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This book was automatically created by FLAG on September 27th, 2013, based on content retrieved from http://www.fanfiction.net/s/7598322/. The content in this book is copyrighted by Lissa Bryan or their authorised agent(s). All rights are reserved except where explicitly stated otherwise. This story was first published on November 30th, 2011, and was last updated on November 2nd, 2012. Any and all feedback is greatly appreciated - please email any bugs, problems, feature requests etc. to flag@erayd.net.

Table of Contents
Summary 1. Chapter 1 2. Chapter 2 3. Chapter 3 4. Chapter 4 5. Chapter 5 6. Chapter 6 7. Chapter 7 8. Chapter 8 9. Chapter 9 10. Chapter 10 11. Chapter 11 12. Chapter 12 13. Chapter 13 14. Chapter 14 15. Chapter 15 16. Chapter 16 17. Chapter 17 18. Chapter 18 19. Chapter 19 20. Chapter 20 21. Chapter 21 22. Chapter 22 23. Chapter 23 24. Chapter 24 25. Chapter 25 26. Chapter 26 27. Chapter 27 28. Chapter 28
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29. Chapter 29 30. Chapter 30 31. Chapter 31 32. Chapter 32 33. Chapter 33 34. Chapter 34 35. Chapter 35 36. Chapter 36 37. Chapter 37 38. Chapter 38 39. Chapter 39 40. Chapter 40 41. Chapter 41 42. Chapter 42 43. Epilogue 44. The Selkie Wife: A New World

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Summary
Set during the reign of "Bloody Mary" Tudor. Bella is captured by Edward to raise his daughter. He promises to release her one day, but will he? Court intrigues and danger around every corner. Can they, and their new-found love, survive? Rated M/OOC/AU

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Chapter 1
A/N: I can't decide what to write next, so I'm going to post the first chapter/synopsis of a few stories, and wait one week to see which one gets the best response. There is a poll set up on my profile page. The following is based off an old fairy tale of the same name.

The Selkie Wife By Lissa Bryan

Chapter One England, 1553

There were many who felt that Edward, Duke of Cullen, had gone mad since the death of his wife. Certainly, his behavior had launched a tidal wave of gossip. He'd dismissed most of his household and closed his doors to visitors. His manor house stood practically empty. Its great hall used to ring with laughter and the minstrel's music at the nightly feasts, but now echoed with only the sounds of his lonely footsteps. Particularly odd was his habit of walking. His tenants reported seeing him all over his lands, alone, on foot. That a member of the nobility would go anywhere unattended was bizarre, but on foot? He wasn't hunting. He wasn't surveying his lands. He just wandered aimlessly, his eyes on the ground, lost in whatever thoughts it was that tormented him. Edward wasn't mad, but he was compelled. When the memories swooped at him like angry birds protecting their nest, all he could do was walk. He'd lost his wife, Mary, two years ago in childbed. They'd been married since shortly after his fifteenth birthday, a rare love match. he had known from a very young age that he was betrothed to Mary and the very first time he saw her, at the wedding, he knew that he would love this woman until the day he died. Over the ten
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happy years they had been together, the only dark spot was Mary's inability to give him an heir. He had resigned himself that they would be childless, that Emmett and any children he had would inherit the title. Mary suffered miscarriage after miscarriage. He could see how they weakened he and he tried to abstain from her bed, but Mary was a loving woman and very ... persuasive in that regard. And miracle of miracles, her final pregnancy had held. They were to be blessed, finally, with an heir. His joy was now a bitter memory. He should never have touched her. Two days after the birth of his daughter, Mary was dead of fever and so was his heart. The baby was a girl. Edward was the recipient of much pity. That his wife had died was sad, but it was worse that the baby she had died from birthing was a girl. A girl was naught but a drain on a family, who had to clothe her according to their station and provide a dowry to marry her off. The only way a girl could benefit the family was if her marriage brought useful connections. Edward had held his daughter for the first time after the funeral and he was tempted to hate her, to blame her for her mother's death, but he simply couldn't. Elizabeth was so sweet and lovely. She looked like Mary, but instead of Mary's blond hair or Edward's auburn, little Elizabeth had brown, curly hair, probably inherited from her grandmother, just like Emmett's. She had been bundled in her swaddling bands, her limbs wrapped tightly in white cloth to ensure that she grew up with straight limbs and all he could see of her was that tiny face, a replica of her mother's. How could he not love her? Edward's steward, James, already had a wet-nurse hired for the baby. (Even had she lived, Mary would not have nursed her own child.) Often, people sent the baby to live with the nurse until the child was old enough to be weaned, but Edward refused that suggestion. Rosalie came from a good family, the daughter of a minor lord who had gambled away all of his wealth and left his family impoverished. Rosalie's husband and infant son had died in a house fire, leaving her homeless and destitute, and deeply grateful for the position of caring for Elizabeth. Edward had thought she was an excellent choice, especially since her child had been a boy. The milk of women who had boys was said to be stronger. But something was missing. Poor little Elizabeth clung to her father when he went to visit her in the nursery. Rosalie was not the maternal sort and Elizabeth was starved for affection.
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He should remarry. His young cousin, the king, had tried to arrange matches for Edward until the day he'd died, a month ago. Edward was wealthy, close to the throne by blood, and had no male heir, a situation which could not be allowed to continue. But Elizabeth needed a mother, and he would not gain one through a cold, calculated dynastic match. He'd gotten word yesterday that the young king's sister, Mary, had deposed Jane Grey. It was what Edward had expected to happen. Jane was unknown to the people and had little support. Most people felt that Mary was the rightful heir and the young king should never have tried disinheriting his sisters and leaving the throne to his cousin. The dying young king had worried that Mary would undo all of his Protestant reforms, and he was right. But he had no legal right to name Jane as his heir, since his father Henry VIII had established the succession through an Act of Parliament that couldn't be overturned by a simple will. Despite the fact that the people were leery in regards to Mary's fervent Catholicism, they felt she had a moral right to the throne and rose to her call when she marched to London, an army of peasants armed with pitchforks and scythes. Edward sighed. He liked Jane. She had once been proposed as a wife for him, but Jane's mother had higher ambitions than a duke. Jane was quiet and studious, with deep Protestant convictions, which is why the young king had attempted to leave his throne to her instead of his sister. She didn't have much of a sense of humor, but life had given Jane Grey very little to laugh about. Her parents, her mother especially, were abusive, and Edward was pretty sure that Jane's new husband was, too. They had forced the girl into accepting the crown, but what they hadn't expected was that once Jane took it, she would assert her independence by refusing to crown her husband as king. Now, she sat in the Tower, Mary's prisoner. Mary had written to Edward that she had no intention of executing Jane because she understood quite well that the girl's treason had been unwilling. She would keep her imprisoned in the Tower until things were settled and then quietly release her to return to her life in the country with her beloved books. Edward carefully picked his way down the steep path to the beach, one of his favorite places on the estate. There was something about the constant, ungovernable nature of the sea which quieted his soul. Men scurried about, worrying about their petty troubles and the sea cared not one bit. It had been there for thousands of years before his time and it would be there thousands of years in the future, its waves still pounding the shore. He froze in his tracks when he heard something. He cocked his head. Yes, there it
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was again. The sound of a laugh. Pirates? he wondered. Piracy and smugglers had always been a problem on this part of the coast. Edward shifted his hand down to his belt and clasped the jeweled handle of his knife. He followed the faint thread of sound. There was a tiny peninsula which jutted out into the water, with high rocks in the center. Edward slipped to the end and peeked around. Shock made his jaw drop, froze him in his tracks. Two nude women were sunning themselves on the rocks, their creamy skin gleaming in the warm sunlight. Edward couldn't look away from the mesmerizing sight. He'd never even seen his wife completely unclothed. The smaller of the two had long, dark brown hair, which the other woman was combing for her. As he watched, a gray seal popped out of the water, its clumsy body flopping on the stone beside the women. To his astonishment, the seal seemed to split down some invisible seam and another naked woman appeared. Selkies! Edward had heard the stories, of course, but had never imagined seeing one. Had he been born a few hundred years later, Edward would have questioned his sanity at what he was seeing, but he lived in an age in which the existence of witches, demons, sea-monsters, ghosts and fae-folk was widely accepted. The selkies' realm was supposed to be far to the north of here, in the cold seas off the coats of Ireland and Denmark. Selkies were shape-shifters, some said sea fairies, others said the souls of those who had drowned. They were supposed to be immortal, never aging once they reached maturity. Their pelts were what allowed for the transformation. If their pelt were lost or destroyed, the selkie would be trapped in human form, and if it were stolen, they were beholden to their captor until it was willingly returned. Beautiful when in that human form, they were said to have great powers of seduction over mortals. The men were supposed to be incredible lovers, the answer to the prayers of many a dissatisfied wife and lonely spinster, summoned by shedding seven tears into the sea. The women were said to be excellent wives and mothers because of their gentle nature, but for both male and female, their first love would always be the sea and they could pine away for it if kept trapped on land for too long. Strange, he thought, that beings who could live forever might die of grief. Time and sickness could not fell them, but their emotions could. The new arrival had gray hair flecked with black, matching the pelt she had worn as a seal. She held it dangling from one hand as she greeted the other women. He watched as she folded it carefully and tucked it into a crevice in the rocks.
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The women embraced, chattering excitedly. The one with the dark hair leaned back her head, a dreamy expression on her face. Edward was captivated by her beauty, her lushly rounded figure and that dark sable hair that streamed over the rock beneath her. One of the women pointed to the beach and gestured to the others, who jumped to their feet and scampered off with her to play in the edge of the surf, as innocent and unconcerned with their nudity as Adam and Eve must have been before the Fall. A thought echoed in Edward's mind. Excellent wives and mothers. His breath caught. This could be the solution. He could capture himself a selkie wife to care for Elizabeth and would no longer have to figure out a way to politely refuse marriage offers. When Elizabeth was old enough, he could release the selkie woman and claim that she had died, leaving him an eligible widower once more. His heart pounded in excitement. He crept closer to where he had seen the gray-haired woman stash her pelt, keeping one eye on the frolicking women, lest they catch him in the act. He found the crevice and pulled out the gray pelt. A small part of him had hoped he would find the one which belonged to the dark-haired woman and at the bottom of the pile, he saw one which matched her sable hair. It was amazingly light and small and as warm as a living thing. He couldn't resist stroking the silken-soft hair with his fingers. Such a little thing, not much larger than a dinner napkin. How did she fit inside it? Magic, he supposed, the magic of the fae-folk. He put the others back and tucked the dark sable pelt inside his doublet. He crept carefully down from the rocks and took a seat on the sand to watch them play. He envied them. They had the carefree innocence of children, playing in the afternoon sunshine. When had been the last time he genuinely enjoyed something? He didn't recall ever playing as they were, for even as a small child, he had felt the weight of his responsibilities. The women chased and splashed each other, giggling, diving and rolling in the gray waves, flashes of creamy skin in the gray water. The gulls circled and cried overhead, swooping to join in their games. The dark-haired woman jumped and caught one, releasing it with a laugh when it lolled in her arms. The bird took off again, soaring up into the sky to turn and dive at her. She sank beneath the waves and leapt at it in an explosion of water. It veered off at the last second and she fell back into the water, laughing. What a beautiful sound that was. The sun was settling low in the sky when they finally tired and returned to the rocks to retrieve their pelts. One of the women spotted him and gasped, pointing. In a flash, the pelts were snatched from their hiding places and donned. Two seals
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slipped into the sea, but the dark haired woman was left behind. She frantically searched for her pelt, patting inside the crevice and searching the rocks below, her huge dark eyes watching warily as he approached. A seal's head broke the water a few yards out, a heartbreaking cry came from it, seeing its friend still standing on the rocks, a look of panic twisting on her features. Edward approached slowly, his hands held out to his sides. "Fear not, Selkie. I will not harm you." She let out a whimper and redoubled her search efforts, her hands scrabbling at the rock as if it would open to reveal safety. "I have your pelt," he announced. She sat as if her knees had given out. "Please," she whispered. "Please, give it back to me." Her huge, dark eyes pleaded with him. "No, I think not." He studied her for a moment. "I'll do whatever you ask of me," she said. "Please, just give it back." He shook his head and tears pooled in her eyes. "I have need of you," he said. She eyed his doublet as if she could see her pelt hidden below, but even he knew that she wasn't able to take it back. Once it had been stolen by a mortal, the pelt had to be willingly returned by the one who took it. "What is your name?" he asked. She looked confused for a moment. "I don't have a name-word." How could they communicate without having names, he wondered. "I'll call you 'Bella'," he declared, for she was beautiful, like the untamed sea from whence she came. Isabella had been the name of Queen Katherine's mother, he remembered. He'd simply claim she was Italian or Spanish. "Follow me," he ordered. He led her to the base of the cliff below his house and removed his doublet, revealing the loose white linen shirt he wore below. She gave a soft cry when she spotted her pelt, but he kept a firm grip on it. He handed her the doublet. "Put this on, Bella." He couldn't bring a naked woman back to the house. She stared at it in confusion, so he took it from her and draped it over her shoulders, threading her arms through its sleeves and fastened the gold frogs up the front. The
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doublet hung only to her thighs and she somehow looked even more naked wearing it than she had in naught but her skin. Her arms were swallowed up by its sleeves and the high collar poked up past her chin. She looked like a frightened child and he felt a strange stab of guilt, which he pushed away hastily. He took the journey back to the house in stages, hiding his new selkie wife behind trees, the gate, a parked wagon, to try to avoid being spotted from the house. He opened the servants' side door and nudged her inside after checking to ensure the path was clear. He led her up the narrow steps, tugging at her hand whenever she slowed to stare at unfamiliar objects. Had she ever been in a house before? Edward wondered. He took her into the lady's chambers, the rooms his wife had occupied. Dim, dusty and disused, the rooms had a grim, forgotten air to them. He went to the chest in the corner and used the key on his belt to unlock it. He had to take a deep breath and close his eyes for a moment when he saw one of Mary's gowns, his favorite, folded on the top layer. It was a moss-green velvet, the bodice cut lower than was currently fashionable, but it would have to do until he could clothe Bella properly. He tucked the separate sleeves back inside the trunk. She had no lady in waiting to sew them on and it never crossed his mind to do it himself. "Put this on," he ordered, pushing the gown into her hands. He unlocked the second chest, which held chemises, stays and stockings, his back to Bella to allow her modesty. She would be improperly naked beneath the gown, but he didn't want to overwhelm her, nor have to play ladies' maid in assisting her. He turned back in a few minutes and saw that she had donned the gown backwards and was tugging with a grimace at the constricting cloth over her chest. He sighed. "Pull your arms inside," he said, and tugged it around on her body until it was facing the proper direction. Mary had been larger than Bella and the gown fit loosely, pooling on the floor at her feet. "Stay here," he commanded. "Don't touch anything." She nodded, tears reappearing in those dark, limpid eyes. He felt another irrational surge of guilt, and it made him slam the door behind him as he left. He went in search of his younger brother, Emmett, hoping, but not expecting, to find him home. Usually, Emmett was out drinking and whoring by this time of the day. Edward sighed. It was something he really ought to address, but he simply hadn't had the energy. Emmett had always had a wild streak, but since Mary's death, and his brother's subsequent neglect, Emmett's behavior had gotten a lot worse.
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He was pleased when Emmett opened his bed chamber's door after Edward knocked, but not as pleased to find Emmett swaying on his feet in a cloud of alcoholic fumes. "I have something to show you," Edward said. "Oh?" replied Emmett, without much interest. He shut the door behind him as he stepped out into the hall. "I found someth- someone," Edward said, correcting himself in mid-sentence. "A girl." Now, Emmett was interested. "Good to see you returning to your old self," he commented. "I've been worried for you." "It's not that," Edward said impatiently. "I'm going to make her my new wife." Emmett blinked. "Congratulations. Who is she? The Earl of Hale's daughter? I know he's been pushing you to accept her."' "No, she's ..." Edward hesitated. "She's a selkie maiden." Emmett burst out laughing. "You had me going for a moment, there. It is good to hear you jest again. I was beginning to worry that you'd buried your sense of humor with your wife." "I'm serious." Emmett blinked. "Perhaps you should start from the beginning." Edward told him about spotting the nude women on the beach. "No wonder you like to walk there," Emmett said, with the air of someone who has solved an irritating mystery. "This is the first time I've ever seen them," Edward replied. He pulled the pelt from inside his doublet and handed it to his brother. Emmett stroked it, turning it over and over in his hands, and Edward felt a bizarre spurt of jealously which he roughly squashed. "It seems like an ordinary fur," Emmett commented. "Aye, and a small one at that," Edward agreed. "Yet, I saw it with my own eyes. The other women donned their pelts and turned into seals right before me. The one I took belonged to Bella." "Bella?"
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"That's what I'm calling her. She has no other name, or so she says." Emmett considered. "I've heard that the fae-folk don't like to tell others their names, for they say it gives others power over them." That made more sense that not having one. The poor lass was already in his power, so perhaps she feared giving him anything more to hold over her head. "What do you know of selkies?" he asked his brother. They headed down the hall toward the lady's chambers, Emmett still weaving a bit from his over-indulgence in ale. "They're said to be kind-hearted and they make excellent wives," recited Emmett. "And they have great powers to tempt a man with their flesh." Edward considered. He'd certainly been attracted to her before she had even known he was watching. If she focused that power intentionally on him ... He found that he wasn't exactly opposed to the idea and was faintly surprised. He hadn't had the appetites of a man since Mary had died. He opened the door of the lady's chambers and found Bella exactly where he'd left her, her hands clasped around her arms. She was shivering though the room was not cold. She looked from him to Emmett, her eyes growing even larger when she took in the sight of his brother. Edward knew that the sight of Emmett could sometimes be disconcerting. His size alone was enough to intimidate, even without the scar that branched across his cheek. Emmett was looking carefully elsewhere. He'd learned not to watch people's initial reaction to his appearance. "Bella, this is Emmett, my brother," Edward told her. "If I am not here, you are to obey him as you would obey me." "You can't leave her in here," Emmett said, his eyes flicking around the dismal room. "You need to have this chamber cleaned and aired." Edward felt irritated. That meant she would have to stay in his room, for none of the others were prepared to receive guests. This was already turning out to be more trouble than he had expected. "Follow," he said to Bella and headed for his own chamber. She froze int he doorway, her eyes huge and round. "Come," he commanded, gesturing at her to enter. She shook her head, her hand going to her throat. "She's afraid," Emmett said.
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"I won't hurt you." Edward took hold of her arm (her skin is so soft!) and tried to pull her inside. Bella clamped her hands around the door frame and refused to budge, and her eyes had the same look as the doe he had brought down during his last hunting trip. "What's wrong?" he demanded. She was staring at the fireplace. He tried to see what it was that alarmed her so, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary to him. "Fire!" Emmett said, clapping his hands when the answer occurred to him. "Selkies are afraid of fire. I'd forgotten." "It's contained," Edward said impatiently. "It won't hurt you." He put his arms around her and dragged her inside. Bella's soft, warm body wiggling against his woke hungers that he hadn't felt in years, so he released her as soon as possible. She bolted for the door. "God's teeth!" Edward muttered. What was he going to do now? Tie her to the bed? (That had interesting possibilities that he'd never before considered.) "Fret not, little selkie," Emmett said cheerfully and seized his water pitcher, flinging the contents on the flames. The room went dim and Bella visibly relaxed. "You're going to have to get used to being around fire," Edward warned. "These old stone keeps get cool at night, and I won't live in darkness just to indulge you." "You might have to," Emmett said, lowering his voice to a level only Edward was intended to hear. "The more stress she feels in her new life, the more likely she is to pine away for the sea. She could die." "Your grace?" Rosalie, Elizabeth's nurse, tapped at the door. "Supper has been-" She cut off, staring at the new arrival. "This is Lady Cullen," Edward said. "My new wife." Rosalie blinked at him. "Yes, we married very suddenly," Edward babbled, trying to come up with a lie on the spot. "I've been waiting for her to arrive from her homeland to announce our marriage." "Your Grace," Rosalie said, sinking into a curtsey. Bella stared at her.
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"She ... ah, she has different customs than we do," Edward explained. Rosalie said nothing. "She, um, she is from the New World," Edward said as an idea rapidly formed in his mind, "brought back on one of the Spanish ships. In her land, she is a princess." This last bit was a flash of inspiration. He did not want his new wife to be an object of derision and if people felt she was of sufficiently high rank, she would be spared at least some of it. In a time when a letter could take months to reach its destination, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for anyone to be able to disprove his story. There had been cases in which people pretended to be royalty for years before anyone caught on, and Edward intended to keep his new selkie wife hidden away from the eyes of the public as much as possible. "Let's go to supper, shall we?" Edward said, extending his arm to Bella. She took it, watching Rosalie timidly from under her lashes. Oddly enough, Rosalie seemed to scare her more than Emmett had. "Your Grace?" Edward looked at Rosalie who stared pointedly at Bella's bare arms. "Oh! Yes, perhaps you should assist Her Grace." Rosalie was not happy about it, but she took the sleeves when Edward retrieved them for her and swiftly attached them, muttering all the while about Bella's scandalous lack of undergarments. It was beneath the dignity of a duke to acknowledge the muttering of a servant and Rosalie frequently used this method to air her views. Bella stood as still as a statue. Edward didn't think she even breathed. As soon as Rosalie had finished she bolted over to Edward, as if he offered some sort of safety. The high table in the great hall had been set as it was every night, guests or no, with the finest of Edward's silver. Beside his plate sat the gold goblet which had been a wedding gift from his uncle, Henry VIII. The seat to his right had been set with Emmett's favorite goblet, which Edward hastily switched for the one on his left, the seat Emmet would occupy now that Edward had a new wife to take the honored position. He pulled out the chair for Bella and motioned her to sit. She obeyed, but looked very uncomfortable, as if she weren't used to utilizing such strange furniture. She gaped at the table's centerpiece, a mountain of flowers on which a gilt bird cage was
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perched, containing two live birds. Bella appeared to sympathize with their plight. The servants brought in the first dish, a haunch of veal that had soaked overnight in salt and spices. It was covered with a sugary pomegranate sauce with juicy plums. One of Edward's favorites. Accompanying it was an eel pie, a roasted peacock, covered in gilt, its feathers artistically replaced, and a roasted chicken that had been stuffed with a dove that had, in turn, been stuffed with a lark. Edward had a skilled carver, who could deliver a slice containing flesh from all three birds. "Mmm, brewet!" Emmett said as a dish of thinly sliced meat caramelized in cinnamon was presented. "You'd best get a serving now," Edward advised Bella. "Emmett has been known to eat the entire dish himself." Through the three courses of the meal, over twenty dishes would be served. The nobles would have a small bit from each of their favorites; some dishes went untouched. After the family had finished eating, the higher-ranked servants would have their meal from it, and the leftovers would continue to be passed down until the entire household had eaten, ending with the "broken meats" being distributed to the poor who lined up at the kitchen door in hopes of a meal. A large fish was brought out, beautifully posed in blue aspic, its scales gilded and its mouth stuffed with figs. The server sat it on the table in front of Bella, whose face was one of slowly dawning horror. She let out a choked cry, pressing her hands over her mouth. Tears welled in her eyes. She jumped up and grabbed the fish off the platter and ran for the door. The servants stared at her retreating form, then bent their heads to whisper. Edward ground his teeth. This was why he had reduced his household. Emmett burst into laughter. "Maybe it was a friend," he gasped. "This isn't funny, Emmett," Edward said, rising to follow his strange little bride. The guilt returned, and with it came an equally strange desire to protect this poor creature from distress. He had done enough harm as it was, stealing her away from her life, her family. A terrible thought occurred to him: what if she had a selkie husband? Children? He hadn't asked. But why should he care? She wasn't a person. She probably didn't even have a soul. She certainly wasn't Christian because no Christian woman would play naked in the surf on a beach. That would be something he had to correct and fast. Queen Mary was bound to bring England back into the Catholic church and she was eager to stamp out heresy.
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He followed Bella down he steep, thin path to the beach. He found her on her knees, sobbing, burying the roasted fish in the sand. He crouched down beside her as she patted the mound of sand over the small grave. "Bella, can you explain to me why you were so upset?" "All of the dead things," she whispered. "Dead things everywhere. Decorated. And you were going to eat them." "You don't eat meat?" She shook her head. "Surely you see creatures in the sea which eat others." She stared out at the expanse of water with longing written in her eyes. "Yes, that is the cycle of life, but they do not ... dress up and parade the poor things." He could see that she was struggling to find the right words to express what had troubled her so. It was the macabre, festive presentation of the dishes, the birds re-adorned with their feathers, fruits stuffed in their mouths. "I will have to tell my cook to prepare more vegetable dishes for you," Edward said. "I'm sorry it bothered you, but this is something you will simply have to get used to. I am a duke. Do you understand what that means?" "A little." "Well, it entails a great deal of pageantry, even when I dine only with my family. And and furthermore, being a noble means a great deal of people watching your every move. You cannot do something like this again, Bella. The people will forgive a bit of eccentricity because they believe you are from a far-off land with different customs, but you must try to adapt to life here." "You won't let me go," she said in a small voice, her eyes still affixed to the sea. "No. I need you. I have a daughter, Elizabeth, who needs a mother badly. That is why I took you as my wife." The guilt was back and it made him awkward. "I ... I will try to be a good husband to you, try to make you happy," he offered. "I won't make you ... that is, I will not force my ... ah ... attentions on you." "But you will let me go?" she insisted.
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"After Elizabeth is old enough to not need a mother," he agreed. "Do you swear it?" she asked. Her eyes shifted from the sea to lock with his and he had the feeling that this was no ordinary promise. She was binding him to a vow. Edward's spine tingled in warning. A promise made to the fae-folk was not to be taken lightly. "I swear it," he said and felt a strong breeze ruffle his hair.

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Chapter 2
A/N: Voting continues until next Thursday on which story you would like me to complete first. (Visit my profile page for a link to the poll.) It seems split pretty evenly at this point, so I'm writing on both while I'm waiting for the results and I thought I'd go ahead and post the next chapters.

Chapter Two

Edward led Bella back to the house. Going up the path was rough for her because of her over-long skirts and she stumbled frequently, so Edward held her arm to keep her from falling. Touching her arm was enough to wake his senses again, recalling how soft her skin had felt when he tried to pull her into his chamber, and he wondered if she was working her selkie magics on him. "Are you hungry?" he asked her as they entered the house through the same door he'd used the first time he brought her here. The table had likely been cleared by now, but he was sure he could order her something from the kitchens. "No," she said. She dropped her skirts. The hem was wet and caked with sand, likely ruined. He felt a moment's grief for the gown, for he had always loved the sight of his wife in it. "Bella, when you speak to me in public, you must address me properly." She looked around the empty hallway as if looking for the public he had mentioned. "The servants' ears are everywhere," he explained. "Whenever we are out of our chambers, or around other people, you must address me according to my rank. If you don't, people will think that you are rude and disrespectful." "What do I say?" she asked. Her tone was resigned, but he was pleased at her willingness to obey. "You must call me 'Your Grace', or 'My lord husband'," he said. And incredibly, he found himself adding, "But when we are in our chambers, alone, you may call me 'Edward'." Why had he offered that? And why did he suddenly want to hear the sound of his name on her lips?
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"Yes, my lord husband," she repeated, trying out the phrase. He smiled at her. "Very good, my lady wife. Let us go visit my daughter." He led her down the hall to where Elizabeth's nursery was located. As they reached the door, he heard Rosalie shout, "You willful little imp!" accompanied by the sound of a slap. He pushed open the door and found Rosalie still standing over Elizabeth, her hand drawn back to deliver another blow. His timid little selkie wife turned into a lion. With an outraged snarl, Bella charged forward, knocking Rosalie back into the stone wall, her forearm pressed over Rosalie's throat. She was much smaller than Rosalie, but her aggression more than made up for the difference in size. Her eyes were shooting sparks of rage and Edward was entranced by her ferocious beauty. In this moment, in her fire, Bella was magnificent. "You dare to strike my lord husband's child?" Bella growled. Rosalie gasped and gurgled, pulling ineffectually at the arm cutting off her air supply. She cast a pleading look at Edward, who was still frozen in place. "If you ever strike that child again," Bella hissed, "I will beat you 'til you are naught but pudding!" Rosalie was turning purple. Bella pulled her arm away and the woman fell to her knees, gasping for air in great hoarse whoops. Elizabeth, who had been watching this incident with wide-eyed fascination, ran to her new partisan, her arms held up. Edward's heart tugged at the sight of her. Elizabeth wore a tiny replica of one of her mother's dresses, brown velvet, heavily embroidered with gold-wrapped thread and covered with scattered seed pearls. Under it, she wore the same type of corset as an adult woman and her head was covered by a white linen cap known as a biggin. Bella smiled gently at her and swooped the child up into her arms. With a shake of her fist at Rosalie, she marched from the room. Edward followed, dazed. Bella headed for his bedchamber but halted in the doorway when she saw the fire had been re-lit. "There must be a fire," Edward said. "You do not wish the child to take a chill, do you?"
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Bella shuddered but stepped inside. She chose to stay on the far side of the room from the fire, taking a seat on Edward's bed. It was one of the most opulent pieces of furniture in the house with its thick feather mattress and embroidered red velvet hangings, suspended from rods hung from the ceiling. The dosser, the hanging behind the bed, was richly embroidered with his family crest. There were no pillows; those were usually only used by the sick or infirm. Edward waited for Bella to look impressed at its grandeur but all of her attention was focused on Elizabeth. She sat on the edge of the bed and perched the child on her lap. Elizabeth was babbling to her new friend and Bella was listening with apparent interest, though Edward couldn't follow what she was saying. While Bella's attention was engaged, he rose and went to his cabinet and drew the key from a pocket inside his doublet. He unlocked it and stashed Bella's pelt inside, locking the doors. He gave the doors a tug to make sure they were secured. He knew that Bella couldn't steal back her pelt, even if he simply laid it on a table out in the open. It had to be willingly returned. But he felt the need to lock it up safely ... just in case. Bella seemed to be genuinely enjoying talking with his daughter. Despite his love for her, Edward spent little time with Elizabeth, as did most of the parents in his social class. He made it a point to visit her once a day, usually in the evenings after dinner. She would curtsey to him and then recite the lesson she had learned that day. Despite the advice of Rosalie and his friends, he couldn't help but give her affection, though he'd been warned it would spoil her. Children in his word were treated much like little adults and sternly disciplined, lest they fall into sin or become spoiled by too much indulgence. Edward had seen his own parents only once or twice per week when they were in residence, which was not often, since they followed the court as it moved from palace to palace. He would be dressed in his best and brought to them to recite his lessons and receive their blessing. He still remembered the fear he always felt at being pinned under his father's cold gaze, fear which made his words stumble and stutter as they did at no other time. Weak and permissive as it might be, Edward did not want Elizabeth to fear him. She had a sweet, obedient nature and he felt she did not need added fear to keep her in line. Rosalie was the stern disciplinarian in her life. Which brought him to his current problem: what to do about his little selkie wife's interference? He had been too stunned at the time at her abrupt shift in demeanor to say anything, but he had to try to explain to her that this was the fashion in which children were disciplined in his world. They had to be kept strictly on path. Bella probably didn't understand. Selkie children did not have the same level of responsibility as human children. They did not have to be prepared to run an estate when they reached maturity. They did
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not need to know Latin or Italian to be able to understand conversations at court. They did not have to be able to play an instrument, or to dance properly or any of the other hundreds of things that went into raising a person of noble blood. But this was why he had taken Bella, to have a mother to love and care for his child. Criticizing her methods now might do much harm. He decided to wait for a while, to see how Bella handled her mothering duties before bringing up the subject of discipline again. For all he knew, selkies had their own, equally effective, methods. And through his mind, an image flashed of Bella rapping Elizabeth across the top of knuckles with a fish, and he laughed aloud. Elizabeth stopped in mid-word, her eyes going round at the sound. Only rarely had she heard her father laugh and it startled her. Bella froze, too, but for another reason. She had removed Elizabeth's cap and was combing her brown curls with her fingers. "Lice!" she cried, as horror-stricken as though she had found a hole in Elizabeth's head. "Again?" Edward sighed. "I'll have Rosalie fetch the lavender oil and the comb." Lice and fleas and other vermin were an unavoidable aspect of life. Many people wore a piece of fur next to their skin because the pests were attracted to the dense hair, and could be discarded. "No! Hurts!" Elizabeth squealed, throwing her hands up to protect her head. "I promise it won't," Bella said, gently pulling them away. "And if you sit quietly, I'll tell you a story." Edward returned in just a moment with the bottle of lavender oil and the fine-toothed comb. As it turned out, that had been the struggle which caused Rosalie to slap Elizabeth. But she settled down in front of Bella willingly as Bella began to rub the oil through her curls. Edward took a seat in the chair by the fire, propping his feet up on the grate. "There once was a beautiful princess named Mary," Bella began. Elizabeth clapped her hands. "That's my mother's name!" "That's right. Your mother may have been named for the princess. Well, the princess's brother saw that his sister was very beautiful and accomplished. She could dance like a leaf in the wind, and when she sang, it was like listening to the song of the birds on a spring morning. He started looking for a husband for Princess Mary, and he knew he could make a fine match for her. But the princess had already
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given her heart to one of the men in her brother's court." Edward's feet fell from the grate and he sat up in his chair as he realized that Bella was telling Elizabeth about his own mother. Where had she heard this story? he wondered. Did selkies tell stories of those on land, the way that humans told tales of the fae-folk? "Her brother would never consider the match because he was greedy," Bella continued. She stroked the comb through Elizabeth's hair, gently untangling any snarls before working the comb through her locks. Elizabeth didn't even seem to notice what she was doing, so wrapped up in the story. "He knew he could get more for his sister than the man she loved could ever provide. The husband he chose for her was an old and sick man, a king of a far-off land. Princess Mary wept when she heard the news, but she told her brother she would obey his wishes, if he made a promise to her: that she could choose her next husband after the old king died. Her brother agreed, and Mary sailed away on a ship, not knowing how long it would be until she returned." "This is sad," Elizabeth complained. "It gets better," Bella promised. "The old king did not live long after their marriage. Mary went to stay at a convent while she waited for her brother to send for her." Actually, she had been installed in the convent to wait the traditional 40 days to ensure she wasn't pregnant with an heir to the throne, and to isolate her from any men who might hurriedly create a false claimant. "What's a convent?" Elizabeth asked. "It's a house where nuns live," Bella said, and Edward was again surprised that she knew so much about life on land. "Unbeknownst to the princess, her brother was already planning to marry her to another king. He had never intended to keep his promise. He sent a man from his court to go retrieve his sister, and you know who he was?" "Who?" Elizabeth asked eagerly. "He was the man the princess had fallen in love with! The old king's son found out about Mary's love for this man and helped them meet in secret. She asked the man to marry her and he did!"
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Edward still had a copy of the letter his father, Charles Brandon, had sent to Henry VIII, hoping for the king's forgiveness. Charles had known Henry would be furious at losing his sister as a pawn in the royal marriage market, but he had been helpless to resist her. "She weeped," Charles wrote. "I have never seen a woman so weep." Before he quite knew what was happening, Mary had him standing in front of a priest, reciting vows. He confessed in his letter, "I say it plainly- I have married her and lain with her heartily, insomuch that I fear lest she be with child," trying to ensure Henry wouldn't try to have the marriage annulled. To try to help soften her brother's anger, Princess Mary had kept a sizable chunk of the French crown jewels, which she was supposed to return because they weren't her personal property. Instead, she gave them to her brother as a consolation gift. One of the gems was a diamond so large that it had its own name: the Mirror of Naples. The new French king had been rather upset by this, and he probably felt a bit betrayed since he had helped Princess Mary and Charles meet. He wrote to king Henry, demanding the king give them back. In response, King Henry had sent back some small pieces of little value, a gesture loaded with implied insult, as if to say the French crown jewels were comprised of cheap trinkets, and then had his portrait painted wearing the Mirror of Naples prominently on his doublet. Henry never had fully forgiven his sister or her husband. He had imposed a fine of a thousand pounds per year for twenty-four years, a massive sum, and when Princess Mary had died, Charles found himself forced to marry another woman immediately afterward for her dowry in order to pay it. He married the girl to whom Emmett had been betrothed, a fourteen-year-old baroness, and Edward found himself with a stepmother of his own age. "Do you know who that princess was?" Bella asked Elizabeth. "It was your grandmother!" How did she know that? Edward wondered again. Elizabeth sighed. "Grandmother and Grandfather are in heaven," she said solemnly. "Yes, they are, and I'm sure they're happy, together again." Edward thought about correcting her, because according to the Church's teachings, there was no marriage in heaven, but he decided against it. Let the child believe in her happy tales as long as she could. After she finished cleaning the nits from Elizabeth's hair, Bella washed it in a bowl
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of scented water. Elizabeth had whined because she hated to have her hair washed, but Bella was gently insistent, and Elizabeth found, to her surprise, that it was a pleasant experience. Bella didn't get soap in her eyes or roughly grab her hair and pull if she wriggled. Bella had laid the child on a table and put the bowl under her head on a chair, using a cup to pour the water through Elizabeth's hair, which Edward thought was quite clever of her. "You need to sit before the fire until it dries," Edward told Elizabeth. Wet hair was dangerous. It could lead to all sorts of ill humours and sickness. For this reason, people of the time didn't bathe often. According to Doctor Andrew Boorde, whom Edward corresponded with frequently on matters of health, bathing "allowed the venomous airs to enter and destroyeth the lively spirits in man and enfeebleth the body." Every day, Edward was washed by his servants, using a bowl of scented water and perfumed castill soap made from olive oil instead of animal fat. The family priest, Father Jacob, had chastised him for it, saying that it denoted a sinful vanity of the body, but Edward was sensitive to smells. He took a tub bath about once a month, less in winter. Elizabeth hopped down off the table and obediently trotted over to her father, plunking herself down on the hearth at his feet. Bella shook her head, those huge, limpid selkie eyes begging him not to force her nearer the thing she feared so greatly. Edward sighed and went to his chest to fetch an ordinary comb and sat down on a footstool to comb his daughter's hair until it dried. He kept recalling Emmett's words about trying to avoid distressing Bella. He had coaxed her into a room with a fire. That was enough stress for one day. As he combed, Elizabeth chattered about her day. She was being taught her letters now; education began very early for their social class. (Queen Mary had learned how to play the virginals before the age of four. ) Soon, he would have to engage a tutor for her. He decided to write to Roger Ascham for a suggestion. He had been the tutor of Princess Elizabeth, Edward's cousin, and she was widely renowned as one of the most educated women in England. Rosalie tapped on his ajar chamber door. "Your grace? It is past Lady Elizabeth's bed-time." She kept her head bowed to avoid Bella's hot glare. Edward spoke to his daughter, "Run along, poppet. I'll see you tomorrow." "Will you bring my new mother?" Elizabeth asked eagerly. Rosalie must have explained Bella's position. "Yes, I will," he said, patting her head. "Bless you, sweetheart, and sleep well."
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When she had gone, Bella asked softly, "Can we put out the fire now?" "It's not going to hurt you," Edward said. "It's contained in the fireplace." "Would you sleep comfortably if you knew there was a serpent 'contained' over there?" He conceded the point. He took the bowl of water she had used to wash Elizabeth's hair and used it to douse the flames. Perhaps he could acclimate her to it slowly, over time. One way or the other, she had to learn to accept it before winter came or they'd freeze. The room was much darker now, with only a few candles for illumination. He snuffed each of them and she visibly relaxed. "How did you know my mother's story?" Edward asked. "The selkies love that story," Bella replied. "We tell it to our babies." He drew in a sharp breath. "Bella, do you have children?" "None of my own," she said. He continued, jaw clenched. "Do you have a husband?" She shook her head. "A lover?" "Oh, yes, lots of those," she said nodding enthusiastically. Edward was didn't understand the feelings that swelled in him at this answer. Anger, jealousy and strangely enough, hurt. He pinched the bridge of his nose. He knew she didn't have the same moral upbringing as himself, but he would not be cuckolded by her. "Listen to me very carefully, Bella. You may not have any other lovers while you are with me. Do you understand?" She nodded again. "I knew that. Humans are jealous. You needn't worry. I cannot leave to visit anyone because you have my pelt." "You might meet someone new, someone here." It was oddly difficult to grind out those words. He needed to do some deep thinking to try to understand these emotions.
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Her eyes softened. "No, Edward, I wouldn't. You have taken me for a wife and I will be loyal to you." She seemed to be regarding this along the lines of an arranged marriage, something not sought, but that she must be accept. He found himself feeling surprised at her lack of resentment. "Good, good," he muttered. "'Tis late. We should go to bed." She pulled back the covers on his bed and started to climb in. "No!" he said, more sharply than he intended. She stopped and stared at him, blinking those large, dark eyes in confusion. "You can not sleep here," he said. "I'll have the servants make up the bed in the lady's chamber." "I must sleep alone?" she asked, her voice sounding shocked. He cleared his throat. "I- Bella, er ... I don't intend to lie with you." She seemed disappointed. "How will we have babies, then?" He shook his head. "I don't want more babies right now. Elizabeth is enough for me." A question occurred to him. "Would our children be selkies?" "No, only two selkies can have a selkie baby. Our babies would be human." She sounded wistful. He cursed inwardly, for if he called the servants to make her a bed, everyone would know that he wasn't sleeping with his new wife. The gossip would spread through the ranks of their servants and then to neighboring estates and soon, the whole countryside would be talking about it. "You may sleep in here," he said. "Just sleep, mind you." He pulled the cord twice for his body servant and when he entered, Edward wordlessly held his arms out to be undressed. The man gave him a peculiar look when Edward told him to leave on his white linen undershirt, for Edward usually slept naked. He eyed Bella, who was sitting on the bed, watching him be disrobed. He felt his face flush. Here was a problem. She had no ladies' maid to undress her and Edward certainly wasn't going to volunteer for the task. He waited until his servant had departed before telling her, "Sleep as you are."
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Bella looked puzzled. "In clothes?" "Yes, wearing your clothes." She climbed into the bed and laid down stiffly. Edward did the same on the other side. The duke's bed was enormous and could easily sleep six across its feather-stuffed mattress, but tonight it felt uncomfortably narrow. Bella's nearness taunted him. His mind helpfully supplied him with images of what he could do and it was made worse by the suspicion that she wouldn't reject his overtures. He sighed. Selkies were strange creatures. She tossed and turned, tugging at the bodice like it was choking her and tried to kick her legs free of the tangling skirts. She sighed. Wriggled some more. Sighed and rolled over and then wriggled again. Yanked at the bodice. Squirmed. He groaned silently, knowing he'd never be able to sleep like this. "Bella, you may remove the gown," he said. She sat up and pulled it off over her head, sewn-on sleeves and all. He tried not to look. He tried very hard not to look. He looked. Her breasts were lush and full with pink rosebud nipples. His body, mostly dead for the last two years, came fully awake and stood at attention. She sighed happily and laid back down, lying on her stomach, the sheet draped down around her waist. She pillowed her head on her hands. He tried not to stare. He tried very hard not to stare. He stared. Her back was like a pool of cream, smooth and unblemished. The sheet fell so low that he could see the upper curves of her lush bottom and a hint of the cleft between. Lust punched through him, hot, needy, hungry. It wasn't a sin to lust for one's wife, but Edward felt guilty. I'm sorry, Mary, he thought. He had never lain with another woman other than his wife, for he'd loved her from the moment he met her and no one could ever compare. Their lovemaking had been awkward at first, but they had learned each other's bodies over the years
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and how to give one another pleasure. His little selkie wife slept peacefully, unaware of the hot gaze of the man beside her, unaware how much he wanted her. He tore his eyes from her but every time he closed them, her image seemed inscribed on the back of his eyelids. He tried to think of Scripture to make it go away, but his mind filled with the Song of Solomon. He silently cursed and rose to retreat to the privacy of the garderobe, but when he returned, the body he thought he had sinfully sated returned to its agonizing state of arousal. He sighed and laid back down. It was going to be a long night.

He woke with his arms full of warm, naked selkie. He groaned and she awoke, her soft, dark eyes blinking up at him sleepily. She smiled and snuggled back against his chest. She gave a protesting noise when he slipped away. He stood, making sure his shirt was pulled down to cover himself. "I will send one of the chambermaids to act as your dresser until we get you someone suitable," he said and hurried over to yank on the bell cord. "Put your dress back on until my man has finished dressing me." He took his jeweled dagger from its place on table beside the bed and pricked his finger, dripping blood onto the white sheets. Bella's brow wrinkled in confusion. "What are you doing?" "You spent the night as my wife in my chamber," he said. "If there were no blood on the sheets, there would be gossip." Her confusion hadn't diminished. "Why would there be blood?" Edward flushed. He put the dagger down and licked his finger. "Er ... because ... Didn't you bleed the first time you lay with a man?" She shook her head. "No." He sighed. He really did not want to have to explain a maidenhead to her. "Human women do," he said bluntly an turned away as his servant entered the room. Edward skipped his morning wash because he was very aware that his new bride
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was on the other side of the bed curtains. He wouldn't put it past her to peek. As soon as he was dressed, he fled, giving orders for someone to be sent up to help Bella. There was a breakfast of bread, cheese and ale waiting for him in the room outside of his bedchamber. Edward gulped the ale, and suddenly, being drunk all day, like Emmett, didn't seem so bad after all. "Brother, I need to speak to you," Emmett said from the doorway. Edward gestured him inside and they both took seats at the small table. Emmett eyed the ale jug and Edward passed it to him silently. Emmett retrieved a cup from the mantel and filled it. "I think you should marry her," he said. "In the church, publicly." "I called her my wife in front of witnesses," Edward said. "That's enough to make us legally married." It was, after all, what had given grounds for king Henry VIII to annul his marriage to his fifth wife, Kathryn Howard, before he executed her for adultery. Kathryn had once had a lover whom she had called "husband" in front of some of her friends. That was enough to make her, legally, the wife of Francis Dereham, and her marriage to the king invalid. No one, apparently, was brave enough to point out that if she had never been legally married to the king, she couldn't have committed adultery. Using logic with King Henry, a man who could say 'God and my conscience are in perfect agreement' with a straight face, was a risky proposition at best. Emmett nodded. "That is true, but have you given thought to what Queen Mary will say?" Edward groaned. He hadn't, really. For the first time in his life, royal protocol had not guided his actions. His royal blood made his marriage a matter of state. Mary should have been petitioned before any marriage plans were discussed. She could insist he have it annulled unless he was formally married in her eyes, and that meant a Catholic wedding. "I cannot do it now, in any case," he said, lowering his voice in case any servants were eavesdropping. "Bella is not a Christian. No priest would marry us." "You'd better do something about that," Emmett said, "and right soon. Queen Mary is bound to try to bring England back under the Catholic faith, and despite that proclamation she issued about not forcing anyone back into the Church, I think the pope will urge her to purge heresy from her lands." "Bella is not a heretic," Edward said. "She was never a Christian, so she cannot commit an offense against the faith."
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"You have to teach her," Emmett replied. "She has to at least be able to pretend or she could lead us all into danger." Edward sighed and drank another cup of ale. "And, on the same subject, we'd better restore the chapel," Emmett said. When the young king had been on the throne, he had passed many reforms of the English church, and Edward had conformed willingly, since he had Protestant leanings himself. The chaplain of the estate, Father Jacob, was the cousin of Edward's wife, which was the only reason why Edward never sent him away. He'd always disliked Jacob and felt that the priest was a just a little but mad. Mary, however, had always been insistent that they offer Jacob a place in their home, and Edward had endured many years of Jacob's lengthy diatribes at Sunday mass. Once the reforms had been passed (seemingly updated every year with new changes) Edward had set up a Protestant chapel with a second chaplain and kept a Catholic one for Jacob. Edward had always thought that one day, Jacob's loud railing against the emerging Protestant faith would land him in trouble, but now that Queen Mary was on the throne, Jacob's fire-and-brimstone views of Protestants would likely be in favor again. Edward raked his hands through his hair. He had an estate to run, a queen to appease and a selkie wife to turn into a Christian Englishwoman. And he imagined the latter would probably be the most difficult.

Footnotes:I have taken a few liberties with history in this story. Tudorphiles will probably note that Edward should be the Duke of Suffolk, and that Frances Grey should be his sister. However, I couldn't bear to have that horrid woman be Edward's sister in this story, so consider Frances to be the daughter of another unnamed sibling of Henry VIII. There is also some debate over whether Kathryn Howard's marriage was actually annulled, or she was simply stripped of her title. She was convicted of treason under the law that King Henry hurriedly passed which made it illegal for a woman the king wanted to marry to conceal her sexual history from him, or to "incite" a man to commit adultery with the queen.

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Chapter 3
Chapter Three

She sat on the edge of Edward's bed and waited. Edward had said he would send someone up to dress her, for which, she supposed, she ought to be grateful because these clothes were so confusing. When she'd last spent time on land, gowns had been simple and loose. Bella. She had to start thinking of herself as Bella. She'd worn many name-words given to her by those she met when she played on land, but she was going to have to remember this one. It seemed she'd be here a long while. Thankfully, her new husband seemed to be kind. She knew of selkies who had been captured by men who yelled and hit. His little daughter was adorable and Bella hoped she'd get to spend more time with her. She had to focus on the positives of her situation. Everything here was so hard and sharp and dry, the air full of strange smells. The bed on which she sat smelled like dead birds. She rose and walked over to the window. Small diamond panes of glass covered it, so she couldn't even get a breath of fresh air. She could catch glimpses of the sea through the trees. She pressed her fingertips to the glass, longing to dance beneath the waves. Two young women entered, their arms full of clothing. More of Edward's wife's clothes. It wasn't unusual for a new wife to inherit the first wife's clothing, especially valuable garments made of sumptuous materials such as these. Another woman trailed behind with a bowl of steaming water. They all curtsied to Bella and she nodded to them, as Edward had instructed. They stripped the green gown off of her, unlacing the sleeves. The woman who'd carried the bowl draped the gown over her arms and carried it away. One of the women dipped a cloth into the water and began to scrub the new duchess like a table. Bella endured it silently, but she didn't understand why she had to be scrubbed so thoroughly. She had a bit of salt on her skin from playing in the ocean with her friends, but she wasn't dirty. Bella inwardly sighed. Humans were strange creatures, especially her new husband. He wanted her. She could tell. When he'd woken with her in his arms this morning, he had been aroused, but he didn't touch her. She couldn't understand
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that. And then he'd said he didn't want any babies! Every selkie Bella knew who'd been taken as a land-wife had babies with their new husbands. She'd been looking forward to it as one of the consolations for her captivity. When she had been buffed by a towel and pronounced clean, the women dropped a loose, soft, white linen gown over her head. Its sleeves were massively full, caught at the wrist with a cuff. "What is this called?" she asked. The maids looked at one another, and the one on the left answered. "It's your chemise, your grace." "Thank you. What is your name?" She must have made a mistake in asking because the maids exchanged another glance, surprise on their features. "Joan, if it pleases your grace." She bowed her head. "And you?" "Anne, your grace." They went back to their tasks. They lifted her legs one at a time and tugged up tubes of fabric over them. "Stockings, your grace," Joan said when she asked. They were tied at the knee with ribbons. Afterward, Joan named each garment as they put it on her. The next was called "a pair of bodies" and it was a sleeveless garment with boning sewed inside dozens of little channels. It extended down in the front in a point which reached almost to Bella's pubic bone. Anne tugged on the laces until it was so tight that Bella could barely breathe. Her chest had been flattened to the fashionable flat curve and her shoulders were forced back. Joan slipped a piece of triangular wood, called a busk, up inside a pocket in the front. They dropped a lace-adorned white skirt over her head and tied it in the back. Bella looked down and thought it was a very pretty outfit, if a bit uncomfortable. But they weren't finished. Bella almost laughed at the next item they put on her. It was the first time she'd ever seen a farthingale, a petticoat with willow hoops sewn inside it. Bella thought it looked like a bird cage. Over it went yet another two petticoats.
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Bella was already getting tired of this, incredulous at the multiple layers of clothing she was supposed to wear. Land women did this every day? They put on the bodice of the dress. It was sleeveless and cut unfashionably low in front, the neckline lined with large pearls, without the stand-up collar which was in style. (Bella liked pearls. She and her friends collected them and used them to play games.) It was scarlet velvet, a color and material that could only be worn by those above the rank of baron, embroidered thickly with silver thread. It opened in the front, and a panel of fabric which matched the rest of the gown, called a stomacher, was fastened over it with gold pins. Next was the cloth-of-silver kirtle, over which went the red velvet overskirt, split down the middle to reveal the forepart of the kirtle below, and then the sleeves were sewn on. They were double-layered, red velvet on top and huge cloth of silver undersleeves with slits on the lower edge. Joan used a small hook to pull puffs of Bella's chemise through them. Bella wobbled under the weight of all this clothing. She could not lift her arms any higher than her ribs and she could not bend at the waist, nor could she take a deep breath. The dress itself was too large and too long, requiring the women to hurriedly stitch up the hem, but everything else pinched and constricted. Why, oh, why couldn't she have been captured by a poor farmer? Anne brushed Bella's long hair and then pinned it up in a coil on the back of her head. A fine lawn cap was placed over it and then a hat, which looked like it had been squashed, flat on top and bulging out at the top corners. A dark, fine veil hung from the crown, flowing down Bella's back. The shoes, at least, were comfortable, made of soft black leather with a square toe. Bella, naturally, preferred bare feet, but she didn't mind these, soft and flexible as they were. "Would you break your fast, your grace?" Bella shook her head. She wasn't hungry. She knew she should be, since she hadn't eaten since yesterday morning when she'd had a snack of juicy kelp before heading to the shore to meet with her friends. "Shall we re-build the fire, your grace?" "No!" Bella said quickly. Too quickly, judging by their expressions.
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The two maids went over to make the bed and exchanged meaningful glances when they saw the bloodstain that Edward had created by pricking his finger. She wondered what he'd meant when he said human women bled the first time they laid with a man. After the maids left, Bella went back to the window to watch the sea. She wondered how her family had taken the news that she was now a land-wife. They had been going to head back to the Cold Sea in a few days. Would her family move on without her or would they want to stay, to be close by? They might, even now, be waiting at the shore for her, hoping she could come to visit them. Tears pooled in her eyes and she leaned her forehead against the cool glass. "Bella." She heard her new name and turned to see Edward striding through the door. He stopped in his tracks when he saw her, dressed up as a land-woman, and stared, his mouth slightly ajar. "My lord husband," she said, giving him a curtsey. When she stood, she trod on the hem of her skirt, which knocked her off balance. Edward crossed the room quickly and put his hands on her shoulders to steady her. "You look ... You look ...very comely, Bella." A flush appeared on his cheekbones. "Thank you, Edward," she replied. "You are very comely as well." And he went redder at her compliment. "Bella, I need to speak to you. Please, sit." He gestured to one of the great carved wood chairs in front of the dark fireplace. She waddled and swayed her way over to it and sat. The front of her farthingale flew up and hit her in the chin. It didn't hurt, but it was a surprise. Edward laughed and she laughed a little herself. "You have to hold up the back of your skirt when you sit." He demonstrated, and Bella giggled at his silly pose. She struggled to get up from the chair, but stiff and weighted down, she couldn't work her way to her feet. He clasped one of her outstretched hands and helped her up. She grasped the skirt at her hips as he had demonstrated and tried it again, this time successfully. The point of her pair of bodies dug into her public bone and the stiffness wouldn't allow her to sit back. She was propped like a board against a wall. "Ladies don't allow their backs to touch the back of the chair," Edward said. She leaned forward, sitting up straight, unable to slouch.
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He smiled at her. "Perfect. Bella, how much do you know about Christianity?" "I was baptized," she offered. One of her lovers, an Irish priest, had insisted on it. She had no idea why being dunked in his water would wash away sins more than swimming in the sea, but he seemed to place much importance on the ceremony. Her answer seemed to please Edward greatly. "Do you know your catechism?" he asked. She shook her head. The word wasn't even familiar. He sighed. "Do you ... Do selkies have religion?" "Yes, we do, but it differs from yours." "How do you know?" "I used to visit a priest. He told me a lot about your Jesus." He scowled. "Visit?" "He was my lover," Bella clarified. Why did he look so upset by that fact? "But that was over a hundred years ago," she added. "He's long dead now." Edward seemed slightly mollified."Bell, you must never talk about him to others. Or any of your other lovers. Or being alive for longer than a human lifespan. Do you understand?" "I'll do as you ask," Bella said softly. He seemed frustrated. "I'm going to arrange for a priest to give you religious instruction. My cousin, Queen Mary, is very ... fervent in her beliefs. It is important that you do not offend her or appear heretical." "I will learn," she promised. "Is there any chance that you may convert?" He seemed sad as he said this and she wondered if, like her priest, he believed she'd go to hell for not being a Christian. She shook her head. "I like my own religion better." In her faith, hell was reserved for people who were cruel to others, and there weren't endless, confusing rules
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governing their behavior. Bella's God wanted his creatures to be happy, and He smiled to see them play. From what she knew of humans, they didn't play much and their God seemed angry to her. She sighed. Now it seemed that she must learn all of those rules too, along with all of the manners and customs of Edward's people. It wasn't going to be an easy task. A well of sadness filled inside her as she compared this to her simple life as a selkie, chasing her friends through the kelp forests, her pelt the only thing she had to wear and the only rule to remember was to be kind to others. Tears stung her eyes. "Please don't weep," he said softly. "I'll help you, Bella. I know I'm asking a lot of you, but I promise I'll try to make you happy while you're here." She hoped that was possible.

"She's not eating," said Emmett. "Hmm?" Edward had been listening to his musician strumming the lyre and singing a mournful love song. "I said, she's not eating," Emmett repeated. He tilted his head in Bella's direction. She sat quietly, her hands in her lap and her eyes fastened to the trencher in front of her. A maid knelt next to her, holding a napkin and a slop bowl, her purpose to hold a cloth up in front of Bella if she needed to spit out a fruit pit or a bone. "She hasn't eaten all day and she didn't eat yesterday, either." Emmett swayed in his chair, already drunk at the noon hour and likely to stay that way. It appeared, however, that his powers of observation had not been diminished by his near-constant intoxication. Edward leaned over and spoke to Bella, who jumped at the sound of his voice. "Is the food not to your liking, my lady wife?" "Pray, your pardon, my lord husband," Bella replied and he felt a twinge of pride at her politeness. "I am not hungry." "My lady, you must eat," he said. "You will make yourself ill if you do not." He glanced around and spied a plate of sugared figs. He gestured to it and the server
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brought it immediately. "Try these. I'm sure you will like them." Bella obediently took a fig, spearing it with her eating knife and putting it into her mouth. She chewed and swallowed, her face impassive. "Very good, my lord." "Have another," he coaxed. "Forgive me, but I cannot," she said softly. He sighed and sat back in his chair. He would shave to speak to his steward to ensure more vegetable dishes were presented to her. Hopefully, they could find something that would tempt her appetite. "May I be excused, my lord?" she asked. He nodded and she scurried away, her hoops swaying alarmingly around her legs. She had not yet learned the proper gait of tiny steps to keep it from swinging like a bell. Yet another of the thousands of things he needed to teach her. She'd looked so beautiful this morning that his heart had ached at the sight of her, though a tiny part of him thought that she looked even more beautiful when she was a wild thing, uncaged by the garb of a duchess. He wished he could allow her to wear something simple and comfortable, but it defied the social order. Some people would consider it downright sinful, because that social order had been ordained by God, and everyone must live according to their station in life. "She's pining," Emmett warned. He was afraid of that, but he didn't know what to do to stop it, how to make her happy with her new life. A thought occurred to him ad he brightened. Yes, that was what he should do. After dinner was over he went upstairs and found Rosalie perched on the hall window seat. "What news?" he asked sharply. Where was his daughter? "Her grace dismissed me," Rosalie said dourly. "She is playing with the child." Edward pushed open the nursery door and found Bella seated at a small table with Elizabeth, playing Nine Men's Morris. She was laughing as Elizabeth formed a row of three of her pieces, allowing her to pick off one of Bella's. Elizabeth giggled and clapped her hands, but offered the piece back to her, gracious in her victory. Edward stepped forward and felt a pinch of hurt when Bella's laughter died out at
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the sight of him. "Please, continue," he said, and took a seat on a chair nearby to watch. It wasn't long before they were back to giggles. While they played, Elizabeth chattered without pause, telling Bella about her progress in learning her letters, that her music master had praised her for the little song she had learned on the virginals, and about the frog she had found in the garden during her morning walk, which Rosalie would not let her keep. He learned more about his daughter while watching them play a game than he had learned in the last six months put together. "Rosalie was right to not let you keep the frog. He's a wild thing and wild things must be free to be happy." Edward flinched, and was glad that Bella was not looking in his direction. Elizabeth was having such a good time that she didn't even care that she'd won. She started grabbing the pieces with her chubby hands. "Again!" she said. "I cannot," Bella said regretfully. "Your lord father wishes for my company." He offered her a hand to help her rise. Elizabeth stuck out her lower lip but rose and curtsied politely, earning her a pat on the head from her father. They passed Rosalie as they left, and the woman still could not meet Bella's eyes. She scurried inside the nursery and shut the door. Edward led Bella into his bedchamber, to the table that held the box he'd retrieved from his strong room. "These are for you," he said, waiting expectantly for her gasp of delight. Bella opened it and peered inside at the necklaces, bracelets brooches, all sparkling brightly. "These are the gems of the duchess," he said. She didn't seem to understand. "They're yours now." He picked up a ruby necklace and draped it around her throat. Each blood-red gem was as large as a quail's egg, surrounded by diamonds. He went to his cabinet and unlocked it, removing his precious glass mirror. He held it up for her and then she gasped, reaching out to touch the mirror's surface and then her own face. She craned her neck and looked at the back of it, covered in the gilt wood frame and then back at her reflection. "I wanted you to look at the necklace," he said in a wry tone. Mirrors were
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expensive and rare, but the necklace was a king's ransom and she'd barely glanced at it. She cast her eyes down to the reflection of the gems and nodded. "Thank you for the shiny rocks." He wanted to throw his hands up in defeat, but also to laugh. "May I go back to play with Elizabeth now?" she asked. He nodded and she skipped off. Was Elizabeth the key? Bella had seemed the happiest he'd seen her while in Elizabeth's company and the child apparently adored her. Perhaps he should encourage her in spending time with his daughter, and if she was still present at meal times in the nursery, perhaps he could persuade her to eat there. With that thought in mind, he went off to answer some of his correspondence until supper time.

"Don't like," Elizabeth complained when Bella tried to feed her a spoonful of mashed leeks. "But your new mother eats them," Edward said. "See?" Bella obligingly ate the spoonful herself. He was cautiously optimistic. In this manner, he'd managed to manipulate some food into Bella's stomach. She still hadn't eaten enough, but it was an improvement. Elizabeth pouted but shoveled the leeks into her mouth. She had just been weaned; Tudor children were sometimes nursed up to the age of five, but Edward thought she should start being introduced to solid foods. Rosalie protested the idea, but he had a feeling that it was more fear of losing her position than concern for Elizabeth. They were seated around a small table in the nursery. This was the first time in Edward's adult life that he had eaten supper without the pomp and circumstance of a dozen servants preparing, serving, carving and presenting him with dishes. Two servants were positioned by the door, one with an ewer of wine. Edward found that he rather liked the simplicity of it. He couldn't eat here every night, of course, but it
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might make a refreshing change, now and then. After supper, Bella and Elizabeth played again while Edward watched. He couldn't have explained it, why he found watching Bella so fascinating, but he couldn't tear his eyes from her. Whenever she laughed, his heart sped up and he was left with the longing to hear it again. They played a pegboard game called Fox and Geese until Rosalie entered the room and announced it was Lady Elizabeth's bedtime. Elizabeth's pout threatened to turn into a full-blown fit, but Bella calmly but firmly insisted she must obey. She kissed Elizabeth, who then ran over to Edward, looking up at him with pleading eyes to rescue her from bedtime. "Blessings, Poppet," he said, giving the top of her head a kiss. "Off you go." Elizabeth sighed dramatically, but went. "My lady, shall I escort you to your chamber?" Edward asked, offering his arm to Bella after he helped her out of her chair. "My chamber?" she repeated, her voice faint. "Yes, I had the maids clean and air the lady's chamber for you today." Bella looked up at him with those dark, limpid eyes that made something inside him melt every time he saw them. "I have to sleep alone now?" "Yes," he said firmly. Her lower lip trembled. "God's teeth!" Edward muttered. She's pining, Emmett had said. He stopped at his chamber door instead of walking further down the hall to hers. His servant was already bedded down beside the door as they walked through, but he scurried up hastily to bow. Edward led her into his bedchamber and noted that she no longer looked as though she were about to cry. "I'll call for your maids," he said. "Keep on your chemise." "Edward?" She nervously twisted her hands. "Yes, Bella?"
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"Why won't you lie with me?" He looked away. "I cannot." She looked stricken. "It doesn't work?" He let out a bark of laughter. "No, it works just fine. I- I'm still mourning my wife, Bella." "You loved her." It was a statement, not a question. "I did." He sat down in a chair, raking a hand through his hair. "And she loved you?" "Yes." "Don't you think she'd want you to be happy?" I would want the man I loved to dance and sing and have lots of babies." "It feels as though I am being unfaithful," Edward confessed. Bella looked at him thoughtfully for a moment and then stepped closer. Closer. She stepped between his knees. Closer. Until he could feel the warmth radiating from her body. His breath caught in his throat. Those dark eyes, they captured him. She gently wrapped her arms around his neck, her fingertips teasing the the edge of his hairline. His heart pounded. Slowly, ever so slowly, she lowered her face to his, until they were only an inch apart. It had to be her selkie magics, because he was frozen in place as her lips lowered to his. Soft ... Christ, they were so soft. He groaned softly end pulled her down onto his lap and kissed her the way he'd secretly wanted since the moment he saw her on the beach. He tore his mouth away. "Bella, I can't." "You can," she said. She took off her bonnet and laid it on the arm of the chair and turned her back a little and reached up to pull at her laces. His mouth went dry. Lust. It wasn't a sin, he reminded himself, not when it was toward his wife, but oh God, it burned within him with a sudden, terrible intensity. He had to have her. She could not undress herself, but he'd be damned if he would call a servant now.
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He pulled away her stomacher, pins flying and tugged at her laces, and his fingers were made clumsy with haste, tangling the laces in knots. Edward gave a growl of impatience and pulled his jeweled dagger from his belt, slicing through them cleanly, dropping the pieces to the floor as he went. Her kirtle, petticoats and farthingale got the same treatment. She stood before him, glorious in her nudity. He groaned, yanking at his doublet, tearing buttons loose. He pulled it off and dropped it to he floor, yanking his linen shirt over his head. He yanked down his hose and tore off his codpiece, now as naked as she. Bella was not shy. She surveyed his body, her eyes as bright and hot with desire as his own must be. He picked her up and carried her to his bed, sweeping the coverlet aside with one hand and laying her down on the white sheets. She held up her arms for him and he eagerly went into them, kissing her deeply. His wife had always been a timid bed partner, gentle and shy. Bella was eager and met his aggression with her own, driving him to a further frenzy. He kissed, licked and sucked his way down her body. When he reached his goal, he looked up at her for permission. He'd never done this before but Emmett had been very explicit in his descriptions of his conquests. He said it drove women mad with desire, and that's how he wanted Bella. She simply looked at him as if to ask what he was waiting for. Emmett had been right, he thought, dazed. He listened carefully to her groans and gasps to guide him to what gave her the most pleasure. Her thighs clamped against his head so hard he thought she might crack his head like a walnut. She pulled at him until he relented and slid up her body. "Your turn," she said, her dark eyes wicked. It was another thing Emmett had described to him, but in this case, he'd thought Emmett had to be exaggerating. His eyes rolled back in his head at the almost agonizing pleasure of her hot mouth on him. He had to stop her. It was too much. He'd never last. He rolled her over onto her back and positioned himself atop her. He slipped a hand down to ensure she was ready and groaned when he discovered just how ready she was. He carefully began to nudge his way inside her, urged on by her panting breaths against his ear. Slowly, slowly, careful ... Bella cursed and pushed him, flipping him over onto his back. Before he quite knew what was happening, she had pushed down on him, enveloping him to the hilt in her heat. Her hair had come loose from its pins and tumbled down around her hips, a dark curtain that enveloped them both when she leaned forward to kiss him. She began to move and he completely lost his tenuous grip on his control, pounding up into her wildly. He heard her cry out and her contractions of pleasure sent him into his own.
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She slumped down on his chest, still gasping, her flesh sheened with sweat, as was his own. "Did I hurt you?" he asked, when his powers of speech had returned. "Not at all," she assured him, snuggling against him with a sigh of contentment. He'd only managed to resist his selkie wife for one night. Would Mary be disappointed in him, or was Bella right that she would want him to find joy in life again? He was still pondering that point when he fell asleep, with Bella clasped in his arms. ..

Historical notes: The catechism of the Catholic Church wasn't established until the Council of Trent in 1566, and it wasn't originally intended for the layperson, rather an instructional manual for the clergy. The catechism of the Anglican church was written in 1537, and seems to have been heavily influenced by the one Luther wrote in 1529.

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Chapter 4
A/N: The voting turned out so close that I am going to continue both stories as I have been, alternating days.

Chapter Four

Edward woke as he had the previous morning, with his arms full of warm, soft, naked selkie. Her back was against his chest, her head pillowed on his arm, and his other arm was draped around her waist. Unable to resist, he stroked her silken skin. "Mmm," she said and rolled over in his arms to face him, a sweet, sleepy smile on her face. "You seem to work your selkie magics even in your sleep," Edward said with a smile. She laughed. "What magics?" He paused. "You mean ... you don't ... You don't have any powers over humans to make them desire you?" She snuggled against him. "If I did, I would have been here long before now." Edward lay back in shock, staring up at the beamed and paneled ceiling. If it wasn't her witchery, that wave of lust that had carried him away came from within. Discovering an unknown aspect of one's personality at the advanced age of twenty-and-seven was more than a bit unsettling. He felt like he ought to regret what had happened, that he ought to feel guilty about how ferocious he had been, or that he had lain with a woman other than his Mary, but he felt none of this. He felt ... happy. It was so strange that he had difficulty identifying the feeling at first. "Will there be a child?" he asked her. She shook her head. "I have to want it for it to happen, and you said you wanted no other children than Elizabeth."
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He was oddly disappointed and couldn't understand why. Maybe he should give her a child. After all she had given to him and the drastic changes he'd asked of her, he certainly owed her something, but he would be setting himself up for the same problem he'd had with Elizabeth: a child with no mother. She stretched luxuriously and he took the opportunity to stare at her body. Her long, white arms were raised above her head, lifting her already high, firm breasts. Small tufts of hair beneath each one matched the hair on her- Edward couldn't even think the word that Emmett called it- woman-parts. Bella noticed his gaze and crooked a finger at him, her dark eyes hooded with desire. Someone cleared their throat outside the bed curtains. "Your grace?" "Later," Edward said. "But, your grace ..." He stroked his hands down his wife's silky-soft body, exploring the areas which held particular fascination for him. "I said later!" Edward snapped. Bella's lips found a sensitive spot and he gasped. Let the servants wait. Let the whole world wait. The lives of the nobility left very little room for privacy. Servants usually slept in the same room as their masters or mistresses; the only privacy afforded to the husband and wife was what the bed curtains provided. Thus, it did not trouble Edward to know that the servants were standing only a few feet away as he made love to his wife, and it didn't occur to Bella, who had lived most of her life in the open, to be embarrassed about something that was, to her, as natural as breathing. They emerged nearly an hour later, still flushed and a bit sweaty from their exertions. They both were washed by their servants, and Bella had to endure the long, uncomfortable process of being dressed. She envied Edward, who was finished in half the time in much more comfortable clothing. He kissed her outstretched hand and she was startled by the warmth in his eyes. His steward spoke. "I beg your pardon, your grace, but the petitioners have come." Edward sighed. "What does that mean, my lord husband?" Bella asked. "Today is my court day, when I hear cases and petitions of my people," Edward
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explained. It was a regimented, hierarchical system of governing. Local landowners would appeal to the barons, the barons to the earls, the earls to the dukes, each of whom had their own courts, populated by those under their aegis. Ostensibly, anyone on Edward's lands could petition him directly for redress of grievances, but in reality, whether or not a case was heard often depended on how much the person was willing to bribe Edward's stewards as much as their determination to be heard. "Will you break your fast with me, my lady wife?" Edward asked, after the process of dressing Bella was finally completed. Breakfast was the most informal meal of the day, one he could take alone in his chamber. An ewer of ale had been placed on his table, along with a basket of manchet bread, and a selection of cheeses and cold meats. The latter Bella would not touch, he knew, so he offered her the cheese and bread with a cup of ale. She nibbled at the bread. "Bella, please eat," Edward said softly. "I'm trying," she replied. "I just don't have an appetite." He sighed. "Is there anything which sounds good to you?" "Fresh kelp," she said promptly. "Some fresh, juicy kelp." She licked her lips and a bolt of lust went through him, even as he considered the problem what she wanted presented. Perhaps he could send Emmett out in a small boat ... He sighed again. He couldn't do that. The drunken fool would probably drown himself. Bella was beautifully attired in a blue silk gown, with diamonds sewn on it in constellation patterns. It had set a fashion at Edward's court when his wife had worn it, the Countesses and Baronesses who danced in attendance, hoping for an appointment as a lady's maid for their daughters or perhaps a position in Edward's household for their sons, hastened to order dresses that had similar designs, in the material and stones they could afford. The nobles were the celebrities of those days, and everything they did was avidly watched and gossiped about. Their clothing and hair styles became the fashions, which people would copy to the best of their financial abilities. Even how they pronounced a word could become the style. Today, the room was packed with people who wanted to see the new Duchess, who was rumored to be a wild-woman from the New World. In the great hall, Bella was seated on the dais next to Edward on a slightly smaller
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chair. The room was filled with people, their voices ringing off of the rafters. Some were well-dressed, of noble blood, some were the local gentry and yeomen, and there was even a handful of peasants who looked fresh from the fields. Some came to watch, some to attempt to petition, others came to see and be seen. The perfumes of the wealthy competed with the stench of unwashed bodies, the scent of wood smoke and melting candles. There were calls of greeting to old acquaintances and raucous arguments over the merits of the cases which were to be presented to Edward. When Edward used to dine in state, those not granted a seat at the table would come to watch in the audience gallery along the sides of the room. The steward called the room to order, and a reverent hush fell over the crowd. They fell into line instinctively, according to rank, the poorer toward the back of the room where they had to crane their necks and go up on tiptoe to see. The petitioners waited and hoped for the steward to announce their name so that they might step forward and present their case. The petitions were quite uninteresting to Bella, dealing mostly with matters pertaining to the business of running the estate. She let her mind wander during discussions of wool processing methods and whether or not they should expand Edward's horse breeding venture. For a Duke, Edward was remarkably democratic. He'd ordered his steward to allow a few cases of peasants to come before him. The case concerned a man who had rented his bull for stud to another villager. While in the renter's possession, the bull had sickened and died. The owner insisted that the renter must have not cared properly for the bull, which led to its demise, and thus should be held responsible for its replacement. Edward disagreed, and said that animals sickened naturally for reasons known only to God, and that the renter could not be held responsible. "But, my lord, I depended on the bull's stud fees to carry my family through the winter until there was work in the fields again," the owner protested desperately. Bella laid a hand on her husband's arm. "Grant pardon, my lord husband," she whispered, "But may I speak?" Edward was startled by her interruption, but knowing that Bella was unused to these sorts of proceedings, decided to permit it. "Your grace, I cannot help but feel sorry for this man," she said softly. "His
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livelihood has vanished through no fault of his own, and his family will be dependent on your grace's charity to survive the winter. Could we not replace his bull? The cost is not great to us, but to this man, its loss means penury. Surely the cost of supporting his family through charity all winter would be similar if not greater." Edward stared at his wife. She was right, of course. The cost of replacing the bull would be less than he had just spent on a new pair of riding boots, and would keep the man from being a drain on charitable resources. He had simply never thought of how greatly the peasant would be affected by the bull's death, for a bull or two to him was inconsequential. His mind raced. On the practical side, the resulting goodwill from the bull's replacement would probably be worth thrice its value, and from a humanitarian standpoint, it would be a kindness that would keep a family from suffering of hunger for a season. Bella squirmed in her seat uncomfortably under Edward's stare, for she worried she had overstepped her bounds, but suddenly, he smiled, and patted her hand. "You are wise and kind-hearted, my lady wife," he said. He raised his voice so he might be heard by the room at large. "There is no fault in the bull's death, but I would not have you suffer for it, good man. I shall see to it that you are given another bull from my herds." The man's mouth fell open at this unexpected bounty. He fell on his knees, looking back and forth from the Duke to Bella, and then burst into noisy tears of gratitude. "Thank you, your grace!" Edward was delighted with this response. The tale of his generosity would be spread all over his lands, raising his popularity with the people considerably. He could imagine he would be replacing quite a few chickens and pigs from increased requests once it was learned of by others, but he knew their gratitude would result in higher output of labor and greater honesty. Why had he never thought of such a thing before? He silently thanked God for his new wife, who had opened his eyes to a world of possibilities. He could be the cold, calculated reason for his holdings and she could be its heart. He smiled at Bella and another layer of the ice around his heart began to melt.

