Somewhere between the moment she notices the four assailants armed with swords and the moment as she was now, the Queen of France realises that the worst mistake of her life was leaving her husbands' side as he slept. She had regretted before, yes, but nothing to this extent, she muses, yelling in vain as she is dragged further and further into the wooded area. She fights and shrieks with every forced step, having no intention of making this an easy struggle for these bastards. The man's hand is larger than the long since burned bastards had been, she remembers the desperation and the fear and the pain of that night, the hand dragging her from her impossibly perfect heaven back down to that night of bloody hell. That night that changed everything for her, it ruined her marriage for months on end. It wouldn't happen again, it couldn't happen again. She wouldn't allow it.
The woods are damp with dew, the air sweet from the condensation, a bittersweet attempt at a gift from the universe, she thinks. She can smell the cheap leather of the man's glove, the disgusting scent of stale sweat and dirt, the man holding her so roughly no doubt not washing enough than what was prudent in this life. Her hem is wet from the mud and the pond water she had been drug through. It sticks to her ankles and makes walking that little bit more uncomfortable. Her feet pulse with pain, the only thing keeping her upright was the fucker holding her around her waist and her mouth. Somewhere along the way, her hair had fallen out of the braided ponytail, a few locks sticking to her forehead with the perspiration and the adrenaline and the fear.
Her heart thumps with that very same adrenaline and fear, it pumps so hard that she can barely register the pain in her feet or the sweat sticking to her body. One would think that she would be kept in the moment, death or another rape was so near that she could feel the puffs of breath upon the back of her neck, but surprisingly, this was not the case. Instead, the Queen of France finds herself letting her mind wander from this moment. To happier times that were just a few hours ago -if she was to die, she wanted the last thing she saw to not be a grubby fucker's face, but the handsome portrait of her husband as he touched her for the first time in so many weeks- or simpler times before the convent, when the world wasn't so frightening and assassination attempts didn't scare her.
Those times were scuppered by the reality of this moment, and the reality seeped into her memories, burning those too. Although she was over a decade and a few years older, this very same scenario sent her back in time to when she was a nine year old girl. The afternoon that she and the then Dauphin had been ripped from the treetops and yanked to shrubbery. It had been Henry to find them both hours later, just after darkness, when the two children were left beaten and unconscious, their attempted murderers strung up and bled out. That same night, she had been forced from Francis' arms and into a cold carriage, into an even colder convent for six years. Quite a similar scenario, was it not?
But like that afternoon, she does not make it easy for them. She kicks and she punches and she jerks and she shrieks, becoming not the well mannered political Queen she had been that morning, but something wild and unnameable that bit and scratched and ripped and tore and made as much noise as possible. Unlike that afternoon, when the poppies were so vibrant and the peonies so purple, she is not released and she cannot get a few dozen steps away, blonde betrothed attached at the hand, but they hold her tighter and pull her deeper into the woods. That was that. If she was to die, she would not be upon her knees, she wouldn't make it easy. She wouldn't bow out bravely, she'd fight until the last breath, and when that was done, she'd fight some more for the hell of it.
But honestly, as Scottish and fearless as that may sound, the truth came down to this. Beat her, kill her, that was fine. But they wouldn't dare lay a finger on her most precious possession that lay many yards away. There was a bittersweetness about this, she realises. The deeper she is pulled, the further and further they get from Francis. The weeks had taught her this, the helplessness as his body fell victim to his sickness. Anything could happen to her, but not her loyal, beautiful King that would lay down his life for his wife and his country. It couldn't happen. Not today. Not like this.
She shrieks and she screams as much as she can, all the while clawing and scraping her assailants hand from her lips, screaming as loud as possible in the moments her mouth was free. She begs fate to allow her to catch the guards' attention. If she was to live, it had to be because of them. She couldn't allow her beautiful groom to suffer any more because of her. And if she was to die, it would be in the duty of her vows to protect him in all things. Without question, the Queen of France and Scots didn't want to die, but if she was to meet her maker this day, she could rest a little easier if she knew that his heart continued to beat and is lungs continued to draw in breath.
The franticness and the duality and the harsh reality and the comforting suffering of her memories made it hard to concentrate on the task at hand. She screams and she begins to cry aloud, her limbs thrashing and kicking on their own violation. It cannot happen. It cannot happen.
By God's hypocritical mercy, her prayers are answered as several men dressed in silver and blue rush down the hill to meet her as she was. The three assailants go to meet them, sword for sword, breath for breath, and the Queen watches helplessly as they dance the deadly waltz, grunting as the blades scream. Her physical body is man handled as she continues to thrash in an effort to get away from the man who held her life in his arms. She can feel him putting her body in one arm, no doubt fishing for his blade with the other. She screams louder and jerks harder, kicking and punching, throwing as many back elbows as she physically can, continuing even after her feet and elbows go numb from the exertion.
