight in cruelty.”

    She lay back on her bed, staring up at the embordered canopy. “She wants a baby so much, but I worry if she could be a mother. She…she lashes out easily. I know she would not do much of the caring, with nannies and governesses being employed but still. I worry.”

  7. #37
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    A teenaged Arabella had met her husband's second wife once and only once. She would later write in her diary that she found the woman to be deeply unpleasant. It was clear to any that met her, she had been an unhappy woman. She had no idea that in just a few short months she would be the woman's replacement. Though perhaps she should have seen it coming. Arabella was a beautiful girl, loved by the King and all who met her. She had charm and social graces and the piety of a saint in the making. Arabella, over the years retained all of those features, though her cruelty had only grown. The ugliest part of her grew uglier with time, with the reinforcement of the Church and her husband. Yet this woman, for all her faults, was a woman truly and unequivocally in love and in this moment of kindness she fell deeper still.

    The Duchess, making herself smaller still crawled into the Duke's lap and allowed herself to melt into him. There was no safer place in the world for his wife than in his arms. The two were uniquely matched for one another. He used her name, he so rarely used, but here... it was perfection. It was the comfort she longed for, it was her entire world, right there. She wished to never hear someone speak her name again, only him. She watched his last wife fall, she watched as the woman descended into madness, a raving lunatic, a shadow of the woman she had once been. Even without children he chose her. Arabella had done it again, and too, would have no other.

    Arabella, after some time stood up, and taking his hand into her own she stood him up and pulled him into her bed. In this moment she would sin again, she wanted him for him, the idea of a child be damned. Then again, this could be the time, the moment. Probably not.

    In the intervening days things had changed in the great house of the Suffolks. Arabella, the day after the incident went back to her routine as though nothing had happened. She arose at the same time, with another maid filling in for the late Hetty. Though the Duchess made no complaint when things were not done to her unreasonably high standard. In fact, it was noted that Arabella said nothing on a great many things that normally she would have unleashed her rage for. The Duchess prayed, she ate, perhaps a bit more than usual, she read the latest journals on the home and practiced her embroidery. She met with dress makers, florists and the like all in preparation for a party which was now in two days time. The Duchess smiled and nodded to those servants she passed in the hall. She simply allowed them to attend to their lives as she would her own. For now.

    As Arabella approved final changes to the menus, she took note of Alice in the hall. "Sutton." Arabella bade, though there was little in the way of greeting. "Pardon the interruption. Would you be so kind as to see if the Lady Alexandra has a few moments to meet with me? There's something I'd like to discuss."

    I'll bet there is... Alice thought, but instead nodded her head politely. "Blessed day. Of course your Grace." Alice responded in kind, noting that the pardon was new and largely quite surprising. This couldn't last long, that is not who the Duchess was. Alice, knowing not to stay too long and take her chances went about looking for Alexandra. Alice understood they had bells in all of the rooms but for the love God why couldn't they attach little bells to the people so they could always be found and heard. There were too many places one could be hiding in this place, and unlike the Duchess, Alexandra liked to amble from place to place. Almost like a cat in search of a sunny spot. But on days like today, nice days it was somewhat easier to narrow down the list of places.

    Her Ladyship, unlike the mistress of the house never seemed to mind the sun and could be found outside among the gardens. Sure enough this is where she was. "Your Ladyship" Alice greeted and curtsied as was tradition, especially outside of the confines of the lady's chambers - out here, all eyes watched. "Her Grace would like to know if you had a moment or two to spare for her?" It was odd. Typically there were edicts, demands, never questions from the Duchess to anyone. If Lady Alexandra accepted, which she would more or less be obligated to, the Duchess would wait in her own chambers.
    You don't need a reason to help people.

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