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

  1. #481
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    Often times, Alice noted, it seemed like Arthur and Alexandra lived apart from the rest of the world. In there time and place there was just the two of them. The room could be crowded with people but for the two of them... none of that existed. Could she someday feel that way too? It was sweet, it was romantic. It almost made one feel like an intruder when watching them this way. Like you were the one who did not belong, the one who was witnessing something that should have been a private moment. Not that it was necessarily a private moment, but it simply had that feeling. It wasn't until the door opened and the footman called out did the two seem to snap back to reality.

    Arthur had more or less allowed his figure to collapse and simply melt into the affections of his wife. A small shift in his face when the moment was over indicated a hint of sadness. Alice imagined the Prince would have rather remained in his little bubble. There was never a man more in love, that Alice felt certain of.

    The young maid could feel the blush creeping along her cheeks as the Duke was mentioned and of course that the letter was for her. Rather sheepishly, she extended a hand and took the letter into her own. Alice simply stared at it, allowing the letter to rest somewhat weightly on her own palms, as though it were the smallest silver tray in the world. It was like Alice had never seen a letter before, despite having delivered countless hundreds of them to the Princess and the Queen, then Duchess.

    "He has such lovely penmanship." Alice uttered, she seemed to have no idea of what one said in these contexts. Alice did not look up or back at the Princess and Prince, she stared only at the letter, after some time had passed she turned the envelope over, her fingers began to trace every facet of the wax seal. Even through gloved hands she could feel the ridges, the rises and falls, it was delicate. Somehow this item was even more precious to her than all of the finery she had worn the night she met Thomas.

    It was an odd thing, to feel guilty about breaking a seal, but Alice did. It was beautiful, though only wax, it was wax poured for her, meant to end up in her hands bearing his personal seal. Alice very rarely got anything that was just for her, but this, this meant the world. "I wonder what he's written." Alice commented out loud but really for any particular person, carefully she worked her finger about the bottom of the seal, slightly separating it from the paper of the envelope so she could open it without breaking it. It took time and effort but it would be worth it. Alice opened the envelope and carefully extracted the paper inside.

    Unfolding it, Alice began to read it. She read in complete silence, her face however, though angled downward was rife with a series of expressions, all positive, some of surprise. When she had finished, she read it again, and when she finished the second time, she allowed her hand, still holding the letter to drop before her. "It would appear that he wishes to see me again... but as he has been away, he does not know how to arrange such a thing... he would ask your assistance."

    "I don't know what to say... do I reply? Do you? I don't even know how things should be done myself." Arthur and Alice were something of an anomaly, they met, they fell in love, but everything didn't happen as it was meant to. It was controversial. "I'll need to buy clothes or something... I can't meet him like this." Alice had precious little in the way of clothing that was not her uniform. In reality, she had very few days off, her entire life was in service to the Princess. Something she enjoyed quite dearly but kept her out of the way of other girls her age, save for other maids.
    Second star to the right and straight on till morning.

  2. #482
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    Alexandra smiled and watched, hands clasped under her chin as her friend read, and then re-read the letter. She was dying to know what it said but did not wish to intrude. It was, naturally, a private thing; especially for a young woman who had never had a letter before! Alex would have guarded it closely herself, if she was Alice.

    "Oh, Alice," she said softly, beaming. It was clear that the Princess was treating this as how she would have treated her sister's prospects, and championing it the whole way! "Of course, I shall write to him today, along with the ladies, but you should send your reply first so we can delay my letter for whenever you are ready. As for rules," she looked at Arthur and smiled. "If my husband gives me permission...And also gives you permission to reply to the gentleman, I see no reason for anyone else to have anything to say."

    She laughed again. "And clothes, oh Alice, do you really think myself and Bella would allow you to go without? I will take that in hand. You will not go to anything in your uniform, I promise. I have my privy purse, that I can use as I wish," she glanced again at Arthur and winked, "With, again, my husband's permission and within reason. It's for my own dress bills and such, as well as charitable affairs. So if myself and the Queen, who I am sure will be happy to help, pool our resources, you can be fashioned with a complete trusseau."

