Highlander: Time and Again - 07 - Good Queen Bess by Emby Quinn
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HIGHLANDER
Good Queen Bess

Fanfiction by Emby Quinn


Disclaimer: I do not own Highlander or any of the characters therein, nor do I own any characters based on actual historical personages. All original characters are my own creation.-eq

Sudeley Castle
Gloucestershire, England
18 May, 1548

The life of a scholar had always suited Methos very well. Of late he had taken on the persona of a respected Cambridge scholar, and was currently involved in the tutelage of fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Tudor, daughter of Henry VIII and sister of the present king of England, Edward VI. Elizabeth was an ideal student--bright, witty, attentive, and above all, refreshingly curious about virtually everything. She was seldom seen without a book in her hands; although always neat and well-dressed, she did not put on the airs or pretentions which one might expect from a princess. Methos had expected his work here to consist primarily of ensuring the king's sister knew her letters and could do simple maths; now, a year after his arrival at the holdings of Sir Thomas Seymour, husband of Henry's widow Catherine Parr, he could scarcely keep up with Elizabeth's voracious hunger for new subjects and interests.

"She does not read books," he said to the woman who sat at the dinner table with him in their small, comfortable private apartments. "She devours them, as a ravenous wolf would a flock of lambs. No sooner do I receive a fresh delivery for the library than I find her ensconced in a window, or outside under a tree, with the heaviest and thickest of the lot in her hands."

Lucinda, who was presently posing as the wife of "Roger Adams", nodded with a small smile. "She has an excellent teacher."

Methos chuckled. "In truth, she hardly requires my skills as a teacher. It is my firm belief that she tolerates my presence only to pick my brain for historical knowledge and new languages to learn."

"I find that difficult to believe." Lucinda cast her eyes down to her plate, and Methos noticed for the first time that she had scarcely touched her food. "She has a great deal of respect for you, and affection as well."

"Well, she is hardly indifferent to you," he answered, watching her closely now. Something was wrong, and her attempts to feign normalcy were becoming more transparent by the minute. "She's quite fond of her writing instructor."

Lucinda shook her head, still smiling faintly. "And who was it taught me to write? You see, it all returns to you."

"Surely you're not jealous?"

A look of genuine surprise. "Of course not."

"But something is troubling you, Lucy."

With a sigh, Lucinda set her knife down and looked towards the fire, which was crackling merrily away in the grate. "I hesitate to speak of it."

Methos rose from his chair and walked around the table. He knelt at Lucinda's feet and took her hand in his, gazing up at her earnestly. "Husband and wife we may be only as a pretense," he said gently, "but first and foremost we are friends, Lucinda. It is plain that whatever burden you carry weighs heavily on your heart. Will you not share it with me?"

Lucinda nodded and rose from her chair. Methos stood and walked with her, and they sat together on the hearth in front of the fire. "There have been several...incidents...involving Elizabeth and our Lord Baron."

Methos's eyes narrowed to slits. While he adored Elizabeth, and he had great respect for her stepmother Catherine, he felt little regard for the pompous scoundrel Catherine had married after Henry's death. "Elizabeth is entirely too intelligent to be swayed by Thomas Seymour's pretty fantasies of power and prestige. She would not be drawn into the intrigues that will one day get him killed--possibly by the hand of his brother, the King's Protector."

"Not willingly, no."

"What are you saying?"

Lucinda took Methos's hands in hers before continuing in a low, tense voice. "This afternoon, in the garden, Elizabeth confessed to me that the Baron has been visiting her in her bedchamber of mornings."

"'Visiting' her?" Methos was alarmed. "Meaning what...?"

"What you think it to mean." Lucinda's eyes were alight with a quiet rage. "Lady Catherine has no knowledge of this, and Elizabeth begged me to say nothing to her, for fear of hurting the only one of her late father's wives who has ever shown her true kindness." She turned to stare into the fire. "Catherine has always been enamored of Seymour, and now she is with child, and the labor is expected to be difficult. If any ill were to befall her, Elizabeth would surely blame herself for it."

"How long has this been happening?" Methos was surprised at the calm in his own voice.

"Since shortly after the marriage. At first the sport was innocent--mere tickling and fatherly embraces--and Lady Catherine not only knew, but participated in the play. But of late, since the Lady's indisposition..." Lucinda's hands fisted in her skirts. "Elizabeth began locking her door of nights, only to have Seymour acquire a key. She cannot bar him from the room, and he comes upon her before sunrise." She looked at Methos, her face gone pale and tight. "She fears that Lady Catherine will discover what has gone on--and more, she fears that she herself will become with child, and so be disgraced, and perhaps lose her life."

Methos shut his eyes and fought down the swelling tide of rage that urged him to take up his sword, hunt that fool Seymour down, and cut him to pieces. It might stop the abuse of the Princess, but scoundrel or no, Seymour was the brother of the King's Regent, and Lord Admiral of the English Navy as well; were he to die in such a manner, it would not only distress Catherine, but it could place Elizabeth herself in peril. "I will speak to the Lady Catherine," he said.

Lucinda shook her head. "Methos! I gave my word--"

"I will tell her nothing of Seymour's betrayal," he assured her, placing his hands on her bare shoulders. "Catherine shall not learn of Seymour's duplicity from me."

"But what of Elizabeth? Methos, we cannot leave her to the Baron's mercies, for he has none."

Methos smiled. "Nor have I. Yet, unlike our dear Baron, I am in full command of my wits. Here is what you must do..."

Sudeley Castle
Gloucestershire, England
19 May, 1548

A key jostled in the lock from outside, and the door to Elizabeth's bedchamber swung open to admit the master of the house. "Good morning, Lizzie!" Thomas Seymour beamed as he rushed in, shutting the door quickly behind him. "Time for--"

"And good morning to you, my lord." Elizabeth was sitting at her writing-desk, fully dressed, with Lucy Adams seated beside her. The Cambridge tutor's wife smiled and nodded with perfect civility to the stunned Seymour, as though it were a perfectly normal occurrence for a stepfather to burst unannounced into the private chamber of his teenaged ward.

"You are...an early riser this morn, Elizabeth," Seymour demurred, trying to regain his composure.

