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Charles Rayleigh

"When you begin a journey of revenge, start by digging two graves: one for your enemy, and one for yourself."

0 · 1,323 views · located in Seabel

a character in “Forged: Blood and Steel”, as played by Scarlet Loup

Description

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“An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi





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Role: The King of Seabel

Gender: Male

Age: Twenty-seven

Nicknames: Though he goes by Charles in most places, he'll occasionally let his family or close friends refer to him by his childhood nickname Charlie.

House: House Rayleigh






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Height: Charles inherited a very tall height of six feet, three inches from his deceased father who was also quite tall in stature.

Build: Weighing only a hundred and sixty-eight pounds, Charles has a lean, lanky build.

Hair Colour: Charles's hair is a dark, reddish-brown which could also be described as a russet.

Eye Colour: His eyes are a stormy gray with a bluish tinge to them.

Scars?: There are a multitude of scars along Charles's arms and legs from training exercises in years past. Recently, though, he's become so skilled with a blade that his opponent hardly has time to attempt cutting him before he retaliates. His most noticeable scar cuts his upper lip on the right side about an inch. He received this one from King Harold before killing the man in battle. A few longer scars can also be found along his abdomen from fights where he lacked proper armor.

Brief Written Description: If there is one thing that truly declares Charles as his father's son, it is his height. Both men are (or were) six feet, three inches that allowed them to tower over basically everyone else. Charles has a lean, skinny build. In fact, as a young boy, he actually looked sickly. By the time he was sixteen, though, he'd begun to fill out in an attractive manner, building a layer of lean muscle. His hair is thick and wavy with a dark russet color. His eye color was also inherited from his father and, more or less, his sharp features also resemble the man very well. He keeps a light goatee and mustache, though keeps the rest of his face well-trimmed, never letting a stubble begin. Charles is known for only wearing dressy clothing during meetings or large events when social etiquette requires it. When wandering the castle, his usual outfits consist of leather: light, comfortable, and flexible. The colors are anything in the dark red or dark purple family along with blacks, grays or browns. In general, he prefers darker, rich tones.






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Skills:
  • It is agreed by many that Sir Charles Rayleigh is one of the greatest tacticians of his time. He sat on his father's council before his father's death and has been able to successfully plan raids and naval battles. He led his army successfully at the Battle of Mountain's Pass, gaining a victory for them.
  • Charles was born with a natural charisma that allows him to speak in a fashion that seems extremely elegant and mature for a man of his age.
  • Though he isn't the best horseman, Charles is able to ride horses very well, bringing them into gallops and even jumping them when need be. He enjoys hunting with his favorite horse, a white mare named Serenity.
  • Like the majority of his family, he is bilingual, able to speak and write quite a few other languages.
  • Finally, Charles can fight very well with a sword and a crossbow, although he prefers the former and works better with it too.


Quirks:
  • Charles is a very active man who, when still for a long time, begins to fidget or move slightly in place.
  • He'll press his palms together and hold his hands in a sort of praying position in front of his mouth when in deep thought.
  • Charles is an extremely protective man, especially of his wife and daughters.
  • When planning or thinking deeply, he prefers to be left alone to his own devices. Should he be disturbed, he'll become extremely irate quickly.


Likes:
  • Horseback riding
  • Sword-fighting
  • Reading
  • Politics
  • His immediate family
  • Harriet, his wife
  • Having something to occupy himself, which can range from sports to reading to sex. A busy Charles is a happy Charles
  • Hunting
  • Intelligence
  • Being on the throne
  • Planning a battle
  • Outmatching an opponent through strength or intelligence. He enjoys having the upper hand.


Dislikes:
  • Subjugation
  • Rashness
  • Ignorance
  • The Lancasters
  • Arrogance; despite the fact that he shows this trait himself at times
  • Boasting; another thing he is guilty of
  • Cold weather
  • Snow
  • Lies


Fears:
  • Death through anything but battle. He believes to die by disease isn't honorable
  • Losing a loved one
  • Being unable to make his deceased father proud
  • His wife being unable to bear him a son
  • Losing the throne
  • Making a poor choice in battle

Written Description:Once an immature, young lad in his father's court, Charles's marriage drastically changed him. At one point in time, he was a brash, ignorant man who pleasured himself with spirits and women whenever he felt like it. After wedding Harriet, he quickly changed almost overnight into the man he is now-- well respected and intelligent. He's one of the land's greatest tacticians and a very bright young soul who shows great potential. While his father was reluctant for the war between the Lancasters, Charles viewed it as an opportunity to test his tactical skills for real instead of behind the scenes at a meeting with a bunch of old men past their prime. Charles can be a bit hypocritical, judging those who are brash and bold like him in a negative manner. His wife and he share a true, strong love for each other, though that certainly doesn't stop him from eying a passing serving girl once and a while. The birth of both of his daughters also managed to make him more responsible. Even though he isn't outright upset about it around Harriet, he does wait impatiently for a son to take the throne after him, should he die in battle.

His responsibility on the throne and the amount of effort he has to put into his decisions has made him a bit more tired and weary. This is, also, partially due to him still trying to get over the idea of his father really being dead and gone. Charles finds great joy in his family, spending as much time as he can with them. The young man may have seemed to mature greatly, yet he is still quite naïve and restless. Then again, Charles is still only a ripe twenty-seven with plenty of time to improve. He'll tease Harriet occasionally in a playful manner, never meaning to upset her. Regardless, it is nearly impossible to stay mad at him when he gives a pitiful, regretful face that, more or less, resembles a bit of a puppy-face. Should someone else upset his wife or any of his family, he is quick to turn defensive and protect them with his own life. More or less, Charles has his priorities straight in life. He is just stuck in a blissful state that is beginning to shroud him from the truths. His father was his biggest role-model and he has adopted many of his ways. The young man's idea of "an eye for eye", which he showed by killing King Harold, just goes to show how far he's willing to go when his family is threatened. His restlessness, sense of revenge, and brashness could prove to backfire eventually.








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Family:
Father || Francis Rayleigh
Mother || Mary Rayleigh
Elder Sister || Charlotte Fitzroy
Brother-in-Law || William Fitzroy
Younger Brother || Jasper Rayleigh
Younger Sister || Margaret Rayleigh

Father-in-Law || Henry Stanford
Mother-in-Law || Annabelle Stanford
Brother-in-Law || George Stanford
Sister-in-Law || Eleanor Lancaster (nee Stanford)
Wife || Harriet Rayleigh (nee Stanford)
Daughter || Elizabeth "Lizzie" Rayleigh
Daughter || Cecily Rayleigh


Theme Song :
King & Lionheart || Of Monsters and Men
Taking over this town, they should worry,
But these problem aside I think I taught you well.
That we won't run, and we won't run, and we won't run.

And in the winter night sky ships are sailing,
Looking down on these bright blue city lights.
And they won't wait, and they won't wait, and they won't wait.
We're here to stay, we're here to stay, we're here to stay.

Howling ghost they reappear
In mountains that are stacked with fear
But you're a king and I'm a lion-heart.
A lion-heart.

His crown lid up the way as we moved slowly
Pass the wondering eyes of the ones that were left behind.
Though far away, though far away, though far away
We're still the same, we're still the same, we're still the same.

Howling ghost they reappear
In mountains that are stacked with fear
But you're a king and I'm a lion-heart.
And in the sea that's painted black,
Creatures lurk below the deck
But you're a king and I'm a lion-heart.
And as the world comes to an end
I'll be here to hold your hand
'Cause you're my king and I'm your lion-heart.
A lion-heart, a lion-heart, a lion-heart, a lion-heart
A lion-heart, a lion-heart, a lion-heart, a lion-heart

Howling ghost they reappear
In mountains that are stacked with fear
But you're a king and I'm a lion-heart.
And in the sea that's painted black,
Creatures lurk below the deck
But you're a king and I'm a lion-heart.
A lion-heart, a lion-heart, a lion-heart, a lion-heart
A lion-heart, a lion-heart, a lion-heart, a lion-heart




So begins...

Charles Rayleigh's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Charles Rayleigh Character Portrait: Harriet Rayleigh Character Portrait: Annabelle Stanford
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The forests in the outskirts of Briar were such a beautiful sight to see at the end of autumn before the chill winter winds swept through the South, making it just a little less comfortable outside. In reality, the South never got that cold in the middle of winter. The multicolored leaves littered the floor of the forest in different tones and shades of warm colors. The few leaves that still clung to their branches swayed with each breeze, threatening to fall. It was so peaceful this time of year, with barely a disturbance for miles around in the large forest.

Suddenly, a rumble began to sound through the woods, causing a few animals to look up from where they stood and collected an assortment of nuts or berries or whatever. The sound grew more intense and louder as it moved closer and closer. In a flash, a fox pushed her body through some bushes and emerged on the other side, racing along the leaves with a wild look in her eye. Through the brush, a large white horse leapt, pounding the ground beneath her hooves as her rider, a tall, lean man urged her on. "This way, girl! This way!" he cried, standing up slightly in the stirrups of the horse as she raced after the lithe shape of the ginger colored fox. "You have it in you, girl! Run girl, run!" Charles kicked his heel against her flank sharply and, having startled the white mare, she bolted further forward. By then, the fox was just at his mount's right hooves, veering slowly further to the right in hopes of escaping. She was too late, however.

In a swift, fluid motion, Charles had pulled his crossbow out and held it aimed, pressing his thighs into the flanks of his white mare to steady himself as he shot a bolt straight through the beast's chest. It fell, already head as it hit the forest floor. With a cry of excitement, Charles pulled out suddenly on Serenity's reins to stop the mare in mid gallop. Before she'd completely stopped, he was dismounted and quickly knelt by the fox.

"God, thank you for blessing this land with such an abundance of life," he said softly, removing the bolt from the fox before he lifted it in his hands. "Bless this land with many more years of fertility and luck." He crossed himself quickly and then stood, the fox in his gloved hands as he heard more hoof beats behind him. As he looked up, a group of four men on horses joined him, all stopping their horses to look at him. They were all part of his court in some way.

"Another kill for you, Your Highness?" asked one of the men in the lead of the group. Charles smirked, the grin spreading slowly across his countenance.

"Yes, indeed!" he cried, tying the fox by the hind paws on to the front of his saddle where a few other small animals hung. "This has been quite the successful hunt for me, gentlemen." Climbing again into the saddle of his horse again, he snatched her reins up. "I do believe these are some of the best hunting grounds in Seabel!" Beside him, the men readied their horses and, in sync, the lot of them started off toward Whinfell Palace.



If the forest looked beautiful, the palace was absolutely gorgeous. The true beauty of the gardens though, which were one of the most attractive parts of the palace, wouldn't be at their full potential until the next spring. The group rode their steeds into the courtyard where a group of scrawny young stable hands raced up to intercept the horses as the men dismounted. Another lad came to take the kill Charles has amassed; the fox, two rabbits, a quail, and a squirrel. On another day, he would have gone for larger kill, such as deer, but he had wanted the thrill of a chase this time and he knew his snow white mare wouldn't keep up with the larger prey as she did with the tiny animals.

For a while, the men of his court followed Charles into the palace and through the hallways. Hearing a stern, loud voice though, they suddenly hurried off.

"Charles Rayleigh! You have an entire kingdom on your shoulders and I swear to the Lord himself that if you leave me in the middle of a conversation again, I shall send my spirit upon you when I am buried six feet under!" cried the voice, as the rotund shape of Harold Pierrepont, Charles' advisor, came down the hallway, waddling slightly.

"Oh, Lord..." muttered Charles, eyes rolling slightly. He crossed his arms over his chest loosely, watching the man walk closer. "Correct me if I am wrong, but you are leaving out the part in which I invited you to join me on my hunt, Pierrepont. Besides, I heard you out, let you finish your statement, and then I left." His attitude would have certainly gotten him cuffed as a boy, but he knew they old man didn't have it in him to strike the King of Seabel. Instead, the advisor stopped before him, anger displayed on his countenance as he looked up at the much taller Rayleigh.

"And I told you I have not been able to hunt for a decade now," he countered. "And you know fully well you have responsibilities to attend to, Charles!" Another thing about the man that always seemed to amuse Charles was the fact that he addressed his sovereign by his first name, whereas his court had taken to titles such as "my lord" and "your highness". Charles looked down at the angry man who, in an odd way, resembled a sort of angered leprechaun.

"Very well, dear Pierrepont," he said, his voice almost cracking with rich, full laughter. "I'll attend to my duties...but, first, where is my wife? I feel as if I have not seen her in ages despite having just spoken with her this morning." His words seemed to get through the angry little man who simply narrowed his eyes and gestured toward the garden doors. Elation showed in the stormy gray eyes of Charles as he pulled his burgundy cloak close and hurried out of the doors, into the gardens.

Squinting against the sunlight, he gazed down at the clearing to look for his wife. When he couldn't see her, he frowned slightly and started further into the garden. Passing a figure in the garden, he stopped to look at them. At the sight of his mother-in-law, he smiled and walked toward her. "Duchess," he addressed her, nodding at her respectfully. She seemed exhausted and, for a moment, Charles' brow furrowed in worry. Yet, he knew she was a strong woman and he didn't really feel the need to question her.

Returning to the mission at hand, Charles strode by the fountain and leaned down to run a hand through the chill water as it moved slowly through the fountain in a never ending loop. A sudden squeal of joy caused Charles to look up quickly, so quickly he felt a light pain in his neck. They were the cries of his Lizzie, his eldest. They were cries he'd heard each and every time the young girl had talked either him or her mother into a game.

A smile spread again across his lips, exposing his white teeth as he moved toward the sound."Hattie, my love?" he called, slowly walked toward the sounds of giggling. As he moved closer and closer to the source of the cries, he came to the realization that the girls were off playing yet another game of hide and seek. Charles smirked. "Oh dear, I must have lost my daughters!" he cried dramatically. "I do believe this means I will never be able to play another game with them again! I must give away their toys and their dresses and their pets!" He sat on a bench in the garden, biding his time as he waited for the inevitable reaction.

"Father!" came the first cry, that of the bolder Elizabeth, as she burst through the hedges and raced toward him. The king hardly had time to spread his arms before she flung herself at him and latched on to his neck. Wrapping his arms tightly around her, Charles stood with a broad, elated smile on his lips. "My beautiful little Lizzie!" he exclaimed, walking around with her in one arm, balanced on his waist with her arms still around his neck. "Where is your sister, little one?"

He hardly had time to finish what he had said before another young girl came racing toward him, squealing "Father! Father!" at him. Charles stooped down again and gathered his youngest in his arms, too, balancing her on the other side as she, too, wrapped her arms around his neck.

"One day, you two shall be too much for me to carry around like this!" he remarked, walking down the path they had come from, set on looking for his wife. "How have you been this morning, both of you? Have you been good for your mother?"

"Well, Father!" they chirped in almost unison as they moved through the garden. Cecily said the next part. "We spent time with grandmother and then we played hide-and-seek!" He nodded, still smiling despite how fatigued his lean arms were growing from the combination of hunting that morning and carrying the two girls.

"Good, good," he replied, stopping as his wife finally came into view. She looked so beautiful in the lighting of the early morning. The sunlight bounced off of her blonde locks and he knew that when she turned to him, her bluish-gray eyes, so similar to his own, would reflect the light, too. He cleared his throat and grinned cheekily. "It appears that we have found you, Hattie." His voice held a teasing tone as he spoke to her. Slowly, Charles let the girls down on to the pathway as he moved toward Harriet. Arms extended, he brought her into a tight embrace and hugged her warmly as he kissed her jawbone gingerly. "How are you, my love...?" he cooed, moving one hand from her waist to brush it against her cheek slowly, his calloused fingers a bit rough to the touch but still gentle against her soft flesh.

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Character Portrait: Charles Rayleigh Character Portrait: Harriet Rayleigh
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Many sights seldom rivalled that of the gardens at Whinnfel Palace, correction, many sights seldom rivalled Whinnfel Palace itself, for it was a magnificent structure. Turrets of red brick towered into the skies, it’s intimidating façade dominating the surrounding landscape, it had been the epitome of Davenport, later Lancaster, strength, power and wealth and now it was the perfect example of the Rayleigh’s good fortunes. The palace was made for King’s and Queen’s, generations of them. Harriet had fallen in love with the place when she first visited Briar and King Harold Lancaster’s court as a young girl, she had marvelled at the enormity of the place then and as a small girl the corridors had seemed endless. Now the place did not seem as endless but was still daunting all the same. Never in her wildest dreams did that young child think that Whinnfel would one day be her home, let alone that she would one day become Queen; in retrospect it seemed incomprehensible just how naïve and blind she had been as a child to think that all was well in the Kingdom of Seabel.

Things were greatly different now, now Charles Rayleigh sat upon the throne and she was his Queen, their children Princesses. Even in the beginning of their marriage Harriet still did not fathom that the end to Lancaster rule was nigh, if anything Francis Rayleigh, Charles’ father had discouraged the thoughts of a civil war not wanting to inflict such times on the country he loved so much and Charles had easily respected his father’s wishes. Then Francis had been executed and generations of hostility had erupted within her husband, thus beginning ‘The Dynastic Wars.’ Admittedly, even at the beginning Harriet had her doubts about how successful Charles would be, he had begged and pleaded with him not to go to war out of fear of losing him, she did not want her children growing up without their father but still he went. No matter what her feelings she would stand by her husband, it was her duty but she still had her reservations, she couldn’t deny that the idea of being Queen was appealing but was the throne really worth losing her husband over? To Harriet the answer was simple, no. To Charles, well Harriet got the distinct impression that he would only accept two outcomes for this war, either he won or he died and that scared Harriet beyond belief.

Harriet had been politically savvy enough to realise that ‘The battle of Mountains Pass’ would be the defining point of the war. She had waited days, refusing food or sleep, she had been left with strict instructions that if the worst should come, she should take the girls and set sail to the Emerald Isles for sanctuary. Fortunately it had not come to that, the day her husband returned victorious would be the day she remembers until her last breath, he had come back bloodied, battered and exhausted but he had proudly held up the crown to her, he had done it, the Lancaster’s had been defeated, his father avenged.

Loss had been plenty during the war and much to Harriet’s concern Prince James had not been captured or killed along with his father but had rather fled to the Northern Lands, with her very own sister and brother. The thought angered her, at first Harriet had been under the impression that Eleanor had been taken against her will and that Jonathan had ridden out after her, although she soon came to realise that this was not the case, Eleanor had gone freely and Harriet had never felt such betrayal in her entire life.

The love she felt for her siblings were strong, however the hatred was still rife, the betrayal still so fresh that every time she thought about them her blood boiled. Harriet knew her feelings were selfish, Eleanor had done what she had out of love and a part of her wanted to applaud her bravery, but perhaps the realisation that she had lost her sister and brother to the enemy kept the wound fresh, or maybe it was seeing the effect it had on her family but either way Harriet could not…would not, bring herself to forgive her siblings. She could not imagine the effect the situation had on her mother, Harriet herself would surely be utterly devastated if her two daughters grew to find themselves on opposite sides, the agony her mother must be feeling was incomprehensible, but never-the-less Annabelle managed to hide it well.

It had been a while since Harriet had last thought of Jonathan and Eleanor, she put her train of thoughts down to her pregnancy and how she would not have the opportunity to celebrate the news with her entire family, like she had done so with Lizzie and Cecily and that made her a little sombre. “Boo” Lizzie shouted as she jumped out from behind the rose bush, followed closely by Cecily as she mimicked her elder sister’s actions.

