The night before, when Anne had gradually come to terms with the inevitability of her execution. She had tried to picture her last moments on God's earth. She had imagined that memories from her past would flash before her eyes as she surrendered to death's iron grip.
Instead, it was thoughts of the future that ran through her mind. A future where her daughter's fate was just as much at the mercy of Henry's whims, as Anne's own life had been.
Perhaps, it was her fault. Had she not given into her fears, she would have fought harder to keep the crown on her head, and her head on her shoulders. Alas, another queen was to take her place, as she had taken Catherine's. Such cruel irony, but Anne supposed she should have seen it coming anyway. Pity, she would not live to see if this new queen would make Henry happy. For her own sake, she had to.
The executioner swung the blade deftly, expertly, birds scattered in the air frightened by the whooshing sound, the crowd gasped.
The last feeling Anne remembered before she lost consciousness, was repentance, along with a deep longing to live. To breathe. To see. To fight and protect what mattered to her most.
But you cannot always get all you want.
When she next drew a breath, she smelled a sickly sweet perfume in the air. She squinted, too afraid to look up at first, then opened her eyes wide. Her heart was fluttering in her chest as she saw a handsome man staring down at her with a concerned expression. He was a soldier in a fanciful leather uniform, funny hat and an assortment of weapons hanging from his belt. She could not explain what she felt, partly because fate had no prominent place in her religious beliefs. So it was the oddest thing, to intuit that she was fated to meet him.
"Are you alright, madame?" He held out his leather-gloved hand out to her. Noticing her questioning look, he tipped his hat and bowed his head lightly as he introduced himself. "Athos, of the King's Musketeers, at your service."
It took her a few moments to recognize the language and respond.
"Tell me, monsieur Athos, where am I? Is this hell, or, dare I hope – Heaven?"
The man smiled, visibly amused by the question. She took the hand he'd offered and he helped her stand up.
"Either one, or both, depending on who you ask. You are in Paris, madame."