    It would have been very easy for Alice, or anyone really, to think and feel that these two great ladies, with little of substance to occupy their time, or at least as far as society was aware, had taken this topic of a possible romance as a chance to have amusement. A game almost. To dress up one's maid as a lady, and trot her out like an exotic pet you had found, to be shown off until one grew bored.

    Luckily, Alice knew her mistress -perhaps not so much the Queen- better than that and Alexandra would have done none of this had she not truly wished to see her friend happy. She was not the type to make fun at another's expense, having for so long -and even now- been the butt of everyone's amusements. The court ladies, naturally, were exempt from this. They, not the Princess, had set the bar on that score and she saw no reason not to amuse herself where they were concerned.
    "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. #483
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    Arthur picked up his eyes at the mention of 'permission' and 'husband.' Giving his permission was something he generally refrained from for two primary reasons. The first being the most important was simply that Alexandra did not need it. In his eyes she was a free woman, free to live her life as she saw fit. Second, no matter what Alexandra did, she did so with complete trust and support in all things. "You aren't actually going to make me say it are you?" Alex enjoyed the occasional tease of Arthur. Jokes about society were often included.

    "I refuse. I shan't stoop to my Father's level and grant you permission or any such nonsense, do as you please the both of you." Arthur smiled and laughed kindly, softly, but genuinely. "If anyone now has access to more than we do, it would be Arabella. I can't imagine she'd say no to helping. In fact, she'd probably be rather offended if she was left out." Though how exactly this could be accomplished, given that he would sooner die than see his beloved wife get anywhere near his father or Windsor at all.

    Alice shook her head. "I would not want to be an inconvenience. Surely there are charities more deserve of such generosity than a simple maid." Alice did not want these women to further think she would be taking advantage of them. In reality, Alice was just grateful that someone actually cared about her and her well being.

    "If you would be so kind as to excuse me, I shall take my leave and write my reply." Alice probably could have turned and left knowing Alex would in fact allow her. But she did not, she remained in her position, in this moment not wanting to appear too comfortable with this generosity.

    To say that the Princess' Household staff was more relaxed and comfortable than that of the Suffolks would be something of an understatement. Arabella's staff lived in abject fear. Those here though enjoyed great comfort, ease in their work and more often than not generally got along. But of course there is always a little feeling of petty jealousy. Alice had somehow won in this game, she befriended the Princess, before she was a Princess, and now was given the opportunity to potentially become a very great lady, a Duchess. Where were there opportunities?
    Second star to the right and straight on till morning.

  4. #484
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    Alexandra looked at her husband and smirked, her eyes full of amusement. The dimples in her cheeks, which suited her very well, were back as she smiled. "Arthur," she said fondly, shaking her head and laughing. "It is a dangerous thing to grant a lady the will do 'to as she pleases' is it not? Imagine what the world would be if we ladies could do as we wished."

    "What a world indeed," she thought briefly before turning to her maid.

    "Alice, you are the only true friend I have. You saved my life from John, I may owe my marriage to you in that regard, and as such, my happiness and family. If not for you, I would not be standing here, in a home, a proper home, with the man I love, expecting my first child with him, and hoping for the future. No one is more deserving than you of happiness, nor of the trappings of wealth."

    She came over and kissed Alice's cheek, "Of course. Take your time, as long as you wish. I am sure I can cope a day without help," she smiled. "If you need anything, just let me know."

    The Princess watched Alice take her leave then turned back to her husband, coming over and taking his hand, as if she could not bear to be apart from him. She smiled happily. "It's all so sweet, is it not? Oh, I remember my feelings at your first letter. I felt so foolish for it but it made my heart burst. I must have worn the words thin by reading them over and over. I so want that for her."
    "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. #485
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    Arabella rose from the warm waters of the soaking tub, her hands extending outward with her palms facing the heavens waiting, as she delicately stepped out and onto the cool marble floor. A young maid scrambled quietly to affix heavy fabric of a robe onto the waiting Queen. One understood she was fairly new, as the woman very obviously did not look at her. Of course few people were really supposed to look at their sovereigns, but there was something special about taking great pain to avoid it which made it all together too obvious. Arabella might have laughed if it would not hurt her.

