This is coming a little later than I intended, but here we are! I’m pleased to announce that the winner of the first ever ATWC contest is Tiara Schrombeck! She wrote a fantastic story, that you can read below. Please be sure to congratulate her!
An Evening at Court
A million candles lit up the clothes of a million dancers and made all their jewels and gilded masks sparkle like fireworks. It was as if every candle that had ever been made was assembled together here and lit for the dual purpose of celebrating the new king and spiting the old dead one.
The sheer opulence would have been offense to Catherine if she had not been one of the recipients of the celebration. She had recently escaped from the trappings of poverty, or what was considered poverty for a woman who was born to the richest of monarchs and expected to live a certain comfort level and was having a surprisingly hard time re-adjusting to a world where she could do, have or spend whatever she wanted. Catherine found herself adding up the cost of the candles whenever her mind drifted away from the activities of court.
In her mind’s eye, she could feel the annoyance of her father Ferdinand whenever she started to do this. But she would immediately shut out his annoyance with the voice of her pragmatic mother. “Katarina, my love,” she would say, “Do not let that man who would send you no money nor aid during your years of penance be allowed to make you feel guilty for questioning the need for this excessive finery. We, who have sold everything we own merely to survive and triumph understand that to be this wasteful has its repercussions”.
Catherine continued to count the candles and wonder if they had been taken specifically from the Old Kings room after the death of his mother, who could no longer prevent her headstrong grandson from raiding that most sacred of spaces to her. My Lady the King’s Mother allowed as much revelry from the young Henry as she saw fit at his ascension, but she would not allow him to pillage from his late father’s quarters. Her death had solved that situation and Catherine could see several items on display around the room that had been owned by the Old King.
But the candles were the ones that stood out to her, she could just see that miserly old man, God rest his soul of course, cringing at the thought of burning them all down to stumps because the cost of buying new ones would be quite large and he would have already put it down in his book of accounts. Angrily scratching each number onto the page and looking around with sharp anger at those who would wish him to take more money from out of his treasury for such nonsense.
Henry looked over at Catherine and frowned. She was obviously not paying attention to the laughter that had erupted from the group of men he had just been delighting with one of his stories and he had turned to her for that extra praise and indulgent smile she always gave to him when he had succeeded in entertaining his friends and subjects.
“Come now, my Kate, where is your mind at? It is very clearly not here with me right now”, Henry said with no effort to hide his annoyance at not being the center of her attention.
Immediately realizing what she was to do, what she was in fact here by the grace of God to do, she smiled as wide as she possibly could at her young new husband and grabbed his hand.
“My mind is always with you, Henry. I was just looking at all the beauty that you have illuminated for me this evening and wondering how many chandler’s we will have to find to supply us if we plan to have many nights like these.”
At the mention of something as dreary to him as finances and procurement, Henry recoiled visibly and shook his head.
“Now, my darling Kate, have you become the Chamberlin of Greenwich? Have you been haunted by the spirit of my father or beloved grandmother? These things are not ones in which you must concern yourself with. These are the things that we have others to worry about. You are not to worry about these insignificant trifles, your place is by my side. Fully by my side”.
The way in which he spoke to her caused Catherine to immediately take the full measure of her young husband. Yes, it was true, her place was to be fully by his side as he had strongly put it. She needed to put away the ghosts of years past and learn to enjoy this new and wonderful life that she had been given after years of penance. She needed to learn that the only light she should be concerned about was that which was within her new husband and that light was the only one to be tended. He had saved her from her misery just as much as God had.
With a renewed sense of her purpose, Catherine stood held her hand up to her husband and without a word he took it and led her off to dance amongst the million candles, knowing that they were the brightest lights in the room.