"That I am, sir." Elizabeth dipped her goose-quill pen into the inkwell. "Lucy has been less than pleased with my progress at writing of late, and she has taken it upon herself to give me extra lessons, beginning this very morning."

"But the sun hasn't even risen!"

Lucy smiled at the sputtered comment. "'Tis the early bird that catches the worm, Lord Admiral. Which, as it happens, is the adage I set the young princess to write as her first exercise." She reached forward and lifted the foolscap paper, studying the lines Elizabeth had just inscribed. "Yes, I think this arrangement will work out quite well." She smiled at Seymour. "Was there something you wanted, Lord Admiral?"

Seymour's face went stony, and he turned on his heel and left without another word.

After his footsteps faded, Elizabeth set down her quill and threw herself into the older woman's arms. "He is angry with you, Lucy. He may choose to dismiss you--and Roger as well."

"As your brother, the King, granted Roger this position, the Admiral will have to show good cause to request his dismissal." Lucinda stroked the girl's riot of curly red hair. "Our concern just now is not for ourselves, but for you, Bess."

"You cannot go!" Elizabeth said fiercely. "If anything should befall either of you, I should die."

"No ill shall come to any of us." Lucinda eased Elizabeth back into her chair and took the girl's small, cold white hands in hers. "Roger will be speaking to the Lady Catherine today regarding your welfare."

Elizabeth's eyes went wide with shock. "You gave me your word!"

"The Lady Catherine will know nothing of her husband's...misconduct towards you," Lucinda assured the girl. "However, both Roger and I believe that you will be safe only when you are no longer living under the Lord Admiral's roof."

"I have been concerned about Elizabeth for some time now." Catherine Parr Seymour walked through the carefully tended Knot Garden at Methos's side. "She has seemed so pale and listless of late, though she attempts to conceal it from me."

"She has no desire to trouble you, given your present condition." Methos stopped in front of a stone bench and gestured for Catherine to take a seat. Five months pregnant, she tired easily these days, and she gratefully sank down upon the bench. Methos sat beside her, at a respectful distance. "It is my wife's assertion that the climate here is bad for young Elizabeth's health and temper. She has been looking drawn enough of late; whether it is the weather, the distance from her beloved brother, or simply the pangs of a girl approaching womanhood, I believe a change of scene, even a temporary one, may do her no end of good."

Catherine nodded. "You always have the best advice, Roger. His Majesty made an excellent choice when he sent you to teach Elizabeth."

"It is not merely an honor, but a joy, to teach her. She has a quick mind inside that pretty head of hers."

Catherine smiled wanly. "She inherited her father's wit. He was truly a magnificent man--in his youth. Even at the end of his days, his mind was still sharp. Although his heart often failed him, his brain never did." She looked searchingly at Methos. "You will go with her, then?"

"Of course. His Majesty, King Edward, has not relieved me of my duty to instruct his sister, and I shall not abandon that post until the King so desires it."

"They write each other often, you know--Edward and Elizabeth. In Latin. That poor boy," she sighed, shaking her head. "Ten years old, and king of all England...such a small head should never be forced to wear a crown."

He may not be wearing it for long, Methos thought to himself. The few times he'd had audience with the boy King, he'd sensed an inherent weakness in young Edward. He had always been a sickly child, and the stresses of ruling over a kingdom would only adversely affect his already tenuous health. And that was saying nothing of the plots and schemes that always surrounded any new accession to a royal throne, particularly when the new monarch was a frail young boy. If Edward lives to see his eighteenth year, then God will prove His existence beyond all doubt.


Hatfield House
Hertfordshire, England
6 September, 1548

Elizabeth laughed merrily as her horse gained ground. "Have a care, Lucy!" she called out in her young, strong voice. "You shall not best King Henry's daughter!"

"We shall see, Princess!" Lucinda shouted back, leaning forward in her saddle.

Elizabeth couldn't help but note how the woman rode--not with a lady's grace, but as a man would. Two can play at that game, she thought, and shifted position on her black mare. As they came to the wall that surrounded the estate, Elizabeth lay on the whip, and her mare sprang forward and cleared the low line of stones before Lucy's strawberry roan.

Breathless, flushed and laughing, the pair of them dismounted from their horses and led them towards the stables, chatting amiably with each other. The past four months had been happy ones for the young Princess with her beloved Katherine Ashley, her old governess, in attendance at Hatfield. The man she knew as Roger Adams reminded her much of her beloved father, and Lucy was an acceptable surrogate for both the mother she'd scarcely known and the older sister who barely acknowledged her existence.

Lucy paused and looked around warily, relaxing only marginally when she caught sight of her "husband" emerging from the front door of the house. "Why, there's Roger!" exclaimed Elizabeth. "Look, he's bringing a letter--perhaps from Edward!" She handed her mare's rein to Lucy and took off at a run towards her tutor.

But Lucinda knew the look on Methos's face. Something was wrong. She took the horses and turned them over to the care of the stable-boy, then hurried back out to the path.

Elizabeth was in Methos's arms, the letter crumpled in her hand, weeping as though her heart would break. Lucinda felt a sudden wash of cold dread. "The King?" she mouthed to the other Immortal.

Methos shook his head and, reaching down, gently pried the letter out of Elizabeth's grip. He handed the wrinkled parchment to Lucinda, who read over it urgently. When she'd finished, she looked up with and expression of deep sorrow and sympathy. "Lady Catherine..." she murmured. She took a step forward and put a hand on Elizabeth's narrow, shaking back.

"Sh-she never r-rose from childbed," Elizabeth sobbed into Methos's shirtfront. "She died of f-fever...oh, I n-never should have left her, Roger!"

"You could have done nothing for her, Bess," Methos told her, wrapping his long arms around her small frame and holding her tight. "None of us could have."

Katherine Ashley had emerged from the house, and she held out her hand for the letter, which Lucinda immediately handed over. Ashley read it with narrow eyes. "Well, Princess," she said, crumpling the paper in her fist, "he's a free man now, if you'll have him."

Lucinda looked at Ashley with shocked outrage. She opened her mouth to speak, but Methos caught her eye and gave one sharp shake of his head. Hold your tongue.

