Pairings: Mary/Francis, Mary/Bash
Summary: spec fic based on small bits of spoilers, ep descriptions, the new promo, promo pics & BTS info for eps 1x09-1x13. What I think will happen on the show. If you're spoiler free, you've been warned.
Disclaimer: CBS owns Reign, chess metaphors belong to me!
Links: Prologue, Pawn
"How are you?" I ask Bash. We are taking a short walk on the grounds as the sun sets.
It's been a few days since Francis quickly consulted with his mother and abruptly left the chateau. No one has any idea where he's gone. I'd told Henry about his threats regarding the Pope before he left for Rome; riders have been sent to scour the French countryside between here and the Italian border, but no word has yet come back.
He only took his second favorite horse, less sleek and swift than his favorite, but sturdy and sure footed and much more suited to a long journey. He was accompanied by eight young guards completely loyal to him, and no one else. They took food from the kitchens, oats for their horses, that is all.
That was a feint, however, all were dressed in similar plain traveling clothes. When they got to the nearest major crossroads they split up into parties of three each going different direction. Each a party of one blonde and two brown-haired men each. No one having any idea which party Francis was with, and which parties were merely decoys.
Francis has always been quick, but to come up with a plan this cunning at the spur of the moment was surprising - even for him.
"I'm not going to lie," Bash says, bringing me back. "I don't think I've ever had more appreciation for Francis than the last few days," he scrubs his face. Tension lines his features - it has since the moment Henry told him he was declaring him his heir. "I'm stuck with tutors for hours every single day, trying to drill into me about finances, diplomacy, martial strategy, shipbuilding and harbor maintenance, geography - you name it - they're trying to teach me. Then, when I'm not with tutors, courtiers are lined up at my heels, with questions and requests that are unending."
"Well that is the life of someone who will one day rule," I nod.
"I know," he sighs. "But it wasn't my life. I quite liked my life."
"Yes, the day I returned, Francis told me that no one ever worried about you dying that they didn't let you live, unlike him," I smile sadly thinking back to that day in my childhood rooms. "He said you could do what you wanted and go where you will. He quite envied you that."
"You know I want us to be happy, don't you?" He inquires, after a moment, grabbing one of my hands.
"Happiness is not essential to any alliance, but I suppose I hope that someday we find happiness," I say, pushing away tears that have begun to fall with the heel of my hand. "I am a queen and my first obligation is to my country, my people and its stability. This is what I must do. It's what I can live with. Happiness isn't necessarily part of that equation," I finish, thinking of what Catherine said to me. "But it is something I want."
I look up at him, this man who is becoming a true friend and wonder what the future truly holds for us. He knows how much I love Francis, and I'm not sure I'll ever love someone in the same way - I'm not sure I want to. It hurts too much, even though I would never change a thing. I tell myself that with time I will learn to love Bash, even if it's never quite the same. I was prepared to learn to love Tomás, after all. I think I can find at least contentment again - at least I hope I can.
Bash is usually patient with me, as he knows I'm mourning the love I lost and the dreams that will never be, though I don't think he has any idea how real, deep and shared those dreams were. Dreams of growing old together, shrieks and the sounds of tiny feet against the floors of the chateau, dreams of watching mine and Francis's children and grandchildren be born and grow. Dreams of love and laughter, friendship and companionship. Even dreams of disagreeing and then making up.
Time, I just need time - time to mourn what was and let go of what will never be; time to find new dreams; time to learn to hope for babies with aquamarine eyes, rather than ones the color of the sky; brown-haired instead of tow-headed. Time to learn a different set of arms can be just as comforting and secure.
"But..." he starts.
"No," I cut him off, "it's what I can live with." Francis was wrong. Love isn't irrelevant, even to people like us. It's everything, and I've made the only choice I can bear to live with, even if it costs me every bit of joy and happiness in my life - even if he hates me. I have to figure out how to put the past in the past and begin to move forward.
"Good afternoon, Sebastian," I greet Bash when he comes onto the balcony where my ladies and I are having our midday meal. I'm learning to remember to call him by his given name, now that he is the future king.
