From Ainor to Eleanor
Jaquetta and Margaret sat quietly together in a Margaret’s private solar. It was a small corner turret room, well lit with a view of lush gardens and warmed by a constant fire. Books and pieces of sewing filled the spaces. This place was where Margaret spent most of her time, alone with her thoughts, her memories, her visions and her sorrows of the past. She let few others into this space which she so loved. It was one of the few places of this castle that she could call her own. In this room, she could look out at the gardens, the lands beyond, the skies above and dream of what might have been, what should have been. Sometimes she could almost see her children out there, happily playing in the flowers and the fountain… she could almost hear the sounds of their laughture come through to her. Those visions were of her own creation and they kept her half way sane through the worst of times within these closed walls she now called home.
Her husband kept her well guarded, he insisted that it was for her own good and safety, for the good of their family. But, she knew different. She knew he was deeply afraid of her and her visions. His fear of that unknown caused him to react as so many others did. Rather than attempt to understand or accept in any way, he chose to instead to deny and control. Margaret knew that even deeper than the fear of the unknown, her husband was outraged by the fact that he could not control her, could not sway her beliefs, or manipulate her thoughts. He was powerless in this aspect and so chose to exert his power over her in other ways, such as keeping her locked away here with the excuse that she was deranged. At times, she laughed to herself and admitted that he was in some ways right in his thoughts… for there were times she did feel quite deranged and unhinged in her thinking. So, perhaps it was far better for her to spend her days here in quiet solitude where the walls did not talk so much, where throngs of people did not share their innermost thoughts and stories continuously with her just in touching her randomly. When she gave it serious thought, she did understand that yes indeed she was a danger to her children in that if the truth were known, they would all be labeled heretics and witches. Try as she might, she had been unable over the years to control her visions and her reactions to them.
There were times when she much envied her cousin Margaret Beaufort Stafford Stanley in her ability to maintain some control over her visions, or at least her ability to put them in a light that was more acceptable to others. Her cousin Margaret had been wise enough to encase her behaviors and her visions in a shroud of church acceptable blanketing. She portrayed the devoutness and piety of the church and avowed that God was speaking to her. It worked well for Margaret Stanley, who was ever the survivor, a stronger warrior in this war than she herself was, Margaret readily admitted to herself and to her few close friends who remained in her circle of confidance.
It was those few friends such as Jaquetta, who most probably ensured her safety and kept her alive. Had it not been for Jaquetta, her husband may not have had qualms over seeing her disappear entirely from the face of the earth. He could easily have locked her away so securely and privately and allowed for her to die from neglect or worse, had it not been for Jaquetta’s constant interferances and intercedences in his affairs and in her life. In the matter of her life and well being, Jaquetta was ever and always there in the background, using her influences in any ways possible. It had been Jaquetta’s suggestion that she retire from the overwhelming emotional taxations of life and live one of private peace and contemplation. Her husband had little choice but to agree with the arrangement but did exert his own sort of control over the situation. He chose the castle, and the guards. He set down his own particular rules governing her care, but Jaquetta always mantained her own network of spies within the place to ensure that no harm was coming to her. It was Jaquetta’s influence that put her son, Henry Stafford in the wardship of the King and placed him in the Royal household. It had been Jaquetta’s influence that had ultimately led to young Henry’s marriage to her daughter Catherine even though they were small children at the time. Jaquetta also quietly kept watch over her young daughter, Margaret, ensuring that she was being raised properly and well treated by her Father.
Now, these two women sat close together in that peaceful and comforting room, seemingly enjoying and sharing a bit of needle craft between them. Their heads bowed over the piece of linen they were carefully stitching upon, their voices in hushed tones in case one of her husband’s guards be overlistening to their conversation.
Jaquetta spoke softly as she sewed, answering her friend’s fears over all that was taking place. “Hush Margaret, all will be fine. Your husband is not such fool as to go against what I have laid out for him. He knows that people are suspicious of his actions upon you and accusing him of having hand in your disappearance. This will serve to appease those rumors and he is in dire need of that right now. Such dire need, in fact, that he is willing to go along on this with few questions asked.”
Margaret shook her head and her voice shook in her troubled concern. “But, I am not so sure that I can go through with this Jaquetta. What if I fail in this all important duty?” Tears fell from her eyes to the ancient linen as she continued with her fearful thoughts. “I am truly not so strong as all of the rest of you and I fear that I will not be able to carry this through with such a facade as you others are so adept at.”