Elizabeth raised her face from Methos's chest. Her cheeks were wet with tears, but her eyes--blue and sharp, like her father's in his youth--blazed. "I'll not have him," she said in a fierce, very unchildlike little voice. "Him or any other man." She pulled herself out of her tutor's embrace and ran towards the house.

The Royal Palace
London, England
5 January, 1549

The small, private audience chamber rang with laughter--a rare enough sound in the palace, despite the youth of the country's monarch. Methos watched with some amusement as Edward chased after Elizabeth, Mary and Lucinda, a white cloth tied over his eyes. He seemed to be stronger of late, an observation that gave Methos some hope for the future of England--and for young Elizabeth in particular. Although Mary was currently Edward's presumptive heir, being the eldest of the three children, Elizabeth was by far more popular with the people, and should Edward die before siring an heir of his own, the severe daughter of Henry's first wife may well see her pretty, charming half-sister as a threat.

"Got you!" Edward grabbed Elizabeth by the back of her skirt and tickled her playfully between her shoulder blades. A small terrier capered at the boy's feet, yapping with excitement.

"You have us at an unfair advantage, Your Majesty!" Lucinda teased. "You have no skirts or petticoats which rustle and give your location away."

"Ah, but you are all more fleet of foot than I, Lady Lucy," Edward answered, tugging off the blindfold. He was flushed and out of breath, but smiling hugely--until he was seized by a violent fit of coughing. Instantly a courtier rushed to the young King's aid, helping him over to sit in his velvet-cushioned chair.

"I believe Your Majesty has had enough sport for the evening," Methos said, watching Edward with some concern. "We should not want you to become overtired."

"Overtired!" Edward tossed the blindfold aside crossly. "I am King of all England, yet a mere children's amusement saps my feeble strength!"

"Hush now, Eddy," Elizabeth soothed, sitting on a cushion beside him and taking his hand. "Your health is greatly improved. By summer you will be well, I am sure of it."

Wishful thinking, Methos thought grimly. But he mustered a smile and said, "Your lady sister is correct, Your Majesty. It is merely a matter of time before you are as hale and hearty as ever your good father was in his youth." And even if it isn't the truth, a bit of positive suggestion could surely do no harm.

"You need your rest, Edward," Mary said stiffly, moving to the King's other side. The contrast between plain, stoic Mary, brown-haired and brown-eyed, and Henry's other children, with their blue eyes, ginger hair, and lively features, was remarkable. Mary had inherited her Spanish mother's color and staunch demeanor, and a stranger looking on would not have thought her any relation to Edward or Elizabeth at all. "You should retire for the evening."

"You are not Queen yet, dear sister," Edward said with a rueful look in her direction, and Mary flinched. "While I still draw breath, I am to be commanded by no one."

"Your dear sister only voices concern for your well-being, Your Majesty," Methos said smoothly. "Her Highness's primary consideration is your health and comfort. Her suggestion is a wise one, I think." He noted Mary's grateful look and gave her a conciliatory smile and nod.

Edward gave Methos a wry smile. "Are you my personal physician now, Roger?"

"I am willing to fulfill whatever capacity my King requires of me," Methos answered with a twinkle in his hazel eyes.

Edward rose from the chair with a difficulty he struggled to hide. "Come walk with me, then. Mary, Elizabeth, my dear sisters, good night. And good night to you, Lady Lucy."

Lucinda curtsied as the King's sisters embraced him. "Sleep well, Your Majesty."

Edward bent down and scooped up the little dog, who licked his pale and sweating face with helpless devotion as he carried it towards the door. Methos caught Lucinda's hand and squeezed it in passing as he followed.

"Tell me, Roger," Edward said as they walked through the lantern-lit hallways of the palace, "do you think I will live to see my twentieth year?"

Methos looked at the boy. Edward was barely eleven now, and while his wit was as quick and ready as Elizabeth's, his build was small and fragile. "I do not presume upon the will of Providence, Your Majesty," he answered carefully. "Were it upon my word, you should live for a thousand years."

Edward laughed--a light, bright sound that echoed faintly in the hall. "Spoken like a true scholar." He sobered a bit. "I have heard them talking--the councilors. When they believe I cannot hear, or am not attending to their words. They do not expect me to survive another year."

"Well, then, you must prove them all wrong, Your Majesty."

"Oh, I intend to." Edward stopped at the door to his bedchamber and turned to face Methos. His thin, pale face was grave, and his eyes looked much too old for his brief span of years. "If I should die...Mary will become Queen."

"That is what your father wished. But you shall not die, Edward, not for a long time yet."

The boy shook his head. "Mary is a Catholic. The people--my people--will never accept her. And..." He looked around to make sure they were not being overheard. "Mary is not suited for the throne. She should be the wife of some landed lord, the mistress of a grand household. She has not the heart or the spirit to rule a kingdom."

Methos raised his eyebrows, impressed beyond words. Child or not, Edward was spot on about his elder sister's character, echoing Methos's own judgment of her suitability to rule. "And Elizabeth?"

"She does not seek the crown, but if it fell to her keeping, I think she would wear it well." He smiled a bit, scratching his little dog behind its ears. "I do not remember my father very well, but I have heard it said that Elizabeth is his daughter beyond all doubt."

"Yes...and you are his son." Methos dared to put a hand on the boy's narrow shoulder. "You are wise beyond your years, and your wisdom will grow with your experience."

"May Providence grant me that experience, Roger." Edward reached wearily for the door. "Good night."

"Rest well, Your Majesty." Methos bowed and waited until the door shut behind the boy King, and then walked off down the hallway, pondering many things.

The Royal Palace
London, England
17 January, 1549

"Roger! Lucy! Oh, Roger!"

The insistent pounding on the door woke Methos from a sound sleep. From the quality of the light streaming through the narrow windows, he judged it to be early morning, barely past sunrise. "Elizabeth?" he called, reaching for a dressing-gown. Beside him, Lucinda stirred sleepily and raised her head.