Edward was starving by the time they were seated for dinner and impatient with the ceremony with which the food was presented. Bella poled her spoon at the vegetables on her plate and Edward sighed. He gestured to the servant who stood by with the wine ewer. "Fetch me the cook."
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"The cook, your grace?" While the Duke might send instructions or requests to the cook through his other servants, it was a rarity in which a kitchen servant would actually lay eyes on his grace. "Yes, the cook," Edward repeated. He tossed his spoon on his plate with a clatter. In a few minutes, the cook was brought forth, sweating in anxiety. He was wearing a clean apron, hastily donned for meeting with such an elevated personage. He went down on his knees in front of the Duke's table and waited to be addressed. "Have you any kelp in the kitchens?" the Duke asked. "Y- your grace?" he stammered. "Kelp?" "Yes, kelp. Seaweed." The cook thought for a moment and then brightened. "We do, your grace. It's used to pack the barrels in which the fish is stored." Edward shook his head. "No, I mean fresh kelp. Is it in any other dishes?" "The poor use it to make laver, your grace. It is dried and then chopped small and made into a dough which can be eaten raw or fried." Edward sighed. "That is all." He waved his hand in dismissal. The cook rose to his feet, and walked backwards from the room, bowing the whole way. He turned to Bella. "Join me in a walk this evening, my lady wife." Perhaps they could find some on the beach she might eat. They servants glanced at one another. They thought the duke had given up his bizarre habit of walking alone, but now it seemed he was urging the Duchess into his small madness. Later that afternoon, he went up to Elizabeth's rooms where he knew he would find Bella, and found the child being put down for a nap. Bella was telling her a story, her bribe to get Elizabeth to lay down quietly without throwing a fit. "There once was a man named Noah," Bella began, tugging the covers up to Elizabeth's chin. "He was a friend to all of the animals of the forest. He took long walks in the woods to meet and talk and play with them. One day while he visited with his friend the bear, Noah mentioned he had once sailed upon the sea, where
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the bear had never been. The bear was very curious, so Noah decided to build a boat so that he could take his friend with him out on the waves. The bear said he would like to go, but he wanted to take his wife with him. So Noah had to build the boat bigger so that the bear's wife could fit. While he was building, his friend the wolf came to see what he was doing. The wolf had never seen the Endless Waters, either, so Noah invited him to come along. But the wolf said he could not go without his mate, and so Noah had to make the boat bigger to fit them both. As he worked, more of his animal friends came by and asked to come along on the journey, and so Noah had to make the boat big enough to fit two of every animal in the forest inside. All of Noah's animal friends did what they could to help. The wolves brought him wood they found in the forest. The woodpeckers bored holes for his nails. The beavers chewed the logs into boards and the bears carried the heavy loads. Even the bees helped by making wax to put between the cracks between the boards. And when Noah was done building his giant ship, they all carried the ship to the shore together and sailed out into the wind and waves." So, that was the way selkies interpreted the story of Noah's Ark, Edward thought. Theirs was a much gentler tale, one of friendship and cooperation, rather than the Biblical story of God drowning all of the sinners. Bella kissed Elizabeth's forehead and stood. She was already half-asleep and headed for happy dreams of animals helping Noah to build his ship. Bella followed Edward from the nursery, ignoring Rosalie, who had rediscovered her courage and cast the interloping Duchess a glare. Edward offered Bella his arm and she took it. "I wished to ask you something, Edward," Bella said as they went out the front door. "Are you committed to increasing your wool production?" "It's the most profitable venture," he replied. He was going to order the fields enclosed this coming spring. Bella sighed. "I saw what happened when another landowner by the sea did this. The peasants could no longer grow crops on that land, which meant food became more expensive and the peasants lost their work as farmers. They could no longer pay their rents, so they had to leave their homes. They became poor beggars. The convents and monasteries which used to care for the poor, feed them, clothe them and tend them when they were sick, are gone now. Where do they go?" As always, he was surprised by her knowledge of life on land.
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There had been a Poor Act which passed last year which attempted to take a census of the impoverished to discover the true scope of the problem, and empowered local almsmen to "gently" ask for funds from every man and woman who passed through the doors of the church on Sunday. Edward employed his own almoner to distribute a set sum of money per year to the poor. Edward had no idea what he did with it; he left that sort of supervision up to his steward, but perhaps he ought to look into how his charity was being distributed. "Aren't you rich enough, Edward?" Bella asked. Edward was taken aback by the question. He supposed he was, but he'd been taught since his youth that his duty was to make the estates more profitable. The fate of the peasants on the land had never even crossed his mind. From birth, Edward had been taught that God had ordained the social order of their world. He had been chosen to be the Duke, just as the peasants had been chosen to be poor, likely because of some moral fault or lack of faculty. He gave his charity, just as it was expected he would do, but if a peasant starved or was stricken by disease, his society said it was likely because they were being punished by God. In recent years, dangerous ideas such as the equality of all men had begun to circulate along with the new religious sects. Henry VIII had put an English Bible in churches, chained to the pulpit, where the text could be read by all men, but was horrified when he heard that people were discussing and debating what they'd read and coming to their own conclusions rather than accepting the Church's approved interpretation. Edward shook his head. Sometimes it seemed like the whole world had been tipped on its ear since his parents' day. And now, here he was, considering staying with less-lucrative farming in order to keep from impoverishing peasants. His father would have laughed. They took the steep path down to the beach and Bella dashed across the sand, holding her heavy skirts aloft. She stopped at the edge of the water, her eyes hungrily searching the waves. "May I swim, my lord?" He shook his head, "Bella, noble ladies do not swim. I brought you here in hopes we may find some kelp for you." He couldn't stand to look at her, to see the disappointment in her eyes. He sat down on a log and watched her wander up and down the shoreline, staring at the water like a beggar at a bakery window. She didn't touch the piles of seaweed
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strewn here and there. "Is it not to your liking?" She wrinkled her nose. "It is dead and slimy." "Bella, there is naught much more I can do." "If you'd let me swim, I could harvest my own," she said. "Wouldn't you drown in human form?" She shook her head. "I cannot down. I can breathe the water, same as air." "Bella, ladies do not swim. I am sorry, but you cannot. If someone saw you ..." He didn't finish the sentence. "Come. It is late and we must go home." She followed after him obediently, but her head hung with sadness.

Edward met with his almoner after dinner. He would have preferred to have Emmett do it, but Emmett was gone again, likely passed out in some tavern wench's bed. "I wish to see records of how my alms are being distributed," he said. The man paled, which made Edward immediately suspicious. "My lord, I keep no written records of the disbursement." "Then you are lax in your duties," Edward snapped. "Tell me, then, if you cannot show me." The man wobbled on his knees. "Your grace, I, uh ... I give much of it to the parish workhouse." "Who is master there?" "Peter of Lansby, my lord." Edward searched through his mind, through the complicated genealogy upon which so much of Tudor society was based. "Is he not your cousin?" "He is, your grace." Edward flicked his hand. "You are dismissed." He would have to look into this
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situation. Something seemed amiss. He wondered if Father Jacob would have any further knowledge, but decided against summoning him. He wasn't in the mood for a lecture on his lax chapel attendance. He wanted to see Bella. That's what he wanted. She hadn't been at dinner. His steward had said she was taking her meal in her chambers. Edward had been tempted to send an order for her to join him, but had decided against it. But there was yet another messenger waiting for him. He accepted the letter and opened it, recognizing the hadwriting instantly. It was from Father Jasper. He was writing Edward to inform him that he had returned to England. Jasper was the third son of the Earl of Hale. As in many families, the first son was the heir. The "spare" had gone into military service and the third was dedicated to the church at a young age. Fortunately, it was a vocation which had suited Jasper's nature and he was very happy in the priesthood. He and Edward had been friends as children, and Edward was very pleased that he was returning from exile after all these years. Jasper had been firm in his faith and had given a sermon on the sacraments (the Catholic church recognized seven, the Anglican only two) which had enraged the king when he heard of it. Jasper had found it necessary to leave England if he wished his head to remain attached to his body. Edward decided Jasper would be perfect for teaching Bella about the Catholic faith. Despite the firmness of his beliefs, Jasper had a kind heart and wouldn't be offended by all of Bella's questions. He wrote a quick note asking Jasper to come to Cullen Hall as soon as possible and sent it off with the messenger. His work finally done, or at least at an acceptable stopping point, Edward rose and went to find the person he wanted to see the most. He found Bella in his bedchamber (which had become hers as well), sitting in one of the chairs by the dark and empty fireplace, sewing busily. "What are you making?" Edward asked. whatever it was, it had a human shape. "A doll for Elizabeth," Bella replied. "She doesn't have one." His daughter didn't have a doll? He thought about it, and realized he didn't remember buying her any toys at all. Granted, she had very little time during the day to play, but she ought to have something. He silently blessed Bella for correcting his oversight. "Where did you learn to sew?" he asked.
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"I used to visit a convent. They had an orphanage there and I enjoyed playing with the children. The nuns taught me how to sew and embroider." "You speak of them in past tense. Why did you stop visiting?" "Your uncle, King Henry, confiscated the convent and its valuable lands during the Dissolution, which he gave to a courtier to buy his loyalty. The new owner evicted the nuns and the orphans. The nuns tried to care for the children, but without a home ..." she sighed. "There was nowhere for them to go, and the local parish wouldn't give them a begging license." She shook her head. "I don't know what happened to them. I'm not sure I would want to know." It was a story that had been repeated all over England. Over eight hundred monastic houses were shut down, their lands sold off, the buildings themselves picked apart for their materials. The abbots and abbesses who had capitulated and recognized King Henry as head of the church instead of the pope were given pensions or licenses to continue as before. Those who opposed found themselves homeless or sometimes executed as traitors if their influence was great. "I'm not going to change over to sheep-raising," he announced. It flew out of his mouth before he realized he had come to a decision. But it was the right thing to do. Bella was teaching him compassion. He had thought to change her when he captured her. He had never imagined he would be changed himself. Bella beamed at him. "You are a good man," she said. He was startled. Was he good? He certainly wanted to be, but his emotions had been locked away for so long ... He felt like a man slowly awakening from a deep sleep. And it was all due to Bella.

Historical notes: -Beavers died out in England about 500 years ago, though it's possible that small populations survived until the 18th century in parts of the north. -Though women some ancient cultures such as the Romans and the Egyptians shaved their body hair, the practice did not become common in Western nations until about 1915 when razor companies were looking for a way to increase blade sales. They hit upon the idea of telling women that their underarm and leg hair were unhygienic and unsightly and an entire industry was born.
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- Pronunciation as fashion: Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, started a trend of pronouncing words in odd fashions, like "gould" for "gold" and "cowcumber" for "cucumber", and "whop" for "hope", which was widely copied by the upper class.

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Chapter 5
Chapter Five

"You must beat her for this, Edward," Emmett said. "You have no choice." They stood on the hill behind the house looking down at the two figures on the beach. Emmett had stumbled his way into Edward's office this morning, either already drunk before most people had broken their fast or still intoxicated from the night before. He'd lifted his bleary eyes and said one word. "Trouble." He'd explained what the problem was as Edward followed him outside and Edward had exploded out in fury, "I specifically forbid her from this!" "This isn't something you can let go with a stern lecture," Emmett stated. "She deliberately disobeyed you and has placed Elizabeth in danger." Edward glanced around and saw half the household standing along the hill top, gaping at the spectacle below. "Back to your work," Edward shouted, and they scurried away. He rubbed a hand over his face. This was bad. This was very bad. He and Emmett walked down the path. Emmett lost his balance and Edward only narrowly avoided being knocked over himself by leaping aside as Emmett tumbled by. He was seated at the bottom of the path when Edward walked by, struggling to heave himself to his feet with some semblance of dignity. Edward cast him a disgusted look and Emmett had sufficient grace to look ashamed of himself. Elizabeth and Bella were dressed only in their shifts, splashing and chasing each other in the surf. Bella's wet hair swung in ropes down her back and atop it she wore what looked like a crown of seaweed, woven like a daisy chain by small, clumsy hands. She was laughing and her eyes sparkled like Edward hadn't seen since that day she and her selkie friends had frolicked in the surf. She caught sight of her enraged husband and her face fell. Elizabeth crashed into her legs and looked up in confusion and then over at her father, marching toward them, his face twisted in anger. She ducked behind Bella's legs and peeked at him with wide, frightened eyes. "Bella!" Edward shouted. "What in God's name do you think you're doing?"
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"Playing," Bella said in a small voice. "Where are your clothes?" Bella blinked in confusion, looking down at the wet shift which clung to her body, so revealing that she might as well have been nude. "Your outer clothes," Edward ground out. "We left before our maids dressed us. We-" Edward grabbed her arm roughly and dragged her toward the path. "Elizabeth, follow!" Edward barked. Elizabeth ran to her uncle Emmett, who had always been very jovial and kind to her. Emmett took her hand. "A bit bedraggled, are you, Poppet?" He smiled and she immediately felt safer. "Edward!" Bella cried, stumbling falling, only to be hauled roughly to her feet again. "What's wrong?" He did not answer. They reached the top of the path and Edward took them to the side door. Rosalie stood there, waiting, with an expression of smug righteousness on her face. It had been she who found Emmett and told him what Bella had done, taking the child down to play on the beach at sunrise. "Take the child and bathe her, then put her to bed with a hot brick," Edward ordered. Elizabeth started to protest the bath and being put back into bed right after she' d just gotten out of it, but one look at her father's face was enough to silence her. Rosalie smirked at Bella behind Edward's back and headed for the stairs, Elizabeth's hand crushed cruelly within her own. "Think not that I have forgotten your part in this," Edward called to Rosalie over his shoulder. "But, your grace-" "You didn't try to stop her, did you?" Rosalie assumed a prim and innocent expression. "It is not my place to tell her grace what she can or cannot do." "Instead of coming to me directly, you alerted my brother after informing half the
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household so that they could go and gape at her." Edward's green eyes blazed. "And we will discuss that after I speak to my wife." With that, Edward turned and dragged Bella up the stairs into their chamber. The maids were making the bed and they looked up in alarm. "Out!" Edward snapped. They fled, dropping the linens where they stood. "Edward, what's wrong?" Bella asked again. She shrunk back in fear as he approached, and part of Edward hated that she was afraid of him. "You deliberately disobeyed me," he snapped. "And you endangered my daughter in the process." "But I did not disobey. We weren't swimming!" Bella protested. "We were just wading and splashing." "You put Elizabeth in danger." "No! There was no danger. Gods and fishes, Edward, do you think I would let her come to harm from anything in the sea?" "She is wet," Edward hissed. "She may take sick from this foolishness. She is not a selkie babe, Bella. She is a human and humans become ill from getting wet. Aside from that danger, I told you that our women do not swim." He put up a hand to halt her protest before it even started. "Nor play in the waves." He raked his hands through his hair. Bella stared down at the floor, water dripping from the hem of her chemise. "Go and kneel by the bed," Edward ordered. He waited until she had obeyed and went to his trunk to retrieve a sword belt. He chose one of flat, tooled leather with no gems or studs. He returned to stand behind her, pushing her hair out of the way. He ripped her chemise down the back, and she cried out in fear, burying her face in her arms against the side of the bed. He stared at the expanse of her creamy back, the belt clenched in his hand. He had to do this, he told himself. He had to do it for her benefit and for Elizabeth's as well. It was his duty as husband, as head of the household. Everything he'd ever been taught, everything in his culture, told him he needed to beat her. His duty as husband and father was to keep his wife and daughter from
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error, to correct them when they strayed from the path of righteousness. It was summed up in the common phrase of the day, He who spareth the rod, hateth his son. The same applied to wives, who were thought of as simple and child-like themselves. Unless a husband corrected his wife's behavior, she could easily slip into social disapproval or even risk her immortal soul. Father Jacob heartily endorsed beating one's wife whether she needed it or not, to keep her in the properly submissive frame of mind, but Edward had never beaten his first wife. He'd never had the need because Mary had been very obedient and submissive by nature. His father had never beaten his mother, either, for she was a princess of the blood royal; he had beaten her favorite lady's maid instead. Edward had no first hand experience of this, and he was nervous. What if he struck her too hard and caused injury? Bella trembled, tears streaming down her cheeks. He drew back to deliver the first blow and froze. He couldn't do it. He simply could not do it. He chided himself for being weak, for failing in his duty, but he could not force himself to lay the belt across her back, to mar that expanse of soft, creamy skin, to hear her cry out in pain. With a groan of frustration, he tossed the belt into the corner. He knelt beside Bella and took her hands into his own. "Listen to me," he said and waited until her huge, dark eyes, wet with tears, met his own. "Bella, you have to heed my words. You cannot do things like this. The people will forgive small slips because they think you're from a distant land, but what you did today will be seen as wicked and unchristian. I've tried to explain to you how important that it is for you to conform to our religion, but you do not seem to understand how gravely serious this is. If they think you are a heretic, they will burn you, Bella. Do you understand? They will put you in a fire and burn you until you are dead." Bella looked horror-struck, her eyes wide with terror. "But ... but you are the Duke ..." "I can protect you to a certain extent," he said, "but not if the Queen orders you to be taken for heresy. If they examine you- by that I mean ask you many questionsthey will know that you are not a Christian." "I was baptized," Bella protested. "That actually makes it worse," Edward said. "If you were merely ignorant of the faith, you would be forgiven. But you accepted baptism, which makes you a Christian in the eyes of the church. If you do not hold the proper views, then you are
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a heretic and heretics are burned alive in this land." Bella gasped, a trembling ragged sound. He hated to scare her so badly, but she had to know what was at stake. She laid her had on her arms and sobbed and he felt like he had beaten her after all. Unable to bear the sound of her weeping, he rose and left the room, heading to his office where he found Emmett waiting for him. "Did you do it?" Emmett asked. "No." Emmett was quiet for a moment. "Do you want me to do it for you?" "No." Edward sat down at his desk heavily and leaned his forehead into his hands. "No, she's my wife and I will discipline her as I see fit." "I think you're making a mistake. Your soft heart-" Edward cut him off angrily. "Isn't there ale that needs drinking or a whore somewhere unfucked?" Emmett's jaw tightened and he left the room, slamming the door behind him. Edward sighed. He regretted his harsh words as soon as he'd said them. Emmett was only trying to help, and he was right about Edward being held back by a soft heart. He only hoped that Bella wouldn't be the one to suffer for it.

Bella didn't come down for dinner or supper and Edward was kept too busy by estate business to go and check on her. He had given Rosalie such a vicious tongue-lashing that she was left in tears and told her that any other incidents such as this would result in her dismissal. Afterward, he rose to go check on Bella when a messenger arrived. And then another. And then the Master of the Horse needed to speak with him about a new mare which had arrived from the Continent which had taken ill. Edward stopped one of her maids who passed by his open doorway and asked the whereabouts of his wife. "In bed, your grace. Perhaps she is feeling poorly from her dunk in the sea." She didn't appear for supper and neither did Emmett. He went upstairs afterwards and found her lying in the bed, staring into the distance. "Bella?"
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She said nothing, but she flicked her eyes toward him. "Your maids said you did not eat again." Edward sat down the goblet he was carrying on the table beside her. "I want you to drink this." It was soup he'd ordered from the kitchen, a broth made from vegetables. She sat up obediently and swallowed the cup's contents before lying down again. He felt a little better, knowing he'd got some nutrition in her. He would have rather given her a hearty beef broth, but he knew she wouldn't accept that. "Bella, please don't be sad," he begged. He glanced at the servants who stood by the walls and lowered his voice. "I'm sorry I was so cold to you this afternoon, but I was ... I was angry, but it stemmed from my worry for you and my child." She said nothing. "Elizabeth seemed well," he said. "I stopped to see her before I came in here. She wants you to tell her another story." Bella shook her head. Edward sighed and rose to his feet. "Undress me," he ordered and his servants came over to remove his clothing. He crawled into bed with Bella, pulling the curtains shut behind him. She did not resist when he pulled her against his body. "Bella, I've been thinking," he said. "Perhaps we should have a child." He had made the decision this afternoon. It was something he knew she wanted, and perhaps having a child together would tie her to him in some way. In all of the old tales, selkie wives abandoned their land family and went back to the sea once their pelts were returned, but he couldn't imagine Bella doing that. Surely, she would want to stay. If she left after having her pelt returned, the tales warned, she wouldn't be able to return for seven years. As a mother, she could not leave her child for so long, he'd decided, no matter how much she yearned for the sea. She hadn't said anything in response to his offer. "Would you like a baby?" he coaxed. "We could start one tonight, if you'd like." She remained silent. Frustrated, he leaned over and kissed her, gently palming her breast and rubbing her nipple in the way she liked. It was a while before she began to warm to his passion. She only began to give those soft breathy moans after he slid down her body to lick and suck at her folds. He slid up her body and slowly, gently entered her soft, wet heat.
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"A baby, Bella," he whispered. "A baby of your own." Her legs twined around his and she moved with him, but he still saw that distance in her eyes. It took effort to bring her to climax, but he knew it was necessary to get her to release her woman's seed to meet with his own. "Did it happen?" he asked her afterward as he lay beside her, trying to catch his breath. She shook her head. "Why not?" "There is no life in your seed." Edward was stunned. "What?" She looked at him fearfully and he forced himself to calm. "What do you mean, Bella?" "I can feel it. I opened myself for conception, but it is not possible. Your seed cannot form a child." He shook his head slowly. "But, Bella, I have Elizabeth. My wife was with child many times." She gazed at him thoughtfully. "Have you had an injury or illness since her birth?" "No, nothing." She shook her head. "I cannot explain it, then. Only that there is no life in your seed now. There will be no child." She rolled over onto her side and stared at the bedcurtains with that awful distance in her eyes again. Edward stared up at the ceiling, his mind a whirl wind of thoughts. How could it be? Could Bella be mistaken? He'd never heard of the concept of a man being infertile. Only women were declared barren. Could it have been his fault that Mary had such trouble conceiving? And all of the children she had lost? Had it been because he had some sort of weakness or imbalance in his humours? He wanted to consult a doctor, but what would he say? "My selkie wife says she can tell that my seed is lifeless. Can it be restored?" If she was right and there was no way to repair it, Emmett would be his only heir,
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which meant they had to find Emmett a wife, fast. He sent for Emmett the next morning. It was a while before he arrived, reeking of stale perfume and strong spirits. He stood before Edward's desk instead of flopping negligently in a chair as he usually did, and he did not meet Edward's gaze. "Emmett, please sit," Edward said. He stood and moved around to the front of his desk, leaning against the edge. Emmett did as he was bid but still would not look at Edward. "I first wish to apologize," Edward said. "I wronged you by saying what I did, and I am sorry for it." Emmett nodded, his gaze fixed to the floor. Edward went over to the door and shut it before taking the chair beside Emmett. "There is something else I need to discuss with you," he said. "Bella told me ... She said that my ..." Edward struggled to find words. "I cannot father a child," he finally ground out. Emmett paled. His eyes met Edward's, wide, with something akin to panic in their depths. "I can see you are aware of the implications. You will be my heir, it seems. I know that you have said that you have no desire to wed, but if Bella is right, it is now imperative that you do so." Emmett's expression was strange. Was there a hint of ... relief? "We need to start negotiations as soon as possible," Edward continued. "Have you any preference? I had thought one of the Earl of Hale's daughters-" Emmett barked out a humorless laugh. "No, I have no preference. The only woman I would have wished to marry is dead." Edward stared at him. "Emmett, I never knew ..." Suddenly, he saw Emmett's drinking and whoring took in another light, as the actions of a man trying to lose himself in oblivion, the self-destructiveness of the broken-hearted. "Emmett, why didn't you tell me?" Edward chided gently. "I know what it is like to lose the one you love."
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"I didn't want you to know," Emmett said. Edward nodded. "Pax, brother. I'll respect your privacy and question you no further on the matter. But it does not change our situation. If I cannot father an heir, you must." Emmett stood. "Draw up the betrothal contracts with the earl. I'll take the eldest, Kathryn. She is comely and of placid temperament. She has a young cousin, Alice, who can serve as a lady's maid for Bella." Edward nodded. "So be it. Brother, I-" "Please do not express sympathy to me," Emmett ground out. "I cannot bear it." And with that, Emmett left the room, closing the door behind him with a gentle click. Bella was dying. Edward sat by her side. She lay in the bed, pale and wasted, and she tossed and muttered as if she were hallucinating or in a fever dream. It had been three days since he was able to get her to even drink any broth and over a week since she had left the bed. She was Fading right before his eyes and no earthly power could stop it. The doctor had bled her this morning, but it didn't seem to have done any good. If anything, she was weaker. It was late, and all of the servants were abed. He hadn't slept in two days, fearing that he would wake to find that she had died, slipped away while he was unconscious. "Please, Bella," he whispered. "Please ... don't leave me." He was ashamed that it took losing her for him to understand how much she had come to mean to him. He could no longer picture a future without her. Tears stung his eyes. He could not put her body in the cold tomb where his first wife and ancestors lay. He could not put her there and go back to his life. "I need you," he said to her. "I never realized it. I never saw how empty my life was until you were in it. Bella, I know that I took you as my wife against your will, but I know we can be happy together. I think you may love me in time. Perhaps you already do, a little. My feelings for you-" He paused for a moment, searching for the words. "My heart aches so fiercely at losing you that I know I must love you. Otherwise, losing you wouldn't feel like a gaping wound in my chest."
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He rose and lifted her from the bed, alarmed at how light and insubstantial she felt in his arms. He was going to try the only thing he could think of to save her. He carried her out of the bedroom and down the stairs. One of the footmen snored on his pallet by the door. Edward stepped over him and opened it, stepping out into the moonlit night. Cautiously, he picked his way down the path to the beach. He waded out into the waves until they were as deep as his hips and then lowered Bella into the water. She gasped and a sip of the sea entered her mouth. Her eyes opened. "E- Edward?" "Yes, love." He slid his arms from under her and let her float. She looked around in confusion. "Swim," he said. "Swim, Bella." He waded his way back to the beach and sat on the sand to watch. She did, slowly at first, weak from her illness and hunger, and then more strongly, as if the touch of the waters alone was restoring to her, as he had hoped. He watched her dark head bob in the waves, watching anxiously for flashes of her pale skin against the dark waves. She dove under and he held his breath when she didn't appear for a long while, even knowing that it was impossible for her to drown. She resurfaced with a piece of a plant in her hand, which she devoured before diving back down for more. He'd had to risk it. It was a choice between possibly facing accusations, or losing her to certain death from Fading. He could not watch her die before his eyes. Not when he could prevent it. He cursed himself for his stubbornness, for allowing her to get to this point. He should have figured out a way to get her what she needed rather than trying to force to her be what she was not. It was the same as if he had tied a hawk to a perch and refused to let it use its wings, had denied its nature. Was it any wonder it could not live that way? He'd wronged her so. He only hoped she would be able to forgive him. As the sky began to be caressed by the pale fingers of dawn, she emerged from the waves, her chemise glued to her flesh. She walked to him and knelt in the sand beside him. She was still pale and drawn, but she looked so much better, as if her life force had been rejuvenated by her swim. "Thank you," she whispered. "Do not thank me, Bella," he said. "I do not deserve it." "Come," she said, holding out a hand. "Let us go home before anyone sees us."
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Home. She'd called it home. His heavy heart lightened a little. They walked, hands joined, back up to the house. They stepped over the still-snoring footman, and Edward thought wryly that it was a good thing they had such diligent security in his home. They went up to their bedchamber and Bella peeled off the sodden shift, draping it over the back of a chair to dry and Edward stripped off his own clothing, uncaring that the fine fabric was ruined. The only thing he cared about at this moment was the woman who put her arms around him. "I am so sorry, Bella," he said. "Pray, forgive me." "I do," she said. "You just didn't understand." She kissed him and drew him into their bed, pulling the curtains around them, creating their own little private world. She snuggled against him and yawned, her wet hair unbound and flowing over the feather mattress. "Bella?" he started. "Hmm?" "Do you think ... do you think you could ever ... love me?" "Only if you could open your heart to me in return," she replied. He understood. And he knew his heart was opening. The hinges were rusted and squeaking in protest and the door was heavy, but he had managed to push it open a bit. And somehow, Bella had managed to slip inside.

Historical notes: -Prevailing medical viewpoints at this time accepted Galen's theory of women's "seed" being necessary for conception. From a common medical guide of the day: "The seedes are kept shut and kept in the womb, but the seed of the man doth dispose and prepare the seede of the woman to receive the forme, perfection or soule ..." and that a woman's menstrual blood was the "materiall" of child's body. The downside of this belief was that a woman who became impregnated by rape must have orgasmed and thus was a willing participant. Aristotle's view of men being the only ones involved in conception had become pervasive enough by
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Shakespeare's day that it was included in A Midsummer's Night Dream. - The word "fuck" was in usage long before the time when this story is set. It is probably a variant of the German word "ficken" or the Dutch word "fokken".The first recorded usage with the modern spelling dates from 1535, "Bischops ... may fuck thair fill and be vnmaryit" ("Bishops may fuck their fill and be unmarried.") from "A Satire of Three Estates" by Sir David Lyndesay. It also appears in a 1598 Italian-English dictionary. "Fottere: To jape, to sard, to fucke, to swive, to occupy."

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Chapter 6
Chapter Six

Bella emerged from the sea, wearing only moonlight on her skin. Edward thought of the ancient legend of the birth of Venus, formed from seafoam and thought that, surely, that legend had to have come from a moment such as this. With her hair hanging free around her arms and waist, water running over her soft flesh, silver in the moon's cool glow, Bella was a goddess. This was the third time had joined her at the beach for one of her mid-night swims. She didn't need it very often, she'd told him. She just needed to reconnect with her element once in a while to be happy and healthy. And she was. Her vibrancy had returned, and she had regained the weight she had loss in her pining. She ate with him at mealtimes now, vegetable dishes only, of course. (He had explained this to the staff by claiming that Bella abstained from eating flesh not only on Fridays, but every day of the week and word of her piety had spread.) Bella put her hands on Edward's shoulders and knelt down, straddling his hips. "Edward, if I told you there might be a way for us to have a baby, would you want to try?" "What do you mean?" he asked. "Some sort of witchcraft?" She chuckled. "No, nothing like that, but those who do not understand may call it such." "What would I have to do?" "You've asked your god to heal you and he said no. Now, we should, perhaps, ask my god." She rose and pulled him to his feet. "Remove your clothes and join me in the waters." "I can't swim," Edward said. She laughed, the sound soft and melodious. "You do not need to know how to swim. And what you need to do, you already know." She helped him remove his clothing, which he tossed aside negligently on the
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sand. He had never been nude outdoors and the sensation of the breeze on his bare skin was strangely, wickedly thrilling. Bella led him into the water, as deep as his waist. "All life came from water, we selkies believe," Bella said. She traced a pattern on Edward's chest. "Long, long ago, God created water, but it seemed empty without anything in it. So, he created the kelp, but it grew and grew until it filled up the water. So God created creatures that would eat the kelp and keep it under control." Bella's hands moved lower, to Edward's stomach, where she continued to draw in the water droplets. "But the world looked to flat to God with nothing but water, so he created its opposite, dry land. And on it, he put plants like what grows in the sea. One day, one of the fishes grew curious and wanted to see what those plants looked like, so he crawled up on the beach. Soon, more sea creatures started doing the same thing, though they had to hold their breath and could not go far because they could not breathe the dry air." Bella's hands stroked Edward's hips and he bit back a moan. "God saw that some of the creatures liked the land, so he gave them lungs. The selkies couldn't decide, so he gave them both worlds in which to play. And over the years, those creatures changed, growing legs instead of weak fins to push themselves around. The selkies started having babies which had no pelts, who had to live on the land. And that's how we say that your kind came to be." She stepped close to him, her skin a hair's breadth from his. He sucked in a breath, arousal burning through him. He gasped as her hand caressed him. Something had been in his mind, on the tip of his tongue, but it was gone in the sudden urgency. He lifted her so that her lips would be on level with his and she wrapped her legs around his hips. He forgot everything the way he had forgotten what it was he had wanted to say. He forgot everything except his yearning for joining with her flesh, his eagerness to touch and be touched, to kiss and be kissed. Bella's strength and wildness matched his own and Edward would have never imagined how thrilling it would be to be a partnership of equals, to have a woman whom he did not worry he might frighten or hurt with the intensity of his passion, who returned it with a matching fire. When he joined with her, he felt a hot tingle deep with him that did not come from his lust or from the water that surrounded him, a sensation which spread within him until his entire being was suffused with it. She moved with him, using his shoulders as a brace, and both of them threw back their heads, crying out at the moon when they hit their peak.
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Afterwards, she helped him into his clothes, giggling a little at his codpiece as she pulled her own shift over her head. "I'm sorry," she said, "But it's just so ridiculous." "They're very convenient," Edward said. "Emmett keeps his money purse in his." "No!" "Yes," and then he had to join her because her laugh was so infectious. "E-every t-time I see him, now, I'm going to im-imagine him fishing around in there for a farthing!" Bella gasped, and they both laughed so hard at the image that they had to sit down on the sand. "Did it happen?" Edward asked, after they calmed. Bella kissed him, snuggling against his chest. "Yes. You're going to be a father, Edward." Joy surged through him. He clutched her to him tightly. "Is there- is there anything you need?" She shook her head. "Just your love," she said. "... You have it," he said softly, and knew it was true. He wasn't sure when it had happened exactly. He'd known during her sickness that he simply couldn't bear to lose her, but it had grown even more powerful in the last month. "And mine is yours," she whispered. "Bella, selkies don't ... you can't die of this, can you?" He laid a hand over her abdomen, wishing he could feel the tiny life stirring within her as she could. She shook her head. "We're not as fragile as mortal women." "Oh, thanks be to God," he said fervently. "My God or your god, whomever should get the praise." "I think, maybe, they're one in the same," she said. "You little heretic," he said lightly. "I shall have to speak to your instructor." Jasper had arrived two days ago and had spent some time with Bella, simply conversing with her in that calm, gentle way of his, which instructed even though
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the person wouldn't realize until later how much he or she had learned. It had been hard to let Jasper in on Bella's secret, but Edward had known that he had to tell him, so that Jasper might understand and forgive anything that Bella might say. "A selkie maiden," Jasper said in wonderment once he had understood that Edward was not joking. "There is so much I can learn from her!" "You're supposed to teach her about our faith, not study hers," Edward had replied. "She needs to learn our ways as quickly as possible. With the new Queen's fervor, I fear a return to the persecutions." "The persecutions never stopped," Jasper replied mildly. "They simply changed to persecution of those who remained with the old faith, like poor Thomas." Edward looked down. Jasper was right, of course. King Henry had passed a law making it illegal to "deprive" the king of one of his titles, and there had been many executed for the "treason" of refusing to recognize the King as the Supreme Head of the Church of England instead of the Pope. One of them had been a dear friend of Jasper's, Sir Thomas More. He had been one of the most brilliant minds of the age, and had written a book about a perfect society titled Utopia, which would still be read hundreds of years in the future. It used to be that a man could be counted as loyal by simply remaining silent on an issue, (a concept known as "silence gives consent"), but Henry heard of sermons being given against his power to grant himself an annulment as Supreme Head, and rumors of whispered insults toward the new Queen Anne. The ex-queen and the daughter he had declared a bastard still had a lot of support among the people. King Henry had fretted that they might not recognize that any children he had with Anne should be his heirs. As a result, he had decided to force everyone in England to swear an oath that his marriage to Anne was legally sound and only his children from that union were legitimate, and that he was Supreme Head of the Church of England. Thomas had been a deeply religious man, who refused to deny what he saw as the Pope's God-given authority, and so he had gone to the scaffold, a terrible loss to the world. Jasper had been one of those who had spoken out and he had fled the country, rather than take an oath against his conscience. King Henry had always seen himself as a Catholic in all but a few "minor" issues, and had been alarmed that his actions had given rise to Protestantism in England.
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Both Protestants, and old-school Catholics who refused to deny the pope, went to the scaffold or stake under King Henry's reign. After he died, the young king was governed by an intensely Protestant council, who stepped up persecutions of Catholics. The young king had even threatened his own sister, Mary, trying to force her to conform to the new religious laws. Now that Queen Mary was on the throne, Catholics like Jasper were back in favor and the Protestants were the ones facing persecution. Jasper, one of the 'martyrs" who had stood firm in the faith, would probably be rewarded in the new regime. Edward, who had Protestant leanings himself, hoped like hell that Queen Mary never discovered that he'd "conformed" during the reign of her brother and had quietly restored his chapel to its Catholic opulence, where Father Jacob was now offering mass three times daily. Father Jacob despised Jasper, whom he saw as too weak in areas regarding heresy and sin and he was deeply offended that Jasper had been appointed as Bella's personal confessor rather than himself. Bella and Jasper had spent the last two days in hers and Edward's bedchamber, deep in discussion on the Catholic faith. Edward had no doubt that Bella would come out of this well-versed in how to at least convincingly pretend to be a Christian, if not actually converted. He now turned to Bella and took her hand to help her up the steep path. He reconsidered and lifted her in his arms to carry her, lest she stumble and fall. Bella laughed gently at his over-concern but allowed it, winding her arms around his neck and drawing him close for a kiss. "Can you tell if the child is a boy?" Edward asked. Bella shook her head. "All I can feel is that life grows inside me. You will not be ... disappointed if it is a girl, will you?" He grinned. "I will be happy no matter which, but I think it's a boy." Bella smiled and kissed him. Neither of them noticed the face at the window.

Edward announced that his wife was expecting an heir at dinner the following
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evening. To his surprise, Emmett did not seem joyous at the news. He was pale and sickly, and barely touched any of the food, though the meal contained some of his favorites. He downed his ale and called for another cup, staring at the table. "We can delay your marriage now, if you wish," Edward told him, hoping that might cheer him a little. Emmett shrugged. He held up a finger to hold the ale-bearer and emptied his cup, holding it out for a refill. "'Tis of little consequence to me, either way." His words were so slurred that Edward could barely understand them. He'd seen Emmett drunk frequently over the last few years, but this was extreme, even for him. He fell when he rose to leave the table and didn't even seem to care. He made no apologies or jovial complaints that the floor was uneven. He simply rose, shoving away the hands of those who would have assisted and wove his way out of the room. "I've rarely seen him like this," Edward said to Bella, who was finishing up a hearty meal of parsnips and cabbage. "He is heart sore," Bella replied. "I pity him for his pain." Jasper, at the end of the table, set down his spoon and watched Emmett's retreat thoughtfully. "Your grace, may I-?" He gestured to the doorway through which Emmett had staggered. "Yes, pray, assist him in whatever way you may." That night, as he was being undressed for bed, Bella came into their chambers looking pale and shaken. "What news?" Edward asked in alarm. "Is it the baby?" He had gone though this so many times with his wife, Mary, seeing her excitement at knowing she had kindled, only to see her crushed when the babe was lost. "No, our child is fine." Bella looked around at the servants. "Leave us, all of you." The servants obediently retreated, filing out the door after curtseying to the Duke and Duchess. They would be right outside the door, waiting to be allowed to re-enter. Edward wore only his shirt, which extended down to his thighs. Bella bid him to sit beside her on the bed and pulled a blanket over his bare legs as if afraid he'd take a chill. "Edward, I overheard something I shouldn't have."
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"What do you mean?" She took a deep breath. "I was coming from Elizabeth's chamber after putting her to bed, and I heard voices coming from the lady's bedchamber. I knew no one should be in there, so I went and peeked in the door. It was Emmett, talking to Jasper." "Was he confessing?" Edward asked. "If he was, you must remain silent about anything you might have heard." Bella shook her head. "I don't know if he was confessing or not. It sounded like an ordinary conversation, not what like Jasper showed me yesterday. I didn't hear any Lastin." "Latin," Edward corrected. "Bella, what did you hear? Why do you look so upset?" "Jasper told Emmett that he couldn't seek absolution until he had confessed to you what he had done, and Emmett said he could never tell you, so the sin would stay with him always, a stain on his soul." "What couldn't he tell me?" Bella took Edward's hands in her own. "It was Mary. The woman he loved was your wife." Edward felt like he'd been punched. The room spun around him and he was glad he was seated. "B-Bella, are you sure? Are you certain?" Tears filled Bella's eyes and she nodded. Edward rose, holding on to the bedpost for support. "Are you certain?" he asked again. "Are you sure that's what you heard?" Bella nodded and the tears plopped onto her cheeks. "I'm sorry, Edward, I know how you humans feel about sharing." "Sharing?" he repeated. "Sharing your bodies," Bella clarified. "We selkies love our children no matter who was the body-father, but I know-" Edward sat again and Bella cut off whatever it was she had been about to say. She gazed at him anxiously, gnawing on her lip.
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He raked his hands through his hair. "Bella, be very careful to be clear with me. Are you telling me that Eli-" he had to stop and take a deep breath. "Are you telling me that Elizabeth is Emmett's child?" Bella nodded. "I told you that there was no life in your seed, not until last night when we-" "Are you certain?" he repeated again, unable to accept what he was hearing. There had to be some mistake. Bella must have misunderstood. "Emmett said Mary never got with child until they began-" she flushed. "Well, he used one of those words you told me I shouldn't say, but he meant until they started having sex together." "Fucking?" Edward demanded. "Did he say he was fucking Mary?" Bella nodded, biting her lip so hard that small droplets of blood appeared. Edward slumped, dropping his head into his hands. Everything felt distant and hollow, like he was having a bad dream, but this was real, and it made a terrible sort of sense. He rose to his feet again. "Where are you going?" Bella asked. "I have to speak to him," Edward said. "I have to speak to Emmett." Bella's dark, expressive eyes were worried. "Edward, maybe you should wait until morning." He shook his head. "I need to hear it from him." Bella helped him to dress, her hands swift and capable from practice. Edward walked like an old man down to Emmett's chamber. The door was ajar, and he entered silently. Emmett slumped in a chair in front of the fire, a cup of ale resting on his stomach. Edward took the chair opposite him and picked up the jug of ale from the floor beside Emmett, taking a hearty swig. It was the first time in his life he had drunk from a container other than a fine gold or silver goblet. He supposed there was a first time for everything, including discovering that one's wife and brother had betrayed you.
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"Finally figured it out, did you?" Emmett said, his voice dull. "Bella overheard your conversation with Jasper." Emmett said nothing. He took a drink. "How could you?" Edward asked. "My own brother ..." "I loved her, and she loved me," Emmett said. A sharp pain went through Edward, as if his heart had been sliced with a razor. "I thought she loved me." "She did. But she loved me, too. It was hard for us both, knowing we betrayed you, knowing how hurt you would be if you found out." "But not enough to stop," Edward said. "No, not that much." Edward closed his eyes. "How long?" "Five years or so. I loved her from the day you brought her here, but I held out as long as I could. Do you remember when you went to court the last time?" Edward did. It had been in the late summer of 1548. He'd been asked to come and support the young king because the council had been in a turmoil. Thomas Seymour, uncle of the young king, had married the last of King Henry's wives, Katherine Parr. All of King Henry's children had loved her and Princess Elizabeth lived with her after her father's death. Katherine was heavily pregnant when she found Thomas attempting to seduce the fourteen year old princess and had died in childbirth shortly thereafter, some said of heartbreak. Thomas had then attempted to get Elizabeth to agree to marry him, but she wisely said she had to have the council's permission. The alarmed council had then started looking into Thomas's affairs and found accusations, though little actual evidence, that he was embezzling from the mint. Thomas, realizing he was in a world of trouble, had broken into the young king's apartments with a gun, with the idea that he'd get the young king to listen to his side. He shot one of Edward's dogs, which had tried to bite him to defend his master from the intruder. The noise alerted the guards, who'd arrested him and sent him to the Tower, and he was executed shortly thereafter.
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The baby which Queen Katherine had died bringing into the world should have been well provided-for, but Katherine's will had left everything to her straying husband. When he was charged with treason, his fortune was seized by the crown. The poor little baby was left destitute and passed on to relatives, who resented having the enormous expense of caring for her properly. As the daughter of a queen, the child had to be appropriately clothed like a princess and have a household of her own servants. Edward wasn't surprised when he'd heard that the child had suddenly died. "That was when it first began," Emmett told him. "She came to me in the middle of the night." "Her servants must have known," Edward said, his voice so low that he might have been talking to himself. "They thought that was the reason you had released them from service after Mary died." Edward shook his head slowly. He drank again from the jug. "She lost the babe," Emmett continued. "We were both sore grieved by it, though I thought it was a punishment from God for our sins. But I couldn't stop, and Mary wanted a baby so badly. I tried to resist her, Edward. I swear that I did." "I did as well," Edward said. "I saw how weak the miscarriages made her." "I killed her," Emmett said. "I killed her with my weakness and my lust." Edward, who had thought the same of himself, understood. "I tried to kill myself afterward, you know," Emmett said, his voice nonchalant. "I wanted to go to hell, as I deserved. I went out to the barn and leapt from the hayloft with a rope tied around my neck. The rope broke. I lost my courage to try again." Edward remembered Emmett having a sore throat and staying in bed for a week following Mary's funeral. He had been too heartsick to pay much attention at the time. "I'm not going to ask you to forgive me." Emmett drained his cup and took the jug from Edward's loose hands and poured another. "Christian as you are, you'd feel compelled to do it, but it would eat at you like the ocean erodes stone. I'm leaving, going to my own estates." Emmett, as second son, had inherited their father's
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secondary title, Viscount Lisle, and the estates which went with it. Edward nodded. "That would be best." He rose to his feet on shaking legs and went to the door. "Elizabeth is my daughter," he said, his eyes glinting dangerously as he dared Emmett to disagree. "Aye, that she is," Emmett replied, staring into the fire as he sipped from his cup. "Congratulations on your coming child. I knew Bella's selkie magic would be able to heal you." "Damn you," Edward said. "Damn you. Know this: I have no brother." Emmett nodded. "Farewell, Edward. God be with you." Edward slammed the door behind him. Bella was in the hall and Edward had been so blinded by his anger that he ran into her before he saw her. He looked down into her soft, compassionate eyes and his rage evaporated. "Pardon me, Bella. I did not see you there." "Come to bed," she implored. He shook his head. "I wouldn't be able to sleep. I wish to walk." "Then I will walk at your side," she said. "Where I belong." "Thank you," Edward said, and took her arm. So many things made sense now. No wonder Mary had been so eager to confess before she died. He had hated to be away from her for even a moment as she slipped further and further away, but had given into her pleas. It had been only minutes after he had been allowed back into the chamber before she had passed, and he had resented losing those precious minutes with her, but it had allowed her to die in peace. And Emmett, he had lingered in the hall outside her room while Mary breathed her last. At the time, Edward had been touched by his brother's vigil, thinking it was on Edward's behalf. Now, he knew differently. It was the same spot he, himself would have occupied had their positions had been switched. Edward got a small, mean, bit of pleasure out of knowing it must have been a torment for Emmett to be denied being at her side in favor of the man she had married. The small voice inside him which always urged him toward good protested, but he silenced it viciously.
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If he had known then, would he have hated Elizabeth as he had been so tempted to do? Would he have never held her and felt all of the love that had bloomed in his heart when he had beheld what he thought was his daughter for the first time? And then he would have missed out on all the joy she brought to his life. He had gotten comfort from her, even if he had never been able to be as affectionate to her as she needed. Now, when he saw her, would he see Emmett's features on her face? No, he decided. He would not. He would not allow Emmett's revelations to taint his relations hip with his daughter. He didn't love her any less; she was his by claim, if not by blood. Emmett's worried look when Edward had discovered he could not father a child ... Emmett hadn't been worried about being Edward's heir and all that entailed. He had been worried that Edward would figure out he'd been infertile all along. "Edward?" It was Jasper, coming down the hall toward him. Edward sighed. "Jasper, please, I am not of a mood to endure a lecture about family and forgiveness." "Good, because I'm not of a mood to deliver one," Jasper replied. "I wanted to check to see that you were- Well, I was worried you might kill him, frankly." Edward shook his head. "He's killing himself quite well enough with the drink. I have a mind to let him stay his course." "He feels terrible," Jasper said, falling in to walk beside them. "He should," Edward said bluntly. "Edward, listen to me," Jasper said. "I fear that there is a storm coming. I do not know what it will be, but I fear that we are in for dark times. You need as many allies as you can get. Do not send Emmett away, for your own family's sake, if not your own." Edward groaned. "Jasper, I don't think I could stomach looking at him every day at the dining table." "Then I'll tell him to take his meals in his rooms." "Jasper-" "Edward, if you've never listened to another thing I said, heed what I say now. The time is coming when you will need him at your side."
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"How do you know this?" Edward asked suspiciously. Jasper shook his head. "I don't know. I just know that I feel it in my bones." "All right, I concede," Edward said. "You talk to him. Tell him to stay out of my path." Jasper looked relieved. He nodded and stepped to the side, letting Edward and Bella walk on alone. Edward continued his wandering path out through the yard of the house, through the fields. He took Bella's hand. He had always gotten a measure of comfort from his walks, but now he never had to walk alone.

Historical notes: A codpiece was something like a modern athletic cup, worn over the hose. At first, they were just a covering for the genitals, but during Henry VIII's reign, they became huge and phallic, jutting outwards or upwards. The one on Henry's armor is just downright alarming. -A confessor was a noble's personal priest, to whim they could confess their sins in privacy and ask for advice on religious matters. - Sir Thomas More is one of my favorite characters in Tudor history. He was a truly brilliant man, son of a lawyer, and very well-educated for his day. At a time when female education was still something mostly constrained to the nobles, he made sure his daughters were highly educated. His Utopia was an amazing leap of imagination and creativity, containing concepts hundreds of years before their time. It's a novel in which people live in a nation of communal property, equal education for both sexes, a meritocracy which chooses rulers based on educational achievement, free medical care and religious tolerance (though not for atheists.) He invented an alphabet for them, poetry, a new criminal code, and culture. More served as a chancellor for Henry VIII, who respected him and was fond of him, though neither was enough to save him when More refused to take the Oath of Supremacy, denying the authority of the Pope. The king was, however, merciful enough to commute his sentence of being drawn and quartered to simple beheading. More's last words were that he died the king's loyal servant, but God's first.

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Chapter 7
Chapter Seven

Father Jacob bolted upright in bed with a gasp and glanced quickly around the room to assure himself that he was alone. A dream. Only a dream. He was tangled in sticky sheets and he laid back down with a groan. Curse that witch! Whatever spell she had put on him was potent. Not since his youth had he been so afflicted by carnal dreams. He had prayed. He had fasted. He had worn a hair shirt over the wounds caused by flagellating himself, but for some reason, God was allowing this witch's curse to remain with him. His task was now to determine why, what lesson God wished him to learn or action that God wanted him to take. Ironically enough, it had started with prayer. Jacob had been in the north tower room, the one which faced the sea. He was probably the only person who had been inside it in decades, which made it perfect for his private devotions. He had laid most of the night on the cold stone, his arms outstretched as he prayed. God had once sent him a vision, and now he sought another. The Duke's immortal soul was at stake, and Jacob did not know how to reach him. He had watched Edward slide deeper and deeper into Protestant heresy. Soon, it would be too late to reach him. He would be lost. He wasn't even attending those abominable Protestant services any longer, and the more Father Jacob tried to plead with him to see reason, the more the Duke distanced himself. Jacob knew that he owed his position here to his cousin, Mary. She had insisted that Edward appoint him chaplain and even then, he had known that Edward would be a challenge. He showed little interest in spiritual matters. And look at what had been the results of his lukewarm faith! Mary, confessing to detestable sins on her deathbed and Edward now married to a heathen witch. Instead of appointing someone-such as himself- who might held shape her into a God-fearing Christian woman, Edward had appointed that fool, Father Jasper as her confessor. When Father Jacob had risen from the stone floor, he had seen it through the open window: a vision of Eve, but not the innocent Eve of the garden. It was the Eve from after the Fall, her nudity meant to incite lust in all who saw it. The new Duchess was
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nude on the beach, brazen, unashamed. At first, Father Jacob had thought his eyes must have deceived him, but it was true. He had gotten a better look at them when they had returned to the house. With the distance, he wasn't able to see all of the details of her form, but enough to make his dreams painfully realistic. And to his astonishment, the Duke had met with her in the water and their bodies joined in the sensual dance as old as mankind itself. There was something unnatural about that woman, but Father Jacob didn't know what it was. He rarely had a chance to interact with her and study her. She seemed to fear him as one beset by demons should fear a man of such pure faith. How had she convinced Edward to participate in whatever heathen rite he had witnessed? Though Edward had strayed from the path, he should recognize witchcraft when he saw it and know that no decent Christian would engage in carnal relations outdoors under the moon. But therein lay the problem. If he reported her for heresy, the Duke would be taken in it too, and despite Edward's lapses, Father Jacob believed he was still redeemable, if only he could be made to see his grievous errors. But not the woman. The longer the spell lasted, the more Father Jacob became convinced that she wasn't just a heretic heathen: she was evil. Until he could destroy this evil, he had to combat it on his own. He must remain pure and holy, strengthening his spirit with fasting and mortifying his disobedient flesh. Perhaps he should undertake a pilgrimage. His heart lightened at the idea. He would return stronger for it, ready to do battle for the souls of all who dwelt on this estate. God had preserved him through the persecutions of the reign of the young king, though he had spoken out boldly against the reforms. (Father Jacob did not blame the poor young king, for his evil councilors had ruled through him and the child was simply too young to understand, having never been exposed to the True Faith.) Last year, the wicked Archbishop Cramner had re-written the Book of Common Prayer, which had perverted the mass into something unrecognizable, denying the literal presence of the blood and body of Christ in communion. He was certain that Queen Mary, a good and holy woman, would see that Cramner burned for his evil deeds and that the True Faith was restored in England. He would bide his time. The hand of God was at work and soon his path would become clear.

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Edward stared at the letter he held in his hand and read it for a third time until his hand was shaking so badly that the words blurred on the page before him. Cousin, I marvel much at the news which has reached me of your marriage, for I would have thought you of a temperament not given to such bold and hasty action. It got no better from there. Mary chided him for taking advantage of the "confusion" of the young king's death and Jane Grey's short-lived reign, and reminded him that his proximity to the throne made his marriage a matter of state. She demanded he present himself and his new wife at Westminster Palace so that they might examine the matter more thoroughly. Edward dropped the letter and it fluttered to the floor, curling back along its folds, leaving only the signature "Marye the Quene" visible. He sat heavily in his chair, his face in his hands. What was he going to do? The royal messenger waited outside for a reply. And Edward would have to give him the only possible reply to the Queen's "invitation". He had to take Bella to court. He could buy a little time, perhaps a week or so, and then they would have to leave to reach London in time for the Queen's coronation. She wanted to meet Bella, the supposed princess from the New World. What was he going to do? Bella would wither away at court. It was a life he'd been born to and he found it stifling himself. Bella entered his office after tapping on the door. "My lord husband? You wished to see me?" "Close the door, Bella," he commanded softly. She did, a look of confusion on her face. He rose and crossed the room and took her into his arms. Her body was hard and unyielding because of the stays she wore and her cap prevented him from burying his face in her hair as he wanted to do, but he held her tightly, shuddering. "Edward, what is it? What's wrong?" He looked down into her face, into those large, soft eyes of hers. She had been doing so well. She had the vibrant, healthy appearance she'd had when he captured her, and pregnancy seemed to sit well with her. She had none of the sickness which had beset his wife with every- He shoved the thought from his mind. He refused to think of his first wife any more. He had mourned his marriage during that walk with Bella after his confrontation with Emmett. He had mourned the death of an illusion, the happy marriage he thought he'd been greatly fortunate to have was nothing but a lie. And in Bella's arms, seated on a fallen log, he had wept his final, bitter tears.
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Another tap at the door and Emmett entered. Edward stiffened. Emmett had been an invisible presence in the house for the last few weeks, avoiding Edward as requested. In his hand Edward saw a letter bearing the same handwriting as the one he had just received and he looked up at Emmett with dread. "She addresses me as Viscount Lisle and demands to know why I did not inform her of your marriage," Emmett said. "I think she's even angrier at me than she is at you." "Who?" Bella asked, her eyes darting back and forth between them as she tried to understand what was amiss. "The Queen demands we appear at court, Bella. All three of us." "Oh." Bella sat in one of the chairs, her eyes wide. Emmett took a seat in the other chair with a sigh. "She demands to know why I did not mention your marriage in the letter I wrote asking her permission for the marriage to Lady Kathryn, the Earl of Hale's daughter. I don't even remember writing a letter to her." "Perhaps your memory would be better if you did not drink yourself into a stupor every day," Edward said bluntly. He raked his hands through his hair, making it stand up even more wildly than usual. "I knew that she would find out sooner or later. She doesn't have the extensive spy networks of Princess Elizabeth, but this sort of news travels quickly. God's breath, how I dread going to court and facing her." "Write to her and tell her that your wife is with child and cannot travel," Emmett suggested. "Her mother waged war against Scotland while pregnant," Edward said. "I doubt she'll accept it, and it will only make her angrier if she thinks we're avoiding her summons." "Then we shall go," Bella declared. "Bella, you have never been to court, so you do not understand what you're committing to doing. It's crowded, dirty, noisy and the sea is miles and miles away. I don't wish you to pine again." "I won't." Her eyes flicked to Emmett. "We will discuss it later, husband, but I
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assure you that I will be well." "I don't know when she'll let us leave," Edward warned. He didn't tell Bella of the possibility they could all be thrown into the Tower as traitors. He didn't think Queen Mary would order it because of that soft, sentimental side she had when it came to family, but he couldn't guarantee anything. Her rule was not yet stabilized. Bella nodded. "I understand." He sighed. "No, I don't think you do, but you will."

The house was turned upside down with the preparations for the trip. The court dresses which had belonged to Edward's first wife had to be altered to fit Bella's smaller frame and to reflect the current fashions. An army of seamstresses were employed and Bella spent endless hours being fitted. What bothered Bella the most about going to court was that Elizabeth would not be traveling with them. Edward tried to explain that everyone knew that court was unhealthy for children, but to no avail. Bella had cried, and then she stormed, and then she cried some more, but Edward held firm in his refusal. Court was no place for a child, and anyway, Bella would have little time to spend with her. The contracts for Emmett's marriage were still being negotiated, but the younger cousin of his intended had already arrived to be Bella's lady's maid, just in time for the trip to court. Lady Mary Alice Brandon was a distant cousin of Edward's (almost all of the nobles in England were related in one way or another) and had served as a lady-in-waiting to the French queen, Catherine de' Medici. As she had a mother and another sister named Mary, she went by her second name, Alice. She was as unlike her cousin, Jasper, as it was possible to be. Whereas he was tall, blond and of a calm demeanor, Alice was tiny, dark and excitable, a pixie-like creature, her hair cropped short because of a fever she had suffered while in France. (That illness was what had prompted her father to call her home.) That time serving the French queen had given Alice a continental polish. She was as graceful and fashionable as a French woman and able to coach Bella in the dances currently in vogue, as well to advise her on clothing and hair styles. She had a pleasant, enthusiastic disposition and Bella immediately liked her. The apartments at court were not furnished, and so the Duke's household was packed up, everything from the carpets to the silverware. The Duke's great bed was
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disassembled and packed into one of the multitude of wagons needed to haul the tons of accoutrements needed for a Duke's apartments. As in his home, everything in the apartments had to show the wealth and grandeur of the occupants and be suitable for a man of royal blood. The loaded wagons were too heavy for horses to pull, so teams of oxen were yolked to them, straining when the wagons frequently sank in the muddy roads. English roads were notoriously bad. Ostensibly, they were supposed to be maintained by the owner of the land they passed through, but few actually did. Generally, the only time work was done on them was when it was announced that a royal progress would pass that way. Anyone traveling could expect delays by wagons to sunk into the mud, and axles to be snapped by holes. Edward and Bella rode in a litter, a ornate box-like vehicle which had poles below, supported by horses in the front and back. A servant walked beside and held the bridle of each horse. Inside, the box was lined with velvet cushions and the curtains along its sides could be drawn back if the occupants wished to see outside or be seen by the peasants who dropped their work and ran to line the road and watch the splendorous parade pass by. Emmett rode beside them on one of his favorite horses, swaying a little in the saddle as he sipped from a flask of brandy. Alice rode in a wagon with the other high-status servants. Bella worried about her because servants were intensely jealous of any promotions or favoritism, and if one of their rank felt that they should have gotten the coveted lady's maid position, Alice could be subjected to hostility or outright nastiness. But if Alice was having a tough time of it, she never said anything about it to Bella when they stopped at night. An army of armed guards rose along beside the convoy. Highwaymen were always a threat and the Duke's wagons contained enough wealth to fund a small country. He was actually richer than the crown at the present. Henry VIII had come to the throne as one of the richest monarchs in Europe due to his father's careful fiscal policies. But Henry had squandered the wealth on palace-building, ruinous vanity wars and his opulent court. By the time he had dissolved the monasteries and seized their wealth and tithes, he was in desperate need of money. But even that staggering influx of wealth wasn't enough. When he died, England was broke, and now Queen Mary had serious fiscal problems facing her. It was another reason why Edward feared her wrath over his marriage. It would have to be tempting for her to declare him a traitor and seize his estates to make the nation fiscally solvent, for at least a while. Along the way, they stayed in roadside inns. Each night, part of Edward's belongings were unpacked and used to make the inn's rooms acceptable for his
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occupancy. Anyone who had rented those rooms was hastily evicted when the Duke arrived. Pigs and cattle that were being fattened for winter were slaughtered to feed the large retinue of servants. Chickens and geese were seized from neighbors, paid for by Edward's steward at low rates which made the residents grumble quietly behind closed doors. When the caravan moved on, the area was left bare of food, though the people were given a little money to replace what had been consumed. (Edward, of course, had no idea what his steward was paying.) It was a long, slow journey and by the time they reached London, Bella was heartily sick of travel. Edward watched her anxiously, but Bella assured him that she wouldn't fall into pining again. Powerful magics protected a selkie when she was carrying young, and the effects would linger for at least a year while she nursed the baby. That, in of itself, was an area of some contention between them. Ladies of Bella's rank did not nurse their own children, but Bella refused to even consider a wet-nurse. Edward had let the matter drop, hoping that after the baby came, Bella would be more willing. They arrived at the Tower, where Mary was holding court until after her coronation, around dinner time. Servants came to unload the Duke's wagons and set up his chambers and the servants who had traveled with them departed to find themselves a meal. The Queen's steward met them as they entered, stating simply that Her Majesty wished to see them immediately. Edward tried to demure, stating that he and his wife were dusty from travel and not properly dressed to meet the Queen, but the steward insisted. Emmett dismounted his horse, but the steward stopped him. "She will speak with you later.'' Emmett gulped. Edward and Bella were led to the room which was being used as the Queen's privy chamber. The Tower served as both a prison and palace. Lady Jane Grey and her husband were still lodged inside, and Jane was able to watch the comings and goings of the court from her window. It was customary for the new monarch to spend at least one night before their coronation in the luxurious royal apartments in the Tower, but Mary had decided to make it her base of operations until she was crowned. Unmentioned was the fact that the Tower was the most secure and defensible of the royal residences. They found Queen Mary seated under a cloth of state, dining alone. Servants stood behind her chair, lest the Queen should need something while she ate. One of them held an ewer of wine to refill her goblet after every sip, and another knelt beside her with a napkin and slop bowl. So ubiquitous were the servants that nobles talked openly in front of them, even about matters of secrecy. They simply forgot
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they were there, as if they were part of the furniture. If one wanted to learn another noble's secrets, bribing one of their servants was almost always successful. Edward and Bella knelt before the Queen, their heads bowed. Edward waited, but Queen Mary did not bid them to rise. She continued to eat, stabbing her knife into the meat on her plate. After a few more bites taken with terse movements she snapped, "What say you, cousin? "I say first that my heart is gladdened to see you again, and to find you well," Edward said. He hadn't seen Queen Mary for a few years, and saw that those years had not been particularly kind to her. She was thirty-seven now, and looked it. Her face bore the ghosts of her harsh life, her skin sallow with lines around her pinched mouth. Her hair had once been the same red-blonde as Princess Elizabeth's, but it had darkened over the years to the same shade as Edward's rusty brown, and it now bore a few streaks of gray. Queen Mary had grown up in what she remembered as a fairy tale kingdom. In her younger years, her parents had a loving marriage, with her father occasionally surprising her mother with grand, romantic gestures. He'd been playful with her, dressing up like a peasant to "storm" the queen's chambers and demand she dance with the handsome stranger and Queen Katherine had always pretended she didn't recognize him until he removed his mask. But when she turned sixteen, everything had changed. Her father had become discontented over his lack of a male heir and then Anne Boleyn had come along and bewitched him. He suddenly decided his long and relatively happy marriage had been cursed by God because he had married his brother's widow. He sent Queen Katherine away to a moldy, damp and mostly forgotten castle, far away from her daughter. They would never see each other again. Princess Mary's mother died before she could convince her father to allow her to see her mother one last time. Mary had reacted to the stress by falling ill, and for most of the remainder of her life, she would be sickly, battling migraines, intense menstrual cramps and irregular periods, stomach upsets, heart palpitations and panic attacks. The Pope refused to grant her father the annulment he wanted, which might have had something to do with the fact that Rome had just been invaded and conquered by Queen Katherine's nephew, Emperor Charles. For seven years, Henry battled religious authorities to get the annulment he wanted and when the Pope finally refused to grant it, her father decided that he was head of the English church, not the Pope and the obliging Archbishop Cramner had declared his twenty years long marriage invalid. King Henry declared his daughter a bastard, making her
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untouchable in the royal marriage market. For a long while, Princess Mary had held out, refusing to admit her parents' marriage was invalid. For three years, she and her father never spoke. He had formerly pampered and cherished her, but now he responded with increasingly harsh treatment, trying to force her to yield and admit that she was the illegitimate product of an invalid union. Princess Mary's Catholic relatives on the continent urged her to remain strong in her refusal and even hatched a few unsuccessful plans to "rescue" her and take her abroad. But Mary had finally conceded, signing a document admitting she was a bastard and denying the Pope's authority over the English church. After that, her father accepted her back, but their relationship would never be close and loving as it once was. When Anne Boleyn had a daughter, the Princess Elizabeth, Mary was sent to be one of Elizabeth's maids, a deliberately cruel humiliation for the once-proud Princess Mary. Despite it all, Princess Mary loved the little baby who had supplanted her in her father's heart. Their relationship was always politically acrimonious, often because of the designs of others, but Mary still loved the little red-headed girl, just as she loved her brother, Prince Edward, when he was born to Anne Boleyn's replacement. Prince Edward had returned the sentiment, once writing to her that he loved her the most of all of his relatives. But Henry VIII had died before Prince Edward was fully grown and he had been raised by a regency council that was intensely Protestant, which had essentially banned Catholicism with a series of new religious reforms. The young king's relationship with his sister had become strained because Princess Mary refused to abjure her Catholic faith. He arrested some of her servants (though not Princess Mary herself) for attending the masses she had in her private chapel, and he once reduced her to tears in front of the whole court with a sharply-worded reproof for her failure to comply with the law. Princess Mary had referred to herself as the "unhappiest lady in Christendom" and that sadness had left its mark on her. What she longed for most was to return England to what it had been during her magical childhood, a happy, prosperous nation, not the fractured and destitute country she had inherited. She now turned to Bella. "What say you?" "Nothing but greetings and congratulations for your majesty," Bella said, her eyes glued to the floor. Queen Mary turned back to Edward. "I have heard many strange things of her,
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that she is a princess from the New World. Is this the truth?" Edward hesitated. Spreading the rumor amongst the people was one thing; lying to the face of the Queen was quite another. "She speaks English so well," Mary said dryly. "My blessed mother, the Queen, lived in England for thirty years and never lost her Spanish accent." She sighed and tossed down her spoon and knife. "If it was a love match, Edward, just say so." "It was," Edward confessed. "And now my beloved wife is with child." Queen Mary's eyes softened. She had a romantic streak. But her tone remained firm. "I could throw the both of you into prison," she said. "Aye, madame," Edward replied. "But I pray for mercy." She sighed. "Come here, Bella." Bella was startled that the Queen had used her name but she rose to her feet and obediently walked close to the table, curtseying when she reached it. Queen Mary had poor eyesight and she squinted at Bella, tapping her finger against her chin. She finally turned to Edward. "She is lovely. Has she any noble blood?" "None, your majesty." "Pity," Queen Mary said."Who is her family?" Edward had prepared a lie for this possible line of questioning and had coached Bella in what she was to say if asked. "She's a distant relation of the Poles," Edward said. Queen Mary had loved Lady Margaret Pole, the Countess of Salisbury, who had been one of her governesses as a child. She had been dismissed from Princess Mary's service after Mary had been declared illegitimate and her household broken up. Margaret Pole had a son by the name of Reginald who had been dedicated to the Church at a young age. He had become a well-known theologian and King Henry had offered him the position of Archbishop of York if he would support the annulment proceedings. Reginald had refused and had written a theological treatise denouncing the king's positions. Since Reginald was in self-imposed exile abroad, safe from Henry's wrath, Henry arrested his mother, Margaret Pole, on trumped-up treason charges. Taken to the scaffold, the frail, aged Margaret refused to lay her head on the block, which she said was only for traitors, and she was no traitor. The
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executioner and his assistants had to chase her around the scaffold and try to force her down onto the block. The executioner had been shaken by this unexpected turn of events- usually nobles gave a pretty little speech and asked the witnesses to pray for them. Not Margaret. When the assistants finally forced her down, he nervously swung his axe at Margaret's neck and missed, gashing her shoulder. It took ten additional blows before he was able to behead her. "And your family?" Queen Mary asked Bella. Bella shook her head. "I am all that is left." Queen Mary sighed. "You have a family now, my dear. But I cannot allow you to remain unpunished for this, Edward. One thousand pounds." Edward felt faint with relief. "I will have it sent to you immediately." Queen Mary flicked her hand at them. "Now go, allow me to eat in peace. Edward ... I am happy you could be here for my coronation." Edward smiled at her. "As am I." "I hope to see you at mass this evening," Queen Mary said, her tone pointed. "We will be there," Edward promised. Mary attended mass five times daily and expected everyone in her household to do the same. Edward hoped that once a day would be enough to satisfy her. Mary smiled, a little wistfully. "I wish to have my family with me again. A loving family." ..

Historical notes: Flagellation was the practice of beating one's own back with a whip as a form of penance or of devotion (replicating the wounds of Christ). There was a cult-like movement within the Church in the 14th century in which thousands of people used to walk through the streets, whipping themselves as they walked. A hair shirt, also known as a cilice, was a short, sleeveless garment, generally made of knotted goat or horse hair, meant to be itchy and prickly against the wearer's skin. -"I marvel much" was an expression that all of the Tudors seem to have picked up
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from King Henry's grandmother, Margaret Beaufort, who used it frequently in her letters. She was only twelve when she married Edmund Tudor, and had her first and only child, Henry Tudor (Henry VII) at age thirteen. She was a brilliant scholar who founded two Cambridge colleges. She married two more times, but with her final husband, she took a vow of chastity and moved into a convent. She served as regent when her son died before Henry VIII was old enough to reign on his own, a testament to the respect the nobles of England had for her.

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Chapter 8
Chapter Eight

Bella and Edward went to their rooms after Queen Mary dismissed them and Edward felt like a man who'd gotten a last-minute reprieve on the scaffold. Queen Mary wasn't happy with him, but she wasn't going to seize his estates or imprison him or Bella. He intended to give a hearty thanks to God when they went to mass this evening. Bella sent for Alice. "I need something appropriate for mass with the Queen," Bella told her. Alice and an under-maid helped remove all of the layers of Bella's clothing, stripping her down to her shift. Other maids carried the garments away. Most of the fine clothing of that time could not be washed. Stains would be rubbed with bran and then the garment would be dusted with sweet-smelling powder before it was stored. One of the maids brought her a bowl of scented water so that Bella could be washed to remove the dust and sweat of travel. Bella sighed gratefully. Humans didn't seem to bathe much, though thankfully, Edward was unusually fastidious and washed at least once, often twice, per day. Before Bella was re-dressed, she made a quick trip to the chamber's garderobe, wearing only her shift. It was a small, narrow room with an arrowslit window for ventilation, built to jut out from the side of the building, like an outhouse attached to the wall. There was a flat, plain wood seat with a round hole cut out of it. Beside it sat a small basket containing scraps of paper such as old letters, to be used for wiping. The waste fell through the hole to the ground below, though in some houses, it simply ran down the wall below, leaving an ugly stain. Pregnancy seemed to make Bella need to relieve her bladder more often, something that required the assistance of a servant to hold her cumbersome skirts if she needed to go while fully dressed. She went inside alone, and shut the door behind her. The stench of the place always made her wrinkle her nose, but the smell was the reason why clothing was often stored in there. It was believed that the odor would keep moths and other pests from infesting the clothing. Before it was worn, the clothes would be held in incense smoke or sprinkled with perfume to hide the stink.
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When she returned, Alice brought Bella a scarlet velvet gown with a cloth-of-gold underskirt, heavily embroidered and set with pearls. As Alice fastened her into a fresh pair of bodies, Bella wondered aloud how long she'd be able to wear them before her baby protested from being squished. "How far along are you?" Alice asked. Bella had asked her to dispense of the tiresome "your graces" which peppered most conversations. Alice had a friendly warmth that Bella had not yet encountered in any other woman and it made her a pleasure to talk to. At first, Alice had tried to repress it, afraid Bella would find her to be overly familiar, but Bella missed the casual camaraderie she used to have with her selkie friends and eagerly encouraged it. Alice reminded Bella of a bright little bird, constantly chattering, flitting from place to place, always cheerful. She was an enthusiastic gossip (though only of pleasant and positive news) and Bella learned more about the members of the court in a few minutes in her company than she would in standing in the Queen's privy chambers for hours. "Only a few weeks," Bella said. "It will be some time yet." Selkie pregnancies usually tended to run long and could sometimes last a couple of weeks past the usual nine months. "How can you tell that you are with child?" Alice asked. There were no reliable pregnancy tests in those days. Pregnancy was diagnosed by a combination of symptoms, and it usually took several months to know with any degree of certainty. "I can feel it," Bella said simply. Alice did not know her secret, but since they had already announced that Bella was with child, she had to give some sort of explanation. "You are fortunate," Alice sighed. "I had a fat aunt who didn't realize she was carrying a child until she went into labor. But to answer your question, ladies usually wear their pairs of bodies until they go in for their confinement." Alice fastened a heavy, jeweled cross around Bella's neck. It had a small glass bead in the center which supposedly contained a sliver of the True Cross. Relics such as these had been suppressed during the latter part of King Henry's reign and through that of his son. Edward had hidden it beneath a loose stone in the fireplace rather than risk it being confiscated. It had belonged to his mother and might have been part of the French crown jewels that she had smuggled back to England. Alice insisted that now that she was at court, Bella needed to wear more jewelry. She unlocked the chest and pulled out rings, a pair of bracelets, and a jeweled girdle. "We should pierce your ears," Alice told Bella. "You have some lovely pieces which
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could be worn as earrings if we attached hooks to them." Bella shook her head. The idea of poking holes in her body to wear even more gems was bizarre. As if all of these sparkly rocks on her person weren't enough, Alice fetched from one of the trunks a pre-reformation prayer book. Its cover was jeweled and the inside was beautifully illuminated. It was as much an accessory as a text. Alice carefully styled Bella's hair, thought it would be hidden beneath one of the ridiculous caps that were in style. Bella thought they all looked like they'd been stepped on prior to being worn. They were flattened on top and bulged out at the sides of the head, flaring around the ears, which is why earrings for women were coming into style after decades of the ears being hidden under the flat sides of the gable hood. Bella and Edward met the Queen at the chapel door. St. Peter ad Vincula had been built for Mary's father around 1520 and two of his beheaded queens were buried beneath its floor. Edward wondered as they entered if Mary took any sort of pleasure from celebrating mass as Queen over Anne Boleyn's bones. Evening mass was one of the longest masses of the day, lasting over an hour. Edward was pleased to see that Jasper's tutelage seemed to have paid off because Bella performed flawlessly, repeating the phrases with the rest of the worshipers and kneeling at the appropriate times. She looked through her prayer book for most of the service, admiring the paintings, but the Queen took it as a gesture of her piety that she studied it so intently and was pleased. They were positioned standing next to the Queen, a high honor that got them some envious glances. The chapel had no pews or seats; the worshipers stood throughout the service when they weren't kneeling. Further down the row was another of Queen Mary's cousins, Edward Courtenay, Earl of Devon. He had been imprisoned in the Tower for fifteen years before Mary had freed him upon her ascension, his only crime that of having blood too close to the throne. He was heir of the Yorkist claims and many believed that he was the Queen's choice for a husband. He certainly already acted as though he were king. Edward had always secretly despised Courtenay, whom he thought was arrogant and pompous. Courtenay was irritated at behind pushed down the row by the arrival of Edward and Bella and he cast Edward several mutinous glances when the Queen wasn't looking. When services had ended, the Queen rose to her feet after finishing her prayers. She turned and kissed Bella's forehead. "I think I should like you to be one of my
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ladies-in-waiting," she announced. Bella's eyes widened. "Your majesty, you honor me, but I fear that I am not suitable. I would hate to bring any shame upon your court by my lack of proper deportment." "Your manners are lovely," Mary said, flicking a hand to dismiss Bella's fears. "Your majesty, we had not thought to tarry long at court," Edward told the Queen, his tone soft and slightly hesitant. Queen Mary's jaw tightened. "I told you, I wished that my family were with me again. Now, I am sure that you are weary from your travels. Go, retire. I expect to see you for mass at dawn." Edward and Bella could do nothing but bow as the Queen swept down the aisle, a herd of eager sycophants at her heels. Edward and Bella said nothing until they were in their bedchamber, after having been undressed by their servants, several of whom slept on pallets arranged around the walls. Edward's manservant had pride of place, sleeping on the floor at the foot of the bed. Edward drew the bed curtains and laid down beside his wife. "I don't know what to do, Bella," he confessed. "If we try to decline your appointment to her household, she will be very hurt and Mary gets angry when her feelings are injured." "I don't want to stay here. I want to go home to Elizabeth." "I know. Perhaps we can visit in a few months-" "Visit! I'm supposed to be her mother." "Our class often sends children to their own households and visit them perhaps once or twice a year," Edward said. Bella felt tears sting her eyes. "I couldn't stand seeing her that infrequently." "Mary is very soft-hearted when it comes to family," Edward assured her. "She remembers how hard it was to be separated from her own mother. She'll surely give us permission to visit more often. And, if it pleases you, I could have Elizabeth moved a little closer, maybe within riding distance of the city." "Wouldn't moving her be disruptive for her?"
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Edward shrugged. "She's used to it. We usually move every few months so that the house can be cleaned and aired. Sleep now, Bella. You need your rest." "I need you more," she whispered, tracing a hand down his naked chest. "We can't!" he blurted. "What do you mean we can't?" "You're with child. It's dangerous, and it's a sin." Unwillingly, Edward's mind went to the sin he had committed with his first wife, a sin he had never yet confessed. He had lain with her while she was with child and she had lost the babe two days later. Bella smiled. "It isn't dangerous. Not for my kind, anyway. Why would it be a sin? Father Jasper told me that God gave us the pleasures of the marriage bed to promote harmony between a man and his wife." Jasper always did have a strange philosophy. "I was always taught that bedding a wife was to be done only to make a child, so to indulge while she is unable to conceive is a sin." "You can confess it at mass tomorrow," Bella said, and her head disappeared beneath the covers. It didn't take long to convince him.

