I am so so so so very very very sorry for the long wait. I have no other excuse except for the fact that I am in my last year at school and as you can expect it is extremely hectic.
Thank you to all my wonderful reviewers old, new and anonymous I thank you all from the bottom of my heart ;)
I cannot own the past so clearly I own nothing. Oh and I apologize in advance for the cliff hanger.
Chapter 5: A dangerous game
February 23rd 1536
Royal Gardens Hampton Court
It was the most perfect day, and near the end of winter, when everything was usually glum and miserable, Anne knew to be thankful for such an occurrence. The sky was the blue of the ocean, the flowers in the garden giving off their earthy sweet smell. Elizabeth was running in front of her chasing Madge Shelton around with grubby little hands extended in front of her body, Anne's newest puppy (Madra) trailing at her heels. The sight brought a fit of laughter from her body; her daughter would never fail to bring a smile to her face.
"She is perfect Papa," Anne sighed lovingly looking at her father with the first genuine expression of happiness he had seen from her in weeks.
Elizabeth, her red velvet dress stained brown at the bottom, was like her mother, Thomas Boleyn couldn't help but muse as he watched his young granddaughter delighting in the freedom she was being permitted.
Anne had always been more than open to a bit of rough play with George, more than once he had found his middle child crouched in a rose bush, her expensive dress ruined to a state it could not return from. Not like Mary, Mary who had been too concerned about the state of her clothes to play with her siblings, the way a young girl should be, His wife had often proclaimed, Mary would bring them their fortune, she was the pretty one after all, the more desirable… A true English Rose, Anne, Elizabeth would say, would be lucky to marry a knight. Oh how the times had changed, if only his wife could see them now, Mary cooped away in the country disgracing her family every moment she breathed, And Anne, the other Boleyn girl, the Queen of England. If their current situation was not so dire, if they had not been hanging on by a thread, Thomas would have found it amusing.
"Perhaps if she were a boy," Thomas sarcastically bit out.
Anne refused to answer her father's taunts, she would not allow him to ruin this day, Elizabeth was perfect, boy or not, one day she would make a great ruler, one day she would preside over Empires, whether of her own accord or as a consort she would be flawless, Anne could feel it in her bones. Sex was not Elizabeth's barrier… it was her strength.
"I hear the king was hunting yesterday?" his daughters failure to rise to his taunts was frustrating him immensely, months ago she would have, months ago she would have defended her daughter with passion and fire, she was weak now, her loss of the kings love had left her vulnerable and open to assault, and that was something Thomas Boleyn could not tolerate. He had not raised weak children; she had not been born to surrender to lesser beings. And the Seymour's were lesser beings, yet she continued to allow them to mock her and by extension his family, the Boleyn legacy would not be one of failure, of that he would make certain.
"Yes, Papa," Anne replied as if it was not of the least importance.
"With the Seymour's?" Boleyn barked unable to keep his temper in check.
"I believe so," Anne answered, refusing to let her emotions show; she would not give her father that satisfaction. She would not allow him to see how much Henry's relationship with that slut was affecting her; after all it was her father that had told her to accept Henry's affairs with a smile.
"Does it not bother you that everything is slipping away," Her father's voice was like gravel, hard and harsh. Anne knew all too well that if she had not been pregnant he would have struck her, tried to force her into complacency, "everything we faught so hard to create…"
Everything I created, everything I built, "Papa, you're being overdramatic, I am carrying the Kings son, no one can harm us…"
"Look at your daughter Anne," Boleyn growled as if Anne had not even spoken, " Look at the perfect little smile on that perfect little face….One wrong step from you and it will disappear, Jane Seymour will certainly not care to keep it in place."
"We have failed," The words were spoken in a mere whisper, yet the feeling of distress could not go unrecognised, "The concubine continues to live and we cannot kill her now."
"Fear not Master Brereton all is not lost," Chapuys soothed, but he too could not hide his distress as he looked at the scene taking place in the garden. The whore and her brat behaving as if they were any mother and daughter in the land, and even he could not deny that pregnancy was beginning to suit Anne, whose dark mahogany gown was shaping her pregnant bump perfectly, and whose skin had finally returned to its original complexion, meaning that she no longer resembled a corpse.