Harriet laid a hand across her heart feigning surprise, the truth was had spotted the girls earlier, their small giggles and the rustling of leaves had given away their hiding positions quite early on but Harriet didn’t have the heart to spoil their fun and so she had pretended to search for them. “My goodness!” Harriet exclaimed, clasping her hands together in front of her “you two are getting far too good at this game!” The girls giggled in unison, happy in the knowledge that they were able to scare their mother.

"Hattie, my love?" Charles’ voice carried across the gardens bringing a playful smile to Harriet’s face. “Come my darlings; let us hide from your father.” Taking hold of her daughter’s hands as they hurried behind the rose bush just as Charles came into view. The girls giggled with excitement only to be hushed lightly by their mother. "Oh dear, I must have lost my daughters!" Charles cried out in a dramatic tone, causing Harriet to stifle her own laughter, looking down at her golden haired children she could see that they were both itching to go to their father, "I do believe this means I will never be able to play another game with them again! I must give away their toys and their dresses and their pets!" With that Harriet rolled her eyes knowing that she had lost her daughters side in their game.

Elizabeth was the first to run to her father; Harriet smiled at their union, feeling a little tugging on the skirts of her dress, she looked down to see Cecily looking up at her through wide, pleading eyes. With a light chuckled, she bent down and placed a kiss upon her youngest golden head “go on dear” Harriet smiled, giving Cecily the confirmation she needed to run to her father.

As Harriet observed the scene from the break in the branches of the rose bush, she couldn’t help but smile, Charles was wonderful with their daughter’s his love for them exuberated from every inch of his body. It was then that Harriet, like her daughter’s found herself wanting to be embraced by Charles and so stepped from behind the bush and into view, although she remained silent as she approached her happy smile spoke a thousand words. "It appears that we have found you, Hattie." Charles teased as he slowly set the girls down.

“Hmm…so it would seem” The Queen smirked matching his teasing manner. Long strides brought them together, his arms welcoming her into a warm and loving embrace, his lips speckling her jawbone with light kisses; so much was Harriet’s euphoria that she swore she had died and gone to heaven, there was nowhere else she would rather be in that moment, save for here with her beloved husband and children. "How are you, my love...?" Charles asked, his hand coming to rest lightly upon her cheek.

“Very well my dear. In fact I have some news to share with you” Harriet gushed almost unable to keep her composure, smiling she tore her gaze away from Charles’, looking towards her hands almost bashfully. Looking behind her husband, Harriet momentarily focused on her children. “Girls…” she called out lightly, catching Lizzie and Cecily’s attention. “Yes mama?” Little Cecily called out. “Why don’t you go and pick that flower you spotted for your father?”

The girls nodded eagerly, quickly taking off back to where they had seen the rose, leaving the King and Queen alone for a brief while. Taking Charles’ hand within her own, she placed a loving yet quick kiss upon the slightly calloused skin before guiding it towards the small swell of her stomach, “I am with child, my love” Harriet spoke gently, her eyes running up to meet his own.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Charles Rayleigh Character Portrait: Harriet Rayleigh Character Portrait: Margaret Rayleigh Character Portrait: James Lancaster
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"Please may I go outside, Geoffrey?"

"No, madam, I'm afraid you may not. You are not allowed outside the castle walls. It was your eldest brother's and late father's orders," the short man replied, his expression and voice bland. His wiry mustache moved and bumped on his face as he spoke, almost seeming to be fake, and he moved his nose in much a way that was similar to a rodent's. His beady eyes peered out behind his spectacles, boring into the papers in his hands.

"I understand that, Geoffrey, but I wouldn't leave the walls, I promise!"

"A no is a no, Princess. I cannot go against the King's orders," the small man snapped out, his voice slightly irritated and tired.

Margaret could feel her lower lip beginning to tremble. The familiar sting of tears in her eyes burned and an ache began in her throat.

"You do not have to be so rude and inconsiderate of my feelings when you answer me, Geoffrey. I wish that my father had never hired you in the first place!" she exclaimed, sniffing after she did so. She whirled away as the pudgy man sputtered, his face turning slightly red with a mixture of annoyance, anger, and embarrassment.

"M-M-Miss! How dare you speak to me in such a manner! You may be the princess, but I am of the most regal of status's when serving the royal family. You haven't the right-"

"Oh, can it, baldy. Stop giving her a hard time. All she wanted to do was sit outside and read a book. Where's the harm in that?"

Maggie turned, her eyes teary and tinged pink with crying, and after rubbing at the tears, she could recognize the young man that stood not too far away from her.

Tall and lean at the young age of eighteen, Jerald was the ideal image of a substitute older brother. Charles was always too busy to spend time with her anymore, what with his daughters and Harriet. Jasper was the same, only he was too busy fawning over Charles. This left Margaret alone and out in the cold.

It wasn't fair, to be frank.

She wanted her brothers and sister back. She wanted her mother and father back. But it was all extremely unrealistic, she supposed. Her father was dead, her mother fixated on her hatred for his killer; her sister engulfed in her marriage and children, just as Charles was, only he had the added weight of being King on his shoulders; and Jasper, who had completely and utterly idolized Charles, almost to the status of a Saint. She had even heard him speaking with one of the guards, claiming that he would, in quote, 'Do anything to protect his brother'.

She may be sixteen, but in very moments like these, she wanted only to have her family there for her. Not ordering guards, maids and butlers to look after and raise her. It was useless, however; as if she would ever confront her brother about manners such as these. Instead, she focused on the task at hand, which was to convince Geoffrey to allow her to go outside. During her small moment of self-deterioration, Jerald had strode closer, his sword bouncing slightly against his lightly-armored thigh.

"B-B-But sir! I must insist that she remain indoors, for the sake of all of his. If her brother returns and finds her to be outside -"

"Oh, hush up, Geoffrey. Honestly, all you do is whine, whine, whine. Charles said this, Charles said that. You know, some rules are made to be broken," he chuckled, casting a devilish smile and a wink in her direction. "What if I go with her and sit outside while she reads? Is that realistic and simple enough?"

Geoffrey scowled, debating between simple loyalty to the king, or loyalty to his immediate superiors in that moment. The latter eventually won out, and with a thrust, he tossed his finger in Jerald's face.

"You had better keep a close eye on her, lad. There have been one too many threats from the Lancaster's that they will indeed act. They may just target the weakest of the royals. Who knows? They could attempt to kidnap her, for the Almighty Lord's Sakes!" he exclaimed, throwing his hands in the air, a slightly-wild look in his eyes.

Jerald grinned and patted the far-shorter man's head. "I'll watch her closely, Geoffy," he grinned. With a hand held in her direction, she dropped her own into his, accepting the offer.

Immediately they were off, him tugging her down the halls and her hurrying to keep up to his long-legged pace. A few times she giggled as she nearly fell, him catching and steadying her easily. They finally managed to reached the doors that would lead them to the gardens behind the castle, and after weaving through the pathways, he brushed off a stone bench for her to sit upon, which she gladly took the offer of.

It was quiet, for the most part. Neither of them spoke, for she was too enraptured in her book, and he too kind to her to interrupt her reading. It was a mutual friendship, one that they had shared since they were children, and she enjoyed it immensely. In all honesty, she wouldn't trade the friendship for the world.

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Charles would certainly be lying if he said he did not absolutely love the silent connection he seemed to share with his wife. The two had been married for seven years and yet it still did not feel like seven years had passed. Sometimes, it felt like an eternity, like his entire life had been spent with Harriet and that his entire existence would mean nothing without her. Then, other times, it felt like they were two young spirits again, him twenty and her eighteen, meeting for the first time at an awkward encounter their parents had set up. He remembered being jumpy for the majority of the time, wanting nothing more than to return to his companions who were surely whoring and drinking without him.

Yet, there he was, meeting the woman his parents said he would be marrying so very shortly. He'd kept his doubts about him throughout their courtship, assuming that once they were married, he would be able to resume his usual ways. Of course, that's not how it worked its way out. Only a year after their wedding date, though, Harriet had given birth to Lizzie. While he had settled down remarkably beforehand, he certainly seemed to take his duties as a husband and a father more seriously after the birth of his first daughter. From there on, it seemed, he had placed his wife first and foremost. Being away from her for just a while had the tendency to get him worked up or anxious. And now, he was back with his daughters and his wife, holding the later of the two in his arms tightly, protectively.

He gazed lovingly into her eyes with a look only a lover could recreate. The glazed over appearance of his eyes made him look as if he were in a dream which he swore to God he was at times like these. "Very well, my dear," Harriet replied, bringing a subtle smile to Charles' countenance. "In fact, I have some news to share with you." Charles tilted his head slightly to the side and raised an auburn eyebrow in confusion as his queen looked down at her hands. For a while, he assumed something was wrong, but then he realized she'd been so happy when she greeted him...it couldn't be that bad, right? She called out to the girls and Charles glanced instinctively over his shoulder to see the two spinning in circles joyfully before their mother sent them off to find a flower for him. By then, the young man's curiosity grew greater and greater until he swore he could take it no longer and he would go insane.

Before she had begun to speak, Charles spoke quickly. "My love, do tell me what this matter of import is," he pleaded, clasping his hands around hers. "The anticipation is eating away at me." Was it good? Was it bad? He wasn't so sure of either at this point but he prayed silently to whatever spirit would hear him that it was not misfortune. He slowly let go of her hands and she took one of his hands in her much smaller, daintier hands. Pressing her lips to it, Charles' brow furrowed in confusion. As she guided it to her stomach, however, he couldn't help but smile broadly and eagerly.

"I am with child, my love," she whispered, moving her gaze up to meet his. Charles stood stunned for a moment or two, simply smiling down at her before he could formulate words.

"Y-you are expecting?" he asked redundantly, looking at her with wide eyes that showed a mistake of surprise and elation. He spread his palm along her stomach, grinning. "Another child..." He spoke softly, as if talking too loudly would frighten the child that grew inside of his wife. Suddenly, he enveloped her in his arms again and held her tightly as he lifted her from her feet and swung her around gleefully. Setting her down, he shook his head slowly in disbelief. "Oh, my love, this is wonderful news! Absolutely wonderful!" For a fully-grown man and for the King of Seabel, Charles certainly was an easily excited man, too. The thought of the pregnancy excited him. Not to mention that this could mean a male heir for him.

"It will be a male," he said matter of factly. The idea of having another daughter was a thought he did not want to imagine. "Yes, he will certainly be the male heir we have waited for, my love." He couldn't help but think back, though, to the birth of his two daughters. He hadn't been so worried when Elizabeth was born, since his mother had had Charlotte before giving birth to him. Yet, he'd expected Cecily to be a boy throughout the entire nine moons Hattie had been pregnant.

Although he'd celebrated the successful pregnancy beside his love, he had still been in a horrible, frightening mood that night. His advisor, Harold, avoided all mention of the night he walked in to see the young man cursing the heavens. But, perhaps now that Hattie was pregnant again, they would be blessed with a son to signal that Charles truly was the rightful leader of Seabel. Yes, that certainly seemed like a sign from God. A son would signify an heir, that the Lord himself wanted the Rayleighs to continue their rule. Yet another daughter...well, he did not want to think of that.

Instead, Charles placed a kiss against his wife's tender, supple lips. "Have you told anyone else yet...? he asked softly, his lips hovering above hers. He looked forward greatly toward the both of them making an announcement. How would his rival, James, react? The idea was entertaining. He imagined the dark-haired Lancaster being outraged by the idea. "And, of course, how shall we celebrate this wonderful news, love?" He had ideas in mind, but he most certainly did not want to risk harming her or his heir.

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Looking back to the beginning of their marriage, Harriet never would have imagined that she could find such happiness with Charles. Being the eldest daughter she had known that parents would marry her off to a wealthy and powerful family, although the Rayleigh’s eldest son, Charles never did cross her mind. The Stanford’s were well off, they had lands, titles and accomplishments to their name; however they were also a rather common family by standards, unlike the blue blooded Rayleigh family, no, the Stanford’s unfortunately had no royalty in their blood. You could imagine her surprise then, when her father had beckoned her into his private library and told her that Francis Rayleigh sought an alliance through marriage with their house. Now it was no secret, to a select few anyway, that Henry Stanford was opposed to the crown, his father, Harriet’s grandfather and his father had all been executed at the tower under King Harold Lancaster and so Henry, although publically reconciled with the King, harboured a deep need for revenge. Harriet had always feared her father’s ravings would see him too face the executioner, however, as luck would have it Francis Rayleigh caught wind of them and proposed a union between the two families, Francis would need Henry’s money and men should war ever break out between the Lancaster’s and the Rayleigh’s.

To begin with Harriet thought little of Charles, their first meeting had been near-nigh disastrous; he was a handsome fellow, tall and well built, with masculine features, however Harriet received the distinct impression that he would rather be elsewhere and true to form she had nearly snapped at him, telling him to go if she were boring him so. Afterwards she had displayed her displeasure to Eleanor in a rather venomous display, her words had been uncouth and vile, seemingly foreign from the young lady’s mouth, yet they displayed a side of Harriet which was well hidden but arose quite suddenly when insulted or chided. However, nowadays the fierceness had morphed from her own pride and vanity being hurt to others causing harm to her family.

Many would tell you that Harriet Rayleigh, nee Stanford was far from the perfect woman, she was not timid nor submissive, she had the courage of any man and the mind of one too, things many men did not like, especially for the wife of a King. Charles was different, after their initial disastrous first meeting, their courtship began and surprisingly he treated her as an equal, asked her opinion on things and it became clear to her then that Charles was not looking for a wife who would idly sit by his feet, no, Charles Rayleigh was a adventurous and passionate man and he would want that in every aspect of life. It was that which caused Harriet to fall in love and once she opened her heart to him, she never looked back and quickly they became one in each other.

The birth of Elizabeth had united them further, the day she was born was vividly engraved forever into her memory, the pain had been excruciating, however the joy she felt holding her own child, her own flesh and blood in her arms was overwhelming. Charles had been happy, perhaps not as much as he would have been had Elizabeth been a boy but jovial none the less. Cecily’s birth had been rather different; Harriet had been in and out of consciousness that she barely recalled a moment of it, only the words ‘it’s a girl’ before darkness had once again consumed her. When she had regained her strength once more and held her babe once again she had cried, not tears of joy but ones of pain and disappointment within herself, she loved Cecily, by god her children were her world but Charles’ disappointment was too much to bear, though he hid it well his true feelings shone through in his eyes, never had she felt so separated from her husband as did those weeks after Cecily’s birth. That had been three years ago and he had been waiting impatiently since, they both had for she wanted a son just as much as he did and was their chance, the babe in her stomach could be a boy…just as much as it could be a girl.

Starring into Charles’ elated eyes all doubts and concern seemed to dissipate, her husband was a good man who loved his children and wife deeply; one need only look at the scene in the gardens to see the truth in such a statement. There was no place Harriet would rather be than in her husband’s loving and protective embrace, there was no place safer. As he spun her around, Harriet chuckled as her arms wrapped securely around his neck, he had acted in a similar way to all her pregnancies and every time he made her feel as if no other woman existed in their world. “Oh, my love, this is wonderful news! Absolutely wonderful!" he spoke joyously, his excitement matching that of child’s, which lead to another reason why Harriet loved Charles so greatly. Most men hid their emotions, whereas Charles acted upon them, he was not afraid to shower his girls with affection in public, showing to the world that they were his only and they truly were.

"It will be a male…Yes, he will certainly be the male heir we have waited for, my love." Hearing those words made her concern and worry rise once more, the smile briefly fell from her lips as she lowered her head. With a steady breath her gaze returned to Charles’ along with her happy smile, “Of course, dear. My sickness has been a great deal worse this time, it surpasses anything I felt with the girls and I have heard that carrying boys will have that effect.” Harriet spoke confidently, speaking the words they both needed to hear. She could tell from his soulful eyes that he was having the same concerns, she could always tell his true emotions from those stormy, enchanting pools. Yet she could not bring herself to ask the ‘what is?’ no, at this time she did not have the courage. The kiss suppressed both their concerns for the time being, it was short, sweet but so full of love. "Have you told anyone else yet...?”

Harriet rested her forehead gently against Charles’ her lips still tingling from their kiss, “hmm” Harriet sighed in a happy delirium, “Only my mother. So I suggest we make the enouncement before she tells the entire Kingdom.” With another kiss she giggled against Charles’ lips, “But let us tell the girls ourselves beforehand.”

"And, of course, how shall we celebrate this wonderful news, love?" Charles asked innocently enough, however Harriet saw the hidden context behind his words and smirked against his lips. “Together. Just you and me, it’s been so long since we last had time to ourselves.” Her hand travelled subconsciously to her stomach as she tenderly rubbed soothing circles to the small swell, the smile never leaving her lips, “Are you truly happy Charles? I am myself but I must admit my fears of that family. Darling, when they find out they will be dangerous, we must do something about them.”

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Too elated and far too distracted, Charles didn't even catch the slightest glimpse of Harriet's fallen smile as he spoke of how he knew for a fact the child she carried was a boy. Of course, he really didn't, but the simple act of stating this idea made him all the more confident that his heir was so very close. His worry for an heir hadn't become an actual priority until the throne had become his. Before hand, he hadn't been worried in the slightest. In fact, if anything, he was quite lax about producing an heir for himself. Even at the ripe age of twenty-seven he should not have worried about having an heir now. Potentially, he had decades ahead of him on the throne of Seabel.

And yet, he worried more and more as his reign continued that he would be unable to produce an heir before the Lancasters rose up again. It was inevitable, really. James was a man who would not sit ideally as the Rayleighs controlled Seabel. No, James certainly would have a plan of attack, a way of recapturing the crown. Charles Rayleigh certainly did not fear the idea. He'd always been a fan of combat. There was nothing more exhilarating than leading the charge into battle, crying out in the name of your house. In a way, he was a mixture of a young, restless soul and an old, reminiscent soul, both of which craved the feeling of adrenaline coursing through the veins. He would much prefer death in battle or death from injury to a death in his sleep. Harriet had long since accepted this fact, even if she didn't approve of it herself. With this in mind, he knew a battle with the Lancasters could spell disaster for him, at least. An heir would further secure his family name and, should the Lancasters be defeated again, secure the throne for the Rayleighs.

"Of course, dear. My sickness has been a great deal worse this time, it surpasses anything I felt with the girls and I have heard that carrying boys will have that effect." Yes, he had heard that too from countless mouths in his court. Charles prayed that such tales were true. They must be true. He shook the doubts from his mind, though, as they kissed. He nodded in response to her having only told her mother. That was good. He'd be excited to make the announcement regarding the pregnancy alongside her.

"The girls will be absolutely elated, Hattie," he murmured, already imaging the excited, broad smiles they'd wear when they heard of the news. He laughed lightly in a breathy manner with his forehead still against hers "Yes, knowing your mother we have until dinner to tell our court before even the other kingdoms hear it." His lighthearted words kept him distracted from his worries of only moments ago. And, truly, that was how Charles's mind worked, nowadays. He knew for certain that once he left his wife's side and returned to his throne, the weight of a kingdom would be thrust on to his shoulders. The shoulders of a man his age were not built to hold a kingdom but he'd managed. If anything, Harriet was the one true force keeping him sane and in-check. For, without the guidance and support of his headstrong queen, the ruling of Seabel would easily become too tiresome.

With his seemingly innocent, yet suggestive question, Hattie had smirked into his lips. In turn, Charles grinned too in amusement. "Together. Just you and me, it’s been so long since we last had time to ourselves." Her hand moved slowly along the fabric of her dress, tracing light circles against the subtle swell of her stomach that had begun to show. He watched, smiling in the same way any father would at a child, with love and adoration and pride all piled together into one dreamy sort of smile.

