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

  1. #391
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    Loyalty at court was hard won and easily lost. Arabella had been commanding loyalty since the day she married. She was ruthless, relentless even in what she would to keep women in line. Despite her youth, it would seem she was a relic. Her very presence would strike fear in those around her. She was cold, she was devout, in short, the perfect woman of her era, an era which was beginning it's decline. Something the Queen knew, and silently acknowledged though her husband never would.

    It was of course, when Arabella listened to her sister that she caught it. Hands. To others, the Princess merely spoke of gifts, but to Arabella she understood exactly what was meant. A look of terror crossed her face, but only for the briefest of moments. Would the others catch on? No, no, of course not. They were not savvy, they were not wise. They caught on only to small things, things which ultimately would never matter. But how? How did Alexandra know?

    As children, their father groomed the two women to listen closely and carefully. They were taught to drop hints, to pick up what others may throw away in conversation. Those bits of detail were everything. Thinking on it, there was only one way, and one way alone that Alexandra could know the truth. Lucy. Arabella, careful now not to let her face betray her, would for a moment, seethe, before giving way to gratitude. Lucy was concerned, and Arabella understood that. Who else would you go to with concerns for her? Certainly not to her husband. It was rather sweet, well intentioned. But personally mortifying. This was her cross to carry, her own punishment.

    "It is most gracious of you to recognize the generosity of His Majesty. I can assure you his hand was fair in his offerings." Arabella was beginning to sink, at least internally, recognizing this as her own fault, her just desserts. Throughout all of it, she never stopped smiling. Then, she would do something entirely expected.

    "Not at all. Though your concern is of comfort. I shall dine and celebrate with you all, with great joy." Arabella heard her sister's suggestion for what it was, a chance for reprieve, but knew she could not take it. Not even for a moment, if she did not do as expected there would be hell to pay, and in the end it would be worse for Alexandra if Arabella were not present to help, where she could, tamp the King's rage.

    Her eyes were pleading for her sister to simply allow things to go as they were meant to.
    Second star to the right and straight on till morning.

  2. #392
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    Alexandra inclined her head in a small, graceful movement, almost as if she was just uncomfortable and wished to ease an ache; but in reality she was, as Bella could decerne, acquiescing to her wishes. "Of course, I for one cannot wait to see you and His Majesty take to the floor to dance. It has been too long since he had a consort. I am sure he is as eager as I am."

    She smiled and glanced at the ladies who were doing an excellent job of pretending not to be listening when in reality every ear was straining to know what passed between the two sisters. Neither was a fool though and both too skilled at the game to be caught out.

    The younger supposed they had each been born with a talent for it, though Bella had had more chances to sharpen her skills at court...Alex had only recently -since her marriage- fully come to court life and had had to learn quickly! If you did not learn to survive the rapids, you died; perhaps not physically -unless you ran afoul of the laws- but certainly socially, which might be worse for a lady. If you were 'cut' in society, there was little chance of recovery; you would never be invited to another gathering, no one would call on you, it would be as if you had died. Ladies, and gentleman, would cross the street or park to avoid you, eyes would be averted.

    It was a dreaded fate, that was for sure.

    And rank was no protection; it had happened to the previous Queen. No one was overly sure how, and Alex had been too young at the time to know much about it, but whatever happened, word went around among the ladies that the Queen was to be cut, and she was. Of course, respect was still shown but it was made very clear that she was 'out' as it were. No one attended her little gatherings, no lady called upon her in her apartments, at balls she was left ignored. No one sought her view on fashion...It was as if, on a warm day, suddenly the sun no longer shone upon you and a sudden chill set in.

    Knowing what she did now, from her husband, Alexandra had a great sympathy for the poor woman, more than she had before, if that was possible. It was no small wonder that the late Queen had taken to drink to ease her pains. She herself had not been 'cut' entirely but she had been made the scapegoat at court, by her sister, who was the leader there. It was fine and perfect acceptable to bully Lady Alexandra...It was a small mercy that Bella had kept her away form the court most of the time, and, by accident, saved her from the majority of the taunts.

