Chapter 26

August 1560
Marie 8 Years
Francis 10 Years

"Marie No!" Francis hissed as he finally found her.

She looked back at him with guilt in her eyes. "It's been days Francis," she whined. "I need to be near the trees and flowers again. Nobody will notice, let's sneak out."

Francis shook his head, "you were going without me and only invite me now because I caught you!" he said angrily.

She tried the puppy dog eyes and nearly giggled at his expression.

He rolled his eyes, as he reached for her hand. "It's too dangerous Marie! The fires have become uncontrollable this year, even if you made it outside it wouldn't be very pleasant with all of that smoke. We must stay inside where the air is being purified." He pulled her away from the door. Even in the entryway the smoke had gathered.

They both looked out the door now, it was all hazy and the sky was different colors of gray, green and blue. The smoke was so thick they couldn't even see the sun.

Marie nodded sadly as she pulled away from him walking slowly back up the stairs. She went to her rooms and sat down on her bed bored out of her mind. She loved being outside more than anything but it had not been 10 days since they had been allowed out of the castle. It was normal this time of year for there to be a fire or two but this year it was extraordinarily bad and the fires raged much too close to the castle and they were burning hotter and moving more quickly than usual. She had heard the guards speaking and knew if it got much worse they would have to evacuate the castle.

The castle itself would not burn but everything in it and around it would and it would be years before everything would grow back and the inside of the castle made habitable.

"Marie!" Ladies Greer and Kenna came over to her, happy to see her.

Marie looked up sadly, she didn't know how to be happy locked up in the castle, and she felt like a prisoner.

"Oh Marie!" Greer said pulling her in for a hug. "It'll be okay, we just have to keep praying that the fires burn out or that they move in another direction.

"Marie, I learned a fun game that can be played indoors from another girl our age when she accompanied her father to court a few months ago. She was from India and showed me and it was quite fun, shall we try it?" Lady Kenna asked.

"What is it?" Marie asked perking up.

"Well she showed me a grid she drew on the floor and it had numbers. We need only some chalk, a couple of flat marbles and a place to draw it with room to move around."

Marie smiled, "sure, let's do it! How about one of the empty hallways people rarely use?"

"Actually, if I may suggest it," Lady Greer said, "there is the playroom that nobody uses as there are not any very young children here at the moment."

"Perfect!" Marie said eagerly as they headed in that direction. They were even able to find different colors of chalk and the flat marbles they needed in the play room and Lady Kenna went to work drawing the grid. After she finished she explained the rules: "so each of us uses the marble to roll into the grid and when it stops we must hop through the grid skipping the spot it lands in. It becomes more challenging with three of us because we leave the marbles in and we have to evade each other's spots. We can even change up the grid later when it becomes boring and add in our own special touches."

Marie laughed, "How delightful! They play this in India?" she asked.

Kenna nodded laughing, that is what Vashteria told me and it's a fun game for me since I prefer to be indoors," she confided.

The girls began playing and Marie soon forgot about her troubles as she giggled and laughed. It felt good to spend time with her ladies, she felt bad sometimes because she and Francis went on grand adventures and sometimes she didn't see them outside of their duties for days on end.

It was a few hours later that Francis finally found Marie; relieved to see she was having fun with her ladies. He had never seen them play this game before so he sat down to watch them out of sight.

It was only a few minutes later that Marie could feel his eyes on her and she turned around, her eyes crinkled with laughter that she spotted him. She always had a sixth sense when he was around, even if she could not see him. "Francis! Would you like to play?" she asked.

Greer and Kenna giggled behind hands over their mouths.

Marie frowned at them but turned back to him.

He smiled but shook his head, "I shall just watch," he told her smiling. "Afterwards, I thought we could finish our book," he suggested.

Marie nodded agreeing. They had been reading a newer book the King had just acquired called Hamlet and they were both enjoying it a lot.

Marie and her ladies played for another hour with Francis moving closer to laugh with them though he remained in his spot near the doorway. Afterwards, he and Marie walked off hand in hand to their favorite library and spent a couple of hours reading before it was time for dinner.

It was in the middle of the night that Marie was awoken to the Queen rushing into her room. "Marie, we must leave, the fires are too close. Please, get up and begin packing. Your ladies will be here in a few minutes to assist you," she urged.

Marie nodded sleepily as she pushed herself from the bed and began pulling things out. 30 minutes later she was dressed and her things were being taken down to a carriage she would share with the King and Queen and Francis. They were on their way within the hour.

Marie was wide awake now and ready for an adventure minus the coughing they all were experiencing from the smoke. "Where are we going?" she inquired.

"To the Castle Antoinette" Katherine smiled at her. "Its several hours away, you should try to get some sleep, my dear," she encouraged.

Marie nodded but she didn't feel tired for a long while. She looked over and saw Francis leaning against the corner already sleeping. She sighed as she laid herself out on the bench slipping her hand into Francis' and allowed the carriage to lull her to sleep. She had barely closed her eyes when she felt the Queen awakening her. "We're here," she told them both as the King held out his hand to Katherine. Francis doing the same for Marie and she smiled sweetly as she looked around. It was still dark and she was very groggy but she allowed Francis to pull her into the castle. He seemed to know where he was going as he pulled her through the corridors until they finally ended up in a room similar to the one she had left behind only hours ago.

Marie took her boots and cape off, immediately yawning she slid under the covers and was asleep in seconds. She felt Francis place a kiss on her forehead as he retreated to his own room to sleep.

They both slept until midday and Marie was pleasantly surprised to find the air clear and crisp and normal for an august summer day. She squealed in excitement as she dressed hurriedly. She was glad to find Francis in the room next to hers and she bounced on his bed awakening him.