Later, the Queen would pity herself for her stupidness, for the notion that her husband would be safe from her accidental wrath, the notion that he would stand by safe from her was ridiculous. For, again, he chose to play the reckless, romantic martyr he always had been, as he appears from the trees and the bushes and the shrubbery, donned only in his trousers and his boots and his undershirt. Thankfully, the King has the mind to sling his baldric and scabbard over his shoulder, and her husband draws his blade, ready to meet the assailant who has killed two guards already as the man rushes at him.
The King clashes blows with the assailant at the same time as -thankfully- the guards turn their attention to the issue the Queen was facing, running towards her with bloodied blades pointed above her. The shrieks of the blades are deafening, Mary's heart beats so loudly in her ears that her cries become nothing but pain in her throat. That same throat, the pale cylinder that had so recently been ravished and adored by that same King, was now decorated with the chill of the silver blade, her mouth free for now.
She screams, but what good will it do? Her hands gain a strength she didn't know they had, and the two of them jerk and tussle for the blade. Mary manages to yank the blade from her skin, and as she looks, the guards are still running towards her. How long had they been running? How short had they been running? How long were seconds? How long were these seconds? Time made no sense anymore.
Her breath burns her lungs, and she gains enough strength to turn her head and look at her husband as his versus falls to the ground, a large wound in his chest, spilling what looks like gallons and gallons of blood.
Their eyes connect as he turns to look at her, but that's when it happens.
A large pain in her torso, larger than any pain before. Larger than the poison that burned her insides as a child. Larger than the butterflies that cut up her insides as France came into view as a little girl. Larger than the beatings she took as the Englishmen tried to take her life in the name of the Tudors. Larger than the poison that slipped past her tasters in the convent. Larger than the pain of the night of Count Vincent's visit to French Court as Francis took her virtue. Larger than the pain of regret and longing as he turned his back on her and Sebastian. Larger than the dread as she realised what he had done with Lola and the result of the rendezvous gone wrong. Larger than the pain of her miscarriage -the physical bloody ordeal and the weeks of mental suffering afterwards-, something she didn't think was possible at the time. Larger than the pain of Severin ripping through her body the night everything went to hell. Larger than the pain of regret as she truly began to realise what she and Conde had done. Larger than the pain and desperation as Francis was dying in front of her. But not quite as large as the pain she had felt when he left this world for those terrible, horrid few minutes. Nothing could have been as bad as that. But here this was, present and alert.
It isn't her that screams, she recognises that bellow. It tears at her heart and burns tears to her eyes. It takes Mary a few moments to realise what happened, but it shouldn't have, really. She looks down at her bodice;
and sees the tip of a sword sticking out of her body. Francis screams her name as her blood leaves her body at an alarming rate.
Immediately, her knees give out as her murderer lets her go in an attempt to run from what he had done like a scolded dog. The guards follow him, but it doesn't matter anymore. Her body sags to the floor, her mouth opening in silent gasps. A hand raises up, and the ground shakes with the fury of her husband as he runs towards her, dropping to his knees at her side. One hand grasps her hand tightly, the other cups her face and fixes her hair, before pressing tightly against her wound. Mary whimpers frantically, the reality of the situation hitting her fiercely.
"You there, guard," Francis snaps, pushing more pressure on his wife's wound. His stomach rolls at the feeling of her blood seeping through his fingertips. He tries his best to ignore the warm wetness of that same blood, but it is as fruitless as the action itself. "get help, and the carriage, and a healer or a physician. Your Queen is injured and requires urgent medical attention. Go. Now!" he yells. Francis then turns to his wife, giving her a strained smile, applying more pressure to the wound. "Mary-Mary," he frets, letting go of her hand to cup her face when her eyes begin to roll back in her head. "you're hurt. Can you hear me? Can you hear me?" he asks until her eyes find him again. He gives her a strained smile again, looking from her to the woodland surrounding them, searching for the help he ordered. "You're going to be alright, okay? We're going to get you back to the castle, you're going to be alright." he says, nodding as if it would make his words hold more weight.
A glowing tree. Droplets of blood on flowers. A life over.
I would give anything to spend the rest of my life at your side.
She shakes her head.
"No, I won't." she says, her voice quiet. Her hand gently grasps his hand at her face.
"Mary?" he asks, confusion dripping through her name.
"We were meant to be happy, Francis. And we were, but I have a fate. A fate that became mine when I took vows not so long ago." she says, her head lolling to the side to look him in the eye.
"No, no." he shakes his head. "Nostradamus predicted my death, not yours. The only thing he predicted for you was Tomas' death at my hand. But, Mary, there is no magic. Even if fate bounds us, there is no magic." he says, shaking his head, looking frantically for the carriage, but he hears no horses.
"No." he says passionately. "You're going to be fine, Mary. We're the King and Queen of France, we have doctors and physicians and surgeons, they can save you. I can save you Mary, just-just give me time and you'll see it too, yes? We'll both be fine, and in years' time, we'll look back on this conversation over our sleeping children's bodies." he says desperately, holding her hand tighter as if it would tether her soul to her body and her body to the earth. And to him.
"No, no. I'm not going to be alright. I'm not." she whispers. He inhales shakily as she shakes her head slowly, her acceptance as palatable as it was heartbreaking. Who would have thought, the girl who would have ripped countries apart to keep him safe from fate now resigned herself to it.