    Alexandra folded her hands neatly in her lap and added, "I myself am looking forward to the ball also. I confess, His Highness is such a fine danger, I am always in awe of his skills."

    That got a response from the Lady nearest the Princess, who blushed and said softly, "His Highness is certainly the most handsome man I have ever seen!" She giggled softly, as did the lady beside her. It was, on the surface, an innocent, girlish comment of young ladies, admiring a handsome man who was out of their reach in any case...but it was also, in their society, tip toeing a line of sin; converting, lustful thoughts, possible adultery and so on.

    All the other ladies looked at the girl, then the Queen, their eyes wide. Alexandra too, looked to her sister. To her, it was an innocent comment, one she found rather sweet -and if she was honest, she was a little proud that such a man was hers- and she would have been happy to talk like this but she wasn't sure if she sister would.

    The girl, realising she had made a mistake, swallowed and looked down, "I am sorry, Your Majesty. That was a silly comment and unbecoming. I beg forgiveness, and from Her Royal Highness also."
    "Ye mustn't be afraid to ask for help. Pride is a good thing, my girl, but it will kill you in time." - Granny Weatherwax

  3. #393
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    When all eyes had cast upon upon the Queen, and the Princess she could feel them. The look that said, we’ll wait for you to react so we understand how. The look that said, this was awkward and uncomfortable, but a comment made off hand with no ill will, but how will you respond? It was a call for guidance, for leadership. A call that Arabella planned to answer, no matter how dramatic she need or need not be.

    The Queen turned her gaze to her sister, and then to the lady who made comment. “You’re right quite right.” A soft smile spread across her face, it was one that Alexandra would recognize without fail. The smile which meant one had to brace for impact. “The Prince of Wales is a handsome man. We are greatly blessed that he and the Princess found one another.” This was a genuine comment, in reality, she could not be happier that her sister had found love.

    “But do you not honor from whence he came? Do you not see fit to compliment the father? Only the son? Would you praise only Jesus’ name?” The assembled company would quickly begin to panic, though they dared not show it. “The King as an instrument of God. The Prince is handsome because his father is more so.” This was not a contest, nor was it true and Arabella knew that. But this was her position now, she could not risk being caught not defending him.

    “To covet what is not yours is a sin. Now perhaps you meant nothing of it. A sweet, silly, innocent comment. Some might consider it flattering.” The but was coming and everyone knew it. “But I am not some. Do us all a favor and leave. Go to the small chapel to pray, pray for forgiveness and pray for wisdom. You have your freedom to return to us at the feast. But should you make the same mistake again…I shall not be so forgiving.”

    Arabella clapped her hands once, and then waived her right hand, a motion of dismissal. “Your Highness, I offer you my sincerest apologies. We mean no disrespect, we all have the utmost admiration for the Prince. Arabella could have done worst, she could have cut the girl, she could have had her severely punished. But she did not, instead, she sought only to set an example and to give the girl some time to rethink how she behaved… things were going to get worse. For all of them.

    The Queen wanted to defend her sister and her honor. The Prince was hers, and while the flattery may have been a comfort to her, knowing others lusted after she had... Court was not a game, a woman can and could take whatever she wanted if a wife wasn't watching.
    Second star to the right and straight on till morning.

  4. #394
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    The girl, bright red, her eyes like saucers, hastily rose, her hands shaking. She curtised, rather clumsily -from fear, no doubt- and left. All the ladies watched her go, a few smirks being hidden, badly, behind fans. What cost one, might benefit an other, as it were.

    Alexandra smiled gently and shook her head, "No, no need Your Majesty, I assure you. I take no offence. The child is yet young, and we all make mistakes in our youth," she said kindly. It was rather amusing to hear a girl of one-and-twenty speak as if her own youth was already over; the lady who had misspoke was only seventeen and recently debuted at court...And in truth, a married Lady had a certain gravity that an unmarried one did not.

    "And," she raised her voice to address the other ladies too, "you are quite right. Even my boundless loyalty to my dear husband cannot take away the fact that he is outshone, in all matters, by his most beloved father." Alex felt sick at her very words but she knew what she had to do. "If marriage is indeed a gamble for ladies," she smiled, "Then you, dearest sister, and most worthy Queen, have quite cleared the deck of all comers in that regard."