The coronation was set for one week after Edward and Bella had arrived at court, on October 1st. The whole city was occupied with preparations and there wasn't a room at an inn to be had for any sum of money. The kitchen fires in the royal residences roared day and night as the cooks prepared the seven thousand, one hundred twenty-two dishes that would be served at the banquet afterwards and the city alderman were amassing the barrels of wine and ale that would flow from the city's fountains. All around the city, people rehearsed for the pageants which would be performed as the Queen's processional wound its way to Westminster Abbey. The day of Queen Mary's coronation dawned bright and beautiful, a perfect day which many took as an omen that the Queen's reign would be a happy one. God was surely smiling down upon her. As the procession itself started, the church bells all over the city pealed and cannons were fired from the top of the Tower. The new Queen rode in an open litter pulled by six white horses, her dark red hair lose and streaming over her shoulders. She wore a fine gold veil over it and a
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jeweled crown so heavy that it strained her neck and shoulder muscles. Behind her walked various high-ranked nobles who carried the scepter, the orb and Mary's ceremonial sword. Bella and Edward were seated in the carriage behind the Queen, and in the carriage behind theirs, Anne of Cleves rode. She was the last surviving wife of King Henry VIII. He'd been married to her for only a few short months when he demanded an annulment, which probably had something to do with the fact that he was lusting after Kathryn Howard at the time. Anne had been smart. She agreed, though pretended politely to be heartbroken at losing him as a husband. Because of her cooperation, King Henry awarded her richly, granting her estates and a lavish pension. She was the only one of Henry's queens that lived a long and happy life. Following behind them were endless rows of nobles dressed in their finery. The streets were thickly lined with cheering commoners, who came to watch the show, drink the wine, and celebrate the start of a new reign. It was the same with every coronation; people always expected that this new monarch would make their lives better. The streets were so packed that the procession had trouble passing through the crowd. Bella had never seen so many people at once. She was astonished at the spectacle of thousands of cheering faces, people tossing flowers into the path of the procession, the buildings hung with streamers and banners. People also cheered at the sight of their favorite nobles, and Bella herself was the recipient of some of the shouts of blessings. She waved and smile shyly. The procession stopped along the route to watch the pageants. The Lord Mayor of London presented Mary with the keys to the city. There were a couple of heavily allegorical plays comparing Mary to Deborah, the female Judge described in the Bible and Judith, the "savior" of the Israelites. Some of the city merchants had erected an arch and a young boy dressed as a queen was carried on a throne by "giants", and there was another memorable sight of an angel dressed in Tudor green suspended from a high arch, blowing a trumpet. Some gave her gifts, such as a purse filled with coins and a gold heart inscribed with the words, 'The Heart of the People', or an ornamental scroll praising her virtues. Through all of the speeches, songs and displays, Mary remained gracious and kind, praising her people's efforts. Bella almost dozed off from boredom, despite the noise, and Edward had to tap her with his elbow to keep her awake. At Temple Bar, they were met by Princess Elizabeth, seated on a horse in front of an army of a thousand henchmen, all of them dressed in the Tudor colors of white and green. Mary's eyes widened when she saw their number and she was stricken
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speechless for a moment. Elizabeth dismounted from her horse, bowed deeply and gave a pretty little speech about her joy at her sister's ascension and vowed that she was Queen Mary's loyal servant. Mary let her remain kneeling for a moment longer than was strictly necessary and then bid her to rise and kissed her. The crowd roared its approval at this display of familial affection. They could not see the way Queen Mary's mouth pinched or how her eyes grew cool. Elizabeth remounted her horse and tapped it with her heels, steering it to walk alongside Edward and Bella's carriage. "Greetings, cousin!" she said. "And to your lovely new wife." "Oh, Bess, Bess, why did you do this?" Edward murmured, his eyes still on the troops who joined the procession as honor guards. "To show that I could," Elizabeth said simply. Edward had never been politically astute, but even he understood the significance. On the surface, it was a pretty little gesture, a hold-over from the days of feudalism when giving a monarch a fully-equipped army was a grand gift. But Elizabeth was also proving to her sister the Queen that she was not without supporters of her own. She was currently the heir to the throne, always a dangerous position to hold, and she wanted Mary to know she could call troops of her own to defend herself, if necessary. They reached the Abbey and Mary carefully made her way up to the stage that had been erected so that the crowd could watch the coronation ceremonies. Her coronation robes were so heavy that she could not walk without assistance. The Duchess of Norfolk, another staunch Catholic who had just been released from prison, and Bella carried her train. Elizabeth, behind them, carried one of the crowns that Mary would wear during the ceremonies. She muttered to the Duke of Noallis about how heavy it was. "I imagine 'twill feel lighter when it rests upon your own head," he replied. Elizabeth kept her eyes strictly forward, pretending that she hadn't heard the remark, though a small smile tugged at her lips. It was treason to imagine the death of the monarch, which was the only way that crown would ever be worn by her. When she reached the front of the Abbey, Mary laid down on the velvet cushions laid out for her in front of the altar. Bella and the Duchess of Norfolk laid the train of the robe down and stepped aside, their part completed for a bit. The Bishop prayed over Mary and then asked her if she would uphold the laws of England. Mary
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had worried that the wording would force her to obey the Protestant reforms, so she changed it, swearing to uphold the "just and licit" laws of the nation. The choir sang a Latin hymn of praise and then Mary rose to her feet, assisted by Bella and the other Duchess, and they all went to the back of the church where a screen had been erected. There, they changed Mary into her anointing robes, a simple gown of purple velvet with a low neckline. Purple was Mary's favorite color and she wore it frequently (as monarch, she was the only one entitled to wear it) but no one was brave enough to tell her that it clashed horribly with her sallow, yellow complexion. Four Knights of the Garter came forth and held a cloth above her and Bishop Gardiner (himself recently released from prison at Mary's behest) anointed her with the holy oil on the forehead, temples, breast and shoulders. Mary had declined to use the oil kept in English churches, which she felt was tainted with Protestant heresy, so she had sent for some to be delivered from a solidly Catholic country. She returned to the screen and Bella and her elderly, but stalwart co-worker re-dressed her in the robes of state. Mary then stood before the throne, where the ceremonial sword was strapped around her waist, and a scarlet cape trimmed in ermine was draped over her shoulders. She was handed the scepter and orb of state and then sat down in the carved wood throne of St. Edward. She was crowned first with the ancient crown worn by St. Edward the Confessor, then the Imperial crown (for she ruled more than one country) and then with the smaller, lighter crown they'd made specifically for her. Mary handed the orb back to the Bishop and took into her hand the queen's scepter, smaller than the king's, with a gold dove at the top. She was England's first female monarch, unless one counted the short and disastrous reign of Matilda (and most didn't) so she held the regalia of both king and queen. Bella was weary with ceremony, and yet it droned on and on. The choir sang, the cleric preached and prayed. The audience, when asked, shouted yes, they would have Mary for their Queen. A full Catholic mass was said, and Bella tried very hard not to fidget. She could mark the hours that had gone by from the sweep of the sun's rays across the floor of the church. She tried making a little game of it; would the sunbeam reach the lady in the blue dress before the Bishop finished speaking? One by one, the nobles came forward to pledge their loyalty. Elizabeth, as heir, was first, followed by Edward and Bella. As he knelt, Edward suddenly realized that he was third in line for the throne, a thought which disconcerted him greatly. It was something that he probably should have realized long before this, but he had no ambitions toward the throne, so it wasn't a matter he gave much thought. No
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wonder their chambers had so many visitors over the last week. And the ladies had been so kind and friendly to Bella, admiring her piety in abstaining from meat all week. A few even copied her. They didn't leave the Abbey for the banquet until after five o'clock. Bella's feet ached and she was hungry, but worried that the banquet wouldn't have many vegetable dishes to offer her. They were seated at the high table with the Queen. Bishop Gardiner took the seat of honor on her right, and Princess Elizabeth was placed at her left, though some distance down the table. Edward and Bella sat with Elizabeth, which Bella enjoyed because Elizabeth was a witty conversationalist and could be very charming. She apparently believed that having Edward on her side would be beneficial, and so she was warm and friendly to him, and very kind to Bella who sat silently, listening to her husband and his cousin chat. Elizabeth plucked a ring from her finger and passed it to Bella as a 'remembrance" of the occasion. Edward had time to think, Oh, please don't let her thank Elizabeth for the 'shiny rock' before he heard Bella shyly and politely express her gratitude. She slid the ring onto her own finger and smiled at it, holding her hand out to admire it. During the second course, a knight rode his horse into the hall and tossed down his gauntlet, demanding to know if there were any who challenged Mary's right to the throne. No one spoke. As was customary, Mary sent him her jeweled goblet filled with wine. It was, in Bella's opinion, the most interesting thing that had happened in hours. Oh, when would this end? The banquet stretched on and on into the evening as course after course was presented. Bella, her stomach full of leeks and parsnips, started to doze. Edward leaned toward the Queen. "Your majesty, may I please be excused? My wife's condition makes her weary." Mary smiled tenderly at Bella, whose head drooped to the side like a wilted flower. "You are a good husband, cousin," she said. "Aye, take the poor child to bed." As soon as he rose, bringing a sleepy Bella to her feet beside him, Courtenay slid down the table toward Elizabeth and began to subtlety flirt with her, careful not to be obvious and offend Mary. If he couldn't marry the Queen, he would try for the Queen's heir. Edward rolled his eyes. Elizabeth flirted right back, though Edward knew that she despised Courtenay. But Elizabeth had already learned that she could gain valuable temporary allies by pretending that she might be interested in marrying them. Politics as usual. When they reached the hall, Edward scooped Bella up into his arms, careful of her farthingale, and carried his sleepy wife the rest of the way. "So, my little selkie," he said softly. "What did you think of the coronation?"
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"It was long," Bella said. Edward laughed. "It was something to see, though, wasn't it? It's a story you can tell our child someday, that you saw a Queen anointed and crowned." Bella yawned. "I suppose you're right. It's something that will be remembered hundreds of years in the future. Will Mary be a good Queen, Edward?" "I certainly hope so," Edward said. "I think she means well. She told me yesterday that she has no intentions of trying to force anyone back into the Catholic faith. She said her next step is to try to find a husband." A servant stood at the door of their chamber, and he pushed open the door for them when he saw Edward approach. Another waited inside with a candle lit. Even at this late hour, none of them could let the Duke find them sleeping. They undressed Bella and Edward swiftly and he dismissed them. They snuggled together in the bed. Bella laid her head on Edward's shoulder. "Why would Mary want to get married at her age?" Bella asked. "She wants to have an heir other than Elizabeth," Edward said bluntly. "A Catholic heir." He kissed Bella's forehead. "Go to sleep now, love. We need to be up in time for mass at dawn." Then he chuckled, because Bella was already asleep. ..

Historical notes: A "girdle" was a gem-studed belt which hung around the waist and had a long tail which hung down the front of the gown. If you do a Google search for "portrait of young Elizabeth I", you'll find an image of a teenage Princess Elizabeth in a red gown, holding a book, wearing a pearl-studded girdle. -I've fudged the timeline a bit in regards to the coronation. The meeting with Elizabeth was actually when Mary entered London, but its significance was the same. Mary was also given the heart of gold when she first entered London. She resided at St. James palace for most of her time before her coronation, moving to the Tower the night before, as is traditional for monarchs the night before their coronation. -The comment of the Duke of Noallis is apocryphal.

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Chapter 9
Chapter Nine

There was a great deal of grumbling when Queen Mary appointed Edward to her council. There were many who felt that their families should have been given the honor since the Duchess of Cullen had been appointed as a lady-in-waiting, and the other councilors worried that it indicated she would be replacing them with her own choices, instead of accepting the council as it was, inherited from her brother's reign. More to the point, many of them had signed the documents which had proclaimed Jane Grey Queen. But Mary was determined to start her reign on a note of reconciliation. She declared a general amnesty for those who had supported Jane Grey, much to the relief of the councilors, especially the Protestant ones who had fully expected a charge of treason. Over the next few days, Edward and the other councilors were busy setting up the new government, appointing Mary's favored officials to the various offices and positions. Bella spent most of the day with the Queen, and Edward missed her greatly. He had quickly gotten used to having her at her side and he found himself, a couple of times every day, turning to remark on something and realizing she wasn't with him. They only saw each other at mealtimes and bedtime, and they were often too weary to do anything other than cuddle together and fall into a exhausted sleep. Four days after the coronation, Mary called her first Parliament. One of its first actions was to declare the marriage of Mary's parents valid and that Mary was legitimate. It was a touchy subject with many implications, the most important of which was that if Mary was legitimate, Princess Elizabeth was not. Edward imagined that Elizabeth would be rather upset when she heard of it, but then again, she probably already knew Mary was planning this. Elizabeth thought like a chess master, always four moves ahead of her opponents, with contingency plans for every move that they might make. He was shocked and upset by the next piece of legislation: to eliminate all of her brother's Protestant reforms and return the English church to what it had been under her father. Edward felt betrayed; Mary had told him that she intended to leave the church as she found it. He stood up and walked out before he even heard the debate begin. She would win, of course. It was rare for a monarch to be denied.
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He went to find Bella, who was quickly becoming his refuge from all of life's storms. He found her outside the Parliament chambers, waiting with the other ladies to escort the Queen back to her rooms. He paused and watched her for a moment, pride welling up inside him. She was beautiful, perfectly attired as a noble Englishwoman, sharing a large embroidery hoop with Susan Clarencieux, another of Mary's favorite ladies-in-waiting. No fault could be found with her manners or deportment, and so far, the court had accepted her small "eccentricities." This lovely woman was his, and by some miracle, loved him as he loved her. He was a fortunate man, he thought. "Bella," he called. She looked up and saw him, a smile lighting up her face. She rose and walked to him and he kissed her lightly on the mouth, the English way of greeting one's friends, spouses and equals. "What's wrong?" she said softly. "Not here," he responded. "Let us walk in the gardens. The Queen will be in Parliament for some time yet. I'll have one of the pages alert us when she has need of you again." Bella told him about her day as they walked through the long hallways of the Westminster Palace to the door. She'd attended mass three times with the Queen and then Susan had read from The Mirror of the Sinful Soul, a prose poem by Queen Margaret of Navarre. It was a dour, cheerless outpouring of self-abasement of a woman who saw herself as a wretched sinner. Bella had been glad when they switched over to music, listening to Thomas Tallis, one of the musicians of the Chapel Royale, play and sing his new composition Puer Natus Est, a piece which wasn't yet complete, but that he was writing in Queen Mary's honor. They reached the gardens and relative privacy, though a few servants trailed them at a respectful distance. As long as they kept their voices low, they shouldn't be overheard. Edward, in a voice that shook with anger, told Bella about the Queen's proposed legislation. Bella did not seem surprised. "Edward, you should have expected this." He shook his head. "She lied to me. Not four days ago, she told me that she would force no one to go to mass, and here she is, attempting to restore the old church." "What about Papal supremacy?" Bella asked. Edward was impressed. Either Jasper or court gossip had made Bella
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well-informed on the religious issues. "They won't touch that issue. The lords are very worried that if Mary returns us to the Pope's authority, they'll have to give back all the wealth and lands that were confiscated when the monasteries were dissolved." Bella laughed softly. "So it's not the religion, it's the money." "That, and the fact that we English have an inherent dislike of foreign rule. A good deal of the Catholics in this country aren't troubled by the monarch being the head of the church. Returning to the way things were under her father is a compromise." Bella was quiet for a moment. "I'm sorry you are hurt, Edward." "I just don't understand why she wouldn't tell me the truth." Bella worried her lower lip between her teeth. "Maybe she means that she's restoring the services to the Catholic fashion, but won't make anyone go to them if they don't want to." Edward stopped walking and took Bella's hand in his own. "That is one of the reasons why I love you so. You always try to think the best of people." "I am not used to lies and liars," Bella confessed. "We selkies cannot lie. I suppose it is easy to lie with one's lips but how does one lie with their mind?" "You can see into each others' minds?" Bella nodded. "It's how we communicate. When we touch, our minds open to one another. That's why we don't need name-words; we can see the images." She drew a little heart on the inside of his wrist with her finger. "I wish I could see into your mind, but you are blocked to me." "Is it just me, or is it all humans?" She smiled sadly. "I can see into the mind of your daughter, and an interesting mind it is. I seem to be able to read children, but when they grow into adults ... I think that maybe it stops once people begin to accumulate secrets. They build walls in which to keep them, walls that they hide behind." "I'm sorry," he said, because it was all he could think of to say. He did have secrets and walls and he'd begun to acquire them at a terribly young age. He didn't remember what it had been like to be carefree and innocent, if he ever had been.
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They had reached the river bank. Bell gazed over the water and her eyes saddened. "It's not like the sea, is it?" he remarked. She shook her head. "It's so dirty." The Thames got the run-off from the gutters where people dumped their chamberpots and from the Fleet River, which emptied into it at Blackfriar's Bridge. The Fleet was now impassible by boat because of the amount of garbage dumped into it by the houses, tanneries and butcher shops along its banks, and its stink overpowered the scent of incense in the nearby churches. Dead animals and even dead people ended up in its murky depths. "When you said there was a river near the Palace, I thought of swimming," Bella said. "Now I understand why you said I wouldn't want to. Why do people do that to the water?" "It carries away their offal for them," Edward explained. "I suppose each man thinks one chamberpot will not taint such a large body of water, but when many men think the same thing ..." "if I were Queen, I would pass a law against fouling the river," Bella said. Edward lunged forward and grabbed her by the shoulders. He glanced around to make sure no one had overheard her. "Bella, you must never say that." "Why?" "Because it is treason to imagine the death of the Queen, and the only way you would ever have the throne is if both Queen Mary and Princess Elizabeth died." Comprehension and something akin to horror widened Bella's eyes. "You are third ? Truly? We are that close?" Edward's voice was grim. "I am the son of Henry VIII's eldest sister. The succession goes from Mary to Elizabeth, then to me and my daughter, and then to the Grey sisters, Jane Grey, Catherine Grey and Mary Grey. After that, I suppose Courtenay." He shuddered. "Though I think I should rather that England was razed to bare earth and the ground sewn with salt rather than see that arrogant poppinjay anywhere near the throne."
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"Some say that Mary will take him as her husband." Edward shook his head. "She will not marry an Englishman. To show such favor to one family over the other would cause rebellion, and Mary will not sully her royal blood by wedding someone beneath her. 'Twill be a king she marries, no doubt." "But that will cause strife as well," Bella said. "You just told me how the English can't stand foreign rule." Edward nodded. "There has already been much rumbling. But the council feels she must marry. The idea of a woman ruling alone is preposterous." Bella tilted her head. "Why?" "Because ... because," Edward sputtered. "A woman needs a husband's guidance. It is also not good for a woman's health to remain unmarried. I's why Mary has been reported to have so many megrims and women's troubles." Bella laughed softly. "You land-people have such strange notions." "Your Graces?" A young page approached after they had looked in his direction and knelt. "Her majesty has left the Parliament's chamber and calls for her ladies." "Back to work," Edward said, giving Bella a faint smile. He took her hand again and drew a heart on the back of it, just as she had done on his wrist. It made her smile as they both headed back to their duties.

Courtenay was privately regarded by many as being the biggest ass in England. He strutted, he bragged and he postured, but most troublesome was the vindictive streak within hm. He sought revenge for every slight ever done to him or his family, and he had a growing crowd of sycophants who treated him as if he held the orb and scepter already. And marriage seemed even more likely when Mary rewarded his years of loyal service (some said merely his loyal Catholicism) with the title of Earl of Devonshire and gave him a huge diamond from her father's jewel collection. Bella was afraid of him. He'd once cornered her in the gallery and said some things that she really didn't understand but knew were lewd from his expression. He hadn't touched her, but Bella had felt slimy just from his eyes on her skin. There was something deeply wrong with that young man and if Mary hadn't made it clear to her that she had no interest in marrying him, she would have had to speak up. She
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never told Edward about the incident because she knew it would just incite him to a rage that he could do nothing about without drawing the displeasure of the nobles and possibly of Mary herself. Some excused Courtenay's behavior. After all, he'd been in prison since he was twelve years old and despite his numerous character flaws, there were many in the council who urged Mary to take him as her husband. He was the last of the Plantagenets, the "last sprig of the white rose." Mary had already written to her cousin, Emperor Charles, asking for his advice on whom she should marry, just as she had always turned to her mother's relatives for advice. But she was facing pressure both from council members and from Courtenay's mother, one of her ladies-in-waiting, who slept in Mary's bed with her. Not only that, but her own beloved and highly-regarded Chancellor Gardiner was urging her to marry Courtenay because he could not stand the thought of her wedding a foreigner. Elizabeth was rumored to be conspiring with Courtenay, information that was eagerly brought to Mary by her ladies, many of whom disliked Elizabeth on general principle, seeing her as a dangerous rival for Mary's throne. Mary wasn't inclined to believe it. She wanted to be able to love her younger sister, even if Elizabeth sometimes made it difficult. Elizabeth had "declined" to attend mass with Queen Mary, despite the Queen's numerous "invitations." She went about court dressed in the sober black and white of a pious Protestant maiden, a prayer book always in her hands. Her concessions to her status were in the richness of the fabric of her gowns and that she left her hair loose, flowing over her shoulders to her hips, a river of molten red-gold, a style associated with youth, virginity and ... queens. Elizabeth was always highly conscious of the image she projected. As Mary saw it, family unity could not be achieved if Elizabeth were setting herself up as some sort of Protestant icon, an alternative to the Catholic Queen. Mary was getting frustrated and her feelings were hurt, and like always, hurt feelings led to anger. Bella tried to intervene as gently as she could, but Mary was firm: Elizabeth must come to mass or face Mary's anger. Elizabeth got wind of this and came flying into Mary's privy chamber and threw herself on the ground in front of the Queen, sobbing her heart out, her red-gold hair falling in a curtain around her. Mary's anger evaporated and she drew her little sister up into her arms. "Elizabeth, what troubles you so?" "You are angry with me," Elizabeth wept.
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"I am trying to remain patient, Elizabeth, but I want my family with me at mass." Elizabeth's lower lip trembled. "I- I have ... I don't know what to do!" "Whatever do you mean?" "I don't know what to do at mass." Fresh tears coursed down Elizabeth's cheeks. "I wasn't brought up in the old religion, sister. I know nothing of it." "Oh, Elizabeth ..." Mary said softly. She wiped the tears from Elizabeth's cheeks with the handkerchief she kept tucked in her sleeve. "Oh, you poor dear ..." "I know you want me with you, but how can I go to a worship service of a faith I do not share? It would trouble my conscience to pretend." "I understand," Mary said, smiling at her and smoothing the red-gold hair back from her sister's forehead. "Could you ... maybe ... give me some books to read?" Elizabeth asked timidly. "To see if my conscience will allow me to be convinced?" "Certainly, my dear! And I will see to it that you receive instruction as well. Perhaps Father Jasper. Bella speaks so highly of him and how much he has taught her about the faith." "Thank you, sister," Elizabeth gushed. She leapt to her feet and practically skipped from the room. She saw Bella near the door and gave her a big wink. Bella shook her head. Quite a performance. When she told the story to Edward that night, he laughed heartily. "Bess is a crafty wench," he said. "But, Bella, please don't get between them. Allow Elizabeth to fight her own battles. You don't want Mary to think you're taking Elizabeth's side against her." Bella sighed. "I can't help it, Edward. I don't want to see Mary hurting and I like Elizabeth. I think sometimes she makes Mary angry over little things that could be explained if they'd just talk face-to-face instead of speaking through others." "Trust that Elizabeth knows exactly what she's doing," Edward said. "She doesn't put on her stockings in the morning without thinking of three ways to turn it to her political advantage. I certainly don't envy Jasper the task of trying to convert her to the old faith. I'll wager you a shilling she ends up converting him."
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A few days later, Edward got permission from Queen Mary to visit Jane Grey in the Tower. From what they heard, the poor girl got few visitors. Even her own mother was busy ingratiating herself with the Queen and had essentially thrown her daughter to the wolves in order to save her own skin, and it had been she who had forced her daughter into accepting the crown in the first place. Edward hated Frances Grey, who was the kind of person who made one wonder why God allowed some people to have children. They took a barge down the river to the Tower's water gate and stepped under the portcullis. Bella shuddered when she looked at it, for it looked like, to her, the jagged teeth of some primordial monster, devouring all who stepped inside. She supposed that was true. There were few who entered its maw willingly, and few who left it alive. Bella had been prepared to find Jane in a dank prison cell, but the room in which the nine-days-queen was housed was actually quite pleasant. She had a large window which let in plenty of natural light, furnishings which befitted her station, and a pile of books. Jane was actually rather content. "I should, perhaps, thank Cousin Mary," Jane said to Edward, her tone wry. "I have never had so much time for reading." Edward looked around the small room and noted a clock perched on nearly every flat surface. Jane collected them, though Edward had always wondered where she had gotten the funds to purchase such incredibly expensive items. She was even wearing one, a small, flat, jewel-studded tablet, shaped like a book, that had a small clock inside. "Are you well, Jane?" Edward asked. "Is there aught I can get you?" "No, I have all I require. Much more than I deserve. Master Partridge is kind to me, and I have my nurse Ellen here as well." She gestured at the older woman who sat quietly embroidering in the corner. "They've even given me two serving women, Mistress Tilney and Mistress Jacob and they have both been very good to me." She looked at Bella curiously. "Is this your new wife, Edward? I had heard that you'd remarried." "This is Bella, Jane, my wife." Jane smiled, which lit up her plain little face. "You love her!" she announced. "I can tell."
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"Aye, that I do," Edward replied, taking Bella's hand into his as he gave her a soft smile. Jane sighed. "I envy you both." Her own husband, Guildford, was a petulant, spoiled child, the type of person who would remain a child until his hair had whitened with age. When Jane had refused to crown her husband king, his furious mother had ordered Guildford to quit visiting Jane's bed, though how either of them could have thought this was a punishment was a mystery. "Are you of the true faith?" Jane asked Bella. "Um ... which one?" Bella responded. Edward sighed. Wrong answer.Jane launched into a lecture about the errors of the Catholic church and tried to get Bella to accept a book on the Protestant religion, which Bella, thankfully, declined. "I can read, but not well," Bella confessed. "I fear it would take me until the Final Trumpet sounded before I finished such a thick book." "Edward can read it to you," Jane insisted. "Court life keeps us too busy for much reading, Jane," Edward said. "Perhaps another time." Jane seemed disappointed but she thanked Edward and Bella for their visit. "Pray on it, Bella," Jane said. "God will show you the true path to his grace." "That poor child," Bella said after they had reached the Green outside. She looked over her shoulder and saw Jane at the window, and gave her a little wave and received one in return. "Her faith is the only passion she has in life." "And the only one she's likely to ever feel if she remains married to that jacknape." Edward nodded across the Green at the Beauchamp tower, where Guildford was being held. "Can we send her some books?" Bella asked. "I think that would be the kindest thing we could do for her." Edward considered. "We'll have to show our selections to Mary first," he said. They climbed aboard the barge for the return trip to the palace. "We have the rest of the day free," Edward reminded her. "What would you like to do?"
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"I would spend it in your arms, if I had my preference," Bella said softly. "That can be arranged," Edward grinned. ..

Historical notes: -Mary's legitimacy (or lack thereof). When Henry VIII had finally accepted that he would have no more children, he restored Elizabeth and Mary to the succession, but never restored their legitimacy. They were both, technically, bastards. Henry had annulled his first marriage to Mary's mother, Katherine of Aragon, and then annulled his marriage to her replacement, Anne Boleyn, before having her beheaded. (Which brings up that same interesting point as what happened with Kathryn Howard: if the women were never legally the king's wife, how could they be executed for adultery?) Some scholars believe that Henry's "kindness" of importing a French swordsman to behead Anne instead of using the Tower headsman's axe was because she agreed to the annulment. -Poor Mary (or Marie) Grey was considered the ugliest woman at court. She was tiny with a twisted back. Both she and her sister Catherine enraged Queen Elizabeth when they married men below their station without permission. Mary was put under house arrest with her husband until he died five years later. Catherine's husband was sent out of the country on an unrelated matter and she didn't confess about the marriage until she was eight months pregnant. Unfortunately, the only witness to her marriage had died and she had "lost" all the documentation proving that she was, indeed, lawfully married. (One has to wonder if it was stolen by someone who wanted to eliminate her as a potential heir to the throne.) Elizabeth imprisoned Catherine and her husband in the Tower, but the jailors were sympathetic to the couple and let them meet privately. Elizabeth was royally pissed when Catherine turned up pregnant again. She separated the couple, took away the new baby, and had Catherine's marriage annulled against her will, making the children illegitimate, and thus ineligible for the succession (ironic coming from a woman who sat on the throne after being bastardized by her own father). Catherine died five years later, having never seen her husband again. This tale of woe illustrates how kind and generous Queen Mary was when she discovered that Edward had married Bella. - "A "megrim" was used to describe both a migraine headache and attacks of depression, both of which Mary suffered throughout her entire life.

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- Lady Jane Grey really did have her collection of clocks in her Tower quarters: five table clocks, including an "alarum" clock, and three pocket-watch style pieces were delivered to her "by commandment."

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Chapter 10
Chapter Eleven

"I have a surprise for you," Edward whispered into Bella's ear. He'd slipped into the Queen's privy chamber almost unnoticed and crept up behind his wife and leaned over her to whisper. Bella jumped with a little gasp. "Oh! Edward!" She turned and smiled at him, pleased as always to see him, but he missed the sparkle in her eyes. The last two weeks had been steadily more difficult for Bella. She missed the ocean, even if only catching its scent on the air or seeing its choppy gray waves from her window. She missed the call of the seabirds. She missed Elizabeth, and worried about her being left in the callous care of Rosalie. And she missed Edward, for it seemed the only time she saw him was when they passed in the halls or late at night when he finally fell into bed, to tired to do anything but give her a quick kiss before falling into a deep, dreamless slumber, only to repeat the cycle the next day. Bella, as one of Queen Mary's ladies, was always on call to tend to her majesty. She went to the Queen's rooms before dawn to help dress her, a ridiculously long process which involved multiple persons who were all charged with handing over a single garment to those who had the honor of actually placing it on the Queen's body. Even her most intimate bodily functions were performed with an audience and assistance from servants. Then to mass. Then to the Queen's privy chamber where she attended to business of the kingdom, her ladies playing pleasant music in the background or reading or embroidering quietly when she had a meeting with this official or that. Then to mass again. If it weren't for the stress, Bella might have died of boredom. Tensions were growing at court. Queen Mary believed that the truths of Catholicism were so obvious that anyone introduced to them would readily convert, and so she grew angrier as Princess Elizabeth continued to be absent at mass weeks after she'd been given the books and private lessons with Father Jasper which, as Edward had predicted, had devolved into good-natured debates on points of theology so esoteric that Edward couldn't even follow Jasper's descriptions of them. Jasper, having almost instantly given up hope of making a convert, was enjoying himself immensely during his time with Elizabeth, but had to report to Mary that no
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progress had been made, which he most certainly did not enjoy. Edward was tired and short-tempered due to the burdens of his council duties. Mary was imposing new trade tariffs in order to try to improve the English economy, but the nobles who owned the monopolies on those imports were resistant and kept trying to pass the tariffs off onto others. He felt like Sisyphus, he admitted to Bella, eternally pushing a boulder up a hill only to see it roll back down when it neared its goal. "A surprise?" she repeated. "What sort of surprise?" He gave her a smile smile and bent to whisper in her ear. "You'll just have to follow me and find out, won't you?" Bella rose to her feet and laid aside her embroidery hoop. She didn't miss the conspiratorial smile which passed between the Queen and Edward, and she was glad that the two of them seemed to be back on friendly terms. Queen Mary had noticed Edward's coolness toward her and his exaggerated formality which indicated his emotional distance after the introduction of her religious legislation and had finally called him aside. "Why are you wroth with me?" she asked, and Edward's jaw had dropped in astonishment because he thought she was pretending ignorance, which was something he'd never known Mary to do. "You lied to me," he responded. "You told me you intended to leave religion as it was and force no one against their conscience." Mary wrung her hands. "That was before I knew how bad things had gotten, Edward. You don't understand. It's terrible. There is such confusion. The priest of one church may say a thing and the priest in the church in the next parish over says another. People don't know what to believe. They're making up their own minds, even though they are not as learned as our church fathers. What sort of a Queen would I be if I left my people lost and in danger of losing their immortal souls? I didn't lie to you, Edward, I swear. I simply wasn't fully apprised of the situation." "And Elizabeth?" Edward asked grimly. "You said you would force no one against their conscience, yet you drag Elizabeth from her sickbed to attend mass in your chapel." A few days ago, the court had been treated to the spectacle of Elizabeth slowly trudging to mass, loudly complaining the whole way that she felt ill and asking one
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of her ladies to rub her stomach. She quieted down during the service itself, but she wore the expression of a doleful martyr the entire time. The tale would be spread by her Protestant partisans that Elizabeth had finally been forced to attend mass as her sister ordered, but found it so distasteful that she was sick to her stomach. "She was not ill," Mary argued. "I sent my own physicians to see her and they could find nothing wrong with her!" "And physicians are always able to diagnose an ailment, your majesty?" He arched a brow, for Mary had suffered many of her own illnesses which were simply put down to hysteria by her baffled doctors. Mary's eyes narrowed. "You're no fool, Edward. You know that she doesn't want to convert." "Aye, I do. But I also believe the stress of your displeasure could be causing her stomach problems. I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, as you once were." Mary flinched. She was being influenced by the Catholic partisans who whispered rumors constantly into her ear, and she knew it. Now, she smiled gently at Edward and his bride, her eyes a bit wistful as she took in the obvious bond and affection between them. It had taken an hour's discussion, but she and Edward had finally reached an accord, and Bella's "surprise" was part of their agreement. "Where are we going?" Bella asked, as he led her down the halls of the palace. They met up with Alice, who was waiting near the door, her face stretched in a mischievous grin. Alice knew the secret, but she wasn't talking. "Traitor," Bella said to her and Alice snickered. "You'll see," was all they would say in answer to her questions. There were three saddled horses outside, the bridles of each held by a liveried groom, and more grooms waited off to the side to escort them. Two of them assisted Bella and Alice into their saddles. Bella was still nervous around horses, but a few afternoon rides with Edward over the last couple of weeks had taught her how to hold her seat in the sidesaddle on this placid brown mare. Edward tapped his heels to his more-spirited mount, which he kept in check when it would have burst into a joyful run, and they set off, chatting companionably as they rode. Edward included Alice in their conversation and seemed to like her as much as Bella did. Bella kept
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probing for hints as to their destination, but Edward would only give her that little, mysterious smile. The city dwindled, the buildings becoming fewer and further apart, and then blending into the countryside. "Where are we now?" Bella asked. "Hampstead Heath," Edward responded. "Pull up here for a moment." He drew a cloth from his sleeve and tied it around Bella's eyes. "I've taken your reins," he said. "Just hold on." Bella clung to the horn. The shifting motion of the horse seemed worse without being able to see, but she clung to it like a bur. A few minutes later, Edward pulled the horses up to a stop, and his hands were gentle as he removed her blindfold. "Look," he said softly. She followed the direction of his gaze and saw a house in front of them at the end of a lane. A lovely gray stone manor house, not as large as the one by the sea, but still grand and imposing with a wide, rolling green lawn. Edward lifted Bella from the saddle. "It's ours, love. Mary has given her permission. We'll live here, instead of the palace and ride into the city every morning." Bella was stricken speechless. She looked around her at the unblemished countryside and inhaled a deep breath of the fresh, grass-scented air. Tears welled in her eyes and she hoped Edward could see on her face how happy this made her because the words simply would not come. "And here comes the best part," Edward told her. The door opened and a tiny figure ran out, squealing in joy. "Father! Bella! Father!" "Elizabeth!" Bella shouted. She broke into a run and grabbed the child up into her arms, spinning her around until she was dizzy, and they tumbled down, laughing. Edward joined them, sitting on the grass beside his smiling, weeping wife and chattering daughter. Elizabeth crawled over onto his lap and he cupped her cheek with his hand, looking down into her sweet, earnest eyes. Her bonnet had come askew and was tilted over one ear, her riotous curls escaping. She looked so much like his wife that his heart ached for a moment, but he refused to allow the thoughts that hovered at the edges of his mind. The servants gathered at a respectful distance, staring at the bizarre spectacle of a Duke seated on the grass with his Duchess and daughter. "Go show her the rest," Alice said to him. "I'll take Elizabeth inside and wait for
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you." Edward helped Bella to her feet. (With her cumbersome dress, there was no way she could rise on her own.) He took her hand in his and Bella could have skipped with joy. "Edward, this is just ... I don't have the words. I'm so happy. It's beautiful out here." "Look." Edward pointed off into the distance and Bella could see the spire of Old St. Paul's. "We're so close to the city, yet it feels like we're in the heart of the countryside," Bella said softly. They walked around the back of the house and Bella gasped softly. An ornamental knot garden spread before here, but what drew her eyes was the river which bordered it, its waters clear and sparkling. It wasn't very deep, nor wide, but it was a river nevertheless. Bella let out a shuddering sob and pressed her fingertips to her lips. "And I may ...?" she started, her voice strained from tears. "Yes, Bella, you may swim here if it pleases you." He hesitated for a moment. "I wasn't sure if you had to swim in salt water to be happy, and I know that no kelp grows in the river, but-" Bella cut him off with a passionate kiss, wrapping her arms so tightly around his neck that she nearly strangled him. She was weeping freely now, tears streaming down her face and her body wracked with sobs. "If I ever doubted it, this would show me how much you love me," she finally managed. "I've been so afraid for you," he confessed. "I know you said that your pregnancy protects you with powerful magic, and that you wouldn't pine, but you still could be sad. I want you to be happy, Bella." "I am happy," she said. Even if the river wasn't as big as she might have liked, the fact that he cared so much about her wants and needs warmed her heart. She couldn't have asked for a better husband. Even selkies weren't usually this considerate, because they tended to be somewhat self-absorbed and easily distracted. "Thank you, Edward. I'll never be able to thank you enough." "Thank the Queen as well," Edward said. "I told her you yearned for the countryside and this was her solution. This house was a gift from her." "Oh, Edward," Bella sighed. "She really does love you, even if she doesn't always
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show it." He smiled. "She loves you, too, Bella. She says you have a kind heart." "She does, as well. All of her ladies love her." Much later, Edward would reflect on those words and ponder the contradiction of a woman well-loved by those around her who was capable of causing such pain and destruction. But at the moment, he and Bella could be happy, secure in the affection of the Queen, with their own loving family around them as the Queen wished hers to be. They walked back to the house together, hand-in-hand. Alice was waiting in the foyer, seated on a bench, Elizabeth perched on her knee. Elizabeth squealed again when she saw Bella and ran over to her, hopping, her arms outstretched in the universal language of a child demanding to be picked up. "This is our new house!" she told Bella. "And you can live in it with me! Alice says so." "Well, if Alice says so, it must be true," Bella replied, and kissed Elizabeth's soft cheeks. Elizabeth giggled and hid her face in Bella's neck. She wore a tiny blue brocade gown, its sleeves covered in rosettes which bore a sapphire in the center. On its stiff bodice, it had a brooch pinned, a brooch which bore a miniature portrait of her mother, and the pearl trim on her bonnet matched that sewn onto her skirts. "I think you have grown a foot since I saw you last, and you weigh at least a stone more," Bella declared. Elizabeth giggled again then clapped her hands. "Let's go see my room!" "Your father wants to show us the whole house," Bella said. "We will get to your room soon, I vow." On the ground floor, smooth stone and colorful tile lay underfoot with rush mats and even a few precious rugs scattered here and there, instead of the loose rushes that were still being used in some homes. The first room they entered was the hall, where long tables with benches were set up for dinner. The high table was perched on a dais and had room for twenty favored diners along its length, which was covered with a massive carpet woven in a vine leaf motif. Edward and Bella's chairs were set beneath a small square canopy embroidered with the Cullen coat of arms. Beyond the hall lay the kitchens, the buttery, the pantry and all of the other areas where the servants worked to make their masters' lives comfortable. Edward did not offer to show them to Bella, though she was curious and made a mental note to take
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Alice exploring later. To the left lay the withdrawing room with a large fire place and sideboards where the Duke's gold and silver plate was displayed when not in use. Guests would meet and mingle in this room after dinner. A grand chair for Edward and a smaller one for Bella were on top of a set of short steps, under a canopy which matched that of the hall. A small screened area to their left was where musicians would perform, and there was room for dancing if the Duke so desired. Behind that room was a smaller one that was referred to as the winter parlor. Easier to heat, its paneled walls covered with tapestries, this room was for the family to relax in, as well as dine in privacy when they preferred. It's diamond-paned window looked out over the river. At the far end was a little stone chapel which contained the tombs of the family who had lived here previously. Its Catholic grandeur had already been restored using some of the furnishings from Edward's chapel at home. It brought to mind a question and Bella's eyes flicked to Edward, but the question was answered immediately when a figure in a black robe entered. Father Jacob. He scared her. Bella might not be able to read adults' minds, but it didn't take any special senses to detect the malice which rolled off of him. "Your graces," he said, his eyes boring into Bella. She wanted to duck behind Edward and hide, but stood her ground, though she kept er face averted. "Father Jacob, I trust I find you well," Edward said politely. "I am, your grace. I hope to see more of you in this new chapel than the old. Now that the True Faith has been restored, we may celebrate it openly. I was just saying to Bishop Gardiner the other day that we truly live in blessed times." Edward immediately understood the point Father Jacob intended to make. He knew Gardiner and would report their lack of attendance, and Gardiner would, in turn, inform the Queen. "Yes, blessed," Edward replied. He took Bella's arm. "We are weary from travel and will join with you for morning mass." "I had hoped that I might have the pleasure of your company in my chambers for dinner," Father Jacob said. He did not look at Bella to include her in the invitation. "Alas, we are so exhausted that we intend to take dinner in our rooms and retire early for the evening, but perhaps another time."
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"It is strange, is it not, how even such a short journey can weary one?" Father Jacob said, his tone wry. "Mm. Especially when one has been besieged by council business," Edward responded, an edge lying under the surface of his words. Father Jacob knew thin ice when he saw it. "Yes, quite true. I shall leave you to your rest. Your grace." He bowed and backed out of the room, but before he closed the door behind himself, his eyes stabbed into Bella once more and she felt the hair on the back of her neck stand up. Edward shook his head as if tossing off shivers of his own. "Blathering old crow," he muttered. "If it weren't for that promise I made Mary ..." Bella put a hand on his arm. "Do not let it trouble you. Pray, let us return to exploring our new home. I do not want shadows to darken this happy day." Edward smiled at her. "Follow me, my love." Upstairs were the bedrooms, the Duke's grand chamber at the end of the hall with Edward's huge bed already set up inside. Bella gasped in delight to see it there, and all their furnishings already installed, including Edward's locked chest which held her pelt. He must have had everything moved in secret haste this morning after they had parted for their court duties. The room was even more comfortable than his house by the sea. Its walls were paneled, which helped to keep the room warmer in the winter, and had a pair of windows that opened, creating a cross-breeze in the summer. The fireplace was empty of flames, though she was growing accustomed to small fires at court. They simply couldn't get away without one in such a gossip-laden environment. Bella's "eccentricities" didn't need to stand out more with what might seem like a sinful soul's fear of fire. Instead of a garderobe, the room had a small closet in which a close-stool sat. It was an ornate chair with a hole in its seat, perched over a large chamberpot. The seat was padded red velvet with gilt-covered nails edging the upholstery. Bella was actually eager to use it, just for the sheer feeling of luxury the experience must provide. Emmett had been given a room down the hall, though he had not yet arrived. Bella smiled gently at Edward when he pointed it out, and she felt proud of him for being able to allow his brother into his home, even if he wasn't quite ready to let him back
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into his heart. Elizabeth's chamber was across the hall from theirs, which Bella appreciated, never understanding the custom of putting family members in other wings of the house. Bella stopped in her tracks when she saw Rosalie kneeling in front of Elizabeth's trunks, putting away some freshly laundered chemises. Rosalie met her eyes with a sullen, blank stare and gave them a rather unenthusiastic bow. Bella glared her down, and made yet another mental note to talk to Edward about getting Elizabeth a proper governess once she was fully weaned. Tudor children nursed up to age five, but Elizabeth seemed to be doing well on solid food and she saw no reason to delay her from graduating to it entirely. The doll that Bella had made for Elizabeth had pride of place on her bed. She saw a few other toys scattered around the room and smiled at Edward, who must have ordered them for her once he saw that the child had no playthings. Bella knew that noble children didn't have the same type of carefree youth as the selkies did, but she wanted Elizabeth to have at least some time to play. She couldn't stand the thought of Elizabeth growing up to be like poor, joyless Jane Grey. Elizabeth showed them every feature of her new room, including the new close-stool behind the screen in the corner. She perched atop it to demonstrate its use, drumming her heels against the boxy front. "What do you think, Father?" she asked, hopping off of the stool and running to Edward. "I think that if you like the house, we shall tarry here a while," Edward said solemnly. Elizabeth considered and then her face blossomed with a smile. "I do like it!" "It is settled then. Now, Poppet, I do believe you are due for a nap." Elizabeth whined, but Edward was gently firm. Bella undressed her to her shift and tucked her into her large bed, her doll in the crook of her arm. "There once was a mouse who wanted to go to the moon," Bella said, and Elizabeth snuggled down to listen to a story with wide eyes that grew heavier and heavier, despite her struggles to stay awake to the end. She dozed off not long after the mouse had gathered seeds to pay the sparrow to fly them there. Bella carefully rose from the bed and tucked the blankets up around Elizabeth's
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chin and drew her bedcurtains closed. "You're so good with her," Edward marveled. "Rosalie can never get her to nap without a little storm." Rosalie said nothing about this, her eyes bitter as she stared at the floor. Edward took Bella's arm. "Come, my lady wife. I have something else I must show you." "Oh? Where is it?" Bella followed him out into the hallway. Edward turned around and walked backwards, drawing her to the door across from Elizabeth's. "It's in our chamber," he said. "I am eager to see it," Bella said, her eyes shining with love for this man, a love so large that it felt like it stretched her heart to twice its size. It spilled over, warming her entire being. He leaned against the door, watching her with hooded eyes. "Should I call Alice to undress me?" Bella asked tugging slowly, teasingly, at her laces. "No," he said, pulling her against him. "I still have my knife if the need should arise." And then he took her mouth with barely restrained hunger. Bella moaned, tangling her fingers in his wild hair, pressing her body as close as she could to his. He reached down and yanked up her skirt, his hand delving beneath the heavy folds of material to find her soft flesh. She gasped against his lips, her hips moving involuntarily to follow the strokes of his fingers. "I can't wait," he groaned. He spun them around, pushing her gown up around her waist as he lifted her off her feet. Bella wrapped her legs around his hips, panting in excitement. Their mouths met wildly in a storm of lips and tongues and nipping teeth. He reached between their bodies and shoved down his hose and codpiece, ramming into her with one hard, abrupt stroke that made her cry out. "Oh, Christ, did I hurt you?" he gasped. "No, more." she ground out. "More!" Edward decided then and there that whatever his little selkie wife wanted, he would oblige.

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Chapter 11
Chapter Eleven

The moonlight glimmered on the water like a bed of diamonds. Bella's dark head broke the surface and Edward let out the breath he'd been holding and it fogged in the chilly air. He knew she could not drown but every time she dove, he waited anxiously for her to reappear. It was late October and there was frost on the grass. Edward marveled at Bella's tolerance for the frigid water but she never seemed to notice the cold. In the summer, right after they'd purchased the house, he'd gone into the water with her a few times and Bella had taught him how to swim, but he'd been forced to stop about a month ago, unable to stand the cold any longer. He now sat on the bank and waited for her, as he always did, with dry clothing and a blanket which was more for his comfort than her own. She emerged from the water, munching on a bulrush root, which she claimed to like almost as much as kelp. Edward brought her a dry chemise, which she pulled over her head, and then wrapped her shoulders in the blanket. Silently, they tiptoed back to the house, creeping up the back stairs to the safety of their chambers without being spotted. Edward shivered a little as he undressed down to his shirt and went over to warm himself in front of the fire, kept low to avoid disturbing Bella who still preferred to remain on the other side of the room from it. She sat down on the bed and began to comb her long, dark hair. Edward left the fireplace, no longer a interested in warming himself and sat down beside her. He took the comb and resumed the job himself. If anyone had told him a year ago that he would find great pleasure in combing a woman's hair, he would have said they were mad. He slipped his hand around to the front of her body, cupping her slightly distended abdomen. "I hope you did not give our babe a chill." She turned her head and smiled at him. "Fear not, he is safe and warm." "He?" She shrugged. "Or she." "Oh," he said after a moment. "I thought perhaps you found out."
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She shook her head. "In that regard, we are on equal footing with human women. We know only after the child is born." She held a hand over his. "I know that you if want a boy, a woman is supposed to stay way from cool, moist foods like fruits and salads." Edward chuckled. "I think we're doomed to have a girl, then." "Would that trouble you?" What troubled him was the thought that she might not stay with him forever, but at least he'd have this part of her, a child their own to love. "Not if she looks like you," he said lightly. "I think I would like it if our child that inherited your Tudor red hair." "As long as she has your eyes," he responded. "Bella, is there any chance our babe could be a selkie?" She shook her head. "Only two selkies can have a selkie child, Edward." "I remember you telling me that, but we went into the water ..." "That would not change what you are, any more than me being on land changes what I am." He didn't know if he was relieved or disappointed. When she had described selkie childhood, it seemed so idyllic, playing beneath the waves, carefree and innocent, indulged and loved by every adult, not like his own strict and cold upbringing, the majority of it spent seated at a desk learning the languages of countries to which he would never travel, knowing that he could be beaten for poor performance. He traced the outline of a heart on her stomach. Bella had changed his outlook so much. He had longed for a warmer relationship with his daughter but hadn't known the way until she showed him, until she had melted the ice around his heart. Now he encouraged his daughter but did not demand. He let her play and found that it improved her academic progress. And Bella's loving guidance made Elizabeth more obedient than the fear of physical punishment had. She now wanted to please her father because she loved him, not feared him. Bella had opened a new world before him, one which he had previously been too blind to see was there all along.
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The next evening, Bella had not returned by the time Edward left the council session which was endlessly debating the Queen's marriage prospects with little progress. Everyone defended their favored candidates and the arguments went round in circles until Edward wanted to draw his sword. Edward was disappointed, having looked forward to spending the evening with Bella. He'd thought she'd be home since it was told to the court that the Queen was ill and would not be receiving visitors that day. It wasn't really untrue; the Queen had worried herself into stomach issues and heart palpitations. A note arrived with a messenger shortly after he entered his hall, handing his riding gloves to a waiting servant who carried them off to clean and powder them. He opened the folded and wax-sealed paper to find Bella's barely legible scrawl crossing the sheet. She spelled phonetically, as most people of their day, but combined with her awkward handwriting, it made for difficult reading. "Edward, Dvck of Culyn Myne awne Lorde Husband, I remayne wt her Maiestie the Quene, who is prainge in her chappel and tis her desier that none of us shulde depart tyl she hath done. No more to yow at the present, myne awne darlyng, for lake off tyme, tho I am wyshying myselfe in my swetharts armes. Wrytten this Wynsday at St Iames at viij o'clock. Yours as long as lyffe endures, Bela Culyn" He sighed and laid down the paper. Mary was praying about the proposal she'd received from her cousin (to whom she'd been once betrothed herself), Emperor Charles, that she should marry his son, Phillip of Spain. As much as she might coyly protest that she was happy to live out her life a virgin, dedicated to her people, Mary had always longed for a husband and children. On the personal side, the problem that this particular match posed was that her suggested husband was eleven years younger than the Queen and rumored to be sexually promiscuous, having sired a string of bastard children. Mary was worried about his lustiness, though she tried to phrase it delicately. Discussions of "marital duties" from her mother had always been couched in terms of enduring one's husband's attentions for the good of the nation, and though her mother had taught her to close her eyes and ignore it, Mary did not want a husband who would keep mistresses and rivals in her own court. Her laundresses grew wealthy as they were bribed by everyone from footmen to ambassadors to reveal whether or not the Queen still menstruated and thus was eligible to be married. Even Edward and Bella had been approached, but Bella was indifferent to the "shiny rocks" offered for her insight and Edward was indignant at being asked to spy. Everyone from the laundresses, to the maids who changed her
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sheets and the physicians who cared for her swore that she still had her courses, albeit a bit irregularly. Though that could be explained by remaining unmarried at such an advanced age. Her delicate system simply wasn't intended for a life of celibacy. The more Mary thought about marriage, the more she seemed to like the idea. Bella watching in astonishment as she became less the regal spinster and more of a fluttery, giggling girl. A portrait of Phillip, by the renowned artist Titian, had been sent to her and she sent days mooning over it and sighing. She was half in love with him without ever laying eyes on the man. Bella privately thought that the prince wasn't nearly as handsome as Mary did. He stood before a red-covered table, half-dressed in his armor. His complexion was pale and he had a scraggy beard lining the bottom of his jawbone and plump red lips under a thin mustache. His codpiece was phallic, jutting upward from beneath the armor breastplate. Bella did have to agree with Mary on one thing: the man did have very nice legs under his smooth, cream-colored hose. Before they had entered the chapel that evening, Mary had called Bella aside, shooing the rest of her ladies through the door, though they would undoubtedly be straining to hear. Bella had once opened a door and a pile of ladies had fallen out on top of her because they'd been leaning against it with their ears pressed to the wood. "Bella, may I ask you some ... questions of a ... well ... of a personal nature?" The Queen's sallow face was splotched alarmingly with hectic patches of red. "You are my closest female relative, after all, aside from Jane Grey, and obviously I can't go to speak with her on this." Mary twisted her handkerchief between her hands. Bella waited. "It's just ... I- my mother didn't much discuss ... certain aspects of marriage with me." Mary's voice fell to a whisper. Bella could never understand why humans found sex to be such an awkward and embarrassing subject. "You may rely on my discretion," Bella assured her. "It's not that, it's just ... Bella, I'm old. I'm an old, dried-up spinster and he's a young man in his prime. What If I ... repel him?" "Mary, your body is still that of a young woman," Bella said honestly. "There is naught about it which would repel a man." Mary was on the thin side in a time when
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plump women were the more favored style of beauty, but she was still firm and youthful when most women her age had borne multiple children and their figures showed the wear. "He's experienced," Mary whispered, as if this were a tragedy. "He's been married before and there are certain stories which have been told to me." "By those who want you to marry Courtenay?" Bella said drily. "I'm sure they've made sure every shred of gossip has reached your ears whether it be true or not." Mary's voice dropped so low that Bella had to strain to hear her. "What's it like?" Her face had passed the red stage and was now nearly as purple as her gown. "With a kind man, it is a joy," Bella replied. "But, your majesty, you cannot be shy with him. You must tell him what pleases you and make an effort to please him as well. If you show enthusiasm and willingness to please, it is more likely he will offer the same and you will find much delight in your marriage bed." Mary nodded thoughtfully. "The Spanish ambassador says that he is kind and gentle in nature." Bella thought the Spanish ambassador would have told Mary that he was a centaur if he thought it was what she wanted to hear. No man could ever possibly measure up to the paragon of virtue they had built up in her mind. "I need to pray," Mary said, twisting her handkerchief again. They headed for the chapel doors, which two footmen opened for them, bowing as the Queen passed. She knelt on a cushion in front of the altar and bowed her head over her clasped hands. Bella settled on a cushion of her own, mentally preparing herself for a long wait. Prayer was another thing she didn't understand. In the selkies' religion, the god of the world heard their every thought and they didn't need to pause and assume a special pose in order to make him listen. They worshiped by playing beneath the sun and waves, by dancing and making love, for their joy made their god happy. The services her on land seemed very dour by comparison. The Queen raised her head finally and called to one of her servants to fetch the Spanish ambassador. A murmur went though those watching, wondering what the Queen had decided. When he arrived, Mary rose to her feet and placed a hand on the altar in front of the tabernacle containing the host and solemnly swore that she would marry Phillip of Spain.

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At home, Edward was preparing to put his daughter to bed, having decided not to have her wait any later for Bella. He didn't call for Rosalie. Instead, he motioned for the maid who had been putting Elizabeth's toys and books away. She started undressing the child. Elizabeth stood patiently, her arms held out. While she was being undressed, they chatted about her day. Elizabeth had learned a new little tune on the virginals and Edward smiled at her, proud she was learning so quickly. "You are a good girl." "I'm not a good girl," Elizabeth said sadly. "I make my mother in heaven cry." Edward was startled. Where on earth would she have come up with an idea like that? "What do you mean, Elizabeth?" "Because I love new-mother Bella. It makes my real mother sad because I should only love her." Elizabeth reached for the miniature portrait pinned to the front of her bodice and tilted it up so that she could look down at the her mother's face. "I'm sorry, Mother. Don't be sad." "Who told you this, Poppet?" "Nurse told me," Elizabeth said. "And she said-" Elizabeth clapped a hand over her mouth, as though she had suddenly remembered she wasn't supposed to reveal this part. "What is it?" Edward asked, keeping his voice as gentle as possible, though inside he was furious at Rosalie for what she had done. "You can tell me anything. You know that, don't you? I swear I won't be angry at you." Those last words were like pulling a plug from a barrel. Elizabeth's words gushed forth so rapidly that they tumbled over one another. "She said that you were making her sad, too. 'Cause if you love Bella, you didn't love my mother and Bella is bad for making us love her instead." Edward had always been told that adults should present a united front to children, never contradicting one another or undermining each others' authority, but he could barely contain his rage. "Nurse is wrong, Poppet. Your mother wouldn't be sad that you love your new mother. She wants you to be happy and she wants Bella to take good care of you, the way that she would if she were here." Elizabeth looked skeptical but she had been raised well and would never argue with her father's pronouncements.
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"I was married to your mother and I knew her better than anyone. Nurse Rosalie never even met her." That startled Elizabeth. "Nurse never met my mother?" she repeated, confusion warring with hope. She wanted to believe so badly that her emotions were acceptable. "Elizabeth, I swear to you that your mother would be happy you have another mother to love. Nurse is mistaken." Edward said it firmly and Elizabeth's little face broke into a huge smile. She threw her arms around her father's neck. "Sleep well, Poppet," he said, kissing her plump little cheek. He lifted the blankets for Elizabeth to crawl beneath. "Will B- mother be in to tell me a story?" "Not tonight. She is still at the chapel with the Queen, but I'm sure she will tell you one tomorrow before your nap." That seemed to satisfy the child and she burrowed down into her blankets, clutching her doll. Edward kissed her and left the room. His body shook with the effort of containing his anger. He closed the door of his daughter's room quietly and strode to Rosalie, who sat in the hallway, embroidering by the light of a single candle. "You are dismissed from my daughter's service," he said shortly. "I want you gone by morning." She did not even look up at him. "I cannot leave, your grace." A tiny smirk appeared on her lips and he had to suppress the urge to strike it from her face. "I will give you your wages for the year," Edward retorted. "You will have plenty to hire a wagon to take you to your parents' home." "Nay, your grace. I carry your brother's heir. We intend to wed as soon as he secures permission from the Queen."

Edward found Emmett in the great hall, sitting by the fireplace with his feet propped up on the grate. Edward gestured to one of the folding x-shaped chairs along the wall and a servant hurried to set it up for him beside his brother's. Edward sat down heavily as the servant retreated back to stand by the wall. "I've just spoken to Rosalie," he said.
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"She told you, then?" Emmett took a swig from the bottle of French brandy he held. "God's breath, Emmett. Rosalie?" Emmett shrugged. "I was drunk and she was willing. She came to my chamber shortly after we moved to this house." "'He who goes drunk to bed begets but a girl'," Edward recited. "Why on earth would you marry her?" "I'm trying to do what's right," Emmett said, "as you are always urging me to do. I despoiled a virgin of good family and got her with child. It is only right that I take her to wife." Edward rubbed a hand over his face. "Have you spoken with the Queen?" Emmett winced. "Yesterday. She was not best pleased." "I should imagine not," Edward replied. "She gave her permission?" "Aye. We're to be married next week. Rosalie is not so far beneath us. Her grandfather was an earl, and her mother was a lady-in-waiting to Jane Seymour." Edward sighed. "And when were you planning to tell me?" "When the deed was done." "And the Earl of Hale?" "I've written to him to cease the negotiations. He should have no trouble finding another husband for his daughter." "If he takes Alice from Bella, she'll be heartbroken," Edward said. "That was bound to happen soon anyway." Emmett set the empty bottle on the floor by his chair. "I've heard he found a match for her, Baron Tyler." Edward shuddered. "Poor girl." Baron Tyler had already gone through three wives, all of them dead within a year of marrying him, the first in childbed, the second of the Sweat and the third in a strange riding accident. And it was said all of them were glad to die to escape him, for he was a crude, vicious man who beat his
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servants, his dogs and his horses nearly as frequently as he beat his wives. "Are you certain this is what you want?" Edward asked. "No," Emmett replied. "But it's what I should do." "I wish you the best, then, brother," Edward said. "But I will not have her caring for Elizabeth any longer. She's filled the child's head with nonsense about-" he cut off, unable to say his wife's name in the presence of his brother. "She's said that the child's mother is weeping in heaven because Elizabeth loves Bella." "When she is my wife, I will keep her tongue in check, I assure you," Emmett vowed. He heard a clatter and turned to see the servants opening the door for Bella. She came down the hall, pulling off her gloves as another servant took her wrap. Alice followed her inside and took the wrap, carrying it up to Bella's chamber to be stored in her clothes press. "I am sorry I am so tardy," Bella told Edward as he came over to her for a kiss. The servant who'd fetched Edward's chair put out another for Bella, who smiled and nodded her thanks. She saw the low orange coals in the fireplace and edged her chair back a bit further. "The Queen finally reached her decision," Bella told Edward. "She has vowed before the host that she will marry Phillip of Spain." "There's to be another wedding," Edward said. "Emmett and Rosalie will wed in next week." "Oh." Bella blinked. "Congratulations?" From the grim set of the faces of the men, she wasn't sure that was the proper reaction. Emmett nodded. "Thank you." Edward decided not to tell Bella about Baron Tyler, not until Alice herself knew. Let the two of them enjoy what time they had left together without that cloud looming on the horizon. Besides, contract negotiations might fall through, especially if Baron Tyler came across a prospect with a larger dowry. "Rosalie has been dismissed from our service," Edward told his wife. "She told Elizabeth that loving you made her mother cry in heaven." Bella gasped softly. "That poor child. I had wondered why she'd taken to calling
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me by my given name instead of 'mother'." "The Queen has offered to have her as a lady-in-waiting," Emmett said. "And I have been given a position on the Board of Greencloth, though I think it was more to keep an eye on me than to honor us." "I can't imagine why," Edward said drily. "Regardless, I wish you happiness, Emmett." He rose and held a hand out to Bella and drew her up from her seat. Emmett let out a bark of humorless laughter. "Happiness," he said, shaking his head. "I neither deserve nor expect it." ..

Historical notes: -Bulrushes are what Americans call cattails. Their roots and lower stems are edible, and quite tasty, I'm told. - The spelling in Bella's letter comes directly from transcribed letters of Elizabeth I, Anne Boleyn, Kathryn Howard, Henry VIII, and Mary I. The letters "i" and "j" were interchangeable, as were the letters "v" and "u". Translated into modern spelling, Bella's letter reads, "Mine own lord husband, I remain with her majesty the Queen, who is praying in her chapel and it is her desire that none of us should depart 'til she has done. No more to you at present, mine own darling, for lack of time, though I am wishing myself in my sweetheart's arms. Written at St. James at 8 o'clock." And yes "duck" was a spelling used for "duke", believe it or not. Look at the portrait of Henry FitzRoy, Henry VIII's illegitimate son. Painted on the background are the words "The Dvck off [sic] Richemod [sic]". The Tudors never met a word they couldn't spell oddly. But one interesting aspect of this is that it gives us valuable insight into how words were pronounced (as an example, "am" apparently rhymed with "tame") and what the accent would have been like in those days. As one Tudor scholar put it, it probably would have sounded a lot like a group of hillbillies trying to fake English accents. - The Board of Greencloth was essentially the finance office of the Queen and its name was taken from the green table cloth that traditionally covered the surface where they worked. It still exists today as a part of the royal household and still meets at a table covered in green.

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Chapter 12
Chapter Twelve

A storm was brewing. Bella felt it in her bones. As the news of Mary's choice of a husband spread, she lost much of the goodwill that she had from her ascension. The people hated the idea of a Spaniard ruling over them, one of the few things upon which both the Protestants and the Catholics could agree. The English were rather xenophobic and there were many people who were willing to encourage the sentiment. Every few years, a anti-foreigner riot broke out in London, for the "strangers" were blamed for everything from the lack of employment to spreading the plague. The English could tolerate a king marrying a foreign princess for the wealth and allies that she would bring to their land, but Mary's husband would be no mere consort. By English law, a husband took possession of all of his wife's property. England itself would be Mary's dowry. Mary's grandmother, Isabella, had ruled autonomously alongside her husband, Ferdinand, but this had been forgotten by the people who believed it would be Phillip who would rule. He might even choose to exert his "husbandly tyranny" and drag her back to Spain to rule from there, and England would wind up as nothing more than a province of Spain. Mary, at her advanced age, could die in childbirth, leaving the kingdom to be ruled in the name of her child by Phillip. Perhaps if Phillip had been known to be of more noble character, the marriage might have been tolerable to the English, but what they'd heard of Phillip was not promising. He was said to be pompous and a boor, and the English were sure that with his lusty ways, he would mistreat their Queen by flaunting mistresses before her. A pamphlet with a somewhat unwieldy title, began to circulate: A Warnvng for Englande Contevnvng the horrible practices of the kyng of Spavne in the kvngs dome of Naples and the miseries whereunto that noble Realme is brought. Wherbv all Englishe men may understand the plage that shall light upon them if the kyng of Spavn obtevne the Dominion in Englande. Parliament was still working on Mary's proposed legislation and when she next appeared before them, they begged her to reconsider. She should marry, of course, because a woman could not bear the duty of monarchy alone, but surely Courtenay,
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an Englishman and the last of the Plantagenets, would be a better choice. Mary was outraged. Parliament had never tried to interfere in her father's choice of a spouse, she replied, and even the most lowly of women in the kingdom had the choice of whom they would marry. At this, all the women in the gallery exchanged glances. Most of them had been married off to men of their fathers' choosing and had no choice but to obey. Poor Jane Grey had been beaten when she tried to refuse to marry Guildford Dudley, not an uncommon occurrence when women tried to exercise the "choice" Mary thought they had. The Queen grew a bit histrionic as she spoke, vowing that if she were forced to marry a man not of her choosing, she would die within three months, leaving the country far worse off than it was now, without an heir (except for Elizabeth, whom she did not mention.) She swept haughtily from the chamber, Bella and her other ladies following. Bishop Gardiner, Mary's chancellor, arrived at her chambers shortly after Mary herself and pleaded with her to reconsider marrying Courtenay. Mary was exasperated. "Why are you such a partisan of his?" "We were imprisoned in the Tower together," Gardiner said. "We spent much time together and I got to know him well. He's a fine young man and would make an excellent husband for you." Mary tossed her hands. "You want me to marry a man just because you grew fond of him in prison?" "I know his character and he would make a fine king. He's-" Mary cut him off. "He is beneath me. I will not marry below my station." Mary's voice was firm, resolute and Gardiner hung his head in defeat. "As you will, your majesty," he said quietly and departed, a pensive expression on his face. "He would make a terrible king," Bella blurted. Instantly, she regretted her outburst. Courtenay would hear of what she had said and want revenge. He wasn't one to let a slight, real or imagined, pass without taking action. Mary chuckled. "I tend to agree. And in any case, my heart is set on Phillip."
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She spoke not just of her determination, Bella thought. Her dreamy expression was that of a woman in the throes of her first love. Bella sent up a silent prayer in hopes that it would not end in heartache. The Queen so badly needed someone to love, someone who would love her in return. Mary had hoped to find that in Elizabeth, but things were going badly between them. Elizabeth thought first of politics, not of her emotions, and Mary was her polar opposite. Instead of spending her time in her sister's chambers, Elizabeth was always out and about in court, cultivating friendships, making alliances and building her support among the Protestant lords. And despite the lovely gowns and jeweled rosary Mary had sent her, Elizabeth still dressed in the sober black and white of a Protestant maiden, her brilliant hair the only splash of color. Through the window, Bella caught a glimpse of Princess Elizabeth walking in the knot garden as she was wont to do. Bella dashed over to the Queen. "Your majesty, may I be excused for a while?" Mary waved her hand in permission and Bella hurried toward the door. A footman handed her cape to her and Bella slung it around her shoulders. Alice hurried after her. "Don't be late for mass, your grace!" Mary called after her. "I won't, your majesty!" Bella called back. She trotted through the palace corridors as quickly as her stays would allow and out into the knot garden. Princess Elizabeth strolled along one of the graveled paths, reading a book as she walked. Her ladies followed behind, chattering and gossiping quietly. Bella sped down the path until she was alongside Elizabeth and dropped into a curtsey. "Your highness." Elizabeth smiled and bowed in return. "Your grace." Courtesies thus observed, Elizabeth lowered her voice. "I've wanted to speak to you. Why don't we sit for a moment?" She led Bella over to a bench beneath a small tree and flicked her hand at her ladies, signaling them to stand back a few paces and give the illusion of privacy. Bella glanced at Alice and held up a hand. Elizabeth's ladies examined Alice critically, wondering if she was worth befriending, considering Lady Cullen's relationship with the Queen. Was her star on the rise or wane? Princess Elizabeth seemed to like Lady Cullen, but you could never tell with Elizabeth. She was friendly to even those she despised because one never knew when a relationship would come in handy. "I haven't had a chance to visit with you in a while," Bella said. "You rarely come to Mary's chambers."
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"To the Queen's preference, I would imagine," Elizabeth said. She put her book down on the bench beside her. "I miss you," Bella said. Elizabeth smiled at the little Duchess, for sincerity shone in those huge dark eyes of hers. "I've missed you as well, but I felt it best to ... absent myself for a time." She scooted a little closer to Bella. When she spoke, her voice was so low that Bella could barely hear it. "Bella, I'm going to say something to you and you must not ask me any questions. Do you understand?" Bela nodded. "I think you should leave for a time. Urge your husband to remove you and your little daughter from London. Go back to Cullen Hall or another of his estates. The further, the better. Tell the Queen that there is trouble on his estates that needs your personal guidance. Tell her anything you want. Just take your family and go." Elizabeth rose to her feet and smiled brightly. "It is time to go to mass, your grace." Bella stood and followed her from the garden back inside the palace. Her stomach was in knots. What did Elizabeth know? Why did they need to leave London? Was the Queen in danger? Bella bit her lip to restrain herself from bursting forth with the questions that roiled in her mind. As they walked to the chapel, Elizabeth chattered pleasantly about banalities. Bella supposed it ought to be interesting because Elizabeth always was a clever conversationalist, but she could not keep her mind on it, as turbulent as her mind was at the moment. The hall outside the chapel was crowded and Elizabeth's manservant, who had rejoined them at the entrance to the palace, had to shout to clear a path and use his staff of office to nudge aside those who crowded too close to the princess. "Treason!" someone shouted. Elizabeth froze, and the color drained from her face. She swayed like a tree in the high wind and her ladies immediately surrounded her to catch her if she fainted. "Who said that?" Elizabeth's manservant demanded into the silence that had fallen like a blade. A long moment passed before one of the courtiers stepped forward. He looked abashed. "I am sorry, your highness. 'Twas just a joke directed at my
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manservant for his forgetfulness." Elizabeth gasped for air, trembling violently. "Take her to her chambers," Bella ordered Elizabeth's ladies. "She needs to lie down." She watched as Princess Elizabeth's ladies half-carried her down the corridor. That night, she told Edward of Elizabeth's warning. His face grew grim. "I'll send you and my daughter back to Cullen Hall if you wish, but I cannot leave. I have responsibilities here and I cannot abandon them, nor Mary, if she's going to have need of me." "And my place is at your side." Edward was silent for a long moment. "At least we've been warned." "But warned about what?" Edward sighed. "I wish I knew. I fear we're going to find out soon enough."

