Chapter 1 : Anne's Lover
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It was raining heavily. The kingdom of the Greenlands had never seen such dark a night as this. The villagers huddled into their little cottages and waited for morning; all they could do was hope for light and warmth, for they were cold and poor and could not fetch firewood when it was pouring down like this.
The servants in the castle - the home of the royal family - were for once not in a hurry. Their prince had gone on a journey and would not be back for a fortnight, something which was a great relief to many. Samson had married Queen Anne a while ago, but he had only been able to obtain the title of prince; to be king, one must be in the royal family's bloodline. Nobody knew where Samson had gone to, and nobody really cared, for he had a foul temper and a drinking habit which made life worse for everyone.
On this dark night, Queen Anne herself was pacing up and down in a secret chamber off the library. She was one of the most graceful and beautiful ladies you might ever meet; she looked very much like a porcelain doll, with her fragile features and large brown eyes. Her red hair was tied in a long braid which reached her waist, and did her credit; but her entire facial expression was a sorrowful one, and one could tell by her anxious pacing that she was panicked.
The door opened and a tall, broad-shouldered man hurried inside, closing the door worriedly behind him. He was as goodlooking as the woman opposite him, but soaked to the skin; he had long, brown hair, green eyes and common clothes made of deer skin. He walked up to Queen Anne and took both her hands, kissed them and gathered her in his arms, where she trembled.
'Gabriel,' she said, relieved, 'Gabriel, I am so glad you came...'
Gabriel kissed her forehead and leaned back so he could see her better.
'Your telegram made it impossible for me to refuse, Anne,' he answered, 'and you know I would have come no matter the cause. What is wrong; you look distressed and anxious. Oh! I should not like to see you in this state, my love.'
Anne trembled again and sat down in a chair, her forehead in her hands. She looked pale and clammy all of a sudden, and the man called Gabriel sat down next to her, and took her hand once more.
'Tell me! I shall not bear to see you like this, my love.'
Anne nodded and squeezed his hand, as if gathering her strength. Then she looked him in the eyes and let out a panicked breath, her words low and tearful.
'Oh Gabriel - I am to have another baby.'
For a moment, a light of happiness shone in Gabriel's eyes, and he threw his arms around Anne, who rejected him instantly. Then he remembered what this baby meant; betrayal towards the prince of the Greenlands, betrayal towards the kingdom. This baby was created outside marriage, a result of a hidden love; Gabriel could already hear the resounding noise of drums in his head. Anne paled even more and started crying, trembling more violently, but Gabriel couldn't comfort her, for he, too, was afraid.
'Oh, Gabriel,' she cried, 'what are we to do?'
Gabriel forced himself to sit down in a chair, feeling nauseous and panicked. A baby could not be hidden; Anne had already given birth once and this baby was bound to show more than the last. He looked at her. She always wore tight clothes. How many months was she ahead? He thought that the only solution was to get rid of the baby somehow; but then he remembered that this was his baby, and he knew he could never do it.
'I will not kill it, Gabriel,' Anne sobbed, as if she had read his thoughts. 'It's my baby... Gabriel, we must keep it - but how?'
Gabriel shook his head in despair. He did not know. He had never been in such a situation before, and he could only remember one piece of advice an old witch had given him; follow your heart. And then, as if these words were magic, a wonderful thought occurred to Gabriel. He could not imagine why he had not thought of it before; he had been idiotic, a grand fool indeed. He kneeled down once more by Anne and kissed her hands.
'We'll go away, Anne,' he said. 'We'll flee. There are other kingdoms where we could settle down - I do not have much money, but we could be happy. We could build a little cottage and have the baby. Oh Anne... A whole lifetime, only us together.'
Anne wiped her tears away, and looked at him, confused. Her eyes were red and teary and she hiccupped.
'Go away? But... what about Samson? What about - what about the Greenlands -'
'I don't care about Samson or the Greenlands,' Gabriel said earnestly, kissing Anne's forehead. 'I don't care about anyone but us and our baby.'
'But Godric, Samson? What about Godric?' Anne asked, clenching his hand, as if desperate for a solution.