"And I would have it no other way, my queen," he replied softly. If he could have, he would have kept everything frozen at this moment forever. The girls were off playing, his wife was expecting his heir, and he was beside her. All was safe, all was calm. Instinctively, Charles placed his hand over Harriet's, his fingers intertwining with her's slightly as he moved his hand along her stomach lightly. So entranced was he by the peacefulness of the moment that he almost completely missed Harriet's question.

"Are you truly happy, Charles? I am myself but I must admit my fears of that family. Darling, when they find out they will be dangerous, we must do something about them." His brow furrowed in concern and the king pulled his hand off of the stomach of his wife as he formulated his response mentally, looking down at her again but with slight worry this time.

"My love..." he murmured, trailing off slightly as he lifted her hands in his and held them tightly, reassuringly. "My love, I have only been happier the day I married you and the days our daughters were born. Of course I am happy. Words...they can not even begin to describe the elation I feel. I was blessed enough with just you, then with our daughters and you, but now another child? I do believe the Heavens themselves shine upon us." He kissed her quickly and then moved one of his hands to her cheek, cupping it tenderly as he met her gaze with his still worried one. "I share your fears too, Hattie...I do not get through at least one day without worrying for the safety of you or Elizabeth or Cecily or any of our family. But, we have an army and guards and I would rather die and see myself die over and over again than to let any harm come to our family. You and I both know fully well the extent those vile Lancasters would go to to take the crown for themselves yet again."

Looking back now, he truly did regret not having killed James when he had the chance. Instead, with the death of the old king and the surrender of the Lancaster forces, he'd simply allowed the man to flee North. If he had killed him, he could have stopped the worrying of him and his wife. Even better, he could have killed James and the man's brother, eradicating the Lancaster family. So many regrets...if only he could have changed it. Hearing his name back from where the castle doors were, Charles sighed and pressed a kiss against Harriet's forehead as he pulled himself away from her reluctantly.

"I do believe the old man gets grumpier the older he gets," he joked, trying to lighten the mood before he left her. "I have to return to the court, love. We will tell the girls tonight, alright? And then we shall make the announcement soon?" Out of habit, he'd posed the statements as questions for Hattie's approval. Most kings would have shrugged off the opinion of a woman, yet Charles knew she was one of his court's greatest assets. "I love you," he called quickly over his shoulder as he turned and started back to the palace, pulling his cloak tighter around his lean form. Just before he'd disappeared past the ornate doors, he glanced back again at his queen as if to etch her image into his mind. Then, leading, he started toward his throne room with a more elegant, refined gait in a stereotypical monarch-like fashion.

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Chares’ joy was utterly contagious, his grin infection as Harriet quickly found herself mimicking his emotions, for a woman who lived for her family their joy was the only thing that could make her truly happy. As Queen of the wealthy country she had some of the finest jewels and gems in the entire land, her gowns were made of the most splendid fabrics and softest furs which the world had to offer and yet none of them came even close to bringing her the joy that her husband’s smile and her children’s laughter brought her. It was remarkable really, how quickly Charles could quell even her most darkest of fears, how with just a glance of his soulful, blue eyes, the flash of his smile and the gentleness of his embrace could make her feel as if she were in a impregnable fortress, guarded by the finest armies of the worlds, she felt untouchable…she felt safe. It was a feeling that come hell or high water if Charles was by her side her family would come to no harm and their legacy would continue through the ages, it was a feeling that Harriet knew she could no longer live without.

You could not deny Harriet’s love and devotion to her family, she had many flaws but it was a strong redeeming quality. Unlike many women of her stature, Harriet had insisted that her children be kept close to her, she would not her own flesh and blood carted off to another noble family to be raised and taught, no she had birthed them and so help her god they would remain with her until her last breath. It was this devotion that made her dangerous, she would do absolutely anything to assure their safety, fight, lie or cheat, nothing was out of the question, especially in such dangerous times, when everyone was a potential threat and you could trust no one, it was in these times that Harriet Rayleigh proved to be the most dangerous. It was her job as a woman to bring children into the world, but it was the job of a mother to love and nurture and protect them at whatever cost and this babe growing within her, should god will it to be a boy, would need the most protection and nurturing of all.

For a short moment in time, Charles and Harriet were not King and Queen but merely husband and wife, sharing a tender and loving moment at the news of a child. The moment was rare, they were seldom alone anymore, if the girls weren’t demanding their entire attention then it would be matter of state doing so, but it just made Harriet cherish their moments together even more and this one would sure be one that would remain poignant in memory for years to come. Their hands entwined, Harriet’s guiding as they traced soft circles above the material of her dress, both in their shared happy delirium. So much so that Harriet almost forgot the question she had asked only moments ago, something which once again came to the forefront of her mind as Charles removed his hand, instead capturing hers in a firm but reassuring grasp as he gently murmured. “My love, I have only been happier the day I married you and the days our daughters were born. Of course I am happy. Words...they cannot even begin to describe the elation I feel. I was blessed enough with just you, then with our daughters and you, but now another child? I do believe the Heavens themselves shine upon us." Charles’ words came like sweet music; she had wanted to reply with something of equal sentiment only to beaten by the tenderness of his lips upon her own. A hand moved to cup her cheek, lifted her gaze to his, when in his eyes she saw her own fears. "I share your fears too, Hattie...I do not get through at least one day without worrying for the safety of you or Elizabeth or Cecily or any of our family. But, we have an army and guards and I would rather die and see myself die over and over again than to let any harm come to our family. You and I both know fully well the extent those vile Lancaster’s would go to take the crown for themselves yet again."

Harriet swallowed the lump in her throat as Charles spoke, she could not fathom if his words were a comfort or just another concern. Charles may be willing to die to protect them, just like any man would his family, however she just prayed this wouldn’t make him reckless; it was no secret to her how Charles wished to die, he had told her plenty enough, to die in battle would be the most honourable death and it nearly killed her every time she thought about it, that he would rather die young and in battle than old and in her bed. Did he not understand that she herself would rather die a million times over than to be parted from him so soon? Did he not see the pain it would Lizzie and Cecily to know that their father would never comfort them after a bad dream? She wanted to curse him and call him selfish, anything that would make the pain go away but she could not bring herself to sully such a beautiful moment and so she subjected herself to denial, once again. “They fought against you once and fell, my love, they’d be fools to believe that it wouldn’t happen again.”

From the palace doors, Pierrepont called her husband, even from where she stood Harriet could see the agitation in his rounded figure; she frowned instantly, never had she liked the man, he was harsh, greedy, far too familiar with Charles and not to mention how often he forgot his place; the feeling was mutual as far as Harriet believed, she had been called a commoner by him before and he made no secret in this dislike of her family. "I do believe the old man gets grumpier the older he gets," Charles lack of anger towards the man merely showed how high he held him in regard, but if she would give him anything it would be that his loyalty was next only to her own, still that did not change her feelings towards him much, it only made him a little more tolerable. “perhaps if he were less of a glutton then he may be able to find himself a new wife to satisfy his needs, instead of taking his frustration out on you.” The snide comment fell easily from Harriet’s lips as she rolled her eyes, her disdain towards the man becoming all the more evident, not that she had hidden the fact from her husband.

"I have to return to the court, love. We will tell the girls tonight, alright? And then we shall make the announcement soon?" Harriet sighed lightly in defeat but offered a small smile none-the-less, it was not Charles’ fault, there was no use in taking her frustration out on him, besides he had promised them a night alone and she had that to look forward to. “Very well,” she nodded in agreement. "I love you," Charles spoke over his shoulder, instantly causing her smile to broaden as she called out, “I love you too.”








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“Your Grace, you can’t leave your room, you’re not well!” A small but determined voice sounded from the Queen’s bedchambers, where from the past six days all could be heard was sounds of whimpering and retching, this paired with the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting coming to and fro with washing basins would have been a distinct indication to anyone passing that all was not well from within the Queen’s chambers.

The announcement of Harriet’s pregnancy had been made a few days after she had told Charles and as custom, the whole of Briar rejoiced in their news. The bells of the abbey rang in unison as town criers read the news to townsfolk, news had travelled across the land quickly and soon Lords and Ladies from every corner of the Kingdom had begun to send their well wishes and prayers for a boy. Of course the court had too rejoiced in the happy news also and the most marvellous feast had been held in their honour, although the mere smell and sight of the different meat had stirred up the Queen’s nausea, causing her to leave the room early she had at least been well enough to enjoy sharing the news with her daughters, who had been equally ecstatic.

It was soon after that, when Harriet took a turn for the worst. It had started one morning; the sickness had stirred up within her like a storm and was now unleashing its misery. At the beginning it had seemed no different from the sickness she had experienced when pregnant with the girls, but it had soon changed its course, now almost every smell made her vomit, there was no release in the nausea it was with her every moment of the day. It was not only odours that caused her to retch but also anything that she tried to eat made her stomach serge, all she could eat was a few grapes here and there or a small slice of bread. This had scared her immensely, surely this was not normal but Ser Knaveil had assured her whilst her severity of sickness was quite rare in pregnancy it was normal all the same. Still, she did not miss the slight concern in his eyes upon leaving and his orders of staying in confinement until it passed, if it passed.

After being stuck in her bed for the six days, Harriet felt as if she were going stir crazy, she was not a woman who liked to do nothing, she liked being outdoors, playing with her children, doing anything she could to pass the time and so as you can’t imagine, she was not handling this confinement too well. She sat on the end of her bed, clad in her thin cotton nightgown and heavy, velvet green robe, her long golden hair having been recently combed, hung loosely in waves around her waist, in fact she would have made quite a pretty sight that stormy night, had it not been for the threatening glare in her steel grey eyes, which were narrowed in on one of her ladies before. “Lady Poole, If you say that blasted sentence one more time, I swear to god I shall have you thrown in the tower” Harriet’s voice echoed around her room with the idle threat, made more so intimidating by the roar of thunder outside her window. The woman’s posture sank with the Queen’s anger, it was rare that Harriet would raise her voice to people but when she did it was a scary sight. “I feeling perfectly fine and if any of you try to stop me leaving this room then you shall be dismissed from my service,” Harriet pressed, wanting nothing more than to escape her prison. For the first time in days the sickness had eased off and she had managed to stomach some chicken, which had given her a slight boost in energy and eagerness to leave.

As she rose from her sitting position and began to walk towards the door, Harriet half expected at least Lady Poole to object once again, however she remained quiet, simply offering a quick curtsey as she passed.

The corridor was cold and gloomy on the stormy night, had Harriet been a child it would have most definitely have scared her. Thankfully her parent’s apartments were not too far from her own and quickly arrived at their door. “Mother? Father?” Harriet called out upon entering, expecting to see at least one of them almost immediately, she was greeted by silence. Moving from room to room, she checked her father’s bed chamber only to find it empty, not that she was surprised, he was most likely with Charles discussing urgent matter but as she moved to her mother’s bed chambers across the hall, she was surprised to see hers empty. Annabelle never usually stayed with the court this late, although instead of leaving Harriet walked further into the room deciding that she would wait for her mother to return. Walking around the room, she took note of the little things that her mother had added to make the place feel a little more like her room back at Pendlebury, including a painting of her childhood home, it was little trinkets like that which caused the light chuckle to fall from Harriet’s lips. Running her hand lightly over the scattered letters on Annabelle’s writing desk, her eyes briskly ran over her mother’s handwriting, along with some handwriting that she did not recognise, suddenly she caught sight of the ending of one letter.

Your daughter, Eleanor.

At first Harriet thought it must have been an old letter, but as she brought it closer and read the lines, her eyes widened in surprise and shock. “Harriet, my darling girl, what are you doing here, I thought the physician told you to stay in bed?” Annabelle’s voice startled her from behind. Turning sharply on her heel Harriet’s cool glare came to rest upon her mother, “What is the meaning of this? she demanded, her fist tightly clenching the letter in her hand as she thrusted it towards her mother’s face.

Annabelle’s smile dropped almost instantly, there had been dozens of letter scattered across that desk but she just which one she held in her hand, “Harriet…” she began, only to be cut off by her eldest daughters sharp tongue, “You have been writing to Eleanor and Jonathan?” she hissed, dropping the letter to the ground. “How could you do this? This-This is treason, you stupid woman!”

“Hold your tongue girl, you may the Queen but I am still your mother and you will not speak to me in such a manner!” Annabelle’s voice echoed above that of her daughters, but it worked, Harriet fell silent instantly casting her gaze downwards. It had been a long time since Annabelle had spoken to Harriet with such harshness, nobody else would be able to get away with it, but no matter what her age Harriet would always feel intimidated by her mother’s sharp tones. Bending down Annabelle picked up the letter, trying her best to smooth out the creases in the paper, placing it back down on the desk before turning to look at Harriet, a sigh escaping from her lips. “They are my children also, Harriet. What would you have me do? Disown them like your father?”

“Yes!” came Harriet’s sharp and instant reply, one which made Anna wince with pain. How had they come to this? How had it come so that she had to choose between her children? It hurt every day, both physically and mentally, she wanted nothing more than to hold Jonathan and Eleanor in her arms once again and these letters had been the only thing to remotely dull that pain. “How could you do this?”

Annabelle actually laughed at that, “How could I? Harriet, you’re a mother, I would expect above all for you to understand.” Disappointment caused through the older woman like a knife, taking a deep breath she attempted to steady her anger at her unreasonable child. Although a look of remorse swept across Harriet’s features, Annabelle could tell that it was not the end, Harriet got that stubborn streak from her father all of her children did. She doubted her daughter would tolerate her ‘fraternising with the enemy’ so it were and for part of her Annabelle could understand this, her duty was to her husband and she was right, this was technically treason, had anyone else been found with such letter they would have immediately been sent to the tower and for that reason she had chosen to keep them secret, not even telling her husband. “What would you do if Lizzie and Cecily were separated, each declared the enemy of the other? You cannot tell me for one moment that you would not do the same.”

Harriet pinched the bridge of her nose as she shook her head, of course her mother was right, she was always right but that did not help her in this situation, “What would you have me do, you speak of dividing ones family but you are doing that to me now!” Annabelle approached Harriet slowly, placing both hands gently on the side of her face she forced her to look her in the eye, “I want you to forget that you saw that letter.” Harriet could have laughed at the audacity of her mother’s words, forget? This was something she would never forget, even if she wanted to; what was she to do? She was unsure how Charles would react to the news if she told him, there was no telling, he liked her mother that was true but he could not let something like this go unpunished, but it would be nothing to how her father would react. She shook her head, she knew what she had to do, “I won’t tell anyone this time, but this cannot continue, I will not be able to help you if you are caught.”

Annabelle smiled in relief, “thank you, my love” she sighed, resting her head against Harriet’s. Although in her heart she knew she would be lying to Harriet if she said she would cease contact completely, she would be failing as a mother to Eleanor and Jonathan if she did that, but she could at least put her eldest daughters mind at rest by doing so. Suddenly Annabelle recoiled back, concern written across her face as she rested her palm against Harriet’s forehead, “Darling your burning up.” Harriet could only nod as the nausea slowly began to creep back to her, her knees weakened as the pain in her head return also, reaching forward she grasped onto her mother’s arm for support, “Help me back, mother.”

Wrapping an arm around her daughter’s waist, the pair stumbled down the corridor, with every step Harriet fought the urge to retch, she couldn’t vomit in the corridor, she just couldn’t. Finally they reached her rooms and Annabelle quickly ushered her in, directing her to the empty washing basin where Harriet instantly vomited, whimpering in-between, once she had finished, she slumped down against the floor, falling into her mother’s arms, crying against her shoulder. Annabelle sat there rubbing soft circles into her daughters back, placing light kisses against her golden hair, “there, there, my love, there, there” she hushed as she use do all those years ago. [/color]

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"Your Majesty?" A voice spoke out hesitantly in the throne room, echoing off of the surrounding walls, elegantly decorated with carved walls and works of art that caught the eye when it wasn't focused upon the King himself. Charles was perched on his throne, illuminated well in the room despite the mixture of dim sunlight and even dimmer candlelight that filtered into the throne room. What usually was a lively, cheerful room had been reduced to half of it's usual grandeur.

Just days ago, the kingdom had been thrown into full on, joyous celebration for Harriet as she announced her pregnancy. The feast was grand and Charles let the burden of a kingdom slide off of his shoulders for the night as he and his queen enjoyed the fete. Though she'd excused herself early, he thought nothing of it, shrugging it off as sickness from the male abbe that developed inside of her. He'd seen her sick when she carried first Elizabeth and then Cecily. Both times, she'd been sick for a while and then returned to her usual self. Yet, this time, he watched in horror as Sir Knaveil was summoned to look at his wife.

As the man left, Charles remembered quickly stopping him and almost shoving him against the wall as he demanded good news. The physician had told him quickly that it was nothing more than the usual sickness that came with pregnancy. Although Charles had sighed with reassurance, he soon saw the man walk off with worry in his eyes. He hadn't received a decent night's sleep since.

There were many things that worried the young monarch. Granted, there were a great number of fears that came with the title of King. While he worried about the usual failing in his position or losing the throne, Charles's greatest fear was the death of yet another family member. He'd watched in horror as his father was taken to be executed, unable to do anything to assist the man who had loved him his entire life. He couldn't bear to see another family member die. No, he'd rather die than deal with the pain again.

"Your Highness?" The voice repeated again with slight agitation. Charles started, his chin lifting from his fist, where it had settled after he propped his elbow up on the arm of the throne. He looked over, stormy gray eyes clouded from a mixture of exhaustion and simply having spaced out.

"Aye?" Charles said, looking toward the source of the voice, which was none other than Harold Pierrepont, who sat in a chair not far away to relieve his "old, aching" feet. Harold stood slowly, grunting from the slight exertion and clasped his hands before his rotund figure as Charles watched with slightly narrowed eyes. What was so important that his adviser felt the need to interrupt his thoughts? "What is the matter?"

"You appear tired and you do not seem to be yourself," Harold said, walking slightly toward the throne. "Should you retire for the night, Your Highness?" The whole "Your Highness" this and "Your Highness" that seemed highly uncharacteristic for the man, who usually referred to the King by his first name. Yet, Charles noticed his court was still assembled around him. It would appear extremely unprofessional to them, no doubt, if Pierrepont called the monarch by his first name and, of course, it was Pierrepont, who took public opinion as gospel. "On that same note, you have not been very...attentive this entire week. Is Your Highness feeling alright?"

Charles's hands tightened around the arm rests on either side of his body. Even now, three years after his rule had begun, he could not get over how much history this carved throne must have held in it. Every part of it was worn slightly in some way. Despite the great care taken to preserve it, it would always hold traces of the kings before. He looked down at one of his fists which had tightened around the arm rest so tightly the knuckles had turned white. Perhaps the King before him, Harold, had held them the same way. Harold, the man who had killed his father. The man he'd murdered in battle to avenge the aforementioned murder of his father. The thought made his stomach churn and a fury build up inside of him. Without even thinking, he'd stood up quickly with an angered expression displayed on his countenance.

"I am feeling quite alright, Pierrepont," he snapped, fists held at his sides as he looked down at the man who, even without the steps up to the throne, would still stand shorter than him. As he stood, the sound of chairs being pushed back suddenly echoed as the rest of his court stood up in unison. Any bit of side chatter in the throne room ceased as all eyes turned toward the enraged King, whose voice bounced off of the walls and filled the high-ceilinged room. "I have never felt better." Both he and his adviser were well-aware of the fact that he was lying through his teeth. Still scowling, he walked down the steps to look down at the man. "I do not need you to baby me, Pierrepont." He growled the words under his breath so that the rest of the figures would be unable to hear. "You know my wife is ailing and you know this puts me on edge. I assume you would know the feeling, having been a married man just as I am." Charles turned toward the rest of the court briefly and then quickly dismissed the gathered men and women as he hurried out of the room.

