Enlightenment

She woke with a crushing pain in her skull, and the riotous clamoring of bells in her head.
She knew where she was. She was in the castle dungeons. The darkness here was so total that there was no point in opening her eyes. Mary took a deep breath and almost gagged on the horrendous stench of rotted flesh and stagnant blood.

Mary Ward, Lady of Lancastershire, was unlike other prisoners. She knew how creative her captors could be when it came to the art of torture. She has been of their ilk once, before she committed the most unforgivable crime. She didn’t understand how speaking her mind about her throwback king could be considered treason. She could clearly remember walking regally into the throne room, glancing about the bejeweled crowd, and bowing to his royal highness. She remembered, even more clearly, what she said.

“Lords, Ladies, jesters, and whores. I address you even as I pity you. I pity you because you cannot or will not see the hellish acts that your precious usurper king has committed.” She never lowered her gaze from the fury of the king’s, but gasps from the room proved that most were listening. “I will not stand idly by and watch as you enslave helpless people.” Her long, graceful finger pointed at him as she looked out among the crowd gathered. “Your glorious king steals people from their beds at night. He puts the men to work in his mines, rapes the women, and gives the children up to the sadist appetites of your honorable nobility.” A flash out of the corner or her eye alerts her to the bulky, sneering forms of castle guards slowly advancing on her. But she dared not stop there. Even though the king was red with indignation and throwing murderous looks at her, she continued.
“Your faithful king has had sordid affair after sordid affair, and with each one sired at least half a dozen illegitimate bastards.” The king’s jaw clenched in fury. “Your God fearing king has raped and sodomized each one of his five sisters. Your obedient king executed his parents by piercing their bodies with swords then impaling them on spikes next to his fireplace, so that their lifeless eyes could look upon us as he took from me what I do not rightly give.”
By the stunned expression on people’s faces, she knew they thought that she was mad. But no matter the cost, she had to get through to these people, and if she had to disgust them with the horrible truth, so be it.
“Your fatherly king has sacrificed two of my newborn sons to his dark god by burning them alive. I can still hear, in my heart, the sounds of their cries. As the flames consumed them, their little bodies melted and all I could do was stand there and watch them burn. I also blame myself for that.” She turns to the king. ” I should have killed you while I had the chance.” By now, the king’s eyes had taken on a frosty gleam that held fiery hatred and evil intent.
She continued.
“How can you serve him?” She screamed in frustration and contempt as the guards finally reached her through the crush. The grabbed her and dragged her to the foot of the throne. The king was spitting daggers. It was his turn to speak.
“You will bow to me wench or I will have you beaten.” He said this loud enough for all to hear. “You take back every treacherous lie you just spoke, and then you will apologize to me and then to my court. If this is done, I will have mercy on you and merely lock you away, saving you from the guillotine.”

So what.

His pride was obviously wounded. ” Do you hear me wench?!” The hall was silent as they waited for Mary to speak. Her expression remained indifferent and her head remained low, but not in submission. “Answer me you lying whore!” The king bellowed.
“I will not,” was barely audible even over the painful hush of the crowd.
” What did you say?” The king could hardly contain his wrath. He came quickly to his feet, his royal robes swishing with the swift movement.

Be strong.

“I said, I will not! I will not take back the truths I have spoken. I will not apologize to you, murderer!” Her head was raised now, and she was glaring straight at him. A brilliant glow began to spread over her face. Her voice was strong and steady. ” I speak no lies. I will not take back the truths I have proclaimed.” With that, the king backhanded her across the face and sent her sprawling across the polished floor. The guards quickly picked her up, but paid no heed to her as she wiped the blood from her pale lips.

The crowded room began to echo with the murmuring of the people, and somewhere in the room she heard someone laugh. Her king spoke.
“For your insolence, disobedience, and treason you are sentenced to death.” Shock and fear roared through her as she finally grasped the entirety of what she had done. Strangely she felt no remorse.
As the king gave the order to have her confined to the dungeons, she looked up into the flood of painted faces. To her horrifying surprise, she saw no shock, or sadness, or sorrow, or anger in the flood of faces. What she saw was intrigue, elation, lust, gratification, and sick sadistic amusement. Dear God, what was wrong with these people. They didn’t seem to care.
Soon, Mary was stripped, beaten within an inch of her life, and spit on by most everyone in the room. Finally, they dragged her to the dungeon, threw her in a dank, smelly cell, and turned the key in the massive iron lock.

She could clearly remember all of it. She was sentenced to die. She lay there, awake. Sleep, as elusive as mist, refused to consume her. Thoughts, morbid and free, ran riot through her mind. What would the glorious dawn bring? Mercy, torture, a blood guillotine?
Mary could hardly believe it. This couldn’t be happening. Who would have ever thought that the queen would be executed? How can someone like that die in vain?

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