    Several of the ladies smiled at that and nodded, "Oh, my yes! Indeed. The most blessed of women," one lady added, clearly liking the phrase on her lips.

    "You have it in one, my Lady," Alexandra agreed, with a smile. "None of us can do better in that regard, but with you guiding us, we can be worthy of our husbands, and, for those not yet married, future ones, as God commands us to be..."

    May God and Arthur forgive me for this nonsense I must speak.
    "Ye mustn't be afraid to ask for help. Pride is a good thing, my girl, but it will kill you in time." - Granny Weatherwax

  5. #395
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    The truth is, when Arabella heard her sister's tongue drip with those words, words she undoubtedly did not mean truthfully...it made her stomach turn. She felt almost ill, knowing Alex had to force herself to say what she did only for the sake of appearance. This was not who she was, but when she wanted to...she could put on the show that was required at court.

    "For once you speak good sense. Let us pray that God guides us to be the best of wives for our husbands. The House of Stuart must continue." Arabella smiled, one way or another, the line of Kings would remain unbroken, the question simply remained of whose child would occupy the throne. Arabella hoped her brother-in-law over any son she may produce. God knows the man was prepared for the role and would do everything in his power to right the course.

    "Ladies, I hate to disappoint, but would you all mind terribly giving me a moment alone with my dear sister? We have children to discuss." The ladies would think they meant her children, or the Princess' lack of them. Arabella was thinking about her sister's unborn children and to try to give her an out. "If you should see His Majesty, please let him know where I am." Arabella left out... 'and what I'm doing'. Though, it would appear that hardly need to be said. When the King inevitably bounded in, she would launch into her tirade about how if she didn't turn her life around now she would never conceive. All that rehearsed jazz.
    Second star to the right and straight on till morning.

  6. #396
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    The ladies, as Bella assumed, all guessed she wished to talk to her sister about her -Alex's- lack of any pregnancy announcement despite being married for some two and a bit months...A few shot pitying looks at the Princess as they rose and departed. Their maid's followed, trooping out like children banished to the nursery.

    Alexandra held her tongue until the door shut before she turned and looked at her sister, her eyes wide, "Bella, he...he is a beast!" She took her sister's hand gently, "Do not," she added, "Blame Lucy. The child did what was right and she is scared enough as it is."

    Like before, the Princess could not remain still and she rose to pace back and forth on the carpet, her skirts rustling as they brushed the floor. "It is as well," she said softly, shaking her head, "That she told me alone and not near the King, or else I should have bitten him I think. I do not care what anyone says, sister; you and I know the law, and know legally it did not happen but that...that...creature raped you. You may have agreed and not stopped him, but it was rape. Look at you," she gestured, shaking her head.

    Of course, all was covered, but Alex did not need to see what was under her gown to know. Lucy's horror told her all she needed.

    "You should not cover yourself. You should go to the feast in a modern gown; show them all what kind of a man he is. The shame of seeing it might bring him to his senses, but I doubt it." She turned and paced once more, unable to settle.

    In that moment, Alexandra appeared as a General almost, in the moments before a great battle. It was a sight to see, that was for sure, and an interesting notion that, in that moment, had the King walked in, would she have done something...

    Luckily for them, and perhaps more so for said King, he was, as yet, still engrossed in brandy and cigars with his cronies two floors below.
    "Ye mustn't be afraid to ask for help. Pride is a good thing, my girl, but it will kill you in time." - Granny Weatherwax

  7. #397
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    When the two were finally alone, Alexandra let loose. Arabella wasn't sure if she found it comforting or unnerving. What had been her private shame was no longer her own. She simply sat there in her seat as Alex spoke and paced. Alex stood as a woman that Arabella would not have recognized had she not witnessed this journey personally. "Alex..." Arabella spoke her sister's name in a low voice, Arabella was almost broken. "Please sit down." Arabella could scarce bring herself to smile, yet all the same she patted the same spot beside her on the settee.

