We're back with another chapter.
"It is true," Oskar breathed out when Anne stepped out of the carriage with John's help. He walked over to his wife in front of his advisers and took her hand in his, his other hand on her growing bump. "The Queen bears Sweden's heir!"
"God Save The Queen!" The people cheered as Anne smiled shyly, just wanting to go to bed and rest.
Oskar turned to her ladies and his sister. "I thank you, for tending to your queen with diligence and care," he said. "Welcome to Swedish Court. Your rooms have been prepared in the Queen's quarters and you will be eligible to wed men of status at Court."
The women curtseyed, Oskar's eyes landing on Anastasia in particular. He took her hand and she rose with Oskar planting a gentle kiss on the back of her hand much to Anne's disdain at her husband's blatant attempt to flirt with her cousin. But Ana was not stupid and she smirked to herself at the attention she was being given.
"If I remember well, you are Countess Anastasia de Poitiers, Anne's favourite cousin," he said.
Ana chuckled. "I know her favourite cousin is my brother. You do not need to flatter me, Your Majesty."
"No?" He asked. "Well, then welcome to Court. I hope you will settle here comfortably."
Ana looked around and sighed. "It's... got character."
"Oh, Anastasia, dear," Anne began. "I know it isn't as big as Fontainebleau but it has its own charm."
"I can tell," Ana replied before Oskar guffawed and turned to his brother with a smile.
Anne noted that he was about to speak to Hugo and delay her any chance at getting some rest so she said, "Hugo's business in France was very successful. You will wish to speak about that but if you will release my ladies and me from attending the people, we wish to rest."
Oskar nodded. "Of course. Our son would need rest," he said, kissing her forehead. "Guards, escort the Queen to her rooms with her ladies."
John and his men bowed before leading Anne and her ladies away. She wanted out of the dress, it was so tight and her poor child must have been restricted. It was too soon to feel anything though but she did get flutters that made her smile.
She must have been around seventeen weeks by now, reaching eighteen by January, thanks to the midwife she saw before leaving France. She was elated about the news, sharing wide smiles with her ladies. She had Italian, English, Spanish and French ladies alike in her cousins Catherine Habsburg and Anastasia de Poitiers and her friends, Jeanne Giovanni and twins, Jasmine and Henrietta Leroy.
With their presences, she felt a little safer in Sweden.
"Th-The King's mistress is in labour, Your Majesty," Jeanne informed her the following month.
It was now late January, the country had been suffering from terrible weather in heavy snow. Nobody could barely travel to and from places and the farmers were struggling in their duties to their lands. Food yields were low and many people, Protestants mainly, resented the royals for having a surplus of food.
"Take me to her," Anne said firmly.
Jeanne and Catherine led her to Elsa's rooms. They found her wailing with one of the noble ladies of Court, on the bed. Her face was as red as a tomato and sweat caked her head, pillows and sheets.
"And where is the midwife?" Anne demanded.
"She had gone to visit her family in the next town over for a few days since Lady Elsa was not due for another week or so," the noblewoman explained. "The weather stopped her from returning. The King has gone skating with members of Court and the Duke of Scania."
So they were alone to deal with a woman in labour.
"Grab towels and water, now!" Anne demanded, getting onto the bed. She could see blood seeping into the sheets and she swallowed hard as everyone scrambled to help somehow.
Catherine checked Elsa and turned to Anne. "We must be careful," she said in Spanish as to not worry Elsa. "The babe is... trapped."
Anne nodded once and gave Elsa a comforting smile. "You will be fine," she told her, Elsa's eyes wide with fear.
"Why are you h-helping me?" Elsa asked her tearfully.
Anne took her hand, using her other hand to brush Elsa's clammy hair from her eyes. "No woman deserves to be alone as they give birth. It's dangerous," she said simply as Jeanne and the noblewomen returned with water and towels.
"I have had experience delivering babies," Catherine told them, pulling her sleeves up and washing her hands. "A few noblewomen in the Prussian Court gave birth in peculiar places."
