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Her skirts flourished out to the sides, swishing against the cold stone walls. Her hood was in danger of falling off the side of her head but she didn’t notice.
He could be walking up the scaffold now. Right now. She hastened her pace.
She drew up the heavy skirts around her and stormed through doors that the guards barely had enough time to open. The sight of their axes frightened her into moving faster. If she could just reach the front doors she could walk out into the courtyard around past the stables and there he would be, standing next to the executioner, his shirt dirty and torn from spending months in the Tower.
She slipped on the stones, her skirts caught beneath her, the perfect iridescent pearls torn from the deep purple hem that they lined.
The doors were right in front of her. The guards were alarmed to see her but the doors swung open quickly and she broke through to the sunlight. A perfect sunlit day! How could such a tragedy take place on such a beautiful day?
She rounded the corner of the left wing of the palace and saw the small group that was invited for the noble execution.
“Stop! Please! I beg you stop!” she waved her arms in front of her, the hem of the torn skirts billowing around her.
They all turned their heads. Most were men. All knew the reason they stood there, somber on such a seemingly safe day watching a dear and honest friend go to the ax.
One of two allowed tears to well up. She had come to stop this. But would the king pardon him? No guards pushed through the small gathering with such an announcement.
She was a lover of the king. The man standing for execution was her husband. Life in a king’s court often changes hearts and ambitions but is it now that another change in heart takes place?
She was standing by that mullioned window in her anteroom, the sun bestowing a serenity upon the valley making even the Thames seem beautiful.
She thought of his impending death since he was taken on a rainy morning several months ago to the Tower. Her husband. Someone she had learned to love. But did that continue or end at some point?
Sighing, she leaned her head against the window, feeling its warmth from the sunlight. She was still in the king’s favor – for now. How long would it last? And in the end, he would always return to the queen. After all, the country would need a legitimate royal heir.
Laughter was heard from the hallways close by and she straightened, composing herself. As she did so, she felt a tug around her neck followed by a snap of something small and delicate.
Looking at the floor, she saw the thin strand, now broken, and the charm it had held, several centimeters away.
The talisman was a simple flat circle. Nothing was engraved on it and it was a cheap metal. It was his explanation of it that had given it meaning.
“It is to remind you that when you leave – or shall I say must leave the king’s bed, you will return to me,” he told her as she examined the gift in her palm. “It is a circle, my dear. Not so much a cruel one. Just a simple circle.” As he finished his explanation, he lifted the necklace from her palm, walked behind her and clasped it around her neck.
She stared at the broken chain on the floor. She had never taken it off because it was something that she held onto on nights when she felt alone. Suddenly, she shivered as if a cold, Arctic wind had swept through the sunlit valley and passed over her.
All she could do was stare. The chain was broken. He was going to his death. She was supposed to return to him but where would she go when the king’s lust for her dimmed and he was beheaded today?
Without picking up the necklace she ran out of the chamber until she was screaming at the noble gathering. Her husband was honorable, being killed off for the king’s convenience with her.
When she had reached the scaffold, he was on his knees praying. She ran up the steps and knelt in front of him, taking his hands in hers. She begged and pleaded with the guards and the executioner to stop and see that they would be killing an honorable man. No one listened.
He said nothing and only watched her. When she looked back at him, he smiled grimly. He placed a gentle kiss on her lips and the guards pulled her off the scaffold screaming and fighting her way back to him.
She watched him being blindfolded and the ax fall. She fought against the guards’ grip until she was bruised.
The gathering of the nobles disintegrated and she was able to fall to the stones, crying into the purple skirts.
When night fell several servants arrived to carry her to her chambers. They tried for three days to return her to health but she refused all aid.
On the last evening, she watched as the last servant left for her own chambers. She waited until she was sure all would be quiet and swept out of the bed. She walked over to the dim hearth and fed the fire until it roared.
When she felt the heat and the beads of sweat dripping down her face, she lifted the hem of her nightgown and watched it burn. She followed the spread up to her torso and held onto her screams until she was sure she wouldn’t survive then she no longer could see. She only felt the warmth of his arms surrounding her.
In the mayhem of the next morning, a young servant cleaning the remains in the chamber saw at glitter at the edge of his vision. Under an open window lay a small chain and a thin disk. He picked them up and examined them then placed both into his pocket.
When he saw the girl from the kitchen later that evening, he pulled her back into a servants stairwell with him. He turned her around and placed the charm on a newly made cloth necklace around her neck. She looked down and admired his gift.
“Oh, Thomas, how lovely!”