Continuing Tales

In Pursuit of Ever After

A Ever After Story
by Funkypurplerhino

Part 34 of 35

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In Pursuit of Ever After

Three weeks later, they were all back in Paris, preparing for no less than two weddings and the birth of a possible future king. It would be a busy six weeks until Christmas!

Jacqueline had had a baby girl while the rest of the court was at Hautefort. She named her Isabelle.

Marguerite and Gustave had a small wedding attended by friends and family. But, the King and Queen insisted on throwing a large feast in honour of their former ward, the new Comtesse de Barbarac and her husband. Marguerite had made good use of her time in Paris. She was able to complete the founding of the charity to oversee the orphanage. She met with officials of the Paris orphanage to discuss the challenges they had faced, and she hired an architect to design the buildings. They planned on staying in Paris until Danielle's baby was born, and then they would return home.

Nicole and Noël were married in a large ceremony at Notre Dame. It was attended not only by the Royal Family and the court, but also by the Marquis' family from Limoges and Nicole's from Dieppe.

Danielle had offered their mother's dress to Nicole for the occasion, but she declined. Nicole and the Duchess had often talked of Nicole being married in the Duchess' wedding dress. Nicole felt the Duchess was more her mother and, despite all that had happened and had been revealed in the past year, she wanted to honour the sentiment. Wearing the Duchess' dress was Nicole's way of telling her mother that she had forgiven her.

Nicole was radiant coming down the aisle in the ice blue satin and lace gown. Noël knew he was lucky that Nicole hadn't ended up marrying someone else in the past year, while he had been blaming her for Henry and Danielle's troubles. They spoke their vows to each other, staring intently into each other's eyes. And then they were one.

There would be two days of feasting to celebrate the marriage of the Marquis and Marquise de Limoges, beginning with a lavish wedding breakfast.

At the feast, Leonardo de Vinci presented the couple with a painting. It was of the twins in their presentation gowns the previous fall. Danielle and Nicole immortalized, forever.

"Oh Leonardo, it is beautiful. We will treasure it always," Nicole said giving the elderly painter a hug.

Danielle had insisted that she be the one to have the wedding night 'talk' with her sister. She didn't want Nicole to fear her wedding night as she had. Fortunately, the Duchess was relieved not to have to give the talk again and Nicole went to Noël unafraid.

Things at court settled into a new routine, preparing for Christmas next month. Everyone at court, and indeed the country, was in excited anticipation of the birth of a possible heir to the throne in the New Year.

By the first week of December, Danielle was impatient for Christmas and the baby to arrive. She was always uncomfortable and anytime she showed the least sign of discomfort she was immediately put to bed and the doctor and midwife summoned. She was quite out of patience with all of the suffocating fuss being made every time she took a deep breath.

One morning, a week after Nicole's wedding and three weeks before Christmas, she was sleeping late when Henry woke her up to tell her he was going hunting with some friends. He asked her what she had planned for the day. She didn't feel well, but she certainly wasn't going to give anyone an excuse to hover about her all day.

"I am going to sleep late today. Then I am going to study some of my Latin and Greek that I have neglected these past few weeks… I'd like you to take Nicole with you today, Henry."

"Why should I take Nicole?" he wondered.

"She needs to get outside and get some exercise, Henry. She is cooped up with me everyday and that is unfair to her. She rides for hours everyday at home. Here, she never even gets out of the city. Insist she go. Noël is going, isn't he?"

"Yes, Noël is going. I will insist she come with us, then. Do you need anything before I go?"

"No, I am going back to sleep."

"Very well then, I'll see you at dinner," he kissed her. Then he talked to the baby, "Take care of your mother while I am gone," he kissed her big belly, too. She giggled. "I love you," he said.

"I love you, too. Have a nice ride."

It took a bit of arm twisting, but Noël and Henry finally convinced Nicole to ride out with them. She looked in on Danielle before they left. Danielle was asleep.

Danielle got up at midday and had a small breakfast in her room. She told her ladies that she would be studying and not to disturb her. She had felt horrible all night and morning. She cancelled her tutors for the afternoon, as well.

She had been having false contractions for several weeks now. The doctor and midwife had both assured her that there was nothing to worry about: her body was just practicing. She didn't think much of the ones she had been having all morning. She wasn't due for nearly another month. Yes, another month.

She walked around the room, trying to focus on her Latin. One of her ladies interrupted her to tell her that her aunt wanted to see her. Danielle told her, a bit sharply, that she was busy and to tell her aunt to come back later. A few minutes later the doctor showed up and she promptly kicked him out, too. Alone- finally.

The Duchess and the doctor went to enlist the Queen's help. They were worried about the way she was acting. "I imagine she is simply tired of all the fussing about her every move. I remember locking myself in my room when I was carrying Henry. I will go speak with her."

