This Earth Shall Have a FeelingAuthor: angevin2Play: Richard IIRecipient: gileonnenCharacter(s)/Pairing(s):
Richard II, Henry Bolingbroke, occasional othersWarnings:
No common triggers. Contains self-loathing, loathing of other people, mild clockpunk elements, dead children, faulty understanding of religion, period attitudes toward sexuality, and unmerited resentment of dead people.Rating:
It's pretty close to G-rated. There is like one use of the word catamites.Summary:
For the first time in generations, England has a king without magic.Notes:
The bit about Edward I attempting to exhume Arthur is real, although its results are obviously not; the references to cramp-rings and touch-pieces are also basically accurate. Clockwork gardens were also a real thing, although quite a bit later than Richard II. Finally, I am infinitely grateful to everyone who held my hand while I was writing this fic and helped me to work out reasonably consistent rules for the magic.
What had always bothered Thomas the most was the bees.
It was not, perhaps, necessarily prudent to grumble constantly about how his nephew sent for the finest and most brilliant clockmakers and artificers from Cologne to Constantinople, and instead of mighty war machines to fight the French, he wastes money, talent, and time on gardens
-- intricate clockwork gardens whose plants would unfurl and turn their gilded or jeweled or enameled faces towards the royal presence as the king walked through them.
Thomas, though, had never been a prudent man.
Still, even he had had to admit that the tiny clockwork bees were a magnificent feat of engineering; you could mistake them for real ones unless you were close enough to see the tiny pins and gears and hinges. There were servants in the royal household who spent hours every morning winding them all up.
They had no sting, though. In that they were just like Richard, or so Thomas thought.
But if he had not seen fit to tell Richard that a true
king would not need to build
plants to do him homage, he might have lived.***
King Richard can never quite
explain to his councilors why he persists in touching for the evil, in distributing cramp-rings and touch-pieces, even though it has never been effective, as far as anyone can tell.
Fortunately, he does not need
to justify himself to them.
He might have told them that he remembers his grandfather, tall and golden, laying on hands, and how he was sure he could feel the presence of God Himself in the presence of old King Edward. He had never been quite certain that Grandfather was not, in fact, actually
God himself, or if not God (because he knew his father was not Jesus, after all), then at least King Arthur, Arthur whose opened grave at Glastonbury had reawakened magic in England in the days of the first Edward.
But it is not his grandfather's memory, really, that presses him to lay his royal yet ineffective hands on his ailing subjects, but the memory of a long-ago day in Bordeaux, of scraped skin knitting itself together, of his long-dead brother's voice piping "Don't cry, Dickon, I'll fix it for you!"
Neither torn flesh nor whole plants respond to Richard's touch.
Richard's brother, and then his father, had wasted away under the strain of using English magic on foreign soil. In England, where the very soil seems to hum with power and possibility, Richard feels that he too is wasting away, a withered stalk, unbearably wrong.
He lays his hands on sick children and twisted old men and, sometimes, women with child, handing them afterwards a gold coin pierced through the center. He wonders if they notice the divine jest of it all.
"God go with you," he tells them.***
Everything is wrong.
Everything has been wrong since old Edward died.
Everything has been wrong since young
Edward died. He left a second son to inherit. Second sons have no magic.
England seethes. Crops fall and men rise up. The bay trees in Wales wither.
The land will not harm its king.
The land does not know
Everything is wrong.***
The chronicles say that Richard's great progenitor William the Conqueror, when he first came to England, fell upon the sand and, as the grains slid through his fingers, exclaimed, "This is my country."
Richard falls prostrate upon the rocky Welsh beach and whispers to the stones, for surely his land will know its king, will rise up even for him, barren though he is, for the blood of his ancestors runs true in his veins.
But there are no automata that will transform the stones to armed soldiers. When he rises his lips taste of dust. ***
England lies open before Henry Bolingbroke; he enters with no resistance, and the last few who might think to offer it -- Richard's inconsequential catamites, mostly -- are brushed aside like flies. Or, more appropriately, those ridiculous clockwork bees.
If he knows Richard -- and he is certain that he does -- that mad clockmaker is counting on England itself to rise up and stop him, as it might have done had he been like his father, or his grandfather. But Richard is no better than any other man. No better than Henry. ***
Henry sits in the throne for the first time and clings to the crown that is not yet formally his, although he has had it from Richard's own hands. It is painfully floreate, the work of talented Bohemian artisans who had come over with Queen Anne, before she was inconsiderate enough to die and send her husband completely out of his head with grief. If she hadn't, Henry wouldn't have had to step in and put a stop to things.
It really is
a very beautiful crown.
Henry cannot look at it without thinking of that confounded garden, wondering whether the same people who designed it also designed its enameled flowers; the visible hinges joining its sections, and the tiny gears (they don't do
anything, but it is the sort of thing Richard likes) mixed with the blossoms, probably intended as some sort of wretched equivalence of nature and artifice. And then he reminds himself in disgust that he sounds like Richard, and that he is not the sort of person to pay close attention to these things. Or to use words like floreate.
He can't even distract himself with the image of Richard handing the crown over to him, looking every bit as fragile and beautiful as his mechanical flowers (if Henry were inclined to notice those things, which of course he is not), because then he would have to think of the words Richard had said to him, bending close to whisper in his ear: It will never be your land either.***
The coronation takes place in early October, during the harvest season. It has rained unseasonably throughout. So glory is unbecoming to a fool,
Henry remembers, and dismisses the thought.
It is not his fault that there is no one left to channel England's own magic.
He thinks of Richard and is nearly blind with rage.***
The clockwork garden has been covered and locked up since Richard left for Ireland.
Richard is dead now, and Henry cannot bear for it to remain standing.
Henry does not know what presses him on to survey the ruins. The most precious materials have been stripped, of course. Henry is a practical man. He is not Richard.
There is a crack beneath his boot. He kneels to investigate: it is the remains of a clockwork bee, its tiny gears bent and its spun-glass wings shattered, its little legs bent askew.
King Henry the Fourth sits among the wreckage and weeps like a child.