The door of their bedchamber flew open, and the young Princess rushed in. She was wearing a simple brown dress, hastily put on; her hair was in disarray, her face was white, and her eyes were wide with terror. She clutched at Methos's sleeve. "He has gone mad!" she panted breathlessly.

"What? Elizabeth, what has happened?" Methos took her hands and made her sit down. Behind them, Lucy rose from the bed and pulled on her robe.

Elizabeth was trembling. "Seymour--Thomas Seymour--he broke into Edward's room this morning. He tried to make off with him!"

"Abduct the King?" Methos was stunned. He knew Seymour was an ambitious fool--he'd been trying to marry his charge, the young Lady Jane Grey, to Edward for months--but this went beyond anything he would have anticipated. "Is Edward all right?"

"Yes...Seymour did him no harm, but...he shot poor little Tag, to stop him barking. Edward is furious. The guards have taken Thomas to the Tower. Roger..." Elizabeth looked at Methos with fear in her eyes--not for herself, he realized, but for him. "He will do anything, say anything, to try and save himself. He may bear false witness against me. You must leave the palace at once--you and Lucy both."

Methos opened his mouth to agree, but Lucinda cut him off. "We will not abandon you, Bess," she said stoutly. "We have done no wrong, and so have nothing to fear."

Methos winced inwardly. My darling Lucinda, for a Saxon princess you know damned little about the machinations of court politics. Then again, things may have been simpler seven hundred years ago. But I doubt it.

"Roger Adams?" The Earl of Somerset--Seymour's brother Edward, and the King's Protector--stood in the open doorway. His expression was harsh and severe. "You and your lady wife will accompany us to the Tower for questioning."

"No!" Elizabeth ran forward, hands clasped before her. "Lord Somerset, you must not punish them, they have done nothing wrong! They knew nothing of the Admiral's plans, any more than I knew. Pray do not harm them!"

"We will question them," Somerset said, "nothing more. You--" he pointed imperiously at one of the attending guards--"escort Her Highness back to her rooms. She will be...safe there."

Elizabeth gave Methos a frightened look, but he nodded with far more assurance than he felt. Reluctantly, she left.

Somerset stepped outside the bedchamber. "Once you have dressed yourselves, we shall be on our way. Pray be quick, won't you." He shut the doors, leaving them alone.

Methos turned and saw Lucinda reaching for her sword, which lay on the floor beside the bed. "Leave it," he said. He thought he sounded only slightly less tired than he suddenly felt.

Lucinda looked at him. "They are taking us to the Tower, Methos," she hissed. "They behead people who go to the Tower."

"What are we going to do? Fight our way through the entire palace guard?"

"If I must die, I shall die with a sword in my hand."

"Spoken like a true shield-maid." Methos stepped forward and gently but firmly took the sword from her hand. "Still, it would be preferable not to die at all, would it not? Somerset is not the fool his brother the Admiral is; all we have to do is answer his questions to his satisfaction, and he will have no cause to execute either of us."

"Are you so certain of that?"

"My dear Lucinda, I am certain of nothing at this point save that if we charge out of here brandishing our swords, we will be guilty of treason, and Somerset will have us beheaded." He gave her a kiss. "Now dress yourself. We mustn't keep His Lordship waiting."

The Tower of London
London, England
9 February, 1549

"As I have told you on previous occasions," Methos said with an air of weary patience, "I spoke briefly with the Lord Admiral shortly before Christmas. He asked of me what lands the Princess Elizabeth had been granted in her father's will, and I told him I did not know. He expressed his wish that they would be near his own holdings in the west."

"And what else did you discuss with Thomas Seymour?" Somerset sat at the head of the council table, surrounded by the King's ministers, men who had served under Henry and were all most anxious to retain their positions.

"Your brother requested that I intercede on his behalf with the Princess Elizabeth."

Somerset sat forward. "On what matter?"

"The Admiral wished to pay court to the Princess Elizabeth, with the intent of marrying her."

"And what was your response to him?"

Methos raised his chin slightly. "I told the Admiral that such an entreaty would overstep the bounds of my authority, and that in any case, it was not my personal belief that the Princess Elizabeth would be desirous of such a union, as it would be against her brother the King's wishes as well as her own." Methos had given this exact same testimony, with virtually no variation, on numerous occasions over the past three weeks. During that time, he and Lucinda had been "guests" in the portion of the Tower reserved for royals and those of noble birth--comfortable apartments, to be sure, lavishly furnished and well-kept, but even so, a prison was a prison. "I had no further conversations with the Admiral before his arrest."

Somerset paged through several documents before him on the table. "Your wife's testimony is in agreement with yours, and those witnesses who could be found also corroborate your version of events." He set the sheafs of parchment aside and rose from his chair. "It is the finding of this Court that you, Roger Adams, and your wife, Lucy Adams, had no foreknowledge of the Lord Admiral, Thomas Seymour's plan to overthrow myself as Lord Protector, marry Edward to his ward the Lady Jane Grey, and take control of the rule of England." He waved his hand dismissively. "You are free to go."

Methos barely took the time to bow to the assembled Council before turning on his heel and heading for the door. He took Lucinda's arm without even looking at her, pulling her out of the room with him. He managed to ignore, or at least disregard the two men with axes who flanked them along the dark corridors until they walked out of the Tower gates.

Lucinda looked at him, but the severity of his profile made her keep her silence. She could not remember the last time he had looked so angry, and she had no desire to gain his attention and risk having that anger directed at her.

He did not speak until they had arrived at the lavish guest room provided for them at the royal palace. The room was substantially as they had left it nearly a month before. "Gather your things," he ordered grimly. "I have had enough of accusations, plots and intrigues to last me ten lifetimes."

"But Elizabeth--" Lucinda fell silent as he turned on her.

"Elizabeth did not spend a month under the shadow of the executioner's axe," he said very clearly and distinctly. "Though it pains me to abandon her, we can be of no aid to her if we are both dead. Her brother will protect her while he rules."

"Roger..."

Methos froze. Lucinda was looking past him to the doorway; he turned and saw the young Princess standing there. Her eyes were red and sore from weeping. "Elizabeth..."

With a sob she ran to him, flinging her thin arms around his waist. "You must go," she said, choking out the words as though they stifled her. "I will not allow harm to befall either of you. You have suffered enough on my account."

