[FICATHON] Kings of the Earth, for [livejournal.com profile] speak_me_fair

Sep. 3rd, 2012 05:00 pm
[identity profile] angevin2.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] thisengland
Title: Kings of the Earth
Author: [livejournal.com profile] highfantastical
Play: Richard II
Recipient: [livejournal.com profile] speak_me_fair
Character(s)/Pairing(s): Richard II, the Duke of Aumerle, Anne of Bohemia (deceased)
Warnings: Grief
Rating: PG
Summary: Your crown and your heart are different things.


"No," Richard says. "You don't have to give me things." As though he is half-asleep, he puts out one white hand to touch his cousin's cheekbone.

"I don't want to buy you. But – not to waste your time, either."

"No. I've known I'd have to, ever since." The king's hand declines in an arc, more heavy than graceful.

This realm, thinks the Duke of Aumerle. Grief can't save it: the fields will wax brown and the crops will fail, and strange lights will begin to show in the skies –

A little boy compact of tears, he fancies. Long hair, the colour of ice, and long hands. His eyes would have no lashes to them, and on his chilly head: his father's crown.

He couldn't die like a child made from mortal flesh, or like a queen. Richard would love him, and they would hunt together, the Duke of Aumerle making a third and the child's pony whiter than clouds, whiter than the crests of waves.

"Since the day after the day she died," Richard says.

"Yes." He disbelieves this claim: he remembers the king's astonishment, more than anything else.

"England. It's always – and I know why, mind. Do you know, the oil – I can't forget." It can be neither forgotten nor explained, Richard thinks. You only learn how it changes you in the moment of the change itself, as though the Lord bends down to you from high heaven, and with his hot breath –

"I've never seen a redder autumn," the Duke of Aumerle says.

"I know. I sometimes wonder if it wants to win my heart back, something like that."

For two days and two nights, the king has not slept. The torches give a soft, sick light, colouring his hair and taking the blood from his skin. His majesty is sick, and like to die. Her majesty –

The Duke of Aumerle says, "If it were somebody kind."

"But I don't like kind people. Only you."

"Queen Anne was the kindest woman on this earth, and the most truly gentle."

The wind begins to blow again, and water smacks at the windows: blow after blow. The red trees are only something to talk about; they can't be seen.

The king says, "I think I've grown out of kindness." He rises and walks towards the fire slowly. "I still like to be amused. Somebody witty, perhaps."

"I'm not sure how we'd go about testing the wit of a princess."

"A device from the romances – we can ask my poet, he must be able to think of something. Or perhaps I will myself."

"I thought he looked harassed, the last time I saw him."

"Oh, no. He still finds time to write, it can't be that bad."

The Duke of Aumerle smiles, because Richard is too clever for his own good most of the time, and hitting a blind spot only makes you like him more –

"Was that an owl?"

"I'm sorry, I didn't hear it. Do you think you could sleep, perhaps?"

"Let's have some wine."

The wine is fetched, poured, tasted. The king's mouth has a softness to it that is utterly unlike his manner this evening; it is not brittle, it is not affected, nor stricken with the loss that never departs from its owner. In the simplicity of that mouth, the Duke of Aumerle can see Richard as a boy. The crown doesn't make a man beautiful, not by itself.

"Too wet to ride tomorrow," he says. "And you'd be too tired; what if you fell?"

"I wouldn't fall. But it doesn't matter, with the rain like that."

"Why can't you sleep, my lord?"

The king puts down his cup. "I can. I elect not to."

The Duke of Aumerle looks at him. "Do you," he begins, "does any part of you want a child? At all? Is it England only, or you as well?"

Richard looks at him for a long time: it seems that he does not blink, but it's such a long while that the Duke of Aumerle knows that this cannot be true; his own eyes, somehow, have not permitted him to see it. All he knows in the world is the gaze of Richard, and he thinks Richard will say, but I am England.

Richard says, "Kiss me, now. Better than sleeping, anyway."

The Duke of Aumerle does not answer immediately, and he does not obey. He's had more alluring invitations in his time.

"I love you," he says.

The king's eyes close for a moment: he picks up his cup again; puts it down again. His lips form two or three inaudible words.

"When you have an heir," the Duke of Aumerle says, "things will be better. Not that she's dead, but – other things. There'll be less discontent. People will settle down."

"To love your wife," Richard says, "is a boon, for a king. Will I be doubly paid, do you think?"

"Perhaps."

"Do you know, I wish now that I hadn't had the place burned. Sometimes I wake up and – it's as though the smoke's there in the room, hovering around the bed. Don't look at me like that. I know it's not real; but it might as well be. I suppose the ground is blackened, everywhere. And I think of her walking through the hall."

Henry Bolingbroke, if Richard ever spoke to him of such things, would say: a manor can be built up again. And he would mean it, his cousin thinks, rather kindly, and that is why Richard will never allow them to mingle their sorrows. Two cousins, wives cold in the ground –

He says, "Do you ever see her?"

"No."

The Duke of Aumerle has seen her, once. He left Richard's bedchamber early one morning just after midsummer, and all the air was delicious, breathing was delicious. The land was blooming for a week or two, no matter how ill the fields, and the king's eyes were like the sea: they changed with each glance, from brilliance to still another brilliance.

She was at the end of the passage, and unmistakably herself: the shape of her body was the same, and her hair was dressed as she had worn it in life. The Duke of Aumerle was sure he'd seen the gown before: it made him think of ripe corn. Her lips were composed but he could see that her eyes were smiling.

He remembers the deep bow he made. He greeted her as a queen, that was only right – but the courtesy was given more slowly than usual, as though his very body knew that a greater honour was owed.

She said nothing; perhaps she couldn't speak. He walked towards her and she turned the corner, but when he reached the end of the passage, there was no sign of her in the next.

Richard says bitterly, "There was plenty of time, after all. It doesn't take long to shrive a good woman."

"I'll kiss you, my lord," the Duke of Aumerle says. "If you still want me to."

"Have you seen her?" the king says. He cannot help but ask.

"No." He rises from his own chair and kneels before the king. "My lord. Every several gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold."

Richard bends forward to kiss him, as though he is suddenly hungry.

The Duke of Aumerle draws away after a long moment. "And the city had no need of the sun," he says, "neither of the moon, to shine in it." He looks up into Richard's face: in the torchlight pale as a summer moon. "For the glory of God," he says, and his voice softens until it is hardly to be heard. "For the glory of God did lighten it."

He puts up one hand and touches the tear under Richard's eye, but he does not brush it away. "Did lighten it," he repeats, "and the Lamb is the light thereof."

And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.
fin.
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