"I wanted you to know that I will be out of the chateau most of the day tomorrow," he says.
"Oh," I return. "Do you have to meet a courtier?"
"No, it's a personal matter," he waves off.
"Might I come with you?" I ask.
"There's no need, truly," he replies.
"I really would like to come," I say. "I haven't left here since we were brought back by King Henry."
"Very well," he nods.
We leave just after breaking our fasts the next morning. Not much is said during the carriage ride. Bash is tense, I get the feeling he really wishes I were not here. He is quite overdressed for this outing, looking a bit like a popinjay unfurling all its feathers.
An hour later we arrive at a debtor's prison on the outskirts of Rouen. Bash asks the guards to stay with the carriage. When I move to get out, he stops me, asking me to stay here.
I will admit I don't take well to people telling me what to do. But he could have at least warned me at some point that he truly did not want me here, or that he would not allow me to do anything - I could have brought a book.
He emerges three-quarters of an hour later with a young woman. She is a peasant from her clothes and dirty face, but I can see she is quite pretty under the dirt. I gasp, however, when I see her heavily pregnant body. He's handing her a small bag. I move to get out of the carriage.
"What are you doing, Sebastian?" I question sharply.
"Get back in the carriage, Mary," he replies, his tone exasperated.
"Are you paying her off?" I ignore him and continue strongly. "Is she carrying your child?" I feel sick to my stomach, Olivia's name and face rushing to the forefront of my thoughts.
"Mary, if you..." he answers.
"No!" I say pointedly, he's not getting away with not answering my question. "Is the child she carries yours?"
He sighs, scrubbing a hand over his face. "Yes," he finally concedes.
"And you plan to pay her off with a small bag of silver or gold that will not last her but a short while?" I continue. "This is your child, it is your responsibility. That you would consign a child to the life you know could have easily been yours is unacceptable," I finish, turning to the young girl. I stifle a gasp - she is wearing the exact same pendant that was left on my pillow in late summer, the symbol of the pagans.
"My name is Mary," I say with a smile. "This is what we are going to do." She tells me her name is Isobel. I proceed to lay out a plan for Bash buy a small cottage her. To provide her and her child with a small - but steady - income so she can support herself and his child. I suggest the location be near the chateau, so he can easily visit them if he so chooses, though I get the impression he won't.
I had thought the situation between Francis and Olivia was bad; this is much worse. Francis wasn't careless enough to get Olivia - or anyone else he slept with after she left court - pregnant. I have to wonder if there are more women - more bastards. Did any of them even get a bag of silver or gold?
"Sebastian!" I call out in a panic, hurrying into the throne room where an assassin has tried to kill him. "Are you..."
"I'm not hurt," he assures me. I see a bit of blood, my hands seeking the wound. "It's not bad, I do need to see a medic, however. We need to find out who is behind this."
"Yes," I nod.
"We have no idea where he is, it could have been Fr..."
"No!" I cut in. I won't even countenance the thought. "Francis might be angry about what has been done, but he's not a vindictive person. I know this about him."
"I suppose you're right," he concedes after a moment. His hesitation chills me - he jumped to Francis' name so quickly. As if he perhaps wanted it to be Francis.
"It could have been Catherine," I say firmly. "This would be very much her style."
"True," he agrees. "But how would she communicate with anyone?"
"Catherine ruled here for many years, she has her own allies," I return. "You are a threat to everything she cares about. She is the obvious party behind this attempt."
"My lord, it is the first Tuesday of the month," one of Henry's advisors says, hurrying up to us.
"And?" Bash questions. We are planning to go riding together. It has been a few days since the incident at the debtors prison, days we didn't really speak to one another. I suggested a ride as a way to try to heal the breech between us since the incident with Isobel. I've tried to advise and guide him regarding his new responsibilities, but he wants none of my opinions, none of my help.
"On the first Tuesday of the month citizens come from far and wide, many great distances, to seek the king's justice," the advisor explains. "They are many here today and they are waiting just outside the throne room. You must fill in with your father, as his named heir. That is what Prince Francis has done for the last few years."
