INGA THE INVINCIBLE

A Tudor story with a twist. Please comment nicely!

"Aren't they amazing, Your Majesty?" The young blonde messenger beamed at the sad-faced, sagging English king.

"Yes, King Gustav of Sweden certainly has some amazing inventors at his court." King Henry VIII tossed a gold coin to the man who had come bearing gifts from his brother king across the icy North Sea. There was a time when Harry would have been fascinated by the amazing wind-up dolls. They were able to walk and talk and do so many things!

Harry had more troubles than any mechanical man. Even walking was hard. When he hauled himself up from his chair, he needed a stick just to drag himself over to the window.

There she was, running across the lawn with her long golden hair flying behind her. Harry could hear his young wife's laughter as she took a tumble into the soft green grass. Just watching Katherine at play made him feel years younger. There was no other girl in England so beautiful, so full of life. And then he saw young Culpepper fall down beside her . . .

"Young Master Swede, we thank our brother for his gifts," Harry said, in a hoarse voice, turning away from the window. "But our merry little queen needs no toys to make her happy. What we really need is a good strict Swedish housekeeper!"

"A housekeeper?" Katherine Howard's ripe red mouth formed a perfect picture of pouting dismay. "But Harry, I have Lady Rochford to watch over me, and we have servants both day and night!"

"Ah, but Inga's more than just a servant." The king was busy stuffing his face with food, so his words weren't clear. "I sent for her weeks ago, all the way from Sweden. She's good at cooking . . . and cleaning . . . and . . . mumf . . . ga-rumf . . . more roast chicken here!"

At first Katherine hated having a strange, foreign woman in charge of her chambers. Inga was very polite, but she was also a little scary. Whenever her big, round face was smiling, Katherine was happy. But sometimes the housekeeper looked at her in a blank way, with no expression on her face. The young queen didn't like it. Shivers went down her spine.

"At least she makes these amazing cakes!" Katherine giggled as Thomas Culpepper helped himself to one of the light, fluffy golden treats and popped one into her mouth as well. The two of them were killing the afternoon in her room, eating cakes and chatting away on her enormous bed.

"It is time for your tennis lesson, Your Majesty," Inga announced. "Your young friend can visit you later, at some more appropriate time."

"Midnight sounds appropriate to me," Culpepper murmured. His low, wickedly silken voice filled Kat with excitement.

Katherine couldn't wait. She hoped her tennis lesson wouldn't take too long! Kat liked taking it easy, volleying, joking and laughing with her good-looking instructor. But on this day the king himself came down to watch. And then someone suggested a match with Princess Mary, the one person at court Katherine absolutely detested.

She couldn't lose to mean Mary Tudor. She just couldn't!

"I can't believe that bitch is even human," Kat moaned, hours later, sinking into a big bathing tub filled with steaming water. "Doesn't she ever get tired of winning?"

"I am certain she is human," Inga said, in her funny way, bustling over to pour another bucket of hot water into the tub. "The princess tries to beat you because she is afraid of you. She is afraid that you will hurt her."

"Afraid of me?" Kat giggled. "How could I hurt a girl who has no feelings in the first place?"

"Everyone has feelings," Inga told her, emptying her heavy iron bucket into the tub. "Even those who can't feel."

"Mm." Kat couldn't always understand her new housekeeper's odd remarks. But Inga was quick, efficient, and more than capable of seeing to her basic comforts.

"Let go of your anger," the Swedish woman instructed, rubbing Katherine down after her bath. Inga insisted that in Sweden it was customary for well-born young ladies to have a massage every day, especially after strenuous exercise.

Katherine didn't mind. She felt she could get used to it.

"I can't believe I lost to that . . . to that . . ." The queen sighed as her housekeeper's firm hands massaged her slim shoulders, probing for even the tiniest aches and pains.

"To that angry and frightened girl," Inga filled in. Her strong hands worked deeper, soothing the soreness from tired muscles. "You are stronger than she is. You will give our king a son. You must be strong to do that!"

"Strong," Katherine sighed. She knew what the foreign woman wanted her to do. Inga wanted her to coax the king back into her bed. But Henry was so old, so soft and saggy. Katherine just couldn't picture herself making love to him. She fell asleep thinking of Thomas instead.