Emmett's wedding was set for mid-morning and he was already drunk when Bella and Edward went to find him right after breaking their fast in their chambers with a light meal of bread, cheese and ale. "Emmett, you're drinking this early?" Bella chided. "Actually, I haven't stopped since last night," Emmett replied. He stood and held his arms out, wobbling a bit, and his servants began to apply his wedding finery over the shirt and hose he already wore. "You look like you're going to an execution, not a wedding," Edward commented. "Come now, it won't be so bad. You're not the first couple who has to learn how to get along. Many a happy marriage has been started thus." "I have no choice," Emmett said, as if reminding himself. "I took her innocence and put a babe inside her." Bella stared at him. "What? Emmett, Rosalie was not a virgin," Bella said. "I don't
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know where you got that idea, but she's a wet nurse. She was once married had a baby. Don't you recall?" She knew that men tried to avoid the subject of women's bodily functions, and avoided the entire realm of childbirth as "women's business", but surely he knew what made women produce milk. Emmett raked his hands through his hair, a gesture so like his brother that Bella's heart ached a little. "I don't ... I guess I wasn't thinking. She said ..." "What did she say?" "She said it hurt," Emmett said bluntly, his cheeks flushing with guilt. Bella considered. "If she hadn't lain with a man in years, it may have been somewhat uncomfortable for her." Edward shook his head. He'd let Emmett's comment about despoiling a virgin pass without thought and now felt a little addle-pated himself. He blamed it on having too much on his mind. "Ultimately, it matters not. She is of a good family, and if Emmett fathered a child on her, 'tis right to marry her." They followed a miserable-looking Emmett down the hall toward the chapel. Bella couldn't help but wonder about what he'd said. Had Rosalie meant to take advantage of his drunken state to guilt him into make a commitment which he'd have to follow through with even when his head cleared enough to think about it? Saying that you intended to marry someone in front of witnesses constituted a legally binding betrothal, which was almost as binding as marriage itself. A previous betrothal that hadn't been addressed by the church constituted grounds for annulment. It was the excuse that Henry VIII had used to get rid of several of his wives. Rosalie waited in the chapel with Father Jacob, their heads bent together in conversation. She was wearing her best gown, a russet wool gown with a square neckline that had been altered with a cloth insert to create the fashionably high collar. Emmett didn't look at her, but his expression as he gazed at Father Jacob was one of clear dislike. Father Jacob read the vows from The Book of Common Prayer: "Wilt thou have this woman to thy wedded wife, to live together after God's ordinance in the holy estate of matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honor, and keep her, in sickness, and in health? And forsaking all other, keep thee only to her, so long as you both shall live?" There was a long pause before Emmett said, "I will."
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"Wilt thou have this man to thy wedded husband, to live together after God's ordinance in the holy estate of matrimony? Wilt thou obey him and serve him, love, honor, and keep him, in sickness and in health? And forsaking all other, keep thee only to him so long as ye both shall live?" Rosalie didn't hesitate. "I will." "Who giveth this woman to be married unto this man?" "I do," replied Edward, who had been roped into this service simply because there was no one else to do it. Edward took Rosalie's hand in his own and offered it to Father Jacob, who took Rosalie's hand from Edward and put it in Emmett's. Emmett turned to his bride and recited, in a dead, monotonous tone: "I take thee, Rosalie, to my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness, and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us depart; according to God's holy ordinance, and therto I plight thee my troth." She repeated the vows, a smiling as she did. There had been no time to buy Rosalie a wedding ring, but one was needed for the service. Reluctantly, Edward had opened the jewel chest which had been his first wife's and chose a small, simple ring with a ruby in the center. Bella didn't care if Edward gave away some of the shiny rocks, but he seemed troubled by it. Now, Emmett slipped Mary's ring onto Rosalie's finger and recited, "With this ring I thee wed: with my body I thee worship: and with all my worldly goods, I thee endow. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Ghost. Amen." Hearing "Amen" usually signaled that religious services were over. Bella perked up as Father Jacob pronounced them man and wife, but then he went on to recite two psalms and give a sermon on the purposes and symbolism of marriage. Bella shuffled her aching feet under her concealing skirt. Would this never end? Emmett and Rosalie took communion and then, finally, it was finished. Emmett dropped his wife's hand like a hot rock and left the chapel, likely headed for solitude and a bottle. Rosalie stared at Bella, her chin lifted and a smug smile of triumph twisting her lips. Bella wanted to snarl at her, but Rosalie was now part of the family and had to be treated as such. Bella ground her teeth but put on a pleasant smile. It seemed life on land was going to continually present new challenges.
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Christmas at the palace that year was a subdued affair, but at the home of the Duke of Cullen, everything was festive and bright. It was Bella's first Christmas and Edward wanted it to be a magical time for her. The whole house was decorated in pine boughs and the cooks outdid themselves with platter after platter of holiday delicacies. For the people of the Tudor era, festivities began Christmas eve and continued until Twelfth Night. Though some of the traditions such as Boy Bishops and the Lord of Misrule had fallen out of favor, they still retained such customs as the wassail bowl the Yule Log. Bella and Edward went out into the forest near their home to search for it. It had to be a log large enough to burn for the whole length of the season, from Christmas to Twelfth Night, and it was traditional for the whole household to traipse through the woods until the perfect log was located. Bella, though, had insisted it was far too cold for Elizabeth to be out and Rosalie and Emmett had not left his chamber since the wedding. Elizabeth had wept in disappointment, but had been somewhat soothed by Alice's promise that she could help decorate it with colorful bows when it was brought inside. Bella had left them sitting on the floor of her chamber, fashioning lengths of satin ribbon into festive decorations. Bella waited until Edward's back was turned and scooped up a handful of snow which she flung at his unsuspecting head. He turned, staring at her in utter shock for a moment, a look which slowly turned into a grin when he was unable to resist the mischief on her face. The servants who followed them, bearing torches, could only gape at her daring. "I'll teach you to assault your husband!" he growled and scooped up a handful of his own. "I surrender, I surrender!" Bella shrieked. "Not good enough. You must be punished for your insolence!" He grinned at her meaningfully, packing more snow onto the ball he held. Bella turned and ran as fast as her stays and gown would allow. She had worn her simplest one for this trip out into the forest, but it still wasn't designed for running through the snowy woods. Edward chased her, shouting that when he caught her, he would tickle her until she squealed. The servants shuffled and looked around at each other, for they didn't know whether they were supposed to follow or not. The Duke and his wife had been indulging in strange behavior for months now. At least once a month, the servants were ordered out of the Duke's chamber and told to take their pallets to his
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daughter's room. All of them wondered what he and his wife could be up to that they didn't want the servants to know about and the speculations were sometimes wild. Bella tripped over a root concealed under the snow and fell face-first into a snowbank. Edward was at her side in an instant, lifting her carefully. "Bella! God's breath, are you all right?" "Perfectly fine," she assured him and shoved him onto his back, sitting atop him with a wicked smile on her face. "Now I have you where I want you," she purred. "Now that I've captured you, human, you must pay a forfeit to be released." "Jewels?" he offered. She shook her head. "Land?" She shook it again. He sighed. "All I have left is my humble person." "That will do," Bella whispered and leaned down to kiss him. "Your grace?" Their heads swiveled to find their steward a few feet away, his hands nervously clenched. Bella stood, shaking the snow from her skirts. "I ...er ... fell," Bella mumbled. "His grace was checking me for injuries." "Praise be to God that I found none," Edward said piously. "Ed- My lord husband, look!" Bella said, pointing. A huge log lay only a few yards behind where they'd rolled in the snow. "Perfect!" Edward declared. "Let's go back to the house, my lady wife, before you catch a chill." The servants hurried over to dig out Bella's selection, and the steward led them back to the house, his torch making the snow glimmer with gold. Upon their return to the house, Bella called for Alice to help change her gown, but
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she was no where in sight. Puzzled, Bella set off to look for her, and found her in the great hall, sitting with Jasper before the fireplace. They were so engrossed in their conversation that neither noticed Bella approach. "Good evening," she said. "Good evening, your grace," Jasper replied easily, but Alice jumped and looked guilty. "Alice, I need help with this wet gown," Bella said. She could have called another maid to assist her, but she was intensely curious as to why Alice reacted as if she'd been caught doing something wrong. Alice was supposed to be talking to Jasper, after all. Alice had been raised Protestant (as had Bella, they'd told the Queen ) and Jasper was giving her instruction in the Catholic faith. Alice's face stayed red all the way to Bella and Edward's chamber. She began pulling at Bella's laces without a word. "Alice, what is it?" Bella had to ask. "N-nothing," Alice stammered. Bella waited. "Oh, all right, I'll tell you, but you have to promise you won't say anything." "I swear it." "I have a bit of a ... fondness for Father Jasper." "But he's ..." "Yes, I know," Alice said. The Protestant religion under the young king had allowed priests to marry, but Mary had re-instituted clerical celibacy and defrocked any priest who refused to renounce his wife and children. Seeing homeless ex-clerics begging for bread for their children was a heart-wrenching sight that was all too common. "He's such a kind man, Bella," Alice said softly. "I never knew a man could be so kind. And such a brilliant mind! I look forward to our lessons because I could never tire of talking to him. I just wish ..." She trailed off because there was no use in wishing for things which could not be changed.
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Bella sighed. "I wish I had a solution to offer you." The door opened and several maids entered, waiting to take Bella's soaked gown. Alice silently finished unlacing it and they lifted it over her head. Likely, it was ruined. The material wasn't intended to get wet. She wondered if she could have a few "play gowns" made, gowns which she could pull on herself and didn't require stays. In that regard, the peasant women were fortunate. Dinner that evening was a festive occasion. Bella was grateful Mary had let her stay home from Elizabeth was allowed to dine in the hall that evening and she sat on Bella's lap, clapping her hands in delight at the spectacle. She squealed over a pie that had been shaped to look like the Christ child lying in a manger and found the roasted boar's head very amusing. Edward had hired a fool who danced, juggled and told jokes, and a minstrel, who led them in Christmas carols. (Bella didn't know the words, so she and Elizabeth simply watched in silent appreciation.) It turned out her husband had a fine, baritone voice which made Bella shiver and vow to make him sing for her again- in private. At the end of the meal, the whole household ate pieces from a large cake which had a single bean baked into it. Whomever found the bean in their slice of cake would have a year's worth of good luck, and it was Edward who found it, nearly cracking a tooth when he bit down on it. Everyone cheered when he held it aloft after extracting it behind the napkin that a kneeling servant held up for him. That night, after they'd been undressed and had pulled the bedcurtains closed, Edward reached beneath his pillow and brought it out with an item hidden in his hand. "It's the custom to give presents on New Year's Day," he said. "But I'm giving you your gift tonight because I cannot wait any longer." He dropped the object into Bella's hand. It was a gold oval with a large diamond in the center, attached to a pin which looked like a bow, covered in rubies. Edward saw that she didn't realize what it was, so he reached over and opened it for her. Inside were two small miniature portraits painted on a background of brilliant blue. Edward's portrait occupied the right side, and his daughter's portrait occupied the left. Elizabeth held the doll Bella had made for her. "They were painted by Hans Holbein," Edward said. "He was the court artist who painted King Henry's portraits and that of his wives."
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"Was?" Edward nodded. "He died of the plague last month. These are probably the last works he painted." "The plague!" Bella was alarmed. "I thought that only came in the summer months." "Summer is more common, but it can occur at any time." Bella shivered, thinking how fortunate it was that Edward and Elizabeth hadn't been infected. This set of miniatures could have been her last remembrance of them. "Thank you," she said softly. "They're beautiful and I will treasure them always." "Will you sit for a portrait for me?" Edward asked. Bella blinked. "Me?" He chuckled. "Yes you, you cloth-headed girl!" "If you'd like," she acquiesced. "I'd rather have the real thing, but a portrait would be-" Edward cut off. He didn't want to say aloud the reason why he wanted the portrait. He didn't even want to think of it, but some deeply buried instinct told him that their time might be short.

Emmett appeared with Rosalie for Christmas mass and Bella noticed that the Queen gave them a searching, suspicious look. Bella bowed her head and wondered why that might be. It seemed she was surrounded by a thousand small mysteries like this every day and one never knew when a small incongruity might turn out to be a major issue later on. Rosalie bowed deeply and gave the Queen a sweet smile which the Queen did not return. Mary extended the bare minimum of courtesies and then walked away, her lips pursed. Bella wondered why Mary had given Rosalie a position as lady-in-waiting if she disliked her, but she supposed that it was along the lines of the thoughts she'd had after the wedding: Rosalie was now part of Queen Mary's family, and there were precious few of them.

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When they reached the Queen's chambers, Bella spotted something on the floor, a sheet of paper that had been folded down into a tiny square. She unfolded it and gasped softly. "What is that, Lady Cullen?" Mary asked. Bella crumpled the paper into her fist. "Nothing, your majesty." "Let me see it." Mary held out her hand. "Please, your majesty," Bella begged. "Don't look at it. It's ... ugly." Mary snapped her fingers, her hand still extended. Bella reluctantly placed the paper into it. Mary smoothed it out and gasped herself. It was a crude (in every sense of the term) drawing with threatening words to the effect that Englishmen would not tolerate a Spanish king and would revolt if necessary to stop it. It had to be hurtful to see herself portrayed as a skeletal old hag who would only be fucked by Phillip if she laid a map of England over her body first. Bella could see tears gathering in the corners of Mary's eyes, but she was a Queen and pulled on her mantle of dignity with an effort. "Where did you find this, Lady Cullen?" "'Twas on the floor, your majesty." "To whom does this belong?" Mary demanded, but of course, no one answered. Mary marched over to the fireplace and tossed the paper inside. The flames sparkled in her tears. ..

Historical notes: - During Elizabeth's reign, there were anti-foreigner riots in 1563, 1571, 1576, 1584, 1586, 1592, and 1595. One in 1517 was set off by a preacher whose sermon stated that God had set out the boundaries of all nations and complained "howe the common artificers lyved, and skace could get any woorke to fynde them, their wyfes and chyidren, for there were such a number of artificer strangers, that took away all the lyvynge".

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- Some of you may have noticed that I've called Elizabeth Tudor "Princess Elizabeth" throughout this story, even though her title at this time was plain old "Lady Elizabeth", and had been since her father decreed that she was a bastard. He reinstated her in the succession when he realized he wouldn't have more children, but he never restored her legitimacy or gave back her title. I thought that it would be easier to distinguish between the Elizabeths in this story by calling her "Princess", since Edward's daughter is also "Lady Elizabeth." - Boy Bishops and the Lord of Misrule were two persons of lowly status picked to be a bishop and a king, respectively. The Boy Bishop conducted church ceremonies (Henry VIII outlawed this practice, but some churches have retained it up to this day) and the Lord of Misrule became head of the household for the day, during which he played pranks, made outlandish demands of his "court" and generally indulged in light-hearted mayhem. Queen Mary didn't allow it in her own court. - Hans Holbein died in 1543, but I've extended his lifespan for ten years for this story because he was an awesome portrait artist and I like imagining what a Holbein portrait of the Duke of Cullen and his daughter would have looked like. Holbein probably didn't die of the plague; it was likely some sort of infection that killed him. - The wedding vows are from the 1559 Book of Common Prayer.

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Chapter 13
Chapter Thirteen

The Queen was taking a bath this evening before the Twelfth Night revelries. The chambermaids brought out a round wooden tub and set it before the fireplace. The tub was lined with sheets and buckets of hot, scented water brought up from the kitchens. Mary approached the tub, wearing the shift she would keep on while she was in the water, for modesty's sake. It was only after Mary had climbed into the tub that Susan Clarencieux realized that no one had fetched the sheets that would be used to dry the Queen when she was finished. Bella went into the hallway to call after one of the maids when she spotted the sheets lying on a chair. She picked them up and turned around to return to the Queen's chambers when she ran into Courtenay. Bella gasped softly and retreated a step. "Beg pardon, my lord. I did not see you standing there." He was silent, his eyes glittering with malice. "Please excuse me," Bella whispered and tried to dart around him to the door. He stepped over quickly to block her path. Bella froze, trembling. "Let me pass, Lord Devon." "I think not," he drawled. "You have made a powerful enemy, your grace." She tilted up her chin. "But I have made even more powerful friends." His eyes narrowed. "How long do you think that husband of yours would last on the council if I spoke against him?" He dared to threaten herEdward? Selkies were naturally gentle-natured creatures and tended to be timid, but threaten a child or a loved one in their presence and they would turn from lambs into lions. "Longer than you'd last if I gave you the beating you so richly deserve," Bella hissed. Courtenay was shocked. He had expected to reduce the Duchess to trembling tears. The last time he'd cornered her, she'd flushed and retreated, which told him
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she'd be an easy target for intimidation. He'd hoped that he'd be able to frighten her into assisting him in his new plans, but she stood before him, eyes flashing, threatening him like a man would. He couldn't have been more startled if she'd suddenly sprouted a second head. "You will remove yourself from my path, or I will move you myself, and I do not promise to be gentle about it." Bella's voice was low and menacing and Courtenay felt a dart of fear. He stepped aside, his jaw hanging somewhere near his chest. He watched her sweep past him into the Queen's chamber, shutting the door firmly in his face. He stood there for a moment, pole-axed, asking himself again and again if that had really happened. Could Edward Courtenay, Earl of Devon, really have been bested by a woman? Rage burned in his gut. She would regret this day, he vowed. Bella dropped the bundle of sheets into Susan Clarencieux's arms and retreated to the window, staring out at the orange evening sky, taking deep breaths to calm herself. She had to tell Edward about this, and she hoped he wouldn't be angry for the way she'd spoken to his cousin. She knew Edward had never liked Courtenay, but she certainly hadn't helped the situation by losing her temper. If she'd stayed calm and apologized, she might have been able to mollify him. Instead, she now had an avowed enemy. Courtenay's star might now be on the wane since Mary had chosen to marry Phillip, but he still had many allies. The entertainment that evening started with a masque. These were plays put on by members of the court with elaborate costumes and sets, light on plot and heavy on allegory. This year's masque, written and directed by the Master of Revelries, George Ferrers, was Plenty, Generosity and Bounty overcoming Famine, Need and Want. Bella, as Mary's highest-ranking lady (behind Princess Elizabeth, who did not participate) was to play the coveted role of Plenty. She had a costume embroidered with the Queen's arms on the bodice and cornucopias, overflowing with the fruits of the land, on the skirt. There was to be a mock battle between the forces of poverty and the forces of wealth, which of course, would end with the heavy-handed symbolism of Mary's reign triumphing over hardship and bringing back a time of bountiful harvests and joy throughout the land. Bella did not envy poor George Ferrers. He was a kindly gentleman, a writer whose creativity was wasted on these little shows, tasked with the exasperating job of herding the giggling court ladies, more attentive to gossip than to direction on their roles. Each rehearsal had seemed more chaotic than the last, but when it came to the actual performance, all went smoothly, and the play ended with Bella being crowned with a wreath of wheat with little wax foostuffs scattered around its
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circumference, and carried off by the singing ladies on a chair litter. The court applauded politely as the players exited the room, only to return, moments later, still in their costumes, to enjoy the banquet. Master Ferrers had employed an acrobat, who danced on a wire strung between the ceiling beams and performed comical tricks that made Queen Mary laugh until she clutched her sides. Between bites of spinach and cabbage, Bella leaned over to Edward and whispered the story of her confrontation with Courtenay. He kept his face carefully blank, because they were being watched, but Bella could see the flush of anger along his cheekbones. "You're not angry with me, are you?" she asked. "No, Bella, I'm not angry with you, though, as you noted yourself, it has not improved the situation." He sighed. "It was inevitable, I suppose. Courtenay wanted me to support his suit to the Queen and I refused. In his mind, if you're not his partisan, you're an enemy. We will simply have to be on guard and watch for any of his machinations. Fortunately for us, subtlety has never been his way." After they finished dining, the court trooped outside to a tent erected over the tennis court, heated by braziers scattered throughout. Several small platforms with fine, velvet-padded and gilded chairs underneath cloths of estate had been set up for the highest-ranked nobles. Edward led Bella to the one which bore their coat of arms. Their servants, including an excited Alice, were seated at chairs around the base of the platform. "What's a bear-baiting?" Bella asked Edward. Alice had told her what they were about to see but Bella hadn't had a chance to ask her about it before they were seated. "Wait and see," Edward said teasingly. As he spoke, a bear was led out onto the court and Bella squealed. She hoped after the event, she'd have a chance to go and pet it; she liked bears. Sadly, there weren't many left in the forests of England. Most were in captivity now, but Bella could remember a time when she would often encounter them while playing in the forest. The bear's muzzle was covered with a metal cage, tied on around the back of his head, and his huge paws had been covered by padded mitts. The handler attached a heavy chain to his thick iron collar and fastened it to the thick wooden stake in the
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middle of the court before he removed its mitts and muzzle-cage. The handler departed and the bear wandered around idly, exploring as far as his chain would reach. Bella heard the barking that steadily grew louder and watched as a pair of liveried servants entered the tent, dragged by the dogs who strained against their leashes. They erected a barrier and removed the leashes and the excited dogs tumbled in a pile against it, straining toward the confused bear. A trumpet blew and the barrier was dropped. The dogs charged the bear, snapping, growling, lunging. Attacked from all sides, the bear spun in circles, swiping its claws at the dogs with a roar. Bella gave a little cry of horror and pressed her hand over her mouth. Alice laughed and clapped her hands. One of the dogs went flying and the audience gave a collective "ooh!" "Bella?" Edward's eyes were concerned. She glanced away from him toward the Queen, who clearly found the struggles of the poor bear being torn apart to be hilarious. "I can't-" Bella managed, and then surged to her feet. She fled, running from the tent as fast as her heavy gown and tight stays would allow. "Bella!" Edward followed her. "Are you ill? Is it the baby?" Alice was behind him, concern warring with disappointment on her face. She was sorry to miss the spectacle. "I can't watch that," Bella whispered. "That poor bear! Those poor dogs, too." Edward blinked, shaking his head a little in confusion. "I don't understand." How could she make him understand? He'd grown up in a world where he would no more think of an animal's pain than he would would consider the feelings of a rock he'd stepped on. One of the dogs screamed, and Bella winced, pressing her hands over her ears. "I can't," she choked out. A servant wearing the Queen's livery emerged from the tent and bowed low. "Your grace, the Queen wishes to know if the Duchess is ill." "Yes," Edward said. "She is unwell and I beg her majesty's pardon, but I must take
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her home." Careful of Bella's farthingale, he scooped her into his arms and strode for the door of the palace where he usually met his conveyances. "Fetch a litter," he ordered Alice, who now looked alarmed at Bella's pallor. She dashed off to find a footman. The Queen's own litter was brought before them, its poles borne by twelve footmen, three on each. "The Queen has sent her own litter," the footman told them as he bowed, the tone of his voice containing enough awe to inform them, should they be unaware of it, that this was a great honor. "Give her majesty my thanks for her graciousness," Edward said, depositing Bella inside on the velvet pillows. He and Alice climbed in after her. Bella fought off a surge of vertigo as the litter was lifted. "I'm sorry," Bella said softly, cognizant of the twelve pairs of ears around them. "I couldn't watch that. It was too horrible." She could tell that Alice and Edward didn't understand, but Edward was willing to indulge her. Pregnant women had fancies, after all, and husbands were warned that they should avoid letting their wives get upset lest it harm the child they carried. She couldn't stop thinking about those poor animals. Tears slid silently down her cheeks. "Please don't weep, Bella," Edward said. He cupped her face in his palms, using his thumbs to smooth away the tears. "Please ... it tears at my heart to see it." She struggled to swallow back her tears, blinking hard. "Think of this: We'll spend the evening with Elizabeth. We'll play Nine Men's Morris. Would you like that?" Bella smiled. He may not understand why she'd been upset, but he was offering what he knew she enjoyed the most, spending time with his daughter -their daughter- to try to make her feel better. How could that not make her smile?

The next morning, they were breaking their fast in their chamber when a servant announced that Princess Elizabeth had come for a visit. Bella gulped back the rest of her ale and was still gnawing on a crust of bread as they descended the stairs. (Bella's appetite had greatly increased due to her pregnancy.)

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Princess Elizabeth was in the great hall, standing by the fireplace when they entered. She wore a severe black riding habit, her hair bound up under a jaunty little bonnet. "Good morning, your graces," she said as they bowed. "Good morning, your highness," Bella and Edward said simultaneously. Elizabeth chuckled. "Ah! Marriage! You share everything including your speech." She sat down in one of the chairs and Bella was forced to sit closer to the fire than she would have liked, though Edward was considerate enough to position himself between her and the flames. Edward gestured the servants away and they all filed to the other side of the room. The formality was dropped as soon as they could no longer be overheard. "I was out riding this morning and I thought I'd stop by to see how you are, Bella." Elizabeth idly twirled her riding crop in her long, white fingers. Elizabeth was very vain about her beautiful hands and often kept them on display in this fashion "Much better, thank you." "The Queen has offered to send her personal physician to tend you," Elizabeth said. "That's unnecessary," Bella replied quickly. "Just a bit of an upset in the stomach, common to women with child, I'm told." Elizabeth nodded. "I'll tell her when I return." She paused for a moment. "I think you should remain home from court today, just to be certain it does not reoccur." Edward leaned forward, for he knew the suggestion was not for Bella's health. "What news?" "The Queen is publishing the contents of the marriage treaty today," Elizabeth said. "She hopes that by making the terms public, the people will be less ... concerned. Rumors are abroad that Phillip is already on his way with a force of ten thousand Spaniards, with eight thousand more Germans to follow." Edward hadn't been part of the special ambassadorial team which negotiated the treaty, but he knew that Elizabeth had spies everywhere and probably had known the agreed-upon terms before the Queen herself. "What was the settlement?" "Phillip will be styled King and he will sign legislation and proclamations jointly
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with the Queen, however, he has no power over England's army or our treasury, so he can't drag us into his ruinous war with France. If the Queen dies childless, Phillip's kingship ends. If there is a child, he's forbidden from taking the child or Mary from the country without the express consent of Parliament, and you know the likelihood of that." "But the child could inherit the throne of Spain," Edward said. "He would have to rule it from here, at least until his majority," Elizabeth said. "Emperor Charles sent Mary a beautiful diamond as an engagement gift as Phillip should have done, but I've heard he's pouting over the terms of the treaty." She fell silent as a servant approached with goblets of ale. Edward's finest gold, jewel-encrusted goblet, the one which had been given to him as a wedding present by Elizabeth''s father, was handed to the princess, the finest being used by the person with the highest rank. "This is very beautiful," she commented. "Thank you." Edward took humbler goblets of silver for Bella and himself. As soon as they were alone again, Elizabeth turned her attention to Bella. "What were your plans for the day?" "I was going to the Tower to take some books to Jane Grey, and then go to the palace. Why do you ask?" "I spoke with the Queen this morning and made a request that she has granted." Elizabeth took a drink of her ale and swung her eyes to Edward. "Cousin Edward, I'm asking you to trust me now." Edward nodded. "I'm retiring to Hatfield House and I'm taking Bella and little Elizabeth with me." Bella gasped and turned to Edward with protests tumbling from her lips. "Bess ..." he said, taking Bella's hand in his. "It's for the best." Elizabeth met his eyes squarely. A long look passed between them before Edward sighed and nodded. He turned to Bella. "Go with Bess, Bella. Take Alice and our daughter."
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"What? I don't understand. Why?" "Remember what I told you in the garden about asking questions?" Elizabeth said softly. "I don't want to lie to you, Bella, but if you insist on asking questions, I'll have to. Do you understand?" "I don't want to go. No offense to you, Elizabeth." "None taken," Elizabeth replied dryly. "It won't be for long, Bella, I promise." She stood. "We'll leave in the morning. Have your visit with Jane, but come home afterwards. Look for my coming around ten o'clock tomorrow." She gave both Edward and Bella a light kiss on the lips and departed, calling for her footman as she passed through the front door. Bella turned to Edward, her eyes pooling with tears. "I don't want to go," she repeated. "Bess wouldn't have asked for you to come if it wasn't important, Bella. You must. Please." "Will you be in danger?" she asked. Edward pulled her into his arms. "Worry not for me. I am as safe as any man can be in these days." But that wasn't very safe at all.

Bella had changed her mind about wanting to visit Jane, but Edward had insisted she go and laid a layer of guilt to make sure she would: "The poor girl probably got no visitors over Christmas," he said. Bella packed up the books that she had purchased for Jane. She had already shown them to Queen Mary, who had given her approval. They were some mathematical and scientific texts and one that she was sure Jane would love on the inner workings of clocks. Since Edward didn't want Bella to ride horseback any longer because of her pregnancy, Bella had to take a litter to the river and then a barge to the Tower, an irritatingly lengthy journey when she was already impatient to get home. The warden of the Tower, Master Partridge had to examine the books before Bella took
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them to Jane, meaning that he had to leaf through every page to make sure a letter had not been inserted nor a message scrawled in the margins. Bella tapped her foot while she waited. When she was finally allowed up to Jane's room, the girl seemed delighted to see her. "How are you faring, your grace?" she asked. "'Cousin' is the only title I wish you to use," Bella told her, giving the customary kiss to Jane's lips and embracing her slight form. Bella herself was small for a human but Jane was positively child-like in size. "Cousin Bella it is, then," Jane agreed. "Won't you sit down?" Bella lowered herself into a chair and laid the box in front of Jane. "Happy Christmas, though 'tis a bit late." "Time means little in here," Jane said. She opened the box and gave a girlish squeal of glee. "Oh, Bella! Thank you!" She held up the book on clocks and sighed in pleasure. "You are very thoughtful. Tell me, how does Edward and baby Elizabeth fare?" It reminded Bella of the trip she must take tomorrow and her face fell. "What's wrong?" Jane asked in alarm. "Are they ill?" "No, nothing like that," Bella said. "It's just that I'm being sent to the countryside for a while." "Until your baby is born," Jane nodded. "You mustn't be sad, Bella. 'Tis much healthier in the country. Everyone knows that. And once your confinement is over, you can go home." She did not correct Jane regarding the reason. "I will just miss Edward so badly." Jane smiled, her eyes soft and dreamy. "I truly do envy you that, Bella. You have something that is very rare and very precious. God must favor you greatly." "Perhaps when Guildford is older ..." Bella's voice trailed off because it didn't feel right to offer false hope. From what she'd heard of Guildford, he simply wasn't a pleasant person and probably never would be. Jane patted Bella's hand. "You are kind to try," she said, "but I don't believe I can
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hope for happiness on this earth. My reward will be in heaven." No sixteen year old girl should be looking forward to death. "The thing about life is that it always changes," Bella said. "That is true. I've heard that Queen Mary intends to send me to the country soon, as well." Jane's lips twisted in a wry smile. "Though my lord husband will be lodged separately." "She likely wishes to prevent you from making any more claimants for the throne." "A sentiment with which I heartily agree," Jane said. "I would never want to bring another child into this family." "I'm sorry, Jane," Bella said. Like most selkies, she believed that motherhood was a joy and regretted Jane would never experience it. "I'm not." Jane gestured to her shelves of books, her clocks that ticked in the silence, marking off the quiet moments of her life. Bella looked out through the window at the sweet winter sunshine filtering through the skeletal trees. The crows, traditional residents of the Tower, pecked at the grass below. What must it be like for Jane, who could not run out and play under that tree if the urge struck her? Her world had shrunk to these rooms and she said she was content, but wasn't there a part of her that wanted to be a normal young girl, dancing, laughing, flirting? Was "content" what you settled for if you could have no joy? After she left, Bella did not go straight home as Elizabeth had directed. She went to the palace instead and found the Queen writing letters in her office. "Lady Cullen," she said with a smile. "I'm glad to see you well." "Thank you, your majesty." "How was your visit with Jane?" "Quite well, your majesty. She's well and comfortable with her books and looking forward to a quiet life in the country." "You're off to the country, yourself," the Queen commented. "My sister is leaving court and asked for you, specifically, to go with her and wait on her at Hatfield." Bella sighed. "So I'm told."
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The queen stuck her quill into her inkpot. "Come here, Bella," she said softly. She gestured to a stool by her chair and Bella perched on it after carefully arranging her skirts. As a duchess, she usually was given a chair, so she didn't have much practice with moving a farthingale to accommodate a lower seat. "I must ask something of you, something I'm sure you won't want to do, but it's necessary." She sighed and rubbed her eyes as if they hurt, and as nearsighted as she was, perhaps they did. "Elizabeth is ... Elizabeth is the target of plotters." "She's not in danger, is she?" Bella asked, alarmed. "No more than any other royal blood. The plotter seek to elevate her, not to harm her." "Oh," Bella said. "Oh! You mean ..." "Yes, they want to see her in my place. What I need you to do, Bella, is to watch for me. Tell me who visits her, who writes to her. Anything which seems suspicious. Do you understand?" Bella's heart sank. "Yes, your majesty." "Thank you, Bella." Mary smiled and kissed her forehead. "You may go. I'm certain you have a lot of preparations to make." Alice was in a tizzy when Bella returned home. She was directing the servants as to which gowns, which jewels, which caps to pack for both the Duchess and her daughter. And she was very unhappy. Jasper wouldn't be accompanying them to Hatfield. Alice called it "being buried in the country" and was miserable at losing both the glitter of the court and her deep "friendship" with Bella's confessor. Bella tried to be sympathetic, but she simply wanted all of them out of her chamber so that she could spend some time with Edward, a few last, precious moments before being separated from him for an indeterminate length of time. She didn't sleep that night and she didn't think he did either. They held one another in the darkness both of them longing for words that would comfort the other but finding none. She tried not to weep when Elizabeth's litter arrived in front of her long train of baggage and furniture. She tried not to cling to him when he gave her one last embrace. "I'll see you soon, Bella," he said, tears glittering in his own eyes. "I promise."
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She kissed him. "I love you." "And I love you. Be safe." He helped her into the litter and their hands clasped for one last moment before the litter was borne away. Little Elizabeth was playing with her doll, unperturbed by moving to another house, something she had done many times in her young life. Alice, beside her, as looked gloomy as a pall bearer. Only princess Elizabeth, lounging beside Bella, looked cheerful. "God's teeth, if being apart is so depressing, I'm glad I've never fallen in love," she said. "You probably won't," Alice said shortly. "You're too selfish." Elizabeth gaped at her for a moment and then burst into laughter. "I think I may keep you," she said. "You're like the man whom Caesar had stand behind him in the chariot during his triumph parade whispering to him again and again, 'Remember, thou art mortal.'" She chuckled to herself for a moment before she looked at Bella. "How did your visit with the Queen go?" "How do you know these things?" Bella asked, a bit irritable. "I have my ways," Elizabeth replied airily. "So, you were assigned spy duty, were you? I told you not to go. She wouldn't have been able to ask you if you'd gone straight home as I told you." Bella blinked in astonishment. "There was no one near to overhear what she said to me. How do you know that?" Elizabeth shrugged. "Because it's what I would do." ..

Historical notes: - The masque performed for the first Christmas of Mary's reign is not well-described in extant records. I've reconstructed what little is known using the plots from similar masques.

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-The bear-baiting was actually held at Hatfield for Princess Elizabeth's amusement. -The marriage treaty was actually made public on the 14th of January.

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Chapter 14
Chapter Fourteen

Bella crept like a thief through the darkened house, wincing every time a floorboard creaked. Through the window, she could see the first touches of dawn. The servants would wake soon and she had to hurry to get into her room before anyone spotted her. She grimaced again as another board squealed. She hadn't been at Hatfield long enough to learn where the squeaky boards were so that she could avoid them. She went up the stairs slowly, keeping as close to the wall as possible, biting her lip. Almost there ... Over the last week, she had explored Hatfield's lands and found a pond not too far from the house. It wasn't very large nor deep, but it has satisfied her yearning for a swim once she'd broken the skim of ice that covered it. She passed through the door to her room and sighed with relief. Alice was still sound asleep on her pallet (the girl slept like the dead) and little Elizabeth was still curled up in the bed, her thumb tucked in her mouth. Bella tiptoed past Alice to her clothespress to fetch a dry shift. "Where have you been?" Bella jumped and nearly screamed. "Saints, Bess!" she hissed, her voice pitched low as not to wake Alice and little Elizabeth. "You nearly scared the life out of me." Elizabeth raised an eyebrow. Her eyes took in Bella's dripping hair and the shift that was nearly transparent with patches of dampness. "What have you been doing, Bella?" Bella shuffled her feet. "Do you remember when you told me not to ask questions because you didn't want to lie to me?" Elizabeth sighed. "Tell me this: does my cousin know about it?" Bella nodded, relieved. "If you tell him what you saw tonight, he'll say that he knows what I was doing and approves. Why were you here, anyway?" "A messenger has come," Elizabeth said. "There is an uprising in Kent."
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"An uprising? You mean a rebellion?" Bella's eyes widened and she had to sit down on the bed because her knees seemed to have lost all strength. "Thomas Wyatt has raised a force of over four thousand men," Elizabeth said grimly. "The Duke of Norfolk was sent with a contingent of Mary's troops to stop his progress, but Norfolk had to retreat back to the capital when most of his troops deserted to join Wyatt's." Bella whimpered, and terror turned her face into a white mask. She had been in Scotland during the "Rough Wooing" when Henry VIII had tried to force Scotland to turn over the infant Queen of Scots to be raised in England and married to Henry's son. She would never forget the stench of burning villages, the screams of the women as they were raped, the piteous cries of children run through on merciless blades. She looked over at the sleeping little girl that she thought of as her daughter and tried desperately to think of where she could go to get her to safety. "Bella, stop," Elizabeth said sharply. "Hatfield is safe." Is that why Elizabeth had brought her here? Had she known what was going to happen? Elizabeth held up a hand. "Don't ask. Just know that you are safe and Edward is safe." "Who is Thomas Wyatt and why is he doing this?" "He's the son of a man who used to write my mother love poems," Elizabeth said softly. "He spent time in Spain and he saw what the Spanish Inquisition is like. He's worried that Phillip will bring it to our shores." Bella had avoided Spain since Queen Mary's grandmother, Isabella of Castile, had expelled all the Jews from the country, forbidding them from taking any money or valuable property when they left. Those who were willing to convert to Catholicism were allowed to stay, but convseros were favorite targets of the Inquisition. The selkies referred to Spain as "The Burning Lands" and gave them a wide berth. She could understand why Wyatt would be afraid of the same thing happening in England, but surely Mary wouldn't allow such a thing. Surely ... "There were supposed to be simultaneous uprisings in other areas, but those have fallen through. Courtenay has been arrested." Bella gasped. "Really?" That was the best news Bella had heard in months.
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"He was meeting with some of the rebel leaders. Gardiner learned of the plot and asked Courtenay about it and he confessed everything. His plan was to dethrone my sister in my favor and force me to marry him." Bella shuddered. "God forbid. Oh, Bess, what do we do?" "We wait," Elizabeth responded. "It's what I'm best at."

Edward Followed the Queen from the Guildhall,where she had just delivered a rousing speech begging her people to defend her rule. She'd told them that she was marrying not because of bodily lust, but that she might leave behind an heir to rule when she was gone. If she thought for one moment that her marriage would harm her people, she vowed, she would die a virgin. She swore she would not flee from London, but would shed her blood in defense of the people that she loved as tenderly as a mother loves her children. It was magnificent. Edward saw in her the steely spine inherited from her mother and generations of queens before her. She would not bend. She would not surrender. She had no fear because she knew that she was God's chosen ruler, the one meant to bring England back into the arms of the Church and nothing of this earth could stop her. The people in the hall shouted "God save Queen Mary!" They walked now back to Westminster. Edward had begged Mary to go to the Tower, but she had faith in her troops. Mary wanted the people to see her, to see that she was unafraid and certain of their loyalty. Edward wasn't quite as confident. He had doubled her bodyguards, paying from his own pocket when the rest of the council was too busy to appropriate the funds because they were occupied with squabbling over whose fault the unrest was: Gardiner for the new religious policies, or the councilors who had supported Mary in her decision to marry Phillip. He kept his hand on his sword as he walked. The people lined the streets to cheer and call blessings on their Queen, but Edward saw many faces in the crowd that were grim and angry. This rebellion, the first time an army had approached the gates of London since medieval times, was a symbol of a deep undercurrent of dissatisfaction, something Edward thought that the Queen should harken to, but she was set on her course and would not waver from it. She issued a proclamation that those in rebellion would be given clemency if they
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dropped their weapons and returned to their homes within twenty-four hours. Edward could not help but recall a similar proclamation issued by her father, who then killed the rebels that had surrendered to him. Would the rebels also remember that and believe that their only hope for survival was to succeed in overthrowing the Queen? The cannons on the top of the Tower were pointed toward the area of the city where the rebels entered, but Mary refused to allow them to fire, for fear of injuring innocent citizens. Around the city, drawbridges were pulled up, gates barred and barricades built. The terrified populace shut themselves inside their homes and an eerie silence descended over London, like it had frozen in the February chill. Edward was deeply grateful that Bess had taken Bella to Hatfield. Otherwise, she would be in the group of the Queen's terrified ladies who wept and trembled and prayed for deliverance. Edward did not know yet how strong this rebellion would become. If Wyatt managed to convince the people of the city to rise against Mary, Edward would be duty-bound to protect her with his life. The rebels came closer by the hour and Westminster lay right in their path. When an arrow struck one of the defenders on the outskirts of their lines, one of Mary's captains didn't wait for more casualties before charging towards the Queen's rooms. Edward followed, for there was always the possibility of traitors in their own ranks. He barged into the Queen's rooms shouting that they were under attack. "To the barge! We must get the Queen away!" Mary didn't even blink, though her ladies screamed in terror and clutched one another in shaking arms. "Fall to prayer!" Mary ordered. "All of you! Pray and we shall hear better news shortly." The sobbing ladies fell to their knees, clasping their hands. "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee..." Was the Lord with the Mary who led her ladies in prayer? Edward crossed himself and went down on one knee, keeping the other braced up in case he should suddenly have to lunge to his feet to protect the Queen. But his prayer was for Bella. "Let her be safe, please Lord, let her be safe." "Wyatt is taken!" someone shouted. "It's over! Wyatt has been captured!" Edward surged to his feet. "What news?" he demanded.
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Wyatt had made it as far as Ludgate, but could not get past the defenders. His troops deserted, leaving a dejected Wyatt sitting in front of an inn, with only a handful of loyal troops with him. He surrendered when approached by the Queen's men. The rebellion was over before it began, with very little bloodshed. Wyatt was arrested and conveyed to the Tower. With him was Henry Grey, Jane Grey's father, who had entertained hopes of putting Jane back on the throne after they deposed Mary, but would have accepted Elizabeth if his fellow co-conspirators proved intractable. It was at his home where the rebel leaders first met. When word came that Wyatt had begun the uprising, he hastily departed for his estates in the country, and when the investigation turned to him, he coaxed the keeper of the park to help him hide. He spent two days in a hollow tree before the park keeper turned him in for the growing reward. That's the problem with relying on rebels, Edward thought. They have no loyalty. He went to his rooms, the rooms he and Bella shared when they were too tired to ride home. He laid on the bed, fully dressed, and laid his head on her side of the bed. He fancied that he could still faintly detect her scent, the fresh, clean scent of the ocean that seemed to cling to her silken skin. Soon, he promised himself, and fell into a deep sleep, with dreams of Bella back in his arms.

"Courtenay has implicated one of your ladies, your majesty," Chancellor Gardiner said to the Queen the next evening. "Lady Cullen." He hung his head as if this news troubled him, but it did not. He'd never liked Lady Cullen and was concerned about her growing influence with the Queen. "Lady Cullen?" Mary repeated, her eyes wide with shock. "'Tis not possible, my lord. That girl has not one whit of guile." "Her sister-in-law, Rosalie, Viscountess Lisle, confirmed that Lady Cullen has met with him twice in secluded areas." "I don't believe it," Mary said flatly. "And I trust not Lady Rosalie. I have heard much about her that is not to her credit." "Your majesty, you know how close Lady Cullen is with Princess Elizabeth ..." Gardiner trailed off as if this bit of information alone was enough to implicate her. "And what of Elizabeth?" the Queen demanded. "Has any evidence been found?"

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"Courtenay doesn't implicate her, but you know that he was in love with her, so of course he would try to protect her." Gardiner was trying hard to minimize Courtenay's involvement, as if Courtenay had helpfully volunteered valuable information. He wanted this to be painted as a Protestant uprising to put Elizabeth on the throne. "We intercepted a letter to the Princess from Wyatt, outlining his plans." "Does Wyatt admit she participated?" the Queen asked insistently. "He will," Gardiner promised grimly. But he didn't. Gardiner used the cruelest tortures they had, but Wyatt still refused to implicate the princess in the plot. Gardiner was frustrated by it, but insisted to Mary that the letter alone was enough to prove that Elizabeth knew about the plot. Mary sighed. "I'll ask her to return to London." "If she does not, you will know she was the cause of all this trouble," Gardiner said.

Bella and Elizabeth were in her bedchamber embroidering a book cover for Mary. Elizabeth was talented with needlework and she often gave gifts of it to her friends and family. They chatted while they worked and little Elizabeth sat on a cushion at their feet beside Alice and played with some of the Princess's toys which had been brought down from the attic. "What's that?" Elizabeth asked. "Do you hear that?" Bella tilted her head. "No, I don- Wait! Yes, I hear it." She blinked at Elizabeth. "Soldiers?" For that is what it sounded like, dozens of booted feet marching in formation. "Bugger," Elizabeth said. She jumped to her feet and began to rip her dress off. "Help me, Bella!" Bella did, though she had no idea why Elizabeth was undressing. She shoved the dress and its farthingale into the clothespress and shut the door. "Kat!" Elizabeth bellowed. Kat Ashley had been Princess Elizabeth's governess
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since she was a child, and now was her most loyal servant and friend. Kat was a plump, friendly woman, fiercely protective of "her baby" and once she knew that Bella was a real friend to Elizabeth, she took Bella under her wing, too. Kat was winded from running when she burst through the chamber door. "Bess, there are-" "I know. Fetch a bowl of water and a cloth, quickly. I'm terribly ill." Elizabeth shoved her arm into a dressing gown and hopped into the bed and pulled the covers up to her chin. Kat did the strangest thing. She stuck her hands into some of the ashes of the fireplace and carefully smoothed the gray over Elizabeth's skin. When she was done, Elizabeth looked wan and drawn and if Bella didn't know any better, she would think Elizabeth was at death's door. "Sit, Bella!" Elizabeth hissed and Bella hastily resumed her chair, picking up the book cover they had been working on. She tried to make a stitch, but her hands trembled too badly. The clomping feet entered the house and Bella sucked in a breath. Kat hustled back into the room with the bowl and cloth, laying the damp cloth across Elizabeth's forehead and planting her ample rump into the chair next to Elizabeth's bed. Three men entered Elizabeth's chamber without knocking or announcing themselves. "Princess, I am Sir Aro." He was tall and angular, and looked decidedly unfriendly as he gave a very abbreviated bow. "Sir Riley," said the second man. He was young, with soft-looking brown hair and a wispy attempt at a mustache fuzzed his upper lip. He bowed politely, and gracefully at that. The third bowed slightly and said, "Sir Laurent." And to Bella, he seemed the most frightening of all, for his eyes were as cold as the North Sea, pitiless and cruel. "We are to escort you back to the Queen, posthaste," Aro declared. "Greetings, my lords," Elizabeth croaked. She seemed to struggle to push out the words. She licked her lips and Kat gently patted them with the damp cloth. "I would love to see my beloved sister, but I am too ill to travel." "Oh, my poor baby!" Kat moaned. She threw her apron up over her face and
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sobbed into it. "Fetch a doctor," Sir Aro ordered Riley. "Fetch two." He sat down in one of the chairs that Elizabeth had occupied just minutes ago. He looked down at the embroidery in Bella's hands with a little smirk, and then down at the child who played happily, unconcerned with the bustling of the adults around her. Bella was shocked at his disrespectful behavior, sitting in the presence of a princess without being bid, the scant bow, the low ranks of the persons sent to collect the Princess. Little Elizabeth offered him a toy, which he did not take. He stared at her but little Elizabeth was not intimidated. "Princess is very ill," she said. "I see that," Aro said, a hint of sarcasm behind his words. The room fell silent. Kat bathed the Princess's forehead and murmured soothing things to her. Every few minute, the Princess would move restlessly under the blankets and give a soft moan of discomfort. Kat would try to soothe her, to calm her, to keep her still. Sir Riley re-entered, flanked by two men carrying bags. Both of them went straight to the girl on the bed and bowed. "Your highness? May we attend you?" Elizabeth licked her lips and her voice was cracked and raspy when she spoke. "Yes." Within moments, one had pronounced that her humours were out of balance and that she needed to be bled. The other decreed that a blister and purge was in order to draw out the noxious poisons she must have absorbed. Both, however, judged that she was capable of travel. Elizabeth glared at them and refused the blistering and the purge, though she did permit one of them to make a small cut on her forearm and drain about a cup of blood into a silver bowl. Kat protested that they had to pack. They couldn't take Elizabeth back to the palace without any furniture or her clothing. Sir Aro breathed out a sigh of irritation, but acquiesced. Kat could move slower than a snail when she wanted, and she had a very convincing excuse for each delay. By the next evening, the packing process still wasn't complete. Sir Aro lost his patience and ordered Sir Laurent to carry the limp princess to the litter that waited outside; the servants could finish packing and
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follow them. Elizabeth was alarmingly pale when Sir Laurent laid her in the litter. Bella climbed in beside her and took her hand. "You really do look ill," she commented. "I am," Elizabeth said. "I do not expect this journey to end pleasantly." "Why? You have done nothing wrong. I've done as the Queen asked and watched you and I have nothing to report. You go to mass in your chapel at least once a day. You play with little Elizabeth and gossip with Alice. That's all you do." Elizabeth chuckled. "You make me sound very boring." "Boring is good," Bella said. "Boring is safe." Alice climbed into the litter with them, clutching little Elizabeth in one arm and the princess's jewel case in the other. There was that strange sensation of vertigo as the servants picked up the poles and started forward, their feet clomping rhythmically on the frozen soil. The ladies kept the curtains drawn and they had a large fur blanket to cover them, but they all shivered. Bella couldn't help but feel a little happy about the journey. She would see Edward again soon. But that happiness made her feel slightly disloyal. Elizabeth was scared. Bella thought that she was probably making herself sick with all of the fear and worry. "Mary loves you," she offered. "She loves her crown and her church even more," Elizabeth replied. "She won't hesitate if she thinks I'm threatening either one." The distance was only eighteen miles, but the trip took them six days. Elizabeth had to keep stopping the litter so she could run to the roadside and vomit. When she got too weak to run, Bella helped her hobble. She looked awful. Her skin had a horrible waxy appearance and her eyes appeared dull and listless. "Bess, we can't keep doing this," Bella told her when Elizabeth demanded that they stop for the day at mid-morning at a roadside inn because the swaying of the litter was making her too ill to continue. Bella was exasperated, though she tried hard to be patient. Aro seemed like he was having to restrain himself from beating Elizabeth and even the polite Sir Riley was getting tense at the constant delays.
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"Bella, if your life is ever in danger, you'll understand," Elizabeth said. "You'll do anything to get one more day ... one more hour ... and just one more minute." Did Elizabeth think they had evidence of her participation in the rebellion? Bella wanted to ask so badly, but she wouldn't. She wanted to be honest when she said she had seen or heard nothing suspicious, nothing that would implicate Elizabeth. "Gardiner despises me," Elizabeth said. "Do you know he followed me to my rooms after I asked the Queen for permission to leave? He gave me a very stern lecture about my moral failings, and he said he knew my conversion was insincere." "I don't think there's anything you could do to convince him." Elizabeth sat down on the bed. It was the best room the inn had to offer but it was very simple. A narrow bed in the center, its tick stuffed with hay. Elizabeth had ordered her servants (who had easily caught up with them with the loaded wagons of Elizabeth's belongings) not to assemble her bed in this room because she was fearful of the down tick getting infested with fleas. Bella and she would sleep on the lumpy mattress with little Elizabeth between them and Alice and Kat Ashley on a pallet on the floor beside them. "I told them I was considering issuing a public statement that my conversion and attendance at mass were free of coercion and completely voluntary." "Will you?" Elizabeth snorted. "No." She smacked at a flea that had landed on her arm. "Renard hates me, too." The Spanish ambassador. Mary took his advice very seriously, seeing him as a connection to her Spanish relatives and now to her betrothed. "Well, I don't hate you and Edward doesn't hate you. The Queen values our opinion as well." "Probably because you're the only people she knows who don't want anything from her. No lands, no titles, no political appointments ..." "What do you want?" Bella asked, sitting beside her and scratching a flea bite on the back of her hand. "I want to live quietly in the country," Elizabeth said.
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"With no scheming?" Bella laughed. "You'd shrivel up and blow away." Elizabeth twisted a ring on her finger. "Sometimes I wonder what it's like for peasant women. Their worry is getting enough food for their family. Very simple and straight-forward. Mine is trying to keep my head on my shoulders while appeasing my partisans but not offending those who have the power of life and death over me. Do you remember that acrobat Mary had on Twelfth Night, the one who danced on the wire? I feel like that. It's not that I like it, Bella. It's what I have to do to survive. And once in a while, I dream about a life where my survival is a simple matter of having a loaf of bread."

They reached the palace in late evening. Alice picked up a sleeping little Elizabeth and said she would carry her to Bella and Edward's quarters until they were ready to leave for home. To Bella's surprise, Elizabeth was not led to her opulent chambers. Instead she was shown to a small, cramped room with a narrow bed and and table with a wood chair, and told to await "her majesty's pleasure." Elizabeth swayed at those words and Bella helped her into the chair. She heard the door close, but not the sound of a key or lock. "Bella, go," Elizabeth said when she had recovered the power of speech. "I know you want to see Edward." "I can't leave you like this!" Bella protested. "Kat will be with me." Elizabeth flicked a hand at her. "Off with you. Talk to Edward and talk to the Queen. Tell her what you saw at Hatfield." "I hate this, Bess," Bella said. "I hate being between the two of you. I love you both." "I love you, too. Now go see that husband of yours." Bella opened the door. There were two guards, one on either side of it, but they barely gave her a glance as she passed. She wondered if she'd be allowed to return and hoped so. She went directly to the Queen's rooms and found Mary seated at her wide table, signing documents. "Lady Cullen!" she exclaimed. Bella sank into a low bow and
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Mary raised her up with the traditional kiss on the forehead. "How have you been, my dear? The country seems to agree with you." She glanced at Bella's gently rounded stomach and a bit of longing flicked across her features. "Please, sit down." She indicated a chair at the side of the desk and Bella took it. "You must be exhausted from your travels. Have you seen Edward yet?" "No, your majesty. I hoped you might tell me where to find him." "He's in a council session, I'm afraid, but I'm sure he'll come to see me as soon as it's finished." She folded her hands and watched Bella carefully. "How did you enjoy your stay with my sister?" "Very well, but the quarters she's lodged in now-" Mary held up a hand. "Please, tell me about what you saw at Hatfield." "I saw nothing," Bella said, trying to hold the heat from her voice. "We played cards. We embroidered. We played with my daughter. We went to mass. We gossiped about trivialities. In that time, she got two letters, one from Father Jasper, to see how she had progressed in her religious studies and the other from yourself." "She knew you'd be watching," Mary said. "Of course she did, but there was nothing to hide. I was in her company from dawn 'till dusk and I saw nothing that would offend or cause you harm." Mary rubbed her eyes. "She received letters from the conspirators, Bella." "Did she write tothem?" Bella asked. Mary shook her head. "Not that we know of, but the letters could have been destroyed." The Queen's chamber doors flew open and Edward marched through them, his eyes flashing in anger. He saw Bella and they softened a bit. He took her into his arms as he addressed the Queen. "You're not really going to go through with it, are you?" The Queen seemed to know exactly what he was talking about. "Renard says that Phillip will not come to my realm as long as there is danger from other claimants to the throne."
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Edward released Bella and dropped to his knees. "Your majesty, I'm begging you not to do this. Punish the ones who tried to set her on the throne. Send her into exile. But please don't execute Jane." Bella gasped. "No!" Tears formed in Queen Mary's eyes. "If there were any other way to remove her as a threat, I wouldn't do it." Edward thought quickly. "If she converted, if she was no longer a symbol of Protestant rule, would you stay your hand?" Mary thought for a moment and nodded. "Yes, yes I would. If you can do it Edward, save the child's life and her soul." Edward sighed and rose to his feet. He put his arms around Bella and buried his face in her neck. A shudder went through him. "Let's go home," Bella said. "Let's go home." ..

Historical notes: -History records two different versions of Mary's Guildhall speech. One was recorded by John Proctor, who was a witness, and wrote a book about the rebellion later in the year, and the other by John Foxe. Historians tend to favor the former. - Elizabeth was actually at Ashridge at this time, but I like Hatfield better. I claim artistic license. - Bleeding, purging and blistering were used all the way up to the early 20th century. It was believed that humans had four humours, substances produced by organs in the body: black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood. If any of them were produced too much or too little, the patient would fall ill. The physician needed to find out which one was out of whack and prescribe a "cure" that would get the body back in balance. A "blister" was a thick paste which with irritants in it which would cause blisters to rise on the skin, and this was believed to pull out bad substances. A purge was a concoction which would cause the patient to vomit or have diarrhea, with the same goal as the blistering: get rid of whatever it was that had thrown the
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humours out of balance. - The tale of Mary agreeing not to execute Jane if she converted is probably apocryphal. We know that she sent her confessor (in this story, it's Father Jasper) to try to convert Jane, but it was likely just Mary's attempt to save Jane from burning in hell, as she believed was the fate of any non-catholic. Even if Jane had converted, her fate would likely have been the same.

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Chapter 15
Chapter Fifteen

Alice and little Elizabeth fell asleep in the litter on the way home but Bella and Edward weren't sleepy in the least. Bella felt like she had chewed a Betel nut, though Edward wouldn't know what one was if she had tried to describe it. "Why?" Bella begged. "I don't understand. Mary was just recently saying she was going to send Jane to the country." Edward pinched the bridge of his nose, a habit when he was stressed. "Gardiner wants the rebellion to appear as a Protestant uprising against Catholic rule, a rebellion with the goal to put Jane back on the throne. Now that Mary has publicly announced her marriage, the council and Gardiner have supported it, so they don't want to admit that the people, both Catholic and Protestant, were rebelling to stop it." "But why must Jane be executed?" Bella lowered her voice, ever mindful of the servants outside who carried the litter's poles. "Because she's a symbol," Edward said, and his voice was dull and weary. "She represents Protestant rule, but more importantly, she has few supporters. She's a scapegoat, Bella. The most innocent of all of us, yet she has to die for what her father and others have done." "Did Phillip really say he wouldn't come to England unless Mary executes Jane?" Edward flipped his hand in the air. "Renard knows Mary wants Phillip so manipulating her. The man is a fanatic and he thinks Mary has been far too lenient. If the realm was truly unstable, no he wouldn't want to come, but the country isn't unstable, at least not in any way that Jane's death will fix." "Edward, what are we going to do? Jane is just as fanatical as Mary when it comes to her faith. She won't convert just to save her life." "She's a sixteen-year-old girl," Edward said. "She doesn't want to die." "I'm not so sure," Bella replied. "The last time I saw her, she was telling me about
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how she wouldn't find happiness on this earth, only in heaven." "We can buy some time, anyway." Edward raked his hands through his hair. "Maybe Mary will change her mind." Bella sighed. "Edward, have you ever known Mary to change her mind on anything ?" "No," Edward admitted. "But there's a first time for everything. Now, tell me about what's happening with Elizabeth." Bella did, starting the story with Mary's request that she spy on Elizabeth. She couldn't remember if she'd told him or not before her departure, but from his expression, she gathered 'not.' "She shouldn't have asked that of you," Edward said, and his tone was somewhat indignant. She told him of their journey, and he was shocked as she had been at the low rank of the courtiers sent to fetch Elizabeth as well as the rude fashion in which she'd been treated. When she told him about the quarters Elizabeth had been given at the palace, he nearly stopped the litter and ordered the bearers to turn around. "Edward, stop." Bella held him in place gently. "There's nothing you can do tonight. The Queen is likely already abed and will be angry if you wake her for this." "Bella, it's wrong," he protested. "She's a princess of royal blood. Even prisoners in the Tower are afforded better." "I heard Mary tell Jane Dormer last week that Elizabeth looks like her father, Mark Smeaton." Edward rolled his eyes. "She does that when she's irritated with Elizabeth. Anyone who has eyes can see that she's Henry VIII's get. Bess looks more like him than Mary does." "We shall work on these issues in the morning," Bella declared. "But for tonight, I want my husband all to myself." Edward would not argue with that.

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But in the morning, Mary refused to talk about her sister. Edward tried broaching the subject twice and was rebuffed both times when the Queen stated she did not wish to discuss it and gave Edward a cool, haughty look. Gardiner, that snake, leaned over and whispered in the Queen's ear, never taking his eyes from Edward and the Queen's gaze became even colder. Edward had left her chambers after that, irritated, disappointed and disgusted. He met with Bella outside their own chambers. He kissed her and glanced around. "Where is Father Jasper?" He was supposed to go with them to visit Jane Grey- after doing such a fine job with converting Elizabeth, Edward thought sourly- and he was nowhere in sight. He saw their retinue of servants, one woman holding a pile of books for Jane, another carrying a thick fur robe to cover the Duchess if she would take a chill while in the litter or on the barge, and another with a basket of delicacies for the Duchess if she should get hungry while on the journey. (Bella's appetite was increasing by leaps and bounds as her pregnancy advanced.) Bella blushed and stammered. "Bella?" "He's ... um ... He's with Alice." Edward's brow furrowed in confusion. "Did she need to confess?" "No, I don't think so," Bella replied, her words slow and hesitant. "Bella, what is it?" Edward started to feel a little impatient. There were too many secrets in his life and he didn't want to have any between his wife and himself. Bella pitched her voice low to avoid being overhead by the servants who were watching them with avid interest. "They- Edward, they haven't done anything wrong. It's important you understand that. But there is an ... affection between them." "He's a priest!" Edward was shocked. "He's a man, first," Bella said gently. Edward shook his head. "Bella, you don't understand. If the Queen should get wind of this ..." "They haven't done anything wrong!" Bella insisted stubbornly. "They meet. They talk. That's the extent of it."
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"How often?" "Nigh unto every day," Bella admitted. "He rode out to Hatfield to visit often." While Edward couldn't see his wife, Jasper had been free as a bird to travel to Hatfield and court one of Bella's maids. He felt a spark of resentment which he pushed away. They both had their stations in life, he reminded himself. "Where are they?" "In our privy chamber." He groaned, pressing the heels of his hands against his eyes. He had a secret, too, and Bella might as well hear it at the same time as Alice and Father Jasper. Bella followed Edward inside, wringing her hands, a nervous habit she had picked up from the Queen. They found Alice and Father Jasper seated in front of the fireplace, their knees nearly touching as they bent their heads together in conversation. Alice surged to her feet when she saw them approaching and dipped into a low bow. "Your graces," she squeaked. Jasper rose and bowed, his aura of calm unruffled. "How lovely to see you again. Edward, was it?" He tilted his head and squinted his eyes as if he couldn't remember. "Ah, yes, now I remember. I was a confessor to a young man who looks a bit like you. It has been a while since I saw him in that capacity, though." "I just haven't had enough sins to trouble you with confessing them," Edward said with a smile. "Then you are not living life to its fullest," Jasper replied. He turned to Bella and bent over her outstretched hand. "Your grace, as lovely as always." "Thank you, Father Jasper," Bella replied. "I have some news which concerns you all," Edward said, and all of them froze in place and held their breath. Announcements such as these were rarely good news. They waited, watching him expectantly. "I've heard word that your father is negotiating a match for you, Alice." Alice's face went white, as did the knuckles on the hand clutching the back of the chair. Jasper, for his part, did not outwardly react. "With whom?" he asked.
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"Baron Tyler." Alice sat, or more accurately, fell into the chair. A shuddering gasp was the only sound that she made. Bella crouched down beside her, taking one of her hands in her own. "You did not know of this?" Alice's lips were a terrible blue-gray color. "My father has not written of it, no." Bella understood what Alice did not add: her father hadn't written to her the entire time she had been in Bella's service, though Alice dutifully wrote every week to him. "Who is Baron Tyler?" Bella asked. "I don't think I have met him." "You haven't," Edward said. "For that you should be grateful, Bella," Jasper said. "Saints, I'd rather see her betrothed to the Devil himself." Edward and Alice gasped at this blasphemy but Bella merely gazed at him in sympathy. "Edward, you're the Duke. Find her a more suitable match, quickly, before her father gives her to that deplorable ... creature." "I'll do what I can," Edward said, "but I cannot promise he will agree." The door opened, and Emmett stood there. Edward lifted an eyebrow at the lack of announcement but nodded a greeting. He and Emmett were not back to the warm, close relationship they'd had before Edward found out about Emmett's betrayal, and maybe they never would be, but they were at least able to communicate without rancor on Edward's part. "Brother, have you a moment?" Emmett asked. Edward sighed. "More bad news?" Emmett considered. "I'm not sure." Edward chopped an impatient hand through the air. "Out with it, man." "Gardiner has been speaking with Father Jacob. I'm not sure why, but it can't be to our benefit, that's for certain." Edward groaned. "When was the last time you attended mass, Emmett?"
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Emmett considered. "I don't recall. Does my wedding count?" Edward groaned again. "Emmett, for the sake of all of us, you have to do this." "I'm not a Papist," Emmett said, shuffling his feet. "I can't fake it as well as you can, Edward. Uhh, sorry Father Jasper." Jasper chuckled. "No offense taken, son." "Rosalie goes to mass all the time," Emmett offered. "Does that count?" Edward closed his eyes. He pointed at Father Jasper and then at Emmett. "You, follow. You, go to mass." He marched toward the door. "Right now?" Edward spun around on his heel. "I've got it!" Bella chirped. She hopped up onto the empty chair and whacked Emmett on the back of the head and climbed back down. "Ow!" Emmett complained. Bella threaded her arm through Edward's and they headed toward the palace's door. They had to hurry, or they'd miss the tide on the Thames and have to take a much slower litter to the Tower. "Have you thought of what you'll say to her?" Bella asked Edward as they boarded the barge. "I'm going to tell her the truth," Edward said. "She needs to know how dire her situation is. We'll give her a day or so to think it over and I wager on our return, she'll be more amenable to conversion." They found Jane seated at a table with the inner workings of one of her clocks spread before her, her book on clocks at her elbow. She beamed at Edward and Bella. "Cousins!" she said. "What a pleasant surprise." She completely ignored Father Jasper, who took a seat on a stool by the fireplace and watched. "'Tis not so pleasant as you think, Jane," Edward replied, giving her a light kiss on the lips before Bella did the same. "The matter is grave, indeed."
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Jane snorted. Then she giggled. Then she burst into side-splitting laughter and had to fall into her chair, tears of mirth streaming down her cheeks while Bella and Edward stared at her in bewilderment. "I- I'm s-sorry," she gasped. "It's just ... execution, a grave matter!" And she burst into peals of laughter again. "You were told, then?" Edward said quietly. He moved aside a pile of papers and sat down on the chair with arms (he did this without thinking, automatically seeking the furniture which best suited his rank, as he'd been programmed from birth.) Bella sat beside him on a lower chair. She tried to arrange herself comfortably. Her growing belly made sitting while wearing a pair of bodies a torture. "Yes, I was told," Jane said. She did not seem perturbed by the news. "You don't have to die, Jane." Edward leaned forward and braced his arms on his knees. "I'll talk to the Queen about leaving court. You could come live with Bella and I and enjoy your books. Cullen Hall has a large library and I can have books sent in-" "Thank you, cousin. That does sound lovely. But I cannot deny my faith to extend my life a few years." "A few years! Jane, you're but six and ten! You could live to three times that number before you got your first gray hair." "You exaggerate a bit, I imagine." Edward sighed. "I feel my first gray hairs coming on now, as a matter of fact. Will you at least speak with Father Jasper?" Jane smiled. "If 'twill make you happy, cousin, I will do what you ask. But understand that I have not chosen my faith out of ignorance of its counterpart." "I want to save you, Jane, don't you understand? You've barely lived and yet you throw your life away." Jane rose and put her hand on his shoulder. "I do not do this lightly, cousin. I understand what I shall miss. Every time I look at you and your wife, I know what I will miss." Edward flinched. Even if the Queen could be convinced to spare Jane's life, the chances of her ever having a happy, loving marriage were slim to none. The Queen
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would never allow Jane to marry again after she executed Guildford. She would never risk the creation of a child that would be yet another claimant for her throne. It was enough to throw Edward off his path for a moment. What was he saving Jane for? A life of house arrest with only her books for company as she listened to her numerous clocks tick off the dry seconds? It might appeal to Jane because quiet reading time was the only type of happiness she had ever known, but Edward's heart ached at its emptiness. With desperation, Edward said, "Jane, even Queen Mary abjured when her life was at stake." Jane tilted her head. "Should I respect that, Edward?" He had no answer for that. Jasper spoke into the silence. "Lady Jane, our faiths are not so different. We both pray to the same Jesus, from whom our salvation stems. All the rest is trifles." Jane shook her head. "Those 'trifles' are sinful idolatry." Edward suddenly chuckled. "Do you remember that summer at Newhall, Jane? You were walking down the hall behind Lady Wharton and asked her why she curtseyed when she passed the chapel door." Jane's eyes twinkled. "Yes, I remember. I asked her if the Princess Mary was inside and she said, 'No, I bow to him who made me'.'' "She meant the Host," Jasper explained when Bella looked confused. "The Papists believe God is physically present in that bread," Jane said scornfully. "I asked her how the bread could be He who made us all if the baker had made it." Edward couldn't help but laugh a little at the memory. "Oh, how Mary was offended when she heard that!" "She'd given me a garnet necklace the Christmas before. The next Christmas, I got a pair of gloves." Jane smothered a grin. Edward took one of Jane's hands in his own. "Please, Jane. Consider what Father Jasper has to say. Promise me."
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Jane nodded. "I promise I'll consider it." But Edward could see the denial in her eyes and he sighed and cast a glance at Bella. "Will you stay for dinner?" "We would be happy to," Edward replied. The meal was served in the small adjoining room. The table was covered with a rich Turkish carpet and Jane had three servants who tended her like she was still the Queen. Her sole manservant took on the job of serving and carving the meal. The foods were probably more simple than Jane was used to having, but they were well-seasoned and delicious. Bella ate heaping portions of leeks and parsnips, her current favorites. "But you've taken no meat," Jane protested when she saw the contents of Bella's plate. "You need meat for the baby. You want to have a healthy boy, don't you?" Edward shrugged. "She yearns for vegetables," he said. "And it's dangerous to not meet a pregnant woman's cravings." Jane laughed softly. "You're probably old enough to remember the story of King Henry's third wife, Jane, who wanted fat quail when she carried the Prince." Edward nodded. "He had to send all the way to France for them and Queen Jane kept complaining that they weren't fat enough. I should praise God that all my Bella years for is vegetables." "'Twill become more difficult to come by them as the cold sets in," Jane warned. Edward hadn't thought of that. There were still preserved vegetables left over from the harvest, but as the winter wore on, they would be more difficult to obtain. He would have to send to the Continent for them, he thought. An idea occurred to him: he would send for some Portingales. As far as he knew, Bella had never eaten them and they seemed like something she would like. "When is the babe due?" Jane asked. "I conceived in September, so count three months back and I would say sometime around June or early July, I think," Bella replied. "I hope to see it," Jane said softly. "You will," Edward declared, his voice firm and resolute.
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Ellen, Jane's nurse, burst into tears and ran from the room, her face hidden in her apron. "She'd hoped to be the nurse for my own children," Jane said to no one in particular. "Edward, will you please see to it that she's cared for if ..." Jane didn't finish her sentence. She didn't have to. "I will," Edward said firmly. "Both my little Elizabeth and our new babe will need a loving caretaker." "Thank you," Jane whispered. She blinked away tears and the mantle of calm poise settled over her again. She would not weep for her own fate, but that of her beloved nurse made her struggle not to cry. Edward lost his appetite. He stared down at his plate until Bella reached over and took his hand. Hope, she mouthed.

Mary gave them only a week, and then declared the situation hopeless. Jane would not convert and both Renard and Gardiner were pressuring her to carry out the sentence. Edward begged. On his knees, he begged, but Mary would not be swayed. Jane stood between Mary and the marriage she so desperately wanted, and she had seemingly convinced herself that the rebellion was solely the work of Protestants rallying around Jane. "It must be done," she said to Edward, though tears shimmered in her own eyes. "I have no choice. You could not neutralize her threat by converting her. Jane has signed this death warrant before the paper came to my hands." Mary took out her pen and wrote Marye, the Quene and Edward's shoulders sagged. It was done. There was naught more he could do. He went home that evening, defeated, grieving already for his young cousin. Bella held him wordlessly in their bed. Neither of them slept that night. They left home in the pre-dawn hours, both dressed somberly, as befitted the event they were about to attend. Father Jasper waited for them outside by the litter. Even the birds were silent that morning, Bella noted, the morning frozen in a deep, eerie quiet as they entered the litter. Hot bricks wrapped in flannel had been placed
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in the litter for their comfort and Edward fussed with the robes that covered Bella, worried she would take a chill. Bella, who could break the ice off a pond to swim without being too cold, let him. It was something he could fix and she thought he needed that right now. They arrived at the Tower at daybreak and as soon as they stepped through the gate, they immediately were confronted by the sight of the carpenters busily hammering away as they assembled the scaffold. A bale of hay lay next to it. The scaffold floor would be covered with it to soak up the blood, but the boards were already stained from the many lives that had been lost upon it. Upon it, Anne Boleyn and Kathryn Howard had died. Bella shuddered when they passed it and she looked up at Jane's window to see her standing there, watching the construction. She smiled and gave a little wave when she saw Bella. Jane was dressed in a simple black gown, the demure Protestant maiden to the last. She kissed both Bella and Edward and then sat back down at the table to finish the inscription she was writing in her prayer book. "Bella, I'll give this to you ... outside. I ask that you see to it that it is given to my father." "I will," Bella promised. "They brought Guildford's body back here," Jane said, her pen scratching busily. "He was executed at dawn on Tyburn hill. Last night, he asked to see me one more time, and they have him permission, but I thought it best to refuse. He was very emotional, according to what I heard." Jane finished writing and stuck her quill back into her ink pot. She used her sand shaker to dry the ink and then gently blew it off the pages. She closed the book and caressed its cover. She looked up at Bella and Edward, her eyes full of compassion. "Do not be sad, cousins, please. A moment of pain and I will be happy forever. We will be reunited in heaven, I know. God will forgive you for conforming, Edward. Your heart is true to our faith." "Jane, there is still time," Jasper said. "We can still save you. One note to the Queen ..." She smiled gently at him. "Thank you, Jasper. You have been so kind to me over the past week, and my faith has been strengthened by you. But don't you see that I am being saved? I am being saved from my woeful days and being sent to Heaven's rewards. My house in heaven will be a mansion of many rooms, for my faith never wavered."
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"Please allow Bella and I to build a lean-to against its walls it when we arrive," Edward joked, though his voice had a catch and his eyes shimmered with unshed tears. Jane chuckled and took their hands in her own. "I love you both for what you have tried to do for me. Bella, I want you to have my clocks, and Edward, please add my books to your library. I like the idea of your child someday discovering them on the shelves." Edward agreed, though he knew many of them would be burnt after she died, those which contained "heretical" ideas, Jane's English Bible, her Book of Hours, printed before Mary turned back the clock and ordered the one of her father's time be put back into use. He wasn't even sure Bella would be able to keep her promise to take the book that Jane carried to her father. Jane glanced past them out the window. A crowd had gathered around the finished scaffold and the executioner was busily scattering straw over the boards. Black velvet had been tacked around its edges, a courtesy for Jane's rank, though her family had been stripped of its noble titles. By rights, she should have been executed on Tyburn like Guildford, but Mary had granted her the small mercy of a private execution in the Tower. Edward thought it was probably more intended to keep any Protestant speeches Jane might make contained to a smaller audience, but Edward knew her words would spread far and wide nevertheless. "There is a time to be born and a time to die, and the day of our death is better than the day of our birth." Jane picked up the prayer book and watched the Tower constable, Sir John Bridges, cross the Green toward her lodgings. "You both have been true friends to me, and I pray that God sends his blessings upon you." Bridges entered, and his face told the story that Jane had made many friends among the Tower keepers. "Are you ready, my lady?" he asked, his voice gentle. "I am," Jane said with a smile. "I thank you for your many kindnesses to me, Sir John." Edward took Jane's arm, and Bella walked on her other side. Mistress Ellen and the other maids who had served Jane followed, muffling their weeping in handkerchiefs. Jane read from her prayerbook as they walked, but she never turned the page and Edward thought her eyes were simply fixed to the words so that she did not have to look at the scaffold any longer than necessary. The executioner stood in the center
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of the scaffold by the block. He wore leather pants and a leather jerkin over a black shirt. A black hood covered his face, with two holes cut out for his eyes. The axe he would use laid by his feet. He held out a hand when Jane neared the scaffold's edge to help her up the step. Edward lifted Bella on top and then climbed up after her, giving Father Jasper a hand up because of the awkwardness of his robes, then stayed to assist Nurse Ellen and the other maids who had served Jane in the Tower. The audience appreciated the sight of the Duke of Cullen, highest ranked noble in the land, assisting low-born maids, but the women themselves were not cognizant of the honor. They all sobbed loudly in the silent, chill air. Edward led Bella to the back of the scaffold with the others. Jane stood alone in front of the block. She trembled, perhaps from the cold, perhaps a little from fear, but her countenance was as calm and serene as if she were at church. The executioner knelt before her. "Do you forgive me?" he asked. "Yes, sir, I do, most willingly," Jane said. "I pray you, dispatch me quickly." She motioned to Ellen, who stepped forward to hand him a small pouch of coins, the traditional vail given to ensure a quick death. She turned to the audience and her small, sweet voice rang out in the stillness. "Good people, I have come here to die and by a law I am justly condemned. The treasonous acts against the Queen's Highness were unlawful and I consented to accepting the throne. But I never sought or desired it and of that I wash my hands in innocence. Before God and the face of you, good Christian people, I pray that you all bear witness that I die a true Christian woman, and that I look to be saved by none other means than the mercy of God, in the merits of the blood of his only son, Jesus Christ. And I confess, when I did know the word of God, I neglected the same, loved myself and the world, and therefore, I deserve this punishment for my sins. And yet, I thank God of His goodness that he has given me time to repent. And now good people, while I am alive, I ask you to assist me with your prayers." The last line underscored Jane's Protestant faith, which rejected the notion of Purgatory and prayers for the dead. She turned to Sir Bridges and asked, "May I say a Psalm?" He nodded, and Edward noticed that his eyes were moist. Jane opened her book, but she did not need to read along as she recited the fifty-first Psalm in English. "Have mercy upon me, O God, after thy great goodness; according to the multitude of thy mercies do away mine offences ..." Her voice died away after the last words, and for a long moment, she looked like
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the scared, lost and hopeless young girl she was. Jasper stepped forward and repeated the Psalm in Latin, and somehow, that seemed to give Jane the strength she needed. "Thank you, Father Jasper," she murmured. "I hope that we meet again in heaven." She turned and handed the few items she carried to her friends on the scaffold. She pressed the book into Bella's hand and whispered, "Until we meet again," before moving on to Ellen, the nurse who had been with her all of her life and would now see her through to the end. She handed Ellen her handkerchief, which Ellen sorely needed at the moment, and gave the gloves she carried she gave to Mrs. Jacob, one of the women who had attended her. She returned to the center of the scaffold and began to take off her dress, for the clothing of the executed was another traditional payment for the executioner. The back of the gown had been loosely laced for easy removal, but Jane's trembling hands still struggled with it. The executioner stepped forward to assist her and Jane bushed him off. A faint, faraway smile came to her lips, as if she felt she were stripping away the world with the gown. The last thing she removed was her black velvet headdress, covered in jet beads. Under it, her hair had been bound up high on her head to leave her little neck bare. She stood shivering in her chemise and petticoats, the snowy white a startling contrast with the dreary gray morning. Bella stepped forward with the cloth she had been given by Sir John when Jane's attention was elsewhere. It should have been Ellen who did this task for her, but Ellen was in no shape to do anything but weep. Bella smiled at Jane, and Jane closed her eyes before Bella gently laid the cloth over them and tied it behind her head. Bella was somewhat comforted by the knowledge that Jane's last sight would be of a loving smile from one of her friends. She stepped back to her place beside Edward and he put an arm around her waist. Jane heard the creak of leather as the executioner moved into place and she froze. "Will you ... Will you take it off before I lie down?" she asked in a tiny, trembling voice. "No, my lady," the executioner promised. Their exchange had made Jane forget where she was on the scaffold. She knelt where she stood, instead of stepping forward to kneel in front of the block. She stretched out blind hands, searching for it. "Where is it? What shall I do? Where is it?" Her voice, which had been steady and strong up to this point, cracked and trembled.
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Edward darted forward. "I've got you, Jane," he whispered. She let out an explosion of breath that sounded like a sob. "Move forward, toward me," Edward directed and Jane obediently edged forward on her knees, crinkling in the straw, until Edward could place her hands on the block. She let out another explosion of breath when she touched it, half sob, half relief, perhaps even part laugh. Edward stepped back and took Bella's hand in his own, squeezing harder than he realized, but Bella made no sound of reproval. Jane's small white hands moved across the shape of the block and then she leaned over it, placing her chin in the depression. "Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit. Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit ..." She removed her hands as if with an effort and held her arms out wide, the signal to the executioner that she was ready. Her words sped up. "Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit. Lord, into thy hands-" The axe fell. Jane's arms dropped limply to the scaffold. Bella turned away, hiding her face against Edward's chest. He held her, rubbing soothing circles on her back, his own eyes transfixed to his little cousin's body. Her torso slumped to the side, pumping blood into the straw, and it dripped between the boards to patter, a macabre rain, onto the stone below. The executioner lifted Jane's head by the hair. ""So perish all the Queen's enemies. Behold the head of a traitor." He recited his expected lines, but his words lacked conviction. "God save Queen Mary," Sir Bridges said, but the crowd was silent. "God save Queen Mary," he repeated, louder, and they muttered it back. "Please, can we go?" Bella whispered. "Please?" "Aye, we can go," Edward said. He stepped down off the scaffold, avoiding the widening pool of blood. The crowd parted for them. They found Alice down at the landing, waiting for them next to the barge, her eyes firmly fixed on the river. She had been unable to watch. She did not know Jane well, but her tender heart couldn't stand to witness her death. "Remember what you saw here today," Edward said to Bella. "Remember it well. One day, Mary will ask you about it, and I want you to tell her about every single moment. I want you to describe it so well that it burns into her memory. And I hope she carries it with her for the rest of her life."
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..