Jaquetta reached to stroke her hand and comfort her. “You shall not need to much dearest, but for to make a few appearances with the child where you can be seen together as family. We all will be there surrounding you and protecting you through it. And, think on this Margaret, you shall have chance to see your other children, to touch them, hold them close and spread your love upon them like a quilt to carry them through the coldest and darkest times of their future. That in itself should be your strength to get through this.”
Margaret sighed and smiled wanly. She brushed a stray strand of still midnight black curl from her face and looked at Jaquetts with her palest of blue eyes now swimming in tears. “Yes, that is my one desire in my remaining time. To see them, to hold them, to let them know that I love them beyond any words or doubts, that what I have done has been for the love of them.”
Jaquetta smiled back at her friend and pulled her close to hug her. “You see, tis the right thing you do in this matter. Your heart and your soul know this. You must set aside your outward fears now and go forward on this. This little one will bring you some joy, some comfort and some laughture in this much quiet life of yours.” She let go of Margaret and handed her back a needle while she went on. “And, you shall not be alone here. The young one, Brenny will stay with you for a time. She is in much need of comfort and peace for a bit and this stay will do her good.”
While they sat again sewing, Margaret let her fingertips wander over this ancient linen that should be nothing but shreds of dusty fibers, but was remarkably as crisp and fresh as a new piece of cloth other than a few slight stains and frayed edgings. She marveled at it’s power to remain, to hold together in such a way even after centuries of handling by so many women. It never ceased to awe her and fill her with faith. “Tis this that gives me faith and strength, Jaquetta. To hold this cloth, to know and feel the love , the care and the strength of those others before us who did not give up.”
Jaquetta smiled and nodded her agreement, “I knew it would give you strength my friend. It is what binds us all together on this journey through life. It carries our history, our beliefs from that ancient time and it guides us towards the future which is as always so uncertain. It is filled with our families, our love and our prayers. And, soon it will be whole again. It is waiting as are all of us for life to be stitched back together again after being ripped apart in so many different directions.”
They were content in their weaving upon the cloth and their quiet conversation regarding the child whose arrival they waited for. Jaquetta advised Margaret more about the poor child’s recent traumas and told her that the little one would most likely be in some state of shock over all of the events. “I am quite sure that the child will need a great deal of time to recover from all of this, but you must not coddle her too much. She must be made strong enough to endure what may come to her in the future.”
Margaret nodded her head in understanding. She knew that part of her own lacking was that of being so much over protected and untrained as a child. She sighed sadly, her own Mother had overly adored her and not given her the inner strength and fortitude that she would need later in life. Sadly, in these times, it was entirely possible to love a child too much… there must be some balance in that, as with all things important to sustaining life. It was difficult to admit to, but often times the strongest ones, the ones who survived and thrived, were the ones who were not so overly loved or protected in their beginnings. She understood this now and was determined that this child should not turn out as she had, all too dependent upon others for her peace of mind and her well being. No, this child should know from her beginnings that this life was difficult and not always fair, especially to women.
She spoke of this to Jaquetta and the other woman nodded while reminding her of the fine balance that must be walked else the child would grow cold and uncaring. They discussed these views of child rearing for a time. Then, Jaquetta addressed another issue. “The child’s name is Ainor, but I do think that it calls too much attention to the ancient ways. I believe that she should go on in life with the translation of it. You should call her Eleanor after that ancestor who was so strong for us, not even knowing of her ancestory much as this child.”
Margaret smiled happily and agreed. “Yes, I think that would be most wise. She shall be named Eleanor, Eleanor Beaufort Stafford Dayrell. As her supposed Mother, I reserve the right to name her and pass my heritages on to her through her namings. Her supposed Father will irked and irritated to no end by it but he shall have no say or governence in any of this anyway.” She have an almost vicious laugh at her small victory over the man she had come to so detest through the years. He was now so desperate to have his good name cleared and not besmirched that he would have to willingly go along with this game that was for once controlled by women.
Jaquetta laughed loudly and applauded her friend on her growing show of strength. Inwardly, Jaquetta knew that neither of them had a great deal of time left on this plane, this turn of the wheel and so she felt they should glory in the few victories and upturns they should manage before going on to that other place together. Jaquetta looked at this coming challenge as their farewell song sung together in one last chorus of redemption for the women of their lines. One last thing that they could offer to their future generations in the hopes that one day far in the future their act might be remembered or recalled with some love and some fondness for ancestors long forgotten. She kept this knowledge, these thoughts to herself and prayed that they would both live long enough to see this all through the way it needed to go. Jaquetta knew that Margaret’s strength of fortitude would be sorely tested and that she would be worn greatly and need to return here to this quiet sanctuary eventually. For this reason, she had already laid plans ahead for Margaret Stanley to take over at that time and be the stern guidance that the child need. Though, they had ever had their differences, she did trust Margaret Stanley to do what was needed in the future.