    "Of course I don't blame Lucy..." This was a first, Arabella, one would have guessed would have lost her head in anger and had the girl sent away, or worse. But here, there was nothing of the sort. "She's the closest thing I have to a friend and most of the time I think she's terrified of me." Another long sigh, followed by a brief glance skyward before returning her gaze to her sister. "I would have done the same..." There again was the truth laid bare, but Arabella had wondered if the roles were reversed, if she would possess the same strength as Alexandra. Perhaps not, she settled on.

    "He didn't..." Arabella could not finish the sentence. There was no part of her that could force the word rape from her mouth, so instead she said nothing. But to hear it, that made it real. "I gave myself to him." This too was true, though what happened from there quickly escalated into something she had not wanted. There was no crime in what had happened to her. Such a thing could never exist in their world. But if she were to think about it, it had happened. What Alexandra said was true, but to accept it was another thing all together. "I am his wife." Property, wife could have easily been substituted with the word property and no one would bat an eye.

    "I am his for the taking, but I offered myself." Arabella was, in truth, ensure of how to proceed. She fought like hell to push her tears back. "You mustn't worry about me. The stress..." Arabella paused for a moment. "Is not good for the baby." The Queen whispered the phrase 'the baby' even though they were alone. Either way, Arabella was right. "For our children, you must stay calm... and you mustn't spend your time worrying over me. I can handle myself." Could she? Did Arabella really believe herself there?

    The truth was darker, Arabella was trained for this, well not for this exactly... but she was trained to be a lady, to never question. But beneath it, a part of her genuinely felt that she deserved this. This was her fate, this was her punishment and to try and escape it would be defying God himself. "All that matters is that you and the Prince stay safe. You are the future of this country. Nothing can happen to you. Do you understand me?" For the first time, Arabella sounded firm, self assured. "I beg for you to avail yourself to the option you gave me, feign ill, go home. Stay far away from this place as long as you can. In a few weeks, I'll have to tell the King of your condition..."
    Second star to the right and straight on till morning.

  8. #398
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    Alexandra did as she was bid, though more so to comfort her sister, rather than obeying an order from her Queen, and sat down beside her. She reached over and embraced her sister, wincing inwardly at how frail she suddenly felt, how painfully thin. For a time, when she was with child, Bella had filled out and had looked truly beautiful, as fresh and radiant as any portrait by Raphael, her skin unblemished and as white as porcelain. Now she looked drawn, with dark circles under her eyes. Her gown, although glorious, was nipped in here and there to hide the fact she had lost weight. Her corset too, was drawn so tight it was a wonder she could breathe!

    It occured to Alex then that her figure, fuller than her sister's, was enhanced by her corset, bringing out her natural curves rather than creating them...As she looked at Bella now, she wondered what on earth her corset was shaping; the Queen seemed to have nothing but skin and bone! Her waist was narrow, the kind of narrow that even some Doctor's now spoke against -though none employed at court.

    "Bella," she said gently, "Ignoring legality, which is never kind to ladies of any rank...what happened was wrong, and," she fixed her sister with a gaze, "And do not, for one second, tell me you think you deserved it. You are no fool and no one deserves what you have experienced..."

    For a second she fell silent, seeing what she feared in the Queen's face, "You do, don't you? You think this is God's judgement for some past sin? Oh, Bella," she hugged her again, "Please, banish that thought. God...Arthur and I are firmly convinced the God we have been told about all our lives is not the truth. Even his own word, in the Bible, changed in later times; he may have begun as cruel and exacting but...but He did not remain so. He was a loving and forgiving God, who loves us all, in spite of our faults."

    She pulled back a little. "Even if you do not believe me, think of Beatrix. If you were truly as damned and sinful as you think, would he have gifted you her? Children are a blessing, we have always been told that, and he gave you one...And she is healthy, and strong. She may not be with you daily but she lives and grows, and one day you will hold her again and hear her call you 'mama'. The future, as you say, does not belong solely to Arthur and myself, but you too, dear sister, and Beatrix."

    Alexandra bit her lip. "I firmly believed that...the King is the one who is damned, in this life and the next. One day you shall be a widow again, and a wealthy one, free to do, for the first time, as you wish, with your daughter beside you. If, God willing, Arthur succeeds his father -which I seek not for his nor my advancement, but for the peoples- all shall be different...No more burnings, no more sickening displays of cruelty."

