[Note: Yes, I did skip last week’s post. Part of the reason was being too busy and the other being a bad prompt that I couldn’t figure out how to fill.]
Delphine could see the encampment in the distance. She stilled César, and swung down to the grass so she could walk him the rest of the way. There was a reason that he was her favorite of all the royal horses. He deserved a good rest tonight after such an arduous journey.
Her legs felt strangely jellied and there was a deep soreness at the joints in her hips and knees. Over the long days of travel she had grown accustomed to the trousers and heavy coat which hid her identity, both as the queen and as a woman. Although it had been strange at first, she found herself not missing her corsets and dresses and underpinnings.
“Halt! Who goes there?”
Delphine held her free hand up to show the uniformed men at the entrance she meant no harm. “I come on behalf of the queen!” she called back.
The pair of soldiers approached her, and she displayed her own symbol. “She wishes to deliver a message directly to the king.”
One man looked to his partner, uncertain, but allowed her through. She paused before handing over the reins of her obsidian mount to the young steward who approached. “Be sure to take good care of him, he belongs to the royal stable.”
“Oui, monsieur,” replied the boy.
Her military escort led her to the most elaborate tent in the encampment, and explained the situation to her husband’s personal guard. She knew them all by name – the one listening was Durand who had been by her husband’s side since he was the dauphin. Something in his grey eyes flickered, recognition perhaps. Durand dismissed the pair and brought her inside. She saw Lucien lying on his bed, his physician, Chauvin, attending to him with leeches.
“Remove those at once!” she ordered. “You will kill him!”
The doctor stared at her. “Who are you to tell me how to treat the king?”
“I am his wife,” she said and removed the cap that had hidden her long, dark curls in a dramatic flourish.
Delphine strode across the tent, repeating her demands and still the man refused to move. Lucien appeared feverish, with wounds both from battle and his so-called treatment across his bare chest and arms. His body trembled with seemingly endless shivers. She swallowed the lump that formed in her throat and then squared her shoulders as she turned on Chauvin.
“Remove the leeches and leave. You are no longer the royal physician. How you have not managed to kill him already is a miracle,” she said, staring him down.
He scoffed, removing the last of the wriggling creatures and then packed up his things. “If you wish to kill him with your sex’s ignorance, then do not let me stand in your way, Votre Majesté.”
Delphine ensured the guards saw him out of the encampment, and then turned back to her ailing husband. With fresh water and bandages, she carefully cleaned Lucien’s body and re-dressed his wounds. Prior to her journey, she had obtained remedies from trustworthy, modern doctors who she had met at court. She had every faith that they would turn his dire condition around, but exhaustion got the better of her and she fell asleep at his bedside soon after.
* * *
She opened her eyes to find Lucien looking at her. A deep ache had settled into her bones from sleeping in the strange, seated position beside his bed. Smiling despite the pain, she took his hand in hers and kissed it. “
“I hope this means I haven’t died,” he sighed, and attempted to sit up.
Delphine laughed. “No, unless we both have,” she said. “Remain still. You need your rest.”
“How is it that you’re here?”
She felt his skin for any signs of fever, finding it cool to the touch. His coloring had returned as well, although he looked concerned. “My horse and some clothing that I procured from my brother Philippe. I shall explain the rest later, and why that butcher Chauvin is gone.”
Lucien chuckled. “I meant to inquire about that next,” he raised his hand to stroke her cheek. “My remarkable queen.”