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geeking out on shakespeare's histories
[FICATHON] When Great Ones in Their Own Particular Motion, for angevin2 
3rd-Sep-2011 03:44 pm
Title: When Great Ones in Their Own Particular Motion
Author: highfantastical
Play: Richard II
Recipient: angevin2
Character[s]/Pairing[s]: The Duke of Aumerle, Queen Isabel, Henry IV, Richard II.
Warnings: No warnings of a sexual nature; beyond that, the author prefers not to warn.
Rating: PG-13.
Summary: Richard is in prison. Isabel is in France. Aumerle hits on a useful answer and it changes everything.

And therefore, when great ones in their own particular motion, move violently, and, as Tacitus expresseth it well, liberius quam ut imperantium meminissent; it is a sign the orbs are out of frame.
--Francis Bacon, Of Seditions and Troubles.

"It's from my mistress, Father," Edward says. He tries to look conscious, unafraid, even a little arrogant. "Would you know the time and place of our meetings? For heaven's sake."

He smiles at his mother, takes his father's softening arm, draws him along the room like a small boat leading a greater one. "I've been up half the night," he says in an undertone. "Look, don't go on about it. I'm always pale when I - haven't had much sleep."

He cannot begin to mistake his father's expression for anything but pride. My son: the sinner; may his concupiscence be every night rewarded. Each effort that Edward makes toward concealment, he realises now, will lead to the eventual moment when his father will think something quite different; something that cannot be transmuted into pride. My son; my son - the murderer.

"Buy her a ribbon, a toy, some such thing," York says indulgently. He presses a little heavy purse into Edward's hand, and Edward's palm immediately soils the leather with a grease of perspiration.

Edward says, "Mother, I should go now - I'll miss all the fun at Oxford, if I don't get back soon. Thank you, Father."

He does not smile; lovers are permitted not to.


Of course they had expected to die, all twelve, but it does not fall out so.

The regicide is an easy business: Edward himself is best-placed to secure their admission to the king's presence; even in disfavour, he is a cousin. He has been going about for days like an animal whose teeth and claws have been removed. He entered no joust, and all had said, See, young Rutland is passing by - just there - how sad he looks. The king is probably a little sorry for him, but Edward cannot be sure, because the only words for which there is any time are, "Cousin - it has been a fair day - " As indeed it has been, a cool watery sun tipping the trees and shining on everybody's swords.

Whether those words are spoken in welcome or perhaps forgiveness, or as a prelude to some other thing, is not to be fathomed, and when he tries to remember the king's tone later on, it will have an opaque surface to it, always.

Although of course it is not his hand that strikes. He is sure of death, and in his way prepared for it; it does not feel so important as he'd always supposed it would. He goes to kneel down beside the king, who's dying fast. The blood is scanty. There is a good deal of noise outside the tent, and he supposes that the conspirators are being slain one by one.

He meets the king's eyes and finds himself saying, "The Abbot - he's gone, I'm sorry. We should have made some provision for the Viaticum." If it were Richard, he would take his hand for the last few moments, but he doesn't touch the king. He says, "Indulgeat tibi Dominus quidquid," and then realises its perfect fruitlessness and is silent.

The king dies.

Edward doesn't close the corpse's eyes, but he touches the wrist for a moment - not a long moment, only until he is sure there will be no dangerous flicker of blood there. He goes outside to die himself, and finds Harry Percy in a welter, and his father looking oddly small beside him.

"Nobody's loyal," Blunt says at his shoulder. "They were, I suppose, but they're both dead. Christ, look at that gash, you could sail a barge through it. Serves him bloody right, I'd say."

"The king's dead," Edward says. "Do you see? The king's dead."

It is beginning to drizzle, and the Percy blood will wash slowly into puddles and fast grey streams, and be carried into the river invisibly. Somebody will have to dismantle the king's tent, wash his body, and entomb him.

If Richard has died too and nobody has brought the news, they will all be in a nice mess, Edward thinks. It hits him with an astounding force, and he finds himself clutching his father's fat purse in his hand again, as though there really were a lady for whom he could buy trinkets. He had anticipated being dead, by now, which might have been easier, but the cool wet air washes its way over his skin and into his hair, and he cannot regret the fact that he will probably, after all, see Richard again.

Kent says, "We know he's dead; that's what we came for. Are you all right?" He puts a hand on Edward's arm.

Edward says, "Quite all right. Go back in there, can you, and straighten him, and close his eyes? Or get someone else to do it; it doesn't matter."

Richard, if he is alive, will ask about the body, and he will not be pleased by crude and tedious desecration; it is best to do things decently.


Isabel has a favourite among the ladies: her name is Kate, and she is very pale and very gentle. She sits behind Isabel and takes a silver comb to her hair, lifting every lock away from her neck, so Isabel's skin is never scratched by the teeth of the comb. It's raining, and the room is dim; to Isabel, who sleeps little, the day already feels long, though it is still morning.

Isabel's hair is arranged to its best advantage, because they have a good deal of time to fill. To rend it would profitless. Kate lays the comb aside and plays her lute: two songs, and then another, and another. The music and the rain sound together without discord, like two weepers, and Kate refrains from adding any words.

"How cold it is," Isabel says, speaking first in French, and then repeating her words in English. It won't do to forget.

Kate stops playing and says, "Yes, Madam." Slow rain slides down the walls outside. Isabel leans back in a chair and settles her skirts around her thin knees: none of her silks have tarnished yet, nor worn out; she still has all her state.

There are even jewels she might wear, if she cared to. She is free to twine her hair with marguerites and put away grief.