    It had now been several days since the King's great outburst at her sister, and blissfully everything was largely silent. The Queen, now ignoring the poor maid moved towards a mirror, the fabric of the robe flowing behind her, dragged forward by the woman's heavy steps. She stopped, catching a glimpse of herself, entirely unadorned in the mirror. Arabella hardly recognized the face staring back, it was healthy, which had been unusual but there was a blatant sadness that only she herself could see.

    Mirrors were not a luxury she had really appreciated until recently. Arabella wriggled slightly, uncomfortably and let her robe open slightly, adjusting so that the fabric fell down her shoulders and onto her arms, leaving the upper portion of her back exposed. Maneuvering correctly Arabella could catch a peak of herself, her lily white skin bore marks of deep purple, black and blue. The marks spilled to over to her upper arms, all areas which would be covered by cloth during the normal course of the day.

    As the maid seemed to catch up, Arabella quickly pulled the robe back into position, covering herself and hiding all signs of her broken and battered body. Not that these would not be revealed when the woman, or rather women of court dressed her as they always did, never saying a single word, as they all simply knew the truth and that would be sufficient.

    Just this very morning, he had taken her, hands wrapped around her neck and squeezing to the point of no return. This, no matter how much he otherwise beat her through the course of his "love making", strangulation was his thing. A preferred method of abuse and torture. Arabella at long last fully understood how Alexandra had felt in those moments, except for Alexandra, well there was no desire to stop. Arabella, on the other hand was his beloved wife, the future mother to his children, she had to be preserved.

    Arabella felt herself growing indifferent to the abuse, it no longer bothered her, because if she played along, which she always did, zealously, ardently, feverishly, it would end faster. She no longer expected different behavior which somewhat softened the blow if she grew to anticipate it, to be prepared for it. The dull pain that plagued her no longer bothered her because at least the pain was a reminder that she was alive, and a human, no matter how devoid of happiness she truly was.

    The Queen however, was the supreme image of grace, piety, dignity, elegance. No one would be allowed into her world enough to see her pain, all they saw was the glamour she wanted them to see. But something was afoot. Something was just different enough it actually registered and thus was something worth knowing. Packing. The King was being packed for something. Interestingly, the Queen was not. It would be rather difficult not to notice one's belongings being packed. By her own observations it would appear to be a shorter trip based on volume alone. A part of Arabella paused, wondering if she had yet again, done something wrong, caused him such ire he saw fit to leave without out. Yes, she had to fear for her position, question whether or not he was still as in love with her as her professed to be. Of course he was, but there was no rational thought in her mind.

    A knock on the door followed by immediate entry, a younger man, he entered the room in a bowed position. "Your Majesty" he would utter somewhat smoothly. "Yes?" Arabella would call gently in response. A head cast over her shoulder behind to look toward the interloper. "His Majesty requests your presence immediately." A smile cast across the Queen's face, followed by a nod. "Very well." Arabella called by way of reply and with a hand raised in the air, a gentle 'shooing' motion was made to dismiss the man who interrupted her own introspection.

    With a deft hand, Arabella released the pins that held her hair up, and she allowed it to spill downward over her shoulders, the delicate scent of perfume unfolding with it. Slowly the Queen felt her body lurch forward, and within a few quick movements of her hand, the robe that contained her had fallen from her body, and she attended a waiting maid who would dress her once more. When she was at home, Arabella had taken to wearing more white than she had previously, her hair would be done in a lavish up-do that once she had worn it, every other lady would as well. Arabella was a center of power, of influence. But she did not feel like it, she was still a woman, and women had nothing. Arabella bore a broken spirit and little else to show for her struggle.