Perhaps Pierrepont was right. Perhaps he truly did need a break from the court for now. He wasn't fond of admitting it, but the man was certainly right in many cases. The king's pace grew quicker once he'd left the throne room so that he was just about jogging by the time he reached the hall outside of his wife's chambers. Charles stopped, calming himself for a moment before he tapped his knuckles against the wooden door.

"Hattie...?" he called, pressing his forehead lightly against the door as he listened. He could hear a soft voice, muffled from the door, which he recognized as his mother-in-law's voice. As he listened closer, he could hear soft crying which he easily could tell was his wife's. Eyes wide, he opened the door quickly and looked down at the two figures with his brow furrowed and absolute dread showing on his face. "Oh, my love..." Charles hurried to her side and knelt on the floor, placing a hand on her back lightly as if to signal he was there. "My love...are you alright?" He didn't seem to care at all that such a statement was redundant. Obviously, she was not okay. Instead, he simply wished to hear her speak. He needed her reassurance just as much as she would need his.

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Harriet was taken back to being sick as a child, sat on the cold floor her mother’s arms wrapped around her slender body as she cried into the crook of her neck, all the emotions from the past week suddenly came to the surface and tore down the Queen’s stoic façade. She was scared, scared for her life, scared for that of her child’s, scared of just about everything and despite how well she buried it, she could not keep it dormant forever. “Mother I’m dying” Harriet sobbed into her mother’s shoulder, her dramatic words causing Annabelle to wince, “Harriet do not say such thing’s” she hissed. These were words a mother never wanted to hear from her child, even when they were completely unjustified, Harriet was not dying, Knaveil had assured them that much. Although this sickness was greater in severity than anything Annabelle had experienced with her own pregnancies, throughout all six of them, she still did not worry for her eldest daughters life, Harriet was strong she would defeat her ailment, she was sure of it.

“But it’s true, I feel so weak.”

Annabelle frowned and gently tilted Harriet head to look at her, “You must stop this talk of nonsense immediately, suppose Charles hears you, he’s already worried sick, or even worse what if the girls heard you talking in such a way. Lizzie is already fretting and Cecily clings to my legs all day asking for her mother, they are suffering enough, they do not need to hear such words from you.” Annabelle watched as Harriet’s face crumbled, it seemed that her sharp words had given her swift kick, a shaky hand came up to cover her mouth as fresh tears gathered in her eyes, “oh my girls, my girls” Harriet sobbed once again sinking into her mother’s embrace. Annabelle ran her slender finger down Harriet’s back, the comforting action seemed to relax her somewhat as her sobs became less fierce, she did not like to say words that would make people upset, however in this case they proved to be the driving force Harriet needed to snap out of her self-pity, it could be extremely dangerous in such situations. “My darling I promise you won’t feel like this forever, just think about the child growing within you, it’s his way of letting you know that he’s strong and he’s here.” Annabelle only realised after that she had called the baby a ‘he,’ it was almost by default that she used the term also, the entire court was already referring to her unborn grandchild as a he and although she still had her worries, Annabelle fathomed that only a boy could cause his mother such anguish. “Besides, what type of world would it be if a child did not distress its mother?” She jested in a attempt to lighten the mood, it seemed to work as a small breathy laugh escaped from Harriet’s lips.

Pulling back from her mother’s embrace, Harriet offered a small smile of gratitude before it dropped suddenly as the bile rose in her throat. Annabelle took note in the quick change and reached for the bucket, just in time before Harriet once again vomited, taking the bucket away, Annabelle placed it to the side, picking up a cloth, she submerged it in some cool water and returned to her daughter, still sat slumped on the floor. “Here, rinse out your mouth” she ordered holding a glass of rosemary water to her daughters lips, which she drank from, swirling the liquid around in her mouth before spitting it back out. As she did, Annabelle placed the glass to the side and retrieved the wet cloth from the basin, ringing it out before sitting back down next to Harriet, dabbing her slightly warm forehead as she sobbed against her mother’s shoulder.

Both women almost missed the soft knocking at the door and Charles’ light tone, it wasn’t until the door opened and Charles walked in did Annabelle look up and almost breathed a sigh of relief, ushering him forward, Charles knelt beside them a comforting hand coming to rest upon the small of his wife’s back. Annabelle’s heart almost broke all over again at the pain etched into her son-in-laws features; she could tell that he was almost as scared as Harriet was, if not more so.

"My love...are you alright?" His worried tone alerting Harriet fully to his presence, “Charles” she sighed breathlessly turning to face him, instantly wrapping her arms around his neck, just needing to feel him close, “I need it too stop,” she sobbed into the crook of his neck, “I need it to stop.”

Annabelle sighed as she rose to her feet, she understood her daughters pain she really did, not being able to eat anything without vomiting yet wanting to more than anything to assure that your child grows strong was a pain only a mother could feel and all the while a weakness hovered above you like a storm cloud, making even the simplest of tasks seem impossible. Although she had no doubts that the worst should pass within the next week or so, she would pray that it would do so quicker if only for her daughters sanity, the woman before her was just a shell of the Harriet she had raised, yet pregnancy could do strange things to a woman.

“I want to see my girls. Charles, please get me my children.”

“I shall go and get them my sweet but you must compose yourself, it will only pain them more to see you in such a way.” Harriet nodded at her mother’s words, pulling away from Charles’ embrace she placed her hand against the hollow of his cheek offering a small smile as she did so, her eyes still shinning bright with tears, “Will you help me up, my love?” Harriet asked unsure if she had the strength to push herself up from the floor.

Annabelle smiled at her daughter, placing a kiss against her warm forehead as she passed, “I shall go and get them now.” Before leaving she offered Charles a quick smile of encouragement and hope for a great part of Harriet’s strength came from her children.

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Charles rubbed small circles against his wife's back as she continued to lean against her mother. As Annabelle had noticed, he wore a pained expression at the sight of his wife, his love, reduced to nothing more than tears. She had always been a strong woman. When she'd faced death during Cecily's birth, she had managed to pull through. Not many other women would have pulled through. He thanked the Lord every night for this.

But now, looking down at his wife, he couldn't help but worry that she may not be able to pull through this time. Oh God, the thought brought tears to his eyes and he quickly wiped them away so she wouldn't see them. They were both the only things holding each other together and he certainly didn't want to break down before her. "Charles," Harriet said lightly, almost weakly. It tore at his heart and he felt his stomach lurch in response. She turned and wrapped her arms around him. In response, Charles pulled her against himself and wrapped his own arms around her body tightly as if letting her go meant he would lose her forever.

"Yes, my love..." he cooed, rubbing her back still with small circles. "I'm here now, Hallie, I'm here..." He rocked back and forth slowly, holding her.

"I need it to stop...I need it to stop." Her words pained him further and he let out a weak, ragged sigh as he nodded. Moving one hand up to the back of her neck, he tangled his fingers loosely in her hair. What was usually a sensual interaction suddenly became a loving, tender one.

"I-I know, my dearest..." Charles stammered, nodding slowly. He kissed her cheek lightly again and again. "I want nothing more than to make it better...if I could, I would. It pains me to see you this sick. Oh God, I'd take your pain for you if I could!" He had tried to stay calm but, by his last statement, he couldn't help but whimper softly. Another man might have stayed strong and refused to break, but Charles had always been a passionate man. Even now, he started to feel another wave of tears rising in his throat. What he said was true, though. If he could have taken the pain, he would have. He would have faced the entire Lancaster army to make her feel better.

"I want to see my girls. Charles, please get me my children." He started to stand, but then Annabelle offered to find the children herself. The King offered a weak, grateful smile to his mother-in-law as she passed by and smiled back at him. As Harriet pulled away, Charles looked down at her with worry. Though, she quickly placed a hand to the hollow of his cheek and smiled, tears forming in her eyes. His stormy gray eyes too also brimmed with tears. "Will you help me up, me love?" Charles nodded fervently.

"Yes...yes, of course," he whispered. Lifting her in his arms, Charles stood up slowly and set her on the bed first in sitting position and then leaned up against the pillows in a reclined position. Still standing, Charles unbuttoned the front of his leather shirt and let it slide off of his shoulders as he kicked off his boots. Slowly, he crawled on to the bed beside her and laid against the pillows at his place. She was such a shell of herself, really. There was no better phrase to explain it. The Harriet that Charles knew and loved was a strong Harriet, full of liveliness and passion. This Harriet, though, lay there with a pained expression and tears in her eyes.

Instinctively, his arms wrapped around her and held her to his chest while he continued to wear his pained expression. "It will all be alright, my love...I promise you, it will all be alright." The young man pressed his lips into the fair hair of his wife, closing his eyes as he savored the moment. The sound of feet hitting against the floor outside of the room made him look up slowly. For the first time in what must have been days, a grin spread across his countenance as the door opened and their girls ran in, just about flinging themselves on to the bed as they raced toward their parents. Charles pulled both girls close and, with an arm still around Hattie's shoulders, set them down between himself and Harriet.

"Hello, my angels," he said softly, forcing a smile for the girls and for Harriet, knowing that neither would want to see him upset or crying. They curled close to their mother and Charles watched them, absentmindedly twirling a strand of Harriet's hair in his fingers. Reaching over the girls, he grabbed one of her hands and pressed it to her lips quickly, smiling against the flesh. "I love you, Hattie. I know I've said it before countless times but it will never not be true. You and I, especially you, will definitely pull through this. Our son will be strong. He is your son and my son, no? Two of the strongest in Seabel, if I do say so myself." He smiled at his own comment, hoping it had lightened the mood.

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Annabelle’s feet took her swiftly along the darkened corridor towards her grandchildren’s room; thankfully they weren’t too far away, Harriet had always insisted on keeping them close to her. Hopefully they wouldn’t be asleep, although she doubted they would be, if they were anything like either of their parents then they were probably still up driving their nanny mad with questions and demands. Like usual Annabelle entered the room without knocking, the click of the door causing three heads to dart towards her direction, two of joy and one of relief. The girl’s nanny offered her a quick courtesy and a apologetic look and she spoke, “My apologies Lady Stanford, I have been trying to get the princesses in bed for the past ten minutes, but they won’t settle.”

“Do not fret about it, I have come here to take the girls to their mother” spoke Annabelle, smiling as the smiles of her grandchildren brightened with joy. “Really? We get to see mother?” Lizzie enquired quizzically as if she did not believe her ears. Annabelle nodded in response “Yes, now come on you.” They didn’t need much coaxing, both girls jumped from the bed quickly slipping their small feet into their slippers before hurrying past their grandmother and out of the door, whom watched them with a shake of her head and a breathy laugh, she too was about to follow them when she remembered the nanny, turning back quickly she offered the woman a small smile “you may retire for the evening, I believe the girls shall be spending the night with their parents.”

Out in the corridor Annabelle barely had time to catch up to the girls, when a voice caught her attention, “Mother!” Turning sharply on her heel her eyes landed upon George, her youngest son instantly bringing a smile to her tired face, “oh , George, my sweet boy” she cooed bringing him into a warm embrace. “Girls! Come look who is here?”

Lizzie and Cecily both reappeared around the corner, bright smiles illuminated their pretty faces, “Uncle George!” they cried in unison running towards the man they had not seen in quite a while. George crouched down to their level as they ran at him, wrapping their small arms around his neck causing him to laugh as he hugged them back, “now, what are my sweet nieces doing out of bed at such an hour?”

“We are going to see mother” Lizzie answered for them both, as she usually did. George nodded still smiling but he quickly glanced up at his mother who offered him a knowing look, “well then, best not keep your mother waiting.” As they approached Harriet’s bed chambers, Annabelle opened the door for them both, watching with a happy smile as they ran inside without even a second thought, gently she closed the door behind them and turned back to her son. “What are you doing here, my dear? You weren’t supposed to leave Pendlebury until the end of the month.”

“Father sent a messenger telling me Harriet was greatly unwell and so I came here early” George explained, taking hold of his mother’s hand, concern written across his face. Annabelle sighed deeply as she silently cursed her husband, “Your father was wrong to worry you so,” she replied gently, it’s true that her husband had been near-nigh impossible these past few days, wrecked with worry for his eldest daughter and no matter what Annabelle said, nothing seemed to calm him, “but yes, she is not doing so well at the moment, the sickness with the child is a great deal worse than she has experienced before.”

George bit the corner of his lip in concern, “Will she be alright?” he asked tepidly, almost scared of the answer. Annabelle beamed at this and nodded,
“I believe so, Sir Knaveil has assured us that it is nothing more than the pregnancy, it’s just a great deal worse this time around and that’s getting her spirits down, she can’t eat a great either, so that has made her a little weak but I have every confidence that she’ll be okay again in a few weeks.”
George couldn’t help but sigh at his mother’s words, relief replacing his worried features, “true to your sisters form she has managed to cause quite a stir within the palace, no more so than with the King and your father.”

George couldn’t help but chuckle at this as he nodded “she does have a knack of doing so,” he shook his head, “how is the King doing?” Annabelle frowned slightly followed by a quick sigh, “Not so good, he is terribly worried. I’m not going to lie to you George, how ill she is scares me but she will be okay, perhaps the girls shall lift her spirits.”




As Charles lowered her down onto the bed, Harriet instantly felt some relief as her aching body sank into the feather mattress and warm furs, leaning back against the mountain of pillow; she rested her head back against the solid oak headboard of her four poster bed, her eyes drooping as tiredness swept over her, for the moment her nausea had ceased but it made her fearful of movement just in case it stirred it up once again. Feeling the bed dip a little as Charles moved beside her, Harriet waited to be engulfed by his arms, she did not have to wait long, soon the Queen found herself being held against her husband’s chest, "It will all be alright, my love...I promise you, it will all be alright." Charles spoke the comforting words to ease her troubles and it worked, then again Charles had always possessed the power to quell even her darkest of troubles with brief sentimental words. Had she been another woman and had he been another man, she probably would have scoffed in his face, men always made promised they couldn’t keep; alas they were no ordinary couple, they were Charles and Harriet Rayleigh, King and Queen of Seabel, and even if Charles promised her the impossible she would believe him, it’s what women in love do.

“Hmm, I love you,” Harriet murmured into his chest as he placed a kiss against the crown of her head. They stayed in that serenity for a few moments, it was the most peace she had felt in days, so much so that the lure of sleep lulled her closer to the sandman, that was until cries of “Mother!” filled the room. Tilting her head slightly, Harriet’s blue hues shone as her heavy eyes fell upon her children’s faces bringing a happy smile to her face.

The girls launched themselves onto the large bed, their eagerness causing a small chuckle to fall from Harriet’s lips, it was small and breathy but it was a laugh nonetheless. She watched as Charles lifted the girls up towards the head of the bed, setting them down in-between the two, instantly they both curled into her side, filling her with warmth which only other mother could understand. “We’ve missed you mother” Lizzie spoke first, starring up at her through eyes which were the exact duplicate of their fathers, “I’ve missed you both, so, so much” Harriet uttered pressing her lips to her eldest daughter’s forehead before doing the same with her youngest.

Feeling Charles’ hand grasp her own, Harriet directed her gaze towards him, "I love you, Hattie. I know I've said it before countless times but it will never not be true. You and I, especially you, will definitely pull through this. Our son will be strong. He is your son and my son, no? Two of the strongest in Seabel, if I do say so myself." Harriet smiled in utter content, her free hand coming to rest on her swollen stomach, although she knew this pregnancy would be a long and tiresome one, the outcome would be worth it, that much was certain. “I love you all, so much” she sighed as her head once again falling back against the headboard as her eyes began to droop.

“Mama, you’re not going to die are you?” Cecily’s little voice asked. Harriet’s breath caught in her throat as tears prickled her eyes, she could barely bring herself to look at Cecily from the pain in her heart but once she did she saw a little’s girls anguish and frightful expression and that just broke her heart all over again. Releasing a shaky breath, Harriet mustered all the strength she could and lowered herself down so her head rested against the pillows and she was level with her children, praying that the sickness would not return. Bringing her hand up, her slender fingers brushed against Cecily’s rosy cheek as she smiled, “Who told you such nonsense, my darling?” Instantly feeling guilt at the words she had uttered before.

Cecily instantly looked back at Elizabeth, unbeknownst to the youngster giving away the culprit, Harriet’s lips pursed into a brief frown as Lizzie suck into her father’s side, “Why did you say that to your sister, Elizabeth?” Harriet watched as her daughters eyes began to waters, gazing at her with that big soulful look Charles often shot her when she was angry at him and it made them almost impossible to stay mad at. “I’m sorry mother but I didn’t mean to, honest I didn’t! Cessy asked me why I was crying and I said because I was scared you were dying.” Instantly Harriet’s anger withered away, replaced instead by disappointment in herself, “oh my darlings, I am so sorry I made you feel that way but I promise you I am not going anywhere soon. Besides I don’t think your poor father would be able to keep up with you on his own…” Harriet lazily smirked in jest as her eyes wondered up to her husband, “No, I’m definitely not going anywhere” she added just for him.

In truth this is what she needed, her family was her strength and around them she could feel her strength building, they were the light in her life, the most precious beings in her world and it truly pained her to see them so broken. Her mother was right, she was being selfish, for days all she could think about was her own pain and frustration, yet she did not spare a thought for the pain and suffering she was inflicting upon others, especially her children, they had been scared and left in a dark and for a brief moment Harriet couldn’t help but feel like a failure as a mother. Blinking back the tears, she smiled across at her beautiful family, hope flooding her heart, together they would get through this.

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Annabelle’s feet took her swiftly along the darkened corridor towards her grandchildren’s room; thankfully they weren’t too far away, Harriet had always insisted on keeping them close to her. Hopefully they wouldn’t be asleep, although she doubted they would be, if they were anything like either of their parents then they were probably still up driving their nanny mad with questions and demands. Like usual Annabelle entered the room without knocking, the click of the door causing three heads to dart towards her direction, two of joy and one of relief. The girl’s nanny offered her a quick courtesy and a apologetic look and she spoke, “My apologies Lady Stanford, I have been trying to get the princesses in bed for the past ten minutes, but they won’t settle.”

“Do not fret about it, I have come here to take the girls to their mother” spoke Annabelle, smiling as the smiles of her grandchildren brightened with joy. “Really? We get to see mother?” Lizzie enquired quizzically as if she did not believe her ears. Annabelle nodded in response “Yes, now come on you.” They didn’t need much coaxing, both girls jumped from the bed quickly slipping their small feet into their slippers before hurrying past their grandmother and out of the door, whom watched them with a shake of her head and a breathy laugh, she too was about to follow them when she remembered the nanny, turning back quickly she offered the woman a small smile “you may retire for the evening, I believe the girls shall be spending the night with their parents.”

Out in the corridor Annabelle barely had time to catch up to the girls, when a voice caught her attention, “Mother!” Turning sharply on her heel her eyes landed upon George, her youngest son instantly bringing a smile to her tired face, “oh , George, my sweet boy” she cooed bringing him into a warm embrace. “Girls! Come look who is here?”

Lizzie and Cecily both reappeared around the corner, bright smiles illuminated their pretty faces, “Uncle George!” they cried in unison running towards the man they had not seen in quite a while. George crouched down to their level as they ran at him, wrapping their small arms around his neck causing him to laugh as he hugged them back, “now, what are my sweet nieces doing out of bed at such an hour?”