She stiffens like a dog when Joan's footsteps sound in the hall: running, coming fast. The woman is flushed, and her words are a gasp.

Isabel has expected them for a long time and says them with her. "The king is dead."

Joan says, "Madam, I mean - it is not your husband. They've gone to his prison, to fetch him out. The messenger's below. He says the king was killed at Oxford." Her eyes are wide with excited tears.

"Oh," says Isabel. "I see. But he was never the king, you know."


Edward crosses the courtyard with a string of men behind him. The place is almost deserted, but a silent jailer admits him into the donjon. There are no letters to prove his right: of the two men who might sign them, one is dead and the other here, if it can be believed.

He is pleased to find that the conditions are not too squalid, although perhaps they have seemed so to Richard.

They carry him out.

Edward says, "He's dead. I've sent to France. Isabel will come back."

There is no sun as there should be, and the king is too weak to walk. Edward says urgently, "Everything will be as it was. Your Majesty."

He mounts and they lift Richard up in front of him, but before Edward can prompt his horse to move, Richard turns his head to look into his face. The expression that Edward sees is either sorrowful or humorous or fierce or disbelieving, but he could not for the sum of all the Gaunt estates say which. He says, "God save your Majesty," as though it were an answer, of a sort.


3rd-Sep-2011 09:52 pm (UTC)
Oh, wow. This is just beautifully chilling -- especially...well, all of it. Edward not touching Henry, and his certainty that he is about to die, and then the feeling of "wait what" when he doesn't. HOTSPUR OMG (his dad totally has it coming). LITTLE ISABEL (and Kate!) Edward telling Richard that everything will be as it was, which is...so patently not true. It is amazing and actually made me wibbly.

I think the thing that gets to me most about it is that it really underlines that no matter how the story turns out it is doomed to break my heart and then STOMP ALL OVER THE TINY PIECES. God.

(...okay, also I did smile at how much changes if Edward is willing to pretend to be heterosexual. Hee.)

Edited at 2011-09-03 09:53 pm (UTC)
7th-Sep-2011 01:25 am (UTC)
HOTSPUR OMG (his dad totally has it coming).

LOLOLOL. Though does he have it coming YET? Oh, probably.
7th-Sep-2011 01:28 am (UTC)
By Act V of Richard II? He totally does.
7th-Sep-2011 01:30 am (UTC)
This is a great essay question:

"At exactly what point is it clear that Northumberland is an irredeemable asshole. DISCUSS."
7th-Sep-2011 01:39 am (UTC)
Heeeeeeeee. I generally start wanting to punch him around the time he gives Henry a verbal blowjob in Act II scene iii, but I don't think that's "irredeemable asshole" as much as it is "irredeemably annoying"!

(Subtopic for essay question: would he be less annoying if it were an actual blowjob? I am probably not the best person to answer, for my Northumberland-hate is strong.)
11th-Sep-2011 01:01 am (UTC)
I know I already said in an email, but: yay! I am so thrilled that you liked it; writing for you was a joy. It was incredibly fun to wring out some slightly AU angst from things and shove them onto a different yet SCARCELY MORE CHEERFUL path. ;D

Also, I never thought I would find it particularly fun to write York, but it so was.

Thank you for the lovely feedback. <3
11th-Sep-2011 04:29 am (UTC)
I loved your York, because that is exactly how he would be if Aumerle ever showed the slightest bit of interest in women!

And yes. Not really very cheerful at all! This particular group of people isn't really cut out for anything but tragedy, I don't think -- at least, not by this point in their story. The turning point for things to go well for any of them has to come a lot earlier. (Specifically, I think Anne has to live!)
3rd-Sep-2011 10:15 pm (UTC)
*flail* That's gorgeous. And well-constructed. Everything seems to flow so naturally, that it's almost a surprise to remember it didn't happen that way.
11th-Sep-2011 01:02 am (UTC)
Thank you, so very much! I am really delighted that it worked for you. :D
4th-Sep-2011 03:32 am (UTC)
This piece was piercingly lovely--simple, clean, and clear, full of frozen moments on which I'm inclined to dwell. I won't forget that image of the Percy men lying in their blood, or the comb lifting the hair from Isabel's neck, or the heavy purse in Edward's hand.
11th-Sep-2011 01:03 am (UTC)
Thank you, Gil! It was a really enjoyable piece to write - I normally find fic rewarding but HARD, and this came more easily than is usual for me. I am so grateful to angevin2 for her interesting prompts, because this kind of AU isn't something I'd normally try to do. It means an awful lot to me (in a good way, of course) that people liked it.

I feel kind of guilty about Hotspur.
11th-Sep-2011 04:26 am (UTC)
I am just glad you didn't address the fact that some of the conspirators also wanted to kill Henry's kids.
7th-Sep-2011 01:27 am (UTC)

Histories: "What if some of the conspirators WEREN'T totally incompetent."

I love all of this, but especially the sense in the last section that Edward's rescue fantasies aren't entirely being fulfilled. Even though it worked, it didn't entirely work, because Richard's still Richard, and the deposition had an impact on him that he's never going to get over.
11th-Sep-2011 01:06 am (UTC)
Thank you! This piece was so...unlike me, in some ways, because I've never written this type of AU before in my life - and yet so very fun to write. I was a little nervous about whether it had worked, so the lovely comments meant a great deal to me - I really do appreciate it.

Teasing out the alternative flavours of angst that that one little change could make was for me the most interesting part of the process, so I am super-pleased that last section worked for you. :D
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