The elder Immortal put his hand on her small, trembling shoulder. "We do not wish to leave you, Bess," he said softly to her.

"I know." She swallowed hard and looked up at him earnestly. "It need only be for a little while. I have spoken to Edward; he has seen fit to facilitate your reinstatement at Cambridge until such time as I return to Hatfield House. If you wish, then you may rejoin me there come summertime."

Methos looked into the tear-streaked face and found himself nodding. "If it pleases Your Highness, it shall be done."

Hatfield House
Hertfordshire, England
10 July 1553

"The Duke of Northumberland was quite specific in his instructions," the messenger said to the severe-faced woman who barred his entry into the estate. "If the Princess will not come to London, she must send back her writ upon this document--" he waved a parchment with John Dudley's seal upon it-- "renouncing all claim and title she may possess to the throne of England, in deference to King Edward's chosen heir, Her Majesty Queen Jane."

Lucinda did not move. She was half a head taller than the unctuous little man before her, and although he looked infuriated enough to attempt to shove her aside and seek Elizabeth out for himself, she knew he wouldn't dare. She almost wished he would try, to give her an excuse to wring his sorry neck. "The Princess has taken ill at word of her brother the King's death," she said sternly. "She is in no condition at present to see anyone, go anywhere, or consent to anything."

"In any event," a man's voice said smoothly behind her, "is not the question of succession and renouncement of claims not better put to the Princess's sister, Princess Mary?" Lucinda moved aside so that Methos could confront Dudley's lackey. He looked perfectly at ease, almost bored with the conversation before it had begun. "It is she who must acquiesce to Jane's claims; while she lives, the Princess Elizabeth has no claim or title to resign." He stepped back with a polite nod. "Kindly convey our regards to the Duke," he said before shutting the door firmly in the man's face.

Lucinda peered out the window to watch the messenger mount his horse and ride away. "How is Elizabeth?" she asked quietly.

"Grief-stricken, as she has been since word arrived about Edward." Methos threw himself down into a chair and removed the ruff from his neck, tossing it aside.

"It is more than grief, I think," Lucinda said, sitting on the arm of the chair beside him. "Northumberland would have her executed to secure Jane's claim to the throne. Her and Mary both."

Methos scoffed. "Lady Jane Grey will not last a fortnight as Queen. The people will never accept her, no matter what Northumberland managed to coerce Edward into signing on his deathbed."

"The people want Elizabeth."

"Yes. But they will have Mary."

"And what of Elizabeth?"

Methos rubbed the back of his hand across his brow. "When the time comes, Elizabeth will support her sister's accession. She will have no choice."

Colchester
London, England
31 July 1553

The royal procession paused on the wide path through the city of London. From the other direction, coming from Somerset House, Elizabeth's retinue stopped as well. The two factions faced one another, the atmosphere charged with conflicting emotions as the residents of London gathered to watch Catherine of Aragon's daughter and the child of Anne Boleyn meet to decide the future of England.

At nineteen, Elizabeth had gained her full adult height, and she towered over the tiny, plain figure of her older sister. Even more than her stature and beauty, Elizabeth's very presence outshone that of Mary, and it seemed certain that the younger, stronger, more charismatic of Henry's daughters must assert her true and proper claim to the throne of England.

Then, as everyone watched, Elizabeth bowed her head and knelt at her elder sister's feet. "Your Majesty," she said in a voice pitched respectfully low, yet loud enough for all to hear. "I pledge my allegiance to Mary, the rightful Queen of England."

As Mary knelt to embrace the sister she hadn't seen for five years, Methos found he could breathe again. Elizabeth had played her part perfectly. If she continued to follow his direction, she would later, in private, beg Mary to begin her instruction in the tenets of the Catholic faith. "Your sister must not see you as a threat to her regime," he'd said to her on the way from Somerset. "Learn your catechisms and give all appearance of willingness to convert, but keep your own faith in your heart, and bide your time. Religious quibbling is a poor reason to lose your life."

At Elizabeth's gesture, he took Lucinda's hand and stepped forward, bowing deeply. Beside him, Lucinda curtsied, bowing her head and not meeting Mary's sharp eyes. "Your Majesty," he murmured, and Lucinda echoed him. He glanced at Mary's face and knew full well that her suspicions were far from allayed...but she would give every appearance of having accepted her sister's fealty while most of London was looking on.

As Elizabeth's retinue parted to allow Mary's procession to pass toward the palace, Methos began plotting possible exit strategies in his head. If they needed to leave in a hurry, it was best to have plans laid out well in advance.

Hatfield House
Hertfordshire, England
18 November 1558

Lucinda looked up from her book when she heard Elizabeth gasp in fright. The two women were sitting under a tree near a small brook that ran along the eastern side of the estate. Elizabeth jumped to her feet quickly; the apple she had been eating lay forgotten on the straw-colored grass.

"They are from the Palace," she whispered to Lucinda. "They have come to take me back to the Tower. Oh, what madness has happened now?"

Lucinda got up and stood at Elizabeth's side, watching the armed men dismount from their horses. The last time this had happened, four years previously, Elizabeth had been taken by force to London and imprisoned in the Traitor's Tower for two long, terrifying months before returning to Hatfield under house arrest. Mary, five years Queen of England and married to the Spanish monarch Philip II, had become increasingly unpopular with the people of England because of her harsh treatment of her well-loved sister, her marriage to a foreign prince, and her persecution of Protestants as she struggled to exterminate the new religion her father had created. A devout Catholic herself, Mary saw Protestantism as heresy, and hundreds of pious men and women had been burned at the stake by her command, earning her the nickname "Bloody Mary".

Of course, the intense hatred many English had for their Queen gave rise to numerous plots against her life. First Lady Jane Grey, then Elizabeth herself had been the focus of these machinations. On many a long night Methos and Lucinda had gone over numerous plans to spirit Elizabeth out of England for her own safety--to France, perhaps, or Germany, or even the Orient. But Elizabeth staunchly refused to leave her homeland.

And now it is too late, Lucinda thought grimly, reaching for the sword which was carefully hidden in her petticoats.