    The make-up that was most carefully applied would hide the finger prints so prominently displayed along the delicate porcelain of her neck. No one else would need to know, and any who may have caught a glimpse would turn their head, and would still envy that this too was not theirs to have. So Arabella, the Queen Consort would emerge from her chambers, dressed brilliantly in a white gown, her hair arranged just so, that it sat beautifully behind the hand selected tiara dripping with diamonds. "Let's go." Arabella called politely to the two guards who had become her shadow whenever and wherever she went. "I'd hate to be tardy." She smiled, laughed lightly to herself and moved down the halls as though she were in no pain at all.
    Second star to the right and straight on till morning.

  6. #486
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    The two guards bowed as the Queen emerged but they, like everyone else, avoided her gaze and looked straight ahead. She likely could have been sporting a loaded pistol, aimed at one of them, and neither would have noticed until it went off, such was their dedication to not look at her. It made them appear cold, unfeeling and as if they had not humanity for suffering. That was not uncommon, of course, such was the society the King and the church's rules had brought in...Anyone who expressed grief at another's pain, was likely to be accused of something, unless said pain was inflicted by an enemy or such.

    Still, neither guard was blind to their Queen's pains nor what went on behind the closed, gilded doors of her, or the King's room, while they stood, unmoving outside. Just the night before, before the Queen had fallen silent, and not before each man had heard her cries and whimpers...one had turned to the other and a rather remarkable conversation had taken place;

    "Are we not sworn to protect her, the Queen, too?" One said, glancing at the door with wide eyes.

    The other, his eyes closing briefly and pain flashing across his features before it vanished and he straightened with a resigned air. "Yes," he replied quietly, then added, with the finality of a judge declaring the death sentence, "But not from him."

    Each had then stood, silently, listening to each blow, each noise, until every went quiet. Neither moved. Neither spoke. And neither of them did anything but bow their heads when the King left his wife a few hours later.

    -

    Christian was standing in his rooms, amid a few trunks, directing, with his normal manner, packing and such. He sported a less formal outfit than he might have had their been guests, but even so, it was hardly what one would call simple; he wore a high-collared shirt, with a silken cravat at his throat, pinned with a monogram pin that sported 3 diamonds, a cloth of gold waist-coat -the cost of that alone could have fed his staff for a week- with real diamond buttons, a pair of crisp, black trousers, so well tailored and sewn to be a work of art in themselves, and shoes that shone from the polish.

    The King was one of those men who liked uniforms, even when he did not need to be in one, so it was a relief that this morning he had at least forgon that! Whereas his son wore his military uniform when on parade or at certain events, and at home he wore everyday clothes in simple fashions, his father would happily arrive at breakfast in full gold-braid with his sword...as if he was about to command troops.

    It certainly said a lot for the two men. The difference being, Christian rarely visited his regiments and had not commanded in any real sense in years; Arthur was with his men several times a week and attended drills and the like with them, often eating and sleeping in conditions no better than his lowest man, which naturally won their loyalty. If the King did visit, he'd watch a parade past him and retire to the officer's mess for brandy and cigars.

    "Her Majesty the Queen," the footman announced, a few seconds before Arabella walked into his rooms.

    Christian beamed and came to her, kissing her cheek, his fingers, briefly, sweeping over her throat as if to check the bruises were hidden, or, more likely, to give himself a secret thrill to know they were there, and he had put his mark on her. "Ah, my love, you look radiant this morning. Positively glowing! White does become you most well. It pains me even more that I must leave you for a time."

    He stepped back, holding her arms, "Now, do not distress yourself about me leaving," he added, without any sense of irony or how ridiculous that sounded to everyone but himself, "But I have decided, in light of...unseemly events we shall not speak of concerning a person I shall not name, to pay a visit to Our Lady's shrine and take a pilgrimage there. I shall be gone a week, perhaps two, as I plan to stay with the monks there."