"But I will not," Bash refuses with a shake of his head. "I am not my brother."
"Myself and Gustave de..." he persists.
"I said I am not filling in for my father today!" Bash cuts him off, adjusting his new frock coat, as if it does not fit him properly.
"But my lord, it is your duty as the king's named heir to attend to his affairs in his absence," Henry's advisor ignores Bash's refusal. I don't understand his reluctance; this is his first chance to show himself to his new people as their future leader. It is his duty. There is no place for petulance in the life of a ruler. "And with the queen confined, these people, many have come several days, leaving homes and crops unattended to seek the justice of the king, it must be dispensed, today!"
"My lord," I interject, putting my hand on his arm. "Perhaps I might offer a solution. I could fill in for King Henry today, would that be acceptable? I don't know all the customs of France, but you already said you and another legal advisor would be on hand. If I am unsure, I will seek your counsel. We cannot let these people down."
"But we were going riding," Bash protests, like a child having a favorite treat taken away.
"Every ruler's first duty is to the people under their care," I return in a stern, even voice, disbelieving he would put a pleasure ride ahead of the needs of the people he wishes to rule someday. "Enjoyment is for after your duty is fulfilled."
"Then come find me after your duty is fulfilled!" he shoots back, then stalks off. I want to shake my head at the absurdity of his response, but I can't. What does he think ruling is? Parties, galas and better clothes? He will have to learn to temper himself, because ruling is really about duty and responsibility, and the weight of knowing the lives of an entire country's people are in your hands. He will learn. He must.
"Yes, Your Grace," Henry's advisor beams at me. "That would be an acceptable alternative, right this way," he finishes, holding out a hand to to point the way he wishes to guide me.
Bash cuts his palm, saying words I do not recognize, but I know they have to do with the pagans who tried to terrorize me with that stag's head.
"What are you doing? How do you even know how to do that? What is the meaning of this?" I question rapidly, my voice rising.
"This is what I have to do to get us out of here alive," he says, fisting his hand, allowing the blood to drip onto the forest floor.
"I don't understand, how is it you know of this blood sacrifice, how do you know their customs?" I question sharply. An owl hoots, making me startle.
"I am not one of them," he begins.
"Perhaps not," I push back, "but you know their ways and customs. So there must be a connection."
"It is not for you to worry about," he snaps, "I am trying to keep us alive here."
"I think I deserve an explanation of exactly who the man I'm betrothed to is," I hear my voice rising, panic coming through. "I am a Catholic, the Pope and my mother want me to claim the English throne in the name of the Roman Catholic Church! Isobel wore the same necklace that was placed on my pillow by the pagans. And you are a pagan?"
"I am as Catholic as you, I practice my father's rel..." he stops, realizing what he has revealed.
"Your mother is a pagan?" I breathe out, feeling faint. King Henry wants to marry a pagan?
"You should not lie to the Queen of Scots," a disembodied voice floods the forest. Every muscle in my body tenses, every hair on my body standing on end. I can hear every leaf rustle, every tree as it sways. I can't see through the thick darkness, but the voice came from behind me. "You know she is right, Diane de Poitiers is one of us. You know this, Sebastian. Your blood is familiar to us."
"I am a Catholic," Bash calls back. " I have always practiced the religion of my father."
"Then how do you know our ways, our language, our customs?" the voice speaks. I feel as if he plucked the questions right out of my head - as if the chill night air has floated them to this voice.
"I...I...I..." he stammers.
"You know our ways and customs because they are familiar to you. Our blood is familiar to you. You are drawn to the woods, you are drawn to this place - because it is a part of you," the man with the voice continues. I hear trees creaking in the wind. "But the man you sacrificed was precious to us, he was our guide, our priest, for that you still owe our people a debt, and we will continue to haunt your steps till we get satisfaction."
"How am I supposed pay this debt," Bash snaps. "You want me to hand you my betrothed?"