Historical notes: - Mark Smeaton was one of the men charged with adultery with Elizabeth's mother, Anne Boleyn. Being the only commoner amongst Anne's supposed lovers, Mark was likely tortured. He was also the only one who confessed, but his confession could have been proven false had anyone been interested in the actual truth of the matter. He "admitted" to sleeping with the queen in certain locations and dates when she can be proven to have been elsewhere, and one of the dates was right after Anne had given birth. Likely because of his "cooperation" in confessing, Mark was beheaded instead of given the traditional traitor's death of drawing and quartering. - Jasper's remark about "trifles" is based on something Elizabeth said after she had taken the throne: "There is only one Christ, Jesus, one faith. All else is a dispute over trifles." -"Portingales" were sweet oranges. Bitter oranges, imported from Seville, were commonly made into candies. Portingales were imported from Ceylon by Portuguese traders, hence the name. - A "vail" is what we'd call a "tip." - Jane's recitation of the Psalm is the version from the Tyndale Bible. - I have translated Jane's speech into modern English. You can find the original version at britannia(dot)com/history/ladyjane/address(dot)html - When Jane couldn't find the block, her own servants and friends froze, unsure of what to do. History records that a member of the audience jumped up onto the scaffold and assisted her. She had tied her own blindfold because her servants were in no shape to assist her. It must have taken a great deal of courage to remain so poised in the face of her friends' emotional collapse. In this story, I have given Jane Edward and Bella to assist her, the sort of friends I wish the poor girl would have had.

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Chapter 16
Chapter Sixteen

Bella was quiet and subdued when she and Alice departed for court the next morning. Edward had flatly refused to go and told Bella to give he excuse that he was sick, if asked why he was absent. It wasn't a lie. He was sick at heart, sick to his very soul over what had happened to his poor little cousin in the name of political expediency. Bella did not go to the Queen's chambers when she entered the palace, but instead decided to go and see Princess Elizabeth, who had been kept a prisoner in the tiny, sparse room- a cell, more accurately- since being brought back to the palace. In the time they'd spent trying to save Jane, Bella hadn't had time to visit Elizabeth and she felt rather guilty about it. She and Alice turned the corner and twin gasps left them. Elizabeth was being led down the corridor by a large group of liveried Tower guards. Her head was held high, though her face was as white as milk and her eyes stared into the distance, sweeping right over Bella without a hint of recognition. Kat Ashley followed the group, tears streaming down her face unchecked. "Kat!" Bella cried, seizing her arm. Kat blinked and seemed to notice Bella for the first time. "Your grace," she said, dropping into a curtsey. "Kat, what in heaven's name is happening? Where are they taking Elizabeth?" "To the Tower, my lady," Kat replied. Bella felt like she'd been punched. "No," she said in a small voice. "They sought to take her yesterday, but Bess cited the law that all noble subjects accused of treason have a right of petition to their sovereign. The Queen refused to see her, just as she's been refusing every time Bess asked this week. So they let her write a letter to the Queen, but it took her so long that by the time she had finished, the tide had turned and they couldn't take her to the Tower that day. They say the Queen was enraged by the delay."
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Just like Elizabeth, Bella thought, and remembered what Elizabeth had told her about squeezing out one more day, one more hour ... "Why not by land, if they were so eager?" Bella asked. "They're afraid of crowds seeing her pass in the street on the way to the Tower and possibly starting another uprising." Kat's voice was grim and low. She saw the guards and Elizabeth heading out of the palace doors. "My lady, I must go." "I'm going with you," Bella said. "No!" Alice cried. "No, Bella, don't!" "Go home," Bella instructed her. "As fast as you can, and tell Edward everything," Bella said hurriedly. "No, Bella!" Alice tried to hang onto Bella but she gently pried away Alice's hands. "Go, get Edward!" She and Kat dashed down the hall after the guards and out the door in time to see Elizabeth being lifted by one of the guards into the barge when she refused to walk. "Take your hands from the Princess Elizabeth's person!" Kat shouted, shocked and furious that a commoner had dared to touch a Princess of royal blood. She marched up to the guard in question whacked him over the head with her fan. He looked stunned, but he tried to respond, "Mistress Ashley-" "Don't you even speak to me, John Knollys!" Kat shouted. "I know your mother! And rest assured, she will hear of your outrageous behavior, oh yes, she will!" Elizabeth smirked and Knollys hung his head sheepishly. "Get in," Kat ordered Bella, and Bella obeyed, recognizing the Voice of Authority when she heard it. She stepped down onto the barge only to be stopped by Knollys. "I was instructed to bring only the Princess Elizabeth and her ladies." Bella drew herself to her full height and glared up into his face. "I am the Duchess of Cullen. How dare you presume to tell me where I may go?" And to her shock, it worked. He was immediately contrite. He went down on one knee, bowing his head. "My apologies, your grace. I did not recognize you. Please
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forgive me, your grace." Bella smiled sweetly. "Of course I forgive you." And he blushed like a schoolboy caught staring at a pretty girl. She went over to sit down beside Elizabeth, but Elizabeth tapped her with her an elbow and whispered, "Move back, Bella. I want the people to be able to see me from all sides." And, so Bella retreated to a seat under the canopy beside Kat, who spread a heavy fur lap robe over Bella, tucking it up around her shoulders. "You mustn't take a chill," Kat muttered. Bella accepted this fussing-by-proxy. If Kat couldn't fuss over Elizabeth, she'd grab the nearest suitable target. A man at the back of the barge began to beat a drum, its sound intentionally muffled to avoid attracting attention. The rowers lining the side began to pull the oars in time with it. The royal arms were painted on the sides of the barge, and there would be no mistaking the figure who sat alone in the center, her back as straight as a board and her chin held high, her brilliant red-gold hair shining in the sunlight that managed to squeeze its way past the gathering clouds. People pointed and ran down to the river bank to watch the barge pass. "Perhaps, my lady, you should move beneath the canopy?" Knollys pleaded. He had been specifically instructed to be as discreet as possible and Elizabeth was as conspicuous as could be, her bright hair like a flame that drew the eyes of everyone they passed. "I am comfortable here," Elizabeth said in her haughtiest tone and he moved back in defeat. "Gardiner has been interrogating her," Kat murmured, keeping her voice pitched low so the guards could not hear. "He's been at her night and day to try to get her to admit to being part of the rebellion. He has tortured Wyatt until the man was nigh dead but can't get him to say that Elizabeth had aught to do with the uprising." "I can't believe it has come to this," Bella said softly. "I can," Kat retorted. "Mary has always believed the worst about Bess." Bella shook her head. "She loves her."
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"Like she loved little Jane?" Bella looked away. She saw people on the banks waving to the barge and faint calls of blessings on the Princess. "That, out there, is what both condemns her and saves her at the same time," Kat said, nodding to the waving people. They neared the Tower, its grim gray bulk rising from the waterline. Dark storm clouds roiled above and rain began to patter onto the deck of the barge. "Wait!" Elizabeth cried. "You're taking me to the Traitor's Gate!" Her calm, regal demeanor began to crack and she started to tremble. "It's just the water gate," Bella said soothingly. "Edward and I used it yesterday when we landed." "I am no traitor!" Elizabeth shouted. "I won't go in that way! I won't!" The oarsmen paid no attention, steering the barge through the archway. The rain was falling more heavily now and Elizabeth was soaked to the skin, shivering from the cold and fear. Her hair was plastered to her head and water dripped down her face. If there were tears, they were concealed. "Her mother died in these walls," Kat said softly. "She's had nightmares of being dragged to this place as a prisoner since she was a babe." They bumped up to the landing and more guards materialized to help moor the barge in place. A man dressed in black velvet stepped forward. "Your highness." "Sir John!" Bella exclaimed. Bridges blinked and smiled slightly at Bella. "I never thought to see you again so soon, your grace." He bowed deeply to the Princess, who was frozen in place on her seat in the center of the barge, and then to Bella. "Come, up Bess," Kat said, and her brisk, no-nonsense tone got Elizabeth to rise to her feet. Sir Bridges took her hand and more or less tugged her from the barge onto the flagstone walkway. Elizabeth's knees gave out and she sat down heavily on the steps leading up to the ground level. "Here lands as true a subject as ever landed at these stairs. Before God, do I
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speak it." The rain poured down on her and Bella thought she'd never seen such a woeful sight as this, a Princess of England sitting outside in the rain like an abandoned puppy. Bridges crouched down in front of her. "You had best come in, your highness. You'll make yourself ill, sitting out here." "Better out here than inside, for God knows where I'll go once I enter." Bella flinched because she knew Elizabeth was referring to thee torture chambers in the dark recesses below the Tower, the dank cells with their slimy walls and rats ... Bridges glanced up. "Lady Cullen, do you believe me to be a man of honesty?" "I do," Bella said. "You were kind to poor Jane." Bridges held out a hand to Elizabeth. Her eyes flicked to Bella and Bella nodded. Elizabeth took his hand and allowed him to draw her to her feet. He took his own cloak off and draped it around her shoulders. Elizabeth gave him a small smile of thanks and he led her toward her quarters. Elizabeth froze in her tracks when she saw that the scaffold upon which poor Jane had died was still in place, the same scaffold upon which her mother had lost her life. Elizabeth went white and swayed but Kat caught her arm before she could faint. "Bear up, Bess," she whispered. "There are people watching you." With effort, Elizabeth swallowed back her terror. The guards from the Tower had lined the route, not because of orders, but because they wanted to see the Princess. They stood in the rain to pay her tribute with their presence and Bella's heart warmed at their kindness. "God save your highness!" Once it had been voiced by one brave soul, the chant was taken up by the whole line. Elizabeth walked into her room in the Bell Tower under a rain of blessings as heavy as the rain falling from the sky.

Elizabeth needn't have worried. Her quarters were small, but comfortable, warm and dry, with a large fireplace and three windows. She occupied the first floor of the Bell Tower, so the shape of the room was circular. A fire crackled in the grate and Bella had to tamp down her urge to flee. The furniture and other belongings
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Elizabeth hadn't been allowed to have in her cell at the palace had been set up here, so Elizabeth at least had the comfort of her own things around her. Her large, soft bed stood waiting, opposite the fireplace, and the shelves were stocked with her books. Elizabeth was nearly blue and her teeth were chattering. Kat immediately went to the wardrobe to fetch dry clothes and the other two maidservants began to strip off Elizabeth's sodden clothing. "You too, Bella," Kat ordered and one of the maids detached herself from Elizabeth to begin undressing the Duchess. "I haven't any dry things with me," Bella protested. "You can wear some of my clothes," Elizabeth offered. Bella laughed. "You're about half a foot taller than I am," she said. "You'll be a well-dressed dwarf, then," Elizabeth said and Bella felt a surge of relief that Elizabeth had calmed enough to tease. Bella grinned back at her and allowed the ladies to strip off her clothing and re-dress her from the skin out in Elizabeth's clothes. Kat had saved some of Elizabeth's dresses from when she was young girl and they found a perfect fit in the gown that Elizabeth had worn for the portrait she'd had made for her brother, though the skirts were still too long for Bella's short legs. Bella heard a commotion outside and peeked through the small porthole in the door. "It's Edward," she sighed in relief. Bella opened the door, and spoke to the guards that blocked his path. "Let him in." The guards bowed to her, but did not move their crossed axes. "I am sorry, your grace, but we were ordered that the Princess should have no visitors." "I am not a visitor. I am on the Queen's business," Edward said. His manservants surged forward, their hands on the swords they wore at their waists. "Make way for the Queen's messenger," Edward said. Between the menace of Edward's servants, his rank, and his imperious glare, the poor guards were overcome. They moved their axes and Bella dashed out into her
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husband's arms. "I came as soon as I heard." He squeezed her tightly. "Why did you come here, Bella, why? For God's sake ..." Bella led him inside the doorway out of the rain and they resumed their embrace. "I want to beat you and I want to kiss you," he said into her hair, which was unbound and flowing down her back until it could dry. "You can't do both at the same time," Bella said. "So I suggest you pick one." He chose the kiss. "Greetings, Queen's messenger," Elizabeth said as the kiss went on and on, her tone wry. "Am I mistaken in my assumption that there might be some sort of ... well ... message for me?" Edward broke away with an effort. "It's not good news, Bess. She's keeping you here, indefinitely. She wanted to send you to a house in the country to be watched by a loyal courtier, but no one would volunteer for the job, except for myself, and she wouldn't give me a reason why she refused my offer." "Get word of this to Phillip," Elizabeth said. "Phillip? Mary's Phillip?" Edward repeated. "Yes, the Spanish prince. Get word to him of this, as fast as you can." Elizabeth sat down on a stool in front of the fire and Kat began to brush her hair. "Gardiner is trying to push a bill before Parliament to disinherit you." "Can you stall him?" "Not for long. Renard is saying he has proof that you intended to fortify Donnington and that you placed caches of weapons to there aid in the rebellion." "Donnington?" Elizabeth repeated. "Where?" "It's one of your estates, minor, one I doubt you've ever visited." Elizabeth shook her head. "I don't even remember owning such a house."
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"Well, you do, and Renard says you were planning to move there from Hatfield." Elizabeth tossed up her hands. "Even if I was, what of it? Am I not free to move to any of my houses as I see fit? Did Mary not restore the law that states that treason must be an action taken, not thoughts or words? What action can be proved by me?" "None, so far," Edward said. "Edward! You say that as if they'll find something." "The definition of 'proof' depends much on the beliefs and desires of those looking at it." He glanced around the room. "I'm sorry to leave you in such dire straights, Bess, but I'm taking my wife home with me." "I thought you would," Elizabeth agreed. "Visit me as you can." "I'll do what you asked, and all that is in my power to get you out of here soon," Edward promised. Elizabeth smiled at him wistfully. "I know, but Edward, do not risk your own life for mine." "She won't execute you," Edward said. "I know she won't." Bella wished she could believe that.

Their litter waited outside the main gate and they climbed inside, shivering in the evening chill. Bella had to hike her skirts up higher than usual because of the long hems. Once inside, Edward yanked the curtains closed and pulled his wife into his arms with fierce passion. He kissed her until Bella was dazed and breathless. "You foolish, foolish girl," he said, peppering her face with kisses. "I am so angry at you right now." Kiss. Kiss. "I'm sorry, Edward, but I couldn't let her go alone. She was so afraid." Kiss. "Please, forgive me."

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Kiss. "I forgive you." Kiss. "You can't help it." Kiss. "You're a loyal-hearted creature." Kiss. "But you must think of our babe, Bella." Kiss. "What would become of him if they wouldn't have let you leave the Tower?" Kiss. His hands slipped down to her ankles and he began to inch up her skirt. Bella bit her lip to keep from moaning. His eyes were hot, hooded, a brilliant green, and looking into them sent a lightning bolt through her to the place his hand had just reached. "Edward," she said. "Shh," he replied. He covered her mouth with his own. "I need you right now, Bella." He lifted his body over hers, fumbling between them to open his own clothing. In the process, his hand brushed against her sensitive parts and then he was rubbing her in slow circles while he eased inside of her and she arched, her mouth open in a cry she dared not release. "Shh," he whispered again. "We must be very quiet and very still. Don't make a sound, or I'll stop." Bella's dazed mind had enough cognition for her to marvel at how far her prim and proper Edward had come, from overly-gentle caution to making love in a moving litter. It was a first for her and she had no doubts that it was a first for him, as well. Her breath hitched and he paused. "That was a sound," he whispered, his lips hair's-breadth from her ear. "I'll give you a warning, but next time, I'll stop." He moved slowly, deeply, keeping up that steady rhythm with his hand. Bella bit down on the shoulder of his doublet as an orgasm, as deep and slow as his thrusts, pulsed through her. He gave a small gasp, unable to last through the feeling of her body clenching around his, and sagged limply onto her for a moment. He drew back far enough to gaze into her eyes. "I love you, Bella." "And I love you," Bella said. "With all of my heart, I love you." "Don't leave me," he whispered. "Please, Bella, promise me." She hesitated. That wasn't the sort of promise no one could make. "Never mind," he said, dropping his lids over his eyes to hide the hurt and rolling onto his back. He re-arranged his clothing and tugged down Bella's skirt.
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"Edward-" "Please," he said. "Let's not discuss it. I can't bear it right now." She fell silent, but rolled over so that her head laid on his chest. She listened to the steady thump of his heart as he stroked her hair.

Thomas Wyatt was executed in the morning. Bella and Edward did not attend. In his speech on the scaffold, he swore before God that Princess Elizabeth had nothing to do with the rebellion. The rumor was passed about that the night before his execution, his wife was sent to plead with him to implicate Elizabeth in return for a pension for her and his ten children. Wyatt refused, just as he had refused when tortured. After he died, his body was drawn and quartered and the pieces nailed up around the city as a warning to others. His corpse was joined by those of the officers who had defected when they were sent out to meet Wyatt's forces. They were dragged from their homes and hanged on makeshift gibbets beside their own front doors. It was said all of London stank with rotting flesh that spring. At length, the council decided they could not get rid of Elizabeth without a trial and there simply wasn't enough evidence, even by the the lax standards of the day, to condemn her, especially given Mary's restoration of the law that treason had to be an overt action. And so, Elizabeth would wait in limbo until they could either come up with enough (both Renard and Gardiner insisted they already had more than enough) to try her or a loyal courtier willing to take her on as a "guest" in his home. Mary was as giddy as a young girl. Phillip was to arrive soon, and after all this time, he had finally sent her a letter and an engagement gift of a large teardrop-shaped pearl danging from a jeweled pin. All the while, he'd written to the council (arrogantly signing himself Phillipus Rex as if he were already the king), but he had never bothered to write to his betrothed, whom he still called his "Aunt" when he wrote to his father. Mary had repeatedly nagged Renard to send him messages that she would welcome a letter, for she felt it was improper for her to write to him first. Every morning, she sighed over his portrait. Bella, watching this, was by turns embarrassed for the Queen and angry. While she mooned over her future husband's portrait, her sister sat in the Tower in genuine fear for her life.
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For the first few weeks, Mary denied Bella permission to visit Elizabeth and seemed sulky and resentful that Bella would even ask. Bella refused to play games. Mary should know that by now about her. Just because Elizabeth was currently out of favor with the Queen was no reason, in Bella's opinion, for her to abandon her to a lonely fate. She would not be like one of those ingratiating sycophants who changed loyalties with every mood of the Queen. Finally, Mary conceded. "Fine, go," she snapped. "But tell me everything she says." Bella was shocked, but she wasn't going to argue. She found Elizabeth in relatively good spirits. Bridges was kind to her and gave her as much freedom within the Tower grounds as he could allow. She was permitted to walk outside, around the perimeter of the walls. Every day, a little boy showed up at the gate to give her flowers, and she had made friends with Robert Dudley, Guildford's brother. He had all the charm and grace that Guildford had not, and from the way she spoke of him, Bella suspected the Princess had developed a bit of a crush on him. Bella had thought that Mary would be pleased that her sister was doing well and it wasn't until after she had reported to the Queen that she discovered how petty Mary could be. Elizabeth's daily walks were abolished and the little boy who brought her flowers was detained and questioned as to his motives and whether he had ever used the flowers as a way to smuggle messages to the Princess. Bella was appalled when she heard this (she was denied permission to visit Elizabeth again and so the news reached her only through rumor). "Your majesty, why?" she asked one afternoon when she finally got Mary to speak of it. For the last week, she had angrily changed the subject whenever Elizabeth's name came into the discussion, but today, Bella had heard her reluctantly add her sister's name into the prayers she'd said at the chapel. "She betrayed me," Mary said. "I wanted to love her as a sister, but she betrayed me. Everyone told me not to trust her. She's too much like her mother, everyone said, a schemer, a liar, a Judas. But I didn't believe them. Well, I've learned my lesson! That girl is naught but a snake in the grass, waiting to strike." "Oh, your majesty, no ..." Bella tried to protest. Mary's eyes narrowed. "I've been told some ... concerning things about you, too,
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your grace." Bella's insides turned to ice. She tried to speak but no words would come. They were interrupted by a messenger at the door. "Your majesty, a letter has come for you." Mary's eyes lit up. "From Prince Phillip?" "Aye, your majesty." The Queen squealed like a girl and rewarded the messenger handsomely. She eagerly broke the seal and her eyes scanned the words. Bella watched as her delight died away to change to bewilderment, and then anger. She finally dropped the letter into her lap. "Majesty, what is wrong?" "She's somehow managed to catch Phillip in her damnable nets," Mary said. Her voice cracked and tears swelled in her eyes. "He writes to instruct me that I should release her at once. This is the only letter he's sent me in two months. He won't write to me and then when he does, it's about Elizabeth." She spat the last word and crumpled the letter in her fist. "Your majesty, I'm sorry-" "Leave me," Mary said softly. "Your maj-" "I said, leave me!" Mary snapped. She stared at Phillip's portrait as if it would contain some kind of answers. Bella stood and curtseyed to Mary's back and slowly made her way to the chambers reserved for Bella and Edward at court. Edward arrived not long after Bella went into their bedchamber and laid down on the bed, fully dressed. She'd sent him a message to come when he could because she was genuinely at a loss as to what she should do. When he arrived, he lay down beside her and she told him what had just happened in the Queen's chambers. "She's jealous," Edward said. "Her popularity is dropping while Elizabeth's increases every day. She wants so badly to be loved, Bella, and she thinks Elizabeth is stealing that from her, stealing the affections of her people, of you. And now,
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Phillip commands her to release Elizabeth." "Why did he do it? Was this why Elizabeth told us to contact him?" Edward nodded. "He knows that it's unlikely Mary will have an heir, and even if she does, she may die while birthing. Elizabeth remains heir to the throne, and he sees the wisdom in cultivating a relationship with her. Renard must be gnashing his teeth." "She's acting like a spoilt child," Bella said. Edward sighed. "She's in the throes of her first love and she's not thinking clearly right now. Nothing is turning out the way she'd hoped. Phillip isn't playing the loving betrothed, the people are grumbling over her religious reforms and are hostile to her marriage. She believes her sister betrayed her, yet for some reason, everyone loves her. Mary doesn't understand it." "I hate this," Bella said. She rolled over and laid her head on Edward's chest. "I hate it here. I don't understand these games I'm supposed to play. Can't we go home? Home to Cullen Hall?" "I'll try, Bella, but I don't think she'll let us go." He put his arms around her and Bella realized that it was the only place she felt safe any longer. ..

Historical notes: - Tudorphiles, please forgive the jostling I have given to the time frame. Jane was executed in early February and Elizabeth wasn't taken to the tower until March. - The letter that Elizabeth wrote to Mary is known by historians as "The Tide Letter." On the back, below her message to her sister, Elizabeth drew lines across the paper so that no one could forge a confession above her signature. - The soldier(s) actually called out, "God save your grace." Your grace was a title used for royalty, including the monarch. King Henry VIII was the first to use "your majesty". - Sir John Bridges was the Lieutenant of the Tower, not its Constable, but I'm
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combining several different men into one character. - Elizabeth was described as being "tall", but her surviving clothing suggests she was only about 5'4". - The portrait I'm referring to is of Elizabeth as a teenager, wearing a red gown and possibly her mother's famous "B" necklace. - The pearl that Phillip gave to Mary is known as "La Peregrina" and it last belonged to the actress Elizabeth Taylor, given to her by her husband Richard Burton, who bought it for her at the price of around thirty-seven thousand dollars. On Dec. 15, 2011, it sold to an unknown buyer for over eleven million dollars. The proceeds went to an AIDS charity, as her will directed. - Thomas Wyatt's family was given a comfortable pension when Elizabeth came to the throne and she gave back some of his property to his wife.

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Chapter 17
Chapter Seventeen

Bella went to the Tower a few days later, having received Mary's grudging permission. Her anger toward Elizabeth had cooled slightly, and Bella liked to think that maybe she and Edward had been part of the reason. Bella and Edward had a few private dinners with the Queen ("private" being a relative term since there had been upwards of twenty servants in the room) in which they had gently coaxed Mary into "forgiveness" for her sister, since she was absolutely convinced of Elizabeth's guilt. Edward reminded the Queen of Elizabeth's tender years. She was only a girl of twenty, who had all her life had only Protestant advisers. She hadn't had the benefit of Mary's upbringing. One of Mary's greatest flaws was that she was unable to see things from the perspective of others. To her, the truth was so obvious that anyone who didn't agree with her opinion on things had to be doing so out of obstinacy or, in some cases, evil. The new coins Mary had designed were being issued. They bore the Latin motto that Mary had chosen for herself: Veritas, Temporis Fila, "Truth, the Daughter of Time." It was a perfect encapsulation of her beliefs, that the truths of Catholicism, the wisdom of her marriage, everything she believed, would be revealed as truths in time. Bella had permission to come and go as she pleased in the Tower. She always waved or smiled at Bridges when she saw him. She knew he was doing everything in his power to make Elizabeth's captivity more comfortable. That afternoon, she went first to the chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula, where Jane had been buried. Edward had been reluctant to give her the full details of Jane's burial, and once she heard them, Bella understood why. There had been no funeral, he finally told her. Poor Jane's body had lain on the scaffold where it had fallen, clad only in her shift and petticoats, for four hours while they tried to find out what they were supposed to do with her remains. No instructions had been given. Was her mother, the only member of the family still at liberty, going to take Jane back for burial at her childhood home of Bradgate? Did Mary want her to be buried according to her rank? If she was supposed to be interred in the chapel with the other unfortunate souls who had perished here, special permission had to be obtained from Mary, who was still head of the church, though she despised the title. The chapel was Catholic once more and Jane was a Protestant who could not be
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buried in consecrated ground. In the end, no one had claimed her remains. Her ladies were eventually given permission to tend to her body and she was fitted inside a wooden box and buried near the altar in the chapel. Bella had brought a flower for each of the people who rested beneath the floor with Jane: Anne Boleyn, Kathryn Howard, Thomas More, Margaret Pole ... She laid a flower out for each, in a neat row. Bella thought Jane was in good company with Thomas Moore and she liked to picture them, sitting in the afterlife and arguing theology as Jane had done with Jasper. She had brought a little pouch of sand with her to scatter over their graves, a selkie tradition. It was supposed to help the dead connect with the sea, the origin of all life. Because no one had honored Jane with prayers or scripture as she'd been interred, Bella said a prayer of her own. She hoped that Jane would have understood its sincerity an intent, even if it wasn't directed at the God she so fervently believed in, but the selkies believed that death freed a soul from its earthly chains, its preconceived notions, its prejudices and misconceptions. Jane would be able to see what was in her heart. Bella poured the sand from the pouch into her hand and gently blew, sending the grains out over the paving stones all around the altar. She smiled and turned to leave and saw Sir Bridges at the doorway and he was looking at her oddly. She froze for a moment. Had he seen her scatter the sand? Bella wasn't sure how she could explain it, other than a ritual of her people from the far-away lands of the New World, but what if he saw it as anti-Christian? She ended up saying nothing, simply nodding her head politely as she passed by him. He sank into a courteous bow and that was it. Bella let out a shuddering breath and headed straight for the Bell Tower where Princess Elizabeth was housed. So intent on her mission was she that she crashed right into the man walking across the green. "Oh, beg pardon!" Bella gasped. "I did not see you, my lord." He was young and handsome, with dark eyes and curly hair. He gave her a rakish smile. "No, the only thing you were watching was the toes of your slippers. Robert Dudley, at your service, Madame." He swept his hat off and gave a graceful bow, as if he were about to break into dance. "Oh. Guildford's brother," she said, and instantly wanted to call the words back. Bella will you never learn to guard your tongue?
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He grinned. "I am, but do not hold that against me. And who might you be?" "Oh! I'm Bella. The Duchess of Cullen." His grin widened. "Ohhh, the Indian princess that cousin Edward married." Bella flushed. His wicked grin softened when he saw she was genuinely flustered. "Beg pardon, little Duchess. I am used to sparring with Bess and I don't think to sheathe my claws." "Bess?" she repeated, her tone a bit incredulous. "You are familiar." He laughed. "My father said my impertinence would get my head lopped off one of these days. If it does, I hope it's for being forward with a pretty girl." "I- I have to go," Bella said and darted around him. He spun neatly into her path, as if dancing with her. "Wait just a moment, please, little Duchess. I would that you take a message to the Princess from me." Bella hesitated. Mary wanted Elizabeth closely guarded to prevent messages from getting to her. She trusted Bella to obey her rules, which was why she had been given such broad permission. (Mary also thought Bella would be a good influence on Elizabeth.) "Just a line of poetry," he said, shrugging negligently. "Oh, all right." What harm could there be in that? "Tell her, I am but a deer, stalked in your wood/Early summer pomegranates, I'd taste if I could." Bella repeated the words again and again in her head. "All right. Good day to you, my lord." This time when she darted around him, he just turned to watch her walk away, a small grin on his lips. She nodded with a smile to the guards at the door and they opened it for her. She went inside, blinking to try to help her eyes adjust to the dimmer light inside. "Bella!" Princess Elizabeth was curled up in a chair, reading, her feet tucked up
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beside her on the seat. She rose as Bella entered the room and kissed her lightly on the lips. "How fare you? Goodness, you get fatter every time I see you." Bella laughed. "With that silver tongue of yours, you'll go far, Elizabeth." "Sit, sit," Elizabeth bid her. She returned to her chair, tucking a finger in between the pages of her book to keep her place. "How is my sister?" "Mooning over Phillip, still. And the people are getting restless about it, so she's touchy about perceived insults. I heard yesterday that a group of children were playing 'Queen Against Wyatt' and they had one of the boys play Prince Phillip, and at the end of the play, they captured and hanged him." "All in jest, I'm sure." "Most certainly, but the poor boy was nearly strangled in the process because their fake noose wasn't fake enough. But that's not the point of the story. Mary heard of it and had the poor boy and his parents arrested and had the boy whipped." And by "whipped," Bella did not mean the boy had been spanked. A long braided singletail whip had been used on the boy. He would carry the scars for the rest of his days, provided he didn't die of infection in the jail cell first. "She didn't!" Bess said indignantly. Bella nodded. Bess rubbed her forehead. "I tried to talk to her about this. She doesn't understand that a monarch has to court the love of the people. You can't just demand it as your due or punish away defiance." "There are a lot of things I've tried to explain to her," Bella confessed. "But she's in a more forgiving mood now. Perhaps if you-" "I am not making up a fake confession for her, Bella," Bess said sharply. "I did nothing wrong and I won't ask for forgiveness of faults I don't have. God knows I have enough real ones. She claims if I confess that she'll embrace me as a sister again, but Bella, she's lying. I don't know if she's just lying to me or if she's even lying to herself, but f I confessed, she would immediately pounce on it and think See, I was right about her all along. She wouldn't forgive me. She'd hold it over my head for the rest of my days and use it as an excuse to see to it that I never saw daylight again. She'd publicize it to all the foreign courts, probably publish it in pamphlet form for all of England to read, and she might tell herself that she was doing it just
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so people would see how merciful she was to someone who confessed to treasonous actions, but it would really be because she has a secret desire, deep within her to see me submit to her, just as she once submitted to our father, denying the authority of the Pope to escape house arrest and be taken back into the monarch's favor. And she'd do it to try to chip away at my popularity. But it would backfire on her, and she'd end up more bewildered and angry than before." Bella shook her head, "It never ceases to amaze me how you can see so many layers of intrigue at one time." "We all have our talents," Bess said, with a smile. "I can translate Greek poetry, too." "Oh, that reminds me. I almost forgot." Bella snapped her fingers. "I have a message for you from Robert Dudley." Elizabeth's smile froze in place. "You do?" "Oh, just a line of poetry," Bella said. "You know how silly young men are around a pretty girl." Bess tilted her head. "Yes, yes I do. What is it?" Bella repeated the line she'd been told. "I don't recognize the poem," she said. Elizabeth looked studiously at the fire. "Nor do I. Anyway, how is your hus-" She went still, her eyes widening as a terrible sound reached their ears: the rhythmic stomping of boots, the jingling of sword belts and the clank of armor, getting louder with every second. Elizabeth stood, her face blanched of all color, her dark eyes huge in her angular face. Bella thought she had never looked more like her mother Anne Boleyn, than she did at that moment. Her eyes swept over to Bella. "Pray for me," she said. "For tonight I think to die." Kat Ashley dropped her embroidery hoop. She let out a moan and wrung her hands, and Alice looked like she wanted to crawl beneath the table. "No!" Bella grabbed Elizabeth in an embrace as if she could protect her with her own small body. The door opened, the hinges creaked. "Princess Elizabeth, pray, come with me."
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Elizabeth hissed into Bella's ear, "Get Edward!" and pushed her away. She squared her slim shoulders and walked out the door, her head held high, as regal as any Queen which had ever trod these paths. But they were not taking Elizabeth to the scaffold. They were taking her out of the Tower. Outside the gates, she was introduced to Sir Henry Bedingfield, who had been steward for Mary's mother, Katherine of Aragon, and thus had impeccable loyalty credentials. He had brought a litter for her comfort. When Kat started to climb in behind her mistress, she was halted. Her rooms had been searched, and anti-Catholic pamphlets had been found. She was hereby dismissed from the Princess's service. Bella had never seen Elizabeth cry, but as Kat was pulled away, the woman who had raised her like a daughter, and had stood by her side through all tribulations, she wept. She wept as though her heart were breaking but she was strong enough to rein herself in after a few moments. "Go with Bella," she instructed Kat, smiling at her through her tears. "She's someone that needs taking care of. She's even silly enough to go visiting accused traitors in the Tower." Bella thought wryly that her house was becoming a home for wayward servants. Ellen, Jane's nurse, had moved in and taken over the care of little Elizabeth, and the child already loved her. And for Ellen, teaching a child who was bright and happy (as Jane should have been) was helping her to deal with her grief. Mary had instructed that Princess Elizabeth was to be carefully guarded but treated as the royal she was. And so, Elizabeth set off on her journey to Woodstock, a royal hunting lodge, with all of the pomp of a royal progress. Bella watched them go with a sigh, she turned to Kat. "Let's go home." Alice and Kat eyed one another dubiously. "You're not going to court today?" Alice asked. Bella shook her head. "I just want to go home." Nobles never did their own packing. They simply left a house and arrived at another to find that all of their personal goods had already been placed inside. The hundreds of servants they employed made this magic happen behind the scenes. Kat, though not a noble herself, would have her belongings packed up and brought to the home of the Duke and Duchess of Cullen quickly.
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"What were you thinking with the pamphlets, Kat?" Bella asked Kat teared up a little."They weren't anti-Catholic. They were just Protestant tracts." "Anything that isn't Catholic is anti-Catholic these days," Alice said. "My poor baby, out there all alone ..." Kat whispered. "I just wanted some comfort of my faith. I meant to burn them once I'd finished reading them." "You're lucky you're not facing a heresy charge," Alice told her. "After Phillip comes, things are going to get worse for Protestants. That's what Father Jasper say, anyway." Bella was curious. "Did he say why?" Alice shook her head. "It might have been one of his-" she cut off her statement and glanced at Kat. "You might as well say it. Kat is like a stone statue when it comes to keeping secrets." "He gets these ... feelings," Alice told Kat. "And he's almost always right." Kat did not seem the least bit perturbed by the idea of a priest who could see the future."I knew a man like that when I was a child," Kat commented. "He told me that my baby was going to be the Queen of England. I laughed of course, but ... maybe he didn't mean a baby of my flesh, but the baby of my heart." The bearers stopped the litter right in front of the house, but they still had to dash through rain to get inside. It was shaping up to be a very wet spring. Bella hoped it stopped raining soon so the farmers could plant their crops. She entered the house and asked the young maid who removed her cloak to find a bedroom for Kat. "Bess will be fine," Bella told her and gave her a kiss on the cheek. "You raised her well. She's strong and she's crafty. I wager she'll have Bedingfield turned upside down and tied in knots before he knows it." Kat gave her a small smile and said with sincerity, "Thank you, your grace." "Get some rest," Bella ordered. "You'll need it if you're planning to help run after your mistress's young namesake."
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When she entered her bedchamber, she found Ellen and little Elizabeth playing with her jewels. Ellen was cleverly teaching Elizabeth simple math by asking her how many necklaces she was wearing. "And if I take one away, how many would that be?" "Five!" little Elizabeth exclaimed. Bella was frozen for a moment. She didn't care about them playing with the jewels. What concerned her was that her jewel box had been in Edward's cabinet, the one he kept locked. The one which contained her pelt. She went over to it quickly and opened the door. She let out a choked little whimper when she didn't see it. "Mistress Ellen!" she called. She tried to keep her voice calm and even. "There was a piece of fur in here. Did you take it?" Ellen thought for a moment. "Oh, yes, Elizabeth wanted to use it to make a cape for her doll." "You didn't cut it up, did you?" Bella whispered, the color leaving her face. Her pelt had no supernatural protections. When it was out of her possession, it was simply an ordinary piece of fur, as vulnerable to damage as any other. Ellen finally caught on to the fact that Bella was worried sick. "Oh, no, you grace. There is no damage to it. I'll fetch it immediately. Bella sat on the stool that Ellen had vacated. Her knees felt wobbly. Elizabeth abandoned the jewels in favor of her new pastime, rubbing Bella's round belly. Her pregnancy was sufficiently advanced that she could now go around with loosely laced gowns, much more comfortable. "Good ev'n, baby!" Elizabeth said to Bella's stomach. She waited and in a moment, she was rewarded with a bump against her hands. She squealed in delight. "How much longer before I can see the baby?" she asked Bella, as she asked almost every day. Elizabeth was still a little fuzzy on the concept of time. "Not for a while yet," Bella said. Elizabeth considered. "Tomorrow?" Bella shook her head. "Longer than that."
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Ellen returned with Bella's pelt her hand. "I'm sorry if you were distressed, your grace," she said. "I did not know it was something important." "Pray, put it back in the cabinet," Bella instructed. She couldn't touch it until it was willingly returned to her. If she tried, her hands would pass right through it like the pelt was made of smoke. Ellen tucked it into the cabinet. "It is a beautiful fur, your grace," Ellen said. "Are you going to make something from it? A hat, perhaps?" Bella forced a smile. "Perhaps." "Where are my two favorite girls?" Edward called from the doorway. Elizabeth shrieked and ran for her father, her arms held high. He swooped her up and kissed her with a laugh. Bella heaved herself up from the stool and made her way over to Edward (perhaps waddled is more accurate). He kissed Bella. "I have a surprise for you," he said. "I spoke to the Qu-" He stopped as he noticed the cabinet door hanging open and the layers of jeweled necklaces on his daughter. He peered down at Bella, an odd expression on his face. "Did you open the cabinet?" "Nay, my lord husband. When I came home, it was already open and little Elizabeth was playing with the shin- with the jewels." Ellen was aghast. She bowed low. "I beg your pardon, your grace. I did not know the child wasn't permitted to play with the gems." "I am not angry," Edward assured her. "I just wish to know how this came to be. Was it unlocked when you entered?" "The cabinet was standing ajar, my lord. Elizabeth got out the box and began to play with the gems, which I thought she must be permitted to do or else she would not be so bold." Edward smiled at his daughter. "Do you like playing with your mother's jewels?" "Yes!" Elizabeth said, with emphasis. She grabbed one of the necklaces and held it up so that it caught the light. "Pretty!" "Yes, very pretty. Who played with you with them last time?"
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Elizabeth stuck a dangling pearl into her mouth and gnawed on it for a moment. "Nurse," she finally said. "Nurse and I played." "Ah," Edward said as if she'd given him the answer to a great and happy mystery. "You're a good girl, Poppet. but you'd better take those off before someone mistakes you for the Queen and carts you off to Whitehall!" Elizabeth giggled but allowed Ellen to take off the mass of jewels and take her to her room. "Rosalie has a key to my chest," Edward said. "Likely, she stole it from Emmett." "Why would she use it to let little Elizabeth play with the jewels?" "Likely to keep her occupied while Rosalie searched for something else. What she was searching for, I do not know." "Pamphlets, like what was found in Kat's rooms?" It must have been a topic at council already because he knew to what she referred. "Perhaps. My first step will be to ask my brother when he mislaid his keys." "Ellen saw my pelt. Elizabeth played with it." He was aghast. "It's all right, isn't it?" Bella's heart melted. The Edward she had met on the first day of her captivity might have been worried about his daughter being polluted by un-Christian magic or something along those lines. But now his concern was for the pelt's safety, and by extension, her own. He must have intended to return it to her someday, or else he wouldn't be so worried that it would remain unharmed. If Bella hadn't already loved him, his concern might have pushed her over the edge to tumble down, head-over-heels. One of Bella's selkie friends, years ago, had been captured by a man who burned her pelt. She was trapped in a life on land, though it was mercifully brief. She had pined away within only a few months. "'Tis fine," she assured him. "I love you, Edward." He smiled softly, "I love you too, Bella, and I always will." He smiled down at her
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and then blinked. "God's teeth, I almost forgot my surprise for you." "What is it?" Be bent down until his nose touched hers. "We're going home." Bella sucked in a breath. "What do you mean ..." she started. "I mean we're leaving court and going back to Cullen Hall. The Queen has given her permission for us to leave until her wedding. Likely, you can have your lying-in at home and-" Bella let out a girlish squeal of excitement and threw her arms around his neck. "We're going home! We're going home!" He laughed and picked her up so that her face was on level with his own. "Yes, my love. We're going home." ..

Historical notes: - The story of Jane Grey being left on the scaffold for four hours comes to us through reports by the French ambassador. It may not be true (I hope it's not true). Further, it's not really certain where Jane Grey was buried. The Tower chapel seems likely, but as I noted in the story line, it was a Catholic chapel at the time and there are no records that a request for an exemption so Jane could be buried was asked for or granted. There are no contemporary reports at all of her burial. There is a contemporary report of someone who claimed to witness Jane and Guildford's bodies being loaded onto a wagon to be transported off Tower grounds, perhaps to the church where her father was buried, near Tower Hill. (The church was destroyed in the Blitz.) When floor in St. Peter ad Vincula was excavated in the 1870s, they found bones that they believed belonged to Anne Boleyn, her brother and sister-in-law (the contemptible Lady Rochford) but no remains which could be linked to Jane Grey. Adding to the difficulty in identification in a day of little-to-no forensic skills was the fact that the chapel had been used as a parish church and lots of people were buried inside. Indeed, some of the remains had been shoved out of the way so the dirt could host a new occupant. The report of the excavation is called Notices of the Historic Persons Buried in the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London and it's available in its entirety on Google Books. It's ghoulishly entertaining reading.
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- I have a set of pictures up of some of the people/places/things featured in the story on my Facebook page. The address is on my profile page.

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Chapter 18
Chapter Eighteen

Bella was angry at Edward, and he couldn't see any way to fix the situation. The time they had spent together over the last month and a half, since their return from court, had been the happiest time of their marriage. Edward hadn't resumed the day-to-day running of the estates when they returned, leaving everything in the hands of his steward. (He reminded himself he needed to see what had been uncovered in regards to his almoner and promptly forgot again.) His father would have been outraged, but Edward didn't care. He spent the days with his wife and daughter, romping and playing as he never had before, even when he was a child. He had never known a carefree life. Bella was showing him what it was like and he found that he liked it very much, indeed. Bella taught him how to have fun, to see any object as a potential toy. A blanket could become a castle when it was draped between two chairs. Bella would be the princess, with a wood spoon as her scepter a paper crown upon her head, and Edward would be the roaring dragon, fought off successfully by Elizabeth as the brave knight, who carried a broom as her lance. He thought ruefully that the servants probably believed he'd gone mad, but every time he heard Elizabeth shriek with laughter and saw the sparkle in Bella's eyes, he knew it was worth it. And though he wouldn't even admit it to himself, he was storing up memories. Bella had promised him that birth was not as dangerous for selkies as it was for human women, but he couldn't help the deep-seated fear in his heart, fear that he would lose her the way he had lost his first wife. He had nightmares of attending Bella's funeral, of watching her toss in bed with fever and knowing there was naught he could do to save her. She was a light sleeper and woke him when be began to toss and moan, but afterward, all he could do was cling to her and bury his face in her sable hair. Speaking it out loud would lend it a terrible reality that he could not bear. They spent most of their time in their chambers, because the rain still fell steadily, almost every day. It was the wettest spring in living memory and the days eased into summer without a break in the weather to allow the farmers time to plant. The peasants' fear grew with every day, swelling like the floods that spilled across the
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land. They knew that a poor harvest meant starvation for their kind. Bella coaxed Edward into buying a large store of grain, which they tucked away in the barns, so that there would be no starvation on his lands. He chuckled when he thought of how his father would react to that. Had the man not already been in his grave, he probably would have dropped stone-dead of apoplexy at the idea of Edward spending money to feed worthless peasants. He would have approved of buying the grain, but only to hold it so that he could extort grossly inflated prices when people saw their children crying with hunger. That was another change that Bella had wrought in him: seeing money as a way to improve the lives of everyone on his lands, rather than means to further glorify the family name with displays of wealth. Last night, they had slipped down to the beach under the cover of darkness so that Bella could have a swim in the sea, her first since they'd arrived home. As happy as they were together, Edward knew she still longed for what she called the Endless Waters. Sometimes he found her by windows, staring out at the steel-gray waves, her eyes distant and sad. Edward waited for her on the beach, miserable in the steady rain which soaked through the sodden cloak that he held over his head, but he smiled every time he saw how happy Bella was to play in the waves. Her pregnancy had made her slow and awkward on land, but in the water she was graceful and swift. He watched, his eyes straining in the darkness and the wind carried to him a pair of sounds: the bark of a seal and Bella's cry of delight. Edward stood and wiped the rain out of his eyes. A head broke the surface of the water near hers, the small, sleek outline of a seal. Bella put her hands on its head and closed her eyes. Edward felt an irrational spurt of jealousy. He wanted to charge into the water and snatch her away, to run back to the house with her in his arms, and shout to everyone he encountered that she was his and no one could take her from him. There was a long moment between them. Bella opened her eyes and stroked the sleek head. The seal leaned its body against hers, a gesture even Edward could interpret as affection, and then disappeared beneath the waves. Bella watched for a moment and then turned back toward the beach, toward her new home on the land. She emerged from the water, her alabaster body glowing in the moonlight, her belly round and ripe. 'Did you see?" she asked, her huge, dark eyes gleaming. Her smile was brilliant and he felt small and petty for begrudging her such joy.
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"I did. A friend of yours?" Edward forced out the words. He would be happy for her, he decided, even if it killed him. "My sister," Bella said. "They've all worried about me. They keep returning to this beach, hoping to see me, to see how I am." "What did you tell them?" Edward asked. Bella smiled and stroked his cheek. "That I'm happy. That I have a husband who is kind and loving." "I was jealous," he admitted. "I was afraid they'd somehow steal you away from me." She smiled softly. "I can't leave," she reminded him. He looked away. He didn't want to feel he was holding her here by force. He wanted to pretend she was here with him on her own volition. But that was the truth of it, wasn't it? He wouldn't give back her pelt because he was afraid she might choose to leave him, to go back to her first love, the sea. She jumped and gave a little gasp. She took his hand and laid it against her naked belly. "Feel. The baby is kicking." "You must be near your time," he said. It was the first week of June now, and a human woman should be ready to give birth. She shook her head. "About three weeks, yet." He was startled. "You know that precisely?" She smiled. "Yes, of course." He shook his head. "Human women can't tell." "Really? They must not pay attention to what their body tells them." He sighed. "It can no longer be avoided. "You must go into your confinement." "Confinement? What do you mean?" she asked. He sighed. She wasn't going to like this. "Let us go to our chamber and I will
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explain." Once they were dried and laying in their bed, he tried to beak the news as gently as possible. About a month before the birth, a lady was supposed to "take to her chamber" where she and her maidservants would live in seclusion until after the birth and her "churching". Women stuck as closely to the rules codified by Margaret Beaufort, Edward's great-grandmother, as their economic circumstances would allow. The wealthy followed the instructions to the letter with superstitious zeal, down to the size, number and stuffing of the pillows on the bed. He had already ordered the lady's chamber prepared and if Bella had noticed the bustling to and from the unused chamber, she never said anything. The walls, and even the ceiling, were covered with rich tapestries, those with happy, romantic scenes because a pregnant woman must not be confronted with ugly or gloomy figures, lest it harm the child. Even the keyhole was covered, to shut out the world beyond. Only one window tapestry was left unfastened, so that the woman could pull it aside and have light when it pleased her. The floors were thickly covered with carpets and the bed mattress re-stuffed with fine wool, with a down-stuffed mattress laid over that. Four pillows were added to the bed, two long ones, two square ones. An altar was set up for her prayers, and baptismal font was brought in, in case the child was dying and needed immediate baptism. No men were permitted to enter the chamber once the woman had been sealed inside. "I must stay in there for a month and you can not even visit me?" she gasped. "I can send you notes," he offered. "I won't do it!" Bella snapped. "Bella, you'll have Kat and Alice for company, books and music. It's supposed to be a pleasant, restful time to prepare for the birth." "I won't do it!" she repeated. "Bella, you must." "No!" It came out as a wail and Bella covered her face and sobbed. This time, he could not let her tears sway him. There was a small ceremony outside the chamber door beforehand. Father Jacob said mass and then Bella was
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given a cup of spiced wine. She grimaced at the taste and looked up to see Rosalie watching her intently as she finished off the contents. Father Jacob then recited a prayer that God would send Bella "good hour" and then the women were sent inside, not to be seen again until after the child was delivered. Bella clung to Edward's hand as long as possible. He drew a heart in her palm and closed her fingers over it. Alice pulled her into the chamber and closed the door. "How are you feeling, Bella?" Rosalie asked her. "Well, thank you," Bella replied, her voice a little unsteady. "And how are you faring?" The rumor among the servants, Alice had told her, was that Emmett had beaten Rosalie when he discovered she had stolen his keys, though he had been careful not to injure her lest he harm the child she carried. Rosalie hadn't been seen for days afterward and when she emerged, she was sweetly polite to Bella. Bella didn't know what threats or inducement Emmett had used, but it was a relief not to have Rosalie's eyes stab her with hate every time she looked in the woman's direction. Bella was kind-hearted by nature and bore no grudges toward Rosalie. She wished that they could at least get along. She had enough enemies amongst the members of the court. She did not need another at home. She tried to be friendly whenever possible, but until now, Rosalie had coldly rebuffed her efforts. "I am well," Rosalie replied. "Shall we play Noddy? Lady Alice, would you favor us by playing the lute so that we may have music while we play?" Bella disliked card games but she agreed because it was the first time Rosalie had ever invited any interaction with her. Rosalie apparently thought that Bella was ailing or due to deliver at any moment because she kept asking how Bella felt and the expression in her eyes made Bella think she was waiting for something. When they retired to bed that evening, Rosalie looked disappointed. The next morning, Edward sent a note with breakfast. At the bottom of it, he had drawn a heart. Bella burst into tears. She refused to eat and during the day, she succumbed to fits of weeping from which nothing would distract her. She cried so long and so hard that the women grew alarmed. She was going to harm the child if she didn't calm herself. "Get Edward," Kat commanded. "But he's not supposed to come in here!" Alice protested.
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"She's going to weep herself into sickness if we don't. We'll bring him into the privy chamber, not the bedchamber." "If aught happens to the babe, it will be on your head," Rosalie warned. Kat hated Rosalie. Bella hadn't asked her about it, but from the first moment they'd met and enmity had sprung up between them. "So be it," Kat spat at her. "Go fetch her grace's husband." Rosalie bristled. "Send one of the maids." Kat stared her down. "I'm sending you. Go now or you'll wish you had." Rosalie dropped her eyes and stood. She scurried out of the room without another word and Bella looked at Kat with undisguised admiration. Within only a few minutes, she heard Edward's voice in the next room and she ran to him, tears streaming freely. "I can't do it, Edward," she wept. "I'm sorry, but I just can't go three weeks without seeing you, knowing you're in the same house, but locked away from you inside this stuffy room." "I'm sorry, Bella," he said. "I sometimes ask too much of you. I need to better heed your words." Bella crawled into his lap and laid her head on his chest. She inhaled deeply, relishing the scent that was uniquely Edward and the arms that gave the comfort that only he could provide.

That evening, he and Bella parted more easily, since she had his promise that he would return in the morning. He had gotten her to eat something for dinner, but his Bella could never be ordinary. "I want porridge," she had declared. "A big, steaming bowl of porridge." The servant Edward had given the order to looked at him like he was asking for a bowl full of mud. "Porridge, your grace?" "Yes, porridge," he repeated. "That's what she has a yen for and she must have it." The cook himself asked to see Edward, and he met him out in the hall, closing the door to Bella's chamber behind him. "Is there a problem?"

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"I ... I just had to confirm ... the ... I was told ..." "She wants porridge," Edward said. "You do know how to make it, don't you?" "But your grace, it's peasant food." "I don't give a damn. She wants it. Get it for her or find yourself a new household to serve." He could chuckle about it now, but it had been very frustrating at the time. He was in his bedchamber being stripped for bed by his servants when Emmett entered, his forehead wrinkled with concern. "Brother, I must speak to you. Alone." Edward sent the servants out and sat down on the edge of his bed. He never saw Emmett except if there was trouble, a situation that Edward himself had devised, but he was tired of associating his brother with problems. "What is it?" "After you told me about Rosalie stealing my keys, I decided to search our quarters while she is confined with Bella to see if she had taken anything else. I found this." He held out a twist of brownish paper. Edward examined it. It looked like the kind of packaging apothecaries used. Edward used to buy headache powders from the apothecary that served the palace, and they were usually dispensed into bits of paper like this, twisted at the ends to avoid spilling out the contents. There were traces of green plant material in the creases of this one. "Look at the side, at the writing," Emmett directed. Edward hadn't noticed the writing, as creased as the paper was. When he saw it, he went cold with shock. Pennyroyal. It was an herb widely known to cause a miscarriage. "Was she trying to rid herself of her babe?" he asked Emmett. "I know not," Emmett said grimly. "But rest assured, when she leaves Bella's chamber, I will find out."

Bella was right about the timing of the birth. Every day, Edward went to visit with her and he usually ended up staying all day. It caused a minor scandal and word of it spread quickly through southern England. He got several letters from nobles he
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knew chastising him for breaking the tradition and a stern lecture from Father Jacob, but he just couldn't stay away. He used the excuse that Bella became distraught and it was healthier for the child if he humored her, but in reality, he was distraught himself. What had he used to do all day before he had Bella? he wondered. He had reluctantly resumed the reins of the estate, but there wasn't much which required his attention. The fields were flooded, so there were no crops to plant. Most people stayed indoors as he was doing and wondered at the reason for the foul weather. Some said it was God's displeasure over the Queen's upcoming marriage. On the twenty-second day he spent in her chamber, Bella looked up from the backgammon game they were playing and declared that the babe was coming. After that, all the demons of hell itself could not have dragged him away from her side, even though the women were shocked to have a man in the birthing chamber. This was the first time any of them had ever heard of such a thing. Bella was stripped down to her shift and the midwife set up the birthing chair. It was cleverly designed to be folded flat for portability and had a hole in the seat. Bella sat down and made herself comfortable. The midwife poured oil on her fingers and reached into the hole under the seat. Bella flinched at her touch and Edward squeezed Bella's hand for comfort. "Almost ready, your grace," the midwife said. "It seems 'twill be a fast birth." Bella folded her hands over her stomach to wait. Everyone stared at her, seeming to grow more and more amazed as time passed. Bella wondered what she was doing that was so incredible. She wished she had a book to read. "It's unchristian," Rosalie hissed. "The pain of childbirth is a punishment for the sin of Eve. What witchery is this?" "Are you ... having pains, your grace?" the midwife ventured. Bella considered. She could feel the contractions rippling through her, but she wouldn't call them painful. Edward, on the pretext of adjusting the chair, whispered into her ear. "Yes, tell her yes. Human women have very painful births. Bella, you must cry out and groan." "Oh yes, awful pains," Bella said.
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"I have never seen it borne with such fortitude," the midwife marveled. She reached under the seat again. "'Tis time! Push, your grace. Push!" Bella laid it on a little thick. When she started pushing, she groaned and screamed and she must have been convincing because even Edward started to look worried. "I can see the head! Only a bit more, your grace!" A heavy surge went through her and she felt something slide from her body. She cried out in surprise that was echoed in a wail from her baby. The midwife lifted the child in her arms and checked over the little body quickly. "It's a boy!" she announced. She turned to Edward, beaming. "You have a son, your grace. A fine, healthy and strong little son." Bella laughed even as tears welled in her eyes. The midwife washed the baby in a bowl of warm red wine while Alice and Kat tended to Bella. She was washed and put into a new shift and helped into bed. Edward laid down beside her, his eyes welling with tears of joy. "Thank you, my love. From the depths of my being and the heights of my soul, thank you." He kissed her gently, his lips a soft brush of angels' wings across her. The door slammed and Bella jumped. Rosalie had exited without a word. Bella hoped she was just hurrying to tell Emmett the news, but she feared that Rosalie was angry. This little baby meant that she would never be Duchess. Edward cupped her face. "Pay no heed," he ordered. "This is a day of joy." The midwife was finally finished tending to him and the baby was put into Bella's arms. He had inherited his father's hair, Tudor red and untameable, and he had Bella's huge dark eyes. She thought she had never seen anything more beautiful. A wave of fierce love swept through her, as powerful as the ocean tides. She looked up at Edward and knew that he was feeling the same way. Their hands met and clasped over the tiny creature lying in his mother's arms, a silent vow, a wordless declaration. ..

Historical notes: - "Noddy" is one of the oldest recorded card games, and there were endless
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variations of it. Essentially, players got three cards from each deal and tried to combine them into sequences to score points. The winner was the player who reached 31 points. - The idea that a baby could be harmed in the womb from disturbing sights seen by its mother was retained all the way up to the Victorian era. The deformities of Joseph Merrick "The Elephant Man", were blamed on his mother being startled by an elephant at a circus when she was carrying him. - The baptismal font was an unhappy necessity: about one quarter of all infants died shortly after birth, and another quarter never made it past infancy. - Abortion using herbs like pennyroyal and rue was legal until the "quickening" or the first time the child could be felt to move. Before the quickening, it was widely considered to be simply purging the womb and "provoking the terms" (periods.) - You can find pictures of the people/places mentioned TSW on my Facebook page. The link is in my profile or use tinyurl (dot) com/7ohnbzk .

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Chapter 19
Chapter Nineteen

Edward and Bella both fell into a light doze, the baby laid on the bed between them. They both woke he began to make little whimpering sounds. Bella picked him up and tugged open the tie of her shift. She guided her nipple into the baby's mouth and he latched on eagerly. Edward could only stare in awe at the beautiful sight, such a primal, intimate moment, that he had no words to describe. He could not even begin to express the feelings that welled inside him. He wanted to weep and to laugh and to kiss Bella but also fall at her feet in worship. He'd been so wrong when he'd tried to insist on a wet nurse, so wrong to attempt to deprive her of this sweet bonding. Bella glanced up at him and smiled tenderly. She gestured him closer and so he sat up and slipped an arm behind her shoulders. He reached out a hand to touch the baby and then looked at her quickly, either for permission or encouragement, he didn't know which. When she nodded he ran a tentative finger over his son's cheek, marveling at the softness of his skin. The baby waved his plump little arms and that reminded him that he needed to be swaddled as soon as possible so that his limbs would grow straight. And then there were the announcements that needed to sent out and a christening to arrange ... so many things. But right now, he would enjoy this moment with his wife and son. He caught one of the arms in his hand and examined the baby's little hand, marveling at the tiny fingers. When he touched the baby's palm, the baby's hand closed around his finger in a surprisingly strong grip. Bella switched him over to her other breast. He latched on but drank slower, with long, slow, sleepy blinks. "Is he getting enough?" Edward worried. "I was told that the baby shouldn't drink the thin milk, that it wouldn't nourish him properly." Bella laughed softly. "Your people have strange notions." She nuzzled against the baby's downy head and pressed a kiss there. The love in her eyes was powerful. "Bella, it is best not to get too attached," he said reluctantly. "He may not ..." He
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paused, not even wanting to voice his fears. "He is not sick or weak," Bella replied. "He is a good baby." "Yes, but many children do not ..." Almost half of Tudor children died before reaching adulthood. Bella shook her head. "We selkies have strong, healthy babies, protected my the magic of our kind. But I will not trust his care to anyone else." "Bella ..." "He is mine," she said fiercely. "Kat and Alice may assist me, but I will not send him away as many of your people do. Where he goes, I go." Edward surrendered. He could only hope that the Queen would understand, but even if she did not, no earthly power could make him take this child from Bella's arms. The baby finished nursing and Bella put him to her shoulder. She patted his back gently until he gave a surprisingly loud burp. "Well done, son!" he said, amused. "Your uncle, King Henry, would have been impressed." "Would you like to hold him?" Bella asked. Edward felt a little panicked at the idea. He had once held Elizabeth when she was a baby, but she had had been swaddled and carefully wrapped in blankets. His son wore only a cloth diaper and he seemed very fragile and vulnerable. Bella sat up and carefully laid the baby in Edward's arms. He looked down into the little face and the large dark, eyes which surveyed him solemnly and he was overcome with wonder that he and Bella had created this amazing little being. They decided to call him Edward, but his christening was the only time that name was ever used. His sister, little Elizabeth, provided the name he would use all his life, long after it was forgotten how he'd come by it. Elizabeth, for some reason, had trouble pronouncing his name and called him "Eh'ward", eventually dropping the first syllable to call him "Ward." Soon, the whole family picked it up and "Ward" he became.
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Over two hundred people attended the christening, held in the Great Hall. Bella did not; she had not been "churched" yet, a ceremony which marked a woman's re-entry into society, her purification from childbirth. She was disappointed. Peasant women were churched as soon as they felt well enough to be up and about, but Father Jacob had chastised her for her "unseemly haste" and insisted she wait the customary two weeks. Before the christening itself, Bella had her "upsitting", She was dressed in a bed-gown of rich red velvet, trimmed with sable and leaned back against a mound of pillows, her dark hair falling loose over her shoulders. Ward was laid in a cradle lined with velvet pillows, under a satin blanket trimmed in cloth-of-gold (this had occasioned a small argument because Bella felt cloth-of-gold was too scratchy to be anywhere near her child's skin, but on some things Edward would not be moved; the boy was the great-grandson of a king). Thus arrayed, the chamber doors were opened to receive the stream of visitors and gifts that came to mark this joyous occasion. Every noble in Edward's duchy came to pay tribute and to ceremonially pledge their loyalty to the new heir. Princess Elizabeth had sent her christening gown to be used, which Edward and Bella thought was very touching, though Queen Mary pouted a little that they hadn't asked to use hers. Queen Mary's christening gift was a grand gesture. She gave Ward the earldom of Portland, which had come vacant when the old earl had died without an heir, his title and lands reverted back to the crown. The note she sent along with the letters patent hinted strongly that she would like herself and Phillip to be named godparents, and so they were. Proxies stood in for them at the christening ceremony itself. Mary's letter also contained the news that her wedding would be held at the end of July and she expected Edward and Bella to be back at court before then. It was much happier in tone than the letter Elizabeth sent along with the christening gown, the first letter she had been allowed to write to her cousins since being released from the Tower. She had been taken to Woodstock, a royal hunting lodge that had been mostly forgotten since the time of Henry VIII. It had fallen into such disrepair that Elizabeth couldn't occupy the manor house itself. She had to live in the gatehouse, which, she said, made her recall her lodgings in the Bell Tower with fondness. She wrote with humor and flippancy, but Edward could read between the lines that she was miserable. She ended her letter with a line of poetry about constancy in the face of adversity, which Bella shook her head over. "She and Robert, always quoting obscure poems."
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Edward, who had been blowing raspberries on his son's belly while the baby kicked and cooed, looked up at her curiously. "What do you mean? "When I saw him in the Tower, he asked me to relate a line of poetry to Elizabeth, but it was too obscure even for her." "Do you remember it?" Bella thought for a long moment. "I am but a deer, stalked in your wood/Early summer pomegranates, I'd taste if I could." Edward laughed. "It wasn't a poem, Bella, it was code. 'Stalked in your wood" ... Woodstock. He must have overheard where she would be moved. He was trying to reassure her she wasn't going to be harmed. Mind you, I wouldn't have figured it out either if I didn't already know that's where they had taken her." "What about the pomegranates?" "Pomegranates are the symbol of Spain. He was saying Phillip would arrive in early summer. How he knew this in the Tower is beyond me because we expected him in May and only learned of his delay later on." "And tasting them?" Edward smiled. "It could be that he was saying he wished he could be out to attend the wedding, or it could have been flirtatious, or it could have referred to Persephone trapped in the Underworld for eating the pomegranate seeds. I don't know." She shook her head. "I'll bet Elizabeth understood about twenty different shades of meaning. Robert was a sly one, tricking me into carrying a message that way. I'm glad I never mentioned it in front of the Queen. She'd have my head in a basket." "The Queen is in too much of a tizzy over Phillip's arrival to worry much about her sister," Edward said. Bella sighed. "I wish we didn't have to go back. We've been so happy here. We can't even go back to our house on Hampstead Heath." The Queen had been convinced by her ministers that it might be wise to have her wedding outside of London. So unpopular was it that people who even looked like they might be of Spanish origin were being attacked in the streets. So, the Queen
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was to be married at Winchester Cathedral and the court was to reside in Wolvesey palace. "I've undertaken a search for a suitable house to rent for us," Edward offered. She kissed him on the cheek. "Sweet man. We shan't be there long enough for that." "If we are to take our son with us, we must lodge away from the court. He could fall ill from the miasma that lingers in the rooms." Bella could see that Edward was going to be a somewhat overprotective parent and he'd worry his way into gray hair if he wasn't careful, but he was compromising, allowing her to keep their baby with them, so she would have to be flexible as well and let him take whatever precautions he thought necessary. "I wanted to ask you about something," he said. 'I don't know how you will feel about it." "What is it?" "I know you've worried about Alice's possible betrothal to Baron Tyler. I'm considering asking the Queen for permission to betroth her to Ward." "Alice and Ward? But she is nearly twenty years older than he!" "We wouldn't follow through on the marriage," Edward said. "It would merely be to give her our protection. Ward could ask for an annulment when he is of age. It would mean that Alice would likely never marry, because she would be as old as the Queen is now when their betrothal was dissolved, unless, of course, she finds a suitable match in the meantime and wants to be set free. I wanted to ask your opinion before I approach the Queen." "Oh, Edward, I think that's a wonderful idea!" "Discuss it with Alice and see what she thinks. I'll ask the Queen after the wedding, when she's in a happy mood." "I hope she is happy," Bella said. "I worry what will happen when Phillip arrives. How will he react to a bride old enough to be his mother, whom he's always thought of as an aunt?" "He'll want to please his father. so he will treat her decently, I'm sure."
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"Mary wants him to love her as she already loves him." Edward's face grew grim. "I fear for England if she is disappointed."

Edward sat down to dinner that evening with a somewhat more cheerful disposition than he had been showing lately. This was the last evening he would have to dine without Bella at his side. She would be churched in the morning before they left for Winchester. His steward had found them a suitable house, though it had cost a fortune. The whole town of Winchester was packed to overflowing with nobles, people who wanted to watch the small parade to the cathedral, and the merchants who brought their wares to sell to the crowds. A tent city had been erected on the outskirts, but Edward had refused to even consider it, no matter how luxurious some of the tents were. His son would have to be in the security of walls, away from the night air's dangerous vapors. Emmett came up to the table and seated himself, gesturing for the wine bearer before he even sat down. He held up a finger to tell the ewer bearer to wait, chugged the first goblet and held it out for a refill. Edward inwardly grimaced. So it was to be one of those nights. "Rosalie has asked if she can use the lady's chamber for her own lying-in," Emmett said. Edward shrugged. "I don't see why not. Bella won't mind, I'm sure. She never uses those rooms herself. So, you and Rosalie intend to stay here until she is delivered?" "Aye," Emmett said. "She is fair sore that her confinement will keep her from the Queen's wedding." "Did you ask her about ... what you found?" Edward asked, mindful of the servants' ears. "I did," Emmett replied and snapped his fingers for another refill. "She claims it was something she considered taking before ... well, before I made the situation right. She says she threw the herb into the fire." "Do you believe her?" "I believe nothing the woman says," Emmett said flatly. "But I cannot prove otherwise. She is still with child."
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"You are certain of that?" Emmett nodded. "I see her bare almost every evening." And then, as if almost to himself, he said, "In that regard, at least, we get along." Edward still had enough of his prim and proper old ways to blush a little at that statement. A thought occurred to him, "Could it have been intended for someone else to use?" Emmett shrugged. "One of the maidservants, perhaps? I had not heard gossip of any of them being with child, but I suppose it's possible." Servants tried to keep such news from reaching the ears of their employers, after all. An "immoral" servant who had a swelling belly could find herself thrown out onto the streets. After dinner, he helped Emmett back to his apartments because Emmett could not make it under his own power. "This has to stop, Brother," he said. Emmett stumbled over to his cabinet for another bottle and dropped into the chair by the fire. "I have nothing else," he replied. "You ... you have Bella, a good woman who loves you. I have no one, nothing to keep me going, and nothing to look forward to in the future." He smiled slightly. "Go on. Don't fret for me. I don't deserve it, nor want it." "I want you to know something, Emmett. I forgive you." The bottle fell from Emmett's hands and shattered on the hearth, but he did not move. He stared at Edward, frozen. "I forgive you because I understand now what it must have been like for you," Edward said. "If Bella were my brother's wife ... I don't know that I would have had the strength to resist her." He turned and left the room and closed the door behind him quietly. He would go up and see if Elizabeth was still awake, he decided. He had stayed at dinner later than usual, and watched an entertaining minstrel rather than go back to his cold, empty bed. He supposed it was a small taste of what Emmett felt, and perhaps that was what had finally given him the final nudge he needed to forgive his brother. "My lord, may I have a word?" Father Jacob stepped out of the shadows and Edward nearly had an apoplexy. His white face had seemed to float in the darkness where his black robes blended in with the shadows.
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"Pardon me," he murmured, "I did not mean to startle you." "It's fine," Edward said, trying to still his pounding heart. "What is it, Father?" "I need to speak of you concerning Lady Cullen. Might we go into the chapel where we can have some privacy?" He glanced over his shoulder at the servants who followed Edward at a discrete distance. Edward would rather have had a tooth pulled, but he knew he'd been put Father Jacob off for as long as he could. If he still corresponded with Gardiner, his lax attendance at mass and his lack of interest in spiritual matters could reach the Queen's ears. He forced himself to smile and followed the priest. The host was reserved on the altar and so it was lit by candles. The chapel's junior priest knelt on the stone floor in front of it, keeping vigil. He stood, crossed himself, and left the room as soon as he saw Father Jacob and Edward enter. There was a bench in a small alcove near the tomb of Edward's parents and Father Jacob gestured for him to take a seat. Edward gazed at the carved effigies of his mother and father, marble statues, lying on the top of the sarcophagus, both of them with their hands steepled as if in prayer. He thought the image of his father bore little resemblance to the man himself, though the carver had done a wonderful job with his mothers' likeness, at least as best Edward could remember. She was becoming more of a shadowy figure in his mind as the years passed. He hadn't known her well when she was alive, and now there weren't any fond memories he could recall of her, just the evening meetings when he would be called before them to recite his lessons, his palms damp with anxious sweat. "I have wanted to speak to you for some time," Father Jacob said. "Now that there is an impressionable child involved, it is necessary for me to speak my mind on this matter. I do not believe Lady Cullen is a suitable mother for your son." "What?" Edward blurted. "That's preposterous. Why would you say such a thing?" "She is a woman of poor moral character, my lord, as much as it pains me to say it." "That is untrue," Edward snapped. "Bella is a kind-hearted, loving and intelligent, exactly the qualities I would wish my son to have." "The first quality you should wish for in a son is that he is a Christian man," the priest retorted. "All of the kindness in the world will not save a heathen soul on the Day of Judgement. Your first duty, as a father, is to see to your son's moral instruction. Kindness will turn him into a lazy, intemperate creature, concerned only
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with the pleasures of the flesh. Your own father-" "Isn't how I want to be," Edward finished. "Bella's influence has made me more of a Christian man than I was before. Better to those around me, better to the people who depend on me, more charitable-" Father Jacob shook his head. "You have become confused. As one example, the grain you purchased-" "Bella's idea," Edward asserted. "I have little doubt," Father Jacob said scornfully. "She tempts you to ignore the social order ordained by God. If a peasant goes hungry, it is the will of the Lord, who instructs through suffering. Buying food for them will allow them to avoid their just chastening and will encourage them to be lazy. Why work, if they will be fed regardless? You will bring them to spiritual ruin. The money you wasted on that grain would have been put to better use by the Church." "Oh, aye, another gold candlestick for the altar will certainly help alleviate the suffering of the poor," Edward spat and then felt his stomach grow cold. He shouldn't have said that. Dear God, he shouldn't have said that. He called himself a thousand kinds of fool for losing his temper. But Father Jacob did not furiously denounce him. His expression gentled and his voice became soft and coaxing. "Don't you see? This is the confusion she has brought you to. Our churches are the house of God and should be worthy of Him. The beauty within may draw a sinner to come inside and hear the message, and thus that gold candlestick may not fill a poor man's belly but it can end up saving his soul. Saving souls is far more important than alleviating temporary suffering. The damned will feel much more severe pangs in the world to come, I assure you." "Is that all?" Edward said. "No, but it should already be enough for you to know you must send your child far from her influence. I also know of certain ... immodesties. Of which I know you are aware." He knew about Bella's midnight swims. That was the only possible thing he could be alluding to. "I do not know what you mean." "My lord, I saw-"
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"If you are seeing things, Father Jacob, perhaps it is yourself that needs spiritual purification." Edward stood. "We will not speak of this again." "But, your gr-" "We will not speak of this again," Edward growled. Father Jacob grabbed his arm and his desperation was clear in daring to lay his hands on Edward's person. "My lord, there are accusations of certain ... unnatural actions. She felt no pains in childbirth. Only a witch-" "How dare you?" Edward said, his voice full of thunder and ice. "Do you forget to whom you are speaking? If you say that word in respect to my wife again, you will regret your slander. I was with my wife when she gave birth. She suffered as any ordinary woman, but she had greater forbearance than most." "That you were there speaks of her unnatural influence over you. She is causing you to behave in bizarre fashion, my lord. I am loath to anger you, but someone must say these things to you, someone must make you see what has happened to you before it is too late." "Consider your duty in that regard to be fully discharged," Edward said coldly. "You will remain here when my family returns to London. I will not send you away for the promises I made to my first wife but do not tempt me to anger again, Father Jacob, for I will not be as generous in the future." When the Duke had left, Father Jacob fell on his knees before the altar. "Where did I err?" he begged. "What do I do now?" It wasn't long before the answer came to him.