    No one could doubt his piety. He truly looked thrilled by the whole thing. This was not put on for show. "It has been many a year since I have done so and it's more than time." He smiled and stroked her wrist, "And it is all because of you, my darling. Before you, I had no one I could trust to see to things while I was gone, not perfectly, in any case. But you, my own heart, you I know I can leave in my stead as Regent, and have everything go as it should."

    This was a stunning development. A woman. As Regent. Yes, such things had once been common enough, but not since the Change, not since women were put back in their 'proper' place as it were. And here the King was, a man who wholeheartedly believed his own doctrine that women were, first and foremost, for producing children, secondly as occasional adornments but nothing else of any substance...here he was, putting his wife in charge!

    And if anyone was in any doubt, he soon cleared it up when he said;

    "I have already had it agreed by the council and parliament," he smiled. "The moment I take my leave, you are, until I return, Regent of England; all decisions are yours. Of course, you cannot," he winked, "Do entirely as you please, neither can I, but within reason, my realm is yours to govern!" He tapped her nose, patronisingly, as if giving a child the choice of which desert to have.
    "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. #487
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    Had Arabella only heard the conversation between the two men who guarded her, she perhaps would have felt a great comfort. For the most part, the young Queen had little idea of whether these two men even liked her. It wasn't their place to pass judgment, at least not publicly, but certainly not to her face. Then again, if one them had dared to say anything to her, it likely would have been enough to break her. Arabella was beginning to feel just how lonely she really was. The weight of her circumstance was almost entirely crushing. A weaker woman would have ended their own life long before this. Perhaps this is what her predecessor had done. Killed herself to save face in the eyes of a country who barely remembered she existed.

    Her own feeling aside, the King was in a good mood. Then again, why should he not be? He had a Kingdom to rule over, and he had most recently raped and beaten his wife, who now stood before him smiling. What was incredible, perhaps was how Arabella never flinched. The King lay his hands, his fingertips upon her face, upon his throat, undoubtedly to admire his own work. No matter how great the pain, Arabella stood strong and drew herself closer to the man.

    "Do not distress?" Arabella remarked, she had now freed her arms from his hand and rested her palms flatly against his chest, drawing ever and ever closer. This was on purpose, every last move she made was on purpose. She wanted to drown the King in her. "What wife would not be in distress upon hearing news of her husband's travel?" Arabella smiled softly. "But I suppose other women aren't married to a King, and so with God's great good will I shall forgive you this absence." Arabella, was of course, joking. As a woman it was not her place to forgive, that would be ludicrous. And to forgive a King? Oh good heavens there were many more amusing thoughts.

    "I shall make do." Another nod, a small sigh, a flush of red in her cheeks, batting eye lashes. She really could pull out all of the stops when she needed to. "I have no doubt that God himself has planted this thought. A pilgrimage is just the thing you need. " In reality, it was just what Arabella needed. Time away from her 'beloved' husband. Then of course there was the matter of his big news that she was to be named Queen Regent in his absence. How laughable that was, but one might imagine this could be considered an honor. There had not been a woman acting as Regent since Christian I began the country's reign of Catholic terror, nearly 100 years.

    "Regent?" Arabella seemed dumb struck, now to be clear, Arabella was far from stupid and understood this was something she occupied in name only. There is no way in which the council would actually allow her to execute her own will. "They'll all think we've gone mad!" Arabella laughed lightly, and pulled herself close to embrace her husband. "I will act as you have, in God's name and yours." This was of course, however, an excellent opportunity to exercise some authority, to push some of the boundaries where she felt they were most reasonable. "You honor me so." His first wife, she would never have been given this honor. This was a clear message to his government and to his people, Christian loved his wife, he trusted his wife, and unlike the first one, Arabella was the real deal. It mattered little that his first wife, for all of her faults, had given him the one thing Arabella could not just yet, a son. Though for all she knew she was pregnant at this very moment.