"Mary, don't do this. Please, I beg. I'd rather be within a world where I am mute, deaf, blind or paralysed. But not this, anything but the world wherein you're not with me." he begs, tears sliding down his face. It hurts her. A face so angelic and beautiful should never be drawn with such sadness and fear. She cannot do anything to soothe him, so she holds his hand and kisses his knuckles.
"Then keep me in it," she whispers, arching her back in a failed attempt at slight comfort. "keep me in your memories, Francis. I can never die in your memories."
"I can't." he cries. "Not-not when I've held you in my arms. Mere memories will never suffice for what I've had, and what I've lost." he cries, tears sliding down his face, landing on her cheeks. She sniffles in her own right. "I'm sorry, Mary. I'm so sorry." he cries.
"Shh," she sniffles, "you've given me a wonderful pair of years, shown me kindness and love in which I do not deserve. A better husband than I could have asked for." she says, her voice cracking in emotion and in exhaustion. Her blood continues to seep from her body, but it doesn't seem to bother him as she brings him to her, holding him tightly.
"Do not leave me, my love. Don't leave me." he shakes with the furiocity of his cries, Mary can do little to comfort her husband but run her fingers through his hair and down his back. Her blood soils his shirt, but neither of them seem to care.
"Francis, I want you to promise me something." he pulls back slightly, holding her hands in his own. "I-I want you to promise that you'll look after my country. She'll be vulnerable without me, so many competitors for the throne and for the land that she'll tear herself apart. You-you were given the crown matrimonial when we were married, the same one I was. I-I want you to look after our people as if I was she. Protect her from the English and the Spanish and nurture her into a new age. A new world." she sniffles.
"A-And if I can't?" he asks, feeling like the little boy who had been ripped away with his fiancee as a child, rather than the fully grown King he took the body of.
"Then you help my brother James unto the throne and help him rule until he is stable and the country is secure. A-anything but to tear herself apart because my heart will stop." she sniffles, closing her eyes as he wipes her tears.
"And what about me? How can I survive in this world where you are not by my side?"
"If there was anything I could do about that, then I would." she whispers, opening her eyes. "You're going to be alone now, and you are very bad at that-" they share a wet chuckle. "but I want you to promise that you'll be alright. Heal yourself, my love. It may take a while, but I want you to promise that you'll heal. You have to. This-this can't turn you into a monster." Mary swallows thickly, her breath becoming slower. She's so tired. It's harder to open her eyes each time she closes them.
"You've always been the person to be by my side, even at our darkest points. You-you're the only person in this world I cannot loose, not to battle, not to England, not to death." he cries. "But you slip from me now, and I cannot hold on."
"No, you can't." she whispers, looking up into his eyes. They're so beautiful. So blue and beautiful, even if they're a little murky with tears and grief. "Just as I can't."
"Mary, please don't leave me." he begs, holding onto her so earnestly that it brings more tears down her cheeks.
"Francis." her voice cracks.
"No, don't." her King, her beautiful King, whispers. Mary's eyes close, she forces them to flutter open again.
"I-I see-" and like that, she does see. Running around with that beautiful little boy, jumping on their beds, using pillows as fierce weapons to the point they explode in a myriad of soft, beautiful snow. His eyes, so blue that she cannot forget them, as they're pulled away from each other at nine. And then the handsome, insecure Prince that she saw on that autumnal morning walking up the grassy plaza whilst everybody else walked up the stone isle. His smile as they saw each other again. The feathers falling at Elisabeth's wedding, their eyes meeting again. His big, beautiful smile at their wedding as they twirled around to the music. Their passionate lovemaking each and every night of their wedding tour, the way they held each other so closely on the night of their coronation. Their heated embrace after he returned to her from the plague. How he picked her up and twirled her around when their child lay within her womb, their trinity held so safely in the ensnarement of their arms. Working together against the world, fighting to make a better one for their people. The earlier antics in the pond. Just Francis. Always Francis. Always Mary and Francis against the world. "such beauty-" she whispers, looking into his eyes again. "such beauty, such happiness, you have brought me."
"Mary." he sobs, pushing his face into her neck. The Queen manages to coo at him, running her fingers through his beautiful, soft curls once more. "Must you do this? Must my light fade, leaving me so cold and dark?" he asks.
"I'll always be there, Francis." she whispers, her body beginning to relax. She smiles into his eyes as he pulls back to kiss her goodbye. Their kiss is salty and bittersweet. "You have to love again, my treasure. Swear to me that you will."
"I can't." he sobs. "I can't! I will never." he swears. "I will never love anybody else the way I love you." he sobs, the words choked and full of emotion that it will take a century to even begin to understand.
Mary's lower lip trembles as she takes in one last breath. "I pray to God that you do." she whispers. The Queen can hold on no longer. She looks into his eyes until she can physically do so no longer. Her eyes flutter shut and her body sags within her husbands' arms.
Francis gasps, bringing Mary's body to his chest. He trembles and he cries and he screams. But it is no use. The Queen is dead.