PROLOGUE

"I shall not be declared a bastard! No! How can he do this?" Mary paced the room, waving her hands in the air. "Father is not allowed! How can he just divorce my mother? I am the legitimate daughter and heir of the king!!"

"Mary, please, don't. Be reasonable. Your mother, the queen would not allow it! The church would not allow it! You are still a princess, never a bastard," the Countess of Salisbury continued her sewing calmly as the princess ranted crazily.

"How can you be so sure? I will not live being a bastard! Oh Mother, my poor mother, sent to a far manor, and.just simply banished? I cannot believe what is happening! My father is blind. Can't he see that Kimbolton Castle is ruining her health? Everyone else can see that, why not him! Oh, it is no use. How much more can I beg the king? He will not listen to me!" Mary glanced at the bare room. The glamour, the beautiful red silk curtains, the canopied bed, plush leather couches, soft cushions, chests of jewels, wardrobes of gowns, so much treasure that contented her life since she was a child was stripped, gone forever. Only two chairs were set about the barren room, laden with three pillows where the two ladies sat, doing their daily sewing. A wooden table was also present, an iron bed covered with a threadbare quilt, and windows with streaks of cracks. Nothing was fit for living.

Mary picked up her embroidery, beginning to sew, hoping to push down her antagonism and temper. "Has it occurred to you that we are low on money, Salisbury?" "Yes, madam," the Countess replied.

"What am I to do? Father never sends any more money," said Mary, "My ladies are starving! I won't be able to give them dowries. I won't be able ensure them for a happier life than serve a penniless princess. I won't even be able to ensure myself that I will be alive the next morning! If only the king would leave that whore of a woman and place my mother, the rightful queen, back onto the throne!"

"My princess, you don't understand! What does your father want the most? Think," ordered the Countess.

"A son," replied Mary, her voice cold as stone.

"Yes, my dear. He loves Queen Catherine, really, believe me. The whole dilemma is that she cannot produce a living-"

"Oh yes, she can! She has! It is all because someway God has taken them away from her! If only, if only-"

"There is no "if only"! The king wishes to have a son, then he will get one, by force!"

"But Countess! You must understand I am the legitimate heir to the throne, son or no son!" Mary threw her embroidery frame onto the wooden floor, sending it flying across the room, clanking on the way.

"Madam! That is not the proper behavior fit for a princess!"

"I can do as I wish. And as my stature right now, I don't think I'm a princess anymore, eh?" Mary sneered. "Now, I order you to leave me," Mary commanded severely, her finger pointing to the door.

"But, my lady-"

"Now!"

"Good day madam," the countess rushed with a hasty curtsy, slamming the wooden door until the paint shattered and fell on the beseeching princess.

"What is to become of me? What? Oh, God have mercy. Mercy!" Mary wept as the rain pattered ruthlessly on the leaking windows, sending the raindrops to fall, one by one, on the princess. Drip.drop.drip.drop.drip.