    "I will not disappoint you." Arabella did have an idea of something she could do, which was to put herself out there, publicly, to do good works. She would even take her blaspheming sister along for the ride. Arabella was positive she could sell this to the council who undoubtedly would need to approve of her every whim, though she had no grand ideas. Arabella was not Alexandra, and understood that there was little she could do until Alexandra succeeded her. But still, she'd make the papers today. This was the boon Arabella needed. "Don't be over long. I dread the thought of having you far from me. But duties must." Arabella wanted to appear sad that her husband was leaving, but not overly so that he would mistake her sentiments as being anything less than genuine. Even if they were less than genuine.

    "I only do entirely as I please when I'm with you." Arabella winked back at her husband, and leaned up to place a kiss on his lips.

    What heaven to know she would have a reprieve. She was genuinely thrilled at this concept. But first, to say her goodbyes. "How can I help?" Arabella was quick to offer, remembering that her entire role was to exist in service to her husband
    Second star to the right and straight on till morning.

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    Christian smiled and kissed her forehead. "I do you no more honour that you are entitled to, my dear wife. You shall be Regent and I have no doubts you shall do your duty perfectly. God has never made a more deserving person, let alone woman. It is why He has placed you has He did."

    He gave no thought, likely it did not even occur to him, that if such was true...Why did God placed Alexandra -unworthy as she clearly was- in the place He had then? Logic was never to interfere with his speeches, after all.

    The King beamed, "Ah, never mind this. It is almost completed anyway. I aim to leave before midday, to avoid travelling at night. When I was a young man, I did not mind it," he chuckled, a clear ploy for everyone to then make comments, "But now I am old, I would rather not!"

    As expected, the high ranking members of his household -not the lower servants who wouldn't dare speak- all made soft noises and 'Hardly, Your Majesty!' etc.

    Christian, in a fine mood, smiled broadly and waved his hand. "Oh nonsense. And if I am yet young, I owe it all to my beloved here. Shall we take a walk in the gardens, while my packing is completed? Or perhaps you would rather we hear Mass together? I am, my darling, at your command." He smirked. "As I must be, Your Majesty, Regent of England."

    It was clear, in a strange way, he rather liked this 'game' of being at her whim. Who knew how long it would last! One wrong word was enough to change the King from charming to monster.
    "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. #489
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    "Leave us." Arabella commanded of the audience who remained in the royal presence. A smirk crossed the Queen's face as she looked upon his figure. Indeed, he was not very old, a man in his mid forties. Christian was handsome, though she could not really see that anymore, all she saw was a man who oppressed her. "Old?" Arabella tutted and wagged a finger disapprovingly. "God does not approve of lies." A joke, even if Arabella wasn't the funniest individual she did have a distinct sense of humor.

    With a deft hand, Arabella had managed to managed to free herself of the outer most layers of her dress, and in no more than a second had positioned herself astride her husband, arms wrapped around his shoulders, she looked intently upon him. "If you truly are at my command, than my request is quite simple." The Queen for her part, did not wish for this, not at all, but it was in her best interest that she guaranteed herself the possibility of a child as soon as humanly possible. "Take me now. If you're going to deprive me of a week or possibly more. It seems like a fair trade." It wasn't. Nothing was when it came to Christian. "And then we walk in the gardens or we can pray until you are ready to depart. All I want is to be with you." She was a natural liar.

    --

    Alice, some days before the King's departure had written and posted a letter to Thomas, the Duke who rather occupied much of her thoughts. It was somewhat strange to spend so much time thinking of a man, but here she was. Luck had brought her far, farther than she imagined possible. She happened to find herself in service to the right family. She happened to be transferred to Lady Alexandra, at the time, because of some odd game a Duchess was playing. Never did Alice, a maid, imagine this is where she would end up.

    Dear Thomas,

    You'll forgive me if I express shock at the simple fact you followed through and wrote to me. In fact, I do believe yours is the first letter I've ever received. Really, I was quite overjoyed, perhaps too excited for my own good. The truth is, I very much look forward to seeing you again and had feared you simply indulged me out of kindness. Such kindness seems befitting of someone of your standing.