"I will not let them take me back," Elizabeth whispered fiercely. "I will hurl myself from London Bridge before passing through Traitor's Gate again."

"They shall take you nowhere against your will, Elizabeth," Lucinda assured her in a low voice. "When I have engaged them, run. Run towards the house as quick as you can--"

She felt a rush of awareness, and looked over her shoulder to see Methos tearing across the green towards them. When she looked back at the newcomers, she saw one she hadn't noticed before (it being rather hard to divert her attention away from the pikes, axes and swords of the Palace soldiers). The other men parted respectfully, and an older man approached, holding his hands out to the Princess.

"William!" Almost weeping with relief, Elizabeth darted forward and took the hands of William Cecil, a trusted advisor to both Edward and herself. "What is all this? Why have these men come? If there is any conspiracy against my sister the Queen, I swear upon my life, I have no knowledge of it."

Lucinda jumped as Methos put his hand on her arm. She saw the mute question in his eyes and shook her head; she was as confused by what was happening as he must be. They could only watch and see what would happen.

Cecil smiled a bit sadly, but he could not quite keep the joy from his eyes. "Your poor sister is past all conspiracies to harm her now, Your Highness."

Elizabeth's blue eyes went wide. "What are you saying, William?"

Cecil reached into his vest and pulled out a small golden ring with the seal of the Crown upon it. He took Elizabeth's slim hand in his and slipped the ring onto her finger. "Queen Mary is dead," he whispered to her. "Long live Queen Elizabeth."

Elizabeth stepped back and looked down at the ring glinting on her hand. There were tears in her eyes; although Mary had not been kind to Elizabeth since her ascension to the throne, she was still just as much Henry's daughter. Elizabeth knew full well that the news of her sister's death should be no occasion for joy. She turned to face her beloved tutor and his lady; almost at once, they both knelt to her. Her mind reeling, Elizabeth turned around to see Cecil and all the soldiers who accompanied him doing the same.

"Long live Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth!" Cecil said aloud, and the others all echoed his words.

Elizabeth's knees gave way, and she sank to the cold ground. At once the man she knew as Roger was at her side, obviously fearing for her health. She looked up at him, and when she spoke, her words were soft, but even so all those present could hear. "A domino factum est mirabile...in oculis nostris."

Methos nodded, smiling a little. This is the Lord's doing, she had said, and it is marvelous in our eyes.

Ambersbury House
Amesbury, England
17 May 1568

Ten years was a long time for mortals, but hardly more than a moment in Methos's millenia-long existence. Still, it was more than enough time to become well accustomed to having his own lavish holdings in the southeastern countryside. He spent his days with his books and translations, or else discoursing on various intellectual subjects with his Cambridge peers. His nights with Lucinda, though far more private, were equally enjoyable.

"Jenny made a strange remark today," Lucinda told him as they lay in their warm four-poster bed, wrapped in each other's arms.

Methos chuckled and kissed the top of her head. "And what did our dear little housekeeper have to say?"

"She was talking about her rheumatism again, and she said that it was a wonder that the years were being so kind to me." At Methos's inquisitive look, she sighed a bit. "No, she has no idea that we were both centuries old when she was a babe in arms. It was a pretty compliment, nothing more...but it did set me to thinking."

Methos groaned. "A dangerous pastime for you, dearest. When you start thinking, you commence to worrying, and then to seeing enemies in every flicker of shadow."

"Be still, man. How long can we expect to remain here without others noticing that we do not age with the passing of time? It was different in Edward the Elder's court, five centuries ago; he facilitated the transition of our identities easily enough between regimes."

"To his own benefit, since that particular Edward was himself Immortal." He squeezed Lucinda's bare shoulder. "Tonight is not the time for such deep ponderings. We have years yet before we must think on how best to leave this guise of mortality and create new identities for ourselves." He studied her face carefully. "Are you unhappy here?"

"No, no, of course not. We are near my old home; we can see Stonehenge from our high tower; we have a good life, I think, and I am in no hurry to leave it. Are you content, Methos, with such a sedentary existence?"

"Very much so. I have my books and my colleagues; you have your painting, and this glorious house Elizabeth had built for us..."

"And we have each other."

"Mm. Yes, there is that, too." He pulled her face up to his and kissed her, leaning her back into the down-filled pillows.

He was just drifting off to sleep, his head cradled against Lucinda's breast, when the alarm of a strange Immortal's presence washed over them both. Instantly alert, Methos leapt from the bed and grabbed his broadsword from its hiding place near the headboard. Lucinda, also awake, rolled off the other side of the bed and snatched for her nightgown.

The door splintered inward with a savage kick from the outside. The primary question on Methos's mind--How the hell did an Immortal get into our house!--was answered when the intruder stormed into the bedroom. He was a head taller than Methos, broad-shouldered, wielding a double-bladed axe that was streaked with fresh blood.

"I am Wulfgar," he announced in a gravelly bass voice. "I came here seeking the head of one Immortal, but I'll gladly take you both."

Methos, naked and armed with only his sword, felt at a distinct disadvantage. The burly Viking was between him and the only way out; behind him was a lead-glass window that opened to a sixty-foot drop. Not that he wouldn't come back to life after a few moments, but during that time, the intruder could easily take Lucinda's head and then be recovered enough from her Quickening to come after Methos.

"Do you think you might at least let me get my trousers on?" he asked, not really expecting to be allowed this simple concession to his dignity.

Before Wulfgar could reply, a banshee-like shriek cut him off, and a figure in white leapt on him. Lucinda attempted to wrest the axe out of Wulfgar's hands, but strong as she was, she was no match for him. With a roar of impatience, he tossed her away from him. Methos instinctively dodged to one side as she flew past him--

Straight through the window.

LUCINDA! Methos's heart wrenched, but his brain and body were completely focused on survival. While Wulfgar was still off-balance, he darted forward, ducked under the swing of the heavy axe, and came up to behead his opponent with a vicious backswing. "Viking bastard," he growled as the body fell and the Quickening took hold of him.

When he regained his senses, the bedroom was in shambles. The bed and wardrobe were smashed to matchwood, the mattress and pillows burst, the entire room coated with a snowfall of white feathers.

