"What?" the Duchess of Edinburgh gasps out, pressing a suddenly rather cold hand to her rapidly beating chest. She inhales sharply, shaking her head. It cannot be. It cannot be. Mary doesn't even realise that she's said these words, nor the fact that she's stood up, until she actually stands in front of her Godfather. Angus looks up at her, saying no words, seemingly decided to wait this out. She places her hands upon the tea table, looking down intently at the man who had risen her, and apparently, had lied to her for the entirety of her existence. "How can that be? You lie to me, Godfather! You lie!" she cries out, her hands fluttering in front of her face. She attempts to fan herself, her body simultaneously burns and freezes at the same time. These words send her for a loop, she cannot figure out their meaning, although Mary Stuart does consider herself an intelligent woman. But this? This? How could she process this? Neither of Angus' words made any sense to her. How could this be true? If it was, that meant her entire life was a lie. Everything she thought she was, was no longer true.
"Sit down, my child. I'll explain myself once you calm yourself." he answers evenly. His even tone only angers her further. Why wasn't he explaining himself? Why weren't words spilling from his lips in the speed that they appeared in her mind? How could he be so calm, after just telling her that she was not only descended directly, legitimately, from royalty, but she herself, was no mere Duchess, but a Princess? How could the Duke of Aberdeen expect her to remain calm and collected after just telling her such a travesty that changed everything she thought she knew about everything?
"Talk!" Mary demands furiously, her arms beginning to tremble, no longer strong enough to hold up her weight that she leaned upon the small table. Her knees do the same, she is forced to sit, rather she embarrass herself by falling upon the ground and taking the tea with her. It wouldn't matter, this man has seen her since she was a child, but dignity was a thing, and Mary Stuart, the ravenette Duchess of Edinburgh, no longer knows what to think over this man who she loved above all others -except four- who had risen her from an orphan. But he lies to her over matters so important. "Please!" her voice cracks.
Angus sighs, reaching over the small table to take Mary's hand. She accepts it. Her fingers are cold from the shock, too numb to remove themselves even if they wanted to. He runs his substantial thumb pad over her pale knuckles, as if trying to soothe her before he tells her all about herself. One would think -wouldn't they- that this information would have been shared so willingly, having always been shared ever since Mary came to him, a cold orphaned little six year old girl, but, apparently not.
"Mary," he begins. "your father and mother did die of consumption, yes, but in that time in which they were pulled from you because of their sickness, it was unknown that your mother's womb had swollen with child. A son, a healthy newborn son born just before they passed into the lords' hands. I am without knowledge of why, but he was switched at birth, your parents' son thought to have died with them soon after birth. However, this was not the case. Obviously. Your brother grew up within a convent, he has always been aware of his royal bloodline and the pedigree of your ancestry. But things changed when the longtime rulers of the crown, were wiped from this world because of the war with Germany. The heir, the King, the Queen, all of them gone. So, the crown went to your brother. Only recently has he been told that he has a sister, with his blood, his bone, his flesh. It was best to wait until you both had grown and matured to inform you of this, free of emotional complication from the crown. My child, your brother wishes to see you." Angus says. "He is desperate, out of his mind, knowing he has another of himself within the world, one he hadn't been aware of before now."
"If I am who you say I am, a Princess in my own right-" she rolls her eyes. "doesn't my past dictate my future? My death? You know better than anyone how James, Annika and Annaliece came into this world, the cruelness of the men who held me down and-" she trails off. Angus closes his eyes. "you know." she whispers. "Does this not dictate my execution? It was horrid enough, keeping the secret as a Duchess, but a Princess? Princesses cannot have bastards, Princesses cannot have children borne out of cruelty and abuse." she says. "And-and what of my love? Princesses cannot love blade smiths, Princesses cannot find love and happiness with one, others do not even see, they marry Princes, Kings. They cannot-" Angus cuts her off.
"Mary, my child, you do not understand. You have nothing to worry over. If the secret of James', Annika's and Annaliece's births and conceptions have been kept well so far, then we can keep the secret still. You have told nobody, bar those you trust?"
"I question sometimes, telling Lola, you know how she can get when she feels manipulative." they share a look. "But only my ladies and Francis know of them. And how they grew into this world. The rest of the household are under the illusion that they are my nephew and nieces. It hurts, keeping the distance, but I will do so if it keeps them safe."
"Spoken like a true mother, I am impressed." he says. "My child, I cannot say that I am ecstatic that you have fallen in love with a blade smith, I would have preferred more for you. However, I can tell how much he means to you, and how much happiness he brings. I give my blessing, and I am sure that the King will, too. You see, the King is of his elder sisters' blood. He is fair and kind and just. I am without question that he may gift the man you love title and land and wealth, to make him eligible for marriage. However, for now, you have been sent summons to the Palace of Windsor. You must go and meet your brother, Mary."
"Your Majesty, introducing Duchess Mary of the house of Stuart, Duchess Regnant of Edinburgh." Mary is introduced. The grandeur gold and bronze doors slide open. Windsor palace was more of a cavern than a palace, it was enormous, full of staff and nobility. The grandness of the walls and the floors and the ceilings was impeccable and inconceivable. Even Mary's finest gown and most expensive jewels seemed tiny in the eyes of a residence such as this.