“We are going to see mother” Lizzie answered for them both, as she usually did. George nodded still smiling but he quickly glanced up at his mother who offered him a knowing look, “well then, best not keep your mother waiting.” As they approached Harriet’s bed chambers, Annabelle opened the door for them both, watching with a happy smile as they ran inside without even a second thought, gently she closed the door behind them and turned back to her son. “What are you doing here, my dear? You weren’t supposed to leave Pendlebury until the end of the month.”

“Father sent a messenger telling me Harriet was greatly unwell and so I came here early” George explained, taking hold of his mother’s hand, concern written across his face. Annabelle sighed deeply as she silently cursed her husband, “Your father was wrong to worry you so,” she replied gently, it’s true that her husband had been near-nigh impossible these past few days, wrecked with worry for his eldest daughter and no matter what Annabelle said, nothing seemed to calm him, “but yes, she is not doing so well at the moment, the sickness with the child is a great deal worse than she has experienced before.”

George bit the corner of his lip in concern, “Will she be alright?” he asked tepidly, almost scared of the answer. Annabelle beamed at this and nodded,
“I believe so, Sir Knaveil has assured us that it is nothing more than the pregnancy, it’s just a great deal worse this time around and that’s getting her spirits down, she can’t eat a great either, so that has made her a little weak but I have every confidence that she’ll be okay again in a few weeks.”
George couldn’t help but sigh at his mother’s words, relief replacing his worried features, “true to your sisters form she has managed to cause quite a stir within the palace, no more so than with the King and your father.”

George couldn’t help but chuckle at this as he nodded “she does have a knack of doing so,” he shook his head, “how is the King doing?” Annabelle frowned slightly followed by a quick sigh, “Not so good, he is terribly worried. I’m not going to lie to you George, how ill she is scares me but she will be okay, perhaps the girls shall lift her spirits.”




As Charles lowered her down onto the bed, Harriet instantly felt some relief as her aching body sank into the feather mattress and warm furs, leaning back against the mountain of pillow; she rested her head back against the solid oak headboard of her four poster bed, her eyes drooping as tiredness swept over her, for the moment her nausea had ceased but it made her fearful of movement just in case it stirred it up once again. Feeling the bed dip a little as Charles moved beside her, Harriet waited to be engulfed by his arms, she did not have to wait long, soon the Queen found herself being held against her husband’s chest, "It will all be alright, my love...I promise you, it will all be alright." Charles spoke the comforting words to ease her troubles and it worked, then again Charles had always possessed the power to quell even her darkest of troubles with brief sentimental words. Had she been another woman and had he been another man, she probably would have scoffed in his face, men always made promised they couldn’t keep; alas they were no ordinary couple, they were Charles and Harriet Rayleigh, King and Queen of Seabel, and even if Charles promised her the impossible she would believe him, it’s what women in love do.

“Hmm, I love you,” Harriet murmured into his chest as he placed a kiss against the crown of her head. They stayed in that serenity for a few moments, it was the most peace she had felt in days, so much so that the lure of sleep lulled her closer to the sandman, that was until cries of “Mother!” filled the room. Tilting her head slightly, Harriet’s blue hues shone as her heavy eyes fell upon her children’s faces bringing a happy smile to her face.

The girls launched themselves onto the large bed, their eagerness causing a small chuckle to fall from Harriet’s lips, it was small and breathy but it was a laugh nonetheless. She watched as Charles lifted the girls up towards the head of the bed, setting them down in-between the two, instantly they both curled into her side, filling her with warmth which only other mother could understand. “We’ve missed you mother” Lizzie spoke first, starring up at her through eyes which were the exact duplicate of their fathers, “I’ve missed you both, so, so much” Harriet uttered pressing her lips to her eldest daughter’s forehead before doing the same with her youngest.

Feeling Charles’ hand grasp her own, Harriet directed her gaze towards him, "I love you, Hattie. I know I've said it before countless times but it will never not be true. You and I, especially you, will definitely pull through this. Our son will be strong. He is your son and my son, no? Two of the strongest in Seabel, if I do say so myself." Harriet smiled in utter content, her free hand coming to rest on her swollen stomach, although she knew this pregnancy would be a long and tiresome one, the outcome would be worth it, that much was certain. “I love you all, so much” she sighed as her head once again falling back against the headboard as her eyes began to droop.

“Mama, you’re not going to die are you?” Cecily’s little voice asked. Harriet’s breath caught in her throat as tears prickled her eyes, she could barely bring herself to look at Cecily from the pain in her heart but once she did she saw a little’s girls anguish and frightful expression and that just broke her heart all over again. Releasing a shaky breath, Harriet mustered all the strength she could and lowered herself down so her head rested against the pillows and she was level with her children, praying that the sickness would not return. Bringing her hand up, her slender fingers brushed against Cecily’s rosy cheek as she smiled, “Who told you such nonsense, my darling?” Instantly feeling guilt at the words she had uttered before.

Cecily instantly looked back at Elizabeth, unbeknownst to the youngster giving away the culprit, Harriet’s lips pursed into a brief frown as Lizzie suck into her father’s side, “Why did you say that to your sister, Elizabeth?” Harriet watched as her daughters eyes began to waters, gazing at her with that big soulful look Charles often shot her when she was angry at him and it made them almost impossible to stay mad at. “I’m sorry mother but I didn’t mean to, honest I didn’t! Cessy asked me why I was crying and I said because I was scared you were dying.” Instantly Harriet’s anger withered away, replaced instead by disappointment in herself, “oh my darlings, I am so sorry I made you feel that way but I promise you I am not going anywhere soon. Besides I don’t think your poor father would be able to keep up with you on his own…” Harriet lazily smirked in jest as her eyes wondered up to her husband, “No, I’m definitely not going anywhere” she added just for him.

In truth this is what she needed, her family was her strength and around them she could feel her strength building, they were the light in her life, the most precious beings in her world and it truly pained her to see them so broken. Her mother was right, she was being selfish, for days all she could think about was her own pain and frustration, yet she did not spare a thought for the pain and suffering she was inflicting upon others, especially her children, they had been scared and left in a dark and for a brief moment Harriet couldn’t help but feel like a failure as a mother. Blinking back the tears, she smiled across at her beautiful family, hope flooding her heart, together they would get through this.

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"I love you all, so much". Charles smiled, the corners of his lips turning upward slightly as he brushed his hand against her cheek and then caressed the flesh gingerly.

"As do we," he replied, his voice hushed and almost silent as he tried to preserve the calm, quiet atmosphere that engulfed the room. "The girls and I love you more than you will ever know..." He watched her head slowly sink back against the pillows while her eyelids fluttered. He most likely wouldn't received any sleep at all that night, but he would be perfectly content simply watching her sleep soundly, knowing she was still alive and well enough. One of his fingers still toyed absentmindedly with her golden locks as he shifted his position and rested his head back against the pillows. Turning, he stared up at the ceiling and let out a sigh. It seemed at if nothing could possibly go wrong right now. Everything was just so calm and so perfect.

"Mama, you're not going to die, are you?" Charles's eyes widened and he looked toward the source of the voice. He looked first at Cecily with a mix of disbelief and concern and then to Harriet for her response. Where had his daughter heard such a thing? She was only three years old! She shouldn't be plagued with these thoughts. Even he did not try to think of things like this. The King sat up again and propped himself on his elbow while he retracted his hand from Harriet's hair, watching her closely as she dealt with the situation. "Who told you such nonsense, my darling?"

It was times like these when Charles was utterly grateful he had a wife like Harriet to raise his children. He knew for a fact that in such a situation, he would not be able to keep his composure. In fact, knowing his fiery temper, he'd most likely fly off the handle. Even now, he grew concerned. Who had told his daughter such horrible things? Who would suggest such an idea? Meanwhile, he hadn't even noticed Lizzie curl closer and closer to his side. He just began to absentmindedly run his fingers through her hair in a soothing manner. As Harriet looked toward their eldest daughter, though, Charles's brow furrowed. His own daughter had thought her mother was going to die...?

He wanted to scold the child, tell her that such things were horrible and she should pray for forgiveness for thinking of such a thing. Yet, he took note of how she looked upon her mother with her gray eyes which were now watery. Like Harriet, he suddenly felt himself calming down and, instead, pitying the child. Hadn't he also thought his wife was going to die? He sat up slowly with his legs crossed and, with a sigh, picked Lizzie up and set her in his lap. Harriet's comment caused him to blush and he quickly kissed the top of Lizzie's head as if to hide it.

"No, I do not believe I could keep up with you girls," he confirmed. "That's what your mother's for." He smirked back at Harriet but the cheeky grin was soon replaced with a sober smile as he nodded knowingly. Cecily crawled into his lap next and he placed a kiss against her hair too before hugging the girls against him loosely. How would his relationship with the girls change once his heir was born? It was a question that had plagued him for quite some time. They were his entire world but, once a son was given to him, he'd not only be Charles's world, but his future and the future of the Rayleigh name. He frowned slightly and his brow furrowed as he was lost in his own thoughts.

Would his girls become lesser to him when it came time to train his son? Charles sighed and lifted the girls off of his lap to place them back between himself and Harriet as he laid back against the pillow again. No, he would be unable to sleep that night. There were too many thoughts racing through his mind, so many things to worry about and do...

Beside him, the girls yawned softly and snuggled closer against their parents as Charles stared up at the ceiling absentmindedly. The Lancasters must have been planning something too, right? They had been silent for far too long and it worried him greatly. If he were to fall, James would most certainly have him killed. As for his family, though, he had no idea what would come of them. Would he kill them? Vivid images came to him and he suddenly sat up, shaking his head slowly as if doing so would clear the thoughts from his mind. God no...he couldn't bear to think of his family dead. As if losing his father wasn't enough. Again, while he wouldn't be too upset if he were to die, the simple idea of Harriet or his girls or his siblings dying made his stomach clench. Looking over his shoulder at the girls, he pursed his lips. It wasn't their fault he took his revenge on Harold Lancaster. If James Lancaster was a human, he should understand that. Running his hand slowly through his hair, Charles leaned back against the pillow and let out another slow sigh.

There was no reason to worry about such trifle things now, right? They were safe and sound. He had nothing to worry about as of now. Emerald Isles still supported him and they would be there when he needed them. Meanwhile, he had his spies who would be able to report anything of concern to him. Everything was fine, he certainly had no need to be worried whatsoever.

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Charles's court certainly seemed far more lively on this day. Harriet's improving condition had not only been relieving for her husband, but for the kingdom. There were quite a few, in fact, who had begun to wonder if perhaps the illness would take their queen from them. Nevertheless, she had pulled through and seemed to be feeling better. To Charles's joy, she'd even managed to dress and leave her chambers for the day.

Earlier in the day, Charles's companions had finally convinced him to leave the confinements of his palace to join them in the grounds for a few games and sports. It had been an enjoyable day, really. Though his mind still lingered on Harriet, he was finding it hard to worry with a bow or a cudgel in his hands. Just now, the king was locked in a wrestling match with a man a few years his junior. Their hands gripped together tightly, both trying to throw the other back although it seemed the younger man was a bit more apprehensive, given his opponent's title. It was this hesitance, though, that allowed Charles to finally push the man back on to the grass. In just moments, the taller, slightly older man had the younger one pinned on the ground.

"You...do make a worthy opponent," he huffed, breathless from their struggle. The younger man only managed a quick nod and a laugh as Charles picked himself up off of the ground. Without even much time to recover, Charles was taking another man who appeared much stronger. They'd just begun their struggle when the sound of hooves on the ground brought both men to a halt. The horse drew nearer at a surprisingly fast pace, especially for the man atop the horse. His first thought was that the message had to do with Harriet. Had something happened? Oh Lord, was she alright? But, the man would have worn a more worried expression or, they would have sent a swifter messenger. "I sincerely hope you come bearing good news, Harold. I would hate for this day to be spoiled..." The rotund man pulled the horse to a stop before Charles who, in turn, patted the beast gently on the nose. Poor thing, how did it manage to hold such a man on its back?

Pierrepont did not even bother to drop from the horse's back, knowing it would certainly be too difficult to get up again quickly. "My Liege, multiple spies have returned to the throne room requesting an audience with you," he replied, his statement coming in short, little puffs from how winded he was.The monarch's brow furrowed. "What could be so urgent that not only one spy is needed to tell me?" Though he would much rather stay with his companions, he reluctantly mounted his own snow white mare and rode her back toward the palace alongside Harold, still concerned with the idea that multiple spies had felt the need to come to him.





"That bastard!" Charles snapped, his hand hitting the arm of his throne suddenly and sharply so that his palm stung afterwards. Without a warning, he was standing up and so were the spies that knelt and even Pierrepont. The king pressed his forehead against his palms, shaking his head slowly as he moved to massage his temples. "The rat bastard..." Harold looked up at the monarch with a furrowed brow. Even he wouldn't deny that he hadn't seen this coming or that this could prove to be absolutely horrible for the kingdom. If Lancaster's had the trust of Emerald Isles, he knew, they would be more likely to receive their assistance in a coming war.

"My Lord, how will you respond to this? We can not just let them rake our ally from us, can we?" Charles sighed and looked up at the man, his jaw clenched.

"No..." he replied slowly but surely. "No, I will not allow this to go through. James thinks he has won them over, but he hasn't. The King groaned softly and sat back down, his fingers drumming against the arm of the throne as he thought. "I should have just married Margaret off to the Prince when I had the chance. I am a damned fool for thinking I could wait." Again, he hit the throne in frustration, this time with his fist. "I could still present her to him, though. Perhaps her youth and her intelligence will be more desirable instead of whatever qualities that Lancaster woman possesses."

He rested his head against his arm, which had been propped up on the arm of the throne. "I want you, Pierrepont, to send word to King Kavan asking to meet with him. I will try to win the man over with the kingdom's riches and, of course, my dear sister." Pierrepont nodded and excused himself from the King's presence to start on his duties uncharacteristically quickly. After a few minutes of silence, Charles shooed the spies from the room to leave him in the throne room alone. He still could not believe the audacity of the Lancaster. How dare he? The man obviously knew what he was doing. Did he really want to do this? If he was unsuccessful in convincing Kavan on to his side, what would become of his army? They would certainly be down on numbers and he couldn't really afford that. James would certainly rise up against him. His Adam's apple bobbed in his throat as he thought about losing the throne he'd worked for. He couldn't let the Lancasters take the throne back. What would his father have died for then?

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Harriet had sat by the window for quite some time marvelling at the wonderful day, the sun was bright and warm favouring that of a spring afternoon rather than mid autumn, but the cool nip of the wind indicated that winter would swiftly be upon them and that they should relish what time they had left in the sun. The rains would come soon, followed by the snows and the mere thought of the bitterness caused a shiver to travel down the Queen’s spine and instinctively she pulled her shall tighter around her shoulders. Her bed chambers weren’t cold by any means, her ladies kept the fire roaring throughout the day and night and yet there was a chill in her bones which Harriet could not shake. It wasn’t the sickness what caused it, that much she was certain of, for she was starting to feel a great deal better, but rather there was a feeling in the pit of her stomach which unnerved her greatly, apprehension was the closest thing it resembled. Harriet had a lot to be apprehensive about too, the Lancaster’s were perhaps her main concern however, she did not fear them in the conventional sense but rather feared what James rebellion would mean to her family, would Charles survive another war? Would she be forced into sanctuary with her daughters or worse sent to the tower to live out her days? The possibilities were endless and frightening, especially for a wife and mother.

Instinctively Harriet pressed her palm gently against the small swell of her stomach, her thoughts wondering to what this child’s life would be like. Although she wanted desperately to provide Charles with a male heir, she could not help her own desires for it to be a girl, at least for now when times were so unpredictable, when the throne of Kings was spattered with blood of its predecessors, fearing that her son’s blood would join the crimson stains also. A girl would be a lot safer until the Lancaster’s were defeated, she did not want to bring a son into a world, where he would be expected to avenge his father, should Charles fall, no parents weren’t suppose to bury their children.

Contradiction was evident in her thoughts, should her fears happen and Charles be defeated she should want revenge. The mere thought of someone taking her husband away from her filled Harriet with unbelievable sorrow and anger, she would surely wonder down the bloody path of revenge and she would not rest until James head sat upon a spike, so help her god she would see that task through. By her side, her free hand had clenched in a tight fist, her blue eyes cool as the steel of a blade, she was Harriet Rayleigh and to cross her or her family would be the last thing you ever did.

With a deep sigh her anger dissipated with the breath, her hand relaxing, there was no use in getting so worked up about things now, there was too many things to celebrate, this child growing inside her was one. Despite her fears Harriet was genuinely happy about this babe, as she had been for all her pregnancies, her family would grow by one and the prospect of watching another baby develop into a child ignited nearly unattainable excitement within the woman. Their first steps, their first words, the first time they would run into her arms and wrap their small arms around her so tightly, all the thoughts lulled Harriet into a sense of security and a smile graced her countenance as she thought about this future child and the hope it would instil within them all.

Suddenly her daughters little forms came into view in the garden’s bellow, both holding hands and followed closely by their nurse, this too brought a happy smile to Harriet’s lips, one which seemed to grow with every second she watched Lizzie and Cecily playing. A part of her had wanted to call down and tell them to come back inside out of the cold but she decided against it after a small inner debate, they would be inside for a while in a few weeks they both should cherish the last rays of the warm sun. Harriet continued watching for a few moments before the light knock at her door drew her attention away, “come in” she called looking over her shoulder to see George re-entering her room, he had left earlier to see to some business with their father but he had promised to return and keep her company once they were done.
“I must say sister, It is wonderful to see you in such high spirits” George commented with a genuine smile as he closed the door behind him. Harriet mimicked his smile as she walked towards her younger brother taking his larger hands in hers, “And I must say that you being here rises them even more,” she retorted with a small chuckle, “It was good of you to come, it puts me at ease to have my family around me, especially at such times.”

George nodded along to her words, he and Harriet had always shared a special bond, even from the beginning she had been the one who had looked out for him, protected him from Jonathon’s elder brother tactics and now it was his turn to repay the favour, “of course I came Hattie” he muttered redundantly, “you have me here for a while now so fear not, I won’t let that bastard anywhere near your family.”

Harriet smiled up at her brother, his words making her feel secure and safe, although she feared putting him in harm’s way also it was a comfort to know that he was so loyal to her and her family, he was one of the only people she could truly rely on asides from Charles. She was about to open her mouth to utter her words of gratitude when a high pitched shrill resounded from the gardens, caught off guard by the sudden noise, both she and George merely stared at the window for a moment until another scream, followed by a cry for help pushed them into movement. Gathering her skirts Harriet rushed to the window, George close on her heels, both peering out to see who had caused such a shrill, Harriet’s eyes soon found the source, it was the girls nurse hunched over a small form, Cecily clinging to her arm. Her eyes widened as she looked over the form lying on the ground and then realisation set in, the breath caught in Harriet throat as her heart sped rapidly, “Lizzie” she cried before hastily darting from the room.

Harriet moved as fast as she could along the corridors and down the steps, she wasn’t sure at what point George had over took her but within an instant he was in front of her. Everything seemed to move in slow motion as she ran down the stone corridor, her skirts hitched up to her ankles, she should not have been running in her condition but something had happened to Lizzie and she needed to be by her side.

As she reached the garden, she paused in the entrance as her knees became weakened at the sight before her. George had her eldest daughter propped up in his arms, her body limp showing no signs of consciousness; chocking on her tears she ran forward dropping to her knees immediately as she reached her daughter side, “Lizzie, darling” she called repeatedly gathering her in her arms and cradling her golden head against her chest, “what happened?” she snapped at the nurse.