He heard a high wailing from outside; he staggered to the window and looked down. What he saw made his heart sink into the pit of his stomach.

Ellis, the butler, and Will the stable-boy were holding Jenny back. The housekeeper was making a wild, keening sound of grief, holding her hands out desperately towards the black wrought-iron fence that circled the private garden at the foot of the tower. Atop the gate, impaled on three of its black spikes, lay Lucinda, arms outspread, dead eyes staring blankly up at the night sky.

By the time he was dressed and out the downstairs doors, two of the groundskeeper's men had managed to pry Lucinda off the spikes. They were laying her tenderly upon a blanket while Jenny sobbed into Ellis's shoulder. "Oh, my lady!" she cried piteously. "Oh, my poor sweet Lucy!"

"Get away from her!" Methos roared, shoving the men aside and dropping to his knees beside Lucinda's corpse. "You will not touch her!" Sobbing loudly, he took the lifeless body in his arms. "Lucy...Lucy..."

"Lord Adams," Ellis choked, "the villain killed poor Tom, and Robert as well. The town guard should be arriving any moment--"

"They will find the murderer upstairs." Methos stood with Lucinda in his arms, tears still streaming down his face. "I must get her to the doctor...there may still be time..."

"My lord," Ellis said, sadly, "she is dead--"

"NO!" Methos rounded on the butler, and he started back at the look of madness in his master's eyes. "She is not dead! I will not allow it! Out of my way, all of you!"

"Sir Adams!" Jenny sobbed. "Oh, God help him, the poor man's gone mad!"

Will started after Methos, but Ellis stayed him with a hand. "Let him be, boy. There will be no talking sense to him now."

Methos disappeared into the stable; a moment later he was on the fastest horse he owned, a large black stallion, whipping it into a full gallop as he rode into the night, Lucinda's body draped across the saddle in front of him.

Several leagues from the estate, Methos stopped the horse, dismounted, and lifted Lucinda down. He laid her on the grass by the side of a small stream, crouched beside her, and waited.

It didn't take long. He felt the abrupt return of her presence a bare instant before she sucked in new breath. Her eyes flew open and she commenced to choking, her lungs struggling to work again as they mended their wounds. "M-Methos-"

"Lie still. You're safe."

"The Viking?"

"Dead. Unfortunately, he killed you first." Methos sighed. "In front of the entire household, which was roused when he broke in and killed our watchmen."

Lucinda groaned and let her head fall back. Her hand fluttered to her the front of her gown, which was still stained and torn where the spikes had impaled her. "That...hurt," she croaked.

"You need not speak to me of the pain of impalement, dearest," Methos said wryly. "Remember that Wallachian prince with the penchant for taking those who annoyed him and hoisting them on spikes?"

"Vlad Tepes, yes, I know." Lucinda managed a weak laugh interrupted by a coughing fit. "At least you were alive when I got you down."

"That hardly made the experience less of a lasting impression." Methos fetched her water from the stream and made her drink. "There is an old gameskeeper's cottage hard by; you will be safe there till morning."

"Where are you going?"

"Back to the house, to retrieve what goods I can easily transport-not to mention our clothes and other portable belongings." Methos patted Lucinda's hair. "Unfortunately, because so many witnessed your death, we can no longer remain here together." He looked at her with deep affection. "And I have no wish to be without you."

The quality of his expression warmed Lucinda's heart and made her feel far less desolate. "But where shall we go?"

"Anywhere we like. France, Spain, Germany, Russia, Africa, Egypt, China, India, Japan, Tibet...all of them, if that is your pleasure."

Lucinda couldn't help laughing. "Have you truly been to all those places?"

"Those, and more." He gave her a conciliatory kiss. "Now, if you are fit to move, I shall see you settled before I am off on my madman's errand. I fear that Lord Adams has taken leave of his senses in the wake of his wife's cruel murder, and now he shall take what he can and leave England--never to return."

London Bridge
London, England
11 March 1603

The entrance to London had not changed significantly in thirty-five years, Methos considered as he rode onto the thoroughfare. It was nearly spring, and the rains had just ended. The river Thames was swollen and dark beneath them. At his side rode Lucinda, almost unrecognizable in men's clothing, with her hair cropped short and dyed with boot-black. Since their return to France the previous year, they had been masquerading as brothers--Roger and Lucien--and although Lucinda detested the charade that concealed her true sex, she did enjoy the freedom which accompanied the facade.

For thirty-five years they had wandered the continent and the distant lands beyond it. Together they had crossed the steppes of Russia, walked the Great Wall of China, climbed the mountains of Tibet, even sailed to the exotic shores of Nippon. At the turn of the century, they had turned their gaze back to the land of Lucinda's birth; on the return trip, they had journeyed briefly through the Egyptian desert, to a place where a small oasis had once flourished...because Lucinda had expressed a wish to see the place where Methos had been born.

It had come as a surprise to both of them that the Queen still ruled England, but now her health was failing, and after some discussion they had agreed that they would come to pay their respects to her one last time, if she still lived when they arrived in London.

The usually bustling throng was oddly subdued as they crossed over the bridge into the city. At first Lucinda feared they were too late, but there were no black banners yet hung, and no cries of grief from the populace. An entire generation had been born and grew to adulthood under the rule of "Good Queen Bess", a generation that had been spared the tumult and uncertainty of their parents and grandparents, but there was no word as yet who would be Elizabeth's heir, and the question of England's future held no ready answer.

Methos followed the familiar road straight up to the gates of the palace. Dismounting, he went directly to the sentry and presented him with a sealed parchment that would guarantee him access to the dying queen.

"Roger...Roger, is that you...?"

The royal bedchamber contained a thick atmosphere of imminent death. The air reeked of a body that had already begun to decompose while it was yet functioning. Elizabeth lay in her bed, her tall frame wasted almost to a skeleton, her eyes almost white with advanced age. "Roger...?"

"Here, Your Majesty." Methos knelt beside the bed and took the white, clawlike hand of the Queen in his. "It has been a very long time, has it not?"