'We'll take him with us,' Gabriel answered, ''tis not a problem... He'll come with us and he'll be happier. Anne... Anne, imagine... Living together - not having to abide any rules but our own... Not being in secret anymore... Imagine, Anne...'
Anne thought of what could be theirs. She imagined a little cottage in the middle of a field. She imagined waking up every morning and having to cook soup and bake bread - she would learn how to do those sort of things from Gabriel. She imagined Gabriel teaching Godric how to plant seeds and grow things, and then later pick them and cook them. She imagined giving birth to her baby in front of a warm fire on a soft bed made with hay, Gabriel assisting her. She saw Gabriel looking at their baby lovingly and feeling thrilled about not having to love it in secret.
Then she looked back at Gabriel and her sense of reality returned. Her face had gotten a little bit of its colour back at such happy thoughts, and just thinking about what could be theirs made her want to say yes. Gabriel seemed to read her mind.
'We'll leave as soon as possible - in a fortnight,' he said hurriedly, getting up. Anne followed him.
'In a fortnight?' she said, worried. 'But that's when Samson returns - oh, Gabriel, we'll have to leave sooner - I cannot risk him seeing me gone and - and coming after me.'
Gabriel nodded. Words were not necessary; he kissed Anne passionately one last time, then turned and left.
It had been a week since Anne had last seen Gabriel. She was still anxious and still panicked, but she felt comfort at the thought of hope shining ahead. She had already started planning; what to bring and what to leave behind. She had packed a little sack of clothes to keep Godric warm, just in case Gabriel came along sooner than expected. But she kept to her room alot and played with Godric more than necessary.
'Mummy,' Godric said on one of these afternoons, 'where's Papa?'
Anne thought the question over a bit. She would have liked to tell Godric that her father was Gabriel, though she knew that this was not the case. He was Samson's son, but she would never talk to him about Samson, for fear that he should have nightmares. She would think of Gabriel whenever she told her son about his father.
'Papa is on a journey,' Anne explained, gathering the two year old in her arms. He was short and chubby, but cute, as all children are. Anne smoothed his hair and kissed his head, wondering what she were to become in this wretched life if she had not Godric and Gabriel.
'Jorrny,' Godric repeated, chewing the word. 'Jorrny.'
'That's right,' Anne whispered, placing him on her lap and rocking him to and fro, 'a journey. And you know what Godric? We're going on a journey too. We're going to fairytale land.'
Godric's eyes grew wide and invited Anne to say more.
'We're going to a place where there's lots of grass, and where you'll be able to run and run and run all you want... Just you, me and Papa. And we're going to live in a nice place with a large fire and you'll sleep in warm blankets and have something nice to eat every day... And I'll give you milk and I'll teach you how to bake bread - oh, Godric, we'll be able to do all sorts of things.' Anne hugged her son closer and started whispering in his ear. Godric put his thumb in his mouth and listened sleepily. 'And we'll buy a cow and some chickens, and they'll lay eggs so you can have something nice to eat every morning... And Papa will take you out hunting when you're a big boy and we'll roast something lovely every afternoon... Imagine, Godric - rabbit or pheasant or even deer, perhaps - a real hunter's life.'
Godric leaned his head against his mother's bosom and closed his eyes, but continued to listen.
'And what then Mummy?' he said, falling slump into her arms.
'Then? Then a baby brother or a baby sister, my love,' Anne whispered in his ear. 'Someone you'll be able to play with and grow up with. And if it's a girl, you'll protect her when she grows up and find her a nice man to be with. And then you'll find a lovely woman yourself to love and marry... And you'll avoid the mistakes I made, my darling, you'll show your love to the world and feel free... You'll be able to kiss her and hold her hand in front of everyone... There is no better feeling, my love.'
'And then?' yawned Godric, though he could not understand much of what she was saying.
'And then...' sighed Anne, lying Godric down on her bed and covering him in her soft sheets. 'Then you'll live happily ever after, my love.' She kissed him on his head and continued to observe him, until finally he had fallen into a deep sleep, and she blowed out the candle and sat down, waiting for Gabriel to arrive for her happy ending.