The older woman looked towards the Queen with dread filled eyes, her own hands shaking almost as much as Harriet’s, “t-they were just playing and she-she collapsed.” Harriet listened to her words but did not acknowledge them, nor could she acknowledge Cecily’s cries, right now her main focus was on Elizabeth. Placing her hand upon her forehead, Harriet gasped as she felt the icy touch of her skin, turning to George with worry and anguish in her eyes, “she needs the physician.” George nodded and immediately took his young niece into his arms and made his back towards the palace, followed closely by Harriet. Upon passing the first servant she saw, Harriet grabbed the woman’s wrist sharply, “go fetch Ser Knaveil immediately!” The young woman nodded and hurried away, “George take her to her room, I must fetch Charles.”

Gathering her skirts once again, Harriet scurried along the corridor and upon reaching the throne room she pushed open the heavy doors with haste, the old bolts sending an echo to resound around the room, “Charles!” Her distressed voice carried across the large room with ease, he had need not looked at her long to see the distress in her features, “come quick, something has happened to Lizzie” Harriet explained quickly, her voice cracking with emotion as the severity of the situation played in her mind. Turning sharply on her heels, Harriet needn’t wait for Charles as she knew within a few quick steps he would have been by her side.

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Left alone in the throne room, the sound of his foot tapping against the stone flooring echoed through the room and back to Charles. A sigh escaped his lips and he slowly stood from the throne. With careful steps, the man down from the pedestal upon which the throne sat, and turned around to look back up at it. It was surprising, really, how so much blood had been shed to achieve that seat and a crown. His father had died for it.

Charles tilted his head forward and slipped the crown off of his curled, auburn locks. Gently, he moved it around in his hands, turning it and holding it at all different angles as if observing it. If that damn Lancaster man knew what the crown really entailed, he would surely be less eager to reclaim it. Then again, Charles certainly wasn't one to talk. He had been dealt a very good hand. His three years of rule had been peaceful and, despite the occasional, miniscule rebellion, completely uneventful.

In fact, the thing that bothered him the most about having the throne was that he had little time to be with his family. He'd gone days at a time, on multiple occasions, without seeing either of his daughters. And he distinctly remembered an eventful week toward the beginning of his reign when he didn't speak much at all to Harriet. Oh, that had been absolutely horrific. The love they'd made afterwards was wonderful, though. But, that had been the only plus.

Perhaps when spring came again he would try to take more time to attend to his family. By then, his heir would be born in just a few months. So much weight would be lifted off of his shoulders if Hallie could give him a son. He loved his daughters to the ends of the Earth, but he needed a son to ensure his family name would continue. There was Jasper, of course, but it was certainly better to have more Rayleigh men than not enough.

He shook his head lightly to clear it as he paced the throne room, still holding the crown in his hands. Mentally, Charles began to plan for the coming spring. By then, he should be able to have King Kavan back on his side and the Lancasters silenced yet again. He imagined being able to chase the girls through the gardens again, like he had before his reign had begun. Charles could teach Lizzie to ride horses. Perhaps she'd be as good of a rider as he was. Even better, maybe. She was such a bright girl, really and seemed to take so much after him that it amused him greatly. Though her bold and outspoken ways mimicked both eh and Harriet, he still seemed to connect so well with her outgoing ways. She was, really, just like he was as a boy. By then, he'd drifted off into his thoughts so much, he almost missed the door opening.
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The man's head snapped upward and he quickly placed the crown back on to his head, expecting someone official to come storming in in such a fashion. However, it shocked him when he looked up and saw his wife, her face contorted with anguish and fear. "Charles!" The sound of distress caused him to wince. What had caused his wife to grow so upset? What was wrong? Ideas rushed through his head, but none of them were close at all to what she said.

"Hallie?" he asked, stepping toward her. "Hattie, love, what is the matter?" His brow wrinkled in concern and he looked at her with an expression of great sadness. Seeing her so upset concerned him greatly.

"Come quick, something has happened to Lizzie!" His heart seemed to stop for a moment as his stomach churned at the news. Charles's mind conjured up theories within a split second and, in turn, he gripped the back of a chair tightly both to take out the wave of emotion and to stabilize himself for he felt he could go unconscious right then and there. First, the Lancasters were planning a treaty with Kign Kavan and now something had happened to his daughter, his precious child? For all he knew, really, it could be anything from a scrap to, God forbid, death. Oh, even the thought caused him to wince!

Before he knew it, Harriet was hurrying off down the hall again. Normally, he might have walked beside his wife but he simply couldn't bear the agony. Instead, Charles started after his queen first at a walk, then a jog, and then an absolute sprint down the hall. The sound of his boots echoed on the hall and, as servants walked past him or in his way, he started to shove them aside to get to the room of his eldest child where he had simply assumed she'd be.

The king basically ran right into the door, shoving it open as he entered the room where physicians already attended to the girl. "Move aside!" he snapped, just about pushing a nurse from his path. "Damn it, let me see her!" Once he'd reached the beside, though, he instantly regretted doing so. His daughter lay there, still unconscious, but obviously alive. Regardless, he couldn't help but slowly break down.

Charles Rayleigh was a strong man. All Rayleigh men were strong. But, looking down at his daughter, his legs suddenly gave way and he fell sharply to his knees on the floor. Ignoring the pain, he shook his head slowly and stared ahead at her. She was ashen, so sickly looking, and he couldn't help but worry instantly about her. Both girls had had their fair share of disease but this was different. This was nothing he'd ever seen before. A hand reached down and started to help him up but the monarch quickly hit it aside, only to get to his feet shakily a moment later. He needed to be strong. For Harriet, for Cecily...for Lizzie. Feeling another wave of weakness, Charles backed up toward the wall and leaned against it, still watching his daughter closely with a pained, pitiful expression. He wanted to help her oh so badly...but, what could he do in all reality? Fearing for Harriet's reaction, he waited by the door for her to enter.

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The sound of hurried steps behind her signalled Charles approach, casting her gaze backwards he had quickly and easily reached her despite her advantage, for a moment Harriet was transported back to the early days of their marriage, it was similar to those times she would run from him around their private chambers, clad simply in a bed sheet and sometimes even less, her laughter would fill the air as Charles always caught up, not that she put up much of a chase mind you. However this was different, the look on his face was a mixture of anguish, fury and utter despair and quite frankly it frightened her. She had not left him with much information and so his expression was understandable, yet there were no times for explanations their daughter needed them and that thought alone instilled a new wave of panic to set in.

Harriet had expected her husband to fall into stride beside her, he usually did and she wanted to feel his supportive arms around her, pull her close and whisper in her ear that everything would be alright. However, this was not meant to be, instead he had shoved past her with some force which made her stumble; luckily Harriet had managed to brace against the wall with one hand as the other placed protectively over her stomach. Once steadied Harriet stared after her husband, who was now rounding the corner which would take to down the corridor where Lizzie’s room was, she was certain that it had been an accident; Charles certainly would never mean to push her out of the way, especially when she was carrying his child, his heir.

Around her stood a sea of concerned faces, all glancing at her with the same expression, she seemed to glance at every single one, their concern and pity was too much for to bear, it was suffocating. Harriet’s nostrils flared as her chest raised heavily, one Lord dared approach her, only to be greeted by the sharp and dangerous tones of her voice, “I am fine!” Her voice carried louder than she had hoped shocking and startling all those who had heard and the man, to his credit, merely offered a quick bow before taking a step back. Harriet quickly regained her composure and carried on her way, her head held high as a Queen should, until she rounded the corner, then her whole world seemed to fall apart. From her position she could see her daughter’s room and the sight of the doorway made her freeze in her tracks, the air in her lungs suddenly becoming heavy and dense-she simply couldn’t find the breaths, she felt as if she were truly suffocating.

Just through that door lay her child, her darling baby, possibly on her deathbed. The thought was agonising, truly gut retching, she felt nauseous once again, the dread in the pit of her stomach causing it to churn violently. The Queen had no choice but to lean against the wall as she steadied herself, trying her best to calm her nerves and breathing for she was certain she would faint. Harriet’s eyes closed for a brief moment, hoping and praying that when she opened them all of this would have been a dream, a nightmare. She felt like a failure as a mother, Lizzie had been with her just that very morning and she had not noticed a change in her child, she had noted a slight raise in her temperature but she had put that down to spending the morning playing and nothing more. The thought haunted her now, had she taken the indicative to ask Lizzie whether or not she was feeling alright it may have not of escalated to this point and if anything happened to Lizzie she would never forgive herself.

The tears began to seep down Harriet’s pale cheeks as she thought of her child in that room, she needed to be with her and she certainly couldn’t wallow in her own self pity. Lifting her skirts up to her ankles, she ran the short distance into Lizzie’s room, stopping suddenly at the sight of her girl laid upon her bed, still unconscious, her skin turning a unsettling shade of ash. Her heart sank as her breath caught in her throat, before her she could see her whole life crumbling. Suddenly Harriet’s legs gave way beneath her and if it hadn’t of been for George’s quick response she would have surely hit the floor with a sickening thud. George held her steady as Harriet’s hands covered her mouth, a sob escaping her lips. For the first time in her life George’s presence only added to her suffocation and in her anguish she pushed her brother away, before stumbling towards her daughter’s bed and sat beside her.

Her hand immediately took Lizzie’s in her own as she placed a kiss against her child’s cool forehead, pulling back Harriet choked on her tears running her free hand through her child’s golden locks. “What is wrong with her?” Harriet asked the moment she found her voice. Looking up briefly her tear filled eyes caught Charles, she could not hold his gaze and within seconds she had torn hers away, it was simply too painful for Harriet to bear.

The physician sighed deeply as he looked between King and Queen, "I am afraid it is the sweating sickness" he explained in a solemn tone. "No, No, No" Harriet mumbled through a cracked voice, her head shaking as if she refused to acknowledge his words, his diagnosis was dire and bleak as realization sank in, there was no cure for this illness. Harriet's sobs became frequent and desperate, the tears clouding her vision. "Your grace, I must insist you leave the room, In your condition you are also susceptible to the sickness."

Harriet's eyes traveled up to the man stood opposite her, her teary hues narrowing, "If you even try and remove me from this room, any of you" She paused taking a second to glance towards Charles, George and then back to the physician with equally dangerous glares, "I swear to the lord it will be the last thing you do."

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The building silence was absolutely killing him. Charles couldn't bear it. Why couldn't things be back to normal, damn it? Just hours ago, he knew, his little girl had woken up eagerly and, as per usual, loudly. In fact, it seemed so odd to Charles to see the girl so silent and so out of it. Even when she slept, she mumbled under her breath and moved around. Now, she was as still as statue and it unnerved her father to the point where he had to look away to keep hot tears from pouring down his cheeks again.
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From the hallway, he could hear the sound of footsteps that, in an instant, grew quicker and more hurried. He looked up slowly and hesitantly as the door opened. There stood Harriet, his beautiful, sweet Harriet, with tears streaming down her face and her eyes red from sobbing. His gut clenched and Charles's head seemed to spin. Oh God, he couldn't do this! Not only was his daughter ill, but now his wife was so upset, he had absolutely no idea what to do. She paused in the doorway, staring at the bed where their first born lay. "Love...oh, Hattie..." he whispered, looking at her in desperation. There was a hitch in her breath and then Hallie just about crumbled to bits in the doorway.

Charles was basically unable to respond as she did so. George, however, quickly moved forward to catch the expectant Queen before she hit the ground. He would certainly have to thank the man later. Thank his for this, thank him for everything. In fact, his brother-in-law was more of a father to his girls than he was. If he lost Lizzie now, would she scorn her own father for not being there enough during her life? Would she curse the name Charles Rayleigh because his reign took precedent over chasing her in the gardens? No...no, he wouldn't think like that. His little girl had Rayleigh blood in her and she had not only his spirit, but her mother's spirit. She would pull through. She had to pull through.

What would he do if she didn't pull through?

His own breath hitched and tears threatened to spill from his eyes as he watched Hattie cover her mouth with a hand, as if to mask the sob that filled the silent room. Charles only winced and started toward her slowly. When she pushed back George, her brother, he suddenly stopped and just looked desperately at her. She wanted to be left alone, he wanted to hold her. As much as he wished to rush forward and envelop his wife in his arms, protect her from everything...he simply could not. Was he a failure for being unable to console her? Worry plagued his mind and he looked down, afraid to see his wife's tear-streaked countenance as it would certainly awaken guilt in the young monarch.

"What is wrong with her?" His wife's voice rang out and, instinctively, Charles looked up and gave his wife nothing more than a sad look before she turned away. Shamefully, he looked away again. A sigh emitted from the physician, though, caused him to tense. Oh Lord, let it be good news. He clenched his hands together, as if prayer, and looked to the man while reciting prayer after prayer after prayer in his mind at lightning-fast speed while the doctor gathered his wits to speak.

"I am afraid it is the sweating sickness." Charles's heart sank.

"W-what...?" he managed to stammer out, his forehead wrinkling as his brows drew closer together. Sudden dread filled him and he wanted to fall to his knees again. "No...no, it can't be." Harriet was also just as reluctant to accept the idea, shaking her head and mumbling. Their little girl was dying. She was dying and there was nothing they could do for her. A shudder moved through Charles and he slowly moved across the room in a daze to sit himself down in a chair so he wouldn't collapse. How could he allow this to happen?! How could the nurses or the staff have allowed this to happen? She was so young! Oh, he would have killed a man if he could have then.

But, instead, burying his face in his hands, he finally let loose and sobbed whole-heartedly into his palms. "God, no...oh, God not my daughter!" he cried in a muffled way against his hands. "Oh Lord, take me instead! Kill me instead but leave her, please!" His lanky, gangly frame shook as the physician insisted she leave the room. Still, he kept his face concealed until Harriet spoke.

"If you even try and remove me from this room, any of you." The king looked up, pinching the corners of his eyes lightly to try and clear them. Harriet's angry gaze, though, caused him to grow tense and he suddenly stood up, causing the chair to move backwards and squeak against the floor
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"What is the point in that, Harriet?!" he cried, his jaw clenching briefly. "She's dying and you know she's dying, yet you...you are..." He couldn't bring himself to say to say the word at first, but, finally he simply shouted it out so that all of the somber quietness of the room had disappeared."...selfish enough to jeopardize not only your life, but the life of our unborn son?" He moved quickly toward her and simply glared down at the woman.

The expression he wore was quite mixed, actually. Whereas his body language showed he was seething with rage, his always expressive eyes managed only to show weariness and grief. Charles looked unable to gather his thoughts, unable to think of what he wanted to say for what seemed like ages. Instead, it was merely a few moments. Yet, time still seemed to move slowly, just as it had when the physician first gave them the prognosis.

"Leave the room, Harriet," he said sharply, pointing a finger almost threateningly at her. "Get out of here now or I will carry you out of here myself." By then, he was basically shaking again and his gaze turned to Lizzie just long enough for the anger to dissipate in his eyes as he looked down on his daughter.

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In all their years of marriage, Harriet had not once even come close to hating her husband, granted she called him every crude name under the sun when birthing their children, they even argued quite frequently about this and that but quite a lot of the time they argued just for the sake of arguing, but not once had her love for Charles ever wavered. Save for this moment, “she’s dying and you know she’s dying” he had uttered to her, but had not stopped there, “you are selfish enough to jeopardize not only your life, but the life of our unborn son.” Son, not child…son. That alone had been enough to cause an unsettling wave of anger to wash over the Queen, her jaw locked as her stinging eyes close, she would not wince at his words and she would not give him that satisfaction.

ImagePerhaps Harriet could have let Charles have his moment of anger, any other day she would have probably brushed it off, watch him storm off and wait patiently until he came crawling back to her to whisper sweet words of ‘I’m sorry my love’ into her ear. Not today. How dare he stand there and call her the selfish one, how utterly dare he tell her their daughter was dying, how dare he care more for this unborn child. Harriet seethed, her body shook with the adrenaline of her anger, never in all her life had she felt more disgust and hatred for one person than she did in that moment and it was her own husband of all people.

For a moment Harriet could not even look at him or risk clawing at his face, but when she did summon the courage to look at him, her steel eyes had narrowed like a bird chasing its prey, her chest heaved slowly, her entire being exuberated hatred. “I’m the selfish one?” Her words began breathy and lowly, almost incredulous, “You spiteful bastard, how can you of all people stand there and me selfish?” Although Harriet’s never shouted her words, she need not raise her voice for them to have a lasting effect on Charles. “All you care about is getting an heir, not for me, not for the girls, we are but pawns in your game and disappointing ones at that.” Perhaps the most haunting aspect of her words was the calmness of her voice; it was steady and strong, not cracking once although her face twisted into an array of different emotions, anguish and devastation being the foremost.

Without another utterance, Harriet turned backed towards Lizzie and continued to stroke her golden hair, it felt like spun silk beneath her fingers and the mother couldn’t help but smiled as she ran the locks through her slender digits. Upon hearing Charles’ orders for her to leave, Harriet released a heavy sigh and lowered her head her eyes closing, but she remained defiant. “No.” Pausing for a moment, Harriet pressed her lips against her child’s cold cheek, once so warm and rosy, the comparison almost broke her and fresh tears fell from her stormy hues. With the back of her hand she wiped the salty tears from her flushed cheek, “Nothing you can say or do will make me leave. I am her mother and quite frankly I would rather die myself of the sickness than to leave her alone for even one second.”

Lowering herself down into a lying position, Harriet wrapped her arms around her dying daughter, “I want to die if Lizzie does. I’m sure I wouldn’t be too difficult to replace.” Her words were hurtful but Harriet didn’t care, she wanted to hurt Charles with every fibre of her being. They were probably words she would regret later, but right now none of that mattered, what mattered was her daughter. Pressing her lips hard against Lizzie’s head once again, she brought her lips together and began to hum the melody of her child’s favourite lullaby, the same one she use to sing to her as a baby, all the while she periodically placed kisses against her crown, her vision becoming increasingly blurred by tears.

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For just a while, for an amount of time that truly couldn't be measured, all semblance of anger dissipated from the countenance of Charles Rayleigh as he looked down yet again at his daughter. Her appearance greatly mimicked that of her mother, he felt. Why was she the one dying? Why some one so innocent and pure and not one of the vile Lancastrian men? Like he'd already pleaded to God, he would have given his own life if it had meant safety for his family.

He watched his wife closely, anger resuming in his gaze as he watched her jaw lock. Of course she would not simply leave. His wife was one of the most outspoken- perhaps the most outspoken- woman he had ever met. She certainly was not planning to give up now, or ever, actually. Harriet closed her eyes and Charles knew almost instantly that she was fighting back tears. Any other time, he would have fallen to his knees to dry them for her...but, now, he was almost disgusted by the idea of her jeopardizing herself and their child. She knew how much this heir meant to the Rayleigh family and she most certainly knew how much she meant to him. What would he be without his wife? Certainly, Charles Rayleigh would be nothing more than a shell of himself if he were forced to remarry.

Oh, if only she had let the argument die there. If only she had let Charles grieve in his own way, then perhaps they wouldn't have continued fighting. But, of course, it was Harriet Rayleigh.
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She looked to him finally with a steely gaze that might have frightened him, had he not been glaring daggers at her for minutes now. Hallie looked ready to explode with the rage inside of her and he clenched his fits tightly at his sides, holding back his own emotion as his jaw clenched tightly, teeth pressed tightly together.

"I'm the selfish one?" Her tone caused an involuntary shudder to pass through his body. The low, breathy voice that she used in a sultry way mostly was now foreboding and, perhaps, ominous. "You spiteful bastard, how can you of all people stand there and me selfish?”

