“Does it hurt, mon cher?”
“Like it is on fire,” Henry shifted his swollen leg that was weeping pus into the bandage. It was whole two hours before dawning and he was awake and writhing in pain. He found it amusing that he was talking to his wife who had been beheaded under his order, a decade ago. However, she was his constant company these days after he was bedridden.
She would often conjure out of nowhere and taunt him with her honey-laced voice until he slipped into frenzied fits of sleep. Sometimes, she came when he had company, during weekly discussions with his ministers. She would flit about in the chamber, placating his high strung nerves. While he struggled to keep his concentration, she would start peeling her clothes off. The act was far from titillating. She tugged at her garments, tore and ripped them purposefully to reveal her alabaster skin. Then the body would begin to rot, extremities first, and fall off in clumps on the carpet. But that would be just a tease compared to her words. Oh! those were revolting.
“You reckon Thomas was a better mate in bed to the wench you dared to take as a wife after me? Did you hope and pray to satisfy her? tsk, tsk,” she would pretend to empathize with him and continue. “I have witnessed a few encounters between them, carried on in your own bed, and dare I say, Thomas beat you fair and square. Your age and health have dented your prowess in bed and in the battle.” Her sneering laugh would freeze his blood.
Henry could only squirm and listen, for he knew if he let out a blasphemous scream at the apparition that only he could see, it would be a perfect excuse for his courtiers to brand him deranged and throw him off the throne. No, he would continue to rule until his last breath, continue to endure the torment of his dead wife until he chose his heir apparent.
He started seeing her a few months after her gruesome death. At first, she had hovered around their daughter, Elizabeth, ignoring him. He would find her sitting on the windowsill while Elizabeth slept. She would be perched on the walls when the daughter was being tutored in Latin and French. Sometimes, when her mood demanded for it, she would turn resentful and create a ruckus. A goblet might be knocked off the table. A tiered cake might be mysteriously toppled. A velvet robe would be shredded by fingers that were not human. As years went by, she turned more loathsome and embittered. Now that Henry was bedridden, she found it hilarious to make him the victim of her cruel jokes.
Dawn finally arrived as it always had, without mercy. And so did his coterie of ministers. The line of ascendancy was to be decided today.
Edward, Henry’s only son was the obvious choice. Also, he loved his firstborn, Mary, devoted and pious, just like her mother. And then there was Elizabeth, the child borne by his second wife, the wife he had beheaded and now living by his side. A child born out of lust, for whom he had gambled his religion and sold his soul. He hoped that his lineage and the future of his country would not fall into the hands of a child borne by his manipulative wife.
Could he remove Elizabeth from claiming succession?
“By the constitution, Elizabeth is third in line. My lord, removing her will be sabotaging your power, the power of House of Tudors,” his ministers reasoned. They did not want to add to the growing discontent and Elizabeth was popular amidst the people, more than Mary and even Edward.
“Besides, Prince Edward is very young, and his rule will be a long and prosperous one. Your fears are unfounded,” They said.
Henry was hesitant, a nagging kernel of doubt still boggling his brain.
The cavernous bedchamber, where the negotiations were going on, suddenly turned cold. He could sense her somewhere nearby.
“Henry,” she dared to address him by his name. “I have a proposal. This would be the last you see of me if you include Elizabeth, the child of my womb, in the line of ascendancy.” The tone in her voice was neither mocking nor pleading.
Could he drive the tormentor away and escape her scathing gibes?
Could he spend his last days in quietude?
Could he finally die in peace?
“Do sign, my lord.”
“Do it, Mon cher.”
Henry did it. The line of ascendancy was signed and sealed with Elizabeth, third in tow. The ministers dispersed and he was again alone with the thoughts and his dead wife. She glided towards his corpulent form that lay heaped on the bed. He cowered as she drew closer, her face, immaculate, her eyes, sinister, her lips contorted in disdain.
“Begone as promised,” he begged.
“I take leave. I keep my words. One last truth, though”, she said and bent her form to whisper into his ears.
“Elizabeth is not your child. She is from my womb but not from your seed.”
Even as Henry’s eyes widened in disbelief, she hammered the final nail. “She would outlive both your heirs and reign England with might and glory.”
Saying so, she dissipated into a mist, not minding Henry who was juddering with spasms. Henry would never see her again.
His privy members said he went into delirium the very night and could never regain his sanity. They said he kept mumbling only one name, the name of his most beloved wife. They felt he was racked with guilt for having beheaded her in haste. He died grief riddled and full of love for her. He died with her name still on his lips, they said
“Anne, oh, Anne.”
Photo Credits: Jared Subia
This is an entry for the event #Supernatural #UniK-7 being held at Writers Room | Room8.
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