Hello everyone! It has been a very long time since I have written a fanfic—life and school have been so hectic. But, I got the idea to write a story from a role-play I did awhile ago. Please let me know what you think- and enjoy.
P.S. I just edited this chapter since putting it up here yesterday—just added a bit more detail.
A/N: Edited the chapter title and the whole first chapter to read more fluidly; also added more description and detail. May 26, 2013.
DISCLAIMER: I do not have any rights to the film, Ever After, however my thoughts and ideas are my own. The title is a working title, it may change. 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 ;)
The Privilege of Love
By: M. L. Zhang
Chapter 1: Unveiled Deception
The flute and lute music that had been embracing the jovial celebration slowly came to a cease, and all 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. All eyes rested upon the young couple, as a precedent in their nation's history played out before them 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 soft and pleading, begging to be heard and understood. If only she could get them to understand why she did what she did, perhaps it all may be alright in the end.
"Well, somebody had better!" King Francis stood from his throne and glared down at them all with his thick arms folded across his broad chest. When he was angry, all received his wrath. 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, as well as their masquerade costumes. There had been 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 daughters.
"She is a servant! She's been a servant in my household for the last ten years." Rodmilla yelled with a deliberate smug smirk on her lips, breaking the hush that had gripped everyone. Her eyes shone with mischievous plotting and a deep-set root of 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 cut. 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 tinged with hope that it was not so.
Sadly, with tears threatening to spill from her eyes she 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 out a sob, knowing already from the look in his eyes she was losing him.
Henri's eyes widen as he stares at her and then, most significantly of silent gestures, his hand slips from hers, as if this little unconscious action was the finality of anything that could exist between them. That the invisible ribbon that held them together had finally been severed and nothing could mend it.
"It was you…. The girl with the apple… all along…" He whispered to himself, trying to put the missing links 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 cold toward Danielle.
"But, Henri…" Danielle pleaded.
The nobles all gasped at this complete lack of etiquette.
"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 the common folk and gypsies he had invited to the ball just for her.
Tears filled her eyes and freely spilled down her cheeks, smearing the makeup which magically had transformed her into a glittering angel. 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 seem to hold a glimpse of 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 fixed on Rodmilla, "Then have you not also lied to me, when you told me that you knew the Comtesse Nicole was your cousin and staying with you?" Her eyes narrowed at the Baroness, waiting to see what possible reason she could have. A mother's protective instincts coming 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."
Before Marie could question her further, Francis was more concerned with the issue of a commoner posing as nobility. "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 eyes stayed focused on Henri, hoping he'd somehow overcome the truth and save her. She hoped that their love was strong and could transcend the constraints of the social hierarchy. But, to add to her bitter sadness, he only stood there with a cold and distant expression on his handsome face and watched silently as they dragged her away.
When Danielle was gone from the courtyard, Henri turned and left as well, and walked out up onto a terrace. He could not stand to be in the presence of others at the moment, his emotions were too many and too jumbled that he needed his solitude.
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 once more. Francis needed the musical diversion to have some time to himself to think. Francis turned to Marie as they both sat back down on their 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." She was indicating more than just the spark of love between Henri and Danielle.
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 issue was not forgotten for Marie.
Meanwhile, Henri was leaning against the stone railing of the terrace balcony just off from the courtyard. His arms folded and his head tilted up towards the night sky; eyes closed and breathing deeply, trying to get a grasp on his feelings. A steady, cold rain had begun to fall from the thick, dark gray clouds overhead. 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..." He said to himself, "No... I don't know Danielle… she lied to me… I know a Nicole that does not exist." He argued with himself.
Just then 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." He tried to impart his 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 wear Leonardo had just been standing and then back down at the shoe which was glittering while reflecting the drops of rain. He blinked his eyes repeatedly and pursed his lips, willing himself not to cry. 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 so that it couldn't be reached. And a small mat sat 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 she still had on after Rodmilla ripped the other off. She appeared to be a sad, fallen angel. Danielle really thought that he would have listened to her, that their love was stronger than this. The distinction of social class must really weigh more heavily for him than she had 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 stood by me tonight… Danielle bitterly said to herself.
"What am I to do?" She whispered to herself. Everything seemed so dark to her. In just one night she had lost everything—her home, her friends, and the one man she truly loves. 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.
There will be more—and I do have a plot outline, but I'd just like to post something first to see if any of you out there like it. Thanks!