The Queen kissed and hugged Bella when she saw her. "I've missed you so! How is your baby?" "Hale and hearty, your majesty," Bella said. "Praise be to God." "Aye, and may he send you the same," Bella replied. It was what Mary wanted most in the world, not only to keep a Catholic on the throne, but to have a family. A
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loving husband, a loving child, just the way she remembered her own childhood before that "witch" Anne Boleyn had destroyed everything. Phillip was to arrive the next evening, Mary had changed her mind three times about what to wear. All of her selections were in her favorite color, purple, though Bella tried to gently steer her toward red or pink, more flattering to her complexion. Bella stood beside her on the platform that had been built outside Wolvesey palace. She held the Queen's hand and it was icy, trembling within her own. "Take deep breaths, your majesty," Bella whispered. The last thing they needed was for the Queen to faint. They heard the horses before they saw them. Most of Phillip's retinue were coming separately. He had been warned by his father to be as low-key as possible, so he was only bringing nine thousand nobles, servants and soldiers with him, and one thousand horses, on one hundred and twenty five ships. It was little wonder the English felt like they were being invaded, though the soldiers, according to the marriage treaty, could not come ashore. There had already been some conflicts. The Spanish could be just as haughty and xenophobic as the English could and many of them resented their "exile" to this small, cold island that they saw as a backwater of the world. Culture clashes were inevitable. The Earl of Derby nearly caused an international incident when he attempted to kiss the Duchess of Alba in greeting. Mary let out a little whimper. "Oh, Bella, he's here! He's here!" Phillip rode in front of the long parade, perched atop a white horse, like a fairy tale prince. (The horse was placid, for he rode badly, and the armor was ornamental because he was also a poor jouster.) Mary's eyes sparkled and she trembled from head to foot. This was the start of her own fairy tale, she was convinced. She would have a loving family and England would come back to the True Faith and the kingdom would be as happy and prosperous as it was in those golden memories of her childhood. Phillip dismounted and walked up to the Queen. He was pale, blonde and had a disproportionately large head for his rather small frame. His Hapsburg jaw protruded further than his portrait had indicated, but from the look of her, he was the handsomest man Mary had ever seen. He bowed awkwardly, but Mary was charmed. If he was in any way disappointed by her appearance, he had enough grace to conceal it. He spoke to her in Spanish and she responded in a mixture of Latin and French. She had learned Spanish in the
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cradle from her mother, but had not spoken it in so many years that she lacked the confidence to try. Bella spoke many human languages and understood him perfectly, but did not offer translation services. Edward had said she had no way of being able to explain how she came to know it. Phillip and Mary went inside and sat under her cloth of estate, chatting amiably enough. The nobles hung back to give them the illusion of privacy, and Bella wandered among them, looking for Edward. He hadn't been with the councilors who met with Phillip on the Isle of Wight for a few days after he landed, before he set off to meet his bride at Winchester. Mary had wanted her cousin to stay with her. She had many questions about marriage and what a man wanted in a wife and Edward answered her questions as honestly as he could. It was Bella she came to regarding what she called "the physical side of marriage", something that still made her very nervous. She spotted a head of red-brown hair in the corner of the room and sighed happily. Edward. He turned slightly, and leaned against a stone pillar, and for a moment, she remained where she was, simply admiring the view. She wasn't the only woman in the room who noticed how handsome he was. She smiled as a woman sidled up to him and tired to flirt only to be flatly rebuffed. Hers. Hers alone, just as she belonged solely to him. She waded through the crowd toward him and when he spotted her, his face warmed with a smile that got larger as she got closer. They kissed, sweetly, softly, lingering just a moment longer than the normal greeting-kiss. "How are they faring?" he asked her, nodding his head in Phillip and Mary's direction. He knew Bella's hearing was more acute than a human's and she had probably heard the entire conversation between the Prince and Mary. "As well as could be expected, I suppose," Bella said. "She was trying to teach him how to say 'Good night, my lords all' in English when I walked away." As if on cue, Phillip rose and said, "God ni hit." They were the only English words he ever spoke. ..

Historical notes: - Colostrum or the "thin milk" that is first produced by a nursing mother, is full of antibodies that builds a child's immune system. Conventional wisdom at the time
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was that it should be discarded until the woman's "real milk" came in. - The official Catholic standpoint has always been that "churching" was a ceremony of thanksgiving, but it was commonly thought at the time what childbirth was somewhat "unclean" and that a woman needed to be ritually purified afterward.

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Chapter 20
Chapter Twenty

In a perfect world, the morning of the Queen's wedding should have dawned bright and sunny to reflect her excitement and joy, but as it had for months now, the rain poured down steadily. Mary was undaunted and a canvas canopy was hastily located. Her gentlemen would carry it while she walked beneath the short distance to the cathedral. Even the people who had come to watch the spectacle were undeterred. They already lined the street, soaked to the skin, waiting to catch a glimpse of the Queen. Vendors circulated among the crowd, selling roasted chestnuts, souvenirs and trinkets. It was seven in the morning and Mary was already dressed in the white and purple gown she would wear for her wedding. Last night, she sent Phillip a wedding suit made of white velvet, embroidered in gold, and now she recalled that she hadn't sent any jewelry to go with it. She handed Bella a carved wooden chest containing a huge ruby and diamond pin and told her to take it to the prince. Bella set off through the corridors, with Alice in tow, heading for the entrance to the palace. The Prince had been lodged at the dean's house only a few doors down from the house that Edward and Bella were renting. As she walked, her mind was on Ward, trying to think of whether she'd be able to duck away for a few minutes to return to their rented house and nurse him. Her breasts ached already, which she thought of as nature's way of letting her know the baby must be hungry. She decided she'd deliver the pin and slip away for a few minutes with her baby. Likely, the Queen wouldn't even realize she'd been gone for longer than necessary. Forcing the litter through the crowd was like swimming upstream. Bella felt sorry for her poor bearers who had to shout and shove. The shouts of "Make way for the Duchess!" couldn't be heard over the excited babble of the crowd. Alice cowered inside the litter; crowds like this frightened her. They finally made it to the dean's house and Bella waited until the chamberlain had opened the door before she and Alice dashed inside. Upstairs, she found that Phillip's chamber door was slightly ajar. She peeked around the door and saw that he was in the final stages of being dressed by his gentlemen.
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"She looks older than I was told," he said. "Rather flabbier than I expected, too. She is not fat, but what flesh she has sags. Did you notice that she has no eyebrows?" "Bear up, your majesty," one of his gentlemen said. "'Tis not as bad as it could have been." Phillip looked down at his wedding garb in disgust. "I hope that this is the last suit of clothes she sends me. The woman has awful taste. No queen should be so badly dressed, even if she is English." The gentlemen chuckled at this quip. Those on the Continent loved to poke fun at English fashion. Bella tapped on the door. One of his gentlemen opened it. Bella bowed and explained in English that she had a gift for the Prince from his bride. The Prince glanced at her. "It's that tiny creature who held the Queen's hand yesterday when I arrived. Who is she, again?" "Duchess of Cullen, your majesty. I believe her Christian name is Isabella, like your sainted grandmother." "What do you think, Reynard? Should I attempt her? I'll need a mistress or two to tide me over until I can get back to civilization." Bella kept her eyes firmly fastened to the door and fought against the angry heat that threatened to rise in her cheeks. She was glad that Alice could not understand Spanish. The Spanish ambassador studied her critically and turned back to the Prince. "Not this one. Her husband is too highly ranked. Your father urges you to discretion, your majesty." "Pity," the Prince commented. "She has that look about her which says she'd be a wild thing under the blankets. Anyway, open the chest. Let's see what my lovely bride has sent me." One of the gentlemen opened the lid and displayed the massive ruby, surrounded by diamonds, lying on a bed of white velvet. Bella thought it looked like a spot of fresh blood and shivered. Phillip glanced at it. "Must I wear it, do you think? I had planned on wearing that
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diamond set I bought before we left." "'Twould probably be prudent," Renard advised. "Fine," Phillip said, with undisguised ill grace. "Send the little duchess on her way with some sort of message about how grateful I am. Did Reyes tell you what the Queen wanted for her wedding ring? A plain band of gold. She said she wanted her ring to be like the 'maidens of old' or some such nonsense." The gentlemen laughed. Reynard addressed Bella in English: "His highness wishes to convey his gratitude for the beautiful jewel, which he will wear close to his heart for the love he bears the Queen." Bella curtsied. "I will tell her majesty. Thank you, my lord." She backed out of the room, for Phillip already expected to be treated like a king, and retreated into the hallway. Her heart ached for poor Mary who would not find the love match she sought here. Instead climbing back into the litter for the short distance to the house she and Edward were renting, Bella and Alice walked, a more daunting proposition than one would imagine. They had to hold their heavy skirts up to try to keep them out of the mud and they jumped from stone to stone to try to keep their slippers clean. Bella chided herself for forgetting to bring a pair of pattens. It felt like a victory when they finally reached the house. Edward was still home and she found him in their bedchamber with the baby. He was lying on his side with Ward propped up on a pillow beside him, deeply involved in a game of peek-a-boo. Kat insisted that when Ward smiled, it was just a grimace because of gas. She said babies were blind until they were a few months old, a theory Bella couldn't understand since anyone who paid attention could see how the baby's eyes followed them. He smiled when he saw Bella in the doorway. "I do believe that Ward has this game figured out already. He's very intelligent, our son." Bella sat down on the bed and removed the pins from her stomacher and opened her bodice. Edward gently lifted Ward and transferred him into Bella's arms once she had her shift open. She sighed with relief when the baby began to nurse. "I wish I could have a portrait of you painted just like this," Edward said. "A
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madonna and child. There is a beauty and serenity to this that seems almost holy." Bella switched the baby to the other breast and Edward slipped his finger into one of the baby's hands. Ward's tight grip always reassured his father that he was strong and healthy. He had so much more now to lose, and the thought scared him. "Where is little Elizabeth?" Bella asked. "I'd hoped to see her before I went back to the palace." "Napping," Edward said regretfully. "We could wake her." "No, let her sleep." Edward gave her a long, searching look. "You seem saddened by something." "I overheard the Prince talking to his gentlemen this morning. He said some unkind things about the Queen." "Give him time, Bella. It's possible affection could grow between them." "I hope so," Bella said. "Mary needs it, badly." They left Ward in Kat's care. Despite her attempt at a brisk, no-nonsense demeanor, she melted when the baby was put into her arms. She cooed at him and tickled him under the chin to see that "gas grimace". Bella and Edward exchanged a secret smile behind her back. Together, they returned to the palace. The Queen was in a frenzy of last-minute primping, her color high and her eyes sparkling with excitement. As Bella had expected, she hadn't even noticed how long it had taken Bella to return from her errand. Bella repeated the gracious words of thanks she'd been given for the Queen's present and the Queen flushed with pleasure. "He's everything I hoped for," Mary gushed. Mary, who had once called herself the "unhappiest woman in Christendom" was finally getting the fairytale prince she had longed for. All of the pieces were falling into place for her. It's said that every bride is beautiful on her wedding day and Mary was no exception. The pink flush of her cheeks and the brightness of her eyes made her look almost a decade younger at that moment. Bella carried her train as they entered the cathedral and the Earl of Derby walked in front of her, carrying the monarch's sword. At the traverse, they met with Phillip. One of the Spanish nobles stood before him with a large scroll, bearing the Emperor's seal. The contents of it were read
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aloud to the assembly: the Emperor was giving his son the kingdoms of Naples and Jerusalem, so that Mary would wed an equal, a king in his own right. Bishop Gardiner, Mary's chancellor, performed the ceremony. Her father being deceased, Edward was one of the trio of nobles gave away the bride on behalf of all of England. Mary departed from the agreed-upon conditions of the marriage contract and vowed to be "complaint and obedient" to Phillip in both mind and body, and and endowed him with all of her worldly goods. People would wonder later if it had been a translation error, but Phillip merely vowed to endow her with his moveable goods. And so it was done. Phillip became the king of England and Mary became the Queen of Naples and Jerusalem, kingdoms she would never see. Bella and Edward slipped away from the wedding banquet as soon as decently possible. They had no interest in attending the bedding ceremony, which they knew would be awkward and uncomfortable for the poor Queen. The less witnesses to it, the better, in Edward's opinion. They said their goodbyes and Mary kissed Bella's forehead when she rose from her curtsey. Bella had to smile in response. The Queen looked happy, something Bella had never seen. She only hoped that it would last.

Edward declared the next morning to be reserved for spending time with his family. The Queen was not holding court; she would spend the next several days in seclusion. There had been a minor incident that morning when a contingent of Spanish nobles showed up at her chamber door. The ladies had been shocked and said it was not modest to visit a woman on the morning after her wedding night. The nobles tried to explain that it was the custom in Spain to greet the monarch and consort in their bed the morning after the wedding, but they spoke no English and the ladies couldn't understand their thick accents when they tried other languages. Phillip had left early, Alice had learned from the gossip grapevine. He had risen at seven and worked at his desk until mass (which h attended twice that day) and was touring the historical sights around Winchester, including a visit to see King Arthur's round table. Edward probably should have gone with him, but he was far more interested in spending time with his family than in currying favor with Mary's new husband. Ward lay on a blanket on the floor between them, wearing only a diaper. Elizabeth was playing a game with him that the pair of them had invented. She held out her hands for him to kick and squealed with delight whenever he made contact. Edward
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lay propped against some pillows and Bella leaned against him, his hands clasped over her waist. "I still think we should swaddle him," he said. "His limbs won't grow straight, otherwise." "Nonsense," Bella said. "He's perfect as he is. If he were swaddled, he wouldn't be able to exercise as he is doing now." That was true. Swaddled babies had their limbs wrapped snugly and were confined by a tightly wrapped blanket. Even their heads were secured in place by a linen band. Edward shook his head. Bella had very strange parenting ideas, such as allowing the child to lie on a blanket naked except for a loose diaper, which she said would prevent the rashes that plagued babies and sometimes caused fatal infections. He had to admit that so far, Ward seemed much happier and healthier than little Elizabeth had been at her age. Word of their odd behavior had gotten around and Edward had been asked about the "pagan practices" a few times by his peers. It was clearly the consensus that Bella was risking her child's life by washing him every day, leaving his bare skin in the air and letting his limbs grow wild. Kat was their staunch defender, even though she privately questioned the wisdom of what Bella was doing. She insisted that Ward's limbs were so perfect that he didn't need the assistance of swaddling as other people's clearly inferior babies did. Bella's shocking insistence on feeding the baby herself attained a surprising partisan: the Queen herself. It had appealed to the sentimental side of her. She declared that the "wives of old" had fed their own children and that Bella should be commended for the dedication she had to her child. After all, everyone knew that a wet nurse's woman's vices and character flaws could be passed on through the milk, just as it was possible to pass on disease. The court returned to London a week after the wedding. The last few days had been occupied with feasts, masques, jousts and dancing, from which Bella and Edward had mostly absented themselves. The distracted Queen was passionately in love with her new husband that she probably wouldn't have noticed if the entire court vanished. Unfortunately the house at Hampstead Heath was too far to be convenient for Bella to return for Ward's feedings, and so the baby would have to be brought to the
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palace during the day. Kat supervised the servants in cleaning and preparing a room for him. The walls, floors and even the ceiling were scrubbed with vinegar, the room was fumigated and then thickly hung with tapestries to keep out any foul court miasmas. Edward even had Father Jasper come and bless it. ("Just in case," he said sheepishly.) No one but Kat and Alice were permitted entry into this room. Bella loved that room. It quickly became her quiet retreat to which she could escape the noise and petty dramas of the court and curl up with her baby. Whenever Edward could escape his duties, he would join her and they would lie together with their child in this safe, quiet cocoon where nothing mattered except their family. A few weeks after the wedding, Bella returned from nursing Ward and found the Queen in her chamber, weeping in front of her altar. "Your majesty! What is wrong?" "Nothing is wrong," Mary whispered. She turned to Bella and took her hand. "I want you to be the first to know. I believe I am with child." Bella gasped. The bribed laundresses had informed the court that the Queen had not menstruated, but she had always been irregular in her courses. The past two mornings, she had woken with nausea, but that was to be expected after the sumptuous feats every evening. Rumors flew, but Bella knew better than to believe them by now. "I consulted with my physicians today," Mary confessed. "They believe it too. Oh, Bella, I-" She burst into tears and Bella acted as a friend, not a subject. She took the Queen into her arms and held her while she sobbed for joy.

That evening, Mary decided to have a private dinner with her family in her quarters. Phillip declined to join them because he had a meeting with his councilors, or so he said. Edward took the opportunity to broach the subject of Ward's marriage prospects. "I have chosen a wife for him, with your majesty's permission, of course," he said. Mary finished chewing and her servant wiped her lips. She lifted her goblet of wine. "Oh? Whom have you in mind?" "Alice Brandon. She is the daughter of the Earl of Hale's half-sister." "Bella's lady's maid?" The Queen sat her goblet down without taking a drink. "Why?"
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"She is of good family," Edward replied. "Her father has lands near mine in the north. It would unite our two families." "Why not one of the Earl's daughters? His wife has just been delivered of another." "I'm fond of Alice and I think she would make a good wife for him." "She is nigh to twenty years older than he!" the Queen, eleven years older than her own husband, said in tones of disapproval. Edward couldn't tell her that the betrothal was just a sham to protect Alice from Baron Tyler. Mary felt that marriage was a sacred commitment and would be grossly offended by the idea of anyone using in such a callous way. "Her mother delivered of a fair son when she was forty and two," Edward said. He did not mention that she had died in the process. "If we marry Ward to her at fifteen, she would only be thirty and five." "No, Edward, this is absurd. If you want to join your estates with the Earl's, choose one of his younger daughters, not a cousin that will spend her youth waiting for him to grow up." "Cousin-" "No." Her voice was firm. Edward sat back in his chair, defeated. Alice was waiting with Ward in her arms as they left the Queen's chamber that evening. "Did you tell her?" Edward asked, keeping hos voice low to avoid being overheard. Bella shook her head. "With everything happening, I forgot." "Good," Edward said. "'Twould only disappoint her now. God's breath, Bella, I know not what to do now. I have thought endlessly on it and I cannot think of another suitable match for her." Alice met them in the middle of the room and carefully transferred Ward into Bella's arms. Both mother and father kissed his downy little head. "Bella." The Queen called from the doorway. "Bring him here, please. I have not yet met my newest family member."
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Bella carried Ward over to the queen, who held out her arms to hold him. Bella was faintly alarmed because she had never seen Mary hold a baby, especially one unswaddled, but Mary lifted him into her arms and supported his head like an expert. "Don't look so fretful," she said to Bella. "I cared for my little sister, Elizabeth, remember?" Ward grabbed La Paragrina, the pearl that Phillip had given Mary as a betrothal gift, and stuffed it into his mouth. Mary laughed softly. Her eyes were misty with longing. "Oh, how I wish you were mine, beautiful boy," she said. "You will have one of your own in due course," Edward told her. Mary popped the pearl out of the baby's mouth. "I will," she said. "God will reward me for doing his will, restoring this kingdom to what it should be, and bringing England back to the True Faith. I am truly blessed." She kissed the baby on top of the head and handed him back to Bella. Tears twinkled in her eyes. "There are naught but happy times ahead of us, and I praise God for it."

The wet spring changed abruptly to a hot, dry summer. What few crops had been planted wilted under the merciless sun. The harvest that fall was one of the worst in living memory. Anxiety gripped England's people and food prices soared in anticipation of the famine to come. In November, Mary officially restored England to the Catholic order to achieve this reunification, the church officials agreed to allow the nobles to keep the lands and property that had once belonged to the church, before King Henry had dissolved the monasteries. Cardinal Reginald Pole, son of Mary's beloved friend Margaret, returned to England after Parliament lifted the bill of attainder against him, and served as the papal legate, receiving England's submission and absolving the country of its sins. He met Mary and Phillip on the steps of Whitehall palace, and greeted her with the words, "Hail, thou art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed are thou among women." "That's when I felt it the first time," Mary always said, when recounting this story to others. "I felt the child in my womb quicken." The Biblical symbolism was not lost on the listeners, either. "I fervently hope she doesn't name the child Jesus," Edward said that evening, as
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they lay in their bed. "Edward!" Bella gasped, half-laughing as she clapped a hand over his mouth. Even she could recognize that as heresy. "Shh! The servants will hear." "I've no doubt I'm not the only one to whom this thought has occurred," Edward said, and then flipped Bella over on her back with a smile. "You are a wicked, disobedient woman for trying to hush your husband. I shall have to punish you." "Please," Bella gasped as his hands slowly drifted down her body. "That's a good girl," he purred. "Accept your chastisement that you may profit from it." He took her hands and placed them against the top of the bed. "You may not move. Not a wiggle, understand?" She blinked. She had to resist the urge to nod. "Oh, you are good girl," he said, approvingly. "I think you deserve a reward for that." His head sank beneath the blankets and Bella bit her lip. She couldn't tell the difference between punishment and reward; they were both a delicious pleasure. ..

Historical notes: - Mary and Phillip's full titles were: "Philip and Mary, by the grace of God, King and Queen of England, France, Naples, Jerusalem, and Ireland, Defenders of the Faith, Princes of Spain and Sicily, Archdukes of Austria, Dukes of Milan, Burgundy and Brabant, Counts of Habsburg, Flanders and Tyrol". (Even though her father had broken with the Catholic church, he still kept the title Defender of the Faith, given to him by the Pope when he wrote a theological treatise that argued against the positions of Martin Luther, including a heated defense of Papal authority. Henry didn't discover that the Pope should have no authority over his realm until the Pope told him "no" on something he wanted.) The claim of France was ancestral, dating back from the time of Joan of Arc; Calais was the only bit of English territory left in France. - The bedding ceremony involved undressing the couple down to their shift and shirt (in Mary and Phillip's case, they were also wearing pound of jewelry) and helping them into bed. A priest would be called in to bless the bed and ask God that
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the marriage be fruitful and sprinkle it with holy water. They would then be left alone to consummate the marriage (or as alone as nobles ever were, anyway.) Depending on the people involved, the bedding ceremony could involve a lot of merry-making, wine and bawdy jests, but Mary's would have been a much solemn and respectful occasion. Still, as Edward thought, it would have been very embarrassing for one of Mary's modest nature. - Pattens were platform shoes worn over the slippers. - You can see a couple of images of babies in swaddling clothes, and a picture of pattens on my Facebook page. The link is in my profile.

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Chapter 21
Chapter Twenty-One

Emmett came home to the house at Hampstead Heath in the middle of November. With him was his infant daughter, named Margaret after Rosalie's mother, Rosalie was not. "She had a hard labor," Emmett said when the greetings had been exchanged and they had all settled down in Edward and Bella's privy chamber. The two babies were laid in Ward's large cradle near the fireplace, sound asleep. Emmett had laid the swaddled bundle of his baby beside Ward and Ward had poked curiously at the blankets covering everything but her face before dropping off to sleep beside her. "She almost died," Emmett continued. "It took two months before she was well enough to get out of bed and afterward, something had changed. She was ... melancholy, I suppose. I know of no other way to describe it. When I told her I was returning to court, she said she wanted to stay behind at Cullen Hall. The Queen gave permission, and I didn't think that either of you would object to not having her here." Emmett leaned over in his chair and peered into the cradle to check on his baby for the dozenth time. "The first time I saw Margaret, I finally understood," Emmett said softly. "They thought I would be displeased because she was a girl. They were almost afraid to tell me, but then the midwife brought her out to me and ..." Emmett stopped, clearly at a loss for words. "You look well, Brother," Edward said. "You look ... happy." "I am happy," Emmett replied. "And I am well. I have not had a drop of drink since I held my child in my arms for the first time." Edward's jaw dropped. "Truly?" "Truly. I was sick ... sick unto death, I thought. Father Jacob gave me last rites." "Why did you not send for me?" Edward asked. Emmett shook his head. "I did not wish for you to see me thus, to see how low my
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sin had brought me. But God was merciful, and now I have my Maggie." "She's beautiful," Edward praised. "She's my miracle," Emmett said. "I cannot explain it. I looked down into her little face the first time I beheld her and felt such shame for what I had become. I wanted to be worthy of her, to be the father that she deserves. I know that you won't believe me, and I certainly understand that, for I would probably discredit such a tale myself, but everything has changed for me, Edward." Edward was silent for a long moment. The man sitting before him was one that he hadn't seen for nearly three years. Emmett's eyes were bright and intelligent, not bleary and dulled. His hands no longer shook and the scent of stale alcohol no longer lingered about his person. He looked ... awake for the first time in years. "I believe you, Brother, and I am so happy to have you back." "What of Rosalie?" Bella asked. "I don't know." Emmett ran his hand through his hair, which was longer than Bella had ever seen it, a dark mop of curls. "Something changed for her, too, the day Maggie was born. All of the soothsayers she had hired swore that she carried a boy. After her long and terrible labor, he was delivered of a girl and that seemed to break her in a way that the pain and travail had not. She didn't hold her, didn't even want to look at her. I tried. I thought if she could see how perfect and beautiful that Maggie was that she would change her mind, but she just turned away. She wanted me to send Maggie out to live with a wetnurse, but I refused, and she told me just to keep Maggie far away from her. She even burned all of the beautiful clothing she had embroidered for the baby, because she said it was for our son. It was like she thought Maggie had taken that son away from her." "Some women have a sadness in the soul after their baby is born," Bella said. "Perhaps Rosalie is one of them. She may get better. I know of some herbs that may-" "She does have a sickness of the soul, but it's not on account of the baby," Emmett said flatly. "I told her before I left: she will wear my ring and my name, but I want nothing to do with her. I am not cruel and I will not put her aside, but I will not be a husband to her any longer." "Did she change after you beat her?" Bella asked. "Beat her? I never beat her," Emmett said, sounding bewildered. "She told you I
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beat her?" "I heard rumors from the servants ..." He shook his head. "I threatened to cut off her funds and take away her jewels and she wept for days but I swear that I never laid a hand on her. I didn't need to. Threatening to take away her money was punishment enough. I think she would have rather I had beaten her than threatened to cut off her allowance." Emmett sounded disgusted with Rosalie's avarice. "I'm sorry I brought her into our family, Bella." "I'm sure there must be a reason why she-" Edward laughed softly. He tugged his wife out of her chair onto his lap and hugged her. "That's my Bella, always trying to think the best of people." "I think she's sad and scared," Bella said. "That can make a person do things they wouldn't ordinarily do." "Like what the Queen did to Princess Elizabeth?" Edward asked grimly. He had never fully forgiven Mary for sending Elizabeth off to Woodstock. She'd refused to read Elizabeth's letters or listen to her complaints about the condition in which she was housed, refused to discuss the situation with Edward. They were at a stalemate: Mary said she would not accept Elizabeth back at court unless she admitted her guilt and begged for forgiveness, and Elizabeth would not confess to something she said she had not done. "Bess is coming back to court soon," Bella said. "I meant to tell you earlier, but I forgot in the excitement of Emmett's arrival. Phillip told Mary to bring Bess back so she could be present at the baby's birth." Emmett and Edward exchanged glances. "What did Mary say?" "She was unhappy about it, but she will obey her husband's wishes." That was putting it mildly. After Phillip had left the room, Mary had burst into tears and it was all that Bella and Susan Clarencieux could do to calm her down, lest she harm the child she carried. Phillip rarely came to the Queen's chambers and now that he had, it was to order her to bring Elizabeth back to court, just like his longed-for letter had been about her. Bella and Susan had told Mary that it was natural for a husband to want to heal rifts in his wife's family, but Mary wasn't accepting soothing platitudes. "He thinks it's wise to have the heir to the throne at hand in case Mary dies in
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childbirth," Edward said. And Bella feared that was the conclusion the Queen had reached as well. A wail came from the crib, and Bella's mother's ears instantly discerned that it wasn't Ward. She went over to the cradle as Emmett lifted Margaret out of it and gently bounced her in his arms and murmured to her, but Margaret yelled even louder. "She's hungry," Bella told him. She did not know Margaret's voice as well as her son's. She could tell when Ward's cries meant he was hungry, or wet, or just wanted to be held. Margaret's wail sounded like a "feed me" cry to her. "Alice, fetch her nurse," Emmett commanded. Alice, who sat in the back of the room, talking quietly with Father Jasper, rose and curtseyed, even if her expression was a little petulant at having her precious time with Jasper interrupted. "No, Alice, don't bother with it," Bella said. "I can feed Margaret." Everyone looked shocked by the idea. Bella laughed. "Why not? I have plenty." "You are a duchess, not a wetnurse," Edward said. Bella restrained herself from rolling her eyes. Selkie women often left their babies in the care of another mother while they went out for a swim, and if the baby became hungry, that woman would feed it, the same as she would feed her own child, and if a selkie mother was lost, another woman with a baby would take the child to feed and raise as her own. These people had such strange customs when it came to nursing. They would hire a stranger to give their babies milk, but a relative doing so shocked their sensibilities. "You know me better than you do the nurse," Bella said to Emmett. "You know that I am healthy and that I have no vices to pass on to the baby." Edward smiled and whispered into her ear. "Maybe one or two." She giggled and kissed his cheek. In Emmett's arms, Margaret wailed on. Ward whimpered and prepared to start up a sympathy cry. Bella scooped Margaret out of Emmett's arms and retreated to a quiet, shadowy corner. She first unbundled the baby from its layers of blankets and
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laid one of them over her shoulder for modesty's sake as she unfastened her bodice. Margaret latched on eagerly. Emmett still stood by the cradle, looking anxious. "I know that Bella would be better than the nurse, but it seems ..." "I know," Edward said. "But if she wants to do it, I see no harm in it." Before Bella returned Margaret to her father, she checked the baby's diaper and found that she had an awful rash. "Oh, you poor little thing." She went over to her chest and took out the cream she had made in case Ward ever had a rash, made of comfrey and chamomile, and applied it over the baby's red and bumpy skin. "She cannot wear this," Bella said, tugging at the bands that wrapped the child's limbs. "Best not to argue with her on that," Edward advised when Emmett opened his mouth. "But she'll be crooked!" Emmett protested. Margaret cooed and waved her freed limbs in the air. "Ward wasn't swaddled and he seems to be growing straight." "You don't wish her to suffer from rashes, do you?" Bella demanded. "The poor thing must have been smothering under all those layers!" Emmett surrendered, just as Edward had done, partly because he was enchanted by Margaret's joy in freedom and partly because he knew Bella's heart, and knew without a doubt that she would never do anything that would endanger a child. She met Emmett's eyes and smiled gently and then looked down at the babies, and Emmett knew that Margaret had just gained another mother.

"Your grace?" Bella had just left the thanksgiving ceremony given at St. Paul's in celebration of the Queen's quickening, and was headed for her litter, her intent to return to her quarters to nurse the babies when the voice halted her progress. She did not recognize the man who went down on one knee in front of her. The wind blew brown leaves across the cobblestones around him and he trembled slightly, but she didn't think it was from cold.

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"Yes?" she said, simply. "Your grace, I am Edward Askew. My sister's husband, Thomas Kyme, is your lord husband's almoner." Bella vaguely recognized the name, but she had never met her husband's almoner, who lived in the village near Cullen Hall. "I see. What is it you ask of me?" "My sister, Anne, has been thrown out of her home by her husband. She has nowhere to go, so she came to me, but I live in one of the inns near court and my landlord will not allow me to keep a woman in my rooms, even my sister. I had hoped you might take her into your service, my lady. She is an honest, hard-working woman who will serve you well and loyally." "Why did her husband cast her out?" Askew hesitated. "They ... They differ in faith, your grace. Anne is a reformer. Please, your grace. Do not hold her faith against her. Father Jacob suggested I speak to you. He says that you are a kind-hearted woman and your doors are open to any in need." Bella was startled, for she'd never heard Father Jacob have anything positive to say about her and was surprised he would offer any assistance to a Protestant. "These are dangerous times for those who do not conform," Bella said softly. "Please, your grace," he begged. "She has lost her home, her children." Bella's heart ached. A woman had no rights where her children were concerned. If Kyme wanted, he could forbid Anne from ever seeing her children again. Bella tried to imagine the pain she would feel if Edward took Ward from her and her eyes filled with tears. "I'll help her," she said. "Take her to our home tomorrow and speak to Kat Ashley about a position for her. And I'll have my lord husband speak to Kyme." "Thank you, your grace," Askew said. A tear dripped down his cheek. "You cannot know how grateful I am." Bella gave him a smile and continued on her way to her rooms. She intended to give her baby an extra kiss and one to Edward as well. Every day, something impressed upon her how extraordinarily good he was to her. She and Alice walked along quietly, both lost in thought, and so that was probably why Phillip and his gentlemen didn't notice them.
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"At least you're spared having to share the old dog's bed now," one of them said and Phillip laughed. "I tell you, it takes the strength of God himself to drink from that cup," Phillip said with an exaggerated shudder. Hot tears burned in Bella's eyes. When he was in Mary's presence, Phillip was always very polite. He even tossed in a romantic phrase every now and then. Mary thought he loved her, and she thought he was happy in their marriage. Bella hoped she never found out about how Phillip mocked her behind her back. Alice saw from Bella's expression that the king must have said something awful, but she was tactful enough not to ask. She opened Bella's chamber door and Bella fled inside to her retreat, the warm, safe little world she shared with her baby. She found Kat siting on the bed with Ward and Margaret, dangling a jeweled necklace above for the babies to bat with their hands. Ward seemed to really enjoy this game because he was squealing in delight, and Margaret seemed content to watch, entranced by the sparkle of the gems. "Are you all right?" Kat asked Bella. Bella picked up Ward and kissed his chubby little cheeks. "I'm better now," she said. She unpinned her stomacher and opened her pair of bodies with a sigh of relief. Her breasts ached all day from being pressed down by the hard fabric. She tucked Ward in the crook of her arm and he began to nurse ravenously. It was a little awkward picking up Margaret in the other arm, but she managed, and Margaret needed no assistance in latching on. Kat bustled around checking the furniture for traces of dust. She was taking her position as Bella's housekeeper very seriously and had the poor maids terrified of missing a speck of dirt. "You'll have a new servant joining the household," Bella said. "Her name is Anne, and she's the sister-in-law of Kyme." "I've heard of her," Kat said and Bella was surprised. "Really?" "Aye, one of the kitchen maids is her cousin or some such. She was telling the other girls a few days ago about poor Anne. Her sister was his betrothed and when she died, Anne was forced to wed him in her sister's place. She said Kyme is so
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fanatical that he makes Mary look like an apostate. When Anne refused to stop attending her Bible meetings, he threw her out, expecting it to force her to her 'senses'. Instead she came to London. The kitchen girls are saying she's seeking a divorce." "A divorce?" Bella was aghast. "Askew didn't say anything about that!" "He probably thought it would come to naught. The churchmen are unlikely to grant it. She has no grounds." Bella felt uneasy. "Maybe I shouldn't have agreed to give her a place. Do you think Edward will be angry with me?" Kat shook her head. "The household is the wife's province. You hire whom you please. Fret not. She'll be belowstairs. Like as not, you'll never see her." It was late that evening before Edward returned from his council duties. Bella came downstairs to greet him and had the servants bring the plate she had directed should be kept warm on the stove in the kitchen. He sat down at the table in their chamber and ate as though he hadn't seen food all day. At length, he sat back, satisfied. "Thank you, Bella. How are the children?" "Elizabeth was a little difficult this evening. She wanted to wait up for you, but I put her to bed at her regular time." "And the babies?" Bella smiled, touched. "Both fine. Margaret is in her cradle in Emmett's chamber and Ward is sleeping on our bed at the moment. He looked so adorable curled up on your pillow that I couldn't move him." "Are you certain that nursing both babies is not a strain on you?" he asked anxiously. "I am certain. I'm very well." He pulled her onto his lap. "I worry about you." "I know. But Edward, I promise you, I'm fine. I'd tell you if I weren't." He nuzzled her neck. "Have you gone for a swim recently? Would you like to go tonight?"
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That sounded lovely, but his eyes were tired. "Perhaps tomorrow," she said. "How was the thanksgiving ceremony?" he asked. "Long," Bella replied, and he laughed. "None of the Queen's dresses will close over her belly, so she went loosely laced to the church. 'Twas a minor scandal, but I think the Queen likes showing off her big belly." "She looks better than she ever has before," Edward commented. "The plumpness suits her and her color is good." "She's happy," Bella said. "That makes any woman prettier. I just wish ..." "Wish what?" "Phillip is not the perfect Prince she thinks he is." "Don't I know it," Edward said grimly. "'Tis why I am so late this evening. Parliament confirmed the reunification with Rome. The Pope is once again head of the Church of England, though the nobles were careful to include a clause that ensures none of them will have to return the lands and property they were granted after King Henry destroyed the monasteries. The Crown will return the portion it still controls, which is a loss in revenue we can ill-afford. All neatly and quickly done, but Gardiner wanted a clause inserted into the bill which created Phillip regent in case Mary dies in childbirth. The council and Parliament finally assented but Phillip had to go and stick his Hapsburg jaw into the matter and ask for a coronation." "He wants to be crowned? I thought to marriage treaty ..." "Indeed." Bella groaned. "Mary has said nothing about this. He must be badgering her about it." "When? He barely visits her, or so it is said around court." "He's very busy," Bella said automatically. And it was true. Phillip was acting as Mary's co-ruler. They signed legislation together and Phillip helped her with her administrative duties, though Mary was the one who ultimately made all of the decisions. Mary had even issued new coins which had both of their profiles on it
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instead of just hers. "The council is out of control," Edward said flatly. "Factions jostling for power, constant infighting and backstabbing. I marvel much that any work gets done. And returning to the authority of the Pope has not been a popular move. The Emperor is urging Phillip to seize control, though make sure that Mary seems like the one with all the power. And Pole is insisting that now that England has been restored to the church, we need to reinstate the heresy laws." Bella paled. "Has he the support he needs?" "It could happen," Edward admitted. "I'll talk to Mary," Bella said. "I know she won't want to hurt people. Surely she won't let that happen." "I pray you are right," Edward replied. "With all my heart and soul I pray you are right." ..

Historical notes: - Tudorphiles will note that Anne Askew's time period was earlier than the one of this story, however, she is a fascinating character and the same issues which faced her were still current during Mary's reign. I claim artistic license. - Phillip's courtiers were actually quoted as calling Mary an "old bitch", but they didn't mean it in the definition it has today of being a disagreeable woman. They meant it as a female dog. - I've added more photos of people/places/stuff mentioned in this story to my Facebook page. The link is in my profile.

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Chapter 22
Chapter Twenty-Two

Now sing, now spring, our care is exiled. Our virtuous Queen is quickened with child. Now England is happy, and happy indeed, That God of his goodness does prosper her seed: Therefore let us pray, it was never more need, God prosper her highness, God send her good sped. How many good people were long in despair, That this little England should lack a right heir: But now the sweet marigold springs to fair, That England triumphs, without any care. Our doubts be dissolved, our fancies contented, The marriage is joyful, that many lamented: And such as envied, like fools have repented, The errors & terrors, that they have invented. God prosper her highness in every thing, Her noble spouse, our fortunate king: And that noble blossom that is planted to spring, Amen sweet Jesus, we heartily sing.
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Bella clapped along with the rest of the audience when the ballad had finished. Queen Mary, seated on her throne next to Phillip, blushed and ducked her head, proud but bashful at the musical tribute. The ballad was becoming popular among the people, or so Bella had been told, and the printer had made a nice sum from selling copies of it. Mary was seated in the throne on the right, a situation which had created a heated argument between Mary's servants and Phillip's. He was the king, Phillip's partisans argued, and he should be seated in the king's traditional seat. Mary was Queen in her own right, her supporters retorted, and Phillip was the consort. The argument had been settled when Mary entered the presence chamber and plunked herself in the throne on the right without further ado. Now she heaved herself to her feet, her swollen belly making her small frame unwieldy. "Good night my lords, my ladies." She inclined her head and the room bowed in unison. Bella followed her from the room, through the privy chamber and into the Queen's bed chamber. As soon as privacy (as much privacy as a Queen ever had, anyway) had been reached, Mary sighed heavily. "I am weary and wish to retire," she said. She held out her arms to be undressed. "Your majesty wore those heeled shoes again," Bella scolded. "Your poor ankles must be aching fierce." Mary giggled a little, as she always did when Bella chided her in this fashion. Mary hadn't had someone who cared about her personal well-being for a long time. Every time she had a caring governess or lady's maid, her father had found cause to remove her, or even, in the case of Countess Pole, execute her. Mary now had her friends around her again, but for the most part, they were too in awe of her status as queen to scold her as Bella did. "I promise I won't do it again," Mary said emphatically and lifted her feet one at a time for the slippers to be removed. "I believe I've finally learned my lesson. Mary had a passion for fashion and beautiful clothes, but little taste. She seemed to operate under the belief that the brighter and more jewel-bedecked, the better. The styles and colors were often better suited to younger women and the pounds of jewels put Bella in mind of when little Elizabeth played in her jewel chest. Bella had given up on trying to gently steer her to more subdued and suitable clothing. If Mary knew how Phillip and the rest of the Spanish contingent mocked her wardrobe, she would have been crushed. The marriage treaty had forbidden Phillip from appointing any Spanish servants to
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his household. All of those positions had been given to Catholic Englishmen, but Phillip had brought a full household of Spanish servants anyway and now he was struggling to pay for two massive retinues. He'd begun hinting to Mary that he'd love to have gifts of money instead of the clothes she sent. Tonight, Mary had sent him a jeweled doublet which he had "forgotten" to wear. If Mary had been disappointed when he arrived in other clothing, she had given no sign of it. That was what being a Queen was all about, Bella thought. Smiling graciously even when you were in pain. Mary had learned this lesson well from her mother, Katherine of Aragon, who had been polite to Anne Boleyn, the woman her husband wanted to divorce his queen of twenty years to marry. She had treated Anne just the same as any of her other ladies, even though her heart had to be breaking. "Your majesty, the King is here," one of the servants announced. "Oh!" Mary patted her hair and looked down at herself, horrified that she was now in just her shift and petticoats. "Pray, tell him to tarry for a moment." To her ladies, she said. "Find my dressing gown, quickly." The satin gown was pulled from her wardrobe and brought to Mary quickly. For a Queen, it was a simple garment, yellow-green satin embroidered with cloth-of-silver flowers. While Mary was being dressed, Bella grabbed a brush and quickly ran it through Mary's hair, admiring it as she did so. Mary still had beautiful hair, dark chestnut with red highlights without any silver to mar its beauty. It hung down past her hips in soft waves. As soon as Mary was buttoned into the dressing gown, she said calmly, "You may bring him in," but her color was high and excited. Phillip bowed and Mary curtseyed. "My lord," she said. "How lovely it is that you came to visit me." "I come with news of my father," Phillip said. "The war with France is escalating rapidly." He handed her a letter and Mary read it. "I see," was all she said. "I've ordered a ship from Spain be placed at my disposal. I intend to leave in the spring as soon as the weather will permit me to sail. I'm going to lead my father's troops in battle." Mary's face whitened. "Must you go?" she whispered. "You would not be here for the birth of our heir."
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"I owe my father a son's duty," Phillip said. "I confess that for some years I have been desirous of leading a military campaign. It will be my first opportunity of acquiring or losing prestige. All eyes will be fixed on me." "I see," Mary repeated. "That is all," Phillip said. He gave her a short bow and departed. Mary sat down heavily on a nearby chair. Her eyes were glassy with shock and she trembled violently. "Leave me," she ordered. "Your majesty-" Bella started, her voice gentle and coaxing. "I said leave me," Mary repeated in the voice which brooked no argument. Bella and the other ladies curtseyed and headed for the door to the privy chamber. Bella looked back at the Queen, who suddenly seemed a decade older, hunched with her arms wrapped around herself. She let out a soft wail of grief and Bella shut the door quietly. Mary needed her privacy because right now, she was a distraught woman, not a Queen.

It was a brutally hard winter that year and the cold and famine took its toll on the people. No one kept count of how many starved, how many babies died because their hungry mothers had no milk, how many were weakened and succumbed to illness. Prayers went up to God: why were they being punished? What sin did England have that displeased the Lord? Why had their nation been cursed? It was so cold that the river behind the house at Hampstead Heath froze solid. It seemed like Edward worried more about Bella not being able to swim than she did. Bella felt like she almost didn't need it, as happy as she was with Edward and the babies. Emmett, now that he was sober, was playful and funny. He could lighten the mood in any room. His daughter seemed to have healed some rift in his soul. And he was so good with the babies that it gave Edward and Bella plenty of "alone time" in their chamber. One afternoon, Bella woke from a nap and found a strange girl in her room, dusting the cabinet in the corner where Bella's pelt was stored. She always felt a surge of alarm when someone was near it and she must have made some noise because the girl jumped and turned. "Oh, I'm sorry to have woken you, your grace." She sank into a curtsey and
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glanced quickly at Bella's face with an expression of anxiety on her own. "Don't fret yourself," Bella said. She sat up and stretched. "It's probably time for me to be up anyway. What 'o clock?" The girl checked the clock on the mantel, which had once belonged to Jane Grey. "Just gone four, your grace." "Four? Oh bugger!" Bella jumped out of the bed. "I only meant to lay down for a moment. What's your name?" "Anne, your grace. Anne Askew." "Oh!" Bella studied her curiously. So this was the young woman that had been tossed from her home because of her faith. Bella had mentioned her to Edward and asked that he speak to her husband, Kyme, to see what could be done. Edward had smacked his forehead when she mentioned it because he had been trying to remind himself to speak to Kyme himself about his alms and how they were distributed. He had written a letter and sent it off yesterday. They should hear back within a week or so, provided the messenger wasn't snowed in somewhere along the route. Anne twisted the dusting rag in her hands. Bella's curious gaze had made her nervous. "I would like to thank your grace for your kindness in giving me a place in your household," Anne said. "I was heart-sore for you when I heard that your husband wouldn't let you see your children," Bella said softly. "I cannot imagine the pain I would feel if I were similarly situated." Anne straightened her shoulders and lifted her chin. "I'm suffering for my dedication to Jesus," she said. "And He will reward me in heaven." Bella lowered her voice, mindful that the walls had ears in noble houses. "Do you not fear? It is illegal now to attend any service other than the mass." Anne's eyes shone. "Oh, your grace, if we must suffer for our faith, so be it. Our fate is in God's hands." "Anne, I have to warn you, it's going to get worse," Bella said. Yesterday, she had been in Mary's chambers when Cardinal Pole and Bishop Gardiner came for a visit. Someone had summoned them, thinking they might have a
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way to revive the Queen's spirits, to lift her out of the depression she had sunk into after Phillip's announcement. Now, she was also worried about the impending birth of the baby. There was a very real chance that she might die in the process. She said she wondered what sort of kingdom she would leave to her child. Instead of creating peaceful order and uniformity in faith like Mary had intended, England's return to the Papal fold seemed to have strengthened the Protestant faith. Protestant services were held in attics and basements. Bible study groups, like the one to which Anne belonged, were everywhere. Back in Henry VIII's time, the king had thought it would be a good idea to publish the Bible in English so that it would be available to all of the people, not just those educated enough to read Latin. To his horror, the people began to form their own opinions about what the Bible's interpretation should be and so he had repealed the law and replaced it with another that said no one below the rank of gentleman could read the Bible, nor could women of any rank. But Henry's new law was futile, like blowing out a candle after it had started a house fire. English Bibles were copied, printed in secret, and smuggled in from foreign lands, more of them every year despite attempts to stop them. Bishop Gardiner scowled at Bella and turned away from her curtsey. Bella didn't know what she had done to offend Gardiner, but he seemed to loathe her and had rebuffed all of her friendly overtures. Edward had reported that the Bishop treated him the same way in council meetings. In Edward's case, he thought it was because he had argued against reviving the heresy laws, and Edward suggested that maybe Gardiner disliked Bella out of association. Cardinal Pole held out his hand for Mary and she kissed his ring. He made the sign of the cross over her in blessing before she rose to her feet. "Your majesty, I am saddened to see you in such a state," he said, shaking his head. "Everything is falling apart," Mary said. "I don't understand it. Just yesterday, I heard of an attack on a priest by a group of dissenters. They cut his nose off, Father. They laid hands on a man of God and did him violence." "You have allowed weeds to choke the garden you have planted," Pole said. "When England rejoined the church, I cast her sins into the Sea of Forgetfulness. Everyone had a chance to start anew. Instead these ... dissenters have returned to their sin like a dog to its vomit." Mary cringed at the Biblical metaphor. She easily became nauseated these days.
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"God gave you the crown for a purpose, your majesty. Your life was spared to bring England back into the arms of the Church, back to the light of the True Faith. There cannot be a greater work of iniquity against the nation, than for it to harbor such people, and there is no kind of treason to be compared to theirs: By undermining the very foundation of this nation, they create a door to all kind of vices and evil." "You saw what happened when the Protestants rebelled under Wyatt," Gardiner added. "Three hundred priests they hanged!" Bella had heard this story, too, but no one had a name of any of the priests who had been supposedly hanged. "God will not suffer this nation to prosper until you root out this evil," Pole said. "For this reason alone, God preserved you through perilous days. Your grandmother, Isabella, saw the danger that heretics pose. And through her efforts, Spain has become a mighty nation, blessed by God, prosperous and secure." Mary looked back and forth between the men. Bella had once overheard Pole describe Mary as weak-willed, like all women, and here in the face of both her Gardiner and Pole, she did seem to be wavering. "I must pray on it," she said. "Your sister is still a threat," Gardiner warned. "The Protestants could rise in her favor if they continue to grow stronger." It was a timely threat: Elizabeth was expected to arrive any day now. "I will pray on it," Mary repeated. From the firmness of her tone, the two men knew that their audience had ended. And as they left, Bella had seen the most frightening thing in Mary's eyes: hope. Now, she tried to warn the girl who had been thrown out of her home for her religious dissent. "They are going to revive the heresy laws," she told Anne. "Gardiner will head a special commission to find and try heretics." "I have no fear," Anne replied. "Oh, if I could only make you understand, your grace. Those who live with Jesus in their hearts have no fear. Ask your lord husband's brother. He will tell you." "Emmett?" Bella blurted. "Emmett is a Protestant?" "Yes, your grace. He hosted Bible study in Cullen Hall. Do you not see him a changed man from the one you once knew?"
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"Yes, but I thought ... his daughter ..." Anne nodded. "That's what started it, your grace. The Lord works in mysterious ways, and in this case, he worked through a child to wake up a man who had been drowning in sin and vice." Bella sat down on her bed, dazed. She had to talk to him, she thought. She had to warn Emmett what was coming. "If you would like to attend, your grace, there is a meet-" "Stop!" Bella cried. "Don't tell me. Anne, I am one of the Queen's ladies. If she asks me, I cannot lie." "I would not ask you to," Anne said gently. "The Lord will take care of us, your grace." In Anne, Bella saw a woman just as fervent in her beliefs as Mary was in hers. When iron will met another will just as strong, what would happen? One would be broken.

Edward didn't know if it was bravery or stupidity but when Edmund Plowden stood and asked, "Who is with me?" Edward had found himself on his feet and his lips formed the words, "I am," before his mind had a chance to catch up. He heard the sound of hundreds of people gasping. The Duke of Cullen had thrown himself in with Plowden? The Queen's own cousin, who was as close to her as a brother? Frantic whispering broke out. Edward ignored it. His heart pounded so loudly that he could barely hear them. Plowden gave him a grateful smile. He had risked his neck today, and both of them still might wind up on the scaffold, but they had both stood for what they thought was right. Queen Mary's heresy legislation came before Parliament and Plowden had stood up before them and declared in a firm, loud voice, that he would refuse to vote. Plowden was a fervent Catholic, but he thought that the heresy laws were wrong, both legally and ethically. Before he'd become a member of Parliament, Plowden had been a lawyer, and Edward thought he must have been a damn good one judging from the impassioned, moving speech he gave. And at the end, he did the only thing
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that he could to stop it, at least temporarily: refuse to vote. Edward had admired both his courage and his convictions. The man was throwing himself upon the sword, possibly quite literally. And then when he asked who was with him, Edward stood. He was not a member of Parliament, but at least he could lend symbolic support. There was a long silence after Edward stood and for a moment, he thought only he and Plowden would stand against the will of the Queen. And then another voice called out, "I am!" After that, more voices joined in one after the other, men standing up all over the room. At the end, thirty-eight of them stood. The Attorney-General shouted that he would hold them all in contempt, but still they stood, silent, stalwart. The summons to see the Queen came sooner than Edward expected. He had barely entered the palace before a messenger was kneeling before him. He turned to his manservant and said, "If I do not return, tell my wife I love her." He removed his Collar of Esses, the thick gold chain of S-shaped links that denoted his office. It had belonged to his father, he recalled, awarded to him for his services to the king, long before he had eloped with the king's sister. Edward had inherited it, but he'd never worn it until he joined Mary's council. Now, when he entered the Queen's chamber, he laid it on her desk. "I'm resigning," he said. Tears sprang up in Mary's eyes. "Oh, no, Edward, please! You don't have to do that. I was angry about what happened this afternoon at the Parliament session, but not that angry. I understand why you did it. You and Bella both are people with soft hearts." "I can't do this," Edward told her. "I won't. Do you remember Thomas Moore, Mary?" "Of course I do," Mary said. He was my father's chancellor." "What did he say to him when he laid down his own collar?" The tears spilled over from her eyes and down her cheeks. "He said, 'I am the king's loyal servant, but God's first'." "Cousin ... Mary ... I cannot put my seal on that which I think is wrong."
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Mary picked up the chain. "I understand. More than anyone, I understand. We may disagree, Cousin, but I respect you standing for what you believe." She pressed the chain into his hand. "Keep this, please. For your son. It belonged to his grandfather and he should have it." She dashed away the tears and gave him a shaky smile. "Will you allow Bella to serve me?" "At least until your baby comes," Edward promised. "And then we may return home for a time, with your majesty's leave." She nodded. Edward gave her a swift kiss on the cheek and then bowed deeply. He went home. He went to the only person he wanted to see, to the arms that he needed to hold him. He collected his horse from the palace stables and urged it into a trot. Once he left the city streets, he gave the horse its head and it burst into an all-out run. Window shades opened as people poked their heads out to see who was pounding down the road as if the hounds of hell were at their heels. He slowed a little as he reached the house, both to let the horse cool down and to keep from alarming Bella. She would be getting ready for bed, he thought. She would be in her dressing gown and she would first put Elizabeth to bed with one of her selkie stories (she never seemed to run out of them) and then she would go to Emmett's chamber to check on Maggie, who was such a good baby, sleeping through the night already, and then she would lie down on the bed with little Ward in her arms, and there she would wait for Edward, sometimes falling asleep before he arrived but always greeting him with that sweet smile he loved so much. He found her, as he expected, in their bed, but she was not holding the baby and she was not in her dressing gown. She was gloriously, deliciously nude, her hair her only covering. He swept aside the lock by her ear and kissed her neck, nibbling on her soft, sweet skin. "Edward," she sighed. She smiled and rolled over. She opened her arms to him and it was an invitation he couldn't resist. It usually took fifteen minutes or so for Edward's servants to undress him. With the help of his knife, he was as bare as she in less than a minute. The feeling of her soft, warm skin against his own ... nothing could compare to this, and looking down into her huge, dark eyes he felt that he could see all the way to the depths of her soul, the match for his own. His kiss was tinged with desperation, but she seemed to understand. It was fast and it was wild, primal. When he felt her pulse around him, it sent him over the edge into the sheer bliss
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only she could give him. He rolled them over so that she lay on top of him. They were both still trying to catch their breath when he said, "I resigned from the council." He told the story of standing up beside Plowden and the mixture of exhilaration and terror which had swept through him, knowing he was declaring more than disapproval for heresy laws. "I'm proud of you," she said simply. "What will happen to those thirty-eight men?" "The Attorney-General made noise about holding them in contempt, but I doubt they'll actually try it. Plowden resigned as well; I don't know if anyone else followed him in that regard." "You stood for what is right," Bella said. She turned over so that she was looking down at him, looking deep into his eyes as he had looked into hers earlier. "Come what may, we can both be proud of that." ..

Historical notes: - The ballad at the beginning of the story, entitled the Ballad of Joy, was written by William Ryddaell between November 1554 and August 1555, and is transcribed in its entirety on the "Mary Tudor: Renaissance Queen" blog. I will include a link to it on my Facebook page. - The garment Phillip "forgot" to wear: This actually happened at Mary's wedding banquet, when she sent Phillip a surcoat made in French style, made of cloth-of-gold (thin gold wire twined around thread and woven into cloth) with designs of Spain's symbol of pomegranates and England's symbol of roses made from seed pearls and gold beads. It had eighteen giant diamond buttons. The prince did not wear it, leaving it behind in his chamber. Years later, it was included in an inventory of the Prince's clothing. He made a note in the margin beside it: "This was given to me by the queen for me to wear on our wedding day in the afternoon, but I do not think I wore it because it seemed to me ornate." - Edmund Plowden really did make a stand with 38 other members of Parliament against Mary's heresy statutes and resigned in protest when the heresy laws passed. He was not only a brilliant lawyer, but he had attended medical school (such as it
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was back then) and qualified both as a physician and a surgeon. When Elizabeth was Queen, she wanted him to serve as Lord Chancellor, but he declined because he would have to convert to the Anglican faith and he refused to be a part of an administration that persecuted members of his own religion. Elizabeth respected that.

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Chapter 23
A/N: Sensitive readers be warned that the following chapter contains a graphic and disturbing scene of execution by burning which begins after the third chapter divider.

Chapter Twenty-Three

Spring came slowly that year, as if winter was reluctant to release its icy grip on the land. Bella felt her spirits lift when the flowers began to peek out from the tender grass. It had seemed to her that the winter would never end, that the whole world had been locked in ice. Bella was delighted when Princess Elizabeth returned to the palace and she came to visit Edward and Bella in their court chambers the morning after her arrival. She was alarmingly pale, not just the pallor of one who has spent months locked indoors, but also of illness. "Bess, it is good to see you again," Edward said. She rose with a smile and extended her arms for an embrace. Edward hugged her and pressed a light kiss to her lips. Bella did the same, studying her critically. "You don't look well." "I can see it is a good thing that I've returned," Elizabeth said. "You've spent far too much time with that blunt little Brandon girl." "Are you well, Bess?" "Better than I was," Elizabeth replied. "That house was cold, drafty and damp. Not one window shut properly and I think each door was hung with maximum airflow in mind. The chimney didn't draw properly, either, so the fire was small and smoky. Ugh. Not fit for man nor beast." "Were you treated well?" Edward asked. His tone contained a note of hardness that Elizabeth didn't miss. Her tone was carefully light when she replied. "Sir Henry Bedingfield is a fine jailor. If I ever have any prisoners of my own, I
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intended to send them to him for straight keeping, let me assure you. He followed his instructions to the letter but he was as good to me as he was allowed. He had his manservants try to make repairs, and oh, what a show that was! I think most of them had no idea which end of the hammer to use." She smiled. "Now, where is that baby of yours?" Bella led her into their bedchamber where Ward and Margaret were laid on the bed for their mid-morning nap. Elizabeth tilted her head. "I don't know if you're aware of this, but there are two of them." Bella laughed. "The one on the right is my niece, Margaret." "Oh, that's right. Emmett's wife was with child. I should have written to congratulate them." "You can tell him in person," Edward told her. "He said he was coming to court this morning to see you." Elizabeth lifted a brow. "Will he?" "Yes, he will. He's set aside the bottle. He's a new man, Bess. You won't believe it when you see it." Elizabeth sat down on the bed and eyed the children. "You can pick him up, if you like," Bella offered. "Oh, no, I don't need to do that," Elizabeth said hastily. "Bess doesn't like children," Edward told Bella. "I don't dislike them," Elizabeth protested. "I'm just ... not good with them." Elizabeth's namesake was brought through the door by Kat. Elizabeth's eyes filled with tears when she saw Kat and she rose to her feet. She stood there for a moment, silent, and then rushed over to fling herself into Kat's arms. She sobbed like a baby while Kat rubbed soothing circles on her back. Little Elizabeth was watching this drama with some alarm, clearly wondering if there was something she should be crying about herself. Her lip trembled. Bella went to her and took her hand. "Do you remember your cousin, Elizabeth?" she asked. "She's a princess! Did you know that?"
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"A real princess?" little Elizabeth repeated, looking at the weeping woman with some level of dubiousness. "A real princess," Bella confirmed. Elizabeth had drawn back from Kat and wiped her face with the handkerchief Kat handed her. She gave little Elizabeth a watery smile. Little Elizabeth, who had been given training in etiquette by both Ellen and Kat, curtseyed. Bess took hold of the sides of her skirt and bobbed in a little bow. "Greetings to you, Lady Elizabeth," she said. "We have the same name," little Elizabeth announced gravely. "That we do," Bess said. "That's my brother," little Elizabeth told her and pointed to Ward. "He's gonna be a duke someday." "Well, let's hope that day is a long time in coming," Bess said. "May I have Kat back to serve me?" Little Elizabeth frowned. "Does she belong to you?" Bess suppressed a smile. "Yes, I had her first. I've had her since I was your age. But I went away and had to leave her behind, and I miss her very much." "All right then," little Elizabeth said. She turned to Kat. "You go with the Princess now." "Yes, my lady," Kat replied, and bowed her head. "I can keep Ellen, can't I? And Alice?" Little Elizabeth looked to her father for confirmation. "Yes, you can keep Ellen and Alice." Bess, Bella and Edward went back out into the privy chamber so that little Elizabeth could lie down on her pallet bed and nap. Little Elizabeth did not like the idea of being left with the babies while the interesting people left the room, but she was mollified by Bella's promise to tell her the story of how winter came to be (Persephone and the three pomegranate seeds) and little Elizabeth allowed herself to be put to bed.
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"News was scarce," Bess confessed after they had all taken seats. (If Bess wondered why there was no fire in the fireplace, she did not comment on it.) "Even my laundry was searched for notes that might be smuggled in to me." "But I'm sure you got them another way," Edward said. Bess pursed her lips primly. "If I did, I shall never tell how." Edward laughed. "How I've missed you, Bess. You are a breath of fresh air." "I've heard a certain someone else longs to breathe fresh air," Bess replied. "Aye, Phillip wants to leave in the spring," Bella said. "To fight in his father's war against the French." "He's a little boy who wants to play war," Bess scoffed. "His father is no fool. The closest he'll probably ever come to commanding an army is drilling soldiers in the backyard of the palace." "Drilling, did you say?" Kat offered. Elizabeth flushed red and covered her mouth with her hand. "Kat! Elevate your mind from the gutter, woman." Bella looked at Edward blankly, which made everyone laugh harder. "I'll explain later," he promised. "My sister must be heart-broken," Bess commented. "She is," Bella confirmed, her voice soft and sad. More than anything, she had wanted Mary's husband to be able to return her love. Years later, she would wonder if things might have gone differently for England if he had. "Is the pregnancy sitting well with her?" "About as well as could be expected," Bella said. "She tires easily and struggles with nausea. This has been a hard winter for her. She's ... melancholy." "Aren't we all," Bess retorted. "The new heresy laws have made for many melancholy people. Emmett had best watch his step. He's coming to the attention of the wrong people."
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Edward jolted. "What?" Bella had told him what Anne Askew said about Emmett's Bible study groups but Edward hadn't taken it seriously. His brother had had short-lived interests in the past and he assumed Biblical scholarship would be another of his passing fancies. "I know that Gardiner is keeping an eye on him," Bess continued. "I don't think he's said anything to the Queen, but you'd best tell Emmett there's a Judas in his group. He's a peer and his copy of the Bible is in Latin, so he hasn't done anything yet that violates the law, but he'd best guard his tongue." The door opened and Emmett strode inside. He was wearing a surcoat with fur lapels. Droplets of water sparkled like diamonds on it. "Where's my Bessie?" Emmett bellowed. Princess Elizabeth giggled like a little girl and ran to him. He crushed her in his arms and spun her in a circle, her skirts and red-gold hair swinging. Elizabeth laughed and kissed him. "Oh, Emmett, it seems like ages!" "It has been," Emmett confirmed. "Bess, I swear it, you grow more beautiful every time I see you. Will you marry me?" "You're already married," Bess reminded him. "Oh, damn." Emmett snapped his fingers. "Can I keep you reserved in case my wife leaves me as I so richly deserve?" "Our children would destroy the earth," Bess snickered. "Likely," Emmett agreed. "I'll take that as a 'yes'." "If you're not burned at the stake first," Edward said. "Emmett, do you realize that Bess heard of your activities while imprisoned at Woodstock?" Emmett blinked. "Ah, I ... uh ..." "Cousin, you must be more circumspect," Bess told him. "My love for you compels me to tell you that you would be much safer if you conformed." Emmett shook his head. "I cannot. I cannot deny-" "Stop," Edward commanded. "Do not tell us anything further, anything we might be asked about later. 'Twould slay me to have to give testimony against mine own
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brother." Emmett nodded. Edward only hoped the message had been delivered and that Emmett would take it as seriously as it deserved. With Edward's resignation from the council, he had effectively removed any motivation for Gardiner to seek to discredit him, but Emmett needed to watch his steps and not draw the Bishop's attention. "Thus far, Mary has been wise to only imprison those who speak the loudest," Bess said, "but I fear she will not stop there, especially since the 'problem' is growing." Bess shook her head. "My sister says she would gladly die for her faith and prays to martyred saints but doesn't understand that others may have their faith strengthened by the same thing."

Easter mass in St. Paul's Cathedral had an old tradition of laying the host in its pyx in the sepluchre on Good Friday, and bringing it out on Easter morning, accompanied by cries of "He is Risen! He is not here!" But when the priest opened it to reveal the host inside, the words became shockingly true: someone had stolen the host. The priest stared into the empty pyx, dumbfounded. Someone in the audience tittered. A chuckle from another voice joined with it and then the walls echoed with laughter from the congregation. Mary was outraged when she heard of it and Gardiner didn't try to soothe her. "Do you see the atrocities that you are allowing to grow in your kingdom?" Mary bit her lip. "Concerning heretics, I would that all were given opportunity to repent and be reconciled to the True Church, but if they remain obstinate, their punishment should come swiftly, but without cruelty, and impartially. It must be seen by the people that they were not condemned without just cause. I have decided that a council member should be present at each execution and I wish it to be accompanied by good preaching." "As your majesty wills," Gardiner said with a smile. He bowed low and turned to leave. Bella, who had just entered the room carrying Ward in her arms, recoiled from the burning hate in the gaze he gave her. "There's my little nephew!" Mary cried. She had decided to call him that for lack of a better word to describe the son of one's cousin. "Thank you for bringing him, Bella. And you carried him yourself?"

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Bella smiled. "I find that I would prefer him to be in my arms than that of a nursemaid," she said. Mary smiled back at her. She found Bella's devotion to her child touching. It reminded her of her own mother, who, while she would never carry or nurse an infant herself, was very affectionate with Mary. "He's getting so big!" Mary exclaimed. Bella laid him on the bed and Mary sat down beside him and chuckled when Ward promptly stuck his foot in his mouth to gnaw on his stockinged toes. "Let's have a portrait painted of him in this pose," Mary suggested. "When it comes time for him to wed, we can show it to his potential bride." "We'll hang it in the great hall," Bella agreed with a grin. Both of them laughed and Ward joined in with his gummy gurgle. He was a plump, happy baby and the Queen was clearly enraptured by him. "He looks much like his father did as a babe," Mary commented. "His mother, my aunt, brought him to Ludlow to see me a few times. Oh, Bella, I can't wait to have my own." "Summer comes soon, your majesty," Bella said. Mary rubbed her belly, something she did unconsciously throughout the day. "I wish that Phillip would be here when my baby comes. I would be able to bear the pains of birth much better if I knew he were under the same roof, and that if ... anything happened ... he would be here to protect my son." "Majesty, you know that Edward would protect your son with his very life if need be. He will never be without protection, even if Phillip is not present." "I just need to try harder," Mary muttered. "Try harder to please God and my husband."

Edward knew that when Mary summoned him a few days later that it could be nothing good. The mood of the kingdom was dark, even as the sweet beauty of spring bloomed around them. The Sweat had cropped up, and the populace, weakened by famine, were dying in droves. He was brought into her privy chamber, where she sat writing at her desk. Her
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ladies were scattered around the room. One played the lute while Susan Clarencieux read aloud from The Mirror of the Sinful Soul. "Ladies, leave us," Mary called. They stood immediately and curtsied, heading into the presence chamber to wait to be allowed back inside. "John Hooper refuses to recant," Mary said, as she stuck her pen back into its inkwell. "Hooper ... The Bishop of Gloucester, wasn't he?" "In my brother's reign," Mary replied. "He was stripped of his bishopric after I put the church to rights. He refused to put aside his wife and he refuses to recognize the host as the true body of Christ." Those alone were enough to have him burned as a heretic. Edward took the seat to which she gestured and rubbed the tense spot between his eyebrows. "I'd thought you'd arrested him for misappropriation of funds," Edward said. What he'd heard was that Hooper refused to pay tithes to the Pope, instead spending the money on the poor in his district. Hooper had been a popular Bishop who took his duties seriously. To his shock, he found a disturbing level of ignorance among the parish priests: less than half of them could name all Ten Commandments or recite the Lord's Prayer in English, a situation he took upon himself to rectify, though there was some bitter resentment from those who now had to meet his tough, exacting educational standards. He also, to the utter shock of everyone, took the vow of poverty seriously and used the opulent palace of the Bishop as something akin to a restaurant for the poor, serving meals in shifts until every hungry person who came to his doors had been fed, and such as the poverty in Gloucester that the line of needy was continuous. "We have witnesses to the sermons he preached denying doctrines of the church," Mary continued. "His trial was ... contentious." Mary's words were an understatement. His replies to the questions put before him were an eloquent defense of the Protestant faith and it became a debate over doctrine, rather than a proper trial. It grew so heated that the other clergy in the room shouted to drown out his heretical replies. After being found guilty (the outcome of the trial was never in doubt) he was sentenced to be sent back to Gloucester to be burned before the people to whom he had ministered as Bishop. "I've directed that a member of council be present at the executions," Mary said. "I'd like for you to go and report to me. You may take Bella with you, if you like. It
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might do the two of you some good to get away from court for a while." "I resigned my post," Edward reminded her. "And you remember why I resigned." "Edward, please, this is important," Mary pleaded. "This is the first. I want someone I can trust to report to me the true results. Watch the crowd, study their demeanor to see if it has made the proper impression." Edward knelt, bowing his head before her. "Cousin, I am begging you not to do this. It will cost you the love of your people." "I serve England, but I serve God first," she said, paraphrasing Thomas More's words. "Would it profit my country to have the love of my people if I allowed them to fall into heresy and error? A father cannot refrain from chastening his son for fear of losing his love. If he does, the boy will fall into grievous sin. His soul would be lost for the father's cowardice." "There are other ways ..." "No," Mary shook her head. "He's been given every opportunity to recant. I want you to take this with you." She held the parchment she had just signed out to him. "It is my royal pardon. Give it to him when he reaches the stake. Perhaps he will take the final chance to save his soul. Edward, don't you see? What is a few moments of earthly pain in comparison to an eternity in hell's fires? He has endangered not only his own soul, but all of the simple people who attended his sermons when he wore the robes of a bishop!" Edward stood. "I can tell you now what the reaction will be, Cousin." "Go and watch," Mary said. "Please Edward. Do this for me. I'll not ask again." Should he believe that when she had gone back on so many promises before? He wanted to remind her that she had started her rule with the promise not to force anyone to go to mass. Edward bowed and left the room. He found his wife in their chambers, nursing their son. She saw the expression on his face and grew alarmed. "Edward! What is it?" "We are to go and watch the first of the heretics burn," he said. Bella put the baby down on the bed and rose. She pulled him into her arms in a tight embrace and he let out a shuddering breath.
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Gloucester was over a hundred miles from London. Bella and Edward did not travel with their entire household; only Alice, Father Jasper and one of Edward's manservants, who would also function as the driver, came along. They'd had to bring the babies, much to Edward's anxiety. Finding a wetnurse on such short notice would be extremely difficult and Bella was concerned her milk would dry up if she didn't nurse for such a long time. Edward was nearly pulling his hair out from the stress, worried that the jouncing and rattling of their vehicle over the rough roads would hurt the children in some way or that they might be exposed to The Sweat that was cropping up all over the country. However, the babies, one perched on Bella's lap, the other on Alice's, seemed enjoy the trip. They watched the scenery pass through the open windows. Bella played peek-a-boo with Ward, a game he never seemed to tire of. All the way, Alice chatted to Father Jasper and he listened to her with rapt attention. The first night, when they had gone into their room at a roadside inn, Bella said to Edward, "Now I know why she says he's a great conversationalist! He just listens to her rattle on." "He says more when he thinks no one is listening," Edward said. Bella tilted her head. "Oh?" "Yes, 'Oh', indeed," Edward said. "He's taken with her. I've known him all of my life and this is the first time I have ever seen him get this close to anyone. It's going to be terribly hard on him when she's gone." "Her father is continuing with the negotiations?" Edward nodded. "I'm sorry, Bella. I'm still trying, but I can't find a match for her that her father will accept. He has to be of the same rank as Baron Tyler, or better, and he has to be willing to accept her small dowry. If she were of higher rank, I might be able to do it. God's teeth, I've even considered bribing someone, but I can't find anyone who would be suitable." Bella sighed. "I understand. How soon, do you think?" "Within this next year, likely." Bella winced. "Keep trying," she begged. "Even one of the Spanish nobles of Phillip's court would be better." "I will," Edward vowed.
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The morning they arrived at Gloucester, it was cool and windy. It was the morning of the execution and they had barely made it in time as one of the wheels on their whirlicote had snapped. Edward had intended to take a room in the inn and leave Bella there while he attended the execution alone. He could not ask Bella to watch her greatest fear. But the crowd had already gathered around the stake and the local sheriff, Lord Chandois, was reading the charges aloud to the crowd. It would later be estimated that there were seven thousand people present, but that surely had to be an exaggeration. Still, it was being held on a market day, which increased the audience, and people always traveled from miles around to attend an execution. The massive crowd gathered round the stake was a jovial bunch. It was a carnival atmosphere, for executions were always entertaining, considered fun for the whole family. Small children darted around the legs of the adults, like rabbits in a forest, laughing and squealing. Vendors strolled through the crowd hawking their wares: roasted chestnuts, meat pies, drinks of ale (poured into a communal cup and consumed on the spot) and printed programs containing the accusations against, and the confession of, the accused. It was thought that public executions would deter similar criminal activity, but it never seemed to work out that way. A criminal who side bravely could become a folk hero, especially "romantic" criminals such as pirates and highwaymen. Ballads were sometimes composed in their honor, much to the distress of the authorities. And every year, the numbers of the same crimes climbed steadily. The driver shouted and the people made way for the Duke an Duchess of Cullen, bowing as the whirlicote made its way to the front of the crowd. The driver parked it near the stage, where the occupants would have a clear view of the proceedings. Edward turned to his wife and said quickly, "Go to the inn. Stay there until I come for you." Bella shook her head. "My place is at your side." "Bella, you shouldn't watch this. It's ... awful." He still remembered the first burning he'd ever seen, of a woman convicted of killing her husband with poison. He'd heard the screams in his nightmares for years. It had made a deep impression on him, and he did not have her intense fear of fire. "My place is with you," she said firmly. Her looked down into her shining eyes and loved her even more (if such a thing was possible) for her courage and her loyalty.
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She knew he was anguished at having to attend this, to silently put the seal of approval of the Duke of Cullen on the proceedings, and she would not leave him to suffer it alone. Edward left the whirlicote and strode up to the stage. He bowed to Lord Chandois. "My lord, the Queen's pardon, if he will recant." He had stored the scroll in a long, rectangular wooden box for fear it would become crushed or otherwise damaged in their travel. Lord Chandois set the box on the stool that stood at the base of the stake. The Bishop was led out to the stage. He was not permitted to make a public speech for fear he would use this last chance to spread more of his heresy. He was permitted to pray and he knelt on the stage with his hands clasped. The sheriff spotted a man in the audience, writing down his words for posterity, and one of the guards drove him away after seizing his paper. A man stepped forth from the crowd and Bella recognized Sir Bridges from the Tower. He approached the stage and knelt on the edge of it. "Do you remember me?" he asked the Bishop. And to Bella's surprise, tears flowed down his cheeks. The Bishop smiled. "I do. You were brought before me, years ago, on charges of adultery." "Aye," Bridges said, and his voice cracked a little. "You rebuked me harshly, your excellency. And you made of me a changed man from that day forth. I wanted to tell you that." "Thank you," the Bishop said gently. He was made to strip off his doublet and hose. He stood before the crowd, this man who had once worn the robes of a bishop, in only his shirt, struggling not to shiver in the chill breeze lest it be taken for fear. They led him to the stake. The wood box which contained the Queen's pardon lay on the top of it. Lord Chandois opened the box to show him the scroll lying inside. "It is only a few words you must say," he said, not unkindly. "If you have mercy for my soul, away with it," he said, turning his head, as if the sight of it might be too much a temptation. He looked up at Edward and saw the expression on the Duke's face. He nodded and then gave Edward a gentle smile. Edward took the box and thrust it into the back of the wagon, uncaring where it fell. He climbed back inside, beside Bella and put his arm around her waist. Bella laid her hand over his.
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The torchman knelt before him and asked for forgiveness. "Of what?" the Bishop asked. "I am the one appointed to light the fire, your excellency," he rasped. "You do nothing to offend me," the Bishop responded. "God forgive you of your sins. Do your office, and I pray you dispatch me quickly." The Bishop picked up a bundle of kindling and kissed it before he laid it back down at the base of the stake. He picked up two bundles and put them under his arms and then climbed over the piles of wood stacked around him and put his back to the stake. An iron band was fastened over his chest. While the executioners were securing it, he gave instructions to those who laid the kindling, pointing out spots that had been missed. Three small bags of gunpowder were placed on his body, one between his legs and the other two on the kindling bundles beneath his arms. Their intent was merciful, to explode when the fire reached them and end the suffering of the person being burned. From the back, Bella heard Alice gasp and Jasper's gentle murmur. Bella felt tears prick her eyes. The Bishop prayed aloud, his hands clasped at his chin. Bella saw that a tiny tremble in those hands, but his voice was firm. Torches were lowered to the kindling bundles. Smoke rose, too much smoke. The kindling was wet and the breeze blew the fire away from the Bishop. Another gust of wind and the small, sullen flames went out. Another stack of kindling was laid, but there wasn't enough. When they lit it, the Bishop began to pray again. The flames grew, eating their way toward him. He began to repeat the same line again and again, "Lord Jesus have mercy on me! Lord receive my spirit!" louder and faster as the flames grew around his legs. The wind still blew them away from him and his voice grew raw with agony as his legs were roasted by the fire which had begun to die back again instead of build. The hideous stench of burned flesh rose into the air. Alice gave a tiny wail, silenced as though she had clapped a hand over her mouth. Bella felt so sick, so faint, so utterly horror-stricken that she could do nothing but cling to Edward as though the earth had opened beneath her and he was her only support. There was a hiss as the bag of gunpowder between the Bishop's thighs ignited, but it merely burned instead of exploded and the winds pulled the flames away from his body. "For the love of God, good people, let me have more fire!" he shouted. "Oh,
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Lord Jesus have mercy on me-" More wood was thrown on the fire, hastily gathered from nearby homes, fallen tree limbs, anything that would burn. A nearby farmer began to scoop armloads of straw from his cart and fling it on the fire. People rushed to help him. The torches were applied one more time and the flames grew high and hot. He continued to repeat his prayer, louder and louder until he was shouting it, louder still until he was screaming it, until his voice was silenced by a scorched throat and swollen tongue, but still he formed the words even as his face blackened and his lips peeled back from his gums, leaving a horrific grin in its place. His arm came up and beat against his chest as if to try to force his stubborn heart to stop beating. He slammed the fist against his chest until his arm broke off, and then he raised the other, but when he struck it against his chest, it stuck to the iron band that clamped his body to the stake. He slumped forward, his torment finally ended. Edward looked around at the crowd, many of whom were openly weeping. At the burning of the poisoner, the crowd had cheered and jeered at her screams but he saw no such jovialities now. The crowd was so silent that the crackle and hiss of the flames could be heard. The children clung to their mothers' legs. The souvenir program seller threw the rest of his stock into the flames. The priest who had been engaged to speak at this event stood and began a sermon on the Bishop's heresies, his grievous errors of doctrine, and the crowd began to disperse. Seeing that he was losing his audience, the priest raised his voice and became more animated, his words more alarmist, but one by one, they turned their backs on him and simply walked away. In the back of the whirlicote, Alice sobbed. Bella glanced back and saw her in Jasper's arms. He held her and rocked, his eyes closed. As Bella watched, he leaned down and pressed his lips to the part in her hair, right in front of the brim of her bonnet. "Go," Edward said to his driver. "Just ... go." ..