The Queen went to knock on Danielle's bedchamber door. There was no answer, so she simply let herself in. She saw Danielle standing by the window. "Danielle, dear, I know you are tired of everyone fussing over you, but you simply cannot lock yourself away for an entire day. Your aunt and the doctor are especially concerned."

She walked over to the window and saw that Danielle had been crying. "What is the matter, Danielle?"

Danielle looked at the Queen. She looked frightened. "Are you all right?" the Queen was growing alarmed, suddenly.

Danielle handed the Queen a packet of letters. "What are these for?"

"I wrote them…to the baby…In case I am not here," Danielle said on a choked whisper.

The Queen embraced her. "You will be here, dear. You are strong and healthy. We have a doctor and a midwife standing by whenever the time comes. They are the best in the country. It does no good to worry yourself into a state."

An intense contraction ripped through Danielle. She cried out in pain and sagged against the wall.

The Queen held onto her, calling for help.

Nicole hadn't been feeling well all morning and she regretted having agreed to go along on the hunt. Normally, she enjoyed nothing so much as a hard ride, but as the day passed she found she simply could not enjoy it.

Noël noticed her lack of enthusiasm and questioned her. "Are you well, Nicole? You don't seem to be yourself today." They slowed to a walk, letting the rest of the party pull ahead.

"No, I fear I have been feeling unwell all day. Usually a brisk ride cures whatever ails me, but not today. I should have stayed home," she lamented.

"I will take you back. They can continue on without us. I'll let them know." He rode ahead and called to Henry, explaining that he was taking her home. They both looked back at Nicole and saw her doubled over, apparently in pain. They rode to her side immediately.

"Nicole! What is it?" Noël demanded.

"Nicole, are you hurt?" Henry questioned.

She looked at Henry, a strange look on her face. "Danielle is having the baby. Somehow I am certain she is in labour- right now! I have to go be with her," she turned her horse back towards the city and took off at a gallop without another word.

Henry was immediately concerned. And, how could she possibly know such a thing? What if she was right? Danielle wasn't due for nearly a month! "Tell the others we are going home, Noël!" with that he kicked his horse into a gallop, following Nicole.

They ran into a party of riders who had been sent to find them. They pulled up, "Your Highness, you are wanted at the palace -immediately."

"My wife?"

"Yes, Your Highness-" he didn't get any further before Henry and Nicole took off again at a full gallop. This slight delay was enough for Noël to catch up with them.

As they entered the city, they had to slow the horses to a trot. It was much too crowded to go faster, safely. They weaved their way impatiently through the streets, which were crowded with pedestrians, horses, carriages and wagons.

Henry jumped off his horse before it had even come to a complete stop and ran into the palace and up to his apartments. He noted dozens of people standing in his outer chamber. He was met by Danielle's screams as he entered the bedchamber.

He was shocked to see the bed empty. Danielle was standing by the fireplace hanging onto the back of a chair arguing with his mother, the midwife and the doctor. And, she was crying.

He strode quickly to Danielle, "What is going on here?" he demanded of the doctor sternly. "Danielle?" he said softly.

His mother said, "Oh, thank heavens you are finally here, Henry!"

The doctor looked as if he would explode in complete frustration, "Your Highness, the Princess refuses to get into the bed and let us examine her. It is not safe for her to be walking about at this point. Please- make her get into the bed."

Henry put his arms around her, "Danielle?" she leaned against him, so thankful he was home. She was perspiring and panting and obviously in great pain. "You need to obey the doctor, sweetheart."

She whimpered in pain as another wave hit. He picked her up and carried her over to the bed.

"No Henry, please. He said it will be another twelve hours. I cannot stay in the bed for twelve hours," she clung to him. He sat on the bed with her in his lap. He knew she was afraid of never getting out of bed again.

"Your Highness, I think your baby will be here much sooner than twelve hours with the frequency of your pains. I must have the midwife examine you to determine how things are progressing. If, after the exam we still think twelve hours, then I will allow you to sit in a chair, but you must not walk, understand?"

She replied with another scream, clinging so tightly to Henry he thought he would be bruised.

When the pain eased, she said to Henry, "You won't leave me?"

"No, I promise not to leave," he put her on the bed and held her hand while the midwife examined her.

"Your Highness, the baby will be here very soon. I have never seen such a fast labor in a first time mother," declared the midwife.

She cried out again. They called in the witnesses. The King and all his ministers would be present for the birth of a possible heir. Nicole stood to one side, Henry on the other holding her hand. Less than thirty minutes later the baby was born and let out a loud wail in greeting and to the delight of all present.

"A Prince, Your Highness!" the doctor announced with excitement.

A cheer went up in the room. Word spread like a wildfire through the palace that an heir had been born.

The doctor handed the baby to the midwife, who quickly cleaned him up and handed him to Henry. "He is perfect, Your Highness; ten fingers and ten toes.

