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geeking out on shakespeare's histories
[FICATHON] Mine Earthly Joy, for lareinenoire 
3rd-Sep-2012 04:54 pm
sansa stark
Title: Mine Earthly Joy
Author: speak_me_fair
Play: Richard II
Recipient: lareinenoire
Character(s)/Pairing(s): Isabel, Richard.
Warnings: Thoughts of underage sex
Rating: R due to the above
Summary: Isabel knows what she wants, even if she cannot have it. And to know a thing is to make it true.

Isabel is in love with chivalry.

It is, she thinks, beautiful like her husband who will one day be her true husband, it is something fine-wrought and valuable and strong. Chivalry is like gold, like silver, like a jewel-stone; it can be cut and brightened and faceted and remains what it is.

She has read of the English Kings.

She knows of her own king's first forbear, of the man who would not change his name to that of a true saint, and claimed the name of the Baptist for his own.

Jean, Johannes Rex, creator of a false peace within his kingdom at the price of a kingship. John who had his own Isabel, an Isabella, bella, bella, bella donna, a belle choix though she brought him nothing of worth to a country, and only silken beauty to him.

Isabella, who was in the King's bed before thirteen, who was not discarded at sixteen even though she had not even begun to bear him a child, and the world whispered of her youth and God's judgement.

Isabella, who carried Isabel's husband's long-dead ancestor under her heart, to kick and make his presence known, and to come into the world with all gentleness of soul: gentleness that in its train brought iron and hammer and the anvil to make a kingdom.

Isabel learns to make her fair hair into silvery perfect silk, to brush it with fine cloth into smoothness.

She learns to hold her head high, and make her neck a length of desire, all pallor and shadow, a promise in its small movements.

Isabel wears blue and gold, as her name dictates she must.

Isabel longs for her husband's bed, and weeps when he leaves her for a tiny island that is still beyond her reach. Ireland she whispers in her prayers, and wishes it doomed.

She will be his queen, and she will come to his bed, she will be his Isabella, she will be beautiful to his eyes, and she will love him and give him children.

And still, she lies a virgin bride under her sheets, a child though she knows truth, a woman though she should not be, and thinks of Richard lying there with her, their flesh becoming one as their vows dictated, thinks of the children they will have after that, and she shivers with pleasure, she shivers with fear, she shivers with pure delight when she thinks of the heirs she will give the man who will one day warm her cold white sheets.

Isabel dreams of a life worth living, of a seduction a child-queen long before her proved possible; of giving this sorrowful haunted king a reason to love her and himself.

Isabel dreams of a king's bed, and knows she is not alone amidst the women surrounding her, and knows that it is not only the seas between England and Ireland that keep her bed a different one to her king's.

But he is King, he is her King, her husband, her lord, her lover-to-be, and she refuses to call their marriage a mere signing of names.

After all, her confessor tells her daily that to think of an act is as sinful as the act itself, and as pure as its reverse.

If that is true, then her marriage is more than consummated, and their bed brings them joy, and the country already has an heir.

Isabel walks through the court with her head high and her neck unbowed and her hair down as befits a queen and not only a virgin, and thinks of Isabella and is proud.

When he comes home, she thinks, he will know I am ready.

But it is not until the coffin lies there for all the world to see her husband's corpse that she needs to clean blood from her thighs, from the faint and silvery hair that covers the parts she once believed Richard would see before her women insisted upon looking.

And she holds her head higher and insists many times, no, this is not new, and the first time was before Ireland, my good King, Rex Henricus, my lord, and my husband knew.

"My husband, my lord in truth," she says, and watches Henry flinch as he thinks of her youth and what must have passed between them under Richard's silken canopy. "Of course he knew."

I was his wife, and he himself insisted upon that, and thought is deed and I am his, like the beloved of the Psalms.

"I am," Isabel says to a disbelieving line of men, and her neck is unbowed though her heart beats hard within the hollow of her throat, "Richard's queen."

And she smiles.
3rd-Sep-2012 10:05 pm (UTC)

This fic is so gorgeous and so painful. Also, creepy. VERY CREEPY. I both want to hug her and to back away very quickly. ;) Thank you so much, Mystery Author!
4th-Sep-2012 01:08 pm (UTC)
Okay, I have now had time to properly read this again and actually come up with a response that is mostly coherent.

I love how Isabel imagines her relationship with Richard here--in her head, it all exists, and that of course fits beautifully with what we've seen in the play (especially creepy pregnancy metaphors--oh, my goodness, that is so effective here). It doesn't matter what has or has not actually happened; what matters is how she's looking at it and imagining it. Beautifully written and so very, very sad.
3rd-Sep-2012 10:43 pm (UTC)
Why hello there, theology. *___* The prose is gorgeous, but the meditation on thought and action and sin and consummation is particularly striking. Well done!
3rd-Sep-2012 10:49 pm (UTC)
Maybe I'm weird, but I didn't find it creepy, only dreamy and beautiful and innocent.
4th-Sep-2012 01:32 am (UTC)
Beautifully written & very resonant.
4th-Sep-2012 02:15 am (UTC)
Eerily beautiful. There's a quote from a bad movie called The Dungeonmaster: "I reject your reality and substitute my own." That's Isabel in this, building a reality of future acceptance and love. And I love that her Catholic training about sin convinces her that on a spiritual level, she and Richard really HAVE had sex already; that makes so much sense. Of course she would feel that way.
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