Historical notes: -A "whirlicote" is a type of carriage, one of the few types available in Tudor England. The wealthy rode on horseback or in litters most of the time. The first
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coach made in England, was for the Earl of Rutland, in 1555. The queen had one made in 1556, and Queen Elizabeth had an ornate state coach made for her eight years later. You can see an image of a whirlicote on my Facebook page in the "Selkie Wife" album. The link is in my profile. - The man who spoke to the Bishop about the adultery charge was actually Sir Anthony Kingston, who was constable of the Tower, but I've combined his character with Bridges in this story. - Bishop Hooper was burned in February, not early spring as in this story. Unfortunately, the horrific details of his execution are accurate, taken from a transcribed eyewitness report. -The last major outbreak of The Sweat occurred in 1551 (Mary's reign saw several other, different fever epidemics) but I have used it in this story because it is such an interesting subject. Modern historians and scientists still don't know what it was. Many different disease have been proposed, but none fit the symptoms exactly. Bizarrely, it seemed to only affect the English, at least in its first half a dozen or so outbreaks. During the outbreak of 1528, it spread to the Continent, killing thousands. That year, Anne Boleyn caught it and nearly died. Imagine how history might have been different if she had.

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Chapter 24
A/N: This chapter contains another account of an execution which sensitive readers may find disturbing. It's after the third chapter divider.

Chapter Twenty-Four

Bella woke screaming from a nightmare that night. Edward sat up and pulled her into his arms where she sobbed with fright and horror. He'd known this was likely to happen, which was why both babies had been put to bed in Alice's room, but the noise had woken the innkeeper and his wife and they pounded on the door. "Your grace! Your grace!" Edward untangled himself from Bella's embrace gently and called that he would be but a moment. He pulled on his dressing gown on went to open the door. From the concern in their voices, the innkeepers would not leave until they had seen Bella with their own eyes and assured themselves that she was all right. The innkeeper's wife carried a candle, her hand cupped around the top to protect the flame as she walked. She set it down on the table next to the bed. "Are you well, your grace?" she asked. Bella was still crying but she nodded. "'Twas naught but a nightmare, mistress. I beg pardon for disturbing your rest." "Do they plague you often, your grace? Shall I fetch you a sleeping draught?" Bella wiped her cheeks. "No ... I-I saw Bishop Hooper burnt today." The innkeeper and his wife exchanged glances. "'Twas a terrible thing," the innkeeper murmured. He decided that he had said too much and beckoned to his wife, "Let us leave their graces to return to their bed." "Say a prayer," his wife advised Bella. "'Tis the best thing to keep away bad dreams." "I will, thank you," Bella replied.
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They closed the door behind themselves and the room was once again dark, save for the silvery moonlight that poured in through the small window. Edward removed his robe and dropped it on the floor. He slid back into the bed pulled Bella against his chest, not only for her comfort, but his own, needing feeling of her warm skin against his own. She snuggled against him. Tears still rolled down her cheeks, glinting in the faint light, and she sniffed softly. "I dreamt it was you," she said. Edward kissed her forehead. So like Bella to fear losing those she loved more than she feared for herself. Every tear she shed was like a needle in his heart. "I'm sorry you had to witness that today," Edward said. "I'm sorry that you had to witness it as well," she replied. "No one should have had to see such a thing, because such a thing should never have happened. Mary should have watched it. If she had, she never would sign another death warrant for a heretic." He sighed. "Likely she would say that God prolonged his sufferings as a warning to those who believe as he did." "I don't understand why," Bella protested. "'Tis their souls which would be punished or rewarded. Why does it matter to her so?" "You told me what you heard Gardiner and Pole say to her. Heresy is a crime against the social order that was ordained by God. It's a crime against the state as well as the soul." "I'm so afraid, Edward." Bella trembled so hard that the frame of the bed rattled. He tried to soothe her as best he could, but what could he say? He couldn't tell her that she was safe, that her family was safe. Gardiner hated them. He was somewhat confident that the Queen's affection toward Bella would keep her protected unless the accusations against her were extreme, and Bella would "recant" quickly, which was what the Queen claimed that she sought. But he could not lie to her, even to soothe her fears, and tell her that the shadow of the stake would never fall over them. He thought of her pelt, locked securely in his cabinet at the Hampstead Heath house (for added security, he had placed it inside a second, smaller chest, one for which he alone had the key). If the specter of the stake ever loomed on the horizon, he would give her back the pelt, he decided. Better to lose her to the sea for seven years than to lose her forever. And as his trembling wife slowly eased back into
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sleep, he made a silent promise to her: she would never burn. Even if he had to end her life himself, he would not let her suffer like that. It was a hideous thought, one that sent terrible images though his mind which made him want to weep himself, but he could not let such a fate befall his sweet selkie wife. When they climbed aboard the whirlicote in the morning, they found Alice and Jasper seated far apart, Alice gazed out the window as if she found the chickens pecking in the dooryard a fascinating sight, and Jasper's expression was one of concern and faint bewilderment. Her small face was pearl white and her eyes were as red as though they'd been rubbed with sand, but her jaw was set, as though she had reached some decision she was determined to follow through. The journey was a silent one, with each of them occupied with their own thoughts. Bella and Edward spoke a little, and they entertained the babies as best they could, but the atmosphere in the whirlicote was one of silent grief. Something had been lost on this journey, and none of them knew how to identify it, nor whether it could be retrieved. Edward and Bella were solemn when they returned to court, and they went to face the Queen together, each of them needing the strength of the other. They found Mary playing cards with her ladies, piles of coins and slips of paper bearing notes of credit for larger sums in the center of the table. Mary loved to gamble and she was bad at it. In the days when she was a princess living on the stingy budget allocated by her angry father, she had lost up to a third of her income gambling. She was laughing now as they all waited for the turn of a card which would reveal the winner. Fortunately, Mary was a gracious loser. She giggled as Frances Grey raked in her winnings. Edward hated few people; it was not in his nature to carry grudges and he was of a kind disposition, but he sincerely hated Frances Grey. She was Jane's mother- no, the woman who had given birth to Jane. There was no motherly instinct or emotion in Frances. Both her husband and daughter had been executed after the Wyatt Rebellion and Frances had spent the time saving her own skin. She'd cheerfully thrown her daughter to the wolves, the daughter she had beaten and bullied into accepting first Guildford and then the crown, and now she numbered among Mary's chief sycophants. Edward did not even acknowledge her existance as he bowed to the Queen. "Your majesty, my lady wife and I have returned to make report." "Tonight, later, perhaps," Mary said, distracted by the next deal. "Bella, will you stay and play?"
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"No, your majesty," Bella replied. "I fear I am poor indeed at card-play." "That would make you an excellent addition to our table!" Frances tittered. "I your majesty has no need of me, I shall not tarry," Bella said. "Go on with you," Mary said with a smile. "I am sure you are weary with your travels. I will see you tomorrow morning at mass." Bella and Edward bowed and backed from the room. Edward's face was tight and his skin had flushed alarmingly red. He raked a hand through his hair and Bella saw that it trembled. When he lowered it, she caught it in her own and squeezed it. "She wasn't concerned about the impressions of the crowd," Edward said bitterly. "She wanted me to go so that my presence would tell people that the Duke of Cullen supported it." "You suspected as much," Bella reminded him. He had mentioned it on the journey and considered attending anonymously, dressed in simple garb like a country gentleman, but the delay caused by the broken wheel had eliminated that option. The whirlicote with his crest painted on the side had sat right by the stage. The Queen's cousin, the Queen's representative. Edward looked at his wife's huge, dark eyes and his anger faded. "Let us go home," he said. Home, where they could pretend for just a while that the rest of the world did not exist. He would take her swimming tonight, he decided, and bring her back to their chamber where he could kiss the water from her skin and block out everything but the two of them. "Home," Bella agreed. They left the palace by one of the side doors, the one which led to the knot garden. Bella saw Princess Elizabeth walking with her ladies, reading a book as she went. As she watched, a group of men caught up with her, Spaniards by the look of their clothing. The one in the lead strode boldly up to walk alongside Elizabeth. He bent his dark head toward her and Bella gasped when she saw his face: Phillip. Both she and Edward stared. Elizabeth tilted her head flirtatiously and smiled at whatever Phillip was saying, and then she ducked her head, blushing sweetly, flicking her eyes toward him, Anne Boleyn's beautiful dark brown eyes. "Let's go home," Bella repeated and turned her back on the sight. "Home."
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Alice was dressing Bella in the morning when there was a tap on her chamber door. Though it was still an hour before dawn, Bella hoped it would be Ellen with little Elizabeth. She hadn't had a chance to see her last night because the child had already been asleep when they arrived home. Instead, it was Anne Askew. "Your grace, may I speak to you?" "Come in," Bella said. Alice paused in sewing on Bella's sleeves and gave her a strange look that Bella could not interpret. Anne bowed deeply. "Your grace, I wished to ask you, since you were a witness ... Did Bishop Hooper recant?" Bella shook her head. "No, he never did." Anne looked relieved. "I thought it must be naught but a tale spread to discredit him. It's being said that he recanted the night before for fear of the flames but then returned to-" she glanced at Alice and amended the words she had been about to say. "... he returned to his heresies the next morning." "I cannot speak to his actions the night previous, but naught was said of any recantation while I was present," Bella said. "He suffered so much," Anne mused, and her eyes shone as if Bishop Hooper had become one of her heroes overnight. "Aye, he did," Bella said bluntly. She gave up any pretense. "I do not have the words to describe it. I beg of you, do not do anything which would place you in a similar circumstance." Anne sighed. "Your grace ... Bella, you do not understand. God has awarded him with the crown of martyrdom. The rewards from his few minutes of suffering on earth are beyond our imagining. He stands at this moment at the right hand of Jesus, and he has been told the words every Christian should long to hear: Well done, my good and faithful servant. How many souls will be saved from the eternal fires of hell because of his earthly pains?" Bella felt tears well in her eyes. "If you had seen it, you would not walk a path that might lead to it." Anne smiled gently and handed Bella a fresh handkerchief. "Then perhaps it is best that I did not."
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After she departed, Alice went to Bella's jewel chest to select her pieces for the day. She raked through them listlessly, which told Bella more than anything that something was amiss. Alice usually delighted in sorting through Bella's jewels. Alice plucked up a brooch, seemingly at random. Her face was pale and tired and her fingers fumbled when she attached it to the center of Bella's bodice. "Are you all right, Alice?" Bella asked. Alice gave her a smile she did not mean, more of a grimace than a smile. "I'm fine, Bella." "You spoke little on the journey home," Bella prodded. "And you spoke to Father Jasper not at all." Alice's reply was so low that even Bella's selkie hearing could not catch it. "What?" "I said I cannot endanger him," Alice repeated. "Bella, I know what we're doing is wrong. We're not speaking for my spiritual welfare. We're speaking to each other, spending time with one another, because there are ... feelings between us. He's never spoken of it, but I know he feels the same way about me that I do about him, and it's not something that a priest should feel. I'm tempting him. I'm tempting him into a sin which could end with him banded with iron to a flaming stake. I saw him, Bella. When the Bishop was burning, I saw Father Jasper in his place." "Alice," Bella said. She pulled her into her arms. She could not tell Alice that she was wrong. Alice rested her head against Bella's shoulder. "I love him too much to endanger him." Bella said nothing. She held Alice tighter. "My father wrote to me," Alice said, her voice dull. "I'm getting married in the fall." Bella closed her eyes. She searched for something positive to say, something to try to make Alice feel better, but there was nothing. Nothing at all.

After mass in the Queen's chapel, Edward and Bella met with the Queen privately in her privy chamber.
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"You look a little better this morning," she commented. "Yesterday, the strain of your travel made me concerned for you." "Twas not the travel, your majesty," Edward said. Mary's pen halted over the documents she was signing. "Oh?" "It was a terrible sight, your majesty and I'm not sure the crowd received the message from it you wished to send." Now she was concerned. "What happened?" Edward described the execution from start to finish, his voice calm and dispassionate. He had chosen the words he would say last night, working them over in his mind until he was satisfied she would understand the cruelty and horror. "Three-quarters of an hour he was in the flames before he perished," Edward said. "The crowd wept for him, your majesty." Mary tapped her fingers on the desk. "Perhaps it was a mistake to return him to Gloucester where he had been so popular," she mused. "Your majesty, his sufferings would have made the eyes of a stone gargoyle weep," Edward stressed. "'Twould not have changed if it had been done here in London." "And the sermon?" she asked. "I know not," Edward replied. "The crowd dispersed before it had barely begun." Mary made a note on a sheet of fresh parchment. Edward was frustrated. Bella stepped in to assist. "It was horrible, the most awful thing I have ever witnessed." "Oh, Bella," the Queen said. "You cannot let your mind be ruled by your gentle heart. I wish no one had to suffer as he did, but they force my hand. If only they would recant and reject their heresy! We could all rejoice together as brothers and sisters in Christ." She glanced over at the clock on her desk. "Time is short. I meet with my sister in a few minutes." Bella felt frustrated that the conversation ended before they could make Mary understand, but she was pleased that Mary had agreed to see Elizabeth again after all this time. "I'm glad you've given her an audience. I know she's missed you, your majesty."
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The Queen pursed her lips but said nothing. Bella helped the Queen to her feet and she and Edward followed her out into the presence chamber, where she took a seat on her throne. There was a curtain near the throne dais which concealed a door which led to the hall outside the Queen's privy chamber. Bella saw it twitch and noticed the toes of a pair of shoes peeking out from beneath and stiffened in alarm. Was it an assassin? A spy? She crept over and nudged the curtain aside for a peek. To her shock, she found Phillip, but he did not see her. He seemed to be listening intently to the murmurs of the crowd of courtiers already gathered, each hoping they might have an audience with the Queen. Bella slipped away, down to join Edward in the front of the audience. "Phillip is hiding back there," Bella whispered to him. "What?" Edward laughed and shook his head. A voice called loudly, "The Princess Elizabeth!" The room fell silent and people bowed as Elizabeth passed. She was dressed simply, as always, in her sober Protestant maiden garb, her bright hair hanging loose around her back. She stopped at the end of the aisle, a respectful distance from the throne, and sank to her knees. Mary did not bid her to rise. "God preserve your majesty," Elizabeth said. Mary's eyes narrowed. She was terribly near-sighted which made her stare seem piercing, and it unintentionally intimidated people. "I wish I could believe you meant that." "I do," Elizabeth protested. "I am your majesty's true and loyal subject, whatever others might say." "You will not confess your guilt, but the truth will come out," Mary warned. "And when nothing emerges, I still will ask naught of you, neither pardon nor favor." Elizabeth met her sister's eyes and bowed her head again when she found nothing but hostility in them. "I only wish to be restored in your heart as your loving sister." "Likely, you're complaining I'm punishing you unfairly." "No, your majesty. I wouldn't even say it to you, let alone others. I have borne the burden of your anger and mistrust and I will continue to bear it if I cannot convince
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you that I am your true and loyal subject and will be until the day I die." Tears shimmered in Elizabeth's eyes and dropped onto her cheeks. "And I am your loving sister, even if you won't believe that, either." Mary closed her eyes. Bella saw her throat work as though she were trying to swallow around a lump. She rose, floundering to her feet, and departed without another word. After the door closed behind her, Elizabeth rose from her knees, a thoughtful expression on her face. Bella knew she should follow her like the other ladies had, but she lingered behind. Phillip opened the door behind the curtain, judging by the way it swept in the draft, and circled around to the presence chamber's main entrance as if he had just arrived. He went straight up the aisle to where Elizabeth stood, now surrounded by a handful of courtiers. Most people copied what the monarch did: whomever was out of favor was ostracized, but word had spread that Phillip was trying to get Mary to accept Elizabeth back at court and a few brave souls who believed the king could influence the Queen to that end were now tentatively befriending the Princess once more. Elizabeth wasn't fooled by the flattery or sudden interest, but she was canny enough to use it to her favor. She gave Phillip a sweet, shy smile, and Bella's heart sank at the frank interest in his expression. Was it merely political, courting the princess who would take the throne if Mary and the heir died in childbirth? Or was he genuinely attracted to Elizabeth? Bella did not know, and she supposed it did not matter. She trusted Elizabeth that it would not go far; Elizabeth was far too intelligent to risk anything which might bring more anger from her sister, but she would use his interest to her advantage without a doubt. That interest did not go unnoticed by the other courtiers, either. Bella saw hands raised to hide whispers, and sharp eyes following the Princess's every move. More rumors would blossom from this encounter, Bella knew. Phillip was gaining the reputation as a womanizer, but if it was true, he was smart enough to keep his activities far away from the ladies of the court. The English scorned this apparent taste for common women and some thought it was his underhanded way of getting back at Mary for refusing to give Phillip his longed-for coronation. A little rhyme had circulated: "The baker's daughter in her gown is better than Queen Mary without the crown." Bella thought that Mary had remained ignorant of these rumors, but she couldn't be certain. Susan Clarencieux would probably see it as her duty to inform the Queen, believing that a wife had a right to know of her husband's activities. Bella could only hope that it hadn't spread that far and that once word of Elizabeth's
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flirting with her husband reached her ears that her faith in Phillip would make her dismiss it. Otherwise, Elizabeth might end up in a place that made her think of Woodstock with fond memories.

Bell and Edward had held a small kernel of hope that the the story of Bishop Hooper's horrifying death would stop the burnings, but the lesson Mary had taken from it was that the sermon should be given before the burning so that the crowd would be sure to hear it and that there should be more wood brought to the site. Heretics who repented were employed in gathering the wood for those who did not, and sometimes the heretic's own family was even forced to assist in gathering the wood to burn the person they loved. Seditious pamphlets circulated, honoring the brave martyrdom of the executed and condemning the Queen. It only made Mary more determined to stamp out the heresy infecting her land the same way The Sweat epidemic spread. When they returned from mass a few days after Mary's meeting with Elizabeth, Mary found one of the pamphlets lying in the doorway to her bedchamber, placed so precisely that it was obvious she was meant to find it. Mary read it and then silently handed it to Bella. It contained the account of a burning in Guernsey of a mother and her two adult daughters. One of the daughters had reported a local woman for theft, and in retaliation, the thief had accused her of heresy. The local authorities examined not only the accused, but her mother and sister as well and found them all guilty of heresy. They were burned together. One of the daughters had been pregnant, and as she burned, she gave birth. One of the spectators ran forward and rescued the baby from the flames before the child could be harmed, but the sheriff wrested the infant from the spectator's arms and threw the baby back into the fire. The text ended with a prayer that the eyes of Queen Mary would be opened, or that God would shorten her days. Bella dropped the pamphlet, and covered her face with her hands. She thought of little Ward- No! She forced her mind away from that. "I know," Mary said, commiserating with the horrified Bella. "They dare to imagine the death of the Queen, to pray for it!" "That poor baby," Bella whispered. Mary nudged the pamphlet with her toe. "They should not blame me for that."

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"He was not a heretic, surely!" Bella cried. "She would not have been burned if she confessed her pregnancy," Mary said. "They would have waited until after the child had been born, illegitimate though he was. His death is his mother's fault." "But the sheriff-" "It was the will of God that he burn with his mother, else he would have been born before she was executed." Bella felt her breath puff out of her as if she'd been punched. She swayed on her feet and the world went gray for a moment. "Catch her!" Mary cried and her ladies rushed to Bella's assistance. "Lie her down. Put her on my bed. Someone fetch a physician." Someone unpinned her stomacher and loosened the laces of Bella's pair of bodies. "Where is my wife?" Bella heard Edward's voice and relief spread through her. "She fainted, your grace," Susan Clarencieux told him. She heard Mary's voice next. "Edward, is it possible that she's with child? It would explain why she's been acting so oddly this past week." Edward didn't answer. He reached Bella's side and sat down on the bed beside her. He took her hand in his own. "Bella, love." "Edward, you came ... I'm all right. I hope they didn't alarm you." "It is not why I came," Edward said. "Bella ... It's Ward." "What? What about him?" Bella gasped. Edward's face was grim, tinged with the grief he felt was coming. "Bella ... he has The Sweat."

Historical notes:

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- The meeting between Mary and Elizabeth occurred at ten in the evening, not during the early afternoon as I have portrayed it. Elizabeth was frightened by the sudden summons and begged her ladies to pray for her before setting off to visit with the Queen, a visit from which she was afraid she might never return. She met Mary in her bedchamber, and, yes, Phillip was hiding behind the curtains ("a cloth" as the histories record it.) - The story of the Guernsey burning is unfortunately true. During Elizabeth's reign, the sheriff was brought before her after being convicted of murder for throwing the baby back into the fire. He said that the baby shared the mother's heresy while it was inside her body. Elizabeth pardoned him. There are some links with further information on my Facebook page.

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Chapter 25
Chapter Twenty-Five

"He can't be ill!" Bella protested as they rode home. "He should be protected by my magic!" The grooms at the palace stable had given Edward a different horse than the one he'd ridden there. That horse had been covered with sweat, its sides heaving with exhaustion. This one was fresh and eager to run. Edward tapped it with his heels and pressed it even harder for speed. Pray God that no one stepped out in front of them because he'd never be able to swerve in time. A warm splash hit the back of his hand. Bella's tears. But he had no time to comfort her, so intent he was on wringing every bit of speed from their mount. He pounded up the lane to their house and dismounted, throwing the reins to a waiting groom. He pulled Bella down from the saddle, and gave the horse a pat of thanks before taking Bella's hand and dashing into the house. Her shorter legs weren't fast enough, so he scooped her into his arms and took the stairs three at a time. He threw the door open and deposited Bella on the floor beside the child lying on her bed. Bella sat down on the bed beside him, laying a hand on his brow. Her poor baby was drenched in sweat, pale and tossing weakly in delirium. Bella pulled away the blankets in which he'd been wrapped and pressed her ear to his chest. His heart was beating rapidly, too rapidly, fluttering like the wings of a trapped bird. "The physician should be here soon," Ellen said. "Wrap him up again, my lady. You mustn't let him catch a chill." "Get me a tub of cool water," Bella commanded, ignoring her advice. Ellen glanced up at the Duke for confirmation. "Whatever she says," Edward told her. "Do it, quickly." "Water down some wine," Bella told Edward. "Until it's barely pink. And I'll need a clean cloth." He went to the wine ewer and did as she asked, bringing back a full goblet and
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the asked-for cloth, one of his freshly-laundered handkerchiefs. Bella dipped the end of it in the water-wine and put it to the baby's mouth. As soon as the moisture touched his lips, he began to suck eagerly at the damp cloth. Bella took it out and re-dipped it, returning it to his mouth once more. "The poor baby is so thirsty," she murmured. Ellen returned with a maid, who carried the asked-for tub of cool water. Bella stripped off Ward's clothing and slowly dipped him into the water. Ellen gasped in horror. "We have to bring his temperature down," Bella explained. "He's burning up with fever." "But the shock ..." Ellen protested. "Having a bath when one is so ill cannot be safe!" Bella shook her head. "It's the best thing for him. Go, Ellen, see to Elizabeth." "But-" "Go," Edward commanded. I came out more harshly than he intended, and Ellen's eyes widened. She bobbed in a hasty curtsey that he did not see and ran for the door. "I don't understand this," Bella said, cupping the water in her hand and dribbling it over Ward's head. His fretful tossing had ceased now that he was in the cool water, but he whimpered softly, a sound that stabbed at Edward's heart. "He should be protected. This shouldn't have happened. Even Margaret should ..." Her voice trailed off and fresh tears coursed down her cheeks. "You've been so unhappy over the last week or so," Edward said. "Nigh to sick yourself with anxiety and fear." He took another of his handkerchiefs and gave it to Bella. She cast him a look of thanks and dipped it in the water, and laid it over Ward's head. "Maybe your magic is weaker when you are under stress, so far from the sea ..." She shook her head in bewilderment. "I've never heard of such." She took the warmed cloth from Ward's head and re-dipped it in the cool water. "Have you ever heard of a selkie at court? A selkie who watched a man burn?" "No," she admitted. "I haven't." She new how dangerous grief and fear could be
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for her kind. Could the horror of that situation have caused her magic to somehow waver? Was it her fault? There was a sound of hooves clattering on the gravel. Edward looked out the window. "That must be the physician." "Can your physicians do aught for this sickness?" Edward shook his head. Sorrow shadowed his face. This was why he had warned himself again and again not to become too attached to his son, but his heart had not listened to his head. "Do you know an herb-woman?" Bella asked. "I can have one found. There's surely one in the village." "Tell her I need white willow bark." "Whatever for?" Edward looked bewildered. "It brings down fever,'' Bella replied. "Please, Edward. Hurry." Edward kissed her and then the baby and dashed out into the hall. He plowed into one of the maids. "Beg pardon, you grace," the girl gasped, even though the fault had been his. "Girl, run to the village and get some willow bark from the herb-woman," he commanded. "Go now, as fast as you can. He pulled some coins from the purse he carried in his doublet and dropped them in her hands, uncaring of their denominations. "Aye, your grace," she replied and bobbed a quick curtsey before taking off to do his bidding. He returned to Bella and the baby, where he wanted to be the most. "I sent a maid," he told her when she gave him a questioning glance. "Bella, will he die?" Edward asked, his voice low and raspy with pain. "If I can keep his fever down, he may yet live," Bella said. "What can I do?" Edward asked. The helplessness he felt only added to his
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anguish. "Be here for me," Bella replied. Tears stood in her eyes. "I need your strength." He didn't know how strong he was. He wanted to break down weeping, to throw himself on the floor and beg God not to take his son, to scream and tear at his hair in anticipated grief. But if Bella needed him to be strong, he would be. He would do whatever it took to get her through this crisis. The maid returned more quickly than he'd expected, carrying a cup in her hands. "Your grace, I went ahead and made the tea according to the wise-woman's instructions," she said. "Thank, you, Anne," Bella said gratefully. She tested it for temperature and found it tepid enough for the baby to drink. "I added honey to cover the taste," the girl continued. "Anne?" he asked. "Your name is Anne?" "Yes, your grace, Anne Askew." Ah, now he remembered: his almoner, Kyme's wife, the woman who'd been cast out for her Protestant beliefs. Dimly, he recalled that he still hadn't got a response to his letter. "Thank you, Mistress Askew," he said. He dipped the cloth in the red tea and gave it to the baby. Little Ward grimaced, but he was thirsty enough to take it. The physician arrived shortly thereafter and was horrified to find his patient sitting in a tub of water. "By all the saints, woman, you'll kill him!" he blurted before recovering his sense of propriety. "Your grace," he said, "It is not meet to soak him like that. 'Twill open his pores to all sorts of foul humours. He needs to be abed and bled. And you should not be giving him aught to drink! What is that?" He picked up the cup before Bella could stop him and sniffed its contents. He grimaced and recoiled. "Willow bark tea," Anne Askew said. "It reduces fever." "Ridiculous!" the physician sputtered. "You're likely to poison the child with some witch-woman's filthy brew!" Bella didn't spare him a glance. "Send the physician on his way. His arts can do no
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good here." "You'll kill him," the physician warned. "Mark my words, your grace. If you continue on this path, he will be dead by nightfall. Herbs and baths instead of sound medicine!" He shook his head in disbelief. He turned to Edward for assistance. "Your grace, I know that the Duchess is new to civilization, but you cannot risk your son's life with these heathen practices!" "Leave!" Bella snapped at him. "Or I will call a footman to have you thrown out." The doctor glared at her, grossly insulted by such disrespectful treatment. He stomped from the room and Anne Askew shut the door behind him. "Your Grace," she said to Bella. "You may want to add wine to the bathwater as well. 'Twill make it feel cooler for him." "An excellent suggestion," Bella said. Edward fetched the ewer and dumped it into the tub. "'Tis the most expensive bath you will ever take, son," he crooned to the baby. "Washed in the finest French wine available!" Bella pressed her lips to Ward's forehead. "He's cooler." "God be praised," Edward whispered. He was afraid to hope. All the way to court, he had tried to prepare himself for the worst. The Sweat was not always deadly, but when infants caught it, their chances were slim. Ward's head drooped as he dozed. "Don't let him sleep!" Edward gasped, patting the baby's cheeks to wake him. "If those who have The Sweat fall asleep, they never wake." "Edward, it will do him some good," Bella said softly. "His fever is lower and he needs the rest to heal." She lifted him out of the tub and wrapped him in a linen drying sheet. She settled in a chair nearby and held the baby in her arms, humming to him softly. When he woke, she coaxed him to nurse a little, but he seemed too tired and weak to take much. All through the night, Bella and Edward tended their baby, cooling him in the wine-water bath when his temperature crept up again, and dosed him again with the tea. The candles burned down to nubs and were replaced by Anne, who remained at their side all through that endless, horrible night. She fetched what was needed and spent the idle time in prayer.
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At dawn, the fever broke and Edward dropped to his knees in grateful prayer, sobbing with relief. He would live. Their son would live. It repeated in his mind as a joyous litany. Bella nursed Ward and they lay down in their bed with their baby between them. Edward couldn't hold back the tears. "I thought we would lose him," he confessed. "Perhaps my magic still protected him to a certain extent," Bella said, forgetting that Anne Askew was still in the room. Edward glanced at the woman, but she didn't appear to have heard. She was collecting the items they'd used for the night. She poured the tub out the window and carried away the cloths and cups in it. "Thank you, Anne," Edward said. "Thank you for your assistance and your prayers." "I was happy to help, your grace. You and your wife gave me a home when no one else would help me." She smiled at them and dropped into a low curtsey. "I know you are not of my faith, but you are a true Christian man, your grace." "Thank you," he said again. "Go and get some rest, Anne." After the door had shut behind her, Edward leaned over and kissed his wife. He kissed her with love, and with gratitude and with joy. He stroked the side of her face with the backs of his fingers. "We need to leave," he said. "We need to go home. We need to get you and Ward back to Cullen Hall where you can both be healthy and happy." "Soon," she promised. "The Queen goes into confinement next week and after the prince or princess is born, we can leave." "It can't come soon enough," he said.

The court moved to Hampton Court palace, where the Queen had decided to have her confinement. She had wanted to go to Windsor, but it was deemed to far from London, though the reasons for it were unspoken. If Mary died, King Phillip wanted to have control of the capitol, ad the danger of unrest in the land was growing. At the last burning, the crowd had shouted at the magistrates and grew so agitated that the magistrates feared for their lives. Troops were raised and armed and Mary sent for loyal courtiers to bring their private armies, as her sister Elizabeth had once done at her coronation.
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Phillip was trying to distance himself from the burnings as much as possible, out of concern that if the Spanish were blamed, it could start another full-fledged rebellion. He had his chaplain preach a sermon denouncing the burnings, and he was not alone in trying to pass the blame. Gardiner would one day write that it was not his doing and that he had been chastised for being too lenient, and Bishop Bonner, who attained the nickname "Bloody Bonner" for presiding over London where the majority of the trials were held, would claim that he was just following orders. Hampton Court was not only one of the most beautiful palaces owned by the crown, it was also one of the most modern. It had been built by Cardinal Wolsey during the reign of Mary's father, but when King Henry came to tour it, he was so openly envious of its splendor that the Cardinal felt it prudent to hastily offer it to the king as a "gift". The customary ceremonies were held outside the Queen's chamber, and she drank a cup of spiced wine before heading inside with her ladies, Bella included, to begin the wait for the baby to arrive. The ladies had been given strict instructions from the Queen's physician not to mention anything unpleasant or upsetting to the Queen. As she looked out of Mary's sole uncovered chamber window, Bella wondered if Mary would notice the column of smoke rising from the city from the burnings when now occurred almost daily. The days crept by with agonizing slowness. Bella was permitted to go home in the evenings, as she had an infant still recovering from The Sweat. (She may have downplayed his recovery just a little because Ward was now perfectly well, back to the happy, healthy baby he had been before he had fallen ill.) And though she didn't know it, Phillip felt as she did: that every day was like thousand years. He was impatient to leave, but his father had urged him to wait until the heir had been born. If he was abroad when Mary had her baby and she did not survive the birth itself, he would be unable to hold onto his rule. The physicians had estimated that the Queen would give birth the last week of April, but the designated week came and went without Mary going into labor. The physicians announced that the Queen, an "unworldly" woman, must have made a mistake as to when she had conceived. The baby would arrive in late May or early June. Daily masses were said for her safe deliverance and processions of praying citizens marched to the palace. Mary watched them pass by from her window, but instead of making her happy at their touching demonstration of affection and loyalty, Mary was melancholy. No one would admit it to her, but Mary had the deep, unsettling feeling that something was wrong. She privately confessed to Bella that she hadn't felt the child move in weeks. Bella had paled at this news, and she
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couldn't lie to Mary and offer soothing platitudes as the other ladies were doing. She had simply held the queen while she wept and promised to pray for her. Mary spent most of her days sitting on a cushion on the floor, her knees drawn up to her chest. She didn't want to hear music, she said. She didn't want to be read to or to gossip or even to pray at her altar. Frances Grey couldn't even get her to gamble. Bella sat beside the Queen on the floor and offered the simplest comfort of all. She held the Queen's hand. And they waited. On April 30th, the rumor spread that the Queen had been delivered of a healthy prince and all of London went wild, breaking open the casks of wine which had been laid aside for this purpose and setting bonfires. Despite Mary's recent unpopularity, all of England could rejoice at the birth of a prince. As Elizabeth had once said to Bella, the people worship a rising sun, not a setting one. Every new heir was thought to be a new beginning, a fresh start, another chance for England to be restored to her days of glory and prosperity. But then, the palace corrected the news. The Queen had not yet delivered. The people, deprived of their fun and deprived of their hope, went home grumbling. Outside, the rains began again, like they had last summer, and the weather was oddly cold. The farmers wept as they watched their puddled fields go fallow for yet another planting season. Inside the palace, the courtiers waited. Several times, Mary said she felt pains and the doctors and midwives would be hastily summoned only to leave a few hours later when the pains fizzled out without any labor. Phillip sent out inquiries all over Europe to secure loans to finance his military plans against France, but found few willing to loan him money and the ones who agreed wanted up to twenty-five percent interest. Mary spent hours at her desk, writing letters announcing her child's birth, leaving the date and the sex of the child blank, to be filled in later. She wrote one to Cardinal Pole, which said that God had added the birth of a prince to all of the other blessings he had conferred upon her. It laid on her desk, waiting to be sent once the miracle finally happened. And the burnings continued. In London, the rumor spread that Queen Mary had declared that her child would not be born until she had burned every last heretic. There were plans for an uprising, but the king and the council quickly sent in the troops and broke up any gathering in the streets. May passed. Mary's swollen belly began to deflate, which the midwives told her was a sure sign she was about to deliver. On a rare sunny afternoon, Mary looked out her window and saw Phillip walking with Princess Elizabeth in the garden. Their
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heads were tilted toward one another. They made a handsome couple, both of them young, vibrant, healthy. Mary let the tapestry drop and laid down on her bed, ordering that the curtains be drawn around her. Bella did it for her. She laid a gentle hand on the Queen's arm and Mary looked back at her with naked heartbreak in her eyes. The physicians said the end of June must be when the Queen was due. Mary's spirits sank even lower. She spent hours weeping over her prayerbook as her stomach flattened and her breasts ceased to produce milk. Her pregnancy withered away as the few crops in England's fields also withered. And then they said the end of July. The rumors abounded and Edward told them to Bella when she came home in the evenings. It was said that Mary had given birth to a lump of inanimate flesh, or that the child had died and they were searching for a replacement that they could pass off as the heir. Bella wept in the mornings because she had to return to that sad room with its empty cradle still prepared to hold Mary's child, and the disconsolate Queen who was beginning to realize that there was something terribly, terribly wrong. By August, Hampton Court reeked of garbage and accumulated human waste. The court had to move every few months due to the buildup of filth and refuse of so many people, especially in summer, so that the palace would be "sweetened" between uses. One afternoon, Gardiner and Pole appeared at the Queen's privy chamber door and Mary met with them after asking all of her ladies to leave. That men were being allowed into the confinement chamber, even priests, was shocking. Something must be happening. The ladies whispered among themselves, trying to decide what it might be. Several approached Bella, the Queen's confidant, but she had nothing to offer them. When they had gone, the ladies slowly crept back to the privy chamber, worried at what they might find. Mary's eyes were red, but all she said was to pack, because they were leaving, going to Oatlands. Most of the court would not be able to follow because it was such a small house, a convenient way of getting rid of the numerous hangers-on who had come to court to await the birth. Bella took the opportunity to ask for permission to go home to Cullen Hall. "Will you- Will you please bring Ward to see me before you go?" Mary asked, and her voice cracked. She sobbed when she held him, laughed through her tears as his unruly shock of
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red-brown hair (so like his father's) and then she laid him in the cradle that had been crafted for England's prince. A silver plate on the hood carried the poem: The child which thou to Mary, O Lord of might hast send, To England's joy, in health preserve-keep and defend! Mary rocked him, singing softly, a Spanish lullaby she might have learned from her own mother. Ward cooed at her, waving his chubby arms. He would be a year old next month. Three days ago, he had taken his first steps at home with Edward and Alice present and Bella had resented Mary for keeping her here, making her miss something so important. But now, that resentment faded away. She watched a heartbroken woman kiss her baby and lift him out of the cradle. She held him to her for just a moment longer before handing him back to Bella, tears streaming unnoticed down her cheeks. Mary had wept an ocean of tears over the last few months. Bella was amazed she had any left. "He's leaving me, Bella," Mary said. "Phillip is leaving at the end of the month and I cannot get him to answer when he will return. Stay with me, please, until he has gone? I can bear it better is I have my family with me." She pressed a hand against her flat belly. "Susan Clarencieux and one of the midwives have told me that I must be only six months along now, and the babe will be born in November." "Your majesty, there is no babe," Bella said sadly. "They're all a bunch of sycophants. I see now that you're the only one who is true to me, Bella." The Queen rose and kissed Bella on the forehead. "Tarry with me for just a little while longer, and then you can go home to Cullen Hall." Despite everything, Bella could not deny her. She embraced Mary and went home to the house on Hampstead Heath to tell Edward. He was frustrated at the delay, of course, but what could he do? To insist now would hurt Mary's feelings and she would get angry because that's how she always reacted to emotional pain. Princess Elizabeth came to see Bella the day before they all departed. "I'm going home, to Hatfield," she said. "The Queen has finally given me permission." With no birth imminent, (and no danger to the Queen) it was safe to allow Elizabeth to leave.
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"It is for the best," Bella said. She saw Phillip, standing before one of the windows, staring down at Elizabeth. Elizabeth flicked her eyes in his direction. "You're right, it is," she said. She hugged Bella. "I'll miss you. Why don't you and Edward come and stay with me at Hatfield this summer?" "No, Bess, we want to go home," Bella replied. Elizabeth nodded. "All right, I understand. Write to me, promise?" "I promise," Bella told her and with one last hug, Elizabeth was gone. The last week of August, they followed the Queen back to London where she planned to board a barge to take her downriver to Greenwich. From there, Phillip would board his ship. The crowds rushed up to peer into Mary's litter as she was carried through the streets, for there had been rumors that she was actually dead and Phillip was concealing it until he could make sure his rule of England was consolidated. Mary smiled at those who cheered her or called blessings, for despite everything, she was still their Queen. Gardiner got a different response. The crowds were silent as he passed, nor did many bow to the cross carried in front of him and it infuriated him. Bella heard him give orders to his servants. "Mark that house! That man, have him brought before the examiners. Such a lot of heretics I never saw! Not a bow before the cross or a shout of 'God save the king and Queen'. Well, I'll teach them to do both, I swear on my life!" She closed her eyes. Didn't he have enough heretics to burn without plucking random people from the street? Phillip convinced Mary that she shouldn't take the barge to Greenwich with him because she was already struggling to keep her poise in front of the crowd. He kissed her hand and boarded the barge, and Mary might have protested, but her throat was too clogged with unshed tears. "Your majesty, let's get you inside, away from prying eyes," Bella urged her. Mary made a soft, inarticulate sound of grief, and allowed herself to be led like a child inside the palace to her chambers. She ran to the window for one last glimpse, and Phillip may have spotted her, for he took off his hat and waved it in her direction. Now that he was on his way, he could be gallant, Bella thought sourly. He
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hadn't spent a private moment with Mary since she took to her chamber back in April. He hadn't discussed the sudden disappearance of her pregnancy with her; he seemed to want to pretend it had never happened, and a bewildered Mary took her cue from him. "He waved at me!" she cried happily. "Yes, your majesty, he did," Bella said, her heart aching that such a tiny gesture from her husband could make the Queen happy. But then, the barge disappeared from sight and Mary fell into her chair like a puppet whose strings have been cut. Silent tears rolled down her cheeks. She hugged Mary and was vague about when they'd return to court, but Mary was so absorbed in her grief that Bella didn't think she noticed. She gave Mary a kiss on the cheek and walked out of the palace to her waiting litter. As she exited the building, she felt lighter, as if a dark, heavy mantle of sorrow and fear had fallen from her shoulders. She could have sang, skipped, danced in the streets. They were going home! Back to the seaside where she would be near her element, away from the stifling court with its jealousies and backstabbing and thousands of bewildering rules. The wagons were being loaded when she reached the house on Hampstead Heath. Edward stood outside. Alice was next to him, with Ward in her arms. Her wedding was in two weeks, and Alice had lost weight over the last month or so, weight she could ill-afford to lose. She looked like a strong breeze might carry her off. Maybe once they were home at Cullen Hall, Bella could help her ... somehow. Edward smiled at Bella and swept her up into his arms. In front of all the servants, he kissed her soundly and Bella giggled. "Let's go home!" he said, and it was the sweetest words Bella had heard in months.

Historical notes: - Willow bark contains salicylic acid, an ingredient in aspirin. It's still used today by natural-remedy enthusiasts. It should not, of course, be given to anyone under two years of age, but in Bella's situation, there were no other known medicines that reduced fever. The wine in the water was the only way of purifying it. Sanitation was unknown and wells were sometimes contaminated by nearby garbage/sewage dumps (and in some cases, graveyards!). The alcohol would kill at least some of the bacteria and make it safer to drink. The existence of germs was as yet unknown, but
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watering wine for children was common at the time, known to be safer than plain water, even if they didn't understand why. - Mary's prayerbook survives. When the book is opened, it falls to the page bearing the prayer for the safe delivery of a pregnant woman, which is heavily splotched and stained with tears. - Mary could have suffered from either ovarian cancer or from a phantom pregnancy (pseudocyesis). Women who suffer from that condition have every appearance of being pregnant. Their hormone levels may be so elevated that it even fools a pregnancy test. Their abdomens swell as though they were rally carrying a child, their breasts may produce milk and three-quarters of women suffering from it claim to have felt the baby move within them.

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Chapter 26
Chapter Twenty-six

Rosalie Cullen, Viscountess Lisle, lay in her bed and listened to the fall of the rain. She hadn't left her bed in ... was it days or weeks now? She wasn't sure any more. She spent every day as she had spent the last: she listened to the rain and played listlessly with the jewels scattered beside her on the sheets. She had once lusted after them, craved and coveted their tangible wealth, but now they were her punishment, her mark of Cain. It was for these things that she had sold her soul. During the birth, she thought she would die and now she wished she had. It seemed preferable to die, unshriven, and go to hell as she deserved rather than live out every long day of the rest of her life with this guilt eating at her soul. When she had looked down into the face of her daughter, a wave of icy-cold horror had washed over her and the true enormity of what she had done had made her order the baby taken away. She could not look into those innocent eyes and could not to touch something so pure with her soiled hands. Best that Emmett take the baby and go. No good could come of having her for a mother, that was for sure. She yearned for absolution but she could not confess. Her sins were not something that would earn her a few extra prayers and a night of fasting. If she told Father Jacob what she had done, he would turn her over to the church courts and she would burn, and as horrifying as it was to live with the thought she was destined for hell's fires, she had no desire to replicate it here on earth. She picked up a diamond necklace and dangled it from her fingers. It caught the light, what little came in through the windows from the overcast sky, twinkled with fire and ice. For this, you have damned yourself, she thought. It was all she thought she had wanted when she was a little girl in a ragged dress too small for her growing frame. Her father, who was undoubtedly roasting in hell's fires himself, had gambled away every penny of his income and when that was gone, he had sold off her mother's dowry goods, and when that was gone, he had sold off all of the lands that had not been entailed, and when that was gone, he had borrowed against what was left. Their poverty had increased with every year. All of their servants, except for her mother's nurse who had stayed out of love, were long gone for lack of pay. The
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castle grew filthy and crumbled around them from lack of maintenance until only the first floor was habitable. Rosalie's mother had once been a lady-in-waiting to King Henry's sister, before her marriage. Rosalie's father had picked the jewels and pearls from her mother's court gowns one by one, and then sold the fabric itself. One of them, her mother had cut down to make a dress for Rosalie, whose dresses had been let out as many times as possible to accommodate her growing body, but the seams were now splitting. Her father had beaten her mother for the "waste", so severely that she had died after lingering in pain for two weeks, and then he, himself, had died himself of a drunken tumble down the stairs at a bawdy house only a few weeks later, and left his daughter in penury. One of the men to whom her father owed money offered to forgive the debt if she would marry him. Rosalie had written a series of increasingly desperate letters to her mother's family, relatives she had never met, begging for the charity of living in one of their homes but had gotten no responses. She accepted his proposal. It was either that or the poor house. It wasn't long before she wished she'd chosen the poor house. Her husband had been a brutal man, just as stingy as her father had been, and he begrudged her every penny it took to keep food in her belly, money he could have spent on wine, whores and card games. She'd thought once she became valuable and productive by becoming pregnant that he would treat her marginally better for the child's sake, but he hadn't. The child (whose name Rosalie could not even speak in her mind) had been the only bit of happiness to come from her marriage. Rosalie had loved him fiercely from the moment she'd laid eyes on him. Her husband would not pay for a wetnurse, of course, so Rosalie had fed him herself, a process they'd had to learn together, just as she'd had to learn every aspect of caring for a baby from trial and error since she was not permitted to have friends who might have advised her. Despite her clumsy care, the boy had thrived and she'd thought God was finally having mercy upon her, to give her one bright spot in the dreary darkness of her life. She hadn't meant to set the fire. She'd woken in the night after hearing a strange noise and lit the candle to discover that the drunken lout had rolled over on the baby in his sleep. Her child was dead. Her hands had gone slack from shock and horror and the candle dropped to the floor. When it hit the rushes, dry and full of refuse since he reused to pay good money for new ones, the fire had spread so fast she barely had time to bolt to the door herself, let alone try to wake the unconscious man who would likely beat her to death for being so careless with the candle. The wife of the local priest (this was in the days of the young Protestant king) had
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taken her in, the poor, childless widow who had nothing but the ragged shift on her back. It was through her efforts that Rosalie was able to sell the one commodity left: her milk. She'd first nursed the children in the village for a few pence and, oh, how she'd hated those children, resenting their plump, healthy cheeks and the way their mothers felt they could lord over Rosalie and give themselves airs because of how low she had fallen. It had been that resentment which made made Rosalie start employing other parts of her body with the women's husbands, and she'd earned far more from that than she had from feeding their brats. Someone had reported her to the local sheriff. Her noble blood had meant that he wouldn't arrest her for prostitution, but he had told the priest, who'd reprimanded her and forced her to confess to her "lewd and naughty" behavior to his congregation and perform acts of penance. Rosalie didn't mind so much, because she'd rubbed it in the faces of the wives under the guise of seeking forgiveness and she had gotten immense satisfaction from it. The priest had thought it best to get her out of the community before a contingent of angry wives strung her up. He had urged his wife to use her connections to find Rosalie a position in some noble house, the further away, the better. His wife was distantly related to the Duke of Cullen's steward and knew he was searching for a wetnurse from a good background. Rosalie didn't know how "good" her family had been, but her bloodlines were acceptable, at least. The priest's wife had hugged her as she prepared to leave and told her that this was the start of a new life. Rosalie had decided that yes, it was, and she was never going to be poor again, no matter what she had to do. No matter what. Her intention had originally been to become the Duke's mistress, but he was so numbed by the grief of his wife's death that he wouldn't have noticed her even if she'd appeared naked in his bed. She'd begun to hate the sound of that sainted wife's name because the woman had had everything Rosalie could never dream of having: financial security, a title, gowns and jewels fit for a queen. She's hoped that in a year or two, he would shake off the grief, but before he'd seemed recovered enough for her to move forward with her plans, a new duchess had appeared from nowhere and on the occasion of their first meeting, when Rosalie had been so angry about the new duchess that she'd taken it out on the child, she had learned that that tiny woman with the huge dark eyes was no one to trifle with. So, she had set her sights lower, on the Duke's drunken brother. She was afraid of him, though the drink had not seemed to make him mean. She'd heard a couple of the maids giggling together as they discussed his manly attributes. Apparently, he was a generous lover. Rosalie didn't care about the pleasures of the flesh, but she did care about the handfuls of coins he was said to give to women who pleased him.
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The first time they'd lain together, the viscount had been almost as rough as her drunken lout of a husband, and Rosalie had been terrified. Afterward, he was contrite and when she'd learned a few weeks later that she was with child, she'd hoped that he would give her money to rid herself of it. Instead, he had surprised her by offering to marry her. Rosalie had thought life couldn't surprise her any more, but this had. She'd told him he would have to secure the Queen's permission before she'd consider it. She wasn't going to end up impoverished again with a husband in the Tower. And then, Rosalie had everything she wanted. Perhaps God really did hear the prayers of women after all. Emmett was rich, titled, and willing to give her whatever she asked for. Even the "wifely duties" aspect had improved and Rosalie had certainly never expected to enjoy that. She bought jewels, which seemed the best investment. Portable wealth, easy to conceal, if necessary. If she was careful, she could live off the proceeds of the sale of just a few of these pieces for the rest of her life, but it never seemed like enough. No matter how many coins she hid away in her stash beneath the floorboards, no matter how many jewels in her chest, the cold memory of an empty belly and unheated rooms taunted her and she had to have more, more as a barrier between herself and poverty. Rosalie hated Edward's new Duchess, hated her with the same intensity she'd hated her father and husband. Though she knew, somewhere in the back of her mind, that her feelings were illogical, she felt that Bella was deliberately keeping her from the security she so desperately needed. She'd tried to make as much trouble for her as possible, including tattling to the priest about the strange habits of the Duchess. She'd thought the woman was secret Protestant based on the questions she'd overheard her asking Father Jasper, but she hadn't been able to find any condemning literature in the Duke's bedchamber when she'd searched it. How Emmett had found out, she did not know, but he'd been livid about it and he knew just how to strike terror into her heart: he'd threatened to cut off her income and give away her jewels. Rosalie had wept for days, sick with fear that she'd end up the way her mother had. She couldn't help but think of how she'd be even more secure if Emmett became the Duke. He never would, if that strange little wife of Edward's gave birth to a son. She'd disguised herself as best as she could and gone down to the village to purchase what she needed. She'd given the Duchess far more than the herb-woman said she'd need, (she'd nurtured the hope that the duchess would die right along with the babe) but nothing had happened, and, of course, the babe had been a boy.
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Some women, like Rosalie's mother, tried for years and had multiple pregnancies before they were finally able to produce a son and this woman had did it on the first try. For the short time between Bella's childbed and her own, she had schemed and plotted but as soon as her own child came, all of that had melted away and shame had taken its place. It hung over her like a lead cloak, a sickness from which she could not heal. She would gladly have given the the jewels, her stash of money, every stitch of clothing and gone back to a life of poverty and hunger if it would take away the agony of guilt. But there was no forgiveness for her. Not for her kind.

Bella and Edward's journey back to Cullen Hall was a long and uncomfortable one. The roads were nearly impassable. Every day, the wagons would sink axle-deep into the mud and the whole convoy would have to stop and wait for additional oxen to be attached to pull it free. The rains continued to fall on the already sodden earth and it was unusually cold. It would be known as the "Year Without a Summer" for decades to come. Edward and Bella huddled together inside their litter. The curtains had been replaced with oil cloth but gusts of wind still blew rain inside. Edward's steward had suggested that they should possibly find a roadside inn and stay until the weather improved, but Edward had replied that if they did that, they'd probably wait forever. "Aye, God has set a curse upon England," the steward said, and then his eyes widened when he realized he might have said too much. But the steward was not the only one who had such thoughts. All over the country, people discussed and debated what message God was sending them. The Queen took it to mean that she hadn't done enough to stamp out heresy. And the Protestants said that the weather was proof that God disapproved of Mary's reign. Bella wasn't one to look for mystical messages in events of nature. Her concern was for the people on Edward's estate. He had purchased more grain in the spring, but would it be enough to keep their people from starvation? Even the number of cattle and sheep were dwindling, since the hungry animals hadn't produced young in the spring. And she worried about Alice, who seemed to be getting more ill with every mile they came closer to Cullen Hall and her fate as Baron Tyler's bride. The wedding was to take place there and the Baron had hinted to Edward that he might be
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amenable to his wife staying in Bella's service if he, himself, were given a high enough appointment in Edward's household. Edward shuddered to think of it, but he would put up with the man if it made Bella happy to keep Alice with her. The two women approached the preparations for Alice's weddings as though it were a funeral, and it cast a pall over their homecoming. Edward's heart lifted when he saw the house by the sea. He hadn't realized how much he loved the place until he had been kept away from it at court. The first night after their return, Bella went swimming in her beloved Endless Waters. She'd urged Edward to stay inside where it was warm and dry and she came back glowing with health an happiness, a happiness that had lasted until the next morning when she saw Alice's pale and sickly face. Within two days, Alice was too ill to leave her bed, and Edward wrote to the Earl of Hale that the wedding would have to be postponed. The Earl wrote back, with a postscript at the bottom written by the Baron himself, that the wedding would go on as planned even if he priest had to stand by the bride's bedside to hear her vows. The morning of Alice's wedding was bleak and cold, with a driving rain that drummed against the windows. In a reversal of their roles, Bella helped Alice dress in one of her own gowns, which had been altered to fit Alice's smaller body, the constellation dress that had started such a fashion trend when it had been worn by Edward's first wife. Alice could have never afforded anything so grand and it everyone who saw it would see that Alice was honored by the Duchess, to have given her such a rich gown from her own wardrobe. Alice cried steadily from the moment she rose. Bella held up Edward's precious glass mirror so that Alice could see herself and she touched her drawn, pale face in shock. She hadn't realized how much of an effect her illness had on her body until that moment. "I look like a ghost," she said. "Nonsense," Bella said firmly. "You're beautiful, Alice." Alice tried to smile, but she broke into sobs instead. She had gone last night to her father's rooms (he had come to stay at Cullen Hall the night previous for the wedding) to beg for him to reconsider, but his steward had opened the door and coldly informed Alice that her father was not receiving guests. They walked down to the chapel together and Bella was painfully reminded of her walk with Jane Grey to the scaffold. Alice had squared her thin shoulders just like Jane had and she walked with the same quiet dignity. She had shed her tears. Now was the time to do her duty.
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All of the local gentry and nobles had come to see the wedding. Dressed in their finest, they stood in rows according to rank. Bella looked around but did not see Rosalie. No one had seen her since they returned. She never left her room, and Emmett had yet to visit her there. Bella had tapped on her door last night and told the maid who answered that Rosalie was welcome to come down in the morning to watch the service but the maid had given her a tiny shake of the head, though she'd said she would let Rosalie know. Bella had known she would dislike Baron Tyler, but even if she'd never heard of his brutal cruelty, she probably would have hated him for the glance he gave his bride, as if checking to make sure she was the right one before looking away dismissively. Alice walked steadily, but her face was as white as a sheet. She kept her eyes on Father Jasper, as if he were the only thing keeping her standing. And maybe he was. He began the service, his face as calm and impassive, though his eyes glinted strangely. He spoke of the purpose and symbolism of marriage his voice smooth and sure, but then, something strange happened. "Therefore, if any man can show-" Father Jasper stopped, as though his voice had been strangled from his throat. He put his fist up to his lips and cleared his throat. "Therefore, if any man can show any just cause ..." He trailed off and closed his eyes. His next words came as though they were wrested from him by force: "... why they may not lawfully be joined together ..." Everyone in the chapel stared. A few people whispered. Father Jasper swayed for a moment and Edward darted forward to catch him if he fell, but Father Jasper suddenly regained his composure. His face changed as though a sun had dawned within him. He walked to the altar and removed his stole. He kissed it and laid it down gently. He then reached up and pulled off his collar. He held it tightly in one hand for a moment before laying it down as well. Now everyone was whispering. What was going on? "Father Jasper?" Edward said. "Simply 'Jasper' now." And with that, Jasper darted forward. He grabbed the bride, tossed her over his shoulder and ran like hell. The occupants of the chapel stared stupidly at one another for a moment. Then
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Baron Tyler let out a bellow and ran after Jasper and Alice. Bella stepped forward as if to run after them herself and Baron Tyler tripped over her foot, sprawling in the aisle with a grunt. "Oh, beg pardon, my lord!" Bella gasped, clapping a hand over her mouth as though in horror, but actually to hid e grin. Alice's father shouted her name and took off. He jumped over the prone Baron and ran through the house. The wedding guests rushed out after him, following the spectacle with avid interest. There was a horse standing out front, held by a groom. Jasper jumped into the saddle and dropped Alice on his lap. He took the reins in one hand and curled the other around Alice's waist, holding her firmly to him. And then he bent and kissed her before driving his heels into the horse's side. The spirited horse burst into a run. Bella and Edward skidded to a halt in front of the house just as Jasper and Alice reached the lane. Alice's father stood there, gaping, his mouth working like that of a fish out of water. "Stop them!" Baron Tyler roared. "How?" Edward said mildly. "Get another horse!" Baron Tyler screamed at the groom. "Whose horse was that?" "Mine," Edward said. "And woe is me, it was my fastest." Baron Tyler gaped at him. "What was it doing, standing here in the rain?" "I had intended to go riding after the wedding," Edward said. "In the rain?" Edward shrugged. "It doesn't bother me." "Was that Volvo?" Emmett asked. In his hand, he held a piece of the wedding cake and was munching on it as he watched. "Aye," Edward said. Emmett shook his head. "Never catch him, then. 'Tis a pity." He clapped the Baron on the shoulder. "Best look for another wife." And with that, he strolled back into the
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house "Where is my horse?" Baron Tyler yelled. "Where is my horse?" Bella fought hard to keep a smile off her face, though her eyes twinkled merrily. "Did you know this would happen?" she asked Edward in a whisper. He chucked. "No, but I hoped. And I just might have had a horse out there, waiting, just in case, and the saddlebags possibly might contain money and a letter of introduction from the Duke of Cullen." "Where will they go?" Bella asked. "They'll have to leave the country," Edward said, and at this, his voice held a bit of sadness. "Perhaps to Germany or another Protestant country." "I'll miss her," Bella said. "But I'm so happy for her." Edward kissed his wife and she whispered, "Thank you." As they turned to walk back into the house, Bella looked up and saw Rosalie watching from the window. As soon as she saw Bella saw looking in her direction, she withdrew.

Historical notes: - What happened to Rosalie's baby in this story was unfortunately common in those days. Poor families often slept all in one bed. Warmth was a major reason. Fires were usually banked at night to avoid an errant spark setting the house on fire and to save on fuel. In the winter, it would be very cold in their houses. Secondly, having something like a cradle and blankets/bedding for it it was only something wealthier families could afford. As late as 1894, 1000 infants per year in London died of being smothered when an adult rolled on them in the bed. Modern researchers believe that at least some of these deaths were attributable to SIDS, but the numbers are a subject of debate.

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Chapter 27
Chapter Twenty-Seven

The dreary summer continued, chilly and wet, but for the occupants of Cullen Hall, it was the happiest summer in memory. Bella and Edward spent the days together, with their children, and in improving conditions on their estates. One of the first things Edward did, upon their return, was send for Thomas Kyme, his almoner. Kyme's expression was one of guilt and hostility from the outset. "I won't take her back," he snapped as soon as he had taken the chair that Edward offered. Edward arched his eyebrow. "Excuse me?" "Your pardon, your grace," he muttered. "I meant no disrespect." Edward hadn't meant the lack of his honorific. "You were speaking of your wife, Anne?" "Aye, Anne Askew, as she calls herself. The willful woman refused to take my family name when we wed." It was obviously a sore point for him. "I warn you, your grace, her character is not of good influence for the Duchess." "She seems a decent, God-fearing woman," Edward said. Kyme shook his head. "She is a heretic, your grace, and a stubborn, disobedient woman. I feared for her influence on my children." Edward understood what Kyme meant by that. A disobedient wife, a heretic at that, was a violation of the social order, a woman who rejected the very foundation of Christian life. "'Tis a very harsh thing, to keep a mother away from her children." Kyme scowled. "'Tis no more than she deserves for her defiance." Edward had suspected that Kyme kept Anne's children from her as a punishment, not because he feared what her influence would do, and Kyme's words simply confirmed it. "Perhaps a visit if you supervised," he tried.
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"No!" Kyme snapped. "She will see them only if she submits to me and repents of her wickedness." Edward sighed inwardly. There was naught else that he could do. Kyme had every right to do with his children as he pleased, and Edward could not interfere. In his house, a man was king and his rule was the final word. "Now, as to the business for which I summoned you. Did you receive my letter?" "You did not get my reply?" Kyme asked, and Edward could tell he was lying. He couldn't have said what it was, perhaps some subtle shift in his demeanor, but he could tell that Kyme was being dishonest and was scared about it. "I did not." "My apologies, your grace. Perhaps the messenger ..." Kyme trailed off. "No matter. Perhaps 'tis better we should speak in person." Kyme twisted the hem of his doublet. "Certainly, your grace." That was also a lie, Edward note with some amusement. "Have you the records I requested?" Kyme had stuck to his story that he'd given much of Edward's charity to the parish workhouse, operated by his cousin, Peter of Lansby. Edward had asked for an account of how the funds were spent and the two men seemed very reluctant and nervous about it. "'Tis a simple question," Edward said mildly. "You have never asked for such before, your grace." If Kyme didn't stop twisting his doublet so hard, he would ruin it. "Aye, well, I'm asking now. It's a simple matter. How were my alms spent?" "Er ... Um .. In various ways, your grace. Expenses, and the like." "What expenses?" Edward pressed. "I don't know!" Kyme burst. "I'm sure my cousin used the funds well." "I sent my brother to visit the workhouse. He said it was a disgrace." Emmett had
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been apalled, in fact. There were not enough beds, not even enough floor space for pallets, and many of the residents had to sleep sitting upright on benches. It was filthy, and Emmett said the stench of it could be smelled from the other side of the village. The grime-caked windows had broken panes, stuffed with rags and the roof leaked onto the heads of its miserable inhabitants. Kyme had now graduated to twisting the tassel loops over the buttons, called "frogs", on the front of his doublet. "The poor, your grace, they are filthy in their habits. They destroy anything fine. They steal. They're careless and-" "There should be funds a-plenty to replace and repair anything that has been lost or broken," Edward said mildly. Kyme flushed, either angry or embarrassed. Edward could not decide which. Perhaps both. "'Tis a poorhouse, your grace. Not a palace." "What did the funds pay for if not the repairs?" Kyme sputtered and Edward stood. He was tired of this farce. "I have a feeling that I know exactly where the funds have gone. 'Tis a fine doublet you wear, and I suspect if I went to visit him, I'd find your cousin wearing one even finer. Seek a position in another household, Kyme. I have no need for an almoner who won't distribute my alms further than his own pocket." Kyme bowed stiffly, his eyes full of hate. He left the room and Edward sighed. He sat back in his chair and rubbed his aching temples. He needed Bella. He needed her gentle sweetness, her soothing calm. He looked at the pile of papers on his desk. All of them needed to be read and signed, and decisions had to be made. Tomorrow, he decided. Everything could wait until tomorrow. He knew that if his father was watching from heaven, he would be pulling out his hair in outrage at his son's negligence. And Edward didn't care. He found his wife in little Elizabeth's room. She was teaching the children their letters, though her methods were unusual. She told a story and every time the children correctly identified a word beginning with the letter, they got a piece of marzipan, Elizabeth's favorite sweet. As young as they were, Ward and Margaret weren't very good at the game yet, so Elizabeth whispered the answers to them, which Bella pretended not to notice, and then they would squeal and babble, clapping their chubby hands when Bella popped the bit of marzipan in their mouths. She smiled when she saw Edward and gestured him over to join them. He made a
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few outrageous guesses to make his daughter laugh, and she took pity on him and shared it the bit of marzipan she'd earned. Bella put the children down for their naps and joined Edward in their chamber. "You seem troubled," she commented. "I met with Kyme," he said. "I've dismissed him." Bella nodded. "We don't need someone to distribute our charity for us. We can do it ourselves." "Everyone has an almoner," he said. "I'd be eliminating a position that has been in the Duke of Cullen's household for three hundred years." She shook her head. "I'll never understand you humans and your instance on tradition. Just because something has been done one way for generations doesn't mean it always has to be done that way." Edward struggled to find words to explain it, the great chain of rank and service which formed their society. "Our household should be much larger, employing hundreds of people instead of the dozen or so we have. You should have at least half a dozen ladies' maids: countesses, baronesses, marquesses, ladies who would in turn employ their own ladies' maids, wives of knights and minor lords, and those ladies would have servants of their own. On down to the scullery maids and spit-boys in the kitchens." Bella winced. "I never thought of our lack of grandeur and ceremony as something that hurt our people. Should we-" Edward shook his head. "No, Bella, I've found I much prefer a simpler life, but it's bound to stir up some resentment." "Are there ways we can change- ?" "Bella, we have take care that we do not attract attention," Edward warned. She flinched and he wished he hadn't said anything. She still had nightmares about the burnings. "We're already making many alterations which will cause a great deal of talk." People already discussed Edward's purchase of grain for the second year in a row, and the fact that he had suspended rents for his farmers until they were able to plant and harvest as normal. (Edward told Bella wryly that his people might be
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better off if he had gone ahead and enclosed the fields and raised sheep after all. With the cool weather, there probably would have been a bumper crop of wool.) He kept the idle farmers and laborers busy with repairing the buildings on his lands, including the cottages of his peasants. "I went down to the village today," Bella said. She sat down on the side of their bed. "What needs fixing now?" he said with a shake of the head and a wry smile. "Did you know that the mill has been broken for three years now? The villagers have to take their grain seven miles to the next village to have it ground." "Did you speak to John Miller?" "I did. He said something about a broken something-or-other." "Very informative, darling. Well, have it repaired." She smiled at him and that smile alone was with the cost of repairing the mill. Bella genuinely took an interest in the people on their lands and she was probably the first Cullen duchess in family history to know the peasants in the village by name and was able to inquire after their families, their ailments, the small dramas of their lives. The downside was that the ladies of their own social class began to withdraw, as if Bella's association with peasants tainted her in some indelible fashion. Bella didn't even notice their absence, but Edward did and it concerned him, though not enough for him to curtail her activities. "I saw Father Jacob," she said. "He was there to give last rites to Old Widow Lettie." He tried to remember who she was and failed. "I'm sorry to hear she's passing," he said. "She's not. About once a month, she gets it in her head that she's dying of whatever sniffle or ache she has, but she's as tough as leather. I have little doubt she'll outlive us all." "Did he speak to you?" She shook her head. "He's been acting strangely lately."
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Edward though the same thing. They had attended mass three times a week since returning from court, sitting in the family's closet, a small box-like room at the back of the chapel. The occupants were concealed by a carved wood screen, and Edward, like his uncle King Henry, used the time to catch up on paperwork. He kept half an ear focused on the sermon and tried to avoid rustling the papers too loudly. Since the restoration of the Church, Father Jacob's sermons had slowly devolved into histrionic diatribes against the sinners he saw all around him. He named no names- even he did not dare to go that far- but as he ranted about whores and women who consorted with devils, his eyes were fixed on the ducal closet where Bella sat. And after the service, Father Jacob would effusively greet Edward, but treated Bella as though she did not exist. For the life of him, Edward could not see how Bella had offended Father Jacob. What sin could he think she had committed? Bella was modest, kind-hearted (hadn't Father Jacob acknowledged that himself when he sent Anne Askew to them?) and behaved with perfect propriety in public. If he hadn't detested speaking to the priest so much, Edward might have discussed it with him, but he had decided that ultimately, it didn't matter if Father Jacob hated Bella or not. There was a tap and the door and Edward called for them to enter. One of the maids timidly stepped inside, keeping her eyes firmly affixed to the floor. Edward intimidated her a little. "Yourgraces," she blurted, making it all one word. "A messenger has come with a letter." She held it out, and her hand trembled slightly. Bella took it with a gentle smile. "Thank you, Janet," she said. She took a coin from a drawer and handed it to the maid. "Please, give this to the messenger. You may go." The girl bobbed a curtsey and dashed for the door. Bella handed Edward the letter without much interest, but gasped with delight when he opened it and said, "God's teeth, it's from Jasper!" "What does it say? What does it say?" Bella cried, and bounced a little in eagerness. "He says they made it to Calais, and intend to head for Geneva where there is a community of English Protestant exiles." Edward paused and read on, a slight frown tugging at his lips. "What?" Bella demanded.
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"Jasper being Jasper," Edward said with a shake of his head. "He's troubled that he has betrayed his vows to God." "But Anne told me that clerical celibacy isn't commanded in the Bible." Edward paled. "Bella! You've been learning the Protestant faith?" Bella looked abashed, though she obviously didn't understand why. "I just asked her a few questions, Edward. Not lessons, like Father Jasper gave to me." Edward made a concerted effort to calm his voice. "Bella, questions such as those are dangerous in these times." "I'm sorry," she said, her own face ashen. "I was just curious." "I understand. But, please, Bella, do not discuss these sort of things with anyone other than me. Not even Emmett, understand? I love my brother, but I fear for the path he treads." She nodded. "As you say." Her fear of the stake would make her agree to anything and his heart ached. A creature such as Bella should never live in fear. "But to answer your question, it does not matter whether clerical celibacy is commanded by God or not. Jasper made the vow and to him, that is sacred." "And he broke it for Alice," she said softly. "I hope he does not come to resent her for it." He shook his head. "Alice did not make him do anything. He made that decision himself; he makes it clear that he takes full responsibility for it. But it still torments him. According to his faith, he cannot not be forgiven until he rejects his sin and returns to the fold." "Do you think he could become a Protestant? Alice was until Queen Mary restored the Church. She could teach him all about it." "No, I think not. He wouldn't change his faith to just because the other permits him to do what he wants. He's not a Protestant at heart, rather an errant Catholic, and feels guilty for accepting the hospitality of the Protestant community." "Could we ever go to visit them?" Bella asked.
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Edward hesitated. "I cannot say, Bella. Perhaps someday, but you know the queen would not appreciate us travelling to visit an excommunicated priest. And Alice, a scandalous woman in her own right. Her betrothal would have to be anulled before her marriage to anyone would be recognized. As far as the Church is concerned, she is an adulteress." "I miss her," Bella confessed. "Anne is friendly, but she's not ... Well, she's not Alice, I suppose." Edward said nothing. He took Bella into his arms and held her, the only comfort he could offer.

"Your grace?" Bella heard the sound of a voice she hadn't heard in more than a year, since before Ward was born. "Rosalie?" Bella was in the attic, sorting through trunks of clothing that had been stored away by Edward's family. Too old to be re-fashioned into new garments, but too good to be thrown away, the garments had just been stored away. Bella was sorting through it to determine if any of it could be used to fashion clothing for the poor in the village, but much of it was made of materials which would violate the sumptuary laws. She dusted off her hands and rose, turning to face her sister-in-law. Rosalie sank into a deep curtsey. Bella lifted her and said softly, "You don't have to be formal with me, Rosalie. Call me 'Bella' or even 'Sister', should the thought take you." "Of that, I would never be worthy," Rosalie said. "Bella, I have to tell you ... I ... I wronged you." Her voice was low and she looked steadily at the floor as she spoke. "It's forgotten," Bella said. "I'm sorry as well. I lost my temper the day we met, and I've always regretted it." Rosalie shook her head and waved her hand dismissively. Bella heard a soft, choking sound and Rosalie's shoulders began to shake. Bella pulled her into her arms and Rosalie burst into heaving sobs. She rubbed Rosalie's back and made soothing sounds. Rosalie tore out of her arms and ran from the attic, her shoes clattering as she
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pounded down the stairs. Bella watched her go, and wondered if she should go after her. She sighed. Humans were so strange, thir emotional outbursts. Bella thought that it was probably due to their repression. 'Twasn't healthy. Anne came back into the attic with a large, empty basket. "Was that the Viscountess who nearly knocked me down the stairs?" "Aye," Bella sighed. Anne considered and then shrugged. She picked up the pile of old garments Bella had set aside. Bella wondered if Rosalie had spoken to Emmett yet, or if she'd gone to the nursery to see her daughter. Ellen should just be waking them from their naps about now. Yesterday, Margaret had called Bella "Mum" as Ward did, and Bella's heart had ached to have to correct her. Whatever the burden on Rosalie's heart was, Bella hoped she could let it go. Human lives were so short, far too short to spend in grief and regret. Anne was humming a hymn as she shook and folded the clothes. "Anne?" "Hmm?" "Has Emmett ... Is Emmett still a member of your congregation?" Anne smiled. "You would know for yourself if you would attend." Bell gave her a reproving look. "You know that isn't possible." "I suppose not, with your own chaplain heading the local Church courts." Bella gaped at her. "What?" "You did not know? He was appointed by Gardiner, personally." Bella shook her head. A church court, here? Nausea welled up in her throat and her heart hammered in her ears.
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"Anne, could you please finish this?" she asked, waving at the open trunk. "Certainly, Bella. Are you ill?" "I'm just ..." Bella staggered and had to sit down hastily on an old wooden chair. There was a hollow ringing in her ears. Bella took as deep of breaths as her pair of bodies would allow. Anne patted Bella's face with a cool damp cloth. Bella hadn't even realized she'd left to fetch it. "You suffer from such fear," Anne said softly. "Bella, if you would only trust in God-" Bella rubbed the cloth over her sweating forehead. "Don't you see, Bella? They can cause you bodily pain, but they cannot conquer your soul. They cannot take the most important thing from you." "The only thing that matters to me is my family," Bella said. "And they can be taken from me with only a few words." "You will be reunited with them in heaven," Anne replied. "Where there will be no tears-" Bella laid her hand on Anne's shoulder. "I want to be with them here. I want to see my children grow." At the mention of children, Anne flinched and tears trembled in her lashes. "I know I'll see them again. I know it." And silently, they held one another in the dusty gloom.

Bella was in the nursery playing with the children when Edward came to find her the next afternoon. Bella took one look at his face and told the children in a falsely cheerful voice to continue playing with Ellen while she talked with their father. She closed the door of their chamber behind them and leaned against it. Her insides felt frozen. "Is it Alice and Jasper?" she asked, and was surpised at how calm and steady her voice sounded.
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"No, Bella, not Alice or Jasper," Edward said. He took her hand in his. It's Anne, Bella. She's been arrested for heresy."

Historical notes: - A "spit boy" was a young boy who sat by the fire and turned the crank of the skewer on which mest was roasted, so it would be cooked evenly. It was one of the lowest positions in a noble household, but there was always the potential for promotion when the boy was older. Some housholds had spit-dogs, small dogs which ran on treadmills to trun the spit and the boy's job would then be to make sure the dog kept running.