"She cannot be killed," Brereton repeated, his voice more than a little deflated "not in her condition, and if she gives the king a son...then Master Chapuys all is lost."
"Perhaps not Master Brereton, perhaps not," Chapuys responded, while he would not deny that things did seem somewhat dim, he knew within in his heart that Gods will would prevail, and God's will was clear. The Harlot must die, "She can always be killed after she has delivered her bastard."
"Yes, and then even in death she would still win," Brereton responded, his eyes firmly cast on Anne's pregnant belly. A son would make her immortal, "Her bastard would be our future king and a heretic rule would be forever in place,"
Chapuys could not help but sigh at this, how God could allow such a predicament to occur was beyond his comprehension. The Harlots child was innocent; its death could not be condoned, could it? One life lost for the benefit of thousands of others, was this the message God wanted him to understand, that sometimes sacrifices must be made for the greater good?
"A child bleeds red like the rest of us Master Brereton," He didn't need to say anything else. The expression on his companions face was enough to show his understanding of the words being directed at him, his eyes never left the sight outside the window:
The pregnant Queen laughing and smiling, as she watched her young daughter, a hand protectively placed upon her womb, she didn't know that a great number of evils would soon fall upon her, it must be kept that way, Brereton thought, she must stay in the dark, until the time comes…to kill her…and her bastard.
March 6th 1536
The Queen of England's Apartments
"Nan," Anne called from her windowsill, the needle in her hand, stopping its movements mid stich, "I don't think I shall be taking a walk this morning,"
"My Lady?" Nan questioned quizzically, it was not like her mistress to turn down a stroll in the gardens especially not now, when the little Princess was at the palace, morning walks had become a sort of mini ritual in Anne's household these past few weeks, it was most unlike the Queen to turn down the opportunity to escape the confinements of her rooms.
"Not today, Nan, it is too cold," Anne sighed, looking at the dark clouds in the sky with despair, she could not risk it, what if she were to catch something from the chill air and pass it on to the baby, oh she would never forgive herself, better to be safe than sorry, her mother would often say and now in the position she was in, Anne finally understood the wisdom behind her mother's words.
"As you wish majesty," Nan said, bending her head slightly, "perhaps a game of cards my lady?" Nan suggested wanting to bring a smile to her Queens face.
"I would like that very much Nan," Anne smiled, taking her oldest confidants hand into her own much smaller one, Nan was shocked at how cold it felt, like ice against her own much warmer hands.
"Shall I get Mistress Holland to get you a hot drink?"
"No, Nan I am alright…"
"A coat then Madam?" Anne had to laugh at the tone of Nan's voice it never ceased to amaze her, the woman's boldness, how she dared reprimand her Queen as if she were a naughty child without the fear of a reproach.
"Oh alright then, but get Mistress Seymour to get it, Bess is busy," Anne replied her tone care free even with the mention of her rival's name.
"Mistress Seymour, My lady has not come in today, it seems she is sick," Nan said gently, her tone clearly disapproving of the king's latest fling.
"Sick?" Anne questioned standing from her seat and walking towards her window, "Is that my husband's new name?" Anne couldn't help but laugh, and laugh loudly at her own words, did they really think her that stupid, that mindless that she wouldn't know what her husband and his whore were up to, and it was so very stupid of….
"Nan," Anne cried in alarm, the sight of her hand on her pregnant belly enough to bring Nan next to her in a flash, " Henry, get me the king,"
"Your majesty should I fetch the doctor?" Nan questioned her voice on the edge of hysteria… what was happening.
" No, just the king….hurry," Nan set off at a run as soon as the words had left her mouth, Madge Shelton immediately taking her place at Anne's side, directing the Queen to her large oak bed, more than a little bit surprised by the expression upon her cousins face.
Nan had never moved so fast in all her life, she hadn't any idea where the king could possibly be, but she had to find him, even if she did look like a madwoman whilst doing so.
It took no more than twenty minutes, the sight of a bowing crowd directing her to them; the King, the Duke of Suffolk, and as she had suspected Jane Seymour. She made no bow or even a bob of acknowledgment, the words simply poured out of her mouth when she was in front of him.