Her gown engulfed her tall, lithe body. A sleeveless bodice of dark black lace with a sweetheart neckline, embellished with small sapphires and emeralds sewn into the fine lace. The skirt was an ashy blush colour, large and substantial. It extended outwards from her trim, small waist, blooming such as a rose in summer. A train of three and a half feet echoed behind her, an overlay of tulle as black as the Duchess' hair. The two colours contrast against each other, the blushy tulle shimmering light peach in the deep candlelight combining with the glittering silver of the darkened material. Hundreds of layers created the skirts, blackened lace falling from the bodice, laying softly over the skirt. Her chest, neck and shoulders were left bare, oversized sleeves of black tulle and lace embellishments covering her arms slightly.
Jewellery of onyx gems held together upon platinum strings, the gems the size of grapes and strawberries. A long, chandelier pair of earrings hung from her ears, lightly grazing her shoulders and large necklace. Wrists were loaded with bracelets and fingers loaded with rings, her long, hip length curls glittering in the most exquisite hairstyle, with half of her hair braided into a rose-like shape, the other falling loose over her shoulders and arms, a large crown of onyx, diamonds and emeralds. The Duchess walked positively regally as she made her way into the dark crimson room.
A young man stood from a desk, letting out a soft sound as he stood. His clothing was grandeur, as a King should dress. Dark trousers with a trim coat of black velvet that positively sparkled in the dim light. A black undershirt with a ruby embellished, red and black satin waistcoat that pulled in a trim waist. Leather boots were tied to his ankles, emeralds and rubies glittering upon his feet. Cuff links were silver and florally embroidered, a livery collar of silver and rubies laying upon his shoulders. He held height at such a tender age of not even sixteen years, dark hair just skimming his shoulders, brushed back and held firmly, a crown of gold and sapphires upon his head. He held dark eyes, plump lips, a thin nose. An echo of what her father had been, combined with what her mother could have produced if consumption hadn't gotten her first. As it turned out, she did produce.
"Duchess of Edinburgh." he starts. "My sister." he finishes.
If she needed any more convincing of who he was, Mary needed no more. Borne of her fathers' bone, her mothers' blood, kept from her by political intrigue and fascism. He stood before her, in every way, her. Her blood ran through this young man's veins, her bone held him standing in front of her. This was King Robert of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, grandson of King Robert the Bruce. A direct copy of her physical being, projected unto a male form. He was a King, and she, a Princess. What a notion, indeed.
"Your Majesty," Mary says, one heeled foot sliding behind the other, in a curtsy as quickly over as it was begun. "Brother." she says.
He smiles at her, and she needs no more.
"This is unbelievable." King Robert says, a boy of fifteen years, as they stroll the darkened gardens. Echoes of the party in the ballroom could float into their ears, but the brother and the sister held the ability to block out the music and the laughter, to focus on what really mattered within this life. "Being told I had a sibling, a healthy, wealthy woman of noble birth. Finding myself a King when I am simply a boy, it's inconceivable." he says.
Mary nods once. "It is. I could hardly believe my ears as my Godfather told me. I find it hard to trust him, he has lied to me so long. I cannot find it in myself to forgive just yet, but finding another part of myself, of our mother and our father. It has dulled the blow." she says, her voice is quiet. What could she say? A thousand words screamed within her mind, but none would come past her lips.
"I know you have questions." Robert begins, scratching the back of his neck in a way that was so unkingly. It reminded her that he was not a grown adult as she, but a fifteen year old boy who seemed to have no place sitting upon a throne.
"As you do, I am sure." she agrees.
"Let us sit." he leads her over to a stone chair set, a table welded into the ground between them. The new Princess holds her skirts as she sits down, mindful of how much dignity and manners mattered as she visited the royal court. She folds her hands within her lap, her back is cold, she can feel the chill of the autumnal eve beginning to creep upon these lands. "Should I start?"
"You're a King, King's wait for nobody." she says with a smile. He grins at her sheepishly.
"I'm told I was borne eight weeks before the death of our mother." he begins. "Twelve weeks after the death of our father. The prestige bloodline was understood, mother and father were so close to the throne, they just didn't know it. So, the story of their son being stillborn was told, to keep my life safe from those who would end it, and my physical being was transported to a convent, east of the village where they were staying as the sickness ran through the country. Of course, people told me of who I was, who I could be, and I was always aware of my royal blood, as I am sure you were aware, too."
"I was taught that I was directly descended from Kings, but I never thought that the throne could fall to close."
"You are aware of how I came to the crown, yes? The war with Germany, the death of the previous King, Queen and heir. I was awoken at the dead of night to be told of the war's conclusion and her casualties. Men knelled to my feet and swore fealty. I was frightened, but I had always been told that my rule was a possibility ever since a child." he pauses. "And then they told me about you. I don't know why you and I were kept a secret from each other, I'll never understand. But it would mean a great deal that, now we have been permitted to know of each others' existence, to remain in each others' lives."
"Nothing would make me happier." Mary swears, taking his hand. Her brother smiles at her.