While the exhausted queen was resting in her chamber, King Henry VIII summoned the new housekeeper to his study.

"Look, Inga." Harry pointed to some sealed legal documents. "I've just appointed Thomas Culpepper as a secretary to the Royal Governor of Ireland."

"Your Majesty is wise," Inga replied. "Do you wish me to help the young man pack up his belongings?"

"Yes," the king said shortly. "I want you to pack all his things. But Thomas Culpepper won't be going to Ireland."

That night, the sleeping queen was roused by a midnight lover. Thomas Culpepper didn't care that he was placing Katherine's life in danger. He didn't care that the poor old king really loved her and wanted her to be happy. Thomas was a young man. He only cared about himself. His hot little Katherine made love to him with wild and desperate passion, and she climaxed in a screaming frenzy.

All that left Thomas feeling drained. He returned to his own chamber in a sleepy, self-satisfied sort of daze. He didn't see the hulking figure hidden in the shadows until it was too late.

Katherine woke up the next morning feeling fresh and cheerful, full of new life. The sun was shining and Inga was smiling as she served her young queen a mouth-watering breakfast on a silver tray.

"The king would like you to join him in the garden when you have finished breakfast," the housekeeper instructed.

"Of course I'll join him, you silly old dear, you." Slim little Katherine actually smiled when she hopped out of bed, and kissed the older woman on the cheek. Inga was a fantastic cook as well as a marvelous masseuse. Katherine could definitely get used to having a breakfast like that every day!

Out in the garden, the sad and lonely-looking old king was playing with some funny looking little wind-up toys. Katherine was amazed to see how the soldiers marched, and the drummers beat drums, just like living people. There were even pretty little birds that sang and chirped in tiny cages!

"They look so real," Katherine murmured. "May I have one to keep?" She gave the aging king her most winning smile.

"You already have one," Harry replied, leaning on his stick as he drew closer to her. "You have Inga."

"I don't understand." Lovely Katherine wore a puzzled frown. "Inga is not a toy. She's a housekeeper!"

"Inga was a gift from the King of Sweden. Just like these other creations you see here." Harry pointed proudly to his collection of automatons. "For the rest of your life, you will be guarded by a woman of iron who will keep all the wickedness of the world away from you. Inga will never grow old like me. She will always be there for you."

"She'll always be there for you," Katherine accused. Horror swept over her in an icy wave as the truth came home. "She'll spy on me day and night and tell on me if I ever have any fun. I always knew that horrible woman wasn't human!"

"You've had your fun," the king said quietly. "I know about you and Thomas."

Katherine blushed. But she looked her husband in the eye. "He's the only man I've ever loved."

"I know." Harry reached out, taking her hands in his. "I wanted a son, Katherine. So I turned a blind eye to you and Thomas. But no more. I've sent the young man to Ireland. He never cared for you as I did, Kat. Not deep down . . ."

"I hate you!" Katherine pulled herself free and ran from her husband. Blinded by tears, she could hardly manage to find her way back to her own chambers. Yet once there, Katherine dried her eyes. A strange calm came over her.

It was all over now. Henry would send guards, and she would be taken to the Tower. Katherine paced back and forth in her room, picturing herself bravely facing the axe. Thomas would be proud of her. People would remember her. It would all be over quickly . . .

"Ah, there you are." Inga entered the room with a fine roast on the lunch tray. A big carving knife stuck out to one side.

"You!" Katherine felt cold and hot at the same time. "You told the king. You ruined everything. And you're not even human. I hate you worse than I hate the king! I hate you! I hate you!"

"I can't be killed, Your Majesty. But I have feelings." Inga looked down at the huge knife sticking out of her side. With a slight jerk, she pulled it free and handed it back to the queen. "Do you wish to hurt me some more?"

Katherine stabbed out once more, blindly. Then she dropped the knife and began to cry. "Inga," she sobbed. "Inga! Inga!"

"There, there, my dear." Inga drew the weeping girl into her arms, lifting her clean off her feet. Rocking her back and forth. Comforting her like a mother.

Iron made Inga strong.

But love made her invincible.

A/N: This is how Katherine Howard's story might have turned out . . . in the Twilight Zone!