"Francis! It's beautiful outside, come on let's go!" she encouraged him.

He squinted his eyes at the sun pouring in as he snuggled back under the blankets fully intending to go back to sleep as he pulled the blanket over his head.

Marie pouted but she left him to go explore on her own. As soon as she was outdoors she raced for the nearest trees she could see, giggling as she spun herself around and hugged the tree. She breathed in deeply laughing as she ran as fast as she could taking in the grounds. After a good long run she stopped under a large tree to rest and sat with her back to it. She closed her eyes for a moment and then popped them back open when she heard leaves rustling nearby. She looked up to find a boy a couple years older than her staring down at her. He had black hair and blue eyes and he stared at her with curiosity.

Marie stood up looking to see if there were others around but saw nobody.

"Hello," the boy said. "Prince Loeis of Spain," he bowed introducing himself.

Marie smiled, as she curtsied, introducing herself, "Queen Marie of Scotland."

Prince Loeis raised an eyebrow, "You are even more beautiful and enchanting than I have heard milady," he complimented her. "I am impressed with your beautiful smile and you are truly gifted in speed."

Marie looked confused.

"I saw you running a few minutes ago," he admitted.

"Oh!" she laughed. "I'm afraid I've had a lot of pent up energy for the last few weeks. We only just arrived before dawn this morning and the fires have been so dreadful I've not had the opportunity to be outdoors for nearly 2 weeks," she explained.

"I am sorry for the ordeal you have been through," he said politely. "Are you not wary to not bring guards with you in a new place though?"

She smiled, "there are guards nearby, if you look hard enough you shall see them," she laughed.

Upon closer inspection he indeed could see them and he laughed, "You have trained them well," he told her. "Would you perchance allow me to escort you around the castle for a tour?"

Marie was just beginning to notice how handsome he was. His blue eyes sparked with mischief and his manners were impeccable.

"I would like that very much," she murmured. "On the condition that we stay outside," she said as she allowed her hand to be guided into the crook of his arm.

Prince Loeis laughed, "Of course. Your wish is my command," he assured her. "There are some beautiful gardens a short distance away, have you a favorite flower?"

"Roses," she admitted. "They are so beautiful but they also know how to protect themselves, I find them quite enchanting."

"Wonderful! We have several species in the gardens," he told her as they began chatting.

Queen Marie and Prince Loeis spent the next few hours together and Marie very much liked him. He made her laugh and told her fantastic stories about his homeland and how he had come to France.

Unbeknownst it to them but Francis had awoken awhile ago and had been following them. He was not happy to find Marie alone with another, laughing and giggling as if they had known each other forever. He watched them for a few minutes before he made himself known.

Loeis and Marie were walking arm in arm still when she felt that familiar tingle throughout her body and she smiled looking around.

"Francis!" she smiled as she ran over to him, pecking him on the cheek with a kiss. "You're awake finally!" she cheered.

He smirked as he gave her a hug, "indeed, perhaps I would have been awake sooner had someone not bounced me awake several times?" he asked.

She giggled, her eyes lighting up at his teasing.

Prince Loeis stood where Marie had left him with a frown on his face. He had been enjoying his time with her but perhaps in vain, he could tell that they were very close.

She allowed Francis to take her hand and she led him over to where he saw the other boy standing, waiting for them. Francis noted he did not seem pleased and that made him a little happier.

"Prince Loeis of Spain may I present Prince Francis, Dauphin of France," she introduced them.

Prince Loeis bowed as was custom. With him visiting France, the other Prince held a higher position than his own as the next King of France.

"A pleasure to meet you," Francis said with impeccable manners, though he was seething inside. "Thank you for entertaining the Dauphine of France this morning."

Prince Loeis looked surprised and Prince Francis wanted to smirk. It had fully been his intention to declare Marie was his and the reaction the other prince had was priceless. He had been unaware of Marie's attachment to him. In a politically correct way of course.

Marie smiled at the both of them, unaware of the currents flowing between the two boys.

"Queen Marie, would you allow me to continue the tour of the castle for you?" Prince Loeis asked.

Marie smiled fully intending on accepting…

"Actually," Prince Francis said, "Queen Katherine has requested we join her and the King for brunch," he smiled.

Marie frowned looking between the two Princes becoming aware of the rivalry now.

"Another time perhaps?" she asked Loeis.

He nodded, "of course. Enjoy your meal," he said bowing as he headed in the opposite direction.

Marie continued to frown but remained silent as she walked with Francis back to the castle. She was a little hurt that Francis apparently did not trust her.

Francis noticed her silence on their walk as he observed her. He tried to lighten the mood, "I sleep in one day for a few hours and you find yourself another suitor," he teased.

Marie looked at him startled as she abruptly stopped walking. She could feel herself becoming more emotional and as much as she trusted Francis she did not want to break down in front of him. She tried to push it down until she could be alone but she could feel it beginning to break through. She looked down, whispering, "sorry" before she did the only thing she could think of.

She took off running. She put all of her speed and her hurt into running away as fast and as quickly as she could.

Francis stood stunned where she had left him. Marie had never run from him and he called out to her as he began to try and catch her, "Marie! Wait!" he called.

She was too far ahead though and she didn't dare look back.

Francis frowned knowing something was wrong but not knowing what. He stopped running deciding to give her some time as much as he didn't want to do that.

Marie ran for a long time, she could feel the tears breaking through now. She looked around her but wasn't sure where she was now. She saw a grove of trees just ahead and she walked to them allowing herself to fall behind a tree. She let the tears flow then and they didn't stop for a long while. She lay down behind that tree sobbing and before she knew it she had exhausted herself and felt herself drifting into a restless nap.