But Gabriel did not arrive. Anne received a letter nine days later from the sheriff, in which was written that he had been captured and beheaded on Prince Samson's orders. Anne, as the Queen, was more powerful than Samson and could have prevented this, had she only heard of it in time. But it had been done under the utmost secrecry; Gabriel had been trialed for treason, though the exact crime committed was never explained. Anne only knew that Samson must have discovered their liaison or suspected it at the very least; yet he never hurt her or even saw her when he came home.
As to Anne's feelings, she was heartbroken. She had never felt pain so violently before, not even on the most painful beating sessions of Samson's. When she received the letter and read it, she simply went dumb for a day. She could not speak and for a while, she could not feel; then she began to think that she would never see him again, that he would never kiss her, never see his child. This was more painful than anything else, but Anne could not help it: it was as if she wanted to feel this pain, to remember him at all costs, even if it meant hurting herself. She grew pale and sickly looking and far from the beautiful creature she had once been; but then motherhood took over. She remembered that she still had Gabriel's child, and she was terrified to lose it. She started eating again and had almost an unnatural obsession with her unborn child. She refused to lift anything or walk very far; she stayed away from Samson all day and all night, anxious that he might beat her and cause a miscarriage.
She made plans with her most intimate female servant, who managed to get Samson drunk enough to never see Anne's growing stomach. Everything seemed to go fine, but still Anne did not know what to tell Samson once he discovered the baby.
The night of the birth came and Anne's advisors took her to a cottage, so nobody at the palace could hear her screams. The nurses who were to assist Anne came from afar and were to be sent away instantly, in the utmost secrecy.
It was a difficult birth, far more complicated than that of Godric. Anne was given many drugs and medecines to keep the pain away, and she was half doped when she saw her child for the first time. It was a girl, a tiny, writhing, screaming girl, and Anne felt peaceful from the moment she saw her. She had difficulties breathing, but still managed to whisper, 'Anna... Her name is Anna...' before passing out.
When she woke up, 12 hours later, the first thing she thought about was her child. She tried sitting up, but felt two weak; instead, she patted her bed loudly, and the nurse who was surveying her stood up.
'Your Highness,' she said, her eyes narrowed. She curtsied. 'What may I fetch you?'
'My baby...' whispered Anne, her voice weak, but with a smile on her face. 'Let me see my baby...'
The nurse hesitated, then patted Anne's hand.
'You'll see her soon enough, Your Highness,' she said roughly, 'now rest.'
But Anne merely gathered all her strength and sat up, looking around the room for a crib of some sort. When she didn't find one, she felt anxious, and looked at the nurse again.
'Get my baby,' she said loudly, now sounding slightly superior. 'I want to see Anna.'
The nurse hesitated once more, then asked Anne to calm down. When this did not work, she hurried out the room and came back with an elderly nun, who seemed severe and strict.
'Mother Superior,' Anne said, relieved, 'please - I should like to see my baby.'
Mother Superior cast the nurse a strict look, then walked up to Queen Anne and took her hand. Stroking it comfortingly, she said, in a most grievous voice, the words that would forever keep Anne from happiness.
'Forgive me, Your Highness, but your blessed baby has passed away. She died a few hours after she was born.'
And then Anne's world spinned. She felt herself passing into a dark hole, whirling about in circles, and when she recovered, she was still holding Mother Superior's hand, but she was drenched in cold sweat.
'Passed away?' she whispered, unable to prevent sobbing violently. She choked on her words. 'No - no - I never got to hold her - no -'
Tremors shook her body, and nausea overcame her. She clenced Mother Superior's hand and was unable to realize that she was being lied to; Anna was dead, her child, Gabriel's child, her life was over. She had no memory left of Gabriel, her one true love, and she fought all resistance, though why, she did not know. And then someone held something to her nose, and she felt herself once again falling into a dark hole where, for some time, she might be dreaming of a small cottage in a big field, where she would be cooking soup with Anna and watching Gabriel teach Godric how to hunt.