"It's the queen…the baby, my lord…" She hoped with everything that she had that he understood her erratic misplaced words.
The king's face immediately went from care-free to absolute terror in the space of only a couple of seconds as the words of the panting woman in front of him registered in his mind. Anne, the baby, were they in trouble?
"Charles, come with me," Henry called taking off at a run, the words just in case hanging in the air dangerously.
Nan soon followed suit, but not before placing a firm glare at Jane Seymour, who had been left by herself without a word of acknowledgment. The expression on the woman's face unreadable, but Nan could just tell, just by the sight of her eyes that she was not praying for the well-being of either her Queen, or the child in her womb.
Henry bounded into the room at a sprint (Charles and Nan close at his heels), he took no notice of the bowing ladies around him, nor did he see the somewhat sly expressions on their faces, his eyes were for his wife only. She didn't look overly troubled, sitting on her bed, a hand rested firmly on her stomach.
"Sweetheart, what is it?" He questioned frantically, moving to her side, but making no move to sit on the bed, he didn't not want to risk doing anything that would harm her or the baby.
"Everything's alright," Anne soothed laughing lightly, "come" She ordered taking his hand in her own, and pulling her husband on the bed so that he was sitting close to her. She pulled his hand over her stomach watching with glee as his face lit up in a smile, the biggest she had ever seen.
"Can you feel it?" Anne questioned, "He's moving, he's kicking"
"I can feel it," Henry replied nodding, as he paced his head over the large bump of Anne's stomach, at this moment they could have been the only two people on earth, and he would be more than happy for this was perfection, "oh he feels strong….my son be strong. "
As he kissed her stomach Anne could not help the tears that formed in her eyes, it had been so long, too long, since they had been this intimate with each other, how she had missed it, Henry's touch, his eyes looking at her as if she were the only being in the world. She didn't know how long they stayed like that, his head on her stomach, as her hand creased gently through his hair, all she knew was that it ended far too quickly for her liking.
"You had me worried Anne," Henry reprimanded, moving away from her. His voice was void of the warmth that had been present only moments before, and Anne could not help but wonder what could possibly have happened that could change his persona in such a short space of time.
"Forgive me darling," Anne tried sweetly she wanted that moment back, she wanted her husband in her arms, "I did not want you to miss such a moment."
"Anne, I do not want you to call for me like that again," Henry said his voice firm, and his eyes hard, Anne could feel the tears forming in her eyes but she would not let them fall, "Do you understand?"
He would want her to simply nod her head in compliance, to act as if his words were beautifully spoken and the kindest form of praise she had ever heard, but she would not yield, her heart may be breaking with every word that he spoke, but she would not yield to his will.
" As your majesty commands," Anne bit out, her voice verging on sardonic, and her dark eyes glaring furiously at her husband as he began to walk away, no doubt in a huff.
It took only mere moments after Henry's departure for her to break, deep heart wrenching sobs emitting from Anne's body and she hated herself for it, because she knew that no matter how hard she tried, no matter how hard she refused to comply, no matter how well she played the ice Queen, Henry would always win, because she needed him, like a heart needs a beat, yet that wasn't what was slowly tearing her apart, no, it was the fact that he no longer needed her that was killing her.
" Your Majesty," Anne looked up startled, she had not noticed he was still in the room, Charles Brandon was after all nothing better than her husband's little dog, and so she had rightfully expected him to have left her chamber with her husband, not standing in front of her with a confused expression upon his face.
"Your Grace, "Anne mumbled, trying to hold back a sob as tears continued to cascade down her porcelain face.
Charles did not think he had seen a more miserable sight in all his years, and he could not help the sympathy that was filling his body, that had been consuming him for weeks now, whenever he thought of or looked at Anne Boleyn. Her tear streaked face and giant pregnant belly when mixed with Henry's cruelness were enough to melt even the hardest hearts, as Charles was discovering more and more each day.
"Your Majesty…Anne are you alright?" The sound of her name brought a look of shock upon her face, and if the situation had not been so serious he would have found it rather amusing.
It seemed like a lifetime before she responded to him; he thought that perhaps he had offended her to a state of muteness, he had no doubt that his question had been far too intrusive and his use of her name was highly unheard of, even for a man of his status. He was about to apologize when she opened her mouth sighing deeply, a number of tears cascading down her face.