Margaret Stanley had been seriously advised that it would be in her best interest to follow this course. It was well known that Margaret Stanley’s main focus and intent was her son’s “God” given destiny, but she was also well prepared for any turns against that. She had been fighting these battles of power since her childhood. Margaret Stanley knew full well that any turn of the wheel could bring defeat for her, she had already experienced much of that. If by some chance, the Yorks could hold on to their power, she needed some way to stay in the fight… She and her husband, Thomas Stanley were walking the fine line of balance to stay in the good graces of the current ruling family who held everyone’s fate in their hands. Margaret Stanley knew that Jaquetta was not on her daughter’s side any longer. She knew that deep down, Jaquetta was still loyal to her former causes and to the Lancasters though she could never admit it openly.
Margaret Stanley was also well aware of the ancient blood running through Jaquetta’s veins, it ran through hers and her family’s as well. She had managed to avoid any and all inferances of her lineage over the years with her devout adherence to the accepted church and she should like to keep it that way ever more. When Jaquetta had approached her with disturbing information and foretellings of the future should she not go along with Jaquetta’s plans, she had felt little choice but to agree. She would be at some point in the future, entrusted with the guidance and training of a young girl who’s destiny it also was to sit on the throne. Jaquetta’s reasoning and bargaining power had been that either way, Margaret and her son would be safe… he may not have a crown, but he would be safe, alive and it would be seen to that his titles and his lands would be restored to him if this plan of events played out. There was always a possiblility that with his titles, his lands, and his lineage recognized, he might inherit the throne at a later time. Margaret would still be looked at favorably as the one who had raised this small girl child to sit on the throne.
Margaret’s initial answer at the time had been of why not just wed the child to her son at some point? Then all of them would be appeased. Jaquetta had argued back that they could not go against what was already set in front their path. There was already an heir to the York throne, in fact, two of them… as her daughter had just given birth to another son. Unless at some point, something should happen to them, they were currently the legitimate heirs and should succeed their Father. At this present time, Margaret’s son Henry had no right to the throne. They could not fight that, all they could do was set a daughter of their choice on the throne as consort and hope that they would carry enough weight to exert some control over the future ruling. She had added ruefully, not as in the case of the mess they were presently in due in much part to the actions of her willful daughter.
She had also placated Margaret with the idea that should anything go awry in the future, steps would be taken to ensure that her son have his fighting chance for the throne. She had warned Margaret with much seriousness though that those ancient ones out there watching would brook no interferances from any of them or actions on their part that should cause the plan to go another way. If it should happen, it must happen on it’s own, or from some other’s hands, not theirs. It was an uneasy, ackward alliance and agreement that Margaret Stanley set her hand to that day, but she had done it. She had sealed her fate and that of her son… then prayed insessantly for divine intervention in what ever the future would hold for them. She would not go back on her agreement much as she would dearly wish to through those next years.
On the other side of the forest, Brenny and Eric prepared to deliver Eleanor. Brenny had donned her more proper attire, much to Eric’s surprise… he had not realized quite how Royal she was. They had to part ways for the time being but he promised her that he would return when she was ready to go home and escort her back there. She had just muttered bitterly that it was no true home and if she could find some way not to return there, she surely would. He had hushed her and reminded her that after this was finished he would help her with her troubles in Scotland.
So, it came to pass that the tiny time displaced orphan, Ainor of Pendragon arrived at the home of Margaret Beaufort Dayrell to be raised as Eleanor Beaufort Stafford Dayrell. She was a much silent but ever curious child who observed her new surroundings and family with a keen understanding far beyond her toddler mind. Though she spoke little, cried even less and rarely smiled at all, she watched and listened constantly to everyone around her.
For those first few weeks, the young Brenny stayed on with Margaret to see the child, and Margaret settled into thier life together. Jaquetta visited often to assure that all was going well, though there was really no need for concern.
Margaret relished and savored every moment of caring for Eleanor even if she was not her own. She lavished every attention on the toddler during those first weeks, poured out the love she had been denied showering on her own babies. Her heart was lighter and her mind clearer than it had been in some years. She felt a surge of energy throughout her body and looked forward to each morning when she would rise at dawn and slip queitly into the nursery to find little Eleanor wide awake staring at her surroundings. She watched intently one mornings as Eleanor patted the walls near her and whispered garbled little words… It was as though she were listening to the walls and attempting to converse with them. It was then she knew exactly what the child was doing, and hearing. That was also her sign that the child was much more gifted than anyone realized.