"What is that supposed to mean, woman?" he snapped, angered to the point where he no longer referred to his love as Hattie, or Harriet...just woman. Unlike her husband, Harriet continued with a calm voice as Charles yelled at her.

“All you care about is getting an heir, not for me, not for the girls, we are but pawns in your game and disappointing ones at that.”

His stomach churned, his heart skipped, and Charles looked down at Hattie with a confused expression. "What...?" he said, his brow furrowing. No, she couldn't think that. He loved her and she loved him. He'd give anything for his family and she knew that! But, if Harriet really thought that...perhaps it was true? The wave of anger crashed and Charles slammed his fist against the bed post, making a sound that echoed in the room.

"God damn it, I will not have you speak like this to me!" he yelled, his face contorting in rage as Harriet turned back to Lizzie. "Do not turn your back to me, woman! Listen to me when I speak to you." Again, he hit the bed post and turned away, his muscles tensing. He simply wished to hit something, to let his pent up emotion into something. In fact, he might have even gone ahead and struck Harriet if she wasn't both pregnant and his wife. He was able to restrain himself, though, as he certainly still had morals, despite his anger. "You are damn mistaken if you think I do not care for you or the girls? Yes, of course I want an heir. Was there ever a king in history who did not wish for an heir?!" He turned to face Harriet and then looked away again, digging his nails into his palms to avoid another bout of yelling.

"Do you think I enjoy the pressure of this on my shoulders? Not only do I have a kingdom to rule, but I have a blood line to keep going, I have rebel forces to quell, and now I have a dying daughter?!" He shook his head and finally glared back at her, though she was too busy toying with Lizzie's hair. "No, you are the selfish one, damn it. Should you just throw everything away because she's dying?! What about Cecily? What about me?!"

"I want to die if Lizzie does. I’m sure I wouldn’t be too difficult to replace.” Charles looked down at his wife desperately, angry she still carried on with the subject. Slowly, he walked to the other side of the bed so that Lizzie was between them. Kneeling down, he moved his lips toward Harriet's, as if to kiss them. Instead, though, he kissed the top of his daughter's head and slowly ran his fingers through her hair, making sure to avoid any and all contact with Harriet. He was disgusted by her, just as much as she was by him and he certainly wouldn't give her the satisfaction of breaking down and crawling back to her. Both were too stubborn for their own good.
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"My darling little girl..." he whispered, running a thumb along her cheek slowly. "Heaven watch over you my sweet, little girl..." Tears threatened to fall from his eyes yet again as he pressed a kiss against her forehead, trying so hard to keep from imagining life without his eldest child. Death never frightened him before then, really. Now, he couldn't help but feel his own mortality. For a few moments, he allowed himself time to apologize to the girl, to try and make penance for what he'd thought he'd done wrong as a parent. Feeling only slightly relieved, then, he stood and glared back through his tears at Harriet.

"I am going to find Cecily," he said sharply, his voice devoid of the love he'd shown for Lizzie just heartbeats earlier. "She needs us, too...obviously, you are not going to do it." He stormed toward the door, breathing slowly to try and calm himself. With the door open, though, he spoke again to Hattie, though he didn't face her. "And you are dead wrong, for I certainly could not live without you, nor could I find a woman like you again." Charles left the room with those words, slamming the heavy wooden door behind himself as he made his way to his youngest's room.

Explaining the concept of losing Lizzie to Cecily was far too difficult. Charles began to tear up once or twice and, in turn, so did Cecily as he held her against his chest, trying to imagine that she was both of his girls at once. He wished he could carry the two of them around, one in each arm, for ages. He'd never stop carrying them, even, if it meant he could have his daughter back. By the time he'd finished explaining by himself, Cecily's tiny arms coiled tightly around his neck as he rocked her, whispering gently as he attempted to calm her to no avail. Even as he began to walk around the castle, her cries echoed through the halls and drew the attention of castle servants. He was surprised they didn't ask why she was crying, but then again, he knew why they didn't. The pitying gazes they gave their monarch told him the news had spread like wild fire through the palace.

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Charles’ words surged through her body painfully and repetitively, like a dagger piercing her skin and her heart over and over again, her wounds were invisible but they were there all the same. They stung and ached and caused whatever strength she had left to leave her fragile body, it was similar to dying only the breath still remained in her lungs, her heart was beating painfully and her head was pounding uncontrollably, it was the closest she had ever felt to dying yet it was also the closest she felt to truly living. The sheer pain and weight of her emotions were beginning to crumble at the foundations of her hastily erected walls, how had she become so void so suddenly?

Harriet had spoken to Charles with words that she knew would hurt him, she had wanted to hurt him, make him feel some of the pain she was feeling in that very moment. She had wanted to take everything from him, herself, Cecily, the Kingdom…this babe, everything he so desperately wanted and needed, she had wanted to snatch away without a moment’s hesitation. The cruelness in Harriet’s heart for her husband made her stomach lurch with nausea, she loved him and yet all she wanted to do was destroy him. The feeling frightened her beyond belief but that fear only fuelled the fire within her soul, it nourished her anger and fed from her despair until she felt utterly hollow and in different towards Charles.

ImageNumbness followed the anger once it had subsided, she felt weightless similar to if she hadn’t been in her body at all. Her pain had gone, not even Charles’ words of utter anger or despair could lull her back into a sense of reality, his fist hitting the bed posts of their daughter beds did not frighten her, did not worry her, it did nothing for her. Harriet barely listened to him, her glassy hues were fixated on the child before her, everything else seemed distorted and dulled, not the sharp and piercing images or sounds she had been experiencing just moments before.

However as she watched Charles say his goodbyes to their daughter, their darling Lizzie, her emotions began to morph once again. “My darling little girl…” He had whispered, he had said that the very first time he had held her, Charles may not remember it but Harriet did. She had been so worried as to what Charles would say at her birthing a girl, if he held any anger or resentment he certainly hadn’t shown it, his smile had lit up the room and the way he had tenderly held their first born had melted her heart. Now, those very words simply twisted her heart in an utterly agonising way, her breath once again felt dense within her lungs, “Heaven watch over you my sweet little girl.” The tears fell freshly then and all anger she had previously felt dissipated into the air with a heavy sigh, she felt remorse, she felt guilt, sorrow and tragedy, every unbearable emotions being experienced at once. Harriet had wanted to whisper her apologies, wanted to pull him into her arms and cry into his shoulder but for some unknown reason she just stared at him, the words never forming on her lips. Perhaps it was her pride which stood in the way, perhaps it was the despair which made her mute, either way she had let Charles leave with more words of what a terrible mother she was. Cecily, her darling angel, god what must she be going through right now? Harriet had left her suddenly and without explanation and the poor girl must be incredibly frightened as to what was happening, still she could not tear herself away from Lizzie. She had carried Elizabeth for nine months, for years she was one of the sole comforts in her life, her shining star when Charles had been away fighting a war she wasn’t sure he would return from and now here she lay on her deathbed and the tender age of six, what kind of cruel injustice was that?

From the door Charles spoke once more, “And you are dead wrong, for I certainly could not live without you, nor could I find a woman like you again." Harriet’s heart clenched, her eyes closing, although the salty droplets of tears sunk through and down her cheeks. He was right, she was selfish, a horrible wife and a horrible mother, she had acted out of spite and now despised herself for it, she felt she could go mad with grief if her daughter hadn’t needed her undivided attention.

Behind her George approached, his features as solemn as the ambiance in the room, he reached out placing a gentle hand upon his broken sister’s shoulder. It had been almost heartbreaking for him to watch the scene between Harriet and Charles, they were two of the strongest people he knew, they loved and cared for each other deeply but Lizzie’s ultimate death was prying a wedge between them. He could see what was going to happen, instead of comforting one another they would turn against each other, blame each other, fight and scream and each call the other every degrading name under the sun. Charles would probably turn to women and hunting, Harriet to drinking and bitterness, they would tear each other apart and not even realise it before it was too late. Although he prayed to god he was wrong.

“Brother, please go and get mother and father, they-they need to say their goodbyes.” George could only nod, feeling his own tears prickle at his hues as he placed a kiss upon his sister’s crown. “Will you be alright by yourself?” he asked, to which Harriet simply nodded. Turning towards the door, George hovered with his hand lingering upon the handle as he turned his head back towards his niece, saying his own silent goodbye before swiftly exiting the room.

ImageOnce George was gone, Harriet felt truly alone, the silence of her room was deafening and she would have given anything for it to have been filled with the sound of her child’s laughter- she would have given her own life had she the option. Lying back down, Harriet gently pulled Lizzie towards her, burying her head within her golden mane she drew a deep breath, memorising every smell, engraving it into her memory. “My sweet girl, you are so loved. You were my light for so long, my only comfort and I depended on you perhaps more than a mother should do on a child.” Hattie paused as a sob escaped her lips,“you are going to have to be very strong soon, but your grandfather, Francis, do you remember him? No, I don’t suppose you will, but he will look after you until I can see you again.” Pressing her lips against Lizzie’s cool forehead, she gently manoeuvred her position so she was sitting up against the headboard, her daughter cradled in her arms like she had done when she was a child. “My sweet angel, I love you so, so much.”




Hours past and day turned into night, people came and went, each saying their silent goodbyes and Harriet never left Lizzie’s side. A few hours ago she had banned anyone else from entering the room, the beating of her child’s heart had become shallow and she knew the time was nigh. It was inevitable now, her darling Lizzie was going to die and there was absolutely nothing Harriet could do to stop it. She still sat in the same position and all though her back ached, her legs were numb and her arms were seizing, she still cradled Lizzie in her arms; not too long ago she too had lulled into a soft sleep and in her dreams she found the serenity she needed. They were all there, Charles, Lizzie, Cecily and herself, chasing each other around an old oak tree, smiles plastered upon each of their faces, they were a family. However at some point something, an unyielding force summoned her back towards reality, a chill crept up her spine the moment she opened her eyes.

ImageIt took a moment but eventually Harriet’s grogginess subsided and as her vision cleared she rolled her shoulders trying to relief some of the stiffness in her arms. It was at that moment Harriet looked down at her daughter, her brow knitting together in concern as her throat became dry and scratchy, “Elizabeth” she spoke softly gently shaking the small body, hoping for some sort of reaction, anything really, be it a splutter, a croak or a groan, alas there was nothing. “Elizabeth!” Her voice became more frantic as she shook her daughter again. “Lizzie?” Harriet pleaded against the odd, “Oh god, no, no, no, no” she spluttered in despair, her hand placed against placed against the stillness of her heart, hoping to feel anything, a flutter, but nothing.

Hattie’s face twisted in agony as she drew Lizzie into her chest, she could not breath, she could not believe, she could not do anything. Her heart shattered repeatedly as she shook her golden head, her tears streaming down her countenance of despair, her throat remained dry until a sharp blood curling scream echoed across the room.




Outside the mood was not pleasant, not one eye was left dry at the knowledge that the tiny Princess was close to death and how could they not be? Lizzie was a light in everyone’s life, the thought of never hearing her laughter again or finding answers to one of her many questions was nearly unbearable.

Annabelle chewed her nail anxiously, she wanted to be in there with her daughter and grandchild but Harriet had banned them all not too long ago, saying Charles was the only one allowed in, but he had not been seen for hours, “how was the King when you saw him last, George?” she asked in concern for her son-in-law.

“Devastated. You should have heard what they called each other mother, it was unbearable.” Annabelle could only imagine, no one would have coped well in this situation, but Harriet and Charles those two would have undoubtedly made the situation worse for the other. She was about to answer when a heart stopping scream resounded from the room, her eyes widened knowing what it had meant, their little Lizzie was dead.

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It seemed to take ages for Charles to finally dry Cecily's tears. He'd tried just about anything and everything to stop the heart-wrenching sound of her wails. Of course, it would not have been as troublesome if he hadn't already been grieving for one daughter or stuck under the scrutinizing, pitying gazes of his court. He didn't want their pity! He didn't need their pity! Why could no one understand that? After wandering the gardens slowly with his daughter for a while, he'd finally been approached by Harold Pierrepont, who had nothing to say except that he was sorry. In his anger, Charles simply snapped at the man, cursed him, and caused Cecily to whimper again.

Having realized that there was no benefit being around others, the monarch had simply retired to his study with Cecily, knowing no one would come in there unless he told them to. Charles clutched a book in his hands, trying to read past the first page but finding himself unable to as his mind dwelt on the thought of Lizzie and Harriet upstairs by themselves. Soon, his daughter would be gone and he wouldn't be there. Then, who would comfort his sweet Harriet? His hands tightened around the book. He certainly wouldn't. No, he could not even bear to think of the woman at this point.
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He closed the book a bit too violently, but that didn't seem to faze Cecily in the slightest. In fact, the young girl was playing with a chess piece- a knight, to be exact- and making the small white horse gallop circles around her father's chair as she added the appropriate neighing and whinnying. He gave a slight, sad smile and watched her as she lifted the white queen and mounted it on the knight's head. Now, she moved both in tandem, adding a voice for the queen in a high-pitched "queen" voice. As she finished yet another circle and moved around before Charles, he bent down and scooped her up, sitting her in his lap.

She protested, but that only gave him cause to chuckle softy and kiss the top of her head. "You know those are not really for playing like that, little one," he teased, another laugh causing him to smile. Cecily pouted up at him, as if angered by his laughing.

"It's more fun playing with them on the floor than on the table," she countered, pointing at her father's ornate chess board. Charles nodded, as if he completely and utterly understood her point, though it just managed to amuse him further.

"Yes, I am quite aware of that," he said, playing along with her. "Perhaps they are better play things than chess pieces." Gingerly, he pried the queen from her small hand and turned it over in his hand.

"She looks like Mother," the young girl remarked out of the blue. Charles tensed, wishing she hadn't brought up Harriet again.

"Yes...I guess she does lo-" he began to say, but cut himself off as the doors to his study opened and Pierrepont hurried in. "What the hell do you think you are doing in here?!" The old man breathed in and out quickly, struggling to catch his breath. Charles, though he had asked, already knew the news.

"Your Highness...your daughter...she's...she's dead..." he puffed out. The news, surprisingly, did not seem to strike much of a nerve at all. Charles simply stood up with Cecily in his arms and walked forward to hand the girl to his adviser, who looked up at the monarch in bewilderment.Image

"Watch my daughter..." Charles said weakly, his voice stuck in a monotone as if showing too much emotion or feeling would make his nightmares true. Harold could only nod as his king left the room and followed the cries that he knew came from his wife. No...no, it couldn't really be happening...

It had all felt so unreal when he first heard the news, he had believed them, but she was still alive and so it was easier to cope with the news. But now, now his daughter was truly dead and gone from this world. Oh, what would he do now? There would be a funeral, he'd have to watch them bury his sunshine, his little girl, his first born, six feet under. Waves of nausea hit him as he walked down the hallway and Charles was forced to catch himself on the wall to keep himself steady. What seemed like years later, he found himself in the doorway of his dead daughter's room, pale, faint, and feeling simply exhausted.

Harriet's cries made him want to walk over to her, to comfort her, but even when faced with the death of his daughter, he was as stubborn as an ox. In a daze, he walked slowly to the side of the bed and let himself fall to his knees, shaking his head slowly.

"S-so, it is true," he croaked, fighting back tears that threatened to pour from his eyes. "Our precious child is dead..." And then the tears fell, spilling from his eyes and falling down his cheeks as Charles buried his face in his hands, too ashamed of the weakness he was showing.

"G-God, n-no...oh God, n-no."

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Character Portrait: Charles Rayleigh Character Portrait: Harriet Rayleigh Character Portrait: Eleanor Lancaster Character Portrait: Annabelle Stanford Character Portrait: Mary Raleigh
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Harriet was not sure how long had passed since she had realised that her daughter no longer drew breath, she did not care in honesty, she cared about very little at this moment in time, in fact she was very much numb from the pain. Her agony was still ever so present, although her loud sobs had subsided into a steady stream of silent tears cascading down her flushed cheeks, her throat was too hoarse and sore to make any real sounds. In her arms lay her daughter, so beautiful and peaceful that it almost looked as if she were merely asleep and a part of Harriet wanted to believe it for it could have easily been mistaken, however she knew better, she knew her daughter was dead.

Every time she thought about the word it sounded bitter and almost left a foul taste within her mouth, it was heavy and dense and made her want to retch. It couldn’t be that her daughter was dead. Elizabeth had always been a healthy child, so full of life and exuberant, it could not be the same child which lay in her arms, not this child with such sullen and cold skin, no this could not be her little Lizzie. But it was, her features were still the same even in death, her hair still as golden as the sun, she was still Harriet’s precious little girl even in death. Moving her position slightly, Harriet pressed the girls head towards her chest, her hand gently entwining within her locks to keep her close. As she did she rested her own head upon Lizzie’s, trying to remember everything about her scent that she could whilst placing gentle kisses upon her locks.

“One more push, my lady, just one more!” The cries of the midwife echoed around the room, her voice just loud enough to be heard above the whimpering of Harriet. Sinking back into her mother’s embrace, the woman merely shook her head, she was tired, exhausted in fact and the agony was just too much to bear, her mother had warned her about the pains of childbirth and Harriet thought she had done enough to prepare herself mentally for the pain. It hadn’t been long into her labour that she realised nothing could have prepared her for what she was about to face.

She shook her head with the strength which she could muster as Eleanor dabbed a cool cloth against her brow, “I can’t-”she whimpered behind her streaming tears, “I can’t do anymore.” Harriet was certain that all her strength had relinquished, her body racked with pain as the babe tore her apart.

“Yes you can Harriet, you are strong, you can do this” Annabelle spoke adamantly, she was not about to let her daughter give up, Harriet would not be one of those women, those too weak to survive this trial. She herself had birthed six babes, four had only survived infancy but she had delivered six babes nonetheless and her mother before her had birthed ten! Marcus and Stanford women were naturals when it came to childbirth and Harriet had both blood causing through her veins, she was a fighter, she would see this through.

Beside her Eleanor lightly dropped to her knees and took her sisters hand within her own, pressing her lips against the gentle flesh, “Just one more push Hattie, then you and Charles can have your child.” She encouraged with a smile. Harriet stared at her for a moment, her brow glistening with droplets of sweat, her tear soaked cheeks glistening against the candle light. Eleanor’s words had not been strong nor defiant, like her mother’s had been, instead they relayed the innocence of her tender seventeen years, but they had given her the motivation she had needed.

With a faltering smile Harriet did what she could to squeeze her sister’s hands before turning back to the midwife with a small nod. Her teeth grinded together as another wave of pain shot through her body, her cries didn’t remain silent for long for soon a loud scream ripped from her throat, her eyes forcibly shutting as she gave her finally push. It must have lasted only seconds, although it dragged on for Harriet like hours, but shortly a high pitched wail sounded around the room and Harriet collapsed back against her mother.

“It’s a girl” the midwife beamed joyously as she wrapped the tiny babe in a blanket, wiping the blood from her body. Although she knew her husband had wanted a boy, Harriet could not fathom the will to care, the child was born with breath as breath still remained in her body and that’s all she could have hoped from the birth. “Pass her to me Ellie.”

Following her sisters instruction, Eleanor rose to her feet and moved to the foot of the bed, gently taking the crying babe from the midwifes arms, “oh Hattie she is beautiful.” Eleanor smiled broadly as she looked up from the child towards her mother and placed her down into Harriet’s waiting arms.

Her sister was right, the child was beautiful, perfect even and the product of the love she shared with her husband, “she is…she looks like Charles.” Harriet commented with a smile as the babe began to relax within her arms, the high pitched wailing lessening as the seconds past until the child looked up at her through ocean blue eyes that significantly matched her fathers. “Do you think he will be disappointed that she is not a boy?”