"Long indeed...yet you appear no different." Elizabeth struggled to sit up, and failed. "And if you say the same of me, sir, you are a liar."

"I would never lie to my best pupil, Your Majesty."

The watery eyes looked up at him pleadingly. "Call me 'Bess'," she whispered. "Pray, I have not heard you say that name these past thirty years and more."

Methos kissed the swollen knuckles of her hand. "Bess," he murmured.

Elizabeth's gaze was drawn by movement behind Methos. "Why...Lucy...is it Lucy...?" she croaked.

Lucinda settled beside Methos. "Your wit is as sharp as ever, Your Majesty," she said softly. "I thought my disguise clever, but it cannot deceive you."

"They told me...you were dead." Elizabeth fought for breath. "Are you an angel, come to take me to Paradise?"

"No, Your Majesty," Lucinda answered with a smile. "I have only come to see my dearest friend one final time."

Elizabeth seemed satisfied at that. "You were more of a sister to me than my own blood," she whispered. "And your good husband was both father and brother to me when I had none."

"Your chancellor tells me that you will not see the doctors," Methos said. "I should be very cross with you, Bess. If you do not accept their care, you will not get well."

"I do not wish to be well, Roger." Elizabeth heaved a weary sigh. "I am tired of this frail, fragile body. The calendar has become my enemy, and life is neither sweet nor pleasant any longer. I am alone; I have outlived my enemies and my friends alike. Were I able to rise up from this bed hale and hearty as I was in my youth, perhaps I could discover some fresh joy to my existence...but as it happens, I am done with this world, and ready for the next."

Lucinda nodded, understanding. It's easier for us, and harder, too, in a way; we stay the same, physically at least, while the world around us changes, old ways dying, new ones coming to life. For vital, strong-willed Elizabeth, spending another five or ten years in a body that was barely able to walk across a room would be an unthinkable misery.

Methos understood as well, in his way. "What can I do for you, dear Bess?" he asked softly.

"There is parchment...on the table...and an inkstand, with a quill. Lucy, I can no longer write for myself; therefore you must take my dictation."

For the next half-hour Elizabeth spoke in soft, halting tones, and Lucinda dutifully inscribed every word as instructed, pausing only when a particular name was mentioned. She glanced sharply at Methos, who shook his head warningly and motioned her to keep writing.

At last it was done. Elizabeth was exhausted, but she squeezed Methos's hand with a shadow of her former strength. "Bring me the paper, and pen," she whispered, "and my seal, which is upon the night table there."

Lucinda placed the parchment upon the counterpane and put the quill in Elizabeth's hand. The Queen scratched out her signature, all but illegible but still distinctively hers, and pressed the seal into the wax puddled below it. "It is done," she whispered, "and I am content. Have the Council...fix their names...and all will be settled." She closed her eyes and spoke no more.

Methos took the paper from Lucinda's hand and tucked it into his sleeve as they left the Queen's chambers. Outside the palace, night was just beginning to fall; in the early hours of the following morning, Elizabeth Tudor quietly slipped away.

Elizabeth Regina, by the grace of God Queen of England, France, and Ireland, defender of the faith and of the Church of England and also of Ireland in earth the Supreme Head, to all our nobles and our good and obedient subjects, greetings in our Lord God everlasting.

FORASMUCH as it has pleased the goodness of Almighty God to visit upon us a wise and respected old age, and feeling that our time upon this earth grows short, in submitting ourself to the Will of Providence, we have turned our consideration to the state of our most beloved country; AND FORASMUCH ALSO that it has pleased Almighty God not to make provision for us to wed, nor to bear issue; WHEREFORE, upon much deliberation and in the interest of preserving the integrity of England and Ireland, that it not fall under the rule of foreign princes or other powers, that the said imperial crown of England and Ireland, and all the confines of the same, and our title and crown to the realm of France, and all and singular honors, castles, prerogatives, privileges, preeminences, authorities, jurisdictions, dominions, possessions and heretidaments to us and our said imperial crown belonging, or in any wise appertaining, shall, for lack of such issue of our body, remain, come, and be unto SIR ROGER ADAMS, and to the heirs male or female of the body of the said ROGER ADAMS lawfully begotten.

AND OUR MIND, DETERMINATION, AND PLEASURE IS, that after our decease, the aforesaid ROGER ADAMS shall be King of this realm, and have the whole rule and governance of said imperial crown, and the premises whereof; and, in witness that this is our very true mind and interest touching upon the succession of our said imperial crown and the premises whereof, we have hereunto set our sign manual and our great seal this, the nineteenth day of March, in the forty-fourth year of our reign, and attested to by our councillors and other nobles, whose names are underwritten, to witness, record, and testify the same.

Ambersbury House
Amesbury, England
23 March 1603

"So now James of Scotland will be king of England," Lucinda said, sitting by the fire at their home in Amesbury. The estate had been carefully tended, on Elizabeth's orders, in hopes of its master's eventual return. The few who remained of the old staff welcomed the "sons" of Roger Adams the elder with genuine respect. "Does it trouble you at all that Elizabeth died believing that you would succeed her to the throne?"

"Does my conscience bother me for lying to her? Not a whit." Methos rolled the parchment up carefully and set it into a scroll case. "It set her heart and mind at ease, and allowed her to die at peace with herself."

"It would have galled her to know that the son of Mary, Queen of Scots was following her to the throne."

"Perhaps--but look on the bright side. England and Scotland will be united at last, and hopefully the wars with the Highlands will finally come to an end."

"You don't know the Scots very well, do you?" Lucinda chuckled. "They are a proud and stubborn lot. They'll not admit defeat while there's a man among them standing."

"Then they had better learn to sit down." Methos sat beside Lucinda and ruffled his hand through her short, blackened hair. "I think I prefer your natural color," he said.

"Have a care, brother dear," Lucinda teased, "or you'll set the servants to gossiping."

"I think young Lucien should go on an extended holiday."

"Oh?"

"Yes. And while he is away, Roger the younger will begin paying court to a lovely blonde lady he met in Austria..."

Lucinda pondered the prospect. "How fortunate I had the hair I cut off fashioned into a wig for just such an occasion."

"That's my clever girl."