Hello everyone! Welcome to my alternate ending story of Ever After where I hope to be more historically accurate than the movie. I plan on writing this story as if it were a historical fiction novel. I will be tweaking historical facts, personages, and dates to fit the movie's universe. By the way, I've changed the spelling of Henry's name to that of the French spelling. I hope it doesn't confuse anyone—but I thought it'd be a nice touch, since the story is set in France ;) I will also give translations for various French and Spanish I use throughout as well as explanations in notes for anything I think needs a little extra clarification. I hope you enjoy the story!
A/N: Edited the chapter title and the whole first chapter to read more fluidly; also added more description and detail. May 26, 2013.
Another detail/grammar edit on 29th May, 2015 trying to improve my writing.
I recently had my story beta read, so I am once again going through each chapter and editing them. This most current edit on 9thSeptember, 2016.
DISCLAIMER: I do not have any rights to the film, Ever After, however my thoughts and ideas are my own. The characters Esmée, Rosaline, Alejandro, and Sébastien are mine. The title is a working title, it may change. I strive for historical accuracy though I realize I have taken certain liberties with European History to fit the plot line.
The Privilege of Love
By: M. L. Zhang
Chapter 1: Unveiled Deception
The melodies of flutes and lutes which embraced the jovial celebration abruptly came to a halt. The courtiers stopped dancing to gaze upon the suspenseful spectacle which included the sought-after handsome prince. A glittering wing lay broken on the ground and the bearer stood trembling with apprehension. Hundreds of eyes gazed upon the young couple, as a precedent in their nation's history played out, as if they were spectators at the theatre watching the climax in a tragic play.
"But, I can explain…" the young woman's voice was barely audible and full of pleading; just begging to be heard and understood.
"Well, somebody had better!" King Francis stood up just then from his throne and glared down at them all with his thick arms folded across his broad chest. When he was angry, his wrath was volcanic. The king's baritone voice boomed throughout the open space, resonating with his demanding presence.
The whole palace courtyard was full of courtiers in their elegant gowns and suits, decorated into elaborate masquerade costumes. There was an ethereal atmosphere with the many softly glowing torches stationed around the perimeter of the yard, the light music, and the starry heavens shining down upon the kingdom. Tonight Henri would have announced to the court his intentions to marry Danielle, or as he believed, Nicole. However, Baroness Rodmilla de Ghent could not keep herself from interfering in other people's affairs—especially when in her mind it may benefit herself and her spoiled, eldest daughter.
"She is a servant! She's been a servant in my household for the last ten years." Rodmilla interjected with a deliberate, smug smirk on her thin lips, breaking the hush that gripped everyone. Her dark eyes shone with mischievous plotting and years of festering jealousy.
Danielle held Henri's hand more tightly now not wanting to lose him—as if the invisible ribbon that bound them together may be snipped at any moment, never to be mended once severed. She rubbed her fingers against his, wanting to absorb the feel of him before she might lose Henri forever. Their eyes met, Henri's questioning and Danielle's pleading—just needing to tell her side of events. The only version that should matter.
"Is this true …Nicole?" Henri's voice faltered with hope that it was not so.
Sadly, with tears threatening to spill from her eyes Danielle nodded and spoke while trying her best to suppress her sobs, "Comtesse Nicole de Lancre was my mother… my name is Danielle de Barbarac … I am what she says…." After the last word she could not hold back any longer and let a sob escape her lips. Knowing already from the darkening look in his eyes that he was drifting away from her across an invisible, widening, hierarchical sea.
The soulful eyes which always looked at her with admiration and love now narrowed as he stared at her and then, most significantly of silent gestures, his hand slipped from hers. Danielle watched his hand fall away as if from outside her body noting that this little unconscious action was the finality of anything that could exist between them. The invisible ribbon that held them together had finally been severed and nothing earthly could mend it.
"It was you…. the girl with the apple… all along…" he whispered to himself, trying to put the missing links of the puzzle together.
"What's this Henri...a commoner? You better explain yourself!" King Francis thundered, his arms folded across his chest in anger. It was entirely inappropriate for the Crown Prince of France to be cavorting with a lowly common country peasant.
"There is nothing more to explain Father… this woman in front of me is nothing more than a commoner and someone I horribly mistook for another." Henri replied, his countenance suddenly icy toward Danielle.
"But, Henri…" Danielle pleaded. The derision with which he now regarded her was more than she could possibly bear. She had the lingering hope that if she could still tell him the truth from her lips that he could come back to her. Her only deception had been to herself, to have believed that a prince could have fallen in love with a common woman. Her stolen moments with Henri had been like a dream, too delicious to wake from, that she maintained her charade as Nicole. The fear of losing him once he discovered her true identity was sorrowfully becoming reality right before her.
The nobles all gasped at her insolence.
"Madame… you will not address me so informal. I am a Prince of France… and you are nothing more than one of them!" He spat at her and indicated with a sweep of his arm the common folk and gypsies he had invited to the ball just for her. Encompassing in his gesture the figure of her step-sister, whose selfish scheming to snare his heart for his crown had made him run from marriage to court ladies,...until he had met Nicole...
Tears filled her eyes and freely spilled down her cheeks, smearing the makeup which had magically transformed her into a glittering angel. He truly thinks me a common coquette? If he really knew me, he would not think me a fortune hunting cow like Marguerite! She was about to turn and run from the scene, when Francis nodded and two guards blocked her exit, forcing Danielle to remain.