Annabelle gazed down upon her granddaughter with a tearful gaze, what a wonderful moment she had just witnessed, she felt blessed to have experienced the birth of her first grandchild. “Of course not, my love, boys will come and even if he is it wouldn’t be for long after he looks into those eyes” she spoke confidently before placing a kiss to her daughters head.


“S-so, it is true…Our precious child is dead.” Harriet’s eyes opened suddenly at the sound of Charles’ solemn voice- she hadn’t even heard him enter the room. Through her glazed hues, she watched him as he lowered his head into his hands and pleaded to god.

Harriet looked up from her child for a split second as the door opened, her smile only widened as she saw Charles enter the room before looking back down at her daughter, she simply could not tear her gaze away from more than a moment, “it’s a girl” she announced gently as he slowly approached the bed.

“Aye, your mother told us” Charles smiled warmly, his eyes transfixed upon the small bundle in his wife’s arms. Slowly he neared the bed, his heart quickening with every beat, it was a moment that he had been waiting for, for months, something he had anticipated eagerly and feared at the same time. “She has your eyes,” Harriet spoke quietly, not wanting to scare her new born.

Charles’ own eyes widened slightly at her statement, “she does?” he repeated. Harriet nodded, glancing back up towards her husband, “would you like to hold her?” she asked to which Charles could only nod. In a swift movement he gingerly perched himself beside Harriet on the bed, careful in case his movements caused her more pain. “Make sure you support her head” Harriet instructed as she tactfully placed the babe within her husbands arms. Charles took the baby slowly, as if afraid he'd harm the small child by simply taking her from her mother's arms. Had he even held a child this small before? Nervously, he gulped and let out a soft little laugh, coupled with a worried expression. That was his child...his flesh and blood. Slowly, Charles shook his head as he placed his hand behind the girl's head, with was much smaller than his hand. Yes, he most certainly would have preferred a boy. The boy would have ensured the continuation of his family's blood line. On the other hand, though, he found it impossible to be upset in the presence of his wife, his daughter, and the nurses around them.

The smile on his lips seemed to stretch ear from ear as he looked down at his daughter. She was perfect. She was absolutely perfect and he swore that there was absolutely nothing he wanted to change in that moment. Supporting her in his slightly bent arm, Charles rubbed a thumb slowly against her cheek which caused the young girl to shift slightly and let out a gentle protest at the calloused flesh. It didn't faze him, though, that she didn't like it. Instead, he hesitantly leaned down and pressed his lips to her smooth, pale forehead as his smile broadened.


"Oh, my darling little girl," he whispered just an inch or so above her face but in a hushed whisper, as he feared speaking loudly would cause this moment to end abruptly. "My beautiful, darling little girl..." He turned to Harriet, his smile still broad and excited. "What shall we call her, love?"


Harriet could only smile at the scene before her, for a little while she had been worried that her husband would have been disappointed at her for the child being a girl, but now she could see from the joy in his features, that her worries had been unnecessary, completely unnecessary. Sinking back into the cushions, her smile only broadened, "I think she suits Elizabeth, what about you darling?"


Charles, for a while, was only able to nod slowly with the same smile on his face. "Elizabeth?" he repeated, trying the name out himself. "Elizabeth." Again, he said it as if to confirm the name. "Yes, Elizabeth sounds wonderful..." He probably couldn't have cared what they named her in that moment. Charles was so jovial at that point, he'd almost tuned out everything. He was a father! God, he still could not believe it, despite the fact that he held actual proof. Finally, he seemed to realize his wife might want to hold the child again and so he turned to hand Elizabeth over to her, planting a kiss gingerly against her lips as he did so. "She's beautiful, Hattie...absolutely gorgeous." Years ago, before he'd married, he would have scoffed at the idea of settling down or having a child, but now he couldn't imagine life without a child.


As Harriet took their Elizabeth back in her arms she continued to beam, nobody could have prepared her for this day, the agonising pain had been unbearable and frightening, but then the elation that followed had caused her to forget all that she experienced and now all she was filled with was unending happiness. “She is beautiful…she’s perfect”



Charles sobs caused a mixture of emotions within Harriet, anger was present; her teeth gritted, she just could not stand the sound of his cries, it was only making her own grief worse. It was a selfish thought, that much she knew but it she could not sit here and listen to his tears, not when he had abandoned her when she had needed him the most. Charles had left her and their dying daughter, he had forced her to sit there alone, without comfort as Lizzie passed on in her arms and that was something she would never forgive him for what he had done, just as she would never forgive herself for what she had done.

Yet she also felt sympathy for her husband and that was perhaps the strongest emotion, asides her anguish, that she was feeling. It took the remainder of Harriet’s strength to no reach out to Charles, pull him into her arms, but he had hurt her in ways that she wasn’t sure she could ever forgive him and that thought alone was enough to stump her affection.

ImageSwallowing the lump in her throat, Harriet gently laid Lizzie back down onto the bed; her own legs ached from stiffness as she rose to them before pulling the blankets up to her child chin, straightening any creases as she did so. Resting a hand on her swollen stomach, Harriet lent forward, placing a last kiss upon Lizzie’s brow, pulling back she chocked upon her tears once again, her heart smashing into pieces at the sight before her.[color= #AEC8CC] “I will always love you, Lizzie, always.”[/color] she whispered lightly before standing tall once again, her gaze coming to settle on her husband.

[color= #AEC8CC] “I needed you, but you never came back and for that I don’t think I can ever forgive you.”[/color] Harriet’s voice cracked under the strain of the crippling emotions, she did not give him time to respond or criticise her further, turning sharply on her heel, she left the room, leaving Charles alone with his grief just as he had done to her.





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Not to Annabelle’s surprise, Charles had entered the room on his child without paying those waiting outside any acknowledgment and she couldn’t blame him, his mind had been solely focussed on Lizzie to pay anyone else any mind. Annabelle herself had been in her own state of anguish, quite naively she had never thought she would lose a grandchild, not one who had lived past the dangers of infancy, but children died daily around the kingdom and being the child of a King and Queen did not save you from disease. It was almost killing her being parted from Harriet at this time, but she stayed put and waited until she was beckoned, the truth was, she was almost frightened to step foot into that room, she did not know if she could handle the sight of their little Lizzie without life. However should Harriet will her presence she would easily set aside her fears and enter the room.

Walking over to George she ran her hands up and down his arms, offering a small but watery smile, it was obvious that he was suffering also, there was sorrow in his glassy hues that matched most people’s that evening and so she did what she could to comfort him. “Lady Stanford…I am not too late am I?

The familiar voice of Mary Rayleigh echoed down the corridor and on any other day Annabelle would have grimaced at the tone. Mary was not a woman she got along with particularly well, it was evident that the Duchess of Vale, the King’s mother did not care to greatly for the Stanford’s. The lack of royal blood in their heritage had branded them, in her eyes anyway, commoners from the beginning and since Eleanor and Jonathan’s deflection to the Lancastrian forces, Mary’s resentment towards them had only worsened. Still, today of all days was not one to dwell on such things.

“I am afraid so Lady Rayleigh, It would seem our granddaughter has just passed.” Annabelle spoke gently, emotion lacing every word and syllable, it was almost impossible to keep her tears from falling after speaking the words aloud and she knew from a fact that Mary would not take to kindly to tears in public, she had always been a stoic sorts like that, but again, at this moment she could not care less what the woman thought of her.

Suddenly the click of the door caught her attention and turning sharply, Annabelle stared at the wooden mount waiting to see who was to appear. Her heart shattered when she saw her daughter emerge, her eyes reddened by hours of constant tears, her skin pale from shock, her movements small from weakness, “oh my love.” Rushing towards Harriet, she wrapped her arms around her daughter trying to offer what comfort she could.

Harriet melted into her mother’s embrace, taking what comfort she could, looking up she spotted George and reached out to embrace him also. Their union was short as Harriet’s eyes fell upon her, Charles’ mother, the ever emotionless Mary Rayleigh, she would have rather been facing the entire Lancastrian army naked at this moment, than having locked eyes with her. Although, to her credit she kept her composure and greeted the woman with a small nod, “Charles will need you,” she spoke quickly and curtly before turning away from the woman, she could not bear to look at another Rayleigh at this moment, hell, she doubted she could ever look at another Rayleigh again.

As Harriet turned and began the walk back to her own chambers, Annabelle offered the Duchess a quick nod before hurrying after her daughter, George close behind her. It was a little comfort to know that Mary was in Briar now, at least she would not have to worry about Charles as much knowing that his own mother was here to comfort him, then again she wasn’t entirely sure just how much comfort the woman would be to the grieving King.

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Character Portrait: Charles Rayleigh Character Portrait: Harriet Rayleigh Character Portrait: Mary Raleigh
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No such memories came back to Charles like they did his wife. Instead of thinking of the precious first moments he'd spent with his newborn daughter, he could only think of the harsh, cruel reality he was facing. She was gone. His precious, darling, firstborn child was gone. ImageOh, why had he ever wanted a son?! Was this is curse for wishing Lizzie had been born a boy? It was certainly a harsh punishment, if that were the case, but what else did he expect, in all reality. It was his fault, his fault for being selfish, for being ungrateful, for being a murderer.

His sobs increased both in volume and in tears as he realized that perhaps he really was the reason for their daughter's death. After all, why else would such a benevolent god kill his precious daughter? Finally, he allowed himself to look up slowly at both his wife and his dead child, fighting back another wave of sobs. Why had they begun to fight? He just wanted his wife back, damn it. But, even though he knew she was too proud of a woman to take him back sobbing like a child, he crawled forward slowly on the floor toward her as she covered their child with the bed sheets.

"H-Hattie," he sobbed out, his voice choked apart by his crying. "L-love, please...c-come to me...I-I need you. I can not grieve myself, n-nor can you." He knew he most likely looked pitiful and weak and stupid before her, as he was nothing more than a pile of tears and grief before her. And, of course, Harriet was as reluctant as always to give in to his pleading.

"I needed you, but you ever came back and for that, I don't think I can ever forgive you." Her voice was cracking, he could tell, and yet she hurried from the room without betraying a single emotion upon her countenance. He let out a cry of anguish, but bit his lip to keep it from being too loud.

"Harriet, please!" he yelled after her, his voice cracking also. "Come back, Harriet, please! I am sorry, I am ever so sorry." It took him a while to realize she was not returning and, instead of crying more, he suddenly got to his feet and turned toward the door.
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"Damn you, you vile woman!" he snarled, fists clenched tightly in anger. "You bitch, get back here! Come back here, woman!" He wanted to move forward, to chase after her, but he didn't know what he would do if he caught up to her. Instead, he settled upon slamming his fist into the wall, hoping it would help him cope. It didn't, of course, but it simply caused him to feel pain and rage, along with his earlier grief. And now, he was utterly alone...and he didn't like it at all. Shaking with his mixture of anger and anguish, Charles walked slowly to the edge of his daughter's death bed and sat on the edge, looking down at her with red eyes and a solemn expression.

"Oh, my sweet little girl..." he mumbled, slowly reaching to run his hand through her golden locks. The cold, clamminess of her skin caused him to cry out and tears formed in his eyes. "What are we going to do without you, little one?" He sighed and leaned down so that he could press his lips once more on her head. "You need to watch over us now, Lizzie...you a-and Father...you will watch over us, won't you?" He gave a weak attempt at a smile, but it soon crumbled to bits as he looked once more at her still, expressionless visage. "You had such a bright future ahead of you, darling...God, I would have died in your place if I could have."Image
The sound of the door to the room opened startled him and he sat up quickly, praying it was Harriet and she'd returned to him. Although it turned out to be his mother, he certainly wasn't upset by that. In fact, perhaps he was more thankful it had been Mary Rayleigh and not Harriet, for his mother would most certainly comfort him, whereas Harriet was likely still seething and ignoring him.

"Mother..." he whispered, standing up quickly and brushing the tears from his eyes hurriedly, as if trying to create the impression that he hadn't just been sobbing. He looked as if he wanted to say more to her but, instead, the young king simply rushed forward and hugged his mother tightly. Though he was almost an entire foot taller than her, Charles leaned down against her and sobbed wholeheartedly into her shoulder, his entire frame wracked with sob after sob. "O-oh Mother, Lizzie's d-dead...Harriet hates me...God, t-the entire world has fallen to b-bits." He could have stayed in her embrace for ages, letting his mother soothe him as she did when he was a young, sickly child. Instead, though, he finally forced himself away after a few minutes. He still had to act like he had some control over the situation, despite how much he just wanted to curl up away from the world. "A-are you here because of L-Lizzie...?"

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Character Portrait: Charles Rayleigh Character Portrait: Harriet Rayleigh Character Portrait: Annabelle Stanford Character Portrait: Mary Raleigh
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"I am a creature of grief and dust and bitter longings. There is an empty place within me where my heart was once"


It was the role of an anchor to hold the ship, the role of a pillar to hold up the roof and the role of Mary Rayleigh to hold up her family, especially when there was a storm. Some storms were mild, some storms were bearable but there were storms that were unbearable and even dangerous, in the presence of all of these, there was a force to be reckoned with when these storms engaged into battle. To be a sufficient force to withstand such storms, such a force must be grounded deep into the foundation or such a force would be weak. It is therefore imperative that such a force is strong, sharp and well grounded, in order to carry out their role. Without an anchor the ship would be lost to the storm, without a pillar the rooftop would fall and the house would come crashing down. Mary had great confidence in her son's abilities but she would remain a strong, sharp and well grounded support in order to aid him.

Sometimes being sharp had the consequence of being sharp-tongued, which had the consequence of not being liked so much, but such did not matter as much as defending her family, for she would do whatever it took. Hearing Lady Stanford's response and the tears that followed, only caused Mary to close her eyes so she would not have to witness the tears that fell, but at the same time she did so in disappointment that she wasn't able to arrive sooner but it could not be helped, so she would simply accept the facts and carry on, just as she had with Francis as she knew that he would not want her to grieve but to carry on. Thinking of such had changed her life from that time on, grieving was more an impossibility than reluctance, but she would remain strong in these times.

The young Elizabeth was such a gentle soul, so innocent, so young, yet, recalling the words of Lady Stanford before her watery display, "it would seem our granddaughter has just passed". There was a reason of course where she did not take kindly to tears in public, first and foremost it tested her when others shed tears yet she would not, secondly tears were a sign of weakness which could not be allowed for one in the role she held, yet it did not mean that she felt nothing even if others may get such an impression as she did feel remorseful for the death of her dear granddaughter, but she would not allow her emotions to get the better of her, she would not and could not, and certainly should not.

Just as she had back in Rigby Hall, she remained silent, her head bowed to be respectful, remaining strong but poised in the testing waves that had come crashing down in the heart of Seabel and in the hearts of those within for such a young life to be taken from them. Her eyes looked up as Harriet came from Lizzie's room and straight into the arms of her mother. It was clear by her face when Harriet's eyes locked with her own of how her emotions had gotten the best of her, but such was the love of a mother. However, from what Mary had gathered as she had stood outside with Lady Stanford and her youngest son, was that her son and Harriet wished for time alone which Mary had hoped was helping them both stand strong, but instead it seemed it was failure with the fact Harriet had came alone and with the words that came out of Harriet's mouth, "Charles will need you", before turning away and leaving, followed by her mother and brother.

What had that....what had she done now? seeing that she had left Charles alone, so she took no time to waste to open the doors and enter Lizzie's room, seeing her son on Lizzie's bed. Mary could remember the times that she had sat on Charles' bed to comfort him, worried about how sick and weak he was. Charles was her world, her first born, so she could understand the pain that Charles and Harriet would be in to lose their first born, even if she did not show it, but she would help them through it. Charles moreso than Harriet of course, seeing that Harriet had appeared to let him grieve alone, as Charles came towards her and hugged her, Mary responding with a hug of her own to comfort him.

"O-oh Mother, Lizzie's d-dead....Harriet hates me...God, t-the entire world has fallen to b-bits", Charles sobbed, before it appeared that some of her strength had passed onto him as he pulled back and asked, "A-are you here because of L-Lizzie...?". "For Lizzie...and for you", Mary responded to him confidently as she took the opportunity to see Lizzie, holding her hand as she sat on her bed, reminding her of the times she was at Charles' side, reminding her of how she used to be. Back in those days she was worried for her son with how ill he looked, feeling that something was terribly wrong, but in the end Charles had grown and now had become a strong man like his father. Unfortunately for Charles and Harriet, their first-born had not been so lucky, the hand she now held should of grown into a strong woman, but alas such was not to be.

There was the option to speak of Lizzie, but right now her son needed her before he could face the facts as she did upon Francis' death. Lizzie had brought much joy and happiness to Charles just as Charles had brought much joy and happiness to her, so she could only imagine the pain they were going through, "Life certainly has a way of rising you up before things come crashing down, but you must be strong, now more than ever", not really words of comfort but were words of strength in her opinion as such was how her life had been. Following her statement, she released Lizzie's hand and stood up, "If there are pieces that have fallen, then they must be picked up and treasured, held together", such that caused her to be distrustful of the Stanfords' since their family had been divided yet there had been no attempt for the family to be rebound together.

However, Mary could not forget that it was Francis' arrangement for Charles to be wed with Harriet, so though she was skeptical then and skeptical now, she felt that she should try her best to accept the situation for Francis' sake. "Harriet is....facing...challenges..of her own right now. These are hard times, but you must endure", holding his arm for her strength to flow through him once more, "If anyone can hold strong in the face of adversity, it is a Rayleigh!", so if Harriet was a true Rayleigh then she would stand by Charles side. There was still the issue of providing a male heir but only time will tell and now was not the time to dwell on such things as she comforted her son.

Mary herself had her testing period when Francis was killed and departed from this world. Here in Seabel, men and women weeped for the loss of the King's eldest daughter, but when Francis died, there were those that rejoiced which made the death even more painful. Instead of giving into grief, she gave into her anger since she was too scarred to let out a single tear, before she fell on her knees and prayed for strength to see her through for she wholeheartedly needed it. It was why she told Charles that if pieces were fallen then they must be held together, for that is what she too had done, for without the head of the family, it was like a trunk of a tree, remove the tree and the branches fall and can no longer stand, requiring them to be picked up and held together, such that Mary had done.

As for Harriet, she didn't exactly meet eye to eye with her, but she had remained at her daughters' side, even if it meant casting away the other lost branch, but such was a trial. When Charles was in his sick-like state, Mary would be around him more than her other children. However, when Francis was executed, the same shock that had ran through Francis when the axe made contact with his skin, was the same shock that had ran through Mary to drain her of what she once was, before she came to the understanding that now Francis was gone, her children needed her now more than ever and she would fulfill that role to a tee.

There was more that Mary could say to her son, but she felt that the essence of what she wished to convey to him was accomplished. There was no need to remind him of the past when he had been by her and had agreed to rise against the Lancaster's. A Rayleigh was worth thousands of Lancaster's, but she believed that her son would overcome this and had the strength to overcome this, just as he had the strength to pull away from her. The question was, would Harriet succeed? but first, it was time to say farewell to Lizzie as she looked up to her son, "You warriors stand tall on the battlefield, but it is time to go to a different plane, to be..a prayer warrior, for on our knees, we are stronger than trees, which is the only chance I get at being taller than you", trying her hand at amusement with a thin smile, before she adjusted herself so that she was by Charles' side and then offering her hand, "Will you join me?", she then asked so Charles can join her, preparing herself to pray for her grand-daughter whose smile will be smiling down on them up above, alone with her dear Francis and that even after his death, she was still living upto her duty as a dutiful wife....