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Chapter 28
Chapter Twenty-Eight

"Arrested?" Bella repeated. She walked unsteadily to their bed and sat down. It seemed the air in the room had been sucked out and Bella struggled to catch a breath. "She apparently knew it was coming," Edward said, and his voice sounded to Bella as chilling and grim as a stone crypt. "She left a note for you. One of the servants found it in her room after she was taken." He held it out to her but Bella made no move to take it. She stared at the folded paper blankly. Edward sat down beside her and opened it. He read it aloud. "Your grace, your kindness and care for me is something I could never repay. Though you are not of my faith, I know that you will be blessed and rewarded by God for your many virtues. Be strong in the Lord, dearest friend, and though it saddens me to part from you, I know we shall meet again in a better place. I knew well this day would come. I have more enemies than the hairs of my head, yet, with the help of the Lord, they will never overcome me. Your friend, in this life and the next, Anne Askew." "It's dated last week," Edward said. "What did she do?" Bella cried. She still didn't understand it, as often as Edward had tried to explain it. It was incomprehensible to her that a person like Anne was so dangerous that she had to die to protect the realm. "The same thing the silly girl has always done, Bella. She led Bible study groups and prayer meetings in the village. I only pray God that Emmett was not involved as well." Bella blinked and two fat tears rolled down the slope of her cheeks. "Is there aught we can do?" Edward put an arm around her shaking shoulders and hugged her to his side. "Father Jacob intends to examine her in the chapel one week hence. She's being kept in Sheriff Charles Swan's home, so she's comfortable for the time being; Swan and his wife are kind people. I'll be at the examination."
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"May I -?" He shook his head. "Best you stay out of this, Bella. For whatever reason, Father Jacob dislikes you and it wouldn't help Anne to have you present." Bella let out a shuddering breath. "We can't allow him to hurt her." "He can't," Edward assured her. "If Father Jacob finds her guilty of heresy, he would have to refer her to a higher court for trial. Don't worry yet, Bella. Anne is nearly as canny as Bess. She may yet escape this." Bella leaned her head against Edward's shoulder. "I can't bear this," she said. Edward felt a dart of fear like an icy dagger to the stomach. Bella's selkie magic that protected her during her pregnancy was beginning to fade. Some of it would linger as long as she nursed Ward, but she could fall into pining if she was stressed too greatly. And Edward didn't know what to do to stop it. At dinner that night, Emmett was grim and silent. He prodded at his food with a spoon, but ate little, nor did Bella. The servants were used to Bella declining food when she was unhappy or stressed, but Emmett was famed for his prodigious appetite that had remained constant through the worst points of his life, so to see him pushing the food around his plate instead of consuming it and calling for more was notable indeed. Those watching wondered if they ought to call for their friends to come and witness because they surely wouldn't be believed when they reported it later. Bella gave into Edward's pleadings and ate a serving of buttered parsnips, but she looked as though she wasn't sure they'd stay down. When the meal finally ended, Edward said to his brother, "Emmett? My chambers, please." Emmett nodded, and from his expression, he had already expected the summons. They gathered in the chairs near the empty fireplace. Edward sent the servants from the room, and kept his voice pitched low because he knew that everyone would have their ears pressed against the door. The arrest of Bella's lady's maid was exiting gossip material. "Emmett, you've heard what happened to Anne, I gather." "Aye." Emmett's whole being seemed to droop with grief. "'Tis the news on everyone's lips."
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"Answer me this, brother, and I'll not ask it again: How involved are you in this situation?" "Enough to burn beside her, if it comes to it," Emmett said. Bella let out a little cry of horror and pressed a hand over her mouth. Edward pulled her out of her chair into his lap and wrapped his arms around her as if to protect her from her fear. "I warned you and Bess warned you," Edward said, and his voice shook. "Saints, Emmett! Why did you court danger? Danger not only for yourself, but danger for our family." "All I can say, brother, is that I needed it." Emmett rubbed a hand over his face. "You needn't worry. I won't betray you or Bella. I swear it." Edward sighed. "You fool. No one can swear they'll withstand torture." "I'm a noble," Emmett argued. "By law, they can't torture me." Edward shook his head. "You are indeed a fool. They can do whatever they wish. Do you remember Lady Rochford?" Emmett blinked. "Jane Parker, Anne Boleyn's sister-in-law?" "Aye, that's the one. When she was charged with helping Queen Kathryn Howard meet secretly with her lover, she feigned madness because the law said that an insane person could not be executed. So the King passed a new law that allowed him to execute the mad and had her beheaded." Emmett winced. "Yes, I remember now." The three of them sat there in silence, each feeling helpless and terrified for those they loved, each willing to suffer themselves as long as it would spare the others. Each knowing that there was nothing to do but wait ... to hope ... to pray.

Bella sat beside the window staring out at the angry gray waves crashing against the rocks at the beach beyond the house. Rain pattered against the glass and thunder rumbled grumpily in the distance. Selkies loved stormy weather. When the waves were thrashing high, they rode them like little ships, tossed into the sky to fall
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back into the churning sea. She remembered once coming upon a shipwreck, the wooden vessel driven too close to the shore where it broke up upon the rocks. She and her sister had tugged the sailors in the water to the shore, one by one. (Bella had been bewildered at discovering that most sailors didn't know how to swim.) And afterward, they had dived down to the seabed to play with the things that had spilled out of the broken ship. She had been very young at the time and had limited experience with the human world so the treasures had fascinated her. She hadn't known at the time that humans would kill for the shiny metal and glittering rocks they tossed around so carelessly, nor that people died for owning these books, which became heretical based on the opinion of the monarch. She couldn't stop thinking about Anne. The examination was to take place tomorrow and Edward had promised to do all that he could. But when he came back, would he tell Bella that they were going to put Anne in a fire? It was a fate she wouldn't wish on the worst person in the world- not even the man who had destroyed her friend's pelt so she could not escape him- let alone kindly Anne. She leaned her head against the glass and wished she could pray like humans did. They believed that their god was involved in every aspect of human life and could be influenced by enough requests to alter the course of events. Her god was the overseer of nature. He watched his creatures play but did not intervene to control their actions. She wished Father Jacob had a selkie wife of his own. He needed love more than any person Bella had ever met, even including Queen Mary. Unlike Mary, he had allowed his emotional starvation to turn him mean. Maybe he was too far gone now and would reject love even if it was given to him. He reminded Bella of a wolf she'd once come upon in the woods, whose paw was caught in a trap. Bella attempted to free him, but every time she approached, he had tried to bite her. The wolf had finally passed out from blood loss and Bella had freed him and tended to his poor mangled paw. When he woke up, he gave her grateful licks, his eyes sheepish and apologetic. If Father Jacob were freed from whatever trap was hurting him, would he cease to lash out at those around him? Bella did not know. She didn't really understand evil; to her it was madness brought on by situations. Thinking along these lines called to mind another wounded creature. She rose and went down the hall to Rosalie's chambers, the chambers which rightfully belonged to the Duchess, Emmett had said, as if she ought to be offended by Rosalie's occupancy. She tapped on the door, but didn't wait for an answer. She went inside and found Rosalie lying on her bed, surrounded by jewels, wearing only a stained
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shift. Rosalie blinked at her as if she weren't sure it was really Bella or just an apparition wearing her face. Bella cleared a place for herself by shoving the jewels aside and sat down on the bed. "Whatever is troubling you, Rosalie, it's something that we can fix." Rosalie shook her head. "This is something that can't be fixed." Her voice was low and rusty from disuse and her blond hair was tangled and matted. She looked more like a stray dog than a Viscountess. "Well, then you have work to do," Bella said. Rosalie's brows met in confusion. "What?" "If you cannot be forgiven, you must spend your life making amends. Come on." Bella stood. "Up." "What?" "Up. Get out of that bed. You have work to do." Bella hopped off the bed and addressed Rosalie's maid, who was embroidering quietly in the corner. "Have a hot bath brought to the Viscountess." The maid gaped at her and turned to Rosalie. "Don't look at her," Bella said. "I'm the Duchess. Do as I say." The maid sank into a deep curtsey and scurried for the door. Bella got a hairbrush from Rosalie's table. She used it to point at a chair. "Sit." Rosalie sat. She had the look of someone who has just woken from a crazy dream and isn't certain yet that they were back in reality. Bella bundled Rosalie's thick cornsilk hair into one of her hands and started brushing out the tangles from the ends. "You wouldn't be doing this if you knew how badly I had wronged you," Rosalie said, her voice as dull and flat as a windswept plain. "Well, then you shall be very busy," Bella said crisply. "If you have done terrible wrongs, then you owe the world a great deal of good to make up for it."
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Two maids entered the room carrying a large oval copper tub. They covered the floor with a thick white canvas and laid the tub on top of it. They lined the tub with a sheet just as two more maids entered carrying buckets of steaming water, which they dumped in the tub. "Bring a pitcher of warmed vinegar for her hair," Bella called after them. After the tub had been filled by a rotating line of maids, Bella grabbed the hem of Rosalie's shift to pull it over her head. Rosalie clutched at it. "I can't bathe naked!" "Oh, don't be daft," Bella retorted. "When it's wet 'tis as transparent as wearing nothing. In you hop, before it gets cold." Rosalie surrendered and Bella whisked off her shift. She obediently sat down in the tub and two maids set to scrubbing her. Bella washed Rosalie's hair herself, something which astonished the maids. She ran the warmed vinegar through it as she rinsed it. "Twill make your hair shiny and soft," she told Rosalie. When the Viscountess emerged, the water was grimy and her skin was once again a healthy pink. They wrapped her in a drying sheet and sat her in front of the fire, which Bella endured for Rosalie's sake. She'd been told so many times that humans got sick if they got wet that she was starting to believe it. She brushed Rosalie's hair, humming a selkie love song. The maids scooped it out in the same buckets that had been used to carry it in and when the tub was sufficiently lightened, they carried it out of the room, along with the sheets and tarp. Bella continued to brush Rosalie's hair, pausing now and then to work out a snarl. It was a while before she realized that Rosalie was silently crying. Bella bit her lip, wondering what she should do and finally decided just to keep bushing. "My mother used to brush my hair like this," Rosalie said. "She said that my hair was the most beautiful hair she'd ever seen." Her voice shook and cracked with emotion. "You loved your mother very much," Bella commented. "Yes, I did. Is your mother still alive, Bella?" "Yes." Bella thought of her mother, likely somewhere warm and tropical right now, snoring on a sun-baked rock, and smiled at the mental image. "I thought losing my mother was the worst thing I would ever face," Rosalie said. "Until I saw myself for what I really was. That was the worst moment of my life."
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"You can change," Bella said. "If you don't like what you saw, you be someone else, walk a different path." "How?" Rosalie gave a humorless laugh. "I'll show you," Bella said. They fell silent for a long moment. Bella continued to brush through Rosalie's hair. As it dried, it became waves of soft, shimmering gold. Rosalie's mother had been right about its beauty. What a pity human women had to bind it up and hide it once they were married! "My mother's hair was just a few shades darker," Rosalie mused. "And hers had a curl to it that I always envied." "The sel- My people say that God ran out of materials before he made blond hair. He used the earth for hair like mine, fire for redheads like Edward, and when he came to your color, he reached up pulled down a few pieces of the sun and spun it into silk." Rosalie smiled faintly. "No wonder little Elizabeth used to beg for you to tell her stories before bed." "Margaret likes them too," Bella said gently. "I'm sure she'd love it if you told her stories." Rosalie shook her head. "You be her mother. I cannot. She deserves better than me." Bella didn't press. Rosalie wasn't ready yet, but if Bella's plan worked, she would be, soon. She braided Rosalie's hair and stepped back. "There. All done." She gestured the maids over. "Let's get her dressed. Something simple, mind you." Rosalie was stuffed and stitched into a gown of pink velvet. "Very good." Bella held up Edward's glass mirror. Rosalie touched her cheek as if she hadn't seen her own reflection for a long time. And she did look different, thinner, her eyes hollow with despair. Bella hustled her out the door and down the stairs. She had called for her litter and it was waiting outside for her, the bearers standing patiently in the pouring rain. Bella and Rosalie slid a pair of chopines over their slippers and carefully clomped outside, protected from the rain under a little canopy, carried by the litter
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bearers, shaped like a roof with a pole at each corner. Bella smiled at all of them and climbed inside, Rosalie sliding in after her. They were lifted and the litter began its familiar, gentle sway. Bella squirmed around in the cushions until she was comfortable. Rosalie asked, "Where are we going?" "To the village," Bella said. "I have a task for you." "Bella, I don't want-" "It doesn't matter what you want," Bella interrupted. "You said you've done wrong. Well, now you have to make up for it." Rosalie bit her lip and nodded, her eyes downcast. The litter stopped in front of the poorhouse. The bearers put together the canopy for them and they trudged inside under its shelter. Bella hated the chopines; she always felt like she was going to fall and break her neck. Rosalie staggered along beside her, so maybe she had the same problem. Bella grabbed her shoulder for balance and Rosalie gave a little chuckle, the first genuine laugh Bella had heard from her in ... how long? Maybe ever. Inside the building was a bustle of activity. Emmett was in the center of the room, a sheaf of papers in his hand and he was directing the repairmen as they worked. Edward had given him the job of repairing the poorhouse and he had taken it on enthusiastically. The building was being refurbished, and if the rain ever let up, they planned to expand it and build a two-storied dormitory. Everyone froze in place when the Duchess and the Viscountess entered the room. They dropped into bows and curtseys. Bella gestured them to rise, but her eyes were on Emmett and Rosalie. Emmett seemed like he hadn't even taken a breath since his wife entered the room. Now, he bowed and Rosalie responded in kind. "What are you doing here?" he asked her. His voice was calm and even and lacked, to Bella's relief, any hostility. "I'm not quite sure," Rosalie said with a small, timid smile. "She's our new teacher," Bella announced. Bella had been appalled that the small children were working like adults in the
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poorhouse. By the rules, they had to, and they were certainly used to working alongside their parents when there was employment to be had. Twelve hour shifts weren't unusual. And so Bella had decreed that the children's work would be school work. Ostensibly, once they learned their letters, they would be employed as copyists, but Bella didn't expect that to be a realistic goal. But children who learned to read and do simple mathematics would have wider employment prospects in the future. A few of the ladies from the village had performed the first lessons, but now the children would have a dedicated teacher. Rosalie looked appalled. "You were little Elizabeth's governess and you taught her her letters. You can do the same with more children." "But they're ..." Rosalie's voice faded. "Common? Yes, they are. You said your sin was great, thus your task is great as well. Didn't your Jesus say, 'Whatever ye do for the least among you, you do for me '?" Bella wasn't sure she had the quote right, but that was the gist of it. "My Jesus?" Rosalie said, arching a brow. "Everyone's Jesus," Bella said, tossing her hands in exasperation. She strode into the small side room they were using as a classroom for the children and the village woman who'd been roped into teaching today looked up gratefully. She was barely literate herself and was floundering in the task. The children saw the Duchess and scrambled out of their seats to curtsey and bow. Most of them had never seen a noble, even from a distance, and so they openly stared in awe. Bella gave them a little curtsey in return. "Children, this is Viscountess Lisle. She will be teaching you now. You may call her 'Lady Lisle'." She turned and gave Rosalie a peck on the cheek and said meaningfully, "Get to work." Rosalie nodded. She went to the front of the room where a chair sat beside a small table. She picked up the slate. Bella smiled and closed the door.

The next afternoon, Bella forced herself to stay busy. She felt sick with worry for Anne and what was happening at the examination, but tried to force her thoughts
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away from it every time they wandered back, but it was like trying to shoo flies away from a picnic. Last night, Edward had taken her swimming, insisting upon it, even when she demurred, as if he thought it was a medicine that would strengthen her for the coming ordeal. He'd even urged her to make sure she found some fresh, juicy kelp. When she came back to the shore, she saw that he had made a large heart in the sand, and that sweet little gesture had meant more to her than the swim itself. Bella spent the day exploring the deeper recesses of the attic, sorting out items which could be reused by the villagers. She worked hard, dragging out crates and chests to where the light was better. She ignored the alarmed maids' protests that they would call a footman to move whatever the Duchess wanted. Bella supposed it did seem odd to people used to nobles who wouldn't even refill their own wine goblet. She pushed aside a sheet and let out a little scream when she found a man standing here. She laughed softly when she realized it was just an old suit of armor. "My grandfather's," Edward said from behind her. "King Henry VII. It may have belonged to his father before him. My grandfather was a penny-pincher." Bella put her arms around his neck. "Edward, I'm so glad to see you." He smiled. "So are the maids. They fear you've gone mad, dragging around all these crates." There was an old bench under the window and Edward led Bella to it. She looked around and didn't see any of the maids. Edward must have sent them from the room. "What happened?" "Father Jacob released Anne, but he's ordered her to return to her husband," Edward said. "Just as I suspected, she was too clever to give him the straight answers that he could have used to condemn her. He shouted at her for answering in 'parables' as he called them, but he couldn't get her to say anything that he could use to condemn her." Bella sagged in relief. "Is it over?" "I fear not, Bella. She won't go back to Kyme and he won't take her back unless she abjures her faith. She'll be called up again for refusing to obey the orders of the Church. And God help her if she can't outwit her examiner next time."
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..

Historical notes: - "Silly" meant confused or pitiful. We retain the usage when we say someone was "knocked silly". John Knox, in his book of martyrs, calls the victims of the Guernsey burnings "silly women", and he meant that they a were sad and pitiful sight. When Edward calls Anne a "silly girl" in this chapter, he means it in the same way we would say, "poor girl". - Sailors often didn't know how to swim, as Bella notes. It was thought that if their ship sank, it was better to drown quickly than to prolong their agony and die of exposure/dehydration in the middle of the ocean. - Chopines were those stilt-like shoes I mentioned in a previous chapter. You can see a picture of a pair on my Facebook page in my "Selkie Wife" photo album. The link is in my profile.

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Chapter 29
Chapter Twenty-Nine

Anne returned to Cullen Hall, and though her face was as serene as usual, her eyes had rings of tiredness below. Bella bounded down the stairs and grabbed Anne in a fierce hug. "You scared me nigh to death!" Bella scolded her. "My apologies, your grace," Anne said wryly. "I'll try to prevent being arrested again." Bella hugged her again and said nothing. According to Edward, another arrest was inevitable unless he could convince Kyme to take her back. That's where Edward had gone today. Kyme was staying with his cousin, Peter of Lansby, and Edward had told Bella before setting off that he intended to offer Kyme his position of almoner back, if he would accept Anne again. "But she doesn't want to go back to him," Bella protested. "She has to," Edward said grimly. "It's the only way to save her. We'll talk her into it by pointing out that she'll have her children with her again. Kyme can move in here, in Cullen Hall. They don't have to share the same rooms, just as long as they're under the same roof." But Kyme was adamant. He would only accept Anne back if she submitted to him and abjured her heresy. Edward came home disappointed and frustrated. Even the subtle hint of a bribe hadn't made Kyme more willing. "I don't know what to do," Edward said to Bella, late that evening as they lay in their bed. "Anne will not recant to save her life. She won't even do it for her children." Bella didn't understand that. She would have agreed to swear to anything they asked of her in order to be reunited with her family. They were just words. What did it matter? There was a loud knock on their chamber door and one of the maids scrambled up
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from her pallet to answer it. Bella heard the wails as soon as the door was opened and she scooped her discarded shift from the foot of the bed. She slipped through the curtains. A bewildered-looking Ellen was holding little Elizabeth's hand as the girl sobbed hysterically, her face bright red from the effort. "Saints! What is the matter, little one?" Bella asked, crouching down in front of little Elizabeth, who immediately threw her arms around Bella and sobbed into her neck. "A bad dream, your grace," said Ellen. "She wouldn't stop crying until she had seen you. Pray, pardon for disturbing your rest." "Fire," Elizabeth sobbed. "Y- you were in a f-fire, mother." "'Tis no matter," Bella assured Ellen quietly, and gestured for her to go. She returned to the bed, where Edward had hastily donned his shirt, and sat down on the edge with the weeping little girl. She rocked her in her arms and hummed to her until Elizabeth had calmed to hiccups and sniffles. Bella laid Elizabeth beside her father and crawled into the bed. The servants were settling back into sleep. Their soft breathing and the patter of rain on the windows were the only sounds in the still room. "What did you dream that upset you so?" Edward asked Elizabeth. She had her thumb in her mouth and her eyes looked huge in her tiny, pale face as she solemnly regarded him. "Fire," Elizabeth said. She pulled her thumb from her mouth, but kept it hovering beside her mouth, waiting to return. "Fire everywhere. Mother was in the fire." Bella shuddered and held her closer. A dream like that would probably send her weeping, too. "Who has been telling you about fire?" Edward demanded. Elizabeth's eyes widened and she stuck her thumb back into her mouth. "Who was it?" he asked insistently. Elizabeth whimpered and hid her face against Bella's chest. "Edward," Bella said softly.
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"I want to know who has been filling her head with talk about burning," Edward said. His cheekbones had a dull red flush of anger and his green eyes glittered like gems, cold and hard. "Edward, stop," Bella said. Her huge, dark eyes pleaded with him silently. Edward surrendered. He supposed he would find out later, when the child was not so upset. And there would be hell to pay for whomever had scared her so badly. Bella stroked Elizabeth's brown curls. "Are you ready to go back to your bed?" "No!" Elizabeth cried and clung to Bella as if she felt she was being cast back into the land of bad dreams. "All right, Poppet," Edward said, with a concerted effort to make his voice as calm and soothing as possible. "You may tarry here." He pulled the covers up to Elizabeth's chin. She yawned and tucked her thumb back into her mouth, asleep within moments of closing her eyes. "Poor little babe," Bella murmured. "Pity the one I find who has been filling her head with such things,'" Edward said grimly. "Edward, she could have picked it up anywhere. There's talk of the burnings on everyone's lips." They were burning three or four at the same time now and the church courts were handing down convictions every day. Edward looked disgruntled, but he said, "I suppose so. It just tears at me to see her so upset over things she cannot understand." "I cannot understand them, either." Bella looked down at the sleeping little girl and pitied her for having to grow up in such an uncertain world. "I want to protect her from this," Edward mused. "But I do not know how I can." "I know," Bella said. "You are a good father, Edward." Edward stroked his daughter's curly hair. "Only since you came."

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A few days later, Bella took her litter down to the poorhouse. Edward had a question for Emmett regarding the management of the estate. He had told Bella what he wanted to know, but it was so complicated- something to do with leases and taxes- that she had given up hope of memorizing it, and said she'd just ask for Emmett to meet Edward in his office. She wanted to see how the refurbishing was going, anyway. It had been a week since she last had time to visit it. Yesterday had been court day for both Edward and Bella. It had gotten much larger since the Duke and Duchess had taken deeper interest in their estates and the people now felt more confident in approaching them with their problems. It seemed the more they did, the more there was to be done. So many people came that the Duchess now held her own court in a rarely-used room that everyone referred to as the portrait gallery because paintings of Edward's ancestors and relatives covered the walls, all of them dour and stiff in their gem-encrusted finery. A portrait of Edward's uncle, King Henry VIII, held pride of place on the wall behind a small dais where Bella's throne-like chair was positioned, and above her head was a small, red velvet canopy, embroidered with Edward's coat of arms. Bella would have vastly preferred to conduct it casually, but her servants were fearful for her dignity. When she went to the village, she generally took a table at the pub and ate bread and the publican's wife's duly famous leek soup while the women approached her informally with their needs. The awe of seeing a duchess bounce a peasant's baby on her knee and let him chew on her jewels had worn off and they were insistent that Bella remind her people of her rank and the obeisance owed to her, lest they not respect her as they should. On the other side of the litter, Anne sat with a basket of small shoes. Going through the household accounts, Bella had discovered that that Cullen Hall had its own cobbler. Somehow, he had been forgotten; Edward said he couldn't remember ever ordering a pair of shoes made or repaired by him, but suggested that maybe some of the rest of the household might have employed his services. Bella found the cobbler in a dusty shop near the stables, where he had made saddles and bridles for the horses out of lack of anything else to do. Bella had set him to making children's shoes because she had seen so many little bare feet in the village, and she was pleased with the results. The man was talented and had stitched whimsical designs on the shoes that she knew the children would love. The bearers set the litter down in front of the poorhouse and erected the rain canopy. Anne helped Bella don her chopines and held onto her as she climbed from the litter and clomped up the steps. She noted that the outside of the building badly needed paint, but that was a job which couldn't be done until the blasted rain stopped.
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Inside, she found Emmett wandering through the tables, watching as the residents worked. Here, they made baskets, picked oakum, embroidered handkerchiefs, small handicrafts that could be sold to help support the cost of running the poorhouse. The cobbler had offered to teach his craft to the men (she had to remember to tell that to Emmett) and once the rain stopped and they could begin construction on the new wing, they could also learn carpentry. She gave him the message and then went over to the classroom and peeked in the door. She found Rosalie sitting on the floor, surrounded by children and holding a baby in her lap as she read them a story from the Bible. The children were silent and rapt. "An amazing sight to behold, isn't it?" Emmett said softly. He had come up behind her and was gazing through the crack at his estranged wife, his expression thoughtful. "Aye, that it is," Bella replied. "Whatever you said to her, Bella, I can but marvel at its results. 'Tis not only the teaching. She's doing much in the village as well, using her own funds to pay for it." Emmet's voice held a hint of pride. "They were afraid to approach her at first because they remembered her sharp tongue, but she has changed, Bella. I would not have believed it, had I not seen it." "You have, too," Bella said. "Perhaps you should see if the people you are now would get along." "I treated her badly," Emmett said, and shook his head. "I was a drunken fool, who ignored her in the days and used her like a whore at night." "Yes, and she was selfish and cruel. You both have much to make up to one other." Bella paused for a moment and then took his hand in her own. "Emmett, your daughter needs her family. You owe it to Margaret to try." A bell rang in the main room. "Dinner time," Emmett said, but he did not leave the spot or take his eyes from Rosalie. Behind them, the workers began to clear the tables so they could be used for the meal. Rosalie closed the book and told the children they would continue after dinner. She handed the baby to one of the little girls, and the children scampered to the door and scattered to find their parents. Rosalie saw Emmett and Bella and sank into a curtsey. Emmett bowed to her. "My lady, I wondered if you would like to join
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me for dinner in the tavern?" Rosalie pinkened, but she nodded. He offered her his arm and she took it timorously. She glanced over at Bella, who widened her eyes at Rosalie and made a shooing motion with her hands. "You can use my chopines," Bella offered. "No need," Emmett said and scooped Rosalie up into his arms as if she weighed no more than a child. Rosalie squealed and threw her arms around his neck. The residents stared, their lunch forgotten momentarily. Everyone knew the Viscount and Viscountess were married, of course, but they had rarely seen them so much as speak to one another. Jaws dropped as everyone watched Emmett carry her out the front door. Then someone whistled and Emmett stopped to toss a grin over his shoulder. Rosalie blushed and the room broke into good-natured laughter and cheers with a few bawdy jokes tossed in for good measure. They did not return after dinner, so Bella took over the class until the end of the workday a few hours later. She helped find correctly fitting shoes for those who had none and stored the rest of them away in a supply room to distribute later in the village itself. She remembered something she'd wanted to check on: how the new bed ticks were holding up. She'd had them made from a heavy hemp cloth and wanted to see if they were sturdy as she had hoped. No one had to sleep on the bare floor any longer, but as word spread of the conditions here, more people arrived every day. More ticks would have to be made soon, but if the other weren't durable, she'd have to choose another material. During the day, the ticks were stacked in one of the bunk rooms. As she approached, she heard a female voice. She'd been so wrapped up in thinking about Rosalie and Emmett and then with teaching that she hadn't noticed that Anne was no longer with her. Her voice was coming from one of the bunk rooms, the door partially closed. Bella peered inside. Anne was speaking to a small group of women who sat on the ticks in a semi-circle around her. "It is right that in our prayers we call unto God to inscribe it on our foreheads, the true meaning of communion. For Saint Paul says, The letter slayeth; the Spirit is it only that giveth life. Mark well the sixth chapter of John, where all is applied unto faith: note also the fourth chapter of St. Paul's Second Epistle to the Corinthians, and in the end, you shall find, that the things which we can see with our eyes are temporal, but those that are unseen are everlasting. I find in the Scripture that Christ took the bread and gave it to his disciples, saying, Take, eat, this is my
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body which shall be broken for you; meaning that his own body would be broken and the bread was only a sign or sacrament. He used the same type of parable when he said he would break down the temple, and in three days build it up again, meaning his own body as the temple, as St. John writes, and not the stony temple itself. So that the bread is but a remembrance of his death, or a sacrament of thanksgiving for it, where we are knit together with him by a communion of Christian love. Unfortunately, there are many that cannot perceive the true meaning of this." Anne smiled at her audience, but Bella's heart hammered so fast that she thought she would be sick. Denying that communion was the literal body and blood of Jesus was enough to convict a person of heresy. If any of these women reported it ... She had to stop this. Bella pushed open the door. The women gasped when they saw Bella and scrambled to their feet, guilt written on their faces as they sank into low curtseys. "Anne, we must go," Bella said. She would pretend she hadn't heard anything and hoped these women would pretend they had not heard it too. They went to the doorway and Bella lifted each foot in turn so that Anne could slip on her chopines and then she held onto Bella to help balance her as she walked down the steps to the litter. It wasn't until they were safely inside and the curtains drawn that Bella said to her, "Anne, you are courting death with your words." The fear still stuck with her, making her stomach churn and her heart pound. "My time may be short," Anne said. "I have to reach as many souls as I can in what time I have left." "Saints, Anne, just reading the Bible to them-" "I didn't read it to them," Anne interrupted, a little smile tugging at her lips. "I have it memorized. 'Tis against the law to read it, but not to recite it." Bella stared at her. "You memorized the Bible?" "Just the New Testament," Anne said, as if that lessened the accomplishment. "I knew when Mary took the throne, we would be banned from reading the Scriptures, so I set my mind to the task and, with God's help, I retained the words." Bella was impressed, but she had to return to the more pertinent topic. "Anne, I don't want to lose you. What you said in there- If Father Jacob hears of it, he'll have
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you dragged back before the court." "My fate is in God's hands," Anne said. "He commanded his disciples to go out unto the world and preach the gospel, and that is what I must do." "I must tell Edward of this and he will be angry you used the poorhouse for your church," Bella warned. Anne nodded. "Of course you must tell him. You are his wife, after all, and you keep no secrets from one another. Oh, Bella, I wish that God had seen fit to give me a husband like yours. But perhaps if he had, I would have tarried home as a contented wife rather than preaching his word." "I have seen many a marriage start with unhappy circumstance that turned into a union of love," Bella said. "Did you want to marry Edward?" Anne tilted her head curiously. "No," Bella admitted. "Not at first. I did not want a life of this." Bella indicated her bejeweled dress. Anne smiled. "But it seems you have made the life of a duchess into what you wish." "Somewhat," Bella picked at the pearls on her sleeves. "I would like to live in a little cottage by the sea, just Edward and our children, with none dependent on us, and none watching what we do." Anne laughed lightly. "That is not a life that exists for anyone. We are all part of the chain of society, ordained by God." Bella said nothing. One of the pearls was loose, she noted, and plucked it off. She rolled it between her fingers absently. "I saw the royal messenger arrive this morning," Anne said "Aye, bearing a letter from the Queen," Bella replied. "Her letters are hard to read. She is the most unhappy of women." The paper was always splotched with tears. Mary was lonely, and she hinted broadly that she wished Bella and Edward would return to court, but had not yet made it a command. They were expecting that would happen at any time.
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The letter had also contained the "sad tidings" that their cousin Courtenay was dead, though when Edward had read that section of the letter, he had commented to Bella that Mary and his mother were likely the only two people in the world who would shed a tear for his demise. Mary, who still refused to reconcile with her sister unless Elizabeth "confessed", felt like her family was dwindling and Edward said she probably mourned that more than she actually grieved for the loss of the pompous jacknape. After his involvement in Wyatt's rebellion, Mary had been forced to punish Courtenay, and she had chosen to "exile" him to the continent, which really amounted to an extended pleasure trip for him. She had not seized his estates or title, and so he was able to enjoy the hospitality of other European nobles, who hosted him for fear of offending his cousin, the Queen of England. Mary had been sent a report from the English ambassador to Venice, which stated that Courtenay was felled by a fever he contracted from being rained on while out hunting with his falcon and not changing out of his wet clothing. As with any death of a young, seemingly-healthy man, poison was suspected, but could not be proven. Bella privately thought that it was more likely he'd died of the French Pox he was rumored to have contracted. "Is the King to come back soon?" Bella shook her head. "She writes to him almost every day, begging him to return, but he keeps putting her off with excuses." From a letter from Princess Elizabeth, they had heard that Mary was distraught over rumors of his infidelities and had ordered the painting that she had mooned over before their wedding to be taken down, unable to bear looking at his likeness when her heart was breaking. "I hope he stays in Spain where he belongs!" Anne spat. "It is he who has brought this foul Inquisition to our shores." Bella shook her head. "The blame does not fall on him alone," Bella said. "Mary thinks the bad harvests are a sign of God's displeasure that she has not cleansed the land of heretics. The longer it goes on, the firmer her conviction becomes." "One day, this will be righted," Anne vowed. "And it will be papists facing the stake." "I wish none faced that fate," Bella said bluntly. "A man's conscience should be between him and God."
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Anne blinked. "You do not believe in heresy?" "I do not believe it is my task to decide what constitutes heresy." "Bella, there's a right way and a wrong way," Anne argued. "Heresy spreads if left unchecked. Gullible minds-" "Should be judged by God, and God alone," Bella said with finality. Anne opened her mouth to say something more and then thought the better of it. Bella supposed what she had said was probably heretical in and of itself and hoped the bearers had not overheard, but then wearily dismissed the thought. She was tired of it, tired of having to watch over her shoulder, to remember that there were servants in every room, cocking an eager ear to collect material for gossip. They arrived back at the house and went through the whole routine of the chopines. She hated the things, but she knew from experience that her skirts grew uncomfortably heavy if water soaked into their hems. Once inside, Bella kicked them off and headed for the stairs. She wanted to see her children. She wanted to look into eyes innocent of intrigue and prejudice. She wanted to play for a little while, to pretend to be carefree again, even if just for a few moments, but what she saw when she opened the nursery door made her stop in her tracks and gasp. Emmett and Rosalie were seated side-by-side on Ward's bed of state. (As the son of a Duke, Ward had a massive, grand bed with a cloth-of-gold counterpane and red velvet curtains embroidered with his family crest. It was rarely used; Ward usually slept on a small pallet bed unless Bella wanted to nap with him.) Margaret was in Rosalie's arms. Tears streamed unchecked down Rosalie's cheeks. Emmett reached up and gently brushed them away and then he drew Rosalie's face to his for a kiss so tender and sweet that Bella wanted to weep, too. She backed away, unnoticed by the couple or the baby, who chewed happily on one of the frogs of her father's surcoat. It was with a bounce in her step and a smile on her face that Bella closed the door and headed to little Elizabeth's room. ..

Historical notes:

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- "Ticks" were mattresses, essentially just a bag stuffed with hay or (for the rich) feathers. - Anne's words are taken from two letters she wrote, which I have edited slightly for readability. - The "French Pox" is what people of the time called syphilis. The "treatment" for it was mercury, both ingesting it and applying it topically.

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Chapter 30
Chapter Thirty

Bella was sleeping soundly by his side, but Edward was wide awake. Anxiety churned in his gut and his mind was a dizzying whirl of thoughts. At times like this, he used to walk, but the rain lashed against the windows and made that option distinctly unpleasant. Then, like a sunbeam breaking through clouds, he realized where he needed to go and what he needed to do. He slipped from the bed. Bella muttered and her hand patted the mattress, searching for him. Edward lumped up the blankets in the approximate size of his body and pushed it toward her. She happily snuggled against the mound. Edward chuckled softly and pulled his shirt over his head and then donned his dressing gown. The fire had burned down to orange coals. He never let the servants build one that was very large because, even after all this time, Bella was uncomfortable having a fire in the room. He took one of the long twigs from the basket on the mantle and and poked it into the coals until it ignited. He carefully transferred the flame to a candle and then tossed the twig into the fireplace. He slowly, carefully, stepped over the sleeping servants and crept from the chamber, his hand cupped around the candle flame to protect it from drafts. He made a detour to the children's rooms to check on them and found them all sleeping soundly. He looked down at little Elizabeth, her tousled brown curls spilling over the pillow, her thumb tucked securely into her mouth, and realized it was time for him to start searching for a husband for her. His own marriage had been arranged at about her age. It sometimes took a while to find a suitable match, especially since the number of sufficiently high-born nobles was lamentably small. If only Queen Mary had given birth to a son ... He sighed. Mary would turn forty next year and a prince was unlikely, especially since Phillip continued to put off returning to England. He hated the idea of having to marry Elizabeth to a foreigner, but it seemed like he'd have no other choice. His niece, Margaret, slept on the pallet beside her. Elizabeth was very attached to Margaret, and could usually be found carrying her around like a living doll. She had insisted that Margaret move into her room, and helped Ellen take care of her. Ellen she tolerated, Rosalie she did not. She was very jealous of Rosalie's new attention to
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Margaret and pouted the entire time Rosalie was playing with "her" baby. He should probably speak to Emmett about arranging a match for Margaret, too. But Emmett was busy these days, courting Rosalie. It was the talk of all of southern England, for who had ever heard of an absurd notion like a man courting his own wife? The Viscount had declared that he and his wife had married before they knew one another properly, and so he was courting her like a maiden that had caught his eye, with the stated goal of getting her to fall in love with him. Edward shook his head and chuckled. Emmett sometimes had strange ideas, but there was little doubt that Rosalie was pleased by Emmet's courtship. She blushed like a young girl whenever he entered the room. Edward went into Ward's chamber, stepping over the sleeping guard in the hallway (and making a mental note to chide him for his lack of diligence). It wasn't often that Ward slept in here. Bella usually preferred to have the baby in their chamber. He was sprawled on his little pallet beside his huge bed of estate. Ellen had told Edward that the "big bed" scared Ward for some reason, and he would never willingly lie in it unless his mother had chosen to take a nap there with him. Edward understood, even if Ellen didn't. He remembered how his own bed had seemed massive and terrible, like a cave or the yawning jaws of some beast waiting to consume him. He hadn't been able to sleep with the curtains closed until he was ten years old. He crouched down beside the boy and set his candlestick on the ground beside him. He tugged up the blankets Ward had kicked off and smoothed his soft hair. This small head would one day have to don the ducal coronet, and his shoulders would have to bear the burden of ruling the estates. He only hoped he could find Ward a wife who would be as supportive and helpful as Bella, but he knew how unlikely that was. Bella was special, and not only because she was a selkie, but because of that warm, soft, expansive heart of hers that sought to make everyone around her happy. He went back into the hallway and down the stairs. There was a lone footman awake in the foyer who hastily rose to his feet when he saw the Duke approaching. "Y-your grace," he stammered, and bowed. Being assigned to night watch duty, he had never actually met the Duke or any of the family and never expected to. "You may return to your post," Edward told him with a wave of a hand. "I need no assistance." He left the young man behind, staring in thunderstruck awe. He would tell his grandchildren one day that the Duke of Cullen had actually spoken to him. Edward went into the portrait gallery where Bella held court and stopped before the painting of his uncle, the king. Henry stood in his characteristic pose of feet
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planted wide apart, his fists on his hips, the layers of velvet and fur of his doublet and surcoat making his shoulders seem a yard wide. To the right, his son, the young King Edward, had tried to mimic this pose in his portrait, and there was something terribly sad about seeing that thin, frail little boy trying to fill his father's massive shoes. "It's all fallen apart, Uncle Hal," he said. "England is drowning in the mire that you created ..." If Henry hadn't spent the country into penury building palace after palace ... If Henry hadn't broken his daughter's heart and spirit ... He held the candle out and it illuminated the double portrait of his mother and father. Both of them wore black velvet covered in thousands of pearls. His mother held a small orb in her hand, a symbol of her short tenure as Queen of France. He chuckled. She never let anyone forget that. At court, she had always been known as "the French Queen," long after she had been forgotten by the French themselves. There was no portrait of his father's next wife, Catherine Willoughby, and he wondered if it had bothered her to not be immortalized as part in the family in this fashion. Like the young king, had she struggled with trying to fill a pair of shoes much too large for her? She had been only fourteen when she married his father, but she had tried to be a good Duchess, and she had taken an active interest in her new "sons" and their education. In the dim illumination from his flickering candle, he could see more ancestors from his father's side, stretching all the way back to his great-great-grandfather, John Brandon. From his mother's side, he had portraits of the Beauforts, the Woodvilles and a few of the Tudors, but the Tudors were a rather upstart Welsh family, without illustrious ancestors that had been worthy or wealthy enough to be immortalized in portraits. One day, he mused, his and Bella's portraits would hang here, to be marveled over by their descendents just as he was now looking at ancestors long dead, but not forgotten. Bella had told him a couple of times that her dream would be for the two of them and their children to live in a little cottage by the sea, beholden to no one, responsible for only themselves. But this room represented why that would never be possible. He had a duty to his bloodline, both because of his ancestors and for his descendents. It was his responsibility to hold the title, and the estates that went with it, and pass it on to his son in even better condition than he had received it. It was this duty that had been drummed into him since birth. He continued on, winding his way through the darkened house, until he reached his destination: the chapel. He was surprised to find it empty; the host, exposed in its gold and glass monstrance, was never supposed to be left alone. He dipped his
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fingers in the fount of holy water at the back of the chapel and crossed himself. He went up the aisle to the kneeling bench in front of the altar. He gazed at the Eucharist and thought of how many had died over what to call that bit of bread, and that both sides of the argument felt that the blood spilled on its behalf pleased God. Perhaps he was being influenced by Bella's opinions, but he thought that God would be better pleased by his people living good lives than dying over doctrine. He bowed his head and his mind struggled for form a proper prayer, but the words would not come. He tried a Hail Mary, but he stumbled to a halt when another worry darted across his mental path. Then he recalled what Father Jasper no, simply "Jasper" now - had once said about prayer. "True prayer is not a formalized recitation," he'd said, "When you open your heart to God and talk to him as you are talking to me, that is when you will hear his voice in your heart." That's what Edward did. He opened his mind and poured out his fears, his stress, his worries and cares. He hoped the Almighty was able to make sense of his tangled thoughts, but above all, he repeated again and again: "Please do not take Bella from me." He felt he could withstand anything but that. He heard a soft sound behind him and turned. Father Jacob stood there, his face burning red and guilt written on his features. Whatever he'd been doing instead of staying with the host, he was embarrassed by it. Edward pretended not to notice. He crossed himself and rose to his feet. "Good evening, Father Jacob." "Good evening, your grace," Father Jacob said. "I am sorry I disturbed your prayer." "I was done," Edward said. "Please, stay for a moment and talk with me," Father Jacob said. For once, Edward did not mind. He had questions for the priest. Father Jacob walked with Edward over to the marble bench between the two tombs of Edward's parents and they both sat down. Father Jacob opened his mouth to speak but Edward cut him off: "Tell me, why did you send Anne Askew to our household when Kyme threw her out?" "I thought she would be disobedient and disruptive to your household and teach you a lesson on the dangers of giving such persons shelter," Father Jacob said. "First Ellen, Lady Jane's nurse - with whom you have trusted you children's care! - and then that obnoxious Kat Ashley, both secret Protestants, I'm sure of it! At the time, I had no idea how deep Mistress Askew's heresy ran. Both Kyme and I thought she
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was just being defiant, which is why I advised him to turn her out of the house in the first place." Edward stared at him. "The church, through you, told him to cast her out, and now threatens punishment if she does not return?" "We believed the shock of being thrown from her home would be enough to bring her to her senses," Father Jacob explained. "But she is a stiff-necked and stubborn woman. I had hoped that when you noted her faults, you would see the faults in your own wife." "I have never understood why you hate Bella so," Edward said. "Where is the fault in her? She behaves as a Christian woman should. She is modest, obedient and Catholic in her faith." Father Jacob shook his head sadly. "You do not see it. There is none so blind as those who refuse to see. The situation with Kyme is a prime example. You dismissed him because you did not like how he distributed the alms, and now you hand over the funds, which should go to the church, to your wife. In her vanity and arrogance, she thinks she knows better where the money should be spent than learned men." "If you are unhappy with the sum that I tithe to the church, you have but to say so and I will increase it." "That is not the issue," Father Jacob insisted. "She thinks she is capable of judging who is worthy of assistance." "She is charitable to all men from Christian love." "Many any will say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have not we prophesied in thy name, and cast out devils in thy name, and done many miracles in thy name? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity. Not all good works glorify God, and not all who do those works are true Christians. And now she has dragged the Viscountess into this, both of them running about town, defacing the dignity of their titles by consorting with commoners, giving support to sinners and blasphemers." Edward tossed up his hands. "There is naught I could say which could convince you, is there?" "No," Father Jacob said. "Not when I have personal experience with her wickedness."
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Edward was startled. "What to you mean?" Father Jacob coughed and muttered something into his fist. Edward caught the word "witchcraft" and his heart skipped a beat. "Father, I swear it on my eternal soul that Bella is no witch. And if you do not cease this groundless persecution of her, I will replace you as chaplain." Father Jacob laid a hand over his. "Son, listen to me, please. It is only out of my love for you that I speak these words. I fear for your soul. This woman has you so deeply mired in wickedness that you can no longer see the light." Edward stood. "I have told you-" "I saw you in the sea with her," Father Jacob said. Edward sat down on the bench heavily, as though his knees had lost their strength. Father Jacob smiled, for now he had the Duke's attention. "I know not how she induced you to do such a heathenish and wicked thing, but I saw it with mine own eyes." Edward could only stare blankly into the distance as his mind raced. He could hear Father Jacob's voice still buzzing on the periphery of his mind, but he paid him no heed. He tried to force himself to calm. He needed to think clearly. He needed to decideHe stood again. "You saw nothing." Father Jacob gaped at him. "Your grace, I know what I-" Edward's eyes glittered with deadly malice. "You. Saw. Nothing. You are mistaken. You will never speak of this again. Do you understand? I should hate to have to complain to my cousin, the Queen, about your licentious ways." He had invented that last part, but Father Jacob paled and doubled over slightly, like he'd been punched in the stomach. "H- how d- did-?" Edward waved a hand and tried to pretend he had expected this reaction. "It matters not. What matters is that none will believe the words of a priest who has broken his vows." He turned and left the chapel, his heart lightened a bit from its burden of fear. In the morning, he would put Emmett on the task of finding evidence of Father Jacob's
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misconduct. Edward imagined he must be having an affair with a woman in the village, and if that was so, Emmett should be able to sniff out the secret. He thanked God as he walked back to his chamber, God who must have sent the sleepless night and God who had put the idea of visiting the chapel in Edward's mind so that he would find the bit of information that might be the salvation of all of them.

Fall came and no one noticed, for the weather was the same, cool, dreary and wet. The only change was in the calendar. The farmers harvested what bit of crops that had been planted, what hadn't rotted in the ground, and it was barely worth the effort. England gave a collective shudder and steeled themselves for another winter of famine and sickness. Though they could not know it, the poor harvests were responsible for many of the communicable diseases that afflicted them. There was no food for the vermin in the countryside, so they flocked to the cities to feed off of the scraps and human waste that filled the streets. It was their fleas that spread the Plague. And the hunger-weakened people, crammed together in the crowded dwellings of the poor, dropped like flies. Those fortunate enough to live on the Duke of Cullen's lands set up a prayer of thanksgiving, for they would not have to watch their children starve this winter. Edward had imported shiploads of grain again and the barns were stuffed full. Theirs was one of the few villages in the realm that had a harvest festival that year, and more heartfelt prayers for the continued well-being of the Duke and Duchess were sent up than for the Queen herself. In the first week of October, Edward received a letter while he and Bella were breaking their fast in their bedchamber. She was feeding Ward bites of porridge between her own. The boy had a real liking for it, which Edward had teased that he must have inherited from his mother, because certainly no one of his noble blood had ever liked something so common. "It's from my father's wife," he said in surprise after he examined the crest impressed in the sealing wax. He never referred to Catherine Willoughby as "mother". Bella understood why: it would be hard to use that term with a girl of your own age, a girl you had expected to marry your brother. Catherine had remarried, last Edward had heard, and bit of a scandal it was, too, for she had married one of her own servants. She had tried to get Queen Mary to grant him a title, but the Queen had refused.

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Ward turned his head and playfully refused the next bite, so Bella tickled him until he opened his mouth to squeal in laughter and then popped the spoon inside. "Why would she write you?" As far as Bella knew, he had never gotten a letter from her before. Edward read silently for a moment and then told Bella: "Her chaplain, Hugh Latimer, was arrested last year and is set to be executed this month. She's fleeing to the continent. She probably fears that he may recant at the last moment and name those who believe has he does." Yet another burning. Bella lost her appetite. "Poor Latimer! He couldn't please anyone," Edward said and tossed the letter on the table. "He refused to accept some of King Henry's religious laws, so he was imprisoned, then released by his son after Henry died, and them thrown back into prison by Queen Mary." It was Bess who supplied the details in her next letter, smuggled to them in a small crate of apples. Bess sent them friendly, casual letters using a messenger, but she knew any letter sent through the normal routes was intercepted and copied for the Queen, and so those letters were always pious, pleasant and unremarkable. Edward rarely bothered to read them. It was the letters that Bess had smuggled to them that contained important information. They were smuggled out of Hatfield through her spy network and delivered to the Duke in crates or barrels, or folded inside laundry baskets - on one memorable occasion, a letter had been stuffed in the mouth of a fish. After he read them, Edward always immediately burned them. Even though they contained nothing treasonous (Bess wasn't stupid enough to put anything dangerous in writing), the very fact that he was receiving secret missives from the Princess would be enough to enrage the Queen. Bess wrote that Hugh Latimer had been burned along with another Protestant Bishop, Nicholas Ridley. They were chained to the stake, back to back. "Be of good cheer Master Ridley," Latimer was quoted as saying. "Play the man; we shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out." Latimer had died quickly, due to the bag of gunpowder tied around his neck, but poor Ridley had suffered horribly. His well-meaning brother-in-law had piled bundles of kindling around him, which starved the fire of oxygen and turned it into a low, roasting heat. He had screamed and writhed as his legs were consumed but his torso (and the bag of gunpowder around his neck) left untouched. "I cannot burn! Lord have mercy on me; let the fire come to me; I cannot burn!" Finally, one of the guards had thrust his pike into the pile and stirred it up, and at long last, the flames shot up, high and hot. Ridley eagerly thrust his torso into the blaze and his
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sufferings were ended by the gunpowder. Edward did not relate this tale to Bella, who already had too many nightmares about the burnings. But the last two lines of the letter made his blood run cold. Bella, who could read him better than anyone, cried, "What is it, Edward? Tell me!" "Gardiner is ill," he managed. "Dying, according to Bess." Bella pressed a hand over her mouth and her eyes met his in speechless horror. Ward banged his spoon on the table in a demand for more porridge, but his parents did not notice. Mary would take Gardiner's death very hard. She would want her family with her in her time of sorrow. Their time here at Cullen Hall was coming to an end. Edward tossed Bess's letter into the fireplace and they both watched it curl and blacken in the flames. ..

Historical notes: - Father Jacob's recitation of Mathew 7:22 comes from the Douay-Rheims Version of the Bible, a Catholic Bible in English, published in 1582. - Ridley spent his last minutes writing a letter to the Queen. When he had been Bishop of London, he had arranged leases on some of of his properties, which had now been confiscated. He begged that the tenants be allowed to stay or that their lease money be refunded out of Ridley's confiscated assets. Mary ignored his plea. But Elizabeth remembered, and corrected the injustice during her first Parliament. - Catherine Willoughby, Edward's step-mother in this story, was a fervent Protestant. She was highly educated and very wealthy in her own right. She supported publishers of Protestant literature and was a close friend of King Henry VIII's last wife Katherine Parr. She was the one who took in the Queen's baby after Katherine died; a letter exists in which she asks the king's council for funds to help support the child, for a Queen's daughter had to be housed in enormously expensive splendor. Even Catherine's wealth wasn't sufficient. It's the last historical record of the child's life, so she is assumed to have died around age two. - "There is none so blind ..." This saying is attributed to John Heywood in his
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Dialogue of Proverbs, 1546, who invented many of our proverbs, such as "Rome wasn't built in a day," and "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth."

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Chapter 31
Chapter Thirty-One

Gadriner died in the middle of November and the Queen's messenger arrived shortly thereafter. The Queen, in no uncertain terms "asked" them to return to court, in a letter splotched with tears. Mary wanted her family with her for Christmas, but it promised to be a grim holiday, indeed. Bella cried when Edward told her. Together, they walked down to the beach and sat on the rocks near the place where Edward had first found Bella, nude and sunning herself with two other selkie maidens. They were silent for a long while. Bella laid her head on Edward's chest, listening to her two favorite sounds at once: the churning waves and the strong rhythm of his heart. "I feel like I'll never see the Endless Waters again," she said, broodingly. "This feels like a farewell." "You will. I swear it." A light breeze sprang up and ruffled his hair and cold goosebumps broke out on his neck. He remembered that one did not make promises lightly to the fae-folk. And he remembered another promise he'd made to her two years ago, (had it really been that long?) a promise which made him despair when he thought of it. "What would happen if we refused to go?" she asked. "Ask Bess," he said with a short laugh. "I believe you were there when she sent armed guards to 'escort' the Princess to the palace. And afterwards ... She would be hurt, and when Mary is hurt, she gets angry. It would not go well for us if we fell from her favor." "Is she angry at Phillip, do you think?" "Perhaps, but there is naught she can do. So, she weeps and prays. She's lonely and feels like she has no allies. Bess tells me that the council and Parliament are in an uproar and Mary cannot control them. She submitted bills of attainder against the Protestants who have fled to the continent, ordering them to return or their property would be seized, and they all failed to pass. There was such bickering in
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the chambers that Sir Bridges - do you remember him from the Tower? - locked them inside the chamber and refused to let them out until they had voted." "Mary must have been angry." "She was. She locked Sir Bridges for a week or so in his own Tower, but there was naught she could do about the bills." "I used to love Mary," Bella said softly. "She is a woman who needs love so badly ... Anne told me a Bible story last week about Pharaoh and Moses. God hardened Pharaoh's heart, Anne said, so that he wouldn't let the Hebrews leave Egypt. And I could only think of Mary. How did her heart become so hardened? I wouldn't have thought her capable of this, Edward." "I don't know," Edward confessed. "I wouldn't have believed it of her, either." Emmet and Rosalie were traveling with them. Emmett had wanted to stay behind because he hadn't yet found Father Jacob's mistress or evidence of the licentiousness he had all but admitted to Edward. But the Queen's letter had specifically mentioned them, so there was no way to avoid it. They followed Bella and Edward's litter in the whirlicote, which gave the children a little bit of room to play and made the journey less difficult for them. The carts and wagons were packed with their household goods and the caravan made its way toward London, as grim as a funeral procession. Bella lay in the litter against Edward chest and wept silently, her spirits sinking lower with every mile. She could tell he was worried about her, but she couldn't hide her feelings from him. It felt dishonest. Anne rode in the wagon with the other servants and happily preached all the way to London. Bella was pretty sure she'd made a few converts, judging by the dazed, yet excited expressions on some of their faces, but the servants knew to be discreet. As long as they outwardly conformed, the Duke and Duchess never made inquiries into their personal faith. They arrived to find the palace in an uproar. Somehow, their rooms had been assigned to a member of the Howard family, the step-son of the Duke of Norfolk, who was outraged to be put out by the Duke and Duchess of Cullen. Two of Henry VIII's queens had been Howards (though both had been beheaded) and they felt that their family (and thus themselves) should take precedence. The matter was hotly debated by the servants who came in to set up the Duke and Duchess's apartments before their arrival, and it nearly came to blows before the palace steward settled
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the matter by assigning the Duke and Duchess an apartment that was reserved for Phillip's retinue (since the king was no expected to return before the court would move to another palace.) Those apartments were considered more prestigious because they were closer to the Queen's. The Howard relative was enraged; had they moved when asked, it would have been him who was upgraded to apartments nearer the Queen. And thus, Bella and Edward acquired a new enemy without even knowing the incident had occurred. Not only that, but a new conspiracy had been unearthed. Henry Dudley, Robert Dudley's brother (he who gave Bella the "poem" to take to Bess) had escaped England and now lived in France, where he was raising money to equip an army for an invasion of England, with the stated intention of doing to Queen Mary what she had done to Queen Jane. The French, who expected the Queen to enter the war against them alongside her husband at any moment, supported it openly. And, as it turned out, this conspiracy had been well known to many of her council members, some of whom gave tacit approval and funding. Every traitor discovered led to five more and there were so many of them that they could not punish them all; there wouldn't be a government left. Since their apartments were not ready at the palace, Bella and Edward sent Rosalie and Emmett with the children o the Hampstead Heath house and went straight to the Queen's chamber, where she was holding court in the privy chamber. Bella's first look at the Queen made her gasp and she was glad to hide her face with a low bow. Mary looked like she'd aged ten years in the time since Bella had last seen her. She raised Bella up with a kiss on the forehead. "Cousins, I am so gladdened to see you," she said. "As we are to see your majesty," Edward replied, and bowed again. "Come," Mary said, and led them into her bedchamber. Her ladies followed. Bella smiled and waved at Susan Clarencieux and Jane Dormer. Susan waved back but Jane Dormer stared at Bella with open hostility. Bella's heart sank. What was wrong now? She tried to sort through her memories to find where she had insulted Jane or any of her friends and found nothing. Bella made up her mind to bluntly ask Jane what was the matter the next chance she had. She wasn't going to play these games. Mary gestured them to seats by the fire. Edward, ever gallant, took the one closest to the fire and moved Bella's chair over a few inches on the pretext of holding it for her. "You look happy," Mary said wistfully.
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"We are," Edward replied. He took Bella's hand in his own. "God has blessed me with a worthy wife and two healthy children." "Worthy indeed." Mary squinted at Bella. Her vision seemed to have gotten worse as well. "I have heard of your charitable works." Edward stiffened, ready to defend her, but Mary seemed genuinely interested in it. Bella chatted for a bit about what she and Rosalie had done, the remodeling of the poorhouse and employing the poor to work on projects around the estates. "You go out among them?" Mary asked. "Yourself?" "Certainly." Mary blinked and sat back in her chair. "And you, Edward. The shiploads of grain you purchased were not to your profit." "No," Edward admitted, "But when planting time begins next spring, my farmers and laborers will be hale and hearty for work." The Queen chuckled. "You may want it to seem like you did it for practicality, Edward, but I know 'twas your soft heart." She wagged her finger at him. "I know you too well for you to ever fool me." "I would never try," Edward said, with sincerity. The Queen understood. She blinked rapidly as tears stung her eyes. "The two of you have been my most loyal friends" she said, her tone low and gruff. "I care not what anyone says about you - " "Who has been speaking to our discredit?" Edward asked. Mary waved a hand. "It matters not, cousin. I lend it no credence. Have you heard of the latest plottings against me?" Edward didn't allow himself to hesitate. "Some, cousin, but I do not pay much heed to mutterings about unrest." "It's Elizabeth," Mary said. Tears spilled onto her cheeks. "I know it." Bella leaned forward. "Your majesty - "
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"Don't defend her!" Mary cried angrily and Bella recoiled. Mary softened her tone a bit when she saw the effect it had. "Do not fret, Bella. I don't blame you. You're trusting and she's a cute one. She's always in the thick of things, weaving her web like a spider. She would pluck the crown from my severed head. Oh, yes, she's clever and she covers her tracks well, but the truth will always come out in the end." "I hope that it does," Bella said softly. Christmas at court was a joyless affair that year. Even the masques were solemn. The pine, holly and mistletoe decorations seemed limp and pallid and even the Yule log seemed to smoulder sullenly. At Hampstead Heath, Bella and Edward made sure that Christmas was a jolly affair for the children, with games and music (Rosalie was gifted on the virginals) and holiday treats. Bella waited impatiently for New Year's because she had a gift for Edward she was excited to unveil. That morning she woke Edward early and tugged him by the hands into their privy chamber. He stumbled along sleepily with a huge yawn and good-natured complaints about how early it was. "Look," she said, and pointed above the fireplace. The expression on his face made it all worth it. He looked at the gift, then back at her, and then to his gift again and a large grin broke over his face. It was a portrait of Bella and their two children. Bella sat in a chair, wearing a red velvet gown covered in cloth-of-gold embroidery. Around her neck was a strand of pearls with a large gold "C" pendant hanging from the center. Elizabeth stood by her side, wearing an identical dress, her eyes wide and solemn, standing stiff in her finery. In Elizabeth's hand was a Tudor rose. Ward sat on Bella's lap and pinned to the center of his dark red velvet gown was a gold pendant bearing the Cullen coat of arms crowned with the ducal coronet, the artist's invention, to show the rank of the persons in the portrait. It was a beautiful painting, done in the style of Hans Holebien by John Bettes the Elder. He had captured the creamy, almost luminescent quality of Bella's skin with the sweet hint of a blush along the tops of her cheekbones. One could tell at a glance that Ward was her child, for they shared the same dark, expressive eyes. Bella had a hand curved around him, a gesture which looked both caring and protective and she had the other hand on little Elizabeth's shoulder as if to draw her closer for a hug. "Do you like it?" Bella asked softly. "I wasn't sure about the way he painted little Elizabeth. I think he tried to make her look like me."
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Edward could barely speak. "It's ... It's beautiful," he managed. "Exactly what I wanted." This was his memory on canvas, but it hurt to look at it, too, because he knew that some day, he would stare at it with longing and remember the feel of that skin, the touch of those petal-pink lips. And this was all he would have.

"Your majesty, a letter from the king!" Jane Dormer led in the messenger, who bowed and held out the sealed letter. Bella hated to hear those words, because they always prefaced the same series of events: Mary would take the letter with trembling hands, her eyes bright with excitement. Would this be the one which announced he was returning to England? Would this be the one in which he wrote the loving words she wanted to read? Her eyes would scan it eagerly and then her face would fall. In the space of minutes, she would look like she had aged a decade. Her hands would go slack and the letter would drift to the floor like a dead leaf. And then the Queen would bury her face in her hands and ask that her ladies leave her. That was Bella's cue to stand and come to her side. And as soon as the door was closed, as soon as she was safely alone, Mary would break down into tears. Bella would hold her and rock her as she did with the children when they had a nightmare or scraped a knee after a stumble in the garden. She wished that it was something as simple as that with the Queen, but there was nothing she could do to make this better. She wrote to him every night. Bella would see her at her desk in her dressing gown, pouring her heart out into those letters, begging him to return to her. Lately, with all of the unrest, the words had caught a desperate tinge. Phillip's infrequent responses were cool, business-like and short. His father had abdicated due to poor heath and had given the kingdom of the Netherlands to Phillip. Once in Flanders, he wrote to Mary that he couldn't leave because he had to wait for his formal investiture of the crown. And then he had to travel around the country to establish his authority with the people. And then he had to wait for his father, who was giving him his inheritance of the kingdom of Spain, but his hands were too troubled by gout to sign he documents at the moment. And then he had to wait for a state visit from the king and queen of Bohemia. And so it went. He hinted strongly that he would return as soon as she gave him the date for his coronation ceremony, to be crowned as King of England with all of the authority and rights that went with the title. Though she might have been willing, just to have him back, Parliament would not consider voting to give her the
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money for such an extravagance for a king who was very unpopular. To get even a small tax increase to cover basic expenses of the crown, she'd had to promise that she would not give the money to Phillip, and they'd been angered when Mary promptly tithed one-sixth of the government's annual income to Rome. To ask for a tax increase and then give away tens of thousands of pounds seemed outrageous to many of the members of Parliament, and about half of them voted against it. Several, who had voiced their displeasure loudly, were thrown into the Tower. As Bella held Mary while she cried this time, she glanced at the letter on the floor. A single page, face-up. Phillip wanted her to send him the rest of his Spanish retinue and household furnishings to the Netherlands. Rumor had it that Phillip was hard at work in learning the language of the Netherlands; during his year-long stay in England, he hadn't bothered to learn one word of English. Neither indicated a short visit, quickly concluded. And, according to the rumors, he was living a merry life in the Netherlands. He stayed at parties until all hours of the night, drinking, gambling and carousing. He would leave a party in the wee hours of the morning and show up unannounced at a noble household, wake the residents and demand to be entertained by them. Not surprisingly, his popularity in the Netherlands was not much higher than that of England. The envoy that Mary sent to him in December didn't tell her of Phillip's blatant interest in a lady of his court, Madame Denali. He didn't bother to conceal it, but the envoy took pity on Mary and said nothing of it when he returned to England, though, of course, rumors had beaten him home. A rumor can travel twice around the world before the truth can put on its shoes. Mary refused to believe it, as she'd refused to believe all of the other rumors. She tilted up her regal chin and pretended to be blind and deaf, as a royal wife must. She moved about the court with serene composure. But, alone in her chamber with Bella, she wept out her broken heart. "I must try harder. I must try harder to please God and my husband." Why did those words send a cold chill down Bella's spine?

Archbishop Cramner was the man that Mary blamed for destroying England, for ruining that golden, perfect time when her parents had been happily married and she had been their cherished princess. He had replaced Cardinal Woolsey, who had
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failed, after seven long years, to get the king his annulment from Mary's mother, Katherine of Aragon. With Cramner (and a little help from Anne Boleyn, who passed along certain pieces of Reformist literature), the king had decided that he should be head of the English church, not the Pope. Cramner had granted the king the annulment he sought and had designed the doctrine of the new Church of England. He crowned Anne Boleyn as Queen, baptized her infant daughter, Elizabeth, and stood as one of the Princess's godparents. Four years later, he heard Anne Boleyn's last confession before she was executed, and proclaimed her marriage to the King null and void, automatically making that goddaughter, Princess Elizabeth, a bastard. It was his hand to which King Henry VIII had clung as he died and it had been he who performed the funeral rites for Henry's son, King Edward VI, just a few short years into his reign. When Mary took the throne, he advised other reformers to flee England while there was still time, but he himself remained. It wasn't long before Mary had him sent to the Tower on charges of treason. Cramner had already had one trial, but Mary hadn't formally restored England to the Catholic church at the time, and he was actually a cardinal after all, given that position by the Pope himself. To satisfy the legalities, another trial occurred in Rome, using transcripts from the first trial. He was found guilty and stripped of his archbishopric before being handed over to the secular authorities to carry out the sentence. He watched Latimer and Ridley burn from a balcony on his prison. Pole offered him mercy, should he recant. He sent a lengthy letter to Cramner, outlining his offenses: "You have corrupted Scripture, you have broken through the communion of saints, and now I tell you what you must do. That is, Christ and the church tell you, through me. (If I followed my own inclination and spoke in my own name, I would say something entirely different. To you I would not speak at all.) ... You will plead Scripture to answer me. Are you so vain, then, are you so foolish, as to suppose that it has been left to you to find out the meaning of those Scriptures which have been in the hands of the fathers of the church for so many ages? "You parted the king from the wife with whom he had lived for twenty years; you parted him from the church, the common mother of the faithful; and since that day, throughout the realm, law has been trampled under foot, the people have been ground with tyranny, the churches pillaged, the nobility murdered one by the other ... For your own profit you denied the presence of your Lord, and you rebelled against his servant the pope. May you see your crimes. May you feel the greatness of your need of mercy. Now, even now, by my mouth, Christ offers you that mercy; and with the passionate hope which I am bound to feel for your salvation, I wait your answer to your Master's call."
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Cramner accepted that mercy. He recanted. Six documents they brought before him, and six documents he signed. He confessed that he had sinned against King Henry and his lawful wife, Katherine of Aragon. He had caused the annulment, from which heresy, sin and crime against God has sprung up in the form of the new English church. He admitted he was a blasphemer, a persecutor of the righteous, and that he had opened the Pandora's box of false doctrines sweeping throughout the land, some of which he, himself, had spread, taught, preached and written. He had sinned against the living with false doctrine, and he had sinned against the righteous dead by ending the masses that were once said for their souls. He had submitted and recanted, but no pardon came. A month passed without word, day after day dragging by in which no messenger arrived, and then the day of his execution dawned, rainy and cold. Cramner was brought out before the huge crowd that had gathered. He stood, shivering in only his shirt, bare-legged on a small stage before them. The crowd didn't know what to expect. Most thought that Cramner would repeat his recantation before them and accept the Queen's pardon. (Some wondered where the box was that contained the pardon scroll. There was always a box laying somewhere nearby, prominently displayed for the accused and the audience to see, but none was in sight.) The stake had been erected and a pile of wood lay around it (perhaps just for dramatic effect, some said, feeling a bit more uneasy.) The provost of Eton, Master Cole, had been chosen to deliver the sermon. "My friends, I come before you today, first to explain why this man, the ex-archbishop Cramner, will be executed ..." A rustle of disapproval and confusion swept through the crowd. This wasn't right, some whispered. He'd recanted! He'd recanted! By the law of the Church, those who recanted would have their lives spared! Even those among them who had hated Cramner for destroying the abbeys and relics were shocked and troubled. Cole was an excellent speaker. The audience hung on his every word. The first reason that Cramner would not be spared, he explained, was the enormity of his crime. All of the turmoil for the last two decades had been his fault. He had deceived the king into setting aside his lawful wife. (It was not the king's fault, Cole hastened to add, for he had been led astray by wicked men.) Single-handedly, this man had altered the face of the English church. It was he who had created the blasphemous doctrines, and he had stayed obstinate in his heresy: defended it, written about it, preached it, all the way up to this last hour when he recanted. There were also other reasons, Cole said, private reasons, that the audience didn't know and didn't need to know, but Katherine of Aragon's name was mentioned, and
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it was obvious that those "private reasons" had much to do with Mary's long-held bitter rage over her mother being cast aside and Mary's own humiliation afterwards at the hands of her father. Lastly, Cole noted, so many worthy Catholics had been executed: Thomas Moore, Bishop Fisher and others ... Cramner's death would balance the scales. Cole then flowed into the traditional scaffold sermon and warned the audience to take heed of his example, a once-mighty man brought low because he denied the True Faith. The audience buzzed among themselves, whispering, heads turned, uneasy shuffles of feet. Cole knew he was losing them and feared for his career if he allowed the audience to become a mob. He turned to Cramner then and addressed to him the next part, that Cramner should rejoice, for God had brought him home, and to take comfort from the Scripture of the thief beside Jesus on the cross, to whom Jesus said, Today thou shalt be with me in Paradise. Cramner had been told he would have the "opportunity" to make his recantation before an audience at a church service and he had already written the speech and submitted it for approval. He was now given the pulpit and a copy of it to read to the audience. He began reading the text as it had been prepared, with a prayer for the health and fertility of the Queen and King, with exhortations for the crowd to avoid sin and love one another as brothers and sisters, but then he deviated off course and said that the sin that troubled him the most was the recantations he had signed. A gasp went through the crowd. He announced that the books that he had written, the writings he was now supposed to condemn, contained his true opinion on the sacraments. He held up his hand and said that since it was the part with which he had sinned, it would be burned first. He then called the pope the anti-Christ and was pulled from the pulpit before he could continue. And so he was burned, and he kept his word about thrusting his hand into the fire before the rest of him ignited. Mary took the news of his last-minute recantation of his recantation as evidence that burning him was the right thing to do. After all, the man proved that he was a heretic and that he hadn't truly abjured. But for Bella, it broke the last thread of affection she'd held for the Queen. She looked at Mary with horror and had to fight to keep her gorge from rising. That night, she lay in Edward's arms and cried. They were trapped here with a
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monster, a hypocrite who changed the law as it suited her, and no one was safe. No one. ..

Historical notes: - It was actually Sir Anthony Kingston who forced the vote, but I've combined him with Sir Bridges in this story to cut down on confusion. - "Cute" originally meant sharp-witted or clever. It's probably a contraction of "acute". - Bonner published Cramner's written confession, along with the other recantations, as though it were a true account of what Cramner said at his execution. - "Madame Denali" ... the woman's name was actually "Madame d'Aler". I couldn't resist.

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Chapter 32
Chapter Thirty-Two

"How do I look?" Mary Tudor, Queen of England, twirled around to display her plain russet wool gown. The hem of the skirt swirled upwards and the illusion of a commoner was spoiled by the lacy, embroidered petticoats below, and the fine, delicate shoes she wore. Bella smiled at her. "You look lovely," she she did, actually. The simplicity and color of the gown suited Mary's shape and complexion. She looked almost pretty without the garish colors and pounds of jewelry she usually wore. Jane Dormer scowled at Bella. She wasn't happy about Mary's plans for the day and wasn't bothering to hide it. She, too, was dressed simply, wearing a plain blue gown, her uncontrollable frizzy brown curls already pushing out from under her cap. Since their return to court, Bella and Rosalie had taken the small village at Hampstead Heath under their wing. It was not part of Edward's duchy and these were not their people, but Rosalie had become addicted to the small joy she got from helping others and soon, Bella had joined her in her forays into the little town. Word had gotten to the Queen, of course, and she had summoned Bella and Rosalie this afternoon. They had looked at each other in silent terror when the messenger came; neither of them had been expected to go to court that day to wait on the Queen and her demand for their appearance did not bode well. Bella had kissed the children (Edward was away for the day purchasing a new horse) and had steeled her spine. She thought of Bess and the courage she showed when called before the Queen and she tried to imitate it, at least outwardly. Inside she shook and quailed and longed to hide. She wasn't built for intrigue and politics. But what Mary had wanted was to go with them to the village. Bella thought Rosalie was going to faint from the rush of relief when the Queen explained why she'd sent for them. Mary had borrowed a dress from one of the chambermaids and put her hair up in a plain linen cap. She eyed Bella and Rosalie critically. "Is that what you go about in?" Bella was wearing a black velvet gown embroidered with pearls. This was "simple" garb for her. She and Rosalie never tied to disguise themselves as the Queen was
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doing. "Ah, 'twill have to do," the Queen sighed. "Let's be off then." They took the Queen's litter to Bella and Edward's house. The Queen insisted on walking from that point, which surprised Bella. She had never seen the Queen walk further than from her privy chamber to her chapel. But Mary seemed to enjoy it. She even stopped to pick some wildflowers. Behind them strolled a handful of burly guards in palace livery, trying to look inconspicuous and failing miserably. In the village square, a small group of boys were playing, tossing a ball made from scraps of leather. It landed in the dust by Mary's feet and one of the boys chased after it. He skidded to a halt in front of her. "Pardon, mistress." Mary lifted her skirt a couple of inches and kicked the ball. She let out a little giggle as she did so. The boy grinned at her and took off after it. They continued on their way and Mary stopped at the village well where a woman was struggling to lift a bucket to the yoke she wore on her shoulders. "Let me help you," Mary said. "Goodness, this is heavy!" "Thankee kindly, Mistress," the woman told her. "Rosalie, take up that other bucket," the Queen directed. "Bella, carry her basket. How now, good wife, did you expect to get all of this home with you?" "I thought I would return for the rest, but I thank you for saving me the effort." They followed the woman to the outskirts of the village where a little cottage stood. Bella heard Rosalie suck in a breath, but when Bella looked at her questioningly, Rosalie had averted her face. She looked slightly ill, her face pale and her hands shaking as she gripped the basket. A flock of small children worked around the house. The woman had herb beds all around her property, right up to the house itself, and a vegetable garden on the other side. Three of the children were laboring at picking weeds and smashing insects between their fingers. Another child, this one a boy, was using a large mortar and pestle to grind grains or nuts. They followed the woman into the house and found two girls working, one at stirring a pot over the fire, the other at grinding plants in a small wood mortar. The cottage itself was pleasant. The herbs drying in bunches on the rafters
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sweetened the air. It was a tiny house, windowless and dark, but well-kempt. A baby in a bundling board hung on the wall, fast asleep. "All of these are yours?" Mary asked, looking around at the children. "Aye, Mistress. Six I have living, and two I've buried." "Where is your husband?" "Gone, I regret to say. He died of apoplexy one day in the fields, not long after that one was born." She nodded toward the sleeping infant. Bella longed to take the baby down and free its little arms and legs. "How old are you?" Mary asked. She took a seat at the table, across from where the girl was working with the mortar. Rosalie and Bella sat down on the large bed against the opposite wall. Bella sincerely hoped it did not have bugs. The woman considered. "Forty or so, I should reckon. Maybe older, but I'm not sure." "And you just had a baby ..." Mary said softly. Longing was evident in her voice. "Aye, named Mary for the Queen, the poor lass." Mary's eyes sharpened. "The Queen, you say? Why do you call her a 'poor lass'?" The woman clucked her tongue. "Would God she had married an Englishman, who would have treated her well. But she had her heart set on the Spaniard, her mother's family, and look how that turned out." "Halt your tongue," Jane said. "You should not speak so familiarly of the Queen." "I suppose not, but we all weep for the Queen. 'Twas said before they wed that he would not respect her. And now they say he openly keeps a whore, a Madame Denali, a twice-damned adulteress for she has betrayed her own husband with the king." "One cannot trust a rumor," Mary said firmly. "Aye, but none can claim that having the Spaniards on our shore has been to our benefit. It has caused naught but discord."
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Jane Dormer made a small sound of protest. She was in love with a Spanish duke and wanted to marry him, but the Queen wouldn't allow it. (She said no man was good enough for Jane.) "'Tis not her Spanish blood the Queen should cherish, but her English. Our Bess is purely English, praise God." Mary's face tightened but she didn't reprove the woman as Bella feared. She changed the subject. "How do you manage without a husband?" "The simples I sell keep us in bread," the woman replied. "God provides." She gazed for a long moment at Rosalie, who kept her face averted and had remained silent throughout the visit. "You seem familiar, Mistress," the woman said. "Have we met?" "I do not believe so," Rosalie said, and her voice was deeper than usual. "Hmm. I could swear ..." Mary rose to her feet and her ladies stood as well. She looked at the girls' patched dresses and bare feet and pulled her purse from her pocket and gathered some coins in her hand. "This will help for a time. If you wish to send the boys to school, I'll pay their tuition, or if you'd rather I find them apprenticeships, I will do so." The woman was shocked. "Mistress, I don't know how to thank you." Mary smiled. "The look on your face is enough. Jane, write down their names for me." She stood and strode toward the cottage door. "Mistress, please, will you tell me your name that I may pray for you?" The Queen paused in the doorway. "My name is Mary," she said. And out she went. Bella and Rosalie simply followed Mary as she wandered from house to house, speaking to everyone she encountered. Near the edge of town, they met a collier who carried a bag of coal on his shou