"I am glad." he pauses. "What were our mother and father like?"
It's a question that reminds her once again, that she does not talk to a King, not really. She talks to an orphaned boy who wishes to know who he came from. "Our father was a good man. He was brave and kind and generous to all below him. He was chivalrous and a good father, a brilliant father. You may not know that our parents bore more children-" Mary reveals. "but they perished before you were born. Two sons, dead as infants. I was five at the time, when the second died. Three when the first left this earth. James, and Arthur. Died as babes. Of course, our mother held other children, two more boys who live in France. Our meetings were sporadic, but they are good men. And our father, before he settled with our mother, bore bastards all over Scotland. As all men do." she pauses. "But even then, to the children he had, he was a marvellous father. Put us to bed every night, sang us to sleep, held us when it was cold. There were winter mornings that we had, where Father would place blades upon our shoes and we would skate around the frozen pond outside of our estate. Our mother was a good woman, even if she was an absent mother. She was a marvellous regent when our father was away, but Marie de Guise was anything but a natural mother. But that's alright, she loved us all in her own way. Of course, I don't remember much, I wasn't even seven years old when they both died and I was sent away to Godfather before they even knew about you." Mary pauses again. "But they were good people, and they deserve to walk the land of the living, instead of the forest of the dead."
"Should the crown not go to you?" Robert's voice is quiet. "You are elder."
"And you are male, men always walk first, it's the job of women to walk a step behind. At least, that's what's been told to me."
"A ridiculous proposal." he says. Mary chuckles. "An outdated thought, too. Perhaps I should change it."
"Perhaps you should, you are a King of four countries, after all." she says. He chuckles. "Shouldn't you be the heir to the Duchy? And I your simple sister?"
"Not at all, you may have the Duchy, as appealing as it is, it is yours in every sense of the word. I have all the land I could ever need." Robert says. Mary smiles gratefully at him. "I know of you and your smithy boy." he reveals. The Princess' eyes grow. "Dearest sister, do not look so alarmed! I think it not a scandal that you have found happiness in a man who others do not see. It pleases me, I wish to provide the happiness and security that I can."
"Who told you of us?"
"A bastard cousin of ours," he answers evenly.
"Lola." she grits under her breath. "Damn her, why does she do the things she does?"
"I think her a woman who wants to be good, but she cannot help but make bad decisions, over and over and over." he says. "But it matters not, my sister. I wish to gift you something. I am willing to grant the Valois their wealth, to see it returned to them, by gifting your smithy boy a Viscountship in eastern Oxfuird. He and his family will live a comfortable wealth, and he will become an eligible bachelor, viable to wed."
"Why would you do this?" her voice is breathy. "You and I-"
"Are the same blood, after all. I will do all I can for you, as I trust you will do the same for me."
It's early the next morning. Her white fur is warm, the dark blue suede of her riding coat is comfortable as she continues to ride vigorously through the woods. The autumnal colours are beautiful and warm, littering the ground with the reds and greens. The leaves are crushed by the white stallions' hooves. The sun shines through the gaps in the trees, the air is warm. The Princess rides and rides and rides, craving the freedom and anonymity that she always gained in moments such as this.
She hears a hunting party just west of her, but pays it no mind. As much as hunting a defenceless creature sickens her, she knows she can do little to help the poor little dear or rabbit. She sends a prayer that the little creature will get away from the party, and if it does not, that the moment is swift and quick and does not cause pain. Perhaps it may run towards her instead, and she may grant it the protection that a creature so majestic and innocent deserves.
It is no deer, nor stag or boar that comes to her. It's a blonde young man with beautiful blue eyes that rides to her side. His hair is dishevelled, and he repeats her orders that the hunting party cease their efforts to murder for no reason. His smile is kind and bashful as he asks her how her conversation with the new King had gone, for she did not return to her rooms that night.
"The King is kind and compassionate, my love." the Princess states. "He treats me well, seems to have no ulterior agenda. However, he is just a boy, and Kings are made of clay. I fear he will be moulded against me, and must do all I can to prevent it." she finishes.
"I'm sure you will, love." her pretty blonde beau states. "Did he find out-"
"Yes." she sighs. "Lola told him."
"How? That little-"
"I know, I know." she chuckled. "I'll reprimand her after we return home after the winter term." the ravenette pauses. "My love, my brother tells me that he will grant you and your family wealth in the east." His eyes grow twice their size. "You will be christened a Viscount, and the world will know how much you mean to me. Your family will prosper, return to the hierarchy your mother so enjoyed. The children given to me in the cruellest circumstance will be given a family, a true father. He gives us permission to marry, my brother allows the match." the Princess finishes.
She giggles at his expression of pure shock. Pretty blue eyes open wide, his mouth hanging open. It's cliche but it's adorable and she loves him just a little bit more because of it.
"So," he breathes. "What do I call you now, then? Duchess, Princess?"
Mary smiles. "Just Mary." she clarifies. "Will you take me as I am? An orphaned girl with no parents and royal blood? A Duchess, and a Princess?"
"Only if you take me as I am, a common servent boy, who loves you unconditionally."
And they may not have forever, but they lived happily, indeed.