    She sighed softly. "I do not wish to leave you though, Bella. And it pleases the King much to see you abuse me in word and deed. If he is pleased, he shall drink and be merry, and, please God, pass out drunk tonight and save you his attentions."
    "Ye mustn't be afraid to ask for help. Pride is a good thing, my girl, but it will kill you in time." - Granny Weatherwax

  9. #399
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    Arabella did not smile, for the first time in some time she simply allowed her face to remain vacant, though if one looked hard enough the traces of her sadness, her depression would be manifest. "God..." she began before trailing off after a simple word alone. "God gave me a daughter, to see her taken from me." Of course, Arabella was not implying she had been stolen, but rather by virtue or curse of her position the babe had to be given up. "God gave me a loving husband, to see him ripped from me without ceremony." The loss of her beloved Richard was not an easy one to bare. He remained with her, like a weight, a glorious weight she would refuse to surrender.

    A small ironic, sarcastic laugh burst forth from her lips. "God gave me a King." The Queen looked down at her lap for a moment, containing herself. "Only to have him beat me to submission, and all the while thinking I enjoy it." This was just another knife in her back, a singular point of pain and embarrassment. "Tell me again how I have pleased God. Tell me this isn't a punishment for my actions?" Arabella wanted to embrace the optimism of her sister, the faith in a different kind of God but right now that seemed impossible.

    "Now, for the first time in God only knows how long the two of us are united as a family, but I must betray you publicly, to protect myself, to protect you... What kind of sick madness is this?" If there were any doubt about Arabella's sincerity, this would be the moment that doubt faded. "I love you. So very much. I've been so very awful... thinking I was pleasing God, serving Him... and now that my eyes are finally opened? They are forced shut so we can maintain the status quo." Arabella moved quickly to wrap her fingers between her sister's, holding onto her hands tightly. "If you have a son... there is no telling what he will do. If I have a son... we may as well welcome a new fresh hell upon the both of us."

    There fates seemed entirely damned. "We were born into a noble house... and we were taken in by royalty. I am grateful you have a loving husband, I am... but I can't help but wonder if we should stayed clear of this whole damned family... for now it will consume us... it will destroy us. It will destroy our children if we can't save them." Arabella looked longingly upon her sister's visage. "I'm just... out of my mind a bit. Is all... ignore me." A fake smile, however brief emerged. "Let us ready for dinner, yes?" Arabella let go of her sister and rose to stand.
    Second star to the right and straight on till morning.

  10. #400
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    Alexandra caught her hand as she went to stand and stopped her. "Bella...I doubt you even remember but I do; once, not long after you married Richard, I heard you telling a friend who was struggling, that 'God never gives us more than we can cope with' and so yes, as painful as all of this is for you, I have to believe that God knows you shall emerge from this test stronger. As for myself," she smiled gently, "If hurting me keeps you safe, I shall accept it willingly. In this fight we all have a cross to bear. Given the weight of yours, I can shoulder mine without complaint, dear sister."

    She sighed, "Yes, I know. Like moths to the flame we have found ourselves in danger of burning in the heat of the Crown. Still..." she smiled, "As Queen, you have powers no woman in our society could ever hope to achieve; the highest man, bar the King, bows to you, that is something, is it not? As for our children, do not fear. You may laugh, the sister you always called a heretic and unbeliever but in recent weeks, I find my faith restored, and I firmly believe God shall preserve us, you and I, and the children, your Beatrix, and any future ones we may have."

    Alexandra stood then and squeezed her hand. "You are right though, we should prepare. No doubt you have another glittering gown to put on and that will take time," she smiled gently; time at least when she could avoid her husband. "And I must change also, but more importantly, I want to make sure Alice has a gown to suit the occasion. Nothing unsuitable for her rank as my lady's maid, of course, but at least something to give her a little shine for the Duke to see."
    "Ye mustn't be afraid to ask for help. Pride is a good thing, my girl, but it will kill you in time." - Granny Weatherwax

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