    I meant it when I said I wished to learn more of your travels. There is a great deal you can teach me about the world as I only desire to know it. The Princess has taken upon herself the task of arranging the details of our visit. She knows so much more about what is allowed and not than I do. She suggests that Her Majesty the Queen might also be of assistance. Just think of it, the two women who stand above all helping me! Helping me get to you. Perhaps that is the very definition of fate.

    I look forward to seeing you soon. My heart counts the days.

    Yours Truly,

    Alice"
    Second star to the right and straight on till morning.

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    Alexandra had also composed a letter to her sister, along with the one for Thomas, but had delayed in sending it, in order to allow the milk she used to hide a second letter within the lines, to dry. And then to allow her to test it by holding it near a candle. She was rather stunned, and watched in amazement, as the hidden lines slowly came to life. When the paper cooled, there was no hint, aside from minor puckering of the paper, which could have been caused by a clumsy messenger.

    As luck would have it, her letter would arrive an hour or so after the King had left. Naturally, it would still be opened and read, but she hoped only Bella would catch the hint and take it to a candle. It read as follows;

    Dearest Sister,

    I hope this letter finds you well and healthy. I trust soon to hear news of your happy condition! It brings me great joy to think our children might grow up close in age, almost as siblings. I must thank you also for your kind gesture in sending me the flowers, so beautiful. They brighten the room. It made me think of Papa's library, when we were children. How mother always had every phase full of such.

    Bella, I hope this works. If it does, write back to me using the same method; milk and heat. It came to me when you sent the flowers. We can, I hope, use it to write more freely.

    Of course, this led me on to thinking about our games we played when he was working. How we would sit in front of the fire, using his books to make towers and castles. Do you remember those times? Oh, we had such fun. I wonder if papa kept any of our silly notes, likely most were ruined when we spilt milk on them. I remember how made Mrs Till was! I fear my skin still smarts from her smacks!

    I hope you are well. I have nearly gone mad through worry for you since we left. Thank you for getting Alice to me safely. She was distressed but fine. I am fine too, as is the baby. I fear we have caused quite the scandal but needs must.

    I have sent notes to the ladies to thank them all, personally, for their gifts too but please, as you shall see them before me, pass on my feelings to them also. How lucky you are to have such dear friends. Still, I must express my deepest apologies for causing offense at your gathering, it was beyond shameful of me and I would be most accepting if you banned me from any such functions again until I can be trusted to act with dignity in the station in which I have been placed, by God.

    It pains me to write such but we must be careful. Arthur does not wish me to be near the King, nor do I have any desire to be with him either but it shall deprive me of you. I beg you, try and find things we can do to see one another. I fear what separation will do and I do not want the King to poison you against me with his lies.

    But I beg you, do not banish me from your charity endeavours. I so wish to do good and to serve those who need it most. I shall gladly go without balls and events, but please, let me assist you in other ways, if I can. I am, in all ways, your humble servant before anything else.

    He is mad, Bella. Quite mad. I have not told Arthur, for fear of his reaction, but before he came to the party, he caught me in the corridor, he was drunk, rambling, threats and such. Told me he would give you my head, as a gift one day. I fear I did not act as I should have. I refused to show any fear, which angered him more. And lead to what happened on the dance floor.

    I must close now, but please, send me word, any small word, that I still have your favour, despite my faults. I beg of you, do not abandon me as a failure.

    I hope he did not take out his anger on you, sister. It should break my heart if it did. I would, as God knows it, bear any and all injuries he inflicts upon you. I owe you my happiness and my life. Any favour I can do you, ask and it is yours. The little one thrives and is well, I shall tell you more when we know this works.

    Yours,

    Alex.