Anne chuckled softly. "You hear that, Lady Elsa? You are in good hands."
Catherine swallowed hard and checked Elsa one more time. "When I tell you to, you push. Push with everything you've got, understand?"
Elsa nodded. "Y-Yes."
After a couple of pushes, Catherine's face faltered and she looked at Anne. In Spanish, she said, "Give me your knife."
"My concealed one?" Anne asked back in Spanish.
"I need to cut her open. The babe is stuck and cannot breathe. They will both die," Catherine said, giving Elsa a quick smile. "Send for tree bark. It will help with the pain."
Anne turned to Jeanne and told her in French, "Get tree bark. Be quick," she said before swallowing hard and turning to Catherine as Jeanne hurried out.
"What is happening?" Elsa asked, looking around. "Why are you speaking in different tongues? Am I dying?"
Unfortunately no. But you will be if we don't get this child out of you soon, Anne thought. "No, not at all. We just need to wait a moment. More water."
When the tree bark arrived, Anne instructed Elsa to bite down on it before discreetly handing Catherine her blade. Taking a deep breath in, Catherine told Elsa to push and readied the knife at a place she couldn't see it but when she moved to place the knife near Elsa, she froze.
"Catherine?" Anne called her, Catherine swallowing hard.
"I can't," Catherine said in Spanish, making Anne's eyes widen.
"Jeanne, come here," Anne ordered, switching places with Jeanne as she rubbed her bump. She felt her baby quicken inside of her and she sighed before grabbing the knife and not giving it a second thought before cutting Elsa wider to retrieve the baby.
Sliding into a towel, Anne rubbed the baby's chest as Elsa wailed at the sudden pain. It prompted Anne to remove herself from the bed as Catherine and the noblewoman moved to sew Elsa up and stem the bleeding.
"Come on, little one. Cry," Anne whispered before sighing in relief when the baby wailed loudly. She let out a relieved chuckle and removed the towel from the baby's lower half, her smile leaving her face.
"What is it?" Elsa asked weakly.
Anne's eyes teared up. "You have a son," she said, her voice void of emotion. "A healthy boy."
"Thank you, Anne," Oskar said over dinner that evening. "For helping Elsa."
Anne's eyes flickered over to her husband and she gave him a weak smile. "You are very welcome. He looks just like his father."
Oskar laughed, blushing as he took her hand and squeezed it. "And we will have a son too, Anne."
"What did you name him?" Anne asked quietly, biting into her beef cube.
"Johan," Oskar said. "'God is gracious'."
Anne bowed her head and retrieved her hand from his grip. "I feel unwell. I will retreat to my rooms and take rest," she said before he dismissed her.
When she got to her rooms, she saw the blood-stained dress that she had worn when she was helping Elsa. It was Swedish silk and one that she liked very much but the memory attached to it, ruined it for her. She threw it into the burning fireplace and rubbed her bump lovingly.
"My sweet child, we will not be displaced by this whore and her bastard," she said tearfully. "They don't mean more to your father than we do. She will never win."
The door opened and she wiped her tears as Anastasia stalked inside. She saw the burning dress and sighed, turning back to Anne before taking a seat and pouring herself a cup full of wine.
"Why did you help her?"
"Grandmother and your grandmother were never friends. Mother and John's mother are still somewhat friends... I'd not want Elsa's death to be on my hands. Oskar's love for her is..." Anne trailed off with a shrug. "He loves her."
Anastasia rolled her eyes. "I guess you can't truly be a king without scattering a few bastards across the continent."
"Your father's one of those."
Letting out a chuckle, Anastasia laughed. "He is, yes but he's one of the better ones. How are you feeling?"
Anne shook her head, looking towards the burning dress. "Horrible. I just know that deep down... I will never be the first choice for him and nor will our child. I need to protect my child no matter what it is."
"Don't worry, Anne," Anastasia said, coming up to hug her tightly. "You're going to be alright."
Anne sniffled. "I hope so..."