"No, this does not involve the Queen of Scotland," the voice returns. "It was foolish to bring her here, things happen here at night that are not always controllable. But, no, Sebastian, you can pay the debt - and you alone. When you are ready to pay the debt you will return."
"You wanted a life," he yells. "Any life I was told. I gave you a life for a life. The debt is paid!"
"What was the crime of the man that you pushed off that cliff?" the man calls back. What is he talking about. What man?
"How..." He starts and stops just as quickly. But it was enough for me to know that the man with the disembodied voice spoke the truth, making me realize just how little I truly know about Sebastian.
"The crows have eyes," the voice returns, a bird screaming its answer. "They saw your sin. They know what you have done. You will never wear the crown, not of France. We will collect payment from you for your crimes against us. If not tonight, then in the future. Know this always - your future lies on a different path than the one you are on. You know this path, it is familiar to you. When you accept your fate only then will the debt be paid."
A cold wind suddenly swept through the forest, rustling every leaf, causing me to shiver. I'm not certain if the shiver was from the cold or the man's voice and what he said. Who is Sebastian, really? To whom have I entrusted my life and my people to? To whom has Henry trusted his line?
In the distance a wolf howls.
"I'll wait for you outside," I say, and keep moving forward, coming to a fork in the hallway, hiding behind a pillar to hear what is being said.
"The water is mine, as much as it is theirs," the courtier explains. "To create a dam preventing me from being able to access to the water is a clear violation of my fealty treaties with the king."
"And exactly what do you expect me to do about it?" I detect the impatience in his voice.
"I would like you to explain that the water has always been shared that it is not the property of one family," the courtier replies.
"You want me to ride to Lyon and tell this person to take down a dam?" I can hear the incredulity dripping in his words.
"No, no," the courtier protests. " A letter would suffice, for now. One with your official seal would..." he trails off. Bash doesn't have the Dauphin's Seal of State ring - Francis does. Henry never took it from him.
"You will have to wait for the king to return before such a letter may be drafted," he snaps.
"I understand that but as the new Dauphin, I would think it is your duty to intervene in disputes such as this between two houses sworn in fealty to the king," the courtier presses.
"You will have to wait for the king!" he shoots back.
"But your brother..." The courtier tries once again.
"I am not my brother!" he growls, cutting him off. I hear his boots rapidly retreating the other direction.
I sigh. He doesn't seem to want any advice from me about how to rule - but he must learn what a ruler truly is. A servant to his people. His people must always come first. Perhaps when Henry returns this will all be sorted out.
...he will learn, with time, how to become a ruler. How to be judicious, fair-minded, compassionate. How to be more cautious and less reckless. More patient. He will learn how to be the man his country - and mine - need him to be. This is all very new to him and mistakes have to be expected.
I am learning - not all knights come with shining armor, some have feet of clay.
I must learn patience, treat him as a partner. Perhaps begin to share my knowledge and tutoring with him. Give him suggestions of things he can read to help him.
I have only one direction to go, that is forward. Francis and our love is in the past. It must stay there.
TBC1) I structured this chapter as I did because it's the one I have the least handle on. Little about this episode makes sense to me so I tried to make it make as much sense as is possible in my mind. I know I kinda left the camping trip out that seems to be a big part of this episode, but I can't make sense of it, I think it's about the assassin, but I'm not completely sure. And it looks ridiculous to me. Did I succeed, I'm honestly not sure.
2) I put Francis leaving at the beginning because for my continuity it makes more sense. I'm fairly certain he leaves at the end of the episode. I'm standing by the rest of the scenario I created for him.
3) I believe Bash's story is going to be with the pagans ultimately, and that's what I was trying to weave here. I've become iffy on if Isobel is actually pregnant with Bash's child or if she's perhaps his cousin. It all ties to the pagan storyline. Of that, I'm sure.
1) Red, Taylor Swift, live CMA version
2) Better Man, Pearl Jam
3) Solitary Thinkin', Leeann Womack
4) Say Something, A Great Big World
5) Let Her Go, Passenger
6) Long Trip Alone, Dierks Bentley
7) Distant Shore, Dierks Bentley