"He hates me," She whispered brokenly, the words for his ears only.
With but one look at Madge Shelton, Charles successfully had the room cleared in a number of seconds, the few ladies that had been stationed in there having enough sense to leave the Duke and Queen in peace.
"He actually hates me," Anne continued her face empty of all emotion now, her tears dried up, but her dark eyes remained just slightly glossed over, " it does not matter that I am carrying his child…his son, he no longer wants or cares for me…I have lost."
He didn't know why or how it occurred, but the voice of his late wife overcame him as Anne spoke, the same level of hurt and pain that Mary had once directed at him, " you love... for a time," had their relationship not mirrored this one? Had they not once loved so passionately and lost it just as quickly? He had done to Mary what Henry was doing to Anne, and the thought made his skin crawl, how he wished he could turn back time, if only to tell Mary how much she actually did mean to him, even if he may not have always shown her the kindness she deserved as both his wife and the mother of his children.
It was with the thought of Mary that Charles spoke his next words, "He still loves you," Charles whispered, trying to convey a level of conviction in his tone.
"Your Grace is kind... too kind, Henry is far too infatuated with his whore and his hope of a son, to care for me," Anne whispered back, her voice still choked with tears.
"Henry once gave the world for you, that amount of affection does not just disappear," Charles reasoned, "He loves you still...I know it,"
"For my sake Your Grace I hope you're right,"
March 12th 1536
Jane Seymour was beyond furious, she did not even believe that the word ropable could cover the heated emotions that she had been feeling for the past week; a week of terror filled anticipation, a week of questioning from her family, and a week of being ignored by the man who claimed to love her above all others, even his "wife".
And now, when Henry had finally contacted her, had finally sent word to Edward that he wished to see her, he did not bother to show up, instead leaving her in the unused chamber alone, with only her brother and his heated gaze as if it were somehow her fault that the King was choosing to be difficult.
"Jane," Edwards's voice echoed off the empty chamber, it was the first word that had been spoken by either of them for last half an hour, "what have you done?"
" I have done nothing brother," Jane responded her voice icy, giving away none of the emotions she was feeling.
"Clearly that is not true," Edward huffed under his breath, as if it was only he that was being affected by Henry's ignorance, and she did not care at all.
" Edward I have been nothing but a pleasing, obedient, mindless fool for months….at your request I might add, do not blame me if he has grown tired of the compliancy you instructed me to show." Jane whispered furiously, weary of Boleyn ears that could be positioned anywhere, straining to hear one slip up from her tongue.
"No Edward stop it," Jane demanded her voice growing louder with every word, "nothing was done, no evil was committed, if there had been do you really think he would have called for me today?" Jane did not know who she was trying to convince more herself or Edward; nothing had happened, Henry was simply busy he was a King after all. Yet still, he had managed to visit both the Queen and the Princess daily, a matter of public show, Jane was assured, he was merely keeping up appearances especially considering the delicate position the Queen found herself in.
Edward's, retort most likely sarcastic was cut off by the sound of footfalls outside the chamber door, which was open within a matter of seconds, Henry jovially walking through it, as both Seymour's dropped to their knees.
"Jane sweetheart, "Henry's voice boomed through the chamber, as he lifted Jane from her knees without even acknowledging the presence of her brother in the room.
"Your Majesty," Jane whispered, refusing to make eye contact with the man in front of her. Such an action would not be looked at kindly by the members of her family, Henry had insisted that she be informal with him at all times, that she use his name and look at him directly, through this, albeit small, defiance Jane hoped she could convey some of the anger she was feeling, in the hope that he would believe he had hurt her, it was a risk she thought necessary.
" Oh Jane, " Henry said delicately rubbing a finger across her face, and Jane knew that her risk had paid off, " Forgive me for being so rude this past week, you know that if given the choice I would have gladly been in your arms every second of it."
"You are sure Your Majesty?" Janes questioned sneaking a look at Henrys face through her lashes.
"As sure as I have ever been in all my life," Henry responded and Jane smiled widely, before placing a chaste kiss upon his lips.