    The other letters, to Thomas, and to the ladies, were sent the same day as Alice's. She did not expect a reply from the ladies; though she knew her gracious card and words would irritate them intensely which pleased her greatly. She took, she would later confess, a rather cruel delight in wishing to be there when they opened their cards and read;

    Their Royal Highnesses Wish To Thank ___ For Her Most Generous Gift. The Princess of Wales Looks Forward To The Day, With Real Pleasure, When She Can Return The Favour

    There was something rather chilling about it. There was, on paper, no threat, nothing, it was merely a note of thanks, as ladies sent to one another almost daily. However, Alex was not just any Lady. She was married to the Heir and may one day be Queen. And the ladies had tried to play a cruel trick on her. Her return of said favour could ruin their lives one day, if she wished.

    Alex had sent the notes and watched the messenger leave, wondering, again, she would admit, with some relish, how they would tremble. Of course, it would not last long; they would comfort themselves that she would never be Queen to take such a step, but still, while she had little current power, she was still married to the Prince of Wales, who had enough to ruin someone, if he wished. It might concern their husbands enough to lead to some harsh words!

    -

    Thomas had been thrilled to receive Alice's, and then later, Alex's, letter. He had been in the middle of trying to make sense of his father's accounts, which were in poor order, when it arrived. He read it, then again, and again, as she had done his, smiling all the while. It was simply written, and he could tell from her hand she was not accustomed to writing often, and, even more delightfully, she...she wrote freely, saying what she wished. He was used to letters, mainly from his mother, that contained more flowers than facts, and told him very little of any note.

    It was refreshing then to read Alice's honest and straightforward letter. Of course, he could not know, being a man in a society ruled by men, that ladies letters were always written without honest or similar, because they were all so careful to avoid saying anything that might endanger them. Alice spoke honestly, because she had never known anything else; she was not used to writing letters, and therefore, had no notion of the risks. She wrote as she wished.

    He turned then to Alex's, finding it a little similar to those he was used to, with clearly an layer of tact over much of it, but still, even she had a bluntness to her. He found himself growing fond of the idea of both of the young women. They were, he pondered, a new breed of lady, though Alice was no lady.

    Thomas smiled and held Alice's letter in his hand once he had read the Princess's. She proposed a dinner, a small one, with her, the Prince, Alice, and perhaps a few others if he was agreeable. He glanced at the letter on his desk, how had she phrased it...

    "...Enough guests so that there might be a small crowd, so that a person might talk to another far longer, without having to feel the need to move on swiftly to speak to a large crowd."

    He chuckled. "A devious Lady, indeed, is the Princess. One wonders if she has learnt the skill or if it is inbuilt!" He nodded to himself though. She had the right of it. Perhaps a list of ten guests, enough to amuse themselves, but not so many as that he had to play host and could not speak in any length to Alice. "Hmm, she said she wished to hear of my travels...I should make sure the museum room is clean and dusted, so I might show her some of my treasures. I wonder if she would like that."

    -

    Christian, having taken great pleasure in his wife's new found dominance -he did not even harm her that final time- took his leave of her in high spirits, bidding her goodbye on the steps of the castle, like some knight of old. He also, for show, made a point, with his councillors all gathered, to tell them, in no uncertain terms that, "My beloved wife, the Queen, is to be treated as though she were myself. All respect is to be paid to her, as if she were the King, as well as the Queen. She is Regent, and therefore, my will comes through her. Anything she does, is approved, in advance, by myself. I have the utmost trust in her to do God's and my, will."

    Naturally, the men, old and young, all bowed, "Yes, Your Majesty. Of course." They said, as one voice.

    "Good," he smiled and turned back to Bella. He kissed her deeply, hands cupping her cheeks. "Do not weep, my darling, I shall be home soon, I trust, with God's blessing upon our union...And in a short time, we shall enjoy it's fruits. I leave my Kingdom in your good and steady hands, my love. Take care of it. These good people are your children, as mine. We must care for and guide them, in God's stead."

    He kissed her again then climbed into his carriage and with a shout, pulled away from the courtyard, followed by his mounted guard of honour.

    Arabella was left standing there, the councilors nearby, her maid behind her. It was something, was it not, to have them all rise, only to come to her and bow anew, "Your Majesty. We shall do your will, as you order."
    "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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