It was often said that very young children were more attuned to the ancient abilities and the spirit realms than adults. They must be taught and trained very young to control such abilities else give themselves away and be looked on with the dire dangerous suspicions so abundant in this time. Sadly, Margaret knew that it was up to her to protect the child, even from herself or they, none of them would survive to make a difference. Margaret had to force herself to be strict and unwavering with the girl, even as young as she was. She had left the nursery to speak to Brenny about it, and to send a message to Jaquetta informing her of this new situation.
Jaquetta had come immediately to spend some time with the child. She at first assumed that Margaret was just overly concerned, as many new Mothers tended to be. When she questioned Brenny about it, the girl had agreed with Margaret and added that there was something not quite right about the child. She was far too quiet, often seemed to off in her own world babbling and gurgling to the walls, pointing to things which were not there, grasping out into thin air for something.
Jaquetta had shooed them both from the nursery, picked up Eleanor and wandered about the room with her in arms. As she sang old, ancient lullabies and fairie realm songs to her, Eleanor for the first time since arriving, laughed and smiled happily up at Jaquetta. Her little fingers reached out to touch the woman’s face in delight. Jaquetta snuggled the girl and walked close to the walls with her. She reached out a hand and trailed it along the wall, feeling the faint vibrations of the past. Eleanor did the same and laughed again. Her little face stared up at Jaquetta and she seemed to search the older woman’s face for signs of approval before touching the wall or laughing again.
Jaquetta stared back at her and gave an encouraging look, at which Eleanor reached for the wall again, then did seem to become lost in that other world. Jaquetta sternly pulled her hand back and turned them away from the wall. She held the girl close and murmured to her in that ancient language that few understood anymore. She spoke as she might to a much older child, for she felt that this one understood far more than she could communicate to them. “Ahhh my fine little one, tis a great gift you have been blessed with, but also a curse and you must be ever cautious with it, else it will take you away with it into a world which you might get lost in. You must be ever careful in life, these are dangerous times for all of us. We seek to keep you safe with us, and you must help us do it.” Eleanor frowned but did not cry. She laid her head upon Jaquetta’s shoulder and her small body trembled but, still she did not cry. Jaquetta knew the child understood every word spoken to her in that old language. She wondered how much she understood of their present language. Her next words were spoken in English. “Hush little Eleanor, we will let no harm come to you but you must be a brave, big girl now for all of us, your Mother would want that of you.”
Eleanor lifted her head, slowly stopped her trembling and looked up into Jaquetta’s eyes again. Her bright blue eyes were solomn and serious as she nodded her head and finally spoke. “Brave strong girl for Mama.” Jaquetta sighed sadly and hugged her closer. “Yes my sweet, be a brave strong girl for all of your Mamas and all of the Ladies.” Tears formed in Jaquetta’s eyes and Eleanor reached a hand up to wipe them from her face. “Mama and Ladies of the Lake” she whispered softly and placed a hesitant kiss on Jaquetta’s cheek. The older woman cried again and planted a return kiss upon Eleanor’s forehead. “Yes, wee one, the Ladies of the Lake need you to be very very brave, and do all that you are asked to. And, the first thing you must learn is, never talk to the walls again until you are much older and know how to do it properly.”
Jaquetta sat the child down on the floor and kneeled there with her. Eleanor looked at her again and responded very seriously, “No, Never touch walls again.” She pointed her little fingertip towards herself and repeated as if to scold herself, “Listen to Mamas and behave else they will get you!” Jaquetta stood and sighed to herself, this child needed no scolding, she did it all well enough on her own!
She left Eleanor playing on the rug with a basket of yarn and a maid attending her, to return to Margaret and Brenny. There was some discussion about the child’s abilities and her behaviors. Jaquetta assured them that the child was fine and knew much more than any of them expected. She suggested that they not be to cross or harsh with her as she knew quite well how to behave, she only needed reminders and guidance from them. She did advise them to continue to softly and gently remind her not to touch the walls for it would be a great temptation for a child, even one was cautious as her, to resist. “Just simply remind her that she might get lost there and not be able to get back to us, she will know of what you speak.”
After that day, there was much else to be done, and some of it not so pleasant. Margaret’s husband, Sir Richard Dayrell arrived a few days later to meet with her and Jaquetta. He was not at all happy or enthused about this game he was being forced to participate in and made it quite obvious. Jaquetta’s sharp response to his ire was blunt. “Well, Sir had you not chosen to treat your wife so abhorently in the first place, none of this would be coming into question now, would it?” She glared at him coldly and continued before he could offer any answer. “Mind You, Sir Richard, be very careful in what you say, or how you say it… there are some in this place who will remember it later, should they be called upon to repeat it.”