"Then Your Majesty is forgiven," Jane laughed, a sound that Henry echoed within moments taking her in a slight embrace.
"Jane," Henry said carefully breaking the embrace far too quickly for Janes liking.
"I wish for you to meet someone," Henry's voice was careful, but the smile on his face told Jane that he was excited about whoever it was she was being presented to.
Jane could just imagine the look on her brother's face perfectly, and she knew that they were thinking the same thing. Who was it, the Henry desired her to meet, the Spanish ambassador or The French? Crammer? Cromwell? Perhaps even Henry Fitzroy, who for the time being was at court?
"Whatever pleases Your Majesty," Jane responded placing her own small hand in the Kings.
Henry nodded at the groom standing at the entrance way, who in turn opened it, allowing the entrance of an older woman dress sombrely in a plain black gown, it took a while for Jane to see that the woman was holding the hand of a toddler, adorned in a beautiful white gown that went perfectly with her curly red locks, and pale complexion. Jane knew it took her far too long to drop into a respectful curtsey, far deeper than what she wished to give to a child she thought of as a bastard. The slightly annoyed expression emitting from Elizabeth's eyes (the exact shade and shape of her mother's) told her that the young girl had noticed Jane's hesitation.
"Jane," Henry spoke his eyes moving from his daughter to his mistress, "This is my daughter the princess Elizabeth, the greatest jewel in all of England."
"It is an honor to meet you Princess," Jane said coaxing her voice to sound as if it were dipped in sugar and honey as she smiled at the toddler.
For her part Elizabeth remained mostly stoic, smiling only slightly, out of what Jane believed was nothing more than what she had been instructed to do. Jane could hardly blame her really, they did not know each other and Elizabeth most likely wanted to be with her mother or playing with the dolls in her chambers, not meeting the daughter of a common knight.
"Will you not say hello to the Lady Jane Elizabeth," Henry tried walking over to his young daughter and swinging her around in his arms as he so often did to get a laugh out of her.
"Hello Lady Jane," Elizabeth squealed as her father started tickling her, and even Jane could not stop the smile that came over her face, the young girl (bastard as she may be) was a sight to behold.
"Jane I am sorry to do this to you but I promised Elizabeth we would pay a visit to the Queen, she is anxious to feel the baby kick, aren't you my sweet?" Henry explained, but Jane could tell that she was no longer in any way at the centre of his thoughts. No Henry was consumed by his love for Anne Boleyn's bastard and through the child Anne herself.
"Oh yes Papa and we have to get her flowers too," Elizabeth said clearly delighted by her father proposal.
"Well than we best be going," Henry stated as if it were of paramount importance, he left the room with no more than, "goodbye Lady Jane," which Elizabeth copied only moments afterward.
Once again Jane was left alone in a state of fury, and she did not dare to take a glance at her brother's face. As well as feeling anxious Jane was confused, why would Henry conduct such a meeting? Introduce her to the heir of the throne if he did not wish to elevate her? Yet if this was true, than we would he leave such a meeting so quickly to return to the side of his wife? This game, Jane mused, the battle for the crown of England was a slippery and dangerous one, and Jane knew that in time she would either win or lose.
Both her husband and daughter would be arriving shortly, Anne had been informed of this fact not quiet fifteen minutes ago, and Anne, as a woman could not help but worry about the state she was in. Her figure was ruined, a big fat bump protruding from her stomach making ever dress she wore seem like it was hiding something. She could not remember ever feeling so huge with Elizabeth, a sign she firmly believed of a male heir in her womb. She was also feeling terribly ill; the baby had been kicking like crazy all afternoon, leaving her exhausted and out of breath.
It was another five minutes of waiting before Anne realised something was wrong, her stomach no longer felt as if it were being assaulted by mere kicks but rather cramps, and painful ones at that.
"Madge," Anne called her voice holding a slight level of hysteria, before she felt it, a feeling she had not felt for three years, "Argh! Madge the baby,"
"My lady what is it?" Madge called, frantically rushing to her mistress's side.
Ha ha I'm evil so whats going to happen my faithful readers? Is Anne in labour? Is it a false alarm? A miscarriage? You'll just have to leave me a review to find out mwhaaaa