"So, then you have lied to and deceived the dauphin of France!" King Francis accused her.
Danielle's sorrowful eyes turned to fear now for what Their Majesties might do to her. Rodmilla then stepped forward and answered for her, "Yes, Your Majesty, she has lied to you the whole time! She has been a sneaking, conniving little witch of whom I am embarrassed to call family."
Queen Marie's eyes fixated on Rodmilla, "Then have you not also lied to me, when you told me that you knew the Comtesse Nicole? That she was your cousin and staying with you?" Her eyes narrowed at the Baroness, waiting to see what possible explanation she could have. A mother's protective instincts came to the forefront. She greatly disliked anyone taking advantage of her son or deceiving her family.
Rodmilla shook her head, "Not entirely, Your Majesty… as there really was a lady named Nicole de Lancre and she does 'rest' at our manor."
Marie did not appreciate the Baronness' reply, but before Marie could question her further, Francis interjected. "Danielle…. you are henceforth sentenced to the prisons on grounds of impersonating nobility, deceiving the royal family, and for filling my son's head with nonsense notions…where you will stay until we decide your fate." Francis could not ignore the changes Danielle had created in Henri such as inviting gypsies to a royal ball, suddenly wanting to open a university to people of all stations, and with the largest library in the country.
A sob broke out from the young woman and before she could resist, the two guards took her by the arms and led her away. Her one angel wing bent and flopping helplessly, mirroring the feelings of its wearer. Her teary eyes stayed focused on Henri, hoping he would somehow overcome the truth and save her. She hoped that their love was strong and could transcend the constraints of the social hierarchy. She wanted to see him rush forward and pull her back to him. But Henri remained unmoved. His handsome eyes turned surly with loathing.
All at once, she was gone.
Henri turned then and left the court, seeking refuge onto a side terrace.
Queen Marie looked to Rodmilla, "I'll deal with you later, Baroness, rest assured." Rodmilla nodded, bowed, and then returned to her place in line next to her daughters. Marguerite was looking rather triumphant despite the royal warning to her mother. Jacqueline, however, appeared sad for her step-sister and expressed no interest in her mother's or sister's plights.
This was not a suitable air for a ball which was meant to be festive, and Francis turned to the orchestra and waved his hand in a fluid movement, "Continue!" The music struck up once more in the tone of a lively waltz and the courtiers began dancing. Francis turned to Marie as they both sat back down on their gilded thrones, "Can you fathom it all? Henri with a commoner?" It still boggled his mind.
Marie shook her head, "No … I cannot. But then again… you cannot control who you fall in love with." Indicating their own similar history.
Francis caught the insinuation, "I really do wish that after all these years you would've dropped that issue, dear."
Marie nodded, "Yes, Francis." She said, though the memory remained.
Henri was leaning against the stone railing of the terrace balcony. His forearms were folded on the ledge as his head tilted up towards the night sky. His eyes were closed though and his breathing deep, trying to get a grasp on his feelings. A steady, cold rain began to fall from the thick, dark gray clouds overhead, but Henri did not step out of the rain. Thoughts of this evening ran through his mind and he still could not believe all that had transpired.
I should go after her… I love her... No... I don't know Danielle… she lied to me… I know a Nicole that does not exist. He argued with himself as the rain dampened his hair and dripped, soaking into his doublet.
Quietly, from out of the shadows, Leonardo Da Vinci walked up to him and placed a glass slipper on the ledge beside Henri. "You cannot control fate, boy." He said, "Just as much as you cannot control your heart. Go after her! She is your match in every way." Imparting knowledge that only age can bring.
He shook his head, "I cannot… she is but a commoner and I a prince…"
Leonardo frowned, "If you cannot see past that- then you don't deserve her." He replied and then left Henri with his thoughts, staring down at Danielle's exquisite slipper.
Henri looked to where Leonardo was just standing and then back down at the shoe, glittering with reflected drops of rain. He blinked his eyes repeatedly and pressed his lips together, willing himself not to succumb to his pain. In a soft, heartbroken voice he spoke to the shoe as a substitute for Danielle.
"You deceived me…. How can I trust anything you tell me now?"
Deep down in the castle's prisons, some many flights of stairs below the main stone floor, Danielle sat on a mound of straw in the corner of her cell. There was a small window high up in the stone wall with iron bars. A small mat lay on the floor against one wall that served as a bed.
She huddled with her knees drawn into her chest, her chin resting on her knees as she let her heart pour out through her eyes in the form of salty tears. Still wearing her mother's wedding gown, one glass slipper, and the one butterfly wing remaining after Rodmilla ripped the other off. Danielle really thought that he would listen to her, that their love was stronger than this. The distinction of social class must really weigh more heavily for him than she thought.
This was not how she had imagined this evening playing out. Of course, she had been apprehensive about showing up at the ball; scared of how Henri would take the news when she pulled him aside to reveal the truth to him. But he never gave her the opportunity to speak when she had told him there was something she really needed to tell him. He had simply told her that it could wait… whatever it was.
Well… you lied to me too Henri… You told me whatever it was that I needed to tell you could wait. But, you did not mean it, or else you would have fought forme tonight… Danielle bitterly thought to herself.
"What am I to do?" she whispered hopelessly. Everything seemed so dark to her. In just one night she lost everything: her home, her friends, and the one man she truly loved. The dark, dank cell was a perfect visualization of her innermost feelings at the moment. And the eerie moonlight that spilled across the floor only added light onto what lay before her—a lifetime in prison or more dreadful yet, the executioner's block.