Henry marveled at the little bundle in his arms. He brought the little Prince over to show Danielle. "Look Danielle, our son. Isn't he simply amazing?" he said in awe.

"Beautiful, Henry. May I hold him?" she asked.

Henry sat down on the bed, tenderly placing their son in her arms.

She kissed his head and stroked his cheek in wonder. She smiled up at Henry, her eyes full of love. Content.

Henry had never felt as happy and fulfilled as at that moment, watching Danielle holding their child. He leaned down to kiss her.

That evening, there was much feasting and celebration for the birth of Henry's heir. Toasts were offered to his health and long life.

Henry was relieved when he was able to slip away from the celebration to visit Danielle and his son. He was anxious to assure himself that she was well. The doctor had assured him there was nothing to worry about. Fast labors like Danielle's rarely had complications, such as a fever, after the fact.

He found Danielle sitting up in bed holding the baby and Nicole sitting next to her, stroking his hair. "He is so perfect," Nicole was saying.

"Yes, in every way except his timing," they laughed together.

"Yes, he cut short our hunt this afternoon," Henry added, playfully.

"Henry! I didn't hear you come in. I was actually referring to him arriving almost a month early," Danielle explained and Nicole nodded her head, in agreement.

"Oh," Henry, said shaking his head, not the least surprised the twins understood each other and he had misunderstood.

Nicole excused herself, leaving the new family alone.

"Do you realize today is one year since our last adventure before you left for Dieppe?" Henry asked.

"I hadn't thought of that, but yes, it is," she smiled at the baby sleeping in her arms, marveling at the changes a year could bring. "Your father let us have that adventure. He took a great risk in letting us go. What do you think of naming the baby after him?" she smiled up at her husband.

"I was actually thinking of naming him after both of our fathers. What do you think of François Auguste?"

"I think that is perfect. Well, François Auguste, what do you think of all of this? You know, your Papa almost didn't make it in time for your arrival today."

"You, Princess, should not have sent us all off riding this morning. We nearly didn't make it back in time," he admonished her with an adoring smile, leaning over to give her a kiss.

"I didn't realize it was happening until hours after you left, Henry. It came on so very suddenly," she smiled up at him.

"Very well then, you are forgiven," he leaned over and kissed her again. "The next time, I am not leaving the palace without you. In fact, I may never leave it without you, ever again."

She laughed, "Why is that?"

"I have noticed that every time we are apart you seem to get yourself into trouble. Abducted, locked in the cellar, trying to have our baby without me here. Yes, I shall just have to stay right here," he climbed into bed next to his wife and son and planted himself firmly at her side. Putting his arm around Danielle, they gazed in wonder at their little Prince.

This was where he wanted to be. Where he belonged. With Danielle and their son, wherever they were, not at a banquet honouring them. With them.

A month later, they christened little Prince François Auguste, after his grandfathers. He received hundreds of gifts for the occasion, and from all over Europe.

Leonardo unveiled a painting he had made of Danielle on the occasion.

"Oh, Leonardo, it is wonderful," Danielle embraced him warmly.

"Think of it as a belated wedding present, Your Highness, I started it last year, after the masque."

News of the birth of Prince Henry's heir, second to the throne of France, was much talked of throughout Europe. How very blessed King Francis was, indeed, to have two generations of male heirs secured, while many monarchs had no direct male heir to inherit their thrones. King Henry of England, King Francis' longtime friend and rival, had torn his kingdom apart in pursuit of a single, male heir. He was heard to have praised the young French Princess for so speedily providing her husband with a male heir, despite her having been abducted and dragged across France on horseback while in her most delicate condition! Maybe his next wife should be French, he thought.

The news was of particular interest to a young German Baron, who drank a hearty toast to the health of the little Prince of France. Georg was thankful to hear of the safe delivery of the Prince and especially the health of his mother, the Princess. Danielle. He had been plagued by regrets, wishing he had done more to help her than simply telling her husband her location. Her location he had put her in. And leaving her at the mercy of the woman he now knew to have been her step-mother had nearly resulted in her death.

Walking into the search headquarters had been an uncharacteristically impetuous move on his part. He had needed to tell the Prince, personally; needed to see the man to whom she was married. The man who made her smile. The father of her child. The man she loved. Her Prince.

He would never be able to return to France. One or another of the twins had given amazingly detailed descriptions of him and his men, resulting in wanted posters bearing their likenesses. He had a high price on his head.

He pulled a small green hat, with a long white feather, out of a case on his desk; stroking the feather thoughtfully. Remembering a pair of amazing green eyes and how that feather had stroked her cheek as they rode across France. Well, he had been paid in full for his final adventure as a mercenary: one white feather and –a lifetime of regret to ponder.

In Pursuit of Ever After

A Ever After Story
by Funkypurplerhino

Part 34 of 35

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