Fortheringay, 7 February 1587

Mary Stuart had long since made peace with her coming death, she had made arrangements even before he capture to see little James was safe and deep inside she knew her son, her line would live on. No, she did not fear death, most of the time. It was the waiting that was torture; it was the waiting that killed the soul.

It gave one too much time to think, to ponder all the 'what ifs' and 'should've been's', listing to oneself a myriad of regrets too late to fix or take back. Mary was tired of thinking, of fighting.

She wanted it over and done now.

Tonight, on the eve of her execution she knew some fear though, not for death which would finally release her from her long and lonely captivity, but for the manner of that death. Her ladies had heard just that afternoon that the henchman chosen for her execution had quite a gruesome reputation.

Though capitation was thought to be a quick, merciful death there were some who could drag it out as a means of torturing their victims, as was this particular henchman's penchant…

Mary steeled herself against such thoughts, it would not do. She was the Queen of Scotland, whatever the Protestants may claim, and her last act and duty toward her country; would be to die well…

You are a true queen…A queen any king would kill for…

Mary bolted upright in her bed in the bedroom that served as a cell, one she now shared with one lady-in-waiting and the ever-present, ever-faithful Sterling. The old hound stirred beside her. The soft words spoken so long ago by the only man she'd ever really loved, seemed to carry on the breeze wafting through the barred window of her tower prison.

"Francis?" She felt silly the moment the words left her mouth. Francis was dead, gone to his grave too soon. Because of her. She knew what would happen, Catherine warned her, as did Nostradamus, and she'd tried to stop it, she really did, but in the end Francis' determination proved to strong for her own treacherous heart.

When he learned of her reasons for pushing him away he called in her own mother. Mary of Guise had no qualms locking her daughter in a room with a very determined and passionate dauphin. He seduced her repeatedly, telling her as he did so that he loved her and set no store in prophecies, but if it was true then he planned to live whatever days, weeks or years he had left, by her side.

She married him the next week; she had little choice really, since he'd taken her virtue and continued to bed her openly and frequently before the entire court in the week before their wedding.

The first month was torture, on the one hand being deliriously happy and more in love than she ever could've imagined, while on the other hand waiting for something bad to happen.

Francis finally convinced her to let go of those fears. "Everyone dies, my Love," he'd told her on one occasion, "but so few really live…you brought me to life, Mary…"

They ruled together, as a team, after King Henry died in a jousting accident. France and Scotland flourished and even Catherine thawed. They were happy and young and in love with the world at their feet… and then Francis went hunting one day and got caught in a cloud burst. He got a fever one that took hold firmly and quickly…there was nothing the physicians could do…

You are a queen any king, any man, would willingly, gladly die for…

Those words seemed nearer, but soft, as if they were being whispered in her ear and the Queen of Scots shivered, watching goose bumps break out over her arms. She was still wondering whether the stress of her coming execution was finally getting to her, when she heard Sterling's short, joyful bark and looked down to see Francis hunching on the ground to give the old dog's head an affectionate scratch.

He looked up at her then, a smile in his twinkling blue eyes and Mary felt her breath catch. He was even more beautiful than she remembered; he looked ethereal, angelic… "Well, wife are you going to stand there staring all night or shall you greet me properly?" He asked teasingly.


She managed and then he had swept her up in his arms and was kissing her ravenously, biting her lip before soothing the tiny hurt with his tongue. She gave back as good as she got, giving into a passion the likes of which she'd only ever felt with him.

"This is a dream, right?" She asked much later as she lay replete in his arms. She felt him smile into her hair.

"It is and it isn't," he said with a somewhat boyish grin. "I prefer to think of it as a preview…"

"I don't want to wake…"

"I know, but you must…because the sooner you wake the sooner your end will come and we will be together."


"Promise." He said, kissing her nose. "Now wake my Mary, I find I grow impatient for eternity to begin…"

When the guard came for the Queen of Scots that morning he was astonished to find her in almost exuberant spirits. Dressed in a beautiful dress and veil, which, although it was black, reminded him of nothing as much as a wedding gown. Indeed, he found himself thinking that Mary Queen of Scots looked every inch the blushing bride…

"Are you well, my Lady?" He asked and even as he did so the Earl of Shrewsbury admonished himself for sounding utterly ridiculous.

The Queen of Scots' smile was serene. "I am very well. Shall we go?"

The Earl felt cold all over. Mary seemed more than resigned, almost eager.

As he took her hand to lead her and her ladies out of the room he noticed that the wedding ring she'd worn on a string around her neck since he'd known her was now gleaming on her ring finger.

Seeing the direction of his gaze she said: "I do not fear death sir, I welcome it for it will reunite me with my beloved…"

After that they spoke no more. He watched Mary walk to her execution, every inch a Queen, even the henchman was noticeably flustered by her demeanor. When the Queen produced a bag of gold coins, and handed it to her executioner thanking the stunned man for his service, the man actually fell to his knees begging 'the Queen's' forgiveness.

The few people present in the execution chamber exchanged worried glances as Mary of Scots placed her hands on the man's head and blessed him. In that moment she was not a prisoner, but a true queen and all present knew it.

Mary knelt before the basket meant to receive her head, but just as she was about to bow her head Sterling entered the room growling. Before the astounded onlookers she got up went to her dog, and picking him up, walked calmly to Shrewsbury.

"Take care of him for me, George." She asked gently, hugging the animal one last time. "I do not think he will be long for this world…"

The Earl did not trust himself to speak, but nodded. As she gave a whimpering Sterling into his hands Shrewsbury noticed her gaze drift past him to an empty spot on the wall and suddenly a beatific smile adorned her face and the purest love shone from her big doe eyes…

"Your Grace," he whispered unable to help himself.

"Do not be sad for me, George," she said kindly, her eyes still riveted on that same empty spot behind him. "He is here, he has come for me…as he promised. In my end is my beginning…"

She walked back to the basket steadily and sweeping her dark auburn hair over one shoulder knelt to receive the axe's blow…a smile playing about her lips

The End