He gave his own look of disgust and suspicion, then did think twice about offending the Queen’s Mother too harshly. There would be time for that later, he was quite sure of it… for now, he must go along with this farce in order to salvage his reputation and his name against accusations that he had done away with his crazed wife. Not that anyone would have truly blamed him for it, as many did assume that she was touched or deranged in some way. Still, he did not want these accusations following him or his daughter about. So, now he was supposed to go along with this bizarre scheme, pretend that this random orphan child was his blood, and the reason that his wife was not seen for so long. He should present this far fetched story that she had been so gravely ill during the pregnancy and afterwards that she and the babe had retired to seclusion in hopes of surviving and recovering. He voiced his doubts on this whole scenario. “This is ridiculous, no one is going to believe such rubbish.” He held up his hands in distaste.
Jaquetta eyed him again but before she could speak, Margaret found her own voice. “Well, then Richard, you had best work very hard at making them believe it, hadn’t you? Else I should have to go to court on my own to answer of their questions and as deranged as I am, Who knows what I may answer them with. I may tell of how I cuckholded you and made a mockery of our marriage by bedding any one who caught my eye…I may cast about that I am quite deranged, that it is a family trait and that you knew of it and chose to wed and bed me anyway. Or perhaps I shall just tell them that it was quite inconvenient to have me around whilst you were bedding one of the king’s mistresses. Perhaps I should call attention to the idea that some of those bastards he claims as his are truly most likely yours?” She stood her ground well even as he came close ready to slap her for what he deemed such insolence. “Oh Yes, Richard do go on and beat me now, for then I shall wear the bruises gladly to court and tell them of how you treat your beloved wife.”
Richard was at the point of providing such proof when his hand was caught mid strike in the air by Jaquetta, who was still a much strong and able woman. She grabbed his wrist and twisted it, surprising Richard with the strength of her grasp. She merely laughed, “Haaaa Sir Richard, do you not forget that before I came to court, I spent much time on our country estate attending to the earthier things in life and death along with my servants including such as wringing the necks of squawking farm animals.”
his disgust showed on his face as he attempted to regain his composure and control. He well got the meaning that she was comparing him to some bloody squawking animal whom she could easily dispose of.
Jaquetta stood between the two of them and kept him at arm’s length from his wife. “Ahhh Sir Richard, I do believe your wife has found her strength once more, perhaps she merely did just need a quiet rest for a time, which you so kindly provided her. I do think it highly unwise though under the circumstances to send her off to court on her own. The king might not look kindly to you playing with his toys while he is away… and I know that it would cause my daughter great concern to wonder if she is supporting your bastard children in her household rather than her husbands.”
Richard wisely kept any responses on this matter to himself and made a rather lame attempt at appeasing the women. His wife was more energetic and full of fire than ever he had seen her. He had a moment of thought cross his mind that maybe he should feign more of apology and exert his husbandly rights upon her. She was still a quite beautiful woman, and if he hadn’t been so put off by her mind wanderings, he would have kept her around him.
Margaret knew exactly what his thoughts were turning to and showed her bitter disregard for him. “Do not even think to tread upon that path Richard, ever again. I shall never lie with you again, nor give you chance to abuse me in any way or form. You are the one following my rules now, and follow them you will, else all will know of your crazy wife and your playing with the King’s toys… I only hope that you have not broken or damaged any of those toys. I should not really have to explain to our daughter why her Father met the axe.”
At her mention of their daughter, he became enraged once more. “Have a care Margaret, anything you accuse me of shall come to blemish her name and her chances of securing a good marriage. You should not like to think her wasting away in a far off nunnery, should you.”
Jaquetta stepped in once more, she could see another battle coming. “Enough, Enough from both of you for now or I will see you both locked away somewhere and raise the girl myself. I am beginning to think I should have done that anyway.” She frostily glowered at Richard. “You will go along with this, you will present your wife at court, allow her time with her children and you will both pretend to be a loving reunited family, at least for the time you are in public. In return, Richard, I will see your name cleared and your faults swept under the rug so to speak. You will continue to abide with this until such a time as the ruse is no longer needed.”
She turned to Margaret, “You my dearest friend, will hold your tongue for the time and not add to the fire. You should save that fire and energy for where it is rightfully needed, the care and concern of your children. This will not be an easy meeting or gathering for any of you.”